I don’t want to pick up my boss’s lunch for him

A reader writes:

I am a 27-year-old woman working for a well-known national company. My store manager frequently (several times a week) asks one of us to go get lunch for him. He never offers to buy us lunch. All of my other coworkers dutifully do it for him without complaint, because we are all afraid of possible retribution if we refuse. He recently asked me to go get his lunch.

I asked him if he was buying (with a smile on my face, to show him I wasn’t being hostile). He said “Uh, if you want a burger, sure.” I asked where he wanted to go, and he named a place that is easily 2-3 miles away from our workplace (and which can have prices anywhere from $5-15) and said I could get MY lunch wherever I wanted (implying that is, as long as it was as cheap as a burger). I told him we could have the food delivered and then went and asked everyone at the company what they wanted.

However, I am concerned about the legality and safety issues of this. He claims this is “part of our job,” but nowhere in the employee handbook does it detail that particular task. Also, since he requires us to stay clocked in while we pick up the lunch, what would happen if we got into a car accident or something and were injured?

I’m trying to gather some information about this before I call Human Resources so I can be prepared.

You can read my answer to this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).

{ 215 comments… read them below }

  1. could be*

    I’m having trouble with the site when viewing it on Firefox. It site freezes and Firefox stops responding. No problem in Explorer however. And I’m not having any problems with Firefox otherwise.

    1. AnnieNonymous*

      I still have problems too sometimes.

      From an insider baseball perspective, I’d be interested in Alison maybe writing a post about why she’s stuck with this particular ad network. It’s fairly relevant from an employment/side-hustle/online-entrepreneur perspective; if I were starting a blog, I wouldn’t go with this network if I could help it (it’s not good for readership). I’ve never had comparable issues on any other site I frequent.

      This isn’t an insult against you, Alison! I know you’re not happy with it either. But I know I’m not the only one who’s curious.

        1. could be any one*

          Spoke to soon. Now even explorer is hanging up, though it comes back. (I don’t have to close it)

      1. Amandine*

        I just assumed it’s because she makes more money with this network, even though the user experience is crappy.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The current set-up does generate significantly more revenue than other options I’ve explored. That doesn’t mean that I’d accept any level of technical issues along with it, but so far they’ve been very responsive about trying to work on these issues. It’s also worth noting that the user experience isn’t crappy for most people — which doesn’t make it okay that a minority of readers are having this issue and that’s why I’m working on it, but it’s working okay for most people, which is important to realize too.

          1. Ad Astra*

            I’ve never had a single problem with any ad on AAM. Is it possible I have my plugins turned off by default? Never experienced the issue with Inc sign-in either.

            1. Heather*

              AAM frequently freezes and kills my browser. I’ve tried everything to fix it up but no go. Although I should say it happens with other sites too (Facebook etc) but I notice it mostly with AAM. For me it’s shockwave (I think it’s called???) but I can’t figure out how to fix it.

              1. davey1983*

                I had issue with shockwave a little while ago. I tried everything to get rid of it, including trying to delete the program file and ad blockers.

                I eventually had to reset my computer to factory settings (a ‘clean’ reset, which doesn’t save any files, programs, or settings you may have added).

            2. Melissa*

              I have AdBlocker turned off for AAM (one of the few sites on the ‘net I turn off AdBlocker for, because I like support Alison’s site) and I haven’t had any problems either. The ads are pretty unobtrusive.

          2. YaH*

            I’ll go on the record and say that I use Chrome and AdBlock, and I have never had a single problem with the AAM site or any links posted.

          3. Kiwi*

            I’m not sure that your provider is being entirely honest with you. The ads frequently cause me problems with page loading, often to the extent of crashing/inability to scroll down past the offending advert. The biggest issue for me appears to be video ads.

            I also wouldn’t assume that it’s working okay for most people – more likely that most people either silently put up with it (like I have, until now) or have ad blockers.

            Having worked extensively with outside IT providers, they can appear extremely “responsive” and put on a great show of fixing issues, but if there is a fundamental flaw with their product, the issues (and hollow apologies/assurances) will continue.

            Just my 2c.

            1. Melissa*

              I have AdBlock turned off for AAM and I’ve never experienced any problems with the ads. So it is quite possible that it’s working okay for most people, and very plausible that her provider is being honest.

            2. Anx*

              This is illuminating!

              I’ll be honest, sometimes I frequent this site so much because when it freezes and crashes my browser (which I can count on pretty much every day) it shakes me out of my internet surfing and snaps me back into focus.

              I haven’t actually seen any video ads, though. I guess my browser crashes while trying to load those videos. I use my outdated laptop and public computers (which probably don’t have all the plugins maintained even though they are newer).

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’ve done enough looking into it to be confident that it’s not a problem for the majority of readers (with the exception of one week a while ago), but I do appreciate that perspective.

              They actually have a strong reputation among bloggers for being really responsive and publisher-friendly, and they’ve put an enormous amount of of work into trying to fix the problems that some people are having.

              1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

                I tend to run into browser problems when I access the site with Firefox. To the point where I can’t even scroll the page. If I switch over to Chrome the page loads just fine. It’s a common enough occurrence for me that I feel confident saying that there is *some* kind of browser issue going on — maybe a script is hanging up or something.

                And I’ve had rogue auto-play sound and video ads, too (although that seemed to stop a few weeks ago, thankfully).

                1. Mae North*

                  I’ve started only reading on my iPad, which doesn’t display ads, as every time I try to read on a computer every ad spot is an auto playing video with sound that makes the page super unresponsive. This has happened as recently as the day before yesterday, when I got blasted with multiple simultaneous copies of the same car commercial on my lunch break. It happens in both Firefox and IE.

    2. Nina*

      I have the same problem with Chrome. Usually I get a notice saying shockwave has crashed. But it only happens here.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Here, and TV Tropes.

        It was doing really well for a while, now seems slow. I’ve tried clicking on the ads sometimes to get a URL, but often, nothing happens anyway. I can’t imagine the ads are effective if they’re too locked up for you to click on them!

    3. Bostonian*

      I finally disabled plugins in Chrome, and that has made a world of difference. Google around for instructions for different browsers.

    4. olive*

      I’m having to cut and paste this comment in from Word because Firefox crashes within a minute of my opening AAM. This has only been happening the past 2 days, I hadn’t had a problem before from this site other than slow response time when trying to scroll. But I can’t even read the site anymore.  Is it possible this is a new problem, are more people having trouble this week?

  2. Elizabeth*

    Inc. is asking me to create an account to view this article, when using the link in the post. :( Is that going to be a requirement going forward to read the Inc. columns?

      1. Kyrielle*

        I got the same thing. I refreshed about 10 times; then I closed it and tried again. No luck. I had to open the link in a “private” window – not sure what it had decided was going on, but that got me the page.

      2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        Tried refreshing multiple times as well in Chrome.

        Had to switch browsers to get it to open.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ah, just got new info from them. They are apparently now asking people with adblocker software or from outside the U.S to register with the site when viewing a second article (but not for the first). Is anyone having this problem who isn’t using adblocker software and is inside the U.S.?

        1. Talvi*

          I’m in Canada and using adblock – interestingly, though, I’ve only run into this problem once, on iOS. But then, I’m also running noscript on my laptop, so if this registration popup requires javascript to appear, that’s one potential fix.

        2. Melissa*

          I am using an ad blocker (turned off for this site but on for others) and I don’t have that problem. I just clicked on 4 different articles other than yours and wasn’t asked to log in.

        3. Min*

          I’m outside the US, on Firefox, no adblocker. I haven’t had any problems with any of the Inc links or AAM’s site.

        4. Team Not!America*

          Did they give any explanation for why they are doing this (AdBlock I can sort of understand, though I think it’s a poor way to handle it) but non-US? That sucks.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s because they otherwise aren’t able to earn any revenue from those page views, which they’re of course dependent on in order to continue to exist.

        5. CdnAcct*

          I’m outside the US, and using Chrome without Adblocker (but blocking plugins), and I’ve never had an issue on this site or on Inc.com. I never get asked to sign up on Inc either.

        6. chrl268*

          That would explain my problems – except only on my home network, when I’m at uni it works fine. Very annoying. Ah well, Inc’s allowed to impose rules etc.

  3. Aglaia761*

    Alison, Inc now wants me to create an account to view your articles. As much as I like lurking to read, I’m not willing to sign up on their site and give my information to do so.

    Did you know about this? Is this something I completely missed these last few months?

  4. LouG*

    I read this as the boss was not giving the employee money to pay for his lunch, and assuming he/she would pay. The “uh, if you want a burger, sure” part made me think that the boss paying was not a given. If that’s the case, it’s a much bigger deal IMO.

    1. CV*

      Yeah, I read it that way too. Much bigger issue if boss if having employees paying out of pocket for the boss’ lunch.

    2. fposte*

      I don’t think it’s as clear as it might be, but I think it’s just doing the pickup–she talks about the task and not the expense. I think the “Are you buying?” was about getting the trip to include her lunch and not just his.

      1. LouG*

        Yeah, that’s probably the case. If the boss was making the employees pay for lunch then I would think it would be mentioned in the letter because that would obviously be the biggest problem here, I just wasn’t sure on my first read.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Me too. If he’s asking them to do a pickup, that’s very different, but it sounded like he was requiring them to pay, which is all kinds of nope.

    4. Turtlewings*

      Agreed! If he’s paying for his own lunch, I’d have no issue with going to get it — depending on the job, I’d probably be grateful for the break. Expecting me (or any other employee) to pay for his lunch, though, would be a HARD no.

  5. AnnieNonymous*

    For what it’s worth, I always enjoyed it when my former boss asked me to walk down to Dunkin Donuts for coffee creamer. It was a nice break in the day, especially when the weather was nice. On lousy days, I enjoyed the opportunity to have a few minutes in my car with the heat/AC on the way I liked it. I can totally see how other people wouldn’t be into it though. Surely there’s one person in the office who’d prefer to take on this task? It’s the rotation of the errand that’s weird.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      We used to go on Frosty runs at one job–the office was close to a Wendy’s, and someone would go round and collect a buck from everybody and then go get the treats. We all liked getting out of the office in the afternoon and we took turns running the errand. You didn’t have to do it if you were in the middle of something.

      I don’t know what the boss could be doing that he can’t stop and go get his own lunch, but I suspect he’s just asking them because he can. At least he’s paying them to run the errand. If it were me and he expected me to do it off the clock on my own lunch, I’d say no way.

      1. A Manager*

        OP mentioned it being a store. When I worked in retail, our manager was not allowed to leave the store during his shift so we did have to go get his lunch for him since he had to be there if a customer needed him. That could be why he doesn’t go get his own lunch. We all knew it so we didn’t mind taking care of it for him.

    2. dawbs*

      Yes–I have ‘who wants to walk to the other end of campus?’ errands some days.
      It’s something my workers fight for on balmy fall days when the sun is shining and they rock-paper-scissors to avoid on days when they have to borrow the staff-extra-umbrella.

      But even on those awful weather days (which are frequent here), there’s usually someone who jumps at the chance to not be indoors and doing ‘real’ work for 20 minutes.
      (and it gives them a chance to go buy a snack on the clock :)

      1. AnnieNonymous*

        A major factor is that the employees don’t feel like they’re being shoved into admin-ish “women’s work,” which seems like is part of the issue with the OP. When neutral tasks get filtered down the hierarchy a certain way, they take on loaded connotations.

      2. Melissa*

        That person is me, although I wouldn’t like it if people asked me on a regular basis. But I’ll usually volunteer, even if it’s raining outside. I like to take two short walks a day for exercise, to clear my head, and look away from the computer screen – I do it even in the winter.

      3. Joline*

        I love having an excuse to deliver something to one of the other office towers. Leg stretch. Sometimes I combine it with getting myself a coffee. And in Edmonton when you’re in the downtown core if the weather is bad you don’t even have to go outside…just head down to the tunnels (the pedway system).

    3. WorkingMom*

      Anyone else feel like this isn’t that big of a deal? If your boss asks you to pick up his/her lunch, you just do it. Now, if you’re expected to PAY for the lunch, or clock out to run the errand, different issue. But as the OP outlines it… I feel like it’s a non issue and the OP is making it into something bigger than it is. He or she may not love running errands, but to a certain degree, you just do what the boss asks of you. (That doesn’t work if the boss is asking you to do something illegal, unethical, etc. of course.) But running out to pick up sandwiches? A non-event in my book.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Yeah, same here. I wouldn’t have a problem with this at all unless he wasn’t paying, expected me to do it clocked out, or it was obviously way out of the scope of my job. (At my current data-monkey job, it would be clearly inappropriate, but I’ve been an admin-of-all-trades in the past and there it’s fine.)

      2. Melissa*

        Nah, I feel like it’s a big deal. Given my own role, I wouldn’t like it if my boss asked me to pick up her lunch on a regular basis, especially if picking up that lunch involved driving off campus to do so. It’s not the culture around here, we have plenty of food options right here on campus within a 5-10 minute walking distance, and frankly my boss isn’t high enough up in the org chart to need a person to pick up lunch for her. Now, I’d be happy to do it occasionally for her – I’d volunteer, and if she asked me, I’d do it a couple times. But if she was asking me 3-4 times a week that would make me feel upset and devalued – plus it’s not exactly a great use of my time.

        I have to admit though that the food options on campus make a big difference in the answer to this question. If we worked at a more remote office that didn’t have cafeterias on campus and I had to go off-campus anyway to get lunch every day, then I wouldn’t mind as much.

        1. Emily*

          I’d hate to have to drive off-campus to pick up lunch for my boss. In addition to the fact that there are walkable and deliverable options, I don’t want to drive on-campus while class is in session (holy pedestrians in the street, batman) and I don’t want to attempt to find parking when I get back because it isn’t going to happen.

      3. Windchime*

        It depends on the job. If I’m an admin or a personal assistant? Sure, OK. But if I’m heads down trying to write code, work a trouble ticket or do some debugging, then I’d be ticked off if my boss asked me to stop working, go get in my car and burn my gas to go pick up his lunch. (That wouldn’t happen. My boss runs across the street to Safeway to get his own lunch stuff. I love my boss.)

      4. Melissa*

        If it was an assistant-type role and you were being compensated for gas/mileage, I think it would be less of an event if you were in a different professional role and/or expected to burn 4-6 miles’ worth of gas several times a week. Gas prices are low now, but a year or so ago when they were pushing past $4 a gallon, that would have gotten on my nerves pretty significantly.

    4. Kirsten*

      Same, I worked at a restaurant in high school and one of the owners would send me on tons of errands during my shift. I actually liked doing it and he always let me keep the change from the cost of the items.

    5. katamia*

      Same. Lunch runs and other courier-type roles were the only thing I really liked about my admin job–sitting in my car listening to music and getting paid for it was way better than anything else they had me doing in the office. I get that OP and other people might not like it as much as I did, but there must be someone there who doesn’t feel like it’s an awful task and can do it regularly.

  6. TootsNYC*

    This is one of the things I most love about Alison as a blogger:

    This option comes with the risk that he’s going to start seeing you as a pain in the ass,

    Both the pithy wording, and the straightforward outlining of the true problem.

  7. Katrina*

    It may be worth noting, for anybody facing a similar issue, your personal auto insurance may not cover an accident while running work errands.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yeah, when the OP mentioned “legality and safety” I wondered if they were concerned about liability.

    2. myswtghst*

      Definitely worth noting. I am generally a good, safe driver, but people really like to hit my car. Last year, I was taking my car for an emissions test on my lunch break, and someone turned across three empty lanes into my bright red car about 1 mile away from my place of employment, which led to me spending my whole lunch break and then some sitting on the side of the road, talking to a cop, and dealing with insurance companies. Thankfully the other driver had insurance and admitted fault immediately, but it was still a huge pain to deal with getting my car repaired.

      Even if they’re only being asked to drive a few miles round trip, it’s still worth being aware of liability / insurance policies for their employer. Most large companies should have policies in place for employees driving personal vehicles on the clock, and that seems like an easier avenue to pursue with management / HR.

      1. Suz*

        It must be something about red that makes it invisible. I drive a red pickup and I’ve been rear ended 5 times. Every single time I was stopped at a red light and the drivers who hit me didn’t notice me stopped in front of them.

        1. katamia*

          Same. I shared a car with one of my parents when I was just out of college, and both that parent and I were in way more accidents in that car (people hitting us, not us hitting people) than we’ve ever been in driving any other color.

        2. A Manager*

          Me too- red car hit more times than I can count. Bright yellow cars are also invisible- hit three times in less than a year.

      2. Soharaz*

        My sister likes to claim she’s a better driver than I am because she has never been in an accident and I’ve been in several. She also likes to disregard the fact that ALL those cars hit me (running stop signs, passing me while I was pulling into a parking spot, rear ending me when I slowed for a stopping bus) and that she’s really just lucky she hasn’t had one with all the texting she does while driving.
        I’d like to note that those were all in my blue car, no one has hit me yet in my red one *knock on wood*

    3. BananaPants*

      It’s not errands, but it’s made clear in our annual “safe driving” EH&S training module that if we get in an accident in our personal vehicle while traveling between work sites or driving for other work-related purposes we’re covered by worker’s comp and will be required to go to the contracted occupational medicine clinic (if you want to see your own doctor, you have to pay for it).

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I had to look into this for a job and it probably will not cover it in my state IF the insurance company figures out you are doing it on a regular basis. You might get them to look the other way if you can say, “this the only time I have done this errand”. Good point for OP to keep in mind.

  8. Brooke*

    Much earlier on in my career I was much more apt to get irritated when something wasn’t “part of my job.” A very kind manager told me that he, too, did a lot of tasks that weren’t in his job description but just had to be done – either out of necessity or just pitching in to help others. In the years since, and having experienced much more grave things that I DID bring to HR’s attention, I’m glad that I decided the “not-part-of-my-job” aspects weren’t the battles I chose to fight. That’s not to say that you can’t get HR’s feedback…. but just don’t expect them to move this to the top of their list of issues to address. In the meantime, going above and beyond with a positive attitude , when appropriate, will pay dividends.

    1. F.*

      I agree. As the office receptionist/admin, I was called upon to fix the ladies’ room toilet at times! What can I say? It’s a small company with no money in the budget for a plumber to fix something so simple even *I* can do it!

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I wonder what people would do if you told them in this type of situation “OK, I give you the authority to decide who fixes the toilet, and the responsibility to make sure it gets done!” How many people would try to assign that duty to someone else? I know that I would decide to do it myself, and feel better about it, too. But that could probably backfire.

      2. Brooke*

        Once I offered to put together some office furniture ordered for my cube. Mind you, I’m a graphic designer and not a terribly handy person, and did it partially because I didn’t want to wait around for someone else to do it. Plus, it was a slow time at the office and didn’t interfere with my projects. My boss was pleased as punch and honestly, so was I.

        Nevermind that that stupid file cabinet never DID open quite right ;)

      3. to*

        The CEO at my last job once discovered a broken toilet and gladly fixed it herself. Sometimes, you just gotta step in where you can :)

        1. Brooke*

          Yes – I’ve been lucky to work under upper-level management that did this as well, and it helped me to feel less annoyed when I found myself in similar situations. If everyone’s pitching in, it’s not that big of a deal. And even if everyone ISN’T, those that do are usually rewarded, whether directly or otherwise.

      4. afiendishthingy*

        Our receptionist/admin fixed our Keurig with a paper clip because apparently she’s MacGyver. She is my hero.

    2. the gold digger*

      Yesterday, I walked into the ladies to discover that one of the toilets was overflowing. I turned off the valve behind the toilet and looked for a plunger. Couldn’t find one, so I found maintenance.

      Not my job to turn off the water or to plunge a toilet, but my job is to advance the interests of the organization, which means not letting toilet water soak the carpet if I can prevent it.

        1. Rana*

          Shitty companies? I can imagine some scenarios where employees feel very little loyalty to their company’s interests because of how badly they are treated, at least on the small scale (e.g. overflowing toilet versus company collapse).

    3. LawBee*

      Yeah, I don’t know any employee handbook that details every single thing that becomes “part of my job”. Also, the “that’s not my job” mindset can be dangerous.

      1. Lee*

        It’s not fair, but employers *hate hate hate* it when an employee utters those words, so use them sparingly (if ever). That doesn’t mean don’t address the issue — but if you can avoid actually saying “Not My Job” out loud, you (your reputation) generally will be sooooo much better off in the long run.

        1. F.*

          I try to avoid “That’s not my job” if I can phrase it more like “I believe that is Fidelma’s responsibility, and I wouldn’t want to step on her toes.” Unfortunately there are always those things that aren’t really anyone’s specific responsibility. They just end up falling to the person who wants it done badly enough to buck up and do it.

    4. CrazyCatLady*

      I don’t know – I will sometimes push back when it’s very much not the best use of my time, or if it’s costly to use my time to do it over someone else. I don’t say “it’s not my job” but I will say something like “If I do X, I won’t be able to do Y by [date] … would you still prefer I do X?” (For example, I work in supply chain at a small company but was for some reason the one in charge of doing mailings. It was incredibly time consuming and took away from the work I was doing and they ended up being very expensive mailings to have me do it. I researched outside companies to see what their cost was, and pointed out that it was also expensive for me to do it, plus the loss of me being able to do other work. He ended up agreeing that I shouldn’t be doing them (but that other people who were paid less than me should).

      1. Ad Astra*

        The phrase “That’s not my job” is a dangerous one, but I agree that sometimes you need to push back using more palatable terms. If my boss wants me to stuff envelopes or type up other people’s writing, I can do that — but it’s not a great use of my time because a) they’re paying me more than that sort of labor is worth, and b) that’s time I won’t be spending working toward the goals we set for the department. If he asked me to spend a lot of time on tasks that were way outside my job description, I might have to say something.

        Your script is great because sometimes people don’t realize the impact of their request, and explaining how that affects your schedule and your deliverables lets them make an informed choice.

      2. myswtghst*

        This is a great example of how to approach “it’s not my job” in an effective way. I know Alison gives examples like this all the time, because unless it’s something you’re specifically forbidden to do for legal / liability reasons, it can come across as petty and unhelpful to focus on “it’s not my job” instead of “here’s the trade off.”

        Sometimes my boss will ask me to do things that I feel I shouldn’t be doing, but rather than refusing because it’s not technically in my job description (which is ever-changing anyways), I give her what she needs to make an informed decision, then roll with what she decides. Usually, when I remind her that I need to do X, Y, and Z also and ask for help prioritizing, or mention that my coworker T has more experience in that area, she’s open to adjusting the plan.

      3. F.*

        Making a case from the business’ point of view is almost always better than the personal case, I have found, especially for redistributing duties or asking for a raise.

    5. Sunflower*

      I’m disagreeing because doing something that isn’t your job once or twice is not a big deal. When it becomes a pattern is when it becomes a problem. When our printer jams, I have no problem trying to fix it myself even though it’s not my job. If I was being asked multiple times a week to fix the printer, I wouldn’t be happy about it. I have a job and when I’m constantly forced to do something that takes away from me doing my job, its not only a pain but affects my work negatively and could make me look bad. And the fact that she is worried about retribution leads me to believe her manager could be short sighted and unreasonable.

      She definitely should check with HR on this policy. If she is working in retail, it’s possible that leaving the premises while on the clock is against policy. She should be worried about what will happen if she is injured while out picking up the lunch.

    6. Allison*

      I agree, and I think most people here agree, that everyone occasionally needs to do things that aren’t part of their job, and it’s not always ridiculous of an employer to ask someone to do something that’s not part of their description. I think in general, being unwilling to do anything outside of one’s original job description is not a great attitude to have.

      To a point.

      This whole “we must all step up and help out with a smile” mindset is also a great way to manipulate people into doing things they really shouldn’t be expected to do. There is such a thing as being ridiculous and unreasonable. There are definitely cases where people, especially women, end up getting treated like assistants because they’re women and they should want to help, and besides, they’re so much better at that stuff than the guys, so it makes sense to ask them regardless of their job titles – whereas the guys in the office are much too busy with important work to be bothered with such tasks! I get that yes, someone has to do it, and sometimes tasks need to be delegated and there’s no one who specializes in that task so managers are put in a position of picking *someone,* but sometimes they’re severely mis-delegated and sometimes it really is the asker who should be doing it themselves.

      1. Ad Astra*

        We don’t know enough to say if the OP is being unfairly pushed into “young women’s tasks” or if the request is a reasonable expectation of her job. That’s really frustrating to me because it feels like that’s really what the OP is asking. It sounds like she’s at least aware that this is a thing that happens, but isn’t quite sure how big a deal it is in her specific case.

      2. Charby*

        Exactly. I think it was a post here that pointed out that people — particularly women — can actually have their careers harmed by adding “office mom”-type duties to unrelated career paths. While saying “that’s not my job” can be harmful, there is also some feedback saying that adding duties like cooking or cleaning or even some social coordination to your job can pigeonhole you or take time away from things that are more visible and prized in the workplace (in terms of advancement, bonuses, etc.).

        It’s a delicate balance and I’m not really surprised that newer/younger employees struggle with it since on its face it’s a contradiction in terms. There are some subtle nuances there but someone who doesn’t have enough work experience to tease those apart can’t really be blamed for not knowing how right away.

    7. AnotherHRPro*

      I remember a story, from a book on leadership – I forget which one, that goes something like…

      One day an employee sees the CEO of a company pick up a towel from the floor. The employee asks him if he picks it up because he is the CEO. The CEO responds”Or am I CEO because I pick it up”.

      Unless something is truly demeaning or will prevent you from doing your job very little should be “not-part-of-my-job”.

      1. Brooke*

        Agreed. The few minutes you spend picking up coffee can set you apart from those that don’t lend a hand, and boy can that make an impact when managers have to dole out raises, bonuses and layoffs.

  9. MousyNon*

    Great article. The one exception (which doesn’t appear to apply to the OP, given their description of the request and how all other coworkers do them as well) would be if these sort of “assistant” level requests are being disproportionately assigned to women in an office, regardless of pay-grade/position. This is depressingly common in many offices, with women doing these types of housekeeping tasks by rote (“it’s X’s birthday, pick up a cake” “have this meeting catered” “can you take minutes at this meeting?”). It drives me nutty–I am not your assistant. Get one, or do it yourself!

    1. Ad Astra*

      The fact that the OP mentioned her age and gender (and the fact that she is young and female) made me wonder if that’s what’s going on here. It’s hard to tell without knowing what the OP was actually hired to do, and without any information on the other employees who are asked to run these errands. It may be that she’s heard “Don’t let them turn you into an assistant just because you’re a young woman!” but her role actually is some kind of assistant thing.

      I would feel so weird having an assistant. At my company, some of the higher-ups don’t even read or write their own emails, much less order their own lunch. I don’t think I’d ever get used to that, even though I’d enjoy having someone to screen my calls and manage my schedule.

  10. Ad Astra*

    We don’t know the OP’s exact title, but if it’s not “personal assistant,” it’s weird to be fetching lunch for the boss on any kind of regular basis. And “store manager” doesn’t sound like the kind of job that requires a personal assistant. I’d be more open to this if the OP was asked to pick up lunch for the entire staff, or arrange lunch for some kind of event.

    I know there are places where this is common, but who the hell is too important to order their own lunch? If you’re too busy to go get it yourself, have it delivered. If you hired someone for their professional skills and experience and you’re sending them off on go-fer errands, you’re not getting your money’s worth.

    1. Sadsack*

      If it is store policy that a manager must always be on duty, maybe the manager really must send someone out.

      1. Ad Astra*

        I would still say the manager should just have something delivered, but I see how in that case asking someone to pick up your lunch is a little less self-important. And if the OP is some kind of sales associate or dressing room attendant or something, these errands aren’t such a bad use of her time compared to sending some kind of specialist out on go-fer trips. We don’t really know how far this task falls outside the scope of OP’s normal duties.

        When I was a college copy chief managing college copy editors, I would occasionally send someone out to pick up food, but only if they had a lot of downtime for some reason, and only after explaining that they were doing me a favor and that picking up my food wasn’t part of their job. But mostly I just ordered delivery or brought my own food.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            There is absolutely nothing that will deliver to to my office :(

            On the plus side, it’s made me much better about bringing my lunch!

          2. Ad Astra*

            Well, we know there’s at least one place near the OP’s company that delivers. I just think it’s very strange to routinely rely on a coworker, even a subordinate, to get your lunch. If delivery isn’t feasible, bring a sack lunch. Why is it someone else’s job to make sure you have lunch? You know the restrictions and limitations of the job/area, so plan accordingly.

            I can recognize intellectually that not everyone shares this view, but I haven’t quite wrapped my head around the idea of not being responsible for your own lunch.

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              I think it’s easier for me to wrap my head around because I worked for someone like this, not that it makes it right, but I’ve just witnessed it first hand.

              I had a boss who didn’t cook (he ate out or ordered in) so to him bringing food wasn’t an option, but he also felt like he couldn’t leave the store so going out wasn’t an option. He really believed that the only option was sending me (or one of the other employees) out.

              1. Windchime*

                Lunch doesn’t require cooking, though. PBJ takes about 1 minute to make. I’ll often take a lunch of cheese slices, crackers, a piece of leftover (store bought and roasted) chicken and some fruit. It takes 2 minutes to throw together and I didn’t cook anything.

                I would really hate having to stop my work to go pick up lunch for someone else on a regular basis.

      2. Anna*

        I doubt any store has a policy requiring managers to be on duty at all times to the point of not being able to take breaks.

        1. Saturn9*

          This is a standard policy in retail. A manager has to be on site for the store to be open (not necessarily “the store manager” but “a manager/supervisor”).

          1. Collarbone High*

            I worked at a roller rink in high school, and for liability reasons the manager couldn’t leave while the rink was open. The staff got 30-minute breaks which weren’t really enough time to leave, get food and actually chew it, and nobody wanted to eat concession-stand hot dogs all the time (or ever) so it was really common to appoint one person to go (on the clock) to get food for the rest. Bringing a sack lunch wasn’t a great option because there wasn’t any place to store it, except leave it in your car.

  11. Otter box*

    If he’s routinely asking employees to drive 3 miles away to get him lunch, I’d be submitting expense reports for mileage reimbursement.

    1. AMT*

      Yes! Or maybe just saying you are uncomfortable using your personal vehicle for work purposes or while on the clock or whatever? Just bringing up insurance and liability issues might make him stop asking you (though it probably wont stop him asking the others to do it!)

    2. The IT Manager*

      I’m willing to bet that for retail employees, there’s no process for submitting expense reports or getting reimbursement.

      1. Otter box*

        I used to work for a major US retailer and we did have an expense report process, although it had to go through your supervisor first. If I were this employee and submitted for mileage reimbursements, I suspect the manager(s) wouldn’t approve them, in which case I’d call the ethics line, which would put a stop to this practice. If the manager did approve the reimbursement, corporate would have had a massive problem with it too. Either way, the manager has to stop asking employees to do this.

    3. Former Museum Professional*

      Perhaps the OP and colleagues who are being asked to fetch lunch could Uber and put it on a company card, if one exists? I’m happy to go on the occasional lunch run, but would be peeved if it was a routine thing. I’d be more peeved about losing my parking spot than the ~6 mile round trip in my car, but to each their own.

  12. AndersonDarling*

    I like Alison’s suggestion of asking HR for clarification on their policy as a way to open the door to a bigger discussion. If it is a position where running errands on the clock is not normal, then I think HR would like to know and they can make the decision.
    My fear is that the OP will be in an accident and then the boss will say that the OP was getting her own lunch and not his. The OP said she worked for a large company, so hopefully those shenanigans wouldn’t happen. But I’ve known cases where injuries happen and the manager changes the time clock to make it look like the employee was off the clock at the time of the injury.
    It all could be really innocent and the boss always had this kind of service. But I wonder if he has men pick up his lunch, or is it always the women who have to run his errands?

    1. Kvaren*

      The fact that the OP included both her age and gender makes it seem like there may be more to this than we know.

  13. bentley*

    I assume he’s asking staff to drive their own cars for this errand that he says is part of the job. I’m curious what would happen if you all asked for mileage reimbursement. Or cab fare.

  14. SRB*

    Now I’m curious- what would the advice be if the boss made it clear that the OP was expected to pay for the lunch too?

    Not sure that’s the situation here but there has been an uptick of discussion around reimbursement of “business expenses” and pushing back on bosses who expect their employees to float things lately so my brain is just there right now.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I think the OP would have been well within her rights then to ask for the money before leaving to get the food. If the boss is cheeky enough to say it’s part of OP’s job to pay for the food, OP could respond with, “I’m sorry, that’s not in my budget.” (And so should all the coworkers!)

    2. Chriama*

      Paying for daily lunches for employees is usually not a typical company expense, so this would be like a boss demanding you babysit their kids for free, or have you work for their personal enterprise while on company time and then force you to stay off the clock to finish the company’s actual work. Now if a boss was asking you to pay and saying they would reimburse you but not doing it, or not doing it in a timely manner, that would be a more nuanced discussion. But the scenario as you described it is unethical enough that I don’t think anyone would see the boss’s behaviour as justifiable so it would be a pretty monotonous discussion.

  15. RocksJ*

    With the boss’s title of Store Manager, I would assume that this is not a personal assistant role.

    It seems very odd to me, coming from a retail environment, that there is the staff coverage for the store manager to be sending someone on a lunch run of 2-3 miles on a regular basis (next door or in the same parking lot, I could maybe understand). I would imagine that home office/HR would not be terribly impressed to find this manager is sending his employees out on personal errands for him on the company’s time. I also think that the company would not being happy about sending these people out on the clock in their personal vehicles, as at my large retail employer, you must have a signed transportation form on file and a driving record check before you can use any vehicle on company time.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      A lot of times in retail the policy is that there HAS to be a manager on the premises whenever the location is open to the public; I wonder if that could be part of the reason the manager is sending people to fetch his lunch? (That, and he isn’t bringing lunch for some reason.)

      1. Bostonian*

        I was wondering about this, too. Then it comes down to the boss being a jerk, since it sounds like he’s abusing his position to avoid having to pack a lunch, and not doing a good job of explaining to his employees why he can’t go get lunch himself.

        This makes me appreciate my old boss. I was his assistant, and once every couple of months he would have a crazy day and ask me to run down to the cafe in our building and get him a sandwich or salad (or occasionally a mid-afternoon coffee with multiple shots of espresso). But he was always kind of apologetic about it, and it was always clear to me what was going on that day that meant he really didn’t have time to do it himself. His attitude towards it made all the difference in how I felt about it. He seemed almost embarrassed about it, like it felt kind of weird to him that he had joined the ranks of the overly busy executives and become the kind of person who might ask someone to go get his lunch.

        1. Collarbone High*

          I’ve worked retail where there was no place to store a lunch. That’s partly for the employees’ protection — if your drawer is short $21, and you have $20 in an employee locker, it looks like you stole that money. And I doubt many retail stores provide refrigerators or microwaves for employees — I’ve never seen that in a retail job. Maybe the guy doesn’t want to eat a PB&J every day.

          1. Windchime*

            I don’t want to either. That doesn’t mean I get to send people who are junior to me out to fetch me a lunch every day.

    2. AnnieNonymous*

      The manager probably doesn’t want to pay the delivery charges, or he doesn’t order enough food to qualify for delivery, so he’s saving a few bucks of his own money by siphoning away some company resources. He may see it as being the same as “borrowing” a few office supplies.

    3. November*

      It’s a common policy in retail that a manager always has to be on premises. Very possibly could be why the manager is sending someone out for his lunch instead of going to pick it up himself.

  16. Michelle*

    OP, I would seriously think over Alison’s answers before you get your feathers all ruffled over this and definitely check about the insurance aspect.

    “Getting the boss lunch” is not part of my job description, either, but I’ve done it a couple of times during my 13 years at my employer. Often, it’s when there is a big group meeting and they want to work through lunch and sometimes it’ s because boss is busy and just forgot to pack a lunch. Sometimes he’ll offer to pay for me and sometimes he doesn’t.

    If getting the boss lunch occasionally is your biggest problem, consider yourself lucky. Of course, if it got to be a very frequent thing, I would speak to him about reimbursement for mileage or if there was a company car I could use. This just doesn’t seem to be a big deal to me.

    1. Michelle*

      Also, we do have a company car to use so I guess that’s why it doesn’t seem to be a big deal to me. I can understand OP being upset at having to use her personal vehicle to get lunch everyday. I would try to work it out with boss before going to HR, though.

  17. Don't Know*

    As an assistant, I would fetch lunch for my boss on a regular basis. I didn’t mind doing that, as I knew from scheduling all of her appointments how busy she was (what I did mind was when she would “volunteer” me to pick up lunch for others or take individual orders.) Also, the places where I would get lunch for her were within walking distance of our office. Personally, I think asking an employee to drive somewhere to pick up your lunch several times a week is a bit much no matter what the job description.

  18. Former Retail Manager*

    From the OP’s letter, it sounds like she works in retail or some other customer facing type of job. I was a retail manager for many years and I had employees get lunch for me virtually every day, but everyone paid for their own. Corporate instructed us not to allow employees to drive and get lunch for us because if they did get into an accident they could hold the company liable. That being said, I did it anyway, as did all of my other managers at other locations. Also, if the manager is the only manager on duty, they may not be permitted to leave. We weren’t. Therefore, having someone get us lunch was our only option unless we wanted to bring it. Virtually every employee I asked was thrilled to be able to leave, drive around, and get paid for it. They still got their 30 min lunch off the clock when they returned to do as they pleased. Also, as Alison mentions the pain in the ass risk, I would not have taken kindly to someone pushing back about this request. I would have politely told them it was fine and promptly decided that if this was a bone of contention it would only be a matter of time before they began whining about a menagerie of other things and would have likely began “managing them out.” I realize that statement won’t be popular with most readers here, but I’m keepin’ it real. That is the reality of most retail jobs…heck, all jobs really. Oh….and if I ever got a call from HR about this, without the employee having spoken to me first, you would be as good as gone.

      1. Renee*

        +1. Also, if you had ever gotten a call from HR about it, I should think it might be your job on the line as you exposed the company to all kinds of liability while openly defying company policy meant to protect against it.

      2. Venus In Furs*

        I know that there is this feeling that just saying “wow” in response to something is supposed to indicate incredulity at some Bad Person’s inappropriateness, and maybe it works in real life, but I have to say that on the Internet, in text, it simply comes off as an annoying and completely unoriginal waste of bits that essentially says “I don’t really have anything interesting to say”.

        1. Renee*

          There’s a lot of context to “wow” as a response based on prior discussions on this blog and I took it as a reference to that. But I’m wondering what you think your comment added to the discussion.

    1. Jerzy*

      Sooo… if an employee pushed back and spoke to you about it, you’d write them off.

      And if they went straight to HR about it, they’d be “as good as gone?”

      You haven’t really left any room for an employee who may, for whatever reason, not feel comfortable with this arrangement to discuss it with you. That doesn’t seem fair when a simple explanation of, “I have to remain on site and need you to take your turn in the rotation to pick me up lunch,” could easily make them okay with it, or at least help them understand that you weren’t just being lazy/abusing power, etc.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Yeah, it does sound like the employee would be “managed out” in one case, and “as good as gone” in the other. So basically, either way, as good as gone, unless they shut up and pick up that lunch.

      2. Tinker*

        Not only would write them off, but apparently would be all nice-nice to their face — “sure, that’s fine, no problem” while instituting plans to get rid of them. Which I suppose you have to do in that case, because telling people to their face that you’re firing them for NOT violating corporate policy may ultimately be a career-limiting move.

        Random and arbitrary trivia moment: People who do things generally considered unethical (talking here at the level of actual crimes in some cases) are surprisingly likely to admit this on surveys and the like, even in circumstances where one would think they would realize that this is not to their best advantage. Reason: they perceive that behavior as being a relatively normal thing that “everyone does” — like, say, posting on blogs in the middle of the day >_> — and therefore have no reason to say that they don’t do it.

    2. L*

      On the one hand, your take is honest and realistic. On the other hand, you come across as kind of a horrible employee yourself. Corporate explicitly instructed you not to do something and had a very clear and reasonable rationale for it. Is the employee who doesn’t want to use their personal car to run your errands really the one who is the pain in the ass in that situation? Why not just buy a lunchbox?

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Oh HELL no.

      I would quit right in your face. So there wouldn’t be any need to fire me. No need for a reference; this crap job wouldn’t go on my resume EVER.

      1. Asking employees to fetch your lunch could possibly make it a work errand and you can’t make non-exempt people work off the clock. That’s illegal.
      2. If you fired an employee for asking HR about a policy you were flaunting, that’s retaliation and opens your workplace (and possibly you) up to lawsuits.
      3. You’re ostensibly an adult and you can make and bring your own damn lunch.


      1. Big Tom*

        I don’t agree with Former Retail Manager’s assertions here, but to be fair:
        1. They said the employees were getting paid for it and also that they still got their normal 30 minute lunch afterward, so there shouldn’t be an non-exempt conflicts
        2. IANAL, but I don’t really think that’s the case unless the employees are whistleblowing regarding policies that specifically instruct employees to report violations, or that specifically prohibit retaliation from employers. For example, my company might have a policy against drinking coffee, but if my boss drinks coffee and I report it to HR, he can still fire me for reporting him because there’s no public policy imposing a duty for me to blow the whistle, or prohibiting retaliation from him.


    4. VintageLydia USA*

      OK as a former retail manager I was with you on the first half of the comment. Sometimes you just couldn’t leave and you’re right, all the employees I ever managed loved the opportunity to get out of the store for a bit and be paid for it.

      But I absolutely did not begrudge those that didn’t want to. That’s insane.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        I loved, loved, love running my boss errands and grabbing lunch when I was a retail employee.

        I worked at a small store and if there weren’t customers, I would have to find something to do, which often meant cleaning…so running out to pick-up dry-cleaning was awesome!

        But, it was always something I was happy to do, it was always on the clock, and it was never vary far from my office.

      2. Lindsay J*

        Yeah, I agree to a point.

        I’ve been in positions where I’ve asked employees to get lunch for me. I’ve been in positions where I’ve gotten lunch for other people. Nobody has ever thought twice about it.

        (Though after some experience I don’t do crazy custom orders anymore. Burger without tomato, that’s fine, I’ll do that. But if it’s “I want the chicken Mediterranean flatbread sandwich, but on focaccia bread instead of flat break, sub ranch dressing for the vinaigrette, buffalo sauce for the feta cheese, fried chicken for the grilled chicken, and hold the tomatos” then I’m not ordering that.

        If an employee refused to do this, especially if they reacted hostilely and took the “it’s not my job” position, I might mentally raise my eyebrows a bit, just because it’s a weird hill to want to die on. It might make me think that the employee might have a difficult personality just because the vast majority of employees don’t mind this at all and actually like it.

        However, I would smile, say that’s fine, and actually mean it. I can’t imagine beginning to manage an employee out over this. I would just mentally note not to ask this employee to grab me lunch anymore and then ask the next person.

    5. Jeanne*

      A lot of people who read here are not managers. We have very little sympathy for this type of attitude. Are they your employees or your slaves? Do you want to have any dialogue or do you want employees to lie to you? When a customer complains, do you ask them what happened or do you just burn them at the stake?

      You are a representative of your company. Being a horrible person is not being a good representative. What is so awful about planning ahead for lunch?

      1. Waffles*

        By the same token, what is so awful about running an errand on behalf your manager while being on the clock? It doesn’t sound like anyone is forfeiting their own lunch or being asked to do anything unreasonable. But then I’m the person who says “Hey office, I’m going to Popular Restaurant Chain for lunch… Would you like me to pick something up for you?”.

    6. Venus In Furs*

      I’m sure there are bosses who would abuse it and grow to see it as an entitlement, but I’m with Former Retail Manager on this. I can quite easily see how sending someone out to grab lunch could be an extremely cost-effective move. And as work tasks go, “lunch duty” is pretty light – perhaps even desirable – work. From the stories I’ve heard about working retail, any task that involves leaving the premises (and getting away from the boss, customers, co-workers, etc) – is a task that people want to do. Among other things, you get to sit down. It is not beyond belief that the boss hands the job out as a perk.

      And I can’t fault his reasoning about an employee who balked at the assignment. Nobody wants to work with someone who is a pain in the ass. And again: picking up lunch is not a crap job. There are many obvious reasons why someone might be miffed about (say) having to clean the toilets. But the only reason someone would complain about picking up lunch is because they feel it is “beneath” them. And I’m sure this attitude is reflected in their other work, too.

      And geez, if you’re truly unhappy with your boss, what more could you ask for than 15 minutes alone with his lunch?

      1. Kyrielle*

        If most people like to do it, though, why make the person who doesn’t take part? Take them out of the rotation and let them spend that time on the floor, doing the job, while someone else gets the break. Everyone wins: the employee who didn’t want to do it doesn’t have to; the employee who wanted some easy paid time gets it (well, one of them does anyway); the boss gets lunch.

        1. Venus In Furs*

          Sure. In the letter, though, I think this was the first time OP had been asked. And I suspect that OP’s boss may have been surprised / unprepared for OP’s response.

          1. Anna*

            People are surprised when they are taking it for granted that everyone is on board with something that may actually be an unusual request. The thing about asking someone to do you a favor is that you shouldn’t assume it’s going to happen and if you hold it against someone that they didn’t want to do it, you’re being the ass, not them.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        “But the only reason someone would complain about picking up lunch is because they feel it is “beneath” them.”

        Eh, there’s plenty of reasons someone wouldn’t want to go pick up lunch. Back when I worked retail, I drove an unreliable POS with bald tires and a flashing check engine light. Oh, and I had liability-only insurance. Gas was expensive and I didn’t have a lot of money. So I tried to drive as little as possible. I wouldn’t have been overjoyed at the prospect of driving 4-6 miles roundtrip to get my boss’s lunch on a regular basis.

        1. Venus In Furs*

          Sure, you had vehicle issues. If you’d been asked to pick up lunch, would you have said “Boss – my car sucks so badly that I’m afraid to do this”? Or would you have pulled a whole big passive-aggressive number on your boss and ask if he was buying etc?

          I think the letter needs to be read with some degree of skepticism: “… dutifully do it for him without complaint, because we are all afraid of possible retribution if we refuse.” Really? Did OP actually ask everyone about this? Or is OP assuming this? (Note that there seems to be some indication that people in retail tend to like getting lunch duty). And “I am concerned about the legality and safety issues of this.” Right. Was OP’s first thought after being asked to get lunch that she might be putting her company at risk if she got into an accident? Or is this a convenient justification that she came up with after giving it some thought? Or “… with a smile on my face, to show him I wasn’t being hostile”. Gotta say: she might be smiling, but OP comes off as pretty damn hostile. “I told him we could have the food delivered and then went and asked everyone at the company what they wanted.” It’s unclear, but it sounds like OP simply ignored her boss’s request and put together a lunch order to be delivered to the office? Really? Deciding on a restaurant, obtaining a menu, getting everyone’s order, calling it in, collecting the money, making change … this is not something that one does in 10 minutes time.

          Yeah, yeah, we’re supposed to give the letter writers the benefit of the doubt. But to quote Judge Judy: “Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining”. I can only ignore a certain amount of obvious bullshit before calling someone on it. (Also I’ll note that this is an old letter from the archives; I suspect it is rather unlikely that the OP will have their feelings bruised by my skepticism).

        2. Windchime*

          Where I work, there is a very good chance you’ll get back to find that you’ve lost your parking spot and now you are going to have to hike back to the office.

      3. Devil's Advocate*

        Ok. But if we’re going to ask why people can’t just do what they’re asked by their superiors without making a big deal about it, why can’t former retail manager just follow corporate policy? Bringing one’s own lunch isn’t a burdensome job requirement either, but opening the store up to liability for a car accident actually is a serious issue, isn’t it?

  19. The IT Manager*

    I’m bothered by both the LW and the boss. The boss sounds like he’s exercising a bit too much power (and corporate HR may not like it), but he’s not singling out the LW and she is still on the clock so she’s being paid for the work. And I am going to assume that he is paying for his own lunch; if he isn’t that’s a huge and different issue.

    OTOH would the LW be okay to run this errand on the clock if he did pay for her lunch? That’s kind of what her response to him implies that she wouldn’t mind if she got something out of it.

    1. Ad Astra*

      The boss paying for her lunch makes it feel more like a personal thanks for a personal favor. It makes it a reciprocal situation instead of an assigned task.

      1. The IT Manager*

        But if she’s on the clock then she shouldn’t be doing personal favors and getting something out of it.

        1. Ad Astra*

          I don’t know, it depends. I see it the same way as making a personal call or picking up a prescription or browsing Twitter for 10 minutes while you’re on the clock. And of course you can do people personal favors that are also work tasks — like the LW today who reformatted a budget form and got a gift card for her trouble (though a muffin would have been more appropriate). Maybe that makes less sense in retail than it does in an office environment. It’s an acknowledgement that this employee isn’t your personal lackey and is going above and beyond, but that doesn’t mean it’s not work that she should be paid for.

  20. Mean Something*

    “I told him we could have the food delivered and then went and asked everyone at the company what they wanted.”

    I read this to mean that the employee bought lunch for the office on the boss’s dime–or the department’s budget?

    I suppose it’s possible that the employee collected money from everyone and placed the order, but how is this a better use of her time?

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I think she was trying to make a point, but I don’t think that was the way to make it, and I’m not sure it’s a point worth making anyway.

  21. Renee*

    I can’t get to the article without the registration page either, so I’m not sure of the specific advice. However, the owner of my company used to have people running all kinds of errands without thinking about it, including having the person in my position pick up lunch for the company every Friday. And then the insurance guy came in for a meeting at renewal time and told us we should have copies of driver licenses and insurance cards for every employee that drives on errands and he explained the liability the company takes on when it sends employees on errands. In the course of designating authorized drivers and collecting DL copies, it was discovered that one employee, who had run many errands, did not even have a valid license. This all made Owner verrrrrry cautious and thus were born a written policy and a limited number of designated drivers and a prohibition on frivolous errands like picking up lunch for the company.

    1. MashaKasha*

      That is a very good point, and one OP is specifically asking about! So it does look like the company will be held responsible.

      Unless one of his lunch delivery people gets into an accident and the boss says that the person was out getting their own lunch, and he doesn’t know why they forgot to clock out, and then it’s going to be his word against the employee’s. Is that a possible scenario or am I being too cynical here?

      1. Renee*

        Nope, you are appropriately cynical. That an employee was driving on their own business is a very common defense.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      My car got rear-ended in traffic by a guy (we’ll call him Irving) who was running an errand for a car dealership, in one of their cars. Turned out Irving did NOT have a valid DL and was a homeless guy the dealership had felt sorry for and hired under the table. Lucky for them, there was no damage to my car (this was my old Buick, which was a tank), and I didn’t need medical attention, though I did get a bit of whiplash. Their vehicle, however, WAS damaged.

      I only found out about the dealership hiring Irving because the cop did a follow-up call and he told me. To Irving’s credit, he hung around until the cop showed up, even after I told him I was calling (I was pissed). He did try to talk me out of it–“Do you hate me or something?!” Well, no, but you could have hurt me, dammit, and I had no job and no medical coverage at the time!

      I didn’t file any charges and everybody agreed to just let the dealership handle Irving. I don’t know if he got a citation; if so, I don’t know how he would have paid it. The dealership would have been 100% liable if I had incurred any expenses whatsoever. So yeah, this is a valid concern for any company that allows employees to run errands on company time or business.

      I was lucky–my first boss at Exjob got creamed by a box truck while running to Walmart and it totaled her car. She ended up going to the hospital. The driver’s company had to shell out big time.

  22. YaddaYaddaYadda*

    As others have mentioned, I interpreted the real problem as an expense/reimbursement issue. “Is it my job” is largely irrelevant, but if lunch costs aren’t being reimbursed, and driving costs are adding up, it’s a hit to the employees bottom line.

  23. anonanonanon*

    I think leaving out if the boss is paying for his own lunch is causing some confusion. If he isn’t, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed. If he is paying, I think the LW was really out of line to ask the boss if he’d pay for her lunch and buy lunch for the entire office. That entire second paragraph made me raise my eyebrow, to be honest. If it turns out the boss is paying for his own lunch and picking up lunch is part of the job duties of his subordinates, LW could come off as really petty and passive aggressive for this behavior. It’s going to look like a poor use of her time to get up in arms about it.

    I say this as someone who has been in both situations. When I was an admin assistant, it was assumed I would order or pick up the boss’s lunch or do other errands. It was considered “other office duties”. But, on the other hand, when I was promoted, it was understood that I could ask interns or admin assistants to make coffee or lunch runs. I never did because I felt guilty and I hated doing it when I was an assistant, but also because I was always worried someone would rebel and I didn’t want to deal with that when I could be dealing with something else (I do not, however, have an issue with having an admin oversee a large food order for a focus group or large meeting, though, since that is their job even though it’s not specifically called out in the job description).

    1. anonanonanon*

      I should all that all coffee/lunch duties were just pick-up. Drinks and food were paid for ahead of time or someone was given money to pay when they picked it up.

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels guilty about sending interns on coffee runs!

  24. Chriama*

    From what I can see, the boss gives you money to pay for his food and pays you for the time spent picking it up. The only issue I could see is if you don’t want to drive your own car due to insurance reasons or gas. For the first scenario, I’m pretty sure that could be easily worked out (some insurance policies will allow a certain amount of work use if it’s small enough — think admins who pick up supplies on their way to/from work). For the second scenario, you should be betting paid mileage, and if not it’s worth bringing to your boss’s attention that you have a strict budget for gas and can’t afford to drive your car. Worker’s comp definitely covers you during this time, although it might not have occurred to your boss so it’s worth pointing out when you have the discussion about mileage.

    To be honest, I’m surprised that the OP is so upset by this. In certain circumstances I agree that this is not ok in principle (e.g. if this was a power play by the boss, or only the women get asked to pick up lunch while the guys don’t) but given the facts explained by the OP, I would just chalk this up to one of the more annoying parts of my job and carry on. Is there something else going on that you didn’t mention, OP?

    1. Brooke*

      Yeah, I agree – I wonder why she’s upset as well, though I could see myself having that same reaction fifteen years ago.

  25. Dr. Pepper Addict*

    A few thoughts here OP.

    #1 – You could figure out how to file an expense report, and submit one for the mileage you spend going to get his lunches. I think the reimbursement cost now is over 50 cents per mile. A 6 mile round trip would add up if you did it once per week. If your boss or the company balk at this, perhaps they will stop asking you to go get the lunches.

    #2 – I for one would greatly enjoy the time to get out of the store/office and drive to a restaurant and kill 20 minutes. That’s free time away where you’re still getting paid and just driving around. During that time you can listen to music in the car or call someone and chat, without a boss looking over your shoulder. Is it possible to look at this in that light, as a way to get away from work instead of seeing it as a burden and something you’re being forced to do?

  26. Serin*

    Doing simple, necessary tasks as asked, even when they aren’t on your job description, is a no-brainer under most circumstances. But as a woman, I tend to be alert to the possibility that extra tasks are part of a pattern of secretary-ing me. Ask me to tighten a desk drawer one day, hang some posters at the library the next, and pick up lunch the next: fine. Ask me to replace the toner one day, type a report the next, and pick up lunch the next: I’m going to begin to worry that I’ve been demoted to office girl.

    1. Otter box*

      I was a finance/operations/customer service representative (yay cutting back jobs and combining responsibilities) in a retail store, and once my manager introduced me to the big bosses as “This is Otter box, my secretary.” This incident made me very sensitive to the phenomenon you’re describing, because he really did treat me like his personal secretary and he’d have never said that about a man.

  27. HRChick*

    I may be confused, but I don’t think that the OP was owed lunch for going to pick up her boss’ – especially since she was going to remain on the clock at that time. It doesn’t sound like the boss was expecting the OP to pay for his lunch at all. She was getting paid to support her manager. If she didn’t want to do that, she could have just said, “Sorry, I can’t today”. I’ve had our office assistant get me lunch sometimes because I couldn’t escape the office (it’s always on the days you don’t brown bag it, am I right?). It’s not in her job description, but she doesn’t mind doing it.

    Then again, when I DO go out, I ask her if she wants anything picked up. So maybe reciprocation is the issue?

    And did she really place an order for all her coworkers on her boss’ dime??

    1. Ad Astra*

      She definitely wasn’t owed lunch for picking up someone else’s, but it does come off as kind of rude to ask someone to bring you food and not offer to get them something too. Just like you don’t owe someone a drink when you make a Starbucks run, but it would be polite to ask the person next to you if they want you to pick them up something (and if you’re the boss, I’d sort of expect you to pay for it, but I would give a peer money upfront or maybe she’d loan me some and I’d get her back the next day).

      Some of that will depend on culture and the boss-employee dynamic at that company, so I get that it bugs me more than it might bug other people.

      I kind of assumed she collected money from everyone when she ordered lunch to be delivered, but I guess we don’t know. Ordering on the boss’s dime would be a weird choice.

    2. Rock*

      Yeah, I was unclear about that line, too.
      OP, if this is your boss’s money and you *did* decide to order food for more than him (and yourself as it reads like you did get permission for that) I think it’s important to remember that it’s not the company’s pocket providing the cash.
      Gifts roll down and all that, but not always in the form of burgers.

  28. Cass*

    If this is a retail store, which I suspect from the “store manager” title, this may be because the manager cannot leave the premises during their shift. While I worked at a mall clothing store, it was common to ask an employee to go grab meals from the food court for the manager. (The money was always provided, of course and the food court was obviously a lot closer.) but it was a genuine fire able offense for the manager. If I was in that position, I’d bring my own lunch but it may be not as egregious as it seems.

  29. Phoebe*

    I used to have a boss that did this- except he didn’t rotate the request. He would call on his way in and expect to have his lunch waiting for him on his desk when he arrived, The infuriating part was that, he always sent me to the same little place, which was ON HIS WAY into the office! I never did figure out why he couldn’t just stop and pick up his own lunch on the way to the office. Honestly, I think he did it purely for the sake of convenience (his, not mine) and I don’t think it ever crossed his mind what a PITA it was for me, or that it might not be the best use of my time.

  30. Jeanne*

    My suggestion is for OP to call her own insurance company. Ask if she would be covered while running work errands. If she would not be properly covered, she should ask for a copy of the insurance company’s rule on this. Then tell the boss next time that you can’t risk your insurance. Mine always asked me how far I commuted to work and if I used my car for any business purpose.

  31. chump with a degree*

    IF OP is in California, then this qualifies as a “special mission” and she would be covered by worker’s compensation during the lunch run. Should she be injured in a car accident, the company is on the hook for that injury. Seems like a lot more people get hurt behind the wheel than in a shop, and that is something HR might want to look into.

  32. Rock*

    I am… probably in the minority here, but I just don’t see what the big deal is? Your boss asks you to do something (that isn’t demeaning, endangering, or a hardship) so you do it. I’ve done this. It’s a little old fashioned, but certainly no big. Additionally, sometimes a meal compliments of the boss is part of the deal, sometimes it’s not, but when it is, it’s almost always a gift out of their pocket, not the company’s, so expecting it is… a little selfish. If it is the company paying, not the boss, that puts it in a slightly different light, but my take on it was that this was the boss’s lunch, paid for out of the boss’s pocket, and thus any lunch for the OP would also be out of the boss’s pocket. This is an errand in a business capacity, not a favor. My boss couldn’t get away/didn’t have time to deal with trivial things like food, so that was shoehorned into a rotational job for us.
    However I am coming at this from the POV of someone in a support role.
    If this is impacting your ability to get things done, I get it, and it should go to the person with the most free time/available transport. But if it’s just annoying, I’m afraid to say that in my book, sometimes that’s just the way jobs are. :(
    Hopefully you get to share the duty with some folks, OP, and so it’s not just you!

    1. Lindsay J*

      This. I wouldn’t have any problem doing this. Especially assuming this is retail and during the business day. If I’m getting paid my hourly rate it’s all the same to me whether I’m running a cash register, facing merchandise, handling the fitting room, or whatever.

      I might feel differently if I were in a project based job where having to go and grab the lunch meant my work would be sitting waiting for me when I got back and that I would then have to stay later to finish up. However, 2 miles each way (assuming the food is ordered over the phone before hand) is probably 10 minutes of time out of my day, so even then it really wouldn’t be a hardship.

      Would it be nice for the boss to pick up lunch for the employees every once in awhile? Sure. Should they expect it? No. Every store manager I know has made between $20k-$30k a year, maybe topping out at $40k. More than their employees, sure. But not enough to be buying two lunches regularly.

      It sounds like she does share the duty because she says he asks “one of us” rather than “me” and mentions that “all my other coworkers do it dutifully for him without complaint”.

  33. Ad Astra*

    Like I just can’t get over the idea that a large number of professional adults can’t or won’t make their own arrangements for lunch. How did they survive before they had assistants?

    1. Lindsay J*

      But getting the assistant to do it is the arrangement.

      It’s kind of like how a lot of people depend on the bus to get to work.

      However, if you buy a car then you might depend on the car instead. The car is now your arrangement.

      And, once you start depending on the car, if it breaks down one day it’s not as easy to just go and take the bus – you probably leave a lot later in the morning in your car vs. a bus. So on the day your car breaks down you can’t just hop on the bus to get to work – the car breaking down messes up your arrangement.

      Same as if you have begun depending on the assistant (and there are many business reasons why you might) for lunch, them refusing to get you lunch messes up your arrangement. You’re still physically capable of making yourself lunch or picking it up yourself. However your day isn’t arranged to accommodate that anymore. And changing it at the last second causes problems.

  34. Lindsay J*

    I would be upset if I were the manager and my employee handled this the way the OP is.

    If I asked and they said “no” I might mentally raise my eyebrows a bit since most employees seem to enjoy this task and don’t push back on it. However, I would say “that’s fine”, actually mean it, and move on to the next person.

    OP never said, “I don’t want to do that.” She made what I would take as a jokey comment about buying her lunch. (Seriously, every time I go out for lunch at my current job, my coworker asks “Where’s mine?” when I come back. Or when I brought food at a previous job, every time I went through security they would say “Oh, you brought me lunch. How nice!” I would take OPs comment in the same vein.)

    He *agreed* to buy her lunch as long as it cost around as much as his – which I took as basically as a , “Don’t get the lobster or one of everything” type of guideline.

    OP then, instead of going to get lunch, ordered delivery. Presumably the manager is completely capable of ordering delivery himself, and asks the employees to do it for some reason. Maybe there is a ridiculous delivery charge. Maybe delivery takes an hour vs the 10 minutes it would take the employee to drive 2 miles, pick up the food, and drive back. Maybe he likes letting the employees get off the sales floor for a few minutes to take a breather and clear their head and it never crossed his mind that some employees might not enjoy it.

    Did OP take advantage of the boss’s offer and let him pay for her burger anyway even though she actually didn’t go drive and pick it up? I don’t see mention of this one way or another.

    Now OP is planning on calling HR and making a big deal about it. Again, without ever saying “no” or talking to the boss about it.

    All this, combined with the “He never offers to buy us lunch” comment (seriously, why would he be obligated to buy him lunch. A lot of retail store managers don’t make very much and probably can’t afford to buy their employees lunch on a regular basis. Nor do they likely have the ability to expense employee meals to the company except on very special occasions. Bringing this up seems entitled to me.) and the “the handbook doesn’t say it’s part of our job” just make the employee seem like an excessively hostile pain in the ass to me.

    My view would be different if she pushed back in person and the boss insisted on her doing it anyway. (Though I still would feel the ordering delivery stunt was in the wrong). But in that case, if she said that she doesn’t want to do it or isn’t comfortable with it and he pushed her to do it anyway I could see bringing it up to HR or the district manager or whoever. Or if she had actual evidence of retribution against an employee who refused.

    But she hasn’t given this boss to prove whether or not he is a reasonable person yet, she’s just defaulted towards assuming he is unreasonable.

  35. maple bar heaven*

    At my old job my supervisor would have me get her lunch when I did the weekly Friday post office run. One Friday I pulled out of the fast food parking lot and was hit by a truck that ran a red light. I was out of work for several weeks, and didn’t have a car for several more. Everything was paid for by the company and L&I, but the whole experience was such a hassle. The lawyers, going to court, all of the forms.

    In the future, supervisor picked up her own lunch. And today I still have pain in my shoulder occasionally. Worst case scenario but you never know.

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