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Can someone who willingly let us use a “friends and family” discount at their place of work ask for it back in the form of money?


A friend regularly gets coupons from her employer. These coupons grant a discount when buying any product her company sells , and they get renewed every year in her account. She is allowed to pass these on to friends and family.

She encourages all of us to use her coupons since, in her words, it goes to a “waste”. So we took her offer.

However, there has since been a falling out amongst friends, and now spitefully she wants us to pay her back all the money we saved from the coupons. Her logic is: “You would have paid full price if not for me and now you owe me.”

She says she will have to legally deal with me if she is not paid ASAP. Also, there is text proof of her happily offering this help without any conditions, when we all originally accepted the coupons from her and when we were all on better terms as friends.

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    You can offer to return the benefit you got to her employer and explain the situation to them. For most companies it would be against internal regulations to actually resell friends and family discount.
    – Helena
    Oct 18, 2023 at 20:53
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    I'd wager that if you mentioned to your friend that you're going to ask her employer about this request, her tune would change real quick. This is the kind of behavior that will get you fired instantly.
    – josh3736
    Oct 19, 2023 at 1:33
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    "Her logic is, you would have paid full price if not for me and now you owe me." Equally one possible response is "If it were not for the discount, I wouldn't have bought the item". There are good legal answers, but I would suggest that your ultimate response depends greatly on how much you want to keep this person as a friend. In my experience, many friendships don't survive a trip through court.
    – ThaRobster
    Oct 19, 2023 at 8:25
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    wow, the gall of this "friend". if you have to pay her back, what's the point of even going through her in the first place? does she not understand how little sense this makes?
    – Andy
    Oct 19, 2023 at 13:29
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    Andy is right. This is 100% a shakedown by your "friend" and I would avoid them in future for trying to pull something like this. Ask them if everything's OK, for real, because this scans to me as a desperation move by someone who's in a bad financial spot. Oct 19, 2023 at 14:55

6 Answers 6

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You can always make a request: presumably the real question is whether a person can sue you in court and have the courts force you to pay her. As you describe it, the person gave you a gift – the equivalent of a coupon with monetary value. A gift is an unconditional transfer of title, where she originally owned the coupon, but she gives it to you, now you own it. When you use it at the store to buy something else, that is between you and the store. We assume the store simply accepted the coupon unconditionally, so that is the end of the transaction. It is possible that she was not actually entitled to give you the coupon, per the contractual agreement that she had with the store, and they may be threatening to punish her in some way. The courts will not force a third party to rectify the consequence of a person's contractual errors, they will limit your liability to contracts that you had with the person (there are none) or with the store (you have no dispute with the store, or vice versa).

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    "It is possible that she was not actually entitled to give you the coupon, per the contractual agreement that she had with the store, and they may be threatening to punish her in some way." << The opposite is possible too, and would work in the OP's favour: maybe she was entitled to gift the coupon to family, but not entitled to sell the coupon. In which case, she obviously cannot legally complain that the OP did not pay her.
    – Stef
    Oct 18, 2023 at 11:56
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    @Stef As I understand it, agreements between Friend and Employer on what she can do with the coupons have no bearings on whether or not Friend can pursue legal action against OP. They only mean Employer can seek legal action against Friend as well.
    – marcelm
    Oct 18, 2023 at 13:12
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    @marcelm OP claims it's a gift, Friend claims it's a sale. The only basis for legal action that Friend could have against OP is an argument of the form "I was selling the coupon to OP, not gifting it, so now OP owes me money since OP accepted the coupon." However, if Friend had an agreement with Employer that Friend can gift the coupon but not sell it, then (1) OP can use this agreement as evidence that it was a gift and not a sale; (2) Friend probably doesn't want to pursue legal action claiming that they were selling the coupons instead of gifting them.
    – Stef
    Oct 18, 2023 at 13:17
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    @Stef: Also, there are issues of equity and unclean hands, in jurisdictions that recognize such things (i.e. if the friend has violated a contract in connection with the coupon, they may be barred from bringing a claim that directly arises out of that contractual violation). OTOH, if the coupon itself has terms that prohibit its use by OP, then the store might have a claim against them, but the friend probably does not.
    – Kevin
    Oct 18, 2023 at 18:49
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I would advise the friend that if she asks you and receives the money saved, then it isn’t a “friends and family” discount anymore, but it’s her taking money from her employer.

You could also take the goods back to the store and ask for a refund. Say you bought an item on sale for $100 because a “friends and family” discount reduced it to $80, while another store sold the same item for $90. If you had known you had to pay the extra $20 then you wouldn’t have bought it at this store at all. Your ex-friend’s employer will be very interested in hearing that.

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    Good point about it being like the employee taking money from their employer. If the OP complies, then the end result is akin to a kickback. Oct 18, 2023 at 14:02
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    OP: Yeah, it looks like it is she who is legally vulnerable as a result of the "friends and scamily" shenanigans. A predicament of her own making. See how long it takes her to catch on, or go straight to her employer and they can inform her of how bad an idea it was to simultaneously defraud an employer and attempt to blackmail you (a customer).
    – Mentalist
    Oct 19, 2023 at 6:59
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Dictionary.com defines a favor (in this sense) as "something done or granted out of goodwill, rather than from justice or for remuneration[.]"

The concept of a favor, inherently, is a legally non-binding benefit conferred on someone without receiving an immediately contemporaneous benefit in exchange. It need not be strictly gratuitous, as it may be made with an expectation that favors will be returned, as a matter of honor, rather than legal obligation, in the future. But, a favor isn't intended to create a legally binding obligation.

In contrast, a right to sue for "unjust enrichment" arises when someone benefits another, at their own expense, under circumstances when it would be unjust not to compensate that person for the benefit conferred.

For example, the benefit can be unjust not to provide compensation for because the benefit was conferred accidentally, or was conferred with an expectation of reimbursement or compensation, even if the exact compensation or reimbursement to be provided was not expressly agreed to by the parties.

In this case, there was no communication or context that would suggest that there was an expectation of reimbursement for the benefit received, and it was not a benefit provided at the expense of the person providing it. Instead, the employer or the person who provided the discounted goods or services provided the benefit.

The fact that the parties understood it to be a favor likewise supports the conclusion that this was not legally binding and was effectively gratuitous, rather that being done under circumstances where it would be unjust to not compensate the person who did the favor.

Obviously, anyone can ask that a favor be repaid. But a favor does not provide a valid basis for bringing a lawsuit to have the favor repaid.

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    I’d say it was the store giving the discount in the first place, not the “friend”, so the friend has zero rights.
    – gnasher729
    Oct 18, 2023 at 13:36
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The problem is your friend's, not yours. There's a reasonable likelihood that the policy at her employer forbids what she is doing. I had a friend who worked at a large retailer. In one year, her parents, her sister and a friend all bought refrigerators using her "friends and family" discount. The employer thought it was fishy and fired her.

I used to work for a large company with a "company store". We could buy "reasonable" quantities of items at a very large discount for "friends and family". We could not resell what we bought (but it was understood that our friends and family could purchase through us (i.e., buying through us, paying us the purchase price)). There were many stories in the company (several on official internal web sites) about people who lost their jobs (and in very rare cases, were arrested) for abusing the company store.

I'd be surprised if your friend's employer allowed her to sell "friends and family" merchandise to friends and family at a profit. That is effectively what she is proposing: "hey, this lists at $100, but with the discount it's only $80, why don't you pay me the list prices and I can pocket the discount?"

But, the problem is her company's policies, not anything to do with the law (but, I'm not a lawyer)

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  • "hey, this lists at $100, but with the discount it's only $80, why don't you pay me the list prices and I can pocket the discount?" – This could still be somewhat reasonable, but not doing it afterwards. Oct 19, 2023 at 23:26
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If the employee wants this payment, they should make it clear when they're transfering the coupon to their friend. In other words, they should sell the coupon, not give it away and then ask for repayment later.

While this is not the intent of the employer in allowing these transfers, it's probably not illegal. On the other hand, it's not a good way to keep friends, but that's not a legal matter.

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Since she's a friend, have you gone further to ask what is the underlying reason why she seemed to offer these coupons for your benefit, but now wants the financial benefit returned so that you'll be in no different position than if you had paid full price with your own cash?

Have you invited her to consider that you may have made different purchasing decisions without the coupon, or invited her to wonder why on earth you would have faffed around with her coupons at the point of sale if you would not ultimately retain the discount?

Legally, and assuming you have told all pertinent facts, then there seems no grounds for the repayment demand.

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  • She didn’t like a joke we made, which our mutual friend didnt find hurtful or disrespecting either. We were pretty close with her and somehow after this encounter she started ranting about us being indecent. We immediately apologize and meant it. However when she wouldn’t stop harassing us through texts, we had to let her know this is harassment and blocked her. She then started cc-ing all our friends and asked us to pay her back all the money we saved since we were “ungrateful”.
    – SuperMario
    Oct 20, 2023 at 21:02
  • Honestly it sounds like she might be suffering some sort of mental illness.
    – barbecue
    Oct 21, 2023 at 1:15
  • Collectively our thought. This all feels like Will Smith and Chris Rock situation for us.
    – SuperMario
    Oct 21, 2023 at 2:21
  • @SuperMario, so effectively it's an escalation of an interpersonal dispute between friends who have fell out. I suppose that explains all.
    – Steve
    Oct 21, 2023 at 2:33

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