is it rude to stop going on office coffee runs?

A reader writes:

is it rude to stop going on office coffee runs for the entire office?

I work in a small office (15 people). There is a coffee shop directly across the street from our office. As a caffeine addict, I usually make a coffee run at least once a day during business hours. I usually ask if anyone else in our office wants anything, and usually people do.

However, I’ve become increasingly weary of volunteering to get coffee for others. Some people, including the owner of the firm, in the office rarely pay me back. Others order complex drinks and complain if the drink is made incorrectly. For example, one woman routinely orders a medium green tea with one and half pumps of vanilla and exactly 4 teaspoons of honey. If there is too much or too little honey, I hear about it.

Moreover, going to get coffee for just me takes about 5 minutes, while getting it for 8 to 10 people can take upwards of 20 minutes — time I don’t really have to spare. The other day I went on a coffee run just for me. When I returned to the office, I was met with a chorus of “why didn’t you get me anything?” Later, I overheard two of our admins complaining about how I hasn’t gotten them coffee.

Is there a way to stop these daily coffee runs without risking the office backlash?

Well, there’s some rudeness here, but it’s not coming from you.

Your coworkers are providing the perfect illustration of how if you do something for people long enough, some of them will start seeing it as something they’re entitled to rather than something you’re doing as a favor. But that doesn’t mean that you’re tethered to those expectations. You just need to be deliberate about untethering yourself.

All of the reasons you mentioned are perfectly valid ones to use, but the one that will be the easiest is this: “It started taking too long to get all the coffees people wanted. I need to be able to get back quickly and return to what I’m doing.”

But it would also be perfectly reasonable to say: “People weren’t paying me back, I was hearing complaints if the orders were wrong, and it was starting to feel like a chore rather than a favor.” You could also add on, “Since I know you like coffee, do you want to take this over for a while?”

{ 225 comments… read them below }

      1. Lacey*

        Green tea with 1 and a half pumps of vanilla and four teaspoons of honey???? WHAAAT is she drinking? That sounds disgusting, I think you are entitled to refuse on principle alone to even order that.

            1. Elizabeth*

              I drink green tea, and it isn’t supposed to be sweet. By its nature, it is bitter and has a slight edge. I’m confused by someone who doesn’t want the bitterness drinking green tea, when black tea and oolong both have much smoother tastes.

        1. LD*

          Well, as to the tea, everyone has their own tastes. But it’s pretty entitled of her to expect the OP to go to such lengths to ensure the order is exactly to her specifications. For an order that complicated it could be a good response to say something like, “Wow. That’s a pretty complicated order! If you really want it that specific you should probably get that one yourself.”

  1. HappyFreelancer*

    People (and by people, I mean the people that this person works with) can be so rude and entitled and this is a perfect example of it.

  2. Bean*

    This reminds me of my old manager who would never pay anybody back for coffee, ever. I purchased 3 coffees for her, and always said “it was $X for yours” to which she would say “okay, great” and walk away. I never got the money back for it. I ended up coming in with just a coffee for myself and she asked “Hey! Where’s mine?” to which I replied “It’s really only in my budget to purchase coffee for myself”. It was never brought up again, and she always brought coffee in for herself from then on.

    I’ve never understood how people don’t think they should pay someone for a coffee they picked up for them.

    1. Adam V*

      > she asked “Hey! Where’s mine?”

      “I’m still waiting to be paid back from the last time you stole coffee from me I bought coffee for everyone.”

      1. Bean*

        She was a real treat to work for…she was “very sick” on one of my days off and asked me to come in to cover her shift. When I arrived , she stood around for 45 minutes just chatting with a coworker. The only thing that stopped her was me going up to her and saying “Oh, you seem to be feeling better. Would it be okay if I headed out?” Miraculously, her severe illness came back and her voice changed as she groggily said “Oh, no sorry I was just updating Jane on the new stock that came in. I’ll head home not to get some rest”.

    2. Rebecca*

      I think it’s not a big deal if someone returns the favor. That happens in my office sometimes, someone will go out for coffee, offer to get someone else one and say, “I’ve got it this time, you can get it next time.”

      Doesn’t sound like that’s what’s happening here, of course.

      1. Adam V*

        That’s true; however, it needs to be repaid within a fairly short period of time (like within a couple of weeks). Beyond that people start forgetting who owes what to who. And even then, it’s up to the first person to offer that, not for the second person to assume it’s an option.

        1. KellyK*

          Totally agree, both that it’s up to the person paying to offer and that it’s up to the person who owes the next to be quick about repaying it.

          When a friend of mine was a quasi-coworker (that is, he worked in my building, for one of our subcontractors, and on a different project from me), we ate lunch together regularly. Sometimes we’d get take-out and put it on one person’s credit card to simplify things. Before too long, we had no idea who owed whom lunch and started putting “Kelly owes Fred lunch” and “Fred owes Kelly lunch” on my whiteboard.

          1. Anon this time*

            My old office had a series of “IOU one burrito / sandwich / salad / whatever” post-it notes that got moved around from computer monitor to computer monitor. It was actually a pretty decent system

    3. Jessa*

      We also had a rule in most places I worked that if the person was doing a run for a bunch of people those people chipped in to pay for the runner, and this seemed to be common practise back in the day. If I’m getting 6 coffees for instance the other 5 people would put up enough extra to cover whatever I was drinking (usually pop.) If you went out for lunch with 8 orders, you got your lunch because you were using your car or your break or something. Also you pitched in the money PRIOR to the trip. I have never been sent on a food/drink run where the money wasn’t handed over FIRST. I don’t get the idea that the pick up person has to front the money.

      So if you do end up deciding to do it again, make it clear that they pony up before you leave not when you come back.

      And I’d totally tell the manager that didn’t pay me for 3 coffees that I was owed $X and I’d keep reminding them til I got it. That’s not on. Managers make way more than employees, and as Alison says gifts do not usually move upward. You can certainly take it as they forgot it. “You said you were going to pay me you haven’t yet. Total is $$.”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        And because people are often uncomfortable saying this when it’s a manager, an easy way to say it is, “I realized I don’t have cash today. Any chance you have that $24 for the coffee?”

          1. hamster*

            Mee too. But i realise i really couldn’t use that phrase either. I am far to embarassed to ask for my money back .

      2. Elizabeth West*

        We did the same thing–the money collection before going, when I worked in an office where I would get sent to a nearby Wendy’s on a Frosty run. If you didn’t throw in your money, you didn’t get one. Period.

        1. Melissa*

          THIS. Whenever I volunteer to get coffee, unless I intend to purchase it for the coworker to be nice I collect money beforehand.

    4. Ellie H.*

      I just wanted to chime in that this sometimes works – at the place I used to work (bookstore), one of my coworkers and I would periodically (a couple times a week) go out for coffee, bring the other person something back and we both considered it evened out. I think it’s probably easier when it is usually just two or three people sharing coffee runs though.

    5. Rose*

      I’m so shocked/angry every time I read on here that someone’s manager is blithely taking money/food/gifts from those under them. I think any decent manager would have a little bit awareness of the fact that those under them are on tighter budgets, and in this economy many employees really can’t afford to buy your stinking coffee.

      The worst part is it seems like a lot of them (like Bean’s boss) are doing this on purpose, knowing everyone will feel too awkward to confront them. How you gleefully accept free treats from people who didn’t want to pay for them, knowing those people make less than you do, is beyond me. Reprehensible.

      1. PEBCAK*

        No kidding. This is a little like the “gifts flow downwards” rule. Not only should a more senior person not stick you with a bill, they should make an effort to pick it up from time to time.

      2. Ruffingit*

        No doubt! Sadly, not only are these managers cheap jerks, but they are also ruining their reputations among their employees. Nothing like being a cheap jerk to make your employees respect you…(not at all).

        1. Julie*

          Whenever my team went out to lunch together – only three of us, and we didn’t go very often – I would pay. Because I made more money than they did, and because I was the manager. How is it that people don’t get this?!

  3. steve G*

    It is funny to me that your coworkers don’t just accompany you. I work across from a Dunkin Donuts, and I always gets few people to come with me everytime I go. They love the few minutes out of the office to gossip or talk about something funny that happened, etc. without anyone hearing.

    1. PPK*

      Me too! When I read the heading, I thought the question would be that the OP no longer wanted to go with their group of coworkers for a big coffee walk. Not the opposite, that no one went with and everyone wanted coffee delivered.

      I’m sorry the OPs coworkers are lacking self awareness.

    2. Jen*

      Agree with this. I used to work across the street from a Starbucks and it was common for someone to come by and say “Hey, I’m going to Starbucks does anyone want to come along?” and I’d go with them and get myself a drink sometimes. I think there was only once or twice where I said “Oh I’d love to but I have a conference call in 5 minutes” or “I’m way too busy” and they’d volunteer to get me a drink. But I would never have expected someone to get me one. It reminds me of when I was younger and we’d ask my mom to fetch us something from the kitchen and she’d say “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realize your legs were broken” and that would be our tip that we should get our own drinks.

      1. Bea W*

        This is what happens in every place I’ve worked. If one of us is headed across the street for coffee/tea/sweets we ask if anyone wants to come along. There’s always a few people who jump at the chance to get out for 5 minutes even if they don’t want any actual coffee. People have always been equitable about bringing things back thought it does not happen that often. Mostly people like to take 5 to walk across the street too and like order their own drink. If someone is too busy, on of the people going out might offer to bring something back. Very rarely does anyone ask outright but politely if someone could bring something back, and when they do, they have always paid for it and said thank you, and are happy to return the favor at a later time even though they are never asked to do so. In an office where people aren’t jerky, it just kind of works itself out.

        1. KJR*

          Must be in the “Mom” manual (which I never received by the way), because mine said the same thing!

    3. Yvonne*

      At my workplace, my department and a few of the network engineers go on a daily coffee run. Everyone pays for their own, and once in a while we’ll treat one another if there’s some kind of special Starbucks promotion going on, but for the most part, it’s a nice 15-20 minute break for anyone.

      In the beginning it felt weird for me to go, because I don’t like (Starbucks) coffee and usually didn’t order anything. But my boss asked me once why I didn’t order something, and I said that I liked to walk with everyone (sometimes we talked business on the way), and I also wanted to cut back on my spending and caffeine.

      It was totally not a problem at all. But I’m surprised that the coworkers didn’t just go with the OP on the coffee run if they got all bent out of shape that they didn’t get any coffee.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      I make my own damn tea, but count me as the odd coworker who won’t join in on a lunch/coffee run. Going “across the street” in the part of suburbia where I work means going down 5 floors on the elevator, walking thru the 2-acre parking lot and across a 4 lane street with no traffic light (there’s a roundabout). It’s really not a big deal, but it can take 20 minutes I’d rather not spend getting a drink.

    5. Kacie*

      We did this, too. It was nice to get outside for a few minutes and chat while walking. We had a number of restaurants and shops that allowed for a quick break, including a local ice cream shop. Yum!

    6. Windchime*

      This. We are about a block from a Starbucks (because it’s Seattle, so everyone is about a block from a Starbucks), so we all head over there together. Sometimes it’s just a few of us and sometimes 5 or 6, but everyone gets their own drink. If someone is short, one of us will cover for them but it’s usually reciprocated quickly.

      When I was on the knee scooter, my office-mates would get my tea for me. But I always gave them cash for it.

        1. Julie*

          It’s for a broken or injured foot when you can’t use crutches. I think Alison used one when her foot was broken (last year?).

      1. Chinook*

        Seattle and Starbuckss sounds like Timmy’s and Halifax. I worked for one of 3 on one block owned by the same people (and where coffee orders were brought in on scraps of wood from construction sites).

        1. Wren*

          There is a tiny mall downtown that has THREE Starbucks. There are 2 in the strip mall below my office. They share a parking lot.

  4. EM*

    I LOVE, “Since I know you like coffee, do you want to take this over for a while?”

    Heh, I’m betting you won’t be getting many acceptances, but this is perfect and then people can see how it feels to be the one subsidizing coffee and hearing the complaints.

  5. Riki*

    Re. the money thing–maybe your coworkers think that you’re expensing the cost? Whenever I front cash for office supplies/treats, I always fill out an expense report.

    Anyway, this is why my office got an espresso maker. We would take turns going out for coffee, but the orders got too large and too complicated. It was ridiculous. Now if you want a coffee, you can make it or go out and get it yourself. It’s also much cheaper. $25+ per day for a round of coffees v. $20 for a week’s worth of milk and coffee beans.

    1. jmkenrick*

      Yes, this occurred to me as well. Maybe not the manager, of course, but the admin complaining that OP wasn’t getting her coffee seems so egregious that I’m thinking it’s possible OP did this so regularly they thought it was a company perk, rather than a favor the OP was doing.

      Sort of along the vein of my boss occasionally taking us out to team lunches…we don’t expect to pay, we expect him to expense it.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      We have a Starbuck’s kiosk in the cafeteria at our office, so this never comes up. But if anyone went and bought a bunch of coffees for co-workers and tried to expense it, that would probably be rejected. My company watches expense reports very closely — as they should, because it’s an area so ripe for abuse — and they’ve really cracked down on non-essential spending.

  6. Joey*

    I’m curious. Why don’t you collect the money up front? That way you could keep the small change to pay for your coffee.

    1. Person*

      I agree with getting the money upfront, but you can’t just unilaterally decide to use others’ change for your own drink, can you?

    2. Adam V*

      Good point! You probably know the menu well enough by now to say “okay, that’s going to be about $4.50” and hold out your hand. If they can’t pay you up front, then they’ll understand they’re not getting their coffee at all. (And if they’ve only got a credit card, ask them to make today’s coffee run!)

      1. Jazzy Red*

        …”okay, that’s going to be about $4.50″

        and add “plus 50 cents delivery fee.”

        And only accept cash.

        Or do what you’re doing now, and only get your own (best option, to my way of thinking).

    3. Anon*

      Exactly. Doesn’t solve the OP’s current situation, but in my office a coffee run consists of gathering cash or credit cards from all interested parties ahead of time. And saying thank you to the person who went, ordered, and delivered upon return (whether the barista got the order right or not).

      1. Anonymous*

        You gather up everyone’s credit cards? Remembering everyone’s pin is way too hard, I’d make them go themselves.

        1. The IT Manager*

          Credit card’s don;t need PINs. They do usually require the owner’s signature, though. Debit cards would require PINs, but that’s where it becomes way too complicated.

          Getting a bunch of people – near exact change (to the dollar) for a slew of tens and twenties is often too complicated too.

            1. Ellie H.*

              It’s just Canadian – this really screwed us up when we went to Montreal earlier this fall! I’m not sure about other countries; I think some European countries use or used to use the PIN for credit or debit cards. From what I recall, a PIN-using credit card is actually a different type of card that has a visible chip in it, but I could be wrong about that.

              Here in the US only debit cards have PINs, but it’s actually quite rare to need to use the PIN when purchasing something with a debit card (you more often just need the PIN when you are using it at an ATM). You usually sign for a debit purchase as with a credit card, instead, and some places have a minimum amount that a signature is required for (e.g. no need to sign if it is under $5).

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Really? I have to input my PIN every time I use it as a debit card. I can use it as a credit card–the money comes out the same–but if I do debit, all the POS terminals ask me for my PIN. If there are people hovering behind me, I use the credit option so they can’t see me do it.

                1. Ellie H.*

                  It’s possible this varies by region. My experience is that there are very, very few places that have a PIN pad (one of the liquor stores around here, a dancewear place, etc. – the fact that I can think of these indicates, I think, that it’s pretty rare!). I live in Boston and almost everywhere I go the default is to run it as credit.

                2. Windchime*

                  Around here, it seems to be based on a purchase amount. If it’s just a couple of bucks, then no PIN is needed in many instances. But if it’s over $20 or so, then you have to do your PIN. And some places make you do it every time.

                3. Julie*

                  I’m in Boston, too, and I use my debit card and input my PIN all the time. I guess it depends on where you’re using it!

                4. Julie*

                  Plus, I think stores are charged extra by the credit card company if it’s run as credit. Since it doesn’t matter to me, and I don’t want to cost the store money, I usually pick “debit” unless there’s no option.

                5. teclatwig*

                  Here in California, debit always requires a pin; credit often requires a signature, but some places don’t ask for a signature if the charge is under $25, I think?

                  I use whatever’s easiest for me at large chains, but if a small business asks me credit-or-debit, my default is now, “Whichever is best for you.”

                6. Cassie*

                  @teclatwig – in California, you can use your debit card as a credit card (signature instead of PIN).

                7. LibrarianJ*

                  @Julie, when I worked retail debit actually cost us considerably more than credit. When we had a debit machine, the minimum for purchase was about 2x as much as for credit because of this, but eventually we got rid of the debit machine and just started running everything through as credit. This was at a very small shop, granted, so I don’t know if it’s different at other types of places.

              2. Chinook*

                The American credit/debit card system is very different from the Canadian one. It always messed me up when I was on cash and I was given an American debit card because they still said M/C or Visa on them whereas Canadian ones rarely do.

            2. fposte*

              I think it’s European, too–it’s actually a pain to be without a chip and PIN card in Europe sometimes.

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                In the uk it chip and pin for both credit and debit card payments. Now they started co tactless payment as well. For small payments you just hold your card by the machine in the shop and it charges your account without you needing the pin or to sign

              2. Jen in RO*

                My (American) friend really got screwed when she worked in Europe. She asked for a PIN to be issued to her, because she knew she needed it… but she could only use her credit card at the ATM, not in stores. Really sucky.

                1. Kerry*

                  That’s odd, they should be able to swipe it! I’m in the UK and when the chip-and-PIN reader isn’t working, sometimes they just swipe it instead and it goes through fine.

                2. Ann Furthermore*

                  I’m always worried about trying to use a PIN with my credit cards in Europe for this very reason. I always choose the “Bypass” option which usually means I have to show ID. I don’t mind doing it, and I wish more stores in the US did this, but if there are people behind me I cringe because I’m making them wait longer in line.

            3. Del*

              It’s standard for basically anywhere that’s not the US.

              Chip is supposed to be coming to the US within the next couple years, but there’s a lot of speculation about whether there’ll be mandatory pin or optional pin vs signature.

              1. fposte*

                There are a couple of U.S. institutions that do currently issue chip and PIN, too–I think they’re treated as speciality products for people who are abroad frequently, though, rather than as adopting the system.

        2. Anon*

          Just to clarify – we are in the US and don’t need PINs . Depending on the store policy & the dollar amount, we don’t always have to sign, either. And since we are fairly regular customers, the baristas are kind enough to pretend the one person ordering & picking up is several different people when it comes time to signing 4 different names on the various credit card receipts.

        3. Chinook*

          I used to use my boss’s credit card in Ottawa. True, it was pre-pin but I honestly don’t think I look like a “John” either and I only once had someone ask for ID (I showed them my I’d and a business card since it was a company card).

    4. Schnauz*

      This here is a big pet peeve of mine. Personally, unless someone says “please keep the change”, I think change needs to be given back. I give back exact change and it peeves me greatly when someone does not bring me my change. If I offer to get other orders, I’m doing a favor and as such I feel the “favor” comes from the whole process – extra time, using my gas (that I’d use anyway), inconvenience of juggling more food/drink, etc. If someone is keeping the change as some kind of payment, then it’s no longer a favor, it’s a paid service (albeit a very cheap one) and one that is often not delineated at the outset.

      You might guess that I have no problem going to get food/drink for me and only me. ;) I do still get for others when I feel like it, but I definitely don’t feel an obligation to do so.

      1. Joey*

        I’m kidding about the change part. But personally I would gladly let someone keep the coin change. But at the same time Id probably feel a bit miffed if someone wanted me to calculate the tax on their coffee so I could give them the correct and exact change. Go buy it yourself.

        1. amaranth16*

          Agreed. I had a stingy friend who once had a tantrum about a food delivery website including tax in the tip calculator even though you can just write in your own tip total. I guess I get the principle, but the difference was 37 cents. (He was also, predictably, a notoriously awful tipper). And this was not someone who was financially strained. It seemed extraordinarily petty to me.

          But the poor LW. What awful coworkers he or she has. In my office we say “lunch was about $7” and call it good… I’m not going to get bent out of shape over 37 cents, especially because I might be buying lunch this week, but you’re probably going to get it next time. (Or you’ll be buying me a beer after work, or you’ll owe me a couple of coffees, or whatever…)

          1. Natalie*

            Honestly, I don’t even get the principal of tipping on the pre-tax amount. It’s unbelievably petty and, really, it’s not like tipping in general isn’t a fundamentally arbitrary social convention.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I agree it’s an arbitrary social convention, but I don’t think it’s petty to tip on the pre-tax amount; it’s not as it it requires extra calculation (the pre-tax amount is usually right there for you to see), and it’s the original custom.

              1. Natalie*

                Eh, I guess it seems petty to me because it’s almost always a very small difference versus just tipping on the total. Then again, I tend to round my tips up to the next whole dollar, so they’re usually some random percentage anyway.

        2. Cassie*

          This is why I hate it when one person pays and then we divide up the cost later. Do you round up or down? Do you round to the nearest 5 cents to make it easier?

          I’m inclined to go hunt down pennies to make sure I paid exactly what I owe. One friend will pay more (e.g. in whole bills so she doesn’t have to deal with change) while the other one will pay less (again, so she doesn’t have to deal with change). So I guess it evens out (and really, it’s probably much less than a dollar each time), but it’s so awkward that I hate it.

      2. Anonymous*

        I would agree with you if it was just change for one persons coffee, but to calculate everyone’s drink order with tax and bring each person back exact change is a ridiculous expectation and really not feasible. I’d think of the change as a very small price to pay for the convenience.

        1. KarenT*

          Totally agree! If you’re picking up lattes and everyone hands you a five dollar bill, it’d be way too much to figure out whose was $4.30 and whose was $4.75, etc.

          1. TychaBrahe*

            At federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr, 25 cents represents 2:04 minutes of work. If you aren’t willing to give up 25 cents to someone who is almost certainly spending more than two minutes doing you a huge favor, go get your own coffee.

            1. SJ*

              Not quite. Do you also do that for cashiers at Target, Walmart, or the workers who pick your blueberries?

              1. Zelos*

                The cashiers and berry-pickers are getting paid for their services; in those cases, they are doing their job. OP is doing her coworkers a favour, and she’s losing money in doing so.

                I think this is an apt comparison (although whether she wants to dryly point this out to her mooching coworkers is best left to her own judgement).

          2. Natalie*

            Plus. it’s pretty crappy to buy a half-dozen specialty drinks and not tip at all. Some of that change should be going in the tip jar!

        2. KAZ2Y5*

          I used to work at a place where we would occasionally on lunch runs for a group of people. Each person got a ziplock baggie with their name on it–their credit card/cash went inside and when we would pick up the lunches, the change/receipt/credit card would go back in the baggie. Worked wonderfully!

          1. Joey*

            Screw that. Who wants to be the schlub at the counter pissing off everyone in line while you make 10 transactions with extra this and hold that so you can give everyone the right amount of change? Those who put in orders should make it as easy as possible on the person who’s doing the favor. This means probably parting with some change and simplifying your order.

            1. KAZ2Y5*

              We only did this at places we could call in the order ahead of time (think places like Chili’s, Panera Bread, etc). We would call in the order and usually it would be ready by the time we got there. It didn’t take that long to pay–just get the right baggie with the right order.

            2. Anonymous*

              That’s a bit of an aggressive stance. This kind of organization sounds great- it keeps everyone accountable, it’s transparent, and it means that those of us who don’t carry cash on the regular are able to participate.
              My front-facing position occasionally got so busy that I was unable to leave for longer than a couple minutes at a time, so a similar system in my workplace saved me tons of time.

            3. SevenSixOne*

              I used to work at an ice cream and coffee shop and I HATED people who would come in for the office run and then pay for everything separately. HATED them.

              Look, I know it’s not a customer’s responsibility to make an employee’s job easier, but MAN was it ever frustrating and time-consuming to ring up a dozen orders separately!

        3. fposte*

          Another alternative would be to take back your own change and dump the rest of it on an office counter and say “Here’s the change! You all can sort it out between you.” Let them fight with each other over the 7 cents.

        4. Emily K*

          Totally agree with this. One person’s 48 cents? Sure. 8 people’s 12, 76, 35, 52, 18, 48, 15, and 4 cents? Nope. If they want their <$1 back they can buy their own darn coffee. The runner is already going out of their way to buy the extra coffees, don't make them keep 8 piles of loose change separate on top of it.

          1. Colette*

            And they’re not likely to get that much change in return, either. “Can I get 12 quarters, 10 dimes, and 20 nickels instead of a five?”

      3. Rose*

        I totally agree with that keeping change when you’re not told to is a no-no, but if you say “anyone want anything” and then eight people all say yes, no one volunteers to go with you and help, then 8 people hand you random bills, and they all want you to keep 8 different sets of change straight, while you’re also juggling 9 coffees…

        At this point you’ve created such a pain in the @ss for this person, I don’t think it’s really fair to expect exact change back. I think bills is all you can expect.

        Of course, this is the point where a normal person offers to get off their butt and help.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, at that point I’d say “There will be no change given; please pay with the exact amount if this is a problem.”

          Though actually I’d just go and get my own coffee at this point.

          1. Joey*

            It’s all in the approach. Its easier to say something like: “a chai tea with 1.5 pumps of vanilla and 2.5 tsp of honey? That’s $4.50 before tax, with tax let’s call it an even $5.”[holds out hand]

            1. Anonymous*

              That’s assuming you know the cost of everyone’s order. I would have no idea how much a chai tea costs, let alone one with vanilla and honey added.

  7. Anonie*

    If you are getting more coffee that can be held in one carrier then someone needs to come with you to help carry. The next time you offer to get coffee say, “Please bring me your cash before I head across the street.” Otherwise get your coffee before you come into work.

  8. Sunflower*

    wow this sucks :(

    In my old office, I used to ask if anyone wanted to come to Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks to get something with me, everyone would decline. And then when I got up to go alone, all of a sudden 6 people would be asking me to get them things. And every single one of them didn’t want to go not because they were too busy or couldn’t leave- they just didn’t feel like it. Terrible.

    Also I can’t imagine having to carry/juggle all those drinks.

      1. Sunflower*

        I would usually just tell them that since I was going out alone, I was going to run my other errands for the day. I also had the advantage that I sat in a cubby in the office so people couldn’t really tell when I was coming and going- so eventually I stopped asking.

        If more than a couple people asked, I usually told them it was hard for me to carry more than 2 drinks by myself without spilling them.

  9. Zahra*

    I did some coffee runs back in the day (but not everyday, since I’m not a coffee drinker). I would always get payment upfront and return any change to the person. Of course, no one ordered overly complicated coffees. It was stuff like a double-double or an iced cappuccino, etc.

    I did take a post-it to make sure I didn’t forget anyone’s order. Once I learned everyone’s preferences, the post-it only included the names. It was faster to remember it that way. We did take back those cardboard trays when we had too many. It seemed wasteful to throw them away when they were perfectly re-usable.

    1. Jessa*

      Exactly, and if it was complicated, it was clear that you didn’t snark at the delivery person. It’s NOT their fault if coffeeshop messed up, they’re not going to taste sample to make sure your complicatedlatte frozen mini choco whatevertheheck is exactly fifteen chocolate chips.

      I was mainly the gofer because back in the day admins did the gofering and also because I have food allergies and I wasn’t going to let someone ELSE get my lunch.

  10. Yup*

    Nope, it’s not rude. You were polite to offer and super nice to do it as long as you have, but no one’s entitled to favors. If they’re being divas about someone doing a nice thing for them, then you’re free to stop offering with a clear conscience. If it’s so critical that they have coffee, they can go get it for themselves, just like you did.

  11. tesyaa*

    The complaint about the honey is really funny. Not funny to the OP, but hilarious that someone would complain to the messenger about her special order getting messed up. That’s a perfect opportunity to say “next time, please go get it yourself to make sure they get it right”.

      1. Chinook*

        That actually sounds like part of DH’S training as an Int. OP. I guess they figure that, if you can’t keep track of who gets the double double and who wanted earl Grey, then you really shouldn’t be dealing with top secret reports?

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I know – this is what made my jaw drop the furthest. Someone takes the time to take your customized order, and you whine about it when it’s wrong? Seriously?

  12. Rayner*

    In all honesty, you should push back and say what AAM recommended – because they are absolutely legitimate reasons to decline to go and get other people stuff. Unless your job involves being the coffee schlepper, it’s fine to decide that actually, you’re going to focus on your work, and yourself.

    A*sholes are everywhere. Doesn’t mean that we have to pander to their wants :P And people can be unintentional ones – like the two admins. “I want coffee – why didn’t someone else get it for me?” It’s fine to lay out exactly why they’re entitled beyond reason and hopefully to remind them that it’s a favour, not a standard practice.

    Also, I detest as a matter of course people who order excessively complicated food/drink through someone else in situations like these. It’s fine if you want your one point five four teaspoons of honey medium green tea or a double pump vanilla mocha latte thing with chocolate sprinkles and skinny milk, hold the sugar, heavy on the cinnamon but go and get it yourself. If it takes more than three seconds to say your order – “coffee, black”, “Tea, milk, no sugar.” then you shouldn’t be asking others to get it. *

    *Of course, allergies and dietary requirements (such as religious reasons) aside.

    1. TL*

      As a person with food allergies – I generally get my own food. It’s awkward enough having to do whole spiel with servers, from “ingredients, please?” to “change your gloves, please!”
      I wouldn’t put anyone but my parents through that.

      1. straws*

        Yes. I was about to post something similar: As someone with a food allergy, I wouldn’t put my health in someone else’s hands. Not just because I’d be concerned for myself, but I wouldn’t want to put that kind of pressure on anyone else.

      2. Rayner*

        I absolutely wouldn’t blame you – and I often find that most people, including myself, (oral food allergy – whooo.) would rather make that effort if they have allergies to go and get the food themselves. Both from a safety stand point – not trusting others to get it precisely right because sometimes, it’s tough to remember everything – and also from a convenience/politeness perspective. It’s not cool to subject people to an exacting list of fifty prohibited items before each coffee/food run.

        That said, I have had experiences of people on diets, on new ‘food regimes’ (different is…what? Couldn’t tell you but apparently so) and such like, where they won’t move to go and get it but will give me a list of five items with a half dozen alterations each, because it’s “easier that way.”

        Speak for yourself.

        1. TL*

          I take the “this brand, this flavor, no substitutions” approach when someone has to get food for me. As in, if they don’t have what I tell you, I’ll go hungry.

          I’ve been on several different elimination diets lately + fun food allergies, and sometimes convincing well-meaning friends that no, it’s really best that you don’t cook for me ever, the list of what I can’t eat is about 3 pages long, is an adventure. :)

    2. Cath@VWXYNot?*

      Yeah, it reminds me of the time in grad school when I asked one of my (university-assigned) roommates if she wanted anything from the supermarket. It was about a 15 minute walk away, uphill on the way back, there was no bus route that went there, and none of us had cars, so she knew I was going on foot. She asked for three 2-litre bottles of water, and got mad when I said no. Apparently in her world if you’re going to ask that kind of question, you’re 100% obligated to fulfill any request made. Yeah, no, just drink the tap water like the rest of us.

      1. Anonymous*

        Clearly she thought you had biceps of steel!! My arms would fall off if I carried all that for 15 mins uphill.

    3. Clever Name*

      “Also, I detest as a matter of course people who order excessively complicated food/drink through someone else in situations like these.”

      I’m glad someone else feels the same way I do. I had a friend who would make ordering needlessly complicated because she was the pickiest eater on the planet. One time she ordered something like a mushroom-bacon-swiss burger and asked them to hold the mushroom and the swiss. Uhhhh…if you don’t like 2/3 of the ingredients in a dish, pick something else!

      1. TL*

        I must say, I got really frustrated in DisneyWorld/Florida where everyone had only cheeseburgers (and not hamburgers) on the menu and I learned really quick you had to specify “Cheeseburger no cheese.” (not hamburger or hamburger no cheese, mind you. That would get you cheese.)

        On the other hand, I have a friend who’ll walk the server through 3 or 4 different items on the menu – “Does that have meat? I’m not vegetarian, though. I just don’t always eat meat… Does this come with X? Can I substitute Y and then add A?” on top of a dairy allergy.

        Every time I go out with her, I tip at least 30%.

        1. Anon*

          I dated a guy like that for a while. Every time we went out, he would go through that whole rigamarole about “No A, just a little bit of B, extra C, and can I substitute D for E?”

          As far as I could see, he didn’t have any allergies or sensitivities – his only motivation seemed to be to make a nuisance of himself. And when the servers stopped being extra-super polite to him (which happened more than once, and no surprise there), he took great delight in not leaving a tip due to “bad service.”

          It was a short relationship between us. :)

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


          I went to lunch with a dear friend from out of town the other month. I did the same thing, tipped 30% because my friend (who otherwise paid for the lunch) ran the server through a **twenty minute** conversation about the ingredients of every item on the menu!

          I love her but it was insane!

          She paid for lunch but I insisted on leaving the tip. $15 for good karma is worth it.

          1. TL*

            Oh my god, we have the same friend. It’s insane!
            (And I’ve tried to not-so-gently hint that’s she’s being ridiculous and she just doesn’t get it.)

          2. LD*

            Your friend might be my mother-in-law. She has many allergies and it’s essential to know how food is prepared so she doesn’t have a reaction. But she tips really badly and then I feel obligated to make it up to the server.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      Oh, this makes me nuts too. I’m kind of a picky eater, but try to never put anyone through and extra gyrations on my behalf. I really do not like raw tomatoes or raw onions, so if I order a burger that comes with them I take them off. Done, problem solved, and I didn’t have to make a big production out of it.

      1. Anonymous*

        Asking the server to get your burger without tomatoes/onions wouldn’t be a big production, either. Its the people who want to add/substitute tons of stuff that are annoying.

        1. TL*


          And also weighing extra work for the server vs. flavor cost to yourself – I can’t scrape off melted cheese but I can and do pick off pickles.

  13. A Bug!*

    No good deed goes unpunished. I wonder if those complaining admins complain about all the other people in the office who also didn’t buy the admins coffee that day. Something tells me no.

    1. fposte*

      Excellent point. And this is a coffee shop *across the street*. We’re not talking Katmandu here–if they want it, they can cross the damn street too.

  14. Anonymous*

    Haha that woman’s green tea order… Wow. If anybody is that picky, they should make it themselves.

    I used to get a coworker coffee every morning, but she took her coffee the same way as mine, and gave me a toonie and let me keep the change.

    1. kelly*

      That sounds like my sister’s green tea drink except for the syrup part. She’s pretty laid back if she visiting someone and they don’t have the honey and will drink just the tea itself without any extras.

  15. yawn*

    Yet another profound question on AAM. What’s next? ‘I got fired yesterday so does this mean my paychecks will stop coming?’

    1. Anonymous*

      Agreed!! I miss the exciting office drama. “My boss punched me for not buying her coffee! Is this legal??”

          1. jmkenrick*

            Well, there’s an obvious solution to this…Yawn can e-mail in asking AAM about the meaning of life, Anonymous can punch her subordinate and write in about that, and KellyK and TBoT can leave some constructive and relevant comments. :)

            Seriously though…there’s got to be a more constructive way to voice any of these concern without just negging.

      1. pgh_adventurer*

        But…this question IS office drama! Entitled coworkers, boss owing money, frazzled OP, a brewing confrontation…

    2. some1*

      Just because this specific question isn’t relevant to you, doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable discussion piece. There are plenty of people who get taken advantage of in professional situations, and are afraid of saying something in order not not to alienate their co-workers.

      1. Saturn9*

        Some special snowflakes are convinced that anything they like owes it to them to keep being entertaining in the exact way they like to be entertained.

        Because this whole place was built just for them and no one else ever, obviously.

  16. Rebecca*

    People will take advantage of you if you let them. Just have your hand out for the money. Use a blank envelope, put everyone’s order on it, and how much they tossed in. No money, no coffee. It’s not your responsibility to buy expensive coffee drinks for your coworkers.

    I never tell anyone but a few close friends if I’m going out for food items of any type now. The last time I told my manager I was going to Subway (as a courtesy to her because she demands that we tell her if we leave the building, even if it’s for our break times), she said “great!”, and announced this to over 20 people in 2 departments. She volunteered me to pick up lunch for everyone. I spent my entire lunch break on this little excursion. But then again, she’s often said that we have to make sure everyone has lunch if we leave, because we have to “look out for each other”.

    Never again.

  17. Mimi*

    I’ve been in this situation before. Usually, I say, “Ohhh, sorry! (apologetic look) I only had a few minutes available to run over.” Or “Ohhh, sorry, the orders keep getting messed up, so I just get my own coffee. I know that one won’t get messed up, ha ha!” Or, “Sorry, I just get my own – I realized I’m spending a ton on coffee each week!”

    I think I always apologize because I don’t like confrontation….or maybe I’m trying to soften the message. It seems to work, though.

  18. A.Y. Siu*

    I’m not a coffee drinker myself, but every work situation I’ve been in that involves someone offering to get coffee for other people involves the askees responding with “Thanks. Can you get me a ______?” and then promptly pulling out some cash to give the person kindly volunteering to fetch coffee.

    LW, I’m appalled that your co-workers are so rude to you!

  19. JW*

    I’d love to chat with the exactly 4 teaspoons of honey coworker. I love the “feels like a chore rather than a favor” line. Please use it!

  20. Katie the Fed*

    I can’t wrap my head around the colossal waste of time/money this whole thing is, for what’s essentially beans, water, milk and sugar. Get an office espresso machine. Or one for your own desk :)

    People are the worst, I swear. And offices bring out the worst. I would also make sure the people who owe you pay you back. That’s some serious nerve.

      1. Jen in RO*

        It does! And I would enjoy taking a short walk to the coffee shop… for me and a couple of close coworkers, who always pay me up front and never whine! OP’s coworkers are… I can’t even.

      2. MeganO*

        I’m sure I’m just a weirdo, but I used to be a barista and I actually miss making my own drinks. Frothing the milk is kind of fun, and I *know* if I do it myself I’ll get exactly what I want (or only have myself to blame).

        I can neither confirm nor deny that this might be related to my larger control issues…

    1. Calla*

      I would love save the money, but I don’t usually get coffee at Starbucks/Dunkins (makes me sick)! I go for an iced chai, which I have not mastered making myself, or iced tea. However, I always front the cash before someone does a run, at least, unless it’s one of the couple people who absolutely refuse to take my money.

  21. Peppery*

    At one of my old jobs, some of my coworkers and I would take a morning break together to get coffee. We made it clear that anyone could come along–and frequently were joined by others–but our manager accused us of being exclusive, as we did not bring her any coffee (unasked and unpaid for). She started calling us the Coffee Clique. Shockingly, this did not spur us to bring her free coffee.

  22. Anon*

    Ha! After one too many complicated Subway orders (4 tomatos, 10 pickles, bread cut the old way, etc) I decided I would stop going on food runs all together. Also people giving me large bills and wanting receipts with exact coin change. I still run out most days but I have made it pretty clear I won’t buy food for people now! Especially Subway!

    1. Joey*

      “Are you kidding me? If it takes more than two or three seconds to tell me what you want I’m going to get it wrong even if I write it down .”

      “Sorry, I don’t do receipts or exact change. You still want me to get you something?”

      Both work well!

    2. TL*

      Seriously?! I don’t let people go to Subway for me anymore (I have a wheat allergy but I loooove their salads) but general Subway etiquette is you write down what you want, you keep it simple (either all the way or no more than 3-4 veggies) and you certainly don’t put numbers next to your veggies!

  23. DeAnna*

    This makes me feel lucky that it’s just my boss and me sitting in this corner of the office, and we informally take turns doing the Starbucks runs. I will admit that during this holiday season, my order complication level goes up a little (tall latte made with half eggnog and half nonfat), but she doesn’t seem to mind!

  24. Karenb*

    i used to work a retail job across the street from a starbucks, and we all kept loaded starbucks cards with our names sharpied across the fronts. it’s still sort of annoying to do each order individually, but at least the person picking up isn’t fronting the cost or handling multiple orders worth of change.

    1. Sydney*

      Plus, if you frequent Starbucks enough, you’ll become a Gold member and get big discounts. I love their rewards program.

  25. EJeanne*

    Maybe suggest everyone in the office who wants coffee as part of the “unofficial daily coffee run” to buy a gift card to the coffee shop you go to. They can write their name on the gift card and stick a post-it w/ their order on it (for less confusion).. then before you make your trip, just ask them for their gift card and purchase their drink/food with that!

  26. periwinkle*

    Nothing to add for the original OP other than to echo the “your co-workers are entitled nitwits” sentiment, but this made me nostalgic for the days when I worked at a corporate tech support desk. There was a supermarket next door, so some of us would run over there to pick up snacks. One coworker was always very nice about picking up something for me during his snack runs (my usual request was a pint of milk and a bag of Milano cookies – and I paid in advance).

    We’ve been married for almost 13 years now. He still picks up Milanos for me.

    And now, back to workplace idiocy…

    1. PuppyKat*

      Okay, this made my day—both for the sweetness of the story and the fact that I love Milanos, too!

  27. Kat M*

    My former boss used to ask folks in the office who were headed to get coffee on their lunch breaks to grab something for her, as she was frequently too busy to get out of the building in the middle of the day. But she always paid for her drink AND the drink of the other person, as a thank-you for the delivery service.

    She was a pretty great boss.

    1. Kat A.*

      I do this, too. And when 2 or more people have to work overtime or come in on a weekend, I buy them pizza.

  28. dahanaha*

    People can be absolutely ridiculous!! I used to volunteer to pick up cake for peoples bdays that the company piad for and was fine with doing it. However each time people would passive aggressively (within my earshot but not to me directly) that the cake wasn’t the flavour or kind they preffered. And expect me and another woman to cut and hand out and clean up afterwards!! People would literally stand at there desks while pieces of cake piled up on the “cake table” and no one would move to get themselves a piece.
    I finally quit doing it and everyone else in the office has REFUSED to pick up any cakes. I still randomly get reminbders from people about upcoming birthdays even though I quit doing it 6 months ago!

    1. Joey*

      If it makes you feel any better I’m guilty of making comments about the kinds of cakes people bring to the office. The sentiments aren’t directed at anyone in particular. They’re more just personal frustration that while most cakes are worthy of eating Id rather indulge in one of my favorite cakes if I’m going to suffer the calories. Pointless I know.

      And I think most people stand around and wait for someone else to cut the cake. The goal is to eat cake, not cut it for everyone else. At the same time you don’t want to look like the glutton going for the first or biggest piece of cake. Its a fine balancing act, you know.

      1. Melissa*

        I don’t. I usually cut myself a piece, then hand the knife off to someone else. I like to get the idea going that everyone can cut themselves their own piece of cake.

      2. Editor*

        I am fine with cutting the first piece of cake and giving it away. I never want the piece on the corner with all that icing. I am eager to get to the middle so there’s only icing on top. Unless it is peanut butter icing, in which case I’m not interested at all because I don’t like pb in baked goods, only in sandwiches.

      1. Editor*

        I’d be tempted to laugh and say, “Oh, that brings back memories. My mom used to ask me if my legs were broken when I asked other people to bring me food.”

        Of course, I once worked with someone less subtle, who used to say, “My name is not Rover and I do not fetch.”

  29. Tiff*

    I tend to think of myself as a nice, friendly, easy-going person. Then I read posts like this and realize that I must be Satan’s first cousin, because my reaction to that whole situation would be totally different. If I’m nice enough to get some coffee for someone else they better show some gratitude. Little Miss I Need More Honey would have been told point blank that she needs to get her own stuff because she’s too picky. Mr. I’m Not Going to Pay You Back’s second coffee request would be met with a hard stare and me rubbing my fingers together and holding out my palm.

    That “why didn’t you get us anything?” chorus would be met with: “Because y’all are cheap and picky. Come with or go without!”

    I swear, people still like me.

    1. jmkenrick*

      I agree. If you just say point-blank that stuff, most people can appreciate that it’s reasonable. I think OP is worried she will come off as harsh, but frankly, most people can handle it!

  30. Not So NewReader*

    OP, it looks like your stint as “runner” is over and it is someone else’s turn to hold the title.
    I would say it just that way. “I did it for x time frame, now it is someone else’s turn.”
    I do believe, as other posters have said that there are probably a few folks that think you do this because it is your job. So I’d watch out for people who sincerely believe that and feel badly for misunderstanding.

  31. SciMaven*

    Sorry OP :(. Glad you put your foot down.

    This reminds me of something that’s happened at a former workplace (a research lab) in the past. We didn’t have a lab manager who would take care of ordering and stocking supplies, so we all had to pitch in and order things or buy them from nearby supply shops. When I joined this lab as a graduate student, I was eager to help out, and I volunteered to do supply runs or order things when I noticed they were running low. Soon my colleagues seemed to assume that I would always order or buy practically everything. I made it clear that I was happy to help out but it wouldn’t be equitable for me to do all of it (since it was time-consuming and took away from the time I was able to do my own research and fulfill my class and teaching duties), and even created a comprehensive document with all the supplies we generally used, purchasing information, and additional information about vendor prices, quotes, etc. that I made available to everyone in the group. Instead of being reasonable adults (or god forbid, thanking me for my contributions), my coworkers accused of being “not a team player” and “not pulling my weight.” Our mutual manager was super-hands off about what went on in the lab, and so trying to bring up the situation to her did nothing.

    1. Melissa*

      I’ve noticed this too in different jobs – I like administrative things and working with numbers, and these are two skills/tasks that I’ve noticed not everyone likes, so inevitably if I volunteer to do something I get stuck with it. So more recently I have been very selective with what I volunteer to do and/or what I reveal I am able to do.

  32. webDev*

    You know, I get kind of the same thing with the charity work I do. I volunteer to help them freshen up a website, suddenly it’s all mine to do. I don’t mind, but at this point I am juggling work, 6 charity websites, and my own hobbies, house, and stuff. I get attitude if I don’t update a web page pronto. I always respond with something to the effect of “I sense a volunteer?” but always get refused. I am in serious need of minions. Until then, it updates when I have time.

    1. Melissa*

      +1 Was in charge of a huge project to gather $$$ donations for a gift to donate to a large auction. Time was money and I didn’t have the time to survey all 16 people in the group, spend days and days responding to e-mails, trying to get people to respond to the request for ideas and tallying votes, so I just decided on the gift and went with it and asked for dollars. One group member e-mailed and told me she didn’t like the gift I had chosen. I e-mailed her back and told her that I would be more than happy to turn the entire project over to her and she could survey the group members on what they’d like to give and how much they’d like to contribute. She backed down quickly, the (original) gift was purchased and donated.

  33. GonnaBAWriterNGetOut*

    Yee gods and little fishes please spare me from the high maintenance coffee/tea drinks and the people that go with them! Used to barista and never could figure where on earth these incredibly entitled folks came up with these concoctions-too silly for words!

    You are so kind-time for those foolios to buy your coffee-for like a year! : )

  34. Jean*

    Several years ago I decided that I would only order steamed milk (skim, small cup, I add cinnamon myself) from Starbucks. Not only do I not like coffee, but life is complicated enough without my having to remember how to navigate the Starbucks menu every two or three months.
    This may not work for everybody (and I’m certainly not saying that it should!) but it makes me happy. Calcium, low-cal, and good flavor: what’s not to like?

    1. Anonymous*

      Starbucks is complicated. I can never remember their stupid sizes, order a medium, and they laugh at me.

      1. A Hiring Manager*

        I still laugh at the attitude I got from a Starbucks employee in Boise for not being quick enough on the order. “Haven’t you ordered from Starbucks before? (snicker) She thought she had the most important job in the world. Stupid Customers!

  35. Melissa*

    This! Used to work in a law office … one law clerk in particular managed to get someone to pay for his lunch every. single. day. I am so not kidding. Most of the time, it was the boss. The time was billable because of huge projects going on (upcoming trials, etc.) and it was always a working lunch. (I know … I used to drag the briefcase with us). But when it was just the staff picking up lunch or going out to lunch, “Mark” always asked if someone would pay for his … and he would “pay them back.” Never, ever happened. Makes me want to send him an e-mail along the lines of “… you know all those lunches you NEVER paid for … time to cough up the money …” Ugh.

  36. Lindsay J*

    The complex orders thing was one of the reasons I stopped doing group orders for awhile at one job. Ordering with 5 other coworkers for delivery is not the time to go “off-menu” and order some weird custom designed entree that is going to wind up getting screwed up.

Comments are closed.