6

I live in university accommodation and last night I went to a neighboring flat's kitchen and accidentally broke a bottle of sauce. I didn't realise this at the time. This morning I found a threatening message from one of the people in that kitchen on a very public group chat telling me to pay for the damages. I would gladly have done so anyway, and would apologise too of course, but now I have been put into a difficult situation as I can't do that without looking like I gave in to his threat.

Nobody else in their kitchen is rude or threatening, and I know most well enough to know they don't approve of his behaviour either.

What can I do (or say on this group chat) that will allow me to make amends and express regret without letting this person get away with threatening me with violence?

  • 6
    Do I understand it right that they know that you broke the bottle? – XtremeBaumer Nov 15 '18 at 14:24
  • @XtremeBaumer Yep – DividedByZero Nov 16 '18 at 15:40
  • 1
    "group chat telling email to pay for the damages" - I don't understand this at all, and then you jump to "threatening me with violence". Can you write what actually was said? – gnasher729 Nov 16 '18 at 23:48
7

I'm in the maybe-not-so-unique position of having done exactly this last year, though I didn't get a threatening message. Whoops! I can see two solutions here.

  1. Be the bigger person. Paying for the damage you caused is the right thing to do, and you would have done it regardless of this message. Respond to the message, ignoring the vitriol in it. You could word that something like this:

    Hey! I'm sorry I broke the bottle - I didn't realise I'd done it at the time, or I would have made up for it sooner. I'll gladly pay for its replacement - what's the best way to get the money to you?

    Anyone else sensible in that group chat will realise that you're not giving in, you're just being a decent person and the real asshat here is the guy who was threatening over a £3 bottle of sauce.

  2. Ignore the message. Let it sit there as an example of how to not go about getting repaid. Separately, make contact with someone else in the flat (you could just knock on the door, if they're your neighbours), and offer to pay for a replacement. This method makes sure you're still doing the right thing, but doesn't justify the threatening message with a response.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    I think the second solution will result in the aggressor feeling good about the way he handled it, while also potentially making him think less of OP or at least that he's a coward. I think this is the definition of 'letting this person get away with threatening me with violence'. Can you maybe extend on that a little, explaining why this wouldn't be the case? – kscherrer Nov 16 '18 at 9:36
5

@Zorkolot has, I think, the right idea in giving an extra bottle, it demonstrates that you are a good and generous-hearted person, not someone who had to be threatened into doing the right thing.

One of the key things here is to ensure that the incident is wound up, with no lingering feeling on either side of indebtedness or injury, what you don't want is an ongoing feud with the people in the next kitchen. But on those lines, I'd suggest that you do stop and have a think about whether this was only about the broken sauce bottle.

Is there a chance that the sauce bottle was in the nature of being the straw that broke the camel's back? You say that you were drunk, are you, or others often drunk in that kitchen? Does it habitually get left a mess because of 'outsiders', has it become the default 'party kitchen' and is everyone whose designated kitchen it is happy with the way it gets used?

Obviously it may be that none of this is the case, but it may be that what you have caught the brunt of is someone who feels they can hardly get any peace and all their bread gets stolen for midnight toast parties... or whatever you crazy kidz get up to these days. My college experience was that often, when someone blew their stack over shared facilities it was because they had come to the end of their tether rather than blown up at the first infraction.

If something like that is going on, you might give them a break occasionally by moving the toast parties to your kitchen. And if it isn't, well who knows what stress that person has going on in their life, be the bigger person, make generous recompense and ensure you dn't do it again, then shrug it off and move on.

| improve this answer | |
4

I fully agree with ArtOfCode's answer. Coming clean ignoring the threats is a great way to deal with it, especially if you expect the owner of the bottle to have posted the message to just vent his frustration more than actually wanting to make threats.

For the alternative where you want to show that making threats is a really bad idea there's a possible way to respond to the chat message / mail as well without really making yourself known (or ask someone else to post this kind of response instead):

Hi [rude person],
I get that you're frustrated about this but making threats is probably the worst way to deal with this situation. The only thing you achieve with this is scare away the perpetrator for coming clean, I know I wouldn't dare to speak up after reading your message ...
In my opinion you lost your right for a proper apology with your agressive mail.
The best we can hope for now is that a new bottle of [sause] magically apears in the fridge so we can forget about this unfortunate event.
If a silly accident like this happens again in the future I suggest we make it know with a friendly message instead. Something like:

"Hey guys, someone broke my bottle of [sause] yesterday. I'm sure it was just an accident, so if you remember doing it now, or if you know who did it can you ask them to please give me/us a new one / pay me back for the new bottle? Would be greatly appreciated, thanks!".

A message like that is way more likely to result in you getting compensation and a proper apology.

Sincerely,
your friendly neighbour


the suggestion is based on how a minor theft (a minute soup was stolen) at my job was communicated through the internal chat. It resulted in both responses to take theft seriously and friendly mockery at the expense of the unknown thief. I can only assume that a compensation actually did appear on the victim's desk as suggested here but seeing how nothing more was said afterwards (not even gossip!) I doubt it was a problem.

| improve this answer | |
3

I would buy two new bottles of whatever sauce and deliver it, with an apology note. It replaces what you broke, compensates for the broken glass and mess they had to clean up, and makes it clear you are apologetic and generous.

Responding to the social media post is a waste of time. A sincere apology is done in private- which is what you have to do at this point- and is not the domain of social media.

| improve this answer | |
  • Could you explain how this satisfies OP's goal 'without letting this person get away with threatening me with violence' ? – kscherrer Nov 16 '18 at 11:08
  • @Cashbee I don't think the threat is sincere- it's easy to type keys on a keyboard to express disappointment and anger instead of saying it directly to someone's face. Also it's over a bottle of sauce, which is dumb. Sane people don't fuel animosity over wasted sauce. – Zorkolot Nov 16 '18 at 15:12
1

So you already instinctively know what to do - pay for the damages (a jar of sauce, that should cost you all of 87p at LIDL) and apologise. What you are looking for is a way of doing that without "giving in" to the unreasonably threatening demand from the sauce's owner.

You simply need to do exactly what you know you should do. Say sorry, and promise to pay for the sauce. Do this on the forum of their choice - which is the public group chat on which they raised the issue.

I would reply to the group chat with:

I apologise unreservedly for the accident and accept full responsiblity. I will of course replace the sauce like-for-like. Please can you tell me the precise brand and type so that I can compensate you properly.

Yes it does sound sarcastic, but only in the light of the pettiness of their complaint. This is why you do not need to employ any special strategy for your apology, because by accepting the blame and doing the right thing you show yourself to be a decent person. Meanwhile, the other person has shown themselves to be officious and petty in front of a chat group over something as trivial as a jar of sauce. I really, really hope that it turns out to be the cheapest smart-price sub-50p sauce, just to really hammer home how ridiculous this complaint was.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.