should I work for a creep, negotiating parking, and more

It’s six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

1. Should I take a job working with a creepy boss?

Recently I received an anonymous gift. The only person who could have known that it was something I wanted was my manager. It was not an expensive present, but it made me very uncomfortable. Since then, I have had to work late a few times. When this has happened, my boss also stays later than he normally does. One of the times I am pretty sure he tried to ask me out, although I was able to deflect it. I have heard many stories about inappropriate text messages he sent to other coworkers, although to my knowledge, most of the recipients were not on his team and no one has gone to HR about it and it seems that he is very good about toeing the line about what is inappropriate and what is not. I have a serious boyfriend that he knows about and cannot think of anything I would have done to make him think I would be interested.

There is now a position open that I would really like to apply for, but it will involve working one-on-one with him much more frequently than I am now. Should I give up on this job, which I have a pretty good shot at getting, and I think I would really enjoy? Do you have any suggestions for something I could do to make it so that I could apply for the job without worrying that I would be miserable if I got it?

Well, in the starkest terms, are you willing to work closely with someone who behaves like this? If he’s careful about walking the line just so, there might be nothing reportable, but he still might make you feel creeped out, so do you want to take that on? I know that sounds like a loaded question, but it’s a genuine one — some people aren’t especially bothered by this and some are, and you need to know which camp you fall in. Just make sure your eyes are open about what you might be signing up for — don’t evaluate “the job as it would be if he weren’t there,” but the whole package — the job and a close proximity to this guy.

(That said, if he has a reputation for persisting once he’s turned down, that takes things to an entirely new level of asshattery, one that I’d stay away from even if you have a high level of immunity to jerks.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Recruiters got upset when I withdrew from the hiring process

Occasionally during an interview process, I will decide to withdraw from candidacy, either because of a personal reason or something I learned during the interview. However, with the last 2 positions I withdrew from consideration, both recruiters seemed seemed upset (separate companies, in case that wasn’t clear). They demanded to know what went wrong, why I wasn’t interested anymore, and seemed supremely annoyed about the whole thing. I’m always extremely polite, so I don’t understand the response. I don’t throw a hissy fit if employers decide they don’t want to interview me further. If you’re no longer interested, isn’t it more respectful to bow out before you get to the offer stage?

Yes, it is. You shouldn’t waste their time if you’re not interested, and they shouldn’t want it wasted. These sound like recruiters who have forgotten that candidates get to make a choice in the hiring process too, not just employers.

3. Can I negotiate a parking pass as part of a job offer?

Thanks to your help (seriously, THANK YOU!) I have been told to expect a job offer next week. It is for an EA position in downtown Boston at a company with around 80 employees.

I live in the suburbs just outside of the city and, since our transit system is a Certified Hot Mess, I plan on driving. Parking in the building’s garage, naturally costs roughly the equivalent of chartering a helicopter (okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating, but it’s expensive), so I’m wondering if I can negotiate a parking pass as part of the offer.

I will be responsible for reception/main phone line duties for the entire office as well and my being two hours late because a squirrel left its acorn on a train track and brought the transit system to a screeching halt would be an issue. If this is something that would be reasonable for me to request, what is the best way to approach it during negotiations? Parking expenses would translate to over $4,000 per year, so should I plan on offering some flexibility on salary? Your thoughts would be much appreciated!

Sure, you can try to negotiate for that. And yes, it could mean that they’d want to go lower on salary since on their end this would be the equivalent of paying you an additional $4,000 in salary (well, slightly less because they wouldn’t be paying payroll taxes on it), but like any negotiation, it will all come down to how much they want you.

4. Adding new project work to your resume

Should — or how should — I mention newly-acquired project work on my resume or in job applications more broadly? I recently got a graduate degree and then moved back to my home city to restart my new career here. Happily, I got offered some exciting, very field-relevant part-time paid work with an organization I used to work with as an intern. It’s a discrete (thankfully not discreet) project that I started early this month and will complete sometime next month.

On the one hand, it feels a little flimsy to put this on my resume already, and I’m not sure how I’d do it. On the other hand, I’d really like to be able to show employers that I’m getting “plugged back in” to the work scene in this city, since most of my recent experience was in the city where I went to grad school, and I also feel that it hopefully reflects well on me that an organization I used to work with at a much earlier stage in my career wanted me to come back and do more for them. Any thoughts?

Put it on there. Just make sure that you indicate that it’s ending next month, so that they don’t assume it’s a more long-term job and wonder why you’re already looking to leave it when you just started it.

5. Heating food up in the office

Can a manager tell you not to heat food up while you are on your break?

Yes. In fact, there are very few things a manager is not allowed to tell you.

But if you find out the manager’s reasoning, sometimes you’ll be able to present a calm, compelling argument for reconsidering. That depends on your manager though.

6. Can my company force me to use vacation time for the days after Thanksgiving and Christmas?

I’m an exempt employee at a health care organization in Virginia. Halfway through the year and about six months after I started, they determined that all non-clinical staff would be required to use paid annual leave for not only holidays, but additional holiday time as well. Instead of just taking Thanksgiving, we have to take Thanksgiving and the day after. Instead of just taking Christmas, we have to take Christmas and the day after. This is how it will be for every holiday.

I’m guessing this is somehow legal, but I wanted to be sure. It seems odd that I’m given annual leave but forced to take it according to their specifications. I also haven’t been here long enough to accrue the amount of leave necessary to fulfill these extra days, so I’ll have to take unpaid days. Instead of getting to use my allotted leave days freely, I get to use less than half of them how I want. Is this legal?

Yes. No law requires employers to offer vacation time at all, so they can put whatever restrictions on it they want, including saying that you have to use it on certain days.

What’s not legal, however, is docking your pay for the days you’re made to take off. Since you’re exempt, they can’t dock your pay for an absence that they’ve occasioned. They can require you to use PTO for that day, but if you don’t have enough accrued, they can’t take it out of your pay. (They could, however, charge it against future PTO.)

{ 193 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    #2, I hate when recruiters do that! The good ones will thank you for your time and move on, and the bad ones will keep pestering you because they feel like they have nothing to lose.

    #4, shout-out for knowing the difference between discrete and discreet :)

    1. Jessa*

      Exactly, why do they care if you’re being considerate enough not to waste their time. The only thing I can think of is if they’re losing candidates for a certain position and they really want to know why people don’t want the job. But probably they’re just being pissy because people don’t want to work for the company.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I think it’s that if you’re in the late stages of the interview process, there’s a good chance the company likes you and will make an offer. So a recruiter won’t care so much if she loses you early in the process, because she has less time invested in you and the chances that she’s losing a commission by your exiting the process at that point are small. But in the later stages, there’s an excellent chance she’s losing out on a commission, so of course she’s not happy and wants you to stick around.

        That being said, a good recruiter knows that her long-term relationships with both you and the company or companies she’s hiring for depend not only on how much the company likes the candidate, but how much the candidate likes the company. So a good recruiter will think, “Too bad this time, but I’ll keep Jane in mind for other openings that don’t have [insert whatever it is that broke the deal here] next time,” not “Dammit, if I don’t push Jane into accepting [dealbreaker], I’m out all kinds of money! I have nothing to lose by trying to talk her into this!”

        1. JM in England*


          Have also had recruiters give me an ear bashing over the phone after I’ve interviewed for a job and not been offered it. Got the impression they were more concerned about not getting their comission and were taking it out on me!

          1. Tina*

            Why, did they think you deliberately bombed the interview? It’s not like you can control whether you get an offer or not.

          2. Erik*

            +1 – you nailed the true reason. They lose their finder’s fee.

            I’ve had too many arguments with recruiters to remember over this very issue. If it’s not a fit, it’s not a fit. Period. Nothing personal.

            1. JM in England*

              Exactly Tina!

              One thing I’ve learned during my working life is that there is nothing more you can do other than give the interview your best shot. The fact that there were better candidates is the recruiter’s problem, not mine!

            2. Dave*

              And you would think that they wouldn’t get pissed:

              You got an interview with their client. One would think that if they didn’t like you, they wouldn’t waste your time. Maybe the next position they send you in for would be the one!

    2. WWWONKA*

      Many agency recruiters are young and inexperienced. I have had contact with recruiters that know absolutely nothing about me or my field yet they are the one’s deciding on passing your resume along.

      1. Audiophile*


        I had a recruiter request that I come in to meet with her at 8am. I took a day off work, train ride down to Manhattan. And only after we’d talked for about 15-20 minutes did, she announce that the client was looking for someone with a business degree. (I do not have a business degree.) I was so annoyed, I did not continue a relationship with that recruiter. Either she did not read my resume, or she was hoping to build her candidate pool for later use and that I would come back to her.

        1. WWWONKA*

          I have had recruiters talk to me about a job that they have NO relationship with the employer. When I ask them about that they start playing a game and I end it there. Rarely have they read my resume and are prepared to talk with me.

          1. Audiophile*

            Wow, that’s pretty shady. At least you can spot this, I always seem to have an issue spotting the more obvious “building the candidate pool.”

            I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve met with recruiters only to be told, “we have nothing right now.” Then why did you insist I come in?

            1. WWWONKA*

              Sometimes you need to watch the job postings. I see different agencies posting what obviously is the same job in the same city. Funny thing is the company that is hiring has already posted their own job and they all sound the same. I even had a recruiter from MN call me about a job. I am in CA. He went on to ask me if I was working with any other recruiter for this job. That’s obvious farming.

              1. Anonymous*

                Well that’s a little more obvious, if they’re calling from another state and you didn’t initiate the conversation.

                Lately, I’ve taken to specifically seeking out the places I want to apply. Trying to actively stay away the job search engines, which is where I’d often find most of the recruiter placed positions.

  2. Meg*

    I know this sounds like a snarky question, but I swear it’s not – in regards to #3, why do people hate the MBTA so much? I take it to and from work every day, and the trains at least seem to be pretty reliable in getting me where I need to go (I don’t take busses that often, so maybe those are different?). I hear people complain about it all the time but I’ve rarely had a major problem with it. I really am curious!

    1. Michele*

      I do not think you are being snarky at all. I was wondering the same thing. I live in NYC and have found in general people just like to complain about public transport.the weekends and late nights are worse here because that is when the do all the track work.

    2. Anonymous*

      I had the same thought! I took MBTA buses to get to work (depending on how much walking I felt like doing, I could take 1-3 buses to work) and remember it being pretty reliable except when the snow banks got so high that 2 way streets were pretty much down to 1 car width, but cars had the same issues so it was just generally difficult to get around the city. On a normal day, occasionally a bus wouldn’t come on schedule, but when they come every 10-15 minutes, it wasn’t really a big deal. Sure it might make me a little late, but it’s not like you are immune from delays in a car. But maybe I just like public transportation so I’m more forgiving about it’s flaws.

      1. Mavis*

        I’ve been taking the commuter rail for 10+ years. I live on one of the lines with the worst reputations. My train ride should take an hour, but there at times it has taken upwards of 3 hours. On a typical day it is 10 minutes late, so I factor that into my commute time. I also put up with this because driving would be even worse.

        Good luck to the OP in negotiating a parking permit. There are many who want them, including those who are probably in a role mor senior than EA and who have been with the company longer. Better to negotiate for more salary and pay the parking costs yourself if that’s the route you want to take.

        1. Anon1*

          Perks tend to be harder to negotiate than salary. In our place, benefits tend to be based on your level. They won’t typically budge on these while salary is more flexible. The only one that I know is flexible are relocation packages simply because these are all different and one time only. I wish the op good luck.

        2. BGirl81*

          “There are many who want them, including those who are probably in a role more senior than EA and who have been with the company longer. ”

          That is exactly why I wasn’t sure if it was worth asking for! I figure the worst they can say is, “NO, child, just no.” :)

          1. fposte*

            Just for discussion’s sake, I’d say that’s not actually the worst that can happen–you can also taint a new position by asking for any entitlements that are viewed as way beyond appropriate. As long as you do it reasonably (asking to discuss offset possibilities rather than throwing in a $5k value as a requirement at the last minute) this shouldn’t be one of them, but there can be more than a simple “no” as a result of a request.

            1. BGirl81*

              Yeah, I was just going to say, “I’m going to be driving in so I don’t have to deal with any public transportation delays, do you offer pre-tax parking benefits or is there a space available?” and take it from there. I don’t think it would be considered way beyond appropriate, because this is a branch office of a large company and I will be supporting the C-level suite of the entire company, which works out of this particular branch. If I asked them to throw in a weekly car detail, THAT might be pushing it ;)

              1. TheSnarkyB*

                Yeah, I think this approach should work well. I wouldnt soften it any further- and once you ask, stop talking- but it sounds good as is. Check out the AAM archives for negotiation advice too!

      2. Bea W*

        At least when someone else is doing the driving, you can read or fuss with your smart phone or something to pass the time. I prefer to be stuck on the T over stuck in my car any day, and being stuck in traffic your car is a guaranteed twice daily occurrence for most people.

    3. TBoT*

      Add me to the non-snarky list! My partner takes busses and trains from Arlington to Cambridge every day, and the only problem he’s routinely had is that the 77 busses tend to get stacked up on Mass Ave because of traffic. I don’t take MBTA nearly as often as he does, but I’ve never had any kind of serious problem, either. Definitely not anything that approaches Certified Hot Mess status.

      1. Meg*

        I used to take the 77! I dated a guy in Arlington for awhile, and when I went to work from his place, I’d take it into Harvard Square. Occasionally (I work in Boston now), I’ll take the 47 to Central Square, and it’s been known to run late at times. The only time it was a true disaster was on Opening Day for the Red Sox – I seriously considering walking from Boston to Somerville rather than deal with the mess that was public transportation that day.

    4. Gemma*

      I’ve lived all over the area, and it really does depend on what line you’re using, at least with the commuter rail. Some of them are very reliable and some really aren’t (and some, like the Lowell line, tend to be cancelled whenever there’s a big accumulation of snow which is ridiculous.) I also had the worst time commuting from Burlington to Cambridge every day on the 350 bus.

      1. Tina*

        I take the red line to the orange line every day (and back again), and there are some days on the red line when I’d like to shoot myself because of delays, crowds and general aggravation. There have been some particularly frustrating delays in the last couple of weeks. I still wouldn’t consider it as bad as a “hot mess” and I have no intention of buying a car or driving into town, so I manage.

        It does make for some entertaining stories sometimes though. One of my friends suggested I start a blog called “Red Line Rant.” :)

        1. Hous*

          Huh, I do red line to silver line (non-airport version) and haven’t had any recent issues I’d consider outside the norm. On the other hand, I used to commute with the green line, and that was so awful that nothing the red line has ever done has compared.

          (In general, I really like the Boston transit system and use it all the time, but I seriously hate the green line.)

          1. Tina*

            Oh I agree with you about the Green Line being worse! I almost never have to use the Green, thankfully.

      2. Bradamante*

        Lots of action going on in MA state politics . . . make sure you get out and vote for candidates who will try to fix this problem!

      3. Karen*

        The Franklin line on the commuter rail is actually pretty OK. I’d give them a 85% on time rating (that includes the assumption that on time means 15 minutes late). Winters? forget it. Winter of 2010/2011, that horrid snowy winter we had.. if there was even a snowflake in sight it would take 90 minutes to get to work.

      4. Julie*

        I take the T often, and I don’t have many problems. I think it might be the difference between the local train lines and the commuter rail, which I’ve never used.

    5. Tai*

      My guess is that the OP is on a commuter rail line or a really bad bus route. I take the Orange Line every day, and I’m fine with it.

    6. Sarah*

      I take the Red Line every day and it can certainly be a mess, but it’s still so much better than driving a car in this city. My boyfriend takes the commuter rail every day and never really has too many issues, but of course it can be delayed like any other method of transportation. To me, it’s definitely not worth $4,000 in parking alone.

    7. Britney*

      I take the red line to work everyday, and I’ve only been late for work because of it once in two years. That said, I usually leave with plenty of time to get to work. I occasionally get coffee or sit outside the office once I get off the train, get off a few stops early and walk the rest of the way, or just show up to work with 20 minutes to spare.

    8. Andrew*

      I used to take the Fitchburg commuter rail line and change to the Red Line at Porter Sq. every day, and very rarely had problems. I think complaining about mass transit is just a reflex action.

    9. Annie*

      Some people do just have a knee-jerk reaction that car>T. Trying to get into downtown Boston at rush hour? T>car, in my opinion. While the T has its quirks, and is not immune to delays, it isn’t as apt to get “stuck in traffic” like a car is.

      Unless it’s the green line. I work in Kenmore square, and most afternoons I just walk to Mass Ave to get the orange line than bother with the gamble that is “will the green line show up, and how many billions of people will be on it?”

      Back to the question at hand. . .the OP knows that other receptionists take the T to work, too, right? People are late sometimes, life goes on. And honestly, if there’s such a delay that it’s making you two hours late, other people in the office will probably be late too. And there’s almost certainly something in place where there’s a person who can do back-up on reception if you’re running late.

      1. TBoT*

        I’d like to second this. Any reasonable manager and reasonable company is going to understand that a major transit problem is going to cause people to be late.

        I used to commute to work in Atlanta on MARTA, along with a lot of colleagues. One day the entire north/south rail line was shut down at one station because of a suspicious package, with shuttle busses allegedly ferrying everybody between the stations on either side. We all saw the horrendous shuttle situation and elected to walk instead. More than half the office was late that day, and everybody understood.

        1. TychaBrahe*

          I used to ride the Metrolink San Bernardino line in Southern California. I rode the first train in so that I would be in the office at 6 am. Because it was the first train, any overnight problem delayed us: drunk who drove onto the tracks, downed trees, broken signals.

          It’s understandable, and it wasn’t common. (Now the Riverside line was routinely late, as the track was shared with freight traffic. ) But when it happened, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t my fault. What mattered was that at 6 am the phones were going to start ringing and no one would be in the office to handle them. And the person on call would be paged.

        2. Jaimie*

          I agree, too. I think that asking and then letting it go is fine, but I would expect to get a no. Lengthy delays happen, but for most lines not that often, and traffic happens too. I happen to know a lot of C level execs who take the commuter rail themselves, so be careful how you phrase your request. You might not like public transit, but it does work for most people and I think that if you go in with “hot mess” you are going to get labeled as someone who is inaccurate and exaggerates. Not good for someone who is in a job where discretion is going to be highly valued.

      2. junipergreen*

        Agreed! If there are significant delays, you won’t be the only one in the same boat. And if your presence in the office is truly vital to proper functioning of the day-to-day operations, you’ll need to build in buffer time for your commute, regardless of whether it’s by car or MBTA.

        I, for one, enjoy the amount of reading I accomplish on my long, slow commute :-)

    10. BGirl81*

      OP here :) I love how we could literally spend a week discussing the MBTA haha! In my case, it would be a local bus to the Red Line. Sounds simple enough, but the local bus can run anywhere to 40-50 minutes behind schedule and, for who knows what reason, it’s never updated on the app. I could be downtown via car in 30 minutes, so that’s where my vexation comes in. If only the helicopter was a viable option *sigh*!

        1. BGirl81*

          I certainly have, but with the traffic getting into the station, I could be 80% of the way to work in the car before I even got to the darn train haha!

          1. Sarah*

            What end of the red line are you on? Braintree/Quincy you have a few close options with a bunch of different Braintree/Quincy stops. OR, if you are in that neck of the woods, how about the ferry from Hingham?

            1. BGirl81*

              I’m the Cambridge area of the red line and, in a month, I will be moving to the north shore where my best option will be the Mass Pike bus (commuter rail goes to north station in the area), which goes through some preeeeetty sketchy areas. It’s funny, because my commute from my new place will literally take the same amount of time. Oh Massachusetts, you just never know with it!

              1. Tricia*

                I see below you are going to be moving north of Lynn. This is on the Newburyport/Rockport line which is very reliable and safe. I have used it since 1998. Like all commuting systems, it has it delays occasionally. North station gives you access to green or orange line. I am not sure what you are referring to by the Mass Pike bus, as this area is no where near the Mass Pike. One option other than the commuter rail is to drive 1A to blue line at Wonderland and take T from there. Lots of parking there. Good luck.

                1. BGirl81*

                  I will be living in Swampscott, where you just take the Mass Pike and follow 1A to Lynn Shore Drive (Swampscott is right next to Lynn), easy-peasy! I think the bus follows pretty much the same route. Thank you for the info on the commuter rail – public transportation is the only thing new to me in the area and it’s awesome to have another woman’s opinion on safety :)

                2. Bea W*

                  I feel old or something. I still think of the Mass Pike as the part that starts downtown and goes west, not that other part that goes to the airport and connects with 1A. People just refer to the as the Ted Williams Tunnel on this side of town. Maybe folks at the other end think differently.

                  I also still say “128”, not “95” (unless I correct myself while talking to a non-local).

                3. Adrienne*

                  I’ve taken the train to and from Swampscott many times – it’s pretty quick! Yes, it will bring you to North Station, but if you’re working in downtown Boston, you could likely walk or take the green/orange line to most places you’d need to go from there. It’s definitely worth a try.

              2. Bea W*

                The Longfellow is partially closed now (traffic to Boston only). So for the time you are still commuting between Cambridge and Boston, I strongly recommend the Red Line. Traffic is a cluster now, and will be an even bigger cluster starting next week.

                There is also construction on the Tobin, which some of my north-living co-workers hit, and say has really fudged up their commute. One is thinking of going back to the commuter rail, despite hating it and swearing the T off forever. That’s how bad it is.

                I commute through “sketchy” areas, and during rush hour, it’s just a bunch of other people also going to work or coming home from work, and sometimes school kids depending on the time. It’s not as sketchy then as you might think.

          2. Bea W*

            I read further down you’re closest to Alewife, and can back you up on traffic in and out of to that station is worse than if you just drove all the way into work, and if that’s the way you’re coming ignore my now horrible advice about taking the Red Line while they work on the Longfellow, I assumed you were in a more convenient location than having to deal with that mess.

          1. BGirl81*

            Well, a lot of the comments basically boil down to, “The OP (who has lived in MA for all of her years on this earth and once had to walk through a rat-infested subway tunnel due to a “switching problem”) is a complainer/has no idea what she’s talking about/is an idiot for wanting to sit in her clean car instead of packed in with stangers, gropers and iPhone thieves.”. Kind of funny, considering my question was about salary negotiation.

            1. Andrea*

              Welcome to the Internet. :-)

              (Actually the AAM readers are so refreshingly not like most of the Internet it’s pretty awesome.)

            2. Bobby Digital*

              Ha. This reminds me of the post from a few weeks ago where an OP was annoyed because her coworkers wouldn’t leave her alone about riding the bus. Most of the comments ranged from being supportive of the OP’s right to commute how she wished to mildly defensive personal endorsements of public transportation to outright zealous condemnations of people who don’t like the bus.

              My question at the time was whether or not people would react the same way under opposite circumstances (in other words, were they actually supporting the free will of the OP or were they moralizing certain types of morning commutes?).

              Within your question is kinda sorta the counterpoint: you want to drive; many people ride. And, yeah, it seems like a lot of these comments are trying to persuade you to ride, even though that wasn’t your question.

              I think this points to a larger fallacy wherein some people moralize how other people choose to get to work. And I think a lot of the (arbitrary) moral virtue is gifted to people who take public transportation.

              Just my thoughts.

              1. Bea W*

                There are those kinds of comments, but I’m also just seeing people sharing their experiences in general without making judgements on the OP.

                Folks who did offer advice on that commuting end also had no information to gauge whether the decision to drive was based on experience or hope and no idea what routes it involved. I know as soon as I saw she was up by Alewife vs further down, I had to say, oh don’t listen to me, because I knew then WHY she had assessed the drive time to be easier and better than the T time. (:

            3. Ellie H.*

              I find it very surprising and dismaying you describe public transit (the Red Line of all things!) as “packed in with strangers, gropers and iPhone thieves.” Seriously, is that really your experience? Given you live in Cambridge, the worst I can imagine experiencing on a regular basis is annoying college students.

              1. BGirl81*

                I almost forgot to mention that the 99.999% of the people on the train that I do not personally know are, by definition, strangers and that one of my old coworkers was groped on the red line and, being that I’m a woman, that concerns the hell out of me.

                Again, the question was not about whether or not my personal preference for driving and dislike of the MBTA makes me an idiot, it was about salary negotiation.

              2. me*

                Yes, this. The exageration is sort of troubling, and I hope people from outside the Boston don’t take this too seriously. At rush hour there is scarcely a problem with safety. If she wants to ask for a parking space because she doesn’t like public transport, fine. But the Red Line is hardly problematic.

        1. Anonymous*

          This is unnecessarily rude, and also incorrect. I’ve been living in boston for ~20 years, and you certainly can drive downtown in 30 minutes. Parking is a different issue, but OP is clearly aware of that since she is inquiring on how to resolve it.

    11. Anon*

      I agree! They probably hate the MBTA so much because they’ve never had to deal with the MTA (NYC public transportation) or NJTransit. I just moved to Boston from the NJ/NYC metro area and public transportation here is amazing!

      1. danr*

        NJ Transit wasn’t that bad… if you used the the Raritan Valley Line, and while I had to change trains in Newark for NYC, I just got on the next train to come in. I didn’t care how late it was (grin). The RVL is all diesel, so the trains can’t go directly into Penn Station.

      2. Audiophile*

        MTA can definitely have it’s drawbacks. I was just in the Arlington/DC area for vacation and it was like night and day.
        During the 2010/2011 year (Tropical Storm Irene, the October snowpocalypse,) I was attempting to commute to Flatbush for a graduate program. On more than one occasion, the 2 or 5 stopped with the operator announcing he wasn’t sure or making any promises that we would get there. Needless to say, I spent more time on the train commuting than I ever did in the classroom, I gave the commute up pretty quick.

    12. BostonKate*

      I live on the Green Line (B branch ugh) so I’m allowed to hate my commute haha But if I am late to work, it’s usually cuz I caught the last possible train and there was like a 10 minute delay.

      Also, the highways are a hot mess during rush hour so I feel like that would be even less reliable. Just take the T, it’s $70/month (or $110 if you live out in the burbs and want to take the Pike Express buses).

    13. Bea W*

      You must not be on the Red Line that often. I assure you, it breaks everyday, and sometimes in spectacular fashion. :D

      I think most people don’t complain so much. It’s just that when you are in a bind are frustrated, there’s not much else to do but tweet your frustration. Many people I know would rather take the T into town than drive. The traffic sucks, and parking will bankrupt you.

      Some service more reliable than others. The city busses (Cambridge, Boston) are a hot mess during rush hours, because traffic is a hot mess. If you pay attention to the schedule, you’ll be disappointed every time. Late busses mean the ones that do come fill to capacity, and people waiting further down the line get bypassed. I’ve been on busses that filled to capacity at the starting point and had to leave people behind. Some of that is delays, and some is just not putting enough service in place to meet demand.

      Portions of the commuter rail get funky in hot weather, and there are frequent equipment failures on aging trains. Fairmont service was cancelled 2 days last week, and at least 1 day each week before. They offer a bustitution when this happens, but when you’re looking at a 45 min bus ride vs a 15 minute train ride, it’s not very attractive. I don’t recall which line had folks stranded out in the burbs somewhere waiting for a “rescue train” last week.

      My last two jobs I did drive because it was 20 min and 30 min to drive vs. 70-90 minutes on the T, just due to logistics of getting from one neighborhood to another on the other side of town.

      Now I work somewhere that isn’t so awful to get to on public transit, and I don’t miss driving at all. Nope! Not one bit! Even better my employer heavily subsidizes passes. I get all the rides I want for $25. I keep reminding myself of that every time I’m trapped in stuffy tunnel due to “switching problems”.

  3. Michele*

    #6 what are you heating up at the office? If it is fish, popcorn, or other stinky food I can understand why your manager asked you stop. I have worked at a couple of different offices where one we couldn’t cook popcorn (I know weird but the owner said no) and the other no fish. To be honest I loved the no fish rule because it really smells awful.

    1. Jamie*

      I’d work in the no popcorn office in a second. Also fish.

      My office is far enough away from the kitchen that the rule of thumb should be if I can smell it, it’s too strong an odor for the office.

      And while I’m setting rules no one will follow, those who leave bagels in te toaster oven long enough that the whole places smells like charred onion bagel should lose kitchen privileges.

      Also no peanut butter. Ever. And nothing I have to hear you chew. Or swallow. And nothing in the fridge on my forbidden food list that I might have to see while getting my water (which is why I drink it warm now.)

      This is why I’m not allowed to issue food policies at work.

      1. The gold digger*

        I don’t care what you heat in the break room, which is three floors away from me because God forbid there be a microwave on every floor so I can reheat my leftover coffee, but do not bring your hot french fries or other greasy, rancid food to your desk where I can smell it.

      2. Tina*

        Other than nut allergies, what’s the objection to peanut butter? (Assuming it’s not spilled over shared space, of course.)

      3. ChristineSW*

        LOL! I’d be just as bad. My anti-food policies would also include no food that has to be eaten out of a noisy bag (such as chips).

        Funny you mention swallowing – at one place I volunteer, a fellow volunteer I met last week would LOUDLY swallow his soda. Oh my god! (to be fair, he did have a physical disability, so it’s possible the loud swallowing is part of it.)

      4. Pussyfooter*

        ********JAMIE’S APPROVED WORK FOODS********

        1. Chocolate Chip Cookies (correct type chips, please)

        2. Cookie Butter

        3. Those Oreo, Brownie, Cookie bar things…

        1. ChristineSW*

          Oooooh I’d work at this place! ;) (though I still don’t get what the heck cookie butter is..I’ve seen it mentioned here more than once).

          1. TychaBrahe*

            You know how you grind up peanuts to make peanut butter?

            Well, if you grind up graham crackers or shortbread cookies with spices, sugar, molasses, and sometimes nuts, you get a sweet spread called cookie butter.

          2. Pussyfooter*

            It’s a creamy spread based on a European dessert.
            A grocery chain called Trader Joe’s carries it and you can google up sales pages for it :’)

      5. Joe*

        Jamie, you remind me of a coworker I used to sit next to. She had an irrational loathing of ketchup, and hated the sight, the smell, the very existence of ketchup. I, at the time, ate burgers and fries for lunch two or three times a week, heavily laden with ketchup. We eventually reached a compromise where I could eat my burger in peace, and then I would take my lunch trash to a trash can on the other side of the floor, instead of the one at my desk.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I think – hope – #5 is missing some extenuating circumstances. Yes, a manager can say that. Making a blanket statement – do not warm up food in the microwave on breaks – seems odd though.

      Is it the smell and the manager prohibits only certain kinds of foods?
      Is the rule for short breaks instead of meals and there’s not enough time and too many people trying to use the microwave?
      Are you working in a convenience store where it’s really for customer use?
      Are you trying to cook something up that takes more than 5 minutes and hog the microwave through everyone’s lunch break?

    3. Anonymous*

      I’m kind of curious as to what the manager thinks the microwave is for? Usually, these are provided precisely to allow employees to heat up food on their breaks. If this isn’t permitted, why not solve whatever problem the manager perceives by having it removed?

      So far, the possible explanations I’ve come up with include:

      1. No food but liquids are okay (smell or cleaning issues).
      2. This is the manager’s microwave and she doesn’t want anyone else using it.
      3. The microwave is part of the lab equipment reserved for professional use.

      I wouldn’t mind an update on this one.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        If smells bother you, breathe through your mouth only. Presto, no more smell. I learned that trick when I was newly pregnant and experiencing morning sickness–my nausea is your gain!

        The one frustration I’ve had with office microwaves is the combination of 1) a high person-to-microwave ratio and 2) those frozen meals that take a billion years to gently defrost just so. Do you not see the line grow longer and longer behind you? Like we learned in kindergarten, what if everyone did what you are doing?

    4. Jennifer*

      Reheated food (a) generally smells bad no matter what it is, and (b) lingers in the office all day, and (c) then everyone complains about the smell. I would never, ever reheat food in public. Seriously, it’s not worth the hot meal when it pisses off everyone else.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That is truly the first time I have ever heard anyone say that, ever.

        Every single office I’ve ever worked in, we had microwaves and people ate reheated leftovers. All the time. They only ever complained about burnt popcorn smell, which I’m not fond of myself.

        1. Tina*

          I’ve never heard anyone at any of my jobs complain about reheated food as a whole, just certain types/smells of food. People in my current office reheat food regularly, including me.

          I admit, I’m occasionally guilty of the burnt popcorn (not on purpose of course). I often use popcorn as my “I need to eat something before I commute home or I’ll be starving by the time I get there” snack, and I’ve burned it a couple times.

          1. Also Kara*

            I tease my colleague about the time she had to fan away smoke in the kitchen from the popcorn she damn near set on fire.

            I brown-bag it daily and it’s often leftovers (sometimes sandwiches or salads, but often the previous night’s dinner) so I would be upset by a “no reheating” rule. I am cognizant of smells though – no fish.

          2. Layla*

            Am I just lucky or something. Though not many people bring food from home , I can definitely never smell it outside the pantry.
            Sometimes there are strong smells when people are heating up their food , but it stops- doesn’t linger and doesn’t waft out.

        2. SevenSixOne*

          Me too. I’m rolling my eyes a little at this whole discussion, since aren’t other people’s smells and noises and stuff part of living in the world? Unless we’re talking about something that’s persistent AND impossible to ignore or a serious health/safety issue… just chill, people.

          1. Jamie*

            Sure – other people’s smells and noises are part of living in the world. Not a pleasant part, but unavoidable.

            But all the more reason to make an effort to be as unobtrusive as possible about it because the world would be a much harsher place if everyone went about their business with no consideration for how they are affecting those around them.

        3. Confused*

          The smell of reheated food, especially in a smaller office and depending on what the food is, bothers me but I never say anything.
          Then again, I once heard a co worker compliment another co worker, “your food always smells so good!”
          To each his own.

          1. AdminAnon*

            Seriously. My office has 2 microwaves–one downstairs in the kitchen and one approximately 5 steps from my door. I have a large cutout window (similar to the reception area at a doctor’s office) so I can’t ever completely shut out noise or smells. Despite that, I have NEVER had a reason to complain about my coworkers reheating food. Occasionally, someone will cook something with a really strong and/or unpleasant smell, but it never lasts more than 30 minutes. I also take into consideration the fact that some of my food may not smell especially appetizing to others. That’s just life.

    5. Pussyfooter*

      I once was eating canned tuna when a coworker came in, reacted with utter revulsion and explained that the odor made him nauseous. Since then, I avoid eating canned tuna around others.
      I find some “normal” frozen dinners smell just awful! And someone downthread pointed out how unpleasant and lingering the smell of *burnt* popcorn is…so my first thought was the manager doesn’t like some food odors.

      But then why have a microwave near his office at all?
      Maybe the beeps and clunks of microwave use are disrupting his calls/talks in the office?
      Could the microwave be moved to accommodate both boss’ needs and employees’ use?

      1. Anon*

        If I were your boss, I would’ve probably fired you for eating canned tuna in the office *gag*

        1. B5SnowDog*

          I once worked with a woman who ate potted meat product at her desk. The woman next to her hated the smell, so she emptied half a can of Lysol in the air. Potted meat lady retaliated by opening another can. It was so, so awful.

          1. Pussyfooter*

            Hahahahahah! potted meat vs. lysol–I’d have to vote them both off the island.

            I was in the LUNCH room, alone, at a light industrial shop full of chemical smells just outside–when the guy walked in.
            I would never gross people out intentionally.

      2. FD*

        I do find the smell of tuna revolting…but I have to admit, it would never occur to me to ask someone not to eat it! I figure that unless a smell is so bad that I truly can’t tolerate it without gagging, it’s better to tolerate it.

        1. mirror*

          I dont understand how so many people hate normal food smells! Do you also not eat popcorn/spaghetti leftovers/whatever else is normally heated in a microwave? The only one I get is fish but that’s because I find the thought of microwaving old fish really gross (and thus I do not eat microwaved fish leftovers).

          I actually love/hate (in a good way) the office lunch smells. Love because it smells good and hate because I want to eat some of it.

          1. Emma*

            I must be the only one who thinks it’s odd to eat a bag of popcorn (I’m thinking your typical multi-serving bag) at work. Besides the strong association to eating it while watching entertainment, I liken it to eating a family-sized bag of chips. Too much for a single person, even if it is for grazing. This must be due to my own food weirdness….*Thank you, I’ll show myself out.*

            1. dustycrown*

              You can buy microwave popcorn in individual-sized bags. Plus it’s not unheard of for people to offer to share a larger bag of popcorn with their co-workers.

  4. Ramona*

    #3 – just wondering if paid parking is considered taxable income? ( I’m in Canada – lots of different rule). If not, then $4000 parking might be the equivalent of $5000 in salary. Always good to negotiate for things that aren’t taxable. And no better time then when you’re considering a new position. Negotiate hard!

    1. The gold digger*

      If they won’t pay for your pass, check to see if they have the program where you can buy your pass pre-tax. My company lets me buy my bus pass from them pre-tax and it’s not because they are nice and generous (they are not) but because there is some federal program. Now, the program might be just for public transit as a way to encourage public transit, but ask anyhow.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        There are different benefits for transit versus parking, but in my experience, you can only do the parking pre-tax if you park at a transit parking place (like a subway stop that has parking).

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Oh, I lied! I just looked it up on the IRS site, and it looks like any parking that is on or near the work premises can be subsidized by employers tax free, or allowed as a pre-tax deduction.

          1. Cathy*

            Max amount is $240/mo ($2880/yr) though, so if the employer actually pays the full $4k/yr, then some of that is taxable. I assume she’s in a $350/mo area, but the employer may have a negotiated rate that’s lower.

  5. Julia*

    I worked at a downtown mall where parking was $80 a month and we were able to have it deducted from our pay, pre-tax.

  6. Karen*

    #2 – Hello fellow Bostonian!!!! …are you SURE you want to drive in? Even though yes, the MBTA is a certified hot mess, so is the southeast expressway, 128, and the Pike during rush hour. Have you ever driven into Boston during the week during rush hour? I used to live in Norwood and my commute into Boston driving for work was an hour on a good day. The train was also an hour on a good day. (well, 45 minutes if it wasn’t running late… but you know, the train runs late, and THEN sits outside south station for a few minutes because they don’t have enough tracks for all the trains!)
    Anyways, my point is, for me? I could either drive into Boston everyday for work and spend $250 on the monthly parking garage PLUS gas, OR I could take the train for $250 a month without an added gas cost. For me, it just seemed easier to deal with the Certified Hot Mess MBTA. :-)
    Good luck!

    1. Amanda*

      I’m not a Bostonian, but I have commuted both by car and public transport and I find public MUCH preferable. You can read a book, catch up on the news/AAM on your iPhone or make lists on the commute. I find my train time very productive.

    2. BGirl81*

      Hey right back fellow Bostonian! :) My situation is a weird one, because I live so close to the city and, yet, the local bus to subway portion of my commute can add upwards of an hour – odd, right? I tell you, we should just all be getting retrieved in Town Cars every morning, am I right?!

      1. Karen*

        What town? Or are you north, south, or west of the city? I really do not recommend driving in from the south. ie: from Norwood, Walpole, Canton, Randolph = DISASTER.

        1. BGirl81*

          I’m right over the Cambridge line now and will be in the north shore just past Lynn in a month. Oh girl, I can’t agree more when it comes to the south shore (I even rhymed!) – one of my friends lives in Cohasset and, holy traffic!!

          1. Karen*

            Oh. ouch. OK. So taking the commuter rail, you’d end up at North Station and then would either have to walk or take the T. depending on how far of a walk that is, plus coming from north of Lynn, I think you’re looking at a 75 minute minimum commute.
            Driving plus red line from Alewife? You might as well just keep on driving into the city at that point.
            Driving somewhere were you could catch a bus might be an option, but if you’re gonna drive to catch a bus, you might as well be your own driver and drive yourself into the city.
            I will say, most companies do not pay for parking. My former employer charged $250 a month. No thanks! I’ll take the commuter rail for the same price.

              1. TheSnarkyB*

                Bgirl, I feel you on this. I would MUCH rather drive if I could. On my public transit (NYC), you DEFINITELY can’t read a book during rush hour- there’s no room and then you’re THAT girl. And in your car, you get to not be sexually harassed!

      2. Bea W*

        This is what I found. If you’re not within easy access to a subway line at either end, using public transit between neighborhoods or neighboring cities can be long and slow. This is particularly true for trips between Somerville, Watertown, and outlying areas of Cambridge, same for Quincy and Dorchester in locations outside of the Red Line corridor.

  7. anonengineer*

    At some places a set number of parking spots are included in their lease, while additional spots can be obtained at some percent (80? 50? depends on the building) of market rate. If market rate is $4000/yr, she may be able to negotiate though the company for their rate.

    “Because this position requires punctuality, I plan to drive to work. Would it be possible to get one of the company’s spaces, or a pass at your corporate rate?”

    If you’re talking about everything at once, it could be that they have a policy regarding transportation reimbursement (discount passes, parking, etc.), that you’ll just have to live with.

    1. BGirl81*

      Yup, I used to support commercial real estate brokers and most of the leases for the downtown buildings did have parking space provisions in them. The building I would be working in has a massive garage, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a provision for leasing additional parking spaces. Yes, there is also the possibility that I may just have to suck it up haha!

  8. Nancypie*

    #5, please tell us more! Is it fish, did you burn popcorn….? I can’t imagine someone saying you couldn’t use the microwave, but I have seen people be awfully grumpy about fish and popcorn.

  9. TamaraLea*

    #1 – I totally disagree that this is not reportable behavior. Its inappropriate and the people affected by the creeps behavior need to report it for a number of reasons. Reason 1 – to get it to stop (any CEO or HR Manager worth their salt can read between the lines as to what this guy is doing!). Reason 2 – to prevent it from happening to others. Reason 3 – to prevent the creep from interfering in you transferring. What if you put in for a transfer and he somehow stops it, and starts making claims you are a bad employee? Don’t let this guy get away with this.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t see how we can know if he’s done anything reportable, based on what’s here. The OP says he manages to just toe the line, and I’d take her word for it. (It’s possible that she’s wrong about that too, but we can’t tell from what’s here.) But plenty of people are creepy in subtle enough ways that HR would be unlikely to do anything about it.

      1. TamaraLea*

        Hm… Maybe I am different. I am an HR Manager, and I get complaints about much less. My understanding of the current climate (legislation, court cases, etc.) provides for someone to make a complaint about something that makes them uncomfortable, even if it does not amount to a policy violation. I realize you feel this is taking a risk to put your neck out to make a complaint, but it IS protected to make a harassment complaint even if there is no merit! This means you cannot be fired for making a complaint, as long as you are not lying.

        There are lots of reasons to complain. He could be ‘on notice’ from a previous complaint. Or maybe your complaint could be used as evidence to help substantiate the complaint of someone in the future. Plus, if enough people complain about borderline harassing behavior, any good company will want to do something about it.

        You could say something like this: “My male boss gave me a gift and it made me uncomfortable because he did not give anyone else a gift and there was no special occasion. A few times when I work late, he has also worked late – – which would not be strange except that he never works late any other times. He has a reputation for sending inappropriate text messages, although I do not have direct knowledge of that – in this case you could talk to X, Y and Z. He also said “xxxxxx”, which I interpreted to mean he might be about to ask me out on a date. I quickly changed the subject, so that I would not have to be in that position. I realize that these things may not be a policy violation but I wanted to bring it up in case something can be done. All I want is for the overly friendly behavior to stop and to maintain a strictly professional relationship going forward. But I understand and accept if the company feels that its up to me to establish those boundaries. The main thing is that I’m committed to this company and to doing my job well and nothing will change that.”

        One disclaimer, I do think you should go for the job you want before you bring this up – separate the issues with enough distance so that anyone in the evaluation process won’t think you’re trying to play games. Also, depending on how things go with this, you might change how you approach it.

        I also think you (all of us) should directly confront creepy behavior in general. I am around sales people a lot and hear things all the time. I simply say something like, “Dude, stop being inappropriate” or “Come on, cut it out, man” when someone crosses a line. This is not necessarily possible with a boss, but its important as a woman in the workplace to develop an assertiveness about these kinds of things.

        Bottom line, all of us are reasonable people and can immediately understand the creep factor here. I think your company’s HR Manager probably will too.

        1. CG*

          Hi, I’m the OP from #1. Going to HR about this wasn’t really something I thought I could do, since I feel like nothing he does quite crosses the line, but it’s nice to hear that it could be an option. I will think about taking it to them, but I’m also a little worried that he will hear about it and react poorly. (I’m pretty entry level and have never had to take anything to HR before, so I’m not too sure about how the whole process works.) He has been at the company for a much longer time than I have, so I’m not sure how seriously they would take me or if they would do anything about ti.

          1. Jessa*

            The point is that he knows where the line is. And at this point you need to tell someone this. Creepy is creepy (and okay here I am going to recommend Gift of Fear – surprised it hasn’t come up yet.) The conversation might go “I need to talk to you about something, it’s a little odd, this hasn’t quite crossed the line to explicit harassment, but it’s a pattern of very creepy behaviour that bothers me. And the PATTERN is enough for me to want to tell you about this. Because in conjunction with things you might observe yourself or hear from other people this may be a problem. To explain this might be like the problem employee who is always just one step short of being on a final warning but never gets one because they always JUST follow the exact procedures to stay one warning below that. You still want to try and have them out. So, this is what is happening: example, example, example.”

            then “If this is truly innocent behaviour, if he’s called on it, it should completely STOP, he may really be that socially inept, but it doesn’t FEEL that way, it feels like the person standing on a 2nd warning forever. Thank you.”

      2. TheSnarkyB*

        Right, but intel doesn’t have to be actionable to be reported. In general, I think employees should report behavior that is inappropriate even if it doesn’t reach a certain level where legality comes into play- mostly because that gives HR people much more data than they would have in a world where every employee is waiting for it to get “that bad”, etc..

    2. Jennifer*

      #1: Not only would I not apply for the new job, I’d probably look for one elsewhere. Creepers like this are difficult to deal with, especially as long as they are operating under plausible deniability and the balance of power is on their side. He sounds like he knows how to walk that fine line and isn’t dissuaded by being your boss or that you have a boyfriend, so hoping it’ll go away probably won’t work.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Agreed. I had a rough time deciding on #1 when I was thinking it through, but what it comes down to is that she’ll be working very closely with a guy who, at best, has crappy boundaries, and at worst is a harasser and stalker. Can’t quite call him the latter yet, but I can see the behavior developing that way if she works with him closely one on one. Not sure I’d want to risk that. I’d look for a new job entirely and leave the creeper behind.

        1. Twentymilehike*

          I have totally worked for a guy like that. And he OWNED the company, so not much I could do as far as reporting. Other employees also know he had a boundary problem, and for the most part no one took him seriously, or they would get in arguments with him. I suppose the guy in question could be the creepy guy who knows he’s creepy, or the creepy guy who doesn’t realize it. My old boss knew he was an ass, and after so man years I didn’t have a problem telling him.

          I wonder if their guy knows it or not. If he has thick skin you can certainly try telling him what a creep he’s being …while maybe looking for another job.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree with Jennifer. As Alison says, it is all about what an individual can handle.
        I tend to think along the lines of this: “Okay, I have a new job that entails draining a swamp full of alligators. I can drain the swamp, no problem. Do I have a plan for dealing with the alligators?” If I do not have a plan for the alligators, then I need to back out of the job. The swamp and the alligators are not separate, they are a package deal. On week #1 this may not look too bad. Will I feel the same way on week #37?

        1. Ruffingit*

          I like the way you put that with the swamp/alligator analogy because that is very true. You have to take into account all parts of the job and also how you’ll feel about it months down the road as opposed to how you feel now. Good post Not So New Reader!

      3. Pussyfooter*

        Hi OP #1,

        I thought TamaraLea made an interesting point that someone could bring it to HR’s attention and see if it improved the situation.
        That said, whenever I’ve been in the running for a job and I felt uncomfortable with a potential social group or boss, I just decided that I didn’t want to be constantly uncomfortable and opted out. If the boss doesn’t improve, how will you feel every day that you work there? And if you take a job in even closer quarters with him?

      4. Elizabeth West*

        That was my thought as well. A similar position has to exist elsewhere, without the subtle (or not so subtle in the future, maybe) harassment that goes along with it.

        1. Confused*

          to OP#1
          Trust your gut on this one.

          to TamaraLea
          I think this depends on the HR dept at her office and how well they handle things. Some HR depts are great some are not.

        2. CG*

          Hi, I’m the OP from #1. At this point I’m leaning towards not applying. I think the position could be helpful in my career. The position is kind of like entry level/training for something I think like to do down the road, and I don’t think very many other places would have this as an opportunity, at least not at the level I’m at right now. That being said, I don’t have my heart set on this career path.

          @Twentymilehike: I think my boss knows exactly what he’s doing and what he can get away with without getting into trouble. That’s making me feel like it wouldn’t be worth it to apply or take the position if they offered it to me.

          1. Jazzy Red*

            I’m so glad to hear you’re not going to go forward with the new position. It’s not worth it.

            Avoid this creep as much as you can, and keep your eyes open for other job possibilities.

  10. Seal*

    One library I worked in banned popcorn in the break room microwaves because when it got burnt (which happened fairly frequently) it would set off the fire alarm. For a number of reasons, fire alarms on campus were taken VERY seriously, regardless of why they went off. Everyone would have to evacuate the building and the fire department would send a fleet of fire engines and rescue vehicles. After a several false alarms in a relatively short period of time, the fire department started charging the library – apparently it’s quite expensive to haul out the fire department for burnt popcorn. No more false alarms after the popcorn ban was put in place.

      1. BGirl81*

        Tell that to my husband!! I’m serious, he needs someone other than me to tell him it can be done :)

      2. Tina*

        I maintain that some popcorn pops faster/slower than others, regardless of what it says on the package… :)

        1. Jazzy Red*

          True. You need to alert and aware, and stop the microwave when the popping slows down.

          IT CAN BE DONE!

      3. FiveNine*

        It’s a near-universal office issue, so I’m guessing it’s actually very easy to burn the commercially sold prepackaged microwavable popcorn. (Someone will make a killing figuring out another form of packaging that makes it so the popcorn is slightly less likely to burn when microwaved even a few seconds too long.)

        1. Jessa*

          Public (and workplace counts) microwaves should have information like the wattage (I think that’s the measurement for microwave strength?) written on them (a piece of masking tape works.) Many food items have cooking directions that vary depending on the “strength” of the microwave. People know the one at home. They do not know the one at work, and you cannot tell by the size or by looking at them. This would help a LOT of issues.

          1. fizzchick*

            Wattage must be written on the microwave. It’s usually somewhere on the inside of the door or the back of the microwave.

            1. Jessa*

              This is not something someone should have to search for in a work setting though. Nobody should have to move a microwave at an office and look at the back presuming they could (it’s not bolted down or to a wall,) and that they knew the information could be found there. Seriously, this is the kind of thing that should just be made available somewhere easy. It’d make people’s lives easier and possibly cut down on a decent % of over cooked items (those that have proper instructions on them at least.)

              1. Pussyfooter*

                I so totally agree. When the manufacturer designs the button panel labels, all they need to do is include wattage at the top or bottom of the label. And when my family brought home its (2 now) microwave, someone threw out all the print material. I’ve never known what wattage I was dealing with.

                1. Jessa*

                  Yeh and at least you can probably Google the manual for the one you own. At work you might not even be able to get to the label on the back that gives the model number.

          2. Editor*

            @Jessa — I once wrote to a microwave manufacturer asking why the wattage wasn’t displayed on the control panel. I said it was a major problem, and that microwaves had been around long enough that the wattage should be visible where the controls were. I never heard back.

            My main theory is that microwave manufacturers don’t want people to comparison shop by power level, or that they don’t want to get criticized for underpowered equipment that doesn’t meet specifications. (I don’t know how reliable wattage designations are.)

            My other theory is less flattering. I have noticed a lot of kitchen appliances don’t use calibrated settings, and I think it is because manufacturers think women are too dumb to want to deal with actual numbers except on ovens. The burners on my stove are low, medium, and high and they put forth different levels of power than the low, medium and high on the previous stove; my current dryer’s lowest setting is hotter than the low setting on the previous machine; my refrigerator has a scale of 1-5 for the coldest to the warmest instead of temperatures; a freezer I just got rid of had a 1-10 scale — the 1 was the coldest setting on one but its predecessor had a 1-5 scale with 5 being the coldest. This is just sloppy, lazy design. If I should keep milk in my refrigerator below 40 degrees (optimally between 34 and 38 F.), I want to know if the refrigerator is below that temperature, and I want to know that the milk storage area is below that temperature (because often the door is the warmest spot in the fridge — I don’t keep milk there ever). Because consumers haven’t complained about these issues — even a complaint to Consumer Reports didn’t change their rating categories — a lot of appliance designers get away with sloppy specifications. Oh, and as I recall somebody did a story about ovens that said their temperatures were only accurate to within 10-15 degrees or so. Sigh.

            Long-time pet peeve; sorry. /rant

            1. Jessa*

              This steen million times. I don’t even look at settings on fridges/freezers, I have a foodservice thermometer hanging inside both of mine. And while I live in an apartment NOW, if I ever get a house again we’re getting foodservice kitchen equipment because that stuff DOES have temps on it. Because the bloody board of health requires it at least as far as refrigeration/freezing goes. Stoves? OY. That’s a whole nother issue except I think for ovens. One of those infrared flash at the pan thermometers is a great thing to own.

              1. Pussyfooter*

                Whenever I start cooking in an unfamiliar place, I make note of whether/where the lettuce freezes on the fridge shelves, how the oven responds to uniform directions I’ve used with other ovens, and the hot spots and rate of heat up of stove burners. I suppose it’s the modern equivalent of learning to recognize how hot a cook fire was back in Victorian days. (:’P
                ………Maybe the manufacturers are getting kickbacks from all the companies whose thermometers we have to buy to gauge our appliances accurately.

          3. KellyK*

            Very good point. Our office microwave is apparently uber-high-powered, and I have to set it to 60% power for the cooking times on frozen meals to work out right. I’ve blown up a lot of bowls of oatmeal and heated leftovers to molten lava temperatures before figuring that out. (That particular model has the wattage inside the microwave, written very small—it’s *there* but definitely was a pain to find.)

            1. Jamie*

              I’ve used our work microwave exactly once in all the years I’ve been here – on a weekend when I was alone in the office – and it was then I realized it was the exact same make/model I have at home.

              I passed that thing every day and never noticed. Upside, I knew how long to set it for…then made me nervous that I’m woefully unobservant about this kind of thing.

            2. Jessa*

              Which is why whoever places those things should put the wattage where the users can see it. Not the company that makes them but the office that uses them should put a piece of tape somewhere visible so that people KNOW. And can adjust accordingly. It would save a lot of burnt items that have instructions printed on them.

      4. Rana*

        I think some of it is that people don’t always realize that what works in the microwave at home doesn’t work in a microwave elsewhere. So two minutes in my home microwave might be the equivalent of 90 seconds at work, or three minutes or something.

        But the way to solve that is to stand by the machine until it looks done, and take it out early if necessary!

        1. Jessa*

          Also the popcorn thing is subjective and you’re supposed to pay attention and stop when you stop “hearing pops” which means you need to stand there and WATCH IT. I can’t hear it so I don’t pop things, I ask someone else to do it. People on the other hand have a habit of going “well at home brand x is 3 minutes, so I’ll stuff this in here for 3 minutes and walk away.”

          The problem is work microwave could be half the power or 4x the power of the one at home.

        2. Pussyfooter*

          What gets me is when the same person burns the same food over and over again. *dumbfounded look of confusion*

        3. Kelly L.*

          Yeah, this. I had to adjust to my work microwave being about twice as strong as my home one.

        4. Anonymous*

          In grade school I used to set my watch to be in sync with the school bells. Extrapolating from that experience, we should all buy microwaves that match the power of the one at work.

            1. A Bug!*

              You negotiate a new microwave as a sign-on bonus. Any employer not willing to cooperate with what is an obvious work-related expense is an employer you don’t want to work for, if you ask me.

        5. mirror*

          No matter which microwave I use, I always 1A) use the “popcorn” preset (if it has one) or 1B) manually set the time recommended on the bag and the key, 2) STAND NEXT TO THE MICROWAVE AND WAIT. Once the popping slows down to 1 or 2 second gaps, I take the popcorn out. Perfect every time!

  11. Brett*

    #5 Because I just woke up and I have a job where we can go home on our break, for some reason I was reading that “manager says I cannot heat food”. As in ever… like my manager is Gordon Ramsey times 100 and will fire me if he ever finds out I heated up left overs.

    And then I realized a manager could actually say that too! You had reheated pizza for dinner last night? You’re fired!

    Of course, then that manager gets to have the reputation as the person who fired someone because of what they had for dinner. And this manager gets to have a reputation as the person who would punish someone for using a microwave on break.

  12. Ruffingit*

    #2: Maybe the recruiters are bitter because you’re not the only one who has withdrawn from the process. Could be that the interview process/job itself stinks and other candidates have realized it as well. Maybe they’re having a hard time filling the position and took it out on you.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, really. This sound more like a habit rather than something about OP. They are probably doing the same thing to others. I wonder why OP took a pass…. I bet that others are saying no for similar reasons.

  13. MJ*

    On #2:

    While it’s certainly unreasonable for a recruiter to get upset at someone for withdrawing from the process, I have seen it happen. In particular, though, I’ve seen it more often occur AFTER the job offer is made, and the candidate is accused of using one offer as leverage for another employer with whom they are interviewing.

    That all said, I do think it’s perfectly reasonable for a recruiter to try to fish for reasons why a candidate might have withdrawn. At my company, they actually have to enter a withdrawal reason into our recruiting system in order to terminate the candidacy (though they can be vague if they really don’t know). And I will often push my recruiting team to find out why someone withdrew if they were a strong candidate for one of my positions or if it’s proving hard to fill a particular role.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Politely requesting a reason and accepting it is one thing. Information can be helpful. What is an entirely different thing though is when the recruiters are demanding and supremely annoyed at the candidate. That is never OK. Ask a reason and accept it, yes. Demand a reason and be supremely annoyed? NO.

    2. WWWONKA*

      Do you work for an employment agency or do you work for a company that does it’s own recruiting?

      1. MJ*

        I work for a company that does it’s own recruiting. And, after re-reading my comment, I should probably clarify: I’m not part of the recruiting department. I’m the hiring manager.

  14. MJ*

    On #3:

    While I agree with Alison’s points about anything being fair in negotiation, I also agree with others who note that asking for special benefits or perks can be harder than asking for more pay. Granted, this is a small business so they may have a lot of flexibility in all aspects of their comp, but in many companies there are really only a few ‘variables’ for each employee. Things like job level, pay, and initial bonuses come to mind as the most common. They may not have official mechanisms by which to even track things like parking passes.

    One more thing to consider. While it’s true that there are possible significant savings on both sides if you get a parking pass from your employer (income taxes to you, FICA taxes to both of you, discounted parking to your employer), there is something to be said for asking for more pay in lieu of the pass. Many employers based your starting comp on your prior comp, and having a higher bottom-line salary now will likely help you to negotiate a higher one in the future at your next job. And also realize that if your employer moves buildings or the garage closes, you would naturally lose the parking pass benefit, but if you had negotiated for higher pay that would persist.

    So, in the end, you might just be better off asking for more money.

    1. BGirl81*

      “And also realize that if your employer moves buildings or the garage closes, you would naturally lose the parking pass benefit, but if you had negotiated for higher pay that would persist.”

      Sweet jelly sandwiches, I didn’t even think of it! Thank you for sharing that!!

      1. doreen*

        Something similar happened to a friend of mine- his employer ( a small businss) moved to a suburb and he had to take commuter rail rather than much the less expensive city bus. I He asked for a raise, but instead his employer bought him a train ticket every week. Until a year or two later, when they changed the policy and no longer paid for anyone’s transportation. It would have been much more difficult to impose a pay cut than it was to stop paying for the train.

  15. Steve G*

    I thought the last question is a little odd, but now that I think about it, it doesn’t make sense that we have Thanksgiving on Thursday but have to come in the next day or use PTO. Just make it a 2 day affair!

  16. Kerr*

    #5: I doubt this applies to the OP, but I believe that if you’re in California, and you get a meal break during a shift beginning or ending at or between the hours of 10 PM – 6 AM, your employer *must* provide either facilities for getting hot food, or for heating food. Along with a place to eat it.

  17. Cody C*

    Microwave whatever you want just cover it up so it doesn’t pop or boil over. To me the sight of caked on food is waaaay worse then then smell of burnt popcorn. I once had a coworker try to nuke a potato. When told cook it for 2 to 5 minutes she misunderstood and set it for 25 minutes. A potato cooked for 25 minutes turns to charcoal and creates enough smoke to cause an airport terminal to be evacuated!

    1. Rana*

      Heh. When I was an undergrad, we once had to evacuate our dorm for just that reason.

      And I quite agree with you about the disgustingness of caked-on food in the microwave.

      1. Ruffingit*

        The caked on food thing is so gross. I really wonder about that. I’ve been in jobs before where I wanted to clean the microwave because it was so nasty, but I knew if I did I’d get in trouble for doing it on work time. Still though, it’s just gross to heat up your food in a microwave that still has last year’s lasagna hanging from the top.

  18. Josh S*

    OP #7: PTO for vacation days

    Since you’re exempt, the moral of this story is “Be sure you use all your PTO/vacation days before Thanksgiving!” That way, they are required to pay you for the whole week (or be in violation of labor laws), and/or recognize that their policy is dumb.

    Even if they take the days from your future accrual (which is even more stupid), they still have to pay you for the holidays. And no, calling it “unpaid days off” is not permissible.

  19. LA*

    #6 happened at my last position. The entire company shut down for the week between Christmas and New Years and you had to take PTO for the entire week. They also only offered you 13 days of PTO each year for the first five years so depending on their decided “closed” days you were left with 3-5 vacation days to use the rest of the year. It was horrible. It sucked. It was very legal. And I decided that I couldn’t deal with that and decided to find other employment. I negotiated for 21 days of vacation AND we already get that week between Christmas and New Years off without using PTO. No one really understood why I was extremely excited when they told me that – I thought I had just negotiated another 7 days to use for that week, instead I have what is in essence 28-30 days of vacation each year.

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