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Monday question: Auntie social tendencies

Posted by Robin Abrahams  December 6, 2010 05:31 AM

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Nothing like a classic Kohlberg-style moral dilemma to start your week:

I have a moral dilemma. An elderly relative I will call Edna lies to mail order companies and is stealing mail from the building where she resides. As much as I would like to chalk it up to an age related issues such as dementia, such is not the circumstance. The reason for this behavior has nothing to do with finances since Edna has a steady, comfortable monthly income.

When ordering items via catalog Edna will call and say she never received the item or it came damaged. She ends up with either a free replacement or a full credit. In this manner she gets either 2 of the item or the item is free. Partly the companies are to blame for not putting this together with her chronic order "mishaps" and not have better fact checking bit I digress. More troubling though is stealing of packages from the building. There is a common entryway with locked mailboxes and a table for deliveries. Edna will go down and often take packages left on the table that do not fit in the mailboxes or left because no signature required. The packages do not belong to Edna!!!

I am an honest person and this is very upsetting because Edna is also very dear to me and I do not want to cause serious trouble at her age. The building does have an internal security camera for the lobby however it does not and has not worked for some time. I find myself torn between not reporting something I should and getting a dear relative into trouble and possibly eviction. I would appreciate some guidance as to how I can delicately remedy this situation.

What should be done about Edna? And how can it be done quickly, before the holiday season overwhelms her with opportunities?

I'll post my advice and response on Friday, and a conversational topic on Wednesday. In the meantime, you can always catch up with me at my other blog or on Twitter (robinabrahams).
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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