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"No" is not a four letter word.

So now, the serious part of yesterday's ideas.

People hate confrontation.  The word itself sounds antagonistic, like there's going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight before you even start.  In the SCA, this leads to nice people giving in to the jerks who always yell and whine until they get their way, no matter how many nice people get driven out by their behaviour.

There are a number of things that contribute to this situation - "the customer is always right", for instance.  The idea that there is no way to tell someone not to do something without yelling.  The really unfortunate belief that asking someone to quit doing something annyoing and rude is, in itself, rude.  That debate is no longer a subject taught in schools.  The idea that "debate" means yelling your position louder and louder until the other person gives in.

It's not an SCA issue, it's a societal issue. The US has cultivated a couple of generations of people who genuinely believe that they are entitled to anything they want, and that to be told "no" damages their self-esteem, and is therefore bad.  I've seen this entitlement attitude described on forums, and I've seen people pull it - especially the "it's rude to tell me I'm being rude" attitude - on etiquette forums, of all places.

In an SCA context, this results in the severe abuse of the goodwill and generosity of some people, who are actually afraid to tell an asshole that they're being rude.  For all our vaunted "courtesy", there is quite a subset of people who display very little courtesy, but are super-quick to accuse other people of the lack of it if they are asked not to do something.  They wield the word "courtesy" like a bludgeon, laying waste to anyone who thwarts their desires, and making a huge fuss until everyone give in, either to get some peace, or because they're afraid of being slandered.

In the field of hospitality, we call these jerks moochers.  

First, let us define what a moocher is, and is not:  They are not people who occasionally slip up and forget to vacate a chair, or ask for tent space, or get stuck, and have to ask for food/water/a ride.  If you give back as much as you take, you are not a moocher, but part of the generous spirit of the SCA.  Pay it forward or pay it back, you pull your weight most of the time.

No, moochers are the people who have a pattern of taking, without ever contributing.  They don't apologize for their behaviour, and get very nasty if called on it, turning the accusation around on the nice person who is trying to stop the abuse of their generosity.  They expect to be catered to, they have excuses for everything, and justify their bad behaviour without ever learning from it.  Everyone groans quietly when they come by, and everyone feels relief when they move on to the next victim.  They never say please or thank you, and they are never grateful, since they consider whatever they want not only free for their use, but rightfully theirs for the taking.

This sort of thing is terribly difficult for most of us to deal with - we've been taught to be polite.  More, we've been taught that there is a "social contract" - a code of behaviour that everyone follows, so that society can get along with minimal stress.  When a mooch comes along, they break that social contract, and it's a shock.  Understandably, many people feel totally paralyzed by these situations, because we are not generally trained to deal with such flagrant breaches of etiquette.  We expect to be able to subtly hint, and have people pick up on that hint.  When we get stuck with a mooch who steadfastly refuses to take the hint, and reacts in a hostile manner to anything more overt, we panic and don't know how to deal with it.

Moochers don't just break the social contract, they've learned to use it to their advantage, as the myth that "telling someone they're being rude is rude" illustrates.  For example:  Say you're at an event, you've gotten up to get something, and when you come back, someone is sitting in your chair.  You ask for your chair back  - and the person doesn't get up.  Either you don't say anything and feel upset, or you try again, and the mooch gets hostile, trying to make you feel bad with such statements as "but I'm talking/need to rest/have back problems!".  Circle around to option one again; don't say anything, and feel upset, or try option three, asking again, and risk being told, directly or obliquely, that you're just so freaking rude for wanting to sit in your own chair.  This is upsetting, and the mooch knows it - a polite person would say "of course!  I'm sorry!" and get up immediately.  The mooch's hostile reaction is designed to make you give up and go away so that the mooch can continue to steal your chair.

We cannot survive as a generous hospitable society if we allow these people to continue to behave in this manner.  People will stop bringing nice things to events, because every time they do, they get mooched on by people they don't even like (there's a reason why everyone describes these people as "slight acquaintances" or "strangers"; your friends don't treat you that way).  Why bring nice food and nice chairs if some asshole is going to eat all of the food, throw their stuff all over your pavilion, and take over your chairs so that you can't even sit in your own chair when you are tired without risking being called names?

It is one of the great pleasures of eventing to provide a nice lunch, a shady spot, or even just cool water, and gather your friends together to enjoy it.  It feels good to provide hospitality, and you can make great new friends with it.  However, if the assholes get there first, you not only don't have food left for your friends, the assholes will drive them all away.  Hospitality then becomes an exercise in endurance, with stress if you don't say anything, and stress if you do.  Why would you want to let yourself in for that?  Better to bring only enough for yourself, and refuse to provide hospitality.

It is not wrong to POLITELY correct someone who is being rude.  It is also not the end of the world to have someone get mad at you for doing the right thing - they're a jerk; what do you care what they think?  It's not like any of your friends will believe them, even if they do go around saying how mean you are; people judge actions as well as words, and if you are known for your hospitality, very few people will take them at their word.  So what if they make a scene?  It's not you making the scene, and they look like the jerk if they're yelling or being rude and you remain calm and polite.  Staying polite is vitally important - you must never lower yourself to their level.  Remain calm, and you will come out on top, since it's very hard to argue with someone who won't argue back.

It is needful that we start correcting this behaviour en masse - sending the message that the SCA is an "everyone contributes" enterprise helps new people to learn quickly about good event experiences, and allows people to bring their nice things without fear of having them be abused.

You can practice this sort of thing with your friends, if it makes you more comfortable - it's hard to stand up and say "no, this is not acceptable" without rehearsing it, especially if you're used to just shutting up and taking the abuse.  We all want to be liked, and moochers know this - telling you you're mean for refusing to be taken advantage of is their way of silencing your protest.  We need to let it be known far and wide that we will not be manipulated in this manner any longer.  Hospitality is a two-way street.

I am here to tell you that it is okay to say "I'd like to sit in my chair, please".  It is only right and proper to have control of your own space, and if someone is mucking it up for everyone else, then they need to be stopped.  The needs of the many outweigh the convenience of the one.  Everyone agrees to the social contract you put down, and anyone who doesn't is free to bring their own dayshade and food, where they may do whatever they please.

If you bring nice things, you will get moochers - whatever you have is nicer than anything they have, and the moocher mentality says "they should share their nice things with me, because I want them to".  The fact that they are bringing nothing to the deal doesn't occur to them - all they see is nice stuff, and they want in on it.  Telling them they cannot usually results in pouting and whining, but then, telling a two-year old they can't have candy before dinner gets the same pouting and whining.  It is bad for everyone that the toddler gets the candy; consider the mooch in the same light, and just say no.

There are coping strategies you can use for moochers - check and see if there is an open pavilion/dayshade that is for general populace use, and direct them to that, or an open space around the list field.  Check and see if there's a lunch available for the populace, or a lunch they can buy, or even if there are a couple of fast food places near the event.  Yes, they should be finding this stuff out for themselves, but they're relying on snacking off your nice food table, so clearly they will not settle for something less.  Having alternatives for them gives you a way to be helpful even as you're steering them away from your tent.

At such time as they have learned to ask politely, contribute services, or bring their own supplies, you can feel safe inviting them back (if you decide they're okay - you have no obligation to be their best friend).

The same goes for bumming rides - if you make it clear up front that they will be chipping in for gas (and, if possible, tell them how much;  you can work out a rough estimate using mileage and tank capacity), then they will be on notice that while you are happy to help them out, they must reciprocate in some way.  The social contract says that people will automatically seek to reciprocate, but moochers need to be told directly and clearly.  Give them a loophole by being vague or subtle, and they will take it - after all, they've been used to getting things for free, no strings attached (if you don't count general dislike and the complete lack of real friends), and they will be completely deaf to anything short of telling them "this is how much the trip will cost; your share is [%] of that cost".

For most people you encounter, the standard social rules still apply - they will reciprocate, and you don't need to lay down rules.  However, when someone breaks that contract, you are allowed to correct them.  If you don't, they will not learn, and everyone suffers.

We need to all take a firm stand on this - if someone leaves their children with you, take them back.  If you can't find the parents, take the kids to the autocrat.  If someone is in your chair, ask for it back with a smile.  If they won't budge, take a firm tone and tell them you would like to sit.  Even moochers don't like to look like jerks.  If someone starts taking your food/chair/mugs/whatever, ask them to stop, again, with a smile.  You can state it nicely, but it is very important that you don't give in if they resist.  Suggest the alternatives you have already scoped out.  If someone leaves trash all over your pavilion, ask them to pick it up (more extreme cases can be dealt with by collecting their trash in a small bag and returning it to them).  Ask for help loading/unloading, even if you have to chase after the moocher (they have a trick of disappearing as soon as there's work to be done).  Don't give them leftovers for free.

All of this can be done with a smile, and politely.  There is almost never a reason to yell, and if you maintain your cool, they will look like a jerk for getting angry at you.  

Let me repeat over and over again:  It is not rude to ask for your chair back.  It is not rude to ask a stranger to stop eating your food.  It is not rude to ask people to clean up after themselves.  It is not rude to ask people to help.  It is not rude to ask people to move.  It is not rude to ask for gas money/food money/a contribution to the camp.  It is not rude.

It is not rude to ask for basic courtesy from the people enjoying your hospitality.

Now - go forth armed with this knowledge, and resist the moochers.  You'll enjoy events more, you'll have more time for real hospitality, and you'll be able to bring things to events in the secure knowledge that they will not be appropriated by jerks.

Comments

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kass_rants
Jul. 8th, 2008 12:55 pm (UTC)
Are there really people who won't say, "Dude, I'd like to sit down in MY CHAIR now please?" I can't even imagine that.

But then I have a friend who constantly complains when people use his stuff and do nothing for him in return. But he offers his stuff to people all the time. Then he gets mad and complains about them behind their backs. Never does he said to people, "Dude, that's my chair. Mind clearing off now?"

That passive-aggressive shit really gets on my last nerve. At least with mooches, I know where I'm at.
attack_laurel
Jul. 8th, 2008 01:16 pm (UTC)
You and I have less of a need to be liked by everyone (aomething that used to matter *too* much to me, so I've definitely seen the other side) - most people are not comfortable with possibly pissing people (even jerks) off, which means while you and I have no problem saying "yo, vacate!", others need to be given permission to do so.

It's all about self-confidence; and it is hard if you're not used to dealing with the situation. However, if it's a constant pattern of the same friends, and he's offering stuff... well, I think someone just likes to play a little game called "M-A-R-T-Y-R". :)
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moochers - (Anonymous) - Jan. 12th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC) - Expand
gwacie
Jul. 8th, 2008 01:32 pm (UTC)
Dude, I'm such a doormat I should have "Welcome" stamped on my forehead. I really do have a problem with confrontation, and always get mad at myself later that I didn't just -talk- to the person. It takes a lot of practice and having supportive friends who will walk with you and be nearby as moral support when you have to do the nigh impossible and open your mouth and talk! *gasp!* Horrors!

Our society is rife with shy people, and folks who have trouble socializing.

For a totally different sort of confrontation; I'm reminded of a time when my sister confronted a fellow in the store we were both working in way back when that she thought he had a stack of t-shirts under his coat (she was very polite about it "Sir? Would you like me to hold those for you behind the counter while you continue shopping?") he got instantly angry and confrontational about how she was accusing him, and obviously racist and stormed out of the store in a huff. Sis was very shaken up and thought she'd just been mean to an innocent man... until we saw the pile of T-shirts on the floor right near where he'd been standing.
attack_laurel
Jul. 8th, 2008 01:36 pm (UTC)
Like I said - these kinds of people *rely* on raising that reaction in you. It's part of their manipulation to get you to do what they want. They know that normal people don't like confrontation, so their best defense is to go on the raging attack.

If you have severe trouble with it, you find someone who is more comfortable, and make them the "designated turfer" for the day. When (if) you have an issue, you go get them, explain what's happening, and how you would like it dealt with, and ask them to handle it.

Build a support network amongst your friends - most of them would be very happy with a coherent plan that assures that everyone has everyon'e back if someone gets nasty.
(no subject) - hugh_mannity - Jul. 8th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
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elasait
Jul. 8th, 2008 01:48 pm (UTC)
Hmm. Either we don't have too many of the sort you are describing in Calontir, or my friends and I are so big and scary that they don't try it around us. Getting angry at someone because they want their own chair back wouldn't get you far around here...in fact, we have a fairly standard line that goes like this: "Six (or whatever number) of the chairs under this shade fly are mine; I'd like to sit in one of them, please." Never fails to get a number of offers of chairs.

mightyjesse
Jul. 8th, 2008 02:39 pm (UTC)
Your icon is hi-larious. May I steal it?
(no subject) - elasait - Jul. 8th, 2008 02:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
kass_rants
Jul. 8th, 2008 01:49 pm (UTC)
I didn't post yesterday, but I was going to tell a little story. Once upon a time, long long ago, I was a skinny little thing and the Viking women in my group were absolutely certain that I wouldn't make it through a long winter if they didn't feed me. So everytime I went to an event, I'd get roped into not one dinner but three. I mean, they would literally come to my camp and insist I come to their camps for dinner. I was stuffed until bursting! And they'd even lend me their dishes and refuse to let me wash them. I stopped bringing my own stuff to events because I just didn't need to.

But of course that's quite a different thing than what you're talking about.
attack_laurel
Jul. 8th, 2008 01:55 pm (UTC)
That's a beautiful example of the generosity of hospitality that is such a great part of the SCA - and that we're trying to preserve by stopping the spoilers in their tracks. People really are generous and want to take care of people - it just wears them out when they're taken advantage of by people who aren't grateful, polite, or considerate. :)
(no subject) - kass_rants - Jul. 8th, 2008 01:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
cathgrace
Jul. 8th, 2008 01:57 pm (UTC)
I think one of my biggest problems is I was raised in a family where age mattered, whoever was oldest got shotgun in a car, who ever was oldest sat on the couch, on down the line until there was no room, and then the younger kids got the floor. If an adult came into the room you moved from the good chair, etc. Since I am, or perceive myself to be younger then many people in the SCA, I always feel like I have an obligation to stand while my elders sit (and by elders I mean 3 days older then me) or whatever. I only recently noticed that I group myself with the kids rather then the adults in my mind in relation to who was going to my family reunion, I forget frequently that I am now one of the grownups…..
isabelladangelo
Jul. 8th, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC)
This is exactly why I loved being the oldest. :-)
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dragonazure
Jul. 8th, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
The SCA is full of enablers--half of them end up as Pelicans.... XP The KWH really should include exceprts from Codependent No More
hrldndva
Jul. 8th, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
Word.

(no subject) - valkyr8 - Jul. 8th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
blaze2242
Jul. 8th, 2008 02:13 pm (UTC)
I am very lucky in that I have 1) never run into moochers at events, 2) absolutely no problem telling some one no and kicking them out of my camp.

I have grown a playful reputation for being terrifying within my group of friends, it's a joke that mostly means they don't want to see me mad. But it also means that if someone is offending me, they stop pretty quick.

I can't believe there are so many of these people out there though. I feel uncomfortable even entering someone's general camping area with out a direct invitation or instruction to go there!
grian_ruadh
Jul. 8th, 2008 04:04 pm (UTC)
That's because you have a brain, dear, and would never intentionally take advantage of someone's hospitality in a discourteous or manipulative way. We like that about you. :)
(no subject) - blaze2242 - Jul. 8th, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
thlmakai
Jul. 8th, 2008 02:13 pm (UTC)
I agree with you that some people feel like they can "get away" with this kind of behaviour because SCAdians do seem to be very confrontation averse.

I saw a lot less of this behaviour when I was a Tuchux simply because if you acted like an a$$, you could get called on it publicly. If you acted badly, I walked up to you, told you to put on armor, and then we smacked each other with sticks until I decided we were done. With everyone watching. Then you went & had a beer together and it was done.

Now, I totally understand why this particular methodology won't work in the SCA, but not having ANY method (as a society or as an individual) doesn't seem to be working very well either. Without a way to deal openly with the issue when it occurs, everyone just walks around seething inside and its never resolved.
isabelladangelo
Jul. 8th, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
Now, I totally understand why this particular methodology won't work in the SCA

I don't know. I think slapping someone with a glove and demanding a duel sounds rather close to period practice to me....;-)
(no subject) - thlmakai - Jul. 8th, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
cortejo
Jul. 8th, 2008 02:15 pm (UTC)
My husband is terrified o being considered a moocher. I have had to bum food when he has been sugar-crashing and it mortified him. We now pack enough food to feed 10 additional people.
leofsige
Jul. 8th, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC)
I can relate. For years I hauled several chairs to events and had to kick people out of them just to sit in one. As a result I rarely bring lots of chairs anymore. I have listened to many people bemoan the latest mooch from the latest event. Sometimes the mooches seem to go out of their way to top the last mooch in excessive rudeness or excessive abuse of hospitality. As a result I never want to assume that everything is open to the world and be associated with the mooches. Friends tend to have to be blunt to get me to get my backside into their shade and I drive them insane by insisting that the grass is comfy when I've carelessly left my chair at home. I know there's a balance in there somewhere but I'm still searching for it. Meanwhile I'll err on the side of caution to respect the hospitality and generosity of folks.
mistressrhi
Jul. 8th, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
It's like the old male-female relationship thing... How can he know what you're upset about unless you tell him?

So...maybe we should treat moochers like boyfriends? ;-)

I've also had the opposite side of the hospitality coin, because Corvus tends to put out huge spreads, and then, we have to go out and corral people to eat it! LOL! We provided the hospitality table at 12th Night one year (which was publicized in the event program) and nobody would go near it, despite it being a four 8' table buffet, until I made several announcements that it was available for _everyone_, and to please come eat!
thlmakai
Jul. 8th, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC)
Maybe cause y'all look so mean and threatening???? :-)
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Jul. 8th, 2008 03:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
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bdeb
Jul. 8th, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
I've fallen into the category of 'burnout on hospitality' after being used again and again. I am convinced now that we have to have leaders that will say "Ok, this is fun, but everyone needs to help work now - let’s go do it!" early and often. (This is a focal point for us as baronage.) Otherwise the few get used by the many and they _are_ reluctant to share their space again. I've had it abused many times, and it is my fault, because I often have a reaction that you didn't list: I come back to my tent and folks are in my chair. Usually, if I really need it, I just ask them to move and they do and it is no big shakes. Sometimes though, I feel shamed, ESPICALLY if it is a lady. I feel that, as a knight, it is the height of rudeness for me to even ask them to move. So what I end up doing is this. If there is another chair/bench option for them (I always bring more than enough for me, Melisent and a guest or two) I ask them politely to move to one of the other options. If I am 'all booked up' though, I just stand out in the sun. I often run into the problem that I have a lot of wonderful friends that want to come visit me, and they all have wonderful friends....and pretty soon the space is just too packed and I end up feeling like I am driven from my own tent, that I brought, set up, and will have to break down by myself. So yeah. It makes events a chore and makes me not want to go. You are right though, I need to be firmer about what I need and want.
thornbury
Jul. 8th, 2008 04:55 pm (UTC)
I feel shamed, especially if it is a lady.

Bingo, my friend. I agree with the rest of your points, too.
(no subject) - czina - Jul. 8th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
You're a Knight, not a doormat - go in! - helblonde - Jul. 9th, 2008 06:07 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're a Knight, not a doormat - go in! - bdeb - Jul. 10th, 2008 01:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
compass_rose
Jul. 8th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
I have a regular problem at most every scribal social we hold at major events with moochers coming in and just helping themselves to plates, the pot-luck lunch, drinks from the cooler, and then seconds of lunch. I always go over and politely explain that we are having a private lunch and that they can purchase lunch at the feast hall/taverns/vendors. Usually when called on it politely, they will back down and scoot. I actually had one woman raise her voice with me attempting to keep me distracted while her husband and children went to go get more food. That was something else.
sherwood21
Jul. 8th, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC)
A-MEN. You're more than right about it being a problem of society at large, and not just in the SCA. I worked customer service and retail for a lot of years, and they always want you to placate and play nice, no matter what. And that perpetuates a LOT of entitlement and rudeness.
dolceleontina
Jul. 8th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
"less of a need to be liked by everyone"

Yup, that's me. I've been told I'm meeean.
Our little group had it last year with moochers and drama queens. None of us are putting up with that crap anymore. They will have to go find someone else to sponge off of. And you know they will.

Edited at 2008-07-08 04:15 pm (UTC)
grian_ruadh
Jul. 8th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
This needs to be repeated far and wide, again and again, until it sinks in. I've reprinted you in my journal with full credit. You're just awesome. :)
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