my manager invited me to a product party

A reader writes:

My manager invited me, and everyone else in the office, to a product party which is her home business. It’s not a business that I care about or would want to make any purchases from. Yet I feel that there is pressure to go – it seems that “everyone else” is going and I’m pretty sure that “everyone else” will make purchases (at least one co-worker already has). I legitimately can’t go (I’m not making up an excuse) but I feel already that I’m part of the “out group” since I can’t be there. Is it right for a manager to invite her direct reports to her home business party?

Nope, it’s totally inappropriate.

This isn’t a real social event; it’s a sales pitch. And because of the power disparity, it’s highly likely that at least some employees will feel obligated to go, as well as obligated to buy things. They’ll feel that way whether or not that’s her intention because that’s how power dynamics work in these situations.

This is an abuse of her position, and I can’t imagine your employer would be okay with it if they knew about it (or at least not if they spent a minute thinking it through).

It doesn’t make your manager a terrible person necessarily, but it sure does make her a thoughtless one.

{ 133 comments… read them below }

  1. Andy

    I hope your manager reads this blog and feels appropriately shamed. However it much be said that chances are, since she’s doing this in the first place, she doesn’t read this blog.

    1. esra

      Dear Ask a Manager,

      How excited do you think my employees would be to buy candles from my living room, after hours, on their own free time? Regular excited, or the most excited?

  2. No to Stella and Dot

    At my old company, we had a single HR person. She was constantly “hosting” product parties at her home and inviting all of the female staff members. I never went but I know others that did out of fear that she would retailiate. I thought it was such an abuse of power.

    But then again, this person also “hired” one of graphic designers to do freelance work for a non-profit her and her spouse were involved with and never paid the designer. :/

      1. No to Stella and Dot

        In a way, yes. She definitely had people she favored and it was clear. She served on the board of directors for the company as well, so she had a lot of power, particularly when it came to who received bonuses and/or raises.

        I heard about stuff that went on after I left the company and it really made me question her ethics (i.e. hiring a junior designer who was cashed strapped to begin with and then not paying them for their work).

    1. Original Poster :-)

      Thanks for this – I do work in HR – have only been there about 3 months – and this is one of the HR managers hosting the party. A colleague has already bought product from her (I won’t share too many details, but it’s not an “adult” product as someone below thought! LOL) and another colleague, who has been in HR much longer than I have, has been to other parties, which makes it a little more uncomfortable for me that I’m not going. Ah well. I have no reason to believe that the party hoster would retaliate in any sort of overt way, but I do worry that it colours the way I will be seen in the office, as a “non-social non-team player” sort of thing.

  3. Janet

    While I confess to occasionally having bought a Pampered Chef item or even some Jamberry nails, I detest the “party” sales tactic. I would much rather just go search someone out who sells this stuff and order directly from them. I used to work with a woman who sold Pampered Chef and she was constantly throwing these parties. After a while no one would even open the evites.

    My old boss had a sibling who sold Scentsy and that was enough pressure every time she’d start talking about the catalog.

    1. bridget

      Or better yet – I’d much rather patronize companies that don’t force me to work through a sales person. Let me order online, or at a traditional retailer.

    2. Artemesia

      This is just a grotesque abuse of power. I have always made it a practice to just say ‘Oh I just never do sales parties – let me know if you want to get together for lunch or a film.’ to ‘friends’ who ask. But in a work setting I can imagine being forced to sit through the hell of pyramid sales in fear of the job — since it is ‘legal’ to fire people for not attending (or so I would assume.)

  4. BadPlanning

    I was trying to help out a friend by hosting a party and, among my guests, invited coworkers. Several years later, I’m rather embarrassed that I did. But I wasn’t anyone’s lead order manager. I’m sure I still made some people feel awkward declining.

      1. Ted Mosby

        Eh, I wouldn’t feel that weird saying no to a peer. It’s not like it’s that hard to make up a kid’s soccer game or aunt’s birthday if you’re REALLY uncomfortable just saying not thanks. It honestly wouldn’t irk me that much (if at all), esp not to the point that I would remember it years later.

        IMO, the true issue here is the power dynamic/being afraid to say no to your boss.

    1. Kate

      I don’t feel pressure and if you were casual about it I wouldn’t mind an invite. I don’t think all parties are bad.

      1. Jazzy Red

        I don’t, either. Many years ago, one of the girls in our circle of friends would throw one or two of these parties every year. It was absolutely no pressure to buy anything, or to host a party. These parties were more social than anything else. Almost no one turned down her invites, and we had so darn much fun! (She sold Princess House, and since I was single and made plenty of money, I bought several beautiful items. I still have most of them.)

        1. Terra

          Jazzy Red, there’s a world of difference between a circle of *friends* and a circle of COWORKERS. A friend hosting a product party among her own friends (that she would, surely, know about their likes and preferences and invite them to try something they might really want and would be in their budget to purchase… that’s one thing (and perfectly fine, IMHO.) But when it’s a senior and/or influential work colleague, there is absolutely 100% pressure to attend and buy something. That’s the problem here, eh!

          1. Ted Mosby

            Terra, I think Jazzy was saying it in response to Bad Planning, who wasn’t anyone’s boss. Coworkers are definitely diffierant than friends, but in a lot of cases they sort of become on in the same.

          2. Angora

            I have rule about accepting invites to these parties from co-workers. If I socialize with you outside the office (not counting lunch during working hours) I’ll accept if I am interested or feel an obligation due to my friendship.

            If I do not socialize with her outside work, and if the only time you invited me to your home is in anticipation of my spending money for your benefit … it’s a big “no”.

            I had a co-worker that was so bad, she was always selling at work … everything, and was extremely pushing. It got so bad I complained to HR because they have a no solicitation policy in place. I did miss out on hearing about girl scouts cookies that year, but I would prefer to lose out on the one sales pitch I was interested in all to skip out on all of the others.

            1. Callie

              Agreed. I really hate it when someone who would never have me over (or have my daughter over to hang out with their daughter) invites me to a selling party. If I’m not good enough to be your friend, don’t ask me to be your customer.

            2. Original Poster :-)

              Ha ha! I have a colleague who was selling Girl Guide cookies too but a) she wasn’t my boss and b) she did it in a very nonchalant way – she had the box at her desk and if you wanted one, you came to her. She didn’t even send out an email – it was all word of mouth. Totally fine and acceptable!

    2. My two cents...

      for coworkers/peers, i think it’s totally fine. so long as it isn’t a ‘pure romance'(or similar) party…

  5. Leslie

    What would be the best course of action for the OP to take, if he or she wants to maintain good social relations in the workplace? Keep quiet and deflect questions from other coworkers about why he/she is not attending the product party? Approach his/her manager privately explaining that he/she can’t attend, and/or express concern that others might feel obligated to attend/make purchases because of the manager’s influence over them? Discretely express concern to her manager’s manager or the appropriate higher-up in the organization?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      At a minimum, it’s fine to just say she can’t attend; no need for anything beyond that.

      If she has a good relationship with the manager and the manager is someone who’s open to hearing tough feedback, she could say, “Hey, I’m sure you didn’t realize this, but it can put people in an awkward spot when their boss is asking them to buy things.”

      If she doesn’t feel she can say something to the manager directly but there’s an HR department or someone over the manager who she trusts to handle the situation well, she could give them a discreet heads-up about what’s going on.

      1. Anna

        This is also an appropriate place to use (if the OP’s company has one) the Employee Whatever Hotline. Some companies have third party organizations that send ethical or conflict of interest issues up the chain. You can do it anonymously.

        1. HR Manager

          Maybe this is how my previous companies ran that hotline, but that is a bold move to make if your intention is just to reject the invitation. That ethics hotline used to go right up to our legal office, and virtually immediately alerted HR and often the appropriate executive of the department as to an investigation against a claim of violation. I would just start with the no, thank you first. The hotline isn’t there for someone who feels awkward to say no, or is someone who avoids confrontation. If the manager doesn’t take the hint or outright does mix her two business together and even hits at retaliating for declining, then I would make a call.

          1. HM in Atlanta

            In every company I’ve worked with who had a hotline, this would certainly be an appropriate use for someone who was already concerned about retaliation (“being in the “out group”).

            1. HR Manager

              I agree, but the OPs post doesn’t suggest there is reason to believe the manager will retaliate . It could be poor judgment on the manager’s part, but she may be perfectly fine if someone says no, thank you. It would seem much for Legal, HR and Executive Management to swoop in just because the employee didn’t know how to turn down a product party.

              Now if the manager has some history with this or a patter of behavior that suggests she absolutely would retaliate, that’s a different story. Even then I would start with the manager’s manager, but if that is not an option then the hotline could be the only solution.

              1. Anna

                It is an appropriate use because no matter what, some people will feel obligated to participate because of the power dynamic Alison mentioned.

              2. Ted Mosby

                Just because legal and executive management don’t need to be involved doesn’t mean no one does. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to talk to HR about.

                1. HR Manager

                  Sorry, calling the ethics hotline and walking into HR or Legal to ask for advice on an issue or to raise awareness are not the same thing. There’s taking things through the appropriate channels and going straight to the top isn’t where I would start with every issue. The hotline isn’t even going go give the offender the chance to say “Oops, I goofed?” Maybe she didn’t put 2+2 together? I wonder how many would advocate the same approach if they made a similar mistake on their part. Would they be ok that not only is the manager alerted, but sav the executive of the team and the CEO of your company? I’ve known people who raise issues to the top, when that wasn’t appropriate, who at the end were labelled with the “questionable judgment” tag.

                  The ethics hotline is appropriate for serious violations or concerns regarding serious violations. Why not just pop into this person’s manager, or someone more senior in HR, or even the legal office and ask…”Am I crazy to find this to be awkward and inappropriate?” Lots of readers seem ready to believe the absolute worst of this person, and are dead set that she doesn’t deserve a chance to explain or even offer a mea culpa if that was not her intention.

                  No one is suggesting there isn’t a problem, but if you fire first and then ask questions later (or don’t ask them at all), what type of culture are you building here?

          2. Clever Name

            It’s a pretty bold move for a manager to host an event where she intends to personally make money from her staffers.

          3. Ted Mosby

            I disagree. Just because OP feels brave enough to say no doesn’t mean everyone else will. The issue isn’t OP feeling timid; it’s that Boss is (intentionally or unintentionally) putting her direct reports in a very uncomfortable position and manipulating them to spend money in order to make her money. What if the boss was asking for dates? A boss making you feel awkward to say no is terribly coercive. There are many things you shouldn’t HAVE to feel awkward saying no to in the work place.

            Something doesn’t have to be a legal problem to be a problem!

    2. Original Poster :-)

      This is a great point and I’m happy to see the discussion below. I can tell you what I did – I indicated “no” on the e-vite and then went to see her the day before the event and explained why I couldn’t attend (a totally legitimate reason that I did not invent). I said I was sorry I would be missing her event (white lie) and that I hoped it was a good time (true). That’s it. No one has asked why I’m not going, but at least I have a real reason to share should anyone ask why I wasn’t there. I don’t think I’ll express any concern at this point – I sense I’m in the minority there.

  6. Jenna

    Funny — I read this thinking it was an adult products party and wondered why Alison wasn’t more outraged about it. Maybe it’s because I was just invited to one — by a friend, not a manager or coworker.

    1. Allison

      That sprung to mind too, because at 25 that’s the only kind of product party I’ve attended. But then I realized that NO sane manager would invite her direct reports to one of those.

      1. OhNo

        That was my first thought, too. But I’ve seen at least one letter here before about a coworker inviting people to and adult products party – I wouldn’t be too surprised to hear that there was a manager out there who does it as well. Weirded out, definitely, but not shocked.

      2. Lily in NYC

        I received a vibrator as a secret santa gift (at work). I was not happy. Especially because I’m pretty sure it was from a male supervisor who had the hots for me (yes, of course he was married).

        1. mweis77

          I’d like to recommend Alison have a holiday themed post about the worse office gifts ever. Lily – You already win.

            1. esra

              Even the tame stories are fun. I got someone’s stained, unwashed coffee mug in an office gift swap one year.

            2. jesicka309

              Yes, plenty. One year, a guy at my work (not well liked) got a whisk in the Secret Santa. Another year, a girl got a box with: some tinsel, some chocolate wrappers (no chocolate) and a crappy Christmas ornament (plastic). Or the year they made us do the Secret Santa between interstate offices, and two people’s gifts (mugs) broke in transit, so they just opened up boxes of ceramic shards.
              Plus your usual array of thoughtless gifts – jumbo box of chocolate for the guy on a diet, Christmas ornament for the non religious coworkers, chocolate coated peanuts for the allergic to nuts girl, etc etc.

            3. mweis77

              If this post happens, I will consider it my greatest achievement this year. Could I put it on my resume or should it go in a cover letter?

                1. Pennalynn Lott

                  Or when filling in the “Tell Us Something Unique About Yourself” box in an online application.

            4. Apostrophina

              Not related to *my* work, but a relative by (ex-)marriage once gave me what was pretty clearly stolen office supplies for the first Christmas I was in the family. I actually love office supplies (my dad was self-employed and I have a lot of fond memories of rubber-stamping things, etc., as a kid), so it kind of worked out, but still.

              1. Hlyssande

                Maybe a reposting of it closer to the holidays would be in order, so new readers can chime in with their own best/worst gifts.

                (I know I’d like to, at least)

            1. Elkay

              I was going to say the same thing, definitely worth a repeat though, who knows what people got last year!

          1. Stan

            I got a coupon for a free consultation at a liposuction clinic one year for my secret santa present. That was horribly embarrassing, but not on the same level as the vibrator.

        2. Case of the Mondays

          My husband bought a last minute white elephant gift at the pharmacy across the street from his work. He bought a battery operated neck massager so people could use it at their desks. I explained that though they are sold as “neck massagers” that is not what they are commonly used for. He was mortified. Alas, my husband is not in NYC so he didn’t unintentionally buy you a vibrator.

          1. Shortie

            Oh my gosh. I just snorted Diet Coke all over my computer monitor. Your poor husband–how embarrassing!

          2. Lily in NYC

            hahahaha, this is hilarious. I lived in DC when I got the vibrator as a gift, so I’m going to pretend it was from him and just an honest mistake instead of a gift from a creep.

      3. Auditoholic

        Not only have I been to an adult products party with my direct supervisor, I’ve been to one held at the workplace! We had a room that was frequently used by the public for different events (usually small seminars, although baby/wedding showers were also quite common) and the party was held there.

        1. Molly

          My Jewish mother had her first xmas when she married into my Catholic dad’s family. She was gifted a pair of xxL silk panties by my great aunt. She is about 120 pounds.

          1. Jean

            Look on the bright side! She actually received two pairs of panties…plus the challenge of deconstructing the one in size XXL and reconstructing two in size S or XS.

    2. PizzaSquared

      At a former job, we had a company event employees’ significant others were invited to attend. During the party, one employee’s wife took it upon herself to hand out flyers to the attendees inviting them to an “adult products” party she was hosting in her home the following week. And when his manager talked to him about it, he was surprised it was not ok. Sometimes I just don’t understand people………

  7. PEBCAK

    This is interesting, because direct sales talk would run afoul of “no-soliciting” rules in any large company. What happens when it’s not an actual solicitation, but rather an invite to a party at which you will be solicited?

  8. Kat

    We have a “No Solicitation” policy that would cover this – no solicitation allowed on the premises. If the manager used company email for the invitations, what would be a no-no. If she sent the invites from her home email to work email accounts, that would be frowned upon too. If she sent them to employees’ home emails, I would be wondering how she got all their home email addresses.

    1. AndersonDarling

      We also have a no solicitations policy, but employees are still allowed to leave order forms in the breakroom. Some folks jump at the chance to buy Pampered Chef, no sales pitch needed.

      1. Jazzy Red

        That’s one of the best solutions to this problem. I’ve seen Avon, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Tupperware, et al in the breakrooms. It’s the ultimate in no pressure, and if you want these things, it’s easy to order.

      2. Turanga Leela

        Agreed that this is a great idea. When my coworkers’ kids are selling cookie dough or wrapping paper, I want to know about it. Everything else I avoid.

      3. Hlyssande

        We wanted to do something similar in my office (as a bulletin board) and the new HR guy thought it was great, but unfortunately the solicitation policy put the kibosh on that. He was really sad to bring us the news that we couldn’t even send an office wide email to say that so and so had girl scout cookies or boy scout popcorn or whatever.

        We’re allowed to pass it around by word of mouth but that’s it. I miss the cookies.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.

      I like this a lot as well. I generally like to support people in their endeavors, but I don’t like the idea of being sold to directly by co-workers. I think it’s a best of all worlds, presuming that it IS indeed a no-pressure situation, and that people don’t, say, think less of you because you didn’t buy cookies from your boss’ son.

  9. so and so

    I had a manager that sold bootleg DVDs out of the break room. She knew it was illegal and openly talked about she had to keep her “side business” quiet. It was special. I avoided ever buying anything by just “never” carrying cash. Granted, I should have reported it but I was a teenager and not interested in working there long term or in making any enemies.

    1. HR Manager

      I wonder what would happen if customs ever came swooping in and ‘raided’ her side business in the break room.

    2. NoPantsFridays

      Bold indeed. I’m shocked. I used to live in a city where there were literally malls full of stores that sold bootleg DVDs and video games, and this is still more shocking to me.

      There needs to be a compilation post like the weirdest coworker one for the weirdest products sold at work or that you were invited to from work, etc.

      1. LCL

        At one old restaurant job (place has been out of business for years) the shift manager was moving quantities of cocaine. Thing was, he was great to work with and always did more than his share of the restaurant work.

        1. Jill-be-Nimble

          Well, he would have the energy! I’ve also worked at a place that was a cocaine hub…always wondered how people stayed up dancing and talking as long as they did, as often as they did. They would close the bar down and keep drinking from the taps until 6am–often sleeping there until their 10am shift! I was so sweet and naive back then…

        2. KerryOwl

          Isn’t that kinda the restaurant biz, though? (Caveat: all I know about the restaurant biz, I learned from reading Kitchen Confidential.

          1. Jill-be-Nimble

            Restaurant workers in general tend to do a lot of drugs–especially coke and other uppers. The difference here was that we had a 19-year-old in the bar who was selling and distributing a lot of them to the entire state. We had DEA agents, undercover and otherwise, in and out a lot of the time. I didn’t know a lot of this until after I quit! The whole place was cleaned out, though, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist in that capacity anymore.

          2. Mister Pickle

            In my youth I did a fair amount of work in the restaurant biz, and Bourdain’s characterization of career restaurant employees as people who are looking for a ‘fun’ lifestyle involving alcohol, drugs, and loose sexual mores is dead-on.

  10. summercamper

    Just a few days ago I was invited to (an attended) a Jamberry nails party thrown by a colleague. It took place at the workplace, over the lunch break, and was approved by management.

    I attended with an honestly open mind. While I’m not too into doing my nails, my little sister is, and I’ll need a Christmas gift for her. However, after trying the sample stick-on nail decal, I’m unimpressed with the quality (it came loose and easily peeled off during my morning shower. My sister is a lifeguard and spends a lot of time in the water – likely to be a problem for her too).

    So now I don’t want to buy anything, but I wonder just how rude that is? My colleague has been really, really low-pressure about this – she sent one e-mail after the party with a link to the online store, and another today to let us know that the online store party will close tomorrow. That’s it. But I still feel a social obligation to buy, since she is my friend and I ate her offered pizza.

    I suppose this is the point of these sales, isn’t it – that your social connection with the seller will motivate purchases. Should I say anything to my colleague about why I’m not going to make a purchase, or just let it go?

    1. Colette

      I would let it go. It sounds like she’s not pressuring you to buy anything, and people who are in that business should understand that no one is obligated to buy.

    2. Apollo Warbucks

      I’d just leave it you went and looked at the goods, if you’re not interested then there’s no obligation to buy anything.

      1. Elizabeth West

        This. No one is obligated to buy anything. It’s your money. Except for bills and taxes, no one else is entitled to any of it.

        I would never ever buy anything I didn’t want just to be polite. I don’t go to these parties, either. I just politely say, “No thank you, I’m not interested.” Lather, rinse, repeat. And yes, I would say it to the boss.

    3. Adam V

      I’d let it go; if she asks, just tell her you didn’t see anything you thought your sister would like. (If you’re particularly close, you could tell her what happened with the sample, but if you think she’d take offense – even slightly – then I wouldn’t chance it.)

    4. Nerd Girl

      “I suppose this is the point of these sales, isn’t it – that your social connection with the seller will motivate purchases.”

      On a company level…yes. But most consultants and nearly every hostess know that the reason to host these parties is to get together and have some fun. I definitely think in your case it’s more about the sales, as she had the “party” at work. I did one “party” at work but it wasn’t official and I was using it as one of my Toastmasters speeches. I made mango salsa as if I was doing a show. I did not expect to sell product though I ended up some kind of grater. Oh…and people asked for the recipe. LOL ! I made a good Salsa!

      1. MK

        If it is all about the fun, what is stopping these people from throwing a straightforward social event? Maybe for you it’s just fun, but I would assume most people are in it for the money; most people don’t go to the trouble of getting a side job to have an excuse to socialise with coworkers. Especially since you don’t need an excuse in the first place.

      2. Lily in NYC

        I don’t agree with “fun” being the reason for these parties. The real reason is because these MLMs are always looking for new people to recruit to sell the product. That’s the only way to make any money in these pyramid schemes. Maybe the attendees and the hostess are there to have fun, but the consultant has very different motives.

    5. Lee

      Don’t buy it because you feel obligated to. If you still feel obligated because of the pizza, buy her lunch or bring cookies or something. That’s my two cents. :)

      1. Not So NewReader

        Good idea. Remember the food is part of the hook as much as the relationship is part of the hook. Not much different than an ad on TV. You don’t buy everything you see in ads to make the TV station feel happy, right?

    6. Jennifer

      I don’t know about this “online party” thing, but a roommate of mine had a candle party years ago and ah….let me just say that it was made pretty clear that if you show up at the party, you are obligated to buy something. Because the hostess won’t get her “party gift” and the saleswoman actually has to pay money if she doesn’t sell enough shit. Unfortunately, roomie was still in college (I had graduated and had a job) and so were most of the invitees, so guess who ended up *cough* having to buy a lot of stuff or else things would have really gotten socially awkward?

      Nice candles, mind you, but still.

      1. Ted Mosby

        Ugh. You shouldn’t have bought anything. They both put themselves in that position. I hate to see them be rewarded for it (but I totally get how incredibly awkward that could have been).

    7. Clever Name

      I am so glad someone else out there is underwhelmed by Jamberry. I bought 2 sets, and I’ve used part of one set, and they just look like glorified stickers. The removal methods are laughable. They emphasize using olive oil or nail polish removal to avoid “damaging the nail”, but the adhesive isn’t anywhere near strong enough to do any kind of damage. The edges got super rough and drove me crazy, so I peeled them off after 2 days. While I was driving. They came off that easily. I’m seriously thinking of returning them and asking for a refund, but I don’t want to offend my friend. Which I’m sure is what Jamberry hopes.

    8. Molly

      You absolutely shouldn’t feel pressured to buy. The pizza made you obligated to stay for a bit and listen, nothing more. It seems like she really doesn’t WANT you to feel obligated, so don’t.

    9. Diana

      One of my girlfriends just started selling Jamberry. I’ve bought a few sets but I’m learning that it’s all in the application. I have no problem doing an accent nail, but tons of the same probs you mentioned when I try all of them. [/nail discussion]

      As for the obligation? Don’t worry about saying something about why you’re not buying. Sometimes they do in person parties, sometimes it’s just online. Unless she’s pretty serious about the whole thing, it’s not going to matter. They’re used to only getting a percentage of sales from the group.

  11. Marianne

    I was invited to a sex toy party by my direct manager to be held for all the women in the office. I had originally declined with a ‘no, thank you’, but the pressure from the head shareholder and the other men in the office was relentless. All insisted it would be a lot of fun – I finally caved and attended, but didn’t buy anything. Several years later I was laid off, so not sure if my job loss was directly related to that. More likely it was related to my having refused the advances of the other (married) shareholder.

    1. Not So NewReader

      wth.

      I have no clue how you got through that party. I don’t think I would have lasted five minutes without crawling under something and hiding.

  12. Jamberry Junkie

    If you say something to your colleague, she will most likely want the opportunity to overcome your objection. If you are absolutely not open to that, then simply don’t buy – or stick with “not right now, thanks!”

    1. Jennifer

      I would come up with an excuse, like “I have to go to a funeral” or something else unarguable. I wouldn’t just say I’m unavailable or no thanks-gives them an opportunity to argue.

      1. Ted Mosby

        Ahhhh I would never lie about a funeral! I just seems like terrible karma. (Not above making up just about any other excuse. But I’m 87% sure that if I make up a funeral someone I love will die as punishment.)

    1. some1

      It’s a big deal because of the power differential that Alison mentioned. The LW feels like she might be punished for not going or buying anything from her boss.

  13. Nerd Girl

    I used to sell Pampered Chef and would leave my catalog and cards in the break area. A few people held parties, most made catalog orders. The same went for a co-worker who sold paper craft stuff. So many of us would put in a catalog order every other month that we started our own club to get the hostess benefits.

    That being said, I never put pressure on my co-workers to host a show or buy products. I was very careful to make sure that all conversation re: my side business were done at lunch or on breaks and I never used company email or phone to conduct my business. Another Pampered Chef consultant I knew was not as appropriate with her company and ended up losing her full time job for operating her business on their time.

    1. Jamie

      I hated Pampered Chef because it was the first of these sales parties to which I was invited – and I wasn’t told it was a sales thing. Newly married, on a new military base she said it was just a chance for the wives from the cul de sac to get together. My kids were babies, play dates with these ladies so thought it would be good to go and get to know them. Bought something out of pressure and was furious with myself for caving.

      Blamed a brand when it was really just a lying neighbor. I bought a giant mixing bowl with measuring markings that could go in the oven and make Barbie cakes. (bowl made the giant skirts and you inserted Barbie in and frosted so it looked like she was wearing the cake…very cool if you are good at cake decorating, which I am not. Barbie always looked like she was drowning in quicksand made of frosting.)

      I still miss that mixing bowl. It had a handle. Should replace it one of these days now that my daughter is tool old for me to have to humor requests for Barbie cakes.

    2. Mister Pickle

      I went to a Pampered Chef party several years ago, it was okay. A fellow in my neighborhood had recently been divorced and was hurting for money, so a bunch of people went and bought stuff that we really didn’t need. In retrospect I can see some wrongness in trying to help a neighbor out in this manner – but *shrug* at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.

    3. Lily in NYC

      Pampered Chef is the only party I attended where I actually found the products useful. I still used the stuff I bought 10 years ago. And it sounds like you went about things the right way – no pressure, etc.

      1. JoAnna

        I had a Pampered Chef wedding shower and I still own/use almost all the stuff I received, 13 years ago.

    4. Original Poster :-)

      I used to sell products from a home business as well – it was when I was a SAHM and looking for a) pocket money and b) social connections. I gave it up after a year b/c even though the products were excellent, I hated the feeling of selling all the freaking time. And I think it was actually *worse* for social connections because people saw me as the sales lady rather than someone they’d like to have coffee with. I think it’s a difficult balance to maintain, especially in a work environment!

  14. Nobody

    I think it is really tacky to bring your home business into your paid job, and doubly so if you’re a manager because there is implicit pressure to buy from the boss to make her happy. I had a supervisor who sold every product imaginable — makeup, cookware, Tupperware, candles, diet pills, jewelry, you name it. She would invite the women to her parties and hand out catalogs for the men to take home to their wives. She also left catalogs in the ladies’ rooms.

    I’m a bit more forgiving of kids’ fundraisers, first because those products tend to be cheaper (though not always), and also because when I was a kid, I relied on my parents to bring my order forms to work, so I sympathize. But I really have no interest in being pressured to support a coworker’s or manager’s side income stream.

  15. Ella

    I used to feel pressured to go to jewelry parties. I did like some of the stuff and would buy it, but then I figured out you could get it all on eBay for half the price!

    1. Lamington

      my aunt threw a jewelry party and it was target quality at macy’s prices. The sales lady kept being so pushy saying that my aunt would’t get a gift if we didn’t purchase anything.

    2. Pennalynn Lott

      I collect jewelry and gemstones, and anyone who knows me for any length of time will know that about me. So I get invited to jewelry parties a *lot*, even though I am always very, very clear on what kind of jewelry I purchase: Precious metals with genuine, non-opaque gemstones. Not “silvertone”. Not glass. Not man-made crystals. Not copper. Not tin. Not stainless steel. Not plastic. And yet, at least 5 times a year I hear, “You love jewelry, you should come to my jewelry party!” where they are selling costume jewelry. Uh, no thanks.

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