I haven’t told my employer I don’t have a car, my mentee is a bad person, and more

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

1. I haven’t told my employer I don’t have a car

I’ve been working in a new job as an assistant for a few months. Due to a few different circumstances, I don’t have a car, but recently, I found a coworker who I can carpool with. However, my employer has asked me a few times to run errands for him. In order to run these errands, I’ve been using Uber and just swallowing the cost.

Today I was asked to do an errand, but was unable to do it due to my carpool situation. As a result, this drew another employee away from the office. Later, he expressed that I needed to bring my car in for occasional errands.

Is it appropriate for me to mention my transportation situation? They just assumed that I have a car, and never asked me; I also don’t have to do it very often. But I don’t want that to put my job at risk in any way.

You have to explain that you don’t have a car! You absolutely shouldn’t be using Uber and paying for it yourself and letting them believe you have a car (which will just lead to more of these requests). It’s going to be weirder now than it should be because when your colleague asked you to bring your car in, you didn’t take the opportunity to say right then, “Actually, I don’t have a car.” But you still need to say it! Go talk to your manager and say, “I wanted to mention to you that I don’t don’t have a car. I used Uber the few other times you asked me to run errands, not realizing it would be a regular thing, but since it sounds like it will be, I wanted to mention it. I’d be glad to take a cab when we need errands run if I can expense it, but I’m not sure you’d want me to do that.”

It really shouldn’t put your job at risk since you say the need is only occasional. (I mean, it shouldn’t put it at risk regardless because if a car was a job requirement, they should have told you that up-front, but you especially shouldn’t need to worry about it in this case.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I’ve learned that my mentee isn’t a very good person

I recently left a manager job where my duties included hiring recent college graduates and training them in my field (there’s a shortage of talent in my field in the city I live in). One guy really took to the job, and I think he could have a bright future in our industry. He eventually got a much better job somewhere else, and I wished him well and offered to continue being a mentor to him.

When he worked for me, I got the sense in one-on-one chats that he was kind of arrogant and tended to be negative and critical in his judgments of other people. The quality of his work was good, though, and he was a good collaborator who everyone liked working with, so other than mentioning it as an area to work on, I didn’t have to take any other action as his manager.

Now that neither of us works for the company anymore, I’ve hung out with him several times with other former coworkers. I think he feels he can let the “mask” slip now that we don’t work together anymore, and frankly, I’m starting to think he’s a horrible person. He seems to openly despise anyone he feels isn’t as smart as he is, and is vehemently anti-religion, so will spend time spewing invective about many of our former coworkers (most of whom are perfectly nice, normal people). This is a really ugly side of him and not something I want to be around.

If this happened with someone I just knew socially, I would just stop hanging out with him. I know that he sees me as a mentor and looks up to me, though. If someone called me for a reference, I think it would be appropriate for me to keep my comments to what I knew about what he’s like to work with, not how he is as a person. Knowing what I know now, though, I wouldn’t hire him to work for me again – and I’d be hesitant to do much to introduce him to my pretty substantial network of industry contacts. Do I owe it to him to talk to him about this?

I don’t think you owe it to him, and if you’d prefer to just distance yourself, I think that’s fine. But I also think that you’d be doing him a service if you did choose to say something. (Ideally, it could have been in the moment when he made those comments, but there’s no reason you can’t do it now.)

Frankly, I also think it would be reasonable to factor this into future references. The knowledge you gained of him after you stopped working together is perfectly fair game for references; you’re not obligated to endorse someone who you now think is an awful person. But even leaving that aside, while you worked together you observed that he was “arrogant and tended to be negative and critical in his judgments of other people.” That’s relevant information that most reference-checkers would want to hear (along with the fact that the quality of his work was good — and then let them decide how much to weigh each factor). So if you think he’s likely to provide your name as a reference, I’d definitely err on the side of talking with him and sharing your concerns.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Fired employee keeps getting lots of personal email at his old work account

After a member of our team was fired, I was given the task of managing his projects. Since a big chunk of that is communicating with customers, I took over his old email mailbox and monitor it for correspondence that I might need to answer.

Here’s the thing. He apparently used this email for personal reasons too– I keep getting emails from his lawyer, family members, doctors, accountant, plaintiffs in legal cases, and exes suing for child support. This despite having an auto-reply saying “this email account is no longer active”– I still get repeated pings from the same people, with increasing urgency.

This a) is super awkward and makes me feel like a creepy voyeur even if the only thing I read is the teaser line from Outlook, and b) kinda makes me want to reply to some of these to let them know that he doesn’t have access to it and other people do, and maybe send them his forwarding address or forward it to him. I mean, there are HIPAA violations, violations of lawyer confidentiality, etc. Plus I don’t bear the guy any ill will and feel like it might be a problem that he’s missing these. My boss does bear the guy ill will, so if I ask he’ll say don’t bother, but he won’t care either way. What would you do?

I’d write back and say “Joe no longer works here, so please stop sending emails to this address.” Alternately, if it’s not a huge pain, I might send the email from your own address so they know it’s not just Joe pretending not to work there in order to avoid his exes.

I don’t think I’d get into providing his new address (unless you have his permission) or forwarding him the messages.

Also, is there any legitimately work-related email coming into that account still? If not, you might just have the whole account turned off, so that people who email it get a bounce message saying that their email was undeliverable (and so you don’t have to sort through these messages anymore).

4. My boss asked me what my goals are, and I have no idea

My boss asked me today to write down some professional goals for furthering my career, and I am totally stuck. I currently work as a program coordinator for a nonprofit (and I love it), but the position is temporary and will only be for the next year. Since I am new to the workforce, my boss really wants to mentor me and help me along … which is awesome, but I don’t know what I should want to improve on. I’ve been working here for a year and have never really had a performance review, so besides what can be achieved through self-reflection, I don’t know what/if benchmarks I’m not reaching. Any direction on this would be greatly appreciated!

Actually, this is a great thing to discuss with your boss in response to his request. You could say something like this: “Since I’m at the start of my career, I feel like I don’t yet have a good handle on what goals for myself at this stage might look like. I’d love your guidance on what I should be thinking about since I’m not sure where to even start, but I like the idea of doing some work to figure it out.” (That last part is there so that it’s clear you’re not just punting, but genuinely asking for advice.)

Also, keep in mind that this kind of thing isn’t necessarily about what benchmarks you’re not currently reaching. That could be part of it, but don’t limit yourself to thinking of deficiencies; think about strengths you’d like to build too, and what kind of professional path you’d like to set yourself up to follow.

5. Taking dessert home when someone treats you to lunch

When a friend treats me to lunch at a restaurant, is it proper to order a dessert to take home, when I’m full and cannot eat it there?

I don’t think this is a work question, but I’ll answer it anyway: No, that would be rude. Your friend invited you to share a meal with her; it wasn’t an offer to buy you food for later. (Of course, if your friend says, “Please get something and take it with you for later,” you can take her up on that — but you’d need to wait for her to offer it.)

{ 319 comments… read them below }

  1. Fred*

    #2: You can tell him that the way he treats other people will bite him in the ass in the future, and can impact negatively on his career. You telling him that can be part of the mentoring.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Yep. And that he’s probably not as good at hiding his real self as he thinks he is.

      1. Bookworm*

        Exactly. OP did mention that she was picking up on something even prior to him leaving.

        I also think that because OP was in a mentorship position, this guy didn’t fully relax until after he’d left the org. But it’s totally possible that he’s more relaxed with his peers…and as those people get promoted and move around the industry, they’re going to remember the impression he’s making now.

        1. Rubu*

          LW #2 here – I think that’s a really good point, and an angle I hadn’t considered before. It’s not just the impression he’s making on me, but on other people in our city and field, who he’ll definitely encounter again over the course of his career.

          1. Bend & Snap*

            and that’s all the more reason to back away: so he doesn’t tell people you’re his mentor.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            Perhaps you could even open the conversation with “remember when you were working for me and I mentioned in our one on one you should work on your attitude?”

    2. Mookie*

      Right, and it’s best to limit your comments about the professional consequences of social gaffes and the need to develop keen social skills to a working environment carefully using whatever concrete but politically neutral examples you can find. If you mention his non work-related views explicitly, though, he may dismiss your advice entirely and decide that you’re suggesting he “censor” himself (which many outspoken, prickly, self-lauding people find terribly oppressive and Orwellian and such) and therefore may have the opposite effect. Then again, if he reacts this way, it’s a good opportunity to inform him that he wouldn’t be well-served having you as a reference in the future because, no matter his feelings on the subject, you find his close-mindedness and quickness to judge and dismiss as unworthy anyone of a different stripe liabilities for professional development (besides which, one can’t grow if they already think they’re an authority on everything) and that you would hesitate having a personality like his on a team of your own. He should already know that hiring managers hire for soft skills, too, one of which is the ability and willingness to cooperate and collaborate with people without needing the protection of an echo chamber at all times.

      1. Rubu*

        OP here – I definitely think the “soft skills” aspect is something he’s not really considering w/r/t his career. He’s really smart and learns fast, and I think that will take him a fair ways down the road, but sooner or later he’s going to run into an advancement opportunity where “how he is to work with and be around” will be a deciding factor, and then he’ll be in trouble.

        1. Green*

          That’s important to tell him — that he’ll continue advancing for a bit based solely on his intelligence and agility, but that to move into higher level roles he will have needed to invest in soft skills throughout his career. It’s not something you can ignore and then just “work on it later” because by then “how he is to work with” is pretty established.

        2. Koko*

          Yes, and you might point out that there are two things he can do with this information:

          1) Believe that it’s unfair because soft skills have nothing to do with how talented it is, and spend the rest of his career feeling persecuted and resentful
          2) Believe that it matters and learn to develop soft and hard skills alike

          Because believing it’s unfair won’t stop it from mattering and impacting him negatively his whole career.

          1. Rubu*

            It’s also a good time to talk to him about soft skills as being something you can hone and work on, and not just something you do or don’t have, which is what a lot of people think – I know that realization was valuable to me in my own career.

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          Unfortunately, people like this often do not realize how they’re coming across. He might not take it very well, but it’s still worth attempting to make him aware. That’s all you can really do.

          1. Artemesia*

            I agree. I have benefited from feedback like this from friends and I think it is worth taking the trouble to provide this feedback ONCE. Couch it in career context and be specific about the kinds of things that are harmful. Some people are not socially sensitive and this is somewhat regional. In the south, knifes are but in backs with much finesse and someone who doesn’t know the code can plunder in professional and social relationships.

        4. Lurker Ama*

          This happened with someone at my company. He was amazingly skilled at what he does, but such an arrogant pain to work with, that his department felt it better to let him go (despite just picking up a brand new project that will be a LOT of work) and suck it up through the hiring process rather than keep him on.

          He did not get it, and to him, the company is full of people who “just don’t appreciate good work.”

          1. Windchime*

            Or “I am a straight-shooter who doesn’t BS and they didn’t like it.” I’ve heard that before from people who are hard to work with. One guy at OldJob would proudly proclaim, “Hey, I’m an asshole. That’s just how I am.” Uh. Yeah. You say that like it’s a *good* thing.

        5. Observer*

          It’s important that he hears it from someone.

          I have no doubt that @mookie is correct about your mentee probably complaining about self-censorship. You should point out to him that mature adults do that all the time. It’s called being polite, easy to work with, etc.

      2. Chalupa Batman*

        Good point about being careful to phrase the advice in a politically neutral way. People who often say rude things without regard for how they’ll impact others also tend to be quick to cry censorship or say they’re being asked not to be themselves when asked to be, you know, considerate of other people’s basic rights and feelings. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone proudly announce that they “tell it like it is” or “don’t care about political correctness” and later determined that this was their way of trying to spin the fact that they’re an inconsiderate jerk into a positive.

    3. LBK*

      Yes, and I’d actually say you don’t really have a mentoring relationship if you can’t give someone this kind of feedback. That’s part of what differentiates a mentor from a normal coworker/peer/manager – they’re supposed to give you more candid advice than you’d get elsewhere.

      1. Rubu*

        Excellent point – I am very relieved that you guys and Alison agree that I wouldn’t be overstepping my bounds by saying something.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      But LW#2 says in her letter that people liked working with him and that he collaborated well with others. He sounds like a total jackass in their social interactions, but it sounds like this guy may be smart enough to keep the “mask” on in professional circumstances.

      I don’t know. On the one hand, I don’t like condescending jackasses. On the other hand, if this person was a productive member of the team who didn’t act upon his internal jackassedness in the workplace, I don’t know that it’s entirely fair to provide a bad reference without acknowledging that there was no issue with his work-place relations. It’s certainly possible, as Bookworm suggestions, that his mask will slip more as he gets higher up the ladder and no longer has to ingratiate himself to others, but the issue here seems to be more the contrast between the work experience (generally good employee who people liked collaborating with) and the personal experience (condescending jerk who thinks everyone else is a moron).

    5. KH*

      I just wanted to comment that someone can be strongly anti-religion and still perfectly nice and morally straight. Religion is not a prerequisite to being a good person. Many, many people have serious doubts about religion and simply cannot believe any of it, but still be ethically and morally as sound as a person who is religious.

      It seems to be a common argument that religion is needed to keep society from devolving into anarchy – that is simply not the case.

  2. V2*

    Re: #3, we usually set an out-of-office message when an employees leaves saying so-and-so has left the company and all (business-related, implied) issues should go to their manager, with the manager’s email address. We do that for a some amount of time, I think 90 days or so, and then shut down the email address. Not sure how long ago the firing was, but if you’re not ready to just shut it down, you could still set the auto-reply. That way you’ll continue getting business-related emails sent to the former employee but not feel guilty about ignoring the personal stuff.

    1. Sunflower*

      You can also include on the Outlook message that the account isn’t being monitored/checked.

    2. Sadsack*

      OP wrote that there is an auto reply already, but it probably only was delivered the first time each of the people sent him an email. They may have missed it. OP could turn auto reply off and change the message more to what you suggested, then turn it back on so everyone gets it when they write him again. Then set a date when the mailbox will be turned off. It doesn’t make sense to have it going forever.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Depending on your mail program, you can usually change the auto reply setting to send after every single incoming message. It’s not the default, probably because it’s annoying for basic out-of -the-office emails, but it would be useful in this situation.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Exactly what I was thinking. But, it sounds like the senders are ignoring it, anyway. Maybe the bulk of these emails are the type one doesn’t normally reply to anyhow. Like FYI’s and “here are your documents” from the lawyer and such. Or like Op said, they just don’t believe he’s not really working there anymore, which makes sense for the child support stuff, but not sure about the rest of it.

  3. Bee Eye LL*

    #3 – I work in IT and this comes up from time to time. The advice to have the account totally shut off is a good one. That way the server will send them a return message saying “account not found”. We usually do so after a month or two of the person leaving, because at that point any correspondence should have shifted over to the replacement.

    One option you have is to export all of his old email to a .PST file, assuming you use Outlook, then import the contents of that PST into your own account and put it in a folder under his name. Then you can turn off his account and still have a copy of all his old mail.

    1. OP #3*

      That’s a good idea to export the old mail. I may implement that as now I believe I have all of his contacts shifted and it’s just a matter of digging out records.

  4. Caryatis*

    #3: Have you tried telling Joe that people are trying to reach him at the old address? I dont know whether he actually wants these emails, but I think you owe it to him to tell him about the situation once.

    1. Irishgal*

      Surely if I leave a job and know I have been using that email for personal reasons it’s up to me to inform my friends, family, lawyers etc of the change? It’s called being an adult?

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Joe was fired and appears to be skipping out on child support to boot, so it’s probably not safe to assume he acts appropriately.

          1. ted mosby*

            This needs to stop now. In many cases you sue for child suport in order to make it legally enforceable (as opposed to an informal agreement). You have no idea if he’s “skipping out” on anything. No need to invent vigilante narratives in your head.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              Easy there. Someone unfamiliar with the process, like myself, wouldn’t know. Not knowing the difference is not the same as inventing vigilante narratives in your head.

              1. Cactus*

                Precisely, and there are readers/commenters here from different countries who are possibly unfamiliar with the US’ child support system (if LW#3 does indeed live in the US).

        1. LBK*

          I agree, but I don’t think that therefore means you owe it to him to help him clean up this mess by reminding him of all the emails his missing.

          1. pope suburban*

            Agreed. We recently, finally, let got of a terrible employee who’d been using his work phone for everything imaginable– and letting his girlfriend do the same. I’ve told the utility companies, the cable people, his debt collectors, social services, and several elementary schools that this is a business line, and the employee is no longer with us. Doing all this work does not make me more inclined to reach out and clean up after someone I’ve already cleaned up after more than enough. Rather, it makes me certain we did the right thing in letting him go, because this is his attitude toward all things.

            1. Creag an Tuire*

              “several elementary schools”

              It makes me sad that there is at least one elementary-aged child being dragged through this clusterfrog of a life. :(

          2. Anna*

            I don’t think it’s about owing anyone anything (except child support, apparently). It’s really just a courtesy and then closing the account entirely. Or at least not monitoring it. “Hey Joe, you’ve been receiving a lot of personal emails at your old work address. Just so you know, we’ll be suspending that account next week so if there’s anyone you need to let know, be aware this is coming.” End of interaction.

      2. hbc*

        Some people are…not that bright. My old manager told us when he left that a great opportunity fell into his lap and that he hadn’t been looking. However, he forgot to unsubscribe to all the job search lists that he had been using.

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            There are some companies out there that autosubscribe professionals. I am on some lawyer jobs email spam thing I never signed up for and it is attached to my work email. The only reason I never blocked/unsubscribed is they have some cases against them for suing for renewed memberships when people claim they never subscribed. If they started demanding money of me, I’d want those emails.

      3. plain_jane*

        I was on the receiving end of a several emails when a co-worker in the midst of a divorce left the company on their own terms and didn’t tell their soon to be ex.

        I’ve heard other stories though of people who are let go, and then it’s discovered they were using their primary work address for a side business (don’t do this). Don’t use your work address for LinkedIn (you don’t want your old work seeing emails back and forth while you are job searching, and ppl who are reaching out to commiserate might not be as careful with their language through LinkedIn messages). Also, don’t use it for online services that aren’t directly tied to your work. If you have a mix, have a second account that is yours.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Yes to not doing your side business at work. A couple places I’ve worked even had a clause in the employee handbook (that you sign acknowledging you received and read it) that they had partial rights to any work product you create for another business while on their clock (so to speak). Forget exactly how it’s worded.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            At SecondJob, that was what happened. There was a guy who was doing his side business during work hours and telling people who brought him work to do that he was “too busy.” Some day, someone else used his computer to look for something when he wasn’t there and found all his projects. He was fired instantly and walked out when he came back from wherever he was.

            1. Windchime*

              We had a guy who was a manager with literally nothing to do. No deliverables, and he let his people self-manage (and they did it badly). He brought in his iPad and keyboard and did his day-trading side business from his office. It wasn’t a secret; everyone could see that he was doing it. It went on for months but when the big layoffs came due to downsizing, he and several of his team were on the chopping block. That was kind of satisfying.

        2. Creag an Tuire*

          I’m reminded of how many obvious work e-mails came out of that Ashley Madison leak. Some people just Do Not Get It.

    2. Allison*

      I agree. Since he was using that address, he should know to tell all these people to use a different e-mail address to contact him, but clearly he hasn’t, so it doesn’t hurt to tell him.

      That said, he might not want these people to know he no longer has a job, since a bunch of them seem to be after money he owes them, or expecting him to maintain employment.

    3. the_scientist*

      Agreed, assuming the OP has a way to contact Joe. I mean, it sounds like he’s trying to dodge paying child support, so I would be money that the phone number on file is out of service and he possibly doesn’t check his personal email (if he even has one), but I do think it’s worth a shot. I can also speak from personal experience that you would likely be surprised at the number of people who do not regularly check their personal email accounts, or don’t have one at all……seriously. It’s inconceivable to me, but there are definitely people out there who are like that.

      Also, if he was fired more than three months ago, it’s time to delete the account entirely. In Outlook you can make a copy of someone’s inbox and save it- do that and then just delete the account. You can’t be Joe’s personal mail consultant indefinitely.

      1. OP#3*

        I actually do have his contact information. I have his phone, personal email, and his wife’s contact information (she also works for the company).

        It’s only been about a month. I was ready to shut it down, but recently got an invoice from a vendor who we had forgotten to update.

    4. Green*

      I get calls and texts regularly from people trying to book a massage with the person who used to have my phone number. I tell the people they have the wrong number, but it’s their job to update their contacts or risk missing information. (And it sounds like some of this information is stuff he’s trying to miss…)

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        There was a big news story up here when a girl was getting calls for an escort service. She had just gotten the new phone number and wasn’t even 16 (I can’t remember how old she was 13 maybe?) The parents were outraged, understandably so, that this was happening. I don’t know how they finally resolved it. I would hope the girl got a new number and that was that.

    5. Kimberlee, Esq*

      Generally, when I have taken over old email addresses and gotten personal emails for old owners, I will forward everything to the person’s new address for a couple weeks. It’s not that hard or time consuming to hit forward, autofill an address, and put something like FYI this came to your old work email. After a point, I don’t bother, and maybe sheer volume in this case makes that impractical, but that’s what I’ve always done as a courtesy.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        (These were also email accounts that, for various reasons, couldn’t be shut off for 1 year + after the person left… they might be tied to logins at various accounts, they might get important annual notices, etc. So shutting down totally wan’t really an option, we needed to keep access to the info. I found that once I’d forwarded the email, I almost never got another one from them, indicating the owner was being good about updating their info once it was flagged for them. They might just have no idea who all has that email versus their personal one.)

    6. OP #3*

      That’s what I’m wondering, but since I took over his projects I’m worried it will cause him to be upset or angry with me for reading his email, and I have zero interest in a fight over this.

  5. abankyteller*

    5. There is a difference in ordering a dessert to go, and ordering a dessert that you eat some of and then wrap up what you can’t finish. The former is rude and also really odd, but the latter is fine. I’d be interested to hear the argument that someone thought the former was okay.

    1. Please don’t ever run a work errand on your own dime again! In fact, even if you had a car, some personal car insurance policies wouldn’t cover you if you were running a work errand and got into an accident, so be careful.

    1. Sarah G*

      I would argue that ordering dessert at all is not appropriate if someone is treating you to a meal, unless the friend orders dessert, then it’s fine to follow their lead. Same with alcoholic drinks.

      If you really want a dessert to go, you could always ask for the dessert on a separate check, and tell your friend that you want it for later and prefer to cover the cost yourself.

      1. MK*

        I wouldn’t even do that, to be honest; it might make some people fell obligated to offer to pay for the dessert. Just stop at a patisserie on you way home.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            If it was a close friend and this particular restaurant had a dessert I REALLY wanted to try but I was stuffed, I would totally pull an “Oh my god I have been absolutely DYING to try the carrot cake here but I am STUFFED, I am going to get one and put it on a separate check, do you want half?”

            But I’d only do that with people close enough to know how seriously I take desserts and that I absolutely mean the separate check thing because no one is actually expected to finance my seriousness re: desserts unless they are my boyfriend and it is my birthday.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Agreed. I once took a friend to lunch and then she wanted to order two kids’ meals to go and it made me feel really awkward, I didn’t want the server to have to go back and separate the bill after the fact, so I just paid for that too.

      2. BananaPants*

        For business dinners I follow the lead of the manager/executive who’s paying (our company policy is that the highest-ranking employee present uses their corporate card and expenses a meal). Alcoholic drinks are ordered 100% of the time, but dessert is unusual.

        I would not get a dessert to go on the company dime or when being treated by a friend. If you want dessert, eat it there.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I wouldn’t order dessert on my own dime w/ a friend because I think the underlying message is “I used you to pay for part of my meal,” when really it should be “I accepted your invitation to spend time with you.”
        And I agree with a statement below that you shouldn’t order dessert unless you’re sure you’ll be able to eat it. (If dessert is surprisingly large, then taking home half is OK.)
        If you don’t have room to finish dessert, you don’t have room to ask someone else to treat you to it.

        (Any hospitality comments from your host aside, of course; but I don’t envision that happening very often.)

      4. Green*

        If I am treating someone to a meal, I wouldn’t want them to skip out on a normal part of a meal that they might enjoy because they were worried it was inappropriate! If I’ve invited someone out, I’ve looked at the apps, entrees and desserts and am comfortable providing a 3-course meal to them. Don’t order the $350 bottle of wine, of course, but I don’t have a problem paying for a normal meal if I’ve issued the invitation.

        Now that’s distinguished from getting food with the sole intention of taking it home…

      5. Artemesia*

        This. People who order big because someone else if paying are likely to have few friends soon. It is just abusive. You always take the lead from the other person’s order and ordering something to go on their dime is the kind of thing people post in their groups under ‘you won’t believe what my friend did when I took her to lunch.’

        1. MsChandandlerBong*

          Reminds me of my FIL’s wife. Any time someone else picks up the tab, she orders an appetizer, an expensive entree, dessert, four of five glasses of wine, one or two cups of espresso with shots of Frangelico, etc. Not surprisingly, she has absolutely no friends, because her greediness and selfishness extend to other areas of her life.

    2. lawsuited*

      There is a difference, but really, if you know you’re full, don’t order a dessert so you can take a bite and keep the rest for later. I attended a business lunch where a summer student ordered an entree, ate half, and asked for the rest to be packed up, then ordered dessert, ate half, and asked for the rest of that to be packed up as well! As we were leaving the restaurant, he said “great, now I don’t have to buy my lunch tomorrow!” That was the last business lunch we took him too, and ultimately turned out to be indicative of generally poor social skills so he was not hired back.

      1. MK*

        Maybe it’s a culture thing, but I always took it for granted that when someone else is paying, you order as conservatively as possible; not too many dishes, o alcohol, no dessert, not something that is twice the price of everything else in the menu. I know that she I take friends out to eat I am pro-active about suggesting ordering these things, because guests won’t order them otherwise.

        1. Allison*

          I did too, my parents definitely taught me that if someone else is paying (someone other than them, anyway) I should stay away from the most expensive things on the menu unless they spring for something pricey. But honestly, this is a big part of why I like being the one who pays every now and then, because then the pressure of being the polite guest is off and I can order whatever I want. Steak tastes better than chivalry.

          1. MK*

            Eh I can’t say I find it a particular hardship. Most restaurants price the majority of their dishes around a certain point, with a few below that and one or two that cost a lot more. Staying away from the last ones on the (not all that common) occasions that I am a guest isn’t so tough.

        2. matcha123*

          I do the same. Even if I know that the person can afford it, I don’t think it’s in good taste to load up on things…especially if I won’t be able to return the favor.

        3. Wendy Darling*

          I totally calculate and ask people what they’re ordering, partly so I know what looks good and partly to calibrate price point. If I have my eye on something a bit more expensive and someone is treating me, I also find something less expensive I would also like to eat just in case. I don’t want to order the $30 pork chop when everyone else ordered the $18 pasta, yanno? But if everyone else is ordering steaks, then the $30 pork chop is fine.

        4. INTP*

          I was taught to match your ordering to the host’s, or stay slightly below in price. If the host orders a glass of wine, you can order wine or beer, but avoid pricey cocktails. If the host orders a steak, you can order a steak, but if she orders a salad, you should stay within the salad-sandwich price range. If the host doesn’t order alcohol, appetizers, dessert, etc, you should not do so either. However, if the host orders drinks, appetizers, a steak, and dessert, you also shouldn’t order a grilled cheese and water, which could be equally off-putting.

          I think, though, that this might be one of those rules that isn’t universal amongst different backgrounds. I remember when I was in high school, I participated in a local college’s summer program, and there were also a number of participants from rural areas staying in the dorms. The college meant to host a pizza night, but the pizza place was closed, and they took us to Olive Garden and let us order for ourselves. A table of the more rural students ordered literally every appetizer on the menu (plus their entrees) and then bragged about it. I was horrified, but based on their openness, they seemed to have no idea that it would be remotely frowned upon. It could be that people are also bringing that attitude into business lunches or even situations where other individuals are paying.

            1. LD*

              I don’t think that was the point. I think it was that typically appetizers are expected to be shared, and that a dinner treat is not an opportunity to order everything on the appetizer menu plus your entrée. It sounds like the point was most likely that the guests, young though they were, had not been taught that being treated didn’t mean taking advantage in a way that would be perceived as rude. “Hey! FREE FOOD! LET’S ORDER ALL OF IT AND THEN BRAG ABOUT HOW WE WERE ABLE TO GET SO MANY DIFFERENT THINGS! WHEE!” I’m familiar with young and inexperienced people who don’t go out much or have much variety of restaurants to choose from, and this seems about right for their behavior. They haven’t had the experience or the situations to learn in, so they go with their excitement about the options and that someone else is picking up the bill. It’s possible that some of them were actually taught to take every advantage when someone else is paying, but it’s more likely they got carried away by “WOW! WE CAN CHOOSE WHATEVER WE WANT!” (since apparently there were no criteria for what to order) and so they ordered everything that looked good or that they wanted to sample. It could be poor manners or poor experience but it’s not hard to imagine that without explicit instructions a group of kids/teens would use poor judgment, too.

              1. INTP*

                Yeah, I was trying to say, Here’s an experience I had in which restaurant behavior came across as greedy like the intern’s, and to me it felt completely evident that this was Not Okay, but maybe that particular tenet of dining etiquette is not universal so it doesn’t actually say negative things about the people involved. I was horrified at the time because I had grown up in a culture where that would be horrifying behavior and at 17 I was not yet fully aware that what felt like etiquette common sense to me wasn’t universally common sense. With a bit more experience in the world I still think it was Absolutely Not Okay from a business etiquette perspective, but unlikely to be any intentional breach of etiquette – just like the intern’s behavior probably wasn’t intentionally rude, though many of us have mentioned that it seemed like common sense not to do that.

          1. Katniss*

            I hate to be prickly about this, but why is the fact that they were rural relevant? Rural people have manners too.

            1. INTP*

              It was relevant because I was mentioning the possibility that that piece of business etiquette isn’t universally known and practiced amongst people of all backgrounds. It’s been mentioned here many times that people’s backgrounds, particularly their parents’ jobs, influence how much standard white collar business etiquette they learn.

            2. TychaBrahe*

              Rural people who live in areas where there are fewer restaurants don’t have the opportunities to dine out frequently that someone from a more cosmopolitan area might.

              I had dinner recently with my nephews, a friend, and her daughter. The older nephew, 12, had been given money by his father that he was supposed to give to me to pay for the dinner. Instead, I suggested he hold onto it, and we would split the bill in thirds. He would pay for his younger brother, my friend would pay for her and her daughter, and I would pay a third. I showed him how to split the bill and we talked about the importance of tipping. Someday he is going to be dining out with his friends as a high school or college student, and he will now know how to handle these things.

              This wasn’t a special event dinner. It was a thing where his mother had a business meeting that ran late and his father was dealing with a client out of state, so I picked the boys up from school.

              That kid of easy access to a restaurant is less common in rural communities, and makes dining out less common, and the opportunity for these lessons rare.

        5. Just Another Techie*

          Same, but on the other hand you can take it too far. One time I offered to treat a friend and his parents, in celebration of his graduating college (finally, after many false starts and failed attempts), and to my great sadness, they all ordered tiny side salads and the like. It felt pretty bad, actually, as the “host” in that situation, that my guests didn’t feel like they could follow my and my husband’s lead (we each ordered upper-mid range steaks) and super awkward that we were eating steak and our guests were eating rabbit food. (And these are people who I know are typically meat and potato types; salad was definitely unusual for them.)

      2. LBK*

        You probably had a better read on the situation than I would not being there, but that doesn’t seem that weird to me unless it was really clear he purposely ate half just to save it so he wouldn’t have to buy lunch the next day. I’m an insatiable sweet tooth so I’ll only be able to eat half of a large entree but still want dessert sometimes (or I’ll purposely save room for dessert by not finishing my entree).

        1. Not Karen*

          I admit to doing the same…

          If it’s a “business lunch,” then the company should be footing the bill anyway, so why does it matter what it costs?

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Because, at least where I am, a “business lunch” does not mean carte blanche to spend whatever you want and can read as not understanding the “rules” of professionalism. I have no idea what the company policies are of people who take me to lunch — maybe they have an unlimited expense account, maybe they get a certain amount and then it comes out of their commission — so I follow the same rule I would if I was dining with a friend — follow their cues and don’t take advantage of their generosity. With business lunches, you never know if you’re eating with someone very old-school on manners or more relaxed, and a piece of cheesecake, to me, is not worth running afoul of someone very conservative.

            I’ve never seen anyone blink at having leftovers wrapped up, but if someone ordered more than one course to a meal, only ate part of them, and then continued to order more food, it would be looked at askance. If you absolutely must have dessert and cannot finish an entree, it might be a better idea to choose a smaller option for a meal (like a salad, soup, or appetizer). A lot of sit-downs around here have lunch or “lighter-side” portions that are much smaller.

        2. Koko*

          Yeah, this one gave me pause. I’m a tiny girl and restaurant portions are HUGE, way more than I could ever eat. Do I really never get to eat dessert because I can’t finish my entree and still have room for dessert? Assuming everyone else ordered a dessert, why can’t I eat the amount of entree that leaves enough room for a small amount of dessert and get the same meal experience as everyone with bigger appetites?

          Would it make a difference if he hadn’t had the uneaten halves boxed up for a doggy bag? I will say that when I’m on a business lunch I pretty much never take a doggy bag even if I only ate half the meal.

          1. MK*

            I think the problem is that he gave the impression he was deliberately trying to get an extra free meal out of the business. I don’t know anyone who monitors their coworkers’ food intake to see if they are all their meal!

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Exactly, and you’d know it’s deliberate if he also dumped all the uneaten bread from the basket into his to go bag too (yep, I’ve had friends do that too, but I wouldn’t judge too much on that if I knew the person had fallen on hard financial times).

              1. Not Karen*

                Why shouldn’t you do that? The leftover bread is going to get thrown away. Wouldn’t it be better if someone took it home and ate it?

                1. TootsNYC*

                  well, yes, if you’re willing to run the risk that other people will think you’re avaricious.

        3. INTP*

          I think it also matters whether other people ordered dessert. If you order the same amount of food as other people and simply couldn’t eat it all (but ate some of everything), that’s fine. If you are the only person at the table to order dessert, that’s kind of off-putting in and of itself, but especially bad if you clearly didn’t need it because you didn’t finish your entree and you also don’t finish it.

      3. Granite*

        Yeah – it all depends on the tone. As an intern, if everyone else ordered dessert, I would too, just to follow the norm. And on a tight budget, I’d keep any leftovers I could. Saying I didn’t have to buy a lunch the next day could be a sincere expression of gratitude.

        This wasn’t addressed in your story so may not be relevant, but I would also use caution in judging an intern for this, as not only do these type of social skills need to be learned, you have to know you need to learn them. Depending on your socio-economic background, you may not have any idea. I would see this as a mentoring opportunity, followed by a second chance. Also an illustration of the importance of telling interns and other new/young employees what is expected of them in the meetings, food involved or not, they are attending.

        1. Jennifer M.*

          Exactly. Lawsuited did say that the intern had generally poor social skills and this was merely an example of it, but I think the point of having interns is to give them exposure to some of the soft skills you need in the workforce. Plus, I don’t know where this incident occurred, but interning in a high COL area could mean that two days in a row of not having to worry about lunch is a significant percentage of the budget.

          1. Not LS*

            In Lawsuited’s case, I’m assuming this is a summer associate at a law firm (NOT the same as most intern-type positions) and are generally paid pretty well. There’s also a (possibly waning) culture of the summer associates being taken to lunch at multiple times throughout the summer, so this may not have been a one-off instance. And wouldn’t dessert when getting lunch be…weird?

            1. fposte*

              Never heard that it’s weird to get dessert with lunch. Presumably it’s a pretty widespread custom since restaurants feel it’s worthwhile to have dessert on their lunch menu.

              1. Artemesia*

                In the dozens of business lunches I have done in my life I can count on one hand the number which included dessert ordering. It is more common at dinner, but in my experience rare at lunch and I definitely wouldn’t do it unless the table were doing it.

                1. fposte*

                  I agree I wouldn’t do it at a business lunch unless the table was, but Not LS asked explicitly if dessert were weird with lunch, period. And in my experience, no, because people eat dessert with lunch fairly commonly, if not universally.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  ditto–it’s really rare that a business lunch has dessert. Especially when it’s not a client lunch. Because dessert is a luxury, and there’s not really a business case for luxury at a working lunch.

                  Even when it’s just friends, I really don’t see people order lunch w/ dessert, even if it is on the menu.

        2. matcha123*

          I don’t know about bringing socio-economics in to this. As someone who grew up poor and knew a number of people who were not making as much as others, I can say that we were all very careful when going out because we didn’t want to look like we were taking advantage of someone.
          I mean, I was so conscious of the differences in lifestyles between my family and others that I made sure to order the cheapest, smallest things when I was out…

      4. Green*

        The culture at many law firms is maxing out the summer budget for the enjoyment of the summer associate and those dining with them. It’s a “business lunch”, yes, but not in the strictest sense (i.e., not a “client lunch”). While you should certainly adjust your interactions for firm culture, the expectations at summer associate events are typically much more lax than usual “business lunches.” That wouldn’t even have registered at my firms. Now the summer associate who blew the budget by ordering his own bottle of expensive wine after the partners had already selected expensive wine bottles for the table… that one definitely registered.

    3. Sunflower*

      #5 I try to be pretty conservative when I’m ordering on someone else’s dime. Mimicking what they order is what I try to stick to- meaning if they order an app or alcohol then I will too. If they get just an entree, I’m getting just an entree. And I try to stick to items somewhere between lower-mid range cost. Definitely don’t order something with the intention to not eat it on site- it’s tacky. Restaurant entrees are pretty big so I think not finishing it and bringing home leftovers is pretty common/fine.

      Our CMO took me out to lunch last week and kept insisting I get whatever I wanted. Even then, I ordered basically the same thing as her. If I had ordered something double the price of her or ordered a ton of items, it would have looked bad. Quite frankly, to me, a free meal is a free meal and it’s probably more about the experience than the food. I would never order something I wouldn’t eat but it’s also not the time to be exploring the menu and ordering everything that looks good.

      1. JessaB*

        A friend of mine has the portion issue because she’s post weight loss surgery. If she wants to eat courses like everyone else, we’re talking a very small amount of food, if she couldn’t take the rest home (which could make as many as 3-4 more meals for her,) it’d be a total waste for her to ever eat out with anyone.

        And I agree with people who are being forgiving toward the intern. We don’t know what their financial situation is like, they may be paid well for interns but have huge student loan debt, or other necessary expenses that puts their food budget in a very bad place and a fancy/nice eat out kind of meal is a real treat for them to have a second day of. However, there are ways to do that without being socially awkward, and there are times when no matter how much you WANT to do it, you shouldn’t (client lunches where the client doesn’t do it, for instance,) and that distinction is something they need to be told.

        The issue here is you can’t ask a question when you have no idea the matter surrounding the question exists, and part of a good internship is telling them what those matters are.

        1. fposte*

          I’m not following the “it would be a total waste” theory there. We’re talking when somebody else pays; waste or not waste for the guest isn’t the point.

          (And I don’t think that many people order courses at business lunches these days, do they? We’ve got somebody upthread startled to hear people even have dessert at lunch. I’ve had no problem nursing a single course through an entire lunch.)

          1. mander*

            Well, it is a waste of food for someone who can only eat a small portion at a time to go out to eat if they then just throw the food away, if the portions are four times bigger than what they can eat. People who don’t know the issue might also get offended that they didn’t eat their meal.

            1. fposte*

              Our hypothetical person could get offended at all kinds of things, though :-). In general, whether you can only eat small portions or not, you don’t buy extra to bring home on somebody else’s dime. (Business lunches are generally not about the food anyway, so it’s best to focus more on the business purpose.)

      2. ginger ale for all*

        I remember when I first started dating, my mom told me that I needed to find the second or third cheapest item on the menu and pick from those choices and if I am ever more interested in the free meal than I am in the guy who asked me out, then don’t go on the date.

  6. Bookworm*

    #3 – Check with your IT department to see if you can personalize the auto-response (letting clients know you’ll get back to them, and personal contacts know that Joe no longer works at Teapots, Inc.).

    It also might be worthwhile to shoot him a LinkedIn message letting him know he might want to reach out to his contacts and update them.

    I also just wanted to say I totally sympathize. As much as I’m not proud to admit it, the baser parts of me can be nosy. I had an oversharing coworker for a year or two, and I really felt the division between the part of me that knew I had no right to pass judgement, and the part of me that wanted to grab popcorn and pry.

    I would definitely struggle if I was on the receiving end of someone’s personal e-mails.

    1. JessaB*

      I would at least send one email to the former employee explaining that after day x, that account is going to be closed. It’s then up to them what they want to do about people who have the wrong address and no longer your problem since you’ve notified them. You’re not their admin, and honestly you don’t have to notify them either, but I’d feel a little bad if I made no effort at all to notify. But whether I emailed them or texted or whatever, I would not go as far as actually talking to them live because well, I don’t want to get into those issues with them. My job stops when I’ve told them they’re getting personal messages.

      On the other hand even when we were allowed to use work email for personal stuff, beyond things like “husband, please bring bread home; I’m working late today; etc.” kind of messages, unless it was an emergency where something could change, I don’t do personal business on my work email, especially now that I own a smart phone. People can get in touch with me pretty fast, and in an emergency nearly every boss I’ve ever had even the awful ones, were okay with me taking a five minute break to take an emergency call. There are less and less reasons to use work email for anything personal.

      I do email my husband occasionally because due to HIPPA he’s not allowed to have his phone on at all unless it’s for playing music and then it has to be face down where the bosses can see and with the camera taped over. Some idiot in his office ruined their ability to use their phones by taking a selfie that included their computer screen. Stupid people. The lawyers panicked and that was the end. They finally got “play music” because a lot of them stopped using mp3 players since they had all their stuff on their phones.

      But I also know that if you email someone at work, the contents are NOT private and I don’t say anything that I would care if someone read. It’s mostly reminders about stuff like “hey if I’m asleep when you get home tonight, please remember to wake me up to go and vote tomorrow.” Which I am literally emailing him right now (we live in Ohio.)

      I would not be surprised though if someone who is skipping out on obligations really does know that the email is going somewhere else and is taking advantage of the “I never got that,” fact.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I would at least send one email to the former employee explaining that after day x, that account is going to be closed. I

        He left the company. He should be assuming it closed the day he left.

        And in fact, it has been closed TO HIM since the day he left.

        There is no need to alert him.

      2. OP #3*

        This has definitely taught me not to use my work email for ANYTHING I wouldn’t tell my boss.

  7. KH*


    I’m confused about why this is even a problem. If personal mail comes into the account you hit “reply” and you say “Joe no longer works at this company. Please remove this email address from your records. Thank you.”

    And then you move on. Why is this even a big deal?

    1. Marcela*

      Because people do not read such messages. I’ve come to think they (we?) develop some kind of “I don’t like this message” blindness, so they simply do not register them. I have an ongoing similar situation because of people that don’t seem to know their email addresses and use mine. You’d think that replying “no, I am not that Marcela Pevensie, I did not request information about X, I do not live in Y country (usually I don’t even know Z city), I can’t answer J question or visit you in K date, please remove my email from your records” would be enough. But it’s not. All kind of persons and businesses or schools or doctors keep insisting and sending me stuff that it’s not for me.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Maybe there is an assumption that all the emails are being forwarded to Joe so in the absence of any other contact information the messages keep coming?

              1. Menacia*

                Yup, the way our out of office email works is that “one” email is sent in reply, not each time an email is received from the same address during the time period the out of office message is turned on. Now if you were an internal person, you would be able to actually see the out of office message each time you attempted to send an email to this person, but outside the company, you would not. And email that reads “This email account is no longer active.” is not true, it IS working because email is being sent and received. Actually, until the email mailbox and account are completely deactivated, this will continue. Perhaps modifying the message to read “Joe-Shmo is no longer with XYZ company, for company-related issues, please contact (someone else’s contact info here).” Don’t offer any alternatives to those looking for this guy for personal reasons. And then deactivate the account after a period of a month or so.

        2. Violet Fox*

          Considering the types mails that are coming to that account there is also a good chance that the people sending them don’t believe the person is gone, but rather that the person is just trying to dodge the lawyers etc.

          1. Allison*

            Maybe he is trying to dodge lawyers by not letting them know he was fired and telling them to use his personal e-mail. Maybe he’s hoping that, in the absence of a different e-mail address, they’ll give up trying to contact him altogether. Which, of course, is nonsense, because cases don’t just go away like that. But if he’s in enough trouble, maybe he’s desperate for any way to avoid these people, at least for a little while.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            Which is why it would be better if they turned it off and the people received an “undeliverable” message back instead.

            1. OP#3*

              Agreed, but we still have the occasional contact or vendor who we missed in the mass update.

      1. blackcat*

        Huh. I have an extremely common name and have Common Name at gmail. I find most people are pretty good about apologizing and not sending email again.

        1. OwnedByTheCat*

          I have had the opposite experience. Somehow I ended up on a list-serve for a school. I don’t have kids. I live in a different state. I was getting all sorts of information – PTO minutes, reminders, but also where the students were going to be on field trips .

          I emailed and said “Hey, i’m not this person. Please don’t email me anymore!” and got back a really hostile reply. “Weeeell I emailed OwnedByTheCat so I don’t know what your problem is (paraphrased).” Well, you may have emailed her, but I’m the one getting your emails. It went on like that for several different rounds. I think I finally just filtered them out. It irked me how nasty they were, and confusing!

            1. blackcat*

              Yeah, that’s been by and large my experience, with everything from a swingers club (they were SO APOLOGETIC!) to church groups (they thanked me and wished be a “blessed day”). The only time was when I got nastiness back was a mean-girl bullying situation. Fortunately (or not for the kids), they gave me enough info to find a parent’s email address. That shut it down (and, I assume, resulted in the kids learning about internet security).

              Maybe I have a particularly good canned response? It’s to the effect of “Hello, I am not the BlackCat you are trying to reach. As it turns out, there are quite a few of us! Please double check the contact information for the person you are trying to reach and remove this address from your address book.”

              1. OwnedByTheCat*

                That’s been my response, too, and I’m always super friendly! Even adding like “these look like important emails and I’d hate for *your* OwnedByTheCat to miss them.


              2. Green*

                One of my friends, whitecat, was forwarded an email chain by another whitecat who mistyped her own gmail address. The email chain happened to be the most epic of breakup email chains, back and forth fighting, and hilarious psychoanalysis of their former partners. We did a dramatic reading aloud over wine, but definitely did not alert whitecat that she’d sent the chain to the wrong whitecat. That seemed somehow to only compound the mortification.

                1. Elizabeth*

                  This someone keeps forgetting to add the “e” that is at the end of his email address on forms so I keep getting emails from his dermatologist and his Sears deliveries. I’ve started forwarding them but I also called the dermatologist (who is in Nevada compared to my Maryland) and they tried to refuse my notification. I started using HIPPA and after the 3rd call it was resolved for a few weeks… Then I figured out his name and started forwarding them along.

              3. SusanIvanova*

                For a while someone who wanted to get money from a Jenny had my phone number. Their conversation with my answering machine message went like this:

                Original message: “This is Susan, please leave a message”
                “Hi, Jenny, about your bills…”
                Next message: “This is Susan, there is no one named Jenny here…”
                “Can you tell Jenny we really need to talk to her about her bills?”
                Next: “This is Susan, I don’t know anyone named Jenny, if you are trying to reach Jenny you have the wrong number…”
                That finally worked, although messages after that were from my friends teasing me.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            That happened to me once when I had a landline that was one digit off from Child Support Enforcement. Occasionally, people would leave messages on my machine and I used to call them back and give them the actual number. Most people were appreciative, but one time I did and this guy got really nasty with me, insisting he had called CSE. No, asshole, you dialed wrong. I stopped being nice after that and changed the outgoing message. I still got voice mails now and then, but that cut it down.

            When I cancelled my landline, I told AT&T about it and the CSR said he would retire my number rather than reassign it.

            1. OwnedByTheCat*

              Growing up, my mom’s business had a landline number that had previously been assigned to our local hospital. We got a lot of interesting calls…

              And of course most people were happy that we gave them the new number (it was one digit off) but sometimes they’d be irate, yelling at us that we were lying, etc. I was 14 and working as a receptionist over the summer. Clearly all part of an evil scheme!

              1. LD*

                That reminds me…when I was a kid, we occasionally got very early morning calls. Our number was one number different from the local seafood market. My parents had a phone in their bedroom and a couple of times when the same people called right after being told they had the wrong number, my dad would just say “Okay,” like he was taking the order and then hang up and go back to sleep.

              2. Three Thousand*

                I can’t figure out people who insist that you’re lying when you tell them they have a wrong number, as if it makes any sense to lie about that. They seem to be the same ones who don’t understand that you shouldn’t hit redial when you dial a wrong number. It’s like they think the phone fairy will somehow magically send their call to the right place this time. They seem allergic to the idea that they could have done something wrong and if they would make a minor change to their behavior, they would get what they want.

                1. Cactus*

                  Yep. Currently working as a receptionist, and I had one guy get VERY OFFENDED at me when I told him that he had dialed the wrong number, and we were not [other business]. “No I didn’t,” he literally huffed at me. And I’m just thinking, Why would I lie to you? as I apologized again and moved onto the next call.

                  And yes, he did try calling back.

            2. Jenny*

              Someone’s doctor’s office (let’s say “Susan”) has my telephone number erroneously listed to confirm her doctor appointments. I’ve gotten multiple voice mail messages confirming her appointments, advising test results are in, but no call back number, and no doctor’s name. Kind of hard to let Susan or her doctor know that she’s not getting her messages.

          2. Wendy Darling*

            I once got 200+ emails intended for a Japanese kindergarten that included kids’ full names, home addresses, parents’ names, parents’ phone numbers, some kind of ID number, and BLOOD TYPE. The kindergarten typoed their email when they made some kind of registration web form and all these emails went to me instead of them.

            After the first like three I kind of freaked out and then they kept coming. I can read Japanese but my kanji is dismal, so I got out the kanji dictionary and figured out the actual name of the school, looked them up, and contacted them and told them what was happening.

            They kind of freaked out and demanded a TON of info from me, I assume for liability reasons. I just shrugged and gave them most of it (I don’t really care if a Japanese kindergarten has my mailing address). They asked me to delete all the mails and confirm I’d done it, I did, I never heard from them again, problem solved I guess?

            It was really weird though, you’d think they’d test their web form before going live with it! Hopefully they do now.

              1. Wendy Darling*

                Fortunately not because I’m type O, which means I am flighty and not dependable.

          3. Cactus*

            Same thing happened to my husband. He has an uncommon first name that’s a common-enough last name, and he was an early-adopter of gmail, so his e-mail address is just [firstname]@gmail.com. He gets messages about becoming a youth baseball coach, business-related stuff for businesses he has no involvement with, updates on his “pregnancy,” notices that “his” college tuition payments are overdue somewhere in Connecticut, etc. And some people REALLY cannot handle hearing that they have the wrong person.

        2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          I have an old hotmail email that’s first name last name @ and unfortunately unlike gmail, hotmail allows adding a dot to create a unique address…I get a lot of wrong emails.

          The worst is when they are a business order/confirmation, because most places don’t care that they have your email on file.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            My SO has not-uncommon first and last names, and someone else with his name signed up for Netflix with his email address. So he was constantly getting emails asking him to rate movies he’d never actually rented.

            He tried to hash it out with Netflix but they were unhelpful so eventually he requested a password change and just left it.

              1. Wendy Darling*

                He couldn’t cancel it but there was no way for the guy to change the password, so effectively he probably killed the account. Dude was watching Netflix on his Wii and probably logged in once and never again, so he was hoping the password change would alert him to the issue by logging him out.

            1. Artemesia*

              My husband has a name shared by thousands in the US alone, but mine is fairly unusual and so while we often get dunning calls and emails for him not for him, it is rare for me. But someone who rents movies from Redbox uses my email and I constantly get notice of my rentals and my overdue rentals. I have contacted them about this countless times but they never seem to fix it. I don’t even share his taste in movies and don’t have a DVD machine — we stream anything we want to rent.

            2. LabMonkey*

              That’s what I do. I have two gmail accounts, one my name @ and the other some words @, and BOTH have people who don’t know their own email address using mine. The my name account is largely fixed after a flurry of things, but the other one…I don’t even know. At this point I just login to whatever has been signed up for and change the password and delete, if I can. Whatever. Learn your email, girl from Turkey who thinks she has my email!

            3. Marcela*

              Yeah, I’ve closed several accounts in photo services and even facebook because the other person used my email. I don’t have any remorse: I do not want those accounts and my email is mine.

        3. SL #2*

          I have a common name in my mother’s country of origin, so most of my mistaken email is international. I’ve gotten someone’s job application before… I sent it right back to him saying that I’m not a recruiter in Country Y! But he never emailed me again, so I assume he realized his mistake.

          There was also the time an Australian professor sent me stuff meant for her student, and she was incredibly apologetic once I responded…

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Very true. I have a vanity domain with my real name, and for personal email I like to use an address with my full name…think Cosmic at Avenger dot com. Well, I get occasional emails for others, like Caped at Avenger dot com and Masked at Avenger dot com. One was a rapid series of emails about organizing some school sports team or something, and when I got tired of it, I replied to all that I had no idea who this person was, but maybe one of their friends knew another email for this person, since the original sender didn’t seem to know how to reach them.

        That stopped the emails, finally.

        I’ve actually set up forwarding addresses for people who appear to be unrelated but have the same last name.

      3. Koko*

        Oh my gosh, I have this exact same problem. There are roughly four different people who have given out my email address as their own in all sorts of places, and it’s incredibly frustrating trying to get removed from their lists. I keep getting invitations to one woman’s bible study group and prayer breakfasts – I replied the first few times politely saying the K in my address stands for Koko, not Kimmy, and they must have the wrong address and wished them well. After the third time it actually just felt too awkward to keep telling them when I’d already told them multiple times before and they can’t seem to remember to update their list or take me off it. So now I don’t even try, but it still annoys me every time they come in.

        1. LBK*

          I have a couple people with the same first initial and last name that cannot for the life of them remember their email addresses and always use mine. My favorite was when a woman attempted to email herself and instead emailed me some form related to her job that had her SSN on it and – even better – the name of her employer, which was the FBI.

          1. Koko*

            Some of my favorites have included being sent a long personal email from the intended recipient’s sister basically criticizing all her life choices, and being CC’d on an impressively bitter dispute between a woman and a florist she had looked into for her wedding but decided not to hire (the florist believed that the florist the woman ultimately did hire had stolen her arrangement ideas from her website at the client’s urging).

            There’s also the Redbox receipts, the MLM sales team newsletter, the annual web hosting renewal receipt for someone’s website, the responses to the “Contact Us” form on that website that come to my address…it’s really amazing how many people don’t know their own email address.

            1. Swarm*

              My husband has a very common name and constantly gets wrong emails. If it’s a legal thing, he’ll usually reply that he’s not the person they’re looking for, but the other day he got an invitation to a family reunion barbecue and responded to the e-vite saying that he was bringing “You Know Who” and that everything had to be gluten-free because if “You Know Who” even smelled gluten in the air, there would be an Epi-Pen situation, and everybody had already seen how *that* went down. His post stayed up for about a week before someone finally realized what their mistake must have been and deleted his comment.

            2. GH in SoCAl*

              I generally try to let the sender know, hey, you have the the wrong GH. My favourite is when the sender, who was trying to arrange an airport pickup for another family member, thought his son was pulling his leg. We had like three rounds of him going, “haha George, very funny, now go get your uncle” before he believed me (and apologized profusely!)

              1. EvilQueenRegina*

                One of my ex-coworkers once had something similar for a man with the same name. When he replied saying he wasn’t the right Apollo Warbucks, the person wouldn’t believe him and reacted much the same way as your person!

            3. Artemesia*

              I would have been so tempted to lecture the sister about how feckless this sort of communication is — bet she’d never make that mistake again.

              1. Koko*

                I replied only saying, “Hi, I am not the person you are trying to reach.”

                They replied something like, “How embarrassing, I’m so sorry, please ignore.”

                I like to think perhaps it gave her a second chance to NOT send that email to his actual sister.

        2. Persephone*

          I regret signing up for first initial last name (now my maiden name) when I first got Gmail. I got in really early with an invite so it was available, and it made things easier because it was the same user name as my school email address.

          I get emails from a library in Pennsylvania for someone who can’t return her books on time. I get neighborhood watch related emails for somewhere in Ohio, I think. A couple of weeks ago a woman accidentally used my email address for her tax returns. Luckily I need to login to see those and they contain no personal information.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            Oh! I had the tax return email problem for years. A woman in another state (with a completely different name than mine, by the way, so I’m unclear how my first initial last name plus random numbers email address ended up on her account) apparently uses the same tax preparation service every year, so every year for FIVE YEARS I got her tax return status updates. The updates linked to the preparer’s website, so if I were less honest, I probably could have requested a password reset to access her account and possibly her returns.

            I actually contacted the company repeatedly through email and through their website contact portal notifying them of the error, but I never received a response and nothing was ever done. I finally got really annoyed the fifth year this happened and called their general customer service number, where the woman who took my call was horrified that this had been happening for so long and had never been addressed by any of the other people who had received my messages. At least that stopped it, though.

      4. fposte*

        But it’s still a reasonable question to ask “Why is this a problem?” The OP has an active conscience and high level of responsibility, which is great, but we seem to be heading toward a notion that makes her responsible for ensuring these emails get where they should be going and treating the problem as getting the emails to the recipient. But that’s not really the OP’s problem–the goal is just to get those emails off her radar, and a decent autoreply and filter/block would work fine there.

        1. LBK*

          Agreed completely. Think about it this way: if the policy were to just deactivate the email address as soon as the employee left, would there be any contingency plan put in place to ensure that personal messages sent to it were redirected appropriately? I highly doubt it, so I don’t think you should feel any obligation to direct them now just because you’re able to see them. Not your problem at all.

        2. Marcela*

          Oh, absolutely. It’s just that I read “Why is this a problem?” as “the solution is super easy and everybody will read the automatic messages, so why are you still using brain power for that?”, when evidence shows the problem is not that easy to fix. I agree this is not OP’s problem, and when I’ve been an admin I only give my users 7 days to empty their email accounts before deleting them from the server. I know people do not read emails, but server emails are special, in the sense that even when they are no read, they manage to convey their message. I guess it’s because they are instantaneous, so it is obvious there is nobody reading the original mail.

      5. Dynamic Beige*

        This happened to me recently, I was sent a couple of invoices from a company clear across the continent for a service that there was no way I could have ordered. So I replied to the person that while they had gotten one thing right about their e-mails (my first name), I lived in X, didn’t own property in Y, had never heard of their company and didn’t work as a property manager. They responded back that they must be in error and they wouldn’t bother me again.

        If I was the one who had access to Joe’s e-mail I would have text in a Notepad doc that said “Joe was terminated from his position at Company on ThisDate. We were subsequently dismayed to find that he had been using his business e-mail for personal contacts such as yourself. We do not have any forwarding information whereby you may contact him, please update your files. Best regards, DB” and I would send that to every lawyer/school/family member/whatever who e-mailed. Yes, it would be a PITA, but eventually they would get the message and stop. I would also set up some things where future messages were deleted on the server like any other kind of spam or junk mail.

        1. Marcela*

          My only good experience comes from a company trying to sell several computers in Ecuador. I’ve had my email for more than 10 years now, and most of the people simply refuse to believe me when I reply “I am not that person” (oficial organizations are the worst, I’ve received very snotty replies when telling them they are sending private information to the wrong person), so now I simply ignore the emails. But this company keep insisting, so at the third email I replied that sadly I wasn’t who they were looking for because I did not live in Ecuador. They were so apologetic, oh, they were so sorry that they kept insisting and swore to never contact me again. It’s the only time this has worked.

      6. Creag an Tuire*

        Also, some of these folks (particularly the debt collectors), simply -will not stop- until they have another way to reach the person. I had this happen when I was assigned a separate cell phone for work — I got the same call every two weeks until I had it down to a script.

        “Hello, this is Hired Goons Debt Collection.”
        “Hi, this Creag an Tuire. I was assigned this phone number x months ago. I don’t know Ronald.”
        “…how do you know Ronald’s name?”
        “This is the nth time you have called this number, which is no longer Ronald’s. I didn’t know Ronald then, I don’t know him now, for all I know he’s dead in a ditch. Sorry I can’t help. Hanging up now.”

        Took them about 6 months to give up. Wonder if they ever did find Ronald.

        1. mander*

          We got threatening letters and even once had a collection agency employee turn up at my house looking for the former owner, despite the fact that we sent letters by registered mail to everyone who wrote to her explaining that we had no contact information. The house was repossessed and we never even met the previous owner, but they still insisted that we must have contact details. We have owned the house for over 8 years and we still get letters on occasion.

        2. Artemesia*

          We let all calls go to machine back when we had a landline which solves the problem as we just ignored dunning calls that didn’t concern us after perhaps picking up once. My husband has a super common name and we got dunned for one hospital bill (hospital we had never used of course) for over 10 years — I would finally get them to stop and then the bill would be sold to yet another agent and the calls would start again. I finally got obscene and the agent gave me this smarmy ‘I can’t converse with you unless you are respectful ‘ which was my entry to ‘you got it don’t converse with me – go find Actual debtor’ It was obvious they just looked up the name in the phone book as we had never received an actual bill from anyone.

          We took pleasure in ignoring for 5 years collection calls for Juana Husband’slastname a person we of course had never heard of. I figured it was keeping the calls off poor Juana’s back.

      7. Catherine from Canada*

        Oh my gosh, you too?
        There are four women with the same name as me (one in Quebec, one in France, one in Switzerland and one somewhere else that I haven’t been able to nail down yet) who don’t seem to be able to give out their e-mail address correctly (or people don’t listen). I have gotten everything from sensitive banking account information, to reservation confirmations for airplane tickets and hotels, to notices that their (sensitive medical information) prescriptions are ready to pick up, to notices that exam schedules have been changed. The one I really wanted to keep for myself was the one-week pass to the Paris Wine Festival…
        After I got a pissy reply from the French bank manager insisting (despite what Google says about their own e-mail addresses!) that firstnamedotlastname@gmail.com may be my address but firstnamelastname@gmail.com was her client’s address so stop bothering her, I got so exasperated that I just delete everything now.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          It doesn’t happen as often any more, but I used to get e-mails for someone who lives in Brazil. I had owned the hotmail.com address for at least 10 years before it started happening. Sometimes, they came written in Portuguese, thank Dog for Google Translate. A couple of times they were dance party invitations that looked pretty awesome, save for that they were on another continent.

        2. LabMonkey*

          Oh my god, me too. I’ve got the Google hep page about it bookmarked to send when people try to argue that my.name is different than myname.

      8. LD*

        Use the spam or blocking feature in your mail. When I unsubscribe or keep getting marketing messages from vendors who want me to purchase their contact list, I ask once. And if their second message isn’t, “So sorry to bother you.” or “You’ve been removed from distribution.” then I block them. Issue solved.

        1. Marcela*

          Hehehe, it’s only solved if you get emails from the same source every time. And this is not true for me. I get dental records, for example. In march, some years I get several registration emails for the universities tests in one country in South America. I’ve received emails about new accounts in several (as in more than 3) photo services. Once I got a facebook account. Some other time, I got estimates for computers. So you see they are not the same every time, so the spam filter can’t learn they are not valuable emails and remove them from my inbox.

      9. EvilQueenRegina*

        Yes, this. I’m getting a lot of texts right now from this woman – I appear to have a number similar to that of her ex, and I keep getting all these texts, meant for the ex, first wanting a reconciliation and then some rants about how “rank” his choice of new girlfriend is. She wouldn’t believe me when I tried telling her she was texting the wrong number and kept accusing me of being the ex PRETENDING she had a wrong number – “You and I both know that is not true! Stop being such a child!” Eventually I thought she finally accepted it – until the night she and her drunk friends kept phoning me, thinking they were phoning the ex. It reached the point of me blocking her.

  8. Milton Waddams*

    #1: This can be a delicate situation depending on the workplace culture. My overseas and big city friends always seem vaguely indignant about it, but for many American mid-sized town “car culture” people, telling them you don’t drive makes them immediately think that either:

    a) you’ve had your license revoked for something sketchy and possibly seriously criminal

    b) you’ve had your car impounded, either due to neglect or poor money management skills, and should probably not be involved in any financial decisions

    c) or that neither of the above are true, but that you’ve admitted to having a case of arrested development basically on-par with “I’m a 40-year-old who lives in my mother’s basement”, and probably shouldn’t be given any serious responsibilities.

    For “car culture” folks, you have to prove that you are capable, lawful, competent, have a good attention to detail and are responsible with your funds and your time, because for many, their first thoughts will be that someone who doesn’t drive is irresponsible, incompetent, childish, possibly criminal, and always late for everything.

    Hopefully as more and more Millennials choose to become non-drivers even outside of large cities, this old attitude will fade, but in the meantime, make sure you know how things stand! Is the office a “car culture” office, or a non “car culture” office that just happens to have incorporated some driving into the workflow?

    1. Dan*

      I live in an area that within a certain radius of “big city” you can get away with no car. Outside of that radius, even I would look at you funny.

      My last job was far enough out in the suburbs that there was pretty much no way you were getting to it without a car. But it was also a place that your only logistic requirement was to show up to work, so as long as you did so, nobody would have a clue that you weren’t driving.

      (Sometimes I think the first sign of having a real job is that they stop putting “must have reliable transportation” in the job description.)

      1. Sunshine Brite*

        As a social worker, even “real” jobs often have the reliable transportation criteria because you’re not in one place and have to go from building to building/home to home to do your work. I’m sure many others do as well as people work across time and place and very few places in the US have reliable public transportation.

        1. Susan C*

          Yes, but I thought what Dan was getting at was that jobs who hire ‘real adults’ don’t necessarily put it in the ad, because it’s just assumed that the applicant has one (because car culture).

          (That said, I’ll also confess to being one of those vaguely indignant (and laughing at myself because of it) overseas people. Here, actual car requirements are (as far as I’ve seen) really rare – in most fields, if a position does require driving it’s entirely reasonable to expect a company car).

          1. Violet Fox*

            Here is isn’t even legal for people to use their private cars for company functions. Most of the companies end up using it for branding as well. That real estate agency firm has the black cars with the white patterns, this pizza chain has the red Fiat 500s, this other one has yellow vans, etc. A lot of it has to do with insurance and liability more then anything else.

            1. Susan C*

              Ha, one contractor (plumber, I want to say) around here used to have a fleet of bright pink vans, so that if he’d come across one of the employees somewhere they weren’t supposed to be (goofing off, or on an off-the-books work site) he’d notice. (or so construction gossip says)

      2. Allison*

        > Outside of that radius, even I would look at you funny.

        I have to agree. If someone is young (mid 20’s) and had their parents drive them to work all the time, I might give them a pass, because I was in that position when I was fresh out of college, but might also encourage them to buy their own car as soon as they could if they needed to stick to a work schedule, or if I wanted them to eventually grow into a role that would have them driving around during the day. When I lived and worked in the suburbs, it wasn’t possible to just take the bus everywhere, and biking to work was only a valid option if you lived relatively close to your office (same town or maybe the next town over) and there was safe, bike-friendly route to take, because most roads where I grew up didn’t have bike lanes or wide shoulders; we had narrow, winding roads through the woods.

    2. Myrin*

      That might all be well and true but even if the OP finds out (or knows!) that her office is of the “car culture” mentality, she still needs to tell her employer that she doesn’t have car.

      (I know you’re not saying she shouldn’t but I honestly don’t really see how knowing if the office is very “car culture” is going to help her in this instance since she doesn’t have a car regardless. I also get the feeling that she would have a car if the “circumstances” she mentions in her second sentence were different but they simply aren’t, so I don’t think this is a “Oh, I now realise that owning a car is fundamental here – I better get one!” situation.)

      1. Florida*

        I agree with you. I also want to add that even if the office has a car culture, it very likely has a don’t-deceive-the-boss culture as well. OP can get by using Uber once or twice because she can argue that she was trying to be resourceful, etc. But the longer she keeps up the charade, the more difficult it is going to be to eventually tell the boss.

        Definitely tell your boss. Once boss knows. If another employee tells you that you need to drive to work, I would politely tell them that you’ve worked it out with Boss, and if they have any issues, they can discuss it with Boss.

    3. ActualName*

      Ugh, car culture. I know very little about it and I’ve been worried for how it will impact my future as well. I don’t drive because I’m disabled and I worry about if not driving will be considered a reasonable accommodation. And even if it is some employers might still decided to fire me for something else because my not driving is too much of a hassle.

      It’s also just another way I’m othered from the mainstream culture.

      1. MJH*

        At my job, driving a car is not an issue. If you show up on time (within a few minutes) and stay until the end of the work day, no one cares about your car. No one would even know if you drove or not. (And this is a place without much in the way of public transport–definitely a car culture.)

        So there are definitely plenty of jobs where you don’t have to drive at all as long as you can get to work somehow.

        1. Oryx*

          Yes. I’ve applied to lots of job where the applications asks if you have “reliable transportation.” They let the applicant decide for themselves what that means and it isn’t always having a car.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            Yes, in those cases, they just want to be sure you can get to work regularly.

            I think that not driving would only be an issue if you were applying for a job that required driving (such as being an A/C repair person or a delivery person – where you have to go to the work as opposed to it coming to you). I’m pretty sure that the ADA would consider reasonable accommodation to be not requiring you to run random errands for your boss, but it wouldn’t come into play if driving is a major part of your work.

      2. Anxa*

        The reason I got my license was to appear responsible for a job, even though I thought it was more responsible for me to use alternative transit.

        Even in jobs where driving was not part of the job I have seen required licenses

    4. Mike C.*

      What in the heck is “car culture”? I hear the term and think you’re talking about people who like muscle cars or who restore old cars or something.

      1. Cat*

        I think it’s a fair summation of the attitude in a lot of the U.S., which is that cars are so fundamental that (a) everyone is assumed to have one; and (b) it doesn’t occur to most people that their home could have been designed so that that wasn’t the case.

        1. ginger ale for all*

          The culture is so ingrained that on one online dating service, Plenty of Fish, you can screen out people who don’t own a car in your searches.

      2. Kelly L.*

        It’s definitely a thing. Some people have this mindset where driving is like brushing your teeth–it’s assumed that everybody does it, and if you don’t, you’re kind of icky and childish.

        Please note that I don’t agree with this. I come at it from the other direction–I also do not drive and have gotten flak for it occasionally.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          It’s also why in many parts of the US the major shopping centers have moved from the downtown (centralized) area to the outskirts of town – it’s assumed that people have cars to do their shopping…

          It’s basically a mindset that affects things like business location and (sub)urban planning.

          1. TychaBrahe*

            That has more to do with several economic factors, including the price of land and the migration of people with money to the suburbs. It’s also true that certain retailers are trying to avoid certain demographics, and “urban” in these cases is often synonymous with “people of color.”

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              I agree that it started out as the “white flight,” but now it has more to do with a general attitude about cars. You even find it in relatively homogeneous areas nowadays…

              But realtors buying up a bunch of farmland on the outskirts of town also added to it.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I haaaaate that attitude–it’s very common here, and really anywhere I’ve lived outside a large city or one with excellent public transit. I didn’t drive for a long time because I couldn’t afford a car. (Still can’t so if anything happened to mine I’d be screwed, but that’s another story.)

          When I lived in my hometown, it wasn’t an issue since I could bike across town in ten or fifteen minutes. Santa Cruz had buses that went everywhere all the time. Where I live now, the buses suck, it’s very spread out, the weather sucks, and if you don’t have a car, it’s difficult.

        3. A Cita*

          I don’t have a car. I’ve never owned a car. I’m well out of my 20s. I *do* have a license, but honestly, no one wants me in charge of a vehicle on the road. I don’t drive. Well. But, besides my hometown and my grad school town, I’ve always lived in big cities where I don’t need a car. I biked or walked everywhere in hometown and my grad town has free shuttles everywhere (and also a really good bus system).

          I’m pretty big on not driving for environmental reasons. It’s been a conscious decision. And maybe because I lived in big cities, I know tons of people who don’t drive. Heck, I know people who live in the L.A. area who don’t drive. Imagine. And I’ve never gotten flack about it. Sad that it’s such a value judgement.

          1. Myrin*

            Yay, another person without a car but with a license and “environmental reasons”! :D
            I mean, my family is poor and we haven’t been able to afford a car since 2008 but I’m so used to it by now that I don’t actually want a car, even if I’ll be able to afford one in the future. Our public transport is okay (nothing super spectacular but not horrible, either) and I’ll only run into the problem of not getting somewhere without a car every once in a while (think, three times a year). Not to mention how expensive cars are, not just buying them but the upkeeping and everything!

          2. Allison*

            See this makes sense. You don’t like driving, so you live where driving isn’t necessary. What I don’t get are people who live in the middle of nowhere, where there’s no bus system, where biking is hardly an option because things are so far apart, the roads don’t have bike lanes and most drivers harass cyclists, and taxi services are practically non-existent, yet refuse to drive, and instead bum rides off of everyone. Living in the suburbs, I was fine occasionally carpooling to parties, but when one of my friends started to treat me like her personal driver, and it became clear she wasn’t even trying to get her license so she could at least borrow her parents’ car, I started to get annoyed.

            1. Myrin*

              Yeah, I’m planning to move sometime this year and am very consciously looking only at places where public transit is at least as accessible as it’s here, maybe even better. I’ve ignored places that looked nice because they were in an area where getting around would be a hardship for me.

            2. Personal Driver*

              Yeah, this question sparked a knee jerk reaction in me because a woman who works here does not drive. That’s fine BUT she bums rides off co-workers. She basically uses one person until their sense of charity wears out. I got stuck as her driver for a few months until I told her I just couldn’t do it anymore. I barely get myself to work in the morning, much less stopping to pick someone else up!

              So when I see this question, my first concern is that the willing co-worker may not be willing forever, and it is presumptuous to assume they will.

            3. Anxa*

              Driving is a huge responsibility and there are countless reasons why it should not be the default.

              Most pedestrian friendly areas are expensive. You can’t just up and decide to move without a lot of money, and there are other ties to an area that are hard to severe (family, culture, etc)

            4. A Cita*

              Right, if I lived somewhere where it would be a hard option, I’d have to think very carefully. But part of my choice to live in bigger cities is also based on environmental concerns. So where I live is a pretty deliberate choice (and luckily, not a hardship for me in that I love living in big cities–however I do now commute about 2 hrs each way on public transit for my job that is in a completely different city and state–but luckily I only have to make that trip a couple of times a week). Now there is a caveat in that I don’t have children. But I don’t depend on other people for rides. It’s really weird now for me to even be a passenger in a car. I will say, when friends do offer to drive me somewhere (they offer; I never ask or make sounds about needing a ride), I always offer gas money. :)

      3. Liana*

        Car culture is a term used to describe the reliance the United States has on cars, both owning and driving it. You don’t tend to see it as much in areas with strong public transportation, like NYC – driving a car is such a pain that most people rely on walking, biking, or taking public transit. I live in Boston, where car culture isn’t really a huge thing either. (I mean, the MBTA kind of sucks, but it’s reliable enough that it’s really common to see people who forgo driving altogether.) It’s definitely a known thing.

    5. Allison*

      I live in a big city where it’s common to not have a car unless you really need one, because the parking situation is stressful and the insurance is crazy, and we have enough ride share and public transit options to make car ownership unnecessary for most people. So when some people look for jobs, sometimes they accept jobs at offices outside the city and try to “make it work” with shuttle services or carpools, which can be a pain, and some employers don’t even want to hire someone who doesn’t have a car, because without one it’s assumed they won’t have reliable transportation to and from the office – not to mention, if they’re taking a shuttle or relying on someone driving them, they might burn out quickly and look for a job they can take public transit to instead.

      Outside the city, you’re right, it’s expected that all working adults have cars, and if you don’t have one it can look suspicious. Even if someone lives independent of their parents, no license suspension or impound issue, it’s assumed they can’t afford a car due to financial irresponsibility, or aren’t mature enough to make that purchase.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Even if someone lives independent of their parents, no license suspension or impound issue, it’s assumed they can’t afford a car due to financial irresponsibility, or aren’t mature enough to make that purchase.

        Heaven forbid it would be because they barely make enough money to live on, let alone save for a vehicle. :P

        1. A Cita*

          Seriously. Car ownership is super expensive. I’m always very thankful I don’t need one. I can’t imagine a lot of people can afford cars and their upkeep.

          1. Dan*

            My car isn’t that expensive, relatively speaking. My payment is $255/mo over 4 years, and I expect to keep the thing for ten years.

            In DC, my other transit options would be an unlimited metro pass ($237/mo) or living in an area that is more transit accessible/walkable, and that would cost me more in rent.

            I would agree that living living *in* DC would make ownership super expensive. Some guys were talking about $200/mo *parking* spots. Geeze. I live in the suburbs, don’t pay any parking fees to my land lord, and don’t consider car ownership super expensive.

            1. Tau*

              It’s all relative, I guess – $255 is super expensive to me, and absolutely not in my budget. But I’ve always been able to cycle or walk where I need to go, and if needs be the occasional bus journey or train ticket isn’t that expensive either.

            2. De*

              Well, you also have to pay for gas, insurance and upkeep (repairs, tyre replacement, etc), don’t you?

              1. Dan*

                Sure, but on the whole, I don’t consider my car “super expensive.” I mean, I don’t lay awake at night thinking how all of my money problems will be solved if I could just get rid of my danged car.

                I live by myself and have no interest in having roommates. Renting a 1 bedroom in a good part of the city probably costs around $2200. Metro (our subway) would run me $5 each way during rush hour, so $10/day, or $210/mo. (I may as well buy a $237 pass).

                My rent in the suburbs is $1400. Super expensive to me is living in the city, paying $800/mo more in rent than I do now, and paying for a transit pass on top of that. It’s much, much cheaper for me to live where I do and own a car.

            3. Alienor*

              My car payment is around the same as yours, and I don’t consider it super expensive either. Yes, I could get a 30-day bus pass for less, but the bus system where I live is so slow and unreliable that I feel like the extra $200 or so per month (counting fuel and insurance) is a small price to pay for my sanity–not to mention the ability to avoid waiting at the bus stop in the dark/cold/rain, being harassed by sketchy people at the stop or on the bus itself, and so forth.

            4. A Cita*

              I don’t know anything about car ownership, but I remember back in the day–late teens–owning a scooter that I gave up on because the cost of gas, insurance, and upkeep was just too much. But anyway, I imagine that your car payment amount may also be based on you being able to get a car loan? Are there people for whom that would be hard or they would be paying more in interest? Do you pay that much a month without any sort of down payment? What about insurance costs (especially when you’re younger and it’s more expensive)? And gas? How much would you say you pay in gas a month? Parking (if not at home, then at your work)? Upkeep (oil change? tires? battery? whatever else?). I wonder what the total would be if you added up all those costs? Plus the ability to get a loan in the first place and how much of a down payment you could actually put down?

              Also, your monthly public transit costs are really expensive. NYC monthly fare is around 117.00$ But given I walk/bike a lot and make sure to do most of my entertainment and other needs in my hood (which is easy in Brooklyn), and don’t commute into Manhattan for work, I don’t even bother with a monthly pass. I put 40$/month on my metro card and I always have some left over. I realize not everyone has that option though.

      2. Creag an Tuire*

        Yeah, I had to give up my non-driving stance when my last job dried up and the first opening in my field was suburban — they didn’t -tell- me not to take the train to work, but I figured out PDQ that the transit system turns to crap that far away from the city.

        (Which is probably by design — I could go on a whole rant about the subtle classism/racism that emerges with regards to transit planning, but I’ll save it for another thread.)

    6. LQ*

      I live in the heart of a medium sized US city and don’t have a car. I don’t like to drive, they are expensive, etc. When I first got rid of my car at least 10 years ago the instant reaction was “I know someone who has one they are looking to sell” or clear worry that I had Done Something to make it so I couldn’t have a car. Now people want to know how I manage or they pick up on things (like all the local places to eat or the farmers market right near my house etc). I would say attitudes are absolutely changing, but it is a very slow process.

      1. the gold digger*

        “I know someone who has one they are looking to sell” or clear worry that I had Done Something to make it so I couldn’t have a car.

        That is the attitude my parents faced when I was a kid. We didn’t have a TV. People would ask if we were poor (I don’t think we were) and would tell my parents they had an old TV that they would give to us.

        My parents always refused. “We want them to read,” they said.

          1. Tau*

            Another child of an academic going “yes that sounds very familiar”… my parents still don’t own a TV, and for that matter neither do I. Although for a while my parents had the malfunctioning TV where the remote control didn’t work and where the volume would shoot up to maximum at random times, which in retrospect was probably worse than having no TV at all.

            1. A Cita*

              Ha! My parents also still don’t have a TV and I have never had one either. (Although, to be fair, you don’t need a tv any more, and I have some shows I like to stream–though I still prefer to read). It’s funny hearing friends my age talk about childhood shows as a shared cultural experience, and I’m always the one going, “Huh?”

        1. LBK*

          These days I’m not positive that popular writing is better than popular TV. For every Keeping Up with the Kardashians there’s a Twilight.

            1. the gold digger*

              My parents probably should have treated TV the way they treated booze, which was, “It’s just beer. What’s the big deal?” When I got to college, I didn’t care about drinking, because it had never been forbidden. But I would binge-watch my roommate’s TV and not even the good stuff. I would watch “The Ropers.”

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Yeah, if my city had better public transportation, I’d get rid of a car in a heartbeat! When I first took this job, we lived in an apartment about a mile from my office so when the weather was nice I’d walk to work. I can’t tell you how many coworkers would pull over if they saw me walking and offer me a ride (which was really nice!). And the confused look when I’d say, “No, thank you! I prefer to walk.”

    7. Stitch*

      Additionally, car culture frowns not only on not having a car, but not having ENOUGH car.

      If SO and I (as DINKs) share a car, it’s weird. Even if we have arranged it so that it’s easy to get by (either by dropping one another off, carpooling with coworkers, or choosing to live close enough to one work to walk or bike – that last one is what we did). People wonder why we would want to.

      At least I haven’t gotten any critiques for not having a new enough/nice enough/big enough car yet, but I know those happen too.

    8. newlyhr*

      Companies need to be clear about the car thing. Asking about “reliable transportation” is not enough if the company is expecting someone to run errands. The company should be explicit in their posting/selection process that employees may have to use their personal vehicles during the work day for work purposes–and they need to compensate employees for mileage and be sure the company has insurance that covers the employee while they are driving for work purposes. We use ‘reliable transportation’ as basically our code term for “we expect you to show up for work on time, and the ‘my car won’t start’ excuse or ‘the bus was late’ won’t save your job if you can’t get here on time..”

    9. matcha123*

      This is so weird to me.
      I’m an American living overseas and I’ve never gotten more than a learner’s permit. My family couldn’t afford a car and my hometown was/is pretty walkable and has a pretty good bus system. Heck, even my mom, didn’t get her license until her late-20s or early-30s.

      I would like to get a license, but I don’t want people assuming that I have a car. Hopefully I can find a place with a good transportation system in the US if I don’t move back to my hometown.

      As to the OP, I think that they should have said something the moment they were asked to drive. The longer you hold off talking about it, the more awkward it becomes. Plus, it’s not like not having a license is some awful thing.

    10. Stranger than fiction*

      Maybe a bit of that, but I’m also wondering if the Op’s hesitation is partly due to their signing something on the application that they had a car or reliable transportation?

      1. TychaBrahe*

        If someone asked me if I had reliable transportation, I would answer “yes,” and never think about my car. I chose my apartment because of the bus routes it was on. Unless an ad specifies that the applicant specifically needs a car because they need to be mobile, like a sales rep calling on customers all day, I would assume that “reliable transportation” means I can get to work on time.

    11. OP #1*

      Well, the main reason I don’t have a car is because one of my parents’ cars broke down and I decided they needed it more than I do. This was over six months ago and I’ve gotten by just fine. (Also, I’m 22, so it isn’t really a case of arrested development, haha. I totally CAN drive, I just don’t have a car.)

      The office isn’t a “car culture” office, but I think people in general are just surprised to hear a young professional doesn’t have one :)

    12. stevenz*

      “For “car culture” folks, you have to prove that you are capable, lawful, competent, have a good attention to detail and are responsible with your funds and your time, because for many, their first thoughts will be that someone who doesn’t drive is irresponsible, incompetent, childish, possibly criminal, and always late for everything.”
      Pardon my directness, but this is really bad advice. Unless Milton is being ironic, it’s nobody’s business why a person doesn’t have a car and you don’t have to bend over backwards to justify your personal and financial decisions to shallow minded, judgement people. Or broadly minded, tolerant people for that matter. If your chosen lifestyle lets you do what you want to do without the expense and bother of a car, that’s a good thing.

  9. Joanna*

    Re #2. I’d encourage you to do something to help him change his ways, whether that be direct confrontation, a bad reference or both. You’re in a rare position where you have influence but it’s probably not of great personal consequence if things go bad. Likely most people in his life won’t challenge his misbehavior because the relational or professional risk is too great for them (eg. working in the same office as him and risking being singled out for bullying if they point out what’s wrong with his behavior). You could be not only helping him, but protecting people in his life who have more to loose from intervening.

    1. Rubu*

      LW #2 here – another really good point! Since I want to distance myself from him socially anyway, I have nothing to lose by talking to him, and I could maybe help him out. He really was a good employee in a lot of ways, and he’s pretty young so it would be great if I could help him nip this in the bud, and if not, at least I tried.

  10. Kipper*

    Is there any chance #1 signed something saying she needed “reliable transportation” when she applied or took the job? I’ve found that in smaller cities, that basically means “your own personal vehicle” eve if you can get to work via spouse/carpool/public transportation. A lot of my previous jobs had this stipulation, though it was never directly spoken to me.

    1. Rebecca*

      When I lived and worked in a small city/suburb, this was either stated or implied. I visited there last week, and I hadn’t noticed while living there–there are NO sidewalks or crosswalks in some parts of the city! None at all!

      1. Cautionary tail*

        Yup. A relative wanted to move to Delaware without a car and learned via Google Maps that generally speaking, outside the city of Wilmington there are no sidewalks, walkways, bike paths or anything. He couldn’t move there and went elsewhere.

        1. Mishka*

          My favorite is how we have crosswalks that don’t connect to a sidewalk. You have sidewalk on one side, and no sidewalk on the other. You get to the other side and are kind of stuck if you’re able to to walk on the grass (which is a snowbank this time of year).

        2. Ineloquent*

          We do too, and I’m in a major city. I’m surprised people don’t die more often then they do!

      2. Creag an Tuire*

        I’m going to literally drive across the street to drop by the bank on my lunch break, because it’s safer and faster than walking. Suburbs.

    2. Allison*

      Yup. Employers can be very hesitant to hire someone who relies on someone else to drive them, because while some people make it to work every day with someone else driving them, there are some people who will often get there late or have to call out because of some issue with their ride.

    3. Natalie*

      I don’t know that it would really matter – even if OP did sign something it’s exceedingly unlikely it was any sort of contract, contracts being fairly uncommon in US employment. And absent a contract, the employer can start requiring a car at any moment.

      If it was a contract, they would have been more specific that one needed to own their own car, rather than relying on the vague “reliable transportation”.

      1. Kipper*

        Well, I didn’t mean as a contract, just that maybe she did sign *something* that stated she needed reliable transportation, and opinions on what that is can be different among different people. LW felt the carpool fit the bill, while company thinks it means one’s own car.

    4. OP #1*

      Hey, this is #1! I didn’t sign anything of the sort. I scoured my job offer and their solicitation to get me to interview and they didn’t say anything. Otherwise I would have said something sooner.

  11. NarrowDoorways*


    My boss quit a year ago and I STILL get oodles of personal emails in her inbox. I know her boss, who also has access to the inbox, was horrified to find she used it for so many person things. I get updates from her church group, her kids’ school about after school programs and lunch amounts, her actual kids….

    I forwarded them to my old boss for awhile, but when it was clear she wasn’t bothering to fix the issue, I stopped. I can only assume her kid eventually got picked up from school. I can only assume she missed the deadline for her church activities and didn’t mind. I’m still getting the emails! I think it’s finally about the time we could close her email altogether.


    1. You Don't Know Me*

      The person I took over for had her electricity bill sent to her work email. Three years later I’m still getting shut off notices for her. I texted her the first few months after she left. I would think she didn’t others to know she wasn’t paying her bills but if she doesn’t care I don’t.

    2. Nikki T*

      Yeah, I’m not sure why people do this. I can understand a child sending a message needing to be picked up, because that’s an immediate need. But all your shopping subscriptions, bills, receipts..all of your friends…

      My coworker got a new computer, but she had to keep the old one from being taken away until she could get all her pictures off. I was like…why does she have all her personal pictures at work? Luckily the powers that be are more forgiving than I, they waited until she got it done. I’d have wanted it off our inventory as quickly as possible, but I digress.

      1. Violet Fox*

        Speaking as someone who works in IT, we have more and more of a problem where I work with people not understanding the line between personal and work stuff when it comes to tech. Though we more have the problem that people are using their private gmail accounts to try to do work stuff, and don’t get why we as the IT staff make them jump through a ton of hoops to prove that they are themselves and are actually allowed to have the information/access to research data that they are asking for. Granted, and we do tell them this, that if they just send things from their work email address, we can verify things easily and they will get a much quicker answer.

        Trying to explain about why unpublished research data cannot be stored in people’s personal accounts on outside cloud services is just a whole other headache…

        Yeah, I work at a university which makes all of this more complicated since a lot of the people who end up working there transition from students to employees who don’t understand the difference so well.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          We can’t do that. Our files are confidential. You can have a flash drive, and I do–the only work thing I ever load on there is my paycheck. But it has to be BitLockered. That means I have to log into my own flash drive on my computer at home, but at least if I lose it, no one can get my personal stuff, which is kind of nice.

          1. Violet Fox*

            Academica makes things odd. Really odd. Granted I have not spent a lot of time out of it, but as far as I can tell it is a completely different world then anything outside of it.

    3. Koko*

      I don’t even like to use my work address to sign up for work-related but not job-specific things – like a GitHub account or professional association membership. I’m very happy where I am but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be here literally until I retire from my career, and I want to be able to continue using those resources when I move on and not have to remember to change a bunch of accounts!

    4. Solidus Pilcrow*

      While I don’t advise using a work email for personal business, I can see how it may happen. I’ve worked in places that locked down any external email sites on their computers due to data security. No gmail, yahoo, etc. Couple that with an office where there is spotty or no cell phone reception (one office I worked in had special dampers for wifi and cell signals, another office had the ground floor buried like a bunker) and it would just be easier to use your work email account if there is something you need immediate notification for.

      That being said, there isn’t a whole lot of email that can’t wait until I got home to check it.

      1. Mishka*

        Yeah, I am in that situation too. Occasionally I will send an email outbound and given the restriction on external email access I feel like that’s inevitable on a large scale. But I would never set up something like my electric bill or legal correspondence(!) to come to me at work.

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      Seriously. I do not get why people use their work email for personal stuff. I used to have to cover for a team lead and whenever I’d have to check her email throughout the day it was a serious pain in the ass to sort through all her personal crap to find the one customer email. The only thing I can think of is they have a spouse or significant other they share a personal one with and don’t want them knowing all the shopping and stuff they’re doing??

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      This really cannot be repeated enough: DON’T USE YOUR WORK EMAIL FOR PERSONAL BUSINESS.

      On top of the waste of company resources, the hassle of having everything tied to an address you may not keep long-term, and just the out-and-out inappropriateness of it, if your employer is ever sued, your email may end up in discovery at some point. I have seen more people’s lunch plans, gossip, bills, eBay bidding, affair rendezvous coordination, and porn than I have ever wanted to see. EVER. (Oh, my god, people why are you sending PORN through work email?!?!?) The publicly-released Enron data set that is often used to demo document review software in the legal industry has all sorts of stuff in it that I assume the authors never intended to be public (family photos, entirely-work-inappropriate jokes/forwards, etc.).

      So, yeah, don’t use your work email for your personal stuff. It’s not private.

  12. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #3. Ugh, I get this with phone calls constantly. Whoever had my extension last (and there were at least a few years between when she left and when I got the ext.) used it everywhere, so I get constant voicemails about her son missing school 2-3x per week, collections calls, and legal calls — I don’t know the circumstances under which she left the company, but things don’t sound so good for her now. And telling them that she no longer works here and hasn’t for something like eight frickin’ years achieves jack-all — good luck actually convincing a collections rep that So-and-So really, really is not at this number!

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      If you’re in the US, it’s generally against the law for collection agencies to harass you at work (or at least it used to be). One way to put an end to it is to tell them that it’s not your debt, you don’t know where they can find the debtor and if they continue to harass you at work, you’ll report them to your state Attorney General’s office.

      I had a sibling who had issues paying his bills and I’d get these calls about him all the time and that line worked wonders.

    2. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Oh no! I thought I had it bad when I got the old extension of our CEO’s admin. I’ve never gotten personal calls for her, thankfully.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Ha, right? I once had to fax some dude my t-mobile bill so he could see my name and the number did not match some Cynthia he was trying to collect money from.

  13. Rebecca*

    #3–if the auto-reply isn’t getting them to back off, maybe a phone call would? It has the advantage of taking a relatively short time, and most likely only being necessary once…

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      For repeat offenders sending email to nonexistent addresses on my vanity domain, I’d set any incoming emails to that address to be forwarded to the From address of the last oblivious email I got. Since they were so oblivious, none of them apparently knew enough to do a WHOIS for that domain, because I never heard a peep from anyone when I did this. When I remember to remove the forwarding quite a few months later, the emails to that address have always ceased. :D

    2. themmases*

      This is what I do with someone who occasionally gives out my email address. Her name is more common than mine so I never found her even though at first I tried to figure out who she might be.

      Then she nearly gave me a heart attack one morning by having a bunch of confirmation emails about her very expensive European vacation sent to me! We share a last name so they all said Ms. Mylast and looked legit for a minute. Now her stuff, including those confirmations, goes to spam.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I’ve had the same moments of panic when the woman who has “not.droid” vs. my “notdroid” address.

        A lot of systems don’t recognize the dot, so I get her confirmations for services, shopping, travel…

        1. Jessica (tc)*

          I like that Gmail doesn’t care how many dots are in an email address. Email sent to “notdroid@gmail.com,” “not.droid@gmail.com,” or even “n.o.t.d.r.o.i.d@gmail.com” all go to the same person.

          I had a really old Gmail address that was my first initial and last name, and there are a ton of people with that combination, and they used it to sign up for everything. I got airline confirmations, hotel information, and tons of stuff for people all over the world. I finally got rid of it a few years ago after the spam from all of those emails got so bad.

          1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

            I probably should just get rid of it. Or turn it over to the other user :)

            1. Jessica (tc)*

              Mine was a bunch of others, unfortunately. It was pretty crazy. One guy was using it to cheat on his wife on different websites.

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Haha, I have a guy in Chicago with my last name and first initial. Our gmail addresses are very similar and I sometimes get his Open Table confirmations for very expensive restaurants! Plus his church leadership newsletter which is much less exciting. (I did get that one to stop eventually, I think the problem was that whoever was sending those out was using a pre-set up contact list and didn’t know how to change the one email address. I finally sent it to the intended recipient and was like, “Can you make these stop please?”)

  14. Gandalf the Nude*

    We waited a long time to shut down my late boss’ email address because there were a bunch of things that would only come up once a year, and it could have been very bad if we’d missed some of them. That meant dealing with all the spam and marketing emails from folks trawling LinkedIn for address. One truly obnoxious guy, who I had to actually reply to to request he remove the email from his distribution, wrote back saying he’d just talked to Boss the other day and he’d seemed interested in his (completely irrelevant to us) service. Boss had been dead six months at that point. Even after I told him so, the guy had the gall to add me to his distribution.

    All that to say, some folks are not deterred by a non-responsive but still active email address, and the only way to get them to believe is to turn off the account.

  15. Jane*

    If someone leaves their email should be shut off with an auto reply that they no longer work there and contact information for the appropriate colleague who can handle work related inquiries. You should not be sorting through his email, they should be ignored entirely and people with legitimate work related inquiries can email your work address.

    1. OP#3*

      One issue is that some of the things– like subscriptions and auto-notices– come from automated systems. I’m catching them and updating vendors as best I can but I need at least a quarter to get everything.

  16. Roscoe*

    I kind of disagree a bit on #2. Not that I think you should have to hang out with someone you don’t like, however I do think that how someone is socially shouldn’t really affect their professional reputation. If you think he would use you as a reference, just tell him that you don’t want to do so, and you can say why. However at the same time, it seems that you do endorse his work professionally, so I would probably be a reference for him and just keep it to what I know professionally. There are some great doctors and lawyers and stuff out there who are very arrogant people, but I don’t care as long as they can do the job I want. But if he is new to the job market, you don’t want to bring that up as another data point.

    1. MaggiePi*

      In my experience, truly arrogant people are not good employees, even, or possibly especially, doctors and lawyers. They might be extremely book smart, but truly arrogant people are bad listeners and bad learners (since they think they already know everything). This reminds me of the new employee who refuses to take notes or ask questions, but then of course makes mistakes and responds defensively when those mistakes are found.
      A few years back I saw an arrogant specialist doctor who didn’t listen to me and didn’t try to understand symptoms and kept telling me “what the book said.” I refuse to see that doctor again and have even paid an out of network clinic out of pocket to avoid her. Her clinic, as her employee, should know and care that she is driving patients away, even though she “can do the job.”

      1. Kyrielle*

        This. And, honestly, she can’t do the job if she’s missing things because she doesn’t take anything outside Her Way into account.

        And, as far as listening well but being otherwise rude or dismissive, just not making assumptions? That’s going to lead to patients not *saying* things the doctor needs to hear. It’s also a miserable way to get care at best, and for people with conditions that are exacerbated by stress, it’s also arguably directly damaging to the patient’s health.

        1. fposte*

          Perhaps more importantly to some prospective employers, arrogant doctors are lawsuit magnets.

      2. Roscoe*

        Thats fair. I guess I’m just saying in my experience, I’ve had some people I worked with who I had no problem with them at work, but I didn’t really like them outside of work at all. However, I’d still have no problem referring them to a job. In the same way that I would have reservations about being a reference for someone I only knew socially, I also wouldn’t let the fact that I do know them socially change my opinion of them professionally.

        1. MK*

          But it’s not really about how they are socially, it’s how they are as personalities. Working with an arrogant person every day can turn your working life into a misery and can cause major disruption in a workplace; you may not care, but many people don’t think being great at your job should or does give you licence to be a jerk. And in most cases people can find an equally good worker who isn’t a drain to be around.

          If I know a great doctor or lawyer who has is also arrogant and prickly (which isn’t the same as a co-worker anyway), I would say so, because the person getting the recommendation might well care and I don’t want to be known as someone who recommended that jerk.

          1. LBK*

            I think Roscoe’s point, though, is that if the person isn’t arrogant at work, then none of this applies. However, I do think it’s extremely rare that someone’s unlikable traits can be completely turned off at the office without ever bleeding through (as it seems to have done in this case).

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            Yeah, the only possible exception I could see, is if he worked for a company whose culture was one that everyone was like that (i.e. toxic).

    2. themmases*

      I really disagree. People who are rude and unpleasant ruin the work environment and make it difficult for others to do their best work. If it’s tolerated long-term, they ruin morale and increase turnover. Dismissing bad behavior as a trivial lack of social skills also covers for people who are actually bullies and harassers. No one is *that* good.

      Speaking as someone who has done research with some very unpleasant but presumably talented doctors, even they were not that good. Imagine trying to get your results written up with an investigator who thinks the statistical analysis is optional if you’re in a hurry, yet can’t use the word “correlation” correctly. Yeah, clinical brilliance (which, how would a layperson even know for sure) will only take that person so far.

      Disrespectful behavior in medicine, and lack of consequences for doctors, is considered a problem in this field. In medicine, terrible relationships between coworkers can even harm patients if everyone is afraid to tell someone they’re wrong, or avoids sharing information because they want to avoid someone else on the team. I have seen that happen myself. And if people are vulnerable to that in medicine, you can bet it is causing problems in environments where the stakes are lower.

    3. LBK*

      I’m generally on board the “who you are outside of work doesn’t matter at work” train but I don’t think that actually applies here, because the OP had already noticed some extent of the arrogance while they were working together. Their relationship outside of work just confirmed her original feeling, it wasn’t completely new information.

      1. Roscoe*

        But it didn’t seem like a big enough problem at work for it to be something they would have brought up for a reference before. It seems like it was annoying, yet tolerable. But now that they know them more socially, she is letting that affect the professional side more than it should

        1. Rubu*

          OP here. I’ve definitely worked with people who I haven’t really liked or gotten along with outside of work, and I certainly wouldn’t include that in a reference if they were otherwise fine to work with. With this person specifically, I am concerned that these are personality traits that could start to bleed through into his work life more, especially if nobody says anything to him about it.

          What especially worries me is that he continues to unload, at length, gripes and grievances about the company and people who work there to his friends who still work there. I’m starting to realize that this negative behavior is something that was probably happening while he was still working there, and I’m only now realizing the extent of it – that’s what makes me think that he may be a more toxic influence on the workplace than I realized at the time, and what makes me not want to hire him again.

          One thing we talked about at length when he left was my perception that he didn’t really believe in anything the company was doing and treated a lot of company initiatives as though they were jokes. He agreed that he didn’t see the value in “drinking the Kool-Aid” as it were, and in my experience that is something that can really affect your long-term prospects at a company. I agree with commenters’ earlier suggestions that I keep the conversation mostly to things that happened at work when viewed through this new lens, since he should be allowed to be who he wants to be outside of work. I think a gentle reminder that he should be careful about the ways in which his “industry friends” and “friends to vent to about work frustrations” Venn diagrams overlap would also be good since, as another commenter pointed out, he’ll encounter these people again over the course of his career. You are correct though that I may also just want to recommend that he not use me as a reference.

  17. Newbie*

    LW# 1: I think it’s best to talk with your manager to explain that you have carpooling/other arrangements for getting to work and that you don’t generally have transportation readily available during the work day. Let him know you’re happy to do errands as needed within the scope of your role, but that you’d need guidance on the best way to accomplish those errands without a vehicle on site during the day.

    While the majority of people outside of major cities probably drive themselves to work, there are also a percentage that have carpooling arrangements. I live in a relatively rural area, but carpool with my husband as much as we can for a variety of reasons. So there are many days when I don’t have a vehicle readily at my disposal. I do own a car, it just isn’t always with me at work.

    The key issues are that you arrive at work on time (how you get there shouldn’t matter) and that you complete your work accurately and timely. I assume running errands isn’t a key component of your role or that would have come up in the job description or during the interview.

    1. TootsNYC*

      You know, that’s an interesting point–the OP would be in the same position if she -did- own a car but (for monetary reasons) preferred to carpool with a colleague. She doesn’t have transportation available, whether she actually owns a car or not.

      I might be very happy to drive a colleague to work regularly and reliably (hey, it’ll take the edge off the gas costs!), but I sure wouldn’t loan them my car to run errands in the middle of the day–not even for my company.
      Or, if my family member dropped me off, they’d have the car wherever they ended up.

  18. matcha123*

    #5, that is rude. And it’s the definition of being given an inch and taking a mile.

    Unless your friend often orders desert to go on your dime, I think this is something that shouldn’t be done.

    1. Anony-turtle in a half shell!*

      I was out with my spouse and her sisters once, and one of the siblings surprised us by paying for our meal. She asked if we wanted to get dessert, so we (me and my spouse) and the treating sibling & spouse ordered a piece of pie to eat there. The other couple (my other sister-in-law and spouse) ordered a whole pie to take with them and had the server cut a piece for each of them at the table. The rest of us just kind of looked at each other in disbelief. Just…who does that?

  19. Will*

    #5. Wow, I read this completely differently than everybody else. I thought the context was that a friend was treating you to lunch on his *company’s* dime/expense.

    For example, my friend is also my finance guy, so whenever we have lunch, we talk about my finances for like a minute to justify expensing the lunch was a working lunch. A few times, if out of town friends are here for a conference or something, we’ve gone out to dinner and they graciously put my tab on their expenses (as long as it’s under their per diem).

    In those cases I wouldn’t order the entire menu and throw it in the trash but I wouldn’t blink at getting a dessert to go.

    (Interestingly, I wonder how this changes if you’re on a date, lol)

    1. fposte*

      I’m showing my state employee roots here, but I’m considerably more horrified at getting a dessert to go in that situation.

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        Lunch -and- dessert? MUH TAXES.

        I bet you ordered a drink instead of just having three glasses of water, too, you big-government leech. :P

    2. Mirror*

      I read it as “they ordered dessert for me but I’m full. Is it rude not to eat mine with them in the restaurant?” And in that case, I’d say it isn’t rude.

  20. TootsNYC*

    Re: the not-so-nice mentor-ee

    I was struck by how the OP didn’t really like this guy that much but perhaps felt obligated to serve as a mentor, or at least offered that relationship at what I felt was sort of little reason to.

    I was reminded of a situation in one of Naomi Novick’s Temeraire novels (“In the King’s Service,” the first one, I think). Our hero ends up in a new branch of the military service (the dragon air force), and the existing officers are a bit standoffish. One of them is quite friendly, so our hero sinks rapidly into a friendship w/ this guy, and the other officers are perhaps even more standoffish–or at least, never warm to him and are borderline civil.
    Later he discovers that his friend is a flaming asshole, cruel and abusive to his dragon, violates all the politeness and gender norms of this particular service (women are equal there, but not in greater society).
    And our hero is mortified that he has associated himself with someone so unworthy, and someone whose standards and mores are so at odds w/ our hero’s honor.

    And I’ve always thought of it as a great lesson in not leaping too quickly to create a close relationship until you are sure that the person is someone you really -want- to have in that relationship.

    If I’m going to serve as a mentor for someone, it’s got to be someone I think is worth the energy, whose company I would personally enjoy, and whose success is something I personally feel invested in.

  21. Grace*

    In the same vein as #5: Is it rude to get a to-go box if you can’t finish your meal paid for by someone else (at a business or social gathering)? I can’t stand to let food go to waste and just be thrown away when it would make perfectly good leftovers. I’m not saying you order extra food, like in the OP’s question, just your normal sized, normal priced meal.

    1. dragonzflame*

      Can’t see why it would be! If I was buying lunch for someone I’d rather they take it home than have the food go to waste!

      1. Grace*

        Glad to hear this because I’ve been out to lunch with a large group and been the only person that got a to-go box. I felt awkward about it, but I just couldn’t finish my meal!

    2. stevenz*

      I think very few people would have a problem with taking home a reasonable amount of leftovers. If they paid for it, they wouldn’t want to see it wasted either.

  22. EW*

    #4: One approach is to think about what you’ve been doing so far in your job, and ask yourself: what parts do you like most/least about it? What parts would you like to do more or less of? In my first job, I was doing a mix of administrative tasks and research/writing, and while I probably wouldn’t have been able to articulate a long-term “career plan” or “career goals” (which sounds daunting), I knew instinctively I wanted to be doing more research/writing in general. Or maybe you’d like budgeting, or event planning, or whatever the task is. Or you can think about it in terms of topics — you like working on this issue area but not on that one.

    Then start to break it down into steps: In order to do those activities you’d to do more of, or work on the issue areas you enjoy, would it help you to have … more experience? training? education? specific accomplishments? Maybe you’d like to do that neat thing over there that coworker Fergus does, but you don’t have the background/training to do it quite yet.

    … you get the idea. These are the building blocks of career planning and goal-setting. So I guess my basic advice is to listen to your gut feeling, and don’t make this overly complicated: if you enjoy doing something or want to do it more, that’s a clue, so listen to it. Good luck!

  23. Narise*

    Anytime you mentor someone remember Maya Angelou- ‘when people show you who they are believe them.’ If this guy is one way at work and one way outside of the office you can’t be sure which version will be hired- the arrogant worker who produces, or the loud mouth who hates everyone and has no filter.

  24. KC*

    #3 Why people use their work/college emails for things that they should be using their professional/personal emails for is beyond me. Work/college emails are essentially temporary and lacking a certain amount of control and privacy.

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