how to convince my boss I need an assistant, mozzarella mayhem, and more

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

1. How can I convince my boss I need an assistant?

I work as the sole communications person at a very small nonprofit startup that has recently grown in both size and scope of work. Our CEO is very focused on the work of the organization and finding new ways to expand our projects, which is great, but it’s stretching me really thin as the only person doing press, writing, the website, social media, etc. I’d like to lobby to get a communications assistant in to help with some basic organizing and writing, but previous conversations with the CEO (who is my direct manager) about this have been dismissed, citing budget concerns or her desire to add staff on other issues instead of mine. I get the feeling she doesn’t think what I do is as challenging compared to the project work which she understands a lot better. We’ve tentatively agreed on some ad hoc vendor help on things like videos (because it is outside of my skillset), but I want to show her that if I had consistent help from an entry-level assistant I’d be better able to stay connected to all the projects as they expand and steer our brand strategy as a whole, instead of getting bogged down staring at blank pages every day.

How do I effectively lobby her without leaving her feeling like I am a) trying to get out of work or b) incapable of doing my job and need a boss, not an assistant?

Don’t present it as “I need an assistant.” Present it as “if we had an assistant to handle ABC, we’d be able to achieve XYZ.” And before you do that, come up with a well-thought-out, specific list of what the organization would be able to achieve if it adds this position that it’s not achieving now — the more specific the better, and the more backed-up by concrete details the better. (In other words, don’t take wild guesses about what might come of it. Really sit down and think through what you and the new person would be able to achieve and how and in what amount of time.)

Ultimately your boss may still want to prioritize other projects over yours — and that could be the right decision. But she’ll be better able to make it if you give her the kind of info above. If it does turn out that her answer is still no, then it’s reasonable to talk about how to make your workload more sustainable in the long-run (more on that here).

2. We’re being charged for free parking

Quick sanity-check question: I work at a tiny (fewer than 10 people) company. We currently work in a building with a parking deck and monthly fees for it. We are moving to a building where there is lot parking without a fee.

In order to keep rent low, the company says those of us who drive will continue to pay $50/month for “parking.” I see this as essentially a reduction in salary of $600/year. Am I being sensitive or is this shady bullshit?

Shady bullshit. They want to charge you to park in a free lot?

The exception would be if they’re buying the property, including the parking lot, and officially changing the way parking there works, which would be their prerogative. But if they don’t own the lot, or if they’re just penalizing the people who parked at the old office and not setting up any kind of system to consistently charge others who use the lot in the future, this is crappy and you and your coworkers should push back.

3. Employee is soliciting customers to buy mozzarella from her

I manage our family-owned retail farm store and have two employees. One is our full-time butcher and the other is my daughter’s best friend, Jess, who has been working for me for six years.

I make homemade mozzarella in the store and taught Jess how to make it for our customers. For years I also made mozzarella as my own little side business — just selling exclusively to one customer (a local farmer in our area who owns several farm stands). I passed this little side business along to my daughter when she was living here. When she moved away and Jess started to work for me, I offered the side mozzarella business to Jess. She was happy to take it on.

The problem now is that Jess solicits her mozzarella making to customers coming into our store. For example, on a day I was not at the store, a local restaurant owner came in and said he needed 30 balls of mozzarella. Jess suggested that she would make it for him and he would do business with her and pay her.

When I learned of this I spoke with Jess and tried to explain to her that she cannot solicit business for herself and that the farmer was the ONLY person she can personally made mozzarella for. She was not happy and proceeded to argue with me. I explained that the little “side business” I passed along to her was a privilege and was strictly only to be made for the farmer.

I understand that I have opened up a can of worms and I don’t know the proper way to deal with this issue. It is an ongoing problem and because she is my daughter’s best friend and I have known her since she was eight years old (she’s 25 now) it makes the situation very hard to deal with.

Well, really, Jess should be able to use her mozzarella-making skills to sell it to other people too if she wants — she just can’t solicit your customers to do that while they’re shopping in your store. It’s very reasonable and very normal in all kinds of businesses to prohibit employees from using their work for you to find customers for their own side businesses. When they’re working for you, you want them focused on serving your customers and promoting your business.

And that’s how you should frame it to Jess: “When you’re at work here and talking to people who come into the store, I need you to stay focused on our business, which means that you can’t solicit customers for side work. You can of course take on additional side work outside of your job here if you’d like to, but you can’t pitch outside products or services to customers while they’re shopping here.”

If she continues to push back, you can say, “I hear you that you disagree, but ultimately this is the policy, and it’s the policy of most stores. So I do need you to abide by that while you’re working here. Can you do that?”

4. Should I tell my coworkers when chronic pain is affecting my work?

I started my first full-time job after university three months ago, and it’s been going well.

I have a chronic pain condition and have “bad” days about twice a week, where I take extra pain medication on top of my usual medication. Usually when this happens, I can still do my work well. I’ve received positive feedback on my work so far, so I think everyone is generally happy with me at my new job.

However, a couple of days ago I had a bad pain day and took medication, which didn’t help much in this instance. I was working closely with someone (most of my work is done alone) and noticed that my concentration and thinking was affected by the pain, the meds, or both. This wasn’t to the point where I couldn’t work, but I do think I was less sharp than usual, and I feel bad for the person I was working with.

In this kind of situation, would it better to let the other person know that I’m having a flare-up, and that’s why I’m not as on top of my game as usual? Or should I just do the best I can and say nothing?

I don’t think it’s affecting my work to the point where anyone would think I’m not able to do the job, and I don’t want my coworkers to primarily associate me with chronic pain (and the negative connotations that exist around disability). But I also don’t want them to think that I’m just a bit slow or don’t care about my work at times. In case you think it matters, I generally get on well with my coworkers and have good rapport with them.

It’s okay to say something like, “I’m feeling a bit under the weather today — I apologize for being a little off my game.” You don’t need to give details unless you want to; “under the weather” is appropriate for a whole range of things, from chronic conditions to one-offs like a cold or a headache.

That said, it’s also the kind of thing that works best when it’s infrequent. If you find yourself saying it a lot, most people will still be sympathetic because you’re in pain but will also eventually become concerned about the ongoing impact on work. But on occasion, when you’re having a particular difficult time, it can be helpful context for people to have.

5. Company wants me to pay interview travel expenses up-front

A few weeks ago, a recruiter reached out to me about a director position out of town in a neighboring state. After two successful phone interviews, I’ve been told that I’m the top candidate for the position. After finally securing a date for the in person interview, they recruiter sent me an email stating that I would need to pay all of the travel expenses and they would reimburse me for it.

I could probably fund the trip, but things would be tight for me until I got the reimbursement. The job offers a huge pay increase (40%) and the chance to live on the beach, so I’m excited about the opportunity but slightly offended that they would ask me to trust them to reimburse me at some later date.

They reached out to me through a recruiter and have mentioned covering relocation, but it’s concerning they’re being so cheap about a few hundred dollars for an interview. Should I bite the bullet and pay for it, or can I ask them too? How can I politely tell them I would rather have them cover the expenses, and what reason do I give?

This actually isn’t an uncommon way to do it, although it can put some candidates in a difficult spot if they can’t front the money. But because this is fairly common, it’s not something to be offended over.

You can ask them if there’s another way to do it, though. You could say something like, “I’m really excited about the chance to come out and interview for this position. It would be difficult for me to pay the expenses up-front and be reimbursed later. Would it be possible to have the company book the travel directly?” Unless they’re weirdly rigid (which would be good to know now anyway), they should be willing to make this work.

{ 382 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, if you can make the business case for this (or at least present a tentative ROI and framework for measuring effectiveness/performance), it will go over better. Nonprofits are often pressured to keep their administrative costs unreasonably low, but there’s recently been pushback as funders/donors learn that investment in good administration often strengthens program reach and impact. It may also be helpful to draw a connection between the role you play as the comms person and development. Good luck!

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Also, it seems that OP 1 is a direct report TO the CEO, i.e., the CEO is OP 1’s boss, not the other way around.

    2. Seriously?*

      Another option is to present two solutions for being stretched too thin: one is hiring another person to help with the workload and the other is to decrease the work load. If comms is not a priority, then maybe the amount of PR needs to be decreased until they can make it a priority. I was stretched too thin and told my boss that when she assigned me more work. I basically said that I could do what she asked but would have to sideline other work (and named specific projects) in order to do that. She agreed to it and we worked on a more long term solution where some of my work was redistributed to other employees.

    3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Agree with this.

      I will also add, that the OP might want to think about pitching the position as a paid rotating internship , it sounds like the organization is expanding and since the OP is looking for entry level help, it may be a win-win situation. Interns get experience and foot in the door, CEO gets to trial potential new employees for other projects, OP gets their needed help.

      The other benefit to this arrangement is that internships are short term, so it’s a low risk commitment.

      1. Cucumberzucchini*

        Interns can be really inconsistent in quality level and amount of handholding they need. I have about 6 communication/social media/graphic design interns a year and they’re a lot of work. I can trust maybe one a year to do a real quality level of work. An unpaid intern is unlikely to solve the problem and could even make extra work for the OP.

        1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

          That’s a fair point – if the boss is still very skeptical maybe suggesting using a temp agency to get someone in for a trial period. It could be setup like a temp-to-perm situation OR a straight temp assignment, with the the understanding that the OP and CEO can evaluate how things went and whether or not to pursue a full time (or even part time) perm hire. Temps also also be a bit hit or miss in terms of quality of work, but you’d probably be able to find someone with a bit of experience or at least general office/working experience (which is a whole aspect of an internship – general work norms – that you hopefully don’t have to deal with).

      2. Blue Sky*

        I’ve had good success with interns and have even been able to groom some up to a full time position. You do have to realize that they often new to business and require training, but I think the extra pair of hands vacn be invaluable, even if you just start with administrative and build up.

        As for making the case – I also agree with the ROI. What numbers can you pull? Can you quantify the time spent on writing, website, social, etc? Can you make comparisons – has it increased? Can you show impact – increase in engagement, reach? Numbers always help build a case.

      3. whingedrinking*

        Whether this is feasible or not depends on the laws where you live. In my province, the rule of thumb is that anyone who contributes “significant value” to a business is an employee and must be paid as such, including for training. You can have unpaid interns, but as a friend of mine puts it, “They have to be more trouble than they’re worth” – basically job shadowing.

        1. Starbuck*

          Non-profits don’t have to meet these requirements for businesses- they are not required to pay interns anything, regardless of the value they may or may not contribute.

          1. Starbuck*

            Ah, I should say, this is the case in the U.S. as far as I am aware (used to be an intern at a non-profit, currently hiring and managing interns also at a non-profit).

    4. Legal Beagle*

      This is a great point! In a small NPO, it’s probably not worth OP’s time to be the one writing all the Twitter posts; her time can be better invested in strategic comms. If it’s workable for the OP, a part-time assistant position would likely be easier to sell to the CEO. Someone who is smart and hardworking can accomplish a lot in 20 hours, especially if their boss insulates them from useless meetings and other time-wasters.

    5. Competent Commenter*

      I was in a very similar position to OP #1—too much work and in a solo comms position. In my case we had recently received funding that could be enough to cover a second comms person for a couple of years. I had the opportunity to make the case that we should use that money on adding a second staff person. First step was making a presentation on all the nice things we don’t get to have because we lack comms infrastructure. There were the obvious things not not having all the printed collateral we wanted, and then the less obvious things like our website not being fully up to date, our social media not netting us what we want, the missed opportunities for media coverage, etc. Then I showed how the lack of these things was hurting us overall. I made sure to include things that our CEO was really concerned about—in our case I showed how this decreased our visibility, since increased visibility was a big deal to them.

      Then when I was asked to make a recommendation for how to address these shortcomings, I recommended a second staff person and converted my list of “what we don’t have now” into “this is what you’d have with a second comms person,” complete with (very realistic) timelines. This went over very well and we’ve hired our position. I was relieved because the other options presumably would have been hiring an outside vendor and I’m already unable to fully utilize our outside vendors because as the only in-house producer I don’t have the bandwidth to produce my part of the process, so things just stack up and I get dinged for not spending all of my budget.

      It was really important to me, as Alison noted, to not frame it as “I need more help! I’m drowning here!” even if that was true. I had to think about it in terms of what our CEO cared about. My tone was very cut and dry. We don’t have sufficient resources, therefore we don’t net what we want.

      I really feel for the OP. It is so hard not being able to stay on top of things in a very time-sensitive role. It’s been so hard on my morale and self-esteem. I’m hoping that with the new person hired (they start soon) that I’ll be able to bounce back from my burnout.

  2. Kat A.*

    For #3, it’s perfectly reasonable to insist that employees not compete with the business that employs them.

    1. Nacho*

      Doubly so if they’re competing while at work. Honestly I would consider trying to poach clients from my job to be a firing offense, especially if the employee doesn’t seem to understand why it’s wrong.

      1. designbot*

        Same. I couldn’t completely work out from the letter, but it sounds like they sell mozzarella in the store and on the side as well, which is going to be very confusing for customers unless there’s some clear deliniation. Like if it was that wholesale orders got serviced through the side business, or orders over a certain amount, or whatever, then that’s something everyone could understand.
        On the other hand if there is no distinction, it’s just two ways of doing the exact same thing, then I’d fire Jess because she’s now the competition, not working for you.

        1. designbot*

          Followup: or maybe the line is just, any order that comes in through the storefront, the store gets first dibs at. And only once the store has passed on filling an order is it available for Jess to pick up on the side. That would be very reasonable and still generous.

        2. Coywolf*

          Nope, LW clearly stated her mozarella side business only had a single client, a local farmer.

          1. designbot*

            When she handed it over, that is correct. But once she’s handed it over she doesn’t have a say in whether the new operator of that business chooses to take on more clients. She can say, I’m not going to continue to employ you if you do that. She can say, you can’t do that here. But businesses aren’t static and she doesn’t get to force this one to stay so just because she didn’t think it through.

            1. Hey Nonnie*

              Yeah, I found the letter confusing as heck. Why was a restaurateur coming to the farm stand for mozzarella if the moz is sold from a “side business”? Why give away the side business if you wanted the farm stand to sell the mozzarella? IS the side business competing with the farm stand’s moz business, or does the farm stand just not offer mozzarella, in which case it’s weird to get bent out of shape for Jess to offer an alternative that the farm stand itself doesn’t even offer? Also, if you want to keep all the moz business, why give the “side business” away in the first place? Why is it even a side business and not a part of the farm stand?

              I completely don’t get the relationship, if there even is one, between the farm stand and the “side business.” It is weird as heck to insist that any business is only allowed to have one client, and doubly so when it’s no longer your business.

              But, if there’s no moz at the farm stand, I guess I don’t see the issue with Jess mentioning that she makes it herself, when it’s not like the farm stand loses a sale of its own non-existent moz if she does so. I can see banning her actively soliciting customers who didn’t explicitly ask, but not for offering information that’s asked for where they can get what they need. In my experience it’s actually pretty common in retail to refer people to a competitor when you don’t carry the specific product requested. You might say that you offer a similar product first (if that’s true), but if the customer specifically needs the 112Hz BrandName widget, I’ve certainly experienced floor sales people suggesting that maybe BigBox carries them.

          2. Jessie the First (or second)*

            That’s not how business works, though, Coywolf. She gave her business away, and now Jess owns that business. Which means Jess gets to run that business how she sees fit. There are exceptions to that, of course – for example, if there is a contract between the LW and Jess in which Jess is just “leasing” the business, and it still belongs to the LW and the contract explains the rules for leasing the business – but it sounds as if LW said simply “here, you take this over.” So, Jess is free to expand her client base if she wants to take on the work. For that matter, there is no monopoly on “making mozzarella and selling it to people” and so Jess can just decide that she’s simply going into business for herself. She’ll handle LW’s old business of making for the farmer, but she is now ALSO starting up her own cheese-making venture.

            However, that’s all separate from LW’s actual problem, which is that Jess is taking clients from the store. LW is absolutely free to tell Jess that in order to keep working at the store, she cannot steal store customers. Or the LW could decide that she can’t keep Jess on at all if Jess is scaling the side-business up to involve more customers (whether those customers come from the store or not).

            1. LBK*

              It kinda sounds to me like this wasn’t a true separate business though – it sounds more like a special arrangement with one specific customer (possibly an off-the-books one?). I don’t think the OP passed along a company to Jess, I think she passed along a relationship.

              1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                There are so many missing pieces to the situation, it is hard to tell. But I think if it were just a relationship, the OP wouldn’t use the term “side business,” which really does imply something separate from the store. Like, in some way and some how, the OP is providing something that the store does not provide.

                Of course, it could be that the store doesn’t provide it because OP siphoned business from the store herself way back when this all started, which makes this a Whole Big Ethical Mess (or it could be that it doesn’t want to to white labels or bulk or something like that, which would make it feasible to open a side business that’s so related to the store without being unethical…. and then that would apply to Jess’s business, too, and it could get messy easily and needs some clear discussions about how it can work.)

            2. Coywolf*

              I understand that, my comment is in reference to the suspicion that this same mozarella side business also supplies the store’s mozarella.

        3. On Fire*

          I would guess that the farmer provides his own milk and may therefore get a different price than store customers. The restaurant wouldn’t (in most states) have access to the *raw* milk used for making cheese and thus wouldn’t qualify for the side business. If the side business is “bring your own milk,” there may be a limited number of local dairies, in which case is makes perfect sense that only the one farmer qualifies.

          1. On Fire*

            I should add: state regs also play a role here. In my state, at least, cheese must be made in a commercial kitchen. So Jess may very well have been trying to compete with the OP’s store using the store’s commercial kitchen, rather than her own, which gives the OP the standing to say the kitchen can only be used for XYZ.

            1. I Herd the Cats*

              Reading comments, I agree it’s confusing — is Jess taking potential business away from the store? Or is the issue that OP doesn’t want her equipment used on the side business except for the one customer?

              Either way it seems clear that Jess would *need* this specialty equipment and commercial kitchen to make the mozzarella — it’s not like she’s making, say, wax candles or something similar she could do in her own apartment. Jess is bringing her knowledge, but everything else belongs to OP’s business, and OP gets to decide when and how her commercial kitchen is used.

              1. Anonny*

                What equipment are you talking about? You can make mozzarella in 20 min at home using a stockpot.

                1. Glomarization, Esq.*

                  Not if you’re selling it. If you’re selling your prepared food product to someone, you will have to prepare it in a kitchen that meets state standards for commercial food processing, and you have to undergo inspections for everything from water quality to truth-in-labeling regulations.

                2. SarahTheEntwife*

                  You can, but unless your kitchen is licensed to as a commercial food producer, in many states it would be illegal to formally sell stuff you make in your home kitchen.

                3. Triumphant Fox*

                  Because it’s a dairy product, it has to be produced in a commercial kitchen. In my state at least you can do jams at home and sell them, albeit with certain licensing. You couldn’t, however, do “butters” that contain dairy. There are all sorts of rules for what percentage of certain ingredients you can have before you need to use a commercial kitchen to avoid the risk of bacteria growth, etc.

                4. Lora*

                  Furthermore, if the farmer is providing raw milk and other potential customers would be providing pasteurized milk, the equipment would be considered contaminated by the raw milk and need a special cleaning procedure which also must meet state / federal requirements for sanitization. These are not trivial and there’s a TON of regulations involved, for extremely good reasons: one of the first instances where lack of regulation led to people dying was contaminated and adulterated milk products: milk was being diluted with water, then the dairies would add blue dye and chalk to make it look less watery, and add formaldehyde to prevent it from spoiling in transit before there was such a thing as refrigerated trucks.

                5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  There are some pretty significant requirements for producing dairy products for sale. Even states with cottage food laws usually do not extend cottage food provisions to foods with a high likelihood that they will spoil or cause health risks if processed incorrectly (i.e., meats, some egg products, and dairy products).

              2. Hey Nonnie*

                Using the farm stand’s kitchen makes more sense than anything else I could think of; but at the same time, I’m not sure you have actually “given away” a business that still uses your commercial kitchen unless you have come to some written agreement on how and when your kitchen may be used by the other, completely separate business. Go ahead and charge rent, if need be, but it’s not really fair to Jess to have some sort of “because I say so” unspoken “agreement” with her rather than sitting down and discussing exactly how it’s all going to work — she can’t agree to anything if she doesn’t know about it, nor can she avoid violating a rule that she doesn’t know about. (It also sounds like something that could easily become a legal nightmare: who owns what, and who has rights to what, and what money belongs to whom?) Or else just keep the moz business as a part of the farm stand, and assign Jess as the employee in charge of producing the product, if you want to maintain ultimate authority/control over the business.

                A handshake agreement is not good enough. I was certainly naive enough in my 20s to think that it could be, but I was inevitably taken advantage of by the other parties suddenly declaring later on that they hadn’t agreed to the thing that they had verbally and explicitly agreed to (after I’d already done the work I had agreed to, of course).

                I feel really bad for Jess.

                1. tangerineRose*

                  Jess is promoting her own business (and possibly stealing customers from the LW) during hours in which she’s being paid to work for the LW. That doesn’t seem right to me.

            2. Nita*

              Ah, that makes a lot more sense and would explain why OP owns the store but this is considered a side business. And if Jess is using the store equipment, AND undercutting the main business by giving customers that don’t supply their own milk the lower price, that’s definitely not a “she can do whatever she wants, it’s her business now” situation.

            3. peachie*

              Not a lawyer, but many states have “cottage laws” that allow food products to be sold on a small scale without needing a commercial kitchen (linked my name with some info).

        1. Specialk9*

          That’s way overstating it. The OP accidentally blurred a lot of lines, and it sounds like the mozzarella seller is confused on where the line is. OP taught her to make mozzarella, and handed her a side business, and it sounds like is giving confusing directions. Doesn’t make Jess a terrible person with an “incredible lack of ethics and judgment”, it just makes her someone young who needs better boundaries and coaching.

          “Don’t steal customers” is direct, but OP hasn’t said that yet. “Don’t promote your home business in competition with work, AT work” would also make that line clearer.

          Instead she told her to only sell to one customer. Which is a non sequitur, AND isn’t her right, since it’s not her business anymore. Jess would rightly perceive this as a strange instruction.

          Jess has only shown that she needs better management.
          We only know what we know, especially when we’re young, and it’s highly unlikely that Jess has gotten a thorough grounding on general business norms by working for her BFF’s mom in a tiny farm store. No need to be so over the top.

          1. Seriously?*

            I would agree that the OP created a confusing situation, but the fact that Jess argued when told not to steal customers is a huge red flag. If a customer comes into a store to buy mozzarella and the store sells mozzarella, telling them not to buy it and to buy it from you instead is clearly out of line. Maybe she was confused and made a mistake, but when that mistake is pointed out she should accept that and apologize, not argue. If she is using the store’s kitchen for the side business, then the OP can tell her that she is only allowed to do it for the one farmer.

            1. Jesca*

              In all fairness, it sounds like the OP more so told the employee she cannot expand the business that was handed to her as opposed to explaining that selling her good at the OPs store while working for OP to boot is what is wrong. Jess can expand that business to her heart’s desire. Now if the OP is only allowing her to use her store’s resources for the farmer alone, then she needs to explain as part of the deal. As a business owner and equipment owner, she has every right to tell this employee that those resources are only allowed for X. But she needs to actually stipulate those roles. It sounds more like the employee is bulking at being told she cannot expand the cheese business because that is what the OP focused on during their discussion.

          2. Jesca*

            I agree. It likely didn’t occur to either the OP or the employee to discuss this in this type of setting. I was sort of handed over with no real guidance or defined rules. OP made a mistake in not laying the groundwork here. I see no need to assume something nefarious is afoot. The OP just needs to say “You cannot peddle your goods here.” And if OP’s store does make the cheese, she can add “You cannot take away business from this store by peddling your goods while in the act of working at this store. You can expand and advertise as you wish outside hours”. And if the employee needs to use the store’s resources to make the cheese, then OP can have that discussion about paying for the use of the equipment either through percentage of sales or outright charge a fee (if that is even allowed in that state). And then just make it clear that it is actually pretty serious. I am sure the employee will understand.

            A lot of times people do things because they are ignorant. Life can be much happier if we just assume this first, I think.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I don’t know. If the OP’s store does sell mozzarella, and Jess did tell a customer to buy it directly from her instead, that’s not something that she should have to be told is inappropriate.

              1. LBK*

                But that’s exactly what the OP was already doing, so in fact she actually specifically told her it *is* appropriate to sell in the store but also sell direct to a particular customer. If she didn’t make it clear to Jess why this one customer is special and gets to buy direct while everyone else goes through the store, I don’t blame her for not seeing why she can’t offer that same arrangement to anyone else.

                1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Good point!

                  The LW’s explanation of the store and the business has a lot of missing info, so it is hard to understand what’s going on. I could definitely see a situation where Jess is equally confused and is not acting in bad faith at all.

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  But that’s exactly what the OP was already doing, so in fact she actually specifically told her it *is* appropriate to sell in the store but also sell direct to a particular customer.

                  What Jess is doing sounds like the opposite of that, to me. It seems to me that there’s an arrangement to make cheese specifically for the farmer (and I suspect it’s using the farmer’s milk) which is separate from anything that’s made and sold in the store. And all other cheese made in the store is sold in the store. Obviously this is a bit unclear, but I don’t see how a customer wanting to buy a particular product from the *store* being redirected to buy it directly from *Jess* is appropriate.

            2. TootsNYC*

              I think it’s perfectly reasonable to think that someone should know they can’t try to steal your customers in your very store while they are working for you.

              In fact, I think that even contacting them after hours and saying, “When you came in to my boss’s store today, I realize that maybe I could get you to buy my products instead of hers,” is something that someone with the slightest sense of ethics should not need to be told.

          3. Fiennes*

            Is it certain this IS a “stealing customers” situation? To me it read like the OPs business maybe sold more on a large/restaurant scale, and Jess was selling smaller/individual amounts. IDK if that is true, but before we can judge Jess, I think we need more info about what’s different between the store and the side job.

            1. Breda*

              I mean, even if that’s the case, she tried to poach a restaurant’s business while on the clock. She was WAY out of line. But I’d still say the owner needs to have a conversation about that, rather than just saying “you can only sell to this one person,” which I think is something Jess could justifiably bristle at.

            2. Meredith*

              Sounded like the opposite to me. Like the OP owns a farm store where people often stop to pick up half a pound of cheese and maybe a 1/2 gallon of cider. Since the restaurant owner came in and pretty much cleaned them out of mozz, Jess said, “Hey, do you often need this much? Well, then do I have a deal for you!” Kind of like she’s running a whole sale business, while the store is just B2C retail.

    2. Thlayli*

      It seems to me that Alison read the letter a little differently to me. It seems like Alison read it to mean the store doesn’t actually sell mozzarella, and the LWs only concern was that the employee was soliciting business during working hours. But I think LWs store does sell mozzarella, so the customer came in looking to buy from the store and the employee told him to buy direct from her instead.

      These are two very different situations. I hope LW will clarify, but my thoughts are:
      1 the store does not sell mozzarella: Alison’s advice is spot on, tell employee she can sell to whoever she likes but she can’t solicit for her business during working hours
      2 the store does sell mozzarella: in this case the employee was waaaay out of line and it needs to be impressed on her in no uncertain terms that you cannot try to take customers from your employer for your own business, and if she does this again that she will be fired.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I’m also pretty sure that the store itself does indeed sell mozzarella, too (although someone mentioned below that it might be possible it doesn’t sell in bulk). I made the same point below so I’mma just copy-paste from my own comment:
        OP says “I make homemade mozzarella in the store and taught Jess how to make it for our customers.” Since it’s “make”, this activity is current and not something that only used to happen in the past, and since it’s “customers”, it refers to people other than the Special Farmer. (She also follows up with “For years I also made mozzarella as my own little side business”, meaning the first sentence I quoted doesn’t refer to the side business but to the regular store.)

        1. eplawyer*

          Not to pile on the LW, but if the store sells mozzarella and LW was doing it on the side, LW was competing with her own business. Once she passed the side business on, it’s out of her hands. She can’t tell the new business person that you can only sell to who I tell you to sell to. She can say, oops no more cmpeting with my business even if I was competing with my business. But other than that, she lost control of the business when she passed it on.

          If she wanted restrictions on the business, she should have put that in the contract passing on the business. She tried to treat it as a hand me down than a business. For business things, behave just like a businessperson. Get a contract selling the business. It saves grief later.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, the initial set-up is odd–that it got framed as a separate side business rather than as one business with wholesale rates for bulk or standing orders.

            Contra Thlayli, if the store does not sell mozzarella I think it would make sense to direct customers to a local small business that does, including if that business happens to be standing in the store as customer or employee. It’s what I would expect if they asked about local honey or lamb, which you didn’t sell but there was a farm 2 miles on that did. But I think they do sell mozzarella, in which case incorporating the bulk orders into the “make some to have in our own dairy case” business would make more sense than refusing to sell to a local restaurant trying to feature local products because only Farmer Bob can do pre-orders.

            1. Myrin*

              in which case incorporating the bulk orders into the “make some to have in our own dairy case” business would make more sense

              That’s actually the very first thing that came to my mind reading the letter, because that’s what I’m used to from both of my parttime jobs – my boss at a local inn/restaurant makes all the cakes we sell herself and while they’re generally only sold on a one-or-two-pieces basis, it’s entirely possible to pre-order a whole cake for your big party and my boss will specifically make it.

              With that background in mind, my very first reading of the letter made me go “Wait, since Jess seems to be making the mozzarella the store sells anyway, maybe she just offered to make more specifically for the restaurant owner to buy?”. I’m pretty sure that’s not the situation since OP is very clear that Jess tried to get the restaurant owner to specifically make a transaction with just her herself but at first glance, that’s where my mind went.

          2. Kat A.*

            I read it as the OP now lets Jess run this side business but the OP didn’t give or sell it to her. Jess was simply given a new responsibility under OP’s employ.

            1. eplawyer*

              then that needs to be clear. LW was very indirect in what she did about this business and its causing problems now. A spelled out agreement in advance avoids so many problems.

            2. BeautifulVoid*

              Yeah, my interpretation of this is there’s a big discrepancy in what OP said/the language used vs. what was actually intended. Not to put words into OP’s mouth, but to me, it seems like what she meant to convey to Jess was something like “Customer X buys our mozzarella with a special deal, if you take on the responsibility of making all the mozzarella Customer X orders, you’ll make an extra $Y on top of your regular paycheck.” Whereas what Jess heard (possibly through new fault of her own was) “Take over my daughter’s mozzarella-selling business and sell as much as you want!”

              Even if it was just a miscommunication and Jess really does want to expand this mozzarella-selling business, it is inappropriate to try to steal the store’s mozzarella customers, so a clear conversation on that front is warranted. Things also get a little murky if Jess is using the store’s equipment to make the mozzarella, but as other people have pointed out, they can probably work out some sort of arrangement (Jess pays a fee to use the equipment or whatever).

          3. LBK*

            Yeah, I have to say I’m super confused by this arrangement in the first place. What makes this one customer different than the others that he’s buying directly from the OP instead of just through the store, which…is also owned by the OP? What’s the advantage of keeping the finances separate here, especially when this agreement has always been with someone who also works at the store? I kinda don’t blame this employee for not understanding why one special customer gets to buy direct but she’s expressly forbidden from selling direct to anyone else.

        1. Thlayli*

          I’d give her one more chance first, and explain the rules properly, since she clearly doesn’t understand what she did wrong. But I definitely agree trying to undercut her employer and steal her employers customers… while at work no less… is a firing offence. But it seems like the rules weren’t made clear enough in the first place, which is why I would give her one more chance.

    3. Armchair Analyst*

      Yes. I thought “mozzerella mayhem” would be way more interesting and involve more cheese puns. But this was pretty straightforward.
      You could even say it was…. *dairy* good advice.
      (as opposed to very)
      Give me a break, it’s still early!

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah it was all very polite, restrained, and low-key for mayhem. I was hoping for mozzarella flinging, or at least waving.

        1. BeautifulVoid*

          When I first read the headline, I was expecting some sort of cheese-themed MLM or kid’s fundraiser, where coworkers were being pressured to buy mozzarella. Both those things are usually annoying and inappropriate at work, especially when the seller doesn’t want to take no for an answer, but I have to be honest – back when I was working a “butt in the same chair every day for the same number of hours” job, I might not have minded someone coming by with a fresh mozzarella cart once a week or so.

        2. Liz*

          If it helps, I can come into the open thread this week and share the story of the time I worked as a bakery assistant, and the baker’s apprentice threw a 20 kilo box of cheese which narrowly missed my head?

          It was only cheddar, though, I’m sorry.

      2. Clorinda*

        You should do butter, Armchair Analyst–I expected you to milk it for all it was worth, and make some really gouda puns.

    4. Roscoe*

      I don’t know about that. I think as Alison said, its fine to say that you can’t solicit companies while on the clock, but I think its absurd to say “I gave you this business, but now you can only work with 1 particular person”. If someone knits blankets, and they work at a retail store, would you tell them that they can’t sell their handmade blankets ever?

      1. Thlayli*

        No but you would tell them that if someone comes into the store to buy a blanket, you can’t tell that Customer not to buy the store’s blankets but to buy yours instead. While you are actually working at the store no less! That should be pretty obvious really.

      2. TootsNYC*

        and if they start to suss out customers who come in your store, and then approach them on their own time later, you can fire them. Because that’s not really cool either; that’s building your side business on the marketing and customer recruitment that your employer is spending money on.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, that is some bullshit. Were parking fees previously processed through your employer? It’s absolutely not ok for them to take a cut out of your earnings for you to pay for a benefit that costs your employer nothing. Depending on your state, there may be wage protections that don’t allow your employer to charge fees like this. It may be worth contacting the state Department of Labor (or equivalent), just in case it might help you push back with your colleagues on the “proposal.”

    1. Eliza*

      I’d be looking at regulations on the local government level, too. A lot of cities take a dim view of charging for private parking without proper authorization.

    2. MK*

      It is not actually clear to me where the free parking is located. Is it really a free lot where anyone can park? Then, yes, it is shady to ask for money. Or is it parking that comes with the rental property? As in, the company has leased office space A which comes with the use of parking spaces 1-15? In which case… Well, it would still be crappy of the company to make their employees pay for parking, but at least you cannot say they ask them to pay for something that is free; the company actually does pay for the parking spaces, as it is reflected in the price of rent.

      In my country it is very usual for flats and office spaces to form with the use of designated parking spaces, which are actually part of the property (when I bought my flat, I also “bought” the sole use of a specific parking space. Theoretically, the owner or the flat or office can let or sublet the parking to anyone, but in practice most building have regulations against it and most leases forbid it.

      In fact,the OP can ask whether this is allowed by the company’s lease; it probably isn’t.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        That’s an interesting point. If the parking is a public parking lot that anyone can use, like an office in a strip mall, then it would be shady. But if it’s “we have X spaces reserved and anyone that wants to use them for daily parking needs to pay $50/month”, then it can be seen more as a convenience fee rather than employees having to find available parking everyday. It’s not clear which it is based on OP’s letter, but if it is the latter it should be explained as such.

        I haven’t seen many commercial leases myself but I don’t think it would explicitly say in the lease that the company is banned from charging for parking, would it?

        1. MK*

          Leases vary wildly. I have seen many that specify the use of the property (e.g. “the flat will serve as a residence for the renter and his family” “the space will be used to stock X merchentise”) or forbid subleting in any form (which this might qualify as under certain conditions) or forbid the renter from making money by allowing third parties to use the space, etc.

    3. Morag*

      It’s possible the parking is not “free” but the cost is included in the rent the company pays. Different lease deals can be structured differently.

      1. Luna*

        That’s what I thought too, since the letter says the company is charging for parking in order to keep rent low. There does seem to be an implication that the parking fee is somehow connected to the rental deal.

        1. LW #2*

          Just for clarity, there is no associated parking fee or per-spot fee at the new location.

          1. Luna*

            In that case, do you know where the $50 per month fee is going? Are you paying that to the company and they are pocketing it? Or is that money going to the property owner as part of some deal to provide the company cheaper rent in exchange for these additional monthly payments?

    4. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Or they can tell the geniuses who came up with this that they can also save money by having the staff vacuum the carpets and clean the bathrooms. See if the leasing office will pro rate the rent if they do their own custodial work. Because that makes as much sense to me.

      1. BadWolf*

        My office decided to save on vacuuming costs by providing us with carpet sweepers — the ones with a brush that you roll around on the floor? Even if you were willing to use it, they were terrible.

        After about a year, fruit flies and mouse traps, they added custodial vacuuming back in.

      2. Clorinda*

        I once turned down a job when I was told that all the office workers take turns cleaning the bathrooms once a week. NO.

          1. Clorinda*

            I have the deepest respect for custodians. They don’t just splash bleach around. There are actual skills and knowledge involved. Also, I can barely keep up with the bathrooms in my house used by people and cats I love. There’s no way I’d do that for anyone else.

        1. mediumofballpoint*

          My current company doesn’t provide any janitorial services in our individual offices at all, which I’d never run into before. It’ll be a definite dealbreaker moving forward, though, because it’s really too much to have to bring my own vacuum in to clean my space. It means I don’t clean my office nearly as much as I should, and that’s just yucky for everyone.

          1. Stinky Socks*

            A huge local employer, whose name rhymes with Snapple, is notoriously secretive about product development. So much so, that people who work in development labs where any hardware is out and about, do *not* get outside custodial services. In this case it’s not motivated by cheapness, just by cray-cray.

    5. LW #2*

      Currently parking is taken out of our paycheck as an aftertax expense as a convenience.

      For clarity new space has semi-public lot, but there is no parking fee or hard space limit associated with the lease. There is retail in the building.

      Part of my question is whether, without signing an additional contract addendum of some sort, a parking fee can be levied as as after tax expense on driving employees paychecks.

      1. eplawyer*

        If the company wants to save on rent, they should move someplace cheaper. If they can’t afford where they are moving without nickel and diming the employees out of their agreed on pay then they shouldn’t move there.

        This is a reduction in your salary to help the company out. The company needs to budget better not take it out of the employees’ checks.

        If it were me, I would start job searching. This tells you how the company views its employees.

      2. Nonsenical*

        There could be a limit on staff parking because of the retail stores located there, just my thought. I know in retail we always had to park in the back to make room for customers, there may be designated areas for employees that are different than accessible to the public.

      3. Observer*

        Quite possibly not. It depends on how high your pay is and local laws.

        FLSA would prohibit this if it would push someone’s pay below minimum wage. Beyond that, ethics aside, you would probably need to look at state and local regulations.

      4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Is there any option to opt out? I imagine with the old, paid lot, some employees could choose not to park there to save the $50/month and take public transit or get a ride instead. It would be even worse if they don’t give employees who don’t drive a way to opt out of paying this ridiculous fee, but I don’t understand how they expect to track which employees have paid to park and which haven’t if there’s no permit or anything for the new lot!

        1. LW #2*

          Did you miss the part where there are $10 a day street parking would be. Public transit would quadruple my commute. And those who do not drive do not pay, so that at least it set.

          The question was more one of general business ethics and attitude towards employees. I know a rock and a hard place when I see them. It’s a fine question though!

          1. LW #2*

            My comment got mangled somehow! Sorry!

            Should read:

            Did you miss the part where there are less than 10 of us? Ha. Tracking is nigh automatic! We all work in one open room

            The $50/month fee is still better than street parking (>$10 a day) would be. My city has poor public transportation and downtown/downtown-adjacent parking scarcity. Public transit would quadruple my commute. And those who do not drive do not pay, so that at least it set!

            The question was more one of general business ethics and attitude towards employees. I know a rock and a hard place when I see them. It’s a fine question though!

            1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

              Just want to chime in, it sounds like a crap plan to me, both ethically and morale-y.
              I think it’s crap when people have to use their own phones and laptops. I don’t think employees should chip in for the rent, or for the costs of doing business. Employees do their part by responsibly using office equipment and supplies, not by subsidizing it.

                1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

                  Oh wow. You are already going above and beyond in my mind.
                  But then, I am so over: food service; retail; mom and pops; startups…just put me in my cube and let me get to work.

          2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            Oh no, I didn’t mean that you SHOULD opt out, I was just wondering how the company proposed to charge some people and not others if an employee didn’t need a parking space. My apologies for being unclear!

            1. LW #2*

              No, apologies from me – my original comment was mangled and therefore I’m sure less clear!

      5. Specialk9*

        My old company either gave subsidized parking at HQ or the client site, OR paid a monthly public transit subsidy. So sometimes I had to pay to park at work, or to go to a client meeting. (I could expense those though I didn’t bother usually, though I’ve since stopped gifting big organizations my money.)

        My husband though has to pay for parking, even though the org owns the land. It’s a big city location. It seems pretty cheap to me. They also own lots of amenities that they don’t discount for their staff. It’s cheap, and part of why he’s looking.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s unethical and shady/exploitative, but the legality of it may depend on how you’re all classified and the state in which you reside. Personally, I think the ethical problem is a bigger problem than the legal concerns. Unfortunately, a lot of shitty corporate behavior is lawful (or at least, not illegal).

    6. Le Sigh*

      “In order to keep rent low, the company says those of us who drive will continue to pay $50/month for ‘parking.'”
      Is this seriously how they described it? This sounds like they’re basically saying, “We can’t afford the rent, so we’re asking everyone to chip in $50/month via a “parking fund” to subsidize business expenses we should be able to pay for ourselves….as a business.”

      This isn’t a group house where everyone has to chip in for utilities. This is some straight-up nonsense.

  4. Anon21*

    This is a bit off-topic but when LW #1 says this:

    “previous conversations with the CEO (who is my direct report)”

    They mean the CEO is their direct supervisor, right? Or is it common to refer to one’s boss as one’s direct report?

    1. Naptime Enthusiast*

      Depends on the organization. Sometimes President & CEO are the same, or the CEO is also the Chairperson of the Board. If they are not though, the CEO reports to the Board.

    2. Pomona Sprout*

      I’m curious about this as well, because I always thought MY direct report would be someone who reports TO me, not the other way arounnd. Now I’m wondering if I’ve got it backwards.

      1. JamieS*

        I’m pretty sure OP just misspoke. That or their organization uses “direct report” differently than most.

        1. Bostonian*

          My boyfriend is still convinced that the term “direct report” works both ways (“boss” or “employee that I supervise”). Maybe some companies use the term differently? I’ve always known the term to mean someone underneath in reporting structure.

      2. Alianora*

        I agree with you. Either OP’s usage is the opposite of the standard, or their organization has a convoluted hierarchy.

      3. Julia*

        I’m guessing OP thought that because she reports directly to the CEO, that would the CEO her “direct report”? Because would a CEO ever have anyone above them who still isn’t powerful enough to hire an assistant?

        1. Julia*

          “That would MAKE the CEO her direct report” – sorry, thesis crunch time has left my brain fried. >.<

        2. Seriously?*

          That was my thought too. If the OP were actually above the CEO then they would be unlikely to need the CEO to approve an assistant.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “My direct report” means a person who reports to you; you are their boss. That said, I’ve noticed a small number of people use it to mean the opposite (so in that case it would mean “my boss”); that’s not the standard usage though.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        There are also people mixing up “descendent” and “ancestor”. I think using the former as a synonym for the latter. I’ll bet it’s related to that in some way.

    4. Robin Sparkles*

      Yeah I think she meant to say “CEO, who I directly report to”…never heard it used to mean both ways.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, it’s ok to keep this vague but still provide a reason for why you may not be feeling super sharp. I’m always conflicted about stuff like this because there’s a balance between your medical privacy, how it effects your coworkers, and whether you should be open about your diagnosis. I’m a big fan of vagueness—in most cases, it’s just enough for your coworkers to be gracious, but not so much that they feel burdened by knowledge of how you’re doing.

    1. boo bot*

      I think “… just enough for your coworkers to be gracious” is key. They don’t actually need to know what’s wrong with you; they need to know how they should respond to you, and what they can expect of you. As long as you give them that information, details are fully optional.

    2. Nita*

      I think that would work. I’ve gone through three months of migraines recently (mercifully, I think that’s over) and had to tell a couple of people just because I worked with them closely and they saw I’m not myself. All I told them, really, is that I’ve had a bad headache for some time, it’s nothing serious, and my project deadlines are under control. Didn’t go into details of what’s causing it, or the doctor’s appointments, which were all after hours and didn’t cut into my work attendance. It was actually a relief that they knew, so I wouldn’t have to launch into an explanation if things got even worse and I needed their help for a day or two.

    3. Safetykats*

      I would absolutely understand the company policy on medications that can impact performance. Every company I’ve worked for but one has had a written policy on this issue, and prescription medications you take at work, if potentially performance-affecting, must be reported to medical. Medical will then make a determination as to whether the medication can be taken at work, or whether you just need to call in unfit-for-duty if you’re sick enough to need the medication. Pain meds are of particular concern, as certain pain meds can affect not only your performance but also your judgement.

      1. TardyTardis*

        We had one employee take a sleeping type pill instead of a pain pill by accident one day (she was let go about fifteen minutes before she filed for disability, I think, as she had some other problems that greatly affected her work. I knew about the situation and kind of warned her that if she was going to file for disability it might be a good idea if she did it realsoonnow, but this was said with intense privacy, so I don’t think that conversation had an impact. She had other problems…).

    4. smoke tree*

      One of my previous coworkers used to say “I’m not feeling 100 percent today” when she was working from home or wasn’t coming in or whatnot. I always thought that was a nice, vague, euphemistic phrase. It avoids sounding alarming, could cover any number of things, and only tells the other person what they really need to know.

  6. nnn*

    Another scripting option for #4: “I have a chronic condition that’s flaring up today.”

    Provides context, might be useful if it comes up repeatedly, and doesn’t make them think you have something contagious.

    1. Espeon*

      Yes good point – if a colleague told me they were ‘under the weather’ I’d be thinking ‘Great, do you have a cold that will mean I’m on antibiotics AGAIN in a fortnight (I’m asthmatic)?’. A little reassurance can go a long way – you don’t know what conditions your colleagues might have either!

      1. Artemesia*

        I’d assume they were coming down with a cold or worse yet a stomach flu or getting over one and thus very likely to give it to me. Under the weather usually means an illness (or perhaps period pain). I’d feel a lot better hearing a ‘chronic issue flaring up’ than imagining I am now being showered with viruses.

          1. epi*

            Yup. Not gross, no symptoms for nosy people to observe, can have any severity, everyone understands why you wouldn’t work if it’s bad enough.

          2. Cheshire Cat*

            Or “bad back.” Either one gets across that you’re in pain & not likely to be at your best, but not contagious.

            1. Flower*

              Maybe I’m being dense, but if you’re going to say “headache” or “back pain”, why not just say “chronic pain condition that’s flaring up”? Sure you can have a headache that isn’t related to a chronic condition, but if it happens a even once a week or every other week, it’d become clear that you have chronic headaches anyway (that, or they’d think you’re drinking too much). And any back pain I can think of that isn’t a chronic pain condition is either related to lots of moving of heavy objects, pregnancy, or wear and tear that comes with age (becoming a chronic condition).

              -Someone with a chronic joint pain condition

    2. Anon E. Mouse*

      Yeah, another vote for alleviating fear of contagion.
      Because otherwise, someone like me is going to be saying “oh let’s reschedule then so you don’t spread it around” while backing out of the room.

      Even saying ‘under the weather, but nothing contagious! Don’t worry!’ makes a difference in how much I want to spray the planet with lysol and put on a gas mask.

    3. Ealasaid*

      I have fibromyalgia and a couple other issues, and use the chronic condition flare explanation, as long as I know my coworkers and boss well enough that I’m confident they won’t be weird about it. I use “under the weather” when I’m going to be working from home.

  7. Espeon*

    I’m just enamoured that there is such a thing as a mozzarella side-hustle.

    Scene: Standing behind the counter in a mac, [furtive glance around, clandestine tone] “Oi, ssh! Wanna buy some cheese?” [opens mac to reveal hanging balls of mozzarella].

      1. Specialk9*

        In my mental image the furtive trenchcoat guy was naked, because ‘furtive’ and ‘trenchcoat’ is indelibly linked with ‘nekkid’ in my mind. So I LOLed and then gagged a little.

    1. H.C.*

      I’m picturing that Lucy & Ethel scene when they both bought a side of beef & tried to side-hustle all their extras a la baby carriage…

      1. Artemesia*

        Or when Lucy smuggled the giant cheese onto the international flight as a ‘baby’ because she thought babies flew free.

    2. Leela*

      This reminds me of the time I was walking with a friend in a large city and a guy opened a trenchcoat like a cartoon but instead of watches it was bottles of wine! No way I was buying jacket wine off some guy on the street, I wonder how lucrative it could be

      1. boo bot*

        “Jacket wine.” :) One step from boxed wine, but there’s no telling in which direction.

      2. smoke tree*

        Were they full-sized bottles of wine? How did he possibly manage to keep them from breaking? Was he really ripped from carrying them around? I feel like he may not have fully thought this plan through.

        1. Leela*

          Yes they were full sized bottles of wine! I think they were counterfeit but my friend and I definitely didn’t give them a good looking-at and scurried away from the wine seller as soon as we could

            1. Eliza*

              I mean, there’d be actual wine of some sort inside, but usually the way it works is that the label is forged to make it look like a more expensive brand.

      3. Dweali*

        Considering I ate stranger danger candy from a kid in khaki’s and a button up (he got it from a stranger who told him to share..) the other day…yeah I would risk it :-) #dangerzone

    3. Yvette*

      “hanging balls of mozzarella” is now my new favorite phrase. If I could only think of a way to use it.

      1. hermit crab*

        There’s got to be some sort of Hanukkah balls/mozzarella balls crossover joke but it’s just not coming to me…

    4. Pollygrammer*

      Please also sell small plastic baggies of white powder (that is parmesan-reggiano).

    5. I Love Thrawn*

      I’m frankly delighted we got a mozzarella letter today. I do believe it’s a first for AAM.

    6. Jam Today*

      Now I’m flashing back to that old Mott’s apple sauce add with the little kid selling apple sauce on some school lunchroom black market. The pronunciation is identical:

      “Yo, Tommy! I got da mozz!”

    7. Beantown Anon*

      My office had a legit mozzarella scandal.

      Our department went on a North End food tour (for non-Bostonians, the North End is the Mecca of Italian food) and came back with a large ball of mozzarella.

      The prized keepsake was wrapped, labeled with our department name, and put in the fridge for later consumption. A day later, the ball was gone! Who took it? A knowing member of our department? A vulture from another department on our floor? Nobody knows!

      1. Happy Lurker*

        That’s awful! I would have to go drown my sorrows at Mike’s Pastries! ;)

  8. Aphrodite*

    OP #1, you phased the duties of your possible new assistant as “some basic organizing and writing.” I am wondering if a communications intern with an interest in nonprofits, might be the solution. Paying one would likely give you better quality candidates but maybe this is a good alternative.

    1. Viki*

      But then you’re in the position of having an unpaid intern which is and of itself an Issue. As well as the reputation of being a place that uses unpaid labour to do work which isn’t something I would want for myself and my company/nonprofit etc.

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          Yes, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues with it and good non-profits don’t use these as substitutes for full time employees. They’re just different categories – lower time commitment and difficulties in holding unpaid volunteers to account means they are not suitable for certain projects – eg. being responsible for a regular task, every day, for a year.

          It’s fine for a week-long internship to be unpaid, because it’s more of a benefit to the intern than to the employer. But if it’s replacing a paid employee – like half a year at 20 hours a week – that’s just exploitative and exacerbates inequality, as only certain students will be able to afford to work there.

          1. Observer*

            Lots of good non-profits DO use unpaid interns for real work though, even though it’s generally not full time.

            In some cases it’s actually the only practical way to give them the kind of experience they need. But even when that’s not the case, the experience can be very useful. And to be honest, if I were looking at a resume and I saw true unpaid internship at a for profit organization, I would not take it much more seriously than a paid job that is not industry relevant. Because when you are doing pure make work, which is pretty much what’s required, you’re not really learning a lot.

        2. Thlayli*

          Many American businesses in general both for profit and not for profit use unpaid interns. It’s a benefit for an intern that can afford to do it, as it gives them experience they can turn into a more lucrative job in the future, and a benefit for the organisation, coz unpaid labour.

          It’s an awful practice and very discriminatory as it ultimately gives an advantage to people who can afford to work for free now and wait to get the benefit years in the future – the very people who already have advantages. It therefore contributes to the massive gap between rich and poor in the US.

          1. krysb*

            Side note: most unpaid internships for for-profit companies are illegal based on DoL rules.

            1. Hellanon*

              Yes, in CA if they are unpaid they can’t do anything useful – that’s work, not education, and so if you want them to produce the ind of work an employee would they have to get paid. Which is good.

              Another thing to think about is that entry-level employees & interns can require a LOT of training/supervision – reasonably so – and aren’t really a panacea for the overworked…

              1. HannahS*

                Yeah, in parts of Canada a company is not allowed to derive benefit from the presence of an intern. Institutions can have volunteers, but they aren’t allowed to do the same work as paid employees–so a hospital can have volunteers be greeters, but they can’t do the work of orderlies. And my unpaid research gigs at the hospital…and clinic…and university were definitely all illegal, but no one seems to care when it comes to research (but I resentfully digress). If you need an employee, hire one. Just because it’s a non-profit doesn’t mean you should try to get out of paying people for their labour.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  I think (via Alison) it’s the rule in the US as well–if the intern is unpaid, then the labor cannot benefit the company.

                  I am honestly unclear on how this works, as my kids went into hard sciences where they pay you money to intern.

                2. smoke tree*

                  I wish someone would communicate this to the publishing industry–it’s depressingly common to have unpaid interns replace entry-level staff.

            2. Specialk9*

              Yeah I was told (at my for-profit mega-corp) that we have to pay interns (and pretty well!), and on top of that we have to have a whole development plan to make sure they get more out of this than we do.

          2. Windchime*

            My son wanted to do an internship while he was at University, but it was on the other side of the state and was unpaid. We couldn’t afford to pay for his apartment/living expenses in University City and another apartment/living expenses in Internship City. So… internship. The town his University was in was a small town out in the middle of nowhere. People from Washington know which one I’m talking about (go, Cougs!).

            1. Starbuck*

              Yeah it’s tough out there for interns; at the non-profit where I’m at we do our best to mitigate this by providing free housing to our interns (who are unpaid but receive a tiny stipend to at least cover food) but it still absolutely restricts our applicant pool that we’re not paying enough for someone who has loan payments, let alone a family or dependents to support.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s legal in most cases for nonprofits to use volunteers and unpaid interns. (And for some nonprofits, it’s the only way they could operate. That varies depending on the organization’s size.)

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I’m confused why you think the intern would be unpaid?

    2. OtterB*

      I was thinking of an intern also. Especially since you’re talking entry level anyway, an intern (even part time) could give you and your boss a chance to evaluate how much difference it makes to have help, without making a long term commitment.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Supervising and training an intern is a ton of work, if one wants to do it ethically and legally (that is, to they end up “paid” at the end of their internship with increased competence, connections, etc., in their area of work). If OP has too much on their plate already, I think the better course of action is to just hire someone who is already trained and competent.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, it’s a ton of work and could potentially add to the OP’s workload rather than lowering it! Depends on what they need done though.

      2. AnonymousInfinity*

        One of my old bosses got me an unpaid undergraduate intern, something I did not want and asked her not to do, to help out with my “minor, entry-level” tasks. I nearly had a nervous breakdown because of how much work it added to my already overflowing plate, i.e., finding work for the intern, supervising the intern, correcting the intern’s work, training the intern, etc. This was in the legal field, so, even though the work was minor and entry-level, I still had to make time to catch up on the intern’s work to fill in what I was doing on a case . The intern didn’t have a good experience, something I regret years later. Plus, my boss was confused by why my workload didn’t lighten. Uh, because you ADDED TO IT, when we NEEDED TO HIRE ANOTHER PARALEGAL.

    4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I’ll reply down here as well, as I didn’t know there was an intern discussion going on.

      I suggested above that I thought a budget for a rotating set of paid interns might be a good idea for the OP. Especially since the CEO is open to hiring for other positions. It could be a good way to trial candidates while getting help for the OP.

    5. Le Sigh*

      Honestly, I hired a rotating crop of paid interns for two years to help out with my workload and because I wanted some management experience and honestly liked helping students get a foot in the door.

      But real talk, it mainly increased my workload (which I expected). Plus, every 3-6 months I had to find, interview, and retrain someone. And that’s if I found a good candidate at all. And you can never really truly offload a set list of tasks, because you’re always have to reteach someone how to do. As soon as they’re good at it (assuming they do get good at it), the internship is over. I find people often say, “just hire an intern” but depending on the work, unless it’s super straight forward and teachable in a few hours (and writing tasks usually aren’t), interns are of limited help. Which is the point — they’re there to learn!

      I made the case a few years ago for what a full-time associate could do for my sub-department and it’s a night-and-day difference. Now that this person is trained, I don’t have to retrain them. I can give them increased responsibility as they get better and focus on bigger picture issues. I don’t have to redo the hiring process every time. It’s making a big difference in the work I can do and mentally, I *feel* lighter.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Also, if it’s unpaid, there are strict DoL rules about what kinds of internships qualify in the U.S., legally. Besides the fact that there are certain tasks you aren’t going to give an intern access to anyway, you can’t give them too much admin work (which is a big part of what I really, truly needed to offload and part of why a full-time person was so needed). It’s meant to be a learning experience. So it’s important to think carefully about what it is you need before going that route.

  9. Andy*

    #2: “I don’t need to drive to the new location, so won’t be paying for parking.”
    And then drive anyway. How are they going to check that if they don’t own the parking?

        1. Observer*

          One doesn’t cancel out the other. As bad as what the employer is doing, lieing is at least as bad, and stupider.

          The OP doesn’t need to care about the effect on the employer of their stupidity, but they do have to care about the potential effect on themselves. Getting a reputation for lieing is not going to do their career any good.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Don’t ask coworkers to subsidize you. I’d be pretty mad if I found out my coworkers were lying to avoid paying fees that I had to pay, for the same privileges.

            1. aNon*

              It’s hardly having to subsidize coworkers as it shouldn’t change the rate since it’s all arbitrary anyways. They have the option of lying too. I mean, yeah lying isn’t the best option in this case but I can understand wanting to do it since the company is being ridiculous about the parking. It doesn’t hurt the coworkers, just the bad company for making the policy.

      1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        Yeah – as much as I’d like to say “company is behaving unethically, so whatever”, that approach is likely to have real-world consequences with co-workers/bosses etc.

        I am curious how the company would propose to handle someone who drives in occasionally. Partial fee? Or a per day fee? Or even better – what if an employee had a reason to go to one of the retail spaces that uses the same lot everyday. Couldn’t the employee just say “oh no, I’m not parking here as a company employee, I’m parking here as retail store shopper (etc.)”. I don’t know the whole situation is bizarre and super sketchy to me. There’s just no way I’d be ok paying to park in a lot that I otherwise wouldn’t be charged to park in if my company happened to be across the street or just outside of the bounds of the parking lot.

  10. Naomi*

    On #3, I’m curious about whether Jess is proposing to make her mozzarella from ingredients provided by the store. Not that it would be OK if she was providing her own ingredients–she still shouldn’t be trying to divert customers from her employer to her side business, especially while she’s on the clock. But it wasn’t clear from the letter whether she was also planning to use your ingredients to supply her side hustle, which would take a special kind of cheek.

    This is speculation on my part, but I wonder if having known her since she was a child is part of the problem. If this is more a “one of the family” relationship than an employer-employee relationship, especially if it’s Jess’s first real job, she may have developed unrealistic expectations about what it’s OK for her to do at work.

    1. Lara*

      I read it as her using OP’s equipment, with the farmer providing milk and Jess providing labour?

  11. jules*

    It doesn’t seem like in letter 3 Jess solicited the restuant owner… and it also doesn’t sound like Jess was competeing against her employer. The store didn’t sell motzarella, but the business started/owned (I’m unclear on that) by the store owner did. I read the situation as the restaurant owner came in asking for for motzarella, and Jess offered the next best solution. Unless Jess was making the motzarella when she was on the clock at the store, or if she was misusing funds/supplies, I don’t see a problem. It honestly seems a little petty. Unless she’s offering this to customers out of the blue, and not when prompted, I’d let it go.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      But this sounds like Jess is soliciting customers of the store and encouraging them to use her instead of the store:

      The problem now is that Jess solicits her mozzarella making to customers coming into our store. For example, on a day I was not at the store, a local restaurant owner came in and said he needed 30 balls of mozzarella. Jess suggested that she would make it for him and he would do business with her and pay her.

      It sounds like the store makes mozzarella, perhaps because of OP’s training. So redirecting someone in the store to Jess’s side hustle, when the store stocks or could prepare the restaurant’s in-store order, seems unreasonably like competing with the store on store grounds during store hours while Jess is working as an employee of the store.

      1. LouiseM*

        Hmm, I read it the same way as jules (maybe the store does sell mozz but not in bulk?) but it could go either way.

      2. Runner*

        I’m really confused — and frankly, concerned — about whose business the mozerella side business is. Because OP is making it sound like it’s not Jess’s business — how else could OP make any demand like Jess can only sell strictly to the farmer? And if OP still owns both businesses, how is it an infraction to naturally expand the one out of requests made at but not able to be accomplished at the other? It really sounds like Jess works both the main job and the side job for the OP, or, if that’s not the case, that there’s not a proper distance from the side job by OP if it’s really Jess’s business now.

        I mean, I understand the surface issue OP is asking about, but the context makes almost no sense, or that there are odd or vague or just outright unworkable parameters. I really wouldn’t want to be Jess.

        1. Kaitlyn*

          Yeah, I had the same questions – it sounds like the farmer-only mozz business had been “gifted” to Jess to take on (either in accountability or actual ownership is unclear), so if Jess really and truly “owns” that side hustle, as the OP says she does, then she should be able to expand her clientele. (Naturally, she shouldn’t be doing this while at OP’s store, but it’s also unclear who the farm-store’s mozz buyers are, and how they differ from the farmer-only hustle, and what the store’s regular stock is, and if taking on a special order is something the OP would normally do, and what was discussed when OP and Jess passed over this side hustle in terms of using makerspace, supplies, etc.)

          OP, the horse is out of the barn on this one: you’ve taught her how to make the cheese, and you can’t expect the farmer to stand alone. My advice would be to take this “solicitation” less personally than you seem to be doing in your letter, but also take a moment to lay out with Jess the line between her side hustle and yours: exactly who she can use your mozz-making supplies for (sounds like it’s a client list of one), where she can talk shop with her clients (not at your store), and if you expect her to quit the store if she wants to make a serious go of it. You said she got sniffy when you tried to talk to her about some of this, but it’s also unclear to me why the farmer is the only side-client – maybe treating her like a quasi-business partner and not a friend of your daughter’s would be a good mind set to tap into.

          1. Kaitlyn*

            Oh, also meant to add that perhaps entering into a profit-sharing arrangement (your supplies, her labour) could be mutually beneficial?

      3. Kerr*

        I read it this way, too – Jess is straight-up stealing mozzarella orders from the store, while she’s supposed to be selling *the store’s* merchandise and services.

        I’m sure there was a reason, but I’m confused as to why the farmer’s mozzarrella orders are a side business (for the OP, then her daughter, then Jess) and not ordered directly from the store?

        I could be wrong, but I get the impression that the “side business” started by the OP probably used the store’s facilities and/or ingredients, and everyone was OK with that because it was the OP’s family store, and maybe the store only sells in bulk, or whatever. But now it’s technically Jess’s side business, and Jess is wondering why she can’t just expand on what the OP did, using the store’s resources. Jess is obviously pushing it, but there’s possibly cause for confusion.

        In addition to AAM’s wording, the OP may need to clarify that while Jess is legally free to set up her own mozzarella-making enterprise, she can’t use the store’s ingredients or facilities (or sales floor!). The side business for the farmer may need to be formalized. Either the farmer can buy directly from the store, or Jess pays directly for any store resources used.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          +1 I was confused whether the store/OP sells mozzarella now at all but that still doesn’t mean Jess is free to use store property, ingredients, customer access, and other resources for free, against the store’s express permission. Pretty sure those Starbucks-in-a-supermarket need permission from the supermarket.

          1. SignalLost*

            The Starbucks in grocery stores and bookstores are actually licensed to the store: the employees are employees of the parent store, not of Starbucks. It’s why you can’t tip them, among other, more mundane ramifications.

            As to the mozzarella business, my understanding of the situation is that Jess is using her employer’s customer base and the time she is paid to be an employee to solicit custom for her business. That seems pretty straightforward to say that it’s not acceptable to do that. I don’t read it as anything else, like kitchen access or supplies, coming into it.

        2. Snowglobe*

          I’m assuming that since the farmer is selling the mozzarella through his farm stands, that it’s marketed with the farmer’s name on the label, rather than the OP’s, which is why it’s a ‘side business’. But the OP still sells mozzarella under her business name. So the friend is trying to sell directly to the restaurant, taking away business from the OP.

          1. Ann O'Nemity*

            I cannot figure out why the OP had the “side business” in the first place if the retail store also sells the same cheese. Even if they are white labeling the mozz for the one farmer, why not do that through the retail store?

      4. MK*

        If the store doesn’t sell mozzarella, the OP is being unreasonable to demand that Jess sell only to one farmer; they can Deanne that Jess not solicit customers of the store, but I don’t really see why she wants to do that, as then the customers would simply go to a competitor.

        If the store does sell mozzarella, but only in small quantities, well, I still don’t see the problem with Jess taking the bulk orders for her own business

        If the store does fill bulk orders of mozzarella, Jess is outright stealing business form the store.

        1. Blue*

          If the second scenario is true (the store sells mozzarella but not in bulk), I agree that it makes sense for Jess to take the bulk orders. However, they need to clearly define what constitutes “bulk” and when it’s appropriate for her to offer her own services to customers of the store. But…I feel like there are a lot of variables unaccounted for, since there are many unanswered questions here.

          1. boo bot*

            I had these questions as well. Cheese brings out the curiosity in us all.

            I think that the “family-owned farm store” brings to bear here – it took me a second to process that the family in question is the OP’s family. So, the store, the farm, the milk, and the cows/sheep/goats/llamas who produce it all belong to the OP’s family, as does the commercial kitchen where the mozzarella is processed. It may also be that the mozzarella is limited depending on the quantity of the milk from the farm (someone mentioned the One Farmer might bring his own milk) and Jess is promising a quantity that would deplete the supply.

            That, to me, explains why Jess’ entrepreneurial spirit is so jarring – it feels less like, “I’ve got a marketable skill I learned on the job,” and more like, “The kid I’m a nanny for draws great pictures, wanna buy one?”

            I may be completely misreading the letter in which case never mind. But if I am understanding correctly, I think I would deal with it by explaining to Jess why the one-farmer situation exists in the first place, and telling her she can take bulk orders on her own time, with her own cows/sheep/goats/llamas.

            1. boo bot*

              Oh wait I think “family-owned retail farm store” might just mean that the store is owned by her family, rather than that it is attached to a particular store, but the same kind of applies, I think.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I read it as the second option–the store has 5 mozzarella balls on the shelf, and the restaurant owner wants 30 balls 5 days from now, and to date they have only allowed bulk orders from the one person.

          Since the business I assume uses the larger farmstand’s approved kitchen and equipment, adding wholesale mozzarella making to the store’s options seems like the sensible way to go.

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      Agree with Runner and Kerr. The lines were less blurry when OP 3 was a family member and (part?) owner of the shop, but now that Jess has taken steps OP did not, suddenly OP sees problems that s/he probably should have anticipated.

      I agree that Jess is 100% free to solicit new customers for her mozzarella, BUT she is not free to solicit on store time, and she is not free to make mozzarella with with store supplies. Even if these are not distinctions OP did not draw for her own mozzarella side hustle, they are distinctions she needs to draw for Jess.

    3. Kitty*

      If it’s referred to as a side business, I assume the store doesn’t sell mozzarella itself. Sure, Jess shouldn’t be actively soliciting customers while working in the store, but if someone came in and asked specifically for this thing they the store doesn’t offer and Jess does, why shouldn’t she say so?

      Also, it sounds like OP is being a little controlling saying Jess can only sell to that one farmer, when the wide business is passed on to Jess now. It’s Jess’s business, she can sell to as many people as she likes (obviously as long as she’s not using the store’s supplies and isn’t actively soliciting customers while on the clock).

      1. Myrin*

        I think the store itself does indeed sell mozzarella, too – OP says “I make homemade mozzarella in the store and taught Jess how to make it for our customers.” Since it’s “make”, it didn’t only happen in the past, and since it’s “customers”, it refers to people other than the Special Farmer. (She also follows up with “For years I also made mozzarella as my own little side business”, meaning the first sentence I quoted doesn’t refer to the side business but to the regular store.)

        1. Airy*

          I know this is pedantic, but if it’s made in the store it’s not really “home”made. This is also nothing to do with what the LW was concerned about but it rankled in my soul.

          1. Myrin*

            This might just be a language thing but where I’m from, “homemade” (or its equivalent in my native tongue) just means “made by the owners themselves and not in a factory/company they had to buy from”; it doesn’t mean you literally have to make the thing where you life.

            (However, I also think this falls into the “don’t nitpick letter writer’s language” category, so I’ll stop it here!)

          2. Mookie*

            Housemade, then. (Though it would appear to be the OP’s personal recipe converted to a commercial, large batch one she ‘lent’ to the shop, and then to her daughter, and then to Jess for limited use.)

        2. SoSo*

          This was my take, too. I also wonder if the store only sells “single” orders of the cheese, as opposed to bulk orders like what the farmer needed. Which could explain why it was being done on the side?

    4. Lara*

      To me it’s more like trying to sell your personal jewellery line while working in a department store, or (if the shop doesn’t sell cheese), like hustling your jewellery when you’re meant to be providing advice on washing machines. Soliciting business on the clock is so not ok.

      1. MK*

        It might depend. Actively promoting your side hustle and soliciting bussiness is obviously not ok (at the very least you should ask first), but if this is something that came up more organically? If the store doesn’t sell mozzarela, or only sell small quantities, and Jess is using only her own resourses to make it, I would be ok with her saying to a customer who asks for a bulk order “I can make it for you as a seperate arrangement” instead of “sorry, you have to go somewhere else”.

        1. Lara*

          How egregious this is very much depends on whose resources / equipment are being used, and whether the shop sells Mozarella itself. But i’m still very uncomfortable with the idea.

      2. LBK*

        But the OP complicated it by saying “oh, except for this one particular customer, who you’re allowed to sell your personal jewelry line to.”

    5. notanyuse*

      I was thinking that the issue with broader solicitation was a health code issue. I know that farm stores, in my highly regulated little state, can sell pretty much anything they make in-house, at their store. From ordinary baked goods and jams to beer, wine, cheese, milk — But they can’t go selling their farm goods to grocery stores without getting extra approval.

      So if the OP sells the mozzerella from her cows/other beasts at her store, that’s fine, and lets the coworker use her tools to take another farmer’s milk to turn into mozzerella for that farmer’s store, maybe that’s also ok — but they’d both risk getting in trouble if anyone found out they were selling cheese wholesale.

  12. sacados*

    “I’m excited about the opportunity but slightly offended that they would ask me to trust them to reimburse me at some later date.”

    Wanting to have the company book the travel is totally understandable for all the reasons mentioned — but it sounds like LW5 is worried not just about the burden of covering the costs upfront, but also that the company may later renege and refuse to reimburse her at all?
    It’s possible this is just wording without any deeper meaning, but if you feel you can’t “trust” a company to pay you back, is that really the kind of place you would want to work for at all?

    1. LouiseM*

      I didn’t read anything like that into the OP’s post. I don’t think she thinks the company is shady, just that (since she doesn’t realize how common this is) she thinks it’s a shady setup. Which is understandable!

      1. Not Australian*

        Also, when you’re on a tight budget, you’re hyper-vigilant. If paying these travel expenses upfront would mean the OP lives on mac and cheese for a month (or until they get repaid), they’re absolutely right to push back.

        1. boo bot*

          Yeah, and what a company considers prompt repayment might not come before my rent is due. I would be hesitant about this unless I were really sure I could afford to be out of pocket for those expenses indefinitely.

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            I’m waiting for an interview reimbursement. They said it could take 6-8 weeks.

            We’re on week 8 and I haven’t seen a check. The cost for flight/room/board is around $1000. I could swing it but it was tight.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Some companies are really bad about response time, too–it’s one thing if they will cut a check within a week of your visit, another if you are fronting the expense indefinitely. Where they totally intend to pay you, but it taking 3 days or 3 months isn’t something the company is fussed about.

          1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            So true! It took literally two months to get reimbursed for interview travel for my current job. I was already working here by the time I got the check, and in fact I got my relo pay before I got the dang interview travel!

            On the other hand, I flew out last month for an interview and got the reimbursement within two weeks.

        3. Mirth & Merry*

          Yes! Totally agree with Not Australian, I interviewed with a place that wanted me to pay upfront and it took THREE MONTHS to get reimbursed. A flight, hotel and meals for three days is a lot to front…

      2. Thlayli*

        Yeah if you didn’t know it was common, it would be a concern.

        Sorry op, it’s just how things are done. I’ve had loads of interview expenses and never had a company pay upfront for them – it’s always been a “claim it back after” situation.

        1. ValkyrAmy*

          I had an interview scheduled that would involved at least 2 nights in a hotel + airfare. I was prepared to pay the expenses and get reimbursed. Then they told me that I’d only get reimbursed if they decided to hire me. I did not go on that interview.

    2. Close Bracket*

      I have almost always been reimbursed for interview travel expenses, but there was a single case of a large nationally-known company who did not reimburse me. Fortunately, on this trip, I drove and stayed at a friends house. The reimbursement would only have been for mileage, so I did not press it. If it had been airfare and a hotel, you better believe I would have pursued it! However, I can see how someone would have a concern about the off chance of not being reimbursed.

    3. Nonsenical*

      I’ve had companies not reimburse me for the promised gas cost so I could understand her hesitancy.

    4. maryjane*

      I flew into another town on an interview, with the promise I would be reimbursed. When I was not hired, the company REALLY dragged their feet on paying me back. So yes, I think asking the company to arrange airfare and hotel costs is quite reasonable.

    5. Polymer Phil*

      When I was in this situation, the company arranged my flight and hotel, and I only needed to front my own money for the rental car, airport parking, and meals. They took their merry time sending me the reimbursement check, so I would have been out over $1000 for a few months if I had been expected to book my own flights and hotel.

    6. A Girl Has No Name*

      Hi there! OP of LW5 here, thanks to everyone who took the time to read and reply to this! I am mostly wary because I was not aware that this was a common practice and assumed the costs would be covered up front (I mean why not, right?).

      KayEss, It’s-a-me, and Marthooh, you guys are SO right – cash or deposit up front. I will trust you as far as I can validate what you’re saying. Since I have the promise of reimbursement in writing, and I now know this is far more common that I initially thought, I have responded accepting the interview. Time to go get my new job, thanks again!

      1. ErinW*

        I’m the person (assistant to a department head) who processes reimbursements for my department. When we have candidates come through, I always tell them this when I greet them, and make sure they have my personal email so that they can contact me directly. Definitely try to find out who actually pushes the paper at the org so you can correspond with them and keep things moving forward.
        Have receipts ready to go for whatever you’ve prepaid (airfare, lodging) and save receipts for incidentals as they come up. If you can hand them off before you leave you’ll be way ahead of the game and hopefully get paid back in a timely manner.

        1. Loves Libraries*

          Would it be wise to take a picture of the receipts in case she needs a copy?

  13. LouiseM*

    Mozzarella Mayhem was the funniest thing I have seen in awhile! Thanks for a nice LOL to get me out of my end-of-holiday slump, Alison!

  14. RedstateMotherJones*

    Op4 – As a fellow person with chronic pain, consider that letting your colleagues “in” on the problem opens them up to questioning *how* you’re managing the pain. So many chronic pain patients wind up addicted / so many addicts claim to have chronic pain that the condition is stigmatized. Case in point: I personally do not use opiates, but ever since HR learned about the chronic pain, I’ve been treated like a headcase/felon on the run.
    Eg, a few weeks ago I wasn’t able to take a triple-call from them off the clock while I was running an errand. The next day a LONG chain of incredibly demeaning emails got forwarded to me about “her behavior is alarming and strange… do you think she is ok? Do you think she will show up for work tomorrow and act professional?”
    Now they question why I don’t want anything to do with company social events … because you demeaned me over something outside of my control and spun a benign situation into a major issue.
    Just dont give them anything to work with.

    1. Not Australian*

      Ugh, RMJ, that sounds like an awful situation; employers who behave like that deserve to lose the confidence of their staff.

      1. RedstateMotherJones*

        So many people just take it where I live – treating your “staff” (mostly perma-temps/career temps) like criminals/juvenile delinquents is *a* way to manage. Or as it was put in one interview, “This is what me and my buddies laugh about on the golf courses.”
        It definitely keeps people in their place but IMO becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy that hurts everyone.
        It’s a major reason I pull all-nighters to try to get my own endeavors off the ground.

        1. DArcy*

          I find that at my company, treating our employees as juveniles until demonstrated otherwise is a necessary evil. Because well, the fact is they don’t behave like mature adults and will only get work done if being actively “babysat” by supervisory/management staff.

          Treating them as juvenile delinquents, on the other hand, would be a bit much.

          1. RedstateMotherJones*

            Not sure about who you’re hiring or about a billion other variables. But as an educated, white-collar middle management professional… being treated that way does more harm than good; and smacks of being about control and keeping people in their place. I’d rather let smart people mess up and have to help them fix it, than break human potential down into some resentful, stifled robot. The most miserable employee I ever supervised… I counseled into going to grad school in an entirely different field. Senior management was livid; I consider that one of the best achievements of my career.

          2. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

            Sounds like you guys need to drastically change your hiring practices, then.

    2. Harper the Other One*

      Would whoever forwarded those emails be willing to help you out by responding to HR with something like “what an odd thing to say. Why would you think she was unreliable because she didn’t immediately answer her phone when she was off the clock?” If nothing else it would be a pleasure to know that HR was squirming.

      I’m sorry you have to deal with that nonsense on top of your pain.

    3. anonagain*

      OP4: I think it’s best to only share this kind of information on a need to know basis (for accommodations, etc). In the past I would’ve disclosed in the types of scenario you’re describing, but now I never would. I’ve learned that most of the time the other person hasn’t even noticed that I’m distracted and that disclosing medical information does shape people’s opinions. Plus once you share that information, you can never take it back. (The friendliest boss I ever had revealed to me that they hadn’t been giving me assignments because of my medical condition, despite the fact that I did every assignment they gave me to a high standard and on deadline.)

      I know you felt bad for the person you were working with, but I think that might be your own issue. I have very high standards for myself and my natural inclination is to apologize if I don’t meet my own high standards. Of course my own standards are often far beyond what anyone else expects of me. What ends up happening is that even though my performance might have been totally fine, even great, by my boss’s expectations, when I apologize I communicate that I’m not performing. My apology makes something that wasn’t a problem into a problem.

      It sounds like you’re a really conscientious person who might have a similar tendency to over-apologize. I do think there can be a wide range between not as sharp as usual and so distracted you need to acknowledge it.

      If things are so bad you need to acknowledge it (I would try to read the other person here), I think it’s fine to say something bland about not feeling well. I also don’t think it’s the worst thing to say you have a headache or you didn’t sleep well or whatever. Something boring so you can move on.

    4. Nonsenical*

      I wouldn’t say so many people with chronic pain end up addicted. It is usually acute pain, not chronic pain and I say that as someone who has been battling chronic pain for ages and utilizing opiates. I don’t love them but as long as they’re not abused, it is possible.

      1. RedstateMotherJones*

        Of course in reality the vast majority of people with chronic pain don’t end up addicted to painkillers. The perceptions of the uninformed tell a different story though.
        I personally have no objection to opiates when used responsibly. I just personally don’t have the infrastructure in my life to manage the side effects. I sincerely apologize if my comment came off judgemental – it was not intended as such

    5. The Ginger Ginger*

      Genuine question here, does that kind of thing constitute a hostile work environment? Like discrimination based on disability? Or does chronic pain not rise to the ADA definition of disability? I mean – you’ve got proof IN WRITING that they’re being super obnoxious here. If it’s jeopardizing your raises and advancement and getting you poorer treatment than you non-chronic-pain-suffering coworkers…..ugh.

      Can you ask an employment lawyer in your area for a consult? This just makes me really angry for you.

      1. The Ginger Ginger*

        Oh, should clarify – This comment was directed to RedstateMotherJones not the OP.

    6. PunkrockPM*

      Unrelated, maybe?

      I have GAD and was going through a depressive episode (they often go hand in hand) and was penalized for it in my previous role (no flexibily to WFH when my anxiety was high, if I had to medicate I had to take unpaid FMLA for a full day to go home before I could medicate even if I worked 6 hours, etc). I made my new management aware because they had asked me about the FMLA. They were appalled that I didn’t have the flexibility to help manage it.

      One day, it was really bad and I was powering through it on a conference call. I have a hard time verbalizing (not unusual). The person in charge kept interrupting me, which exacerbated it. My manager sends me an IM with concerns, so I had to inform them that I had GAD and was having an anxiety attack.

      This lead to a good discussion of what GAD / Depression is and isn’t for me (genetic, no triggers, etc). The issue is that he reached out to Employee Relations to discuss further with me. There is still a HUGE stigma with mental illness and he was concerned that is would prevent me from “being a leader” or doing my job – uuuuuugh. I’ve shared with a trusted colleague to help me out when I need it, which may help for this situation too.

      I think it really depends on your team and if you can find a trusted ally (especially manager) that can help. There will always be those who don’t “get” it, some won’t care, and some will be supportive. It just sucks that the stigma exists and can impact our career futures.

    7. Kate*

      OP4 – My husband has a chronic disease, initially he used to let his direct management know and know what to do in case he had an episode. He is a fantastic worker, and receives awards excessively however he found it hard to move up after a point and eventually left that company when I took a role in the department and discovered that upper level management had learned of his condition and did not want to take on the liability. He has since left the company and now has only let a very few (2) people know of his condition, both of these people became close personal friends (people we have been on vacation with, and celebrate birthdays etc. outside of work) before he let know of his condition. In the new company he is on track to becoming a VP next year, at the previous company he was not being considered for senior management. Be very vigilant on who you let know about your personal issues that you cannot change.

    8. AnonChronicPain*

      This is super interesting to me. I wrote Allison nearly the same exact letter as OP4 a while ago (with the added twist that I’m a grad student researching pain).

      Generally, I do tell them, for a lot of reasons. For one thing, my bosses and coworkers at least somewhat get it, because this is what they study. For another, it’s really nice to, instead of being told “You’re too young”, be asked “If you don’t want to share, that’s fine, but can I ask if you have a diagnosis?” and when I answer, instead of getting “What’s that?”, I get “Oh, that can be really painful, I’m sorry.” It’s also relevant – if I’m asked why I wanted to get into this field, well… it’s basically the true answer. Nobody seems to expect less of me, but they also accept it if I’m a little slower on a given day.

      I’ve been asked how I treat it, but generally not pushed to answer, with only one big overstep I can think of. I have been told that it’s understood if I every so often need an extra day to complete something due to pain flares, and I’ll admit that feels a little like lowered expectations, but it’s also just sort of stated once and then ignored (which I take to mean, “yep, I get it if you need it, so I’m offering, but I don’t expect you to take me up on it unless you absolutely need to”).

      It’s totally possible that it’s the addition of my field and the oddities of academia that make it seem to be better for me to be open (your lines between coworkers, friends, and primary social circle kind of get blurred in grad school). For the most part, others in the field seem to think it’d be better if more people with chronic pain also researched pain, so it works out well for me.

  15. Eve*

    If the company #2 works for couldn’t afford the rent without the employees subsidizing it they needed to not rent this location. I would heavily push back and use the words “employee subsidizing the rent for the company” (or similar) and start looking for a new job.

      1. Free parking isn't standard downtown*

        They could rent spaces to anyone else who wants to park in the area. No place (that I know of) in downtown Toronto, for example, offers free parking to employees. They may offer below market rate passes to employees, but not free. If other employees take transit, free parking is subsidizing drivers over transit users.

        1. Seriously?*

          If the parking lot is free to the company, then they are not subsidizing anything and would not be able to charge non-employees because it is not their lot. It sounds like it is for use by anyone who works or shops at that location.

          1. .*

            The parking lot is not free to the company, they are paying rent that covers the office space and parking.

            1. Pollygrammer*

              They would be paying that same rent no matter how many or how few employees took advantage of the parking, though.

        2. LQ*

          But there isn’t anything I saw to indicate it is in a downtown area. In fact it seems the opposite. And OP mentions above the lot is open to anyone without a fee so I think this point doesn’t really seem all that relevant. (And a lot of businesses who offer discounted parking also offer discounted transit passes, I’ve often seen bigger incentives for transit because either the city, or the transit authority wants people to take transit and will work out deals with employers to make that easier, plus generally cheaper to get transit passes than parking passes, though not always. At least that’s been my experience.)

        3. I'm Not Phyllis*

          We do – in downtown Toronto – but we only have I think 10 available spots and there is a looooong waiting list.

  16. SignalLost*

    OP 5, I ran into a similar situation a few years back, where the company could not pay for the rental car and had to reimburse me (a rule of the rental agency I believe is standard in the industry) so you may want to be prepared for that to be your up front expense even if they agree to the rest, but the flight would be fine. I didn’t stay in a hotel on that trip so not sure about that, but the car bit was a little annoying. Their hands were totally tied though.

    1. A Girl Has No Name*

      OP of LW5 here, thanks signal lost! They have agreed to pay for everything, I am used to traveling with my current company where I use the company card for everything, so I’m not used to this reimbursement thing, lol. I appreciate your reply!

      1. SignalLost*

        I’m glad they paid! It seems really silly to do it any other way than pay up front – you’ll lose good candidates who are financially in a tight spot all the time. Fingers crossed you get the job if you decide you want it!

  17. Myrin*

    #3, I’m endlessly fascinated by this letter, both because I love “mozzarella mayhem” and because the situation reads as somewhat convoluted when I bet it’s actually pretty straightforward when you actually have to deal with it.

    I have a question that I think has only been touched upon in one other comment and which I’m just not sure how to interpret:
    You say: “[I] tried to explain to her that she cannot solicit business for herself” which is perfectly standard for all the reasons Alison explains in her answer. However, you follow up with “and that the farmer was the ONLY person she can personally made mozzarella for”, which I found somewhat confusing – you say that you “passed on” your side business, which I interpret as this business now belonging to Jess; is that the correct reading? Because in that case, absent any kind of contract signed beforehand, I don’t think you have any standing to dictate who Jess makes business with.

    Which doesn’t negate the fact that she shouldn’t try and poach a potential customer of you guys’s store for her own personal side gig, but I’m wondering if there’s maybe some miscommunication or some conflicting sense of ownership between the two of you?

    (A minor thing I found confusing as well is that you say “that the farmer was the ONLY person she can personally made mozzarella for” and yet it sounds like the mozzarella sold at your store is also being made by Jess? In which case the “personally made mozzarella” is a bit of a hollow phrase since it’s made by her either way. Is it at all possible there’s some sort of misunderstanding around the phrasing you’re using?)

    1. Mookie*

      Yeah, one thing gives me pause is how far to the “side” this farmer’s deal is, if there’s overlap between him and the shop, and where his cheese is being made. Was the LW, then her daughter, and now Jess making this personal profit using the shop’s kitchen space, with its inventory, and during business hours? If so, that’s a real problem, and the LW created it. I also wonder where and when the LW and the farmer met. Through the shop? Before she started working there? When did the shop start selling the moz? Was it on the LW’s initiative, because she was already selling some herself? Was he a pre-existing customer? Are the owners fully aware of this tangled, milky, string cheese-y web of shadows (and possibly deceit)?

    2. hbc*

      I agree. I think the philosophical question about who controls the “side business” is the first thing to solve, and the “soliciting” part falls into place after that. Frankly, it sounds less like a real side business and more like “This guy I know wants cheese that we can’t provide through my official channels.” Kind of like if I asked my landscaping neighbor to prune my hedges even though his landscaping company won’t take such a small job, but he might do it on the side (and not declare the income, probably.)

      In which case, OP has zero standing to limit who Jane can sell to, provided it’s not using OP’s equipment, materials, or time. At that point, OP needs to assess if there are situations where it’s beneficial that customers sometimes get directed to Jess, and if so, make rules around it. For example, OP might not want to officially endorse Jess, but if the new mozz customer wasn’t going to get what they needed from the store, it’s fine in my mind if Jess gives them her email address. Maybe OP takes a cut if her equipment is used, and that cheese can only be made in non-store hours, even if Jess has nothing else to do.

    3. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

      I’m honestly not sure how to interpret that, either…but that’s because we’re missing information. We know that the wholesale sideline to the farmer is now Jess’s business, but how much of a stake does the store have? Does she use their equipment? Does she actually label the wholesale mozzarella as being from the store instead of her? I think that generally, the more involved the store is in the side business, the more standing LW3 has to say that Jess shouldn’t compete with her business.

      And at any rate, she shouldn’t be soliciting business for herself AT LW3’S STORE.

      Why am I so invested in the story of homemade cheese?

      1. Myrin*

        Why am I so invested in the story of homemade cheese?

        Because how can we not be intrigued by such a tale of mozzarella mayhem and mischief?!

      2. Nonsenical*

        Because… it IS MOZARELLA!!!!!!!

        And it makes me badly want some despite being on a healthy lifestyle kick.

        Behave, Nonsenical, behave!

        But the next episode of mozarella spyster coming to theatres near you in 2018: the premise: the lonely cow that could not milk an udder.

        In a more serious note, the questions above hit the nail.

        If she was given the side business, then LW3 cannot control who her customers are. However, if she is utilizing the business’ kitchen and supplies, then she can control that she can’t make mozarella for anyone but the farmer while at the business. But if it is truly a side business that was passed over, then it no longer belongs to LW3, simply specify they can’t make it for anyone for the farmer during working hours and on that property.

      3. boo bot*

        I think that this is a small family business thing, where they treated Jess like family because she’s so close to the family, but then the side business thing runs into complications because she actually isn’t.

        E.g.: Is Jess actually running the sideline like a business? Does she pay for the ingredients wholesale, reimburse the store for the cost of the ingredients, or just use what’s on hand? Does she pay the store for use of the kitchen via a cut of the profit for the cheese? If the whole thing is my business and I’m selling some extra cheese on the side (to make get some extra cheddar!) I’m not going to worry about that breakdown, necessarily. Ditto if it’s my daughter (I don’t have a daughter. Robot dog, then.) The money is just cycling through the family business and to the family, so those distinctions can be wobbly. Enter Jess. Through no one’s fault – not Jess, not the OP, her situation is different, because she’s an employee and not part of the family. When it’s just the one-farmer that’s already set up, the old set-up works, but when Jess wants to expand all these questions come to the foreground.

        I think all of this would feel clearer if it were the butcher trying to run a sideline: if she’s butchering an alpaca, it’s gonna be clear who that alpaca belonged to, who’s buying the meat, and whose gutter all that blood is running down.

        This is possibly the most fascinating question of the year for me and I look forward to all comments, updates, answers, questions, and cheeses.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Hollywood, “a robot dog runs a mozzarella making business as a sideline from fighting crime” is an idea I haven’t seen done to death. Get on it!

          I think you’re right about the breakdown–when it’s a family business consisting only of the nuclear family, it’s no big deal to cross all the streams of revenue and cost. Jess is just enough outside the family for complications to arise.

          1. boo bot*

            Miles, a robotic Bufala terrier from the year 2076, is hurled back in time in a freak cheddar speed-aging accident, and finds himself stranded on the streets of 1928 San Francisco. With nowhere to go, he puts his bionic nose to work and soon teams up with a human private eye named Sam, who shows him the time of his life. But when the crash of 1929 comes and the PI business no longer pays, it’s the resourceful terrier who comes to the rescue. Back in the future, Miles was a Mozzarella-making machine, and he can make cheese out of ANYTHING. Miles and Sam are set for life! … as long as the strict governing Cheese Board doesn’t catch them…

    4. Millennial Lawyer*

      Yes, I am wondering if there’s an exclusive contract or some other agreement, like the store gets X product exclusively from the farmer.

    5. Quake Johnson*

      I’d love to see #3 re-submit their letter with more detail. Because right now it just seems to me like she said, “here you go, the business is yours! But don’t you dare do anything wild like take on a SECOND customer!”

      It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

  18. Px*

    OP 5 – another reason they may prefer to do it this way is that for some companies (eg mine) booking travel for outsiders is pretty complicated and needs several layers of approval which can take time. Reimbursement however can often be much easier to arrange. So just another voice to say that this is pretty normal and not that weird.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Exactly. Booking travel for a candidate means sending them the flight and hotel options, then waiting for them to pick out the ones they want. Then you forward the arrangements to an executive for approval. He approves them, so you go book them – only to see the hotel is sold out and the flight has doubled in price. So you send the candidate alternative hotel options and email the executive to approve the new flight price. Meanwhile, you wait…

      Obviously, there are ways the company could do the above more efficiently, but it’s just easier to reimburse. I don’t see an issue as long as they keep that promise no matter what happens and book directly for candidates who can’t afford to front their costs upfront.

    2. RedstateMotherJones*

      It might be normal but it is arrogant to presume all candidates can just spot a company a few hundred bucks.

      1. PhDConsultant*

        I don’t think “arrogant” is the right word. Director level jobs tend to be relatively well-paying, salaried positions and applicants for them tend to be doing pretty well in their careers. It doesn’t seem unusual at all for a company to think that someone at that career step would be able to pay domestic travel expenses upfront without hardship. If a midcareer professional were to, say, take a client to coffee, the expectation would be that they would pay out of pocket and seek reimbursement. The same expectation may not hold for an intern or a student. Everyone’s life situation is different and asking for a different arrangement is fine, but the assumption is not unreasonable.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          I agree. I don’t think that the company’s policy is unusual or even particularly inconsiderate.

          And honestly above a certain high career level I think a hiring manager might (unfairly) even be a little concerned if a candidate couldn’t front travel expenses, because it might say something about their level of responsibility.

      2. Nonsenical*

        Not all positions that fly people out are director level! I know of tech entry level positions that will fly you out and I assure you those students aren’t rich!

        1. Julia*

          I have never had a company reimburse me for travel expenses – where are those magical places?

      3. Nanani*

        This. No matter how much the position pays, it is still, at the basic level , (potential) employees fronting money.

        This is not OK. Yes it’s common and no I don’t expect people to be able to push back very much, but it’s terrible.

        1. PhDConsultant*

          I spend something like $10-15k a month on travel. It goes on a credit card and then an expense report is filed. I have my choice of putting it on my personal card or a corporate card but I’m responsible for the bill.

          Yes, it is “fronting money” but in practice there is no other way it could possibly work. I don’t see how it’s in any way terrible. I get reimbursed promptly.

          1. LBK*

            Yes, it is “fronting money” but in practice there is no other way it could possibly work.

            …the company could just pay for it up front?

          2. Jennifer Thneed*

            The last job I had that had required travel gave me a corporate credit card. I put all my travel-related expenses on that and only had to submit expense reports to match to the bills, but I did *not* have to pay those bills myself.

        2. Kate*

          When you apply for a job that is out of state that will require travel to meet with the company you should expect to have the funds to meet the company. They will almost always reimburse you but it will be on their time frame. You really shouldn’t be applying to positions that you cannot afford to travel to. Most people including myself took an extra day when interviewing in another state to get a feel of the community and look at potential living arrangements.

          1. LBK*

            You really shouldn’t be applying to positions that you cannot afford to travel to.

            I mean, if you need to move for whatever reason, you don’t really have a choice. (Side note: things like this are why it’s always bothered me that we have state laws in the US, because the idea that you can just casually pick up and move to another state if you don’t like the laws where you live is generally ludicrous.)

    3. JustAnnAnonoly*

      Booking travel for others is an excruciating amount of back and forth. When we’ve flown people in for interviews, we ask them to book their flight because it requires so much personal information and then we have booked their hotel. We also had a check waiting for them. We had one interviewee who specifically asked to book his own at a specific hotel. (For points reasons, I’m sure.) Since it was within our budget, we were happy to let him handle it. These positions were WFH long distance positions so no relocation.

      If we were hiring for a butt-in-seat position, our budget does not (generally) allow for helping with relocation. If a candidate could not afford to book travel upfront, we would be concerned with them affording to actually relocate to our city. Of course, that would be more or less flexible depending on the “wowness” of candidate.

  19. Argh!*

    Re #4

    I have a coworker with fibromyalgia. He told me about it, and I just assume it’s a flare-up when he calls in sick. One time he really seemed not to be himself. He was cranky and foggy-headed. It was like Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde. I’m glad I already knew what he had because I figured it out and could accommodate it without him having to ask. (He went home sick later)

    If you have a friendly workplace, it could be worth sharing to prevent gossip and ill will. I had to go on intermittent FML myself for a few years, and I told my closest coworkers just that I was on FML because I didn’t want to share the details. It’s all individual.

    1. llama drama*

      You’ve got a good point here, which is that OP could (based on trust and relationship level) tell individual coworkers when relevant, without going to management for “official” designation/accommodation. (Because let’s be real, when it comes to disability the way the world should work and the way the world does work are NOT the same).

  20. D. Llama*

    Cheese lady: maybe you should have set up a royalty agreement so you get a buck from every ball she sells.

  21. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    The phrase “mozzarella mayhem” makes me much happier than it really should.

    LW4: wishing you the best! It sounds like you’re in a tough situation – and though (thankfully) I don’t have chronic pain, it sounds like you have a LOT of bad days! I’m really sorry to hear that.

  22. Lady Phoenix*

    Me thinks #3 is a problem because:
    1) Jess is poaching OP’s customers. The store probably sell their own mozzarella (or store mozarella like Sartengo or Kraft or something)
    2) Jess is using the store’s kitchen and supplies to make her product
    3) Jess is given the wrong impression that the store sells homemade mozarella, causing customer confusion

    #1 is bad cause it angers the vendors who might pull out of OP’s store, threatening the business.

    #2 is bad because it is theft and also a legal ticking timebomb. If the inspectors come in and see Jess using the supplies not for intended purposes, then the store could be shut down.

    #3 is bad because it hurts customer relations.

    These are all great reasons to fire Jess and possibly ban her from the premise. Because she could use it as a chance to eff the kitchen up or continue her “side business” full time.

    But if you don’t want to fire her, then give her the one and only one written warning: No sollicting customers, no using the kitchen period, no selling her mozarella in the store. If she fails that, she gets fired and banned.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The only reason a restaurant owner would show up at the farm asking about mozzarella is that they want locally produced balls of it–Sargento and Kraft are not competing with the little ball of short-shelf-life fresh mozzarella wrapped in plastic wrap. They are also culinarily very different, in terms of both taste and texture.

      The reasons you give to fire Jess were mostly created by the OP, with Jess following directions–you don’t fire her for that.

      If it’s a case of the store being able to give the restaurant owner 30 balls of mozzarella, no problem, but Jess tried to divert him to buying from her instead, then she deserves a sharp talking to. And then OP should figure out the revenue and cost streams and how they should combine in the side and main business if the person running the side business isn’t a family member, because “It’s your business, using our equipment, but you can only have this one customer” isn’t really a good model.

    2. MK*

      These are not actually facts; it’s pretty unclear whether the store sells any mozzarella, or if they sell in bulk, and the OP doesn’t say that Jess uses their equipment and/or supplies. Also, she may well be making it clear that the arrangement is separate from the store.

      1. a1*

        Actually, it’s very clear…

        I make homemade mozzarella in the store and taught Jess how to make it for our customers.

        They make mozzarella in the store for our (the store’s) customers. The store sells mozzarella.

  23. Rusty Shackelford*

    On #3, until we hear otherwise from the LW, I’m assuming she actually does sell mozzarella in her store. Otherwise, why would a restaurant owner come to the store and request 30 balls of mozzarella? And in that case, the only reason I might not have fired Jess on the spot would be because of the existing friendship. But I’d definitely tell her that she can’t attempt to take customers from my business and steer them to hers while she’s standing behind the counter, on the clock, at my store.

    Also, as others have pointed out, it’s very likely that Jess is making the “side business” cheese in the LW’s shop, for legal reasons. And if that’s the case, I think the LW does have every right, both moral and legal, to limit the side cheese to the one existing customer.

    1. Myrin*

      As far as I can tell, OP actually says it in her letter already: “I make homemade mozzarella in the store and taught Jess how to make it for our customers.” (Customers =/= the Special Farmer, ergo it gets sold in the store.)
      An interesting point someone brought up above is that the store might not take on bulk orders, which is the only way I can see an innocent explanation for Jess’s trying to funnel this request through the side gig.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        As far as I can tell, OP actually says it in her letter already

        I thought it was pretty clear too, but several earlier commenters don’t seem to think so.

        An interesting point someone brought up above is that the store might not take on bulk orders, which is the only way I can see an innocent explanation for Jess’s trying to funnel this request through the side gig.

        If that’s the case, I’m very curious about the the reasoning behind the LW’s disapproval of Jess taking on this particular customer’s business.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I agree completely – as I said above, I’m entirely too fascinated by this letter and would love to get OP’s input!

      2. MK*

        If the store did take bulk orders, I don’t see why the arrangement with the farmer would be a side business; they could just supply him from the store like everyone else.

        1. Myrin*

          I honestly don’t get the whole “side business” thing in general, but that could just be me. OP says “I make homemade mozzarella in the store and taught Jess how to make it for our customers.” and unless I’m seriously misreading this sentence, that means that the mozzarella they sell at the store is made by Jess (and the OP) anyway, so I don’t understand why one person’s special bulk order for later re-sale constitutes for a whole “side business” instead of just a special arrangement by the store.

          (Of course, like some comments above pondered, there might well be additional reasons for why this specific farmer is special – like how he might supply the milk for the cheese in the first place; I’m assuming the OP didn’t just come up with this arrangement willy-nilly and without any reasoning – but that still wouldn’t make the dealing with him a whole side business, IMO. But I might just be lacking something language-and-terminology-wise here.)

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            I assumed that the OP was a business owner of the store but she also sold the cheese. It wasn’t a primary income or responsibility, just something she did to earn some extra cash.

  24. Anon Today*

    OP#1 – I think you’ve got a tough road. Unfortunately, you are in a non-revenue generating role. In many non-profits, especially smaller non-profits, resources get focused on revenue generating departments and/or roles (and even then it can be an up hill battle to get those resources). I think the suggestion to focus on ROI is an excellent one. But, I would be prepared for a very long wait.

  25. McWhadden*

    As for #2 I’m not sure this is that shady. There is a place near me that has retail and thus free parking but also a lot of corporate offices. And they charge the corporate offices for the parking for their employees. They could be charging the company a certain amount for the spots.

    I’d at least find out the reasoning first.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      The OP said in a later comment that the employer is not charged for parking, and there are not a limited number of parking places reserved for that business.

    2. LW #2*

      They aren’t charging the company for parking (there are <10 of us, the reasoning was to save money/keep costs down)

  26. Jubilance*

    Re: #5 – Wasn’t there a letter in the past from a HR person who said they require candidates to book their own travel, because the job were in a popular vacation destination and they didn’t want people to use the interview as a vacation? I feel like I read that here. Anyway, maybe that’s part of the motivation of the company, since the OP notes that the job is near the beach. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask if they could front as least part of the cost.

  27. Neosmom*

    OP #1 – Perhaps in your proposal you could suggest making this assistant role an internship.

  28. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

    It never once occurred to me that a regular and not institutional business (like a hospital) could charge employees for parking and I find the notion hilarious. We are severely parking constrained while awaiting permitting for expansion (permits in our town take YEARS) and I am imagining the bidding war for an actual space.

    We could have a $$$ for an assigned space, $$ for a floating space and $ for the “well there aren’t any lines but I will park here anyway” space. And then we could use the revenue to pay for yet-another-environmental-study, cost of doing business theory be damned.

    Hilarious, and expandable. Next time we need a new round of office chairs? Seat rental!

    1. the_scientist*

      I work in downtown Toronto (home of INSANELY expensive real-estate) and offering parking here is absolutely cost-prohibitive. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a company with an office in the downtown core that offers free parking because 1) high-rises don’t even have parking in most cases and 2) the costs of leasing parking would be cost-prohibitive. If you want to drive downtown and park in a public lot, you’re looking at $20-$30 per day, and you’re still going to have to walk to your office. I have to imagine that it’s the same in a lot of major cities, although that may or may not apply to the letter writer in this case.

    2. Lora*

      This situation exists in Boston. It is not fun. Many employers subsidize public transit passes though, so realistically you park somewhere outside the city and take the T in.

      The cost of a legal parking spot in Back Bay is more than my actual mortgage payment in the Greater Metro Area.

      1. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

        Yeah, based on your comment and the_scientist, I see that I left out “when normal parking is part of the employer’s facility”. I don’t think that big city office building rentals come with a parking lot to accommodate all of the employees.

        God, now I am imagining a gate at our parking lot entrance (in very suburban NJ) and vendors having to ask our receptionist if we validate instead of bitching that they couldn;t find a spot and had to haul their wares from an illegally made spot at the very furthermost corner (because employees stole the visitor reserved spots). I could be on to something here. Supply and demand! (or our town could just give us the damn permits already)

    3. Heynonniemouse*

      I worked at two universities that both charged for parking. At the first one the official reason was to encourage employees to use public transport. Fun fact: the first bus to arrive at our off-campus location was 9:30am, and the last to leave was just after 4:00pm. When we asked if they’ve let us arrive half an hour late and leave an hour and a half early so we could use that public transport they were so keen on, they were strangely unenthusiastic.

  29. Sara (a Lurker)*

    Good luck, LW #1! I was in a very similar position to yours–communication manager at a small growing nonprofit, gradually getting overwhelmed by increasing quantity and range of responsibilities. Ultimately, my organization was unwilling to work with me on expanding our communications staff or at least restructuring the communications role to be more manageable, and I left and found a less stressful job.

    But if you’re not ready to take that step yet, I’d encourage you to find out if there are any organizations in your area that place workstudy students with nonprofit orgs. Some universities in my city do this, as well as orgs like Americorps, and the idea is that the sponsoring organizations will pay the student’s wages while you provide valuable workplace experience. Of course, delegating and training adds to your workload, and there’s only so much a student can do with 10-20 hours a week. On the other hand, even just ten hours of comm tasks off of my plate made a huge difference for me. If this is a possibility, it might take some pressure off you and provide some material evidence in favor of eventually making a full-time hire.

  30. Strawmeatloaf*

    You could always tell people (for the mozzarella one) what’s actually inside of “real” mozzarella and how it isn’t vegetarian…

    1. Strawmeatloaf*

      I am just kidding about that if you must know.

      But yeah, I would say she shouldn’t be allowed to do it in the store at all.

    2. Specialk9*

      I thought there was vegetarian rennet too? But yeah, regular rennet turns my stomach.

  31. Granny K*

    For #1: Ok this wouldn’t be a substitute for an assistant, but have you tried a social media tool that allows you to post in multiple places at the same time as well as put timers on your posts (so you could enter your posts, say 1x per month and they’d roll out when you want)? Tools like Hootsuite are very handy, and the cost is minimal per month. (and no I don’t work for Hootsuite, it’s just one of the tools I’m familiar with.) It might make your job easier and free up some bandwidth.

  32. MommaChem*

    OP#5 – I would suggest asking the company to book and pay for your flight and hotel (if an overnight stay is warranted). Then have them reimburse you for food and car rental. The first two will be the big money items that would kill your monthly budget. They probably would have restrictions on being able to pay for the car upfront because of the liability associated with you not being an employee of theirs. You will also likely need to be able to put a credit card on file with the hotel when you check-in against incidentals but nothing should be charged to you unless you use room service or something of that nature.

    Good luck with your interview!

  33. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    OP4 –

    I am worried about you. I am a doctor and while I would not give you medical advice in this format, from what little you have said your life is not on a good path right now. You are 22. Your body is at the best it will ever be without the aches, pains and other problems of aging. Yet you take medications that make you mentally foggy twice a week (30% of your life) that make you mentally foggy – I can only assume these are opiates, sedatives, muscle relaxants or psychoactive medications.

    Unless you have a serious or terminal syndrome (CF eg), you should strongly seek pain relief that does not involve medication – pain psychotherapy, PT, massage, etc. I wish you could have a pain free life but functioning with (some) pain is probably the best you or anyone can hope for.

    A lifetime of pills is not a good choice. Opiates can kill fast (overdose, addiction) but they can also kill slow – they increase your risk of getting cancer, of having heart disease, of having hormonal problems and of osteoporosis. At 22, that’s not a path you want to be on.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      This is really not appropriate – you have zero standing to judge what medical choices are a “good choice” for the OP. You are not a doctor, and you are not HER doctor. Do not take up space here second guessing someone’s medical care.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        (And forgive my typo – you are a doctor but you are not HER doctor!)

      2. Legal Beagle*

        Agreed. I assume the commenter meant well, but this feels a little concern-trolling and a lot intrusive.

    2. e271828*

      If you “would not give [the OP] medical advice,” then don’t start in with the medical advice and judgments about how they and their physician are managing OP’s condition. Your intrusiveness here is appalling and inappropriate. I do not believe you are a doctor.

  34. Tea*

    OP #3 just manages the family store, she doesn’t necessarily own it exclusively. She was likely using the commercial kitchen to produce mozzarella as a “side business” for one particular farmer and presumably pocketing the money. She passed this on to her daughter ans then to her daughter’s friend, who also presumably used/uses the store’s commercial kitchen to produce the cheese.

    So first, I think from some of the comments, some people are getting confused about the farmer, like there’s one farmer who is getting their lines crossed between the store and the side business. There are two farmers-the farmer with the food stalls who bought the cheese from the side business, and then the second farmer who was the store’s regular walk-in client. Jessica is only supposed to sell to the first farmer with her business, and the second farmer, being the store’s client, should have only bought the store’s cheese.

    But the main point is-the OP was technically taking business away from her family’s store first. Her family’s store could have been providing the cheese to the farmer in a large order-just as the second farmer in this story apparently was, having come for 30 balls of cheese. Clearly if someone is coming in for that large an order, they’re meaning to resell it in some capacity, so clearly the store is in the business of supplying farmers for stands for resale or maybe delis or restaurants for resale, etc. I live in a farm area and I see this all the time-farmer’s markets who sell someone else’s goods and there’s a label with who provides it. This could have been an opportunity for the OP’s family store rather than herself. She can technically do it herself and it wouldn’t infringe on the store, but if the OP is using the store’s equipment and/or supplies, it does. But who knows if her family gave their blessing for it-if they did, then there’s no trouble I suppose.

    So the OP passes this ‘side-business’ to someone else for them to produce then pocket the money and called it a ‘special privilege.’ The OP should never have done this. It was basically just, ‘hey, I make mozz for this guy, do you want to do it now? You get to keep all or part of the money.’ After that, it was out of OP’s hands. Allison’s answer is right that now the OP can’t limit who Jessica takes on as a client but she can forbid her from soliciting clients who specifically seek out to purchase at the store.

    The OP blurred the line because she was already sort of infringing upon her family’s store-even if the OG farmer she was selling to never sought out the store, if it’s the same community as the store and she’s maybe using the store’s name or equipment or what have you to get the product out there, she’s infringing on the store. At my place of work, I have non-compete for estheticians and massage therapists for this very reason-they can do private work or work somewhere else but it can’t within a certain mileage of the spa and they can’t solicit our spa’s clients for their private work or other job. The OP’s situation isn’t as serious but it’s the same basic principle. The OP also kind of effed herself over by presenting this as a side-business to give away-if she wanted to limit Jessica’s production of mozz, she should have said ‘this is an off-shoot of the store and you can get more money for this.’ It can’t be both a ‘side-business’ you ‘gave’ and a ‘special privilege’, which implies the OP thought she had control over it.

    What can the OP do? I don’t think Jessica can be trusted to not solicit clients anymore. It seems like kind of a small matter but once something like that is violated, and Jessica made it clear she does not understand why this is a violation, you can’t go back on it. You either fire Jessica, or basically burn Jessica’s ‘side business’ to the ground-not literally, but by like forbidding her to use the store equipment and supply for anything by store use, and by reaching out to the OG farmer with the stalls and taking this client away from Jessica and to your store by offering maybe a better deal or using your connection of familiarity. In the second scenario, Jessica likely quits and maybe goes off to find another place to do mozz. So I would just fire Jessica now-it might ruffle your daughter’s feathers or upset people you know, but it’s so much better than prolonging the magic, am I right? Get the farmer to your store for mozz and then lay down a new policy with your next employee.

    1. Stardust*

      This is a very comprehensive comment I like a lot! You did get one thing confused, though–there is indeed only one farmer. Op is “just selling exclusively to one customer (a local farmer in our area who owns several farm stands). … the farmer was the ONLY person she can personally made mozzarella for.” The second person you’re talking about is “a local restaurant owner”, so I don’t think that’s necessarily what people got hung up on.

      1. Tea*

        Oh my gosh, yeah, then the restaurant owner definitely seals the fact that the store could have performed the business for the farmer in the first place. I guess I got confused by the comments haha

    2. Jessie the First (or second)*

      I don’t see any confusion about the farmer who gets the mozz from the side business vs the customer who came in to buy some and got siphoned off to Jess – the comments I read recognize those are two separate people. I see lots of confusion about how in the world this side business works, why just one customer, does the store sell bulk mozz itself (or any mozz), what makes the deal with the farmer a “side business” instead of just a different arrangement the store has, etc.

      I don’t think it’s a given that Jess can’t be trusted anymore not to solicit clients from the store. If the OP was as vague about the boundaries of this to Jess as she was to us, I can see how Jess could be confused. And the conversation she had with Jess after about selling to only the farmer is a weird directive – or at least, it might be, depending on how this whole arrangement works. It might be that Jess is not trustworthy and knows she’s stepping on toes and stealing business. Or it might be that the store doesn’t do bulk orders so she thought she was free to offer her own bulk services (in which case it wouldn’t be odd that she’d balk at OP’s command not to expand, because she wasn’t competing with the store by doing this). I would love more details from the OP to understand how this is all set up! It is hard to give advice with the vagueness we have about it all here.

      1. Tea*

        I actually think it’s basic common sense that Jessica shouldn’t have solicited the restaurant owner. Even with the blurred boundaries, is Jessica dumb? Like it’s a definite ethical no-no. The only way Jessica could get ‘confused’ is basically if, and this isn’t said in the letter, it’s just an assumption, her basic attitude is, “well, you (the OP) technically took potential business away from the store, so why can’t I take business from the store?” which essentially would be her acknowledging that they’re both complicit in doing this. And that isn’t really confusion so much as pointing out hypocrisy. That’s like what I imagined when the OP said Jessica argued with her-I can’t really imagine what else Jessica could be arguing against? Without that particular point, she’s just arguing for stealing from the store and I don’t see how anyone couldn’t understand that.

        I think anyone would know if a customer is about to buy something from a business and you as someone who is supposed to be an employee and repping the business says,”don’t buy it from here, I’ll do it for you and you can pay me directly,” that’s just a bad thing to do. Not to mention, in the letter, she suggested the guy buy from her and not the store, but why would he? He’s standing there in the store. Wouldn’t it be more of a hassle for him to buy from Jessica than order to pick up or even be able to pick up right then and there, the 30 balls from the store he is literally standing in? So this “suggestion” could have been something like, “you should buy it from instead, I sell for cheaper,” or something like that, and that’s an even more active solicitation. Like there has to be an incentive for the guy to buy from her and not the store.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I think anyone would know if a customer is about to buy something from a business and you as someone who is supposed to be an employee and repping the business says,”don’t buy it from here, I’ll do it for you and you can pay me directly,” hat’s just a bad thing to do

          That’s what I’m having issues with. Obviously the post isn’t as clear as it could be, but if Jess did this, it’s completely inappropriate, and the OP shouldn’t have had to warn her not to do it ahead of time. This is some pretty basic ethics here.

          1. Tea*

            Exactly-like obviously OP was playing a little fast and loose with how the business runs and her side-gig, etc. and was not thinking comprehensively about giving that gig to another person, but in general, someone who doesn’t immediately see how ‘this is not good business ethics’-convincing their job’s clientele to use them instead during works hours, on work premises, let alone at all, even after the boss corrects them, I do not know how they’re going to learn that lesson unless there’s some sort of repercussion. OP is clearly learning some business lessons right now also. There’s a lot to unpack-not just about side hustles and non-competes and etc. but also about hiring friends/family, etc. “She’s my daughter’s friends!” “I’ve known her since she was 8!” Like that’s uncomfortable but it has nothing to do with making money.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          “I think anyone would know if a customer is about to buy something from a business…”
          What I’m saying is that it isn’t clear whether this is something the store does/can do (does it do large orders of custom mozz? — OP is mad, so seems yes, but then if it does, why the side-business at all, so seems no?). If it doesn’t do it, it’s easier to see how Jess could be confused about what she can and should do. Not that she is in the clear either way, but her behavior is either egregious and possibly fireable, or it’s worth another, clearer conversation with firm rules explained about the interaction between the “side business” and the store.

          The OP seems to be hesitant to lay down firm rules and do something because this is her daughter’s friend – which leads me to think she may generally not have been the best boundary-setting boss, or the most direct speaker, to Jess. So it just doesn’t seem incredible to think Jess could be working under a misunderstanding of the scope and rules of this quasi-business that she maybe owns or maybe doesn’t.

          Or sure, it could be a situation where Jess must have known that the potential order was something the store could do, in which case, she was trying to steal a customer. I don’t know -presumably OP does, and can think about what applies here.

          1. Tea*

            I think the restaurant owner coming into the shop to buy the 30 balls signals that yeah, they do probably do mass orders. Even at a normal grocery, like ShopRite or Whole Foods, where they make their own mozz, you’ll see like greater than 30 balls out for sale. The letter kind of skirts the fact that the side business actually infringes on the store.

            OP, at one point, did both make the mozz for the store then she make the mozz for the farmer. A store with more than one employee would be able to better provide mass production cheese than one person and it seems as though she’s always had at least one other person helping her at the store. But she is somehow able to do the farmer’s order on her own and she taught her daughter and she did it on her own, and now Jessica is doing it on her own. So obviously it’s not that tall of an order-the store easily could have taken the business.

            But as for the customer-he obviously came into the store to buy mozzarella and instead of selling him the store’s mozzarella or taking the order for the store, Jessica told him to by from her privately. That’s just stealing.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Basically, I am assuming the OP set up the side-business ethically, and was not herself stealing the store’s business – which means there is commercial demand for fresh mozz that the store can’t or won’t handle. If so, then Jess may not be a super villain. She may just be confused about where the line is between business the store can’t handle and will handle.

        1. Tea*

          I think that with family businesses, lines blur easily, where you think it’s all in the family, who cares. I had to point out to my boss’s son the other day that even if you “borrow” money from the register at a business you own, it’s still considered embezzlement and illegal. And he’s a grown man. I don’t think the mozz side gig is even a real business, just something she’s doing. We have sufficient enough evidence that the store can provide the service. She was probably just like I can just make the cheese myself and sell it on my own, just like Jessica ended up doing.

    3. CM*

      This reads like a bar exam essay!

      I think the upshot is, it’s reasonable to set guidelines like, “don’t take business away from the store” and “don’t use store facilities for your side hustle.” It’s unreasonable to think the OP can limit what Jessica does on her own time and with her own resources.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        Don’t be rude to commenters who would rather give long, thorough explanations over
        “Just fire her” or “You were wrong”

    4. Cassie the First*

      My confusion was why the OP had a side business if she owns the store too – why would you need to have a side gig for doing the same thing that you do for the store? Unless you were doing the side gig under the table, maybe.

      Now I see that the store is a family-owned store and not solely owned by the OP. I’d suspect that the side business is/was unknown to the family as a whole (the owners, aside from the OP if she is part-owner) and it was a way for the OP to make extra money. If Jess starts taking on more and more side-business customers, it’ll eat away at the farm-store customers and would start impacting the family-owned store. And then it would become A THING because the employee is siphoning away customers from the store (whereas that one farmer was just no big deal). So my question is – does the family-owned store know about the side business and are they okay with it? If the answer is no, or no they wouldn’t be okay with it – maybe that’s why Jess thinks it’s fine to solicit customers for herself since it’s all a big no-no anyway. She didn’t set up the side business arrangement with the farmer, so what’s the big deal?

      I think it would be better for the store if they took back the side business even if they wouldn’t normally do these orders (bulk orders, for example). It can be the store’s special arrangement with the farmer, but a service that is not normally offered to customers. Then there wouldn’t be any issues about competition between the store and the person(s) who are making the mozzarella.

  35. Ali G*

    How about doing what Alison suggests, but then also frame it as a temp to perm hire. I am a temp contractor for a small NP right now (so they aren’t even paying my income and payroll taxes – I will have to do that when I file next year) – so it’s pretty cheap for them. You could bring someone on as a temp for say, 6 months, and showcase what you can accomplish. Make it clear with your boss if you execute at the expected level, you can make the position permanent. Good luck!
    PS – if you are in Northern VA I am available :)

  36. Lady Phoenix*

    Ok with further clarification, this is what I have for OP3:
    1) OP’s store makes their own Mozarella to sell to local customers and restaurants
    2) OP has a deal with a local farmer (perhaps one that provides them with milk, is a longtime cuatomer, is a friend of the family, etc.). Thus that farmer gets a special cheese deal that is between the farmer and OP, which does happen with local stores.
    3) OP taught Jess how to make cheese.
    4) Jess thought she could sell her own cheese in the store, which is absolutely not true.

    So yeah, OP #3 needs to make clear:
    1) Jess can not her own cheese in store
    2) Jess can not sell her cheese to the STORE’S customers.
    3) Jess can only use the store’s supplies to make cheese to the farmer. If she wants to build her own cliental, she has to provide her own ingredients and her own facilities.

    So yes, give Jess those guidelines and have it in writing with both parties having a copy. That way, if she complains again about not getting it or losing the agreement, OP 3 can have written documentation as proof otherwise.

    I think the porblem is that the OP gave a sorr of business/responsibility to someone and didn’t feel the need to make it official because they were family/friends… and the friend has proven to either not get or that she is not to be trusted with this business.

    So OP needs to make thos official and that will prove whether Jess is responsible or not to handle this arrangement.

  37. AnonymousInfinity*

    OP #5 – my office asks candidates who are flying in to make their own flight arrangements, which includes covering the flight up front, with reimbursement from us once we have the purchase receipt. We’ve found it’s inefficient and often silly for an admin to spend hours of back-and-forth ironing out all the flight arrangements, details, check-ins, etc, just so we can get the flight paid for directly on our end. It’s much easier for the candidate to book their own travel (they know their schedule; they know their geographic area; they know their airports; they know their preferences), which means that the candidate pays up front. We usually have reimbursement for the tickets to them before they leave home for their interview. IMO, if you don’t trust a company to make good on the reimbursement, why do you want to work for them?

    1. Elle Kay*

      This exactly!
      Plus, we find that serious candidates often fly in a few days early or stay a couple extra days afterwards so they can explore the area. While we cover flight costs for interview-ees any way, we don’t cover those extra couple of days in a hotel which can make easier reimbursement easier, instead of 2 hotel reservations.

  38. AKchic*

    LW4, I feel for you. I have a “chronic” pain condition too (boy, I love how it’s classified as “chronic”, when really it’s “constant” or “never ending”). I also work full time, have kids (only one isn’t a teenager or adult yet), and volunteer work.
    There are days that I don’t want to get out of bed. There are days I *don’t* get out of bed. I completely understand your hesitation to disclose your diagnoses, your struggles, and even your pain fluctuations to coworkers because you not only want to seem unreliable, but you don’t want to have “The Looks”. You and I know those Looks. The Looks of pity, unwanted compassion, all tinged with slight thoughts of “are they faking?” and well-meaning wannabe informercial advice or worse “have you heard about essential oils” sales pitches. Nobody wants to find out their coworker has a snake oil sales side hustle when you’re the target.

    YMMV, but Alison was right. If you feel like you aren’t doing your best, you can easily say “hey, I’m having an off day” and just leave it at that. If you’re physically slower and it’s visible, play off a “oh, I pulled a muscle playing with the dog” (or moving boxes while cleaning the closet, or whatever).
    I would disclose to HR or a trusted supervisor so if there are complaints, they are aware, or if for some reason you *do* need to take time off, they know what is going on.

    The majority of my bosses have been wonderful about my issues. I only had one who was very much working against me, but that was for a multitude of reasons.

  39. Delphine*

    Why wasn’t producing mozzarella for the farmer considered poaching a customer from the main business? Seems like Jess was trying to expand on something her boss was already practicing. She was wrong, but I don’t think you can just up and fire a person, like people are suggesting, for doing precisely what you did, but with a different customer…you’ve got to set the boundary first.

  40. Not a Morning Person*

    TL;DR – Re: Mozzarella Maker – It’s not clear, but perhaps the mozzarella for the farmer was before the mozzarella-making took off and OP was keeping the farmer as a customer under that prior arrangement. When OP’s mozzarella making skills and capability increased, then OP was able to add mozzarella as a regular product of the store, but kept her prior arrangement with the farmer as a favor to him/her for being the first customer while she was learning and growing that product. In that case, the story makes a little more sense in that the family friend should not be soliciting mozzarella customers from the store’s regular mozzarella customers and under-cutting her employer/family-friend, but could market in other ways, just not to current store customers. OP can’t really prevent her protege from selling outside the store, but she should explain that it is unethical to solicit from current store customers whether or not they have ever purchased mozzarella before. I’d love to hear more detail from the OP for this letter.

  41. Curious Cat*

    #1 – If the CEO is unwilling to bring on an assistant for you as a full-time employee, would they maybe be willing to consider you bringing on an intern? You could offer semester-long internships (probably for credit) & recruit seniors from a local university.

    1. AnonymousInfinity*

      In my experience, the downside with semester-long interns is, even with a high flyer, you will still put so much into training, teaching, supervising, and finding work for them that they’re an addition to your workload and stressload. You have 16-weeks max with an intern, not including all their breaks and time off for Finals; that’s right about when a regular employee working full-time begins to truly settle in and get comfortable. By the time an intern hits that point, they’re done, and you’re looking for a brand new intern for the next semester. Rinse, repeat. It is EXHAUSTING to keep rehiring and retraining the same position over and over and over. Undergrad interns are great for developing new talent and giving back to the profession – but they’re not a replacement for hiring a regular employee when a position or unit has outgrown its workforce.

      Instead of hiring another regular employee to help lighten my workload, my former boss gifted me with semester-long interns to help me out. Supervising the intern (who was great!) was just more work, and I ended up working later on days the intern was in the office to make up for the time I spent with them. I was looking to leave anyway, but that internship program was the proverbial last straw for me. My boss hired two people to replace me, and, six months later, hired a third. But thanks for the intern.

      1. Curious Cat*

        Oh good points, I wasn’t even thinking about all the work that goes into just training the intern & then having to do it all again and again each semester as the interns leave. If OP is already stressed under their current work load, adding the more work of an intern definitely won’t help. I hope the OP can get their full-time assistant!

  42. Tea*

    The mozzarella letter excites me in part because I make mozz at home for fun and I love fresh mozz.

    I was once at a vendor fair at a condo community near my job and we were there representing our business and the woman who was running it was providing complimentary mozz-based hor d’oeurves on plates-her dad, an older Italian-American man named Sal was in the kitchen making big balls of the stuff all day. I told him I loved it and he said, “I’m at Superfoods every Wednesday and Friday! You should come in and buy some from us, I make it fresh for customers every morning and afternoon!” So this guy was repping his part-time job instead of running a side-hustle, which is cute and almost the total opposite of letter #3.

  43. Dzhymm*

    OP#2: I get the feeling that someone along the way realized “Hey, these employees who no longer have to pay for parking are effectively getting a pay raise! How can we claw that back?”

    1. Ann O’Nemity*

      Yeah I can imagine some twisted justifications happening with this one. “How can we afford this higher rent? Well, our employees are used to paying for parking, that’s $6k we can collect.” Ignoring the fact that they’re essentially making employees subsidize business costs.

      I work for an employer who charges us for parking. People haaate it, even though it’s in a downtown area and some other nearby employers don’t offer free parking.

  44. Manager Mary*

    OP 2, I’m sorry if I missed this in the responses. Is there anything to stop you from saying “I don’t need a parking plan anymore,” no longer paying the $50 parking fee, and then just… continuing to drive? Admittedly I did not read all of the 300+ comments that preceded mine, but it doesn’t sound like you need a permit or anything?

    1. Eliza*

      OP has mentioned that it’s a small workplace with only 10 employees, so it’d be hard to lie about that and fly under the radar – the moment somebody recognized their car in the parking lot, they’d be busted.

      1. Manager Mary*

        But busted for what? Parking for free in a free lot? OP isn’t lying by saying they don’t need a parking plan anymore. Why on earth would you need a parking plan for a building that offers free parking?

  45. buttercup*

    #4 – dealing with pain: I’m currently dealing with a lengthy health issue that has been going on for the past three months. It’s actually just starting to subside, but after it had been an issue for an entire month and a half, I eventually let my manager know that I was having a long lasting problem. This was to provide some context around my frequent doctor’s appointments and sick days and less-than-usual energy at work. I didn’t want her to suspect I was being lazy/disengaged and just skipping work for no reason. Fortunately, my manager is an understanding person, and has been very flexible about my hours, working remotely, and days off as long as I meet my deadlines. Hopefully, you can clue your manager in on what’s going on and they can be flexible enough to accommodate your illness until you feel better.

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