working at a Christmas party with nothing to wear, my employee doesn’t tip, and more

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

1. Working at a Christmas party with nothing to wear

I recently started my first job two months ago at a recruitment company that has a lot of international clients and I am the only native English speaker in the company. Despite the fact I am young and straight out of university, they seem to make rather a big deal of me and like using me as an example of their international aspect. So for this year’s Christmas party, which will include clients and coworkers, I have been asked along with several other employees (male and female, all who have been in the company for a while) to act as welcome hosts, in my case probably because of my English skills. We have been given half a day off to prepare, get to know the venue, etc.

Seeing as this is a themed, semi-formal event and I am making the transition from dirt-poor student, I have no suitable attire. As I will be representing the company and more or less working that evening, how cheeky/acceptable is it to ask to claim my evening attire as business expenses?

This would be a no-go at a lot of companies but some would consider it, given that they’ve asked you to play a work role there. Since you don’t know which category your company falls in, the best approach is to tell them the problem and see if they make the suggestion themselves. Talk to your boss (or whoever asked you to be a host, especially if that person is senior to your boss) and say something like, “I’d be glad to do the host duties, but I’m in a bind — I don’t have appropriate clothes to wear and can’t afford to buy them yet. I’m assuming that’s not an expense the company could help with, so would it be best for me to sit this one out?”

That said, before you do this, make sure you’ve thought about other solutions. Can you find something affordable at a consignment shop or borrow something from a similarly-sized friend? The person you talk to might suggest those options, and you don’t want to seem like you haven’t considered them yet (because of resourcefulness, blah blah).

2. My coworker blocked his schedule for two weeks prior to the holidays

I work in the HQ of a giant corporation. I recently went to set up a meeting with a handful of colleagues and noticed that one coworker’s calendar shows him as “tentatively busy” all day, every day, for the two weeks prior to the week of Christmas. He and I are friendly, so I asked him if he’s going on a long vacation. No, he said, he’ll be in the office, he’s just trying to avoid meetings at that time — “nobody’s going to want to talk about work stuff then.” He’s not wrong; our office was a ghost town the week before Christmas last year. This coworker doesn’t have a role that requires a heavy meeting load, and I can see that some days/times are already confirmed busy, so he’s not just blanket declining everything.

Still, I can’t decide whether his move is passive-aggressive, aggressive-aggressive, or completely brilliant. What do you think?

It’s a bit obnoxious. If he right that nobody will want to talk about work stuff then, then he’s not going to get any meeting requests anyway. If he does receive them, then people do indeed have work stuff they need to talk to him about. It’s not really okay to come to work those weeks and get paid while saying, essentially, “Sorry, I’m not up for fully doing my job on those days.”

3. My employee doesn’t tip

When approving my direct report’s expenses for recent work travel, I saw that they didn’t tip on any of the rideshare (think Uber, Lyft) rides they took. I usually tip 15-20% for these on personal or company travel and, while I have friends who don’t tip on rideshare, I thought tipping was fairly common for any taxi or rideshare rides.

Am I overtipping, or is 15-20% normal for taxi/rideshare? And can I/should I bring this up and suggest — or ask — that they tip when traveling for our company?

Yep, 15-20% is a normal taxi or rideshare tip, and you can indeed nudge your employee to tip. Try being matter-of-fact about it and saying: “I didn’t know if you knew the company will cover tips for taxis and rideshares, but we will. Typically people tip 15-20% for those rides.”

4. Should I let my former company know I’m pregnant?

I’m pregnant and due in January. Everything is going well with my employer: we have a tentative plan in place for my leave, our benefits are great, they’re giving me flexibility for appointments and telework, and I’m entirely confident they’ll be supportive if something changes. Basically everything I could ask for.

I started here just over two years ago. Before that, I spent almost five years at a different organization, split between two of their teams. Should I reach out to my old bosses at that organization about my pregnancy?

I think some of my old colleagues will genuinely be happy to hear my news. I also don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings if they find out another way and wonder why I didn’t reach out. On the other hand, it’s been over two years since I left the organization, and I don’t know if it will seem weirdly attached to send them an email birth announcement and a picture or two of the baby. Possibly also relevant: I didn’t do that when I got married shortly after starting my current job, although everyone at my old job knew that I was engaged. What say you?

Under these circumstances — two years since you left the job and it sounds like you’re not in regular touch with them — most people wouldn’t go out of their way to send the news (either ahead of the birth or with announcements afterwards). If you decide you want to, though, I’d combine with a more general getting-in-touch/update kind of thing, as opposed to exclusively an announcement about the baby (since it’s been so long).

5. Should I try to pitch myself when the hiring manager updates me on the hiring timeline?

I’ve been going through a rather lengthy hiring process for a position and company that I’m really excited about. The hiring manager has been incredibly proactive and transparent, sending regular emails to me about when they expect to make a decision. I’ve responded to these emails promptly each time, thanking him for his consideration and his transparency.

Am I missing opportunities to sell myself more in these emails? I feel like talking myself up more would be pushy and frankly annoying for the hiring manager, but friends and family are disagreeing with me. What is your opinion on this? Should these be little cover letters each time?

Oh god no, don’t do that. It would indeed be pushy and annoying. You want the hiring manager to see you as a prospective colleague, not as an annoying salesperson who takes any possible opening to pitch yourself. It’s great that he’s keeping you in the loop; don’t make him reluctant to send you more updates.

{ 435 comments… read them below }

  1. eh ... probably not worth it*

    Re # 4 (pregnant ex-co-worker)

    I admit I would find it odd to receive this news from a departed employee who no longer had any contact with the company.

    Are you intending to send the message to the head of HR or your old Manager? I think if you want to let them know, you should send the news to an ex-colleague you are still in touch with occasionally over text, and note you are happy for them to tell others.

    If you’re not in regular contact with anyone at all from previous business (and I don’t count FB or LI here unless you have actively exchanged messages not just passively viewed news), I wouldn’t bother.

    1. Lucky black cat*

      I mean this kindly but yes, it would be odd. They’re not going to care that you didn’t tell them – why would they?

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        This. It’s not that they wouldn’t be very happy for you, but they are probably … not overly invested.

        Just let them find out — or not — naturally. If they knew you were engaged, and have made the leap that you got married, nobody will be all that ¡shocked! in a year or so to learn that a colleague bumped into you in Costco or Home Depot and you had a baby with you.

      2. Jen S. 2.0*

        (Plus, you don’t want the announcement to look like a gift grab for baby gifts from ex-colleagues.)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Sadly, this is where my mind went–if a former colleague I’ve had no contact with in 2 years sends me the news that they are pregnant (or engaged, or buying a house), looking for a gift does seem a possible explanation.

          I do get that OP is in a new situation, and its happy and exciting, and wondering how much to share that. But “only with people you would talk to if you were not pregnant” is the right guide.

      3. Annette*

        Wow. It might be ‘odd’ to tell someone they look great for no reason or send a pal a spontaneous card. But only in the sense that people don’t do it too often. Pills aside–most people would be touched an old colleague thought to share the news.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I can barely remember the names of people I haven’t worked with in 2 years, much less have more than zero investment in life announcements. If people would actually be invested, they’re likely friends on social media and will find out that way.

        2. FairPayFullBenefits*

          I disagree. If I got a pregnancy/birth announcement from someone I haven’t been in touch with for 2 years and who I only knew as a co-worker, I wouldn’t be touched, I would be confused.

      4. Antilles*

        Agreed, especially with this context:
        didn’t do that when I got married shortly after starting my current job, although everyone at my old job knew that I was engaged.
        You weren’t close enough to keep in touch with them about your marriage shortly after leaving, when you were still fresh in their mind. Add in two years of no-contact and you’re firmly in the zone where your name pops up and it’s “oh yeah, Jane Doe, hadn’t thought about her in months”.

        1. Annette*

          But they already knew she was getting married – because she was engaged. Unless tragedy struck. She was gettin’ hitched. Pregnancy = new information.

          1. Antilles*

            Except…OP didn’t consider them good enough friends to even bother following up after the wedding. Nor did they consider OP enough of a friend to shoot off a quick “hey, how was the wedding? where’d you go for your honeymoon?”
            If you weren’t close enough friends for either side to show interest in discussing one of your most major life events (wedding) after it happened, I can’t imagine why they’d care about your pregnancy even if it’s is Technically New Information…especially two full years after you last talked to them.

            1. Jen S. 2.0*

              This too. People you’ve passed in life have big events all the time, including marriages, pregnancies, divorces, deaths, job changes, moves, et cetera. I mean, someone you went to grad school with is leaving her husband right now, but is not bothering to announce it to people from past eras. You don’t need to announce every life event you have to people you knew, like, two or three jobs ago. Your actual friends and family, of course. Your wider circle will find out through the grapevine. But ex-colleagues from a job years ago, where you’re not close enough to have maintained even social media connections or any sort of regular correspondence? Those don’t fall in the “these people deserve a special baby announcement” category. These people would be like, “Who? Oh, yeah, her. That’s nice. Anyway…”

              No one is trying to say that they wouldn’t be happy to find out and delighted for you, but… people have babies every day (and that goes double for people who got married a couple of years ago and were interested in having kids; pregnancy announcements from that cohort are expected). Your new information is wonderful, but is one distant acquaintance’s life event of many for these people.

          2. Lyra Silvertongue*

            I dunno I find it pretty weird? Like Antilles said, they weren’t close enough to keep in touch about the marriage, nor close enough to keep in touch in the two years since OP left the company. There’s nothing bad about wanting to share news with people but if you want distant friends and acquaintances to hear about your new baby, surely that’s what Facebook and stuff is for? I didn’t get the feeling that OP wanted to actually be back in contact with those people, but rather that she wanted to tell them about her pregnancy, which is an odd dynamic imo.

    2. PollyQ*

      Agreed. It’s nice the OP has a friendly feeling for the company, but you can’t really be friends with an organization. If you were still friends with any of the individual people, then presumably you’d already be telling them, but if you’re not that close, then I also think it would be a little weird to hear from someone out of the blue just for this.

      1. Marzipan*

        Yes. This. If you haven’t stayed in touch with people there, then your friendships with them were situational work friendships – which is absolutely fine! But now you aren’t in the situation of working with them anymore, and haven’t been for some time, I’m not seeing the relevance of telling them about this, nice as it is.

        I would also gently mention, as a person with experience of infertility and pregnancy loss: please remember that pregnancy announcements can be tough for people who are struggling. Nobody begrudges anyone their happy news, but hearing about it – especially if it happens to come at a time when one’s own situation is at a particularly emotionally difficult point – can be draining. I have certainly had days when suddenly hearing about the pregnancy of someone I hadn’t even seen for two years would have seemed like the universe giving me another slap in the face, however fondly I recalled that person.

        (To be clear, of course people should feel free to share pregnancy news when they are ready to do so – for many people this will be an exciting time. But I don’t think it ever hurts to consider the possibility that it may be bittersweet for some people to hear, and that you won’t always know about those people’s situations – so I just generally advocate for awareness, so people can take this idea into account when planning how they want to approach things of this kind.)

        1. Important Moi*

          Respectfully, nowhere in the letter is it mentioned that pregnancy announcement are not difficult for people who are infertile.

          1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

            Sure, but that’s pretty typical–nobody says “my pregnancy announcement will not be difficult for infertile people to hear”. It’s much more likely that she just hasn’t considered this and it may be useful to consider. As another infertile person, it’s exceedingly common for fertile people not to have thought one way or another about someone else’s struggle to get/stay pregnant or the pain that it can cause to hear about a pregnancy of an acquaintance out of the blue.

            1. Amy Sly*

              Though granted, at a certain point the consideration makes you feel even worse. I’m about to the point where whenever a woman my age makes a point of calling me or talking to me in private, 80% of the time it’s to break the pregnancy news ahead of time so I don’t flip out at the public announcement.

        2. thethoughtoflilacs*

          Thank you. Marzipan, for pointing out that hearing other people’s pregnancy news can be hard for folks who are dealing/have dealt with infertility. As you put it:

          “I have certainly had days when suddenly hearing about the pregnancy of someone I hadn’t even seen for two years would have seemed like the universe giving me another slap in the face, however fondly I recalled that person.”

          Perfect. That’s exactly the feeling. It seems generally unnecessary, and to folks who may be struggling, that compounds the pain.

          1. Anonapots*

            Infertility is extremely difficult for people who want children, but it absolutely should not be the work of the person making a pregnancy announcement to have to consider every single person’s feelings on this matter. It sucks, especially if you’re in the age bracket where announcements seem like they’re coming fast and furious, but I feel like this shouldn’t really be a burden placed on a pregnant person to manage.

            1. Marzipan*

              I generally work on the principle that when, for minimum effort, I can do a thing in a way that takes into account other people’s feelings and experiences rather than in a way that doesn’t, I’d like to go for it. I don’t think that’s a huge burden to put on anyone, pregnant or otherwise.

              1. Important Moi*

                I am comfortable disagreeing with your opinion. No one is being pregnant AT anyone who is infertile. The Captain awkward website handles this quite nicely. Please take a gander.

              2. Avasarala*

                …What do you want them to do differently?
                An acquaintance reaches out and happens to mention they’re pregnant. That causes you pain, unknowingly to them. So what should they do about it? What does “considering that your happy news could make someone sad” look like?

      2. Mel_05*

        Yes, exactly.

        I am still casual friends with someone at my old company. If any major life events happen, I’ll tell her as a friend.

        And she will probably tell people who knew me at the old company. They will say, “Oh, that’s nice” and recount a story of someone else with the same big life event.

        And that’s the absolute last time any of them will think about it.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Second this from my own experience. At my previous job, I was 10-15 years older than most of my coworkers, and left the company around the time they all started getting married, moving to the suburbs, and having kids. For a couple of years after I left, I stayed FB friends with a good number of them, and honestly it felt like a lot of background noise passing through my feed – oh, a new house in the suburbs -oh, here’s another – ah, a baby picture – who’s the mother again, did we work together or something? – oh heck, a kid’s 3rd birthday, didn’t I just see this kid’s birth announcement? how do I know the parents again? and so on. All of these news were forgotten five seconds after I saw them. If it’s not a close friend or family member, no one’s really hanging on the edge of their seat waiting to hear if OP had a baby or not. They’d be really puzzled to receive an announcement through work channels, for sure.

      3. Sarah N.*

        I agree with this — it’s totally appropriate and nice to share the news with people you are genuinely still in touch with, but will come off a little strangely to those who you literally have not spoken to in 2 years. I had sort of similar timing with my pregnancy, and I definitely reached out to people I was still talking to (just as I would any friend), as well as one person who I was still working on an ongoing project with (more to let him know about my maternity leave and that I wouldn’t be available during that time).

        One way to frame this — if this is a company of any size, surely other people at the company have had children in the 2-year period since you left. Have they reached out to you with an announcement? Probably not (although if so, you could definitely reach out to that specific person with your news!).

      4. Peachkins*

        I agree. I wouldn’t go out of my way to give this news to people I’m no longer in touch with. If OP still has people at that company that she speaks with, just tell them. I think about my past employers, almost all of which I left on good terms and had coworkers I was friendly with at that time, and its just seems so odd to think about contacting them years after leaving to give an update on my life.

    3. Just Elle*

      To be fair, I received a birth announcement from my boss of the company I left 2 years ago. However, she was a mentor to me and I do try to keep her updated on my career changes.

      If there’s anyone you still correspond with, say, more than once a year… maybe send an announcement to just them.

    4. [insert witty username here]*


      Also, OP#4, think about what you’re expecting as a response. What’s the *point* of telling your old company? If you were still in social contact with anyone from your old job, 1. you’d probably already have told them by now and 2. you could/would reach out to them individually. If there’s not a BUSINESS reason to reach out to your old job or colleagues (networking, references, etc), there’s no reason to reach out now just because you’re having a baby. I’m sure they would all wish you well, but mostly…… they’re just not going to care that much (save for the truly baby-crazy folks).

    5. Minocho*

      Absolutely this. There are coworkers I keep in contact with occasionally from previous jobs. I can mention life events to them, but there’s no reason to share it through company channels with anyone. It would be….odd.

    6. Mama Bear*

      I occasionally heard via the grapevine that someone had a new baby, but unless I kept in touch with someone specifically, I would not expect to be contacted out of the blue. Congrats, though.

    7. Quill*

      Honestly if you’re keeping in touch with them via facebook, there’s no reason not to do the announcing via facebook. Anyone still invested in hearing from you still after 2 years of no contact will know that way.

      (I wouldn’t bother with a Linked In contact: LI is for professional life updates.)

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      If you’re regularly in touch, that’s one thing. If it’s one of those setups where you visit every once in awhile, that would make it acceptable as well.

      But if you’re just a previous employee who left on good terms and you haven’t talked to them in those 2 years, it’s strange to be focusing on them being invested in this news. They are most likely very happy that you’re doing well but former colleagues aren’t the same as your college roommates or old friends/extended family you may have lost touch with over the last few years!

    9. knead me seymour*

      I think it really depends on the company. At my current company, we often hear news and updates from former staff and interns and everyone likes to keep in touch. We also regularly hire back previous staff and interns, so there is a bit of an “extended family” vibe (not in a creepy way). At a company like mine, I think an update would be welcome, even after a couple of years, but not so much if it’s a more reserved or formal company culture.

    10. Diamond*

      Yep. I don’t understand why you would reach out to a previous employer after 2 years to tell them you’re pregnant. I find the idea a bit bizarre. You haven’t been in contact for two years! Why would anyone be upset about not being told?? If you have an actual friend you still see that works there, they can mention it.

  2. Engineer Girl*

    There was a time in my career when I had to meet international clients at formal events. I found some really nice velvet dresses at Goodwill.
    You’ll have better luck at stores near wealthier neighborhoods.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Also – never underestimate the power of the little black dress. A simple sheath dress can be accessorized many ways. You could add some silly accessories (a Christmas light necklace) and look festive and classy at the same time.

      1. Edwina*

        Yes, I found a simple black dress, absolutely nothing fancy–but with a pretty scarf and nice shoes and a manicure, it looks completely acceptable at innumerable Christmas parties. You can probably find a basic black dress at Target, or, certainly at a thrift store, and dress it up with a nice scarf or necklace from a thrift store, and look great. I love Engineer Girl’s idea of a christmas light necklace–they cost about $5 at Walgreens or on Amazon and will get a lot of compliments! You can get a nice bag and shoes at a thrift store too. Going forward, try to check out the For Sale section of Next Door–they often have tons of nice stuff, very cheap, or will announce a garage sale. People are often selling clothes they no longer wear or no longer fit into etc etc, and you can get some great bargains. Good luck!

        1. Jdc*

          Yes. I had a very last minute funeral once and thanks to a 5lb weight gain was looking very porn star in my black dresses. I ran to target and found a simple modest black dress on the clearance rack for $10. I wasn’t in love with it but it did the job.

        2. Veronica*

          If you don’t find shoes at the thrift store, discount stores like Payless will have some. They’re not durable, but you can probably wear them occasionally for a few months.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        Don’t forget clearance racks! I found a LBD for $10 at Macys once – nothing wrong with it, it was just out of season.

          1. yala*

            I think all the stores have already closed. Ours certainly did. I picked over its desiccated corpse on the very last day and got some really nice tops for about $5 each.

            Thrift stores would be my first suggestion, but if that turns up nothing ideal, Macy’s is probably having some good sales right about now (nevermind Black Friday–forget doorbusting, you can just order online and return anything that doesn’t work to the store with no problem), and it might even be worth signing up for the credit card, since you tend to get a nice discount when you do that, and if you pay it off right away and don’t use it much, it’s not really an issue.

            If there’s a TJ Maxx or Marshall’s in the area, those tend to have pretty decent clothes/accessories for not very much.

            1. alldogsarepuppies*

              Macy’s Last Act is amazing. I found out a week before an out of town wedding it was black tie/ball gown required (thanks attentive boy friend who’s +1 I was!) and I found a gorgeous $210 dress there for….$7.00. Nothing wrong, ripped, or stained, just no longer the style. I’m going to get so much use out of that dress for less than $10.

              1. Joielle*

                I agree with all the suggestions in this thread and will add Nordstrom Rack! I always have good luck there.

                Or, if you’re ok with online shopping, The Real Real. It’s not hard to find discount codes, and you can get gently used designer clothes for SO cheap. I bought a LBD by Halston Heritage (originally $300) for $30. The downside is that the descriptions on the website aren’t great, but I usually find a size chart for the particular brand on the brand’s own website and have found some really lovely pieces.

          2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            I did NOT know this and ours is definitely NOT closed yet. I know where I am going this weekend!

        1. Working Mom*

          Yes to the LBD! Depending on how much lead time you have… don’t underestimate the power of a good alteration either. I found a perfect simple black dress (with cap sleeves and a V neck) and H&M. I was probably $20-$30. But I’m very short and as a result the hemline was a smidge to long, and the V-neck was too deep. I spent about $30 having it altered at my local dry cleaners and now it fits perfectly! Well-fitting clothing is often MORE important than how expensive/name brand the clothes are.
          Good luck!!

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        Absolutely! I have three (ling sleeve, short sleeve, lace) and dress them up/down as needed. They are my best ever wardrobe investment.

        1. frogs and turtles*

          Ann Taylor, Loft, Banana Republic, Talbots all have very good sales (40-60% off clearance) regularly online and in stores. I’ve bought new $80 pants for $12, etc.

    2. Sally*

      I second this. I have bought some really nice gowns at Goodwill and other local thrift stores, and when you add in the cost of alterations, they were still incredible deals. And sometimes the fit is good enough, and I don’t even bother with alterations.

      1. Jessen*

        Thirding. Also a lot cheaper if you’re capable of minor sewing. I wouldn’t do major alterations myself, but I’ve found some lovely stuff that just needs minor repairs. Say a zipper sewn back into place or a small flower to cover a missing decoration or something.

        1. Jessen*

          Look for shoes at secondhand stores, too! I know shoes can be as or more expensive than the dress, if you don’t have a good pair of formal shoes. And good shoes are one of those things that can really elevate an outfit.

        2. Quill*

          I have several cardigans that just had minor discolorations near the neck, and a simple youtube “how to embroider a rose” tutorial, or a fabric marker that matched, took care of those.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Also OP said it was semi formal, so I wonder if they are overthinking what they need to wear? I have been to several semi-formal work functions, and yes some women might wear longer “gown” type dresses, but plenty of women also wore a business sheath dress, LBD, or work appropriate cocktail dress with a blazer/jacket. Most men wore a basic suit with and without a tie, or slacks and a blazer.

        1. Artemesia*

          Semi formal is cocktail dress not ball gown and a basic black — even pants and top with fancy jacket or scarf or basic black dress with scarf or Christmas kitch like the light necklace and earrings is plenty. And very basic black pumps work too rather than buying fancy dressy shoes you won’t wear often. I’d be hesitant to discuss my wardrobe with the boss but would first try to see what I could manage with second hand, H&M or a friend or even working with basics in my own wardrobe and upgrading. I found a sweater with a kind of gold thread in it at Chico with nice cut over a white underlayer that I wore with silk pants to my son’s outdoor wedding and since then to my nephew’s fancy NYC wedding and it worked perfectly for both. Especially at Christmas where ornament earrings or Christmasy scarf will be festive, you can get buy with something pretty basic.

      3. Dahlia*

        As a plus size person, I’ve only seen one formal dress at my local thrift store, and it was a velvet monstrocity from the 90s.

        1. Artemesia*

          But a semi formal business event doesn’t really call for a ‘formal dress’ and a gown would probably look a bit out of place. The basic black dress with holiday accessories will be more likely to look pitch perfect than something very elaborate anyway.

        2. Kelly L.*

          And as an alternate data point, when I was plus size I found LBDs all the time. It all depends on your location and who the donor base is, I think. It’s at least worth a look.

      4. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I have a fantastic formal gown that I bought for $6 at a thrift store, and I did a temporary alteration with some safety pins until I could afford to have a tailor see to it. It’s definitely worth a shot for OP to drop in at the local thrift store or charity shop.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I hit submit before I finished my thought!

          OP, find a used clothing store in the wealthier part of town. I live in a lower income neighborhood and work in a higher income one. The Goodwill shop closer to my office has much nicer options than the one near my home, because it got most of its donations from people in a higher income bracket.

    3. Jane*

      Goodwill seems to randomizetheir stuff, so I have not found that wealthier neighborhoods have bettet selections. I have found that many thrifts with less national presence are better in rich places, however. You might find the best success with a local hospice thrift, some other charity shop for a local cause, or a boutique used clothing store or consignment shop in a wealthy area.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        There are some Goodwill stores that are Goodwill Boutiques. They might only be in certain areas, though – and I suspect OP #1 isn’t in the US at all given that they’re the only native English speaker in the company and that this fact is “an example of [the company’s] international aspect”.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Yes. And the other benefit of shopping at a more local thrift store is not giving your money to Goodwill!

        1. doreen*

          Ok , I know the reasons why people don’t support the Salvation Army- but what’s the problem with Goodwill? I know some people don’t like that they sell clothes rather than giving them away, but like some other non-profits, they operate thrift stores to fund their mission, which is actually job training .

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            I believe it’s because they pay their CEO an extreme amount and they have been accused of abusing their workers.

          2. Anonymeece*

            For one, they employ people with disabilities and pay them well below the minimum wage. There’s apparently some kind of loophole in the law, and Goodwill is happy to exploit it (and their workers).

            1. birdtripping*

              Not all Goodwills do this. The organization has 158 independently managed local regions in the US, each with its own policies. I just googled some reliable sources to find current stats; just 30 regions follow the shameful practice allowing them to pay sub-minimum wages. The larger Goodwill org claims it advocates these regions to “transition” to competitive pay but doesn’t require them to. Hoping the increasing pressure its facing will lead to the complete elimination of the practice; till then, I check the policies of local stores before shopping there.

              1. Anonapots*

                This isn’t their only issue. There’s something a little unsavory about a company that gets all its products for free worrying about theft or pricing some of the items they get at the prices they set. I want to look at jewelry; I don’t want to be watched over like I’m moments away from stealing this rhinestone ring with a missing stone.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  Good LORD, yes, their prices make my eyes water sometimes. We have a couple local thrift stores we love, both benefitting homeless shelters/soup kitchens, and every single thing in both of them is priced SO much lower than at Goodwill.

          3. Banana Pancakes*

            There was a big scandal at a Goodwill located in the Midwest. IIRC, Goodwill was buying products from overseas and reselling them as “Made in USA”. On top of that, the vast majority of the profits got gobbled up by executive pay versus being allocated to the various programs Goodwill supports. The cherry on top is Goodwill employs dozens of disabled folks which they can pay less than minimum wage (I’m not sure of the exact federal law) thus boosting profits which enriched the executives’ pockets. It was a really bad look.

          4. Jack Be Nimble*

            I’m not sure if there are other issues that I’m unaware of, but many Goodwill locations pay their disabled staff exploitative wages well below minimum wage. Even where state law allows it, it’s not ethical or moral to pay someone $3.00/hour.

            1. Parenthetically*

              This, plus the exec pay, is my issue. I have family members with cognitive impairments who were directly exploited due to laws like this and died in poverty.

              1. Anonapots*

                The protected workshop loophole is BS. There are people who are comfortable in a protected workshop setting, but they should be paid minimum wage at the very least. Paying pennies on the dollar for the work they do is perverse.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  I absolutely love the idea of sheltered workshops — it’s work that fits people’s lives and abilities, done with dignity in a safe environment! But yes, you can’t say you’re providing dignified work to human beings unless you PAY THEM PROPERLY.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        True. The best thrift store I’ve ever found for variety and quality was actually in a pretty run-down part of town. It was a chain, though not Goodwill (or SA, which I will not support on principle).

      4. Quill*

        Locally I’ve found that wealthier towns have better selections – I once found a entire set of professional camera zoom lenses in a local resort town.

        1. Cheesy*

          Anything electronic like that gets snagged so fast that my once a month Sunday trip into town almost never sees it.

          My closest location has a very healthy selection of books in hardcover (the largest I’ve seen in any of the GW I’ve been in) and they are all clean and free of all but the smallest of damage, and most of them have their dust jackets as well. I’ve gotten some amazing finds and picked up a few new series after finding the first 2-3 books on the shelf.

        2. many bells down*

          Oh gosh yes, the Value Village in my area has insane stuff. I got a $400 lambswool and cashmere winter coat for $15 once.

      5. starsaphire*

        +100. Look for the American Cancer Society thrift shop, the SPCA thrift shop, the Local Prominent Church’s Women’s Club thrift shop.

        I have, no lie, seen an authentic vintage Chanel suit and multiple fur stoles in one of these types of stores.

      6. E*

        Goodwill also has programs for helping folks find jobs and put together a work wardrobe, so you might ask and see if they have a service to help you get a few pieces for this job, like a little black dress and shoes.

      7. Cheesy*

        My wife lives to shop at Goodwill. Thankfully, the one closest to us is a very nice store as well. It’s not near the wealthy neighborhoods as it’s on the edge of town, with most of the nearby housing a bit on the less affluent side (it’s not bad, but it’s definitely not the $750k and up housing in other parts of town). In all actuality, the one closer to the affluent side of town always felt picked over and grungy.

        Part of the reason could be that everyone “knows” to shop in the wealthier area, but the other reason is likely all the smaller outlying towns that bring in donations and only have to go 2 stoplights in on the main drag vs. the other store nestled in a busy area much further in.

      8. shartheheretic*

        I worked as a job coach at Goodwill. The donations in our area are usually taken to a central location where they are reviewed for flaws, put on hangers, and sent out to stores throughout the region. We did tend to send some of the nicer clothes to one particular store because their manager knew how to recognize and price better quality items. This may or may not be how its handled in other areas.

      1. snowglobe*

        Yes, I was going to suggest that if the LW wears suits or dresses for work, they may be able to ‘dress it up’ with some jewelry, maybe a sparkly shell under a suit jacket.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          A sparkly scarf or shawl can work also, and might be less expensive than jewelry, depending upon where you shop. I’ve long used scarves to dress up otherwise dull outfits. I’ve had some luck on eBay buying things, but always read the descriptions and check the photos carefully.

    4. Avasarala*

      Chiming in from Asia where I could totally see myself in OP’s shoes: are you sure you know the dress code and what it means?

      I’m guessing a formal/semiformal social event would call for a velvet dress or something along those lines. But for a business event, especially one where I would see clients and was working, it’s almost always a suit (black). And if you work in this kind of environment I’m assuming you already have a suit, so you could wear that. It would also look good if you were a welcome host, kind of sets you apart from other coworkers without those duties. That said, they may prefer you to dress “thematically” somehow as part of your “hello I’m the foreign one” performance.

      I would ask the other hosts what they plan on wearing and match that.

      1. Avasarala*

        Also if this aligns with your situation LOL do not try to claim this as a business expense. Unless you’re asked to dress up as Santa, it is not a uniform, you are responsible for obtaining appropriate business attire especially if that=suit. And it would be really weird to ask to sit out a business event you’ve been asked (aka told) to attend because you didn’t have a suit so I’m hoping this is not your situation.

      1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

        I’ve read and re-read OP1, and I can’t see where it says they are female or female presenting. Am I missing something?

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Men don’t really have “evening attire” any more unless you’re talking tux or white tie – LW’s interview suit with a slightly more fun tie would be fine.

          1. Daniel Atter*

            Yes, this. Unless you need a tux, you wear a suit, and OP probably has one (and if not, I think would probably have specified ‘suit’ in the original post).

            I’m going to assume that you can at least find €20-€30, I know that isn’t always the case, but if not I don’t have much to offer other than ‘borrow something’, or ask for an advance on pay – I can’t realistically see you managing to expense it and you risk looking quite tone deaf to normal office situations.

            Just in case OP is male-presenting – OP, the trick with a suit most of the time is not how expensive or well-made it is – that helps it to last for a long time, but isn’t the point about looking good. The trick is that it fits well. If you already have a suit that you don’t think is nice enough, or can afford a cheap one (make sure the shoulders fit perfectly, that’s the main thing that can’t be adjusted easily), take it to a tailor and get it adjusted.

            Gist is that a cheap suit that fits well looks better than an expensive suit that doesn’t. The last suit I had adjusted cost about €30 to adjust, including slightly shortening both sleeves, hemming the trousers and bringing in slightly the waist on the jacket. It was a dirt cheap suit and it looked amazing.

            Obviously if you can’t afford a suit that doesn’t help – look into rentals in that case, or see if you can borrow one from a friend. I remember when I moved into a new job that suddenly required suits having to wear a borrowed H&M suit until I got my first few pay cheques and could afford a new one so I sympathise.

            Honestly, if you are female presenting then I’m hardly an expert, but it seems to me that it doesn’t change much. It’s all about the fit. An H&M black dress that fits well will beat an expensive dress picked up second hand that doesn’t quite fit right hands down. It will wear out, or get misshapen faster, but that isn’t the point when you are only planning to wear it for rare special occasions.

            Hope you find a solution

            1. pleaset*

              “Gist is that a cheap suit that fits well looks better than an expensive suit that doesn’t.”


            2. Brett*

              If the OP is male presenting, knowing the country at least would probably be helpful.

              In some countries, traditional business dress is tan or brown suits, while semi-formal dress is dark suits only (navy, black, or charcoal). Your advice still applies. Better to wear a well-fitting suit of the wrong color than a correct color suit that is ill-fitting.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            And you can rent a tux–it’s even the norm to rent a tux rather than buy one. So there wouldn’t be much problem. The letter would be “Can I business expense my tux rental” and the answer “Ask your boss.”

        2. Aquawoman*

          People are reasonably assuming this is a woman because of the “added expense” element, aka the “pink tax,” which men rarely have to deal with. Semiformal for men most likely means just a suit and he most likely already owns that.

        3. LilySparrow*

          I’ve known a lot of folks of a lot of different persuasions in my life, but I have never, ever heard a male presenting person claim they have “nothing to wear,” or think that a work event entitles them to have someone else buy them a fancier outfit than they can afford.

          I’ve heard, “can I get away with wearing x?” or “do I really HAVE to wear y?”

          But can I ask my employer to buy me “suitable attire?” If they are trying to present male, they are missing a few key social flags.

          This certainly sounds like a female undergrad who isn’t quite prepared for the career she got into, or prepared to be fully independent as an adult.

          1. Julia*

            Dude. Even as a woman who wore suits and Michelle Obama dresses for her previous job, if someone asked me to work an actual black tie event (if OP isn’t misunderstanding), I’d have to buy a new dress and probably also get my hair done, which can cost a lot. You underestimate what women need to do to look presentable to society that has nothing to do with their job functions.

      2. JustaTech*

        I’ve done Rent The Runway for holiday parties before and been very pleased with the quality of the dress (and that I don’t have to keep them). It’s still not *cheap*; I think I paid maybe $75 to wear a $400 dress for one party, but they have a big selection and a reasonable size range, though I don’t know if they do plus-sizes.

    5. Just Elle*

      Yes, I still wear some dresses around the holidays I found at Goodwill. Although, assuming she is not US-based, I wonder if there’s an equivalent where she lives?

      Or Rent the Runway was literally made for this. You don’t need to do anything expensive, they have some $30 plainer dresses that are still quite nice.

      I’ve also found that tights that have some sheen/sparkle somehow make any outfit look a bit more dressy.

    6. SigneL*

      I have a simple (long) black skirt that I can wear with almost any blouse or sweater. Accessorize with a scarf. But I’d ask what they really mean by semi-formal attire (for example, ball gown? Sequins? or just something dressy?). I’d probably go with something very basic with a scarf around my neck – but definitely ask first.

      1. Linda's Sister*

        I’m flashing back to high school, where the official definition of “semi-formal” dances and such was “no jeans.”

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Yes, one time when I was 13 I misunderstood and/or was given the wrong the dress code, I was told formal. So I showed up in a rented tux, everyone else was in just a suit and tie. I was the best dressed at the event, but also definitely over dressed.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Also consider a post to Freecycle and to BuyNothing — I’ve seen equivalent requests in my local groups from people newly entering (or newly returned to) the workforce.
      That said, I’d ask my manager if my interview suit would be appropriate. It’s entirely possible it would be *better* for an employee to look mostly business than mostly celebratory.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, OP probably can’t get her employer to spring for an outfit for her, but she might be able to say “instead of dressing as a velvet bumblebee for the apiary theme, could I wear a suit to distinguish myself from the other guests?”

      2. Luna Lovegood*

        I second the recommendation for Buy Nothing. Many communities have a buy nothing Facebook page (i.e. Buy Nothing Boston), and I’ve had a lot of luck with mine. I have some nice dresses hanging in my closet that don’t really fit anymore, and I’d definitely pass them on if I saw a request like this.

        1. A*

          Yes! Those communities are also great at offering alternative suggestions. I ran into a similar situation as OP, except rather than financial limitations it was due to an unfortunate series of events where I was traveling for work, had a portion of my luggage stolen, and got hit with an unexpected black-tie formal event (usually I’m business casual, this was very unusual). I posted in a local Buy Nothing group, and after a few hours of no responses I got a message from someone offering to loan me a formal gown for the evening! It worked out perfectly, and I returned it the following morning with $40 just to show my appreciation + cover dry cleaning if desired.

        2. Emily K*

          Yes, in fact I’ve observed an uptick in clothing giveaways on my BN group just in the past week or two. Lots of people making room in their closets for the holidays, I’d guess!

    8. pleaset*

      Adding just that this seems like the company thinks highly of the OP and if this goes well (which it will!!) she can expect to get more use of the clothes etc.

    9. Third or Nothing!*

      I’ve found a lot of my dresses at Ross! They always seem to have a decent selection and most are under $20. I got my post-wedding dress (basically a dress you can wear to leave the wedding reception so you’re not trying to stuff a giant poofy dress into a car), a dress to wear for my anniversary, and a dress to wear to work all from Ross. Cato is another one of my sources. My black lace New Year’s Eve dress is from there.

    10. Environmental Compliance*

      I have picked up some really nice office wear previously at Goodwill – on the nice side of town. Also had really good luck at Thredup.

      In fact, there’s only one thing in my closet that’s dressier that *isn’t* out of some type of consignment – I wanted a specific color in particular and wanted it sooner rather than later.

      Also had really good luck getting cheaper prom/homecoming like dresses at the Macy’s sales racks. I think my first prom dress was $40, second $5, and both homecoming dresses were maybe $20 each.

    11. Smithy*

      In addition to what everyone has said – for someone presenting as a woman I have found it very easy to dress up even a black cotton dress with black stockings, black shoes and then jewelry or accessories. Unless you are working somewhere more red carpet formal, that would work in most places where I’ve been even for formal embassy parties.

      This also might seem obvious (but wasn’t always to me when I was young) – but ironing/dry cleaning your outfit before the event can do a lot when dressing up more casual materials.

      And lastly – buying work clothing when you’re on a limited budget is never fun. But if you do need to buy something, I’d really look for a dress that will meet this event’s needs as well as for more regular work wear. It may still be a dress you weren’t budgeting to buy right now – but at least it will work as another work outfit.

    12. Mama Bear*

      Agreed. And perhaps ask your local listserv which store has the best items. There are a few in my area and I visit some specifically because the quality is higher. Also troll sales and clearance racks in “wedding” stores. I have gotten nice dresses for less than $50 new. My prom dress was $18. Tip: Sometimes ordering online and having it shipped to a store is a bigger discount than what they display in the store, and free shipping. I’ve done that at Macy’s a few times. Tried it on in store – went home and ordered online.

    13. prismo*

      Poshmark is also really useful! I got my wedding shoes on Poshmark for $45. They have like-new clothing for big discounts. I’ve definitely seen dresses on there for less than $10.

    14. DataGirl*

      Based on the comment by OP about her being the only person with English skills, I’m assuming she’s not in the US. When I lived overseas thrift shops weren’t really a thing, at least in the country I was in. I would recommend Poshmark or ThredUp, but again if not in the US shipping might take too long- depending on when the party is. OP, do you have an H&M? That’s where I got all my work clothes when I lived in Europe. They are pretty affordable. Good luck!

    15. knead me seymour*

      I think the consignment or borrowing route is a good idea for the LW if they are looking for a dress or skirt, but it’s a lot more challenging with suits and dress pants/shirts, since the fit is less forgiving. It is possible to get them tailored, but that might be outside the LW’s budget. I just say this as someone who has been in that situation before.

    16. BigLo*

      It might be too close to the date, but Rent the Runway could be an option as well depending on where your budget is at. You could likely find an appropriate dress to rent for around $30-50 if that’s doable!

    17. wittyrepartee*

      I’m a huge fan of thrifting. Another option would be to ask your company to help you wear something from “rent the runway” or a similar clothing rental site. It will sound less precious than if you ask them to expense clothing that you keep forever.

      Also, don’t forget shoes.

    18. LunaLena*

      “You’ll have better luck at stores near wealthier neighborhoods.”

      I’ve noticed that’s a common misconception that many people have. I used to work with someone whose spouse was a truck driver for Goodwill, and she told me that his job was to make pick-ups at various stores, take them to a central location where they were sorted, and then deliver an assortment of goods back to the stores. They know people will flock to the stores in nicer neighborhoods regardless of whether they truly have “nicer” stuff, so they mix it up to give all stores a chance to carry some good stuff.

      That said nowadays I do most of my shopping in thrift stores, PoshMark, and Kohl’s/Old Navy/Target clearance racks, so I definitely recommend all of those. But it sounds like the LW isn’t in the US? In that case, Amazon might be an option – I’ve found some great, affordable, and unique clothing that way. You do have to be very careful about what you buy and who you’re buying from (unscrupulous sellers have found all sorts of ways to be sneaky and sell subpar clothing), but for the most part I’ve had pretty good experiences.

  3. Kimmybear*

    #1- I had to work a semi formal event as an intern once. I borrowed an outfit from a friend and then dry cleaned it and returned it. Consignment and thrift shops are a good idea as well. Depending on where you are, something like Rent the Runway might work or some bridal shops have started renting more formal outfits for women like tuxedo rental places have always done for men.

    1. Princess Deviant*

      Yes I agree with this OP. I wouldn’t approach the employers about it, unless you think that they’ll be amenable to a pay advance to help you buy something.

    2. Orange You Glad*

      I’ve used Rent The Runway and it was great! They sent two sizes of the dress I needed just to get the fit right and the whole process was less than $100 to look like I spent $$$ for a fancy event!

      If you decide to ask your employer to cover your costs, maybe going in with an exact number will help?

      Use Alison’s script and then “I’d like to rent a dress for $X; is that something the company will cover as an expense?”

      And make sure whatever that $X is includes dress plus shoes plus dry cleaning costs if needed.

      1. Emily Spinach*

        I used it for my wedding. The service was great: convenient and efficient. My dress was also great, and they have so many options! Though some get pretty expensive.

      2. Budget diva*

        Was just coming here to suggest this! I’ve gotten great formal dresses from rent the runway for $20-$30. The only bad part is you have to return a gorgeous item once you’re done with it!

        1. PhyllisB*

          All these are good suggestions. I don’t know where this OP lives, but someone mentioned manicures. If they’re in the US they might want to check out a local business school. Don’t know the going rate at beauty schools now, but the last time I tried one, it was $5.00. So even with a generous tip you still come out ahead.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I’d be careful tbh. I’m sure they are all different but the last time I got a manicure at a beauty school it was kind of a disaster. Someone told me that most of the people are there for hair but they have to do manicures too and some of them are just really terrible at it.

            1. Emily*

              I went to beauty school when I fresh outta high school and all my classmates died a little inside when we had to give manicures. Depending on the state, some students have to everything (hair skin and nails) despite ONLY being interested in hair.

              Most nail salons offer a “polish only” manicure for fairly cheap.

              1. voluptuousfire*

                As someone who likes polished nails but despises chipping, one can never go wrong with moisturizing your hands with a heavy cream (like Nivea) and putting a pair of cotton gloves (or even cotton socks) on to help it absorb. Slap on some pink-tinted or clear nail polish and you look like you got a manicure.

          2. Stabbity Tuesday*

            There’s lots of press on nails available in beauty aisles at most drugstores and superstores, I’ve used them for weddings and a few brands even use stickers instead of glue so they’re hard to mess up. Target has most sets for between 5 and 7 bucks.

      3. pamplemousse*

        I like Rent the Runway, but when I was in the OP’s position — just out of school on a tight budget — the idea that I had saved money by spending nearly $100 on something I could only wear once would have made me cry laughing. I bought a party dress on clearance-on-sale for something like $35 and wore it to every corporate holiday event for the next 5 years.

        The details on the event are vague enough that I’m not sure what the best solution is for OP, but I think it’s to ask their manager what people typically wear to this kind of thing, and then figure out whether borrowing, consignment, eBay, or fast fashion makes the most sense. Generally, I’d look at what I already had that could be dressed up easily (black skirt or dress with a colorful cardigan or wrap, for example). But as described (themed and semi-formal) it doesn’t sound like something where asking the company to pay would be within the norm.

        1. Emily K*

          Yeah, I always saw RtR as more of like a budget-friendly/fiscally-responsible option for middle-class professionals who want to dress like upper-class professionals occasionally without dropping several hundred dollars on something that (esp if you’re a woman) convention says you should never be seen wearing again. A middle-class professional has money – they just don’t want to blow it on luxury goods with limited usefulness. That’s different from just not having money in the first place.

    3. Hamburke*

      Both of my sisters, a cousin, my best friend, 3 of my sister’s friends and I all wore this black with cream trim strapless dress at one time or another. my sister bought it at Ross or TJMaxx for $12 in 1997 – it cost as much to dryclean but we all wore and cleaned that dress bc it’s an easy-wear dress that has classic style and looked good on all our bodytypes. It’s still in a closet at my parents house – I saw it last time I was there. If my teen girls find it, I bet they’ll take it home to wear.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Ah, the rotating closet of formal wear. My circle of friends would get together every formal season to swap dresses in high school and college. It was the only way I got to wear a different dress to every dance, and my mother swore she’d buy ONE formal dress for high school (she ended up buying two because I’m a bargain shopper). I had a maroon velvet sheath dress that I paid $20 for, and it got worn at least five times that I know of (one of the wearers is my much-younger sister, who may have put it into her dress swap circle as well).

        1. Quill*

          Before I grew curves that my mom doesn’t have, I used to go through her closet for whatever was retro.

    4. Junior Assistant Peon*

      If you’re an intern, they’ll understand you’re broke. I used to work in a plant, and people would dress up to the extent they were able to at the formal company Christmas party. Some of the plant floor guys didn’t own suits.

    5. Blunt Bunny*

      Yes my first idea was borrow from people you know before you ask the company. Also I assume you wore some sort of formal dress for graduation could you just rewear that? Also it doesn’t have to be a dress you can put together a nice top tucked into a skirt of similar colour style to look like dresses. Eg Black pencil skirt with black sparkly top tucked into it is what I wore for my work Christmas party. Also they have the advantage of being a lot easier to get out of.

  4. Heidi*

    Hi OP3. I tend to leave bigger tips, so sometimes I will only submit the base fare receipt for reimbursement because I don’t want people to think I’m cavalier about over-spending the company’s money. They probably don’t care at all, but my point is that it’s possible that the employee does tip but doesn’t know that it’s okay to have them reimbursed.

    1. JamieS*

      Yeah, I’m wondering how OP even knows they aren’t tipping. I thought the tip was just included in the total for the ride not separately stated.

        1. QC*

          But Uber at least will send two emails, one before tip on the base fare and one with the tip added. I sometimes lose the second email or just forget to grab it for the expense report, and I’d be mortified if I thought my boss thought I was cheap because of that.

          1. Not Me*

            This. My company has a hard stop at 20% gratuity, anything over that needs approval that just isn’t worth it in my opinion. So if I want to tip more than 20% I’ll just eat the cost of it and use the first email to expense my ride.

            Just because I don’t expense a tip doesn’t mean I’m not tipping.

            1. DataGirl*

              Mine too. In fact I recently submitted a dinner receipt where I have tipped a flat $10 on a $40 meal and it was rejected for being over 20%- I had to adjust the receipt and could only claim back $8. I have worked in service industries so I always tip well.

        2. A*

          Ya I’m wondering if maybe the employee is tipping cash? I usually do just because I prefer the drivers to have the immediate benefit, and more often than not I forget to claim it when I fill out the expense report.

          1. MoopySwarpet*

            I would assume this is the case before I assume an employee isn’t tipping. However, I would still encourage them to tip via the app on business trips for ease of reimbursement.

          2. Aunt Piddy*

            I was thinking this too. I try to tip in cash because Uber lowers the employees’ base pay when they get electronic tips.

          3. Easter*

            Same, I just assumed the employee is tipping in cash. I know when I waited tables I preferred cash because I had to claim credit card tips, so now I always try to tip in cash.

      1. V-Rex*

        Uber driver of 4 years here. Tips are optional and appreciated, but not mandatory. It’s not like we are waiters and most of our income is comprised of tips. I’d say that maybe a quarter to a third of my riders tip, and most of those are $1-3, but they sure do add up and cover gas.

        When Uber started, they used “tip is included” as part of the marketing campaign, the option to tip on the app was added later because Lyft did it.

        I wouldn’t feel too bad about a coworker not tipping their Uber/Lyft driver because it’s not like you stiffed a waiter, but if it’s covered by expenses your driver would definitely appreciate it.

        1. Ermmm*

          Don’t short change yourself! uber drivers totally deserve tips. The reason they originally started with no tipping is because drivers were making 2-3 times what they now earn.

          Everyone should tip their rideshare drivers, period, end of story. I see some of my colleagues (who themselves make $400-$500 PER HOUR, no joke) not tipping their drivers and it makes me insane. I don’t know how to bring it up but I was interested in what alison had to say.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      My workplace doesn’t reimburse for tips for Reasons so I wonder if the employee worked somewhere in the past that had a similar policy and so they just exclude the tipped amount from what they’re submitting.

      1. Ella Vader*

        I can’t remember which organization I was working for – it was either governmental or something funded by grants – where we got a memo explaining that when representing our employer we were expected to tip taxi drivers appropriately and get the receipt with the tip included in, and that we were expected to use the “incidentals” portion of our travel per diem allowance to tip hotel cleaners etc.

        So I’ve done that ever since with taxis when I was travelling on expenses – telling them how much I was going to tip by asking them what to put on the receipt.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          We have similar documentation – you are expected to tip taxi/rideshare drivers and servers within the proscribed range when traveling on the company dime. It makes the company look cheap, if you’re using the company accounts/cards.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          We have similar documentation – you are expected to tip taxi/rideshare drivers and servers within the proscribed range when traveling on the company dime. If you don’t tip at all, it makes the company look cheap, if you’re using the company accounts/cards.

          1. Emily K*

            As a former catering delivery person I can back this up – we all know that your company most likely authorizes you to tip up to a certain amount, likely 10-20%, so when corporate customers left no tip at all they came off like pricks who could have tipped us, it was in the budget to tip us and wouldn’t come out of your pocket, but they decided, “No, these people do not deserve any tip at all.” You don’t want to be placing repeat orders once the delivery service has figured out you don’t tip.

      2. Tipping is a city in China*

        Unfortunately mine does too, and while it ducks for the driver, I’m unwilling to tip out if my own pocket for rides my employer is asking me to take.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Considering that you almost certainly earn a lot more than the driver does, I suggest rethinking this attitude.

          1. GooseTracks*

            I think that’s uncalled for. You don’t know how much the commenter OR the driver earns (plenty of people drive rideshare as a side gig). I agree that if you can afford it, it’s courteous to tip the driver out of your own pocket, but if you can’t, you can’t! And it’s miserly of the company to not reimburse tips, forcing the employee to either spend their own money on a work expense, or stiff the driver.

          2. Veronica*

            Seconding – my Uber tips are usually $3.00 – $5.00. I can certainly afford that, unless I was taking several rides a day… and even then I’d make an effort, maybe by tipping $1.00 – $2.00 instead.

            Do you remember a few years ago there were all these articles about Uber drivers not making enough to break even? I suppose that’s why they set up the system for tipping. I’m sure the drivers aren’t rich even with tips.

            It sucks that the system requires tipping instead of a living wage for all but until that changes, tipping is necessary.

          3. Natalie*

            I really don’t think this falls on the worker to remedy, it’s the company’s fault and the company’s responsibility. I wouldn’t expect random employees to give money to, say, underpaid cleaning staff or vendors who get shortpaid, why would drivers be any different?

            1. Anonapots*

              Sure, but that doesn’t mean we have to all jump into stupid capitalism together like we have no responsibility to each other.

      3. Joielle*

        Mine’s the same, but I do tip – I just wait until I get the emailed receipt and then go back into the app and give a tip. So the tip isn’t on the receipt I submit. I hope nobody’s judging me for not tipping, because I definitely do!

      4. CatCat*

        Yeah, this is exactly what I was thinking. Where I work, tips for taxis, ride shares, and shuttles will NOT be reimbursed. I have no idea why and I think it’s ridiculous. I still end up tipping and eating that cost, but I know not everyone is in a position to do that.

    3. Felix*

      to OP3, I would not be taken aback by the fact that they don’t tip on rideshare – although they should be now. When Uber debuted, there was no tipping option and it was supposed to be built in. They have since added the feature, obviously, and changed how they compensate drivers, but some people are being stubborn about it. From what I understand, it is pretty much 50/50 for people who tip and don’t.
      A subtle reminder to your employee that, however things used to be structured, the way drivers were paid has changed and tips are now considered appropriate – especially if the company is reimbursing.

            1. Lyudie*

              Personally I tip all the time. I don’t know how much more of that surge pricing the driver is actually getting.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              In our area, surge pricing is usually because the Metro has broken and all the public transit riders are pouring out into the roads or because there is some sort of awful traffic snarl – I am definitely tipping the person who is driving me through crappier-than-usual DC traffic.

              1. CL Cox*

                When I worked in DC, I would tip a base amount and then add more in based on how shitty the traffic/weather was. Because DC taxi drivers deserve hazard pay sometimes and I was always much happier it was them dealing with it and not me!

        1. Tom (no, not that one)*

          the whole ‘you HAVE to tip’ culture the US seems to have is somewhat puzzling to non US citizens.
          A tip (in Europe) is a little extra – for good/great/phenomenal service.

          In the US they apparently (to us non US-ians) have such lousy wages – that a tip is needed to survive.
          That`s just soo weird.

          1. Perpal*

            Yes, for waitstaff, the tips are expected to be part of wages, so their “standard” wage is far below min wage (I think around $3/hr). I’m not sure what it is for taxis/rideshares though.
            It may seem strange but it works out if everyone understands the system.

          2. Purple Energy*

            A lot of Americans who work tipping jobs prefer tipping over a flat wage because they can make more money. The issue isn’t as straightforward as you think. Please don’t pass judgement on another country’s custom when you don’t have all the facts. That’s really obnoxious.

            1. Tip well!*

              FWIW the restaurant association here in DC tricked a lot of low-wage workers into THINKING that they’d lose money if they got a higher minimum wage, but it’s demonstrably untrue. Many states and localities have long since gotten rid of the tip credit (so folks in that state have to be paid the real minimum wage) and customers in those states still tip 20%.

              Raising the minimum wage does not make tipping go away, but you can bet that the trade association that represents restaurant owners (whose personal profits are on the line) pour money into ad campaigns that convince higher-status service workers that they’d lose money if min wage went up. You’ll notice, mysteriously, that the low-wage workers who like the tip system all work at nice, expensive restaurants; you don’t see Applebees servers or nail techs opposing minimum wage increases! (and, as mentioned above, those folks at the expensive restaurants *don’t* make less money when the min wage goes up, because people still tip 20%!)

            2. Yorick*

              As an American consumer, it’s pretty annoying to spend $$$ on a meal and then be expected to pay extra $$ to pay the server what they’re supposed to be getting from the employer.

              I don’t really care that they could make more from tips than from a flat wage. So could anyone, if all our coworkers and all the members of the public we interact with were expected to pay tips.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            It’s the norm here. OP and employee moving to a different continent is an impractical suggestion for resolving this.

            (I dislike tipping and prefer the method used elsewhere in the world. But I live here, not there, so I tip 20%.)

          4. Amethystmoon*

            Sometimes people are struggling financially and may not be able to afford to tip much. Still, I would at least tip a couple of dollars. I also don’t use ride-sharing services, and the only time where I ever have to tip anyone is when I get my haircuts. Rarely do I ever eat out. But the whole issue I have with being reimbursed is that one has to have the money up front, even if one is getting reimbursed later. If someone is living paycheck to paycheck, they may not have a few extra dollars for a decent tip.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              If you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford the service. Especially with restaurant workers, who are only required to be paid a little over $2 an hour before tips in most of the US! I don’t know how much money you make, but I am 100% sure it’s more than that.

              1. Queer Earthling*

                We’ve had to take ridesharing to get to my spouse’s cancer center because we didn’t have the car that day. We were, luckily, able to tip that day, but if we couldn’t have tipped? We still would have had to take an Uber. “If you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford the service” doesn’t apply when it’s an actual, literal need.

              2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

                That’s a pretty rotten attitude to have towards poor people, who may work in low-paid industries themselves.

                It’s the responsibility of the employer to ensure their employees are well-compensated; it is not the responsibility of the consumer to divine out the compensation structures of individual employers.

      1. out to lunch*

        On the Uber boards in reddit and such, this is not at all considered a given. People are so fed up with the tIpping culture in the US that they see this as the place to draw a line in the sand. part of the appeal of Uber was all-inclusive pricing, and if the drivers rebel against low/no tips, we would prefer that Uber raise prices. This is how most countries handle it.

      2. Natali*

        Anecdotal, but based on people I’ve known who drive rideshare, it’s way less than 50/50. I doubt more than a quarter of riders tip regularly. So yes, I would just let them know the company will reimburse tips and that they’re expected to leave X, I wouldn’t worry too much about why they haven’t been thus far.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, I’m actually surprised the OP is so surprised! I do tip when I use rideshares, but initially the norm was not to tip, and from what I’ve heard, quite a lot of people still don’t. I would just do what Alison suggests and let them know the company will reimburse tips, so they should go ahead and tip the driver, since that solves the problem, whether it is ignorance or financial issues.

          1. Natalie*

            At least for Uber, they initially did not accept tips by policy, definitely when they were just Uber Black (licensed limo/car services) and IIRC for some time after they launched UberX (individuals driving in their personal car). Obviously that never prevented the odd person from handing over cash, but “no tips!” was part of their marketing message for years.

          2. soon 2be former fed*

            I always tipped taxi drivers and would tip rideshare drivers too if I used that service. Bring a rideshare driver is hella expensive with wear and tear on the vehicle, gas, tolls, and extra insurance. Many of them help with luggage. Personally, I wouldn’t do it without tips because the earnings are small, and then you have to pay taxes on them.

            Also, restaurants would just increase their prices to cover higher wages. I personally believe in always tipping generously, but still give more for better service. There’s some truth to if you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford the service. But folks like me subsidize bad or no tipping people. Not tipping show a lack of class, to me.

        2. Ivy*

          I always tip and thought that most people do, but I just listened to a Freakanomics podcast last week, a professor had mined the tipping data and they said only 1% always tip. I guess since the system is set up so that tipping doesn’t influence the passenger rating – you tip (or not) after the driver has already rated you – people are not feeling that generous. Strange.

        3. ACDC*

          The Freakonomics podcast last week was all about tipping, and they had on Uber and Lyft’s chief economist (he used to work for Uber, now he works for Lyft). He was the one who launched tipping on both platforms and he says the tip rate is about 16% of all rides done on both platforms. So you’re anecdotal evidence is actually very fact-based!

        4. Willis*

          Yeah, I was reading a study about this the other day and the share of Uber rides that were tipped was like 16%. The data was from a couple years ago, but I still think it’s totally possible that OPs coworker isn’t tipping. I’d just tell them it’s customary to tip X% on rideshare when traveling for work and that the company will reimburse it.

      3. Shad*

        It’s better known with the food delivery apps, I think, but there have also been some publicized issues with how drivers are compensated when they’re tipped through the app. So I know some people intentionally tip cash in order to avoid these issues; there’d be no receipt or proof of tipping to submit for reimbursement on a cash tip.

        1. BadWolf*

          Yes, the last time I tipped through the app on ride share, I didn’t understand the fees and was worried I actually gave my driver very little tip and was mostly paying fees. Going forward, I hope to have cash on hand (I rarely need a rideshare). If I was doing a work expense…I might not bother trying to expense it, depending on the expense system.

        2. GRA*

          This is what I do – I always tip with cash because I want my driver to actually get the tip. It wouldn’t show up on my rideshare receipts.

          1. boo bot*

            Yeah, I always tip cash too, and when I’ve been in a position to expense a ride I generally haven’t tried to get reimbursed for the tip because I can’t really prove what I paid.

            1. A*

              This. I do claim it on my reports now, but only because my boss interjected when she overheard me mentioning to a co-worker that I prefer to tip cash for rideshares and therefore don’t claim it. She and I worked out an arrangement where I do claim it now, based on the honor system. But I travel infrequently for work, so it would be pretty apparent if it was being abused.

          2. Quill*

            When possible I tip in restaurants with cash because you really do never know if the tip is actually going directly to the person when you do it electronically.

        3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yep. I tip almost exclusively in cash anymore, since working in merchant processing and seeing even the edge of the kinds of shady things businesses will do with card tips.

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        That’s exactly what my boss said when we were discussing tipping.

        Despite his usual habit of not nipping. When I only asked for the base pay and he made me reimburse myself for all of it. He even tried to reimburse me for the promo code I used thinking I had attached a refund I was personally given. That one I put my foot down on because it was a promotion that week but a refund.

      5. OP3*

        Totally, that’s why I wanted to check whether I was the norm or an outlier. I still have friends that don’t tip on rideshare, but since they added that feature I’ve tipped as that’s what I had always done on taxis.

      6. sunny-dee*

        I always tip taxi drivers, but I don’t tip Uber or Lyft because the compensation is different and (like you said) the whole point of rideshare was that it was money directly to the driver and there was no tipping expected.

      7. Harvey 6-3.5*

        On an Uber when we were a little lost and really appreciated that his ride cost about a third of the taxi we used on the way to our restaurant, I tipped even before tipping was an option by giving the driver cash (even though he tried to refuse it). But we can easily afford it.

      8. Lara*

        Yeah, this one is news to me honestly. I was always under the impression that you weren’t supposed to tip Uber and Lyft drivers! Time to change my practices, I guess.

        1. sunny-dee*

          I’ve asked explicitly multiple times, and each time, I was told no, that tipping wasn’t necessary or expected. The last time I asked was probably a year and a half ago (shortly after the tipping option was added, I think), and I still got the same answer. Maybe the convention has changed.

        2. ...*

          Well this is what they advertised for years! So it makes sense that you do that. Personally, I tip rideshare if they help me with bags, make an extra stop, or there is inclement weather or terrible traffic. For a quick ride home from work I generally don’t. Also, the service is often kind of awful so I feel I’m paying a lower price and getting a crappier service and that’s just how it works out.

        3. Tip of the hat*

          Please don’t change your practice. We need to change the tipping culture in America. Uber started to do that. with restaurants is so enshrined that we have no choice, but that’s not true with ridesharing.

          1. soon 2be former fed*

            Nobody would work in sit-down restaurants if tipping was eliminated. People that don’t want to tip can always go the fast-food route. Ridesharing is a crappy gig and those doing it deserve every tip they get.

      9. Former B4 Manager*

        To follow up on this, I think a study about this came out a few weeks ago (I think uber commissioned the study themselves)

        If I remember the facts correctly, only about a third of people tipped for uber. My understanding is that they want tipping to be truely optional and not expected, so they specifically make the option to tip not available until after you have left the vehicle, so you don’t feel the pressure of the driver seeing how much or if you tip.

        Freakanomics Radio did a podcast on it recently, and i found it interesting. I personally always tip for rideshare, and find it really annoying how it is seperated out for uber, as it adds a step when doing my expense reports to collect the extra email receipt.

    4. On Fire*

      My org has a strict limit — will only reimburse up to 15% tips — and I never turn in tips on my travel reimbursement. I expense the actual cost, but the tip comes out of my own pocket. I agree that the employee may be doing the same.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        This was my first thought. I’ve only done Uber a few times, but I tipped in cash. The employee likely tipped in cash and didn’t bother to add it into the expense report because he didn’t have it on the receipt and thought maybe he wouldn’t be reimbursed for the tip because of that.

        1. Tupac Coachella*

          This makes sense to me. With my organization cash tips would come out of pocket, but my employer would reimburse it without question if it was on the receipt. Whether the employee has been tipping in cash or not, I bet the issue will resolve once OP clarifies that it’s ok to add the tip to the expense report.

        2. ...*

          Its unlikely they tipped in cash. Most people do not carry cash and most people do not tip on rideshare even in the app.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yup. For a trip where I would be ubering around I went to the bank and got extra 1s and 5s, and tipped cash.

      3. Spek*

        Yes. Rideshare companies pay abysmally low wages. The business model doesn’t work unless you pay the drivers oppressively low, and Lyft and Uber are just losing money and holding on until driverless car technology improves to the point where they can eliminate the driver. To keep The Man out of the transaction I always tip cash. (It really boosts your passenger rating, also)

          1. Spek*

            Oh, don’t let me give the wrong impression. It’s not automatic :) The drivers love it and will be more likely to give you a 5-star rating than they normally would. Normally they rate you before they know whether you tipped on the app.

            1. Queer Earthling*

              Oh, yeah, I assumed it was the drivers’ decision. I just literally never put the two concepts together.

        1. soon 2be former fed*

          If the driver is eliminated, so is their vehicle. Then the rideshare companies will have to spring for those.

    5. mikeyc*

      I know tip culture is very different in the US but if the tip is part of the cost (which it is, especially for things like restaurants) then you have to be able to expense it. It makes no sense – you wouldn’t be using the taxi if it wasn’t for work, why should you be out of pocket? Like say I was a manager and I paid for all my team to have dinner, £100 or so… if I don’t expense the 10% tip (I’m british, 10% is what we do) I’m paying a £10 work tax for nothing – all it does is incentivise me to either not tip or eat somewhere cheaper.

      1. Shocked Pikachu*

        “if the tip is part of the cost (which it is, especially for things like restaurants) then you have to be able to expense it”

        I am co-signing this. 100% agree

      2. Veronica*

        I agree, too. If your employer is willing to reimburse the tip, why not take it? You just hurt yourself financially by not taking it.

    6. Tisma*

      I know people, and have heard / read others saying, that they tip in cash with Uber etc. while they pay the actual fare on their card. So you can not be 100% sure that someone does not tip if its not showing on a ‘card receipt’.
      If you’ll accept their statement that they also tipped 15/20% in cash, then please let them know that.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Back when I did business travel, my company did not cover tips so I didn’t put them on reports. I did tip, and always in cash. OP, if your company does indeed cover tips, you may want to mention that as Alison recommended.

        1. snowglobe*

          For years, I thought my company didn’t allow reimbursement for tips other than restaurants. The company expense guidelines specifically mentioned tipping in restaurants (maximum reimbursement up to 20%) but was silent on other types of tips. So I tipped out of pocket and didn’t claim it. Then we switched to a new online reimbursement system, and in the training materials they included how to categorize tipping for the hotel maid service (separate from the hotel cost). A light bulb went off for me; I could have been claiming that all along, but I didn’t ask.

    7. Junior Assistant Peon*

      When I started traveling on business, I used to eat the cost of tips because I didn’t know I was allowed to claim them on trip reports. I suggest talking to the employee.

    8. OP3*

      That’s so kind of you! Reading the comments and it sounds like starting with a question about whether they are tipping or are aware the company reimburses tips would be the best way to begin.

      1. Sara without an H*

        That would be a good start. I’d be dollars to donuts that your employee is just assuming that tips aren’t reimbursed.

      2. CM*

        I think asking whether they are tipping sounds a little judgmental — I like Alison’s approach of saying, “I noticed tips have not shown up on your expense reports. I wanted to make sure you are aware tips are reimbursed, and normally people tip 15-20%” because it doesn’t imply that they have been doing anything wrong, or assume that they have not been tipping.

        1. OP3*

          Yep, agreed. Across all the comments it sounds like there are a variety of wide-ranging attitudes about whether or not to tip for ride share, so Alison’s rec sounds like a great approach.

      3. M.*

        Yes! I like Alison’s wording because it assumes good intent. FWIW I have never come across expensing tips and would be mortified if a coworker assumed I was being cheap.

      4. MiaMia*

        I’d let them know that tipping is reimbursed and send the expense policy so they have it in writing. That way they know and can still decide what they want to do. It’s also possible they chose not to tip for good reason. I have had several awful rides and did not tip those drivers.

  5. Former Union*

    Re: #4 – pregnant ex coworker..

    Many people will see sending a birth announcement as an attempt to solicit gifts. I wouldn’t do it.

    1. Hope*

      I would be legit weirded out if a coworker I hadn’t heard from in 2 years suddenly decided I needed to know they’re having a baby.
      If they had otherwise kept in contact, it’s not weird, but otherwise, it’s just not something that should be done. I’m not certain it would look like a gift grab, but it is gonna be odd.

  6. RedinSC*

    LW1. Look into rent the runway. Or other service that rents outfits fir a day. It’s much more affordable than actually buying something.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      I like Rent the Runway, but it’s actually fairly pricy! The dresses they rent are mostly very expensive (several hundred or thousands) and might be on the hook for the price (and then some) if they were damaged or lost . I think consignment is the better option here, if budget is an issue.

      1. pamplemousse*

        Yes, Rent the Runway is a good deal when the alternative is buying a designer cocktail dress or gown, but it’s not cheaper than going to a lower-tier department store or combing the sale racks at a place like JCrew.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m glad that this kind of service exists for women!

      It took some digging but they even have plus size options, which was my next question.

      1. Laurelma_01!*

        Look at Goodwill, the Salvation Army thrift shop and consignment shop in your area. I’m going brag but a few years back when I was looking for a raincoat I got a London Fog under $20.00, same with Tabots dress jacket, etc that had been barely worn. One still had the tags on it. You’ll have to go 2 – 4 times a week, good quality clothing disappears off the racks as quick as they come in. I’ll never forget going one day and finding around 15 suits and blouses that looked new, but not my size. They were high end, size too big for me than.

        You need this for a holiday, so I might be too late in suggesting this. Go to the thrift stores in your area when college students are returning after thanksiving and christmas break. Also look at the Goodwill in an area that is close to a high end housing area. College students returning after Christmas have clothing that they are not planning on wearing and donate it. Another good time is after college graduation. I work at a university and during student move out they place goodwill storage containers near all of the dorms.

        1. Laurelma_01!*

          Forgot to mention, look for basic simple cuts versus something trending. Even if buying second hand, you want something that you can wear for a few years when you are just staring out. A plain black shealth dress could work. You can dress it up or down with jewelry or scarfs, the jacket you wear over it.

          1. Laurelma_01!*

            OK, I looked on the web. J. Crew has a black sheath dress just under $60.00. They call it “Sheath work dress.” The have other colors besides black. Also, do you have outlet stores in your area? I’ve gotten some excellent deals that way.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yeah, I am an avid thrifer and believe me when I say it depends on your luck in the end.

          It will also depend on your area. Nothing that’s actually branded is going to be under $20 here. It’s also fast picked over, so you do have to go to some of the outlying areas if possible. Outlying communities are the jam.

          I grew up in a college town but there’s nobody donating truckloads, it’s not that kind of university. It’s all Old Navy/Target stuff and at best, REI or Nike outlet stuff. But that’s a regional thing in general…

          1. Laurelma_01!*

            I work at one university, but there are two more in the area. The next town over, has a large university with a high enrollment of international students. I’ve seen brands, etc., that I wouldn’t normerly see. Years ago when I was dating someone 2 hours away, I would pass a goodwill that was near a lake community. Talk about some good brands. I would stop off once a month and look through it.

  7. Lucky black cat*

    #2 If you hadn’t talked to him, I would have said that people also put tasks in their calendars so perhaps it was an unconfirmed project or something like that.

    Do you have a culture of unnecessary meetings? Not saying yours was – just might explain why he’s done this.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I do something very similar to what OP2’s co-worker does, although I include a statement that it’s reschedulable on request. For me it’s because because we get evaluated on annual goals that do not link to concrete corporate deliverables. Until I started scheduling time for it, I often had trouble getting time on those tasks.

      1. WorkIsADarkComedy*

        What the co-worker has done in this case is excessive, given that it’s 2 whole weeks, but I will do that on a lesser scale. I work an early schedule, and I reserve a slot at the end of the day (when I’m off the clock, but often end up working anyway if I have to) to try to discourage folks from scheduling meetings for that time. If they schedule it then anyway, I treat it like any other meeting.

        We have a culture of way too many unnecessary meetings.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          The meetings are pretty reasonable at my level, but a couple of levels up and higher there appears to be the mindset that meetings and work are one and the same. And maybe for the C-level execs, it is. But what this results in is too many unnecessary meetings being scheduled, meetings being scheduled for longer than they should be, and people being invited to meetings that they should not be in. Mind you this is being done by the same managers that would then turn around and grill their reports on why the deadlines aren’t being met. I’ve had weeks with meetings taking up half of my work day every day, and maybe 10% of that time being actually productive or necessary for me to attend. At one point, I started skipping some of them or replying “tentative” and attending if my workload allowed, and no one seemed to mind. It is very easy to overschedule the meetings, I think, when your own workday consists 100% of meetings and so you tend to forget that other people have to do other, non-meeting-related things as part of their work.

        2. Allison*

          I’ve done this too, I had an early schedule at one job where I came in before most people and left at 4:30. If people really, truly, honestly HAD to meet with me about something after 4:30PM then okay, I’d make it work, but I wanted to discourage people from just grabbing that time slot because it looked available.

          Similarly, I’m wondering if LW’s coworker is blocking off that time to discourage meetings that don’t need to happen right now so they can finish their Q4 work, but if someone really needed to have a meeting with them and said so (“I know you’re busy but is there any way we can meet this week? We need to talk about X before Y”) they’d clear out some time for that.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I’m wondering if LW’s coworker is blocking off that time to discourage meetings that don’t need to happen right now so they can finish their Q4 work, but if someone really needed to have a meeting with them and said so (“I know you’re busy but is there any way we can meet this week? We need to talk about X before Y”) they’d clear out some time for that.

            That’s how I saw it!

      2. Purple*

        Yep. I am not scheduling any non-essential work (all meetings fall under this heading) before holidays because my job has critical tasks that are self-managed. Meaning if I let people fill up my month with meetings and training, I will be stuck at work on Christmas day. Nope, no, sorry, try again after New Year’s.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Unless OP’s co-worker needs to block off time to get his job done or is taking time off, he doesn’t get to mark himself as “busy” just because he doesn’t want to go to meetings. That’s not how it works. Unfortunately meetings are part of the job and things don’t get put on hold because it’s close to the holidays. I’d schedule the meeting and if he declines and is needed, and doesn’t have a valid reason for declining, I’d speak to the manager about it. OP can’t put something on hold for a month for one person who’s acting like a child.

      1. Washi*

        Right! It would be different if he had stated an actual business need, like working on a high priority project, but it’s not cool to mark yourself as completely unavailable for 2 weeks (!!) because you don’t feel like going to meetings. It doesn’t sounds like the OP has directly tried to schedule a meeting for this time, so if I were the OP, I would probably play along and just ask if he is willing to make an exception for this meeting. If he flat-out refuses, then yeah, the OP should talk to her manager and ask how to handle it.

      2. HM MM*

        It really depends on the company culture. This would have been 100% normal and acceptable at my last job. My boss did exactly this around review time (it was a very time intensive for the review process and she was in a Chief of Staff type role so she ended up being pulled into or coordinating review events/meetings). Another person I can think of did this in the two week lead up to a conference they did a lot of the planning for. She knew she’d be swamped with conference stuff and wanted to keep her schedule as free as possible.

        It was a way to signal “I’m not out of the office, but I am very busy, so if this can wait, please push back – but if it can’t wait then we can proceed”. It was way easier to turn the tentative on in their calendar once than explain that repeatedly every time someone tried to schedule a meeting that could be pushed back.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          It was a way to signal “I’m not out of the office, but I am very busy, so if this can wait, please push back – but if it can’t wait then we can proceed”.

          This is exactly how I understood his “he’s just trying to avoid meetings at that time — “nobody’s going to want to talk about work stuff then.” He is saying that people will schedule meetings, but these meetings will be mostly non-work-related fluff talk (does not take a wild stretch of imagination to see this happening at an HQ of a huge corporation during holiday season), and he is too busy doing his work to be able to spend his time attending those. He appears to have accepted some of the meetings on a case-by-case basis. This (as well as putting a DnD status on your IM) is perfectly acceptable in my workplace as well.

          1. CL Cox*

            But how is the person tasked with scheduling the meeting going to do THEIR job, then? If he’s just avoiding meetings because he finds them boring, he needs to suck it up. Or, you know, talk to the people asking for the meetings. It’s one thing if you’re in upper management (it’s still a jerk move, but you have the power to carry it off), but making a co-worker jump through hoops is not going to endear you to anyone. Marking out a couple of afternoons (or even a whole day) a week is fine – doing it for two straight weeks is not.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              It really depends on what the meeting is for. If it’s “get the core team together to define a solution for a project that’s due next month”, that’s one thing. If it’s the “daily 90-minute standup touch-base for a group of 35 people vaguely related to a project that’s been going on for a year”, that’s another. If he’s accepting some of the meetings, to me this says he’s cognizant of the fact that some of them are needed for people to do their jobs. Others are not. It’s not as much “they are boring” that is the issue, it’s that some of them are not work and interfere with things that are work. Agree that if OP needs this coworker to attend this meeting and he has not accepted, then they should talk.

        2. Ama*

          Yeah, I have done this from time to time as it seems like my busy periods run counter to the rest of my office — for example I am absolutely swamped with two different time sensitive projects that require a lot of attention right now, while everyone else is wrapping up their last big pre-holiday project and has a ton of time to schedule planning meetings and all office fun events. I’ve basically told everyone I’m not taking on any projects or meetings that aren’t already on my calendar until January unless it is a true emergency.

          That said I did agree to a meeting on the very last day I am in the office before a two-week holiday in December (after making sure the participants understood that meant any follow-up wouldn’t happen until I returned from vacation), and I actually don’t mind that much because there is nothing worse in my opinion than having to be in the office one last Friday before a two week vacation and realizing there is no reason for you to actually be there.

        3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          I disagree that it’s based on company culture and the situations you describe are completely different.
          Those were legitimate business reasons to mark yourselves unavailable.

      3. A*

        Ya, this is definitely taking it to an extreme! I’ll block off time with ‘fake’ meetings 1-2 times a day, but that’s because otherwise I’d never get the actual work done as I’d be in meetings all day/every day. This is common practice within my function because we are in highly collaborative roles, and stretched fairly thin. That being said.. I’m fairly certain it would not fly if I started doing that for FULL WORK DAYS, let alone two weeks!

        …this is why we can’t have nice things :(

        1. Purple*

          I shudder at the idea that your coworkers see free time as space to fill with meetings. That is my personal hell.

    3. Yorick*

      I think it’s important that he’s marking them as “tentative” and not “busy.”

      So the person setting up the meeting can either say, “oh, it looks like this might be a bad time for Tom, so this meeting can wait until the following week when everyone is available” or, “this is the best time for most people and it can’t wait, so I’ll schedule it and hope Tom can be there for at least part of it.”

    4. Wandering_beagle*

      I’m kinda shocked at all the people on here thinking that putting this on the calendar is unreasonable. I work at a major corporation, and marking your calendar off like this in the two weeks before Christmas (and the week after, for that matter) would totally fit within our seasonal work flow and culture.

      Most people are out of the office or are scaling back their hours during that time because of school being closed, family in town, holiday plans, etc. The team I’m on would do something similar and note that we are out of the office or working from home, but checking email occasionally, etc. It sounds like the person who marked off their calendar is open to meeting if something actually comes up, but if it’s not pressing, skip it.

      I would say we do something similar but we don’t name it — it’s kind of an office norm that you’re not going to like, schedule some major meeting a few days before Christmas (just like you would not schedule a meeting at 3 p.m. on a Friday). It sounds like the coworker who marked off his calendar is just spelling that expectation out for everyone instead of assuming everyone understands that norm.

    5. Second String*

      I’m a little late to the show here but for LW#2…it’s a tentative busy. That’s what I mark when I want to be doing something else but don’t HAVE to be doing that. If something more important comes along I will accept.

      If it were me, I’m going to send the meeting request anyway and let them accept/decline from there. If I really need them there, I’m going to follow up with that ask and see if there is something we can work out. That said, if it were a hard block for being busy or out of office I wouldn’t include them on the request. The whole post is too stand off-ish IMO.

  8. Silicon Valley Girl*

    LW #1 — for a “semi-formal event,” formal business clothing may be appropriate such as a dark suit or simple dark or solid-color dress & heels. Not sure what the “themed” part means tho! You could frame the conversation as a clarification around what either / both of these things mean.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I was also wondering about the “themed” aspect and how this would affect the dress requirements. It doesn’t seem extremely clear what OP is expected to wear.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I thought that too. I mean if it’s a ball gowns and penguin suits sort of event, then it may be better to borrow or hire something, but I have sometimes worn one of my work dark trouser suits (black or charcoal grey) with a posher blouse or top. (Sequins, cashmere jumper, brightly coloured velvet). This also has the advantage of being practical if as a hostess, you have to spend part of the evening whizzing around sorting things out.

      2. Kes*

        My first thought was something like a historical theme – 20s themed, say, since we’re going into 2020 – or colour themed – wear something red, for example. I agree OP’s best bet might be to get a dress from a thrift store if possible (assuming OP is a woman) or wear a black suit with a white shirt. As far as the theme part, I would try to find a suitable accessory to fit with the theme at a lower cost without having to rework the whole outfit around it

    2. MK*

      Yes, I think the OP should start by clarifying how she should be dressing, not asking for money. I doubt if she is expected to show up in a designer ball gown, especially since she is working g the event, not just attending.

      Also, I don’t know how the clothing market is where you are OP, but in my city I can find many non-brand clothes, including evening-wear, of varying quality and prices. Don’t feel you need to buy something very expensive, just because the event is fancy. And if by themed, you mean you need some novelty item that you probably won’t wear again, consider getting something that is very cheap but doesn’t look it. I have found expensive-looking dresses in shops like Mango and Zara that cost very little (the quality wasn’t good of course).

      1. Daisy-dog*

        I agree – a simple question: “I don’t feel like I have anything in my closet that will work for the event. Can you give me some guidelines on what I should be looking for?” And maybe then OP’s manager will just say that an LBD/black slacks + nice blouse with festive, drug store accessories is what she is going to wear.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My mind jumped to the color theme from OperaArt’s posts on the weekend open forum. I would have to shop for that too — no white or gold in my closet except for shirts.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Themed usually means color scheme or “Winter Wonderland” since it’s a Christmas event

      So I could see the little black dress option not fitting if it’s a white or green/red theme.

      I assume that’s why it’s more difficult to find the attire for that kind of evening.

    5. Person of Interest*

      Especially for a work event, formal dress can be interpreted more loosely – standard “business” dress code will usually suffice. If you have a nice suit that you used for interviewing or for a more formal day at work, you are probably fine with that and maybe some dressier or festive jewelry.

    6. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      For the OP I would assume the themed part is optional. That’s been my experience at semi-formal themed events — my org has several fundraising dinners every year that are like this. The theme is mostly for the centerpieces or entertainment and not for the people to dress up. They might pick something like Winter in Paris, or Fire and Ice Ball, but you’ll still be fine in a LBD or dark suit. I wouldn’t even put too much effort into shoes — just nice black heels you would wear to work are fine with a nice dress. If you want to dress it up or try to match the theme, a statement necklace (or fancy tie) will be the most bang for the buck.

    7. Silicon Valley Girl*

      I think we’re all missing that LW said “semi” formal — while this can mean many things, it doesn’t mean tuxes & ballgowns. That would be just “formal” by any definition. “Semi-formal” is less fancy than “formal” — it could be cocktail attire it could be business attire, it could be a lot of things less than formal. So clarification is helpful. But also, it’s very likely to require less expensive & easier to find clothing. If LW has a formal-ish interview outfit, that may work, perhaps with some kind of nod to whatever the theme is (such as a colorful accessory).

      1. Avasarala*

        It’s hard to read into formal vs semi formal when it’s definitely not in English and OP doesn’t seem to know what kind of dress is necessary.

  9. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP2, I’ve been in roles where unless I booked meetings with myself, I would end up in so many meetings that I couldn’t get my other work done, and I know a lot of other people who do something similar, like blocking out Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    But you say your colleague isn’t overwhelmed by meetings so this does seem unusual – unless your office has a tendency to set up meetings at this time of the year and then spend 10 minutes on work issues and 50 minutes on “what are your holiday plans” chitchat? I could see this might be annoying for someone who had work to get finished or just doesn’t want to spend that much time socialising.

    1. Ophelia*

      Yeah – I do this when I have to complete a deliverable and need several hours to do so – I’ll block off the day. That said, I’ve never done it for two weeks, and the only circumstance I can think of where it’s appropriate is something along the lines of what someone mentioned above, where there was a staffer who, for a couple-week period per year, had to be essentially on-call for impromptu meetings – I think the difference is that in both these instances, there’s a business rationale for the scheduling, not a random “I don’t think anyone wants to have meetings.”

  10. Mommie-MD*

    I think sending a birth announcement after two years of no contact can come off looking like a gift grab. If you do send a message do what Alison says and make it more general. Or just skip it. Work friends are situational and I doubt anyone is going to get their feelings hurt after you’ve been gone for two years. Congratulations on your baby. Babies are the best!

  11. Alice*

    Re tipping – great idea to confirm with th employee that tips can be reimbursed, but don’t assume she’s not tipping. She may be tipping in cash and not getting reimbursed.

      1. snowglobe*

        According to the boss, she would be reimbursed. But if she’s a new employee, she might not know that.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Lots of places have rules against it. Yeah it sucks but it’s not an uncommon practice.

        The idea is to protect the company. You could run a scam where you’re pocketing tips if you have buddies in the service industries.

        It’s also why most require itemized receipts for everything.

      3. Joielle*

        Right, which is why the boss should mention it and tell her she can be reimbursed, instead of just wondering why she’s not submitting tips.

      4. Alice*

        “You are a cheapskate; start tipping” and “you are unaware of our tipping reimbursement policy, start including them in reimbursement requests” are not the same thing.

      5. Not Me*

        Well, she doesn’t “need” to be reimbursed. I pay for plenty of things on work trips that are outside our travel expense policy that I don’t submit for reimbursement, an example of that is when I tip more than the 20% limit. It’s not worth notating in the expense report why my Uber tip was 22%, when I could just submit the original email without the $4 tip.

        Plenty of people don’t submit all their travel meals for reimbursement either, it’s not the end of the world, and I certainly wouldn’t call it “wrong”. If I’m going to spend $10 on lunch if I’m in my office, it’s not “wrong” if I don’t submit a $10 lunch while I’m traveling for work. I agree OP should ensure the employee knows what can be submitted for reimbursement, but it’s not “wrong” if they don’t.

    1. Blarg*

      Yea, she may not know it is reimbursable. I’ve had jobs where tips absolutely weren’t. In fact, Uber used to not break it down in receipts, which was great. Once they started to, I stopped getting paid back.

  12. Ruth (UK)*

    3. Ooh tipping is such an interesting one. I’ve got an American mother so often been to the states so I’ve come across it but there is absolutely no tipping culture here.

    As policy, the university I work for will not cover tips for expense claims and it’s caused a few issues when people have travelled to the US. I remember once discussing how to process an expense claim where a person had travelled in the US and tipped on all their meals and asked to reclaim the cost I including tip, and finance had rejected it because tips are a personal optional extra and they didn’t understand US tipping culture.

    I’d also like to add for context that I have worked 3 different retail jobs including working for 18 months full time in a food service job. Tipping was rare and often only done by foreign tourists from the US etc. Ps. I didn’t work in a super posh place or anything though. I think it might be more normal in some types of places (but not sure. I also don’t eat out myself…)

    I didn’t know that US companies would cover tips as part of reimbursement claims. Is this the norm?

    1. Jane*

      This might vary by type of firm too – most of the larger professional services-type firms I’ve worked for in the UK have covered tips in expenses, including my current employer. They just ask for an itemised receipt (writing the tip amount on the receipt counts).

    2. TechWorker*

      I’m in the U.K. but folk regularly travel to the US. We’ve always been allowed to expense tips but there’s a sort of ‘use common sense’ policy and I don’t think I’d tip for taxis in the U.K. The last time I was in the US we tipped at all restaurants but I didn’t think to tip Uber so hopefully they didn’t hate me!

      1. CatMom*

        TechWorker, some Americans don’t tip in Uber/Lyft specifically, but it’s looked down upon not to for sure! Generally speaking, we tip 15-20% (and more like 20-25% in certain large cities) on basically all significant skilled* services that don’t require a degree. So we don’t tip people at the drugstore or or grocery, and we obviously don’t tip “professionals” like doctors or nurses, but we do tip everyone in the middle! E.g. at a restaurant if there’s table service, and always with someone who performs a significant service for you: cab drivers, hair stylists, tattoo artists, bellmen, movers, etc.

        *I’m of the opinion that all service industry labor is skilled, but this definition certainly delineates who does and doesn’t get tipped!

        1. Atalanta0jess*

          I find the conventions much more arbitrary than your rules suggest. I wish it was this simple!

          E.g. I don’t tip my plumber, or mechanic, or regularly tip a child care professional.

          1. Atalanta0jess*

            oh, and I always tip at restaurants and cafes, regardless of table service. Everyone I know tips at coffee shops, I think food take out is more varied.

            It’s so stinking complicated.

      2. Blunt Bunny*

        We tip taxis in the UK but not really in Ubers. Mostly because in Uber’s it comes straight out of your account where as in a black cab you pay cash and can just add a few coins to round it up or just to ell them to keep the change. I think also since there is often a surge charge with Uber it seems that you are already overpaying.

    3. Ron McDon*

      I also live in the UK – I would tip if eating out somewhere with table service (so, not like a fast food place where you order and wait at the till for your food). I tip my hairdresser a little (not the amounts I see mentioned on here by US patrons) and taxi drivers. But I think that’s about it, I can’t think of anyone else I’d tip in the UK.

      I would therefore definitely tip an Uber/rideshare.

      1. MK*

        Tipping customs vary a lot. We almost always tip a bit at restaurants, and usually leave something at bars and caffes. Never at taxis, unless not waiting to receive 20 cents change counts. I would never tip my hairdresser, but I do leave something in the tip jar for the trainee who shampooed my hair etc.

    4. Katherine Vigneras*

      Yes, American companies allow tips to be reimbursed. It’s part of the cost of restaurant dining. My company has a guideline on the amount that can be expensed (20%) – this is outlined in our corporate handbook.

      1. A*

        *Some* American companies. As the comments here can attest to, this is a practice that varies greatly. It is not uncommon, sadly, for tips not to be reimbursed.

        1. Lady Kelvin*

          Yes, some. And not if it is government (state or federal). I’ve never been allowed to claim tips, even for a taxi, because they are considered part of the “incidentals” if I got per diem, and otherwise optional if I was requesting exact reimbursement. I’m actually really surprised to learn that companies do reimburse tips. I figured my experience was universal and no one did.

    5. triplehiccup*

      I’ve claimed expenses from 3 different governmental or nonprofit organizations. All reimbursed tips. I would assume for-profit companies are generally even less picky about expenses.

    6. Lucette Kensack*

      My employers (nonprofits and political orgs) have always reimbursed tips that you put on a credit card, but not tips in cash (unless you can somehow get a receipt for it). So employees were on their own to tip (or not tip) people like hotel cleaners, valet, etc.

    7. WorkIsADarkComedy*

      The “ride-sharing” industry in the U.S. pays abysmally low wages, and the drivers depend on the tips for their livelihood.

      1. Not a tipper*

        This is what I do not understand – why is this my problem? I want to pay a fair price for the service provided, I do not want to calculate 10, 15, 20% or even think about this. Originally, ride-share services very specifically were tip-free, and then it turned out the companies who created those apps cannot profit enough if drivers earn good wages, so – back to guilting/tipping we go.
        I do not mind tipping when I get a really good service, and there is a relationship-building involved. But not when it is on me to subsidize the profitability of an employer.

        1. Avasarala*

          I agree with your sentiment but if we choose to take a stand by not tipping, the person who gets shrifted is the poor worker, not the company. We should push back in ways that hit the companies that make the rules, not the employees who have to follow them.

    8. OP3*

      I have always been reimbursed for tips as part of travel but the comments have really opened my eyes—it sounds like a fair amount of companies won’t reimburse tips. In this case, yes, tips would be reimbursed and I would only raise an eyebrow if I noticed them being exceptionally high or disproportionate to the expense.

    9. CM*

      Every place I have worked has reimbursed tips for meals and rides — even government, which is VERY tight with money. In the US, this is part of the cost. Especially for meals, it’s not a personal optional extra — it’s considered beyond rude, more like a social taboo to not tip on a meal.

    10. Quinalla*

      Yes, it is the norm for US companies to reimburse reasonable tips as that is part of the expected expense in our tip culture, some restaurants here automatically add a tip if you have over a certain number of people dining together.

      I have never used ride sharing, but good to know I am expected to tip in that situation if I need to in the future. That’s the hardest part of our tipping culture is knowing some of the places where you are expected to tip that aren’t as obvious.

    11. M.*

      In terms of people from the US tipping when going abroad, I have come across the opposite – American acquaintances not tipping at all in restaurants here “because it’s not the US and servers get paid living wages”. I have discreetly tipped on their behalf when they weren’t looking.

    12. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      Technically, tips in the US are no longer actual tips. They’re just compensation, because the govt found a way to use tips as an excuse to lower base salary. I hate this system, but it’s imperative you tip in the US because otherwise you are denying workers their salary.

      1. ...*

        I always tip when its customary but YOU aren’t denying them their salary, their employer and the laws that make it allowable are. You personally are not.

    13. OtterB*

      In our case (US small not-for-profit), we’re expected to include tips in the price of a meal or transportation on the expense form. It’s visible on the receipt, but those are seldom checked except for making sure that we aren’t charging alcohol at meals to National Science Foundation grants. There’s a separate line for incidentals including tips to cleaners, bellhops, etc., where there’s not another expense underlying it. I tip fairly generously and nobody has every questioned it. If I were to really tip above and beyond for something out of the ordinary, I might do it in cash and not ask for reimbursement.

  13. Mookie*


    Just as Alison says, you’ve shot your shot. Now your e-mail etiquette should conform to that standard which prevails between colleagues. I know a content-free “Thanks!”-like response to updates is, itself, a polarizing topic, but under these conditions that’s your best and only option. Thank them promptly for the update and then get out of their hair/inbox.

    Good luck and hope you land the job. The hiring manager sounds conscientious and awesome!

  14. Paperdill*

    OP3: Does your employee come from a different cultural background to you?
    I’m in Australia and tipping an Uber driver would just not be a thing, unless they were outrageously good (having said that’d were I in the US I would be trying my best to find out what things I am supposed to tip for so that I could do so). Perhaps employee literally doesn’t even know it’s a thing one does for a ride share driver?

    1. Mookie*

      One potential clue, though not entirely reliable, is if the receipt or application/software offers an option for a tip and/or the driver (or whoever) has enabled that option. I actually remember reading some reactions from Australia when Uber unveiled the tip option. Lots of chattering class pondering/outrage about whether riders ought to use it or not.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I agree, though it can be auto-generated by software where no tipping would be expected. So asking a local for norms is probably the way to go. Same for an American in Europe–ask a local.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      According to a recent freakonomics podcast something like only 15% of ride share riders tip. One of the apps designed it that way so it was not causing increased overall ride fee but was there for truly great service. So it’s not “standard” to tip for ride share.

      OTOH research suggests tips are most determined by the rider. Some riders always tip and some never tip and NOT the quality of the driver.

      1. BTDT*

        I was just about to post about that episode too!! Tipping a rideshare driver is NOT common in the US. So the OP should definitely mention that it’s reimbursable and encourage the person to do it.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        If I’m doing a simple Point A to Point B ride, I don’t usually tip, but if I need to make a stop or if I have bags or if the weather is not great, I will.

        1. ...*

          Exactly! The want it to be for above and beyond so that’s what I do. Occasionally I will tip them too for just being extra nice or giving me a mint or a phone charge or something. I bristle at the drivers who have big signs in their ubers with lists of rules and giant signs that say TIPS APPRECIATED.

  15. Jcarnall*

    Lw1 – talk to the people who did the host job last year, if you can, and be quite frank about your situation – you literally can’t afford to buy an all-new professional outfit for a Christmas party, you need to explore other avenues, and you need to know what the dress code is for this party especially if you’ll be this visible. Even if you only get info on the lines of “Well, I wore…” that might help, and if you’re lucky, one of your co-workers will turn out to be the kind of person who likes to solve other people’s wardrobe problems and knows how. Then talk to your manager. To be clear, so long as you’re upfront about what you can afford right now and that you’re willing but not eager to sit this one out if your wardrobe isn’t appropriate, you should be OK either way.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I was thinking, too, that OP could check and see if there are pictures of these past events somewhere, like the company’s intranet or something. If so, that could be a good way to see what the dress code looks like and might give them some ideas.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      Why go to the trouble of all the secret sleuthing? Just go talk to the manager and get the lowdown from the source.

      I’m happy to give guidance on work related events and dress code. I’d rather have an employee come to me with the question and potential problems so that they have correct information and we can solve any potential issues together.

      1. Jcarnall*

        Because I’d say go to the manager when you’ve gathered all possible information, and you can present the manager with two or three clear options. In my experience as a low-paid worker, someone accustomed to a much higher salary can easily think”Oh you can get a perfectly good outfit for only a hundred pounds or so, why is my employee making such a big deal of this?” and may even direct employee to go buy outfit from X shop with the assumption that employee will be able to spend that kind of money.

        Whereas if employee gathers all possible information first, LW1 can go to manager and say

        “I can’t afford to buy all-new professional-type Special Occasion wear this year : I just don’t have that kind of money right now, and yes, I’ve checked there, there, and there and talked to the hosts last year about what they were expecting to wear. It would be an honour to represent the company as host, but I’d have to wear the same kind of suit I wear at work every day – would that be OK? I know it’s less dressy than people were wearing last year. If it’s not OK, I wanted to let you know in advance so that you could decide what’s best for me to do – be a host even though I don’t really have a dressy outfit to wear, be a host in my going-to-work suit, or not be a host at all this year. Whatever you think is best – I’m happy to help, but I don’t want to stand out as least-dressed-up employee if that’s going to be a problem.”

        Or of course the hosts from last year could confirm that most people just wear going-to-work suits, clean and tidy and maybe accessorised a bit, and that will be fine – and LWI doesn’t have to go to the manager at all.

  16. The bread burglar*

    #2 does your company or this person’s role tend to have a busy period? the lead up to christmas is an absolute rush busy period for my role. Does this person have a role that could get really busy then? Or a potential client/project that they might decide they want completed before year end?

    I frequently mark myself as busy for that time because I am. People can still submit meeting requests though. Some people who have quieter times will book more meetings to both fill their day and because they think we should brainstorm on this someday project that they have had on the backburner, so this can remind them that other people might still be busy! Especially if holiday time has meetings that people just talk about holiday plans. And do even less actual work than usual. So long as people can still request meetings with him then I would ignore it.

    1. Asenath*

      Yeah, this. We have a lot of stuff that comes up quarterly, which means meetings that must be held in December, plus other once-a-year events that happen in December or January. Since many of us have a real slowdown from December 24-January 1, this means a lot is crammed into the first part of December, and a lot of the attendees at meetings – especially any extra ones that pop up in addition to the quarterly ones – really aren’t getting a lot done since they’re mostly in holiday mood already or thinking about all the essential work they need to crowd in before Dec 24. The meetings take time away from the the other events, which are going ahead holiday mood or not. I can see that in some workplaces, avoiding unnecessary meetings could aid getting work done.

    2. Liane*

      The OP says the coworker **told her** they blocked off so much time because no one wants to talk about work. So if there really was a Work Reason, coworker would have said so. “Deadline to rearrange the office got pushed up.”

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Or maybe the reason he hates meetings at that time of year because they drag on painfully, since everyone is so distracted and prone to chitchatting. Whereas he’s trying to keep his schedule streamlined to keep up with all the work involved…

  17. Rosario*

    Interesting to read the consensus that most people tip on uber and lyft. The Freakonomics podcast had an episode on tipping just a couple of weeks ago, and they interviewed the chief economist of uber at the time tipping was introduced. He said 60% of people never tipped, a tiny amount tipped always, and the rest tipped sometimes. I wonder if the norm has shifted since they collected that data…

    1. No Name Yet*

      I just finished listening to that podcast, and was wondering the same thing! Could be the data has changed, could be AAM readers skew towards tipping, could be people combining in their minds tipping regularly tipped positions and the intermittent times they tip on rideshares. Or other things, of course!

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Nah! I trust the data not anecdotal evidence.

      Business travel could be different since it’s often reimbursed.

    3. Lucette Kensack*

      I think that folks who don’t tip are unlikely to come declare it here, so that’s why we’re seeing an AAM consensus that is different from what the data show.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Our pool leans towards tipping for sure. The actual data shared is the best to actually go by! They’re pulling from overall users and not just our fish bowl!

      I can tell you that over the years doing reimbursement and processing credit card records, I believe 60÷ don’t tip. Despite my tendency to go into the higher percentages personally (it’s actually why I tip as much as I do.)

    5. Jdc*

      I used Uber for a while once the added tips and never did because I didn’t get the memo and never noticed it was there. Felt like an jerk.

      1. Elenna*

        I’m only finding out now and now I kind of feel like a jerk :(
        Although, how recently was it added (in Canada)? Because I haven’t used it since late 2018.

    6. Arctic*

      I remember this but that data was collected right when tipping was introduced. Not ongoing.

      It took awhile for people to get used to the change. And to tip you have to go back into the app after the trip is over. Which when you are used to not being allowed to tip, is not something you would do.

      1. JR*

        Yeah, I think this is the issue. The design doesn’t promote tipping. When the app push notifies me to tip, I do so 100% of the time, but if I don’t get that push notification, I generally don’t remember to go back in and tip. I use Lyft/Uber intermittently, so I assume I’d develop the habit if I was using it more often? I tip 100% of the time in other situations where tipping is expected.

    7. Iris*

      I’ll have to listen to this episode. One thing I don’t really know is how much the average Uber driver makes (after taking into account Uber’s take + mileage/gas/etc). Is this like service staff where they make under minimum wage and tips are used to balance that out?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Uber claims that their drivers take home $25 per hour and Lyft claims that drivers can earn as much as $35 per hour. However, Lyft takes 20 percent of each fare — plus the entire booking fee — while Uber takes 25 percent from each fare [Google]

        But they’re contractors. And as far as I know, they haven’t changed that [yet]. So they are on the hook for the taxes. Something to keep in mind there.

        It also depends on the area and time of course, since just because you’re “working” and have your app on, doesn’t mean someone wants a ride in your area of course! There’s a lot of smaller towns that have these services that do not do a lot of rideshares.

    8. Dan*

      The other thing that’s pertinent to this discussion is that the in-app tipping was designed to feel truly optional (as opposed to quasi-compulsory). The economist said that it was set up to reward good service, and not be a wage subsidy.

    9. IBP*

      This has been the consensus anytime I’ve seen Uber/Lyft drivers discussing things on Reddit etc., too– the majority of drivers consider tipping optional, like the tip jar on the counter at a food place that doesn’t provide any kind of table service, vs socially “mandatory” tipping like for a waiter or hairdresser etc. I tip when my trip requires the driver to go out of their way somehow!

  18. Cheryl*

    OP1, do anything other than asking your employer for money to cover a dress. Yes, they know you’re transitioning from a student to the workforce and as such you aren’t as established financially and otherwise as you would be a few years from now, but telling them essentially “I don’t have enough money to buy clothes” will negatively affect the way they view you for a long time to come – potentially as long as you’re in that position. Find another way.

    1. Mookie*

      Personally, I don’t think it’s a reference to the LW’s personal finances that makes this tricky, given that there are an increasingly number of professional write-offs one has access to as they climb the greasy pole. I’d argue, though not universally, that it’s generally the affluent who can rely on their employers (and government) to subsidize these kinds of expenses.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      This. I think also the fact that the OP is new to the workforce might (depending on the company, of course) get them some leeway in what they wear, particularly if they’re visibly quite young and might not yet have a big work wardrobe. I would think that few people would be looking back years later like “oh, remember that time the just-out-of-college new recruit wore a not-very-fancy outfit to the Christmas party?”. (But they definitely might be like “oh, OP? That guy who tried to get the company to buy him a new suit?”)

    3. CheeryO*

      Yeah. I also wouldn’t offer to sit it out. Scrounge something up, even if it’s not perfect. People will understand (if they even notice!) as long as your outfit is appropriately formal and in decent shape.

  19. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

    I always tip Lyft/Uber, and cash tipped Uber before they added the button.

    For some reason, I am fascinated by the rideshare model & engage chatty drivers in talk about their business. I’m shocked that they report at most 2 in 5 riders tipping, recently. I’m suburban South Jersey where I would guess that the kind of runs they are doing would lend themselves to tipping but, apparently not.

    A couple have told me they think the delay contributes, riders not opening the app/seeing the tip screen, until they take their next ride, however much longer later. Idk.

    I can’t not tip immediately. It’s in my DNA.

    1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

      this was a reply to a comment that disappeared, not quite as random chatty as it looks like now!

    2. Princesa Zelda*

      The drivers are right! There was a recent episode on Freakonomics about rideshare tipping where Stephen interviewed the guy who implemented the system, and he specifically designed it to make tipping completely optional.

    3. snowglobe*

      The delay could be the issue. I recently used Uber Eats, didn’t see a tip screen. I was planning on tipping in cash, but the driver handed me the food, then turned around and was back in their car before I could reach for my cash. A week later I opened the app and saw the tip screen for the previous delivery.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m interested in this delay…is it an Uber specific thing? My Lyft app pings when you are dropped off. So it prompts you to rate and tip at that time

      If I had been an Uber user instead I would have had issues prior to the tip feature. I don’t carry cash. I hate Starbucks for not letting me tip while using my card as well. I was over the moon when Dutch Bros got their tablet setup and activated the tip feature. That’s how ingrained tipping is for me as well.

      1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        I ride Lyft exclusively for the last couple of years so only Lyft I am talking about and YES, my Lyft pings immediately and I always click and rate + tip immediately. More than once I have about walked into a door doing it. (They just added “tip as you ride” THANK YOU. )

        so IDK. But the drivers think so.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Uber is weird too…because I recall last year for our holiday party we had a new person using our corporate account. They tipped [yay that’s fine] but it comes as a separate charge as well. That made me go nuts on an accounting side because it was prior to me being properly set up to pull the billings directly and my boss hadn’t been tipping prior.

          Next time you chat a driver up, maybe ask if they notice they get more/better tips if the answer a Lyft verses an Uber request! Since unless it’s a local thing [I doubt it is], everyone drives for both now. It’d be interesting to know if they pay that close of attention. I know that they’re doing both because heck yeah, why wouldn’t you? Opens up your options a ton.

      2. SimplyTheBest*

        I wonder if by delay they meant delay in the customer responding, not the delay in the notification. I get that Lyft notification immediately, but that doesn’t always mean I can respond to it immediately. I have definitely thought to myself, oh I need to go back and do that, and then completely forgotten until it’s too late to edit the ride and add a tip.

    5. A*

      Yup, I’m in the same boat. The first time I took an Uber on my own (previously had always been in larger groups, booked under friends accounts), I wasn’t sure what triggered the tip screen so I waited for a moment after we got to the destination. When the driver asked if everything was ok, and I explained I just wanted to make sure the rating + tip screen came up so I could ensure he got a 5 star rating and tip…. he burst out laughing. It took a solid 5 seconds for him to recover before explaining that it’s automatic, and bless my heart for even thinking about that because he said he just considers it a good day if no one pukes in the back.

  20. Bagpuss*

    LW#4 – don’t ‘reach out’ to your fomer wprlplace. If you haven’t kept in touch then they are not close enough friends for it to be appropriate to tell them you are pregnant.
    If you have kept in touch with any specifc individuals, then tell them as you would with any other friends, and leave it to them if they happen to pass on the imformation.
    it would just be weird to have that kind of news from an employee or co-worker who left 2 years ago ad hasn’t stayed in contact.
    (I persoanlly wouldn’t see it as a gift grab, but I live in the Uk and baby showers are not really a thing here. I think if you live somewhere they are common, it could come over as a gift grab but even without that, I think it would come over as odd and not in keeping with professional norms, so could be a slightly negative thing for you,in relation to your professional reputation)

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Agreed. Also UK and wouldn’t see it as a gift grab, but definitely “ok? why are you telling us this?” If you aren’t close enough to individual ex-coworkers to tell them by other means (e.g. text, Facebook, in person) then they aren’t going to feel in any way aggrieved that you didn’t tell them. Although your baby will be a glorious miracle, babies are born every second and most people just aren’t that invested unless they’re personally close to the family.

      I had dinner with some ex colleagues within a few months of leaving, and explained the non-drinking by announcing the pregnancy. It wasn’t a secret, it just hadn’t come up before then. Everyone I was close to had then found out, and anyone I was less close to no doubt heard it through the grapevine shortly afterwards.

      Around three years later, I posted a birth announcement on Facebook. I had drifted away from those colleagues socially – inevitable after three years and with a demanding toddler – so that announcement was for most of them the first idea they had that I had even been pregnant (I looked like Mr Greedy by about halfway so no chance of keeping a secret from anyone I saw in person). Some people expressed surprise along with their congratulations, but there wasn’t a sniff of “why didn’t you tell me?”, only “we weren’t expecting such lovely news”.

    2. Annette*

      Surprised by this take. You don’t have to be that close to tell someone you’re pregnant. It’s not a secret or even something especially private.

      1. A*

        Of course, but telling someone you’ve just run into unexpectedly is very different than going out of your way to notify your previous place of employments / ex co-workers you haven’t spoken to in 2+ years. There’s nothing inherently wrong about it, but as the comments here show, it is not in line with standard social or professional norms.

      2. i forget the name I usually use*

        I do feel like it’s a pretty private thing. I did not share at my current company until I really had to, and there are still friends who I only have contact with once in a while, and I feel strange reaching out with solely this news to share. With big life changes, even if it seems not-secret/private from the outside, still feel like very personal news to some. Even in the days of mass social media announcements, not everyone is into that.

        But if LW4 is thinking about announcing to a former company, they’re probably more of a shout-it-from-the-rooftops type. I think a good tactful way to share the news would be to contact the person you were closest with at Old Company, and asking them to share with others, maybe? But I don’t think they’re obligated to back track and share with co-workers they’ve fallen out of contact with.

  21. Bookworm*

    #3: Is it possible the co-worker is from a culture that doesn’t tip? Does the tip have to be submitted in a certain form (ie, you must submit a receipt?).

    When I last took a business trip I assumed I’d have to eat all the tips because I tip in cash and there’s no way to get a receipt for tipping left for housekeeping, etc. I am lucky that my current place only requires reimbursements above a certain amount and tips were small enough that I didn’t need to submit receipts for those.

  22. PartyTyme Brand Yohimbine-Rohypnol Injection*

    LW #1: So, they like that you’re young and straight? Kidding! Although I missed the part where you said you were female. Doesn’t matter, really.

    As corny as it sounds, you might be able to turn this into even more of an opportunity than it already is – I mean, you’re being asked to represent your company, it’s an opportunity for you to excel.

    You’ll have to judge if this is appropriate in your situation, but can you ask some boss-person for help in deciding what you need to buy? It conveys the hint that you’re going to need to buy some new clothes. I’ve heard of bosses actually taking someone out shopping, which can be an opportunity for face-time with a boss. It’s your call whether or not that’s something you want. Some people love it.

    Possible downsides: a) they recommend something really expensive but don’t take the hint about the company helping to pay. b) it turns into some kind of sexual harassment thing where your boss wants to go into the dressing room with you *gag*.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      If OP were a man, he would wear his interview suit or rent a tux. Thus people infer a woman.

      The last two paragraphs are why you shouldn’t do that.

    2. CM*

      Both “Young” and “straight out of university,” not “young and straight!”

      I wouldn’t ask for help deciding what to buy — that’s a weird conversation to have in the workplace. But then I’ve never heard of bosses taking someone clothes shopping, so we’ve been in places that have different norms.

      If it were me, I definitely would not ask for reimbursement, but I guess it could be OK. I would ask others in the office what people have worn in the past, and ask coworkers for ideas about where to borrow appropriate clothes or find something affordable.

  23. PartyTyme Brand Yohimbine-Rohypnol Injection*

    LW #3: Early in my career I worked at a place that was intentionally vague about their policy on tip reimbursement, all the better to save a few $$$s. It led to this general rule: an employee should never pay for the privilege of traveling for the benefit of the employer.

    Also, it’s okay to ask for a receipt and/or not tip cash because you’re traveling on business.

  24. Tisma*

    I know people, and have heard / read others saying, that they tip in cash with Uber etc. while they pay the actual fare on their card. So you can not be 100% sure that someone does not tip if its not showing on a ‘card receipt’.
    If you’ll accept their statement that they also tipped 15/20% in cash, then please let them know that.

  25. Not enough coffee*

    #1. Unless the party is black tie (tuxedos and very fancy dresses), or themed, it would be pretty off bass to tell your employer you can’t wear something appropriate.

    A suit (m/f), a sweater dress, a black dress- all appropriate options that are or should be a basic wardrobe staple that could be acquired for <<$50. I also join the chorus of folks suggesting rent the runway if you need a dress. For $30 you can get a nice piece!

    Unless you are being paid less than minimum wage, access to a piece of semi-formal clothing should be a reasonable expectation for your employer.

    A tux or ball gown is a different story entirely.

    Finally- would you have skipped the party entirely due to finances of you were not asked to be an ambassador of sorts?

  26. Person from the Resume*

    for the two weeks prior to the week of Christmas

    This doesn’t say he’s blocked Christmas week and New Years week which is when I expect work to be a ghost town and most meeting to be pointless because of people on vacation.

    This says he’s tentatively blocked off December 9-20th; that is obnoxious and ridiculous. A lot of people are trying to get work done before the holiday weeks begin.

    1. Witchy Human*

      Yeah, that is way too much. It sounds like he’s just trying to ease into vacation mode. If you’re being paid to be at work, you can’t plan to “not talk about work stuff.”

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I don’t know, maybe I’m just reading it differently but it sounded as is some of his co-workers are the ones who start mentally checking out early in holiday season and he was trying to concentrate on work still to keep things on deadline?
      Signed, the person who would be thought of as “the office grinch” because I still wanted to meet deadlines and not do non-stop holiday stuff because December has begun.

      1. Jerusha*

        That’s how I read it as well: “Everyone else is winding down and getting into holiday mode, and I understand that everyone’s excited about their plans (and wants to talk about them during meetings?), but I have Things To Do, so I’m noping out of the holiday chatter so I can get some work done.”

  27. PolarVortex*


    Rent the Runway, or another dress rental place. I know these because my coworkers use this for formal events and a lot of them are just out of college like you and have no $$ for our big meetings. I can say all the dresses I’ve seen looked very nice.

    And secondly, although this sounds stupid, Amazon. You can get simple elegant dresses there for very cheap, and then make them look extra formal with accessories you borrow from friends (or own yourself). Solid colors always come off formal, simple, tasteful jewelry will complete the look.

  28. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    LW #2: I wonder if there might be certain individuals at your company that are the type that get their jollies by springing a last minute project/assignment on others right before a holiday, causing the coworker to have to work over the holiday, change their plans, etc. If that is the case (even though the coworker didn’t mention it), maybe that is the coworker’s way of warding them off. That wouldn’t be the best way to handle a situation like that, but I wonder if that might be the case.

    1. Annoy this time*

      I was wondering if it could be something along this line of reasoning.
      While I was in college I worked in the office that reserved space for clubs (and the occasional outside entity). There was one outside dance theatre group that rented space from us who was a bother the first time, but the second rental was an absolute nightmare (trying to push other people out of space they rented, complaining about the theatre techs we assigned to them, complaining that we wouldn’t let them cook with OPEN FLAMES in a room that was basically a repurposed classroom, etc) who spent five months arguing about their bill before grudgingly paying (while still trying to weasel a refund out of us). Two months into that mess we put a false reservation into the areas they would need called “Camp Beauxbaton” because we had just hired some new employees into this office who didn’t know the backstory with this troop. It was a case of protecting ourselves from round three of their drama. We would and did release space for other groups on campus to use (as well as one off-campus group as well), but it was a way of vetting who was coming in first.
      We later found out that the dance troop had been blacklisted from five other theatres in the area for similar actions, we were number six.

      1. Anonny this time*

        The user name was supposed to be “Annony for this.” Auto correct isn’t always my friend.
        My point was maybe the co-worker is trying to make sure he gets things done, and be able to sort thru the meetings that are just “fluff” vrs meeting to get stuff done. Like how my boss wanted to screen who we were giving space to so that we didn’t have round three of that group.

  29. EventPlannerGal*

    OP1 – IMO asking your employer for money for this should be your absolute last resort, as in, if the dress code is a mandatory ballgown or tuxedo or a reindeer costume or something you could maybe ask the question. Otherwise I would look at a) something simple from a low-end shop (eg a plain black dress), b) rental services like Rent the Runway, c) second-hand/charity shops, and d) borrowing from friends/family.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Actually, on consideration I retract the first part – just don’t do it, OP. It’d be better to turn up in something very plain or not quite on-theme. And I don’t usually recommend fast fashion, but as a one-off there are a lot of incredibly cheap sites like Shein or Boohoo that sell pretty but low-quality stuff that would at least get you through one evening.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If it’s a reindeer costume I’ll hook a person up!

      I mean…I absolutely don’t have a reindeer costume in my closet.

  30. anon in the federal judiciary*

    At our work conference, I double-checked with our head of finance to make sure the court would cover the tip on rideshares to the airport as well as the rides themselves. She said yes, and to please tip well because it gives a positive impression of our court.

  31. Arctic*

    I don’t think the Christmas co-worker is being that obnoxious. It’s just a tentative block-out. You can still request meetings. OP even notes he has accepted work during the period.

  32. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I get the sense perhaps this letter writer is not in the US, so there are resources/companies we might have that this person might not have. However, lots of suggestions here have been good – used clothing shops, borrowing from a similarly-sized friend, renting. I think it’s also probably pretty important for OP to know just how fancy or how themed the event will be. It could be very fancy, or it could be everyone shows up in their normal work clothes but in a fancier environment. I’ve often thought of office holiday parties as “having the same conversations with the people you see every day except now you’re wearing sweaters.”

    Also, if OP is a woman – there’s quite a bit that can be done with hair, makeup, manicure (need not be professional; could be $1 cheap polish from the drugstore in a fancy color), accessories to look a little dressier than normal. I once blowdried my hair (which I often don’t do) and you’d have thought I was trying out for a pageant with the responses I got about how dressed up I looked.

  33. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – I’ve seen a lot of reasons and excuses for the behavior of OP’s co-worker, but unless OP left something out of the letter none of them are justified. You can’t mark yourself as “busy” at work just because you don’t feel like going to any meetings. That’s not how the real world works. In most offices if it’s not a busy time of year, yes people working will slack off, but OP shouldn’t have to postpone a meeting until January because their co-worker just “doesn’t wanna”.

    OP, schedule the meeting as needed. If you need him in the meeting, he refuses to attend and doesn’t have a valid reason for missing it, talk to him one last time. If he still refuses, talk to your manager. I generally don’t like “tattling” but he’s making it difficult for you to do your job and your manager needs to be made aware of the behavior.

  34. Lily Rowan*

    For #4, I’ve seen ex-colleagues send holiday cards with personal updates to the office, so that may be your chance here. Send a New Year’s card (or whatever), with a nice note about how fondly you remember all of them and your personal news, and someone will stick it on a bulletin board for everyone to see. It’s nice!

  35. LadyTesla*

    For #1, I cannot recommend renting a outfit enough! I have had a suite of weddings and work Christmas parties, and Rent the Runway has been amazing. Especially considering as my weight fluxes with the season.

  36. Not enough coffee*

    #2.- I would literally schedule over his “hold” at your convenience. It’s just tentative. It’s sort of obnoxious but now you know he’s wide open so don’t plan around him.

    At my office anything “tentative” is book-over-able.

  37. Rugby*

    OP1, I think it would be really inappropriate to request (or even hint at) expensing clothing. I’m sympathetic to you being a new to the workforce and not having much money saved, but clothing is a thing that employees are just expected to have. If one of my reports requested that, I would really question their awareness of basic workplace norms. Chances are you already own something that would be appropriate for a semi-formal event (what you wore to collage graduation, what you wore to your job interview, or even the clothes you wear to work). As long as what you wear isn’t super casual, people probably aren’t even going to notice what you’re wearing.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I agree with you.

      My only idea is to ask for a draw or short term employee loan. We’d be happy to do either one of those if someone found that they were short on cash for any reason, clothing wouldn’t be an issue for us because this would never be a “thing” in our industry.

      But if say our sales rep needed a new suit because theirs blew out before a trade show for example, if they asked for an advance to be paid back over 2-3 paychecks to lessen the impact, all in for it. If they hinted that it should be expensed, we’d offer them a draw as well and then find it pretty awkward behavior at very least.

      As others have pointed out, there are other options out there with a shoestring budget.

  38. Daisy-dog*

    Honestly OP1, I think if you show up in clothes, you’ll be fine. It doesn’t matter if it’s a step below semi-formal or not exactly following the theme. They’re excited for you to be there!

    If it is a super specific theme, find 1 item: a tie, a piece of jewelry, socks, etc. Then wear items that are clean and fit as nice as possible.

    I never remember what co-workers wear to events. Or in general except for my very stylish coworker.

  39. The Bad Guy*

    Re: #2. For me, this is context dependent. If the person is blocking off the time to finish a big project or even just work on it, that seems really reasonable. I do this during the holidays pretty often since client support always takes way more time than anyone expects. Two weeks of uninterrupted coding time is something we’re often encouraged to do around the holidays since not much real business gets done anyways. If they’re just being lazy, well that’s a different story.

  40. Happy Pineapple*

    To #2: I also work in an office where we rely on being able to see when colleagues have open spaces on their calendars in order to arrange meetings. 90% of my job as an administrator is calendar management, so it is incredibly obnoxious when people mark their calendars as Busy 24/7. Meetings that should take 2 minutes to schedule instead can take hours or days because you have to play email tag and beg the person to give you their true availability (the number of times so-called “immovable conflicts” have turned out to be that person refusing to eat their packed lunch 30 minutes earlier or later would make your head spin).

  41. fhqwhgads*

    OP3, at my company the expense policy explicitly spells out how they expect to handle tipping, in our case how much to tip for various types of services. For example, 20% in restaurants, 10% for taxis, couple bucks for bellhops, and they specifically tell us not to use skycaps so we know we won’t be reimbursed for that (it’s more detailed than this but you get the gist). A lot of folks have recommended telling the employee so they know they’ll be reimbursed for tips – and I agree it’s a good idea to do that – but it also may be worth just spelling it out in writing in your actual expense policy. Basically: if someone has read the instructions how to do an expense report, they also know what types of tips they’re expected to leave and what will be reimbursed and up to what amount/percentage. Takes the guessing out of it for the employee.

    1. OP3*

      Thank you! The discussion here prompted me to revisit our written expense policy, and it actually doesn’t say anything in writing about tips. I just know they reimburse because I’ve always tipped, or been with senior colleagues who tip, and never had an issue with approvals. So this is a great push not only to mention with my employee but to specifically reach out to our finance team and ask them to spell something out in the policy–I think this would help others too.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Thank you for running this up to finance as well, they really should have this in their written policies for their best interest as well.

        We don’t want them to hire Guacamole Bob and have you all suddenly scrambling because he’s making his own rules over there about “extra expenses”.

  42. Jaid*

    My car dealer uses Lyft to take me home and bring me back when I leave the car in the shop for the day. They used to have their own driver. I don’t tip the Lyft driver because I consider it part of the service from the dealer. But now I have to wonder.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The car dealership should be tipping out the drivers. In reality the dealership is the customer, they’re just letting you use their account.

    1. ...*

      I would care about my past co-workers pregnancy! I mean some I would some I wouldn’t. I would probably just send a congratulatory text unless invited to a shower, where I would bring an affordable gift. Not everyone is evil! Some people just like sharing.

    2. SimplyTheBest*

      Unless I was invited to a shower or provided a registry link, the idea of gifts wouldn’t even cross my mind.

  43. SleeplessKJ*

    #1: you can also rent semi formal and formal attire from several places online – my daughter does this for all of her fancy dress work events.

  44. DrTheLiz*

    OP1, since this is work-evening it’s not going to be evening-evening: an interview suit and a sparkly/drapey/party top will go a long way in terms of “professional, yet festive!” (This might not fly with your theme, but it’s worth trying to finagle).

  45. De-lurking but make it fashion*

    For OP#1–You might consider signing up for a clothing subscription service–one of those places where you select a bunch of clothes for your online “closet” and then they ship you a certain number at time, you wear them for as long as you want, and ship them back when you want something new. Shipping and dry cleaning are usually included in the subscription price. Almost all of them offer a free trial, so if you time it right, you can order your outfit, wear it, return it, and cancel the subscription before the free trial ends. That would get you a free party dress rental!

    If you are female-presenting and in the US, you might check out Gwynnie Bee. They have sizes 0-32, a free 30-day trial, and a decent selection of fancier dresses. I’m sure there are many other good options; Gwynnie Bee just happens to be the one I am familiar with.

  46. DJ*

    Pregnant employee reaching out to former workplace. Given its 2 years and you don’t seem to be in touch with anyone no need. Although personally I wouldn’t think it was strange to hear such an update.
    But not everyone is like that. I had a former colleague who emailed an update of how she was going a few months after finishing up. I was fine with that but a couple of colleagues actually went to my manager complaining her email was “inappropriate”!

  47. Lizzy*

    For Question #1:
    I had those same dilemmas when I first started at my company. What I use is Rent the runway and it’s perfect, you can rent designer clothes for as low as $35 for a 4 day rental and they include a return label and all you have to do is drop it off at UPS. It has saved me tons!

  48. Richard*

    #1 A lot of people are suggesting Goodwill, but there’s a lot in the letter that suggests that you’re not in the US, where secondhand shops are common and fairly reliable. If you’re less familiar with the cheaper clothes options in your area, ask coworkers, especially younger ones where they shop, or where college students shop. You might end up getting something cheap, but if it survives one night, it’s done its job. When I lived in Thailand, I bought a lot of work clothes for super cheap that fell apart quickly, but served their purpose admirably.

  49. Sockit2me*

    I don’t think there’s a consistent culture yet on the amount for ride share tipping (you should definitely tip, though.)

    But for taxis, every city I’ve ever regularly road in taxis (NY, Philadelphia, DC and SF) the accepted tip for a taxi ride under $20 was $1 plus whatever change made the total price a whole dollar) until around 2005 when it shifted to $2 plus the change. It’s crazy to calculate a taxi tip as a percentage!

  50. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    I tend to disagree with AAM on #2. It’s not that big a deal to block out the calendar, especially as *tentatively* busy. Often, meeting culture in big companies is just awful, and even if it’s not awful, blocking out the time is a good way to ensure you’ve got enough of it for focus work. Sure, maybe the guy doesn’t want to do “real work” or maybe they’re hoping to focus on things they don’t get a lot of time to do while the majority of people are busier and in-office.

  51. Lies, damn lies and...*

    #3 – Dept of Defense regulations prohibit reimbursement for tips because it’s covered in the incidentals under per diem. I (personally) find it discourages tipping when you’re not being reimbursed, but I will still do it. If businesses allow it, they should remind employees that tips are included in reimbursements. Certainly saying something directly to the employee about it being covered should be non-judgemental.

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