client pressured me into buying lingerie, employee thinks “thanks” is positive feedback, and more

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

1. My client invited me to lunch — and then pressured me into buying lingerie

I’m a freelance worker. One of my clients has been with me for several years, and I greatly appreciate her loyalty. Recently she put me in a very awkward situation, and I probably could have handled things differently, but I don’t know how.

She invited me to have lunch with her and her friend, implying that the friend could become a prospective client. Well, to cut a long story short, that “friend” turned out to be a salesperson, and the two of them basically browbeat me into buying several hundred dollars worth of products that I don’t want or need, that I’ll never use, and that have no resale value whatsoever. (It wasn’t an overt multi-leveling marketing scheme. It was lingerie, and I wasn’t pressured to join their “great, once-a-lifetime opportunity” at all, perhaps because I don’t look anything like a lingerie model. They just seemed strangely desperate to make a sale as quickly as possible, and I was was so desperate to get out of there that I didn’t care what it took.)

Needless to say, I’m not going to be accepting any more lunch invitations from her. How could I have handled the situation differently (given that physically leaving was not an option, because we went there in her car)? I really was blindsided by the whole thing, and it has shaken my trust in her. I’m not even sure I want to keep her on as a client anymore. For what it’s worth, I’ve heard similar stories from other friends and colleagues, and I’d always assumed that I was smart enough to never allow it to happen to me … until it did.

That was incredibly rude of your client — she took advantage of your relationship, and you’d be entirely in the right if you do decide you’re not interested in maintaining one with her anymore.

As for what you could have done differently, usually the thing that keeps people from cutting off a sales pitch they don’t want to be receiving is they don’t want to be rude — and that’s exactly what people like your client are counting on. Recognizing that can help you stand up to it.

And frankly, it’s not rude to say, “I misunderstood the purpose of this lunch. I’m not interested in buying anything, so let’s talk about something else.” And if they continued with the sales pitch, it’s not rude to say, “My answer is a firm no. I don’t want to spend the rest of our lunch discussing it.” But even if those things were rude to say (and they’re not), they pale in comparison to the rudeness of what your client and her friend were doing. So it’s entirely justified in that situation to be a little rude if you need to, in order to extract yourself! It also would have been fine for you to say, “Jane, I’m disappointed that you’d deceive me about the purpose of this lunch and I’m leaving now” and then get up and take a cab home.

2. My employee thinks “thanks” is positive feedback

I have an issue with my direct report, “Fergus,” who thinks that when someone thanks him for doing a task, that constitutes positive feedback. He forwards emails to me that read simply “thanks” with notes asking me to take note of the evidence of his fantastic work.

In the culture that we both work in, and have for many years, “thanks” means only that someone has recieved an email and does not relate in any way to the quality of the work, the timeliness of the response, or anything else. So by misinterpreting them, Fergus is getting an unfarily positive understanding of his work product. This is leading him to push back against the performance management that I am going through with him, becuase his work is in fact unacceptably poor. However, he gets very upset and defensive at the slightest criticism and often does not seem to take in negative comments. How do I explain that “thanks” and even “great, thanks” does not mean “well done,” in as effective and kind a way as possible?

“I’ve noticed that you’ve forwarded me many emails from people saying ‘thanks.’ That’s an acknowledgement that you did a task for them, but it’s not typically feedback on the quality of your work. However, if you have emails from people talking about the quality of a project you did for them, I’d love to have those.”

You could add, “The sort of feedback that could show praise for your work would be things like if Jane commented on the thoroughness and accuracy of the report you sent her, or if Bob said he appreciated the nuance in the draft you wrote for him.”

That said, he sounds unreasonable enough, and the issues with his work sound serious enough, that he may not get this, no matter what you say. So I wouldn’t make your bar for success here “I find a way to convince Fergus of how poor his work is.” Rather, your bar for success is “Fergus brings his performance up to a good level quickly or we transition him out.” And if you haven’t already, I’d be very clear with him about that so that he understands that this isn’t a debate.

3. I interviewed with someone who hires “from a vibe”

I recently had an interview for a very competitive role at a high-profile company. The job description perfectly lines up with my strengths and passions.

The person who interviewed me would be my future boss if I got the job. We got along well and it was an easy-flowing, conversational meeting. He told me his strategy is to hire off of a vibe — that the work itself would have a very short learning curve for someone with my background. We spent most of our 30 minutes together talking about non-work-related topics such as music, pets, restaurants in town. When those 30 minutes were winding down, his assistant knocked to let him know the next applicant was waiting for him so he quickly asked me if I had any questions. At that point, I felt a bit pressured to rush through them!

I read the job description thoroughly, felt confident about my abilities to carry out the work, and enjoyed my time in the office, but I left the interview knowing next to nothing about the day to day functions, culture, or benefits. He told me they’d need to make a decision shortly and that works for me. There are no more rounds of interviews scheduled.

Is the casual nature of the interview a red flag in your opinion? If I got an offer, I would sort of be going in blind. Should I accept on good faith assuming there would be some training?

No, don’t accept that on good faith! That’s too important a thing to gamble on.

And this is a terrible way to hire; he’s only learning about whether he has rapport with you and nothing about your skills or accomplishments or how you work. (It also makes it likely that he hires people who are similar to him — which can lead to really discriminatory hiring.) If you’re interested in the job, you’ll have to do the work yourself of figuring out if it’s the right match for you, since he’s apparently not going to do it. That means that if you get an offer, you could say something like, “I’m really excited about the role based on what I know so far, but we didn’t get a chance to dive in much to the details of the work when we talked last time. Could we set up some time for a more in-depth call where I can ask you about the day-to-day work, the team, and so forth?”

4. Do I have to train my replacement when he’s sick and contagious?

I am retiring after decades at my current position, having given generous notice and have a new hire showing up to get trained for one week only. Am I obligated to train the new person if he shows up stinking sick? There are flu and other viruses going around. It’s even a battle trying to stay well in our workplace, despite a generous sick leave policy. But I will literally have this person sitting next to me. I promised my spouse a special vacation that we will be going on shortly after my departure. Am I obligated to sit next to someone who is coughing and sneezing because he is too scared to not show up to his new job knowing that he only has a one-week stab at me? Believe it or not, I know of two people in my circle of friends who have had this happen. I don’t want to sound selfish, but I don’t think my company’s problem and the new person’s problem shouldn’t be my problem. What are your feelings on this? Is there a protocol? We are a large company. We are numbers. But after decades of dedication, it’s my opinion their problem should not be my problem. Or is it?

Before you try to opt out of training the person completely, are there  ways to do the training that don’t require sitting right next to him? Can you work from separate offices while on the phone with each other? Can you screen-share? Think about what you’d do if he’d been hired in a remote office and you still had to train him — or if one of you had serious allergies to something about the other. Companies make this work in those situations, so if you think creatively, you might be able to come up with solutions.

Meanwhile, it’s reasonable to say to your boss, “I feel terrible for Bob — he’s very sick and clearly felt like he had to show up since it’s his first week. But he’s quite ill, and I can’t risk sitting next to him all week while he’s likely contagious. Here’s what I propose instead…”

5. Boss okayed remote work and now is dragging his feet

I moved 300 miles in October to take a great new job. My husband told his boss at that time that I had moved and he would need to follow me. His boss came back with an offer to transition him into a role he could do remotely, with higher pay and a manager title. This sounded great at the time.

As of now, he does have the manager title and a little extra pay (though less than he was originally led to believe and salaried instead of hourly, so no overtime money), but he’s still in our last city because his boss can’t seem to let go. He’s basically still doing his old job because the guy they hired to replace him makes so many mistakes, and he’s been trained in his new jobs and is pulling his weight there as well. He told boss before Christmas that he wanted to move around now. Boss was evasive about giving a firm yes or no, so husband assumed it was fine and we gave notice on the apartment in that city that we would be out by the end of the month. Then, Boss said he wanted husband to stay for another three to six months! At this point, husband is no longer doing trainings, the vast majority of his work communications are by phone or email, and all of his work is on his laptop. I think that if his boss is saying that he can’t leave now, there’s never going to be a point when boss will say he can leave. I’m sick of doing the long-distance thing, and he’s even more miserable about it. I just don’t know how he should proceed to get out of this limbo.

How firm is your husband being with his boss? Ideally he’d say something like, “I’ve been relying on our agreement in October that I’d be working remotely by now. I’ve given notice on my apartment here and need to be out by the end of the month. I know you’d like me to stay longer, but at this point I do need to make the move. I’d like to plan on my last day in this city being (date). Can we move forward with that plan?” He could also say, “I’ve made a lot of plans based on the agreement we made last fall, and it’s not possible at this point for me to change those.”

But if the boss still drags his feet, that’s a sign that your husband may need to look for a different job in your new city.

{ 368 comments… read them below }

  1. LouiseM*

    OP #3, I totally agree with Allison’s advice and would take it a step further and walk away now. For me it would be so insulting if I took the time to prepare for an interview and my interviewer just wanted to shoot the sh*t–and then rushed me out the door when it was time for questions. Even if he thinks you would pick up the work quickly because of your background, you presumably want to judge that for yourself a bit by, ya know, hearing about the job.

    The parenthetical about discriminatory hiring really resonates too. From my experience, when I hear “hiring on a vibe” I think two things: Mad Men-style old boys’ club or techbro “we’re all cool” startup culture. Either way, lots of toxic masculinity and little meaningful professional development or enforcement of workplace norms. No thanks! If you have other options, take them.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I have accepted jobs from “vibe people” BUT, I could see that the pieces were in place for actually doing the work. One boss lined me up with a mentor-peer type person plus loaded me up with resource materials. I knew this BEFORE I agreed to the job. Another boss made sure I knew the scope of my authority/tasks/other stuff. I had a thorough description of my environment.

      Using vibes alone is a bad plan. I am concerned about the 30 minute limit to the interview. I could just see me working for this person, “Boss, I have ten questions” and I get to question 7 and, whoops, time is up. I think the inability to put the time into the interview is very concerning. This is a person that boss will work with for hopefully years, how can you know in 30 minutes even if you are very good at vibes?

      The way they treat you on the interview will NOT improve once you go to work for them. Assume the boss was on her best behavior and think on this as “this was her best”, what will she do once familiarity sets in?

    2. Irene Adler*

      Agreed. Best to move on.
      I’ve interviewed where the interviewer was very proud of the way she hired. Yes, “vibes” . She claimed that in four years, no one she’d hired had quit (7 hires). Therefore, her system was working.

      She asked me a whole lot of behavioral questions involving conflict of one kind or another. My take: she was a “my way or the highway” type of manager. Up to a point that’s okay. I think she wanted folks who would take whatever treatment she was dishing out and not put up any argument.

      Thankfully I was not offered the job.

    3. Jesmlet*

      I don’t think vibe people are always discriminatory. I was told I was hired off a vibe – the guy that hired me was a 40 y/o Irish dude from Yonkers and I’m a mid-20s mostly Asian but looks Colombian chick from Connecticut. Vibe can mean similar ways of communicating or similar ways of dealing with problems, or similar work styles. It doesn’t always mean same skin color, same age, etc.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        It doesn’t *always* mean discriminatory, but it *often* means exactly that. There are studies that show this kind of “similarity”-style of hiring. So while I believe you had a different experience, that doesn’t change that hiring on vibes generally leads to discriminatory hiring. (Link to one example of a study to follow). Let’s not take the exception to mean the rule is dead.

        1. Jesmlet*

          Just pointing out that it’s not always the case and that it shouldn’t be considered an automatic disqualifier if a company or hiring manager says that. That’s why I said it’s not always discriminatory, as in, often it is but there are exceptions.

      2. Not a Mere Device*

        “I’m from Connecticut and he’s from Yonkers” isn’t a great distance. If “similar ways of communicating” means he prefers people from that part of the northeast US, that could also have discriminatory effects, most obviously against immigrants. “National origin” is a standard item in “we do not discriminate on the basis of…” statements; home state within the US isn’t, but that doesn’t make it a reasonable basis on which to choose employees.

        1. Jesmlet*

          I should have been more specific on that point. Miles don’t matter as much as regional subcultures do. We are from very different backgrounds, socioeconomically, culturally, familial-ly etc. but we have the same preferences and pet peeves about other peoples’ styles of communication, similar priorities in thinking about and evaluating other people (which is a core function of our jobs) to where the process functions very smoothly. In hindsight, I could tell what he was looking for when he interviewed me by the questions that he asked.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Totally agreed. It’s ok to include “vibe” as a number of other things in an interview so long as folks are really clear on what a “vibe” is (as LouiseM noted, it’s often a vaguely defined concept that allows people to engage in discriminatory hiring practices—much like “fit” can be valid or can be deployed in a problematic way)…. and so long as there are other facets to the interview.

      OP#3, it’s really problematic that he didn’t evaluate your skills to determine if it would truly be a short learning curve, didn’t give you a sense of what training or the onboarding process might look like, and didn’t give you information on the actual day-to-day expectations. Even if this hiring approach was 100% ok (I don’t think it is, but let’s say I’m totally wrong), I don’t think you should assume good faith or that it will all work out. If someone is not clear about their expectations going in, they’re not going to be clear with you about their expectations when you’re doing the job.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        Totally agreed. Looking at someone’s resume and chatting for 30 mins isn’t likely to give you a clear picture of how and whether they’ll pick up the work. All of the “vibe” interviewers I’ve known were looking for employees with similar backgrounds, not always in terms of a protected class (read single mother, similar educational background, likes Frisbee golf, etc), and wanted to be friends with their employees outside of work. They all had major boundary issues both at work and outside of work.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          A “vibe” guy once hired me because I could talk about D&D with him. He turned out to be running a very unprofessional business that was deeply in debt, not paying people for weeks, and doing several illegal things.

  2. LouiseM*

    OP #2, could it be that Fergus isn’t getting enough specific, in-the-moment feedback, whether positive or constructive, from you or other managers? You mention a performance management which I imagine is like a PIP. But aside from this I do wonder if he’s grasping at straws for something, anything to point to because he has no record saying “this part of the report was insufficiently detailed,” etc.

    1. Lw2*

      Yes I think that is highly likely! I have already started to be much more blunt with him when giving negative feedback than I would naturally be as when I phrase something tactfully it doesn’t get through to him.

      1. Snark*

        Just in general, this is a good practice to cultivate; there’s a very thin line between “phrasing something tactfully” and “being so vague that the feedback isn’t actionable even if you’re tuned in to nuance.” Too much softening language, hinting, and implication, and someone who’s on the start of the Dunning-Kreuger curve is going to round it up to positive. In general, when it comes to performance issues that endanger someone’s continued employment, their feelings are of secondary importance to them understanding precisely where they stand and what issues they need to address or get fired over.

      2. biobottt*

        If it’s at all possible, I’d also start being more specific about positive feedback. I recognize that he’s under performing to the point that it might be hard to find anything positive to say, but when someone is struggling, it can be helpful for them to know exactly what they should be shooting for, not just what they should be avoiding.

      3. Sketchee*

        Yes, make the implicit more explicit.

        I find that often when coworkers and clients are very polite and socially conscious, they won’t understand tactful feedback either. They just won’t say anything. So spelling out in detail whenever possible helps.

  3. LouiseM*

    OP #1, wow. Just wow. Even though you were understandably shocked in the moment and didn’t know how to respond, I think it’s still fine to say something now. You could email and say that you were surprised that her friend tried to sell you something and that it’s not an appropriate use of your client-freelancer relationship. Sometimes people who are into these kinds of schemes are really drinking the kool-aid and sincerely believe that others are thrilled to have the chance to buy their crap. It would be a kindness to your client to inform her that this is not always the case.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, I don’t think the OP’s assessment that this wasn’t a MLM scheme is necessarily accurate just because it didn’t include a recruitment attempt. It doesn’t sound like this was for the friend’s small business that she’s trying to get off the ground or something.

        1. boo bot*

          It could be an MLM and she’s not to the level of recruiting yet, or it could be the client or friend’s small business and they’re just using high-pressure tactics (maybe bankruptcy is imminent?)

          Anyway, OP if you are at the point where you are thinking about dropping her as a client, you have nothing to lose by bringing it up. If she were your main income source it would be trickier, but in this case you can pretty safely say something like,

          “I’ve been glad to work with you on our many successful dognapping capers, and I appreciate your loyalty as a client; I hope you will be using my ransom note-writing services for years to come. I need to let you know, though, that I was taken aback by the sales pitch you and your friend sprung on me at lunch last week. I had been led to believe that we were there to talk about our existing work, and I was dismayed to find myself subjected to a high-pressure sales pitch without warning. If we are to continue with the “Oddles of Poodles” project, I need you to leave me off your customer list for the future, and keep all our meetings focused on our work together. Yrs, etc, OP”

          1. Esme Squalor*

            I never knew before this moment that my ultimate life ambition would be to become a freelance dog-napper for Oodles of Poodles.

            1. boo bot*

              We’re hiring! Please put your cover letter and resume in an unmarked suitcase and leave it under the third bush from the back in the Northeast corner of Central Park, Gotham City.

              This should go without saying, but both resume and cover letter should be written with words cut and pasted out of newspapers and magazines.

              1. Kelsi*

                But what if we decide to show gumption by shaving our resume into the fur of a live poodle, freshly stolen? Surely that will give us a leg up…marking us out from the pack…

                1. boo bot*

                  Gumption is always rewarded at Oodles of Poodles, Ltd!

                  Although, we do custom shaving at the customer’s request, so your resume would hurt the resale value of the poodle, and thus your chances at a job.

                  You could attach the paper resume to the poodle’s collar, but frankly, I might just take the dog and keep the resume in a sealed container, preserving your fingerprints along with your contact information and your cover letter confessing to kidnapping the poodle, then use them to throw the investigators off my trail next time a caper goes wrong.

                  Gumption is never rewarded as you imagine!

          2. Former Retail Manager*

            I was shocked to just Google “lingerie MLM” and get several options. *shakes head in disbelief*

        2. Travelling Circus*

          Yes exactly. And some clothing MLMs don’t necessarily include an active recruitment pitch (they seem to think that people will love their clothes so much they’ll sign up on their own). If this *is* an MLM, could the rep be in danger of losing active status because she hasn’t hit quotas? I’ve been subjected to some pretty pushy sales tactics (pushy even for MLM) when a rep needs to hit monthly/quarterly/whatever quotas and not hitting them means the rep will lose active status.

          1. Annabelle*

            Yeah, that’s what the letter sounded like to me. Recruiting is how MLM reps make money long term, but if someone was desperate to stay active they would just be scrambling to sell as much as possible.

    1. JKP*

      Is it too late to ship the merchandise back or refuse to accept delivery and have your credit card company do a chargeback?

        1. Lynca*

          It depends on the policy of the store. When I worked retail bras/nightgowns could be returned easily as long as they had a tag and receipt at our store.

        2. Natalie*

          I don’t think that would matter if you were refusing delivery or doing a chargeback or something – you’re not returning it because you didn’t like it, you’re saying that the sale was illegitimate in some way. A different set of rules are in play.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I would definitely try to get out of paying for this stuff–return unopened maybe? OP is already willing to lose the client over this dumpster fire; might as well try to recoup some money.

        1. Chatterby*

          If it’s too late to block the charges and delivery, I’d recommend either contacting the central company and asking about a refund/ complaining about unsavory sales tactics, or saying the sizes were wrong and returning the items without ever specifying a new size.

        2. Runner*

          Oh God, the thing is that any sketchy/scheme-type of business usually makes it nearly impossible to get refunds. I feel for the OP. I was taken in by a super-high pressure sales tactic at a kiosk in a mall years ago and felt so totally like a fool. It made me feel physically sick to even look at what I had bought (it was makeup stuff that sat on a shelf in my closet for years).

          1. Max from St. Mary's*

            That’s why I now purge anything in my house that makes me feel bad/like I screwed up/like I was financially foolish. I finally realized that the money is gone whether I keep the stuff on the shelf or donate it, and giving it away gets it out of my daily life,

            1. Not a Morning Person*

              Thank you for that great idea! I have an Amazon mistake still in its box in the garage. I am angry that I didn’t return it right away when I knew I didn’t want it. But it was a purchase I made and that arrived right before a long vacation….last fall. I will take it to Goodwill this week and get it out of my garage and stop feeling bad about having it purchased it in the first place. You’ve made my day!

              1. tangerineRose*

                I love donating stuff that I don’t like – I get rid of it, and someone else might like it and be able to have it.

            2. Star Nursery*

              Me too! I have been getting rid of things that are wasting space. It’s funny how we can attach emotions and memories to our belongings. I’m a big fan of this philosophy. Keep the things that are useful, pretty or special. Toss, donate or sell the items that aren’t. Especially when it’s something that makes me feel worse in any way.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I would ask about a return, even if I knew that the sales were final. Just to get that “vibe” (heh, heh) out there into the “relationship.”

      3. No More Novels LW*

        I needed this spelled out for me, so I’m just going to mention it here in case someone is in the same boat. You can call up your credit card customer service and tell them you don’t want to pay for stuff!

        But before you do that, you can call up the company itself and *threaten* charge it back. If a company has too many chargebacks, then banks will drop them and refuse to process their payments. A scammy company like this probably has a high chargeback rate. Even if they say there’s no return policy, it will give you leverage or at least a discount because if you return items normally it’s not a strike against them the way the chargeback is. And if you’re not happy with the result, you can still dispute it with your CC company.

        Just be aware that once you do this they won’t accept your credit card anymore and could close your account. Fine for a scammy lingerie company but more problematic if you try it on Comcast, for example.

    2. AJ*

      I don’t think the client deserves any sort of kindness here. If the OP wants to contact her it should 100% be about what she needs to get off of her chest after being treated this way. The client used her and she knows it. On the off chance she was unaware of her friend’s sales plan, she could have said something to stop it. I think the OP should drop her as a client.

      1. Lance*

        Considering, from the sound of things, the client herself actively participated in the sales pitch, I wouldn’t even give it so much as an off chance that she was unaware. I very much agree that I’d be having very serious considerations toward dropping the client; regardless of how long they’ve been a client, there’s no remote way this is acceptable.

      2. Amber T*

        If OP can afford to drop her as a client, then yes. I think this would cross the threshold of overly inappropriate, that if OP can be choosy about clients, I’d drop her like a hot coal.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Well, the client just bullied the OP into spending hundreds of dollars she didn’t have to spare. She probably can’t afford NOT to drop her.

      3. RVA Cat*

        “Get off her chest” – I see what you did there ;)
        The sales pitch being for lingerie makes it that much more awkward and inappropriate though. Even with them both being women, it’s just too sexually charged for a business relationship.

    3. Mad Baggins*

      Yeah, I think I saw this on the Office where Michael Scott invites the women of the office to buy lingerie. If Michael Scott is doing it you know you’re in bad territory.

      1. LBK*

        He buys it for them as a thank you for helping him with his relationship issues with Jan. Which is still pretty inappropriate but better than forcing them to buy it.

            1. Amber T*

              Sometimes the clothes at Gap Kids are just too flashy, so I’m forced to go to the American Girl store and order clothes for large colonial dolls.

              1. LBK*

                I just rewatched the whole series and realized I never really appreciated just how good Angela Kinsey is in that part, especially in the last season when Angela goes through a lot.

          1. Chatterby*

            He wants to have “girl talk” with his female subordinates (whom he views as friends) over his relationship issues. To encourage this, he takes them all to the mall to do what he thinks are “girl things”–like buy underwear together and complain about calories as they eat snacks in the food court.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I would also call the “lingerie vendor” directly and ask what the return policy is. It might be (w/ lingerie) that you can’t return it, and you may know that, but I’d ask anyway. Just get that “dissatisfaction” out there, as a piece of negative feedback (I know it’s not “negative reinforcement”; maybe “negative de-inforcement”?).

      And absolutely to the idea that we don’t “lose the chance” to ever say anything, or to change our standards, etc. Heck, throw in the “As I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve realized…”

    5. Spring*

      Several hundred dollars spent? Wow. I’d have no trouble saying No to this sales pitch no matter who it is. Someone continually asking me to buy something after I’ve said No is very rude. I’d be staring at them thinking, “What is wrong with you? I’ve clearly said No.” I’d either stop responding or leave.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        That reminds me, since OP didn’t have a ride, could she use Uber?
        I delayed getting Uber until a friend insisted on putting it on my phone. It was a process – it hung for 45 minutes and my friend had to do some things to it to get it to work – but it was worth it! Now I can go to places with no cabs and ride home with Uber. I’ve seen Uber cabs come in less than 5 minutes in places where you could never, ever get a taxi.
        If OP doesn’t have Uber, I suggest getting it. Even if only for emergencies.

        1. Specialk9*

          Please don’t use Uber, please use Lyft. Uber is actually a Disney villain of a company. Seriously, do an internet search for “list of worst things uber has done”. They’re BAD.

          1. A Nickname for AAM*

            For some reason, some cities and towns only had people driving for Uber, at least until Uber had all of those scandals in the last year.

            I lived in one of those towns: I used Uber because it was all we had.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          Well, I tried Lyft. I couldn’t see how to set it up.
          I emailed the company and they kept replying without answering my simple questions.
          After *16* emails back and forth, I realized they weren’t reading my emails before replying. Eventually they did answer, but by then I had decided not to use them because their administrative staff was incompetent.
          Then I tried Uber, and it froze up on my phone. There was no option to call, email or IM for help.
          So I didn’t use either one until my friend insisted I get Uber. Since I’ve had it, it’s worked pretty well. I’m cautious, I always check the license number before getting in the car.
          Two of my friends drive for Uber too… You can always find bad reviews of either Lyft or Uber, if you look.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            P.S. – OP should use whatever works best in her city. Ideally set up all the services in case they’re needed.

    6. Nonprofit worker*

      I had a somewhat similar thing happen about a month ago. One of my temp workers was looking for a fulltime job and I offered to be a reference. A company looking to hire him called and we spoke up Bob’s qualifications for a while and then the person flipped the conversation “we’re actually a staffing company and we could help your org” and he went into hard selling me and pushily trying to get me to make an in-person meeting with him. I was so surprised by this and still was confused if they even wanted to hire my former temp worker. It was so icky, but I held firm and said he couldn’t come by my office to “drop off a business card”.

  4. Engineer Girl*

    #2 Fergus doesn’t know norms, which is the root of all your problems. He doesn’t know what normally good work looks like. He doesn’t know what a praise looks like.
    I like Alison’s script. I also think you need to be very specific on what good work looks like. But I have little hope here. This is so Dunning-Kruger that he doesn’t have enough skill to know he has no skill.

    1. Josie*

      He also seems to think the test is ‘can Fergus disprove your opinion (using only weak / non-evidence)’ and not ‘can Fergus reflect on feedback and act on it’. Which makes things really difficult.

      1. Lance*

        Yeah, the fact that he’s trying to argue the point of poor performance with ‘thanks’ e-mails points to a very serious misunderstanding of what he’s supposed to be doing, and how he’s supposed to be behaving. Keep a close eye on him, make sure he knows what’s going on, and don’t mind his feelings. You’re not employing him to make him happy; you’re employing him for him to do good, or at least passable, work for you.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        From the sound of it, Fergus is treating his (actual) performance feedback like a debate. That is the very first thing that needs to get handled if he’s to have any hope of being a manageable employee. It’s certainly possible to discuss feedback items you think are inaccurate. But you don’t do that bringing in OTHER things you’ve done, you do that by addressing the content of the feedback.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Depending on how much you want to take on here, LW, you could explain that accepting constructive criticism is part of any job. I know this is difficult to work into conversation and I have not always been able to do it. I tend to think that the people who want help will listen to this and try to absorb it. People who don’t want help will blow by it.

          I assume he has done this on other jobs, also, as it is a life habit for him. He may need to get fired a few times before he decides to change what he is doing. Or not.

        2. Snark*

          You’re completely in the clear to shut that down. “Fergus, I’m not really open to arguing this with you or debating my feedback. You did x, y, and z incorrectly.”

      3. TootsNYC*

        He also seems to think the test is ‘can Fergus disprove your opinion (using only weak / non-evidence)’

        Yes. I think I’d be saying, “Fergus, this is not an argument, and other people’s thank-yous are not important here. My assessment of your work is all that matters; please focus on that.”

        I -have- said to people (friends, colleagues, children, subordinates), “when you get defensive, you make me/your boss fear that all your attention is taking up with how to argue with me/her, and you don’t have space left to hear the criticisms or to think about how you could change what you’re doing. It isn’t actually helping you.”

    2. MissGirl*

      I disagree in that Fergus doesn’t know what good work looks like. He knows his work is subpar; he’s trying to distract and confuse the OP from firing him.

      OP the big issue isn’t the emails; it’s his work. Focus and that and draw a very clear boundary. If he can’t meet that or tries to argue, fire him. He might actually quit when realized he can’t manipulate you anymore.

      1. Tardigrade*

        Manipulation might be a possibility, but I have seen my share of Ferguses (Fergusi?) who truly honestly think that their poor work is good work and why are you telling them otherwise?

            1. OP2*

              I have thought long and hard about whether it is manipulation or honest confusion and have come down on the side of confusion and incompetence. He has trouble understanding other things too so I honestly think he isn’t smart enough to run that elaborate a con.

              1. MissGirl*

                At the end of the day, his motives don’t matter. He’s performing below standards and is arguing with feedback. The emails are just a distraction, whether on purpose or not. It’s time to draw very clear expectations and fire him him if he can’t meet them.

              2. Jesca*

                Oh, i was agreeing with the “Fergi” statement. From what you are saying, I totally agree it is a cognitive disconnect with the reality right now and is not a manipulation. Most of the time, it is not manipulation. There are only very few people who actually can manipulate effectively in this world.

                Normally, though, dissociations are not things you can fix at all. Some people can really separate themselves from what is actually going on so well that it can seem deliberate or them purposely being challenging or obtuse. But, it is not. They really just cannot accept what is going on and you will not be able to stop them from thinking this way. The best thing to do is follow what AAM says and just stick to “X is expectation you need to reach or your fired” but in a nice way. This person is not doing this deliberately, they just likely do not have the skills to cope with failure. At least, that is how I look at it, because OMG they can send the most sane person right over the edge!

              3. boo bot*

                I don’t think it matters one way or another-I’ve found that you can often skirt manipulation by assuming it’s honest confusion and acting accordingly anyway.

                In this case I would end the debate firmly and tell him that regardless of what feedback he is getting from others, his work is not meeting YOUR standard, which is the only standard that matters.

                (Because I am a compassionless bot, I might also point out that people sometimes respond positively to be polite when it’s not their job to give feedback. So even if “thanks” can be construed as a compliment, that doesn’t mean he should assume it was sincere.)

                1. OP2*

                  Thanks all, that is really helpful. I will try to be even clearer with him and also make the point (gently) that arguing with feedback will get him nowhere.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  OP2, not to bully you, but consider making the point firmly! It’s not ok for him to not be able to accept feedback or to try to argue with him about it. he needs to incorporate feedback and improve. You’ve noted he doesn’t take/hear/understand your more gentle feedback in general, so I think it’s ok to be kind but “real talk” blunt with him.

                3. Snark*

                  Don’t make the point gently. He’s way past gently. Make it clearly and firmly. Don’t be mean, but you don’t need to manage his feelings.

                4. TootsNYC*

                  I agree–I don’t think “gently” is helping him. “Gently” is for people who beat themselves up too much, not for people who refuse to see their own faults.

                  You can be firm without being mean.

                  When I’m faced with these sorts of things, I think of it as “channeling my inner daycare worker.”

                  (I had a great, great daycare for my kids; they were able to be firm without getting mad, bcs they knew that all this misbehavior was simply age-appropriate, and not personal.)

                5. AnotherJill*

                  People like Fergus usually argue because it is a coping mechanism that has worked in the past. Faced with an incessant arguer, most people will not persist and the arguer will fell like they have “won” and continue the pattern.

                  Be firm, even if it feels like you are being rude. A good technique is to just repeat yourself in response to every statement. “A thank you is just a friendly response and is not an indication of quality”, rinse and repeat.

                6. Marthooh*

                  I agree with boo bot – it’s futile to argue with a rules lawyer. Fergus will keep thinking he’s right as long he doesn’t lose the argument, and he will never, ever concede that he’s lost it. He’ll just come up with another bit of “proof” that his work is excellent.

              4. TootsNYC*

                you don’t have to be smart to do that; it’s not necessarily a long con.

                Some of that stuff is just instinctive; and those who do strategically run a con are deliberately -mimicking- the instinctive things that people like Fergus do.

            1. boo bot*

              Wow that didn’t nest where I thought it would. Should have been beneath the Fergus plural discussion. I should also note that “Fergopodes” comes from assuming a Greek declension like “octopus.” For Latin declension, I think it should actually be Fergii, not Fergi. Those with more specialized educations can probably correct me.

              1. Specialk9*

                Latin nouns ending in -us (male singular) get changed to -i (male plural). There’s no -ii ending in Latin. So I’d go with Fergi.

                And actually, the Romans were all over the British Isles, so a bit of cultural and linguistic trading would be expected. I mean, *German* somehow has the awful Latin grammar, and all of the Latin-descended Romance languages don’t.

              2. Ursula*

                The double i only comes in when a noun with a -us ending already has an i before it, like the name Claudius. The nominative plural (assuming it’s 2nd declension) would be Claudii.

            2. MoodyMoody*

              Since Fergus is a Scottish name, wouldn’t the plural be Scots Gaelic? Unfortunately, a short look at Wikipedia of Scottish Gaelic grammar tells me little. Apparently there are 5 classes of nouns and three numbers: singular, dual, and plural. We may have to wait for Scots Gaelic speakers to give us the correct dual and plural forms of Fergus.

              1. boo bot*

                That was a fun linguistic rabbit hole! Having surfaced, I don’t know how to make “Fergus” plural, but I’m pretty sure we should be spelling it “Fearghas” before we go any further :)

                1. Not a Morning Person*

                  I recently read an article on octopuses that gave the appropriate plural of octopus as octopuses. So I think you could safely say Ferguses.

                2. AK*

                  Octopuses, octopodes and octopi are all perfectly acceptable English pluralizations. I suggest Fergoids for our purposes however. No particular justification other than that it pleases me. (As does this entire digression!)

              2. whingedrinking*

                After the Great Penis Plural Debate of ought-six, I bowed out of this kind of discussion permanently, but that is a very entertaining thing to learn about Scots Gaelic. :)

            3. SusanIvanova*

              Which has reminded me of the Monopods from Narnia, because they too were very much like Fergus :)

    3. Artemesia*

      This feels right to me. When I have had basically capable people consistently produce poor work, it is as if there thermostat is set to ‘mediocre’ instead of ‘excellent’. I had a couple of assistants early in my career who were fabulous; when they would do research for me for a project, the work would be excellent and I would be able to rely on its soundness and use it confidently as a put together a larger project. Then I started getting people who provided ‘well it is a rough draft’ and that would often mean sloppy, poorly written and worst of all not necessarily soundly sourced material. I had to explicitly teach these people, who were not stupid, that they never submit something to the boss that is not already in great shape. And they particularly never submitted any sort of documentation and support that was not sound. I rewrite material anyway or use it to create slides for a presentation or whatever — but if the basic research is not accurate and state of the art then their help is worse than worthless.

      This guy may not have a clue about what good work looks like. And he seems a bit dim on norms and feedback so all this has to be explicit. He is scrambling to ‘prove himself’ but doesn’t seem to know how to do that.

  5. MommyMD*

    Cancel your order and this client in that order. And tell her it’s because you were blindsided and deceived about the meeting . Stop that charge on your credit card. It is fine to say a hard no to obnoxious sales people ESPECIALLY in the work arena. This boils my blood.

    1. Sithrak*

      And if you can’t cancel, overcharge the thieving piece of shit until you get your money back.

      1. Penny Lane*

        Having said that, the OP might reflect on why she bought several pieces. I can see the pressure to buy one just to shut people up, but there’s a real desire to please from the OP that caused her to spend more than she should. Again I totally get buying one thing. But not several.

        1. Murphy*

          I don’t get that from OP at all. I imagine she wasn’t being pressured to buy one, but that there was a calculated sales pitch to buy several.

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            I agree. High pressure sales tactics are focused on getting as much out of the customer as possible.

            1. eee*

              yeah, you agree to buy one and then “oh this is the matching piece, it has a $80 value but when you buy it as part of a set, you get it for only $20 more!” and then “oh the matching set that you just weakly muttered yes to when you thought it was just one more piece for $20 more also includes these additional pieces, which have a combined value of $300 but in the matching set only balance out to being an additional $100! now you’ve verbally already agreed to this thing and i’m not making any room for you in my words to say no!”

        2. LBK*

          I don’t even remotely sense a “desire to please” from the OP. I sense pure rage and a desire to say yes solely to get them to leave her alone so she could get out of that wretched lunch. There’s a difference between pleasing and placating.

          1. Jesca*

            Yeah, I think the big difference here is that OP felt trapped. She didn’t even have her own transportation out there. It was like buying to just shut them up and to go home.

          2. Penny Lane*

            I mean a desire to please in the moment, this causing her to break down and buy several things as opposed to just one to shut the salesperson up.

            1. LBK*

              I think you’re drawing a kind of arbitrary distinction here; I don’t see a material difference between being pressured into one item vs a few. If she bought a whole Lingerie Hut franchise instead of just one negligee, that would be one thing, but I don’t feel like buying 5 items instead of 1 is that much more of a concession, especially one that would merit some kind of self-reflection about a deeper personality flaw.

              1. Penny Lane*

                I guess my thought has to do with control. I can see being in that situation and thinking – I can’t piss off my client so maybe I’ll just set an internal limit of $x and buy just 1 item and consider it the price of appeasement. (This is kind of like – I’ll buy one lipstick at Mary Kay to be nice.) But she spent hundreds of dollars! So her defenses were really down and she lost control- most budgets can’t handle several hundred dollars of unplanned expenses. I say this not to chastise her but to urge her to think about strategies to regain control – whether it’s setting a mental limit of $x as the price of appeasement, or saying “no thank you.”

                1. LBK*

                  I can see being in that situation and thinking – I can’t piss off my client so maybe I’ll just set an internal limit of $x and buy just 1 item and consider it the price of appeasement.

                  I actually don’t think that would be a common thought process, so I guess that’s where we diverge. Unless you’re being sold to against your will frequently, I don’t think most people have such a specific strategy for how to handle it. I’d probably buy up to the point that my natural budget boundaries kicked in; I assume the OP could afford it in this case and that she wasn’t giving away her rent out of desperation.

                2. Lindsay J*

                  See, I differ from you in that I would not buy even the one Mary Kay lipstick to be nice, or the one lingerie. Does that mean that you need to do some self reflection to see why you need to please these people?

                  And plenty of people budget in clothing expenses or fun expenses into their budget. And some people apparently don’t need to strictly budget at all. If I brought several hundred dollars worth of lingerie at this stage, it would mean that I wasn’t going to be making a weekend trip to spring training in Florida, or not buying some used camera equipment or a fountain pen, or pushing back buying some new sneakers for a couple months. It wouldn’t mean I was not paying my bills or whatever, and it would be fine assuming the lingerie was something that I wanted more than those other things (or at all).

              2. Samata*

                i agree strongly with this point of view. I am all about self-reflection but in this case I see nothing pointing to the need for it.

            2. Short & Dumpy*

              IME, agreeing to buy ONE piece will actually increase the pressure. You either buy whatever their handler has told them is the magic threshold of a sale, or you hold firm that absolutely nothing they are selling can be used by you or anyone you buy gifts for. Especially when it is 2 on one & they have you trapped somewhere (I’d bet they didn’t start the sales until after food had been ordered to make it even harder).

              1. LBK*

                Right – once you’ve agreed to buy the first item, then it’s “well you can’t *just* get that bra, you should really get the matching set, and if you buy that set you get 50% off a second one so you should get another, and then if you spend $20 more you get this item free with purchase,” etc.

                I used to work for an electronics retailer and this was how you made big computer or home theater sales. It’s all about attaching.

                1. Lindsay J*

                  Yup. I worked Old Time Photo sales for awhile, (and very briefly for a time share company).

                  Once they open the door and say yes to one thing, you’ve got them. It’s a bit of a foot-in-the door strategy.

                  You needed that first “yes”, and then you want to chain on additional yesses. Then, all of a sudden, you’ve spent enough that you might as well just buy the biggest package. That’s actually going for a little cheaper than all this stuff you have here. Then wait, you do still need to buy the frames separate from the package so that’s another $30. And all of a sudden your $20 setting fee and free 8×10 is now a $350 purchase with a CD of all your images, a frame for that 8×10, 2 framed 5x7s of the same picture for the kids to hold on to while you get the pictures printed off of the CD because they just have to have it now, etc.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I suspect this had more to do with bullying psychological sales tactics than OP’s desire to please or reassert control. The number of pieces or amount she bought is more of an indication of the short-term effectiveness of the bullying sales tactics than it is an indicator of her underlying personality. She felt trapped and just wanted out.

              That’s such a very normal and understandable reaction to being put in a situation like the one she describes. I don’t think it reveals anything about OP’s psyche except that she felt trapped and didn’t know how to extricate herself without feeling like she was being rude/blunt. It’s a good opportunity for OP to practice directness and “confrontation” so that she can act differently the next time someone pulls this crap on her.

              And OP, if someone continues to harangue you like this even after using scripts like the ones Alison provided, remember that it is always ok for you to get up and walk out.

              1. TootsNYC*

                Harder to walk out when you rode in with the person pressuring you, but I remember being lectured that I should never go on a date without having cab money in my pocket, so I could leave under my own steam if I needed to.

                That same “have an escape plan” applies always, I think, and that’s one of the big benefits of Lyft and Uber. You can get a cab now in many places where it would have been harder before.

                So, we should all be sure we have either a Lyft/Uber/Gett/whatever membership ready to go, or we should get the names of whatever car-service/taxi companies are anywhere near where we are, and enter them in our phonebook.

                1. L-Boogie*

                  Waaay before Uber/Lyft, my then-hairdresser was pressuring me into selling tickets for the hair/fashion show she was sponsoring. I never said I would sell any, she put them in my purse and I forgot about them because, again, I never agreed to sell them for her. Imagine how PO’ed I was when she called me THE DAY OF and told me that she was holding me responsible for the amount of the tickets if I didn’t return them to the hotel she was hosting in!

                  It was waaaaaaaaaaaaay on the other side of town too. over an hour away. My father drove me out there (I had NEVER heard of the place), I met one of her people at the front desk, handed over the tickets and she NEVER touched my hair again. I hope her loss of a loyal customer made an impact and she learned her lesson.

          3. boo bot*

            Yeah, I really get the rage and desire to get away leading to that decision. I can very well see myself as a younger bot saying “Fine, yes, I’ll take the set, I can use the lace to strain cottage cheese I guess, now get me out of here right now,” and accepting it as the price of getting out of there without murdering anyone.

            1. LBK*

              I’m dying laughing at the image of someone standing in their kitchen angrily straining cheese through a pair of frilly underwear.

          4. Specialk9*

            I do see the need to please, or perhaps more accurately inability to be rude, because that’s totally something I would do. I can see myself coming home with lots of unwanted lingerie and explaining to my husband “what else could I do? They were *looking* at me!” He’s so not bound by the kind of thinking, he’d be baffled.

            So I’ve learned that if I get surprised and am feeling pressure to do something I don’t want to do, I __go to the bathroom__. There aren’t many situations in which going to the bathroom is not ok. That gives me some alone time to sort through what’s going on, why I’m feeling trapped, what my options are, and decide on what I want to do.

            And bonus, if it’s at a restaurant, you may be able to call a Lyft and just sail out the door. (Text them that you got sick if you absolutely must.) If you’re really feeling boxed in.

        3. Yorick*

          The sales pitch probably includes harassing customers into multiple pieces.

          “You got that one in red, you must also want to order it in black, white, blue, and this floral pattern.”

          “This bra you’re ordering is part of a set, you must also get the underwear, a garter belt, and stockings.”

        4. a-no*

          As a person who knows a ton of people who do theses MLM- it’s easy to get confused in these sales as that is literally what they train the sales person to do. They log everything you semi agreed to in hopes that at the end you’ll just accept it instead of arguing. They are also really good at hounding you until you give in or leave. A lot of them take a lack of a direct no as a yes.
          A friend of mine just didn’t accept the product and didn’t pay for it and it worked out for her. She got suckered into a $400+ sale without even realizing before it showed up at her door. So she just refused the product (refused to sign for it at the door so it was returned to sender) and refused to send money as she never actually agreed to purchase it, she agreed it felt nice on her face (Mary Kay).

          Also I would be incredibly upset with the client for trapping me at that lunch. She purposefully picked you up so you couldn’t leave, knowing it was a high pressure sale not a client meeting. I’d cut ties with her if you are able to, if not I’d give her a stern talking to about appropriate relationships and bill her for those hours at lunch. And cancel the purchase – if they argue just tell them flat out you will not accept it or pay for it so they need to cancel. Hold firm, hang up the phone if required.

        5. TootsNYC*

          I’m sure the pressure was really high, but I still think this is a great “alarm bell” that might trigger some introspection and some spine-polishing from our OP.

          Our OP betrayed her own interests under pressure from others–and so now would be a good time to work on monitoring her own emotions, recognizing the signals she is sending herself, believing that she has the right (obligation, even) to honor those and to protect herself.

          Not that she should beat herself up, but that this is a great indicator for some psychological toughening that would really benefit her in the future.

        6. Artemesia*

          They’d have to have my cat dangled over the fiery pit and demanding ransom to get me to buy any at all; this is just deeply obnoxious.

          1. Specialk9*

            It’s not very nice of you to brag about how much stronger you are than the OP. Lots of us have tons of conditioning to be nice, not make a scene, not hurt a friend’s feelings, etc.

        7. Michaela Westen*

          They’re lucky OP wasn’t like me! Any kind of pressure or attempted manipulation makes me angry.
          I probably would have loudly told them off and walked out, and walked all the way home if necessary.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            I get annoyed when sales people randomly walk up to me in stores (if I need help I will ask, otherwise leave me alone), this would make me apoplectic.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I agree with MommyMD 100%. Cancel the order. It shouldn’t be too late to do so if it’s a legitimate business (although I don’t know when you wrote to AAM so it could have been weeks by now) and especially if you don’t want or need the items. Cancel the client too, unless you tell the client how upset you are and the client apologizes profusely. Then give said client ONE more chance and if client does some other shady thing, ditch the client too.

    3. Media Monkey*

      surely you would have an option to return if it didn’t fit? i wonder whether it would be legal to refuse to accept a return, especially prior to receiving the items, pretty sure in the UK you would have the option to cancel within 14 days via distance selling regulations.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Return windows and the circumstances that allow a return vary widely in the U.S.

        But OP should still try to return the sale, and if that doesn’t work, call her credit card company and cancel the same. If she paid cash money, it’s going to be a lot harder, unfortunately :(

        1. Crap Bag*

          Cancel the order. Refuse delivery. Call the dispute department for your credit card company and dispute the charge if it is not reversed by the vendor.
          Lingerie (pants) may not be RETURNABLE in your state, but an order that was never accepted should be fine.
          Sad fact of in the MLM world: customer can cancel order, seller may have to eat the cost. In this case, I would not feel bad at all about that.
          Side note: good reminder for freelancers of the importance of building a client base so that saying goodbye to any one client does not cause a cash flow crisis. If at all possible, I’d consider firing this client.
          P.S. to PCBH: just saw this episode today for first time.

      2. LBK*

        US federal law generally only requires companies to accept returns if a product is defective, and return doesn’t necessarily mean refund – I believe offering an exchange or store credit for defective items is legal. In the OP’s case, there is actually a “cooling off rule” that mandates a seller must accept a return for a purchase over $25 within 3 days of the purchase if it was made off-site (ie not at a store). Will post a link to the relevant FTC site in a followup comment.

        There are also state laws that may come into play, but for the most part, a company’s under very limited obligation to give you your money back if you just don’t want the product. And companies have been getting progressively more strict about it as front-end margins decrease since it’s a way to protect them on the back-end; LL Bean had a famously broad lifetime warranty on all of its products up until about a month ago since people abused it too much (eg returning products that were literally decades old, which meant the company was basically giving their merchandise away).

    4. Phoenix Programmer*


      So my phone rang with someone I had not talked to in a while that I considered a friend.

      A parent had just passed and I was not sure I had the energy to talk but I forced myself.

      Well after chatting a little bit I told the “friend” about losing my parent and what a hard time I was having.

      She immediately launched into an MLM! I kid you not. After I said no she guilted that if I just listened for an hour even if I did not buy she would make money. I said no and ended the call.

      Yup some of the MLM sales people are nuts!

      1. AKchic*

        I have had similar run-ins. My own sister messaged every woman on my mom’s friend list to hawk diet pills. I had fun with *that* when she got to me (she hadn’t spoken to me in 3 years).

      2. Lindsay J*

        It’s sad now that whenever an “old friend” contacts me out of the blue, I am immediately suspicious that they are shilling an MLM. It’s even sadder that I almost always wind up being right.

        Pitching you right after they heard you lost a parent is insane, though. I just wonder how some people manage to not die of embarrassment after doing these things.

        1. nonymous*

          or a free place to stay. I live in a high COL that has good tourist options. we get the people feeling us out for vacation options quite a bit.

      3. Specialk9*

        “Oh you know what goes well with grief? Taupe eye shadow.”

        That’s a twisted person there.

  6. Casuan*

    OP4: What Alison said.
    & You shouldn’t be expected to work in close quarters with one who is so unwell- especially not during this long flu season!
    If you have any pull in your office, you could suggest for Fergus’ manager to send him home for a few days. That helps the office & Fergus. Probably it isn’t much comfortable for him to start a new job when he’s been off-peak himself.

    1. Rachel01*

      Does op have sick time? Take it, say you will be available to answer questions from home.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        Or if working remote is an option, arrange to do so for a few days and share your screen or anything else you need to do to get him trained.

    2. TheNotoriousMCG*

      From how I read this letter, it sounds like OP is worried about a hypothetical that has happened to some people she knows – not a situation she is actually in yet. I think she’s planning for a ‘what-if’

      1. CZ*

        Yes, that is exactly what I was thinking! OP doesn’t know the person is actually sick, they are worried about them showing up sick.

      2. myswtghst*

        This was how I read it as well – that it’s something OP has seen happen to a few friends and now is worried about in the hypothetical. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have a backup plan, in case the new hire comes in sick, but I’d also suggest trying to dial down the stress about something which hopefully won’t happen.

    3. Lars the Real Girl*

      I couldn’t really tell from the letter but it sounds like the new employee isn’t necessarily sick….just that the OP is wondering what happens IF the new person happens to be sick….am I reading that correctly? In which case, first advice is, wait for it to be an issue before you make it an issue.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Right. Have a plan, but there’s a good chance you won’t have to execute it.

      2. Kathleen_A*

        I agree about having a plan, but OP, you also need to calm down a little. You sound almost annoyed already – about something that hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t happen.

        But if it worries you, and obviously it does, having a plan in place is great.

  7. voyager1*

    I have never known anyone to think “thanks” meant anything more then the acknowledgement of a message usually email. That is just weird he is doing that. I would just tell him that like AAM stated.

    The performance issues and the pushback to feedback are probably separate issues and just should be treated as such.

    1. Ruth (UK)*

      I’m baffled too by him thinking “thanks” can mean a anything other can acknowledgment of receipt of the email but I kind of get him maybe misinterpreting “great, thanks”

      I mean, I still think the vast majority of people would still realise it didn’t really mean anything about the work, but I don’t feel it’s as big a stretch for a person to maybe think the “great” in this case could possibly refer to the work itself, though they’d still have to realise the recipient can’t have necessarily looked in any detail yet (especially if the reply is quite soon after recieving the email).

      However, even then I think it is still a bit over the top to think a reply of “great, thanks” is praise worthy of forwarding onto one’s boss…

      By the way, I work with a person who routinely replies with just the word “Received.” (Followed by her email signature) of you send her something that doesn’t need a reply necessarily other than acknowledgment. She does this to everyone. Now I wonder if she’s ever had someone misinterpet a thanks or if she’s always done this..

      1. Gen*

        I do wonder if he’s the sort of person who doesn’t say thanks to people for ‘doing their jobs’, we’ve seen this debate on AAM before about whether you should thank people for sending the thing they were supposed to send, I think the argument against is that it clutters up inboxes while the argument for is basic manners.

        The person writing ‘received’ has probably dealt with one of those colleagues who comes to your desk if you don’t immediately acknowledge the thing they sent. It stops them interrupting your workflow but its also handy since ‘received’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘read’ where as ‘great thanks’ can be taken to refer to the quality of the product itself. It’s a reach but as OP is discovering some people will make that reach.

        1. Just Employed Here*

          I think there is a more compelling argument for thanking someone for sending something than just basic manners: acknowledgement of receipt.

        2. Kathleen_A*

          It really puzzles me, too. “Thank you so so so so much! You’re a lifesaver!” Now, that’s a “thanks” that could be taken as a compliment. But just a garden variety “thanks”? Yeesh. The poor guy sounds like he’s really attempting to expand the definition of “compliment.”

      2. Ama*

        After getting burned a number of times when I replied “great, thank you” on receipt of some needed documents only to discover that either the document received was inadequate in some way or the attachment had failed or something (for awhile I worked with people who wanted to complain “I thought you said it was fine” or just outright ignored a follow up email because they thought it was a mistake), I always try to at least glance over the info to make sure there isn’t an obvious problem. If I can’t do that (sometimes when I’m traveling an attachment is too large for my phone), I try to reply something like “thanks, I’ll take a look and let you know if there are any questions.”

        1. Decima Dewey*

          “Thanks” can also be shorthand for “Good, you *finally* sent me the information I’ve been asking for for a month now. Well, some of it, anyway.

    2. Shannon Kilbourne*

      I manage someone very similar to #2, whom has poor performance and I frequently give feedback to regarding the problems in his work. When I say “thanks” to acknowledge that he fixed his work on the third or fourth time, he follows up with “I am glad I am making improvements!”

      To be honest, I do think I’ve finally made it clear to him that his work is not where it needs to be and at this point I should not be returning work to him this many times (and he will not be with the company for much longer). But he sounded just like Fergus.

      1. NewBoss5000*

        I also manage an employee whose perception of his work quality is wildly different from everyone else’s. But he’s been basically un-managed for at least a decade (probably more–his former direct supervisor is not good at managing people), and it’s an uphill battle to get him to understand my feedback. He responds to me in a way that makes me think he’s hearing something completely different. I’m working on being as clear as possible, but it’s frustrating.

        I’m doing end-of-the-year appraisals soon, and scheduled meetings about them this week. He emailed me with his very positive bio as something to bolster his review. But this bio was written by someone else for a completely different job (with the same organization) — a job that he’s used for years as a defense to any poor performance for us. Ugh.

          1. NewBoss5000*

            Sorry! There have been improvements, but it is slow going. I just keep trying to be as clear as I can and remind him that his work for us is not the same as his work for the other department and that I’m only focused on what he does here.

    3. LBK*

      FWIW, with my work, “thanks” does at least generally mean “I took a quick look at what you sent and it appears to be what I was looking for.” That doesn’t mean people don’t ever come back with follow up questions or changes after they’re reviewed it more thoroughly, but if Fergus’ work quality has been truly abysmal to the point that there’s generally obvious flaws even at first glance, then the fact that he’s getting these neutral replies instead of “hmm, this doesn’t seem like what I asked for, can you send me X?” is at least some sign of improvement.

      If people are just accepting what he’s sending and not following back up with him when there’s issues with his work, then that is a problem.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Same. If I’m acknowledging receipt (i.e., document received but I haven’t scanned to see if it’s what I’m looking for), I say, “Thanks for sending—I’ll take a look.”

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It feels good to be thanked. The world can be a pretty thankless place.

      That said, I have been known for thanking people for passing the salt/potatoes/gravy. It does not mean they found world peace or anything of any magnitude.

      I think I would explain to him that thank you is a polite statement and that is all it is. If he holds the door for someone and they say “thank you” that is nothing that would go on his employee eval. People are not evaluated on how many times a day they get thanked. “Since your eval is not based on how many times a day you get thanked, you can stop sending me your thank you emails.”

      Explaining these basic concepts that we almost intuitively understand is not easy. It’s good to prepare in advance what you will say.

      1. myswtghst*

        It feels good to be thanked. The world can be a pretty thankless place.

        That said, I have been known for thanking people for passing the salt/potatoes/gravy. It does not mean they found world peace or anything of any magnitude.

        Yes, this. I frequently thank people for relatively minor things at work, because it’s helped me over the years to build up positive associations with people. It does not mean I think your work is great, it just means that I appreciate this thing you did for me and want to express that (and hopefully make it more likely you’ll be willing to help me out in the future if needed).

    5. Turquoisecow*

      I used to work with a few people who would reply to somewhat routine emails (they requested an action or information, I replied) with VERY effusive thanks, like “Oh, you’re the best!!” Or “Thank you soooooo much!” with some commentary about how awesome I was for replying.

      I think it was mostly because the person doing the job before me (my boss) didn’t reply as quickly, or get the information to them as quickly, so the “praise” was really in response to the speed at which I had completed the action.

      I could see Fergus getting a swelled head if he was getting such outrageous thanks from coworkers. Also, is it possible he’s sending you the emails as verification that he replied and this completed the task assigned? Granted, he could also just copy you on the emails he sends if that was his goal.

    6. Karo*

      I once had a coworker who was truly bad at her job who kept a “praise” folder in her inbox, consisting almost solely of people replying to her work with “thanks,” and nothing else. I genuinely think it came down to her not knowing what true positive feedback was because she had never received it, and therefore thinking that any little thing counted as positive feedback.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        I keep a praise folder in my inbox.

        It’s nice to look at it on a bad day. Even just 50 thanks!

        Plus at the end of the year if there are nice letters I incorporate it into my self evaluation. Like I was great in A project. Here is what Fergus had to say about my work.

        It’s actually a really good idea!

        1. The New Wanderer*

          I think the key difference is that you know it’s appropriate to use the nice letters (with details about your performance specifically) and not the simple “thanks!” notes. All of it is good, only some of it is relevant to evaluations.

          FWIW, my coworker at ExJob thanked me many times over the years for helping to share his workload and taking over projects as needed (he was seriously overloaded, I was not), and praising the final projects. I felt like I was just doing my job but it was still nice to hear. He went to bat for me when I got laid off. That will always mean something to me.

        2. tangerineRose*

          I agree that it’s good to have a folder to keep praise in. Of course “Thanks” by itself isn’t really praise.

      2. Gatomon*

        I used to work somewhere where staff were encouraged to share any praising emails from coworkers or clients with management so they would know what was happening for reviews, etc. One woman in particular would send every little “thanks” email to our boss. She and several other people had a sort of… thank-you circle where they would each thank each other explicitly for basic work tasks and then forward their receipts to management. Whenever there was any sort of staff recognition this circle of people were always at the top of the list due to sheer volume. Really soured me on the whole idea of employee recognition.

        This coworker also frequently received long, effusive thank-you emails from clients that made me a bit suspicious. I’m pretty sure she openly solicited them, but I’m still baffled by the number of people who actually went through and did it.

  8. MommyMD*

    Fergus knows his work is in the trash and is attempting to “convince” you it is not with his forwarding of pointless email. Damage control.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I’m not sure I agree. Some people’s work is so bad that they are used to a steady stream of complaints. So they think that no complaints is “good”. They’ve never seen good work. They don’t realize that no complaints is nominal, not excellent.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think you’re onto something.

        I’m a little reminded of juice guy, who every time he heard “You’re wrong” started looking for a new audience. If he could convince the AAM readers, that would convince Alison, which would convince his sister, which would convince his girlfriend, which would convince his grandboss, which would convince his supervisor, that he didn’t have a Never Hire flag by his name.

            1. Naptime Enthusiast*

              Thanks for the link! I vaguely remember reading the letter but not the comments, which are much more vivid.

              1. LBK*

                Wow, I totally forgot that one of his defenses in the comments was that he wasn’t a thief because after he’d been caught, he admitted it, and a true thief would have denied it. How weird.

                1. PB*

                  And that there were more valuable things to steal, but he *only* took a juice. I don’t think I ever read the comments for that one. It just makes it weirder.

                2. McWhadden*

                  Not just that a true thief would have denied it but that he would have blamed the housekeeper. He said that so often that it clearly occurred to him to try to blame the housekeeper.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I had totally forgotten how batshit the comments were on this one. It was kind of amazing, too, because all the counterarguments basically deepened the perception (or served as additional facts suggesting) that he was a straight up [juice] thief.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is a great point, and it may offer OP a new way to approach giving Fergus feedback.

      3. Former Retail Manager*

        YES!! Totally agree with the comment that “no complaints = good.” I work in an environment in which no news is good news essentially and feedback is pretty infrequent and rarely in great depth. So employees continue doing what they do thinking that it must be fine, when in fact it could be substantially better, but no one has shown them what better/excellent looks like or discussed it with them in detail.

    2. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I agree. I worked with someone that towards the end of her role when it was clear things were Not Working Out, she would “reply all” to our team so everyone knew she was being helpful and working hard and a good team player. We all knew it was a BS attempt to cover herself and it didn’t work.

    3. MissGirl*

      Yep, he’s trying to distract the OP from the real issues. He knows his work is subpar.

      And even if he doesn’t, the answer is the same. You have an employee under performing and refusing to take feedback.

  9. Lizabeth*

    OP #1, I’m sorry your client was a jerk. That said, call your CC company and change your CC number ASAP! Do you really want them to have access to it? Plus the karma killing side of me would want to deny the charges, but that’s just me.

    1. SuperSuperAnon*

      Denying a charge you did in fact authorize isn’t karma, it’s fraud!

      That said, I’d be amazed if LW1 doesn’t have some kind of right to cancel their order.

      1. Al Lo*

        If the company abides by the Direct Selling Association guidelines, there has to be a cancellation period. I’m not sure if that’s a legal requirement, but it’s a requirement to have the stamp of approval of the DSA. Their guidelines state that member companies must give customers the ability to withdraw an order within 3 days.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          The legal requirements for cancellation periods varies widely by state (I dealt with a lot of this when I was handling credit card disputes) but the card association rules are the ones that are going to be more advantageous to the OP, especially if they used a Visa-branded card.

      2. Natalie*

        Not necessarily – banks will accept chargebacks for companies that aren’t honoring stated or legally required return periods or other shady businesses. Your bank might not agree to refund, but as long as you don’t lie it’s certainly not fraud.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          It’s definitely worth asking. It’s likely that the merchant’s processor will fight the dispute (if the LW’s bank takes it up) if their disputes department is worth its salt, but fight doesn’t mean win.

    2. KatieMcG*

      I agree whether you pay for this purchase or not, you should change your credit card number going forward. This whole thing sounds shady and you don’t want these people to have your number. Who knows what they will do with it?

  10. Sally O'Malley*

    #4 I’m unclear whether the new hire has actually shown up sick or if the LW is just wondering what to do IF that happens.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Agreed. That’s my read on it, that this guy hasn’t even appeared yet. I’m a big planner and I like to plan for all contingencies, but in this case, I think it’s best for the LW to have a reasonable game plan but expect this person to show up perfectly fine and ready to work. No need to stress out over this possibility.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I agree completely.

          I was honestly a bit confused by this letter – why assume the new hire is going to come in sick (and not only that, but “stinking sick”)? Just because viruses are going around and because it happened to two of your friends? OP seems to be in something akin to almost panic mode or at least overly cautious and I really don’t think that’s warranted here since it’s much more likely that the new hire will be just fine coming in.

          On the other hand, of course it’s always good to be prepared for eventualities and now with Alison’s answer, OP can proceed accordingly, no matter the actual situation.

          1. Alton*

            I agree that it feels a little premature. I’m wondering if the main thing is that the OP is anxious to get out of there and doesn’t want anything to interfere with her celebration/vacation.

      1. zora*

        But it’s fair to want to think about these things ahead of time and have some idea of what you’re going to do. It’s the reverse of the MLM letter here, where she was so blindsided she didn’t know what to do and now totally regrets what happened. As someone who is not good at thinking on my feet, I find it really helpful to think things through ahead of time and have a plan for what I will do if something happens. And the OP’s trip is very important to them, so it’s good to realize that and think about what you can do to minimize any potential problems!

    1. Legal Beagle*

      I think it’s the latter. Also, people can be contagious well before they show signs of illness, so LW should do their best to stay healthy (frequent handwashing, etc.), and try to relax.

  11. Traveling Teacher*

    OP1: How awful for you! That freelance mentality of “I must take every job! I must please every client!” can be paralyzing in the moment. I hope that you have enough other clients and contracts so that you can fire this client and move on to ones with better judgment.

    1. Agent Diane*

      That was my thought too: the letter starts “if he turns up sick and then goes into many concerns. It sounds like this is weighing on OP4’s mind a lot. OP4 is sounding resentful before the person has even arrived. They might be perfectly fine! OP4 might get sick off someone else! We could all be wiped out by a meteorite…

      I’d recommend OP4 scaling back how much they’ve focusing on this “if” in favour of prepping the training they need to do. Then set aside these worries and welcome the new person openly rather than looking for the first sneeze. It might turn into a really pleasant week downloading your years of knowledge.

      And have hand sanitizer on your desk.

      1. Agent Diane*

        And a nesting error: this should have been under Sally O’Malley.

        You can tell I’m the one with an incipient cold…

  12. My client invited me to lunch — and then pressured me into buying lingerie*

    LW1 here. Thank you very much for your sympathy and advice, Allison and everybody.

    A few more details that may or may not be relevant:

    The “friend” was from out of town, and was staying the night at a local hotel. We met in the lobby, had a light lunch and a pleasant chat regarding my portfolio, and then went up to the friend’s room to chat some more over coffee. That’s when the hard sell started. I couldn’t believe what was happening, it was surreal.

    It was impossible for me to summon up the courage to walk out, and I just could not do it! I think I was too stunned.

    (Also, I think that they were possibly trying to offload some old stock in a hurry.)

    I am not going to take any kind of further action, because I don’t wish to think about it any more. Instead, I’m going to chalk it up to experience, and be very, very guarded from now on. Also, I’m going to make myself mysteriously unavailable to any of that client’s requests in future.

    Please don’t think it couldn’t happen to you.

    1. All. Is. On.*

      What gets me is that they didn’t just push you to buy one item (which would be bad enough), but insisted until you spent HUNDREDS of dollars!!!!

    2. Thlayli*

      This is not really related to the issue you wrote about, but assuming you haven’t worn it you may be able to sell it on via eBay or similar. make sure you state it’s unworn and still got tags on and you might make back some of the money.

      I also like the idea someone had upthread about raising your fees for this client to make back your money.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Freezing in the moment is very, very normal, no matter how many people for which a given situation is safely hypothetical come up with great put downs they would have immediately emitted.

      But I do think you should try to return this stuff. It will be a lesson learned even if you get part or all of the money back, but money is nice.

    4. hbc*

      “It was impossible for me to summon up the courage to walk out, and I just could not do it!” I feel you, especially when you had no idea it was coming. But now that you *have* gone through it and know that it’s something that people can and will do, do you think you could do it the next time?

      I recommend that you don’t dwell on something you can’t change, but also that you have a plan going forward. Have some line prepared. “Sorry, I don’t buy anything direct like this, but you can email me the information.” “I never make a purchase this big without waiting a couple of days, even if that means I miss out on good deals.” Or if it’s being in the room that made you feel trapped, have a policy that you don’t go into other people’s hotel rooms. As a person who has a hard time being assertive when the pressure is on, I have to prevent myself from getting into those situations where possible and have a “it’s not you, it’s me” escape ready if avoidance doesn’t work.

      1. JennyAnn*

        I have definitely used the “I don’t purchase things on impulse/without waiting” line when I’ve found myself in unexpected sales situation. You’ll still get push back from the hardcore sales people, but it can be such a relief to have that to fall back on rather than trying to justify not purchasing. “It’s a hard rule to keep my budget in line. You’re welcome to give me information on the product, but I won’t make a purchase until I’ve had a couple days to double check my current and upcoming finances.”

        1. Natalie*

          I do that with charity pitches. Maybe it’s the earnest teens and college students in bright vests or something, but they always feel more personal to me. But I don’t give money to charity without researching the organization first, so that’s what I say.

          1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

            Me too. Though I’ve been met with an I-know-you’re-just-blowing-me-off sort of look when saying this.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            Me too! Also “I don’t buy things over the phone” for tele-charity-marketers.

        2. SophieChotek*

          I like that line/reasoning. I’ll have to remember it. And I actually often do this – if I see something I want, I try to make myself wait 48-72 hours (or longer if its just something random on Amazon)…and if I still find myself thinking about it later, then maybe I’ll go back and get it…Thanks! Wouldn’t have thought of it in this situation!

        3. Katie the Fed*

          I like “I’d have to talk to my husband before I make any purchases.” It’s not true, but it buys me time.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            And that’s why people who sell timeshares insist that if you’re married, both must attend the presentation in order to get the freebie.

            1. Ghost Town*

              We did a timeshare presentation on our honeymoon, but discussed code language before hand. We walked out with our free tickets and breakfast, a few hours poorer, but didn’t buy anything.

          2. Emilia Bedelia*

            I like this in particular because I’m not married and I think any follow up questions would be particularly amusing.

            “Oh, when will you be able to talk to him?”
            “Well, I haven’t met him yet so it might be a few years…I’ll let you know if I go on any promising dates anytime soon.”

          3. Half-Caf Latte*

            Well you presumably do *talk* to your husband. They are assuming you’re talking about the purchase, but you didn’t say that.

            (NB: normally don’t advocate this sort of deception but people who won’t take no for an answer have forfeited their rights)

      2. Havarti*

        Ugh, this made my skin crawl. Note to self: arrange my own transportation to any client meeting and decline invitations for coffee in private rooms because I would absolutely hate to get pinned down like this. Nope nope nope.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        Have some line prepared. “Sorry, I don’t buy anything direct like this, but you can email me the information.”

        Yeah, back in the days when I actually answered my landline, this was my standard response to any charity pitch. I don’t donate over the phone, but please send me your information. Oddly enough, almost no one did.

      4. TootsNYC*

        “have a policy that you don’t go into other people’s hotel rooms.”

        This is not a bad policy in general.

    5. Naptime Enthusiast*

      Ooof, so they cornered you in her hotel room rather than in a public area, that’s even worse. I’m sorry this happened to you.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      make myself mysteriously unavailable to any of that client’s requests in future

      A+++ This is my favorite strategy for firing a client. “I’m sorry, I’m slammed for the next couple of weeks so I won’t be available until next month,” or “Gosh, I have a trial coming up so I can’t give your matter the attention it really needs,” and followed up with a referral to another lawyer or the number of the bar association referral line. (Whether I refer to another lawyer depends on why I had to fire the client, and how friendly I am with that other lawyer!)

      You could burn the bridge with that client. It might feel really good to tell them off and figuratively stomp out of the room and slam the door, or go into reasons why you’re firing them. But the former just increases bad feelings in the world, and the latter is emotional labor that IMO veers toward the Captain Awkward warning of “reasons are for reasonable people.” Personally I’ve always found it better to low-key peace out of toxic client relationships rather than get all dramatic about them.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I think this is a good suggestion that seems to align with the type of solution OP is looking for.

        This turns it into “yeah you won that one, but in the long run I have final say how our business transactions go”.

        “Gee, so sorry Client, I am booked up for the next three weeks. You can try to find someone else or you can check with me in about four weeks.”
        And fade out from there.

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          If anyone thinks they’ve guessed who I am, I can always say that I can neither confirm nor deny that identity!

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Or you could raise your rates, just for her. The price for her next project will be several hundred dollars more than previous projects… coincidentally, the price of the lingerie you bought!

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          Lightheartedness aside, there’s always a risk that the client will call your bluff and pay the inflated rate. Then you’re stuck working for this terrible client, and sometimes it’s just. Not. Worth. It.

          Better to fire the client altogether and replace them with better clients!

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            So the worst-case scenario is that you do one more job for her, you get your normal rate plus she “reimburses” you for the lingerie, and then you’re done with her. I’d be happy with that.

    7. Lily in NYC*

      It happens to most of us at least once before we wise up. I got suckered into getting a Mary Kay facial/hard sell from a coworker’s sister because I fell for the gimmick that she “needed to practice” her new business and would I please do her a favor. I have since learned it’s one of the main tactics they use to try to recruit people to sell under them. Now I say the same thing to everyone who asks: “sorry, I don’t do sales parties or buy from direct sales companies”. There’s a great site that talks about MLM’s shady practices: (it’s mainly about MaryKay but it’s a fascinating read).

      1. BadPlanning*

        I had a friend who stopped doing Mary Kay, but there was a product that I still liked. I looked up someone local and asked to buy it (thinking I’d make someone’s day buying a pricey item with no leg work). They said, “Great, do you want to come to Location A? We’re having a meeting there.” I thought that was great, it was somewhere I was familiar with and didn’t have to drive to someone’s house. I get there and both the person I’d contacted and her upper person started putting the pressure on. They wanted me to do a “facial” (had a “station” all set up) and fill out the forms to harass my friends. I said I didn’t have time because I had a hair appointment. They said to call my hair person and just push my appointment back (!!!). That was a no-go (and appalling enough to give me courage). I paid and left.

        Honestly, I wish I hadn’t paid and just left without the product. Alas.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Eh, you followed through on your word, you said you wanted to buy the product so you did. We can’t help other people’s poor behavior we can only control our own. You kept your word in spite of their crap.

        2. McWhadden*

          The MOST annoying thing about Mary Kay is they have some really great products! But unless you have a low-key hookup (some people who idly sell but don’t really push it) it is just not worth it.

          1. Samata*

            Luckily my mom and I have one of these. It’s fantastic because you are right – their products are awesome to the -enth degree.

            My lady gave me the number of a local (to me) person once in a pinch to see if she had what I needed in stock. That person pushed me to the end of the world trying to get me to buy more. I ended up buying NOTHING.

          2. Travelling Circus*

            While at a facial/party about a decade ago, a Mary Kay rep once told me I had terrible skin and would hate my life because no man would find me attractive when I said that I’d have to think about which products I might want to get. She was so incredibly angry that I said no to purchasing. I was so incensed, I walked out without buying anything, and I told the hostess why. (The funny thing was, I was already married when this happened.)

            To this day I still refuse to buy anything from Mary Kay.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          I looked up someone local and asked to buy it (thinking I’d make someone’s day buying a pricey item with no leg work).

          I did that with a Pampered Chef seller when I broke my pizza stone, thinking she’d be happy to make a sale that involved no work at all on her end. WRONG.

        4. SarahTheEntwife*

          Yeah, I’ve had that happen with Cutco. Luckily we did genuinely need knives and they’re perfectly nice ones, but now I know what that “practice” line means.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        John Oliver did an excellent show about MLMs too. Worth watching if you have 20+ minutes to spare.

      3. Squeeble*

        Yeah, my sister was given a “free” Mary Kay makeover package for her and some guests when she got engaged. We went to it together and the woman made us up in the most laughable clown makeup and then roped us into buying a bunch of products. I was so mad at myself after for falling for such a classic scheme.

    8. Ginger Birdie*

      LW1, I had something similar happen to me a few months ago. I purchased a reasonably-priced gym membership, and mentioned at signing that I was interested in time with a personal trainer. My first one-on-one ended with me signing up for a year of services for an outrageous sum of money. It was like having an out of body experience. I knew the numbers we were discussing were completely unrealistic relative to my income but I had promised myself I would take better care of myself… I went home after the session and cried. It felt terrible. Thankfully, my province (I’m in Canada) has a 10-day cooling off period for contracts. I decided to cancel both the membership and the personal trainer.

      Before going in, I confided in a friend about the whole situation and I think he gave me some good advice. He used to work as a CSR for a big box electronics store, where he was encouraged to try to up-sell people by offering warranties on products. The hardest people to sell to when he offered the warranty? They were the customers who refused to give a reason for not wanting it. He had nothing to leverage in those situations. So when I went in to the gym to cancel, I did exactly that. He was right – they were totally prepared to argue any reason I gave them, but by giving them none, the conversation ended there. For future, I’m better prepared to just smile, and shrug, say no thanks, and leave it at that.

      I definitely feel for you, and wish you all kinds success with the rest of your (hopefully!) less icky clients.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Great advice.

        I have also had the upsale for an extended warranty. I said, “Why do I need that?”. This is a great question as usually they do not understand what they are selling because they have never read the warranty. So this one guy said, “Well if it fails out of the box then you are covered.” I said, “If it fails out of the box then the state attorney general has it covered.” End of conversation.

        Keeping the state AG in mind or the BBB can be very useful. “What would the BBB think of the sales technique you are using right now?” or “I bet the AG’s office would be interested in this conversation here.”
        These can be great conversation stoppers.

        1. Tardigrade*

          I’d love to do the John Pinette bit sometime.

          “Why do I need an extended warranty?”
          “In case the TV breaks.”
          “If the TV’s gonna break, I’m not buying it.”
          “The TV’s not going to break.”
          “Then why do I need an extended warranty?”
          “In case the TV breaks.”
          “If the TV breaks, I’m not buying it.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I’ve had this actual conversation at a car dealership. The Warranty Guy had “copies” of “expensive repair bills” under the glass on his desk. “See this? If your transmission fails at 37K miles, this is how much it would cost for a new one.” But wait, I’m buying this car because they’re so reliable. (My car has 130K miles on it, and the original transmission is still humming along.)

            1. Autumnheart*

              No kidding! What kind of POS has a transmission fail at 37K? And don’t most cars have drive train warranties? Mine had a 60K warranty that was bumped up to 100K about a year after I bought the car. Knock wood, the car’s at 170K and counting.

              1. Anna*

                And why specifically 37k miles, which just happens to be the mileage where most warranties end? Weird.

                The only upsale I’ve ever been happy I got was the gap coverage for my new car and my husband’s. We haven’t had to use it, but I am so relieved we have it just in case.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  And why specifically 37k miles, which just happens to be the mileage where most warranties end?

                  That was the point. “Look, here’s an actual example (probably fake) of a bill for someone whose transmission died right after the standard warranty ended! But if you buy an extended warranty, this won’t be a problem!”

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        The hardest people to sell to when he offered the warranty? They were the customers who refused to give a reason for not wanting it. He had nothing to leverage in those situations.

        This is useful in a lot of situations. The acronym I’m familiar with is JADE – never Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain. It comes in handy with pushy salespeople, friends, inlaws, etc. If you provide a reason, you give them something to argue against.

      3. Lindsay J*

        This was really good advice from your friend.

        When I did photography sales, they gave us scripts to counteract pretty much every reason someone could give. There isn’t really a script to counteract “No.” We would try to get them to give a reason, but if they just stuck to “no” there wasn’t much we could do.

    9. aka Duchess*

      I know you want to put it behind you, but I wouldn’t just dodge the client, or essentially ghost on them. They could them become resentful, angry, and potentially lash out on you or your business. They won’t connect their awful (hounding) behavior as to why you won’t work with them anymore, and why would she? From her perspective you bought tons of lingerie and seemed like you had such a fun time at lunch with her and her friend!

      As uncomfortable as it is, you need to let her know that her behavior that day will make it difficult for you to work together in the future. You could even send an email. Or dictate an email and have a friend hit send.

      And hey, who knows, maybe your client was really just trying to do her friend a big favor but now realizes how unprofessional and awful that was and doesn’t know how to reach out or if she should to apologize.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I don’t think OP needs to be fearful. Client has done this to other people OP knows and stuff like this goes around. People tend to warn each other, “Hey watch out for Jane and her Chocolate Teapot MLM.”

        Even if she does try to spread a bad word people may disregard Jane because they know she is not a credible source.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yeah, I agree. I rarely say this, but coming up with a number of excuses not to take future work from this client is, imo, a great ideal. OP doesn’t owe her an explanation or direct intervention unless OP wants to salvage the client relationship (or the non-client relationship, although that seems severed).

          I’m a fan of the “concentric circles of relationships” theory of how to address problems. People in my inner circle, or even 2-3 circles out, receive an honest conversation about why their behavior bothered me. The same goes for work relationships. But if you’re farther out? No, you get no explanation for why I’ve sent you to the outer circles over in exoplanet territory. You’re just lucky I’m cooly distant and passably polite.

      2. Dr Littauer*

        No. The whole situation was a deliberate trap. The lunch was bait. The remote location the pit. The “urgency” was….grease down the walls ( I’m starting to lose the metaphor here).

      3. Tuxedo Cat*

        I think the letter writer is kind of damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. Unless she skirts the truth, I have the feeling that telling the client how she really feels is going to not be met with anything good. The client thought it was appropriate to not only do this but to also trick the OP into going to the hotel room (i.e., out of a public space) and essentially trap her.

    10. McWhadden*

      This is absolutely something I could see happening to me! I totally can see a similar situation. And I’m so glad you wrote in to make me think about how I would respond in advance. Thank you!

    11. Slow Gin Lizz*

      “trying to offload some old stock in a hurry” screams MLM. Sorry you got waylaid by them, LW. That’s some shady stuff they’ve got going on and it’s really easy to get sucked in. Best of luck going forward.

    12. boo bot*

      Holy what now? That’s so, so weird, and having you cornered in a hotel room, when you don’t have your own transportation, is creepy as f**k too. I’m a freelancer and I’ve had some strange clients, and I might not have left either, honestly. Sometimes smiling and nodding until you can get the bleep out is the social equivalent of playing dead until the bear gives up and goes away.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        A friend’s family member tried to get me to pay for his purchases he said he would pay me back. I said I did not have that much cash. He said, “Oh you could use your card.”
        If someone has the audacity to say this to me, the I have the audacity to LIE. “Oh, I don’t have my card with me. I only bring it when I know I will be making a specific purchase.”
        Slam dunk, over.

        If they know that you do have your card, then you could say that it’s maxed out or that you have the wrong card with you for a purchase this size. At this point, you just say whatever to get out of the immediate conversation and to protect your finances. Sometimes these little white lies are the most peaceful way to bring a tense situation to a solution.

        1. boo bot*

          Yeah, for real there is nothing wrong with lying to extricate yourself from a corner someone has deliberately backed you into.

        2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          I took a similar tack when I homeless man tried to chat me up at a metro stop many years ago. I was maybe 20 yrs old and he didn’t ask me for my number, he asked “Do you have a phone?” Of course my phone was in my pocket, but I had the foresight to LIE through my teeth! “No, I don’t have one”. Then he asks, “Do you want my phone number?” “How would I call you, I don’t have a phone?”

          Thankfully the metro arrived and I was able to get away, but lying was absolutely the right decision there.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          You can also be like my friend and not have credit cards at all. Or you can lie and say you don’t have them.

    13. Alton*

      Yeah, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly how you’ll react. Dealing with awkward situations like this can take practice, unfortunately. Being in the friend’s room might have made it feel harder to “escape,” too.

      If you don’t want to fight to return the items, would it be possible at all to donate them? It depends on what type of lingerie we’re talking about, but if it’s something that can be worn practically (like bras that aren’t just for sexy dress-up) and it’s clear that it’s new, could it be donated to a women’s shelter or something?

    14. The Vulture*

      It really can happen to most every one – that’s why they do it. I was all, I would never buy from those hard-sell Dead Sea Lotion people, or whatever it is, I hate when they corner me in the mall, but…once they corner you…I don’t even LIKE lotion. I’m lucky it was that – I know people who bought one of those super expensive vacuums they sell door-to-door. You kind of give it up as a “lesson learned” because you got something that you are least -sort -of-were-convinced that you wanted, but they really used your reasonable professional expectations of behavior in an inappropriate way, here.

      I don’t think any implicit “eagerness to please” as someone said. They push A LOT of buttons and prey on a lot of natural, human impulses and societal norms – feelings of reciprocity, etc that are really present and prevalent, so much that it’s hard to identify what exactly is keeping you in place.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        I got cornered by the Dead Sea people as a teen in the mall!! Looking back it was a VERY creepy situation (middle-aged man going after a young female by herself *shudder*), but I’ve been immune to mall kiosk sales since so I guess it was a good lesson.

      2. Ghost Town*

        Those mall kiosks… that’s one situation where I’m actually ok being curt. “No, I don’t want to try your product b/c it’s terrible for your hair/skin/whatever.” Because generally, I don’t use that type of product anyway.

        1. Autumnheart*

          I just blank them hard like they’re not even there. Oh, were you talking to me? Sorry, I didn’t notice until I was 50 feet away. It’s especially effective if you combine it with RBF and the murder walk.

          1. TootsNYC*

            this is where having become a New Yorker is so VERY helpful.

            We can walk past anybody at any time without responding.

          2. Lindsay J*

            Yup. Ignore. No eye contact. I don’t see you. I don’t hear you. I’m not stopping.

      3. Arjay*

        They got me once. They just suck you in, and the mall is already so overwhelming that my resistance is down. The guy reached out like he was going to hand me a sample, but he grabbed my outstretched hand and pulled me in for the pitch.
        Since then, I always says no. The technique I’ve seen a couple times is they’ll say, “Oh can I ask you a question?” Again, my natural impulse is to be helpful and say yes. I’ve learned to say no. It’s quite comical actually. “Can I ask you a question?” “No.” And keep walking.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Yes, living in the big city makes you very good at this.
          Person on the street in colorful logoed shirt with clipboard: “Hi, how are you today?” Right, I know you want something…
          Lately I’ve been a little nicer and answered “No thanks”, or “I’ll wait till I’ve done the research” when I walked by the early voting place. The key is to not break stride, don’t let them waste your time. I don’t have any to spare. Wish I did!

    15. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP, I’m so sorry you went through this. Your experience is unfortunately really common. You’ve gotten great advice in the thread, but I also wanted to gently suggest that you never go up to someone’s hotel room for a business (or other) meeting.

      This wasn’t a Weinstein situation, but in general, you’ll be safer (from schemes, from physical attacks, from kidnapping) if you stay in a more public place. I think being in public may have also made you feel less frozen and more able to leave. To be clear, this is 100% not your fault and hindsight is 20/20. Just another tool in your box if you’re drawn into a bad situation, again.

    16. LeRainDrop*

      I’m so sorry, LW! That was a crappy way for your client and her friend to treat you. I’m like you in that I never think I would fall for that junk, but in the perfect storm pressure moment, it’s hard to say how I would react. I think it’s understandable that you, as a kind person who doesn’t want to seem rude, ended up making a decision you didn’t really want to. It’s probably best that you set a firm boundary with the (soon-to-be-ex) client from now on. She took advantage of you, and you don’t owe her anything for a continued relationship. So sorry again.

    17. Michaela Westen*

      If it was me, getting the money back would make me feel much better!
      Try asking for a refund, or your card company to reverse the charge.
      If that doesn’t work, maybe sell them online.
      No matter what else you do, posting an online review about their sales tactics would make me feel a lot better!
      If I had this happen and didn’t do anything about it, I would feel like a victim. I think it’s worth the effort to take action so you don’t feel like a victim, you fought back and called them out. :)

    18. Student*

      It might help you to realize that this happened to you precisely because they employed a strategy specifically tailored to override your normal behavior and your own interests. It’s really something you have to have experience with to counter, and you hadn’t had a similar experience with it. They ran a scam on you – they are scammers; you aren’t at fault in any way just because you ended up a victim of it.

      It’s worth your time to reflect on ways to get out of it in the future. You’ll probably have someone target you for such a scam again in the future, through no fault of your own. It’ll surprise you when it happens again. Picking out one little thing you could do about it and hold to might help you in a similar situation one day. That might mean leaving as soon as something is weird, taking a fake phone call to give yourself a moment to think, or interrupting them, or a phrase you hold to and repeat in order to defend yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing how to do these this time – but do learn them so you are prepared for the next time.

  13. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

    OP5 I hate to be so negative, but are you certain the problem is the boss and not the spouse? If I had a nickel for every time my ex blamed his boss and/or his mother I’d be wealthy indeed.

    1. Forking Great Username*

      This sounds like a leap to me. I get it, you have personal experience with someone pulling that crap, but if that was the case I’m sure he would not have given notice on the apartment. I’m not OP but would be put off by someone asking if my husband would do something awful just because of someone else’s ex.

      1. Former Govt Contractor*

        +1 – He wouldn’t have given up the apartment if he wasn’t prepared to move.

    2. M from NY*

      This was my thought also. New position, more work for less benefits (hourly instead of exempt) doesn’t add up. If he miraculously gets apt back I would lean towards he never wanted to relocate and has been delaying the inevitable. I know lots of people who are unwilling to advocate for themselves. It doesn’t make them evil but awfully frustrating due to their refusal to ever take responsibility for their choice not to communicate honestly.

      On the other hand, you train people how to treat you. If husband truly wants to go he should look for new job, give 2 weeks notice and leave. No opportunity for counter offers or additional promises. If job was ready to lay him off they wouldn’t extend time indefinitely to accomodate your husband’s needs. The ball is really in his court. He’s not a victim that something is happening to.

    3. Lora*

      Eh, I’ve had plenty of bosses who initially said “yeah, you can definitely work from home at least a few days per week” and then turned around and “well NORMALLY we need people HERE…” even when 1/3 of the team was in Germany and 1/3 in India and 1/4 in the UK. But since I was technically within driving distance, therefore I had to be in the office even though all I did was sit in front of the computer.

      Also have a dumb ex who blamed everything in the universe on everyone not him though, so I definitely can see that perspective.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Eh, OP does not sound like they have additional concerns. We should try to take the OPs at their word. Additionally, the scenario here is not unheard of, we have had stories of many bosses reneging on their word. I think it was nice of OP to try to bring in some helpful advice for their spouse. Big moves are stressful and how to handle each aspect of the move can get muddy/unclear because there are so many balls in the air.

    5. Anna*

      Here’s an idea. Maybe let’s not predict marital problems based on nothing in the letter.

    6. somebody blonde (OP 5)*

      So, my husband told his boss 2 weeks ago that he needed to either move or quit. He moved into our new apartment this last weekend.

      Alison was absolutely right, though, that he wasn’t being firm enough with his boss. My husband is very sweet and nice, which I like most of the time, but also makes him over-sympathize with his boss. His boss acted like he was doing my husband a big favor by getting him a title bump and all that, and so husband would go into the conversation ready to say that he needed to leave and boss would guilt-trip him into being okay with “soon”. I had to buck him up a bit to get him to get the conversation he needed to have, but it’s basically solved now.

      1. Marthooh*

        That’s great! It’s always fun to get an update, and this is one where it worked out well, too.

  14. GM*

    OP#5, I’ve been in a similar situation…regarding my wedding date! As in, boss knew my date but was pushing me to delay it as he wanted me to travel. It was a great assignment, but I was quite firm about going ahead with the wedding. The best way I’ve found to deal with such issues is to time-box the request, though politely and with some amount of wiggle room. Also, and this is just my opinion, everything should be documented so they can’t wriggle out it later. Send an email after the discussion saying ‘As discussed, I will begin working remotely from December…’

    1. Christy*

      I’m just imagining having to have this conversation with my boss.

      Boss: Listen, I really want you to do this work trip to New Zealand. It’s a great opportunity and we really need you there.
      Me: My dude. Literally I am getting married in the middle of that trip and I can’t go.
      Boss: But xyz!
      Me: My. Dude. 1. Do you know how many logistics have been set for my wedding? 2. Really you’re trying to get me to move *my wedding*?

      Unfathomable. I’m glad you didn’t move your wedding!

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        Will you reimburse me for all my deposits and reschedule all of my vendors for me for a new wedding date? No? Then how can you expect ME to do that?!?!?!

        Clearly wedding stress is getting to me.

      2. Parenthetically*

        My conversation with my boss went:

        Me: I’m getting married! We’ve set a date in late March, so I’ll need a week off work.
        Boss: No problem! We’re so excited for you!

        I literally cannot imagine the balls on someone to be all MOVE UR WEDDING 4 WORK. Do you even human?

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          Do you even human? This had me choking on my drink. Thanks for that.

          I do kind of want it on a T-shirt though.

    2. Kiki*

      My boss tried this. Well, she didn’t ask me to move my wedding, but she asked me to stay in the office until the day before (I got married in my hometown, a 6 hour flight away) and then wanted me to leave the evening of my wedding to be in another state for a meeting the next day. I declined and was sadly pushed out a few months later.

      1. JustaTech*

        As the out-of-state bridesmaid I had to run interference for my friend when her boss asked her to come in and work the *day of* her wedding. (She got married on a Friday evening to save money, but hello, there’s at least a fully day’s work before that!)

    3. Lefty*

      In a similar vein- I just had a request from my new-ish boss to move the closing date on my house to ensure coverage in the office… I was appalled because I’ve been keeping him updated for the last few months about progress. I gently pushed back and told him I just could NOT move the date.

      My coworker laughingly told me that the same boss previously asked him to re-schedule his wife’s C-Section date. I am aghast. (And wondering what I’ve gotten myself into!)

      1. LeRainDrop*

        When one of my friend/co-workers was closing on her first home, she decided to take three days off (next to a weekend) as “vacation” so that she could do the closing, move in, and start unpacking. Two other senior women in my group were making fun of her behind her back, like, “Why is she taking all that time off for a closing? Closing is so easy. It should only take a couple hours.” I wanted to say (but these women would have squashed me — actually, one later became my office bully), “What difference does it make what she wants to do on her vacation time? Perhaps you could be happy for her getting her first home and wish her good luck with everything!”

      2. Sarah*

        WHAT?!??!!!! “Move your wedding” seemed bad but “MOVE THE BIRTH OF YOUR CHILD”????

  15. Ria*

    OP #5 – I would set a firm date for the move (at the end of the apartment lease), and offer to travel back as needed up to N weeks a month with the company paying for travel expenses.

    1. SophieChotek*

      OP#5 hope your spouse is able to get the remote-thing worked out. But from my experience (as an observer), sometimes (even with it in writing), bosses do rescind these offers and your spouse may need to get a job locally to new city. My mom’s husband went through the same thing – they promised he could work remotely and drive (it was 6 hours) to HQ once a month. In the end they never followed through and he had to get a different job in New City. But hope it works out for you. I agree with Ria – may need to set a firm date for move and act as if the remote work is definite.

    2. Jerry Vandesic*

      If new city is in a different state, the employer might be working through the bureaucracy of setting up a business entity in that state. Having an employee working remotely in a state imposes some obligations on an employer (state unemployment, workers comp, etc.) that would need to be worked through. Not saying that’s what is going on with #5, but moving the job might not be as easy as moving the apartment.

  16. MissDissplaced*

    #3. Sometimes it is true that you just “click” or have “good vibes” with the person interviewing you, and you know you’d work well with them. It’s happened to me and I had two really awesome bosses where I felt like that right from initial meeting. So, it does happen, but that is still assuming you are qualified for the job and actually spend time talking about the job!
    Perhaps this person is inexperienced at interviewing because they seem to be going solely on “fit” and not function exclusively. Or, they’ve hired a lot and feel they just know based on the reading the resume and the “vibe,” which, hey good for them I guess.
    But it sounds like if you didn’t care for that style, you’d probably not be comfortable there, because I guarantee it’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If you still choose to pursue the position, I would try talking with others and of course HR to get more insight.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Indeed, but you can’t hire on a “good vibe” alone – which is what this dude is doing.

  17. aka Duchess*

    #4 — From what i took form the letter is that the OP is just planning for IF the person sick. I did not see in the letter that the new hire was sick, (unless this was omitted). I just want to say that working yourself up and worrying about something that may not happen, will not only stress you out and make you angry, but all that (unwarranted) stress will end up getting you sick.

    I understand though, this constant “worrying about every bad scenario so I am always prepared” attitude is something that I have been trying to shake myself of.

    1. Emmie*

      I got the same impression. Deal with the stress only if the person shows up ill; however, don’t what-if yourself into a stressful, and upsetting situation.

  18. I See Real People*

    The whole “hiring by vibe” thing sound like it will eventually lead to working for someone who makes every decision based on his emotions, not facts. Depending on how he feels on any given day, that’s how your day will go. Run away OP!

  19. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    #3: I read the title, “interviewed with someone who hires by a vibe”, and thought, “well, doesn’t everybody?” Then read through the description of the interview and was like, “oh no! This is nuts.” I would walk away from an employer who tells me nothing about the company, and rushes me out when the time comes for my questions. I cannot work for a place I know nothing about, even if I feel a “vibe” between me and my boss-to-be during our 30-minute interview. That’s a lot to ask! Geez!

    #4: I’ve done what Alison suggests: “hey, I’m (reason why I cannot sit next to my trainee). Can we do a goto?” Everyone’s been okay with that. In my case, after a retina detachment five years ago and three eye surgeries after, my vision is so out of whack that I won’t be able to see the other person’s screen if I sit or stand next to them; unless I sit really close and invade their personal space. I’ve explained that briefly in the past and asked for a goto or screen share, and everyone has always said yes. That said, “Bob” hasn’t even shown up to work yet, sick or not. He might be in perfect health for all we know! Do you maybe want to cross that bridge when you get to it?

  20. Agnes*

    “Hiring by vibe” does seem really problematic. That said, I have generally learned over the years to hire on intelligence and work ethic, rather than narrow skills. I can teach skills.

    1. Sunshine Brite*

      Absolutely, I think it’s problematic primarily for the discriminatory reasons… I’ve had people who’s varying communication styles grew on me over time particularly cross culturally. It would’ve been torpedoing them to just go off initial vibes rather than gauge how well a job could be done and what experiences they could bring to the team

  21. Kriss*

    Dear LW1: allow me to share the cringe:

    when I was a recent college grad, we got a new manager who invited all of the female employees to her home for an afterwork gathering of getting to know you, mentoring, & rah rah female power–at least that’s how she presented it.

    it was a sex toy party. none of us felt like we could leave so we stayed for the presentation. no one bought anything because the items were way way out of our price range. I imagine it was a very frustrating for the saleswoman as she gave an hour long presentation & made no sales at all.

    we all gave her the same reason for not buying: we don’t earn enough to be able to afford her products & we don’t feel comfortable involving our boss in our sex lives.

    the boss was disappointed that no one bought anything & labeled us all as “not team players” & started looking for reasons to fire us. I applied for a transfer to another department & when HR wanted to know why they should transfer me given the boss felt I wasn’t a team player, I told them about the sex toy party. I got my transfer & I have no idea what HR did with the manager. She was still working for them when I left the company but I don’t think she invited her reports to any more sales parties.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Wait! You have to say more. What was HR’s reaction?? What did he/she actually say? I’m imagining the HR Rep’s face suddenly frozen in fear as she immediately signs off on the transfer without a word.

      1. Kriss*

        HR rep had a look of horror on her face & then after sitting silent for a while she said, “tell me in detail about this party. Now write down exactly what you just told me” she looked like she wanted to scream but was trying very hard not to.

        time period in case you were wondering was 1987.

    2. Lora*

      Whoa. I mean, fine for your friends to hang out, drink wine and giggle over, but…

      I know a lot of people who have gotten sucked into these things and really honestly believe with their whole hearts that they are going to make money. I pointed out to a friend, “for the amount of effort and money you put into this deal, you could have started a real business on Etsy or eBay and made actual money.” She said oh, they give you all this support and guidance. Um, there’s SCORE and several startup business support things from local colleges and nonprofits around here – they are happy to give you all the support and guidance that your tax dollars have already paid for.

      If you have to give an hour-long presentation to sell something, then everyone is just hoping for more drinks and going to buy one cheap thing to get the heck out of there ASAP. Like, that should be the tip off that this is not a very good business to get into, if you need to do an hour long sales pitch to sell $20 worth of plastic things. I don’t even listen to an hour long sales pitch from car salesmen when I’m spending $10-20k. I’ll maybe listen to one if I’m buying a large piece of equipment for a client (cost $200k+), but at that point it’s not a sales pitch, it’s a proposal and User Requirements Spec review session and the vendor is definitely buying me lunch and a beer.

    3. Kate*

      I’ve been to a couple sex toy parties for bachelorette parties, and I just can’t even comprehend this. Like, at one of mine, we ended by watching an “instructional video”, which is fine when you’re sitting around drinking wine with friends, but your employees? Just what? I too would love to know how HR reacted when you explained.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Right? I’ve been to one, with a group of close female friends. The saleswoman talked really openly about her experiences, and encouraged us to talk about ours. It was a lot of fun with a group of girlfriends over wine, but at your boss’s house with your teammates… I cannot get my brain around this. How does one decide this is a good idea, and then does not do the right thing and go, “ok I screwed up, this really was a terrible idea, I am so sorry”, but… labels everyone as not a team player instead?

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is such a liability (this is like textbook sexual harassment) that I’m shocked they didn’t fire your boss. How awful and horrifying—I’m so sorry!

      1. Kriss*

        I have no idea why they didn’t fire her but there was a mandatory company wide class for everyone on sexual harassment in the work place & general harassment by supervisors & how to handle it & that Tupperware & other such sales parties by supervisors inviting their employees were inappropriate

        on thinking through further, I suppose that since they didn’t have a formal rule in place about any of this, they didn’t feel they could fire her so they implemented a policy moving forward. I’m sure they talked to her & they probably wrote her up.

        1. Marthooh*

          “…Tupperware & other such sales parties…”

          Can I just say I love you and your coworkers for saying “No, we don’t want any, they’re too expensive.” Those phrases should be included in the ‘magic words’ parents teach their children.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Were there any male employees working for this boss? It would add another layer of horrible if every woman in the group had to go through this hell – being put into an awkward situation and then hit up for money, being labeled as not a team player, being fired or threatened with firing – and guys got to avoid all of that just for being guys.

      How do these people get promoted? How do they stay in management?

  22. Nicole*

    OP#1 – That was such a scummy thing they did! I would absolutely drop this client if I were you, considering how much money they cost you by pulling this on you. Client has poor judgement skills and no common sense. Not only that, but lingerie? How creepy and inappropriate. She has proven that she does not value your professional relationship nearly as much as you do.

  23. Bea*

    I feel your pain #4, the person I trained for a week had a hacking cough going on the entire time. I was unamused and put as much distance as possible between us. In my case I was starting a new job immediately afterwards and wasnt in the mood to roll into there ill first thing. Thankfully I didn’t catch anything but it was stressful.

    Had I been less insistent upon fulfilling my obligation despite the bridge already being burnt one way or another I would have just left. I did use some sick time to cushion myself from typhoid Mary, so that’s a thing you could do too. In the end you’re retiring, I would just go into the sunset and they can handle the transition.

  24. Kat*

    I’ve been on both sides of the #4 situation and it really stinks. The sickest I’ve been in the last few years was right when I started a new job but what can you do? It looks terrible to call in sick your first week and transitioning jobs put some stress on the finances because of pay period timing so I really needed to start getting paid! A few years before that I got really sick when my boss was out for two weeks for a family emergency and we had 4 seasonal temp workers starting. I was the only one who could train them and couldn’t just leave them hanging – and also did not want them to get sick because we were counting on them to get up to speed very quickly before our season started. We did a lot of screensharing, emailing and IMing (I completely lost my voice) and I brought them each a bottle of hand sanitizer and a pack of disinfectant wipes. None of them got sick thankfully and 3 of the 4 turned out to be excellent at their jobs.

  25. Matilda Jefferies*

    Just a data point for OP3 – I was hired by someone like that, and it turned out to be one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. He had the same theory as your interviewer, that it would be easier to teach the skills of that particular job than to teach “personality” or “fit.” There are pros and cons to that approach, of course, and (lack of) diversity is a big one. But on the other hand, there’s a certain comfort in going into a job knowing that you’re already a good fit for the team! Maybe not great in the long run, but if you’re looking for a soft place to land after a particularly tough or toxic job, it’s something to consider.

    The biggest downside I found was that he was *always* like that – his entire personality, hiring strategy, and managing strategy was based on “We can do anything if only we dream big enough!” Which sounds great, but it can be hard to work for someone like that on a day-to-day basis. We were lucky that his right-hand person was a very rules- and procedure- oriented person who did everything by the book, so they balanced each other out pretty well most of the time. (Although it was absolute chaos when either of them went on vacation, for different reasons!)

    From what little you already know if this boss, do you think he has enough self-awareness to realize that there’s more to hiring than “vibes?” If you think he’s open to it, you could either find out if there’s a counterbalancing influence in the office already, or else position yourself as one – maybe you’re the person who’s really good at taking dreams and making them reality, or something similar. There’s a risk there in that he might feel that you’re working against his vibe, but on the other hand if he is aware of the need for more balance and stability in the office, you might be just the person.

  26. LawBee*

    #1 omg return that crap lingerie ASAP. What a bs move to pull; I am so annoyed on your behalf. And dump that client.

  27. How to Handle MLM*

    OP#1: If you ever find yourself pressured to buy something again, simply say, “I’ll buy it, but I charge $200 per 2o minutes to hear your sales pitch. If you think you’ll break even, let’s give it a go.”

    That’s how I shut down the Essential Oils and Ugly Leggings ladies in my work circle.

  28. Serin*

    Re #3, my concern would be that a person who hires based on “vibe” will also manage based on “vibe.”

    This might not be horrible if he’s several steps up from you, but if he’s your day-to-day manager, it probably means that he will never be able to tell you exactly what your goals are because he’ll “know it when he sees it.” You’ll never have a job description — “we’ll just get a sense of what you’re best at.” As long as he’s happy with your work, everything will be fine, but if he’s unhappy, it will be impossible to pin him down as to what you’re doing wrong or what success would look like.

  29. MLM Horror Story--Kirby Vacuums*

    When I was a new homeowner, one pretty summer day (and I live in the very deep, hot, south) a well dressed woman rang my bell and told me that they were doing “demonstrations” with their vacuums and I could have any room in my house cleaned for just the price of a 15 minute presentation. I agreed and she called in two late-teenage girls who I told to vacuum the living room. The “Lady” left, and these two girls couldn’t even operate the vacuum. They just begged me to call the cops because the “Lady” was pretty much holding them hostage until they made money for her.
    The “Lady” came by twice more while I pretended I was super interested in the vacuum in between checking on other sales people in the houses.

    The cops showed up…turns out one of the girls was a 15 year old run away.
    “Lady” was arrested.
    I don’t know what ever happened…but NEVER BUY KIRBY VACUUMS.

    1. Roja*

      Oh my gosh, that’s scary. I’m glad they felt comfortable enough with you to tell you what was going on, and doubly glad that you called the cops for them!!

      I can’t help but wonder though… if your house wasn’t the first house that they went to, did they not say anything before? Did people not listen? Those poor girls.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        On one hand, I hope that the explanation for this is that no one else was willing to let the “Lady” in and have their rooms vacuumed. Like, I would’ve said “nope” and locked the door in her face before she’d even finish telling me what she was selling – or, even more likely, wouldn’t have even come to the door in the first place. It’s an automatic reaction that I have. OTOH, she was leaving to check on sales people in other houses and coming back, so other homeowners were letting her in, and were letting her “sales people” in, and not doing anything about it? Sigh. You did a very good thing, Kirby Horror Story OP.

  30. Michaela Westen*

    #5, would it work for your husband to go ahead and move and start working remotely without further ado?
    Or if he’s waiting for boss’ sign-off, maybe go to grandboss?
    Your husband could try those things before going to the trouble of getting another job.

  31. Michaela Westen*

    OP#1, maybe if you wrote to the company you could still get a refund. I did that once – I was pressured into buying candleholders that were very pretty, but one of them leaked. The rep who sold them to me blew me off, and I wrote to the company. They apologized and gave me a refund.

  32. Specialist*

    Let me entertain you with an MLM story:
    Years ago, a friend of my husband chose to get involved with a vitamin multilevel marketing scheme. The company had a concoction of herbal products that was marketed it about 3 times the going great and then also had a bunch of other products they sold. In order to sell for them, you had to purchase a supply of these overly priced vitamins. So the guy decides he wants my husband to sell for him. Husband doesn’t want to, but wants us to listen to the presentation just to be nice. So off we go. The meeting is held in the event room in a local restaurant. I think they may have locked us in. All the suckers–erm, I mean salespeople–are dressed up like this is some sort of business meeting. Some had no idea how to dress for business. The headliners were a couple fairly high up on the food chain. The wife started with a poor presentation where she made a bunch of illegal claims for the super expensive vitamins. The husband, though, he was like a human embodiment of every caricature of a shyster you’ve ever seen. He had slicked back hair, a shiny double-breasted pinstripe suit, and shiny wing tipped shoes. He told the audience that they’d never make what the bosses at their jobs made because the man wouldn’t let them. The inappropriately dressed salespeople nodded their heads so vigorously I thought that they might fall off. I couldn’t believe that anyone could find an entire room of so many gullible fools! Well, it turned out that I, and my office, were a much more appetizing target than my husband. They were all over me like flies on stink. I gave an emphatic no. So the friend of my husband and his vitamin pimp then wanted to go out for coffee later that week. They really don’t take no for an answer. Husband was a really decent guy, but not good about turning this crap down. So out for coffee we went. And the vitamin pimp just wouldn’t let up. I said no, and no, and no again. Finally I told him that his nose was crooked and large and that I would give him a really good deal on fixing it. It only took two rounds of I’ll fix your nose before he left.

  33. Kirby Vacuum (Not So) Horror Story #2*

    I read the one above, and mine isn’t nearly that bad, but here we go…

    I’m a retired high school teacher and one of my former students that I knew well contacted me about four years after his graduation. He asked if he could come visit with me at the school to talk about some volunteer opportunities we had posted on the website. I agreed, set up a time, and in came the former student dressed in a suit, and a not-so-nicely dressed 30ish guy toting a large bag.

    My former student immediately began his sales pitch me while the other person watched. After 2 minutes, I asked him if this was the “volunteer opportunity” he had mentioned on the phone because I was confused about why I was being told about a vacuum cleaner. The companion interjected that my former student was currently “being tested” and if I wanted to help, I needed to listen to the presentation or otherwise he would be fired.

    I said I was sorry, but I did not have time to listen to sales pitches, and I was disappointed that the visit was brought upon with a ruse. The “manager” then made a big deal about belittling and firing my former student in front of me. I apologized to him and he left.

    A year later, my former student contacted me to tell me that he was no longer selling vacuums and that he was sorry he lied. He said that the “firing” was fake, and he was forced to endure that nonsense as part of “closing the deal.” In the year he “worked” for Kirby, he sold exactly 1 vacuum…for $3000 to an old woman he said he felt sorry for afterwards because he knew he ripped her off.

    I had never heard of Kirby before his visit, but afterwards I read some real horror stories (like the one above) about this company. Scary stuff, people.

  34. Star Nursery*

    Op#2 Based on your description I think you need to be more direct with your employee.

    “Thanks is just a polite response acknowledging they received your email. I don’t want you to forward these “thanks” email responses going forward. Just think and translate them to “got it” or “ok” when you read those because that’s what say it means to me. What I need from you to focus on X, Y, Z to be successful in your role, specifically to do X in timeframe, produce # in Y turn around… If I don’t see improvement in these areas in the next 30 days, your position maybe in jeopardy.

Comments are closed.