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*

        Yes!
        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*

    OP1:
    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.