my coworker flaked out on pet-sitting, are in-person rejections unkind, and more

It’s four answers to you questions. Here we go…

1. Coworker flaked out on pet-sitting and won’t return my keys

I am a legal secretary and earlier this year asked one of the law students at work to mind my apartment and cats in exchange for free rent/utilities/etc. for two weeks. All was well, a couple of issues which I went through with her and she said she would stay again.

This time, she was due to start the day after my last day at that job and I got a text that night (Saturday) saying she had lost the keys and what did I want her to do? I phoned her to say she would have to find them because to replace the security key for the building was costly, but I did have a spare door key to my actual apartment. I told her to sleep on it, maybe she would remember where she put them, and for that night I would get my neighbor (with the key but who had never set foot in my place) to feed them. One cat is on a special diet but I just told my neighbor to give them both the special diet to make it easy for her. I told the cat sitter to let me know the next morning if she found the keys.

Sunday, nearly midday, haven’t heard from her, text her to ask what is going on. She replies saying it is Father’s Day and she is busy with that. What about the cats??! She said she got my neighbor to feed them. I said, “Okay, but you need to keep me informed.” That night, still haven’t heard from her. Couldn’t get hold of her so phoned my neighbor, who said that she had texted her half an hour ago to ask her to feed them that night and the following morning! I was livid and when I finally got hold of her, she said she was at a family dinner and would get to my place too late to have my neighbor let her in so would arrive Monday night. I went off, told her she was irresponsible, that my neighbor would not know about special diet, to clean the litter trays, etc. I did keep apologizing for losing my temper, but how could I be sure she was actually going to turn up Monday night? After that call, she texted to say that after my abusive behavior, she didn’t feel comfortable “helping” me out and not to contact her again with no mention of the keys. I said I was sorry and respected her decision (I had lost my confidence in her anyway) but that obviously she needed to return my keys. No response.

I gave it a week to let her calm down and texted again (very politely) with the cost of replacing keys and my bank account details. No reply. Then left voicemail, again very polite, even saying, “Do you need more time to find the keys?” Again no response. I got back from holiday a week ago and tried phoning her at work (I know everyone there, having worked there for years). She managed to fob me off without talking to me and then the next day she called in sick. I am not sure where I stand as it was a personal arrangement and I no longer work there, yet surely management should not be happy having an employee who is a thief. I just want the return of my property or reimbursement for same. I am, however, aware that I may just have to let this one go.

I’m sorry this happened! It must have been really stressful and upsetting to have to worry about whether or not your cats were being taken care of. I don’t think you did your cause any favors by losing your temper with her, but I can understand the temptation, given how flighty and unreliable she was being (and how cavalier throughout). Once you lost your temper though, this probably wasn’t going to end well, especially since she wasn’t being paid (free housing and utilities don’t really count, assuming she has a home of her own she pays for) and was basically doing it as a favor.

Unfortunately, I don’t think you’re getting those keys back. It sounds like she never found them after originally telling you she lost them, and she has no intention of paying the replacement fee.

You can’t really involve your former employer in this. They probably don’t want to be involved in a dispute between an employee and someone who doesn’t work there anymore, and even if they did ask her about it, they’re not likely to pursue it once she explains the keys have been lost. So I think you’re stuck eating the cost of the keys, and probably going with a pet-sitting service next time if you can, since they’re generally more accountable and have back-ups when something goes wrong.

2. My client implied my work is so easy and fun I shouldn’t need to unplug

I am a freelance marketing consultant in an industry that many consider to be “fun.” My work involves photographing wine and food, and helping promote the delicious offerings of my clients via channels like social media and newsletters. I realize that to an outsider, what I do can appear more enjoyable than work-like. And it is enjoyable! That’s why I pivoted to this industry from a much more serious industry I didn’t get along with as well. However, I also work very hard and spend many overtime hours on different screens. Everything I do and recommend to clients is based on extensive analytics tracking that I maintain. I balance multiple clients’ needs and demands, and while I love what I do, it’s still work and it’s not always easy, despite the “fun” nature of what I’m marketing.

I’m wondering if you can help me find the right phrasing to respond to an off-and-on client’s email that rubbed me the wrong way. This is a client I only work with sporadically, so we are less familiar than I am with my monthly clients. He emailed me over the weekend to confirm that a deliverable was approved and could be published Monday (earlier than previously agreed upon). I responded first thing Monday morning thanking him for his patience, explaining that I make a point to unplug over the weekend, and that the deliverable was now scheduled. This is not a new client, so I’ve mentioned this about my schedule before.

In response to me, he (“jokingly”) said “yes it must be so exhausting drinking wine and eating …. just kidding” in reference to my need to unplug over the weekend, as if what I do is all fun and would create no reason to need to unplug. I, and my friends and family, know how hard I work, and how digital and social media-based my work is, creating an immense need to put the screens down on weekends to avoid burnout. So this “joke” was not funny to me in the slightest, and further seems to belittle the entire business I have created for myself. Given that this is a client, and he thinks he was being funny, how would you respond? Should I gently correct his perception of what I do? Am I being too defensive here and should let it go?

Yeah, you’re in a line of work where some people are going to assume it’s all fun and pleasure, or at least will make annoying jokes about that. If you try to correct or educate them every time, you’re going to seem a little … pedantic, maybe, or like a stick-in-the-mud. Most of these comments are people’s lighthearted fantasizing about what they think it would be like to have a job involving eating and drinking and don’t reflect serious, considered viewpoints about what you really do. It’s still annoying AF (like people who talk about teachers as if they have easy schedules), but it comes with the territory.

So yes, let it go! If it it starts to seem like he genuinely takes issue with you not working over the weekends, you can address it at that point — but for now assume it was just a silly comment that doesn’t require a serious response.

3. When a job application asks about luck

A while back, you answered a question from someone wondering whether to ask job candidates if they felt lucky in life. You told them it was a bad question to ask, but how would you recommend a candidate answer it? I‘m filling out a job application and it asks, “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the luckiest, how lucky do you feel in life?” (This is on the job application itself, by the by, not in an interview. It’s also the only company I’ve seen that still uses paper applications and won’t let people apply online. I don’t know if that makes it weirder or not.)

I’m really not sure how to answer this question and would love some advice.

Ugh, the luck question! How alarming to know there’s more than one place using it.

I’d guess that they prefer candidates who consider themselves lucky, figuring that indicates you’ve had a certain amount of success or you have a positive, optimistic mindset. If you want to play their game, go with 9.

For the record, this is a ridiculous, awful question to ask (and must be a real treat for people who have faced hardships and struggles).

4. Are in-person rejections unkind?

I’m curious about your thoughts on my company’s practice of always doing job rejections in-person if the applicant is internal to the department. I work in the call center of a financial institution and when someone who works in the center applies but is not selected for a promotion, we are required to meet with them in-person to let them know they weren’t selected. If the applicant is from another department, our recruiter in HR will call them and tell them they were declined.

I can only imagine this is done because we need to make sure the applicant hears our response before we can move forward (can’t be sure if they’ve read an email), and it would be awkward to call someone sitting across the room to share this news. But shouldn’t we give applicants the option not to have to be called into a room, sit down with their interviewers, be rejected to their face and then quickly get up to leave? If it were me, I’d prefer to get an email or even instant message. Am I just way off-base in my thinking?

Usually when you meet with internal applicants to tell them they didn’t get a job they applied for, it’s not just “hi, we’re going with another candidate, okay, see you later.” It’s generally an opportunity to give them some feedback and talk about what they could do to be a stronger candidate in the future. People who apply internally can get frustrated or demoralized when their own employer rejects them, and it’s better for their morale and your ability to retain them if you give them some sense of what went into the decision and what might help in the future.

Are there people who hate getting this kind of news in-peson? Yes, absolutely. But you can’t find a rejection method that everyone likes; other people resent hearing it over email (“they couldn’t even talk to me face-to-face when I work down the hall?”). But at least when you do it in person, you can provide context, answer questions, and have a real conversation, which is a good thing to offer to people who already work for you.

{ 866 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, the student was definitely being a bit cavalier and unreliable (although she probably thought she was being responsible by getting your neighbor to cover).

    I think it may help to view this from her perspective. It doesn’t sound like the arrangement actually benefited her—she likely had a place to live, so she didn’t benefit from free rent or whatnot. So while this may have felt like a transaction to you, I suspect she saw it as doing you a favor. If that was her framework, then her commitment to you was to ensure the cats were cared for, which she may have thought she’d achieved by enlisting your neighbor’s help. Although I understand why you lost your temper with her (and I would likely have done the same), I can’t really blame her for declining to continue to pet-sit and then ghosting you.

    I don’t think it’s especially mature of her to ignore you. But given that she described her conversation with you as abusive and you agree that you flew off the handle, this may have had a stronger effect than you intended or anticipated. I agree with Alison that you have to write this one off. And I would not try to intervene with your former employer. She lost your keys and that’s not great, but that doesn’t make her a “thief.” I think it would help to take a step back and acknowledge that this went badly on both sides and that neither of you were at your best in this instance. It may help you let go of your anger.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Coming also to comment on the fact that she was doing you a favor, and the arrangement did not benefit her. Unless she did not have to pay for whatever she currently lives for that time, which is really unlikely — I still have to pay my rent or mortgage even when I’m not sleeping in my apartment — she wasn’t getting anything in return. She should have broached the subject of payment if that was a problem, though.

      That also increases the likelihood that she can’t be bothered with your keys. She was doing you a favor, not making money on the deal. She was helping you, not working for you. People often feel less obligation in that case.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I agree she was doing the OP a favor and getting free housing/utilities for that time likely didn’t benefit her (since she still had to pay rent/utilities at home unless she was in between housing for that period), but the coworker agreed to the arrangement and I can’t agree that what she did was even a little okay! She made a commitment to take care of living creatures and then was cavalier and irresponsible about it.

        If her ability to help had fallen through, she should have proactively contacted the OP and told her that, not dragged it out over a period of days, promising to keep the commitment over and over and then not. I’d be incensed in the OP’s position. That doesn’t make it okay (or even smart) for the OP to have lost her temper with her, but I don’t think we should let the coworker off the hook for the flakiness at all. (There’s still nothing else for the OP to do here though.)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s definitely not ok for the student to be flaky, but I do think it’s important to realize that she may have thought she’d kept her commitment by relying on the neighbor. Once she saw that OP had relied on the neighbor, the student probably thought it was ok to continue to do that when she had schedule conflicts and also probably assumed the neighbor knew about care beyond simply feeding the cats.

          I know that that’s not mature or a reasonable assumption to make, but the student may have thought she kept her commitment by ensuring there was some form of care for the cats. That doesn’t let her off the hook for failing to change the litter, etc., but I also don’t think it’s entirely fair to say that she definitely didn’t intend or wasn’t able to keep her commitment to pet-sit.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            She was being so uncommunicative with the OP, though. The OP asked her repeatedly to keep her in the loop about what was going on (obviously really concerned about her cats) and the coworker didn’t bother to tell her she’d made arrangements with the neighbor for Sunday night and Monday morning.

            You’re probably right about what the student was thinking, but it’s still a really crappy way to handle it.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I agree with this.

                On one trip this spring I discovered that I had given my cat-sitter an old key and he couldn’t get in. Fortunately my neighbors were home and gave him their key, but I was preparing to overnight express my set of keys to him. That should have occurred to LW, over relying on the intern to finally remember where the original keys were. And with the security key being so difficult to replace, getting the keys back when she returned from the first trip would have been the logical move.

                1. Smithy*

                  This is where I come down on this one. By the time I’ve reached out to say “I’ve lost the key” – then to be told by the OP to “just find them” isn’t really a solution. The neighbor was likely the student’s only way in/out of the building.

                  I just genuinely don’t know how the OP thought the student was going to cat sit for a week without that kind of access?

                2. boo bot*

                  Yeah – the would-be cat-sitter should have kept the LW updated, but beyond that I don’t really see what else she could have done? She lost the keys – she had no way into the building.

                  I feel like there was maybe a misunderstanding about what “lost” meant, also – I get the sense that the LW kind of thinks the intern could have found the keys and just didn’t bother to look very hard, but “lost” sometimes really does mean gone forever.

                  So, it’s fair to be mad that she lost the keys, but there’s kind of nowhere to go from there. Which I think is maybe the issue – it’s really awful to lose the keys to a place where you’re supposed to be taking care of living creatures; what if there hadn’t been a neighbor with a key? And the LW is getting mad about the details of how the intern handled the rest, and I’m quibbling about that because I’m not sure what more she could have done once the keys were lost – but the thing is, she shouldn’t have lost the keys.

                  I lose stuff a lot. If you’re someone who loses stuff, you’ve got to be paranoid when it’s something like this.

                3. MK*

                  I am not sure how it makes sense to say “she shouldn’t have lost the keys”. It’s not as if she did it on purpuse, it’s something that happens, it could have happened to anyone. I suppose she might have been really careless with them, but people lose their own keys all the time.

                4. boo bot*

                  @ MK sorry, I wasn’t very clear. I don’t mean losing the keys is unforgivable or anything, what I mean is, I think that’s the thing the LW is mad about. I’m someone who has issues with losing stuff (usually my own, thankfully) and I know people who don’t have those issues sometimes have trouble believing that I *really* can’t find whatever it is, or that I didn’t subconsciously lose it on purpose to sabotage them, or something.

                  The emotional stakes were high here, so I get why she’s upset. And I think she knows it’s not really useful to be mad about the keys, so she’s naming all the other things the student did. But, once the keys are lost, they’re lost, and I don’t actually know what else the student could have done, other than be more communicative.

                  Sorry if I sounded scoldy at the student – that was me, reflexively scolding myself, and I should have caught how it sounded and deleted.

                5. Kate R*

                  Agreeing with this whole thread. I’m not even sure I agree with the title that the law student “flaked out” on pet-sitting. She asked the neighbor to cover two days out of a two week stint. I agree that the law student should have replied to the OP that the keys were in fact still lost, but OP’s initial response to her was pretty dismissive. Followed up with the outrage that the law student was spending Father’s Day with her family when likely, had the law student been able to come and go as she pleased, she would have been able to BOTH take care of the cats and spend the day with her family. I can understand why she thought asking the neighbor to cover feedings for two days was easier than trying to coordinate having the neighbor let her in every time she had to stop by. I’m also not sure how the OP thought the law student was going to be able to live in her apartment for two weeks without a key to the building. TBH, while it may not be the mature way out, I also probably would have ignored requests to both return and pay for keys I already told OP were lost and after the level of hostility levied at the law student including calling her a thief for losing keys. I had many people flake out on me in my 10 years as a dog owner, but my priority was also making sure my dog was taken care of, which meant sometimes sucking up my annoyance and figuring out a solution, and it doesn’t really sound like solutions were being offered here.

                6. TootsNYC*

                  I’m with Dana B.S.–the impression I had is that for the BUILDING key, which is expensive and hard to replace, the Letter Writer had only one spare copy, which she’d given to the student, who lost it.

                  I live in such a building, and I have two spares. But i pay through the nose for them, and when one of them is damaged or lost, it’s a big honking deal.

                  in fact, in my co-op apartment, if I lose my building key, the board will decide whether the entire building needs a new lock, and everyone be issued new keys. The current plan is that the poor schmuck who lost that key will pay for ALL those expenses. (So, if someone lost a key, there’s a multi-thousand-dollar motive to lie about how it was lost. You can just not report it, but if you sell your apartment, you have to turn all your keys in.)

                7. Legal eagle*

                  Exactly. Lost keys happen. This was not malicious on the part of the summer associate, and OP is chosing to ascribe malicious motives to it. I get it — people are touchy when it comes to pets — but it’s time or OP to back off.

                8. Legal eagle*

                  @TootsNYC, that doesn’t mean that if you ask someone for a cat-sitting favor (and that’s what this was) you can legitimately sock them with the key-replacement expense. That’s just not reasonable. If you’re in a situation where there is literally only one key, you need to get a second copy and/or rely on a professional sitter, not casual help from co-workers.

              2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

                No kidding. OP put “helping” in scare quotes even though that’s exactly what petsitting is. This was not a transaction, it was a favor, but if you’re not willing to care for someone’s pets, don’t agree to care for someone’s pets.

                1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

                  Ok, “not willing to care for the pets” isn’t exactly the right characterization of what went down with the petsitter (reading before coffee), but losing someone’s keys and not replacing them definitely is not cool. But it’s not really appropriate to involve the workplace in it, anyway.

                2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  If I am doing someone a favor and I lose the keys I might offer to replace them if I really like the person, but I would definitely not replace them after getting yelled at by them. I actually had this situation happen with my brother. He cat/house sits for me when I am away. I gave him a spare set of keys to keep and he lost them. I didn’t demand he find them or pay to replace them, instead I made a copy. When someone is doing you a favor a lost set of house keys is the cost of doing “business.”

                  I am not defending the students behavior they did act irresponsibly, the OP has a right to be angry but not a right to take out that anger on the student.

                3. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

                  @CmdrShepard4ever I think losing keys is a bigger deal than that and I can’t imagine not offering to replace someone’s house keys that I lost, but I also think that’s why you generally shouldn’t ask a coworker (or other arm’s length acquaintance) to do you a pretty big favor that involves access to your personal residence. I definitely think OP was in the wrong to lose her cool regardless.

                4. boop the first*

                  re: simplicity of replacing keys

                  Right, replacing HOUSE keys is very simple and not a big deal. But these are apartment keys which have much higher security features. You can’t take them to a keycutter. You have to purchase them through your strata/manager and it is at least $20/key. I think our strata charges $50 to replace one key. It’s a special order item.

                5. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  I agree that with the OP’s apartment keys especial with the key FOB to get into the building it would be costly and more of a hassle for OP to get a new set. But I still stand by my comment if someone was doing me a favor free of charge and lost my keys no matter how expensive I would not ask or expect them to pay for them.

                  Now if I was loaning my keys to someone as a favor to THEM (such as asking to stay at my place for a few days, needing to come over to borrow something) and they lost them I would absolutely expect for them to pay to replace them no matter how inexpensive or expensive they are.

                6. Legal eagle*

                  “If I am doing someone a favor and I lose the keys I might offer to replace them if I really like the person, but I would definitely not replace them after getting yelled at by them.”

                  Exactly. And I would definitely not replace them if I were called a “thief.”

                7. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

                  @boop the first That’s pretty much why I feel like keys are a bigger deal than an “oopsie.” My building charges quite a lot to replace a key + fob and I feel like if I lost someone’s keys, I’d cover the cost to replace them because it’s the right thing to do. But shit happens, keys get lost, and if the other person doesn’t accept the responsibility for not losing the keys, you can’t harass them for it. They’re your keys and you lent them to someone.

                  In the petsitter’s case, though, I think the avoidance is less about the cost of the keys and more about OP’s reactions. Like, sue her for having a family dinner on Father’s Day, I guess.

              3. Ms. Ann Thropy*

                The student was much crappier. First, if she felt it was a “favor” and not a fair exchange, she could have declined to do it, but she didn’t. Then she pawned off the obligation on the LW’s neighbor. And she irresponsibly lost LW’s keys, and failed to communicate all of this to LW. LW’s lost her temper, which is understandable. LW should not involve the former workplace in this because it won’t get her keys back and the employer cannot punish the student for any of this.

                1. Observer*

                  Actually, the first piece actually indicates a real (potential) problem with the OP’s behavior here.

                  It’s highly probable that the student did NOT feel like they were free to decline the trade. Keep in mind hat admin staff in these kinds of workplaces can have a LOT of power in the office, unless you are one of the partners or are someone who brings in LOTS of business. So, while I’m sure that the OP wasn’t intentionally using their position to extort free labor from someone, it’s quite possible that the student saw it very differently.

                2. ChimericalOne*

                  If you agree to do someone a favor, and then you lose the thing that you would’ve needed to make doing them that favor practical, that changes things immensely. The LW’s response to the student losing the keys shouldn’t have been “find them” (an impossible demand, depending on where and when they were lost — they could be in the bottom of a gutter!). It should’ve been, “I will make alternative arrangements then.” At no point did she ask, “Given that the favor I’m asking has now become much more difficult for you” (as the student can’t just swing by whenever she feels like it to feed the cats but must now coordinate with another person to do so — a person who is also capable of feeding them!), “are you still willing to do me this favor?” If she had, she might’ve been given a straight answer right away. Instead, she brushed aside a huge logistical issue as though it was a minor inconvenience for the student (or something that she could just magically overcome if she thought hard enough) and acted like “of course” the student was still going to do her this favor.

                  Don’t give someone else expensive keys if you can’t afford to replace them. And if the keys are more important than the cats, then it’s reasonable to refuse to replace them for your cat sitter, but if they’re not, that should be the first thing you do if you want them to be able to keep feeding your cats. LW was extremely unreasonable throughout.

                3. smoke tree*

                  I don’t think the student handled this very thoughtfully or maturely, but (admittedly someone who has pet sit many times) I can see it from her perspective. I’ve been pressured into pet sitting for coworkers before, and they often seem to underappreciate how much of a commitment it can be. I also thought it was a bit inconsiderate of the LW not to offer anything in exchange except for staying over at her place–which to me is not a perk at all. The LW also seemed pretty unrealistic in her expectation that the student would be able to miraculously find the keys that had been lost months before. And then she lost her temper over the phone. Now, I still think the responsible thing to do would have been to keep the LW up to date about the cats’ care, but I can imagine why the student was pretty miffed by that point.

              4. Dust Bunny*

                I was just thinking this: What to do in the event of lost/forgotten keys should have been laid out ahead of time. “You’ll just have to find them,” wasn’t a helpful response. And it shouldn’t have been the only key. It’s an apartment–the landlord or building manager couldn’t help?

            1. nutella fitzgerald*

              I don’t know – if she said lost the keys, I’m not sure if it’s reasonable to assume that if you don’t hear from her again, it means she found them and everything is back on track. Maybe I am a serial misplacer of things?

            2. Liz T*

              I wouldn’t be surprised if the student had thought, “Wait what? Your neighbor could’ve been doing this the whole time? This is ridiculous.”

              1. ChimericalOne*

                Exactly. Especially once the (huge) barrier of not having keys was introduced. This was clearly not a case of “life or death” for these pets if there was a neighbor right there who could feed them.

            3. Legal eagle*

              “She was being so uncommunicative with the OP, though.”

              OP states that, “after that call, she texted to say that after my abusive behavior, she didn’t feel comfortable ‘helping’ me out and not to contact her again with no mention of the keys. I said I was sorry and respected her decision (I had lost my confidence in her anyway) but that obviously she needed to return my keys. No response.”

              So the summer associate was NOT uncommunicative with OP. She closed the loop on her relationship. OP decided to continue pursuing the matter concerning the keys. The summer associate (rightly, IMO) does not feel obligated to re-key the house, and she likely perceives that OP is being unreasonable (indeed, “abusive”) in continuing to pursue the matter, and therefore has chosen to discontinue further communication rather than engage in an e-mail war of attrition.

              That’s totally reasonable. You don’t have to be communicative with unreasonable people.

              Also, taking care of someone’s cats does not inherently mean skipping Father’s Day events or family dinners or what not. If this is a complicated situation (i.e., the cat with a special diet MUST eat at 6:00 pm or what not), then OP needs to hire a professional.

              1. ChimericalOne*

                Sounds like the OP (and Alison??) expected the student to text much more before that call, though? It doesn’t seem like the OP was very clear about her expectations re: the amount of communication expected, though. In a nutshell, the situation played out like this:

                -Student texts OP Saturday night to tell OP that she lost the keys.
                -OP calls student in response. Says, “Maybe you’ll find them in the morning! Text me if you do.” OP gets neighbor to feed cats.
                -Student doesn’t find the keys in the morning & does not text. Is probably a little miffed at this point that OP has tried to shove this (significant logistical) problem back on her. At “nearly midday,” she’s probably been up for an hour or two, depending on whether she’s an early riser or a typical student. Goes out with her dad.
                -Student receives text from OP asking what’s up. Student replies that she’s out doing Father’s Day stuff. OP reacts badly to this innocent statement (if the letter is any indication, she is immediately frustrated/panicked and thinks/says “What about the cats??!” as if the student should be there feeding them RIGHT NOW). Student says neighbor will feed them, as before. The cats are fine. OP responds, “Okay, but you need to keep me informed.” There doesn’t seem to be any explanation of what exactly that means. (E.g., text me every hour? Text me if you can’t reach the neighbor / can’t get in to feed them?)
                -Student realizes that her prior plan for feeding the cats that night isn’t going to work out with the new logistical problem. She texts the neighbor & asks her to feed the cats that night & the next morning, then goes to a family dinner.
                -OP texts / calls student, can’t reach her because she’s at dinner. Finds out from neighbor that the student has made arrangements for the neighbor to take care of the cats for that evening & the next morning.
                -OP continues to call student throughout the evening. Student finally picks up. OP is “livid” and “loses her temper,” calls the student “irresponsible” and goes back and forth between berating her and giving lip service to an apology for berating her.
                -Student texts afterwards that she is no longer willing to pet-sit and not to contact her again. OP texts back, basically saying, “Fine, but you still need to return my keys.”
                -A week later, OP texts “politely” to say, “The keys cost X. You can deposit X amount to my bank account XXX-XXXX.” (!)
                -OP calls and leaves a voicemail. (!!)
                -OP calls student’s workplace. (!!!)
                -OP contemplates telling student’s workplace that she is a “thief” because student won’t reimburse her for the lost keys. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

                OP’s judgment is wildly off throughout this entire situation, IMO. Agreed that OP needs to hire a professional if her cat’s feeding situation is truly that complicated. (And, if not, she’s even more off-base to have been so angry/agitated in her communications with the student.)

          2. Zombeyonce*

            I agree with you on this. She knew the pets wouldn’t go hungry since the neighbor had keys and she no longer had keys so she couldn’t have done anything but contact the neighbor, which she did. If I were OP, I would assume she still couldn’t feed them since she hadn’t mentioned finding the keys.

            OP, you need to pay your pet sitters. No one is going to care as much about your pets as you and people with no incentive are even less motivated. As you have experienced, “room and board” to anyotthat already lives somewhere is no incentive at all. The sitter did the bare minimum (contacted the neighbor and told you she didn’t have keys) because you did the bare minimum.

            1. T3k*

              Also, if she needs pet sitters regularly, it’s a good idea to write up each cat’s menu on a cheatsheet if the sitter changes. I once dog sat for a family with 5 dogs that were fed 3 times a day, and all with different pills, vitamins, etc. but the family made it very easy by giving me a sheet with it all written down and the bottles clearly labeled.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Definitely this. My last dog hand a laundry list of medications in her old age, and my current cats eat different foods and can’t be allowed to nibble on each others’.

              2. Anonymeece*

                Agreed. And anytime your furry darlings have special needs, you need to pay.

                I pet-sit regularly for a family that had: 1 husky (not completely potty-trained), 1 golden retriever, 1 older dog with cataracts and diabetes, and 1 older cat with cancer. The older animals had special pills and diets, and the husky and golden required a lot of exercise and playtime. The family paid me extremely well because it was a lot of work trying to get everyone’s mealtimes/pilltimes straight.

                OP, you are sort of acting like the student was getting a good deal out of this, but I’m not seeing it. She still has to pay rent on her own apartment, even if she’s not sleeping there, and while she might save some money on utilities, it’s usually not that much for two weeks. But on top of that, you were asking her to clean litter trays and feed a cat, one of whom has special dietary restrictions. That requires payment.

                I get you’re upset over everything that happened, and I would too, but you need to let the key thing go and suck up the cost, and take this as a cautionary tale in the future to pay someone to take care of your pets in the future.

            2. Mia*

              It is normal to have people you know watch your pets as a favor without needing to give them monetary compensation. I have done this many times for others, and have friends do this for me too. Giving them something (whether cash or a nice gift) is nice it isn’t required. I cannot believe how many people are trying to blame the LW. There’s nothing she can do about it now, but the student was horrible, selfish, irresponsible and petty- getting upset with someone because of their own shitty behavior is not “abusive.” Come on. It also wouldn’t surprise me if she has been lying about losing the keys as a passive aggressive way of getting out of catsitting, since clearly she didn’t want to do it but was too much of a child to just say that.

              1. M*

                It is a favor but asking a student to do you a favor isn’t cool. Get a family member or friend to do it. That being said it’s better to pay a service or to pay them to do it because no one really has the time to take care of your animals for free. Sounds to me like the LW assumed this student could do it for her again which isn’t cool either.

                1. Tallulah in the Sky*

                  “All was well, a couple of issues which I went through with her and she said she would stay again.”

                  To me it really reads like the student agreed she’d be open to do it in the future. There is nothing indicating here that OP just assumed student would do it. There are problematic things in this letter, but there’s no need to place ill intentions where there are none.

                2. LegalBeagle*

                  This! I am actually shocked that Alison and so many others seem to have missed the VERY significant power imbalance here. I say this with all the love, my many years of readership and appreciation of Alison behind it, but I think that maybe, possibly, the (understandable) outrage at the thought of kitties in distress is causing Alison and other commenters to miss a super important piece of this. The student was irresponsible, I grant you, but this petsitter was NOT a coworker or colleague in the same sense that we would normally think of such – she was a student, asked by a permanent employee of the firm to petsit repeatedly for no compensation. That should not have happened. I remember being a student and then an intern, and when a permanent employee asked me to do something, I knew I didn’t have a choice, no matter how collegial my relationship with the employee, and no matter how junior the employee considered themself. I have a HORRID memory of a paralegal from my student days who thought we were “friends” – in reality, I knew this paralegal had a warm relationship with an important, well-positioned associate and I wanted to be known as trustworthy, a team-player, and willing to go the extra mile, but actually I found the paralegal to be unctuous, annoying, and generally mildly unpleasant to be around. It didn’t matter though, they were a permanent part of a firm I wanted to potentially work in one day, or at the very least get glowing recommendations and opportunities from. So every “hey, are you getting a coffee, would you snag me a latte?” “You’re headed to lunch? Grab me a sandwich.” “Could you look after the dogs this weekend while I’m out of town.” was an “of course!”, even though I didn’t have the money for the extras, or frankly, the time or desire to petsit for the paralegal during holiday – such as Father’s Day, which is the case with LW#1- AND study, AND try and eke out a few hours to have brunch with my dad. The student very likely felt like she couldn’t say no, and if even if LW#1 swears up and down that of COURSE the student wasn’t obligated, and OF COURSE she DEFINITELY knew that she was never compelled to agree to petsit, the power imbalance exists, and I think it’s highly likely that the student felt obligated to say yes again, even though she didn’t want to. The fact that said student only flaked once the LW wasn’t at the company any more really leads me to strongly suspect this is the case. This person is a student, which means she has massive amounts of studying, work stress, financial stress, and family balancing to do. In all that mess, she lost a key for a person she (maybe) didn’t even want to have to devote time to and only felt obligated to help. Then when that person offered no practical solution for the mistake besides “Welp, just find it then!” she likely thought; “You know what? No. This is stupid. I never wanted to petsit your cats, I was doing you a favor, we don’t even work together anymore, and now your being pissy because I made a mistake and lost your keys? Nope. I’m done.” Then on top of all that, LW flew off the handle at her and was abusive over the phone.
                  Sorry Alison, I love your advice and definitely bow to your general superiority, but I think you missed the mark on this one. I think the real answer is that LW#1 should never have put a student in this position in the first place.

                3. Hillary Flammond*

                  I (also very respectfully, as a longtime daily reader of this site) agree with the commenter that said Alison missed the important point that is the power imbalance at play here. I also think the timing is a huge factor – the first time the student “agreed” to pet sit, the legal secretary worked for the same company as the student. The second pet-sitting arrangement was to take place immediately after the OP’s contract ended. Seems to me that the sense of obligation the student felt also ceased when OP no longer had power over them.
                  Pay for a pet sitter next time. Longstanding support staff have more organizational “clout” than students – calling them co-workers underplays the power dynamic. The fact that everything changed after OP left her job is very telling, I feel.

                4. Psyche*

                  I agree that the student probably felt like she couldn’t say no. The fact that she flaked as soon as the OP was not in a position of power over her means that she probably only did it because she felt she had no choice. From her point of view, she escaped a situation where she was being taken advantage of and made sure that the cats wouldn’t starve in the process.

                  OP: Leave her alone. Pay for the replacement key and don’t ask students to do you personal favors in the future.

                5. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @LegalBeagle

                  I agree with everything you have said.
                  We were at a summer office outing and one of our interns had gone to get a drink from the bar. It was at that point that I realized my own drink was empty. I carefully contemplated if it would be okay to ask the intern to get me a drink as well. 1) They were already going there for their own reasons 2) I had cash to pay back instantly.

                  I decided to ask them and since they were already going to the bar, but even that I was questioning if it was an improper use of power. I had to do it via IM but in the message I explicitly stated I had cash to pay for the drink right away. If I did not have the cash to pay for the drink right away, I would have gotten up to grab my own drink. I would not want to be in a I owe an intern money situation, or exchange money via venmo/zelle with them.

                6. Marissa*

                  YES LegalBeagle! And I think OP1 knows it (or should know it), because she tried to use the influence she had at the firm to negatively affect the law student’s prospects there after the law student didn’t pay for the keys.

                7. Clisby*

                  A few times, I got my college-aged niece or nephew to cat-sit for us when we went off on vacation. I paid them. It would never have occurred to me to ask this as a favor of a family member, let alone someone else.

                  I know someone who pet-sits as a side gig – this is in Charleston, SC, so she sometimes gets to stay in really cool houses. The pet owners pay her to do this.

                8. Parenthetically*

                  Yep, just Nthing all of the above. I’ve been reading for a few years as well and, given the obvious power imbalance here and the fact that Alison is normally outstanding at pointing out that dynamic where it exists, I was also very shocked that a discussion of that wasn’t included in the response.

                9. NMFTG*

                  100 % agree with legalbeagle.

                  LW1 is actually asking here: “Is it okay if I keep on abusing the power differential I have over this student even though I no longer work at the place where I made somebody with less power than me do me favors.”

                  LW – you KNOW there is a power balance – because you want to take advantage of it even after you left this workplace! That’s not okay.

              2. LSC*

                My dog usually stays with friends when I travel – only because they offered it, as I would never be comfortable asking that of someone -, but this student was not OP 1’s friend. The student’s behavior was not ok, as she should have not accepted to catsit if she clearly didn’t want to, but it is important to point out that this was more of a favor to OP1 than an actual job, and a pretty big one at that – which means you shouldn’t ask it of people who are not very close to you.

              3. Colette*

                It’s normal to have people you exchange favors with watch your pets. This isn’t that kind of case – the student is doing this purely out of kindness. (I’ve been the pet sitter. I hate doing it because it is massively inconvenient but I do it because the person I pet-sit for helps me with stuff that is of benefit to me – it’s reciprocal.)

                And I don’t see that the student was that out of line. She lost the keys, and had no way to get into the apartment to care for the cats. The OP did nothing to help her (didn’t send her other keys, for example), and got the neighbor to cover. At that point, the student still has no way to get in to look after the pets, and knows the neighbor can do it.

                Yes, the student could have handled it better, but if someone called me up and yelled at me, I’d absolutely stop doing them favors.

                1. WellRed*

                  I don’t understand why the LW didn’t have the student collect the key from the neighbor. And yeah, you get what you pay for (or in this case, didn’t pay for).

                2. Patty Mayonnaise*

                  Agreed with WellRed – I don’t get why LW didn’t tell student to get the keys from the neighbor and carry on. Student might have assumed that the neighbor was taking over the job at that point (which isn’t great, but neither the LW nor the student were communicating very effectively with each other at this point).

                3. DJ*

                  Adding an extra layer of difficulty to something that someone is doing for you as a favor (for free) is just asking to have them flake on you. I have pets, so I understand the OP’s concerns here, but if I was asked to pet sit for no pay and then I had to coordinate my schedule with the neighbor’s in order to be let in, I’d probably see if the neighbor would be willing to just handle it themselves too.

                  And not only that, but it seems like the OP expected the student to do this for free and then pay for the lost keys (which isn’t cheap, per the OP) when it seems unlikely that this student is making much money at their job. And there seems to be a pretty clear power imbalance here so I’m questioning whether the student really wanted to do this in the first place or whether it was something they felt obligated to do.

                4. Colette*

                  @WellRed and @Patty Mayonnaise – I’m assuming the neighbor had an extra key for the apartment but not the building.

                5. boo bot*

                  I think the neighbor didn’t have a spare key to the building (or didn’t want to lend it to a stranger who had already lost one set of keys) so she would have had to let the student into the building every time. Which the neighbor might not have wanted to do – it might have been less bothersome to feed the cats herself, and she probably didn’t realize that the LW had a problem with that.

                  Everybody should have talked to everybody else here – nobody was in control of all the factors.

                6. Patty Mayonnaise*

                  Thanks Colette and Boobot, I thought it said somewhere that the neighbor had an extra building key!

              4. LQ*

                For close friends and family, and when you are talking weeks on end it’s got to be someone you have a really solid relationship with or that you are getting something reciprocal from. I dogsit for my aunt for weeks sometimes but we have a long standing relationship (…my whole life even!). And I love her and love the dog, but I still won’t do it at her house because it’s a pain, it’s a commute, I have to drive when normally I walk to work, it totally throws off my life and basically I can’t do anything socially other than walk the dog and it cuts into my work schedule even.

                Pet sitting without any compensation is absolutely not normal unless you have a strong preexisting relationship.

                (And I had something come up the most recent time and she had to board the dog, no complaints, no nasty calls, no getting upset with me. Just solve the problem and move on.)

                1. the_scientist*

                  We have a regular catsitter, a licenced, bonded, insured woman who runs her own business take care of our cat when we go away. She brings in our mail and waters our houseplants as well as takes care of our kitty (with text and picture updates), who is quite shy with new people but is now very fond of the sitter.

                  We recently went on a belated honeymoon trip and we opted to have my brother in law, who works from home, house and pet sit for us. We have had issues with property theft from our yard and felt more comfortable knowing that someone would be around the house given that we’d be gone for quite a long time. He lives in a very affordable, but very gross apartment, so he got our entire house to himself (air conditioning! netflix! prime TV! unlimited access to free laundry!) and we STILL paid him. I also left him a literal notebook full of information, related to the cat but also to the house.

                  All that to say that I am firmly on the “you need to pay your petsitters” side of this debate but I am still pretty appalled at the student’s behaviour here. I can’t understand being SO cavalier about the care of another living, breathing creature.

                2. nonymous*

                  My MIL dogsits for us occasionally, but since our geriatric pup has taken a turn for the worse (pills multiple times a day, incontinence issues, very fussy diet) it is a bit much to ask of a helpful relative.

                  When she would dog sit, I would deep-clean the house before we left, stock the fridge, arrange luxe bath supplies, leave some gift cards for groceries/delivery, etc. Basically I tried to make it a whole spa-staycation experience for her. And she got a giant xmas/bday gift.

                  A dog sitter costs ~$100/day where we live, so I’m still saving $$ if I only spend the equivalent of $50/day. Sometimes I ask my own Mom to swing by the house and let the pups outside for a break, and I’ll still bring her back a scone or pass along some homemade canned goods in thanks.

                3. TootsNYC*

                  agree.

                  And maybe the OP thinks that by letting the student stay at her place for that time frame makes it less onerous–but it actually is very hard to stay for any extended period of time outside your own home.

                  emotional/psychological stuff aside, it’s logistically a pain in the ass. Your financial records are there, your mail comes there, the tools you use to care for yourself or your activities (studying is easier with notebooks, pencils, etc.) are there. Your hobbies or leisure activities are there.

                  I used to live in a women’s residence hall in NYC, and I used to apartment sit or dog sit as a favor, and it WAS nice to be in a real apartment, with a kitchen, and to have my friends over (which I was always told I could do). But after a week, it wasn’t that helpful.

                  It’s not just guests that start to “smell”–the place you’re staying can get “stinky” too (metaphorically).

              5. call centre bee*

                Agreed. I’m shocked at the way the commentariat are telling OP this is expected behaviour. A friend’s catsitter recently flaked out on them while they were way too far from home to do anything about it and they were absolutely devastated and terrified of what would happen to their cats. These are living, breathing creatures and petsitters, whether doing it for money or as a favour, agreed to take responsibility and deserve anger when they don’t take that responsibility seriously.

                1. biobotb*

                  But in this case the student, who couldn’t get into the building, arranged for the neighbor to take care of the cats. At no point were the cats in danger of going without food or water. The student had no ability to solve the lost key problem, and instead of trying to fix it for her, the OP, who does have that ability, just got mad and abusive.

                2. smoke tree*

                  I wouldn’t have done the same thing in the sitter’s position, but I don’t think she was egregiously irresponsible. She did ensure the cats were taken care of by contacting the neighbour. Now, could she have been more proactive about finding a way into the building and keeping the LW informed? She definitely could, but I would argue the LW could have been more proactive about finding a solution to the key issue, so I think they pretty much even out there.

                3. EventPlannerGal*

                  Yes, they are living, breathing creatures. And like most living creatures, they don’t just expire on the spot when they’re fed a little late – they’re not made of glass, for crying out loud. All of this seems to have transpired over a very short period of time, maybe two days, and during that time the cats were in their own home environment and were fed by the neighbour. They were not on any time-sensitive medications or in some strange new place. The worst that could have happened here is that the cats possibly got fed off their usual schedule for a day, which is not going to do them any damage. Do you just die of hunger every time your dinner’s late?

                  To be clear, I do think this student sounds pretty flaky and did not communicate well with the OP. The OP would have been justified in explaining that calmly and telling her that it was upsetting and worrying. However, being anxious about their cats does not in any sense justify the OP verbally abusing the student – a living, breathing human being – harassing her over the keys, and now contemplating contacting her workplace to tell them she’s a thief.

                4. Anita Brayke*

                  Eventplannergal, I agree, especially about the comment that OP thinks her former employer wouldn’t want to work with a thief…how/what did the catsitter steal? She lost the keys and said so, and then got no help from the OP, and then got abusive calls and texts from the OP. *Nobody* who is doing you a favor should be treated like that and then have their career threatened.

              6. Pescadero*

                I disagree.

                It is NOT UNCOMMON to have CLOSE FRIENDS OR FAMILY watch your pets as a favor without needing to give them monetary compensation.

                I wouldn’t call it normal – certainly not if we’re talking about “people you know” versus “intimate acquaintances”.

              7. JB (not in Houston)*

                Feeling upset about the situation is not abusive, but you can certainly express that feeling in a way that is abusive.

                I’d have been angry if I were in the OP’s situation, but the pet sitter’s bad behavior doesn’t make the OP’s behavior ok. And the fact that she equates the pet sitter losing the keys with her being a thief makes me think it’s possible that she overreacts to situations (not that it’s an overreaction to get upset about this situation, but possibly how she did it), and given that even the OP admitted she told her off, it’s not out of the question that she actually was being abusive.

                1. Uldi*

                  Everyone keeps talking about the student’s bad behavior, and outside of not calling the LW when she still hadn’t found the lost keys (which is what the LW asked to get contacted about, not ‘keep me updated on the situation’). The student could NOT get into the building without the security fob on the lost keys. The keys the neighbor had were for the apartment itself, not the building. The student did the best she could with options available to her. She arranged to get the cats fed over the day and a half before the LW blew up at her (and likely accused her of being a thief, based on the casual way the LW later references her as being such) and she quit.

                  I think way too many are confusing “to clean the litter trays” as something that happened, rather than speculation from the LW. This was a Sat. evening, a Sunday, and that’s it.

                  The real issues here are the continued attempts to contact her, and the desire to report her to her boss as a THIEF, something that is being glossed over repeatedly.

              8. Dust Bunny*

                It’s normal if you’re likely to do a favor in return. If you’re only offering something she doens’t really need, then it’s one-sided.

              9. ChimericalOne*

                This was not a friend. This was a student being asked to do free work by someone with more authority than her in her workplace.

                1. Mia*

                  I’ve petsitted for my boss before without being paid. It was fine. If I didn’t want to do it I would have just said no when he first asked and allowed him time to make other arrangements.

                2. TheSnarkyB*

                  @Mia – just because you were fine with it doesn’t mean others would be. And once a boss asks for something, there’s no good way for them to know why a person is saying yes. Your experience doesn’t negate the fact that power imbalances matter, and the OP shouldn’t have made this request.

              10. Jennifer*

                People that love you and that love your pets, yes. Not random people from work.

                Plus I think this law student did make arrangements for the cats since a neighbor was there that could feed them.

              11. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                It’s normal to have people you know watch your pets as a favor when there are similar favors-in-kind and/or there isn’t a power imbalance at play. It doesn’t sound like the OP knew this student well and it doesn’t sound like there were favors-in-kind she was willing to do for the student, AND there was a power imbalance. The OP isn’t in the right here.

              12. lemon*

                Eh, I don’t know about that. Taking care of an animal is a lot of work. It involves traveling to someone’s apartment, taking the time to do it (often before and after work), cleaning, playing with the animal, taking them for walks, and possibly buying food/supplies if the owner didn’t make sure they had enough on hand or administering medication if the animal is ill. Also, many pets can have separation anxiety when their owner leaves, which means they can be extra needy or upset with an unfamiliar caretaker. This can easily add up to at least one hour of work each day. That’s an awfully big favor to ask of someone without giving anything in return.

                I also think it depends a lot on the time-frame. Asking someone to watch your pet for 1-3 days for free? Not totally unreasonable. Any longer than that? You should probably pay them or do something to ensure there’s an equal exchange going on (dinner, baked goods, a favor in kind, etc).

              13. smoke tree*

                There’s a difference between a reciprocal agreement with a friend or family member where you watch each other’s pets and asking a work acquaintance who probably didn’t feel able to say no. I think it’s kind of entitled to assume that someone will take on this task for you without any kind of payment or acknowledgment. I also wonder how you think the student should have continued to watch the cats as originally agreed when she couldn’t access the building?

                1. biobotb*

                  Right? How was the student supposed to surmount the no-key problem? If the OP only has one extra set of keys, why is she leaving them with people she isn’t close to?

              14. Legal eagle*

                “It is normal to have people you know watch your pets as a favor without needing to give them monetary compensation.”

                I agree with this, but then you need to be flexible about things like feeding times, not berate the person doing the favor in the event of unintentional mishaps like lost keys, not have unrealistic expectations about special diets, etc.

              15. Double A*

                The only person I don’t pay to check on my animals is immediate family, and I only ask them to do it if it’s 2 days or less, because you HAVE to be there in a certain window or the dog will pee inside. Even very good friends for whom I know it’s convenient to stay, we pay, and we pay well.

                When I just had cats I was way more cavalier, sometimes leaving them on their own for up to 3 days because they free feed. But having a dog means now we pay. (Which is why after this dog dies, we’re not getting any more dogs…)

            3. Sharrbe*

              Agree she needs to find a reliable pet sitter and PAY them well. When you pay someone, you have more standing to act as a “boss” and ask for daily texts, pics, updates on the care they’re providing. If they don’t comply or if they do a poor job, you can let them go and find someone else. The LW’s sitter was not getting “paid”. She was probably just getting a chance for some alone time – if she is in school she probably has roommates or is living with family. Staying in the apartment was probably a perk to her, but definitely was not the same as actual payment. I’m almost positive the sitter felt that she was just doing this person a “favor”, and wasn’t really getting much out of the arrangment except some quiet evenings.

            4. AdAgencyChick*

              I don’t think OP was even providing “board,” just “room”!

              I have no sympathy for OP here. You get what you pay for.

              1. Quill*

                TBH the only times I’ve known anyone to pet sit for “room and board” were when the sitter was in un-air-conditioned campus housing, and room and board included a reasonable amount of basic groceries and free cable. Given that she’s an intern, it’s more likely that she has an apartment that she’s paying for whether she’s in it or not than that she’s in campus housing, and it sounds like OP didn’t even feed her.

                Pay your pet sitters and get a spare key, people. I just sat for a lovely huskie and got paid to read to him. :)

                1. TootsNYC*

                  and even if you’re in un-air-conditioned campus housing, though it might be a treat to spend a few days elsewhere, there will come a point at which it’s not a benefit to you anymore. All the logistics of your life are at home.

                  And even if you’ve been told to make yourself at home, there is still the fear that you’ll do something bad.

                  I used to dog sit for someone in exactly that situation. Then there was the night I defrosted the steak tips to make them dinner (I’d been specifically told I could) for me and a friend, and this friend got really squirrely and didn’t want to eat them—she didn’t give me a reason that I even recognized, just “I don’t want to, let’s order out”. OK, fine, so we ordered food, and I forgot to eat them the next day and left them in the fridge

                  I got a call scolding me for wasting them. I thought, “Just pretend I ate them!”

                2. A*

                  Exactly. Only time I’ve had a pet sitter that I didn’t pay in cash was when I was in college. I went to school on several scholarships & grants, and was lucky enough to have secured an off campus apartment across the street. When I went abroad for 1.5 weeks, my close friend who was living in a triple in the dorms cat sat for ‘free’ in exchange for being able to stay at my apartment – have access to cable, laundry, queen sized bed, whatever was left in the fridge etc.

                  I wouldn’t do that NOW, but to two college kids it seemed like a great deal! Definitely would not have played out this way if we weren’t friends though.

            5. Managed Chaos*

              The pet sitter was crappy, but as they’re saying…. you need to pay your pet sitters. I find it mildly disturbing that you would use a student like this – asking her to do you a favor while they’re a student and you’re employed at a firm in a long-time situation. It makes quite the power imbalance since you weren’t paying them and they may have felt pressured to agree to the favor. That also might explain why once you were no longer in their workplace, they weren’t quite as motivated to do you a favor.

              That doesn’t make their behavior acceptable, but I think you need to look at your own here as well.

          3. Mel*

            There are certainly a LARGE number of people who think that foisting their responsibilities onto others counts as fulfilling their commitments, but that doesn’t make it so.

            My husband manages people who tend to be about this age, they do it all the time and

            1. Mel*

              Sorry, my phone betrayed me.

              They do it all the time and never understand why after giving all their hours away they don’t have a job anymore.

              Also, her behavior sounds very much like what those same employees do when they’ve predetermined that they will be “sick” or “not have a car” or whatever during their shifts. It’s very different behavior from the employees who ARE sick or without a car

              1. JimmyJab*

                I’m sure you’re not suggesting that people of the student’s age (which I’m sure we don’t know? when I was in law school the ages varied widely from 22 to 50s) aren’t responsible.

              2. A*

                Ah yes. Because the ‘other’ generations are so much more responsible.

                We have no reason to believe this is driven by age. We don’t know the ages of the individuals involved.

            2. LQ*

              Yes, it isn’t ok to foist your responsibility onto others and think it counts as fulfilling the commitment. But the problem here is the OP is the one who foisted and washed their hands. When the student lost the keys it became OPs problem again and at that point you call the neighbor and arraign for them to handle it with great apologies and offers for cash/food/something from the land you are traveling, you call the building and ask to get the security key given to the student temporarily, you contact a pet sitting service and the building and get the service to be let into the building and home. Once the person you gave the responsibility to fails, it is back to you and you need to grab it back and take responsibility for solving it. Even if you are on vacation out of the country.

              Sure the student was wrong, but I think the OP should have really handled this differently and not just washed their hands of care for their cats with a find it or else. You grab control back and curse yourself for not having vetted the person taking care of your pets better.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  +101 Exactly. You grab control back, mutter darkly, and set about fixing the problem so your animals are cared for. You don’t ask someone to manifest keys out of the air.

              1. ChimericalOne*

                “But the problem here is the OP is the one who foisted and washed their hands.”

                Exactly. The student flagged a huge logistical problem for the OP — one she couldn’t solve by herself — & the OP just said, “Well, fix it, then.” If the student was a super responsible person, she would’ve gone above & beyond to make this right. But I think the average person is going to respond to that kind of response by throwing up her hands and being like, “Well, they’re your cats.” If you can’t be bothered to fix it, why should she? Especially once you leak the fact that your neighbor (who has much easier access) could’ve been feeding them all along.

                1. biobotb*

                  Also, I doubt the building is going to help a random person replace a set of security keys. Probably only the OP could do that, but they chose not to and instead chose to lean into the bad situation by keeping the student from being unable to access the building.

                2. Legal eagle*

                  The student DID go above and beyond to address the situation — she got in touch with the neighbor and found a work-around. The cats were fed. The student did not do ANYTHING wrong.

        2. Jen S. 2.0*

          Agree 100%. Just pointing it out, as I’m sure others will as well, because LW1 seemed to be viewing the catsitter as her paid, if temporary, employee, and expecting a level of commitment to her complicated cat-feeding situation* that reflected it, when clearly the student did not see the arrangement that way and wasn’t taking it quite so seriously.

          The student should have and still should get her act together, no question. The poor hungry cats were depending on her! Keys are a pain to replace!

          But we all know people flake on volunteer jobs in ways they are less likely to on jobs that pay well. The student probably figured the cats would be all right for a day or two if she didn’t make it over there, otherwise LW1 would have … hired and paid someone. LW1 thought she did exactly that.

          (*No hate on the complicated cat feeding. I’ve had a diabetic cat, so I know how it can go.)

          1. MommyMD*

            Bottom line is you as the pet owner are responsible for your pets. Solid arrangements have to be made with a back up fail safe. And this almost always involves money. The cheap way is rarely the best way especially when little creatures who depend on humans are involved. This is the cost of going on vacation/travel.

            1. Willis*

              This. Also, the student alerted the OP to the problem of the lost keys and her response was just that she needed to find them without any real resolution. I don’t understand how the OP expected her to watch the cats knowing she wouldn’t be able to get into the secure building after the first time the neighbor let her in. The OP may be mad cause this woman didn’t fulfill her favor, but I agree that with pets you need to make solid arrangements, not just hope someone will find a key they already told you was missing!

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                This. Also, when something is lost you can’t just say “find it” and expect it to magically happen. Maybe a second look would turn up a set of keys in your other jacket or down the back of the sofa or something, but if they were dropped on public transport or something then they’re gone. Lost, one might say. When they didn’t turn up after you first talked to the student about it you should have been thinking about replacement options straightaway, not just telling her to find the keys and sending her weird messages about needing more time to find them.

                1. M*

                  To me it sounds like the student didn’t want to do it anymore and didn’t know how to say it so they said they lost the keys. It also sounds to me like the LW assumed that the student could keep pet sitting for free without asking.

                2. Observer*

                  I agree that there is not reason to believe that the student was making up an excuse. But either way, the OP’s response was just irresponsible. “Find it” is not a solution. All it does is indicate that the OP is not going to be reasonable is the pet sitter says “I have a schedule conflict” or the like – It feels like the OP would have said “well, figure it out.”

                3. TootsNYC*

                  If you lose someone’s possession, you need to give more detail about HOW they were lost. Lost in your home?

                  If you dropped them into a subway grate, you need to say that, and then the OP would know to not say, “well, look again.”

                4. Zillah*

                  @TootsNYC – This doesn’t make sense to me.

                  I typically realize that I’ve lost something after the fact – often, around when I next need it. In this position, I’d have no idea if the keys fell out of my purse while I was searching for my wallet at a store, grabbing my cell phone when it rang, or at some other point. I’d honestly be a little more suspicious of someone who told me how they’d lost the keys than someone who didn’t know!

                  IME, when someone says that something is “lost,” one should assume that they no longer have access to it unless they say otherwise.

              2. quirkypants*

                Agree!

                And mostly if the cat’s care was so important, why not get another pair of keys made ASAP? How is it the responsibility of someone who was doing you a favour to replace them?

                My keys are also really pricey to replace so I get it’s annoying but that just feels a bit out of touch.

                1. Uranus Wars*

                  This might just be me, but even if the cost to replace the key for the student was $200 I’d do it if it ensured that someone would be able to care for my cat without the headache of having to bother my neighbor every time they needed to come in. Even if I am paying them I want it to be easy on them so they will come back (if reliable).

                  Plus it’s going to be cheaper than sending the cat to a pet palace for a week or paying a legitimate, bonded cat sitter to come in and care for my cat.

                  I do think the student should have just said no after the OP told them to find the lost key and offered no other solution, but I also think the OP had a responsibility here to come up with a viable solution in case the student could not find the key.

                  Heck, last month I was supposed to catsit for a friend at their house. I ended up getting stranded without a car and couldn’t get there easily and then once I did I wouldn’t have been able to leave (in a suburban neighborhood with nothing in walking distance) and she engaged plan #2 on less than 12 hours notice. She knows I am reliable but she also know things happen that we can’t always control so she had plan #2 in place weeks in advance.

                2. ChimericalOne*

                  Uranus Wars — Exactly. If the cats’ care is important to you, you replace the keys. Pricey or not.

                  I have a lot of sympathy for the student not wanting to come back and just say “No” when the OP said something as unreasonable as “Find them.” The fact that the OP eventually resorted to screaming at the student makes me wonder if the student already knew / sensed that she wasn’t a terribly reasonable person (extra points in that direction because the OP somehow thought that the student benefited from this arrangement + even more points in that direction for calling lost keys “theft”). The student probably imagined OP would lash out if the student said something like, “Sorry, but this has become a huge pain. I can’t find the keys & you haven’t done anything to help make this favor doable. Clearly, your neighbor is able to feed the cats. Please ask her to cover for the remainder of the trip rather than expect me to coordinate with her each time I come over. If I’m having to bother your neighbor anyway, just have her do it, please.” So student figured she could just avoid that conversation and arrange for the neighbor to do the feeding herself.

                  If you are known to be an unreasonable person, people aren’t going to want to tell you hard truths.

                3. AnotherAlison*

                  NM that pet sitting probably should cost $200, so if you have free pet sitting, paying for the keys is kind of the trade off you make by using someone for free.

                  I had a (paid) teenager pet sit one time. Not responsible enough. I had my mom do it some, too for free, and also not responsible enough. My mom watched my dog at her house, and when I brought my dog home she immediately started hopping up on the [forbidden] couch.

                  Now that I’m down to one dog and one barn cat, the dog goes to a professional boarder and the cat gets enough food and water put out to fend for himself.

                4. smoke tree*

                  Yeah, you can’t expect an unpaid pet sitter to put more effort into your cats’ care than you are. If someone is trying to do you a favour and having logistical issues, I think it’s your responsibility to find a solution rather than just calling them repeatedly, expecting them to have fixed it somehow.

              3. KR*

                Yes, the whole “just find them” attitude made my eyes roll. Sometimes things that are lost can’t be found for whatever reason, no matter how much you look or retrace your steps.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  but if that’s the case, then that should have been conveyed along with the info that she’d lost them.

                2. EventPlannerGal*

                  @TootsNYC – but that’s what “lost” means. You can’t find them. You don’t know where they are. They’re gone. If it was a case of “I have done XYZ thing with these keys that renders them inaccessible”, why would the OP have told her to sleep on it? And in this context I doubt she would have told the OP the keys were lost unless she really meant it, because that’s such an embarrassing thing to have to tell someone.

                3. Cat Owner*

                  Okay she lost them at her house, so they are still there somewhere, they are on a fairly big keyring. Seriously I thought I was doing her a favour by letting her sleep on it. Then if not found the plan was, as it was a weekend I could not arrange a key to the actual building, but my neighbour could have buzzed her in and give her the spare door key. As I said sleep on it I wrongly assumed she would turn up Sunday morning. I would have to wait until Monday until a building key could be obtained so that would have been a pain until then. I just ended up express posting my security key to my friends who took over looking after the cats.

                4. ceiswyn*

                  I once lost a bright purple, reasonably sized mobile phone in my house.

                  I know it was in my house, because I could hear its plaints for charge until the point where it ran out. I assumed it was in my handbag.

                  When I went to get it and charge it, it was not in my handbag. Or anywhere else. Never mind ‘sleep on it’, I eventually went through every box and possession I owned as part of moving house; it never turned up.

                  How did you expect the student to get into the building on Sunday morning when, as any sane and normal person would have expected without needing to be explicitly told, ‘sleeping on it’ failed to cause the spontaneous materialisation of the keys?

            2. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

              Absolutely, this. Pet sitting is expensive, but is best when paid for. Unless your roommate takes care of it…. As I’m doing for mine right now with his four cats. With my many years of cat experience, and commitment to their wellbeing, he’s getting a steal. Especially since I’m not getting paid for it.

              1. Rainy*

                My last roommate and I used to take care of each other’s pets when one of us was away (she has a dog, I had an elderly cat) just as a matter of course, but that was a definite exception to the “you should pay” rule, and it was also quite mutual. And she didn’t leave her dog if she was going to be gone more than a weekend–she’d take the dog to her parents’ house.

                After a pretty bad experience with contractors for one of the Uber For Petsitters type companies, we board our dog at our vet’s boarding facility. Pricey, but not as bad as it could be, cheaper than a professional dogsitter, and he has a blast.

            3. Alienor*

              Exactly. I just came back from a trip where boarding my three cats cost almost as much as one of our plane tickets. But, two of the cats are older and need special diets and medication, and I needed to be sure they’d be properly cared for. It was a cost I wasn’t only willing to pay, but felt responsible for paying, because they’re my pets and they rely on me.

              1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                Yeah- I’m lucky enough to have an arrangement with family where we basically trade off pet-sitting duties, but when they’ve been unavailable, boarding my (one!) dog has historically been the most expensive part of the trip.

                1. Quill*

                  Prior to my dog passing away last winter, we had an agreement with our neighbors (also dog people) to swap, since none of the large, elderly dogs were going to deal well in a boarding environment. (Separation anxiety, either not getting enough attention or being at the mercy of younger dogs who don’t understand hip problems.)

                  It worked really well for us.

              2. Clisby*

                Agree 100%. I know our 13-year-0ld cat doesn’t really like going to the boarding place, but I know he’s being kept safe; and if he suddenly got sick, the associated vet practice can take care of him.

            4. sofar*

              This.

              When I was a kid, our neighbors once paid me handsomely to walk/feed their dog when their sitter cancelled last minute before their three-week vacation.

              Unless close friends or family have a reciprocal agreement (ie, they watch each other’s pets for eachOTHER for free, or they do each other other favors), or you’re bound to your petsitter by familial obligations (we watched my in-laws’ dog for three weeks for free because … well… family), you need to be paying your pet-sitter cash money. If you don’t have a backup to fill in at your home, then you need to be booking a kennel.

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            Agreed. I feel like this problem is a combination of two pretty universal life rules, which are “if you expect a professional service you need to pay for it” and “nobody cares about your pets as much as you do”. The student was certainly pretty flaky, but you get what you pay for, you know?

        3. Renee*

          Oh I definitely believe it’s appropriate for OP to have lost her temper. Flaking on her colleague is a serious matter. Losing her keys another one.
          Both of these are appropriate for the temper-losing.

          1. MommyMD*

            Not yelling. There is rarely cause for yelling or verbally abusive behavior. And it does not get you anywhere. It backfired here.

            1. Cat Owner*

              No yelling involved lol I also explained to her that my mother (who I had taken on holiday and is 95) had been taken to hospital that day so I was already fairly upset. And I did keep apologising.

              1. rosanna w.r.*

                So you didn’t replace the keys or have a plan in place for replacing the keys, even after she told you they were lost, knowing it would be almost impossible to get into the building without them? And then you called her to swing between being short-tempered with her, oversharing, and apologizing for it? And then you billed her for the keys, after she told you not to contact her anymore and described you as abusive? And now you want to contact her BOSS?

                Students are still learning how to be adults and how to interact with people as adults. You are fully grown and chose to leave you kitties with her instead of a professional, then blew up when she did the best she could with no keys and little warning to make sure – again YOUR – pets didn’t starve.

                Pay for new keys, and next time pay for a sitter. I hope when the cloud of righteousness fades from around your head you take the safety of your pets more seriously from now on.

                1. Tallulah in the Sky*

                  This is unfairly harsh. Yes, OP could have handled the situation better, but the coworker isn’t a damsel in distress who was harassed and abused by OP. She lost the keys, made a commitment which she flaked on (which involves living beings) and didn’t keep OP in the loop (even after being explicitly asked to). As a result, she endured one painful phone call, and just because she calls it abusive doesn’t mean it was (I know people who when you call them out on their shortcomings they see it as an aggression).

                  And about those keys : you lose or break something someone entrusted to you, you pay it back. It was totally OK for OP to contact her again about this. I would let this go now, the pain to deal with this isn’t worth paying for new keys.

                2. Mother of Cats*

                  Wow. A law student is hardly a 16 year old. If someone says they got this and you go on holiday on the back of that ‘I got this’ then you’re entitled to be upset that you are now away from home with no way out of that and the person who said I got this doesn’t got this at all. You’re also allowed to be upset that they ‘lost’ your keys (which maybe I’m the only one but in this situation reads like I really have your keys but can’t be bothered taking care of your cats so I ‘lost’ them for an excuse not to go into your place). Like you’d only be taking the keys from your house to the OP’s house surely? I lost a few keys as a 10-14 year old who had to let myself in after school while mom worked but after about the age of 14 I never lost another one.

                  Yeah, OP gave too much weight to ‘live in my place like it was yours for free’ being a payment if this person had a place they were paying for of their own regardless but we don’t know that. But the LAW STUDENT is likely a mid twenties not a child who could have said no OP living in your place for free whilst I pay for my place anyway is not enough payment to assume responsibility for your pets so unfortunately I’ll have to decline and you’ll have to find someone else.’ Not said yeah sure I’m cool with this and then proceeded to leave someone out of control of this situation terrified their cats were going to die while they were away with their 95 year old and ultimately infirm parent.

                  OP was unrealistic in the compensation they were offering for this task but the former colleague was a complete and utter a s s in how they handled this situation.

                  I’d be willing to bet the a s s has the keys. Just say you’ll drop them off somewhere safe for the OP to pick up and that you never want to hear from her again after that. Stop being such a petty child when you’re likely in your mid to late 20s and apparently wanting to be a frickin lawyer and grow up! If someone did this to my cats I’d go totally ham on them too.

                3. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Um, Mother of Cats? I’m over 50. I’ve lost keys often enough that I keep two sets of keys for myself. Usually I find them within a week, but that isn’t soon enough for someone else’s pets.
                  Admittedly I am *MUCH* more careful if I have someone else’s keys.

                4. MK*

                  Saying the student has the keys and basically fabricated this entire situation to get out of petsitting is pretty paranoid. Most likely, she was viewing this arrangement as a favour she did for the OP, ehich made her pretty pissed off when the OP started being difficult about the keys.

                5. Falling Diphthong*

                  Whoa.

                  No, if you want to get out of catsitting then you say “Afraid I can’t, I have another commitment that weekend.” People lose keys. This is a normal life event that people plan for by having multiple sets of keys.

                6. Jennifer*

                  She’s not a baby and could have been a bit less flaky. My mom was married with two kids when she was around this law student’s age.

                  I do agree that if the keys were lost, they were lost and the OP needed to come up with a plan B. People lose keys.

                7. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @mother of cats

                  OP was a full time employee when they made the request. The law student was likely an unpaid intern or maybe a paid intern. Depending on what year they were they might have been hoping to land a job at the firm after graduation or get a good recommendation. Most places I have worked legal secretaries might not have official power, but unofficially they can have a huge impact on who gets hired (by talking to attorney(s)) and make your life easier/harder. So the law student might have felt pressured to say yes and worried that saying no could lead to adverse consequences.

                8. Dahlia*

                  The idea of a law student not being a responsible adult kind of boggles my mind as someone who was responsible for keeping peoples’ actual human children alive at the same age and younger.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                When you alternate between yelling and apologizing for the yelling, it really undercuts the latter. And all this to try and convince an acquaintance who *didn’t have keys* to do you a favor that required having those keys.

                1. Colette*

                  Yeah, that’s where I land. And when I’m doing something out of kindness, being yelled at makes me far less interested in doing it.

                2. EventPlannerGal*

                  This. It can be very unnerving and upsetting to be on the receiving end of that, like you want to defend yourself from the yelling but you can’t because now she’s upset and apologising, but now oh wait she’s yelling again… I absolutely understand why she would characterise the conversation as verbal abuse, and that’s not what she or anybody signs up for by taking an unpaid catsitting gig as a favour to a colleague.

              3. Observer*

                You may not have raised your voice, but you clearly did SOMETHING that sounded like yelling.

                Instead of “keeping on apologizing” you should have apologized ONCE and then continued the conversation by exploring how to best handle the situation. And accept the loss of the key as a given not something that is going to be reversed somehow.

              4. pamela voorhees*

                Not to be harsh, but your mother being sick is not an excuse to yell at someone — you don’t know if her father was sick, if she was sick, if someone she knew had died, etc. Saying “sorry” while you continue to do the behavior isn’t really an apology either.

              1. Quill*

                Yeah, does the student feel that if she outright said “no, I can’t take care of your cats for free, I want to sleep in my own bed that I’m already paying for, make weekend plans, and generally not be responsible for animals” it would reflect poorly on her as an intern? You definitely don’t ask your juniors for a favor when you have ways of making an arrangement with someone who can do it more conveniently.

                Should law student have kept her in the loop, re “I had to inform your neighbor that I still can’t find those keys, so either neighbor has to let me in every time or neighbor can do it themselves?” absolutely. Should OP have done their own troubleshooting when the lost keys text came in? DOUBLE ABSOLUTELY. They’re your cats, OP, what would you have done if Law Student had an emergency? If you don’t have a plan for “if the sitter gets in a car accident, loses the keys, or whatever, I’ll ask my neighbor to pinch hit with the expectation that I’ll spot them a nice dinner or something,” you haven’t prepared.

                1. Cat Owner*

                  Hi Quill, yes I had a friend who lives locally who offered to help out if the cat sitter got stuck. And this friend’s name and number were left for her as backup and this i the person I ended up express posting my keys to.

          2. Sleve McDichael*

            Sure, be angry. I’d be furious. But you’ve got to hold that in for the cats’ sake. Don’t scare away their carer. You can shout when you hang up the phone.

            1. Luna*

              Given her attitude, I have the feeling the keys aren’t actually lost. They are probably misplaced or in a very obvious spot at her home, and she just didn’t feel like taking care of the cats. Nor to return the keys, which is not only infurating, but also scary because she has access to OP’s home.

              1. Mia*

                Yes exactly what I thought when reading that. She probably thought lost keys would get her off the hook and was surprised when it didn’t. Just learn how to say no up front! Wouldn’t be surprised if the keys were neved even really lost and she just made it up to try to get out of petsitting.

                1. pamela voorhees*

                  This ascribes a lot of malice and laziness to the student that I don’t think is deserved. I have no idea why you would assume that when someone says “I lost the keys” your first thought would be “liar” but it seems like a pretty harsh assumption.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                Why? This is the second time I’ve found it in the thread, and the super easy way to get out of catsitting is, when OP asks, to claim you have another commitment and it won’t work for you. Not to agree, then refuse to show at the last minute and laugh maniacally as you gaze at the keys sitting on your counter while OP yells at you.

                (I have cats. Presently they are chasing each other around the dining room and shedding on my husband’s new bag. I have multiple sets of house keys in par so that transferring them amongst cat sitters isn’t a pain.)

                1. Emily K*

                  I don’t get this either. It’s especially realistic to me because I’ve pet-sit before for friends who left their keys with me for weeks/months until the next time they needed sitting, and sometimes depending on what’s happened in my life/home in the intervening months, that “really safe” spot I chose to keep someone else’s keys safe might have totally slipped my mind. Like you I lose important things despite my best efforts, not frequently but with some regularity. A few times I looked really hard and tore my place apart and eventually found them; once I had to make arrangements to be let in by a neighbor and retrieve the spare key at that time for the remaining visits.

              3. Smithy*

                This attitude really baffles me. I’ve lost many things in my life – and often the things most likely to be lost are things I don’t use often. Like my passport. Or an extra set of keys.

                Now maybe I will find them if I give myself a few days-week to find them, but a) not always and b) if there are pressing needs such as feeding animals that doesn’t matter. So if the response I was given was “tough luck, find them” – then particularly as a young person, I’d already feel like I was in an adversarial and doomed to fail.

                I have a mid-level career friend who started car sitting for a more senior coworker years ago when she was younger and just nodded when the compensation was “a neat place to stay”. I always send her these letters and tell her to stop – that the chance for this to end badly is just too high.

                1. boo bot*

                  Yeah, I’m pretty astonished by the idea that people don’t really lose things?

                  I’ve had people tell me that I lose things because I’m careless, lazy, selfish, stupid, engaged in a Machiavellian plot against them, etc., but I haven’t run into the idea that I don’t actually lose things at all – possibly that’s just not something people say to my face?

                  Like you, I’m most likely to lose things I don’t often use, which has meant losing important stuff (like my passport) because I don’t have habits about where I put them. I’ve gotten a whole lot better, but it’s work! (and medication!)

                2. Quill*

                  I lose things fairly constantly, and that includes things I need with far more frequency than a colleague’s keys – my phone, for one! I lost a driver’s license in a couch once (moral of the story is that women’s pants are not a secure place to keep anything.)

              4. Dust Bunny*

                Let’s not. For all we know, she was sincere *until* the OP bit her head off and offered no solution for the lost keys, and then revealed that somebody else could have been doing this in the first place.

              5. DJ*

                I really really doubt that if only because I imagine the student would have “found” them by now just to get the OP off her back about the missing keys. I can’t see going to all this trouble just to back out of the agreement, no matter how non-confrontational you are.

              6. pleaset*

                “Given her attitude, I have the feeling the keys aren’t actually lost.”

                This seems quite a stretch to me. On the other hand, I’m continually shocked on this blog how hard some people find it to say “no” so perhaps I’m wrong.

                But it seems to me the simplest explanation when someone says they lost the keys is that they lost the keys.

            2. A*

              I would be LIVID. Losing house keys is not just a ‘oops, my b!’ situation. If my keys were truly just floating around somewhere, I would want to change my locks (I know that might seem paranoid, but you never know).

              Of course, stuff happens. No one is perfect. But this is such an easily preventable situation I’m finding it hard to imagine I wouldn’t be angry. I pet sit for ~half a dozen people, some as mutually beneficial arrangements, most as paid gigs. I am even more careful with their keys then I am my own – and have never lost one. It’s been really, really easy to not run into this issue – I have a set place where I keep the keys in my car (therefore eliminating possibility of losing them in-between car & house, or inside my place). The minute I get back in my care, before I even consider driving off, I put them back in their spot.

              I have minimal sympathy for those that struggle with coming up with a basic organizational system for something so important.

              1. anon4this*

                But you pet sit for a living. An older coworker isn’t asking you for a irrelevant-to-your-job “favor” for no money while you’re a student.
                You have to keep track of keys because that’s your bread and butter. Also…great you’ve “never” lost a single key before in your life, but I wouldn’t say never forever.

          3. Tree*

            Not a colleague. Where I live – maybe it’s different where the OP is from – law students are hoping to get hired back, and legal assistants’ opinions are sought out. If an assistant had asked me to cat sit for free when I was a student, I’d’ve felt like I had no choice but to say yes.

            It’s telling that she ghosted once OP left the firm.

            It sounds frustrating, but from the student’s perspective: she’s put in a position where she has no choice but to do a personal favour for someone who can affect her future employment, she loses the keys but makes arrangements to get the cats fed, gets yelled at while celebrating father’s day with family in spite of that, and now is getting calls at work from someone who behaved abusively to her.

            She might just be thinking of the replacement cost as her cat sitting fee.

            She should absolutely have paid OP back. But OP should never have used a student who can’t say no for free cat sitting in the first place.

            1. Colette*

              I actually disagree that she should have paid the OP back. She was doing this for free, and it’s generally a bad idea to charge people for doing you favors. The OP lent the keys to someone who lost them; the OP should replace them (and perhaps choose someone more reliable next time). If it were a professional business who lost them, that would be different.

              1. Uranus Wars*

                This is where I land too. Someone losing keys that you lent them so they could do you a favor, or even for paid work is…not great but the cost of doing business. In the future, hopefully the OP will get the keys back immediately after loaning them out.

            2. Mother of Cats*

              Really? I get the power dynamic but I also got good at saying ‘oh my mom really needs me at home that weekend so I can’t’ or ‘Gee sorry we have a family trip already planned over a few of the days you’re out of town so I can’t’. Or ‘My parents are already away that time so I’ll need to be at our house to keep an eye out and if I can’t stay at your place it’s too far out of my way.’ There are so many ways you can say I’d love to but I can’t. She could even have been allergic to cats before the first time if she didn’t want to. There are a lot of white lies you could tell.

              Also a decent human being would be mortified to lose someone’s keys and not be able to go feed the helpless creatures they took responsibility for. Not a shoulder shrug and too bad so sad.

              OP maybe doesn’t do themselves any favours but zero sympathy for ‘not so’ cat sitter either.

              1. Smithy*

                When my friend was asked to cat sit by a more senior cat worker, she was more advanced in her career and said that saying yes was essentially networking with senior management. If she’s legit busy, she’s busy – but she also knows that doing it keeps her in positive favor with management.

                This isn’t about saying “no” to things we don’t want to do – but literally being told that a way to connect with a company is by doing X.

                1. WellRed*

                  Well, being asked by senior management to do personal favors in order to gain favor is just plain wrong. I do like your typo in the first sentence.

                2. Smithy*

                  That is an amazing typo…

                  I think the reality is that for a student/legal intern – it’s going to be a different level of seniority and stability where another staff member has that kind of power.

                  And it’s not like these requests are made that directly – “hey can you cat sit for favors down the line?” It’s far more like “hey, you’re junior to me and have a living situation I consider to be less attractive than mine – wanna cat sit?”

              2. LegalBeagle*

                Really. And to be frank, I don’t think you *do* get the power dynamic in most law firms for students. Wrong and horrible as it is, any student who regularly used expressions like ‘Gee sorry we have a family trip already planned over a few of the days you’re out of town so I can’t’. = ‘Not a team player willing to go the extra mile to get employment here after she passes the bar.’ There are WAY more baby lawyers than open positions for them in good firm, and the mindset VERY much persists that ‘if you want this job, you’ll do anything and everything to get it.’ Now that I’m 15 years into my career and finally in a position to do something about, I make DAMN sure that none of my paralegals, my secretary, or my direct reports engage in this kind of behavior. Maybe the secretary was unaware of it, but a 23 year old (or so) legal student will do ANYTHING for ANY permanent employee who asks, because our industry has conditioned them to understand (sadly, but not incorrectly) that those secretaries, paralegals, other assistants, WILL have an impact on future employment, recommendations, and opportunities. If my secretary mentions to me that an intern or student is a unlikable, even in casual conversation, I’m going to give that A LOT of weight when it’s time to make important decisions. So, it’s great that you’re comfortable saying “no” and coming up with workable strategies to get out of undesired commitments and obligations, but that’s just not how every field works.

                1. Karyn*

                  I mean, I do think that paralegals and legal secretaries should be consulted if they work directly with the interns on office-related things – just because they’re secretaries or paralegals doesn’t mean their opinions aren’t valid. But they should be taken as part of a whole, and the opinions should be counted only to the extent that they apply to the intern’s JOB (for instance, I told my boss once that a law clerk refused to do a job that my boss had specifically asked me to give him, because the law clerk wanted it to come directly from my boss and not from me relaying my boss’ request because “you’re only a secretary and I don’t take orders from secretaries.”). But I agree with your overall assertion that law clerks are WAY more likely to just say yes even when they can’t or don’t want to or shouldn’t have to because they want The Job.

            3. Isabel Kunkle*

              Yeah. And if I have the timeline right–Saturday through Monday–she may have thought that it genuinely was fine: the neighbor was handling the feeding and giving them both the special diet, she’d change litter when she got in on Monday. (I don’t own cats, so IDK if changing the litter is a daily thing, generally, but I’ve had friends who did go away for the weekend, left food out, and changed litter on their return, and the world did not end.) Cat 2 might not have been thrilled about getting the diet food both days, but they’re not going to starve over the weekend.

              It’s not great, but I don’t get the outsize freaking about “living beings”: cats are not made of glass, and nothing the OP says indicates that the diet/litter situation is going to cause them serious problems. The student did make sure they had food and water for the weekend. If I’d been in that position–doing free work, then getting screamed at because the alternate arrangements I’d made weren’t up to someone’s standards, etc–I might well be tempted to say “well, screw you, enjoy paying for your keys.”

              I like to think I *wouldn’t*, but it’s understandable.

              1. Isabel Kunkle*

                (A friend points out that this is cat-dependent, and a professional pet-sitter would know that, which is another reason to hire one. With someone else, though, unless the LW had specifically said that Tinky Winky needs the litterbox cleaned daily or he’ll use the bed *and* mentioned on the “oh, the neighbor can fill in for tonight” call that said neighbor can’t or won’t do that*, a volunteer who has a more casual understanding of cats and doesn’t know the specifics of the deal with the neighbor is pretty justified in thinking it’s NBD if the neighbor covers for an extra day.)

                * She did mention that the neighbor could just feed them the same diet Saturday night, which makes it reasonable for the student to think that could apply Sunday as well.

            4. Karyn*

              This is the comment I was looking for. I’ve been a legal secretary and basically the partners told us that we were above the law students/law clerks/interns in the office hierarchy. Anytime I didn’t have the time to do a research project or even some menial office things that took away from more pressing matters, I was told to give it to an intern or law clerk. That being the case, I was always mindful that in some ways, I had power over them, to the point where I almost never asked them to do things because I didn’t want to create the idea that they HAD to do whatever I asked or risk not being invited to return next year. I can’t understand why OP didn’t ask a friend or family member or a pet sitter to do this rather than a law student who quite likely felt like she couldn’t say no.

            5. NOPE*

              “She should absolutely have paid OP back. ”

              I disagree – if you loan something out, like keys, I think the expectation should be on the owner to get them back promptly, not just leave them with the petsitter. Furthermore, if I was petsitting for free and then someone told me their keys were “costly” to replace? Nah. Keys are like $3. If they cost more, express that up front and make it extremely clear to keep them safe.

              Were I in the law student’s shoes, I’d be apologetic, but things happen! You can’t expect people to replace $50-200 keys. Don’t loan them out if they’re that expensive! Leave them with the doorman or figure out an alternative (a lockbox for the keys, a la Wag, perhaps?).

              And for the LW to now go after the would-be petsitter’s job? Yeah, I’m unsurprised that the law student didn’t want to help them – they sound vindictive as hell.

          4. biobotb*

            No, given that they were security keys to the building, I doubt the student could even get them replaced. The OP chose not to deal with that problem, making it nearly impossible for the student to make good on her agreement to look after the cats. After which the student reached out to the neighbor for help. She didn’t just ditch and leave the cats to be unfed and unwatered. The OP’s anger should mostly be reserved for herself.

          5. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

            The only reason I feel like it would have been justified to lose her temper is her concern for the cats – not the other reasons you listed.

        4. ceiswyn*

          The student’s ability to help HAD fallen through, though. She told the OP that when she said she’d lost the keys.

          I don’t know what the OP expected her to do without the keys, and without providing any option other than ‘well find them then’. The OP’s actions from the point at which she knew that the student had NO WAY TO GET TO THE CATS are completely irrational.

          The student losing the keys was… not great. But these things happen. The fact that the OP was unable to adjust to this reality and just carried on optimistically expecting that the magic fairies would return the keys and enable the student to get into her house speaks pretty poorly of her, IMO.

          1. Mother of Cats*

            come to the place, buzz the neighbour, get the apartment key, feed cats. Give neighbour back key and arrange times to come over when neighbour can let you in. Fobbing off on the neighbour who didn’t agree to this when you did is not OK at all. The deal might have been bad, the student might have decided they should have said no but they didn’t. So it totally was their job to figure out how to care for the dependent creatures they said they would care for until the OP got back. Then she can say that it was a rubbish deal and she regretted making it so she won’t do it again but she can’t let the OP go away and then on day one say you know what, can’t be bothered ‘lost’ your keys, figure it out. OP was entitled to take cat sitter at their word they would do the job for the ‘pay’ agreed. If it wasn’t enough pay for them to be happy with the task they should have said no. OP might have had to cancel her trip, she might have asked the neighbour to do cat sitting full time, she might have had to find a pet sitter last minute and pay them but at least she’d have known that and been able to deal with it at home whilst still in control and able to care for her pets. This was horrible of this former colleague to do.

            1. Mookie*

              Yeah, I agree this was an attempt to overcomplicate the situation (and create plausible deniability with the phone business, where if she can’t be got hold of she can’t be forced to answer a straight question) in order to be free of it. It would have been so much more cordial and easy just to say that she’d changed her mind and promptly return the keys, thereby giving the LW a day or two to make other arrangements.

              1. Mia*

                It also sounds like the lost key issue only came up right before the LW was leaving town (or possibly after she was already gone, hard to tell) therefore there was no time for alternate arrangements.

            2. ceiswyn*

              You’re now expecting the student to go massively out of their way every day when there’s a neighbour on the spot who could just as well just feed the cats as let the student in every day.

              The student didn’t say they couldn’t be bothered. They said they’d lost the keys, and it’s quite likely that they actually did tell the OP just as soon as they realised they’d lost the keys.

              These are the OP’s cats, and the OP is the only person with the knowledge and capability to figure out a solution. At the point where the OP completely abrogates those responsibilities in favour of ‘just magic up the lost keys so that you can continue to do me a favour’, and then has a go at the person doing her the favour when the magic doesn’t happen, they have kind of lost the moral high ground.

              I’m not claiming the student behaved perfectly, because they didn’t. But they didn’t ‘flake’; they had an accident in losing the keys, and were then treated unreasonably by the OP.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                If caring for the cats is enough of a pain that you would rather hire a petsitter than ask the neighbor as a favor–and I think that’s pretty accurate, neighbors should be the fallback for emergencies–then the pay shouldn’t be simply the opportunity to do a favor for someone higher up at work. (The norm is to find a local teenager and pay them $X/day.)

                The more I think about that aspect, the more bothered I am by it. You ask for catsitting as a favor between peers that you will repay when they travel, or you hire someone to do it in exchange for money. Room and utilities is not fair compensation to people who already have room and utilities, which they must pay for whether they catsit for you or not.

                1. Don't get salty*

                  Room and utilities are less than nothing when it comes to compensation. The 0P has already paid for these, and the pet sitter would absolutely need access to the apartment, and need to use the utilities, in order to properly care for the cat. That’s like me offering free ingredients to someone as payment to cater my event.

                2. Don't get salty*

                  Room and utilities are less than nothing when it comes to compensation. The 0P has already paid for these, and the pet sitter would absolutely need access to the apartment, and need to use the utilities, in order to properly care for the cat. That’s like me offering someone free access to all the ingredients in my cabinet as payment for catering.

              2. Mother of Cats*

                I don’t believe she lost the keys. I believe she ‘lost’ the keys because she didn’t want to stay in OPs place or travel there. If she did lose the keys she’s still said she will do something and needs to do it. These are not plants OP can replace at whatever the cost is. They are living creatures who need their needs met, with personalities and someone who loves them, whom they love. They require some time spent with them daily as they will be lonely. Saying you will meet those needs and then failing to with a shrug is not ok whatever the circumstances. Yes, it was a crap deal for the cat sitter if she didn’t want to live in the flat in a cool area for two weeks. However, that is when your big adult undies come out and you say no, soften it with other responsibilities you can’t get out of if you have to soften it and say no however many times you need to.

                Not responding to frantic calls of a pet parent when you are the one supposed to be keeping their pets alive is ‘flaky’ at a minimum and totally reprehensible more reasonably. Maybe if she’d shown a little understanding for the terrible position she put the OPs cats in the OP wouldn’t be so hellaciously annoyed at her. Just ducking her calls and ghosting her while she’s away and your supposed to be looking after her pets is an a hole move. End of.

                1. Yorick*

                  But the cats weren’t in a terrible position. The student made sure they were cared for by the neighbor.

                2. Emily K*

                  You keep insisting that the keys weren’t really lost and there’s absolutely no basis for that in the letter.

                3. ceiswyn*

                  If the student lied about losing the keys, then yes, she is a horrible person. But I don’t see any reason to assume that she did, other than the OP apparently leapt to that conclusion.

                  Which is an… interesting… conclusion to leap to about someone she supposedly trusted enough to stay in her flat and look after her pets.

                  As for “if she did lose the keys she’s still said she will do something and needs to do it” – how, by breaking in?

                  At the point where she can’t stay in the flat anymore and needs to travel there and then home every day, AND for the neighbour to change their evening plans to let this person in at a specific time of day, this is no longer a viable option; even before she has to put up with being yelled at as well. And also probably a worse deal for the neighbour than just caring for the cats themselves.

                4. EventPlannerGal*

                  I’m sorry, this is all so hyperbolic I am having trouble taking this seriously. “The frantic calls of a pet parent”, “keeping their pets alive”, “terrible situation” – the cats are fine. They were in their owner’s home, a safe environment, with a neighbour who could and did go in to feed them. The student flaked, certainly, but she didn’t tie them in a sack and throw them overboard.

                5. Isabel Kunkle*

                  @EventPlannerGal: I am entirely with you. The student *did* keep the cats alive–she talked to the neighbor, the neighbor agreed to cover until Monday, the student was going to show up Monday and take over.

                  It’d have been different if said student had blown off the entire two weeks, but TBH I always heard that one of the main advantages of having cats as pets, vs. dogs or more dependent creatures, was that you *could* go away for a couple days and, as long as you left out food/water/clean litter and the animals didn’t have daily-pill-type medical needs, it’d be no big deal even without a sitter as such.

                6. President Porpoise*

                  And also, as an avid gardener who had to replace half her garden because the plant waterer I got did a terrible job – replacing plants at whatever the cost ignores the years of cultivation, expense of water, pruning, etc. that goes into the care of a well maintained garden. I literally spent in the area of $1k and three months repairing the damage. Thankfully, my garden in still young, and is pretty small. But please, don’t assume that letting the plants die is any more acceptable than not caring for an animal.

                  And I didn’t yell at the person who killed my yard, because they just didn’t have the knowledge to know that a light sprinkle of water in 110+ degree heat wasn’t going to be enough for my non-native plants, and incorrectly assumed that she could pass the responsibility to a different family without issue. For this year’s vacation, I trained my plant waterer very thoroughly and paid her very well.

                7. Anonymeece*

                  I am honestly baffled by the conviction that the student did not honestly lose the keys because it was “easier” to do than just saying no. I would be mortified if I had to call someone who asked me to petsit and tell them I lost their housekeys. I would have looked everywhere for them first and finally called when I had absolutely no other choice.

                  Additionally, at the point that the OP was telling her she needed to pay for it – and mind, Student knows that OP might very well call her company and hurt her career, as OP already suggested she has thought about – then would she really not magically produce them by that point, if she really hadn’t lost them?

                  Finally, there is nothing in the letter to suggest that the student did not really lose the keys. We could just as easily assume that the cats secretly stole them because they like the neighbor better. It makes no sense to continue with this conviction when the more charitable, and more obvious, answer is that people do, in fact, lose things.

                8. NOPE*

                  “If she did lose the keys she’s still said she will do something and needs to do it. ”

                  HOW? The LW said “find them.”
                  That’s not a solution.

                9. Falling Diphthong*

                  I am honestly baffled by the conviction that the student did not honestly lose the keys because it was “easier” to do than just saying no.

                  This. I’ve changed my mind about how easily the student could have said no–I think there was a “show you’re a team player and problem solver, or else” aspect OP didn’t realize when she thought she was granting a favor. But if she didn’t want to do it, creating a weekend commitment was a heck of a lot easier than agreeing, then at the last minute claiming to have lost the keys (thereby guaranteeing tense time on the phone with the other person) while staring at them and laughing Muah Ha Ha Ha Ha inwardly.

                  A make-believe sick relative is a much easier way to get out of caring for the cats of someone who is hours away from not being able to negatively impact your career any more.

                10. This is ridiculous*

                  The bizarre attachment part was unkind, and I apologize. But you really are just making stuff up, and it’s kind of weird. I mean, the intern didn’t lose the keys? The apartment is in a cool part of town? The cats were in jeopardy? None of that is in the letter! Maybe take a step back, remember that these weren’t your cats, and calm down a little?

              3. Massmatt*

                Losing the keys is bad. It happens, yes, but it’s bad. If I was doing a favor for someone and really didn’t want to, my losing their keys would probably make me go overboard with trying to accommodate them to assuage my guilt.

                I’m surprised no one has mentioned the cat-sitter’s lame “busy with Father’s Day” excuse. I don’t know many people that book up their day for that, but maybe I run in a crowd of rotten kids. And fathers.

                1. Yorick*

                  If they’re a big family with a few grown children, it’s not weird that a Father’s Day get-together may take all day.

                2. NOPE*

                  In my circle, nearly everyone is booked up for Father’s Day. Our anecdotal experience does not warrant us being suspect of “lame” excuses and per AAM “rules” I think we should all take what the student said at face value rather than insinuate they must be lying.

                3. emmelemm*

                  In some families, Mother’s and Father’s Day are a BIG DEAL. I have “married” (long term partnered) into such a family. I know what I’ll be doing alll day on certain Sundays in May and June, come what may.

                4. ele4phant*

                  I think if you have a free cat sitter, you kind of take what you can get. They still get to have a life, and leave town, if they want. You don’t get to have their exclusive right to their free time.
                  If they want to leave town for the weekend, they can. For whatever reason they so choose.

                  I think the student erred in not letting the OP know upfront that she wasn’t available on certain days. She should’ve given the OP that schedule upfront so OP could decide what she would like as an alternative, or if she’d want another sitter instead. But, ultimately, the cats were cared for, so while the student could’ve done better, she made sure the cats were kept alive.

                  Which for a free cat sitter, that might be the best you can expect.

                  You want better care, pay for it.

            3. Dust Bunny*

              was the neighbor introduced to the student ahead of time? Because if somebody I didn’t know buzzed my door asking for my neighbor’s keys I’d tell them to go fly.

            4. biobotb*

              It was pretty horrible of the OP to fob off care of her cats to someone she knew couldn’t get into the building.

            5. ele4phant*

              I mean, I would’ve done this differently if I was the student. For sure.

              But, what you propose above is just, such as hassle for everyone. A huge imposition on the student, who is already doing this for free, but now you’re sucking in the neighbor. Again, for free. It really seems the *easiest* thing to have done would be to just have the neighbor takeover, and release the student.

              I mean, the IDEAL thing to do would be to hire a professional and pay them. The fact that is so expensive to hire a professional cat sitter should be clue number one that the OP was getting the favor here, not the other way around.

              It sucks that the keys were lost, but it happens. Eat the cost and do things differently next time.

              I wouldn’t be happy if this had played out for my cat too, but I pay my cat sitters so I make sure I’m going to get good quality care. Also – I never ask employees that are junior to me to do this. There’s just a dynamic there, that, no. It’s not fair.

          2. Yorick*

            If the student was going to petsit but lost the keys to your place, and your neighbor has a key, the logical thing to do is cancel the student and ask the neighbor to do it. The neighbor can be told about the special diet as easily as the student could.

            It doesn’t make sense to have the student call the neighbor, get let in to the building, get the key from the neighbor, and then continue to get let in by the neighbor every time thereafter. Just have the neighbor feed the cats.

              1. Tallulah in the Sky*

                It still doesn’t solve the issue of the security key to enter the building complex though. Is the neighbor supposed to give up their key ?

                1. Ophelia*

                  This is when the OP calls the building management to either get another key, or get the contact info for someone on-site who can let the pet-sitter in. Or talks to a neighbor who can buzz her in, etc.

                2. Tallulah in the Sky*

                  @Ophelia – In a comment, OP (look for Cat Owner) explained this was the plan : sleep on it, neighbor can handle the cat for one night, and if she still hadn’t found the key go to building management get another key. This is still unpractical to me, OP should have bought a new key before going on her vacation instead of adding more hassle to someone already doing you a favor. And if living the apartment was really a treat for the pet-sitter, having to get buzzed in would be a real pain (it would be a pain even without that, you’d have to sync schedules with someone else).

                3. ele4phant*

                  Yeah, I don’t see the building management handing over an extra key to a non-resident, even per the request of one of their tenants.

                  And I realize this all happened the night before OP left for vacation, but if it were me I wouldn’t have taken a no news is good news approach and left.

                  I would’ve been getting in touch with the student first thing in the AM to find if she’s found the key, and if she hadn’t found it, taken it upon myself to figure out the alternative would be.

                4. Yorick*

                  I forgot this was the night before she left. So all OP had to do was leave HER keys for the petsitter (even meet her before leaving and hand them over), and make sure the petsitter knows to be there when she gets back in town. Otherwise, there is no way this works – The petsitter can’t get into the building on her own.

            1. ChimericalOne*

              Right. It doesn’t take 2 people to feed the cats. The neighbor’s going to be bothered each time anyway, so just have the neighbor do it. It’s more work for them both to have to coordinate with each other to feed the cats.

              1. Cat Owner*

                No this all happened after I had left, I was away on holiday when she texted me to say she had lost the keys.

          3. Sharrbe*

            “I don’t know what the OP expected her to do without the keys, and without providing any option other than ‘well find them then’.”

            I do agree with this. This is not a reasonable solution to the problem. LW should have arranged for a new key to be made despite the fact that it costs money. “Just find the lost key” is the equivalent to telling someone that they “should just win the lottery” if they fall behind on their bills.

        5. JSPA*

          Thing is,
          It’s actually OP who abandoned the student, without a key. The student had no way to get in, or to get keys. The student warned OP that the keys were missing. It’s OP who decided that the cost and bother of scrambling to get an emergency key at the last minute was more important than the safety of OP’s cats. I can’t see my way past sending all shade to OP, here, despite the “no dumping on question askers” rule. “Sleep on it?” WTF, No! Make sure your sitter has a key, and that there’s a backup key.

          Furthermore, the student (at that point that they flaked…which was after being berated for a situation that OP could have fixed, the student could not have fixed…) knew that there was a neighbor who

          a) could equally well do the job (the idea that OP could not count on the neighbor mastering the mysteries of the litter box doesn’t go far with me, I’m afraid) and

          b) could have equally well been imposed upon–except that OP was not comfortable imposing on someone OP actually respected (the neighbor) as opposed to someone OP clearly didn’t much respect (the student).

          OP is displaying an ongoing horrifying lack of boundaries and endless bad judgement, frankly, and should take responsibility for putting a student, her neighbor, her cats and herself into an entirely un-necessary position.

          1. Joielle*

            Yeah, this is where I come down too. If you make arrangements with a non-professional petsitter, you NEED to have backup keys/plans/sitter/everything. Just assume that everything will go wrong and you’ll have to arrange the backup remotely – because it could happen, and you need to be prepared.

            If you don’t want to do that, you have to pay for a professional petsitter. Peace of mind (and built-in backup plans) is part of what you pay for with those services. It’s like deciding to be the general contractor for your own home renovations or something – you can do it, but then the responsibility for cleaning up other peoples’ (inevitable) mistakes is on you. If you don’t want that responsibility, you pay someone else to do it.

          2. Det. Charles Boyle*

            Very well said. The OP was in the wrong here. She abused her position of power over a student workers; then was angry when the keys were lost but refused to pay to replace them; then verbally abused the student worker. Next time, just pay for a petsitter.

          3. emmelemm*

            I think this is a good point. Why didn’t OP ask the neighbor to do the job in the first place? The neighbor lives *next door*. It is way more convenient for the neighbor to come over for a few minutes each day, then return to their own home with a commute of, oh, say 2 minutes.

            But OP knew that this is an inconvenience and an imposition, so they didn’t ask their neighbor, who they either a) respect or b) don’t want to be in debt to. Instead, they ask this student that they do have some power over, because they know they can.

          4. Cat Owner*

            I am not sure where people have gotten the idea that I was still in town when she lost the keys. Also I only gave her the keys days before going away. She did not still have them from last time. As advised in previous posts I express posted my security key to my friend as that was going to be quicker and easier than arranging a replacement whilst I was away. Also the co worker, because that is how I saw her and not as a subordinate, said she loved staying at my place, said it was great. When I first asked her it was because she lived with her parents and also as a student would know other people in a similar position who would jump at the chance to stay in the area I live in. So my initial request was along the lines of “do you know someone responsible who would be interested” and she said she would do it. I took her to dinner when I showed her around, asked what she wanted food wise, arranged wifi for her etc and took her out again when I came back and this time had left her a voucher as a thank you. Okay not the same same as getting paid but I definitely see it when I get someone to live in as an exchange, they get to stay somewhere nice and I am very clear that it has to be beneficial to both parties so I outline clearly what the cats are like. Other times I’ve paid people to just come in and feed them etc but not stay. It just depends.

            1. Another Sarah*

              OK, I get that she lost them and it was annoying. I get that you were worried about the cats because I would be too.
              But (and this is a genuine question, not snark) do you see how over the top it is to be calling her a thief, and trying to get her in trouble at work over this? You are overreacting massively to this situation, and this being weeks after the fact, that makes me wonder what the phone call in the moment was actually like.

              Let’s just look at what she actually did to you.
              She lost your keys. She didn’t call you on Sunday morning. She didn’t tell you straight away that she’d arranged the neighbour to look after the cats for the day she wouldn’t be able to secure a replacement building key.
              Because that’s what she did. You said yourself in the comments that there was no getting a new key till Monday, so she arranged the neighbour to look after them on Sunday and Monday morning until she could get a new key.
              She absolutely should have okayed that with you and kept you more up to speed, but I can see her logic. At no point were your cats in any danger, and she was really in a bind – of her own making, but that doesn’t change the fact that she couldn’t get into the building without disturbing your neighbour anyway, and from her perspective you were ok with the neighbour looking after them for a short time because you’d already asked her.
              She wasn’t perfect, but it really wasn’t that bad. And given the alternatives, (don’t feed the cats, call the neighbour anyway to get in the flat so she can go feed the cats, activate the plan b friend who didn’t have keys anyway and would have been in exactly the same position) it wasn’t that crazy a solution.
              It certainly didn’t warrant a response like yours, and to be honest, I think you’re getting so hung up on what she did wrong that you’re not seeing your own culpability in the situation. You knew she had no key, you knew she would have no key for the duration of Sunday, you could have sent her your own key the way you sent it to your friend if you were that worried about her bothering your neighbour (because making your neighbour stay in to buzz her in is as big an imposition as going next door for five minutes to feed the cats) and I can see her thinking (if she even knew) that if it was totally disastrous for the second cat to get special diet food for a day or so, you would have given your neighbour the right instructions in the first place

              After blowing up at her in such a way that she asked you never to contact her again, trying to bill her for the key and branding her a thief for not returning what she’s already told you is lost is pretty misguided.
              Why would she keep your keys if she had them? Any petty joy you think she might get from keeping them deliberately to spite you is more than cancelled out by the hassle you’ve given her, trust me. It makes no sense to keep them on purpose and if she isn’t doing that, it’s not theft. It’s an accident that’s left you out of pocket. You can technically bill her for it, but IMO it’s not really a thing you should ask of an acquaintance who was doing you a favour that saved you a lot of money and especially not after the goodwill in the relationship has been destroyed.

        6. M*

          It sounds like the cat sitter didn’t agree to the second cat-sitting. Based on the letter to me it sounded like the LW assumed the same situation and didn’t really ask the sitter. That’s what it sounded like to me.
          If your cats are so important please pay someone to watch them. It’s the right thing to do for everyone. I would use a service in future. I know it’s probably expensive, but at least you have peace of mind and know your animals are looked after. Good luck.

        7. Emily K*

          It sounds like it was just one day – less than one day, even – not a period of days. Saturday night she couldn’t find the keys and proactively asked what to do. The response was “you have to find them” which is not really a good response and doesn’t leave her with any workable way to get into the building. On Sunday morning when she still couldn’t find them, she asked the neighbor if she could do the next two feedings and let her in on Monday because she had plans with her family for Father’s day and the neighbor wasn’t going to let her in at a late hour in Sunday, since again, she had no way to get inside because LW’s only solution was “just find the keys” as if the sitter could just magically decide to find a lost object.

          It definitely would have been better for g to contact LW instead of the neighbor, but considering LW apparently flipped out and was abusive I get why she didn’t. She asked the neighbor if she could let her in on Monday instead of Sunday and make the two feedings between now and then for her. It seems that less than 24 hours passed between the Saturday night “I can’t find the keys” and LW hearing from her on Sunday afternoon that she’d made arrangements with the neighbor up come one day later.

        8. Observer*

          If the pet-sitter had written in, of course everyone would point out what she did wrong. And, I agree that most of what she did was totally not ok.

          However, I do disagree about the key. Yes, she SHOULD pay for it, but I can’t entirely blame her for flaking on this. On the other hand given the OP’s reaction, I can see it feeling like paying for this is like admitting to being a thief and catering to an unreasonable person who takes advantage of people.

          It’s the OP who wrote in, though. And they need to realize that their behavior leaves a lot to be desired here. Both because they need to back off and not try to get the student in trouble, and because they need to think about how they handle stuff like pet sitting going forward.

          1. Lucette Kensack*

            I actually don’t think the pet sitter should pay for the key. Mistakes happen at work, and we are not expected to personally pay to resolve them. This is even more true for people who are doing us a favor.

            1. Jenny Craig*

              +1

              If this was a professional pet service, then yes, they should pay for the replacement. This is a student who was doing OP a favor.

            2. Quill*

              Especially as it sounds like OP’s ridiculously expensive building key / key card is something OP didn’t mind leaving with sitter for months upon months – she should either already have a second backup or she doesn’t actually need a backup.

        9. Liz*

          Agree with Allison 100%. I am kind of my company’s resident “dog sitter” in that I watch several friends and co-workers dogs. It started with one, then spread to another, and then a few more! Some on a regular basis, others, just once, but hopefully will do it again. BUT, it works well for all involved. They get someone they know, and know loves animals, to stay IN their home, with their furbabies, and know that they have someone they know and trust IN their home as well while they’re gone.

          It benefits me in that they pay me, AND as I live in an apt, without a W/D, I get to do laundry, and sometimes have the benefit of a huge, beautiful kitchen, pool, etc. at my disposal. So far, I’ve never had to back out of any commitment, although I did feel like I took on too much this summer, so was NOT disappointed at all when a couple fell through. I think in August alone I made just under 1K watching pets.

          but if I were the OP, I’d be livid too. you don’t just commit to something like that, and then back out, and lose the keys and not replace them. If that were me, I’d be bending over backwards getting new keys, and whatnot.

          1. Ophelia*

            Sure, but it sounds like people are actually PAYING you to watch their pets – which makes it a business transaction, not just a favor – and I think that does change the dynamic around replacing the keys.

            1. Yorick*

              Yeah, if they were gonna pay me $x to watch the animals but I lost the key, I might be ok with taking $x-key cost. But if I were going out of my way to help and lost the key? I guess whether I’d expect to pay would depend on the circumstances of how the key got lost.

          2. biobotb*

            She didn’t back out. She lost the keys and based on the OP’s description of the building security, I don’t see how the student could have replaced them. Does the building management just give new security keys to random people? I suspect not. In which case the OP is the only one who could solve that problem, and she chose not to. She chose to leave her cats in the lurch without their carer having a way into the building.

            1. pamela voorhees*

              I agree — there’s zero chance building management would have done anything to assist a total stranger claiming they’re a kitty sitter. I honestly don’t understand what the OP wanted the student to do, besides magically have the keys again.

          3. ele4phant*

            I mean, she didn’t back out though. She ensured that the cat was being cared for everyday. If I were the cat owner I would’ve preferred to have been notified about what she intended to do. And if I were the neighbor, I’d also be annoyed that I was getting saddled with this suprise cat sitting.

            But, it’s not as though the student left the cat unattended and uncared for for two weeks. And it sounds like she just asked the neighbor to cover a few times?

            Honestly, again, some heads up to the pet owner should’ve been made, but I think it’s unreasonable to expect your cat sitter to not spend time with their father so they can care for your cat instead. Let me know you’ve got it covered, but you don’t own her whole life for two weeks. All she is obligated to do is make sure the cat is cared for every day, and she did.

          4. emmelemm*

            You being paid makes this a completely different situation with no comparability to what the OP has written in about.

        10. CeeKee*

          It’s an interesting situation to me because I find OP a really unsympathetic narrator with a somewhat-puzzling attitude overall, but at the same time, she’s pretty much 100% in the right, here. (Except, I guess, insofar as she wants to involve the employer in this personal dispute.) I agree with her, but I’m also glad I’m not the one getting pet-sitting requests from her.

          1. biobotb*

            She’s not 100% in the right. She left her cats to be cared by someone who already told her they had no way into the building. The OP was the only one who could solve that problem, but chose not to.

          2. ele4phant*

            I disagree she’s 100% in the right.

            First off, she’s getting an expensive service for free, but expecting perfection. You want great care, you pay for it. You get a free volunteer? Then meter your expectations.

            I think she’s wrong to expect that cat sitting is some sort of “treat”. It’s not, its a favor to you if someone does it for free, so appreciate that.

            She didn’t give the student workable alternatives. It is unreasonable to expect she would “just find” the keys, the onus was on her to figure out how to make it workable for the student get in, and the onus was on her to confirm whether or not the student had found the keys.

            She is in the wrong for yelling the student. There’s just no call for that. Things could’ve been done differently, but the student did make sure the cat was being looked in on, so…the cat is okay.

            And I think she’s wrong for expecting the student to pay for the lost key. It happens, people lose things. Maybe she should’ve offered, but at the end of the day your key your responsibility to keep control of it.

            I wouldn’t be pleased with this experience either, but all the same, I pay professional cat sitters so I get the quality I want and there is a sense of obligation. Pay the money for the service you want.

        11. JamieS*

          She was cavalier about it according to the OP who flew off the handle and wanted to go to the pet sitter’s employer over a lost key which is ultimately OP’s responsibility.

        12. Sloan Kittering*

          It seems clear to me that OP was gunning to make this person pay for the lost key. That is why the coworker was avoiding her. It’s one thing to take on a favor, it’s another to be asked to pay for expenses that occurred during reasonable discharge of the favor (even though it was technically “her fault” to lose the key).

        13. Ellen N.*

          I don’t know who would be higher in the hierarchy of a law office, a legal secretary or a law student. If it is the legal secretary; the law student was bullied into providing free services for the original poster.

          Once the keys were lost, the law student had no way to access the building. Upon being asked, the original poster offered no solution other than to tell the legal student to remember where the keys were. The law student’s ability to help fell through when she lost the keys which she did tell the original poster.

          Although I feel bad for the cats, I think the blame belongs on the original poster.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Unless the student already has a post-grad hiring offer in hand, the legal secretary is higher up in the hierarchy than the law student.

        14. Starbuck*

          I think you get what you pay for, though. They’re not friends, after all. This arrangement was costing the student time, and probably also money (travel costs) since OP was paying her nothing. That is a huge favor to ask even a good friend, not some perk for the student to have the privilege of scooping cat poop! OP’s expectations and framing were pretty unreasonable, so I’m not surprised at all that the student washed her hands of it after the combo of 1. lost keys, 2. neighbor who could help, and 3. OP yelling.

        15. NotAnotherManager!*

          She made a commitment to take care of living creatures and then was cavalier and irresponsible about it.

          This is where the rubber meets the road for me. This isn’t forgetting to water someone’s houseplants or pick up the mail, these are animals that need food and sanitary conditions. If the student couldn’t take on the responsibility, she should have told OP this from the start.

          We had a (paid) pet sitter flake on us once, and it’s about the angriest I’ve ever been. We came home a bit early to mutliple days of food on the counter, a dry water dish, a gross litterbox, and two very hungry, distressed cats. I was livid.

          1. Quill*

            Your experience sounds awful, but in this case, the sitter didn’t leave the cats without resources voluntarily – she physically could not enter the building AND there was a person available who was able, and apparently willing, to pick up the slack. It’s not unreasonable for the student to assume that 1) the OP would take over communicating the animals’ needs to the neighbor, whose contact information she clearly already has, and that 2) a neighbor who had easier access (read: any access) and the OP had told her could take over would do so, and/or would have told her “I can take all of these except Monday Morning, because I have to be at work by 7 AM, so if you don’t find the keys by then, text me friday night and I will leave my spare building key in (accessable but secure location) and you can slip it under the door to apartment 221b on your way out,” if that were the case.

            It’s also… just not that hard to clean a litter box for two cats. When the neighbor was brought into the picture OP should have confirmed the new details of the ENTIRE arrangement with everyone involved.

            OP’s neighbor deserves a fruit basket.

          2. ele4phant*

            If I had paid a cat sitter and they had neglected to care for my pet, I too would be livid.

            If I had a free volunteer that had worked with my neighbor (without me knowing) to make sure my cat was being cared and fed daily, I would be annoyed and maybe not repeat that arrangement, but you get what you pay for.

        16. Another Sarah*

          I’ve got to say “Cavalier and irresponsible” is a bit much. It was undoubtedly irresponsible to lose the keys, but arranging alternative feeding arrangements when she couldn’t get in to the building for a space of 24 hours and wanted to be mindful of disturbing the neighbour late at night is not cavalier. Should she have cut her planned family evening short and gone and fed them herself? Probably. But it’s hardly outside the bounds of reasonable behaviour to ask the person you will be disturbing if they’d rather do something that will prevent you disturbing them.
          The cats were never not getting fed. It’s a bit harsh to imply that she didn’t care that they were living creatures.

        17. Another Sarah*

          Forgot to add I do completely agree with you that ultimately she agreed to the arrangement and had a responsibility to make sure the cats were looked after, I’m just saying that I can see from her perspective that she thought she’d done what she could in an unfortunate set of circumstances – commitments to the animals, commitments to her family, a neighbour who was going to be disturbed no matter what… and her lack of communication is probably what caused the OP to blow up at her, whereas if she’d been proactive, the arrangement would have probably been ok in the circumstances, but I don’t think it’s quite fair to characterise her actions as completely dodging the obligation or endangering the wellbeing of the cats, more making the wrong call.

    2. MisplacedMidwesterner*

      I’m going to agree here. Her two weeks of free rent and utilities don’t really help her if she still has to pay rent at her own home. (Unless maybe she lives at home and is getting a break from her parents.) Additionally most pet sitters and house sitters I know get paid a daily stipend to stay at your place & feed pets. So her “doing you a favor” framing is really relevant. You were both approaching the situation from different angles. She was doing you a favor and you were hiring her.

      Probably in the future, you will need to be very clear on the details and expectations of offers like this and perhaps use a licensed service.

      1. MommyMD*

        Yes. And OP didn’t really “hire” her if she didn’t pay her. This person was doing OP a favor. But she should have cared for the cats if she accepted the obligation and then told OP this would be the last time. It’s not her responsibility to replace lost keys and harassing her at work was not good.

      2. Sandy*

        Oof. I go away for a few weeks every summer and while I typically use a paid pet sitter the rest of the year, in summer I usually exchange pet sitting for a free place to stay in my place.

        Admittedly my place is a fabulous apartment in the centre of a major European city, and friends and acquaintances leap at the chance to take me up on that offer in high season (when hotel rates average 300-400 Euro a night) but reading this thread has me really REALLY nervous…

        1. Catya*

          As long as you’ve carefully and thoroughly vetted these acquaintances and are confident they are responsible, reliable types who have a solid understanding of your pet(s) needs, the procedure for contacting you in an emergency, and the expectations you have of their care, I’m sure you’ll be fine.

          I mean, I’d never risk it personally, but it sounds like your apartment is just so great that you may be able to rely on it to ensure reliability.

        2. KinderTeacher*

          I would say you probably don’t have too much to worry about. Your free lodging has built in value. I’m guessing these friends and acquaintances don’t live in similarly fabulous apartments a few quick steps away in the same major European city. While it’s true they don’t have the motivation of being paid driving them to do a good job, beyond the general motivation of doing well by their friend and by the helpless living creatures temporarily depending on them, they have the motivation of not wanting to screw up future chances at a free stay in a fabulous apartment in the center of a major city!

        3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          So people are coming in from out of town for a vacation, and the cost of your “AirBNB” arrangement is pet care? I don’t think that’s the same – the student in this letter is local, not touristing.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Two thoughts of how a free place to stay COULD have significant value:
            1. If OP lives closer to student’s work or school than student does, it would reduce her commute for that period of time.
            2. If student has been complaining that her family is so noisy she can’t concentrate on her studies after work, it would give her a quiet study area.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Or the student lives with three awful roommates, and is thrilled to have some time in a private apartment.

              1. Jerk Store*

                This is what I was thinking – I would have loved this arrangement when I lived with my parents or with a roommate.

            2. ele4phant*

              I mean, when you are young and poor, it is nice to pet sit and have a nice place to say. There can be a mutual benefit to these situations.

              BUT, the fact remains, if she had to pay for this service it would cost OP hundreds of dollars. We pay our pet sitters $150 a week for one pretty chill, healthy cat.

              Even if its nice to get a break from your crummy apartment and your annoying roommates, the pet owner is still getting the better end of the bargain.

        4. Jen S. 2.0*

          It sounds like you have people coming to visit from out of town who otherwise would not be in your city, and so would be traveling and staying in a hotel, so you actually are saving them money, or providing them something of some value, in exchange for cat sitting. They are vacationing, so they are getting a free place to stay that they actually want / need. Yes?

          That doesn’t sound like the case with LW1.

          (And if indeed the people who are cat sitting for you are coming from a couple of miles (or kilometers, in your case) away and don’t really need the lodging, then, yes, I might offer them a stipend.)

          1. bonkerballs*

            I think she’s saying this is what she’s been doing, but now because of this thread saying there’s no value in offering to stay free at your place, she’s worried that this thing she’s been doing has not been okay.

        5. Mel*

          Do not worry about this. I have a friend who regularly dog sits for her in laws for the pleasure of staying at their nice house and just a teensy extra in cash. The house has no location value, it’s just nice and has a pool.

          You’re totally in the clear.

          1. Emily K*

            In-laws, though. The relationship matters. We’re more willing to do greater favors the closer the relationship.

        6. JSPA*

          These friends don’t already live (and continue to pay rent) in that same city though, right?

          So that’s a different situation.

          You’re offering something that’s actually worth more than the cost of pet sitting, and saves them a huge pile of cash / gives them a vacation home.

          That said, it’s always safer to budget for contingencies. Travel agency goes under? Someone gets sick? I’d have the pet sitter (who holds a key) alerted (or maybe even have them double-cover, say, an occasional weekend, so the pet sitting friends can take a trip-within-a trip) and a very clear set of communication plans worked out in advance (or a pet cam).

        7. Falling Diphthong*

          It depends on whether you say:
          “Hey, wondering if anyone wants to stay at my place and catsit the fourth week of July” to friends and acquaintances.

          “Hey subordinate, I’d like you to catsit for free for me. I’ll let you stay at my place for free in exchange, even though you already live locally.”

          It sounds like you are in the former–people who can say no to you, who don’t already live in the center of this city.

        8. Uranus Wars*

          You may be OK in your instance – the value seems to outweigh, or at least equal, the value in your friends eyes.

          I had an arrangement with a friend to pet sit in return for a place to stay for 4 days a month as payment because the benefit was significant, much like this.

          It was during a time when gas was north of $4 a gallon and I had a round-trip commute of 110 miles & 2.5 hours. Staying at her place dropped it to a round trip of 10 miles/ 20-30 minutes. Each time I stayed at her house I saved ~$25 a day and two hours of commute time. She stocked the fridge and left money for a night of takeout as well, which to me, was valuable pay.

        9. Sloan Kittering*

          Well, and are you trying to bill them for things that are broken accidentally, messes that need cleaning, lost keys? That is the line to me. OP should have considered this part of the cost of having friends do favors, although I sympathize that it’s unfortunate and irritating.

        10. jolene*

          Exactly, Sandy. We’re in central London, we have a great apartment with multiple amenities, people are really keen to catsit for us (we’d rather have someone staying here rather than coming into feed them, as the cats love company), we get to vet *them*, rather than charging! Very few people here seem to be considering that the LW very likely has a much nicer apartment than the student, and a private one too should the student wish to have her date/s over…

          1. nutella fitzgerald*

            I didn’t realize bringing your date/s over was on the table when you were pet and/or house sitting! I was wondering what the plus side was to being away for Mom, Dad, and the possible free meals for two weeks.

          2. Zillah*

            I don’t think anyone is missing that the OP probably has a nicer apartment than the student – I’m sure that’s true, but this isn’t a situation where the student is coming in from out of town and doesn’t already have a place to stay.

            I have a friend whose place is nicer than mine. I have a roommate, and she doesn’t. I’d still rather be home than at her place. You don’t need to live in a beautiful apartment to be attached to your home.

    3. whatthemell?*

      Coming to say the exact same type of thing – this arrangement didn’t sound very beneficial to her: “free rent/utilities/ etc” isn’t helpful in any way if she has her own place to live. I think cash in hand or a Visa gift certificate is 100% necessary when 2 weeks of caring for 2 cats can cost anywhere from $25 – $45 Per cat, per day when using a pet sitting company. Keys are lost constantly and I have never considered asking any of the 2-3 folks who have lost my building key to pay me for it.

      I’m sorry it happened but you should give up on the key reimbursement and absolutely hire a professional the next time. It will cost you, but the peace of mind is beyond worth it.

      1. Emily K*

        In fact, my dog walking service required two copies of my key when I hired them – one for the walker (same one every time except when she took vacation or was sick) to use on a regular basis, and one for the service to keep in a lockbox at their office so that if the walker’s set was lost, or the walker was incapacitated and couldn’t hand off the keys because they were in hospital or stranded at an airport or on lockdown somewhere, the service has the extra to give to a back-up walker. Companies that do this professionally operate from the assumption that lost keys will happen at some point and are prepared for that.

        1. emmelemm*

          Yeah, as crazy as it seems, there always is the “hit by a bus” contingency. Your friend, co-worker, family, professional cat-sitter can ALL be hit by a bus and no one can ask them/find the keys/get the keys. Is it likely? Heck no. Does it happen? Heck yes. (Been there, in a work scenario, not a cat-sitting scenario.)

    4. MommyMD*

      She was doing her a favor. Pet sitters get paid. I feel she was being taken advantage of and should have said no to begin with. She may have felt pressured. It doesn’t excuse her flakiness but both parties definitely at fault. Hire a pet sitting service.

      1. Tree*

        IMO the student would have felt pressured to do this favour. In a law firm, a long time legal assistant has more power than a student. Reminds me of the bad old days when students had to do all kinds of personal errands and favours that had nothing to do with practising law. It got so bad that when I was a student, all the big firms had policies specifically banning firm members from telling students to do stuff like this.

        1. Osmoglossum*

          This is my first time posting, and I don’t want to derail the discussion. But, your experience has not been my experience. I worked for three major U.S. law firms (800+ attorneys) in the last twenty years and law school interns were always treated like rock stars, not indentured servants. And the legal secretaries/assistants had zero influence on who was hired for a permanent position.

          Re OP1’s situation, the student was totally irresponsible, but this is a personal matter and should not involve anyone’s employer.

          1. Ginger Baker*

            Agreed on law school interns and the lack of hiring impact/consideration for legal secretaries (I say having been one at three BigLaw firms). I will caveat and say that if you did something EGREGIOUS, if I said something about it, it would be heard…but that applies to a word-in-the-ear from any staff member, not just the admins, and I mean something like sexual harassment, making outright racist comments to someone, etc. – not “kinda bad behavior,” TRULY egregious behavior. Aside from that? I’m not even remotely close to influencing who gets hired.

    5. Cat Owner*

      Hi, thanks for the input, she lives with her parents in an outer suburb whereas my place is inner city in a quite “hip” area. So that is the benefit for her, her own place for a few weeks. I wouldn’t ask someone who was already paying rent somewhere. Yeah I think I said in the original post I would probably have to let this one go.

      1. MK*

        I suspected that might be the case, but those as not equal favours. You saved hundreds, possibly thousands, on pet care, while she got to shorten her commute for a couple of weeks; that’s the tangible benefit, getting ”your own place in a hip area” is not much of a perk when you are housesitting and petsitting at the same time.

        I don’t want to pile on, OP, plenty of people are already saying this, but the main issue here was your attitude: someone was doing you a favour, given the arrangement benefited you more, and you had the mindset of an employer, and a demanding and slightly unreasonable one at that. In the future, pay for pet care, but also adjust your expectations. Keys get lost and people will occasionally be busy with their families, that doesn’t make them thief’s or give you the right to blow up at them.

        1. Tallulah in the Sky*

          “getting ”your own place in a hip area” is not much of a perk when you are housesitting and petsitting at the same time.”

          I don’t agree here. Cats are quite easy to take care of, it’s not like she had to walk a dog twice a day for an hour. And housesitting… if you’re living there, you really have nothing to do (besides keeping the place clean, like you would at your place I hope). I’m in my thirties, have my own place (with boyfriend and cats), and spend a week pet-sitting and house-sitting for free in exchange for being able to chill there :-p There’s really not much to do, you get some alone time, and the fact that you’re away from home feels like a vacation. Didn’t even cross my mind to ask for something.

          Where I agree OP could have been taking advantage of her colleague is that the colleague is a law student and might have felt pressured to accept. In my case, this is a close friend, so I gladly helped her out.

          1. MK*

            You are right that pet- and housesitting aren’t that onerous, but I stil don’t think it’s much of a benefit, unless you are housesitting while vacationing in a desireable location. If a friend gives me the use of their downtown London/Paris/Rome/etc. apartment for a week in exchange for watering the plants/caring for pets and keeping an eye on the place, they are doing me a favour since I am saving hundreds of euros for my vacation accommodation. But if someone were to offer me a downtown apartment in my own city for a couple of weeks, the shorter commute, better access to entertainment (I am assumung that’s what “hip” area means) and alone time (which not everyone values) doens’t really make up for staying in a strange flat (uncomfortable for me) and the responsibility of looking after pets, one of which at least appears to need special care.

            1. Tallulah in the Sky*

              #
              Pet-sitting for my friend was obviously more benefitting to her then me, but I appreciate my friend, and the favor wasn’t too much for me so I accepted. A favor kind of means you’re doing something for someone with less return. But everything is also not about money. Yes I didn’t get paid and my friend saved hundred of bucks, but I also got to have my own little retreat from daily life for a while. In ex-colleague’s case, I could totally see a twenty something living with her parents being thrilled to be able to live on her own in the city for two weeks, in exchange of maybe 15 minutes of pet-care a day (that’s without petting, which to me is bonus :-p ).

              But if it’s not your thing, you can say no (I love staying at strange flats, feels like I’m at a hotel).

              There’s no way to know if ex-colleague was glad with this arrangement but got put off because of the mess with the keys and OP’s attitude afterwards, or felt pressured (because yes, asking someone, who has less power than you, a favor is icky). But I don’t agree that an agreement like that is always bad or unfair.

              Also about the special care : it seems it was only about getting him a different type of food, so nothing too hard or extra here either (from someone with a cat with a special diet), maybe 5 minutes extra ?

              1. Observer*

                But also cleaning the litter boxes – that’s not a terrible job, but it’s more than 15 minutes worth of feeding the cats.

                1. Relentlessly Socratic*

                  Scooping a litter box takes less than 5 minutes. I wouldn’t expect a sitter to do a compleat cleaning of the boxes

              2. Anonymeece*

                RE: Special care

                Depends. One of my cats has to be on Super Special Food and the other doesn’t. Moreover, Super Special Food is not good for Other Cat. You have to feed them together – because they won’t eat if the other one isn’t in the room – and keep them from eating each other’s food. And if they don’t eat all of it, you have to scoop it up and put it in the fridge, because if you leave it out, they’ll immediately go for the forbidden food.

                I’m just saying, cats are finicky, and it might be trickier than you’re imagining. Plus, on top of litterboxes, which no sane soul enjoys doing…

                1. Tallulah in the Sky*

                  Yes, this can be the case. The fact that she told the neighbor that she can feed both cat the same special diet means it’s probably not the case here.

                  I was just pointing out that having a cat on a special diet isn’t automatically a whole burden, or absolutely warrants professional pet-sitters, like some commenters suggest.

                  After all those comments, I just feel like many commenters have had some bad experience regarding this topic or parts of it (pet-sitting, favors for colleagues, not getting paid but getting a “perk”, special need cats) and are projecting those all over the letter and making broad statements, and it’s a bit tiring. Just because you had a bad experience doesn’t mean it’s always a bad idea, or a bad thing to do.

          2. ceiswyn*

            The thing about housesitting, is that you’re NOT actually ‘living there’. You are fundamentally staying someone else’s space, with their stuff around you, and almost none of your own stuff there.

            Any advantage of the location may or may not make up for all the resulting drawbacks, for any given individual. If the student wasn’t particularly keen on spending two weeks living in someone else’s space but was willing to do the OP the favour, then had the OP basically tell her she just hadn’t looked hard enough for the keys (especially if she had!), then discovered that the OP had an actual next-door neighbour who could care for the cats but still expected the student to go out of her way when she was actually getting nothing in return (because she couldn’t stay at the apartment without the keys), I can totally see why she noped the heck out of that completely unreasonable arrangement.

            1. Tallulah in the Sky*

              I agree, it’s not for everyone. And the fact that she’s a student (and not a full time professional like OP) means there’s a real possibility she accepted this deal because she felt pressured, and not because she wanted to.

              I just want to push back on this always being the case. Personally I like this kind of agreement, and I’m not the only one I know who does. So to me it’s 50/50 whether or not ex-colleague actually did like the agreement or not. It’s good to flag the OP that not everybody agrees that what she offered is a good deal, but saying that the deal was 100% bad is going too far for me, we have no idea what ex-colleague actually thought and why she acted the way she acted.

              1. MK*

                I don’t think anyone is saying the deal was bad. Just that it was pretty obviously a favour the student did for the OP, who seems to almost see it the other way around.

                1. Tallulah in the Sky*

                  I didn’t get that from the letter (or comments) at all, nothing like “she was lucky to stay at my place”, but just the facts.

                2. Emily K*

                  Ehh, I think the fact that LW specified that she wasn’t charging rent or utilities gives the impression that she thought she was being generous by doing so. I mean, obviously a pet sitter/house sitter doesn’t pay rent or utilities – that seems like it goes without saying.

                3. Tallulah in the Sky*

                  @Emily K – Yes, she saw it as a perk or as some kind of payment (which can be argued), but I still don’t get the feeling OP was all “you’re so lucky to stay at my place, really I’m the one doing the favor here”.

                4. Observer*

                  Well, the OP actually is pretty explicit that they see this as an equal exchange. In the letter they put “help” in scare quotes. And in the comments, they say that the apartment really IS a good exchange because it’s inner city in a “hip” part of town.

                5. Tallulah in the Sky*

                  @Observer – Yes, she sees it as a fair exchange (which again, can be argued against, not saying OP is right to see it as a fair exchange). What I was arguing against is that OP thinks she’s the one doing a favor here, like MK suggests in her comment.

          3. JSPA*

            Once the key is lost, though, house sitting becomes impossible. OP apparently expected the sitter to, I dunno, visualize a key? Materialize it from sheer need? Coordinate entry and exit with the neighbor, multiple times daily, for two weeks? That’s all kinds of nuts.

            1. quirkypants*

              100%

              The value of staying somewhere (the apparent benefit for the cat sitter) is less so when you can’t reasonably come and go like you would in your home.

              I’d except a new key to be able to fulfill my duties here

            2. Tallulah in the Sky*

              OP already responded in the comments, the plan was to get a key from the building if she didn’t find it (look for “Cat Owner” comments). Still not a good solution, since this adds a burden on someone doing you a favor, but OP didn’t intend for pet-sitter to just “materialize it from sheer need”.

              1. Observer*

                Yes, that was their plan, which they didn’t communicate. Instead they said “sleep on it”. So no way for the sitter to know that there actually was another key available.

                1. Tallulah in the Sky*

                  Seriously… We don’t know the exact communication between those two. We gut a less than a thousand words letter. For all we know, OP did tell the pet-sitter that was the plan, there is just no value in mentioning that in the letter. Or not. But from the way worded her comment, to me it sounds like she did explain her plan to the sitter (again, don’t like the plan at all, but no need to vilify OP more).

              2. Aurion*

                Can the student even get a key from building management? She’s not a registered tenant of the building, and building management doesn’t know her from Eve. OP would have had to coordinate…and regardless, this entire plan seemed to have not been communicated to the student, given the repeats of the “did you find the key?” conversation.

              3. Uldi*

                But the student wouldn’t be able to get the security fob herself. Even if the LW called security themselves, security would not have given the student a new fob; too much liability and not enough authentication to risk it. I’m pretty confident that security/building management would have said, “I’m sorry, but it’s not our policy to give security fobs to non-residents.”

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think it’s important to take into account that what one person may view as a benefit, another person may not. I’ve lived in hip areas, and sometimes it’s not a perk—it’s busy and noisy and stresses me out. We don’t know how the student assessed or valued what OP perceives as a perk. It’s possible that they saw it as more of a burden, or they may have seen it as akin to having a fun AirBnB opportunity. We can’t really know. What’s important for OP to realize is that living in their space is not adequate compensation, and in some cases not any kind of compensation, for pet-sitting.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Agreed. Hell, it could even vary for the same person depending on what else they have going on in their lives at the time. It could have been a legitimately good deal for the student the first time around for whatever reason (maybe they were reliant on public transport and the OP’s place is next to the station) and then by the second time their circumstances change (maybe they got a car and the parking at OP’s is shitty) and it’s no longer a benefit to them.

              Basically, pay people if you want them to do stuff for you. In cash. Don’t rely on some sort of nebulous barter economy where the currency is “hip”.

          5. smoke tree*

            Cats are quite easy to take care of

            Tell that to the cats I was watching that proceeded to have explosive diarrhea all over the house and furniture every day … or the cat that woke me up every half hour of every night. I love cats, but at this point, if I don’t like the person enough to be willing to put up with stuff like this, I won’t do it.

        2. Melanbunny*

          Two weeks of housing is worth a lot more than petsitting. If it wasn’t a beneficial arrangement for the petsitter, she could have turned it down. It’s really not unreasonable for the OP to expect the person who agreed to take care of her cats to do that, even if she had to borrow the keys from the neighbor every time she fed the cats.

          1. quirkypants*

            But how beneficial is it when they can only come and go when the neighbour is there to keep coordinating with?

          2. Lizzy May*

            Presumably, the student has housing already. She’s not being offered a place to live rent-free. She’s being offered the chance to stay in a strange place, in a strange bed where none of her stuff is while she must maintain her primary residence in exchange for cat-sitting. That’s not a deal.

          3. WellRed*

            “Two weeks of housing is worth a lot more than petsitting.” Not really. The cost of paying a petsitter per day x two weeks is usually of higher dollar value than the equivalent in rent. Add in someone who doesn’t need housing and it’s not a great gig (though the OP explains why she thought it was a fair trade above). The student didn’t want to do it and should have said so.

          4. Observer*

            Two weeks of housing is only valuable if you don’t already have housing. That was not the case for the student.

          5. smoke tree*

            With anyone you have a reasonably cordial relationship with, it can be really hard to turn down a request to pet sit. I’ve been in situations where I was really pressured to do it, because I knew they didn’t have any other options and they knew I didn’t have any other plans. Sometimes the only reason is that their pets are horrible, and that’s not an easy thing to tell someone.

        3. Mia*

          That is really not the main issue at all. The main issue was a self-centered, irresponsible person who couldn’t communicate that she wanted to back out of a commitment that she agreed to, and instead put other living creatures at risk. The people who are trying to blame the LW clearly don’t have pets, nor do they seem to have the slightest understanding that agreeing to do someone a favor is still a commitment. If the student didn’t like the arrangement she could have just said no!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Student told OP the keys were lost. I really don’t get how that’s obviously part of a vast scheme to harm the cats, rather than accurately conveying that the keys are lost.

            When this happened to me, I was preparing to overnight my keys to the catsitter. Fortunately my neighbors were home and could let him into the house, and I described where to find backup house keys. I sure as heck didn’t expect him to arrange times twice/day with the neighbors that the neighbors would be home and so able to let him into my house–that’s disrespectful to both my catsitter (a local teen) and my neighbors.

          2. Emily K*

            The people who are trying to blame the LW clearly don’t have pets, nor do they seem to have the slightest understanding that agreeing to do someone a favor is still a commitment.

            I have pets, and I live alone so rely on sitters a lot and trade sitting favors often, so your assumption is wrong. From where I sit the student did the best she could without any keys by ensuring the neighbor could make the two feedings she would miss because of her family plans, where she’d originally assumed she’d be able to let herself in late Sunday night but then once she was relying on the neighbor to let her in, she wouldn’t be able to coordinate getting in at a convenient time for the neighbor till after work on Monday.

            I had a friend once who just flaked on a weekend of cat care because she forgot, so no call to me, no other arrangements made, fortunately it was just one weekend and the cats had extra kibble out, and I learned to text a reminder to my sitters in the future. I was still furious with my friend because she had truly put my cats at risk – I don’t see the student in this letter as having done that. The arrangements she made weren’t ideal but strike me as a good faith effort to ensure the cats were taken care of by someone if not herself.

          3. ceiswyn*

            I have had cats for the past twenty years. When catsitting arrangements have fallen through, I have sucked up the cost – financial and emotional – and taken on the responsibility of dealing with that. Because MY pets, MY responsibility.

            Also, I don’t jump to completely unsupported conclusions about other people’s secret motivations.

          4. Dust Bunny*

            I have pets, and if my petsitter called and told me the keys were lost and they couldn’t get in, I would . . . make other arrangements. For starters, I’d have left a spare key with a neighbor–my neighbors are not available all the time so they can’t feed the pets, but they could pick a time to meet the sitter and hand off the key–and would introduce them to the sitter so they would know who was visiting my house.

            But this is why I pay for a kennel when I travel, too.

          5. Batgirl*

            She’s not necessarily at ‘blame’, since that’s not the question on the table. Buuut she can’t really blow up the cat sitting student for theft, or unprofessionalism really because the only thing that happened is that student was doing her a favour, changed their mind and quit.

            1. biobotb*

              She didn’t change her mind until the OP got abusive, though! She was doing the best she could as someone without building access who couldn’t sync their schedule with the neighbor.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I note that the flakiness went up when:
                a) The favor became much harder to do, due to lack of keys
                b) Calling the favor asker got the favor granter yelled at, and no practical solutions
                c) The favor asker abruptly became much less able to screw up the favor granter’s professional life

          6. Anonymeece*

            Oddly enough, I do have pets – whom I love dearly – and understand that doing someone a favor is a commitment.

            Moreover, people aren’t “blaming” LW, they’re pointing out that while the student’s actions weren’t great, LW also wasn’t at his/her best in this scenario.

            And what many, many people have been pointing out is that due to the imbalance of power, the student may not have been able to say no, for fear that OP would hurt their career. Which, given that OP has threatened to do exactly that, seems a reasonable concern.

            1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

              And what many, many people have been pointing out is that due to the imbalance of power, the student may not have been able to say no, for fear that OP would hurt their career. Which, given that OP has threatened to do exactly that, seems a reasonable concern.

              This!! OP is basicly asking to do just that, to contact his/her former employer to badmouth the law-student.

          7. biobotb*

            She didn’t put other living creatures at risk. She warned the OP ahead of time that she couldn’t get into the building, and the OP chose not to deal with that problem.

          8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I have a pet with a special needs diet, and I disagree with OP’s approach. I also disagree that the student bailed from her commitment. She was set up to fail in many ways, and although she was flaky and uncommunicative, it sounds like OP was unreasonable and unsympathetic, as well.

            We can argue over who the villain is in this story, but it doesn’t really help OP back off their anger or see the situation through a different lens. There is a world in which OP is 100% right (and still engaged in some bad behavior, imo), and a world in which the student was 100% right. Regardless of who was “right,” the outcome was badly handled by all.

        4. EPLawyer*

          As someone who has petsit for friends, moving your stuff over for 2 weeks just to be in a nicer area is a pain in the neck. You pack up your stuff you will need for 2 weeks, load your car, go to the house, unload your car, then you get to do it all again 2 weeks later. Not really a perk.

          These are friends I petsit for. I was happy to do it. No one pressured me. You were an employee with a strong position who asked a law student to petsit. She might have felt pressured to say yes. Never mind other people can gracefully say no, not everyone can. That’s why asking subordinates for favors is not a good idea.

          Then when she lost the keys, you didn’t come up with alternate arrangements, you just told her to find them. Then you expected her to blow off FATHER’S DAY to care for your cats. Then when she didn’t perform to your expectations you yelled at her. Thankfully the person was no longer your subordinate so was perfectly comfortable in telling you to leave her alone. Which you did not do.

          The student was not perfect. But neither was LW. Leave her alone. She has asked you to do this. At this point, you are entering harassment territory by continuing to contact her.

          1. WellRed*

            I think there’s fault on both sides, but presumably the student was aware that Father’s Day was happening when she agreed to the arrangement. Plus, it’s Father’s Day, not a wedding or funeral. Feed the cats then go to the cookout.

            1. ceiswyn*

              …feed the cats how? And when? Remember that they are now completely dependent on the neighbour in order to get in to the cats.

              1. ChimericalOne*

                +100 to both EPLawyer & ceiswyn

                When the student agreed to help, the circumstances were quite different. I can do something despite a family holiday if I have easy access to come & go on my own schedule. It’s very different if I can’t.

                1. Aurion*

                  Exactly. Presumably Neighbour isn’t just waiting at home for Student to come calling; they have their own lives and plans too. The cats needed to be fed, yes, one option was for Student to cancel all their existing plans to work with the neighbour’s schedule because Student could no longer come and go at her liking. But if Neighbour was literally right next door and has fed the cats before…then yeah, asking Neighbour to take over a day or two of feeding seems like the superior plan for all involved if Neighbour was willing to do it.

                  Should Student have kept OP informed? Sure. But making these alternate arrangements isn’t really the crime against the kitties OP is describing it as.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              At the time of her agreeing to the arrangement she believed that on Father’s Day (and indeed all other days) she would have unlimited access to the apartment at any time as she would have a set of keys. Not that she would need to coordinate schedules with a neighbour to get in and out.

              (And different holidays mean different things to people. It might be important to her, who knows. Father’s Day is really important to me because my dad is both elderly and extremely British and it’s the only time of year I have a social excuse to tell him how important he is to me without it being horribly awkward for everyone.)

          2. A*

            I don’t understand how we got to a place where ‘cat sitting’ and ‘Father’s Day’ are mutually exclusive. I pet sit for several friends & clients, and a holiday has never interfered. Are people truly booked all day from the minute they get up to the minute they go to sleep? If so, then they shouldn’t have accepted the gig/favor request since they wouldn’t actually be available.

            1. Kiki*

              I think the issue is that when she agreed to care for the cats, she may have thought she would have the ability to schedule around Father’s Day festivities (maybe she thought she’d be staying overnight Saturday, so she’d feed and care for the cats before she left for Fathers Day, then feed them again later that night when she got back). But once she no longer had the building key, she would have had to schedule around when the neighbor could let her in, which may not have lined up with her Father’s Day commitments, so she asked the neighbor to feed the cats in her stead. It definitely seem like the student was a flaky and not as communicative as hoped, but it’s possible there were a lot of moving pieces on their side that the LW is not aware of.

      2. valentine*

        It sounds like she wasn’t staying at your place, at least not this last time, which complicates the commitment she made and somewhat defeats the purpose. She waited too long either to go or to tell you she lost the key. I think she felt freer to establish boundaries once you left the job.

        You’ll do well to draw up a contract and hire a professional who readily handles varying needs. Maybe your neighbor can buzz them in (contract/pay them as well), unless you can do so remotely, so you needn’t fret about the expensive key.

        1. Tallulah in the Sky*

          Yep, this so much. If she felt pressured to accept because you were a colleague, that pressure went away when you left. And even if she accepted because she wanted to and liked the trade off, the fact that she wouldn’t be able to stay at OP’s place (without keys) meant this became a chore. Since OP wasn’t paying for pet-sitting services, she should have bought a new key to make sure the colleague could come the her place instead of hoping everything would work itself out.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I think she felt freer to establish boundaries once you left the job.

          And this suggests just how much of an imposition she found it, if she felt freer to respond to screaming with refusing to do the favor once OP had less professional power over her.

          Look, OP, sometimes we guess wrong. Write off the cost of the keys, eat the cost of a backup set so this can’t happen again, and next time pay a service rather than suggesting it to the lower ranking employees in your office.

      3. BRR*

        I’m sorry the comments are really piling on you about this. You know where your missteps were and they don’t dismiss the student’s cavalier attitude about caring for your pets.

        That being said, this isn’t something to notify the employer of. There can be things employers need to know about, but this doesn’t rise anywhere close to that level.

      4. Bagpuss*

        I think that she was still doing you a huge favour, and given yourrespective roles at work I would also be concerned that she may have felt pressured to agree due to the imbalance of power.

        I understand why you were upset, but it sounds as though she did the best she could in an awkward situation, arranging alternative care from your neighbour and letting you know the keys were lost.

        I definitely agree that this is not something you can, or should, raise with her employer .

      5. anon*

        Hi Cat Owner,

        I’m sorry to hear about your mum. I hope she is ok now.

        About pet sitting. I’ve done it. Twice. Both times were awful. The first time, one of the cats disappeared and didn’t reappear for 4 days. I didn’t know whether to contact the owners (this was before days of easy cell-phone coverage) and potentially destroy their holiday for a moggie who might just pop back home at any time.

        The second, I dog sat for 1 day for a friend as a favour. As I opened the door the dog raced out between my legs and disappeared into a forest behind the house. I called my friend to ask where he might go. She absolutely tore me a new one! She was spikey, accusative, and unhelpful. (“have you tried calling his name?”) She sounded so furious that I felt physically attacked (and I’m not fainthearted). Of course, when the dog trotted back a long-hour later, she was all joyful again on the phone and back to normal. It definitely affected our relationship.

        It has made me be really strict with pet sitters. I don’t even consider using friends as a favour. I get reliable students and I leave them instructions on when I should be contacted, exactly what I expect, back up plans galore (“if you are sick and unable to look after the cats, here is the name of the cattery you could take the cats to etc), and I pay them a hefty amount because frankly, you are not paying someone for the 99% of time to sit around stroking a cat, you are paying for someone to behave how you would want them behave when the 1% of time the sh*t hits the fan.

        I think this would make you feel more comfortable in future. And don’t involve your old workplace.

      6. Seeking Second Childhood*

        LOL I should have read down a little farther before commenting. This is what I was wondering.
        As a former young adult who lived with a parent in an outer suburb for a while…I’d have jumped at the chance to avoid two weeks of the Long Island Rail Road in exchange for a subway commute.

        1. Patty Mayonnaise*

          Yes this kind of arrangement is really common in NYC, though I think the pet owners often give some kind of compensation to the pet sitter, but less than the usual rate if the sitter weren’t staying there.

      7. 1.0*

        hey OP – honestly that would have been a solid perk for me at her age, and I’m sort of shocked by the people who seem to think losing someone else’s keys and then letting animals fend for themselves are nbd. I hope your mother is doing well!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Losing the keys and being unable to care for the animals are cause and effect, though. If the person who is supposed to petsit can’t find your key, then you move heaven and earth to figure out how to get them a set of replacement keys. This is legitimately a problem the catsitter cannot solve on their own, even if you yell at them a lot about it on the phone.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I’m curious as to why OP didn’t simply instruct the neighbor to hand over the keys to the cat sitter so she could do the job. Or instruct the cat sitter to get them from the neighbor and keep them until OP returned. Seems like that would have been the easiest solution here.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              It sounds like there are two separate keys – one to get in the building, and one to get in the apartment. The neighbor had a spare apartment key, but wouldn’t have (or wouldn’t want to give up) a spare building key.

            2. BadWolf*

              I suspect there are two keys involved. A building key and an apartment key. The building key is probably a “do not replicate” and residents probably only get one or two. So it’s not really cool to ask the neighbor to loan out a precious building key to a relative stranger (who already lost a key).

            3. Dana B.S.*

              To add to the other comments on the 2 key issue, I think the neighbor gladly would have handed over the spare apartment key, but the student just never came by this time.

              1. Cat Owner*

                Dana B.S. You are correct. And then on the Monday a security key would have been arranged. I’ve posted already, but I ended up express posting my keys to a friend.

        2. Tallulah in the Sky*

          Same. There are issues I hope OP learned from, but I’m surprised how much criticism OP is getting, sometimes going as far as saying she is 100% to blame. smh

          1. biobotb*

            Well, when she’s blaming the student for not solving a problem (lack of keys) that only the OP could solve, yeah, she’s going to get blowback. She called the student at thief!

            1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

              She called the student at thief!

              This. I understand being upset that the law student lost the keys, but accidents happen. So no, the student shouldn’t be paying for the loss of keys (even if the pet-sitting she did was payed for, which wasn’t the case) and she definitely doesn’t deserved to be called a thief over it!

            2. Tallulah in the Sky*

              Agreed calling her a thies was a bit much. Doesn’t mean pet-sitter didn’t mess up a bit and could have done better. I don’t think anybody is saying that OP is blameless, but no one is blameless here.

        3. ChimericalOne*

          Student didn’t leave the animals to fend for themselves, though — they contacted the neighbor to feed them, just as the OP had done earlier.

          Also, people lose keys all the time. It’s not “NBD,” but it’s not something you scream at someone for or call them a thief over, either. (The “thief” thing is a HUGE overreaction, in fact. It’s not like the student would even have a motive to steal them! They’re not valuable to her.)

        4. biobotb*

          The student didn’t let the animals fend for themselves. Even the OP admits that the student reached out to the neighbor (just like the OP did!) to make sure the cats were looked after.

        5. A*

          What is her age? Did OP mention it in a comment? If not, I’d be hesitant to assume. Especially with law school, higher education degrees tend to attract students of a wide variety of ages.

      8. blackcat*

        I hire a grad student to house sit for me. She gets her own place (normally shares with roommates), a stocked fridge when we go (I buy food she likes) AND $15/day.
        It’s definitely nicer for her to stay at my place, despite a longer commute. She says as much. And I still pay her. If she’s gonna scoop my cat’s poop, she deserves $$.
        For shorter trips (<72 hours), I pay a neighborhood 14 year old kid $15/day. Kid literally walks 100 feet, feeds the cat, and watches my netflix while giving the cat some attention.

      9. Lizzy May*

        Living with parents and paying rent aren’t opposite things in many cases. For years, I lived at home but I paid a set rent every month. It was cheaper than if I had rented a room from a stranger but it was still rent. Maybe you know for certain that she isn’t contributing to the household expenses but don’t make the assumption.

      10. Aurion*

        I started paying my parents “rent” as soon as I graduated from high school, even when I still lived in their household. “Renting” from my parents got me a nicer place than I would’ve gotten otherwise, but I was still paying them.

        Even if there was a perk in that she got her own place in a nice area for a few weeks, this arrangement benefited you far more than it did her. She was doing you a favour, likely because of your seniority at work.

      11. Gumby*

        I pet sit for several friends. I have a full time job where I am paid a decent salary and have been in the work force for 20-something years. While I would pet sit for free, almost all of them pay me.

        I don’t think that staying in your place and a shorter commute is nothing. In fact, it could be adequate compensation for some people. But particularly for students, who I assume have tuition costs, loans, and mostly part-time work, I would offer to pay anyway simply because it is a way to help someone out in a period of their life when that type of thing can make a big difference.

        I have definitely benefited in the past from people paying me for errands and odd jobs right when it made the biggest difference in me being able to afford food, or rent, or the most recent loan payment. So I like to pass that on when I can even if I am a frugal in other parts of my life.

    6. JSPA*

      Came to say this. This was an imposition on OP’s part, unless the student . When there is a power imbalance it’s really fraught for the person of higher status to make an “offer” like this. (And, yes, full time employee vs student worker is a power imbalance at the moment, even if the student is a law student and thus the balance of power may shift dramatically in another couple of years.)

      Twice daily cat feeding and daily litter scooping from a reputable service runs $30 to $40 per day. Unless the key is made of gold and plated with diamonds, OP still owes the sitter, not the other way around.

    7. Jennifer*

      Agreed. You get what you pay for, and in this case it was $0.00. Unless this law student is actually homeless and wanted a place to sleep for the night, which is unlikely, free rent/utilities is nothing. This story is so convuluted and there was immaturity on both sides. It’s not really even a work question since she doesn’t work there anymore. She’s not a thief. She lost something.

    8. Legal eagle*

      “I don’t think it’s especially mature of her to ignore you.”

      I don’t think the summer associate is ignoring OP. She has told OP that the keys are lost. I don’t see it as the summer associate’s obligation (legally or socially) to re-key the apartment; as you observe, she was doing OP a favor. She has communicated the status of the lost keys to OP. OP appears intent on pursuing the matter, and the summer associate does not want to keep repeating the same answer over the over.

      Misplaced keys happen. People who cat-sit are allowed to celebrate Father’s Day or attend family dinners. Friends who pitch in with cat-sitting may not quite have the polish of a professional cat-sitter.

      If you can’t stomach the thought of this, hire a professional cat-sitter or management company.

      OP should definitely NOT discuss this matter with the law firm. First, she is (to be frank) likely to come off as being unreasonable/in the wrong. The summer associate is certainly not a “thief,” and making accusations like that will reflect very poorly on OP’s character, especially in a legal workplace where the term “thief” is a legal term of art. If I were the summer associate coordinator and received a call like this, I would stay out of it, and if the summer associate was well-regarded and gave the slightest bit of explanation (which she has done), I would be more likely to ask the secretarial coordinator not to give future references for OP.

  2. A Teacher*

    #2: welcome to education where all teachers do is : “babysit a classroom,” “only work 7 hours a day,” “get summers completely off,” and “are paid year round for 9 months of work (my 10 months of pay are split over 12 months).” None of the above are true. People like to make false assumptions about jobs when they have no clue.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yes! I really appreciated the shout out to teaching.
      Particularly since my own bosses are succumbing… they are outfitting us with a Pintrest worthy centre to appeal to the nurture and SEN kids. Since they themselves are stuck mostly with data and paperwork I’ve been getting a lot of envious remarks as though it’s not work.
      Seriously, just because its photogenic doesn’t make it not-work.

    2. Daisy*

      I have lots of friends who are teachers and they all love their long summer holiday and their August payday that they ‘did no work for’ (their words), so I think to most teachers those are legit perks of teaching. Doesn’t mean they don’t work hard in term time, of course.

      1. BethDH*

        I think you can recognize that there are perks without thinking that those perks make it a cushy job — it’s that latter step that is the problem.
        And I have yet to meet the teacher who does nothing to prepare for the upcoming year in August (and many who put in at least 20 hours/week, not counting using that time for extra certifications). They just seem to be conditioned to see the flexible schedules and time to think/plan ahead as “not work.” Kind of like how adjuncts aren’t paid for time they spend grading or creating course materials, because it’s only “working” when they’re in the presence of students.

      2. Observer*

        Are you someone who always misses sarcasm?

        I don’t know of ANY teacher (and I know a lot of teachers) who think that they “did no work” for their summer pay. And, by the way, a lot of teachers actually do NOT get paid over the summer.

        1. Daisy*

          Why would it be sarcasm? This is literally what my teacher friends were saying in the pub in August. ‘The best payday of the year’. Because they don’t go to work in August. That’s not some opinion of mine.

          Going to have to assume this is another grim aspect of American life, I guess – your teachers don’t get paid in the summer and take other jobs? What a world. The idea that teachers having good holidays is some myth perpetuated by non-teachers is fucking bizarre to me. Every British teacher I’ve ever met (and as I said it’s loads, I used to be one, albeit a slightly different sort) cite the long holidays as somewhere from a huge perk to ‘the only reason I can stand that hellhole’.

          1. Isabel Kunkle*

            Here to confirm–most teachers I know don’t get paid for summer break in the US.

            Don’t blame you for not knowing, though: like, every time I explain employment stuff here to people from elsewhere, I get a flash of what it’s like to be Kyle Reese discussing the Skynet-ruled world. “Yeah, three weeks’ vacation is a really good deal most people only get after five years with a company, and every spring the zombies invade and we have to double-tap two or three friends before they can eat our flesh, what can you do?”

          2. fhqwhgads*

            The teachers I know have had a choice: only get paid when school is in session, and thus have larger paychecks but fewer of them, or get paid evenly all year, but smaller paychecks. Most of them also had separate summer gigs as well, so they choose not to get paid by their main jobs during summer because they have other income then. One had a former school where it wasn’t an option – no pay in the summer, but a lot of them got to choose which way they’d be paid when they took their jobs.

        2. A*

          Are you someone who always responds in a rude and condescending manner rather than just make your point?

          No need to go all ‘whoooosh’ on the commenter. Silly and unnecessary.

      3. emmelemm*

        Well, my mom was a teacher and a single mom, and she had to teach extra classes or do some other job over the summers because she was paid so little, and didn’t have a second income to fall back on. So this is not universally true.

    3. Lynca*

      I agree 100%. I’m not a teacher but work for a gov’t. agency. People have a lot of assumptions about jobs that aren’t based in reality. I’ve had new hires (and people outside my job) tell me completely wild and inaccurate statements about what I do. Think that we’re lazy, not smart because otherwise we’d work in the private sector, waste money, etc.

      It’s especially telling when new hires make the assumption we don’t do a lot of actual work and then come back in 2-3 weeks complaining about how this job was so much harder than they thought!

      1. AKchic*

        union workers – get paid obscene amounts of money to waste taxpayer dollars and file frivolous lawsuits and *still* do nothing!

    4. Pre k-8 librarian*

      The big lie of summers off. School ends third week in June. Last week of June team meetings, next falls curriculum, professional development, and book return, repair, shelving, inventory. July and half of August, catch up on everything in life that is pushed during the school year and at least two weeks on conferences certifications. Maybe pick up some work to supplement my outrageously high salary, all doctors appoints, elective procedures. Start prepping curriculum and lesson plans, August, book ordering to support curriculum and free reading. Tech updates hardware, soft ware. Two weeks before school, collection maintenance receiving. August 20, teachers are back.
      And before you even think that I am not working All those school holidays. Think again, yes I did get from Christmas to New Years off. As long as I was classroome teacher, I was trapped with no flexibility for days off during the regular school schedules except for emergencies.
      I did love

      1. A*

        “July and half of August, catch up on everything in life that is pushed during the school year”

        Is that in re: to stuff at the school, or in your life outside of work? If it’s the latter, that seems like a mighty big perk to me. I’m a M-F 9-5er, and have the same time constraints as my friends that are teachers outside of the summer. Having time to ‘catch up’ on the little things that get pushed to the back burner is pretty unusual and valuable.

        Otherwise I 100% agree. And LOL @ your side gig to support your outrageously high salary. I don’t understand why this is so difficult for people to understand. No no, they must be getting paid well and just REALLY LOVE working second jobs during the summer.

        1. Observer*

          It sounds like a bigger perk than it is, because teachers tend to have a harder time taking off than other people. Many schools essentially expect teachers to find their own substitutes if they have to be out, don’t allow non-medical PTO (whether or not they technically get PTO) and even often give teachers a hard time about taking sick leave.

          The PTO thing is the most common issue, because the logic is that “you get the summer off so you should take off then.”

        2. pre-k- 8th grade librarian*

          The teachers on this thread are now laughing like crazy- 9-5, 9-5 oh I wish. Try up at 6 out of school at 5 maybe, and nothing on a school night, homework, reports, IEPs, parent contacts, curriculum nights, continuing ed credits on the weekends or summer, contract negotiations, assemblies, sleep over trips, field trips. Sick days??? hahahahah. So do you have to give step by step written instructions for 22 class period substitutes if you have the flu? Did you drag yourself out of bed on Monday morning at 5:30 to find that substitute?
          yes I love it, yes. no two days are the same, yes, I make a difference. I have worked 9 to 6 (still wondering when people worked 9-5) I have worked in corporations, retail- 10-7. Sunday 11 to 5. Public service. I chose this work but anyone who thinks this is “baby sitting” should drink a triple expresso and trail me on a Thursday. You probably won’t be back on Friday.

    5. Wintermute*

      I have to call out the excellent article from McSweeny’s again “if people talked to other professions like they talked to teachers” with things similar to:

      “My colon never behaves like that at home, are you sure you don’t just dislike my colon?”

      “It must be so fulfilling to work with analytical data sets all day, I bet it doesn’t even feel like work”

      “My child, who just 15 minutes ago lied about whether he had to pee or not, said you’re mean and not good at insurance underwriting. I am going to demand you be fired”

      “You know I have three cars of my own, I bet I could be a mechanic without any problem!”

        1. Bibliovore*

          yes but would you do it without any pay? And is it super easy and anyone can do it. A total stranger told me that when they retired they were going to get a job teach at The University. I did not respond to the absurdity of that statement.

    6. ChimericalOne*

      I think LW2 would be well within her rights to joke back something that makes it clear that it’s not all play all the time. Like, “Haha, yes, drinking wine & eating (and running analytics, doing research, & writing reports) all day — it’s hardly work at all!” Or, “The wine is great, but the analytics don’t run themselves!”

      1. BookLady*

        Agreed! I think an appropriate response to something like that would be, “Gosh, I wish! Turns out brie and Cabernet don’t taste great after 4 hours under studio lights!” As Alison said, this doesn’t require a serious response, so maybe a lighthearted one would work.

        1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

          Going completely of topic but:
          Believe me, don’t eat the things that is being photographed. A lot of chemicals or even cleaning products, are used to bring out the colours better to be photographed. I know a case where a freshly made lasagne was covered with shoe-polish to look nice and shiny on the picture. The dog at the studio got a hold of it afterwards when no one was paying attention and got really sick of it. I wouldn’t recommend eating anything that was the lighted object of professional food-photography ;-)

    7. Sleepy*

      I used to be a teacher, and I worked much, much harder than I do in my current 9-5 office job. I’ve had colleagues say “Must be nice…” about a teachers’ schedule; I respond with, “Well, why don’t you become a teacher, then?” (Said in the cheeriest, most sincere voice possible.) They never know what to say.

    8. Krabby*

      To #3, the question also annoys me because I would think they wanted me to say I’m /not/ lucky. I would assume the question is fishing for people who say, “I have earned everything I have through hard work, none of it just fell into my lap.” It’s just a terrible question all around because anyone who answers it has to guess and there’s so many ways to interpret what they’re looking for.

  3. Detective Rosa Diaz*

    I am confused because OP 1 apparently is not paying their cat sitter? Presumably if this law student is attending school in this city she’s got a place of her own? Staying in your apartment for two weeks rent free is not payment but kind of inconvenient if she has her own place? Is this a joke? She acted poorly but I’m unsure why you’re acting like having someone cat sit for free is you somehow doing THEM a giant favor?

    1. Batgirl*

      I think the cat sitter started to distance herself once she realised she’d been given expensive keys instead of just an easily replaceable access key, and was now considered on the hook for replacing them. Since she simply saw herself as merely helping she was probably taken aback at the suggestion she owed OP anything.

      I also think super-caring pet owners don’t realise how many laissez faire animal people are out there. As long as they get fed sometime, somehow, they figure the animal will be alright and they don’t really expect the pet owner to fret without news. You can’t really ask someone else to take on your standards free of charge. Unfortunately a communicative, consistent and prompt level of care for animals isn’t a universal standard. Especially not when it’s free. Even paid, I would expect a level of shrugging and lack of prioritization from an amatuer.

      1. Johanna*

        I think the cat sitter started to distance herself when the OP started assuming she would be able to magically find the keys she lost. ‘Do you need more time to find them?’
        That implies, to me at least, that she OP doesn’t believe she actually lost them. If I doing someone a favor, then accidentally lost their keys and they responded like that- I’m not surprised they responded like they did, particularly if they were young and not sure how to deal with this.
        Sucks for the cats tho

        1. Karma*

          Well yeah, the fact that she called the cat sitter a thief in her letter indicated that she doesn’t think she really lost the keys. I’m really not sure why the OP has come to such a conclusion though.

    2. Jax*

      I don’t know, all the grad students I ran around with years ago kind of thought of house sitting as a golden egg. It seems especially harsh to trash the OP over this.

      1. Batgirl*

        Oh I would totally agree it’s not OPs fault. I think they just totally misunderstood which one of them was getting the favour.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          Agreed! It’s definitely the student doing a favor for OP… which doesn’t get them “off the hook” for ditching the favor (!!) when OP was already gone (!!!!) but does change how the conversation could (should?) have been handled by OP.

          1. biobotb*

            She didn’t ditch the favor. She told the OP that she didn’t have keys any more and couldn’t access the building and the OP preferred not to solve that problem.

            1. MistOrMister*

              Yeah, this part bothered me. If someone told me the day before needing to feed my cats that they couldn’t find one of my keys, my response would not be to tell them it was expensive, find it and feed my cats dangit! I would be moving heaven and earth to get a new key made and to them in time to be sure my cats were taken care of. It’s illogical to me…telling someone to find something they lost doesn’t make the item suddenly appear.

        1. Mama Bear*

          It sounds like the sitter did an OK job once and was “rehired” and didn’t take the more recent gig seriously. I’d be livid if someone was cavalier about losing my house keys. I think I would have much earlier contacted the neighbor and asked for them to please cover and not try to work with the sitter anymore. I would also return from the trip with a generous thank you for the neighbor.

          That said, I think OP is out the cost of the keys/replacement locks and should let it go. Contacting the employer won’t help in this situation. It’s not “right” but it’s “reality.” I’d be upset, too, but I don’t think pursuing reimbursement will improve anything here. I’d chalk it up to lesson learned. I would also wonder what she actually did the first time and if she had this kind of schedule prior but mislead me about it. Probably for the best that OP learned that this sitter is terribly unreliable.

      2. MicroManagered*

        I think you are thinking of long-term house sitting… like a professor is going on a year-long sabbatical in another country and asks you to house sit? That is a golden egg arrangement, because you have a free place to live for a year (or six months, or whatever).

        She wouldn’t be off the hook for her own rent or utilities for only two weeks. Possibly, if she still lives with her parents, it’d be fun to get to stay somewhere else for a couple weeks–but we don’t really know that from the post.

          1. Parenthetically*

            I don’t think that’s different. Unless her parents are charging her rent and utilities and agree NOT to when she’s house-sitting, the pet-sitter is still not saving money by being able to live “rent-free” at OP’s place. It’s just such an odd thing to emphasize — like, who charges their pet-sitter rent? That’s not a thing, so NOT charging your pet-sitter rent is not noble, and considering that payment-in-kind is not generous, particularly given the disparity in power between these two parties.

            1. Starbuck*

              I live in a tourist town and actually have seen such postings online in the summer – “Stay in our house for a low $XX rate, and also take care of our cats! It’s such a great deal, have the whole house to yourselves (plus our low maintenance cats)!” Granted, I don’t know if they got any bites or how it worked out for them; it’s an expensive town to visit during the busy season and stuff gets booked up fast and well in advance so maybe they found someone. Still, the idea of expecting some random tourist who’s in town for vacation to PAY MONEY take good care of your cats seemed awfully naiive to me.

              1. Parenthetically*

                Yeah, that’s some Tom-Sawyer-fence-whitewashing levels of absurd — “No, we’re not going to pay for pet-sitters or house-sitters, we’re going to make THEM pay US!!” Loopy. Normal people do not charge their pet-sitters for rent or utilities.

                1. Isabel Kunkle*

                  There are some sites that cater to that, and I can understand it if you’re marketing to travelers who are there for a while* and really can plan around your pets, and said pets are fairly easy to care for: in that case, the payment works out to whatever amount you save by not booking a hotel for the same period. I could see going for it if I didn’t get seriously icked out by handling other beings’ crap, or if it was a “make sure our house doesn’t get robbed and also feed the fish,” level of simple.

                  *People who work remotely, students on summer vacation, etc.

                2. A*

                  Definitely can vary depending on location. I have several friends and colleagues in Manhattan that, when they are out of town, rent their places at a discount in exchange for the person house sitting & watering plants. The renter still pays for the place – but at a reduced rate. They’ve never had issues generating interest in the offers.

                  These are “normal people” following the norm in their high cost of living area that also happens to be a desirable travel location. I also have a friend in San Fran that does the same.

                3. Starbuck*

                  I thought so too, but there’s lots of snowbirds in this town so I often see another variation on this – people trying to “rent out” their houses in the winter (because they’ve gone to their other place in CA or AZ or wherever) and offer a ‘low monthly rent’ where you’re expected to water plants, maintain the garden, sometimes other little tasks (not usually animal care) – basically a listing for a long-term house sitter, but you pay them. Still, with the rental market as tight as it is here I imagine they do get some takers. Frustrating to see as someone who is trying to find an actual stable long-term rental in this town… but now we’re way off topic.

              2. Third or Nothing!*

                Reminds me of an episode of Instant Hotel where two very entitled people rented out their parents’ house and required renters to take care of their cats, fish, and turtle. They thought their place was so amazing that everyone should jump at the chance to stay there…and pay for the privilege of caring for someone else’s animals! Animals with very specific and complicated needs, no less.

            2. Tallulah in the Sky*

              True, the pet-sitter could be paying rents and utilities. Or not. I think we have enough commenters who have expressed that being able to live elsewhere for a while, even if it doesn’t mean saving on rent (like, for space, commute, closer to neighborhoods you like, being able to be alone for a while,…) to agree that although this is not a perk for everyone, some people do enjoy those kind of agreements, so it’s not impossible this was the case for the cat-sitter. We don’t know her side, so we can’t say for sure what she thought of this agreement, one way or the other.

      3. Jennifer*

        I guess if you live in a tiny, cramped apartment with roommates, getting a bigger, quieter place to crash for a few weeks might be nice, especially if the fridge is stocked. But I didn’t see the OP mention anything about food or any other perks.

        1. Emily K*

          And not to get too close to “not everybody eats sandwiches” territory, but there’s no guarantee that the pet sitter even wants to eat the kind of food the pet owner keeps stocked – it’s nice to offer, and I always tell pet sitters, “Help yourself to any food or drink you want,” (or, “Help yourself to any food or drink you want, except the gluten-free gourmet cupcakes in the freezer which I’m saving,” or whatever if there’s anything off limits), but that’s more like a fringe benefit than a form of/substitute for actual compensation…and I’d say that 90% of the time there’s no evidence that any of my sitters ate any food while they were here.

        1. Double A*

          When I was in college/early 20s, pet sitting was kind of a treat because I’d get to stay in cooler neighborhoods and nicer placers than my own.

          But now that I’m in a position to employer pet-sitters, I ALWAYS pay them. Even though our pets are super easy, and our house is a lovely place in a popular vacation spot, and I’ve had people stay who are otherwise staying with family. It just clarifies that yes, there are responsibilities and a contract here, even though I do hope you enjoy yourself.

      4. Anongradstudent*

        As a current grad student, I can say this would be a favor I would do for a faculty member I care for or a friend. There is no benefit to this unless perhaps the house you’re sitting is closer to campus or something. Grad students usually live in apartments, not dorms (though with both you pay at least monthly, so not sure how the “free rent” is useful here. Both OP and the sitter were out of line.

      5. Parenthetically*

        My broke grad student friends saw house-sitting as a cherry job because it meant a quiet place to stay for a couple days or weeks that was MUCH nicer than the grotty, noisy, cheap-ass sharehouse where they lived. And if it wasn’t paid (rare, in my experience), it always came with access to the beer fridge, at minimum. OP is acting like staying “rent free” at her place was saving the student a bunch of money or something, which is patently ridiculous.

      6. Falling Diphthong*

        In some places, it’s possible to ask your subordinates “Would this be fun for you? Or inconvenient?” and it’s clear that an honest answer is expected and welcome and will get no blowback. Other places, the junior hears “Would you like an opportunity to demonstrate that you are a team player and can-do problem solver? Or are you not those things?”

        I used to babysit my niece and nephew in a house in the suburbs rather than our city apartment. I MUCH preferred when they were dropped off at the city apartment where I lived, even if the house in the suburbs was bigger and had more beer. Same would have been true if they had wanted us to move out there for a week to look after the cat rather than kids.

    3. Melanbunny*

      It’s very common where I live for people to petsit in exchange for a place to stay. For student/grad students, it’s a chance to live in a nicer house without roommates for a week or two. It’s usually people who know each other already, so you’re not asking a total stranger to come and live in your house (although some people probably do that–I’m not judging, but it’s not my style).

    4. Emmie*

      I am uncomfortable with the slight power dynamics here. The legal secretary is a full-time employee asking a presumably temporary / intern-level staff member needing references to watch their cat? It’s not ideal.

    5. iglwif*

      I was coming here to say this too! Unless this student is between apartments at exactly the right time, the only benefit she’s getting from this arrangement is like … maybe the OP has better wifi or something? Student is still paying rent at her own place, still has to eat, etc. OP is getting free flat- and cat-sitting! (Note to pet owners: Do Not Do This. If you want someone who is not a close friend to be responsible for your beloved cat, dog, hedgehog, etc., PAY THEM WITH MONEY.)

      It sucks that the student lost an expensive set of keys. It REALLY sucks that she was flaky and uncommunicative and, frankly, not very good at taking care of the cats! But I don’t see any evidence whatever that the keys weren’t genuinely lost, and if I were the OP I would suck up the cost of replacing the keys, resign myself to not getting something for nothing anymore, and start looking for a professional pet-sitter or service, as Alison suggests.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, honestly, I would probably prefer to be notified by email or phone with the optional opportunity to get feedback. That way I can process my emotions semi-privately instead of having to put on a brave face in the moment, but it would still provide the benefit that an in-person rejection is supposed to achieve (i.e., answering questions, providing feedback on the candidacy, etc.).

    1. nnn*

      Yes, I agree. By email, towards the end of the day (so I can go home soon if I’m having emotions, but not so late that people may have left already and therefore get the rejection first thing the next day), with the opportunity to schedule a conversation in the near future. The scheduled conversation should be fairly soon (so I don’t have to spend ages dwelling on the rejection and can put it behind me if that’s what I need), but the scheduling should also give me a couple of days to process the rejection and think of any questions I might have.

    2. On a pale mouse*

      I feel both sides of this. I recently applied for an internal position (not a promotion, really, but duties I prefer and the most consistent schedule available in my retail workplace). I was told they were hiring someone else just in passing (literally) while I was on my lunch break, not by Fergus, who made the final decision (because Fergus was on vacation). Just “oh hey we’re hiring Cersei from the other location.” All I could say in the moment was “okay.” Couldn’t even manage “thanks for letting me know.” I was too upset for the first three weeks to even try to have a conversation with Fergus about it – I’d think I was done being mad, but every time I thought of hunting down Fergus I got angry tears. So I get wanting time to process first. On the other hand, part of why I was mad is that I felt it was kind of rude for them to tell me that way and not to give me any reasons, and at least if they’d taken me aside to tell me, I’d have felt like they cared. I would like to have that conversation where they could tell me what I need to do or why I wasn’t the right fit or whatever other reason. End result: I’m so peeved I kind of don’t care any more and am thinking harder about looking elsewhere. So I still haven’t tried to have that conversation with Fergus.

    3. Green great dragon*

      Agree feedback in the moment isn’t great, I’d much rather have time to process the rejection and re-read my application before trying to take in feedback about how to improve. I wouldn’t really mind whether it was a call, email or face to face, as long as it’s as brief as possible.

    4. Hannah*

      I’m interested in this comment. I have recently been involved in some hiring where we had to tell some internal candidates they weren’t even being interviewed, and I suggested that the hiring manager tell them by email but then set up a separate meeting to talk in more detail about why. I think we didn’t in the end – company policy is to tell them in person – but I’m interested that others have the same feeling as me here.

      1. Autumnheart*

        My now-ex manager did what you were suggesting. He was the hiring manager, and it would have been for a promotion. He decided not to interview me, and after a week of mystery, I found out via form mail from HR. I came this >< close to handing in my badge and walking out. I have never felt so humiliated and devalued by any manager as I did at that moment. Nothing really says "Your work doesn't matter and you don't matter," like someone who won't even offer the courtesy of a heads up.

        To me, a good manager would

        1. Have a good idea of what the internal applicant's capabilities are, and therefore their chances of getting an interview
        2. Have a conversation with the internal applicant about how to approach the application process
        3. If the manager knows the internal applicant won't advance to the interview stage, *tell them* ASAP so they aren't left hanging,
        4. Have a solid career conversation on how the manager will help the internal applicant bone up for future openings

        My manager did exactly zero of those things and just let the formal process do the work for him, like I didn't sit at the desk right next to him, and like I hadn't been working there for 15 years. Then I quit his team and took a lateral move elsewhere in the department, and now work for a manager who gives a crap about valuing the work and relationship of their reports.

        1. Autumnheart*

          To be clear, by “now work for a manager who gives a crap” I mean that my new manager genuinely cares and is invested in the success of her reports.

    5. BRR*

      I’m wondering if this middle ground between in person and email would work. In the past here, it seems the trend for internal candidate rejection has been to say people deserve the right to be told in person because an email just feels dismissive. I’m wondering if an email with the feedback option is still going to come off that way. I suspect it will come down to the person and the company culture.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I get not wanting to have to sit through an in-person rejection, but being an internal candidate changes the game. I would feel it was rude to be rejected by email. I already work there and I’m owed the courtesy of a face to face explanation.

      1. Genny*

        Agreed. Even the offer of an in-person conversation about the decision would feel disingenuous and perfunctory to me at that point.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        A phone update would probably be an ok middle ground to me, if email felt rude or too impersonal.

    7. LQ*

      I would have to guess that the rejection/feedback meeting is also an opportunity for people to show that they can behave professionally when they are being rejected and if you do well with it that you’re more likely to get the next opportunity.

    8. Ama*

      For me it would depend on the situation. When I worked at a very large university, I applied for a couple of internal jobs in divisions completely separate from my then-current job. I had no problem with an email or phone call rejection from those, because the hiring manager and the position I applied for weren’t people I worked with much in the course of my current job (and actually very large university was so spread out that it would have been 20-30 minutes of walking round trip just to get to an in person meeting). One job I didn’t get the hiring manager did call and give me honest feedback which I really appreciated; the other one I think we’d both realized mid-interview that I wasn’t a good fit for the job so no feedback was necessary.

      In my current office of 40, where I would undoubtedly have to work closely with the person who actually got hired and the culture here is that people who need to know get kept in the loop about personnel decisions, I would expect an in person meeting and an explanation of what made me not the best candidate this time (and because that’s the culture here *not* getting an in person meeting would feel more like an intentional snub than just an oversight).

    9. Dana B.S.*

      From my experience in a call center, nothing was even semi-private. Maybe LW4 was lucky enough to have a private cubicle, but I shared a cubicle w/ 2 others until we got a new floor which then gave us a complete open office. Also, I was answering phones the entire time that I was at my desk, so I definitely got rejection emails in the middle of phone calls with clients.

    10. Wow.*

      I’ve had 2 rejections over the phone and they were both terribly awkward for me. The first one I realllllly wanted and I was trying to cover up the fact that I was crying. The 2nd time, I had realized that I didn’t really want the position and felt like I had to fake disappointment.

      Email only for me please.

      1. Rachel*

        I interviewed for an internal promotion yesterday and I’m sitting in my office HOPING for an email. The hiring manager is across town in another office, so I think the options are going to be phone or email. PLEASE DON’T CALL ME. Oh god, what if they don’t tell me at all, just announce who got it? That would be worse. Or, hearing about it as gossip! Fingers crossed for an email rejection.

    11. Raia*

      When I was denied an internal promotion, phone or email was okay for me and I’m lucky to have been able to accept the news without much emotion. I never even thought about taking offense that it wasn’t done in person.

  5. staceyizme*

    OP #1- It must have been a shock to find out that your cats weren’t being cared for properly by someone that you knew, trusted and had used before. I’m sorry that happened to you. The key thing, though- nobody is going to pay for the cost of replacing your lost security key (fob). It’s unreasonable to expect a pet sitter to do so, whether she was a volunteer, a paid contractor or just couch surfing. I think that your insistence that she find or pay for the security key threw her off and things went downhill from there. If you hire someone or arrange for a volunteer to care for your home, pets or kids, they aren’t going to cover any damage incurred due to accident or even the exercise of bad judgment. Trying to make them do so is unproductive. It’s also wrong, in my view. They’re acting on your behalf, at your request and you’ll be the responsible party for any payment due or for any loss incurred, barring something extraordinary like theft or assault. It’s no different than a company that winds up re-keying the office locks because a disgruntled ex-employee took off with the keys. It sucks and it’s unfair. But it’s the norm if you hire someone or have someone who is willing to trade services for a place to stay.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, absolutely. She was doing this unpaid so you can’t make her pay for the cost of accidents.

      She was still awful re: the cats but she’s on pretty solid ground in declining to pay for the key.

      1. Marni*

        Or even if she was being paid, right? We’ve seen questions here before about employers trying to get employees to pay for business expenses. If you lose your work laptop, your employer can’t charge you for it, can they?

        If your pet sitter loses the key to your house, you have the choice of either getting them a new one, or firing them and getting a new one to give to your new pet sitter. I can’t envision any scenario in which they pay to replace it.

      2. Lily*

        It sounds to me like cat sitter did at first keep the OP informed and only stopped when OP tried to make their own problem cat sitter’s problem. “I’ve lost the keys, what should I do?” “Find them” is not helpful at all.

        1. Sleve McDichael*

          Yes, I wonder what would have happened if the OP had instead said something like ‘Don’t worry about the key for now, we’ll deal with that later. For now, get a spare key off my neighbour so you can get in. That way you can still take care of the cats. Thanks so much!’ Gratitude and understanding can go a long way as social grease, even if they don’t fully reflect how you feel at the time. Flies, honey etc. Honestly as a cat owner I would have been doing everything I could to make it easier for the cats to be taken care of! Forget my feelings!

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Alison I wonder if you would comment on the power dynamic? Especially with the cat/house sitting being unpaid it seems a little off to ask a law student. In my experience law students are unpaid summer interns, or if they are paid are they often hoping to be hired on by the firm after the internship/graduation. Asking a law student to pet/house sit for free seems to take advantage of an unfair power dynamic. I know as a Legal Secretary OP would not have a lot of official power in terms of hiring, but most attorney/legal secretary relationships I have seen the legal secretary can wield a lot of unofficial power by talking to their attorney(s).

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes — if I were writing it again, I’d flag the power dynamic too. I don’t think it changes my advice — and I still think that once the cat-sitter made the commitment to do it, she needed to be less cavalier and more communicative — but it’s right to flag it.

                I linked to this in the post (which discusses the caveats that are important in a situation like this) but should have flagged it more explicitly:

                https://www.askamanager.org/2015/03/is-it-inappropriate-to-hire-an-employee-to-pet-sit-at-my-house.html

                1. nutella fitzgerald*

                  But doesn’t the power dynamic come back up when LW goes ahead and uses her connections in the office after things aren’t done to her liking?

          1. Cat Owner*

            Hi Steve that is exactly what I did do, Instead of her turning up on the Saturday night, I told her to sleep on it and maybe Sunday she’d remember where the keys were. I would get my neighbour to step in for what I thought was a one off feeding. If she didn’t find them Sunday morning then get my neighbour to let her in and then sort out the security key for the building. But it all went downhill from there as she then left it to my neighbour to feed them.

            1. Sleve McDichael*

              I believe you Cat Owner. Perhaps if it wasn’t your tone, it was the fact that you said the neighbour could do it that night? Even if you only intended it to be a once off, if the student was not feeling very keen on the cat care any more they may have seen the neighbour as an ‘out’. That’s not really something you can be expected to anticipate though. Hindsight is 20/20, and we commenters have more emotional distance. Based on my above assumption I would say that you’re unlikely to get any money from the student as it looks a bit like they want to remove themselves from the situation and pretend it never happened. I’m sorry, it must all be very stressful for you.

            2. Scarlett*

              You’re not quite getting the difference. You were very focused on the lost keys. The suggestion is you could’ve taken the pressure off not put it on.

            3. violet04*

              I’m sorry things went downhill quickly and bottom line I hope your cats are okay. As a cat owner, I would be very anxious and stressed if I had to try and coordinate care for my cats while I was away. I’m sure I wouldn’t have reacted to the situation perfectly either. As mentioned above, hindsight is 20/20.

              I understand your anger and frustration, but unfortunately I don’t think there’s much else that can be done in this situation. I hope you’re able to find some reliable pet sitters in the future.

            4. Morning Glory*

              Cat Owner, you actually did not suggest she get the key from the neighbor and let herself into your apartment. Your suggestion wouldn’t allow her into your apartment unless she found her key – you didn’t give the option of getting the key from the neighbor for her to access it directly.*

              So, the next day and she still doesn’t have the key, how’s she supposed to feed the cat, and respect the boundary of your original suggestion? It would make sense that she’d see asking the neighbor to feed the cat again as the only solution. I agree her communication wasn’t good, but understand what made her go that direction.

              *Also, if she’d been counting on being at your apartment that night, e.g. had rented out her place on Airbnb to make money since you weren’t actually paying her to do this, your decision not to let her into your apartment that night via the neighbor could have majorly screwed her over.

            5. Yorick*

              “Sleep on it” isn’t helpful. The keys were lost. How was she supposed to sort out the security key for the building?

              1. BadWolf*

                Well, sleeping on it does rather work for me. Just like taking a break on a hard problem. I might come up with a new place to check. Or on a recheck of the same place, suddenly I see what I was missing.

                1. Emily K*

                  The problem is that it’s not helpful for that to be the only instruction LW gave to the pet sitter. Sleeping on it might help – or it might not, and being told to “sleep on it” isn’t some novel idea that pet sitter couldn’t have come up with on her own.

                  I know that personally I wouldn’t call and tell someone the keys were lost until I had turned upside-down everything in my house and checked every likely place at least 3 times each, including pockets of coats and purses and hiding spots. I would have already gone to great lengths to find the keys, by the time I make the call it’s because I’m 99% sure those keys are gone and there’s nowhere I can look that I haven’t already looked. Being told to just keep looking and see if I find them by morning would be useless against the backdrop of how extensively I’ve already looked for them. What I would need the pet owner to do is take me at my word that the keys are lost (at least for now) and tell me how I should proceed now that there are no keys in my possession. If I find them, sure, that would be great, but I need a plan that isn’t just hope.

            6. Joielle*

              Honestly, if I heard “maybe Sunday you’ll remember where the keys are” I’d think “whew, it sounds like OP has backup plans so someone else will feed the cats if I can’t find the keys. I guess I can make it to Fathers Day brunch after all.” And then I’d be REALLY unpleasantly surprised to find out that actually, OP still expected me to find the keys or get them from the building management or coordinate with the neighbor twice a day or something. That’s a lot of legwork and seems like it should be OP’s responsibility, not the free catsitter’s.

              I just think the expectations and levels of urgency were not well communicated on either side, and then both were blindsided to learn that they were not on the same page. The student probably should have communicated more and OP definitely shouldn’t have gotten upset with the student (especially after seemingly letting her off the hook earlier), but the cats ultimately got fed and there’s nothing more that can be done. Maybe get the neighbor a nice thank you gift for the last minute help. And next time, if you don’t hire a professional, just assume everything will go wrong and plan accordingly.

            7. ceiswyn*

              …have you at any point considered that maybe she had already ‘slept on it’ and racked her brains and searched everywhere and exhausted all available avenues before she had to face facts, contact you and let you know she’d lost the keys? Only to be told to look again like she was three years old?

            8. Observer*

              That’s totally NOT the same thing. “Sleep on it and see if you can remember where it is” equals “are you SURE you lost it” *not* “Ok, here is how to get the key.” And the latter is what you should have done.

            9. biobotb*

              If that was your plan, why didn’t you implement it? Telling her to sleep on it is not telling her about this plan or explaining how it’s supposed to be implemented.

            10. ceiswyn*

              Yes, when the situation changed completely and she had to try to align her schedule with your neighbour’s schedule in order to get access to your apartment, and while you were being completely unhelpful and just telling her to find the lost keys, she still made sure your cats were fed.

              That’s… not a bad thing, OP…?

      3. Tallulah in the Sky*

        I’m apparently in the minority here, but if I lose something someone lend to me, I replace it, or at least partly pay it back. OP’s attitude wasn’t right here, but I understand that she asked for her ex-colleague to replace the key. I would however let it go now. The angry phonnecal, texts, contacting her coworkers (!!!)… Wouldn’t surprise me if the ex-colleague is starting to feel harassed.

        1. FairPayFullBenefits*

          Yeah, agreed, I think OP was out of line in expecting the sitter to pay for the key. I’ve taken care of friends’ animals as a favor and would absolutely pay for a key I lost.

        2. Asenath*

          Yes, I agree that if I lost someone’s keys, I’d move heaven and earth to find them, and if I failed, I’d apologize profusely and arrange for (and pay for) replacements. Now, once the student started passing off the pet care to the neighbour (after that was set up as a temporary measure) everything seemed to go so bad so fast that there’s probably no getting the keys back/replaced or any reconciliation possible, and certainly shouting at the student and calling her at work was excessive.

          I have to say, though, that I’ve always depended on close friends for pet-sitting, unpaid, without any problem. I used to do the same for them, although that hasn’t been necessary in recent years. So such arrangements can be successful.

          1. violet04*

            I would feel awful if I had lost someone’s keys. The sitter seemed nonchalant about it and then shirked their responsibilities for caring for the cats.

            Agree that unpaid arrangements for pet sitting can work out fine. I have used friends and neighbors who happily did it as a favor and did not want to get paid even if I asked.

            Not getting paid doesn’t give the sitter the right to flake out like that. They should have declined from the beginning.

            1. Starbuck*

              I think friends and neighbors are often happy to do this sort of favor for free because there’s at least some expectation of reciprocity assumed in the future, and/or because you like them. I don’t think either was true for the OP and student in this case so it was a bad idea to set it up that way. I’ve had other staff/supervisors ask me to house-sit or pet-sit for them back when I was an intern or low-paid temp staff, and they always offered to pay me. Because who is ever going to ask their boss to house-site or pet-sit for them? I never would. It’s kind of sketchy IMO to ask someone you outrank to do such a big favor for you, for free.

        3. Lady Blerd*

          I’m with you no this. LW1 didn’t help her case with the yelling but I don’t understand letting the student off the hook for losing the key. That days maybe LW1 didn’t tell them that it would be costly to replace, maybe knowing that, they would have been more careful.

        4. Colette*

          If I lost something someone lent to me for my benefit (e.g. they lend me a book to read), I’d replace it. If they lend it to me for their benefit, I’d feel awful but I don’t think I’d replace it.

        5. Not Me*

          I totally agree. I’m especially surprised anyone thinks it’s reasonable for a paid pet-sitter to not pay for the lost keys.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            The way I see it the paid pet sitter creates an employer/employee relationship. As others have said if I lost or broke some company equipment at work it would be unreasonable for the employer to ask me to pay to replace it, it is just the cost of doing business. So when that relationship is not a paid one, and a friend/coworker is pet-sitting for free on entirely to the owners benefit, it is unreasonable to expect them to pay for a lost key.

            I give OP the benefit of the doubt that maybe the law student lived at home, and being able to “live” on their own for two weeks was seen as a benefit.

            My over 21 brother lives at home with our parents, last time I went away I asked him to come over and watch my cat. I told him he could spend the weekend, have a few people over and that food and booze that was in the liquor cabinet and fridge were fair game. My brother took me up on my offer and I saw this as a fair trade benefiting both sides. But even in this situation where my brother was getting a benefit if he lost the keys I would not ask him to replace them.

            1. Not Me*

              It’s not the same thing as breaking something at work though. If I’m paying someone to take care of my pet I’d definitely make sure they have insurance beforehand, which would take care of something like lost keys. You’re right it’s the cost of doing business, the cost of the business though, not the customer.

              Also, it’s very common for companies to charge a replacement fee for lost security badge/passes for office buildings.

              1. Colette*

                It pretty much is the same as breaking something at work – if we assume that the pet-sitter was working for the OP, she lost the keys as part of her job, and it is not her responsibility to replace them (although she can face other consequences – e.g. it would be reasonable for the OP to decide not to hire her again). The OP is the employer, not a customer.

            2. Name Required*

              It doesn’t create an employee/employer relationship. It creates a service provider/client relationship. If I’m using my client’s equipment to do a job and I damage or lose them, I’m responsible for paying for it. I used to a pet sitter, and the only time I locked myself out of a house, I absolutely called a locksmith and ate the cost as a professional who has misused my client’s keys.

              If a friend of mine was pet sitting for free and they lost my keys? Of course I wouldn’t ask them to pay for the keys.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                You can call it a service provider/client relationship, but it is still an employer/employee relationship. Not to get into semantics but the common definition of employer from Merriam Webster is: one that employs or makes use of something or somebody; a person or company that provides a job paying wages or a salary to one or more people. People have said it all over the comments about if you want someone to be extra responsible you should “hire” a pet sitter. As a client you are hiring for a job, the job is pet-sitting and it pays $Y per visit/hour.

                I do understand and get your point about a service provider/client relationship is a different type of employee/employer relationship compared to a traditional hourly/salary job. My father works as a service provider and in instances where he or an employee has damaged something he has always paid to have it fixed or replaced because often the 10/15 year relationship is worth more than the cost of repair/replacement of x.

                But as a client/employer of a pet sitter if they do a unsatisfactory job you are welcome to fire/not hire them again in the future. Same in a traditional employment since, if I break an expensive piece of equipment it would be unreasonable for the company to try and make me pay, but they are within their rights to decide I can no longer be trusted and in turn fired for that.

          2. Observer*

            The pet sitter was not paid. Getting a chance to spend a couple of weeks in a “hipper” part of town is not exactly a huge benefit.

          3. Anonymeece*

            I’m seeing mostly the opposite – a paid pet-sitter would be expected to at least offer to pay for the keys; however, an unpaid volunteer, absolutely not.

        6. Kiki*

          If someone loaned me something, I would feel obligated to pay for replacements if it were lost or damaged. The difference here is that the cat sitter wasn’t really loaned the keys, cat sitter was supplied with the keys in order to do a favor for LW. Cat sitter would have never incurred the expense of losing the keys had LW not asked for the favor. Part of asking for favors is understanding that there’s a chance things will go wrong or not be executed to the exact standards you would have executed them to. Also, LW knows the cat sitter is a student and believed that they were in a position to want to exchange a free place to stay for cat care— expecting someone in that position to pay you back when you are likely currently in a better position financially seems strange to me.

        7. blink14*

          I’m with you on this as well. The student sounded way too cavalier about losing the keys, especially a door fob. Now, she may not realize how much those cost, but she certainly realizes that she, no one else, lost the keys to someone’s apartment building and apartment. How can you not at least offer to take some kind of financial responsibility for that? Or even if she really can’t afford to put up at least part of the cost, offer to help in some other way. I would feel terrible if I lost someone’s house keys or car keys, and would do everything I could to find them or replace them.

          1. biobotb*

            Well, the OP was even more cavalier–she just told her to sleep on it, rather than trying to figure out how to solve the problem. And they were her keys and her cats.

        8. Emily K*

          If I had been loaned something for my benefit, I would definitely make restitution, no doubt about it. But if I had been loaned something for the loaner’s benefit, it would be a nice gesture and I’d hope to be able to make amends or partial amends for it, but I wouldn’t feel the same obligation as I would if the only reason they’d lost the item was because I wanted to borrow it, as opposed to the reason they lost the item is because I was doing my best to help them out in a tight situation. (I actually wouldn’t be surprised if the cost of the key replacement is less than the going rate for pet-sitting – in my area two weeks would be hundreds of dollars – so I’d probably be thinking that even with the cost of key replacement factored in they still saved money by my doing the favor and would be a bit put off to be expected to absorb the cost just to maximize their savings.)

      4. Uldi*

        How was she awful about the cats? She arranged to get them fed Sunday and Monday morning, and was fully intending to be there Monday evening. It was the OP’s harangue Sunday night that drove her away. Yes, she had plans Sunday, none of which would even have mattered if she had the key. Was she supposed to cancel those plans to run over to get the neighbor to let her in, go to the apartment, go in, feed the cats… and then live there 24/7 for the next 2 weeks? The LW was the only one able to get a new building key, and she would have likely had to have done so in person. So the neighbor would be involved in all of this no matter what happened.

        Was there an urgent need to communicate with the LW? Not really. The keys were still lost, the LW seemed unconcerned that Sat. evening, and there was a readily available option in the neighbor. The LW asked to be kept updated… but updated on what? It was just a half-hour between the student contacting the neighbor Sunday evening and the LW calling said student and chewing her out.

    2. Bookartist*

      The pet sitter lost the key. Why would she not be responsible for replacing it since she was responsible for losing it?

      1. Grand Mouse*

        Mistakes happen, I guess. One time I was at work, getting my cart on the elevator when the keys fell right down the gap into the elevator shaft. I apologized and felt bad but it wouldn’t be right of my employer to punish me for it. I know things are different at work, but this was still an arrangement benefitting the OP.

        Perhaps more related, I was catsitting and the cat needed to go to the vet. I asked the owner, a friend at the time, and she reluctantly agreed. I paid out of pocket, and got no thanks and no repayment until I hassled the friend about it. She paid half resentfully, and it completely ruined the friendship.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          That’s completely outrageous. A responsible pet owner would have been falling over themselves to reimburse you (or provide insurance details to the vet, in the case of direct payment).

        2. Tallulah in the Sky*

          Your friend was a jerk, and a horrible pet owner. The cat is lucky she had you to take her to the vet when she needed it, thank you.

          And I guess I disagree on the key thing because I don’t see someone I pet-sit for as a job. There are professional pet-sitters (who have contracts and explicit clauses about that kind of thingà, but if I do it as a favor or part of an agreement for someone I know, I can’t see myself lose or break something and not pay it back, at least half.

      2. Uldi*

        I’d say it was the responsibility of the LW to get her keys back after the first time the student pet-sit months previous.

          1. Loose Seal*

            Oh! I read it the same way, that the student kept the keys between sittings and that’s why she couldn’t find them when she was asked to sit the second time. So I was a little more understanding to the student for losing them. However, if she had only had them for a couple of days before losing them, I can more understand the OP’s suggestion to sleep on it and see if the location of the keys becomes clearer.

      3. MK*

        For the same reason that employees shouldn’t have to compensate business expenses, even if they are incurred because of their mistakes. Or that you don’t ask friends to compensate you if they break something at your house.

        Keys get lost, it happens. In my jurisdiction the OP wouldn’t even have legal resource for the cost of they keys.

        1. Bookartist*

          My friends offer to pay for things they break, and I do the same. Chalking this up to cultural differences.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            In my culture you offer, and the offer is refused (perhaps unless high value, like a tv upwards, but at that point you’d be involving contents insurers).

              1. Harper the Other One*

                I don’t think that’s appropriate, or particularly fair. I’d interpret this culture’s interactions as the offer showing your regret for the situation, and the refusal showing that you understand that accidents happen. Putting a value judgement on whether this culture handles situations the “correct” way (yours) is a little icky.

                1. londonedit*

                  This is exactly it. You offer to make amends, which is the polite thing to do because it shows that you realise the accident happened on your watch and is therefore (at least in some way) your responsibility. Not at least offering to pay for repair/replacement would come off as extremely rude. But the person whose item was lost or damaged declines the offer, because accidents happen and they’re an understanding person. It doesn’t mean they’re not allowed to be privately angry about it, but ‘Oh no, it’s fine, really – these things happen’ is the appropriate response. ‘Great – the repairs cost £27.80 so if you could just transfer the money?’ would come off as rude.

                2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  (nesting ends – replying to londonedit)

                  I’m not sure it would be exactly rude to accept someone’s offer to pay you back – slightly unexpected, yes, but I wouldn’t go as far as “rude” as it would after all be justified and you never know what someone else’s budget looks like.

                  I have to comment also that I agree it is probably pass-agg to act in this way, as a lot of our customs are.

              2. staceyizme*

                Wow! NOT nice! It’s a feature shared regionally here in the US. “Let me repay you- I’m so sorry it broke!” “No, it’s okay.” “No, I insist.” “It’s just stuff…”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some version of that conversation right here in my own backyard, no extra cultural references needed.

              3. Emily K*

                That’s not passive aggression. Passive aggression is when you’re annoyed with someone so you leave little notes and make passive little comments rather than show actual anger or aggression, with the goal of communicating displeasure indirectly instead of directly.

                The social ritual of, “Oh you must!” “Oh I couldn’t!” “I insist!” “Well, alright then,” is not about communicating displeasure at all – quite the opposite, in fact. It’s performative and somewhat irrational, but so are hundreds of other social rituals. People will ask, “Does anyone want the last cookie?” before taking it, but I’ve never once in my life heard someone say, “Yes, actually,” and take the last cookie – the response is always, “Please go ahead!” In all reality, people could just take the last cookie without the charade and nobody reasonable would care, but this allows you to perform consideration and the others to perform graciousness, which serves to cement a friendly bond. Over time dozens of these little performative interactions between acquaintances and friends result in a warmer relationship than without them.

            1. JSPA*

              That’s fine, and works great if (and only if) everyone is from the same culture / has that understanding. Which sort of presumes maintaining a monoculture. Which then becomes problematic.

              In one’s personal life, one is certainly welcome to maintain one’s own cultural understandings! But once you choose to cross the streams (and bring work people into your personal life, or vice versa) it’s probably safer to use the cultural equivalent of a lingua franca–that is, either to say what you mean, or to explain the “done thing,” while doing it–in that your workplace is less likely to be (or remain) a monoculture.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                I wonder how many of Alison’s letters could be well answered by your measured comment! Unwritten rules often lead to conflict and unhappiness.

          2. MK*

            Probably. In my culture it would be weird to expect compensation for something like lost keys. If it’s a bit more expensive, eople might offer, but I would never accept such an offer for an honest mistake. If it’s something really valuable, yes, I would replace the item.

          3. quirkypants*

            The cat sitter is not a friend though.

            The OP is trying to make this sounds like a business arrangement or employment of sorts, if it was, the sitter shouldn’t have to pay for the keys anymore than an employee would. This is the cost of doing business.

            Keys at my building would be about $200 to replace. It would suck needing to replace them but I wouldn’t expect to leave that cost (or the trouble of making the arrangements with the neighbour) on the cat sitter.

            1. JSPA*

              I just paid $400 on the first installment of my current pet sitting bill. OP’s out $200? OP’s still making out like a bandit, pretty much.

          4. biobotb*

            You expect your friends to pay you if they accidentally break something while trying to do you a favor that you requested? Jeez.

        2. Steve C.*

          I might ask a friend to compensate me for breaking something at my house (or rather, accept their offer to do so) if I was the one doing them a favor to begin with.

          There’s a big difference between “do you mind if I crash at your place for a few days while my house is being painted — Ooops, I lost your building key and now you have to pay a hundred bucks to the condo board” and the OP’s situation. In one case, the loss of the key is an (unexpected) expense related to guest’s housing, which is their responsibility. In the other, it’s part of the cost of taking care of the OP’s cat.

          When the cost of doing something is your responsibility, so is the risk of doing it.

        3. A*

          “you don’t ask friends to compensate you if they break something at your house”

          Uhh…. did I miss the memo where this was declared The Way Things Are? I 100% expect my friends to pay for something if they break it. Granted, I don’t care about the items this would most likely come into play on – plates, glasses etc. But if they break some of the vintage furniture or knick knacks? Absolutely!! I wouldn’t charge a friend if I left breakables out and their child broke one, but I’m certainly not going to hide everything of value when my full grown adult friends come over. Nor am I going to limit myself to only owning items I can afford to replace outright if someone other than myself breaks them.

          Luckily, it’s never been an issue in my group of friends. Everyone has always just…replaced anything they broke.

      4. Shabang*

        Perhaps they don’t have the money to pay for an expensive key… I know that has played a big part in what I would do to rectify a situation similar to this.

        I’m doing you a favor, I get a key, I loose key (and it seems it wasn’t collected by owner after the first “help you out”), get informed that replacement is very expensive… And I was just trying to help.

        Maybe my read is off, but I know if I don’t have the money, I can’t pay for “very expensive” key – especially if it’s not for a place that is mine.

      5. WellRed*

        For the same reason if you mess up at work, you’re not expected to reimburse the company. If you are going to get charged for an honest mistake while doing someone a favor? Nah, I’ll pass on that privilege.

    3. Harbinger*

      I am a bit surprised about the key issue that it’s so different in various jurisdictions. Where I live, OP would have a legal claim against the student for reimburse the OP for the costs of replacing the keys even if the student was not paid for it. There is a section in the civil code precisely describing this particular situation. Key replacements for a 10 party house costs easily a 4-digit amount, so if this happened where I live OP would be on solid ground to demand reimbursement for replacing the keys.

      1. WellRed*

        Are you sure you don’t mean the tenant would be responsible to the landlord for replacing the key? They are the ones who have the contract, after all. If the tenant gives the key to someone who then loses it, it’s still the tenant’s responsibility to replace it. (if they want to go after the student/friend or whatever it’s their choice, but good luck).

        1. Harbinger*

          No I meant what I wrote. It doesn’t even matter whether OP owns her apartment or whether she rented it from whomever owns the building where her apartment is located. OP would be obliged to replace the key (and all other related keys). For the costs incurred, OP can demand reimbursement from the student regardless whether the student was paid for the pet sitting or not. I understand this is depending on jurisdiction, I was just surprised that the difference is so big.

            1. Harbinger*

              I am not from the US and Not from the UK so yes, in comparison our civil law code is structured differently and includes different concepts.

      2. ChimericalOne*

        That doesn’t sound like a plausible reading of the civil code. Anyone you give a key to is liable for the cost of the key if they lose it? How would you even collect on that? All anyone would have to do is claim they gave their key to person X, Y, or Z on the street (rather than losing it themselves) & that person would be liable for the cost. My guess is that the code has a number of caveats.

        1. Harbinger*

          Yes of course there are requirements for this provision to qualify but I cannot see that the requirements are not given by the description of the OP. Maybe the OP did not communicate the nature of the pet sitting to the student the way she described here but that‘s speculation. I assume she did communicate this task the way she did in the letter.

  6. CatCare*

    Wrt #1 – this sitter is definitely a jerk, but with cat sitting either it’s a favor they’re doing you so you don’t get to dictate their specific terms, or it’s a paid gig and you *do* get to be particular and specific. Two weeks with a special diet cat? You really should be paying a person to do that. Where I live that would be at least $200. Unless you paid their rent and utilities on their actual living place, it’s not “free rent/utilities” – it’s not like they moved out of their apartment and broke their lease. Animal care is a skill, and your stress at whether or not your cats are taken care of indicates that you know that.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Good care for pets isn’t cheap! Years back, I got free rent full time for 6 months in exchange for occasional pet sitting when the owner went out of town and we were both happy with the deal. That deal was beneficial to us both, but what OP describes is a big favor by the student. I’m not surprised something went wrong.

      1. MommyMD*

        Yes free rent for six months sounds about right. You don’t expect people to do this stuff for free. And three weeks doesn’t amount to “free rent”.

        1. WomanFromItaly*

          I totally used to do this stuff for free. Of course, at the time my apartment was perfectly okay, but my coworkers who wanted me to sit owned WHOLE HOUSES. Like, I had a HOUSE when I stayed there. It was awesome. No regrets.

    2. Therese*

      I think the “special diet” is being misconstrued. In this case it just means different food to the other cat, it’s still just biscuits and tinned stuff but that cat needs to generally eat on the special diet food. No medication involved.

      1. JSPA*

        Either it’s simple, and the neighbor could reasonably be instructed, from afar, how to do it, in a pinch. Or it’s complex (either regarding timing or exact foods) and it ought to be well-paid. You can’t have it be “too complicated” to ask the neighbor, yet “too simple” to merit a professional sitter. The idea that there’s a magic level of complexity that can only be handled by a law student just doesn’t cut it, with me.

    3. violet04*

      The sitter knew about the arrangement and could have declined if she didn’t like it. A special diet just means opening up a different can of food for each cat. Or getting dry food out of different containers.

      1. Uldi*

        She didn’t have a problem with cat-sitting. She didn’t have an issue until the LW berated her (and possibly accused her of being a thief) that Sunday evening. She didn’t back out until the next morning, and called to say she was no longer comfortable doing this favor.

        I keep seeing so many, including Allison, take the LW at face value that the student “flaked out”, yet nothing in the letter supports this. The student arranged for the pet to be fed when she couldn’t physically be there to do it herself due to 1) no building key; or 2) previous plans that would not have adversely affected her ability to care for the cats if she still had possession of the keys.

        I find it baffling that not keeping the LW up-to-date so completely on what is an unpaid favor is seen as such a negative failure as to rate being called “flaky”. There was a mere half-hour gap between the student contacting the neighbor to feed the cats that night and the following Monday, and being called by the LW and berated.

    4. Rebecca*

      I agree…in the past when I’ve gone out of town for a week or more I’ve asked younger (but adult) relatives to house-sit. In their cases, staying at my house meant they had shorter commutes, covered garage parking rather than street parking, air conditioning and cable which they did not have in their own residences, and privacy rather than roommates. And I still left them cash! Because I expected them to take care of my house and because they were disrupting their own routines to do something for me.

    5. Commentor*

      Totally agree with you!

      I pet sit very regularly (in fact I am leaving my job to do it full time!) and I would honestly charge $350-$400 for a two week stay, maybe more if there was medication and special needs involved. I am coming off a job with two cats for a week and charged $250, which is pretty standard around here (actually on the low end since it was for a friend). It definitely is a skill and is more work that you would think!

  7. MommyMD*

    Another coworker pet sitting story gone bad. Hire professionals or board. Yes she was a flake but the bottom line is hiring a reliable service. If one person can’t make it, they send another. Coworkers are not pet sitters and house sitters and it doesn’t sound like you were paying her. Unless you live in a resort city on high end property staying at someone’s house and taking care of their house and pets is work, not a treat. Keys get lost. I would not have expected her to replace them. The keys are not going to be replaced and lesson learned about budgeting for professional and reliable pet sitting. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

    1. Ramanon*

      You can really only board healthy cats, though. FIV+ and FeLV+ cats as well as cats that require certain medications aren’t taken by boarding places, and immunosuppressed cats should stay home.

      1. Name Required*

        Terrific. Point still stands, as MommyMD said “hire professionals OR board”. If you can’t board, hire a pet sitter.

    2. Dana B.S.*

      I’m so happy my vet does boarding and that it isn’t any more expensive than a normal boarding place (about $30/night in DFW). The only thing that’s annoying about it is that we can’t do pick up on Sundays.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        I’m in DFW too and that’s what I pay to board my small-ish dog. Although I haven’t had to do that in a long time because my good friend will let Hermione come visit her farm and play with her dogs. In return I make her cups of tea. It’s a good arrangement.

  8. Agranta*

    I feel that OP 1 was taking advantage of the law student by asking for two weeks of free cat sitting services, which included time, transportation (time and money) and the responsibility of caring for a cat with special health needs (cat needs special diet). Yes, the student flaked, but it is arrogant to have someone care for your pet for two weeks, and housesit and claim that the sitter is getting paid with free housing and utilities. Did the student ever expressly say this was an advantage and not an inconvenience for her? As the OP is an employee (legal secretary), that is a higher position than a student, and the student might not have felt she could say no. Power differentials matter.

    1. MommyMD*

      I also questioned the power differential and the ability to say no. I don’t think you should ever ask a coworker, especially a subordinate, to house or pet sit.

      1. mark132*

        That was my thought. The student possibly felt “trapped” by OP1, and once OP1 left their position of power over the student, the student was basically done with the whole thing with a serving of “revenge” by losing the keys.

        I admit this is a bunch of speculation on my part, but the general “tone” of OP1 gives this scenario some credence with me.

        1. Ama*

          Yeah in my first job out of college (receptionist for a therapist), my boss one day showed up with the “amazing” idea that I would be the perfect person to live in her house and babysit her children for a week while she and her husband went on a trip for their anniversary. She had three children, two high school age (I was only 22 myself), and one eleven year old with special health issues (the main reason why she needed a live in babysitter). I had met the eleven year old for five minutes, did not know the high schoolers, and living in her house would actually have meant a much longer commute for me (not to mention that I would have had to wake up two hours earlier to get the eleven year old to school). But she presented the idea to me as if it was somehow this great opportunity *for me* to do this immense favor for her.

          I already knew I was leaving that job in a few months for grad school which is what gave me the courage to say no — I could tell she was really surprised that I did and I always wonder if I’d have been brave enough to stand my ground if I was more desperate to stay employed.

      2. Loose Seal*

        I figured this as well since the student did suddenly get the ability to say no after the OP no longer worked at their company.

        1. Asenath*

          But the cat-sitter didn’t say no until the blow-up on the phone. I’d have a lot more sympathy for the cat-sitter if she’d said right up front that she couldn’t cat-sit again – and, as you point out, if she felt unable to say no when OP was working in the same place, that no longer applied.

            1. Observer*

              I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the pet sitter. But she’s not the one who wrote it. The OP was – and they don’t get much sympathy either.

              1. Parenthetically*

                My thoughts exactly. Was pet-sitter a flake? Sure. But OP wrote in for advice, not just to have her outrage affirmed.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Missing keys -> LW blows up on phone, while at no point offering a practical plan to get her some keys -> Student becomes disinterested in fixing problem, now that LW has less power over her employment.

            When I discovered I had given my catsitter the wrong key, I was preparing to overnight my keys to him. I didn’t expect him to materialize the correct key (regardless of which of us was responsible–he doesn’t have the power to fix it), or to arrange with my neighbors (who fortunately were home that weekend) to be there whenever he wanted to come in and care for the cats.

            1. Some Sort of Management consultant*

              Yes! LW didn’t leave the sitter any options to fix the problem. It’s unreasonable to expect the problem to be solved by the sitter magically finding the keys and resuming pet sitting according to plan. How?

              1. Jenny Craig*

                +1

                The “figure it out” reminded me of being a kid and getting into a fight with my siblings, and my dad would tell us to figure it out. It’s a perfectly fine response to a kid fight, not so much to a free pet sitter who needs apartment access in order to do said free pet sitting.

              2. biobotb*

                Exactly! The Op was the only one who could fix the key problem, chose not to, and yet considers the law student to be a flake who reneges on her duties?

          2. Starbuck*

            Well yeah, the student agreed to do this big favor for OP, but then decided it wasn’t worth it after all once OP yelled at them! Sounds pretty reasonable to me. They tried to stick with it, but OP made it just about as inconvenient and unpleasant as they possibly could have.

          3. Uldi*

            She was going to catsit. She was doing exactly what she planned on doing if she had had the keys she lost. Cat-sitting does not mean staying in the person’s house 24/7. She arranged with the neighbor to feed the cat when she literally couldn’t do it due to no building key, or a prior commitment (the Father’s Day plans). She had already arranged for the neighbor to let her into the building Monday evening when the LW called her and harangued her. THAT was when she walked away, and I don’t blame her a bit. You do NOT verbally abuse someone doing you a favor just because she doesn’t do it in exactly the way you want. You want that much control? Hire a professional.

      3. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

        Absolutely. A lot of people in this thread have mentioned that unpaid petsitting arrangements have worked for them in the past, but the difference between asking a close friend or trusted neighbor to petsit and asking a coworker to petsit is pretty big.

        1. Tallulah in the Sky*

          +1

          That’s the main issue for me. She asked someone who could reasonably have felt pressured to accept, which throws everything of. Even a simple coworker would be tricky. If student did feel pressure, I hope she also reflected a bit and thought about how she could say “no” to favors from colleagues in the future. Personally, reading Ask a Manager for years and having Alison’s scripts in my head has helped me a lot with those kind of situations, so thanks Alison :-)

    2. Snuck*

      I too feel there was a disparity of power for the Legal Secretary and the Law Student…

      They are vastly different levels in the organisation… Some one in a higher position shouldn’t be asking for favours from someone in a lower position (or kidneys, lifts in the wee hours of the morning or any of the other silliness we’ve seen here).

      1. Yvette*

        And the level of her position in relation to the student could also depend on who the secretary worked for named partner, equity partner, a pair of associates, all those people have different levels of power and authority in a law firm and that is often passed along to their secretary.

      1. Chosen Papaya*

        I was thinking the exact same thing. Did the law student feel comfortable saying no? Because essentially the student was being asked to do this by someone probably more senior to them in their office.

        When I was a student, I had a part time job in a dean’s office and students were frequently asked to house/pet sit for her when she travelled. It was always presented the way the letter writer is doing here – like something fun for us. You get a free place to stay! I put Coke in the fridge!

        Truthfully, it was awful. Her house was an inconvenient location and it wasn’t as nice as the place where I actually lived (for free) with my parents.

        But I didn’t feel comfortable saying no.

        Unless the LW’s house is in a massively desirable location, she was asking for a massive favor from the student and giving nothing in return.

        FWIW, when my teen daughter pet sits, her minimum is $35 per day and would probably be much more if you expected litter box cleaning and had special diet issues.

    3. Uldi*

      Agreed. This is setting off several red flags for me. LW talked about there being “a couple of issues which I went through with her”, never offered any real compensation, and it sounds like she was quite verbally abusive when she talked to the young woman. For goodness sake, she calls the student a thief in the letter over lost keys and asks if she should contact her former employer to complain. What the actual heck.

      Was the student flaky? I’m not sure I’d even go that far. She made sure the cats were cared for via the neighbor, even if she didn’t think to tell that neighbor to empty the cat litter. The LW wrote, ” I told the cat sitter to let me know the next morning if she found the keys.” This is a law student, and they’re going to take what you said as exactly what you meant, and since she didn’t say anything about contacting her about feeding/caring for the cats, the student didn’t do so.

      It’s stories like this that make me reflexively opposed to asking subordinates to do personal work for me so far outside of their job description, or in this case outside of work completely.

      1. Snuck*

        Yeah. I erred on the side of “let’s not get into the whole attitude coming through because it’s pointless” but… nice to see someone else bristle at the same things that set my teeth on edge.

        You don’t “Go through a few things” with someone doing you a favour….
        A person who says “yeah, I’ll do it again” may mean “Sure whatever just get out of my face after giving me feedback and next time I’ll be too busy”…

        And referring to them as a thief for losing your keys is really quite over the top. Don’t leave your expensive, hard to replace key fobs with random students who look after your cats, get them back… or risk them being lost.

        I read this as… student felt pressured somewhat to do it in the first place, didn’t really enjoy the experience, was given criticism on OP’s return (justified possibly, but the whole tone of this letter doesn’t suggest it was a pleasantry) and then next time there was a random assumption the student would do it all again… by which time the student couldn’t find hte keys, it was Father’s Day weekend and she had other commitments, and she … just didn’t really want to… but didn’t know how to actually say that.

        1. Jenny Craig*

          Yes, Snuck! “The whole tone of this letter doesn’t suggest it was a pleasantry.” I realize that you’re specifically referencing the feedback OP 1 gave at the end of the student’s free pet-sitting, but I think it applies across the board to every interaction they had. OP 1 seems to not realize at all that the student was doing her a favor. The tone much more suggests that she thinks she was doing the student a favor. If she were to reflect on their interactions through that lens, she might realize just why the student is refusing any further involvement with OP.

          1. Snuck*

            I don’t know… maybe I am a bit odd.. but if I had someone pet sitting for me (my son has a registered, qualified medical alert dog… on rare occasions it will be left behind, but trust me, this is a very expensive, very very very necessary part of our family!)… and I didn’t like the way they did it… I’d go with someone else next time.

            If I had to give them ‘feedback’ after they’d been pet sitting… they wouldn’t pet sit again. If it was minor enough that it didn’t stop me using them again I wouldn’t point it out in the moment (but might make a note to include it in instructions for next time)… if it was major… then I’d find someone else next time. “Feedback” after an event is rarely useful unless the person is a professional (pet sitter in this case) and going to continue on to the next professional (pet sitting) job.

      2. ceiswyn*

        Yeah, the keys are lost. The student told the OP that. I don’t see that they were in any way negligent in not telling the OP again what she already knew; that the keys were lost.

        I don’t agree with the student’s behaviour in other ways, and I would have felt duty-bound to pay for replacement keys, but the OP’s refusal to accept that the keys were lost and deal with the changed situation is, while possibly understandable in the circumstances, probably the main reason things went so badly south.

    4. EddieSherbert*

      Agreed. I don’t think anybody is “right” here.

      There are red flags with OP (this is *not* at all a favor to the student! Shouldn’t be asking a student worker in the first place, help her find a solution after the keys were lost), but I don’t think ditching a commitment halfway through – especially one where living beings are depending on you for an extended period – is acceptable in any way!!!

      If I was the student, I would have actually suggested solutions when “find the key” was the only reply I got (can the neighbor handle it? Can I borrow neighbor’s key? Can I copy neighbor’s key?) and helped OP figure it out…. while knowing this was definitely the last time I ever agreed to help this person. Even if I’m mad at and ready to be done with OP, the cats (and maybe the neighbor) are the ones being punished here by the student’s behavior.

      1. Uldi*

        But there really wasn’t a solution that involved the student, was there? The building key/fob is not something a building manager will turn over to a non-resident via a phone call (authentication issues abound here). So the only person in any position to do anything is the LW, and when she found out that the keys were lost, it was on her to make other arrangements herself. In fact, the LW DID make those arrangements for Sat. night, so she knew she had an option that didn’t involve the student. The student apparently was fully intending to ask the neighbor to let her in Monday evening, so even she had a workable solution. The LW, however, became abusive and possibly accusatory that Monday. So the student said enough was enough and walked away from a situation that was no longer tenable.

  9. Maria Lopez*

    OP2- When the client said, “yes it must be so exhausting drinking wine and eating …. just kidding” , I would have responded, in a serious tone, “Oh, thank you so much for understanding that the work can be really taxing. Most people think it is just one big party”.
    But really, that was a throwaway comment for the client and you should think of it as such, since you will probably get a lot of similar sentiments from people.

    1. Lynn Marie*

      And don’t forget, you can always fire a client who annoys you, for whatever reason or for no reason at all. Maybe you choose to keep them, but always factor that into your thinking. You ultimately have the power.

    2. Marissa*

      I agree it was a throwaway comment, probably from someone trying to meet a deadline and hoping you could shorten the timeline OP2. It’s becoming more and more common from what I’ve seen that people answer emails at all hours, and clients start expecting responses at all hours. I think it’s great that you have created set hours for yourself as a freelancer and stick to them, OP2, but you are bucking an always answer emails trend and I expect will hear more snark from time to time. I know it feels very personal, but I think it says more about your client’s frustration with having to deal with work on the weekends than with the standards you’ve set for your work.

      1. Marissa*

        I feel like this isn’t as clear as I intended. OP2, I agree with your take and I’d love to see more people setting firm work hours and not being constant emailers. I think if we want sustainable, healthy work life balances this is the best route. As a freelancer, it’s probably tough to create and stand firm with this boundary, especially with clients who always want more or want special treatment.

    3. LunaLena*

      I dunno, I work in a creative field that people assume is “fun” and have heard similar things a lot, and while it mostly is a throwaway joke/comment, there’s usually tinge of annoyed pressure in it when it’s from a client asking for something. Especially when the work in question is freelance. The assumption is “you set your own schedule, so why can’t you get this done for me when I want it; I’m paying for this, so you should do it now and relax later!”, and they’re hoping you’ll say “oh you’re right, I guess I’m not really that stressed. I’ll get on it right away!”

      There are so many stories on Clients from Hell that are about clients assuming “freelance” means “can do this on my unrealistic timeline” and getting angry it doesn’t work that way. I was fortunate when I did freelance work that I never ran into this, but I did fairly often when I was a production artist for a promotional products company. People would seriously email me the art files for their order and then call less than an hour later, asking why I hadn’t sent a proof yet. I’ve even had people say “oh, I thought the computer did all the work.”

    4. Jesshereforthecomments*

      For #2, I think silence speaks volumes in cases like this. LW either doesn’t reply to it, and sends the deliverable later. Or LW replies, but doesn’t touch that comment at all. This has always worked for me unless the person truly is a jerk, and in that case you will need to be more direct anyway.

  10. Sleve McDichael*

    OP #1 I’m worried when you say that the neighbour didn’t know to clean the litter trays. If the cats went two weeks without their trays being cleaned I strongly recommend that you take them to the vet for a checkup. Cats are prone to UTIs and kidney problems, it’s one of the biggest killers of indoor cats. Because they’re such strong willed animals they will often refuse to go in a litter tray that’s not clean enough and will instead just hold onto it for as long as possible – injuring themselves in the process. They will also refuse to drink so that they don’t need to go, causing dehydration. Most people don’t empty litter trays often enough as it is. If the cats didn’t convert a rug or something into a giant litterbox while you were gone please consider a vet checkup.

    Alison feel free to delete this if you think it’s too far off topic.

  11. Phil*

    Oh, yeah, the fun business. I was in 2, music and TV. “Wow, it must be fun to watch TV all day long!” They don’t understand it’s actually high pressure work, actual work, and while it’s been fun at times and uplifting at times it was always work.

    1. Miso*

      Yeah, all we do at the library is sit around and read books as well. And obviously we’re only there during actual opening times.

    2. Loose Seal*

      I got that attitude when I worked at the movies theater in high school. People seemed to think I could see all the movies I wanted for free. But I was too busy cleaning bathrooms and lugging Coke canisters around to watch movies. Although, I can reliably tell you what happens in the last 5-7 minutes of every film that came out in that period because that’s when I had to stand at the back of the theater with a trash can so I could rush in as soon as the show was over and scoop up your garbage that you left crammed in the seats and scattered in the aisles. No, it was not a relaxing time spent seeing free movies.

      (General you, of course. Not you specifically, Phil)

      1. Myrin*

        It would be strangely hilarious if you were directing this at Phil, though – “haHA, I found you, garbage scatterer from years ago; so we meet again here on this anonymous work website!”.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          This made me *actually* LOL! I’m now picturing Loose Seal as a D-list supervillain, armed with a plot to… mildly embarrass her old nemesis!!! MUAhahahahaha!!!

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      It’s like the people who think being a park ranger is all fun and games. And, sure, they get to work in beautiful places, but they have to deal with the general public asking the same questions day in and day out, and a big part of their job is rescuing people who get lost or fall off cliffs. And I feel bad for the ones who just work the entrance booth, doing nothing but taking money from people and, again, answering the same questions day in and day out.

      I’m a part-time freelance musician, and finally realized that I needed to stop being a full-time freelance musician when I got to the point that I didn’t want to listen to music EVER because I was forced to listen to music I didn’t want to hear (often played badly, as I also taught lessons) or play music I didn’t want to play (we don’t often get a choice in repertoire). And, like Phil said, it’s pretty high pressure and stressful, and the really tricky thing about music is that you have to do it absolutely correctly and at exactly the right time or else it sounds dreadful and no one ever hires you again. It’s nice to have a day job where I can do things on my own schedule and only accept the gigs I really want to play.

      OP, I think you have to let this particular instance go but in the future if someone brings it up you can say something like, “I’ve been stuck in front of my computer for x days in a row” or something, so that they realize what you’re doing is work and not just “taking pretty photos.” But I wouldn’t ever respond to a comment about it via email, only verbally, because of course email can be a lot more easily misconstrued.

  12. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    Re: How Lucky Are You?–If this is becoming a thing, I wonder if it’s to weed out people who feel really unlucky and are viewed as potential grousers, whiners, or otherwise negative addition? Bit of a reach, I know.

    Re: cat sitting–An “awww” moment from a former classmate. She boarded kitty whenever she went out of town, and kitty didn’t like it. Classmate was packing to go home for the holidays, and kitty astutely figured the open suitcase on the bed with clothes in it meant an imminent trip to the kennel. Boo-oo. Classmate showed me a pic of kitty lying on top of the clothes, looking up with big winsome eyes as if to change her human’s mind.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My dog gets nervous anytime I start putting things in other things, because she doesn’t like moving or when I go on vacation.

      1. F.M.*

        Same with my dog. However, he gets anxiety-glee when I bring out the dog carrier, because he knows that it means he’s going with me.

        (He doesn’t LIKE lying in the dog carrier under an economy airline seat for multi-hour stretches, then being in a giant noisy airport terminal, but he’s decided it’s far better than being left behind.)

    2. puffalump*

      I accidentally commented further down instead of on yours, but — yes, I worked at a place that used this to see how people bounced back from customer negativity, essentially. The number didn’t matter so much as the explanation. Not that they wanted 24/7 Pollyannas, but I’ve had a few coworkers who were so dour and rude to customers that it was like, we can’t put them at the register or help desk because they have no filter and we got (justified) complaints. If you can’t even deal with the normal customers, how will you deal with the actual “get the manager!” customers? Which defeats the purpose of working at a bookstore.

  13. Jackie*

    OP4# – love this site and nearly always agree with advice given but not for this one. When you’re dealing with internal applicant from your own teams you’re in an ideal place to ask them what they prefer. I asked staff in a team session how they would prefer us to handle this situation if they applied for a promotion and didn’t get it. I had always assumed that it was better to let them know face to face (and even that maybe it was a bit cowardly of me not to). Was quite surprised therefore that everyone said they would rather hear by email with the offer of face to face feedback later. The reason given was that they would want time to absorb the news first. We’ve since changed our practice and always email first. Staff continue to tell us they prefer this and that they get more from the feedback when they aren’t having to deal with the emotion of hearing they haven’t got the job at the same time.

    1. Amey*

      I think this is a good point! The last time I was on an interview panel, my boss (who was the lead interviewer) gave a timeframe for notifying of our decision (we always contact everyone) and then asked each person, external and internal, how they would prefer to be contacted. External candidates (and internal candidates working in other buildings) were given the option of phone or email but a number of the internal candidates actually worked in the same big open plan office as my boss so he offered to just come speak to them if they preferred. What we found is that we had people choose across that whole range of options – company policy is to generally default to a phone call but many people preferred an email, particularly if they were going to be at work. Some of the internal candidates working in the same office would have felt weird getting an email notifying them when the interviewer was a few desks down, others really appreciated that they didn’t have to have that conversation. I thought it was handled really well.

    2. GooseyLucy*

      +1 for this- I once got an urgent voicemail on my personal phone from the Managing Director of the large company where I worked (who I had only spoke to a handful of times) asking me to come see her as soon as I got to work. I knew it was the day they were announcing who got permanent roles and figured that she wouldn’t be in that much of a rush to tell somebody bad news, so I was delighted.

      Guess what? I didn’t get the job. Add to that the feedback (which turned out to be complete misrepresentation by the interviewer in relation to a skill that I was very confident in, as in I said Yes I can do that and she reported that I said No) and I was fuming. Definitely would have preferred some time to process before the face-to-face portion!

  14. AcademiaNut*

    Reading LW1 closely, I wonder if the student thought that the “I’ve lost the keys” “I’ll get the neighbour to feed them” exchange meant that the neighbour was going to take over the cat sitting because the student didn’t have the keys, rather than meaning that she needed to find the keys and get back on the job by the next day. Mostly because if the student didn’t have keys, she literally couldn’t feed the cats, and there doesn’t seem to have been a backup plan (like getting the keys from the neighbour) Then when the OP got angry and lit into her, she bailed completely.

    1. Sylvan*

      +1

      There was an incredibly obvious solution – like you said, just get keys from the neighbor – and it sounds like OP didn’t instruct her to do this. Instead, OP had the neighbor care for the cats once and … ??? Said “text me if you find the keys,” didn’t receive a text because she didn’t find the keys, and went into a rage spiral instead of telling her to take the neighbor’s key? Am I understanding correctly?

      1. JSPA*

        If the outer building keys are expensive security keys, having the neighbor’s apartment keys does not get the student into the building! Student is locked out, every day, unless someone holds the door (no doubt against all policy) or unless a neighbor is called and available to let the student in. And no matter how hip the neighborhood is, if you’re trapped inside once you get in (because you can’t risk not getting in the building later that night) it’s 100% not a tenable situation. Complete pet owner fail, to not appreciate this.

      2. Yorick*

        I don’t think the sitter could have gotten the keys from the neighbor and resumed sitting. The apartment key, yes, but not the building security key.

  15. Sherm*

    #3: The best answer to gimmicky “rank yourself” questions is likely to be “9”. Answer “10” and you risk seeming too impressed with yourself. Answer lower than a “9” and you risk not ranking high enough for their tastes.

    So that’s pretty much it for these dumb questions. Nine.

    1. Xez*

      I used to work at Walmart and the system had a ranking system like this. I was told by the managers that it’s best to actually put 10. Anything less counts against you. Apparently the test is graded by a computer so nuance is not helpful.

      I’m not sure if this is true for more “professional” jobs though but if I ever encountered it, I’d probably just go for 10. On the off chance I was questioned about it, I might explain my past experience.

      1. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

        Most customer service surveys are also like this. For their metrics and ranking (and rewarding/penalizing at the store level), anything less than a perfect score counts as a zero.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Yes, this drives me crazy and I have actually stopped doing customer surveys as a result. I feel like I’m lying if I put all 10s, because that implies this was the best experience I have ever had or ever expect to have! And it takes what could be useful feedback and makes it completely useless.

          1. pentamom*

            I just learned this recently from someone who works in this kind of customer service. I’m not doing these surveys anymore unless I actually have a 10/10/10 experience, which does happen sometimes. To me, though, 10 is above and beyond, and no, simple efficient courtesy isn’t that.

        2. Massmatt*

          It drives me nuts that a scale of responses actually doesn’t use the scale. Many workplaces used a 5 point scale to evaluate employees, except that the highest mark (5) was unobtainable, maybe 1-2 people in the entire large company might get it for a specific skill or job duty. The lowest—why haven’t they been fired already? 2nd lowest—are they new to the job? On a PIP? Are you getting ready to fire them? This basically left the middle score and the one above it (4) and and the number of 4 star reviews you could give out was strictly rationed. Hard to manage and continue to motivate a high-performing team with this kind of scale.

          If the customer service review is digital (was it good or not) it should use a digital measure, not an analog one like a 10-point scale.

      2. The Bear (OP #4)*

        Normally I’d agree with the computer algorithm thing, but this is like, a paper application I have to turn in by hand, which makes me think human eyeballs are going to see it before a computer does. (If it is a computer I really hope it can decipher my handwriting.)

      3. paperpusher*

        I applied to one of those places that asks for a personality test once. I figured if I said I was great at everything they’d flag it as impossible. I didn’t get a call. A few months later, I applied again and magically, I was great at talking, great at listening, had great attention to detail AND I was a big picture person. I got the job.

    2. AJ*

      The problem is it’s hard to know the mindset that would inspire someone to ask a question like this. Maybe the kind of person they are looking for is the one who says “I don’t believe in luck – I earned everything the hard way”, in which case they want an answer of 0 or 1. It’s a terrible question, and I find it unlikely it has helped them find the better candidates.

      1. Antilles*

        The other way to interpret that question would say that answering anything less than a 10 is straight up ridiculous.
        You live in a country with all sorts of freedoms, you are not enslaved or forced into a war, you don’t have to physically hunt/forage for food every day, you have access to modern conveniences, and on and on and on.
        Of the 100 billion or whatever human beings that have ever lived, every single person who fills out the application for a Teapot Designer in America is firmly in the luckiest 2% of humans in world history.

        1. JSPA*

          Hunh. So, living in a society where a large number of people have access to material benefits (but those who don’t, are criminalized for their poverty)…where people are more mobile than ever before (often leaving the hurt and sick with no local family or old friends)…nope, that’s not automatically better for EVERYONE who might be applying for a job.

          And if you think that only “the sort of person who doesn’t apply for jobs” is hurting in modern society (never mind the skyrocketing suicide rate and the opioid crisis), you might want to rethink that assumption. Or travel a bit more.

        2. Yorick*

          America is not at all the luckiest-of-the-lucky place you’re describing, even for White middle class people.

          1. Antilles*

            Compared to the rest of human history? Yeah, I definitely think it is the luckiest of the lucky. I’d *much* rather be middle class and white in 2019 America than a slave in the 1700’s, a peasant serf in the Middle Ages, or having to literally stalk and kill my own dinner like in prehistoric times.
            America certainly isn’t perfect, it might not even be the best country in the world right now. But compared with the entirety of human history, yeah, I don’t see how it’s possible to argue that we are not way better off than the vast, vast majority of people who have ever lived. Hell, even being alive to argue about this at my current mid-30’s age means that I have had a longer lifespan than a fairly large proportion of people who ever lived.

            1. Yorick*

              If a person is going through a ton of terribly unlucky hardships, they are not going to think “well, at least I live in modern day America” and rate their luck a 10/10 (and even if they do, that has no value for the employer)

    3. juliebulie*

      Since it’s a paper application, I’d either leave it blank or circle all the numbers.

      Anyway, unless there’s another axis for good luck vs bad, the answer is meaningless.

    4. puffalump*

      I wonder if OP #3 applied at the retail store I used to work full time at in Southern California…. they only use paper applications and still have the lucky question on there. It’s mainly to see -how- people respond, which there are obviously a million other ways to ask… but I always wondered why certain questions were on there, and when I saw some of the responses, it reminded me of interview questions that you think nobody could possibly mess up, and then someone surprises you by like, badmouthing their current employer.

  16. CatsAreImportantToo*

    Ugh. #1, this has happened to me multiple times over the past year. First it was a classmate that I paid, over the course of a week she showed up once to feed my cats. Never gave me my key back. The second time was a neighbor. I offered to pay and they declined but then didn’t come down to take care of them and didn’t text me back. The third time was a friend and die hard animal lover, that I repeatedly offered to pay, offered to let them stay at my house and buy them food etc, and they only showed up once, again over a week. It’s so frustrating. Even with money, and offering other things or favors, and even die hard animal lovers and friends will let my pets go hungry when I’m six hours away! It’s so frustrating, don’t agree to take care of living creatures if you can’t be bothered! I was wary of letting a stranger into my home so the last time, I told the friend if she wasn’t going to be able to come and take care of them I would get a real pet sitter but would prefer someone I trust. Bad idea!

    Seriously I’m so paranoid. I don’t know if it’s people don’t care about cats in general as much, or they only care about their pets, but I’m afraid to go anywhere. I even bought a camera for next time I leave to make sure people are actually coming by.

    1. Xavier89*

      gosh how bizarre and frustrating! I’m assuming you set expectations for them so turning up just once is unforgivable imo

    2. Sleve McDichael*

      CatsAreImportantToo, see if you can find a local cat hotel or similar, they’re so much better than relying on random friends and acquaintances. A good cat hotel will let you come in and do a tour and see where the cats are boarded so you can know what they will be in for. I pay the equivalent of $9USD per night to board my cats and the carer is excellent. She has an enormous range of food brands and will acquire different food if she doesn’t have something a bit unique, she is 100% down with any kind of special needs care and she even introduced us to a type of milk based calming product for our anxious cat. She even sends pictures of your cat to you while you’re away. I would never trust a friend or relative when I can get that level of care from a professional. The catch is that the hotel fills up very quickly, she has no spaces left for Christmas/New Years already. But you should shop around and see who you can find in your area. Good luck!

    3. North Wind*

      One of the vet techs at my cat’s vet clinic did pet sitting on the side, and I was so relieved to find her. I had been going to the clinic for years and felt comfortable having her in my home. Also, I knew she would take pet care seriously and that she could handle any emergency if it came up.

      1. Dahlia*

        Cameras also show if a professional pet-sitter shows up. And are just fun to watch what your animals are doing while you’re gone.

    4. JSPA*

      Professionals come with reviews. Just saying. My view is, if I can’t afford to get reliable care for my animals, I can’t afford to travel. (Or alternatively, they come along, where possible.)

      If you must rely on friends, neighbors, etc, at least pick one who offers to text pictures daily, and who shows up on time for the “sample feeding and getting to know the animals” meeting, who confirms the dates and times with you ahead of time…and make sure they give you the contact info for their backup person (in case they have an emergency) and gives you the OK to contact their backup person if you have not heard from the sitter themselves, for 24 hours.

      That said, some cats are fine (given lots of extra litter boxes) with a weekly check-in, provided you have some mechanism for fresh water and self-replenishing food. (If yours is the sort of cat that hides under the couch whenever strangers are present and you’re gone, they’re not getting much from a sitter besides fresh water and some scooping.)

    5. S*

      Professional pet sitters are really the way to go. I’ve turned down my own family members when asked to pet sit. My sister has a dog that is very sweet around her and her family but gets very aggressive around strangers- biting, growling, jumping on people. Her dog has bitten me multiple times and rushed my husband when we’re visiting because he got up from a chair. There’s no way I would agree to watch a dog I wouldn’t even be able to get a leash on to walk, or give up my entire weekend essentially house sitting for her.

    6. Samwise*

      For cats with special health needs, I board kitty at the vet.
      For other cats, we’ve used college students and grad students who had been our advisees or students so we really knew them (that’s how we found babysitters, too!). Plus we pay $100 per week or more. Still cheaper than boarding two cats.

    7. MistOrMister*

      I’m a little confused, how have your cats been left alone for a total of 3 weeks and only been fed once each time and are not deathly ill/dead? My understanding is cats are prone to having organ failure very quickly if they miss a couple of days of eating. I had a professional service come in once but the lady was awful and even though I had walked her around and given her instructions where she took notes AND left a note pkus the correct number of cans of food out, she still managed to underfeed my cats. She didn’t realize it until the last day. I was gone maybe 4 days and both my cats were listless when I came back, but at least they had been getting fed, just not enough. If the lady had only come by once that would have been a big problem.

      Depending on what you feed, you could consider getting a gravity feeder for dry food. I use one when I’m gone so even if the sitter never shows up, my cats will have enough food. They won’t be HAPPY because they like their wet food, but they’d be alive and healthy. I also make a point to put out extra water when I’m gone. Professionals or not, I have learned to plan as if the person won’t show up. Sad, but necessary sometimes.

      1. Sleve McDichael*

        Maybe they did leave out 7 days worth of dry food and CatAreImportantToo’s friends were meant to serve the wet food.

    8. History Geek*

      Sometimes you have to hire a professional service where they will do things like text you with pictures every day, etc.

  17. mark132*

    OP3 should answer 10, and since this is a paper application, maybe write in the margin “in fact I’m so lucky I’ve been banned from most of the casinos in Vegas”.

    Any totally completely subjective question should be answered in the way best calculated to get the applicant an interview unless the response is absurdly wrong (so answering 10 on “are you outgoing”, when the applicant is extremely shy).

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Unless it’s a Chinese company, in which case 6, 8, and 9 are lucky numbers, whereas 4 and 7 are unlucky.

          1. Person of Interest*

            I was also thinking 5: I’m not relying on luck to be successful, but I also sometimes get a good break. Ha ha! :)

          2. MJ*

            In Chinese numerology 5 is the worst number, 2 is the second worst. So for a Chinese company you’d have to know whether it follows the “sounds like method” of luck or the “numerology method” of luck.

            Easier to stick with 8.

  18. Clementine*

    I wonder if a question about “how lucky are you?” might have significant cultural and ethnic bias, because “luck” is very much a cultural concept.

    1. thestik*

      Not to mention that some people will downplay luck because they put stock in the adage that “luck favors those who are prepared”.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yeah, I literally would not know how to answer that question honestly. I would probably put 9 because I consider myself very fortunate, but I believe that there’s basically the laws of physics, free will, and random chance in the universe, and that’s basically it. To me luck is just a misinterpretation of randomness, or sometimes a feel for nonrandom patterns.

      Actually, I’d be tempted to skip the question and hope they ask me about it later. If they are heavily superstitious it’s probably not a good fit for me anyway.

    3. Witchy Human*

      I grew up in a very superstitious family. Don’t ever open an umbrella inside a building. If you accidentally put your socks on inside-out they have to stay that way all day. None of the furniture in my office is made of wood, which is a problem for me if people start talking worst-case scenarios. All that jazz.

      And talking about having good luck is BAD luck. I would hate to have to answer this.

    4. Picard*

      I am VERY curious to know what cultures both those letters come from. It doesnt sound like the South Eastern US which is where my work life has been.

    5. AndersonDarling*

      As a female working in a male dominated field, my first response was to think they meant “Lucky” as in “Do you get lucky after every date?” Ick.

    6. Massmatt*

      I am surprised self-assessment of luck is something multiple employers are asking about. Is this becoming a trend? Did some moron write a book or blog post recommending it?

      Unless you are hiring… leprechauns? I don’t see how it’s relevant at all or gives the employer any useful information.

      Maybe a casino needs to replace William Macy as their “Cooler”, in which case answer zero—I am so unlucky I leech all the luck out of the room!

  19. Clementine*

    I think I’m likely being repetitious, but if someone has lost keys, whether it is their own or someone else’s, it’s not likely to help to think about it overnight. Presumably the person has already done a thorough sweep to the best of their ability. Maybe the keys will show up in the bottom of a barrel somewhere in 20 years, but one can only do so much looking.

    1. Kiki*

      I also found that a bit strange. Generally, when someone says they lost something, I assume they’ve made their best effort to track it down and have had no success– if the lost item shows up again, it would be a happy surprise.

      *”I told her to sleep on it, maybe she would remember where she put them, and for that night I would get my neighbor (with the key but who had never set foot in my place) to feed them.”*

      At first, I thought maybe LW meant, “Well, I have a stop-gap figured out for tonight and it’s late so we’ll try to figure it out tomorrow, but hopefully we won’t need to.” But then throughout the letter, LW seems really focused on getting the key back, which I think most people would have ruled out as a possibility. The student seems flaky and like a bad cat sitter, but there doesn’t seem to be a reason to suspect the student is holding on to the key and lying about it? If the expensive key LW refers to is an electronic key, those are expensive to replace, but they’re not actually valuable for resale or something. And then LW calls the student a thief… there appears to be a disconnect between what was happening and what LW perceived to be happening? I always wish I could have the other person’s perspective when I read these letters, but something about this letter makes me feel like the student’s perspective would add a lot of valuable information.

      1. biobotb*

        If I were in the student’s shoes, I also would not have expected that asking the neighbor for help would be so offensive to the OP. It’s exactly the solution the OP used (instead of getting a new key), so what could be so wrong about it?

      2. iglwif*

        The instruction “text me IF you find the keys” also struck me as an odd choice? Because if I’m the sitter, I’m pretty likely to interpret that as “text me if you find the keys,” and not text unless I find the keys.

      3. Uldi*

        How was the student flaky? Everyone keeps saying this, but the actions described in the letter do not support it. She arranged to get the cats fed Sunday morning. When her personal plans meant she wouldn’t be able to get to the LW’s apartment until late (requiring the student to disturb the neighbor’s sleep to open the apartment building outer door AND give her the actual apartment keys) she arranged with the neighbor to make sure the cats were fed that night and the following morning. Then she arranged to meet the neighbor later Monday so that she could get into the apartment building.

        I’m not seeing flaky behavior here.

  20. Fabulosa*

    #1, I’m surprised no one has raised the issue of changing the locks. If someone had lost my keys, I’d be worried who might have found them, and if they could figure out my home address.

    1. Nita*

      Same. OP is probably upset about the keys because of this possibility, too, and it’s quite understandable.

    2. Luna*

      I’m glad to read your response because I was wondering that myself!
      But I also feel like the girl didn’t actually lose the keys. She might still have them and know where they are.
      I can understand that they might not be able to change the security key door, since it would probably cost the building owner a lot and cause more inconvenience to all the tentants, but simply changing the lock of the LW’s door to the apartment would be enough, and much cheaper and faster.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I am honestly bewildered by this idea that people don’t lose keys, they just say that for entertainment value of being yelled at about the lost keys.

        If you are trying to get out of something last minute, then you create an ill relative or similar last minute complication, offering to leave the keys for the backup cat sitter.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      The keys she lost seem to be the ones to let you into OP’s building, so there’s not much OP can do about that other than alert the building manager.

    4. Hekko*

      Same here. I’ve always been nervous about losing my keys in particular because I was taught that at that moment, locks get changed, and that is pricey.

    5. Nom the plumage*

      That was my first thought! If able, change the locks immediately and stop keeping that spare under your mat. I’m paranoid, but there are crazy people in this world and the student might wake up one day with a bad idea.

  21. Adhara (UK)*

    OP2: I know you shouldn’t need to elaborate, but I wonder whether it’s worth half deflecting it by replying with “I know that bit’s fun, but the paperwork/photoshopping/running the business side is draining, it’s nice to relax when I can” ?

  22. DiscoCat*

    #1 as it’s been said above, maybe she thought she was doing you a huge favour that she felt obliged to take on because you were at the firm before her, held quite a key role as legal secretary and with some other power dynamics that you may not have seen. I’m curious as to why you thought she’d be a good person to look after your cats- there are paid and reliable services who you can hold acocuntable because it’s strictly a business arrangement. I certainly wouldn’t entrust an intern/ someone junior/ younger at my employer to help me out with something so vital. Then the whole mess started, she was being flaky and stubborn, you lost your temper, you no longer work at the firm, so her motivation and the power dynamics vaporised.

  23. Xandria*

    Op2- Working in a job that people think is all fun and games is draining! I work from home a lot, (self-employed/contract work) and staying with my grandmother has been fun. Today she asked me all about my ‘little project’. That one with the hard deadline, that I’m behind on and frustrated with, using equipment I can’t even begin to explain to my lovely, but can’t check her voicemail, grandmother?

    I wish there were a better way then letting it roll off your back, in person I just smile and nod and say I’m busy. The email equivalent is probably what your doing, having hours & sticking to them. Bravo to you, I really need to set my self hours.

  24. Phil*

    LW2 I’ve worked for a TV broadcaster for nearly a decade, and had four different roles across that time. No matter what I do there, I “get paid to watch TV.” I just laugh it off, and I think that’s what you’ll have to get used to doing. I guess it helps that I tease my teacher friends about six hour days and such too. ;)

    1. Joielle*

      Yeah, I think I’d say something in a joking way. Like “Ha, you’d be surprised how stressful it can get. Lots of happy clients!” You do have to basically laugh it off but a gentle pushback might make the OP feel better, if nothing else.

    2. WellRed*

      God, I can’t even imagine how stressful working for a TV broadcaster must be (the hours! the deadlines!). Ugh to those people.

  25. anonagain*

    Re. OP 2: If the client is in the same industry as the OP, is it possible that they also get those kinds of comments and were trying to joke about the perception that food/party planning/whatever industry isn’t any work?

  26. Tallulah in the Sky*

    OP#1 : adding my two cents here, because I think some of the comments are quite harsh and it’s not a 100% deserved. But I hope you learned some things from your experience and these comments.

    1. Asking a coworker to pet-sit or house-sit : it’s a bad idea. Unless you’re friends with them outside of work (really friends, not just work friends) and really know them, it’s just a bad idea. Your case is even more troubling because she was a law student, and you were a full time professional, so you probably had more power then she has (even if you’re not her manager). Asking people favors where there’s an unbalanced power dynamic is a bad idea, for all we know she felt pressured to accept. She could have flaked on you because of the mess with the keys, but it could also be because you were no longer her colleague that she felt more comfortable disengaging herself from this situation.

    2. Asking friends or family to pet-sit vs professionals : some people in the comments seem outraged that you didn’t hire a professional pet-sitter. I don’t get that. I’ve never asked for one, I’ve always had family or friends take care of my cats when I’m absent. And same for them, there’s only a couple of times I know someone used a professional service. And it’s also very rare money is exchanging hands. People can still do favors for each other without nickel and diming (again, in the case of your colleague, it’s more tricky, she’s not a friend and the power dynamic is off), and as long as people are honest and communicative, it goes quite well. Never had a pet-sitting horror story.

    3. A place to stay is no payment : while I do agree both aren’t the same, the fact that so many commenters see no value at all in this is weird to me. We now also have the extra information that the ex-colleague lives with her parents in the suburbs, so having your own place in the city for two weeks can be quite nice and worth the pet-sitting. Like I said in another comment, I cared for a friend’s cat for a week and got to hang out at her place (didn’t live there for a week, had my boyfriend and my own cats to go home to). Her place wasn’t far away, and we’re a bit cramped at mine, so being able to sometimes chill somewhere else (with no noise or responsibilities) in a space I love (she has a great place) was awesome.

    4. The key : from your comments, it seems the plan was for your ex-colleague to get a new key for the building if she didn’t find the old one. Although better then expecting her to be buzzed in by your neighbor every day, it’s still putting on her the hassle to get a new key. You should have made a new key the moment she told you she had lost it. She is doing you a favor (even if she gets something in return, you’re still the one getting the better end of the deal by saving hundreds), you should make this as easy as possible for that person. I understand though the desire to get payed back for it. However, after you send that email, you really shouldn’t have pushed it, and even less contact her workplace (even if you used to work there yourself). That was really out of line, I don’t blame her for treating you like an abusive ex (no contact, no response, give them nothing). After she didn’t answer to your email, you should have let it go.

    So in short, you handled some things badly (not getting a new key, getting upset at her, harassing her afterwards), but probably had no ill intention. Hindsight is 20/20, so now that you have it use it for your next vacation. Focus on what you did wrong, the lessons learned and how you can improve, and learn to let go of the anger you feel towards your ex-colleague, because there’s nothing you can do about her.

    1. Luna*

      I agree on the second point. I used to, and might still do, if necessary, some cat sitting. It’s not a job I am doing or anything, I was cat sitting for people who sorta knew me, and it was either a quick trip to their place while they are gone to feed the cat(s) and clean, pay attention to them, or the cat came to my place. Yes, I was expecting payment, but at a ridiculously low rate. (5€ a day, I think) I don’t know about professional petsitters. Haven’t really tried it, and the one time I asked a friend to take care of the cats while I was in America for one week, I came home to some very, very hungry and attention-starved cats that had sustained by ripping open a package of (non-cat) food, I think. So, I already am wary about leaving my own pets in the hands of others.

      I do think OP had every right to get upset with this girl, though.

    2. Kiki*

      #3 A place to stay certainly can be a worthwhile reason to petsit, but the pet sitter has to see it as valuable, not just the pet owner. I really love cats and like cat-sitting because I can’t have pets in my apartment, but a lot of pet owners seem to overestimate how nice it is to “stay at their place rent-free and hang out with some cats.” Caring for someone else’s cat is different than having your own cat and even if the house is very nice, there are bunch of things I can’t do at someone else’s home that I would ordinarily do at mine (hang out with my boyfriend, invite friends over, etc). It seems like this time around, staying at LW’s place was not actually worthwhile to the cat sitter— it sounds like maybe she had plans with family and maybe getting transport is a pain? The cat sitter definitely didn’t handle things well and was flaky, but I have to wonder if maybe they felt a little coerced or forced into cat sitting this time around?

      1. Parenthetically*

        All this.

        If you’re not going to pay someone, and they already have a place to live, you have to sweeten the deal at least a LITTLE, come on. “There’s a mixed 6-pack of beer in the fridge you’re welcome to, and help yourself to the frozen pizzas and snacks — and if you want to have some friends over, the deck’s a nice place to hang out in the evening, just don’t forget to put the umbrella back down or it’ll blow away!”

        1. jolene*

          The student lives with her parents in the suburbs, and had an apartment in a hip central area to stay in by herself. Huge, huge benefit! I would have jumped at that back in the day.

          1. Kiki*

            But if you had plans in the suburbs for that particular time period, this could be an inconvenience. This could be a huge benefit for some people and maybe it was a benefit for the student last time, but there’s the possibility it was an inconvenience this time (especially since the key was lost).

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            I think it’s really hard to say that for sure just based on what the OP says. If this is a busy law student with a lot of studying to do, it could equally be a huge pain to try to work in a noisy city-centre apartment and haul all your study materials there to do it. It definitely has the *potential* to be a huge benefit, but not necessarily as good a benefit as, you know, payment in cash.

          3. Parenthetically*

            I get it, and I know plenty of people who would have done the same (though I agree that there’s no way to know that this is genuinely awesome for Pet-Sitter). But all I’m saying is that OP1 is not being NEARLY as generous as she’s making herself out to be with the “rent free! utilities free!” stuff.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I don’t think it’s definitely necessary to hire a pet sitting service, but OP has a cat on a special diet. This isn’t just go over, give them a scoop of food, clean the litter boxes and go. Special care needs to be taken, which means you either get someone you know very well and can trust, or hire a professional service. Yes OP has a right to be upset about what happened, but they need to chalk it up to a lesson learned for next time. Law student screwed up, but the responsibility isn’t all on them. OP seems to think she provided law student with this great opportunity to stay at her place for free, and not pay them. Law student was doing OP a favor, not the other way around.

      1. Tallulah in the Sky*

        It seems the cat was only on a special diet, which means just giving the cat appropriate food. Having had a cat like that, I know it can be quite easy. It can also be a bit more complicated, depends on the cat. For us, it was just a matter of feeding the cats in separate rooms, not that complicated. I never needed to hire professionals.

        Also, there’s really nothing in the letter or comments which indicates “OP seems to think she provided law student with this great opportunity to stay at her place “. She very succinctly explained the agreement they had, and responded in comments that the student lived with their parents, very factual. No need to place ill intent where there is none.

        But I agree, she needs to let it go and learn from this experience.

        1. Parenthetically*

          The thing that is making me, and probably other commenters, think OP believed herself to be providing the cat-sitter with some amazing deal is this: “in exchange for free rent/utilities/etc. for two weeks.”

          Like… that’s not how this works. There are not people who charge a cat-sitter for rent and utilities, and this isn’t saving the cat-sitter any money — she still has to pay her own rent/utilities. It’s not generous or unusual, and it certainly isn’t payment, so why mention it?

          1. Tallulah in the Sky*

            Sitter lives with her parents. Maybe she does pay rent and utilities there, maybe not, I don’t think that’s really the point because in any case, she’s not “gaining money” by living somewhere else. But I can see a young adult living with her parents in suburbs being thrilled to live alone for a while, maybe closer to work or favorite hang out spots, maybe invite some friends over who also don’t have their own place,… So yeah, if she wanted that experience, she’d have to pay something elsewhere. Agreed, nobody would do that, but still, I can see how such a deal would work both ways. She provides a place to stay in the city for a couple of weeks in exchange for pet-sitting services. Plenty of commenters have already explained how much they’d love a deal like that, so it has value to some people.

            The issue here, is we don’t have the pet-sitter’s side. Maybe she loved the agreement and was glad to accept. Maybe she initially loved it, but the reality of things made her less enthusiast for the next time. Maybe she felt pressured to accept to do this favor for this colleague and absolutely hated it. In that case, “free rent and utilities” would not mean much as payment. (On top of that, the mess with the keys and OP’s attitude… yeah, I’d block OP too).

    4. Antilles*

      #2: My wife and I also regularly have a family member or a friend watch our cats when we’re gone and haven’t had any issues; we’ve honestly never even seriously considered a professional pet-sitter. That said, it really depends on the level of care your pets need. There’s a big difference between “just refill food and water bowls, scoop litter boxes/let him out, and play with him a little” versus a higher-maintenance pet that needs medicine, specific schedule of feedings, and so forth.
      #3: The value of a place to stay really depends on the situation and individual. When I was single and in my 20’s, staying at someone else’s house in the city for two weeks rather than my own family place in the suburbs would probably net out to neutral – it’d be nice on the weekends to be able to go out and not have to go all the way back to the suburbs, but on weekdays, I’d really just stay at my own house where I’ve got my own bed, my computer, everything in the bathroom/closet is set up exactly how I like it, etc.

      1. Tallulah in the Sky*

        I totally agree, this is not something that everyone would find enjoyable or doable. Some people would love it, others be neutral to it, and others would hate it. I was mainly pushing back against comments who seem to think it is never a fair arrangement, or that there is no way the other party doesn’t get something from it. And of course, I’ve nevers asked a coworker (even less someone “lower” to me) for a favor like that, which is really to me the #1 mistake OP made. Only friends and family, who I trust and have (or have had) pets themselves.

    5. TL -*

      I’ve depended on friends/family for cat care, but that usually comes with compromises: most people won’t clean the litter box every single day (sigh); sometimes Kitty gets fed a big meal once a day instead of two little meals OR free fed; and she generally doesn’t get her two dental treats or playtime every day.

      But she is fed and watered, with a reasonably clean litter box and a chance for some attention (nearly) every day if she wants it. If I wanted Kitty to be taken care of exactly the way I did it, I would hire a professional.

    6. Uldi*

      About point #4: This is a key for the building itself, not the apartment. I know of no building manager that would hand out a building key to a non-resident (it kind of defeats the purpose of such keys in the first place). And residents aren’t allowed to make copies of such keys themselves.

      Oh, and this is not a colleague, this is a law student interning at the firm the LW worked for. They were not in any way equals at work.

  27. Cherry*

    OP 4 – I recently applied for an internal role and didn’t hear anything from the hiring manager aside from the standard email rejection. It was pretty surprising given that we need to continue to work together – a few words go a long way

  28. Aguslawa*

    Re: luck question

    I was asked that once during job interview. I got so frustrated with how idiotic that (and a few other) question sounded that I responded with “Not necessarily. My mother died of cancer, my father is depressed, my SO is on the verge of diabetes, my dog died of a spine tumour and I will likely die of cancer too given my family history. ”

    I was hired within the next 48 hours and then they sacked me after 6 months, right before Christmas, when I was at home with sinus infection and high fever, helping out my team with a new ad campaign that would have brought in a looot of $$$. Reason cited: “You are not confrontational enough and let Sally walk all over yourself”.

    1. JM in England*

      It seems that you can never win in some work situations. At other employers, being confrontational or otherwise having an “attitude” can get you fired!

      1. Aguslawa*

        I don’t know. There was a person in my team – let’s stick with Sally – who was openly passive-aggressive towards me and hostile, for example she had no problem with commenting on my infor request on Slack with “I don’t know what is so hard for you to understand!”. When our newly appointed HR lady asked me about it, I just said I am not a confrontational person and I don’t like engaging into conflicts in the office, so I am just kind and polite towards Sally no matter what she says so that in case anything happens my pleasant conduct would be my safety net and speak to my defence. She brought Sally’s attitude up with my boss, who in turn told me, verbatim, “I want this situation fixed by the end of the week” – needless to say I was very happy and assumed that Sally will be talked to and the will be no more nasty comments. I liked my job very much and colleagues I was working with were bomb.

        Two weeks later I was fired for reasons cited in my previous comment. Did I mention he fired me on the phone? Because he did.

        1. Close Bracket*

          Wow. That is some kind of … I don’t know what. I’m sorry you got fired. Something to keep in mind for the future, though, if a boss ever says to you, “I want this fixed by the end of the week” — that means they want *you* to fix it. That is true whether it is an interpersonal conflict or a schedule delay or something else.

          1. Aguslawa*

            My boyfriend said the same. Though I am not sure what was I supposed to do in this situation, really. I mean, I might be missing something here, but would saying “hey, Sally, stop being so unkind to me” and thus escalating the conflict and/or making her even more hostile by making her know I realize whet is going on be better? This is what I would do in my personal life, but in a workplace… sounds like a live grenade under my chair.
            Any feedback would be greatly appreciated :)

    2. Luna*

      I wonder what they would think of the response, “I don’t believe in luck/consider myself lucky. Everything I have, is what I have earned by doing it myself.”

      1. A*

        …couldn’t that inadvertently spiral in the opposite direction? Almost insinuates that those that don’t have much just didn’t work hard enough for it or deserve it.

        I would never ask the luck question in an interview – but if I had to as some part of a script, this response would raise a ton of red flags that might not be possible to overcome.

  29. Cat Mom (and kid mom)*

    OP#1 As a cat owner, former “live-in” pet sitter, and person who also lived in a “hip” area of a major metropolitan city in a building that also used expensive security keys that were difficult to replace, I can relate to all of this. However, I 100 percent empathize with the pet sitter. I am very concerned with the continued lack of perspective on your part in the situation – especially as you respond to commenters. First of all, as a pet sitter, hip or not, it’s a huge inconvenience (and probably an additional expense to the student!) to upend and move anywhere – let alone into the city for a couple of weeks without additional compensation. As a cat owner, I would never dream of not paying a pet sitter – especially if it involved live-in care. Since it was 100 percent a favor to you, I wonder if she felt pressured to say yes due to the dynamics at work. This happened repeatedly to me over the years – I felt I couldn’t say no to people at work with even the slightest seniority at all. And finally, the only blame I place on the pet-sitter is not communicating to you clearly that she would not be able to complete the commitment immediately upon your reaction to the keys being lost. As a pet sitter I would have freaked out about how I was possibly going to care for your kitties when you expected me to come up with my own solution for getting in to your apartment and then reprimanded me for not being able to do the impossible. To suggest she would have to pay you for a replacement key is absurd. Ultimately, the cats are the poor victims in this situation. I realize we often can’t read tone (e.g. your responses to the comments), but I hope that you are open to what the AAM community members are saying and can accept 100 responsibility for this, the end result being that you will reasonably compensate for reliable care in the future with realistic guidelines and expectations for your sitters.

    1. Cat lover*

      I agree. Expecting her to pay for the lost key is unrealistic. She lost it while doing you a favor, not the other way around. You’d have much more success showing gratitude for the help she gave you. If she doesn’t want to get paid buy her a gift. You need to demonstrate that you appreciate what she did for you. Look at it from her perspective: she agreed to do you a favor. She lost the key and found an alternative way to feed the cats. You yelled at her. Agreeing to do someone a favor should not cost you money.

  30. Myrin*

    OP #1, I’m not going to comment on the intricacies of your particular situation since there’s quite enough of that in the comments already, but I do want to comment on the workplace-related lede that I think has been getting buried a little so far.

    You say “yet surely management should not be happy having an employee who is a thief”. And I agree with that completely! I absolutely think that if you (general you) have knowledge of someone’s thievery, it’s only fair to let that person’s workplace know about that (there are certainly caveats to this but I don’t want to get into this right now – you surely understand, broadly, what I mean).

    However. In your case, I have a really hard time understanding how you’re arriving at “thief” at all. Your former coworker lost the keys. She didn’t intentionally withhold them. But you seem to be treating it like that’s exactly what she did and I wonder why. Has this person been dishonest before? Does this have something to do with the “issues” surrounding her first stay at yours? Did she say anything which made you suspect she might be lying about this?

    The thing is, I’m not a “loser”. I’ve literally never lost anything in my life – I misplace stuff around my flat from time to time but I always find it again, and I’ve forgotten my umbrella on the train once when I was thirteen. It’s completely incomprehensible to me how there are people who regularly lose stuff. I can guarantee you one hundred percent that if I got the key (!) to someone else’s home (!!), I’d rather use it as an earring than endangering it of getting lost. But, you know, that’s my personality. I’m kinda assuming that you’re at least similar, and if so, I can see how this situation would seem even more vexing than it already is.

    BUT. You really do need to accept that “losing stuff” is a thing that people do. It happens. But you have been reacting weirdly to this, which brings me back to the “thief” point from before.

    Because the thing is: I think it’s a bit strange to react to someone’s “I lost your keys” with “Sleep over it, maybe you’ll remember where they are”. It’s not completely unreasonable – depending on what your former coworker said, it might have been clear that they still have to be someone in your appartment, so it’s not totally out there to hope that she’ll have an “aha!” moment once some time has passed.

    But you’re being so insistent here! It’s much better to assume that, once someone tells you definitively that they’ve lost something (and not, like “dammit, it can only be in my living room but I’ll need to search thoroughly once it’s light out again”), it is indeed, well, lost. But you keep mentioning her returning the keys. You even left her a voicemail more than a week later! And you end your letter with wanting “the return of [my] property”. OP! You aren’t going to get those keys back!!

    And I understand how aggravating and stressful that is (on top of the already stressful situation surrounding your cats). Replacing keys is a huge hassle – it would be even moreso where I am because once a key has been lost, the lock will have to be changed and then ever other person in your house will need to get new keys, too. It’s costly and annoying, but it is indeed a thing that happens and, when it happens to others we put our trust in, definitely a learning opportunity.

    But, and I need to come back to that again one last time – your whole letter, if you ignore the parts about the actual cat-sitting and keeping you in the loop, reads like you think your coworker intentionally kept your keys to herself (for whatever reason). And I think you really need to figure out for yourself if that’s a reasonable assumption or not.

    1. londonedit*

      I agree. On the one hand I’d probably be livid if someone agreed to cat-sit for me, lost my keys, and then just stopped responding to me. Losing keys is an accident, but if it was me, I’d be mortified and trying to find a solution, not acting as if it didn’t really matter and then ghosting completely when OP1 asked again whether the keys had turned up. So the ex-colleague’s behaviour wasn’t great here.

      But I’m baffled at how OP1 has arrived at the idea that the ex-colleague is a thief. She lost the keys; it was an accident. Annoying, yes, and expensive which is even more annoying, but she didn’t do it on purpose. She hasn’t ‘stolen’ the keys. I can understand giving her a nudge – ‘Hey, just getting in touch on the off-chance that those keys might have turned up? I’ll have to order a new set, but can you let me know if you do find them? – but not calling and demanding payment for the new key. When you have someone pet/apartment-sit, you kind of have to accept that something might get broken or lost. While it’s polite for the person who broke/lost the thing to offer to replace/reimburse, most people would decline the offer and just accept that these things happen and they’ll have to suck up the cost themselves.

      1. Sylvan*

        Right?

        OP, if you’re genuinely concerned that a thief has your key, get your locks changed. A thief could use your key for, you know, thievery.

        If you’re not concerned about that, maybe thief isn’t the right word? Maybe take the advice here.

          1. Anonymeece*

            Yeah, that seemed… very odd to me. I wouldn’t share my bank account info with just anyone, and I certainly wouldn’t unless they had already agreed to pay me back.

            To send it without hearing anything comes across as very passive-aggressive. Like, “Oh, I totally understand that you broke my plate by accident! By the way, here’s the link to a completely new set to replace it and my Venmo account number. Thanks!”.

    2. Lady Jay*

      This is the best response, I think.

      Like you I empathize with the OPs emotions. Of y’all she was worried about her cats! Of course she was worried and confused about her keys. And as someone who has house-sit/pet-sit, the student
      is taking this responsibility too dismissively. While perhaps payment needed to be reconsidered (I would have jumped at a place away from my parents for two weeks!), that needed to be raised earlier and doesn’t justify this weird flaking.

      But yeah, as Myrin says, jumping to OMG the keys are STOLEN! seems overboard and won’t get you anywhere. Pay up, and make your plans accordingly in the future.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Absent the cat sitting and communication issues, this letters reads as, “co-worker ‘lost’ my keys,” rather than, “co-worker lost my keys.” I really don’t get how OP came to the conclusion that the cat sitter is a thief, and I especially don’t get why the employer should be told about any of this. This is not a work matter, it’s a personal matter. I’m pretty sure she didn’t lose the keys on purpose, and it’s not outrageous she had plans on Father’s Day, but to call her a thief and want to report her to her employer is just over the top.

      I agree that the cat sitter should have done a better job at keeping OP in the loop, but at least she made arrangements with the neighbor. It could have been much worse–co-worker could have just gone on her merry way without letting anyone know and the cats might have starved. As a cat owner myself, I’d be upset if the cat sitter did what this one did; however, I’d also be happy she at least thought to make arrangements with someone else to care for the cats when she couldn’t.

      OP should pay someone next time, or board the cats somewhere, especially when she has a cat with a special diet. Typically no one is going to provide the same level of care the owner does.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        “This is not a work matter, it’s a personal matter.”

        And that right there is the answer to the most relevant part of this whole discussion in a workplace-related discussion group. The basic question is whether to involve the employer and the answer is “no, do not.” The end.

  31. Rosie*

    Re #3 the luck question, perhaps you can answer 8 or 9 and if it comes up talk about how your hard work / skills etc. allow you to “make your own luck”. You could also ask them about that question and why they asked it – could help you in deciding whether you want to work there!

    1. SigneL*

      In my family, we are all math geeks. I’d be tempted to reply with an irrational number ( we are very fond of pi in this house!), even though most people wouldn’t get the joke.

    2. CM*

      I agree, I’d give it a 9 and if they ask, give it a “hard work and optimism” spin. I wouldn’t bring it up, though.

      At least this sounds better than the previous question about being lucky, where the letter writer seemed to take the answer seriously and said they don’t want to hire a person who is unlucky!

  32. Seeking Second Childhood*

    It’s going to be hard to respond to that client after this delay. I fo think it’s a good idea for you to plan ahead in case he says anything in person. I’m thinking start with the old saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!” And add “But seriously, everyone needs downtime to recharge so they don’t run out of new ideas. Did you like the X I did for your Y?”

  33. Hiring Mgr*

    If it makes you feel better, in college my roommates and I cat-sat for a friend, and lost the cat… Two weeks later it turned up behind the walls in the apartment–hungry and thin but ok in the end..

      1. Mama Bear*

        At least it showed up! I once tried to help a guy whose friend was cat sitting (I think) and took the cat in the car without a carrier. Cat escaped and as far as I know was never found.

  34. Bee*

    LW1: I seem to be in the minority here in that I think the pet sitter’s behaviour was pretty reprehensible and while the arrangement might not not have been that beneficial, they did agree to it. Yes, it’s replacing a paid service. That’s what favours frequently are.

    At the same time, LW1 seems determined to make the pet sitter face consequences for this to almost an obsessive degree. Yes, it’s flakey and irresponsible behaviour, but they’re obviously not a “thief”. I’d be pretty upset too, but besides expressing your displeasure to the person directly, there’s nothing else you can do. Trying to involve management in a place you don’t even work for anymore will tip the scale against you and make you seem really unreasonable.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I agree completely with this. Sure, it’s a favor for the OP, but… the student agreed to it. If I agree to water my friend’s plants while she’s away, I can’t just not do it– and those are plants! She’s counting on me, so it’s up to me to either do it or figure out a solution if I can’t. And I also completely agree with your second paragraph, in case that wasn’t clear.

      1. biobotb*

        And the pet sitter *did* figure out a solution. Why are so many people acting as though she ditched the cats? In fact, her solution was exactly the same as the OP’s, so why is the OP so mad?

        1. iglwif*

          That’s one of the most baffling things to me! (Also, who looked after the cats from Monday until OP got back from holiday? I’ve read the letter twice and I don’t think it says.) She definitely did one irresponsible thing: She lost the keys. But after that, she
          – checked in to report the keys were lost and ask for guidance
          – didn’t really get any (“sleep on it”)
          – couldn’t get into the building, so contacted the neighbour–the same neighbour OP mentioned to her as a stopgap–to make arrangements for the cats to not starve
          – was told to text IF she found the keys, didn’t find the keys and therefore didn’t text about them
          – got shouted at and accused of theft and lying by the OP
          – decided the shit-to-money ratio on this unpaid gig was tilting way too far towards the shit side, and bailed

          I love my dog A LOT and I would be really upset if a pet-sitter abandoned him and ghosted me! But … that’s not actually what happened here, as far as I can tell.

    2. Arctic*

      I have absolutely zero sympathy for the petsitter.

      BUT I have been a law student working for firms and some long-standing secretaries and paralegals really do have a lot of power within firms (as they should they are often the people who make the place run in every aspect except genuine legal). And it’s clear LW does feel she has a lot of power because she could get the student canned still. So, I’m not sure this law student, who was hoping to get a job there, didn’t have some pressure on them. And that pressure disappeared when LW put in her notice.

      That being said, I still have no sympathy because those cats didn’t deserve that.

      1. ceiswyn*

        This whole comment sounds like you’re assuming that the student didn’t genuinely lose the keys.

        Why are you assuming that? If the student was actually willing to do the favour, then genuinely lost the keys, sorted out a solution with the same neighbour they’d have had to disturb every time anyway, and only flaked after they got weirdly accused and yelled at, does that change your view at all?

      2. biobotb*

        Zero sympathy for a pet sitter who couldn’t access a building for a pet owner who wouldn’t help her get access?

  35. Scarlett*

    #1 Wow, this person isn’t a thief! They lost the keys – it happens. Your home insurance should cover the cost of getting new keys.

  36. Scarlett*

    #2 Not only would I let this go, I would stop telling clients you need to unplug – that won’t come across that well. You don’t answer emails on weekends, that is really all they need to know.

  37. Scarlett*

    #4 I’ve had this experience. Had you asked me beforehand I would’ve said I’d prefer a phone call to an awkward conversation – but it was actually better in person. I got some really useful feedback and felt happy with how I was treated.

  38. Carolyn Keene*

    The repeat of “How lucky are you?” interview questions had me wondering, so I googled [job application interview ‘how lucky’] and found that this is indeed a Thing – and that bosses are (supposedly) more interested in the applicants explanation/approach to the question than the exact number.. Except for the CEO of Zappos, who says that either a 1 or a 10 is a red flag. https://www.businessinsider.com/bizarre-interview-questions-unrelated-to-job-2017-12
    see also: https://www.quora.com/I-was-asked-how-lucky-am-I-on-a-scale-of-1-to-10-for-a-marketing-job-interview-I-answered-10-Is-that-a-good-or-bad-answer

    1. Observer*

      Most of those questions are terrible. But the one about gravestones is beyond terrible. Unless that company does something that is truly, truly world changing like finding the solution to climate change and it’s for a really senior position where someone would have a real impact on the mission, that executive is just a horrible human being.

    2. Close Bracket*

      Those are some dumb flippin’ questions.

      if he could only ask one question during a job interview, he would ask job candidates which qualities in their parents they like and don’t like.

      “Well, my father was an abuser, and I didn’t like that quality, but he’s dead now, and that’s really improved our relationship.”

      And the tombstone one … Jeebus. Doesn’t that person know that most people on their deathbeds reflect on their relationships, not their jobs?

      1. iglwif*

        Y I K E S.

        Tbh I think I’d see any of those questions as a big ol’ red flag warning that this company has zero respect for my life and commitments outside of work! None of this is stuff that they need to know in order to gauge how well I can do the job I’m interviewing for.

  39. Bookworm*

    #4: I’ve had this experience and it *can* be unkind, depending on how it’s done. My experience wasn’t but rather weird: the manager clearly didn’t explain it (it was a “hi, you didn’t get the job, bye” except worded in such a way that I didn’t really know they had rejected me because she just want to say it and gave no explanation). I was lucky that the head person was the one who recommended I at least go for the job and I got a more substantive explanation.

    They hired an external candidate. Who disappeared about 3 weeks after she was hired. :) Won’t go into the details but it’s wasn’t a surprise in retrospect and she just didn’t show up. She cashed her last check, though!

    I’m aware it could have been MUCH worse but I agree: it can be helpful for feedback on both sides and it might not be bad in the end, especially if you can establish a relationship for something else down the road.

  40. Luna*

    LW1 – Main thing I disagree with is that you apologized. Not for losing your temper, but after she said she wasn’t going to your place anymore, you apologizing then. I don’t consider apologizing at that point to be a genuine apology, and I frankly would not do it. I wouldn’t be sorry – she was unreliable, and her attitude made it clear that she didn’t care. I see no reason to apologize to her.

    Send her a registered letter – with those little slips that they need to sign that serves as proof that they received the mail, and it gets sent back to you – with the demand that she return your keys immediately or pay up for replacing them, with your bank details again. The slip will serve as proof that you have tried to do things nicely. If that doesn’t do anything, stop being nice. Get her for theft of property.
    Keeping, or losing, your keys has consequences, and she needs to learn that.

    LW2 – “If you consider it so fun and easy, why don’t you do it yourself?” And then they will backpedal. Because they realize that you aren’t playing their little game, or they might realize that your job obviously isn’t as ‘fun and easy’ as it appears. Either way, it will hopefully have them keep their mouth shut. If it doesn’t stop him from doing these jokes, you might need to consider if a continued working relationship with this guy’s business is worth it.

    1. Luna*

      I would also like to mention regarding the flighty girl from LW1 that I am not so sure if she genuinely lost the keys. If she did, well, that’s not good. If she didn’t, well, there is now someone you *don’t* want in your apartment *and they have the keys to your home*! That is not okay, and something I would be very, very concerned about. I might even go so far as to ask if you can change the lock on your apartment’s door.

      1. Rebecca*

        I’m also wondering – although it’s not specified – if the key to the secure building is an “only” key. When I lived in such a building each resident got ONE building key marked “do not copy” and the cost to replace that key was huge, nearly the cost of a month’s rent.

        OP1’s situation sounds as if she had a duplicate, but if she didn’t and it was her only copy, then she’d definitely have had to replace it in order to gain access to her building. So, in that case, I do think the petsitter needs to pay to replace that key.

    2. Some Sort of Management consultant*

      Where does the theft come in? What do you think the pet sitter has stolen?
      As far as I know, losing a set of keys is hardly theft, nor is declining to replace them.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      “If you consider it so fun and easy, why don’t you do it yourself?”

      OP doesn’t need to say something like that. That’s just being an asshole for no reason. Lots of people think that other people’s job are “fun” or “easy.” There isn’t usually malicious intent behind the comments. It’s just ignorance of what the job entails on the other end.

      1. A*

        I am, however, greatly enjoying imagining someone busting this comment out in a meetings. Especially someone in a social media or communications based role. In my industry there is a (incorrect) stereotype that individuals in those positions tend to be fairly young, and clueless in terms of how-to-corporate. This response would be viewed as validation to everyone that holds that (still incorrect) belief.

    4. Tinybutfierce*

      I wouldn’t consider sending a registered letter demanding payment, after the sitter has already made it clear they want no further contact after how the OP behaved towards them, doing things “nicely”. And there’s zero proof the sitter is being dishonest about losing the keys. Things get lost; it sucks, but it happens. Should the sitter have taken more responsibility and been more communicative with the OP about what was going on? 100% absolutely yes. But if someone gets aggressive enough to be told they’re being abusive, as the sitter told the OP, I can’t blame the sitter for deciding to wash her hands and be done with it. She made an mistake while doing someone a favor (and yes, messed up in how she handled the fallout), and now that person has decided she’s unequivocally a thief who should maybe be reported to her employer. I sympathize with the OP for her concern for her pets, and I’d be out of my mind with worry in the same position, but it seems like they did nothing but aggressively escalate things from the get go and the sitter’s response to ghost honestly seems totally understandable considering that.

    5. JustKnope*

      Goodness – both of your recommendations here are way too aggressive. For #1, just eat the cost of the dang keys. The pet sitter isn’t a child and presumably knows that her actions have consequences. The situation sucks, but the LW needs to move on. And for #2, these are her CLIENTS. Who she needs to remain on good terms with. People say thoughtless things all the time, but responding so aggressively would be uncalled for.

    6. ele4phant*

      Nah. Those are OPs keys to be responsible for. This is the “cost of doing business” as it were.

      Why did she leave this expensive key with the student in the first place?

      Paying a professional petsitter (particularly for an animal with special needs), costs money for a reason. OP thought she was getting that service for free. Turns out the true cost is a bunch of stress and paying to replace that key. You get what you pay for.

      Next time, if you want a-plus care, hire a professional pet sitter.

    7. Anonymeece*

      Wow, no. Both those suggestions are super aggressive, and likely to not get you anywhere. For the first, a registered letter demanding payment for keys is not at all “nice”, and quite frankly, will make the LW look absolutely insane. Even if I were sympathetic to the LW before, at that point, I would lose all sympathy because it’s a waaaay overreaction to an honest mistake.

      For another, I imagine you’d have a very hard time actually prosecuting based on what happened.

    8. Another Anon*

      This is an insane response. LW1, how were you a legal assistant when you have such a tenuous grasp on any legal concepts? You may think this is theft, but theft has a legal definition and this does not meet it. Your former supervisors and the law student know that, and it will make you look terrible.

  41. Not So NewReader*

    Going in a different direction, OP could have decided to remove the student from the job, called the neighbor directly and offered the neighbor compensation for finishing the time with the cats.

    TG that neighbor was kind and available or else OP possibly would have had to come home early.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Ugh, nesting fail. That was supposed to go way up top somewhere…
      So as long as I am way down here I can add a couple thoughts.
      I find it disconcerting that she was willing to leave a living being unattended like that. She did not seem too concerned that the neighbor had no idea about the special diet. That’s a big no-no in my world. If I am doing something special to help a pet, the fill-in caregiver has to have a good eye for this detail and a willingness to commit to it. She over committed here, hopefully she is aware of this now.

      I do agree that yelling is not cool, OP, but I also understand the sentiment. I think you learned something about you, that those pets mean A LOT to you and it’s worth paying responsible people to take care of them.

      But I think the bottom-line is that she has some idea of what happened to those keys and she knows they are irretrievably GONE. She flushed them down the toilet accidentally or dropped them into a storm drain, something like that. I am guessing that this is why she did not respond to you. She started out super embarrassed by her mistake and then when you yelled, she fled as she was now on overload. I’d bet my last chocolate donut that something really awkward happened on her end.

      OP, wish her luck with her law career. There are some really tough folks in the legal profession, as in many professions, and she will need a thick layer of skin to cope. I don’t think she has it. You did demonstrate concern and logic on the outset. You gave her easy and actionable advice. To me, when people can do this IF they start yelling it is because they are afraid. I’d read your yelling as fear. But younger me would have been more fearful of you finding out exactly what stupid a