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Friend wonders how to confront soda jerk

Dear Amy: My husband and I have been good friends with another couple for more than 10 years. We meet them for dinner with our families on a regular basis.

I have noticed that my friend (who is an affluent money manager) will order water, get a cup and then serve herself soda from the “self-serve” soda fountain. This theft embarrasses me to no end, and frankly, I find stealing on even a small level to be a sign of bad morals.

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We have small children and I do not want them thinking this is OK.

The more I venture out in public, the more I see people stealing drinks, making me wonder how people justify this behavior? The knowledge that the cost is passed on to the rest of us is also irritating.

On the other hand, we do love these people and I don’t want to anger my husband by offending them.

How should I handle this? — Conflicted

Dear Conflicted: Your children’s morals will not be polluted (or diluted) by being around other people who behave unethically.

Why? Because you are raising them. If anything, this presents a “teachable moment,” where — if they ask you — you can say, “I would never want you to help yourself to something you hadn’t paid for — but she is making her own choices and I’m not her mom.”

Also, I can’t understand why it would anger your husband to have you bring up a topic reflecting your own point of view with someone who is your friend. You can say to her privately, “I notice you always help yourself to the soda when you haven’t paid for it. Do you think that’s ethical?” Leave your husband and children out of it.

She’ll have a ready answer for why this is justifiable behavior, and you can respond by telling her that you completely disagree.

Dear Amy: My husband and I are 70 and are doing what a lot of people our age seem to be doing — trying to sell our home and downsize to another area. We are active and in great health.

Our children and grandchildren would like us to move closer and we would enjoy that — except for the fact that we would be moving from the southeast to the northeast, and it would be a tremendous burden financially on us because the cost of living is so much higher there.

My husband and I have found another location that’s affordable and which we love — however, it’s only about a half-hour closer to our children compared to where we are now, bringing our distance to about four hours.

Do you have any thoughts? — Feeling Guilty

Dear Guilty: You should live where you want to live — and where you can afford to live.

Obviously, cost of living aside, there could be tremendous personal and practical benefits to living near your children and grandchildren — and these benefits are hard to quantify using a cost-benefit analysis, but you should do your best to weigh all of your options and the impact on you and your relationships.

Part of your planning should take the medium- and then the longer-term view into account.

You might want to rent for a year or so at the new location to see how all of you adjust — and tell the children, “We’re going to try this out for the time being and revisit this issue in a year or two.”

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