Dear Mary

Dear Mary: what should we do about a possible thief in our school dormitory?

9 March 2019

9:00 AM

9 March 2019

9:00 AM

Q. I run a very small mail-order company from home. Recently I received an exceptionally rude email from a disgruntled customer. On discovering that the problems arising were her own fault, I sent a polite email proving this. Her response was even ruder. I know this woman socially and she obviously doesn’t realise I am the owner of the company. She would be mortified to realise I know about this ‘fishwife’ side of her character, but of course she inevitably will find out if she continues to escalate things. I would not want to humiliate her so how should I handle this?
— Name and address withheld

A. Write to her at her home address and mark the envelope ‘confidential’. Explain that while you don’t want to make trouble for any young intern who may be doing work experience for her, you felt she ought to know that some rude emails have been sent from her address to the company you own. ‘If I didn’t know you better I would have genuinely thought they had come from you!’ In this way you will give her time to consider her reply and ultimately allow her to save face.

Q. Some months ago I joined a weekly watercolour class held at the studio home of a world-renowned teacher. The ten other women in the class have been attending for years. Birthdays are extravagantly celebrated with a lunch and carefully selected gifts. I wish to leave the class because I am looking for a teacher, not a social group, lovely though these ladies are. The difficulty is that my birthday is one of those which have been celebrated during my time in the class. If I leave before the year is out, I will have received gifts from class members whose birthdays have not occurred during my time in the class. Mary, how can
I make this good?
— M.J., Parkside, South Australia

A. Give a group present for consumption in the studio — for example, a hamper of unusual teas/coffees, or a case of Prosecco. It would be heavy-handed to single out the women whose birthdays you will miss.

Q. I am in a four-person dorm at school. Three of us have lost cash from the room and also money has been spent on our contactless cards. We don’t want to get our housemistress involved as we think we know who has done it and we wouldn’t want that girl to be expelled, because we think she just needs to see someone about this. We have tried to confront her but she is pretending to have had money stolen too.
— Name and address withheld

A. Confirm your suspicions with the purchase of an affordable detection kit from Use a paintbrush to apply some UV powder on to a large banknote. Leave this in the dorm to be stolen. Later apply the UV torch from the kit to the hands of the suspect. If they go fluorescent green, you will have caught your thief.

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