Saturday, 4 December 2010

Was it really about trust?

A follow-up to the story from late August. Not a breakthrough hitherto, although things have moved on a bit. I still haven’t got back a single zloty out of one thousand I had lent my ex-classmate over six months ago.

I tried to get in touch with Karol a few times, he wrote back to some text messages, but never picked up a phone. Once, in mid-October he claimed he had made a transfer to me a month earlier. When I told him I hadn’t received any money he couldn’t believe it, but also couldn’t submit any receipt of bank transfer executed. Funnily enough, not only didn’t he have any confirmation slip, but also he didn’t know to which bank account he had transferred the money. The next day he dropped me another text in which he asserted he had just transferred money and asked for a reply when I got the money. Needless to say I once again I didn’t see a single zloty.

On 19 November Karol’s mother called me. To my surprise it turned out he had told his family about much more transfers sent to me. She also added he wouldn’t return any money to me because he was “undergoing a therapy” and pledged to take over his debts. We also arranged a meeting next day, in the evening. I met up with her in her house in Piaseczno. Once well-furnished and well-maintained flat has lost its finery. Karol’s mother was quite jittery (they still have some other problems in the family) and explained she was desperately trying to borrow some money to straighten things out. I think I managed to talk her out of turning to a loan shark (who the f*ck invented the name of the company which surely doesn’t cater for provident people?) and suggested she should apply for a regular cash loan in a bank. She also asked me not to call Adam (Karol’s brother) because his nerves were frayed after months of sorting out his brother’s problems and having two full-time jobs for a few months to earn more money.

The sentence about the therapy was the most puzzling. The first supposition that occurred to me was that he had got addicted to gambling and lost all his money as a compulsive casino-visitor. Then I began putting the pieces of jigsaw puzzle together, all goings-on from the day I had lent him the money and the possible sequence of events began to unfold it was even more frightful than gambling.

Schizophrenia is a quite possible explanation. Did he lie he was a chairman of a student organisation or did he think he was? Did he have a job or did he think he had a job? Did he think he had had ordered those transfers and was he really baffled because he couldn’t find any documents to prove it? Was his strange behaviour at home, before he moved out, about which his brother told me, a sign of developing mental illness? Probably I’ll never find out the truth about what has happened, but if it’s really schizophrenia, it’s a tragic story. Karol and his family might have met a tragic fate. He was an up-and-coming lawyer, now, regardless of what he’s being cured from, he’s not going to finish his studies. His family, once well-off are now almost destitute. Will they manage to give him a helping hand after they lost all their ample savings getting him out of troubles? A fellow blogger’s wife, who is a psychiatrist, told me care from family and friends is essential to return to a rather normal life after symptoms of schizophrenia recede. Or will he be left to his own devices on account of his misdeeds?

For two weeks they Karol’s mother didn’t call me. If she fails to do it for a while, I’ll get in touch with her in January. Her assurances to pay me off sounded credible, so I’ll give them at least a bit more peaceful period before Christmas. I told her the repayment wasn’t urgent for me and I could wait for some time, but in the long run I wished to get the money back. I hope we’ll agree on a repayment schedule and I mull over what then. Given their situation and mine, I think it would be wise to write down a part of the debt, but only when they repay more than a half of it in time.

Another question is if I’ll every lend any money (except small change everyone can afford to lose) to anyone. I think lending some money (no more than a few hundred PLN) to friends I keep in with regularly doesn’t have to be ruled out. The other thing is securing the loan by signing a loan agreement, which enables me to claim my money in a court. But if I had signed a valid loan agreement with Karol on that hapless day, would I be better off now? I could sue him, I would have to lose time for wrangling with Polish judiciary system and quite probably the court would hand down a ruling favourable for me, but what would the ruling mean in a situation when my debtor is out of cash and, moreover, insane? Maybe his family would go to a great extent to repay the debt? Who would cover the litigation costs? Finally, I’d have to listen the whole sanctimony…

Hmm… I know by dint of age I’m wet behind ears and maybe I don’t handle the matter properly… So what do you make of it?


Paddy Ney said...

Interesting because when I read this "story" as an English person I relate to the sum in a different way. I look at it and think: that's 2 or 300 pounds, not really a huge amount and easily earnt (in the UK). So it's hard for me to estimate the true value of this loan. And is that the crux of this, the value to the family who are paying off his debts and presumably paying for his medical care, and to you, the person who is still waiting for his money (faithfully lent) all this time ago, and I presume without interest. To each of you, and the reader, the amount holds a different value.

I have the same thing with books I lend people. To them, it's just a book, to me it has a significant emotional value beyond the price on the back. Therefore not having it returned goes somewhere beyond principal and cost. I guess what I am saying is that it sounds like you need to make an emotional cost/benefit decision based on the value of the amount as it is to you being in possession of all the criteria as you know them.


scatts said...

And in future, only lend money to friends that you don't expect to get back. In fact, I prefer to just give people money, far less stressful but then you're a banker so I suppose that sort of goes against the grain!

student SGH said...

It's not lending, but giving money then.

In a bank it's different, I can underwrite a loan and I don't risk my own money, in the worst case I may not get a bonus, a pay rise or if the worse comes to the worse, they can fire me. And a bank can always recourse to litigation to recover (usually secured) debts.

scatts said...

Precisely. Give money to friends, don't lend it. You'll feel a whole lot better.

Of course you need to think long and hard about who are your friends.

Unless you want to open the Bartek Bank? Might as well, can't be any worse the 3,000 others we have to choose from.