the other intern makes me look bad, airlines lost my bags on a work trip, and more

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

1. The other intern is making me look bad

I’m about a quarter of the way through an internship I’m really enjoying in a field I could see myself in long-term. I generally think that following an adjustment period, I’ve been professional, my work has been good, and I’m a value-add to the team.

However, there’s another intern on my team, Dylan, and he’s missed a few deadlines that I worry have made me look bad as well. Tasks are given to us on an ad hoc basis as a unit, by someone either emailing us or asking in a meeting if “the interns” can do it, and we break it up afterwards. Two or three times when we’ve been asked to do something, we’ve decided Dylan would do it and then he didn’t do it (or didn’t do it quickly enough), resulting in someone higher up getting impatient and doing it themselves.

All my supervisors see here is that they assigned an intern task and it didn’t get done, not that it was Dylan’s responsibility. To be fair to Dylan, all of these have had somewhat ambiguous deadlines, but when I’m working on something, I operate under the assumption that it’s due as quickly as possible. My supervisors never check in to ask if it’s done/who’s working on it, they just do it if we don’t. I don’t want to track Dylan’s time management, I don’t want to update my supervisor on who’s in charge of each small task they assign us (it wouldn’t be natural, especially in a meeting), and telling on him to my point of contact seems petulant. How can I make sure Dylan does his work, or make sure my supervisors know that I’m not the one neglecting deadlines?

I think it is an option to start updating people about who will do their task once you and Dylan decide — by sending a quick email (post-meeting) saying something like “Just a heads-up that I’ll be doing X for you and plan to have it to you by Friday.” By including that timeline update, you’ll create more reason for the email. You could suggest to Dylan that he do the same. And if he doesn’t do that reliably, then you could tell your contacts something like, “I’m not sure if Dylan does this each time, but I’ll always let you know when I’m the one handling something for you, so you can check back with me if you need to.”

The other option is to ask your manager for advice about this, framing it as, “A lot of the projects that come to us don’t have hard deadlines. I work from the assumption that I should do any assigned tasks as quickly as possible. I think Dylan manages his differently, and if he doesn’t do it quickly I’ve noticed sometimes the person who assigned it will end up doing it themselves. I’m concerned that might reflect on me, since people don’t know which of us is responsible for what and might think I’m ignoring their tasks when I’m not. Is this something that should concern me? I don’t want to step on Dylan’s toes, but I also want to make sure people know that I’m not neglecting deadlines.” The key here is that your tone can’t be “ugh, Dylan, what a slacker.” It needs to be “can you help me figure out the politics of this, since I’m new to the work world?”

2. Talking to our mailman about the “packages” in our bathroom

I work at the front desk at a small office and have been struggling with an issue that has been going on for months: I, with my boss’s initial approval, set a precedent that anyone who comes into our office, particularly our delivery drivers, can use our bathrooms freely. But now our mailman’s use has become a huge problem. Every day of the work week he comes in, sits in the bathroom for up to half an hour, and sometimes doesn’t flush and leaves behind the worst kind of “packages” imaginable in the single-stall men’s bathroom (our only men’s bathroom).

We started leaving a spray air freshener in there and have a “please flush” sign to give him a hint, but nothing has worked. This week, my boss said that I needed to tell him he couldn’t use the bathroom anymore if he treated it like that or I needed to call our post office to ask the mailman’s manager fix the situation. But I just feel so uncomfortable, and frankly embarrassed, to do either option and yet still uncomfortable to leave the situation like it is right now. I feel like it’s really rude to call this guy’s boss to complain, but I have no idea how else to handle this and I also have no clue how to tell my boss that I feel uncomfortable about confronting someone on their bathroom habits. Is there another solution I’m missing or do I just have to suck it up and get it over with?

Don’t call his boss! There’s no way his boss can address this with him without it being clear someone from your office went over his head to complain, and that’s going to be so much more awkward (and unkind) than just talking to him directly.

The next time you see him headed in there, can you say, “You’re welcome to use the bathroom, but I’ve got to ask you to keep it to just a few minutes since it’s our only men’s bathroom.” It’s possible that’ll stop him from, uh, leaving things behind since the time limit might limit what he can do in there. But if he continues not flushing after that, the next time he heads in it’s “I’ve got to ask you to flush — we’ve been having problems with that not happening.”

If those two things together don’t solve it, then it’s entirely reasonable to tell him, “Sorry, we can’t let you use the bathroom anymore. It’s been getting left messy and it’s our only men’s room.”

I think you’ve got to do it yourself though, since being the receptionist means it’s likely not practical for someone else to spot him going in there and be able to address it on the spot.

3. Airlines lost my bags on a work trip — can I ask my employer to reimburse me?

A couple of months ago, I flew to a conference in Europe, which I combined with a week of vacation with my boss’ approval. My airlines lost my bags. During the entire trip, they kept telling me the bags were delayed and would arrive the following day. A few weeks after I got home, they admitted the bags were lost.

During the trip, the airlines told me that I should buy whatever clothing and toiletries were “necessary and reasonable,” keep the receipts, and I would be reimbursed for them. I asked about what would happen if they never found the bags and was told that if that happened, I would also be compensated for the value of the lost items in addition to the purchases I had to make due to the bags being delayed.

Now the U.S. airline is telling me the value of the clothing I purchased while waiting for the bags to be delivered will be deducted from the value of the items they lost. I’m fighting this, appealing to higher and higher level managers in a maddening, Kafka-esque bureaucracy, pointing out that I specifically asked if this was the case and told no and based my actions on that. But I might not win this battle and might be stuck with a net loss of several hundred dollars. While my credit card provides some travel insurance, it won’t be enough to cover the difference.

Would it be completely out of line to ask my employer to pay for the difference? I suspect it would, which is why I haven’t floated this. And I work in academia, where I know rules are often different. But I would not have taken this trip if I were not going to conference to give a few presentations on my work and that of my organization. Most of the expenses are for business-type clothing that I only wear at conferences. It feels absurd to me that I’m losing hundreds of dollars because my luggage was lost on a work trip. If the airlines won’t pay for the mistake, could this reasonably be considered a business expense, or am I’m entirely on my own here? Does the fact that a portion of the trip was a vacation alter this?

If this weren’t academia, I’d say that you should ask. You were on the trip only because of work, and it sounds like they lost your bags while you were flying out for the work portion of it, and the clothes you had to replace were so you could dress appropriately for work while you were there. It’s not outrageous to ask your employer if they’d reimburse all or part of this. They might say no, but it’s not outlandish to inquire. (Caveat: If your week of vacation was the first part of this trip, not the second part like I assumed above, and so they lost your bags during the vacation portion … you have a much weaker case and I wouldn’t ask. That scenario would look like you lost your bags on vacation, despite the fact that you wouldn’t have taken the trip if not for work.)

However, academia will often cover fewer things than other sectors will, especially if you’re at a public university. Plus there’s the sort-of-but-not-really optional nature of conference travel. So you’d need to factor in what you know about your institution in that regard (something I can’t say from here, unfortunately).

Read an update to this letter here

4. My old boss badmouthed me to my new boss

I worked 14-1/2 years for the same company and the last two were hell. They eliminated two departments that I was connected with and stuck me in a third with two employees who had been working together for years and resented my addition. After trying to make a round peg fit in a square hole, a bad fit with a new manager, and an even worse review, I gave two weeks notice. I was immediately recruited by a company in the same building.

My new boss loves me, but when the old boss saw I was working there, she thought she should fill the new boss in with some details of our unhappy work experience. My new boss politely shut her down. (I don’t know all the details, but she told my old boss that she stands behind me 100% and would understand if she chose to take her business elsewhere.) I really think this was unprofessional as it happened 10 months after I had moved on. (It is a big campus and depending on what area you are working in, our paths might never have crossed.) I only worked six weeks with her. The clients loved me, the nursing students loved me, staff in other departments loved me … just not her. Should I file a complaint with her HR or just let it go?

What your old boss did was unprofessional and weirdly vindictive. If she has such antipathy toward you (and after only six weeks of working together!), she should just be glad you’ve moved on, not go out of her way to try to sabotage you at your new job. It’s a crappy thing to do. Fortunately, she probably ended up looking really odd to your new boss.

As for what to do … it is an option to ask your old employer’s HR to ensure she does not again attempt to interfere with your employment and your business relationships. But since you don’t know the details of exactly what she said to your new boss and you don’t know of any other instances of it … and since I imagine you have no need to use her as a reference, given the short period of time you worked together … and since it would be better not to involve your new boss in this if you can avoid it … I’d lean toward letting this go unless she does something similar again (at which point I would rain fire).

5. Interviewing next door to another candidate

A few years ago, I interviewed at a large company. When the recruiter came to the lobby to get me, she greeted me and another woman. On our way to the interview rooms, she said we were interviewing for the same job. Then she put us interview rooms next to each other. As soon as I heard that we were interviewing for the same role, I assumed I wasn’t going to get the job (it was my third time interviewing at this company) and became more relaxed.

I had about 4-5 interviews with about 10 people total. Every person I talked to, I knew that they had just talked to the other candidate or were about to. When the interviews were over, the recruiter walked both of us out together.

Is it common to tell candidates they’re interviewing together? Is that a good practice? It was jarring for me. I know it happens, of course, but that was the first time I’d been told it was happening, and it felt a little Hunger Games-ish (two women enter, only one gets the job).

It’s not entirely uncommon. Employers figure you know that you’re not the only person they’re interviewing for a job and if they’re doing some of the interviews at the same time, they don’t usually feel they need go out of their way to hide that. It’s not a secret that you’re competing against other people, after all. (It does have the potential for problems if you happen to know the other candidate and had hoped to keep your job search under wraps. Companies don’t usually expect that will happen — and to be fair, it usually doesn’t. But it could.)

I think you felt like talking with your interviewers back-to-back with another candidate put you at a disadvantage — but if that’s a disadvantage, the other candidate was operating under the same one! And it’s not that different than interviewing from 3:30-4:30 and having another candidate scheduled to come in at 4:30 (something that happens all the time; you’re just not told about it). I think it just felt extra awkward here because you don’t usually come face-to-face with your competition while you’re actively engaged in trying to get the job.

{ 392 comments… read them below }

    1. LindsayAerin*

      Sometimes I wonder if – at least in my part of the world – that so many public places have auto-flush now that people forget to flush because they get used to not having to Flush even when it’s not an auto-flush toilet? I mean no excuse but it’s my thinking that maybe that’s part of it? I always double check auto-flush toilets and push the “button” that is always somewhere if anything is left behind to be sure

      1. Bowserkitty*

        I could see that with sinks. I’ve embarrassingly left work faucets running completely forgetting I had just pushed the handle to turn them on (and I don’t mean the “push to let out water” type, but the actual hot/cold handles!!). Luckily I’ve noticed before I hit the door to leave but I still feel dumb.

        But toilets? Eh….

        1. Asenath*

          Yeah, a couple times a year my water aerobics classes are moved to a different pool – in pool 1 the showers turn off automatically, and in pool 2 they don’t, and I sometimes forget. I could see that happening with toilets. Or some people don’t flush for environmental reasons, although that’s usually only for urine. Either way, I don’t see anything wrong with a polite statement like Alison suggests.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve gotten so used to automatic flushing that I’ve left my own bathroom at home without flushing a few times. Luckily I live alone so no one had to wonder what I was up to.

          1. Emelle*

            My kids elementary school has auto-flushers. They never remember to flush at home. (Sigh)
            But then I found out the middle school teachers include a reminder to all the 6th graders that the toilets are not automatic at this school (much older building) and I will happily take my issue with 2 kids not flushing one toilet.

      2. valentine*

        so many public places have auto-flush now that people forget to flush
        I hope this is it.

        I wouldn’t limit the mail carrier’s toilet time, and wouldn’t want the loss of a bowel-friendly public bathroom to soil the relationship. I’d just tell him he needs to both flush and the air freshener (if I couldn’t get approval for an automatic one). Meanwhile, the business should consider adding another bathroom men can use, even if there’s currently only one employee who uses the impacted one.

        1. A teacher*

          Please no automatic air freshener! Those things are terrible for people with sensitivities to artificial scents, asthma, etc.

          1. Veronica*

            Seconding. Many people have bad reactions to the chemicals in air freshener. We’ve discussed it here before and many spoke up with their symptoms.
            Even natural air fresheners like citrus could be bad for people who are allergic.
            Ventilation is better. Does the restroom have an exhaust fan or window?

            1. valentine*

              Are we talking people who aren’t using that bathroom? Because the guy(s) who use it are apparently down with the air freshener left as a hint to the carrier.

              1. Veronica*

                Sensitivity to air freshener is so common there probably are people in OP’s office who are sensitive, and they might not feel they can say anything. IMHO it’s better to just avoid it and use ventilation. If there’s no ventilation the smell dissipates on it’s own, and it doesn’t actually hurt anyone.

          2. J*

            I loathe automatic air freshners! I am extremely sensitive to smells and unfortunately, auto air freshners tend to lead to a migraine, nausea, etc.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          The relationship is already ruined. This guy will be forever the Pooper Postman.

          I think if he is that embarrassed by the conversation then he should have taken steps to prevent the conversation to begin with. I guess it’s me, but I always check to make sure everything flushed before I leave the stall or room. Old me would have died a thousand deaths if someone had to speak to me about messes. While I am older and less likely to get thrown by stuff, I still check to make sure I am not leaving messes anywhere, I check (quick glance) the sink and I make sure my paper towel goes IN to the garbage can on the way out. I think it’s just basic courtesy.

          I am kind of chuckling to myself though, it seems that bathroom problems come up often enough it’s worth while learning how to have a conversation with offenders.

          I do know of some people who are very proud of pooping on company time and very proud of not having to fill up their own septic at home. Yes, they brag about this. OP, if you knew for a fact this was going on, how would that change your concern about opening this topic with the postal carrier?

          1. Isabel Kunkle*

            Agreed–I can understand being used to auto-flush, but if that was the case, the “please flush” sign should’ve stopped the problem. If it didn’t, he deserves both awkwardness and unkindness: you’re an adult, you can flush toilets. Especially other people’s toilets.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Most of the time I use the bathroom at work, and we have some pretty powerful (maybe pressure assisted) toilets that I never have to worry about double flushing. A few times at home my partner has gone to use the bathroom and told me I didn’t flush when in fact I had. But when that happened it was only remnants of a package and not a full package.

            If mail man is leaving full packages behind that is uncalled for. But even if it is just remnants OP can still have a conversation about it with mail man.

          1. Sam.*

            Agreed. And the idea of adding another bathroom just to avoid telling a non-employee that he shouldn’t be hogging the facilities seems…extreme.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Even if the person was an employee, adding a bathroom is not an easy or cheap thing to do, especially if the building does not have the space for it.

              If the bathroom is big enough they could try convert it into a multi person bathroom, put a stall around the toilet and add a urinal so that two people could use the bathroom at the same time.

                1. valentine*

                  And the idea of adding another bathroom just to avoid telling a non-employee that he shouldn’t be hogging the facilities seems…extreme.
                  Thirty minutes is nothing in a bathroom and, since an employee could be doing this, the business should make other arrangements. (And they don’t necessarily have to build to do so.) I realize the carrier’s doing it every day, but it could be a different person every day, as well. A single single-seater for more than one person isn’t sustainable.

                2. Observer*

                  @Valentine there is no way to add capacity without fairly significant expense. Even if the current bathroom is big enough to turn into a multi-person unit. Because it’s not as simple as shoving a desk in there – you need to rip up floor / wall and put in new plumbing. That’s never inexpensive.

                  At this point the single bathroom is working for them. If / when it stops working for them, it will be time for them to consider their options. They don’t have an obligation to their mail carrier to undergo that kind of expense and disruption.

                3. fposte*

                  @Observer–yeah, this would be like a $50-100k expense in my building. That’s not going to happen just because some people don’t want to wait 30 minutes.

                4. EventPlannerGal*

                  @valentine – what? 30 minutes is a very long time in an office bathroom, and an *exceptionally* long time in the only men’s bathroom in the place.

                5. Snuck*

                  I find the idea that 30mins isn’t long to be in a bathroom implausible….

                  I’ve worked in some very… intractable male dominated workplaces… and if there were staff sloping off to the men’s room for thirty or MORE minutes every day… they’d be the butt of many a joke. This is ex field service personnel who have gradually worked their way through a highly unionised workforce into an office based role, these guys know ALL the ins, outs and abouts of how to goof off, get away with things and rib each other with good/sour humour.

                  Thirty minutes plus on the toilet? Better be a rare person indeed… or a rare moment in their lives. That’s longer than a ‘tea break’ by a lot. If I had a staff member sitting on the loo for 40mins every day… I’d be asking for a medical certificate and going through HR for ‘special considerations” … or telling them to knock it off. Half an hour doesn’t sound like much, but make it five or six times a week, and it’s a third of a day’s work spent reading People and causing olfactory distress… so it’d better be worthwhile, or necessary.

            2. Psyche*

              Yeah. It isn’t trivial to add another bathroom. There really isn’t a reason for a guest to use the bathroom for so long so regularly. I would assume 5 minutes would generally be enough to take care of any emergencies.

              1. AnonAndFrustrated*

                We have an employee who regularly uses the only men’s restroom in our area for 30, 45, 60 min *each time* they go in there. Pretty sure they are on their phone the whole time & suspect it’s also being used as nap time or (shudder) other really personal stuff time, and it’s pretty frustrating we’re paying his person a full time salary to be messing around in the bathroom for large portions of each day. Not to mention all the other men in the work area have to go to another part of the building to use the restroom as a result. Mgmt is aware of the issue but are apparently ok with it, which I also don’t understand.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  If they are salary the time spent not working should really not come into play, that is the point of being salaried you are generally supposed to manage your own time. If the employee is still getting all their work done it does not matter.

                  It does come into play is that they are hogging the bathroom and preventing others from using it, but it is mitigated since there are other bathrooms people can use.

                  I would try to disengage and stop thinking about this. Maybe management has been made aware that this coworker has a medical issue that requires them to spend longer on the bathroom.

                2. whingedrinking*

                  There was a letter on Captain Awkward a while back, where a letter writer had a boyfriend who would come home from work and spend literally hours in the bathroom every day. He simply refused to come out sometimes, to the point that the couple missed some social engagements and the LW had to pee in the kitchen sink a couple times (!!!). The boyfriend claimed that he *needed* to be on the toilet with his iPad since he wouldn’t know he was “done” until he was done.
                  Various people in the comments, myself included, who wondered how this could possibly be necessary – the letter specified that the boyfriend was employed, so if he absolutely had to be on the toilet for that long, how did he get any work done? But I guess if you’re really determined, you can get away with it even if you have a job.

              2. LunaLena*

                Since he’s staying for half an hour at a time, I wonder if this is the only “nice” bathroom he knows he can use while on his route, so he’s deliberately staying in there until all of his business is done. I’m sure we’ve all known the sudden panic and horror of being in the car when an unexpected bathroom emergency arises.

                Not saying he’s not being rude and inconsiderate, because he totally is. But he also may not be aware that he’s hogging the only men’s bathroom while he’s waiting to ensure that he can poop in clean and comfortable surroundings.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          NO, LIMIT HIS TIME.

          They are allowing him to use their restroom as a courtesy, and he’s abusing it, or at least is bizarrely clueless about shared-bathroom etiquette. They don’t have to let him use their restroom at all; they could send him to the nearest gas station. And unless their actual own staff need it, they don’t need to add a restroom to accommodate this hopper-stopper: They need to tell him to shape up or ship out.

          1. RUKiddingMe*


            If I was an actual employee and the only bathroom was being monopolized for long periods of time,every single day by someone who doesn’t even work there, I’d have a problem with that.

            That and his lack of basic manners/courtesy. No one should have to be subjected to seeing someone else’s …package… that was left behind. Once, or even occasionally, I guess I could get over…maybe…(I mean flush every single time dude) but leaving it behind every single time? That’s intentional IMO.

            It’s a privilege that’s being extended to him and he is abusing it. He does not work there. He can just go to the nearest gas station or wait until he has to deliver to a hotel or something. He’s had his chance…many chances, and failed. Time to take away the potty benefit and stop dealing with this crap.

        4. TootsNYC*

          I would ask him if he could make it shorter. He apparently didn’t use to stay in there so long in the past.

          But maybe not–if no one else is wanting to use it.
          But if anyone else wants to use it and he’s still in there, I’d encourage them to knock.
          I get that some people just need a long time in the bathroom, and huge stinky “remains” might be an indicator that his elimination system isn’t like most people’s.

          But people also zone out (does he take his phone in there?), and a knock to say “someone is waiting” is perfectly fine.

        5. Glitsy Gus*

          As long as you keep it light and matter-of-fact it won’t be as bad as you think it will be. “oh, if you’re going to use the restroom please make sure to flush completely. It’s been a bit of an issue lately! Thanks!” That points it out to him, and makes it clear you all have noticed, but also leaves him the face-saving out of “that silly toilet, you gotta check that it worked right!”

      3. Bilateralrope*

        I find that automatically flushing toilets make me more concerned with making sure they flush. Probably because I’ve used too many with finicky sensors. So I make sure I hear the flush.

        Though my current workplace has the problem that a single flush often isn’t enough. It takes two or three to get everything out of the bowl.

        1. Just Elle*

          Yes! My new work bathroom has a reallllyyy long delay where you basically are done washing your hands before it flushes… and the paranoia is way too real. I’m forever walking back to check on it.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Most of them have a manual control, and if I don’t hear it go before I reach for the stall door, I flush it manually

        2. Liz*

          Mine is the same way, although we don’t have auto flushing toilets. We didn’t, then we did, but then they took them out and replaced them with manual flushers again. Why? I have no clue, but the water pressure is horrible in our building, so many times you have to give it an extra flush to make sure it all goes down.

          HOWEVER, not everyone does this, and i can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into the ladies room and seen stuff still in the bowl, or big brown streaks. Come on people, take an extra second to look and flush again if necessary!

          its only going to get worse; we’re moving, going from two floors each with a ladies room with 5 stalls, to ONE, with ONE LR with six, i think. not looking forward to that at all.

          1. Pseudo Nym*

            I generally give up on streaks after the 5th flush. I would give up on them after 2 flushes except that one of my coworkers made it clear that it was a bigger deal to her than I had ever realized it could be.

      4. Myrin*

        I feel pretty confident in saying that’s not it – auto-flush toilets aren’t a thing where I am (don’t want to claim that they don’t exist at all but I’ve personally never once encountered one, and I’ve been to all manner of toilets before) and yet you can find a decent amount of non-flushers here, too. (It might of course exacerbate the problem if you’re from a place where they are common.)

        1. Emily K*

          Yeah, auto-flush toilets were not invented because people were flushing but just wanted it to be less work – if that was the case they’d be in homes, which they aren’t even in places where they’re common in public. They were invented as a managerial solution to LW’s problem – people who weren’t flushing public toilets long before auto-flush came along.

          1. smoke tree*

            I always thought it was for the same reason that a lot of public washrooms now have automatic sinks, automatic paper towel dispensers and no door–presumably to avoid the spread of germs (or possibly for the entertainment of anyone who likes to watch others fruitlessly wave their hands in front of a paper towel dispenser).

        2. LawBee*

          You’ve never encountered an auto-flush toilet? Now I’m wondering where you’re from, because they’re all over the US. Shopping centers, restaurants, airports, office buildings, fast food places. They’re common enough that Ellen Degeneres used to have a joke in her standup about how SHE would decide when she’s ready to flush THANK YOU.

          1. Myrin*

            Central Europe and nope, most definitely not. (Also just asked several members of my family, who concurred.) In fact, I don’t even know what that would be called in my language – I just googled several possible expressions and all of them just showed me some bidet-like devices.

        3. RUKiddingMe*

          Never? Care to share your general geographical region? I men likewise I’ve been to all manner of public restrooms in lots of different locations all over the country (US) and world and I encounter them probably a good 50% of the time.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I’m thinking about my home area (a two-county radius) in southern Iowa; I would imagine that few places there are spending on auto-flush toilets.

            But they’re in Des Moines, for sure. Again, I don’t think stores and offices are ripping out the old toilets to put in spendier ones, but such toilets aren’t unheard of.

      5. Lily Rowan*

        But then you’d think a sign would help!

        I confess that I walked out of a stall the other day thinking it was auto-flush and someone else walked in before I could get back to flush it! That was just pee, at least.

          1. fposte*

            And maybe it helps but doesn’t completely solve. Maybe somebody else remembers to flush when they might have forgotten, or maybe he flushes halfway sometimes.

          2. TootsNYC*

            (I’d personally put up a sign, but I would be a lot more cynical. Because if it only helps two or three times, it was still worth it.)

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          Signs really never help. We have a huge sign on the front door of where I work. It is a bright color. You have to stand right in front of the sign to ring the doorbell to get into our building. The sign says “this is not the preschool, the preschool is around the corner, you can’t get into the preschool this way” (it’s not those exact words, but that is the sentiment). We get people ringing the doorbell every day trying to get into the preschool.

          More often than not, people don’t read signs they’re not already on the lookout for.

          1. emmelemm*

            Oh man, this brings back memories of my former office location with a somewhat non-obvious? door at the side for a speech therapy office. Every single day, “Is this the speech therapy office?” If the speech therapy office would only tell their clients before they show up, “Hey, our front door is a little tricky to find, here’s how to get to us.”

      6. Rusty Shackelford*

        Sometimes I wonder if – at least in my part of the world – that so many public places have auto-flush now that people forget to flush because they get used to not having to Flush even when it’s not an auto-flush toilet?

        I know that after we got auto-flush toilets at work, I spent a fair amount of time staring at other public toilets waiting for them to flush. And then the ones in our office didn’t work well, so they were converted to manual flush, and I got back into the habit. But as others have pointed out, there are non-flushers everywhere, so this probably isn’t that guy’s issue.

        1. TootsNYC*

          it can be a big gap, and you might mentally have moved on and not be waiting for the sound. It might be easier to lose that focus if you’re washing your hands in the same room, and not stepping out of a stall.

      7. Emily K*

        I think that would explain the occasional failure to flush, but every single time seems like a stretch. Especially if he’s washing his hands properly, being a single-occupancy means he’s standing at a sink probably just a couple of steps away from the visibly defiled, unflushed bowl for another 30 seconds before exiting the bathroom. The only possible world where he think there’s an auto-flush and that’s why he never flushes, is one in which he also never washes his hands and now I’m even more sad about this situation.

    2. MommyMD*

      It’s disgusting. I’d have no problem telling him “management says you need to keep the restroom clean and flushed and limit your time in there or it’s a no go”. Literally. Sick.

      1. Kendra*

        I run a public library, and have had almost this exact conversation with patrons before (and a few conversations that were much, much worse). The key to getting through it is to set your emotions (particularly any “yuck!” reactions) aside, and be as matter-of-fact as possible. If you leave them any room to get defensive, not only will it be ten times as embarrassing for everyone involved, they will re-write the narrative in their head to make OP2 the Evil Receptionist who creepily polices visitors’ bathroom habits, and that’s not a reputation anyone should have to deal with.

        Stay factual and calm as best you can; the less you focus on how embarrassed you feel, the less embarrassing it will turn out to be for you.

        1. TootsNYC*

          the matter-of-fact-ness is key.

          Remember–everybody poops. It doesn’t have to be SO EMBARRASSING; you have influence over that.

          And I like the “management says” because it means that you aren’t JUDGING them; you’re passing on a requirement from the authority in charge.

          Sort of like, “The deadline is going to be sooner” or “we aren’t going to carry that flavor of coffee anymore.”

          It’s just information he needs to know.

      2. Mimosa Jones*

        I think this might be the key. OP, it’s not you telling him what to do or scolding him, you’re passing along management’s message and rules. I think the distance will make it easier for you to say and him to hear.

      3. Bagpuss*

        Yes – very matter of fact “management have asked me to let you know that there is an issue with you not flushing, and with spending too much time in our restrooms. They have asked me to let you know that if this continues, we will no longer be able to allow you to use the restroom here. 2

        That way, you are just passing along the message and ypou are also being very clear and explict both about what the problem is, and what will happen if it is not resolved.

        1. BigLo*

          I don’t even think OP necessarily needs to explain why “management” has decided to disallow his use of the restroom unless he explicitly asks. It’s easy to just matter of fact and pleasantly say “Oh sorry, our management decided not to allow outsider use anymore. Thanks!”

      4. LH Holdings*

        I complete with agree with MommyMD. There doesn’t need to be continued dialogue about this and I’m not sure why the OP would want to have more than one conversation about it. I normally agree with AAM, but there should not be 1 conversation about limiting time and ANOTHER about keeping it clean. I love this script and it comes across clearly. If he’s embarrassed, he SHOULD be. What he’s NOT going to do is stop delivering your mail, so tell him the rules and keep it moving.

      5. BigLo*

        I would assume it’s also just as easy to tell him that management decided not to allow non-employees to use the restroom anymore. His behavior is exactly why plenty of businesses don’t offer a public restroom

    3. Anonymous obviously*

      On behalf of all the floating-poopers in the world: it may not be a lack of understanding or respect.

      Some of us have different gut flora, causing permanently floating stools, leading to daily nightmares and lost hours standing over toilets in offices, friends’ houses, and public places waiting for cisterns to fill for another vain attempt at flushing the unflushable.

      I’m not for a second defending walking away from it, of course. But if you can’t understand why someone would ever even consider leaving a turd in a public toilet, it may be that you are blessed with flushable turds.

      If he’s in there for half an hour at a time, that could be 10 minutes doing the work and 20 minutes of trying to flush it and ultimately giving up.

      The letter writer asked if there is anything else she can try before having the embarrassing conversation: If there’s not already a toilet brush in there, get one – ideally one with a hard edge – it might help. I’ve bought in my own toilet brushes in previous offices where there hasn’t been one, because often I literally can’t flush without one.

      1. Zillah*

        I feel like if this was the case, though, the OP would have mentioned it along with him not flushing in the first place.

          1. Myrin*

            Maybe I’m misunderstanding but of course she would – she can tell the guy is not flushing, meaning the poop is still there when she enters, meaning she is the one who ends up flushing it. If that were impossible due to some weird unflushable stool, she’d surely have mentioned it.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              I was unclear: she wouldn’t know if he had spent ages trying-and-failing, or if he had any relevant medical condition. She only knows the result, not the cause (which could still be thoughtlessness etc).

              1. JamieS*

                If OP, or someone in OP’s office, goes into the bathroom and is able to flush the feces without issue he obviously didn’t spend ages trying and failing be or have ‘unflushable stool’. It’s possible that maybe one time he gave up when only one more flush was needed but every time? No.

                1. wendelenn*

                  Having just seen a production of Man of La Mancha, I heard The Unflushable Stool to a certain tune. . .

              2. Yorick*

                If it’s hard-to-flush stool, it would be hard for OP to flush it too. It wouldn’t magically become flushable once he left.

                1. Anonymous obviously*

                  This is stretching it a bit now and I’m not saying this is what’s going on here- but yes, if it’s a slow-filling cistern, and the guy’s panicking trying to flush every couple of minutes before it’s full, it might magically become more easily flushable after he’s given up and left and it’s had 10 full minutes to recharge.

                  This does sound kind of unlikely for a regular occurrence though – personally I’d avoid that toilet after one bad experience.

                2. JamieS*

                  Anonymous obviously: it’s unlikely period to the point of being unhelpful and irrelevant to OP’s problem.

                  hbc: if he’s known for this they probably don’t generally wait a significant time before checking the bathroom and flushing.

      2. Yorick*

        I think it’s way more likely that he just doesn’t flush, or he doesn’t check that it’s completely flushed before leaving.

      3. Observer*

        The results of just leaving it look very different than trying to flush and not succeeding.

        Also, even if this guy does have a digestive problem, that’s something he needs to take up with his employer. It’s just not appropriate to lay this on someplace he’s doing delivery to. Both in terms of the amount of time it takes and the mess he’s leaving behind.

        1. TootsNYC*

          In fact, from Wikipedia:

          Steatorrhea should be suspected when the stools are bulky, floating and foul-smelling.

          From our OP:

          sometimes doesn’t flush and leaves behind the worst kind of “packages” imaginable in the single-stall men’s bathroom (our only men’s bathroom). … We started leaving a spray air freshener in there

          I think I’d print that out, along with a line or two about possible medical treatment, and stick it on the inside of that door. I might mention to the guys in the office that it’s not aimed at them, and that I worry a bit about this guy, but I don’t want to talk to him about it, so I’m hoping he’ll notice it and if it applies to him, he’ll know it’s not “just him” but is a medical condition that could be treated.

          Maybe that’s too interventionist, but I have been in the position of having a colleague say, “Have you seen a doctor about that? I’m worried about you,” and had it turn out to BE something.

          I’ve also heard of enough situations like that with other people.

          But I wouldn’t want to talk to him about it in person.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, please, no, don’t do that. There are all kinds of things that make for stinky poo aside from steatorrhea, nobody’s said that his floats, and you really don’t want to post flyers targeting people for possible ADA-covered illnesses.

            If the OP is concerned about the guy, she needs to talk to the guy.

      4. TardyTardis*

        I have this problem, and every time solids are involved, I dump a very large glass of water (32 oz) down just after I flush, and Mr. Coriolis almost always takes down everything in one flush.

    4. Just Elle*

      I seriously want to go to their house (ok, no, I really don’t) and see if they’ve got a mountain coming up out of their toilet from years of unflushed ‘packages’? Or do they ONLY not flush when its in public? Like, how have they not figured out how this works yet? How is it not an ingrained habit after presumably 18+ years in a 1st world country??

    5. JSPA*

      Some toilets don’t finish the flush process unless you hold the handle down for quite a while. Some merely hold the, uh, offending object down into the bend while water flushes past, then allow it to shift back into the bowl, once the person who thinks they’ve flushed adequately, has left.

      Whether or not this is what’s happening here, I’d address it as a TOILET issue. Much easier to be matter-of-fact about that:

      “Our men’s toilet currently requires that everyone hold the flush down for a full 20 seconds to flush solids, and then wait and check that everything has gone down, then do a second flush as needed. Please don’t use the toilet for more than a quick whizz unless you have the time to check that the flushing has worked. Also, this is our only men’s toilet, so we encourage everyone to take care of any lengthy business elsewhere, if possible.”

      1. Kiki*

        Even if it’s not what’s happening here, I think addressing the issue this way would work really well. I think you could leave out the sentence about a quick whizz, but yeah. It makes it clear that the person needs to flush really well and move with some urgency but wouldn’t make the person defensive because, hey, it’s just an issue with our toilet. It is still an awkward conversation, but less awkward than staring someone in the eye and saying “flush your poo”

      2. Petry Dish*

        I don’t think its a facilities issue or other people would be unable to flush and perhaps alert OP. I am just thinking this mailman is used to just not flushing and needs a stern reminder, whatever the reason it’s gross and OP shouldn’t have to be the poo police on a daily basis.

    6. MatKnifeNinja*

      I have asked kids (5 to 18 years) why no flushing after a poop, when I worked im health care. They are scared/worried about plugging the toilet up and having it overflow everywhere. All you need is one bad experience to spook you.

      I’ve seen some sketchy low flush office toilets that 1 piece of one ply and 1/2 a saltine cracker would plug it up.

      OP you can mention, hey the toilets here don’t plug up, flush after you are done. Or mention you have to jiggle the handle a certain or hold it down at this angle is the stupid thing is a busted, budget toilet.

      Or is you are so totally done with this, slap a No Public Restroom on the door and call it a day. I did delivery for two years, and learned which restrooms I could use if nature called.

      This person may ignore the No Public Restroom sign at first. You can always blame liability insurance, cranky higher ups…whatever for the change.

      The music school my niece goes to have a semi working toilet that doesn’t flush correctly. There are always deposits there, because if you don’t move the handle a certain way it doesn’t flush right. Kids will flush 5 times and over flow it. I’ve crabbed at the owner to fix it, and got a *meh*. Cheaper to make the desk help clean up the aftermath, I guess. (YUCK).

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’d be lifting that tank lid and seeing if I could fiddle it back into functionality.
        Even if it wasn’t my toilet.

    7. blackcatlady*

      For the intern: I second Alison’s suggestion that when you get an assignment you promptly email the sender back and say I will be doing tasks #1&2, I expect to be done by (date). Dylan is taking on tasks #3&4. You need to communicate back EACH ASSIGNMENT clearly who is doing what job. In higher management positions this is known as a CYA email.

      1. Marthooh*

        Okay, yes, the intern should do this, and also it’s hilarious that “I will be doing #1 & #2” ended up in the toilet-flushing thread.

    8. Anon from the Bronx*

      I’m wondering why & how the mailman needs 30 minutes to do his business each day on his route. And even if he wasn’t leaving a mess, how does he think this is ok? And if this was anything like the small office I work in with only 1 single bathroom each for women & men, you can bet someone would be knocking on the door if it was tied up for a half hour, especially by a non-employee!

    9. Snuck*

      I’m wondering if there’s some diplomatic language OP1 could use…

      “Hi Postman Poop, can I grab you a second? My manager has asked me to quietly let you know that the rest room here isn’t public, and we need to be mindful of others who need to use it, we’ve only got the one available is the issue….” and trail off looking a little bewildered?

      (Although, there’s a risk he’ll leave it even more gross in revenge, but if he does that … then escalate to his manager and put a sign up saying “Staff Only” and next time he drops mail in say “Sorry, the toilet is not for public use anymore” cheerily and ignore his huffing)

      Another idea that is much less confrontational might be to slip him a note from ‘someone’… ?Your manager? Saying something like “Dear Postman Poop, We are happy to provide support for you in your role, and do not mind you using our facilities, but please note these are not public facilities and several members of staff need to use this particular rest room. Please keep your visits short, and ensure that the bathroom is in a clean state for the next person when you leave, kindly, Facilities Management” and put it in an envelope, so YOU aren’t the one telling him, but some other person…

      Is Postman Poop the kind to take umbrage, or has he more misunderstood the nature of his privilege in using this bathroom, and possibly timed his break to when he drops mail to you, and sync’d his needs and thus not realise he’s overstaying his welcome? I’d err on the side of it all being an odd misunderstanding before I assumed it was otherwise…

      Another very passive aggressive way is to put up the cleaning sign outside the door of it just before he arrives each day, and close it for the few minutes.. “The cleaner has changed their schedule, I think they will be back in a minute with the mops…” and if he asks if he can still use it “Sure, but be really quick ok?”… but this ruse might fall apart the time he comes and there’s no sign up. Might give him time to find somewhere else to poop rather than your nice quiet clean facilities anyway.

      1. Tinuviel*

        This all seems like wringing your hands about dealing with something uncomfortable, being bothered enough to hint at it, but then giving up and leaving it too vague to be effective. So you’re left with discomfort and an ongoing problem.

        Just say,
        “Hey, this is awkward but our toilet is finicky so please make sure everything is flushed when you leave. Also please keep your visits short as it’s our only men’s room. Thanks. Here’s the mail.” and get on with your day like nothing happened.

  1. jm*

    “Now the U.S. airline is telling me the value of the clothing I purchased while waiting for the bags to be delivered will be deducted from the value of the items they lost.”

    i’m so confused about the airline penalizing LW3 for the clothes they had to buy when their bags were lost. shouldn’t that add to the costs that need to be reimbursed?

      1. OP #3*

        They are currently telling me that value of the goods in my bags is greater than the maximum value that they will reimburse for lost luggage — the value is smaller for international travel than travel entirely within the US. And that the value of the goods I bought due to the “delay” will be deducted from what they will compensate me for in terms of the items they lost. So, in effect, I am not being reimbursed by the airline at all for the items I had to buy because of the delay, because I’m going to get the same amount of money from the airline in total if either A.) I only submitted a claim for what was in the bags that they lost, or B.) I submitted a claim for both what they lost and what I had to buy while abroad.

        1. None the Wiser*

          Do not accept or sign anything the airline offers you. Lay out what you want, and wait. Someone has to close out your claim. When you refuse, it remains open and the airline can’t add your unresolved claim to their stats.

          1. Colette*

            That may be true – but the OP won’t get reimbursed until they reach a deal, so she’d have to carry the replacement costs. And eventually they will likely just close it as unsolvable.

          2. former airline employee*

            Former airline employee here (in corporate, who worked with these kind of stats). That is not a stat that anyone is really tracking, or at least cares much about. They care about overall MBR (mishandled bag rate), but once your bag is mishandled, it’s mishandled. They can’t take it back.

        2. Nephron*

          Any chance you could try to get an administrator at your school to engage with the airline? Currently you are 1 customer that is making a fuss, while an entire school is a much larger group of customers. They might react differently if they fear your school will stop using them as an airline. And yes an institution might stop using an airline that lost luggage, did not own up to it, and lied about their reimbursement policy. If you don’t have the authority to ask or tell someone to engage you could approach the problem at right angles and ask if the school has ever run into this issue before.

          1. fposte*

            That’s just not something public higher ed is going to mess with. All airlines lose luggage and all airlines BS. It’s just how it goes.

        3. jj*

          Was your ticket booked through some kind of business travel service? Like Amex Global Business Travel or something? They may have a recourse for you to help you deal with the airline. Also keep track of everything and reach out every way you can. I’ve had a few customer service situations that have only gotten resolved once I stopped calling and emailing and went on blast on Twitter.

          1. Happy Lurker*

            I haven’t read all the way down…but OP please ask the person who books travel if they purchased the travel insurance? Alternatively, if you know who handles miscellaneous insurance at your institution if they have a separate travel insurance rider that may help cover some of the cost of your lost luggage.
            JJs suggestion is also a good one. If they use a service to book travel they might also have additional ideas.
            Lastly, a family member just spent weeks trying to resolve a situation and also found that a twitter blast resolved it in minutes.
            Good luck.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I think that that is normal, otherwise you would have ‘betterment’ – ending up with the emergency new clothes plus the value of the ones which were lost.

        However, I think that ou can legitimately complain to, and challenge the airline, on the basis that they gave you inaccurate information on which you replied. Make the point that had you been given accurate information you might have made different choices about what you bought as the emergency clothes.

        However, you may also be able to make a claim on your travel insurance.

        1. Yods*

          I realise that different airlines will have different rules about this kind of thing, but last year we suffered some lost luggage and we were reimbursed both for the luggage and for the items we had to buy to make do while we were abroad.

          And off course this does not nearly cover the hassle of having to go back to the airport every day for a few days because ‘the luggage will be there tomorrow’, and having to go around buying items that we would never have bought otherwise but we were in the middle of nowhere and had to wear something, and of course the items in our luggage that were actually not replaceable. It’s still nowhere near what I’d call betterment.

        2. LCH*

          except it sounds like what the airline wants to do now is different than what they told OP they would do prior to OP buying new clothing, etc. they should have told her this policy to begin with instead of changing the rules.

        3. Observer*

          Well, you may wind up with some “extra” stuff, but the airline also really owes you for the inconvenience and the fact that you had to make purchases without the opportunity to do any sort of shopping around.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      So I recently had my bags delayed on a recent academic trip, and the airline had the same policy. It’s really frustrating, but it’s common.

      The theory is that once the airline covers the “replacement cost” of you buying clothing on site, they’ve already made you whole. Additionally, your clothing generally depreciates in value, so the estimated cost of what you lost is almost always lower than the replacement cost. The theory is that to allow you to collect on both is an unjust windfall, when the airline’s only contractual responsibility is to return you to a similar position (i.e., one with clothing and luggage) as you would have been in had they not lost your bags.

      1. OP #3*

        I think what has me most annoyed about this is that I specifically asked them if this was their policy and they told me no, I would be compensated for both. I based my actions off of assuming that I was being given accurate information by the customer service representatives I spoke with. And if they had told me that goods I bought would count against that limit, I would have taken the time to find clothing I actually wanted to own, rather than just finding the first thing that fit that was appropriate for the context.

        Personally, I feel that I was actually in a worse position due to them constantly telling me my bags would arrive the following day than if they had just declared them lost from the start. I could have gone on a single shopping trip to get clothes for the rest of the trip and not wasted the time of having to go buy clothes every 2 days because I’d only be reimbursed for what was deemed necessary. I ended up skipping out on at least one dinner with colleagues because I had to get to a department store for the next day’s clothing before closing time. I hate shopping for clothing, and would never voluntarily spend my limited time on a trip doing that instead of something else. But I recognize that that’s an opinion, and not a universal truth.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I think you were given dud advice at the start – though FWIW airlines mislay a lot of luggage for a short time, and usually find it and reunite it afterwards, so typically you would end up with new stuff paid for by the airline (the payment effectively compensating you for the inconvenience). I imagine they genuinely believed they would get your things back. But you should definitely pursue the bad advice, because this will not be the only occasion where someone ends up significantly out of pocket as a result of that bad advice.

          It must have been very frustrating to think you were nearly getting your stuff back … and then not, and having to go shopping again and again. Even someone who enjoys shopping would tire of that rigmarole pretty quickly.

          I can see why the airline sets a maximum figure for the value of lost luggage, as I’m sure there are a million scammers out there who would immediately claim that the lost bag was full of $$$$ designer suits rather than high street jeans and a slightly grey bra. However, it seems slightly perverse that that figure is set lower for long-haul than domestic flights, as one tends to be away for a longer duration the greater the distance flown. I would have guessed the maximums the other way round, so I’m wondering whether there’s a statutory component to the compensation which applies to domestic flights and not international, say.

          I don’t think you are likely to have much luck asking your employer to reimburse you, unless they have relevant insurance. Did you have personal travel insurance for the trip, or does the employer cover that? Losses not covered by the airline would probably fall under that umbrella, and are certainly worth pursuing.

          1. Colette*

            I believe there is an international agreement for how much airlines owe if they lose your baggage on international flights. And it’s unlikely to cover actual replacement costs.

            1. OP #3*

              Yes, there are international treaties that stipulate what the maximum amount an airline will be required to reimburse for is on international flights. Airlines are free to reimburse for more. Virtually none choose to do so.

              The maximum amount that an airline is required to reimburse for (under most flights — there are two different treaties, so some flights fall into the other one) is 1131 Special Drawing Rights per passenger, which right now works out to just under $1550. Which for 2.5 weeks of clothing, and the luggage itself….isn’t a lot.

              1. Changing it up*

                I know it *really* sucks, but you should be thinking of your clothes and luggage as used clothes and luggage. Would you have been able to sell them for much more than $1,550? I know you probably don’t want to go to Goodwill or another used clothes store to replace your belongings, but technically it is what you should be thinking.

                1. Colette*

                  That’s really not reasonable, though. Yes, the clothes and luggage are not new, but for many people, they would be impossible to replace in a reasonable timeframe from used clothing stores.

                2. Yorick*

                  Yeah, it’s pretty unlikely that used clothes are worth $1550 (and in many people’s cases, it wouldn’t cost $1550 to replace a suitcase full of clothes)

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Exactly this—this is part of what sucks about losing items that may have cost quite a bit or felt like high value items to us. They’re often appraised at their “used” quality (because in truth, they’ve depreciated), which is much lower than their replacement cost.

              2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                That’s a lot of money… That’s essentially my entire closet and then so my frugal hillbilly mind is racing thinking about it not covering the loss.

                We have travel insurance for this though. So that would kick in after the airline pays their chunk.

        2. Lily*

          even if the company doesn’t reimburse for it, perhaps the company lawyer could write a helpful letter? Would this be an option?

          1. Madame Tussaud*

            I wonder though, if there’s some implicit agreement to their terms with the purchase of a ticket?

          2. MCL*

            As an employee of a public university like the OP, my suspicion is that the in-house lawyers would be of limited help. They are great folks for the most part, but in my experience this isn’t in their wheelhouse.

            I would ask your university’s travel policy specialists if there is any part of policy that addresses this if you can’t find it in your institutional KB. My university is pretty specific that it will not reimburse for lost property, though our international travel insurance does cover up to $500 for delayed baggage on an outbound trip. Your policy folks might know about employee travel insurance policies or something that might help you. At My State U, have to book all of our travel through a specific travel agency, but after looking into it, we actually don’t have any travel insurance for domestic travel! The agency assists with re-booking flights and travel delays, but we are on our own to talk to the airline about domestic lost luggage. We just have some coverage from the international travel policy I described above.

            This isn’t your fault because you were given bad information, but unfortunately this might be something where you’re going to have to eat the costs. It’s an expensive lesson, and it sucks. I’m sorry.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Agreed—I can’t imagine campus counsel being able to assist with this, in part because it will look like it’s more about OP’s private transactions (even though it was work-related travel).

          3. The pest, Ramona*

            A letter from a lawyer might work.
            I had a friend whose luggage was lost (essentially, everything she owned after working abroad for a few years). The airline refused to pay the value she asked for the lost luggage. She then asked a (family friend) lawyer to send a letter to the airline. She was was reimbursed the higher value she asked for since she had back up receipts/photos of the items in the luggage.
            Not everyone has a lawyer friend and keeps receipts or takes photos though.

        3. Cucumberzucchini*

          I had something similar happen where I was told to go buy clothes and I would be reimbursed. Then when I submitted my claim I was denied because they found my luggage later that evening after I had already purchase replacements.

          What I did was a google search for a bunch of executive emails and did a carpet bomb email explaining the situation and what I was told by the lost luggage gate person at the airport. I told them I wanted to get them a chance to handle this before I went to social media. Someone called me that day and I got a check within a few days.

        4. Smithy*

          I’m a woman of a certain height and size soon traveling to Asia for a conference where should I be in a similar situation – I would be really concerned about buying replacement clothing. I also work for a nonprofit and while perhaps not quite the same as academia – I can’t imagine walking in with lots of clothing receipts after the fact.

          With that in mind – my question is what might be proactive steps to take at work ahead of such a moment? Is this a moment where it might make sense to email my boss and say “My luggage is missing and the airline says it might be returned to me in 24 hours. Are their any guidelines pertaining to our travel insurance policy I should take while purchasing clothing to ensure I am attending the conference?”

          Are there any other suggestions around how to proactively loop in work?

          1. Fed*

            I travel a lot and have a Tile tracker in each suitcase. This way I know exactly where my luggage is. Strangely, since putting the trackers in, I haven’t had my luggage lost. But if I did, then I would be able to tell the airline where it is.

            1. fposte*

              I was interested in this but the reports suggest the network will only show you the last spot it was pinged by another Tile user, not its current location. They’re inexpensive enough that it might still be worth doing, but it doesn’t sound like they can real-time tell you exactly where your bag is.

          2. fposte*

            I don’t think it’s very likely that there’s a travel insurance policy through the university, though; this would sound enough like she’s assuming reimbursement that it would raise some eyebrows around my school. “Is there any chance we have a travel insurance policy that would cover this?” is closer to the question, and be prepared for the answer to be no, unless you bought one on your own.

    2. Loubelou*

      I’m confused, OP3, does your work not provide travel insurance when you are sent on international travel? That policy should cover the cost of any lost luggage. If they don’t provide this then you have a pretty strong argument that they should cover the cost.

      1. OP #3*

        I’ve always been told in the past that the pre trip authorization forms I fill out are so that my health insurance will still operate when I am wherever I am going on the trip. My university prefers that we book travel on our own and then get reimbursed afterwards. My credit card provides some degree of travel insurance for flights booked through them, but not enough to cover the difference between what this is going to cost me and what the airline is willing to pay.

        1. MCL*

          I’d make a call to your risk management office to see if your university provides any travel insurance for international trips. It won’t help you much for this trip if you weren’t already covered, but you should definitely get it for future trips. The premium is very inexpensive and it’s paid by my department as part of my travel expenses. The international insurance is mandatory for study abroad students, and highly recommended for faculty and staff (me), so I always get it. It provides emergency medical coverage, emergency medical evacuation, some travel delay/baggage coverage, etc. If you can’t get an institutional policy, see if your reimbursement folks will let you get a personal travel policy and get reimbursed for that expense.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, this post led me to discover that my university offers such a policy too. My health insurance actually covers international treatment, but the rest of it would be on me.

      2. Ama*

        Academia doesn’t cover a lot of things — I handled reimbursements for faculty that traveled for several years and among the things they would not reimburse for were : clothing, even if it was clothing bought specifically for a research fieldwork trip, hotel rooms that were paid for in advance of travel and travel insurance. In fact all three of those things I had to write into the travel reimbursement instructions we gave to new faculty hires because our central finance department had those regulations buried on their website so that already had to know that you were looking for that rule to find it.

        Some of those may have been specific to our university (they got a very bad score in an audit right as I started my employment there and the response to “you haven’t been doing a good job following up on advance expenses and confirmation that these were business expenses” was largely to just ban all advance expenses and anything that required more than a glance at a receipt to confirm the business related nature. But even working at a nonprofit org now I am surprised by the things my current employer covers that I would never have been able to request reimbursement for at my old job.

      3. fposte*

        Generally, you’re not being “sent” to a conference as an academic; you’re choosing conferences to present your work at. You may need to find your own way to cover costs over a certain limit (or at all), or it may be paid for by external funding. It doesn’t follow the corporate model where they’re responsible for employee travel.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I can see them saying, “We’ll reimburse you for the clothes you lost, Of course you’ll need to buy some of them now, but we’re not going to buy you twice as many clothes.”

      But they should have been more clear. And the OP should have got it in writing.

      I’d be asking my renters/homeowners insurance whether this was covered.

  2. Alex Beamish*

    OP #5, You were relaxed at a job interview? Score! It doesn’t matter what the reason was — you’ll probably come off better than you expected. Sometimes these battles are won before they are fought. Good luck!

    1. Rewe*

      So true. The best interview I had was for a job I didn’t need or want. I was so relaxed and could really answer honestly and show a bit of personality!

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Same here. My company was sold last year and I didn’t get an offer from the new company, so I had to find another job. Since I was unhappy about having to move on (old company was great) and really didn’t want to stay within my industry in the same capacity, I wasn’t all that thrilled when another company reached out to me unsolicited to ask if I wanted to interview for basically the same position I was leaving. Even though I didn’t show it outwardly, in my mind I was fighting it every step of the way. But I went to the interview anyway, and then another with the CEO, all the while being much more relaxed because I really didn’t *want* the job and was unhappy about the company being sold. I didn’t try as much as I would have had I been looking voluntarily. And I wasn’t nervous. I got the offer the next day. I took it because I needed a job and figured I’ll just stick it out until something in my preferred company comes along, but I ended up liking it.

    2. Just Elle*

      Lol seriously. I have been told many times that the number 1 thing that makes me stand out as a candidate is my confidence. I am somehow magically able to don an auro of calm cool and collected despite being completely incapable of human interaction in everyday life. Maybe you can work on channeling that in the future?

      FWIW, my company only hires people through a speed dating scheme. Interviewees are sat at a table in a big auditorium. There are 3 rounds of interviews, and the interviewers get the table number of the people they are to interview for each round. There’s a 15 minute time limit for each round, with 10 minutes in between for interviewers to get to the next table, bio breaks, etc.
      It really didn’t bother me at all, but it probably helps that half the people there are not there for your job and its impossible to know who ‘your’ competition is. And as an interviewer I like having the opportunity to compare candidates back to back in such a close time frame. What WAS weird was that I interviewed for a spot out of college, and they flew all the college kids in the night before for a networking hour where basically the easiest ice breaker was ‘so what are you applying for’. So we had to awkwardly network with our direct competition.

    3. Deanna Troi*

      Yes, this happened to me when I got the job I have now. I loved the last job I had, but was asked to apply for this one. It was a promotion, but I wouldn’t have been upset if I didn’t get it. I was very relaxed and was told I hit the interview out of the park.

    4. OP #5*

      I did actually get this job! They offered it to me about 30 minutes after the interview ended.
      My husband already worked at this company, and the other candidate had a friend at this company. At this location, they have food trucks that come for lunch every week so we wound up eating at tables next to each other after our interviews (her with her friend, me with my husband).
      The recruiter called me while I was eating and asked me to come back in to sort out some paperwork, which turned out to be an offer.
      I’m still at this company but I’ve been thinking lately about interview experiences and wanted to see what others thought of this.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I once had a really great interview where the hiring manager basically told me I was the top candidate and would be strongly recommended to get the offer. She walked me out to the lobby, we said goodbye, and she called in the next candidate who was there waiting to be interviewed. I definitely felt a bit awkward for that candidate and hoped their interview went okay.

        I did get an offer but had to decline for personal reasons.

  3. OP #3*

    I’m the one whose luggage was lost. I suspected that this likely wasn’t something I could bring to my university, but thought I should get an outside perspective, and hoped that maybe I was wrong.

    To clarify, I would have preferred to have the week after the conference be the vacation week, but that wasn’t possible given the timing. At the conference, I ran a tutorial session on how to use software my group had developed for teaching certain scientific concepts. My boss and I were supposed to run that tutorial together, but he backed out of the conference about 2 months beforehand (and apologized to me for it, actually), so I ran the tutorial myself. Then we had another, larger workshop to run at our home institution the following week, so if I wanted to take any personal time, it had to be before the conference. I’m not really sure why it matters that the vacation week was the first one, not the following one — in both cases, I wouldn’t have taken the trip if it hadn’t been for the work component (I couldn’t have afforded it if work hadn’t been paying for my airfare), and the majority of the cost is because I had to replace business clothing — but I accept that Alison likely knows better than I do, which is why I asked her advice.

    And, yes, it’s a public university.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Oof. You can certainly ask, OP, but if your public university is anything like mine, this is not something they will cover for you. If you paid for the trip using a University credit card or purchased tickets through your University’s system, they may be able to tell you if they have overseas travel insurance that would cover your losses (ours does, but it usually doesn’t include lost luggage). Otherwise, your best bet is to continue with the Kafka-esque corporate appeals.

      I will note this, however: From a legal perspective, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to recover the value of your bags without the airline deducting the cost of the replacement clothing you purchased (that they paid for).

      1. OP #3*

        Primarily tongue-in-cheek, I offered to send the clothing I purchased due to the delay to the airline if they pay for the postage, and that they should feel free to deduct the value of anything I don’t send to them.

        Unsurprisingly, they did not respond to this offer at all.

        While I suspect that that has no legal value whatsoever, it does make me feel that psychologically they’ve conceded that the items and their dollar value are not interchangeable.

        1. valentine*

          I’m not really sure why it matters that the vacation week was the first one
          I think it’s for making your case to your employer, who may be onboard with paying for work clothes, but not shorts/sunglasses/a snowsuit. You may still get a “Sounds like a personal problem,” but it’s also understandable that it’s more difficult to get a good deal on proper work clothing both overnight and away from your usual haunts.

          1. OP #3*

            My point is, whether the vacation part was the first week or the second week, I would have had exactly the same items in the luggage that the airline lost. So my employer would be paying for the exact same set of things either way.

            1. Admin in Arkansas*

              I have a feeling my state university would (stupidly) care if the vacation were first or second, but we also would’ve booked the trip ourselves – our university heavily frowns upon personal reimbursements (for a variety of reasons).

              However, I would absolutely advocate for reimbursing you the cost of the business attire, provided you had receipts (and they were bought with emergency in mind – I’m good, but I can’t get you reimbursed for a Thom Ford suit). Then you could amend your claim and get the full cost of your lost items.

              This would be made even easier by the fact that since your boss dropped out, and we’d already budgeted for him going originally, there’s really no loss here (and possibly even nominal savings!).

              1. Callie*

                I wish my university wouldn’t work on the reimbursement system. I don’t make a lot and it’s frustrating to have to pay for my hotel and everything up front. They will sometimes cover a flight in advance, but NEVER a hotel–it’s actually state law that the state procurement cards can’t be used for a hotel expense. So we have to pay for it and wait god-knows-how-long to get reimbursed.

                1. valentine*

                  my employer would be paying for the exact same set of things either way.
                  Not if they will only pay for the work stuff. Had the vacation been second, they could still say they’re not buying you clothes for that.

            2. ACDC*

              I think the point of which came first is only relevant if your bags turned up later in the trip, but in this case they never arrived at all. Let’s say you were on your personal vacation the first week, then your bag turned up the first day of the second week, when the conference work was beginning. I don’t think you’d have any ground to stand on for your employer to reimburse items purchased on the personal leg of the vacation. But, since the bags never turned up at all, I think it’s definitely worth asking for reimbursement. The worst they can say is no.

            3. Public Sector Manager*

              I think the timing matters for two reasons.

              First, had you not been doing a vacation at all, would you have been able to pack all your business clothes in a carry-on? If so, then your employer might very well be of the opinion that it was your choice to do a vacation as part of a work trip that resulted in the problem. Just because your boss said you could do it doesn’t make your employer responsible for what is the airline’s fault.

              Second, if your business trip was the first leg, you’d literally have no choice but to go out the night of arrival or the next morning and get a business appropriate outfit or two. And you’d literally stop at the first place you could find, regardless of price. Your employer might be more sympathetic to that situation because it was their business function that caused you to leave when you did. But with the vacation first, you’d have time to shop around for a deal on clothes. Depending on the situation, you may be able to have replacement business attire sent from home before the conference. Or as others have mentioned, maybe the bags would have shown up eventually (even though they didn’t). And but for your vacation, the airline might not have lost your bags had you flown the next week when the conference started. For all those reasons, your employer will be likely less sympathetic to your situation.

              Would it be a wonderful idea for your employer to reimburse you? Sure! But since the work part wasn’t the first part, your employer is likely to be less sympathetic that had it been the other way around.

              And if I’m understanding your other posts correct, the airline gave you $1,500 for losing your luggage? I’m a government attorney and that would cover any business attire and luggage I would need to buy and then some.

        2. Yorick*

          That offer doesn’t make sense, and it’s appropriate that they didn’t even respond. The items have no use for an airline. They’re paying you for buying the items because you wouldn’t have needed them but for their mistake.

        3. TootsNYC*

          their stance makes sense.

          They lost your clothes; they owe you that back: $X.

          You spent part of $X ($X / y) during the trip so you’d have clothes, and you’ll spend the rest of $X later.

          If the luggage had shown up, they’d be obligated to still reimburse you for what you’d had to buy for your immediate needs.

          But you get to keep the clothing you bought on the trip–of course they’re going to consider that to be part of their reimbursement.

      2. Ama*

        I worked for a private university and they probably wouldn’t have covered this either (as I mentioned up thread, due to a bad audit they basically wouldn’t approve any expense where there was any gray area on whether or not it was a business expense or not). They wouldn’t cover ANY clothing expenses even if you could prove that, say, you only bought waterproof hiking boots and mosquito proof clothing because you were about to do fieldwork in the rainforest.

        I agree that it really sucks that the airline gave you the wrong instructions and are now enforcing policies they didn’t tell you about. (I once got stranded overnight in a strange city because it was the only way to get me home for Thanksgiving before actual Thanksgiving when my flight was canceled for mechanical failure– the rep at the time told me the airline would cover a hotel in the place I was stranded and I just needed to talk to the gate attendant at the new airport — who promptly claimed I should have received a voucher from the original rep and she couldn’t do anything about it. Luckily my dad knew the city and found me a decent airport hotel which he paid for since I was at the time a poor grad student.)

    2. RUKiddingMe*

      Ask anyway. You’re already expecting a “no” do if that’s their answer then you wont be let down. If they say “yes…” score!

    3. UKCoffeeLover*

      I’m wondering if you had a separate travel insurance policy, as you were also going on holiday? When an airline lost my luggage my travel insurance covered the cost of the temporary replacement clothes.

      1. Weegie*

        Yes, I’m not sure why travel insurance hasn’t entered the equation – since it was a work trip and work paid for the flights (and presumably accommodation), won’t they also have relevant insurance covering their employees’ work trips?

        I would query the travel team, or whoever organised the flights, etc, first, followed by Finance, or whichever other department makes sense. Also worth checking your institution’s list of policies – public institutions have policies for everything, and you might find info on their liability re employees on work trips (I would guess that if you’d been injured, say, during this trip, they’d have cover for it).

        If none of that works, presumably the airlines have a regulator that you can appeal to? Worth a try.

          1. OP #3*

            Correct, I mentioned travel insurance.

            My university prefers that I pay for my flight and hotel on my own up front, and then get reimbursed afterwards. My credit card provides some travel insurance on any flight bought on that card, but it’s not going to cover the cost difference.

            To throw some numbers out there:
            The items the airlines lost total about $1900.
            The maximum amount the airline says it will pay out is about $1550.
            I spent about $700 on things I had to buy during the trip.
            My credit card will cover up to $300 in costs due to delayed or lost baggage.

                1. LawBee*

                  Agreed. It sucks that she had to buy them but now she HAS them and presumably they’re part of her standard wardrobe now.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Just curious are you calculating what the items in your bags cost when they were new/what the replacement cost would be, or what the actual depreciated value of said items?

              For example you paid $300 for a suit that was in your bag, or that to replace the suit you lost it would cost you about $300 for a new similar suit, but that suit was 1 or 2 years old so the actual depreciated value of the suit is $100 ?

              Because for many things when it comes to making someone legally whole it is not what it costs for a new replacement item but what the cost is for an item in similar depreciated condition.

              You said the value of your items was $1900, the airline will reimburse a total of $1550 and your credit card will cover $300 so $1550+300=$1850 so almost the full amount of items you lost.

              In the scenario the airline is properly discounting the cost of the new items you purchased because you have already replaced some items.

              For example if you were shipping your car valued at $1300 and it got lost, and you needed a car so you buy a cheap one for $300 to get around. If you got reimbursed the $1300 and $300, you would end up with the value of two cars and in fact you would get more money than you actually lost.

              1. TootsNYC*

                well, the car thing doesn’t quite track, because you can’t make your $300 car be part of your replacement $1300 car. (OK, yes, you can sell it. But you might not get $300; and if you’d had to rent a car instead of buy it, there’s no way to merge it in.)

                But for the OP, her $700 clothes are still in her wardrobe, and they have already paid to replace some of the clothes (the suit, say) from her suitcase. They’re not going to buy her two suits to replace the one she lost.

              2. TootsNYC*

                It might be possible that this is the policy, but if so, it’s a crappy one for clothing.

                With a car, yes, because it’s possible to buy a car of similar value.

                But with clothing, there just isn’t a very satisfactory “used clothing” supply.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  I have to hard disagree on the your last point, there are many (at least in my city) used clothing stores, resale/consignment shops that sell used Target brand clothes all the way up to used brand name designer clothes. Many used clothing stores often sell items that are still new never worn with tags or packing still on them at a fraction of the retail cost.

                  I realize this may vary from location to location. But even when I have traveled internationally I have seen clothing resale shops.

                  The point I was trying to make if something of yours gets lost or damaged to be made legally whole is not for the person/company responsible to buy you brand new items of what you lost, but to pay the replacement value on what the used depreciated value of the item was at the time it was lost.

                2. SarahTheEntwife*

                  @ComdrShepard4ever – I think this varies pretty drastically by location and by what type/size of clothing you’re looking for. I could easily find a sweater and jeans if my goal were just “be wearing pants tomorrow”, but if I needed business wear, the chances of me finding something non-stained, in my size, and not a laughably dated style without spending and entire day trawling thrift stores is slim to none.

                3. CmdrShepard4ever*


                  You do raise some valid points, I agree even shopping for general everyday clothes at a resale shop does time a decent amount of time and effort. I did not mean to imply that OP should have spent all day shopping for clothes.

                  I thought @TootsNYC was making a general claim on “used clothing” supply, and that is what I was disagreeing with. I do realize that the supply can vary by location, body size, and type of clothing among other factors.

      2. BTL*

        That was my thought too – I would have imagined that OP3’s University must have some corporate travel insurance, for the purposes of health coverage outside the States if nothing else.

        I’ve had baggage lost before on a flight to Australia – it turned up four days later, but our company insurer covered the cost of buying replacement clothes and toiletaries. Might be worth checking in on whether the University’s travel insurance might be more flexible than the airline.

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      Even if you shouldn’t pin your hopes to it, it can’t hurt to inquire with your fiscal officer to clarify what options there are, including whether they have insurance for that. You never know.

      (And I’d keep it as brief and uncomplicated as possible. Just one paragraph about what got lost, the value, and that you have been in a fruitless exchange with the airline since [DATE], attach a copy of the documentation/claim number etc., send it over.)

    5. rj*

      I used to work at a small private school (not one with many dollars) but they would reimburse more things than my current employer (public). Rules were usually set by informal policy than state law, so there was more flexibility. Maybe if it were booked through the university travel agent? The policies are usually set in stone – I have a good relationship with my dept business manager/HR person so I would ask her – does your department have one? (or research group or whatever?) but I’m guessing the answer is no.

    6. Llellayena*

      Check out elliott dot org and EU 261 since you were going to and from Europe. I can’t remember if EU 261 covers luggage or just delays, but you should be able to get the full value of the luggage you lost AND what you had to buy to replace it. Check the fine print on the airline’s regulations for how much and how to get compensation and follow the guidelines on elliott for how to escalate until they listen to you. If you REALLY get stuck, elliott can help by contacting on your behalf, but try for yourself first because they’ll need a paper trail of evidence.

    7. JSPA*

      If the first leg where the luggage was lost would have been the same regardless, then I think you can ignore Alison’s advice about the timing. That is, if you’d have flown to Rome, regardless (and the bags were lost between your home base in the US and Rome), but then instead of going directly to Trento (and the meeting), you first went to Sicily, then to Trento, the timing isn’t relevant.

      If the conference was in Stockholm, and you’d normally have flown into Stockholm, but instead flew into Rome (and the bags were lost between your home base in the US and Rome)–or for that matter, vice versa, as I’m not trying to cast shade on one vs the other airport, not knowing the stats–it gets a little harder to argue that the risk of bag loss on Vacation+Work Trip was identical to what it would have been for Work Trip. And if you went by way of multiple puddle-jumper legs to a small island somewhere, it gets proportionally harder to argue with each transfer.

      That said, if you want the actual bags, not the money, I’ve seen people get bags back by simply a) finding a number or stopping by to check the departure airport b) finding a number to call an actual human being at the transfer airport.

      1. OP #3*

        The first leg was the same either way.
        (My home city) -> Detroit -> Amsterdam (to get into Europe in the first place).
        I would have flown Amsterdam -> (city of the conference) if I had gone to the conference first.
        I instead flew Amsterdam -> (city ~200 miles away) to spend a week there first, and then flew to the conference.

        I honestly have no idea at which stage the bags were lost. The airlines claim — since I got home — that they arrived in the city I was vacationing in 1 day after I did, and that they sent them by courier to my hotel. But they never arrived, and I was on the phone with the airlines daily, and left multiple voicemails at the baggage desk at the airport. I even showed up to the airport and tried to get to the baggage desk to see if my bags had been misplaced there somewhere, but couldn’t get anyone from the baggage desk to answer the phone or the pages that the person at the airport information desk sent, and the desk was behind security.

        1. JSPA*

          They may be sitting in an empty room at the hotel, or at a hotel of similar name. Sounds web-sleuth-able, if so. But the airline or its courier should have a signature on file, if so. (Or stolen at some point after delivery, of course.)

          If the problem was potentially between Amsterdam and (Dusseldorf, Maasticht, etc)…even if you’re sure that you didn’t miss a “claim your bag to clear customs and re-check” step…it’s harder to argue “identical risk.” (And for future reference, the rail connections are generally excellent, so it’s often both safer and easier to grab the bag in Amsterdam and continue by rail.)

        2. hbc*

          I think it *does* get a little murkier if your baggage got lost in being delivered to you in your vacation spot that was not part of the conference itinerary. The fact that you wouldn’t have taken the vacation without the work trip doesn’t make it any less a vacation, and them messing up a bag delivery in Eindhoven when your work destinations were Amsterdam and Stockholm is a harder sell. Many people (and most policies) would probably see that as the equivalent of you getting pickpocketed at a concert you went to for fun after a day at the conference–i.e.: your personal issue.

          If you do ask, I’d frame it as your luggage was lost at Schiphol or DTW, but I do think it’s reasonable for them to decide that your luggage was lost on your vacation.

    8. Alston*

      Both of my universities would have covered this fyi. You did your boss a solid covering this solo, so hopefully he can advocate for you and put some juice behind this complaint. How is travel booked/reimbursed at your school? I would talk to whoever handles that. I am sure they have dealt with something similar before, and having a company/University push back can be a lot more powerful than a solo person.

      Also i don’t think the vacation first matters. You were still only traveling there because of them.

    9. KC*

      OP3, another option is seeing if your University has legal counsel. I work for a medium sized public University, and we have a legal department. They are available to staff and students (I think they help students with shady landlords a lot). If your University has a similar service, they might be able to offer advice or write a letter. Sometimes involving a lawyer will make the company decide you are too much hassle to fight with.

    10. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      In the thread under the second comment, Lily suggested that an attorney for your organization (a large public university should have a team of them) may be able/willing to write a letter to the airline on your behalf–not threatening to sue, just fancy language for “Your people told OP3, an employee of our university who was traveling on university business, that they would be made whole in X way, but now you are saying it will be in Y way. This is not acceptable and D-Bag Air needs to make OP3 whole in the originally agreed upon manner. Signed, An Actual Licensed Attorney, Esq.”. I would run the request up the chain, starting with your boss. With any luck they or their boss have the standing to make that kind of request to Legal.

      1. alittlehelpplease*

        But she’s asking to be made more than whole. There’s no way the university legal department will do this. (They probably wouldn’t even do it if she were right, but they definitely won’t do it here.)

        1. Tinuviel*

          Understanding the issue now thanks to commenters, I agree, but I think OP could push it with customer service on the basis that it was explained incorrectly to her and she acted based on that. Sometimes companies will honor that if they gave incorrect information.

    11. Hydrangea*

      You could also try escalating your claim up the ranks a few levels, if you’ve done things via email so far that helps.
      Presumably you’ve been asking to speak to someone with more authority during this process already. If you check out Christopher Elliott’s website there are a lot of explanations about how to escalate successfully, along with the contact information for executive suites. His team also helps people with this process though it can take a while.

    12. A Faculty Spouse*

      My husband is tenured faculty at a public university (think University of State X, large research university with law school, med school, business school and in a major ncaa athletic conference). I think it does matter that it wasn’t the part of the trip adjacent to work.

      His institution will no longer cover flights or travel expenses that are not adjacent to work travel. So if you add on a few days after or go a few days early they will not pay for any expenses on the non-adjacent travel including booking you only a one-way flight or paying one direction of mileage.
      He’s even had to push back when the conference ends late on Tuesday and his return is Wednesday. Or when he buys and expenses breakfast vs getting it at the conference.

      It’s affected by state rules and federal grant rules if paid for through a research grant.

      1. University Travel Admin*

        The situation A Faculty Spouse describes is similar to the case for the university where I work.
        I’m a department admin who prepares travel expense paperwork for a large department (100s of travelers) in major US state university whose members do a lot of travel in a wide variety of circumstances foreign and domestic, including in collaboration with organizations and universities in other states and countries. So I’ve had opportunity to become familiar with travel expense policy of my own university, the underlying federal and state laws and what aspects are open to interpretation at the institutional level (and what arguments my institution tends to accept for flexibility), and, to a lesser extent, how that compares with other institutions that we cooperate with (similar overall, differences in small details, like which minor costs require receipts and which don’t, or if state policy differs substantially from federal.)

        At my university, OP3 would have very little case for recovering costs for luggage/clothing replacement, even less if there was any possibility the items were not specifically necessary for *and specific to* the performance of the business purpose of the trip — which the vacation portion of the trip coming first casts some doubt upon (if replacement clothes were purchased earl enough that they could have been worn then), as does the nature of the business (conference presentation doesn’t *require* specialized clothing that you couldn’t also wear off duty). Just as the university would not reimburse an employee for the clothes they wear to work at home, it’s not going to reimburse for clothes worn to work at another location, unless the work *required* those particular clothes, for instance personal protective equipment for hazardous work, or a specific uniform.

    13. Don't Blame the Ozone Layer*

      Chiming in that none of the schools I’ve worked at, public or private, would ever reimburse for lost luggage or travel expenses like having to buy a replacement toothbrush or business clothes.

    14. san junipero*

      Honestly, if none of your appeals work, try publicly naming and shaming the airline on Twitter. They sometimes respond to that tactic.

      1. LawBee*

        Yeah, I never EVER do this about specific people but I have gotten success with an airline and a hotel with this last resort. I also publicly praise on twitter, and there I do make it about specific people aka “Well done to the staff at DTW Gate 44, who handled a potentially fraught situation with grace and compassion, and apparently found a solution that made everyone happy.”

  4. Engineer Girl*

    #3 – Check the airlines contract of carriage to see what it says about reimbursement. Often times staff will misrepresent it. Also check EU law about lost luggage (especially if you flew on EU metal). Most are controlled by the Montreal convention and will not pay more than around $1600 US. That’s not much when you take into account cost of luggage, suit, etc.

    Your case is weakened by the fact that you could have put your important clothes in your carry on bag or even go carry on only (many of us do that).

    Also beware that airlines like to pay you in credits instead of the legally required cash. You usually have to insist on cash payment.

    1. OP #3*

      The contract of carriage specifies what the most they will reimburse for in terms of lost baggage is. It also specifies what the most they will reimburse for in terms of delayed baggage is. It says nothing at all about whether these two combine together.

      I bought the tickets on my personal credit card and am in the process of being reimbursed, which is the way my academic unit prefers I handle things. My credit card gives me some travel insurance, but the amount they will cover is less than what I’ll end up short.

      It’s also unfortunately complicated by the fact that there were two different airlines involved, though part of the same global alliance. The airline I spoke to while in Europe — who handled the last flight — were the ones who told me that I’d be compensated for both. The airline in the US tells me otherwise. And every time I try to call the airline based in Europe while I’m in the US, I get routed to the US airline in the phone tree once they find out I’m calling about baggage.

        1. OP #3*

          So, practically: how do you suggest I not “let them push me back to the US”?

          I don’t mean that as snark, but as a genuine face-value question. I have told various people on the phone that I want to talk to the European carrier. I have engaged with that carrier on social media. And they inevitably transfer me to the US carrier, or tell me that the US carrier is the one who will process the claim. When I have asked about why that is, I’m told that all baggage issues get routed to the same place regardless of which of the two airlines I talk with, so they have an agreement that the US carrier handles all passengers who live in the US, and the European carrier handles all who live in Europe. (I also asked what happens when a passenger doesn’t live in either of those places, and was told that it wasn’t important since I did).

          I’m dealing with customer service representatives on the phone or on social media platforms. There’s no notion of refusing to go talk to someone else; they can hit the transfer button on the phone and I get routed elsewhere whether I agree to it or not.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I wonder if the European carrier told you something that would have been true if you had been travelling solely with them – the EU has some pretty generous rules about reimbursement for air travel disruption of all kinds. I think it will prove to be the case that you are deemed to have a contract with the US carrier only (regardless of code share etc) and the less generous US standards will apply.

        2. MK*

          No, that almost certainly is not accurate. I am lawyer in the EU; the order of the flights has nothing to do with who is responsible. What matters is which airline the ticket was booked from: if you booked one ticket for a flight from Los Angeles to London via New York and the flight from LA to NY was with Delta and from NY to L with Lufthansa, either you booked the ticket with Delta, which then used Lufthansa to fly you to London, or you booked the ticket with Lufthansa, which then used Delta for the first part of your trip. The one accountable to you is the airline you bought the ticket from; even if the other airline is actually responsible for losing your bags, they are only accountable to the original airline, as they have some sort of contract with them and none with you.

          Also, from a practical point of view, I doubt the OP will have better luck going after a foreign airline than the one in their own country.

        3. ACDC*

          Have you dealt with multi-airline international travel before? You don’t get a choice where your call is routed.

      1. myug*

        If it’s part of the same global alliance, were there two airlines but operated under one? Sometimes I will be on a Lufthansa flight operated by United, under their Global Star Alliance or whatever. What I was told was if the flight number is an Lufthansa flight number (LH####) then it’s their rules that apply to all flights and vice versa for a United flight number (UA###). On the off chance your European liner was Lufthansa, Lufthansa’s policy on this is much clearer, as they reimbursed me for the full cost of “disposables” like toiletries and paid half of any actual clothes I had to buy.

        Otherwise, I think you need to nail down which airline is responsible for losing your baggage first and foremost as I am not sure why you have to deal with both their service reps as only one of them will be cutting a check.

        1. MK*

          Whose rules apply doesn’t necessarily matter as far as your point of contact. I had something similar happen to me: ticket bought from a regional airline, one leg of the trip on a Swissair flight, compensation owed to me because of something that happened on the Swiss flight. The regional airline compensated me according to Swiss rules, but I couldn’t bypass them and deal with Swiss directly.

      2. Delurking for this long shot*

        One other possibility: if the airline is a preferred carrier for your university, or if you made arrangements through a university-recommended travel agency, then you may be able to get the university to exert some pressure on your behalf.

  5. RUKiddingMe*

    OP1: Yes everything Alison said. CYA because I’d bet dollars to donuts Dylan would cover his and make sure that tptb know he’s doing his work (if the situation was reversed that is).

    Certainly don’t “tattle” but don’t hide your light under a bushel…now or ever.

    1. Just Elle*

      Yeah, you gotta fight for yourself. I once turned down an internship offer because I’d traveled to the (out of state) company to interview with the other future-intern, and he was so intolerable that I knew my life would be hell. I even told them he was the reason I was declining. I also kind of figured that any company who couldn’t see past his charade probably had other bad players.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP#1, Further down the list there are suggestions for you to proactively set up a list of tasks & responsible people and share it, and/or to set up one-on-ones with your manager or the staff member whose task you’re doing. Add those suggestions to Alison’s script –ask how your manager wants it handled. Reassure yourself that way that you’re not expected to do the work of TWO interns, get a reasonable number of tasks on the list as done by you and relax. Because once staff learn to differentiate between you two, he’s not making you look bad. He’s making you look GOOD by failing to deliver on tasks.

      Scheduling & feedback is a real thing. One year we had three interns. Two worked out times to meet with the staff who had to sign off on completed tasks. The third was our Dylan. As soon as he finished one task he’d walk around looking for where those staff members happened to be at that time of day. To the point where a friend in another department stopped him and asked him what he did BESIDES walk around the building. Ouch. My friend reported that to me at lunch — until then we had known he was slow, but hadn’t realized he was interrupting our staff at random. We asked him to set up a schedule and group things and…he didn’t.
      First two I’d still give recommendations to after 10 years. Third, I can’t even remember his last name.

    3. Massmatt*

      It seems to me that #1’s company is managing the interns poorly. Having people just ask in meetings “can the interns do X?” with no individual accountability or clear deadline seems dumb. Where are your supervisors, why are they unaware of who is responsible for these various tasks or when they need to be finished? Really this should not have happened more than once in a functional organization.

      I would not tell others what I was taking on and leaving Dylan to do the same or not. I would confer with him on who does what and tell him “OK, I will let supervisor know I am doing this and you are doing that”.

      Interns often seem to get very little direction on what they should be doing or how to do it. IMO Organizations that can’t handle doing this should rethink whether they should have interns.

      1. TootsNYC*

        also no training!

        Learning is the point of an internship.

        Every single time I’ve assigned a task to an intern, they get a mini lecture:
        Why is this task being done?
        What’s its goal, and why is that important to the company?
        Whats its backstory?
        Who will use the end result, and how will they use it?
        What do I think the biggest pitfalls are in doing the task?
        Where is there room for them to apply their problem-solving, process-creating creativity, and where do they need to rigidly adhere to the preset process?
        When does it need to be done, and why?
        How long has this been a part of our business, and if it’s recent, what did we do before? Why did it come up recently?
        If it’s been a thing for a while, how did it used to be done? What is its future?
        Who can they go to for extra information, or if I’m not around?

        By the time I’m done with them, they’ve been exposed to a knowledge base that took me a year or two to acquire.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Or send out a daily “intern assignments” memo.
        or create some other way to let everyone know which intern is tackling which tasks.

        not just for accountability, but so the assigning employee knows which intern to interact with if they have updates.

  6. FriendlyCanadian*

    I’ve never been to a final round interview for a company and not heard or seen other people interviewing as well. I don’t know why it would send a sign you’re not getting it!

    1. Heidi*

      I’m also curious as to why the OP assumed she wouldn’t get the job. Was it something about this other candidate, or the fact that there was competition at all? Since this was years ago, it sounds like OP did not get the job, but I wonder if this was in part because her interview performance was affected by this assumption that she was not really in the running.

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      I think the OP can take it as a learning experience: It depends on the industry, city, layout of the premises, size of the organization, number of applicants, etc. etc., but in general it is not unheard-of to run into fellow applicants when coming in for a job interview. There is nothing detrimental (or advantageous) about it. You just treat your competitors like the professional that you (hopefully) are. Also, there will probably be opportunities to compete for positions or assignments internally later, and again, professionalism is expected. As well as the recognition that the deciding factors may not imply any judgement about you, even if you aren’t selected.

    3. Kathleen_A*

      I was really puzzled by that, too. It’s just a thing that happens. At most of the places I’ve worked, the only way to avoid this would be to space the interviews w-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-y o-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-t (because even if you leave a good half hour between, that’s no guarantee that one interview won’t go long and throw the whole schedule off). I do wish the OP would come back to enlighten us.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I agree–I don’t know why you assume YOU are the one who won’t be hired, just because someone else is being interviewed.

      It’s true that when I’m arranging an interview for my candidate w/ my boss, it’s generally a confirmation situation only, and I only bring in my top candidate.

      But if it was actually more for input and less for confirmation, I can see me bringing in all the top candidates.

      The fact that you were there means you have a really good shot — as good as anyone else’s (as far as you can ever know that).

      My high school/junior high softball coach taught me something that I (who am not really an athlete) have used all my life: “Run it out!” he’d yell to us when we’d his an infield grounder. Maybe they’ll drop it, was his reasoning. And also–you’re in the game; be all in. You’re not out until you’re out. Don’t hand it to them!

  7. Approval is optional*

    OP1. Another possible solution is to create a project spreadsheet (or the like), and use it to log each task/request and which intern will be responsible for it. Once it’s created, you can then inform all managers about the doc and tell them that it can be viewed at [file address] so they ‘know who to contact with additional information etc’ (a ’roundabout’ way of saying so they ‘know who dropped the ball’!). Run the idea by your manager if necessary of course.

    1. Marmaduke*

      I think this is a great way to simultaneously keep everyone in the loop, clarify OP’s contribution, and create a permanent product so you can track how tasks are being allocated. Adding a column for completion dates might be a great way to keep all interns motivated, too.

      1. Nikara*

        I agree- this is a very good method. As an intern, you are going to be asked in future interviews for stats on what you have done in previous positions. Being able to go back to a spreadsheet and know what you accomplished is super helpful. It also helps with building a resume.

        On a different note, you are allowed to be an individual person at work, not just an “intern”. It is helpful for the employees to know who is helping them complete projects. One day you may need recommendations from them, and you’ll only get good ones if they understand what you did and how you helped in a specific way, beyond the basic “intern” tasks. I’d push back against a norm that “the interns” take care of things, and take specific responsibility for what you do. It helps in a lot of ways beyond the current situation with your fellow intern.

      2. Samwise*

        Yep, that’s an accomplishment on your resume, get some feedback about from your manager and perhaps the other managers about how useful it is/how much more efficient it’s made X or Y process.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP#1, if I were your manager I’d love the proactive spreadsheet.
      If for some reason they don’t want that (like it’s the company run by that guy who refused to let his IT department use a ticketing system LOL) … keep track yourself of which staff member requested each project you take on. Then notify that person when it’s complete. Or if it’s a lot of small tasks, group them and send one when the group is complete. It can be as simple as “Your llama’s are groomed and your alpacas are at the shearing sheds. I’m moving on to the next task on the meeting list.”
      Bonus (to me at least) if you add something like “That should take about an hour, so I’ll be available again by [$time] in case you need to change priorities for that list.” (Although do mention ‘changed priorities’ and ‘new items added outside the morning meeting’ past the intern manager because some staff will try and get you to do THEIR work too once they realize how good you are!)

      1. Bagpuss*

        Me too. I would suggest that spreadsheet to your manager but also get in the habit of e-mailing the person setting a task when you take it on.

        something like “Just to confirm that I will be dealing with your request to do xxx – I anticipate that I will be able to complete it by [date] ”

        That way, you have a paper trail of what you have takn on, which may be useful when you are reviewing what you have done prior to any review woth your manager, or when you are using the information to put together your resume, plus if people get used tohaving a confirmation from you when you take a task on, if something isn’t done and you are saying it was something Dylan was supposed to do, it’s a credible statement as peole will know that you always acknowledge the tasks you take on.

        It also let the person setting the task know who to contact if there are any changes to the brief or if the timescales change.

    3. MyDogIsCalledBradleyPooper*

      I prefer Allison’s suggestion on the personal contact to each requestor. 1) It builds a connection to the person who submitted the request and 2) You never know but your partner intern could go in and re-assign things to you without you knowing. My recommendation is to own your work (which you are already doing) and own the reporting of that.

    4. Anonymeece*

      I was going to suggest the same! It will also help if you (or other interns) take on more than Dylan, to show that you’re going above and beyond.

      And yes, framing it as, “I’m sharing this with you so that you all know who to contact when you need updates about X project” is a great, great way to put it.

  8. T3k*

    OP#5: that ended up happening to me for an entry level job (think like restaurant hostess) because they got delayed from outside events so me and a similarly aged woman also interviewing for the same job unintentionally met. I didn’t particularly care to have that job (at the time I just needed any job to bring in some money) but you could tell the other candidate was nervous (jumping up like her seat was on fire when the interviewer came out and called her name, overly loud salutations, etc.). I did my interview as normal, didn’t get that job but that’s ok, because I got a job with my dream company less than a month after that :)

  9. Zombeyonce*

    OP #4, I think you really should contact HR about the badmouthing boss. You won’t use them as a reference but that doesn’t mean they will never get a cold call from someone getting references for you even though you don’t include them. I’m surprised Alison didn’t mention that possibility since she often says it’s good for interviewers to contact more than just references provided by a candidate. It’s doubtful you’ll work at your current job forever, so I’d nip this in the bid now to help our Future You.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      I agree that OP#4 should talk to her old HR *now* and not wait for a 2nd unprofessional and damaging action. For the simple reason that you might never know. I found out that an old boss spread some gossip about me 4 years after it happened!

      1. Dagny*

        Exactly. You do not know what this person is saying to other people; you happened to find out about this particular instance.

        “It has come to my attention that Former Boss has approached potential and/or current employers of mine to say disparaging things about me. To be clear, the Former Boss reached out, not the other way around. This is unprofessional and inappropriate. Please help me to resolve it.”

  10. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    #4 — I changed jobs once after the environment got more and more toxic, and my boss’ boss at the old job gushed over me and how much they’d miss me and how hopefully I’d come work for them again.

    …then, six months later, approached my new grandboss at a work event and told her, unsolicited, that I was a cocaine addict.

    (I wasn’t, and remain not, to be clear. Not that it would have been any more acceptable if I was.)

    The worst part was that this was a job with a VERY stringent anti-drug policy due to the sector, and if my grandboss didn’t know me so well, it could have resulted in a lot of drama. (Her position, when telling me this, was basically: “If the amazing work you do is due to drugs, please stay on them.” Fortunately she had a sense of humour and a serious WTF at the old grandboss over the whole thing.)

    I seriously considered pursuing it with my old job, but ultimately decided not to unless other comments were made. I’m not sure if that was the right decision or not — I found out later the same person had made comments about other ex-colleagues, including that one was an alcoholic and another had had a mental breakdown — but it was the right decision for my sanity at the time. I got out of that toxic mess for a reason, and I wasn’t going to let her drag me back into the mud.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I love your grandboss’ approach here. It told you tons about what she thinks of the other boss and her gossip. You’re in the clear here.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I got out of that toxic mess for a reason, and I wasn’t going to let her drag me back into the mud.

      Good on you, and OP 4 as well! I truly don’t understand why people are so vindictive to ex-employees (or to current employees, but that’s another thread). I have no advice to offer because I just don’t comprehend why people would say such things. Sure, I’ve imagined all sorts of hell for toxic bosses and coworkers, but I would never, ever utter these things out loud, especially after one of us has moved on.

      1. banzo_bean*

        Good on you, and OP 4 as well! I truly don’t understand why people are so vindictive to ex-employees (or to current employees, but that’s another thread).

        Agreed, as Alison mentions in her response if a manager doens’t like an employee the best possible outcome for the manager is that said employee leaves or changes departments. Is it that the managers want the employees to suffer unemployment for the rest of their days?
        You didn’t get along, the employee left, count your blessings and move on with your life!

  11. GS*

    For the mailman letter, I would personally just tell him now that he can’t use the bathroom anymore. Skip right to that. I think it would be a less embarrassing conversation than having to go into detail on what behaviors need to change. Just a simple, I’m sorry, but we can’t let you use the bathroom anymore. Then turn away. All done on your part. I don’t think you need to spend any time on this gross dude anymore. You were kind to offer, but focus on your own work at this point, not facilitating a bathroom for a gross dude.

    1. GS*

      Also, I wouldn’t explain why he can’t use it anymore, I would just tell him no. He’s an adult, who doesn’t work for your company, so no need to get into details. Gross!

      1. valentine*

        While I would gag, I don’t see not flushing as a big enough deal to rescind the invitation. He’s not vandalizing or even leaving anything out of place.

        1. Elle*

          He’s occupying the sole single stall bathroom for an absurd amount of time *and* not flushing *and* he’s not an employee. Bathroom privileges should definitely be revoked.

        2. MK*

          If it was happening now and again, maybe not, but never flushing, on top of staying in the bathroom for so long every day, is absolutely a big enough deal. The only doubt I have is that if a mailman, who by the nature of his work knows he won’t have access to a bathroom during hiw rounds, uses it every day and for half an hour, it’s possibly due to a medical condition.

          1. Colette*

            It may be a medical condition, but that’s not a problem for his customer to handle. If he needs a bathroom he can work that out with his employer. (It doesn’t sound like they are letting him use it because he urgently needs it.)

            1. Yorick*

              It doesn’t necessarily sound like he has a medical condition or even urgently needs the bathroom. He’s there for quite a long time and is either very regular or is able to wait until he gets to this company (I assume he’s there at about the same time each day, not that he’s rushing in at all hours to use it).

            2. Clorinda*

              I doubt there is a medical condition with the symptom of ‘not flushing.’ Perhaps some form of extreme arthritis … but a person in that much pain wouldn’t be walking around delivering mail.
              My cats have a similar symptom of ‘not covering’ but that is because they are straight-up jerks.

          2. ACDC*

            Sure but a medical condition wouldn’t prevent him from being able to flush the toilet or wipe the seat down if there is some *splatter*

        3. Isabel Kunkle*

          Oh, he’s definitely leaving things out of place.

          (TBH, I think, if you don’t flush public toilets, you shouldn’t get to go out in public. Because REALLY.)

    2. Dino*

      This is where I come down, too. He shouldn’t need to be told exactly how to manage polite restroom conventions, so he’s lost his privilege to use your work’s facilities.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, that’s where I land also, just say, “no more”.
      If you go this route don’t offer to much explanation, because that just gives him stuff to argue over. “There’s been a change in policy.”
      I tend to go with this because of the repeated instances of problems. Once is an accident, twice is sloppy, three times is deliberate or not caring. Even if you apply this loosely, several times are accidents, several more times are chalked up to sloppiness, you still have to land on he does not care. So why would you worry about his comfort if he is not worrying about others’ comfort?

    4. JSPA*

      Seems cruel to spring that on someone who’s got every reason to expect that they can do so imminently, and whose body may have become accustomed to unloading at a certain time. I suppose it’s no worse than finding it broken, but…surely a day’s grace before the new policy is instituted would be kinder and just as effective?

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Cruel, really? I think the OP has already been eminently kind in setting up this policy in the first place and letting this behaviour continue as long as it has. Expecting her to concern herself further over where this adult man is “accustomed” to taking a dump is absurd, IMO.

        1. Name Required*

          Agree. Good gravy … let’s let Bob the Postman leave big, unflushed dumps in our toilet every day because god forbid his bowels have to adjust to a new schedule?

          I think prioritizing kindness to a person who has taken advantage of that same kindness in the past isn’t the right move here. It’s unkind that the mail person is trashing the bathroom, and leaving the receptionist in a position of having this discussion in the first place. It’s cruel that she’s having to have this conversation, so she’s entitled to make it as easy as possible for herself.

      2. Massmatt*

        This is going overboard in turning a favor into an entitlement.

        The LW’s company extended a courtesy to the mailman and he has taken advantage of it (using the sole BR stall for long periods) and not returned the courtesy (not keeping it clean). A warning would be nice, and could be simple (it’s our only stall, don’t hog it, and flush goddamnit), but you could also just say “sorry, the bathroom is for employees only”.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        You could phrase the new restriction as “today’s the last day we’ll be able to allow you to use the bathroom here.” That lets him use it that day if he needs it, and also makes it clear that he needs to make alternate plans going forward.

    5. Jennifer*

      I’d give him a final warning. I’d hate for him to come in in dire need and be told he can’t use the bathroom. But if he knows he leaves it gross another time then that would be it.

  12. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP3 – Where is the bathroom? Does he have to be let in through a security door to access it? If that’s the case all you need to say is “Sorry, the bathroom is staff only now.” End of story. If anyone can access the bathroom, you are in the position of having to intercept him. Put a big “Staff Only” sign on the door perhaps?

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      I came to say essentially this. I don’t see the need to have much of a conversation with him at all. Nobody owes him this restroom. Announce the new “policy” and when he says, “Why?” just shrug and say, “I don’t know. Apparently some complaints we’ve had. Sorry, dude, that’s the policy.” Nobody owes him an explanation.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        That would be my position (which makes a sign problematic). But the mailman doesn’t need to know that. And unless he is sitting there all day in the lobby watching to see who goes in and out, he won’t know. For me this is about keeping the mailman out of the restroom. I personally would have no qualms about telling a white lie in order to accomplish that.

  13. Betty*

    #2: first, thank you Alison, for yet again making a #2 story #2! Much appreciated.

    Second, if you’re going to have the conversation, I would do it once when he arrives at the building one day. Then, after he leaves, go and check the bathroom. If nothing has changed, then the next time he uses the bathroom and goes to leave the building I would escort him back to it and stand there instructing him step by step on how to clean up after himself and wash his hands. Repeat daily as necessary. Shame is a powerful motivator and it leaves him zero deniability and zero ambiguity and expectations. Then after a week or so, I would tell him that if you have to do this one more time, he will not be allowed to use the toilet again. And follow through.

    1. Boo*

      I see where you’re coming from but I think this places an unreasonable burden on the OP. And as a receptionist she is unlikely to be able to take time away from reception to manage the bathroom habits of a grown man who doesn’t even work there.

      I did giggle at “follow through” though, because I am a child.

    2. Anononon*

      What?? No, if he can’t clean up after himself after a warning, the answer is that he doesn’t get to use the bathroom. NOT that the OP has to walk him through using the bathroom each time. What a bizarre suggestion.

    3. pleaset*

      “I would escort him back to it and stand there instructing him step by step on how to clean up after himself and wash his hands”

      No. Please no.

    4. LH Holdings*

      This is the weirdest comment I’ve seen recently. You want the OP to take time out of her day to stand outside a bathroom stall and tell a GROWN, ADULT the step by step process of bathroom cleanliness and behavior? And you want it to happen DAILY? For a WEEK? I’m don’t know what kind of environment you work in, but I would have to assume most bosses would not see that as a valid use of your time.

    5. Yorick*

      A week??? No, if he doesn’t clean up after the first time you ask him to, the bathroom is closed for visitors.

    6. ACDC*

      So you’re suggesting they leave the bathroom, their ONLY men’s restroom, a disgusting mess for at least a day until he comes back? Then being a passive aggressive nightmare teaching him how to clean up after himself, and watching him while he does it no less? No, just no. On all levels. There are so many more mature ways to handle this situation.

      1. WellRed*

        Actually, she’s suggesting that the next time he comes back, the receptionist should stop the mailman at the door and march him back to the bathroom like a child and stand over him while he cleans up and washes his hands.

    7. Observer*

      I honestly thought you were trolling, this is so ridiculous. The only reason I’m replying is that you write “Shame is a powerful motivator”.

      That’s just awful and cruel. It also doesn’t actually work.

      I hope you were really just trying to highlight the futility of a lot of the behavior modification advice that gets dished out.

      PS if you were really serious – would make the same suggestion if the OP were a guy?

  14. NYWeasel*

    OP 1: What stands out to me in this situation is the complete lack of supervision. I manage a few temps who are in a similar boat in that we give them tasks and let them split up the work. First thing is that I check in regularly with both my permanent team and all of the temps, and I would be investigating the second I got wind of work not getting done. The second is that we try to be very clear on who takes on what work for this same reason—accountability.

    If your manager doesn’t regularly meet with you, I recommend asking to set up a short check in periodically (monthly or every two weeks, depending on how much longer you have to go). I would come with general questions about the overall business, ways you can develop, etc, and you can slide in some questions about dealing with Dylan too. You don’t want to make these bitch sessions about him, but it’s fine to flag it in a “am I handling this right?” way.

    1. Delta Delta*

      Coming here to say exactly this. It would make everybody’s intern experience much better if the higher-ups were clearer in their expectations and follow up. It could be Dylan doesn’t think anything he’s doing is out of place because nobody has told him otherwise or been clear with expectations.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      That struck me, too: where are the managers in this and why aren’t they following up? We have interns and my senior person manages them closely while giving them space to work and come to their own conclusions. I can’t imagine not checking in with them, and especially not him doing the work himself if they didn’t follow through!

      I know this doesn’t factor into the advice to the OP, but OP should know that the managers are doing them a disservice here.

      1. Lynca*

        Yeah I was reading this and thought “why isn’t anyone designated to actually manage you both directly?” While the OP is doing okay they would do much better with someone providing more feedback on expectations, having a central point assigning tasks, and having someone set some expectations. Dylan would probably do better with this kind of set up as well.

        Assigning projects ad hoc to interns with what seems like no guidance is….really not good and not what I would consider a good internship.

    3. Just Elle*

      And why are deadlines so fuzzy anyway? And why are people just doing things themselves without following up??

      I think Alison’s advice about replying with an anticipated delivery date is excellent. It gives people a chance up front to say “oh, thats much too long, I’ll do it myself” or “great, thanks, its good to know when to expect that.” Even for a ridiculously trite/quick task, I don’t think this would be out of norms at my company to do.

      1. EPLawyer*

        It makes me wonder if they are having the “interns” do it because well they have to have the interns do something. But if they didn’t have interns, the staff person would do it anyway. So when interns don’t do something, it’s no big deal. It does not sound like this company has a good plan for managing interns.

        The point of internships is to learn how the work, well works. The point of having interns is to teach them that while kinda having an extended job interview with them. If interns are just people who happen to be there and available to do work, neither part of that bargain is happening. The interns aren’t learning work norms like accountability, and the company isn’t learning anything about the interns’ ability to do the work of the company.

        Given this, I wouldn’t worry that Dylan is reflecting badly on the LW. The company isn’t paying that much attention.

        1. pleaset*

          “So when interns don’t do something, it’s no big deal. It does not sound like this company has a good plan for managing interns. ”

          They may well not have a good plan for managing interns, but intern projects in general should not be very important to regular activities. The focus of internships must be on education, and not doing tasks employees would do otherwise.

          The interns outputs should be “nice to haves” – not truly needed items.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I can’t speak to other companies, but our paid interns work on lots of important things and are an integral part of our department; they’re treated the same as other employees and held to the same standards, with some leeway of course since they’re learning. When they’re done with the internship, they’re pretty much ready to step into the role seamlessly if we’re looking to make them permanent.

        2. Massmatt*

          I disagree. Given how work is being assigned and the lack of guidance or supervision, it seems “the interns” are being thought of as a collective pool, not individuals. If a request is made for a recommendation or reference, is it going to be for”the interns” or the LW? Is the person giving the reference going to say “hmmm, the interns missed a few deadlines last summer. Naaaah.”

          The LW should take the good advice offered here to make things clear.

          And the company should manage its interns better.

    4. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      This is really important. Start scheduling check ins.

      Clarifying deadlines and expectations will help both you and your boss. You might be driving yourself into a wall for something that will gather dust in their inbox and be outdated by the time they need it. Or they might unrealistically expect something too soon and check ins will help you adjust their expectations of either the deliverable or timeline.

    5. Elise*

      I was looking for someone to say this. They’re just throwing work at “the interns” and hoping it gets done? When I’ve had interns, I’ve had a specific plan of work for them that met their needs for what to learn while interning. They aren’t supposed to just be free labor (assuming they are unpaid like most).

      Definitely talk to your manager about a way to manage the work between the two of you and how you can get clear deadlines for tasks. The spreadsheet idea mentioned above is a great one as well, and a great interview answer if someone asks about process improvement.

    6. smoke tree*

      As someone who completed a few (paid) internships, this kind of thing isn’t great, but it happens pretty often. A lot of employers don’t really have a great system for allocating and tracking intern work. But on the plus side, a conscientious worker who can come up with their own systems has the opportunity to really stand out. The LW sounds like that kind of intern.

  15. JustKnope*

    Re #5 – When I was an intern applying to fill an entry-level role on my team, on my interview day I ran into the senior director in the interview suite while moving between sessions. I greeted her like normal (we had known each other for 10 months and were on great terms) before I realized she was escorting someone else interviewing for the same role. I felt so badly because I’m sure the other candidate was uncomfortable when she realized the situation and that I was clearly friendly with/knew the bosses. I think it’s a kindness to everyone when companies can avoid candidates being around each other whenever possible to avoid this kind of thing. (I did end up getting the job, which wasn’t a surprise because I had been doing it already for the 10 months I interned there but that’s a different story.)

    1. OP #5*

      I agree – it makes it less weird when the candidates don’t see each other. We all know it happens, but it’s awkward to come face-to-face with your competition.
      I wound up accidentally having lunch near the other candidate as well – My husband already worked at this company, and the other candidate had a friend at this company. At this location, they have food trucks that come for lunch every week so we wound up eating at tables next to each other after our interviews (her with her friend, me with my husband).
      The recruiter called me while I was eating and asked me to come back in to sort out some paperwork, which turned out to be an offer.
      I’m still at this company but I’ve been thinking lately about interview experiences and wanted to see what others thought of this.

  16. The Actually Mad Scientist*

    To LW #5,
    Way to go being relaxed in your interview! I probably would have felt strange if I was interviewing right next to someone else, but my interview for my current job was a group interview. With myself and 3 other candidates. Together. And of the 4 candidates, two of them had already worked at our company in the past and knew our manager. THAT was an interesting interview! (For the record, they ended up hiring all 4 of us.)

  17. blackcat*

    For the luggage–have you checked to see if your institution has a standing travel insurance policy? Mine does, and it might help out for something like this.

    And the bags *might still show up.* My dad’s bags got lost on a domestic trip. Two years (!!) later, Delta found them in Asia (!?!). He got the bags back and Delta never made a peep out of the fact that he had been given the maximum lost bag fee.

    1. Louise*

      I was thinking about university travel insurance. Obviously academia varies from place to place but my institution is very, very clear that we have to notify them of all work-related travel and preferably book through them precisely so we are covered by the institution’s travel insurance. I’ve had my luggage lost attending a conference for my university and had the money I spent on replacement clothes reimbursed by their travel insurance without query or comment. So I’d definitely advise the LW to check was the institution’s travel insurance set up is.

  18. archive everything*

    “you don’t usually come face-to-face with your competition while you’re actively engaged in trying to get the job”

    Unless, of course, you are a character in a movie. Then you will arrive to a waiting room filled with people who are there for the same interview.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      It actually happened to me BUT it was right after my university’s job fair. I walked into the office and saw 4 of my classmates also waiting – it made sense to me as we were all right about to graduate and this company was one of the biggest companies represented at the job fair. They also were looking to hire 3-4 new grads to there were several spots up for grabs.
      Funny story from that interview though…one of my classmates was a stuck up bitch and looked down on anyone who didn’t carry a certain number of credit hours, GPA, or membership in the discipline’s fraternity. She has also never even had so much as a babysitting job in her life. She was apparently the first one to arrive and as other candidates she knew (which was all of us) were walking in she would make comments along the lines of “Oh! I’m really surprised to see you here, I wouldn’t have thought you would have qualified for this opportunity.” or “OMG! So good to see you here – I as getting worried I would be the only really qualified candidate from our school and I have SO MANY OTHER places to talk to.” Essentially making really disparaging remarks to those of us SHE didn’t believe were worthy while also bragging about how in demand she was for interviews. I was one those she looked down upon since she commented that she was surprised they would accept anyone with a GPA under a 3.75. I have an overall GPA of 3.6 but a 3.8 in my area of study (on my resume which is how she knew). The receptionist heard everything and apparently told the interviewer before her interview. She was in and out in under 10 minutes and my interview took closer to 45. The following week in class I overheard her bragging about how she made such a good impression on all of these companies and she isn’t sure which to pick when all her offers come rolling in. She got no offers. I got the job mentioned above with my measly GPA and lack of membership Beta. I do however have many years of working experience and a decent attitude. Heard from another classmate a year below me that she went straight to her masters since no one would hire her.

      1. CMart*

        Sounds like accounting, ha. I had very similar experiences after campus recruiting (though I was one of the Master’s students), including the weird negging from select classmates. Most everyone was just happy for each other that we were all getting interviews, offers etc… but there were always those few who truly saw it as a competition. The boxing vs. golf mindset.

    2. cmcinnyc*

      If you are an actor trying out for that movie, you will definitely sit in a waiting room of people trying out for the same role, many of whom look eerily like you. I know actors who’ve met just about everybody who is their type this way.

  19. Katefish*

    United once left me stranded in the Norfolk airport for 3 days. After WAY too much work on my part, they finally coughed up a “free” ticket to apologize. When I used said free ticket, the return flight resulted in a 4 day delay! After that I just gave up.

  20. 867-5309*

    OP3, If you haven’t already, check out It’s a consumer advocacy site that offers stellar advice on how to advocate for yourself to airlines, in a way that gets results. Most of us shoot off angry emails, include irrelevant details and start copying executives on our communications, all of which lead to our request being ignored. Their advance has helped me navigate hotel, airline, bus and other reimbursement and refund requests, when I was getting no where. Good luck!

  21. in defense of the mailman*

    Having a frank conversation will be skin-crawlingly embarrassing for the LW. Having to clean up after a person is this manner is also very gross and unfortunate. Tying up the bathroom is terribly inconvenient for all who need it. All understandable.

    But I’m surprised by the lack of compassion for a fellow member of the workforce, one who doesn’t have confirmed access to a bathroom for the duration of his workday. As someone who suffers from “emergencies” quite often due to a sensitive digestive system, not having somewhere to go when I’m out and about is my greatest source of panic. Seriously, it’s horrible. What is his alternative if he is banned? It just becomes a problem for him and another person in your shoes somewhere else; I’m not sure this is the best course of action. I understand limiting the bathroom from the general public for safety and logistical concerns, but is it so bad to allow a known entity to use the restroom at a time that they require it?

    I also don’t see an issue with saying something like, “Mike. I’ve been informed that you’re leaving our restroom in an unacceptable state. Someone is regularly having to clean up after you. You must ensure you are leaving the restroom usable for the next person. Thanks for your cooperation in this.” My guess is that if he has any other options for his daily needs, following this conversation he’ll either be embarrassed and select another option, or he will be more conscious of how he uses your facilities.

    1. Colette*

      Or he doesn’t care? They’ve been kind to let him use the washroom, and he’s not behaving well in return. If they deny him access, he will figure something else out – he will find a public bathroom or talk to his employer to work out options to restructure his work. Ultimately, this is not his client’s problem to solve.

    2. Oh No She Di'int*

      Although I understand that people have difficult medical needs, the man still lives in society. Surely it cannot be news to him that standard acceptable behavior is to flush toilets after they’ve been used. Indeed I would think someone with medical problems would be even more sensitive to such etiquette.

      My impression is that unflushed toilets are more common when there is a greater degree of anonymity–public accommodations and such where there’s no way to trace who was in there. Not saying that this is acceptable, but it’s at least slightly less egregious. This sounds like a very small facility where it’s easy to know who’s going in and out. Leaving a toilet unflushed in these circumstances verges into becoming slightly aggressive behavior.

      While it’s possible that “Mike” would end up seriously inconvenienced, my opinion is that if someone is willing to flout the rules of propriety that brazenly, then their inconvenience simply isn’t my problem to solve.

      1. Quill*

        I would not have said anything about the 30 min if he’d flushed. 30 min is “whether it’s medical or him playing candy crush on his phone, it’s not actually my business beyond maybe putting a sign on the door that reminds people not to clog up the bathroom accessability.”

        However, since he’s apparently… clogging up the toilet in other ways… it seems more like disrespect.

    3. Allypopx*

      Frankly I’m surprised by the lack of basic etiquette from someone if they rely on this facility so much. I think the OP has shown enough patience and compassion by making their bathroom open to outside parties and trying to find ways to be gentle about the situation, with signs and air fresheners and such. They have every right to draw a line somewhere.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      But I’m surprised by the lack of compassion for a fellow member of the workforce

      Yeah, no, sorry. The reason he has access to the bathroom in the first place is because the OP was kind/compassionate enough to make it happen. And he has abused that privilege. People who abuse privileges get them taken away.

      1. ACDC*

        The other thing is that he has a regular route that he drives just about every day (I’m assuming because my mother works for USPS and she has the same route almost every day), so he definitely knows of multiple places along the route that he can stop at in case of an emergency. If he doesn’t stop acting like a pig, this will be one less potential restroom stop for him on his route.

    5. EventPlannerGal*

      The OP was considerably more compassionate than most by setting up this policy to begin with, so I’m surprised that you think she’s being somehow uncompassionate here. Have you ever instituted such a policy in your workplace?

    6. MatKnifeNinja*

      As a former delivery person, we were told specifically not to use business restrooms unless they were open to the general public. So, I would not use that office restroom AT ALL. And I flush.

      You get spare change and buy something at a gas station or a fast food place and use theirs. You hit the big office towers with public restrooms.

      Now, that nice office restroom is much better than the crime scene gas station bathroom. I get that. Either the guy doesn’t care, or is worried about about “the sound” of flushing or over flowing the toilet. It’s a nice perk he is going to lose for being a pig.

      He’s a postal worker who has a route. If he’s been there longer than three months, he knows the places that have public restrooms.

      Figuring when to time your coffee drinking and when nature calls is part of the delivery gig. I have no problems with OP banning him.

    7. JimmyJab*

      Compassion is the best, but occupying the sole male bathroom 30 minutes a day alone is egregious, let alone the flushing issues. I have some compassion for the actual employees who may need to use the bathroom.

    8. Yorick*

      He seems to be quite regular, not having an emergency. He has other options, or if not he can take it up with his employer to find a solution. It’s not his client’s responsibility to let him tie up the bathroom for a long time so no one else can use it and then leave it a mess.

      1. Anonymeece*

        Yeah, that’s the part that’s sticking out to me. Every single day of the workweek, presumably around the same time, he knows that nature is going to call.

        This isn’t an “emergency”, this is a schedule. Get up, brush your teeth, take a shower, go to work, use the bathroom at this nice office. This isn’t happening once in a while, it’s happening every day.

        I think that it might be kind – if not squirmingly embarrassing – to have a conversation about it with him, but I also don’t think it’s weird to outright ban him.

    9. fposte*

      He’s not hauling out to Ultima Thule–he’s delivering to office buildings. This is not the only bathroom he has access to during the day. I have Crohn’s and have sympathy for people’s digestive problems, but that has no bearing on whether this guy is entitled to access to this particular bathroom in the host of opportunities he encounters.

    10. Shan*

      The fact that this guy comes in and sits for half an hour every single day, likely around the same time of day, makes me doubt it’s a medical emergency. This sounds much more like he’s adjusted his routine, which means he can adjust it back.

      Also – this is of course a generalization, but I’ve found that people who have Crohn’s and other similar ailments tend to be particularly aware of what shape they leave the bathroom in.

    11. Observer*

      but is it so bad to allow a known entity to use the restroom at a time that they require it?

      When that known entity regularly – DAILY – hogs the place and leaves a mess for others to clean up? Yes.

      What you are seeing is not a lack of compassion, but the understanding that having a legitimate problem and being a jerk are not mutually exclusive. And that you don’t need to accept someone’s jerkitude just because they have a problem.

      1. fposte*

        And he doesn’t have to be a jerk, even; it could be that he’s anxious or visually impaired or whatever, but they still don’t have to let him use the bathroom without flushing sufficiently and at the expense of the people the bathroom is designed to serve.

  22. Airline Mess*

    LW#3 contact Chris Elliott at The site is dedicated to helping people deal with airline problems.

  23. Samwise*

    OP #5, or you could be interviewing in the 7th circle of hell that is the MLA annual convention, where institutions/depts that cannot afford a suite at the conference hotel do their interviewing in a giant room full of tables. The tension in that room is thick. Only had to do that once…brrrrrrr.

    Even when the interview is at a suite, I often encountered other candidates coming out of the room, or arriving as I left, or, with one incredibly unprofessional interviewing committee, several of us standing in the hallway in a line, waiting for them to get back from lunch (I was first in line, they were over an 90 minutes late), a lunch at which they had clearly been knocking back the cocktails.

  24. PicoSignal*

    OP #3, some academic institutions do reimburse for lost luggage! The process is usually to seek reimbursement through the airline, then through the credit card company (if tickets were bought with credit card), then ask the university to cover the difference.
    Ask your institution’s Travel Office or Business Service Office about it.

  25. Oh No She Di'int*

    OP #2 One aspect of this letter that is being overlooked is that apparently it was OP who established the policy of letting outsiders use the restroom:

    I, with my boss’s initial approval, set a precedent that anyone who comes into our office, particularly our delivery drivers, can use our bathrooms freely.

    To me that means that OP has the power to determine who can and can’t use it. A private business is not a democracy. She has the right to revoke the privilege from anyone, for good reason or for no reason at all. Indeed, this situation might be the very reason the previous practice had been to not let outsiders use the restroom.

    “Sorry, you can’t use it.” The end.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      It probably also means that she needs to be more vigilant than most against people abusing the policy if it’s viewed as her idea.

  26. Phoenix Programmer*

    As an intern manager myself I am seriously side eyeing your manager and company’s handling of this intern program.

    1. Handing out work to a group is difficult for even experienced staff to navigate, let alone interns.

    2. Your manager should know everything on your plate. It’s inexcusable to not keep track of intern’s deliverables.

    3. Your manager should be giving you regular feedback and allowing you to discuss these types of issues in onr on ones. Sounds like that is not happening?

    Alison’s advice is great but I would be aware that your program doesn’t seem well managed and give yourself the benefit of the doubt if you miss a nebulous deadline despite working urgently on it.

  27. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    I’ve only flown United once, but it was to and from a relative’s funeral. Their agents on the ground in San Antonio were absolutely heroic after my departure flight was delayed by Hurricane Harvey, they hustled me onto one of the last flights out of that airport that day, arranged for my connection home from the airport where that flight landed, and in the end I got home only an hour later than originally scheduled. They made a pretty shitty day a little better. The company has more than its share of problems, but I will never forget those three agents who dropped everything to huddle over their screens, checking dozens of flights each until they found a way get me home.

    **For the record, I didn’t make a scene about the delayed flight, I just went to the desk and asked them to reschedule the second leg of my trip as I was going to miss my connection. The agent checked and realized I probably wouldn’t get home until the next day–and that’s if my first flight even got out at all. My eyes were puffy from crying the previous day, I’m quite sure she noticed that, and she then called over two of her colleagues to help her look for flights.

  28. MatKnifeNinja*

    As a former delivery person, we were told specifically not to use business restrooms unless they were open to the general public. So, I would not use that office restroom AT ALL. And I flush.

    You get spare change and buy something at a gas station or a fast food place and use theirs. You hit the big office towers with public restrooms.

    Now, that nice office restroom is much better than the crime scene gas station bathroom. I get that. Either the guy doesn’t care, or is worried about about “the sound” of flushing or over flowing the toilet. It’s a nice perk he is going to lose for being a pig.

    He’s a postal worker who has a route. If he’s been there longer than three months, he knows the places that have public restrooms.

    Figuring when to time your coffee drinking and when nature calls is part of the delivery gig. I have no problems with OP banning him.

  29. Cowgirlinhiding*

    #4 – Go to HR and report it. This happened to me while I was job hunting, a Admin that didn’t like me was giving me bad reviews. Luckily the boss that was hiring told his HR to call back and talk to my reference and offered me the job. After I worked for him a couple of weeks, he told me what she had said and I went back to the HR dept of former job and reported. So glad I got away from that Admin and so glad my new boss was awesome. Sounds like your new boss is also awesome, but still report it.

  30. Jennifer*

    #1 It never ceases to amaze me how people are so quick to go full authoritarian on someone (calling their boss or worse 911) when there’s a much simpler and kinder solution. Yes, this behavior is disgusting but jeopardizing someone’s employment over this is ridiculous. If he doesn’t change, tell him that the policy has been updated and the bathroom is only for employees. If you don’t feel comfortable, call your boss when he’s in there and have him lay down the hammer.

    Of course, you may make an exception if someone is clearly in dire need, but most offices don’t just have people coming in and out that don’t work there to use the bathroom. He’s taking advantage of the situation by not cleaning up after himself and it’s totally fair to change the policy.

    1. Arctic*

      I don’t think it’s about being authoritarian in this instance. LW just wants to avoid a very awkward conversation with a relative stranger.
      I do agree with you completely (and AAM) that the best course of action is to just say something to him. And, in this case, I’d go with what you said. No back and forth about his habits just say it is off limits.

      1. Jennifer*

        But it is authoritarian even if it’s not intended that way. Someone is doing something that’s gross but not really that big of a deal and potentially suffering disproportionate consequences because of it. People go to such great lengths to avoid awkward conversations they neglect to think of the potential consequences of their actions.

        1. Name Required*

          He’s not entitled to use their bathroom. It’s a pretty normal part of the voluntary job he took on to have limited bathroom access. She went out of her way to get him bathroom access, and he is leaving her literal crap to deal with as a consequence of that action. Deciding to wash her hands of the whole think isn’t appealing to authority or denying him personal freedom.

    2. Isabel Kunkle*

      A grown man who doesn’t flush the toilet in other people’s bathrooms doesn’t merit a whole lot of kindness, IMO.

        1. Isabel Kunkle*

          TBH, yes, or at least should get an official warning. It’s basic adult behavior, and I think most employers assume that flushing the toilet–like *using* the toilet, wearing clothing, brushing your teeth, etc–is a part of the job requirements that they don’t need to post, because they assume they’re hiring functional adults.

          1. Jennifer*

            I agree that a final warning is a good idea. After that, the bathroom is off-limits and he’d have to make other…ahem…arrangements. An “Employees Only” sign on the door might be a nice touch. “I’m calling your boss” just seems over the top and petty. I’d only resort to that if he ignored the final warning and continued leaving it a mess.

            1. Isabel Kunkle*

              He’s already had *plenty* of warnings, though: there’s a sign there telling him to flush, FFS, plus, you know, basic societal standards of behavior. Dude is a pig, he’s a pig because he wants to be–or is too lazy to not be–and I say embrace your inner Mean Girl at that point. (Plus, unless he gets called out officially, he’s likely to go and do the same in other Who’s houses after the OP’s bathroom goes off-limits. Getting yelled at by his boss is the only thing that’s likely to make him change.)

                1. Isabel Kunkle*

                  How isn’t it? It means there’s no way he’s ignorant of what he’s supposed to be doing, and he’s…still not doing it. So.

                2. Jennifer*

                  @Isabel It’s not a warning that the bathroom is going to be off-limits completely. This is what Alison talks about all the time here. Use your words instead of assuming he knows that if he keeps doing it he won’t have access to the bathroom anymore.

                3. Isabel Kunkle*

                  @Jennifer: The guy’s not in kindergarten, even if he acts like it. He’s had plenty of heads up that he shouldn’t be doing what he’s doing. The OP/employer are by no means obligated to keep playing the Good Fairy in his fecal production of Little Bunny Foo-Foo.

                  If he gets surprised, he can deal with the same mess he’s been making them deal with for a while now.

                4. fposte*

                  @Isabel–it’s an instruction, not a warning, and it’s an instruction he may be complying with. He may be creating a two-flush problem and only using one flush, for instance.

                  I don’t think it’s the end of the world to make the bathroom staff only, but I also don’t think it’s the end of the world for the OP to say “Bob, we can only let people use the bathroom for a few minutes; also please double-check the flush.”

        2. Colette*

          Why would he lose his job? Even if the OP called his boss, why on earth would the boss fire him? (I suspect the boss couldn’t fire him for this, since he’s probably unionized, but why would the boss want to fire him?)

          1. Name Required*

            Yeah. There’s a lot of zero to 100, black and white thinking here. It’s so strange to think that this alone would somehow jeopardize his job. He’d have to be a pretty *ahem* crappy employee already.

            I can’t imagine that having a conversation about the mail guy’s bathroom habits is easier to have with the boss than it is with the guy himself, but I don’t see how going to the boss automatically means guy gets fired.

    3. LilySparrow*

      You obviously don’t know much about the USPS. This guy is unionized. He’s not getting fired for toilet complaints.

      The main reason not to speak to his manager is that his manager is not going to care or do anything, and will probably ignore it completely. I mean, why should he care? They aren’t taking their custom elsewhere. What are they going to do, stop getting mail?

  31. Bertha*

    “My supervisors never check in to ask if it’s done/who’s working on it, they just do it if we don’t.”

    OP1 – I have worked at places where I was given an intern to work with, and it was actually kind of a struggle to find work for the intern to do sometimes (in one case, I didn’t have enough work to do myself). Sometimes I would give them work to do that I could have easily done myself, perhaps even wanted to myself, and never would have given them anything urgent. Sometimes I’d ask them to do it even if I didn’t need it done, because I wanted to make sure they weren’t bored out of their minds. I do like the idea of speaking with the manager about it, but it’s quite possible that this isn’t reflecting as badly on you as you think.

    1. Massmatt*

      Serious question—why did your company bring on an intern? What was the purpose? In most (or at least many) internships, the intern gets some job experience and the company gets some work done cheaply (or for free). In this case it seems like neither happened.

      I knew someone in the 80’s who got an internship at IBM, very prestigious at the time, evidently there was much competition. He did virtually nothing. His biggest accomplishment most days was reading the New York Times cover to cover. His Dad worked there, so maybe this was seen as a featherbed job as a favor to him?

      To my friend’s credit, he asked for work frequently, and each time was met with a flustered “uh, hmmm, we’ll see whether we can find something “.

  32. abscde*

    PLEASE ask your HR person and your manager before assuming your employer won’t care. I can’t imagine any employer, even academia, even super underfunded academia, being okay with you being out of pocket for these costs. Since it was a business trip (the fact you added on personal travel is totally irrelevant if your employer paid for the flight), the HR person should at the bare minimum be able to fight this with the airline for you. This should NOT be your responsibility financially OR time-wise.
    If that fails for whatever reason, I’d recommend getting really tough with the airline. Write a letter to their board of directors, tweet at them, review them EVERYWHERE stating that you were openly lied to and defrauded out of money they promised you. All the comments about “well it was used clothes so you can’t expect money” are ridiculous. It wasn’t a random selection of “used clothes,” it was your POSSESSIONS that you own. The airline has a responsibility to safely transport your POSSESSIONS that you own to your destination. If they fail at what is essentially their ONLY JOB aside from transporting you, it is 100% their responsibility to make you right in every way. Make it harder for them to do the wrong thing. Make it WAY more expensive in terms of lost business to screw you over than to pay you the couple hundred dollars they owe you.

    1. fposte*

      Conference travel in academia really isn’t the same as corporate business travel, though. You’re not going at the behest of your employer, and it often isn’t even booked through the university. It’s not the same kind of employer investment.

      1. abscde*

        Yeah, I can see that. I still feel, though, that if there is anyone in any sort of personnel position – someone who would care about staff morale – that OP#3 should ask before assuming they won’t care. I constantly hear people complain about issues that their HR didn’t deal with, and when I ask if they told HR about the issue, they say no, they didn’t tell HR because they assumed HR wouldn’t deal with it. So… communication is good, and sometimes can resolve these problems very easily.

        1. OP #3*

          Much of the point of my question here was to determine if this is simply out of line to ask my employer about. While I am incensed at the airlines for telling me one thing and then operating under a different set of rules, I value my reputation within my organization more than I value the monetary loss being inflicted on me by the airline. I wouldn’t want to jeopardize how I am viewed internally if this is inherently a ridiculous request.

          Essentially, I am trying to figure out if this is actually a case of “The worst that can happen is they tell you no”, or if it’s actually “Making this request would come across as lacking appropriate judgment, so not only is it unlikely to work, it would likely damage your standing with your employer”.

    2. GibbsRule18*

      #4-I’m in a similar situation. I found out that my horrible, awful former boss had bad-mouthed me and the three others members of our team who all quit within 2 weeks of each other (you think someone would have taken note of that and followed up with us!!!) to people in the professional organization we belonged to and to someone on campus. I found this out because my replacement and I ended up being friends. More than one person approached him at the next professional org meeting and said “(Horrible awful boss) must be so relieved to have you since her last staff was awful and messed everything up!”

      I work in a different office now on campus, but am worried that this info is still out there. My current boss is great, but I work on a project that ends next year and will be job hunting (at the university) soon.

  33. LawLady*

    When you interview in BigLaw, there’s something called call-backs, which is where you’ve passed a screener interview at your school and you’re invited to come to the firm for a half day of interviews. It’s at the same time every year for all students, so you end up seeing a lot of your “competition” in the waiting rooms of various offices. Once, my lunch interviewer flaked at the last minute, so I went to an interview lunch with another candidate!

    I realize it’s somewhat a different situation, in that it’s hundreds of people interviewing for dozens of positions, instead of two interviewing for one (where one obviously won’t get it). But some people were bizarrely confrontational/competitive when they met other candidates. Boasting about their achievements or GPAs. Made for some very uncomfortable small talk.

    1. miss_chevious*

      When I interviewed at Big Law, several firms did round robins, where the interviewers sat in various rooms and the candidates rotated through the rooms one after the other. It worked out in my favor, as I’m comfortable in interviews and the guy in front of me was apparently a dud, but some candidates did have a little bit of freak out when we were all in the reception area together, and started showing out like you describe, with the bragging and hostility.

  34. Marissa*

    OP1, I was a law clerk in a group of 6 clerks back in my law school days, and similarly had lots of work assigned to us as a group, though once attorneys got to know us they’d go to their favorites directly for more advanced work. Project management and communication are incredibly important skills to develop that will reflect well on you if you handle this proactively. I agree with the other commenters that have said it sounds like your intern supervisor isn’t doing a good job of managing your desks or the flow of projects, but you can really show your worth if you can create some order out of the mess.

    We had a set of questions we asked every attorney assigning a project to make sure we had all the info needed. What was the deadline, what deliverable did they want (email summary, memo, in person discussion, etc.), and a few other law specific questions. If they didn’t give a firm deadline, we’d say, ok we will be able to have someone get it to you by Friday or whatever, and the attorneys either said fine or oh, I’d like it before then and give us an actual date. Then when someone took the project they’d email the attorney including the deadline and deliverable along with a please let me know if there are any additional details you need me to know about this project. If we got too many projects, we would go to our supervisor and ask him to help us prioritize them and have him help set expectations with the attorneys if we couldn’t get them all done in time.

    It sounds like your office is used to the interns being a project black hole where things either do or don’t get done. Anything your able to do to add organization will make you look proactive and organized and will serve you well.

  35. portsmouthliz*

    OP #1, I’m concerned about one thing in your letter. You asked “How can I make sure Dylan does his work, or make sure my supervisors know that I’m not the one neglecting deadlines?” Please, please — do your future self a favor and internalize this: it is *not your job* to make sure Dylan does his work. Some commenters are suggesting that you create a spreadsheet that tracks all the intern assignments – if I were in your shoes, I would not do this. Being helpful and proactive with project management turns into “being expected to track everyone else’s activity without getting paid for it” awwwwfulllly quickly. Especially for young women and young people of color.

    As you rise through the ranks, it becomes more and more important that you protect your own time to engage in the work that adds value to your role, your company, and your own career. Tracking a bunch of other people will take time away from that — so don’t get into the habit of doing that unless you’re getting pay and recognition (title) for it. (Ask me how I know). Alison’s advice about how to communicate with your manager and other higher-ups to CYA, while letting Dylan look after Dylan, is spot-on.

    1. Observer*

      Creating that spreadsheet is actually an EXCELLENT idea as it let’s the OP show what they are doing AND makes it clear how they are doing vs Dylan. Given how poorly the interns are being managed, the OP needs to find some way to make this clear.

      The spreadsheet does that, without feeling or looking like “tattling”. It also looks good for the OP, that they take initiative in good and useful ways. Of course, once the tasks go in, Dylan should be the one updating the status on the tasks he is responsible for, though.

      I absolutely DO agree that it is totally NOT the OP’s job to make sure that Dylan does his job. That’s HIS job. The only thing that the OP is responsible for is to make sure that the higher ups understand what THEY are accomplishing. Making it crystal clear that “the interns” are not an interchangeable unit is definitely to the OP’s benefit. Getting that crystal clear in their own head will also benefit the OP. Because that makes it easier to embrace the idea that they are NOT responsible for Dylan’s work.

    2. Commenter*

      I absolutely agree that OP#1 should not take on the task of monitoring the other intern’s tasks & productivity, but I interpreted the spreadsheet suggestion differently: I’d create a spreadsheet that simply lists the tasks and who is assigned to each.

      There could be additional columns the OP adds to track status & any other notes/details for their own tasks, but I’d leave it up to the other intern to add (or not) that optional additional information for their tasks.

      The primary goal of the spreadsheet from my perspective is to show which intern has ownership/responsibility over which tasks, for accountability purposes.

      1. portsmouthliz*

        My concern is that once it’s created, the higher-ups are going to really like it and then it’s somehow going to end up OP’s job to get Dylan and the other interns to update their columns. I got caught in a lot of situations like that early in my career. I think OP can make it clear to the higher-ups what they are accomplishing without getting into any tracking of anyone else’s work.

        1. Observer*

          The spreadsheet is not “tracking everyone’s work”, though. It’s a really bad idea to worry too much about supposed slippery slopes.

  36. AnonyMouse*

    OP #4- I’ve also worked for a nursing program and had an awful experience! I’m curious where you worked (it sounds like either a hospital or a college campus based on your description, but I could be wrong).

  37. Close Bracket*

    I don’t want to update my supervisor on who’s in charge of each small task they assign us (it wouldn’t be natural, especially in a meeting)

    It’s completely natural to update your supervisor on what you are working on, and some people even hold meetings with their supervisor for exactly this reason! It’s also natural to request a due date when you get an assignment. Let Dylan solve his own problems. You should take the initiative to update your supervisor on what you are doing. Many managers ask their direct reports to email weekly updates on what they are working on/what they completed. It can be a simple as a bulleted list, and you basically just update the bullets each week and add new ones for new tasks.

  38. Jack Russell Terrier*

    LW 3 – I don’t know if someone else address this, but EU laws are much more customer friendly, with checking them out. Also Christopher Elliot has a great consumer advocate site – he lists high level Corporate names for many companies. Get in touch with an airline exec. You could also get in touch with him if they don’t give you joy – he does a lot of travel consumer troubleshooting.

  39. Susan*

    OP #2: My course of action would be to say, “My boss asked me to tell everyone about a change in bathroom policy. Basically I have to ask people to limit bathroom use to a few minutes and check to make sure the toilet flushed, apparently people have been having issues with the handle. Anyhow, how was your weekend?”

  40. LawBee*

    #1 – you should be publicly claiming your projects anyway, so that the assigning supervisor knows who to reach out to for updates. It could be as informal as an “I’ve got this one” email. Start doing it now with every project you work on, and when Dylan misses a deadline, you can point to email and show that you didn’t claim it, so you weren’t the one working on it.

  41. lilsheba*

    This is one thing that I am adamant on, there is NO excuse for not flushing. NONE. First of all everyone should be doing a courtesy flush anyway, why wouldn’t you? It gets rid of it sooner, and cuts down the smell. Then when you are done with the TP, flush that down again. And make sure it ALL goes down. Be an adult and do the right thing.

    I had a roommate that wouldn’t flush for some unknown reason and omg I would get so mad. I would leave notes saying they HAVE TO FLUSH and it did no good. I eventually kicked them out, for that and they stopped paying rent on top of it.

  42. alittlehelpplease*

    OP3: Do not ask your employer to pay for the clothes you bought. Stop asking the airline to do it, too. You are asking to be unjustly enriched. They are going to pay you for the items you purchased plus full value of the clothes you lost less what they are reimbursing for the new clothes. You are asking them to reimburse you for all your lost clothes plus new clothes you bought. That’s not right.

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