is a really short interview a bad sign, cooking a roast at work, and more

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

1. Is a really short interview a bad sign?

I’ve had short interviews before, and felt great about them, and have gotten offers from them. But I just had an interview for a job I REALLY want, and it was only five minutes long. I waited 30 minutes for it to even start! I don’t know how to feel about it. Are short interviews bad? Or did they just not have that many questions to ask?

Yeah, that’s not a good sign about your chances, because there’s no way to assess someone’s candidacy in five minutes. And even if it was because they, say, already found the person they wanted to hire, it’s still awfully rude to waste your time that way.

It’s also not a good sign for you about them. If they somehow offer you the job after only a five-minute interview, that tells you they hire terribly, don’t take it seriously at all, and are likely pretty badly managed. It’s also impossible for you to get any info about the job, the manager, and the culture in that amount of time, let alone ask the questions you’d need to ask to determine if it’s the right job for you.

The exception to this is if it was a quick screening interview over the phone with just a few questions (although even then, five minutes is quite short!).

2. Cooking a roast at work

Last year, our common lunch area and kitchen (for about 120 people) was refurbished, with an oven put in. Nobody has really used the oven until this week when a group of staff from different teams, who are friends, decided to use it to cook a roast for lunch. (Walking into work at 7:30 am to find a staff member oiling up a raw piece of meat was NOT an expected start to the day.)

Well, the oven’s first ever workout was a bit gross. For the whole cooking time of a few hours, the common space smelled of raw meat and some other weird odor. Apparently a few people commented on the smell — nothing overly malicious, things like “eww” and “ooh, that doesn’t smell good!” Some people seemed not to notice, but a number of us found it a really awful smell, to the point that we had to avoid the space. The two or three chefs got defensive (“it smells nice to me!”), complained to our HR department about the way they were treated, and have been cold shouldering a few staff all week as a result.

What do you say? Given that this group probably couldn’t have foreseen the roast/oven smelling weird, is this an appropriate use of the common kitchen? Is this just fun for a group of work friends to do, or am I justified in thinking that cooking a roast at work for eight people is a little obnoxiously cliquey? For what it’s worth, a number of the group involved in the roast are middle managers.

I don’t think it’s a big deal that they decided to cook something together — there’s an oven and there are people who need lunch, so why not make something in it? But it’s true that making something that needs to cook for hours and will fill up the space with a noticeable smell (even a good one) isn’t a great move if they’re not offering it to others too. Not outrageous, but not ideal.

The weirder part is that they took such offense to people’s comments about the smell, to the point of complaining to HR. That’s a bizarre response, and I wonder if there’s some other context that would make that make more sense.

3. My coworker is charging personal expenses to our Amazon account

I am at a three-person company. We do very well financially. My boss is generous with salary, benefits, paid time off, snacks, and more. He gives his two employees a five-figure bonus at the end of every year. We have streaming accounts for company-use only (Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix).

The other day, our independent business manager (outside the company) asked me to double-check the company credit card statement because there were more gift orders than usual. I noticed an additional charge for Amazon that caught my eye. I logged on to the company account and saw my coworker added her two kids’ tablets and a $7 per month subscription. I looked back, and she did this for two years. I could not believe she thinks it is okay to have our boss pay for her kids’ games, etc. She had tablet accounts for each child!

I canceled the subscription and changed the password plus added a PIN. I am not sure if I should report her behavior to our boss and our business manager. I am upset because I am the primary user of the corporate card. What if my boss or our business manager discovered this unauthorized activity instead of me?

You absolutely have to tell your boss and the business manager. You uncovered fraud, and if you say nothing, you’d be complicit in it.

The only possible reason not to tell them would be that they wouldn’t care (like if your boss had given her permission) — and if that’s the case, you’ll do no harm by telling them. But it’s very likely that they will care, and you have a professional obligation to report it. (And you likely need to go through all the past bills now to check for more problems. Someone should really be doing a full reconciliation every month.)

4. People are upset that my candy dish is gone

For a couple years, I kept a candy dish on my desk filled with chocolate candies. It was something I enjoyed providing. Sometimes I got frustrated with the greedy ones and the fact that only one person ever contributed candy/money, but it was still something I enjoyed doing.

About a month ago, I saw a financial advisor who told me I needed to cut expenses drastically. I realized I was spending almost $1,000 on candy or year! Yes, that $20-$25 a week really adds up when you multiply it out. So I decided to stop providing candy.

The first week was easy, because I was out of the office. I figured that would give people time to get used to it. We are now into the second week since I have been back, and people are still going by and making comments! “No candy?” “When is the chocolate coming back?” Some want me to explain why it’s gone. One person suggested I could keep buying it but then ask the company to reimburse me! All the people making comments and demanding explanations are the higher-ups in the office. These people probably make four and five times what I make. And to top it all off, there is a drug store with candy for sale right in the building!

I have tried just saying “I’m passing the torch!” Or, as Miss Manners advises in such occasions, giving a tight lipped, weak smile. Still the comments and questions persist! Why do people think they are so entitled to spend my money? And how do I get the comments to stop?

People are thoughtless. Some of them probably don’t realize you were paying for the candy with your own money (versus the company providing it) and some just haven’t stopped to think about how the cost would add up. That’s not entirely surprising — I would have guessed you were spending maybe $5/week on it and never would have guessed it was $20-25. People know they’re taking it but don’t account for how many others take it too, which makes it easier to think it’s a much smaller expense. Which isn’t to say they’d be entitled to it then either, of course! It could be pennies and you’d still be on solid ground in deciding you didn’t want to provide it anymore.

But people complain when they’re used to something delicious being available and then it goes away. That doesn’t mean they’re truly demanding you bring it back — it’s just people being people and not realizing how pushy they sound. Just say, “I was spending too much on it” or “I didn’t want to keep buying it” or “my candy days have come to an end” and don’t let it get to you. If anyone pushes beyond that, you can say, “They sell it downstairs if you want to take over.”

5. Should I send anything to an employee who’s out sick for several weeks

My employee, who is a top contributor at his job, took all his leave to visit family. On the flight home, he contracted a major illness and had to go on leave for several weeks to recover. When he contacted me to tell me what was going on, I told him to take the time he needed to recover and that I was forwarding his info to HR to go down the short-term disability route. I refrained from contacting him after that, because I didn’t want to pressure him into returning before he felt ready.

Am I a jerk for not being more compassionate? Should I have sent a get-well soon card or anything? What is the best practices for a manager in this situation? I really value him as a team member and want him to feel part of the team. If it matters, he is a very private person who shares very little about his home life with his work colleagues.

It’s always nice to send a card, flowers, or something similar in that situation. You’re not a jerk for not doing it, but doing it is thoughtful, says you care about him, and is usually appreciated.

Read an update to this letter

{ 538 comments… read them below }

  1. voyager1*

    LW1: Whenever I have had a short interview, I just assumed they found someone they liked before I interviewed. That happens sometimes in life, just bad timing.

    1. Massmatt*

      I have gotten an offer after a short interview but it was an entry level job and it wasn’t THAT short, maybe 12-15 minutes. Five minutes? Yikes, that’s not enough time to do much more than know someone speaks English. They either don’t know how to interview/hire or they already made up their minds and are going through the motions. Terrible way to treat an interviewee, especially on top of having to wait a half hour for it.

    2. Zombie Unicorn*

      Well then they should cancel. Or be open to the idea of still finding a better candidate.

      1. Mookie*

        Sometimes it’s worth it to employers to hedge their bets (which I don’t condone when they do it like this). From what I understand, some hiring managers feel that, once they’re sure the runner-up is not going to get the offer, they end an interview early because they think it’s more merciful. You’ve already strung the applicant along, though, by scheduling them for this kind of ‘interview’ without their knowledge or permission. It’s gross and a little bit exploitative.

        Personally, there are some roles I’ve applied for that were so appealing, I would’ve taken an interview even if they told me there was already a frontrunner. Some opportunities are worth chancing it. But you have to be transparent about that and willing to lose a promising candidate by being honest with them, and employers like that would prefer to pass that risk onto someone else. It’s the sort of disrespect that automatically makes them an undesirable organization to do business with.

      2. Adlib*

        Yes, this happened to me once, and it was clear they were interested. They were actually pretty rude about it to be honest. It’s disrespectful and wastes people’s time.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I had done a phone interview and 2 in-person interviews with a company and had been told they’d get back to me with a decision when they called me in for an interview with the CEO, who had just come back from leave and apparently wanted to screen candidates. They scheduled me for an interview and when I got there the CEO kept me waiting for 15 minutes, then asked me for a copy of my resume, glanced at it, said “We’re looking for someone with startup experience” (which I very obviously didn’t have) and ended the interview. Total time in the room with her: about 4 minutes.

          I was furious. She hadn’t even bothered to read my resume before bringing me there for an interview! It was an entire interview that should have been an email!

    3. Bilateralrope*

      That or they found something the really didn’t like in the candidate. Possibilities include:
      – Recognising the candidate from elsewhere and considering how the candidate behaved then.
      – Discrimination.
      – Candidate makes a really inappropriate comment.
      – Judging the candidate by how they dress.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        Or how the candidate answered the first questions revealed that they won’t be a good fit. I once had a relatively short interview that ended when the interviewer asked about how committed I would be to having a part-time job. I explained that full time would be better for me but of course part-time job is better than no job. Apparently the company wanted someone who would stay for a long time in that part-time role and not be looking for full time positions, so the interview ended at that point.

        1. AMPG*

          That’s still bad hiring practice on their part, since that’s something that could have easily been caught in a pre-screening call.

    4. Rexish*

      My bf has really short interviews. He was very suprised that a company wanted a 20-30min official interview. In his case it’s that they have already decided to hire him and they want him to come over for a short chat to see that he is who he says and then offer the job on the spot. Obviously this is not the norm in most places (and certanly not my experience). So sometimes short interview can be a good thing.

      I’d say in general I’d agree that they have decided to go with someone else. I actually think that still they should do a full interview. Maybe they don’t want the interviewee to that job, but they might have an opening for a future postition and they can then recruit that person since everyone is already there.

      1. SS Express*

        How have they decided they want to hire him without an interview though – just based on his resume, or are these employers people who’ve already met or worked with him before? More importantly, how does he know if he wants to accept their offer if they’ve only spoken for a few minutes?!

        1. Bilateralrope*

          They might be shortstaffed and needing to fill several similar positions in a hurry and are hiring anyone who is willing and able to do the job.

          Which is a worrying sign about the employer.

          1. Door Guy*

            Sometimes it’s just how things fall, though. Our sister office just lost a combined 25 years experience in 1 week. 1 15 year veteran let go for gross policy violations and 1 10 year veteran who left for medical reasons.

            Scrambling to replace them so they are a little less picky than normal, but that manager is very thorough in his interviewing.

            My last job, however, you got the job just for showing up and passing the background/drug test. The interview was just for the manager to learn more about the applicant. Even though I was supposed to have been, I was never a part of that hiring process.

        2. Rexish*

          They contact a recruiter and they reccomend my bf. They read his CV and decide if they want him. It’s a combination of reasons why they are doing this. One is that they desperately need someone to come in quick cause they are screwed (busy time, staff shortage). It’s not necessarily because the company is bad, it’s just an undesired field in undesired sector. Also it is the type of work that as long as you know how to use the programs and know how to interpret the results (which you should if you have enough experience) then you are good to go. There is no need for personality and fitting in with the culture. The nature is that you go there, get stuff done and leave for something else at some point. But it defiantely is not the norm around here.

        3. Risha*

          This happens a lot if you have a rare skillset. If there’s only a couple of dozen people in the country with an expertise in something that a company really needs at that moment, and not all of those are willing to change jobs right now, sometimes a decent resume and a 20 minute phone screen for any red flags are enough to make you a finalist.

        4. Tabby*

          I had that happen with my current job as a dogwalker. She basically decided before she met me. And took me to meet the pups I would be walking within 10 minutes. I am still with her 12 years later, as long as the company has existed. Sometimes, you just know.

    5. Door Guy*

      When we had to interview for our front office position, the CFO of the company came and did the first interviews since ultimately they report to him as they handle billing, with second round being done by the local managers. Sounded good on paper until we realized he was only spending about 10-15 minutes per candidate, as he had scheduled 10 people to come in on one day.

      After he gave us his short list for 2nd round we were wondering how anyone got any idea at all about what the job was and what he thought about them…

      2nd round was a lot more thorough and, as expected, there were a few that would have never made it out of first round had it been a more informative interview. One gentleman in particular was WAAAAY overqualified for the job, and was already working for the ‘holy grail’ company in the area in the field he got his degree in. He flat out told us in the 2nd interview that he couldn’t move forward in his chosen career path until he had filled in a few “experience gaps” in his resume. While we appreciated his honesty, it did raise more than a few red flags. Apparently, he got to the 2nd round because he didn’t care what the pay was…

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Off-topic, but I wish companies would stop making front office people handle billing. That’s two separate jobs, cheapskates.

        1. Door Guy*

          We’re small enough that we don’t have any back office people, the closest we have is the CFO. My office itself only has 8 employees – 5 techs, 1 salesman, 1 accounting clerk/service coordinator, and 1 office manager. We have 2 other locations but only the home office has any abundance of staff. Plus we’re typically only sending out a few bills a day (under 10 normally) so it’s not a huge part of the job.

          Last place I worked, though, definitely needed more staff. We had 1 office gal and she was so overworked it was insane and they (off-site upper management) just kept adding duties on her and then throwing a fit if they didn’t get done in the timeframe they thought was correct. (She has moved on – same company different position but her replacement was still getting trained up last I spoke with her so she still had a ton of her old duties too. Hopefully it got better for her. There was a reason I left that place)

    6. Old Millenial*

      This is so rude on the part of the employer though. It’s also not good hiring. If you think you found the perfect candidate, and another candidate is scheduled for right after perfect, it’s in the employers best interest to be open minded about the other candidate already there as they have already invested maximum effort. Asking a token question and sending them on their is asking for a horrible interview on Glassdoor.

    7. Junior Assistant Peon*

      What I think happened here was that they already knew who they were going to hire, and were complying with a company policy that at least three candidates must be interviewed. It’s probably already been decided that this job is someone’s promotion, and they’re giving five-minute fake interviews to a few applicants. Even if the candidate is clearly not a match, I don’t see any way they hustle someone out in five minutes unless the interviewee does something wildly inappropriate.

      1. Xl*

        That’s the first thing that came to mind for me too. I’m in government work and they must post a listing for a job when it opens up, even when they know who they are going to promote into the position. It can be a colossal waste of time on everyone’s part. I feel bad when someone comes in from out of town for a token interview when the position is already filled and the agency is just going through the motions.

        1. Sour Patch*

          Oh gosh, I am in that boat right now. However, I am the person lined up for the position, so if they “interview” anyone else it’s just for optics I guess you could say. I know when govt. positions do this they try to only post the position for three days hoping that no one else will try and apply during that small time frame. It doesn’t really make sense, but no one will change it.

    8. Tax Accountant*

      My interview for my current job was less than 20 minutes long. This was for a role where I’ve had half day interviews plus dinner the night before for in the past.

      I got the job. It was arranged through a recruiter, so there weren’t a lot of questions they needed to ask about my skills and experience since that was already covered in the screening process with the recruiter. The “interview” was basically just a meeting to determine that I’m not an unprofessional weirdo they don’t want to work with.

      It was bizarrely short. I thought it meant either I was awful or they were awful. Neither were true. I’m still here almost four years later and happy. Granted, this is the exception rather than the rule.

    9. ImAGhost*

      FWIW when I interviewed at my current job the first interview lasted 15 mins for a VP level role. It was a weird meeting and I figured they didn’t like me, and decided to cut it short. Fair enough. It happens. A day later I was called for a second interview. The first interview was just to discuss qualifications.

    10. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I conducted a behavioral/leadership interview for a VP candidate that lasted 5 1/2 minutes. I counted. He’d made it through the first round with my recruiter, who had a misgiving or two. The candidate and I exchanged pleasantries, I explained the interview format, and asked my first question: ‘Sometimes leaders have to make difficult decisions or policy changes that impact their team. Tell me about a time you made a decision that impacted your team in a significant way. What was the decision, how did you explain it to your team, and…’

      The candidate interrupted me: ‘I don’t understand the question. Why do I need to explain myself to anyone, especially underlings? As long as I have the authority to make decisions, that’s the only explanation they need.’

      Oh, dear, I’m afraid we’re not the company for you. Thank you, I’ll escort you out.

      1. Jadelyn*

        …you dodged a whole nuclear arsenal right there. I feel bad for that person’s staff no matter where they wound up. What an awful attitude to have toward your “underlings”.

    11. Turquoisecow*

      I actually didn’t interview at all for my current job. But I had worked for the person who wanted to hire me before, and it was supposed to be a temporary job, so between her assurances that I’d be fine and the fact that it was only supposed to be for a few months, her bosses didn’t think it was necessary to go through a whole interview process. I did speak with her briefly on the phone about the specifics of the company, after sending a few emails, but that was it.

      Of course it’s now more than a year later and the job is less temporary, and I’ve moved on to a different role. But no one felt the need to interview me for the other roles I’ve taken on since then, either.

      So it’s possible in cases where the hiring manager is familiar with the candidate or there’s some nepotism involved, that there not be an interview or that there’s a very short interview. Doesn’t sound like that on OP’s case, though.

    12. TootsNYC*

      Even if I’ve found someone, if I can’t cancel the interview, I interview them. A real interview.

      For one thing, who knows whether that person will take the job.

      If they’ve accepted (which is rare, because I usually don’t offer it until I’ve interviewed everyone I thought I’d consider), I’d still have the interview.

      I’d either tell them, and offer to change it to an informational interview, or–as in my most recent job–simply interview them for that position. But that’s because I would want that info about them–I’d either consider them for that exact position in the future, or I’d pass their name along to someone else who’d hire them for that same position/same skills.

      Interviewing candidates benefits me tremendously. I find out what sorts of skills are in the market; I get to know other workers. Who knows when it will matter that I know someone with that skills, and who is personable enough to hire?

    13. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      I once had an internal interview for a position my boss urged me to apply for because our division was being shut down. The hiring manager invited me to interview. I went in, and found he’d scheduled 15 minutes for the interview. More than half of that time he spent talking with the maintenance manager about a problem at one of the properties. When HM did actually talk to me, he said they’d found a candidate who had the real estate background they needed. There weren’t even any real interview questions. It was almost humiliating, except that the guy was being such an inconsiderate, disrespectful asshead that I knew I wasn’t the problem. As you can imagine, I spent most of the “interview time” wondering why he’d even bothered to grant me the 15 minutes.

    14. Huddled over tea*

      Alternatively, it could be because the candidate indicated immediately that they weren’t right for the job.

      I’ve had one once at a start-up where the hiring manager stopped after the first question and told me (very kindly!) that my CV looked great, but I wasn’t the kind of person she was looking for right now, and that she didn’t want to waste any more of my time. She also gave me the contact details of someone at her previous company and said that I’d be a great fit there though and I did actually get offered a job there. That was quite early on in my career and in hindsight, she was completely right – I’d have hated the start-up environment at the time, and I’ve always used that example of a really good interviewer who knew what they were doing.

  2. Kc89*

    3-people are really sensitive about others thinking their food smells so that’s probably why they were so upset, sounds like it was a new oven chemical smell mixed with the food that was upsetting people but the cookers probably felt guilty/annoyed about the smell and then lashed out

    1. Massmatt*

      Still, going to HR about it is nutty, and giving employees the cold shoulder over it is juvenile.

      This was the opposite of team-building!

      1. Observer*

        That’s my first reaction. But the question itself really strengthens Alison’s comment about missing context. Asking if actually using the oven is appropriate is also extremely odd. So much so that I wonder just how “malicious” the comments were.

        1. Legal Beagle*

          I don’t know, I personally find it bizarre to use an office kitchen to cook a roast during work hours. It’s just over-the-top! This isn’t a cooking competition; it’s an office. I’d be grossed out by the sight of raw meat first thing in the morning, and annoyed by cooking meat smells permeating the office all day. I wouldn’t say anything about it, but I would find it to be a very strange and inconsiderate move by the chefs.

          1. Jennifer*

            I would be too, but at the same time the company did install an oven. Someone should have foreseen this happening. Maybe not the HR thing, but the office being filled with cooking smells. What smells good to one person may not to another.

            1. fhqwhgads*

              Yeah but I’d take it that they installed the oven because they anticipated a need for heating/reheating/keeping heated large food items for work-specific food events. Places I’ve worked that had full ovens in the kitchen weren’t expecting staff to come in and cook a full meal from scratch, certainly not anything that would take hours. It was for:
              Short term reheating of people’s lunches that wasn’t suitable for a microwave
              Heating/keeping hot something catered for the staff but delivered earlier than it was to be consumed
              (occasionally) For caterers to use on site

              I do think it’s a reasonable question to say “hey is this the sort of thing the oven is for” because it’s obvious that’s what an oven is for in a home, but not necessarily in an office. I also don’t think it’s unreasonable that some of the staff decided “hey we’ve got a whole oven, why not?” But OP is totally within reason to wonder if this is what the company had in mind when it installed that oven.

              1. Observer*

                It’s one thing to say “is this what THIS company had in mind” and another thing to say “absent any other information, isn’t it inappropriate to actually use the oven to bake?” I’ve been in more than one place where the oven was NOT for internal catering / events.

              2. Jennifer*

                They should have made it clear. The employees shouldn’t be wondering. I’ll bet after this little skirmish one of those passive-aggressive emails gets sent or someone puts a sign on the kitchen door.

            2. TootsNYC*

              I’d expect a company oven to be used to reheat something or keep it warm for an office event.

              1. Jennifer*

                I think the company should have stated that that’s what the oven is for. It doesn’t seem it was specified. I don’t see why anyone needs an oven in the office at all so I would have thought it very strange that one was being installed at all.

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I’ve cooked a roast in the staff kitchen during work hours, but it was my contribution to the staff potluck and I checked with people in advance to make sure it wouldn’t bother people.

          3. Jadelyn*

            Same. Like, I love meat, I don’t have any revulsion toward the smell of cooking meat or anything, but it just strikes me as so weird to do major cooking in an office kitchen during the day. Unless you work in a culinary school or a restaurant or something, roasts are not the sort of thing one normally cooks in the break room, even if there is an oven in there.

          4. designbot*

            It’s something that I might expect like, the day before Thanksgiving, or before the 4th. Sometime when there weren’t many people in the office anyway and it’s a bit of a lighter mood than usual.

          5. Lyra Silvertongue*

            I am finding this totally bizarre too and was surprised that the answer didn’t mention it! I guess I don’t care about people using an oven there for that purpose, but if people are fully preparing a roast dinner then I’m gonna need assurance that they’ve been following at least some health and safety guidelines regarding handling raw meat in our shared space…

          6. Life is Good*

            I think it’s weird, too. We had a lady in our office who spent a lot of time in the office kitchen browning meat on the stovetop and assembling the rest of her family’s dinner. She’d store it in the refrigerator until it was time to pop it in the oven to cook until she left for the day with that night’s dinner. Not only being paid wages to not do the work she was being paid to do, but also stinking up the whole office (think kielbasa/sauerkraut casserole) all day. Just weird.

      2. MommyMD*

        They may have gone to HR because the comments about using the oven were very catty. Something is missing here. They may have wanted to bring it up with HR themselves because of the way a few coworkers were acting. We don’t have the other side.

        1. Jennifer*

          OP – were there cultural differences at play here? Did it smell good to the chefs because they were using spices from a certain kind of cuisine?

      3. Nanobots*

        Especially since this is NOT the kind of thing HR takes care of. People think of HR as “mommy”: settle petty fights, tattle about grievances, plan parties. That is not what HRs job actually is.

        1. Jadelyn*

          In general terms, I agree with you – but I’m going to push back, hard, on the idea that bringing a grievance to HR is “tattling”. It depends on what the grievance entails, but to me, a grievance is a higher level of formal complaint and absolutely does need to be routed through HR for investigation. Petty disagreements, yeah, bringing that to HR would be “tattling”, but if it’s something serious enough to be a grievance, that’s not tattling, that’s following appropriate procedure to handle it.

    2. JKP*

      I was thinking the same thing: it probably smelled because it was the first time the oven was used. In the future, it probably won’t smell bad.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Especially when people aren’t used to the smell of pork/bacon/insert pig meat type here being cooked, yeah. Pork is one of those things that can get really divisive, anyways. Either way, I’m sure the new oven smell contributed, but I’m also wondering what kind of oil they used. I’ve definitely mixed up mine a few times, and certain cooking oils can smell pretty weird when combined with the wrong foods.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Probably someone should run a cleaning cycle on the oven if it has one. Maybe overnight when people will be out of the office, but just to be sure the oven is ok to use in the future and won’t create more smells.

        1. Bear Shark*

          If they run the cleaning cycle it should be a) outside office hours when most of the employees don’t have to smell it and b) when someone responsible is in the building to monitor it, since the cleaning cycle can be smelly but also should not be unattended

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah—the burn off smell is awful, and they probably should have burned off the oven after hours (with a fan) before cooking a roast in it.

      In my limited experience with office ovens, I’ve found folks are excited to see it in use when it’s cooking things like cookies. But ultimately it’s not weird to use an oven that’s available—what was weird, here, was the clique complaining to HR when folks reported a legitimate concern re: new oven chemical odor.

      1. JessaB*

        Yes, if the oven had never been used before someone should have run the cleaning cycle before actually cooking in it. Don’t most ovens come with instructions that say “clean it first?”

        I mean I know most of my major appliances did (my washer came with “run the cleaning cycle to get any grease left from manufacture out.”)

        1. Koala dreams*

          Yes, when I’ve had a new oven it came with instructions to clean first. It’s not surprising it smelled bad. It’s a bit inconsiderate to not clean it first, but they probably forgot.

          1. Snuck*

            I’m assuming they didn’t realise it needed to be cleaned first…

            The installer wouldn’t have told them specifically (but might have told the ?someone?whomever signed off the install?) and thus they’d never know.

            Then… the person who put it in… I presume didn’t realise until it was in…

            And then it becomes a farce to defend?

            1. Frita*

              I picture some poor tech writer out this clearly in the ovens manual which no one bothered to read before firing up the oven.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Do people normally read manuals before using standard appliances like an oven?

                Cause I never have. It’s an oven. I know how ovens work in general terms, and unless the controls are really weird and I actually needed the help I’d just fire it up – I wouldn’t stop to read the manual first.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I definitely didn’t and generally don’t if it’s an appliance I think I should already know how to use, like a microwave or oven. I learned the hard way, so I’m happy to share that with others ;)

                2. Jadelyn*

                  Your sharing is much appreciated! I definitely learned something today – while I know how to use stoves in general, I’ve never had a brand new stove so this whole burn-off thing is all news to me. :)

                3. Sorrischian*

                  Except for really egregiously long ones, like for a car, I read the manual for pretty much everything that has one (I skim car manuals for relevant info, too). Most of the time it doesn’t actually tell me anything I didnt already know, but it’s sometimes incredibly helpful. Most recently, if I hadn’t I probably would have burnt something because my oven vents onto one of the stove burners.

            2. Not a Blossom*

              They may well have assumed that whoever was in charge of the installation/remodel took care of it if they did know.

      2. MommyMD*

        Because they decided to cook a roast does not make them a clique. Who knows what pushed them to go to HR? The complaining employees may have acted overly aggressive and they may have wanted to protect themselves. Something is missing in this story. The office has an oven. People used it. It gave off new oven odor. Everyone survived. All of this is extreme overreacting.

        1. Aquawoman*

          I think it’s helpful to remember that different people are different. Many people, myself included, are very sensitive to smell and “offgassing” type smells that new ovens, etc, have can be very difficult for some folks. They replaced the carpet in my office and I had to have it specially cleaned before I could go in there because I got a headache within minutes and my throat would start to close up. I don’t think it’s overreacting to leave the area rather than have a terrible headache.

    4. Krabby*

      To me, this sounds like a clique thing versus a food thing. We had a group like this in my last job. They all did the crossword together everyday at lunch (it was in the newspaper supplied by the company) and if anyone else tried to join in they would get really snotty and make fun of people’s answers. One day another team grabbed lunch early and did “their” crossword. The clique tried to complain to me that the other group was excluding people by doing the crossword when they weren’t there. Some people just get into a weird group think where small things easily get blown out of proportion and they talk themselves into thinking they’re being reasonable, when they’re so far from that it’s funny.

      1. miss fisher*

        I agree. It sounds like they might have bigger issues and the roast is a bit of a red herring

      2. Snuck*

        This is what it sounded like to me.

        Oh so very… easy to just walk away! Like… do not engage, do not pass go… run!

    5. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      One other possibility might be – was one/all of the people complaining of the smell known for being ‘food police’ in other ways? Or have a tendency to loudly opine on the ‘right’ way to eat? I had a coworker once who was militantly vegan, and would frequently, loudly complain about the ‘smell’ of any non-vegan food (including, “Oooh, you put milk in your tea… the smell of that makes me sick, it’s just so gross…”); this, combined with his own propensity to eat extremely smelly foods (literally, he would snack on raw onions with hummus, throw the leftover onion in his cubicle garbage which was only changed once per week, and then complain about a colleague eating a salad with chicken strips) would get on a lot of people’s nerves, and make them extra-defensive. If one/all of the complainers had habits like this, that could be why it rubbed the roasting group the wrong way.

      Sidenote – I bet it was just the chemical burnoff, as you say… I’m not sure it’d be a great idea to eat that roast, actually.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        I would be so tempted to eat a burger and ice cream in front of your friend.

        But, of course, I wouldn’t, because that would be extremely impolite.

      2. LivingMyLife*

        I was on a vegan diet for about 1.5 years and didn’t smell meat/milk on people, unless they had just finished eating a burger or a steak. I think that was a pretty insensitive comment for a vegan to make.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I recall this as a note in a fictional story set in China in the early 1800s. English visitor was going to disguise himself and slip into the forbidden parts of the country; Chinese secretary to whom he confided his plan was like “Uh, dude, you smell like meat. No one has to see you to instantly discern that you are British.”

        I don’t smell meat or dairy (which I eat) but instantly pick up on alcohol, even though people will claim that alcohol doesn’t show up in your sweat until (some amount more than what they usually drink) and so there’s no way it’s discernible. So I don’t know that your friend should have said it–can’t tell if it’s a complaint or an observation–but I would believe that it was a true statement about discerning recent diet from body odor.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, I would guess the roast tasted awful, imbued with oven chemicals, but at that point none of the roasters was going to back down and say “Yuk–this was an awful idea.”

      5. Fritz*

        I can tell when my SO has garlic. I can also tell it w anyone if his ethnicity. Garlic is one of those thing not native to their traditional diet. It makes people if this ethnic background smell slightly sickly sweet to me. Ok if I can be a few feet away, but SO must shower if he’s has garlic before coming to bed.

          1. Clisby A Williams*

            I was wondering, too, but at least according to a Chowhound discussion, there are some Hindus/Jainists/Buddhists/Sikhs who don’t eat garlic or onions. However, it sounds like that’s a particular religious practice – nothing specific to do with ethnicity.

            Surely, though, there are some groups of people whose traditional cuisines wouldn’t include garlic because garlic doesn’t grow where they live (Inuits? Laplanders? Finns?)

      6. nnn*

        Now that I read this, I think I can smell milk consumption! It just doesn’t bother me so I never thought about it before – like how you can smell if someone uses hairspray or talcum powder – but when I put certain elements of smell and memory together, I think that’s what that smell is!

      7. Not a cat*

        Same in a former workplace. We had a vegan who was absolutely a lovely person except when she complained about the guy, who was eating BBQ chicken pizza at his desk. I sat at the same pod as her, and I am a ‘mostly vegetarian’–she told me that the veggie burgers I was getting from the grill downstairs were coated in egg before cooking. She said she could smell it…and then called the restaurant to ask them directly. Workplace food stuff can be problematic.

    6. MissGirl*

      The OP sounds extra sensitive about this as well. They were upset about the meat being prepared long before the smell started.

      1. a1*

        I noticed that, too. As for “the 3” going to HR, I wonder how “few” complained, and how “not overly malicious” it really was.

        Apparently a few people commented on the smell — nothing overly malicious, things like “eww” and “ooh, that doesn’t smell good!”

        1. Frita*

          Well, if OP reads this, they can take some comfort in the fact that it was probably new oven burn off smell. If so, it won’t happen again. It also means the roast likely tasted of burn off chemicals.

        2. Joielle*

          Yeah, I’m not sure what would count as “overly malicious” if saying “ewww” to someone’s food doesn’t count. That sounds pretty rude to me!

          1. NothingIsLittle*

            But rude and malicious mean different things. I agree that it’s rude to say “eww” but it’s also semi-involuntary for some people (like me) to say it when they smell something that disagrees with them. Malicious means that they intended to harm and I think it’s fair to assume they didn’t.

            1. Joielle*

              You’re right that there is a difference between rude and malicious, but I don’t think it matters at work since neither is acceptable. The OP seemed to be implying that because “ewww” is not malicious (and I guess, merely rude), it was ok – and it’s not.

              And actually, the phrase “overly malicious” is a problem in itself – is there a level of acceptable maliciousness? I’d say no.

              1. OP#2*

                Hey Joielle, OP here, I don’t think I explained that part well. I don’t actually think “eww” was used, I was just capturing the kinds of things that were said and when I wrote that I didn’t really consider how if people had actually said that, it would be very juvenile! Obviously, no level of maliciousness is acceptable in a workplace. I guess I meant “nothing malicious was said” but was being lighthearted about it, and didn’t consider that people would read into that as me condoning a certain type of behaviour.

      2. Blunt Bunny*

        Yes it did sound like jealousy to me. I can understand if they had said they took over the kitchen and people couldn’t use it and it was left in a mess. But really complaining about someone preparing raw meat sound ridiculous when ovens are mostly used to cook raw foods and microwaves are used to warm foods up. Apart from putting on a extractor fan if they were using the job what else they can do about smells. It also doesn’t sound especially cliquey to me, it’s normal for people to choose to eat with their friends rather their team or whole office and they have paid for the food so it’s theirs to eat.

      3. Cranky Neighbot*


        There is a lot of investment in … a roast … on multiple sides of the story, so I am wondering if there are other issues going on between this group and others in the office.

      4. SomebodyElse*

        This is what I got out of it too.

        The whole dynamic seems a little over the top. From the reaction of the OP to a team daring to use an appliance provided, to the reaction of the chefs to the comments.

    7. Quill*

      I was just thinking “oh god, they left a liner or something in” because I just saw an episode of Instant Hotel where the hosts had gotten a new oven but never used it before…

      1. June*

        I have done something like that. Turns out the previous renters never used the oven so there was an instruction manual still in there. It caught on fire when I preheated it.

    8. Bluebell*

      That new oven chemical smell can be awful. I have asthma and when we got a new stove my spouse took care of it while I went upstairs with the door closed. (No one told us to clean it first and the smoke that came out while we were preheating was awful!)

    9. Artemesia*

      We moved into new offices and there was a little stove and the staff decided to fry chicken on the second day filling the office with cooking smells. The boss made a rule that no cooking could be done in the office beyond heating things in the microwave and those needed to now be stinky as he didn’t want clients thinking they had wandered into a KFC.

      It seems unprofessional to have major roasting going on in a business office particularly if there will be clients. That these inconsiderate loons thought the complaints meant THEY should complain to HR suggests there is a management problem here much greater than roasting meat.

    10. scm*

      In addition to any new oven smell, I’ve found that cooking smells where you aren’t expecting them can seem “off” even if it’s a normal smell. Once my husband was cooking a brisket “low and slow” for several hours overnight, and I woke up at two in the morning wondering what the unpleasant smell of blood was. When I was more awake I realized it just smelled….like a brisket cooking. It would have been an appetizing smell if I had been expecting it, but without the context it was weird. Made me think a lot about context and setting affect our experience of taste and smell.

      1. Her Blondeness*

        Food smells in offices is a hot button. I’ve worked places with the “no fish” rule or had the strong spicy ethnic food that filled the office with pungent smells for the rest of the day (and many were queasy) and, and, and…I could go on and on.
        One that does stick out in my mind many years later due to its absurdity was the office manager who decreed no one could use the microwave for butter-flavored popcorn. Only plain microwave popcorn because butter flavored was “so bad for you”. Yeah, she had other food issues, too. I just got in the habit of heating then going outside to eat. Just easier than her commenting on what was “good” or “bad” for you in your lunch.

      2. MayLou*

        I work in an office with no air conditioning which has windows all along the walls on both sides, so you can imagine how hot it got during the recent European heatwave. Our manager, who is a jewel, went out and bought ice lollies for the whole office. The reason I mention it is that they were Surprise Ice Lollies – that was the actual name of them, and the surprise was that the flavours and colours were mismatched. So yellow was blueberry flavour, pink was orange flavour, blue was strawberry etc. (The box did tell you which was which but we didn’t look until after we’d tried them.) We all found it hard to identify what we could taste until we’d been told, because the colours were wrong. I had a pale blue one and was convinced it was bubblegum flavour. Nope, strawberry. I could taste it once I knew! Brains are weird.

  3. Free Meerkats*

    One possible idea for the candy dish, tell the higher ups, “If you bring the candy in, I’ll make sure the dish stays full!” Puts the expense on them, makes everyone happy.
    But only if you’re willing to do that, otherwise follow Alison’s advice.

    1. Massmatt*

      Still, I would encourage the LW to make herself known as something other than the candy person.

      I put this in the same category as someone bringing in cupcakes and the like. It’s not likely to help you and people can act like really entitled jerks about it. I guess this is why we just can’t have nice things!

      1. Candy*

        I don’t think I’m known as the Candy Person – I am well-regarded for my work as one of the senior admins and was recently offered a trip to our London Office as one of the top performers. But yes, people can be entitled. I will note that not one staff person inquired – it was all management!

        1. Colleen*

          It was always the higher ups at my old job who would get mad at an empty candy dish, meaning that they made at least 4x my annual salary. The time I got fed up and told one of the founders of the firm that I just couldn’t afford it, he got PISSED that I had been spending my own money on candy for 2 years. I got a $500 bonus the next week for my efforts, and a set monthly expense budget for snacks.

    2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Personally, I start by pointing out that candy is sold downstairs. On my budget, I would notice $20/25 a week almost right away. LW has been more than kind to their co-workers.

    3. Goldfinch*

      I would have no shame in stating up front that I crunched the numbers and realized it was costing me a grand a year. Blowing people back with that amount of money is a good wake-up call.

      1. Kes*

        Eh, if the people complaining are higher ups, I don’t think mentioning the number will help because that may not be a lot to them. But OP could definitely say if they’re comfortable that their financial advisor suggested they cut back on expenses, and unfortunately this was one that was costing them more than they realized and had to go

        1. Kara*

          There’s nothing in the letter that indicates that people are complaining though – just asking. When people notice a sudden change, they ask about it.

            1. TheSnarkyB*

              Are you OP? From the letter, it sounds like you weren’t giving people enough info at the beginning. You’ve been putting the dish out for years and you expected people to adjust pretty quickly. Which is fine, but you don’t state that you were actually giving people any real reply. Even just a clear, “I won’t be doing that anymore,” or saying “It wasn’t working out for me to keep it going” would go a long way here. “I’m passing the torch” doesn’t mean much unless you’re saying that so-and-so is taking it over, and a tight lipped smile isn’t going to stop someone from asking again.

              1. Jan*

                Yes, I am the OP. What sort of information would you have recommended I give? I was offering FREE CANDY! Sheesh. The bowl is not there. Move on, people! I don’t need to explain my finances or any reasons at all, or tell them who might be taking over (not my issue). I would never ask someone why they are no longer giving me free candy.

                1. Blunt Bunny*

                  I would send an email out. “Hi all x week was the last week that I provided candy and won’t be doing so in the future. I enjoyed it at the beginning but as few people chipped in it has become a financial burden. The comments I have received since stopping have cemented that decision.” Kind regards

                2. Massmatt*

                  I agree with you, your finances etc are none of their business. It’s weird that they keep asking.

                  I used to arrange the occasional breakfast muffins and coffee as a team reward and there was one person in particular who always expected invites, even if she wasn’t on the team. She started calling me about food catered for meetings etc that I had nothing to do with. Very strange, it was as though she felt entitled to any and all food anywhere in the building. I had to talk with her manager to finally get her to stop. People are very weird about food, and especially free food.

                3. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  I agree with you that people were rude to keep asking about the candy over and over. But as TheSnarkyB said when something has been offered for so long to just have it disappear one day will naturally lead people to wonder what happened, and asking about it would not be out of line.

                  You knew you are spending your own money on the candy but others might not. People might assume that the office is paying for the candy and in some places it is reasonable to assume that. You do not need to explain your finances to people or give a reason for why you stopped providing the candy.

                  But saying “I am passing the torch.” does indeed imply that you worked it out to have someone else handle the candy dish, you did not “pass the torch” you “let go of the torch.” It is understandable that some people might be confused by that. You are well within your right to stop providing candy, and as SnarkyB said a simple “I won’t be doing that anymore.” is a bit more clear then “passing the torch.”

                4. Analytical Tree Hugger*

                  I agree, OP, they really don’t need an explanation beyond an internal, “No candy dish. Okay, onto [work-related thing that I need to do].”

                  The only maybe justified reason to comment is for them to try to make small talk. But…really awkward, bad small talk.

      2. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

        I did that when I filled the jar, went to get coffee, and came back to find a coworker literally holding the bottom of her shirt like a basket and filling it up with candy. She said she was going to pass it out to people, which was a complete lie. (She had a reputation.) I said, “Dude, I spent $80 on candy this weekend. I buy it with my own money. People can come get their own.” She acted surprised that I spent my own money, which was another lie, as we’d talked about it on numerous occasions while she was requesting certain chocolate bars.

        Never bought it again. When people complained, I offered the empty jar to them and told them they could spend their own money to fill it, but my candy days were over. No one ever took the jar. I left it there when I quit.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          What? Coworker was using her shirt as a basket to take away all the candy? That’s some nerve. That’s also selfish, considering the candy is there for everyone. I can’t blame you for not bringing in candy anymore. Moocherella can buy her own.

          1. LCL*

            Yes, holding up the shirt to fill with goodies is what very small children do. I have vague memories of my mom making a game out of it with us kids.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      See I would be the snarky asshole…”If you’d like to provide me with the $25 per week I was spending, I’d be happy to continue to fill the candy dish”, said with a great big smile on my face. The fact that the higher ups are the ones complaining would piss me off more.

      1. Callie*

        I don’t see the need to be snarky to people who are having a very natural and non-offensive reaction. They probably don’t know that the OP is spending her own money and can no longer afford it. If something you’ve been used to for 2 years suddenly disappears, why is it rude to ask what happened? The OP is giving weak answers and non-answers (silence and a tight-lipped smile? How does that help?). This approach doesn’t explain things well. To me, the OP is being weirdly evasive about perfectly normal questions people have. Just say, “Actually, I was purchasing it all myself and the financial and time burden was way too much. I’m hoping someone else will take over!”

        1. Candy*

          This is the OP. It wouldn’t be surprising to get questions for a week or so, and I did tell some people I could not afford it, who then demanded to know how much I was spending. So I moved into “I’m passing the torch” and just a smile as the comments persisted more than a month. Remember I am sitting here doing my work having to fend these questions. As my financial advisor said, “These people certainly feel they are entitled to your money!” Anyway, we are at bout the six week point now and the comments and questions have died off, and my bank account is happier.

          1. TheSnarkyB*

            I think it’s weird for your financial advisor to say it that way, since they don’t know your office or the dynamics. I agree with Callie that it wasn’t rude for people to ask about the change, and before they asked, they had no way to know that you were spending your own money. It’s not cool for them to follow up with “how much does it cost?” but other than that, you seemed to only be giving answers to some folks and not others, and you seem to not understand that people are curious about something they looked forward to.

            Just as the candy jar triggered (minor) interaction when it was full, it’s going to trigger conversation when it’s empty, whether you’re in the middle of a task or not.

          2. Whippers*

            As someone who has no motivation to give people free stuff, ever, can I ask what is the motivation in providing free candy to your colleagues for years?

            I’m genuinely not being snarky btw; I think I must be a phenomenally ungenerous person because the thought of spending that much money on my co-workers (beyond leaving gifts, babies etc) brings me out in a rash.

        2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Questioning something like this is rude IMO, so yes I would have no issue with the comment I suggested.

    5. Qwerty123*

      If it’s one of the higher ups who suggested asking the company to reimburse for candy, I would take that as a sign that it is something work will or might pay for and I’d look in to it. If it was just a random peon, I’d go with these other “blow off” options.

    6. Essess*

      I would have no problem being upfront and telling complainers that the expense had reached over $1000 per year out of my own pocket and had become too expensive since I was the only one filling it.

    7. NothingIsLittle*

      I maintain the candy dish here and at my last job. At the last job, the school paid for the candy since the office was for the president and all the deans who liked having it out. At my current job, the two people who eat the most replace the candy and when other people start taking a lot I point that out to them. So far they’ve dropped off to a reasonable amount of candy, but they’re welcome to join the purchasing rotation!

    8. Michaela Westen*

      I would be careful with this approach because it could lead to having to chase the higher-ups to refill the candy.

    9. AKchic*

      I was the candy person for years. People love to eat it, and will expect it very quickly, but they will rarely contribute.
      I was going through 10-25lbs a week depending on season and stress levels in the office. Some months I would spend upwards of $200 (Alaska isn’t cheap) and I was looking for the best deals, coupon clipping, etc. Having four kids, Halloween was great because I brought in my kids’ Halloween candy (I wasn’t going to let them eat it anyway!), but the occasional $10-20 bill from one c-suite person a month didn’t cover what I was spending weekly.

      So, I stopped. It was pandemonium. Everyone freaked out. All of the sudden, the budget that couldn’t afford a raise for me managed to find money for the $50-100/week candy budget. For about a month… then they started weening people off the good stuff and getting cheaper candy. I think that when I left, they were down to about $20/week and people would still wistfully look towards my office area (after 18 months of me stopping). I donated all of my seasonal candy containers when I left. I didn’t need them anymore.

  4. Kimmybear*

    #5- Have a coworker out on medical leave at the moment and I’ll be honest that it didn’t occur to anyone on the team to send flowers/card for a while. Not that we don’t love coworker or didn’t care, just honestly trying to hold down the fort and the uncertainty of the situation, kept us from even thinking about it. There have been numerous texts to lift spirits and funny memes sent. Don’t beat yourself up but keep it in the back of your mind for next time.

    1. Venus*

      I think that employees will care a lot more if they feel supported when taking their leave. While a card might not hurt, I would much rather hear “Please, take all the time you need to recover, and let me know if you need help with the leave paperwork or if there is anything else that comes up” from a manager whom I know means it honestly.

    2. Manchmal*

      I wouldn’t do anything differently next time…because then the first person will notice and wonder why they didn’t rate flowers or a card and the next person did. Treat all equally and none will have cause for complaint.

    3. tiasp*

      I personally wouldn’t think about sending a card nor would I care about getting a card. I personally would MUCH more appreciate having a boss who did what you did (arranged the disability leave, didn’t pressure me about cutting sick leave short). So I don’t think you should worry about it at all.

    4. juliebulie*

      I just lost a coworker to cancer last week, and I really wish now that we’d sent more cards and flowers while she was on leave.

      Even if your coworker isn’t terminally ill, I strongly sending something – either formal or informal. Memes and texts are great. (Well, personally I hate memes, but it’s still a nice gesture.) Getting something more substantial, like a card or flowers, once in a while is nice too. It feels weird and lonesome to be out of the office for such a long time.

    5. Micklak*

      Hmm, I think I’m the outlier again. Send a card and flowers. It’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.

  5. Grant*

    I’ve definitely brought my crock pot to work to cook stuff that only needs to be on for less time than I spend at work. But I’m one of two people at my location and the other person is completely fine with it. Not sure I’d do the same if there were more of us, it is a bit of an imposition on your colleagues to have to smell that all day….

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I agree entirely with Alison, but wanted to flag that you may want to raise the smell issue with whoever is in charge of your building/kitchen services. New ovens have to “burn off”/cure the bonding agent used with the oven’s insulation. It smells awful (similar to the chemical-y burning plastic smell of a new space heater), requires ventilation, and is best done when folks are not in the office. Some folks are particularly sensitive to the smell, also, which can compromise their health. The smell makes me woozy, and I’ve seen it knock out a coworker (who had to leave early and was down for the count the next day).

    Depending on heat, length of cook time, etc., the roasters may have already burned off the agent, but if they didn’t, the oven is going to continue to smell every time someone uses it. This is all to say that there are legit safety and occupational health concerns when folks are using a new oven without “breaking it in.”

    It sounds like the roast team was being defensive about a project that excited them, not realizing that there may have been legitimate, non-roast-related side effects. The complaint to HR seems over the top, and at some point when they’re less defensive, it may be useful for someone to let them know that all new ovens reek.

    1. phira*

      This is what I came here to say!!
      We recently got a new range in our apartment and I learned first hand that you have to do a burn-off. It smells terrible and you need a ton of ventilation. If you don’t do a burn-off, whatever you cook in the oven will definitely taste wrong, too.
      You might want to see if it would be possible to have an appliance expert come by and make sure that the oven is burnt-off properly.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Having an appliance expert come out for a service visit would cost money especially since nothing will be wrong with the oven. It is usually pretty easy to know if the oven has been burnt off properly, by the lack of smell. It would be wise to run the oven with nothing cooking for a few cycles of 2/3 hours at a time until the oven stops smelling.

    2. Birch*

      This is a really good point!

      Also–if your cooking space smells like raw meat, either there is something wrong with your meat or that’s not actually what you’re smelling.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        I’m not sure that’s true- raw meat smells like blood. It’s a pretty distinctive smell. I once found a bloodbank in a hospital primarily by the smell of the place.

        1. Petunia*

          I’m sorry, but this is very difficult to believe. I’ve given blood countless times and been around family members who required the services of a hospital bloodbank. The blood is so well sealed, there’s no way anyone can pick up on the smell. I’m not sure what you thought you were smelling (some kind of chemical or medicine associated with blood storage?) but unless the workers were bathing in it, Countess Bathory-style, there’s no way a human being has the nose to smell that.

          1. LCL*

            You can smell a distinct scent when you walk into the blood center. I am also a lifetime blood donor and I can smell it. There’s also a distinct scent to a well run meat counter or butcher shop. I eat meat so I like it.

            That said, the scent from prepping one roast shouldn’t stink up the whole kitchen for hours. But leaving the meat packaging, including the absorbent towel thing it’s packaged with, in an open air trash can at room temp will smell.

    3. Mookie*

      The thing is, their ‘project’ monopolizes community space while on the clock, so while their enthusiasm is understandable, not everyone is benefiting from it or able to ‘overlook’ the New Oven smell because there’s no reward for them in doing so. Lotsa smells, no eats. Next time, they should plan for such contingencies, rather than disrupt the workplace a second time by involving HR over a totally non-obligatory ‘project’ that, surprise!, inconvenienced their co-workers.

        1. Mookie*

          Everyone was allowed to use it, as, of course, the LW acknowledges, and using it was not what was objectionable. It was how they used it (inexpertly) and how they responded to reasonable reactions to the discomfort that use caused. Nobody outside the roast party complained to the bosses or tried, later on, to ban the use of the oven. They coughed and made sounds and then left when it was unbearable. By reporting these normal reactions as harassment, the roast party now seems untrustworthy and disruptive.

          What my first sentence said was that there was a trade-off (unpleasant chemical fumes for grub) that not everyone got the bargain of. Those that did behaved ungraciously to those that didn’t, and it’s not unreasonable of the latter to be wary of future ‘projects.’

          1. Mookie*

            Also, it wasn’t just the oven. The space apparently accommodates the entire office, but was unusable by “a number” of people because of the fumes. Presumably that space includes fridges, seating, sideboards, prep areas, etc.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I kind of guess it was put in for catering, or similar events expected to benefit the entire office rather than a small group. So the delicious smells permeating the office for hours (assuming it had worked that way, rather than the stinky chemical burnoff way) are not for only a few people. Or for Mary and her family, as she removes the baked lasagna from the oven and carries it home with her for family dinner.

          1. Frita*

            Sound like the office manager needs a policy on use and a sign up sheet for any prolonged usage/priority of use.

            What would have happened had the owners come in planning to use it?

            1. Alli525*

              That seems completely unnecessary, considering the oven was installed “last year” (so at least 8 months ago) and no one has used it until now.

              1. Not a Blossom*

                On one hand, I agree. On the other hand, if there is some random time when for some reason 2 people plan to use it at the same time, it could be a nuisance at best and lead to petty in-fighting at worse. It wouldn’t be hard to have a Google doc or calendar on a shared drive where people could sign up in advance if they ever planned to use it.

      1. Sally O*

        I’d rather see the oven get used for this lunch then have it stand unused like a big white elephant for the next 20 years. How many must be part of the group before it’s too big to be considered a clique?! I understand the smell was disturbing, but that shouldn’t be a factor next time. Good grief, let them cook their roast.

      2. Snuck*

        I assume the chemical burn off was an accident… no one plans that …

        So if that was an accident… then we just look at whether using the oven monopolises the space… it hadn’t been used in a year? Near enough? The oven was put in last year… sometime.

        So there’s not a lot of demand for it… a roast isn’t a highly complex meal to make, and is well suited to sharing … and they seem to have been making it before their day started…

        I’ve worked in offices with ovens and kitchens and cleaners and all manner of coffee machines and fruit bowls and cereal and toast offerings etc… rarely is it ‘monopolised’ … usually there’s a flow to lunch rooms that see all this come and go. They get busy at peak hours, but generally everyone is then more mindful (visible if they leave a mess/are inconsiderate?) and it sorts itself out. On rare occasions when it got chaotic in the kitchens people would go to a different floor/other kitchen. For 120 staff I presume there’s more than one small break room at play.

        Personally I love the idea of them using it, and would only be ‘concerned’ as a manager if it a) posed a fire risk (someone was using it in a way that was irresponsible. Although I’d have nixed the roast that day due to Chemical smells until that got sorted), or b) if it was in such demand that no work was getting done or there was conflict over who got the oven which day (at which point I’d tell everyone to grow up and work it out!).

        The bun fight I used to see all the time was about the 15 buckets of margarine in the fridge for lunches and the 5 cartons of milk… milk and butter wars are where turf in the kitchen is fought in my experience… and soft drink.

        1. Mookie*

          They monopolized the entire space by making it uninhabitable for some, and presumably they timed their roast to he done near the lunch hour.

          They could have anticipated the New Oven smell, but I don’t hold it against them that they didn’t, as the vast majority of us wouldn’t have either. But they pretended it wasn’t happening, dismissed their colleague’s discomfort, and pitched a fit about it with HR.

          1. Essess*

            Looking at it from another point of view…. they were repeatedly harassed for using a company-supplied benefit so they would want to get HR involved. Also the OPs letter doesn’t clearly explain if the smell was a new-oven smell or not. Since some people said it smelled good then it sounds to me that it wasn’t an oven burn-off smell. Was it possible that the ‘smell’ that people complained about was a spice blend put on the roast so that it was more of a complaint about cultural food smells? The letter doesn’t clarify that, but it would also explain why they would raise to an HR issue for the complaints.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Not sure where you’re getting “harassed” from “some people commented on the smell”. That seems like a reach. And even if a bunch of people were upset about it, that doesn’t make it *harassment*.

          2. Snuck*

            I don’t see using the space once a year for this as a monopoly… I don’t see it as an impost.

            It’s not great for a few, but it’s a rare occurrence… so it’s not an issue worth making drama about.

    4. HalloweenCat*

      This question is very timely for me, (slightly off topic) as I’m having a new oven delivered tomorrow and I . . . did not burn off chemicals were a thing and absolutely would have just used my oven to heat up pizza. So thank you for this!

      1. Goldfinch*

        To you and others: please read the safety instructions when you purchase appliances, vehicles, et cetera! They don’t exist just to kill trees.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s my pleasure! Your manual should have instructions on how to “clean” the oven (i.e., burn off the bonding agents). But please be sure to use all your fans/ventilation when you do it!

      3. Turquoisecow*

        I got a new oven a few months ago and the guy who installed it told me to run it for an hour or so before using it. In fact, he turned it on before he left and told me to leave it for an hour or so. I didn’t know that was a thing so I’m glad he took the time, but I guess not everyone does that.

      4. Pilcrow*

        I also probably wouldn’t have thought about burn off at the top of my head either, as I have never had a brand new oven. Mine have all been “quality tested.” ;)

  7. voyager1*

    LW3: You probably should have gone to the boss and let them know before you started adding PINs to accounts and canceling things. For all you know the boss may have given the okay for this. Even more so if the gift cards are theft too. I would want to know why you thought a PIN was your call and not letting me know about the gift cards/extra accounts.

    People giving 5 digit bonuses are probably not going to care that an employee’s kid is sharing a Prime accounts watching Peppa Pig or playing games.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I disagree. What OP observed appears to be such a serious and clear example of fraud that the precautionary principle kicks in—first freeze the ability of the account to be drained further, then verify that the transactions are allowed. Just because a company is giving generous bonuses doesn’t mean that it would be ok with an employee misappropriating its resources, which is a much more likely scenario than the boss giving the coworker permission to add her children to the account. This appears on its face to be a BFD, and OP reacted proportionately.

      Further, because OP#3 is the primary account holder, it’s perfectly fine for them to place a PIN on an account and to freeze or cancel transactions pending confirmation of the charges with the boss. It’s a fraud prevention mechanism that’s incredibly normal in finance/accounting positions when there’s the suspicion of fraud. OP was well within their rights to take the precautions they took, and if it turns out the transactions were authorized, OP can always revert the account.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        + 100 to everything, but especially your first paragraph. What OP did was tantamount to what my bank does when they suddenly notice random charges on my card they’ve never seen before from new merchants/new locations – they lock everything down until I get in touch with them and explain that no, I didn’t lose my card and no fraud is being committed. I’m just traveling for work/vacation/etc. It’s better to be safe than sorry in these situations.

        I would also never assume that just because someone has a lot of money and is very generous with it that they’d be A-okay with someone helping themselves to more of it without express permission. You just never know what people’s financial situation really looks like from outside looking in. Boss could be living off credit and getting himself into debt for this business and to make sure his employees are taken care of – we just don’t know.

        And sure, it’s possible the boss won’t care or gave permission to the colleague already, but I would imagine if he did, he would have told everyone it’s okay to use the accounts that way or the coworker would have mentioned how generous boss is for allowing her kids to be on the company plan prior to OP finding out this info. Until OP gets confirmation that this is an acceptable use of the accounts, she was right to lock it all down.

      2. PollyQ*

        I agree with all you (and Allison) say, but I do want to raise the possibility that it was an accident on the co-worker’s part. I can easily see someone thinking they were logged in on their account, while actually being on the work account and not noticing it.

        OP should definitely bring it to the attention of boss/higher ups though.

        1. valentine*

          I can easily see someone thinking they were logged in on their account
          That only works for a month, until the subscription doesn’t show up on the personal card. For two years and counting.

          1. Goldfinch*

            I go through my credit card statement line by line looking for anything suspicious, but I don’t think I would notice a lack of charge. Something not being there at all would probably not register in my brain. It’s like how I only notice my breathing when I’m sick and can’t do it properly.

            That said, I doubt this was an accident.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I agree with Goldfinch, I have a subscription that I signed up for the trial period (about 4/5 months ago) and was going to cancel after that. I just noticed it 3rd time and again told myself for the I need to cancel that. But like Goldfinch said I charge so much on my card, but if a charge that I made didn’t show up I would not be able to notice.

          2. Atlantian*

            I could be wrong, but the OP read to me like the charges for the kids’ accounts were set up to be recurring for 2 years in the future, not the past. We recently bought an Amazon Kids account for ours with a tablet and it prompts you to set up the account to go with the tablets when you make the purchase. It’s possible that boss okayed the purchase of the tablets, without okaying the reoccurring charge for the Prime accounts, or that they thought it came with the Prime account that the business already has. OP was still right to lock it down until she gets confirmation, though. The number 1 rule on my company credit card is no subscriptions/reoccurring charges are allowed.

          3. bonkerballs*

            Not really. I work in accounting and the amount of people who don’t realize their auto-pay of thousands of dollars hasn’t been going through is a sizable amount. There are lots of people who balance their checking account every week, there are people who never have.

        2. Thatoneoverthere*

          It def can be an accident. I worked at a smaller company, we had offsite people around the country. We issued company credit cards to them. One was buying stuff on amazon and left the company credit card as the primary payment source. They accidentally billed their audible subscription to the company credit card. It happens.
          Also its possible the co-worker left the amazon account signed in and their kid did this (not thinking of it). It can totally happen. Especially if it wasn’t for much money.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            This is my biggest fear!

            I have my company card added to my amazon account. And I’m super duper paranoid that I’m going to get them mixed up at some point. I usually err on the opposite side where I pay with my personal card instead of using my company card.

            Related funny story… my boss was telling me the story of her admin asst presenting her with a card sleeve when my boss accidentally used her corporate card at Victoria Secret.

            1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

              I had a boss who did a weekend in Vegas and afterwards realized he had accidentally given the hotel his corporate card. Definitely not purchases that would fit with company policy. He immediately contacted HR to set up reimbursing the company.

          2. anon for this*

            This, I had the same thing happen with my Amazon Unlimited account. My personal card was compromised and replaced. I updated it on Amazon, but I guess in the meantime it went down the list to the only other card on the account and charged it to that one. That other card was my business card that was on the account because it was used to purchase other business stuff.

            The company had us turn in all receipts to accounting but we never saw the bill. It was charged to the company account for 9 months before anyone said anything. Sorry, but I don’t go looking for small charges like that. Sure, if my rent didn’t come out of my account I would notice, but the less than $10 stuff I probably won’t.

            It wasn’t a big deal and I fixed it and paid the company back.

          3. Kevin*

            Audible in particular is terrible about this. If you forget to cancel Audible and it cannot bill the credit card you told it to it starts trying to bill any credit card on your Amazon account it can.

        3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Nope. It was a subscription for 2 YEARS. That’s not an accident.

          1. Frita*

            Did it auto-renew or was the coworker required to sign in?

            My mother was paying for an autorenewed virus protector on her bank card befor I caught it. She hasn’t owned a computer for five years.

            1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

              Its clear that the company hadn’t been reconciling the charges every month. But the co-worker who was making the charges should have noticed that she was NOT being charged for a service she was using if it was in fact a mistake. And if she charges so much that it would have gone unnoticed, or she doesn’t check her bills regularly, that’s not the company’s problem.

              1. Peachywithasideofkeen*

                Yeah, I also would not notice if I was NOT being charged for a monthly subscription, especially one that is so small ($7). I have a several subscriptions that I am charged monthly for that I do not look through my bank account statements to make sure I was charged each month. I think it’s definitely plausible that it could’ve happened by accident. It doesn’t mean that it was definitely an accident, but I don’t agree that the person who did it would definitely notice the month after if it had been a mistake.

                1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                  Yes, that can happen, especially with trial subscriptions that turn paid at some time when you have almost forgotten about them – the card statement is the first thing to remind you that it’s a payable service.
                  The vendors are actually counting on not everyone diligently checking – that’s why I always put a reminder in my calendar on a weekend a few weeks before a trial runs out or a subscription comes up for renewal. Otherwise I’d definitely forget.

                2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Some of us are lax about checking statements. It’s a bad habit — but once I set up autopay I tend to forget about it. Subscription companies love people like me. :(

              2. LQ*

                Yes, sure. You can absolutely say it’s not the company’s problem. But it kind of is. The company really should be reconciling charges monthly.

                For some reason the electric company once decided I’d moved and didn’t bill me for 3 months. I absolutely did not notice. It gets automatically taken out, if the number was much higher or lower I might have noticed, but the absence of something is surprisingly hard to notice. (The best part is the electric company was very confused and insisted that my power would have been turned off, which it wasn’t, and that I must have moved, which I hadn’t. And they were the ones taking IN money on it.) I’m glad that some people are meticulous and never miss a penny. But entire corporations who have divisions of people who do nothing for 40+ hours a week but look at bills get it wrong. Why oh why would we assume that every person who already has a full time job is going to do better?

                1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

                  Yes the not reconciling charges IS the company’s problem. The person not noticing that she wasn’t being charged for a service she was receiving because of whatever reason is NOT the company’s problem.

              3. Thatoneoverthere*

                Also the kid could have done this, not thinking. Both my 8 and 5 year old can operate my phone and amazon. Its quite possible the Mom had no idea.

              4. Triumphant Fox*

                Agreed. The employee may also not be the person who looks at finances in the house. If I used my corporate card for my Kindle Unlimited account, my spouse would never ask me about a lack of a charge because they only ask when there is something unusual. “Did you spend money at XYZ?” “What is this $50 to X?” Rarely do they ask about small expenses and definitely not a lack of expenses unless they’re in charge of that particular item, in which case they just take care of it.

                I can definitely see being logged into amazon at work and accidentally using a corporate card, then forgetting about it. Especially since it’s not even something I use, it’s my kids’, so it’s not immediately a thought when I open my tablet.

        4. Aline*

          Another possibility is the kids linked the Amazon account to the devices without anyone knowing.

      3. CJ*

        It’s a company card, so the boss could very well use it too. I’d be pissed if I were the boss and I couldn’t charge something to my own company’s card, especially if it’s for something like travel expenses. OP should have let the boss know what the new password and PIN are before she set them up, and when she did that, she could have asked about the co-worker’s charges right away too.

        I think it’s highly likely that the co-worker did have the boss’s permission to do this. I can’t imagine anybody jeopardizing a very well paying job over a few bucks a month. And if I were the co-worker, I would assume that somebody is reviewing the charges each month, so I wouldn’t done such a thing without permission.

        1. valentine*

          I can’t imagine anybody jeopardizing a very well paying job over a few bucks a month.
          But this is what happened. (It’s more than a few bucks to me.) Maybe the colleague knows no one’s going line by line each month, or even year, but you not committing fraud for fear of getting caught is immaterial.

          1. Hekko*

            The risk/gain ratio for a tablet subscription vs. well-paying job is so unreal, I’m wondering what else the coworker charged to the company card in the past.

            It may be that the first time was an accident, which the coworker discovered after a month or so, but since there were no consequences, they grew more daring and into a habit of just charging things to the company on a regular basis.

            1. EPLawyer*

              I can see them thinking “Oh it’s just a few bucks no one will notice and if they do, I’ll just offer to pay it back.” They don’t see it as FRAUD. They see it as no big deal.

              But yes, the Boss needs to know. Only the Boss has the authority to decide how to handle this. If they want to let it go, they can. But it says a lot about the co-worker and the boss needs to know just as if the person were falsifying their time card or dumping all their work on you. Managers can’t manage what they don’t know about.

              Also get a new Business Manager. This was going on for 2 years and was only noticed because the gift orders looked off one month? There should be a report sent each month on what was spent on that account.

              1. CJ*

                Has the OP come back to state that check with the boss and co-worker was not given permission? If not, I’m not sure how everybody is so absolutely sure it wasn’t OK’d.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              It’s a fascinating example of how we can adapt to anything as normal. Usually here it’s an office full of bees, but it can also be a great office laden with perks, and someone will decide to die on the molehill of making sure no one gets to have nice things anymore.

              If you routinely get a $10,000 bonus, you can set aside $150 of that to pay for your kids’ tablet subscriptions, rather than risk the job with the five figure bonus to try and scam them for free. Yet people do this, all the time.

        2. MistOrMister*

          It looks like OP changed the security of the Amazon account, not the company credit card. Their concern seems to be that since they do most of the buying via the credit card, that if this had been found out by the bosses, they would have automatically been assumed to have made the charges.

          1. CJ*

            You’re right. I knew that when I read it, but I was commenting at like 2 this morning and my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

        3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          But people do this sh*t all the time. I mean, minor, small-scale embezzlement is unfortunately common – people misappropriating funds because they think it’s NBD. I would not discount this being fraud just because it’s stupid.

          1. Clorinda*

            Yes, people will take a box of paperclips. I mean, it’s literally a dollar at the dollar store. Go buy some paperclips!

            1. wittyrepartee*

              I think a lot of time that’s actually about convenience. In fact, sometimes the paperclips they take home actually get used for work too.

              1. Quill*

                Yeah, if someone was taking a pile of papers and paperclips home in their briefcase I’d assume that they were anticipating needing them to work on the papers. Just like pens migrate from cube to cube and back and forth from home and work (Except my flashlight pen, that one stays in my purse for emergencies.)

            2. KoiFeeder*

              Dragon brain says “Steal shiny objects to sleep on. You deserve it.”

              (More seriously, I’ll pick up things to use, get distracted, and then I’ll be at home by the time I realized I just… took the stapler with me. The high school administration insisted that that would get me expelled in college, but honestly most of my professors just thought it was funny since I always brought it back and apologized.)

          2. IT bad guy*

            Exactly! I belong to a FB group where someone was bragging that their ‘hubby’ is so great because he printed (in color) and bound a pattern book for her. Everyone was high-fiving and saying what a great guy he was – I said that I hoped her husband was the owner because this isn’t something the average person should be using the company color printer for – boy did I get blasted!!

            Some people have a very different moral or ethical compass than others and unless you clearly spell it out they have no problem stealing – because to them it isn’t stealing at all.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I mean…how many pages is a pattern book? Unless it’s huge, it strikes me as…overly rigorous, let’s say, to refer to a printing handful of pages on the company printer as “stealing” (and implying that anyone who doesn’t see it that way is lacking in morals/ethics).

              1. Ella Bee Bee*

                I used to work at a place where they were very clear that the printer was never to be used for personal use, not even one page in black and white. They definitely considered it stealing, but I think a lot of this was that we were funded by grants, and The grant for us to be able to do our work, not for employees to do their personal printing.

                At my current job they don’t care if you use the printer, just don’t go overboard. It seems to be like something that is very job specific

                1. Ella Bee Bee*

                  Though if it had to be bound, the pattern book had to be a decent number of pages, and I don’t think anywhere I’ve worked would have been okay with that.

        4. Catabodua*

          People stealing don’t always have a logical reason for the amount they steal vs what they may lose.

          I think it’s most likely it was set up wrong and then kids stopped playing whatever game it was and so it’s off her radar to be looking for the expenses on a personal account. So the subscription would go on forever without notice.

          Having said that… My ancedote – I work at a unionized place that still has a generous pension and mostly free health care (University with a health Care system that employees also use).

          I know a guy who accidentally used a company credit card for a personal dinner. The charge went through without anyone catching it. So he did it again and then again. Slowly at first, getting bolder as it went on.

          No one caught on for 2 years. Finally he spent enough that a year end review caught it (we’ve usually only spent $400 on this account why is it suddenly $3,000?).

          The guy lost a $70k job with a pension and free health care for about $4k of dinners at restaurants. Those of us who knew of this still can’t believe he was that stupid.

          1. Frita*

            A lot of humans have selfish entitlement issues.

            I’d wager that if he’s doing something this selfish and short-sighted, there are other issues with his personality.

            OTOH, if we fired/refused to hire every person who committed small-scale theft from selfishness, we wouldn’t have enough workers.

            Far, far too many people think theft or wrongdoing is ok b/c it’s a small amount, they are stealing from a corporation, “grandma will never miss this $5….” I’m not generally rigid, but to me stealing of any sort is wrong no matter what. The only time I’d excuse it was if it was necessary to prevent oneself or another vulnerable person from starving, suffering, or dying. That, unfortunately, is not the group most likely to steal.

            My personal experience is that people who commit this type of petty theft aren’t those who are truly on the bubble or who are living in abject poverty. It’s otherwise comfortable people who feel entitled or want the trill of the risk or want to feel like they are a clever clogs for doing it under the noses of their boss.

            It’s ugly.

            1. MK*

              “I’d wager that if he’s doing something this selfish and short-sighted, there are other issues with his personality.”

              People keep saying variations of this, but I haven’t found it to be universally true. People tend to have blind spots, especially as to what constitutes a “crime”.

              1. valentine*

                I think it’s most likely it was set up wrong
                We’ve nothing to base likeliness on. If she didn’t notice, I hope she’ll never again make personal purchases from work devices or vice versa and that someone will compile a list of expenses to compare the statement against because two years is an extraordinary run for negligence.

              2. fposte*

                Yes, I agree with this. It’s not like people who walk away with other people’s pens are likelier to murder people; it’s just that in many people’s heads, including mine, pens aren’t something to be fussy about. Some people put that line a different place.

                1. wittyrepartee*

                  Oh, I just walk away with them because I pack up my bag too fast and forget. Then I find the pen a week later and feel bad.

                2. fposte*

                  Sure, but we wouldn’t do that with somebody’s diamonds. We don’t consider pen misplacement to be theft, so we don’t police what we do with pens.

            2. Kesnit*

              I’m a criminal defense attorney. Year round, we see shoplifting charges from people trying to steal baby clothes and formula. Just after the New Year, we see an uptick in embezzlement charges from employees trying to pocket money in order to give their children Christmas presents. So there are people who really are doing it to make ends meet.

              1. Casper Lives*

                I’m sympathetic to your original point (former PD here). Christmas presents aren’t a necessity. People misjudge something they want for something necessary all the tome. Which goes back to the post – the coworker likely saw this as no big deal and something her kids want.

          2. jDC*

            If a $7 amazon charge suddenly started or stopped billing I’d never notice is based on what I spend on amazon quite honestly. I’d raise it to coworker assuming it was an error and proceed based on her response. If it was an error she’d be horrified and write a check. Either way I’d let my boss know but it really could be an error. I have to order things for my company from amazon all the time as well and have done this. I realized when the confirmation went to my work email and told my boss right away and wrote a check. Now I check my login name but it’s an easy mistake, especially since I use my home computer for work stuff fairy often.

          3. Anon for now*

            This sort of embezzlement or fraud often starts small and then the person rationalizes it so they feel like it’s a perk of the job.

            The director of a call center I worked at was manipulating the call stats in order to collect bonuses. It was infuriating that the call center employees were monitored and hounded to an extreme degree yet fraud was being perpetrated at the highest level. It was only revealed by a disgruntled former employee after it had been going on for years. How the person whose bonuses depended on stats had access to changing those stats without oversight was not seen as a problem or even noticed for years is a mystery. But Kathy logged in 6 minutes late for the second time this month, better give HER a warning!

          4. Triumphant Fox*

            At my last job one of the employees stole toilet paper. A LOT of toilet paper. We didn’t have proof because it’s not like we’re going to put cameras in the bathroom but it started when that person was hired and stopped when they left. That was really the least of the issues, but I always wondered why you would want such terrible toilet paper at home.

            1. Jadelyn*

              …now that’s baffling. I’m with you on “why???” – I’m fairly sure my employer has found the only supplier in the world to have figured out how to make half-ply toilet paper. I wouldn’t take that cheap stuff home and use it there if you paid me to do so, much less go out of my way to steal it.

            2. Luna*

              A week ago, I was wondering if I should grab a toilet paper roll from work and take it home because the fact that we were running out of toilet paper at home just did not register. But it was a sunday, and I realized the weekend’s almost over. We managed this far without actual toilet paper, we can go the last few hours without it, too, until the shops are open again.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Yup – that letter was the first one that went through my mind when reading today’s question.

        5. Harper the Other One*

          You would be surprised at the very small amounts that people will risk their jobs for. In some cases, it’s because they don’t think of it as a risk because “who’s going to fire me for one pizza a month?” (Actual example from one place I worked.) In other cases, it starts “innocently” – “I’m a little short so I’ll just buy this book on the company account and then when I get paid I’ll tell my boss I just have accidentally used it. Oops, I forgot my electrical bill was so high this month. Well, I’ll pay them back next month…”

          Of course the employee shouldn’t be fired until the circumstances are checked, but that’s what the LW is doing as a next step. But you really can’t assume from the price point that it’s legit.

        6. Agnes*

          An employee at my workplace was let go for almost this exact thing, charging her internet to the company.

        7. Emilia Bedelia*

          In an audit situation, “I assumed it was ok because who would do that?” and “I didn’t want to take a precaution because it would inconvenience people” are not great responses if it comes to light that the OP knew about fraud being committed and didn’t do anything to stop it. Especially when it comes to finances, OP was wise to take action as soon as they noticed.

          1. Artemesia*

            The Amazon charge may have been a mistake — I can see many scenarios where that happens and the person committing fraud was unaware they were. BUT the OP’s job is now on the line for not dealing with fraud if she fails to follow up with the boss. She can frame it as ‘possible error or have you authorized this?’ but failure to follow up means she is lax in fraud oversight and that is also a firing offense.

        8. Observer*

          You have it exactly backwards – If someone is the primary name on an account and they find a bunch of non-business charges, the very first thing you do is to lock it down. The second thing you do is let the boss know about what you did and why.

          In many position, you are as likely to get fired for not doing that as for the actual misuse of funds.

          The likelihood of the boss having allowed all of these expenses and NOT telling the OP and / or giving the OP the same permission are vanishingly small. Clearly the boss cares about the use of the account sufficiently for the Business manager to note the higher than usual number of gift purchases.

          The reality is that people are very strange. And, yes they jeopardize their jobs over trivialities all the time. Why? I don’t know, but it’s a fact. On the other hand, it’s stranger enough that I think Alison is right to recommend looking more closely at everything else.

          1. CJ*

            The OP said they are the primary user, but the account is in the company’s name. They also said they don’t normally check the charges on the account. So I’m not sure that it follows that the boss would have notified the OP of what they gave the other employee permission to do.

            There’s nothing wrong with locking down the account, but she should have immediately notified the boss that she had done so and why.

            All it takes is one phone call or email to the boss to find out if this is strange or not. But somebody should be reconciling me account monthly anyway.

            I didn’t mean to imply at my previous post that because it’s not a huge amount that it’s okay for the co-worker to do if they don’t have permission. I just think it’s strange that jeopardize their job over this, but other posters is given real life examples where that happened.

            1. Observer*

              It’s a corporate account that the OP basically manages. While is is POSSIBLE that the boss didn’t tell the OP that they gave the other person permission to charge personal items, it is NOT highly likely – CERTAINLY not likely enough that the OP should operate on that assumption.

              So step ONE *has* be lock down the account. Step two is to information the Boss and / or business manager.

          2. LCL*

            Meh. It’s a 3 person company and the boss is described as generous. Things tend to be casual in smaller companies, I can totally see the boss giving permission to do that. But, like Alison said, this was brought to OPs attention so she can’t ignore it. I’ve also noticed that with the expansion of Amazon into all areas of commerce that there is a lack of ease of use with their processes.

      4. Snuck*

        We have had a staff member using a card inappropriately. In a small business, with large cash flow/good wages/ happy environment.

        The issue wasn’t really about the dollars… there was some unusual stuff on there, but none of it was high in value.

        What really bugged us was the fact that this person, who was so well compensated already, and also given all sorts of other perks and benefits… saw fit to swipe just that bit more …

        It left a very sour taste in our mouths and was ultimately part of our decision to replace him. We couldn’t trust him with … anything… really after that. It was a clear cut example of the contempt he ultimately felt for us/our support of him. And most of it was over things like a few fuel bills (that he also claimed mileage for) and a couple of meals (when he wasn’t working on those days). None of it… much at all in value… but the attitude STANK.

        1. Frita*


          People who do this on purpose repeatedly (b/c it could be accidental), generally have other, deeper issues.

          Most people do stupid things like shoplifting when rebellious teenagers, but we grow out of it and learn that theft is wrong and it hurts others to be so selfish. Some people don’t, I guess.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Good point about contempt. A near certain relationship killer, for business as well as personal relationships.

          1. hiding name out of shame*

            I’m going to admit that I’ve stolen a ream of paper out of pique at a poorly managed job. It was not the most mature thing I’ve done in my lifetime.

            1. Quill*

              I still feel bad about the school library book I lost in the collapsible seat of my mom’s car for so long that my teacher told me to just keep it when I found it again…

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I lost one when I was in music school and then found it again after I’d already moved on from that city and state. I meant to return it, but I moved several times after that and it just didn’t get done. THIRTY YEARS LATER, I called the library and asked if they wanted it back. They laughed and said no, it’s okay. I even offered to reimburse them for the replacement and they said it was fine.

                Years later, I accidentally spilled something on a library book and promptly took it back and paid for it. Expiation, I guess.

            2. Jadelyn*

              *shifty eyes*

              When I was in my 20s, a terrible retail job I had abruptly decided to close the store and lay us all off, and wouldn’t allow us to transfer to any of the other stores in the area – we were outright told we couldn’t even apply for their openings as internal applicants, we’d have to apply as external candidates to those other stores. I’m fairly sure every single one of us yoinked a couple pairs of earrings or other accessories during the closeout sale out of sheer spite. Treat us with contempt, we’ll treat you with contempt in turn.

          2. Triumphant Fox*

            I remember my high school mock trial coach stole a TON (like over 200 – they were stacked in a closet) of Levenger legal pads from the place where he interned over the summer and let us use them. I loved them. They were so great and when I later tried to buy some on my own, I realized they were like $10 each. The law firm probably got quantity pricing, but still I realized later that what he shrugged off as no big deal might actually have been.

        3. Rosaline Montague*

          I had a colleague do this, too—always adding tiny things, like soda or a candy bar, to a legit work purchase and then expensing them. (And not when he was traveling, when food would be expected.) It really made me question his professionalism—especially because he was performatively “moral” and preachy regarding business practices and church.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            Oh God (pun intended), those preachy moral hypocrites are THE WORST. It’s OK to nickel-and-dime steal from a company but not OK to not be a churchgoer? Bleah.

    2. Snuck*

      I disagree… I’d put that pin on… and reissue the card for a new number if necessary.

      BUT… I’d also look to the pattern of this.

      I am not familiar with how the Amazon accounts work… is it a set and forget? Did she two years ago put the kids on and then not remember… maybe the mistake was only made once? Or is this something she’s done with some regularity, or updated or changed. Is it an add on to her existing work mobile phone account or something, and then she’s added it not realising etc?

      Some people in senior roles etc don’t really track the detail in all this… and not down to $7 a month for sure. There might be an assumption that phone accounts etc are all being paid out of salary as part of a salary negotiation etc… or whatever else is in their mind at the time. Does this make it ok? No… but it could be an oversight or misunderstanding. Locking the card down is good security while you work out what’s going on.

      More gift cards than usual – who is buying them, and why? Do you have a process to track them, are they only given out at set times/used in specific ways, and has that seen a need for more lately? If the other employee is buying them… should they be? Etc. This is more ‘interesting’ to me than the recurring charge on the phone / mobile account. That’s a recent and intentional use of a card, in a repetitive purchase behaviour. THAT I’d be looking and wanting to know more about. No excuses for that.

      And I’d take a surf back through past statements to see what else you’d find… a few minutes might be very illuminating…

      That and… locking up your card if it is compromised is standard operating procedure and your bank would expect it of you… if there’s fraud or skimming etc the bank will not help you if you don’t secure the card number properly as soon as you see an issue.

      1. Helena*

        Being very familiar with the dangerous intersection between Amazon and kids, I would not be at all surprised if this were accidental. First, depending on how your coworker has her passwords and auto-logins set up on a personal computer or tablet, a none-too-bright six year old can buy lots of digital stuff. A clever preteen could buy lots of physical stuff. There have been major lawsuits and settlements over this problem. If the device automatically logs into the work Amazon rather than personal Amazon, that stuff would be charged to the work account, and the parent may never know. Second, when you buy a kid a Kindle, it usually comes with some amount of subscription, and after that it charges you. So if they bought the Kindle on the work account accidentally 3 years ago, it would have automatically started subscribing 2 years ago, and again, parent would never know.

        I also wouldn’t be surprised if this were purposeful fraud. Either way, the solution is to bring it up to the boss.

      1. Anon For This One*

        My very small company does not have an Amazon account – the previous office manager did not comparison shop. So when I find something at a better price on Amazon, I order it through my personal account (to also get the Smile donation) and use my company card.

        I did not realize that the card would be saved as the default card, and when I reconciled the company credit card statement one month, I immediately noticed that my Audible subscription had been charged to the company card because it was the last one used. I immediately made a note on the statement, reimbursed petty cash for the amount, made a note in that record, and deleted the company card from my account immediately.

        I also told the owner of the company, who said “eh, it happens, you didn’t have to reimburse petty cash” but it felt super icky if I didn’t.

        It did happen one other time, I went through the same steps, and now I just go back into my account after I place an order to check that the company card did not get saved.

        It likely never would have been caught – I open the mail, enter the bills, reconcile the statements and receipts, and process the online bill payment. In the 3.5 years with the company, the outside accountant has never looked at the credit card statements once.

        It’s called being ethical, and doing the right thing even though no one is looking.

        Google Rita Crundwell to find out what can happen when there is one person in charge of everything – that is the reason I document everything so a 6 year old could understand it.

        1. Door Guy*

          That’s an accident and you took immediate steps to rectify it. I know I wouldn’t have a problem with that at the store I manage. If I had caught it might have been a different story depending on how long ago it happened.

          We don’t have company cards or accounts either and we had to order a few things off Amazon this month, I have Prime so we used my account, the other manager put in his card and info on my account, we ordered it, then I went through with him present and deleted all his info out. A bit tedious, as it’s not the first time we’ve done it, but he knows that his card is off my account, and he can put in for reimbursement from petty cash with the order confirmation. (I don’t carry a credit card to work and didn’t have the funds in checking for my debit card. I also don’t keep my own card info on my Amazon account (or any account) as I have been burned before by auto-renewals and account breaches)

          The other month I had left in a hurry and realized once I got to work I both forgot my lunch AND my wallet. I was also the only person in the office that day. I sucked it up and was starving when I got home. I had more than a few people ask why I didn’t dip into petty cash to get lunch and just pay it back, and my honest answer was I didn’t feel comfortable doing that AND I didn’t want to set the precedent on myself that “It had been okay before” and go down that potentially slippery slope.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          Yeah, I do wonder if it’s something like this that happened. Perhaps with someone who doesn’t look at their statements that often, or who doesn’t use Amazon all that often. Or who just forgot that her kids have tablet accounts.

        3. texan in exile*

          I got a new migraine painkiller prescription. I took one at work and it didn’t seem to be working, so I took another one.

          In 30 minutes, I was more than loopy. So it seemed like a really good idea to call my friend Deb in London from my office in the US on my work phone and talk for 30 minutes.

          The next day, when I was sober, I told the story to my boss and said I would pay the bill when it came in. He brushed it off, but I would have felt like I was trying to hide something if I had never mentioned it to him.

      2. Jadelyn*

        Because when you see unauthorized charges on any account, you immediately go into damage control mode, just in case. If you were wrong, you can unfreeze the account/remove the PIN/whatever later – but if you were right, and you didn’t freeze it immediately because you wanted to check first, you could wind up losing a lot more money before you got around to asking and then taking steps to fix the situation. The potential cost of overcaution is far less than the potential cost of lenience.

    3. Nora E*

      I run a three-person company and this would 100% be okay with me. Small companies are so different than large ones and I wonder if OP#3 is a new hire? Usually communication is key in such a small group and the very first call should have been to the coworker for an explanation and then the boss to confirm.

      That said, I wouldn’t jump to fraud and would be shocked if an owner of a three person company doesn’t scan the credit card statements from time to time. What is the likelihood that they missed a routine $7 charge for 2-years??

  8. MommyMD*

    Ovens have a slightly bad odor when they are new. Cooking at work is not really a big deal. We have crock pots going a lot. It’s not often. I’d tolerate it. They shouldn’t have complained but neither should the office complainers.

    1. Zombie Unicorn*

      “but neither should the office complainers.”

      Hard disagree. Why shouldn’t they?

      1. Frita*

        Sigh. I just wish someone present would have understood this was “new oven smell” and went to the people doing the roasting and asked them to belay the cooking one day. Someone could have arranged to have the oven run when a minimal number of people were around and the windows could be opened to vent the smell.

        This is a situation where no one was really at fault for the situation b/c no one thought to run a cleaning cycle (tragedy of the commons at work). Everyone’s reactions seem to have been escalating and personal rather than de-escalating and depersonalizing.

        A good friend is an FBI agent. He says the hardest part of the job is realizing that most things that happen TO you don’t happen AT you. He also says that the deescalation techniques they are taught should be taught to every human in grade school b/c we’d all be so much better off.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Everyone’s reactions seem to have been escalating and personal rather than de-escalating and depersonalizing.

          That’s what makes it such a perfect human microcosm.

          Like, I imagine the roast tasted horrible, but also that the group of 8 grimly forced it down while praising its deliciousness.

          1. valentine*

            I just wish someone present would have understood this was “new oven smell” and went to the people doing the roasting and asked them to belay the cooking one day.
            People who are so offended they run to HR when rightfully told they’ve stunk up the place probably wouldn’t be amenable to such a suggestion, and that would be reasonable because how do you expect them to preserve partially cooked, oiled meat?

            Idon’t remember having to prep a new oven, so I’m surprised at all the assertions that’s required.

            1. Frita*

              Meh. I’ve had power go out when making roast and had to finish cooking the next day. It’s not as good, but not bad either. And most people recook leftover meat in the microwave days after the initial cooking. Still find. Certainly interrupted cooking would not as inedible as meat cooked in an unprocessed oven. Because the residual chemicals do impact smell and taste.

              As to burning off the oven before using it, it’s not widely known in the US population, because when you have them installed in your private homes, the installers do it for you.

              Per the kitchen website :

              4. Break in the oven.

              This is technically called a “burn in” and it’s a pretty important step (or several steps). Almost every oven — gas or electric — will need a burn in (remember when we said to read the manual?) or else you will have some stinky chemical smells, which can permeate your food when you go to cook.

              Most manufacturers will tell you to heat your new oven to a high temp (think: about 400°F) for 30 minutes to help remove any residue from the surfaces inside the oven. Be sure to open the windows and run some fans — things will get smelly. You might have to repeat this process several times until you no longer smell the chemicals while the oven is on.

            2. Clisby A Williams*

              The instructions recommended that, and I’m under the impression it’s typical. However, I don’t fault these people for not thinking of it – the oven had been there for months. Assuming the workplace wanted the oven to be available for actual use, whoever oversaw the installation should have taken care of that.

  9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, you have to tell them. She engaged in theft (a crime!) for over two years, and the fact that she did it by defrauding your employer indicates this is a serious integrity problem. And depending on your industry/role, you may have a professional ethical responsibility (in the legal sense) to notify your boss of the fraudulent transactions.

    If I found out that one report committed fraud and that the other was aware but didn’t tell me, I would seriously consider firing both (the fraud would definitely be fired, and it would take something extraordinary to save the person who said nothing from the same outcome). At best, it makes you look complicit in her crime, and at worst, you end up looking like a co-conspirator. Don’t keep her secret—it’ll make you look guilty by association, and you don’t want the cloud of her dishonesty to hang over you.

    1. MistOrMister*

      Except, we are not sure the other employee was committing fraud. I agree that the bosses need to know immediately. And, my first thought was that OP should have spoken to the boss before doing anything with the amazon account, but after reading your comment upthread about banks freezing accounts over possible fraud, I agree that putting the extra safeguards on the account is a good idea for now.

      Still, as this has been going on for 2 years, it’s possible that it’s something the coworker had run by the boss. Perhaps it’s considered part of her compensation package. It’s also quite possible she snuck the subscriptions in thinking no one would notice. And if so, she was right as no one DID notice for two years, which seems nuts to me, especially in a small company!!

      OP, if you don’t tell the managers you are not going to look good when this comes out. If the coworker did this without permission, you are going to be conaidered guilty as well. And if she did bave permission, she and possibly your boss might be annoyed that you cancelled the subscription and changed the account security without speaking to anyone. Either way, it doesn’t go well for you if you keep quiet.

      1. Frita*

        We don’t know if it’s intentional fraud, accident, or allowed.

        It’s also not up to OP. Unless her job description includes a very specific financial audit/fraud aspect, she should flag it and ask boss if he wants her to investigate further to see if there are any other wonky charges or if the other employee reupped the subscription, etc.

        Personal anecdote: I just accidentally bought Godzilla, KOTM on my work Apple account instead of personal. I’ve never, ever in my life done anything like this. I’m absolutely neurotically detailed wrt to this sort of thing. Must be a senior moment sneaking into middle age. So it is possible it was a mistake. Fortunately for me, I work for myself in a one person LLC. So the only person to be upset is the spouse b/c he has to click two more buttons to watch the movie.

        A personal life philosophy is always to assume good intentions/mistake on others unless they tell you/show you otherwise. That doesn’t mean you don’t safeguard yourself or force the other person to make restitution.

        Boss may also know things about the coworker that OP does not. Is she flighty and absent-minded? Overwhelmed with family responsibilities? Health issues? Alternatively, is she shady? Did she steal significant supplies from the office? Did she say or do something suspicions at the corporate retreat?

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          It’s also not up to OP.

          In this case, it actually was. The independent bank manager whose job it is to investigate suspicious activity on the company’s account came back and asked OP to double check the statements because of the irregularities. OP did, noticed the discrepancy, then changed the account passwords and added a PIN while the bank manager continues sorting the situation out – banks do very similar things when they suspect fraud on a customer’s account.

          Additionally, your situation is not the coworker’s situation since your accidental purchase happened one time – this colleague has been using the company account for personal things for two whole years. Sure, it’s possible the employee had permission to do this, but it’s unlikely – the boss, knowing that he has an outside auditor looking at bank statements who would see these charges and question it, would be more likely to let her know ahead of time that these were authorized charges to ignore during review time to avoid this precise situation.

          1. CJ*

            It’s their business manager, not a bank manager. Speak manager needs to be concerned that the bank will be on the hook for fraudulent charges, in a business manners or doesn’t.

            I don’t see that there’s anything for the business manager to sort out. Just ask the boss already!

            What I don’t understand is why the OP had any question in their mind as if they should let the boss and business manager know.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ok, it could be a mistake. But that doesn’t really change the advice—OP should report this at least to the business manager. They can frame it as less accusatory if there’s a concern about misattributing motive (e.g., “I found these reoccurring charges for a children’s entertainment program. I’m not sure whether these were authorized or perhaps a mistake, but here are the transactions that I found that seem out of the ordinary.”).

  10. MommyMD*

    If coworker did not have permission to add the Amazon account, she’s been embezzling. Huge, fireable, serious stuff. You have to report it. And see if she is up to anything else. Go through the financials.

  11. Flash Bristow*

    OP1: I’m sorry your time was wasted in that way, but I guess that’s better than going thru the motions when they know they’re done. It would have been kind for them to have handled it better, though.

    I did once have a 5 minute interview but that’s because I knew the manager; the interview went “Hi Flash, you’ve got the job, this is your co-worker, what shall we talk about?” which sadly doesn’t sound like what happened to you. I’ll be interested to know what their follow up contact is like – a polite acknowledgement at the least, I hope.

  12. Flash Bristow*

    OP2: sometimes ovens stink on first use, all chemically and gross. Sure, the smell of a roast isn’t great or very considerate (and as a vegetarian the smell would bug me a bit, it’s just something I don’t like to smell) so I’d hope that *any* strong smelling food would avoid the oven in future – but I daresay it was worse than usual as it was first use.

    1. Clay on my apron*

      I’m a long time vegetarian with a sensitive nose – I stay out of the kitchen at lunchtime when people are warming up their food, but I never comment on what other people are eating. Having to inhale the odour of roasting meat for hours on end would make me feel really ill and I’d probably end up going home.

  13. Juli G.*

    To #2’s HR person, I hope this is the dumbest complaint you get this month but I bet it’s not.

  14. Lynn Whitehat*

    My dad’s first job interview was with an Italian restaurant in his neighborhood when he was 14. The owner asked him, “how old you, boy?” He said, “why, I’m 16, Mr. Barelli!” The owner knew that was a lie, but also knew my dad’s family needed the money. He said “OK boy, you work”, and started him washing dishes. The exception that proves the rule, I guess.

    1. valentine*

      OP1 wasn’t hired on the spot and lgumption and lying about something the employer’s going to discover soon isn’t likely to work for them.

    2. Holly*

      In this situation, your dad received a job through a personal connection regardless of qualifications because his family was in a bad spot. OP’s situation is re: a company with seemingly no personal connection, in which qualifications are usually necessary!

    3. Kathleen_A*

      I’m pretty sure Lynn was just sharing a fun, fairly pertinent story, not trying to teach a life lesson about short interviews. The point of the story was to entertain us, not send the message, “OP, don’t despair: Sometimes a five-minute interview works out great!” :-)

      1. Holly*

        You are probably (hopefully!) right – I think it just hit too close to home with something a parent would advise re: gumption!

      2. Clay on my apron*

        Um yes. Surprised this even needs to be said. Thanks for sharing your family story, Lynn Whitehead!

      3. Clisby A Williams*

        In the food and beverage industry here in Charleston, SC, where restaurants are desperate for employees, it probably still works out that way sometimes.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I could still see this happening today if the owner knew the person. Maybe not the child labor part.

  15. Flash Bristow*

    OP4: I’d be pointedly saying “well, nobody else was contributing… ah well. If you’d like the dish* for your desk, you’re welcome to a long-term loan”. I predict people quietly shuffling away, from the topic if not from your desk.

    * meaning the empty physical dish alone.

    1. Flash Bristow*

      Alison, I should add: even if had been just a fiver a week, that’s still $250 a year! That’s a nice Airbnb city-break weekend, an overhaul of your garden or…all sorts, or just a saving! If the colleagues thought about it at all, I can understand them maybe thinking it was no bother, they easily spend that much on wine at the weekend (or whatever) but they can surely appreciate that there *is* a cost, when they think about it.

      1. Yvette*

        A 17.9 oz bag of plain Hershey’s kisses (good, but not exactly the most expensive, as opposed to say Godiva or Lindor) is $5.59 at Target (as per website). There are about 6 Kisses/ounce so maybe 108/bag. Based on how the OP describes the situation they are probably going through several bags a week a least.

    2. ellex42*

      I maintain a candy “basket”, but have been pretty successful in getting (most) coworkers to contribute. I have, however, somewhat pointedly let the level of candy get low when I start running out, and I don’t fill the basket entirely because I know, from past experience, that the candy goes faster when the basket is completely full.

      I also don’t buy candy at full price – I haunt the discount stores on a regular basis and check Amazon for good deals, so my coworkers know that they get what I find, if I find it – which has led to some really exceptionally nice treats on occasion, and a “sorry, I haven’t been able to find X treat at a reasonable price lately” at other times, and I buy in bulk if I find a really good sale. Post Halloween discounted mini candy bars will easily last until the next Halloween if kept in a cool, dry place!

      But how long I decide to maintain the goodies depends entirely on whether or not I feel like people are taking advantage of my goodwill, and I definitely stay aware of my monthly spending on it.

  16. Tired*

    OP 5: I wouldn’t feel too badly about it! You sound like a very compassionate boss for 1. giving him the time he needed to recover and 2. not contacting him in order to avoid the appearance of pressuring him to come back. I’m sure you have done this/will do this when he’s back, but it’s always nice to have a big smile from a boss and a “glad you’re back with us!” Genuine compassion is the best gift, in my opinion.

    1. Close Bracket*

      Yes, on the day when he comes back, to be sure to stop by his desk and personally greet him and tell him that you are glad he has recovered.

    2. This Daydreamer*

      This! Cards and flowers are nice but making sure he can count on still making a living will help him sleep at night.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’ve always preferred to give an employee a “welcome back!” card/gift after their medical leave, instead of sending them something while they’re out. When I’ve been on medical leave myself, I’ve mostly wanted to just lie down and focus on feeling better, and checking the mail slides pretty low on the priority list. But coming back to work to a card and a nice plant is a good feeling. It let’s the person know they’ve been missed without interrupting their recovery time.

  17. Rose*

    I’d make up a cute stupid limerick/poem about the candy, laminate it and put it where the dish used to be.
    Here once was a bowl of candy
    And man it was dandy
    but $30 a week I did not have to spend
    so you’ll never see the candy bowl again

    1. FaintlyMacabre*

      There once was a worker in a cube
      Who supplied chocolates in a tube
      The financial strain
      Short-circuited her brain
      Buy your own damn candy, you rube

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I was thinking that explaining that you spend $1000/year on candy was needed, but this would be funny to do a poem about it.

    3. Marmaduke*

      Where the chocolates once used to rest
      You now see a candyless nest
      It ain’t coming back
      So buy your own snacks
      The drugstore’s right downstairs, you pest!

    4. ME!*

      I’m picturing a Taylor Swift parody…

      You ate it by the handful, colleague (munch!)
      But you’d never think before you’d crunch
      It always hit the spot right after lunch
      But now there’s just an empty bowl out there

      I know it was delicious and fun to eat
      And made every midday meal complete
      It made your day at work a literal treat
      But now there’s just an empty bowl out there

      Now that the M & Ms are gone you’re just so mad
      And Bob from Accounting is always sad
      I’d like to bring it back and make you all glad
      But did you really think that candy was free-ee-ee?

      Ooh ooh OOH ooh ooh ooh ooh
      Those treats were never free
      They cost lots of money

      Ooh ooh OOH ooh ooh ooh ooh OOH
      If you want me to replace my stash
      You’d better pony up some cash

      Or I promise that you’ll never see another candy.

    5. M*

      I have ended
      the sweets
      that were in
      the bowl

      and which
      you were probably
      instead of breakfast

      Forgive me
      they were prohibited
      by my financial adviser.
      so cold!

      1. Coco*

        Love! Although the OP could offer a bowl of plums with that poem . Just once though cause fruit is expensive as well.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Loveeeeeeeee this.

        I also have a candy bowl on my desk and I, too, have that one colleague who easily eats 5-6 pieces a day and has never contributed. I also started putting the bowl in a cabinet when I leave because someone, either a late-staying coworker or the cleaning crew, was taking the entire bowl.

        tl;dr, if you regularly partake of a coworker’s candy bowl, consider tossing them a bag of minis once or twice a year.

    6. cryptid*

      There once was a bowl full of snacks
      For which I was never paid back
      You’d take and you’d take
      So much more than I make
      (So pay me more cash, you cheap hacks)

  18. Alianora*

    #3, isn’t that exactly why the business manager asked you to check the credit card statement? If you decided not to tell her about your coworker adding extra charges, what were you going to say when she asked you if you found anything?

    The two tablets are on their own probably not something I would report. But adding extra subscriptions is definitely going too far.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Wait, buying tablets is not as bad as subscriptions? I feel like I’m misreading or misunderstanding—could you clarify?

      1. Miso*

        I understand that she probably didn’t buy the tablets, but just added them to the account so the kids can use it to watch things.

      2. Alianora*

        She added her own already-owned tablets as additional devices to the account. Like how Netflix allows you to register extra devices at no extra cost. She didn’t buy new tablets, unless I’m misreading.

        1. Zombie Unicorn*

          Amazon does indeed allow extra devices at no extra cost. Netflix doesn’t – you have to change your plan (in the UK at least) but on Amazon this wouldn’t be a big deal.

          1. Alianora*

            Oh yeah, I guess I assumed it was the Premium plan, since that’s what most people I know use, but you’re right.

          2. Anon for this*

            We have a Netflix subscription (in the US) and were able to add multiple devices at no additional cost. It sounds like OP’s coworker had a different kind of plan if she had to purchase a subscription for each of the kids in addition to adding their devices.

              1. doreen*

                In the US you can “register” as many devices as you want ( I think I have six or seven) but the different levels of account determine how many screens you can watch on simultaneously/download to – although I have access to Netflix on six devices, I can only have downloads to four devices/watch four screens simultaneously.

              2. EmmaUK*

                I’m in the U.K. too and have Netflix added to multiple devices. You can only watch on one at a time if you don’t have a multi screen subscription but you can still add devices.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ah, thanks so much. I read it as she bought subscriptions (not tablets), but when I re-read I realized it could have gone either way.

          1. valentine*

            I read it as purchased tablets as well, but now I think the gifts that brought this to light are separate, legitimate business expenses. So she has stolen $7*24 months and, if the amount she saved counts, the cost of three to six streaming accounts, depending on which don’t charge for extra devices.

        3. KimberlyR*

          There is a kids subscription, called FreeTime, that costs $7.99/month and it allows the kids unlimited games, shows, and apps within the FreeTime account. It’s usually linked to the parent account and charges the parent account. The employee would have to deliberately change it to the work amazon account from the parent’s account.

      3. M*

        It’s not actually clear from the letter that OP3 means that the coworker had *bought* tablets, as opposed to attaching them to the account. (The letterwriter notes that the coworker “did this for two years”, but she found the attached tablets in this year’s statement, which suggests to me that what she means is “two tablets are attached to the account”, not “two tablets were purchased on the account”.) If the latter is all that had happened – the tablets were attached to the account, but no purchases/subscriptions were going through from them – it would be cause for side-eye, but not panic. I assume that’s what Alianora means – that it’s the recurring subscription and any other purchases that is the issue.

        1. Zombie Unicorn*

          But that wouldn’t appear on a statement. Amazon bills you for money spent, not for adding devices. Probably best to leave this here though as none of us actually know for sure.

          1. Devil Fish*

            Depends on what you consider “bills” from Amazon. I assumed LW logged into the account and was reviewing the company’s orders/digital subscriptions/etc and the linked tablets showed up somewhere.

        2. Alianora*

          Yes, exactly – adding extra devices doesn’t usually cost extra. So it’s questionable, but by itself doesn’t rise to the level that I would worry about.

          1. MistOrMister*

            I wonder what the possible legal ramifications for the company would be if the children did something inappropriate on their tablets. Threatening people, child porn, that kind of thing. Maybe the legal risk of having people not directly affiliated with the company on the account could be a problem. I think even if no money is involved it’s still something that should be flagged for the boss because they’re the ones that need to make that call. And it’s just icky. Personally, I would be annoyed if someone got my amazon info and was adding devices without my permission, even if it wasn’t costing me anything. And as a boss that might make me look at them more carefully in the future.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Yeah, considering all the kids who do things like doxx, harass, and threaten people online, this could go to some pretty bad places if the coworker has an older kid who’s a chantroll or the like.

        3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          Ah, I was thinking that she bought tablets as well as a subscription. If she just added her kids’ tablets to the existing access they have to the service through the company, that doesn’t seem *quite* as sketchy. Still bad, if they’ve been explicitly told that those streaming accounts are for business purposes only, but maybe could be forgivable.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      WHAT was purchased is irrelevant – the bottom line is that she used the company’s account to buy something personal and it was brought to OP’s attention. OP needs to present the facts to boss and then let boss handle it how they see fit.

      1. Alianora*

        Did you read the discussion above you? I don’t believe tablets were purchased, just that already-existing devices were added to the account.

        1. Alianora*

          And to elaborate, I’m saying that if she just added the tablets to the accounts I might not feel the need to report it on its own. The boss already is paying for entertainment for the employees’ personal use, so I find it really unlikely he would mind them sharing with their families. If I found that by itself, I probably would have assumed the employee already got the ok from the boss.

          But combined with actual purchases, the lw needs to report everything they found, including the extra devices.

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            Yes I did read it and my comment still stands. The amount of what was charged is irrelevant.

          2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            And it’s not up to OP to make the decision that something under a certain amount doesn’t need to be reported, but something above it does…she needs to present ALL facts and let the boss decide how to handle it. Because if it does turn out to be fraud, the OP would be complicit in it if she didn’t report it.

              1. ZaDrCh*

                someone earlier on this thread explained that there are amazon kid accounts that do cost more if added to the account, with games and such. If this is what the employee did, (which it sounds like it may have been since OP mentioned paying for the games) it isn’t zero additional cost to the employer. The employer was paying for the kids accounts in addition to what they were already spending on the company account.

          3. DJ*

            The list writer says the streaming accounts are for company-use only, not personal use though. Either way, she definitely needs to report it and as ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss said, it doesn’t matter what was purchased, just that something was purchased for personal use on the company account, which means it needs to be reported now that the LW knows about it.

  19. Fikly*

    If this was a brand new oven, the smell was likely not the roast, but chemicals in the oven burning off. It happens pretty commonly with new appliances. I just got a new toaster and the first time I used it I had to turn my kitchen fans up all the way to blast.

    The smell generally goes away after a few uses. Does the kitchen have ventilation? If there’s an oven/stove, it really should. And it should be used when the oven is on.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      +1 on reviewing the kitchen ventilation — the room shouldn’t smell like raw meat either.

      1. Clisby A Williams*

        Yep. And I don’t even know what smelling like raw meat means. Unless the meat’s gone bad, does it really have a smell? I mean, if I get up close and sniff it, I guess I can detect something, but I certainly wouldn’t be able to smell it across a room.

  20. Zombie Unicorn*

    #5 As his boss your way of being compassionate involves things like arranging for him to get paid. It might be nice to be in touch with him before he returns if policy allows it, just to fill him in on any important news and plan his first day back, if that’s a thing there.

    If you do send a card, just please do it consistently for others. I did not get a card when I had a month off sick, someone else subsequently did, and I know some people will say that seems petty but it was pretty upsetting.

  21. Annekitty*

    OP#1- I agree with the idea that it could be bad management. I was hired to work at a local grocery store and they asked me 3 questions then hired me on the spot. I had to quit in less then 6 months management was so bad.

  22. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    This part of Alison’s response to #4…

    “It could be pennies and you’d still be on solid ground in deciding you didn’t want to provide it anymore.”

    …reminded me of something that happened some time back.

    I was at this flea market, and wanted to buy some packs of baseball cards from a dealer who had a table there. They were 99¢ a pack, and I took five of them. When I’m ready to pay, the guy says “Make it five dollars, we don’t worry about pennies.” Last time I looked, 99¢ x 5 = $4.95. I looked him straight in the eye and said: “Well, they’re my pennies and I do worry about them!”

    So I handed the guy the five packs of cards, walked away, and neither of us had to worry about pennies anymore.

    1. SS Express*

      Haha what?! If you’re selling something and you say “make it…” you follow that with a LOWER price, not a higher one!

    2. Fieldpoppy*

      We haven’t had pennies in Canada for more than a decade. If we’re paying electronically we pay the exact amount to the cent but for cash we round up or down to the nearest nickel. Didn’t cause a ripple when we made the change.

      1. Asenath*

        About a year after the penny was eliminated, I read a news story about someone who had tracked every single purchase to see if he gained or lost overall. I think it came out more or less even over the year, as you’d expect, but I was just astonished by the time it must have taken – and I’m someone who tracks my spending more closely than others. Just imagine – Morning coffee, rounded down by $0.02, lunch, rounded up by $0.01, etc. For a year!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I can understand the curiosity–if everyone rounds correctly it should shake out over time. But we hear about endless timecard shenanigans in which either employer or employee attempt to get all the rounding to go in their own favor, on some sort of “leaving money on the table” conviction.

        2. Quill*

          I have to say that when I get coins back I usually just immediately throw them in as a tip… but usually when I use cash these days I’m at a food truck. :)

          Wouldn’t do it at McDonalds, the money isn’t going to the people working there. (And I don’t know enough about their charities to figure out how much of seven cents is actually going to the charity’s mission. I’ll put a decent amount of effort into maximizing the impact of my donations…)

          1. President Porpoise*

            Oddly, McD’s Ronald McDonald House is one of the few charities I have good feelings for. two of my siblings, after catastrophic birth events, have used them so that they were able to spend time with their NICU babies for weeks or months following being released from the hospital. So, while they may have a fair amount of overhead, I know that they do eventually get funds to further their mission to those in true need. And I don’t feel bad about people at non-profits being paid a decent amount for their work – we can’t eat passion, after all.

          2. MsChanandlerBong*

            If you are in the US, you can put the change in the Ronald McDonald House container. The money is put to very good use, providing housing for the families of hospitalized children who have to travel to other cities to get the care their children need.

        3. tiasp*

          I totally planned to use cash EVERY TIME it would round down and debit/credit EVERY TIME it would round up so that I would end up ahead.

      2. doreen*

        I was recently in Canada, and was told this – but what I couldn’t figure out was why the bill would ever end in 4 cents or 8 cents rather than being rounded earlier in the process. I mean, the sales tax where I live results in a $1 item actually costing $1.0875 – but the register/bill will never show that as a total – it will be $1.09

        1. ThatGirl*

          Because if you’re paying with a card you pay the exact amount – it’s only cash purchases that are rounded.

      3. tiasp*


        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          Fun fact in the UK there are some older pennies that are worth more than 1 pence because of the amount of copper in them.

      4. Iron Chef Boyardee*

        “We haven’t had pennies in Canada for more than a decade.”

        Actually, the last Canadian pennies were made in 2012 – seven years ago. Not trying to embarrass you by pointing out your error because I’m jealous that you guys are able to deal with loonies and twonies ($1 coins and $2 coins) while we here in the lower 48 can’t seem to make even a one-dollar coin work. We still make ’em – both in the traditional silver dollar size and the smaller Susan B. Anthony/Sacagawea size, but they’re made for collectors, not intended for circulation.

        But I digress – and besides, I guess you’ve gotten so used to not having one-cent coins that it seems like they’ve been gone for more than a decade.

        I’m into coins, and in addition to the regular pennies intended for circulation, the Royal Canadian Mint made a number of interesting collector variants of the 2012 cent. One was a 1/25-ounce fine gold version, which originally sold for $129.95 CAD, and – one of my all-time favorite coins ever – a giant 65mm version (compared to 19.1mm for a regular penny), made from 5 ounces of fine silver. Only 1,500 of those were made and the original selling price was $495.95 CAD.

        Not that anyone would do it in real life, but one of the reasons I like these coins is because it’s fun to imagine someone trying to spend them for their actual face value of one cent… especially the 5-ounce silver version.

    3. Willis*

      I wouldn’t care about the nickel, but 99 cents is a pretty dumb price to post at a flea market if you’re not going to bother with pennies! I just imagine him saying that all day long…

      1. Perpal*

        It’s a marketing trick, people see $X.99 and round down, rather than seeing the price as X+1 etc (and on with bigger numbers too). I’m told by friends in sales they actually notice a difference if they do or don’t do it.

        1. Antilles*

          Yeah, this is a fairly widespread piece of sales psychology: Humans look at the first digit more than the rest. Instinctively, we see a huge difference between $4.99 and $5.00 even though it’s effectively identical. This is also why you see sales of $49 instead of $50 or $499 instead of $500 or whatever – our brains don’t see those numbers as equivalent even though they are.
          A similar thing can be found in pricing right at the top of a range – you practically never see items priced at $100 rather than $99, because the two-digit number instinctively strikes our monkey brains as a smaller number than the three-digit number.

          1. londonedit*

            It’s also why on sofa adverts the voiceover always says it as ‘Now only three-nine-nine!’ instead of ‘Now only three hundred and ninety-nine pounds!’. 3-9-9 sounds much less than three hundred and ninety-nine.

        2. Willis*

          Right, but when a store does it they charge you the posted price. Flea markets and yard sale type situations usually go with round numbers, ime selling and buying.

        3. MayLou*

          I used to scoff at this because I have always seen £4.99 as being funcionally the same as £5, but my wife recently referred to something as being £13 and another thing being £17 and when I saw the tags, they were £13.99 and £17.99 and I realised it was a genuine thing for some people.

    4. Emily*

      As a buyer, I might decide on my own to pay $5 for the cards (sometimes the hassle of dealing with exact change isn’t worth it to me), but I would be put off by the seller trying upcharge me like that.

  23. Jo*

    OP 3, WTF? Yeah you have to tell your boss what you found. The only thing I could think of to explain this is if your coworker accidentally used the company Amazon account instead of her own (not sure if that’s possible, but say if she had the two accounts set up on her computer and didn’t realise she was logged into the wrong one, and then didn’t check her statements regularly?) Maybe this is a stretch of the imagination, but it’s the only explanation I could think of, other than that the coworker fraudulently used the card.

    1. Bagpuss*

      It could be pretty easy to make the mistake, especially if you store passwords and/or card details.

      I have accidentally ordered stuff on my personal account for the office before now, it’s easy to do.

      1. Mathilde*

        Sure. For a month or two, maybe, and even then, you’d have to be quite forgetful. For two years ? No way…

        1. Jo*

          The thing is it sounds like it was set up as a subscription, so it’s something you would do once rather than actually putting through the transactions. Maybe not but that’s just how it read to me.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yes Amazon can hold multiple cards on your account so it is possible it was a mistake THE FIRST TIME. But 2 years worth of a subscription charge does not equal a mistake.

      1. Artemesia*

        Sure it does because you order once and it automatically renews. I’d never notice a missing 7 dollar monthly charge on my bill.

    3. Sharkie*

      I did this recently. I have the company card on my amazon account because sometimes I order stuff with my prime for the office. I recently bought a book and a movie on the card last weekend, and I had no idea until last week. It is super easy todo.
      My mom also accidentally bought a turkey fryer last year, put it on my sister’s card and sent it to my sister’s dorm. It happens a lot according to the customer service rep who helped her

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yes, it’s the curse of “saved” payment options. I’m paranoid about it myself, so I triple check it each time. But most people are just going through the motions and aren’t hung up that detail.

        I suggest that if you only use your corporate card very select times on Amazon on your personal account to delete that saved payment! It’ll make you think that extra step to have to input it.

        I don’t even carry my corporate card around with me for this exact reason. I’ve worked years with people who catch it after the fact that they used the wrong card. It’s never been an issue because we actually reconcile properly!

      2. Artemesia*

        I bought a large item on Amazon and almost had it sent to my brother who had received a gift from me as the last purchase. His address came up as the send address and I was lucky to notice that since I wasn’t expecting it.

    4. DJ*

      Yeah, I find it hard to believe this wasn’t discovered by the coworker within those 2 years. I mean this isn’t just a matter of using the company card on her own Amazon account, it sounds like she was logged into the company Amazon account and used it (along with the company card) to set up this subscription for 2 Kindle devices. If the Kindle devices are still in regular use, I would think they would have to be re-logged into the account at some point over 2 years. At that point wouldn’t the coworker realize that it’s not on their own account?
      Though, I’m basing that entirely on my own Kindle experience where I had to log back into my Amazon account when my Kindle updated sometimes. However, maybe it’s possible that it just stayed logged in, no problem for 2 years. Or that the Kindles were used for a while but are not used anymore so no one noticed.

  24. staceyizme*

    The Case of the Stinky Roast- it’s so bizarre that they’d go to HR! But it’s equally bizarre that people would care that much about the oven being used for it’s intended purpose. There’s a whiff of disdain in the narrative, sort of a “this isn’t quite professional, is it?”. That makes me wonder if there wasn’t much more razzing and complainant than was admitted in the letter? It’s fine to cook at work for a smaller group. If they did it every day or left a mess, I could see an issue. But “someone is making food and I’m not invited” is a reminder to order something nice for yourself at lunch, not a reason to convene a gripe session.

    1. MK*

      People complained about the smell, not because they weren’t invited. Frankly, it’s a bit inconsiderate to cook a roast at work: it takes over the kitchen. I would only do it as a special occasion thing, and also probably do the prep at home.

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Not to mention the time needed away from work to tend to it throughout the morning. The cutting and serving of the roast and then the cleanup, the lingering meat smell. It’s more than just a roast.

    2. Heidi*

      I agree. The OP seemed rather put out by the roast even before it started cooking and smelling. I had thought that the OP was one of many people who can’t stand the sight of raw meat. But maybe there are other grievances against the group doing the cooking and this roast is a bellwether of a larger conflict. Cooking a roast at work is unusual, to be sure, but it’s not worth prolonging the conflict now that it’s over, especially if the chefs don’t turn this into a regular thing.

      1. Aquawoman*

        I think people are reading a lot into her statement. I agree with her that walking into work in the morning and seeing someone preparing Sunday dinner would strike me as odd, and possibly a little jarring for people who have sensitive stomachs in the AM.

  25. miss fisher*

    As other people have pointed out, ovens often smell a bit chemically the first time they’re used.

    I tend to agree that a roast isn’t a great use of an office oven, but based on your letter I’m not sure that’s the real issue at hand – it sounds like there’s already some resentment on the team and it seems like that’s what should be dealt with.

    FWIW, saying ‘ew’ in regards to other people’s food/cooking IS rude. I’m not surprised your colleagues became defensive – that sort of behaviour almost always prompts a defensive response. (Although I agree they’re overreacting.)

    I’m curious how you know the group complained to HR and what their response was.

    1. EM*

      There are a few unusual things here- why HR shared that there was a complaint, being the first one?

      Is there a cultural thing at play here? Hard to tell from just a roast but I’d be pretty upset if someone looked at my food and said “ewwwe”. It was something common in primary school if kids came to school with anything other than white bread and peanut butter sandwiches.

      1. Myrin*

        I’d normally be with you if id were just the food’s own smell which upset people, but in this case, it seems like people were mostly reacting to the additional “weird odour”. I’d say the moment something smells chemical or like something’s unintentionally on fire or in the process of breaking the device used or whatever, it’s fair to at least comment something to the extent of “That smells really strange – are you sure the oven is working properly?”.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        I was wondering about a cultural element too since there was so much emphasis in the letter on the meat smell. Are these folks from a cultural group that using strong-smelling spices? If so, they may have been getting “your food smells/is weird” comments for a long time and “it smells so bad I can’t even go in the kitchen” felt like straw. That to me might also explain the HR involvement.

        OP, can you shed any light on whether this could be part of the dynamic?

        1. OP#2*

          OP here! No, there weren’t any cultural issues like that at play. And I don’t think anybody actually said “eww” to be honest – obviously my letter includes that word, but I was just giving the general vibe of ehat was said, and didn’t think about how that actually sounds more juvenile than anything that actually was said!

      3. nonymous*

        > but I’d be pretty upset if someone looked at my food and said “ewwwe”.

        I brought individually wrapped dark chocolates in once (Lindt or Dove or something similar). One of my coworkers only likes milk chocolate (I didn’t know this a priori) and took one as the bag was passed around. Once she read the label and realized it was dark chocolate she threw it onto the center of the table and said “ewww” loudly and made a face and some more jokes about how dark chocolate is gross.

    2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      I’m not sure it was necessarily “ew” because of the food, but possibly because cooking a roast takes *hours*. So even removing the new oven smell, that’s still leaves a meat cooking smell from 8am (can take a while to permeate) through to 1pm when the roast would have been eaten, and then *lingering* post cooking smells for the rest of the day.
      If it was a “proper” roast, would this also have included potatoes, which are cooked in fat (that’s a smell that can linger on clothes as well if you eat in the same kitchen as they were cooked in). A whole day smell, in other words.
      “Ew” might be a juvenile response, but not considering the whole environment is akin to microwaving haddock!

      1. miss fisher*

        For sure. There’s a reason most commentors are agreeing that a roast isn’t really the best thing for a shared oven.

        That said, whether someone is making a Sunday roast a few days early, or microwaving a fish, commenting “ew” and avoiding the kitchen aren’t effective ways of confronting the problem. If anything, they might exaerbate it, since that sort of behaviour often provokes defensiveness and heel-digging. So both parties are acting thoughtlessly here. If the smellers want to establish ground rules about how the oven is to be used (a totally reasonable idea) then they’re better served by confronting the problem in a more considerate way.

        1. JustMyImagination*

          I think the analogy of microwaving fish is spot on. Everyone knows it stinks up the office and the smell lingers but you don’t go up to the offender and tell them their lunch stinks.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m curious whether the “ew” arose from people who knew it was the assistant veeps’ food, or in the sense “Ew, what is that smell, did something happen in the heating system? Should we open all the windows and call maintenance?”

    4. What She Said*

      I don’t care if people use the oven in our break room, whether they offer to share or not. There however is one meat I cannot stand the smell of, pork. The smell of pork cooking makes me nauseous. I don’t know why but it does. Holiday potlucks are the worst at work when ham is everyone else’s favorite. I have to hold my nose when I walk down the hallway from my office to the bathroom when someone is cooking a ham. If I need water from the break room I have to send someone else in to get it for me. Even at family events, if a ham is being cooked I’ll either skip the event or hide as far from the kitchen as I can with my nose by an open window. My family knows to give me a heads up so I can decide whether I want to attend or not. All this to say, “eww'” is the least of one’s worry when I’m gagging over a smell.

      1. Artemesia*

        Are you allergic to pork? I wonder if your body is giving you a head up here? I love the smell of cooking pork — but it is pretty distinctive.

    5. vanillacookies*

      Given the likelihood of chemical-smell, I wonder if the people saying “ew” even knew there was food inside.

  26. Girr*

    #4 – I used to have a candy dish in my office for clients. Then I (like you) realized how much money I was spending on it and that it was mostly coworkers eating it. At first I didn’t mind because I joked that it was helpful because if I needed a coworker for whatever reason, I didn’t have to go find them, they’d find me eventually for a midday snack. Then I ran out of candy and it would have been a couple of days before I had a chance to refill it. Everyone complained. I got annoyed. The candy bowl not only was never filled again, but I even put the bowl away.

    I spent less than you (probably $10 a month) on keeping the candy stash full. But once it became an expectation, rather than a nice to have, I ended it.

    That said, last year I was given everyone’s leftover Halloween candy as a donation for the bowl, and we’ve had some staff turnover, so I’ve been reconsidering bringing the candy bowl back.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I would have done the same thing. People get greedy. Seeing as this is the higher ups complaining about the candy, I’d respond with a big smile “If you’d like to contribute the $25/month I was spending to buy the candy, I’d be happy to start re-stocking the bowl.”

      1. Antilles*

        I’m 100% certain the people making comments would immediately respond with “$25 a week? there’s no way it costs that much!”.
        To the extent they’ve considered price, they’re almost certainly thinking about it more like stocking a little jar of candy in your house for guests, where a $5 bag can easily last for weeks/months. Not the reality of dozens of people in the office each taking a piece of candy every time they pass by your desk.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I would have done the same thing! I simply don’t do complaints about things like a candy dish.

      I’m truly thankful that all these years and nobody has the nerve to act like that about the nice things people do. A few of us will bring things back for special occasions. [Say someone goes to the beach for vacation, sometimes they’ll bring us back taffy! Or when my boss visits a place well known for their craft chocolates, he brings those back with him. Other times someone will bring in left over Halloween candy or come in with sacks of Valentine candies that they found on sale for 75% off and want to share their spoils!]

      I think since we’re all pretty thoughtful, that helps a ton for us not to start having people with their expectations wildly high and lack of the entitlement attitude problem I’ve seen pop up around here with stories of these darn candy dishes.

      If a higher up ever said anything like “Oh you stopped stocking candy, booooooooo!” My response would be a calm “You don’t pay me enough to keep supplying the candies *shrug*”

  27. big X*

    #2: I have never had a roast stink up my kitchen before. I just found that unusual, unless people are complaining about the aroma of whatever seasoning (or the smell of meat in general, which could be annoying to non-meat eaters) or the meat was rotten. I suspect that the new oven wasn’t cleaned well or is burning off some of that new oven smell. I don’t think cooking together is a problem as long as they aren’t monopolizing the space – it’s just like a group of coworkers getting together for lunch everyday or someone microwaving fish at the office. You can call it clique-y or inconsiderate but there is nothing wrong with it unless it really interferes with work.

    #3: You have to tell for several reasons. 1) If it wasn’t permitted, then it’s embezzling money from the company. Legally, that’s extremely not okay, 2) You have a very generous employer and your coworker has taken advantage of someone who was treating them well…this is just audacious to me, 3) You are the primary user of the card and if it was discovered, you are the first suspect.

    #4: Gosh, that’s rude. I would flat out say that it was getting too expensive to keep up if they aren’t letting you politely say “yeah, no more candy, people, move it along” because money talks. If you want, you can explain that you’d be glad to continue purchasing if everyone wanted to contribute to a candy fund or negotiate with the company about reimbursement on your behalf but your independent candy supplying days are over.

  28. OP of #3*

    Thank you for your response. I informed the business manager of the unauthorized charges, cancelation of the kids program, and the new password and PIN. for the account The business manager thanked me for flagging it. No other inquiry has been made, so far.

    1. OP of #3*

      (more) I am not complicit in any unauthorized use of the company credit card. (I apologize for the typos. I hit submit too soon.)

      1. OP of #3*

        Wow! My coworker told the Business Manager she thought she was in her personal Amazon account when she registered both tablets (there were personalized accounts for both her kids) and signed up for the kids’ subscription service. She will reimburse the company for the charges. I have my own personal Amazon account; so I am not sure how she thought for two years she was in her own account…but that is her story.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Lol I figured that would be her excuse. She should be lucky that all that happened was she has to pay back the costs. And I hope this teaches her to be more careful about what she’s doing and where – if she was “accidentally” charging personal stuff to, say, the company credit card, that should stop going forward as well.

        2. bonkerballs*

          It’s pretty easy to do something once and then forget about it. If it’s a subscription service, it automatically renews – not something she’d need to log in for again. I for sure wouldn’t notice that $7 wasn’t being charged to my account. It shows up occasionally on the company credit cards I oversee and there are lots of examples above.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This is a great outcome! If she truly made this mistake, then no one loses, and if this is her cover story, at least she’s aware that it would have been dishonest to have done this. I suspect she truly did mistake her account with the company account.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Thank you so much for the update! If you’re up for it, I would be fascinated by the ultimate outcome (and whether Coworker did this covertly).

      1. OP of #3*

        Wow! My coworker told the Business Manager she thought she was in her personal Amazon account when she registered both tablets (there were personalized accounts for both her kids) and signed up for the kids’ subscription service. She will reimburse the company for the charges. I have my own personal Amazon account; so I am not sure how she thought for two years she was in her own account…but that is her story.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Thank you for the update.
      I would be interested in a further update if you have one (although of course even if they discipline her for it you may not know, unless she is sacked!)

      It does seem to suggest that it wasn’t authorised as if it wsa, she would have presumably noticed and asked you why you had done it

      1. OP of #3*

        Wow! My coworker told the Business Manager she thought she was in her personal Amazon account when she registered both tablets (there were personalized accounts for both her kids) and signed up for the kids’ subscription service. She will reimburse the company for the charges. I have my own personal Amazon account; so I am not sure how she thought for two years she was in her own account…but that is her story.

    4. zillinith*

      One thing to keep in mind is that this misuse was SO blatant there’s a slight chance it was an accident. Corporate credit card holders at my workplace frequently use personal Amazon accounts to make business expenses, and it’s a running joke at this point how if Amazon can’t charge something to your primary card it will ping-pong between stored cards at random and charge things to your corporate card without your knowledge. I know you said you have a corporate Amazon account, so that’s probably not the issue, but similar to how boss might have given her permission, worth keeping in mind.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I recall asking my husband about a mystery expense that was supposed to have gone on a card tied to maintaining the family homestead (between siblings) but Amazon got the bit in its teeth about preferred cards. Flipped the other way, my new Donna Andrews mystery and Sheba cat chews could have been charged to the farm.

      2. valentine*

        SO blatant
        It wasn’t, because no one was properly reconciling the statements.

        AS OP3 specifies the accounts are for company use only, I doubt the boss gave permission.

        1. boo bot*

          I think what zillinith possibly means is that it’s a recurring charge, on a business card, for what sounds like an amazon streaming service specifically for children – in other words, something that will show up every month, and be clearly marked as something not for business.

          It doesn’t sound like the coworker is necessarily in a position to know how often the statements are reconciled, but even if she is, that kind of charge will be visible no matter when someone looks, because it’s monthly.

          Personally I’m guessing it was an accident, in part because I’ve seen similar things happen that were definitely accidents (and several others listed in this very comment section). But ultimately it doesn’t matter in terms of the OP’s actions; they needed to report it, and they did, and it’s on the boss to figure it out from here.

    5. The Supreme Troll*

      OP, again, thank you for the follow-up. You 100% did the right thing here. We should not always dismiss something that appears so obvious and try to assume a positive spin on it.

    6. Observer*

      Thanks for the update. I’m sure you are NOT complicit, which is why it was so important to report what happened.

      Whose job is it to check CC / Purchasing records? If it’s generally your job, you need to do that as your next step. If not, then as long as you’ve put what you found in writing, you’re good.

      I’d love to hear the ultimate outcome of this if you’re up to it.

      1. OP of #3*

        It is the Business Manager’s job to check the monthly expenses for accounting purposes. I was surprised to see this recurring charge for nearly two years. My coworker told the Business Manager she thought she was in her personal Amazon account when she registered both tablets (there were personalized accounts for both her kids) and signed up for the kids’ subscription service. She will reimburse the company for the charges.

        1. Clementine*

          Absent any other sign of wrongdoing on the part of your coworker, I would believe her story about this charge. I have multiple Amazon accounts, and have charged things to the wrong one (not work-related).

  29. Approval is optional*

    L#2 The thing that stood out for me about this, apart from the strange complaint to HR, is that there are now MIDDLE MANAGERS cold shouldering staff. If some/all of the cold shouldered staff are their reports, that is so far over the line they wouldn’t be able to see the line; if none are their reports, then it’s not quite so egregious, but is still totally unacceptable. If this had been done by a manager who reported to me, I’d have had a very stern talk with them, and kept a very close eye on them for quite some time.

    1. EPLawyer*

      I caught that too. Middle managers have their little roast together. It stinks up the kitchen because no one realized the chemicals hadn’t been burned off in the year it had been sitting there. Other people complain about the smell, so the middle managers who should know better, get all huffy? Like “how dare the little people complain about our wonderful plan?” What else is going on in that office?

      Btw, I am firmly in the no fish in the microwave camp. Even if you love it, your right to eat your preferred food stops at stinking up the whole office for everyone else.

  30. cncx*

    Had a similar situation to OP3 at an old job. it was a place with blurry boundaries and we could use company accounts for private stuff for convenience’s sake but we had to reimburse. So using the company account would have been fine, but what also needed to happen was some kind of written justification (email to accountant saying “i bought this on this date, i will pay back this date”). Anyway, a coworker eventually got fired for buying something without telling the accountant.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Wow. I imagine they were trying to be nice/chill but that is just such a bad idea in the company’s part. Not to mention that some people just don’t do well with managing credit so it’d be easy for someone to get in over their head unintentionally.

  31. Rexish*

    #4 People are weird. What’s with the people saying things outloud? I’m sure I’d be disapointed for not getting free candy but actaully complain about it? I’ve thought about this in several letters in the past weeks. What has happened to the good old silent suffering where you keep your thoughts and disapointments to yourself.

    The next time they complain, just tell tehm that they are free to take over. That being said, $20 a week is insane. If a colleague was filling a candy bowl I would assume that they were the cheapest candies from a dollar store type place that would cost about $5/month (still a lot fo money and not a necessary service). It’s still fricking rude to complain but I would never imagine that it would be that much money.

  32. Mookie*

    re LW 4:

    One person suggested I could keep buying it but then ask the company to reimburse me!

    I’ve witnessed someone regularly turning this sort of comment* on its head. “I’m not interested in doing that, but feel free to organize something like that if you want. There are lots of candy fans in this office.” Once she found that that ‘suggestion’ pushed people away and kept them away, she’d always offer up as an explanation for the disappearance of candy her inability to keep personally funding the dish, anticipating the suggestion that she personally try to expense the candy. “No, but you do it and see if that works. Thanks for volunteering and good luck with it. I’ve always been partial to licorice, cheers.”

    *not about chocolate or candy, however

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Ha, I did something similar once.

      A colleague who had moved from my team to another department and I were building models of the same plant for different programs. Mine was a bit more detailed. I’ll put the rest in script form.

      Him: Do you think we should compare our models to see if we used the same numbers?
      Me: Nah, we have the same source. And then there’s quality control.
      Him: It’s just a few numbers.
      Me: So?
      Him: I’ll send you my model, so you can check!
      Me: Eh, I don’t have time for that. But if you feel that strongly about it, I’ll send you my excel file.
      Him: Never mind.

      Some data points: I look like a woman. He is a couple years younger than me. I look A LOT younger than I am.

      I’m also nobody’s fool.

      1. Quill*

        Lol. This is legit the only thing that group work in school should teach you: how to get out of doing other people’s work for them.

        1. Pineapple Incident*

          So much yes! Whether it’s got to do with a work task or someone complaining that the candy dish at work should be paid for by management /the company vs. one employee’s personal funds, this is so important!

          It can be really difficult at work to say no to things that someone else has shunted your way, especially if there’s a time crunch involved or the project/task is high-visibility. If you leverage group work to take those opportunities where someone is really not pulling their weight and bring it up professionally with your professor, you’ve got a leg up when you need to nonchalantly do this in the real world at work. It should just be an expectation that people who are asking for extra work do it themselves!

    2. CM*

      That would be my preferred approach too. There are a lot of snarky answers here about greedy and entitled coworkers, but it doesn’t sound like OP#4 has ever expressed any discontent about providing the candy, and just removed it with no notice. So I understand why everyone is asking about it. I’d say, “It got to be too much for me, but so many people have asked me about it, I’d suggest that you get together and start your own candy dish, or see if management will support one for the office.”

  33. Bagpuss*

    #3 – Absolutely report what you found.

    I can think of 3 possible explanations for what’s happening and reporting it is appropriate in all three.
    1. She is using the company card / account for personal use and it is both intentinal and unauthorised. This means she is knowingly stealing from / defrauding the company. You have an obligation to report it and could be viewed as being complicit if you don’t, now you are aware of it.

    2. She has accidentally used the account becuase she forget which account she was logged into / automatically used the last card – in this case, as soon as it is rasied she will be able to expalin and reimburse the firm, and you have demonstrated that you are chekcing carefully.

    3.She had permission but your boss forgot to tell you – in which case you’ve just given proof that you did check carefully, and your Boss can confirm to you that it is not an issue and that you can unlock the accoutn / give her the passcode.

    None of these options are bad for you, as in each case you have deomonstrated that you did the checks you were asked to do, and informaed the appropriate people of what you foud.

    That said, whe n you report it, I would use language like “These trnasactions appear to be persoanl ather than business related” or “I hadn’t been told whenther [name] was authorised to use the comapny accoutn for personal items such as subscriptions for her children” rather htan “I found [name] fraudelently using the company account for her own personal shopping” as that way, you are not accusing her of anything, you are simplyflagging up anomolies, so if it turns out that she had authority, or that she made a genuine mistake (or the company choses to treat it as a mistake) you haven’t burned any bridges y explicitly accusing her of fraud.

    1. MistOrMister*

      Very good point about not being accusatory when bringing this up to the boss! If everything was legitimate or it was an accident, OP having pointed things out matter of factly will go a long way towards preserving their relationship with their coworker and possibly their boss as well.

  34. Paperdill*

    I work at a community health centre and one of our group rooms just happened to have a random stove and oven for no discernible reason. Well, one day, one of the people in one of the groups brought something to heat up and share. Two years later the group was making a beautiful smorgasbord, other departments would contribute food and the corridor was filled with delicious smells. They brought food around to the offices and shared with the workers and it became a really positive thing for the group and the centre. Except for one small department who decided they didn’t like food smells anywhere but the kitchen and had it shut down. The group that was meeting there soon dispersed after that and all the departments went back into their separate rooms and all the positives that that meal brought went.

    The reason I tell you this story is that I think it’s worth considering the positives that cooking a meal together at work could bring. Obviously there are some humps to get over, but maybe thinking outside the box and trying this a few more times could be beneficial?

    1. Snuck*

      Bingo! Next time… make dumplings and toss them in with the roast (now they’ve conveniently burnt off the chemicals hahahah).

      Get in there, and make some form of apple crumble you can cook in the oven while the roast is cooking…

      Pop down to the shop and grab some sparkling / mineral water and fresh juice and add to the party.

      If you want to break up the clique… just join them… with good quality contributions… and keep adding more and more people in … “Oh Tara has got meringues and we’ll toss some cream and fresh fruit on them” and “John has brought some home made mint sauce to go with the roast lamb” will soon turn it into a group building exercise ;)

      1. Carlie*

        …when do they all work, though?

        I can’t envision a stove being anything but either a waste or a signal that the company wants people working lots of overtime.

        And you think it’s a pain to keep the work fridge clean, wait until you see the buildup in the oven and re constant cooking utensils in the sink. No, thank you. Maybe a toaster oven, max.

        1. Kate R*

          “…when do they all work, though?”

          This is what I was thinking. I’ve never made a roast though, so maybe the prep time isn’t really that long. I would have assumed the oven was for reheating leftovers that are better heated in an oven than a microwave.

          1. President Porpoise*

            Roast prep is pretty fast, but I wouldn’t do it at work. Browning the sides of a beef roast (to lock in moisture and give a excellent flavor) has to be done at high heat on the stove and can be a bit stinky.

            1. Snuck*

              It takes me about half an hour to get a roast in the oven…

              Heat it up to about 230 degrees celsius…
              While it’s heating… trim and oil the meat, get it in the roasting pan.
              Toss it in the very hot oven for about 20mins – until it’s got a light brown colour all over.
              Veggie prep while it’s browning…
              After it’s browned… toss veggies in to the pan.
              I like to seal and cover the pan then (we have a chef pan, with a lid)
              Turn oven down to 180ish…
              Walk away.
              Return … I like to leave it in for about 2-3hrs for 1-1.5kg of meat… I like my meat roasted to the point of collapse. For a lunchtime 1pm roast… for six or eight people… I’m putting 2kg of meat in, at about 8am, and dropping the temp to 160 (Celsius) and leaving it be. Veggies are super soft. Plenty of juices to toss into the gravy mix. Meat so tender it falls apart as you carve. YUM.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Length of time doesn’t really make it more or less likely to be noticed. If it really was an accident I think it’s really normal not to notice a small expense that ISN’T on your personal statement. When I review my credit card bills I am just scanning to make sure there is nothing I *don’t* recognize–I’ve never thought to myself anything like “well I know I pay for the gym every month, let me check and make sure that IS listed here.”

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Regardless, it’s not an excuse. Yes the company is responsible for reconciling their monthly statement, and if this is the case the boss can use that to determine how they will be disciplined. But it doesn’t excuse the fact that the company has been paying for something personal for them for 2 years.

          1. bonkerballs*

            The OP says the boss talked to the employee and they’re going to reimburse the company. No need for “discipline” for a simple mistake – and if a company hasn’t reconciled it’s accounts for *two years* they have way bigger problems than an employee accidentally using their Amazon account.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The worst place I tried cleaning up [I got them halfway there at least but yeah, still not far enough but you can only lead a horse to water], only reconciled their accounts every year for year-end to give the financials to the CPA. I only stayed long enough to get some things cleaned up and then left because of the stress of thinking about their previous practices ever coming to the surface, I don’t do well with that kind of monster-in-the-closet feeling lingering!

  35. Shefali*

    Letter 2, the odor issue seems to be secondary to the main question: ‘ am I justified in thinking this is a little obnoxious and cliquey way to do something at work’

    From Alison, the answer is clearly no.

    For the people in the office, why is it obnoxious to try something new at work (that doesn’t even effect actual business). The smell had mixed responses in the office and the responses ranged from no smell to juvenile (Eww!). If they reported to HR, it is possible OP is not aware of-the level of teasing/insults received for trying an acceptable activity.

    (Note: we have no evidence this is a larger pattern of anything, just one roast in an unused oven) . I work in R&D and a bit of flexibility on experimental disasters is the way of life, I’m surprised by the comments to the ‘chefs’

  36. adam807*

    #2: My office is 3 stories above a restaurant and at least once a week around 4:00 a distinct burger smell makes its way to the office. I love burgers! But it’s really distracting/annoying. I can’t really explain why. It’s just the wrong setting! I bake for my office sometimes but I can’t really imagine baking IN the office. Maybe if I could I would? But I don’t know it just seems weird. I feel like that oven was probably intended for catering events or meetings? I get the impulse but it feels like A LOT.

    #4: I wonder if you could keep the candy dish but not refill it? We have a candy basket at work and take turns refilling it. There’s no system (but we’re also a very small office) we’re just aware when we haven’t done it in a while or grab something when we have a hankering. Maybe if people are used to you having the dish and it’s partly about location, they’ll get the hint.

  37. ButterflyHigh*

    Op 2 – raw meat doesn’t smell? You mean cooking meat smell? Seems like the oven smelled bad. Are you vegan or vegetarian? The wording with it sounds like it you are, which is fine. Many people can get offended by comments on food. I.e. “Wow that raw meat sure smells.” “why don’t you eat meat?” “Look at Stacey, eating healthy again.” It’s possible that things were said outside the new oven smell that warrant them to go to HR.

    As far as it being obnoxious and cliquey? No not really. No one else was using the oven. If you want a good party of your own, go for it. I would say the only obnoxious thing is the new oven smell.

    1. ToS*

      It may be something that can’t be helped, as in new-oven smells. There are many thoughts on vegetarian, omnivore and carnivore diets, and smells are smells. The curry is going to have an aroma whether it’s tofu or chicken. Aren’t you glad this was not fish?

      This letter reads as if there is a deeper rift, and, yes, that politics, not just office politics, may be running into it. It’s best to live and let live when it comes to meals. I swing toward vegetarian eating, but made the office turkey for one Thanksgiving office meal. Use the oven to make delicious food. Baked tofu is super-easy. Throwing in a potato or a sweet-potato-with-foil can be efficient. Picking a fight over what’s for lunch, especially when something is planned as fun, is not where you want to be.

    2. Emily*

      I have found that some raw meat (especially pork) has a distinctive and unpleasant smell. I likely wouldn’t expect to notice that smell after the meat is in the oven and has started cooking (at that point you’re probably right that it’s a cooking meat smell + whatever weird chemical odor the oven was giving off), but it is a thing!

  38. Casual Librarian*

    When I got rid of my candy dish, I framed it like I was getting rid of it for my health. I just said it was too tempting and that I was becoming addicted to my afternoon chocolate. People were much more understanding when I explained it that way rather than “I don’t want to spend my $$ on you.”

    1. Joielle*

      Yeah, I think this is a situation where a little white lie would smooth it over with the least amount of pushback. Nobody can argue with you doing something for your own health. And it’s a perfect segue for suggesting that if someone wants to take over candy dish duty, they can put the bowl on their own desk.

    2. NowWhat465*

      When I was an assistant, I tried phrasing it that way until one of my coworkers took it upon herself to comment about all my other food choices and if it looks like I lost weight (or hadn’t lost any). Another coworker told me I could move the candy bowl to the table on the other side of my cubicle, that way I wouldn’t be tempted but could still restock it as needed.

      I finally pulled one of my colleagues aside (who was an assistant prior to my time but had moved up the ladder quickly) and let her know I was spending approximately $15 a week, constantly getting complaints on the type of candy (someone really wanted me to stock Ghirardelli instead of Dove and Hershey’s), and getting interrupted during my work if people mentioned the bowl was low or they wanted more options and wanted to see what I had in my desk (yes they would really interrupt work conversation to ask me to check the extra in the drawer). She gently mentioned it to the higher ups on my behalf during the course of casual conversation “I might pick up some chocolate for my office, want me to grab some for yours? I noticed NowWhat is interrupted a lot and I need her to focus on this assignment. Plus I’ve been forgetting to chip in my part and I don’t want her to get stuck with the expense on her own.”

      It clued people in that this was not a service provided by our office (a manager actually apologized to me since she thought the office reimbursed me and it was one of my assistant duties), that the interruptions did affect my work, and no one had ever given me money towards it. OP #4 if you have an ally in the office who can do this on your behalf, I highly suggest you do so.

  39. Falling Diphthong*

    #4 Of course, of course, it’s the top executives making several times as much as the food suppliers who complain.

    This is a fascinating recurring theme whenever we discuss free food at work, that it’s the most senior people bowling people out of the way so they can fill their carry out boxes with lasagna before the regular staffers eat it all. Or complaining that the lowest paid staff member has stopped bringing them free cupcakes every week.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      It IS fascinating, isn’t it? When it comes to free food, I’ve seen the biggest gimme-hands on senior and executive employees. Three or four sandwiches, multiple bags of chips and cans of soda, a loaded plate of desserts, ALL IN ONE TRIP TO THE BUFFET TABLE. Impressive dexterity, in spite of everything.

      I’ve also seen lower-level staff hide entire pans of catered food – ‘Hey, no one touched this and I’m taking it!’ – but that doesn’t irritate me quite as much.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Thanks, that’s fascinating.

        When the weather turns ugly, then it’s okay to steal bagels. (I suspect some sort of “If I don’t pay for the bagel, then I’m not really eating it and the calories don’t count.”)

  40. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I’m a meat-eater.
    I’m not sensitive to food smells.
    And I still think it was inappropriate for a small group to torment others with cooking smells that they will not share.
    I’ve worked where you could smell food — once in an office block with a restaurant on the ground floor, once in a cubicle warren near the company cafeteria. It wasn’t easy — it just plain pushes some internal button to make you hungry. I gained weight in both situations because it became so hard to resist extra snacking.
    Imagine being the one who has to smell the holiday meal cooking and doesn’t get to have any.
    Imagine if that general usage got approved and the clique cooked their roast during the daytime of Good Friday or during Ramadan.
    Imagine if no one bothers to clean the oven after they cook in it.
    If I were running the zoo, my rule would be the oven is for open company events — letting the caterer keep food trays warm for a company-wide holiday dinner, for example, but not for prepping food for only the C-suite.

    1. PB & Mayo*

      Does that also apply when I’m microwaving a very good smelling lunch for myself? Am I not allowed to have aromatic foods? How about if a group of people all bring in tasty foods they made at home and smell up the office with those same holiday-meal-like smells, or during Good Friday or Ramadan, and then they sit together to enjoy those meals? Why should one person’s quirk of having their hunger buttons pushed by certain smells take precedence over a normal use of a kitchen (preparing foods) where the company has provided an oven for employees to use?

      And there is no complaint about the employees not cleaning up after themselves, so no need to imagine that in this case.

      1. Moray*

        This is not at all a normal use of an office kitchen, though. There’s a difference between being able to smell your lunch briefly at lunchtime and fragrance-ing the office literally all day.

        Imagine if the three coworkers were baking cookies nonstop from 7:30 to noon and then not offering any to anyone. Their prerogative? I suppose, if the oven is open for anyone’s use. A cool thing to do? Nope.

        1. PB & Mayo*

          It’s cool with me. I don’t think I need to be offered food every time other folks bring in stuff, or another team has a party. They do their thing, my team will do ours. If other teams want cookies or cake or fresh baked roast, get together and do it! Don’t be the wet blanket that kills other people’s ideas.

        2. YuliaC*

          Yep, I would also find it very uncool if I had to smell a nearby roast for 4-5-6 hours at work. Even if I was offered some at the end. It’s one of the most crave-inducing smells for me, and I would have a very hard time working.

        3. Aurion*

          Management might step in if extended use of an oven isn’t a good use of work time (the time to prepare a roast, check on the roast, clean the oven, etc etc would be far longer than the time required to reheat yesterday’s lasagna leftovers). But it’s up to management, not coworkers, to make that call. If the powers that be don’t forbid extended use of the oven, then then the chefs are using the oven appropriately and the coworkers don’t have a leg to stand on. Food have smells, sometimes you’re gonna smell it, just like apartment dwellers can hear their neighbours through the thin walls. It’s just a part of sharing space.

          I mean, my cube is next to the kitchen entrance. I smell a cornucopia of food anywhere from 11:15 to 15:30 every single day. If making other people smell food is a problem, no one at my workplace would ever be able to heat up a lunch.

  41. MOAS*

    Re #5— I agree, not sending anything doesn’t make you a jerk—So long as you are a Good boss in other ways. I kind of had a similar situation, my otherwise always appreciative and thoughtful boss didn’t give me a card when my dad died. I didn’t think anything of it, bc he made up for it in other ways. When someone else went through the same and their boss started a card and cash collection, my boss apologized to me for not doing that. as a manager, I may do that for my reports if the situation arises, but I do that kind of stuff regardless.

    #2–That’s so weird they’re reacting like that. My coworker brought in a waffle maker and waffle making ingredients and makes keto waffles 2-3 x a week. He gives a bunch to a lot of people. It smells heavenly. Tbh though I’m a little miffed cz he didn’t offer any to me—But that’s my problem, not theirs— I would never go to HR and complain about it. So weird

  42. Hamburke*

    I might be wearing rosy colored glasses and it’s still the employees fault for not monitoring her kids but perhaps the employee signed her kids into the app to watch movies on a snow day/school holiday so she could get work done and the kids were the ones to make the game subscription xpurchases. They wouldn’t be the first kids (or adults) to realize that in-app purchases cost actually dollars – it used to be pretty well disguised – and subscriptions don’t ask to confirm for each month so something like 3 clicks 2 years ago for something that may only have been used for one day could have cascaded this. It’s the low dollar amount that kept this from being noted – and I get it, there’s a threshold every company has for requiring documentation. Yes, report it but realize it might not have been the intent and tighten up you financial procedures.

  43. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #3 – a lot of commentors are excusing this as a mistake. Colleague was accidentally logged into the wrong account, not everyone checks their credit card statement regularly, etc. Sorry but no. It is possible that when it was done initially it was in error, but the subscription was charged for 2 YEARS! That’s not a mistake. And everything OP did was correct. It needs to be reported and handled by the boss.
    #4 – I’ve said this a few times above, and I’ll say it again. And I would have no problem saying this to higher ups either. “If you’d like to contribute the $25 per month I was spending on the candy, I’d be happy to continue filling up the bowl.” There’s no reason ANYONE should be spending that much of their own money on candy for an office regardless of how much you make. There either needs to be a candy fund that everyone contributes to (and once that fund is gone, so is the candy) or it needs to be a company expense. The entitlement alone would make me stop providing it.

    1. LQ*

      #2 it can both be a mistake (auto billing is essentially defaulted on everything) AND everything OP did could be correct. I’d actually say that because it could be a mistake it’s all the more reason to have OP do what they did.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        My issue is with the excuse making. They may have genuinely made a mistake, but that still doesn’t make it okay. Regardless of whether it was intentional or accidental, some companies could consider this fraud. It doesn’t matter why it happened , it only matters that it DID happen. We don’t know what happened once the boss had the information (I saw above that the OP said she did report it to boss) or how the co-worker reacted when confronted (if confronted). But we currently live in a world where lots of people want to blame everyone and everything except themselves when things go wrong. And by people excusing what happened as a potential mistake that is not the responsibility of the co-worker, they’re missing the point. You screw up, you own it, regardless of your intentions.

        1. Karo*

          I strongly disagree – the how/why matters a lot. If it’s intentional, then it’s fraud and the person should be fired immediately. If it was an accident, though, then it’s an accident. I’m not saying they shouldn’t face some consequences, I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be training and precautions added to avoid it in the future, but accusing someone of fraud for an accident is extreme.

          Also, I think you’re reading the commentors “excuses” as how they’d react if they were the coworker in question, when I think they’re just trying to explain that there are possibilities here other than fraud. If I had done something like this by accident, my immediate response would be abject apology with an explanation of how it happened, a plan for it to not happen again and acceptance of the consequences. I’d be, as you said, owning it regardless of my intentions.

        2. PollyQ*

          No one has said that it’s not the co-worker’s responsibility, nor that OP shouldn’t have followed up with the business manager. OP’s updates say that she said it was a mistake and that she’ll have to reimburse the expenses. Yes, the co-worker clearly screwed up, but there’s a world of difference between making a careless error and deliberately stealing.

  44. Database Developer Dude*

    OP#2 – Cooking a roast

    If there’s a strong smell when someone’s cooking a roast *before* it goes into the oven, then there’s a problem with the meat. That needs to be addressed first.

    OP#3 – Short Interview
    What’s the position? I’d expect an interview to do what I do to be a lot longer than an interview to be a cashier at WalMart

    OP#4 – Candy Dish
    You don’t owe your co-workers anything. Don’t engage.

  45. blink14*

    OP 2 – the weird smell is likely from using the oven for the first time (or for the first cook time of that length). My oven at home was replaced a few years ago, and it smelled funny for awhile (this was noted as normal in the manual). Was their reaction a bit over the top? Yes. Should the situation lead to banning group cooking events? No. It’s life, people are going to use the kitchen to eat food that may smell unpleasant to others, whether that’s take out, being reheated in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in the oven. I don’t really see a difference with them using the kitchen to cook something from scratch.

    I think the only major point of concern would be if those cooking are spending too much active time prepping and cooking during work hours – something like a roast is easy to prepare in the morning and then cook with only minimal check ins.

  46. PB & Mayo*

    For #2, based on some of the responses here I can only imagine what kind of comments and pushback the oven users were getting from people actually in that office. I’m not surprised if they went to HR to say something like “hey, we are trying to do this nice team building exercise and people are being weirdly hostile to us for using an oven that is in the kitchen! Did we do something wrong or is it ok for us to use the oven for something like this? And if it’s ok, can you please tell everyone to leave us alone?”.

  47. EmmaUK*

    3) Has she ever purchased things for the office from her Amazon? If a card on the account expires or declines, it automatically hits up a different card that has been previously used.

  48. Heat's Kitchen*

    OP3 – I want to know what company has three different streaming services for business use? I could understand Amazon Prime, because the streaming is included with the membership. But not Hulu and Netflix.

    1. Bertha*

      That is a great point – and I’m pretty sure the licenses of Hulu and Netflix prohibit commercial use. That doesn’t mean they enforce it, but a big part of my last job was making sure that we were compliant with licenses, copyrights, etc.

    2. Moray*

      When the LW said “company-use only” they may have just meant that they were only for use in the employee’s household, not accounts to be shared with the wild world? That’s the only thing that makes sense to me, because yeah, business use of Hulu doesn’t track.

      If so, it’s a neat perk. I would love to have all three without negotiating streaming service trades with friends.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      We buy cable for our breakroom. I could see a company paying for Hulu or Netflix instead of that.

      One of my bosses had a tv in their office because they liked listening to tv while doing their work, I’m the same way if I could have a tv, I would. I listen to things on Hulu sometimes when I’m reconciling accounts [I “watch” things that are actually easily just listened to, such as 20/20 or the news. I don’t need to watch it, there’s not much interest at the screen contents.]

      Or if they had a waiting room and streamed videos there for guests while they wait. Or if they have a daycare for employees, they could use it in that [that one is unlikely here since it’s a small business but for a larger one if they had a play room area for kids who needed to be brought in].

      Lots of ways you can work this into a company.

    4. RS*

      I know that bars, restaurants, nail/hair salons, and dentists sometimes have streaming subs to entertain customers. Maybe this company has these services streaming in their lobby or something similar.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I had some medical tests done a few years back where the preparation takes some time, and the nurse who started the process gave me the remote and let me choose something to watch on Netflix while I waited. OP’s company could be using streaming services for something like that.

  49. Bertha*

    #3 – I used to do all the Amazon ordering for my company, and there was at least one time when I accidentally charged something to the company account that was actually for me. I was also in charge of reconciling and submitting receipts to accounting, so when I discovered this, I was mortified and brought it to my boss immediately and we fixed it. Thankfully I had years of NOT doing that under my belt, so she gave me the benefit of the doubt. That said, if no one has been reconciling the receipts.. well, I actually have a $6 subscription that I never use, and forget that I have, until I see the monthly charge. If I had accidentally started that auto-renew on a company card, and no one was reconciling the receipts.. I could have easily NEVER NOTICED that I’d accidentally done that, and would be absolutely mortified that I’d been charging the company for two years.

    I guess I’m surprised that so many commenters here keep such good track of their own records and charges that they’d notice such a small cost not showing up in their bills. Even if it was something I’d used, if I didn’t get a monthly bill I might think “Oh, I must have paid for an annual subscription” or something like that. At this point, I have a bunch of entertainment subscriptions (Audible, Hulu, Netflix, Philo, NYT, Wa-Po, etc.), small auto-renew monthly donations.. it would be very easy for me to miss not being charged for one of them.

    I’m not saying that the OP didn’t do the right thing – like I said, I would have been mortified if I’d done something like that, and would have been happy if protections had been put in place to prevent me from doing something stupid!

    1. LQ*

      I totally agree. I’m really surprised by the outrage of folks about someone not noticing. I am much more surprised a company who employs people to watch this didn’t notice it sooner than I am that a person with a full time job and kids didn’t notice it.

      I’m glad so many people have never missed something on their own financials, but I certainly have.

      I think that this very human thing is why so many companies, rightly so, have good strong audit trail requirements.

      1. Buttons*

        Exactly. I bet it was just a mistake, she was logged into the company Amazon account and didn’t notice, when she added the kids’ tablets. I don’t check my Amazon credit card statement all that much because I only use it for Amazon orders, and I couldn’t tell you how much my extra subscriptions cost each month.
        I am much more concerned about a company next auditing and checking their statements each month! That seems like a way bigger deal.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Accidents do happen but they’re caught like yours.

      We have a company Uber account for example. A couple times people don’t change profiles and charge our card incorrectly.

      Our accounting and executive email accounts get the ride receipts after each ride. So I’ll see Lydia took an uber at 9pm the night before and I know she’s not on any business trips so I just reach out and say “hey Lydia, you charged our account for your Uber last night by accident, please get Uber to fix that (they do account charges charges without fuss).”

      I don’t expect you as a person to catch as much really. I expect a business to be monitoring their accounts though. Especially one so small you don’t have that many transactions to confirm.

      I notice every charge on my personal account as well but that’s a quirk of mine. I used to keep personal ledgers as a child, I was destined for accounting though ;)

      1. Bertha*

        To be fair, I notice and track every charge on my account as well – but I’d easily *not* notice if something under $10 was *not* charged.

        You mention receipts for Uber – I just checked my emails and for example, I have a WaPo subscription through Amazon and they only sent me an email when I first set it up, but sure enough, they didn’t send me any emails when they renewed after that. I check my bank accounts nearly every day to make sure I’m tracking all of my charges, and I see it there, but again, if it *weren’t* there I might forget about it.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s a dangerous lull to be lured into. You should know each monthly payment and when it is supposed to be deduced. If Netflix doesn’t charge me every month, I know that something is wrong and it’s only a few bucks. Same with Spotify, Hulu and Amazon Prime. If one doesn’t show up, it’s time to start asking questions to avoid disruption of services as well as a duplicate charge in a few months when they realize there was a glitch.

          Not knowing what subscriptions are active and either being deducted or being mysteriously skipped is how you end up over paying, over spending and just in a bad financial situation if anything happens to your account.

          Anything that’s pre-approved for a monthly renewal should be flagged and in a world who still uses ledgers, you should be putting it down to then reconcile against what actually is charged. I just have a list of monthly bills and their cost if they shouldn’t fluctuate.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            + 1

            I do all of this to avoid any services being shut off or being overcharged for things. Frankly, I find it surprising that many people here don’t keep close track of these things. Then again, I have a very tight budget, so I have to be diligent about what goes out versus what’s coming in.

    3. Goldfinch*

      Same. I mentioned upthread that I would never notice a lack of charge–only a suspicious charge.

      Hell, it took me six months to notice that we weren’t getting bills for my husband’s life insurance anymore. He’d switched his professional license to inactive membership, which accidentally triggered his union-provided life insurance to list him as no longer eligible.

    4. Jo*

      Yeah, while I can see how this could potentially have been done accidentally, I think the OP was right to flag it, and putting something in place to prevent unauthorised use of the card, accidental or otherwise, will help stop this kind of thing in the future.


  50. Buttons*

    I am on a medication that makes me incredibly nauseous in the mornings. If I had to smell a cooking roast for hours in an office, where I likely couldn’t open a window, it would make me gag and likely throw up. If they are using the oven to heat a frozen pizza or warmup leftovers, that would be one thing, but something that takes hours to cook is inconsiderate.

  51. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #3 This woman is bad news and I’m terrified that a company had a card and doesn’t reconcile it each month. She knows it’s not monitored so she took full advantage of that.

    What else isn’t monitored? Do you have petty cash in the office? Does she have access to the bank checks?

    This needs a full investigation and they need their statements for two years combed through. She also needs to be fired.

    I’ve cleaned up after enough after theft and larger straight up embezzlement. Your company being so small and inattentive to statements is exactly what sets themselves up for this behavior. I’ve seen business partners steal the other one blind. That’s why nobody should be so trusted that you never pay attention to the financials even if you know the person well. It’s transparency and in case of an audit, the company can’t expense her kids subscriptions even if they wanted to.

    Your boss may be generous but that doesn’t stop people from dipping in for even more. Some people are greedy and even great wages, bonuses and the best insurance plus office perks isn’t enough for them. They still want more.

    I’ve only cleaned up books for owners who were good people, took care of everyone well and still got robbed by a trusted employee in the end.

    Also how would they have caught it if their card numbers were skimmed and someone started buying things? It happens all the time. You reconcile for more than just catching your employees misuse of a card but for card theft. You only have 3 days to report an ACH debit on a bank account and usually around 60 days for fraudulent charges on a credit card. I’m crying inside and pray the $14 a month subscriptions were the only wrong doing and was some kind of accident but I’m not convinced until someone proves there’s no more funky charges.

    1. Mediamaven*

      I agree that it’s terrible accounting that they haven’t noticed these charges. If I charge $3 to my amazon account my bookkeeper requests the receipt and description. And I have often accidentally charged personal things I’m the boss so I don’t get in trouble, she just has to fix it). But if these people were ever audited, omg.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, I need to see receipts for everything, even when I know what it’s for. Thankfully with Amazon, I can log in and see what has been purchased on our account and if it’s something we don’t regularly purchase, I ask whoever put it through for details.

        This is why you should always have accounts set up, then it’s easier to go back and collect receipts. Also our account is linked to our purchasing account, so that we get order confirmations and shipping confirmations sent there. So the paper trail is easily detected.

        Otherwise if it’s a specialty purchase from a random website, the person who buys it knows to forward me the receipt immediately with their notes or they’re going to have the question flung at them a few days later of “What’s this charge, where’s the receipt?”

        I have had cards stolen and found fraudulent subscriptions on both my personal and assorted business cards. The more you use them, the more likely it’ll happen to you. I’d rather be safe than sorry. You can’t just let small charges go unnoticed and unaccounted for, that snowballs into a lot of money.

        Most fraud isn’t in large sums. Large sums are found quickly. So most know to just tack on these small subscription things or pad their pockets with the left over change, etc.

    2. Hamburke*

      It’s likely reconciled since they were looking at a change in amounts but they don’t require receipts for under a certain threshold. This is something I see in my job often enough – busy offices that don’t have a finance dept.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s an awful practice, there’s no threshold for what needs a receipt. You need receipts or you are not in compliance when the IRS decides to audit your records.

        “We’re busy and haven’t opted for an in house bookkeeper” isn’t going to save you from the fines that will pile up.

        It wasn’t caught for 2 years though, the only thing they’re doing is inputting the charges and not cross referencing. That’s not reconciling, that’s just plugging charges in willynilly.

        Those books are probably cooked to death tbh.

        1. LarsTheRealGirl*

          That’s not exactly true. Plenty of companies have policies that say “if it’s under $x you don’t need a receipt”. It can be perfectly legal and appropriate based on your company’s materiality thresholds.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Yes, plenty of companies take their own calculated risks, it has nothing to do with it being actually acceptable by the governing bodies standards or not.

            It’s under the idea of “it costs us more to track these expenses to that level verses the odds that we’ll be audited and the auditor will start asking questions and may deem them unacceptable to be a business expense.”

            If you can’t prove what those charges are for and they see a lot of them, they will go ahead and deem them unacceptable expenses and require you to adjust your returns to pay taxes on the amount you erroneously claimed on your returns.

            But in the end, yes you have to be “caught” and many businesses live blissfully thinking it would never happen. Whereas I’ve seen audits personally and seen them dig and ask for information regarding things that you’re best bet is to have a receipt, with the details available.

  52. MsChanandlerBong*

    When I started reading #3, I thought there was an innocent explanation. My boss lets me use the corporate Amazon account to order things I need for work (a lumbar-support pillow, a reference book, etc.). Well, I forgot to log out, so the next time I needed something from Amazon for my house, I added it to the cart and very nearly checked out before I realized I was still logged in to the company account.

    But then I read that she’s been doing this for two years…yikes.

  53. Candy*

    Hi Allison, this is the OP re the candy dish. Thanks for your different perspectives on things! What especially hit me was that people weren’t thinking about all the other people taking candy as well and didn’t realize how much it added up. At any rate, at six weeks out, comments and questions have finally stopped. About a week ago, one staff person brought me a bag of candy, saying he realized he ate it all the time and never contributed – nice gesture, but a bit too late as I was not going to start up the candy dish again. I gave it to a woman who keeps candy in her office. Anyway, thanks for answering my letter!

    1. Clay on my apron*

      Thanks for the update OP. I’m not sure how people would NOT realise that other people were also eating the candy. It’s like thinking that you’re the only one who uses the office printer and wondering why the paper keeps getting finished.

      1. Artemesia*

        I’m always surprised at people not contributing unless they think that because the bowl is with the AA that somehow the office is paying. I had my own office and had a candy jar and there were a few people who would come in to hit it, but those people always contributed the occasional bag of candy since it was obviously being paid for by me.

        1. PollyQ*

          That doesn’t surprise me. There are offices where it is something that the company pays for, and unless the admin were specifically collecting money to cover the costs, I’d assume that was the situation.

  54. Allypopx*

    #1 My husband just had a really short interview but I think he still has a good chance of getting the job. It’s just…not a job they care about very much (he’s a teacher but this job would be for a building sub so they’re probably putting their resources into the more long-term classroom positions). Still, not great hiring. But depending on the circumstances not necessarily the BIGGEST red flags, but definitely something to take in context with any other information you’ve gleaned about this company.

  55. MommyMD*

    I also supplied candy and spent a good amount of cash every week. Only one other person helped. People were taking heaping handfuls. I stopped when OTHER departments rudely came in and cleaned out the basket.

  56. Clay on my apron*

    OP1, what a waste of your time. I can’t actually imagine how a 5 minute interview would go.

    Besides that it was 5 minutes long, could you give us any more details?

  57. IWantADog*

    Every now and then, I will supply sweets and baked goods to my workers. One day, I had a very rude (and just recently fired due to her behavior at work!) employee come up to me and say “Hey, are you ever going to bring us cookies again?” after a semi-long hiatus of bringing things in. I simply told her that there was nothing stopping her from bringing in sweets and other stuff, and that shut her down immediately. She never harrassed me again, though never brought in sweets to share either but I’ll take it as a win

  58. Pampaloon*

    I’m sort of astounded that an office kitchen has an oven that is intended for that kind of use. We had to put a stop to a guy who was on a chicken only diet bringing in his George Forman and grilling raw chicken 3 times a day over concerns about cross contamination in the office kitchen. You have no idea whether folks are cleaning up properly with raw food in play in a community kitchen. Yuck. That said, it does seem obvious that the new appliance burn off was in play and everybody should have chalked this up to poor decision making about the first use of the oven.

  59. Get off my lawn!*

    Regardless of what was being cooked I think it’s somewhat odd to use/have an oven in the work break room. I mean, who has time to cook or heat up full on meal during their lunch break? It also seems a bit like the recent trend towards “my office should have all the comforts of my house” (e.g. naps! dogs! yoga! babies! work whatever hours I want! cook an entire roast in the break room all morning!) I don’t get it.

  60. Rex*

    All other stuff aside, I think there is a chance that zoning issues prohibit using raw meat in the office kitchen. A lot of people don’t know how to handle raw meat correctly, and if it’s done wrong it can be a real hazard.

    1. Commercial Property Manager*

      Why would you get that impression? This is absolutely not an issue unless they are trying to sell said cooked meat as a food vendor or restaurant. Otherwise office potlucks would be a nightmare.

      The only time zoning comes into this is in the initial installation of the oven in the kitchen, IF the job was permitted, and in my experience, even then they’d only care that an acceptable hood was also installed to vent the smoke and odors.

  61. Anonymeece*

    I had something similar. I actually made it to the finalist stage, and from there, the interviewers barely interacted with me, I drove an hour there and waited 30 minutes past my start time, and then they spent barely 10 minutes with me.

    I assumed the same – and later found out I was right – that there was an internal candidate they probably had already decided on and just needed to “fill in the gaps” with interviewees. It’s hard not to be frustrated by the waste of your time, but I wouldn’t necessarily jump to it being your doing bad at an interview, just one of those things you can’t control.

  62. CubeFarmer*

    I once worked in an office where the kitchen had a full range. That was a godsend for poor, early-career me. I would often use it to heat up soups, or something else, for lunch. I never used the oven. I could see if a bunch of employees wanted to all pitch in together do a roast for a week’s lunch, or if someone wanted to pop a pizza in there to warm up. I don’t think heavy food prep in the area would be appropriate, but if someone wanted to bring the pan into the office ready to put directly into the oven, I don’t think that would be an issue.

    The food smell could be problematic, but offices generally smell like food at lunch. That’s what management gets for decades of this go-go-go culture.

  63. so many resumes, so little time*

    I have been the candy person at my workplace, but I’ve never done it year-round, which seems to keep expectations to a minimum. My policy is that I’ll stock candy full-time when I can buy it cheap. Which generally has translated to most of September and all of October because of Halloween specials, and periodically throughout the year around holidays where there are candy sales (Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc.). My coworkers have always been aware that I am paying for it out of pocket–because I have told them–and a few, here and there, have bought candy or given me money toward the stash (one of the big bosses would sometimes hand me a $20, which was nice because he did not eat candy).

    We got a new boss a couple of years ago who decided there should be free snacks on a more regular basis. Now he pays for chips and cookies every couple of weeks I haven’t put out any candy for months, though I will for Halloween. Other coworkers bake regularly, or make candy at home, women and men, and bring in quantities for others to share, and it’s common for people to bring back candy or cookies when they take vacations. I think it helps that almost everyone contributes snackage at some point in the year, so there’s no expectation that one person will always be responsible and at the same time, as far as I can tell, employees don’t feel obliged to contribute.

  64. Blackcatlady*

    #3: every CPA auditor that read this sighed, rolled their eyes and said yes you need to read monthly statements carefully. Every single auditor has a story about finding employe fraud. Sadly some of them cost small businesses tons of money.

  65. Anna*

    To the person who got rid of the candy dish, to the squawkers who complain about not having it anymore, you could always be outright and say “You know, I found out I was spending $1,000 a year on candy alone, I had to stop buying it.” That alone would make me stop complaining about it, if someone told me that. Someone hearing you say you can’t afford it may privately roll their eyes because they themselves don’t realize how much it adds up! But when you give them a whole price tag? That would totally work.

  66. Former Employee*

    I didn’t read all of the comments so I have no idea if anyone else brought this up, but I would be very concerned about someone bringing in raw meat and preparing it in a common area. Did they bleach the counters, sink, etc. afterwards? I don’t participate in pot lucks because I have no way to judge the standards other people have for their kitchens and food prep. The last thing I would want is to have to worry about cross contamination if I set something down on the counter in the kitchen at work.

  67. Luna*

    As someone who finds the smell of slow-cooking meat absolutely off-putting, I would stay far, far away from that kitchen and make sure to grab something from the bakery before work, and eat it in a place that is not haunted by this smell.

    LW#4 — The chocolate is coming back when people using it are actually funding it properly.

    LW#5 — I would refrain against that. Not everybody enjoys cards (they end up collecting dust before eventually being thrown away), flowers (they end up drying out and being thrown way) or candy (they may not like candy, in general), so there’s no need to send something. If he’s busy recovering from his illness, he might not even want anything. He just wants to recover. And if you send flowers or candy, what about the delivery? Getting up while sick for that doesn’t sound appealing.

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