an angry eBay buyer is threatening to contact my employer, cheetah print at work, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. An angry eBay buyer is threatening to contact my employer

My husband and I have a joint eBay account that is technically in my name. We’ve had it for over 10 years with no issues. We don’t have an eBay business; we just occasionally buy stuff and now and then sell stuff, like extra books, gifts we can’t return, items that have been upgraded with newer versions, etc. Recently my husband sold an item that ultimately, the buyer wasn’t happy with. He instructed the buyer on how to resolve it, but the buyer wasn’t happy with that either. At that point the buyer started sending emails threatening to report us to eBay. Which was fine, starting a claim was what he should have done. Then he started threatening bad feedback. That escalated to threatening to write on my Facebook page and telling everyone he knows how terrible we are. This is ridiculous since I don’t have a Facebook page related to selling stuff on eBay because again, we don’t run a business. Finally he threatened to go to my employer and have them make me pay. This got my attention because he named my employer. I don’t have a common name, so obviously he found me on LinkedIn.

At this point, I reported him to eBay for harassment. Part of me thinks that if someone at my company got this complaint from him, they’d scoff at it and send it right to the circular file. But I don’t want to assume that and am wondering if I should give my manager and/or HR a heads up that this guy could be contacting them? For the record, I work for an insurance company, and I certainly don’t sell anything related to my company on eBay or anywhere else. I’m not a broker and I don’t work in sales. I don’t represent my employer anywhere on eBay or any other ecommerce website. So I’m not sure what he intends to gain by contacting them. Any insight you could provide would be helpful.

This guy sounds like a lunatic, and “I’m going to tell everyone you know what a terrible person you are!” tends to be a statement made by people who know they don’t have any real recourse. It’s very, very unlikely that your employer would care about a private eBay dispute you’re having (or actually, your husband is having), and if this guy were bizarre enough to contact them about it, it would most likely make them think he was a loon.

That said, to give yourself peace of mind, it would be totally fine to give your company a heads-up, saying something like: “I feel ridiculous even mentioning this, but I’m being harassed by someone following a transaction on eBay. I’m handling this directly with eBay, but the person seems a bit unhinged and has most recently threatened to contact my employer, so I wanted to give you a heads-up just in case he really does. It’s not a big deal and I’m confident we’ll be able to put it to rest soon, but I didn’t want you to be confused if he really did try to contact you.”

2. How a manager should tell her staff she’s resigning

I can’t seem to find much on your site or anywhere that addresses specifically what the best way might be, as a manager, to tell employees that you are leaving (there’s a lot of advice out there for how to tell your boss). I have known I’m leaving my current place of employment for several months, and my boss and I have a good relationship, and she has known for a while now as well. The hold-up is some background check processes for my new job.

I am finally at the point where I can hand in my formal resignation (with a month’s notice) and am not sure of the best way to tell my group of 10 employees. I am not leaving because I am disgruntled or unhappy, but for other personal reasons and it is all very amicable. However, I also doubt a replacement will be hired to take my place for several months. I am doing what I can to put everything in order before I leave. But I am struggling with whether to tell everyone individually in a sort of blitz of one-on-one meetings, or whether to tell everyone at a scheduled staff meeting, when they will all be together. I am leaning towards the latter, as I’d like to turn it into a constructive conversation (and then follow up with separate meetings later). But is there an etiquette for this type of thing?

Telling people as a group or in individual meetings is fine, but if you do the latter, make sure that you have those individual conversations pretty close together, because otherwise word is going to start leaking out and people are going to be anxious about why they don’t officially know yet.

As for what to say, just be straightforward — moving on from a job is a very normal part of business, and people won’t find it scandalous until you seem guarded or weird about it (in which case they’ll start speculating on why).

3. Is a cheetah print dress appropriate for work?

I have a cheetah print dress that shows no cleavage, is knee length, and has sleeves. I was wondering if you think it would be appropriate to wear to work as a teller in a bank with black pantyhose and black flats.

This is a question that depends entirely on the culture of your workplace. There are some offices where this won’t raise an eyebrow and others where it would be inappropriate. I don’t know which is the case for your workplace … but I can tell you that banking tends to be a pretty conservative field and animal prints — particularly a whole dress of animal print, as opposed to an accessory like a scarf — are often considered overly flashy for conservative environments. Because of that, if you’re in doubt, I’d err on the side of caution.

4. We have to give two weeks notice for doctor’s appointments

Is it unreasonable for a manager to request 2 weeks notice for a doctor’s appointment (missing 2 hours or less of work)? I work front desk, so I understand the need to have time to find people to cover, but this seems excessive to me.

Nope, it’s not reasonable. It would be great if all doctor’s appointments could be scheduled that far in advance, but by their nature, they often can’t. If you suddenly get sick or break a bone, you’re not going to be able to give a heads-up two weeks ahead of time. Your manager could certainly explain that she prefers that kind of notice when it’s possible, but making it a strict requirement would be ridiculous.

5. Charging a full day of PTO when the office closes early

Recently, one of our employees had taken a day of PTO. Due to extenuating circumstances, the employer ended up closing the office at noon. The employee was charged for the entire day of PTO even though the employer determined to close the office for half of the day. Should that employee still be charged for the full PTO time?

Different employers handle this differently. Some will do what yours did; others won’t charge the full PTO. For employers who do charge the full amount, the argument is that there’s benefit to being able to have a guaranteed full day off that you can plan on in advance, whereas the employees who came to work that day didn’t have that.

{ 167 comments… read them below }

  1. Natalie

    #1, for whatever it’s worth something similar happened to me in college (related to admining a user-edited encyclopedia) and the email that was sent sounded so bonkers the dean of students could tell it was from an unhinged person. People that disconnected from normal behavior usually don’t have any idea how unreasonable they sound, so they out themselves pretty quickly.

    1. CreationEdge

      I doubt they’re unhinged. This sounds like a scamming technique.

      If they harass you enough, they hope you’ll give in and refund them some or all of the money AND let them keep the item or some other condition that suits them.

      More than likely they are happy enough with the item. But the fact that they make you feel genuinely threatened is part of their social engineering technique.

      1. Kimothy

        That’s a good point, actually. They’re probably just hoping that the LW will back down and they’ll win.

        (I mean, you could also argue that you have to be slightly unhinged to think that’s an okay thing to do in the first place, but yeah, this could be more calculated than it seems.)

      2. BRR

        It sounds like the irrational retail customer to me. “You don’t have my size in the store?!?!?! I want to speak to your manager. You should be fired!”

      3. Natalie

        True, although in that case I can’t imagine they plan to actually contact anyone. Just make the OP think they will.

    2. fposte

      I had one in the Usenet days–a fulminating Usenetter emailed my sysadmin at work to get me in trouble. My mercurial sysadmin, who could have responded any number of ways, promptly responded in an email cced to me that he considered this email to be harassment of his users and that any further contact would compel him to take serious action. Made me very happy.

    3. OP#1

      My first thought was scammer. He’s not the first one we’ve run across. Though usually they are smarter about it, start threatening and eBay sides with the seller. One thing I didn’t include, since it’s not work related, is that I Googled the buyer and found that he’s also a registered sex offender. (Name and home address is the same, plus the year of birth was part of his eBay user ID, so I’m pretty sure it’s him and not a relative with the same name at the same address.) It was for child porn, so hopefully that means he’s not violent, but it does raise the unhinged possibility.

      1. Ann without an e

        I’m a pioneer of paranoia….I’m not sure what state your in which will effect how you handle this guy. He might go full blown stalker, you need to contact eBay and let them know this about the buyer immediately. Also you should see how easily it is for this guy to find things out about your family, where you live, and the address of where you work and what school/daycare your children go to. Assume the worst case scenario, be proactive, not reactive.

        1. OP#1

          He already knows where we live if he kept the package with the return address on it. Work wouldn’t be too hard since he knows what city we live in and what company I work for. Otherwise there’s nothing out there. We don’t have kids, so we don’t have to worry about that.

          1. Squirrel!

            Is there a way for you to get a P.O. Box to use as a mailing address? I don’t use LinkedIn, but is there some sort of setting that keeps your profile from being indexed in search engines? I know Facebook has a similar setting so your profile doesn’t pop up if someone plugs your name into Google/Bing/Yahoo. I would lock down anything else you have online (if any). I would also look into not using your real name in future eBay transactions, or a very common pseudonym (e.g. Susan Smith, Jane Brown, Cathy Jones) so that you don’t have to go through this again.

      2. Case of the Mondays

        Depending on how old the conviction is he might still be on probation. You could call local probation to give them a heads up so they keep extra tabs on the dude. Most people on probation for child porn are not allowed internet access anyway and he could be violating his probation for even shopping on ebay.

        Some states have relaxed that restriction with monitoring software instead so ymmv.

        1. Squirrel!

          This is also a good idea. If he is displaying threatening behavior, he clearly shouldn’t be out in society. Sex offenders have some of the highest recidivism rates of all types of offenders.

      3. random stranger on the internet

        I just can’t imagine why you’d classify that offense as non-violent. I assure you, for the child, it’s quite violent. It’s horrific violence against those who cannot possibly defend themselves.

        1. Pennalynn Lott

          She didn’t say that child porn is non-violent. Most child porn convictions are for people who possess the porn, not create the porn. The viewer of the porn is not the one engaging directly in a violent act, as opposed to, say, a person convicted of murder or aggravated assault. Yes, the viewer is perpetuating the act of violence on children by purchasing the porn and making it profitable for the creators. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the viewer, himself, has a history of violence.

      4. bob

        I don’t think he’s a scammer so much as a new model eBay extortionist. Since eBay changed their policies a few years ago giving buyers way more power the number of people who use negative feedback as a big hammer to get their shipping fees refunded or in some cases I know of actually get an item for free has gone way up to ridiculous levels.

    4. danr

      This happened to a member of an email discussion list years ago. The complainer threatened to have a member of the list who disagreed with him fired for mis-using his university’s email by participating in the list. The professor did give a head up to his boss and they both had a good laugh when the threat was made good, and he gave the list a full report. That action got the complainer banned from the list.

    5. Ed

      eBay has an escalation policy if you don’t feel like you’ve been treated fairly. If you buy or sell on eBay, you accepted their policies to create an account. If you refuse to play by the rules, don’t play the game.

      My gut reaction to any attempt at blackmail is to do the damage myself. For example, there was a minor infraction I got away with at work and a co-worker threatened to tell our manager so I walked up to the manager in front of said employee and volunteered the information. Of course, the boss didn’t even care but I’d rather do the damage myself and take away the power from the blackmailer. Plus, I always assume I’ll get ratted out eventually so I’d rather control the timeline.

    1. EE

      The OP is a bank teller, not an investment banker. Does it really matter if she wears a colourful and fun pattern?

      1. FD

        It’d make me raise an eyebrow as a full dress. Scarf or accessory, sure, but a full dress? Banks tend to be more conservative.

        On the other hand, I wouldn’t even blink seeing it on say, a sales person or the like.

        1. Persephone Mulberry

          Definitely workplace culture dependent. An animal print dress wouldn’t look particularly out of place where I bank. You could tone down the print a bit by putting a blazer over the dress, too.

          1. kozinskey

            I was going to say that. A black blazer or cardigan could go a long way towards making the dress work appropriate.

          2. LizNYC

            I was going to suggest that too. Make sure the rest of the outfit is conservative (jewelry is understated, shoes aren’t “going out” platforms) and you should be able to wear this as a teller in a bank.

        2. CH

          I think this depends a lot on where you live. My mom supervised bank tellers in our rural, less affluent area where “dressing up” wasn’t the norm even 20 years ago, and the one problem she had to deal with was when the tellers’ pants looked too much like jeans. I remember wondering why that was a problem since they were always behind those tall counters so you couldn’t get a good view of what they were wearing, but evidently it was a big deal.

      2. Tina

        I’ve worked in an investment bank and another bank as a teller. The cheetah print dress would not have gone over in either one.

      3. Not So NewReader

        At my bank, everyone seems to be wearing black outfits. It’s like walking into a funeral. I can’t figure out the really revealing clothes, big gold jewelry that comes along with the black outfits, though. I wish they’d dress like normal people and focus on their jobs instead of messing up my accounts.
        That really has nothing to do with our OP, except to say think about it from the customer’s perspective. I did not notice the outfits until I started seeing all the mistakes. If you know your job and know your products people probably are not going to care what you are wearing as much.

        1. Ruthan

          WRT the customer’s perspective: My observation is that bank tellers dress about one notch classier than the majority of customers. I’m rarely better dressed than Gap-level business casual, so a teller in slacks and a nice top, or polished-looking dress, is about at my comfort level.

          It’s difficult for me to imagine a leopard print dress that isn’t skin tight, but if it’d be workwear appropriate in a solid color, I think it’d be okay in leopard.

          1. Annie

            My mom has a leopard print shift dress (she’s administration at a university), she wears it with black flats/low heels & a black cardigan usually. I think it looks nice and the dress described wouldn’t make me look twice at either bank I deal with.

      4. Oryx

        I feel like the only AAM reader who has never ever paid any attention to what her bank tellers wear and could not care less.

        1. Kelly L.

          I don’t think I’ve ever noticed either. What I mostly want is for tellers to act calm and collected. (One bank in my area seems to have gotten into a trend of gushing at you when you come in the door. It never quite stopped startling me.)

          1. Ludo

            Yes! Whenever my bank gushes at me I always have the brief thought of “why are you being so friendly – what did you do to my money?”

            Can they not just be calm, collected and professional?

            1. Tina

              Ditto! There are some people who just go overboard with it, and come across as completely fake, which in turn just makes me think of them as generally untrustworthy.

              Thankfully, I’ve only gone into a bank once a year at most in the last 5 years or so.

            2. Anonsie

              Oh man are you guys talking about Wells Fargo? I don’t know who instituted the “everyone in the bank pretend to be your best buddy from high school who’s missed you a lot” policy over there in the last few years, but I would like them to knock that off immediately.

              1. periwinkle

                Not necessarily. I’m an East Coaster born and bred, and my husband spent much of his life there. We moved to Seattle this year, and walked into a bank branch to open our new accounts.

                “HI!!!!!!!!”

                I was barely able to stop my husband from running back out the door in terror.

                1. Anonsie

                  Haha, ok, so I’ve lived in both places, and I never thought I would say it but I would actually prefer the East Coast “I don’t care and I’m not going to pretend to care” to the Seattle “I don’t care but I’m going to really sarcastically pretend I do between eye rolls.”

                2. SerfinUSA

                  I’m a Seattle native, and that is not natural behavior for one of us. That branch must have been staffed with ambassadorial transplants from sunnier climes. We natives are known for our ‘Seattle chill’ when it comes to being friendly to strangers (i.e. anyone not born here and that we’ve known less than 5 or so years).

            3. Revanche

              “why are you being so friendly – what did you do to my money?”

              Hah! Exactly the reaction I would have: “What are you trying to cover up or distract me from?” Then I’d check my bag and my wallet.

            4. Natalie Anne Lanoville

              Actually there is a really really good reason for this… studies show that bank robbers have a much lower likelihood of going through with it when they are greeted enthusiastically by bank staff.

        2. Sarahnova

          Do bank tellers not have uniforms in the US?! When I worked on the front line in retail banking, we wore stunning navy polyester :)

          1. Anna

            Chase is going more toward uniforms. I’ve been seeing it for awhile. Chase blue button-ups and polos and black pants. It’s really ugly and kind of sad.

            1. voluptuousfire

              Chase also has cardigan sweaters and short sleeved sweaters for their tellers. They’re actually quite nice.

        3. INTP

          I might notice if they were wearing, say, a giant sloppy t-shirt or a teeny tiny clubbing dress. But leopard print? Wouldn’t bat an eye (unless I was just admiring their outfit, because I love when people actually pull off classy leopard print).

    2. Mike C.

      Yeah, there’s no way someone can manage money and wear animal prints. It totally breaks the laws of physics!

    3. Alexis

      Hi Treena! This is Alexis, I asked that question! I’ve worn a cheetah scarf and one of the bankers wore a cheetah print shirt the other day.. So I know some is Okay, I’m just worried a whole dress of cheetah print might be a little over the top!

      1. Jake

        I’ve seen one bank where that might fly, but that was the bank in the campus bookstore of a large state university. Additionally, it would still be right on the edge.

        That is just my observation from banking in 5 states and many different banks. I’ve never worked in one though.

      2. Sparrow

        It’s definitely a know your office type thing, but could you maybe wear a blazer or cardigan over the dress to help minimize the print? Or if your bank is open on Saturdays or has a more casual day on Friday, you could try out the dress during one of those times.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale

        I think a whole dress might be a little much. I can’t exactly explain why, and believe me, I wish I could! It’s One of Those Things. I think a scarf is great, but even a shirt (after all, customers can’t see your slacks/skirt if you’re behind a counter) just strikes me as too busy for a bank. Now, I don’t believe all bank tellers have to be buttoned up and ultra-conservative– I love a good accessory I can compliment– but when I’m in the bank, I certainly don’t want to be distracted by a busy print. Again, can’t explain why.

        I agree with someone who said above that a print dress (any print) with a blazer or long sweater would work, as it would tone down the dress.

        1. MissDisplaced

          I’ve seen some animal print dresses that aren’t skin tight, so it might work with a black blazer, cardigan and black opaque tights. It’s hard to say, as it really depends on the fabric and cut as well.

      4. BethRA

        Alexis, is there someone at your bank you could ask? From an unscientific observation of the tellers at the bank branch near my downtown office, vs. the tellers at the branch near my home, I suspect this is going to be location-specific.

        Speaking for myself, I would have no issue with seeing a teller in the kit you describe, but I’m not a banker, jolly or otherwise.

      5. Renee

        I can’t even imagine who would care, but I’m from a big city on the west coast, so maybe we are different out here. I had a purple leopard print dress that I used to wear to Court. A cheetah print dress sounds lovely to me.

    4. LBK

      When it comes to being a bank teller, I think this mostly depends on where you live, actually. In the city I wouldn’t bat an eye at it, but I can see it being out of place in a more conservative suburban town.

      1. LBK

        And I think the accessories make a huge difference too – black hose and black flats sounds sufficiently conservative to balance it out. Go easily on the jewelry too.

    5. Illini02

      I wouldn’t care. I don’t think the banks near my place would care, based on the neighborhood. However, its a pretty big bank chain, so I would guess that on a national scale, they would have more formalized dress codes. I can just see some grandma in middle America having a fit over that. Of course it shouldn’t matter. If you can do your job, then you can do your job. But as we have seen, some people make so many judgments based on looks or attire, that its probably not worth it.

    6. Nerdling

      Given that most of the tellers at the bank nearest me are wearing khakis and Christmas sweatshirts with Santa hats today, I’d say this is highly regional.

    7. EG

      I disagree. I’ve seen bank tellers wearing retro/bohemian outfits that look nice and professional. I’d have to say it depends on the person. On me, I’d never pull of all over animal print without looking less than professional.

  2. Doug

    For #4: My manager started a policy requiring us to give 2 weeks’ notice for all work-from-homes a few months back, and then promptly worked from home 4 times over the next few weeks, giving notice only the day of. Since then, nobody’s given 2 weeks notice for anything (not even 2-week vacations), but I haven’t worked from home at all (despite that being a perk of the job).

  3. It's All Relative

    Re. #3, I think the dress (or any dress with a loud pattern) would be safer for work with some sort of plain black jacket or cardigan/sweater over it. Even if the jacket or sweater was worn open over the dress, it cuts down on the amount of the dress showing and tones down the visual impact of a bright pattern. Also, not everything that’s “cheetah print” is necessarily the same level of “out there.” Some of them are very subtle, almost like a texture, and some are of course very bright.

    I definitely agree with the advice to err on the side of caution – just wanted to point out some minor factors that could make it more or less appropriate.

    1. kk

      I agree. A nice blazer or cardigan would make it more professional and (potentially) less party. Also, not all banks are super conservative. Either that or there’s a teller at a bank I go to whose fashion sense is really pushing the buttons of his superiors.

        1. NoPantsFridays

          I have noticed that my CU is much less conservative than my bank. (I’ve worked at neither — I’m a customer.) Everyone at the bank, tellers included, seems to be business casual and above with plain patterns, nothing flashy. Some wear suits. The CU is a lot more casual. I was there on Halloween and the whole place was decked out various decorations and the staff were dressed up. The teller who helped me was wearing an eye patch. So yeah, different cultures!

      1. It's All Relative

        Yeah, that occurred to me too – I feel like banking, at the level of individual bank branches, is about customer service and client relationships, so showing personality is considered a plus for the same reason it’s often considered a plus in client-facing positions in fields like marketing, etc. I’ve always been confused by the idea that banking is a conservative field at every level even though of course I understand that working at, say, corporate headquarters for Bank of America would be a very conservative environment.

        1. Beezus

          I think it’s specific to the bank or possibly the region. I was a teller at a small Midwestern bank a decade ago, and I got written up for a customer complaint about a top that was a little on the snug side and showed the barest hint of cleavage (that my conservative mother would have felt was appropriate for anything but church.)

    2. some1

      Exactly what I came here to say. Some animal prints are very subtle, especially for garments found in the work clothes section in high-end stores. If we’re talking about about an animal print dress from Forever 21, it’s probably not going to fly.

  4. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

    #5, I do give back PTO if something like this happens to my staff (snow day, etc) but frankly, I feel hugely generous doing it. We arranged coverage for them to be out, and now that they have their day back, we have to schedule and cover that PTO again. Unlike employees who were scheduled to work that day, they knew they had the day free and were able to make plans (vs. waking up at 6am to search the weather related closings and weigh their emergency child care options). I do it because it’s nice, but I don’t think it’s necessary at all.

    1. BRR

      That’s very nice of you and I’m sure your employees really appreciate it.

      I don’t think it’s necessary either but I have a lot of PTO so I don’t need to worry about an occasional couple hours.

    2. HarperC

      Where I work, we are generally allowed to go home early the day before a major holiday, but if you’ve taken PTO, you do not get it back. So, it’s sort of a gamble people play. Just another data point!

      1. Illini02

        Yep. Same here. We aren’t off next week for New Years Eve. Chance are, the office will be closing around noon. However if people take a vacation day, then they won’t get a half day back. I think thats very fair. I can’t assume I’ll be home by 1pm, whereas they know they’ll be home all day.

        1. Chinook

          “Chance are, the office will be closing around noon. ”

          And the thing is that there is no guarantee you will get that early closing. I once worked in an office with this policy and partners slowly gave their own reports the nod to leave early starting at 11 a.m.. But, no one would officially close the office and release the receptionist. In solidarity, another AA and I stuck around (which also meant the receptionist could go for lunch and coffee breaks). Someone finally closed the office at 3:30 (we normally close at 4:30) because we pointed out that, after he left, the only person left in the building would be the receptionist.

          In short, if you come to work on a day with a possible short release time, you are gambling for that early release but, if you take the PTO, you are guaranteed it and that is the price you pay for that guarantee.

          1. Formica Dinette

            You and the other AA were so kind! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that sort of thing happen.

            1. chewbecca

              Yes! I’m the receptionist and my fiance and I were talking about this yesterday. We’re open all day tomorrow, but chances are most people will leave early, but I’ll be here until 5 unless TPTB decide to officially close, which is pretty unlikely.

              I’m guessing that come 5:00 tomorrow evening, it’ll just be me and whoever has to stay with me.

              1. chewbecca

                To clarify the last part – company policy states that someone in management has to be here until I leave, in case there’s an emergency or anything happens.

                1. Chinook

                  “company policy states that someone in management has to be here until I leave, in case there’s an emergency or anything happens.”

                  Count yourself lucky. At that firm, there was no official policy. The worst part was that we had merged with a bankruptcy firm and every so often and angry client would come in, demanding to know why their bankruptcy wasn’t discharged. This was the other reason the AA and I refused to leave before the doors were closed.

    3. Raine

      This explanation is really helpful and might help mitigate some of the sourness expressed further down the thread by employees who have taken PTO in advance and seem to think the employer is somehow shafting them.

    4. Oryx

      Yeah, like HarperC said, I think this is a gamble people play and it’s very generous of you giving it back.

      My office is open Christmas Eve but I arranged to take the whole day off using PTO. If they suddenly decided to close early or even for the whole day I wouldn’t assume that should mean I get that PTO back. I mean, I get to wake up tomorrow knowing I can stay in bed all morning if I wanted while my co-workers have to get up and get dressed and go to the office with the expectation of working the whole day. If they get released early, it’s a bonus and not guaranteed. My day off is guaranteed.

      1. NoPantsFridays

        Yup, exactly. I’m off from tomorrow onwards, but those working this Friday will probably get to leave at 2-3 PM. I don’t get those 2 hours of PTO back and I wouldn’t expect to, for the reasons you state. Likewise, some of my coworkers took today off. Those of us working today will probably be gone by 3 PM, but those that took PTO will not get the 2 hours back. We usually leave early on Thursdays/Fridays before holiday weekends, but employees who took those days off do not get a few hours of PTO back. That’s not how it works.

      2. Sans

        I agree about taking the gamble and not getting the PTO back if employees happen to be let out early. But I used to work for a company that always let out two hours early the day before Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was an official policy, which I liked better because the same policy applied to everyone and you could plan ahead. But they also would take a full eight hours off if you took that whole day off. PTO could be taken by the hour, so many people would show up for two hours, and then only had to take four hours of PTO to get the whole day off (two hours worked, four hours PTO, and two hours early dismissal).

        1. Aunt Vixen

          four hours of PTO to get the whole day off (two hours worked, four hours PTO, and two hours early dismissal)

          That sounds to me like they used four hours of PTO to get six hours off–not a whole day. Because they were there for those two hours in the morning. The thing about charging people a whole day for being out the whole day is that if you get the day approved and confirmed, you know ahead of time that you have the whole day, as others have said. This allows you to lie in as long as you like or even to leave town the night before. In your case, your former company’s policy meant you did know ahead of time that you’d have the two hours–so basically it would cost you two otherwise-free hours to be able to leave the night before, not set your alarm clock, whatever. Not a whole day.

          My brother once worked at a place where unscheduled leave the day before or the day after a holiday was never, ever excused, and the penalty was to surrender the paid holiday. Which meant the poor kid dragged himself to work with the flu the Monday after Thanksgiving, stayed away from everyone else, and sat shivering at his desk wrapped up in his coat all day–because that’s how important it was to his overlords not to allow people to artificially extend their vacations by calling in “sick;” they wouldn’t make exceptions for people who were in fact observably sick. (The whole world says “omg don’t go to work sick.” A lot of people point out that they don’t have paid sick leave. In this case calling in one day would cost two days’ pay. Brutal.)

      3. Liane

        I used to work in a job for a number of years where my lab manager always let everyone go at 1-2pm (as long as the work was done, many things in a lab cannot be put off) Christmas Eve. He made sure I, the only hourly person, knew I was to put down 8 hours work for the day. But still, I went in as if I was going to be there all day. So did everyone else. Sure, we all talked during the week about what we’d like to do IF Wakeen sent us home early, but we never assumed.

    5. AmyNYC

      Eh… I see what you mean “guaranteed day off” but it’s also about the scale of PTO you have – if you have unlimited vacation, then a vacation day when the office is closed isn’t a big deal, but as someone with very limited PTO, I’d be really annoyed to find out I used a vacation day on a day I would have been off anyway

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

        Totally agree. We have very generous PTO (well, for the US)…18 to 28 days vacation, depending on how long you’ve been around, 12 sick, 13 paid holidays (bc nonprofits sometimes use benefits to make up for lower pay, and also because we do intense work with very distressed people) It it weren’t generous, I would give the hours back out of obligation versus generosity.

        1. Anonsie

          Third. If you have few days off and your employees really have to put in work to make sure they have enough leave time to get the time off they need, especially if they regularly have to take time unpaid anyway, it would feel a lot more stingy to insist they have to lose those hours when the office closes.

    6. Purple Jello

      I could have left town last night instead of hoping for an early release today, and it would have cost me 8 PTO hours. Or take the risk that today we’ll be released early with no hit to PTO, but who knows what time.

      I have a very generous employer, everyone starts off with 15 days PTO per year, and we are almost always released early the day before a holiday. But if you want to be sure to get the time off, you need to take PTO and you do not get it back if everyone else is released early. It’s an “oh well, wish it were different”.

    7. Mike B.

      “they knew they had the day free and were able to make plans”

      Assuming those plans weren’t themselves ruined by dangerous weather conditions.

  5. Jessie

    OP #1: I am a military officer and circumstances like this are not at all unheard of in my workplace. Especially with Soldiers, when people know that their military supervisors are more personally involved than normal employers, people contact us about all sorts of grievances (both legitimate and utterly ridiculous). The most common situation involves car-selling but I dealt with an eBay (or maybe it was Etsy) complaint once.

    I would give your immediate supervisor a heads up. You could bring it up casually “You will not believe this person I’m dealing with, let me tell you …” if you’re concerned they might take it too seriously. That way someone knows what they’re dealing with if the guy actually does call. But I agree with the above poster who mentioned that this person might just be trying to squeeze you for a refund/free stuff and probably has no intention of ever following up on their threat.

    1. Nanc

      I don’t know why, but the thought of an Etsy buyer pitching a hissy fit to a military officer because they weren’t satisfied with a purchase makes me laugh and laugh and laugh. I guess I’ve been lucky in my management career that I’ve never had to deal with something like this (knock wood with crossed fingers and feet off floor).

      1. PizzaSquared

        Completely off-topic, but is “feet off floor” a thing? Have I been doing it wrong all these years? :)

  6. Elkay

    #5 is basically the situation lots of people will be in tomorrow. I’ve taken the day off but I know that everyone will be in the pub by 1pm (probably closer to noon) without having to take any leave at all. However booking the day means I don’t have to do all the things Alison mentioned. I think if the office closes early (especially when it’s unplanned) and you have leave booked then it’s bad luck for the employee. Plus it’s swings and roundabouts as you’re likely to benefit from something similar at a different time.

    1. LMN

      “Plus it’s swings and roundabouts as you’re likely to benefit from something similar at a different time.”

      How does someone ever benefit in a way that balances out the what is essentially lost PTO?

          1. Elkay

            But it’s not personal. Sometimes you benefit from that policy and sometimes you don’t. You’d have to be very unlucky to have everyone else given an early finish every time you’ve booked leave.

            1. LMN

              Whether it’s personal isn’t the issue.

              And it’s not about whether this situation would happen every time; there’s just no way the time gets “made up” unless it’s officially given back as PTO. If the policy isn’t to return unneeded PTO in such cases, that’s its own issue, but there’s no opportunity to “get that time back” unless it’s just given back.

              1. LBK

                As Alison states, the argument is that if you’ve put in the full amount of PTO, you’re able to pre-schedule that entire amount of time however you want. If you’re sent home early or there’s a last-minute closure, you can’t pre-plan that time. If it’s a half day situation like in the letter, between wrapping up work and commuting it may only be an extra free hour or so for some people. That’s not the same as having an entire 4-5 additional hours off like the person who used PTO has.

              2. LBK

                So I guess my point is it doesn’t need to be “made up” because it’s not “lost”.

                Now, if someone requests PTO for, say, Christmas Eve, and then the office decides a month in advance that they’ll be closed that day and aren’t charging anyone else PTO for it (again, in advance), then the employee should absolutely get that PTO back.

                1. Nichole

                  “So I guess my point is it doesn’t need to be “made up” because it’s not “lost”.”

                  That was my thinking as well. If you took a full day of PTO, you were prepared to be docked PTO for the full day and your benefit was that you knew in advance that your day was free. You lost nothing just because other people gained something. I see giving back the PTO as a nicety rather than an obligation. If the office provides lunch on a day you’re on vacation, do they owe you a lunch now? It would be awesome to come back to a free lunch, but no one would expect it. Honestly, it’s kind of an inconvenience for me when my office closes early because we’re a one car family in an area with poor public transportation, so knowing in advance that I get time off is a commodity that’s worth something as well.

                2. LMN

                  It is lost, in the way that not catching a fortunate break is “lost.” And really, the discussion in this particular thread was about the relatively narrow issue of “making it up,” which is impossible. If I lose $5 and then in an independent event find $5, I’m not “even.” I still have $5 less than I would have had if I hadn’t lost $5.

                3. Aunt Vixen

                  You lost nothing just because other people gained something.

                  This, right here, is one of the great philosophies of life. I should cross-stitch it on a sampler. (I’m actually a hundred percent serious and going to investigate designing such a thing at my earliest opportunity.)

                4. LBK

                  If I lose $5 and then in an independent event find $5, I’m not “even.” I still have $5 less than I would have had if I hadn’t lost $5.

                  That’s not an accurate analogy, though, because you didn’t lose the $5 in this scenario, you willingly and purposefully spent it. It’s more like you bought lunch for $5 and then found out the sub shop down the street was giving out free sandwiches after you’d already eaten.

                5. LBK

                  (sorry for all the double posts, clearly I should finish my coffee before commenting)

                  So in that scenario, yes, you have $5 less than you could’ve potentially had, but you still have just as much as you’d planned to have. You can’t be mad every day you don’t win the lottery just because you weren’t lucky that day.

            2. De Minimis

              I had that happen twice last winter…I took leave off because we were moving and we just happened to have a bad snowstorm that weekend, and my workplace closed! The rules are the same as here, though, you use the PTO if you were already taking leave even if it turns out work is closed that day. The administrative leave is only for people who would have otherwise be there…someone who had pre-scheduled leave would not have been there, so they get no administrative leave. Or at least that’s how it was explained….

      1. Jennifer M.

        I think what is meant is that in the future there might be a similar situation and the employee may have scheduled time off but will get to benefit from an early closure: maybe the management will decide on Maundy Thursday to close 3 hours early on Good Friday and the employee will get 3 hours of leave without using any PTO so it sort of balances out the early closure where s/he had to use a full day of PTO.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger

        If they are working on the next day that the office closes early they will benefit from this policy. I’ve been dealing with this issue for years because our employer regularly lets us go at 1500-1530 on days before big travel holidays (mostly this time of year), and I usually take those days as leave and have to use 8 hours of leave. But the way I see it, the little bit of extra paid time is kind of a perk of coming in on a day when it’s not convenient for many people. Kind of like a tiny bit of holiday pay for working the day before a big holiday.

        1. HarperC

          Yes, this is how it works where I am employed. If you really want to make sure you have that time off, people take the PTO. If it doesn’t matter that much, you come in and wait and see. Which is what I am doing today… waiting for The Call. :D

  7. Christy

    LW5: The US government just changed its policy on this! Until this year, if we had scheduled PTO on a day the government closed due to weather, we would be able to charge admin leave instead of our PTO. Now, we will not be able to charge admin leave. They’re saying this change is because so many people telework and even when the buildings close, the government is still largely conducting business.

    1. De Minimis

      Hopefully it depends on the agency and the job…I think few people here could telework due to the nature of the job. Of course, we rarely are out for weather anyway–think we missed maybe two days last winter, which was worse than usual.

      We had a power outage a few months ago and had to take a half day of administrative leave for that [it was a major outage that hit the whole town and they knew right away power would be out for hours, so we closed at noon.]

      1. Nerdling

        Yeah, we’re definitely not a teleworking agency. I’d be mightily irked to see this changed across the board.

        1. De Minimis

          In re-reading it I think my agency is already doing that policy….I had thought she was saying that everyone got charged for annual leave when there was an unforeseen closure, but I think she said that people used to be given the option of getting administrative leave when they had prescheduled annual leave on a day when there was a closure. I know last winter we were told that people who had already scheduled leave on days when we were closed down for weather were charged their leave the same they would have been had we remained open.

          1. De Minimis

            I saw what I think this was referring to…looks like it’s just for the Washington D.C. area. This would make sense since these tend to be the “headquarters” of the various agencies and that’s often the level at which telework would be more practical.

            I’m a little surprised they weren’t already doing this, actually.

  8. Not So NewReader

    OP 1. I think it’s fine to mention this to the boss. Over the years, I have had a few people tell me various things such as problems with creditors or exes. It didn’t rattle my cage because STUFF happens. I did appreciate someone telling me BEFORE I got stuck in a phone conversation that I knew nothing about. That was very helpful to know in advance. I could just say “good bye” and hang up. Problem solved.

  9. Cat

    I think the fairness (at least optics-wise) of the PTO issue depends largely on whether you have a forward-looking or backward-looking PTO policy. So where I work, you don’t actually book or submit PTO before you take it. You’re obviously responsible for making sure that you don’t have any impending deadlines and that your managers are informed you’re not going to be there, but the actual PTO is taken when you submit your time after the fact. It’s not uncommon for people’s plans to change and for them to take more or less than they planned depending on what’s going on at work or in their life. In that kind of situation, it’s kind of ridiculous to require someone to submit PTO hours for when the office was closed when they hadn’t formally submitted anything to begin with. It would also be a logistical nightmare (“well, we saw an email the day before we announced that we’d be closed on Christmas Eve saying you were thinking of taking that day off if you weren’t busy so I guess you have to take PTO.”).

    If you have to submit it ahead of time, that’s probably different. I’ve never worked in a place like that, but I can see how if all requests have to be in two weeks ahead of time or something and then approved on a first-come/first-serve basis, then you’ve already had the benefit of reserving the time.

    1. Sabrina

      I’ve worked at places with both systems, and both would make you take PTO if you chose to leave or call in before it was announced that the office was closed.

      1. Cat

        That would bug me, plus it just seems like an incentive for people to not mention their PTO plans till the last minute to game the system.

        1. Sabrina

          Well, where I work now an unplanned absence counts against you, you get I think 6 in a rotating calendar year, go over it and you can get a talking-to or even fired.

          1. Cat

            Okay – I think that’s the difference. Here, there’s no official planning. You are responsible for informally making sure everyone who needs to know you’re going to be gone knows, but there’s no formal channels to submit that you’re going to be gone ahead of the date.

  10. HarperC

    OP2, we recently went through this in my department. Our manager had individual discussions with the team (9 people) but he didn’t do them one right after another. I was the second one told and I had to keep it a secret for two days. It was very awkward and difficult. So, while I can see not wanting to make the announcement in front of everybody, if you do pull people aside, please make sure you do it all in an afternoon or morning.

    Congrats on your new position, btw!

    1. Portia

      I am the letter writer for #2, and I actually had to take care of this before the Allison’s answer was posted. I opted for the group discussion, and I think it went really well. I opted not to do the individual meetings, because it was just too logistically complicated and I wanted to avoid the situation that HarperC describes. What I did was follow up the announcement with individual meetings, to handle any questions or concerns that people did not want to bring up in the group.

      So far, all has been well. Everyone has been wonderful, and although I suppose they’ll miss me, I think everyone is pretty confident about moving forward.

      1. fposte

        I’m glad to hear it went well, and I’m sure your staff appreciated being treated respectfully about the transition they’ll be facing.

  11. Illini02

    #5 really is just a gamble. If you take it off, and the office closes early, you lose. I work on some days before holidays and long weekends knowing there is a good chance that I will get to go home early. However, if for whatever reason we are busy, I will stay all day and lose that gamble. I don’t see why people think they are entitled to get that time back because other people got a free half day. Their gain isn’t necessarily your loss. Its not a zero sum game here.

    1. De Minimis

      I’ve gambled the other way too, especially in winter….slept late in the hopes that we would close or at least delay opening, and wake up to learn that we were opening as usual and burning a few hours of PTO as a result.

      I’ve learned it’s more or less a sucker bet, and to either just assume we are going to be open or decide the night before that I’m going to take leave and just call in the morning.

  12. Sabrina

    #5 Everywhere I’ve worked would charge you the PTO. One company I worked for never closed, except one time, right after most of the company already left. And of course the only ones left at that point were upper level management, the only ones who could afford to live within 5 miles and of course, had the shortest commute.

  13. HR Manager

    #1 – I would definitely give your boss/HR team a heads up. Who knows what this could escalate too, and better to have them prepared than to try to explain this after some bizarre incident afterwards. As long as you don’t engage the offender via work email or work phone, you are within bounds from an HR perspective. I’ve heard of stories of internet clients who go unhinged when things don’t go their way (an acquaintance who sold hand-made soaps had a crazy customer do the exact same thing because he didn’t like the soaps; he didn’t just post negative reviews of the soap, but went on a harassment campaign, stalking her online; bat$hit crazy :/).

    #3 – Having worked in financial services, I’d agree with the others that cheetah print or animal print is a no. Covering it with a jacket or a sweater top might be acceptable. Regardless of any personal opinions of whether this is silly or not, financial services is ultra-conservative and would likely raise a few eyebrows at animal/cheetah print.

    1. The _artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

      #3 – I once had a conversation with a bank branch manager / loan officer – and she described her days with some of the tellers as managing “Romper Room”. The #1 issue – inappropriate dress.

      1. HR Manager

        It was before my time, but apparently the legend of the receptionist at the financial services firm who wore a tight white skirt and then animal print underwear traumatized enough employees and visitors that any animal print was frowned upon. The receptionist was also someone whom many would take as a sweet ol’ grandma on the streets. Can’t be unseen.

  14. tesyaa

    OP#1 is a useful reminder to me why I don’t sell unwanted items on eBay. The amount of money I’d make isn’t worth the potential hassle.

    1. Natalie

      You can run into crazy people literally anywhere – as I mentioned upthread, I ended up in a similar situation as a result of being active on Wikipedia. The only way to avoid coming into contact with someone like this would be to cease all contact with other humans.

      1. tesyaa

        If I needed the money from selling the old junk, the risk would be worth it, I guess. In my case, the amount of time dealing with buyers, even normal ones who didn’t read the item description and just had unrealistic expectations, would take too much time away from my real job (the one that pays the bills) to be worthwhile.

        1. Natalie

          Oh, totally. Most of the time I find myself giving stuff to Goodwill even if it’s theoretically worth something, just because my main goal is to get it the eff out of my house.

  15. Connie-Lynne

    OP#2, I did this a year ago when I was changing positions in the company. Since I managed a number of remote workers, I wanted to give the people I had hired (all of my direct team and most of my department) a chance to have a quick private chat with me, just like many would have “dropped by” if we worked together in a physical office.

    So I booked 20 back-to-back 15 minute meetings with most of those people across one Thursday morning, then did the big announcement at the department meeting the next morning, which caught most of the folks I hadn’t been able to meet with 1:1.

    Sure, anyone looking at my calendar would have known *something* was up, but the majority of the meetings were done “first thing” in my remotes’ time zones, so people had a chance to talk to me privately pretty much as soon as they found out. It worked out pretty well. I think the important part was that most of the affected people looking at my calendar would have *also* realized they had a private talk with me coming up that day, which meant they weren’t out of the loop.

  16. Artemesia

    Regarding #1 — the animal print

    The obvious answer to this question is ‘look around you.’ What do other people do. Are there managers at your bank who arrive in animal print dresses; are other tellers routinely wearing things like this? The answer about the norms or culture of your workplace is always available by just looking around.

  17. Employment Lawyer

    Re: Leaving, how to give notice:

    The best way in my opinion is to send a group email politely announcing your departure, and explaining that you will meet individually with every member of the team to discuss a transition.

    That way everyone knows the basics (so they can get upset at their desk if they want;) everyone knows at the same time (good for various reasons;) and everyone has an opportunity to prepare their own questions/lists for their respective personal meetings (you should specifically encourage this, BTW, as part of your email.)

    1. LBK

      I think that’s fine for the department as a whole (ie if you work with multiple groups but you only directly manage one of them), but for direct reports it should be an in-person conversation.

  18. illini02

    So its kind of funny how this turned out. Our office was supposed to be open tomorrow, and we were told we’d be most likely leaving a couple of hours early, depending on how slow it was, but there was no definitely plan on what time. Some people took a vacation day, and were only charged a half day. Well, we were just told that now the office will be closed, and those of us who were working should just work from home and answer emails for the first half of the day. I will say, I’m not sure how I think this should be handled for people who took vacation. I guess in this situation I could see people who took it off being upset now, but since I’m supposed to be doing some work, I don’t know that I have a problem with them still being charged a half day, but I could see an argument the other way.

    1. Anna

      If you’re working from home and the office itself is closed, then wouldn’t be the people be also working from home if they hadn’t taken vacation? My feeling is they’re still coming out ahead of the game if they’re only being charged a half day of vacation for a full day off.

  19. De Minimis

    We will be closed Friday, at least as of the last update. Federal employees were granted the day off, but our agency director sent a message saying “not so fast…” If there were any appointments scheduled for that day we were to remain open to keep those appointments, and if we’d rescheduled anything after the initial announcement about closing we were to give patients the opportunity to come in on Friday anyway. Thankfully, we had a lot of notice about the closure this year so nothing had been scheduled for that day. Back in 2012 we had almost zero notice [we were given Christmas Eve off at the very last minute] and had to remain open.

    Apparently in the past the Director has gotten complaints from patients about us being closed on days when they were supposed to have an appointment, so the only way we get to close is if no one has an appointment.

    I’m just glad we had notice because I was originally going to take leave on Friday and right now I really need to conserve leave whenever possible….

    1. Anna

      That’s a bit too simplistic, in my opinion. There are a variety of reasons why someone might ask if it’s okay to wear something. As the OP stated, the dress is conservative in cut, it’s only the print that might be an issue. If you’re on the fence, it’s good to get an outside opinion.

  20. HRManagerNW

    OP #1 – It’s a good idea to give your HR department a heads up in case the seller decides to take it into harassment and make false claims to your employer. I have dealt with false complaints from exes of employees and the like before. A heads up to them will allow them to be wary of strange phone calls.

    And if I received a call from an angry buyer actually complaining about a personal eBay transaction with one of our employees? We’d all have a good laugh in HR about it.

  21. Anonsie

    Heh. Where I am, we have to use vacation time to be paid for any time the office is closed anyway. If there were inclement weather or a holiday or they sent everyone home for some reason, if you wanted to be paid it’d be out of your leave time anyway.

    1. Aunt Vixen

      See, that, I don’t like. I know it’s how it is, especially in contract-world, where if I’m not doing work they can’t bill the customer for it. But if I’m not allowed to be at work, I don’t like getting docked for it.

      1. LBK

        Agreed, I always find policies like that extremely morale-killing. I can’t understand what leads management to think that’s a good idea.

  22. Suzy Snowflake

    I find this discussion about PTO fascinating. In the policies at my prior 2 organizations, if you were scheduled for a day off and then the organization closed for unforeseen circumstances, most often weather or power outage, then you did not get those hours back. Days off were approved ahead of time. If your circumstances changed, you could cancel the time off and not be penalized, unless you worked a public desk and someone was already covering for you and wanted to keep those hours- in that case, you were out of luck. I don’t think that every happened though.

    I would not expect to get hours back just because my colleagues got out early. As others have said, the benefit is knowing you have that time off and being able to make your plans. If those plans are then derailed by weather, illness or some other reason, it is not the fault, responsibility or anything else of the organization to accommodate your change in circumstances.

    We were closed 1/2 day last year for weather. Staff who came into work that day were allowed to take the rest of the day off w/o pay. We had to have 2 people stay for our public desks and I stayed as well. The people who opted to not go home wanted comp time since others stayed home and weren’t required to use annual leave time. We did not grant that request, for the same reasons we would not give someone their PTO back. It was their choice to stay or go, other than the few who had to stay and work the desk.

  23. Sam12587

    I’ve never been able to decide if it’s right or wrong of me to do…. But I have never listed my current employer by name on linked in due to just such a scenario. I just put the industry in one word of my employer as the name of where I’m working.
    A previous coworker that I’d turned down for several dates used linked in to find out where email me at work or send flowers when I didn’t respond to requests for my new home address.
    I also vaguely remember a head hunter contacting me at my current employer about a job opening and that was motivation to be vague too. When I’m at work I want to concentrate on my work & not private matters.

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