Sunday, September 04, 2011

What to do when your money is on the line?

It's Saturday afternoon, and I receive an email request from a professional acquaintance who directs an English program at an Indonesian university. I'd already heard that he was coming to Singapore for a professional visit with nearly 30 teachers from various Indonesian universities. I'd also heard that he'd made reservations for his group at a local budget hotel. What I didn't expect was what he would ask me to do.

He was in panic mode. According to his missive, he had not been able to secure his reservation because he didn't have a credit card, and the visit was just two weeks away. His request was this: Would I be willing to use my credit card to secure the reservation and pay up front for 15 hotel rooms? The tab would be in the thousands of dollars, but he assured me (and I believed him) that as soon as he received the bill from me he would have the money wired to my account.

Generally, I would not have even considered getting involved. But the fellow making the request was a person who had helped organize for me a workshop tour of various Indon universities. He had also invited me to do a presentation skills workshop at his school. In addition, he had made it possible for me to get a book chapter published, and we had also collaborated in project work. In a very real sense, I owed him.

At the same time, I was wary of putting so much cash up front. What would happen if something went awry? I really wanted to avoid a situation that tested our professional friendship.

So how to avoid a conflict in this situation?