are you obligated to support your friends’ businesses, how much PTO should I save for emergencies, and more

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

1. Are you obligated to support your friends’ businesses?

My friend, who is an Arbonne consultant, recently posted this on her Facebook page and I was wondering your thoughts (and the readers’ thoughts) on it:

If your friend sells Avon, try it!
If your friend sells Scentsy, try it!
If your friend sells Tupperware, try it!
If your friend sells Jamberry, try it!
If your friend sells Intimo, try it!
If your friend sells Arbonne, try it!
If your friend sells Juice Plus+, try it!
If your friend sells Mary Kay, try it!
If your friend sells Isagenix, try it!
If your friend sells Bodyshop, try it!
If your friend sells Norwex, try it!
Moral of the story, if my friend owned a restaurant, yes I would eat there! If my friend bought a coffee shop, I’d buy their coffee/tea. If a friend of mine owned a finance company, I would go there! If one of my friends owned a gym, I would train there. At the end of the day when you help a small business owner you’re not only helping them, but you’re also helping put money back into our economy. #SupportYourFriends #networkmarketing #thefutureisonlinebusiness #betterway #helpingothers #workingtogether #team #businessofthe21stcentury

I personally disagree with this sentiment. I don’t think eating a friend’s restaurant is the same as supporting their MLM business. When I eat at a restaurant, my friend doesn’t then ask me if I want to start up my own restaurant business! What are your thoughts?

Yep, I’m with you. I’m all for supporting friends’ businesses when you want to, but you’re never obligated to, and multi-level marketing schemes in particular have way too much baggage for this to be a reasonable message — the pushy sales approach, the ethical issues with how they get sellers to spend lots of their own money with promises of riches that rarely occur, the shady business model overall…

Pressuring one’s friends with this kind of guilt-trippy posting is a good example of why many people avoid MLM sellers.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. How much PTO should I save for sickness or emergencies?

I started at my first full-time job out of college about eight months ago, where I get a generous amount of paid time off for both vacation and sick time. I’m not the biggest fan of combining sick and vacation into one pot, but it’s a good job so I put up with it. How much of this time do I need to keep in reserve for sick days? I’m generally a very healthy person and I rarely stay home sick, but I know emergencies and accidents happen. Will it look irresponsible if I zero out my PTO near the end of a quarter? Will I be in big trouble if an emergency comes up and I don’t have enough PTO to cover an absence? Is having 8 or 16 hours set aside enough or do I need to stash more?

I know part of your answer will be to ask my supervisor, but I’m just wondering if there are any professional norms around this that I should know about.

I think it’s smart to keep some PTO set aside from emergencies or sick days, but there’s no one accepted formula for how much to set aside. I’d probably keep at least a few days untouched until you get close to the end of the year. Alternately, you could mentally categorize some of your PTO as vacation and some as sick leave (making it more similar to the traditional arrangement) and use it accordingly, and then if you end up with unused sick time near the end of the year, convert it over to vacation time.

I don’t think you’ll look irresponsible if you zero out your balance every quarter, but I do think you’re setting yourself up for a problem if you then get the flu right afterwards. It’s reasonable for your manager to want you to manage your PTO balance in a way that doesn’t put you into the red except in extenuating circumstances. (In other words, it’s reasonable that you might not have planned for getting an illness that keeps you out two weeks, but it’s reasonable to expect you to plan on needing at least a few sick days during the year.)

But this kind of thing can vary by office culture, so I do think it’s smart to ask your manager how she handles it and/or ask some colleagues who you respect and who seem to be in good standing.

3. Can I ask my employer to tear up the contract we just signed?

I am a private school teacher, and the owner is opening a charter school next year. I signed a contract today for the charter school, but I was really not satisfied with the offer. It is definitely more than my current situation, but it is not what I was led to believe. Can I just ask him to tear the contract up because I signed hastily and have changed my mind? (He is a stickler for fine print.)

Well, if that were accepted as a reasonable thing for people to do, contracts would lose much of their meaning. Imagine if this were reversed and he asked you to tear it up because he wanted to pay you less — you’d presumably feel he was acting in bad faith, right? Signing a contract is a big deal — you’re saying you’ve thought through the terms and are committing to them.

I suppose if you want to get out of the job altogether, you could try that — but you’d need to assume that it would be the end of the employment relationship; it wouldn’t be a way to reopen negotiations.

4. Can the new overtime threshold be met by considering the cash value of benefits?

About the new overtime rule that requires employees to be non-exempt and paid overtime if they earn less than $47,476: My owner wants to know are there other compensations like 401 K, taxes or insurance etc. that can be given to employees that don’t meet the $47,476? We read where 10% can be use from bonuses, commissions etc., but are there any other incentives that can be used/considered to make up that difference?

Nope, it’s got to be salary.

You’re right that up to 10% of the salary level used to make the calculation can come from non-discretionary bonuses, incentive payment, and commissions. But you can’t use the value of benefits, retirement contributions, payroll taxes, or anything else to calculate it — it’s got to be salary.

5. Will it look odd that I’m using my current manager as a reference?

I find myself in a position that I’ve never been in before. My manager and I are both quietly looking for other jobs and have agreed to help each other out and use each other as references if needed. We have a great relationship, and I really admire her. Unfortunately, our current working environment has just become toxic, and neither of us can continue working here long-term. However, when I think about how this will look to a prospective employer, I wonder if I should reconsider using her as a reference. Will this raise too many questions about why my current manager is willing to let me go?

No, I think you should be fine. You can say, “My manager and I have a strong relationship and I was up-front with her that I’ve decided to look around because of X.” Depending on what X is, you could even add, “She agrees that X has become an obstacle here, so she understands why I’m considering leaving.”

{ 277 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Educator*

    For #1, even though there are differences between MLMs and regular businesses, I still would find it extremely obnoxious if my friend opened a restaurant and pressured me into patronizing it. I would likely visit the restaurant once if I was interested in the cuisine, but I wouldn’t feel obligated to do it. And, in fact, the more I was pressured to do it, the less inclined I would be to try it.

    For #3, you say you’re a private school teacher but you signed a contract for a charter school? I don’t really know what the deal is for charter schools, but I will say contracts for most private schools aren’t legal contracts so much as good faith contracts. They can’t sue you in small claims court or send you to jail for breaking a contract. But you have burnt that bridge forever if you renege. I know private school teachers who have done it before, and it’s survivable, but it will tarnish your reputation for anyone that principal/head of school knows who may later ask her/his opinion about you in the future.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      #3 – How can you say that private school contracts aren’t real contracts? The school may not choose to enforce the contract but that is different than legally binding. In some states you don’t even have to write it down – oral contracts are legal (just hard to prove).
      If you are an adult you are expected to read the contract. If you don’t understand it you’re expected to get help. Once you sign it then it is game over. “I changed my mind” does not count.

    2. Graciosa*

      Why do you think charter school contracts are not legal?

      In most cases, if she signed a written contract to perform work in exchange for compensation, she could absolutely be sued for breaching it (and not necessarily only in small claims).

      These are civil matters, however, so you’re correct that she wouldn’t be sent to jail. Presumably if she breaks her contract, the school will have to go to the expense of finding someone to replace her and cover the position. If she wants an accurate assessment of her potential liability, she should consult an attorney who practices in her area and is prepared to advise on any helpful laws that may apply in her case.

      That said, there are many areas of the law where it is not typical to actually sue (either because of the expense or simply industry custom), although that doesn’t actually change the law or the potential that a person who did choose to sue could prevail in court.

      The better practice in future is to assume that contracts are binding and enforceable before signing them. This may mean asking for a few days to consider the offer or review the agreement, but anyone who doesn’t allow any time for reflection is probably trying to bully the person into doing something they will regret.

      However walking away from a contract would certainly damage the OP’s reputation very badly, and “but I didn’t realize what I was signing” may not be much of an excuse in this profession. I don’t know that it’s fair, but I rather expect teachers to have higher levels of reading comprehension than an average member of the public. Trying to explain a lack of understanding in future interviews is not going to make the OP sound like teacher of the year material.

      Overall, I think in the OP’s position, I would stick it out for the year and then move on. There should be lots of credible reasons to do so at that point that would let the OP present herself in a much better light as she tries to find her next job.

      1. New Bee*

        Teaching contracts usually just indicate how much you’ll be compensated, e.g., “Salary will be $X0,000 for the 2016-2017 school year”, and they’re often an informal way of figuring out turnover, but they’re not usually treated as binding. Leaving in the middle of the year will get you blackballed, but resigning over the summer is common, signed contract or not. It’s actually really easy to leave teaching, as long as it’s June-August.

        To the OP, Alison’s right. The time for negotiation is over, so you have to decide whether it’s worth leaving the job.

        1. neverjaunty*

          “Can I tear up a contract” is a question the LW should be asking a lawyer practicing in her state/province. None of us know what’s in it, whether there is a revocation clause, whether the contract is void or voidable as written, etc.

          1. New Bee*

            Well yeah, that’s nearly always the case with legal-ish questions outside Alison’s purview. But the nature of teaching contracts, in general, is different than what appears to be most commenters’ contract experience, which makes her getting blackballed from teaching pretty unlikely.

            I think Alison’s last sentence hit the right note: she pointed out that ripping it up and asking for more money wouldn’t work, but that the OP could end the employment relationship (which is always an option, and she’s best positioned to know the ramifications of that).

      2. Engineer Woman*

        I don’t quite understand how executing a contract is necessarily “game over” or that you would be sued for breaching it unless there are clauses that tie up employee and employer. But in most cases, both parties should be able to walk away from the contract – no work, no compensation. OP3 has changed mind about employment and now no longer wants to work at the charter school. I would think that relaying this decision within just a few days of signing of contract is far better than doing so later / close me to start of school year. Might as well “reject” the position now. This is assuming there is no penalty for “quitting”.

        However, if OP3’s intent is to “tear up contract” and start over (renegotiate), then that most likely cannot happen. I suppose it could, but I would be amazed at any employer who would be willing to do that. I agree walking away from the position/contract now would reflect very badly on OP.

        1. Graciosa*

          Contract law doesn’t actually work this way as a general rule – one party who signed getting to change their mind and having everyone walk away as if it had never happened. There are a few exceptions (usually in special areas set out in applicable state law) but the normal expectation is that signing a contract matters.

          Not performing after signing is known as a breach of the contract, and generally makes the breaching party liable for any damages suffered by the non-breaching party.

          In short, the law does not work the way you think it should – which is both not unusual and a reason for the OP to get qualified legal help if she really wants to get out.

    3. Myrin*

      Totally agreed on #1. Additionally, if I visited the restaurant to support my friend and found out that I didn’t like the food, I wouldn’t come back, friend or not. I guess this thought is encompassed in the Facebook posts “try it!” but still, someone who thinks like this is probably thinking of or at least hoping for a more permanent support than a singular event.

      1. The Rat-Catcher*

        This, exactly. It would be one thing if I could just order one lipstick color or weight loss wrap or whatever, but MLM reps rarely stop there, and if I “try it” once, I feel like the pressure multiplies.

        1. INTP*

          It absolutely does because they’ve identified you as a person susceptible to pressure. Like a lion sniffing out the weakest gazelles. I wouldn’t buy an MLM product I was actually interested in from a friend even, I would buy online to avoid this problem.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        It’s also the thing of if I’m eg allergic to shellfish, I won’t try your sushi restaurant – and if I don’t wear nailpolish I’m not going to try your nailwraps, etc etc

      3. TootsNYC*

        Also, the “try it” is a problem.

        I do regularly eat out–I’m in the market for restaurants.

        So I would actually try my friend’s restaurant. And if I didn’t like it, or thought it was too expensive, I wouldn’t go back.
        I wouldn’t hire my friend as a contractor, though; I wouldn’t go to a friend for financial services. I wouldn’t have a friend cut my hair.

        And if I were interested in (i.e., in the market for) manicure stuff, I would probably try Jamberry once.

        But if I don’t need a tote bag, I’m not going to buy my friend’s MLM product.
        I’m not going to “try!” something that I am not already interested in just because my friend does that as a business.

        1. Green*

          I’ve seen another version of this post, and there are all sorts of little graphics about supporting “small businesses” with little inspirational quotes for them to repost — as a marketing tactic.

          I have a relative who has sold just about every single product out there: nutritional shakes and supplements, makeup, essential oils, tote bags, candles, etc. But (1) I don’t want most of that stuff, and (2) if I decide to buy that stuff I can get it elsewhere at a fraction of the cost. My relative recently posted one of these guilt trip posts, so I picked something out of her latest jewelry catalog and paid 10x what it was worth to keep the peace and get off of her naughty list, but I think I’m done for this decade on buying things from her catalogs. If it were just a friend, I’d click “unfriend” and call it a day.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            That is irritating, because giant MLMs are not “small businesses”, and people shouldn’t be guilted into supporting them as such.

            1. Lindsay J*


              An MLM is not a small business. If you sell MLM products, you are not a business owner.

              I would absolutely try my friend’s restaurant, or buy something from my friend’s store, or whatever. But presumably that restaurant and store would be fulfilling my friend’s vision in some way – they would be selecting the foods or products they were selling, choosing suppliers, etc. And they would presumably have a lot of time and effort placed into the venture, and stand to lose a lot of they failed.

              When you’re selling MLM products you’re more akin to a commissioned sales person. And, while I like my friends, when I’m buying a big screen TV I’m not going to buy one from Sears just because they’re a salesperson there. I’m going to do my research and buy it online from somewhere that suits me.

              And, like Sears or any other company, Amway or It Works or Younique or Mary Kay or Doterra whatever aren’t out there to empower people and enable them to live their lives without working in an office all day. They’re there to make money. Doing it as “direct sales” is part of their strategy. And you know that if they found that selling stuff in an online store were more profitable than their current model they would yank the stuff away from their “small business owners” tomorrow with no regrets.

              I’ve also found, for the most part, that the products that are sold this way are sold this way because they wouldn’t sell on the shelves of a store – they’re inferior quality, too expensive, just plain snake oil, or some combination of the three. The only way they sell is by getting people to guilt their friends into buying them in the hopes of making it big and getting their pink Cadillac or whatever.

              And a lot of the people I know that have been suckered into selling these things are in a desperate financial situation where selling these things is the only way they feel like they’ll ever be able to get ahead of their bills, etc. And they get taken advantage of by these promises of making tons of money because they’re in a place that they feel like they need to believe that it’s possible. And then their friends get taken advantage of because they get suckered into buying $30 crappy mascara (seriously, I can buy Chanel mascara for the same price as a tube of Younique) because they feel guilty if they don’t. And I can’t support a company with that business model, no matter how much I like my friends.

              I also have a real problem with the medical claims a lot of these products (or these product sellers) make. Doterra Oils are the ones I’ve noticed as being the worst for this on my friend’s list. I’ve seen them claiming that essential oils can cure asthma, UTIs, cancer!!!, colds, and every other ailment under the sun. And I’m really fearful that someday some kid is going to die because some parent somewhere believed that it was better to treat their kid’s asthma with “natural” essential oils rather than the “dangerous chemical” inhaler their doctor prescribed. (And personally it really bothers me because my Facebook friend that sells this shit is a nurse and should know better.)

                1. Lynne*

                  That’s so sad. There’s no reason that kid needed to die.

                  And the parents are still firm anti-vaxxers. I suppose they can’t admit to themselves that their attitudes killed their kid. Not their fault, of course not.

              1. VictoriaHR*

                For real!

                I have had my own soapmaking business since 2012, but I have a really hard time selling in person (farmers markets, etc.) because of my Asperger’s. So I do most of my marketing – such as it is – online. However, I don’t post anything about my business on my personal FB page. I have a FB page for the business and market there, but I don’t bleed onto my personal page.

                Whenever one of my FB friends starts a MLM, I have to eventually hide their posts because of the MLM spam. And they always bug me to buy their crap. Luckily I have a great excuse – “if someone has never bought a $5 bar of soap that I made myself, thereby supporting my small business, I’m not going to support theirs if it’s not a product that I want.”

                I joined a “crunchy” mama group on FB for my area, hoping to be able to talk about my products, and they all (and I do mean all) sell MLM’s or have besties who do. So when someone posts for soap or lotion recommendations, the replies are full of Arbonne, etc. Very frustrating :(

            2. Florida*

              The basketball arena in my city is named the AmWay Arena. Small businesses do not sponsor professional sports arenas – especially at the naming rights level.

          2. Callie*

            This makes me so mad. If you are selling a product where you’re told what to sell, how to sell it, and what the price is, then you don’t have an “independent small business.”

            1. Snazzy Hat*

              I have a friend who is involved with a jewelry MLM. I am a hobbyist jewelry designer (dabbled in sales; I need to work on it). Every time my friend makes her FB posts encouraging others to join the MLM, I get so disappointed and want to post photos of my pieces as replies. “Make money selling jewelry!” “Hon, I’m already trying.”

          3. Joseph*

            I’ve seen that version too. It’s…not any more reasonable, honestly.

            Quite frankly, I’m not even sure I agree with the base sentiment of “unquestionably support friends”. I mean, if you applied that logic to other industries, it sounds absolutely ludicrous.
            >I’m an engineer – have you considered building a multi-million dollar water treatment plant in your backyard?
            >I have a friend who works in banking, why not close all your existing bank accounts and open ones with his bank?
            >My other friend sells luxury cars, how come you haven’t sold your Civic and bought a $300k Ferrari?

            It’s certainly nice to support your friends, but it’s only reasonable to the extent that you actually need, want and can afford the product.

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              Hey, there are some people who really do need a water treatment plant in their backyard; but, as an engineer, I also recommend the right installation for the size site, bucko!

              Anyone living in a sandy area who uses nitrates on their grass should be filtering their well water. Just sayin’.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          The thing that primarily jumped out at me from the OP’s friend’s post is that I damn sure wouldn’t go to a friend’s financial services firm. I might buy their Avon/Mary Kay/Jamberry if I wanted to. I would never, ever, ever buy Amway from anyone, including my own mother. I would definitely try a friend’s restaurant and frequent it if I liked it. But just because someone wants me to feel obligated to buy what they’re selling didn’t mean I have to play along at my own expense, friend, family, or not.

        3. BananaPants*

          I would absolutely have a friend work for me as a contractor or hair stylist – especially if they cut me a deal and I liked their work. In that case it’s a win-win for both of us! I wouldn’t do this for financial services, as that’s too personal.

          An MLM shill is not a small business owner. They just aren’t, no matter how much they may wish to think so. I actually question the business acumen of someone who gets suckered into a job where the companies disclose that something like 99% of “consultants” earn a few thousand dollars a year or less. I have a relative who is a high-earning full time MLM salesperson; over 95% of what she does is growing her downline, not actually selling exercise DVDs and overpriced shakes. She’s selling other people on the idea that they can have the same lifestyle (which she already had before) – she targets working women and mothers who are tired of the rat race, claiming that they too can leave corporate America behind and spend more time with their kids. She has zero training or education in athletic training but she’s a “coach”. I’ll give her credit; she’s been very successful at convincing women that they can have what she does, but the fact is that most of the people in her downline are still working at what she claims are soul-sucking corporate jobs and doing the MLM on the side.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m speaking from a limited U.S. perspective where most states (with very few exceptions) are at-will employment states, so no matter what “contract” you sign, you can still legally leave at any time. I have certainly never heard of a school taking legal action against a teacher leaving outside of contract. That said, as I stated before, it is entirely burning a networking bridge. I wouldn’t recommend it.

      1. De (Germany)*

        “I’m speaking from a limited U.S. perspective where most states (with very few exceptions) are at-will employment states, so no matter what “contract” you sign, you can still legally leave at any time. ”

        Is that really the case? I thought “at-will” meant that in the absence of an actual contract saying otherwise, both partied can end employment with no notice. But with a contract, that contract takes precedence. (Honest question – I really have no idea)

        1. Dan*

          That’s right. But no contract is going to force two parties to maintain a working relationship when they no longer want to be affiliated.

          Most employment related contracts are just going to specify monetary damages if one party or the other walks away from it. Absent a contract, the at will concept allows any party to walk away at any time with no penalty.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Almost all contracts can be broken–there are simply penalties attached.
            (and of course, there are non-legal penalties, like them blackballing you)

            It’s somewhat rare that in a lawsuit, the judge will order that the contract be enforced. Sometimes in real estate or other property-related contracts, when people want to buy a specific property that can’t be substituted for, the judge will order the contract enforced.
            When the contract involves someone’s time and energy (their life), it’s really unusual for it to be impossible to break. That’s why the Kesha verdict shocked me so much. But then, she’s sort of irreplaceable; she’s not just another math teacher.

            But usually they’ll factor in financial damages as the cost of ruling the contract null.

            1. Natalie*

              FWIW, the Kesha case hasn’t been resolved yet. The only decision she lost was for a preliminary injunction to allow her to record with someone else while the lawsuit proceeds. That ruling is pretty sound – the damages she faces in having to wait for the lawsuit to finish are entirely fixable with money.

          2. Ruffingit*

            Exactly, because anything else would be akin to slavery basically. You cannot force someone to work for you. What you can do is collect monetary damages incurred by their refusal to honor their contract.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          All of the teaching contracts I’ve signed were completely devoid of legalese and mainly outlined the teaching assignments, the school year, and the annual salary. Not sure how legally binding that is, but I’ve never heard of a school going after a teacher for damages in breaking a contract. Will the school be a positive reference for the teacher? That’s a different question…

          1. MK*

            I think people to tend to confuse “contract” with “written”, but that’s not the case; it also doesn’t matter at all if there is legal parlance or not. A contract is an agreement between two people that they are both bound by the terms of that agreement; this could be oral, it’s just a lot more difficult to prove in that case. And, yes, a contract trumps the default “at will” system.

            That said, I can well believe that employers would not choose to sue employees for changing their mind about the job. I am in Europe, where employment contracts are the rule and there are non-waivable employment laws managing many aspects of the relationship (notice, severence, etc); and I have never heard of a case of an employer suing a worker for leaving their job in the 16 years I have practised law. It’s simply not worth the hassle and the expense, not to mention the potential bad publicity.

          2. Coffee Ninja*

            I second you here, Anonymous Educator. I work in the education field & everything you’ve said has been spot on, in my experience. The public districts I worked in as well as the private company company I currently work for issues “contracts” to teachers (and all employees) every summer. In each setting the “contract” and the administration is very clear that it is not a binding contract on either side as far as guarantee of employment, etc. In the public school district it established a set length of notice if the teacher quit – I believe 2 months, which isn’t unusual around here, but I forget what the consequence was if you broke that clause. It is more of a way to come to terms on salary, benefits, teaching assignment(s), and other admin stuff. I work in one of the most teacher-friendly states in the country, too, so this isn’t some sort of crazy scheme against teachers either.

            1. New Bee*

              Thirding. One district I worked even used to pay a bonus (up to $500) if you indicated your intent to leave in the Spring, because teachers leaving during the summer was so common.

              1. AGirlCalledFriday*

                Whoops! Didn’t mean to submit!

                I’m a teacher and these contracts are par for the course but it’s generally understood you can terminate whenever. Many people leave after signing in the summer, some leave during winter break, god help you if you leave midyear without a good reason through. The idea is to provide stability for the kids. No one goes after any teacher for termination of a contract – you can still be let go regardless of any contract.

          3. Green*

            It doesn’t have to specify damages; courts often configure damages based on reasonable. So if they’d normally spend $20 an hour on a teacher and need to spend $30 an hour on a substitute teacher in the interim, the court would determine the damages to be $10 an hour for the temp until they get a replacement in. Or if they hired you at $37,000 and hired a replacement at $39,000 the damages could be $2,000. No idea if they’d actually seek to enforce it (that depends on if there are any actual damages and how much it would cost to enforce vs. how much the damages are), but there doesn’t need to be legalese for a contract to exist.

            “Jane promises to pay Jim $1,000 for painting the wall” is a contract. The courts will fill in default terms for the rest of it, and if you don’t like the default (or uncertainty) then you write around it and that’s how you get longer contracts.

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              In this particular case, though, it’s the end of the school year for the upcoming school year. There are about three months to find a replacement teacher and no need to find a substitute. The real issue is that (though one day is not a ton of time) the principal/head of school may have already let the other final candidates know they’ve closed the search, and so those other candidates may have found jobs elsewhere. Again, very unlikely after one day, but possible.

      2. Dan*

        I don’t know how teaching contracts are written, but most of the time the penalties for breaking any other contract are financial. The school could sue to get you to finish out the teaching year, but a judge would have to enforce that, which is going to be a tough hill to climb, and is why schools don’t do that.

        A contract may also allow any party to terminate it with any or no notice, which would be another reason why schools won’t sue in court.

        Teaching or not, no reasonable employment contract is goinng to bind two parties together who no longer want to be affiliated.

        1. Nico m*

          Also theres a big difference between changing your mind now when the inks still wet and pulling out the day before term starts.

          1. Gaara*

            Yeah, if you’re going to do it, now is the time.

            Hopefully you learned a lesson about negotiating for next time.

          2. Green*

            Yes, damages will likely be much less if you pull out the next day vs. sitting on it for 2 months.

          3. Jenn*

            In terms of the relationship between the parties this might be true, but contracts don’t become more or less legally binding after time has passed – if it’s signed it’s signed

        2. Coffee Ninja*

          The school could sue to get you to finish out the teaching year, but a judge would have to enforce that, which is going to be a tough hill to climb, and is why schools don’t do that.

          In my state, at least, you can’t. There’s usually no provision in the contract to finish out the year, but if a school wanted to pursue that, it would go to mediation through the state department of Ed.

          I witnessed mediation cases (for other issues) a couple times and it was always a super fun & fascinating process /s :)

        3. Hm.*

          There are lots and lots of employment contracts that bind the parties together, even when one party doesn’t want it anymore. That’s why the contracts have provisions outlining how to terminate the agreement (what “termination for cause” means or what the notice period must be, for example).

          If the OP is serious about wanting to get out of the contract, she really needs to run it by an employment lawyer in her jurisdiction and not just assume the contract is non-binding.

      3. Observer*

        Actually, signing a contract can most definitely over-ride the “at will” provisions of the law. That’s why unions fight so hard for specific contracts that contain clauses around discipline, etc.

    5. Elysian*

      Private school contracts are definitely real contracts. What do you think makes a contract a “legal contract”? All it takes is two parties who agree to some kind of exchange. Usually in employment contract someone exchanges services for money. The end. That’s a contract. That is literally all it takes. It sometimes doesn’t even have to be written down.

      The contract will sometimes (but not always) specify how the employment relationship should end. The OP should look at what she signed to figure out if her contract does. Sometimes the contract says that the employment relationship remains “at will.” That’s still a real contract, but then OP can leave whenever. Sometimes the contract will specify how much notice you need to give to leave, or that there are penalties if you do, or that you have to work the whole school year or else forfeit some other right under the contract, etc. All of those are legally binding contracts, it is just what the two parties agree to. It doesn’t make any of them less legal or less binding; its just a matter of what you bound yourself to.

      The OP should read the contract. You’ve signed it, now read it. Whatever the contract says is what you need to do to terminate. If it says you can terminate at will, you can tell your boss you changed your mind and it doesn’t matter as far as the contract is concerned (though you might cause some bad blood). If it says you need to give 3 months notice, then that’s what you can do (or suffer the potential consequences if you don’t). But now you’ve signed it, you can’t just “undo” by telling your boss to rip it up (unless the contract has a revocation period and you’re within it, which some do. Probably not this type.)

    6. DCGirl*

      I worked for a private girls high school in Baltimore that can and did enforce contracts, including collecting the penalty specified for anyone who left during the middle of the school year. The best advice to give anyone who has signed a contract is to have it reviewed by an attorney to determine next steps.

    7. Anonymous Educator*

      Wow. I guess I was wrong. Not a lawyer. And it does sound as if contracts override at-will employment. So, yes, it is legally binding. That said, yes, I’ve never heard of a private school teacher facing legal ramifications for not honoring a contract by backing out (unless you consider getting a bad unsolicited reference being one of them). And, yes, I’m talking about only private schools. I’ve never worked in a charter school, so I don’t know if that applies.

  2. Sami*

    Ugh… manipulative Facebook posts AND multi-level marketing.
    Presumably you wouldn’t support a friends’ business is she treated her employees poorly? Or made terrible coffee? Or didn’t maintain safe gym equipment? Or whose (MLM) business had dubious (at best) science behind it?
    Just scroll past.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      All it needs is a tag-line saying “I’ll know who my real friends are by who reposts this” to go with the eight random hashtags tacked on the end.

      I don’t consider a MLM scheme to be a small business. At best, they’re on the predatory end of business practice, at worst, a deliberate scam aimed at a vulnerable population.

      And if my friend opened a restaurant expecting to make a living off of her friends and family eating there, and turned her Facebook feed and every social encounter with her all about why you should eat at her restaurant, I’d be blocking her Facebook feed and avoiding her at parties, the same way I’d treat the MLM participant.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Don’t forget, to really make this a parallel, your restauranteur friend would be pressuring you to order a ton of takeout food that you could then sell to YOUR friends! And make tons of $$$$!!!!!!

        Honestly, one of the reasons I avoid MLM businesses that sell actual decent products is because of the pressure. Hell, we give an extra donation to the PTA every years, well above the regular membership, so that 100% of it goes towards the school instead of towards businesses that make their profits convincing others to sell their crap. (Almost always crap I don’t need.)

      2. Coffee Ninja*

        It really hits a nerve when my MLM Facebook friends say they run “small businesses.” My dad’s been a small business owner my whole life & worked very, very hard at it. Hosting an online Facebook party does not qualify as small business management.

        I don’t mind purchasing stuff if it’s something that fits my needs, but that’s few & far between with the (IMO, very overpriced) MLM products. Constantly harassing me will not endear me to your cause. Some of my most vocal friends just had life changes – got married, finished grad school – so I’m hoping MLM was pocket money for them and goes away.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I haaaaate that. When someone turns their social connections into a marketing opportunity, I want to block them forever too.

        A couple of my friends have done that with Jamberry, etc. One writer friend spammed us to death with his book link — I did buy it, but his approach left me fairly annoyed. We’ve since traded off beta readings (I read his script; he read my latest) but I swore that when I published, I wouldn’t be so aggressive about it in my personal feeds. A pinned post and an occasional link in chat / forums if someone asks, yes. Constantly saying “Buy it buy it buy it” to people I’ve already mentioned it to, no. They want to know when my work is available and of course I would let them know! But I don’t want to push it on them. Huge turn-off.

        And I’ve had family doing some of the MLMs, and one person is a salesperson and spams about his job all the time. He messaged me once–I was excited to hear from him, but it was a pitch for his wife’s MLM thing. I was so disappointed. :(

        1. TootsNYC*

          I have a Facebook friend (former colleague) who has a new book out, and she puts up stuff on her personal page as well as her author page. It’s fun to see, because it’s news about her success (I have a book reading at the bookstore in my alma mater’s town during the reunion! I’m on the best-seller list! I found my book in an airport bookstore & autographed some! Look what this reviewer said!); it’s not “you should buy this book.”

          She apologized once and said she’d start putting that stuff only on her author page, and several of us said, “We’re actually enjoying it.” It helps that she’s charming and funny, and her posts reflect that.

          I think of Facebook as a way for us all to share what’s going on in our lives, hearts, heads. Her book is a big part of that. But me (and other Facebook people) buying her book? We aren’t “what’s going on in her life.” That would be our lives.

          1. Lindsay J*

            Yeah, one of my Facebook friends was recently published, and she had her work included in a big Kickstarter anthology. And she does post about it a lot on Facebook.

            But most of it isn’t… blatantly self promotional, I guess. It’s mostly just updates about her life, which, at this moment, basically revolves on this book being released. It’s more things like, “Surprise royalty check! I guess steak is back on the menu, boys! Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen.” Or “OMG they put my book on the promo poster for this con. Is this real life?” than, “Buy my book. You should buy my book. Do you like sci-fi and fantasy? Then buy my book. Support me.”

            1. Lindsay J*

              And also it helps that it is interspersed with lots of non-book-related posts like fangirling over Captain America and complaining about housework (and crappy parts of writing like writing proposals and artist statements and hitting word counts).

        2. Snazzy Hat*

          I was excited to hear from him, but it was a pitch for his wife’s MLM thing. I was so disappointed.

          I had an acquaintance who invited me to her apartment for a friend’s MLM presentation. I didn’t know anyone else. I was the only one who didn’t buy anything. I felt so out of place. She and I had mutual friends, too, which made the awkwardness even more awkward (i.e., those friends weren’t there, so I was mostly listening to other people who knew each other talk about fun things). But what really made it sad was when I realized I had been wasting my time trying to turn this acquaintance into a friend when we really didn’t have that personal click. I originally saw the “event” as “she’s inviting her friends, and that includes me! woo! I’ve been upgraded!” Turned out I was one of a number of people on a quota list.

    2. JMegan*

      Here’s what supporting a small business means to me. In my neighbourhood, there is a small family-owned chocolate shop, and a small family-owned macaroon shop across the street from a Giant Grocery Store that also sells high-quality chocolate and macaroons. If I happen to need chocolate or macaroons for a hostess gift or similar, I will buy from the smaller business rather than the giant grocery store. It does not mean that I will randomly pop into the small stores and buy things I don’t need, just to support the owners.

      Same with MLM. If a friend is selling something that I actually need, and the price and convenience factor are comparable to buying it elsewhere, then I’m happy to support them. But if I don’t need it, or it’s outrageously expensive, or it requires some form of participation (just comment in my FB party on Thursday night to be eligible to buy!), then I’m not going to do it.

    3. Me2*

      I actually just closed my small business that I’ve owned for five years, a brick and mortar home decor store competing with the likes of Wayfair or Joss & Main. I never used my personal FB to advertise my store, I never expected my friends to come in, although I was always happy to see them when they did, and I never asked any new acquaintance to patronize my store. If what I did for a living came up in conversation, people were often very intrigued and would ask where it was located, then I might hand them a coupon if I remembered to bring any with me, but that was the extent of marketing my business to personal connections. I also was not offended when someone showed me decor they purchased online or at Home Goods, just because I owned a store doesn’t mean they had to buy from me. Oh, I take it back, I did mention my store on my personal FB page once a year when we were having a big charity event that supported a charity very dear to the small town I live in. Ironically the previous owner of my store went on to a MLM company and customers would tell me all the time how disgusted they were with her posts, how they unfriended her, etc.

    4. many bells down*

      I had a friend from high school that I haven’t really chatted with in years. She was my platonic-date to Grad Nite, so we were pretty close at one point. So you can imagine how happy I was to see a Facebook message from her one day! Yeah, it was all about Arbonne and how great Arbonne is and no “Hi how are you Bells we haven’t talked in ages, what’s new?”

      I also got unfriended by a classmate after she kept adding me to her Jamberry “party” and I commented that it was silly to label a nail sticker “gluten-free.” Nearly my entire family has celiac disease; that’s not how gluten works! If your kid eats a pack of PVC nail stickers, gluten isn’t the thing you should be worried about!

      1. TootsNYC*

        I thought that ideas was the you could handle damp foods without worrying that gluten was going to transfer from your fingertips to the food. Or, eat popcorn without worrying that contact between nail and lips/tongue would transfer gluten.

        1. many bells down*

          Well popcorn shouldn’t have any gluten in the first place, but I see what you’re saying. The thing is, there’s a measurement of gluten in food below which a reaction doesn’t occur. You’d have to be incredibly sensitive to get a cross-contamination reaction from a sticker like that. Plus, who is even evaluating this GF claim? As far as I know, the Celiac Disease Foundation only evaluates actual food products.

          Also, there was the implication that all those OTHER nail products are just packed full of gluten and therefore bad. Which is pretty weird; it’s like labeling your bottled water “Now Gluten Free!” thus implying that other bottled waters not having that label aren’t.

      2. Jay*

        Devils advocate here, it’s not uncommon now to label cosmetics and beauty products as being gluten free – depending on your level of sensitivity it could be something you are genuinely concerned about consuming, eg if you are a nail biter (this is coming from the daughter of someone who is severely intolerant to gluten). I used to think it was a bit ridiculous but I kind of get where they are coming.

      3. Pennalynn Lott*

        I had a friend do essentially the same thing. I’d mentioned in a closed group months and months prior about having some gastrointestinal issues. Suddenly Friend is private messaging me saying she’d been thinking about me and hoping I was feeling better. . . then proceeded to try and sell me on her MLM line of essential oils, which would cure my GI stuff, clear up my face, and make my hair shiny. Unfriended and blocked.

    5. LadyTL*

      I had a family friend open a bakery that yes at first I went to a bunch of times to help support (plus I really liked the cupcakes) but when they started arbitrarily closing and constantly changing their hours and then shrinking the product while raising prices, yeah I stopped going as much, then at all. No one is obligated to buy something even from friends or family.

    6. INTP*

      Totally agree with “just scroll past.”

      There is no reason to even engage with a friend about their MLM business, let alone patronize it, because within a year or two, one of three things will have happened:
      1) They will realize they can’t sell enough to be worth it, quit, and get over being angry with people who didn’t buy their crap.
      2) They will be successful enough to keep selling but become a person you no longer want to be friends with anyways.
      3) One in a million might become successful enough to keep selling without hassling their friends for sales, and they’ll get over being angry about friends not buying their crap.

      I just try to quietly ignore the MLM phases people get into and they go away soon enough most of the time.

  3. Knitting Cat Lady*

    Ah, MLM. A sort of clever rebranding of the good old pyramid scheme.

    And considering that some of the products are over priced and some are rather questionable I wouldn’t touch any of it with a ten foot pole.

  4. John Avocado*

    I’m generally wary of mixing business and pressure, and especially wary of moving a relationship from one where I’m someone’s friend to where I’m that person’s client or customer. Especially with MLM, but with all business relationships I’d stay well away.

    1. OP1*

      I’m not sure if you meant to write ‘business and pleasure’ but if you did, that is the most apt typo ever!

  5. bridget*

    I literally saw the exact same message on my Facebook wall recently from a friend who sells something called Posh. So if it helps you, realize that this is a copy/paste post that your friend did not create on her own.

    It is not the same as a friend who owns a restaurant. Obvious difference: she does not have an actual small business. She is being used by a scammy company that has found a way to make their customers buy a ridiculous amount of product: by calling them “employees.”

    1. Artemesia*

      This. MLMs teach people this mantra that ‘a friend who doesn’t help your business is not a friend’ and the worst of them confound business with religion — so if you don’t want to buy overpriced soap products you don’t love the lord. I believe that a person who tries to make money off of friends is not a friend. That takes care of that.

      1. Coffee Ninja*

        I had a friend who had this outlook – she was involved in a couple MLMs and very successful actually (31 bags, tastefully simple, a jewelry one, a couple others). She actually got offended I stopped coming to her many parties. Apparently it meant I was not a true friend? I didn’t know true friends were intended to bankroll other friends’ lifestyles.

        1. many bells down*

          I’ve got a friend who sells Arbonne, a cousin who relentlessly shills something called “Plexus” and another friend who does Thirty-One. The friend who sells Thirty-One is the only one who doesn’t constantly post about it and doesn’t pressure people. I think the bags are ugly, or I’d consider one just because she’s chill about it.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Gah, my cousin sells Plexus, whatever that is, and she keeps posting selfies of her and her “pink drink” at the gym, in the kitchen, driving in the car, etc. All her Facebook feed now is her and that pink drink and how much she loveses it and how it has changed her life.

            1. many bells down*

              Hah! Are we cousins? Because that seriously sounds EXACTLY like my cousin! And she claims that she was infertile until she started using it, and then she miraculously conceived her daughter.

              1. Rebecca in Dallas*

                The Plexus is the worst! I had to unfriend an acquaintance that was selling it. Every post was about how it magically cured everything and she lost weight and had so much more energy! After a few months, she posted “before and after” pictures. Both from the neck up. The only difference was that in her “after” picture, she wasn’t wearing glasses and her hair was styled slightly differently. I could not stop laughing at those pictures, I still have no idea what kind of difference she thought was there.

                1. Collarbone High*

                  One of my friends is knee-deep in the “Rodan + Fields will change my life!” phase and the before-and-after photos she posts (clearly cut-and-pasted from a company dictate) are so absurd. “No makeup either photo!” Wow, that stuff is AMAZING! Apparently it can remove your freckles, give you a nose job, re-contour your jaw …

            2. PlainJane*

              This reminds me of my friend that sells ItWorks. Almost everything she posts on FB involves her “greens” (apparently some kind of powdered vegetables–why not eat real ones?) or wraps or some other questionable thing. Even many of the pix she posts of her little girl involve the girl consuming “greens.” Maybe she should start selling Plexus so she can have some pink stuff too :-)

        2. One of the Sarahs*

          What I wonder, re the “true friend” thing, is if that means someone shilling MLM jewellery also buys all the MLM makeup, tupperware, nail thingies, shakes etc etc that their other friends sell… and how they’re ever supposed to turn a profit if they’re always buying overpriced stuff from everyone who asks them…

      2. the gold digger*

        My cousins now own the small Chrysler dealership that my grandfather started and that my dad’s two brothers owned for years. This dealership has been in my life my entire life.

        My uncles and my cousins have never once – not once! – in my life suggested I should buy my cars from them. If I were in the market for a car, I would talk to them because I know they would not cheat me, but their attitude seems to be that if a relative wants a car, we all know where the dealership is.

        1. TootsNYC*

          for one thing, there’s often an expectation that if a friend comes into your business to purchase your product, you’re supposed to cut them a deal, or give them extra-good service.

          Restaurant owners often comp dessert for their friends. Or they tell the server to be extra attentive.

          1. automotive engineer*

            I think that’s definitely true re: friends giving friends somewhat special treatment. In high school my friends and I often went to a restaurant owned by one boy’s father. The deal when we were there was that the food and drink were free for groups including the owner’s son (aka the owner would cover the cost) as long as we tipped the servers based on the value of our meals. Those servers loved us. At least in my case meals out came out of my own money so any time I was getting free food I felt like I was able to be extra generous with the tip. To be honest this probably helped instill in me the importance of tipping well.

      3. INTP*

        Yup, they teach people to be predatory with their friends. This is why, as I mentioned above, the vast majority who are successful enough not to quit the MLM within a year will generally become someone you don’t want to be friends with anyways. There’s the rare person who eventually becomes successful enough to quit hassling their friends, but they are the minority.

    2. Rachel*

      And most of the variations of that message also include a few lines saying things like “Next time you walk into Sephora, think of your friend who sells Mary Kay and how she’s a single mom supporting two kids.
      Next time you walk into Yankee Candle, think of your friend who sells Scentsy and how she’s saving up to buy her first house.
      Next time you walk into Bed Bath & Beyond, think of your friend who sells Pampered Chef and how she wants to surprise her children with a Disney vacation at Christmas.
      At the end of the day these big corporations will give NOTHING back to you…”

      As if the people who work at Sephora or Yankee Candle or Bed Bath & Beyond all do it for free and don’t have bills to pay or children to support or financial goals of their own!

      1. MK*

        And will a friend who is pressuring you to buy her products give something back to you at the end of the day? In my experience such people are mostly focused in what a friendship can do for them.

        1. A Dispatcher*

          I am also dismayed about how many I see switch from one MLM to the next one saying how much better new product Y is than old product X, without any regard for the people who shelled out tons on product X when it was being touted as the best thing ever.

      2. MsChanandlerBong*

        And at least the people from Yankee Candle don’t text/call me constantly asking me to reorder!

        1. Me2*

          Actually Yankee Candle got my phone number and they do call me about once every six months to let me know when a big sale is coming up.

        2. Allison*

          And the salespeople at Yankee Candle generally aren’t all that pushy. They’ll tell you about the sales, but they’ll leave you alone to browse and they won’t give you a hard time if you leave empty-handed. And they certainly won’t call you a bad friend if you decide not to buy anything.

      3. Pretend Scientist*

        Let’s also not forget that a lot of these products are poor quality. Yankee Candles have never burned terribly like Scentsy and Partylite have. I’ve never gotten anything from Tastefully Simple that I would buy again. I don’t know much about Mary Kay, but honestly, I’d rather pick out makeup on my own.

        And really, nobody cares about your kids going to Disney besides you (and probably their grandparents). If you want to take them, get a real part-time job. I can almost guarantee that you’ll reach that goal faster, and you won’t piss off everyone you know by trying to get them to buy a $40 candle that will soon be a misshapen ball of wax with no wick.

        1. the gold digger*

          Kids used to come door to door selling overpriced magazine subscriptions so they could “go to Europe!”

          I said, “I want to go to Europe! That’s why I’m saving my money. And not buying your magazines.”

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Mary Kay products aren’t bad–I’ve used them and liked them, but they’re overpriced and I don’t like the way they do business.

          I always did prefer Avon anyway. Cheaper, I’ve never been disappointed with the products, and all people do usually is leave a catalog out. The only problem with them is that a weekly catalog is way too much.

          My parents tried to do the Amway thing in the 1970s when we were kids. Thank GOD AND THE UNIVERSE they didn’t stay in that mess!! We did end up with a lot of stuff like Amway detergent, etc. that we had to use up. I think they saw the scheme early on and bailed.

        3. many bells down*

          I went to a Mary Kay party for a friend once. I don’t even really like makeup, especially foundation, and I said so. They slathered 40 tons of crap on my face and then insisted I needed all of it. I feel like implying people need your product to not be hideous is a poor business model.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Yes! I hear about friends being told they’re enormously fat by other friends shilling wraps and drinks, and WOW, that’s bad!

        4. AnotherAlison*

          I never had a problem with the Partylite candles, but I’m still working with ones from 2002, so maybe the quality has declined. (A friend at work was selling it, and it was the only time in my life I had a party for one of these people. Four of my friends also wanted to have parties, so I got a ton of free crap. If you need any royal blue tealights, I can totally hook you up. We’ve been burning one a year in our Halloween pumpkin for about 10 years now.)

      4. Elizabeth West*

        That’s deliciously ironic, considering that with many MLMs, the salesperson has to BUY the product and if they can’t sell it, they’re out the money!

        Save up for a house the old-fashioned way–by not spending your money on crap!

      5. Temperance*

        YES. This is actually the message that one of my former college friends posted! I just eyerolled.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      My husband owns a local small business. He’s a commercial and residential service electrician. Not once have we asked people to support him. Most of our friends, family, and neighbors know what he does, and are free to call or not call him when they need electrical work. He gets plenty of work from people we don’t know, so there’s no need to pester friends. . .I can’t imagine spamming up my personal FB account with offers to “Get new outdoor lighting before spring. . .Hurry!”

      1. CJM*

        Completely agree with this. Indeed, there’s a lot to be said for NOT engaging friends on a professional level. When the renovations on your house run over budget for whatever reason, the architect you know socially, but didn’t engage, can merely sympathise rather than potentially finding themselves defending their professional decisions.

      2. Chickaletta*

        Same here. I work for myself as a graphic designer and never once have I asked my friends or family to buy my services. I have a few friends and family members who also own their own businesses and the ONLY ones who have pressured me to buy something from them are the MLMs. It’s not something you do if you own a regular small business, so the FB poster’s comparison is just inaccurate.

  6. Brett*

    #2 Does your company have a PTO rollover policy?

    A good rule of thumb for PTO is to keep a balance of your rollover max + any planned days off left in the year. For example, if you have a rollover max of 160 hours and you plan to take 3 days off at Christmas and a week off in summer, then try to keep a balance of 224 hours until your summer week, 184 hours until you Christmas time off, then 160 hours after that.
    This can be a little tough your first year and in any years where your annual allotment goes up (since your rollover limit normally goes up too), but it works out very well if you encounter any serious problems and keeps you on track to use all of your annual vacation.
    Also, be aware of your PTO pay out policy, if any. When I left my last job, we had unlimited rollover for two straight years (because of incidents that occurred each year that made it difficult to take PTO). We paid out PTO at full value, so I receive over 1/5th of a years salary when I resigned. That made staying at my max more important than if we had no PTO payout.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      This seems…excessive. If I’m reading it right, in your example you’re suggesting the employee maintain a balance of 20 days + whatever they plan to take this year? (Or, in my case, 56 days? That’s what I can carry over; it would take me two years with no days off to bank that much.)

      I tend to agree with Alison. Pay attention to your organization’s culture and keep a few days banked.

      1. CMT*

        Agreed. If your company pays out PTO, *amd* you’re planning on leaving soon, then this could be a good policy. Otherwise, it seems like forgoing taking time off just because.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          Having a job that didn’t payout vacation was the best thing in pushing me to actually use my PTO.

          Now, I keep 5 days banked. That’s enough to handle a big illness or a few mental health days. But everything else is either used or allocated for a trip.

      2. Brett*

        Double your annual accrual is an unusually high rollover max, so that would not work in your situation.
        Normally roll over max is 25% or 50% of your annual accrual.

        But even with a max that high, once you reach your max you would be taking full leave every year while still having a large cushion if you have to take extended leave. (And get a big PTO payout if your company does that.)

        1. Brett*

          I should add, my situation was based on last job where people topped out at 40 days PTO per year, so their 50% max was 160 hours.

        2. The Rat-Catcher*

          Our vacation max is also double our annual accrual, and I had the same reaction as Victoria! But a lot of our longtime workers are continually hitting the max, so I guess tenure makes a difference (I’m halfway to the max but am about to spend all my vacation and sick time on maternity leave).

    2. Graciosa*

      Some companies have a PTO max which applies at any time rather than just a rollover max measured once a year. It’s actually more effective in limiting accruals throughout the year, although it would not allow an employee to follow the strategy you just outlined.

      Under those systems, accrual of additional hours stops when you reach the maximum amount allowed.

      1. Professional Merchandiser*

        The company I currently work for gives 40 hours sick time per year. (This is unusual in my industry, most merchandising companies do not pay benefits.) The first year I worked there I did not take any sick days because….I wasn’t sick. The result? I lost all but 15 hours of it. Vacation and personal days are use it or lose it, but we can save 15 hours sick time to roll over. However, I discovered that I don’t really have to be “sick” in order to use it, so I use it for things like doctor’s appointments or grandkids’ sick days. Also, if we have bad weather days we can use sick days to cover that, too.

        1. Professional Merchandiser*

          Oh, and I don’t have to “cough in the phone.” I just shoot my boss an email and tell him I am taking a sick day and he says just code your time right at the end of the day. About once a year he will say something like “are you really sick?” if I have put in a request ahead of time (we schedule/request our time off in an Outlook calendar) but he’s never refused it, and I think it’s more of a CYA statement than a real query. :-)

        2. The Rat-Catcher*

          I was wondering about the wisdom of a “use it or lose it” sick policy, but it makes more sense given how lenient they are with its usage.

    3. Sans*

      I tend to rollover as much as I can the first year, and then just hold that as reserve while using up my subsequent years’ PTO. My company allows 80 hours of PTO. So that’s what I rollover every year, while using up yearly allotment therwise. And if I need/want to use some of that 80 hours, I do. It’s nice to have the cushion and be able to take a day off whenever I feel like it. And I’ll get paid for it if I leave, anyway.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      I’d do this, although not to the max of rollover if it’s that high (the most I’ve ever been allowed to roll over is 5 days). I think holding onto 3-5 days if you can roll them over is fine.

      1. sam*

        Yeah – this is our rollover max, and is basically what I keep “banked”, so I ended up rolling over 5 days last year. But it’s more because we’re all workaholics who are terrible at using up our PTO.

        What I do now, in order to not have “too much” PTO at the end of the year, is take a big vacation in the summer (two weeks), usually in August to coincide with a really slow time in our office, take some random days that always end up happening (extra day at Thanksgiving, random sick day), and then at Christmas-time, when I’ve still got, like, 15 PTO days and everyone in our office takes off, I basically count backwards and take off as many days as necessary to get me “down” to the 5 I can roll over.

        Obviously, this only works if you work somewhere that lets you take off at the end of the year, but you could probably use a similar strategy elsewhere.

        Funny corrolary. I rolled over my 5 days at the beginning of this year, giving my 25 PTO days. And then I won an office award, which as its “prize”, garners you an extra PTO day. I looked at my boss and was like “that’s really nice and I’m really happy to win, but could I trade this in for, like, a gift card to starbucks or something?”. Both of us seriously struggle to use all of our days. He usually ends up losing some of his. I make a point of using mine (which he totally supports), but it felt like Brewsters millions at a certain point – here’s more of something you’re trying to get rid of!

    5. BRR*

      I’m not sure I agree with this thought. Obviously if it’s what you want to do feel free to but it might mean not taking vacation for a year or two. I like to keep at least 5 days ij the bank (getting 22 days a year and sick time is separate). Thats a minimum and I often keep more but my thinking is I can take a week off if I need to.

      1. newlyhr*

        yes, the nice thing about having PTO all in one pot is that it is paid out upon separation. I personally want to keep 5 days. It’s hard to do that when you are a new employee and not earning much PTO. However, if you can have a plan that, for example, by the end of year two you will have 5 days of PTO that you don’t touch, then you have some breathing room if something happens—good or bad! Sometimes you want to save PTO for those unexpected fun things…it’s not always about being sick…..

    6. the gold digger*

      Also find out if you can borrow PTO. You can at my job. One of my co-workers was like a week or two in the hole with his PTO. He said it would cost him money to resign. :)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        We can do that too. We only get 40 hours rollover at year end, and a bunch of people frantically take PTO before then so as not to lose it. But we’re allowed to go a certain amount in the hole before we then have to accrue it back.
        I think it’s a good policy, mostly–they want us to use it and not come to work sick or be burned out. The only thing that bugs me is the timing–our year end is in the summer, which can make travel plans difficult sometimes.

    7. reader*

      This is the advice I give new employees as well. Forget about the exact number, if you’re at N hours banked today and N hours this time next year, you’ve used all your earned leave. You’re not losing anything by keeping a positive balance.

      The trick is, what is N? That’s going to vary depending on your use-or-lose policy. Most people’s ‘N’ is too low. A couple of weeks for a hospital stay or a family emergency is not unheard of, and you should probably keep enough just in case. On the other hand, I’m adjusting my own personal ‘N’ down a bit, because I keep finding myself scrambling to fit in use-or-lose leave at the end of the year while not screwing everyone else.

      Whatever your N is, it doesn’t mean never take leave until you get there. Just take less than you earn, and slowly build up to that. Once you get there, phase 2: use what you earn guilt-free.

      1. reader*

        Where I work, losing unused leave is seriously frowned on. I get reminded over and over as the year ends to schedule it, finally being ordered to submit a plan that works. If I still manage to lose some, it had better be through no fault of our own, some declared emergency approved by management. (Because then I can get it restored.) Losing earned leave is not ok, which sounds different from where a lot of you work. :)

    8. Rebecca in Dallas*

      That’s exactly what I was thinking, I usually keep the max that we can roll over in my PTO bank. At my old job, it was 30 hours (so approximately 4 days), at my current company it’s 3 days out of our sick/personal bank (they do vacation and sick/personal days in separate banks). That way I have 3 days that I can use if I’m sick or have an emergency, but if I don’t use it I haven’t lost out on that time.

      I actually liked having one PTO bank. I very rarely need sick days, so I’d rather use those days on vacation. And I know for some of my coworkers with little kids in daycare (aka germ factories), they need the sick days more than they need pre-planned vacation days.

    9. YankeeNonprofitChick*

      Our sick and vacation time also is in one pot. My nonprofit asks all employees to reserve one week of earned time each year, every year. It’s in the manual. I don’t think it’s enforced to the letter, but it’s highly encouraged to keep that cushion there.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I like that idea – but I’d then challenge the organization to deposit that week into everyone’s accounts immediately. Otherwise, the organization is asking staff to, in their first year, not take the vacation they’ve been granted (and that the organization has determined is a fair amount).

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          My organization has a separate category called “donated PTO” that isn’t paid out upon separation. It includes days that are literally donated, extra days won as prizes at the employee recognition event, and so on. The extra week could go into a category like that, so it doesn’t become an obligation when the staff person leaves.

  7. Graciosa*

    Regarding #2, if your company has solid benefits, you might consider checking to see when short term disability kicks in (ours is after one calendar week, which would be five business days at most). The reason I mention this is that if you have a major issue, you might want to think about how to cover the time period before those STD benefits become available.

    This does *not* have to be by saving PTO. You could choose to keep savings available to cover the shortfall instead (or do some of both), but you should consider this factor and make a decision you can live with (or at least not kick yourself for failing to plan for it later).

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Lucky! Our STD doesn’t kick in until 15 uninterrupted days – i.e. you didn’t try to co mn election back in for a day or two – have passed.

      1. Murphy*

        Ours kicks in after three consecutive days off. It’s great for major injuries (like I had after a car accident when I knew I wasn’t coming back to work in three days – not even in three months), but sucks if you just have a really bad flu, since after three days you need a Dr. note and get moved to STD. That’s a hassle.

    2. Dan*

      Also, check and see if your employer lets you “borrow” from your pto bank. Mine lets me go 40 hours in the hole before I’d then have to take unpaid leave.

    3. ginger ale for all*

      Would you mind listing out what you mean by STD? I have only used those initials for referring to something that I don’t think you are referring to. Hopefully I am not the only reader who paused over it.

      1. Dan*

        Yeah, in the context that you’re thinking of, I wouldn’t consider STD to be a “benefit”.

  8. Dan*


    You most certainly can ask your employer to tear up your contract. That doesn’t mean he’s going to, however. Check and see what damages are are specified in said contract, that tells you how much trouble you are in if you don’t perform.

    Also, if they were inclined to take you to court, tell them now that you won’t be teaching. They have a duty to mitigate damages – if you’ve signed a contract for the fall, they have several months where they have to make a good faith effort to replace you. If you tell them the day before classes start, they’d be in a very understandable pickle, and could rightfully recoup the specified damages.

    But AAM’s big picture point is valid – walking away from this contract is walking away from this employer. You can’t renegotiate for better terms.

  9. Dan*


    Why do you think that you’re “putting up” with a combined pto policy? If you never get sick, then you’re not “wasting” a benefit, or having to “lie” to your employer to use it. If you do get sick regularly, then you don’t have to worry about what happens when you exceed the typically stingy five sick days that most people get. A combined bank lets adults manage paid time off in a way that best works for everybody.

    For the critics who say that this encourages people to come to work sick, well, I wouldn’t use sick days for mild sniffles, because what happens if I burn them and end up getting real sick?

    1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      It’s just… People that get sick a lot still need vacation, time off where they can truly relax.
      The right to vacation shouldn’t be determined by how healthy one is or isn’t.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        IDK that vacation is a right. Days off in the US are a benefit, and a benefit that any company has to offer in order to be competitive as a decent place to work.

        There’s not a perfect formula. Back in the olden days, I worked for an insurance company with very modest vacation days and 10 sick days a year. I was young, I coughed into the phone a lot when I needed an extra vacation day. (God forbid you tried to take those full 10 days, btw. Anybody who went over 5 sick days for the year was under serious scrutiny and in danger of being terminated, unless they’d come up with cancer or a major operation.)

        The new fad of unlimited days, there’s a lot of squawking about that as providing actual fewer days to employees while eliminating any financial benefit to the employee of untaken days.

        Uncategorized PTO “just days” has its pitfalls also, but were we ever to switch to the vacation/sick days break up, we wouldn’t be adding more paid days above what we pay now, so the net effect would be fewer days a healthy person could take and/or lots more coughing into the phone.

        1. CMT*

          Agreed that there’s no perfect formula. As a young, healthy person with no kids, I really appreciate having one bank. I’m on a three week vacation right now! Although, I do go in to work when I’m feeling a little gross more than I would if I had actual sick days. And if I had a chronic health condition, or children whose illnesses I’d have to take care of, I bet I’d prefer different banks for vacation and sick days. I totally recognize that there’s a trade off.

        2. neverjaunty*

          There’s no perfect system, and I actually prefer the combined PTO, but on the other hand I also get the downside – which is that if you get sick, bye bye vacation.

          There’s squawking about unlimited PTO because it’s intended to get around laws that require employers to pay out unused PTO, and because there’s social pressure to limit use of PTO at all. It’s one of those famous Silicon Valley “perks” that is presented as the company being super generous but is really meant to benefit the company.

          1. Dan*

            Do you think it’s a coincidence that those “innovative” policies are pioneered in a state that requires a PTO payout? I sure don’t.

          2. Hellanon*

            Perhaps I’m missing something here, but it seems to me three weeks is three weeks no matter how you slice it, and unpaid time off is still unpaid. On the traditional sick time + vacation time system, if your sick time needs exceed the usual week you take that time unpaid (or use vacation) – I’ve sat in on more than one discussion of whether employees should be allowed to “donate” a sick day to a colleague struggling with a serious illness. On the combined system, those days get deducted from the bank, and then presumably you’d take a vacation as unpaid time off, or take one the next year – really, what am I missing here?

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              There are two problems with combined PTO, in my mind.

              One is equity. PTO results in healthy people getting more vacation days than sick people. If sick and vacation are separate, the sick person can take 10 (or however many) sick days before they touch their vacation. The healthy person may take a couple of those for colds or whatever, and then has the same amount of vacation as the sice person.

              The other is that it encourages sick people to come to work. If I know I have 10 sick days available, IL stay home with a cold. If that day is coming directly from the pool I could otherwise use to take a long trip, I’m coming in with my cold.

              Also, it’s rare to see the number of days translate over equally. Let’s say you have 10 sick days and 15 vacation days; do you really think most organizations are going to start people at 25 PTO days?

              1. Lindsay J*

                But there are two versions of equitable. The combined policy, IMO, is more equitable in that two people who are being paid the same amount of time for the same role can take the same amount of days off from work. If one happens to be sick more than the other, well, then that’s life (and presumably if they have a chronic condition that would be covered under FMLA as well to protect their job.) It’s possible that the next year the roles will switch in terms of who takes the most sick days.

                And it keeps it equitable in terms of that different people might have different thresholds for sickness. If my allergies are acting up, I might want to stay home from work for the day. Another person might be fine going to work, and since they’re not contagious why stop them? And it stops there being unfairness due to people being more or less willing to use sick days “creatively”. I will absolutely never call out sick from work unless I am contagious, or absolutely cannot function. On the other hand, I have friends that will call out for “mental health days” (not related to actual diagnosed mental health conditions) on the first nice day in the spring or on the day after St. Patrick’s Day or whatever. With one set of PTO, they can take time off without lying, and I can take time off without potentially feeling guilty or afraid of consequences for misusing my sick time.

                Ultimately, what matters more to the company is that they are getting about equitable performance from employees in the same role, and what matters to the employee is that they are being compensated fairly for their performance. I don’t really know where equity/fairness in length of vacation plays into it.

                (Though, on the other hand, there was a big thing about “me-ternity” time to be equitable for people who are child-free and won’t ever take maternity leave, and I find that ridiculous so IDK.

                1. newreader*

                  I agree that a pooled system is more equitable. Another way to look at it is that pooled time off is like employee wages. Employees are paid (theoretically) equitably based on their role/classification/responsibility, etc. The employee then uses their pay to support themselves and their lifestyle. The employer doesn’t ell them what percentage of their pay must be used for housing, food, entertainment, vehicles, etc.

                  With a pooled PTO system, the employer is providing employees with the same flexibility to manage their own time off. The amount of PTO may vary based on classification or years of service, but each employee “budgets” their own time off to support their lifestyle.

                2. Dan*

                  To your point, we quickly reach a point where it is difficult to get consensus on what equality or fairness is.

                  I don’t find “meternity” ridiculous on its face. That doesn’t mean I support it, but I’d entertain a discussion without considering it ridiculous.

              2. pnw*

                I work at a non-profit and I get 324 hours per year (8 weeks plus 4 hours). That includes holidays, sick leave and vacation. We have several outpatient clinics that are open Mon-Fri 9-5 and several residential sites that are open 24/7. The residential staff have to be available all the time so our PTO bank includes everything. I love it! I tend to take less than one day per year for being sick and eight holidays. That leaves me with over six weeks of vacation. I usually carry a minimum of 160 hours (which is the max we are allowed to carry over). If we have more than 160 hours banked on our anniversary date it rolls into our disability account which can be used for long term disability or anything eligible for FMLA. I encourage my staff to keep at least one week banked for emergencies.

              3. Dan*

                Who starts out with 3 weeks vacation and 2 weeks sick time?

                That’s a ton. The paradigm that I’m most familiar with is 2 weeks vacation and 1 week sick. And yes, employers do hand out three weeks PTO.

                1. Punkin*

                  Higher education. We have 24 days vacation & 12 days sick per year. It is supposed to help make up for abysmal pay.

                  Sick pay is not paid out at termination, but if it is timed just right, one can get a little over 3 months’ of vacation paid at termination.

          3. A Girl Has No Name*

            So I’m not sure if my company’s approach counts as unlimited PTO on the way you’re describing, but I quite like the way they do it. Basically, everyone starts out with at least 3 weeks of paid vacation, as well as “unlimited” sick time. Now, technically, there is a point at which STD would kick in, I just can’t remember the exact number. So, for example, if I need to take a week off because I’ve got a particularly nasty cold, no problem. I take a week off, paid, come back the next business day, and if later that month I get the flu, I just take more paid sick time. However, if it ends up being a really long leave (for argument’s sake let’s say 3 straight weeks since I can’t remember the actual time frame), I would need to fill out the STD form and my pay would come from the Short Term Disability insurance. None of this affects my vacation time (and if I leave the company, they still have to pay out my accrued unused vacation time).

            Essentially, sick time at my job is “unlimited” and they basically rely on a combination of the honor system and whatever works for you and your manager. It certainly could have some challenges (say, for example, a manager who doesn’t believe you’re really sick, or an employee who obviously takes advantage of the policy), but these seem to have been few and far between in the 7 years that I’ve been here. According to our company handbook, they moved to this policy to encourage people not to come into work sick.

      2. Dan*

        What’s the difference between three weeks PTO and a two weeks vacation/one week sick breakdown?

        Wth the later, if you get sick a sixth day, you have some “explaining” to do. If you don’t get sick much, you have to dust off your acting skills and cough into the phone. Depending on the employer, you may need a doctor’s note for even using a single sick day, if the employer feels they have a history of people “abusing” sick leave.

        Under a three week combined policy, if you want a week of sick time, just plan for two weeks vacation.

        Is the real issue that people who get sick less than you get “more” vacation time?

      3. Ms. Didymus*

        I hear this a lot but…

        At old job I used to get 23 days combined. When we used to break it out it was 5 sick days and 18 vacation days. So I don’t lose anything by combining them. I actually gained something. Before, I could not take “day of” vacation days, only sick days. So if I had been sick more than 5 days a year I would have had to take it unpaid. Under the new system if I was sick, say, 8 days I could take it all as PTO and use the rest as vacation.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          I forgot about that! The whole “day of” thing.

          That was: the worst.

          Now that I recall, vacation days had to be scheduled X weeks in advance. If it wasn’t scheduled well in advance, you better be damn sick and had to use sick days.

          Then a newfangled thing came along, personal days. If you had a good employer, you had 1 or 2 personal days in addition to 5 or so sick days. So you could day of/short term notice with a personal day if you needed to wait for the telephone repair service to come to your home. Fine enough until your refrigerator went up next and don’t even talk about what working parents went through with kid emergencies. That particular system was built for households with someone as a stay at home.

          Completely forgot. That was a pain in the ass, having all of those days in pockets with different restrictions.

      4. doreen*

        “The right to vacation shouldn’t be determined by how healthy one is or isn’t.” I don’t understand this. Every job I have had separated time off into all sorts of leave categories- but the one thing they all had in common was that once your sick leave was exhausted , the other categories would be used in case of illness. You didn’t have a choice to take unpaid sick leave and keep time to take a paid vacation later . If I had a week of sick time, a week of personal leave and another week of annual leave , and I needed to take off a total of three weeks for medical reasons I wouldn’t get a vacation even though it wasn’t a combined PTO bank.

        1. A Dispatcher*

          Same here. First they’d take your sick, then comp time, personal days, and vacation before finally allowing leave without pay.

    2. newreader*

      I really enjoyed having combined vacation, sick, and personal time. Working for the same company for decades, I was able to adjust the balance of how I used the time based on my changing lifestyle. When I was young a single, I used primarily vacation. When I had kids, I used more personal for child sick days. When I developed chronic health conditions that took months and years to diagnose and learn to manage, I used more sick time. I found the combined system much more flexible to address each employee’s lifestyle and stage of life.

      For how much to save, part will depend on your financial situation. Do you have enough money saved to be able to afford to be out of work without pay should that occur? When does your short-term disability kick in? Do you have enough time to cover that time period should you have an unexpected medical issue?

      The other part is reputational. What if you have just finished using all of your time and then something unexpected occurs with you or a family member? What is the impact to your employer and coworkers that you’ve taken all of your PTO and are now out yet again, leaving them to have to pick up the slack? Even if you have the money to be out without pay and the reason you’re out is a legitimate medical issue, some of your coworkers may not look favorably on having to cover for your absence because you chose to burn through your PTO, viewing it all as vacation and not planning for life events.

      My employer had a cap to the amount of PTO that can be rolled over, but no cap to how much could be saved or paid out at termination. So I used what couldn’t be rolled forward each year as vacation or other planned time away, any other reasonable time off for family or sick/medical issues throughout the year, and saved the rest. I eventually wound up with 9 or 10 months (after several decades of working there) that was paid out.

    3. TX Jen*

      Combined PTO has been the norm in healthcare for awhile. Now the trenda at least in my area of Texas is to add holidays to PTO. Employers compensated this by increasing PTO allotments, but it is the employee’s responsibility to budget holiday time out of your allotment.

      I maintain at a minimum enough PTO to make it to STD. It’s closer to the minimum around holidays and has larger balances towards the end of spring and fall, when I am just in work mode during those seasons with a day off here or there.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I don’t know, my number of friends might yet shrink if a couple of them don’t stop with the MLM stuff…. ;)

    1. Rafe*

      It makes me really sad to see these posts. The posts alienate people who actually otherwise do feel friendly to them. And they’re ridiculously aggressive and passive-aggressive.

      Also: Don’t most of the MLM products out there nowadays involve those impossible-to-get-out-of monthly subscription things? A monthly shipment of slimming wraps. A monthly shipment of nail stickers. Whatever. I mean, WHAT KIND OF FRIEND is pushing these scams onto friends anyway?

      1. Oryx*

        To be fair, I have the monthly shipment of nail stickers. It’s actually really easy to cancel/pause/get out of.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Everyone pushing me into MLM stuff is, so far, pushing single purchases. I admit I’m really tempted to sign up for a subscription box of mail wraps, but the one I’m tempted by is from a non-MLM company. I do have several friends who are gleeful about how awesome they are, but they just point me at the company web site with no special link or token or code or whatever – they get no credit for it.

        I presently have circuit-board nails courtesy of them, but not the subscription box. I kind of need to use my current supply of wraps before buying more. ;)

      3. Three Thousand*

        I agree that the tone of the post is really unpleasant. I really don’t like the way MLM encourages this kind of passive-aggressive evangelizing. I would have a hard time staying friends with anyone who regularly talked like this.

    2. Beezus*

      I have a Facebook friend who sells Jamberry, and she’s been posting statuses that sound like actual news about her life, and then take a swift right turn into a Jamberry spiel as soon as you start reading in earnest. “Blah blah kid blah blah baseball game blah blah but with all these kids activities keeping us busy late into the evenings, I’m so glad to be able to take time to do something nice for myself and put colored plastic stickers on my nails! The new Blah Blah patterns just came out last Tuesday, and you can get them by blah blah blahhhhh” I finally unfollowed her (I wouldn’t hesitate to unfriend, except that I work with her husband and it could make things awkward there.)

  10. Jack the treacle eater*

    #3, is there an opportunity to look at this another way? You want the job, I assume, or you wouldn’t have considered signing the contract? Couldn’t you go in on the contract you’ve signed, do a storming job, and at 3 or 6 months (when you may have a probationary review anyway) re-open negotiations on the basis of the storming job you’ve done and the expectations you’ve exceeded?

    1. Patrick*

      Asking for a raise immediately is a potential bridge burner – I am not in teaching but I’ve seen a few people try it and it never works out well (the only caveat being if the job ends up being much different from what was advertised you have room for negotiation.)

      At best you come off naive (not sure about teaching since it’s school year-based but in my field 3 months would be when you start really settling into a new job,) at worst you come off as trying to hold your employer hostage the minute you have some leverage on them (having to replace a teacher midyear.)

    2. (different) Rebecca*

      I’m not sure about the elementary or secondary school levels, but at the college level this would be a no-go. The department has a certain amount of money that can be spent on a certain position, and that’s pretty much set. In some cases, it’s set by the state or the teachers union (like in Massachusetts), and in others by the conventions of the university, but regardless there would be absolutely no renegotiations based on high performance. You’re expected to perform high, or your one year (or semester) contract will end and you will not be asked back.

    3. New Bee*

      At the K-12 letter your salary usually only changes once each academic year (e.g., every August), and it’s by steps (years of service + continuing education bump you up each year) or it’s less popular but some schools use performance metrics (like student growth, evaluation scores, etc.).

  11. Jack the treacle eater*

    #1, the single sentence about supporting small business is right, but the rest of it is just cut and paste nonsense thought up by some multi level marketer, and it has no more significance than any other piece of chain email tosh that gets circulated. Don’t give it a first, let alone second, thought.

  12. Jack the treacle eater*

    As a total aside I’d never come across the phrase ‘PTO’ (in this context) before; and as someone involved in agricultural and similar machinery, PTO means Power Take Off! Throws me every time.

  13. Jeanne*

    I expect the MLM discussion to degenerate quickly. Here is the bottom line. Give your business to whatever company you choose. You are an adult. Practice saying No calmly and firmly with no explanation. No is a complete sentence and you are not required to debate this.

    1. MK*

      I agree, but the fact of the matter is, a friend operating this way is taking advantage of the personal relationship. They are banking in most people’s reluctuance to be abrupt to their friends and possibly souring the friendship. If a random person solicits my custom, they usually don’t frame it as me fullfilling a duty to support them, I can tell them no pretty abruptly, if they aren’t take no for an answer, even hang up on them; and I don’t have to worry about how I will interact with them at the next party.

      1. OP1*

        This is the issue. My friend has asked me on a number of occasions to listen to her business ‘presentation’ (they have this thing where on certain months they have to talk about their business to 3 friends). Each time I’ve said no but it keeps coming up! She recently asked me to spend some time together socially and I’m quite sure if I say yes it’ll soon turn into a discussion about her business. It makes me not want to hang out with her. I can’t be her only friend who feels this way.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          The nefarious thing about MLM is that most people falling for it end up alienating a chunk of their friends.

          Asking someone to hang out and then using the opportunity to launch into a sales pitch is a really shitty thing to do.

          Not taking no for an answer is a shitty thing in general.

          Your friend is the one making things awkward.

          Sadly I can’t think of a way to return the awkward to sender.

        2. Engineer Woman*

          I once was subjected to “the presentation”. At the time, I wasn’t aware this friend had gotten into the MLM thing. An hour or 2 of my time was taken up by the presentation and hard sell, but the “opportunity” was declined and no further mention of the MLM/business was made. We still ran into each other in social settings (albeit said friend showed up at fewer and fewer gatherings) with no hard feelings.

          I don’t know exactly how to avoid the presentation. It might be good to listen (as you would listen to friends with their problems), consider the offer (put together rationale for why it’s not right for you) and decline with respect. Thereafter, there should be no more mention of the business and enjoy social interactions as exactly that: social interactions.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I don’t think I would stand for an hour-long presentation unless I was genuinely interested; my tolerance for boredom is too low, and that would be excruciating. I think I’d politely but firmly end it once I’d reached my tolerance limit.

        3. Aloot*

          You could try, in the moment as the business ‘presentation’ comes up, to simply tell her “friend, I said yes to come today because I wanted to be with my friend. If this is going to be about your business, I’m going to leave. It’s up to you.” Then if friend doesn’t stop the business talk, *get up and leave.*

          It’s going to feel really rude, but it’s not any more rude than her pulling a bait-and-switch on you to start with.

          Any “if you were my friend you’d support my business!” is very easily shot down with “and if you were my friend you’d listen to and respect it when I said ‘no.'”

          1. Artemesia*

            This. It is one thing if you agree to hear the practice presentation — I would do that once for a very very good friend but it is so abusive to lure people into a social engagement and then spring this on them, that this advise to say ‘I came to hang out with you, if it is going to be a sales pitch then I am leaving’ is great. I long ago made it clear that ‘I just don’t do sales parties.’ Do this a few times and they stop asking. But my closest friends have never pulled this crap.

            1. Izzy*

              Some of the presentations end up being very high pressure, with the sales person’s manager on the phone. I listened to my daughter’s friend’s “practice” presentation for Kirby after she signed up (I said up front I am not going to buy anything, just be your practice audience). At the end of the presentation, she was required to call her manager and have me confirm the presentation, and after her manager got involved, I ended up buying an overpriced vacuum cleaner I could not afford so she wouldn’t get in trouble (she had been reduced to tears IIRC). It was repo’ed a few months later because I really couldn’t afford it even with the easy payment plan. By that time she was out of the Kirby business. It was an awesome vacuum though.
              A year or two later I bought a second hand Kirby from a repair shop for MUCH less.
              But I will not make the mistake again of “just listening” to a presentation.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Yes. Once she switches from friend mode into salesperson mode, it’s only fair for you to do the same. If she’s acting as a friend, treat her with the warmth of a friend; if she morphs into an aggressive sales person, treat her as you’d treat one of those.

          3. Chameleon*

            Ugh. My father-in-law once treated my husband and I to a day trip to a local island for lunch…where he proceeded to try to sell us a prepaid legal package. It was beyond awkward, not the least because he was our ride home BY PLANE.

        4. neverjaunty*

          I’d point out to your friend that if she owned a restaurant, or a coffee shop, or any other business, you wouldn’t drop in during working hours to hang out with her. Because she’d be working, and you’d be there as a customer, not as a friend. So if she wants to sit down and make a business pitch to you – salesperson to customer – she should do that. But it’s not appropriate and it’s not businesslike for her to try and combine selling things to a customer and hanging out with a friend.

        5. Allison*

          And you know that if you do agree to listen to her pitch, she’ll expect you to buy something and possibly get upset when you don’t.

      2. Dan*

        I honestly believe that you shouldn’t do business with someone you wouldn’t be willing to sue if things go south.

        Otherwise, what do you do when they sell you a defective product and they won’t make good on it? Now your friend is taking advantage of you.

        I once bought a car from friends of my ex’s sister. The car turned out to be a lemon. TBH, while the liability was probably mine, I could just imagine the fallout if I were inclined to let the judge decide.

      3. Phyllis B*

        RE MLM friend: there is another way of looking at this. What if you want to buy Avon, Pampered Chef, ect. but you don’t know anyone who sells it? Wouldn’t you rather buy from a friend? I sold Avon at one time and would put out books in my neighborhood and take to any of my friends who expressed an interest. The only ones I called to ask if they wanted to place an order were customers who specifically told me to call them because they would forget. This was years before FB; now I would probably post a message saying I was getting ready to place an order, let me know if you need anything. I have friends that sell Scentsy and Jamberry that do that. I don’t mind that; they’re not being pushy or demanding that I sign up to be a consultant. When I quit selling, I had so many people come to me and say “If I had known you sold Avon I would have bought from you!! Why didn’t you tell me?” Well, I didn’t want to be one of THOSE PEOPLE. The point I’m making is, there is a way to let people know what you’re doing without being obnoxious about it.

        1. MillersSpring*

          Hear, hear. There is a way to do MLM without being obnoxious. I’ve known several that were fairly benign.

        2. Florida*

          I agree with you. If you are selling any product, there is nothing wrong with telling your friends you sell it. I know what all of my friends do for a living. I didn’t think it was weird when a friend say he was a CPA or a friend told me she was a real estate agent. That’s a normal thing you tell people.
          So it’s fine for you to tell your friend that you sell Amway. The problem is being obnoxious about it. I think the Facebook post that OP mentioned qualifies as obnoxious.

          1. fposte*

            I agree–if people can keep it to stating that they sell Mary Kay and don’t proceed to ask the idle questioner if she’s interested and instead only raise the possibility after the other person suggests she might like to buy, that’s not obnoxious.

            The problem is the models are geared to your asking your friends first and not waiting for them to ask to buy. But as a friend, I hear that, in a social situation, as “Please give me money.” It’s a distance-maker.

            1. Artemesia*

              Facebook makes this easy though. You can announce you have the new catalogue and leave it at that.

              And in a workplace or church or whatever, you can announce that you are leaving a catalogue in the break room without putting the arm on people.

              1. fposte*

                Exactly. It’s doable. It’s just not what people pushing to expand downlines are going to expect.

          2. Artemesia*

            I have friends who run small businesses and every so often they post on facebook one of those ‘support small business’ things and I do go out of my way to shop at local businesses when I can. Somehow the MLM things don’t strike me as ‘small businesses’ but as cults and scams and they are very overtly abusive to their friendships and that is part of the training they get. The business model is to fish out your pond, trash your relationships. It is like insurance companies that hire new grads and convince them to put the arm on all their relatives; these sales people are seldom successful beyond that and leave a trail of unhappy relatives with inferior insurance products. And lets not get started on the knife sales.

            1. Allison*

              I’m not proud to admit this, but I once knew a person selling Cutco knives near where my relatives lived, and when she asked me if I knew anyone in the area I gave her my aunt and uncle’s home phone number. They weren’t happy with me about that, and wished I’d just asked them first. It’s all water under the bridge now, but I learned my lesson. And that woman isn’t friends with me anymore.

        3. Izzy*

          I used to sell Avon a long time ago (decades!) and it was not MLM then. I buy from a friend now because I like the products and they are reasonable priced. IIRC there wasn’t much of a profit margin except on new products for a campaign or two. I had fun with it, met my neighbors, and it helped me work on my shyness – this is back in the days of “Bing bong – Avon calling” when we knocked on doors! (A couple of guys from another culture thought I was selling something else!) But I didn’t make much money, and eventually when I worked full time, it wasn’t worth the trouble any more.
          My friend I buy from never pushes the business opportunity. She is content to give me books that I occasionally order out of when I can afford to. After the cost of the catalogs, I am not sure she makes any money from me. The prices are a lot lower than most MLM products so while I don’t know what their profit structure is, I wonder if they function the way the others do, where you have to recruit to make money, and most of it is funneled to the top.

      4. BRR*

        All of this. I have a real problem with people who see their friends and family as prospective customers. A part of our friendship is not me supplying you with an income.

        1. PlainJane*

          Exactly. I don’t like to feel used. When the only time a friend contacts me is to sell me something, when the only time a friend invites me over is to sell me something, then I feel used.

  14. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


    It’s not uncommon for our younger folks to run themselves out of PTO too early in a year, by taking it all as vacation/planned days and throwing the dice they won’t get ill. There’s a couple every year so it’s only half an eye roll when it happens and then we offer them the ability to borrow from the next year or take the needed sick days unpaid.

    It looks….immature. The way our approval process works for in this scenario, it involves HR, your boss and your boss’s boss (me) signing off on the exception for how you get paid for days when you’ve run out of PTO, so, in our world it’s also visibly immature.

    Now, we don’t do things by quarters. You accrue days for accounting purposes but you start with prorated days based on the whole year for the purpose of “how many days you have”. The quarter set up is likely there to help you keep from running into trouble in May that you can’t dig out of until next Jan. That’s more math and exception granting than we’d want to do. (Lord, how many people would want to borrow days from next quarter so they can go to their destination wedding end of March? Shudder!) But, they are probably trying to do you a favor with that so, pay them back and start carrying a few days so you’re not the one who is sticking out with needing the exception when Things Come Up, because in grown up life, things come up.

    * my mild annoyance here re people running out of days is limited to folks who use all of the PTO for planned vacations, banking on never needing sick or personal emergency days. There are other ways to run out of days and we’re happy to do what we can to help people who run out of days because too many things came up (multi illness, family illness, etc. )

    1. Jack the treacle eater*

      There seems to be a US concept of allocating a set number of PTO days or hours which include sick time, planned vacation, days off, personal emergencies and any other time needed away from work, is that correct?

      From a UK perspective I find this slightly odd, though I can see there are advantages. Over here one is typically allocated holiday and sick pay separately, so a contract might specify 25 days holiday and 5 days sick, for example. That means people don’t hoover up sick time taking holidays – though it can mean less motivated people pull sickies if they want a day off. Time off for family emergencies, routine medical appointments etc. tends to be handled on a more ad hoc basis.

      I don’t know if any one system is better than another, but I do think there’s more anguish, complication, division and loss of morale caused by the way time off is handled than anything else in business, and I’ve rarely seen it done perfectly.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Pooled PTO was supposed to be the new, great way of doing things at one point of time.

        When I started in the US workforce, around the time of the dinosaurs or the early 1980’s, vacation was very stingy at entry level (altho I think entirely different for government and union jobs). There was a focus on sick days and not vacation days, so you’d start with or accrue 5 to 10 sick days and then have maybe some vacation days, depending on the employer, until you’d been there at least a year.

        If you aren’t going to give people many vacation days (I remember 5 vacation days as being a starting point until there was years of service), they will start chipping at their sick days with fake coughs into the phone.

        I do not miss, as a supervisor, having to go through the “was that person *really* sick” conversations with myself or others. I don’t miss having employees gossiping about other employees use of time, or people feeling cheated because Gloria got more days than Sue, by nature of taking more sick days.

        Personally, I’m in favor of pooled PTO. Most all of our people use it responsibly. The system has its flaws.

        1. hbc*

          I’m in favor of pooled too, both as a manager and an employee. It better reflects the reality–a company isn’t getting work out of you for…some reason. As soon as you start chopping it up, you’ve got people deciding how sick someone else should be to come in, talking about how unfair it is that they’re leaving time on the table, and gaming the system. I even remember a little kerfuffle at my last company reagrding floating holidays–should you have to justify why that day was special, it isn’t fair because the Christian holidays are all closed days and other faiths have to use their days for actual Holy Days, etc..

          With pooled PTO, I don’t have to worry if your spa day is genuinely necessary for your mental health or you just want a break, because it all comes from the same pot.

        2. MillersSpring*

          Another fan of pooled PTO. I was a leader at a small firm where the PTO pool was generous, and the days were accrued every pay period. A couple of workers took their days as soon as they were earned. We didn’t allow borrowing PTO, so if someone had an accident or long illness, they would not have been paid. It seemed really immature of them, like they couldn’t plan for the unexpected. It’s a very young way of thinking, to be dismissive that an illness or injury could happen to you.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        I think, from reading here, that in general we have much bigger holiday allocation as standard here in the UK – and things like maternity cover/systems to deal with long-term sick etc – so I think it’s easier to put them into separate categories, because it’s not like the people upthread who’d only get near 20 days if they included their PTO.

    2. Dan*

      On the one hand, you’d be annoyed with me, but OTOH, I haven’t used a sick day in seven years. Between work from home, flex time, and the ability to go 40 hours in the hole, things have to get pretty dire before I’m truly in a pickle. And if my pickle got that bad, I don’t think my manager would fault me for it.

      1. Dan*

        I should note that not every body has that flexibility, and without it, you have to be a bit more “adult” about how you manage things.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Eh, you have a plan at least and we don’t get annoyed when someone hits an unexpected serious illness.

        There’s a secret benefit we never talk about where we pay people thru an extended hospital stay and don’t count it to their PTO. NJ Short Term Disability kicks in after 14 days. It’s not in our handbook or written anywhere (and probably for legal reasons) , but we’ll cover people who get in an illness jackpot, if they need a bridge to the 14 days.

        The mild annoyance is the immature approach using all of the days for planned fun and vacation, betting on never needing a sick or personal emergency day, and then we’re left to solve the problem when life actually happens and a day or two is needed.

  15. Joanna*

    If any major non-MLM business had their staff engaging in such manipulative tactics the business press would be full of speculation that the company was in deep financial and organisational trouble because stable, self-respecting companies don’t act like that.

  16. Feo Takahari*

    For #1: Suppose your friend sells a product you want. They may choose to give you a discount, but it’s often considered unethical (or at least obnoxious) to pressure them into giving it to you for free. Pressuring your friends into buying things they don’t need seems like the inverse of that, and I think it’s on the same level of bad behavior.

    1. Allison*

      Yes, I agree. It’s rude to expect your friends to give you stuff for free, but to simply not patronize your friend’s business because you don’t have the money for stuff like that, or don’t want the product or service, is totally fine. If I have to “show my loyalty” to someone with money, I don’t want to be friends with them.

  17. Aloot*

    OP#3: if you are going to actually ask to tear up the contract, then you cannot ask to sign a new one with better terms.

    And for the sake of your own reputation, please come up with a better reason – even if it’s a total blatant lie – than “I was too hasty and I changed my mind.” Pulling out is already going to make you come across as unreliable, saying it’s because you didn’t think it through is going to be ruinous.

  18. Punkin*

    #2 – As others have noted, be cognizant of the consequences of being PTO-less if an emergency arises.

    I work in higher education. We earn 2 days of vacation and 1 day of sick time per month (very generous, but our pay is way below market). We are allowed to roll over a bit more than 2 months’ worth of vacation at the end of the fiscal year. Anything over that rolls to sick leave.

    Anyone who goes into “leave without pay” can be disciplined, even terminated (yep, it has happened). We have a “sick bank” where employees who have exhausted all of their PTO can apply for medical leave for their (not family) medical needs. But not everyone is approved to draw from that bank.

    You may be very healthy. But you may need to help an ill family member. (Our sick leave can be used for family needs – nice not to have to burn vacation time on family illness).

    We have 1 person in our department who uses all of her leave as soon as it is earned. If she ever needs even a week off, she won’t have the time. I always hold at least 2 weeks back just in case. I know that may be hard if you have just started working. But maybe you can build a little reserve a few hours at a time. There is an assurance that comes with time banked if a fun trip or family emergency comes up.

    I would freak out if I had zero PTO. Life happens. But it depends on how your PTO is doled out. Roll some over, even 1 day, if you can.

    1. Punkin*

      And I totally realize that most people cannot hold back 10 days of vacation – higher education is its own special little beast. But try to save some time, just for life happening.

      1. AFT123*

        Haha – I get 13 days a year on an accrual basis. It seems pretty dang stingy to me. But, my sick time is separate, so at least I don’t have to plan for that !

    2. Chocolate lover*

      I also work in higher ed. For most professional positions, vacation is allocated by level of position, not years of service. So my amount of vacation time will not increase unless I move up a position. And it’s “use it or lose it” with no rollover. I make sure I use it, even if it’s just days hanging at home.

      Our sick days are a separate allotment, which are actually based on a combination of position level and years of service. Thankfully I’ve never had to use more than half dozen or so sick days at most for actual illness, not counting doctor appts (which I try to schedule in a way that I can make up the time instead.) I’m grateful I don’t have to worry about reserving vacation time for emergency because of generous sick time.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I’ve never worked somewhere where vacation was allocated by level rather than years of service, for what it’s worth.

      2. Punkin*

        We just have 2 levels – professional (IT staff, academic & functional directors, managers, & assistants to such) & staff (admins & clerks). Professional get 2 days vacation and 1 sick per month. Staff get graduated vacation & sick time that builds with years of service, starting out at 1 vacation day and 1/2 sick day per month. Plus we all are off the week between Christmas & New Year’s Day. And the education benefits are awesome.

    3. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I work in higher education, too, and going into “leave without pay” status can result in discipline at my workplace, too, including termination. It doesn’t look good on the employee’s supervisor, either. We can donate unused sick leave to the catastrophic leave bank, but we can’t deplete our own sick leave below a certain number of hours to do so. The catastrophic leave bank is managed by HR, and people have to have a qualifying event to use it; also, they have to have worked at the university a certain amount of time and to be able to contribute a certain amount of their own sick and/or vacation time toward it. We can’t donate leave directly from one individual to another, only to the HR-managed bank.

  19. First Time Caller*

    I have a single PTO pool but there is zero rollover, going *poof* at midnight December 31st. It is hard to use it all up while at the same time holding some days in reserve in case I get sick in December. I don’t relish having to choose between unpaid sick time and losing my benefits.

    1. Florida*

      Can you save it up then take the last few days of the year off? I know it’s not ideal (and maybe not even realistic depending on your business), but it’s better than losing it.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I sympathize with that problem, if you don’t have an employer who is able to be generous with December days. You can take pretty much anything you have time for the last two weeks of December, and if you get caught short with a sick day in December, you can borrow ahead from the next year without side eye.

      Nobody wants to lose their days. Are you able to use your days up in December?

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        * meaning, that’s what you can do at Wakeen’s. I left that part out in my paragraph. I should go make a memorial day fruit salad or something.

  20. Jen*

    #2- I used to have 20 days of PTO. Ours were one bucket (as in, come January you have 20 days to use); I planned to take a week between Christmas and New Years, which is dead for us. Then saved 1-2 days for sick leave and treated the rest as vacation. If I got sick, I’d take less time between christmas and New Years, which isn’t a “must have” for me, just a bunch of days I’d rather not be working.

    Once I had kids i only planned a week or a week and a few long weekends of vacation as those kiddos needed me to take a LOT more sick time (either they were sick or they got me sick-or both).

  21. Allison*

    #1, I’d like to think the status means “sample the products are selling, because who knows, you might like it” and not “a real friend buys what their other friends is selling.” But it’s still annoying. I’m really glad none of my friends sell MLM stuff, but if they did, I’d probably stay away unless it was something I really wanted. I’d find the whole “if you were really my friend, you’d buy this” really manipulative.

    If a friend of mine opened a restaurant, I’d probably go and check it out, but I’d be really annoyed if they pressured me to order the most expensive things on the menu, or pressured me to keep going back, or even if they pressured me to drum up more business for them. You can expect your friends to give you emotional support, but you can’t expect them to be sources of income.

  22. Little Teapot*

    OP1: there was a great article on MLM on XOvain which when I posted it on my facebook with a comment about how it sums up everything I hate about MLMs – it started a shitstorm.

    I have numerous friends with MLM ‘businesses’ and nothing drives me more batty.

    Article in follow up comments.

    1. pomme de terre*

      Holy smokes that article is awful. “The only difference between you gushing to your Facebook friends about that cute bag you just scored on sale at Target and me sharing how a line of supplements has changed my life is that I’m getting paid to tell you about how much I love my supplements.” YES THAT IS THE ONLY DIFFERENCE AND IT MAKES YOUR ENDORSEMENT PATENTLY FALSE.

  23. Alia*

    Thanks for the first one. I have a few close friends who recently joined MLMs, and although I can ignore most acquaintances’ constant self-promotion, it’s tough when otherwise smart, lucid friends send you copied and pasted marketing messages personally asking for your “support,” be that joining their downline or just for cash. I’m ignoring messages for now, but wow, what a horrible position to put your friends in!

  24. Folklorist*

    For #4, I also had questions about the new law. I just fell below the range (making $45k). Turns out I’m one of the lowest paid at my company–yay!

    I actually really like my job, though, and as a journalist, I often work on stories whenever I get inspiration, or a source comes forward, or whatever. I’m working on a story that I’m enjoying right now, and will have limited time to work on next week since I’m going on vacation.

    When I asked my boss how to handle the new rule, he told me to work whatever I wanted to this weekend and take it out of the PTO hours I’ll be taking next week (so, if I work 4 hours this weekend, basically say that I worked half a day Wednesday instead of taking a full vacation day). He said that was because I was doing what I wanted on my free time–if he were requiring me to work over the weekend, he would then tell me to charge overtime. I’m preeeetttyyy sure that the law isn’t supposed to work like that, so now I’m just frozen on what I should actually be doing.

    1. Natalie*

      Once the law does go into effect, you’re correct – your company can’t get out of paying OT because you volunteered. Non-exempt employees have to be paid for all time worked and OT once you’re over 40/wk regardless. If you have an employee who works without permission you can discipline or fire them, but they still have to be paid.

      1. an anon*

        That said, since Folklorist is at $45k they might just bump her up to $47k to get her over the new exemption threshold and be done with it.

    2. newreader*

      In many states, non-exempt staff can flex their time as you described, working on the weekend and applying toward the total hours worked for the week, provided it all falls within the established normal work week for that employer. For example, my employer’s week runs Saturday through Friday. If I work on Saturday or Sunday, then I could leave early on Friday and not need to use PTO if the total number of hours worked for the week is 40.

      I’m not a lawyer, but that’s my understanding of the federal labor laws. There may be states that limit that or employers that don’t allow it for various reasons.

  25. Temperance*

    Re: LW#1 – I have a friend from college who posted something similar on Facebook, talking about how she’s “proud to support small businesses”, and urging us to do the same. She does Stella and Dot. She also quit her good job in corporate at a major coffee company (not Starbucks) to move closer to family in the middle of nowhere, and she can’t find a comparable job. I have empathy for her situation, but I don’t buy that stuff normally, definitely not doing it through MLM.

    However, I do buy Thirty-One from someone I know from the gym. I like the bags. (Total hypocrite.)

    1. JMegan*

      See, I don’t find that hypocritical at all.

      I don’t buy that stuff normally, definitely not doing it through MLM.
      However, I do buy [X] from someone I know from the gym. I like the bags.

      When buying something you like, and would probably be buying anyway, you choose to buy it from someone you know. If it’s something you don’t like, you choose not to buy it at all, even it it’s sold by someone you know. It looks very consistent to me!

      That kind of what I meant when I posted above. If I’m going to spend the money anyway, and I like the product, and I have the choice of buying from friend vs buying from an anonymous chain store, then sure, I’ll buy from the friend. But I’m not going to buy something that I wouldn’t otherwise buy, just because my friend happens to be selling it.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Yeah, similarly I had a friend who quit her city planning job because she didn’t like her boss, took a $13/hr part-time entry level job at a university, and started selling a makeup line. She put a ridiculous amount of effort into trying to sell the makeup (like going to fairs on weekends and spending two days to net $100.) It used to irritate me because it seemed obvious that she could put the same effort into her actual career and have a lot bigger payoff. Then she moved on to decorating cakes and pretty much just recouped her costs. I started to figure out that she was just one of those types of people who would rather mess around working on fun projects and complaining about being broke than actually working. I’m fine with people having hobbies, but don’t start something to amuse yourself, ask me to spend my money on it, and then complain you’re not making money.

    3. Allison*

      I switched stylists after the woman I’d been going to for years started pressuring me to buy makeup from her. I was a captive audience, I always declined but I obviously couldn’t walk away until she was done and I’d paid. Lady, I’m coming to you for my haircuts and tipping you well, I know you need to make more money but I’m not gonna buy stuff I don’t want just to help you make rent!

  26. Jack K*

    MLMs make me incredibly angry. They sell their “staff” (actually the majority of their customer base!!) products at retail prices and expect them to turn around and sell them at ridiculously high prices. I was looking for a supplement once and tried an Arbonne sample thinking it would be higher quality at 2.5x the price of the equivalent competitor, but it tasted worse AND had worse nutritional quality.

    Plus, MLM typically has lower markups than normal retail — meaning when you buy overpriced crap from a “friend”, a high %age of it is going into the pockets of an unethical company.

    Imagine if a friend walked into a local store run by a horrible jerk, bought a bunch of random objects, and tried to sell them at house parties at 50% higher prices. That’s how I feel about MLMs.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Actually, if what you described was how MLMs worked, they wouldn’t be so bad (sell to staff a retail and expect staff to sell to friends at marked-up prices). The way they really work is they sell to staff at retail (maybe with a slight discount) but expect staff to make money by recruiting other stuff “under” them, who in turn need to buy product and in turn recruit even more staff.

      MLMs aren’t an overpriced business. They are a legal pyramid scheme.

      1. Jack K*

        Yes, that’s definitely true. But I don’t know anybody who recruits aggressively for MLMs, while I do know people who are struggling trying to use an MLM like a legitimate business. I think they aren’t mercenary enough to try to recruit people when their own “business” isn’t profitable. I doubt I could be friends with somebody in an MLM who has figured out that they can only make money by exploiting recruits.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          But I don’t know anybody who recruits aggressively for MLMs

          I do, and they’re the most successful (money-wise), because of how MLMs are set up. You do make some commission on your actual sales, but you make more by recruiting others who make sales than you do on your own sales.

  27. SusanIvanova*

    #1: I’d be tempted to answer a post like that with “so your house is full of all those things you bought from your other friends?” Somehow I doubt it.

    1. Lindsay J*

      Honestly, it might be.

      One of my friends who is into these things was pushing a “direct sales networking meeting” for awhile, and from the description of it the networking that was going on was the Jamberry people buying the Scentsy candles and the Scentsy people buying the Younique mascara and the Younique people buying the Jamberry wraps.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Oh, dear. I bet they look at how much they make for their MLM and think they’re doing well, without looking at how much they spend on the others. It reminds me of a quote reputed to bad gamblers: “I’m about even, maybe a little up” which translates to “I lose money all the time but only count the times I win”.

  28. Izzy*

    A friend of mine sold Arbonne. She invited me to a party. Had a lot of products for sale, a very few for free demo, and darn if she didn’t recruit me with the pitch, you don’t have to sell anything, but if you sign up you can buy the products at a discount. Every time I saw her, she was pressuring me about how my business was going and had iIrecruited anyone yet. After a while I avoided her if I saw her coming. Ended our friendship. Months later I ran into her, gritted my teeth and asked her how Arbonne was going. Oh, I got out of that! she laughed. Friends again.

    Its a shame about Arbonne because I like that their products are vegan and cruelty free. Same with Melaleuca – not vegan CF but nontoxic and environmentally friendly. I have a friend who sells just enough to pay for her own products, doesn’t push the business. I buy a few things from her, like cleaning products and laundry detergent. Still, wish I could buy these things, for less, without the issues with MLMs.

  29. Purrsephone*

    OP2, I too work in higher education in California. The college’s policy is that everyone earns one day of sick time for every month worked. This can be accumulated without limit. If you resign you lose unused sick time, but if you retire your allotment is used to calculate additional pay. Vacation time accumulates at different rates depending on whether you are management or classified (union) but for the latter it begins at 8 hours per month and tops out at 16.67 hours per month. This can only be maxed at two years’ worth and any excess must be cashed out before the end of the fiscal year. Right now, managers are under pressure to get their staff (noticeably) under the max if anyone is close to it.

    I am. I am almost fanatical about hoarding my time off because it saved my butt once. Once I was re-hired it was a long and very hard road to get to my max, but I’m there now with eight weeks’ worth of vacation time and more than four weeks’ worth of sick time. (I’d still prefer to and working toward having a minimum of three months’ worth of sick time.) This is stressing out my manager though I did schedule sufficient time off, beginning next weekend to get under the max before the end of June.

    Given my strong feelings on this, it’s always surprising to m how many of my colleagues burn through their vacation time as soon as they get it. (I do understand; being at work is so stressful I want to be away from there as much as I can can too. But it’s even more important to have this time banked and available.)

    My point, if you managed to get through this, is that having a comfortable amount of time off kept in reserve is always a good idea. You never know what will happen and banked PTO is like that emergency savings account you never touch. It might seem like a waste to leave it sitting there–until you actually need it.

  30. Augusta Sugarbean*

    If we were #workingtogether, you’d be #payingme. Multiple exclamation marks hastags, are a sure sign of a diseased mind.

  31. Ruth*

    #1 I think the biggest issue with it is “if I support my friend’s business, I don’t expect to be pestered to become a seller myself or to go for regular sales.” If a friend had a coffee shop, I’d try it at least once and use it for those days when I WANT to go to a coffee shop. But being me, that’s like 3-4x/year, tops. And if I go to the coffee shop, nobody’s asking me to host stuff for them, open my own coffee shop, etc. And most friends I know who are regular small business owners don’t pressure me to always be patronizing them–I get one yearly reminder from friend who does taxes and has done my taxes several times that she’s still in the tax prep business. And if a friend is selling something I actually want through an MLM-type thing (thinking Tupperware), then I’ll buy what I want but I hate that I have to tell them “this is my purchase and that’s all I’m doing unless I decide I want more in which case I will _let you know_.”

  32. TootsNYC*

    #1–the other thing I hate about that particular post, and that concept–“You should support your friends”–is that it equates friendship with money.

    If my friend has a restaurant, they are going to be seeking customers far beyond any friendships. And so I am not made to feel that I am responsible for whether they can earn a living.

    With stuff like Jamberry–especially when it comes with an “I’m your friend, you should support me!” vibe–is that it really does rely so heavily on monetizing your personal relationships.

    I support my friends–but not monetarily. I support them by being encouraging, by caring about them, by helping them move. But NOT by providing their monetary livelihood. Either through my own expenditures, or through talking up their business elsewhere.
    (and that applies w/ other things; I’m not going to become a shill for my friend’s tax prep business)

    It messes up the purpose of friendship.

    1. Allison*

      I have a friend who’s a photographer, and I model for her shoots sometimes, but she often posts angry statuses about how her friends are bad because they’re not hitting her up for paid shoots. I get being annoyed when people ask for free stuff, but if she’s making calendars or services available, you can’t get mad at your friends for not wanting them. If I wanted to pay for a shoot I’d go to her, but I’m not going to shell out for a shoot just so she can have money.

      Although I do have a question, if a friend is in financial trouble and posts a status about how she needs people to give her money RIGHT NOW or they’ll be evicted or have a service shut off, am I a bad person for not giving them money? I don’t have that much extra cash lying around, and I might throw a really close friend $50 but a regular friend, I wonder if I have an obligation to help them too.

      1. Kora*

        IMHO, you’re never *obligated* to help a friend out in that situation; obligation is really only for your dependents. I tend to ask myself
        1) Is giving them money going to cause me hardship?
        2) Am I going to feel resentful if they never pay me back, or don’t help me out the next time I’m in trouble?
        3) Am I going to feel resentful if our friendship ends sometime soon for unrelated reasons?
        and I only give money if I’m really sure the answer to all those questions is ‘no’.

        YMMV, of course.

        1. Lindsay J*

          I never give money to any GoFundMe.

          A. I don’t have enough money to really donate anyway.
          B. If I were good enough of a friend to hit up for money then the first time I heard about their hardships would have been way before it got to the point that they posted a GoFundMe account online.
          C. Most of the GoFundMe accounts I have seen have not been for things that are a serious, unplanned hardship. If someone posted because they or a family member were diagnosed with cancer and the the treatments were bankrupting them I would donate if I could. If their house burned down I would donate if I could. If it’s because you lost your job then, well, that sucks but it’s something that the vast majority of people experience at least once during their lives and the vast majority of people don’t beg for money online when it happens. Ditto for having a baby. There are societal safety nets set up so you don’t have to worry about being homeless and starving to death in those situations. And if your cat needs thousands of dollars worth if surgery and that’s going to bankrupt you then you can apply for Care Credit, surrender it to the vet who will treat it and adopt it out, etc.

      2. Temperance*

        Not at all. I hold the unpopular opinion that begging is rude (including Go Fund Mes), and if I’m going to help you, I get a say in your budget to prevent this from happening in the future. This is an issue we ran into with my MIL, and instead of the requested $500/month to help with bills, we offered to help budget and look at expenses. Probably makes me a jerk.

      3. blackcat*

        I think that what you’re saying is quite reasonable.

        I have no problem with GoFundMes for sudden events beyond someone’s control (up to a point). Have 20k in sudden medical expenses? Ok, I may or may not help. House burned down and insurance is being stingy and/or taking forever? I may send a gift card instead, but posting a GoFundMe seems very reasonable. Pet got hit by a car and needs an expensive surgery… I don’t feel great about that, but I also won’t judge you.

        School expenses… nope. Not cool. Ditto things like rent and utilities. My super close friends? I’d always help them, but maybe not always with $$.

        Want me to fund your $5,000 yoga training? (real thing someone keeps posting to FB) Hell no. I don’t care who you are.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Ugh, the things like the last one you posted are the worst. Like seriously, I’m sure you want a beautiful Caribbean wedding. So do I. The reason I’m not having one is that I can’t afford it. So no I’m not donating so you can have one.

          Ditto a trip to my “ancestral land”.

          1. Chameleon*

            I once had a coworker send an email to the company email list asking for donations to send her kids to South Africa. I have never been and would love to go. I am sure as hell not sending your kids instead.

  33. Aurion*

    One of my best friends does MLM stuff off the side (she had other part time jobs, and just accepted a really awesome-sounding full-time job). Surprisingly, I didn’t even know the stuff she was selling was MLM until I looked it up (I had thought it was some sort of part-time outside sales thing). One is a food processor of some sort (I’m avoiding naming names), one is a much broader label selling a lot more types of stuff. I think she has attended meetings, but I don’t know how high pressure the consultants are to their downline, because as far as I know she hasn’t toted a bunch of stuff home from her upline and she certainly hasn’t been playing up the sales (at least not to me, anyway). She has never even asked me if I, or anyone I know, want to buy the food processor (I think I asked her the price once and said “ouch, that’s pretty high” and she said “yeah…but I really like it”).

    I’m not sure if “low pressure” MLM is a thing or my friend is just very lucky/unique. She does genuinely like the items which is why she signed up in the first place. I hope she continues this trend of no-pressure MLM (though possibly that means she doesn’t make any money off of it. I’m glad she has other jobs).

  34. Marty Gentillon*

    Op 3, I disagree that you can’t negotiate changes in the contract, after all, contracts can be amended. If there were some specific changes that you desire, and you can find a mutually beneficial exchange, I doubt that your employer would turn you down. But you must also keep in mind that you signed the contract, therefore you are beholden to it. It is likely that your employer will feel little need to negotiate, putting you in a worse negotiating position than before you signed.

  35. Audiophile*

    Am I misunderstanding the new OT threshold rules? I was under the impression that the new rules don’t change anyone’s status (those who are already exempt employees are still considered exempt employees and vice versa.) It just means that those exempt employees are now eligible for OT pay when they weren’t before.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      The way I understood it was people can lose their exempt status as no matter the job duties on can not be exempt if you earn less than the threshold to be exempt.

  36. stevenz*

    #2. At least a week. If you don’t need it you can always use it for vacation. But if you do need it, you don’t want to exhaust all your sick time at once. You may be healthy but the people around you may not be. It’s really a drag to have no sick time available when you need it.

  37. anncakes*

    Oh, MLMs. Yuck. It’s bad enough when it’s a friend, but a few of my coworkers are into a few of these. They talk about it at work all the time and try to sell. One of them helped an MLM friend recruit another coworker, and that’s when the Facebook party invitations started popping up. That’s all irritating enough, but there’s another person who sends out emails to the entire staff whenever she’s doing a freezer meal party. I looked it up once, and the prices for the “kits” are outrageous. $7 for a small bottle of garlic powder? Are you f-ing kidding me? And you still have to go out and shop for extra ingredients after you get your kit in order to have what you need to make the meals at the party. I think it’s highly inappropriate for people to use the all-staff work email list to sell their garbage that’s completely unrelated to our business, but apparently I’m the only one. Even the owner seems to think it’s okay for her employees to use her business’s email system to promote their own side gigs. It’s insanity.

  38. Julie Noted*

    #5 – no worries at all.

    The vast majority of high quality candidates I’ve interviewed nominated their current manager as a reference. It never made me worry that the manager might be trying to get rid of them; I assume that, at best, the manager is a good person who has their employees’ best interests at heart (which includes recognising when they need to move jobs for career development or personal reasons); at worst, the manager is a professional who accepts that they don’t own their staff.

    When I changed jobs last year my manager knew of my intentions months in advance and was very supportive. At my previous annual review I’d told him that I expected this to be my last year with the organisation because I needed new challenges and a change in environment to progress in my career. We even put “get a new job” in my planned outcomes for the year! He asked me to stay on long enough to steer a particular pet project of his, which I did, and he offered to set up introductions with potential new employers. I didn’t end up needing them – found something I was keen on early into my active search, for which he gave me a fantastic reference. How to do it right!

    OP5, don’t give your worries a second thought. Good luck!

  39. AF*

    #1 – If I bought from every single one of my friends who sold those things, I’d be broke. And I HATE when they tell me to host a party so I can get a discount or free stuff. So they’re asking me to ask my OTHER friends to spend all their money? This stuff is often very expensive, not because the quality is better, but because you’re basically paying the friend’s commission, their manager’s (or whatever they call them) commission, and on up the line. All in the name of “empowerment because I’m a business owner.” Ughhhh…..

  40. imelda*

    I’m very surprised by #5. I have been including my current manager as a reference for all of my job applications. She doesn’t want me to leave, but she acknowledges that there’s no room for growth at my current organization.

    I assumed it looks bad if you *don’t* have your current manager listed; like you’re trying to hide something. Isn’t that why it’s standard to include a line like “please inform me before contacting references”? So you can have a conversation with your supervisors about it first, but only when necessary?

    I would have thought that not including my current supervisors makes it look like I’m hiding something. Is that not right?

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