my husband’s boss says he can’t expense my meals, oujia boards at work and more

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

1. My husband’s boss says he can’t expense my meals

My husband gets per diem for trip meals — it’s a “you can spend up to this amount for each eligible meal” kind of deal. He uses a company card and submits an expense report to his boss with receipts. I sometimes go with him on trips, but my expenses are my own; however, his per diem is large enough that sometimes he can buy some extra food to share with me.

My husband says that he is staying within policy by only using the money allotted. He doesn’t go over, and when he is by himself, he hits as close to the top of the allotment as possible anyway.

Recently, after a trip, his newer boss decided that there was too much food on the individual receipts even if they were within the allotment and that he was clearly feeding his family. So he rejected some of the food expenses.

I am a little torn about how to look at the per diem. It is meant to cover expenses incurred that would not be otherwise, but why would he care if there were no overages?

No, you definitely 100% cannot do this! It’s not “do whatever want with this money as long as you don’t go over the limit.” It’s “we will pay to feed you on business trips, up to a maximum of $X.” If his expense limit is $80/day, he can’t buy meals for himself that cost $40 and then spend the other $40 on a sweater. That’s not what it’s for. It’s to feed him — and only him.

They care about the overages for the same reason that your boss would care if she told you that you could spend up to $700 on a new printer and you bought a $500 printer and pocketed the rest. I’m assuming you wouldn’t say, “Why would she care if I didn’t have an overage,” right? It’s the same thing here.

It’s completely reasonable that his employer is rejecting the receipts for feeding his spouse! They never agreed to do that, they shouldn’t agree to do that, and he’s actually lucky that he’s not in real trouble for trying to do that.

Updated to add: Part of the confusion here is likely that someone (could be the company, could be just the wording in your letter) is calling this a per diem, when it’s really a reimbursement cap. I’ve noticed people increasingly calling the latter a per diem, but it seems pretty clear from the details here that this is a reimbursement cap instead.

2. Ouija board decor at work

I share an office with two other coworkers who seldom see — I work nights, they work days/my days off — so I don’t know them well. One has slowly been adding decoration to the office that is very understated fandom, that you wouldn’t recognize unless you are also a fan (which I am). That’s fine! But today I came in and they’ve replaced the mousepad with a ouija board one and I am weirdly uncomfortable with that. How can I object to it to people I barely know or see, especially without coming off as super religious (since that seems to be the most common objection to it, but I could not possibly be less religious)? Or am I being way too sensitive not wanting it at work?

Nah, you get to be uncomfortable with it. Some people are uncomfortable with ouija stuff for religious reasons, others because it just creeps them out, and others because they don’t believe in what it represents and don’t particularly want symbols of it in their space. All of those are legitimate, as are any other reason you might have.

Do you see this coworker at all, even just in passing? If so, you could say, “Hey, I really like the (name one or two decorations they added that you do like), but I’m weirdly creeped out by the ouija board mousepad. Would you mind if I brought in a different one, or if we just switched back to the other one?”

Worst case scenario, you just switch it out yourself at the start and end of your shift, but a reasonable coworker will get this and be fine with changing it. Reasonable people will not insist other people use objects that are known to bother others (even if she overlooked that originally).

3. I worked a ton of overtime and am getting a lunch in return

Over the last month I’ve accumulated approximately an additional 80 hours of time-worked. I’m salaried, paid just over the required level to pay for excess hours worked, and am not allowed to bank hours for additional vacation time.

As a reward for my department significantly achieving its goals, and doing so “under payroll budget,” I was going to be taken to lunch. I declined, insinuating that I had something personal come up, during the scheduled luncheon. Should I feel upset that the extra 80 hours I worked are being valued as merely a lunch?! I’m having a hard time not being “salty” about this.

Well, the thing about being salaried is that you don’t get paid more for working more (or less for working less). But in a healthy organization, you can it spin into additional time off (comp time or similar), flexibility when you need it, or in some cases a promotion (if it’s consistent and accompanied by excellent work) — and are paid enough to make it worth it.

In your case, it sounds like that’s not happening. If you’re being paid “just over” the threshold to be exempt from overtime, that means you’re making just over $23,660 — and that’s definitely not enough to be expected to work 80 extra hours in a month without some recognition greater than a lunch. So you’re right to be feeling salty, but I think that’s likely about the overall work set-up there and not just this lunch. I’d take this as a nudge to assess whether you’re happy with your job and compensation generally. More immediately, though, try asking if you can use some of that extra time as comp time — framing it as, “Since I’ve been working so many hours this month, I haven’t had a chance to take care of other commitments at home. Could I take X hours as comp time over the next month?”

4. Can I put the skills I learned but not the job itself on my resume?

After staying for too long in an entry-level job, I decided to move on and landed a position in the field more aligned to what I studied. However, the work was very specific and demanding and for various reasons (health issues, insufficient training, workload not fitting someone just starting out, etc.), I did not succeed in this role, and after the three-month probation period I was let go. As both the management and other people with experience in this field confirmed, it was more because I was not a good fit for this specific role rather than not doing good work in general.

Even so, in those three months I managed to learn a lot — for example, a lot of specific terminology, managing my workload more efficiently, or using software which is a great help in this work. How – if possible – can I include these new skills on my resume without including the job itself? Although it was not enough for this job, I believe there are many other possibilities out there where these skills could come in handy.

I am not too concerned with the gap because I have been doing other work and activities as well, but including the skills mentioned above in my resume could help me a lot in my job search, I am only at a loss how to go about it.

Resumes aren’t really a place to list skills you’ve learned; on your resume, you really want to be talking in concrete terms about things you’ve done and accomplishments you’ve had. So even if you were listing this job, you still wouldn’t write anything about learning to manage your workload efficiently or learning terminology.

You can list the software in a Technical Skills section if that’s appropriate for your field, and if an interviewer asks where you used it, you can say explain it was at a short-term job that isn’t on your resume. But the other stuff isn’t really resume-worthy.

5. How to stop yawning in meetings

I often find once I start yawning during meetings I can’t stop! If the room is a bit stuffy, if I’m a bit tired, if I don’t have much to say … I can hold out for around 15 minutes before the yawning begins. It’s a minor issue that’s bugged me my entire career, not least because I’m most likely to do it in meetings full of seniors where I have less than usual to contribute. It even happens during one-to-ones where I’m genuinely interested in hearing from the other person.

Asides from politely covering my mouth and occasionally apologizing for it, I’ve never found anything to effectively deal with it. Can your readers give their best tips for getting yawning under control?

A few years ago, sitting in a waiting room before getting Lasik, I discovered that I apparently yawn uncontrollably when I’m really nervous. After I was back at home and allowed to open my eyes, I googled it and discovered this is a thing? I had no idea.

But that’s neither here nor there. Back to what you’re actually asking: Consider the question asked. Suggestions welcome in the comments.

{ 953 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia

    I think LW #1 has blown is. The way for her husband to have finagled the per diem would have been to get separate bills for meals and for him to have ordered generously but clearly a single meal; he could have shared some of his food and her bill might have been smaller e.g. maybe she orders a heavy ap but is able to share his salad, some of his sides and main and dessert. But now that he has been reprimanded for gaming the system, it is risky to do anything like that.

    1. Sister Spooky

      When my brother travels he goes to Starbucks for breakfast and gets something small and then loads $10 on his wife’s account. The receipts apparently don’t have to be itemized for him it’s just “Starbucks-$13”. He’s gotten away with it for years.

      1. Zoe Washburne

        It may be a small amount but that is the definition of embezzlement. If I go to Office Depot with my company credit card, I cant buy a bunch of gift cards for me to use later. Your brother is essentially buying gift cards with company money for non-staff to use.

        1. Amber T

          As someone who works at a firm where expenses could be heavily scrutinized by regulators/the government, this is making my skin crawl. This would absolutely be grounds for firing. I can only imagine the headache this would cause our (and others like it) firm if this happened.

          1. Notathief

            Nah, I’m definitely a not-straight snitch.

            $50 in the office budget means we get to replace a broken chair someone sits in all day with a good one. You bet I care about “petty” theft that wastes money.

      2. Imaginary Number

        It boggles my mind how many people don’t seem to think twice about doing something like this. Even when, as Spooky pointed out, it’s outright criminal.

        When I was in the Army I used to be the approving official for their government travel cards. Saw people try all sorts of crap like this. They honestly thought it was just getting their due. So long as the system made it possible to get away with once, they assumed they were in the clear.

        1. Michaela Westen

          Many people think the government has unlimited money/resources and they’re not hurting anyone if they take advantage.
          They’re wrong, of course.

          1. Sue

            The government pays a true per diem, unless maybe if you in a very high position. It’s a set amount, and if you don’t use it, you keep it, although it’s not enough for a fancy dinner even for one.

            1. government employee

              This is not true. I work in local government and we have to show itemized receipts. You do not pocket anything not spent from your per diem. We are audited by the state and would be in major trouble if it was determined people pocketed any funds.

              1. Fed employee

                That is absolutely how most federal government agencies work. I get a per diem for meals and incidental expenses. I can spend all of it or none of it, but it’s mine. The only receipt I have to turn in is my hotel receipt.

                1. beckysuz

                  Yes this is how the military works as well. My husband gets a set amount per day and it’s his to spend or not.

                2. Liz

                  I’ve experienced the same not as a government employee, but going on research and conference trips funded by a federal grant.

                3. TardyTardis

                  I remember the company lawyer who put down both per diem *and* expensed meals for the same time slot hoping we’d let it pass Because Higher Rank and all, and nope. Did not happen.

              2. Teapot flowerer

                It just depends. I know state agency employees who just have to say when they were travelling and what meals were covered by the meeting host/conference and then they get the rest of the per diem without providing receipts. Some claim breakfast even though they ate the continental breakfast at the hotel. It’s well known and the people they don’t like are low-key talked to about it (no formal warning, just a grumble “we all know you’re not buying breakfast out”) but the people they like are encouraged to put in for their full per diem even when their, for instance, lunch was provided by the conference host.

                1. Samwise

                  If we’re at a conference where meals are provided, the per diem for those meals is deducted (so, if the conference provides breakfast and lunch, we only get $ for dinner). We are asked and we have to document. I don’t know if anyone actually checks, but they could and an audit would turn it up.

                  Not to mention that lying is, you know, unethical.

                  That’s somebody’s taxes paying for my lunch…I am ok with the people of my state paying my insurance premiums (because that’s part of my compensation), but not with lying to squeeze out a few bucks I’m not entitled to.

                  Check the rules for your agency, and /or requirements of local/state/fed.

                2. Galloping Gargoyles

                  I’m the head of a state agency and before I started, the practice was to give per diem for all meals that *should* be covered, regardless if the hotel had a continental or a vendor provided a meal outside of conference/meeting registration. I changed this practice and now staff can only claim per diem for the meal they actually ate out. The one exception is that if staff pack their meal when they’re on the road, they can still claim the meal. I wanted to change this but our parent organization said no. My argument is that when I choose to pack a meal on the road it doesn’t cost me anymore than if I were eating that meal in the office but that’s not how the state views it. We cannot claim any meals that happen in the same city as where our residence is. The Per Diem amount is set per meal and there are different rates for in-state and out-of-state; out-of-state we follow CONUS/GSA per diem rates. The in-state rates are ridiculously low. We also have a state rate for hotel and we reserve a hotel that is above state rate we won’t get reimbursed the full amount; out of state it is fine to stay at conference hotel. There are also regulations around when travel has to start by to be eligible for that meal period i.e. you must be on the road by 6:00 a.m. to be eligible for breakfast per diem. We do have actual per diem meaning we don’t have to turn in receipts. We also have to pay up front and get reimbursed. The one exception is if we travel a certain number of days in a month ( I don’t recall the number of the top of my head) then an employee can request up to 50% of the per diem up front prior to travel. I don’t like this practice, mostly for my employees rather than myself, but it is common in state government to do this.

                  At prior orgs, we called it per diem but it was really the reimbursement cap that Alison mentioned. Receipts had to be turned in, we only reimbursed up to a certain amount and all alcohol had to be paid for separately. Many of the other heads of the particular type of agency that I lead pay for alcohol separately even when not paying with the org’s credit card. As an administrator, I would be really unhappy and shocked if someone used their reimbursement to buy meals for family or to load a gift card for future use or for someone else. It would definitely be grounds for dismissal!

                3. Emmaborina

                  When I was with a government department, the number of trips which would start before the breakfast cutoff and end after the dinner cutoff for the per diem were statistically significant. It was a true per diem in that you received the money but didnot have to turn in receipts for each meal.

                4. TardyTardis

                  Granted, our company allowed an expensed breakfast even at such hotels overseas, because what some people consider breakfast just, um, isn’t.

        2. Yikes Dude

          Something we used to always tell our contractors – you can pass off being like insanely hungry or needing to hit a delivery minimum once or twice, but if you hit your max reimbursement every day, we WILL be audited for overbilling.

        3. Mallory Janis Ian

          OMG I’m this far in the comments and already my jaw is dropped to the floor and my eyebrows are up on the ceiling! And the key word in OP 1’s post was “eligible” expenses. The meals reimbursement is for her husband’s *eligible* expenses, which spouse’s meals are not. Geez.

      3. Katie the Fed

        He’s risking his livelihood for something very, very petty. I mean, if you’re going to get fired for stealing, go big or go home. Why would he do this?

        1. bwooster

          I know, right? Even if your integrity doesn’t stop you, surely $10 is not worth your job and possibly career.

          It’s so weird to me that people think so little of doing this that they are perfectly comfortable sharing these tips with others. What the hell?

          1. Nic

            And of course $10 sounds so petty – but $10 each day adds up if he’s been getting away with it for years. Depending on how many trips the job’s sending him on and how long each trip is, he could have pocketed a good few hundred dollars, and quite possibly edging into the thousands.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood

          I know, right? It seems as odd as counterfeiting one-dollar bills.
          TANGENT ALERT : People really did counterfeit $1 bills. I worked in NYC in the years when color printers were coming down in price, and I constantly got obviously fake $1 bills at the breakfast shop across the street. I argued myself blue in the face and just started paying them in coins. Best day was when I opened my coin purse to count out coins for them and breakfastshopwoman saw a bill in there and said it would be faster if I gave her the bill. So I did and I saw her face fall…but she didn’t object, so apparently she remembered our previous argument about how I *had to* accept it as change. (I eventually stopped going there completely, even though they had the best donuts around.)

          1. ElspethGC

            £1 coins were the most counterfeited coins in the UK, hence the design change in recent years. They were generally passed out as change at market stalls and small businesses like newsagents, and they managed to shift millions of them, if not more. That’s millions of pounds they’ve made by not giving change. Those were some *huge* criminal enterprises that the government hoped to shut down by making coins harder to counterfeit.

          2. LJay

            Yeah, when I worked in a theme park counting money we got a few that were obviously fake.

            Management didn’t want to believe me at first “Nobody would take the time and money to make counterfeit $1.”

            Until I showed them the bill and they were like, “Oh, yeah, that’s not real.”

            They were generally pretty crappy quality and seemed like the work of an individual acter rather than an organized criminal enterprise.

        3. JSPA

          People may overlook the occasional “pen came home with me” event or a couple of paperclips, but this isn’t paperclips, nor the result of absent-mindedness.

          If the aggregate is less than $950 or maybe by state law less than $500 (says google, FWIW) embezzlement is a misdemeanor; some states aggregate theft over 12 months, some aggregate it overall. At $10 a shot, you can reach those levels, even if you don’t play fast-and-loose with (excuse me, embezzle, the word is embezzle) company money in other ways.

        4. Trixie Belden

          It may be the husband isn’t clear on the policy, so perhaps it hasn’t been communicated clearly enough to staff. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be asking about it, he’d be loading his own check with extra food as most do. In any case, it bugs me less that some hapless wage slave might manage to squeeze out a few extra bucks on a miserable business trip than that 90 percent of the commenters are so ready to jump all over this guy and even see him relieved of his livelihood when they don’t have all the facts. Especially when in my experience, it is upper management who are more likely to play fast and loose with company reimbursement policies. I guess more people have drunk the corporate Kool-Aid than I thought.

          1. Mrs. H. Kenway

            So it’s cool to steal, then, if the person you’re stealing from has more money than you do? Theft is fine if you really want it? I hear that argument all the time from people who pirate my own work, and frankly, it’s utter entitled garbage.*

            That “corporate Kool-Aid” expense in the budget might be the difference between another hapless wage slave receiving a decent raise or not. It’s not about corporate buttkissing, it’s about taking benefits that aren’t yours, and making other people at your level potentially pay for them.

            And what are “the facts” in this instance, that we don’t have? This isn’t someone using the expense account to buy peanut butter and toilet paper because they are so poorly paid they cant feed their family. Nobody NEEDS Starbucks. Nobody will die or be out on the street without luxury blended coffee drinks.

            (*FTR, there ARE times when I agree someone has no choice but to pirate. That’s beside the point.)

            1. Mrs. H. Kenway

              Can’t edit but, the part about Starbucks was meant to be deleted when I saw Trixie was referring only to the husband in the letter, not both the husband and the brother. My apologies for the superfluous comment there.

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch

        So he’s embezzling and his accounting department is an auditor’s easiest job in the making…lovely. For 10s of dollars. Yikes. I assume since they don’t count the office supplies or furniture he helps himself there too.

      5. ele4phant

        This just seems like way to big a risk for something so small.

        I hear you that he has been doing this for years and so far no one has been the wiser, but it only takes one time to get caught – maybe a new motivated book-keeper starts and is super thorough, or he slips and tells someone (like I dunno other coworkers or his sister who tells the whole internet) and then it makes it way back to the higher ups, and then he’s getting fired, or worse.

        For coffee. Bad coffee.

        1. WellRed

          I had a coworker at a print shop take discount bus coupons that we used to print for the local bus system. She shared them with her system. Who loudly bragged about it on the bus. The coworker was fired.

      6. Observer

        This is an instant firing in a lot of places.

        If these guys ever get audited by a government agency or the IRS, they are NOT going to be happy campers. And, if he gets fired for this, he’s going to have a very hard time getting a new job.

      7. That Marketing Chick

        Why anyone would think this is OK is beyond me. It’s clearly stealing from the company. I would expect anyone caught doing that at my company to be fired on the spot.

    2. Tan

      I’ve had a problem with someone refuting my expenses before- My (former) company had a separate per-day (I think ~50 over 3 meals) and day-trip allowance (£25 for 1 meal). I missed breakfast on a day trip so grabbed a sandwich on the go. I then had a cheaper lunch so was “under budget”. Obviously someone in accounts didn’t like it so the sandwich got rejected. From then on (much to my direct managers amusement- he was very much on my side as our accounts department was part outsourced and hard to work with) I ordered large potions, lots of side or expensive cuts to make sure if my allowance was ~99% used up within the appropriate “meals”. It actually became a bit of a joke i.e. “we might have a Christmas party this year if you lay off the filet mignon”. Eventually the expense policy was reworded because I kind of started a “thing” there- as in I’m sure in the time I work there the staff number was ~constant but the food expenses bill doubled. If I were the husband in the story I’d be maximising my gains without looking to order for 2.

      1. AcademiaNut

        That could get him into more trouble, however. He’s already been called out for inappropriate use of travel funds (and could have gotten in a lot more trouble than just a warning). If he then starts maxing out his allowance on every trip out of spite because he’s not allowed to feed his wife with his travel funds, a reasonably intelligent boss is going to notice this and not be at all happy.

        1. Tan

          The boss may be unhappy but would it get him trouble? If he is within the travel policy then the policy should be changed otherwise what is the company saying- “here is our policy but you may be punished if you go over an amount we think is reasonable but haven’t published or provided guidelines on”. I suppose in reality it depends on where you work, your position in the company and your boss.

          1. Czhorat

            You only have one reputation, and you shouldn’t damage it with petty nonsense like trying to eke out a few extra dollars from your travel expenses. Even if you don’t face discipline for it, you aren’t done yourself any favors by becoming known as the person who best knows how to game the expense policy to your Penn I advantage.

            1. Wintermute

              This, exactly. A reputation as unethical is nigh impossible to recover from, even if it doesn’t get you terminated. If they can’t trust you not to try to cheat the company on something small, you can forget about ever being given more responsibility or sensitive, high-impact projects.

              Your reputation is priceless, never jeopardize it over money, especially not petty amounts.

              1. Tan

                How is it cheating to use a policy they created? How is it unethical? They can and eventually did change the policy. I never lied about what I ate, I never ordered things I didn’t eat. I simply ordered anything I wanted and ensured it was withing the budget (just). “Forget about ever being given more responsibility or sensitive, high-impact projects” hah!- nope. As I say depends on who your are /what you do etc. But only the reason I was travelling was customers would specifically ask for me to come see and help them in person.

                1. Czhorat

                  If you worked with me – either as a peer or a report – I would certainly think less of you for this. You’re following the letter of the policy, but not at all abiding by its spirit. The person who comes within a dollar of their maximum on every trip is creating the perception that it’s important to them to cost the company as much as possible during travel; this is a very bad look. I’d advise against it on the very strongest terms.

                2. MissGirl

                  Czhorat, So you would tell an employee you can use a $100 per day on your business trip and then punish your employee for using $99 per day? I’m confused. Either it’s okay or it isn’t.

                3. Tan

                  I think you must work in a very different field. Working off-site in mine was unusual and very profitable. For context, I think my profitability went up 5 fold when I went anywhere. If I was eating with a client I would have a hosting budget too and they could get what they wanted- even prior to me “pushing it” our clients took full advantage of a free lunch. My boss made jokes but he accepted this as a business expense.

                4. MissGirl

                  Czhorat, So you would tell an employee you can use a $100 per day on your business trip and then punish your employee for using $99 per day? I’m confused. Either it’s okay or it isn’t. Especially if they’re using it for what it wa intended for.

                  Sorry, if this is a repeat comment. Technical issues.

                5. Czhorat

                  @MissGirl — I wouldn’t punish them for using $99/day, but if there was a pattern in which they exactly or near-exactly maxed it out I’d be concerned that they were trying to game the system. It would certainly affect the amount of trust I had in them, and how I viewed them in terms of their responsibility.

                  If the expenses jumped from something less to exactly the limit after a dispute of a charge in what appears to be a fit of pique that would be even worse.

                  Would it result in direct punishment? No. Is it good for their reputation? Also no.

                6. MCMonkeyBean

                  The idea in a meal budget is to allow for the possibility that people may need to spend up to that much. If they put that in place with the expectation that people will only use the full amount sometimes but found that people are instead using the full amount every meal for every trip ordering things they likely aren’t even eating… they’re going to end up lowering the meal budget and everyone will be pretty unhappy and likely blame it on you.

                7. MCMonkeyBean

                  I thought of an analogous situation that might help. If you deposit $10,000 or more in cash into a bank, you are required to fill out a form. This is to flag potential money laundering. If you deposit less than $10,000 then you don’t have to fill out the form.

                  But if you regularly deposit $9,999–then after you leave, the teller will probably fill out a “suspicious activity” form. You stayed within the guidelines and you didn’t have to fill out the form but your activity still spiked out as being unusual and while it was technically correct it was not within the spirit of the thing.

                8. Aveline

                  The purpose of these expense cap limits is not supplementary income. It is not a travel bonus. It’s to provide enough for people to exercise judgement and feed oneself adequate given variable circumstances.

                  The idea is that employers trust employees to behave with discretion and honesty and use only what they need. This will vary from location to location and from day to day (depending on circumstances).

                  If the company wanted them to treat it as extra income/travel bonus and always spend the max, they would simply provide a “real” per diem (i.e., a flat rate paid per day paid back to the employee irrespective of actual expenses). There are plenty of companies that do this. I have worked for many.

                  In short: This is not a bonus or prize an employee should maximize. It’s a variable amount to be spent to the cap when needed, but to be spent below the cap when not needed.

                  The whole point of this is that employees should be smart enough to realize that they should only eat a $10 meal if that’s all they would otherwise want but might spend more if in a more expensive area, out with a client, or super hungry, etc.

                  If Fergus is maximizing it each and every time, he is trying to game the system. He is not using it as the company intends on purpose to maximize his personal gain. He is showing he is selfishly trying to maximize the value to himself and get as much as he possibly can. It’s both greedy and selfish. It also shows a complete lack of understanding of why companies do this. (It’s akin to taking too much food at a company provided lunch. It might not be a technical violation of the rules, but it would be noticed and would hurt one’s employment).

                  He’s showing he’s greedy, lacks understanding of why companies provide these benefits, or is someone who believes that as long as he’s within the letter of the law, selfish behavior is perfectly acceptable.

                  Just because something isn’t technically a violation of a rule, doesn’t mean it’s going to be viewed as a good thing.

                  Taking six donuts from a stack on Donut Mondays may not be against company rules, but it’s not ok.
                  Taking food from the shared kitchen intended to her used on site may not be against rules, but it’s not ok.
                  Going to the supply closet and hoarding all the good supplies at your personal desks might not be against the company rules, but it’s not ok.

                  To say that just b/c something is allowed or not forbidden that one should do it all he time in a way that maximize’s one’s own gain is too prescriptivist.

                  If an employee chooses down the road of equating “not against the rules” with “advisable to do” or “able to do without consequences,” they will have consequences.

                  I had a former coworker who will never, ever be promoted beyond his current level not b/c he lacks the technical knowledge required, but because he was the type to always choose to maximize his personal gain in situations where “it’s not forbidden” could come out of his mouth. He took too much at the buffet line when they ate out on the company dime and wasted more food than went into his mouth. He would get his favorite pens the day the went into the supply closet and keep about 20 in his desk even though he only used 2 per year. He always spent the max on his daily allowance when traveling.

                  He doesn’t get it and never will. The company higher-ups decided he’s selfish. They’ve decided he has no self-control. They’ve decided his attitude is “if it is to my advantage, I will do it unless punished.” Not a good look.

                9. Aveline

                  *taking food from a shared kitchen offsite

                  This very much reminds me of my weekly lunch meeting for Service Organization X. All the wealthy old men arrive early. They take 2-3 portions of each type of food instead of 1 portion (the food is often presented in a way it’s clear what a portion should be). When the younger, working stiffs show up later, there’s nothing left or only a few things no one wants to eat. Then the olds complain about how the caterer never brings enough food. The rest of us think they are greedy sods. Technically, there’s no policy that’s barring them from having any portions they want. So they aren’t violating any rules. Nevertheless, we are considering moving to having the caterer dish out the food to prevent this ongoing gluttony and greed.

                  I have seen companies where people constantly max out the upper limit on variable travel expenses move to a per diem. Usually one that’s much less than the upper limit on variable travel reimbursement was. When companies say “you may spend up to X,” they trust that you have the discretion to understand that means you shouldn’t always spend X, but exercise your judgment and spend it only when you need it.

                10. bwooster

                  I don’t know your situation. I don’t have anything to say about your actions. You do you.

                  But you’re speculating on OP’s husband’s policy and I have serious doubts that he works for that one unicorn that allows employees to expense travel spending, sets a per-diem and then ever so coincidentally forgets to specify what that money can be spent on.

                  And since he’s already been pulled back on this, I’m guessing that the policy has something to say about per-diems being for your own expenses only.

                  “How is it cheating?”

                  It isn’t.

                  “How is it unethical?”

                  It is.

                11. Tan

                  “The idea is that employers trust employees to behave with discretion and honesty and use only what they need.” I think that’s the point. The old company was owned by a large corporate who did not trust employees and did a lot to increase staff turnover. In many of your examples Aveline the victims are all around you. In my case it was the corporate and as far as they were concerned the question was “was your project on time and within budget” if yes they did nothing (employee rewards and evaluations were a joke) if you didn’t then you got an ear full. Also our philosophy in our little bit of the company (thankfully in a profitable field) was always to do the best we can within the time /cost constraints so if there was a choice between making the new teapot with expensive ceramic 2019 or cheap 200, then it was always 2019 if we can afford it.
                  “Just because something isn’t technically a violation of a rule, doesn’t mean it’s going to be viewed as a good thing.” – actually my boss was similarly disenfranchised and when they did view it as a “good for you”(I got a great recommendation from that job). Beyond him no-one really cared we were just numbers in a table and so were the expenses.

                12. Phoenix Wright

                  Given that OP has already been called out for violating policy, it would be obvious to any competent manager that he’s now doing this as retaliation. Sure, he isn’t breaking the rules now, but he did in the past. His current actions (trying to max out the budget) would be a response to having been disciplined for that, and it could be considered some form of insubordination.

                13. Tan

                  Bwooster “How is it unethical?”- I am generally interested to know beyond “it is”.

                  “That one unicorn that allows employees to expense travel spending, sets a per-diem and then ever so coincidentally forgets to specify what that money can be spent on.” I think you’ve hit something there as I find that policy strange. I’ve worked at 2 companies that have per-diem’s and no spending policy (whilst I was employed there). In fact the second one I worked at one you just got given it (for tax purposes it was just added on to you take home pay for the year). There was an article not too long ago on here where some as in a similar position and wondered if you needed to pay the remainder back (so I can’t be the only one!). I currently work somewhere that has no set upper limit but policies regarding what you can spend on.

                14. Artemesia

                  We had a pretty generous dining policy when wining and dining clients and so a couple of yutzes we worked with ate high on the hog a few times; the result was the policy became miserable and stingy for everyone. People who abuse a system end up getting that system clipped and it becomes less flexible for everyone.

                15. Aveline

                  @ Tan

                  You were in a unicorn situation. That’s in no way normal for the corporate world.

                  I’m glad it worked out for him and you.

                  But understand that y’all were choosing to bend the otherwise normal ethical rules in place and the company let you. Most companies won’t.

                  So I don’t think what you experienced should inform what we say to OP.

                  You didn’t cheat. You didn’t do anything that you should feel guilty for (as far as I can tell).

                  OP is in a totally, totally different situation.

                  Also, not to nitpick, but just because you can’t see the victims doesn’t mean they aren’t real. The thing about morality and ethics are that we should hold to them even if we don’t see victims or immediate consequences.

                16. Rusty Shackelford

                  The person who comes within a dollar of their maximum on every trip is creating the perception that it’s important to them to cost the company as much as possible during travel;

                  @Czhorat – If you want people to wear 37 pieces of flair, tell them to wear 37 pieces of flair. Don’t tell them 15 is the minimum and then get judgey when they wear 15. Don’t tell them they can spend $100 and then get judgey when they spend $99. You’re worried about reputations; this is going to affect *yours*.

                17. Aveline

                  @ Rusty

                  We agree on your example. But it’s apples and oranges.

                  In your example, a person is choosing what to do with their own body and their own resources.

                  This is about resources that are not their own and are not infinite.

                  Yes, stating “here is a rule” and then getting upset when people adhere to it is ludicrous. But that is not what the situation is here.

                  No one disagrees with you on your specific example scenario.

                  But “up to” in terms of food and $$$ is different.

                18. Michaela Westen

                  I think Tan was justifiably annoyed by the sandwich she had for breakfast not being approved, and her response to that is understandable and sounds like it made positive change, too.
                  However, OP’s husband doesn’t have justification – he’s just trying to take advantage.

                19. Aveline

                  @Micahel

                  Agreed. I think we all see Tan’s situation as different from the OPs. I how Tan does as well.

                  Sometimes it’s difficult given how these nested and asynchronous postings go to really converse.

                20. LJay

                  +1 Aveline.

                  My company actually offers both ways.

                  Some positions are locked into one or another.

                  Management that travels rarely generally can put all items on their card for reimbursement, and meals can be up to a certain limit.

                  Our travel based employees get a set per-diem, with different amounts for domestic and international travel. They don’t submit receipts, just get a flat $40/day domestically added to their paycheck for each hour they’re on the road.

                  I was given the option for either one since I’m management but am 50%+ travel. I opted for the per-diem rather than the reimbursement. First because in a lot of places I don’t spend $40/day. And second, because I didn’t want to worry about reimbursement rules if I needed to pick up a portable charger from the airport instead of having a big lunch, or worry about whether I could expense Advil or not.

                21. JSPA

                  Something does not have to be cheating, nor unethical, to imply that your priorities are not ideal.

                  Even if someone’s job is to squeeze everything they can out of deals, most managers won’t be thrilled when someone who makes a game of squeezing every last penny out of their own firm, and who seems to be diverting mental faculties to that endeavor while on a work trip.

                  Think of it this way: reimbursement limits are set where they are so that if someone is caught in a situation where the only restaurant open is pricier than what’s normally reasonable for business travel, they don’t go hungry to avoid incurring personal costs. It’s not an invitation to splurge. A business trip is not a gastronomy tour.

                  Would you grab four slices of cake at the office potluck the moment the cakes came out, and squirrel them away at your desk for later? That’s not immoral or illegal either, but it comes across as greedy, entitled and tone deaf, all the same.

                22. Jerry Vandesic

                  I often hit our cost-per-dinner limit exactly, and didn’t think it was a problem (neither did my manager). Our limit for dinner was $50, and most of my expense reports had a receipt for dinner of exactly $50. I did this by putting $50 on the corporate card and paying any cost beyond $50 on my personal credit card. My preference was for a good (somewhat expensive) meal, and I was willing to pay for this by picking up any costs above the limit. But it certainly wasn’t unreasonable for me to expect the company to pay for the amount they explicitly said they would pay.

                23. Emily K

                  @MCMonkeyBean and Artemesia –

                  Yes, I hate working with these amateur lawyer-types who are always trying to find an exploitable loophole to work to their advantage. Because what it leads to over time is the rules getting increasingly strict as the company tries to plug up the loopholes by doing away with flexibility or trust.

                24. Samwise

                  I think the comments are for the ones where an employee loaded up a spouse’s Starbucks card, and cases like that?

                25. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster

                  @Jerry Vandesic same here — I’ve worked for places that gave you the same $ cap whether you were in NYC or in the middle of nowhere. A halfway decent meal in a big city would always put me over the cap, so I’d pay the difference out of pocket. Road trips mean long, long hours and when the meal at the end of the day is pretty much the only downtime you get, I’m not even remotely worried what they think of me when I spend the whole thing every single time.

                26. Tan

                  “Just because you can’t see the victims doesn’t mean they aren’t real.” Who is the victum then? I at the time got paid the same whether I went on 10 business trips or 0 in a year, I was salaried and not contractually obliged to go (although if I refused that I’m sure it would be held against me). Also who paid? Answer- the client. My normal trips are at the clients expense. We (at the time my boss) would put together a budget have it approved then quote it to the customer. Once I was giving a sustenance budget I viewed that “pot” as my benefit gained for going on the trip- on a use it or lose it basis. I doubt many people would reduce their company pension contributions or not use paid maternity leave days to the full, so why not use this benefit to the full? Just because the benefit exists for one day? Yes I was “depriving the company of extra profit” but you can also say the company was overcharging the customer for the job by not putting in a realistic expense figure. If you truly believe it’s the employees job to make personal sacrifices to increase company profits, how many pay cuts have you asked for?

                27. Jack V

                  I wish these policies would come with guidelines for what’s usual to spend. In practice, “everyone knows” what’s normal, whether the upper limit is basically the same amount, or a lot more, or something else, and everyone follows that. But for some reason it’s not usually written down so everyone has to guess, and then get into a pickle when it turns out that different people had different expectations.

                  I realise you can’t enforce a “usual”, but you can do, “ask people to back off a little if they keep taking too much”. And even, “make sure people aren’t stinting themselves”, if you think wasting time trying to economise is a bad rate of return.

              2. Anne Elliot

                It sounds like this sort of milking of the company by intentionally spending as much as you can, is something the LW’s husband is already doing: “He doesn’t go over, and when he is by himself, he hits as close to the top of the allotment as possible anyway.” I agree it’s not a good look.

                1. Aveline

                  This sorta reminds me of going to a buffet restaurant. There’s nothing illegal in people wantonly wasting food right and left. But I, personally, would be wary of someone who does so on a regular basis.

                  Or the types who personally game all you can eat restaurants by sneaking food into their bags. (I’m saying game b/c I realize there may be some people who are food insecure who are not doing it to game the system).

                  Anytime one is allowed “up to X” or “all you can eat/want/spend,” the goal should not be to maximize personal gain each and every time.

                  I really don’t want to believe there are tons of people out there who don’t understand this or worse, do understand it but don’t care as long as it is to their personal advantage.

                2. CmdrShepard4ever

                  @Aveline I love buffet restaurants, but hate wasting food. I will usually start off with one bigger plate of food, and then each plate will be smaller and smaller so as to not waste food if I don’t end up eating it or liking it.

                  Because of the huge food waste or people trying to game the system (paying for lunch, eating lunch, then not eating but sticking around for dinner) that some buffets near me have instituted a 2 hour time limit on eating or charge you a take out price if you leave a lot of food on the plate. An ayce Sushi place will charge you the take home price for any significant pieces of sushi/rolls left after the meal (you are free to take them home after that if you want) about 3/4+ pieces. I have left one or two pieces and they have not charged me, so they seem to be reasonable. Or they will charge you the price of the roll if you just eat the inside but leave all the rice on the plate.

                  I think all these policies are right, not only from a food waste perspective but also from a business perspective. I have no problem with trying to get a good deal at a buffet/ayce but that actually entails eating the food, not saving it for later, or picking out only the prime parts of the food.

                3. Washi

                  And the thing is, if other people travel as well and are not deliberately trying to use up every dollar, the pattern of him doing this will be pretty obvious. If persons A, B, and C all request less reimbursement in less expensive cities, have a variety of costs, $35 one day, $58 another day, etc and then person D always asks for $98 regardless of city or day or whatever, it’s going to be clear that he’s trying to game the system.

                4. Emily K

                  @CmdrShepard4ever

                  A friend of mine worked as a waiter at a diner in a college town. He would often get college kids trying to order a water with extra lemon and three packets of sugar, all of which was ostensibly free – he would always have to tell them, “I can bring you those things, but I have to charge you for a lemonade if I do.” A policy the diner had specifically instituted because of how many students were making their own lemonade at the table from free water/lemons/sugar.

              3. MatKnifeNinja

                I’m the last person to be sporting a halo, but man…I’m not chiseling day travel allowances.

                Seen too many people get nailed for, as people said “petty stuff”.

                Many people believe, if you fudge on low stakes stuff, what are you doing with more important things?

                You won’t get fired, but may not receive more important roles.

                1. Artemesia

                  IN many organizations no one ever gets fired for being incompetent but cheating on expenses and on time sheets is a nice black and white thing and THAT gets people fired.

              4. OhBehave

                Those here who feel it is fine to game the system will not be convinced otherwise. Entitlement mentality.
                Regardless of the reimbursement policy verbiage, the employer expects to pay reasonable travel costs for the EMPLOYEE unless explicitly stated. This is what a conscientious employee should do. It’s honest. It’s the right thing to do.

                1. pleaset

                  I’ll add I’d have some sympathy for gaming the system if the employer is abusive and nickle-and-dimes the employees. But a normal employer who you sorta think is OK, or even a better one than that? No, don’t screw them. Just don’t.

                2. Czhorat

                  I also feel that some people (Tan in particular) have a pretty unhealthy, adversarial workplace in which everything is a conflict – between management and staff, between corporate and local. That’s a tough atmosphere in which to work, and not a good one. We should take our cues from healthier workplaces in evaluating professional norms.

                  I’ll also aside that even if the rest of my organization is less than professional *I* can still be. That means not nickel-and-diming them back if they’ve nickle-and-dimed me; follow the rules, act in a way in which you can be proud. If they don’t value you there’s always the option of looking elsewhere.

                3. Tan

                  Czhorat sorry for slow reply only just looked back on this one. In that First job- yes there was a “corporate vs niche business staff” mentality. There is so much more to why my boss had a “good for you” attitude toward us maxing expenses that I don’t have the time to go into. However, as I said elsewhere in this thread the norm in this industry is for travel costs (hotel, flights etc) to be paid directly and a per Diem pay “bonus”. Our problem was the company started nickle and dime policies so we followed that example. I have no qualms with reflecting the values a company presents. I don’t currently “max out” food budget (actually I have no travel food budget- when I asked I was actually told “eat enough to make you happy but not enough to make you sick”) by employer is very much about the “big picture” not petty day-to-day costs of doing business. Also yes- you are correct once I had an option to leave I did- and in fact the staff turnover there is terrible and I’m not sure what is keeping them is business.

            2. Busy

              Yeah definitely. I am not sure, but I am getting the idea that people like the OP don’t realize that companies can take this stuff very seriously – up to termination. Some managers may even see it as stealing.

              This employer has shown they take this rather seriously by rejecting “questionable” purchases. This is not the hill you want to die on.
              They may not fire you (right away), but they aren’t going to trust your ability to make decisions.

              Trust me. This is is Sugarloaf; there is only death uphill, my Marine friend.

              1. JJ Bittenbinder

                Some managers may see it as stealing…because it IS stealing.

                This hits close to home for me because I managed a woman who played fast and loose with per diems despite multiple explanations and warnings. We were on Federal contracts, and they don’t take that shit lightly. We could have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in business (a big deal for a 7-person company) just because she stubbornly refused to adhere to the very-well-laid-out rules.

                She eventually got fired and, while it wasn’t directly a result of her shenanigans with expenses, they were certainly a factor in the “keep her or cut her loose” decision-making process that the owner went through.

                1. Busy

                  Haha yeah, I typically don’t like to come out and say “hey, you’re a thief” to people asking for advice. I just give them the benefit of doubt.

                  But yes. I inherited a direct report who liked to play fast a lose with the company’s money. Where we worked at, they didn’t send him on any travel thank goodness, but he would try to order through procurement unneeded things. He had collections of unnecessary stuff. I started to watch him more closely when he “bragged” to me about how he took money from one project and moved it to another project to fund what he wanted at his last company without asking. Like that was a good.

                  Turns out the dude was willing to play fast a loose with A LOT of things. Allowed bad product through the door because he felt like his opinion was enough to approve defects. One of these got the company sued, created issues with the federal government, and hurt a customer.

                  It is not likely shocking to say that when him and his wife were giving power of attorney over her mother’s estate, they blew all her money on themselves. They got arrested, but their rational was “what does it matter to her? She has dementia and can’t enjoy the money anyway.”

                  The mother ended up in a horrible state home and they ended up in prison.

                  So yeah, I know all about side-eyeing the skaters. But not all skaters are created equal too. But OP, your husband would be on my radar from here on out.

                2. Sloan Kittering

                  I’m a little puzzled about the use of the term “per diem” here – I would have said if you’re submitting expenses, that’s not a per diem. In a true per diem you don’t have to account for how you spent the money, you just get $50 a day or whatever. I didn’t think that was the same as the spending guidelines that you get when you are reimbursable.

              2. Katie the Fed

                I fired someone for timecard fraud several years ago. I was new as his supervisor and there were obvious issues with his timecard (I wasn’t looking to catch anyone!). I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was just being sloppy and I told him to be more careful.

                Well, he kept doing it. Idiot – I TOLD YOU I AM PAYING ATTENTION TO THIS. Why are you going to double down and continue doing it after I told you not to? He got to write a huge check to the government for the value of the time he stole, and he got fired.

                1. Trish

                  My “time cheater” got written up by HR and a letter from the corporate attorneys! I sat down with her (HR in the room to make sure I explained correctly) and explained what she was the doing wrong, that if she did it again she would have to reimburse the company for the hours.

                  The very next day, she called in the evening and left me a message that she had worked overtime again.

                  The only reason she wasn’t fired is that she quit before we could get the paperwork together

                2. Mallory Janis Ian

                  Wow, it’s almost like they find a loophole to exploit something, and then they just can’t stop — even when they know they’re being watched!

            3. Katie the Fed

              yep. Just like everyone knows who the office mooch is, everyone knows who the office boundary-pusher is. Don’t be that guy/woman.

              1. cmcinnyc

                We had That Guy and he skated the edge and skated the edge and skated the edge and one day he was abruptly gathering up his stuff with security watching. He wasn’t an entry-level employee, either! His area is small enough that he ended up working for people this company knows and works with, so we now work with him on the other side of the table. He gets zero benefit of the doubt, zero slack, and every contract and interaction is treated with maximum suspicion. He’s super charming and fun but he does wear off and I predict he’ll cycle through the whole industry before he finds he can’t get a job anywhere he’s known.

            4. Hiring Mgr

              Would you feel the same way about an employee who used 100% of sick or vacation time ? Are they gaming the system?

              1. Pink Peril

                I would say of course not, but sadly I have a feeling the majority of commenters here would come down hard on this person for violating the “spirit” of the policy. So many are eager to see workers punished for such minor infractions, with no mention of the fact that companies increasingly take advantage of any loophole they can to strip employees of rights and who care less and less about providing a pleasant or even decent workplace for their workers. With lily-livered sycophants like these, it’s no wonder America has the worst vacation, healthcare, childcare etc., policies in the industrialized world.

                1. I Took A Mint

                  That’s where I come down on this. I think it’s so weird to have a “spirit” of the policy re: travel expenses. When you set a limit to what is “reasonable” then you need to spell out what that is. And I think it’s ridiculous to begrudge someone a few extra dollars here and there when they’re traveling for the company.

                  My company sets a “per diem” that is a straight-up allowance, you go over that and it’s on you, but if you go under, you still get to keep it. I don’t see what’s wrong with thinking of that as a “travel allowance” to offset the stress of traveling for work.

                  I bet a lot of people outraged about this have also jaywalked, drunk alcohol underage, and pirated movies and music too. I wouldn’t recommend anyone do these things but I wouldn’t begrudge someone getting an extra Starbucks while traveling.

              2. Paulina

                Using 100% of vacation is great. Using 100% of sick time, always, could look like gaming the system unless appropriately explained. If someone’s taking the day off because they might have a tickle in their throat and hey they haven’t used their sick days yet, then that’s a problem, and can lead to the max allowed being reduced for everyone because it’s become an average.

                Both expense caps and sick day caps usually have conditions attached, which shouldn’t be ignored. Vacation allowances generally don’t, at least not about whether they’re needed and reasonable to use.

                1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

                  In my opinion, most companies don’t give people any near a realistic amount sick time, so I’m having a very hard time seeing how using every single day of sick time every year could even REMOTELY look like “gaming the system”.

          2. LW

            Honestly, part of my concern is who is to say that he ordered the right amount of food for him? Or anyone? Can you really tell by looking at receipts that I spent too much even within the allotment? This is why money is the limiter, but rejection based on kind and amount is a little weird to me.

            1. neverjaunty

              The “right amount” does not include putting a personal expense on a business tab. The boss scrutinizing your husband’s spending is a natural result of the fact that your husband made decisions that make your boss less willing to trust his receipts.

            2. bwooster

              “Honestly, part of my concern is who is to say that he ordered the right amount of food for him?”

              You have, by telling us that he paid for your food.

            3. Tuxedo Cat

              Without seeing the receipts, I’m guessing the person who processes it might be able to guess it.

              If there are two soft drinks, two appetizers, and two entrees, it looks suspicious. It might not be that obvious but whatever your husband is doing might be more obvious that you think

              1. Sloan Kittering

                Also, the people who review receipts are typically reviewing different people’s receipts at the same time, so it’s more obvious and easier to tell. Three employees submit dinner receipt for $45 and one for $80, you know which one to look at more closely.

              2. FFHP

                Yes, this. One of my jobs is to review travel reimbursements before my boss approves them. I use our financial office’s guidelines in determining what is okay and what isn’t. Two drinks, two entrees, two desserts….nope. I’ll remove the less expensive drink, entree and dessert, and assume our employee (and not their partner) ate the more expensive items. Some of the people in my company need to thank their lucky stars that I remove problematic items before great-grandboss gets a call from our financial office about their shady reimbursements…

              3. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster

                We had a rule at crappy ex-job that you could order an alcoholic drink with your meal — but ONLY ONE. If you had two on your receipt, you’d get in trouble. So whenever we went out as a group, if somebody declined alcohol, everyone else would clamor to get the “extra” drink, because the person processing expenses would be none the wiser as long as the number of beers aligned with the number of entrees. People love to stick it to the boss when they are undervalued at work!

              4. Hannah Lee

                I ‘ve been that person reviewing expenses at a couple of jobs.
                I’ve also been the employee who travels in the US and internationally for projects.
                Traveling employees should not assume that the person reviewing travel expenses has no idea how travel or restaurant tabs work, or don’t know words in languages other than English.

                If you’re submitting meal expenses from restaurants with the address “accidentally” cut off from the receipt copy, instead of submitting the original? Don’t go to a restaurant with a unusual name that is the same as a restaurant in the city you live in…that happens to be where I went to college. “Oh,who knew there’s another Flying Rhino, in Toledo of all places! Is that owned by the same people that own the one 2 miles from your house, Harry? ”
                “It seems your phone charges were pretty high, but that’s because you were calling your wife back home every day the week you were in Europe, sure, no problem. But hang on…what’s this odd item for $70 each day from your hotel stay in Munich all week. That word there under “description”….funny…that translates to “roommate” Is that what you were calling your wife about all those times?” You do you as far as your marriage goes, but don’t expect your employer to foot the bill.

                I would usually kick those reports back for the employee to revise before submitting them to the Finance VP for review/payment. But if an employee tried to scam the system the same way twice? I’d absolutely flag it and forward it on.

                1. TardyTardis

                  Ah, good old days when I knew how to read receipts in French, German and Spanish, and was learning Danish during one corporate merger…

            4. Aveline

              It’s typically pretty easy to tell when someone is eating twice their normal or when someone who normally orders one entree is ordering two.

              It’s one thing if he’s a guy with a huge metabolism who needs a steak every day. It’s another if he normally has a salad, steak, and dessert and suddenly the bill is showing two salads, steaks, and desserts.

              You are conflating two issues: (1) Paying for meals for people other than himself and (2) what is ok for himself.

              What he did is (1) and you are now asking about (2). (2) would have likely never been a question if you hadn’t put personal expenses on the tab. Now, he will be under extra scrutiny. He deserves it. Even if this was an innocent mistake. To quote Captain Awkward “intent isn’t magic.”

              Your husband screwed up by paying for your meal. He’s lucky the company didn’t audit his prior expenses and make him pay back money. He’s lucky they still let him go on trips and expense.

              If the only consequence he’s facing is extra scrutiny on his own bills, that’s getting off very, very lightly. I know it’s hard to be thankful for that if you feel he’s being punished unfairly. But I think given the overwhelming sentiment of “don’t do this” in the commentariat, you might want to step back and realize this is not something you can “win” or even negotiate the terms of. He’s just going to have to learn to color within the lines even if those lines are faint.

              1. Aveline

                Also, in case that seems harsh, I’m in no way saying he, you, or any of us should revel in his getting extra scrutiny. Or revel in his “punishment” or “comeuppance.” There should be no glee taken in any of this.

                You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to think it’s fair. But you aren’t going to be able to argue with it.

                The company can, at any point, take this benefit away. They can change it to a flat per-diem which is lower. They can say “no per-diem, we will provide food.”

                I have never, ever seen or heard of someone in a position such as your husband’s present an argument sufficient to get the company to say “oh, we are wrong, spend what you want without question.”

                Also, neither you nor he likely know what went into that policy and what internal or external requirements lead to that audit. If his travel is to other business units within the same company or to external entities, there are likely budgets and contracts which spell out exactly what can and can’t be reimbursed. So this might not be just between him and his boss or the HR person tallying the receipts.

                1. Busy

                  “But I think given the overwhelming sentiment of “don’t do this” in the commentariat, you might want to step back and realize this is not something you can “win” or even negotiate the terms of”

                  You are absolutely right here. Even bringing it up to question it IN ANY WAY is going to bring nothing but bad (added scrutiny, heavy-side eyeing, being labeled as greedy, not understand business financial ethics, etc.). It is a little more disconcerting that OP and her husband aren’t getting the abstract concepts surrounding this – and pointing that out further in anyway to his employer is going to go down badly.

                2. Aveline

                  I can cut some slack for not getting it the first time around. If you have never worked in companies that do this or worked for companies that only did a true per diem and didn’t care what you did, one could do this as an honest mistake.

                  But OP’s husband now has to demonstrate he gets it. If he or she continue to argue the justness of the policy, they will only look selfish or out of touch.

            5. Aveline

              Has he acknowledged to his boss/HR that paying for you was wrong and asked for clarification on the policy?

              Seems like a good first start might be an apology for paying for you then asking about using the reimbursement in specific scenarios. That should help restore his credibility and get him any answers he seeks.

              Also, he really needs to ask himself if he’s using this in a fashion where he’s typically eating what he would if he went out on his own dime or if he’s saying “wooo! Someone else is paying, time to splurge!” I have no idea which it is based on what you’ve said.

              Given he’s already under the microscope, he should start approaching this as equivalent to what he’d do on his own dime. I’m not saying he’s not already doing that. I don’t know.

              I do know far to many people can treat reimbursements as free money that fell from heaven instead of someone else’s money I’ve been entrusted to spend.

              I can’t even tell from your letter if you really, truly understand now that putting your meal on his tab was wrong. So please stay engaged and give us more details.

              I don’t know if you are a regular poster, but most of us here really want to help. Even when we think someone did something really wrong.

              Even those of us who think this was a big no no will genuinely try and help if we have sufficient data to do so.

              1. Aveline

                PS. If he has any of the past receipts, he should check to see if he was ever reimbursed for your meals. Because there’s a difference if this happened once and if he was doing it as an ongoing thing for years.

            6. LKW

              Well if there is an appetizer, two entrees and four glasses of wine… sure, that could be for one very very hungry dude, but the likelier explanation is that he was dining with someone.

              1. Aveline

                Occam’s Razor

                If you fall outside that and are the exception, the onus is on you to show it. I’m quite sure that if he’s an NFL linebacker, no one would question two steaks. But a normal dude who normally eats one?

              2. Busy

                And typically the restaurant will recipe it as “refill” for things like soda. So if you have two sodas or two waters, that is going to be a red flag. It is a little harder with wine or mixed drinks, but most companies, at least in the US, don’t allow alcohol to be expensed.

                1. Emily K

                  My org does reimburse alcohol, but only one drink accompanying a meal – they won’t pay for a drinks-only bar tab or 3 glasses of wine with dinner.

                  When I have more than one drink with my meal cross out or make a note to exclude the extra drinks, and print the new total with the extra drinks subtracted below the receipt total, and the submit that new total for reimbursement. My employer doesn’t care if I had 3 margaritas with my nachos when I was stuck at the airport for a delayed flight – but they aren’t going to consider that a necessary/reasonable business expense.

                2. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster

                  Yeah I always buy my team as many drinks as they want when we are on the road, but it’s on my tab, not the company’s.

            7. Observer

              Except that there are reasonable patterns. And a properly set limit IS higher than the norm to allow for handling things that are a bit out of the norm without all sorts of craziness and without to much nit-picking on policy.

            8. Czhorat

              If I know that you’re travelling with your spouse and you submit an expense report for two dinners (or a large pizza, or something similar) then I’ll assume you’re feeding your travelling companion on the company dime.

              That’s a pretty reasonable (and in this case accurate) inference from context.

          3. Decima Dewey

            Thinking that you’re within the travel policy doesn’t necessarily mean that you are.

          4. Observer

            Oh, it could easily get him in trouble. Not officially because he’s maxing out his bill, but for other things, like “attitude”. Also, if his boss is annoyed enough, I have no doubt that Boss could put him under a microscope and find things. And even if Boss does NOT find things to ding him on, who needs that kind of scrutiny.

          5. valentine

            Tan, I don’t understand why you went wild after breaking the rule. You might’ve asked a for a single rule.

            1. Tan

              Valentine- after a corporate take over we went from a fairly relaxed business environment to a real nickle and dime, strict one. And a lot of the time the new rules were not communicated /or not clearly explained /rolled out in advance. This was also against (my) industry norms where often per-diem (fixed pay) amounts are given or travel is very generous to encourage customer visits (which are at the costumer’s expense and profitable).

      2. Liane

        Tan & Academia Nut: OP writes that husband “hits as close to the allotment” when he is traveling alone, so this is apparently okay at his company. But now that he’s been told they won’t pay for OP’s food, they may start looking closer at these receipts.

        1. Julie Darling

          I don’t read the situation as, “it’s okay at his company” to always hit the maximum on expenses. The new boss obviously noticed how high the meal expenses were, which is what prompted him to look more closely at the receipts. It’s pretty unusual for an employee’s expenses to hit the absolute limits for all meals on a trip, so it’s very likely that this employee was a strong outlier compared to peers, and that’s what prompted the increased scrutiny. The point of monetary limits on meals isn’t to allow employees to squeeze out every dime of their per diem that they possibly can; it’s to provide some flexibility for when employees are traveling in a more expensive area, or to allow for an occasional night out at a more upscale restaurant. If it appears that an employee is using business trips to milk the company for every penny he can get out of his per diem, that’s not going to reflect well on his judgment or his understanding of business norms.

          1. Artemesia

            I have a sort of twist on this. We had really low limits for meals especially if traveling to high cost cities. So we would either go to a burger king or something or pay from our pocket . The rule was ‘no need for receipts’ for dinner up to $25; in New Orleans for example we wanted to eat great food so we would order that $60 dinner and just submit $25 for reimbursement. The auditor whined that obviously we were maxing out and thus obviously ‘taking money’ we weren’t spending on food so demanded receipts from now on. So we submitted the $60 receipts (while only claiming $25) and got those returned for being ‘over the allowance’ — took forever to make it clear that we were not eating crap on a trip to a big city — but were not making the organization pay above their limits either. It would astound me though that someone would steal $10 on a Starbucks card and jeopardize their job over it.

          2. Salamander

            This. The limits are to help the traveler when the traveler is in a more expensive area versus a lower cost area. I would expect an employee to use close to to the maximum while traveling in NYC. I would not expect to see it if the employee were traveling to South Bend.

      3. A Nonny Mouse

        I have had food expenses rejected because it wasn’t from a restauarant (salad and drink from airport kiosk; bought food from a co-op grocery store), because the balance between meals was incorrect, but still below the per diem) and because “two appetizers isn’t a meal.” Meal reimbursement was my most aggravating part of traveling in my old department.

        1. Delta Delta

          So, if you stopped at a grocery store and picked up some stuff to make your lunch rather than going out would that have been rejected? This place sounds ridiculous.

          1. PW

            It’s like the kind of places that won’t reimburse for subway rides because you don’t have an individual receipt for each one. You end up taking Ubers everywhere because you’re guaranteed to get that precious receipt – even though it ends up costing the 10x more.

            1. JJ Bittenbinder

              Malicious compliance! My previous company was like that. I wasn’t allowed to set up a Lyft or Uber account with the company card, and wasn’t allowed to get my personal account expenses reimbursed if I used it for business travel. So, it was cabs, cabs, cabs all the way down. Much more expensive, most of the time.

              1. Rusty Shackelford

                Honestly, I wouldn’t call that malicious. To me, malicious would be if you were able to get reimbursed for Lyft/Uber, but you chose not to in order to force the company to pay more for a cab. They didn’t give you any choice.

              2. JohnMulaneyIsHilarious

                Rather than malicious compliance, that sounds more like Street Smarts!

                Love your name

                1. JJ Bittenbinder

                  LOL, thank you! My own child introduced me to John Mulaney. Nothing like watching some of those bits with a teenager…

            2. Grapey

              Sometimes the 10X is more is worth it to a company to not scrutinize receipts and have to do a back and forth to listen to a “well I paid for this on this meal and if you add it to this meal minus the alcohol and plus the blah blah blah” spiel.

            3. hate being late

              Yes. This happened to me. I work for municipal government. Business travel to a large city in Canada where I took a shuttle bus to the subway from the airport to downtown for $3.00/ride because a taxi was $50+ each way. My Finance department wouldn’t cover my $6. I saved my organization over $90 but had to eat the $6. I would do it again because I feel like the extra money is a big waste and the subway was fast and easy.

            4. Dinopigeon

              My first trip abroad we were advised to use our company card for all travel, including metro etc. Well, for whatever reason most of the self-serve ticketing kiosks would not accept my card. Still got grilled over it multiple times despite explaining on the expense report itself. For about $20 worth of travel total.

              Luckily my company is good at reimbursing all reasonable expenses regarding food etc. They’re just weird about cash transactions no matter what proof you provide.

          2. BadWolf

            This happened to me — I was staying for a couple of weeks in a furnished apartment, so I bought groceries so I could just make dinner (not to save money, just my waistline). Fortunately, my boss smoothed over the expenses (I was way under budget). I foolishly thought they would average the per diem out if I spent a little more on one day and nothing for 5 days. Doh.

            1. Not in US

              This really depends on the company. I’m an accountant and I’m finding this interesting. In my company, you don’t submit receipts for per diems. If you chose to take per diems there are no receipts; however, if you chose to submit receipts then you will generally be reimbursed for the value of the receipt up to a maximum of the combined total of your trip. And you must either submit receipts for all of it or select per diems – there’s no picking and choosing. So if our daily maximum is $100 (it’s not – it’s less), then I don’t care if you were gone 3 days and spent $75 on one meal provided the total claimed is no more than $300. That said, if you give me receipts then they either had better be just for you or you had better be taking out a client and have a justification.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood

              Wow…. I’ve done similar in the past and it went through fine. It’s been a long time though so if I get sent someplace with a kitchenette again, I’ll take warning from your experience and get it approved in advance.

            3. Case of the Mondays

              I’ve heard the reason behind this is if you are at home, you are buying groceries to cook anyway. They are paying for the extra cost of having to eat out. I disagree with it since it’s more expensive for my husband to grocery shop and eat at home and me to grocery shop and eat on the road. My firm actually doesn’t reimburse for meals at all if you are out of town for less than an overnight. Apparently the fact that I was two states a way for a deposition and didn’t have access to a kitchen didn’t mean I couldn’t pack a lunch. My husband luckily gets the per diem where he does not have to submit receipts. It’s so much nicer.

              1. mark132

                While cheating on expense reports is wrong. Stories like yours make me less sympathetic to the companies. I feel like I’ve directly subsidized my jobs in the past. And sometimes I just would like a little back.

        2. WellRed

          Where do they get off telling you two appetizers isn’t a meal? Did Guacamole Bob work there?

          1. KRM

            I know! Two appetizers is absolutely a meal! And sometimes it’s exactly what I want, instead of a meal from the entree section!

            1. Emily K

              Sometimes one appetizer is a meal, and the other one is the appetizer!

              Signed, someone who frequently orders the chicken nachos appetizer as a meal, because in what world is a huge plate of chips covered in meat, cheese, and vegetables not a meal?

          2. Aveline

            As someone who often finds entree portions too much, I can attest that DH and I often eat 3 appetizers between us rather than two entrees.

          3. Anne Elliot

            Since we all know anecdote = data, I will inform you all that last night for dinner I had a bowl of soup and then a small plate of meatballs, both off the appetizer menu. And, in the interest of full disclosure, a glass of merlot.

            1. Nicelutherangirl

              I would offer Paul Giamatti’s line from “Sideways”, but I gave up swearing for Lent.

        3. Lepidoptera

          One of my colleagues had a meal rejected because the name of the restaurant was jokingly deceptive (the equivalent of calling a bar The Gym). After much back and forth hassle, he ended up printing off Google Maps photos of the place and slapping them on the expense lady’s desk in aggravation.

          1. Artemesia

            Our credit card provides summaries of our expenses by categories; when that first started we seemed to be spending hundreds every month on jewelry. Our local grocery store is Jewel.

          2. LJay

            Lol one of the restaurants I went to in Seattle seemed to have a description that was designed to purposely screw with people seeking reimbursement.

            The restaurant name was something normal, but on the credit card receipt line it came up as something like, “Restaurant Name ALCOHOL NIGHTLIFE HARD LIQUOR ENTERTAINMENT”.

            Thankfully my boss had been there before and knew how it would look when it came up.

        4. blackcat

          My university has a policy of no reimbursing for groceries. It drives me nuts when I’m actually at a hotel with a small fridge. I’d much rather buy a box of cereal and carton of milk than eat breakfast out every day, but it makes no sense financially.

            1. Observer

              Not once you’ve proved that you are buying stuff for someone else.

              And then argued “but the policy permits it!”

          1. Sally

            I used to get sick every time I traveled for work, no matter how careful I was, so I -need- to be able to shop and keep food in a mini-fridge. I was surprised that I never had any expense questioned at my last company because they otherwise nickel-and-dimed the employees. They actually approved my expenses even when I went over the meal per diem in NYC (but NYC travel always went over the hotel limits, too).

            1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister

              NYC travel per diem limits are a joke. When I worked at a state university we followed the IRS guidelines…. I’d like to see anyone find me a healthy lunch for $15 in Manhattan!

              1. Jerry Vandesic

                Luckily the IRS per diem meal rates for New York City have gone up a bit, and are now $76. Still, probably not enough to have a good breakfast + lunch + dinner.

              2. Lunch for less than $15

                I work in midtown and can tell you where to get all sorts of healthy meals for less than $15: soups, salads, sandwiches, falafel, etc. It’s not *that* difficult.

                1. anne_not_carrot

                  Right? One of the things I love most about New York City is how much good food there is at very inexpensive places.

              3. pancakes

                There are lots of places in Manhattan to find a healthy lunch for less than $15, particularly with the growth of mini chains like Dig Inn, Little Beet, By Chloe, etc., and there are tons of websites with features on the best inexpensive NYC restaurants. Those of us who live here don’t invariably spend more than $15 on lunch 5x/week.

          2. Dinopigeon

            I worked for a woman who had severe dietary restrictions based on her health needs. She literally could not eat 99% of restaurant food, and so always bought things from groceries while on travel. I mention this because I honestly think companies with that policy are gunning for a discrimination complaint on basis of disability.

        5. Aveline

          Did the company have any outside contracts? Or government contracts?

          Sometimes those specify it must be from a restaurant and won’t cover candy/liquor/etc.

          It’s possible this isn’t the company’s woo.

        6. Michaela Westen

          This is why Tan’s story above is so offensive. The employer doesn’t take your word about your meal! It’s not just the lack of reimbursement, it’s the message “we don’t trust you or think you know what food you need while you’re traveling”.

        7. YouCanGoHomeAgain

          That would stink for me, because I often eat appetizers as a meal. They’re often lots less expensive than a meal as well. *shrug*

      4. Lara

        Yeah, my dad was nicknamed “Diamond Dave” because he made a point to use up all of his reimbursement cap every time. He was a big guy, it was definitely for him, but more importantly he just liked going to nicer places.

        1. mark132

          Good for your Dad, when I’m on travel, I’m not afraid to treat myself to a good dinner. And if the company doesn’t like it, screw them.

    3. No Mas Pantalones

      I’d say he’s blown it by trying to expense his wife’s meals when she is not an employee or client of his workplace. To me, that shows a disturbing level of poor judgement. Where I work, it would be grounds for immediate termination.

      1. No Mas Pantalones

        And also, the LW outright says that when she travels with her husband, “my expenses are my own.” This isn’t an innocent mistake.

      2. Quickbeam

        Yes this. I’ve traveled at most of my jobs in my career. For the most part they watched receipts far more closely than I would have imagined. At my last job (10 years) when you were oriented they told you to be reasonable with your meal allowances, please eat what you need but “no filet, no lobster”.

        1. YouCanGoHomeAgain

          Makes perfect sense. I would never order something ‘fancy’ that I wouldn’t order if I were paying for myself. Maybe a ‘bit’ more expensive, but certainly not to the upper limits. It’s just not how I am.

        1. Felix

          Maybe because she wants to visit the place, it’s not our business what she does with her spare time.

        2. Jessica

          My husband’s company lets me stay with him on their trips (he works remote 100% of the time.) and the company lets the others bring their families too. It’s not that unusual.

    4. EBStarr

      I mean, it doesn’t sound like OP1’s husband was trying to game the system — sounds like they were doing this openly because they legit thought this was OK. If I were the boss that would be the only possible reason he wouldn’t be in serious hot water — that he clearly wasn’t trying to be deceptive.

      I had a coworker who was fired for something like this and she was genuinely shocked because she didn’t realize it was wrong. I was shocked she didn’t realize it because to me it was obviously unethical. But now that I’m older I feel like companies should really just do ethics trainings to make sure people know the basics of how to spend company money.

      1. Sir Freelancelot

        I agree! In my old company, they didn’t have the rules clearly stated out about this matter, and one person went into troubles because they spent all their per day money during a trip in a not- exactly-work-related situation. For other colleagues and I seemed clear this would happen, but others (and not only junior ones) were dumbfounded. So, yeah, companies are going to have such a simpler life if they tell the rules clearly. Never take for granted that everybody thinks as you do.

        1. CoffeeLover

          Good point that it’s not always junior people. I actually think junior people would be less likely to play these kind of expensing shenanigans. I think what is and isn’t acceptable to expense has really changed over the years. Companies are cracking down more on this kind of spending and the perception of “grey zone*” spending has changed. The days of extravagant client gifts, opulent Christmas parties and getting properly wine and dined are a thing of the past in many industries.

          * The kind of spending you wouldn’t openly admit to your boss, but was maybe socially acceptable.

          1. Wintermute

            I think you hit it on the head that norms are changing as companies tighten belts, and there is less of a perception that elaborate entertainment is needed to seal business deals.

        2. LW

          Yes. My husband was viewing it as a set sum he can use as he likes instead as a reimbursement scheme. I think the problem was in the understanding of it.

          1. Aveline

            “Up to” is different than flat rate. If it were a flat, fixed rate he would have been ok spending it as he pleased.

            If he didn’t understand that before, he needs to make sure he does now.

            He needs to also admit openly he was confused and that this was his error, not theirs. That will go a long way in reestablishing trust.

            Also, if this is the first job he’s had that provided reimbursement and everything before was flat rate per diem, he should tell his HR person that and apologize. Then ask for clarification about rules and norms.

            1. StinkEye

              Maybe a firing squad would satisfy most of the compassionate commenters. I’ve seen less outrage over DUI and manslaughter.

          2. EBStarr

            Yeah, since it was an honest mistake, I’m glad the boss has not responded too harshly! Maybe they’ll put some better training procedures in place due to this confusion.

            1. HannaSpanna

              But traditional per diems don’t work like that – you get x amount for the day and any excess you keep. Doesn’t matter if you just get drive through and spend the rest on others
              They’ve confused a per diem with a daily expenses cap, ie companies reimbursing up to x of only appropriate expenses.
              With a traditional per diem what they did would be fine, with reimbursement of expenses it’s not.

      2. Cindy Featherbottom

        Yeah, I kind of dont get why OP1 thought this was ok to begin with. If you aren’t an employee of the company, then why do you think they’d want to pay for your trip expenses? I’ve met up with my spouse on a few of their work trips but we always paid for my expenses and made sure to get separate checks at restaurants so there wouldn’t be an issue. Perhaps you’re right that people do need more ethics training, or at least the policies need to very clearly spell out what/why they pay for things. They might give you $x to pay for meals for a day, but it isn’t meant as a free for all if you don’t use all of it in one day.

        1. Guacamole Bob

          My spouse worked for the federal government, and there you can just claim the per diem – you get X per day of travel, you don’t submit receipts, and you just manage your spending on your own. Some people like to eat cheaply when they travel and enjoy the extra money, and that’s totally okay within the policy. I traveled with her once and her per diem for the 4-day trip paid for a good portion of my airline ticket because we ate cheaply.

          So if the husband has previously worked places where per diems were actually that, not where there was a budget allowance per meal like in this case, it might not have seemed unethical to him to do this. Once you’re submitting receipts for individual meals maybe it should be obvious that it’s only for you and not other people, but if I squint I can see where maybe he didn’t understand that.

          1. LQ

            Yeah, I had a per diem like this, it was handy because I was able to get stuff at a grocery store on one day that I ate over the next few rather than having to go out to eat every day. The actual amount was pretty low, but if I’d spent less over the course of the trip I wouldn’t have claimed less (I’m not sure I could have…).

          2. Kate R

            Every place I’ve worked did per diems like this, which I always appreciated because I tend to eat cheaply, and I could put the extra money towards boarding my dog which they did not reimburse me for, but I couldn’t do business travel without it. So I can understand why he might have thought if they are willing to give me $X per day, then what do they care what I spend it on. But yes, as a general rule of thumb, when you are submitting receipts, they should only pertain to the cost of the employee traveling.

          3. Peacemaker

            This…my university has this kind of per diem for international travel, but reimbursement by receipt for domestic travel. I tend to eat cheaply anyway (I prefer getting some groceries and eating in my hotel room with a good book), so I come out way ahead on international travel. I guess you could say the university comes out ahead when I travel domestically.

            I’ve often wondered why organizations don’t just go entirely to a per diem approach such as is described here. Seems like the small amount that might go to the inexpensive eaters like me would be more than offset in time saved by travelers no longer submitting detailed expense reports, accountants time savings, and the generally lower aggravation from not arguing with gatekeepers about whether something is expensible or not.

            1. Artemesia

              The other reason to run per diem like this is that there are lots of small expenses you have traveling that are not entirely predictable and being able to not worry about categories but just make your life better while traveling on business is a good thing. You might want to have your suit pressed or need to buy something at the drug store that you have sitting on your shelf back home. Travel is enervating — a little flexibility here is desirable rather than nickel diming people.

              1. LJay

                This. One of the reasons I choose to be on the straight per diem rather than submitting for reimbursement.

                I don’t cook a lot so my food costs are pretty much the same on the road or at home.

                What gets me are the incidental purchases.

                Okay, my travel toothpaste ran out. Gotta run and buy more of that again. Ditto travel contact lens case.

                I’m at the airport, can’t get near a plug, and my work phone is dying. And I was dumb and forgot to charge my existing portable charger. Time to pony up for another one.

                I got sick on international travel again. Time to find a pharmacy.

                I’m at the airport and I feel a migraine coming on. Time for a couple 5 hour energies.

          4. JJJJShabado

            Related to this are athletes. Recently retired pro football player Jordy Nelson would tell how he would basically just pocket his per diem money on road trips and eat either team meals or at the hotel. This is fine because he was just given cash to do with as he pleased, no expenses submitted.

            1. skunklet

              I used to work with a Recruiter for the Feds (not military) and she’d go someplace, eat bologna sandwiches, and put her per diem in her Butt Lift Fund…. I.KID.YOU.NOT. Totally legit.

            2. Bee

              This is what we had when I was a college athlete: we got $20/day for away meets, handed to us in cash as we got off the bus, but often the parents in that area would show up and feed us dinner. I usually tried to pocket as much as I could – I was a broke college kid!

              1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster

                Back in the late eighties when I was in college marching band, we got handed cash for meals on road trips, but we always just spent it on beer!

                1. Hannah Lee

                  You get a lot quicker buzz on beer when you haven’t eaten, so that was a double win for you!

          5. Psyche

            Yep. If you go from somewhere that just gives you a per diem to somewhere that does reimbursement but calls it per diem, I can see where the confusion could come from. I do think that the company should be very very clear with their policy.

          6. Jerry Vandesic

            Early in my career I had a long term (4 month) work trip in Asia. They found me an apartment, and gave me $150 per day per diem for expenses such as meals. I ended up eating mostly simple meals in my apartment, and rarely spent more than $20 per day. Since it was a per diem, I was able to keep the rest and ultimately paid off my student loans. An additional benefit was that the per diem was tax free, which I never quite understood, but it certainly was a good thing for my finances at the time.

            1. LaurenB

              My father worked on projects in two cities, six hours apart, for a few years in his 20s. Nowadays they’d hire two term employees, but back then (late ’70s) they put him on long-term travel status for almost half the time. At times he had his apartment in City A rented out to a co-op student and was sleeping on a friend’s couch in City B – and he was getting a per diem! He bought a house in cash a few years after that.

            2. Galloping Gargoyles

              Tax free is awesome. We are taxed on our in-state per diem checks. Which is ridiculous because the amounts we receive are barely enough to cover a meal at many restaurants. We aren’t charged tax for the out-of-state which is confusing but I’m not going to argue that point. :-)

              For reference, in-state per diem: Breakfast-$7.00, Lunch-$10.50, Dinner-$17.50

              1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

                Huh. That’s more for meals than my local government gives in state. ($30 for meals a day if you’re overnighting somewhere. Going for day classes? Too bad, buy your own meals.)

        2. Antilles

          They might give you $x to pay for meals for a day, but it isn’t meant as a free for all if you don’t use all of it in one day.
          If it’s a per-diem, this is actually how it does work in a lot of places. The company (or government) hands you the exact amount as a straight cash payment and it’s effectively *your* money to address as you see fit – whether that means spending almost the entire thing every day, having smaller meals a couple days and having a four-star steak on Friday, or spending less than the amount every day and pocketing a nice check at the end of the week. The only caveat here is that the $X per day set amount is ALL you get to cover meals and incidentals – no submitting expense reports for laundry or a morning coffee or etc, because you’re assumed to figure out a way to make the $X per day cover all of that stuff.
          That’s different from a budget allowance, where you’re budgeted for a maximum of $X per day and expected to submit detailed receipts and expense reports.

          1. Mk2

            I worked at organizations with per diem, especially when I was overseas and it was so many easier than receipts. Although, sometimes they had one blanket policy of per diem in the region and say that 50 bucks a day could feed you in X country but in country Y would pay for one meal. We always were able to expense if we took clients for meals though. I did find it easier for everyone and a time saver.

          2. Cathie from Canada

            The university I worked for used per diems, but there were rules around these too — like, if you were at a conference where the registration fee (also paid by the university) included lunch, then you shouldn’t submit the “lunch” portion of the per diem for that day, only the breakfast and dinner portions. So it wasn’t totally a free-for all. Every other expense on a trip required a receipt or it wouldn’t be reimbursed — I lost the receipt for a taxi ride to the airport once, and had to ask whether it was possible to get reimbursed anyway for the $25 cost anyway or if I just had to swallow it, and on a one-time basis they allowed it but it was a bigger deal than I had expected it would be.

        3. Batman

          Yeah, I think the issue here is that they call it a per diem, but it’s not. It’s expense reimbursement up to a certain amount.

          1. Clisby

            I agree. If it’s really a per diem, it’s none of their business how you spend it. You just don’t get to charge them for anything else.

            1. Clisby

              Unless, of course, it’s something like taking customers/clients out to dinner. That’s separate.

        4. Samwise

          Hotel reimbursement was an issue — if my husband travelled with me to a conference which I attended and he did not, and we both stayed in the hotel room, I got fussed at because they were paying for his share of the hotel room — even though the price of the room was the same whether one person or two stayed there.
          We just ended up not listing him as a guest in the room when making the reservation and getting an extra key when we arrived at the hotel. But that’s only because there was zero cost for him to be there. If there were a surcharge we would pay it.

      3. MissGirl

        I would definitely need this training. I’ve never worked someplace where travel was part of it. I’m also a bit of a spendthrift so I’d probably try to maximize my daily allotment thinking it’s my money. This was an eye-opening letter. The company should clearly state their policy.

        1. LW

          Yes. I thought that. Ah. I think the problem is my husband is looking too much at the letter and numbers of the policy rather than the reasoning. Part of the problem the reasoning was not explained clearly, or he would have a better view of it.

          1. Aveline

            I get that. However, the onus is typically on the employee to state they don’t understand something like this.

            In certain industries, he would be viewed as naive or inexperienced to not understand these policies. It would be akin to not understanding what “business casual” meant within the industry.

            I’m not saying that’s fair, but trying to say “it’s the company’s fault for not explaining this in detail “ will make him look lesser in some way.

            Particularly in the age of the internet where one can research how to use a per diem.

            I know that’s hard to swallow. But it seems you are still trying to find a way to evade the fault being on him.

            Please listen: it doesn’t matter if objectively the fault is squarely with the company for failing to educate him on this. If he’s the only person who has had, or is having, this issue, it will be a “him issue” and “not a company” issue not matter what we say here.*

            If he goes back and says “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand this because I’ve never had a job where this was how expenses were reimbursed” he will be ok. If he says “I’m sorry, but you should have trained me” he will be digging his hole deeper.

            That is true even if the company is objectively at fault.

            I understand your emotional investment in this. I truly do. But I can’t see anyway where the blame can be shifted back to the company and he comes out of this “innocent” in their eyes.

            He’s going to have to take the lumps on this.

            The good news is, that if he’s an otherwise good performer with no issues and starts doing these reimbursements like the company wants (i.e., clean receipts with nothing that should be on it, timely filed), then this will be a minor blip that is forgotten.

            *30 years ago, in the pre-internet era, he might be able to argue this case. But in 2019, with the ability to go online and read about how companies work this, he’s going to have a harder time pleading justifiable ignorance.

            1. Billy Yum Yum 2x2

              My department does our company’s Code of Conduct training. We stress that simply the appearance of impropriety can (and generally is) as bad as active impropriety in itself.

              Perhaps I’m old school, but I cannot even fathom how someone would think that this situation is okay when receipts must be submitted. A limit is not an entitlement.

              1. Aveline

                “A limit is not an entitlement.”

                That’s all that needs to be said to anyone arguing that it’s ok to spend the complete amount irrespective of actual need.

                I’ve been searching for a succulent way to say that all morning. You nailed it.

                I am going to file that away for future reference with clients.

                1. Pink Peril

                  I would say of course not, but sadly I have a feeling the majority of commenters here would come down hard on this person for violating the “spirit” of the policy. So many are eager to see workers punished for such minor infractions, with no mention of the fact that companies increasingly take advantage of any loophole they can to strip employees of rights and who care less and less about providing a pleasant or even decent workplace for their workers. With lily-livered sycophants like these, it’s no wonder America has the worst vacation, healthcare, childcare etc., policies in the industrialized world.

              2. boo bot

                “However, the onus is typically on the employee to state they don’t understand something like this.”

                I mean, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, though – it sounds like he thought he did understand.

                I tend to feel like people should say what they mean, and unwritten rules are traps by another name. Yes, you shouldn’t try to spend up to the limit every time (I think the person who likened it to depositing $9,999 at the bank to avoid the $10K reporting trigger was spot on) but also, I don’t understand why the people in charge don’t just explain their expectations.

                A lot of this goes back to what the rules say vs. what they really mean, and I truly don’t understand why the rule can’t just *say* “Your expense limit is $50/day, but $50 is a cap, so you shouldn’t be hitting it every time; most people spend between $25-$30 unless they’re in an expensive city.”

                If I heard “per diem” I would assume the same thing the LW’s husband did, that it’s an actual per diem that the company has budgeted to pay me on the days I’m traveling. If they asked for receipts and reimbursed me for those, I would probably figure out what they actually meant, but 10 years ago when I’d never had a job where I traveled, I might not have.

                1. Aveline

                  Except that it’s clear from elsewhere where LW has responded that thirst trip wasn’t his first rodeo. He had some prior ones alone where he’d submitted expenses.

                  At what point in the process is he expected to know? Certainly not the first time. But if he’s made 2-3 trips and had to submit receipts and then wait for reimbursement, he surely knows how it works.

                  Also, in no universe is it reasonable to expect to use reimbursements on buying presents for third parties. That’s what buying her lunch was. A present he used company money for.

                  Also, there’s nothing in LW’s responses to make me think he has a mitigating factor like it’s his first job, etc.

                2. BoredFed

                  I see the principle as simple: if you get a lump sum per day, with no need for accounting how you spend it, then it’s yours to spend as you like. If you are required to account for your expenses, then they need to be for allowed purposes. The receipt issue is not determinative– I am not required to submit receipts for low value taxi rides (eg, less than $50) but any claims for reimbursement must be (and are) accurate amounts for allowed purposes.

                3. Hannah Lee

                  It’s good to keep in mind that though a company may have an internal policy about what expenses are allowed, what the daily limits are and how those expenses need to be documented, sometimes those requirements come from somewhere else ie contractual requirements from a customer, or the legal requirements from the IRS, DOL or other government entities.

                  And those documentation requirements can be different for, say, an employee traveling on company business who has business related travel & living expenses vs a manager traveling on company business who has their own business related travel & living expenses and is also paying for some meals for subordinates vs someone who is paying for a meal for customers/clients.

                  And those documentation requirements will be different depending on whether your company is going the per diem route, or reimbursing you for actual expenses.

                  And lastly, also keep in mind that a company could have what they call a “per diem” limit that has nothing to do with what some companies mean when they say they are paying a “per diem” for travel expenses. In the first case, it is meant as an agreed on ‘cap’ for daily expenses, which will be reimbursed/advanced-reconciled based on ACTUAL documented expenses; in the second it is more a “we’ll give you this much every day, you figure it out” thing. In my experience, if you happen to be traveling somewhere like Paris, or San Francisco or NYC and you’ve exceeded the “per diem” limit in the first case, you may still be able to get reimbursed for it, if you can make your case to your manager/finance. If you’re traveling to those places, it’s worth it to check with colleagues, finance, corporate travel (is that a thing anymore?) before the trip to see what they are expecting, consider reasonable in those areas.

      4. CoffeeLover

        I don’t know how needed ethics training is for something like expensing. All companies have an expense policy that clearly states what is covered. Anything not stated in the policy is not covered or should be checked beforehand. I think the onus is on the employee to know what is permitted or not. People who are shocked or say they “didn’t know” are choosing not to know.

        I think a good rule of thumb though is: would you be willing to openly explain the expense to your boss. If not, then don’t expense it or check with boss before doing it.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          I’m quite dubious that all companies have an expense policy that is clear. And practice aligns with that theory.

          1. TBoT

            Yeah a lot of companies don’t. I was part of a company that was very organized and clearly documented all of those sorts of policies, and then our division was acquired by a start-up that had almost nothing documented. We spent more than a year asking what the travel policy was, getting no answer, and just sort of going, “Well, I guess I’ll keep going by what we were doing under our old company, since they clearly knew what they were doing.” (Then we were acquired by *another* company that has more documentation, but randomly doesn’t follow various parts of it, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .”

          2. JJ Bittenbinder

            Yeah, I worked for a company whose budget person thought “use your best judgment and don’t go crazy” was a good explanation of the guidelines.

            It was not.

            1. ClumsyCharisma

              Yep. This was pretty much the policy when I first started traveling for my company as well. It was also when we started acquiring offices in other areas of the country so people below executive level were traveling for the first time.
              There is now a formal policy but I don’t travel anymore so I honestly am not sure what it says since it doesn’t apply.
              But I agree, even if it’s spelled out, a class or training is not a bad idea because you cannot put every situation in a policy.

            2. Emily K

              Yep, that works right up until you hire someone who doesn’t own stock in the company or otherwise feel deeply personally invested in its success.

              1. pancakes

                Or simply doesn’t have good judgment. It isn’t at all necessary to feel “deeply personally invested” to be aware of norms and exercise good judgement.

          3. Narvo Flieboppen

            Our expense policy is quite clear, but department managers are quite good at never pointing it out to staff. And many of the new hires don’t bother to ask/read it before they go traveling. It seems like common sense to me that one would ask if there was a policy and read it before traveling, but clearly not all minds think alike.

            1. Emily K

              At most of the jobs I can recall starting, I was supposed to review an employee handbook and then sign a document indicating that I had done so, as part of my first day onboarding/paperwork.

              Now, being the first day, it wasn’t like I retained most of it from that one reading, but the good companies also had the handbook available somewhere on a server or intranet/website where employees could reference it as needed, so by the time I would get my first business trip, I’d think, “What was that travel policy again? I vaguely remember some rules about nonstop flights and extra hotel nights….” and go look it up to refresh my memory.

              Being given the handbook on the first day is a great way to make sure that your employees at least know there are policies and where to find them!

          4. Aveline

            Yes, but in this particular case, it is clear that what LW’s husband did was wrong and outside the norms.

            We could argue the hypothetical and practical all day, but for the LW, what she needs to hear is that it was outside the lines and most employees would know that.

          5. CoffeeLover

            Fair enough. Maybe I should have said “all companies should have a clear expense policy”. For those companies that don’t have one, I still don’t think they need to do ethics training… I think they just need to properly document their policy and give it to new hires if relevant.

          6. mark132

            Or have an expense policy as well. (other than what Sally/Bob Jones/Smith in finance says it it today).

        2. Bagpuss

          I don’t know if all companies have a policy that is clear – my guess would be ‘no’ since lots of places don’t sem to have any formal policies at all!

          However, I do think that a clear policy which people are explicitly directed to is importnat.

          We don’t eally have situations where peopl are exppensing meals or hotels, but we do have a policy for expenses (which I updated and made much clearer, after 2 separate issues came to light – one with a cahsier being over-officious and seking to ad their own rules, and one with a staff member who didn’t technically break the policy because it wasn’t clear, but certainly didn’t follow the intent (and should have known better, as they were in a role which included responsibility for making sure that the policies were clear and working as they should, not taking dvantage of them!)

          1. boo bot

            “Telling people to read your mind isn’t the path towards compliance.”

            THAT should be in the policy.

        3. Tammy

          My company’s travel and expense policy is detailed enough that it runs to 18 pages. It also leads off by stating that, where the letter of the policy is unclear, the intent is that the policy reinforce our general guidelines that encourage cost-consciousness and being responsible stewards of the company’s resources. It also clearly states that the policy “is a guide, not an all-inclusive list, to be supplemented by the good judgment of each team member”. And yet, we still have multiple updates each year that clarify specific aspects of the policy.

          But I think this is actually the place where LW’s husband (and LW, in her interpretation of what happened) went a bit off track. The question LW’s husband should have been asking himself wasn’t “am I technically within the confines of the policy?” The right questions to be asking was, “if I was sharing this decision and my reasoning with my boss, would she agree that I was being cost-conscious?” and “can I honestly say to my boss that these expenses represent a responsible and prudent use of the company’s money?” Paying for someone else’s food definitely doesn’t satisfy either of these principles, and neither does trying to max out your daily meal expenses every day.

          This mistake is perhaps understandable if husband isn’t accustomed to business travel. It’s easy to understand how you could think “a limit of $100/day on meal expenses” is equivalent to “an extra $100/day of compensation” and to either try to spend it all or to want to minimize expenses and pocket the difference. But the fact that it’s an understandable mistake doesn’t make it not a mistake, any more than (say) buying a $3,000 computer instead of a $1,000 computer, even though you don’t need the extra power, just because $3,000 was your budget limit isn’t a mistake.

          When you’re spending the company’s money, being expected to spend it responsibly is a baseline expectation.

          1. Busy

            Yes! Also, just take it as a rule of thumb that if your company is asking for receipts, you don’t have true per diem. “Per diem” is a legal tax term with specific guidelines. They are just calling it that in a general term. Per diem is more like the company is paying you X extra money to go on this trip to cover what you may experience. Anything else is just not that – and you are expected to use discretion with the money.

          2. Tammy

            I realize in my second-to-last paragraph, it’s a bit unclear…spending $3,000 on a computer when you need a $1,000 computer is a mistake. I think I got that backward because I was trying to continue the “doesn’t make it not a mistake” pattern from the first part of the sentence.

      5. Overeducated

        I agree. When I did field work the standard in my industry was to just give you a fixed per diem rather than reimbursing food, and you actually could spend less and pocket the rest, that was really common and not considered unethical. (The work generally had outside funding and I think it probably saves on overhead to say all staff get $X.) My current employer still gives you the full amount but you do have to submit meal receipts, which seems like a weird combination to me. Clarity is good.

        1. 8DaysAWeek

          Maybe they want to see that you are actually using it for meals and not just pocketing the cash?
          It may be an accounting thing, like SOX, to prove that what the money is allocated for is being used for that. I am not an accountant.

          1. Overeducated

            But that’s the thing…if your per diem is $60, and you only spend $20 on meals, you still get $60! There’s no penalty for pocketing the cash! The per diem you claim does have to be reduced if meals are being paid for elsewhere, e.g. included with a conference registration or a combined room and board package, but if you have to buy your own and just don’t spend much, that’s not an issue.

          2. Natalie

            Nope, provided the per diem arrangement follows the IRS’s rules, the company specifically does not need a detailed accounting of what the money was spent on. That’s literally the only point of a (real) per diem, to simplify expense reporting.

            If the company actually called it a per diem, tbh it’s on them for not being more clear that they’re using the terminology wrong.

        2. Wintermute

          I’ve seen this done as well and honestly I prefer it, as long as the per diem isn’t a way to get you to pay a good chunk of your own expenses. I was travelling on that arrangement once, a fixed lump-sum per diem for two weeks of training. The problem was there was exactly one fast food restaurant in the area, a coney island hot dogs, anything else was a taxi ride to another part of town (which wasn’t cheap), and the other option was the hotel restaurant which was VERY upscale (talking 30 dollars or more, even room service started at 12 dollars for a gas-station-quality sandwich). The end result was I came out having spent a lot of my own money.

          That said as long as the per diem actually is reasonable for the cost of meals in the city you’re travelling to, I think this system encourages people to be more frugal, accounts for the fact not everyone will spend the same at all times (some people skip breakfast eat a big lunch, other people eat smaller meals more regularly), accounts for people’s needs (no one wants to be scrutinized for extra expenses because they need to find kosher or vegan or gluten-free food). I, for instance, prefer to eat one large meal a day and fast past early evening, otherwise I find myself eating too much. As a result when having to expense meals I’ve found myself having to ask for a split bill and buying my own appetizer and an extra side, because they wouldn’t approve a large meal.

          1. quirkypants

            I think you’ve hit on the issue with lump sum, per diem expenses.

            Given that every city and circumstance is different, it’s almost impossible to come up with a fair per diem for every city with the company also trying to watch expenses. Having a budgeted max that is more than generous (either per day or per meal) and the need to turn in receipts that might be scrutinized seems fair to me (and I’m one of those pesky people who is gluten-free AND vegan, so I do understand it can be a pain).

            The per diem lump sum also gets tricky when exchange rates are involved… I’m Canadian and a more than generous per diem lump sum in Canada would mean I’m very limited in some parts of the US due to cost of meals plus exchange rates. That $30 room service would be something like $45 of my per diem and even a $12 sandwich would be like $18…

            1. Overeducated

              The government sets per diem rates that actually are supposed to reflect local costs where you’re traveling, and tons of American organizations use those rates as standard because they know they can get reimbursed for them on government contracts and grants…but I think it’s by county or metro area, so they wouldn’t cover hyper-local situations like “very isolated hotel with only one overpriced food option.” That seems like a very specific issue that would be odd to make organizational policy around unless you are constantly sending people to that location. (And if that is the case, I’ve traveled to very isolated places like rural Alaska that do get a lot of business from one specific industry or customer, and if you can find a B&B there’s a good chance it will have a combined room and board package that exactly maxes out the government reimbursement rate….)

              1. Emily K

                Yes, I suspect that’s why these reimbursement caps end up being erroneously referred to as “per diems.” At one of my former employers, I think the wording of the policy was something like, “The organization will reimburse up to the federal per diem rate for the city where travel takes place; rates can be viewed on the IRS website at -”

                So the actual policy did use the correct “reimburse up to” language, but because the cap was tied to the IRS per diem, it planted the terminology in employees’ minds who would then refer to it that way even when they understood what it meant.

            2. Nessun

              My company’s per diem actually varies depending on what city/province you’re in, to cover this very situation. You have to state where you were traveling, and enter per diem for each place separately. There’s a general list (eg all of Nova Scotia, rates are X per day, Toronto is Y per day) because cost of living varies widely.

              1. JJ Bittenbinder

                Same here. Makes sense. My expenses in Alabama were a lot different from my expenses in Chicago, to use 2 recent examples.

          2. Middle Manager

            We follow the federal per diem rates from GSA, which are adjusted by state and in some cases city. Which addresses some of this. But I did once go to a conference where there was nothing open in the downtown later at night and the only real option was the overpriced hotel food. I went a little over my per diem, meaning I had to pay out of pocket the difference. But I usually write that off as not a big deal because I would have been spending SOME money on food even if I was at home.

            1. Overeducated

              I was told in grad school that “University doesn’t reimburse students for food because you have to eat no matter where you are.” It turns out I was misinformed, so I went for five years bringing granola bars and bananas and paying out of pocket for the rest when other students were claiming restaurant meals (up to a pretty modest yearly ceiling). But I guess that logic does exist.

        3. Parenthetically

          My husband’s company is like this — they get a per diem on travel days, it’s added to their paycheck, and if they eat cheaply and spend less, that’s just money in their pockets. My husband always packs a lunch and snacks, and they stay in hotels with breakfast. The company sees it as inconvenience pay as much as travel expense pat.

          In fact, reflecting on it, I’ve only had experience with a per diem that was the employee’s to use as they wished, even among family in widely differing fields (IT, public ed, nonprofit). I was genuinely shocked by Alison’s answer and especially how adamant it was!

          1. SemiRetired

            Same here. My only experience with per diem was in a job where it was set at $50 per day, and given out prior to the trip to cover expenses. There was no expectation that you would spend less and give the remainder back. It was supposed to cut down on the accounting because there was no need to keep receipts and submit for reimbursement. It was routine to try to eat cheap for a few meals (snacking at conference parties for instance) and then save the per diem to have one great meal at a good restaurant, E.g. get by on $25 for 2 days and then spend $100 somewhere nice on the third day. As for expenses of another person, the employee would pay the difference, like if A single room cost $100 but a double is $120, the employee would pay the extra $20.
            AFAIK, “per diem” does not require keeping track of expenses for reimbursement and the situation LW describes would not be a problem. If the policy is strict reimbursement for tracked expenses with receipts, that’s a different policy and not a “per diem” situation. I would hope a company would explain the “how to” prior to business travel.

            1. bossy

              Exactly. I think OP is misusing the term “per diem”. What her husband has is a meal allowance which does NOT cover his spouse.

          2. Katie the Fed

            the flat per diem is really nice too because I tend to eat fairly cheaply and it can help offset expenses like dog boarding

      6. Wintermute

        I agree, this is a workplace norm thing that you might not know if you weren’t acculturated to it and it’s not spelled out for you. Personally in the manager’s place I’d take them aside and explain, very clearly, the norms around travel and the rules, and I’d keep an eye out for other situations where they might just never have learned how things work. You never know someone’s cultural background and these things are unfortunately easy to have never figured out.

        That said, it does speak to a lack of judgement in that if you don’t understand something, you should ask permission before you have to seek forgiveness, and be extra conservative.

        Unfortunately, not all workplaces will see it this way. Especially because a case can be made that it ought to be obvious if you think things through.

      7. PW

        I really don’t think they were trying to game the system. In my mind, a per diem is just a pot of money with little accountability. If they said they were paying for meals, that would be an entirely different scenario.

        1. LW

          That is what my husband was thinking. It is a sum of money and he can spend it as long as it is not above the limit and is food and drink.

          1. JJ Bittenbinder

            Yeah, he’s definitely not alone in assuming that. I didn’t attribute any malice to you or your husband, but rather unfamiliarity with how the system works. Hopefully they were not too harsh after explaining. I personally don’t think this should tarnish his reputation forever. When we know better, we do better.

            1. LW

              No, he will be fine. His boss likes him. His workplace likes him, but I don’t think they really explained it properly to him. I feel like most bosses forget to talk about the reasoning behind policies or how they are intended to work and stick too much to the letter of it. I saw it both ways, his and this way. I’m glad I got some clarification for the future.

          2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

            I work for local government and ours is like that. We submit receipts but we’re given $30/day for food. As long as we don’t go over that. we’re ok. (No alcohol). We are given a company credit card and bring receipts back. If someone gets a travel advance, (80% of estimated costs), that’s their money/no receipts needed. They get the other 20% after they return with proof of attending classes/conference.

          3. Anne Elliot

            I think the difference is whether it is a per diem or a reimbursement. I work for government and get per diem, so for every day I’m away I can put in for [X] dollars for meals, and my agency does not care if my meals cost less than X or more than X, they’re just paying me X. Under that arrangement, they don’t need to see receipts, and in fact do not want to see receipts. I get X dollars a day; I can spend it all on Sweet Tarts, they don’t care.

            But if you are submitting receipts for reimbursement up to a given ceiling on amount, that’s not per diem, that’s just reimbursement. And intentionally trying to hit that ceiling on how much you can extract from the company, is what is leaving a bad taste in people’s mouths. No pun intended.

        2. Ann O. Nymous

          Yeah, I was taken aback by Allison’s decisive response that this was Not OK, but I guess TIL that some places do per diems differently. At my husband’s company, he gets a set amount as a per diem when he travels to use on meals and gets to pocket what he doesn’t use, and they don’t require receipts for meals. On his business trip to Europe last year his per diem funded many of my meals as well.

          1. Abigael

            Yeah, my company’s policy is the same. I just get a check for the entire trip, based on average meal rates in that location, and I don’t have to submit receipts. If I decide to eat a PB & J and keep the rest of the money, nobody knows or cares.

      8. Smithy

        I’m going to echo this – that ethics training is necessary because depending on how you enter a professional field, it’s possible to encounter a lot of different practices.

        I’ve worked in nonprofits my entire career – and while most I’ve worked with would not seek to fraud their organization, how reimbursements work per org is not the same. I worked at a small non-US org where my domestic meeting expenses were covered easily, but nothing else. All my international travel was expected to be covered by the donor/invitee – but that meant any meals before a meeting started – I’d either have to ask the invitee for per diem (not as awkward as you’d think) or cover myself.

        Then I worked for a large international place where asking a donor/invitee to cover per diem would have been against best practice. Instead, they paid out per diem in cash. If all of your meals were covered by other means – they didn’t care and it was a well known perk of the job. I have a new job where I haven’t traveled with them yet but figure the system is different. I did have travel on a donor invitation though where everything was covered. It was made clear that at this place that was amazing and nothing that would ever be directly asked.

        All this to say, what is ethical likely shifts based on a combination of what best practice is for the industry with how the organization operates. I’m old enough to not assume what’s done where – but I also don’t see this strictly as a case of ethics but more so as taking the time to learn different rules.

        1. Armchair Analyst

          This is a very kind interpretation that favors both the OP and Alison’s response and, based on my own experience, I agree with you! Not that you *needed* the affirmation, but you definitely helped support my own confusion in this area.

      9. LKW

        But… in this case, his travel would be paid by the company, hers would not. Why would they be responsible for her other expenses? While he may be within technical parameters, he’s using company money to feed someone who is not part of the business, isn’t a client or employed. It crosses an ethical boundary.

      10. ele4phant

        Why would anyone think it’s okay to use company money, that has been set aside for an employee’s business travel, on someone who is not an employee (or like a client they are entertaining on company business?). Is that really something that’s not obvious to people?

        And I would argue they are trying to deceive. To me it reads like they are purposefully not ordering two separate entrees, but perhaps ordering a number of apps and a large entree, more than one person could reasonably eat but not explicitly two meals.

      11. just a random teacher

        The more I think about it, the more I realize that there are several really different expectations for things that all kind of get lumped together in this. I’m going to use examples from a non-profit I work with to put on events, because my day job basically doesn’t do any kind of travel reimbursement:

        For our conventions:

        Guests of Honor get a per diem, dispensed in cash as soon as they arrive, as part of their overall Guest of Honor package (we also pay the actual costs for their hotel room, plane ticket, and a few other things). They are welcome to use this per diem to eat nice meals out, or they can decide to live on the free meals in the Green Room all weekend and spend the money on scotch from the hotel bar and/or their electric bill when they get home. It’s completely up to them and we don’t get involved beyond making it clear that they can’t charge meals (or pay per view movies, or anything else) to their room and expect us to pay for them as part of the hotel room cost, since we gave them a per diem for meals and incidentals that we expect to cover such things.

        Departments, such as Green Room, get a budget line and a credit card (they can also spend their own money and turn in receipts for reimbursement up to their budgeted limit instead of using the card). All expenses need to be itemized, and unusual ones would need to be justified. They are expected to spend in the neighborhood of their entire budget, because that’s how much we expect it to cost to feed, caffeinate, and care for panelists over the weekend, and if they were more than a certain amount under we’d be pretty concerned that they were cutting corners and panelists weren’t getting the Green Room experience we had in mind, so we’d check up on things. (We also let departments like this overspend up to a certain budget percentage before they need to get approval from higher up, so the budget is basically a target number with certain boundaries on either side.)

        Other budget lines, like the chair’s contingency fund, are ideally not spent unless needed but we’ve budgeted up to x since that’s the amount of spending that person is allowed to do without going through a budgeting process involving other people wanting to know why you’re spending that money. It’s completely normal to spend some of it, since there is always something that doesn’t go completely to plan, but it’s a contingency fund, not a slush fund. If they decided to spend all of the remaining money on things that weren’t particularly critical on the last day of the event just because it was the budgeted amount, that would be an issue. Again, everything would need to be itemized, and unusual spending would need to be justified.

        The fourth kind of thing is if you have some kind of “use it or lose it” credits with the hotel or event space. If our hotel contract says we’ll have to pay for, and this is just an example I’m making up and not from our actual contract, $500 of hotel coffee for our vendor hall whether or not we actually get around to ordering that much, we will, in fact, make a point of ordering $500 worth of coffee because we’re paying for it either way and it would feel wasteful to not get all of our coffee since somebody at the event would probably like to drink that coffee. If the vendors didn’t manage to drink enough coffee to make it likely we’d get through the quota, we’d start telling our operations staff they were welcome to go get their free personal coffees from the con-already-paid-for-it vendor hall coffee service or something to help make that quota.

        It sounds like the OP is in a mentality where they’re viewing their situation like the per diems in my #1, or the “use it or lose it” credits in my #4 when the company sees it as one of the middle two (or somewhere in-between in terms of how much they expect you to spend). If the OP is used to going on the types of personal vacations where you do have a certain amount of use-it-or-lose-it resort credits I can see why they’d slip into that automatically – I would definitely view those kinds of resort credits as a “game the heck out of this since it’s my money but their stupid rules” situation.

        Now that I’ve typed all the out, it also occurs to me that I should bring up to our org’s BoD (which I’m on) that I don’t think we actually have some of those distinctions documented in writing anywhere (we do have the rules around receipts, spending, and reimbursement well-documented, but not the “we expect these budget lines to get spent in their entirety and these others to only be spent as needed” part – it’s the kind of thing you’re told when you’re given a budget line, but it would probably be better to have a formal process there).

    5. The Cosmic Avenger

      I mean, it depends on the company and their policy. If you have to turn in receipts at all, it’s probably not a good idea. We just get the full per diem amount no matter what, no receipts needed, as it’s assumed we have to eat! But for companies that require receipts, I’m wondering, are your per diem amounts higher than the Federal government per diem? Because that’s what we get.

      1. Larina

        This! At my company, the policy is as long as you are traveling during the allotted “meal time” you are allowed to expense the full per diem amount per meal, and if you eat cheap, you just get to pocket whatever is left over. I have a colleague who exclusively eats power bars on work trips for the precise purpose of pocketing more money, and management knows and has never had a problem with it.

        I actually think it might be good for OP 1 to check in with their boss about this. Perhaps their new boss is more particular than the expense policy requires, and OP is staying within policy. I don’t think it would hurt to have a clarifying conversation along the lines of “in the past, X was the acceptable expense policy, but you seem to only approve my expenses that meet Z standard. Have there been changes in policy lately?”

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          Hah! Power bars? Amateurs! :D My first work trip I walked to the less affluent part of town (it wasn’t far), found the nearest grocery store, and bought 4 2-liter bottles of soda, and some cheap snacks. I ate like I ordered room service, filled up when they fed us at the convention, and kept almost all of my per diem. Of course, we had just bought a house and I was still very low on the org. chart, so every dollar counted.

          Now, I see the per diem as an incentive for traveling, and I’ll use it to partially subsidize a really nice dinner out.

        2. cactus lady

          Oh I once worked at a company that did per diem with no receipts. I once used mine to ride a dogsled.

      2. High Score!

        I’ve always gotten a set per diem as well. It’s an inconvenience to travel and giving everyone the same per diem insures fairness and doesn’t force the employee to save receipts and fill out expense reports. What a waste of time! I’d be upset and try to travel less.

      3. the Lobster Per Diem

        We have a flat per Diem $150 a day for across the world so it is higher than most because some areas of the world we travel to cost significantly more (Dinner in Green bay Wisconsin is significantly cheaper than Dinner in London). If I use my entire per Diem in Kansas on Dinner it will send up red flags and I would be asked for my receipts. Also if I am not eating with clients it is understood that I am not eating at the most expensive place in the city, and its a given that I shouldn’t order Lobster or the filet every night. Your Per Diem is to cover expenses that you incur due to the job, its not a Free 5-star meals. We let go of a great sales guy 2 years ago because he used all of his per diem every chance possible down to the penny. His ending salvo was a dinner alone after a 3 hour flight into Maine (from his home) that included ordering 3 lobsters, and 4 bottles of wine at dinner to hit just over his daily per diem.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder

          Up until your last sentence, I didn’t really think the guy was doing anything wrong (using it all, to the penny. Why give a limit of $X if you expect people to come in at $X-$10 or whatever?) But, yeah. I’ve never worked anywhere that allowed for expensing alcohol, and his actions are just…bizarre.

        2. Mike C.

          Wait, you literally fired someone who generated actual money for your company and did a great job at it, all because he used up his per diem every time?

          How cheap is your company?

          1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister

            I don’t think it’s just about the money, at that point it’s about his integrity. As someone said upthread, the intent behind a travel expense policy is to be responsible with company resources and use only what you need to get the job done (which in this case, means being well-fed and relatively comfortable while traveling). I think the problem with set per-diems or reimbursement caps is that people tend to see that number as their “due” which the company “owes them” and don’t realize it’s a limit, not a target.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever

              I think part of the problem and others have pointed it out is calling apples oranges, and oranges apples.

              A per diem is a set rate of money that a company/government gives you or allows you to spend without having to submit receipts. If a company is using it properly they give you $50 a day if you spend $20 you can keep the extra $30 no problem.

              But if you are required to submit receipts, then it should be called an “expense/allowance policy.”

          2. The Lobster Per Diem

            They are not cheap at all, in fact they have been great at upgrading international flights to 1st class and other perks. He was put on probation when he had several small trips where he spend the entire per diem in smaller cities (Raleigh North Carolina, and Lexington Kentucky) and was there for a few hours the night before and until noon the day of and spent the entire per diem on for two days. When he had to submit all receipts to accounting during probation we discovered he was making the insane purchases of several lobsters at dinner, and bottles of wine. Its about being a professional not scamming the system.

        3. Jerry Vandesic

          “If I use my entire per Diem in Kansas on Dinner it will send up red flags and I would be asked for my receipts. ”

          Then it isn’t a per diem. A per diem wouldn’t require receipts or really any explanation, and the idea of using up an entire per diem doesn’t align with what a per diem is about.

      4. Middle Manager

        We follow the federal per diem rates, but in my state don’t get the lump sum like the feds. We have to spend the money, on that day, on food, with receipts. I personally think it’s a big waste of time and that the money saved on not paying out the full per diem is less than the time it takes for me to enter the receipts and an auditor to review them. But you have to go with the policy. If that’s your company’s policy, it is unethical to try to game it in my opinion, sharing large meals with your spouse on one check.

      5. Nora

        Same here! My org allows us to take the full per diem and spend it on whatever we want, but the key is that we do not have to turn in any receipts. They just give us the whole amount either up front or when we submit for reimbursement.

        1. Anne Elliot

          Same here. (State government.) We get a set per diem per day away, and they absolutely do not want to see receipts. You can eat at Fleming’s or Oliver Garden or Taco Bell, they don’t care. They just giving the same set amount for daily meals and that’s the end of it. Of course, this is a state government per diem so it is very likely that in a big city, the traveler is making up the difference out of pocket after the modest per diem is exhausted, not pocketing any overage.

    6. KimberlyR

      If LW #1’s husband were getting a set per diem per day without having to submit receipts, I think it would’ve been ok. My husband recently took a trip out of the county for work and his per diem was to be submitted as $70/day on his timesheet, and he didn’t have to save receipts. His company clearly didn’t care what he chose to spend the money on, and were willing to just pay out the full amount every day. But since LW’s husband had to submit receipts, it was clearly a different situation and not ok.

      1. snowglobe

        It’s not safe to say that lack of requirement of receipts means that it is ‘ok’. It is unlikely to be noticed, and probably you won’t get in trouble, but a lot of the time, even if you don’t have to turn in the receipts, you are still expected to spend the money for business purposes, and you only submit for expense reimbursement for what you actually spend. So, you may be allowed to spend up to $80 per day and not submit receipts, but if you only spend $50, you don’t get to claim $80 and pocket the extra $30.

        1. Czhorat

          $80 per diem often means “you get an extra $80 while you’re on the road”. In that case there’s no need for the employee or management to track expenses. Just request your extra money and be done with it.

          1. blackcat

            Right, and the few times I traveled that way I was explicitly told the per-diem was a bit high in case I needed to do something like pay for laundry services on a week long trip.
            “We allot $80 for the expenses you incur while traveling that you would not have at home.” was basically what I was told.

        2. Wintermute

          A fixed per diem often means “we’re giving you this sum, you handle all expenses, if you spend less you keep the extra money, if you choose to spend more you bear the cost.” In such a situation it would be no different than keeping the extra money and then buying your wife dinner later that week because you have more money than you expected in your checking account.

          I’ve never seen a lump-sum per diem system where you had to return unused cash– either it’s receipts-and-reimbursements or it’s a lump sum that you keep regardless of the actual expenses.

          1. Czhorat

            Yes, and the per diem is essentially cash; if the employee uses that for lunch, lunch for their spouse, or to buy a new pair of socks it doesn’t really matter.

            Itemized expenses need to be for the business reasons for which they are itemized.

          2. Paulina

            Yes, and perhaps the confusion is partly from calling it a per-diem, if that’s the term they use officially. It’s clearer to call it an expense maximum, since receipts still have to be submitted.

            However, the LW’s own explanation of “you can spend up to this amount for each eligible meal” indicates a good understanding of the situation already, though without connecting this policy to the LW’s meals not being eligible at all. Good rule of thumb: if receipts are needed, then it does matter what — and who — you’re spending it on.

          3. just a random teacher

            We used to run some departmental budgets for events this way with the non-profit I volunteer with – gave a cash advance but required itemized receipts and any unspent cash returned – but it was often a sticky situation in practice and we’ve gone to issuing credit cards instead of cash for this to create a more automated documentation trail and less time spent tracking people down later if they didn’t turn in their receipts/unspent funds. However, we made it very clear that we were giving them a cash advance from their budget line and expected receipts rather than giving them a chunk of non-accountable money for them to use on whatever they wanted to. It still caused problems and I really don’t recommend it. I can’t imagine the headaches a company must have if they do all their travel expenses this way.

        3. KimberlyR

          In my husband’s case, they were literally given $70 per day to do whatever they wanted. They could choose to blow it on booze and never eat (not really but you know what I mean.) On his expense reports, he was told to record $70 per day, no matter what he actually spent on meals that day.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood

      LW1’s husband is lucky. People have been asked to leave jobs over things like this.
      I know a guy whose boss told him & his co-workers what was allowable expenses instead of showing them the company’s list — and the boss was wrong. Whether it was intentional or not is irrelevant — department got audited, at which point boss AND his direct-reports had to pay back a couple of years of excluded expenses AND were asked to resign.

        1. Mbarr

          Before I condemn either the boss or the minions, I’d want to know if the written expense policy was available to everyone beforehand. In our company it’s on our intranet, and it’s our responsibility to read and understand it.

          1. LW

            I think the problem is the view of it. I think my husband focused on the numbers and the written letter, but not the general purpose or idea of it.

            1. Czhorat

              I think that it’s understandable but, as I said above, I’d be as concerned that he hits “as close to the maximum as possible” when alone and spends less on himself so he can cover you when you’re together.

              Always nearing the maximum gives the impression that he wants to cost the company as much as he can, which is not going to do wonders for his reputation. I understand the feeling that this is compensation to which he’s entitled, but most employers don’t see it that way and this can, in the long term, hurt him.

              1. LW

                Ah…its not that he spends less on himself per se. More like he bought the same large pizza he always buys which he can never completely finish. It can hurt him long term, I agree, which was why I was asking why the per diem can’t been seen as a lump of cash.

                1. Escapee from Corporate Management

                  LW, as a former manager who signed off on hundreds of expense reports, I recommend your husband not do that in the future. In many corporations, the Finance department keeps track of who is on the high side of expenses. I used to get notifications if one of my direct reports were on the list. If the expenses are justified, that’s not a problem. My own expenses were flagged because I was travelling to very expensive cities, but my manager recognized that meals costs more in London and San Francisco than Des Moines. But as one manager put it, don’t eat five courses just because you can.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood

              (I think MBarr’s comment was in reply to my acquaintance’s situation with boss & direct-reports all getting in trouble for boss’s mis-applying the rules.)

        2. Seeking Second Childhood

          I completely agree. Paying it back is reasonable — but if I’d been running the zoo, only the boss would have been fired. His reports should have been given a written warning and watched closely for future trips.
          The reasoning was that they were in responsible enough positions that they were negotiating contracts, so they should have checked their own fine print themselves instead of taking boss’s word for it.

    8. PW

      My husband get his per diem added to his paycheck and doesn’t have to submit receipts. In a case like that, I think it’s fine if he spends the money on whatever he wants. Usually, he’ll just buy something from a grocery store and pocket the rest.

    9. pleaset

      “I think LW #1 has blown [it].”

      Yup, missed an opportunity to keep a scam going. Not smart. Could’ve milked it for years.

    10. I'm Very Old

      Back before airline deregulation, I had a government job that required me to travel to DC a lot. A guy in my department got savvy about the airline tickets–he would sell them back to the airline (that was a thing back then), drive to DC for a fraction of the cost, and pocket the rest of the cash.
      He got away with it for years until a new manager stepped in. He was reprimanded, never fired, but never advanced, either.

      1. LJay

        Reminds me of the store about Southwest when they were starting out. They included a bottle of alcohol with their ticket prices. Businessmen would book the flights on company expense, knowing they got the bottle of booze to keep.

    11. mcr-red

      I feel like her husband was ordering two mains, a beer and a wine, and two desserts instead of ordering an appetizer, a large main and a dessert to share. You’ve got to make it look like one person was there, not two on the receipt!

      Note: I do not have per diem or the opportunity to ever use per diem at my job.

      1. LW

        It was more like a larger pizza. And two smaller burgers from mcdonalds. Honestly, the amount is not that different from what he spends by himself. He often gets pizza up to a large and will eat half of it by himself if he travels. The only reason his boss really checked was because he knew I was there. And this is a newer boss, too. His older boss never checked into the receipts past knowing it wasn’t over the limit.

        1. mcr-red

          Did you order two drinks on the McDonald’s one? Or two fries? Otherwise, yeah, that is kinda nit-picky as I know guys who can easily eat a large pizza by themselves, or two McDonald’s sandwiches.

          1. LW

            I was not aware of the mcdonalds expense until after he told me about what his boss said. I was less okay with that than the pizza. And yeah…I don’t eat that much. I usually only get a burger and then steal some fries from him. I don’t drink pop either. It did seem a bit nitpicky to me, too.

            1. Billy Yum Yum 2x2

              Nitpicky? Why would someone who is neither an employee or a client be entitled to have their meals paid for?

              Is this his first position where he has an expense card? I feel like I might be able to understand this situation a bit better if I knew that y’all were very young, just entering the workforce, and maybe didn’t know any better. Even then though….

            2. Aveline

              I’m a bit worried for you that you still are saying things like “a bit nickpicky.”

              It’s not. You need to understand that.

              Unless you can make that shift in your own mind, this will continue to be an issue.

              Even if you only got a coke for $1, it would still be outside the scope of what the expense reimbursement is for.

              The amount does not make it nitpicky. It is not nitpicky to say “don’t pay anyone else’s food” irrespective of the cost.

              It seems like you are still trying to frame this so the company is at fault or some employee is at fault. Please, please don’t do that in conversations with your husband’s employer. It won’t go over well.

            3. ele4phant

              Dude come on.

              You were getting full meals out of this. It’s wholly inappropriate. It’s a good thing he’s not getting fired.

            4. mcr-red

              Again I do not ever use per diem so all a foreign concept to me, but keeping that in mind, and excluding you being there and eating some for a second, I think he needs to have a conversation with his boss on what is and is not allowed to be put on this expense report. Because 1 guy turns an expense report for a large pizza for dinner and two burgers and some fries at McDonalds for lunch, I wouldn’t jump to the mindset of he’s feeding someone else. Seriously, I would be asking for clarification – “If I go to McDonald’s, do you want me to get a combo meal? If I want a pizza, is the biggest size I can get a medium?”

        2. Sad Astros Fan

          I think it’s kind of presumptuous that you expect your husband’s company to feed you when you tag along on trips. The company is paying for him to go; you’re extra baggage. Don’t whine about this because it makes you look entitled. Get split checks and deal with it.

        3. Billy Yum Yum 2x2

          Be that as it may, the company is paying his expenses for a business trip. You said that your expenses were your own. Why would that not include your food?

        4. Paulina

          If he’s only eating half of what he’s ordering, it sounds like he’s being careless with the expense funds even when he’s unaccompanied. Mostly people won’t notice, but it’s not a good impression to give if they do, and a comeback of “but he usually orders that anyway and then wastes a lot of it” isn’t a good one.

          1. Aveline

            Yep. That will be tracked and will be considered if they need to decide between husband and Diane in accounting for a promotion.

            It may seem petty and nitpicky to LW, but it will matter.

            Now he has three problems

            (1) Not understanding how his expense reimbursement worked and not asking
            (2) Paying for his wife’s food
            (3) Wasting food the company is paying for on a repeated basis.

            He needs to fix all three on his own.

            There may also be a me be an mental frame problem with respect to his view of this as an entitlement rather than a benefit and his view of how the auditing of receipts process works. I don’t know. We don’t have him here to see what he thinks.

            The more we hear about this, the worse it seems for LW’s husband.

            I’d highly suggest they try and sit down with someone more senior or who is sympathetic and work through all these things until he understand’s the company’s POV even if he disagree with it.

            1. ele4phant

              Agreed. What is he doing regularly ordering whole pizzas by himself? Are there not other food options that are more reasonable for one person where he travels? He should be getting that, not regularly wasting food when he’s on his own. That alone isn’t at all a fireable offense, but it is just, wasteful and frivolous.

              I understand that there are some people commenting that apparently which have such small appetites and the average American restaurant serving is so large they can never eat it all, but it sounds like this guy is capable of putting away a half pizza on his own so I’m sure he could order a normal entree and not have much left over.

              1. just a random teacher

                I could see it if he were taking the rest back to his hotel room minifridge for a future meal, though. I’ll do that if I’m at a conference where it’s easy to get a pizza but hard to get to a grocery store, because I want to have some fast options in my room for the times when I don’t have enough time for a restaurant meal during my meal break. Of course, that would also be easy to explain on the expense report. (“Purchased large pizza on Day 1 for $x. Ate that pizza as dinner on Day 1, lunch on Day 2, and breakfast on Day 3, which is why no new expenses occurred for those two meals.” Some places would still balk if the pizza was over the Day 1 per diem, but most places would see the reasonable per-meal-cost outcome there, and it would certainly make spending up to the Day 1 per diem pretty justified in most eyes if it caused the next two days to be notably under.)

                Of course, it sounds like this isn’t what the OP is doing. On the other hand, any place where you can blow through the entire daily allowance while eating your meals at McDonalds may be used to most people spending near the max amount on most trips (with the expectation that lots of people are spending more than the allowed amount on food and covering the rest out of pocket), so it could be that it’s not so much that he hit the max as that he was trying to include things he shouldn’t have. It sounds like the OP definitely needs to stop including other people’s food since that’s explicitly not what the allowance is for, but it might be reasonable for him to ask whoever approves his expenses about whether the entire meal allowance is something you’re expected to be spending every day while traveling and, if not, what some good guidelines are for him to keep in mind for meal spending in the future so he can get his travel expenses more in tune with company expectations.

                1. ele4phant

                  Sure, but if you have a mini fridge he wouldn’t buy something the next night.

                  On a regular basis he’s been buying enough food to feed more than one person, because he’s been feeding more than one person. The trend has been going on long enough now that it’s being noticed, and it needs to stop.

                  I am not going to sit here and pretend like I never waste food on work trips, that I only order exactly what I can eat and that I take and eat any leftovers, but what he’s been doing has become a noticeable pattern.

          2. JKP

            I only eat half of what I order, even when I’m paying for myself. The portions are just too huge. When I eat out with my partner, we split a meal. So if my meal was expensed by the business, it would cost the same whether I was alone or splitting it with someone else.

            1. ele4phant

              I mean so? Your company pays for their employee to eat. And if you waste some, okay. Your appetite is what it is. They do not pay for outside people to eat.

              1. Aveline

                Do you see a difference between occasional waste and purposefully ordering a large instead of a medium if you never, ever finish the large?

                Because that’s another red flag for me.

                Ok to do on your own dime, but not if the company is paying for it.

                1. ele4phant

                  I mean agreed. My response was more to JKP who is saying that ANY entree is too large for them to eat. If that’s truly the case, they shouldn’t stuff themselves just because someone with a normal appetite could eat it all. If a standard single entree is still too large for you, it’s okay to leave some behind.

                  But I agree LW’s husband shouldn’t be ordering whole pizzas regularly when he’s on his own, that’s definitely a waste. A whole pizza is not a standard single entree, and that’s what he should be ordering.

                2. JKP

                  But for many, the medium is too little and the large is too much. The idea that you shouldn’t waste food when eating out is not realistic. At home, you can bring the leftovers and eat later. When traveling for work, you’re left throwing them out. But that doesn’t mean you’re not cost conscious. I was only responding to the suggestion that wasting food means you’re over-ordering when restaurants notoriously over-serve.

                3. ele4phant

                  I mean, so don’t get pizza. Go order something else that you can order a single serving off an be full. Or order the small pizza and a side to that together will fill you up.

                  I’m not saying you should be the perfect employee and order just exactly what will provide you the bare minimum calories that you need to survive, that any and all joy in your life goes on hold when you are vacation and you just have to pick the most economical choice no matter how unappealing it is, but if you are REGULARLY ordering more food than you need when there are other options available to, don’t do that.

                4. JKP

                  ele4phant – That’s not how pizza is priced. I just ordered pizza for dinner a few minutes ago and the large was literally $1 more than the the small. Ordering a small pizza and a salad or other side is actually *more* money. That’s how a lot of food is priced at a restaurants.

                  I agree that the company should not pay for her food too. But I don’t see any problem with him typically ordering a large pizza for himself if the smaller version isn’t enough, even if he doesn’t eat all of it.

                5. ele4phant

                  I mean, he’s food ordering habits have become a noticeable pattern. In this case, his boss correctly surmised he was ordering so much food because two people are being fed. But even if it really was just him, you shouldn’t always order enough food to feed two people that it becomes a recognizable pattern.

                  You want a pizza once in awhile. Fine, go ahead and order a full pizza…once in a while. But that he does it so often that it’s become a noticeable trend, he’s wasting too much food.

                6. B.

                  “But for many, the medium is too little and the large is too much”

                  ? I mean, at that point you’re one or two slices away from finishing the large. They aren’t that wildly different in size most places. It’ll vary by place, but a good rule of thumb is 12-14-16 in for sm-md-lg, (Dominos runs 2 in smaller though). LW says he eats “half.” If literal that’s less than the volume of a SMALL! If he eats 5 or 6 pieces a medium would still fill him up. If he eats 7 slices then I don’t think anyone would call it particularly wasteful, but it could hardly be called half either.

                  The large may be cheaper, though. We get large pizzas for that reason. And I love leftover pizza, but I can be picky about other leftovers. I don’t know, maybe it’s the part of me that hates waste, but “order more than I can eat because it’s cheaper” actually DOESN’T seem like a responsible use of the company’s money.

                  If the company would prefer that and it really is cheaper then I guess I don’t have a problem with the sharing. And maybe they would since he’s hitting his limit with pizza and fast food. It’s then pretty much the same as the person below who mentions sharing because they’d have ordered the exact same thing either way. But the company doesn’t see it that way, so. *shrug* And the fast food is still questionable.

            2. Aveline

              Yes, but if you are typically satisfied with a small, personal pizza and you are ordering a large all the time when there are alternatives, that’s a problem.

              Purposefully ordering too much consistently is different than portion sizes are too large.

              1. BoredFed

                I’m very much in agreement that you shouldn’t be ordering extra food items for purposes outside of policy. But large versus small pizza? this is getting into de minimis territory. There is a big difference between a larger pizza and two lobsters.

            3. Aveline

              “he bought the same large pizza he always buys which he can never completely finish”

              LW says this above. If I were the one auditing the reimbursements and I knew my employee was consistently and purposefully ordering a large pizza instead of a personal or medium and wasting ⅓ or half instead of planning his meals appropriately, there would be a conversation.

              Unintentional waste is one thing. But if you know something is always too big for you to finish and you order it anyway instead of say, getting the medium and a few more breadsticks to fill you up, that’s an issue.

              I hate how large portion sizes are. But if I am on someone else’s dime, I’m going to be careful about wasting food.

              There’s a huge difference between a fixed portion size and something like a pizza that comes in multiple sizes and an employee can just order the size down + some sides/appetizers/dessert.

              1. LawBee

                It is often cheaper to order a large and waste some of it than to get a smaller pizza (that wouldn’t fill him up, presumably) and sides.

        5. LawBee

          The upshot is that if you’re traveling with him, then you need to pay for your food separately. Two checks. Zero questions. We travel a LOT for our jobs, and while spouses/SOs are allowed to come, the company is not covering their food.
          This is an area where it’s easier for everyone if the rules are followed, now that you know his new boss is a stickler for them.

        6. ele4phant

          I mean, it’s the principle of it.

          Whether or not the expense isn’t that much more than when he’s by himself, his company is paying for his traveling expenses and his only. Not yours. Even if paying for you to eat is just a little bit more than it would be otherwise.

          And it doesn’t matter that the old boss didn’t care (or wasn’t on the ball enough to realize what was going on). New boss has a problem with it, so it needs to stop.

        7. Everything Is Awesome

          This might sound stupid, but why is he ordering food he knows he’s going to waste, rather than a smaller size? That doesn’t sound like a good justification to me.

    12. That Girl From Quinn's House

      My husband worked somewhere with a flat per-diem, no receipts required. He’d indicate on the form he was traveling for five days, and they’d give him five days’ worth of money. He regularly turned a profit on trips.

      I think this was a highly unusual situation, though.

      1. Aveline

        That’s a very different type of situation than this. He was on a “true per diem.” In those cases, if you spend more than the amount, tough. It you spend less, it’s a bonus you keep.

        The situation for LW’s husband is actual expense reimbursement with a cap.

        In your husband’s case, what he was doing is how that system is designed to work. What LW’s husband was doing is decidedly not how actual expense reimbursement with a cap is designed to work.

      2. Clisby

        I don’t know whether it’s highly unusual. What you describe is what I call a per-diem, and I thought it was reasonably common. You get X amount per day, and you spend it on whatever you want. If you want/need to spend more, that’s on you. If you’re required to turn in receipts to track what you spent it on, then it’s not a per-diem.

      3. Bulbasaur

        That’s actually pretty common (my company works the same way). Turning a profit usually requires you to control your food expenses to a degree beyond what the company considers reasonable to expect (choosing cheaper places, eating fast food, preparing your own meals…) If you want to make that trade-off then that’s OK. Conversely if you are a foodie and the first thing you do when you visit a new city is hit the destination restaurants and spend hundreds of dollars, you can do that too. The per diem won’t cover it all, but it will cover some of it, and you get to do what you want and not worry about whether you are in compliance with the expense policy.

        As Alison noted, the situation in the OP is not really a per diem, because (a) receipts are still required and (b) the reimbursement cap appears to be well above what a reasonable person would normally spend.

    13. Memyselfandi

      Both my last job and my current job have a per diem but do not ask for receipts. In fact, I thought that was the whole idea of a per diem. At my last job the stated reason for instituting it was because they didn’t want to deal with receipts for meals. If we traveled, we got our per diem based on the federal rate for the city. If I wanted to eat all three meals at Subway I still got the per diem for the location. Same in my current job except that the per diem is the same for all locations and I am generally out of pocket when I travel. So, I can understand why LW #1 thinks it is OK if her husband buys her meals when they travel together.

    14. What’s with Today, today?

      My husband works for himself now but used to be in county government. The county just added $75 per travel day to his pay check. No receipts, no tracking, nothing. He rarely traveled, but would eat cheaply when he did, and usually made several hundred dollars extra on his next check because of the flat per diem, no tracking policy. Your tax dollars at work.

    15. Sue

      Yes, I was confused by the per diem terminology too. I get per diem, a set amount, but I don’t have to turn in receipts. It would only feed 2 people at a fast food joint, but I could do it.

      1. Clisby

        I was, too. After reading a lot of these comments I think people have different definitions of “per diem.” To me, it’s a daily amount you can spend on literally anything you want. Booze, casinos, who cares? Not your employer’s business. Anything it doesn’t cover, you pay for. No receipts/accounting required.

    16. Anonymousaurus Rex

      I have done something similar in the past. I usually can’t eat an entire entree at a restaurant and so my spouse and I usually share (when we go out personally). When she’s accompanied me on business trips I’ve done this as well, though I always make sure to pay separately for her drinks and any appetizer if we order those. I hadn’t really thought of it as stealing, since I was going to be ordering an entree for myself regardless of whether or not I had someone to share it with. Now I feel a bit bad about it! Should I? I have no idea what I should have done instead though–I can’t charge half an entree to my company card. I suppose I could have split the check down the middle and used two cards?

      1. Qwerty

        Ask your company! It sounds like you are trying to follow the spirit of the rules, so many companies would be fine with this because her drinks and appetizer are on her bill. This assumes that you are getting a regular sized entree, not choosing the bigger entree specifically so there’s more to share. Asking shows that you care about following the policy, and people tend to be more lenient when they know that you care.

    17. Adereterial

      I have a set limit for expenses and they must be receipted. It’s sufficient but not generous and if you’re in an expensive city, it’s not easy to stay below it unless you’re fine with fast food every day. I’m not, and £15 in London for dinner outside a fast food place won’t take you very far. Fortunately there’s no issue with spending more and claiming the maximum but even then, my receipts are scrutinised and I will be asked questions if it looks like I’ve bought for more than one person.

      Claiming for someone else is totally unacceptable. I’m baffled that OP1 thought this would be OK.

  2. Zona the Great

    I yawn twice every 30 seconds when I’m learning something new and complex. Apparently it’s my body’s way of cooling my brain down which is overheated by stimulation. I cannot stop it and choose to just tell new people about it beforehand. No one seems to mind.

    1. BeeBoo

      I take sips of water when I’m feeling yawny. It tends to cut down the yawns; only downside is then I sometimes have to leave the meeting because my bladder is full!

      Ive also found then when I’m holding a cup of coffee (whether or not I drink it), people forgive my yawning more.

      1. Zombeyonce

        I yawn when it’s a certain temperature, so constantly during meetings since my office keeps conference rooms at that temp.

        I also use water but to cover the yawns. If you drink from a cup or wide-mouthed water bottle (important to do that rather than from a straw) whenever you feel a yawn coming on, you can totally hide a yawn. It works really well and being well-hydrated is a bonus!

      2. Sapphire

        I came here to say this. My boss pointed it out to me during a 1:1 that others had seen me yawn in meetings and asked if I could find a way to curb it. I now bring a water bottle to meetings so I can take a drink when I need one.

    2. Polyhymnia O'Keefe

      I yawn during my voice lessons. I would say that it has something to do with the increased oxygen from singing (which is one reason I’m convinced I’m always energized after rehearsal, even if I was tired before), but it doesn’t happen in choir rehearsals, just voice lessons.

      Also, power of suggestion, I’m yawning now.

      1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

        Just needed to say that your username is fantastic

      2. Jilly

        That’s interesting. Lifting you soft palate a lot, which would happen at both lessons and rehearsal, can trigger yawning.

      3. Busy

        Ya know when I yawn a lot? When I do diaphragmic breathing exercises. It is similar in that you are getting like twice as much oxygen, I suppose.

      4. Slow Gin Lizz

        My boss and I both yawn a lot in our weekly one-on-one meetings. We chalk it up to not talking much before the meeting and then being in a situation where we’re both suddenly talking a lot and therefore suddenly need a lot more oxygen. Don’t know if this helps OP but you could use that as an excuse. It’s similar to Polly O’Keefe’s reasoning (I, too, love Polly!) and is a more work-friendly excuse for yawning than being tired.

        Or maybe a solution could be to do breathing exercises/yawn a lot right before these meetings to get it out of your system?

        1. Salamander

          I try remind myself to do some (unobtrusive) deep breathing when I feel the yawns creeping up…it does help me.

      5. top secret name

        When I used to sing, I reflexively taught myself how to stifle a yawn by opening the back of my throat but biting my tongue. As an added bonus, it wakes you up that little bit.

        (Side note, same time I also taught myself how to stifle a sneeze, which makes my husband very uncomfortable when I do it in front of him.)

    3. Not So NewReader

      Yawning can be a way of forcing oxygen into the blood stream or from the psychological perspective it can be a way of letting go of something for some people.
      You can do some deep breathing exercises and perhaps no one will notice. Breathe in through your nostrils (not mouth) and hold it, then release it slowly through a small opening in your mouth. Key point- in through the nose out through the mouth.
      If you find as Alison suggests that it could be nervousness as opposed to boredom, you can look at ways to reduce your nervousness, such as super-preparing for the meeting or putting slack in your schedule so you can get to the meeting on time without stressing out and running to get there.
      In larger groups I feel more connected to a meeting if I sit closer to the front, it helps me to pay attention better and connect with the discussion better. Because I am distracted by having better immersion, I am less apt to get yawn-y.

    4. Combinatorialist

      I do well yawning “with my eyebrows” when I feel compelled to yawn. Basically when you yawn, your eyebrows rise as well. I just do the yawning thing with my face but leave my mouth closed. It’s still not ideal but it’s at least more subtle

    5. Apologies

      I was just considering submitting this very question to Alison the other day! I do the exact same thing when I’m learning something new. I always worry that it’s distracting to whoever is trying to teach me and that they would think I’m disengaged. Has anybody said something to you about it before you bring it up yourself?

      1. Zona the Great

        No no one has ever said anything about it. I was just very aware that I’m yawning in the face of someone trying to teach me something. They had to have noticed though

    6. knork

      I’ve developed a technique for a nose yawn: raise your chin, and breath in deeply through your nose. You’ll feel cooler air sort of hit the back of your throat and it’ll cut down on the need to open your mouth.

    7. JanetM

      My manager’s office is (in my opinion) warm and slightly stuffy. I try to stifle a LOT of yawns in meetings.

    8. BadWolf

      I often start yawning when a migraine is coming on. It’s an interesting warning.

      I can yawn with my mouth mostly closed — I have to drop my jaw open a bit and it isn’t my favorite thing to do that, but I definitely try to do that when I’m in a meeting. If someone were already staring at me, they would probably notice my face was doing something funny, but I don’t think it draws attention like a full on yawn.

      1. Always Has A Headache

        I also yawn before migraines. It’s a bad feeling when I yawn twice in a row, because I don’t know whether I’m tired or anticipating hours of pain.

    9. Yawn-y

      I notice I feel more alert and less yawn-y when I sit up really straight. For some reason, not having my back pressed against anything makes me less drowsy and less likely to yawn. This trick saved me during a deeply boring offsite once!

    10. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister

      Me too! I feel like I make a terrible impression when I’m new to a job because I yawn through all my trainings!

    11. Anonymousaurus Rex

      I am very susceptible to contagious yawning. Even reading this thread has me yawning!!

    12. Anonymous for Today

      I’m yawning while reading this thread. I yawn when I see someone yawn, hear it, or just hear/read the word.

      There was a Mythbusters about whether yawning is contagious. I think it was like 27% who are like me, highly suggestible with yawning.

    13. Wake up!

      I’m not sure if this is a joke, but just to clarify, your brain does not overheat from thinking too much. Yawning does cool the brain, but that has more to do with ambient temperature etc. then overstimulation.

  3. Viki

    Like Allison said for LW1 the per diem is for your husband only. He’s travelling for work and work is paying his expenses. You don’t factor into the equation here. Be glad they’re clear and only some of the expenses got rejected. I’ve seen some businesses pull full audits when they suspected someone of misusing their per diem.

    1. Triceratops

      This is so interesting because where I work, per diem is “we will give you $x per day on top of your hotel/gas/travel expenses for meals” and it doesn’t matter how much you actually spend – you get the $x, no receipts are submitted. So upon reading the headline I was like…..how would they even know? But TIL!

      1. Viki

        For my work, the hotel and travel are already prebooked and paid for. They have gas cards (like refillable Starbucks cards) that auto reload once you hit about 20$ on it. They need the receipts for tax purposes and it’s pretty telling if there are two entrees on a bill etc. Different companies, different standards

      2. Caramel & Cheddar

        Yeah, that was confusing to me too. Any per diem I’ve ever received was always a cheque/cash for the amount I’d need to cover X meals and we never had to submit receipts. The logic was that if they were going to ask us to submit receipts, then they wouldn’t bother with the per diem. (This is personal meals, of course; if you were hosting clients or something, that would be separate from per diem.)

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          That’s the traditional definition of it, but it’s changed over time and now people also use it mean “what the company will reimburse for food.”

          1. doreen

            I wonder if husband’s company calls it a “per diem” or if that is the LW’s interpretation. If the company calls it a”per diem” , then some of the blame for the misunderstanding is on them , but if the company refers to it as a maximum reimbursement , a cap or a limit , then the company was being clear. I’m all for not nitpicking word choices, but if people are really using “per diem” to mean “what the company will reimburse for food” , I’m wondering which definition has changed – because traditionally, “reimburse” referred to repaying someone for money they had spent (which of course required receipts) and “per diem” referred to a set amount of money per day, regardless of how much money was actually been spent and often covering other expenses ( such as hotel tips) in addition to meals.

            1. [insert witty username here]

              Agreed. There is a definite difference between “per diem” and “reimbursement.” Just because there is an upper limit doesn’t mean it’s not a reimbursement policy. If the company is using the words “per diem,” they should consider changing it to “reimbursement.” If the OP misinterpreted, that’s a misunderstanding on their part.

              1. [insert witty username here]

                Clarification: if the OP misinterpreted “reimbursement policy with upper limit” as “per diem,” THAT is a misunderstanding on OP’s (and husband’s) side.

                1. Clisby

                  Yes. If the company called it “per diem”, then the company is at fault. It needs to change the wording on its policy.

          2. RJ the Newbie

            Exactly. I’m a project accountant and have been dealing with expense reports, per diems and maximum allowances for over twenty years. We have maximum allowances for designated travel and receipts are mandatory. I can’t tell you how many people over the years try to claim the maximum allowance as their ‘per diem’ leaving me to explain how the policy actually works.

            1. CarolynM

              20 years of expense report arguments … I think you deserve a medal or something … at least a parade and a plaque! A few years ago my boss and a coworker had to have a videoconference with the VP and the person who processes expenses because the coworker went OFF on her for telling him his expenses were rejected and needed to be revised and resubmitted. Another time another coworker was complaining to me that his expense report was rejected because he was off by “only a few dollars!!!!” He was not happy when I agreed with accounting that off by a few dollars was still off. I do a lot of accounts receivable and credit work so when people are arguing with me it tends to be about company money … but when they fight with you they are fighting about their own money and I would hazard a guess that they are a bit more … passionate … than the AP folk I am dealing with. Hats off – you go where angels fear to tread! :)

              1. RJ the Newbie

                Thanks! Yes, I’ve had arguments galore, particularly when an employee has worked on one type of project (government/GSA) and then works on another (private company) only to find that the reimbursable policies for each are different. I’ve usually been a small part of project management teams where I review this with the team leaders, but when it’s only kept to back office processing a whole lotta misunderstandings come up.

                Best one for me was when I had a PM try to expense a strip club night AND lapdance to a project (a government job BTW) by saying he lost the itemized receipt and submitting a line item from his credit card. No dice, plus he was reported to management.

          3. Antilles

            Has it changed? My experience (and the definition officially used by the IRS and Government Services Administration, for whatever that’s worth) is that “per diem” means the same as it always has: A set daily amount intended to cover not just meals but also various incidental costs.
            So rather than wasting a ton of time dealing with an itemized expense report for $3 for morning coffee, $8 for lunch, $6 for parking meter fees, $25 for dinner, $8 for laundry, $2 for a tip for the hotel maid and so forth, you just get a set per diem amount and it’s entirely on you to figure out how to make your $56 per day work.
            That said, it’s entirely possible that either (a) the company is mis-using the term or (b) the LW is mis-interpreting the term, as doreen suggested.

            1. RJ the Newbie

              LOL! GSA limits for meals/incidentals – first and last day calculated at 75% of $56 with only the middle portion calculated at the full $56. I was on a federal project for eight years and can quote this in my sleep.

            2. Ask a Manager Post author

              For years, I have seen people here write “per diem” when they mean “the maximum amount my company will reimburse for meals while I’m traveling, with receipts,” rather than the traditional meaning. It used to confuse me for the same reason you say. But it’s clearly become the usage for a lot of people.

        2. Anonandon

          Yeah, I thought that was weird to but I suppose each company does it their own way.
          I’m accustomed to government travel, where your Per Diem is mostly your business. I’ve never had to actually itemize a Per Diem receipt, and the traveler is explicitly allowed to keep whatever they don’t spend. (The finance process and reimbursement process is already a bureaucratic nightmare. My guess is that it is cheaper to just let people keep the money than to try to argue over every single item… Especially when a person might be travelling for six months at a time.) I just live cheaply and then pocket the remainder when my travel is done.
          That said, even the government has certain rules. I once had to investigate a traveler who used his government credit card to buy $200 lobster dinners and take vacations to Las Vegas. Oops!

          1. RUKiddingMe

            When we do travel it’s almost always me and occasionally Husband. Because we keep business way, way, way separate from personal (we are an LLC) we budget a per diem for meals and miscellaneous (ex: coffee, water, vending machine…) on top of travel expenses. We just figure that as a part of the expenses and don’t even worry about receipts for it.

            Likewise if we (rarely) send someone else somewhere. If you can eat on $10/day in Hong Kong, I don’t care if you keep the rest because it’s part of the company travel budget and I don’t have a personal stake in it despite all the people who encourage me to be Ebenezer Scrooge like.

            If someone’s SO were to travel with them and they spent part of the per diem on SO’s food, it wouldn’t make a difference in the overall outcome, but then no one needs to justify how they manage the per diem.

            Other companies however, have other standards. I’m not one to jump to “he lied(!),” “he cheated(!),” etc. on the first pass…I try to give people the benefit of the doubt if I think they could be at all uncertain, but what LW is describing comes awfully close to (deliberate) fraud in my opinion.

            Her husband gets “$X per day” to use as he sees fit, he gets “up to” $X per day for his own food. That’s a subtle but pretty significant difference, a difference that he is aware of. That company will only pay whatever he actually uses for himself. I think he’s fortunate he hasn’t been terminated really.

            1. Very Australian

              Couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, if you are being to ask to provide receipts, this suggests that the company wants to know what the money is used for (even if it is never really checked). If you don’t and just get given money, the company doesn’t want an itemised list.
              Seems like the LWs husband missed the mark, either by deliberately trying to get around the system or unintentionally just not realising. Both reflect badly on him and he should be much more careful in the future.

          2. Jilly

            My company follows the federal travel regs for per diem. When I was on an 8-week business trip overseas in Jan/Feb, you better believe I kept a spreadsheet tracking my expenses down to the penny against the flat M&IE rate for the location. I included things like the DEET I had to buy, snacks I brought with me, tips, laundry, my upgrade to economy plus (economy plus is billable on legs over 8 hours and my first leg was 7h45m). This had the added bonus of being in a country where cards aren’t always accepted so my tracking had to take into account exchange rates.

          3. Katie the Fed

            I feel like there are three rules in government that will MOSTLY keep you employed:

            – Don’t commit timecard fraud
            – Don’t misuse your government travel credit card
            – Don’t look at you-kn0w-what on your work computer

            IT’S NOT THAT HARD

      3. Thankful for AAM

        Triceratops, my workplace does it the same way. I dont have to show receipts. I get x dollars for each breakfast, y for lunch, and z for dinner during travel.

        I can spend it however I want.

        1. I Took A Mint

          My office does the same. The idea is that traveling is a burden on the employee and this is to compensate for food, buying a water bottle along the way, picking up an umbrella when you suddenly get rained on, and other things that you wouldn’t have to deal with if you were at your regular work site/at home with your usual supplies. It’s not just “here’s money for lunch” it’s “you could have saved money and packed your lunch, but we made you go across town so you had to buy lunch, so get yourself a coffee while you’re at it.”

          At least that’s how it’s explained re: why we don’t reimburse individual items only.

      4. Maya Elena

        Yeah… I understand why a smaller company with fewer resources might do it the other way, but for any company that is at all large and on reasonable footing, the “receipts for food” policy feels like penny-pinching.

        1. lammmm

          We have to submit receipts for meals, but it’s mostly to show that we’re not using our daily meal budget on alcohol. We get ~$50/day, with the hotels we stay at 90% of the time offer free breakfast and the office you’re visiting typically buying you lunch as a thank you for helping out, so it’s not uncommon for me to have the whole $50 allowance for dinner.

          Since I don’t care for most hotel breakfasts, and am a leftovers for breakfast kinda person, I’ll typically order an app or two, a full meal (something that can be reheated in the microwave) and a dessert. I’ll have a half the app and meal + dessert for dinner, and rhe other half of the app + meal for breakfast while getting ready. As I make sure that my dinners can reasonably pass as one meal (instead of two), I have yet to have an issue.

          They pay ours out as a reimbursement, and while annoying i have to front the money, they process the expense report pretty quickly and it’s almost always on my next check.

        2. Ruby Thursday

          Well, why stop there? Why do they budget for anything? Why don’t they just shower everyone with money?

          It’s common sense not to just give money away.

          1. Rusty Shackelford

            But they’re not “just giving money away.” They’re willing to spend $X a day, and the LW and her husband are requesting $X/day. It’s still completely within the budget. I see why they assumed it was okay. (I also see why the company says it’s not.)

            1. Lexi

              The $X a day is meant to ensure the employee is not at a loss because of work, its not a game to spend every penny. If you are intentionally ordering so that you are spending every bit of money you are gaming the system, its not ok.

                1. Falling Diphthong

                  … Isn’t that the definition of gaming the system? That you are following the letter of every. single. rule, but violating the intention of them?

                2. soupcold57

                  No, an example of gaming the system might be getting meals that max out the amount allowed , and not leaving any tip

                3. MCMonkeyBean

                  I mean, that’s literally how gaming the system works? If you’re not following the rules then that isn’t “gaming the system,” it’s just flat out cheating.

                4. Falling Diphthong

                  No. That would be not tipping the waitstaff. No system would be gamed other than the one where waitstaff are paid below minimum wage because it’s assumed they get tips.

              1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

                So do you go off on companies ‘gaming the system’ when they use EVERY legal tax loop in the codebook to not pay a dime in taxes? It’s well known that numerous US companies do this–take in billions in profits and pay little to no taxes. The current President used similar tactics.

                1. Paulina

                  Oh, do I ever! Especially since big companies who game the system also lobby to have the loopholes that enable them to pull their game. This discussion isn’t about them, though. And I also agree that it would be simpler if the company had a flat per-diem the way the OP thinks they should… but since they don’t, they’re looking for different behaviour from their employees than what OP’s husband was doing.

              2. Rusty Shackelford

                I’m not saying they’re not gaming the system. I think that’s exactly what they’re doing. I’m only disputing Ruby’s comment that if people spend their entire budget, the company is “just giving money away” and is “showering everyone with money.” The company doesn’t have any problem with its employee spending his entire allowed amount when he dines on his own, so there’s no reason to act like spending that entire amount on two people is somehow limitless spending.

            2. Kathenus

              I think the key here is that LW and her husband are not both employees, so as a pair they shouldn’t be asking for anything at all. Only the husband should be doing so for his meals.

        3. Stuff

          I worked for a really large company that really didn’t seem to care what you spent on meals – including alcohol – when you travelled. Guess they considered it part of morale spending. It was funny after one trip though when one guys expense report was rejected. Not from the huge meal for everyone he had expenced one night but the stamps he had forgotten he had bought at the hotel front desk that were on his hotel bill lol.

          1. Polymer Phil

            This is the philosophy at a lot of companies, and one I agree with – you’re away from your family and being inconvenienced, so getting a nice dinner instead of fast food is a relatively inexpensive morale builder from the company’s perspective. I can’t believe that after spending $1000 on someone’s flight and hotel, some companies make an issue out of a $2 side of guacamole.

        4. Falling Diphthong

          I think it’s more a question of company culture.

          You could argue that large companies with more resources can audit where it’s going and can save substantially by discouraging gaming the system, while small companies would do better just to give Mark $15 when he has to travel over lunch.

        5. knork

          It makes a lot of sense if you occasionally take a client out to dinner for business purposes–you may go over your limit but you’re paying for two (sanctioned) meals and you don’t have to submit that expense separately, just add an explanation.

          I’ve worked at several nonprofits, and “per diem” has pretty much always meant expense-cap-turn-in-your-receipts.

        6. nonymous

          When I worked in academia they scrutinized every item like you wouldn’t believe. I got rejected once because my breakfast receipts (coffee and a banana at the airport in a hcol city) was over what the university allowed for that meal, even though I was below the reimbursement cap for the day. To this day idk where I was supposed to buy breakfast for $3.50 with a 7A flight and no car.

      5. Turtle Candle

        Yeah, that’s how it is for me—I get $X per dinner and there isn’t a way to say “I actually ran by McDonald’s and only spent a third of that.” In that case I think it’s fine; there isn’t a practical way to do anything *but* pocket the excess. But if you are itemizing it’s another story entirely.

        1. Akcipitrokulo

          Yeah, sounds like. Our work does an expense cap of £100 out of London/£120 in per night for hotel room, £6 for breakfast and £25 for evening meals… but when I went slightly over the breakfast allowance and put in claim for the £6 instead of what I actually spent, I got told not to be silly and got the whole amount back :)

          1. Wintermute

            I feel like situations like that they tend to look at the totality of the situation, if you have a reputation as responsible with your expenses they’re not going to assume you chose to go above and beyond on a whim and it was due to necessity (someplace cheaper would have taken an unacceptable amount of time out of your schedule, etc.)

          2. Not A Morning Person

            I had a different situation with an expense reimbursement. My former company had a strict policy on the costs of meals vs. alcohol. On one trip where I was traveling alone I ate dinner in the hotel restaurant. I had a cheeseburger and a glass of wine and the total bill, including tip was only about $20.00. The one glass of wine was as much or more than the price of the cheeseburger and when I turned in my receipts, the one for that meal got rejected because the cost of the wine was too high in comparison to my meal cost. My VP overroad the rejection and I got my expenses back, but it was technically against the policy. But really, my one glass of wine at dinner was rejected because I chose a less expensive meal option.

      6. Nobody Here by That Name

        Where I worked they made it a rule you had to submit an itemized receipt for your meals/food expenses. The person in accounting would then do line-item rejections if she felt what you had on the receipt wasn’t “food” in her mind. Think like someone listing a candy bar as their lunch.

        The thing that got me about this was that our company scheduled far more work than people could reasonably do in the time they were allotted for these trips. I felt it was exceedingly petty to force people to, say, make multiple hops around the country in a single day then stiff them on the expense if the only meal they managed to grab in that time was a Snickers bar or whatever.

        1. Willis

          Geez, that’s bad! I’ve always figured it’s fair game to expense snacks on a business trip in addition to meals, assuming they’re reasonably small like a candy bar or a soda. Being denied payment for a candy bar when I had to skip a meal because of travel schedules would be really egregious! (Plus, how is it worth the administration time and hassle to recoup their $1.50?!?)

        2. RJ the Newbie

          On private jobs, snacks are no problem, but government and state/city jobs will reject the expense as it doesn’t qualify as a ‘meal’. The accounting person was probably sticking to the policy for the project, but being a real stickler about it. I’ve been guilty of this many times.

        3. BadWolf

          Oh my. This reminds me of a friend’s story about their janitor sifting through trash bags, looking for silverware that got tossed out with the food. Find an occasional cheap fork was not worth the hourly wage of the janitor searching for them.

      7. Cathie from Canada

        Yes, that the way the per diems were done at my workplace. No receipts required, but regardless of the actual cost of the meal, all you got was a set amount for breakfast, lunch and dinner, prorated based on your travel schedule (ie, if you left home at 7:30, you could charge the per diem for breakfast, but not if you left at 9:30).

        1. AnonyNurse

          My work used to base it on time of departure/arrival. Now it’s 75% of per diem on those days. So even if you leave at 4am, 75%. On the flip side, it means you get 75% for the day if your plane lands at 12:30 am when you definitely were at home for all meal periods. But it pretty much balances out cause we have a lot of red eye flights.

          1. Overeducated

            Yeah, I don’t love the “reduced per diem on travel days” policy on trips where I have to leave at like 5 am to catch a flight…in that case I don’t even care, I’ll buy my own airport coffee for the sake of sanity.

        2. Asenath

          That’s the way it works for me, too. Set amount, no receipts, but you don’t get the money for a meal you should have have before you left home or after you got back. They also check conference schedules – if there’s a meal included, quite reasonably, you can’t get the per diem for that meal as well.

          But you wouldn’t be feeding a spouse on your per diem from my work. Apart from the ethical issue, in some expensive cities, you might be out looking for a fast food place if you really wanted to keep within the allowance, and that can be tricky if your schedule kept you tied to a particular building. I sometime spent some of my own money on my food, but that was my choice.

        3. Rusty Shackelford

          This is how it works at my employer except you don’t get any per diem at all unless you spend the night at a hotel. So if you have to leave the house at 4 am and you don’t get home until midnight, no per diem for you.

          1. Anonymousaurus Rex

            Yep. This is how it works at my company too. I hate it because I frequently will fly out in the morning and return late the same night, needing to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner out. Plus you can’t really pack food for planes as easily as if I were driving somewhere. It drives me crazy that I have to eat these costs (literally).

      8. Quoth the Raven

        I work with a Comic Convention in my city as the lead interpreter and “Talent Hostess”, and that’s exactly how we deal with them, too — if someone’s contract calls for a per diem we don’t cover any meals (except for the breakfast, which is included with the hotel room anyway), but how the money is actually spent is up to the guest’s discretion. We never ask for receipts, either — if someone wants to buy a Snickers bar and pocket the rest of the money, or buy drinks for the whole party, that’s perfectly fine.

        1. Boobookitty

          That really is a smart way to do it. It doesn’t make sense to spend hours of staff time reviewing people’s expense claims line by line.

      9. MsChanandlerBong

        That is what I thought it meant, too. I have never worked anywhere where I had a per diem or reimbursement for anything other than mileage. I thought per diem meant you got $X per day and it was yours to spend. I am glad I read this in case I do get a job that offers per diems and reimbursements someday!

        1. Anonysand

          I’ve had both, and it’s really strange in how different the approaches can be. One former job did what we called a “blanket” per diem. You would get $15 for breakfast, $25 for lunch, and $35 for dinner while traveling. You paid out of pocket, then submitted the per diem request form when you returned from the trip. It would then get approved (verified by checking the dates/times traveled), and then a check would be issued within a week or two. They never required any receipts or asked additional questions. My last job did the opposite and would reimburse only what was spent (personally or on a company card), verified by receipts and invoices. I’m about to travel with my current job in a couple of months and although I’ll have a company card, this does help serve as a little reminder to check the policy before I go.

        2. Natalie

          Your understanding is the original meaning of the term, but it’s one of the words where the definition has drifted to mean “reimbursement cap” or similar. So probably ask for clarification if you’re ever at a company that says they use per diem.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          I usually roll with abbreviations but this one keeps triggering the little bit of Norwegian&Danish that I have managed to pick up. Velkommen til mit liv!

      10. snowglobe

        My company has a spending cap on meals per day. We have to use our company credit card, so we don’t keep any extra cash that we don’t spend, but we also don’t have to submit receipts for charge less than $35. So breakfast and lunch usually don’t require receipts, dinner does.

      11. PW

        To me, there’s a difference between paying a per diem and reimbursing for meals. With a per diem, what LW1 described should be fine.

      12. Safetykats

        Because you’re getting actual per firm – and OP1’s spouse is not. Real per diem is just $x per day, no receipts required. If receipts are submitted, your just getting reimbursed up to a maximum daily limit. If receipts are submitted, accounting should absolutely reject things that look shady – and using your personal expense reimbursement to order two lunches every day is clearly outside reimbursement. Travel expenses are designed to ensure that travel is reasonably expense neutral for most employees – not so you can take your SO on a free vacation. OP1’s spouse isn’t lucky if they got away without an official reprimand or worse. This is stealing, and it is (and should be) a fireable offense in a lot of companies.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Yeah—husband is really lucky he didn’t get in trouble. OP#1 and their husband were basically committing low-level fraud without realizing the gravity of what they were doing. Alison’s printer analogy is really apt for trying to understand why their behavior was unethical and why it’s reasonable for New Manager to rein it in.

      Per diems are not extra pocket money that people are entitled to extract and spend. They’re specific allowances to help off-set an employee’s personal meals and incidentals. I rarely max out my per diem, but I know I can’t start buying random folks food and then trying to recoup or claim the cost of feeding random folks.

      1. Cathie from Canada

        At a government office I worked in, the Deputy Minister (ie, the CEO of the agency) was fired because he was using the airmiles from his government travel for personal holidays. There was actually no policy at that time about what government employees should do about airmiles (which were a relatively new thing then) and I think they were actually just looking for an excuse to get rid of him. But he certainly gave them one.

        1. Dr Wizard, PhD

          That really shows how it differs between organisations! We have a policy on that, and it’s that as a minor perk to acknowledge the impact of work travel on our employees we can keep airline miles earned from work travel for personal use, so long as we don’t allow the availability of such miles/rewards to influence what flights we book.

          1. Billy Yum Yum 2x2

            My company is the same. We do a LOT of travel, much of it international. The company is generous with the travel policy, in my opinion. International travel is automatically booked in Business Class and all employees are allowed to keep their business-accrued miles for personal use, whether it be upgrading to First on a company trip or booking a vacation for the whole family. Miles accrued are part of the trade off in necessary travel. We do have a travel agency that books our comany flights, so there are rules that are automatically enforced on which flights are permitted.

            As an admin who submits her boss’s expense reports and receipts, if it’s not an obvious single coffee or happy meal situation, I must include the names of all participants and the intent behind the multi-person meal. It might be as simple as “Meal in airport with XYZ Coworker during travel to Place for Event” or “Meal with X, Y, Z, A, B, C, D, & E to discuss Really Important Thing.” I say this because if there’s anything that appears hinky, I ultimately responsible because I am required to know, understand, and adhere to company policies whether I’m submitting my expenses or his.

            It’s about personal accountability and integrity. I really don’t see why there’s a disconnect here.

          2. Batman

            Yeah, I actually don’t think it’s that big of a deal. An old org I used to work at sent people to travel a lot and they got to keep their miles. I thought it was unfair because at the time I was a very low paid admin assistant who never got to travel and I was jealous, but now I think it’s fine.

      2. Geoffrey B

        Even without the “buying for his wife” aspect, it still seems very shady to me that LW1’s husband is deliberately maxing out his expenses: “when he is by himself, he hits as close to the top of the allotment as possible anyway”.

        Maybe it’s different in some workplaces, but I’d expect most employers to take a very dim view of that attitude. Probably not illegal, but quite possibly career-limiting.

        1. Zip Silver

          Not only that, but imagine the gluttony. I usually eat surf and turf when I travel and am putting meals on the corporate card and it still doesn’t come close to my $80 daily limit. It would take some effort to really max it every day.

          1. RUKiddingMe

            I don’t know… Even Red Lobster can be upwards of $30 for one meal, add in $15/$20 each for breakfast and lunch, a couple of coffees at $5/6 each, maybe a snack for a couple more dollars… I can see it hitting $80 in a day. The thing is LW’s husband apparently can eat cheaply when buying for himself and LW but deliberately chooses to eat more expensively when it’s just him in order to hit his $80 limit. Maybe he hates his job… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        2. Oryx

          Maybe I’m just being overly cynical, but I wonder if this situation is exactly why he tries to hit as close to the limit as much as possible: if he travels by himself and only expenses $40, it will then be suspicious if he suddenly turns in receipts for $80 and claims it’s still just for him. Especially if, as it sounds like, his previous boss didn’t go line by line and just signed the check. So it’s just known that Bob is going to request $80 in reimbursement and nobody thinks anything of it.

          But now his new boss is one who does go line by line, looking at the amount of food being ordered. Depending on the city and restaurants, a single person expensing a $10 omelet, $20 sandwich, and $50 steak dinner wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows. But two breakfasts, two lunch entrees, and two dinner entrees is going to be noticed.

          1. Yvette

            “…I wonder if this situation is exactly why he tries to hit as close to the limit as much as possible: if he travels by himself and only expenses $40, it will then be suspicious if he suddenly turns in receipts for $80 and claims it’s still just for him.” I too am cynical. It reminds me (sort of) of friend’s whose job was to cover other people’s delivery routes when they were off. They were flat out told by the route “owners” that they better not take less time than the “owner” because then people would catch on to the fact that it could be done in 3 hours not 5.

        3. soupcold57

          I take a dim view of employers who scrutinize expenses that don’t violate the travel rules.

      3. No Mas Pantalones

        This, thissity this this this. I work in compliance. Depending on the frequency and the amount of money, he’d likely be required to pay back the amount at minimum. If an audit showed it happened frequently, he’d be out of a job.

      4. Jamey

        “Per diems are not extra pocket money that people are entitled to extract and spend.”

        To be honest, that’s kind of exactly what per diems are in some organizations. If his company is indeed calling it a “per diem”, I can absolutely see where the confusion happened.

        1. Clisby

          Also, aren’t true per diems taxable (in the US)? I thought they typically were added to a paycheck and considered income.

    3. Ginger

      I wonder if the boss was looking closer because he saw OP traveling with his employee often.

    4. soupcold57

      The way it is described is not a true per diem . A true per diem is the employee is reimbursed $X per travel day. Full stop. No receipts, no itemizing meals on expense report.

      This just makes it confusing to others what a per diem is

    5. Kyrielle

      Definitely this. I _have_ worked under a system where using your per diem for your spouse would have been okay, but in that case, they explicitly had us expense the full per diem regardless of what we spent and without receipts. If they needed to cover lunch, then they covered it at a set rate. We didn’t get money for breakfast if the hotel supplied it as part of the room, unless we had to leave for the client site before it was served, for example.

      But if you spent $3 on a fast-food lunch, you still got the full lunch per diem. They didn’t want to have to sort out receipts and specific amounts. Of course, if you spent $150 on a gloriously-plated fancy dinner, you were still going to get whatever the dinner amount was – substantially less than $150. But it did mean people could save money to spend on what they wanted – feeding a spouse, saving for bills, etc. The company knew that and was explicitly okay with it, in return for not having to deal with receipts. That’s the only circumstance in which I think it would be okay to buy food for someone not involved in the trip/business, such as a spouse.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#5, one of the reasons people yawn is because they’re getting insufficient oxygen. Your examples (feeling tired, room is stuffy) are all things that tend to encourage people to start winding down their breathing as if they were going to nap.

    Something that can help and that might make meetings less boring is to monitor your breathing by counting breaths. Similarly to yoga, you could do a slow inhale (nothing theatrical) for a five-count, then exhale for a three- to four-count. This might not solve the tiredness or stuffiness issue, but it should help moderate your yawn reflex.

    Or you can just disclaim that you’re prone to yawning so that folks don’t feel personally offended when it happens.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      I was having this problem to the point where I checked the room’s thermostat — turns out the air circulation gets turned off frequently. So first thing when I go in, I move it from “OFF” to “AUTO”. I also sit on that end so I can see the screen better– and coincidentally it means it’s easy for me to flip it from Auto to OFF if it shuts down during a crowded hot meeting. No one has ever questioned it.
      For rooms with no fan control, I ask to leave the door open. The time or two I was questioned, I said I’ve noticed the air gets so stuffy that people have to stifle yawns… everyone agrees, door stays open.

      1. GigglyPuff

        It can also happen when there’s not appropriate air system that can handle the amount of people in the room. I found this out the hard way when I started my job years ago. We have a small auditorium, and I was fine at first, but then it was full, and I almost passed out in my seat within twenty minutes, and had a hard time keeping my head up. I thought it was just me, but it happened again! So I researched a little online and if the air system can’t handle that many people in one room, the amount of carbon dioxide can be a little higher. (May not be correct, it’s the internet after all, but made sense because I didn’t have problems if there were fewer people in the room.) Luckily didn’t have to use it for a while, and noticed more people would leave the doors open, and then really it hasn’t been a problem if a couple years, and I know they’ve worked on the air system since then.

        But on the another note, chewing gum (if you’re not an obnoxious chewer, might help keep the yawns at bay).

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          I went through a gum-chewing phase in my late teens and learned the hard way what TMJ is.
          No gum for me thanks!

    2. Mbarr

      This is a great tip! I start a new job in 2 weeks, and while I know I’ll be excited… I also know I’ll be overloaded with information and excitement/stress which can make me yawny. I’ll endeavor to try this breathing exercise as I sit through on-boarding meetings!

      1. ElspethGC

        The breathing exercise I use for relaxing – not sure if it would help with feeling yawny! – is five counts in, seven counts out, breathing through your stomach rather than your chest. Very good when you’re feeling stressed, and it really does noticeably slow your heart rate.

        1. I

          Actually, you want to do the opposite count (7 breaths in, 5 breaths out), because of neuroscience: deep exhalations trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, and the relaxation/digestion response; deeper inhalations trigger your sympathetic nervous system and a more alert response. At an extreme, the sympathetic nervous system also has a survival response (fight/flight/freeze), which can be triggered by hyperventilating, so paying attention to your body is key here. However, breathing this way enough to wake up is fine.

    3. Urdnot Bakara

      I have a really low resting heart rate (not because I’m super fit or anything, that’s just the way I am?) and it causes me to breathe really shallowly which also causes me to yawn a lot for this exact reason! This is a good tip and something I’m going to try, myself!

    4. lost academic

      May not be relevant, but I also learned yawning can be a sign of incoming migraine. Since I do have chronic migraine and I don’t get any aura, knowing this was life-changing.

    5. Hapless Bureaucrat

      Deep breathing does help me stifle yawns. As stuffy rooms and little to do have a tendency to put me to sleep, I also try to keep my body active in low key ways. My first line of defense is note- taking. Copious, copious note-taking. Pages of it. I don’t need it for memory, it’s strictly to remind my brain to stay engaged.
      I also usually have earrings or a watch that I can fiddle with in a discreet way.

  5. Maya Elena

    I agree that the policy, as stated, does not allow for anyone but the husband to use the per diem. This would be different if it we’re a flat $X allotment, in which case you could subsist on Subway and keep the rest for whatever purpose without guilt, I think. Chalk this one up ti misunderstanding of this particular company’s policy.

    1. misspiggy

      Yes – in this case OP’s husband has been given a ceiling for receipted expenditure. A true per diem allowance wouldn’t require receipts, and could therefore be spent on anything.

  6. anoning

    #1: I’m not really sure why you thought it was okay for him to pay for your food? Labeling it as “clearly feeding his family” is such a reach because that’s not the purpose of meal reimbursements. That fact that you even try to justify it this way is a bit worrying.

    To be honest, I’d be more than a little concerned if I found out an employee was doing this. It would raise red flags and I’d be wary that they tried to game the system in another manner. I’ve worked at a few places where learning that your partner was buying food for you with their daily allotment would have caused an audit and maybe even some serious trouble for the employee.

    1. Wake up!

      I think you misunderstood OP. It was the boss who said the husband was “clearly feeding his family,” as an explanation for why his use of the per diem was inappropriate. The OP isn’t using it as justification.

      1. MommyMD

        Nevertheless still very inappropriate. Employer could mandate husband go alone on business trips. LW is wise to move on.

    2. MommyMD

      I’d also worry about him and his wife gaming the system after catching them gaming the system.

        1. Brit

          These kind of comments always make me feel bad for people who write in. Just because they made a mistake interpreting one thing, the insinuation that they are inherently dishonest and gaming systems all over the place is just too much. It seems genuine they don’t understand the policy and are getting clarification.

          1. Manon

            Yeah I 100% read this as LW and husband thinking he had a per diem he could spend however he wanted and not realizing there was any ethical conflict, not that they intentionally schemed to defraud the company.

    3. The Rat- Catcher

      Ehh, I think this could be an honest misunderstanding. My company gives us $x per meal and has explicitly stated that not only do they not want receipts but that we can claim the full amount regardless of actual expenses. So yes, now that OP and her husband know the rules, they should follow them, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a red flag for the employer when it’s well known that different places handle this differently.

      1. knork

        I agree that it’s a misunderstanding, but it’s maybe not quite an honest one. I’m sure it occurred to LW’s husband at some point to just ask someone, and he didn’t. This has a whiff of “better to ask forgiveness than permission” to me.

        1. Jamey

          I don’t think that’s fair. Having only ever worked at places where the per diem works differently, I think it’s totally understandable that he’d earnestly misunderstand this policy without realizing he needed to get clarification.

        2. Rusty Shackelford

          To be fair, if the company actually calls it a “per diem,” the husband is using it the way a per diem works, and it makes sense that he wouldn’t think he’s misusing it. And even if they’re not calling it that, so many companies do work this way that it could seem perfectly reasonable to him.

    4. MissDisplaced

      This is the policy for my company as well. $40/day per diem FOR THE EMPLOYEE. If you spend $40 one day and only $10 the next day, you don’t get to “keep or forward” the difference, or even spend $70 on day #4 and treat yourself to a steak dinner. Nope. It goes back to the company as “unused,” so you need to carefully budget your meals.

      I’m surprised the spouse is even allowed to go along on business trips?
      This is generally rarer, unless the trip is overseas, or occasionally to a large city such as maybe New York/Miami, etc. that is considered more touristy, where perhaps employee is considering staying over a few extra days. Even so, permission to bring the spouse generally needed to be obtained before hand, even though those expenses were on the spouse (because company pays for room). Usually it was granted without too much explanation, but still, if you’re asking for your spouse to come along to Omaha or something, you’d get a side-eye unless you had family there, or other similar good reason. It’s not a vacation, after all.

      I think LW’s hubs got his ‘one free pass’ here and was lucky the company chalked it up to a misunderstanding of the how the policy works. He could have been in real trouble over it.

      1. Expenses are expensive

        What? Why would the company even know that the spouse is there? Hotel rooms for one person can definitely be used by a married couple.

        I’ve gone to my spouse’s business trips and the company had no idea because I traveled on my own and I spent time with my spouse after work (the same thing we do when not on business trips). Also, yes, I did eat from their paid for by the company food, gasp.

        1. shame

          If “expenses are expensive,” you can stay home where you incur NONE.

          The company is not employing you, nor are you providing them any value, so you are wrong to get your meals covered by them.

          My spouse tags along on my business trips as well, and stays in my room because I don’t alter my room type request to accommodate him — I also make sure my manager is aware of his presence because it is the respectful thing to do when a non-employee is going to partake in something the company is covering.

          He DOES NOT get his meals covered. I would think less of him if he asked.

          1. Expenses are expensive

            I disagree on the meals but that’s not the main thing in my comment. Even if my spouse’s $25 dinners didn’t contain any food I would eat (the horror), why would the company care that I’m there? I never said anything about room upgrades, most hotel rooms are the same to me.

            1. shame

              You can ‘gasp’ and ‘the horror’ all you want, but that’s just you sarcastically covering for the fact you’re taking advantage of a company’s generosity that is for people who provide them value only. Everything else in your follow-up is blustery defensiveness toward my personal story, not yours.

              1. pancakes

                Weirdly sanctimonious. It isn’t “generosity” that drives a company to pay for an employee’s hotel room—it’s a business need they’ve decided to fund.

              2. Courageous cat

                Yeah, please with the “take advantage” and “generosity”, if we want to talk quotes. A company is not a person doing this out of the kindness of their heart. This is a business transaction like any other and should be treated as such.

                1. shame

                  “A company is not a person doing this out of the kindness of their heart. This is a business transaction like any other and should be treated as such.”

                  Good grief, that is exactly my point.

                  So terribly sorry for confronting an abuser’s flippant attitude re: stealing funds from a company they don’t work for with similar egregious word choices. This person is taking advantage of a company they do not provide value for — a point nobody has bothered to respond to. How about that?

      2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

        As so many people have pointed out, MissDisplaced, your company is using per idem wrong. Many places do allow employees to pocket the extra cash.

      3. AngryOwl

        This “allowed” business is so odd to me. If my husband wants to come along to Omaha it’s not like my company can prevent him from visiting the city. I guess they could tell me he couldn’t be in the hotel room but that would be so odd since it doesn’t affect room price.

        I’ve never been at a company that treats travel like that.

  7. K

    Working in a place where I was, essentially, banned from yawning, I learned a couple of tricks. The main one is to simply keep my mouth closed and my face muscles relaxed. I still do the open-throat deep breath of a yawn, but with my mouth closed and my face neutral, no one knows I’m doing more than just a deep breath. It’s not totally satisfying but it gets the job done.

    1. Beatrice

      I do this too. It’s still noticeable that I’m yawning from my throat muscle movements just under my chin, so I usually rub my chin or find some other way to mask that with my hand to hide it.

      1. Not So NewReader

        We had a tourist attraction type place here, where employees were not allowed to yawn. The “rationale” was the yawning would telegraph boredom or fatigue and the employer did not want the customers seeing that. Of course the job was minimum wage work and the employer thought that they bought the souls of employees not just their labor. Employees were also not allowed to drink water while standing on blacktop in 90 plus degree heat.
        Many people did not even finish the season, the turn over rate for help was jaw-dropping.

        1. Yvonne

          I go to see musicals and plays pretty regularly and for some reason I tend to yawn a lot while I’m there. I’m not bored, tired, too warm or stuffy, etc. Our seats are really good so I try to suppress it because I’m always worried the actors will see and think I’m bored by the performance. It’s so annoying!

          1. Ann Nonymous

            For me, it’s the combination of a dark room and concentration on a very-lit stage that provokes uncontrollable yawning.

        2. Karen from Finance

          You’re the one who wasn’t allowed to drink water because customers might think you were thirsty, right? I remember you. God, what a terrible employer.

          But yeah your trick for yawning is the same as mine (you explained it better), it works.

    2. Anonandon

      Yeah. I just open my jaw but keep my lips closed. I can feel my throat muscles stretching but it’s hard to notice. Especially if the other people are paying attention to a powerpoint or something. Helps if you pretend to rub your chin or something.

    3. nnn

      Seconded, that’s what I came to suggest.

      I was in a class once where if you yawned the prof asked you a question (and didn’t even have a grace period after announcing that someone had yawned for all the contagious yawns that would then follow!) so I tried keeping my mouth closed as I yawned, and it worked!

      1. ElspethGC

        I’ve had some terrible lecturers and teachers who would stop the whole class just to ask if you were feeling bored every time you yawned. I’m in an incredibly stuffy room with thirty other people and no air circulation, what do *you* think?! I got very good at closed-mouth yawning and timing it to coincide with ‘drinking’ water from a wide-mouthed bottle.

    4. AnonymousArts

      Same here. I do this all the time in meetings, and, as far as I know, no one has noticed anything odd.

    5. Light37

      I do the same thing. It was pretty easy to learn how to do, and it’s subtle enough that most people don’t notice. I also keep a tissue nearby to act as a handy shield just in case.

  8. Goeeethhhhee

    re: yawning, one trick that works for me is closing my mouth but inhaling deeply and slowly through my nose. I try and get oxygen as much as I would with a yawn. Doing this also feels like I open my throat a bit, even though my lips are closed?

    I probably look a little odd, but it’s much less eye-catching than yawning. And I feel you! It’s so hard not to yawn sometimes!

    1. sacados

      I do that too! The sort of closed-mouth, open throat yawn.
      The only problem for that is with me, it usually also makes my eyes water quite a lot.
      But then I get fairly teary in general with yawns.

      1. Vendelle

        Another way that helps me is putting my entire tongue against my palate. Somehow I never yawn when my tongue is high in my mouth.

        1. Busy

          Holy cow! I went into a yawning tailspin over reading all these comments. Your tongue on pallet thing worked! Thanks for that, as I am too quite the eye waterer when I yawn. My nose runs too. Sometimes people ask me if I am crying after a bout of yawning.

  9. sacados

    OP1 reminds me of a story my dad always tells. At one job, where he worked for many years, he was on very good terms with his direct boss (and they are still friends to this day).
    The way their company operated, your direct boss was in charge of approving all your expenses. And my dad and his boss “Fergus” often were on business trips/entertaining clients etc together. So in times like that, Fergus would always ask my dad to be the one to pay for everything — and in exchange, Fergus promised that he would always approve my dad’s expenses no questions asked. (Because if Fergus was paying, it would be my dad’s grandboss checking Fergus’s expenses.)
    My dad said there were definitely some times where he submitted REALLY high expense sheets (all legitimate of course, the job involved LOTS of travel), to the point where he was a bit nervous about it, but to Fergus’s credit every single one was approved.

      1. sacados

        My sense is that it was more of an unwritten rule– not explicitly forbidden, but still the sort of thing that everyone knows you’re not technically supposed to do.
        Definitely a bit shady, tho! ;-p

        1. RUKiddingMe

          If they were legit expenses I don’t know what Fergus’ issue was…maybe he thought it would just look like too much to his own boss?

          1. sacados

            Yeah, I was never totally clear, but I think something along those lines. If Fergus’s boss was nitpicky about expenses/prone to “well why did you order such an expensive bottle of wine/ why didn’t you walk instead of take a taxi” type questions.

            1. boo bot

              I would totally have assumed the boss was trying to shift his own malfeasance onto me! Sounds like it worked out for your dad, though.

    1. TechWorker

      Huh. We have an explicit policy that in a group the most senior person has to expense, which I never came up with a reason for – maybe this is it!

      1. Nerfmobile

        Yes, my company has the same policy – the most senior person has to make the purchase. Although they recently tweaked that slightly, as sometimes there end up being dinners or whatever with people from different divisions and different seniority levels. I believe after a couple of times where a VP from one division visiting a location and getting stuck picking up the tab for dinner for 12 people from the other divisions, they changed it so it is the senior-most person from the “sponsoring organization” to help make budgets more predictable.

      2. No Tribble at All

        We have that, although it’s not quite as strictly enforced. I think it’s also to stop a super junior person from having to front a lot of money. I know when I first started working, I had cash reserves of about $37. Would have been really awkward if someone had asked me to buy dinner for the group.

        PS I know managers can also have financial issues

        1. Armchair Analyst

          During my first month at a new job, I ended up putting lunch for 12 on my own credit card and getting it reimbursed but I was still like, oof! That’s a lot to float for me!

          I’ve heard the NFL players say that they have a “funny” tradition or hazing ritual of going out to eat as a team at a fancy restaurant… imagine all those big players eating a ton of expensive food…. and then sticking the rookies with the bill. Poor rookies! That’s how I felt after that incident. Glad to find out it just happened like that and wasn’t standard.

          1. Free ( now and forever)

            I ran a food pantry for 15 years. I shopped for the pantry each week and regularly charged between $350 and $500 per week on my personal credit card, which is a Nordstrom Visa. So I regularly floated $1500 to $2000 per month. I didn’t mind because I earned Nordstrom Notes and we kept a substantial balance in our checking account. I earned over $200 in Nordstrom Notes every year. When I retired in the fall of 2017, they gave my replacement an agency credit card.

    2. Feliz

      In a previous role, where I had a company credit card, there was this policy as well. It was there specifically to stop the above situation – it’s a very easy way to commit deliberate fraud.

      While I was there one of the senior level people was fired for misuse of company credit card and travel expenses. The company (a huge multinational) took this stuff seriously

  10. Sarah

    Exempt wages are different in different states. For example, in New York, you have to make over 50k to be considered exempts.

    1. Lady Kelvin

      That’s still not enough to outweigh the drain of working 80 hours of overtime, in my opinion.

      1. MsChanandlerBong

        No kidding. For the hassle, you might as well work at McDonald’s. At least you might get a free meal or something.

          1. TechWorker

            Tbh even 10 hr days/5 days a week would be enough to make me pretty exhausted after a month.

    2. NJ Anon

      Its also frowned upon by the DOL in some states to allow for comp time for exempt emoloyees. Ive had jobs eere it was absolutely forbidden. I suppose there are eays around it if your boss agrees to it.

      1. doreen

        As an exempt government employee, I can adjust my schedule within the same workweek – but the one thing I cannot do is make an unscheduled hour-for-hour adjustment. For example, I am required to work a 37.5 hour week. One day a week I am scheduled to work 10.5 hours and another I am scheduled to work 4.5. That’s fine, because it’s my regular schedule. If I work 2 hours later than I am scheduled on Monday and come in an hour late on Tuesday, that’s also fine , because it’s not hour-for hour. Apparently, hour-for-hour unscheduled adjustments would make it appear that I am in fact non-exempt.

  11. Amy Farrah Fowler

    OP 5 – I yawned the whole time reading your question as well as comments/answers. Seeing or hearing the word “yawn” will inevitably make me do so. No advice really… but lots of commiseration.

    1. ElspethGC

      It’s been a great chance to try all the anti-yawn tricks people are recommending, though!

  12. JessB

    Oh, I have something relevant to the last question, about yawning!
    This would often happen to me at university, in hot lecture theatres in the afternoon. One way I got around it was to cool down, if I know I’ve got a meeting in a warm room, I leave my cardigan at my desk or take it off before I sit down.
    I also make sure I have cold water- we have taps that dispense refrigerated water, and although I usually prefer room temperature water, if I think I’ll be hot, I get the very cold water.
    I also do things like take snacks in with me, to give me something to do. I try not to sit still for too long.
    I also try to be really engaged in the meeting, and alert!
    One last thing, I’ve found that if I feel a yawn coming on, I can suppress it by pressing my tongue to the room of my mouth.
    You are not alone! Good luck.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        I suspect if someone is fussy enough to tell someone’s boss they were yawning in a (long stuffy) meeting, this would also be complained about.
        (And by the way, reviving myself with cold water is one reason I do not wear makeup!)

  13. Kiki

    I’ve found being a super-engaged listener (nodding along with the speaker and smiling) reduces my yawning and prevents people from taking any yawns that slip through the wrong way.

    1. Armchair Analyst

      Or taking notes. I LOVE taking notes. I almost never look at them again. But they help me listen in-the-moment.

  14. Karen from Finance

    OP5, I’ll try for my best description of what I do as someone who is permanently tired.

    If I feel a yawn coming, I take my hand to my mouth, not in a “cover my mouth to yawn” way but more of a “I’m deeply thinking about what is being said” way. Then, I’ll inhale and exhale heavily. With the exhale, the yawn will come out, but I will fight against the impulse to open my mouth and keep my lips together and let my jaw only slightly open. Thisnis obviously not preventing the yawning, but the overall wanted effect is that you are masking it as a concentrated sigh.

    Keep active if you’re able. Depending on how formal your meetings are, some light fidgeting or changing positions can help keep your body more alert too. I’ll add here what some other commenters have said about drinking water too.

  15. JulieCanCan

    OP #5, I’m right there with ya! I also get INCREDIBLY tired to where my lids feel like they’re weighted down with concrete blocks when it’s hot/stuffy and I’m being trained quietly in an enclosed room, or in an afternoon meeting about anything non-stimulating. My eyelids will become so heavy that I need to fight to keep them open. It is torturous and nothing helps. Doesn’t matter how much caffeine I chug. OMG it makes me anxious thinking about it!!

    This sounds weird and freakish but sometimes I’ll resort to repeatedly pinching my leg or inner arm REALLY REALLY hard just for the jolt. The next day I’m covered with tiny scattered bruises but it’s the only thing that helps in a pinch. (Pun not really intended yet it kinda worked, so, ya know……..)

    1. BadWolf

      For one semester, I had a post lunch class with a professor who used someone else’s PowerPoint charts that were chart after chart of wall o’ text. Walk into class, draw the shades (dark), turn on the projector (gentle hum), drone on about the topic I didn’t really enjoy. Insta-nap time. So bad.

  16. Jean Dam van Claude

    #1 They company pays for business expenses. Food for employees’ families is not a business expense. That’s what salaries are for.

  17. KayDay

    #1 – While I agree with Alison’s overall opinion, I think the company did make a mistake by having a somewhat muddy policy (assuming that the OP’s language is taken directly from the policy). If I hear the term “per diem” without any further explanation, I would take that to mean a flat rate that is given to the employee, no receipt needed. I’ve also worked at companies that reimburse expenses, but they don’t usually use the term “per diem”, but rather “reimbursable travel expenses” or something like that. (I’ve also worked at places with mixed per diem/reimbursement policies where you really have to read the fine print, e.g. reimburseable meals up to $20 + per diem for miscellaneous expenses of $20) So basically, I think that Alison is 100% right that the employer can and should reject the expense, but I given the muddy-ness of the policy (as explained by the OP) I would also argue that the husband shouldn’t be in trouble for misinterpreting it.

    #5 – I have no idea but I do this too! It’s definitely not related to being bored, but for some reason lots of people insist that is the only reason to yawn (I googled it once, and it felt like the internet was yelling at me for being very rude.) Someone else mentioned sipping on water, which is about the only thing I have found that works for me. I also yawn more in certain places (e.g. certain conference rooms) and have no idea why that is.

      1. Willis

        And it sounded like the OP and her husband understood the policy as “you can spend up to $X for meals,” not that it’s a flat reimbursement for the day regardless of the amount you actually spend.

    1. Liane

      #1: Several commenters have said the husband was lucky he wasn’t disciplined. Perhaps the manager decided it was because the policy wasn’t clear, so rejecting the items/receipts plus telling him to stop was enough — this time. (If that’s the case, I expect the per diem policy will be updated/clarified.)
      Whatever the boss’ reasoning, OP & Husband should be grateful that’s all that happened and *not do this again* now that they are on notice that per diem doesn’t work this way at his company.

    2. Muddy Policy

      I am having a really hard time with the assumption that you and so many others are making that people in the workforce aren’t aware if their company allows for their expensed meals/Per diem/or reimbursable expenses or whatever wording you want to use to cover someone elses expenses besides them. The thought that a muddy policy that most people don’t read anyway is the cause as well, it is a little on the absurd side. The OP knew they were submitting receipts, said at the top that “but my expenses are my own”, and later in the big thread calls the new boss “nit picking”. This isn’t something the OP didn’t know, they aren’t asking if they are wrong they are asking if there is a way to get by with it based on the wording of the muddy policy.

      1. Very Australian

        Yeah I think that the LW and her husband knew that the money was a limit/cap but thought it was ok anyway because it came under. Nothing I’ve read suggests that they thought it was a flat rate.
        Besides, it’s the responsibility of the employee to check how travel expenses work before they travel!

  18. Kisses

    LW5.. A few years ago I found this little canister of O2 (oxygen) and it offered a real pick me up. It was just to get you more alert I remember the packaging saying. At the time I had an early job and I am NOT a morning person.
    Besides that (which does seem like a hack kind of science product) I found that Starbucks coffee offers more caffeine than the average coffee. I certainly can’t afford a $5 drink per day, but the coffee they sell in grocery stores is about $8 for 2-4 weeks worth.

  19. Ginger

    #4- “managing your workload” is not an exceptional or unique skill to be listed on a resume. If I saw that, I’d really question your experience level.

    1. Daisy

      Yes. Also, they were let go for not being good at the job after 3 months, and list ‘workload’ as one of the reasons, so… they presumably were *not* managing it that amazingly? Not trying to be mean, but a very short job stay which was mostly struggling probably did not develop any skills to any useful extent.

      1. Washi

        Yeah, and the bit about doing good work generally but not being a good fit for the role also rang a little false. Usually people who are generally doing good work do not get fired, and if the OP ever does have this come up in an interview, she might want to have a more compelling reason ready why she was let go (having a health condition that she has since gotten under control, etc.)

        But more to the point, not everything you’ve learned in life needs to be on a resume. My previous work experience has taught me how to cope with sitting for 8 hours/day staring at my computer screen, but that’s not something I’d list on my resume.

    2. Falling Diphthong

      That stuck out to me.

      With the exception of the software, which might fit under skills, I don’t think any of this is going to look good on a resume just because it’s an assumed skill.

    3. OP 4

      Hello all, I realize that from the wording I chose it might sound like I overestimate my skills when I was fired from the job, but I dont think it is the case. The thing is that even the management of the company admit the type of work and the demands they have are not very usual in the field – and other poeple who have been working successfully in this field for years confirm that. They have a really high turnover because of this, but the bright side is that even in the short time I stayed I managed to learn a lot.

      Managing my workload was perhaps not the best example (I think it will come off better if I just explain to interviewers in specific terms how I cope with high workload etc.), but the software and terminology are things I know will be useful, hence my question. Based on Alison’s answer I think that in general, it will be best to list this in the skills section and then explain/put those skills to use when the time comes. If possible, I will try to not mention this specific job at all in interviews, because I realize it is hard to believe I was any good at it when I was let go without detaield knowldge of the company.

      1. Scout Finch

        It seems you have a pretty good grasp on how to proceed.

        Don’t feel bad about not being a good fit. You learn & move on – that’s life. It seems the company has a lot to learn about how they staff this position as well.

        Good luck to you.

  20. MommyMD

    Being on salary is supposed to work both ways, not just theirs. When the request for extra hours pours in, hit them up for some comp time at that time. The law needs to change because 24k a year is peanuts. It should start at 36k.

    1. AcademiaNut

      By my calculation, at the US federal minimum wage of $7.25, if the OP is working a 60 hour week and is paid just above the limit of $23,660 annually for exempt employees, she’s actually being paid barely above minimum wage for the work she is doing.

      (7.25*60*52 = 22620)

      Even $36K a year should not buy an employer unlimited work from an employee.

      1. MayLou

        I’m always astounded by the number of hours people talk about being “full time”. In the UK the standard full-time working week is 36-37.5 hours (depends whether lunch breaks are taken into account) and under EU law it’s illegal for someone to work over 48 hours except in a few specific circumstances.

          1. ElspethGC

            Yes, but comments referencing international norms, like MayLou’s, are very useful for those of us that *are* elsewhere who need to figure out how much of the advice here is actually relevant or not if we’re in a similar situation, especially regarding laws. I find contrasting US-specific advice to what you should do in other countries very helpful – after all, AAM is a resource for everyone to use.

              1. bonkerballs

                That’s not the case at all for hourly workers. If I’m only working 37.5 hours, I’m only paid for 37.5 hours. I don’t think I know anyone who says they have a 40 hour work week who means they only work 37.5 hours.

          2. atalanta0jess

            I think the point is “wow, y’all americans work a lot, compared to the norms where I am.”

            1. pancakes

              I think that’s a perfectly legit point! We are out of step with the rest of the world in many ways and it’s worth talking about.

        1. nonymous

          Question – is the 36-37.5 hr range before or after vacation/bank holidays are taken into account?

          When I include vacation and holiday, I am working an average of 35hrs/week over the year, although my regular work schedule is 40hrs/week.

          1. One of the Sarahs

            No, it’s the standard working week – bank holidays are usually completely separate and then it’s pretty standard to start at 20 holiday days, and each holiday day would be the same number of hours as a standard 7.5 hour work day.

        2. Nessun

          I’m in Canada – my company’s work week is standard 37.5 hours, mostly salaried workers. We get time in lieu off for OT worked (over 40 hrs in a week).

      2. RUKiddingMe

        Yeah that’s a poverty wage. Even here (Seattle) where I think minimum is like $15/16 (State is like $12.50 as of January I believe) that’s a poverty wage for the area. OP is definitely not being paid enough for 80 hours of overtime…not normal work hours, just overtime. She’s being screwed IMO.

      3. EPLawyer

        That’s exactly how this employer is gaming the system. They made sure to pay juuuust enough to make the person exempt from overtime. Then worked them insane hours. They know darn well if they had to pay OT for that time, it would have cost a fortune. It was cheaper to make the person exempt.

        The no comp time either is the tell. We want to treat you like hourly, but pay you like salaried to get the most out of you without costing us. Usually salaried people also get flexibility in time off. usually.

        I echo Alison’s advice. Time to see if this is just a manifestation of a large dysfunction. If it is, time to get the heck out of dodge.

  21. MommyMD

    Dogs yawn when they are extremely happy. It’s a high honor. Human yawns are interpreted as rudeness when sometimes you just can’t help it. I’ll stifle it and lightly cough or something.

    1. PurpleMonster

      They also yawn when they’re very uncomfortable in a situation as a displacement behaviour, so be careful with that interpretation!

      1. Anononon

        Yes, it’s an anxiety response (excitement can fall under the anxiety category for dogs).

        1. Venus

          My understanding is that dogs use yawning as a way to calm things down, when the situation is worrisome.

          I have never heard of it in the context of dog happiness – that is likely a way to get bit…

  22. Marzipan

    I didn’t even know mousepads were still a thing; I haven’t had one in years. TBH I’d probably just shove it in a drawer to get it out of the way, even if it wasn’t something with a theme I found uncomfortable.

      1. Marzipan

        You can just get the wrist rests on their own, though, if you need one. (My colleague has one. He likes to put it on his head, but that’s a whole different story…)

      2. Anonny

        I use mine precisely because I need the wrist rest. I used to have a cute one, but sadly they don’t come with wrist rests so much. :(

      1. Falling Diphthong

        They make specific gaming mousepads with different surfaces on each side to match the kind of gaming you’re doing. (Routine Xmas request from my son.)

      2. Seeking Second Childhood

        I’m just learning I should have gotten a mousepad with my adjustable-height desk, because the work surface is GETTING shiny in just one spot. (Yes shiny after cleaning, lol.)

      3. Elizabeth West

        I’m sitting on the sofa bed and using one right now because the mouse is beside me on the blanket. I prefer a mouse to the trackpad. If I could afford a side-oriented trackball (needed, thanks to my stupid wrist), I wouldn’t have a pad.

        Most offices just give you regular laser mice, so I usually need a mousepad. Exjob did get me a side-trackball after an ergonomic assessment, but obviously I couldn’t take it with me.

    1. RUKiddingMe

      I can handle most anything (except clowns, clowns are just wrong) but something about ouija board imagery just freaks me out, like really freaks me out. I don’t think I’d even feel comfortable touching it to shove it in a drawer.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        Yeah, I’m an agnostic but that somehow evokes accidentally spelling out “raise Hitler” when I’m just trying to collapse the replies under a post.

        1. Anonny

          My general policy with the supernatural is “you don’t have to believe in it, but you don’t **** with it.” And a ouija board mousemat is definitely too close to ****ing with it for my personal comfort.

          1. whingedrinking

            I don’t know if this will make you feel better, but:
            A) When they were first introduced, Ouija boards were seen as a parlour trick that had nothing to do with the occult until World War I.
            B) The term “ouija” is owned by Hasbro and most Ouija boards you find floating around are mass-manufactured products created by a board game company. No spooky rituals went into their creation. (I figure if you can buy it at Toys R Us, it’s probably no more supernatural than a Barbie doll.)
            C) Their function has been very well explained by the ideomotor effect and the power of suggestion.
            None of this necessarily disproves anything, but I find it takes a lot of the creepiness factor out of it.

      2. Michaela Westen

        In junior high my friend had a creepy experience with a ouija board and both of us have avoided them ever since.
        After the Halloween ghost-story thread here a couple years ago, even more reason not to encourage the supernatural at work.

      3. Janie

        My life goal is “Don’t die like a white person in a horror movie”. This means a few rules like “if you hear a strange noise outside, don’t run outside to look at it” and “don’t mess with Ouija boards”.

      4. pancakes

        I can understand why people might feel uncomfortable with an actual ouija board, but being frightened of a depiction of one printed on a mousepad seems overly precious to me. It isn’t functional, and it’s a mass-produced item that rolled off an assembly line by the thousand. A bit of printed fabric on a small piece of foam. It’s not the sort of thing I’d decorate my workspace with, but if someone else had one & another employee acted as if it might be haunted I’d think that was strange.

        1. Seacalliope

          Agreed on every level. I would take such a thing home, but the request would greatly diminish my estimation of the coworker. It’s a mass produced board game.

        2. NonNein

          I agree; if someone asked me to remove mine, I would treat it as the joke of a request it is and laugh in the person’s face. Consequently, my Ouija mousepad wouldn’t be going anywhere. People are getting ridiculous.

          1. pancakes

            I wouldn’t do that, and wouldn’t look kindly on a coworker doing that either. I think the person who brought it in should probably just put it in a drawer before they go home, assuming the person making the request hasn’t made numerous other requests that require daily maintenance. As silly as it seems the coworker does seem genuinely uncomfortable, and I don’t think it’s worth making an issue of not understanding why. The action required to put it away is so minimal.

        3. cheeky

          Agree. Honestly, toughen up, people. It’s harder to go through life with untreated fears and anxieties. It’s a board game.

      5. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

        It represents a harmless board game, nothing supernatural about them. Are you always this superstitious?

    2. Rebecca

      I haven’t used a mousepad in years, so I was a bit surprised. My desk at work is a giant wooden desk of unknown age, and was never designed for computers, but I make it work! At least the finish is dull from years of use, so no mousepad needed.

      I agree with Marzipan, I’d just put it in a drawer, or turn it upside down and lay it aside, and if I absolutely needed a mousepad, I’d bring my own and use it during my shift.

    3. GoryDetails

      I haven’t needed to use a mousepad in a long time, but I still like having one; I fell in love with the Mouserug line, and have several in different designs – my favorites are the oriental-rug ones.

      While I wouldn’t mind a ouija-board one (in fact I owned one at one time, but its surface wasn’t a good one for a mousepad), I can imagine some patterns that I wouldn’t want to have to look at in a shared office – clowns, anything from Real Housewives, a life-sized photo of a Goliath Bird-eater spider {wry grin}. I probably wouldn’t ask the office-sharers to get rid of such things, but I’d flip them over or put them in a drawer while I was using the office, and restore them when I left.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I said this to my boss when he was buying new pads and asked if I needed one. I guess he saw a new co-worker had inherited a nasty old grey one and wanted to get him a fresh one. Nobody else had them, they’d been tossed over time.

      I am so used to having a top roller mouse so it’s stationary, I’ve lost track of their existence.

      1. TootsNYC

        I put my rollerball unit on top of a mousepad with a gel wrist support, and I find that wrist support to be very useful.

    5. LawBee

      The bottom of my mouse gets gunky when I use it on my desk (which also doesn’t have a 100% smooth surface). Even with the laser mouses of today, a pad can be useful.
      Mine is a promo pad from some court reporting service with the 2012 calendar on it, haha. It could be time for a change.

  23. Knitting Cat Lady

    #5:

    I work in an open plan office. And to keep things quiet they installed glass boxes with a standing table, some bar stools, a phone, and a huge ass monitor inside. For meetings and such.

    They do have ventilation, but…

    If there are more than two people inside I will start yawning and getting drowsy eventually. The more people inside, the sooner I fade. Had to leave once because I was about to fall asleep. A few breaths of fresh air later and I was alert again.

    If it is at all possible, could you sit next to an open window?

  24. LDN Layabout

    Glad I’m not the only one who got confused about the terminology in #1! This really is expenses vs. a per diem.

    My friend works for one of the Big 4 and they actually have different policies for different countries, which can lead to weird interpersonal issues on an international project e.g. the Brits get expenses while the continental Europeans get per diems, so can save money and keep the extra, but the limit for what you can expense is much higher than the per diems…

  25. Tess

    In re: #1 — there are actually legal definitions for “per diem” vs. expense reimbursement (or expense accounts) Companies may confuse those terms, however.

    A true per diem is a flat rate that the company pays you. How much that amount is, is determined by federal standards. Sometimes they give out the payment in advance, sometimes after the fact. If you are getting a true per diem, you do not have to submit receipts.

    An expense reimbursement is when you pay your self, and submit receipts after the fact, and the company reimbuses the exact amount you spend. This is not handled through an expense account. And not put directly on a company card. There will be limits and restrictions for expenses done this way, determined by the company.

    Then there’s having an expense account, which is usually done on a company credit card. With expense accounts, receipts must be submitted after the fact, and there will be limits and restrictions on expenses that are determined by the company.

    It sounds like your husband has an expense account, and his boss is totally within his rights to deny any expenses he doesn’t feel are appropriate as determined by company policy.

    Some companies do allow for a spouse or partner’s expenses to be billed to the company. Some do not. It sounds like your husband’s company does not allow for spouse or partner expenses being covered. Which is entirely reasonable.

    1. John Thurman

      Good distinction!
      I was confused because with RE and construction it’s 100% expected that we’ll pocket any extra money.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Thank you. My brain was having a fit about if it’s nitpicking or actually an incorrect terminology usage (it’s been a long week, brain so melty).

  26. Kate, short for Bob

    “You’ve gone above and beyond for the company so as a reward you can watch your management team eat 3 courses while you pick awkwardly at someone else’s choice of food”

    Yeah no.

      1. Rebecca

        I nearly snorted my coffee! I can see that – yes, we’re taking you to lunch, but only for 1 hour, and you’ll need to stay an extra hour to make up for lost time.

        On a serious note, this is one reason I will never be willingly made “exempt” at my job. I see the emails sent during evenings and weekends by exempt staff who are expected to be available at all times, on vacations, calling in from home when they’re sick to join conference calls, no thanks. I like the 40 hour and I’m outta here, or if you want me to stay, I get time and a half rule.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House

          You are lucky you don’t work somewhere where you’re nonexempt but they treat you like you’re exempt. That’s a special kind of hell.

          1. SusanIvanova

            Depending on the job, the reverse is also hell. Software development is best done exempt (in a sensible company): if it’s 5PM but you’re in the flow, you keep going till you hit a stopping point. There are studies that any interruption when you’re focusing like that costs up to half an hour to get back on track, and it’s worse when that interruption lasts until 9AM the next day. Not to mention how few of us are morning people.

            ExtremelyDysfunctional(butEducational) FirstJob was run by a morning person who’d only run warehouses until he realized you could sell the software that was running your warehouse. So he got upset when his engineers came in late, never noticed when we stayed late, and cracked down on it.

            Fine. Mom was a union rep, I learned Work To Rule as a child. 9AM my butt is in the seat. 5PM, I’m out, regardless of where the software is. Productivity dropped like a rock, but I was already job searching so I didn’t care.

  27. Tetra

    I genuinely don’t see the problem with LW 1. The company is spending the same amount of money, after all. And it’s not quite the same as the printer example as then the company would actually be losing out – a worse printer – for the sake of the employee. Here, the employee gains but there’s no loss, the money would have been spent anyway.

    I wouldn’t do it myself without first confirming it’s okay with my employer, but I’d be somewhat confused about the reasoning – although obviously obedient – if it wasn’t.

    1. TechWorker

      Well, except they’re not spending the same amount of money? The policy is, spend up to $x on dinner. If x is generous enough to feed two people then all it really means is ‘you can be flexible about what you order’. Some people will try to spend the whole amount but many won’t (if you’re away on business’s for 2 weeks then eating loads in a restaurant every day doesn’t always appeal!). So the average amount spent is likely much less than $x, meaning that if you pay for 2 people there absolutely is ‘loss’ on the employers side.

    2. Dunder

      The point is that the company normally would NOT be spending the same amount of money. LW1 spouse’s strategy of spending as much as they can is already stretching the purpose of per diem. It’s for needs, not wants.

      There are some employers who treat per diem as a bonus, or a thank you, for travelling. What they are saying is “here is $100 feed yourself for 4 days and keep the extra.” LW1’s boss is saying “please give us your receipts for your meals at the end and we will pay up to $100.” If he only had expenses totaling $75 they don’t cut him a check for $25!

      So in this employer’s case it IS exactly like the printer example. “Spend up to X, but not more, on this specific item.”

    3. Mystery Bookworm

      I would push back on this – I actually think this sort of attitude is what can inadvertantely encourage overly detailed rulebooks for employees.

      Look, the company sets an amount for employee’s food expenses on trips. Let’s say thats $X amount. Then they ask employees to use their best judgement with that amount. That’s a good policy. It allows people to be flexible and treats employees like adults. If I travel to Small Town, CA – maybe my only food options will be relatively inexpensive, and I’ll be under the amount. On the other hand, if I’m in Large City, CA, dining out with a contact, then perhaps I’ll be spending towards the upper limit.

      Having a generous $X amount allows employees flexibility and keeps them from feeling that they’re being nickled and dimed.

      But if everyone was always trying to max it out, then (depending on how common travel is) the company would probably err towards a smaller allotment, making things more difficult for people. Or they would start getting really nitpicky about where people were traveling, or what they would be doing.

      The point of broad policys is to allow for the best judgement of the individual, not for employees to see these as opportunities to game the system as much as possible.

      1. hbc

        I think the problem here is that OP’s husband *is* trying to get as much as he can out of the policy by hitting the max every time. When he’s with his wife, half the cap feeds him fine, but when he’s without her, he needs double the food every time to bump right against the limit?

        It’s like when an employer has a flexible policy about clocking in and out within 10 minutes of work times. If you’re always in at 9:10 and out at 4:50, you’re making a really bad impression and someone’s going to come down on you hard if you come in at 9:11, even if you’ve technically been following the rules.

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          I suspect he’s not buying double the food when he’s on his own, or else they wouldn’t have notice the difference when he travels with his wife. He might be buying more expensive food.

          1. a1

            He is buying more food than he can eat when traveling alone. Up above, LW said he’ll order a large pizza he can’t finish and eat only half.

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

              So he eats the rest later. Shrug. What’s the issue with the pizza?

              1. pancakes

                It doesn’t sound like he does eat it later — it sounds like he orders more than he intends to eat because he knows he can expense it, and getting close to the limit pleases him for some reason. Recreational pettiness is pretty weird, if that’s what it is.

            2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

              That’s exactly what I would do, because I can’t eat a large enough amount of food in one sitting to last from meal to meal, and tend to “graze” so I’m not hungry all day.

      2. Czhorat

        Exactly.

        That the limit is generous means that the employee doesn’t have to worry about not eating or stress over it. The intent isn’t for them to make a game of maximizing the payout.

        If you have an $80 limit, spent $78 and then added a bottle of water at the airport for another $1.50 you’d be perceived as being that person who is intent on wringing every penny they can put it the travel budget. That’s a really bad look, and not the way I would want my employer to see me.

        1. pleaset

          “That the limit is generous means that the employee doesn’t have to worry about not eating or stress over it. The intent isn’t for them to make a game of maximizing the payout.”

          This.

    4. No Mas Pantalones

      The LW understands that when she travels with her husband, “her expenses are her own.” How is the food she eats not her own expense?

    5. The Cosmic Avenger

      You may have the same situation that I do, where you get the full amount of the per diem without submitting receipts. In that case, you would be right, but it sounds like the OP has what should be called an expense cap, where you *can* get reimbursed for *up to* a certain amount, but you have to submit receipts. With an expense cap, it’s kind of like putting in for 10 hours of overtime because you *could have* taken 50 hours this week to get your work done, but you were so fast and efficient that you did it in 40! But you still want that 10 hours of overtime. That’s not how it works, even though the situations are both a little unfair, it doesn’t mean you can try to skirt the rules so it feels fairer to you.

    6. Ms Cappuccino

      He was allowed to use money to feed himself, not his wife.
      If he spent £30 for himself and £20 for his wife, he has stolen £20 to his employer.
      It would lead to disciplinary procedure where I work.

    7. Falling Diphthong

      But printers don’t actually scale as “The one that costs $700 is better in every way than the one that costs $600.” You’re supposed to use your discretion to find the right one for your team’s needs, and in return for the company leaving you free to exercise your judgment within a budget you don’t ask the vendor to raise the price to $699 and then give you the difference.

      I eventually gave my kids’ clothing allowances–buy what you like, keep the extra if you’re under or supplement with your own money if you want something fancier. But for things like athletic team expenses I covered those, but didn’t give them extra bonus money to make up the amount they were saving me by not playing hockey.

    8. Lexi

      Its not supposed to be a goal to hit your total per diem. The amount is there for you to use if you need it but the hope is that you will use less. What your saying TETRA the equivalent of going on a date and ordering the most expensive thing on the menu because your not paying.

      Just so there is no confusion the printer thing is stealing, I don’t understand the confusion you have there.

    9. Sad Astros Fan

      It is the company’s money. It is not a “vacation fund” to feed the spouse that is tagging along for a trip. This is exactly one of the reasons my company now does not allow “tagging along” by spouses or SOs any more.

    10. Expenses are expensive

      I don’t see a problem either. The employer is penny pinching. Business trips suck, if you can at least have your spouse there and have their meals covered, too (within the limit the company has set for one person) then at least they will suck a little less.

      I’m shocked people think this is unethical.

      1. Meg

        Whewwwwwww. The company isn’t your friend or someone you need to protect, folks. I am fully team spend all the money.

        1. Expenses are expensive

          Exactly. It’s a strictly business relationship. I don’t care about the company the same way I care about my friends and family. I don’t care if I violate the spirit of what they intended. It’s just business, I’m still within their limits of what they’re willing to spend on dinner, I don’t care if they intended on only feeding one person but two people got to eat. The horror.

  28. Al-ster

    For the yawning, simply try swallowing instead. Or try diaphragm breathing, in through the nose like you are inflating a balloon in your stomach. then back out thorugh the nose. gentle and slow. If you feel the urge to tawn, simple swallow again.

    For the ouija board mouse mat, tell your colleague about the weird things it spells out when you use the mouse and make them specific to them “The board said to make you stand in the corner today”…. see what happens

  29. Birch

    LW5, what I discovered in uni when I was super sleep deprived and got that sitting-still-for-an-hour fatigue was that if you have something specific to do with your mouth that keeps you alert, it stops the yawning. Definitely don’t chew gum, but for me it’s strong mints, licorice flavoured hard candy, or fresh, cold orange juice. Even in more businessy settings, IMO a small, strong mint wouldn’t be distracting for anyone else.

    1. Middle Manager

      Double vote on the mint. Sometimes I’ll put a little peppermint essential oil on my wrists or neck in an afternoon slump. It really wakes me up.

  30. Momofadoptedangel

    There’s are ways, Google, to control your breathing so you don’t yawn. Learned it in choir many years ago but can’t currently remember exactly what you do.

  31. MT

    Regarding Post 1 – I don’t disagree with the fact that if you have to itemize your bills that you shouldn’t cover non-work expense. Agree completely.

    However, I find it odd that people jump straight to an employee is trying to scam the system if they use per diems. As a manager, I am huge fan of per diems (daily rate available) for several reasons:
    -There is an inherent cost to traveling that the employee incurs at home and abroad. The per diem off sets some of this. Unless you get a supplement or your pay is far more than those who don’t travel, the per diem helps off set this in a more tax free (at least to the employee). Travel is part of the work but then employers should treat it as such and not view it as a perk.
    – Per diems save so much time from the person having to claim to my own time of having to review each expense (in multiple languages and check all the receipts.
    -If per diems are costing your more than itemizing costs, you’re probably not counting properly or your per diems are not adjusted for the destinations/culture of work. I can imagine for a very small org of a few people that per diems don’t make sense or for very restricted projects but if you’re dealing with multiple people and a lot of travel, that is a lot of tracking time, paper work, approval time, and filing time that needs to be factored in.

    1. Falling Diphthong

      These are arguments someone (probably not OP’s husband) could make about why his employer should offer a per diem instead of itemizing expenses. Not why it’s okay to treat itemized expenses like he gets a per diem of $100 per day and is leaving money on the table if he doesn’t charge enough food to meet that.

    2. TechWorker

      I’m intrigued as to what goes into your category of ‘inherent cost in travelling’ – or do you mean, time/hassle cost?

      In terms of money, I would expense just about every ‘unexpected’ cost when travelling for work, and if there’s stuff that’s not in that category (something small where I never got a receipt, something I would be buying anyway but was more expensive than usual because I had to get it somewhere inconvenient) I would expect this to even out with the fact I’m not paying for groceries for that period of time.

      1. MT

        I agree that itemized expenses should not cover non-work related food. I am just in favour of non-itemized per diems in a general sense (listed exceptions earlier).

        Inherent costs can range from person to person and depending on what employers offer but often it is extra time you add for the traveling (ie 1 work day where you work 16h), the wear and tear on suitcases and such (again would never claim to have a suitcase purchased but its an inherent cost of traveling), the internet/public transport passes/other services that I pay for home but I cannot use, day care (lucky for some this is covered), and items you need to buy for travel but otherwise wouldn’t use for daily work etc.

        There are some costs that a person who is traveling incurs because of work. One could say that it is part of the job, sure, but is it then part of the cost analysis? I think per diems offer a small offset for this by building a responsible culture of acknowledgment. Again, I don’t think that these little things should all be billed back but I also think there should be an understanding that travel does not just cost flight and board.

        (with some exception to time and day care, those should be invested in). While it may not seem related, ensuring there is very little expense to the employee to travel, helps build up a diverse/inclusive workforce…

  32. Misk

    OP#5 I do what my wife calls ‘defensive yawning’: when I’m in an uncomfortable situation or being asked awkward or difficult questions, I… yawn. Now that I’m aware of it, I can catch myself doing it and I remember to just breathe, deeply and mindfully. It helps. Sometimes.

    1. Sherbert

      I’m glad she told you! I used to work with a guy like this. It got to be a bit of a joke among some of the rest of us… (Sorry if I worked with you!)

  33. Slartibartfast

    For the yawning, I clench my teeth really hard to keep my mouth shut and inhale through my nose, and try to be as inconspicuous as possible. And I’ve yawned three times while typing this…

  34. Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate

    I’m surprised by the response to #1 and not sure I understand the reasoning behind it. I’ve definitelt had lunch with friends in town for work who have picked up the tab for both of us since their company would cover it; is that fraud too? Why would the company care if you’re getting two Chipotle burritos vs. dinner for one at a nice restaurant?

    Is it similarly fraudulent if the company says “we’ll cover a place to stay up to $300/night” and you get a house on AirBnB and bring the whole family instead of staying at a nice hotel? Sincerely trying to figure this out here; I don’t usually have such “off” intuitions on AAM advice!

    1. Akcipitrokulo

      It’s how they’ve determined to do it – expenses vs per diem. Per diem – they don’t mind how you spend it. Expenses have to be relevant to you.

      (In my experience, some companies who do expenses instead of per diems will allow for deals that genuinely cost the same or less… for example, when I was doing a long train journey to where family was, I combined it with a visit – and because I had a family railcard, the train cost about 70% of what it would have if I had a child with me. So kiddo came. Ditto for “it’s X per room with a double bed whether it’s one or two people” – so partner could come.

      All of this would be dependent on its not affecting the actual work! Like a course which finishes at 5 and the evening is yours – fine. A conference where you’re expected to mingle at dinner/social events after – not so much.)

      1. Mystery Bookworm

        Yes. In my experience, most companies are flexible with deals and the like, although it’s often worked out beforehand.

    2. Alfonzo Mango

      I think you’re just coming at it from a different frame of reference. There’s also a wording issue here: the LW is using ‘per diem’ when it doesn’t seem to be a true case of per diem.

      The company wants to only cover the employees expenses, up to a certain amount, and he is displaying poor ethics by trying to game the company into paying for more than he truly needs.

    3. Mystery Bookworm

      The thing is, it’s hard to have a blanket rule on these things. Depending on why an employee is traveling, for example, then a company might legitimately be concerned if they were bring their family along.

      In this case, the employee has expenses covered (up to an amount), rather than a true per Diem. The employee is well within their rights to balk at routinely paying for his wife’s dinners. Similarly, many companies would object to employee’s having all their meals out at a nice steakhouse rather than someplace more casual.

      This will vary a lot by industry, but in this case the boss has explained that he would like this employee be more frugal with the expenses, and his wife and him really don’t have any standing to push back.

      1. Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate

        Yeah, I totally get that if the boss says “don’t do that” or “spend less money” you have to go with it! I’m just shocked by the people who are saying it’s such an obvious no no that he’s lucky not to be fired. It was not at all obvious to me.

        1. Mystery Bookworm

          Got it. Yes, I agree with you there. The ‘unspoken rules’ on these things can vary a lot by industry and company, so I don’t think the original mistake is so egregious.

        2. Falling Diphthong

          For example, my kids have some things they are to cover from their allowance, and others I reimburse them for. If I learned that my kid added “bought lunch at restaurant” (supposed to be an allowance thing) to what they told me they spent on gas or AP test fees (which I reimburse them for) I would be mad and restructuring what I paid for and keeping a close eye on any claimed expenses, even if I would have paid the $40 for test fees and not thought twice about it.

          Rules like whether you can buy lunch for your friend and expense it vary by industry and company, but I think they actually usually aren’t unspoken. And the range of acceptable vs ridiculous is understood. (If not, someone will abuse the system and the privilege will go away.) Leaving the Peace Corps they had to pay for flights back to the US but a lot of people wanted to travel since they were already halfway around the world, so giving you the cash equivalent and letting you plan your own travel was the norm. There was a rule about using US based carriers that was known and largely ignored–until someone went to a party at the US embassy and loudly explained how they had totally ignored that rule. They got busted for it; people who just quietly made their travel plans continued to do their thing.

          1. Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate

            Right, I guess I’m thinking of this more like eating Subway for lunch so you can get a nice dinner and still be under your spending cap (vs claiming dinner was actually copier paper).

    4. Overeducated

      I think these may be two different issues you’re identifying – per diem/reimbursement policy, and use of organizational resources for personal gain. At my job, you do get a flat per diem amount paid to you, so nobody cares if you spend it on two Chipotle burritos. HOWEVER, we have a lot of ethics rules and approval processes around using business resources for personal purposes, even if the cost isn’t higher – e.g. bringing your wife along in a company vehicle or having her stay in your hotel room is something you’d have to file paperwork for and get approved, as is extending an extra day or two on your trip for sightseeing at 100% personal cost. This may be what the OP is bumping up against with meal reimbursement.

    5. Paulina

      Your hotel example brings this into a bit more clarity for me, because our upper limit for accommodation costs/night is quite generous. Our expenses are still supposed to be guided by reasonableness and necessity, however, so while they’re not insisting on cheapest possible (unlike our new airplane ticket rules, ugh) they would balk at costs for booking accommodation far larger than needed, unless we could show that it’s not more expensive than a reasonable expense.
      So, booking a $300/night house might be approved if I could show that a reasonable hotel room was also $300/night and the house (and having the others with me) didn’t excessively inconvenience the purpose of the trip, but simply being within the maximum allowed cost wouldn’t be enough.

      1. Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate

        The trip I spoused along on with our kids was when the company had a set amount you could spend on housing in City, so we just got an AirBnB house that was under that price. They also covered food up to $x/day in City (less in cheaper places). I don’t recall precisely but I think Spouse used that to cover some of the food for me and the kids as well. We paid for our own tickets and food over what the company covered. And Spouse’s Manager suggested the whole thing!

  35. AnotherFed

    #5 I second the person who said that they try and keep their body temperature cooler and stuff the rooms. Our conference room is notoriously warm so I bring a wrap but leave the warm sweater in my office. I make a point to take detailed notes sometimes. I also play word games in my notebook (if no one can see it). I don’t have difficulty paying attention to the meeting and doing a word game but I realize it wouldn’t work for some people. And of course it wouldn’t be printed out or anything like that— just one that I can jot down to look like notes. If I can do something with my hands, my attention for listening is much better and I’m less prone to yarning.

    1. Aggretsuko

      Oh god, I wish I could do something with my hands. I’m not permitted to do ANYTHING during our long, 8 a.m., freezing cold room, 2 hour long meetings (that we have 2-3x/week). Yawning is forbidden. I drug myself to get 8 hours and I still yawn because IT IS GENUINELY BORING to sit still for two hours listening to things I know nothing about so therefore I can’t really “engage!” Literally it would be better if I start stabbing myself in the leg under the table is the response I asked if I could do something to not have to sit still.

      (And there really isn’t anything to take notes ON, either. It’s people arguing over processes I don’t work on or know anything about.)

      1. possible note-taking strategies

        Could you take notes in the form of questions you have (such as “what is x process?” “what are the benefits and drawbacks of doing things in y way versus z way?”) as a way to try to keep your hands busy and look engaged? If you’re in these meetings to theoretically have a better understanding of what’s going on, forming the vague swirl of Stuff You Know Nothing About And That Has Nothing To Do With Your Job into specific questions (even if you don’t ask them to anyone) may even help you start to learn more about it.

        I assume you’ve already tried asking not to go to the meeting and been told they’re a thing you need to do, so if you’ve gotten any kind of specific reason why you need to be there to go along with that, you could try to shape your notes around that, I suppose.

        You have my sympathies. I get sent to all-day trainings several times a year with no applicability to my specific position or department. (Think of it like if I worked at a local bakery chain, and we have entire day-long meetings on something like “the importance of letting the dough rise” where we learn specific, complicated systems for making sure that we get that right for each kind of bread we’re making in our large batches at our bakery. Ok, fine, I’m an experienced baker and I agree that’s an important thing to get right, but I work in the make at home box mix department, so there’s a real limit to how much control I have over how well people actually follow directions while they’re at home and I can’t reasonably add those sorts of industrial processes remotely in all of our customer’s kitchens. I then get suggestions along the lines of “can’t you call your bakers when they start baking their bread and home and check in with them using this process that way?” that show a real lack of understanding of the differences between how box mixes work and how bakeries work. I dread these meetings.)

  36. Hiring Mgr

    On #1, it sounds like this used to be fine, but now there’s a “newer” boss who decided it isn’t. I don’t think it’s some big scam, or that you’re being unethical, but now you know not to do it again.

    BTW, business travel expense policies are often comically strange. One former company I was at would think nothing of sending mid-level mgrs (me at the time) on $10k+ business class flights interntionally, but god forbid you spent $2 over your $50 per diem

  37. Delta Delta

    #1 – I wish we had more details from wife about what this really looks like. Does husband use his per diem to buy a pizza which he shares with his wife? Or are they going out and buying 2 entrees? Is there a difference?

    I’m not advocating fraud. I’ve had it before where I get a big per diem I can’t completely use, and end up getting food I can’t finish before my trip is over. I agree husband shouldn’t be “feeding his family” but should he get fired if he gives his wife an apple or a slice of pizza?

  38. Katie's Cryin'

    “Hey, I really like the (name one or two decorations they added that you do like)…”

    Please skip these kinds of statements and get right to what’s bothering you, and your request. Everyone sees through this technique and if you start off by insulting their intelligence, they’ll be less likely to accommodate you.

    Try:
    “I know we don’t see each other much and I’m a little uncomfortable asking you this, but would you consider removing your Ouija Board mousepad? It just kind of bothers me.”

      1. Anonny

        Not to mention the LW says the stuff is often “understated fandom”. If it’s the fandom I’m thinking of, I could see the softening language being useful as a way of clarifying that it’s not *everything* from that fandom, just the ouija board specifically.

        1. TootsNYC

          then say that afterward. “It’s just the Ouiji board, not the other stuff.”

          It’s not clear if this is a mousepad that the OP shared with these folks because they share a computer, or whether they share the mousepad.

      2. pancakes

        I’m with Katie on this — I find it insulting to be spoken to as if I need ersatz flattery in order to listen to a request.

    1. Slartibartfast

      “I don’t know why, but this mousepad kinda creeps me out. Can we change it?”

      Simple, to the point, and non judgmental.

    2. Arctic

      And my response to that would be the most polite version of GTFO. We barely know each other and you’re asking me to modify my office decor to make you comfortable? No way.
      If you softened it and made an effort to find common ground? I’d consider it.

      1. Reba

        Right, it would be saying “I don’t object to everything you do — we actually have some shared taste, I’m not a curmudgeon, etc”

        Especially as basically a stranger, I think this kind of connection-forming would be helpful.

      2. foolofgrace

        my office decor

        It sounds like a shared office. I used to work word processing during the day, and we had a night shift that came on after the day folks had left. It wasn’t “my” office — the night staff had just as much claim to the office as I did. How would you feel if the other person took ownership of the office instead of a sharing viewpoint?

      3. Chinookwind

        As the person who would be asking you to modify your decor to remove the ouija board, I am interested on how we would be able to come to a resolution on this. Like the LW, if it is a fandom I am thinking about (and it could one of a few), I have no issue with some of the items and even own one or two, but anything ouija related is a no go and a hill I would die on.

        For me it is religious and because I do believe in the spiritual realm (and I have heard stories from people who have had to deal with its aftermath) and I don’t want to be in a room where someone is playing with it, even if they think of it as just a game. It is literally not a judgement of the person who brings it into the space but just a belief in what is possible with it.

        So, AAM and Arctic, what would be the next step if I approached Arctic with AAM’s phrasing and she considered it and decided tough luck and that she will use the the mousepad instead. Beyond sprinkling the area with holy water every morning without her knowledge (smudging leave a noticeable smell) and living with someone that makes me beyond uncomfortable (to the point of looking for another job), is there a compromise?

        1. Arctic

          The way is to approach me like a person as Alison suggests. Not immediately jump at making demands as Katie is suggesting.

        2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

          The compromise in that case would be to use your mousepad, leave theirs alone–don’t hide or take it–just set it aside and then put it back before your lave. Yours you use, they use theirs.

      4. pancakes

        If it’s a shared office it isn’t your office, and being buttered up with compliments isn’t the same as “finding common ground.”

    3. Rusty Shackelford

      Well, if you told me you didn’t like my Ouija board mousepad, I’d wonder if you also didn’t like my Sam and Dean Funkos, or the devil’s trap rug, so I think it’s helpful to point out that it’s only the mousepad that bothers you.

      But honestly? If you’re never in the office at the same time, I’d just bring your own mousepad and put the Ouija board back when you leave for the day.

      1. Cubicle 3

        If that is the correct fandom (and all signs point to yes) then mentioning the specific other things would let the coworker know that OP is part of the Family. Hearing from a verified Fandom Family member that the Ouiji Board is a little creepy to OP I think would be better received.

        1. Chinookwind

          Ironically enough, if it is that fandom, I would recommend a devil’s trap door mat as a counter measure and ask where she found her Funko’s. But just because they are a fan doesn’t mean that they believe the lore to be true (or which side they fall on), so there is no guarantee that they wouldn’t see the board as more than joke and try to slip it in somewhere just to prove a point.

    4. Nea

      I do not see this as insulting anyone’s intelligence; it’s making it extremely clear that the fandom is not the problem, the ouija board specifically is. As someone whose desk is filled with subtly fannish stuff, I’d assume that if someone objected to my mousepad, they were really objecting to the fandom – and be far more insulted that it suddenly became A Thing now after I’d been adding it for ages.

      To OP #2 – is there a compromise possible? It sounds like you’re also low-key into this fandom, or fandom in general too – is there an opening to say “Hey, I’m loving the decor overall but the ouija board is kinda creeping me – what do you think of this series star photo/Death of Rats/fill in the blank mousepad? (Or, if you don’t feel comfortable saying it, take the suggestion to simply switch mousepads while you work – but switch it to something else fannish and cross your fingers they like it.)

      1. Katie's Cryin'

        It’s insulting because as soon as you bring up the complaint, no one will believe you about the supposed compliments on the other stuff.

        “Oh I really like your shoes and your pants but your t-shirt is a big problem.” As soon as someone hears that they know that the first two items mentioned were only complimented to soften the eventual complaint, and then they’re even more on the defense than if you’d just been direct (but polite).

        1. Jack V

          I don’t get this. I really hate fake compliments. If someone compliments something I did based on either something that wasn’t true, or something that’s such a minimal baseline it’s insulting to imagine you’d fail it, I feel worse not better. But LW actually DID like the stuff. If a compliment is specific, most people can actually tell it’s sincere. And a case where “good thing, small bad thing” will make sense.

      2. pancakes

        “I’d assume that if someone objected to my mousepad, they were really objecting to the fandom” — Oh my. Believe it or not, there are people who don’t follow the merchandising of every TV show / comic book franchise / series of novels / etc., and wouldn’t necessarily recognize a mousepad as part of a particular fandom, let alone a sense of identity for the person who bought it.

        1. Jack V

          Yeah, but they don’t have to KNOW it to object to it. There are lots and lots of people who are against anything vaguely occult for various reasons, and lots and lots of people who think anything based on a TV show is childish and tacky, and either of them might have a problem with all of the decoration, and just happen to pick the mouse pad as the thing to mention first. Or even someone who just thinks their office is overly-decorated. I wasn’t imagining someone who passionately hated that particular show.

          Since “I object to all your stuff but I wasn’t sure whether I should say so” is quite likely, it’s nice to make it clear it’s NOT that. You don’t always have the option of that sort of pre-emptive clarification, but sometimes you do.

  39. Loot

    #2: Don’t think of it as objecting, but rather gently stating your preference. Switch the mousepads and leave a note on the desk saying “Hey! I put your ouija mousepad in the drawer, I really prefer using the one we had before, hope it’s OK. :) -Yourname”

    Or you could also just switch the mousepad when you start work, then swap it back leaving. Leave a note on the one you like saying something like “Please don’t throw away! I really like using this one. – thanks! :) Yourname” and put it in a drawer or someplace where it isn’t in the way.

    1. SarahTheEntwife

      I think it’s useful to note that the ouija board specifically bothers the LW. If I’d installed that mouse pad and received your note in return, I’d assume the note-writer just liked the texture of the other one better or something and would keep swapping the pad when I came on shift. But if I knew the new mouse pad was actually bothering them, I’d try to find something we both liked.

      1. Loot

        OP can of course let them know that they aren’t ok with it specifically, but it sounded to me like OP wanted to be as nonconfrontational as possible about this. (Or at least making it as small a deal as possible.)

    2. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway

      They can turn the mousepad over when they start work and then turn it back when they leave?

      I get the sense LW2 is used to being in a religious majority and rarely has to navigate a society that wasn’t made for them.
      Asking them to change it is possible, so long as the co-worker can also ask them to remove say, any Christian imagery from the office, including crucifix necklaces, christmas decor, and other things that make some of us uncomfortable. Otherwise it’s pretty unreasonable to privilege one set of religious beliefs.

      1. Buzz

        The OP pretty clearly stated that their thoughts about the ouija board have nothing to do with religion and that they “couldn’t possibly be less religious”, so this is completely inaccurate.

      2. Dragoning

        LW has said that their objection is not religious and they are not a religious person–you’re projecting here.

        1. Czhorat

          Yeah, I have no idea why we’d need to escalate this or create a quid pro quo.

          There’s no indication that the LW has placed anything objectionable -for religious or other reasons – in the office. There’s not even an indication that they are particularly religious.

          “You take down your stuff too!” strikes me as a hostile response to a not unreasonable request.

          1. Ice and Indigo

            Especially as the office mate seems to have taken over the decorating, and is decking things out according to a fandom – ie a very specific personal taste that the others in the office may not share, in a shared space. Being cool with this except for one thing that the OP feels a bit superstitious about is pretty accommodating.

            I might use the word ‘superstitious’ actually, OP. It sounds like you’re finding it a bit off-putting to have to sort of ‘do Ouija’ in order to use the computer, in the way you might find it a bit off-putting to have to walk under a decorative ladder to get into the office. Irrational, but in a completely normal and understandable way – and, if it’s distracting you from work, a work issue. Since it sounds like you’re cheerfully willing to own that, it’d be an unreasonable office mate who objected.

      3. Ico

        The LW specifically says it isn’t a religious objection, so I don’t know why you are talking about religious majorities.

        Also, they are changing the mousepad she has to personally use in her own (shared) office. That isn’t the same at all as someone else wearing a necklace.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

          OP can get her own mouse pad and use that, switching it back when she leaves. Easy.

      4. Rusty Shackelford

        They can turn the mousepad over when they start work and then turn it back when they leave?

        Most mousepads don’t work that way. Most have a high-friction back, so they won’t slide on the desk, and a low-friction top, so your mouse moves smoothly.

      5. ER

        Might I respectfully suggest that Mousepad might be afraid of it for non-religious reasons? They state in their letter that they are not a religious person. Some people are afraid of snakes. They might know a non-venomous snake can’t hurt them, but they still fear it. Anxieties don’t have to be logical to affect us.

    3. Mousepad

      The weird thing is, we don’t even need a mousepad! There’s never been one there before. I get that it’s just another way of personalizing things, but they’ve already added multiple personal items while none of the rest of us have added anything (to clarify, shared desk/office with one computer, chair, mouse, etc.).

      I’ve been just flipping it over and shoving it aside, but honestly I don’t want to even have to touch it, or know it’s in the same room as me. I know that’s pretty irrational, but I has always been super easily spooked, and this job I work overnights, alone. Of course nothing would come of having it around! (Probably…)

      1. ER

        Join us on team irrational fears! We had shirts but we got rid of them because Fergus is afraid of buttons.
        (Koumpounophobia)

      2. BackpackingProfessional

        If you don’t want to be confrontational, maybe it would help to research the history of the ouija board. It’s actually a quite fascinating read and has zero to do with the occult. Really it was just sort of used as a coping mechanism for the bereaved when spiritualism was popular.

        Note: Of course only if you are comfortable. Im not saying this as a way to “conquer” your fear but it could be a reasonable way to allay it…

  40. Czhorat

    For LW#3, I don’t find this unreasonable is it’s a rare occurrence; I’ve had times when a tight deadline meant that everyone had to stay late, order a pizza, and keep at it until the job was done. In a decent organization that’s a rare response to a special circumstance and not a regular expectation. There’s often like more than a pat on the back, but a good boss will remember it and quietly let you take, say, an afternoon off to handle a doctor’s appointment without worrying about the time off.

    As I said above in regard to the meal expenses, your reputation is one of the most important assets. This helps build it, even if you don’t get a tangible reward.

    One bit that does concern me is the reward for being “under payroll budget”. If you track time spent on a project via a time sheet then you absolutely need to count all of those 80 hours that went to the job. Otherwise you’re creating a false impression that the work doesn’t btwke as much effort and the company will continue to under budget work hours, putting you in the same position of making up the deficit with unpaid extra time.

    1. Gumby

      Oh my goodness *yes* to the last part! We had one product where the person-in-charge used to work on weekends and not report those hours. Which wasn’t great to start with, but when he left and another person took over making the widgets it was baffling why it was taking twice as long and costing twice as much.

      We use historical data all. the. time. to try to estimate how much time a new project will take. If our historical data is useless – that means all of our estimates will be off. We’ll quote price $A to the customer and then have to finish the project at a loss. (This is especially baffling because nearly everyone here is salaried so if you work on weekends it dilutes your effective hourly rate but doesn’t change the money situation. It just makes it so that when we look at the number of hours a project took that number is wrong which screws up future scheduling/costing.)

  41. Hunter

    I yawn a lot when I’ve had even a little bit to drink, which I’m really self conscious of if we’re at a show or concert. I go to this local burlesque show every month at a bar and I can’t imagine how terrible it would be to see someone in the audience yawning repeatedly while you do a burlesque act. The only way I have found to control it is to not drink at all, which is obviously not helpful to LW. Good luck!

  42. Violalin

    OP#5 / yawning: I do the closed mouth yawn people here are describing, but can I also suggest a checkup/bloodwork (if that’s an option for you)?
    I mentioned yawning a lot to my doctor and she said iron helps carry oxygen through your body and excessive yawning can be a sign or iron deficiency/anemia. This turned out to be the case for me!

  43. Zeeb

    #5 I yawn quite a lot too and breathing deeply through my nose for more oxygen and to cool down really helps. As an addition though try giving your nose a good blow before you go into a meeting – I find this makes a massive difference to how long I can stay alert! Sitting up straight, and really engaging with what is being said and taking notes also help.

  44. Oryx

    I work at a large company that requires receipts for food. It’s not a per diem, but it’s an expense allotment–which is what it sounds like OP 1’s husband has. My company will reimburse me for up to $80 per day. There are “guidelines” for how that should be dispersed across meals, but I’ve found that as long as I stay under $80 they’ll reimburse. (I actually now need to go read my handbook later this morning to see how it’s defined in our travel policy. I’m fairly certain they do not use the term per diem)

    It’s also understood on trips that sometimes the person higher up the change will expense for more than just themselves. Depending on who I am traveling with, there are times where I only have to buy a $10 latte and breakfast sandwich from Starbucks in the morning because my traveling companions will expense lunch and dinner for the larger group.

    But that doesn’t mean I get to request reimbursement for the $70 I didn’t spend. Likewise, on days when I, say, pay for all my meals and come in at $50 for the day I don’t get to request the extra $30 just because the company had budgeted for $80.

    The error comes from thinking of expense allotments as free money. It’s not. It’s money I’m already spending and thanks to the company reimbursing me, I’ll break even as long as I stay under that daily cap.

    1. BlueWolf

      I agree. It seems LW 1 is confusing per diem and expense reimbursement. Under a typical per diem policy you just get the money and spend it however you choose and don’t need to submit receipts. It sounds like the company in letter 1 has an expense reimbursement policy where you need to submit receipts. I work at a law firm, so people’s travel expenses are being billed to clients. Yes, you can spend up to X amount for each meal, but the expectation is that you are only paying for your own expenses related to travel for client work. Although the firm is technically reimbursing you, you are actually spending the client’s money. Definitely can’t feed your spouse with that.

  45. SherBert

    I am in a desk share situation. It used to be just my desk but due to some great work-related garbage I won’t go into because it’t not relevant to this post, I agreed to share my desk. We both agreed to keep personal stuff to a minimum. That way she doesn’t feel like she is using my desk and vice versa. It has been amicable and I think it will stay that way.

  46. Samsoo

    In the federal govt, the per diem is a set rate for meals and incidentals. It is based on the location you are traveling to. You don’t have to use your govt travel card for it, and you get the money regardless of whether or how you spend it. Lodging is a separate line item and requires receipts (and there is a max depending in the location). For instance, an area may have a $55 M&IE rate. I get that even if I don’t eat. I don’t get more if I go over it though.

    1. Government worker

      This is how it works in my state government job too. Some items are fully reimbursed and require receipts (parking, tolls, taxi, etc.), lodging is paid up to a pre-approved amount, and you get a set per diem for food and incidentals. And if you want to eat a protein bar for every meal and spend the rest on a sweater, that’s perfectly fine. But it’s not going to be an expensive sweater.

    2. LaDeeDa

      I am not in government and this is how it works for us too. We are actually told NOT to put any food on our corporate card, but to use our own personal money, and 2 weeks after we submit all our other travel expenses we receive a direct deposit for the per diem amount. If I am gone for more than a few days I try to make sure I have a hotel with at least a small kitchenette so I don’t have to eat out every meal- meals are too big and too many calories, I buy pre-made salads, yogurt, veggies, fruit, and cheese at a nearby grocery store. So I always end up using significantly less than I am given.

      1. Samsoo

        We are allowed to put meals on our govt travel card but it’s not required. IMHO it’s better not to, because you go way over on a day (say, hit some high end place and drop $80 on a meal when the per diem is $55) they question it. I think ppl are better off putting it on their own card or paying cash. They can also take cash advances from the card (for an appropriate amount and only while on travel) so they wouldn’t even have to be out of pocket. Lodging, rental cars, and airfare have to go on the card though.

        I too, will hit up a grocery if I’m gone a while. Even if it’s just a couple days I will go grab something for breakfast usually and keep it in the room.

  47. No Mercy Percy

    LW#5 I have a weird trick I’ve learned for just this situation. I force my lips closed, and push the yawn to the back of my throat. The yawn still happens, just a lot less noticably.

  48. Sleepy mcsleeperson

    LW 5- I have something similar to yawning happen to me. Its not yawning but in some meetings and one on one trainings I can feel my eyes forcibly closing, like I am about nod off. I don’t why this happens to me. I am not the sort of person that just dozes off. Like I have to try really hard to fall asleep at night, and I rarely take naps. One thing that helps me is to cross and uncross my legs, take a sip or 2 of water, get up to use the restroom or step outside for just a min (if it is possible to do so) or if the situation would allow for to have a small snack or piece of candy. I haven’t a clue why this happens to me, but it does. It does not matter the amount of sleep I get or don’t get.

  49. nnn

    For #1, if they didn’t care what he was spending the money on, they’d just give him the dollar amount of the per diem up front and not ask for receipts at all.

    (Some employers do do that – they find it’s more efficient not to have to process expenses)

  50. Arctic

    I love the Ouija Board mousepad idea! I’m definitely getting one.

    If the LW doesn’t have a religious issue with it I don’t see the issue here. It’s not even an actual Ouija board. No one can conjur the dead with it. It’s just a fun reference when moving a mouse around.

    1. Czhorat

      It doesn’t bother me either, but I’m not the only person in the multiverse, and my likes and dislikes are not universal. Nor are yours.

      If the LW is uncomfortable about it – for any reason at all – then it’s fine to request it not be in a shared space while they are working. We all need to respect eachother in the workplace, and find a balance between personal expression and communal harmony.

      1. Admin of Sys

        This. Ouija boards are a parker brothers board game and have 0 actual ‘history’ of paranormal whatever. But if they creep someone out, then take them out of shared workspace. It’d be like someone keeping a creepy victorian doll on their desk. Is there actual danger of it being haunted? no. Do I want it staring me as I type? Also no.

        1. Czhorat

          This is one of those “true facts” which is a touch misleading; “automatic writing” has a much, much longer history (going back centuries). While “Ouija” is a brand name created by a toy company, the concept has a much older history which, for some, ties too deeply into various forms of spiritualism to be comfortable.

          I wholeheartedly agree with your larger point that this isn’t a place to apply rigorous logic; if someone finds it uncomfortable then take it away. Not a hill on which to die.

          1. Anonny

            Also, if you’re a believer in the occult/magic/spiritualism/whathaveyou, then there’s definitely some practices where “close enough” will do the trick. Or do something, anyway. And I know of some people who consider a bit of paper/cloth with letters written on it and a glass to be “close enough” to a ouija board for seance purposes. Don’t know what their position on a ouija board mousemat and a mouse is, but I’m putting money on “that’s how you get a haunted office.”

            (I personally don’t believe, but I am 100% in favour of ghost-free workspaces.)

    2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

      I’m an extremely lapsed Catholic who hasn’t been to church in years, love horror movies, and have no issues with the tarot (I have a pendant of Strength from the Major Arcana) and other occult and New Age stuff. And I’m creeped out by Ouija boards; to me, messing around with those is like daring the universe to send something nasty your way.

      That said, I’d probably just bring my own mouse pad and swap out. The Ouija one is creepy but not the real deal, and I wouldn’t want to be mistakenly assumed to be the stereotypical person who would object to it.

      1. No Mas Pantalones

        I get that people are creeped by Ouija boards. It’s really common. But the mousepad isn’t even a Ouija board. It’s just a picture of one, printed on a mousepad. Why not just flip the thing over?

        1. Rainbow Roses

          It doesn’t have to be “real” as in wooden. Some people even make Ouija boards out of a simple sheet of paper. I’m sure the OP knows it’s not real and it’s just a mouse pad, but if she’s uncomfortable, she’s uncomfortable.
          I’ve never encountered a mouse pad that can just be flipped over due to the texture although just because I never seen it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’d just switch out the mouse pad everyday.

          1. Billy Yum Yum 2x2

            I would too. But I’m also not freaked out by Ouija boards either. I didn’t consider the paper thing–just plain forgot that could be done. Most mouse pads have that grippy stuff on the bottom; just stack them and swap em each shift.

        2. Ice and Indigo

          OP isn’t pretending that this is a completely logical objection, but that’s not how getting the creeps really works. People have different creep thresholds; that’s what makes us delightfully varied. :-) Maybe OP’s just extra imaginative.

          Just because somebody brought a novelty mousepad in doesn’t mean everyone has to use it or be prepared to give a full and bullet-proof justification, especially since it sounds like there was a functioning one that got replaced. Since the choice is between having a mousepad that works equally well for all office users, or have a mousepad that one office user finds distracting, it seems like there’s a pretty simple solution.

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

            Sure. Mousepad uses one she likes–if she wants one–and simply ignores the one there. Or asks desk ate to put in a drawer before her shift starts as she doesn’t need one.

            1. Ice and Indigo

              Sure; ‘OP doesn’t have to use it just because feeling creeped is not a bullet-proof 100% scientific reason not to like the mousepad’ is all I really meant.

    3. Mousepad

      It’s just a super creepy reference when moving the mouse around, that doesn’t even need to be there.

      I get that I’m in the minority about being so easily creeped out, because duh no one can actually conjure anything even with a real board, much less a mousepad board, but when it’s 3am and I have to guess if that thunk from outside was a person, a raccoon, or a DEMON COMING TO EAT ME AHHH, the mousepad does not help me calm my over excited over caffeinated brain.

      Plus I guess I’m old fashioned, on a less personal note, but I just don’t feel like that’s an appropriate type of mousepad to have in a public facing office area. Cubical land is a different story.

      1. Rachael

        Hi. I’m not so sure you are in the minority. I’m not religious, but the ouija board creeps me out due to an experience I had as a kid (nothing too weird. We would write a question and answer it, then put it in a box. The people who were “on” the ouija board did not know the answers. The board got them right.)

        I would definitely make a wisecrack about hauntings and such to my office mate. (*sarcastic voice*……uhhhh….let’s not summon any demons while I’m trying to edit a work document. -OR- Isn’t this how every “Haunting in America” started?) and then ask them to burn it (j/k). Extra points for using the Office Space manager voice: “Yeah…..I’m going to need you to NOT bring this in the office”.

        Anyway, my point is that you have the right to ask someone to not bring something in that historically creeps many, many people out. It’s not like you are complaining because it’s purple and you don’t like the color. It’s an actual reasonable request.

      2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

        Maybe all those people with Ouija mouse pads inadvertently, though mouse movements, opened a portal and that’s why…the world is in the state that it currently is. Gotta admit it would explain a few things.

    4. ER

      The problem is that Mosepad is freaked out by it. As a person with a phobia, I totally understand that feeling. If I shared a desk with someone and they brought in a mousepad with a photo of a huntsman on it, I couldn’t use it. I couldn’t even touch it to put it in a drawer. That’s not religious. Nor is it rational, but I think people would be ok with me asking them to remove it. I don’t see a difference here.

  51. bibliovore

    This hasn’t come up in the comments but I thought I’d chime in. When I travel for work and Mr. Bibliovore is with me, he pays for his own meals and I am on per-diem. If I am entertaining a donor/donors ie: work related and he is at the meal, I need to get approval for the expense of his meal “one-up” as in my supervisor’s supervisor’s approval when submitting. I still must remain in the GSA per-diem for a dinner per person.

          1. CJM

            That was my first thought because I am a huge fan, but can’t recall the board being a big thing with the winchesters.

    1. Mousepad

      As far as I can tell, it’s more just random fandoms, at least four so far, and I don’t think the mousepad is directly related to any of them (no Supernatural or Charmed, more animated). None of them are fandoms I am directly in, but recognize anyway.

      1. CJM

        I was raised mo synod Lutheran, which is as Roman Catholic adjacent as you can get. My mom frowned on Ouija boards, although we did have one. My favorite aunt convererted to Jehovah’s witness. She was forbidden to speak to me about it until I turned 18. Except for the horrors of Ouija boards and Stephen
        King novels, apparently.

        1. CJM

          Wanted to add that I freaked out walking or driving my bike home after dark because of the vampires, so there is that in my mom’s defense.

  52. LaDeeDa

    Just reading all the word “yawn” 8 gazillion times in the comments made me start yawning!! This is my trick– I don’t know where I learned this or if it works for everyone, but give it a shot. I curl my tongue back in my mouth like I am trying to swallow it, and then I curl it tight and hold it as long as possible.

    Ok– get ready to try it… YAWN.

  53. Dragoning

    LW 4: I totally understand where you’re coming from, and I think Alison might be slightly wrong on this. My current job is in an industry where people really truly do not like hiring anyone without some experience in the industry, even for entry-level roles, due at least in part to the regulation that we have to deal with.

    A major factor in my getting this job was a contract job I had at one of their competitors the year before, even though I only last a month (and the contract was meant to be far longer and extended–I got fired). Because it was a contract, I just slapped that on the resume after the job title and no one questioned it too much–but it definitely helped my candidacy at my current company, even that one month of experience in the industry.

    Since yours doesn’t appear to be in the situation that you could cover in such a way, I’m not sure how to help–but I do think there is real value in the things you say you learned.

  54. EmilytheLibrarian

    I’m really disturbed by the comments in regard to LW #2 that suggest putting the mouse pad in a drawer or flipping it over. Are people really advocating touching other people’s personal items on their desk? That’s incredibly rude. On a personal note, I love ouija board imagery and even have an antique one framed in my house. I find the idea that people are afraid of them very strange since they are just a parlor trick based on a very interesting physiological phenomenon. So maybe my feelings are being biased by this, but I still just don’t think that it’s right to touch other people’s stuff without their permission.

    1. Ralph Wiggum

      My reading of the letter is that it’s a shared workspace. So it’s OP’s mousepad as much as it is the coworker’s.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          I don’t want to get picky and I usually agree with your interpretation of the situation, but I initially thought it was a shared desk but then I re-read the letter and now I’m not so sure! I would imagine your advice would be very different in a situation where it’s a shared office and not a shared desk.

          1. AMT

            I think the key phrase was “the mousepad.” OP would write “their mousepad” if it was an office with more than one computer.

        2. EmilytheLibrarian

          Ok I thought it was simply a shared office. If it’s a shared desk it’s perfectly fine to put it away. The letter is really ambiguous in that nitty gritty of the situation. I share my office with three other librarians but we don’t share desks so that’s what I was envisioning.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

        Not really. They may share a desk but if co worker bought this for her use with her money, it’s co worker’s mousepad. Co worker may allow others to use it but it’s still hers.

    2. Czhorat

      If you’re working different shifts at the same desk I really don’t see putting their mousepad in a drawer during your shift and then returning it afterwards as overstepping any boundaries.

      It’s fine that you love ouija imagery – that is not universal. As I said elsewhere, at a workplace one needs to balance harmony with personal expression. This is something small enough that it should be possible to compromise.

    3. Schnoodle HR

      Oh thank you I’m with you on this too. Don’t touch other people’s stuff over an ouja board mousepad.

    4. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool

      Erm, I’m in a desk sharing situation presently (work from home some days), and it would be WILD to me to expect the person using my desk for 9 hours not to touch “my” stuff, especially a functional item (as opposed to, say a framed photo). “My” work space isn’t really mine, it’s my employers.

      1. Schnoodle HR

        I’m not reading it as the OP has to use that computer…they have shared space but their own computer. That’s my understanding.

    5. Rusty Shackelford

      But whoever replaced the existing mousepad with the Ouija board touched the mousepad that all three of them were using, so that line has been crossed already. And one could get equally up-in-arms about one person deciding what mousepad all three of them get use, if one were so inclined.

      1. Ice and Indigo

        I’m quite surprised at that. This is one person customizing a shared space to their personal, not-at-all-work-related, not-generically-decorative tastes, and the OP is only objecting to one item that she’ll have to use a lot. I think she’s being a pretty excellent sharer – better than the Ouja owner, unless there was a clear agreement rather than just an assumption that it was ok to make the place over.

  55. Ralph Wiggum

    #4 When I review resumes, I look at the “skills” section last, if at all. My advice for job seekers is that every item in the skills section has a concrete example demonstrating that skill under “experience”.

    It’s the resume equivalent of the writing advice “Show, don’t tell.”

  56. Vimes

    OP #2 – You can politely ask for sure and if it makes you feel better your coworker might have no idea it’s uncomfortable for people. I had absolutely no idea (grew up in a completely non religious-non spiritual household) and I only found out recently people who don’t like Ouija boards are also uncomfortable with things that’s just have the motif on it. I had assumed something with just a design on it wasn’t a problem because of course it’s not the actual board. She probbaly didn’t think about it at all and hopefully if she is reasonable won’t mind. Allison’s script is spot on for politely asking.

  57. Schnoodle HR

    Am I the only one who thinks the Ouja board thing is just fine as is? It’s their mouse pad, I would not change it out. Am I misundersatnding? If it’s a shared workspace (OP works it at night, they work at day) I’d understand it more but as I read the letter the OP has their own space and not using the Ouja board’s person’s stuff.

    1. SamIAm

      Oh, I read it that it’s a shared workspace. I would never touch stuff on someone else’s desk. I share a desk… fortunately neither of us keeps anything personal at it so this is never a question.

    2. KarenK

      It’s a shared workspace. Frankly, I think the OP is overthinking it. Just swap the mousepad out and swap it back at the end of the day. IMO, when people share a desk, personal items should be kept to a minimum out of courtesy.

      1. Dragoning

        Yeah, I’m surprised how much personal stuff it sounds like the coworker is bringing in! Maybe as the “day” person they feel it belongs more to them than to OP, or maybe she just doesn’t care.

    3. knork

      I wouldn’t say anything. I’m quite supersitious, but if coworkers leave umbrellas open on the floor to dry I don’t go around closing them (open umbrellas indoors are such bad luck!), or if leave a dying plant on their desks until it’s fully brown (why would you want to be in the presence of death all the time??) I don’t go put it outside so it can die free.

      (But seriously, stop opening umbrellas indoors, the building is going to burn down).

      1. Michaela Westen

        I’ve been opening umbrellas to dry for a few decades and nothing has burned down yet! :)

    4. Dust Bunny

      It’s shared.

      I would just bring my own and set the other one aside while I worked, then move it back when I left. I really don’t understand why this needed AAM.

      (Well, I, personally, would not care, but if I cared, I’d just bring a different mousepad with me.)

      1. Dust Bunny

        Wait: Rereading. Does the OP even have to use this computer? If it’s not a shared computer, no, the OP doesn’t have a say in what mousepads other people use and where they’re kept.

  58. Choux

    OP 5 – I’ve learned how to yawn with my mouth closed. It means my nostrils flare comically, but it looks a lot less “disrespectful” than full-on yawning during a meeting.

  59. boop the first

    I yawn when I’m nervous too! The low-oxygen theory makes sense, though I think subconsciously I also do it in order to make myself seem relaxed to the other person. I’m totally chill and not freaking out, see???

    Also, my cat performs long stretches every time she wants something, which to me seems to say “I’m approaching you in a NON AGGRESSIVE MANNER PLEASE ACCEPT ME.” So maybe we’re not too different, cats and us.

  60. wafflesfriendswork

    I thought #2 was going to be about someone keeping a Ouija board at the office to speak with spirits during work hours. I am disappointed.

    1. East of Nowhere South of Lost

      In keeping with the ‘black magic work hazard’ theme, that was my first assumption too.

  61. Queen Anon

    “If his expense limit is $80/day, he can’t buy meals for himself that cost $40 and then spend the other $40 on a sweater.”

    When I worked in construction offices (this was almost 30 years ago), that’s exactly what people did. In one office (actually at a build location), the engineers and permanent accounting staff got paid a per diem for every day they were on site. Since this was a two year long job, lots of the single employees would give up their apartments in their hometown, store their belongings, rent a furnished place (or furnish it inexpensively) in their temporary home town with their per diems, then bank their paychecks.

    In another constructions office – same town, different company, home office – the site workers that were on jobs out of state would get a set per diem for each of their meals. IIRC, they were given a check that would equal the number of meals x per diem for the length of time they would be onsite. Most of them ate cheaply and saved the rest.

    Which of course, doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate for OP’s husband to do this. It’s not an unheard-of (or even necessarily frowned upon) practice, though. Of course, as I said, that was nearly 30 years ago and I can believe that things could be quite different now.

    1. DaffyDuck

      I think that is the difference between per diem and reimburse expenses. With the per diem you can spend on whatever you want, the reimburse requires receipts and is only for approved expenses (meals for the employee).

      1. Normally a Lurker

        This was always my understanding of the difference as well. Now I am wondering if I am wrong.

    2. Nana

      Yep. In film work (40+ years ago), people on location got a set per-diem. Union guaranteed a single hotel room for each person. Men would share a hotel room (2 or 4 to a room), get a small fridge and a hot plate. I knew one who saved enough for a down payment on a house.

  62. Dwight

    What’s a mouse pad? You might want to call the exterminator. All dad-jokes aside, aren’t mouse pads pretty much obsolete, unless you work on a glass surface? The only exception I could see is if you had an ergonomic palm rest, though I prefer the ergonomic mouse.

    1. ElspethGC

      Cute decor, though. I’ve got one with a sheep on it from the Herdy shop (brand from the Lake District with adorable sheep designs) that I just enjoy having out and looking at. After all, don’t people ask questions on here all the time about how to personalise their work space and add a bit of colour? A mouse pad is an easy way of injecting a bit of personality.

      1. Dwight

        I found that whenever I used one, it was more limiting than anything. Because then you have to stay on the pad, as opposed to your whole desk. But as a pure decoration? sure.

      2. Pomona Sprout

        OT, but I googled Herdy out of curiosuty, and omg, what cute stuff! No wonder you love that mouse pad. :-D

    2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

      I use a mouse pad because I’m old school and still use a wired mouse. The mouse alone doesn’t work well on my desk.

        1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

          No, it’s got a red light thingy in it.

          My apologies for the use of “thingy.” I’m a Luddite who thinks electricity is magic and that computers are powered by tiny people playing neon jai alai like in Tron.

  63. Rainbow Roses

    #2 – I’m not religious but I’d still be scared of accidentally summoning….something. Yes, from a Mousepad. All those books and movies are affecting me. Ha Ha.

    I wouldn’t say anything and simply switch the mousepad with my own everyday. It only takes seconds.

    1. only acting normal

      I’m not sure I’d want to use a ouija mousemat either (especially *on the night shift*), because I watch way way too many b-movie horrors and there’s only so much rational brain bandwidth I want to spend convincing my irrational brain that “no really, you’re not summoning anything, just keep working!” :D

  64. Forrest Rhodes

    #2 Haven’t had a chance to read all 440 comments yet, so someone may have suggested this: can’t you just turn the mousepad over and use the other side? Or is the design on both sides? (Genuine question from laptop-with-trackpad user)

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister

      Often the top and bottom of a mousepad are very different materials and only the top is designed for use with a mouse; on all the mousepads I’ve seen (granted, it’s been a while) the top is cloth/plastic/whatever and the bottom is like textured grippy rubber so it doesn’t slide around the desk.

  65. Dust Bunny

    LW2 OMG just bring your own mousepad and set the ouija board one aside while you work. Last time I checked, mousepads were not glued to desks.

    1. Dust Bunny

      Wait, is this mousepad not even at the computer the OP uses? So there it’s literally just sitting there on the desktop but the OP has no reason to touch it?

      Nah, OP2, you get to be uncomfortable. Unless it’s at a computer where you would also have to use it, MYOB.