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I am a PhD student studying in the US. I have been working at a lab in my department for a year now. When I joined the team, there was a master's candidate student who was already working at the lab for about a semester before I joined. The master's student is an Asian female from abroad who is a year older and I am an Asian American born and raised in the states. Because of her cultural background and due to the fact that she has been with the lab longer than I have combined with her being older than me, she has been kinda bossing me around from day 1. To be honest, I really don't mind doing the grunt work as long as my efforts contribute to something meaningful, so I never said anything about this. Despite her overbearing nature, I have been trying hard to get along and we haven't had any trouble over the course of this year.

However, there was one incident about four months ago when she asked me to borrow a textbook for her from the school library. She told me that she would return the book herself within three months. I trusted her, and as I was already at the library at the time, I borrowed the book in my name and gave it to her later that day.

After the promised three months, I checked my library account only to find out that the book was not returned. I politely asked her to return the book, and she apologized for not doing so earlier and told me that she would return the book as soon as she has the chance. She sounded very sorry, so I believed her again.

Two weeks have gone by, and I checked my library account this morning, only to find that the book has not been returned. The only thing is that it is final exams week and I don't want to make a scene with this woman. Another problem is that she no longer works at our lab she will be graduating after this semester, so, there is a real possibility of her taking off with the book, and I'll be the one left with the fees ($300).

How do I force her to return the book without burning ties with this person? The Asian community at my school is pretty small, so an incident like this can hurt my reputation and I would not want that.

  • Is there any particular reason you're stressing her gender so much? – user42272 Dec 9 '16 at 3:45
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    You don't want to make a scene - well, it's either that or paying up $300. I'd make a scene. Like "please bring that book tomorrow morning. Give my your home phone number so I can call you and remind you to bring it. That book is $300, so if you don't bring it we'll have to go to your home and pick it up". Good chance that she lost it. – gnasher729 Dec 9 '16 at 7:21
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    I've never heard of Asian communities anywhere being very supportive of people who cost others lots of money by not returning books. – gnasher729 Dec 9 '16 at 7:21
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    "Two weeks have gone by" What? Why are you making such a big deal of this if you've only reminded her once? She's obviously forgetful so only telling her about it one time is unlikely to work. Hell, she could have simply been distracted when you talked to her about it two weeks ago. Before you escalate this you need to make at least some effort to remind her about it... – Lilienthal Dec 9 '16 at 10:02
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    I agree with @Lilienthal. Keep reminding her, every single day, even if it means she will find you annoying. Make sure that she gives the book to you and not directly to the library. You don't want to run into the scenario where she says she turned it in but the library has no record (aka she lost it and lied about it). – David K Dec 12 '16 at 18:25
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The question here is really just "another student employee hasn't returned a book I checked out for her. What can I do about it?".

Ask your lab head, or department chair, or the library staff -- that is, ask management. There may be no polite solution; you may need to bring an academic ethics complaint.

Expecting anyone who is about to graduate to pay attention to anything else is probably a futile hope. Your best bet, if it can be done, is to get her to agree in writing to have the book's history changed so it's checked out to her rather than to you.

Or convince her to pay you the lost-book cost, and go in and pay off the book.

Or accept this as a relatively cheap lesson in the risk of co-signing a loan.

With hindsight, I'll suggest that what you should have done was take her ID and check the book out in her name rather than your own. Do the favor , but avoid the risk. A bit late now, though.

  • I disagree with the second paragraph: if I were the lab head, the department chair, or librarian, I'd see no reason to intervene between the parties here (and for the OP to view it as an "academic ethics complaint" is a bit much and a poor idea: he's involved too). If this happened among two students of mine, I would decline to get involved, and a student's insistence that they need the help of "management" to resolve this issue would do more than $300 of damage to their reputation with me and others. – Pete L. Clark Jan 21 '17 at 23:56
  • Bottom line: when you check a book out of a library, you are single-handedly responsible for returning it or paying to replace it. If you give the book to someone else, then either (i) you can prevail upon them to return it or pay for it or (ii) are willing to assume the risk yourself. Those are the OP's two options. – Pete L. Clark Jan 21 '17 at 23:57
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I would just pay the missing book fine, and learn a lesson from this. I would only loan substantially to those you are VERY certain can repay.

In this case, at the end of the day, it's your word versus hers.

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In the meantime, check on Amazon if they have a book available for sale. Buying it, even with your own money, is almost certainly going to be significantly cheaper than coughing up $300.

Try to be nice one last time. Tell her that if she does not return the book, the library will stick you with $300 in fines and fees. And tell her that she needs to return the book, and this is a priority item. If she can't produce the book, tell her that she is to order a replacement book and tell her how much it's going to cost her. Hopefully, this lights a fire under her butt to produce the book. Talk to her adviser about the book to increase the pressure on her.

If she can't produce the book within a week, assume that you'll never see that book again. Check that the book is available on Amazon (*), then go to the library where you borrowed the book and offer to replace it. See if they'll go for the bait. If they go for the bait, either make her buy the book or buy the book and send her an invoice for the cost of the book. Then bring the book to the library so that they can process it as their book.

You are worried about not burning ties with this deadbeat, and you are worried about your standing with the Asian community at your school? Are you serious? Maybe burning $300 dollars of your own money because you relied on someone's worthless promise might be a worthwhile lesson about life for you. Having a bad rep for collecting what's owed them is what keeps banks from having to collect. That, and being careful about whom they let borrow from them. If you can't stomach collecting - and most people can't - don't lend. Or lend with the full expectation that you'll never get it back.

(*) You may get lucky and a graduating student may part with their textbook for free, if you ask nicely. Don't get your hopes up on being lucky, though.

  • 9 downvotes? Seriously, folks? I don't agree with parts of this answer, but it's not like this poster is advocating leg breaking. – Nolo Problemo Dec 12 '16 at 19:04

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