Research suggests you should avoid charging others inconsequential amounts and keeping such close tabs on what you’re owed.
Being petty and pinching your pennies can cost you friends.
With all the convenience and ease of paying someone back with Venmo, a new series of studies shows that the cash-transferring app might be doing more harm than good to our relationships: People are charging their friends and significant others the exact number of cents they’re owed — instead of, say, rounding up or down to the nearest dollar.
In her series of studies with Venmo participants, Tami Kim, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, focused on people in romantic relationships and used controlled situations to reveal pettiness — including actions like presenting people with very precise amounts or using a calculator.
People who engaged in petty behaviors were penalized by others’ perceptions of them, Kim found, even when they were being objectively more generous — like giving a gift card worth $13.50 instead of a flat $10. In some other cases, Venmo users admitted to using surveillance tactics: Suzy, who didn’t provide a last name, said she has romantic relationship paranoia and checks who her boyfriend is sending money to; for example, his sending money to an ex-girlfriend in the past made Suzy question his fidelity. Another study participant named Nicole said she’s addicted to following her friends on Venmo to see where they’re going — and gets angry when she’s not invited.
With more than 10 million people using Venmo every month to shuttle $18 million dollars back and forth, according to Verto Analytics, Venmo has changed the peer-to-peer banking landscape by streamlining the ability to send and receive funds on the fly. And millennials comprise the majority of Venmo users as of July 2017, according to Statista, with over 4.1 million people ages 25 to 34 using the app every month.
While Kim’s study incorporated people ranging in age from 18 to 70, a significant amount of her research focused on 20- and 30-somethings, which turned out to be the group most likely to keep close tabs on how much they’re owed. “These platforms are allowing people to maintain a balance sheet of zero in each of their relationships,” Kim said. “But we’re highlighting that these types of behaviors can potentially backfire.”
Stacy, a study participant, said her friends don’t understand the concept of “buying a round of drinks.” When buying a round of drinks for her friends, she said, “I got it!” — and before the drinks even arrived, her friends had already sent her the payment for their respective beverages.
Thomas Kellogg, a 32-year old MBA student at the University of Virginia, told Moneyish he’s seen Venmo negatively impact friendships and relationships. “Continuously charging friends without discussing the issue ahead of time can cheapen a trusting relationship,” said Kellogg.
In order to use the app without alienating others, Kim encourages people to take into consideration the type of relationship in which an exchange is occuring. “For relationships in which transactionality is not the norm, there may be unexpected benefits from leaving a little room for error,” Kim said.
When Kellogg goes out with friends in a large group, he discusses payment plans in advance. “Transacting without your phone can be simpler and easier than charging each other back and forth,” he said. “Most of my nights out, I won’t end up more than $10 to $20 ahead or behind, and I can trust that the next time we go out, it will balance out.”
Kellogg’s preferred method for making sure nobody feels slighted is to trust that any money owed will come out in the wash — and to be adult enough to openly talk about it with good friends. “It’s better than an impersonal charge that cheapens the relationship,” he said.
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