my friend doesn’t approve of my work and will be my new boss, what happens after a rude response to rejection, and more

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

1. My friend doesn’t approve of my work and is about to become my new boss

We’re going through major restructuring at work. My role is disappearing and I’ll have a new role in a new team. I’ve just found out that a good friend (who I have worked with for eight years) is about to become my new boss. I’m feeling really stressed/worried about how things will work out professionally.

My friend and I are both in positions with a reasonable amount of responsibility but are currently peers and have different managers. My friend moved sideways 18 months ago into her current role, at which point I got my friend’s old job. She recommended me for the role.

My current boss rates my work highly, and gave me very good performance reviews and unsolicited feedback that she found it really interesting that my friend and I approached the role differently but that we were both very effective for different reasons. I will be transitioning over to my new role with a great mid-year appraisal from my current boss. But my friend has made it clear that she doesn’t approve of how I’ve performed in the current role at all. We are both direct, blunt people so she’s told me how they feel about this.

So right now, I’m basically terrified about this news of my friend being my new boss. I’m scared that I’m starting out on a bad foot, because I think my new boss/friend will have a preconceived view on my having poor performance – and that even though she will try to be fair, this will mean that she is always unconsciously looking for fault. Help.

Can you get your current boss to pass her evaluation of your work along to your friend/new boss? It might be a really helpful perspective shift for your friend/new boss to hear your current boss’s take on the strengths of your approach.

I’d say something like this to your current boss: “I really appreciate how supportive you’ve been of my work. I know you’ve mentioned to me in the past that you found it interesting that Jane and I both approached the role really differently but each were effective for different reasons. Jane has been pretty candid with me that she doesn’t like the approach I’ve taken to this work, and that makes me pretty nervous now that I’m moving under her. Would you be up for talking to her about your assessment of my work, and what you found effective about my approach? I think it could be really useful for her to hear your perspective — and frankly useful for me as she becomes my new manager.”

2. How to respond to a client asking for a huge amount of data that we don’t have easy access to

I’m in the wholesale foodservice business. Today, as I was about to call it a day, I receive an email from one of our customers, who represents maybe 0.0001% of our annual sales.

This particular customer has apparently made a deal with the government in our part of the world which gives them some sort of grant on food purchases, providing every ingredient in every item provided to them comes from this region. The email said, in no uncertain terms, that they needed us to provide them with a breakdown of every order they’ve placed with us over the past 15 months, breaking down each item on every invoice, indicating which item was completely made from our region. They gave us some guidelines (“even if you sell us Coca-Cola, and it came from this region’s bottling plant, you can’t count that since some of the ingredients came from outside.”) In other words, they’re asking us to come up with a spreadsheet listing every item on every invoice we’ve given them, and telling them which particular items on every invoice was 100% sourced from our region. Furthermore, they wanted this spreadsheet in a very specific format, which they described, but didn’t give us the common courtesy of providing some sort of template to follow.

Our industry is in the business of providing fresh food products, using sources from all over the world, with this product made to order. It would literally be impossible, short for some third-party packed products we distribute, to determine where exactly each part of each ingredient came from at that particular time of year–remember, they’re asking us for this informaton going back 15 months! And on top of that, wanting us to give it to them in a very specific format.

The boss and I are in basic agreement: tell this demanding client to stick his request where the sun doesn’t shine, especially since this project would take a huge amount of time, in our busy season, to complete. We were thinking about telling him that in order to complete the request, we would need to spend an ample amount of time to compile this data, and we would need to be compensated for that. How do you suggest we go about this? Losing this client’s business would certainly not affect our bottom line, but in this age of social media, it may affect us in other ways.

I think that’s a more than reasonable response! I’d word it this way: “We can try to help with this, but it will take a significant amount of time to compile all the information you’re interested in. We estimate that we could do this for you by (date) for $___.”

If the client pushes back, you can simply say, “Unfortunately, we’re talking about something that would take roughly X hours of staff time. It’s not a service that we normally provide or that was covered by previous payments and so while we’d be glad to help, we of course need to have our expenses covered.”

Alternately, if you don’t even want to get into all that, a different option would be to just say, “This is a very large project and we don’t have the staffing we’d need to be able to complete it for you. I’m sorry we’re not able to help!”

3. What happens after a candidate responds rudely to rejection?

I’m relatively new to the HR world, so what typically happens after a candidate responds rudely to rejection? Do these responses tend to get saved for future consideration (if they ever reapply/apply for another position)? Or do these responses just get read, and then everyone moves on with their day?

I ask because I received an extremely rude response: “Wow, you could have kept that bullshit. It’s a million other $12 an hour jobs on this fuck up island. I give zero fucks.” So, how do you handle those types of angry responses?

Make a note not to ever consider that person again, and move on. There’s no need to respond to something this hostile.

I’ll sometimes reply back to some angry rejection responses, but not ones that are profanity-filled or otherwise so indicative of someone not interested in listening to reason (which is the category I’d put this one in). But if it’s more along the lines of “did you even read my application?” or “how can you not see I’m qualified for this job?” then I’ll sometimes respond back politely setting the record straight. (“We did indeed read your application but are moving forward with candidates most closely matched to the job” or “We’re focusing on candidates with more experience in X” or “We had a large number of qualified applicants for the position and are focusing on those who are the strongest matches” or whatever is accurate.) But then I find satisfaction in giving calm, dry responses to rude messages.

4. My offer letter is for a lower salary than I originally accepted

I recently applied for a job and interviewed with the hiring manager and the district manager. They both loved me. Everything went well. The hiring manager offered me $X hourly pay, a rate that I was pleased with and did not bother negotiating, and I said over the phone that it works for me.

I am currently going through the background checks, etc. and today I get an email with the offer letter, and it is $1 less than what she offered me over the phone. What should I do? Wait till the background check clears and ask her about it on the first day of the job? Or should I just not worry about the $1 and not make a big deal? What if she says “I did not offer that amount and you can leave”? If I tell HR, would I look like an annoying person over a dollar? At the same time, I really need the job.

Definitely address it now! If you wait until you’ve already started work, it will be too late. Email them back right now and say this: “This all looks good, except that the rate we’d agreed to over the phone was $X — can the offer letter be changed to reflect that?”

If she says she remembers it differently, then at that point you’ll need to decide if you want to try to negotiate for the higher rate or accept it as is. But it’s very reasonable to bring it up, and there’s no reason not to raise a discrepancy like this!

5. Employer wants to wait on job offer until funding is approved

I interviewed recently with a nonprofit. I received a phone call from the manager indicating that I am the candidate and they want to wait until funding is approved before making a formal offer (although indicated they could make an offer). Is this something I should be concerned about? Is there a good amount of time to wait before following up regarding funding? I did not receive an anticipated time in which it would be approved (last week manager said “it could be today or a couple of weeks”). This is a job that I really want to get.

Since they said it could be a couple of weeks, add an extra week to that timeline, meaning follow up if you haven’t heard anything in three weeks. But also, keep up your job search just as actively in the meantime because there’s no guarantee that this offer will come through.

If they do make you a formal offer, I’d ask about how long the funding is approved for, and what happens after that. You want to know if there’s long-term stability in the role or if it could disappear in a year. (Even if it could disappear in a year, you still might decide it’s worth taking. You just don’t want to be surprised by that after the fact.)

{ 219 comments… read them below }

  1. Emkay*

    #2- You distribute food that you can’t trace? What if there’s a recall? You have bigger problems than a demanding customer…

    1. Erica*

      I read it more like they distribute pre-packaged food and they cannot source all the ingredients in that pre-packaged food. For example, you run a convenience store that sells ice cream and while you know the brand of ice cream you don’t know where said brand gets their milk, sugar, cream, etc.

      1. LBK*

        I don’t even know how you’d figure that out. It sounds like an absurd research project – would you have to call the manufacturer of each item? Would they even tell you where it was sourced?

        1. Monique*

          Not to mention manufacturers frequently have multiple sources for the same ingredient, and could be switching back and forth regularly. They’d therefore not just have to cross-check ingredients for their usual location, but also check individual production batches. It sounds like a nightmare of a request.

          1. LBK*

            Great point about the multiple sources and having to track each batch.

            Frankly, I think the client is going about this backwards in terms of the spirit of the law they’re trying to utilize. It reads to me like it’s intended to encourage people to make sure they’re switching over to places that source everything locally, rather than just figuring out what you already use that’s sourced locally and just using the grant money for that while paying separately for everything else.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          It’s totally absurd. I’m sure the manufacturers change sources from time to time too, so Ops company would be having to ask them for a lot of work too.

        3. Wonder Woman*

          Yes, you would…and probably no, they wouldn’t necessarily tell you. Some would share for the asking, some would only share if you needed it for regulatory purposes, some would share only if you signed a confidentiality agreement, and some would outright refuse. Oh, and some won’t really know, which is it’s own scary thing.

          As an analog, my company has spent millions on identifying the source of certain minerals used in our products to ensure that we are complying with conflict minerals regulations. I mean, it’s not like you walk down to the mine and ask for a bucket of tantalum ore. It passes through alot of hands before it gets to us, and ferreting that out can be really involved. Even something as seemingly inconsequential as a food dye in a product, I don’t know how you’d be sure where that came from.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Generally speaking we have lost this, we no longer know where our food comes from. We can guess, but you read the ingredients on the side of a box and find dozens upon dozens of ingredients. Additionally, some labels might read, “may contain, X or Y or Z”. Who knows if X, Y, or Z are in that particular box.

    2. Grand Mouse*

      I’m assuming it’s more about that it’s over 15 months, and they have to trace the original sources of manufactured items, when the manufacturer would be responsible for ordering the recall. It’s also easier to backtrace one item than come up with all of them.

      Please assume the best of the LW.

    3. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      You’re confusing downstream and upstream.

      The request OP2 is dealing with is like me asking Office Depot to give me a list of every individual tree that was cut down to make the ream of paper I bought.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Also, in a recall, companies play it safe and recall anything that might have been contaminated. So, some of the corn from Farm X was found to have Listeria. Farm X’s corn, along with lots of other corn, was sent to Processing Plant Y in July and August 2015. Corn that came from Processing Plant Y, along with other corn, was used to make frozen burritos in Factory Z in August. These burritos went to some ABC Grocery Stores across the US, though some stores got burritos from other factories. The burritos have a long shelf life.

        So, the recall goes out and says “Any burritos purchased at ABC Grocery Stores between August 2016 and May 2016 are subject to recall.” Most of the burritos in that group have no corn from Farm X and so are totally fine – but better safe than sorry.

        But what the OP’s client is asking is the reverse: “Tell me for certain which burritos only have corn from farms near me.” That information might not exist for burritos eaten over a year ago!

      2. Mike C.*

        Eh, just where that tree wss harvested from.

        Look, the advice for the OP is fine but I don’t think the client is crazy for asking. If the OP’s business were set up for it, this would be a simple SQL statement away from being gathered. I do this sort of thing nearly every day. The current isn’t going to know this unless they ask so there you go.

        1. Anononon*

          But it’s not set up that way, and to do so, depending on the number of SKUs that the company distributes, would be extremely difficult. Do you expect your grocery store to research where every ingredient of every prepackaged food comes from? The wheat, the eggs, the milk, the food dyes, the fruit, the preservatives, and so on.

          1. Mike C.*

            I’m perfectly aware of that, I’m not sure why you think otherwise. Yet the client has no way of knowing this without asking.

            And to directly answer your question, I’m willing to bet that while an individual grocery store can’t, folks at the main office could certainly get the ball rolling. Just because the OP isn’t set up for it (which is fine) doesn’t mean that the request is crazy in and of itself.

            1. OP #2 Today*

              We’re not that big a company to be able to have that information at a few clicks of the mouse. It would be hell to compile it. Although it is something we’re looking into as we grow.

              1. addlady*

                I’m so confused–it came from the government somehow–does that mean you’re legally required to provide the information?

                1. Kate M*

                  I think OP meant that the customer has grant money from the (presumably state or local) government that allows them to buy food with that money only if that food was made exclusively with locally sourced ingredients. (or something like that). So it’s the customer trying to comply with the government in order to use their grant money – not a mandate from the government to the OP.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  Kate M mentions locally grown. It seems to me if you only had to document what was done locally that could be a short list and kind of quick.

                  But, still. I think use Alison’s wording and tell the customer no.

              2. addlady*

                I’m so confused–it came from the government somehow–does that mean you’re legally required to provide the information?

                Allison, I am trying to add words because it won’t let me post–it keeps saying “duplicate comment deleted”!

              3. Beezus*

                If you do take the option to offer to complete it for them at a cost and with an extended timeline, and you think the likelihood is near zero that any of the items you supply them originate 100% from the region they’re asking about, it would be nice of you to be transparent about that with them. (“Look, we can get this for you in six months if you’re willing to pay for $2,000 in staff time to compile the information, but I need to let you know that probably less than 2% of the products you buy from us are 100% sourced from Westeros, so at most you’re probably looking at $1,000 in purchases qualifying for the grant.”)

                Other things I’d consider adding to my response – is there a particular product line that you’re able to respond on more easily? (“I can get that quickly for the fajita and burrito kits that we sell you, but the soups and salads are a lot more complicated.”) And if I were your client and this grant was ongoing and not a one-time thing, I might be looking to buy more Westeros-sourced food – is that something you can support?

                1. JMegan*

                  And another option might be to say “this isn’t something we can do going back in time, but we’re looking into it going forward, would that work for you?”

                  I agree with Mike C that this isn’t *necessarily* an unreasonable thing to ask, because it *might* be the kind of thing the OP’s organization has readily available. You never know unless you ask, right? (Although it does sound like they could have been a bit more polite about it.) But since it’s not, it’s perfectly reasonable for OP to offer other options, or to say it’s not possible.

                2. Beezus*

                  I just reread the part where you mentioned that they’re a tiny customer. I think I would just tell them no and stop there, lol.

              4. Evergreen*

                That’s probably true, but the client may need to justify why they need to switch suppliers to meet this requirement (particularly if switching to local suppliers costs more).

            2. Anononon*

              Get the ball rolling by emailing dozens, if not hundreds, of companies like OP’s.

              1. Mike C.*

                Again, my point is that it’s not crazy of the client to ask the question.

                Lots of people here keep going on and on about how demanding this client is and why anyone would have data going back a whole 15 months and oh my god all this data on and on. As someone who spends their day actually doing this I’m simply trying to point out that many companies are actually set up for this sort of thing and that it’s not an entirely crazy thing to request. People need to stop freaking out about this detail – there are things called spreadsheets and databases and Tableau and all sorts of tools that in available make complex data analysis possible and at a reasonable cost.

                At the same time I’m trying to assure the OP and anyone else that not being able to fulfill this sort of request isn’t a black mark against the OP’s company and it’s perfectly fine to say no. AaM posted great advice and the OP posted a perfect response below.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  As someone who has a huge number of food allergies and contacts places to find out ingredients and, more importantly, the source of those ingredients, I can assure that most places in the food industry are in fact NOT set up to do this kind of thing. It’s not just “what did we ship this client 15 months ago,” it’s knowing the source of every ingredient in the food in that shipment. Most places do not have that kind of information stored anywhere, they’d have to do the research.

                2. Kate M*

                  The client can of course make the request, although it sounds like it was more of a demand than an ask.

                  Maybe you can answer this with your experience, but is it really that easy for some companies? I mean, it’s not just saying, “Arnold Bread Company, can you tell me where you source your ingredients from?”. It’s not like they grow the wheat themselves. They have to go through and see who they buy flour from, and who that company gets the wheat from to buy the flour. And that for every ingredient.

                  I have no idea if it’s really common for someone to have all of this information down to where the start of each individual ingredient was sourced from, but it seems like a huge task.

                3. Beezus*

                  I ask for this kind of thing all the time (not food-specific data, but large amounts of very specific data that may or may not be easy to compile, I have no idea). The normal cadence is that I ask for what I need, the vendor tells me what their capabilities are, and then I revisit the request and figure out how to react. Sometimes whatever I was pursuing isn’t worth pursuing anymore, sometimes I can modify the request to fit the vendor’s capabilities, and sometimes I can get enough info from other sources that one vendor who can’t provide the info isn’t a big deal. I can usually be flexible, and I know going in that I’m probably not going to get precisely what I asked for. I really hate it when I unknowingly ask for something extremely difficult and someone assumes I’m just an unreasonable person and avoids giving me feedback about how painful my request is, and just tries to do it, and resents me for it to boot.

                4. Liana*

                  Seconding Liz – nobody is “freaking out”, and it’s pretty condescending to say something like that. And most of us know what spreadsheets and databases are, as we use them on a daily basis.

                  Regardless of what other companies are set up to do, the OP’s company is not set up to do this, so Alison’s advice works great.

                5. Michelle*

                  I don’t think anyone is freaking out and we all understand that it’s not a crazy question to ask. I think the point it that the OP’s company does not have the spreadsheets, databases, Tableau and all manner of tools to make that happen easily and will have to start from scratch. OP also stated that they do not have the staff to be able to do this. The client is wanting it in a very specific format. What the client is asking is not a service OP’s company provides. While this request may be very easy for someone who works on this type of thing everyday and has the necessary tools to punch a few buttons and have the report, OP’s company doesn’t have that capability. OP stated that losing the client’s business would not hurt her company, but it sounds like OP wants to help but knows it will be hellish to near impossible to do in the time frame and format the client wants.

                6. Mike C.*

                  @Kate M

                  It all depends on the industry, regulations and individual needs. I used to work in food safety and now aerospace and the data is much easier to find in the latter than the former. With food you’re likely to get resolution down to a major processing plant rather than a specific farm, though you could at least see which farms are supplying the plant.

                  Whether it’s easy or not all depends on the infrastructure a particular company has set up. If you’ve been keeping track of this stuff and can centralize everything, these sorts of data exercises are really easy to do. If you’re not, they aren’t.

                7. LBK*

                  I think what’s bothering me about the way you’re approaching this is that it feels like you’re implying that the OP *should* have been tracking this all along just in case, and it’s the company’s own fault for not doing that which is now resulting in it being a huge pain to assemble. I don’t see any evidence that the OP’s company just doesn’t keep any databases at all, just that they haven’t kept track of this particular info because they never needed to before. And I agree with Liana that it’s kind of condescending to suggest things like Excel and SQL – pretty sure most of us are familiar with those. No one is saying it’s unreasonable for a client to ask for a set of data.

                8. LBK*


                  I really hate it when I unknowingly ask for something extremely difficult and someone assumes I’m just an unreasonable person and avoids giving me feedback about how painful my request is, and just tries to do it, and resents me for it to boot.

                  I think it’s perfectly fine to *ask*, but it sounds like the client in this case demanded. The way something like this is approached can make a huge difference.

                  I think it also depends on how standard ad hoc requests are with the service arrangement you have with the client; I have one vendor where they provide us with one specific set of data and it’s not in the scope of our relationship for them to do customized/specialized requests, so it would be really bizarre for me to ask them for other reports that they’ve never provided before.

                9. Not So NewReader*

                  The other thing to keep in mind is that this may not be driven by the client, it might be an agenda pushed by the grant maker. The person(s) funding this grant have decided that these extreme details are needed. In order for them to part with their money, err, give someone a grant.

                10. Wonder Woman*

                  Yea, spreadsheets don’t always cut it in the world of manufacturing supply chain, which is what this essentially is. And the most amazing spreadsheet in the world can’t magically determine were the FD&C Yellow No. 6, present at maybe 0.1% concentration, was produced.

                  I work for a very large diversified manufacturing company with massive systems and entire groups of people who spend 100% of their time talking to our raw material vendors about what’s in their materials, so that we can determine what’s in our products. And I can tell you, if someone called up and asked for this kind of report on one of our products, we would not be be able to supply it offhand.

                11. Mike C.*


                  Oh, no, not at all. I totally and completely understand why the OP cannot track this, and I do not in any way, shape or form blame them for not having the data available.

                  I just found that some of the responses treated the client request as completely unreasonable on it’s face when really it’s highly dependant on what a particular organization has available and set up. That’s why I keep saying, “it’s possible, here are tools, other organizations do it, I do this every day” and so on. I’m trying to demonstrate that the question isn’t unreasonable to ask.

            1. LBK*

              Isn’t that the point, though? Is this information that’s commonly recorded or requested? I don’t get the sense that this is normal information that it would ever be expected that a supplier would have readily available. That has nothing to do with their technical capability to pull it, it has to do with whether it’s reasonable for the client to expect that this would be information they would have on hand, which I don’t think it is.

              The issue is not that the client made a request for data, which is what it seems like you’re reading it as. The issue is that the client made a request for data that’s beyond the scope of what most suppliers would have. I work with data all day too and pull requests like this *for the set of data we actually have available*. I can run you a 15 month history of all of our rep activity in my sleep. But if you ask me to run a list of their favorite colors, that’s not reasonable because first it means collecting that data before I can report on it.

              1. Mike C.*

                I don’t get the sense that this is normal information that it would ever be expected that a supplier would have readily available.

                How do you know this? How do you know that that client knows this or is otherwise expected to know this? There’s a government grant available that deals specifically in these issues (the reason for request in the first place) so surely someone is keeping track of this sort of information, right?

                A client isn’t always going to know what is and is not part of the normal scope of available data unless they ask. I point out my own experience to demonstrate that complex requests for data are possible, but I temper that with the understand that it’s not possible for everyone. Unless people here expect the client to be a mind reader, the issue at hand is indeed that they asked in the first place.

                1. Kate M*

                  I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that just because the government asks for something means that it’s possible to get. I could easily see this as an elected official/someone in the government saying “we really need to make sure people are getting more locally sourced food, let’s create grant money that can be used only for locally sourced food” with the best of intentions, but then when you get down to the nitty gritty, it’s not actually practical to make sure everything is locally sourced at that granular of a level. Laws are made all the time by people who don’t understand how a certain sector or issue works (and I say this as someone who works in politics).

                2. LBK*

                  I’m fully understanding and appreciative of the idea that clients don’t always know what data is or isn’t available. This is also the bread and butter of my job, so you’re preaching to the choir (I am literally pulling together a data analysis for our sales division as we speak). However, if this is data that has never been provided or offered to the client before, I don’t think it’s ridiculous to expect them to at least position the request as “is this something you can do?” instead of “this is something you will do”. Based on the OP’s description it sounds like it was the latter, so I don’t think she’s out of line for being a bit miffed that they wouldn’t even bother to ask if it was possible rather than just insisting it will be done (especially since they’re a tiny client without much capital to spend here). Both as a frequent requester and requestee of data, that’s just good, standard professional practice, and it’s pretty rude to demand something that’s not within the known scope.

                  Surely despite your projected even keel, you’ve gotten requests before where you first reaction was “Are you f-ing kidding me?” The OP’s letter is just some of that incredulity mixed in with asking whether it’s acceptable to reject a request like this. It’s not like she wants the client to go screw themselves for even deigning to ask.

                3. Georgia Peach*

                  Reading through this, I’m pretty sure that this grant is intended for companies to research suppliers that source all of their ingredients locally (as a selling point! they advertise it), and purposefully buy from those suppliers with the grant money. My CSA has been the recipient of many food grants from the state. The grantee is trying to take the money and reimburse themselves for things that they have already bought that might happen to comply with that criteria. The first kind of supplier would have that info readily available because they base their business model around it, which is why the government has that expectation. The OP’s business, like most suppliers, does not focus on locally-sourced ingredients and they definitely don’t have that kind of data, which makes the request more unreasonable imo.

                4. Wonder Woman*

                  surely someone is keeping track of this sort of information, right?

                  You really can’t ever make that assumption about any kind of data.

              2. NacSacJack*

                Chiming in with Mike C. If there was a need for it, this would be tracked. I’m sure the manufacturer tracks it as far as they feel they need to do so. And I’m sure OP#2’s company tracks where they buy stuff, if for no other reason than to paid invoices. It’s just this client, 0.0001% part of their annual revenue, is asking for documentation after the fact, not as part of their deal. Going forward, if that client needs that kind of information, which he or she should have asked for before they used govt money to buy from OP#2, they should ask for it, explain why they need it and OP#2 can decide if they can accommodate their client’s request. Based on a Cost-Benefit Analysis, probably not.

                1. Anononon*

                  But it doesn’t matter if the OP’s company keeps track of who they buy from – those suppliers are supplying products with easily hundreds of individual ingredients. And the OP would need to track down each of those ingredients.

            2. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude*

              I’m actually surprised that this would be difficult for the original company that makes the product–which is clearly not the OP, who I agree should just say “sorry, nope.” I don’t make, say, tea-flavored chocolates, but if I did, I would imagine I would have records of all ingredient purchases; records of what kinds of chocolate I made each month; and records of where I sent them. I would also imagine that because of the contamination issue above, it would be really important to trace what chocolate items the Brooklyn-grown lapsang souchong went into and to which tea-flavored chocolate boutiques they were distributed.

              It’s a lot of information, but once it’s automated, so what? Possibly I am missing something, though? I get that the processing equipment can cause cross-contamination and that chaos is inevitable as entropy drives the universe into dissolution and we gawp speechless and terrified into the maw of the abyss. But my point is less about allergens/contaminants and more, “If I buy and sell stuff, I should know where it comes from and where it goes.”

              1. LBK*

                I think you probably underestimate the number of layers a product goes through between when the ingredients are created and when the food goes into your mouth and how many of the earlier layers are opaque to the people down the line, especially if we’re talking about big chains that likely have every step of production sourced from multiple places.

              2. Stranger than fiction*

                I think that’s the thing though. Someone at Op’s company would have to request this data from all their manufacturers, compile it, etc, and it’d be an enormous undertaking and they’d be at the mercy of all these manufacturers timelines too.

                1. AFT123*

                  THIS. Being able to research and compile the data completely based on information you have at hand or information that isn’t too dependent on others to grab is one thing, but in this case, think about a single product with, let’s say, 15 ingredients. portion of those ingredients are probably sourced from several different areas, perhaps seasonally, some of those ingredients are probably compound ingredients that start out as multiple smaller ingredients all sourced from wherever… you’re relying on the company to know all that, and to be cooperative with your request, and you have to do this with all your manufacturers for all your products? And who is liable if the results aren’t accurate? I’d say no way, myself. This kind of tracking is the kind of thing a company plans logistics for for years and implements on small scale, expanding only after they’ve figured out how to do it effectively. This client is way out of touch.

              3. Elsajeni*

                I think the issue comes in when you’re not so much a maker of artisan hand-crafted tea-flavored chocolates who has personal relationships with the tea growers, cacao growers, dairy farmers, etc. whose ingredients she buys, but a tea-flavored chocolate factory that buys batches of tea leaves from a tea processing plant, batches of chocolate from a chocolate processing plant, etc. At that point, you can still say which items the lapsang souchong went into and where you distributed those items, but you have less certainty about where the lapsang souchong came from in the first place; you’d have to refer someone to the tea processor if they wanted more details on that. (And there might be downstream issues, too, where you can say “Well, I sold a big batch of lapsang souchong chocolates to Ted’s Candy Suppliers, but I don’t know which boutiques they distributed them to; you’d have to ask Ted about that.”) Basically, it’s reasonable to expect you to know the steps immediately surrounding what you did with the ingredients — where you got ’em, what you did with ’em, and where you sent ’em — but not to expect you to keep records of the entire chain of custody from raw ingredients to end customer.

              4. Mike C.*

                One issue you’re going to run into is that at the processing level of food (think ground beef, grain), you’re likely going to have your records end there because everything gets mixed together.

                The other issue is just setting up the system. That’s not a trivial exercise. But yes, once people are regularly recording stuff, it shouldn’t be so bad.

                1. Anononon*

                  But EVERYONE in the chain needs to be regularly recording this info. So, for it to be not “so bad,” OP needs to convince every one of their suppliers, and every supplier of those, and so on, to keep track of this info.

        2. Beezus*

          It’s funny that trees came up, because the US Lacey Act actually requires something like this – US importers have to declare the scientific genus and species and country of harvest for all of the wood used for nearly every wood product they import (IIRC, not wood packaging/pallets/crates or anything made of MDF/fiberboard – just anything made of whole wood, plywood, and/or wood veneers). Companies outside the US involved in that supply chain are used to having to document it.

            1. Beezus*

              I dealt in a group of products that had to be documented under Lacey, but APHIS didn’t require declaration at import. I only had to provide a declaration upon request. (APHIS wasn’t funded to handle all the documentation they should have had to review under Lacey, so they phased in documentation by tariff code.) I had one APHIS agent at one port in the US who requested a declaration for every. single. shipment. I sent through her port. Never had another declaration request, ever. For two years, every single one I issued was for that one agent. I kinda wanted to call her and tell her she didn’t have to ask EVERY time, but I figured that wasn’t in my best interests. :)

            2. Beezus*

              Gibson’s problems were exacerbated because their CEO was an ass about it, IMO. If they’d responded with a mea culpa and got into compliance ASAP and questioned the parts of the law that didn’t make sense, the outcome would have been different. I think he was used to the Gibson name opening doors and easing the way, and that’s not how the compliance world works, lol.

              1. Mike C.*

                It’s amazing to me how large a punishment can get if you’re acting like a jerk.

                About ten years ago the McLaren F1 team was fined $100M (USD) for theft of technical information from Ferrari. All the stories I’ve read add that $5M was for theft and $95M was because the principal of McLaren was completely unrepentant.

  2. Edith*

    #3: Goodness! I would be so tempted to reply “You seem nice.”

    But I’m sure that would not make my hypothetical boss too happy with me…

    1. Random Lurker*

      I’d also be tempted to reply. “I’m sorry, but this position requires you to give at least one fuck, which is why we cannot move forward.” I, too, would probably get into trouble.

    2. RVA Cat*

      That person may give zero f***s, but I’m thinking they had somewhat more than zero margaritas on that f***-up island before that message…

    3. Sunshine*

      “Oh… you give ZERO fucks? That’s wasn’t clear in your application. In that case, please come in tomorrow for an interview! Better yet, let’s skip straight to the offer! Obviously you’re the one we need!”


  3. Sami*

    OP#1- I love what Alison wrote. And it might not be a bad idea to brush up your resume for a new job or maybe an internal transfer.
    Good luck!

    1. OP#1 for here*

      I love it too (as ever she puts it so well) – and actually yes this is already part of my game plan, and my current boss is great & will definitely help as much as she can.

      Job hunting already underway – but its slooooowww progress.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        And along with new job, new friends, because I question if this one really is one.

        1. designbot*

          I was wondering that too–what kind of friend tells you unasked for that you’re not doing your job as well as she did? A competitive, selfish one. Possibly not a friend you really want…

  4. CMT*

    #2 I wish more people (at least the ones I work with and for) were willing to say no. No is a perfectly reasonable response to unreasonable requests. The amount of time my boss will spend running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to find data that simply do not exist or are not available is ridiculous. Thankfully in OP2’s case, the request isn’t even coming from somebody higher up than you in your organization. That makes it even easier to say no.

    1. CMT*

      I’ll add that in my situation, my boss always knows immediately if it’s something we can or can’t do. She just won’t say no immediately because she’s afraid to. So she spends hours/days trying to make something work before ultimately coming back to say no, when she could have just done that in the first place and saved everybody time.

      1. MK*

        Hm. The thing is, from an “office politics/diplomacy/psychological” perspective, it’s often wiser to not always say no immediately, even if you know you can’t do what is requested. If you just deny these requests, you might come across as uncooperative; if you take some time and try to work something out, or at least consider the matter more, the people you are saying no to will probably accept that you made an effort to help them and that it really wasn’t possible, not just you being disobliging.

        1. LSCO*

          Agreed. Sometimes just saying “I’ll look into it” even when you know there’s nothing you can do at least gives the illusion that you’re trying to be helpful. When you then follow up later to say “I’m sorry, I’ve looked at all angles and I can’t see a way we could do X Y or Z”, the person making the request feels as if you’ve at least tried. Saying “no, that’s not possible” outright can come across as obstructive. It’s the same as when retail workers “check the stock in the back”. Sometimes they know there’s no stock, but the visual of going into the stockroom reassures the customer that they’re looking for it and not just slacking off.

          1. Mike C.*

            It’s funny, because these sorts of complex data requests are the bread and butter of my job and if I can’t do it I’ll put my foot down right away and say so. I’ll certainly say if there’s something more that can help but I absolutely refuse to go on snipe hunts.

            1. nofelix*

              The appearance of hunting is more important than actually doing it. In most cases one can just do what LSCO suggests (go away for a few days and come back saying it’s not possible) without putting any extra effort into looking.

              1. BeautifulVoid*

                Kind of like how those of us with retail experience know that if a customer asks “Are you sure you don’t have any more X, can you go check in the back?”, even if you are 100% there is no more X in your store, you go to the back room and eat a granola bar or something before coming back out and telling the customer nope, sorry.

                1. teclatrans*


                  I ask what Anna does, but will often hear, “yes, but I can go check to be sure.” Now I will wonder if they are in back taking a quick break. :-)

            2. Noah*

              Data is only part of my job in the safety department, but I’ve learned to sometimes flat out say no. I know our databases and their structure very well, almost as well as the BI department. Sometimes people want to pull things out that will require hours of time either writing a new report in Crystal or SSRS, or lots of manual sifting.

              Good example. The airline I work for started charging a fee for printing boarding passes at the airport a few years ago. The way the fee was processed in the reservation system was as a misc charge. If there were multiple misc charges added at once it became very complicated to pull out just the boarding pass fees. For instance, if you add both an overweight bag fee and a boarding pass fee the total charge might be $55. The only line item added to the reservation history is “Misc Fee by Agent# at AirportLocation – $DollarAmount” The airport agent then adds a note to the reservation history saying what the charges were for, but those are not standardized. They have since updated the way this all works and it is now easy to pull the data out, but at the time it was not easily done.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Yes, the optics of at least appearing to be cooperative can be much better from an office politics standpoint than appearing to immediately dismiss others’ requests. You never know when you may need to draw on the goodwill you’ve banked with co-workers, so it’s best to bank some.

        3. Dan*

          Yeah. I won’t say “no” imedditately and go back to whatever I was doing, and boss still has a problem to solve, so…

          1) I can’t do *that*.
          2) Why are you asking for this anyway? I’m getting to the point in my career where people asking me for stuff are just guessing at what they really want. I find that the more specific people are, the more they misunderstand the problem they are trying to solve. I’ve had to tell my boss on a few occassions that she needs to play defense with the senior people “dictating” solutions to technical staff.
          3) How much time/$ are you willing to spend to get an answer to this?
          4) Here’s what we *can* do. Will this work?

        4. CMT*

          Yeah, but there’s a difference between softening the blow a bit by waiting and actually trying to do the impossible thing. Also, the office politics part isn’t a big deal here.

    2. Hush42*

      We had a customer demand to be invoiced for their contract in way that our system is not capable of doing. They have several location and wanted them all to share a contract but be invoiced for their portion (which are all different based on their usage of the product) and sent to each location. They are refusing to pay unless they get billed this way. I told their sales rep that he had to go back to them and either tell them if they want separate invoices then they have to have separate contracts or that they could pay us extra and I would spend the time each month to calculate the breakout for them and make up custom invoices. What I was thinking but didn’t say is that, like many of our other clients, they should just tell their accounting department to do their job and calculate the breakout themselves.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Did they go with separate contracts or pay you to calculate them or complain to someone higher up? Or suddenly magically not need it in that format anymore?

        1. Hush42*

          I’m still waiting to hear back. I spent 3 hours last week designing the invoices so that they could see what it would look like but I haven’t heard back yet.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        And……..this is an area we give in. All the time.

        It’s a pain in the ass but it is so common for us to have to deal with accounts payable invoicing demands, we do whatever it takes to please AP so we can get the bill paid. If we have to pro forma invoice outside of our system, we do it.

        Typically, our contact at the company has no control over what AP demands and AP isn’t going to budge on how they want their paperwork. If we want our money, from an otherwise great customer, we have to do what it takes.

        1. nofelix*

          Try putting invoicing into your contract? Even if they say no and want to change it, you’ll know before doing any work.

        2. AFT123*

          At OldJob, we ran into this all.the.time. The service/product we sold was a very commoditized, per-user, per-minute type charge. Fee structures varied wildly, taxes/fees were localized, etc. Breaking out billing was easy for us, however we would almost always get requests about specific ways to upload the bills, format the bills, breakout the detailed bills in a specific way, what data to collect and report in the bills and/or separate reports, etc. A certain very large US retailer was notorious for being extremely difficult about this, requiring a lot of manual work on our end to even get their bills to them, and changing the process frequently. Of course we bent over backwards, but at some point, we stopped and just asked “Can you explain what you need the end result to be? What data are you looking for and how do you need to use it? There may be a better way.” There was.

      3. Rafe*

        This sounds to me like a tax-savings/tax-avoidance decision driving the businesses’s basic operations (which is generally considered the backward way of structuring business). Not that anyone wants to know this, but each state with a location would be able to impose tax on that portion of the business activity in the state — this is an attempt to dodge that via a contract at least ostensibly arguing that all the workforce/labor/etc. is really in one state only (the state that doesn’t impose tax).

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Mmm? I’m not reading that at all.

          What Hush42 laid out is a common request we get from large companies. They purchase 1000 teapots for 26 locations at the 1000 teapot price. Every location has a different cost center. They then want 26 different invoices for each location, so that each cost center is billed for exactly their portion.

          It’s really common.

          We’re doing a funny pain in the ass one this way right now where each location is paying on CC for their portion, only it’s not each location, it’s each rep at each location, so I’m talking $120 cc payments or so at each bit, drip drip drip drip drip.

          1. Anna*

            Ugh. At what point do you say the effort is too much for your side of things? I might at 120 cc payments.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

              We’re pretty good at looking at the overall profitability of something. If you beat us up on price and leave us on a thin margin, we don’t have margin left over to give you white glove service. If you place a nice sized order and also let us have some profit, we’ve got room to baby you with micro cc payments. This was for a six figure account that doesn’t beat us up so it’s okay. (And a decent way to make it harder for the next competitor to steal the business away.)

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Gah. The whole point of the 1000 teapot price is that it’s supposed to be handled as a single transaction to one company. If they’re going to make it that much of a pain, it seems like they should forfeit the bulk discount. They want you to sell it to them for the bulk price and then treat it as individual sales.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Oops, I posted before I saw Wakeen’s response about the margins working out okay for this account.

        2. Hush42*

          All of the different locations they want bills for are in the same city so it’s not tax avoidance- it’s just that they’re one company that has several different branches and all want their own bills.

      4. Gene*

        We have a Federal permittee with lots of large, gray ships who wanted their invoice from us broken into a few different charge centers; the consumption part, the regulatory fee part, and the lab cost recovery part. They were adamant that there was o way they could pay otherwise. At that time, all of our office’s billing was manual, so we did it for them.

        Later, when we semi-automated the billing, the system couldn’t do that easily. We went back to them and let them know that the bills would be all-inclusive, but with line subtotals included. After much whining and gnashing of teeth, they agreed. Now all the separation of cost centers is done by them and we get one payment.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      When our customers have requested stuff beyond our normal scope, we do just what Alison suggested and quote them the cost. Some have said never mind we can do without it, and some have agreed to pay the extra $$. We’ve also said no it can’t be done, but usually we try to find a way.

    4. OP #2 Today*

      My modus operandi is to never say “no” to anyone, be it a customer, a colleague, or anyone I would regret saying no to.

      I would always word a response to a question which I would ultimately say no to with words like “let me see what I can do” or “let me get back to you.” Even when I knew immediately I can’t help them, I would give them the assurance that I would do what I can to help. It would at least give them at least a modicum of satisfaction. Then call them back and say “here’s what we can do for you,” even if what we can do isn’t what the client wants us to do.

      Now, if you came up to me while I’m having a smoke break and I don’t know you from Adam, and said “let me have a smoke from you,” that would result in something different. Otherwise, I’ll always be there to try my best to help.

  5. Lucky*

    #2, also consider whether the information requested would be considered a trade secret – information of financial/competitive advantage to your company that’s not available to the public. Talk to the company’s lawyers about this, as it could seriously damage your company. Imagine this: you make frozen cookie dough for requesting company, and they are able to sell it for $.50 less than most other brands. You reveal that the walnuts, eggs, and chocolate chips you use in requesting company’s cookie dough come from a local source. Now your competitors know that these three ingredients could be cheaper, and seek out local suppliers, ultimately buying up your supply of cheap walnuts. That could effect pricing for your big customers, not just this little 0.0001% customer!

    1. Mike C.*

      Location of origin of ingredients aren’t trade secrets and in many cases are required to be provided. The prices paid don’t really enter into this.

    2. OP #2 Today*

      That wouldn’t be an issue. The client is only concerned about the region the source product came from, not who specifically at said source.

      It would still be a clusterbleep to acquire that info,

  6. Loose Seal*

    #4 – Definitely bring it up! A $1/ hr difference is a big deal when you think about it. You’d be leaving $2080 (before taxes) on the table each year. And, since future raises will be based on your starting salary, you’d never really be able to recoup the difference.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yeah, this is a big difference when you’re talking about an hourly rate! If you thought you were getting $18/hour, for example, but now they’re saying $17/hour, that’s almost 6% less. No one will consider it petty to bring that up.

      I guess if the numbers are much much larger it doesn’t matter so much… like if they said $1000/hour and now the paperwork says $999. But that’s probably not the case…

        1. esra*

          I’d happily work five hours a month.

          Just need to find someone who will pay me $1000/pie I bake.

      1. Dan*

        The flip side is that when you start making a good chunk of money, a 3% raise is actually noticable. (Unlike one job where I got paid $11/hr, and got a 3% raise as an acknowledgement of my “hard work.”) 33 cents an hour!

    2. The Other Beebs*

      I completely missed the $/hour part and thought we were talking about a salary–a $1 difference in yearly salary. I was . . . confused. Need more coffee!

      And completely agree that $1/hour is absolutely worth asking about. (From someone who was once granted a $.05/hour raise, and told to feel fortunate because others only got $.03.)

      1. Dan*

        Heh. I just posted above that one job gave me a 33 cent raise. My resolution to myself was that I would be gone before my next annual review. I was.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Ha. One place I worked had a standard raise of 25 cents/hour after the 90 day probation period. My manager got me whopping 50 cent raise because I wasn’t taking out the company health insurance. If I remember correctly, we were eligible for another 25 – 50 cents per hour every six months or so during the first couple of years, and then people who stayed longer got evaluated annually. I don’t know what the raise structure was like then; I only stayed there for about a year and a half.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes, this hasn’t happened to me but has to a couple of friends. Each time it was just an oversight, nothing sneaky, and they simply updated the offer document and emailed it back.

  7. Bluesboy*

    #1 I think you should also speak to your friend, but at work, in an office, and very much a professional conversation.

    Basically sitting down with her and saying “I know that we’ve done this job very differently, but I had the blessing of the manager to do it this way, and received good feedback. I know that you have preference for a different style, please let me know how you want to go forward. Are you happy for me to continue like this initially so you can assess my performance as my boss, or are there changes you would like me to make? How can I make this work?”

    That way you make it clear to her that you know about the situation, you take what might potentially have been awkward for her (she might be writing to Ask A Manager as we speak to ask how to deal with a friend she’s going to have to manage where she’s not comfortable with her work…), you give her the option of letting you continue as you are and seeing how it goes, and you’re both clear on where you stand.

    The only downside I can think of is that she might seize on it to ask you to change when she wouldn’t have done otherwise. But even that isn’t so bad (better that than she lets you carry on as you are because she doesn’t want to confront a friend but then secretly resents the way you work).

    1. Jeanne*

      The OP writes it is a different position so it would be appropriate to sit down and discuss the new duties and expectations. I wouldn’t bring up the old job since it’s now irrelevant. But realize that your manager is not your friend and from your description was probably never your friend. What kind of friend tells you are bad at your job all day every day? Forget the friendship. Treat her as you would any new manager and look for a new job. I just don’t picture this working out well. Good luck.

      1. OP#1 for here*

        Thanks Jeanne – I might have inadvertently made the friend/new boss sound a bit mean/nasty, which they are not. Just fairly blunt &open with their opinions – but then so am I, so we can’t have the pot criticising the kettle too much on that front: ).. ..

    2. OP#1 for here*

      Thanks Bluesboy – I think that it might well be worth doing what you advise & having the ‘different style’ conservation & possibly leaving it at that & stopping short of trying to justify why in some cases I could not have approached things in the same way as friend/boss did.

      I know to work with newboss some things will have to change – and I’d definitely prefer to know what up front/than have growing resentment which in our place gets you out the door/does professional damage.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I think you can even say, flat-out: “I’m worried that your opinion of my work in your old role will influence how you think of me in the future.”

        Drag these things out in the open!

        1. OP#1 for here*

          Thanks TootsNYC (great name) – i was sort of mulling over that one in my head , was half worried it would sound whiny , but now when i see you write it down in black & white, I think actually as long as I keep the tone matter of fact, that it would indeed be better said & in the open!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I’d go with this:

            “Jane, I know that you were not too keen on the way I did Old Job. It’s very different from the way you handled it. I was just wondering, are we okay going forward, now that you will be my boss?”

            In a lot of these types of settings it really does not matter what Jane decides. The tone is set by us. Commit to doing a good job for Jane. Be sincere. Keep your actions and words transparent. Stay away from actions and words that are ambiguous- this is super important. You can’t control what Jane does, but you can control what you do. Take the high road. What is good about using the high road is that it causes us to think about our own actions instead of worrying about what others are doing. If I am busy thinking “what is the most fair response to what Jane just said?” then I am not thinking “Jane is a jerk and out to get me.” The latter type of thinking does nothing to help the situation, even if it is true. Let’s say Jane IS out to get you, you still have to respond to the her in that moment. If you are using the high road you will be able to nail responses to her each time.

    3. Willis*

      I agree that a conversation with your friend would probably also be helpful. She has some incentive to make this work too. If it’s a new role, maybe there’s an opportunity to focus on the new responsibilities and how to do those vs. the disagreement on the current role. And if she does seem unwilling to compromise, that’s still a good piece of information to have about your path forward at that company, and how aggressively you might want to be looking for other opportunities.

  8. Fjell & Skog*

    #1 Aside from knowing that your friend doesn’t like the way you’ve been doing your job, I’d also just be wary of having a friend be my new boss at all. As has been talked about a lot on this site, there’s all sorts of problems with friends/romantic partners/family supervising each other. I wonder if you should also sit down with her (or someone else in the chain of command) and discuss that this could be problematic, and whether you could report to someone else.

  9. Whippers*

    #1 I’m rather intrigued by this situation. I wonder what the OP’s job is that her performance could be viewed so positively by her manager but so negatively by her friend.
    Also, I think it’s slightly worrying that your friend insists on viewing your work performance negatively just because you do things differently from her even though your manager thinks you are effective. It’s suggests a rather narrow limited working style and one that could be difficult to work with as a manager.

    1. OP#1 for here*

      OP1 here.
      Thanks Whippers – sadly nothing too intriguing about my line of work :) If it helps put it into context we work for a large global technology firm, we’re both in mid-snr level positions, with 20+ years experience. (though based on my letter you might be forgiven for thinking we were school-kids…)

      My friend (soon to be new boss) is probably aware that my current manager will have a positive view of what i’ve done.
      But as often happens with these types of roles in big companies – there are many stakeholders & a complex matrix mgt system at play. I’d say the stakeholder group whom my friend represents were on average less happy with my output/approach – than other stakeholder groups….. and it’s raised serious concerns/doubts in my friends mind about my personal work style, approach and ability.

      In the new restructured business my friends stakeholder group will be the primary players/group that I need to slot into.

      1. Murphy*

        Ah, that explanation changes things a bit for me. If the stakeholder group is less thrilled with your output, you may also need to consider whether you can meet their needs with your current approach or whether you need to adjust your style to more closely align with your new boss.

        It’s one thing to have a difference in style when the outcomes are functionally the same, but totally different when people are seeing some real negatives.

        1. OP#1 for here*

          true & I’m prepared to change my style in my new role as needed. Just hoping the decisions in my current role are not biasing things going forward.

          Re my current ‘performance’ to be clear –
          1) I had multi countries to deal with, she had 1. I had to act for the overall best of the business, not altered for the benefit of 1 country. (putting other regions at a disadvantage). This is why I needed to act with my boss’s blessing…
          2) the other people in her country group have mixed views, some are very happy, some less so.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This makes it easier to see the problem. Jane will want to know can you down shift to meet the needs of her group? Can you change alliances so to speak? If you can show that you will make their goals your number one priority you sound like you could be a heck of an advocate for their efforts. And probably that is what Jane wants.

  10. hbc*

    OP2: It may sound gimmicky, but you’re less likely to get a pissed off response if you close with what you *can* do. “We can’t find that data very quickly and the information may not even exist going as far back 15 months, but we can send any spreadsheet you provide to our suppliers and request that they fill in as much data as they have. Also, will this be important to you going forward? It will be much easier collecting this information as each order is filled, though there may be a service charge for the extra time it takes to handle these special orders.”

    I suspect anyone who would describe a spreadsheet in detail without just making the template isn’t going to be happy regardless, but most people respond better to options than a flat no. Also, that email is going to look a lot better if it gets passed around than something that reads “We have no idea where our food comes from and are unwilling to find out” even if it’s perfectly reasonable that you don’t know.

    1. Hornswoggler*

      “Also, will this be important to you going forward? It will be much easier collecting this information as each order is filled, though there may be a service charge for the extra time it takes to handle these special orders.”

      ….and it will £x or $x to your order for the extra service.”

      Seriously, I very much agree with Alison that they shouldn’t be asking for all this extra info for nothing.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Mmmmm, I would only attempt that approach if it were a large customer I wanted to keep. This is a small customer with extraordinarily high needs. In our world, we’re happy to serve small customers, but only with our standard set of services. Small, high needs customers get fired.

      Best “bless your heart” tone of voice”: ” I wish we could help you with your project but that’s not something we’re set up to provide here at Wakeen’s. We don’t have the resources for that. Is this something you think you’ll need on a ongoing basis?” [replies yes] “Geeze, yes, we can’t do that. I’m so sorry. I can recommend some other folks you could try and see if they can help you if you’d like. ”

      Fire the time suckers, don’t play with them. I am old. They always get worse, not better.

      (and p.s. a larger customer with an extraordinarily high set of needs might also need to be fired but because this is a small one, it’s a clearer “omg customer is a money pit” signal)

      1. Joseph*


        It may sound cold-blooded, but not every client who walks through the door is worth keeping. This sort of oddball request is a real concern:
        1.) It’s nearly impossible they could get the information even if OP wanted to. If you can’t count a bottle of Coca-Cola unless every single ingredient comes from the region, then you’d need to ask Coke about their ingredients – which is a request that Coke would completely ignore since it would be revealing *their* trade secrets.
        2.) Any request that’s so strange is unlikely to be “completed” even if you could get the information. This sounds like one of those requests that just keeps snowballing into a bigger and bigger headache – you got me the information about the food, but what about the source of your plastic bags you wrap it in? how about the countertops in your kitchen – it is locally sourced wood?
        3.) Clients who ask and insist on unreasonable things tend to get worse over time.

        If they’re worried about the email getting out, the way to handle it is to (a) emphasize that it’s a very non-standard request, (b) highlight the amount of time and cost it will require (making sure to include plenty of cost for wasted time going back and forth, and (c) make it crystal clear that you don’t control other independent organizations (e.g., Coca-Cola Corporation) and can neither be held accountable for their ingredients, nor guarantee that they will provide you the information even if the client is willing to pay.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          so very much this:

          2.) Any request that’s so strange is unlikely to be “completed” even if you could get the information. This sounds like one of those requests that just keeps snowballing into a bigger and bigger headache – you got me the information about the food, but what about the source of your plastic bags you wrap it in? how about the countertops in your kitchen – it is locally sourced wood?

          Are you also old? Or just unnaturally wise at a young age? :-)

          These people follow a pattern. Recognize the pattern and bail!

          1. Sunshine*

            I’m also old. This customer is trying to get their vendor to do their work for them. Just say no. It will get worse if you play along.

            Politely and professionally set the boundaries now. The time and resources you put in can quickly exceed the revenue for a small account, and then you’re effectively losing money.

          2. Windchime*

            This is scope-creep at its finest. I deal with data every single day, and I have one customer that feels that the one simple request they made six months ago is a blank check to keep adding on and adding on. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to hold the line on that; that belongs to someone else, who keeps accommodating the request. And the change requests come in the form of, “Something seems to be wrong when I do [this] or [that], can you look into it?” No explanation of what is wrong, nor what they expect to happen. So frustrating.

        2. Mookie*

          Further, the type and amount of support provided by these programs varies dramatically depending on where along the food supply chain the grant-writer exists. Likewise, depending on what country the LW is in, her client could very well be trying to circumvent the conditions of the grant–which are often limited to fresh or minimally processed whole foods only–and it’s not even clear whether they’ve been awarded it or are just applying for it (hence the request for the LW to do their work for them, which could be a complete waste of resources for both parties). If declining to participate is not feasible, I’d check in with your legal department before making any arrangements for compensation, which could void the grant if the client is a public rather than private entity, given that comparable grants I’ve read about exist to make supporting local agriculture more affordable, not less. If the client has to pay the LW to participate it may not even make financial sense, but it’s not the LW’s job to mitigate this.

        3. JessaB*

          Why do I have a feeling that this is not as complicated as the company wants to make it (the client?) I just can’t imagine a government grant that is this crazy. I also can’t imagine very many products that ARE completely locally made in this current climate of easy to transport ingredients. It’s possible that this government agency doesn’t need nearly as much info as the client thinks, or maybe even has a listing of products that are already vetted (IE if you buy Coke from the Tattooine plant, it’s not local, but if you buy it from Naboo, it is, because Naboo uses tonnes of Coke and can source it but Tattooine hates it and imports it.)

          If you were willing to even look, I’d probably google-fu the government grant programme and see if such a list exists. Because honestly? Either the grant programme does not really want to spend their money, someone stupid is in charge and if they’re told what a humongous issue this is, they’d fix it, or your client doesn’t understand the instructions.

          But if the programme has been in use even a reasonable amount of time, I can’t see where there would not be a list, because once these products are vetted. Heck if I were a producer, I’d want to get my product on the list because if people got grants for purchasing from me, I’d get larger income from it. Because they’d buy from me rather than the next person. It just doesn’t make sense (now don’t get me wrong loads of programmes Do. Not. Make. Sense.) for this to be as hard as the client is making it.

          On the other hand, governments can be extremely stupid. But then I’d complain as the customer to the GOVERNMENT granting agency, not the seller of foods.

          1. LQ*

            *I have no actual knowledge…
            I’d bet that this grant is about providing things like produce and possibly meats that are locally sourced, either as a support to local ag or as a support to people in food deserts. They don’t expect to pay for the coke with the grant, they expect to pay for the apples. Which are easy to say that they came from Farmer Joe’s. The grant expects either the coke to not be listed at all/paid for another way. Or for the beverage to be apple cider. That message could be messed up at a whole bunch of points along the way.

            1. Rat in the Sugar*

              I’d bet this is it. The grant simply says it will pay for locally sourced food, and is meant to benefit local farmers. The client should just be asking OP which products can be guaranteed as all locally sourced (like produce and meat) and not this silliness about products like Coke, which the grant wasn’t intended for in the first place.

            2. Rocky*

              Yep, I would bet money this is it, and the client just isn’t thinking tactically about managing their grant.

              I planned an event once with a social justice organization that had a similar policy about catering. It would have been ridiculous to expect the caterer to do something like this. The caterer just came up with a special menu based on locally-sourced ingredients they had access to. At a sizable markup, I might add.

          2. Pwyll*

            Or, the customer is trying to shoehorn their operations into a grant that is designed for, say, local farmers who obviously know everything is locally sourced because they ARE the source.

            1. TootsNYC*

              And therefore, don’t feel bad at failing to help this company. If they can’t qualify, that’s actually quite appropriate.

            2. Overeducated*

              Yeah that’s my suspicion – that the grant is supposed to help support local agriculture and the client is trying to use it to back fill existing and past operations that are really not focused on that, but might qualify under some legalistic definition. Creative funding strategies…I wouldn’t necessarily judge them harshly, maybe they’re a struggling public service Org, but I wouldn’t spend tons of unpaid time trying help them make the shoe fit either.

      2. hbc*

        Hmm. I don’t think I’ve ever fired a time sucker, though I’ve certainly refused to give them what they wanted and often they don’t come back. I’ve used a version of, “That’s something we would only consider for customers who do X volume with us per year, so we can revisit when you do $(exorbitant amount) in a quarter.” Or “The current demand for that kind of data doesn’t justify the hundreds of extra hours required, but we will let you know if demand increases and we change our position.”

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          The people who work for me are nicer than I am, which, yay culture because I then get to be the hard ass vs me having to tell people who face customers to be nicer.

          Our current story (which is ongoing because the fired customer will not go away) is the lady with a modest sized quote (not order, quote), who has been trying to drain the life out of every person in the building. My people are so helpful (TOO helpful in this situation) that it just keeps going and going and going and going.

          A month ago the lady demanded a conference call be set up between several people on her end and 9 parties on our end. That is so absurdly out of proportion for her quote size, I can’t even find words. People with $100,000 quotes don’t ask for that, let alone demand it.

          I’m like, “lose this lady now, I’m telling you. Lose her now. Refer her to this [competitor who is larger than we are and I use to get rid of customers we don’t want]. But, my people, they don’t listen because they are too damn helpful :-) and they kept feeding her. (They did a conference all with 2 people on our end instead of the freaking 9 parties she demanded.)

          It’s not about commission. This is a smaller opportunity. It’s they are too damn helpful! I love every one of them. Of course now they are hurt and pissed off because everything they’ve done, no order, and now the lady is raging and demanding to speak to the managers’ managers (probably in a conference call) because [whatever personality disorder that caused her to be so demanding in the first place].

          1. Sunshine*

            I have similar problems. My people are So! Helpful! and don’t ever want to say no. I love them for it but it can sure suck up your resources if you’re not careful.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

              I do the parental thing with it. I tell them what I think and then let them make their own choices, it blows up and then they learn (somewhat, ish they learn, still too damn helpful.)

              Oh, and then I get to say “I told you so!”. :-)

              Very rarely do I/we have to say flat out “no you are not allowed to do that”. They generally keep their helpfulness to sucking their own time vs draining other resources that I’d have to flat out deny them.

              1. JessaB*

                At some point you need to say to them outright, “we’re not taking this client, stop talking to her.”

                1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

                  Nah, they get there.

                  I’m teaching them judgment so they can make a better call on their own sooner out. (If they were n00bs, it would be different, but these are experience reps who just need more experience.)

          2. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Please come to my office and talk to my bosses about the client who didn’t read our (modestly priced) proposal yet agreed to the project… and immediately changed the scope, costing us thousands of dollars and tons of aggravation.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


              And it’s also about opportunity cost! There are only X people hours available on your staff per week/month. Those hours need to be pointed either to serving your existing new GOOD customers or obtaining new GOOD customers. There are way more good customers than bad customers! They are customers that deserve the max effort, not the bad ones.

          3. CMT*

            I think too helpful can be a real problem. Not only does it waste time/resources/money, I think it just encourages the behavior (creating further wastes of time/resources/money). At some point, somebody needs to draw the line.

        2. Rocky*

          “The current demand for that kind of data doesn’t justify the hundreds of extra hours required, but we will let you know if demand increases and we change our position.”

          I like this. It’s actually something I’ve had vendors tell me, and found it a very diplomatic way of letting me know my request (which probably seemed reasonable to me) was a little outlandish.

      3. Anna*

        And really, it’s possible the current business relationship isn’t going to work for the client anymore going forward if they need different things now. This might be a time when both OP’s company and the client realize they would be better served elsewhere.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Isn’t it funny how the small peanuts customers are often the most demanding?

  11. misspiggy*

    I think OP3 was also asking whether to save the rude messages for a ‘never consider these people for employment’ file. I’d say if you have a ‘good candidates for future reference’ database, you might as well create a ‘blacklisted candidates one, as long as someone can check it at some point during each recruitment. But a paper file that won’t get looked at isn’t going to be much use.

    1. Menacia*

      Nah, put it all in one database but flag the bad (and good ones) so when someone does a search, they are only looking in one place and can see the warning immediately.

  12. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


    Alison’s response is perfect. I’d like to encourage the OP to not be overly cowed by the “age of social media” crap, or in anyway held hostage by such. The biggest thing to be cautious about is that your written responses are professional, helpful and courteous as you are telling someone you either can’t help them or you’d like to refer them elsewhere, but it shouldn’t cow anyone into spending extraordinary money or time to satisfy an outlier.

    Business to business customers are way less likely to say word one on social media, when they are displeased, because their own company names and professions are attached to their comments (vs rando pizza customer who is very!! unhappy!! the pizza was 10 minutes late!! and not enough mushrooms!!!! delivery driver should take a bath!!!!!!!).

    So, consider what your email might sound like published somewhere, but don’t let that change what you will do.

    1. Sunshine*

      100% right. Customer complains on social media about “Wakeen’s Teapots refused to give me ridiculous amounts of data, even though I pay them chump change every year!” Other vendors will avoid Customer, and/or increase prices because Customer has made themselves known as High-Maintenance (and we all know about the asshole-surcharge). Customer has as much negative exposure as the Vendor.

      1. OP #2 Today*

        Trust me, we’ve added a few a-hole surcharges on a few of these high-maintenance clients ourselves :)

    2. AP*

      Totally. A large part of my job is monitoring, responding, and creating social content and we definitely get our share of unhappy people. But honestly, I think negative comments can be great. There are legitimate complaints, and we can take that info and act on it, while also responding in the moment and letting other customers see our level of service. Then there are the overly demanding, unsubstantiated rants and I think most people are savvy enough these days to distinguish one of those.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yep. Random example, because it’s fresh in my mind:

        I was just researching fence vendors, because part of our fence is only standing through the good graces of the bushes next to it. (And I thought I didn’t like those bushes! They’re rather handy now….)

        And one of the negative reviews was from this guy who had a contract with the fence vendor and they *cancelled the contract on him*…after he wanted to make a couple “minor” changes including 0% up front, the rest due when the job was complete. And yes, he put that in his review. (And the other minor changes, but those were actually things I would consider minor – I’d expect the price to change a little, but nothing more.)

        I about fell over laughing. Didn’t stop me from reaching out to that company for an estimate.

      2. I'm a Little Teapot*

        I actually once bought a product (and have been a loyal customer ever since) in large part BECAUSE the company pretty much told a jerk customer with a stupid complaint on social media to pound sand (in an awesome way). It does happen!

  13. OP #2 Today*

    Hello all.

    Thank you all for the spot on advice. As a bit of a background: most of the product we sell is made in house with fresh ingredients, in small, made to order batches. While we know who sold these ingredients to us, and where the source country/region of such, in order to meet the client’s request, we would have to analyze each and every order they’ve made and say “okay, this item is fully locally sourced, this is not.” However, due to the nature of growing seasons, what’s “local” at one time of the year may not be at another.

    What I’ll likely end up doing is responding in much the same way Alison’s suggesting, with a little bone for them: I can generate a report that lists for the client what we’ve sold them from the third-party companies, whose products we distribute, that we know uses locally-sourced ingredients. With that, I’ll very politely tell them that “at this time, the information you’re requesting is beyond our capability of compiling accurately within a reasonable time. If you wish to have us proceed, please understand this will take considerable resources with we didn’t factor in your pricing. I’m sorry I cannot be of further help.” And if he continues to push: “I’m sorry, but I’ve given you all I can give you at this time.” Full stop.

    Sorry I can’t reply to each of you individually, but it is our busy season. Time to get back to work. :/

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Sounds great.

      I’ll keep your wording in mind for when I need it. I like the way you put that together.

    2. Pwyll*

      Yup, I like this phrasing. Give them what you can easily produce, and let them do the work to identify which products are in compliance with the grant they’re seeking.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I think that’s the perfect response.

      I don’t think that their request is completely crazy. It just seems crazy because you’re not set up to deal with it at this point, which is fine. Many companies aren’t set up that way. They might collect this information, but not that information. Or maybe they don’t collect it at all. Or they do, but they have a system that has really crappy reporting built into it.

    4. TootsNYC*

      This request might be an indicator for a future need on the part of customers, or a service you could provide going forward that would be not-so-difficult if you knew you were doing it from the get-go.

      If you anticipate other similar requests, or if you see a marketing opportunity in being able to say “All ingredients sources from Local Region,” then you might want to start this data collection and labeling going forward.

      Then this customer could order only those foods that bear this distinction.

      1. Meg Murry*

        I think the issue is that unless the company wants to make some of their products only available at certain times of the year, there won’t be anything that could say it was locally sourced all year round.

        For instance, say OP makes a product with strawberries. If they make it right now, it may be strawberry season, so they could be making it with locally sourced strawberries. But in March, there are no locally sourced strawberries, the strawberries will be coming from Mexico.

        And it only gets more complicated if the company uses a 3rd party to supply them with strawberries – because that company may be constantly changing up who they are getting the strawberries from, and while they keep track of it themselves, they aren’t necessarily reporting that all to OP for every batch, and even if they are, OP may not be recording it anywhere electronically.

        I do agree that OP may find value in making and marketing a few “locally made” products – but they would most likely be only seasonally made products, or only made from ingredients with very long shelf lives.

        FYI, for a fascinating look at how to define where a product was made, listen to the Planet Money T-Shirt Project podcast. It goes over how the cotton was probably grown in the US, then sent to Indonesia to be made into yarn, then Bangladesh to be woven into cloth, then another factory sewn into T-shirts, etc. With the global shipping economy the way it is today, it is very difficult to name a single location of origin for almost any product that has more than one ingredient or more than one step.

        But back to the original question – I think OP is correct to say “here is what I know is 100% local, here is what I know is not, everything else will take time and work that we can’t give you for free, and FYI just because you bought a product a in the past that was local, that doesn’t mean if you order it again it would still be local”. I’m wondering if what they really need from the grant is to be able to put a number on it, like “30% of our purchases in 2015 were local” and the spreadsheet is an overly complicated way to bump up that number.

    5. AW*

      Sorry I can’t reply to each of you individually, but it is our busy season.

      Don’t worry about it. We all appreciate it when the OPs follow-up.

  14. AndersonDarling*

    #2 I get these kinds of requests. My job is to handle data for internal “customers” but every once in a while I’ll get a request from the outside and those are really wild. These will be phrased the same way, asking for their dream report all formatted perfectly.
    I will spend an hour or two gathering all the information I can or building estimates with what I have. I’ll send this information explaining that we do not have the ability to pull the exact data they are requesting, and I may provide an explanation of why. In some unique instances, I’ll suggest they hire a consultant and we will be happy to work with them. This opens the door to negotiate a project, and we have been reimbursed for data projects that have took months to complete.
    Your client may very well think there is a magic button that will get this info instantly, or that you have a room full of data crunchers ready to jump at a data request. They won’t know it doesn’t work like that until you tell them.

    1. Not Karen*

      This. I work with data requests as well and they are almost always filled out by someone who doesn’t know anything about how data is stored or collected and so does not understand how much work goes into completing the request. When someone makes an oddball request, you have to gently educate them that actually, it would be a lot of work.

      Side note, asking for data in a specific format is very common (at least in my work), so while annoying, it’s not something to be terribly shocked by.

      1. Cassie*

        If someone is asking for something in a specific format, I’d really prefer if they provided a template. Or even just a napkin drawing of what they want it to look like.

        Actually, I think I’d like a drawing regardless if they care about the format or not. I guess I’m a visual person :)

  15. Rat Racer*

    #2: I get crazy complex data request ALL the time. One thing that I’ve learned (YMMV) is that people don’t always know what they really want or really need. They may ask you for a very specific type of rare brie cheese, but it turns out, all they really need is cheddar.

    Sometimes, a quick conversation can help. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wasted hours chasing my tail trying to find rare exotic cheeses, only to give up, offer my client a few slices of Kraft singles and hear them say “Oh, yeah, that’s totally fine.” Now I have learned to have these negotiations up front.

    I can hear the frustration in your email and OH MAN, I have BEEN THERE. (“Really client? Do you think I sit around all day on my thumbs waiting for someone to ask me some random ass question that will take me 20 hours of work just to satisfy your curiosity???”)

    But if you can find a generic cheese solution that doesn’t cost you 3 weeks of work and makes this client happy, you will be their (and your boss’s) hero!

      1. Rat Racer*

        I think it’s because when people formulate requests, they don’t really know what’s complex and what’s simple. For all they know, the OP’s company may be collecting all that data anyway, and it’s just a matter of running a canned report.

        And often (in my org) we do have highly complex and sophisticated reports off the shelf — just not that one in that format. So rather than offering Kraft slices, it’s more like I’m offering a nice hunk of cheddar. Still good cheese, just of a different variety. One takes 20 hours of labor to find, the other, I have in my fridge.

        1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

          Exactly. As a librarian I encounter this all the time. People also think the complex information they request will be available in the exact format they need, with the conclusions they want, at the reading level they prefer, and they will not have to do their own thinking.

        2. Meg Murry*

          Yes, and sometimes what people don’t realize is that even if you are required by law, contract or policy to collect this data, that doesn’t mean it’s in an easy to access electronic formula.

          For instance, I worked in manufacturing where we mixed together multiple ingredients to make a finished product. Each one of those ingredients had a lot number. However, we did had not made the investment in a computer system that tracked which lot of the ingredient went into each batch – it was handwritten on the paperwork by the batch maker, and we only kept track electronically of the day we received that lot of raw material, and then how much we had still of that lot at each periodic inventory. So we knew that Lot # 12345 was used from March to August 2015 – but it wasn’t necessarily used in every single product made in 2015. If we had had to do a recall fast, we would have recalled all product made in that time period. If we had to do a quality investigation that wasn’t a recall, we would have been sorting through individual sheets of paper to find the information as to exactly which batches were effected. The paper system wasn’t very efficient when there was a problem- but the electronic system would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement, if not millions, and the paper system worked just fine for when there wasn’t a major issue, and met the letter of the law requirements.

          1. Wonder Woman*

            Yep! My company is in the middle of an ERP implementation and while it covers more than manufacturing data, they’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars already.

            People often underestimate the costs of systems to maintain this kind of data. Our EHS database has cost close to $200 million to develop, upgrade and maintain over the course of the last 15 years. And that’s just capital costs. Internal resources aren’t tracked, but there’s a group of 20 people who oversee it, so another $2 to $3 million a year in salary and benefits. And as I said above, even with all of that, we still couldn’t do this report.

      2. Ever and Anon*

        I can totally relate!

        I worked in a position where lots of people asked me data on competitors- data thst even in our regulated industry was not easy to come by. And people like to both conceal their end goals and get more data in bulk so that they don’t have to ask you again for info later.

        So I usually would clarify why hey needed it, suggested and provided an easy say alternative – “here are yearly trends from company’s website. Does this help answer your question?” (Yes in 90% of times.)

      3. Elsajeni*

        I actually see this the most from people who are trying to be helpful — but, as Rat Racer said, they don’t know what’s complex and what’s simple, and sometimes they get it exactly backwards and ask for the most complex version in an effort to make it easy for me. Say they need to know some end result that would have to be calculated from a few different pieces of information — they’ll request the individual pieces, thinking “I can save Elsajeni some trouble and do the calculation myself,” when actually I have a database where I’ve already done that calculation and could easily pull the result, but to get them the pieces to calculate it themselves I’d have to pull them from three different databases and match them up.

        1. LBK*

          Yes, I get this a lot – someone will request waaaaay too much data or not quite the right data thinking that they’ll take it and do their own analysis. I tend to reply to every request with “What is this being used for?” before I run anything because often people don’t know what to ask for in order to get what they actually want.

  16. addlady*

    OP#1 my biggest concern is that they chose her–it may be a sign from the company that they prefer her method and want you to adapt to her way of doing things. I don’t know much about it, but job searching might be the only way.

    1. OP#1 for here*

      Thanks Addlady, good points.

      So we are radically changing the whole business. Its as if Today we run a business for chocolate Teapots + Tea-leaves & tomorrow we are only running a chocolate teapot business. I needed to act to support a chocolate pot business in many countries where we had very little knowledge of chocolate or even pots, and had tea leave specialist people trying to figure this out :)

      So her role is different to mine – she is the best Chocolate Teapot expert in the business, and works in a country with a lot of good quality chocolate pot people.

      Now that we are back to being 100% Chocolate Pot-iteers, and will only have people who know about chocolate pots – I agree she is more expert than me in this, (She’s the best, I’m maybe a top performer but not the absolute best) and that her approach is what we need moving forward. No issue with that & I’ll do my utmost to do whats needed.

      What i do have a real worry about issue with is being labelled as a poor performer for actions taken in good faith based on where the business has been until last week.

      the job hunt continues..:)

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Best of luck. The job hunt seems like the best method for long-term stress reduction.

      2. Artemesia*

        I’d tell her what you wrote above in pretty much those words. Although the chocolate teapot them may confuse her :) Seriously — it is blunt but not rude and very clear.

  17. Person of Interest*

    #5 – this is pretty common in nonprofit world. To add to Alison’s advice, you need to ask not only what the funding picture is for this position long-term, but how the position fits into the org strategically, so you’ll have an idea of what could happen to your position when this particular grant runs out. If it’s a key role, they’ll find a way to fund it without dedicated grant funding. If it’s really project-bound, you’re likely to get laid off if the grant is not renewed or new funding isn’t secured for the project. You might also want to ask if your position has a role in fundraising – that’s common in nonprofit too, where you might need to support development efforts related to your project. Good luck!

    1. TootsNYC*

      I would also ask if you’ll have a role in documenting progress in terms of getting the funding renewed, and also ask what it will take for the funding to get renewed (if that’s part of the grant). And then assess whether you think that’s a reasonable condition, and how you personally might be able to assess the nonprofit’s progress in meeting that goal.

      In my job, there are indicators I can see (let’s say I work at a magazine; if the current issue has a full-spread house ad in the far forward, I know that’s a bad indicator; if ad pages drop year over year, that’s a bad indicator; if ad pages or rates go up, that’s a good indicator; if a cigarette ad appears, that’s a bad indicator).

      What might exist in that situation for you? (Frankly, this is good advice for everyone.)

      1. Artemesia*

        Great advice. I was so gullible in my first big post grad job that even people coming in and putting numbered stickers on everything didn’t light the fire under m. ‘Oh we are just doing a routine inventory.’ NOTE to everyone as gullible or new as I once was – any sort of inventory process that is new is a BAD BAD sign. Get set to leap tall mountains and get away from this volcano about to explode. I had been assured when hired that the company was financially stable and reassured along the way that ‘things were fine.’

      2. Aurion*

        I must be incredibly naive, but can you explaining the secret meaning for all your ad examples?

        I think Artemesia’s numbering inventory is to prepare for liquidation/blow out sale, but I can’t figure out yours.

  18. Liana*

    I am pretty terrible at holding back snarky responses, so I feel like I’d end up saying something to the rejected candidate in #3. But still. Engaging with them is not going to end up being productive for either side.

  19. CH*

    OP2 This seems like its something the customer can easily get from their previous invoices with you. They may need your help researching a few things, but they can do a majority of the work; breaking out invoices, making templates etc. To me it sounds like the customer was handed a mandatory/ necessary assignment for their project but are expecting you to do all the work while they take the credit and benefits of the results.

    1. CH*

      After reading some of the comments and getting a better picture of the story, I should modify my comment. To me it seems like the customer can get the ball rolling on the information needed – breakingout invoices, making templates. From there OP’s company can fill in the blanks with research, if they so desire… original comment still stands that it sounds to me like they the customer is trying to get your company to do work for free that they can do themselves.

  20. Brett*

    #2 As a sidenote for data request world, when you run into complex conversions (data type to data type, or schema to schema), check out FME.
    The people at safe software (who make FME) are perfectly fine with you downloading free trials for a few one off conversions. The software is so good and saves so much time, that they know a few uses of it might be enough to convince you to get a full license. If you attend a training webinar, they frequently give away free instructor led training courses too.
    (Or even better, you can provide in the format you want, and let end user know that they can use an FME free trial to convert the data to their specifications.)

  21. boop*

    #2: But why the wholesaler? The wholesaler, except for certain branded items, doesn’t actually create anything. You’d have to request information from the maker of each product. That sounds like something the original requester can go ahead and do. They can figure out how to staff it and how to compile the information in whatever format they please. Happy cold-calling! :D

    1. AFT123*

      That is a good point. I wonder if OP is allowed to give them a list of wholesalers and/or manufacturers of the products so the customer can figure out how much of their resources they think is worth allocating to this goose chase.

  22. TootsNYC*

    For #3:

    Is there a filing system of any sort in which you retain information about people? Add it.

    In my case, for my own department, I keep paper files. I’d print out the email, or write down the quote on a piece of paper w/ the date & time of the phonecall, and staple it to the back of the resumé, with a note that says: “See rude response attached.”

    And file it in the folder I have labeled Do Not Hire.

    If you have an electronic system, add a note to his file. Be very factual–i.e., directly quote him, don’t just say, “rude and profane response.” Then you’re absolutely protected in the very remote possibility that a libel situation comes up. Because truth is an absolute defense.

  23. Nethwen*

    What I really want to know from #3, but would not be worth asking the rejected person, “If there are a million other similar jobs on the island, why are you upset you didn’t get this one?” Complaints that don’t make sense intrigue me to no end.

    1. AMT*

      My favorite form of cognitive dissonance: sour grapes! “Fine, it’s not like I wanted your stupid job anyway.”

  24. petpet*

    #5: I interviewed for a position in February that told me they want to hire me but need to work out some budget issues first, and they’d get back to me once they had an answer. I followed up two weeks later, was told the budget is still in process and they’d get back to me when it was resolved. I never heard from them again.

    Please continue job hunting.

  25. Not So NewReader*

    OP #2. A grant story. A small government org was receiving a grant from a much larger government org. They had been getting the grant for ten years. As the years rolled by problems started accruing. Finally, the last grant came out and the rules were incredible. Without going into too much detail, take your ingredient question here and picture ten more questions of the same magnitude. And all these questions had to be answered in order to get the grant.

    Back to the small government org: they said, “We do not have enough people to process this info and even if we did try to fill the requirements the people we need to participate would tell us NO, they will not cooperate with us.” (This is similar to you telling your customer “no, I cannot dig up that info for you.” Then your customer tells the grant people, that they cannot get this info therefore cannot apply for the grant. I hope my story is making sense. I do have to hide some of the details.)

    The grant rep called the small government org and said, “oh we can get you a waiver, so you do not have to do so much.” Small government org said “Nope. Done.” Those grant makers lost a steady customer (the small government org) of ten years. There were too many problems with the new grant to list off here, additionally the problems that had been accruing over the previous decade were not addressed, either. This left the small government org no choice but to say no.

    OP, you don’t know what else is going on in the story with your client. I hope you take away here that grants are getting ridiculous in their requirements. People are just deciding not to apply for grants when they see the insane requirements. Time will fix some of this, grant makers will loosen up their requirements as they see they are losing customers by the droves. Customers will be on the look out for grants from other easier sources. Remember that your company is just one step in a larger story. It’s not up to you to cave and do all these ridiculous things and that will not solve these problems. If the pattern continues, you would end up saying no in years to come, might better just stop the process now.

  26. moss*

    I don’t know and I am not trying to guess where OP2 works but I do remember that the University of Kentucky food vendor (Aramark, I think? The same company whose rotten, bug-filled food led to riots at the private prison here, very OINTB) got into trouble because they were supposed to source some percentage of their offerings from local farmers (“Kentucky Proud!”) and they were padding that percentage by counting soft drinks since there is a local Coca Cola bottling plant.

  27. hobbitqueen*

    #2 – If you want to do something for them, if only to say you tried – offer provide the origin information at the SKU/Item level only (if you have that information readily available) but only if they provide you with a complete list of items they need information on, in a template. If they’re concerned about sourcing of the components of items they’re buying from you, they should contact the manufacturers directly. This is their grant, they should be doing the lion’s share of the research here.

    If they do stay your customer, make sure to address that this will likely be an ongoing thing and set out a schedule for when the information will be provided plus agree on what level of information you can and can’t provide going forward – make sure someone at a relatively senior level is aware and ready to back you up if they ask for the impossible again.

    If they’re sensible people, they’ll expect a “no” or that you’ll only be able to provide limited information. Guaranteed they’re no happier to be trying to pull this information together than you are.

  28. OP #2 Today*

    Me again.

    Let me also explain why I mentioned the data this customer wanted us to provide would be “literally impossible”: when I said we make things to order, we mean that. Let’s say a client wants us to make 2 units of product X, “but can you also add ingredient ZZZ to it? I read on xxx website this ingredient will make you 200% healthier!!”

    Of course we will do whatever it takes to make the customer happy, even if it means going to the closest grocery store to get enough ingredient ZZZ as we don’t keep any of that in stock. In the case of a custom order such as this, we would not be required to keep detailed records on this, as it was custom made in a small batch (for the sake of this example, fewer than 20 units.) If there were an issue with this particular order, we would respond “well, we never used ingredient ZZZ in product X, thus we can’t tell you the results. We warned you beforehand about this (and yes we would.)

    Now imagine that same client asking you, 15 months later “we need to know where ingredient XXX came from.” Hence the reason this email caught us off guard.

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