the bad acid deal, the abusive boyfriend, and the threatening coworker

A reader writes:

I’m in a bit of a moral dilemma here and was hoping you and the commenters could help out.

I’ve been working at my current restaurant job for about a year now. Unlike most restaurants I’ve worked at, there have been very few HR problems — everyone got along with each other pretty well. About two months ago, we hired two new people, Jake and Diana. They were both very obviously “personalities,” but they worked hard and fit in well enough, and it’s hard to staff a restaurant without a few people who may possibly be addicted to drugs, or have sketchy connections, or poor judgement.

About a month ago, Jake and Diana somehow struck up a deal where Jake would give Diana a lot of LSD and Diana would give Jake an expensive bike (which was almost definitely stolen). Diana (along with another coworker, Lisa) is accusing Jake of selling her bad acid, likely some research chemical. She demanded a refund, but Jake hedged and generally avoided the question for a few weeks.

Some quick backstory. Diana is in an abusive relationship. This is something of an open secret at the restaurant; she has directly called it abusive before, made reference to being hit and generally painted it as a very bad situation. The boyfriend also has a tendency to show up at the restaurant unannounced, demanding to know why she isn’t home yet (during her standard, scheduled hours). It is bad news, but all attempts at intervention have failed.

All this is relevant because, shockingly (shockingly!), this bad drug deal has now escalated to threats of violence. There is now a text message record of Diana threatening to sic her boyfriend on Jake, followed by Jake asking directly if that was a threat and Diana replying “Yes.” Following this, the bike was apparently returned, but now Jake is demanding $120 from Diana as payment for the bad acid. I know all of this because Diana is openly talking about it in the kitchen in front of me and one other employee. Jake is apparently also discussing the situation with other employees.

So…what do I do here? I’m not super comfortable working with someone who threatens their coworkers (even if I have no intention to sell acid, good or bad, to anyone anytime soon), but if I report this situation, either a) one or both of them will be fired or b) the owner will sweep it under the rug because she can’t afford to lose a third of her kitchen staff. Also, Diana is living paycheck to paycheck and facing eviction over her boyfriend’s continued threats against their roommates, so there’s a real possibility that her life takes a bad turn if she gets fired.

This … is all a lot of drama.

And I’m not sure you need to get involved with it.

If this were happening in an office, it would be so wildly out of sync with what’s generally considered okay at work that I’d say yeah, you should tell your manager what’s happening.

I want to give you the same advice here, but the reality is that restaurants often tolerate a lot more of this particular kind of thing (both the drug use and the general drama). Not all of them, of course, and if your sense is that your manager would be horrified that this is happening at work, that’s a point in favor of discreetly tipping her off.

But if your main concern is less that this all happened in the first place and more that Diana and Jake keep bringing it into work by talking about it all the time, another option is to just ask them to knock it off. You could tell them both that you don’t want to get in the middle and that it doesn’t belong at work. You also could point out that if they keep bringing it to work, at some point it’s going to get back to your manager and they could lose their jobs. For good measure, you could add, “And I don’t want to be held responsible for knowing about it and not saying anything, so please don’t talk about it around me.”

It’s up to them whether to heed that warning or not (and really, it’s not a warning they should even need in the first place) — and it’s not your responsibility to save them from their own decisions. You can’t be more invested in saving their jobs than they are. And if you do decide you want to talk to your manager about it, that’s the framework you should have in your head.

But ultimately, if you’re conflicted about whether to take it to your manager or not, it’s okay to decide that this isn’t yours to solve.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 311 comments… read them below }

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Ah, the humiliation of being told that your bad acid drama isn’t interesting to your coworkers…

          1. AnnaBananna*


            My high school days in the late 90’s were positively FILLED with acid. Last time I imbibed was Beastie Boys in the ‘oughts. Good times.

            1. Bunny*

              Dude, pot and acid were where it was AT after cocaine started to sputter out in the early to mid 80s. Now opioids are getting to expensive so the cycle is circling back to meth, pot, and acid. Hail Satan.

        1. janine*

          My (limited, past) experience tells me people still do acid, a lot, but they (accidentally) do research chemicals more.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Psychedelics are alive and well. Some people use them more responsibly than others, of course. I don’t want to get us off-topic here, but as an example of responsible use, Michael Pollan has a respected new book out about his own experimentation and some of the amazing research being done on them:

          1. Heat's Kitchen*

            This was a fantastic read! I’ve never done it and don’t intend do, but this did show me there is a responsible way to do it.

      1. Snark*

        Absolutely 100% of this. This is the kind of cockamamie, amateur hour nonsense that only people who decided to get into dealing drugs because they did a lot of them and wanted to get high on their own supply could possibly dream up, and it is the kind of nonsense that goes from amateur hour to bleeding in a street at a weird hour in the space of about five minutes. All sane persons, and even all professional, businessman-type drug dealers, should run screaming from getting involved with this on any level, because it is a house of cards that is also on fire. Diana deserves our sympathy and I hope she has the strength to get out of this soon and not dead or beaten to a pulp, but she’s also in over her head far enough that the pro lifeguards should go in after her.

        1. Attractive Nuisance*

          Some people never learn that you can’t run a small business just because you love the product. Jake’s business plan sounds terrible.

    2. OhGee*

      Yup, stay the heck out of this. You don’t see anything, you don’t hear anything, you don’t know anything.

    3. BethRA*

      Unfortunately, LW has this in their life – because Jack and Diane are spewing it all over their workplace. The drug drama is one thing, but Abusive Boyfriend is showing up on-site and there have been threats of violence. So I don’t know how LW avoids the mess?

      1. fposte*

        The Cluelessness Shield works pretty well even against that. Odds are that either BF won’t beat up Jake or if he does, it’s going to happen offsite. No need to get invested in it. If it happens at work you can call 911, but other than that this is just morons gonna moron.

        As Alison says, I’d be more fussed if this were in an office. But I don’t think you can work in restaurants without either riding the drama llama or developing a good Cluelessness Shield.

        1. BethRA*

          Having worked a food service job where we wound up on lockdown of sorts (was on a college campus) because someone was trying to get at one of my coworkers and “cap him,” I am perhaps a little less convinced of the Cluelessness Shield’s ability to protect anyone. Again, Violent Boyfriend had already made a habit of showing up at the place. OP has to deal with the situation one way or the other, so they get to decide for themselves, but if it were me? I’m looking for another job or saying something.

          1. Mad Baggins*

            This would be my take on it. I’m a goody-two-shoes so I’d report it, threats of siccing a violent boyfriend on a coworker crosses a line for me from stupid to dangerous.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        The boyfriend can be banned from the premises. Everything else can be ignored until it causes a problem.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          So he can be banned – and he can keep coming anyway. I suppose at that point management can call the cops.
          If I was OP, I’d make sure I’m never around when the boyfriend is. If he’s out front, I’m in back, or left on my break.
          Also if OP uses the wording, “one day this will get back to management” with J&D, they might take it as a threat that she will tell management. Depends on their personalities and relationship with OP, but I’d think about this before doing it.

  1. Roscoe*

    I think the main reason I’d suggest getting the manager is involved is that the boyfriend is already coming to the restaurant while she is at work, unnanounced. If he is doing that to her, what is to stop him from attacking Jake while he is working? I’d say if there wasn’t an abusive, unstable 3rd party involved, I would think staying out would be fine. But this seems to be a potentially dangerous situation for everyone involved, including other co-workers who may cover for Jake and try to diffuse it

    1. Kes*

      I agree that if OP does say something to the manager, this is particularly the part I’d bring up – that Diana has threatened to have her abusive boyfriend attack Jack, and that OP is concerned since he has previously shown up at the restaurant and been aggressive.

    2. WellRed*

      If he’s showing up at the restaurant, I don’t understand how the mgr doesn’t know, but I think he should be made aware before something happens.

    3. Interviewer*

      Generally speaking, Jake & Diana have made their own choices – both in life and at work. The choices you’ve described can jeopardize their employment. The owner isn’t doing her job if she continues to employ people that threaten their coworkers, customers, etc. If it were me, I’d give her a chance to do her job, instead of just assuming what she will or won’t do.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        Unless I’m reading your comment wrong, you seem to be arguing that OP would be wrong to go talk to the boss since that could jeopardize Jake and Diana’s employment–but you also say that Jake and Diana have made their own choices and that the owner shouldn’t be employing them anymore. So why should OP be taking their continued employment into consideration at all?

        Also, talking to the boss about this wouldn’t be assuming anything about what she will or won’t do. How do you know she’s even aware of this going on? It’s possible that she is and is choosing not to address it, but if she doesn’t actually know then she doesn’t really have much chance to do her job. OP could end up in a situation where she’s thinking “Well, Boss didn’t do/say anything about it so I guess Boss is cool with it” when in reality Boss would not be cool with it if somebody had actually told her. Or she finds out that Boss already knows and just doesn’t care, but I still don’t think that bringing it up to her isn’t a case of not giving her a chance to do her job.

        Or OP could decide it’s not her circus and never talk to the boss at all.

        1. NotMyMonkeys*

          I read it as Interviewer is actually encouraging OP to go to her manager IN SPITE OF the risk to Jack and Diane’s employment

    4. EddieSherbert*

      See, for the me the boyfriend already showing up at work and being hostile is a reason *not* to get involved… What if he came after OP? (even though ideally no one would ever know OP reported them)

    5. Slartibartfast*

      Realistically, what can the manager do that will increase OP’s safety? Even if there was a restraining order, the cops can’t do anything until the boyfriend has committed an actual act of violence. Better to stay out of sight, out of mind and GTFO if at all possible.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        No, OP said this job was good before Jake and Diane came. If the manager deals with this and gets rid of them, the job could be good again. I think it’s worth letting the manage know if OP can do it without putting herself at risk from the boyfriend.
        If the manager doesn’t handle it, that would be the time to get out.

      2. Pomona Sprout*

        Don’t restraining orders usually say something along the lines of “Person A is not to come win X distance of Person B” — and then if Person A violates that, the cops CAN get involved? I’m not a lawyer, but that’s how I thought those things were supposed to work. Can anyone confirm or refute this?

        1. MassMatt*

          That is the way restraining orders are typically written, which doesn’t mean that they WORK.

          Restraining orders help with some people, sane people that realize they have a lot to lose: The threat of jail time can be a deterrent. For crazy people, domestic abusers, people on drugs? Not so much.

          While the situation seems over-the-top, and I can get the humorous comments, on a serious note this situation sounds extremely dangerous. The advice to not get involved doesn’t go far enough, IMO the letter writer should get out of this crazy workplace altogether. This goes beyond getting dragged into other people’s drama, people are most likely heading towards violence, jail, or both. What if drugs are found on the premises? Who is going to take the fall? Could the restaurant get shut down? How easy would it be to get another job with the notorious crazy restaurant on your resume? What if crazy boyfriend carries out his threats? Getting tied up as a witness in court could be the least of your problems. This isn’t going to end well! Get out!

        2. JB*

          Business owners have comprehensive rights to eject unwelcome customers from their property. The un-invited customer can be prosecuted for Trespassing if they do not leave the premises. A restraining order is not necessary. The law very heavily favors the business owner on this point.

    1. Kes*

      I definitely thought this was going to be several questions… nope. That’s a lot of drama for one situation. I agree OP should stay out of it as much as possible.

      1. Rainy*

        I spent my early 20s working in restaurants, and this sounds pretty par for the course drama-wise for restaurant jobs.

        I am somewhat surprised it’s acid, because the drug of choice in restaurants when I was working in them was definitely coke.

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          Yep. Meth and coke where I worked. The drama level doesn’t even seem particularly bad. Sort of mid range

          1. Rainy*

            Yeah, kind of that daily background hum. I was fired from a restaurant once because periodically the manager (owner’s son in law) would over-calibrate how coked up he needed to be for the dinner rush, get really frantic, and fire someone because it made him feel calmer. We all knew it was a risk.

        2. Mia*

          I was gonna say the same thing. There was always drug drama at my restaurant jobs, but it was about coke 99% of the time.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      My first thought “Alison left out ‘updates’.” (Though I couldn’t remember a bad acid deal.)

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        That was also my first thought! My second was “… is this another short answer post?”.

    3. Bacon Pancakes*

      I thought this was going to be a series of updates and couldn’t help but think “How did I miss all of these amazing questions?!?”

  2. Bea*

    Stay out of this. They’re both dangerous morons and you will get caught in the cross hairs. Someone is likely to end up hurt with all the illegal activity swirling. Please stay safe and with as much distance between you and them as possible.

    They’re criminals. You can’t reason with them and this is so above your pay grade.

    1. Dr. Pepper*

      This. These people are stupid and crazy. Do not mess with stupid or crazy; you will get hurt. This is not your business and you should keep it that way. Or you’ll just get sucked in and wind up collateral damage when whatever is going to happen happens.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        There is a great Justified episode called The Ballad of Dewey Crowe, in which our hero deputy marshal attempts to figure out what Dewey Crowe, usually a low-level local criminal minion, is going to do next in his sudden spree of lone armed robberies. Where a smart criminal might have a clever plan you could discern, Dewey is not going to be using forms of reasoning that really make sense to most people. (It turns out he is trying to find enough money to pay off the person who stole two of his four kidneys.)

        1. Jaid_Diah*


          Not that I’m gonna start watching the show, but I’d think a dude with four kidneys would be locked up at Area 51 for research…

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Basically, someone wakes him up in a vat of ice with a small cut on his back and goes, “btw we stole both your kidneys, you have a few hours to ransom them back from us.”

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              The marshals weren’t the only ones having a hard time figuring out what Dewey might do next. The evildoers definitely didn’t see that ending coming.

        2. Meliza*

          I loved that show, and that was one of my favorite episodes. Poor Dewey couldn’t think his way out of a paper bag :(

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Oh, he’s the perfect avatar of a character who is great to enjoy in fiction, but not in real life.

      2. fposte*

        For me and maybe for the OP, there can be a cycle when it comes to dealing with drama. At first it’s just fascinating and hard to avoid hearing about, and the you kind of want to see what happens, and then you’re committed to watching the show. This is the point in the cycle where, if you can manage it, you say “Oh, I don’t want to watch this show after all” and back out, accepting that you will never know how some of this plays out and studiously paying no attention to who else sells what to whom or what the bicycles are doing.

        1. 4th Axis*

          Step 1. Bust out the popcorn (“this trailer looks promising!”)
          Step 2. Cheers and jeers (“so soapy! Living vicariously!”)
          Step 3. Novelty wears off when these people prove to be bat-crap insane (“hmm, seems like my popcorn is cold and stale…”)
          Step 4. Never admit you watched that soapy Soap to anyone. Ever. (“I don’t even like popcorn, never touched the stuff.”)

        2. Michaela Westen*

          Sometimes karma steps in and years later you just happen to run into ex-colleague who tells you all about it. I once had that happen after 8 years. Ahhhh, karma!

  3. The Tin Man*

    From that title I thought it was another multi-question post. Hoo boy was I wrong.

    Allison was right here. I also agree with her saying “Don’t bring me into it because I don’t want to get in trouble”. I think personally, not knowing more about the people involved, I’d be wary of saying “If boss finds out you may get fired” because one or both of them may construe that as a threat and that would drag OP into things further.

    1. Wintermute*


      If he DOES find out and it’s not you doing it, and you said this, then they will make assumptions. This isn’t a “jane is printing personal material on the copier” situation, there are criminals and violent people involved.

  4. Free Now (and forever)*

    I worked my way through law school as a restaurant server back in the late 70’s/early 80’s, and yes, there was more drama than when I worked in criminal court. (Including the owner who chased me around the restaurant and offered me $150 [in 1978!] if I would take out my breasts and show them to him.)

  5. Pikachu*

    Is this restaurant a chain? If so, this warrants an anonymous call to corporate. That way you’ve done what needs to be done, and it won’t come back on you.

  6. Sara*

    There is so much going on here – I’d try to stay out of it as much as possible because I feel like Diana might feel like you’re personally threatening her job if it gets back that you told the manager (and who knows what her boyfriend would do in that situation, she might be supporting them both). But I’d 100% follow Alison’s advice and tell them both to knock it off at work since you don’t want to a) get involved and b) for anyone to lose their job.

  7. Nita*

    So… if they struck up the deal at work, you’re getting into territory of drug dealing at the restaurant? I wish I could be confident that the possibly-fake LSD sales will stop with this deal, but Jake may try to find other clients right there. At the very least, the manager should know. Possibly the police also.

      1. Nita*

        Probably not everyone, yet! He still has plenty of potential customers, until a Yelp review goes up that the acid at Jake’s Stopover is no good.

    1. Rainy*

      Lol, I worked in one restaurant ever where there wasn’t some server dealing out of the kitchen, and that one was a small single-owner place with 5 employees, all of us young women, most of us students–and the owner was there every single day.

      1. Nita*

        That must be it. The ones I’ve worked at were either tiny (and the owner was also there every day), or they were full of students.

        1. SarahKay*

          Yep, me too. I worked in a small family-run restaurant, so the worst we ever got were the ongoing arguments between the owner and her 18-19 year old son about when he would get his hair cut.

      2. Zennish*

        Back in my day, the servers didn’t have anything stronger than pot to deal out of the kitchen, and they were darn glad to get it…

        1. PhylllisB*

          My teenage granddaughter just got hired at a restaurant where the owner literally fired everyone but one of the cooks for dealing/using.

          1. Lissa*

            This is how I worked my way up in those places! Just wait until people with seniority leave or get fired due to drama reasons.

          2. Nonyme*

            Local chain pizza franchise in the small town where I live recently shut down for several days for similar reasons, reportedly with a side order of embezzlement. They reopened with all new staff from the top down a week later, and with the out-of-town owner suddenly staying in town and taking much more active interest in the place.

            I always did wonder how the manager afforded that fancy car …

  8. Cupcake Cart*

    I’m concerned about the boyfriend showing up at work, especially since he’s a known hothead and abuser. LW, if I were I’d quit. I know that’s easier said than done, but unless your manager gives that guy a trespass notice or something what’s stopping him from showing up and hurting one of you?

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is where I am as well. I would be concerned about my personal safety, and not about Diana’s living situation or Jack’s drug purity issues. I think going to the owner, particularly if she’s unlikely to act, may be pointless, but I would find a way to get myself out of that situation, if at all possible. If not, head down and avoid being involved in conversations, texts, etc. related to this shitshow.

    2. Red black*

      If he’s crazy enough to get violent at a place with hot oil and pans and big knives and cleavers shit could get real

  9. WellRed*

    Diana’s life took a wrong turn several miles back. What a bunch of drama. And morons. Acid? Who even does that anymore? OP, sorry you have to work with these people.

  10. LCL*

    This makes me nostalgic for my restaurant days. The sketchy coworkers! The drugs! The sketchy drugs! And ALL the drama. All of this circus being held together by an overworked manager, who stands to lose some of his/her pay if labor costs get out of line.

  11. Secretary*

    I wouldn’t even tell them to knock it off otherwise you’re going to be getting threats too.

    I mean… is there another restaurant you’d like to work at? I feel like there are plenty that are hiring…

    1. Bea*

      For real. Ignore them.

      Otherwise you’re drawing attention to yourself. Then if someone gets hauled in, you’re less likely on the “who ratted on me?” list.

      Argh. I’ve been marathoning too much true crime. I want to rush the OP out of there.

    1. Persimmons*

      Honestly, I found that the drama and nonsense in some ways made my life easier. Managers surrounded by addicts and irresponsible teens really appreciate a moderately-functional adult server. I showed up on time and did my side work without bitching, and that was enough to get the plum shifts and a lot of leeway when I truly needed it.

        1. Collarbone High*

          I did office/bookkeeping temp work in the early ’90s and wow, was that an ego boost. Companies showered me with praise just for showing up. Once I was asked to clean up a mail room and they offered me a permanent job because I “showed so much initiative” by throwing out all the trash and corralling all the paper clips in one spot.

        2. MJ*

          Oh man, that was a good chunk of why I loved modeling for art schools. Literally just showing up on time, every time, apparently put me in the cream of the crop. It was kind of nice to exceed expectations so very easily.

      1. PhylllisB*

        This is where I meant to post my comment. My granddaughter has been working less than a month and already has the prime shift/tip potential. Her third day they let her have the whole dining room. She made a killing.

    2. Be the Change*

      This post is making me wonder if I should patronize restaurants at all, if I’m committed to things like fair labor practices and decent workplaces… I can’t avoid *all* shopping but I can avoid a few things. How do you find out if the restaurant you want to go to is or is not the pit of hell for its workers?

      1. B*

        You actually have a lot of control over how well the servers are treated… treat them well and tip well (I have not personally been a server but my husband is, I did NOT know that pretty much all their money is from tips until I was with him – in the USA anyway)

        1. Be the Change*

          Of course! In fact I am forever nudging the tips up whenever my husband writes the tip, since he grew up in a culture where a tip of about 10 cents is fine.

      2. Lissa*

        Depends on the…kind of hell you want to avoid. Personally the ones I want to avoid are the ones where sexism is rampant. I knew of a restaurant in my town where the manager hired a waitress by lining up the applicants and picking the one he thought was the prettiest. Etc. I look for places who also have male/not all conventionally attractive young women who look kinda identical as servers.

        Some of the restaurant drama comes from management/working conditions but some of it just comes from… a bunch of mostly young people all working together in a high pressure environment, many of whom would like to sleep with one another and do drugs. It can be hard to figure out from the outside what’s going on.

      3. LCL*

        Avoid cheap franchise restaurants. If you can get a meal for 5 bucks, how well do you think the employees are being paid? The pit of hell aspect of restaurant work wasn’t all of the drug dealing and interpersonal drama, that seems normal after awhile. Or normal going in, for some of us.

        The exploitation for free labor is the bad part-being asked to show up but not clock in if business doesn’t show, clocking in then being asked to go home after a half hour if it is slow, and the worst is managers treating the employers as though they are salaried re cleanup chores. It is distressingly common to have two hours worth of cleanup chores after the official closing time, and management has told the workers they will only pay for a half hour after closing but it better all get done. Meanwhile manager’s pay is tied to labor and food costs, if restaurant is over manager’s pay can be reduced substantially, so manager kinda lacks empathy for what is being asked.

  12. kcat*

    I worked in a restaurant once where an employee was dealing drugs in the back room. The owner never got involved with anything, and the acting manager never really had the authority to do much for whatever reason. We ended up insinuating that we had video surveillance where he was dealing (we didn’t) and that the footage would be reviewed by corporate (hahaha). As far as we knew he took his dealing elsewhere.

    In this situation I’d just try to stay as far away from it as possible, unless it was likely to bounce back on me. :/

    1. RestaurantSpouse*

      My wife once managed a kitchen wherein an employee was actively dealing drugs AT THE REGISTER. She called him on it, put her foot down that it wouldn’t happen in her kitchen – and then the owners fired HER, rather than the offending employee.

      Restaurants are a bonkers place to work.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I was assistant managing a restaurant. I told the owner’s son that being hung over was no reason to ask for a less busy area. I said, “Don’t ever tell me about your hangovers again.”

          And then it rained in my life.

        2. Persimmons*

          Yes. Legitimate restaurants operate on a razor-thin profit margin. More mom-and-pop joints than you realize exist merely to launder money.

        3. RestaurantSpouse*

          More than likely. Or they were buying from him themselves. This was not really a smoothly run joint, and it had heaps of other problems, including som blatant sexism. Female employees tended to get turned loose faster than men, etc etc.

  13. Triple Anon*

    Yeah, you don’t want to be involved. But you have to be because it affects you and your workplace. They’ve involved you in it.

    Consider what affects you directly and what doesn’t, what’s work-related and what isn’t. It sounds like the main work-related issue is that one co-worker threatened another with violence, to be carried out by a third party who visits regularly and makes a scene. This could escalate into something that endangers more people, including people who are not involved.

    So I think someone should bring it up privately as a safety concern. Just say that these people are making threats and you’re concerned about everyone’s safety.

    1. Avatre*

      Yeah, I’d at least be considering taking the boss aside in private (on both Jake and Diana’s day off, if that’s possible!) and being like “Jake and Diana had this big argument” (gloss over the details unless asked) “and Diana threatened to sic her boyfriend on Jake, and the boyfriend’s already shown up making trouble. I hate to get you involved in the drama but at this point I’m concerned for people’s safety.” And nicely asking that my name be left out of whatever gets decided (citing safety again if necessary).

      I’m undecided as to whether I’d actually do that, however, because, well, somebody described it as “a house of cards that is also on fire”? That. “Please leave me out of this, you two, I don’t want to get in trouble” is 100% fair and very necessary, however. I feel for not wanting to make Diana’s life harder, but sometimes all you can do is insist that the elephant be in some OTHER room, y’know?

      1. Triple Anon*

        It is a house of cards that is also on fire, so I would keep my statement very simple.

        – Boyfriend has a history of violent behavior and visits frequently

        – Co-worker is threatening to have Boyfriend harm Other Co-Worker

        I would stick to those issues and leave everything else out. Those are the things that could affect the business, customers and other workers.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      They are standing around talking about this and not working. It sounds like it’s a big conversation going on there.

      OP, don’t ever forget you can say, “Whoops, I want to get a move on, I want to finish X before I go home.” And use that to walk away from the conversation. What I like about this is it’s a distraction. I would be concerned that if I said I could get in trouble, then if anything happened they would blame me. But if I put on the appearance of having a work focus that is a good neutral place to be.

      1. Triple Anon*

        I think that’s a good suggestion, but it can be hard to avoid things in restaurants. Your work belongs in a specific area, often close to where other people are working. But you can stay quiet and avoid getting involved.

  14. EditorInChief*

    Stay out of it. The situation is very volatile and there is the potential that if you get involved in anyway any of them or all three of them could turn on you. Stay as far away as possible.

  15. President Porpoise*

    I’m perhaps overly privileged, but I’d probably report the threats of violence to the police and let the chips fall where they may. I don’t like that crap coming into my workplace where it affects me, and you don’t need to protect your coworkers from their poor life choices.

      1. Anonymeece*

        Sure, but surely they could report a drug dealer anonymously?

        I mean, I don’t necessarily think it will do the most good, but if the OP did want to go this route, I feel like that is a valid complaint to make to police.

        1. Snark*

          Nope. Noooope. Nopeity nope nope. Oh hello Mr. Nopetopus! Noperino.

          The last thing you really want standing next to the dumpster, walking out the back door of a restaurant after 1am smelling like fryolator grease, is some angry high dude who thinks you’re the snitch.

          1. Snark*

            That being the worst case scenario! Best case being absolutely nobody, management or police, gives a crap one way or another, and you’re screaming into the wind.

            1. BF50*

              No one giving a crap is also the most likely scenario, especially if the person the threats are being made against isn’t interested in talking to the police about the situation.

          2. Observer*

            That’s a separate issue. President Porpoise is completely correct that the OP would be on perfectly solid moral ground to report this to the police. Those threats of violence absolutely COULD affect them.

            The only question that the OP needs to consider here is their safety. And, you may be right that calling the police, anonymously or not, could be an unsafe move for the OP.

            1. Snark*

              Yep. The salient issue here is whether it’s a good and safe idea, not whether there’s a moral obligation to report criminality.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Poor LW would be reporting hearsay that one person is attempting to sell drugs, which may or may not be actual drugs. (Is it even illegal to sell what you say is acid when it’s really some random, not-controlled substance? If you didn’t say it was LSD on tape or in writing, just in unrecorded conversation.) And another person is offering to pay for the drugs with a bicycle, which may or may not be stolen.

                It’s not a lot for the cops to go on, while leaving OP likely exposed as the source of the unsubstantiated report if they do try to investigate.

                1. Blue Roses*

                  Yes, actually, in the US, federally it is just as illegal to sell something you claim is [controlled substance] as it is to sell that actual substance. This particular incident is still unlikely to actually be investigated since as Jake is unlikely to talk to the police about the threats against him.

          3. Emily K*

            Honestly, the thing that rubs me the wrong way about reporting the drug dealer is that according to this account, the only thing he’s really done wrong is be a lousy businessman whose lousy product happens to be prohibited by the racist and classist drug war that worsens crime and inequality and destroys more lives than the drugs it prohibits. Maybe he’s involved with some super shady people, but LSD and shrooms, because they’re non-addictive and relatively low in popularity relative to other drugs, are more likely to have been imported from the Netherlands by a kid who learned how to use the Dark Web than they are to have been part of a cartel or organized crime transaction. The biggest LSD kingpin in US history was a chemical researcher who worked at UC Berkeley. I’m really not ready to fault Jake with anything more than stupidity.

            Diana, on the other hand, is the one making threats and stealing bicycles. She’s the reason LW has become concerned about violence in the workplace.

            Narcing on the dumb one instead of the violent threatening one just because it’s an easy way to bring armed uniformed men into the stuation rubs me the wrong way.

            1. Yojo*

              There’s also a difference between making one drug deal and being a “dealer.” The fact that he’s already waffled so much doesn’t make me think this guy does things like this on the regular.

        2. Bea*


          They have to then catch him doing it again. You don’t get arrested because Good Citizen told the police they know that dude sells.

          If he’s not linked to a bigger criminal on their list, the police will shrug it off.

          Drug dealing is huge for a reason. Lucrative and hard to bring down.

          1. Anonymeece*

            I realize that they have to catch him doing it, but in my experience, people who sell drugs tend to have drugs on them. My brother arrested a guy last night who refused to leave a convenience store, was charged with criminal trespassing, and had two pills of ecstasy in his pocket. All he had to do was leave the store, and he wouldn’t have been caught with drug possession.

            They will arrest some low-level dealers, especially if it’s a substance like LSD (not weed), depending on the city, how much he has on him, if it’s his first offense, etc.

            And again, to everyone: I am not advocating this course of action. I honestly don’t think it would do much good, other than to maybe get the manager to realize that having this much drama in one place is not a good business plan. But it is an option.

            1. Bea*

              Also lives are ruined by those drug pops. Something to remember. Many people are unemployable and driven deeper into crime because they got arrested for 2 pills after they refused to leave a store.

              More arrests isn’t the answer.

              1. Dankar*

                Exactly this. SO MANY PEOPLE get arrested for doing something stupid (like not leaving a store while carrying drugs), but the consequences handed down are so disproportionate that they end up with no job, no prospects, nothing to turn to but the drugs that got them into all that trouble in the first place.

                I don’t want to derail; I’ll just add that I cosign everything Emily K wrote above.

      2. Triple Anon*

        No, but what if the boyfriend shows up with a gun and someone else gets hurt? I wouldn’t take threats of violence lightly. That stuff can turn into more than what it looks like in the beginning.

        1. Bea*

          The person who murdered kids and faculty at Parkland was known to the police as violent.

          Most mass shooters were known as volatile.

          It doesn’t stop violence to become involved with unhinged people. There are not laws to protect us from “he said he’ll hurt me/them.”

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I think there’s a perfect world/real world difference that can become particularly apparent when you’re talking about non-office workplaces.

            In a perfect world, people who threaten violence are swiftly banned from the premises and if they return are bounded by a restraining order, which prevents any future contact.

            In the real world, it’s going to depend on what we mean by “threaten” and what we mean by “violence” and who cares enough to do the banning; restraining orders aren’t simple to get especially if the restrainee isn’t an intimate partner; and they discourage the discourageable but can also leave the situation largely unchanged when action isn’t taken on violations–or can make it worse. And the less people have to lose, the less likely they are to be fazed by any of the “make it stop” machinery.

    1. Bea*

      The police won’t do anything if you’re the one threatened let alone a third party. So. Yeah. That won’t work well at all.

      They may get picked up. Then when they’re out, the OP will be in a lot of danger. There’s drugs, theft and violence. Everything you need to avoid at all costs.

      1. President Porpoise*

        Well, that just sucks. What the heck are you supposed to do is a situation like this, then, if the police can’t/won’t act, the manager doesn’t care, you need the job and can’t quit, and there’s a time bomb ticking that may well explode into poorly directed workplace violence?

        Maybe OP needs to start being a strategically really bad coworker and try to drive out the other two. Or raise it to corporate if it’s an option. Or quit.

        1. Nita*

          How bad would OP have to get to drive them out? It’s not like they would have a problem with no-shows, order screw-ups, etc. The bar is set so low, OP won’t be able to crawl under it.

        2. Bea*

          I’m originally from the wrong side of the tracks. That’s my preface.

          You have to leave. Get out. Yes, it’s as nearly impossible as you are imagining.

          The police are there to clean up devastation. They don’t prevent it. The law truly rarely allows it. It’s sickening but that’s the insight from years of growing up around addicts and thieves. Don’t get in their business. Don’t become a threat to them.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yep, yep. There are more of them than there are of you, OP. If this has been going on a while, and the talk is almost daily, then the owner/manager knows what is going on in all likelihood. The owner has probably seen this before and tolerates it for Reasons. It very well could be that they have their own thing going on, too.

            Keep your mouth shut, focus on your work and walk away from conversations about this stuff.

            As soon as you can, get a new job.

            I remember 19 year old me working in a restaurant. Everyone smoked pot and back then that was a felony in that state. I was the only sober person who could wait on that police officer. You can’t tell me I did not reek of mj smoke. Whatever. Nothing ever happened. The officer was within 20 feet of the back room where they were all smoking and the officer said and did NOTHING. Time after time, after time, after time. Yes, many officers over many visits.

            I tried to get along with everyone and I tried to show everyone an equal level of concern/caring. (If I would not do X for all of them, then I would not do it for just one of them.)

            Don’t stay in this job too long, OP. We lose parts of ourselves. We forget what sanity looks like. We forget how to interact with normal people as we have learned everything anyone says is circumspect. I will say of that job, that the good times were good. I miss those good times but it was not worth all the goings-on in between those good times. Get yourself a plan and commit to a time line to get out.

            1. Slartibartfast*

              I have cops in the family. The general consensus is that they don’t mind the potheads because they’re not violent. PCP, meth and alcohol are far worse. And they can’t enforce laws that haven’t been broken yet, so they’re often powerless to do anything until the damage is already done. The case overload, especially in the cities, means their attention has to be focused on the worst of the worst because there isn’t nearly enough of it available. Those who can find better employment do, and burnout means the ones who remain don’t have the ability to care. It’s been described to me as trying to push back the ocean with a broom.

        3. BF50*

          If the OP can’t leave, I think the best bet is to try to not be on shift with Jack, try to have a second exit any time they are in the same room as Jack or Diane, and try to make sure that they are not between Jack and Diane and the most likely door for Diane’s boyfriend to enter.

          That said, I think there is a good possibility that this will blow over without escalating to violence.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is definitely an overly privileged POV. There is really no such thing as professional norms in the restaurant industry.

      1. President Porpoise*

        Hmm, I think it depends on the restaurant. I’ve worked in a few pretty ok ones – crap at this level would have gotten someone canned.

        1. grace*

          It really does depend — good luck getting away with this in a high end restaurant; they may not care as much about the drugs as about the lack of class it may carry with it.

          There’s a new push, too, among chefs/owners to support substance/abuse free environments, so I think this is changing rapidly enough that such a sweeping statement as above is outdated.

          1. Mia*

            Eh, my fiancée is a chef who’s only ever worked in high-end kitchens and they’re typically just as messy. Front of house might have higher standards at nicer places, but BOH environments are still pretty mired in drama.

      2. nomnomanon*

        It really depends, my sister is a GM and nothing makes her happier than firing people for crap like this. But she has over 200 employees and none of them are individually important.

        She’ll also work herself into an early grave covering shifts just to spite the person she fires.

      3. Bea*

        It’s a grimy industry but most kitchens police themselves. I know too many people in the industry that would tell these people to get out. But they are aware of the consequences that can come with doing so and accept that it can end grotesquely. Alpha personalities and their own demons, helluva thing to see unfold.

      4. Jen*

        I have worked in restaurants for years in college (waiting, washing dishes, and prep cook) and my brother has run a couple, working from the ground up from line cook to head of a couple kitchens. He fired people for unsafe behavior at work. Maybe not pot but LSD? Nope.

        This idea that this level of insanity is just tolerated is definitely not universal.

      5. Free Now (and forever)*

        We had rather notorious murder in our state where two ex-cons followed a mother home from a supermarket, lay in wait and broke into the house in the early hours of the morning, beat the father nearly to death, sent the mother to the bank during business hours, and then upon her return, raped and strangled the mother, her teenage daughter and her tweenage daughter and set the house on fire. Shortly thereafter I was dining in a charming little restaurant in our town and was discussing the incident with my waiter at lunch. Turns out that one of the ex-cons has worked as a dishwasher at the restaurant just a few months earlier. Yikes!

        1. Stardust*

          Off topic but would you mind putting a warning before detailing something like this? I didn’t expect to read the plot of a horror movie coming into these comments.

          1. Lissa*

            It’s also suuuuper not relevant any more than a story about knowing a lawyer who murdered his wife would be on a letter about lawyers! I’m pretty sure every industry has seen some of its members commit murder.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Restaurants are not the only ones who have some rough people. There are other arenas that seem to also have more than their share. It pays to know the arena you are working in, what seems entertaining today can work into something much bigger tomorrow.

  16. Wintermute*

    I would say nothing, simply pretend you don’t know, don’t hear and don’t want to know anything.

    This is not a “normal” office situation, there’s serious crimes and violent and volitile people here. Anything you say to them could be construed as a threat. Unless you want to go to the police about it, I wouldn’t bring a manager in because in places that dysfunctional word spreads and you could make yourself the target of violence. Remember we’re talking distribution-level quantities of drugs here, people have killed for less.

    There’s plenty of restaurants that are hiring, I’d start looking, you can probably have another job next week, where the level of drug use is normal for the restaurant industry, the people are less volatile and there’s less drama.

  17. LadyPhoenix*

    This is a mega ultra case of “not my circus not my monkeys”. The best thing I would recommend is telling the lot of then to STFU and QUIETLY tell management that Diane threatened to sic her abusive boyfriend on what’s-his-face and ask to remain anonymous.

    That, or I would find a new job.

  18. Elisabeth*

    Put the oxygen mask over your face first. Getting involved with drug deals is an extremely dangerous and bad idea. And it’s not like it would be that difficult for them to figure out who ratted them out. Keep yourself out of danger first and foremost.

  19. Earthwalker*

    Is OP not comfortable with the situation because it’s socially and ethically awkward or because she is afraid of getting caught in the crossfire if violence comes to the workplace?

    1. Maggie*

      Okay, this might seem like a weird corollary, but stick with me here. I’m a high school teacher, and I teach about 180 kids juniors a year. For better or worse, plenty of those kids over the course of the year come in high. I actually view it as very comparable to a restaurant: it’s not ideal, but I want the body in the seat high (I might be able to get through to them/help them) as opposed to no body in the seat at all (I can’t teach them anything if they’re not there). So sure there are break-ups and drama and general flakiness, but that just kind of comes with the territory and you deal with it because that’s what high school/a kitchen looks like.

      BUT. But. Every now and then you encounter a kid who scares the shit out of you and you really legitimately wonder, “Would this kid come shoot up the school?” And since I work with thousands of people a decade, the few of those that I run into really send up red flags and activate the SpideySense in a major way. These aren’t kids joking that they’re going to kill themselves because they have too much homework or are throwing out really ill-timed “That’s what she said” jokes. They are “kids” (17, 18 year olds) who seem to know too much, freak you out in a way you can’t identify, have the ability to sneak up on you out of nowhere, have less than acceptable social skills in a way that is unnerving, etc. In the last 10 years, I’ve only had two kids meet this description, out of literally thousands, and one ex-boyfriend of a student who was on a restraining order and had a dozen dead roses delivered to her in my classroom on Valentine’s Day anyways.

      So, my advice to OP is just to trust your gut. If you’re annoyed but can avoid them, attempt to wait them out until one of the two of them gets themselves fired, especially if you have seniority/good shifts/etc. But, OP, if you’re really freaked out by the violent ex in a hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck kind of way, then you gotta get out of there. Good luck.

    2. Maggie*

      This is to say Earthwalker, I’m not sure which it is from her letter, but if she’s really afraid of getting caught in any kind of literal crossfire, get out. As soon as possible.

  20. Ask a Manager* Post author

    The responses to this are so interesting to me, because I was braced for a flood of disagreement and people arguing that the OP should report it to the manager. I’m curious — would you feel differently if this were happening in a professional office environment instead? (I would, and I’m wondering how much of people’s responses here are based on it being the restaurant industry.)

    1. OhGee*

      I think you’re right that management may sweep this under the rug if reported, and LW is likely to end up targeted by one or both parties. I’ve experienced some messed up office coworker situations, but based on the experience of family and friends in food service (and my own minimal experience in the same), I think it’s likely safer to avoid any involvement here.

      1. CMart*

        Agreed. I think for anyone who has worked in restaurants the reaction isn’t necessarily “this isn’t something that should be brought to management’s attention” because in a perfect world, of course it is! But it’s instead based upon the reality that managers are super duper not going to care, or want to get involved.

        I know when I was managing, the last thing I would want to do is get in the middle of any of this. Ain’t no one getting paid enough to care, and with turnover being what it is, Jake and Diana aren’t going to be anyone’s problem in 6 months anyway. There just aren’t the resources or hierarchy to be utilized to do much about this kind of thing in a restaurant, other than firing people and hoping they don’t burn the place to the ground.

        1. SarahKay*

          Your point about the high turnover is definitely spot on.
          My experience was that people just don’t stay that long in a restaurant, at least not in a biggish town or city – there are always other places to work. I worked in a small family restaurant for three years, and (excluding the manager, owner, and owner’s family) I was by far the longest-serving member of staff. We had a couple of chefs that were there for about two years; most of the waiting staff would stay somewhere between one day and one year. You get an awful co-worker and don’t want to leave yourself, your best bet is to wait them out (no pun intended).

    2. Bea*

      It’s industry dependent for sure. These people didn’t go through the hoops that those of us in an office do. We can’t get picked up on some drug charges and not have it pop up on our next pre employment background check.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think a big part of the difference is that a restaurant is open to the public whereas a professional office may afford a bit more security.

    4. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I think there’d be at least one comment along the lines of, “this is an office, not some restaurant or bar…”

    5. Snark*

      Having worked in a kitchen, that’s definitely a major factor in my “treat this like radioactive medical waste” inclination here. There were a lot of my kitchen fellows who were quiet, upstanding, ordinary people, working hard, long hours for a pretty thin stack of dollars – but there were, and are, a lot of somewhat marginal people in the restaurant world and a lot of drugs being done and sold. My enduring impression of that world and those people were that my interest in their activities started and stopped at whether their meez was topped off for the dinner rush. Too crazy, too volatile, too violent.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah. I dated a chef for a while (amazing, highly recommended) and drugs were a semi-constant background to his work stories, even in a high-end restaurant. It was pretty fascinating.

        1. Bea*

          Everyone just needs to read Kitchen Confidential.

          Kitchen work is exhausting, crazy hours and differing expectations all across the board.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I never noticed the substance abuse. Maybe I was just clueless, maybe there wasn’t as much in Kansas cerca 1980. Most of the people I knew smoked cigarettes, a few smoked weed, most would have a few drinks. I never noticed anything beyond that, but I might have just missed it.

          1. Ellen N.*

            When Anthony Bourdain became involved with the #metoo movement he expressed deep regret for the fact that he tolerated and encouraged harassment.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I had a cook tell me that most cooks were drinkers. She felt it was because of the demands of the job and the extremeness in the work environment (heat, repetitive motions, peak demand times, heavy lifts, dangers of the equipment, etc.) It’s not an easy job at all. And it’s pretty thankless.

            I read one study that said restaurant work is basically soul killing because you are never done. The next day the same people are back and they need more food. It’s tough to find the job rewarding in any way. If a person stays in it too long it’s not much more than a hamster wheel and their life is going no where fast.

            Now some places are good employers. Their people are paid well and taken care of. A friend got a LOT of help with medical issues from his employer. (Think along the lines of $20k worth of help on top of his nice pay.) This does not happen often, but it does happen.

            1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

              It sounds like housework and being a carer or housewife. The work is never done. As soon as you cook, the food is gone. You clean up the mess, put the dishes away and it comes back again. I never thought about it before but can imagine that restaurant work is the same way.

          3. Snickerdoodle*

            I get asked all the time if I went to culinary school (no) and told that I should be a chef (double nope). Mostly it’s because I don’t want to make the same recipes the same way all day every day, but a lot of it is also because I do NOT want to be in that environment. I LOVE my quiet cube life.

        2. RestaurantSpouse*

          I’m married to a chef, and agree! It’s amazing to watch her work, and in many ways it’s like being married to an artist.

          But yeah, the professional norms are basically nonexistent.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        One of the reasons I worked in restaurants when I was young was it was easy to get such jobs. Some of my colleagues were there for the same reason. I remember one, a very nice and rather beaten down man who had recently gotten out of a halfway house. It was like that.
        I don’t know any reason they couldn’t do background checks, maybe at least google… we didn’t have google back then…

    6. McWhadden*

      I think I’d be wary of advising anyone to get involved with potentially violent and unstable people regardless of the environment. Especially if the manager does nothing you now have a target on your back as the “tattle tale” (yes, tattling is not a thing in the working world but that’s not how people like Dianne might see it.)
      Having worked in food service in the past I would also say that getting some low-level drug dealers as co-workers is fairly typical. The extent this has spiraled out of control is not typical, of course.

    7. Cochrane*

      Having read all of Anthony Bourdain’s books, none of the behavior described in the letter is surprising. The same behavior in an office setting would definitely have a different outcome in the comments.

    8. Aleta*

      Absolutely industry dependent. The service industry in general is a whole other world – in my experience underpaid and overworked, minimal to no benefits, abusive customers, high turnover. It creates this weird bubble of stress and personalities that you just don’t get with a lot of office jobs, and I don’t think it’ll change without some structural overhauls.

    9. nomnomanon*

      My response would stay unchanged –

      I think once Diana threatened Jake with physical harm, and there’s evidence, so it’s not hearsay, OP needs to inform her boss. This could have much larger implications for OP, other co-workers or the GM. I would hate for someone to get injured if it’s not all talk.

      I wouldn’t disclose the details, just give the GM a heads up there’s bad blood between Jake and Diana.

      My sister is a GM and she would fire these two idiots in a minuet, even if it meant working every single one of their shifts herself. Her owners have a zero tolerance policy for drugs/threatening people, and her job would be on the line for not identifying this unacceptable behavior.

      OP – this advice only works if you think your GM will care/actually do something. If they are weak, pretend you know nothing and keep your head down. Being a tattle tale will just shift the bulls-eye.

    10. Rectilinear Propagation*

      I’ve never worked in a restaurant (closest was a dining hall on campus) but I’ve heard enough stories about restaurants that I’m willing to take you and the OP’s word on it that this is common in the industry. There was even that letter a little while back here where the LW wanted to continue having that drug that stops overdoses.

      1. teclatrans*

        I think that was about customers using bathrooms to shoot up, which is isn’t the same (and isn’t restaurant-industry specific so much as “public bathrooms,” especially those with one toilet that are totally private).

    11. BethRA*

      I’m actually in the “talk to the manager camp” and was about to post as much. Drugs and stupid relationship drama is one thing (and yes, restaurants have always had more than their fair share), but they’ve got Abusive Boyfriend showing up and making scenes AND threats of violence between staff. So it doesn’t sound like drama LW can easily stay out of. I’d advise job-hunting, but since LW says the place was relatively low-drama before J and D showed up, I’m thinking it’s worth trying to talk to the manager.

      I feel badly or Diane, but it’s not LW’s job to fix her drama, even if she could.

    12. College Career Counselor*

      I think it’s the restaurant angle, which can be kind of the employment wild west where the law is either absent or completely capricious because restaurants:
      a) are often a small family business
      b) often have no formal HR (it’s a manager who is doing schedules/payroll)
      c) can often easily ignore corporate, which is absent/far away
      d) have high turnover

      And even the chain restaurants put up with crazy–I’ve mentioned here before how I got punched in the head years ago by a co-worker while working in a fast-food restaurant many years ago. The guy who hit me was back on the schedule two days later. The LW’s letter leads me to believe that not much has changed in the restaurant world, as LW says that this place was better than others (until the advent of Jake & Diane).

      TL;DR: Corporate, or more professional environment, absolutely tell the boss. Restaurant, you’re just as likely to catch hell from your co-workers or blamed as the messenger, as you are to have the situation resolved.

    13. AnotherAlison*

      Oh yeah, it this were my office, I would report it, but in a restaurant probably not so much. If it was leaked to the press that this happened in my company, it would be big news–drugs, safety, construction industry, etc. That could affect our reputation and my job long term.

      But, if this was on my local news that this was going down at the local Chili’s, people would shrug their shoulders and move on. I remember my kid telling me about the drug selling that was happening in the burger place drive through that his friend worked at. That’s what you get in a low unemployment area when you pay adults minimum wage. I still went there to eat and no one reported anything.

    14. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the questions are a) How unstable and violent are the people involved? b) If I say something, how likely is it that they knock it off (if I say something to them) or that management acts in a way that makes things better (if I report to management)? (Better from the reporter’s perspective–see various “So Joy, Carol reported anonymously that you…” conundrums, from people wishing they’d kept their mouths shut and never involved management.)

    15. Wintermute*

      That’s a good question! My response is partially because it’s a restaurant but specifically because being a restaurant means a few, specific things:

      First, this is a small business, with no ethics line or large HR department to help diffuse blame, nor the ability to move her to another job unit or office if things go south. Many office jobs would have that ability. Also restaurant HR is usually just the owner’s “know best” as opposed to trained HR professionals.

      Second, in a small business without a large workforce word travels fast and the pool of “possible suspects” is narrowed. If it was a large factory or a call center where they worked on a team of 25 people and the office had a few hundred people, that would reduce risk

      Restaurants are a narrow-margin business, meaning owners aren’t really going to hire a security guard or up the security that they’re getting from their guard contractor the way an office would if there was a threat.

      Restaurants are a facility open to the public. They don’t have sealed doors with only one entrance that has a receptionist to serve to slow down someone that wants to get to you and do you harm, it’s a smaller location that is easy to get into if you want to do someone harm, as opposed to an office building.

      These attributes would be the same for retail, an insurance office, a lot of other types of job, not just restaurants, but not necessarily for a large office building.

      THAT SAID, my answer would probably be the same if this was a law office where there was a cocaine deal going down or a call center with some shady LSD going around. And heavily tinted by the fact that all of these people are engaged in criminal activity and we’re talking distribution-level quantities of semi-hard drugs (LSD isn’t heroin or cocaine but it’s not pot either), these are the kinds of things that take someone with a fair amount of involvement in the criminal underworld to obtain, and that brings a new level of danger as well, on top of the fact that there is someone known to be violent in the mix.

      1. Not a Mere Device*

        It may take a significant involvement in the criminal underworld to get bulk quantities of LSD (my only information on this is literally from the last century), but it doesn’t take any involvement in any sort of underworld to buy some random legal research chemical and sell it to someone, claiming it’s LSD. It may be three kinds of stupid to do that at work, but stupidity doesn’t say anything about who his associates are. (Someone who was actually buying acid in order to resell part of it would probably realize he had to pay his supplier, in cash, not by letting them borrow his new bike.)

        1. Wintermute*

          That’s a fair point but we don’t know if he got this from his ‘guy’ as LSD or if he was the one buying it. Also there’s no real grey-market hallucinogens that would mimic LSD that I’m aware of and I’m quite fascinated by illicit pharmacology. Maybe that’s why they’re unsatisfied but at the same time I wouldn’t rule out them having an illicit connection.

        2. Frank Doyle*

          Eh, a friend of mine bought an entire Visine bottle full of LSD at a music festival from a random dude, and that shit turned out to be legit. I don’t think “significant involvement in the criminal underworld” is necessary to get one’s hands on a bunch of psychedelics.

    16. Anonymost*

      It’s definitely only because it’s a restaurant. Most anywhere else, this is outrageous and should be reported immediately.

    17. Ellen N.*

      I’m horrified that so many believe that the original poster shouldn’t do anything about hard drug dealing, stalking and threats of violence in the workplace.

      My father was a musician so I’ve had plenty of exposure to workplaces where drug use was the norm. The violin players in his orchestra used to smuggle opium in from Asia in their Stradivarius violin cases.

      Thanks to the #metoo movement we are seeing how much damage the lack of professional standards in restaurants are causing to their employees. Sexual harassment and drug use are rampant. There still aren’t nearly enough women chefs because of the bro code. The lack of professional standards is in no way necessary for restaurants to be successful. In fact, the chefs who oversee professional kitchens tend to be successful. Part of the reason is that they don’t tend to have the employee retention problems that plague the industry.

      1. Bea*

        Tell me more of what besides firing the problem people there is to be done?

        Tell me how to keep the OP safe once you uncork the unemployed drug addicted thieves?

        Call the cops? Have them not have enough to arrest anyone for any amount of time? Then what? Live in fear of being a “snitch”?

        People die because they think the system will protect them and being a good hard working person is enough to survive.

        I prefer the OP stay alive and out of harms way. Their life matters more than the fact society is disgusting and needs change.

        1. Ellen N.*

          Stalking and threatening violence are both illegal. I would call the police and get a restraining order against the employee’s boyfriend.

          Yes, this can be done. I had a coworker who got fired. He was stalking several employees in an attempt to get them to talk to a partner about reinstating him. A restraining order was issued that prohibited him from entering the property where the office was located and required him to stay several hundred feet from the employees he’d harassed.

          The coworker had been my assistant. He routinely came to work drunk and told me several times that if he could he would kill all humans. I reported this to my bosses, the office manager and the partners. Unfortunately none of them took me seriously.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            A restraining order is a piece of paper. It doesn’t protect LW or anyone else. And, in fact, would likely increase the chance of someone getting hurt.

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              This. LW can’t win this fight, and provided the boyfriend stays off the premises, there really isn’t someone who needs protection (except from themselves). The girl can leave the boyfriend instead of siccing him on the coworker guy because he gave her bad drugs for a stolen bike, and the guy can stop selling shitty drugs in exchange for bikes. They’re all digging their own holes and LW just needs to stay away from it.

    18. HoorayCollegeFootball*

      In my office, I’m obligated to report security issues w/ coworkers. Those people would be removed from the building, lose their security clearances, and be fired. Not that they could have gotten a clearance in the first place.

    19. Turtle Candle*

      It’s totally because it’s a restaurant, at least for me.

      It fascinates me that restaurants, of all things, are where societally we say “eh, that’s the wild frontier of behavior, we can’t expect anything else.” (Not just regarding drugs, harassment, etc., but regarding labor violations too.) They’re a tight margins, high stress industry, sure, bug it seems oddly extreme.

      1. Myrin*

        I’m wildly fascinated by this phenomenon since I’ve never encountered it in my culture and wouldn’t even know this is apparently A Thing if I didn’t read AAM. I mean, it’s possible that large restaurants in big cities have similar problems, but the ones in my area I’m familiar with – and I’m more familiar than most since I actually work part-time in one and thus get a bit of insight in the behind-the-scenes – certainly don’t. It’s also just not a reputation restaurants have here in general. And now I’m honestly wondering what it is that makes the two experiences so different.

        1. Mary*

          Yeah, I’m fascinated too! I worked in a couple of small family owned restaurants and a couple of large chain restaurants in the U.K., and it was “less professional” in that I remember one time when the boss was away and the kids in the kitchen smoked a weak joint after the lunch rush was over; and I shrugged it off when my boss told me I looked better in short skirts; and I saw food picked up off the floor and given to customers; a d one night we out loud techno on to get rid of the last couple of customers so we could all go home. But nothing on this scale!

        2. Mia*

          I’m engaged to a chef and worked in food service for about 10 years and honestly, most restaurants don’t develop a “reputation” to anyone except for people who work/have worked in the industry. My fiancée works at one of the nicest restaurants in our rather large city and there’s still an undercurrent of coke and opioid abuse and the drama that comes with it. Ultimately, I think that fact that kitchens of all sizes and class levels have this isuse says a lot about the industry’s practices.

    20. fposte*

      It’s industry and the indications about the specific restaurant. However, there are other industries I’d have a similar take on it–I’m thinking about my time working at riding stables years ago, for instance.

      1. Rainy*

        I worked in the pet services industry for a few years after I got tired of restaurants, and I have some *stories*.

    21. Monty and Millie's Mom*

      I would be more likely to report it in a professional/office environment. I think it seems so much less safe in the restaurant environment, although that isn’t necessarily true – there are very safe restaurant environments and really sketchy office environments, so…..I don’t know! This IS interesting!

    22. Etak*

      at one of my best waitressing gigs, I was sent down to the police station to pick up the head cook after he’d spent the night in the drunk tank. I think food service just operates on such a different level of normal than so many other industries. I can’t imagine being asked to do that for my national nonprofit boss :)

    23. Not So NewReader*

      Offices tend to have tighter control over what is going on. Additionally, any job where people are physically AND mentally drained while being paid peanuts is a work place that is going to have problems. It’s inherent in the set up.

      This is why in part I favor people getting a living wage. It pulls morale up and you get better behavior. In addition, employers feel more comfortable demanding that better behavior. Many eateries and retail establishments are in survival mode, “Do you have a heartbeat? Great, you can work here.”

      Fluctuations in business transactions also makes the situation worse. There are peak times during the day and during the year. If they don’t have enough staff they lose. However, the rest of the day/year there is not enough work to sustain that many employees.

      I think that everyone wants cheap goods and services but not many realize this is what else goes on.

    24. Perfectly Particular*

      My advice would definitely be different in an office, but for a restaurant, this is not even unusual. I worked at a bunch of restaurants over about 10 years, and there were always drugs, fights, theft, etc. I figured that was the trade-off for making more than double minimum wage at a no-education-required job. There is no way to effectively manage that situation when so many restaurant jobs are available. If the dramatic employees show up and don’t cause problems for the guests, probably better to keep the ones you have than take a risk on someone new.

    25. Slartibartfast*

      I’ve worked in a lot of places, especially through my college years and there’s definitely different standards for normalcy depending on the industry. I could’ve been a manager easily in my retail days, would probably have a job in corporate with good benefits and my own office by now. But, you won’t ever escape this sort of behavior completely and I don’t want it to be part of what’s normal in my life for my husband to arrest my coworker (true story, I actively hid what he did for a living and she never made the connection. She was a work friend and a decent person who did a stupid thing during a breakup). I’m changing industries again to escape the weird things that are just part of the territory in the small business world (like “HR” that’s related to and/or sleeping with the boss).

      The tl/dr is yes this is industry dependant and wildly different from what I would expect in an office. The first concern is what is safe for the OP to do, the moral/legal concerns are secondary.

  21. DouDouPaille*

    I just read this to my husband, who is a restaurant manager, and he said “yep, that’s the restaurant business! I’ve actually seen worse situations than that.” There is so much drugs and dysfunction in that industry. However he said he would probably have to fire Diana, due to the threats of violence (which is a liability issue as well as a moral issue). Maybe not fire Jake, but give him a stern warning to stop handling personal matters on company time. Then fire him if he continues to do it.

  22. Quill*

    This has “future plot of a cop drama” written all over it.

    Have you considered writing as a creative outlet, OP? Because dang.

  23. sigh*

    Part of it, as you pointed out earlier, is a cultural difference. Once upon a time I would have said it would be highly unlikely in an office environment. Then I started reading askamanager. I’m not saying it wouldn’t happen in an office environment, but it’s probably less likely because it smacks of a culture desperate to make money at any cost.
    All that reporting it to the manager’s likely to do is endanger her too. She may call for a mandatory drug test, but I’m not convinced firing the people involved is going to end safely for those involved. It might actually make them more desperate.
    My advice is that OP needs to get out of there, which would be my same advice if she worked in an office.

  24. Rectilinear Propagation*

    …or b) the owner will sweep it under the rug because she can’t afford to lose a third of her kitchen staff…

    Is it really that difficult to find replacements or is it that you suspect the owner simply won’t want to?

    1. Aleta*

      It’s not so much that it’s difficult to find replacements, but it’d take enough time that losing a third of your kitchen staff at once could be DISASTROUS. I’ve been out of the industry for almost a year, was never a manager, and just thinking about it gave me severe second-hand stress.

    2. CMart*

      It’s not necessarily difficult to find replacements, just difficult to do it when you’re running on razor thin margins. Training takes time, being down 1/3 of your kitchen staff is untenable for a single shift, let alone entire consecutive days while you try to find new hires.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, it’s the razor-thin margins that are key here, I think. There’s a reason why restaurants seem to be the most commonly mentioned employer for “the employees turned up and found the place had closed down without notice.” There just is no slack you can take in your production schedule without screwing the whole business.

    3. Bea*

      It is difficult. You suddenly have 2 openings. First you’ll piss a bunch of overworked tired staff to pick up the slack. Then you have to get the word out you need not one but two spots filled. Then they have to show up. I’ve seen my brother struggle for years to keep up with the grind and he will fire someone quickly when he finds them doing drugs on shift. But then he’s triple pissed because his days off just got pushed to God knows when.

    4. Rosemary7391*

      I have to admit this doesn’t really make sense to me. Surely short staffed is better than staff bringing serious issues into a business that relies on customers seeing it as a pleasant enough place to eat. But this is really really outside my norm. I think I’d just run away screaming!

      1. Free Meerkats*

        No. You need a certain number of people on the line to get the food out. Or you do get the food out, but it’s not good food (ever wonder why the Country Fried Steak you had last week at Bob’s Country Bunker (We Have Both Kinds of Music!) was great, but today it’s underseasoned and overcooked? Likely someone quit/was fired and they are short handed or someone new is on the line.) If you don’t get good food out, you don’t have customers.

        To a kitchen manager, it’s better to have bodies than no bodies.

        1. Rosemary7391*

          To a certain extent… but I’d take poor quality food over staff dealing drugs and violence any time! The former I’d consider giving a second chance, the latter I’d never dare set foot in again if I heard about it – not until they had totally new management and I’d started hearing good things. Maybe you need to alter the menu, change opening times while you look for new staff, warn about wait times or something. However this is wildly outside my experience as I said, so maybe I just have very different expectations… I go out for dinner to relax, and this does not sound at all relaxing!

          1. Aleta*

            Keep in mind this is probably all happening in the back where you wouldn’t see it. I assure you, you have DEFINITELY eaten dinner at a place where there was drug dealing among the staff. The violent boyfriend is a slightly different matter, but it’d also probably go down in the back and that information may or may not get passed around to the extent that people would hear about it if they weren’t there.

            And also, the violence is just a possibility right now (and to be honest a lot of these sorts are talking out of their ass and won’t follow through), but people absolutely angrily leave over poor quality food and long waits. And the owners almost certainly won’t allow changed hours, and are extremely unlikely to change the menu, or make any sort of concession for being this understaffed.

            1. Rosemary7391*

              Yeah, maybe… I am in the UK though and I think it might be less prevalent here. Hopefully. Although I’ll hold out less hope for the area I currently live in!

              The owners would be pretty daft if it came to being that short staffed and they didn’t do anything. I’ve seen all those things happen – yes, you lose some people over it, but probably fewer and less angrily.

              1. Ender*

                I have worked in restaurants in two EU countries and dated restaurant staff in a third. Never seen or heard of any situation like this. Plenty of people smoked dope, some even on their breaks at work, but I’ve never heard of someone openly dealing drugs or fencing stolen items in work, nor of violent partners showing up during shifts. It’s obviously a big industry, and I’m sure there must be cases of these sorts of things happening at some point in the EU, but it’s definitely not as prevalent as it seems to be in America.

                I wonder if its solely an American phenomenon? I’d be interested to know if drug dealing /fencing / repeated appearance of abusive partner happens a lot in Restaurants in other countries outside of US/EU.

                1. Lissa*

                  Definitely a thing in Canada when it comes to drugs in the restaurant industry, as well as the reputation for big drama potential in this and related industries. The possibly-violent abusive partner is super bad, but not shocking with a capital S.

                  I sometimes amuse myself by reading the more shocking AAM letters and thinking about if it would register in the restaurants I’ve worked in. So like, liver boss=still majorly WTF. Tickling or kicking under the table=LOLwhocares. Employees sleeping together and having affairs=it’s the talk of the town but happens way more. Etc.

                  I’m wondering if overall industry norms in the EU are closer to office norms, or if it’s just that you don’t get this level of crazy as regularly? For instance it was pretty normal when my restaurant coworker was like “oh hey, are you bisexual?” I confirmed and she was like “I KNEW IT.” This was a little awkward but basically fine but if it happened in my current job it’d be like, holy crap wow boundaries omg.

                  Part of me also thinks some of the difference might be that personal space becomes less of a thing in a squished environment where you’re likely to accidentally touch someone’s butt or something. So it’d be suuuuper weird for me to poke my officemate but it happened to me all the time in restaurants (still hated it though!)

                2. Ender*

                  Well it’s interesting that the bisexual example is the one you brought up, because in some EU countries people are really open about sexuality and personal lives. Directly asking someone if they are lgbtqa+ is unusual but not unheard of and in a one- on-one conversation wouldn’t usually be considered rude. I often see letters and comments here about how it’s really rude to ask about someone’s health/marital status/kids/ Food / politics / whatever and I’m just sitting here wondering what on earth do Americans talk about? All the good topics are off limits apparently. I think in general people are much more open about stuff in Europe, both in restaurants and in offices. In the U.K. specifically people seem to be a bit more closed-mouthed / private than other countries I’ve worked in, and it does vary location to location, but it’s rare that someone would kick up a fuss about being asked a personal question. They might think the asker was uncouth, but you wouldn’t get the level of drama and indignation I see on here. I asked a male coworker if he had a boyfriend in my first week in an office and he was just glad he didn’t have to officially come out to me. No big deal. But homosexuality isn’t considered a big deal in any community I’ve lived in since the early 90s. It still seems to be a huge deal in America though (and maybe Canada?). For example someone “came out” to a group of people in my sisters workplace a few years ago and they were all just confused why he made such a big deal about it. People don’t really do that anymore, it just kind of comes up in conversation when you’re talking about your life.

                  I think restaurants in the countries I’ve lived in seem to have norms that are pretty similar to other workplaces. Your coworkers might be a bit more relaxed about smoking a joint on your lunch break, but you still wouldn’t want your manager to know about it. And you definitely wouldn’t get away with making serious threats or selling drugs in any restaurant I’ve known. If anyone was doing that they were doing it very quietly and definitely not broadcasting it.

          2. BF50*

            “To a certain extent… but I’d take poor quality food over staff dealing drugs and violence any time! The former I’d consider giving a second chance, the latter I’d never dare set foot in again if I heard about it”

            The thing is, you would never hear about it. You would only notice the poor quality food. Then you would tell 5 people. You would not go back and probably 3 out of 5 people you told would also not go back.

          3. nonegiven*

            If the food was bad the first time I went, I probably wouldn’t go back. If it used to be good and then twice in a row it was bad, I’d stop going.

            I’d probably never hear about drugs unless it ended up in the news.

          4. Nita*

            Agreed. Maybe the stuff OP describes isn’t obvious, but only up to a point. If it gets bad enough it will be obvious – maybe stoned-looking people in the bathrooms, or sketchy characters on the front steps, or fights breaking out in the customer area (have seen all of this – thankfully not often). And I’ve been to places where the food or wait times are hit and miss, and will be back as long as they’re still mostly good. The ones that feel unsafe? I’m not going back ever, if only because it defeats the purpose of going out to unwind.

      2. Aleta*

        Losing a third of your kitchen staff is beyond short staffed, especially when normally over staffing is COMPLETELY unacceptable either for budgetary reasons or because managers/owners are big on If You’ve Got Time To Lean You’ve Got Time To Clean and there’s just physically not enough things for everyone to do. So you’re already running on the minimum staffing you think you can get away with for any given rush, and then suddenly that’s cut by a third. Depending upon how the schedule is drawn up, and how many of the kitchen staff are actually on each shift, that could be a much larger percentage of the kitchen staff in practice. It could be utterly disastrous.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        If people don’t get waited on, they leave and they do not return. With many folks you only get one chance to get it right, after that you have lost that chance. Additionally, they go home and tell 10 of their friends that they could not get waited on at your place and don’t bother going there because there is not enough staff anyway.

    5. PhylllisB*

      Well, as I commented upthread; this is how my granddaughter got hired. The restaurant owner fired all but one cook for drug problems. Not easy, but it can be done. They were fully re-staffed in less than a week.

  25. Observer*

    OP, I just want to emphasize one thing. You owe Diana NOTHING. You should make your decision solely based on your safety. To the extent you anyone any moral duty, you owe nothing to either Jake or Diana. Yes, Diana is being abused but that doesn’t absolve her of her awful behavior. To the extent she gets into trouble it is completely about the very WRONG choices she has made. She stole, she decided to do drugs, she decided to threaten the safety of her coworker. Despite how bad her situation is, you have no moral obligation to spend even one thought on how to protect her from the results of her bad behavior.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Diana is being abused but she is also willing to abuse others. OP, we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. Tell yourself that there is always more to the story and use that as your rationale for not getting involved. As others have said, you could be the next one Diana threatens.

      I worked with cook who threatened people. I quickly figured out that as soon as I did something to tick her off I would be threatened also. Sure enough. She threatened me with a mob hit. I don’t think they are interested in a peon like me, but her words were dripping with hatred and anger so the negative energy coming off of her was most of my concern. She was the real problem for me, not the mob.

  26. HereKittyKitty*

    This is a response I flip-flopped a bunch on. On one hand, domestic violence is linked to mass shootings and I’d worry that their problems might leak into the workplace rather dangerously if the bf goes off. On another hand, if they were fired and the bf or gf were unhappy about it, then there’s a possibility that either she “sicks” him on you, or again angry bf comes to the restaurant rather violently. Idk if there’s a solid safe answer here, so I’m leaning more towards keeping yourself safe by not confronting either of them in any way.

  27. Jen*

    Seriously? Both these people need to be fired. If your boss allows LSD sales and violent threats by your coworkers, keep your head down and get out asap. These people are nit safe to be around, particularly the woman who threatens violence.

  28. LGC*

    …I was confused because I thought the multi-letter post went up already.

    And then I realized THIS WAS ALL IN THE SAME LETTER. LW, I need to take a nap after reading this.

    Anyway – I’d say that even though you’re in a restaurant, this is probably reportable and damn the consequences. Diana is actually threatening harm against Jake. To bounce off of Observer, I feel for her being in really hard life circumstances – and it’s not her fault for being abused or for being low income! It IS her fault for what she’s doing in your restaurant, though, and she’s making you feel reasonably unsafe.

    But then again, this is easier said behind a screen. I don’t actually know Diana. (And I’m focusing on her behavior because she’s the one threatening to have Jake beaten up.)

    Also – the boyfriend isn’t banned from the restaurant? I mean, I can believe that he isn’t. But if there’s any way to make it so that he’s not welcome, please do so.

  29. Muriel Heslop*

    People ask me how I can handle working with middle schoolers and this letter is why my answer is: I spent 5 years working in restaurants.

    Good luck, OP! Unless you know your manager would get rid of them both, stay out of it. Not because it’s not your business (your work environment and coworkers are definitely your business) but because people whom you know to engage in illegal and/or abusive behaviors are not people with whom you want to get mixed up.

  30. Papyrus*

    This reminds me of a higher stakes version of that Simpsons episode where Grandpa Simpson gets into a fight with an old acquantaince:

    “I gave you a plate of corn muffins back in 1947 to paint my chicken coop and you never did it!”
    “Those corn muffins were lousy!”
    “Paint my chicken coop!”
    “Make me!”

    I invite you OP to treat this situation with the same level of ridiculousness and just watch from afar but don’t get involved – unless the threats of violence seem like they’re going to be realized. Even then, I’m not sure what you could do. Even tipping off the police would probably go nowhere, since it’s unlikely Jake would want to tell them about the drug deal, and if Diana is trapped in this abusive relationship, she probably won’t turn the boyfriend in. This is truly a tough situation, but for your own safety, it’s better to not get entangled in their problems.

      1. LCL*

        Or the one where the family goes to a sushi restaurant and Homer orders fugu, which has to be prepared correctly or the diner will be poisoned. And the one cook who know how to do this, is off in the parking lot having sex in a car so it isn’t prepared right, and the usual hijinks ensue. I haven’t seen this one in years, so my memory and description are vague, but it was definitely true to life.

  31. Batty Twerp*

    Wow… uh… okay….
    I’ve just had to double check that I’m reading AAM not a transcript from an episode of Jeremy Kyle.

    This might be the way to go OP – let this be such an episode, pretend it’s car crash TV, keep out of it, and keep yourself safe (away from the drugs and away from the abusive boyfriend – actually, this last point is probably what scares me the most; when I was 17 I arrived for the early morning Saturday shift (small retail shop, not a restaurant) to find the front door of the shop completely smashed, together with the adjacent window – turns out the boss was boinking one of the Friday shift girls, and her boyfriend didn’t take kindly to it (she was shagging for promotion to shift manager – why not, it’s how the Monday shift manager got the job!). The front door and window were the only sources of natural light, and also pretty much where the registers were located – had I been early for my shift I would have been covered in broken glass and several(!) breezeblocks. I was 17 and a bit of a lazy @rse, which probably saved me from injury. Keep your distance from the crazy OP)

  32. sharkBite*

    I didn’t work in the restaurant biz, but did a quick stretch in the trade industry.

    Everybody was WHITE LINING. Admin, customers, drivers, techs, owners….every & all day long.

    I was the square one who saw it all and did not say one word.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      One of my favorite unexpected recurring themes in this tapestry is “It wasn’t cocaine? Huh.”

  33. J.E.*

    Jake and Diana already seem to be on the fast track to getting themselves fired without the OP getting involved. They also seem like the type who might start to not show up at work and that could get them fired. Restaurants are often a revolving door of staff and even if the owner doesn’t want to let them go for fear of losing staff, it may happen anyway. The main thing to be concerned about is if Diana’s abusive boyfriend shows up at the restaurant and makes a scene in front of customers. That could drive away customers if they feel that the place isn’t safe.

  34. Smarty Boots*

    So maybe I’m naive or maybe I’m an unbearable prude, but…why is calling the police a bad idea? We have an apparently volatile and violent man coming to the workplace to threaten his girlfriend (dangerous to the girlfriend and dangerous to EVERYONE at that workplace), two people who talk openly of dealing drugs (felony), taking drugs (felony), one employee threatening to sic her violent boyfriend on another employee (possible felony)… Plus, OP knows about all of this, so maybe gets arrested or in trouble or who knows what if law enforcement gets involved.

    There’s workplace drama. And then there’s violence and felonies. Seriously. Call the police. Or, someone explain to me why calling the police is not a good or viable option.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The police won’t do much on a third party report that someone told them her boyfriend is abusive.

      People come into their SO’s place of work and ask about them. Yes, in this case it probably is a means of control and is threatening–that doesn’t mean it rises to those things in any criminally prosecutable way.

      The drug dealing is hearsay, as is the taking of intended-to-be-illegal drugs.

      The one thing that has some actionable substance might be the threats made in writing. But those threats were about a criminal deal (or criminalish deal–not clear about the legal status of selling fake LSD) and they were not made to OP–she just heard about them.

      It’s hearsay about very small scale criminal doings. Not much for the cops to go on. If they tried, a good chance it goes nowhere but OP is labeled The One Who Narced.

    2. Bea*

      Please describe your experience with the cops.

      I’ll tell you mine. A drunken sibling of a friend shows up and starts beating my friend’s husband over some disagreement. She calls the cops. They say they’ll send someone. Four hours later an officer arrives angry he had to report to the situation. The sibling is gone by then. “He’s drunk! And driving a Car Make And Model! And these bruises and such are from his attack.”

      The cop accuses them of always calling in (it’s a run down area with a lot of drug activity), they’ve never called in before this, it was a total random incident of family violence.

      There was no report filed. The response to “known intoxicated driver out there” was “I can’t do anything with that information. You’re wasting my time.”

      There are great police out there but there are terrible ones too. They have their hands full and very little patience for reports of “bad things I saw or know about” unless it’s connected to a crime they’re readily investigating.

      Proof is critical and sure, you can testify but is it worth it? Is it worth intervening and losing your life possibly? No.

      It’s bizarre in a world where adults and children are being gunned down by police, you think they’re still the answer to anyone’s problems.

    3. Someone Else*

      It’s not so much that it’s a bad idea as it’s a probably useless idea. Unless one of the coworker’s (or the boyfriend) is in the middle of a crime at the moment police are called, it is very likely the police will either do nothing or make a note and then do nothing else.

    4. LQ*

      It’s interesting because just call the cops is something that comes up a surprising amount here. (Not that it is a lot, just more than is useful.) Something threatening assault or talking about drugs? Those are not things that cops in most places will do anything about. It’s not even illegal to talk about dealing or taking drugs, and trying to get only a threat of domestic violence to stick? Nope. It’s not about being a prude (which is a weird thing anyway), but it might be naive. To expect that no bad things happen and all Bad Things are Punished by The Law, that’s kind of naive.

      It might work if this is a place where there aren’t a lot of other crimes that cops are busy with, if the people in question have warrants out for their arrest (this is actually one that can get something done with it), or if someone has a personal relationship with cops who will come by and play police at the situation. But mostly it won’t have any impact. (That said, if you know someone has a boatload of warrants for their arrest, that’s something that cops will care about at least a little, again, depending.)

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Because even if the police arrested the bf, he’s not going to be in jail long and he’s going to be more angry when he gets out which puts the LW and everyone else at the restaurant in more danger.

    6. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      In addition to what others have said, it’s also a big risk if minorities or people with disabilities are present, even as bystanders. Some officers are fine: they’ll show up, listen, focus on the problem at hand and leave. Others are not. They’ll show up, ignore the problem and start interrogating black/brown/other minority people in the area. I have seen this happen and know others have as well. If this is in the US, you’ve got ICE working with the local police to round up immigrants and people who are Hispanic. In addition, anyone who’s hard of hearing or has another kind of disability often has trouble with law enforcement because they can’t always communicate quickly or clearly. That’s taken as a sign of disrespect and it can get ugly very fast.

      My personal dealings with law enforcement have been minimal, but I never had any problems with officers and was always treated respectfully. Other people have not been so lucky. Many people therefore try to find another solution before getting law enforcement involved.

    7. Observer*

      Have you actually read what people are writing?

      The main points of everything that people have said above are echoed in the responses to your question, but here’s the TLDR version (although I actually DID read what people wrote):

      The police won’t do anything despite the problems going on. But, the OP could get hurt, and so could bystanders.

  35. Wes*

    I think it would be better to ask this on a dedicated food service community. KitchenConfidential on reddit has a lot of people in the biz.

    Not to denigrate this wonderful site, but admittedly it has a very ‘corporate’ and white collar focus. I really don’t think the script provided would go over well in most restaurants I’ve worked. (Yet it’s been a long time for me, so I’m at a loss to provide advice that may be better.

  36. theletter*

    OP, I don’t know how to tell you this, but you’re working with a bunch of losers. Read up on all the advice here and find yourself a new job with functional people.

    1. Sayit*

      I don’t mean this as an attack but have you ever worked in a restaurant? Yea this is insane but crazy of some sort is par for the course in the industry. I don’t agree with it but the reality is that if OP goes to the next restaurant she will start as the new hire which can potentially screw them over for things such as preferred shifts and days off but it’s no grantee they will have a more sane working environment.

      OP needs to do what they need to do to protect themselves but saying “GTFO” isn’t always helpful. I’m sorry if I’m picking on you specifically. I’ve just seen a bunch of comments that don’t seem to have a good grasp about how different the industry is than the typical industries that get referred to on this column which tend ot be much more white-collar oriented.

      1. Ender*

        Yeah but saying things like “that’s just the restaurant biz; kept your head down and hope you’re not in the crossfire when crazy bf shows up to shoot Jake” is really unhelpful too.

        OP I think if the restaurant biz in your area is genuinely this bad, looking for a different job in a different industry is the best advice I’ve seen so far. You don’t want to be still putting up with crap like this in your 60s do you?

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I enjoyed the fast pace and excitement, for lack of a better word, of restaurant work, but I never noticed drug use beyond a little weed. A long time ago in a place far away.
          I stopped doing restaurant and retail because it sucked as a long-term living. Low or uneven pay, and little to no benefits. So even though I enjoyed the actual work, I transitioned into office work. I’m an evening person who gets up before dawn for my office job and my social life revolves around music clubs.
          I found office temping very helpful to transition. They made us learn to type in 8th grade and I was pretty good at that, and I had taken a couple of computer courses in college. During the 90’s boom I found steady temp work for several years. :)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      People sink to the level they are treated. If an employer does not pay well, is not appreciative, and does not take care of their people then this is a fairly normal thing to expect to have happen.

      Nothing happens in a vacuum. Bad employees do not just show up and keep a job because everything else is peachy.

  37. PublicHealthGirl*

    Ahhhh restaraunts. How fondly I remember the drama. My husband was my restaraunt manager’s roommate!

    1. Rainy*

      My sister worked in a restaurant where the GM and another manager got pregnant around the same time. The GM’s baby turned out to be neither her husband’s nor the (also married) baker’s, but was the GM’s mother’s neighbour’s baby. The other manager had been sleeping with the meat delivery guy, who didn’t want to marry her, so she sabotaged her own birth control as a power play only to discover that the meat delivery guy didn’t think her being pregnant was very compelling. Whoops. Both the meat guy and the produce guy were selling drugs along their route, as well.

      I worked at a place where the baker was my shift manager’s son, one of the afternoon shift was living with the GM and her boyfriend, one of the swing shift guys hit on everything that moved, and we were ordered to push the counterfeit bills we routinely received (oh, the 90s…) back out as change or have our pay docked.

      So glad I don’t work in food anymore.

      1. Lissa*

        Sounds about right! I worked at a place where the owner was doing cocaine in the office with the 21 year old shift supervisor, who was the one who sold him the drugs. Supervisor was also the daughter of the manager and sister of another employee. Finally owner’s wife stepped in and supervisor got fired – not for the drugs but for being a horrible bully to the rest of the staff and also not working, which caused manager to have a screaming freakout and drag her other daughter out of the place.

        Oh good times.

  38. sleepyinseattle*

    Personally…I think threats to safety need to be reported. Then it’s up to management and you can step away and say “not my circus, not my monkeys”

  39. LQ*

    The only drug free restaurant I worked in was the one where I was the only kitchen staff who was not actively in jail. They were all on work release as in they had to leave work and go back to prison. (To this day I don’t know why they hired me, I suspect because I was the only teenage girl stupid enough to not know that this place was not a place I should have interviewed for a job.)

    1. BF50*

      Hiring exclusively work release seems like a really solid business plan for a restaurant. No call no shows would be rare. People wouldn’t often show up high or drunk. You have a pool of available labor recommended when you have turnover. Employees aren’t likely to skim the till because they will be searched on return.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It’s brilliant and I’m surprised more people don’t do it. Ex-cons need employment or they’re going to fall back into crime. Food service is physically demanding, low paying work and if you’re in the kitchen, you’re not interacting with customers, so having a record isn’t usually a huge issue.

      2. LQ*

        Like I said, the only drug free restaurant I worked at…Though there was a surprising number of NCNS, not as much as other places, but still higher than you’d suspect.

        It’s also one of my favorite things to use in any kind of new hire/2 truths and a lie/getting to know you work ice breaker. It’s random, not personal, interesting enough that people will comment and remember but really it is very dull and not about me (it’s basically, I worked at a restaurant once from my end).

        1. BF50*

          But food service turn over is already high. It probably isn’t significantly higher this way, and having the pool of available workers supplied by the jail should make hiring easier since the courts would be doing much of the work for you.

          In my experience most work release is for DUI related convictions or other similar stuff. These aren’t high risk offenders or career criminals. You might get the occasional person who decides to go get wasted instead of coming to work one day, but their work release would then be immediately revoked and their sentence increased, so the incentive to not do that is pretty high. The biggest issue is transportation to work from the county jail.

  40. Kay*

    I feel like this is not your problem- let it go. Although for the record lsd is not really addictive. You also can’t overdose on it (assuming it’s actually acid). Fun fact I learned from Stuff You Should Know.

  41. Empty Sky*

    I admit one of my first thoughts on reading this was that I was looking forward to all the comments from people with restaurant industry experience.

    (I was not disappointed).

  42. PhylllisB*

    Well, as I commented upthread; this is how my granddaughter got hired. The restaurant owner fired all but one cook for drug problems. Not easy, but it can be done. They were fully re-staffed in less than a week.

  43. PhylllisB*

    Both my daughters worked as servers/food stylists. Going to have to ask them about this. My son was a delivery person for a pizza place. Seems like that would have potential for drug dealing.

  44. chickaletta*

    IIIIIII…dunno. I’m not sure I’d go with Alison’s advice on this one. Asking them to not talk about it in front of you or insinuating that they might get fired for talking about it at work is the kind of thing that these kinds of people take as a threat. If I were you I’d pretend not to know anything, and if it’s at all possible arrange your schedule so you have to work with them as little as possible. Good luck.

  45. AKchic*

    You, OP, are overly invested in the personal lives of your employees.

    Diana has made her choice to continue to stay with her abusive boyfriend. She has been given the offer of help more than once, and is actively using him as a weapon against other employees now. He shows up at the job site, which serves customers (!) and could get violent towards other employees (and has been threatened as a weapon against other staff).
    You have a staff member openly selling illegal substances to other staff (and probably customers and “customers” on property, if my restaurant days are any indication). You believe that something in trade was stolen, so now you can reasonably suspect that you have stolen goods being traded through the business.
    Is this a restaurant or a front for illegal/illicit activities?

    Is the current, dramatic staff chasing away potential law-abiding, less-dramatic staff? Maybe even good customers?

    The boyfriend needs to be told he cannot come on property anymore. Drugs cannot come on property anymore. Discussions of illegal activities cannot happen anymore. Threats of violence cannot happen anymore.
    If their actions cause them to lose their jobs, that is on them, not you and not the owner.

    I say all of this as lovingly as I can, as a formerly abused wife, and as someone who has dealt with addiction and crime in one way or another her entire life (personal and professional).

  46. buttercup*

    When I first read the title I was like “whoa”…then the minute I read that the OP worked in food service I was like, “OH okay…this is totally normal.” I quit my last food service job because my coworkers freaked me out so much I accepted a lower paying job elsewhere. I have also lost count of the crazy stories I have heard from my friends who also worked in food service. One involves a manager who smoked marijuana in the back room during his breaks and made explicit sexual comments about his customers.(I don’t think any of our collective experiences were as crazy as this one though.)

  47. Nicole*

    OP, this is not your problem to solve! It’s not your responsibility to make sure Diana can keep her job/apartment or to regulate Jake’s acid sales. If you really feel like you have to do *something,* that something should be looking for a job that doesn’t have this mess. It sounds like you’re happy otherwise, so let them dig their own graves and worry about yourself.

    And don’t buy acid from Jake.

  48. JSPA*

    INAL, but

    1. OP has only hearsay (from Diana) that the boyfriend has made threats.
    2. OP has only hearsay about the drugs (or fake drugs) existing.
    3. OP has only suppositions about the provenance of the bike (and probably no serial number).
    4. OP has only Diana’s word that the BF is abusive towards Diana–showing up and being demanding is a warning sign of a pattern of abuse, but it’s not in itself abusive.
    5. OP does know that BF shows up at work, being demanding. But strictly speaking–from a police perspective–OP does not know that Diana isn’t telling BF incorrect work hours and/or asking him to come make a stink before the end of her shift, e.g. to get her out a bit early. (Note: I’m not saying that this is the most plausible option, or that it’s what *I* believe. I’m pointing out that the police could use a reasonable doubt standard, here, if Diana refuses to corroborate–as she very likely will.)

    So basically, OP’s got nothing, as far as going to the police. And darn little, as far as going to the manager.

    As for morality, IMHO, unless and until we have a federal basic income or guaranteed food and housing–which is one way societies sometimes sequester people whose lives are a soap opera (or a tragedy, or both) from people who’re ready to work a normal job–there have to be jobs for people who are in the huge, gray, soap opera zone between “life’s reasonably under control” and “rock bottom.” And a lot of them are going to be at the lower paycheck of the service industry (waiting tables, washing dishes, parking cars).

    If Diana’s not ready to get out yet, you can’t make her. Bringing her to police attention is almost certainly not an effective way to get her help. There’s really no way to bring BF to police attention without putting the spotlight on Diana. So all in all, the “go to police” option isn’t helpful to anyone, in the long run.

    If it’s the sort of place where you’d reasonably expect less drama–that is, these are the only two drama cases in recent memory–and if you’re in a “no reason needed for firing” state, and if you reasonably believe that any replacement is less likely to be a font of drama, a chat with the manager and a quick dismissal might be appropriate; basically, let the drama people drop down to the food job strata where they’ll be one bit of drama among many. But if you’re in the tawdry drama zone, maybe better for you to burnish the resume and try to climb up a level (where there will still be drama, because food service is like that, but it might come with a lower risk of spill-over violence).

  49. Kms1025*

    OP: please do NOT get involved. For all the reasons more eloquently explained above. You’ll probably put yourself in danger and likely not be able to,change anything anyway. Just keep repeating, NOT my circus, NOT my tigers (cause this isn’t in the least cute and can actually bite you).

  50. boop the first*

    The thing about restaurants is these people will come and go, drama changes, and usually the managers aren’t much better than the staff. Also, there’s never any time for this. I’d usually just keep my head down, and work my butt off, and think about how unbearably boring the tasks are when there isn’t a regular show happening.

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