my boss won’t stop contacting me after my hospitalization, do I use the bathroom too much, and more

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

1. I’ve been hospitalized and my boss won’t stop texting me

I currently work in a sales role for a large alcohol company and have been sick with glandular fever for three weeks. During that time, I’ve been in hospital for about 10 days as I had jaundice due to a liver infection.

My boss was away on annual leave for the first two weeks of me being sick, but since he has returned, he’s been contacting me constantly to find out when I’ll be returning to work. I’m exhausted all the time and my doctors have recommended I take at least another week off before going back to work. Unfortunately my boss doesn’t seem to understand.

He has emailed me a number of times with things he feels need to be addressed immediately, like I missed filing my expense report while I was in hospital so he c’d his boss in on an e-mail scolding me, and has texted me every two days asking when I’ll be back. I spoke to one of my colleagues who called to check up on me and he said my boss was frustrated I wasn’t back yet. My colleague had suffered from glandular fever when he was younger and was sick for weeks/months so totally understood how I was feeling, and had stuck up for me.

I know my boss is getting pressure from his boss about where I am, but I don’t know how to explain to him how horrible I feel. He believes I should be calling him constantly to update him, but he’s never called me to see how I’m feeling only texted. What do you suggest I do? I don’t want to lose my job but I am concerned about returning to work when I have no energy, I feel like the stress is making things worse.

It’s true that in most offices, three weeks is an unusually long time to be out sick so I can understand that your boss wants to know what’s going on — but it sounds like you’ve told him and he’s just sort of … not accepting it. If he needs a better idea of your likely timeline or some sort of documentation from your doctor — i.e., something more important than a delayed expense report — he should tell you that. But contacting you constantly isn’t okay, assuming that you have in fact explained your doctors’ recommendation to him.

At this point, I’d email him — perhaps cc’ing his boss if that’s appropriate in your office — and say something like this: “As you know, I’ve been very ill for the last three weeks and was in the hospital for 10 days. Because of the seriousness of the illness, my doctors say I need at least another week off before I will be able to return to work. I will contact you on (date) to update you about whether I will be well enough to return on (hoped-for return date). Because I’ve been told to rest, I most likely will not be answering texts or emails during that time. Please let me know if you need any further information or documentation from my doctor; if you do, please call me so I can make sure to get you what you need.” (A key part of this is that you’re giving him a likely timeline. Even if you end up having to change it, it’s better for him to have something concrete like that than to have no idea what to expect at all.)

Also, if you’re eligible for FMLA, this is the time to use it. FMLA will protect your job and stop your boss from continuing to hassle you. If you’re eligible, contact your HR department ASAP to get that in motion.

2. My coworkers think my significant other doesn’t exist

I’ve run into a dilemma at work. I’ve been dating my significant other for several years and he doesn’t like large social gatherings. After a few years at different companies, he decided corporate events like holiday parties weren’t his thing and I respect that. This results in me going to a few events with friends or by myself.

Our holiday party is soon and my partner was going to go but ended up having to work late (our party is in the middle of the week). I asked my friend to go instead and updated the party coordinators about my plus one. This is when I found out that there’s a rumor going around with several people that I’ve been lying about the existence of my partner! There are several pictures of my partner on my desk and Facebook, but they say “We haven’t met him so you’re obviously lying” in a teasing manner.

Their comments come off as jokes, but their accusations are extremely hurtful. I tried to brush them off by saying “He’s been to company parties before you were hired” or “He exists. Check Facebook!” but the teasing keeps happening. Is there a way for me to get my coworkers to stop without making it a big deal?

This is the kind of thing people think is funny without realizing how annoying it can get after the first couple of comments. The tricky thing is that if you say what you’ll need to say to get it to stop, you do risk making it a bigger deal (and people thinking that they might have struck a nerve and then speculating on why). You can certainly try an eye-roll and “That joke has stopped being funny.” You can try, “That’s getting annoying — please stop” or even, “You’re right, he’s a figment of my imagination. What a terrible discovery.”

But you can’t really control what they do/say/think, so if you can, you might be better off just deciding not to care. But I’m sorry — that does sound annoying.

3. Am I using the bathroom too often during the day?

This is a really weird question, but it’s been eating at me since I started my first post-grad job two and a half years ago. How many times are too many times to get up and go to the restroom during the day?

I sometimes will get up to pee three times in one hour. I try to stretch it out as long as possible, as I feel really awkward about having to get up and walk past every single person in my small office to get to the bathroom. I’ve always had a small bladder, but am also on medication that’s a diuretic and also get dehydrated very easily, which can cause debilitating migraines for me, so I’m pretty much constantly drinking water.

No one here has said anything to me (I started about six months ago), but at my first job one of my coworkers pulled me aside and asked if I was bulimic! So I know it’s something people notice. This is more out of curiosity, but at what point does it get noticeable enough to warrant letting your superiors know there’s a medical reason why you leave your desk sometimes more than 10 times a day?

If you’re getting all your work done and maintaining a good level of productivity, I wouldn’t worry about it at all.

It’s true that using the bathroom three times in an hour is a lot, but it’s not problematically a lot. And it’s really no one’s business. That coworker who asked you if you were bulimic was rude and being nosy and out of line (after all, if you were bulimic, that wouldn’t have been a helpful way to approach you about it; it seems like she was just trying to satisfy her own curiosity), so please don’t let that make you feel self-conscious.

If you felt it had the potential to impact your work, or if it was causing your manager to never be able to find you when she went looking for you, then it would make sense to explain the situation to her — either that you’re on a medicine with diuretic effects and/or that you have a high water intake to ward off migraines. But otherwise, I think you can consider your bathroom habits your own business and not something you need to explain.

4. Employee wants to return a company raffle gift

We have a holiday party every year. My boss, the company owner, goes on a shopping spree before so we can raffle off “gifts” at the party. They range from gift cards to tablets and speakers to one or two 50” TVs — a bunch of electronics. The winners are chosen at random from a group of 20 or so employees.

I received a note today from an employee who won an item that they appreciate it but will never use it and can they have the receipt to return it for something else.

This just seems incredibly rude to me and I don’t know how to respond. From a practical standpoint, I don’t want to give her the receipt so she can see what was spent in total. And I can’t get over someone asking this. Sell it. Re-gift it. Try to return it for store credit. Am I being unreasonable? What should I say to her?

I agree with you that it’s a bit rude, but I also think it’s the product of people having different ideas (and different family practices) when it comes to gift-giving. Some people are totally comfortable with people saying “hey, this isn’t my thing, can I exchange it for something I like better?” Some people actively want their gift recipients to do that if they’re not thrilled with a gift. So she may be coming from that background, and then throw in that she probably figures any potential emotions around gifts are even lower since this is work … and I can see how she got there.

That doesn’t mean that you have to oblige her though. It would be perfectly fine to say something like, “We didn’t plan on people returning these to pick out their own gifts, but you can certainly sell it or re-gift it if it’s not your kind of thing.”

5. How long should I wait for a promised promotion?

I have been promised a promotion for over two years. We’ve been through two rounds of layoffs, hiring freezes and have been acquired by another company in that time. I genuinely understand the circumstances around why I haven’t been promoted, but have also taken on a quite a bit more responsibility in that time, along with a heavier workload to make up for employees who were laid off, with no additional compensation. Is there anything I can do to help expedite this process? As well, how long should I wait for a promotion before I’m officially being taken advantage of?

I don’t know that there’s a specific timeframe that will apply in every situation, but two years is well past it in nearly every case I can think of. If you’ve been being promised something for two years and it still hasn’t happened, I’d assume it’s not terribly likely to happen in the near future either. If I’d been promising someone a promotion for two years, I’d be embarrassed not to have come through.

I’d start looking around at other options, and see if you can promote yourself by moving somewhere else.

{ 677 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    I’m thinking OP #1 might not be in the US—I only hear USAns call it “mono” or “mononucleosis.”

      1. Letter writer #1*

        Thanks Alison, your advice was perfect. I’ve sent an e-mail to him and his boss explaining everything and my doctors have kindly offered to write a letter detailing exactly what is wrong and how severe the EBV has been. I’ve also sent the hospital certificate and additional Doctors certificate I was provided with that have the extra recommended time off on them. He replied today saying it wasn’t great that I needed more time off as we had things to sort out, it might be time to include HR.
        Apologies for the confusion on Glandular Fever, I always forget in the US it’s called Mono.

        1. Joke de Vivre*

          I had mono as a college student. I found out the hard way that if you do too much too soon, you can relapse.

          Hope you get well soon OP.

          1. Jesca*

            My brother had gotten mono and strep at the same time in high school. He nearly died. Mono is no effing joke, and having it really weakens your immune system (hence how my brother contracted strep on top of that). Going back to work for weeks is not uncommon for something like this. My god my brother lost a good bit of his muscle mass and was out for a month or more.

            OP, take care of yourself and I hope HR can be a big help! And as always, BOO to unsympathetic managers. Your manager should be handling this in a much kinder way and really looping everyone else in as well to have your back.

            1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

              Yeah. I had mono back in college and my mother said it was the only time in my whole life where she was afraid I was going to die. It’s also the only time someone other than myself called me out for a shift at work. I was so sick. I dropped so much weight in the span of two weeks that I went down 8 sizes. I took a semester off of school to recover. It’s not a joke. LW, take care of yourself! I hope HR has your back because your boss is being a jerk.

              1. Specialk9*

                Yeah I lost 30 pounds (14 kilos, 2 stone) in only a month due to mono. Then my body freaked and I was insatiably hungry for several years. My body was preparing for the next famine!

              2. whingedrinking*

                I was misdiagnosed at first when I had mono because my symptoms were so “mild”. Said symptoms included my glands sticking out like golf balls, low-grade fever, a killer sore throat, and a general exhaustion that would not go away for about six weeks no matter how much I slept. The doctor thought it must be strep because I could still get up and walk around. (Fortunately he ordered a blood test and a throat swab anyway and it was quickly corrected.)

          2. bohtie*

            this exactly. I got mono straight out of grad school at my first big corporate job and ended up fighting my way through it for literally almost 18 months because I was a contractor so I couldn’t take sick leave. I would get better for a few days, and then get sick again, and repeat. It was horrible. This guy’s boss is basically the worst.

          3. Not Rebee*

            Oh I didn’t realize it was mono. Mono is The Worst. I also had it as a college student. I was basically dead for a week before I went into the health center, and dead for another week with medication after that. Luckily Week 2 was over Thanksgiving break, so I didn’t miss more than the one week of class, but I did entirely sleep through Thanksgiving that year. Not only do you feel awful and have 0 energy, returning to activity before you’ve been cleared can cause a relapse or even a ruptured spleen! Does your boss want your spleen to explode while you’re at work?! (Even if your spleen is totally fine, might be worth it to cite this as a possible complication of this illness).

        2. Tuesday Next*

          Your boss sounds awful. Of course it’s not great that you need more time off. It’s not great for you because you’re horribly ill. I hope HR is reasonable and tells him to back off and leave you in peace to recover.

            1. Koko*

              Seriously, it’s not like LW was expecting him to be like, “Great and totally cool, we don’t need you around here at all!” and he had to correct her misperception. It goes without saying that her time away is not great, there’s no need to belabor the obvious to make her feel bad about being a human who fell ill.

        3. Lilo*

          I had it my sophomore year of college and I never slowed down. The result was that I was sick for 6 months and had an awful year. I really, really should have taken leave.

          1. TootsNYC*

            yeah, really! If you’re a large company, and you’ve got doctor’s notes and were IN THE HOSPITAL!, your HR department might be able to shut this down.

        4. Competent Commenter*

          I got mono and strep throat at 33 while self employed and working out of a home office. I was very sick for a month, even with the advantage of working at home. Grateful in retrospect that I didn’t have to be hospitalized! Best wishes on your recovery.

        5. Nita*

          OP #1, hope you feel better soon! I think you have the right idea getting a letter from the doctor. This is serious stuff, and you need to take as much time as possible to recover. A couple of my relatives have had glandular fever, and even without complications, they didn’t feel fully back to normal for months.

          I can sort of see your boss’s point of view in that the holidays are a big sales time in your business. He’s probably contacting you so often because he hasn’t got a good idea when you’re getting back. He might back off once he has a better idea of how serious this is, how long you will be out, and whether or not he needs to hire some temporary help to get through that time.

        6. Specialk9*

          I was wondering what glandular fever is. Mono stinks. Sorry OP!

          I also got flak at work. My managers were cool, but we had nurses who were supposedly employee health advocates, but they were actually really sketchy (like really) and harassed me.

          So I sympathize all around!

        7. designbot*

          I’m so mad at your boss on your behalf. Does he think YOU think it’s great?!
          Absolutely involve HR, because my bet is they tell him to cool it with the pressure.

        8. Fellow Liquor Rep*

          OP #1, I’m in the same industry (in the US) and see my boss handling that situation in a similar way yours has handled it. In fact, I would probably end up pushed out of my position if I came down with mono during Q4. Extended illness (especially during this time of year) is something I worry about on a regular basis. If you work for a large enough company to have HR, involve them, but also ask your doctor or someone you trust about legal protections you have in this situation.

          Best wishes and I hope you’re feeling better soon.

          1. Letter writer #1*

            Yeah it really is a terrible time in sales to be sick. My boss called me today for the first time since getting sick and asked lots of questions about what Glandular fever is and why they think I’m so sick and what caused it. I just think he’s never known anyone to have it so doesn’t understand.
            He was a little nicer today as I did suggest getting HR involved when I spoke to a colleague who apparently then told him, and said I just needed to keep him in the loop. It’s also my fault for assuming he knew what GF was

      2. Else*

        You can’t take FMLA for mono? I thought it was for medium-term illness as well as long-term? And it’s super infectious! If I were the boss, I wouldn’t want the OP hanging about the office even if they weren’t exhausted

        1. Judy (since 2010)*

          You could take FMLA for mono if it goes a certain length or severity.

          You can’t take FMLA in the UK, since it is a law in the USA.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Me too as “annual leave” sounds British.

      If you’re in the UK, your employer will likely allow you to self-certify for a week and then provide a doctor’s note signing you off from work.

      I would expect a large employer to have policies on managing absence from your end and your manager’s end. Employers can contact you when off sick but shouldn’t harass you.

      If you need advice on the law, it’s worth contacting ACAS.

        1. Tuesday Next*

          Although the fact that the OP is actually in hospital should suffice :-/

          OP1, do send in a doctor’s note with clear (expected) timelines and if that doesn’t get your boss off your back, maybe your doctor could phone him. I suspect that he will continue to be unreasonable given that your expense claim was one of the “urgent” matters he contacted you about.

          “…“annual leave” sounds British” – it’s also used in other Commonwealth countries, as is “glandular fever”. I’ve never heard the term “mono”.

          1. Candi*

            It sounds like she was only in hospital part of the time.

            But if she is in a Commonwealth country, she should have some extensive protections once she gets the doctor’s paperwork in.

            (I say “in hospital” because I tend to speak/write how I’ve been reading, and I’ve been reading some British stuff recently. I’m in the US.) :P

                1. Tuesday Next*

                  Interesting! We say “in hospital” but if you said “in the hospital” I don’t think anyone would notice

          2. Middle School Teacher*

            Not all commonwealth countries. I’m Canadian and I’ve never heard of annual leave or of glandular fever. We definitely say mono here.

            1. Caitlin*

              I’ve heard of glandular fever and mono, but didn’t realize (until just now) that they were the same thing.

      1. Letter writer #1*

        Thank you Ramona Flowers, I didn’t even think to check my companies policies. I’ll be getting onto that right away. I’ve sent in the Doctors certificates that cover me for the 4 weeks. Also really appreciate your kind words, I’m slowly but surely on the mend

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          Take it easy, OP. I had glandular fever when I was a child and it’s the one illness that I really remember because it was so exhausting.

          Once your boss has stopped being annoying, now is the perfect time to line up your Netflix queue and just relax.

          Really hope you feel better soon.

          1. Sara M*

            Agreed. Mono wrecked me for seven weeks and I then I kept relapsing. Take it easy. You may have to do part time or work from home for the next 1-2 months.

            1. Koko*

              When I was in grade school a classmate had mono and so another student had to bring all her assignments to her for a month or two before she was cleared to return to school.

        2. tigerStripes*

          Be gentle to yourself. I had mono for a while. It was terrible, and I didn’t have to go to the hospital like you did.

      2. Call me St. Vincent*

        It’s also called annual leave for US govt employees, so that didn’t ring any bells for me, but glandular fever read as totally British to me!

      3. Soon to be former fed*

        Those of us who work for the Federal government say annual leave all the time, sick leave too. That’s what it’s called.

    2. Princess Cimorene*

      I was on my way to google Glandular Fever because I wasn’t sure what exactly it was. Apparently it’s mono. Thanks lol

      (still going to google though, because I can’t help myself, lol)

    3. LadyKelvin*

      Thanks for the clarification, fposte. I’d never heard of glandular fever but I know mono well. It’s one of diseases that can be really really serious or you never even know you have it. I found out I had it about 6 months after the fact when I was getting blood work done, but a good friend of mine was hospitalized for weeks because his spleen burst. But I do know that most people think its just something that makes you tired and then you get over it. It can be really serious, so I hope your boss knows that and that you get better soon!

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Yes I hope you get better soon, letter writer! (I never knew what mono was before when I heard it mentioned.)

      2. Letter writer #1*

        Thank you for your kind words LadyKelvin, you’re right it can be really serious. I certainly was a bit freaked out when my eyes went yellow from Jaundice, I managed to pick up a liver infection which only happens in rare cases. But I’m slowly getting better.

        1. blackcat*

          Yeah, one of my friends got meningitis (brain inflammation) from it, and another got some really nasty point infection. It can get anywhere and attack random parts of the body.

          And at the same time, there are people like me, who have been exposed repeatedly and never get sick at all. My BFF had a super mild case when we were teens, and based on how often we shared food/drinks, I can say with almost 100% certainty I was exposed. I’m just one of those lucky ones who didn’t get sick.

          I keep hoping that a vaccine is developed soon.

          1. Competent Commenter*

            What I was told when I got it in my thirties is that 98% of the population has had mono by age 30. Many people have it as a child and experience it in such a mild form that it goes unrecognized. My case of mono wasn’t immediately diagnosed because at 33 I was considered too old to have it.

            1. Specialk9*

              My doctor kept telling me “I’d think you have mono, but you already had it.” Turns out a very tiny number can get mono twice. Whoo!

                1. BeautifulVoid*

                  *raises hand* I’ve had it twice, due to immune system issues. I also got shingles at the ripe old age of 26. Fun times!

                2. Risha*

                  I’m definite that I’ve had it twice, and I’m reasonably certain I’ve had it three times, and I’m not even immunocompromised! But only one of those, the second, was officially diagnosed.

                  (The first, and most severe, the doctor told me he was certain I had it, even though the test was officially negative. So I have medical backup on this one. Plus, I was asleep roughly 22 hours a day for three weeks straight.)

                3. AKchic*

                  I get strep multiple times a year. Same with bronchitis and pneumonia. Ever since I got H1N1 twice (within a year of having my 4th child. That kid stole my immune system, I swear). But I have never gotten mono.
                  We have scarlet fever running around our city right now, and I managed to get a double ear infection and strep, which gave way to the flu and then vertigo (and one ear infection that wouldn’t go away). As long as I don’t get scarlet fever, right? I’m pretty well fed up with being sick.

          2. ramonaflowers89*

            Yes, almost all people are exposed to EBV by the time they reach middle age because the virus is excellent at host transmission because human herpesviruses have co-involved with us for millennia. There’s a reason the majority of the population already has EBV, at least one of the herpes simplex viruses (HSV) , and cytomegalovirus – these viruses have evolved specific host immune system evasion mechanisms so they can infect hosts for life, but they’re not so virulent that they kill off hosts quickly. Since they don’t kill off hosts, it allows them to easily permeate the population, especially since their transmission routes just involve sharing fluids through kissing or sharing glasses – no worries about breaking species barriers, no worries about less common routes like needles or blood transfusions.

            On top of that, many infected people have intermittent subclinical viral shedding in their oropharynx throughout their lifetime, so they can infect new people without showing symptoms, which is a big obstacle in creating herpesvirus vaccines. If a vaccinated person still sheds, they can still infect unvaccinated people, which still puts immunocompromised people who can’t get vaccines at risk. Herpes simplex virus and cytomegalovirus also shed in hosts without causing symptoms – HSV in oral and genital mucosa, cytomegalovirus in saliva and urine and other bodily fluids – so we’re facing the same roadblocks for vaccine development for these viruses as well.

            Most people are infected with EBV when they’re children and either exhibit no symptoms or only mild flu-like symptoms, so many people do not even know they’ve been infected. You only get the classic symptoms of mono if you’re first infected in your teens or later. Once you’re infected, you’re infected for life; however, most people’s immune systems are good at finally suppressing the virus after weeks or months of the initial infection, which is why you’re not sick with mono forever. (Sometimes you can have reactivation if you’re immunocompromised, i.e. from infection, bone marrow transplant, or HIV. Some people have trouble suppressing herpesviruses, so they can have something called chronic active EBV which can manifest in a number of ugly ways.) For immunocompetent people already infected with the virus, you usually do not get sick again if you’re reexposed. Therefore, blackcat, you were probably already infected before you were exposed to your brother, which is why you did not get sick.

            One of my good friends from grad school had a crazy complication from mono that landed him in the hospital for several days. Splenomegaly (enlargement of the spleen) is a common symptom of mono and doctors tell you to not play sports or do heavy labor because you can rupture your spleen, which usually means you have an acute rupture due to trauma like a ball hitting you. Well, my friend’s spleen just started leaking – he needed an emergency transfusion because he had lost so much blood. He literally would poke at his abdomen and you could hear the fluid inside. The doctors all were checking him out because they had never seen a rupture like that not due to trauma. Mono is no joke.

            Also, LW1, you’re contagious as all hell right now – people in primary infection are shedding a ton of virus in their oral mucosa. I would not want you at work solely for that reason. You definitely should not be around people who are immunocompromised, which could include people at work who may not have disclosed those medical issues.

            Blackcat, I wouldn’t be hopeful for a vaccine for any of these herpesviruses soon. Chickenpox/shingles is the only herpesvirus vaccine we got so far. Since most herpesviruses have the ability to go latent or “hide” in people’s cells – HSV in nerves, EBV in lymphocytes – a vaccine must stop latency from happening or if that is not possible, must stop shedding from happening. Both of these problems are gigantic, especially since in HSV’s case, nerves are a protected site from the immune system. The immune system can’t “see” HSV when it’s latent in your nerves, only when it’s reactivated and has traveled into your skin cells to cause lesions. In any case, you don’t want your immune system to just destroy all your nerves trying to get rid of HSV because nerves can’t grow back. Same goes with EBV – your immune system can’t just wipe out all your white blood cells without causing massive issues.

            Since we’re worried about latency, most herpesvirus vaccines have been subunit vaccines, meaning they only have various viral proteins, not the whole virus. Therefore, these vaccines cannot accidentally infect people, but subunit vaccines also have not been evoking a high enough immune response to be effective. (Plus we don’t even know what immune response would be protective in humans, so we don’t even know what to aim for. Is it antibody-based, cell-mediated, or a combination? Do we need this specific antibody titer to this viral protein to protect? Who knows?) Therefore, we could try live-attenuated vaccines which has whole virions that could still infect people to generate a higher immune response since you’re exposing the body to the whole gamut of viral antigenic proteins as opposed to only one or two in a subunit vaccine. However, then we run the risk of latency and shedding, which many in the research community don’t want to deal with that fallout if we run a trial with a vaccine that ends up infecting people instead of protecting them from infection.

            Source: I’m a virologist who did her masters on HSV-2 vaccine development and worked in a lab which studied HSV, EBV, and CMV. Ask me questions! I love talking about viruses!

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              I’ve never had a canker sore, and as far as I know, have never had the flu nor mono. Is there a chance I have some immunity to those viruses, or is it more likely that they are just latent and non-symptomatic?

              1. ramonaflowers89*

                Cankersores are not cold sores, which are usually caused by HSV-1 (thought HSV-2 oral herpes is on the rise due to unprotected oral sex). How cankersores occur is still not really known – there are a lot of triggers that we think cause cankersores like stress, food and toothpaste sensitivies or allergies, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, HIV, trauma to the area like biting your cheek, or autoimmune diseases like IBD, Behcet’s, or celiac. Cankersores are not caused by herpesviruses or any other viruses as far as our research shows, so immunity to herpesviruses/other viruses has no effect as to whether or not you develop cankersores.

                As I said, you’re probably already infected with EBV considering its prevalence – you were probably infected as a child, so you did not have the classic symptoms of mono. You have built up some antibodies against the virus since you’ve been infected, so yes, you do have some immunity against EBV which is why if you’re reexposed when immunocompetent, you don’t get sick again. EBV’s lifecycle is active replication during primary infection and then latency in B lymphocytes with intermittent reactivations that either a) cause subclinical shedding in your oral mucosa, allowing you to transmit the virus to others or b) can cause more obvious symptoms because you’re immunocompromised in some way so your immune system cannot control the infection as well. So if you are infected and currently immunocompetent, your EBV is latent in your lymphocytes most of the time. However, even as an immunocompetent person, you most likely also subclinically shed periodically, but since it’s not enough virus to cause symptoms, you wouldn’t know you were shedding virus and thus infectious.

                Herpesviruses are double-stranded DNA viruses with a complex structure that includes many viral proteins and generally only infect one host because they have co-evolved closely with that host for a long time. That’s why it’s virtually impossible for us to be infected with non-human herpesviruses even though literally every species has a least a few herpesviruses that infects them. B virus is the only major herpesvirus that I know of that has crossed the species barrier and even then it just jumped from macaque monkeys to humans, which is an easier barrier to transverse since we’re more related. You don’t ever see bird or fish herpesviruses infecting humans. Herpesviruses in general cause mild symptoms in their natural hosts because they have co-evolved with us for millennia, so they have specifically adapted to their hosts’ immune system. They have traded virulence for persistence and transmission; they don’t want to kill off their host before they can infect new hosts. The only times you see herpesviruses wreaking havoc are a) if the host is immunocompromised, b) the infection becomes disseminated in a host as in the case of neonatal disseminated herpes where a baby contracts HSV all over their body as they exit the birth canal, c) attacks a fetus as in the case of CMV which causes birth defects and hearing loss in affected fetuses, or d) they are infecting a host they do not normally infect such as when B virus infects humans.

                Influenza is a member of the orthomyxoviruses, which have a completely different lifecycle, virion structure, and disease pathology than herpesviruses. They are relatively simple, single stranded negative sense RNA viruses, so their virion structure is vastly different. What’s really cool about flu is that its genome is segmented, meaning it has 8 separate pieces of RNA that has all 11 of its proteins – its entire genome is only 13.5 kbp. Herpesviruses have a single piece of linear dsDNA that can range from 125-240 kbp that encodes over 80 proteins, which is massive compared to flu. Its segmented genome is a big reason why flu is a fearsome pathogen, which I will explain below. Flu viruses are not capable of latency. Your body is able to clear the virus within a few weeks of infection, so when you feel all better, your body has actually gotten rid of the virus completely (as compared to when you feel all better after a herpesviral infection, it’s because it has gone latent). Flu virions infect by you breathing in aerosolized particles containing virus and infecting your nasal mucosa, eventually making it down into your lungs. You cough up phlegm and mucus from your lungs and sneeze out fluid particles from your nose, which aerosolizes the flu virions and allows them to be breathed in by new hosts.

                Okay, so do you have some immunity to various flu strains? Yes and no. You do create antibodies to strains you’re infected with and thankfully these antibodies stick around for a while, but their protective effectiveness if you’re reinfected with the same strain depends on something called antigenic drift. Flu viruses are really bad at replicating their genomes correctly – they make lots of mistakes, which in turn mutates various amino acids in their proteins. So at the beginning when there’s only a few mistakes, the antigenic sites still look very similar, so your antibodies can still recognize it. But then more changes happen – your antibodies can still recognize those sites, but only weakly now, so you do not have as much protection as before. Eventually, if enough amino acids in an antigenic site get changed, your antibodies may not recognize those sites at all anymore so now you can get re-infected with the same strain. It’s like trying to fit a round rod into a square hole in one of those kid toys. At first, the round rod fits perfectly in the round hole – you’re protected and good to go. Now the hole changes to an oval, so your rod can still fit, but you have to wiggle and jam it in there to work – you still have protection but not as much as before. Now the hole is a square, so your rod can’t fit at all – you no longer have protection. As long as a flu strain is circulating consistently in a population, you’re going to have antigenic drift and your antibodies have a time limit on their effectiveness unless they so happen to target a stable antigenic site. (Everyone trying to find a universal flu vaccine is trying to find out how to make enough antibodies to antigenic sites on proteins that can’t mutate because they’re vital to a virion’s ability to infect and replicate. Unfortunately these sites are well-hidden from the immune system, so it’s very hard for the immune system to target them.). If a flu strain is taken out of the population so there is no selective pressure on antigenic sites, then your antibodies should still be able to recognize it if you were suddenly exposed to that strain again years later as long as your titers are still strong. Antigenic drift is why we need yearly flu shots – we need to update our vaccines to include strains that have escaped previous immune responses due to antigenic drift.

                Back to flu’s segmented genome and why it’s a huge problem regarding previous immunity: if two strains of flu infect the same cell, the genomic segments can rearrange into a completely new strain, which we call antigenic shift. Antigenic shift is a big concern because you may not have any cross-protection from antibodies made against past flu strains that infected you. Sometimes you make antibodies that can recognize several strains because they were made to a common or similar antigenic sites. For example, say Strain A has a circle shape antigenic site on hemagglutinin, one of flu’s two surface proteins, that your body makes antibodies to. Now say Strain B has a triangle shape, strain C has an oval shape, and strain D has a square shape at the same antigenic site. Now you’re infected with Strain C. Your antibodies to Strain A will probably recognize Strain C because the sites look similar, which would be cross-protection since antibodies to one strain are providing at least partial protection against a different strain. Now let’s say Strain A and B infect the same cell and rearrange to create a new Strain D, which inherited Strain B’s hemagglutinin gene with its triangle shape antigenic site. None of your previous antibodies to Strain A or C recognize D because D has a triangle when A and C had circles or ovals. Now your body has to make new Strain D antibodies to the triangle antigenic site from scratch, which means you get sick as viral replication outpaces your immune system’s ability to keep up for a while. The 2009 pandemic flu was a case of antigenic shift – four viruses, one from Eurasian swine, American swine, birds, and humans, rearranged to make the pandemic flu strain – and you saw how scary that was. We’re lucky it wasn’t as deadly as originally feared. Antigenic shift can create strains that can jump species barriers, have heightened virulence, and easy transmission – therefore, antigenic shift can easily wipe out any protection you have because none of your antibodies can recognize the new strain.

            2. Jaydee*

              This is absolutely fascinating! Behind my lawyerly exterior is a former genetics major who still totally needs out over solid, in-depth scientific research.

              1. Specialk9*

                I was enjoying reading that geekout too! Fascinating that nerves are out of bounds for the immune system, though it makes sense. Tricky bugs to hang out there.

                1. ramonaflowers89*

                  Yes, that’s why it has been very tough going to make a vaccine for HSV. HSV can also cause ocular herpes – you get blisters on your cornea, which can cause blindness, and it’s apparently very painful because the virus goes latent in your ocular nerve. HSV can also infect the brain to cause herpesviral encephalitis, which we see in immunocompromised patients and babies with neonatal disseminated herpes (they contact active lesions while exiting the birth canal, so they get herpes infection all over their body. NDH’s mortality rate is 85% if untreated because such a massive exposure of a young host usually ends up with CNS infection). So latency is a massive problem because you can’t really choose which nerves the virus decides to go latent in, which is why the scientific community has almost exclusively focused on subunit vaccines for HSV because they don’t want to entertain that possibility of latency. Sadly, subunit vaccines have not panned out – usually they look good in mice, but fail horribly in humans. We don’t ave a There was a big trial a few years ago called the HerpeVac trial that basically failed at preventing HSV-2 infection and disease in double seronegative women (so not infected with either HSV-1 or 2), but it was able to slightly protect against HSV-1 even though the proteins in the vaccines were specifically from HSV-2. So our field was like IDK THAT’S WEIRD? We’re a lot way from a HSV vaccine because all our subunit vaccines have failed so far and unless people want to take the risk with live-attenuated vaccines, I don’t think we’ll make much progress. Since herpesviruses have over 80 proteins, I don’t think we’ll create enough of an immune response with only 1-3 proteins which is usually what subunit vaccines contain. We’re missing so much antigenic sites by only including 1-3 proteins out of 80!

            3. blackcat*

              This is fascinating, thank you. It makes sense that I was infected with mono as a young child and therefore did not get it as a teen.

              Among viruses in that family, my mother intentionally infected me with chickenpox as a child at a “chicken pox party.” Having managed to get it as an adult and seeing it in a newborn (my brother… she and he both got sick when he was <2 weeks old), she wanted me to get it at the "optimal" age. Indeed, I did not get very sick–I remember being cranky that I didn't *feel* sick yet wasn't allowed at school. So I'm familiar with the notion that certain viruses are more mild at certain ages, but I didn't know mono was one of them.

            4. OlympiasEpiriot*

              Uh, a virologist!!!

              Could you come waaaaay down this thread and straighten me out in my exchange with fposte about my experience with mono?


              Do a FindInPage on my username please…I don’t want to link to the comment and have this go to moderation. I think Alison is busy on the creeper thread.

                1. OlympiasEpiriot*

                  This is funny…it reminds me of a friend I had in high school — the two of us would be (not) doing homework together and get sidetracked onto diiiiiiistant tangents and then go to the library and pester the librarian and continue debating in the stacks.

            5. Former Employee*

              ramona: When I was in my 20’s I got very sick and it took quite awhile for anyone to figure it out. First I had a cough and they thought I had the flu or strep. It wasn’t either. Then I started getting stomach pains after I ate. I saw a GI doctor who said I had mono or hepatitis and sent me for tests. It took a week to get the results because the blood work was so confusing they had to call in a hematologist. Turned out I had mononucleosis induced hepatitis. I was sick for months. I should have been hospitalized – I was home alone a lot of the time and my fever would go up to 105! At one point, it started going higher and I staggered out of bed, went to the freezer and got ice to bring the fever down. They talked about putting me in the hospital when my weight dropped to/below 80 pounds, but I was able to start eating some around that time. I was really skinny except for my protruding abdomen. Once I was able to eat normally, I gained an enormous amount of weight. I actually had an MD tell me that “women of your age tend to put on weight”. What an idiot – my system was clearly haywire from being so sick and losing so much weight. I finally got back to normal, but it took along time.

          3. whingedrinking*

            I got mono at age 25 and my mother gave me a lecture about “looking after myself” and “being careful”. I had recently broken up with my university boyfriend and I think she was secretly afraid I was out making out with tons of unhygienic people. (Just one person, and he wasn’t unhygienic. He’d never had mono but you can apparently pass it on without knowing it. I forgave him and we’re still together.)

            1. ramonaflowers89*

              You were probably infected by someone who didn’t know they were infected and was subclinically shedding virus at the time you were kissing him. Not many people I know make a habit of making out with someone obviously ill with mono, so how do you explain the extreme prevalence of EBV in the population? Because so many people get infected by people who a) don’t even know they’re infected because they got it as kids and had no or very generalized symptoms or b) know they were infected, but don’t know they’re capable of passing on the virus after the symptoms of mono go away. Also, no one tests for EBV (or HSV-1) infection in people because so many people have it, so it’s not like you should have had him get tested before making out with him for goodness sake. And if contracting EBV means you’re unhygienic, then literally over 90% of all people on this planet are unhygienic because that’s how prevalent this infection is. So hopefully I can educate your mom a bit. =]

              1. whingedrinking*

                I think I made a snarky remark about how clearly I must have gotten ill from my terrible habit of licking door handles and I’d aim to be more cautious in the future.

        2. EddieSherbert*

          Yeah, a friend of mine was in the exact same situation – she got a liver infection and jaundice as well from mono. She wasn’t allowed to drink alcohol of any kind of about 6 months afterwards either, for her liver’s sake!

          Definitely take it slow. My friend ended up being out for about 3 weeks (and in the hospital for 1 week), and she even said coming back to work at that point was really hard. She felt pretty good, and would start trying to do something semi-physical and realize she was not fine yet – like, she’d have to walk to another part of the building, get light-headed halfway there, and have to sit for a few minutes before continuing. Her boss actually sent her home a few more times midday because he was so concerned!

        3. Alli525*

          I also got a liver infection from mono/glandular fever! I didn’t even know I was sick with mono (I had a relatively mild strain) until my pee turned brown and I called my mom in a panic and she said it was probably a liver thing and I should go to the doctor ASAP. Best wishes for a full recovery soon, and a boss with his sanity restored.

      3. I’ll be Lucretia*

        I had mono as a kid. Didn’t know it, tripped and fell, and the impact of hitting the ground ruptured my spleen. Not trying to be alarmist; just saying be careful.

      4. Renamis*

        First time I had it we never even knew. So my doctors where pretty happy considering you only get it once. Usually. Reoccurring Mono is a thing I was blessed with. For me it was mostly crippling tiredness and some anemia, but still. 3 months of that 2 years apart SUCKED.

        And mine was minor. The OP here being hospitalized? Oh heck no, boss needs to get off their back. The work they got wouldn’t be good anyway. And besides, while it’s harder for adults to accidentally transfer it when they’re aware they have it, do you really want to risk infections for no reason? Boss is a moron.

    4. BookCocoon*

      Was going to say the same thing! It might be helpful to add something clarifying to the original post, like “…FMLA (if you’re in the US)…”

    5. Angie*

      I had to look up glandular fever and I was fighting every urge to post in here saying look called Mono or mononucleosis. If you’re inside of the United States there’s no other way people are going to know it unless they’re medical professionals. You could also call it Epstein-Barr because that’s the kind of antibodies you build up anyhow.

      1. Candi*

        You’ll also know if you’ve come across that tidbit of info in reading or something. Less likely, true.

      2. On Fire*

        Not entirely true – I’m in the U.S. w/ no medical background and very little experience w/ doctors, and I knew. But mono is definitely the more common term here.

    6. Akcipitrokulo*

      If you’re in UK and are a union member… call them! This is exactly the kind of thing they are there for… not just to tell your company to make manager back off, but may have other resources to help.

      Send in your doctor’s note, cc HR or boss’s boss in an email that explains situation, gives rough expected timeline and stop picking up phone.

      Also if you’te in UK or similar you MAY NOT return to work before sick note runs out. The company is not insured to have you on the premises while you are still covered… might be worth pointing that out to boss that legally you CANNOT return yet! (If not uk check local law.)

      1. Bagpuss*

        That’s not actually correct.(for the UK)
        It may be a policy in some workplaces, or for some specific types of work, but definitely not as a general thing or a legal requirement.

        1. Isobel*

          Seconding this! (Google “fit note return to work”). In the UK you can go back when you feel ok, even if that’s before your sick note runs out. There is no “back to work” note. Some employers have different rules, but that’s on them.

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          My HR said it was breaching their insurance policy to have me on site when I came back a day early… quite possible not a legal requirement, but I had impression it would invalidate most workplace insurance?

    7. Foreign Octopus*

      Oh my god, mono is glandular fever?!

      I honestly had no idea. I’ve heard of mono before but I didn’t realise that it was just GF. I thought mono was a horrible, lifelong disease akin to HIV/AIDs.

      Got to say, I come for the advice but stay for the learning.

      1. Specialk9*

        Nope, mono comes and then goes for the vast majority. It can be mild or really severe, and there isn’t a ton doctors can do except manage symptoms. But definitely not like HIV!

      2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        For me, it has been lifelong. I was diagnosed in 2000 with mono; I’ve never really gotten over it. I’m still tired, all day, every day.

        1. Facepalm*

          Me too, Emily :(
          I used to be very active and energetic until I had mono my senior year of high school. I feel like I’ve never recovered. I’m always, always tired.

          1. ramonaflowers89*

            I would go to your doctor to be tested for chronic active EBV. CAEBV causes anemia in about half of patients, which contributes to fatigue. CAEBV is a very rare disease so your fatigue may be caused by something else, but it is definitely worth considering with your doctor so you can get appropriate treatment.

          1. ramonaflowers89*

            Currently, the scientific community is still unsure of EBV has any connection to CFS, though lots of woo practitioners have run with it without any demonstrable proof backing them up. We just don’t have the data yet to support a direct link, so I would be cautious about saying how EBV infection definitely caused someone’s CFS when in reality, it’s probably a number of different factors which may or may include EBV or other viruses.

      3. ramonaflowers89*

        If mono was like HIV, my field would be getting a ton more funding for vaccine development. Quite frankly, the interplay between HIV and herpesviruses like HSV, EBV, and CMV is a big reason why we do get the funding we have.

        HIV and HSV have horrible synergy – if you have one, it’s easier to get the other, and when you do get the other, it makes symptoms worse. For example, a HSV-2-positive, HIV-negative person has lesions on their genital mucosa, making it easier for them to contract HIV through sexual contact because a) their genital mucosa is disrupted, giving HIV easier access to your blood vessels and b) you have lots of T cells – the cells HIV infects – right at the surface of the genital muscosa trying to contain the HSV infection. If you have a HIV-positive, HSV-2-negative person, they’re at higher risk for contracting HSV-2 because they’re immunocompromised.

        Now we get a person infected with both viruses – HIV makes their HSV worse because it’s destroying their T cells, so they have more frequent, long lasting outbreaks of genital lesions. These more frequent lesions further increases this person’s ability to transmit both viruses to other sexual partners.

        If you have someone with EBV get infected with HIV, their immunocompromisation can reactivate the virus because their immune system can no longer keep it in check. Now they’re suspectible to developing virus-linked lymphomas like Burkitt and Hodgkin lymphomas and nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Viruses are mean little bastards, aren’t they? My husband had mono twice, and decades later, currently has Hodgkins’ (though being a chemistry teacher probably didn’t help much).

  2. PollyQ*

    Re: #4, I don’t see why that’s a problem at all. It’s not actually a “gift” that was thoughtfully chosen for a specific recipient, it’s a *prize* that was won in a game of chance. If the winner would rather have cash, what difference does it make to the company or to the LW? Maybe the family actually needs cash more than they need a new TV, and why shouldn’t they just return it & get the full value?

    1. Princess Cimorene*

      I supposed that’s fair, but would they then have to pay taxes out of that cash? I’m unfamiliar with how that works exactly, but I know when I was younger and working at a copr and I won smaller cash prizes at work at events or team building things etc, it was always put into my paycheck with the correct deductions (annoying but I suppose was the right way to do things)

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Technically they would have to pay taxes on the prize, regardless whether it’s in cash or in-kind.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Sorry, I should caveat: This could fall way below the level at which you pay taxes on winnings, but the form of the gift, in this context, shouldn’t make a huge difference on individual income taxes.

          1. Natalie*

            The de minimis level isn’t a fixed dollar amount but it’s fairly low, and from what I recall things like televisions are basically never considered de minimis. Unless it was a “length of service” award and was given as part of a presentation, it’s taxable income no matter what.

          1. Lurker*

            That’s not at all how taxable fringe benefits/de minimus gifts work at all. I think you’re thinking of the general limit for having to issue a 1099 (which is usually $600). Also 1099s are is for non-employees. Employees receive W2s.

          2. a Gen X manager*

            A peer organization was audited by the Department of Labor and was cited for not recording these through payroll and they were told that the cut off was a super low $50(+) FOR THE YEAR (for any prizes, gift cards, etc). yikes.

            1. Natalie*

              The gift cutoff for cash and cash equivalents such as gift cards is $0. Any amount given to an employee has to be reported as income, no exceptions that I’m aware of. It’s not unheard of to gross up cash gifts, so the amount given is $1,000 but the recorded amount $1,000 + the tax withholding.

              1. Lurker*

                Yes, cash and cash equivalents (e.g. gift cards, gift certificates) are always supposed to be taxable. But things like an occasional one-off gift like a t-shirt, or flowers for a job well done may be able to be considered de minimus.

                IRS definition of de minimus benefits:
                De Minimis (Minimal) Benefits You can exclude the value of a de minimis benefit you provide to an employee from the employee’s wages. A de minimis benefit is any property or service you provide to an employee that has so little value (taking into account how frequently you provide similar benefits to your employees) that accounting for it would be unreasonable or administratively impracticable. Cash and cash equivalent fringe benefits (for example, gift certificates, gift cards, and the use of a charge card, or credit card), no matter how little, are never excludable as a de minimis benefit. However, meal money and local transportation fare, if provided on an occasional basis and because of overtime work, may be excluded as discussed later.

                Examples of de minimis benefits include the following. Personal use of an employer-provided cell phone provided primarily for noncompensatory business purposes. See Employer-Provided Cell Phones, later in this section, for details. Occasional personal use of a company copying machine if you sufficiently control its use so that at least 85% of its use is for business purposes. Holiday or birthday gifts, other than cash, with a low fair market value. Also, flowers or fruit or similar items provided to employees under special circumstances (for example, on account of illness, a family crisis, or outstanding performance). Group-term life insurance payable on the death of an employee’s spouse or dependent if the face amount isn’t more than $2,000. Certain meals. See Meals, later in this section, for details. Occasional parties or picnics for employees and their guests. Occasional tickets for theater or sporting events. Certain transportation fare. See Transportation (Commuting) Benefits, later in this section, for details. Some examples of benefits that are not excludable as de minimis fringe benefits are season tickets to sporting or theatrical events; the commuting use of an employer-provided automobile or other vehicle more than one day a month; membership in a private country club or athletic facility, regardless of the frequency with which the employee uses the facility; and use of employer-owned or leased facilities (such as an apartment, hunting lodge, boat.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Whereas to me it just feels a bit off to ask this. I’d exchange or regift it but wouldn’t dream of telling them.

      The employee has missed a trick here anyway. Why not say you what the receipt so you have proof of value for your insurer should you ever need it (it’s possibly the only people who think this is necessary are those of us who’ve had to make insurance claims after floods, fire, theft etc) and suggest the price is blacked out if they don’t want you to know about it.

      1. kittymommy*

        Agree. I mean this is something pretty nice the owner does, there’s something about asking to return it fur cash that just seems icky (and a little entitled maybe?) to me.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          Its not “nice” if you get an expensive item that you have no use for. The intent might have been for it to benefit you but if it doesn’t benefit you then why wouldn’t you ask to exchange it? Sure if its a little gift under $20 or so you just regift it or let it collect dust as the hassle isn’t worth it. But if we are talking about an $800 TV when I already have a better one or don’t watch TV or live in a tiny apartment or any number of reasons why should I sell it for (likely) significantly less than what the company paid? Why wouldn’t the company want the people to get something they can actually use? It isn’t like they specifically picked something out for that particular employee (and therefor might have hurt feelings).

          If nothing else at least tell them where the item was purchased so that they can get store credit, also a lot of places have a policy about not giving cash for purchases made on credit cards especially large purchases.

          For next year maybe think about including gift receipts on each item because you just don’t know. And the whole point is to make people happy. Personally I’d rather just have a cash bonus either as a percent of salary or length of service.

          1. AndersonDarling*

            I received an expensive gift from an employer and wanted to return it. It was a fancy espresso machine worth $600, but it was huge and could only use specialty purchased espresso pods…in other words, it was never going to be used by us. I ended up “returning” it to Macy’s because they will take any returns without proof of purchase but I only got $200 for the return.
            When I mentioned it to a co-worker she was horrified that I didn’t ask for the receipt so I could have returned it and received the full purchase price. Apparently the other employees regularly ask for the receipts so they can return their pricey (but thoughtful and fully appreciated gifts) and purchase something more practical. A part of me still wonders what I would have purchased with an extra $400.

            1. Specialk9*

              This seems reasonable to me. It’s not a personal gift, it’s an employee morale thing. Someone guessed what most people would like. It’s kinda morale lowering to get something expensive you don’t want. (Though it can be a fun gift giving opportunity – I once gave an unwanted corporate prize of a super fancy appliance to someone who desperately wanted one. It still makes me happy.)

              I think it *can* be tacky to ask for a receipt for a personal gift, but different sub-cultures can be totally ok with that. I usually tuck a gift receipt into the package when giving a gift, personally.

              1. AndersonDarling*

                As you mentioned, it was morale lowering. I was paid terribly and I could not ignore the value of the gift. I was holding something worth more than I made in 3 months at the company- I was paid on commission so I put in a ton of hours for very little pay. I could have had something amazing, instead I ended up with something worthless to me. It was my one reward for working so hard.

            2. TootsNYC*

              You might not have gotten $600 back for it. The employer might have only paid the sale price of $200. (Manufacturer’s suggested retail prices are almost always much higher than actual retail prices.)

          2. Colette*

            This is the kind of thing where complaining (which includes asking for a receipt so you can return it) is as likely to result in no future raffles as it is in getting the receipt so she can return it. They’re doing something nice, and if it’s not being received as something nice, they can easily decide not to do it. (The OP also had the option of trying to swap at the event with someone who would have been happy to win the item. For whatever reason, she didn’t do that.)

            1. Iris Eyes*

              But it isn’t nice if its not actually nice is it?

              Here let me shove this thing randomly at you, you better be grateful!

              I would think refusing it at the time because it wasn’t something you wanted would be more rude because it would be public. Why would you want to shame someone or insult their gift/prize choosing abilities? What if the next person does the same? Then it gets really awkward. I’d much rather take it, try to trade it low key and maybe ask nicely about exchanging the item afterward.

              1. Genny*

                I think there are gracious ways to decline at the event when she won it. For instance, I imagine that the winning ticket numbers were announced and the winners told to collect their prize from whomever was verifying winners. You either never go up to collect your prize or you wait til the end to tell that person that it’s a lovely TV and you were so happy to win, but a 50″ TV just won’t fit in your small apartment and perhaps someone else would be able to use it. At that point, the ball’s in the company’s court to offer you a different prize.

            2. Specialk9*

              It’s not really “nice”, though, it’s a company investing in employee morale. That said, one should have good manners and say sincere thank yous… But corps aren’t people.

                1. Iris Eyes*

                  If the point is for the “gifts” to build moral then isn’t it in the spirit of the giving to put more weight on helping the person who wants to exchange it for something else?

              1. Colette*

                But decisions are made by people. By all means, ask for a receipt – but know that there’s a good chance that doing so will result in no further raffles.

                1. Lindsay J*

                  You keep on repeating this, but I really think that there is not at all a good chance that it will result in no further raffles.

                  As long as the OP asks politely, someone would have to be really spiteful and petty to decide that since one person is not appropriately grateful for their randomly chosen and assigned gift that they are ending the fun for everyone in the future.

                  I honestly think it is equally likely that the admin or whoever was in charge of purchasing the gifts goes, “Oh sure, here is a receipt,” or “Oh, geeze, sorry, we didn’t think of getting gift receipts for these things and I can’t hand out the main receipt. Try returning it for store credit I guess?”

                  I think the “no more raffles ever” is only a tiny possibility compared to the other two options and if it happens would say more about the person making the decision than the person nicely asking if it’s possible to do the return.

                  (Now if the person asking about returning it makes a big scene about it, or continues hounding after being told no, or makes passive aggressive comments about the gift for weeks afterwards, then I can see someone deciding that the raffle just isn’t worth it if people are just going to complain. But I don’t think one small polite interactions where someone asks about getting a receipt will even be remembered by most people in a month, never mind 12 months when the raffle is going to be held again.

                  I mean, this isn’t a special, personalized gift that your spouse or sibling or whoever spent hours thinking about and weeks saving up for, thinking about the look on your face when you finally open it. This is something that a manager or admin picked out in a big box store because, “Well, everyone likes watching TV and this is in the budget.”

                2. Colette*

                  Well, the admin (or rather the person with the receipt) is the OP, and she’s said she thinks the request is rude. Now, if it stops with her, you’re right that it’ll probably blow over. If the request gets to the boss who purchased the gifts, who knows? One of the best ways to stop optional nice things that don’t suit you is to complain about them. They won’t be replaced with something you like – they’ll just stop.

            3. Dawn*

              I won a TV at work once. It was huge, and I had to tie my rear doors closed and drive with the open door light on (five miles, not freeway). My coworkers were MAD and super jealous! Took a month for the grumbling to die down, and the owner had to stop the giveaways due to the unrest. I still heard bitterness randomly, and had to have my manager interfere with one person that would not let it go. The owner was not pleased about stopping incentives, but the inter-office childishness had ruined it for everyone. Still love my TV though.

            4. Brett*

              “The OP also had the option of trying to swap at the event with someone who would have been happy to win the item. For whatever reason, she didn’t do that.”

              It gets a little weird there, though, if it is a big ticket item, because the OP will still have to pay all the taxes on the item.

          3. kittymommy*

            Well I think the intent is very nice as it’s something extra-ordinary and outside of the scope most companies would do. Especially at this level. The intent behind the gift is very kind and as it’s a raffle, the “prizes” are going to tend to be more general in nature. One does not like what the won? Don’t go to pick it up, regift it or sell it.

            1. As Close As Breakfast*

              +1 The gift raffle is nice. The company/boss doesn’t have to have a raffle. They don’t have to buy gifts. They especially don’t have to buy expensive gifts. The idea that these raffle prizes have to be something that the employee that receives them wants or it isn’t a nice gesture is weird to me. If the company/boss wanted to give cash instead of prizes, they would do it. It’s their prerogative. Now sure, a lot of things could make this a not nice thing. If the employee asked for the receipt and the company refused, you could make a case that this wasn’t nice (although I would again argue that it’s their prerogative.) Or if these prizes were given out instead of cash bonuses and no or little thought was given to whether employees wanted the gifts. But nothing like this was described in the letter. And in all honesty, this is described as a smallish company and the purchasing is being done by the owner, so a lot of why the raffle/gifts thing is done could be that the owner just likes it and gets a kick out of going and buying a bunch of expensive stuff.

          4. many bells down*

            My husband’s company all got a new, expensive game console for a holiday bonus. Which is lovely, but many people already had the previous version of that console and weren’t really looking to upgrade.

            Me, I only ever win raffles when the prize is something I can’t possibly use. I usually donate it. I won a new DVD player once, just days after I’d bought one. I didn’t need two, as I owned only one TV set, so I donated it to my kid’s school.

          5. DDJ*

            I won an Apple Watch last year. I don’t wear watches and don’t particularly care for “wearable” tech. I keep my phone on silent when I’m out with people so I’m not interrupted. Thankfully, the organizers included the gift receipt with the watch so that it could be returned for something else. Got an Apple TV and a cute little bluetooth speaker instead, and I use both regularly. Although I’m in Canada, so the laws surrounding these kinds of things are a LOT different.

    3. Tuesday Next*

      I’m also having a hard time seeing it as rude. A little out of touch with office norms maybe, but as Alison said, this could due to family or cultural differences.

      If this person was trying to get hold of the slip to see how much the prizes cost, *that* would be rude.

      I think Alison’s script works, but tone is important. The employee hasn’t done anything wrong by asking and you need to make sure that you don’t come across as scornful or disdainful when you communicate back to them.

        1. namelesscommentator*

          I could see it as mean spirited if it had been intentionally bought for her. But I kinda thought the protocol for raffle wins of stuff you don’t actually want to be to regift to someone in the pool who does.

          It seems pretty out of line to me to expect to exchange a raffle gift. And not at all equivalent to family gifting or any situation where a gift is expected at all.

        2. MK*

          They don’t have to keep it, they can sell it. Also, by the very nature of raffles, you know you might end up with useless items.

          1. Ruth*

            Exactly. Isn’t that what company raffles are all about? You finally win after 10 years and it’s something you don’t need/want? C’est la vie as they say.

          2. Lilo*

            It sounds like the raffle isn’t opt in though but just for all employees. That changes things in my mind. If someone randomly shoved a huge TV at me, I would have no clue what to do with it. I can’t use it and have no idea who to give it to. I do not see how store credit is differeby from a return.

              1. LBK*

                Wait, how is refusing the gift in front of everyone and forcing it to be put back up for raffle *less* rude than discreetly asking for a receipt after the fact? Also, kinda sucky to then ultimately not win anything simply because you happened to get your name drawn for something useless.

                If the whole point of this is to do something fun that benefits employees, then they should actually be working to do things to achieve that goal, like giving people gift receipts to exchange items they win that they can’t use.

                I can’t see how this is any different from, say, a boss trying to take the employees out for a fancy meal at a steakhouse with a team full of vegetarians. If the point is to do something nice for your employees, it has to actually be something nice *for them* – otherwise it’s just an ego boost for you to throw your cash around and then expect people to be grateful with whatever you give them.

                1. LBK*

                  But I thought the reason it’s rude is because you’re telling the organizers you don’t want the prize they gave you – letting someone else win it doesn’t change that.

                2. As Close As Breakfast*

                  If you refuse it then someone else that might want it could win it. If you take it and then ask for the receipt, you are explicitly saying you don’t want the gift but you do want money. I believe this is quite literally looking a gift horse in the mouth and is out of step with the spirit of a raffle.

            1. Roscoe*

              Yeah, thats the weird thing. Being ok with returning it for a lesser store credit, but thinking its rude to want a gift receipt to return it for full credit

              1. Anony*

                I don’t think that is weird. Returning it for store credit does not create extra work for the company. Demanding the receipt does create extra work. If everyone did that then it is likely the raffle would simply stop. This is supposed to be a fun extra, not an earned bonus. The employee is not missing out on money because they won a prize.

                1. Roscoe*

                  I guess my point is, we don’t know how much extra work it is. Some companies just get gift receipts for all purchases like this, and its just a matter of getting it from a drawer.

                  It sounds like OP isn’t concerned about the work it requires, just that she finds it too rude to want to do it.

                2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                  I’ve never worked somewhere that the holiday prizes were just “fun extra”. It was totally meant as bonuses that we paid taxes on. If I win something that I have to pay taxes on PLUS I can’t even use it, then I lost twice.

                3. Delightful Daisy*

                  I think your last sentence is one of the best points I’ve seen. If the employee regifted it, she’s ahead because she didn’t have to spend money on a gift for that person. If she sold it, even if for less than what the owner originally paid for it, she’s ahead however much she sold it for. I think it is rude to ask for the receipt to return it. The owner purchased these in a generous spirit and they should be received in the same way.

          3. CA in CA*

            That’s what I was thinking too. I was also thinking that letting the employee exchange/return the gift would set a precedent and every time someone won a prize they didn’t want, they’d be asking for receipts to return. I think it was rude of the employee to even ask though, so I could be way off here.

              1. Specialk9*

                Yeah. If the organizer is worried about the work, just tape a gift receipt to all the gifts upfront. It’s not unusual to do that with personal gifts.

            1. Don't Do That*

              I think this is probably the best reason not to allow it. Think of the headaches it would cause if everyone wanted to exchange their presents every year. The raffle would likely get cancelled.

              The nature of raffles is that you sometimes get things you don’t want. Exchange or regift it. If you know right away that you don’t want it, decline so it can go to someone else (and maybe ask to be put back in the running for the remaining prizes).

              1. Anony*

                I agree. A prize is different than a gift. If you don’t want it, give it to someone who does or donate it to a toy drive or thrift store. Or simply say no thank you to the person distributing the prizes and let them decide what to do.

            2. LBK*

              The easiest way to do this is to just include gift receipts by default and then it’s not your problem – you never even have to know if the person exchanges it.

            3. ClownBaby*

              I agree with you. Wouldn’t have even crossed my mind to ask to return it. I would research what stores sell that model, then try to return it, taking store credit if possible. Or I would trade/regift it to someone.

              My company is doing a bunch of raffles this week. Prizes include zoo tickets, hockey tickets, gift cards, iPad…I’m going to be quite peeved if someone enters the iPad raffle, wins, then tries to return it. Or if they see the face value of the hockey tickets and then try to return those for cash. Don’t enter the raffle if you don’t want the prize.

          4. LBK*

            Have you ever tried to resell something? It’s a huge hassle no matter how you do it (Craiglist, eBay, etc). It’s not a video game where you just flip from the buy to the sell menu and ta-da! it’s out of your inventory.

            I’m honestly shocked people think this is so weird. When I worked for a big electronics store we used to get plenty of people bulk-buying items for raffles and wanting individual gift receipts to be included with each item so the person could exchange it/get store credit if they couldn’t use the item. I distinctly remember because it was such a pain in the ass to ring them up that way.

            I get that a raffle isn’t supposed to be a gift, but don’t most raffles typically let you put your tickets in for a specific item so you can make sure it’s something you actually want? Especially for such expensive items, you’d think the owner would be the one wanting to ensure his money was being well spent and that people are excited about their prizes instead of lukewarm/borderline annoyed.

            I dunno, the “suck it up and just be happy you won something” attitude feels condescending to me, even for a raffle.

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              Yeah, I’m a bit confused by the blasé “just sell it” comments. I guess if someone is a regular Ebay seller it’s not such a big deal, but the idea of having to work out how EBay works, how much postage & packaging would cost and work, set up an EBay account and manage the auction, etc etc sound like a huge hassle. Especially compared with taking the receipt and going back to the store.

          5. Lindsay J*

            But selling things is super inconvenient. Either you have to sign up for eBay, figure out how to list, pay listing fees, have some of the money taken away in cash processing fees, pay for shipping and find time to package it up safely and ship it out, etc. or you have to sell it on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, deal with meeting up with strangers who may or may not be dangerous, make time to be home to meet with these people, deal with people not showing up when they say they will, deal with people showing up and then trying to bargain you down on price, etc.

            Why bother going through all the hassle before even asking your job if you can have the receipt to exchange it? For all they know, the job got gift receipts for exactly that reason?

            What would happen if they took the tv home, plugged it in, and found out that it was broken? Then they couldn’t sell it. Just deal with a broken TV, or ask the job for the information so you can exchange it?

        3. Akcipitrokulo*

          I’ve never heard of wanting cash for a raffle prize instead… and most official competitions have in the t&c that no cash alternatice is available. So yeah, be nice… but it isn’t what I’d expect someone to ask. A friendly “sorry, no” is all that’s needed.

          1. Mookie*

            That’s how it strikes me, as well. Like attending a wedding and then getting chewed out for buying something from the registry rather than providing the couple with cash. (Not that I wish to litigate or disparage that tradition, but if you don’t want a registry, don’t advertise one, and if you think you might not want whatever prizes a raffle is selling tickets for, don’t participate.)

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              A method I like is giving everyone a few tickets, which they put in a jar in front of the prize or prizes they want. That way you aren’t giving a case of expensive gin to the teetotaler who was hoping to win the spa day, while the winner of the spa day wanted the fancy speakers.

              1. Roscoe*

                Yeah, that is a great way to do it. I’ve definitely been at raffles where they did that, and it was much better. Like I had no desire for a couples massage, but I definitely would do the brewery tour with beers. But, if I won, I’d probably less likely to just hand it over to someone else.

              2. chomps84*

                Yep. I won a pretty sweet ergonomic office chair that way. Also, I strategically scoped out all the prizes I was interested in and then put my name in the bowl with the fewest names in it. I think there were six total, so my chances of winning were much higher.

              3. Lindsay J*

                Ooh, I like this idea!

                I was thinking about raffling off a place in line to choose items (like grand prize winner gets first pick from whatever the prize pool is, then the second place winner gets to choose after the first person does, etc. But, A. I can see feeling awkward if I were chosen first and choosing something less awesome so as to not be seen as greedy. And B. the people at the end still may wind up with stuff they don’t want.

                The different prize pools eliminates both issues.

            2. Elsajeni*

              I don’t think this is that type of raffle, though — it sounds more like door prizes that everyone at the party or everyone in the relevant group of employees is entered for, not something they sought out and chose to enter. And presenting them as “holiday gifts” muddies the waters; it’s generally okay to return or exchange a gift, but weird to try to return a prize.

            3. Specialk9*

              But… A registry is chosen by the couple, so you’d still be buying desired items. A better analogy would be if 10 people get you Crockpots and you hadn’t even put 1 on your registry, asking for a gift receipt. Though I would likely not be comfortable doing that, whereas I would ask a corporate source for a gift receipt.

          2. Jesca*

            Yes, typically how I have seen it done is that if a person wins and doesn’t want the prize, it is expected for them to put it back into the raffle for someone else. Raffle prizes aren’t meant to be personal?

            1. LAI*

              Typically? I have never seen this. What if there’s an item that no one wants and it keeps getting refused? Isn’t that MUCH more rude to whoever picked out that prize than just accepting it quietly?

      1. Ro*

        I agree. They politely said thanks and asked if they can get the receipt/exchange it. If the OP has the receipt, it would be incredibly petty to withhold it.

        Btw, if you do think they’re being rude, you don’t return with more rudeness. Kind of destroys the high ground you seem to be claiming.

    4. Not Australian*

      Totally agree – and presumably the OP kept the receipt in case the item turned out to be faulty, so what’s the harm in letting the winner have it. In my family btw when we buy expensive gifts for people and we’re not sure whether they’re going to be acceptable we seal the receipt in an envelope and drop it in with the gift; that way there’s no embarrassment on either side if the recipient wants to change the item – and that extra bit of thoughtfulness actually enhances the value of the gift.

      1. xyz*

        Won’t the company need to keep the receipt for accounting purposes? Or if they bought it all on the same receipt, then they may also want to keep it in case someone else’s gift turns out faulty. I agree it’s not terribly rude though.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yep, I was just thinking that. OP, if your company is going to do this on a regular basis it might be a good practice to put a gift receipt in the box. What if the TV was an OBF (out of box failure)? The TV would need to be swapped for a working set and probably the person would need a receipt to do this.

    5. SignalLost*

      Because the company didn’t pay full price, and because it’s not something where they have “a receipt”, they have an invoice for fifty televisions at a steep discount from a vendor that works in bulk. Our prize tvs at my work come in on pallets. It’s not an accessible place to return a tv to, even aside from potential issues with finding out the actual price was $200 rather than $1000 or whatever. In fact, because it sounds like a prize rather than a gift, returning it for cash or exchange seems even more off to me.

      1. SignalLost*

        Never mind, I misread. It sounds like the company is smaller than I was interpreting it as. I still doubt there is an individual receipt, and it doesn’t strike me as appropriate to get cash back for something like this. Mostly because I think this is not a relationship where you can do that, the same way you could with a gift from a family member you didn’t like. It’s a morale booster, not a gift. You don’t have to keep it, but wanting the receipt to return it is gauche, to me.

        1. Angie*

          I bet it’s speakers. No one wants to win speakers. You can easily return gift a tablet or gift card or even a giant TV. Speakers belonging to a particular set up and anyone who cares about them would already know what they want. It’s true this doesn’t directly address the question I’m just saying please don’t give your employees speakers. You might as well give them a jam of the month club membership.

          1. Circus peanuts*

            It could be anything. I haven’t plugged in my tv set for almost 7 years now. If I watch tv, it is over at someone else’s home. There is always something that is the latest OMG that will get a meh from someone somewhere.

            And I would give the receipt, imo, it would be a kind thing to do if the employee asks.

            1. Circus peanuts*

              I had a sudden thought, is the receipt for the whole shopping spree or is it for the one item? If they need the receipt but you only have a receipt for the whole cart full of items, I can see the dilemma in a different light and can see why you don’t want to do that.

              1. TootsNYC*

                from the letter, I thought it was a single receipt for the whole shopping spree.

                From a practical standpoint, I don’t want to give her the receipt so she can see what was spent in total.

                I think our OP could offer to return it for her (though there’s the whole “cash must be taxed” problem). Or not, honestly.

                But this might be an alert that next year, maybe the boss could get individual receipts for all the useful reasons people have mentioned (if it’s defective, the employee can deal with the issue, etc.).

                1. Lindsay J*

                  That’s how I interpreted it as well.

                  And yeah, perfect situation for gift receipts.

                  When I worked at Sears, it automatically did the gift receipts as a separate receipt for each item. Other places I’ve seen where you can request different breakdowns for gift receipts or individual receipts for each item.

                  I feel like offering to return it for them opens up a whole other can of worms.

          2. Violet Fox*

            I get where the employee is coming from. It doesn’t have space for a giant tv, don’t need speakers, don’t need another tablet unless my cat wants one for herself.

            I’m honestly not sure what an employee is supposed to do with an expensive piece of electronics as a “prize” that they don’t want or don’t have a use for.

            The electronics seem well intentioned but I am just not sure they are the best raffle prizes for employees compared with things like gift cards where folks can pick out what they actually want and can use.

            1. anon scientist*

              I’d just resell or regift it. Even if I resold it for 1/2 what it is worth, that’s still some cash I wouldn’t have otherwise.

              1. Doreen*

                Or you can return it without a receipt. Lots of stores let you do that. It often gets you less money or you might have to accept store credit, but again, it’s cash you wouldn’t have otherwise.

                1. Liane*

                  Actually, lots of stores only allow equal-price exchanges (not store credit or lowest sale price) if the item is big-ticket &/or electronic, and often will refuse to do that much unless the item is defective. Policy may also limit exchanges to the same type of item, if not the exact model/brand, which is no help if it is something you cannot use.

                2. Lindsay J*

                  Most places I’m aware of only allow you to return it for store credit without a receipt.

                  (I think, at Sears, even if you had a gift receipt you could only get store credit in return, but it was the full amount the person who purchased it actually paid, rather than the theoretical lowest price they could have possibly paid for it in the previous 90 days when combining sales and coupons and other incentives. I also think we didn’t accept some items without a receipt (like electronics and appliances) no matter what but a gift receipt would have sufficed.

                  That said, there is always pawning it or selling it to Amazon or some other companies like that that will give you a percentage of what it’s worth, then either refurbish it or just sell it as used I guess.

              2. Lilo*

                But isn’t insisting they get less cash by reselling just making them have a lower benefit for not good articulable reason?

                Resell can be stressful. I sold a table on Craigslist and never, ever again. What a nightmare.

                1. anon scientist*

                  Eh, I think that’s the risk of entering a raffle where there are prizes you may not really want.

                2. Violet Fox*

                  Reselling things can be a hassle too. It’s sort of like “here is your gift of some extra hassle and fuss to get rid of this thing you didn’t want in the first place. Thanks for working here.”

                3. Lilo*

                  For anon – I don’t think, based on the letter, that the raffle is opt-in. It sounds like they use the employees as the raffle pool. I could be wrong, but that’s my read on it, and I think it makes a HUGE difference if the raffle is not opt-in.

                4. SignalLost*

                  A raffle isn’t a workplace benefit. It’s an optional extra that companies do for morale reasons. The returner can a) have an item they don’t want and use it for what they can get; b) have no item. It’s not as though someone said “here’s your Christmas raffle gift! We took the cost out of your paycheck, so eff you if it’s not what you want. You lose the financial war.”

                5. Serin*

                  I really want to know what happened on Craigslist. Not for any relevant reason. Just for pure morbid curiosity.

                6. Lilo*

                  Just got called some nasty things because I wouldn’t agree to change the condition of the sale (I would not deliver). I found the experience generally off putting and I realized having a random person come to where I lived made me uncomfortable. I ended up pulling the posting and donating the table to a charity who came to pick it up in a professional manner.

                7. Serin*

                  Creepy. My mother (who’s hale but in her 80s) wanted to sell her car on Craigslist, and I was really nervous about it but could never articulate why. Thank goodness a friend ended up buying it from her.

                8. Specialk9*

                  I sell and buy lots of stuff on Craigslist. I’m a woman, and careful about security so I go to a SafeTrade Station or Safe Exchange Zone. Basically a police station creates a space in their lobby or parking lot for Craigslist transactions. You just meet there and it keeps things not-creepy and not-scary.

                  The one problem with that is that Craigslist is FULL of flakes. People often no-show without warning. So the seller should set the exchange zone and make sure it’s convenient.

                  Also, people don’t bring the right change as a price tactic. Oh, it’s $50? I only brought $20s so let’s say $40. (Or, in a move I simply walk away from in principle, only bringing $40.)

                  So Craigslist can be annoying, but I’ve made so much money over the years for stuff I’d gladly give away for free just to get it out of my space. And I’ve gotten some amazing things for a song. You just gotta know the tactics.

                9. Lindsay J*

                  Yeah. I posted above about this.

                  Reselling – whether through Craiglist or like eBay or Amazon – is a huge pain.

                  I had to sell my smoker when I was moving this past summer and dealing with Craigslist was terrible.

                  Smaller stuff we just didn’t even bother with and took to a pawn shop or just left in our front yard with a “free” sign, but the smoker was $500 new and I wanted to get some return on it. (Couldn’t have it at the apartment we were moving to.)

            2. Alice*

              Apparently employees are supposed to consider their new tv or speakers (which they received at random – not even an attempt at suiting the gift to the person) as a precious and meaningful gift that is worth more than its cash value.
              Once you give a gift, you no longer have any say in what the person does with it.

              1. Don't Do That*

                Um… what? No one is saying that. They are saying that the nature of a raffle (that the person entered FOR FREE, no less) is that sometimes you get things you don’t want and you deal with it. Regift, try to return, or decline it in the moment. This is a free, bonus prize. Don’t make it complicated for the giver.

              2. fposte*

                True, but you also can’t go back to the gift giver and tell them to give you something else.

                I don’t think anybody’s saying they can’t regift or resell, just that the employer isn’t going to do that for them.

                1. Roscoe*

                  No one is asking the gift giver to give them a different gift. They are asking for the receipt so they can get something else on their own. Very different in my opinion.

                2. LBK*

                  I didn’t think the employee was asking them to do it for them, just asking for the receipt so she could do it herself.

            3. Susanne*

              Most normal people would intuitively understand that if they won, say, an iPad and already had one, that they now had an iPad they could regift to somebody.

              It was a raffle; winning is a lucky strike extra, so it’s not at all analogous to getting a red sweater from your sister for your birthday and asking for the receipt so you can get a blue blouse instead.

              Haven’t you ever gone to a charity event where they might raffle off door prizes? Those prizes are often donated so the concept of asking for a receipt doesn’t make any sense. But even if they are not, you’re supposed to consider it a lucky strike extra, not a gift where you are entitled to the cash value. My sister and I once attended an event where she won the door prize of a trip to 4 to Disney World. She had a child and she brought along grandma, but what if she hadn’t, or didn’t want to go to Disney? It would have been weird beyond belief to expect an “exchange” to the resort of her choice.

              A raffle is not a gift. It’s a lucky strike extra and if you can’t use it, you regift it or resell it. It’s not like there’s not the thing called the Internet that makes finding buyers for things you don’t want super easy.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I like the lucky strike extra idea. No, it’s not a personally chosen gift, but it’s not a situation where “Hey, can you just give me the cash equivalent?” is right, either.

                Also too: my college student can use gift cards, but really appreciates things that aren’t just “Here’s $50, go buy yourself something.” I can really see where some of the excitement is “Who will win Specific Noun?” that would be lost if the boss got up there and pulled people’s names to win $50 in cash, $100, up to the lucky $3000 winner. Even though cash is really flexible, there’s something bland about an abstract exchangeable prize.

                1. Observer*

                  But the employee isn’t asking for cash – they are asking for the receipt. There are a lot of good reasons not to accommodate, but I think that there is a lot of over-reaction to the request.

                2. Natalie*

                  @ Observer, that’s a good point. If it’s logistically simple (like, under 5 minutes and will cause no future paperwork headaches) to give the employee the receipt, I don’t really see a problem with doing so. If it isn’t possible or is going to cause some kind of issue, just explain that you can’t.

                  And I agree, I don’t think it’s a big deal or especially rude that the employee asked. I probably would have done the same.

                3. Lindsay J*


                  This, exactly.

                  I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the company in this situation to say, “Sorry, we can’t do that.” I mean the one receipt thing is a perfectly legitimate reason. (Though if I were the person purchasing the gift I might consider getting gift receipts in the future for this reason.)

                  But I’m absolutely not going to condemn the person for asking for the receipt, as long as they let it go when they’re told “no”.

                  Like, what if the tv was broken and they just wanted the receipt to be able to exchange the broken tv for the same one that works? Are they just supposed to deal with the broken tv and feel lucky that they got a prize at all, even if it is completely useless to them?

                  I don’t think people would be as worked up about this if it were for an exchange of the same thing. But there’s something about “gift giving” even if this is in no way a personal gift, that gets emotions up.

                  The person is not asking for the job to go out if it’s way here. They’re not asking for a more expensive gift, or even a different gift, or for the company to take the gift back in exchange for cash. They’re just asking for a copy of the receipt so they can exchange it on their own.

                4. Lindsay J*

                  Yes. I totally appreciate specific gifts, too, rather than always getting the cash equivalent.

                  I think most people do. Otherwise, exchanging gifts – especially between partners who share the same bank account, or from a parent to a dependent child – wouldn’t be a thing. Nor would Secret Santa exchanges with a price limit.

                  But this doesn’t seem like it’s about just wanting cash. It’s about not wanting a gift that you can’t use.

                  Like, would your college student really be happy if they were given like a Dora the Explorer lunch box? I’m going to guess probably not.

                  It seems like it depends on the family here whether it would be appropriate for them to ask for a gift receipt so they could return the Dora the Explorer lunch box, or whether they should just take it home and donate it or throw it away so as to not hurt Great Aunt Sue’s feelings since she picked that lunch box out specifically for them.

                  But this isn’t a situation where someone thought hard about what to get for the employee, worked for weeks to earn money for it, thought about the look on the person’s face when they opened it, etc, and then were crushed to find out that they didn’t like it. It is a randomly chosen item that was probably picked because it was generic enough to be liked by most people and it fit the budget they envisioned for the prize. I don’t see how hurt feelings come into play here.

                  Like, I’m doing a Yankee Swap/White Elephant with my family this year. We each bring a gift valued at $50. They all go on the table, wrapped. One person picks one gift. Then the next person can steal the first person’s gift or take a second one off the table, and so on. I’m bringing a Star Wars themed popcorn maker. My thoughts were pretty much, “Well, everyone in my family pretty much likes Star Wars. Everyone in my family likes popcorn. And even if they have a popcorn maker, this one is cooler than their generic one, probably. This is something all genders can enjoy. And the popcorn maker and a container of kernels puts me right around the $50 limit.

                  If the person who winds up with the popcorn maker approaches me afterwards and asks for the receipt so they can exchange it I’m not going to be upset. (Actually, I will probably put the gift receipt in the box so they won’t even have to ask). I tried to hit on something that most people would like. Someone who happened to not like it got it. I want them to have something that they enjoy as their gift. It’s not like I spent weeks knitting a scarf for my boyfriend and then he turned around and said, “Eew, can you give me $30 instead?”

              2. Anion*

                Yes, that’s exactly my feeling, as well.

                And if she didn’t want it, she should have said so–politely–when her name was drawn, or at least during the party or whatever after. Another employee might have been desperate for that prize, and maybe would have offered close to the cash value for it (like, I just bought a new TV on Black Friday, so got a great deal. I couldn’t have afforded it otherwise. If someone else had won a similar TV–say, an $800 tv–and didn’t want it, I could have offered them $500 for it. IMO winning $500 cash in a raffle is pretty great, and getting an $800 tv for $500 is also pretty great, and being able to do something nice for a coworker who really needs a new tv is *also* pretty great. Same if I’d won that big TV after just buying and setting up my new tv).

              1. Iris Eyes*

                Right but the going price for a NIB TV on Craigslist is significantly lower than the retail cost unless you find a fool.

                1. Susanne*

                  So what? It’s completely irrelevant that the resale value on Craigslist is lower than the retail price.

                2. Iris Eyes*

                  How is it irrelevant? Who in their right mind would say I want to give you an expensive gift/prize, oops you can’t use it, go ahead and sell it for half what I paid for it because I can’t handle the fact that not everyone wants that thing. Its only one person at this point, if there’s a way to help them get a store credit or w/e then do it, ya know treat others as you would want to be treated (even if you wouldn’t expect to be treated that way.) Make a note for next year to preempt the situation by putting a gift receipt on it. Who knows maybe someone would want to go back to the store and get the added warranty coverage or needs to facilitate a repair or any number of things.

                  I would want my employees to have the full value of the prize not significantly less.

                3. KRM*

                  Yes, but you didn’t pay for it. You won it. If you get $250 for a $600 TV, you didn’t lose $350 on the sale, you got $250 you didn’t have before and you no longer have a TV you don’t want.
                  As has been pointed out, a raffle is an ‘extra’, not a gift. Do with it what you will, but the idea of winning a raffle prize anywhere and then going to the organizer and asking for a receipt is just off to me.

                4. Iris Eyes*

                  It is irrelevant who initially paid for it, money was lost in the transaction. Sure you could write it off as an opportunity or goodwill cost but don’t deceive yourself. You lost by selling it for less than it was worth.

                5. Lindsay J*

                  And you still have to:

                  post a Craigslist ad

                  reply to the responses to the ad

                  arrange to meet people

                  meet up with people who may or may not be intending to rob or murder you

                  deal with people trying to haggle with you via email

                  deal with people who show up and say, “well I love it. I know you’re asking $800 but I only have $250 on me. Will that work?”

                  deal with scammers who claim that they totally want your item they just need you to ship it to Mexico, and they’ll be sending you a check for the amount of the item and the shipping cost, and an additional amount for you to forward to Mexico along with the TV

                  deal with people who say they are going to show up and then don’t

                  deal with creeps who hit on anyone who posts to Craigslist with a feminine name


                  The last time I sold anything on Craigslist it was a pain in the ass.

                6. SignalLost*

                  But I don’t care, because the cost of the TV to me is zero. If I sell it for fifty cents I’ve made a profit. I would REALLY rather do that than look so grasping and unaware of the difference between a raffle prize and a gift.

              2. Tuxedo Cat*

                I’m for reselling or regifting it, but Craigslist is rather variable. I’ve lived in places where it’s basically not used.

        2. Soon to be former fed*

          I doubt cash was used to purchase these items. Refunds are usually made in the original form of payment. You may be able to exchange an item I buy for you with my credit card, but I don’t think you can get cash for it.

          1. Anion*

            Yes, store credit would be the best the employee could hope for anyway, and they don’t necessarily need the receipt for that.

        3. Observer*

          Maybe it’s gauche. But SOOO gauche that someone “can’t get over” the fact that she asked?

          As I said below, I agree that the OP doesn’t have to accommodate it, although a gift receipt would be nice so that it could be exchanged if something went wrong. But the request is not THAT out of line.

            1. Observer*

              Not at all. She didn’t enter a raffle for something she didn’t want. She was entered.

              To me, the reactions bespeak a fundamental misunderstanding of the role these events are supposed to play, the way this event was run, and the nature of the prizes.

              1. SignalLost*

                It still wasn’t a personally selected gift, there still was a chance she would not fetvsomething she wanted or could use, and she still won it. It is completely inappropriate to act like it’s somehow equivalent to great-aunt Maude forgetting you hate purple and won’t wear that sweater. Raffles have things in people don’t want all the time. I have been entered in a raffle every time I clock in this month for a prize I neither want nor need. If I win it, I wouldn’t dream of asking for a gift receipt so I could exchange it.

    6. Candi*

      I’m wondering why they don’t stick it on Amazon. There’s an annoying number of items on there for more then the retail/average price. Worst I’ve seen so far is the revised Darkspell by Katharine Kerr. Paperback goes for $12-$25 depending on seller and quality. A few months ago some dolt was trying to get $65 for a Like New copy.

      Of course, in this case any amount after listing and sale would be profit.

      1. Sigrid*

        Sometimes I see prices so unreasonable, like $2500 for a used book that other sellers are selling for $3.95, that I figure it has to be some kind of ND of weird money laundering scheme. It’s the only way I can make sense of it.

        1. Specialk9*

          I have a theory that when they’re back ordered they jack up the price until they can fill orders again. I’m guessing it has to do with cost of listings, and that pausing has some financial disincentive. But it’s all a guess.

    7. Mookie*

      Etiquette question for the commentariat (which I hope is not a derail) about work raffles: is it inappropriate to win a prize but give it to another co-worker in front of everyone else? I did this one time — AND let the co-worker select the item because, in this case, there just a pool of similar gifts associated with our industry and she was particularly keen on one, whereas I already had it and didn’t really need any of the others — and I didn’t pick up on any weird vibes from anyone else, but I’m questioning my decision to do this and whether it looked rude or grandstanding or unappreciative. Or all three. Or unfair, because I wasn’t respecting and/or was thwarting the intended “randomness” of the gift-giving.

      1. kas*

        If you knew which prize she wanted, I think it would’ve been best to get it for her and then give it to her after the event or whatever it was.

        However, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal if it was done playfully. I’ve seen someone pass off a gift to someone right in front of the person that gave it to them and it was awkward but I think in this setting, you’re fine.

      2. Sam*

        This seems fine to me, and that’s coming from someone who agrees with OP that the employee’s ask was rude and ungracious. I think it’s because you were still operating under the set parameters – the idea was for an employee to pick an item from the available options and that’s what happened.

      3. Cassie*

        There was a kerfuffle at my work regarding this. Jane entered the big charity raffle for two plane tickets, but before the drawing she developed a long-term family medical issue that prevented her from using the tickets. When Jane won, she gave the tickets to Tina, who had been desperate to win the tickets to fund her honeymoon. The company was NOT pleased and said it should have been up to the company to fairly draw a replacement winner.

          1. many bells down*

            I agree, I have traded raffle prizes with other people before. I won it, now it’s mine. If I want to swap with Jane for the oven mitts she won, that’s between me and Jane.

        1. Falling Diphthong*


          We are actually having a holiday filled with various medical issues and one upcoming funeral, all of which mean a bunch of travel is up in the air while we sort out various known unknowns. Jane didn’t develop a medical issue AT you, Jane’s company.

        2. SophieChotek*

          That seemed nice of Jane to give to Tina. While I can sort of see the company’s point of view, I do agree they were Jane’s tickets to with as she wishes.

        3. Anony*

          That is horrible. She gave it to another employee! I could maybe see a problem if she tried to give it to someone not affiliated with the company.

        4. Specialk9*

          Once one gives a gift, it belongs to the recipient. Trying to control what someone does with their own belongings is very strange behavior. Bad call by the company.

      4. Murphy*

        I don’t think that’s inappropriate at all. It was another employee who was, presumably, in the running for it. I would think that was nice if you gave it to someone who really wanted it!

      5. Lehigh*

        If you win something, it is yours to do with as you please. You won a chance to choose & take home a prize – you regifted that chance to your coworker. No problem, IMO.

      6. Anion*

        I think it’s lovely, actually. Very kind and generous of you; rather than making me think less of you somehow it would make you someone I’d be pleased to work with (not that I wouldn’t be anyway, of course).

      7. Owlette*

        My boss did this for me! The company automatically entered all employees into our Christmas raffle last year. The prizes were three wrapped mystery presents. My boss’s name got pulled, but since he really didn’t want anything, he said “Owlette can pick one since she’s an awesome assistant.” Everyone in the room went “aww” and thought it was really nice. Made my day. And it was a really nice essential oil diffuser that I love!

        It’s kind of a “read the room” or “know your office” type situation.

    8. Temperance*

      It’s so breathtakingly tacky to win a raffle prize and then conduct the contest runners and say that you dislike the prize, and then ask for the receipt for money.

      1. New-ish Manager*

        I agree! I think it would be considerate for the company to provide gift receipts but if they’ve opted not to, I think it’s very rude to ask for one. It’s a raffle! You get what you get…if you don’t like it, you can sell it or give it to someone else.

      2. Roscoe*

        I think there is a huge difference between saying “I don’t like this prize” and “I have no use for this prize”. If the prize was a case of wine, and the person was an alcoholic, would you be ok then with them asking for something else?

        1. Temperance*

          I would be okay with them refusing the prize so another name could be drawn. There’s also a vast difference between a prize that would actually be harmful and something someone merely doesn’t want. It’s greedy and rude.

        2. Anony*

          That only makes sense if everyone gets a prize and one person is left out because they cannot use it. That does not seem to be the case here. Lots of people don’t win a prize in a raffle. If you win something you do’t need or want, you are no worse off than someone who did not win anything.

        3. CheeryO*

          I feel like that’s still tacky, although less so – some of the awkward would be on the organizer in that case, since alcohol is a risky bet unless you know everyone well. That person could give it away or politely decline it, but the point of a raffle is that you get what you get. It’s a bonus, not a gift; how is the employer supposed to pick items that would satisfy the entire office?

          If it was something like a Yankee Swap and someone who does not/cannot drink got an alcoholic gift, that’s a different situation, and they should be allowed to pick a new gift.

      3. Specialk9*

        It’s really not. People are confusing companies with people and it’s just different etiquette rules.

    9. memyselfandi*

      This is a reply to this whole chain of comments and replies. To me this whole situation is off. First is the company’s choice to provide gifts through a raffle. A raffle is gambling; there are winners and losers. The employee “lost” in that she didn’t get what she wanted, so to my mind you take your losses, go home and do whatever with the item you received. It is not a gift. The attitude of the employee is off from a gift-giving perspective as well. We now use the verb “gifting” rather than giving. The verb gifting, to me, implies a transaction in which something is expected in return. Hence the whole debate about “re-gifting” which truly puzzled me when it emerged. When I give something, it belongs to the person I gave it to. Although I hope they will like it and use it, if they do not I have no investment in them doing whatever they want with it. Granted, this letter is in the context of work, and an employee might expect to receive something of value from her employer. But, back to the start. The company chose to raffle off the items, not give something to each of their employees.

        1. SignalLost*

          Which makes asserting the right to get what she wants instead of what she has especially off. She gave no tangible asset to receive this item (we can nitpick about her work but she’s presumably paid for her work so nope). It came on a bolt from the blue, not a gift or even a buying raffle.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree with all this. My friend and I attended a banquet for his club that he belonged to. They had a stage covered with prizes and there were some really nice ones. We were given tickets, when they called your number you went up and picked something out. For whatever reason, my friend and I had some of the last numbers to be called. The prizes that were left, were not, ummm, great. Things like cheap travel mugs with logos on them. With a couple of the choices that were left, I was not sure what the items even were. I was told I could pick out two or three things. So I did. I got them home and by the next morning I had decided I would not be using these items. I tossed them.

        The club tried. I am sure they saw the problems with this set up and probably tweaked what they were doing for the next year. Yeah, I felt bad about tossing them but it’s important to realize that no one HAS to do anything. They were trying to make sure everyone took something home that night and they were successful in that goal. They did not have to give us anything. Likewise with employers, they do not HAVE to give us anything.

    10. Runner*

      See, this is why I think it’s totally a problem. It’s NOT a gift. It’s a prize won at a raffle. I’m as taken aback as the OP that the employee would ask. I SUPPOSE it’s not … gauche … but it sure comes off that way, as sour and not at all grasping the concept of a raffle.

    11. Q*

      I would never, ever consider asking my work to take their random junk back and just give me the cash value for it. Because I’m not owed any gift from my work.

      I don’t know…I’m baffled by this.

      1. Observer*

        I’m baffled by the strong responses. But I’m also baffled that people are apparently not reading the letter. The employee didn’t ask for the company to take it back, but to give her the receipt.

        Yeah, I wouldn’t have done it. But the OMG! How Could She! responses just don’t make sense to me.

        1. Someone else*

          The gaucheness isn’t due to the nature of who has to put in the effort though. It’s in the nature of rejected what one has “won”. Ergo “take this back” and “give me the receipt so I can take it back” are effectively equivalent. There’s a lot of disagreement as to whether not simply accepting it and doing what you will later is itself gauche, but I think the detail you’re pointing out here is a distinction without a difference vis a vis the etiquette factor.

          I don’t personally think asking for the receipt is “OMG HORRIBLE” but it does strike me as a bit squicky.

          1. tigerlily*

            I disagree. Plenty of people are actually saying it would NOT be impolite to tell the employers they don’t want it and to literally “take it back” so it can be redistributed to someone who would use it. So I don’t think we can say those two are in any way effectively equivalent.

    12. Bea*

      I have the same general feeling. It’s not a gift, it’s a prize and therefore not rude to want to exchange or hell just get cash for it.

      Still if the receipt has other things on it, by all means I understand the LWs hesitation. Get gift receipts next year, maybe…that would fix it too.

    13. MostCake*

      There’s an old adage: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. You don’t like your gift? Take it to the charity shop or give it away. You’re not out anything and you even have the opportunity to pass on the largesse. I had to stop reading the comments on this one as I got so wound up over people thinking a gift is somehow an entitlement. Winning a prize is not the same thing as wages and you didn’t earn it, so it’s not an injury if you can’t realize the full retail value to your satisfaction.

  3. Elder Dog*

    Re: #4. Is this a store that will give you a gift receipt for this one item so you don’t have to hand the entire receipt to the employee?
    Still feels a little grasping to me, but I’m sure other people won’t feel the same way.

  4. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 Try to pity them. They must be pretty bored and unimaginative is they’re still trying to squeeze out the same old joke. Just pause, say nothing, and change the subject.

    Take it from someone with a partner who’s often absent from social events due to work: people seem to like this joke, and I do sometimes wonder if they’re jealous or threatened by the idea of not doing everything together. I just joke that he’s an actor I sometimes hire.

    I hear that it’s hurtful, but try, if you can, not to give it too much weight. You know your partner exists. That’s the only person whose opinion matters in this equation!

    1. Circus peanuts*

      Perhaps your partner can just stop by your office once to take you out to lunch if it is amenable. You can introduce them to one or two people and then leave.

        1. AKchic*

          But he also has to make mention that he has property in Canada. Or is from Canada. Because the popular joke for middle school/high school/college nerds is that they have an online boyfriend/girlfriend in Canada.

            1. Pathfinder Ryder*

              As a college nerd in New Zealand with an actual online girlfriend in Canada (whom I did eventually meet in real life), this trope was awkward for me.

    2. mikey*

      I ask this in a genuine effort to understand: what about this makes it feel hurtful? Annoying, I totally get, but I’m having a hard time grasping the hurt side. (And while I wouldn’t make this kind of joke, I wouldn’t be surprised if the coworkers in question would be similarly puzzled.)

      1. Wednesday Mouse*

        I think I’d be offended by the fact my coworkers thought I’d make up a partner, maybe they think I’m not able to have a relationship, they think I@m deluding myself that I have a partner.. I can see how, bit by bit, it would get offensive and hurtful. Especially if the joke has outstayed its welcome. A one-off jokey comment I could tolerate, but having it be an ongoing joke would get tiring pretty quickly.

      2. Temperance*

        I have a friend whose husband decided that, as an introvert, he no longer has to do anything social with her because he would rather “recharge his batteries”. (He’s read one too many Buzzfeed articles about introversion.)

        So she has the option of either a.) not socializing or b.) socializing without him. She usually goes for b, but it’s still lonely when everyone else’s partners are around.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Blurg. As an introvert, I was so pleased that the LW here’s boyfriend seemed to have taken her wishes into account. So often introversion is waved as “I want to blow off this one-time very important event for my romantic partner, because… I have introversion! That means I get a lifetime pass on stuff I don’t want to do.”

          Introversion means you plan some downtime after the event where you don’t have to talk to people. Introversion and social anxiety are not synonyms, and adults pull it together for the occasional special occasion for their partner even if they, personally, don’t find a given event their cup of tea.

          1. Aeon*


            I’m an introvert as well, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have any friends nor that I don’t go out. An introvert has to plan these things, but it isn’t an excuse to not go to social gatherings (or social obligations from work/hobby/family).

            With me, I (sometimes, not all the times) “hate” going to a social gathering with (very good!) friends, but once there I really enjoy myself and afterwards I’m also glad I’m back home with my cat and a good book so I can recharg my batteries, sort of speak.

        2. Jaybeetee*

          This is a problem I’ve recently had to hash over with my bf, who, for several admittedly sort-of-valid reasons, has close to zero interest in interacting with my friends. OTOH, his “never” stance struck me as dickish, and started causing tension between me and my friends as well (they kept asking why he wasn’t coming to stuff, I didn’t exactly want to say “Well he’d prefer to never hang out with you”). He’s cool with spending time with my family and even with colleagues when the situation calls for it. We have since landed on him coming out to things at least every now and then to make me happy, and I bear in mind that he’s never gonna be the kind of guy who wants to attend dinner parties every Friday night. I’m personally okay with a “not-very-social” SO, but have problems with an “anti-social” SO. Compromise is key – a “never” spouse is being selfish and inconsiderate, but so is a spouse who insists on her partner coming to everything and anything, even if he’s miserable doing it.

      3. Natalie*

        It’s kind of insulting to assume someone is such a lonely weirdo or compulsive liar that they made up a boyfriend.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Yes, this is exactly what makes it so annoying! I have honestly never heard of coworkers doing this before. And I have only met a tiny fraction of their SOs. Come to think of it, I haven’t met anyone’s kids or pets either, doesn’t mean they do not exist. They are making a very weird assumption.

        2. Big Fat Meanie*


          That’s kinda what I’m thinking. I know we’re supposed to give everyone the benefit of the doubt here, and this may be against the rules (sorry if it is), but joking that someone is lying about having a significant other sounds an awful lot like “There’s no way someone would actually date you! I need proof!”

          At the very least, it implies that literally everyone attends their SO’s work events, so if there’s a supposed partner who never shows up, they must not be real.

          1. Funbud*

            Full confession: We have a longtime employee, “Fred”, in my dept who has two children. He has never displayed any photos of them on his desk and was slow to bring in photos after his first child was born. My boss at the time dubbed it “Fred’s imaginary baby”. He took this ribbing well and it would come up from time-to-time when he mentioned his family but not on a daily basis. When he finally brought the child into the office, it was widely speculated that he just gone out and borrowed someone else’s child. Everyone had a good chuckle. Recently, we got a new dept head who asked everyone to prepare an introductory slide about themselves for a staff meeting. Fred made sure to include several photos of his happy family!

      4. Guacamole Bob*

        There’s a trope of “uncool” people making up significant others in order to seem more popular or cool or whatever. (It shows up in the (NSFW!) musical Avenue Q when the closeted obviously gay character makes up a girlfriend he met on the internet who lives in Canada and tells his friends all sorts of raunchy details in order to hide the fact that he’s gay, but I think that was a takeoff on something that shows up in lots of other places). So sometimes people who are accused of making up SO’s feel like the implication is that they’re an unpopular loser who would resort to lying in an effort to seem less hopeless, or that they have something to hide.

        There are all sorts of things wrong with that in real life, of course, but that’s why it might be hurtful to someone.

        1. Don't Do That*

          The character Amy from The Big Bang Theory also had an imaginary boyfriend (possibly more than 1) before she met Sheldon. This was supposed to show how sad and pathetic her life was (gag).

          1. Specialk9*

            It’s a show that I watch despite really big reservations. It got me through a dark time in life so I’ve got this weird loyalty thing, but it’s often quite mean. Amy gets the raw deal too often.

      5. OhNo*

        Part of it is, I imagine, the implication that you’re not good enough to have a real partner, or that you’re so pathetic that you have to lie about having a partner.

        If it helps, think about how the “fake boy/girlfriend” joke is often played out in media. The faker is presented as an object of pity or ridicule. By joking about someone’s partner being fake, you’re essentially casting them in that same role.

      6. Shiara*

        Because people jokingly accusing you of lying and making up a fictitious partner doesn’t really feel great. Plus it may come with potential undercurrents of implying that your partner doesn’t count or isn’t that great since they’ve never been seen and so you’re not a real adult. And if the rest of the office all know each other and their partners reasonably well, it can help single you out in a way that can be uncomfortably exclusionary. And some people may be less joking about it than others, and wondering if you really are making it all up out of insecurity or something. It’s the kind of joke that there’s just no good response to.

        At least that’s my best guess based on discussions with a friend who was in a very similar situation to OP. (He really was Canadian too, which… didn’t help)

      7. Jam Today*

        Its pretty hurtful to persist a rumor, even if its masquerading as a “joke”, that someone is delusional or otherwise so desperate to be part of a couple that they invent an entire person. I wouldn’t even find it funny the first time; that’s one of those insidious mean-girl tactics that allow instigators cover to be cruel while simultaneously blaming their target for being too uptight to think its funny.

      8. Sue Wilson*

        In addition to the above, people joking about this are implying that anything non-conventional is fake and/or they must be personally involved before a stranger’s personal life has any social weight/relevance

    3. Elemeno P.*

      The first year of our relationship was long-distance, so my fiance got this joke a lot from his coworkers (I did not, for some reason). He ended up going with a similar joke to yours, but…more crass. I am also crass, so when I finally met his coworkers at a holiday party, I said he’d built up quite a tab.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Agreeing with Ramona totally.

      I bruise easy. When I met my future husband people quickly linked those bruises to him. (Skip the part about I had bruises Before I met this guy.) Two things weighed in here, one was that they said it out loud and the other was they said it to my face. I tend to believe that if they thought hubby-to-be was actually hitting me they would not have been so public and would not have been so forth-coming. I would have been dealing with quiet, one-on-one conversations off to one side if they earnestly believed what they were saying.

      I chose to just laugh and shrug. I knew he was not hitting me and I was the key person who needed to know that.

      If you can find a way to joke about it, OP, that may give you a quick and easy out from all this.

      Or you could say in a flat, disinterested tone, “work events are not his gig and I am okay with that.” My flat reaction conveyed, “there is nothing going on here, move on.”

      I have a friend who has been married for decades to the Invisible Man. I met him once in the ten plus years I have known her. By listening to her I can tell you this: She loves this man as much as life itself. He loves her and takes good care of things. She feels safe with him. These characteristics are very important to her as she is willing to go almost everywhere by herself or with another friend. My friend shows that she has total commitment to and faith in this person I never see. It doesn’t matter that I never see him and he is good with never seeing me.

    5. nonymous*

      > I do sometimes wonder if they’re jealous or threatened by the idea of not doing everything together.

      I also wonder if it’s a backlash response. Like OP#2 and partner are perceived as somehow snubbing the party – b/c the people in attendance either want to be there or made whatever adjustments needed in their personal lives, like paying for a sitter or giving up date night, to show up. From that perspective, even if it’s a tired joke, there is a little bit of intent to hurt the OP#2.

      I do get the sense of a bit of “othering” of OP#2, so she should pay attention to where that is coming from.

    6. Mockingjay*

      When we lived overseas, my husband traveled frequently. I had friends in the community that never met him over the course of 9 years, he was gone so much. Everyone joked, do you really have a husband?

      I just rolled with the comments. The funniest one was with my dear, sweet German landlords. Herr H commented something about how I needed something for the house. (He could fix anything and I usually assisted, being rather handy myself.) Frau H, who was quiet and reserved, winked at me and bluntly stated, “no, you need a man!”

  5. MiddleCottage*

    The first OP used the phrase glandular fever, making me think he’s from the UK or commonwealth, (you call it mono in the States) so he may have a different sick leave situation, though I agree with your answer regardless

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I agree mostly, but if it’s the UK then they need to check their employer’s policy on reporting and managing sickness absence – look on the intranet if you can access it or ask your supportive colleague to send it to you.

  6. Tuesday Next*

    OP2, this sounds annoying. If it was me I’d call their bluff and say something like “Okay, you’ve got me. I made him up.” And then look at them expectantly. Most people at this point will feel embarrassed to have kept hassling you about it and the gullible ones will believe you, which will make for a good laugh.

    1. Mookie*

      “He lives in Canada, we met on the interwebs (which is also the reason we’ve never met), and you wouldn’t know him because he doesn’t go here.”

    2. EddieSherbert*

      I would follow this tactic but make it really boring, and then just got back to whatever I was doing/saying before the comment (so they’re more likely to stop).

      “Your SO is fake!”
      “You made up an SO!”
      “Oh, Eddie doesn’t really need a plus one – haven’t you heard that their SO is just imaginary and not at all real? Isn’t that hilarious? FAKE SO!”

  7. Amyyyy*

    #3 – I would get up to pee a lot too, but no one said anything to me. I think using a standing desk helps; sometimes I actually had to pee, but other times it was just that sitting is really hard to do for long periods, and getting up to go to the bathroom helped me avoid headaches I’d get from sitting too long.

    1. idi01*

      But going to the restroom 3 times an hour, about 20 times in the day is noticeable. The OP should mention their condition to the boss.

      1. MK*

        I don’t think she goes three times every hour, just that three times in one hour is something that happens.

        1. Cam*

          Probably. I know after a couple of cups of coffee in the morning, three times in an hour is not unusual for me, but I certainly don’t keep up that pace all day.

          1. As Close As Breakfast*

            This! I drink so many liquids in the morning that I’m easily going to pee at least every 30-45 minutes. For some reason around lunch I just stop drinking so much and hardly hit the restroom at all. I’ve always wondered if coworkers notice. If they do, no one has ever said anything. I know that more than once, I’ve made preemptive comments like “jeeze! I can’t believe I have to use the restroom again! I guess that’s what I get for the bottle of water I just chugged!” or whatever. Writing this, it seems silly, but I’ve totally done it when I’ve felt self-conscious about frequent bathroom trips at work.

            1. copy run start*

              I don’t drink a lot of liquids and I don’t pee often, but I definitely have noticed that the same amount of liquid in the morning seems to have more impact that the same amount in the afternoon for my body.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I have never had a job where that would NOT be a problem. But I have had some crappy jobs.
        I would take the preemptive strike of explaining before it becomes an issue, OP. If you wait for them to ask the problem has gotten too far away from you. Take control, you know eventually someone will say something. Nip it now.

        1. a Gen X manager*

          agree – I’m wondering if this is a “thing” with the co-workers (whether or not OP realizes it), since it would definitely be very noticeable. Explaining to the boss isn’t going to address the raised eyebrows or eyerolling (not that that is professional obviously, but super common when there is a pattern that is personal in nature like this). Does the group or a particular co-worker have to cover for OP when she uses the restroom so frequently? That might be a good place to start for garnering understanding among peers.

          1. LW 3*

            Luckily, I’m in a job where I work quietly by myself at a desk all day. No coverage issues at all, and don’t really work with coworkers – we’re all usually on totally different projects. The coworker who made the comment was at my last job, right after college, so I think that’s kind of gotten into my head and made me really paranoid about other people thinking the same thing.

            1. Anion*

              You shouldn’t be paranoid, but as I said below, I think you should find a way to mention why you drink so much water, at least (people will understand the connection). Just in case, just to head speculation off at the pass. People who might notice and be mildly annoyed by it will then understand and it won’t be an issue at all.

              I went through something similar at one of my jobs, when I was trying to lose some weight and fight winter dryness by drinking lots of water. No one said anything but I knew my increased bathroom trips were obvious to everyone sitting near me, so I just made some breezy comment, like a slight eye-roll and “The fun of trying to drink more water,” as I headed for the bathroom for the third or fourth time in a couple of hours; I got a few “Oh, yeah, I wondered what was up,” kind of replies (not accusatory ones, just acknowledging they’d noticed) and some good conversation about the benefits of increased hydration. No one thought it was weird or uncomfortable to mention, and no one thought less of me or anything like that, and it made me feel a lot more comfortable, too, that they knew I wasn’t just trying to leave them with all the work.

          2. Anion*

            Yeah, I honestly think that the OP should mention it just in case. Just do it in an offhand way, like, if you ask for coverage for your bathroom trip, or you’re refilling your water bottle, or in the breakroom and it seems like a natural place to drop it into conversation. Something like, “Gotta get more water! This medication I’m on has diuretic effects, so I get migraines if I’m not constantly re-hydrating.” That explains the bathroom trips without expressly mentioning them. You don’t even have to mention the medication if you don’t want to: “I get migraines if I’m not really well hydrated, so I have to drink a ton of water.”

            Anyone with even a quarter of a brain will be able to make the connection there, and so will understand that the OP isn’t, like, deliberately guzzling water all day so she can make lots of work-avoiding bathroom trips.

    2. Violet Rose*

      I once had a boss who was *appalled* that i got up to go to the bathroom – get this – four whole times a day! (In a job where company culture was to spend half of your lunch break working at your desk.) He was not, shall we say, the most rational person.

      I posted about him a few years back; the sillier ones included the time he ‘joked’ about ritually sacrificing me, and thought that only women could distinguish between the different types of ding made by cell phone alerts.

  8. Cobol*

    OP 2 I know it’s annoying, but it didn’t seem from your letter that the offenders actually thought your SO doesn’t exist. I can’t tell you not to think of the comments as hurtful, but I’d be willing to wager it’s just a throw away joke from their point of view. That doesn’t mean don’t follow Allison’s script to get them to stop. That it upsets you is enough, but I wouldn’t worry that people are talking about it earnestly behind your back.

    1. Mad Baggins*

      Yeah honestly this just sounds like a weird way to say “we want to meet your SO!” Same as hearing about something incredulous and saying “pics or it didn’t happen”=”show me a picture” but comes across as “I don’t believe you and require evidence”.

      Maybe if you lean into the literal meaning of what they say like one of Alison’s suggestions?
      “Just because he’s stuffed with straw doesn’t mean he’s not real!”
      “Well his nose grows when he lies and his childhood pictures show an old man and a cricket, but I’m pretty sure he’s a real boy now!”
      “I mean, technically he’s a ghost… but he helps me make great pottery!” etc etc

      1. Candi*

        LW could peruse the 2017 holiday thread section involving the manikin girlfriend and think up jokes based on that. Although a crossword joke would probably go over their heads.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        I rarely say “pics or it didn’t happen” … but if I do, I do actually mean “I don’t beleive you without proof”!

      3. Kendra*

        I had to laugh at your ghost comment, because there’s a webcomic with that exact premise – a girl that can see ghosts moves into an apartment where a ghost lives and ends up falling in love with him! It’s called “My Boo.”

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      My dad is largely antisocial so he doesn’t attend most functions with my mom’s family. On the rare occasions he does attend, he’s always met with a number of “oh, who are you?” and “omg you do exist” type comments. Which makes him less inclined to attend future events.

      Basically, people are always going to suck so don’t take it personally.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I think this gets into territory where people think “X isn’t a big deal, so I’m going to let it roll off me and everyone will move on to something else” and then their coworkers (or other group) hit on this as Their Thing They Do and suddenly it’s happening all the time, but it should be minor, but if you complain now people will be all “Oh NO this is a HUGE THING for poor, poor, pitiful OP.” It’s really hard to hit that right note when the thing you thought would be a one-off reveals that it has taken off its shoes, poured a drink, and intends to stay all winter.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Looking at intent can help us to think about ways to dilute the impact or totally eliminate the problem.

          It’s not possible for everyone to understand all the ways they impact other people. While there are many times where a person is absolutely correct in saying something was offensive or hurtful, unfortunately the responsibility for initiating repairs falls to that injured person. People do not auto-correct well. There are lots of reasons for why people are not self-correcting.

          I have always thought life was harsh in regard to healing injured people. It’s up to the injured person to start the healing process. This could be by going to a doc for a physical injury or it could be by going to a cohort to talk over a non-physical injury from something that was said. [There are times where bringing in a third party is imperative. I am not talking about those very difficult situations.]

          I think that OP is wise to decide to find ways to make the situation stop because it’s hurting OP. A well-used tool for change is to look at the intention of the party initiating the problem. It’s a tool and it’s one of many tools. Some key questions in examining intent include: Why is this person doing this? And is it possible that they think they mean one thing yet it sounds like they mean something else?”

          I have been having a lot of dental work done, including having quite a few teeth removed. I was telling my elderly friend about it. The first thing she said was, “Oh that is how my sister died.” UGH! I had to look at intent and I had to look at my friend’s current circumstances. I realized that my friend was basically saying, “Be careful, don’t die on me, I want you around.” Sure enough. My friend keeps track of my appointments and calls me before bedtime after each appointment. She wants to know if I need anything and if I am settled in for the evening. She’s a great friend who sometimes picks out odd things to say.

    4. LW #2*

      I should mention that part of this initial conversation included a phrase like “The only reason I know he exists is because your coworker told me he did!” I know part of it is an annoying joke, but part of it has been an actual discussion.

      1. Genny*

        Assuming positive intentions all the way around, I wouldn’t assume that was anything more than a 30 second exchange within a larger, unrelated conversation.

        *General conversation about the office party*

        Coworker 1: Is LW bringing anyone?
        Coworker 2: Probably not, her SO never comes to our parties.
        Coworker 1: Wait, she has an SO?
        Coworker 2: Yeah, we like to tease her about him not really existing since we hardly ever see him.
        Coworker 1: Oh, huh. Interesting

        *Conversation moves on to other general office party themes*

    5. Anion*

      Yeah, I really doubt that the OP’s coworkers honestly think the SO is made up; in my experience, if they really thought that they wouldn’t be making those jokes (they’d be asking much more pointed questions if they thought that and were trying to catch the OP out or something; I’ve been an onlooker in a situation like that, where a member of a forum had made up an entire life, with an adoring husband and a huge farm and all sorts of stuff. Some of us suspected and kept our mouths shut, and some suspected and occasionally made slightly disbelieving comments, but no one actually just teased/joked about it). They’re just curious and interested, and as Mad Baggins said, trying to indicate they’d like to meet the SO.

      I agree it should stop if you want it to, OP, but do try to think of it as your coworkers trying to indicate they like you/good-natured teasing, and not accusations.

  9. phedre*

    For LW#3 – I also have a tiny bladder, am on a diuretic and get up to pee frequently, and it’s never been an issue. It might be different for jobs like a receptionist where you absolutely need coverage every time you get up, but for most office jobs as long as your work is getting done no one will care.

    1. JulieBulie*

      When I have problems, I just say “medical reasons” if anyone gives me a funny look.

      I’ve not found it especially helpful to mention medications, migraines, or anything else more concrete than “medical reasons” because people are full of “suggestions” about medications, migraines, etc.

  10. MommyMD*

    Mono can be a terrible disease lasting weeks. I’d immediately get a documentation of medical impairment from your physician and attach it to the email that she recommended. Also file for any legal right you can such as FMLA. Your boss is a je rk.

  11. Miles*

    Re. #3. Are you drinking a lot to need to pee so often? Or maybe (like me) you suffer from food intolerances that cause you to pee some much. I suffer with fructose, lactose and gluten intolerances, and if I eat any of these I’m in and out of the toilets like a yo-yo. Might be worth getting yourself checked out.

    1. SignalLost*

      OP says she’s on a diuretic medication and also drinks more water than average because of the diuretic and because she gets migraines when she gets dehydrated. She seems to have a good handle on her medical issues.

    2. KL*

      …And some people just like to keep hydrated and have a small bladder. We exist. You can find us by the bathrooms.

      1. Candi*

        I had soft tissue damage to my pelvic area during my son’s very difficult birth. It isn’t at “needs surgery” levels, but it does mean when I gotta go, I’m beelining.

        It bites. But that doesn’t mean I want to tell whatever employer I wind up at the details if I don’t have to, and it doesn’t mean I’m not on top of it.

      2. VerySleepyPregnantLady*

        Yes, this was me before I got pregnant.

        I am now a small person, with a small bladder, carrying an above-average sized fetus who likes to head butt my bladder. I have contemplated just moving my desk into the bathroom.

        1. Murphy*

          This was me. I had a slightly overactive bladder before pregnancy. When I was pregnant, I alternated between our two bathrooms (roughly the same distance away) because it made me less self conscious about walking to the bathroom all of the time.

      3. As Close As Breakfast*

        Same. Now, please excuse me while I head to the restroom for the 1oth time this morning.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      She explained why she pees so much right there in the letter. And she didn’t ask for medical advice

  12. LemonLyman*

    OP 4: I agree about differing cultural values. It may feel strange to you, but if the employee grew up with little means, she might see the practicality in making the return and using the money that she and her family could use. She would also understand how wasteful it is to have something she isn’t going to use. Perhaps her family is strapped for cash and the money can help buy presents for Christmas? Or maybe she wants to donate the money to a cause she feels passionately about.

    Whatever it is, just because you might not approach things this way doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t. You could always offer to make the return for her and buy her a gift card with the money. Then it feels less like you’re simply handing her cash and she can put it to use on something she can use.

      1. LemonLyman*

        Thanks, Allison!

        The holidays tend to be a spendy time of year, so im sure that would be a huge help!

      2. Broadcastlady*

        But what happens when other staffers get wind and ask for the same thing? She returns all the gifts and then hands out the money? What happens when the boss finds out? I honestly think my boss would flip out and never provide any nice gesture again he’d be so insulted.

        1. Broadcastlady*

          And that’s a lot of extra work for the person who now has to return the gift. I’m floored that this could be seen as a good idea.

          1. Don't Do That*

            Exactly. This is the kind of thing that will bring an end to the raffle because it will become such a pain in the ass.

            1. BeautifulVoid*

              Agreed. We’re getting dangerously close to “one person ruins a fun thing” territory here. I get being disappointed that the raffle prize is not to her liking, but…it’s a raffle. It happens, and it’s not like she’s out any money. I get that there may be cultural differences at play, but it’s just coming off as tacky to me. If she genuinely has no use for the gift, there are plenty of other ways to get it out of her possession that don’t involve someone from the company running around just because she didn’t like it. (Because surely, they have better things to do?) Maybe — MAYBE — I could see the employee asking around if anyone else wanted to exchange prizes, but if everyone else says no, that should be the end of it.

              One time at an event with a raffle/door prizes, I won a golf club. It was too long for me and I don’t play much golf, so I wound up giving it to my father. Would I have liked one of the gift certificates to a restaurant that were raffled off instead? Yes, but that’s not how it works.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          The fact that one person asked is enough for the company to look at creating a standard operating procedure for such instances. I don’t think anyone needs to panic here and presume that most of the prizes will be returned. Some people may want their prize, some may regift on their own and some may donate their prize to charity for a raffle. The possibilities are endless here.

          I tend to favor the “you are on your own” solution. The employee could sell it and pocket the cash or perhaps she can find someone to barter with. Someone gives something to another person, it becomes theirs. Whatever they do with it is up to them.

          1. nonymous*

            And the winner can always decline. The easiest solution is if winner declines in the moment and then they can immediately re-draw from the remaining tickets. I also like the silent auction route (with raffle tickets, not money), which lets Fergus dump all his tickets into the bin for the TV while Jane goes for the tablet. This would be a little more work (but not as much as allowing returns!) and give staff a chance to mingle and ogle prizes to build anticipation and is a relatively neutral topic for convo during the party (if six people are vying for the same prize, then they at least have one preference in common!)

        3. J.*

          I was curious about the boss on this one, too. It’s all well and good to make an exception for this one person who asked about it, but it sounds like the company owner seems to enjoy doing this for their employees (LW describes it as a “shopping spree”) and depending on their personality might range from disappointed to angry. If I were the one being asked to give up the receipt, I’d be worried about that response falling onto me.

        4. Laura*

          Yes. As Frances Buss, the woman who founded the school I went to, used to say about schoolgirls being messy: “Multiply the results”.

    1. Ruth*

      That’s setting a precedent they may not want to set imho. Then everyone else will hear they got “cash” and want that instead. OP if you’re reading this I think the employee ask is rude as well. It’s a company gift they happened to win this is not choose your own adventure. For family I would ask if they had a gift receipt but for work, no. And FWIW in the future I would just get gift cards of varying amounts rather than items.

      1. Nico m*

        Well then maybe a raffle is a bad idea? What’s the point in buying a $50 prize that the winners are going to value much less?

        1. Lilo*

          I think the raffle is a bad idea. Unless there is a good reason, like donated items, raffling off big cumbersome things like tvs and speakers without an opt-in is a bad idea. I would switch to gift cards or make the raffle opt-in.

          1. Murphy*

            It may not be an opt-in thing. At my husband’s old company they just put everyone’s name in a hat. Presumably, you could ask to be taken out, but the default is that everyone but the C-suite had their name in there.

        2. Big Fat Meanie*

          A raffle can be fun, but maybe the raffle should be changed. Maybe the prizes are gift cards instead of items, or maybe the winners get to pick based on order of the draw, or maybe everyone gets some entry tickets and they can enter for stuff they want (you could put all your tickets in for one thing, or spread them out).

          And in the future, however they conduct the raffle, maybe they do say up front “all prizes are final, there’s no cash option, if you get something you don’t want we recommend gifting it or exchanging it.”

      2. Mookie*

        That’s true but if the LW wants to move on from this issue and capitulate to the employee, she could honor this request and then make the rules regarding this thing much clearer next year, emphasizing that it’s voluntary and that by participating you’re agreeing to accept the winning item and use it as you wish outside of the office (to discourage winners from bullying one another if someone’s got what someone else wants and the first person wants a trade).

        1. Michaela T*

          Or they could let people put raffle tickets in only for the items they want. That’s what my company does, I wouldn’t have a use for at least half of the stuff they raffle off.

          1. CheeryO*

            Yes, this seems like a good solution! Do a basket raffle and give each employee a certain number of tickets to allocate as they wish. They could institute a “one prize per person” rule and re-draw if someone gets picked more than once. Doesn’t seem like a ton of extra work. You could probably even re-use the same tickets year-to-year.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      This creates extra admin for OP though; many people would find it hard to squeeze this task into their day. And to do it every year from now on, now that the precedent has been set.
      It’s OK for the person to ask, and it’s OK for OP to say no, I think.

      1. Alice*

        Is OP truly says no for administrative reasons, or even for policy reasons, sure that’s ok. If OP says no because of the perceived rudeness, I don’t think that would be cool.

        1. TL -*

          It’s okay to say no to a request because you think it’s rude. It’s even okay to say no to a request that you think is rude and someone else doesn’t think is rude.
          Unless it is part of OP’s job to do this, it is perfectly fine for to politely say no.

    3. Susanne*

      Just because someone grew up with little means doesn’t excuse being tacky. This isn’t a gift between relatives where it may be appropriate to get a receipt and exchange it (don’t most normal people include gift receipts in presents where possible to facilitate that?). This is a lucky strike extra. You are not “entitled” to the cash value. If you don’t need or want it, resell or regift. Forget the tackiness of it – it’s just weird to ask for a gift receipt for a raffle item or door prize.

      Sometimes at weddings or showers, the hostess might give out little silver frames or a small box of Godiva chocolates or somesuch. I have no need for little frames and I don’t really want to be tempted by chocolate. Do I go ask the hostess for the gift receipt so I can buy another doo-dad or get credit at the Godiva store? Of course not. It was a lucky strike extra.

      I would side-eye a recipient who asked for a gift receipt to exchange. I would find her lacking in manners and even common sense. It’s a very entitled point of view.

        1. Anna Held*

          I disagree strongly. This is something she got because she works there. So any employee who doesn’t want some crappy electronics they can’t use then can’t participate? Can’t get anything of value as their bonus? Can’t participate fully in the holiday party, every year? That’s a great way to make people feel unappreciated and like they don’t fit on the team, the opposite of what the raffle is, presumably, trying to do. As discussed above, there are other, more inclusive ways to handle the entire giveaway. We work to earn money. If it’s a work prize, then it takes a part of that transactional nature, and I can see why some would be more likely to ask for the cash from their workplace than from family or friends.

          But it might be tacky, so burn her as a witch!

          1. DCompliance*

            I am confused. Why is this considered the employee’s bonus? What do you mean by “Can’t get anything of value as their bonus?” I thought it was just a raffle. If this was intended to be a holiday bonus, I would hope someone would suggest to give money instead. However, if this is just a raffle, I don’t think it is appropriate to ask for cash. If you don’t like what is being raffled, you do not participate. I guess I see a distinction between a bonus and a raffle.

          2. Temperance*

            Well, if the employee doesn’t want “some crappy electronics”, then no, she shouldn’t participate in the raffle for said “crappy electronics”. It’s not a bonus, it’s a prize. It’s not pay, it’s a prize.

            I really think that your comment is a reach. Just because someone doesn’t want to join in a raffle for prizes does not mean that “they don’t fit on the team”. I mean, if they are entitled and rude and openly scoff at prizes that they won (which, BTW, asking for the receipt to exchange is doing so), then sure, they probably don’t fit in.

            1. Iris Eyes*

              I’ve known businesses where the company party was in lieu of any bonuses. If this is the case then the crappy business practice totally cancels out the “tackiness” of the ask IMO

              1. Temperance*

                You’re still getting something you otherwise wouldn’t get, so yeah, super tacky and greedy to boot.

                1. Super Anon for This*

                  Why on earth is it greedy? Neither you nor any other commenter has explained this at all!!!! The employee isn’t asking for MORE, they are asking to be able to enjoy what they were given.

                2. CheeryO*

                  @Super Anon for This, because that is not the point of a raffle. It’s just a fun thing. If you win something, hey, cool. Would it be better to take the money and distribute it evenly among the employees as a bonus? Maybe. But that’s the way they do it. It’s an extra, not anything that the employees are entitled to. It definitely is tacky to ask for a receipt for a raffle item. It’s a luck-of-the-draw thing, not a gift specifically chosen for anyone in particular. If you don’t like it, politely decline or give it away like everyone else who has ever won something weird/useless in a raffle.

                3. Temperance*

                  ItIt’s greedy that not only are they not grateful for the prize that they won, they feel entitled to exchange it for something else. It’s a prize, not a gift, and not an entitlement.

                4. Iris Eyes*

                  That works just fine for the low value prizes but when confronted with a prize that is worth a weeks salary it isn’t greedy, its practical. And since when is greed a bad thing? Capitalism basically requires greed to run. Its great if you can’t take no for an answer when negotiating with a client but then how dare you ask nicely for a way to exchange a gift/prize for something else. Why is re-gifting, selling, or throwing out better than asking for a receipt? If gratitude is what you are looking for then you increase the gratitude by making one small concession (if possible.) I’d be grateful for wining, more grateful for someone doing me a favor, and even more grateful when I constantly use something that I actually need.

              2. boop the first*

                Wait what? Only a select few win any prizes. There are lots of employees who walk away with nothing at all…

                1. Iris Eyes*

                  Not necessarily, I’ve been to events where everyone won a prize and to some where almost everyone won a prize (not recommended.)

            2. a-no*

              +1! I never participate in raffles, lottery or anything like that and I’ve never once had someone question it, I literally just had someone ask if I was getting in on lottery this week and they just accepted my no. I’ve never felt ‘unappreciated or not like part of the team’, the point is to be happy for people who win not feel bad you didn’t – while it doesn’t always work that way, it is the point of raffles.

            3. Susanne*

              “So any employee who doesn’t want some crappy electronics they can’t use then can’t participate? Can’t get anything of value as their bonus? Can’t participate fully in the holiday party, every year? ”

              There’s always someone who doesn’t like everything. When iPads first were the big new thing, my company gave out iPads as part of the end of year bonus. Undoubtedly there were some early adopters who had already bought an iPad, or people who just would never use an iPad. So what? So now they had a lucky strike extra to regift. This is a “get over yourself” thing. The universe is not crafted to ensure that unexpected bonus extras of anything are to your exact liking.

            4. Super Anon for This*

              Um, way to exagerate. Privately asking for a receipt after the raffle is not “openly scoffing” at prizes. My gosh.

            5. LBK*

              This is a workplace. A boss buying something that ends up in an employee’s possession is a bonus, whether you dress it up in gambling or not. Workplace dynamics matter.

              This is what it comes down to: either the point is for the boss to do something nice for his employees, in which case he should make sure to do it in a way that’s actually nice, or the point is for the boss to make himself feel good by showing off, spending a bunch of money and forcing gratitude from his employees. If it’s the former, there’s no issue with making an exchange here. If it’s the latter, people are absolutely entitled to feel miffed.

              I think you’re approaching this 100% from a social etiquette perspective and not thinking about the workplace implications. In very few other situations do we just tell people to suck it up and be happy they got anything from their boss; cloaking these items in the guise of a fun raffle doesn’t change the overall context or effect.

              1. OlympiasEpiriot*

                I have been agreeing with all your comments on this subject — just needed to let you know.

                In addition, I’m pretty sure that my firm does the raffle as a way to entice people to come to the party and stay at least until the raffle is over. I’ve overheard conversations that pretty much back this up.

              2. DCompliance*

                I just don’t see a raffle the same as a bonus. In the literal sense, maybe, but not the intent behind it. It would not tell someone to suck it up if they don’t like their bonus amount. I would for a raffle. I just think everyone’s opinion will vary based on whether you see a bonus and raffle as the same or different.

          3. BeautifulVoid*

            Crappy is in the eye of the beholder, and the rest of your post is full of assumptions. OP didn’t mention whether or not this is the first person who ever asked for a receipt so they could exchange a prize they didn’t like, but it sounds like it. Also, OP didn’t say this is the only sort of bonus they get during the holiday season. Regardless of the other dynamics of the workplace, if this employee is SO offended/disappointed/whatever at receiving a *free* raffle prize she has no use for, well, as we often tell people, there are other jobs out there, so brush up the resume.

            The only thing I might do as a result of this is somehow subtly ask the rest of the company how they feel about the raffle (and do it in a way where they’ll feel comfortable about being honest). If it turns out that it’s causing a lot of resentment, then sure, do away with it and find another fun thing to do next year. But if it’s generally well-received and this is the only employee making a stink about it, then she’s going to have to find a way to get over it that doesn’t involve picking and choosing her own free gift when no one else gets that opportunity.

            1. Alice*

              Asking the office manager (or whatever OP’s role is) “could you give me the receipt please” =/ making a stink, in my opinion.

      1. Temperance*

        Seriously, I grew up poor, like trailer poor, and would never, ever do something like that. We were raised to appreciate gifts and prizes, not to be rude.

        1. Gabriela*

          I…probably wouldn’t do it either, because it’s kind of tacky. But I have also been desperate enough for extra cash during the holidays to really wish I could.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I have lived on a tight budget for a while now. I know first hand that there is usually more than one way to extract value out of an item. While TVs do not lend themselves to repurposing, they can be bartered for an item of more usefulness or sold outright.

        3. Super Anon for This*

          The way you were raised doesn’t make your *opinion* definitive. It isn’t the be all, end all of etiquette. Quite frankly perhaps Employee’s family is really struggling and they would rather exchange the 50$ blender for, you know, gifts for their family, or money to pay the bills, or for, you know, FOOD! I have been in a similar situation.

          1. CheeryO*

            Not everyone wins a prize, so if you do win and go on to ask for the receipt, yes, some people will see that as tacky. Sure, it’s worth a try if it’s the hill you want to die on, but you have to know that you’re taking a risk.

          2. Temperance*

            Then sell it rather than snubbing your employer and your colleagues who didn’t win a prize. Simple.

      2. Super Anon for This*

        Whoa! First of all, not everyone agrees this is “tacky”. Second of all are you seriously comparing being a guest at someone’s wedding to being their paid employee?????

  13. Sorgatani*

    The less polite part of me would want to tell OP2’s coworkers that the more things partner learns about them (coworkers), the less they (partner) wants to show up.
    My other half worked as a baker until recently, an occupation that does not lend itself to any semblance of social life. We’re both introverts, and pretty independent of each other… we even attended a convention this year, and people didn’t even realize we were together until we told them!
    OP3, I recognize your situation because of my history – and even without the schedule conflicts, my other half accompanies me to maybe 10-20% of the things I invite him to. He’s just happier in his bubble, so I don’t let him stop me from enjoying events and/or conventions.

  14. Peanut*

    I had to see a urologist once (I’m female), and he said that in general, it was good to pee about every 3 hours. Holding it longer wasn’t good for you, nor was going more frequently. This is, of course, assuming you don’t have other medical stuff going on that would change the frequency, which is not your situation, LW #3.

    That being said, I’ve never had anyone at the 20+ offices I’ve worked at comment on how often I (or anyone else) visit the bathroom, and some of those offices were very small, with only 3 total employees. I think you might just have been unlucky enough to have an extremely rude coworker, and I honestly believe the average coworker doesn’t notice these things.

    1. Alienor*

      Even if they notice, they probably don’t care unless they’re real busybodies. I sit near the path to one of the bathrooms in my office, so I know when people are heading that way, but I don’t have the time or interest to count how often each person goes or how long they spend in there!

      1. Candi*

        Well, whenever the Office Bathroom Monitor comes up here, the general feeling is “don’t they have work to do!?!” :P

      2. Enya*

        There is a woman in our office who seems to go to the bathroom many, many times a day, but it would never occur to any of us to say something to her about it. Obviously, she has to go often. The reason is none of our business!

        1. A.N. O'Nyme*

          Honestly if I ever noticed someone going to the bathroom often my first thought would be “tiny bladder” or some bladder issue too, not “SHE MUST HAVE BULIMIA”.
          I agree with the assessment that that colleague was just nosy. I suppose it’s possible that she knew someone with bulimia at some point and is now seeing the signs everywhere, but even if that’s the case she handled it poorly.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Honestly if I ever noticed someone going to the bathroom often my first thought would be “tiny bladder” or some bladder issue too, not “SHE MUST HAVE BULIMIA”.

            No kidding. Unless she’s snacking all day too, there’s no reason a person with bulimia would go to the bathroom frequently.

            1. Specialk9*

              Even if they did think bulimia, what next? I’m guessing the co-worker wasn’t certified and trained in eating disorder management. So what, it’s just nosiness or wanting to embarrass their coworker? Eating disorders are a big deal, and should be handled by professionals.

    2. Existential Commentator*

      I have to pee a lot for medical reasons/drinking a ton of water for medical reasons. I once worked in an office with an Office Bathroom Monitor. “You go to the bathroom all the time – do you have something wrong with you?”

      “Yes,” I said, and held eye contact.

      And that ended that. I don’t know what some people think you get up to in the bathroom besides…going to the bathroom.

    3. Big Fat Meanie*

      This never happened to me personally, but before I started my first job I read reviews about the company online and someone mentioned getting emails from their boss asking if everything was okay if they went to the bathroom too frequently throughout the day. It could be the boss wanted to make sure their employee wasn’t sick, but after my experience there, it may have been a passive aggressive way to suggest they’re leaving they’re spending too much time going to the bathroom.

        1. Big Fat Meanie*

          Probably. Admittedly, a lot of the managers at this company were young, had crappy training, and were probably really worried about optics due to scrutiny from the higher-ups, so I’ve made peace with how I and many of my peers were managed there.

    4. Jaybeetee*

      I did experience this at one place, a call centre (notoriously awful places to work). When my TL sat me down for a routine meeting, she made a comment about how often I’d logged off during my shift the day before (I have IBS, sometimes I need the bathroom frequently). I don’t fully recall what I said to her – I know I didn’t tell her my medical condition, I think I must have just brushed it off, but it was just another thing that made me determined to get out of that workplace and into a job where no one was questioning my bathroom breaks.

  15. Alienor*

    #2, I had sort of the reverse of this problem several years ago. A close work friend of mine had started dating a new girlfriend, Jane, and for the first few months until she came to a work-related event as his date, I had people “teasingly” suggesting that I was actually Jane (with the rationale being, I guess, that we were such good friends we must have started dating). Saying “ha ha, very funny, but I’m not Jane” would just get me a “Suuuuure you’re not, *Jane*” Nothing actually stopped it except time and people meeting the real Jane, but it was incredibly annoying and I totally feel for you, LW. Maybe have Partner stop by to pick you up for lunch one day, or get a friend who’s met them to help shut down the teasing? You shouldn’t *have* to defend yourself against these dipsticks, but it might be worth it to have some peace at work.

        1. Lilo*

          I have heard some horror stories about Craigslist sales (scammers or harassment). Not everyone wants to deal with that. Plus resale on stuff like that is often a fraction of retail. It is just throwing money away.

        2. Mr McGregor's Gardener*

          Because that’s a lot of effort for something that was supposed to be a gift. Also you rarely get the RRP.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            My husband responded to a Craigslist ad for a free dehumidifier (and exercise bike, but we needed a dehumidifier) and, after multiple back and forths, the person explained that she had given the dehumidifier to someone who came and picked it up, sorry, but hey, now that my husband was one of her greatest friends she wanted to pass on this great way she’d found to make money on the internet, it only takes a few hours a week.

        3. Roscoe*

          I think a lot of people preaching to sell it on craigslist haven’t actually sold anything on craiglist. A few reasons its bad.

          -Its a pain in the ass. The amount of no shows you get is ridiculous
          -For something like a TV, you basically have to do the exchange at your home so the person can see that it works.
          – It can sometimes be unsafe. I’ve heard of plenty of people getting robbed doing craigslist transactions

          1. paul*

            I’ve sworn of CL for selling. FB marketplace is annoying, but much less so than CL. Also, yes, fewer creeps. CL had gotten to the point where I wouldn’t meet anyone at my house or theirs, and the only handful of times I sold anything pricey, I had a friend follow me in a seperate car as backup.

          2. a1*

            I’ve had 0 problems selling on Craiglist. I get multiple messages within an hour, and usually get it sold and out of my house within a week. Even full asking price. If I post the exact same thing – same text, same price, same photos anywhere else I get 0 interaction (like on FB BST groups) or people that won’t offer a price at all but somehow expect me to sell it to them (e.g. 5 miles and other local apps). Craiglist is *easy*.

      1. AKchic*

        Ugh. Preach. I was in a 3 bedroom townhouse and the living room was about half the size of the main floor. Great size for the tv my girlfriend sold to me (60″) for $1. Anyways, we finally had the money to move from this cramped 3 bedroom (we have 4 kids – 3 of them teenage boys) townhouse-style duplex in a terrible neighborhood to a nice 4 bedroom house. The tv is too big for the living room. However, it is just right for the den downstairs. The teens were quite pleased to have a giant tv for their video games. We ended up taking our bedroom tv and putting it in the living room, and taking the free tv that my husband was given for upgrading his phone that we hadn’t even opened yet (because when we received it, we weren’t even sure where we were going to put it in the old place) and putting it in our bedroom.

  16. Knitting Cat Lady*


    I go on several lengthy bathroom breaks during the work day due to IBS and sometimes to calm down from sensory overload.

    What you’re doing is OK. And if any(busy)body asks, tell them that it’s a side effect caused by a medical issue and that you have it under control.

    1. All Hail Queen Sally*

      Same here! I could never stay in a job where I was restricted on bathroom use…and to have a co-worker comment on it would creep me out in a major way. IBS is enough to deal with by itself.

  17. Safetykats*

    The problem with buying people gifts they didn’t ask for is that they don’t always want them. I won a perfectly enormous TV from my dentist earlier this year (he holds a drawing for patients that refer other patients). The TV is much larger than would fit in my house. I guess I could have just hailed it to the Goodwill, but on the assumption that the dentist really wanted me to have some kind of prize, I thanked them so much for the TV, explained the problem, and asked if it might be possible to exchange it for a smaller model. I think they were surprised (bigger is better, right?) but they were very obliging. Turns out he bought it at Costco, so I didn’t need a receipt – just the dental firm’s Costco card number so that they could look up the purchase.

    I don’t see anything wrong with the employee asking to be able to exchange the prize, although I think they could have asked a little differently. If the idea is to make the employees happy, in the future you could get individual gift receipts for each prize, just to get out ahead of this issue. If the idea isn’t to make the employees happy, then maybe just discontinue the raffle altogether.

    1. Candi*

      I think this might explain why the only thing my dentist office ever holds a drawing for is the latest Nintendo console, starting three months after release. There’s a lot of things you can do with those, and if not? There’s a GameStar and Gamestop in walking/very short drive distance.

    2. Mookie*

      The problem with buying people gifts they didn’t ask for is that they don’t always want them.

      Sure, but the selection wasn’t personalized or tailored for this particular employee, just random, and the items involved are fairly easy to sell on their own, excluding the gift cards (if they’re brand- or store-specific). Also, it sounds like they do this every year, so I wonder if the employee can abstain next year.

      1. TL -*

        Whenever we had raffles at my workplace, high earners would say thank you but please draw another name for big ticket items.
        They’d take t-shirts or lanyards but anything big, they’d politely refuse and the next person would get drawn. (Once it got redrawn twice!) I imagine you could do the same for something you didn’t want to win.

    3. CheeryO*

      I’d be kind of annoyed if the raffle was discontinued because someone couldn’t figure out a way to turn down or give away a prize that they didn’t want.

  18. MilkMoon (UK)*

    LW1: Your boss is a d!ck. If you are indeed in the UK, I’ll tell you how long-term sickness is handled in my experience; person self-certifies for one week (as per the law), and if they need to be off longer they get doctor’s notes for as long as necessary. As the end of each doctor’s note approaches, the employee either sends a new one in (to extend their absence) or confirms that they’ll be back on [date]. At no point does the person’s manager harass them, because not only does a medical professional’s opinion carry the appropriate weight, it’s just rude to. It’s a job, not your life, your health must come first. If this isn’t resolved with an email like Alison suggested, I’d be looking for a more respectful employer when I was up to it. Take it easy and don’t let this moron exacerbate your condition with stress.

    1. GingerHR*

      Agreed – sadly, if they’d mentioned a different industry I’d be asking some sales managers today if they had someone out with glandular fever.
      It’s not unreasonable to keep in contact (when out of hospital), but this boss is going too far – although I do wonder if the OP has given a timeline, it doesn’t read that way in the letter, and most companies expect it. It’s fair to set boundaries and say you’ll check in once a week/fortnight. It’s also worth, especially if it goes on longer, and in a high-stress role, asking for a referral to occupational health to advise on a return.

      1. Letter writer #1*

        Thanks for the support and suggestions MilkMoon and GingerHR.

        Ginger I do think I should have been clearer about how long I would be away from work, I was just hoping I’d be better by now and have the energy to go back. I’ll definitely not make that mistake again

        1. GingerHR*

          People mostly assume they won’t be away too long – no-one wants to be ill! Managers should have a bit of patience, but sometimes I think it can feel like a lack of control if they don’t know what’s going on. It can be hard to push back, but you are the only one who knows how well or not you are – and if you go back too soon, you’ll end up off again. Hope you feel better soon.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Well, this is how it’s meant to work anyway.

      In practice? Just remembering the boss who wouldn’t leave me alone when I was off sick – as I had a nervous breakdown. Good times.

  19. I Dodged a Ballet*

    OP2: i sympathize. I’ve been in the same situation twice! My SO is not very social and so doesn’t go to the company parties or after work drinks. Unbelievably, and obnoxiously, two different coworkers in two different jobs in two different cities called him Snuffleupagus. It wasn’t funny.

    Since I would talk about him as much as everyone talked about their SOs (which is fairly often in my jobs), I just said that I didn’t really have the energy to constantly come up with stories about our lives together. So either I’m a really good actor, or he really exists. It seemed to work. Both of them stopped referring to him as a Sesame Street character. So, so weird.

  20. Free Meerkats*

    For #4, you think it’s rude, but it’s not your money. Have you asked your boss what her thoughts are on this?

    If your reason is, as you say, so the employee doesn’t see what was spent in total, go to the store with them, get them their store credit, and you’re both happy; you protected that vital company secret (yes, I’m being snarky) and the employee will get a raffle prize they will actually get some use out of.

    Let’s take the to an absurd extreme to make the point, if the prize was a treadmill and a wheelchair-using employee won it, would you take the same position?

    I would much rather have a happy employee who got something they could use than have an annoyed employee who won’t see it your way.

    1. a Gen X manager*

      Okay, but there are 20+ prizes drawn – what a nuisance even if only 3 people wanted to “trade” for a gift card. Gift it or donate it and be done with it, since OP didn’t invest anything in obtaining it and didn’t expect it (it’s not like an annual holiday bonus or something). I could never find the gumption to ask my employer for the cash value for a raffle prize. eek! *cringe*

    2. WellRed*

      The employee can choose not to be annoyed and see the prize in the spirit it was meant. If you don’t like the prize you win when you buy raffles from your kids or the church fair or whatever, well that’s the chance you take. The company is under no obligation to do anything at all for the holidays. And, maybe they shouldn’t. (And for the record, I think they need to rethink this. I also wouldn’t care for a bunch of electronics). But I’d also opt or or gracefully decline if I won.

    3. Temperance*

      Okay, but like, now we’re creating even more work for what should have been just a fun event. And seriously, rude people like the employee deserve to be annoyed. I mean, FFS, it’s beyond the pale to a.) win a prize and then b.) decide that well, you’d rather have cash. Someone else might have actually used the prize, and isn’t greedy. (And yes, this behavior is amazingly greedy.)

      1. LBK*

        If you think it’s greedy to decide you’d rather have cash than the prize because someone else might have used that prize, I really don’t understand why you’re fine with people selling the prize when that is literally someone deciding they would rather have cash than the prize. It is exactly the same thing, the only difference is that selling it rather than returning it can be done without the raffle organizer’s knowledge.

        1. Fuzzyfuzz*

          Because it puts the onus on the giver to fix the ‘problem’ for you, instead of taking it upon yourself. It’s not the employer’s fault that the employee isn’t crazy about their prize. And if it is too much of a bother for the employee to sell it, “No, thanks.” is a complete sentence.

  21. Kiwi*

    LW#4, keep in mind that the idea of these prizes is to make people feel appreciated and give them warm fuzzies about the company. That’s why the company spent money on them. If you make it possible for the employee to exchange the prize, you’re much more likely to achieve the company’s goal.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I think this is a really good point.
      I don’t feel it is rude of the employee to ask. This wasn’t a gift which was carefully selected for them personally, it was a raffle prize. It’s no skin of the company;s nose if they exchange it for store credit to get something more useful to them.

      Sure, they could try to sell it but often that means you get less that the item is worth, and it can be difficult if the item is bulky or heavy.

      I can see that it might cause problems if other people heard about it and wanted to do the same (in which case maybe the company should consider making the prizes gift cards instead, in future) but I don’t think it is an inherently rude thing to enquire about.

        1. Roscoe*

          Here is the thing with that, sometimes you get caught up in winning, then later realize you have no use. Like if you won a 50 inch TV, it may not be until you go home and actually do measurements that you realize 50 inches is way too big for the space you have.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      This is my feeling. When I was at a small company, the Office Manager went out and bought gifts for the raffle and each were big ticket items. Everyone got a gift and it was really our holiday bonus in the form of a present. When I got stuck with wireless speakers, I was out my $400 bonus because they weren’t something I could use. Same with the $600 espresso machine. I didn’t know that other employees were asking for the receipts so they could return their items and gain their bonus back and could spend it on something they want/needed.
      The boss wanted people to have something they would be excited about, and sometimes he didn’t guess right (video doorbell). In our case it was a fun way to provide our bonus so it was a business transaction more than a social transaction.

  22. HA2*

    Not a bad precedent, IMO.
    Cash: much better gift than something which you have to sell on eBay to get the cash. Just skip the hassle and gift cash!

    I’d be so much happier if 101% of useless crap that I got as gifts were just gift cards instead. (Or, even better than gift cards, checks or actual paper money.)

    1. HA2*

      Dangit. This was supposed to be in response to a different post. Sorry for cluttering up your comments with unthreaded nonsense :(

    2. Candi*

      There’s a big problem with that, at least in the US. I didn’t know this was A Thing until I saw it discussed here on other posts.

      Basically, cash and stuff “like cash” -like gift cards- are considered income by the IRS. They need to be taxed accordingly. Which can be a PITA, since it either lowers the amount received to some odd number, or the amount must be calculate to be a 5 or 10 number after the taxes.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        A thing received in a raffle is also taxable for the value of it. See the fine print on any raffle with a car or a giant home entertainment system as the big prize.

      2. Natalie*

        In an employer-to-employee situation, the only difference between cash and stuff is that all amount of cash & cash equivalents have to be reported as income, while items under a “de minimis” amount do not. However, a TV is not going to be considered de minimis, so in this case the tax effect is the same.

        1. Reba*

          Yes, which makes the response of “just sell it for whatever lower value you can get on Craigslist, you still got free money” … unjust is too strong a word, but irritating. Because (if I’ve got this right) you’d be taxed on the value of the TV based on what the employer spent, but you wouldn’t even *get* that value out of it.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Cash makes sense for Xmas bonuses. But I can see where going up there and saying “Okay, first drawing, for a crisp $50 bill, goes to…. Gina in Spouts! The $100 bill… Ted in Marketing!” Whereas drawings for physical objects feel more in the spirit of unexpected, luck-based bonuses.

      I agree with the distinction upthread between gifts and unexpected bonus prizes. These are the latter, and explaining that you’d like the organizers to make the extra effort to transform your unexpected bonus prize into cash feels off to me.

  23. kas*

    2. I can see how that can get annoying. I had the opposite happen where someone must’ve told others I was in a serious relationship. For a while different people would bring up my “boyfriend” and were shocked when I told them I was single. They all thought I had been seeing someone for years. I’ve never discussed my dating life at work so I have no idea where this came from.

    4. I’m leaning more towards the “rude” side on this. I’ve won some pretty ugly prizes but I’ve always just said thank you and gave them away/donated them. If it’s something worth selling, I’d probably post it online somewhere. Returning the item may backfire if word gets out. Others now or for future gifts might want to return their items as well.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      People can make the weirdest assumptions about you without you even saying anything.

      Somehow, and I’m still not sure how, a rumour got around that I was from Norway. It was ridiculous because I was born and raised in the village where I was working and my colleagues had known me as a child when I was coming into the shop after school but someone said that I was from Norway and suddenly everyone and their goddamn second-removed uncle was asking me about it.

      I was very confused.

      1. TL -*

        I’m about 90% sure one of the woman in my program thinks I’m bisexual. Anytime anything LGBT comes up, she starts looking at me very significantly; if it’s anything to do with bi representation the looks double. I have never mentioned anything about my sexuality…

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Our beloved Wakeen grew out of an employee who had convinced herself that she had two new coworkers, Wakeen and Joaquin, who had differently pronounced names, appearances, and jobs.

      3. Sylvan*

        One time I discovered that, among my coworkers, there was an ongoing tale of a love triangle involving me. Supposedly at one point I was going to try to steal away a man that another woman was engaged to.

        I don’t know where this came from!

    2. Delphine*

      That’s happened to me too. People assumed I was in a relationship, even though I had never mentioned anyone or mentioned my dating life. One person said she thought every time I wore my hair down (I usually keep it up), I was going on a date that evening, ha! I just like having my hair down sometimes.

  24. Jillociraptor*

    I could be your partner, OP2! We kind of have this as a recurring joke because I have a side hustle that regularly takes me to places you wouldn’t expect for the particular topic. (Kind of similar to being a SPAM enthusiast to travels to Hawai’i often. If you don’t know much about Hawaiian food, you may not know that SPAM is very commonly eaten there and think it sounds pretty fake.) He will often tell others about my real whereabouts as though it is a joke, complete with “Yeah, that checks out.” as the punchline. We’ve had a handful of people who genuinely thought it was some kind of joke, like “I need to wash my hair,” and then were kind of tickled that I actually was in Hawai’i for SPAM reasons. For us, leaning into the joke actually made it kind of fun and funny that people would make these comments.

    Depends on your personality of course but I think joking is the best way to handle it. Either leaning into it (“Partner is *wink* working late *wink*”) or just going for the absurd (“What do you mean? This is Partner right here!” *gestures to empty space*) is most likely to allow you to have some enjoyment with a joke that’s unlikely to go away because people are annoying like that. Maybe it’s leftover trauma from being a too-serious kid in a joking family, but I’ve often found that being too earnest in responding to jokes you don’t like just encourages the jokesters to continue, OR makes the joke about how stodgy you are.

    1. SophieChotek*

      Oh I agree! People need to learn to stop, but it’s so frustrating to tell people “hey cut it out” and then it just makes it worse.

  25. Emily*

    Some food for thought for #3: At one of my first jobs after college, I was sometimes placed at a desk near the women’s restroom. (I’m also a woman, so convenient for me!) Without fail throughout the day, multiple women felt the need to make self-conscious comments to me about the frequency of their trips to the bathroom (“I’m staying hydrated today!” etc)…and it always just made it way weirder than it should have been. It felt like they thought I was monitoring who was walking by and how many times, when in reality I cared zero percent.

    1. SophieChotek*

      Maybe there is like this subconscious belief we should only need to use the restroom a certain amount of times per day. I feel self-sconscious if I go to the bathroom 3x in an evening, and all my friends only go once….I kind of get it….but it’s comforting to hear you don’t care….=)

  26. Steve*

    Does the pee person mean 3 times in one hour occasionally or 3 times an hour all day long, like 24 times in an 8 hour day? And how long does it take to go pee? If it is 5 minutes at a time, counting getting up and walking back, etc, that is a fourth of the time.

    1. Candi*

      It can be every twenty-thirty minutes easy if you’re drinking a lot of liquids.

      Which means you bust your butt when you are at the desk.

    2. Specialk9*

      Steve, offtopic – I want to apologise to you (and Gurkan) for being rude to you in the thread about the boundary violator. I got mad and personal, and didn’t stop when Alison asked. It wasn’t kind, and it wasn’t in keeping with this site’s generally nice commentariat. Sorry, guys, I was in the wrong.

    3. LW 3*

      I’m the pee person! Should clarify, meant that that can happen (as it did the day I wrote the letter) but that’s not the usual. I’m very quick (this is so weird to be talking about on the internet) and yes, I definitely bust my butt when I’m at my desk!

  27. oviraptor*

    As to the gift, is it possible to let the employee know which store the item was purchased at? That might be what the employee truly needs to know. They could be having difficulty because different stores may carry the same brand, but the model number isn’t the same. With knowing the store the item could be returned – usually as a no receipt return and most stores will put the money on a store gift card and she can select something she can use. (At least that’s what I guess I might wish to do in this situation).

  28. Jenny*

    OP4 I agree this is rude and also just socially awkward and maybe a bit entitled. It’s not like this is part of the employee’s compensation or something they somehow deserve or earned – it’s an unexpected bonus, that they happened to get by chance. I don’t see why the employee wouldn’t just re-gift it, donate it, sell it on Craigslist, etc.

    This also feels like the type of thing where, if one employee gets the receipt, others who don’t like their prize might want to do the same, which would not only be annoying for whoever has to deal with it, but also kind of undermines the fun/morale-boosting aspect.

  29. Violet*

    OP4 – I think this depends tremendously on what the employee won and what the exact details of the situation are. If it was a huge prize that the person really could never use (the previous post about someone in a wheelchair receiving a treadmill comes to mind) and the intention was for them to receive something great, I could see the case for offering them some sort of alternative.

    However, I’ve been through plenty of work raffles and my experience has been that there are a couple of big prizes and lots of little things that people may or may not want depending on specific preference… clothes with the logo for a local sports team, coffee, restaurant gift cards, etc. These are all things that some people might not use, but would regift well, and it would be a huge pain for the employer to set a precedent that people can get cash or some other alternative when they win a small prize they didn’t like.

    I think this is the part where it makes a difference as to whether it is rude or not. Winning an iPhone as the #1 big prize when you already have a brand new android phone you prefer might make sense to look at doing something different… but probably not if it’s a $20 gift box of chocolates you don’t like, or a fuzzy blanket you don’t like the color of, etc – it would be rude to ask the employer to expend more effort to get you something you like better.

    OP4 didn’t mention what the person won but mentioned gift cards and TV’s. Is it a TV or is it a low value gift card to a store/restaurant the employee doesn’t like? This makes all the difference.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I think it also depends if everyone received something in the raffle. The OP mentioned that it was a small company, so all employees may have received something between $100-$300. I think it also depends on how well the staff is paid. If someone was paid min wage and was given a gift worth 2 weeks pay, it seems brutal to expect them to refuse it and let someone else have it.

      1. Jenny*

        They’re not expected to refuse it or let the company give it to another employee though – they could easily sell it.

  30. Story Nurse*

    I have to admit I’m amused by all the people telling OP4 “Don’t let the employee return the raffle prize for cash, because then everyone else will want cash too!” If, given the choice between cash and prize, everyone will want cash, then why not raffle off Visa gift cards of different amounts, or ditch the raffle idea altogether and give out bonuses? That seems simpler and more likely to bring happiness all around than the boss spending all day on a shopping spree (on their own time? on company time? neither seems great) and then people getting stuff they don’t want.

    It might be a different story if the company were getting significant discounts that the employee couldn’t get on their own, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here. And a lot of people with full-time jobs are still living paycheck to paycheck and could really use extra funds for necessities. I know I’d rather get a $50 gift card than a $100 object that I have no use for and will have to put significant time and effort into returning. The wheelchair user and treadmill analogy is not inaccurate; I have mobility limitations and no car, and getting an unwanted 50″ TV back to the store to return it would be extremely onerous for me.

    I suppose some folks think gift cards are impersonal, but so is an unwanted prize in a game of chance. Just give money and let people spend it however they like. And for this particular employee, absolutely facilitate her returning the prize for cash or store credit (hopefully it’s a store she’d shop at, and if not, at least that’s easier to sell dollar-for-dollar to someone else). With the best of intentions, you saddled her with a burden; helping to relieve it is the least you can do.

    1. Colette*

      The boss is the company owner, so she can spend her time this way if she wants.

      The thing is that raffles are often supposed to be about winning something you wouldn’t buy. Gift cards (especially for different amounts) are more likely to make people who win the lower values bitter. So instead of 20 happy people and 5 people who got something they won’t use, you have a happy person and 24 people who missed out. If I were the owner, I’d decide to skip it and, if I was feeling generous, give everyone an equal gift card (probably lower than the average price I’m paying now).

      1. Alice*

        Do you think someone who gets a $50 gift card in the current setup does not realize that the giant tv has a higher value? Why would that person be more bitter comparing her gift card to a large gift card than she is now, comparing her gift card to a tv?

        1. Colette*

          They have different financial values, but also different values as far as how much someone might want them. I don’t want a 50 inch TV, or a set of golf clubs, or a number of other valuable prizes – they’d be a hassle for me rather than a reward (especially if I have to take them home on the bus). So if I won a $50 gift card, I’d be happy because I could use it to buy something I want. Sure, there are a couple of places (i.e. specialty stores) where there is nothing I would want to buy, but most of the time I will be able to find something, even if it’s not a place I would normally go.

          But if everyone gets a gift card but mine is 10% or 50% of someone else’s, I’m going to feel like I lost the big prize instead of that I won a small prize. The financial value is pretty much all there is to a gift card, so the value is much easier to compare than when you’re comparing a physical object.

          1. Alice*

            I agree with you that a 50 inch tv or a set of golf clubs would be a hassle for me, too.
            “I’m going to give someone an expensive gift, but I don’t want other people to be bitter, so I will make sure that the expensive gift involves some potential hassle” — personally I don’t get it.

            1. fposte*

              I don’t think the hassle is a chosen component, though, and some people are really excited about getting big electronics for free.

            2. Colette*

              There are other people who would be thrilled to get those gifts, though. They’re not bad gifts, just not for me.

              Gift cards are a hassle, too, in some ways. (You have to remember to use them, you may not shop at that store regularly, you may end up buying something you don’t really need to use the card, etc.)

              Giving everyone nothing is hassle free.

              1. Genny*

                Agreed, people act like gift cards are the perfect way to get everyone what they want, but people shop at different stores with different price points (i.e. a $15 gift card to Ruth’s Chris would be a terrible gift for me because I hate red meat and I’m not going to spend $30 on a meal I don’t want so that I can use a giftcard that doesn’t cover the full value of my meal). By some posters’ logic, the only thing that should be given out is a Visa gift card, but at that point, why even bother doing the raffle at all? Personally, I like the fun of raffles, so I’d be sad to see it go because a couple people were unhappy with their prizes.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Yup. And that really bites if you win a big expensive thing in a raffle and it is not something you want or need.

      1. Economist*

        Yes–so the employer should be withholding taxes on the value of the prizes. It’s my understanding that an “incidental” gift, such as a mug or T-shirt would not be taxed, but a gift card of the same value, say $10, would be subject to tax.

    2. Reya*

      It’s not clear from the letter if every employee wins a gift, or if some employees win but some won’t get anything.

      If the former, then it might seem reasonable to ask to exchange a gift you don’t want. But if it’s the latter then that seems kind of rude to me – if you genuinely don’t want it then put it back in the pot for someone else to win.

    3. Natalie*

      In some cases, those raffle prizes didn’t cost the company anything. At my last company, one of our supply vendors had some kind of “loyalty points” type of system and we would routinely get free baseball hats, mugs, windbreakers, etc, etc throughout the year. We put those prizes into our end of the year raffle.

      Now, obviously that’s less likely with a TV, but it could be that only a few of the big ticket items were purchased and many of the smaller items were free or deeply discounted.

  31. Janet*

    You need to be aware of how much time you are spending in the washroom. If you go 3 times an hour and it takes 5 minutes to get back to your desk and start working, that is 2 hours a day worth of bathroom breaks! Even with stellar performance you can get in hot water with management because you’re only working 75% of the time you are paid for.

    If you’ve exhausted all options of trying to spread out your washroom visits then at least make sure you have medical documentation lined up and ready if it becomes an issue.

    1. Violet Rose*

      I’ve always found this reasoning to be a bit puzzling, but I suppose it varies by job type. I’m only “at my peak” for about 4-6 hours of a workday for any job that’s, er, brain-heavy? After that, my productivity and focus drop off pretty sharply. Longer hours = more done only when I’m doing something more mechanical, like making a stuffed animal using a pattern I’ve used before (so diesnt require any trial-and-error or creative solutions).

  32. LKW*

    OP5 – time to move on. I’ve never encountered a company that doesn’t prepare annual budgets that include personnel budget. Whoever made the promise either doesn’t intend to keep the promise, doesn’t have enough influence or pull to keep it or has made the same promise to others and they’re a higher priority to satisfy.

    Regardless of the reason, they determined that your increase was less important than other things.

    1. PB*

      Thanks, i think that you’re right. I request a meeting/review every few months, my last one being yesterday. Each time I’ve been told “everyone is well aware of how much you do here and is trying to get you adequately paid. If it were up to anyone in our department you would have been promoted but unfortunately it’s usually HR that stops the process”

      Before I kind of let it slide and have everyone the benefit of the doubt but now i think it feels more like a “well he hasn’t left yet so let’s see how long we can keep paying him less than we have to” – specifically from HR. I do trust my boss is honest with me, it’s everyone above her that i don’t have that much faith in.

      1. WellRed*

        But in a well run company, HR doesn’t control this stuff. So, does youor HR have too much power or are you (or your boss) gettng the run around?

  33. Falling Diphthong*

    #2, would something like a patient, low-key “You keep saying that… a lot…” hit home? Sort of the tone one would take with a small child who is crossing the line to annoying, but as the adult you are patiently riding it out. I really take Alison’s point about not wanting to respond in a way that makes it seem like you must be hiding something to be so upset.

    Or, create an exciting spy alter ego for him. “He isn’t here because he’s squirrel suiting into a covert research facility in Kazakhstan.”

  34. Keep it Professional*

    #1: I was out of work for a week (5 days) and my boss also texted and called a lot, but that was because she was genuinely worried about me and she said the office was worried and wanted to make sure I was okay. I didn’t mind my boss checking up on me in that instance.

    #3: If it worries you, just mention your medication situation to your manager. I have a medical condition as well and told my manager about why I use the restroom a lot. She said she hadn’t even noticed.

  35. Argh!*

    Re: #2: Teasing is always wrong, in my opinion. A one-off teasing comment is okay-ish, but this is harrassment bordering on bullying. Even if it’s not illegal harrassment it’s still wrong. It sounds like you’ve taken the bait a few times, which made things worse. I agree with asking them to stop. It’s childish. You shouldn’t have to produce your S.O. for them, but if he could stop by to deliver your lunch one day…

  36. Cassie*

    I need to stop reading AAM before coffee. I saw working for a “large alcohol company”, “hospital” and “liver infection” and expected a much different letter.

  37. Dr. C, DPT*

    I am a physical therapist who treats pelvic health issues in women, so post #3 is kind of my wheelhouse. Even if you are hydrating heavily, routinely making 3 trips to the bathroom in a hour would be a really concerning frequency. “Normal” bladder habits would be considered voiding between 5-7 times a day. Of course, folks who are heavy on the hydration would naturally tend to go more and in larger volumes; so for them, how much they void on each trip is more valuable information. Again, a general rule thumb, if you are not going for at least a 7 second count, you probably didn’t need to go. Experience has shown that “I have a small bladder” is typically more about long standing undesirable habits rather than an actual anatomical anomaly.

    Really there were a bunch of red flags about bladder function in that post, my professional recommendation would be to talk to your physician and be honest about just how much and how often you are in the bathroom. Then see if you can find a local pelvic health/women’s health PT to really investigate your symptoms. Often a couple of small behavioral tweaks can make an enormous difference!

    1. Bird*

      The LW also said that she’s taking a medication that functions as a diuretic and gets migraines when she’s not hydrated enough. Those two things say to me that it’s not simply behavioral, that she’s dealing with two medical issues that result in more frequent trips to the bathroom because of the particular combination of medication and necessary hydration.

      1. Dr. C, DPT*

        I agree that is a key part of the history, but even with those factors, the frequency reported would be considered pathological clinically and definitely warrants further investigation.

        I should clarify that “behavioral” in the context of bladder concerns may be better translated as “modifying some habits.” To address the comment below regarding diuretics specifically – yes, there actually are things that can be done from a medical and clinical therapeutic standpoint to normalize bladder habits even on a diuretic. Most people just aren’t aware that they do not “just have to live with it” and suffer their symptoms.

        Short of asking the OP for a complete medical history, I obviously can’t know all of the specific details of her individual issues. Which is why I recommended medical follow up based on what was shared, so that someone can appropriately investigate and address the symptoms with complete context.

    2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      +1. Not a doctor, but when I’ve had to go two to three times an hour, I was either harboring a latent, sneak-attack UTI, or once, for about a week, had a low-grade, under-the-radar kidney injury. It was…less than pleasant, and extremely urgent, leading to some problems with my job (teaching).

    3. AnotherJill*

      There are no behavioral tweaks that can make a difference when you are taking a diuretic. When you have to go, you go.

  38. Employment Lawyer*

    4. Employee wants to return a company raffle gift….this seems rude
    I think you’re wrong. This seems almost entirely impersonal:

    -A bunch of gifts which are purchased without specific people in mind;
    -Given at work
    -Through a raffle, which is (again) even less personal.

    Your boss is trying to do something super nice (50″ TVs!) but that particular thing doesn’t work for everyone.

    This is why most companies I know give cash, gift certificates, etc. If the goal is “give something super nice to the winner, as a bonus for work” there isn’t any reason to forbid them from wishing they could have something they could use–even if you say no, the wish isn’t rude in this context

  39. Roscoe*

    #4 I suppose I don’t really see the big deal here. You don’t have a problem if she sells it or re-gifts it, but if she wants to just exchange it for something she actuallly would use, thats a problem? I mean, this is why they made gift receipts. And I can totally understand it. Like I have no use for a new TV right now (my old one is fine, and I don’t have room for 2), but I could totally use some new kitchen equipment. If I could return it and get something useful, I’d be much happier than going to Target and getting “last sale price” credit for it. Yes, I wasn’t paying anything either way, but its like if the company invested $300, yet I’m only getting the $100 Black Friday credit, how is that better?

      1. Roscoe*

        I guess I see it this way. If the company wanted people to have a gift worth $100, they would have given a gift worth $100. If I bought something for someone they couldn’t use, and found out that they could only get a credit for 1/3, I’d be upset and make sure they could use the full value.

        1. TL -*

          I wouldn’t. It was a raffle prize, not a bonus. It’s a fun, unexpected, unearned extra. If you get 10% or all of the value, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s free money.

    1. Temperance*

      Well the item is yours to do with as you please, but you won the item, not the cash.

      Instead of being greedy, refuse the prize and let them choose someone else if it’s that offensive.

        1. Temperance*

          Because you’re giving another person who wants it the chance to take it home. I’ve seen higher-ranking people in my office do this (or people who, for one reason or another, wouldn’t like a prize), and it’s never seen as a rude thing, but actually very polite because you’re not taking something that someone else wants or could use.

          In this case, you’re taking a prize that could have gone to someone who wants it, and making it known that you don’t want it.

          1. LBK*

            But if the point is to try to get people items they’ll actually like, isn’t that actually an argument in favor of letting people exchange prizes they can’t use? You can’t say it’s rude to deny someone the opportunity to get an item they can actually use and then tell the employee they’re rude for wanting an item they can actually use.

            1. Colette*

              I don’t think they’re rude for wanting something different. I think they’re rude for expecting other people to go out of their way/change what they’re doing so that they get something different. This isn’t something they’re owed, it’s something extra.

              1. LBK*

                It takes 5 seconds to make a copy of the receipt, I don’t see how it’s such an imposition. And a boss giving employees a gift is never just something “extra” – it’s a form of compensation, and being compensated in a way you can’t use isn’t really meaningful.

                I guess I just don’t like the attitude that the boss is entitled to gratitude but the employees aren’t entitled to actually get something useful. If the employees should just take whatever they can get, I don’t think the boss gets credit for doing something “nice”.

                1. Colette*

                  Even if it’s appreciated by 90% of the employees?

                  The option isn’t that the boss does something that 100% of the employees will like – that’s not possible. I think as an individual, you can disregard the raffle if you want (i.e. decide it doesn’t make you happier in your job/won’t make you attend the party). That’s a perfectly reasonable position to take. That doesn’t mean it’s not a nice thing for the boss to do. There are plenty of nice things people do that don’t work for everyone or are not appropriate for every situation.

                  But asking for a receipt means that the OP has to determine if the boss wants people to be able to return the products, find the receipt, and copy it. It potentially means that the person asking for the exchange has the price information for her coworkers’ prizes, and can use that information if she wishes. It’s putting her in a difficult position for a decision that she didn’t make. It’s not terrible to ask, but it’s likely to cause problems up to and including cancelling the raffle in the future.

                2. LBK*

                  Those honestly sound like insane risks to me for something that would make it so easy to get your employee appreciation up from 90% to 100% – and if that is supposed to be the whole point of this activity, why wouldn’t you do it? I mean, seeing the price of other prizes and “using that info if she wishes”? If she really cares that much she can just google the prices anyway, it’s not like it’s a secret how much a 60″ TV costs.

                3. Colette*

                  Some people will be upset to discover that the company paid $800 for their $1500 TV. Some people will use the fact that they know the prices the company paid and others don’t to stir up trouble (“oh, the TV you got only cost $600, mine is way better”, “glad I won the toaster instead of the coffee machine, it’s poor quality for $150”).

                  I don’t think that giving out the receipt is going to please 100% of the people – possibly including the person who asked for it so they could get full price back and will now only get the sale price back.

          2. tigerlily*

            There’s a difference between the high ranking people refusing items and regular workers refusing things. One is a “I make more money than everyone else here, these prizes should go to those who are working hard and making less.” The other is a “I don’t like this prize, so no thanks.”

            1. LBK*

              Not to mention that’s a pretty bad situation to be putting your higher compensated employees in – and you could argue that it’s a bit condescending for the higher ups to toss back expensive prizes so that the lower paid peons have a chance at picking them up.

              1. Arjay*

                Yes, here we only enter senior managers and below in the drawings. Directors and above aren’t entered for this reason.

    2. LBK*

      That’s a great point – it’s very weird to me that people are fine with her getting rid of the item as long as it’s via regifting/reselling but not if she actually returns it through the store’s process. What’s the difference? Because the former can be done without the company’s knowledge? It almost feels like people think she should be punished for her lack of gratitude by not getting the full price of the item back.

      1. SallytooShort*

        The difference is the boss goes out of his/her way to get these things and give them away as part of a fun activity. And the only way to get the receipt is to go to him/her directly and ask for it.

        It’s an insanely rude thing to do. It’s a prize. You don’t get to go to people who give you a prize and demand it’s full cash value.

        1. LBK*

          If the goal of the raffle is a “fun activity” then I don’t see how forcing people to take home things they don’t want achieves that goal.

          The aim of workplace fun should always be to ensure you’re actually doing something that is fun for the people involved. It’s not for the boss to stroke his ego by buying a bunch of expensive presents and then expecting people to be grateful no matter what.

          1. TL -*

            Nobody was forcing the employee to take it home. The raffle isn’t in lieu of a bonus or pay; it’s a fun event with big ticket winnings. If you don’t like what you’ve won (with no effort on your part), you either politely refuse it so someone else’s name can be drawn or discretely sell or exchange it, instead of complaining that your free gift was not exactly what you wanted to the people who spent time and effort putting the event together and asking for more work from them because your unearned prize wasn’t good enough.

      2. Susanne*

        “That’s a great point – it’s very weird to me that people are fine with her getting rid of the item as long as it’s via regifting/reselling but not if she actually returns it through the store’s process. What’s the difference? Because the former can be done without the company’s knowledge?”

        Yes. That’s precisely the difference.

        The same way that including a gift receipt with that sweater I bought for cousin Susie means that Susie can go quietly exchange it for something that fits her better and I don’t need to be dragged into it. That’s why the whole concept of including gift receipts originated – so you can quietly do so without having to explicitly ask someone for the original receipt, which is awkward. It’s called a polite fiction.

  40. Anon Marketer*

    OP #2: “You’re right, he’s a figment of my imagination. What a terrible discovery.” <<< I personally wouldn't use this line because you're stooping to the same level of sarcasm in my opinion (or they might not see the sarcasm). While it's annoying and hurtful they don't seem to believe you, I wouldn't fight fire with fire in this case. I feel "That’s getting annoying — please stop” is far more professional and direct.

    Or you can give them no reaction whatsoever. Once they see they don't get a response out of you, their comments might level off. No sense of joking with someone who refuses to participate in the joke.

  41. Rusty Shackelford*

    LW#1: He replied today saying it wasn’t great that I needed more time off as we had things to sort out, it might be time to include HR.

    I’d respond “You’re right, it’s NOT great that I’m still too sick to come to work. It’s really pretty awful. As you suggest, I will forward the paperwork from my doctor, insisting that I not return to work until at least X date (if not later), to HR.”

  42. ANON for this*

    We have an amazing caring boss. He isn’t big on monetary bonuses, but everyone gets a steak dinner when a sales goal is met, and he backs his employees. He’s kind and fair. For a decade or more, every Christmas, each employee got a 10 lb smoked turkey as a gift. One year, a senior employee kind of scrunched up his face in a look of “gross,” and quipped (in front of the boss) that he didn’t like turkey. That’s all. That he didn’t like turkey. Boss was visibly offended that his gesture wasn’t appreciated. We were never given a Christmas turkey again. You know what replaced the turkey? Nothing. Be careful you don’t upset the boss and get no prizes next year.

    1. Roscoe*

      Sure. But I mean, if it was a vegan who didn’t eat Turkey or want the steak dinner then what? Are they still being rude? Or is it something to consider that maybe you can make exceptions for people.

      Now what this guy did sounded rude, but I don’t think if he approached the boss and said “Thanks, but I don’t really eat Turkey, is there something else?” Because then what you have is everyone getting a gift, that not everyone can enjoy. Similarly, if a bottle of wine was given to everyone, but you knew someone was a recovering alcoholic. I don’t think them not accepting is rude

      1. ANON for this*

        Yeah, he’s awful b/c of the turkey. Puh-lease. I was wrongly accused of a crime, arrested, subsequently made front page news in our paper and the top story on TV news for three days. My boss refused to fire me while the entire town publicly called for my firing and spewed vitriol at my boss for refusing. I have a high profile, extremely front facing job, and still, he stood by me. He is amazing and caring, whether we get a turkey or not. Oh, Charges were dismissed. A public apology was given, police chief resigned in disgrace.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          I’m glad your boss stood beside you in that time and he might be a fine person otherwise, but your boss does sound kind of petty. I agree what the person did was rude, but what your boss did is like punishing the whole class because student was being disruptive.

          1. Drama Llama*

            I don’t think Boss was necessarily punishing everyone out of pettiness. He probably wondered if other staff didn’t like the gift either and felt embarrassed. It’s totally understandable to feel hurt/embarrassed when you give a gift and the recipient makes a face and says “gross” like a rude little two year old. Seriously, that’s not an acceptable way to respond to a gift, ever. No wonder he stopped all gifts.

      2. SallytooShort*

        But the whole point is you aren’t entitled to anything. Not a single thing. You can’t just ask for something you’d like better when given a gift or a prize.

      3. Susanne*

        “Sure. But I mean, if it was a vegan who didn’t eat Turkey or want the steak dinner then what? Are they still being rude? Or is it something to consider that maybe you can make exceptions for people.”

        Whatever happened to “thank you, that was so thoughtful” and then privately giving the turkey away to a non-vegetarian friend or whatever?

        We get lots of bottles of fine wine through my husband’s business (both clients and vendors). We actually drink very rarely. So what? How rude it would be to tell them that they’d better give us a gift receipt or give us something different. So now we have wine to give as a gift to others. It’s all good.

    2. OlympiasEpiriot*

      That actually doesn’t read like “an amazing caring boss”. That sounds like someone who wants people to treat him like he’s “an amazing caring boss”. He also got into a snit and punished everyone because one person wasn’t grateful?

      1. MashaKasha*

        No kidding. I’m sure the vegetarians and vegans in the office greatly appreciate getting steak and turkey in place of bonuses, too. As probably do the people who are on tight budgets and would rather get a bonus than a steak dinner. Has Amazing Boss tried giving people a Jelly of the Month Club membership instead?

    3. Kaboobie*

      I’m wondering what he would have given to a vegetarian like me, and whether he would have been equally offended if they mentioned they don’t eat meat.

  43. MCMonkeyBean*

    The summer after I started dating my husband, his coworkers teased him about me being made up. (We were in college so this was a job he did at home in between school years). I got a call while I was working and had a voicemail where he said “since you didn’t pick up, they don’t think you exist” and then his friend (we’ll call him Bob) got on the phone and left a drunken message about my non-existence.

    I ended up staying with him one weekend that summer so I tagged along to their weekly Sunday meeting. One guy was like “So you’re from Canada?” and I was like “What? No?” and we were both very confused. Apparently Bob had been making jokes of the “girlfriend in Canada” variety meaning I was made up, so then this guy thought I was really from Canada.

    It’s been almost 10 years and I still don’t care for Bob that much to be honest.

    1. Laura*

      When I met my b/f’s, now husband’s co-workers, one of them joked about thinking my b/f was gay as he had dated so many women but none of them had stuck. I said: “Oh, did you want to have sex with my b/f? Feel free to go ahead. I love to watch guys on guys.” He shut up so quickly he nearly choked. Then I smiled at him and sent him to the bar to get me a glass of wine and he couldn’t have run to do it any faster.

      1. Violet Rose*

        I just snort-giggled out loud. Stealing that!

        As a sidenote, my long-distance boyfriend, his close friend/roommate, and I have a running joke that since I live so far away, his “real girlfriend” is the (male) roommate. My usual response is some variety of “send videos!”

  44. bohtie*

    #2 if it’s any consolation, I’ve been the invisible girlfriend (or “Canadian girlfriend,” as they say) and people did not shut up about it until they actually met me. At one point, I was hosting my girlfriend’s birthday party AT MY APARTMENT and ended up getting violently ill the morning of and having to spend all day in the hospital. I asked her not to go with me because (a) it was her birthday, and (b) I have a chronic illness that means sometimes I have to spend the day in the hospital and honestly it’s really boring and not worth canceling a party over. So her friends were in my house, with my dog, and they still didn’t believe I existed. (That was the point where it became downright comedic.)

    It reminded me a lot of something my little brother used to say when he was, like, seven years old that I think came from Calvin & Hobbes: “If it’s funny the first time, it’s funny every time!” Sigh. Personally, we coped by deadpanning things about “yup, you got us, bohtie doesn’t exist” or “well duh, of course I made them up, no person is THAT awesome,” etc. etc.

  45. very very anon for this I never talk about this in public because woah stigmitization*

    #3: I don’t know what you’ve talked to your doctor about, but I have something very similar, and was able to get relief after talking to a specialist. Are you a women? My first few doctors brushed off similar symptoms as ‘women’s issues’ that hadn’t been very well studied and there was nothing they could do, etc. Once I saw a urogynicologist they were able to start me on medication (toviaz/oxybutinin) that did wonders as well as physical therapy and PTNS, which is sort of like a cross between acupuncture and electro-shock therapy. It barely hurt (I promise!) and isn’t fringe medicine. It was entirely covered by my insurance.

    If you have to choose between options, I’d say the medication helped me the most followed by physical therapy.

    I understand if you can’t take medicine because of you other medications, but that doesn’t mean you have to just give up, and caring doctors will realize and accept that this is something that has a major impact on your life and try to work with you. I lived with this for years because it is so stigmatized to talk about bladder issues, and GPs don’t really know as much as they should.

    If you have tried all of this, or can’t see a doctor right now, do look into massaging your bladder trigger point. I was told to do it 4 times a day for a minute each, plus whenever I needed to stave off going to the bathroom. To find it, place your pinky on your inside ankle bone and then use your fourth finger to dig around just inside your shin bone. You’ll know you found the point because it will be super tender! My physo told me to practice until I can do it with the toe of my foot while standing, in case I’m somewhere that I can’t get away, or in a long line, etc.

    1. LW 3*

      Thank you! Yes, I’m a woman. I’m under the care of a GP but will definitely consider looking into a specialist. And will try the other trick as well! Appreciate the suggestions!

  46. Falling Diphthong*

    #5, one of the workplace experiences I took to heart was someone who was a temp hoping to be made permanent. Immediate managers in favor but didn’t have that power. Higher ups kept putting it off. For good reasons, each time, financial problems, each individual delay was justifiable. But over two years, how well this month’s This Time Only circumstances were justified became cold comfort.

    The thing was, this frustrated employee went from being a great employee to a slacker. Which really affected the recommendations of those immediate managers. So now my advice is if something isn’t coming through, look to promote (etc) yourself via a job elsewhere. Don’t wait until you’re bitter and exuding that everywhere.

    1. PB*

      Thanks so much! It’s definitely a great reminder that the people around me now are going to be the ones writing recommendations for me in the future!

  47. Erin*

    #4 – Yeah I’d turn her down. You don’t have to act like she committed a horrible sin, but just sort of matter-of-factly let turn her down.

    (Not saying you’re acting like she committed a horrible sin/are blowing this out of proportion. I agree with you. Just saying, I’d shut this down swiftly and quickly.)

  48. Roscoe*

    For #4, I think people are taking the term “raffle” and applying it in a different way than normal raffles. This doesn’t sound like the employee bought tickets hoping they would win one of the prizes up there. It sounds like they just drew out various employees name as a “feel good” type thing.

    If this was a charity raffle, it would be very different. I usually buy tickets for those planning to not win, so if I do, then its a bonus.

    Also, lets say the TV (or whatever) didn’t work. What would OP do then. Would they just say “too bad”? Would they give them the receipt then so they could exchange it? Would they handle the exchange?

      1. Roscoe*

        The employee never said (according to the letter) that she wanted cash. She wanted to exchange it for something else. So if the TV was broken, it would still be an exchange.

        1. DevAssist*

          But it would be exchanging the broken item for a working item. That’s not the same as wanting to return a working item for something else.

          We can debate the merits of the raffle structure, but it sounds as if the company had good intentions. The employee can certainly sell or re-gift the item herself, and perhaps OP (since it sounds like she works closely with the boss(es)) can use this employee’s experience as an opportunity to gauge the feelings of others. If a bunch of people feel only so-so or negatively about the raffle, maybe appreciation can be shown differently next year.

  49. KK*

    #3 – I use the bathroom I’d say an average of 10 times a day (in an 8 hour period). I also have a water bottle at my desk that I drink from and refill all day. I don’t think the frequency that you mention is a big deal, but if you’re worried about it, you could keep a water bottle at your desk (if you don’t already) and just tell coworkers you drink a lot of water during the day if it ever comes up.

  50. OlympiasEpiriot*

    1) Best of luck, your boss is a jackass, and as miserable as it is, you WILL get better. Hang in there and keep taking care of yourself however you need to. Much rest is main thing. Trivia about mononeucleosis/glandular fever: Before you’ve had chicken pox, you can’t get mono, only carry it; chicken pox is more severe when you are older, but mono is more severe when you are younger; once you’ve had mono, it can crop up again when you’re exhausted. (How do I know this? I got chicken pox at 32, mono at 36, mono again at 46.) I haven’t heard what happens about mono w.r.t. the chicken pox vaccine.

    2) Tell them he was taken by aliens and you really don’t want to talk about it.

    3) Your coworker is like #1’s boss…a jackass. Go when you need to. Glad you are keeping the migraines at bay, I used to get those, they run down one line of my family. Crippling. [Personally, I go often enough that I am very glad I don’t do line work at a factory or work as a receptionist. It is bad enough on construction sites, but we at least have port-a-sans somewhere. Fighting with my PPE in those boxes is awkward, though. I get half undressed outside then step in.]

    4) My goodness, I second Employment Lawyer @ 7:56 above. My company does the raffle thing, too, and I invariably think each year that I’d rather they just increase everyone’s bonus a bit. As I recall, I have yet to ever win anything, but 99% of what there’s been is stuff I don’t need or use and 1% is stuff that I could live without. If I did get one of those things, I’d probably just hand it off to someone random at the party; but, I am not in super tight straits. Reselling takes a bit of work…takes any fun out of the “gift”. Let her have a gift exchange receipt.

    5) I hope you are looking for another job. Sounds to me like your feeling of being strung along is accurate. Best of luck!

    1. fposte*

      You can get mono without getting chicken pox; it’s shingles that you have to have had chicken pox for. They’re all flavors of Epstein-Barr, one of the herpesviruses.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Yes to shingles as that is actually the c.p. virus coming out in a different way, but, I was also told by my doc that mono (a totally different virus) did, too, for different reasons. (This also was the case with an acquaintance, she was told the exact same thing by a totally different doc.) That’s why a baby who has not had c.p. (my baby for instance) can be carrying mono in their saliva but not actually have mono and I got it when coming into contact with their saliva — oh so easy when you’ve got a teething baby!

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          I went and looked this up. As medicine and virology are certainly not my (STEM) fields I definitely don’t get all the details, but it seems they are not “totally different vir[i]”: All are versions of the herpes virus.

          Back to applied Newtonian mechanics.

          1. fposte*

            Right, they’re in the same family, same as cougars and house cats are, but genital herpes and chicken pox are still different things; it also gets confusing because the same virus can sometimes create more than one illness or none at all, and that they’re still saying that Epstein Barr is about 90% of mono cases so there’s another 10% caused by other stuff. But just because they’re in the same family doesn’t mean that chicken pox is the same as genital herpes.

            You got mono because you came into contact with saliva containing the mono virus EBV, which is how most people get mono, whether they’ve had chicken pox or not. Maybe you were likelier because you had chicken pox–that part I don’t know–but it certainly wasn’t required.

        2. fposte*

          That’s a really perplexing statement from them, because it’s pretty demonstrably untrue–people vaccinated for chicken pox get mono, and rates of mono haven’t gone down while rates of chicken pox have plummeted.

          Your baby had EBV in its saliva because it’s a hugely common virus that half the time isn’t even a noticeable illness, not because it’s anything to do with chicken pox. Now there might be something about chicken pox that meant you were likelier to get full blown mono with the Epstein Barr virus, but if you had to have had chicken pox to get mono, there’d be virtually no mono anymore, and there’s still plenty.

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            Well, given that the c.p. vaccine is to stimulate the production of c.p. antibodies in our system, there must be something about the c.p. antibodies/mono virus relationship that matters, I’d say. This is reminding me of how perplexed I was when my doctor told me that and when the other person I knew who went through a similar round of illnesses said she’d gotten them same info from a different doc.

            I think we need an immunologist to weigh in here. (I’d love it if one did…I’ve long been curious about this.)

            1. fposte*

              I’m not saying that having chicken pox couldn’t affect your likelihood of developing mono–I just don’t know about that. But it’s not a necessary precursor; just about everybody gets the mono virus by the time they’re 30. I think somehow a discussion of EBV just got misleadingly cross-threaded with chicken pox.

            2. Not Rebee*

              If it’s true that you can’t have mono until you’ve had chicken pox (I’m a history major so I have no idea if it is and don’t care to speculate) I would assume you are correct about the CP vaccine creating the correct antibodies, because I have not had chickenpox (was vaccinated for it finally when I was about 10 and it was clear I wasn’t going to catch it spontaneously as a child) but had Mono when I was 19. (Also worth noting that I had the same pediatrician my entire growing up, so unless I got chicken pox and it was so minor it was unrecognizable and no one even took me to the doctor, they would have known if I needed to be vaccinated or not).

            3. TL -*

              Your doctors were either mistaken or didn’t communicate well. Mono isn’t affected by chicken pox virus or antibodies.
              (Am not an immunologist but am a molecular biologist who took a course on medical microbiology and we covered EBV.)

          2. ramonaflowers89*

            Okay, virologist here to straighten out some stuff.

            Both chickenpox (called varicella-zoster virus or VZV) and EBV are part of the Herpesviridae family, but VZV is an alphaherpesvirus and EBV is a gammaherpesvirus, so they infect different host cells (alphaherpesviruses infect neurons, betaherpesviruses infect leukocytes, and gammaherpesviruses infect other immune cells like B cells). VZV is not a “flavor” or strain of EBV – they belong to completely different subfamilies. Therefore, being infected with one will not provide any immunological protection against the other; in other words, there is no cross-protection between these viruses. Being infected with VZV does not make you more susceptible to contracting EBV or any other herpesvirus, especially when it is latent in your nerves and not actively replicating. The only way VZV could make you more susceptible to contracting other herpesviruses is when you have an active infection that is depressing your immune system, so other viruses have an easier time of establishing their own infection because your immune system is not optimally functioning.

            Getting shingles is due to VZV reactivating in your nerves, traveling out of the nerves to the surrounding epithelia, and replicating in your skin cells, causing the classic shingles lesions. It is very similar to HSV reactivation – when HSV reactivates, it travels out of the neurons surrounding your oral or genital epithelia and infects these skin cells, causing cold sores and genital lesions, respectively. If you have ocular herpes, HSV travels out of your ocular nerve to cause blisters on your cornea. (It makes sense that both VZV and HSV have similar lifecycles – latency in nerves, reactivation that causes skin lesions – as they are both alphaherpesviruses.) EBV also can reactivate in your B cells, but reactivation usually does not cause symptoms in immunocompetent people like HSV or VZV reactivation does, so you just wouldn’t know if your EBV has reactivated unless you are testing your saliva for EBV DNA at the appropriate moment. Reactivation of EBV can cause symptoms if you are immunocompromised, which can include extreme exhaustion, which is why you “got” mono again at 46 – it wasn’t a new infection, it was a reactivation of the virus when your immune system was no longer able to suppress it. Potentially getting mono at 36 was your primary infection, but I would not be surprised if you were infected much earlier in life and this episode was another reactivation due to immunosuppression.

            EBV could potentially pass from mother to fetus, though we are unsure if transmission occurs in utero or during delivery. EBV transmission to a newborn is not particularly concerning unless the newborn has documented genetic immunodeficiencies or HIV that would make controlling EBV infection difficult. An EBV-infected mother has passed anti-EBV antibodies to the newborn which should do just fine controlling the infection especially since EBV infection in young people is basically asymptomatic anyway. I would be shocked if a newborn infected you with EBV for the first time because if they’re already infected, the strain they have is probably straight from you – if they didn’t get it in utero or during delivery, they probably got it from your saliva or breast milk. In general, the later in life you are first infected with EBV, the worse it gets.

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              Thank you for all of that.

              Btw, it wasn’t a newborn, but a teething baby doing a lot of drooling, still nursing (and drinking pumped milk), but by that time hanging out with the babysitter and other kids without me there, so we weren’t being exposed to the same things. They started getting occasional illnesses that I wasn’t having.

              There was an illness I had in my teens that wiped me out for months but I was told that all tests came up negative for mono. I was pretty much told that it was in my head. I think one of the docs even said something about me needing a boyfriend and I’d improve. Who tf knows…maybe that *was* mono (as I suspected at the time) and they were all incompetent and mean.

              You work in a fascinating field…and one with far more frontiers and unexplored bits than most other sci.


              1. ramonaflowers89*

                I’m glad my comments were helpful! A baby hanging out with other people definitely increases the possibility that she got EBV from someone else. There has been some research to suggest EBV is passed through breast milk as well, so she could have gotten it that way. Either way, she would have had antibodies from you that would have helped contain the infection.

                Those doctors were awful at their jobs and sexist to boot. Being exhausted for months as a teen is a pretty classic-sounding case of mono, but I bet you came up as a false negative because our tests weren’t as accurate back then. If I had to guess, they were running a monospot test on you if this was before the mid-80s before polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was invented. Monospot tests are not recommended for general use because a) they generate false negatives in 10-20% of adults undergoing acute EBV infection, meaning its sensitivity, or ability to detect patients with EBV, is mediocre. So basically this test can miss up to 20% of infections in adults and even more than that in children. (Monospot tests generate false positives in 5% of cases or so, so its specificity, or ability to detect patients without EBV, is better.) Sadly, even if you were properly diagnosed, we don’t have any drugs to speed up recovery – the treatment is still to rest and avoid any activity that could rupture your spleen. If you had your primary infection in your teens which I strongly suspect is the case, you reactivated at 36 and 46 due to immunosuppression due to extreme exhaustion potentially plus other illnesses.

                If they were running more specific antibody tests, they might have missed optimal windows for detecting specific antibodies during your primary infection. For example, antibodies against EBV nuclear antigen (EBNA) don’t appear until 2-4 months after infection, so if you were seen in the first 2-3 weeks of symptom onset, antibody tests for EBNA would be negative. Antibodies to viral capsid antigen (VCA) and early antigen (EA) appear during the acute phase of infection, but anti-VCA IgM (a certain class of antibody) and anti-EA IgG (another class of antibody) disappears after 4-6 weeks and 3-6 months post-infection, respectively. Therefore, if they were testing for anti-VCA IgM two months after you felt sick, they would not see it. Only anti-VCA IgG usually persists long-term, though long term persistence of anti-EA shows up in about 20% of infected people. So if they did run more specific antibody tests, they could have been looking for antibodies that your body hadn’t made yet or antibodies whose titers already declined.

                After 1985 when PCR was invented, you could do nucleic acid-based tests in addition to antibody tests. PCR amplifies a targeted segment of DNA many times, so you can see if very small amounts of a certain DNA sequence are present in a sample. All I would have to do now is take a saliva sample and do PCR looking for EBV genomic DNA since the presence of EBV DNA is much more trustworthy of indicating an infection than looking for anti-EBV antibodies. Thankfully, PCR makes EBV diagnoses much more accurate now.

                Viruses are endlessly fascinating to me, so I’m glad other people are interested in hearing about them. Herpesviruses are a small field compared to flu and HIV since they mostly don’t cause life-threatening illnesses, but I still think they’re really cool. I worked on flu myself for a little while before my masters, though I worked on H5N1 flu, which mainly affects waterfowl and chickens instead of humans. I also dabbled in HIV research during my masters as well, so I’ve worked with a wide variety of viruses. I really like talking about my work and educating people because there’s a lot of misinformation and alarmist nonsense out there regarding both viruses and vaccines, so I’m always happy to answer people’s questions.

  51. Observer*

    #4 As Allison says, you don’t have to accommodate her. But you are waaay over-reacting here. This wasn’t some carefully chosen gift that was intended for this person specifically. It’s part of your employer’s attempt to build morale and loyalty. I’m not knocking it, but you need to realize that it’s just not the same thing as a hand crafted item designed JUST for someone.

    You suggest that she return the item for a store credit, which is fine but not possible without a receipt. What’s more, if she goes back and asks for a store credit she’ll know how much the item cost anyway, as that’s how much credit she’ll get. None of this is the end of the world, nor do I think that selling the item for less than it’s worth rather than getting full credit at the store is so bad. But the suggestion seems to indicate that you are not really thinking this through and are reacting rather emotionally about a transaction that really does not typically carry a large emotional load.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I don’t actually think it was particularly horrible of the employee to ask about switching; I also don’t think it’s horrible for the company to say no.

      1. Alice*

        To say no? Not horrible.
        But to say no and then spend a few months grumbling, out loud or internally, about the rude person who wanted to return the TV — not cool. Even saying yes and then holding a grudge about it would be not cool.

        1. fposte*

          Sure, but that’s not what’s happening here. This raffle just occurred, and this person just asked this question.

          I actually think as long as it’s totally internally, it’s perfectly cool to grumble because it doesn’t affect anybody. But I agree that even if only for her own sake, the OP should make her choice and then let it go.

    2. SallytooShort*

      She doesn’t mind her knowing how much that cost. She doesn’t want it out how much the boss spends altogether. Giving her the receipt for all the merchandise would do that.

      I think it’s unfathomably rude to win a price and ask to exchange it.

  52. CM*

    #2: My group of friends would joke about one friend’s “Canadian girlfriend” (who was never around) who then became his “Canadian wife” (who is still never around). Honestly, I still think it’s kind of funny, but maybe because we all obviously know she exists. But if he ever said, “OK, knock it off, I know it’s a joke but it’s getting annoying,” we would stop immediately. So I think a low-key, “I get it, I’m over it, not funny anymore,” would be a good approach. Come to think of it, maybe she’s never around because we’re jerks? No, that can’t be it.

    #4: Am I the only one who hates the idea of this raffle where you have the opportunity to get a valuable gift — which is really more like a bonus, not like a personal gift, because it’s at a company holiday party — but there’s a good chance it’s not something you want or need? And your only choices are to decline and miss out entirely, or to accept and have to deal with lugging home a 50″ TV and figure out what to do with it? I don’t think this employee was rude at all — they said thank you and politely asked if they could exchange it, and again this is their employer and not a personal gift tailored for them. It sounds like OP#4 and her boss are assuming everyone will be delighted by expensive electronics when it would be kinder to give people a broader range of things that they may want.

      1. CM*

        What?? I’ve only heard it (and I’m positive everyone in our group means it) as “this significant other is imaginary,” not anything about sexuality.

  53. nep*

    #3 — When I drink as much water as I should to be healthy and feel good, I’m going to the bathroom at least a few times an hour. Agree with Alison — nothing worth worrying about and no need to explain if nothing’s going on to disrupt your work/productivity.

  54. Amber Rose*

    What is it with terrible bosses being extra terrible about serious medical issues?

    LW 1 you already got advice and are sorting this out, so let me just offer some sad fistbumps of solidarity. My boss is also being a jerk about the surgery I have in January and I’ll only need 2 or 3 days. :/

    1. Neosmom*

      This. Which is why I shared yesterday with my two bosses how much I appreciated their support and understanding when I am going to be off four consecutive work days in January for surgery and recovery. They were all, “Of course, of course,” but they just don’t realize there are other bosses out there who are inconsiderate about the health issues of their staffs.

    2. Letter writer #1*

      Thanks Amber, appreciate the solidarity. Good luck with the surgery…and dealing with your boss!

  55. YarnOwl*

    OP #3, just wanted to say I am in the exact same boat as you (take a medication that’s a diuretic, if I don’t stay hydrated I get awful migraines, so I drink a ton of a water and go to the bathroom a lot) and it’s not a big deal at all! I’ve been at my current job just shy of two years, and nobody cares or has said anything. I think your old coworker who asked you that was an aberration and also very rude.

    Our in-house risk management person also told me once that it’s good to take frequent bathroom breaks to stretch your legs and give your eyes a break from looking at the computer! So there ya go!

  56. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

    Apologies if this is semi off-topic (and this is definitely not any sort of actionable advice or commentary).

    I LOVE the Price is Right – used to watch it with my great grandma on summer breaks and it brings back tons of warm and fuzzies. #4 totally reminds me of when the contestant is a super bro-ey, clearly lives in a frat house type and they win a very classic dining room set or a collection of designer handbags. Always makes me giggle a little bit at how they have to maintain their excitement, but on the inside are probably just thinking “uh, wtf do I do with this”. Also, apparently a contestant in wheelchair won a treadmill once…

    Anyway – I’m definitely in the camp that a raffle prize is just that a prize, not a gift, and if you don’t want it your options are to decline it, regift it (I always imagine those frat boy’s mothers being excited by their new dining room set) or sell it. However, I totally agree with Alison that this is very personal/cultural so I get where the employee was coming from in asking. As long as the OP is kind in their response it’s completely fine to deny this request.

    1. Roscoe*

      But on the price is right, you can take the cash equivalent (less taxes). Based on a lot of these responses, they should just take the dining room set, even if taking the cash and spending it on tuition would be ideal for them.

      1. Colette*

        The Price is Right is a business that exists to distribute prizes (well, actually to make money providing entertainment). They likely have contracts set up to allow them to purchase – or not – based on what the winner chooses. A business that does raffle prizes at a party is unlikely to have that option – if the winner wants the cash, they can’t have it because it has been spent on the prizes.

  57. Naruto*

    #2, these aren’t real accusations. They don’t really think your boyfriend doesn’t exist. They’re just teasing (I assume because they think it’s funny).

    I don’t know if it helps make this less upsetting to reframe it that way, but maybe you should try it. I think that’s accurate, in any event. It doesn’t make their teasing funny, but try to keep in mind that they aren’t actually doubting you or your partner’s existence.

    1. LW #2*

      I forgot to mention in my letter that someone said “The only reason I know he exists is because coworker #3 told me so,” so it makes me think it’s been a topic of discussion amongst a small group of people.

  58. Thursday Next*

    Re. LW #4, A raffle is its own unique process. It’s not a gift exchange, and it’s not the opening salvo in a negotiation: there’s a qualification for entry (buying a ticket, showing up at an event, being an employee), a drawing (or re-drawing, if that option is used), and a distribution. It’s a prize, not a gift. If I won a TV from entering codes from a cereal box into an online drawing, I wouldn’t be able to bargain for something else unless the rules specified a cash trade-in.

    Store returns even with a receipt usually result in a refund to the original method of payment, and the company probably didn’t pay for all these items with cash. So it’s unlikely that a receipt would enable the employee to return the item for cash anyway.

    1. Thursday Next*

      I meant to say this is why I think the employee isn’t “rude” or “entitled,” simply misguided.

    2. Sue Wilson*

      If I won a TV from entering codes from a cereal box into an online drawing
      Presumably your active participation matters contextually in that situation both in regards to your attitude and your expectations.

      1. Thursday Next*

        Fair point–a door prize is a better analogy. And I’m not saying the employee shouldn’t feel upset or disappointed–just that there’s no obligation for the OP to alter her approach in response to the employee’s feelings.

  59. Snark*

    RE: #5: I took a term position at a Federal agency amid a Greek chorus of higher ups assuring me that “[Agency] doesn’t waste good talent,” telling me their doors were always open, and that they’d do all they could to make sure I could move to a permanent position. And I was there for two years, with the same half-dozen people clapping me on the back, congratulating me on my excellent reviews, hinting that I was building a sterling reputation. And then, at the close of those two years…..well, all of a sudden, those open doors were closed, and nobody stopped to talk to me in the hallway, and nobody really had the time to meet with me, and, well, you understand, with the budget where it’s at right now….well…..

    And then, on the last day of October, my talented ass walked out the front door, trailing po-faced well-wishes and a good reputation in my wake, and I spent nine months unemployed before I went to work as a consultant. [Agency] lost me forever. But they did keep a bunch of deadweight, past-retirement-age goofballs who could barely use Word, who I watched meet in the break room for two hours a day to shoot the shit and drink coffee!

    Point being, action talks. No action is being taken. Time to promote yourself, my dude, and make it crystal-clear why you’re leaving in your exit interview.

  60. EddieSherbert*

    OP3: I’m also a frequent bathroom breaker (a mix of a lot of water and an excuse to stretch my legs) and no one has ever judged me for it (at least not out loud!).

    Once, my grandboss commented on it in a “me too!” kind of way, which was odd but not that bad – and thank goodness it was short and has never come up again!

    the exchange was:
    (I walk up to water fountain, where grandboss is filling bottle)
    “Eddie, do you drink a lot of water?”
    “yeah, like X a day.”
    “oh, I thought so – you go to the bathroom almost as much as me and I drink Y amount!”
    (grandboss walks away)

  61. LBK*

    #4 I gotta say, I’m surprised how many people are on the “suck it up and be grateful you got anything” train when that’s usually such an uncommon sentiment here. When we talk about things like team outings or dinners, there tends to be a consensus that companies should aim to be accommodating to their employees so that they can actually get enjoyment out of something that’s ostensibly being done as a nice thing for them. If you’re trying to your show your employees appreciation, it should be done in a way that they will actually appreciate.

    I don’t see how this is any different. If the boss is so miffed that people don’t like their random prizes, why not just give everyone a bonus instead? Again, if the ostensible point is to do something nice for the employees, then this shouldn’t be an issue at all. If the point is that people should be happy they get anything…well, then this is just an ego trip for the boss. If the gifts weren’t personalized, no one should be taking it personally if someone wants to exchange.

    1. LBK*

      I guess what it ultimately comes down to is I think the exchange issue is a red herring – a raffle is a crappy way to give things to your employees, so if you insist on doing it that way you can’t be too petty about how they feel about it. Otherwise just give them a bonus and be done with it.

    2. Roscoe*

      You articulated in a way I was having a hard time doing. it seems that every other thing like this is “if its not a reward for the recipient, is it really a reward”. But this time its, suck it up and be happy you got something.

    3. SallytooShort*

      Or why not just do nothing instead?

      I don’t get anything for Christmas most people I know don’t. I can’t imagine being so rude as to ask to exchange a prize I won if I did.

      1. LBK*

        If you’re on Team Suck It Up across the board when it comes to bosses giving things to their employees, then that’s fine. I just don’t get how this is different from the myriad other letters where most of the commenters agree that if you’re going to bother doing something for your employees you should do it right.

    4. CheeryO*

      The context of a raffle is different than a dinner or team outing, I think. Assuming not everyone wins something, you should go in with zero expectations, and if you win something, neat, whereas you’d go into a dinner or outing expecting to have an okay time, since a good boss will try to accommodate everyone. Not everyone can be accommodated by a raffle, and that’s not the intent. It’s not Team Suck It Up as much Team “Shhh, please don’t ruin the fun thing for everyone.”

      We don’t have all the info – maybe the employees do get a holiday bonus on top of the raffle. Either way, it’s a fun thing that the boss likes to do for the employees, and asking for a receipt for a prize is definitely tacky, since winning a big-ticket item is still a nice thing, since you can presumably use it, sell it, or give it to a friend/family member.

      1. LBK*

        It’s not Team Suck It Up as much Team “Shhh, please don’t ruin the fun thing for everyone.”

        So you get forced to not have fun in order to ensure everyone else does? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

        What I keep coming back to is that if this supposed to be a fun activity, the boss should be working to ensure it actually is fun for everyone. If you’re not going to do that and you’re going to get in a snit and cancel the whole thing because people aren’t happy, then your goal was never to show appreciation, it was to make yourself feel good.

        1. LBK*

          And, as a corollary to that, it’s pretty crappy for the boss to fall back on “it’s all just luck” when he’s the one who made it based on luck in the first place. It’s not like he took them to a casino and someone got mad because they lost $500 at the blackjack table – there’s no reason this has to be done via raffle in the first place. If you’re going to choose a less than ideal means to distribute gifts to your employees, you have to be flexible in accommodating how it works out.

      2. CM*

        From the OP’s description, there are around 20 people and it sounds like there are at least 10 gifts. So I don’t see this as a raffle where there is one prize and somebody is lucky if they get it. It sounds like everyone, or almost everyone, would expect to get something. (And if it’s “almost everyone” that’s a problem in itself.) I think people are interpreting the “raffle” part differently and that’s why some people are on Team Suck It Up when they ordinarily are on Team Be Nice to Employees.

      3. Kyrielle*

        Enh, lots of things are worth a lot less as soon as they’re used rather than new; selling something can be a hassle in itself; there’s a tax hit if it cost enough to count; shipping large things like a TV is expensive. If you don’t have a use for it yourself, and you don’t have anyone local that you might gift it to, then you have just picked up a liability with a tax hit, and have to hope you can sell it for enough of its value to cover that hit (probably yes) and the aggravation factor (maybe).

        I’m personally real uncomfortable with selling on things like Craigslist and meeting strangers, and real short on time, so the aggravation cost for me in an analogous scenario* would be large.

        * Namely, an expensive, slightly bulky, gift I couldn’t use and didn’t have a local friend/family to pass it on to.

    5. Sylvan*

      I agree. I can see how this could be seen as rude, but I’m not understanding the vitriol towards OP.

    6. oranges & lemons*

      I agree. I’m a bit surprised that some people seem to find this so rude. I really don’t think it’s a big deal to see if it can be returned–it’s not as if the employer has any emotional investment in the recipient’s reaction to the gift, since it was given at random. If they received feedback from employees before the raffle that more people would rather have X than Y, I imagine they would probably take that into account–so why does it make a difference if they instead get the feedback later?

      In future, I would just make it a practice to enclose gift receipts for every raffle item. Why not make it as easy as possible for employees to get something they’ll really appreciate, if the purpose is to do something nice for them?

    7. Kyrielle*

      And also, if you 100% can’t use it, then *at best* you got a gift to give to someone else. Oh, and you’ll be taxed on it, whether it’s treated as compensation or a prize from a raffle (I think the former, but it doesn’t matter), which means you’re actually out money. In order to gift or have this thing you would not have chosen. (Maybe, MAYBE you would have chosen to gift it if it cost only $tax amount, but barring that….)

      It’s not just a “not getting anything” the way it was when I got a Christmas gift from my company of a promo pen for the company (anniversary year and there were more pens left over than employees, you see), and it didn’t even write.

      It’s an active loss because of the tax aspect, which doesn’t come into play with much smaller things like non-functional pens.

      It’s true a large TV or other such items are *super awesome* to someone who can use them, unlike the non-working pen (which pretty much no one would want, I assume). But to the person who cannot use the item for whatever reason, they are just an added expense.

      I see how wanting to return it makes people uncomfortable, because socially you don’t *say* that, even if you *do* it.

      But…this is not a social situation, and presumably the goal was fun for employees and a positive hit to morale. This is not achieving that goal.

      (Making it clear that if someone wins a prize they can’t use, they can decline, other names will be drawn, and their name will go back in for the rest of the drawings, might be simpler and kinder in future years, though.)

  62. Not So NewReader*

    Prize winner: I see a lot of comments here that say the employee is rude for asking. I am not sure if we decide that this person is rude/not rude helps OP to figure out what to do here. Even if we decide this person is rude, that does not retract the question. The employee has asked this question and OP needs to answer. I don’t think OP should lecture the employee on being rude.

    I think most can agree that the question is, at very least, blunt. And from there I think it is safe to say that OP can give a blunt or direct answer in reply. I am a big fan of matching what is coming at me. OP, if your answer becomes , “No, we can’t do that” then you have successfully answered her question. Just because it’s not the answer she is hoping for does not mean it’s not an answer at all.

    1. Reba*

      It’s interesting to see how the *gift* aspect of it — with the social obligations and politeness norms that brings, like not directly discussing the price, accepting the item graciously no matter what — are colliding with the *compensation* aspect, where I think most would agree that discussions about compensation should be direct and clear. It isn’t rude to want to know how much you’re going to be paid at work, or to get paid in a reasonably convenient way. This is a form of compensation, since it comes from work, but dressed in a form of social giving.

      1. LBK*

        I think you nailed it – people are viewing this through a social lens because that’s usually the context of raffles, but I think work norms take precedence here. You can’t have expensive items being given from a boss to their employees and treat it purely like a social exchange.

        1. Reba*

          Yeah, it strikes me that while blurring the lines (social/work webs of obligation) can definitely work in some businesses but it is probably very rare. And if one set of norms is winning out over another, we should take a look at why and who benefits most from that.

  63. Observer*

    #3, I know you have medical reasons for your frequent bathroom visits. I’d still have a talk with your doctor to double check, because diuretic + extra hydration for migraines (my sympathy on that, btw!) doesn’t always lead to such frequency. So, a check in might be worth your while.

    Having said that, regardless, I agree with all of the people who said that as long as you’re getting your work done, most people won’t care. And unless your boss is a busybody, you can shrug off anyone who sticks their nose where it doesn’t belong. Certainly your old coworker is out of line. The question doesn’t sound like it came from concern and a desire to help, but from nosiness. Fortunately, most people have better things to do with their time and energy.

  64. DevAssist*

    #4 is super rude IMO because the gift was won in a raffle. A gift receipt would be perfectly normal if the gift had been picked out for LW #4, but since it was a raffle, the gifts weren’t being given on an individual basis.

    1. LBK*

      This is so interesting – I actually think it’s more rude to return a gift that was specifically chosen for you, because the person actually put thought and effort into it. The saying does go that it’s the thought that counts; no thought is put into random raffle prizes.

  65. Sue Wilson*

    #4: You should be including gift receipts with high-end prizes, if possible, anyway or have people only entered if they want the high-end prize. Because right now you’re giving an employee three burdensome choices if the prize isn’t to their liking: 1)reject the gift and risk being seen as rude (there are plenty of people who would see this just as rude as asking for an exchange), 2)ask for an exchange and risk being seen as rude, 3)house an expensive object that they can’t do anything with and have to protect if it’s something typically stealable. Even if they regift, they might have to do 3) for a time. And to the employee, have you done anything beyond besides have good intentions? No. Good intentions aren’t meaningless, but they sometimes only modulate negative responses, not create positive ones, which is your point, no? Yes, it’s a raffle, but presumably you’re trying to show goodwill? So be very good with your will.

    1. boop the first*

      There’s also option 4) Trade unwanted prize with the coworker who got the “lesser” prize that you wanted. or even 5) give it to someone who would appreciate it, since it was a free item.

    2. PersephoneUnderground*

      This- if we’re going by social gift rules, it is thoughtful to include a gift receipt in case your recipient can’t use the gift or has one already or it doesn’t fit etc., so that they can exchange it without ever having to let you know they did (since telling you that is the problem, not them exchanging one gift for another). So this employee without that option had to either deal with a gift they didn’t want/couldn’t use or ask you for help exchanging or returning it. That’s a tricky call, and there’s some debate if they did the right thing here, but you can avoid this whole problem in future by just including gift receipts in the boxes with the gifts/prizes, just in case. Most stores print each gift receipt separate even when purchasing things together, so it wouldn’t be any more work.

      Also, for this situation, you could give them a redacted copy of the receipt maybe, with all but their gift’s price blacked out, maybe signed at the bottom saying this is an official copy of the receipt from your company so it looks official enough for the store to accept? If the barcode still scans it would probably be fine. It might not work but you would have tried to be helpful but not gone to much trouble (not like returning it yourself).

  66. partypants*

    lol on the non-existent BF! –
    I was dating a guy in college that my friends hadn’t met after 2 years; it was better for me to go & hang at his place since my schedule was more open (he had already graduated) and it was nice to be off-campus.
    My friends all referred to him as Figment. It was all in good fun (I did call him that sometimes too) but eventually they moved on to other things.
    I still remember him fondly; an old friend & I recently went to Epcot, rode the Journey to Imagination ride and reminisced about Figment…

  67. boop the first*

    2. What an odd situation! My workplace doesn’t even notice nor care if *I* don’t show up to holiday parties, let alone my spouse. If someone tried to tease me about not believing my spouse exists I would find that very very odd. But then, I don’t regale people with stories about him, so most people probably don’t even know I have a spouse to begin with. Kind of makes me think of my occasional obsession over the existence of Columbo’s wife, a character that is spoken about SO MUCH that you’d think she was a central character, yet she never appears on the show at all.

    4. Speaking of spouses, mine’s workplace found a very nice solution to this. I used to feel so much anxiety about winning anything other than a nice box of chocolate. One year, they decided to give people multiple raffle tickets, and have a bowl for each individual raffle prize. This way, you can apply one or more of your tickets ONLY to the specific prizes you would be interested in receiving. No more worry!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I agree that giving out raffle tickets and having people place them in the bowl in front of the prize they want to win would be best and easiest. We do that at an annual event for a cat rescue I volunteer with and it works really well. Most prizes have a bowl full of tickets. And if you see that one prize has no tickets at all in the bowl, you know not to have that as a prize next year (the speakers OP mentions might fall into this category…). And if someone doesn’t want to participate, they just toss their tickets or give them to someone else.

  68. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#3…Bathroom issue….my apologies if someone has already addressed this above…no time and all that

    Was just going to say that assuming 5 mins per trip to the restroom, which I think is feasible considering time to walk to and from, deal with undergarments, wash hands, etc. that amounts to 2 hours each day. So essentially you are being paid to work 8, but only working 6. Granted, if you can get 8 hours worth of work done in 6, you’re good. also, if you’re salary and you just work longer to make up the difference then my statement is a moot point. And to be clear, I have the utmost sympathy for anyone with health issues that have restroom related consequences. I’m simply pointing this out because at some point, at least one co-worker is going to notice and do the math, if they haven’t already. I can say that if it were me, I’d let my manager know now before someone else raises the issue. Best of luck!

  69. Typhon Worker Bee*

    OP#2, a friend from my last job has a boyfriend who lives in another city and is also very shy. I’ve known her for years, we hang out together outside of work a couple of times a month, and I’ve still never met the guy. She very cheerfully refers to him as “my imaginary boyfriend”, pretends to have photoshopped all the photos of them together, etc. So this is something that some people do find fun. Your coworkers should definitely have picked up on the fact that you don’t find this fun by now and stopped doing it, but they’re not horrible people for starting it.

  70. Not Rebee*

    #5 – your work sounds like my OldJob. 4 years, 2 raises, and all fought for despite assurances from my manager that something was coming. It seemed like everyone wanted to sit on it up at the top, and the ownership change didn’t help. It is nice to have your manager say they think you deserve a raise, and yet another to not get that raise. It was eventually so frustrating (as it tied into my upward mobility and feeling of being appreciated and respected at my job) that I started looking elsewhere. The job search was definitely a long and slow one, but so very worth it when I finally did jump ship (to a 30% raise).

  71. Book Lady*

    “That joke has stopped being funny” is a perfect response to so, so many situations. I think I’ll add it to my repertoire.

  72. willow*

    LW1 – Also, be very careful to not bill any time you might spend on a little project here or there, if you need to go to long-term disability, you have to show a continuous time of not having worked.

  73. Drama Llama*

    A lot of people seem to think gift etiquette rules are different with company gifts because it’s less personal.

    My boss puts a lot of thought into selecting staff gifts including brainstorming ideas with managers. Marketing team will investigate various options. Then I call up multiple stores to get the best price on a bulk purchase. I spend additional time coordinating orders and pick ups etc. The accounting team has to track who gets what and deal with receipts and all the other exciting paper work for tax. So considering the resources and effort behind the scenes of company gifts, I find it rude and annoying when people complain about what they get.

    Also, if someone asked for a receipt that’s extra time for our accounting staff to track down that single receipt (out of the million other receipts they deal with on a daily basis) and they might have to keep that for tax purposes. Which means someone has to call the store, explain the situation, track down an extra receipt, follow up with sales staff when they forget (which they often do), etc.

    I would only ever ask for a receipt if I knew the gifter didn’t care, and tracking the receipt wasn’t going to cause inconvenience. Otherwise, just leave it. A gift is free. Re-gift it or donate if you won’t use. It’s not worth the potential ill feelings.

  74. Red 5*

    LW #2 – I had similar jokes going around with my grad school friends while I was there. Though it was almost worse because my husband hates having his photo taken (a sentiment we share) and I’d only just joined Facebook at all and didn’t even have many pictures of _me_ up there. But my school was incredibly hard for me to get to, let alone for him to come out except for special occasions and really when you’re in grad school there aren’t very many of those. Add in that we’re both introverts who don’t like social gatherings and it was super easy for people to think he wasn’t real and also super hard for me to prove otherwise.

    But the difference is, we both also thought it was funny and we just leaned into it and made the jokes ourselves sometimes. When he finally did come to an event, somebody gasped and did the exaggerated “you do exist!” and he deadpan responded, “Actually, she just hired me to come tonight, I’m an out of work actor.” To be fair, I did also trust that my friends were just making the jokes to be silly and they weren’t being malicious. They wanted to meet him and get to know him because I talked about him often, and because they wanted to know more about me and my life because we were friends. So I knew it was coming from a good place in their hearts and not gossip or being busybodies.

    But in the end the thing to remember is that there are only two people in your relationship, and you guys should live your lives the way you want to in order for the two of you to be happy and the rest of those people’s opinions or comments don’t matter. So feel free to shut them down and just say “that stopped being funny a while back” instead of trying to justify or prove anything to them. If these jokes are from a good hearted place, they’ll stop when they realize you aren’t laughing with them. If they’re not, then these people are the types that will just move the goalpost as soon as you meet what you think they want. You finally convince him to come to an event, they say he doesn’t come to have lunch with you. He comes to have lunch with you, they say there aren’t enough pictures of him on your desk. You put up more pictures, they say there aren’t any of you two together, you get ones of you two together, you’re not looking adoring enough, etc. forever. That’s the type of people you just walk away from.

  75. DJ*

    LW with absent significant other. It gets old when you get constantly hassled of why your significant other isn’t with you. I had that with my former partner who didn’t go to any social things with me. Deep down you probably want him to come along to some work things with you (and don’t let anyone call you a pushy B**** for feeling like that) and work hard at accepting that he doesn’t.
    If the strategies Ask a Manager hasn’t worked you could try saying something like “Is this an issue for you as you’ve raised this a number of times”
    But geeee can’t people keep their insensitive traps shut

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