coworker bogarts all the food at work events, asking for a bonus when resigning, and more

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

1. Coworker takes so much food that other people don’t get any

I work at an elementary school and we have several catered/potluck events through the year. Our problem is that there is one teacher who ALWAYS starts eating before the rest of us and takes a fairly large amount, several times, leaving the staff, especially the second shift of lunch, short on food! Several of us have commented to him but he is either ignoring us or oblivious to social etiquettes. I have seen him taking the leftovers home! What can we do? Who should say something?

If he were just taking a large portion but was eating it on the spot, I’d say that it might just be that the school needs to order slightly more food .. or the person who coordinates these meals needs to issue very specific instructions like “We’ve ordered enough for everyone to have one sandwich and one side. Please don’t take more than that.” And possibly needs to hover near the food table to enforce it.

But on top of that, he’s taking so much that he’s taking leftovers home before other people have even had a chance to eat?! It sounds like whoever coordinates these events needs to be physically present by the food and when they see him show up early, should say something like, “We’re going to open this up for everyone at noon, but not before then” and also “Please limit yourself to one plate until the second lunch shift has all been fed.”

If he’s rude enough to ignore someone with authority over these events standing right there and tell him to stop, that person should follow up with him one-on-one afterwards (and if that person is an admin, she can bring in the bigger guns of her own boss at that point).

2. Can I ask for a bonus when I’m resigning after being underpaid for two years?

In 2016, I took on a management position in a company I had been interning at for six months. I was pretty desperate to find a job, as I was about to lose my insurance, and really struggling financially. They offered me the job, but really lowballed me, and I admittedly made a mistake by not researching salary range for the position. I was living below the poverty line at the time, and what they offered me sounded better than nothing, I loved the nonprofit, and I really wanted to move out of the service industry now that I was graduating college.

I realized pretty quickly that I was being underpaid by about $20K a year, according to market rate, and $25K less than my predecessor. I expressed to my boss that it wasn’t in my budget to continue working for my current salary, and received a 3% cost of living increase at my six-month review.

My boss was then fired, and pretty quickly after that my supervisor left, leaving me doing the three jobs for nine months in the interim. I received excellent feedback from our board, kept our fundraising numbers where they should be, and was repeatedly told I was “holding the place together.”

Our new executive director started in the new year, and to give them credit, they gave me a $20K raise almost immediately. However, at this point I was done with the exhaustion of working at this place and had been looking for new work for a while. I also began to feel that my current field is not right for me. I finally found a job that I think is going to be a great change for me, and I am leaving in a few months when the position opens. I gave my job plenty of notice and have agreed to train my replacement.

They just released my replacement’s salary range, and it’s $20K over what I am being paid now (that is, $20K over my current wage, which I have only had for two months, and $40K over what I was being paid for the first year and a half of my employment). I am furious. I feel abused and used by this organization. They hired me in as naive but very capable, and I held things together in their time of crisis, and I got into about $2K of debt while working here because I had to start buying groceries on credit (I live in a very expensive city). Is there a case I can make for some kind of parting bonus? We are a small organization and we don’t have HR.

It’s very unlikely. Bonuses are generally used as a way to retain good employees. Because you’re leaving, they have no incentive to give you a bonus on your way out.

It’s also possible that they’re looking to hire someone more experienced than you were. You noted that the market rate was $20K over what you were first being paid, and so the $20K raise you got presumably brought you up to market level. If they’re now offering an additional $20K over market rate, it’s very possible that they’re looking for someone with more experience or expertise (especially since you note that you were right out of college when you started, and especially if this role is also going to cover some of your former boss’s and former supervisor’s work). If that’s the case, then you might be comparing apples and oranges.

All that said, if you’re going above and beyond to help in the transition in ways that are inconveniencing you — like working longer hours or staying on longer than you otherwise would to help train your replacement or being available for questions after you leave — then now we have incentive for them to give you a bonus in exchange for that work. You can try to negotiate that! But otherwise, you can’t really expect them to give you more money as you’re leaving because you’re unhappy about the salary that you had agreed to previously.

3. Mentioning a commute and work schedule as my reasons for being interested in a job

I will be interviewing next week for a job and wonder if its okay to mention that the main reason I’m seeking to leave my current place of employment and take this position is because of the location and long commute. Or is that unprofessional? Honestly, even though I’d be taking a pay cut, I’d save a ton on gas (new job would be a 25-minute walk from my house if I choose).

I’m also a homeowner not renter, so I’m in this area long-term if that matters. And because the schedule is 7-3 instead of 9-5 and an hour commute both ways, I’ll be getting home the same time as my kids do from school. No more “latch-key-kids.” Just knowing that I’m much closer to home and kids’ school would give me such piece of mind. Is it okay to mention this? I am a mom first and foremost and what is best for my kids in top priority but is that unwise to even hint to?

It’s fine to say that you have a very long commute to your current job and are looking for something closer to home — but then quickly follow that up by talking about why this particular job interests you, so that they know you’re genuinely enthusiastic about the work itself and not just their location. And for that same reason, the reasons you give for being interested should be about the work of the job rather than the schedule or the proximity to your kids.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with your interest being driven primarily by the location and the schedule — those are important things — but focusing on your interest in the work will make you come across better to the interviewer. They’re likely talking to other candidates whose reasons for applying will be work-focused, and you don’t want to seem less engaged by it.

4. How to handle gift card rewards that I’m getting by doing my job

I work at a satellite office for a design company. I don’t do any design work, but I basically manage the small office and was brought on to help with administrative tasks. I make a lot of purchases for our office, as well as help book travel for people.

I downloaded a browser extension about a year ago in an effort to find coupons for purchases or get the best deals on things. It will automatically search for coupons for you at checkout, which has saved money on some sites over time. However, at other sites it will give you a small randomized percentage “cash back” bonus for using it, redeemable to gift cards. The cash back is tied only to my email account and not any credit card in particular.

I haven’t thought about this gift card thing at all over the last year but I finally just looked at my account (after getting a ton of emails from the site) and it’s eligible for almost $500 of gift cards because of all the travel I booked through a third party travel site.

One of the gift card vendors is as a company that I buy office stuff from regularly for the company. There’s a couple more vendors that I would definitely use in my personal life. Nobody knows I have this browser extension or about the potential gift cards. It’s also unlikely we will ever accrue that amount of gift card bonus again, as the bulk of the cash back came from the third party travel site we are now moving away from using.

I didn’t sign up for the extension for the gift cards, but now that they potentially exist I feel kind of tempted to use at least some of those points towards a gift card for myself. But that would be wrong, right? Should I just use them all for gift cards that can be used to buy stuff for the company? I’m not sure how that would effect budgeting. Should I just forget the points exist at all and go about my life? I feel weird just leaving $500 on the table. But I also feel weird using some of it for myself and am curious what your take would be.

Use them for gift cards to buy things for the company that you’d normally be buying for the company. Buying gift cards for yourself would be unethical, and could look really bad if anyone ever found out about it — you’d be taking personal profit from the company’s purchases, and doing it in a way that deprived the company of the savings their purchases had earned them. (That said, you can certainly let your boss know that you found a way to save the company $500; that’s something you should get credit for doing!)

5. Why do employers want a resume AND an application?

In a discussion of bad hiring practices, a couple of people have claimed that some hiring processes require applicants to submit a resume *and* fill out an application (with the same info), because there is a legal requirement to be truthful on an application, but not on a resume.

The implication seems to be that, you can fire someone for cause (and be supported by the court) if they lie on their application, but not if they lie on their resume. Is this true, and if so, why? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

Not exactly. You can fire someone for lying on their resume. But resumes are subject to the applicant’s own judgment about what to include, and it’s normal to leave off experience that seems irrelevant, or a job you got fired from, or anything else that you don’t think strengthens your candidacy. You can also present it in any format you want, leaving out details that the employer might want.

Some employers ask you to fill out a formal application form in addition to submitting your resume because they want to ensure that they receive all of the information they want — and also because they often want it in a certain format easily fed into their applicant tracking system, and sometimes because they want to ensure that they’re receiving the same consistent categories of information from all applicants.

It’s true that most applications include a signed declaration that everything you’ve entered on the form is true, whereas a resume doesn’t include that statement. But they could fire you for lying on your resume without said signed statement. It also sometimes contains your sign-off for a background check, although they could get that without making you fill out an entire application.

{ 616 comments… read them below }

    1. Sarah G*

      I don’t think it’s illegal in a criminal sense, except in regards to education and licensing credentials. But it’s certainly cause for being fired.

    2. Someone else*

      It’s not so much a “legal requirement not to lie” because it’s an application, as much as many applications explicitly contain some sort of language to the effect of “I swear I’m not lying” + sign here.

      Part of the difference and the point, which Alison points out, is it’s perfectly reasonable to leave stuff out of your resume (which could be construed as a lie of omission, but in most cases is just…making the document as relevant as possible) whereas if the application asks for, say, every job you’ve ever held, they’re making it very clear they do not want you to cherry pick. It’s understood that a resume may be, and many would agree should be, tailored. So if the employer wants all-inclusive info they have to explicitly ask for it. That is of course very different from lying on your resume that you, say, went to MIT when you did not, or have 10 years of experience in X when you actually have 10 months.

      1. LBK*

        Are those kinds of agreements legally binding? I thought it would have to be, like, a sworn affidavit/notarized statement to actually have weight in a courtroom. I always assumed those signoffs were more just for the employer’s own defense so that they can feel more comfortable firing someone who lies on their application; it’s easy to have a clear cut way to say, “You said this in your application and affirmed that it was all true, that turned out to not be the case, we’re firing you.”

        I’m also a bit confused by the “for cause” arguments here assuming we’re talking about the US since everyone’s at will anyway. I suppose it at least gives you a clearer defense if someone tries to sue for discrimination, but either way I don’t know that the signoff makes difference – that in and of itself doesn’t prove whether someone lied on their application or resume, and I’d think most courts would see that as cause for termination whether the person signed off to say it was true or not.

        1. lawyer*

          So whether something is legally binding (i.e., is a contract) and whether it is admissible in court are different questions.

          There’s no broad rule that says a statement has to be notarized or made in the form of an affidavit to be admissible in court – it’s just harder to deny you actually made a statement if it was notarized, and sometimes affidavits are required for specific legal purposes. But there’s not a general rule of evidence that says signed statements are inadmissible unless notarized or witnessed.

          In terms of whether the statement is legally binding, contracts don’t even have to be signed to be binding – the parties just need to agree to be bound. (FWIW, here, the “contract” is essentially “in exchange for being permitted to apply for this position, I agree to answer certain questions truthfully.”)

        2. Someone else*

          My point was actually not about whether it’s legally binding, but rather that the framing of the question “a legal requirement not to lie” sidesteps the issue. A lot of the time there are these “is this legal?” questions and legality is not the reason to be concerned. There are plenty of things that are legal but still will get you fired. If someone lies on an application, the worry should not be “am I going to get arrested/sued”, it’s “am I going to get fired”. And the answer to the latter is probably yes. Lying to one’s employer in general, be it on an application or when you’re already working there is often a good reason to fire someone. The signoff isn’t there to try to “prove” you lied. The signoff there is to distinguish between “on resume, it’s normal not to include every single thing ever” but if the application specifically says “tell us everything ever”, the signoff is more about “I get that you’re asking for something different here and followed instructions” to avoid a later debate of “well I didn’t know!”.

    3. Thornus67*

      It’s less of an issue of being a legal requirement to not lie, punishable by fine and three hours in the stocks or whatever, and more of an issue that lying on a resume/application is pretty much always found to be cause to fire an employee. So, lying to get a job = open to being fired for cause, which generally disqualifies the employee from unemployment benefits and other black marks when trying to get a new job.

      1. Casuan*

        The stocks!!
        There’s an interview, reference checks, the candidate is called back & led into the interview room… instead of a table, chairs & an interviewer the candidate is put in the stocks for the same amount of time as the second interview would have been… or until the stockee realises on their own why they’re in the stocks.

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      I have fired someone for lying on a resume. Though they were a freelancer and that’s less ‘firing’ and more ‘not continuing to hire’.

      1. Betsy*

        Ooh, fascinating! I’ve always wondered about people who lie on their resume, or even just people who overstate their experience a little in an interview. I am so not that kind of person that I just wonder how anyone could have the kind of misguided confidence to do that and try to get away with it.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          The stupid thing is he TOLD ME.

          I needed someone with expertise in InDesign. His resume said he could use it and had also trained staff at Bigname Media Co in it. Then he told me, while at my office working for me, in a conversation about how freelancing can involve learning new things quickly, that he had to train some people in it when he didn’t really know how to use it and he had to just wing it.

          He could use InDesign just fine. His work was okay. I could almost have forgiven him exaggerating the training on his resume (he implied he had done it as an expert / known what he was doing) but the sheer stupidity, lack of critical thinking and poor attention to detail involved in telling me a story that showed he exaggerated it meant he just had to go.

          1. Casuan*

            “misguided confidence”
            For some reason I’ve never heard those words together…they explain so much…

            Ramona, is this software use something on which you could have tested him?
            Just curious, for how long did he work at RF & Co?

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              His ability to use the software wasn’t the issue. It was the fact he exaggerated on his resume and then couldn’t even remember having done so. Nope. Nope nopity nope.

              And he wasn’t working for me but for a magazine company where I was a production editor. I couldn’t keep using someone I didn’t trust!

        2. Xarcady*

          A person of my acquaintance once told me the story of how he cheated one employer by stealing from him, and got caught and fired. Because he had worked there several years, he was then faced with what to do with his resume–leave the job off and have a huge gap, or put the job on and risk a really bad recommendation.

          His solution was to create a job at a fake company. He was joined in this by the three other people who were caught stealing along with him. They had a friend who would be their reference at said fake job. (This was easier to get away with in the days before the internet and cell phones. ) So he put a fake job at a fake company on his resume and had a friend ready and willing to be a fake reference.

          Minutes after regaling me with this saga, he asked me out on a date and was very surprised when I turned him down. I think he thought I would be awed by how he got around the sticky problem of being caught stealing from his employer. Oddly, I was not.

          1. JamieS*

            I don’t blame you. If he didn’t also rent some office space and put up a bogus business sign, register for a phone number under the fake company name, and create a simple yet memorable website then it’s obvious he has terrible follow through which isn’t a desirable trait at all.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I’ve seen people in the news that lied to get jobs chargers with, obtaining pecuniary advantage by description including one guy who’d worked at an NHS hospital for something like 7 – 10 years before a routine check founded he didn’t have the degree he claimed to have.

        1. Ruth ok*

          And yet we have politicians such as Iain Duncan Smith lie about getting a degree at an Italian university, when he just went to a language school in Italy, and about being educated at a college, where he just took a few short training courses for his then employer. So it can’t be that illegal!

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            So you’re saying there are these categories:
            Things that are illegal
            Things that politicians do

            Sadly not mutually exclusive. I can definitely Venn me some diagram there.

    5. Wintermute*

      In the US employment matters are almost never a matter of criminal law (even things people presume are “illegal” like sexual harassment), but only civil law. There are cases that are sort of in-between like unpaid wages but even then it’s not really criminal, it’s a matter of civil law but the state will pursue them on your behalf.

      If a business relies on your deception to their detriment and it’s a situation outrageous enough that people were placed in danger, then maybe it would be reckless endangerment but the company would bear some of the fault as well.

    6. Knitting Cat Lady*

      If you are in Germany and claim to have a title you actually don’t, like a PhD etc. that is treated as fraud.

      Similarly if you apply for a job you need a license or certification to practice (law, medical, driving instructor…) you will get a hefty fine.

      Outside of that lying on you application might be one of the few instances where you could fire someone without notice in Germany.

  1. Fergus Formerly Known as the Artist Fergus*

    OP1 : I was wondering is the food nazi is prepared with a cooler packed with cold packs and containers for this shipment at the food table.

    1. juliawkiwi*

      Peripheral story: At one place I worked a co-worker (a software developer) took leftovers from Friday lunch and put them in his desk drawer. They were icecreams (the type on sticks). They ended up in a puddle on the floor under his desk the following Monday. He seemed … surprised and disappointed.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        How did he think that was going to go???

        (I say this as the person who one summer ordered a box of 100 otter pops shipped to the office and kept them in the office kitchen freezer and shared them with everyone — popsicles are important.)

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        Was he also excited by electric staplers? As he clearly shares that particular intern’s level of worldly knowledge…

        1. kitryan*

          A bit after that post I found out that my office has an electric hole punch. I’d seen electric staplers before, but never an electric hole punch. My enthusiasm for it was tempered somewhat by the inevitable comparison to clueless intern.

      3. PB*

        And here I just thought that he left them there for a few hours, which would be bad enough, but a whole weekend?

        I knew someone in college who was shocked that ice cream melted in the fridge. His reasoning was: “It keeps my soda cold.” A truly smart person in many realms, just not practical things like that.

        1. JennyAnn*

          To be fair, if you get some brands of ice cream sandwiches, they don’t really melt. Like, even in the hot sun for a couple hours. The cream content combined with stabilizers slow the normal melting process pretty significantly.

        2. Genny*

          I used to do food safety reporting at my fast food job (i.e. go through the list of food safety requirements and ensure we were meeting them). One of the questions asked you to list the temperature of the refrigerator and one asked for the freezer temps. The fridge had to be between 36-39 degrees IIRC and the freezer had to be around 0 degrees. The idea that something could be kept frozen in the fridge given that disparity in temperatures makes me smile.

      4. Specialk9*

        I was so not expecting this story to go in that direction. Not sure what I was expecting, but a developer not understanding freezing is.. hunh.

    2. shep*

      There’s a person in my office who almost does just that. From what I’ve seen, she has extra storage containers in her office and swoops in before everyone else gets a chance and takes just a TON of food. She’s pretty stealthy, but I’ve noticed her doing it a few times.

      I try not to eat too much of the office goodies so I rarely miss out because of her, but the principle of the thing rankles me a little.

      1. Nita*

        My husband used to work with an entire office of people like that. The containers came out in force at holiday parties! That was nothing though, everyone still had plenty to eat… but then there was the cafe incident. This office is in a big building, with a cafe on the ground floor. After Hurricane Sandy, the cafe was closed for months to fix flood damage. For their grand re-opening, they invited the HR teams of all building tenants to have a free sandwich and drink. Somehow this office’s HR team read that as an invitation to all staff (some 300 people), and forwarded accordingly. The cafe became very popular in minutes. There was a line out the door. I’m told people would grab a sandwich and drink, take them upstairs, and get back in line. The cafe staff was a little shell-shocked, but kept serving everyone that was “invited.” I guess they thought it would look worse if they went back on the invitation. They only lasted a couple of hours, then ran out of food and had to close down for the day.

        On the bright side, I guess everyone noticed the cafe is open again.

      2. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

        It shocks me that people actually do this. It would never occur to me to take home leftover food that I didn’t pay for, unless of course, I was explicitly told that I could. Even then, I wouldn’t want to start claiming leftovers before everyone else got the chance to eat. This is so strange to me.

        1. myswtghst*

          Same here. At my last job, we did a lot of team potlucks (there were 8-12 of us on the team at any given time), and it was usually a game of “well, you have kids, you should take the cupcakes!” or “you should take the extra chips and dip home for your roommates!” because we were all too polite to just pack up leftovers of food we didn’t bring in.

        2. Ambpersand*

          I work in a department of about 35-40, and when we have carry-ins or birthday lunches that people donate towards there is always ONE GUY who will come and take 3-4 helpings for himself. He never brings anything in or donates, but is usually the first in line for the food and will come back over and over until it’s all gone. And if there’s leftovers, he’ll scoop them up before anyone else has a chance to even come look. Not too long ago he actually took an unopened 2 liter of soda at the end of the lunch. Just for himself.

          1. TardyTardis*

            At the school where my husband worked, there was an admin official who would always clean out the container of Twizzlers, but he was too high up for the secretaries to complain about. My husband would sometimes replenish those Twizzlers, which he didn’t eat because too much sugar and all that.

            Guess whose copying got done first.

    3. B*

      I have to object to your use of the word “nazi” to describe someone who is taking extra food. Highly inappropriate and horrible use of the word, not something that should just be said as a flippant remark.

        1. The Naked Cowboy*

          Seriously. There are actual honest-to-god Nazis marching openly around the U.S. today – and there’s a semi-famous tweet pointing out that the term “feminazi” started getting used a lot less right around the time those actual Nazis came out to play again.

          We really don’t need to use the word. I like “grammar nut.”

          And in this case, the person in question could not be reasonably called a ‘food nazi,’ since he’s only stealing the food, not enforcing some really weird rules about food. Bad term overall.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        It still has significance to some of us. Part of my family is from Alsace. Hitler sent them to the death camps because the weren’t German enough.
        But because my family had a German surname we were accused of being nazis. I got chased home a few times and beat up because of it.
        The irony is that my family had emigrated before WWI. All of them either served on the front lines or worked in the factories in support of the allies.
        So yeah, those words have echos.

        1. The Naked Cowboy*

          With respect, that was a “soup” nazi, who had strict rules about how to order soup. The “food nazi” is not creating or enforcing any rules whatsoever, just taking food – it’s an incorrect reference in addition to being distasteful and offensive.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The site rules ask people not to nitpick other people’s language. If something is widely considered offensive, it’s fine to call it out once, but long threads debating it are derailing and off-topic.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              I’d say that nazi is an offensive word. A lot of younger people don’t realize the full significance of it.
              It is often used in a racist way.
              I’d like to hear your thoughts on why that word is OK but other words aren’t. Especially since you now know that some of your readers have been terrorized by it.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’m a Jew. I don’t use the word that way myself. But again, the site rules ask people not to nitpick other people’s language. If something is widely considered offensive, it’s fine to call it out once. That doesn’t mean that I want long derailing threads debating it, which was the issue here.

                1. Time to Go*

                  Wow is all I can really think to say, to know you are ok with this reference and use of language especially when your readers, and many others in the world, have told you they find it offensive. While you have been very helpful, and I have praised your site to others, I will no longer be a reader.

                  From a fellow Jew who never got to know my extended family because they were all killed by the Nazi’s.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Where on earth are you getting that I’m okay with it? As I’ve said repeatedly now, it’s fine to call it out. But I’m not going to allow long, off-topic threads that derail the comment section, which is what happened here (and which is what I deleted).

  2. persimmon*

    #2, I think you can separate how you feel from what is likely to happen. Yes, you have a right to be angry, in my opinion. It isn’t ethical for employers to to dramatically underpay for the value of the work they hire, just because they can do so. Alison is right, in that I can’t imagine these people giving you a bonus right now. But that doesn’t mean you have to feel well-treated. You get to judge that.

    1. Someone else*

      The flip-side that occurred to me right away was that it sounds like they may have realized they were not paying market rate for what they really want this role to be moving forward, and now that #2 is out the door, they’re going to do right by the next person. Doesn’t help OP2, but does show the place may be improving their practices under this new leadership.

      1. JamieS*

        Agreed, it sounds like the new executive director actually pays market rate as part of their management style. I’m left wondering if the former management was truly clueless or intentionally trying to screw OP over but at least the company seems to be moving in the right direction and OP has found a new, hopefully interesting, job so that’s a positive.

        1. Thlayli*

          They were not just “clueless”. She was paid less than her predecessor to begin with and then took on the responsibilities of two more senior roles as well. She did 3 jobs for 9 months and was only paid for the most junior of those. That’s not just “clueless” management they knew they were taking advantage.

          1. BonusOp*

            Hi. OP here. I’m inclined to think that Thlayi is right. At least about how the board viewed my job in the interim. Apparently when my new ED started she pointed out to them that I was grossly underpaid (she told me this) and their response was “Didn’t she just get a raise?” About the 3% cost of living raise I got before I took on the other two roles. Looking at my question in the harsh light of day I realize there’s no way I can ‘ask’ for a bonus. I was just so furious. But I do love the new ED, and if I wasn’t leaving to work in a new position (which pays a comparable rate to what I am being paid now) I would be happy to work with her. I don’t blame he new ED in any way.

            I do wish colleges and schools actually prepared students for real-life situations like this. I also grew up on welfare with one parent and with one parent working poor, so i had very little guidance on situations like this. In school they should offer Ask A Manager 101!

            I know better now. Thanks for the comments supporting my anger, haha. I am still angry for sure.

            1. CoveredInBees*

              One thing I have seen a number of times where someone leaves [a non-profit] after having taken on a number of roles is that the former employer tries to get the former employee to “take care of a few things” including training the new employee when you’ve already started your new position.

              IF AND ONLY IF you are so inclined, you can be available “as a consultant” after your last day. But, as long as you have done a reasonable job wrapping things up, you do not owe them any free labor. Technically, this would be illegal (assuming you’re in the US). They may be lovely people working on a worthy cause, but that doesn’t mean you have to go uncompensated for your time.

              1. BonusOP*

                They are bringing on my replacement a month before I leave and I don’t plan to consult. Thank you for the advice!

                1. OklahomaSpeaks*

                  Thank you so much for writing in. I think it’s easy for new graduates to get hoodwinked regarding salary especially in the nonprofit world and just this current economy in general. It took me a few years to find my footing while working with people who used their nonprofit poverty wages to supplement their trust fund lol. Good luck and just to let you know I am currently at a nonprofit making an excellent wage.

              2. AKchic*

                This. Offer to consult at a reasonable rate, but do not donate time. They already cheated you out of so much, and you can be sure it was on purpose.
                As much as I can understand the non-profit world, I do know that yes, they will take advantage of people if they can.

            2. Justme, The OG*

              My dream job is actually preparing kids and young adults from underserved populations for the professional world. Resumes, interviewing, building a professional wardrobe on a budget, negotiating for raises, how to leave without burning bridges, etc.

              1. Anononon*

                Hi. I do this for a living. Look into Job Corps as an employment option. That is exactly what an Employment Specialist does for the young adults in the program.

              2. Paige Turner*

                This would be awesome…like Big Brothers, Big Sisters but specifically for career mentoring? Sign me up :)

                1. zora*

                  There are lots of nonprofits doing similar work who take volunteers, too. Summer Search is a program that starts with High School students to support them getting into college, but career mentoring is also a big part of the support they provide.

            3. Mona Lisa*

              Just want to commiserate with your situation a bit, BonusOP, and how much it sucks. I was desperate for a job following a move for my husband to attend a doctoral program and took the first job that was offered to me. The ToxicNonProfit paid waaaaay below market value and made a practice out of hiring young, naive women so they wouldn’t realize how underpaid they were. It took me researching how similar organizations paid positions like mine to realize how badly I’d been taken in, and that’s the point I finally got out.

              I hope this new opportunity turns out to be the out you need to get your career and salary on the right track! Definitely use Alison’s suggestions about how to skirt around naming your salary history in future interviews so you can be sure your new salary is a market value instead of based on what you’ve made in the past. Those are helping me as I start job hunting again.

      2. Mazzy*

        This was me five years ago and Lord I hate that place, can’t admit they made a mistake with me but redeem themselves by hiring someone with so much less experience at a high salary after I left. Commensurate with the job, but why pay the person whose don absolutely nothing fo you yet commensurately but not someone with a track record?

        1. TardyTardis*

          Oh, I know this one! I was working part time at the library, and found out that a new person with no experience had been hired at higher pay than myself (was another woman, so no gender stuff). That was when I left for a full time job that paid better per hour (turned out to be boiler room call center, so I only stayed there a month till I moved on from that one, too).

    2. Lil Fidget*

      This OP’s letter is the story of my life at nonprofits over the years. It’s just – par for the course, they frequently depend on somebody’s passion in lieu of salaries etc. TBH, OP should have started looking as soon as they landed the full time job – because you just have to keep moving up in order to get a living wage (not that I’m blaming you, OP). Consider that this job got your foot in the door and gave you experience that you wouldn’t have gotten at a better-run organization, and now you can leverage that into a better career. That’s the payoff, because it ain’t money.

      1. Positive Reframer*

        To this point, make sure and read the past letters about how to avoid people trying to base your new salary off of your prior one. It does sound like you should have at least a good reference there.

      2. zora*

        Seriously, this. I know SOOOOOO many people in the nonprofit world who have a similar story from when we were starting out. It really sucks to be the one who didn’t know what to ask for and see the next person get so much more. In my case, I accepted the job for almost 0 money, but then while I was in the job I started trying to advocate for myself… both about their illegal employment practices (paying us as 1099s, withholding pay), and just jerky behavior like not providing benefits at all when we were all working 60+ hours per week. It didn’t work for me, they basically pushed me out. But because I had made so much noise, the next person was offered a salary, benefits, etc. It really sucked at the time and made me so angry.

        In the long run, I’ve decided my best revenge is to support younger people coming up as much as I can, and make sure they all know what they deserve, and are negotiating salaries, and just in general advocating for themselves. The biggest lesson I took from my experience was you have to watch out for yourself, because NO ONE else is doing it, even when you are in a supposedly warm and fuzzy nonprofit where ‘we are family’.

  3. Tex*

    OP#4 – If there are a low number people in the satellite office (say 10 people), your boss might be open to splitting them on cards equally…so everyone gets a $50 card. Or maybe s/he says get 5 $100 gift cards for incentive purposes to give out and tells you to keep one for your efforts at saving money.

    Basically, loop your boss, you might be surprised by what they decide.

    1. Casuan*

      OP4, the savings belong to your company. Definitely keep track of how much you saved the company whilst converting it to a perk so you can claim the achievement.
      Tell your boss about this & give your recommendations on how to best use the gift cards [usually one shouldn’t give a situation without offering at least one solution]. One of the uses could be Tex’s suggestion for the employees & if you do suggest this be certain to say why you recommend these bonuses. However, I don’t think you can push that beyond a suggestion because it isn’t your decision to make.

      1. Itsa Me*

        I definitely think you should talk to your manager! We get rewards points and things from company expenses and are told to keep them for ourselves. Don’t do anything behind your company’s back, but hopefully they’ll tell you to keep the money. If not, at least you know you did the right thing!

      2. Anne of Green Gables*

        I agree that it’s not worth the risk and to ask your boss. One thing I thought of was getting the gift card to a restaurant and using it to cater in food for the office. I know it’s not the same as getting the benefit all to yourself, but it is a way you would get at least some benefit.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          Definitely – there are lots of perk things this could be used for – a Keurig and k-cup budget, a new office microwave, some supplies for the office kitchen (bowls, cutlery, etc.), office art or things for parties throughout the year.

      3. Casuan*

        disclaimer: OP4, I don’t think you had any ill intent. Most of us probably have stories about this grey area (where we questioned the ethical thing to do) & I’m glad you asked AAM about this.

        If you use the savings for personal use, at worst it could be considered theft. At best it would show poor judgment that you did so & that would cancel any positives of having saved on expenditures.
        Intent could be at play here: What were you thinking when you installed the browser extension? Was it to save the company some money? Were you hoping to profit off the company’s savings? Had you planned to tell anyone?

        Whilst I believe your intentions were good, I don’t think using this service was yours to make. Some managers might not be keen to to use a service like this for reasons you wouldn’t necessarily know. Some of these reasons are: budget concerns (the savings give false costs which can affect future planning), profit margins, taxes, & as others have already said there could be privacy concerns.
        If one of my employees had installed & used this extension without permission then we would be having a serious talk. This wouldn’t be a fireable offence although it would cause me to pay attention to your judgment in general. It would definitely prompt me to talk with IT to prevent something like this in the future.

        IT Query: Isn’t it possible to block users from installing browser extensions?

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          OP4 mentioned the reason they added the extension was to try and save some money on things they were already buying. It seems that the extension mainly searched the web for coupons and or if any other sites had the same product for a cheaper price, that was the reason OP installed the extension. It seems that the cash back incentive was not really thought about by OP and that is why there was the $500 balance the built up.

          Yes companies can block the downloading of new software onto company computers. I’m not IT professional but I’m pretty sure it is easy to require new software be approved by an Admin IT person.

          I think this is mostly the company’s fault for allowing downloads and/or maybe not having a clear web/use policy in the hand book. I am assuming that OP has not gone against some king of written policy in the employee handbook.

        2. Genevieve*

          It seems possible that it was on her personal computer that she also uses for personal purchases—that’s what I assumed.

      1. The Commoner*

        Where I work, there is a policy that explicitly states the miles earned from flights belong to the company.

        1. Miss Betty*

          I’ve flown four times in my life and I don’t know how mileage points works. Aren’t the linked to the flier (like the ticket and boarding pass)? How can you transfer them from a person (The flier) to an entity (the company)? How can someone else, not linked to the points, use them? It seems like they’d go to waste that way. Or are they like cash that you can give away to anyone? (This is just a matter of curiosity for me since I doubt I’ll ever fly enough to make it worthwhile to join a mile points club.)

          1. Koko*

            They’re usually non-transferrable with most airlines. The only way most companies can effectively claim ownership of the miles is to require that any miles accrued have to be redeemed for business travel before the company pays for any business travel. They could have that as a company policy like pretty much anything else. But if you quit, those miles are yours – they have no real legal claim to them.

            1. neverjaunty*

              This. At least in my experience, airlines give the points to the person booking the flight, not the person using the ticket, if they are different.

              1. Aimlesstraveler*

                Nope, this isn’t true. Airlines require that the FF number on the reservation matches the name of the person flying. The only thing that the person who is paying would get is the potential for CC points, if they use a card that accrues them. I do all of the travel booking for my company and have a FF number rejected for not having the “Jr.” in the reservation, even though the name/DOB/etc otherwise matched the FF account perfectly.

              2. Not a Morning Person*

                My experience is the opposite; the passenger gets the points. The person who pays may get points based on the form of payment, for example, using a credit card that accrues mileage points and not cash, but the person who is the passenger typically gets the mileage points from the airline for being the one on the flight, as long as they are a member of that airlines program.

            2. Jerry Vandesic*

              There are some airline frequent flyer programs that accrue points to both the flyer as well as the company. The two programs are separate, and the employee still earns their points. The company point are pooled together and are used for discounts across the company.

          2. Penny Lane*

            Miss Betty – they are linked to a flier, typically. There are some airlines (Southwest comes to mind) that have programs that if, for example, you book and you cancel, the value of that ticket goes into a “pool” that could be used by someone else at the company (so if your conference to Phoenix gets cancelled and you aren’t going to go to Phoenix, the company still has $400 to send someone else to Cleveland two weeks later). But that’s about the ticket value, not the miles.

            There’s no reason not to join – even infrequent trips add up. Many credit cards also give frequent flier points, as do hotels. We have an Amex that gives us 5x the points if we book through Amex.

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            Signing up as a “frequent flyer” has benefits beyond cashing miles in for tickets. At least in my experience, it allows me more information on and from the airline’s app. And although I don’t fly often enough to get free trips, I’ve been getting free magazines for years!

        2. zora*

          Well that varies by company, because every company I have worked for has explicitly stated that miles earned from flights belong to the employee. It’s sort of a perk you get in exchange for having to travel a lot for business needs.

          However, if a flight has to be cancelled and there is a credit or a voucher, THAT does belong to the company. If it can’t be used for the same person on a future business related flight, there are ways to get it transferred so it can be used for someone else.

        1. Anony*

          I think it generally depends if people book on their own and file for reimbursement or if it is payed for directly by the company. I’m not sure if it is possible to transfer miles. It definitely isn’t easy.

          1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

            This is so interesting – I’ve done quite a bit of travel/planning booking for business travel over the last several years and this is within two different companies, though same industry.

            Every time the the travel has been booked on either a generic company card or the individual’s company card (so never on a personal card to be reimbursed). Every time I’ve entered in the individual’s frequent flyer miles number after booking and then the individual has been allowed to keep the miles/points accrued for personal usage.

            I also used to make meal reservations for employees through an online service that would accrue points (exchangeable for gift certificates towards a meal reservation booked through the same system). The company totally could have used those certificates to defray business costs of future meals, but I asked my boss and she oked me to use them for myself personally.

            I think this really varies by industry. I can definitely see it being policy that all savings be passed on to the company particularly in the non-profit or government world, but in my industry (private sector, finance) that has not been my experience. I don’t think it’s inherently unethical to use the gift cards for yourself, but I would definitely check in with your boss and let them make the call.

            I’d also urge any company that does expect their employees do this to put it down as an official/written policy. Because there definitely are companies that allow for this sort of thing it would be best to avoid confusion and just have it as official policy.

          2. Fiennes*

            I’m a freelancer, who pretty much never books her own travel, but I still get to keep my miles. I travel a fair bit for work, and often for long distances, so that works out nicely. It’s a perk I really appreciate.

            1. Penny Lane*

              I understand non-profits may be different, and government may be different, but really, letting an employee keep her own frequent flyer miles is pretty much the standard in the business world, in my experience. It would be a noticeable non-perk.

              1. Genny*

                The federal government allows you to keep your own rewards points on flights, hotels, rental cars, etc. Honestly, if even the federal government, which is notoriously stingy about travel requirements and employee perks, lets its travelers keep rewards points, there’s no reason other orgs can’t let their people also keep the points. I would majorly side-eye any company that didn’t let me keep my points.

          3. zora*

            No, it doesn’t matter who pays for the flight. It depends on what Mileage Plan number you use when booking the flight.

            My current company enters the personal mileage plan numbers for all employees with the travel agency that books our flights, so that all flights go to the personal mileage plan of the employee who is flying.

            I guess a company could use a Company mileage plan, and use that number for all flights so that company gets the miles instead.

      2. Penny Lane*

        It is very common that mileage on flights accrues to the individual taking the flight as a personal benefit, not a company benefit, because it’s generally acknowledged by professional workplaces that it’s a “sacrifice” / hassle to travel and this is a small reward. No such “sacrifice” or hassle exists when someone is merely buying $1,000 worth of copy paper, filing supplies and post-it notes at an office supply store (or similar), so it stands to reason the person isn’t going to be personally “rewarded” for being a frequent office-supply-buyer (unless the company has explicitly said it’s ok for them to accrue points).

        1. Koko*

          It’s also usually done that way because the majority of airlines have rules that say frequent flier miles are non-transferrable.

          1. Penny Lane*

            Well, frequent flyer miles are non-transferable in that I can’t directly give them to someone else’s account, but I can redeem my points for a ticket in someone else’s name (such as my parent, spouse or child).

      3. Aimlesstraveler*

        FWIW, I think there was some kind of a legal case at some point and it was determined that companies cannot claw back things like miles and points from flights & hotels.

      1. Penny Lane*

        In my previous work capacity, when we ran workshops, we gave little gifts to our clients ($10-$25 gift cards – Starbucks, Panera, Amazon, etc.) for winning various subject-related contests. Now, those were gifts to clients, not gifts from their employer (though technically we did bake it in to what we charged, but we didn’t break it out explicitly) but I guarantee no one was declaring a $25 Starbucks card that year!

        1. Natalie*

          I don’t think they would need to anyway – taxes are paid by the giver, not the recipient in this case. Those gift cards were small enough to be deductible business expenses, but even if they weren’t the business would pay the tax.

          1. Boredatwork*

            There’s a lot of weird tax rules on gifts (which I won’t get into). But from an employee standpoint, if you company gives you something, assume it’s already included in your “wages”.

              1. Anononon*

                My understanding is gifts to employees can be considered taxable income if it is over a certain dollar amount. I believe that threshold is around $25. But IANAA.

                1. Natalie*

                  That is true for actual items, but not cash or cash equivalents (like gift cards) are always taxable income if they are given from an employer to an employee.

                  Client gifts are a completely different thing. I don’t believe they would ever be considered income to the client, and on the giver’s side they are deductible if they are under $25/client/year. Larger gifts to clients are perfectly fine, but you can’t take them as a business expense deduction.

        2. LBK*

          It’s not an equivalent situation because gifts to employees and gifts to clients are treated differently by the IRS. A gift from your employer is considered income. I don’t think anyone’s going to get audited for a $10 gift card but, for instance, we have some annual contests for our salespeople where the prizes are international vacations on the company’s dime, and those definitely have to be reported. In some cases companies will even do a one-time gross up of your paycheck to cover the additional tax liability, although I think that’s more common with bonuses than gifts (eg once my whole department was supposed to get a $500 bonus so they gave us ~$770 so that we actually got $500 after taxes).

        1. Natalie*

          The de minimis threshold for employee gifts doesn’t apply to gift cards as they’re considered cash equivalents, so gift cards in any amount are taxable income.

    2. Not a Blossom*

      This was my thought, too. If the boss is halfway decent, she will likely let you keep at least part of the reward as a bonus for saving the company money. And if not, well, at least you don’t have to worry about someone finding out and you getting in trouble later.

    3. Koko*

      I was surprised at the answer to #4. I believe I use the same browser extension. I don’t do any purchasing for work, so the specific case doesn’t apply to me, but I wouldn’t have thought cashing in my Honey rewards from work purchases would be any different than when I book my own travel arrangements on my credit card, the company reimbursements, and I get to keep the credit card points/cashback/miles. Why is the latter OK but not the former?

      1. Natalie*

        Speaking only to the ethics and not the legalities, when you use your own credit card, you’re tying up your credit on the company’s behalf (and letting them put off using their own cash, which is actually of value to companies). Depending on how quickly they reimburse expense reports, you may even have to use your actual cash to pay the bill before you get reimbursed. So it’s a short term loan to your company. Collecting your credit card rewards is a (small) compensation for that, or at least isn’t compounding harm.

        1. Lisa*

          One could point out that by using the browser extension, you’re handing over your data to a 3rd party on the company’s behalf, so there could be a parallel between miles/points and these gift cards. Regardless, companies have specific policies about credit card miles and points – you don’t just keep those without looping in the employer.

          1. Positive Reframer*

            I could see the data collection by the 3rd party being a potential issue for some companies.

            1. Ellen Ripley*

              That’s what I came here to say – some bosses, particularly in some industries, would be not happy that you installed this browser extension that tracks and collects the company’s spending behavior without official sanction.

          2. Natalie*

            It’s not your data, though, its the company’s – you are doing the purchasing as an agent of the company, not as an individual. The data would be the same no matter who was sitting at the keyboard.

      2. Lil Fidget*

        Nah, because these are work purchases it’s weird for her to profit off them personally – it makes it look like she might have made higher cost purchases or specific brands to benefit herself, at the company’s expense (which isn’t true, but in finance matters you should avoid even the appearance of impropriety, unfortunately).

        Maybe OP can think of something work related that she personally would enjoy (like office supplies that would make her job more pleasant / easier, or an ice cream party she could attend, or whatever) and pitch this idea to her boss with the “free money.” Boss might go for it.

        1. Koko*

          Ah, that’s something else I hadn’t thought of. Yes, I know all about optics and incentives and things that look like incentives.

          It hadn’t occurred to me initially that you would choose more expensive items to get more cashback, because that racket only works if you’re buying with someone else’s money! Since I use the extension in my personal life with my own money I’ve never thought about it from that angle.

      3. Eleven*

        I am super surprised at answer #4 too, and not sure that I agree! When I was our office manager I did a TON of ordering on my company card. I used Ebates which saved my company a TON of money (because they find coupons, free shipping deals, etc.). The online retailers give Ebates a kickback for driving traffic to their site, which Ebates shares with the customer in the form of a percentage of ‘cash back’ on their purchase.

        I have never once considered it unethical to keep this cash back for myself (which can either be in the form of a gift card, or a deposit into my PayPal account). I did a lot of research to find the best prices and coupons for my company which has easily saved us thousands of dollars over the years, and it literally doesn’t cost my boss a dime for me to keep these rewards – it is a fun incentive for being the person who has to manage this stuff. It is not money that my company would be receiving otherwise and it’s not like I am spending company funds to buy myself gift cards.

        Legitimate question: If I went to the grocery store to buy some food for an office event, would it be unethical for me to swipe my Giant card to get a discount on the items, knowing that I would be getting some gas rewards on my Giant account? I feel like this is exactly the same thing as using Ebates.

        I think it is similar to how some (many) catering companies try to entice people by throwing in a free lunch for the food orderer (knowing that usually the person doing the ordering is an admin who doesn’t typically get to partake in the meal). I don’t find this to be unethical.

        1. Koko*

          Now the grocery/gas rewards example has me leaning back towards my original view again.

          It seems like maybe it’s not only about the process, but people are taking into consideration the amount of the benefit and how much of an inconvenience it was for you to do that part of your job. The person above who pointed out that fronting money is a short-term loan, thus giving you justification for earning a small reward, might also say that physically running errands is an inconvenience and you’re being compensated for that. I also feel like if she had earned $23 in rewards people would look at it differently than when it’s $500.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Well, all of my job is actually very inconvenient, as it keeps me from watching Netflix on my couch. So I don’t think “inconvenience” would come into play. Using my own credit card to pay my employer’s expenses isn’t just an inconvenience, and it doesn’t really compare to physically running errands as part of my job, which I’m being compensated for (and if not, that’s another issue entirely).

            1. Koko*

              I mentioned the inconvenience because that was cited above as a justification for keeping frequent flyer miles, because travel is a hassle. Alison has also often pointed to business travel being inconvenient as a reason why it’s OK to, for instance, submit a $4 cafe latte for reimbursement even though if you were at home you would have just made drip coffee and not spent anything.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                I guess I missed that. I searched for a post that mentioned “inconvenience” and didn’t find anything other than yours and mine, so I can’t tell which one you’re referring to. Is it that it’s inconvenient/difficult/impossible to transfer frequent flyer miles to another person? Is that where the inconvenience factor comes in? Because otherwise, I don’t see any context for it. The OP is shopping online. It’s part of her job. She’s not doing anything that’s any more or less convenient than the rest of her job. (And the $4 coffee isn’t a good analogy, because the reason you can’t make your drip coffee at home is because you’re not at home. It’s not inconvenient, it’s impossible). Sorry if I’ve missed your point entirely! :-)

                1. Koko*

                  No problem, I was paraphrasing from memory, Penny Lane’s comment:

                  “It is very common that mileage on flights accrues to the individual taking the flight as a personal benefit, not a company benefit, because it’s generally acknowledged by professional workplaces that it’s a “sacrifice” / hassle to travel and this is a small reward. No such “sacrifice” or hassle exists when someone is merely buying $1,000 worth of copy paper, filing supplies and post-it notes at an office supply store (or similar), so it stands to reason the person isn’t going to be personally “rewarded” for being a frequent office-supply-buyer (unless the company has explicitly said it’s ok for them to accrue points).”

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Oh, okay. I’m not entirely sure most people get to keep their airline miles because travel is a hassle – I think they get to keep them because it’s too difficult to transfer them back to the employer. But even if I’m wrong, it doesn’t make sense that someone would therefore be allowed to keep rebates based on the “inconvenience” of ordering supplies. I mean, when I travel for work, schlepping to the airport and buying expensive airport beverages and spending the night in a hotel isn’t part of my job, it’s just something I have to put up with in order to do my job. There is definitely a level of inconvenience. But ordering supplies online is the OP’s actual job. There’s no extra inconvenience attached.

                3. Marthooh*

                  As someone replied to Penny Lane, it’s not that companies compensate for the inconvenience, it’s just the way airlanes hand out points.

                  What’s not quite clear to me is whether all the $500 would be available as office-supply-type gift cards. OP may not have a choice about what kind of cards they can get, so that might make a difference as to how useful the company would find this feature. Definitely consult your boss, though!

        2. Lil Fidget*

          Somehow I feel like a coupon is better – like if you’re buying office supplies and you get a 50% coupon for a home goods store, I think you could legit ask your boss if it’s cool to use this yourself and they’d probably say yes. A gift card to any vendor feels very different to me. I think it’s telling that OP wants to hide this from her boss and hope they don’t notice. That’s the first sign you’re out on a limb.

          1. Eleven*

            That is very true – I would never feel the need to hide this from my boss (and when I trained my replacement I encouraged her to set up an Ebates account since she would be doing so much ordering) but I never explicitly asked for permission I suppose. I work for a small business so my boss (the CEO) is really the only person I have to answer to on these matters.

        3. fposte*

          The thing is, what matters isn’t whether the user thinks it’s unethical but whether the employer does; without permission from the employer, it’s not ethical to assume. My state employer would forbid this–it’s actually against state law–and it would forbid your Giant example as well; I’d have to check on the free lunch but it runs close enough to a kickback that I wouldn’t be surprised if it were forbidden as well.

          1. Eleven*

            That’s interesting – I am in the private sector so there are really no standards for this kind of thing. I would imagine it being very different for government employees.

            1. fposte*

              That’s why you ask :-). If your employer is cool with it, great, but, as neverjaunty notes below, it creates an incentive for employees to shop based on their own benefit and not the employer’s, so plenty of companies won’t be cool with it.

            2. Judy (since 2010)*

              Many large companies have a gift policy that states the value that employees can accept from a vendor. Usually something in the $25 range max. Anything larger needs to be declared. So a vendor can take me to lunch when they’re visiting me. But a dinner might be a problem. Any swag also has to be of nominal value. I understand that the people that have purchasing functions have a much stricter policy. As an engineer, I can direct procurement activities, but I’m not the final purchasing authority.

        4. bb-great*

          See, I think the free lunch from the caterer is a different situation. It’s a business expense incurred by the caterer to build a relationship, and not something that could potentially be shared with the office. And with the Giant card, if you’re being asked to leave the office and run an errand, I wouldn’t begrudge you those rewards either, as that’s presumably outside the scope of an ordinary work day. But if ordering supplies is just part of your core work duties–eh. No one is giving me a “fun incentive” for looking at spreadsheets all day.

          I think it’s a legitimate call either way, to let the employee keep the rewards or use them themselves, but it really has to be cleared by the workplace and it’s not something you should just do without checking.

          1. bonkerballs*

            I think lots of people have jobs where running errands would be a very normal part of their work day. I know it has been in several of mine. Does that change your thoughts on the giant card?

        5. JB (not in Houston)*

          I see where you’re coming from, but you are earning ebates on purchases you did not make, so you did not “earn” that cash. You justify it by saying that you are saving the company money, but usually people who are tasked with making purchases for the company are expected to try to find the best deals anyway. It may well be that your boss wouldn’t care if they knew. But I don’t know that your boss would be thrilled with you saying that you only try to save the company money when you get something for it personally on the side.

          1. Eleven*

            I think you have legitimate points re: clearing this with the boss (and after reading this feedback I fully intend to make sure that this is on the up-and-up) – but I want to point out that I definitely do not ONLY try to save the company $$ when there is something in it for me. When you make as many purchases as I do, it can be *extremely* time consuming to shop around for sales, deals, and coupons – especially for large purchases when there is a lot of potential savings on the line. That is why I started using the browser extension in the first place. I still need to do my research, but I have help and don’t have to worry about missing a great deal. Many if not most of the expenditures that I make are through vendors that don’t even participate with browser extensions, and naturally I still try to shop around and find the best deal – I just don’t have access to a shortcut.

            And I will add that I know (from personal experience) that many people do not take the effort to shop around for best prices, especially on small purchases – because it is not their money so they don’t really care to spend 15 minutes researching in order to save the company $3.00. They just buy from their usual retailers. But that $3 here and there really adds up over the course of a year – especially for a small business. (Then again, I work for a small business where everyone wears many hats. If there was a single person dedicated to inventory & ordering, maybe they would be the best sale-seeker of all time).

            1. Tex*

              The $3 here and there does add up – but it should be up to the boss to set general guidelines if finding that $3 in savings is the highest and best use of the employee’s time. It depends if the employee is overhead or business generating, it depends if the employee is earning minimum wage or is a $150/hr consultant, it depends if there is a long list of projects that needs to be attended to or the employe truly does have free time.

              1. LBK*

                Right – if you’re paid $20/hr and you spent 35 minutes finding a $3 discount when you could’ve spent 5 minutes and paid full price, you actually just lost the company $7.

            2. Christmas Carol*

              Don’t ever accuse me of not making an effort. When you don’t work for a small single office company, that $ 3.00 saved is more than negated by the costs of my company setting up umpteen individual vendor numbers/purchase order templates/accounts payable authorizations/ISO quality certifications etc. etc. etc. for each new supplier for each deal of the week. not to mention the loss of long term bulk discounts obtained by combining the purchasing power of several dozen branches in at least two countries. We have a whole department dedicated to inventory and ordering, and they are not “sale-seekers.” They go above and beyond to get us the best prices on both supplies and inventory for the long term, because we are planning on staying open for the long term.

              Further more, don’t ever look down your nose at your small local vendors. Some times immediate delivery, service after the sale, and good advice are worth more than a few pennies saved on the interwebs. The lowest cost is not necessarily the best value. Finally, it sounds like you are working at a small company yourself. I hope your customers don’t have the same attitude you do.

              1. Eleven*

                I have literally no idea how you are interpreting anything I said as “looking down my nose at small vendors” or “accusing you of not making an effort” but obviously something I said has rubbed you the wrong way. My main job function has never been inventory and ordering, I am only speaking from personal experience as an executive assistant who did a lot of purchasing for my boss and for our office of random items. I work with small and/or local businesses regularly – not sure what I said to imply otherwise.

              2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                @Christmas Carol I don’t know if this was your intention or not but your comment came out sounding really harsh against Eleven. Unless I missed it I don’t think Eleven ever mentioned you by name or was trying to say no one else but them make an effort to save the company money. You are right sometimes for small or big companies even just the time spent searching for a deal might cost more money then you actually save, with bigger companies the process that comes with approving a new vendor getting things set up take a lot longer and cost more money as well. Eleven didn’t say anything bad about small local vendors, I don’t understand what attitude Eleven has that you are referring to.

        6. LBK*

          Legitimate question: If I went to the grocery store to buy some food for an office event, would it be unethical for me to swipe my Giant card to get a discount on the items, knowing that I would be getting some gas rewards on my Giant account? I feel like this is exactly the same thing as using Ebates.

          I do actually think this is unethical. You shouldn’t be mixing your personal finances into the company’s spending, even if it saves the company money. If your true goal is to benefit the company by getting them rewards discounts at places they shop often, set up a business account for the rewards program that you can use when you buy things for work. Or if they don’t have a way to do that, set one up in your boss’s name that becomes the official office discount card. Don’t use your personal one that’s the same one you’d swipe for buying your own groceries.

          It feels disingenuous to me to claim that you’re only searching for these discounts because it helps the company when there are ways to leverage those discounts without there being any connection to your pocket. It also feels like the mechanics of this are enabling a little cognitive dissonance – what you’re essentially doing is skimming a portion of the money you’re saving the company as a “finder’s fee” of some sort, and if you were doing it more directly I think you’d clearly see that it’s wrong. It feels like it’s only because the system you happen to be using puts the savings in one column and the cash back in another column that you’re able to convince yourself it’s not a problem.

          1. Eleven*

            That’s totally valid, and I honestly appreciate getting a different perspective on it! This dialogue has been so eye-opening. I actually asked my boss about it this morning (I don’t do much purchasing from anywhere other than very specialized vendors anymore, but we are onboarding a new person who will be). We have a great relationship and I was eager to get her take. I framed it as- “this is something I have done in the past, but it just occurred to me that this might be stepping into some unethical territories since I am earning rewards on company purchases.” She said it was totally fine for me to do since she knows me well and knows that I won’t abuse anything…but thanked me for asking.

            This conversation has been legitimately fascinating.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I agree that the best course of action is always get things cleared by your bosses or the proper channels. But I think the Giant card example is more similar to buying flights the hassle of going to the store picking stuff up is worth a nominal benefit to the person who actually uses it. I imagine for most workplaces But what if in the Giant Card example the only rewards are gas discounts, the company never has any gas expenditures, would the ethical thing still be to set up a company account to earn rewards the company can never use, or if the company infrequently purchases food. A lot of time rewards points expire if you don’t use them within a certain time.

            1. LBK*

              I don’t really buy into the “well, it will be wasted on the company, so there’s no harm in me taking them” argument. No one is losing anything by the hypothetical value of those points not being realized; rewards points are not revenue, so the company doesn’t lose anything by letting them expire. At the very least it needs to be run by your manager.

      4. bonkerballs*

        Me too. And I *do* use that (or at least a) browser extension the gives me cash back when I order things for work.

        1. Koko*

          The one I use is called Honey. It’s very highly-rated (4.8/5 on Chrome) and endorsed by TechCrunch, CNET, CNN Money, NerdWallet, and a bunch of others.

          I don’t shop at many of the places where they have rewards, so I’ve earned like $8 in the past year, but their coupons have saved me TONS of money without the effort of looking them up myself. do most of my shopping on Amazon and they have some really cool features integrated with it: It will flag for you if the price has recently changed and show you a chart of the item’s price for the last 90 days so you can see if it’s likely to go up or down soon; it also will alert you if the item you’re buying is available under a different listing or from another seller for less (not including used/refurbished offers), and can automatically swap the cheaper one into your cart with one click.

      1. Natalie*

        That’s what we did at my last company – all of those incentives were raffled off during the annual party.

    4. Susan K*

      I would be really careful about this, or anything where you personally benefit from business expenditures, even if you are sharing the proceeds with others. Even if your manager says it’s ok, somebody could find out about it and it could look like you had a conflict of interest. I know $500 is a lot of money, but you could lose your job over something like this and it’s just not worth the risk. I don’t see a problem with using the rewards to make normal business purchases, though, because that’s basically just smart shopping to save your company money (not much different than, say, getting a deal where you buy a printer and get a free box of paper).

  4. AnonAndOn*

    Number 1 is greedy, taking all the food from people like that. I hope someone monitoring the table and keeping a watch on the food is implemented.

    1. Sylvan*

      Maybe he doesn’t know that he’s preventing others from eating. I used to order food for meetings in an old admin role and people just didn’t really think – or they overthought. (“If I take two cookies, nobody else can have one!” “Everyone’s had a chance to take one and there are ten cookies left. They’ll live.”) But I agree with this along with what Alison said.

      1. JamieS*

        I think this is a bit different. Reasoning that everyone has already had some implies to me the cookie taking was after everyone had a chance to get food and it’s now open season on leftovers. By contrast, he’s taking an obviously obscene amount of food before others have even had a chance to sample a crumb.

        What OP described also sounds less like taking 2 cookies, which is a reasonable dessert unless there’s an obvious cookie shortage, and more like taking an entire plate piled high with cookies and putting them in a Ziploc to take home.

        1. Sylvan*

          Yes; I was actually describing an example of people making the weird mistake that is the opposite of Fergus’s weird mistake.

      2. Anion*

        Except the OP said that “several” people have commented about it to him. I get your point, and in a lot of cases you’d be right, but this dude isn’t innocently clueless; he’s a greedy, selfish pig who is happy to take things meant for others because he only cares about himself.

        I hope someone higher-up at OP’s workplace is willing to take action, because if that were some of the places I’ve worked, life would start getting rather lonely and unpleasant for Fergus there, and everybody would be happy to explain to him why that was happening.

        (I’m sorry to be so harsh, but this type of thing infuriates me. My MIL is like this, albeit to a [slightly] lesser extent.)

        1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

          That always made me so furious. People piled their plates with desserts even before getting a plate of food. I get it, you like sweets, but 5 desserts? You are being a pig.

          1. Teapotty*

            I went to a friend’s wedding where I was pretty low on the seating plan, understandably so as these things happen. I was irritated beyond belief to see the bridesmaids running back and forth to the buffet table before the lower tables had got any dibs on the food, particularly as my stomach was growling. My parents would have made me wait for seconds/thirds until every one else had been offered the chance to eat! It should certainly be addressed in a work situation where everyone should be treated equally.

            1. Anon.*

              I went to a coworker’s party at Buca de Beppo. Family style food. The waiters were told by coworker to deliver all dishes to her end of the table. Basically, I got about 5 stalks of broccoli for my dinner, and my share of the tab was $35. I stopped at McDonalds on the way home. I’ve never forgiven her for that. She stills talks about how great that party was!

              1. Millennial Lawyer*

                Your coworker sounds rude, but in that situation it IS okay to ask to pass down the rest of the food, you know. I’m not sure why you didn’t ask for the food that everyone else was eating.

                1. bonkerballs*

                  I assume Anon is saying that everything went to the head of the table so by the time it got down to her, it was all gone every time.

                2. Alli525*

                  Or speak up and let your coworker know that there isn’t enough food for the other end of the table! A great party host would check, but a *good* host will at least do what they can – order more food, etc. – when a guest shares a concern.

          2. Joie de Vivre*

            I probably looked like a pig recently. But I got desserts for everyone at my table. In the future, I’ll be more mindful of how it looks.

          3. CutUp*

            Wow, this is coming across as pretty judgmental of people’s diets. I’m a very serious and competitive distance athlete and I eat on the order of 9000 cal a day. No, I don’t take food out of my coworkers mouths, but when it’s clear there are leftovers, I absolutely take 5 desserts. Does that make me a “pig”? We don’t need to project moral judgments about food onto others.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              Also, trying to be compassionate, I swear there is some kind of mental illness that strikes people in these circumstances. A coworker of mine is like this – they see all the food piled up and it drives them into this like, mania, where they’re grabbing more food than they can possibly eat.

              However, it’s still totally appropriate to tell this Fergus that he can’t act like this and that he will face repercussions if he can’t get it under control.

              1. Catherine*

                This specific problem seems to come up so often–and seems so difficult to resolve–that I do wonder if it’s more of an emotional problem than common rudeness. I don’t know that it’s a mental illness per se, but it does seem to be more akin to hoarding than to greediness or lack of consideration for others. I know one person who doesn’t have this specific behavior but who does, because disordered eating runs in their family, have major anxiety about how food will be divided up in many shared food situations.

                1. fposte*

                  Yeah, I’ve gone through periods with this. It’s not as bad as what’s described here, but when you say “major anxiety about how food will be divided up” I went “oh, yeah, I know that one.”

                2. Huttj*

                  I know I tend to run into what I call “the pizza party effect.”

                  I don’t eat pork. This removes most toppings that people get when getting pizza for a large group. But hey, there’s always a couple cheese.

                  But if you ask the group what toppings to get they name peppeoni, sausage, supreme, ham, but nobody mentions cheese. But EVERYBODY takes a slice of cheese with their other slices, so it’s often the first to run out.

                  So when it’s buffet style, and I can’t eat most of the entrees, I tend to line up quickly and take seconds at the start so I don’t need to be worrying about when what I can eat will run out.

                  I mean, I don’t wanna be territorial, but I have run into “oh, the hamburger patties are out, but there’s plenty of brats on the grill” when I delay at a cookout.

                  “Variety” sandwitches to me means “grab a beef or chicken early because there’s 17 types of ham, salami, etc balancing those out.”

                3. RabbitRabbit*

                  Huttj, I have that problem being a vegetarian as well. I had an issue the first time I ate Chinese food with my inlaws and they all insisted on eating ‘family style,’ sharing entrees. I got a small portion of my veg dish and nothing else. After that I insisted on hoarding my own dish and only giving out tiny dollops for others to sample.

              2. ThatGirl*

                I had a coworker who – it wasn’t mental illness or hoarding, but she had this like, scarcity mindset that she’d gotten from her mother. She never bogarted all of the food to prevent others from eating, but if there were extra sandwiches, leftovers, extra cupcakes, whatever, she’d box/wrap them up and take them home – as though we were poor college students or something. We were professionals making professional salaries. (I knew her approximate pay, if not all her exact financial details.)

                1. Genny*

                  Haha, I’m that person. I hate seeing food wasted, and I have much lower standards for my personal food consumption than others (though since I used to work in food prep, I have a higher standard when cooking for others). I don’t mind saving that sandwich for lunch tomorrow, so if it’s going to get thrown out, why not save it?

                2. Parenthetically*

                  @Genny, my husband is that person too! If it’s going to go to waste, he WILL eat it. He is a very mild-tempered person, except on the topic of food waste.

                3. Mona Lisa*

                  Oh, this is totally something I would do and have done in the past. I worked as an admin for a department and frequently did catering. Some restaurants and caterers would give enormous portion sizes so we would end up with enough food left after the event to feed a small army. I would sometimes take this food to other departments, but it was frequently late in the day once other people had already eaten breakfast or lunch.

                  I brought extra tupperware to work on the days when I ordered catering and took the leftovers home like Genny so it didn’t go to waste. I always offered to let my co-workers borrow the containers if they wanted to take some home, too, but they rarely took me up on it. Typically I’d skim some food off when I was cleaning up and then take the more reasonable amount of leftovers to a nearby department for them to deal with/distribute to their faculty and staff. For me, it had nothing to do with money (or at least never entirely); I look at it more as a perk of the type of work I was doing.

                4. Oxford Coma*

                  My husband is so unable to waste food that he makes himself sick. He will eat lunchmeat that is going bad, moldy cheese, you name it. He freaks out at the idea of food (especially animal products) going into the trash.

                  I have tried for years to rein him in, with minimal success. I’ve resorted to sneakily cleaning the fridge multiple times per week and hiding the tossings in my neighbor’s garbage can.

            2. Parenthetically*

              They specifically mention people who take five desserts BEFORE anyone else has even gone through the food line. You’re talking about taking advantage of leftovers. Apples and oranges.

              1. CutUp*

                That’s actually not in Keep Your Eye on the Prize’s comment at all, which is only about their distaste for people who take dessert before dinner. Which is not their business.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  “People piled their plates with desserts even before getting a plate of food”

                  Uh? That’s a distinction without a difference, and you’re looking to be offended by something that isn’t directed at you.

                2. LCL*

                  It could be their business if the dessert supply is limited. I’ve seen this done at buffets; everyone politely takes their turn in line, someone in line BELIEVES that there might not be enough deserts, so they jump to the dessert end and pile their plate high before everyone gets a chance. It is kind of greedy.

                3. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Yeah, there are two different issues here. Going for dessert first isn’t a problem. It’s not hurting anybody. Taking five desserts before most people have had a chance at one? That’s a problem.

            3. Dust Bunny*

              He’s doing this when the food is not yet leftovers.

              Also, if you’re on that kind of athletic diet, it’s your responsibility to make up the calorie difference, not your workplace’s. Where I work, there are night shelvers and late-shift workers, so there are never actually leftovers. The fact that something is left over after the initial round of eating doesn’t automatically mean everyone else is free to clean out.

              1. AnaEatsEverything*

                +1 to this. I get what you’re saying, CutUp, but it really isn’t your workplace’s responsibility to ensure you’re meeting your own, very particular dietary needs, and yeah, it WOULD still read to me as rude if you took 5 desserts. Four other people could have had seconds.

            4. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

              Taking leftovers is fine. Making a beeline for the dessert table BEFORE getting the main course and taking all of the chocolate eclairs for yourself because it’s your “absolute favourite” is being greedy. Seen it with my own two eyes.

        2. CoveredInBees*

          My grandmother’s “plastic-lined purse” has long been a family joke. She lived through the Depression and I don’t think ever fully recovered, so we gave her a pass.

          1. AKchic*

            My grandpa used to make my grandma bring ziplock bags and margarine tubs (his cheap version of Tupperware) whenever they went out. His idea of a spendy date was the drive-thru at McDonalds. They were born during the Depression, and we’re Alaskan, so saving things “just in case” was always ingrained.
            That man never met a food sale he didn’t like. When he died, we started cleaning out the house. They have a 3 bedroom 900sf house they raised 4 kids in. The closet in the bedroom I grew up in was a spare pantry. He died in 2007. I found a soup can that expired in 1983 (the year I was born). 10 jars of caramel sauce for his ice cream, 7 jars of pickles (2 expired), boxes of Kraft mac and cheese that he’d bought when I was 7 or 8 (it was character specific for a movie I liked), it was ridiculous.

            I have some of his ashes in Tupperware. Real Tupperware, just to irk him at spending money on the “expensive stuff”.

        3. neverjaunty*

          I wonder if “commented” means that anyone has explicitly told him this is not okay, rather than just making indirect remarks like “are you sure you need all that food?. As AAM has noted in the past, often when people say they’ve discussed an issue, they really mean that they kind of indirectly hinted at it and weren’t clear and direct.

          Somebody needs to flat out tell this guy to stop taking seconds and stop taking leftovers, because others are not getting firsts. Either he’s massively clueless and needs a clue delivery, or he’s a jerk and needs to get shut down, preferably by a manager.

          1. Anion*

            Yes, that’s true. I guess when I hear “commented to him,” I think of it how I would do it, which would be to say, “Dude, give everyone a chance to get some food before you take it all,” or something similar (and possibly more pointed, depending on what others have said).

        1. Penny Lane*

          I doubt anyone has said it directly, though. A lot of the discussions on here seem to be things where people have hinted and hemmed and hawed but have not actually directly addressed an offender with a clear statement of what he is doing, why it is problematic, and how it needs to change. “Bob, you really can’t be taking seconds and thirds when other people haven’t gone through the line yet. It leaves us with not enough food for everyone and that’s not right. I need to ask you to be mindful of this in the future. Now about that TPS report …”

          But I’m willing to bet the “spoken to” comments weren’t all that direct.

          1. Teapot Lending Program Manager*

            I agree. Direct confrontation would probably be most effective, and I would also say in the moment. As soon as Bob begins piling up food, someone, preferably one in authority, should approach him and say exactly the above statement, and yes, in front of everyone so that Bob knows that everyone is aware of this rule and does not appreciate this behavior.

            1. Natalie*

              Oh, I would at least talk to him (clearly and directly as outlined here) at least once in private before correcting him in the public. The latter is a last resort.

          2. Autumnheart*

            I’d say that this is buying into the nonsense about how it’s okay for a guy to do something unless you explicitly say “It’s not okay for you to do this” in exactly the right words and tone.

            He’s been told multiple times. If he decides to ignore the soft language and count on plausible deniability to ignore obvious social norms, that makes him more of an asshole, not less of one.

    2. Oilpress*

      I guarantee they are the first ones at the trough, too. I work in a large office, and every time we have some sort of free food function, half the attendees show up before the event even begins. People want their free food no matter what!

      1. Your Weird Uncle*

        In Old Job I was at the department level in a university. Every year we had a summer picnic sponsored by a local software company that has close ties to the department, and they have some amazing catering. The first year I went it was steak and lobster, the next year was small plates of food around the world, etc. Nice, nice stuff and it’s worth going just for the food alone.

        We were also not a poor department, and our faculty members are very, very well paid. Last year I saw one particularly miserable faculty member loading up his tupperware with all the wonderful food that was on offer. To his credit, he waited until the end of the event so I don’t think people were waiting for their meals, but I still thought the optics were very poor.

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            That’s how my best friend’s mother keeps all her money. Stealing small jars of jam from the hotel breakfast buffet and making her daughter get a prom dress from the low-income charity shop even though she could afford to buy a dozen dresses at regular prices.

      2. Anion*

        I’m trying to remember where on Reddit I just saw a story about a group of people getting fired for sneaking into a conference room and stealing food meant for another department. They set up a sting and everything.

        (Okay. I found the story, but the reddit it’s on isn’t the nicest. So…I’d say Google “The Catered Lunch: Res Ipsa Loquitor,” if you’re interested, because I wouldn’t want to post the link here. It’s not adult content or anything, just maybe a little sensitive. I stumbled across it by reading funny workplace stories; I’ve never visited or heard of that particular sub before.)

      3. AKchic*

        When I had to set up for functions at my last job, I had people gathering around me as I was bringing it in from my vehicle. “Do you need help?” translated to “let me a plate while you’re setting up”.
        They weren’t even in the meeting/event. They just wanted the first plate of free (to them) food.
        We finally had to institute a “leave AKchic alone while she’s setting up” rule. Nobody was allowed to touch that food if they weren’t in the meeting. Nobody was allowed to touch that food until the meeting started. If there were leftovers, I would move the food to the breakroom and send out a mass email alerting staff to the food. If any was leftover at the end of the day, I would bag it up and let people know so it could be taken home.
        HR/c-suite would sometimes foist it on specific people based on need. “Oh, you have kids” was usually the reason. I got a lot of that (I have 4 kids). I would pass it off a lot of the time because I didn’t want to be the charity case all the time, or seem like c-suite was playing favorites. Depending on scheduling and what the food item was, I’d even suggest taking it down to another floor for clients (we worked with addicts, so we had to be careful about providing treats too often or they’d get used to it and expect it then get demanding).

    3. Anony*

      If the main problem is leaving enough food for the second shift, it may be easier to split the food in half before putting it out (and not put it out early). That way he will have the visual feedback that other people have not eaten yet. Or at least the other people in his shift are more likely to get a plate of food before he goes in for seconds.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah people are so weird about free food, I think the answer is usually in the system of laying it out and defending it, versus trying to get people not to be weird about it.

        I say this as someone who FREAKS OUT when there’s free cupcakes in the “popular” side of the office and they never tell us “unpopular” employees, so we miss out on the snacks all the time. It … really shouldn’t bug me as much as it does. Food stuff isn’t logical.

        1. Ten*

          In my last office, some of the more cliquey groups would sometimes have snacks that were just for them, and naturally word would get around that others were left out. The jealousy that came from that…. you’re right. Not logical at all.

          1. Strawmeatloaf*

            Well I think in that situation it makes logical sense, not that you’re jealous of cupcakes (though I would be. I keep going to the grocery store and debating on getting a 6 or 12 pack, haven’t yet) but it’s definitely a “you guys are not good enough/we don’t care about you to tell you that we have these things that are supposed to be shared, and we will make sure that the word gets out so that you feel like you aren’t as valued.” It’s not a nice feeling.

            I mean it’s different if you hear about an event that you didn’t go to and they had artisan cakes for everyone and go “darn, should have gone, oh well” versus someone in the department getting stuff for an entire department, and then one of the sides/one of the groups not being told directly so that they miss it.

            I’m probably not saying it as well as I can, but I think it’s more about the message that it’s sending out rather than the food.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              It’s partly the message, because this is something the company is buying with overhead dollars that is nominally “for everyone” but actually not for the unimportant people …. but also I ‘m sitting at my desk bored and it KILLS ME to hear there were free cupcakes twenty minutes ago, and I didn’t get one, and I really, really, really want a cupcake. Even though I’m like, ‘calm down lil fidget, you don’t even need a cupcake, and you could go buy a cupcake right now if you really wanted one.’ It’s a food thing too :P

                1. Lil Fidget*

                  Oh god, this is too real. I shall always think of this image from now on. *Paces in agitation* *snarls at schoolchildren* *goes back to pacing.*

                2. oranges & lemons*

                  I went to the aquarium last night and watched sea otters duking it out for frozen squid, and this whole discussion reminds me of that.

              1. Anononon*

                I honestly think it’s an evolutionary throwback. Food used to be a scarce resource or you had to work really hard to get it, so whenever easy stuff appeared, you made sure you got as much of it as you could.

              2. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

                Honestly, if it were company money, I’d be tempted to raise it with the boss (or whoever is in charge of buying stuff) in a matter-of-fact way. “Hey, we’ve had a few events where we didn’t have enough food for everyone or we found out after people came by and ate the rest. Would it be possible to do a mass-email going forward so no one misses out?”

                Forget the clique–that’s money I’m not getting that’s supposed to be “morale” money. I need my buttercream icing covered morale. :D

                Alt, you could just buy cupcakes the same day they do it and expense it (if you can), but that seems like more work on your part.

        2. Not a Morning Person*

          I’ve experienced this. divide between who gets and who doesn’t. My department’s offices used to be separated from the main office by a long hallway. All food deliveries came to the main office, as in when someone chose to treat the office to pizza or at holidays when some clients would send a basket or tray of treats. The only way my department ever found out about those treats was if one of us happened to go into the main office and saw the food. But you can bet that if a client came in with treats and asked to see one of us to deliver the treats to our team manager personally, the front office staff came by every hour asking if we’d opened up the treats yet. (One year our manager deliberately waited for a week before she opened the box and shared it with our team at our staff meeting. That was nice and the first time we ever got a choice!)

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Yeah but all the fixation with what is probably a low dollar amount of free food is – part of the compulsion. People are really weird about it!

        3. ThatGirl*

          We have two floors in our building, and the second floor often has big parties where people make elaborate food (ex: Mardi Gras) and we will have like, a box of donuts. And it’s really a matter of the department doing it, not any sort of company wide thing, and sometimes they’ll “send down” leftovers. I don’t really need extra cake in my life. But it still bugs me sometimes. So I hear you.

        4. Galatea*

          Isn’t it, though?

          I have a food allergy, and recently the free snacks at my office switched to a lot of stuff I can’t safely eat (or probably can, but it’s riskier than I’m comfortable with), and I am disproportionately upset about it. I know I’m being silly, but also watching someone stroll into a meeting with a snack and I Can’t Have Any gets right under my skin!

    4. B*

      Haven’t read through all of the comments and threads but could it be possible the man is in need of food. Nobody can truly decide anyone’s situation. Yes, he could be rude but just another perspective to think about.

      1. Natalie*

        Does that really change anything, though? Having a good reason doesn’t make the behavior appropriate, and he still needs to stop taking seconds and “leftovers” before his coworkers have even taken firsts.

      2. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah, people are making this point (“food insecurity” is a good search term to find the comments on this page) but even if that’s the case, he still can’t take food that was purchased by the company and intended as a staff appreciation/ morale booster – before half the staff even gets any, leaving nothing for them. If it’s food insecurity you’d just be more compassionate when you ask him to stop doing this, and perhaps ask if there’s some way you can assist him. Other teachers may also be running out of food and they don’t deserve to miss a promised free lunch because this guy snuck in first.

        1. fposte*

          Right. It’s a good reason not to be a jackass to the guy, if you need one, but it’s not a good reason to allow it to go on unimpeded.

  5. Casuan*

    It could be that the teacher doesn’t know social etiquette &or care… or he could have personal difficulties or a well-intended albeit misguided intention to take leftovers to those he passes en route home.
    Probably he’s just being clueless & rude, although I thought I’d give alternate scenarios. If so, then his superior should tell him what he is doing is wrong & ask him to stop. I doubt he’ll heed requests of only taking one sandwhich & one side.

    If the food is put out for two shifts at once, is it possible to only put out half the food at a time?

    1. Artemesia*

      This is the kind of situation that ends up with no one getting any food because no one wants to police grown ass adults at the buffet. If possible to do box lunches and have them issued, it might help — but I suspect the leadership will just decide it isn’t worth the trouble. And schools unlike most workplaces don’t have much leverage to discipline this sort of thing.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think it’s possible that he’s food insecure (or not) and also behaving in a manner that isn’t ok, regardless of his personal situation. I think assuming good intent is fine, but I also think it’s ok to be direct with him about waiting until everyone has had a chance to get food before coming back for seconds, piling up, saving leftovers, etc. I also like the suggestion of only putting out half the food per shift.

      1. strawberries and raspberries*

        Depending on the school, a lot of the families are probably food insecure too. If these are events like PTA meetings or something, the food is there primarily for the guests (i.e. the families). It’s not a good look for a staff member to be gorging themselves when a lot of the families probably wouldn’t have even shown up if not for the food.

      2. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah, there’s certainly a chance that he’s food insecure, I did think the same thing – but the result of that is only that you are more compassionate when you tell Fergus that he can’t take all the food before second shift of teachers even get to it. It doesn’t change the outcome really.

      3. Parenthetically*

        Yep, this. Even if there’s some perfectly understandable reason for his behavior, he still needs to be told directly and clearly, “Fergus, when you take that much food, the second-lunch teachers do not have enough. Please take one serving. (And then maybe:) If there are leftovers at the end of second lunch, feel free to stop by on your break and take anything home that would otherwise go to waste.” If there’s some reason to think he’s actually food-insecure rather than just a giant selfish ding-dong, his boss could take him aside after the above request has been made and ask him if there’s any specific reason he’s been taking so much food at the meals. But honestly, I work with a milder version of this guy too — he would absolutely take everything home if his wife wouldn’t have a fit about it — and he’s just completely thoughtless and mercenary when it comes to free food.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Yeah, the guy in my office does it because his wife won’t let him eat junk food. So when he gets the chance to gorge on brownies and cupcakes and pizza, he goes nuts.

    3. Ten*

      That seems like a simple and effective solution. But I’d still give the plate-piler a stern talking to as well.

      1. Casuan*

        Agree. Regardless of his circumstances, his superior should talk with him.
        “Fergus, I’ve noticed that you often take more food than what’s appropriate even after you’ve been asked not to. What’s going on?”
        His demeanor &or answer can shape her response from there, whether it’s a strict “I understand you really love Mac & Cheese, although you need to stop this” or “Is there something going on we [or whomever is appropriate] can help with?”

    4. LCH*

      i also thought to suggest putting out the food in two shifts although it will still suck for others in the shift that includes him.

    5. Jennifer Thneed*

      > If the food is put out for two shifts at once, is it possible to only put out half the food at a time?

      This is so freaking common in catering setups. Often enough, there’s multiple trays of each item anyway, so the catering staff can remove depleted ones and replace them quickly. Just hold back half the trays for the 2nd lunch shift (who are probably really used to getting the dregs, even without this guy, and who are probably quietly resentful all the time).

  6. sacados*

    I always enjoy the “Can I ask … XYZ” type questions. It’s similar to the “is this illegal?” ones. Just from reading the title, you can almost guarantee the answer is going to be:
    Well, you can certainly *ask* but….

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      The problem here is it’s too late to ask. The OP did an amount of work that no new hire would agree to, so they need to pay more now. And it’s undetatandable to be furious. But if you’re leaving they have no reason to pay you more.

      1. BonusOP*

        Except ethically being good people and fairly compensating someone for their work.

        I did actually ask in the interim. I wrote a proposal and showed what market rate was for my job. They said that because we didn’t have an Executive Director no raises could be given. I’ve been looking for other work for six months in response to this.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          To be fair, in a similar situation the Board at my org did take up a collection to give me a “thanks and good luck” goodbye gift card, and it was really quite generous of them. So it *can* happen, but I didn’t ask for it and I’m not sure there’s any way to put the idea into people’s heads.

        2. Jesmlet*

          Ship sailed on anyone over there being ethical the moment they lowballed you so ridiculously. They really don’t have a legitimate reason to give you a bonus as you’re walking out the door.

  7. LouiseM*

    #1: Usually when we get a letter about a coworker who appears greedy when there’s food in the office, a lot of commenters point out that the culprit may be dealing with food insecurity. This seems especially likely since we’re talking about an elementary school teacher. It’s just criminal how little they get paid. He probably realizes what he’s doing wrong, but is wondering when his next meal will be.
    It might help to approach the situation with some sympathy, OP, and point out to him that if he is tempted to overeat and take home leftovers because of his financial situation, he may inadvertently be depriving another underpaid teacher who can’t put food on the table either. Being direct and honest doesn’t mean not being compassionate. Good luck with this.

    1. Sylvan*

      I’m not sure that I would do this. It sounds like a guilt trip to suggest he’s depriving a needy person of food the first time you bring it up with him.

    2. TL -*

      It would be better if they just said when the leftovers were available and to not take more than one serving until then. Assuming he’s food insecure and that someone else on the staff is also starving except for free food has the potential to turn unpleasantly awkward real quick.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah; I’m not sure this is a good way to open the conversation. I feel like it invites entry into an argument over oppression olympics.

          1. Myrin*

            And, I mean, we really don’t know if he’s poor. OP didn’t mention anything in that regard and IMO it’s a weird conjecture to make when it’s ten times more likely that he’s just a jerk. (But, again, even if he isn’t and there’s reasons other than his jerkdom for this behaviour, the way to deal with it is exactly the same.)

            1. Temperance*

              I have noticed a general societal tendency to assume that people acting like jerks must actually secretly be suffering to be so rude.

              (For example, I complained about the people who would literally run past me to take all the accessible seats on the train, and was told that they ALL must have an invisible disability that requires accessible seating vs. a regular train seat. Not that, you know, a bunch of people running past someone in a walking cast/using crutches to take her train seat are dicks.)

              1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

                I think there’s been some psychological studies on this, or something similar.
                It boils down to “people are genuinely ‘good’ at heart and outside circumstances beyond their control are making them behave ‘bad’. I can live with that because I am people too, and if people can be genuinely ‘bad’ without outside circumstances then **I** have the potential to be genuinely ‘bad’ and my ego won’t accept that”
                (I’m sure someone **not** heavily dosed up on cold medicine (again) can put this into words that make more sense…. I’m going for a lie down now….)

                1. Anony*

                  It could also have to do with people’s personal experiences. I have an invisible disability and have had to deal with being yelled at for sitting in a handicapped seat, using the electric carts at stores and using the handicapped parking (for which I have a valid permit). I am highly likely to assume someone using those seats actually need them. Someone who has heard people bragging about taking those seats because they are better is likely to assume that someone who is sitting there doesn’t need them and is being a jerk.

                  However, I think the reason people on this forum tend to bring up possible explanations is because we are more likely to deal kindly with someone who has a legitimate need than someone who is being a jerk and that is generally the better side to err on. Taking all the food is not ok even if he is dealing with food insecurity, but assuming there is a need will help prevent the OP from coming across as a jerk.

                2. Jennifer Thneed*

                  > but assuming there is a need will help prevent the
                  > OP from coming across as a jerk

                  Yes, this is the basic idea behind “Crucial Confrontations” — to really “get” that people usually have (what feel like) good reasons to do things, even if we can’t tell what they are from the outside. And while they may not be legitimately good reasons, usually their motive is not whatever terrible thing we’re imaging.

                  So: go into the conversation assuming the person has good intentions, so that you don’t approach them angrily, or in a way that gets them defensive right off the bat. But DO go into the conversation, and DO make the points you need to make. (In this case: “let everyone have firsts before you have seconds” is a pretty simple request, and the person’s reaction to the request will be informative.)

              2. neverjaunty*

                Many people don’t like confrontation and they don’t like to believe other people can be awful. So often they will take themselves in knots finding excuses for why a jerk is being a jerk. Somehow, this rarely extends to considering whether the people harmed by the jerk might also have [reason for the jerk’s behavior].

              3. Bow Ties Are Cool*

                Wow, the folks you ride the train with are jerks. I don’t know if the routes I use are just full of particularly mannerly people, but on the days I need my cane (and I get around pretty well with it, I don’t NEED the accessible seats even then, though it is very nice to have a shorter walk) I rarely get past the accessible seats without someone jumping up to offer me the one they were using. It does happen occasionally, but I’ve yet to make a fuss although I probably should on principle.

                And once I was treated to a bus driver announcing over the loudspeaker that this bus was not going ANYWHERE until SOMEBODY in the accessible section got up and let a new passenger with a walker sit down. Half a dozen people jumped up like they’d been scalded.

                1. fposte*

                  That last one is kind of interesting, though; I presume the person with a walker was visible to those half a dozen people before the bus driver’s announcement, too, but they didn’t move then. I suspect that’s a diffusion of responsibility situation–everybody assumes somebody else will do it.

                2. bonkerballs*

                  @fposte, I don’t know the circumstances of Bow Ties bus trips, but I know when I ride the bus it can actually be quite hard to see the people outside the bus, especially depending on which side you’re sitting on and if the bus is crowded. And our bus drivers usually announce that someone needs a seat before the person even gets on the bus, so I wouldn’t assume everyone already knew.

                3. fposte*

                  @bonkerballs–ah, I was thinking that he was yelling because she was on the bus itself; that’s what I’m more familiar with. Your take makes sense.

                4. Bow Ties Are Cool*

                  No, the woman with the walker was on the bus, standing next to the driver, looking for a seat she could actually get to, while the healthy(er) folks in the accessible seats were either busy with their phones/books or pretending to be.

              4. Parenthetically*

                +1. I generally make an effort to be imaginative about potential causes when it comes to people being horrible, but that’s a personal, internal exercise to try to stop myself from being as judgmental as I naturally am — trying to break the bad habits of growing up in a town where people habitually interpreted everything in the least charitable and most personally offensive way possible. It doesn’t really matter, though — they’re still being horrible whether they have [extenuating circumstance] or not, and regardless of the origin of this dude’s jerkiness, he’s still actually depriving actual people of food, which needs to be addressed. Also the people on your train are AWFUL. I do not understand how someone sits comfortably while a person who visibly needs the seat just stands there.

                1. Jennifer Thneed*

                  I needed a cane for a couple of days after a bike accident, because I was a little dizzy. You had better believe I stared right at the teenagers in the disabled seat on the train and told them to get up. I might even have pointed at the cane and said “See? Cane!”

                  But I’m, y’know, kind of a bitch. I resented feeling crappy, and I have a big personality, and I needed that dang seat.

              5. NaoNao*

                I think the “split the difference” option is that in certain circumstances, like where there is a shortage or scarcity of something (seat, money, food, space) people who are not normally jerks behave using “Jerk Lizard Brain” and push past those with visible disabilities, grab entire plates of food, keep the collection money for themselves, and other highly questionable “jerk” behaviors.

                It doesn’t mean they are 100% jerk, it means that those circumstances are activating the jerk sector of their brain. “Must get that valuable, scarce resource! My DNA must live on!”

                But that’s a more likely explanation than “they’re all suffering, we just can’t be sure of how.”

                I mean, they’re suffering from the evolutionary delusion that one must “gorge” on any available resources (money, mates, food, shelter, whatever) because who knows when it will come again.

              6. Grumpy Old Jerk*

                Yep. It’s irritating. It’s also a way to make anyone who pushes back against bad behavior look like the jerk – oh, of course they are allowed to inconvenience or harm you, because they might be poor/mentally ill/from an oppressed background/disabled, whatever, and that excuses their behavior and means you can’t ask them to stop. That I feel like this makes me feel like a member of a political party that I have a low opinion of, so I’m going to change my user name.

      2. AndersonDarling*

        We do this. If it’s a buffet kind of meal where people take the food to their desks, or if there is a meeting where the meeting-goers get first dibs, then an email get sent out letting people know there are leftovers. But we are fairly civilized when it comes to food, so the email basically implies that the admin doesn’t want to store or throw away the leftovers so please, come and get it.

    3. Leela*

      Teachers’ pay is low but not so low most of us can’t feed ourselves. (Source: I’m a teacher.) It’s possible this is food scarcity, but “probably”? I wouldn’t think that and definitely not just based on his profession. There are people who hog all the food in all professions, including people who are highly paid. There’s no reason to leap to “probably” here.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. The two food hoarders I came across in my work were both well paid exec types who couldn’t stand the idea that the administrative staff could eat what was left from meetings. They would grab up the leftover juices, chips etc and hide them in their desks to make sure the admins didn’t get them.

        1. Temperance*

          That’s so rude and strange! As a rule, I call our mailroom first and then shoot an email to the chattiest secretaries I know when I have food left over from a meeting. I certainly don’t hoard it. I mean, FFS, our partners will actually carry trays of cookies down to our floor to make sure that we all can get some if we want it.

        2. Corky's wife Bonnie*

          Yes, I had one at my place (he’s not with us anymore, thank the Lord), who liked to remind EVERYONE he was a VP. He would take absolutely everything leftover, whether it was a company paid meal or a potluck (that he never contributed to), stating he was a VP and he could do it. After he left, people were commenting on the leftovers and wondering why we never had any before. I of course said, “well, that’s because Fergus is gone.” People got it after I said that.

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, I’m not on the board with “probably” in this case – seeing how he goes about this whole endeavour and has already been approached about it before, he just seems like a run-of-the-mill selfish eater. I don’t think it does the OP any good to worry about potential reasons for his behaviour, given that the way she needs to react is the same regardless of reasons.

    4. JM60*

      If that teacher is getting paid so low so as to have food scarcity problems, there’s a good chance that other teachers at the school are also having food scarcity issues too.

      1. Orchestra Alum*

        Agreed. People facing food scarcity can still maintain common decency to coworkers. My guess is Fergus is perhaps a bit rude.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        But this teacher is a man. All the other teachers are probably women, so they have a husband with a better-paying job to buy food for them.

        – my old boss

      3. Tuxedo Cat*


        I agree with the posters who pointed out not all elementary school teachers are food scarce… I know quite a few, and while I’d say they’re underpaid for what they do, they definitely can afford food.

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      Also think this sounds guilt trippy. And maybe it’s just me but when I’ve had money problems I never blatantly took loads at once in case someone noticed and told me not to do that ever again – I just took little bits and hoped nobody noticed. (But that is just my own experience.)

      In that situation I would have appreciated someone posting details for a food bank somewhere I could see it, as when I needed then I had no idea they even existed.

      1. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

        Same. I don’t know if this is a universal experience, but when I was food scarce I was quite embarrassed about it and did everything in my power not to let anyone at work know. I would never have blatantly taken so much food all at once, even though I really needed it.

    6. Cyberwulf*

      Maybe he’s just being a pig and saying ‘oh you poor thing, I know you take all the food because you don’t know where your next meal is coming from’ will give him the perfect excuse to continue his piggishness.

      1. Anony*

        I don’t think anyone is saying that the OP should bring up that possibility when talking to him. It is more that keeping in mind that it may be the reason can help the OP be a little sympathetic when dealing with it. Trying to be compassionate first is not a bad thing. Even if the script is the same, sometimes the tone comes across if someone thinks the other is just being a jerk and it is less likely to actually resolve the situation.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Trying to be professional, absolutely. But compassionate for a problem you don’t know and have no evidence he has? Why?

          1. Anony*

            Because if you don’t know it is generally better to err on the side of being compassionate. What do you have to lose? The alternative is to potentially be the jerk in the situation.

            1. Myrin*

              I’m wondering what you mean by OP “potentially be[ing] the jerk in the situation”? Because for me – and many other commenters as well as certainly Alison herself – whether I privately think he’s a poor soul with an eating disorder and no money or that he’s the deadly sin of gluttony personified, my outwards reaction to him is going to be the exact same. I wouldn’t storm in yelling “Halt, you fiend, your food-stealing ways end here once and for all!!” even if I thought he was being a greedy, selfish arsehole, so I’m not seeing the potential to be a jerk in any of Alison’s or other suggested scripts.

              1. fposte*

                I think when people have repressed frustration there is a real temptation to get snappy instead of following something like Alison’s reasonable script. To me that’s where somebody responding to Fergus could become the jerk.

            2. Tuxedo Cat*

              I don’t think anyone is advocating for a script that is involves being a jerk, just simply telling him his behaviors need to stop.

              Food insecurity is a possibility but nothing about this situation immediately screams that. I’ve worked with people who experienced food insecurity, I’ve been food insecure. I’ve also organized numerous office meals where people just like taking food with no regard to other, even though they are rich. The single data point could be any number of reasons.

    7. Temperance*

      They’re ALL teachers, though. It’s not like he’s the lowest paid person in the building, and teachers aren’t getting poverty wages. Assuming food insecurity when general jerkiness is the more likely cause just makes it easier for takers like this clown to ruin things for everyone.

      1. Autumnheart*

        Not to mention that by hogging tons of food meant for everyone, he could be denying some other food-insecure employee a meal.

        It doesn’t really matter why he’s hogging the food. He needs to stop doing it.

    8. Penny Lane*

      I cannot imagine how you could possibly say to someone underneath you on the totem pole, in essence, “I know that we underpay you and that you don’t have enough to eat, but we have to ask you to not take more than one plate because we underpay everybody, you know, so none of your colleagues have enough to eat either.”

      The LW has not indicated that there are any other signs of food-insecure behavior (surreptitiously taking other people’s food from a shared refrigerator, not having a packed lunch on him on days when there isn’t a company-wide lunch being served, etc.). I think this is a huge stretch.

    9. SignalLost*

      Or, you know, he could be like my nephew, who is not food insecure, he just gives no effs about looking at the plate in front of him, looking at the number of people who have yet to be served, and portioning thereby. Which is what considerate people do. What my nephew does is assume there is an unlimited amount of food and no one else wants any, and he takes what he wants. If that means others don’t get any, that’s not his problem. One of many reasons I’m glad he moved cross-country. Discussing rude behaviour as though there’s an excuse for it is bending over backwards to see zebras when you hear hoofbeats. Fergus may or may not have a reason for what he does, but it doesn’t matter, because he’s taking an action that removes someone else’s ability to enjoy a benefit.

      1. Anony*

        Sometimes there is an excuse for it. It does not mean the behavior should continue but it may color the response.

        1. SignalLost*

          I think it’s okay to assume that all conversations held professionally should start from a place of kindness and respect without armchair-diagnosing the eleventy billion possible forms of mental illness, food insecurity, physical health, and everything else someone could suffer so we remember to be kind. The second conversation can be different, but first conversations should be respectful. And it doesn’t matter why someone would do something like this, at all. It matters they stop.

    10. neverjaunty*

      Where is the compassion for the food-insecure folks on the second shift who aren’t getting anything because of Mr. Tupperware?

    11. Dust Bunny*

      Sorry, no, they’re all in the same pay boat: He doesn’t get a pass to make other people go hungry so he can have multiple meals. Does he need to address it? Sure. But this is not the solution.

    12. Anxa*

      In the US, elementary school teachers’ pay varies state to state. I’ve lived in NJ and NC and the difference, even compared to cost of living, was pretty big. In fact, the person in my family circle with the highest income (by at least double) is a K8 teacher.

    13. Anon.*

      His coworkers are likely in the same boat. And the school support staff make less than teachers, usually. Not really the best excuse, imo.

    14. zora*

      I honestly don’t get why intent matters at this point in this situation. I think he should be approached politely but firmly and told this is not okay. And that would be the correct approach whether he is a rude jerk, or because he is food insecure.

  8. Casuan*

    OP3: What Alison said.
    Also, keep in mind that a business can always relocate. If memory serves, there are questions about that in the AAM archives.
    Good luck!

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      And also that homeowners can relocate, and some renters live in the same area for years – so I wouldn’t mention your property status as it’s not really relevant (and as a lifelong renter it would irritate me if I’m honest).

      1. Birch*

        This would irritate me too. I’d be tempted to point out that as another lifelong renter, I’m more flexible and able to either move with the business (if the business moved and I wanted to stay) or move to find a better job (in which case the business should be clear that they want to keep me!) It’s kind of a bizarre sense of entitlement if people think personal circumstances should have anything to do with getting a job or not.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s not so much entitlement as trying to figure out what will make them attractive as a hire, one of which is how likely one is to stay in the role if hired. I remember a thread from a few days ago where the hiring manager had decided that anyone who didn’t grow up in the area had “no ties” and would obviously leave quickly. Owning a house proved nothing, nothing! I also remember a letter from someone who was moving from like a 1 hour commute to his new job to a 2-3 hour, which in the follow-up turned out to have been a bad idea. (And in the original letter a theme in comments was ‘of course your new employer is concerned that this crazy commute might impact your work.’) He had moved again rather than change jobs as a solution.

          1. Birch*

            Yeah, but home ownership has nothing to do with whether or not someone is likely to stay in the role, as Ramona and I have already pointed out. It’s one thing to have a conversation about future plans with the candidate, but making assumptions based on what the hiring manager knows about the situation (which may or may not be even true or appear differently based on other unknown information)–that’s really unfair to all the applicants. And as an applicant, bringing that stuff up thinking it’ll get you ahead of the game is both entitled and naive.

      2. CutUp*

        In the letter, it sounds like OP is interested in the job because it’s near her home. She isn’t saying she deserves it because she’s a homeowner anywhere.

    2. Not The Maid!*

      op 3 here,
      you are right. Im just moving on the info I have and trying to make best choice. The new location has actually been in the same spot many years already. So thats a little promising

    3. ChelseaNH*

      I’ve been at my current job for a little over a year, and they just merged our satellite office with the downtown office. So I say right up front that I’m looking for a more sustainable commute, to explain the early departure. But then I talk about why I find their position particularly interesting.

      It’s always possible for a company to relocate, but if there’s something in the works, they know it’s not a good fit and I don’t have to go through this again right away.

  9. Mrs. Vandertramp*

    Just a small legal note re #5: in the U.S., an application should *not* include an authorization for a background check. That authorization legally has to be in a separate, stand alone document under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. So, employers, don’t do that. Candidates, that’s been the subject of many a class action.

    1. anon scientist*

      Interesting. I literally came here directly from submitting an application for a position with a federal contractor that included an authorization for a background check.

        1. anon scientist*

          But if it is not OK for other companies to do it with the application, why a federal contractor? Why wouldn’t they have to do the authorization separately like everyone else? I’m not trying to argue, I just think it is weird.

          1. fposte*

            The government is often exempt from the laws it passes. (I have no idea whether that’s what’s going on in this case.)

            1. Anony*

              Also, sometimes although it is the same application, it is it’s own page with it’s own signature, which might be enough to satisfy the law (I’m not a lawyer). I am in the US and have seen applications like that. It is possible that they were technically illegal I guess.

            2. Natalie*

              I don’t think that applies to federal contractors though? They’re private businesses with a government client.

              1. fposte*

                You’re right–I was thinking about a deal between the feds and a contractor, not the contractor’s dealing with an employee.

                This is actually a topic that’s in some kind of purgatory discussion about some hiring at my workplace, so I’ll be curious to see what the eventual decision here is.

    2. Kelly*

      Another note – that requirement is for pulling your report from a consumer reporting agency. It does not apply for contacting references, employers, schools, etc. directly and verifying information that way. (Since you used the term “background check” loosely I didn’t want the impression that to verify anything on the application in any way that such an authorization was necessary.)

      1. Kelly*

        If I recall correctly an employer could do a “direct” criminal history check (where they pull your RAP sheet straight from the FBI and/or state/local BIs) without the FCRA notice. (That may be where the confusion above with that government contractor job came from.)

  10. LouiseM*

    #3, it’s fine if you’re a mom first and foremost in your personal life, but at work you’re an employee first and foremost. If you were to indicate otherwise on a job interview, you might come off like that woman from a few years ago who was in a 24/7 dom/sub relationship and insisted all her coworkers refer to her partner as “Master.” Start off on the right foot!

    1. Mad Baggins*

      This was my thought. If you make it clear in the interview that you’re a “mom first and foremost,” they might hire you to make cucumber sandwiches and tuck them into bed, not do accounting or sales or whatever the job actually is!

      1. whingedrinking*

        they might hire you to make cucumber sandwiches and tuck them into bed
        Consequences of fast reading: on my first read, I visualized someone putting delicate little tea sandwiches into tiny beds with miniature quilts.

    2. TL -*

      I think something like, “I was excited about my work at X but the commute wasn’t ideal. When I saw the position at your company would let me do the same work but with a better commute/schedule, I was incredibly excited. Then I saw that I would be able to work on Y as well/have always wanted to work for Z Company…”

    3. Penny Lane*

      “And because the schedule is 7-3 instead of 9-5 and an hour commute both ways, I’ll be getting home the same time as my kids do from school. No more “latch-key-kids.” Just knowing that I’m much closer to home and kids’ school would give me such piece of mind. Is it okay to mention this? I am a mom first and foremost and what is best for my kids in top priority but is that unwise to even hint to?”

      What does “I am a mom first and foremost” even mean? This is the year 2018 – women/ mothers have all sorts of important jobs and utilize daycare / nannies / whatever arrangements to care for their children. Surely you don’t want to be implying to your potential managers that you’re some kind of superior-mom being because you choose to arrange your children’s care such that you’d be at home at 3 pm when they get home from school.

      The other thing is that when you start out with an opener like that, you are basically saying – you’re looking for what’s in the job for YOU (peace of mind re daycare, commute, etc.) – not what you can bring to the employer in terms of your skills, abilities, and talents. Employers don’t really care about your particular desire to ensure you don’t have to use daycare (they may later in the game if you are a valued employee and they want to retain you, but not at the interview stage – and nor should they). They care about what you can do for them. You’re already signaling you’re not the kind of person who could possibly ever stay late if there’s a work emergency or unexpected client deadline or whatever. So tell me again why that’s desirable in a potential employee? When you think about it, does it make any sense to you to signal these things?

      1. Thursday Next*

        PL’s last paragraph offers some good ideas. LW, this is a good context in which to consider how to answer the question.

        I think, though, that the middle paragraph is a bit harsh. The LW is using her post to think things through, and in no way laid claim to being a “superior mom.” It’s okay for her to say to us at AAM that her parental role is more important to her than her professional one, even in 2018.

        1. Legal Beagle*

          I agree. LW was just stating a fact – an alternative schedule would work better for her family circumstances. She’s not putting down other parents or saying she’s superior to someone with a 9-5 schedule. I admire LW for knowing her priorities and acting accordingly!

        2. Penny Lane*

          I did not say that the LW was laying claim to being a “superior mom.” I was saying that in using that terminology “I am a mom first and foremost” and linking it to her desire to be at home by 3 pm, she could be signaling to potential employers — including other working mothers — that the definition of being a mom first and foremost was linked to being home, not using childcare, etc.

          I mean, I’d be a little annoyed if I were the recipient of the comment, because I was still a “mom first and foremost” even if I was halfway across the world on business travel, because the importance of my children to me had nothing to do with whether or not I met the school bus at 3 pm everyday. (And the same for fathers, of course — but we’re just talking about mothers here.)

          1. AKchic*

            I have to agree here.
            I can’t even begin to count how many times I have had to deal with people who have tried to negate me as a competent employee because I am a mother. Who tried to convince me that I needed to switch to part time work, or leave the employment sector all together because “don’t you want to be a good mommy?”.
            Every mom is a mom “first and foremost”. To state that in an interview is silly. It almost feels like a declaration of “I’m going to be needing a lot of time off to participate in school events” (not necessarily a bad thing) but also evokes images of helicopter parenting in my head. To me, when someone declares their motherhood as “first and foremost”, I see a lot of pinterest-y photoshoots, facebook overshares, helicopter parenting, and “OMG, Mommy Juice time!” references (seriously, pet peeve, don’t call your alcoholic beverages “mommy juice”).

            It kind of makes me feel like anyone who doesn’t do the same things that this person declaring her Mommyhood out loud is going to be judged for doing things differently. Or get a lot of unsolicited advice because they think they are some kind of parenting master (and nobody is).

      2. Jesmlet*

        At first, I was going to suggest that you’re projecting. But… then I read the quote a couple more times. When women say they want to spend more time at home with their kids because it’s what’s best for the kids, it does come off like they’re implying anyone who doesn’t do that isn’t doing what’s best for their kids. OP, do not say this in an interview because you could possibly offend someone who is a working mother or who has a working wife and also because it’s really not relevant – just mention how the commute and schedule appeal to you. Also, I would like to kindly remind you that all childcare options are valid and while this may be what’s best for you to have peace of mind, children of mothers who work all day long are not any worse off for it.

        1. Thursday Next*

          In fairness to the LW, she says it’s “what’s best for my kids.” Not all kids. And she’s saying it in this space, not in an interview itself (which I agree she shouldn’t do).

          I think she should be able to ask her question here without people commenting as if she is implying other people’s childcare choices aren’t valid, or is unaware that children do just fine with different arrangements.

          1. Jesmlet*

            You’re absolutely right. I’ll leave it at that. I got temporarily offended on behalf of a family member for no good reason.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            She’s saying it in this space, not in an interview itself.

            I think this is key–OPs are asking here to work out what it’s okay to ask at work, because they know an honest stream of consciousness probably isn’t the answer. It’s fine to ask how to translate the hierarchy of reasons you want a job (e.g. “I really desperately need one” or “money” or “commute” or “your company looks cool”) into a hierarchy of reasons relevant to the employer. Plus you need to figure out how to ask questions about those things–like if you have to work late with short notice, that might be fine for LW if her kids are old enough to not need backup care, or a strong negative if walking out the door at 3 is a key attraction.

      3. Not The Maid!*

        OP3 here: Okay, thanks. There’s actually a whole lot of history/long story as to why I want to be close to my kids. More than what would fit into an AAM post. I do know what year it is by the way.

        1. Specialk9*

          Please don’t be offended! These comments aren’t an attack. Most of us are focusing on specific words and potential ways they can hit an interviewer wrong, to help you craft a message. All of us struggle to know how something that is clearly X in our minds can be received by others as Y, Z, and M.

          So the feedback, overall, is to focus on the job and how it matches your interests / capabilities, and mention the commute, but not kids/motherhood, family as first priority, or home-ownership. (Even as these are understandably important factors for you.)

          Good luck to you! A short commute is a magical thing.

    4. Samiratou*

      Yes, I think the commute thing is best left to the “why do you want to leave your current job?” question rather than “Why do you want this job?” question.

      You can say the long commute is wearing you and you were so excited to see this position open up, etc.

    5. CrystalMama*

      Louise, I have to empathetically disagree with this. There are many fields where a persons Whole being is valued—motherhood is a beautiful piece of that. I would never devalue a mother in this way! I think OP should seek a job that realizes her priorities and not be ashamed of that clarity!

      1. Legal Beagle*

        It’s wonderful to be in a workplace that supports and values employees’ outside lives and family obligations. But “I’m a mom first and foremost” is NOT a good thing to say in a job interview. The employer is evaluating you as a worker, not a mother. That is not devaluing; it’s commonsense hiring practice.

        1. Not The Maid!*

          OP3 Here: To be clear, I wasnt going to say that, Its just that the question of why a person want s to leave usually comes up. And for me its location. If they ask why does that matter, well, My kids school is near by and I am a homeowner who lives near by too. I have been loyal to my current job for many years but with a long commute on top of the actual work schedule, Im gone 10+ hrs a day. This has lead to depression for me personally. Staying at home or working part time isnt currently an option. So being closer to home would bring some piece of mind. There have been cases of an emergency where I couldnt get to my kids because I’m so far away ( good lord, Im tearing up as I write this). It is my belief that an employee who has piece of mind about their greatest concerns ( for me, my kids) has a clear mind to focus on the job.

          1. fposte*

            Sure, but what we’re saying is even if they ask why location matters you don’t want to hit your personal circumstances so hard with a prospective job. “Homeowner” is a strange word to include there (it’s not like renting the same house would have changed your commute), for instance, and you want to be very careful about bringing your kids into a discussion of your job candidacy.

          2. LouiseM*

            It’s fine if for you personally, this is a factor in why you want to leave (or even the only reason) but as Allison points out, focusing on this in the job interview will make it seem like you don’t care as much about the job itself. Why are you applying to work there, and not to any of the other nearby businesses? This is what you need to focus on.

            I really don’t recommend talking about your kids on the job interview. Even if the workplace is very family-friendly, they will likely consider you strange and unprofessional for doing this during an interview.

          3. CrystalMama*

            Oh OP, my heart goes out to you. Reading your post I would be inclined to recommend you take a more Holistic approach to the interview. Experiences that move us to tears can unbalance the productive energies of the room (sometimes irreparably!) so given the height of your emotion here (so, so so understandable to me!!) I would say to redirect to your positive energies and trust that the empathy of your spirit will be felt.
            As a side note, my partners sister also had severe trauma related to experiences with her workplace and her children. She now runs a business from her home and manages/inspires other mothers to do the same. There’s no one path for all people! And some paths involve zero commute ;)

            1. LouiseM*

              Wait a minute…it’s true that there’s no one path for everyone, but in this case, the OP has already found a situation that will work for her. She just needs to not self-sabotage by inappropriately bringing up her kids on the interview

              I’m glad your SIL’s situation works for her, but there’s no need to suggest that the OP abandon the working world and join some sort of MLM before she’s even had an interview.

              1. LouiseM*

                Hang on, there. You can disagree with Crystal Mama (obviously, I just did!) but telling her not to post about this at all is really, really crossing the line.

          4. Thursday Next*

            I think most of us here respect and have compassion for your reasons for being attracted to this job opportunity. But I think we’re also saying that you shouldn’t approach the question of why you want to leave your job from a personal perspective, but from a professional one. If I were in your position, I’m not sure I would refer to location all, and would prefer instead to talk about the job/company attributes I found compelling.

            Keep in mind that you’re selling yourself to the company in the interview, and a candidate who’s shown that she’s reflected on the company and position is going to be more attractive than a candidate who talks extensively about her personal circumstances. (I’m sure you know this—I’m just reminding you.)

          5. DDJ*

            You can bring up the location without mentioning your kids, as a few commenters have suggested. When they ask why you’re leaving your job, you can say that part of the reason is that the commute has become unsustainable. That’s totally fine! Most employers won’t ask “Why is that important to you,” because most reasonable people understand that a 2+ hour commute every day can wear on a person. It’s pretty self-explanatory. I would never to think to ask a candidate about WHY a shorter commute is appealing – wouldn’t it be for everyone? You might be focusing on this one thing where you really should be focusing on everything else.

            And I get it! It’s what’s driving this change. And that’s totally fine. As a person who suffers from both anxiety and depression, I understand how easy it can be to just get a laser focus on one point and let it get inside your head. You focus on this one thing, and you feel like that’s what they’re going to ask about. That’s what you need to prepare for. That’s going to be THE BIG THING that makes or breaks you. They almost certainly won’t care. It’ll be a blip, it’ll be 10 seconds of the total interview time.

            Pretend that the commute isn’t a factor. How would you approach the interview if that were the case? As Alison mentioned, you want to make sure that you actually want this job – and I’m sure you do! You wouldn’t be applying for it otherwise, so there must be a few things that are appealing, aside from the commute. Focus there!

            The main reason I work is money. Well…it’s pretty much the only reason. I don’t care about…basically anything else. I mean, yes, I want to work for an ethically responsible, safety-first type company. But…for money. I don’t go into an interview and say “Well, I’d like this job because you’ll pay me, and I like money.” So I don’t focus on that. Is it at the forefront of my mind? Yes. Is it driving EVERYTHING in the application? Yes. But it’s not what I spend time on.

            I had one interview where the candidate mentioned they were walking distance from the building, which would be a pretty nice perk. Not the only perk, not the sole reason they wanted the job, but who wouldn’t want to have a 5-minute commute to work? It was just an offhand comment toward the end of the interview. Did it influence my decision, knowing that the candidate was considering that to be a perk? Not really. It was just small talk.

          6. SC*

            All of those are valid reasons to want this job. I’m a working mother who owns a home and has a short commute, and it is glorious. I have left work for a child-related emergency, and I don’t think it makes me any less committed to my job. But OP, you need to game-plan your delivery. If you said any of this in an interview with me, or signaled this level of emotion about it, I would not be convinced that your piece of mind would benefit me as an employer. I’d be concerned that you’d leave frequently for various emergencies, wouldn’t be available to stay late for a work emergency, would be distracted and worried about your kids, etc. Focus on why you’re a good fit for the actual job, what you bring to the table, and keep the commute/living nearby/family talk brief.

  11. Tech worker*

    OP4 please check with your IT security team. Those companies do not give out money for free, they track all your purchases and possibly other activity on your browser. You may have seriously violated your companies security policy.

    1. KWu*

      I think at least some of the cash back sites operate by kicking back some of their affiliate earnings back to you, so it’s not necessarily that they’re generating the money by selling your user data.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I don’t think selling data is the issue – they are collecting data in order to track who is eligible for a share of the affiliate earnings.

        1. KWu*

          I meant that in response to the “if you’re not paying, you’re the product” part. But are there security policies that require you not to allow cookies on your work computer? I assumed that would be too stringent a security policy.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            I don’t think you can avoid cookies but installing a browser extension would be a no-no in many places.

            1. Thlayli*

              Yes but it’s really really easy for IT to prevent people from doing that. Since they haven’t done so, I think it’s safe to assume she’s allowed to install it.

              1. Anon for This*

                Not necessarily. I’m in a Mac-heavy environment, and when I got here, I was surprised to learn that they don’t have the network security capabilities of Windows machines, or at least not easily/cost effectively. I’m not in IT, but I’ve shared an office with them, and I could tell stories about the crazy things people download onto their laptops.

                It’s still bad practice to tell people they can’t do things but also not block them from it on their browsers, but it happens.

              2. fposte*

                I would advise against this approach. Just because a door isn’t locked doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to enter and mess up the contents.

    2. LilyP*

      I don’t know about security policies, but I also came to say that remember, the people who develop and maintain that extension aren’t doing it out of the kindness of their hearts. They’re making money from it somehow, so make sure you’re not falling into any sneaky advertising traps (like letting it steer you towards only using their affiliate sites without checking prices elsewhere or buying extras or upgrades because you have a coupon)

    3. Koko*

      I use one of these and our IT is fine with it (Honey). It’s been recommended by reputable names like TechCrunch, CNN Money, and CNet, and their Privacy Policy states they don’t share or sell personal information.

    4. Becky*

      Thank you! I immediately thought, wait you installed a browser extension like that on a work computer?
      There are possibly some security concerns about what sort of data and tracking that extension is using!

  12. Elizabeth West*

    “Hey! Fergus! Hey! This isn’t a damn grocery store. Take one plate and leave some for the rest of us!”

    Fergus: *snipes; doesn’t stop*

    “That’s it, Fergus. On the playground behind the monkey bars , you and me, three o’clock!”

  13. Ramona Flowers*

    I misread it as being about bogarts in the Harry Potter sense.

    For some people this coworker is both.

    1. Ann Onimous*

      Ha! I totally did that as well. And I was picturing someone jumping around screaming a plates filled with food. :P

  14. JM60*


    When I worked at an office supply store, I suspected that the store used an email rewards system (like what you described where the gift card is emailed to you) instead of a discount system partly to encourage office managers to shop there to personally collect the rewards. Although, maybe I had too little faith in humanity. Both of our main competitors had similar program programs that favored emailed gift cards over discounts.

  15. New Bee*

    Elementary school admin here. I can imagine there are times, especially on your average school day, when no one is available to watch the food, since teacher lunch is when non-classroom staff cover recess and the cafeteria, solve student behavior issues, etc. In those cases I’d ask whoever puts the food out to say something like Alison’s second example beforehand. At my school it’d probably be an email saying, “Team, there will be sandwiches provided in the staff lounge today; enjoy! To ensure all of both K-2 and 3-5 get lunch, please take just one sandwich, drink, and bag of chips. Thank you for all that you do blah blah blah.”

    It’s probably not the case with this guy, but some people are genuinely confused about the difference when there are leftovers or snacks put out (like today, when teachers dumped all of their V-Day party leftovers in our staff lounge) that are first-come, first-serve, since in those cases it’s not the expectation that everyone will get some.

    If that doesn’t work, move to 1) public shaming* and 2) telling your admin, who will privately shame.*

    * Only half-joking.

    1. TL -*

      They should talk to the dude directly, not an all-school email. Those tend to be ignored by people who are ignoring social norms anyways.

      1. Julianne*

        Agreed. When we get all school emails about offenses that are routinely being committed by a lone, known offender (at my school, it’s the ONE guy who can’t get it through his head that he’s not allowed to park anywhere except HIS OWN assigned parking spot), it makes me roll my eyes at both the offender and the administrator who decided this was the best way to handle the problem.

      2. Not a Blossom*

        I actually think both would be good. Talking to the guy directly is more important, but putting it in the e-mail might make some people who are following the rules and are irritated with him feel like something is being done. (Of course, others will realize that the e-mail won’t help, but it may smooth a few ruffled feathers and couldn’t hurt.)

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yep, I agree with this. It could also embolden some other teachers to call him out in the moment — “Hey, we were asked to take one sandwich and one bag of chips, man! Leave some for the rest of the staff!”

    2. Oilpress*

      Public shaming is underrated! It’s not like we’re pointing out embarrassing personal problems such as body odour…we are asking someone to share.

      1. New Bee*

        Not sure how you got that from my comment, but at our school we always start by clarifying expectations if we haven’t already done so because it’s almost never just one person doing anything (and if it is, there could be an honest misunderstanding like I mentioned above). Plus, lots of people struggle to say something to the person directly when something annoying keeps happening, but didn’t *just* happen, because it can come off weird and accusatory (moreso if the people in charge didn’t see it), a la, “Hey Joe, people who will remain nameless keep saying that you take too much food at potlucks. Will you make sure not to do that at tomorrow’s meal?”
        It’s not like they can retroactively punish him for being greedy. Hopefully the OP now feels like she can loop in the food provider in so that (to the extent possible) changes can be made to how it’s put out, expectations are clear of how much people should take, and people use both of those to nip it in the bud in the moment.

    3. Oranges*

      Public shaming is happening right now in it’s natural form. People are upset with Furgus and they all are talking about him.

      It can get taken up a step or two or ten without crossing the line of horribleness ala the dunce cap letter. Just like everything else, you start with the lowest amount of conflict and you amp it up until he changes his behavior or the level of conflict vs the rewards doesn’t make sense any longer Eg. not gonna publicly email the entire office about Furgus and his tupperware (probably) but everything before that? Personally I’d say yes.

  16. Ruth (UK)*

    1. I volunteer at a charity that is a similar set up to a soup kitchen but not quite (we serve a hot meal though). I’m one of the leaders at the project and have, over time, got comfortable telling guests they can’t take that much food to start with (but can have seconds if there is enough left once everyone has initially been served). However, I think it would be trickier telling a coworker, especially if I was not their manage.

    The post says he takes a large amount ‘several times’ – I’d there any way of enforcing a blanket ‘no seconds’ rule till everyone has had firsts? I realise this could be trickier of there is two shifts for lunch and then the first shift might never get seconds. But maybe this is preferable to some of the second shift not getting anything at all, especially if the who’s on what shift rotates so no one is missing out all the time.

    Alternatively if there are two lunch shifts, could the organisation of it be that only half the food is out for the first shift anyway, so that it’s not possible for the first shift to ‘eat into’ the second shift’s portion?

    At the food project I mentioned above, we often ‘keep back’ a tray of something in the kitchen as a sort of back up as people often arrive late – late enough that seconds have been served so otherwise they may get nothing (some people have said they should be on time of they want to eat but I do think time management can be tricky if you’re homeless and I prefer to keep the extra. If it’s not eaten, we give it away in Tupperware)

    1. Mad Baggins*

      “some people have said they should be on time if they want to eat ”
      Yeah, screw homeless people! What do they think we are, a charity? /s

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        While I agree both in theory and practice that we should save some food for latecomers and I do do this, I do understand what causes some volunteers to express the ‘be on time if you want to eat’ sentiment. We serve at 7 and sometimes after 9:30 or so when we have run out, latecomers will turn up and then be angry/aggressive to us if we can’t give them a meal. Luckily not often but enough that it has caused some volunteers to think more harshly of late people wanting to still come and eat.

      2. Penny Lane*

        I work with an organization that provides food and shelter to homeless people (it rotates between several different locations) and yes, you have to be on time (within reason) to get served dinner. It’s staffed by volunteers and at some point you need to close up the food and get the kitchen cleaned and food stored in accordance with food safety policies and get the place ready for the bedtime accommodations. It’s not an all-night buffet on a cruise ship. I think the sarcasm is misplaced. Have you dealt with the people who show up two hours late and demand food and get aggressive when they are told the kitchen is closed but here are some snacks they can have in the meantime?

      3. Temperance*

        As someone who does a lot of charity work, I think your sarcasm is misplaced. Enforcing reasonable boundaries keeps your staff and volunteers sane. You don’t want the people doing good work to burn out, and frankly, there’s always someone who needs help outside of the set time.

  17. Call centre worker*

    Op4, have you read the terms and conditions for the thing you’re using? I know store loyalty cards usually specifically exclude business use so this may also, in which case you’d not be eligible for any vouchers

  18. MommyMD*

    Gift card OP: you are stealing from the company if you divert those gift cards to yourself. Fireable offense. You don’t want that. It’s not worth it.

    1. London Grammar*

      Yes and there may also be tax implications if the OP were to keep the gift cards for themselves.

  19. RG*

    OP 2 – I think they were trying to do right by you though – it sounds like they gave you an immediate raise up to market value, without you even needing to ask. It’s just that the timing of the new job has you leaving so soon after the change. I think if you were staying in the immediate future, you could have made a case for an increased salary and title to cover the additional high-level tasks you’ve taken on. That is, assuming their next step wasn’t to look for a replacement for the supervisor and/or boss, since they seem to be proactive.

    Also, as a general rule for you and others – don’t put groceries on credit like this. I don’t know if you’re in the US, but if you are then food is by far the easiest thing to get assistance for. There are so many nonprofits, both religious and secular, whose sole mission is to provide assistance for food, shelter, energy bills, etc. I say this as a reminder to myself as much as others: there is no shame in asking for help when it is needed. Please don’t run a balance on a credit card over groceries.

    1. BonusOP*

      You’re right. I do know better now. And I’m almost paid off. Tightened the belt and made large payments for a few months.

  20. MommyMD*

    Tell the school glutton in no uncertain terms he is taking too much food, he is not to pack for home, and that he can have ONE plate onsite. Let your administrators in on this. You are not being rude. HE is.

  21. Zip Silver*

    #4 – perhaps I’m bucking the trend here, but I think redeeming the cards for yourself is similar enough to earning airline miles or hotel points (especially since you say you mostly build up the gift cards using an online travel agency) that you should go check your company’s travel policy before making a decision and see what it says about earning points.

    1. BeezLouise*

      This is also my thought. Airline miles and hotel rewards are mine to use freely, and this doesn’t seem that different.

      I think our business office would be incredibly confused if I told them I paid for something with gift cards.

      1. Birch*

        It’s different if you earn the points yourself for travel you are going on, though. OP says they book travel for other people, so if it were airline points they would be stealing everyone else’s travel rewards. Discount points are also a little different than using gift cards to buy actual products, which is what it sounds like OP wants to do. In any case, when you’re in charge of office money and a transaction ends up cheaper than you had budgeted, you don’t get to pocket the extra, regardless of how that extra got there or what it was budgeted for!

    2. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

      It’s not the same as travel points and you can’t decide on your own, that it is. One could extend the same thinking to kickbacks, if one wanted to, by squinting very hard.

      Personally, I allow and even encourage my staff to keep gifts that are appropriate to them. We had one supplier who was giving gift cards for orders and when I asked, I told the reps who sold the orders that they could redeem the gift cards in their own names — everybody was happy. If I hadn’t been asked, or if a purchasing clerk had decided to put them in her name, it would have been (borderline, maybe) theft. You can’t decide on your own what to do with company money.

      1. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

        Just remembered a funny and relevant story that involves chicken soup and hair gel.

        I was up in the middle of the night one night a few years back, panic buying the internet out of Lipton’s Instant Chicken Noodle Soup (because, that’s a thing that would happen in my job, teapot business is weird). After I ran all of the usual suspects out of all their inventory, I found a stash on of all places. Bought all of theirs out, used a company CC and, for sake of convenience, my personal account.

        I got $23 in points — to my shock, I actually remembered to use them before they expired, $23 in FREE HAIR GEL. (there was no relevant work purchase ever to be made with the point)

        Which…….made me feel terribly guilty. I mentioned it to one of the company principles “I owe you guys $23 for hair gel” and they thought the story hilarious and told me to enjoy the hair gel. Nobody would have ever known about my hair gel perk but it still wasn’t right until somebody told me it was okay.

      2. Y*

        I told the reps who sold the orders that they could redeem the gift cards in their own names — everybody was happy

        Except customs and excise, I assume, who if they had got wind of what you were doing could have prosecuted you for tax fraud.

        1. Natalie*

          Cash rebates usually aren’t taxable. Have their been any letters or decisions differing on that if the rebate goes directly to an employee?

          1. Y*

            Depends on whether the scheme rewards were accrued by the employee buying stuff for themselves the same way as a normal member of the public would, even if on a company card or reimbursed (not taxable), or if they were using a purchase method they were only using / only had access to because of their employment (taxable).

            This case sounds like the latter because it was bulk-buying through a third-party travel site which gave rise to the rewards, and one assumes that a general member of the public wouldn’t be doing that.

          2. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

            My inexpert guess is that since gift cards going directly from an employer to an employee are taxable, a gift card that an employer made a decision to whom it could be issued, and that person was an employee of the company may be at least a grey area. Even if we never touched it.

            So come at me for a small handful of $25 bed bath & beyond GCs issued from a vendor. O.o

  22. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    LW1 We serve meals at my workplace over a 2 hour meal period. Our solution is to hold half of the food back for the second hour to accommodate later arrivals. This is especially true with the desserts because the first comers tended to grab the desserts even before getting their meal. Also, second helpings are not allowed until 30 minutes before meal time ends to prevent people refilling their plates at the expense of those who haven’t had first helpings. This is course requires a dedicated food police person but the system works really well.

    1. Ten*

      Also, second helpings are not allowed until 30 minutes before meal time ends to prevent people refilling their plates at the expense of those who haven’t had first helpings.

      That sounds like a great way to do it!

  23. Birch*

    OP #4, why did you install that extension on your work computer in the first place? Was it originally for work related vendor coupons or also for personal stuff? It’s not clear in your letter what the original use was. Put it on your home computer and do your personal searches there. If you don’t have a home computer or you also use your personal computer for work, you can disable extensions! Or keep it active for both personal and work, but keep the benefits separate. Also, are the benefits tied to your personal or work email? Use your work email for work only. If you don’t have a personal email, you can get a free one easily through gmail, etc. You really need to create more boundaries in your life if you tend to get tempted by this kind of thing, which is unquestionably unethical.

    1. Mustache Cat*

      This kinda feels like it’s coming on too strong, no? Some companies would be fine with and even encourage this discount-seeking behavior. My penny pinching nonprofit employer would have loved OP4’s initiative. Using the resulting rewards coupons for herself doesn’t by any means strike me as unquestionably unethical. She’s not extorting funds out of anyone. It’s really just a rewards coupon, sort of like airline miles for business travel as people have noted above. She should obviously check with her employer first, but you’re talking like she’s committing embezzlement.

      1. Y*

        She’s not extorting funds out of anyone

        She’s committing income tax fraud, especially if the scheme is approved of by the employer.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Why is it tax fraud? I would presumably know more about this sort of thing if I did a lot of purchasing for my job, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to assume that the LW might not know the tax implications of this either.

          1. Y*

            It’s tax fraud because if your employer lets you keep gift points accrued by their spending, then that’s exactly the same as them just giving you the things you spend them on as part of your remuneration. Hence it’s a benefit in kind, hence taxable.

            1. Becky*

              I have looked into this and cash back rewards from credit cards and eBates are not taxable, so no tax fraud is being committed. I am not familiar with Honey’s terms (assuming that’s the extension being used) so I can’t say for certain if that applies. I’ll paste a link or two in a following comment

        2. Susan K*

          Well, she isn’t doing anything yet! She is asking for advice on the right thing to do before she redeems the rewards.

          1. Y*

            I was replying to the hypothetical. The original comment read ‘[in this hypothetical situation] She’s not extorting funds out of anyone’, & I pointed out that in that hypothetical situation, she is committing tax fraud.

            The original commenter should have just the subjunctive, I agree, obviously, but given they didn’t, I thought that it was clearer to match tense than to correct it.

            1. fposte*

              But, as noted below, what you’re saying would be incorrect in the US. Merely using the gift cards wouldn’t be tax fraud.

            2. Susan K*

              Sorry, I didn’t mean to nitpick your tense or anything — it was just starting to look pretty harsh towards the OP, who seems to be trying to do the right thing.

      2. Birch*

        She kind of is, though. She’s getting perks on massive orders of things she would not have otherwise ordered for personal use (things that are not paid for with her own money but with the company’s money), and then using those perks on herself. She’s not using travel points *she herself* accrued, she’s using travel points accrued from *everyone else’s* travel–she doesn’t deserve *everyone’s* perks (or generally the company’s perks) just because her job is to handle the money! It’s stealing.

        If your friend bought a new couch and earned a 20% discount at the furniture store, and then she gave that discount to you, that’s fine. But if she asked you to use her credit card to order her couch, and you then took that 20% discount for yourself, that’s stealing. The discount belongs to the person who paid for the product or service unless they give it away.

        1. Bea*

          I agree. The credit needs to be presented to the company for redemption. I don’t know how you don’t say “hey boss, if we install this extension, we save thousands AND we get rewards for it.”

          Credit card rewards for business accounts are taxable and are counted as income. These should be used to offset business expenses instead of mingled with personal compensation which the IRS isn’t keen on.

  24. Y*

    Buying gift cards for yourself would be unethical

    More importantly, it’s income tax fraud and you could go to gaol.

    1. fposte*

      In the U.S., it’s the employer who’d be on the hook here. No IRS prison for the gift-card using OP.

      1. Y*

        Well, somebody would be in trouble anyway.

        Getting your boss thrown in chokey probably counts as gross misconduct even in the colonies?

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Are you kidding? Over here, we call that “gumption.” That’s why we’re no longer the colonies! ;-)

        2. neverjaunty*

          The IRS doesn’t throw people in jail unless they’re committing fraud and won’t pay penalties and interest. Why the dramatic pronouncements?

          1. Natalie*

            Half the time they don’t even charge interest for small oversights, especially when they’re dealing with smaller businesses. Mainly the IRS wants to collect the money they’re owed.

            1. fposte*

              We tend to run more grounded around here, though, so unless your hyperbole is clearly hyperbolic it’s likely to be read as inaccurate.

            2. neverjaunty*

              I have, but this is a site where we are encouraged to give people the benefit of the doubt rather than assuming they are in the failure mode of trying to be clever.

              It is very weird to jump to “this is tax fraud!!!” The issue is not whether the OP is declaring these benefits or even needs to, but whether what she is doing is OK in the first place.

    2. Bea*

      As the one man accounting department I kneejerked about gift cards of such a high value being seen as something the company would happily pass down to the savvy employee. No. You have to use that for business expenses or else every admin purchaser just found out they can install Honey and cash in on the company’s sizeable purchases.

      We also pay taxes on the cash rewards on credit cards in case anyone thinks those just get thrown into the owners pocket…

  25. drpuma*

    OP4, it sounds like you see the gift cards as akin to an unexpected windfall. Since that’s the case, why not ask your boss if you can put them towards something for everyone in your small office? Maybe a chair-massage company could come in for an afternoon, or you could use them to provide doughnuts/fruit every Friday for a few months. $500 for a small office should be more than enough to get creative. Everyone would think you are the super admin!

  26. Julianne*

    #1 If your staff is large enough that they need to buy multiple trays/platters of food to feed the staff, they could put one out during K-2 lunch, one during 3-5 lunch, and one during 6-8 lunch (or whatever split makes sense for your context). Or if all lunches are 11-11:40, for example, put out 2 trays at 11:00 (because we all want to get our food ASAP before lunch inevitably gets interrupted) and the third at 11:20. We do the former at my school.

  27. C*

    #4 – does your employer have a policy on whether frequent flyer miles/hotel reward points for company travel belong to the company or to the traveler? If they have a policy stating they belong to the traveler, then you could consider asking your boss about the reward point gift cards.

    1. periwinkle*

      It’s not quite the same thing. I keep my frequent flyer/guests points but that is compensation from the inconvenience of having to travel for business purposes. For example, I am at a conference right now, 2400 miles from my husband. It’s our anniversary. Tomorrow is my birthday; I’ll still be here. It’s not a large city so I was stuffed into a 50-seat plane on the way in and will be back in a tiny plane for the first leg homeward.

      Damn straight I get to keep my air and hotel points!

  28. Diane Berg*

    I thought *I* was the only one! The main reason I’m retiring early is because I’m so fed up (see what I did there?) with food, food, food! As the senior admin I am responsible for arranging meals so often that I’m moving into the food service industry, where I don’t have to stand over alleged adults and remind them that they are not the only person on earth and that others also expect to eat. I often wonder if these people were raised by wolves. Not even going to go into the issue of ordering special meals to accommodate necessary food limitations (kosher, vegan, halal) only to see someone who is NOT kosher, vegan, halal, gobble it up before the real vegan shows up.

    1. Betsy*

      As a vegetarian, there have been so many times people have happily been eating large servings of food clearly labeled vegetarian, and then they’ll talk to you about how they love vegetarian food and how it’s nice to have a break from meat sometimes, you know. I honestly think they are trying to somehow appear culturally sensitive and don’t realise that you can’t eat all the rest of the food there, but they can, so they’re depriving people of food. I don’t know if the same thing happens to people with gluten-free diets, for example, but I bet it does.

      1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        At my seasonal job, the university age students had to state their food allergies etc when they registered. They also had to register as a vegetarian/vegan because we had food deliveries trucked in weekly and needed to plan meals. Whenever someone came through the food line and announced they were a vegetarian because the veggie option looked so good, we checked for names and if they weren’t on the veggie list then no they could not have that option. If we got push back our response was, you can sign up as a vegetarian and eat that way for the rest of the summer. No one took us up on the offer. A carnivore can eat veggie but a veggie cannot eat meat and if you take their portion they are left with nothing. And yes, it happens with the gluten-free option as well, people are curious to try it but someone who needs it is going to go hungry!

      2. nnn*

        Ugh, this always happens at my workplace. So we decided to try ordering all vegetarian food, and people (many of the same people!) complained.

        I think at some undefined point in the future (after we’ve had a few “normal” food orders to get their guard back down) ordering all-vegetarian, but not telling anyone it’s all-vegetarian.

        1. Positive Reframer*

          Depending on the type of food there could be a meat as condiment option. Think like chicken or meatballs to add to a pasta dish or something like that. Bacon crumbles to add to just about anything etc.

      3. Tuxedo Cat*

        It happens to be as a vegetarian too. From what I’ve gathered, people use these settings as an opportunity to try things they normally wouldn’t get. It strikes me as somewhat irrational- there is absolutely no reason they can’t order or make vegetarian food on their own. I guess people are creatures of habit or it’s low risk; if they hate the vegetarian option, they have other things to eat.

      4. not so sweet*

        “I honestly think they are trying to somehow appear culturally sensitive”

        For sure that’s part of it. As an omnivore, I sometimes have this urge to show my vegetarian or gluten-sensitive associates that they fit in here and aren’t too much trouble, by eating the same things they’re eating and then talking about them. I never did that at the kind of dinner where there was a choice of main dish, either ahead of time or on the spot (“the chicken, the salmon, or the vegetable lasagne?”) but at a buffet, I used to take some aloo gobi or veg pasta along with the meat (or instead of the meat if it was something I didn’t expect to like) and some rice crackers with my cheese instead of the dry wheat crackers.

        And then my vegetarian friend asked us a question about why the pizza never worked out at his office. See, he was the designated pizza orderer at his office, and he never got enough to eat. He’d been calculating, okay, 1/4 of the people are vegetarian, so we’ll make 1/4 of the pizzas veg-special and 3/4 of them pepperoni, works, or Hawai’ian. When he asked his Facebook friends about this, he discovered that some of us had no idea that there would only be enough vegetable pizza for the vegetarians to get a meal – that we thought of veg pizza as a sort of vegetable side dish, so we might take 2 slices of our favourite kind and one of ham and pineapple and one of vegetables-only. We told him to try ordering about twice as much veg pizza as the vegetarians could consume, and adjust from there – and that if the non-vegetarians complained next time, that was probably fair, since the vegetarians had missed out up til then.

        I stopped taking vegetarian pizza the first time around.

    2. Allison*

      Right? Who raised these people? My mom absolutely told me to stop when she noticed me taking too much of something (and my cousin not-so-politely called me out for taking two pieces of steak once, I never did it again), and my dad taught me to be aware of the other people who want to eat when I’m taking my own portions.

      The idea of policing people’s food related etiquette at work is so baffling to me, but when I see stories like this, I feel like yeah, people don’t have much choice, but we shouldn’t need to babysit adults like that! I also saw a thread on Reddit about bad behavior at all-you-can-eat buffets and it was horrifying, like someone taking all the crab the second a new batch comes out, leaving nothing for anyone else. Some buffets kick you out for that stuff, other places don’t care.

    3. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*


      I will say I like when we’re offered the option at my work–I’m not a vegetarian, but sometimes the meat on offer is not something I can eat. So I like it when the menu is described before and you can choose between meat/veg/other.

      I also realize I’m a picky eater, so usually I expect not to eat at these things.

      If you didn’t tell me the vegetarian or vegan option was specifically ordered for the vegetarian/vegan, I could see me eating one because I didn’t realize that they wouldn’t have something to eat.

  29. sssssssssss*

    When feeding Cubs at camp, the rule is you get seconds after everyone else, including the cook and the leaders, have had firsts. We also limit portions on the first round. We get some push back but they’re nine year olds. I would expect better from an adult.

    Dude who fills his plate high and goes for seconds, is either completely clueless…or incredibly selfish. “It’s not my fault that there isn’t enough food or they come later. They should get here sooner.” He needs a talking to.

    It’s a shame someone will have to supervise food. Perhaps an interim solution would be to put out half the food ordered for the first lunch shift and the rest later for the 2nd lunch shift. If he hovers, he gets told to wait or shooed away.

    Catered food is a privilege, not a right.

  30. Cordoba*

    If LW#3 is communicating with this company via email I’d like to point out it’s “peace of mind” not “piece of mind”.

    Ordinarily I’d not mention this, but when somebody is talking with a potential employer stuff like this matters.

    1. AKchic*

      Thank you. I did not want to be the alt-write on this one, but it really stuck out like a sore thumb. Multiple times.

  31. M*

    Eek. Please rethink the last sentence of reply number 1 that references guns at an elementary school. (I’m guessing it was written a few days ago scheduled to publish ahead of time.)

    1. N.J.*

      I don’t agree or disagree with your point, but wanted to ask if you are aware that “bring in the big guns” is a very, very common colloquialism/slang phrase used to mean someone with more resources/authority/power or something that represents more power etc.
      It’s not as shocking of a word usage, even considering the Florida school shooting, as you would think. Maybe a bit unfortunate of a turn of phrase, but not a natural one to one correlation with somehow supporting gun violence in schools or making light of it.

      1. M*

        I know exactly what the phrase means, how common it is, and why it was used. I’ve spent the last 12 hours hearing about a horrible school shooting, and “bring in the big guns” in a reply to solving a problem at an elementary school actually did feel shocking to me.

        1. N.J.*

          Fair enough, wasn’t sure, as we have readers on this blog from places besides the U.S., and wanted to state the opposite take on this phrasing.

        2. Apollo Warbucks*

          If you know how common it is and the meaning of it then why nit pick someone else’s word choice ?

        3. Nonsenical*

          You’re really making mountains out of mole hills here. We always have had gun shootings, I am not saying I am without empathy, but I would stop projecting on other people’s commonly used language just because a recent event happened.

          Let’s stay focused on what the OP is writing about?

    2. Yorick*

      This obviously doesn’t refer to gun violence, so it’s not necessary to break the site rules to nitpick language

  32. Huddled over tea*

    OP #5 – we are a company that makes people both attach docs and fill out an application form, and we do it because we have an ATS we’re mandated to use by our parent company, which is located in a European company with very strict employment laws. The basic gist of it is that they require this info about every candidate to be able to prove euqality in hiring. might not be included in their documents so in that case, yes, it would be a fireable offence to lie in the application

  33. MuseumChick*

    This is a story from someone I know.

    They had a co-worker just like the guy in letter 1. He would take huge amounts of food and then take a ton of leftovers. Whenever anyone spoke up his response would be “Well no on is eating it!” For example, when everyone else was still eating sandwiches he had gobbled his up already and was on to cake. Of which he took half. So, technically, yes, no one was eating the cake…yet, because they hand’t had a chance to finishes their sandwiches yet.

    OP, to echo the others, set clear expectations and boundaries: Everyone gets one sandwich, one drink, one bag of chips, etc. And no one is allowed seconds until everyone has had a chance to get their food.

        1. fposte*

          Pretty much everybody always thinks they’re being reasonable. We’re just not good at judging ourselves on that.

      1. MuseumChick*

        Well it was my friend’s work place. I don’t know if they ever got it stop. But I think this falls into “uncomfortable but direct conversation management needs to have.”

        “Fergus, we have a policy of only letting everyone take X amount of food, thank you for understanding.”
        “Fergus, we have talked about this, what is going on?”

  34. Bea W*

    #3 – Agree with Allison here! I had a manager who would regularly lament about the quality of candidates on phone screens. Her primary complaint was she wanted people to talk more about being interested in the job/company/project than schedule, commute, or ability to work remotely.

    Those things can all be reasons to look at a job, but you still have to answer the question, why THIS job? They’re likely not the only employer in that location offering those hours. So people are looking for answers that apply specifically to the job field/functions or company mission.

    1. Steve*

      I am in interview loops at my company, and both from my own experience and seeing what other interviewers’ feedback: just saying you like the location or commute is not going to be a mark in your favor. We want employees who are enthusiastic about working for us, specifically, and not just any vaguely similar company in a 10 mile radius. It’s fine to mention but as Alison and most everyone else has said, only if you follow up by saying why you are interested in the particular company, job, or work specifically.

      I don’t normally ask why someone is leaving their existing employer, but if I or a fellow interviewer did so, “the long commute” would be a perfectly fine answer to that question.

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I tend to cover this by saying something like, “I’m really excited about the opportunity to work on X, Y, and Z and, since you are closer to my house, the shorter commute is a nice perk”. That way you can make the focus the job with a better life balance as a side benefit rather than giving the impression that the life benefit is the focus.

  35. Not Today Satan*

    #5. I’ve gotten to the point where I put extreme minimal effort into the online applications–I basically let them import from my Linkedin, attach my cover letter and resume, and press submit. If they require ridiculous information like the address and name and phone number of supervisors at each job, I simply delete all jobs I’ve had more than 5 years ago (so, 2 jobs ago). It’s just insulting, and I’ve never gotten an interview through a portal like that anyway, so I’m not going to break my back for it.

    And from the other side, my employer uses an application tracking system. I might occasionally go to the “application” tab to look at their desired salary, but other than that I just look at the resumes and, if the resumes are good, cover letters.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I will say, lately the applications I’ve used have (mercifully) imported information from the resume I also uploaded, and asked me to confirm it. Sometimes it gets a little scrambled which is a pain to correct, but I much prefer that to manually re entering everything from my resume and then uploading that exact same resume.

      Also, having been on the flip side of one of these application services … the hiring managers always asked me to just export the resumes and cover letters and forward those along, and didn’t review the online portion at all because it was too annoying to deal with. SMH.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Most of mine have too, and they do tend to scramble. I’ve made a document with all the relevant information that’s not on my resume, like addresses, etc. If it messed up or didn’t import from my resume, all I have to do is copy and paste.

    2. Nonsenical*

      All the jobs I’ve had ATS like this and if I didn’t completely fill it out, I would have never made it to the interview process. Yes, it is a PITA but it is common among most US employers.

  36. KL*

    Op 1 – I can commiserate. When I started in my office, we had a guy like this. We would routinely send out how much everyone could take during their first serving, i.e. one sandwich and one bag of chips, and would also ask that no one get seconds until everyone had a chance to get eat first. Honestly, our guy just didn’t care. I remember after a party I had some more leftover candied pecans that I didn’t want to take home with me. I was sharing an office with four other people so I asked if anyone wanted to take some home with them. RudeGuy actually walked over to me, took my good Tupperware container out of my hand, and walked back to his desk saying he’d take them home. I took it back and said he could take a few with him, but he could not take whole thing. He looked at me like I had grown a third head!
    It’s amazing. Since he left, we now have leftovers after our events. We’ve actually been able to buy less food since we hired his replacement!

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah I think there’s always “one guy” like this (is it ever a woman? I’m really curious) and you have to just be super blunt with him, cuz he ain’t going to pick up no hints or subtle cues. “Fergus, you are taking way too much food before anybody else arrives. You cannot take home leftovers until the last person has gotten a chance to eat. Don’t make me take this to your supervisor.” (In the case of every “that guy” I’ve ever known, it was really, really unlikely to be a food insecurity issue at home – this would of course be a different situation).

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        In fact, I wonder just how blunt the OP and coworkers are being with this guy. I mean, they may have literally said “You’re taking all the food before other people even have an opportunity to eat. You need to stop.” Or they may have tried to be “nicer” and said something like “Please make sure to leave enough food for the next lunch shift” or even P/A like “Wow, you must be really hungry” or “I can’t believe all the food is gone; that should have been enough for everybody.”

      2. Sara*

        There was a woman at my office that took a whole pizza before anyone else got a chance to eat so her kids could have pizza for dinner.

      3. I See Real People*

        We had one woman in our office brag to other employees that she can eat for less than $20 a week with the meals she takes home from food at work. One time, I saw her walk down the hall with four plates stacked and covered with foil. I guess that was her version of meal-prepping! Lol

  37. doctor schmoctor*

    At our year-end thing in December, a group of our employees ordered two huge trays of beer (the beer was paid for by the company), and proceeded to stuff them in their pockets and handbags. Someone reported them and their manager told them they would not be invited to any company events.

  38. Snark*

    OP2, I totally get that you’re angry, and I totally get why, but you cannot possibly think they’ll give you a bonus when you quit. That’s not reality, and you didn’t need Alison to tell you that.

    1. BonusOP*

      This was my first non-service industry job. I don’t know what the precedent for certain things like this is. And yeah, maybe it was unrealistic but in a moment of annoyance I wanted to know if I could confront them and say “You have underpaid and undervalued me for two years, including when I did two jobs for you. I’d like to know how you’re going to compensate me for that time, seeing as you’re planning to pay my replacement 20k more than me.”

      Maybe not realistic. But thanks for the drop of sympathy in your pretty disdainful reply.

      1. BonusOP*

        You know what. I apologize. That last part was snarky and unneeded. I just genuinely wrote in for advice. Sometimes weird hings happen in offices. You never know.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Actually I kind of think Snark was harsh too. Remember that nobody knows these things until they learn it! Don’t feel bad, OP, you asked a question in good faith and it is spurring interesting conversation. I hope you go on to much success.

      2. Snark*

        Sorry you read disdain in there. It was intended more as an observation that these are not people who are likely to have an attack of conscience and repay you for exploitatively underpaying you, because they knew full well that they were and were content with the arrangement.

        1. Snark*

          And ugh, wait, my apology there there is terrible – I hate “sorry you were offended” apologies, and I try to never give them. I apologize that my tone conveyed disdain, is what I meant to get across, because that wasn’t really my intent – I was shooting for dry cynicsm about your employer.

            1. Not a Morning Person*

              I think many of the commenters on this site have great sympathy/empathy for your situation! You have a right to feel as you do and it was commendable to write in for advice. As snark says, you probably already knew it, but even so, it helps to get confirmation that you are right to be angry and to feel that they took advantage of you, which they absolutely did! Do what you can to look forward and not backwards. I know not everyone likes motivational quotes, but I do, although I recognize that they really only resonate when I’m not in the middle of a snit or a situation where I need to think about my attitude and behavior, but to share for you, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” You are working your way into a better situation, bruised and wiser! You will be able to use your experience to better advocate for yourself in the future and use the experience of Alison’s peeps to help you navigate future situations. You are doing well for yourself.

            2. AKchic*

              I think a lot of us have been where you currently are, and can sympathize.

              Take your experience, your expertise, and your valuable skillset and fly. And make a lot of money in a better place.

      3. Jady*

        I get why you’re angry. I felt that way a little bit in my first job too when I learned I was underpaid. It’s sad we live in a country where there is so much secrecy and underhandedness around pay.

        One thing to remember as you leave is that there is a significant value in your first ‘real’ job. You are able to gain a lot of experience that overhauls or creates your resume, you’re now a trusted office worker, you’re considered less risky, you’ll have easier times finding work now, so on and on.

        With all the responsibility you had at that job, you’ve got a lot of opened doors now to progress your career, and your salary along with it. It sounds like you got a large variety of experience, and that gives you options, and options are extremely valuable.

        I started thinking of the missing pay as an investment into starting my career. Within 3 years of that first job, I’d more than doubled my first salary – more than I ever thought I would make.

        There is a tangible value in that investment, and you’ll see returns on it for the rest of your working years. Short-term loss, long term gain.

        Hope that thought helps!

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Yep. The only thing that sucks is when you probably experienced most of the benefits on this position in terms of resume and experience within the first year or so – and I have friends who staggered on for YEARS in jobs like this, that were basically abusive relationships. I’d say there’s very little difference on the resume between someone who was a “senior manager” paid $20K for two years, versus five years, or eight years, but it makes a huge difference to you, your financial situation, and how bitter/burned out you are. When a company is exploiting you, it pays to exploit them right back for the experience they offer, and then move on quickly.

  39. Rusty Shackelford*

    #4 – Mr. Shackelford once worked with an admin who got lots of swag by ordering office products from a particular company (like, spend $100 and get this free aluminum water bottle). She got so much stuff that she started sharing it with her favorite coworkers. But she was both surprised and annoyed when she showed Mr. S her new giant flashlight (he was not one of her favorites and hadn’t been included in the booty) and he said “hey, that would be handy for my job, can you get me one of those next time?” She got the gifts for spending the company’s money, but as far as she was concerned, they were hers. Don’t be that person. Your company may very well decide it’s okay for you to have the GCs (although, as others have noted, there may be tax implications?) but don’t assume.

  40. Scion*

    Re #4 – Is this really all that different than using a personal credit card for the points/cash back? I believe the general agreement is that keeping points/cash back is acceptable.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I have only seen the “you can keep the points back” situation in cases where the company makes the employee use their own credit card for routine work expenses (and this is such a crappy situation and burden on the employee that they deserve these points – and good companies don’t use this system) or in the case of travel miles, where I believe it’s considered a way to make up for the inconvenience of work travel. In travel miles, places I have worked have usually spelled out clearly what the deal is – “you must book the cheapest flight regardless of carrier, but you may keep personal mileage” or “you must use the mileage points for future work travel.” In my opinion, there’s no way OP should keep this gift card for herself. Her boss would likely be majorly irked to find out that she had benefited this way and kept the money.

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      I think it is. When I have to use my credit card, I’m on the hook for the payments regardless of whether I will get reimbursed.

      Reimbursement sometimes has taken months for non-trivial amounts of money; that means I’m paying out of pocket for who knows how long. When it has been mileage, it’s been completely transparent with the company. From what the letter writer described, it sounds like they use a corporate credit card so there is no risk or potential cost for them.

  41. Jamey*

    I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this idea that any value that’s caused by company purchases is unethical.

    What if I get credit card rewards on my personal credit card because of company purchases? Am I supposed to just not use those rewards because company purchases contributed to them? That seems crazy.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think if you’re floating the employer a loan by using your own credit card to pay for job-related expenses, you have every right to keep those rewards. But that’s not what’s happening here.

    2. fposte*

      But this isn’t your personal credit card. This is the company credit card. You don’t get to personally profit from using the company credit card.

      That would be a breach of our state ethics act at my employer and could be a firing offense.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah, it’s going to look like she was deliberately buying more expensive stuff or certain brands to rack up points for herself, even if that’s not the case. She would probably get canned for this at my office, unfortunately.

      2. Kyrielle*

        This. If, like my last employer, they have me put the airfare on my personal credit card, and reimbursing me, then I am going to put it on the one that has the best miles/cash back/whatever and those will be mine.

        My current company handles travel through a central group, and they handle payment. It comes straight from the company, and any rewards for it are the company’s. Admittedly I’m not in a position where I even *could* access those rewards, but clearly, they’re the company’s and should be.

        1. fposte*

          I also think that airline miles are a bit of an outlier and don’t really work as a model for all advantage programs; their value level is sufficiently high that they’ve been the actual subject of lawsuits. Even us state employees are allowed to accrue our own miles, but we couldn’t get gifts from vendors that are worth 1/100th of the value.

          1. Government worker*

            I’m a state employee, and I’m not supposed to accrue frequent flyer miles unless I agree to use them on future work-related travel.

            1. fposte*

              I’ve heard of states with that rule; I’m intrigued that it hasn’t come here, but wow, it would be a hard sell at this point.

              1. Government worker*

                I’m… not a fan. And the most frustrating part is that the state isn’t collecting those miles either, so nobody wins.

            2. Lil Fidget*

              This was always the threat at my last org, which stated clearly that you could keep the airline miles, that the office considered this a perk they were generously allowing, and that if people abused the system (by making the company pay more to maximize mileage benefits) they would revert to a “company owns the points” system.

    3. Ice Bear*

      Well, the OP downloaded the extension to save the company money, and in some cases those savings resulted in points instead of savings up-front. If the OP doesn’t use those points for company purchases, and instead uses them for personal things, they are no longer saving the company money which was the original intention. Personally, I wouldn’t feel right about that. Also, I don’t understand why they didn’t use their company email address when signing up in the first place.

      And to your remark about points earned on a personal credit card used for company expenses – that is different because you were essentially fronting the company money before being reimbursed (I assume) for those expenses. No reasonable company would expect to have dibs on any perks earned on your card for those purchases.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        I don’t doubt the letter writer when they say they got the best deal. However, the company might because I think it could be a difficult thing to prove so far after the fact.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I don’t think its an either/or. I think that OP gets a discount AND gets points for the purchase.

    4. neverjaunty*

      It creates a financial incentive to buy things at a rate or price that gets the employee the best return.

      1. fposte*

        Yes! That’s the reason why employers forbid this. It risks a change in the priorities of the employee that can hurt the employer.

        1. fposte*

          I’m getting lost–I thought the whole point was that we’re talking about employees using the employer’s payment system, so they wouldn’t be getting credit card rewards. (I think that’s why frequent flyer miles have come up so often–they’re the one outlier where you do get to keep the benefit.)

          (As state employees, what we could use personal credit cards for and expect reimbursement is *severely* limited. But no surprise there.)

          1. Natalie*

            The original comment is asking about getting rewards points on your personal card for work related purchases and how it differs from this browser extension. It provides just as much incentive to buy more expensive items as the browser extension does. (Which doesn’t mean its wrong – if you’re going to require your employees to give you a zero interest loan, that’s the risk you take IMO.)

        2. neverjaunty*

          Sure, which is why policies about these things are a good idea – but if the employee is using her own credit card, there’s also the countervailing pressure of using their own credit and accumulating interest.

          1. Natalie*

            Hmm, fair point.

            Just musing, I wonder if anyone’s studied the effect of using your own card even if there’s no practical negative affects – like, if I have a ton of available credit and always pay my bill in full so I have a long interest free grace period, does it still unconsciously influence me to spend less?

            1. fposte*

              That is, no lie, part of why I like my budget practice of hand-entering expenditures. It only takes a second, but since I pay nearly everything on my credit card it reduces the frictionlessness of that spending (and I have even occasionally been tipped away from spending on something insignificant because it’s not worth the data entry).

              1. Natalie*

                I am the same way. I have heard about some studies indicating people spend more on cards (credit or debit) than they do with cash but I am the exact opposite. If I take cash out, I’ve already entered the withdrawal into my budget so the actual money could blow away on the breeze for all I would notice.

                1. HannahS*

                  I’m the same. I spend way more with cash and then have no idea where it went. With credit, I pause, knowing that in three weeks I’ll be really annoyed with myself for having spent three bucks on tea instead of waiting half an hour til I get home.

          2. Lil Fidget*

            No good company should make the employee use their own credit cards for work expenses, it’s just a really crappy policy. The poor employees deserve those points back (and how insane would a company have to be to try and accrue points off of an individual’s personal credit card?? How would that even WORK??).

  42. Kadi*

    Re #1, in our school system the PTA organizes parents to contribute lunches once a month to the school. I know a parent volunteer is likely not going to “police” the amount teachers take – and it isn’t possible given our staffing to have an employee available to oversee it either. I don’t know if your catered lunches are school-paid for or parent-driven, but if parent-driven maybe have the PTA president coordinate it into shifts of food as some suggested above.

  43. Jady*

    #3 I’ve interviewed people that have given that reason for leaving their current position. It’s fine to include, and at least to me it’s a perfectly valid and understandable reason for leaving. I would go insane having to commute so long every day.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      True, but there’s a difference between “I’m leaving my current job because the commute is insane,” and “I’m interested in this job because the commute is better.”

      1. Lil Fidget*

        yeaaah, it’s just not a compelling reason from the employer’s side, for why they should pick this candidate. Also sometimes locations may change and you don’t want to advertise that you would immediately quit if that happened (even if it’s true).

        1. Anony*

          It’s not a compelling reason to hire them, but it is a good reason for leaving the previous job. The OP needs to also provide a reason that they are interested in this particular job.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Yeah true. This is a good way to think about it. It might be one-half of the explanation (but a much less important half, also – the least interesting part to the employer, I’d say. You could also just assume an employee is leaving their old job because they believe they’re underpaid).

          2. PB*

            Yes. I interviewed a candidate recently who answered “Why are you interested in this position?” with (essentially) “My family lives in your area, and my current job is terrible and everyone’s job hunting. Oh, and I’d be good at it.”

            He didn’t move on to round 2. There were other issues, too, but this was a rocky way to start.

        1. fposte*

          The first.

          Try the “why hiring is like dating” approach here. It’s one thing for a guy to say he broke up with his girlfriend because the two-hour drive between them was just too much over time; it’s another for him to say that he liked your dating profile because he would only have to drive two blocks to get to your house.

          1. LAI*

            Haha, I met my fiance online and he told me one of the first things he noticed on my profile is how close I lived, because he was tired of driving an hour and a half to go on a date. I still like to tease him by telling people the only reason he agreed to go out with me is because of the location :)

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Neither is bad. And both might be true. But when someone asks why you want this job, “the commute is better” implies that’s the most important reason you want it. And most employers are looking for someone who wants their job, not just someone who wants any job in their physical location.

          On the other hand, “the commute is awful” is a perfectly good reason to leave your job. But you still need to give me a reason why you want the job I’m hiring for. They’re two separate questions with two separate answers.

          1. Steve*

            Another factor is that (from what they’ve told you) all they like about your company is the commute, then even if you decide you want to hire them, you’re going to have to work harder to sell them on the company, and there will be a higher risk that your offer will be turned down for them to go work at some other company in the specified radius.

      2. Jady*

        Yes, absolutely agreed.

        The commute is the reason you’re looking at all. ‘Why are you leaving your current position?’ is a very common question, and this is a proper answer.

        It is not the proper answer to the other common question of: ‘Why do you want to work for [us]?’

    2. Kyrielle*

      Yep. When I made the switch I was giving up a 45-90 minute commute (45 in the morning, highly variable between the two extremes in the evening) for a 1-mile drive. Did I say “I picked you because it’s a 1-mile drive”? Nope. Wasn’t even true; there are other companies that are just about the same distance from home that I didn’t apply to, but for which my skill set was a match. I had lots of other reasons for applying where I did, and I emphasized those.

      But I did add, lightly, “And of course, changing from a commute to (far-away town) to one mile is an extra benefit that I won’t complain about!”

  44. Fabulous*

    #4 – Playing a bit devil’s advocate… Are employees who travel frequently, gaining tons of air miles in the process, restricted to using them for work travel or can they use them personally too? A company I’ve managed the travel & expense for in the past said the miles accrued are for personal use, so it may be the same. I would argue that since the travelers aren’t likely restricted to using their miles for work, why should you be restricted to use the points you’ve accrued for work?

    That said, you should loop your boss in and ask if they have any ideas what you should do. They may very well say buy X things and then go use the remainder for yourself.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Nah, a few people have made this comparison but I don’t buy it. Airline travel points are usually spelled out in the travel policy, in my experience. This is something the company doesn’t know about that OP is hoping they won’t notice (which already means it’s a bad idea – otherwise, why the secrecy? Why wouldn’t you just tell the boss, if you’re in the clear? … because you know you’re not and the boss wouldn’t approve).

      1. Ice Bear*

        That’s making assumptions about the OP’s character when they did explain in their letter that they hadn’t realized they were racking up points until recently.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I’m definitely not saying the employee deliberately did this. I completely believe their account of how this happened. But if you believe you’re in the clear, go to your boss and say, “I accrued these rewards with this browser extension, it’s okay for me to use them myself, right?”

      2. WeevilWobble*

        The OP clearly explained that the purpose of the extension was to save money for the company. She usually gets savings at check-out. The gift card bonus was an after thought that accumulated for a year.

    2. Birch*

      No, the point is that OP’s situation is using company money, not her own money, to get the rewards in the first place. And the rewards come from company-sized purchases. This would be like you managing everyone’s travel for your company and then using all of their miles for yourself.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        This is also a good comparison, thank you for putting your finger on why the “airline miles” argument doesn’t hold water for me.

        1. JS*

          How when you use company money to book travel? I used to take delayed, later flights on company travel at airport (when my time allowed) so I could get voucher dollars or gift cards for overbooked flights.

        1. Lil fidget*

          Yeah but the point is, what if you were the admin whose job it was to book everybody’s travel – the travel of six or seven executives. And you were keeping all the travel points for yourself and flying everywhere free. Most people would think that was weird. Because this OP is presumably buying all the office supplies for the office, it’s kind of uncomfortable that she’d be keeping the points back just for herself.

          1. JS*

            But thats not how travel points work when booking flights so its not applicable. It would only really apply if you were booking everyone’s flights, they get their frequent flyer, but the company is making you booking using your own line of credit and paying the bill so you get rewards for it. Thats just a perk of the job. Usually this wouldnt apply as it makes more sense for company at that point to use corporate cards but I worked at a Silicon Valley tech start up that had sales managers booking $5k-$13k company expenses for events on personal cards and the company reimbursing them. They had ridiculous amounts of benefits from that all for personal use and no one batted an eye.

  45. DCompliance*

    Someone can have my portion of popcorn. I am dealing with morning sickness, so I will just stick to my milk and crackers.

    1. Future Homesteader*

      I mistakenly tried popcorn as a morning sickness food last week. It….did not end well. Although to be fair, it ended the same way as the saltines, and the cheerios, and the graham crackers…

      Umm, so, here’s some commiseration!

      1. Legal Beagle*

        Ice water with fresh-squeezed lemon! That kept me going for two months of all-day morning sickness.

      2. Ophelia*

        May I suggest two paragons of nutrition: Gatorade and sour patch kids? My children are basically made of 100% refined sugar.

        1. Future Homesteader*

          At this point I figure this thing just needs calories. I try to give it vitamins, but it’s rejecting them.

          1. AnaEatsEverything*

            I had terrible “morning” (read: “all day”) sickness throughout my entire pregnancy. Finally I gave up on the idea of vitamins or balanced meals and just gave in to literally every craving. I figured if there was a 20% chance I’d throw up any given meal, I may as well really enjoy every meal I CAN keep down. The Postmates delivery people knew me by name.

            The calories in/out must have canceled each other out in the end, because I immediately dropped back to my pr-epregnancy weight after delivering. I proceeded to gain it all back during the following 2 years, but that’s another story!

            1. TheCupcakeCounter*

              I had days where I would wake up craving something and literally anything else that went into my mouth came back up until I satisfied that craving. Was ok when it was peaches but that chocolate ice cream day was really hard to explain…

        2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          My grandma gave my mom warm Jell-o water (as in, you make the Jell-o, but instead of putting it in the fridge to set, you drink it straight away). She still swears by it when she feels sick.

          1. The Naked Cowboy*

            I’m glad it worked for your mom, but I’m glad I’m not pregnant because the very thought of “hot Jello water” made me gag! I wonder why it worked…

        3. Drama LLama's Mama*

          Mine, too. I lived on macaroni and cheese, goldfish, and snickers for a not-insignificant period of time. Whatever stays down works!

      3. TheCupcakeCounter*

        ginger and peppermint tea helped me a lot – immediately before and after eating.
        Also Eggos come up very nicely

  46. Sara*

    In regards to #4 – my boss encouraged me to use any rewards I earned for myself. We signed up for a rewards card with a restaurant group that tied to my corporate card and I earned almost $200 after a couple of large department meals (no discounts, just points for going). When I told him about it, he just said that it looked like I was treating my friends to a great meal. We used a hotel website for a while before the company decided to standardize with a internal site, and it was also tied to my card. No one seemed to mind if I used it.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      That is great! I hope that’s what happens to this OP if she asks her boss. It’s certainly reasonable for him/her to say that, since it was only her cleverness that earned the extra $$, she deserves to use it to treat herself. (If I was the boss, I might only do this once I’d clarified that she couldn’t buy more expensive or on-brand items to maximize her own points-back, and that I’d be watching that). But IMO she has to ask and get his explicit approval before she’s in the clear for this. Otherwise, it’s an optics issue.

  47. I See Real People*

    If there is one thing I’ve learned working in my current office (being the one who orders all of the catering for meetings, celebrations, etc.) it is that people are weird about food…how much they can eat, how they feel entitled to several servings and take some home, and how it’s unfair if they don’t get food from a meeting (leftover or if the meeting is still going even) to which they’re not invited.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Soooo agree. Office people (I assume others also, but I can only speak to my own experience) are nuts about free food, inexplicably and irrationally nuts. I think it’s because we’re bored sitting around all day and most of us feel like the company owes us more than what we get, so any small perk is magnified.

      Actually I recall students also being weirdly obsessed with free pizza, even if not that good, so this may just be humans in general. Maybe it’s evolutionarily wired :D

      1. Hildegard Vonbingen*

        I must be an anomaly, then. I never eat the free food available at my job. I prefer to decide what I eat on any given day, and I can well afford to buy my own food. I honestly do not understand this “employees are obsessed with free pizza, even if not that good” idea. I like a high-protein, low salt, low sugar, low fat, non-meat diet, and as such I watch what I eat. Usually the free food at work isn’t stuff I want to ingest, so I ignore it. Sure, I like to eat junk food once in a while, like donuts or good pizza, but I’ll do that when I’m in the mood for it, not simply because it’s available and free of charge. Reading these threads is fascinating to me. I’ll add that my co-workers mostly do eat the free food, but I’ve not seen any of them pig out or hog a disproportionate share of what’s on offer.

        I’m in the U.S., in the SF Bay Area. Maybe it’s a regional thing?

        1. Parenthetically*

          Maybe folks at your office have more specific dietary needs/preferences that aren’t met by the “free pizza in the breakroom” thing? I do notice that there are WAY more leftovers from our parent-provided lunches during Lent (very religious city — most of my students give something up for Lent), or in January when people are just starting new diets.

    2. kb*

      Food stuff will just always be weird at work. It’s funny to compare this week’s issue (taking too much food) to a bunch of comments a few weeks ago making fun of the habit people have of refusing to take the last of anything.

  48. Katie*

    #1 made me laugh. I work at a university and there’s this monthly committee meeting our office orders the food for, and this one professor always steals the entire fruit bowl at the end of it. The last meeting I grabbed the fruit bowl before he could get to it, and he comes up to me and asks if he can take it. I awkwardly “Um, uh, well..” and he’s finally like, “Oh, well, if you guys are going to eat it, that’s fine.” I mean…the food came out of our office’s budget, dude. We get the leftovers.

    1. I See Real People*

      We have one partner (there are 20) who will take all of the sweets when he leaves a meeting. Even if the meeting is not over! “Can I take some of these for my kids?”…as he clears every single cookie from the box!

    2. John*

      I used to work at a major financial services firm. We had lunch catered every day. It was usually sort of a sandwich spread with fruit and etc. The caterer complained to a manager that the raw materials for the sandwiches were disappearing every day after lunch time. They checked the security tapes and found that an employee was taking the bread, mayo, roast beef, etc from the area where the caterer made the sandwiches after lunch every day and putting them in a cooler in his car. Keep in mind this guy probably made $80k base with a bonus structure where he could easily make $250k a year in a Midwest medium sized city, so he wasn’t hurting.

      HR and his group MD decided to terminate him immediately.

      1. JS*

        Thats bizarre! I could see if he was just making an extra sammy and not wanting to bother caterer but to steal food supplies in bulk is so weird.

      2. Madame X*

        Oh my goodness! This makes my blood boil. This guy is making literally hundreds of thousands more than the caterer and yet he steals from them?! I wonder how he explained to his family that he got fired from his six-figure job for stealing the ingredients for a sandwich.

        1. JS*

          The cater is employed by the company so the company has already paid for the supplies but the point is if he is stealing raw materials then caterer is probably going through a week or so of food in a couple days which costs the company more, so he is stealing from the company.

  49. Jam Today*

    I’ve encountered that food thing at a previous company and no matter how many times it occurred, I was always shocked at people’s unbelievably bad manners. I mean that is just straight up anti-social behavior and I have to know who raised these people to behave this way, and why.

  50. LAI*

    Re #5, in my experience as on the hiring side, I almost always focus on the resume and cover letter and often don’t even look at the application. But if something on a resume confuses me, I’ll use the application to double-check it. For example, if someone does a functional resume and has left all the dates of employment off, that’s info that I’m going to want to look up. Of if they don’t have an education section, since we’re a field where most candidates have an advanced degree, I’ll check that. So if your resume is complete and well-organized, they may never need to look at the application but the unfortunate truth is that many resumes are confusing.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah this is what drives me nuts. Everywhere I’ve ever worked that used an application system, the hiring manager doesn’t use the system anyway. There can be an “initial screening” function done in the system (which results in annoying box-check-y problems) but it’s usually not that convenient on the backend either.

  51. LAI*

    No. They sound like someone who made a mistake when negotiating salary for their first job and is upset now that they know better. This is their first job, so they also sound like someone who is still new to figuring out this kind of thing and doesn’t know what is appropriate to ask for. At least they know enough to find this blog and ask an expert for help. That’s more than I knew when I was in my early 20s.

  52. John*

    Re: #4, What’s the ethics on frequent flyer miles? I have flown about 100,000 miles for business the last 10 years, largely on a single airline, and also using that airline’s credit card, so I’ve tallied up major frequent flyer award miles I’ve used for personal recreational travel. The company reimburses me but I’m like OP4 I’m profiting off something the company is purchasing.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Nope, usually miles are in the clear, it’s an unusual case. Although it’s usually spelled out in a travel policy, anywhere I’ve worked. There’s a bunch of good comments on the issue if you search “airline” on the page.

    2. Birch*

      The airline thing is a different case–you’re using miles you’ve accrued traveling yourself. OP says she books travel for other people, so she’d be (in this example) using everyone else’s reward miles, not her own.

  53. LoopHole-in-One*

    #5 – A previous employer of mine used both resumes and applications – and had to revamp their whole system when an applicant with no relevant training or experience managed to land a job in ACCOUNTING. And not like, whatever a not-super-crucial-to-every-aspect-of-the-business accounting job might be, but like a “do this right or we lose all our sweet federal student loan income” accounting job. She had put some wildly inaccurate things/lies on her resume that made her look like the perfect candidate. Then she filled out the online application without lies. The background checked looked at her application only, and came back “yeah all those things happened” – but no one ever checked that her resume and application had the same(ish) info on them.
    So her resume might have looked like:
    -2010-Present: Very Important Accounting Job doing very impressive accounting things just all the time (lie).
    2005-2010: Mostly Important Accounting Job with prestigious company I guess (lie).
    Awards: Accountant of the Century (might be real in the sense that a Dundee was a real award on The Office)
    And her application, which was what the background check was based on, something like:
    -2010-Present: Garden Gnome Designer
    2005-2010: Lawn Flamingo Painter
    School: Did not graduate high school.

    Major loophole.

      1. LoopHole-in-One*

        You’d think so – otherwise she was just stupidly lucky I guess? I could never figure out how the hiring manager checking references missed her enormous experience hole (or could not… *account* for it!)

  54. Kimberly*

    LW1 We had a similar problem at my school. The 4th and 5th-grade teachers never got food from the potluck because SPED, K – 3 ate it all. After we complained to the administration and the PTO – things changed. Instead of putting all the food out when Kinder and SPED started lunch at 10:30 only their share of food was put out. After each grade rotated through the parents would put out new food that had been kept at the proper temperature in the staff kitchen. When we had something like pizza ordered in, They placed multiple orders spaced 30 min apart.

    To be blunt your principal needs to tell this teacher off.

  55. FormerAsstNowBoss*

    I can relate OP2…the average salary for my position in my area is 97,000/year. I am making about 42,000/year. My past two predecessors made 90k and 95k/yr. The most recent predecessor (who was my boss) was fired after only 6 months. I took on all of his responsibilities. I was fine for a while…my company told me they were going to bring in a replacement, so I would go back to my normal duties…well after a year they decided I was doing a great job and that they were no longer interested in bringing in a replacement and that they instead would like to focus on developing me. They gave me a 6k raise (which at the time was awesome! Bringing me from 36k annually to 42k)…Now that it’s been another year and a half since that raise…I find myself angry. I don’t expect to be at 90k. But I have done -position- by my self for over 2 years and am not even making half of what my predecessor made. I get that I don’t have the certification, but I highly doubt once I am certified that my company is going to give me a 48k/yr raise.

    Good on you OP for finding another job. I worry that if I leave I will have to start back at a lower level position..with the salary to match. I am making enough to live and even save a bit…but am I making what I think I deserve? No. I don’t feel like I can talk to anyone at my company about it because I constantly hear “threats” like “Predecessor got fired because he meddled too much.” and “Don’t be like predecessor”…comments that seem like big fat warnings that I should “Stay in my place and keep quiet….or else.”

    I know if I leave the company would be screwed. I am a department of 1. And they would have to try to quickly fill the role with someone who would need much more than 42k/yr….at the same time I don’t think I should have to give my company an ultimatum or ask for a raise. I constantly hear management talk about employees who had enough gall to ask for a raise. Since my manager is the president of the company…I have no idea how I would even ask for a raise without putting my neck on the chopping block.

    You may not get a bonus at the end of this, OP, but you are getting the hell out of there. Kudos to you.

    1. Autumnheart*

      It seems to me that if you’ve been working as a Senior Teapot Administrator for over a year, then you could certainly apply to Senior Teapot Admin positions elsewhere and demand the market salary.

      Right now they are paying you 50% under market and they know it. There’s no reason for you to tolerate that, except to gain the experience, which you now have, and take it elsewhere to a company that will pay you the market salary for your job duties.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yep the answer is leave, as soon as you can. The good news is when you’re that far off the market you can only go up somewhere else. Alison talks in other articles about how to make sure a new company is not using a past salary to anchor their offer.

    2. BonusOP*

      OP 2 here – leave and be picky! You have been serving in the interim. You /have/ the experience now. You can your time finding what is right for you (which is what’s I did) but if they gave you a raise (even if it wasn’t also what you deserve) and wanted you to stay on then you HAVE that experience.

  56. JS*

    #4 I would just keep it for myself. I think of it like a perk of getting bonus miles for your freq flyer using company travel, keeping airline credit for delays, credit card rewards (not having a corp card and having to get reimbursed on your personal), or booking client lunches using apps that give you points or rewards. I don’t think you are obligated to give it to the company because you aren’t stealing. It would be one thing if you are booking more expensive or non company approved vendors to get rewards OR if your manager said any bonus or extra dollars have to be reallocated but in my industry of advertising these types of perks are part of the benefit of travel and being in sales. Might be different for non-profit or government jobs.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      The issue is that it’s going to LOOK like she’s booking special vendors / paying higher prices. This looks shady. If it’s okay, then s/he should have no problem going to her boss and explaining what happened and asking to keep the benefit.

      1. JS*

        It’s not going to look this way if she isn’t spending more than normal and getting the lowest price. Shes getting supplies and booking travel those costs shouldn’t really vary much. This is especially true if you are buying the same office supplies and people are going to the same place and you are booking the same time ahead.

        There is no reason she shouldn’t be able to tell her boss but if she didn’t it wouldn’t be shady. But as I said before this could also very for non-profit jobs or government jobs where all funds and bonuses are recycled IF there are explicit rules around it.

  57. Becky*

    #4: Interesting. I asked a similar question on an open thread and the consensus reply was that it was okay to keep the savings. The cash back site in question was eBates, so there is an option for redeeming as gift cards but I’ve only ever done the cash back. The commenters who replied likened it to the points/miles you earn for using a company card. I’ll see if I can dig up the link.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        This is interesting! There are a few people who are saying this should be fine, just like airline miles. I think it’s likely OP could get away with it, but I don’t recommend it. This would change if it turned out OP was using her own credit card to make the purchases, though.

  58. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    Re: #4, I’m surprised at calling it unethical. If I have an account I’ve created for myself that gives me points and discounts when I make purchases online, I don’t really see a problem with using those points myself, even if I use that same account to make purchases for my company instead of personal ones. Especially if the company is being given a discount as a result. They’re paying less for stuff, I’m getting points. I could understand if the company decided to require me to make a separate account for the company on the same browser extension that would allow them to accrue points, that those points would belong to the employer (and they’d be responsible for getting other admins to use it, etc). But if it’s my account, and it’s not a service the company told me to use, and otherwise everything is either the same for them or discounted? Those points are mine.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Did you tell your boss you’re doing this though? I think a reasonable company would totally agree that it’s fine to do (a nonprofit or government entity, probably not) and give you permission, but doing it without permission and hoping it doesn’t get noticed is fishy to me. And how are you going to prove you weren’t more likely to buy the things that gave you the best benefits? That perceived and unreported conflict of interest is why someone would get fired for doing that here.

  59. willow*

    LW#1 – I agree that the guy should not be taking leftovers, especially before the whole staff has had a chance to eat. Maybe you (all) can change the policy on leftovers, and make it publicly known that they will not be available until after 12:45, or whenever.

    But also, if one big eater is making it so that a bunch of other people can’t eat at all, maybe order some more food to begin with? Assuming someone is going to eat more than a one-person share?

  60. Miles*

    #5 I’m surprised the companies who want both don’t have a system in place to automatically read your resume and fill in the appropriate blanks. That technology has been around so long that it’s practically free to get a subscription to the software as a service package and all the candidate has to do is verify the information is in the right place and it’s all there, fill in the bits that don’t appear on the resume, and eSign

  61. Safely Retired*

    #2: Holding the place together would be absolutely necessary of course, but they may have been hiring with the goal of taking the place forward. Hence, the higher salary.

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