updates: the website delusions of grandeur, the pushy gym trainer, and more

Here are four updates from people who had their letters answered here in the past.

1. My boss has delusions of grandeur about our website — do I have to burst his bubble?

I sat down with my boss today and taking into consideration many of your reader’s comments I suggested moving primarily to Twitter while writing original content about his life experiences for the website. He loved the idea and we’re pivoting in this new direction right away. It turns out he had written down thoughts about his life and career already so we have a lot of original content ready to go. I’m working with him on a workflow for the articles he likes to post where he will write a sentence or two of commentary/analysis and I then post them to Twitter. Thank you for your advice and to all your readers for their comments.

2. My company is making us do mandatory sessions with a pushy, rude gym trainer

I’m the letter-writer from February of last year whose director had mandatory group “wellness trainings” (I was inconsistent in my wording in the letter, but these were the words he used).

I didn’t end up saying anything to my director about my reservations as regards the wellness activities at the beginning of last year, because I was too uncertain how it would be received– the director seemed pleased with how things were going, which made me question his judgment enough that I didn’t want to chance it. This ended up being a good call. Over a year later, I can barely remember what happened in those training sessions– I do remember that at one point, after being subjected to some scientifically-dubious touching technique, I was thanked for being “a good sport” because my boss could tell I was not enthusiastic– but I can recount many, many further examples of bad judgment and boundary crossing on the part of the director. I absolutely would have been penalized for speaking up, and nothing would have changed overall. Director definitely knew employees were not receiving the trainer well; he just didn’t care.

After a long string of bewildering events and emotional abuse, capped off with an incident in which the director made a “joke” about slitting one of my coworker’s throats (the worst thing about this is how normal it seemed after working here a year), I started looking for new work, and am happy to report I found a better job immediately. Today was my last day, and in two weeks I start my new job.

Director took my resignation better than I anticipated (office lore has it he’s been known to swing wildly between the silent treatment and screaming matches with those who quit), but word got back to me that he told several of my coworkers he will not miss me, and when he was told there was a cookie party in the breakroom for me during my last week, he told the messenger he didn’t want to come. Never seeing him again is the #1 and only reason I am leaving this job, and I’m thrilled to do it.

Many thanks to the commenters, who provided an early dose of “you are not crazy and this is not normal” in a place where it was easy to acclimate to bad management, and to you, for running a blog that helped me nurture a private understanding of what a functional workplace would be like, and contrast it with this one. Here’s hoping my relationship with my next boss is profoundly boring, based on a mutual respect and desire to do good work.

3. I’m doing business travel with a coworker who doesn’t want to expense anything (#2 at the link)

I did speak to Luke while submitting the cost estimates with the phrasing you suggested, adding that Rey seemed very concerned with keeping the costs low. Thankfully, Luke had been in the same city we were travelling to just a few months before and thought my cost estimates were very reasonable. I also believe he spoke privately to Rey as she made no further comments during the weeks leading up to the trip.

During the trip, she sheepishly went along with my recommendations and was on the same flights/booked the same hotel (separate rooms). The only odd thing was that she brought a larger checked bag than I thought would be needed for a week-long trip, but I shrugged it off as a preference, since I might be in the minority and preferred just traveling with a carryon whenever possible. I was later very surprised to find out that her bag was so large because she packed canned food and instant noodles to eat for lunch/dinner! The only time she went with me to a restaurant was during a networking event. During the first two days we shared a cab to and from the conference area but afterwards we went separately as she wanted to use public transportation. She would also take bread rolls/yogurt cups from the hotel breakfast buffet with her to eat later in the day, which made me a little uncomfortable, so I would usually have breakfast later and take a cab.

I met with a lot of my coworkers from other countries during the conference, and I feel we work a lot better now since we’ve developed more personal relationships. Aside from the ‘formal’ networking event, we also occasionally went out for lunch and dinner as a group, especially since a few of us shared the same hotel. Rey opted not to go to these— I think a few of our colleagues thought this was a little odd and stand-offish, but we did also have people in the group who needed to catch up on work after the conference hours or needed to go home early to call their families.

Throughout all of this, I’m happy to say that Rey didn’t try to pressure me into taking the same money-saving steps, but I was very relieved when the trip ended! I later found out that she didn’t submit an expense report for meals and transportation and returned nearly all of her travel allowance. (All of my expenses were approved with no issues.) Rey eventually moved out of our team and into a new role earlier this month.

4. Recruiter was annoyed when I applied to a job directly (#4 at the link)

I ended up getting the job! The recruiter was involved through the rest of the process and was super helpful. At the end of my next interview, I said, “Oh, by the way, I applied through the website but I actually was first contacted about the job by [recruiter name]. I wouldn’t have heard about the job if not for her, so just wanted to let you know.” He just said “Yup, we’re aware,” or something like that. Everything else went smoothly, so it seemed like we caught it early enough to not impact my candidacy or the recruiter’s fee. So everything worked out, and now I know how to properly work with recruiters going forward!

{ 189 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    #1 & #4 – awesome updates!!!

    #2 & #3 – weird updates… but yay on your new jobs :)

    1. MidwestAdmin*

      My thoughts exactly. I just want to know why Rey feels the need to give the company back all of her travel allowance… there has to be a story there!

        1. Snark*

          Maybe the instructor was a grumpy old man who didn’t really want to teach the class at all? Or maybe she was just grossed out by the blue milk?

          1. I prefer tea*

            I thought it was because she felt unwanted by the grounds crew. They were always complaining.

        2. Not Rebee*

          Maybe she thought she had managed to reach out and grasp how things worked and will later get a slap on the wrist to prove to her she’s being ridiculous…

      1. Celeste*

        I went on a week long training class with people employed in state and federal jobs from all over the country. The expenses were either prepaid or reimbursable by the federal government. One man was adamant that he was not going to use the reimbursement limits, and far from it. He packed in his own food, he chose to stay at a much cheaper hotel than they booked us at, and he did not bring a suitcase. The class was in Alburquerque, and some of the days were very hot. I don’t know if he even showered, but at one point he remarked that he was wearing the same clothes every day because it was important to him not to incur a baggage charge. Reader, he stunk. He alluded to this, and was not sorry in the least, because he thought this was the best and that more people should do as he did. I think that with some people, it’s about rules they make in their head to address their anxious feelings. He got into a bit of a match with one of the presenters because he wanted to prove he had a better understanding of an issue. For all of his intelligence and experience, and however good he may have been at his job, he made one terrible impression.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          With government, it can get interesting because of per diem. My husband gets a set amount when he travels regardless of how much he uses. He will sometimes use less to bank the difference.

          1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

            I don’t miss doing travel claims for my boss. We had 4 separate per diems, breakfast, lunch and dinner and a smaller amount for discretionary items. Everything had to have a receipt to prove that you didn’t exceed the maximum for any item. Then there was the receipts for transportation, cab, train etc. It was a true PITA doing those especially when he would gave me a big envelope filled with receipts. The finished report was passed on to the travel office who could kick it back for any petty reason, ie the taxi receipt didn’t say year. Govt. knew how to make travel painful.

      2. Luna*

        So weird! I don’t get Rey at all. Who wants to lug a suitcase full of canned goods to another country? And survive off of instant noodles for an entire week? Rey definitely has some issues going on.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, as someone who, because of food allergies, has to travel with my own food, I would LOVE to not have to do that. I can’t imagine doing that voluntarily. It is such a hassle!

          1. Sally*

            Me, too! Now that I think about it, the last couple of times I traveled were the first times I didn’t get sick while away from home. Yay! I guess I’ve finally figured it out.

        2. Michelle*

          I feel like there’s a really simple explanation for Rey’s behaviour, and that is simply that she didn’t have the money to lay out in advance (to be reimbursed at a later date) for a work trip. Hotels, meals and cabs add up and not everyone has enough disposable income for costs like that. Given that she ended up having to travel and paying for a hotel, she had to save in other ways – on travel and food.

          This is obvious to me as I’ve just started a new role & I’m due to take a trip in a couple of weeks before my first paycheck – flights are paid in advance but I have to cover the hotel & other travel costs myself, to be paid back weeks later… This will have to come out of my already tight monthly budget and will definitely leave me short of money for household bills etc. I’m quite anxious about it and how it will be perceived if I say I can’t pay for those things – but it’s that or borrow from someone else.

          Not everyone has a spare couple of hundred bucks lying around to be used for work travel – many, many people live paycheck to paycheck and barely manage at that.

          1. Someone else*

            They gave her cash up front. LW said Rey returned it at the end of the trip. She didn’t need to use any of her own money and it doesn’t sound like it was a reimbursement situation. The expense reports were just to validate what was spent after the fact.

          2. Mad Baggins*

            I just went on a work trip overseas and was told before I went to cover flight, hotel, etc. and I would be paid back. Then as I filled out my expense report there was a field where I could input what upfront money I had been given for the trip. Apparently my company /does/ front the money sometimes! So please ask about this, I think it’s fairly common that non-C-suite people can’t afford the $400-a-night hotels and $20 breakfast buffets that sometimes accompany business travel, so I don’t think you’ll be judged for it (especially before your first paycheck)!

          3. MCMonkeyBean*

            It said in the original letter–Rey felt guilty about the money the company was spending for her to go on this trip when she wasn’t planning on staying in the job. Nothing to do with her own finances. She was just trying to minimize costs to minimize her guilt. Which I can totally understand on some level, but it sounds like she went about it in an odd way. I mean–don’t cabs cost the same regardless of how many people are in them?? So taking public transportation instead of sharing a cab with the OP seems very silly to me.

      3. Kate*

        Yeah, as much as I agreed that Rey was putting the OP in a difficult position, I didn’t quite understand why the company was forcing her to attend the training when she made it so clear that she didn’t want to go or remain a member of their team. The penny pinching seemed to be motivated by guilt, but if they were forcing her to go against her protests, I don’t see why she should feel guilty about her expenses.

        1. WellRed*

          I don’t see where Rey made it clear she didn’t want to go. The OP told Rey to tell the manager, but it doesn’t sound like she ever did.

          1. Anna*

            Exactly this. Rey was worried about telling Luke because he had spent some favor points getting it approved, but she also felt guilty that she was going when she wasn’t going to stay at the position. She kind of set herself up for weirdness. She could have either told him and let him tell her it was okay, or she could have sucked it up as “just one of those things that happens” and enjoyed the experience. Instead she went with the strangest and most uncomfortable option.

      4. Minerva*

        Either Rey feels really bad she’s going on this training because it will be a “waste” of the company’s money, or Rey is just extremely frugal. Perhaps a little of both.

        1. Angela Ziegler*

          Well, there’s a big difference between ‘frugal’ and downright cheap. Unfortunately it sounds like Rey is the latter- the idea of being frugal is to save money in some areas in order to enjoy it in others. A company overseas trip, where simple conveniences (such as a cab that saves walking outside in the cold) are simple and don’t cost much. And the cost of food, incidentals, and other small purchases are nothing compared to the cost of going on the trip in the first place- but it’s not her budget to worry about, and saving that sliver of money on meals won’t affect her upcoming position anyway. Sounds like some other issues going on.

          1. hmm what?*

            That’s pretty unfair to say. I would recommend reading the previous letter to get a sense of why Rey did what she did. The LW mentioned that Rey wouldn’t stay in her position and felt incredibly guilty for going on the trip, not only that, she ended up not using the expense on anything and paid for everything out of pocket.

            If you analyze the LW words about Rey such as “meekly”, “feeling guilty”, “doesn’t want to go” etc. along with her trying to save money because she paid for everything herself, she probably isn’t cheap. Along with the chance that she may not even be paid all that well.

            Of course, this is all conjecture on my part but still, I don’t think she’s being cheap at all.

            1. Someone else*

              It sounded to me like Rey thought because she was going to leave soon the company might go after her for any expenses after the fact, so she was trying to keep them low to prevent future damage. I don’t think the company would’ve, that wouldn’t be reasonable, but that seemed like a probably source of where this was coming from.

          2. Specialk9*

            That line between frugal and cheap will be debated till the end of time. Several of the things she did were recommended by Amy Dacyczyn in the Tightwad Gazette, eg take extras of the free hotel breakfast for eating for lunch. (And they were hotly debated)

      5. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Reading this, I wondered if Rey had worked at an employer where unspoken rules and passive-aggressive enforcement were the main methods of enforcing policies. I’m sure most of you know what I mean. Much like employers that have sick leave but penalize employees who have a legitimate need to use all or even any of it, some employers have very unreasonable expectations, and some people in those types of abusive relationships come to see that as normal.

        It’s a bit of a stretch, but I can’t think of a more reasonable explanation for Rey’s behavior.

        1. Nita*

          Or it might be something in their personal life. Let’s say someone grows up in a situation where they’re very clear that all the nice things that exist are Not For Them (maybe an abusive family, or extreme poverty, or both). And even if whoever they consider an authority figure says it’s OK to get something, it’s actually not, because they know they’re being silently judged for even wanting that thing. If that goes on long enough, it becomes really hard to shed that mindset. Salary is A-OK, because you work for it, but company perks that aren’t salary… what if you’ll be judged for taking those, or taking more of those than others, or (yikes!) taking them when you’re leaving the team and don’t intend to use them?

          I’m glad that most of the posters are completely puzzled by Rey’s behavior and cannot relate in the slightest. And more than a little disturbed that I can sort of see a possible motivation – even though it’s clearly very extreme and unhealthy.

          1. Crystal*

            This was my exact thought. I hate to play armchair psychologist but this seems like something pretty engrained and either from a previous job or childhood that “well, they say that but don’t mean it” and “don’t take things that aren’t yours” etc. You put it much better than me.

      6. Falling Diphthong*

        I was pondering financial struggles and food scarcity, but at the end she didn’t try to get reimbursed for things that would be covered. If you have the budget to have a networking meal at the deli with your colleagues, but you return to your room to eat canned tuna from your suitcase…. yeah, odd update.

    1. HumbleOnion*

      It made me sad too. I’m picturing someone burdened by a large amount of anxiety and guilt.

        1. Scotty_Smalls*

          She told OP she didn’t want to stay in her role and this didn’t want to go on the trip. It’s not clear if she told her boss this or not. But Rey did say that she didn’t want to expense anything because she would be leaving.

          Huh, I was writing this to explain why she brought the food, but now I can kinda see your point? Like what if she thought she wasn’t entitled to company money because of that’s her sense of fair?

          However, I will say that choosing public transportation might have been because of some tension with OP, because that wouldn’t save any money.

          1. Chriama*

            Public transportation would probably save money. A round trip might be $6 or $7 vs. the $12 that would be her half of a split with OP. Pinching pennies in almost a literal sense, for sure.

            1. Scotty_Smalls*

              But the company still has to pay $24 regardless of Rey spending $6 by herself. Unless even the thought that she was in the car made her feel beholden?

              1. Luna*

                I think we’re looking for logic where there is none. I’m betting Rey viewed the taxi as a scandalous waste of money and wanted no part of it (even though that meant spending more $ by taking separate transit). Some people view cheapness as a virtue or moral statement.

                1. Amber*

                  I could also understand this if she isn’t paid very well. Such as “you can’t afford to give me a small raise but you’ll ‘waste’ hundreds on unnecessary things like this costly business trip with dining out and not taking public transportation.”

            1. Ego Chamber*

              And refused to betray her principles, even for all those extra food credits.

              Wait. What are we talking about?

          1. Penny Lane*

            One would think that someone who never had enough to eat would go the other way, and would eat / stash a lot (buffets, doggie bags, etc.) when it came to food that a company was paying for.

            1. Observer*

              Not necessarily. Food anxiety hits different people differently. For instance, my two aunts both went through near starvation during the war years. One wound up being someone who would push food on people to an extreme degree and who would stock up on ridiculous amounts of canned foods – didn’t matter what, even foods she actively disliked when there were tensions in the area. Fortunately her husband was able to keep a brake on it and kept things from spiraling out of control.

              Her sister, on the other hand went in a different direction. She’d never, heaven forbid, ever want anyone to go hungry. But to her the BIGGEST compliment you could give her cooking was how “economical” a dish was and how far she was able to stretch the ingredients – with fairly predictable results. She would always bring EXACTLY enough (as defined by the least amount people were likely to want) to the table. Of course, if someone wanted more food she’d bring it out because she REALLY did not want to ever leave anyone hungry. But she just couldn’t muster breadth of spirit to just bring out lots of food and not worry about each crumb.

              1. Anna*

                This doesn’t read as food anxiety to me. It reads as excessively diligent to save money for a trip she didn’t want to take. Her anxiety seemed to be about the cost of things, not the potential scarcity.

                1. Observer*

                  Maybe. My point is that you can’t really tell from the outside what’s driving stuff like this. Sometimes similar backgrounds wind up driving very different – to the point of opposite – behavior.

            2. Kimberly*

              Both can happen. I taught at a school that had 2 groups of siblings that had both been starved by mentally ill birth parents. When I had them, they had all been safe for at least a couple of years. In both cases, the older kids were adopted while in my class. I had the younger kids, later both sets at the request of the parents.
              1. The older kids would always leave something on their school tray. They would often hide food in their backpacks/pockets. According to both families, the kids would steal food for their younger siblings. THis happened both in the abusive homes and safe homes. As they felt safer the stealing stopped. (We had to know this because we could NOT punish them for this behavior. Instead, we had to manage it by having food in our classroom they could access if needed. They never stole from other students’ lunches. )

              2. The younger ones would inhale any food they were given. One had to be seated separately from classmates at lunch because she would strike out if she thought someone was too close to her food. The adoptive parents had to put locks on cupboards and refrigerators/freezer or these kids would eat themselves sick. This made the older kids feel insecure in their access to food for a while. They were old enough that they could understand this was to protect the littles after a bit)

              BTW – I had students who came from even more horrific situations. Our school was in the feeder pattern for the Domestic Violence shelter, we 2 generation family of some of the most fantastic foster parents you have ever met, and in 17 years I had 8 adoptive families.

          2. Clare*

            I really don’t think this has anything to do with food anxiety or insecurity, and I do not understand why some people are jumping to such a dark conclusion. This has nothing to do with food, Rey also would not take the taxis and wanted to sleep on the LW’s couch for a week instead of getting her own hotel room.

            1. Specialk9*

              Well there’s *something* pathological there. This behavior is so far out of the range of normal that people are guessing.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                But there’s no need for guessing because it was all laid out clearly in the original letter. The company was paying for training for a job that Rey didn’t intend to stay at. She just felt bad about the company paying for everything on this trip that she didn’t feel like she should be on in the first place so was trying to minimize what she expensed. She brought food to eat in her hotel room so she wouldn’t have to expense meals. That’s really all there is to it.

                1. Noobtastic*

                  Rey also said she was used to sleeping on a couch, so there’s a reasonable probability that she has some issues about food/shelter/money anxiety, either from scarcity, or because she’s been repeatedly told that she does not deserve to have the same as others.

        2. MarsJenkar*

          I do hope she’s doing better. Even with reading the original letter, this behavior doesn’t strike me as emotionally healthy.

    2. Ama*

      Yeah, I really hope that she’s just more comfortable eating her own food and is using the cost-saving as an excuse, because I’d hate to think she was making herself miserable out of some misguided idea that lower expense reports will make her look like a better employee.

      I had some initial hesitation about certain business expenses when I first started traveling for work but my current manager has been a great model in this regard — we’re in nonprofit so we do have to be mindful of how much we’re spending but she’s helped me find the line between “mindful of expenses” and “making myself unnecessarily miserable to save $20 bucks.”

      1. animaniactoo*

        I had to go back to the original letter to get more detail on this. Apparently Rey had already elected not to continue with the team, and this trip consisted of training that she would not be able to use in her new/old role that she was transferring to. However, it was non-refundable and there was no one else available to go, so she went. But it looks like she was so concerned with the fact that her presence was “unnecessary” that she felt impelled to limit any further expenses accrued on her behalf.

        1. Antilles*

          I’m pretty sure you’re right about the motivation, though Rey is still off-base here – if the company really thought she was unnecessary, they’d just eat the cost of the non-refundable deposit* and save all of the other expenses. The fact that they decided they’d send her anyways, means that they decided that they’d rather give her the training (questionably useful as it may be) and that’s that.
          At least that’s what I would think if I was in Rey’s position and I wouldn’t feel the slightest bit guilty following exactly the policy written in the handbook/travel guidelines.
          *Especially since such things are often more ‘refundable’ than the written policy states. You typically won’t get a full refund, but you can usually get at least something – partial refund, discount voucher for the next time, some freebies for the person who actually does attend, etc.

          1. Luna*

            Exactly, and especially since the company approved all expenses in advance there was no reason for Rey to be unsure of what she could spend or guilty about using pre-approved money.

          2. Amber T*

            The manager also spent a lot of political capital getting the trip approved, so to him, it still made business sense to eat the cost and send two people, rather than waste the goodwill he used and send two people, even if it wasn’t beneficial to one person, since from afar, having one person back out at the last minute might seem like the training itself isn’t worth it.

        2. Observer*

          You are right, I think. But she was so off base, and the way she went about it was so extreme, that I do have to wonder if there is something deeper going on.

          I don’t want to go further than that because armchair diagnosing based on what we know is really, really unhelpful.

      2. KR*

        Oh this! And it’s so important as a manager to communicate expectations around expensing. My manager just received to told me to not stress so much about buying cute/asthetically pleasing office supplies or organization stuff or fun things that will make my job easier/make me happier at work. I hope her new manager/Dept is forthcoming about their expectations around expensing.

    3. Anon Today*

      It made me sad as well. I pack some food when i travel, but that is primarily because when I’m on the road I often need to start work before any place is open to buy food. So it’s out of convenience, not out of guilt.

      1. Nea*

        I was reading this thread and wondering if I was the only person who travels with food. In my case, it’s a combination of being on a special diet that can be hard to accommodate on the road and yes, saving money. I don’t eat 100% out of my suitcase, but it’s really amazing what you can do with a little rice cooker and TSA-approvable foods… and I have a lot more peace knowing that no matter what I find at the other end of the trip, I won’t go hungry.

        1. Dragoning*

          I pack food on trips! (I got to a lot of conventions, and food there is both terrible and expensive, so I’d rather pack some sandwiches and granola bars…)

          But if the company is footing the bill? Have fun with that, employer.

        2. Nita*

          I travel with food too! It’s only because I get hungry much faster than everyone I know, so either I bring eats with me, or I spend a lot of miserable time “sightseeing” while all I can think of is, when can I sit down and eat?

          1. SoSo*

            Ugh, same. I have to eat on a pretty regular schedule or else I get hangry pretty fast. It pays to be prepared!

        3. Crystal*

          I totally pack snacks and food but I think we’re all pretty sure that is not what was going on here.

      2. Amber T*

        I pack snacks, but that’s mostly because I get hangry if food’s not available, and I’d rather not get into that situation!

      3. Parcae*

        A couple of years ago, my organization changed our travel policies to allow employees to expense grocery purchases while traveling. It’s really helpful for a wide variety of reasons– food restrictions, lack of restaurants, time constraints, preference for home cooking– and I suspect it saves us money. I like restaurants, and even I’ve been known to pick up some simple breakfast foods and a six-pack of soda at the beginning of the week, saving my org $$ on McMuffins and vending machines.

      4. periwinkle*

        Yeah, I always pack some sort of food, but that’s more for convenience than frugality. I’m one of those people who uses Google Maps to scout out the area around the hotel; if there’s not a close-by deli or convenience store, I’ll pack more substantial food than I would for a more central location. Otherwise, I just bring snacks like trail mix.

        I still have memories of being stuck at an airport hotel, working all day and through the evenings so I couldn’t really go anywhere, there was nothing nearby anyway – and discovering that the only food worse than the hotel restaurant was the hotel room service. That’s when I started the advance scouting via Google.

        When I first started traveling for work, I tried to be frugal and spend as absolutely little as possible so no one would be concerned about me being lavish with company funds. My second trip was with a colleague who merrily ordered steak and a glass of wine. “Stay below the per diem and you’re fine.” I wonder if Rey was trying to be fiscally responsible to stay under the radar (despite assurances that it was okay to spend), and just went about it all wrong.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I know someone who dragged a suitcase full of cheese and crackers to China because she didn’t want to try the local food. In my opinion, she missed a huge part of the travel experience and I did not look on her kindly for it, but ultimately it wasn’t my problem. Sometimes people are afraid of what they don’t know, or it’s a control issue, or they don’t like to branch out.

      1. jo*

        Not really related to the original post, but I’m so sympathetic to this comment! I am baffled by my inlaws when traveling with them because in most places outside of Asia, they have no interest in the local cuisine. For example, they’d take an extended vacation in France and never want to eat at French restaurants. They’d always look for the nearest Chinese restaurant, or cook at their lodgings, even if all they could find to cook was instant noodles. I LOVE Asian food and look forward to my MIL’s cooking when I visit them in their home country, and I’ve learned to cook many dishes for my spouse, but the idea of not eating French food in France (or Mexican in SoCal, or Cajun in New Orleans) makes me very sad! I know it can’t be easy for them being picky eaters–but it’s also kind of painful to watch.

        1. MsSolo*

          I wonder what they made of the Chinese restaurants in France – European versions of Asian cuisine are wildly different to actual Asian food. It’s so heavily influenced by what was available over land routes, and then what ingredients from countries you’d colonised could be mixed together, that it’s basically a whole separate set of cuisines. The Chinese food you get in France is different to the Chinese food you get in the UK, and it’s hard to imagine either really overlaps with what you actually get in China.

          (but to be fair, the same applies to European versions of other European cuisine – my hairdresser once told me how disappointed she was when she went to Italy that the food wasn’t like Italian food in the UK, because all the pizzas had thin bases and the pastas didn’t have the right sauces)

      2. Totally Minnie*

        I took crackers with me to China, because my digestive system doesn’t respond well to a lot of change and I wasn’t certain whether I’d be able to eat *only* the local cuisine. But when my body was in good working order, I ate as much of the local food as I could.

      3. SoSo*

        “she missed a huge part of the travel experience and I did not look on her kindly for it”

        Why? Perhaps the local cuisine is part of the travel experience for YOU, but it sounds like it definitely isn’t for her. Trying new foods doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to like them, and she knows her tastes better than anyone else would. And to look down on her for something that doesn’t really effect you is a little strange. As an adult picky eater, I once packed three boxes of protein bars for a 10 day trip overseas so I always had something to eat just in case we got stuck at a restaurant that didn’t have any options for me. The trip wasn’t diminished in any way- I enjoyed every part of it and was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, actually- and it would have been an absolutely horrible experience for me to be stuck eating foods I hate because someone doesn’t understand my tastes and thinks they know “better.”

        1. pleaset*

          I think it’s sad that you can’t experience and perhaps even enjoy a wider variety of newer foods. And yes, I look down on people who can’t or won’t do that – it’s an ability they don’t have or choose not to have.

          But you’re happy, so that’s what really matters. That’s the bottom line.

          “I can understand the fear when it’s a matter of asphyxiating, not so much when it’s just picky eating.”
          Well said.

            1. Kate 2*

              Picky eating can be unlearned. Barring something like autism, people choose to be picky eaters. And sometimes someone who used to eat and enjoy many kinds of foods will revert to picky eating to fit in. I used to be a picky eater, so did many people. But some grow out of it and some never do. As my parents always said, you’ll never know if you don’t like it if you don’t try it. Even the same ingredient, vegetable, or dish or whatever, can go from ew to yum depending on how it is prepared.

              I have a relative who used to enjoy Mexican, Chinese, etc, but married a nice guy whose idea of exotic is putting Worcestershire sauce instead of ketchup on his meatloaf. She hasn’t developed any allergies or anything like that, but she looks down on, and claims to be grossed out by things she happily ate for years, calling them “weird”, etc. That’s how her husband’s family is, and I guess she wants to fit in so badly that even when they aren’t present she still won’t eat “weird foreign food”.

              1. Specialk9*

                Why do you care? The Food Police are just as unwelcome, intrusive, and unkind about spice and ethnic origin of food as they are about calories and fat.

              2. Dr*

                People can’t unlearn celiac disease, IBD, allergies, lactose intolerance, and even though technically they can, they shouldn’t be judged for not choosing to unlearn religious or moral food restrictions.

                “You never know if you don’t try it”
                You can know you probably won’t react well in a country where you can’t say “allergy” in their language fluently and dietary restrictions won’t necessarily be respected at specific restaurants.

                Have some empathy.

                1. No name this time around...*

                  +1 As someone with severe food restrictions, I struggle with food when eating out. I could be super careful with my food choices with every meal or I could risk being sidelined,laid up in bed writhing in pain for hours to days, hoping the bathrooms are unoccupied when I needed them.

                  And rather than share my bathroom nightmares and the pain from food so severe that I have been transferred to larger hospitals by ambulance twice, I might play it off as being a picky eater.

                  So, I find it an odd choice to look your nose down if someone doesn’t bother to share possible medical reasons why they made the food choices they make with you.

            2. Specialk9*

              Yeah that’s not cool. Lots of us know that unknown food causes us pain or leaves us chained to the toilet. Who would want to do that after spending thousands of precious dollars to travel somewhere exciting?

              I look down on people who look down on people just for having different bodies or interests.

          1. SebbyGrrl*

            Seems like life/humanity would be so much easier and KINDER if we could let others have their preferences, believe them when the express ‘this works for me’ no matter what we think/feel/believe about those preferences and stop thinking any preference SHOULD be THE WAY IT SHOULD BE.

            The way it should be is that works for you? Great! This works for me. Let’s both do that.

        2. Parcae*

          I’m a very adventurous eater whose favorite activity when traveling is trying new foods. My best friend is a very picky eater who, like you, has been known to pack her own food on trips. It makes traveling together a little tricky, but we’re getting the hang of it. The key (from my POV) is to believe my friend when she says she’s happy. Ten days of protein bars sounds like a nightmare to me, but it suits my friend– she doesn’t have to worry about going hungry or dragging me to places I don’t want to eat and, crucially, she gets to avoid the constant interrogations about her food preferences. That stuff is exhausting no matter what you like to eat.

          1. SoSo*

            In my defense, the protein bars were really just a fall back/emergency food in case I had no other options or found myself hungry between the scheduled tours (and not an “I’m going to eat this for every meal” item)… But yeah, even I got a little sick of them, but it was better than going hungry. It came in very handy during our early mornings when the breakfast spread was limited and I was surprised by more than one person in the trip group asking if they could have one for similar reasons… But kudos to you for being patient with your friend! The interrogations and constant “oh I’m sure you’d like it if you just tried it” by people who don’t know you that well gets old pretty fast.

            1. Parcae*

              Oh, yes, it makes sense that the protein bars are the backup! With my friend, I’m getting better at figuring out which places will make us both happy (and online menus are a GIFT), but anyone with food restrictions still needs to account for the “Surprise! All eight of us are going to lunch and there’s nothing on the menu you can eat!!” situation.

              The sad thing about the letter is that there’s no indication that Rey’s approach to food was driven by anything but a desire to not spend company money, so she was likely suffering for no reason at all.

          2. SebbyGrrl*

            Yes, this,

            Well said.

            LOL, and once again I could have read a few comments down and saw another version of what I thought needed to be said ;)

        3. lulu*

          Of course local food is a huge part of the travel experience. By not tasting local food you’re not experiencing as much as the local culture, of which food is a big part, as someone who does. But it sounds like it’s definitely the right choice for you to enjoy yourself during a trip, so no one should tell you to change how you travel.

      4. Oxford Coma*

        I have a colleague who was terrified of a work trip to China because he’s allergic to seafood, so he packed about six thousand granola bars. I can understand the fear when it’s a matter of asphyxiating, not so much when it’s just picky eating.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          If I were allergic, I’d be super cautious as well.

          I’m not especially picky, but I have to watch spiciness thanks to reflux issues. There are only a couple of things I can’t eat–and just a few I really don’t want to, like balut. (Oh hell nah!) I got much more adventurous as I grew older. At 18, I barely ate anything on my first trip to the UK–by the third, I was eating haggis and black pudding and loving it.

          1. Not Australian*

            You didn’t stay at my house, did you? I once accommodated a couple of American Star Trek fans who wouldn’t eat anything but instant mashed potato and pressed apricots…

          2. TurquoiseCow*

            I’m generally okay with lots of “exotic” foods – I love sushi, for example – but I have NO tolerance for spice. Usually, I can find at least one thing on the menu that I’m okay with, although I tend to opt out of Indian or Thai food.

        2. Genny*

          When I travel, I generally go vegetarian because I only eat white meat chicken and I don’t have the language skills to communicate that in a lot of countries I go to. I love traveling in south Asia because the prevalence of Hinduism means there are a lot of delicious vegetarian options. I thought the same would be true with Buddhism in SE Asia. I figured out I was wrong when the dish I ordered from the vegetarian section contained fish sauce. Thankfully I’m not allergic, but I definitely see where your allergic coworker is coming from.

        3. smoke tree*

          I think it would definitely be scary to manage an allergy in a country where you don’t speak the language and/or where certain allergies aren’t as common so restaurants might not be used to accommodating them. I can also sympathize with anyone who has a lot of anxiety around unfamiliar foods (not so much for people who just think non-North American food is “weird” though).

        4. Dr*

          But how will you know who has allergies, or IBD, or something else, vs just “being a picky eater”? Sure, they might not asphyxiate, but I don’t think most people would be comfortable telling their coworker they get uncontrollable diarrhea if they eat XYZ.

          1. DArcy*

            You don’t, which is why I wouldn’t ever *say* anything judgmental, regardless of my opinion of picky eaters. On the other hand, I would push back very aggressively against anyone who explicitly expressed a negative opinion of the “weird” foreign foods I eat.

      5. Genny*

        I just don’t have particularly sophisticated taste, I’m rather picky, and my enjoyment of food maxes out at very low levels. I’d rather spend my money on museums, tours, and operas/ballets/plays/symphonies/sporting events where I get a much higher ROI than on restaurants where the ROI is much lower. I’m sure it looks weird to some people, but it works for me. Why waste time judging other people for doing what works for them?

        1. SoSo*

          This! Some people don’t get that “I like this type of thing” does not equal “everyone else should also like this type of thing.” I’m also really shocked that people go so far as to openly judge/look down upon and say its “sad.” Do they also judge and pity all the people who don’t enjoy their same hobbies? Why does it matter what other people do or do not choose to eat? I genuinely don’t get it.

          1. Specialk9*

            Super tasters can find food to be pretty overwhelming. I have a friend who is a super taster who only eats a narrow band of heartland American food, and another friend who is a super taster who delights in cooking (her own cooking) so that the flavors are perfect.

      6. essEss*

        That person was lucky not to get into serious trouble. You can’t take cheese into China in your luggage! https://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/not-taken.htm
        You should not carry food in your luggage to a foreign country unless you’ve verified that what you’re bringing is allowed.

        1. Julia*

          I doubt that they’d have gotten into serious trouble, though. I live in Japan and have brought cheese several times – as a solo female traveller who speaks the language, I look way too harmless to check thouroughly, and I eat the cheese myself, so no one’s harmed.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Failing to declare properly at customs will can mean a multi-thousand dollar fine and/or jail time. At the least, the infraction gets listed on the file that comes up when you scan your passport and you’ll deal with extra scrutiny next time you go through customs (and the next time, and the next, etc). Yeah, it probably won’t be noticed, but I wouldn’t want to deal with any of the penalties if it was.

            Afaik, depending on the type of cheese, Japan doesn’t care. They’re pretty chill with most processed foods, but fresh fruit/veg/meats are right out and I heard something about cheese with visible mold being a no-go.

      7. Molly's Reach*

        I gotta say, of all the reasons to not look kindly at a person, this is a terrible one. Why is it so damn hard for one adult to be OK with what another adult chooses to put in their bellies??? Who cares if a person (for whatever reason) does not eat Chinese food or sushi or spicy foods? What the hell does it even matter? Seriously, I am baffled beyond belief by this train of thought.

        We recently had a birthday celebration at work and the conversation turned to cheesecake for some reason. I don’t care for cheesecake and everyone was all ‘OMG I can’t believe it’ and ‘how can you not’ and that kind of thing. I told them I have no problem at all not liking cheesecake, it’s other people that can’t deal with it. And that’s their issue, not mine.

        Seriously, food police, get over yourselves.

        1. Indie*

          Agreed. I’m an adventurous eater, but we all dislike *something* so we should understand it would be a nightmare for our options to be either 1) eat disliked food or 2) learn to love disliked food. I mean, people are allowed to dislike whatever they want and if I was going to learn to love tripe, it would be for my own reasons, not to impress some disapproving person.

    5. BadWolf*

      Maybe by seeing the OP travel “normally” she might feel more relaxed next time?

      It sounds like perhaps Rey had some terrible previous experience and hasn’t worked past it. Perhaps dumped at a work site where food wasn’t provided and difficult to get to (or had no transportation?). Or some insane budget times where she couldn’t expense food but had little spare cash to buy her own?

    6. Nonsenical*

      Or maybe she is food insecure. People who have grown up in poverty or have had financial issues can have this sort of problem. I am not saying that is for sure her issue, but it could be a possibility. I always look at prices, even when someone else is footing the bill!

      Even on my own birthday trip when my father was covering everything, I chose to go to a gas station rather than out to eat but I also wasn’t hungry enough to eat a full meal.

    7. WellRed*

      No reason to feel sad. Rey had other choices. She opted to go to the extreme—and tried to force someone else to help her alleviate whatever guilt she’s feeling—rather than bowing out in the first place. Good riddance!

    8. AnotherAlison*

      I don’t know. I am kind of cheap. Now, I’m not hauling noodles on a 30-hr flight, but I’ll use a discount airline (domestically!) and eat my company meal at a fast food place when I’m solo. My grandma rewashed ziplock baggies and reused bread bags. She is 92 now, collects 2 pensions, and still owns farmland that generates a lease income, but she frets about buying a $3 piece of pie because she thinks she’ll run out of money. I guess that trickled down to me. I hate when I have to rebook a flight because of work changes & incur the fee, or book late and get a $700 ticket, even though it isn’t my money.

      1. jo*

        I am also cheap because of Depression-era habits passed down from my 95-year-old grandmother! I rewash my ziplock baggies, cut open nearly-empty lotion dispensers to scoop out the lotion at the bottom, and eat my wife’s restaurant leftovers if she forgets about them and they’re close to going bad.

        But I don’t suffer from debilitating guilt if leftovers end up going to waste, or if the baggie goes in the trash because it’s just too greasy to get clean. I say, “dangit, I wish I could have prevented that!” and move on with my day. My guess is Rey’s guilt has something to do with being heavily criticized or punished as a child over any “waste” or minor “extravagance.” Or she was taught that it’s *never* okay to prioritize one’s time/energy/convenience over the imperative to conserve material resources. Discomfort with spending money is one thing, but tying yourself in knots to avoid spending your employer’s reasonable travel budget is another.

        1. I Love Thrawn*

          I often cut open the lotion dispensers too. There is still often a lot of product left in there.

          1. Windchime*

            If it’s a pump bottle, the cap of a 20 oz plastic pop container will usually fit on top in place of the pump. Then you can turn the bottle upside down. I usually get several more weeks worth of lotion using this method.

        2. Blue Anne*

          My mom picked this up from her Depression-era mom. I hated it. Damp, reused ziplocs. ugh.

          I now buy Ziploc bags in bulk. :P

          1. TurquoiseCow*

            My mom reuses ziploc bags and washes them. As a kid, we had the fold-over plastic bags instead of ziploc, because they were significantly cheaper. I reuse ziplocs if they’ve just held a sandwich wrapped in a paper towel, but I don’t wash them. I hate the texture.

      2. Observer*

        There comes a point, though, where this kind of frugality tips over into cheapness or dysfunction. If you’re doing these things but they are not majorly stressing you out, leading you to make bad health choices (eg eating the cheaper food that doesn’t agree with you or eating spoiled food that could give you food poisoning0 or having a negative effect on your work or relationships, then this is frugality that works for you. If any of the things I mentioned are happening, then that’s a different story.

        What the OP describes sounds like it’s in the dysfunction category. Just the fact that Rey tried to pressure the OP into going along with it is a big red flag.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I definitely see that, too! We could argue about Rey; we don’t know her well enough to say if it’s dysfunctional as a pattern, or she was just particularly anxious about this trip.

          Talking about the tipping point, my mom, aunt, & I talked about my uncle, who is also extremely cheap, and they thought he would have done better professionally if he weren’t so cheap. He would wear out his khakis until the hem was frayed, and had a bad tooth that needed fixed (he had a good paying job w/ benefits). Otherwise, he was a smart, attractive, personable, 6′-4″ guy with a full head of hair even in his 60s. . .he should be CEO (kidding), but his cheapness was what he was known for. I try to keep that in mind when I’m sporting my gray roots, or wearing my favorite, well-used 3 yr old shoes.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            I still wear some clothes I bought when I was twelve. I’m 36. If they still fit and I don’t think they’re ugly, uncomfortable, or inappropriate for me… why not?

          2. Observer*

            we don’t know her well enough to say if it’s dysfunctional as a pattern, or she was just particularly anxious about this trip.

            True, but I do think it’s fair to say that *something* was off.

            I try to keep that in mind when I’m sporting my gray roots, or wearing my favorite, well-used 3 yr old shoes.

            The shoes are a perfect example – are they good quality shoes that are well worn or worn out? Do they still fit right, or are they perhaps stretched out or worn down in a way that makes them less properly supportive of your foot.

            Those are the kinds of questions I’d be asking someone who needed to evaluate whether they were being “frugal” or cheap.

    9. NW Mossy*

      I could see someone doing this if they have a very restrictive diet and just don’t trust that they can obtain food that works for them. My brother-in-law has a long list of food allergies/intolerances and it makes eating in a professional setting really difficult for him. He’s never gone as far as Rey did, but he’s definitely been out to a professional dinner and consumed nothing more than Diet Coke.

      1. But you don't have an accent...*

        I do this when I travel (granted, I’m on the road 3 weeks out of any particular 4 on the calendar). It’s not instant noodles, but I bring breakfast and stuff for dinner, and plan to eat lunch out. The main reason is that restaurant meals tend to be extremely calorie dense, and I’m trying to keep myself in a healthy weight range. While I realize that I can find something healthy on the menu, it’s disheartening having to eat with coworkers who are getting fries/pizza/pasta while you’re having grilled chicken/fish with steamed vegetables for the fourth night in a row. By eating out at lunch, I can have a little bit of the “good” stuff (and the portions are typically smaller), and still stay at a relatively healthy weight.

      2. Nikki*

        Thank you. This was my thought when reading the food portion. Sometimes people’s issues with food are beyond what is obvious. I have serve food allergies. I love to travel, but you bet I’m going to luge a suitcase of noodles halfway around the world if I’m not sure I can eat whatever available locally, or if I’m unsure I can explain my allergies in the native language. I have totally been the person at a fancy dinner with coworkers only having water or a soda. People think I’m weird, but I figure dying at the dinner table would be weirder.

      3. Observer*

        If it were JUST the food, I’d think you are probably right. But the rest of it doesn’t compute.

      4. TurquoiseCow*

        My husband went out to a sushi restaurant (for a work dinner) with a guy who was kind of terrified of any sort of ethnic food. I think he ate a plain bowl of white rice and almost nothing else. They offered to go elsewhere, and they offered to let him try a few other things, but he ate only the white rice.

    10. BRR*

      It made me sad as well. My hunch is Rey might not be accustomed to business expenses.

    11. The Cleaner*

      If it makes you feel any better (?), I’m a cynical person and my interpretation was that Rey was being sanctimonious by holding herself to these austerity measures, possibly to demonstrate that she was more fiscally responsible than her teammates and team leader, or as a passive-aggressive protest against having to go at all, or some combination. I have had coworkers who believed that following a rule or guideline to an extreme, even unreasonable, degree reflected well on them — while meanwhile back in reality it mostly made them seem dramatic and extra if it was even noticed in the first place.

      Part of why I like to believe this is because your interpretation of Rey makes me sad. You are kind-hearted!

      1. Luna*

        Yeah I don’t get food insecurity or poverty here at all. Some people are just cheap to the extreme. It makes them feel better than others to not spend the money, even if it isn’t their own and even if most people would view the expense as perfectly reasonable. I don’t feel sorry for Rey, she is going around making things more difficult for the other people around her so that she can follow her own made-up rules.

        1. Alienor*

          I don’t see it either. I lived in varying degrees of poverty from about age 12 until I was 18 and got my first regular job, and all it did was make me determined not to eat plain rice/stale bread/cheap noodles ever again unless I had to. It’s been quite a few years since I experienced real food insecurity, and sometimes I still go grocery shopping and privately revel in the fact that I can afford to buy pretty much whatever I want. Rey just sounds like she’s putting on a performance of Frugality Theater to me–“look how I’m saving the company money!”

      2. smoke tree*

        I did get the sense Rey was trying to make a statement here, and/or latched onto the idea of extreme cost-saving at some point and was too stubborn to let it go even at the point where it was obvious that it didn’t make any sense. If you are really desperate to save money, something like sharing a room or taking a cheap flight makes a kind of sense, even if it makes you miserable. But when you’re at the point of stealing rolls from the hotel or refusing to share a cab with your coworker, you’re obviously beyond the bounds of logic.

    12. Goya de la Mancha*

      Wow, I read it differently then a lot of people! I didn’t pick up on food insecurity AT ALL.

      I think Rey was bringing food to stem the business expenses. She wasn’t planning to turn in her expenses to be paid, so she decided just to feed herself cheaply instead of going to a restaurant every meal, which is not something she would have done usually.

  2. Abe Froman*

    What. The. Heck. with the travel expenses? That makes zero sense to me. Guilt schmilt, a person’s gotta eat!

    1. Katniss*

      I wonder if she used to work with the Guac Accountant and had the fear of god instilled in her.

      1. eplawyer*

        that was my thought until I reread the original letter. It’s pretty clear she felt guilty about the company spending money on a training she will never use what she learns. The tickets and training were already nonrefundable. There was no else who could be slotted in her place. This was her misguided way of trying to reduce the cost to the company. She just went way overboard.

  3. Emi.*

    an incident in which the director made a “joke” about slitting one of my coworker’s throats


    1. Specialk9*

      I know, right?! The boss joked about slitting a subordinate’s throat. What the literal hell.

  4. Amber T*

    #2 – WHAT THE WHAT.

    Glad you’re getting out of there, because your boss was a nut and unreasonable, and it sounds like nothing you could have done would have fixed it. Jeez.

  5. Lady Phoenix*

    LW1: Happy ending I guess?

    LW2: Glad you are outta there. Ex Boss is blubbing beyond awful.

    Lw3: Oof. That is just maddening. How was she able to get all the food across?

    LW 4: Yay! :)

    1. Nea*

      How was she able to get all the food across?

      Only produce and meats – basically, “raw food” are banned internationally. Anything in a box, jar, bottle, or package is good to go. After all, it’s not just going over – plenty of travelers want to bring back edible souvenirs.

      1. Dove*

        More specifically, anything in a box, jar, bottle, or package that is *cooked* or *pasteurized* (or otherwise has had any bacteria on the food killed) is good to go. I could have pretty easily bought raw honey on my last vacation, but it would have been confiscated at customs since there’s no guarantee that it wouldn’t contain strange bacteria.

        You also have to declare it, too – otherwise it looks like you’re trying to dodge customs. (Which is where most of the people on shows about customs agents and border patrol seem to run into trouble – they don’t declare the goods they’re bringing, or they don’t declare *all* of it.)

  6. voyager1*

    Hey AAM,

    Any chance you can reach out to the wheelchair letter from earlier this year and see if there is an update?

  7. BadWolf*

    “when he was told there was a cookie party in the breakroom for me during my last week, he told the messenger he didn’t want to come”

    I briefly thought he took away your cookie party and thought it was hilariously petty. “No cookies for you!1!” (although I love cookies, so would be slightly bummed). Thankfully I reread and saw that he just refused to come.

    1. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

      Ha, for a second I had read it like the manager allowed the party to happen but didn’t want the OP to attend their own party!

      “…he didn’t want ME to come”

      Glad that wasn’t the case.

      1. Hope*

        I love the idea of a cookie party. I’d love that way more than the traditional cake/etc.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I used to work someplace that threw potlucks for people when they left voluntarily. Like a full-on going away party with balloons and everything. Yes, I got one when I left.

    2. CM*

      Me too — I first read it (quickly) as not wanting the OP to know about her own cookie party! Now THAT would be petty.

      This line really struck me:
      “Many thanks to the commenters, who provided an early dose of “you are not crazy and this is not normal” in a place where it was easy to acclimate to bad management, and to you, for running a blog that helped me nurture a private understanding of what a functional workplace would be like, and contrast it with this one.”

      This perfectly describes the value of advice columns! (Some of the value, anyway — helping people develop empathy is another great function of advice columns.)

      1. an infinite number of monkeys*

        Funny that so many of us read this line wrong at first glance – my first reading was that the boss threw a cookie party to celebrate OP’s departure, and OP was not invited!

        Maybe it’s because the overall workplace was so wildly off. They should’ve thrown a banana crackers party.

        1. Specialk9*

          Here is your banana.
          Here are your crackers.
          No bananas or crackers for you!
          Here’s your banana…

      1. Antilles*

        My thoughts exactly.
        A guy who’s being a total jerk isn’t showing up AND it leaves more cookies for me? I’m not seeing the downside here.

      2. Marthooh*

        Yes, this goes beyond passive-aggressive into masochistic-aggressive, if that’s a thing.

  8. jo*

    Oh my goodness, OP3. Rey’s behavior would have annoyed the heckfire out of me, too, but I also can’t help feeling bad for her because the behavior indicates she is truly struggling with something deeper. Of course we can’t know what’s going on, but I’d wonder if maybe in her youth she was heavily criticized or guilt-tripped for doing anything “wasteful” or “mooching.” Lugging around a heavy suitcase full of canned goods during international travel (always a fatiguing enterprise even when you pack light), just to avoid spending money your employer has duly budgeted for you, is pretty extreme behavior. I’m glad the OP was able to travel in a more relaxing fashion while also being compassionate and letting Rey do Rey. I would have been tempted to insist she cut it out, or to ask Luke to insist.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      How unusual. I’m definitely glad OP wasn’t really affected by Rey’s odd behavior and was able to enjoy the trip anyways :)

      I also would have been tempted to ask her “what the heck?! Knock it out!” but agree it was probably best just to stay out of it. Well done, OP!

  9. AKchic*

    LW 2 – I am so glad you are out of there. I wish that the company could reign that terrible manager in and do something about him, but it is, thankfully, no longer your problem.
    Head high and keep moving forward. On to bigger and better!

  10. Not An Admin*

    I’m glad everything worked out for LW 4!

    This letter ended up being really helpful for me, as soon after it was published, I was myself contacted by a recruiter that wasn’t an employee of the company the position was with, for the first time. Having just read about this situation, I felt very comfortable navigating the process, and I hope they work with other businesses in my area and could lead to more opportunities (since I didn’t get that job).

  11. Myrin*

    OP #1, can I just say that I’m loving your positive attitude? This already shone through in your comments on the original letter and you just seem like such a generous and kind person – it made me weirdly excited to see how you found something that not only works well for your boss but that he’s actually good at (I remember your mentioning in the comments that Twitter’s format fits his style very well). What a great outcome!

    1. Specialk9*

      Yeah, they seem like a decent person, and how exciting that the employer was immediately like, cool, I just happen to have all that already written over here (waves arms dramatically), LET’S DO THIS!!

    2. Bostonian*

      Yeah, this was a good update. I feel like the things she suggested as an alternative fits more in line with what the boss is actually capable of producing.

  12. PM-NYC*

    For #3, is it possible she couldn’t afford to pay for food and cabs out of her own pocket, even though it would be reimbursed by the company later? I’m wondering if this had something to do with her not having financial room for the upfront costs. (I’m assuming they paid out of pocket & were reimbursed later vs. putting things on a company card.)

    1. animaniactoo*

      It says she returned nearly all of her travel allowance, so it looks like she was given up-front money but expected to submit an expense report for it.

      I think it really just had to do with her feeling like she didn’t belong on that trip since she wasn’t staying with the team and they all knew it and the training couldn’t be applied to anything else she would be doing for the company on another team.

    2. Solidus Pilcrow*

      In the comments to the original letter, the OP clarified that the company paid for the flight and hotel on a corporate account and fronted the employees an allowance for incidentals (any excess returned to the company afterwards). So it wasn’t an issue of finances. This co-worker just has a weird sense of guilt and decided to wear a hair shirt all on her own.

  13. caryatis*

    Pocketing extra food from the hotel breakfast is totally expected, by the way. Much like taking the extra shampoo..just cost of doing business for the hotel.

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      Yeah, I was kind of wondering how many people only took what they ate in the breakfast area? Any time I’ve stayed in a hotel, I’ve never actually ate down in the breakfast area. I’m usually grabbing a handful of stuff to take up to my room and finish getting ready – or maybe grab a piece of fruit for a snack later.

      1. Luna*

        I eat in the breakfast area but then might take a piece of fruit or a roll with me for later. But I take one, I don’t stuff my purse full of it or anything. It sounds like Rey was taking more than would be typically acceptable. The hotel still might not care, but if other conference attendees were staying at the same hotel I can understand why the LW would feel uncomfortable with them seeing Rey’s behavior.

      2. Lindsay J*

        This is really food to know, actually.

        I usually grab a yogurt to take to work with me in case I can’t get away from my desk. But I usually do it furtively and feel odd about doing it.

        1. misspiggy*

          I do the same, cos I need to eat little and often or I get ill. I’m always furtive about it in case other guests disapprove!

    2. Half-Caf Latte*

      Okay thanks! I was reading and being like wait! The bowl of apples and oranges, fruit that is perfect for toting in a bag, I can’t take that!?! I’ve been wrong this whole time???

      1. Specialk9*

        It’s fairly controversial, some people think it’s fine, others think it’s stealing. There has been a lot of ink and electrons spilled and dispersed overb the topic.

        Personally I usually say something to whomever from the hotel is there, even though I know they won’t care. ‘Hey I can grab one of these to go, right?

    3. Genny*

      I used to try to hide it. Now I don’t bother. The hotel staff don’t care and neither do I.

    4. Delta Delta*

      I have eaten a lot of apples out of big fruit bowls set out in hotel lobbies. Sometimes I take 2; 1 for now and 1 for later. I once stayed in a hotel for a few nights and noticed that they actually went through a surprisingly large quantity of apples.

  14. Morag*

    #1 is great – congratulations on the improved website/media plan! A good reminder for me that sometimes when it feels like you’re stuck, all it takes is some reframing, listening, and discussion to get to a better result.

  15. ZSD*

    I’m glad there are four mostly positive updates!

    Is anyone else particularly skeeved out by the “touching technique” referenced in #2?

      1. Observer*


        I bet you were. They are going to get sued. If you’ve cut all ties with them, you may not hear about, but rest assured, it WILL happen.

  16. Observer*

    #2 – That is truly insane! Good for you, that you had the sense to find a source of information that could help you calibrate your responses and perceptions.

    To be clear: Your ex-boss is both nuts and a deeply nasty person. And the company stinks because it’s allowing someone like this to stay in a position of power. The only good thing here is that if you are in the US, one of these days someone WILL either sic the appropriate government agency on them, or sue. And they WILL lose, big time.

    I am SO glad that you’ve gotten a new job.

    Here’s hoping my relationship with my next boss is profoundly boring,

    Hear, Hear! I always say that boring can be very, very good!

  17. Cruella DaBoss*

    Why does it matter that Rey didn’t want to expense any food or take a taxi? That is none of our business. These are all choices that she made. No need to speculate the reasoning behind them.

  18. Shawn*

    Regarding OP #2….not to mention the fact that this guy is also obviously a terrible personal trainer. All good trainers know that you must work individually with each client due to potential health issues and the whole “not one size fits all” when it comes to exercise. I’d have threatened all of them with legal action but, I’m glad you have moved on!

  19. Shawn*

    OP #3….I once worked at a company that suddenly wanted me to take some work-related trips. During that time in my life, I had no credit cards due to some credit issues left over from a nasty divorce. Taking work trips (to be later reimbursed if this is the same case here) were out of the question because it would leave me short on money until the company reimbursed me. Can you be certain that there isn’t a similar issue with your coworker? Maybe she just doesn’t want to share. Either way, I feel that this is personal and isn’t yours to question at the end of the day. Did you ever ask her why and give her a chance to explain?

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