Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Courtesy Purchases Are a Financial Drain

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a vendor who travels to different trade shows to sell things. Often, out of courtesy, the vendors buy from other vendors who are near them. I usually do this, but the past few shows had low consumer turnout, and I didn't make much money. The last thing I could afford to do was spend money. I felt bad about it, though, since we usually support one another.

Should I have said something to the others? I didn't. I just left. -- Embarrassed, Shreveport, La.

DEAR EMBARRASSED: I like the support that you and your small-business associates have offered one another. It is lovely to make the gesture of actually purchasing something from the businesses surrounding you. At the same time, you are smart to tighten your purse strings as needed.

It would have been nice if you had said something, since you have set the expectation that you often make a purchase. It is not the end of the world, though.

Next time, wish every vendor well as you start out. At the end, if you cannot afford to make a purchase and you are near people with whom you have a history, say that this time you cannot support them with a purchase but that you do give them your good wishes. To the rest, be pleasant and offer your best wishes for their continued success.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just learned that a former co-worker who moved on to a really big job has been fired. It hasn't hit the news yet, and I'm not sure what to do. I like her a lot and want to support her. I imagine that she could use a friend at this time.

Should I reach out to her? I don't want to embarrass her because of this knowledge. I want to be an available friend. -- Friendly Shoulder, Los Angeles

DEAR FRIENDLY SHOULDER: You have the right attitude in a prickly situation. When someone loses a job, a friend's support can be tremendously helpful. It is also true that people sometimes want to be left alone after a job loss. If your friend's loss becomes public knowledge, that makes her situation even more uncomfortable to navigate.

You cannot know how she will respond until you reach out. Get in touch with her in the same way you normally do, whether it be cellphone, text or visit. If you have to leave her a message, let her know you are thinking about her and wishing her well. Invite her to lunch or tea.

Sometimes when people lose their jobs they become reclusive, and an invitation to step out of their space can be welcome. You will soon find out how your friend responds to your offer. If you don't hear back right away, give her time and try again in a few days.