what to say to my neighbor?

parheliaAugust 24, 2002

hi all.

i'm very sorry if this is a little off-topic, but i don't know what other forum to post in! please forgive me :)

i bought my first house ever back in march. i'm 24, single, and rather shy, so i didn't go around and introduce myself to everyone... but i have made friends with the neighbors to my west (especially their daughter, and i don't usually do well with kids) and am doing pretty well with my neighbors to the east. it's the lady diagonally across the street i'm not sure about.

the only times i've talked to her were when she came over to see what was up with the redbud trees i planted in my front yard. they're pretty tall and it was the wrong time of year to transplant them, but the previous owner was just going to throw them away. she came over and wanted to know what was wrong with the trees, and i told her they were in shock. turns out she does landscaping at the nearby university and just can't stand to see distressed trees. i'm the same way, but she really came off as abrupt and bossy. i thanked her for her advice and have tried to keep the trees alive, but i don't think they'll make it. :(

my next encounter with this woman was when she marched across the street to say "they're dead." i'd figured that out already, but okay. i haven't dug them out yet, though, because my medicine makes me nauseous and it's all i can do to keep the yard mowed in this heat.

then she tells me that i'll be getting a shirt in the mail sometime soon. they used my address because the rule was "one per household." i must have given her a funny look because she said "oh, we've got them coming to everyone!" and pointed at a few houses, including my neighbors with the little girl. now i thought that was a little rude for them to do that without asking. maybe it's okay with the other neighbors, but they already know her and this was only the second time i'd even talked to her!

my problem now is that i talked to her last maybe two weeks ago. i assume the shirt should have been here already, because she said it would be coming "any day." i'm wondering if this means she got her shirt at her house, and then marched over to my mailbox and got that one. i work until 6pm and sometimes don't get home until late evening if i go shopping or whatever. that means there's a couple hours between the time the mail comes and the time i get home.

i'm not a confrontational person, but i want to know what happened. i feel rather violated thinking that she might have come over and pawed through my mail. it's just the usual bills and junk mail, but it's my mail! and the mailbox is on my front porch. am i being overly sensitive here? how should i approach her about this? i do NOT want this to happen again. i've thought about telling her that the shirt she mentioned never came. but if she then says she saw it and came and got it, what do i say without making an enemy?

i'm sorry this was long and rambling--i'm not good at keeping it short! ;) i'd really appreciate any ideas anyone has. i'm really not good at confrontation, but i have a really sarcastic sense of humor. i'm afraid that if i got up the nerve to say anything, i'd say something baaaad. help, please!

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You say you are shy and don't have many friends in the neighborhood, and are doing pretty well with the neighbors on one side....I think I can see why you don't find it easy to make friends.
Don't make a big deal out of nothing ( even though it may not seem like nothing to you)...her remark about the tree was not intended to insult.....and how do you KNOW that the shirt was delivered already?
Allowing you to do a small favor for her was that woman's way of approaching you. She offered you information on your trees ( and you found out she was a professional) and now offered to "take you in on her scheme"...along with others who are friends.
I say you have no reason to be confrontational....unless you really want to make an enemy of the neighbor across the street.
I would say to her something about that shirt not being delivered yet. If she says she came and got it out of your mail box...I would say....you wish she had let you know as you are uncomfortable about people going into your mail box.
And hope you never have to ask her to take your mail in if unexpectedly you have to be gone over night.
My advise?....Just forget the whole thing.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 24, 2002 at 5:57PM
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Whoa! Who does this lady think she is? She's having personal mail sent to your address without prior approval from you? Talk about nerve!

And last time I heard it's still a federal offense to take mail from someone's mailbox without permission. IMO, some neighbors are more trouble than they're worth.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2002 at 7:30PM
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This is the beginning of a new relationship ( good or bad)
You are setting yourself up to being treated baddly by this "lady".
I would mention the shirt just to see what did happen with it. Maybe say something like you were really worried that it did not arrive ( or did) and that in the future you don't want to have to worry again.
If you let her walk over you now then be prepared to be walked on for years.
It's nice if we can get along with all our neighbors..but sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. Some people are just hard to like.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2002 at 8:38PM
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Well, I certainly don't agree with Lindac, who seems to be putting you on the defensive. That neighbor is invading YOUR privacy - first by offering unsolicited -professional or not! - advice about the trees (on two occasions), and then by having something sent to your mailbox.

You really sound like a nice person, BUT if you don't put a stop to this overbearing personality of the lady right now, you're in for a ton of problems.

I would mention that you haven't seen the package, and if she says she got it from your mailbox, I would tell her, as sweetly as possible, that I do not appreciate her going into my mailbox, and please do not ever do that again. (Really - how many times did she check your mailbox? She knows everything if she did - your creditors, etc.) Nosy neighbor = bad news.

If this makes her hostile towards you, then so be it. You have a right to live in your new home as you see fit. Surely all the other neighbors have either grown accustomed to her bossy attitude, or just ignore her. (Which is what I would do from now on.) YOU have done nothing wrong!

Good luck to you, and happiness in your new home.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2002 at 9:27AM
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I don't know why being neighborly should mean you have to put up with a person committing fraud by getting more than one shirt off some company by using fake addresses. Just tell her not to use your address because it is dishonest, unethical, illegal, etc. Tell her not to do it again because you will return the product to the company, and you'll explain to the company why you're sending it back!
I don't know why you can't just speak the truth.
But if you're not up to telling her that, ask her to kindly refrain from using your address because you don't want your home to end up on every mass mailing marketing list, getting swamped with junk mail, wasting more and more TREES. After all, you've already got the redbuds on your conscious.

If you are worried about her getting in your mail box, you can get a keyed one. You will never have to ask her to take your mail in.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2002 at 9:43AM
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I like Linda's approach.

I hate confrontations as well and don't go looking for them, but I can certainly deal with one if I have too.

That said, I think it is too early in this new neighbour relationship to start a war where one might not be necessary. The fact is the OP doesn't know for sure whether the shirt even arrived and is jumping to conclusions and although I would be annoyed if she used my address with out first obtaining my permission, that is a whole other topic than whether or not she violated the law by actually going into a private mailbox. I would first find out whether or not she had received the shirt. In the event that she didn't then I would wait until it did arrive and then very nicely mention that I would appreciate her not using my address again and I would use the excellent advise from Jasper, that I did not want to be on a number of annoying mailing lists. Now if in fact she did go into my mailbox, then I would tackle that problem.

You don't have to be best friends with all of your neighbours but it certainly makes life more pleasant if you can have a civil relationship with them.


    Bookmark   August 25, 2002 at 10:57AM
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Gee - - I can't understand why LindaC is making you out to be the bad guy! I don't necessarily think there IS a bad guy here, but if there is it's certainly not you. We don't know the actual conversations, and if she was frienly and introducing herself to you at first, or if she marched over and demanded to know what was going on with your bushes. Probably somewhere in between.

However, I think it's pretty slimy for her to assume that she can "outsmart" the system by using her neighbors, and WITHOUT ASKING!!! If nothing else, it's darned rude.

And oh by the way, you say that you're on the shy side and don't usually go around introducing yourself to people. Well, in my book, it's the OLD neighbors who go over and welcome the new neighbors. You shouldn't be expected to introduce yourself; they should be coming to you and introducing themselves.

Anyway, I like the idea of nicely explaining to the woman that you would like her to stop the practice of using your name/address, because of the resulting junk mail. Smile, but be firm in asking her to use someone else.

Then give her another chance (or 2) to redeem herself; all the other stuff could be a misunderstanding.

(And if it turns out she took the shirt from your mailbox, buy a locking mailbox. Problem solved.)

    Bookmark   August 25, 2002 at 6:48PM
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I do not like confrontations AND I appreciate that making nice with the neighbors is very important as it is likely you will be spending many years together. There are not many things worse than having an advisarial relationship with a neighbor.

I would first find out if in fact she did retrieve the shirt from your box. If she did, then you should not feel awkward confronting her in a polite, but firm way. I learned a long time ago that 'no' sets boundaries, otherwise folks will ride herd over you.

It's hard sometimes to be direct, and create conflict, but she would probably have no problem being direct with you. Stand firm, but first get your facts in order. You may be worrying about nothing.


    Bookmark   August 25, 2002 at 8:48PM
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I'm not making you out to be the bad guy....you are doing that all by your self.
If you want to get along with your neighbors ( and believe you me, life is better whan your neighbors are your friends!), don't assume that they have bad motives. Assume that her advice about your stressed trees was made because she thought you wanted to save the trees and needed expert advice. Assume that she didn't mean to offend by sending a shirt to your address without your permission.
If you want to make an enemy of your neighbor, or promote awkward feelings....by all means, ignore her if she comes over....call her and tell her never to again have anything sent to your address again....and furthermore, not to give any advice about plants.
No matter what you say or do....she still lives across the street....and unless one or the other of you moves, it will be that way for a long time. It's better to be forgiving and attempt to get along than to assume that she's " out to get ya"!
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 25, 2002 at 10:21PM
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Linda, Don't quite know where you're coming from, but encouraging this young lady to bow down to what appears to be an overbearing neighbor, can't possibly be in her best interest. Why are you assuming that the neighbor is without fault?

Alienating the woman is one thing, but establishing certain parameters early in the game is usually in ones best interest. Like Sue said, "otherwise folks will ride herd over you."

    Bookmark   August 25, 2002 at 10:53PM
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One good point---parhelia has stated that the idea of this woman checking her mail to retrieve a shirt caused her to feel "violated". That is her feeling, and no amount of advice will change that. Some else might just be annoyed, or outraged, or whatever. But there is no reason to swallow that feeling in the interests of being neighborly. That's how situations go unresolved and fester and usually it is the non-confrontational person who suffers and can come to dread their own neighborhood!
If this bothered you, parhelia, and if you can, you should ask if indeed this woman came and checked your mail. If you are able, you can express your feelings appropriately. How this woman responds is key. If you say, "I am very uncomfortable with what you did" mention the junk mail lists, fraud, not liking your box being checked, whatever it is. Even if your heart is pounding, do it! If she responds appropriately, all will go well! "Good fences make good neighbors" is an old saying with a lot of truth in it. If she gets offended and etc; then she would have been a nightmare of a boundary buster anyway, no matter HOW you handle this! And this way at least you are heading her off at the pass! Boundary busters have an inner radar that enables them to pick out non-confrontational people. They have more respect for those who set boundaries, ultimately. I learned this the hard way. Say a prayer, and just do it. Set your boundaries now before every free sample and product in the world lands at your front door and this woman is regularly checking your mail. What next?
Better to be ignored than invaded!
Blessings, Jillis

    Bookmark   August 25, 2002 at 11:12PM
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Perhaps I am more....uh...stalwart that most. There is no way anyone would "ride herd" over me ( and somehow, I suspect those of you that "know" me are not surprised!!!)
But, I believe in allowing a little slack, in being aware that there are huge differences in the way people "make friends". From what has been said here, I don't believe the neighbor meant anything malicious. Perhaps she was stepping over her boundaries a bit, but I didn't see anything wrong with the neighbor offering advice. Perhaps it was a little nervy to have a package delivered without her permission, but it didn't damage her property, cost her any time nor, much if any inconvenience.
I believe one of the most fascinating things in life are people. They come in all kinds and with all sorts of styles of operating. If one goes through life, looking for who might run roughshod over us, there a lot of wonderful and interesting people we might not know.
The OP said she didn't make friends easily, I wonder why that information was offered? Perhaps she doesn't want to make friends. In that case she could just tell the neighbor to go peddle her papers. But I suspect she was looking for a way to de-fuse the situation, and still keep the neighbor, if not as a friend, at least NOT as an adversary.
In that view my original advise still stands. Just let it go.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 26, 2002 at 12:35AM
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The only person that knows how the advice was offered and what light the conversation with your neighbor took place is you. It sounds like you think she was a bit pushy or rude. Ignore it this time but head that off in the future. As far as the mail issue, I'm with jasper austin. I would politely tell her to please not send any more mail because of the junk issue. And if she can't cope with that then so be it. You really shouldn't have to put up with this as long as you live there. I cant imagine why anyone would use their neighbors addresses to get a t-shirt anyhow.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2002 at 8:05AM
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I haven't seen anyone suggesting that the OP be rude...quite the contrary. It's not 1) be real nice and let her ride herd over you or 2) be nasty and let her hate you.

Most people are suggesting that you NICELY have a conversation with your neighbor and set boundaries. You don't have to be best friends, but you don't have to be enemies, either. (Gee LindaC - - such extreme opposites you're indicating; just because the OP decides to get started in her new neighborhood the way she will be comfortable with does NOT mean that she'll make this woman hate her! I'm very confused by your extreme attitude, but that's ok; I don't have to understand. I'm glad it works for you; my way works for me; that's what life's about).

OP, be nice, friendly, explain as has been suggested (if that's what you're comfortable with).

If she hates you because of it, at least you can feel that you did your part and were the mature adult. You can rest easy, and not feel a loss for not having made friends with someone like her. But let's hope that the friendly but firm approach works and she respects you for it.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2002 at 5:31PM
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thank you all very much for your advice.

there are a few items i'd like to clarify...

i don't know that the shirt was delivered already. if it were to arrive tomorrow, i'd take it across the street and politely ask her not to use my address again. however, i often see her out in her yard. i was worried that the subject would come up and she would say that her shirt arrived so she came over to see if it had arrived in my mailbox. i wanted to have an idea of what to say IF that happened. as i said above, i'm quite the smart aleck when i want to be. my friends and family know my quirks well and find them rather amusing. unfortunately, those remarks are not so amusing if i'm mad and can think of one in time to use it. open mouth, insert foot.

the entire point of my post was to avoid that situation.

i'm very much aware that if i want good neighbors, then i have to be one. i very much want to be a good neighbor, but i will not put up with a user. my father was a user, and he usually used me against my mother. my "best" friend in high school used me to stroke her ego. i finally got a spine and i'm NOT going to put up with it again just because i'm shy and don't like confrontation. i know exactly what it does to me. and because that situation gets my hackles up, all the better reason to have a game plan going into the situation, no?

there, now i sound positively horrid. i'm not, really. it's just that this woman has set off the alarm bells. i'd like to be nice, but firm. i don't have a lot of experience doing that in person. so i asked for some advice.

linda c., i'm trying not to take your remarks personally, but several of them sound like personal attacks. i don't understand the need for that, especially when what i asked for was advice on how to handle the situation politely. i'm willing to forgive the neighbor. she didn't know i would be extremely upset to think of her pawing through my mail, although my mother would have busted my rear if she heard of me doing something like that. to me it's common sense that you don't invade someone else's property like that.

also, you've repeatedly asserted that i said i do not make friends easily. i never said that. i said i was shy. crowds make me nervous. i'm self-conscious. i have to say that i don't think those conditions warrant a statement like "The OP said she didn't make friends easily, I wonder why that information was offered? Perhaps she doesn't want to make friends." although i will say that if "making friends" is letting someone walk all over me--who has friends? people like that make themselves your enemy by their very actions. i've been there and i'm much healthier without friends like that.

and if, perhaps, your words were stronger than you meant them to be, then please forgive me for getting my hackles up.

to reiterate my intention, i only wanted advice on how to handle a potentially sticky situation. i don't have much experience with this kind of confrontation and wanted advice on how to handle it gracefully. i didn't come here looking for an attack or advice on how to alienate my neighbor. again, to those of you who offered advice, thank you very much. i will try my best to honor the good advice you have given me.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2002 at 8:33PM
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As with you I hate confrontation...especially when it comes to talking to a neighbor about a situation such as yours. If the subject comes up - whether you initiate it by asking about the shirt or she brings it up another time - simply say that you'd rather not have her use your address in the future because of how vulnerable the mail system is today (i.e. anthrax, mail bombs, etc.).

I live in the suburbs of Maryland and work in D.C. During the time of the anthrax scare we had to wear gloves to open our mail at work AND at home - it was pretty scary. Someone even died in the same town where I lived (he was a postal employee). My mailbox is intended for my use and my family's use. The only people authorized to access it are postal employees and us. Good luck with your neighbor.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2002 at 11:08AM
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I am so with you on the whole "user" syndrom. I have also grown a spine and nexted friends who only call when they want something. Good for you! Some people are way to nosey and they need to be put in their place early on so they don't try to step all over you in the future. I hope things work out for you:o)

    Bookmark   August 28, 2002 at 11:16AM
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Usually in these matters there is a middle ground. We can't be at all sure that the neighbour was badly intentioned.

Perhaps a little eccentric, maybe even a little "dottie" . maybe it was even an over reaction on pathelia's part...maybe!

My point is that we are all a little different and the best way to understand these things is to spend some time getting to know each other....then one can make a decision on wether to be freindly or not. Personally I don't think there is enough info to determine that yet. Not saying which way it will go, just saying....that maybe there is somemore "feeling out" to do

    Bookmark   August 28, 2002 at 7:30PM
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Parhelia - excellent post. Sounds to me like you've got things figured out. It takes some people (hmmm, me?) years to realize how to set boundaries. You've already "got" it. Creating boundaries does NOT mean being rude or unfriendly.

You can be my neighbor and/or friend anytime.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2002 at 9:35AM
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Here is what we know about the neighbor:
1) She has lied to the shirt company to get more free stuff;
2) She has dragged the OP into it by expecting her to participate after the fact.

Sorry, this is way out of line in my book. I agree that being "neighborly" is important but some people are rude. Period. Although no one should go out of his/her way to pick a fight, the OP would be 100% appropriate in asking the neighbor not to do this again. And if the neighbor gets upset, then she is the one being a bad neighbor, not the OP.

Seems that some of those responding here are a lot like the neighbor at issue . . . If you are, please take a step back and consider your own actions in the future.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2002 at 1:40PM
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parhelia, accept the advise about the trees. The woman probably knows what she is talking about. Some people come accross as overbearing and know-it-alls when they are really just trying to help. Maybe she was being a little nosy too. About the T-shirt.....I would let this one pass. If she ever does it again, tell her up front that you don't appreciate it and to please not do it again. If she gets p*****, just say "well gee, isn't that FRAUD?". If you burn the bridge, so be it. It's nice to be nice but only to a point. I try to avoid confrontations also but I can surly rise to the occasion if need be. I also don't like crowds and some social situations, but I deal with them.
Be nice but also be firm with your neighbor. She will only do what you LET her do. Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2002 at 9:13AM
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Julie, a month has passed ... how are things with the neighbor?

    Bookmark   September 22, 2002 at 11:07AM
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Here you go - ask the neighbor if the shirt has arrived. If it has, ask how she got it. If she did violate your mail box, let her know that it is a federal offense and that you would appreciate that in the future that she never open your box again nor use your address for purposes of getting an extra this or that. Now as for harmony amongst neighbors. I am all for it, but it doesn't always happen. I don't really have any neighbors but hearing stories from friends that do, some are good relationships, some are just a wave and that's it. HONESTY is the best policy. If she is making you feel uncomfortable with her overbearing behavior please tell her. All this don't want to offend since you're the new neighbor yada yada is for the birds. You have a right to your privacy and no one should ever open your mailbox with the exception of the mailman or someone you ask to get your mail when you are out of town. I don't know your age, but I am assuming you are younger than I. You will learn over time that honesty (nicely put) is always the best way to go. No misunderstandings that way. Best of luck to you.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2006 at 1:03PM
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I'm thinking that since it's been four years, the OP has already acted on this.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2006 at 7:58PM
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