My friends and I decided to split a vacation rental, but everyone bailed. Now I’m stuck with the bill.

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

My friends and I have a weeklong getaway planned this February at a house rental in Girdwood. When we planned the trip, we all figured by now we would have the vaccine, and we were looking forward to finally being able to get together. We found a big place with room for us all, complete with lots of bedrooms, a huge kitchen and a big hot tub. I paid in full to get a slight discount on the rental and told everyone to pay me later.

Now that the trip is just a few weeks away, five of the seven people who were supposed to go have canceled. Only one friend still plans to still go with me. I understand that without any of us having gotten the vaccine as we’d hoped, some people are uncomfortable going.

But where I’m having issues is with the financial piece. Of the five people who canceled, two already gave me money and now they want it back. The other three haven’t paid anything and now refuse to since they aren’t going. Renting this big house for a whole week was not cheap, and if I have to pick up their share, I am out many hundreds of dollars. I don’t see why I should refund the people that changed their minds when we all went in knowing we wouldn’t get a full refund if we canceled.

Obviously if it was just my one friend and I going, we would have gotten a much smaller rental that would have been way cheaper. Or we wouldn’t have gone at all. I don’t think we should be expected to cover everyone else’s expenses when they’re the ones that bailed. But everyone is telling me that I’m being unreasonable and it’s causing some real drama. Advice?

Wanda says:

Real talk: You are never going to get all the money you planned on receiving for this weeklong staycation. You’re just not. No matter how this shakes out, you will end up spending more than you planned; you won’t pay back your friends who prepaid, which will surely anger them; and you won’t get all or even any of the money you feel you’re owed by those who haven’t paid yet.

Is this going to totally sour the experience to the point you can’t enjoy it? Maybe. If so, consider pulling the plug altogether, divvying up the partial refund equitably, and suggesting the group split the losses on the nonrefundable portion. That is probably the fairest thing: Everyone is paying the same, no one is having any fun, no one comes out ahead or behind.

Or you can stick it out. Hang on to the cash in hand, keep riding your other friends to pony up what they promised, and go full BFF with the lone buddy who’s still willing to be a wingman. As I said, you’ll end up paying a proportional lot for a week that, by your own admission, could have been reimagined much cheaper. On the bright side, you’ll have your pick of bedrooms and there will be plenty of room in the hot tub!

But this is a tough situation all around. The moment you became the money-handler and bill-footer, a power dynamic shifted, and the stage was set for fiscal misunderstandings, frustrations and disagreements. Now, the math is fairly simple: You’ll either be minus some cash, or minus some friendships, and it’s ultimately up to you which loss you’d rather accept.

Wayne says:

Well, really, anyone throwing down big bucks on a Real World Girdwood Experience during peak pandemic should expect to take an L or two: the loss of funds and inhibitions — most definitely; the loss of trust in seemingly solid friends — potentially; the loss of taste, smell and maybe even a life — yeah, I’m saying there’s a chance. A tad dramatic? Maybe — but, again, deadly global pandemic!

While I appreciate you and your crew’s enthusiasm to beat cabin fever by renting an even bigger cabin, I also totally understand why your homies are more intent on staying home right now. We’re all feeling antsy, but I would hope that most of us are also seeing a little light at the end of this terrible tunnel along the COVID-19 Corridor. Our government is using science to guide its battle against the pandemic. Vaccines are here. People are going back to work and kids are going back to school. Life is very slowly creeping back to some sort of normalcy.

But we aren’t there yet. So why would you all pop your small and safe social bubbles right now? Your hearts were in the right place, sure, but your brains must have been fried from all the virtual meetings. Now that reality has set in, everyone who committed to being part of this experience needs to be adults and cover the commitment and costs. If they don’t, you gotta take one for the team and then consider maintaining your social distance from them forever.