Dear Amy: I like to please people by volunteering at a non-profit organization that helps Afghan refugee women. We provide fabric and a space with sewing machines where they can come to work. Lately these women are making items they can sell.
Recently, “Kara” contacted us and asked us to make a copy of a dress she had. She told me that if we figured out how to make it, we could let Afghan women make it and sell it. She provided fabric for the copy.
I spent six hours trying to figure out how to make the item and documenting it with photos and instructions. So I made a sample.
I used to be a professional seamstress, but I also have a soft touch. I never charge as much as the work is worth.
In this case, I intended to ask Kara to make a donation to the charity so we could buy more fabric. A hundred dollars didn’t seem exaggerated.
Turns out Kara loved what I did and wore the sample out of the door.
I gave her the instructions and model parts, and she gave me $20 to donate to the charity.
She also told me that she and a friend could make these dresses and sell them. (I told her I didn’t think the project would work for Afghan women.)
After she left I felt used so I called her and told her she needs to pay me for my time if I want to sell this dress design at a profit.
However, now I feel guilty! I hate myself for calling her.
Was I wrong to call her? Or am I wrong to feel guilty?
Dear In Stitches: People often ask if they are “wrong” for feeling a particular way. And my answer is always the same: your feelings are your feelings. They are neither right nor wrong. They just are.
Your job is to let your feelings guide you to understanding and (possibly) change.
Your initial choices prevented you – and the organization you support – from receiving justified compensation.
I suggest that his chronic undercharging is more a reflection of his confidence in the value of his work than his desire to please.
Kara walked out the door wearing a custom-made dress (as well as the pattern and instructions) for $20.
If you don’t set your price and state it clearly before doing the work, then you leave it up to the buyer to guess at fair compensation – or to trick them nicely.
I give your choice to accompany Kara a “five star” rating.
I hope you use this episode as an opportunity to tweak your business model.
Dear Amy: Over the years, my brother and I stopped communicating. He is toxic, bossy and creates problems among family members. As a result, we brothers didn’t really communicate with him.
Now we are all elders – he being the eldest.
I assume I’ll outlive him as I’m the youngest. As we get older, I often wonder what I will do when he dies. Should I go to an estranged brother’s funeral if I have fond memories of our relationship from childhood and I still have a good relationship with his son? (He also has a daughter who has withdrawn from all family communication. No one knows why, but our niece’s silence occurred long before we stopped communicating with our brother.)
I would like to do the right thing for my nephew by supporting him, but I also wouldn’t want to create problems in my brother’s family.
I, my other siblings, and all of our children maintain good relationships with each other through family meetings and communications. I believe I’m the only one trying to keep in touch with my nephew.
Dear Anticipating: Unless you strongly suspect that your presence would make things more difficult for your brother’s family and other survivors, then yes, you should attend his funeral. Be discreet, express your condolences, and do your best to read the room.
Dear Amy: I thought you were very easy answering the question of “Worried”, the waitress whose colleague was smoking marijuana during her pregnancy. This is child abuse!
Dear upset: While this is definitely not healthy for mother and child, I stand by my advice to this coworker not to be judgmental and try to influence this pregnant woman to make better choices.
You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or on Facebook.