who should clean the disgusting office fridge, hiring people without experience, and more

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

1. Who should clean the disgusting office fridge?

I work at a small company with offices spread out through town and in my office there is just me and my coworker. Our boss works remotely from another state and comes in every few months. Our office is an apartment and is set up so she can stay there while she is in town. The last time she stayed, she left food in the fridge which rotted and smelled so bad I could barely stand to be in the office. My coworker cleaned it out, but it wasn’t deep cleaned and it is starting to smell again. It is a communal fridge, but my coworker and I never leave food in the fridge even overnight. We always take it home with us the same day. I am gagging every time I have to walk by this fridge, and the person who left the food in it to rot is not able to clean it because she works remotely.

I don’t think I should have to clean it, and I don’t think my coworker should either. I am very sensitive to smells like this and I would not be able to clean it without vomiting. We have a janitorial staff that comes in once a week but they mostly just vacuum and clean the bathroom. What do I do? I don’t really want to go to our HR person about this, but if it gets much worse I won’t be able to stand being in the office. Currently I have my office door shut and the window wide open and it’s 40 degrees outside and windy. Who should clean the fridge?

Ideally your office would hire someone to do it. Who oversees the janitorial contract? Whoever that person is, say to them, “Is it possible to pay the janitorial staff to do a deep cleaning of the office fridge? The last time Jane was here, she forgot some food in there and it rotted. We removed it, but the smell remains. It’s making the fridge unusable, and the smell spreading into the rest of the office. Can we hire someone to take care of it?” (You can also use this script with your boss directly, just changing “Jane” to “you.” You don’t need to hide from her what happened; just be matter of fact about it, not accusatory.

If the result of this is that you’re asked to do it yourself, say, “That’s not possible. I’m very sensitive to smells and can’t go near it without gagging. It’s bad enough that we really need to pay someone to handle it or replace the fridge.”

2. Should I contact my strongest candidates before our application deadline closes?

I’m running a mid-high level recruitment for a position that requires some technical expertise and a lot of cross-sectoral experience. The position will be open for a minimum of 30 days, and I’m looking to recruit from a wide array of fields. (The job posting is clear about the end date.) This will not be a rolling admissions process — once the position closes, we will review resumes and cover letters and send a questionnaire to the top 10-15 candidates. Although I anticipate a lot of internal interest, I hope to hire externally, if we can find a well-qualified candidate.

After the position was open for three days, I received a stellar application from a candidate not known to me personally. I feel very excited about this candidate! I am not open to changing the hiring process to a rolling one, and so it will likely be at least 40 days before this candidate receives a questionnaire, if they do end up at the top of the pile. (If somehow I get 10-15 applications that make this one look mediocre — well, maybe just don’t wake me up from this beautiful dream.) Do you think there’s any way I can reach out early to let this person, as well as others I end up feeling excited about, know that they are a strong candidate and I look forward to being in touch when the job posting closes? Or should I feel confident that the norms of job searching means they’ll be contented to wait the month+ to hear from me?

Yes, you can absolutely reach out to strong candidates to let them know that they’re especially promising and you’re excited to be in touch next month. But be aware that very strong candidates often have other options, and you do risk them taking another job in the meantime. If they get a job offer they like in the next month, they’re very unlikely to turn it down for a job they haven’t even interviewed for yet.

I know you said you’re not opening to changing your process to rolling interviews, but I’d strongly encourage you to consider it. Your process should serve your hiring needs, not lock you into rigid rules that put you at risk of losing your strongest candidates.

I’d also take another look at that questionnaire you plan to send! If it’s a few questions that won’t take people long to answer, that’s fine. But if it’s many questions and will require a lot of people’s time — which at this stage is an hour or more — your best candidates may be disinclined to do that before they’ve even had a phone interview where they can determine their own level of interest.

3. My manager makes me hire people without experience, who never work out

I work in the wine department of a large liquor store. I’m not a sommelier, but I have a passion for wine and have worked hard educating myself, often on my own time. My hard work has translated to a loyal customer base.

While I manage the wine department, I do not have any say in the hiring of any support staff. The store manager makes those decisions. In the last few years, he has hired six associates with no wine experience, one of whom didn’t drink at all. When I have expressed my dismay at having inexperienced staff, I’ve been told that anyone can learn about the characteristics of wine, even if they don’t drink, and that I’ll just need to teach them about all things wine (on top of all my other duties). With every trainee I have put together reading materials, found online wine classes, and put together tastings so they can familiarize themselves with the product, as well as trained them on store procedures. All of them have been really nice people, but none of them have ever worked out, mostly because it turns out they really don’t have an interest in wine.

I have suggested to my manager several times that hiring someone with experience would be beneficial to our customers, that this constant turnover is stressful to me, and that spending so much time trying to teach Intro to Wine to complete novices means that I’m not fully working on other projects. I thought after our latest associate flaked our that my manager had finally seen the light, mostly because he had to pick up a lot of the slack during the busy Christmas season. But, nope! He mentioned the other day that he had someone in mind who he thought was a great person, but had little experience. Is there any possible way that I could convince him to hire more people with experience?

You can try! Tell him bluntly that you’ve learned from experience — multiple experiences — that a key qualification to succeed in the role is a genuine interest in wine. Say you’ve experimented with many hires without that experience, put significant time and energy into training them, and not a single one worked out, in all cases because of their lack of interest in wine. Tell him, “I feel really strongly that interest in wine needs to be a key qualification for this job.” If he pushes back, try saying, “As the person responsible for training our hires — and then training more people if they don’t work out — I’m hoping you will trust my experience on this. At least for our next few hires, I’d like to try people with experience because I think that will solve our turnover problem.”

If he still doesn’t listen, then you have a manager problem.

4. Should I tell my employer my concerns about a friend’s wife who’s applying for a job?

My close friend’s wife, Sarah, has applied for a job at my company. While she meets minimum qualifications, she has has no actual experience in the field, has been fired from multiple jobs, and in no way would I refer her. However, she told me she applied and while she didn’t explicitly tell me that she used my name on the application, I am fairly certain that this is the case (based on other things she’s said).

I feel so strongly that she would impact my reputation that I am considering going to the hiring manager and voicing my concern. Others who know Sarah and the situation agree with me, and I’m getting mixed advice on the path forward. I don’t want to look I’m overreacting or dramatic, so I’m hesitating. Should I address this now? Would HR typically ask the current employee for feedback or context? I’ve referred a few contacts before but that involved me sending materials for them and giving my endorsement, which I haven’t done here.

Typically I would just be honest but I couldn’t tell my friend that I think his wife is awful and would ruin my reputation. (I’ve voiced my concern many times before but how could I tell my friend I care that they’re struggling because she keeps getting fired but not enough to help her get a job?) I also couldn’t tell his Sarah that it wouldn’t be a good fit because she would cause a lot of drama with my friend. Help?

It’s fine to give a heads-up to the hiring manager. It doesn’t have to be a big thing — just, “My friend’s wife, Sarah Burtlebot, has applied for the X position. I think she may have mentioned my name in her cover letter, so I want to clarify that she’s not someone I’d recommend. I can give you more context if you want it, but mainly I just wanted to flag it in case she does name me.”

In general, if someone name-drops a current employee in their cover letter, employers should check with that person for more info. But it doesn’t always happen, so it’s reasonable to want to be sure.

5. Can I put an opportunity on hold for a few years?

I’m working for a company I really like, with no immediate plans to leave. But in the next 2-5 years, my husband and I would like to move back to the area where both our families live, which is on the other side of the country.

I was approached by a recruiter about an opportunity with a company in the top city we’d like to move to. I typically turn down recruitment offers since I’m not looking right now, but since this was in our goal city and the company appeared to check a lot of my boxes, I thought I’d at least talk to the recruiter and learn more. That conversation went really well and they scheduled time for me to speak to the two team leaders at the company. That conversation also went well and they’re moving me along the interview process. To be honest, I was hoping I’d learn something that would mean this isn’t a good fit for me, but with everything I learn, I’m convinced it’s actually an incredible fit. The only problem is it’s about two years too soon. My husband started a new job in our current city less than a year ago and really needs to stay through at least the election. And I’m not ready to leave just yet.

They’d like to set up times for me to speak to other members of the team, which under normal circumstances I’d be super excited about. I’ve been open with them that this is a change that was much sooner than my husband and I were planning on and that it’s a big decision. But am I leading them on? When do I need to say something? And is there a way to gracefully exit the interview process but leave the door open for a potential job in the future when I’m ready to move?

If you know you wouldn’t be willing to take this job for at least two years, you do need to tell them that — ideally before they invest more time in you! You can say, “I’m incredibly interested in working with you and each of our conversations has deepened my interest. But after giving this a lot of thought, I’m not ready to move right now. We do want to move to City eventually — but for family reasons, I don’t expect to make the move for two years. Would it be possible for us to stay in touch and restart our conversation once that move is closer?”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 445 comments… read them below }

  1. BRR*

    #2 ”Or should I feel confident that the norms of job searching means they’ll be contented to wait the month+ to hear from me?”

    So I agree that long periods of waiting is pretty normal for job hunting but it’s also one of candidates’ biggest pet peeves and for reasons Alison, said, might not work out for you. It sounds like this role requires a more specialized skill set and you have to be more flexible with harder to fill position. Its just not realistic to have a position that needs unique experience, have a rigorous and long hiring process, and be flooded with great candidates. Changing the hiring process is probably the easiest way to improve filling the position with a great candidate.

    1. t*

      Yes! Strong candidates aren’t just waiting around for you to have a 30 day application window – that’s a long time! And then a questionnaire, not an interview with a live human? Nope. If you can’t even take the time to talk to me in the beginning of the interview process, I would be questioning how I would be managed as an employee.

      1. valentine*

        I thought the question was going to be, “Is it okay to risk sending this great person the questionnaire now and perhaps end up with too few questionnaire slots/too many people to send it to at the appointed time?”

      2. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

        I would also be concerned if they can’t even send a questionnaire for 30+ days how long is hiring going to take? Six months? Strong candidates are going to be applying to other jobs with more normal hiring practices that don’t look like a massive, rigid, red flag.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          This. During my last job search (last year), I applied to several places and was considered a top candidate as evidenced by the number of interview requests I received. The place I ended up working contacted me two weeks after I applied (not sure how long the posting was up before then, but it didn’t appear to be for very long) and made me a verbal offer about two and a half weeks later because I told them during my initial HR phone screen that I was interviewing other places.

          Some of those other places I applied to, many long before I applied to my current company, reached out to me for interviews – but I had already accepted the job I have now. A couple of HR people let me know that was sad to hear, but I thought, “Well, I applied over a month ago – you should have moved quicker if you were really interested.”

          1. AKchic*

            Exactly. I have put in resumes to places that are slower than a frozen snail trying to inch it’s way across molasses. 4 months after putting in an application, here’s my phone ringing “hi, we’re scheduling interviews now!” Uh… what? Either I was really low on that list, or that’s some really bad organizational practices, and I really don’t like the implications of either of those options, especially when I know my resume and the job(s) I applied for.
            For many people, when they are applying for a job, they can’t wait 4-8 weeks for an interview (and then another 4-8 weeks for a second interview, decision, onboarding and all that jazz). They need something relatively soon.
            If a candidate is a good one, strike quickly, or someone else will.

      3. Green*

        When I have been in the job hunt for senior roles, I apply and then forget about a role. But I often get contacted within 24 hours of applying for a role. If you’re not willing to move quickly, someone else is, and I may be working for them before you even get around to calling me.

        Also, I don’t fill out questionnaires or behavioral applications. I move on to the next job that requires a resume.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          Yeah, I think I could do this job really well, but honestly, if I have to do all this work just to apply? There are other positions that don’t demand so much up front.

          Applicants should submit an application letter addressing every one of the educational and professional qualifications above, a professional resume, and the names and contact information for three professional references. In addition, applicants should submit a marketing writing sample, such as a brochure or landing page, (Writing Sample) and a sample marketing plan with a budget (Other Document 1), demonstrating their experience as it relates to the Preferred Qualifications. Please note a supplemental writing assessment will be issued as part of the application process.

        2. Hope Springs*

          It depends on the questionnaire. When I first applied to an academic position, I received a demographic questionnaire so that data could be collected to show that the field was diverse enough to proceed (this data was not shared with the hiring committees, just used by the equality offices). I had no issue filling that out.

          1. Green*

            Absolutely. Normal federally required questions or basic screeners (“Do you have at least 5 years experience in X?”) are very different than extensive questionnaires, IMO.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      “Contented” is the wrong question, I think. The question is how likely they are to get a job offer they like in between now and the OP’s position being filled. If they haven’t gotten other offers, waiting is not an issue. If they do get other offers, the OP can’t offer anything in return that would make waiting reasonable. Telling them they have a good application, and will hear back in a month won’t make any difference in their actions.

      And a lot depends on how actively the applicant is looking – are they in an okay place and looking for the next move, eager to get out of their current job, desperate to get out of a bad situation, or unemployed/reaching the end of a contract.

      1. Wrking Hypothesis*

        I’m not sure that contented/discontented is irrelevant either, though certainly whether or not they’ve accepted another position is going to be the biggest factor. Top candidates have a lot of options, and that means companies that want them need to show them why they’d want to work at that company instead of someplace else.

        If I applied to a job, got no contact for a month, and then was sent a questionnaire to fill out, all without ever being contacted by a live human being who wanted to sell me on the position, one thing that’s going to tell me is that this place doesn’t think they have to work at *attracting* their candidates — only selecting them. That’s a red flag for me for a number of reasons, and among them, they’re enough that unless I were desperate, I’d pass that one by.

        First, in my experience, the unwillingness to bother working to convince candidates that this is a great place to work correlates closely with asshole bosses. They both often stem from an attitude that the employee should consider themself lucky to have a job at all, and there’s no reason to bother treating them well on top of that.

        Second, in my experience, the unwillingness to bother working to convince candidates that this is a great place to work closely correlates with low pay and mediocre benefits. This is for two reasons: first, both good compensation package and the effort to sell incoming candidates on the job come from the same root understanding that if you want top candidates you have to be competitive for them; and second, it’s human nature to want to flaunt how great you are. If you do offer your staff all kinda of great things, why wouldn’t you want to make sure a candidate you liked knew that? So if they don’t bother *trying* to attract me, I question how attractive I’d actually find them if I ended up there.

        Third, if all this is turning *me* off, it’s probably turning off other good candidates too. Which means that if I did go and work there, I’d probably find a lower average competence among my colleagues than I would like to have in the people I work with… the ones good enough to have choices would’ve mostly chosen to go elsewhere. Why would I want to work someplace staffed mostly with people who are there because they weren’t good enough to have any other options?

        LW, if you want top candidates with an important, specialized skill set, you need to realize that so do a lot of other businesses. Unless for some reason you’re the only company out there who ever hires people with this particular skill set or something weird like that, your best candidates will have choices, and you have to be prepared to make yourself as attractive a choice as possible if you want to persuade them to accept your offer, or even finish out the process and let you make an offer in the first place. That doesn’t just mean offering good compensation, etc…. although you certainly need to do that, too. It also means taking the trouble to show your candidates why they’d want to work for you, and respecting both their time (not asking large investments of time and effort like long questionnaires till they know enough about you and the job to decide they’re interested enough for the investment to be worth it), and their timing (not keeping them on hold for unreasonably long periods as though they had nothing else going on).

        Without those basics, no, they won’t be “content to wait” for you to get back to them, nor should they.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          It also means taking the trouble to show your candidates why they’d want to work for you

          At my most recent job (my position was eliminated in Dec), the hiring manager called me a few days after I applied. I didn’t start working there until eight months later, but HM called me every few weeks to let me know what was going on. First, they re-wrote the job description to accommodate me. The there was a new VP who also wanted to interview me. Then other delays – but the HM kept in touch religiously and turned into one of the best bosses I have ever had. We are still friends. (He is not the one who eliminated my position – there was a re-org.)

    3. GovSysadmin*

      Unless you are in an environment where you are mandated to wait to contact any candidates until the 30 days have elapsed (I know that academia and government sometimes have these rules), I also HIGHLY recommend you switch to looking at applications on a rolling basis. I’ve spent the last several years on various hiring committees, and every time we’ve had an incredible candidate in the pool, we’ve found that they’d already taken another job or had another offer if we waited too long to talk to them. Will you still have candidates waiting after 30 days? Sure, but you have to realize that the best candidates will have a lot more options and are more likely to go with someone else the longer you wait.

    4. PollyQ*

      Also note that the US unemployment rate is just a hair above a 50-year low, which means that employers are facing fierce competition with other companies that are looking to hire. Given that, waiting until some arbitrary deadline to follow up with highly qualified candidates seems like shooting yourself in the foot for no real reason.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Exactly this. It’s like employers are acting like it’s still 2008 and they hold all the cards and can be as capricious as they like. It’s not an employers’ market right now. They need to step it up and start being more respectful of candidates and their time.

        1. Wrking Hypothesis*

          The problem is that an awful lot of bosses don’t see the employer’s market as being the actual reason they could get away with being capricious back in 2008. They see the innate power differential that makes them bosses and other folks peons as the reason they could get away with being capricious in 2008. They think they should ALWAYS be able to behave capriciously, because that is, in their view, simply one of the perks of being the boss. This is a good way to run one’s company into the ground under current market conditions, but these folks aren’t going to change about it.

      2. Anonymous right now*

        Yes! My boss is frustrating the hell out of me! We are interviewing for my new assistant and the PERFECT candidate interviewed last week. I can just predict that this candidate will be snapped up by the competitor as they have a similar job open, too. Boss wants to take time to be sure, even if it means we won’t make a decision for a month! Argh!

    5. snowglobe*

      LW, is it possible to compromise a little? Maybe you can schedule an interview with this excellent candidate, and during the interview explain that you are committed to keeping the application window open for 30 days, so you won’t be making any decisions before then. But if the candidate has a chance to learn about the job and your organization and likes what they hear, then at least if they do get another offer, they may contact you to let you know before they accept. Then you would at least have one last opportunity to make an offer before losing the candidate. As it is, they really don’t know enough about the job opportunity with you to even think about passing on another offer if it comes up.

      1. Amy Sly*

        This would be my suggestion as well, if for no other reason than it’ll be easier for LW#1! Would you rather do a quick pass/fail evaluation as each application comes in over the 30 days, or spend a couple days at the end of the window doing nothing but weeding out (let’s be honest here) many pointless applications? Tell your good candidates as their applications come in, “You look competitive, here’s more about the job (salary, stress level, etc.), fill out this questionnaire, and we’ll be looking at in person interviews at the end of the window.” That way, at the end of the window you can go straight to going to interviews with people who know whether they want to proceed themselves.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          That is a much better alternative to just waiting and hoping this unicorn doesn’t get scooped up in the interim.

    6. Yorick*

      If, in the end you decide you can’t contact anybody until after the closing date has passed, maybe don’t look at any applications before that either.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        She’d still be disappointed though, if she contacts the best candidates then and they’ve already accepted other jobs.

    7. Librarian1*

      Yep, exactly. No one is content to wait 40 days to hear back, they’re just resigned to it because that’s how it is.

    8. Stormy Weather*

      ”Or should I feel confident that the norms of job searching means they’ll be contented to wait the month+ to hear from me?”

      What? Really? Oh, LW#2 this is a terrible attitude. If you want to be an employer someone wants to work for, you break the norms, not expect someone to be content doing something they don’t like and shouldn’t even be necessary.

      If you insist on not changing to rolling applications, then you have accepted the risk that you’re going to lose good candidates along the way. If you were to schedule the phone interview now, you might be able to keep your candidates interested, but unless they’re in a completely secure position, they’re likely to keep looking and move on when they don’t hear from you.

    9. Well Then*

      Agreed on rolling interviews, and I would also urge LW to really consider whether a questionnaire is the right step to take following the application. The candidate has already put time and effort into applying, and now you’re asking them to invest more time and effort without giving them any additional information about the job, salary, etc. If you’re fishing in a small pond, you risk driving away great candidates who are annoyed by your process. (Personally, I’ve never completed an exercise before an initial interview, and I would be very put off by that type of request.) Do a brief phone interview before the questionnaire, at least. You will get much better results if you show your candidates that you respect their time and see the process as a two-way street.

  2. BRR*

    #4 it sounds like you can also say that you’re not able to speak about Sarah’s work. This could provide a gentle way out if you need it.

    1. Stormfeather*

      I kinda like this. Maybe with a bit of hesitation, and a kind of trapped ferret look to the eyes to sort of hint at the hiring manager to read between the lines. I had kind of wondered if anything needed to be said at all since OP 4 didn’t actually say a darn thing in support of Sarah, so would their rep really be hurt just because they know the person? But yeah, maybe something a little more gentle than “Yeah I totally disrecommend her” would still get the job done without actually badmouthing a friend’s wife.

      1. Tyche*

        Please no hinting, no hesitation, no “secret wink wink”.
        OP4 can simply add to Alison’s script “I never worked with Sarah, so I can’t speak about her work and her skills on the job”
        This isn’t about badmouthing Sarah, but to put the truth out there for the hiring manager.

          1. Another Millenial*

            But it’s also not fair if he doesn’t know the reason why she was fired. It could have been a legitimate reason. It probably was. But what if it wasn’t? Plenty of people are fired for petty reasons, personality differences, sexual orientation, etc. (especially in at-will employment states). And yes, it is illegal to fire someone over something protected like sexual orientation, but I’ve seen it happen in overly conservative companies–it’s hard to “prove” that was the reason, but… we knew.

            1. OP #4*

              Hi, thanks all for your comments!
              I know the long stories over why she’s been fired, they are HUGE red flags (mostly involving interpersonal disputes with other employees) and sees no errors in her ways. So I’m pretty confident that the terminations were justified.

              1. Observer*

                I can see why you are worried.

                Still, I’d just stick to the more generic script. This way, if this gets back to your friend, you can honestly say you didn’t say anything negative, but you couldn’t lie and recommend her since you really have never worked with her.

                This still protects your reputation since you’ve made it clear that you didn’t recommend her and clearly did not have a specific expectation that she would be hired.

              2. JSPA*

                “Candidate Jayne Fizzbean is in my friend group. As you may know from your reference checks, she has been fired X times in the past X months. It’s formally possible that her account of being the injured party in every conflict is true. She’s married to an old friend, so I work hard not to judge. However, she hinted that she gave my name as a reference. I wanted to make it clear that our only connection is social and indirect. Even in that limited context, I’d have no basis for recommending her.”

            2. Colette*

              The OP doesn’t have to pass judgement on the reasons for the firings – but if she gives a wishy-washy “I didn’t work with her” explanation and she is hired and is a disaster, that will definitely affect the OP’s reputation.

              1. Observer*

                No. Because the OP is making it clear that “I am not a reason to hire her. Please don’t associate my out-of-work friendship with a hiring decision.”

                1. Colette*

                  That’s not how the world works, though. She has information that is relevant to her employer about a candidate for a job. She has to be more direct than “I didn’t work with her”.

                  If you see someone robbing a bank and then later that day see that person applying for a job at your employer, you’d mention it, I assume.

                2. SimplyTheBest*

                  @Colette – how would the employer know she has relevant information if she says “I don’t know anything about working with her”?

                3. Colette*

                  @SimplyTheBest Because at some point, it may come out that’s she’s known her for years? Because the OP can control what she says but not what Sarah says? Because people have non-obvious connections to other people? It’s easy to think of ways it can happen – and the OP does not need to prioritize a job for someone she doesn’t have a good view of above her own job.

            3. Just no*

              Another Millenial, it isn’t illegal in most places to fire someone for their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is not a protected class, and the majority (vast majority) of states do not have laws protecting employees on this basis. People still get fired over their sexual orientation all the time.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Yes, be straightforward.

          I had to do this recently when an employee from ExToxicJob applied to my company and told me in a LinkedIn message that she mentioned my name on the application. I went to HR and simply stated that I couldn’t recommend her. (She wasn’t a bad employee, just mediocre.) HR took it from there.

        2. Annony*

          In this case though the OP has never worked with her and all the negatives should be right there on her resume. So just saying “I have never worked with her and cannot recommend her for this role” should be enough. If the company fails to do their due diligence, that’s on them.

      2. BRR*

        To me it’s not even about hoping they’ll read between the lines. Unless I’m missing it, the LW can’t speak the quality of Sarah’s work. Yes she’s been fired and has no experience in the field. But when I think of people giving recommendations, it’s primarily about work quality.

        And if they have worked together, a slight adjustment can be “I don’t know how Sarah’s work on X is, we’ve never worked together in that capacity.” Since she doesn’t have the experience for this role, it’s true.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      I once had a former colleague who knows people that I do apply for a position at my workplace. She told me she applied so I knew she mentioned me. She would have been terrible in the role, so I went to our hiring team and said I was not actually a reference for her. It was that simple, and our recruiter really appreciated the heads-up. I think it’s important for protecting your own reputation. In my situation, they decided to interview her and it didn’t go well, and my having said something on top of that was enough to drop her from consideration.

      Also, you may be putting your personal relationships at risk by talking to “others who know Sarah and the situation” for advice. I can see getting one trusted acquaintance’s opinion, but beyond that when several people know about it, it’s possible this could get back to your friend and Sarah. It’s a good idea to keep these types of things confidential in your workplace and keep them out of personal conversation. Good luck navigating a difficult situation.

      1. Half-Caf Latte*

        I think this is a good point about speaking to the mutual friends.

        I also sense that OP has reached BEC with Sarah and has sort of painted a false dichotomy of “tell the hiring manager the whole ugly truth” vs. “being loyal to my friend means being supportive no mater what”.

        If your friend is at all reasonable, you could say, the hiring manager was really just interested in a reference from someone she’s worked with, which obviously I couldn’t give, but I hope Sarah finds something that’s a great fit Soon!

        1. OP #4*

          These are both fair points! I’ve been at BEC with her for a long time. I’m able to grit my teeth and get along with her fine for Friend’s sake, and sometimes she’s even fun to be around. But besides being worried about my professional reputation if she gets hired somehow and doesn’t work out, I’m also worried about being around her all day at work.

          As far as telling other people about this… this is also a fair point. Luckily it’s only been my SO and my parents (who know friend and spouse for many years), and one mutual friend… mutual friend is the one who thinks I should go to the hiring manager yesterday!

          I think overall I blew this up in my head because I got so nervous about it. But I will speak to the hiring manager without making it a whole big thing. Thanks for the ideas on how to get my point across without being understated or overboard!

          1. learnedthehardway*

            I would definitely say something to HR or the hiring manager, because you don’t want them to think you did recommend the person when you really did not. You’re entitled to set that particular record straight, and you should do so, no matter what – it’s NOT polite to say someone referred you when they did not, and you don’t want your reputation tied at all to this individual. Don’t feel badly about it – the candidate put you in this position by naming you on their application.

            The recruiter or hiring manager will just pass on the candidate, and the candidate will be none the wiser about why that happened. And if you are asked, you can say that you weren’t involved in the hiring decision – which is perfectly true. The HM is making that decision. The fact that they’re making it with some input from you doesn’t make this your decision, kwim?

          2. AKchic*

            Been there. My state is… small, population-wise. So, everyone knows everyone in some fashion. And a lot of times, we use our connections in conjunction with our resumes, if not irrespective of them. The adage of “who you know” is sometimes more important, y’know?
            But once in a while, you just have to bite the bullet and say “this person is related to a friend, not a friend and I can’t recommend them, even personally” and let that recommendation hang in the air. Sometimes, a person will name-drop, and you can’t help what other people do with your name, but you can help how you react to it, and you can help how you work to minimize the potential fall-out / damage by other people trying to use your name for their gain.

      2. Emmie*

        You’re making a good point about going to the hiring team. I recommend telling the recruiter too. If OP doesn’t know who that is, her HR contact could direct her to the right person.

    3. Colette*

      It sounds like the OP does know she’s been fired multiple times, though. People can be fired and learn from it (by choosing jobs that are a better fit or adjusting their behaviour), but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case her. The OP would be doing herself and her employer a disservice by sugar coating it too much.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, if the OP truly thinks this would be a disaster, I think “I can’t speak to the quality of her work” or something like that is a little too neutral. I think Alison’s language is great because it’s clear without being overly dramatic that OP does not recommend hiring Sarah.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      That’s what I was thinking. If you truly don’t want her working at the company at all then say that you don’t recommend her, but it sounds like your biggest concern is just not wanting it to impact your reputation if she doesn’t work out. If that’s true, and you want to do the least damage possible to your friendship, I would mention to your manager that you heard she applied and thought she might have mentioned her connection to you but you want to clarify that you haven’t worked with her and therefore don’t really have the ability to recommend her or not.

      1. Colette*

        If the OP does that, Sarah gets hired, and it later comes out that the OP knew she had been fired multiple times, it will definitely affect the OP’s reputation.

        1. Deanna Troi*

          I agree with Colette. Saying “I only know her personally and so can’t provide a reference” is so neutral that it would say to me, as the hiring manager, that she could be great, but you don’t know either way. If she crushed her interview and her references don’t raise any red flags, we hired her, and then had a lot of problems with her, I would extremely unhappy to find out later that the OP knew she had multiple “interpersonal disputes with other employees,” as OP #4 put it, and it would definitely affect my opinion of the OP. And it is shocking to me how many people will provide positive references for people with whom they’ve had lots of problems.

          1. SimplyTheBest*

            Presumably the employer will do their due diligence. OP, a person who has never worked with this applicant, shouldn’t be the deciding factor in hiring her and if they are, that employer has a whole lot more problems than one bad employee. I don’t see how it would even come out that OP knew anything, and in the hugely unlikely event that it does, OP can continue to say, “I’ve never worked with her and as such, know nothing of the details of those events.”

            1. Colette*

              But part of their due diligence is expecting their employees to give them accurate information. No one is saying the OP has to get into the details, but she could say “I know her personally and can’t recommend her” or “I know her personally but don’t think she’d be a good fit”.

    5. TootsNYC*

      Also emphasize that she’s your friend’s wife, so you have only a social connection with her, “so it’s a little awkward and I want to be discreet.”

      “She told me she’d applied, and I mentioned that we usually get a lot of applications for those jobs.”

  3. Ludo*

    honestly I think you and your co worker should just take half an hour and clean the fridge together and wear a mask to help with the smell

    Wtf did your boss leave in the fridge that it smells so bad? I understand a fridge smelling awful when it’s an office of fifty people using it but how did one person make it smell that bad omg

    1. Sleve McDichael*

      Rotting food smells can seep into the rubber seal around the fridge and be a nightmare to get out again. The seals might need removing and soaking, as well as all the trays. This is not a half hour job to do properly.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Anyone who says a fridge can be deep-cleaned in half an hour hasn’t lived with the same people I did! I was in a house where we nearly took the fridge completely apart over a weekend and bleached the whole thing. Under the crisper drawers, behind the shelves, the bottom of the shelves, took the door off, etc. It was an ordeal. And the whole thing still stank of rot. Best guess was that someone had somehow splashed food into the vent(?) that the cold air comes in through. We had to replace it, which none of us could really afford at the time.

        It can get bad, is my point.

      2. Massmatt*

        I know someone who volunteered to clean up after hurricane Katrina. The worst thing about it (which was saying something—not the snakes, or the dead pets, not the maggots) was the refrigerators. They would try to tape them shut and send them off to who knows where, but if they opened the smell was hideous and would last forever. And this was not an stench-free environment, to put it mildly.

        WTH is with this company that sets up an apartment for someone to stay in every few months as an “office”? And what is wrong with this manager that she visits this apartment and just leaves food there to rot?

        1. valentine*

          And what is wrong with this manager that she visits this apartment and just leaves food there to rot?
          She may have left it for them or forgot it either way.

          The only thing that makes sense to me is that OP1 and coworker use the smell so seldom that they went, “Ooh ooh, that smell / Can’t you smell that smell?” until it was too late. Because a simple, “Jane, it seems you left something in the fridge. Alright if we throw it out?” could have prevented the need for an arctic environment, yeah?

          1. Tallulah in the Sky*

            Yes, that’s also what I thought. Ideally, the manager should have told them something like “There’s still stuff in the fridge, so eat what you want and throw the rest away.” After all, if they’re flying, they can’t just take the fridge’s content with them, and I would feel bad just throw it all away. I would also think grown up adults could handle a fridge.

            Because I don’t get OP and their coworker here either. They say nothing about their boss being super unreasonable, so why not ask them after a couple of days if they were uncomfortable throwing things away ? Or just clean it out before the stench became unbearable. I agree it shouldn’t be up to them now to deep clean the fridge, but if I were their boss I’d ask that they make sure it doesn’t come to that in the future.

            1. TreenaKravm*

              Yea I really don’t understand why OP and coworker couldn’t toss the stuff before it apparently became nuclear. Especially since it’s just the two of them and they never leave food in there overnight. Surely it was extremely obvious that this was Boss’ food and Boss wasn’t coming back for at least a month or two, so it needs to be dealt with? Perhaps it seemed like food that wouldn’t rot (sealed in a container?) or they went a long time assuming it was the other’s food without talking about it. But honestly? It feels like more of a “Well, it’s not MY food, so why should I have to throw it away?!” stand-off between them and Boss (who wasn’t even aware of it since she’s not there!)

              1. Yvette*

                This, it would have taken all of 5 minutes to throw everything out, slightly longer if they had to dump and rinse jars for recycling. After this once the fridge has been cleaned/replaced/sent out for fumigation/whatever, the policy should be that when Jane leaves all that is not wanted by the remaining two is tossed. And if the two of them are so adverse to cleaning it, once it is cleaned then don’t even use it. According to the LW “… my coworker and I never leave food in the fridge even overnight. We always take it home with us the same day.” In my last 20-30 years of office work I have never kept food in the communal fridge. Most foods are fine in an insulated tote with an ice pack, even all day. So just don’t even bother with the fridge at all.

                1. Antilles*

                  To be honest, I don’t think you’d even be required to deal with dumping/rinsing the containers if you didn’t want to. Since you know Boss only comes once a blue moon, the food being left there was likely a “welp, she totally forgot this even exists” and you’d be well within your rights to just toss the entire thing straight in the dumpster unopened rather than hassling with cleaning it – even if it was tupperware or some other reusable container.

                2. Yorick*

                  @Antilles: Exactly. She’s not local so I doubt it would be a tupperware or other type of container, and even if it is, it’s probably not hers.

                3. TreenaKravm*

                  Agreeing with Antilles here. This is literally a 30-60 second job. Take out of fridge, place in garbage.

              2. Yorick*

                That’s exactly what it sounds like to me, and so (imo) it’s pretty much their fault it’s really stinky and they’re pretty much the ones who need to clean it.

                1. Unpopular Opinion*

                  I’d have to agree. In order for food to rot to the point that it destroys a fridge beyond repair or to require a professional cleaning… it has to be left in there for a LONG time. I mean, I’d imagine like 6 months or more. Think about in your own fridge… a small container of leftovers you forget about will eventually mold and get gross and when you finally stumble across it – you often don’t really smell it until you open the container. And then its shockingly bad. But still… it didn’t destroy your fridge or make it smell so badly that you can no longer use it and need to hire a professional.

                  I think you both suck it up and mouth breathe while you clean it – and make a pact to never let it get that bad again. Unless maybe a rat died in there? Then hire a professional.

                2. Colette*

                  I’m thinking the food was something like leftovers from a restaurant meal (and thus not necessarily in a sealed container) – but if I were the boss in that situation and remembered later that I’d left them, I probably wouldn’t say anything about it because of course they would have been thrown out … it’s bizarre that the OP and her coworker didn’t toss them immediately.

                3. Managed Chaos*

                  Yes, I agree. I fear doing anything but sucking it up and cleaning it as best you can will harm you in the eyes of HR. You knew there was food in there and that it was creating a problem, yet instead of throwing out the food, you let it get so bad that now you expect the company to pay to deal with? I would not be pleased as a boss. Now if it were due to a power outage over a long weekend or something, sure. But not food rotting.

                  Ideally, the person who left the food would deal with it. But it sounds like they didn’t think it would be an issue.

                4. LJay*


                  Yeah, honestly I’ve been the boss in this situation. (Fly in, take team out for lunch, bring back left-overs, leave them in work fridge, forget, fly out the next day) and it would never occur to me that someone wouldn’t toss my forgotten food before it rots.

                  (I do try to remember to eat or toss out my food before I leave because it’s not anyone’s job to deal with my trash but my own. But occasionally I forget).

              3. Librarian1*

                Yep, it really sounds like they’re bitter that the boss left it there and are just making everthing harder than it needs to be.

            2. hbc*

              That’s why I wouldn’t make too big a deal of it. I mean, it’s not great that she left it, but I’ve certainly been guilty of “This’ll be my snack while I’m in the waiting area” and then rush out the door without it. I’ve cleaned up after my own employees in similar ways–people are forgetful sometimes.

              So it’s all right going to Jane to make cleaning arrangements, but OP should be prepared to answer why they didn’t just pitch it in the first place.

            3. Senor Montoya*

              Because sometimes abandoned food is ok, and it’s still ok, and it’s still ok, and then suddenly it’s not. We had this problem with my FIL, who had dementia.
              He spent most of his time puttering around in and near the kitchen, and who’d come over and chat (and sometimes get aggressive) about the food, moving the food, cooking the food. He’d get very distressed about throwing away food. We’d go over periodically, my husband would persuade his dad to go on an outing (grocery store was his favorite), and my MIL, my son, and I would clean out all the old and on the cusp of gross food and then disinfect.

              Anyway, my point is, sometimes old food doesn’t smell, until suddenly it *really* smells.

              1. Filosofickle*

                Soon before we had to move my grandma out of her home, I visited and found all sorts of gross food. After she went to bed, quite a number of expired foods disappeared. After I flew home, she complained to my parents that I threw her stuff out. With her dementia I didn’t think she’d notice, but she did! #sorrynotsorry

              2. Yorick*

                Right, but the boss doesn’t work there except in rare cases. So they could have thrown it away immediately.

            4. becca*

              Yeah, this. If something in the staff fridge is moldy, and I know it’s been there for weeks, I throw it out. If people don’t want to lose their tupperware, they should take it home more than four times a year.

              It is a wonderful, empowering feeling when you realize that you, too, can throw away inedible food that is no longer food. I encourage everyone to try it.

            5. emmelemm*

              Yeah, I’m completely mystified as to this whole situation happened. Boss only comes once a month. Boss leaves, food in the fridge. Boss is not coming back for a month. THROW OUT THE FOOD IMMEDIATELY. Problem solved.

          2. Snuck*

            Yes… I’m left wondering why not just roll your sleeves up before it requires a bio haz suit and deal with it? I mean, sure it’s not YOUR food that’s in there rotting, but you know, you know exactly how many people are going to be in the room with it for the coming weeks, you plus one. So either you, or the plus one, or a combined two just get in there before it’s hellish.

          3. epi*

            Yeah, this could have been prevented so easily that I really think the OP should not mention any of this backstory when they ask to have the fridge cleaned. That includes commenting on whose food it was. At this point, the fridge needs to be professionally cleaned so it really doesn’t matter who “should” clean it– none of the three of them will be doing it. And saying it was Jane’s food really does not shift blame from the OP anyway. In a tiny office where no one leaves their food overnight, it should have been obvious that this food belonged in the trash long before things got to this point.

            Stuff that is helpful to include: they’ve thrown away all old food; they’ve attempted to clean the fridge already; no one keeps food there overnight (no need to mention that this has been their practice all along); the fridge continues to stink unbearably.
            Stuff that should not mentioned and the question not begged: whose food it was and how they know that; how long it was left there; whose fault they think this is nor whose job to clean it up.

            1. Snuck*

              I would be pretty miffed to be asked to deep clean this fridge/replace it. I cannot imagine for the life of me how it got to the point that bleach and a bowl of bicarb is insufficient, and I’d be thinking very closely about what else is not happening when I am not there if I was the manager. If they can’t even throw some takeaway or a few old dinner preps in the bin for what appears to be so many weeks that the fridge is a disaster zone …. what else are they not doing?

              It’s an attitude thing to me. The stand off over the fridge probably isn’t the only thing that’s an issue, because if a person was actually looking after the space they’d have dealt with that sooner. Instead they are assuming all sorts of things are not their responsibility. And then are they doing the same about everything else? The filing cabinet that tips a little because it’s top loaded? The courtyard plants that need a drop of water because the retic has failed, and someone needs to be called to fix it? The weekly filing that is part of the job but just piling up? The following of agreed core hours when I am not there to confirm it? The use of office resources primarily for work and not personal measures?

              It can seem a stretch, but in my mind by the time someone is prepared to walk past a fridge that is so bad it needs to be tossed to the curb so many times, daily, then I am left questioning what else they are walking past. You can say “the reticulation and gardens aren’t their job” but I’d counter with “They work in a small remote location, and in remote locations people pick up small extra jobs, like noticing that the gardens are dying, or that the rubbish bins need to come in, or the milk guy left an invoice instead of posting it to head office”. Part of the joy of working in a small discrete office without your boss there is that you also have to be the eyes of your boss / admin.

              1. Snuck*

                And I say this as a person who currently oversees people in remote places spread across several thousand kilometres. People who take pride in their workspace take pride in it, people who have ownership of their role and their professionalism do things like toss the gross out of the fridge if it needs cleaning out … maybe not on Martha Stewart Day One, but before it’s a calamity. (And if it’s sexist so be it, but our employees are generally male, older, farmers… take from THAT generalisation what you will!)

                When someone isn’t emptying the fridge they also aren’t answering the phone, aren’t hiding their girl mags from the religious customers, are driving our vehicles around when they shouldn’t, aren’t replacing broken elevator buckets and are waiting until the motor on the doo-dad blows up rather than asking for help to replace it before it gets that bad and shuts the entire operation down. At least… that’s the sort of thing I kind of notice… if a fridge has got to the point that it needs to be binned over a few left groceries.

        2. Lynn Marie*

          And what is wrong with OP and her colleague that they didn’t simply toss the food themselves the day after the manager left when they knew she wouldn’t be back for months?

          1. Pomona Sprout*


            The whole time I was reading this, I was asking myself all the same questions mentioned in this thread, together with a liberal sprinkling of WTFs. I just don’t understand why OP and their coworker just sat there and let that food get smellier and smellier until it was totally unbearable. It would have been SO easy to contact Boss Lady as soon as they realized she’d left food, or even just chucked the stuff right away. It’s not like they didn’t know she wasn’t coming back any time soon, right?

            I’m wondering if there’s a piece of information missing here or something. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

            1. Holy Moley*

              +1001 I would have thrown it all out after a week or an email to the manager asking if I can throw it out. No way would I have kept putting my own lunch in there if it stinks. Be an adult and realize someone who doesnt live there isnt going to come back for food they forgot.

              1. TootsNYC*

                I think I’d have waited a day. If that.
                Because unless boss comes back tomorrow, it’s going to be ruined.

            2. Lilo*

              I used to work in food service and so have a pretty iron stomach but I would. have tossed everything and bleached the fridge ages ago.

          2. RabbitRabbit*

            This. If you use the fridge frequently and it’s just you and one other coworker, you know that’s not your food and it’s going to rot.

            1. Rocket Dog*

              This is exactly why the Tragedy of the Commons is not easily solved. Even between two people who were directly impacted, neither thought to actually do something about it until things got really, truly vile. Even when it would have been minimal effort and time to fix the problem before it began.

              I really, truly cannot see how LW can come out of this looking ok to HR/her boss/whomever she has to speak to.

              She needs to answer:

              Why didn’t you just throw it out?
              Why didn’t you email/call Jane and ask if it was ok to throw the food out?
              Why didn’t you raise this issue earlier?
              Why did you let office equipment get to the point it is either beyond repair or will cost a lot of $$ to repair?

              Note: It’s not my job/I was afraid to do so might answer the first question, but not the second and third ones. Also, never the fourth.

              LW let this problem get to this point. She’s going to have to address that along with the specific issue of the fridge smell. She thinks her problem is the fridge smell. Her boss will think her problem is her inability to deal with a simple issue, to let it get to a critical point, and to show disregard for equipment that should be easily maintained.

          3. Joielle*

            This! I think the fridge is probably beyond cleaning at this point and will have to be replaced, but OP and her colleague should be prepared for whoever has to approve that expense to be seriously unhappy with them. If the fridge smells that bad when closed, they ignored a festering situation for WAY too long.

            I hope OP comments to tell us about their thought process – I can’t think of any reason this had to happen, but perhaps there’s an extenuating circumstance (something other than “we didn’t think we should have to”).

          4. CupcakeCounter*

            Thank you!!!! That bugged me through the whole letter.
            The only thing I could come up with was that maybe they don’t use the fridge except for rare occasions so never actually opened it until it was too late. I’ve gone several months without using the office fridge so I know its possible.
            If they knew it was in there the whole time and let it go to rot (for what reason exactly? Not my job or waiting for Jane to return to deal with it?) its on them to clean it out. Yes, Jane left the food but IF they knew it was in there and she wasn’t returning, it was on them to toss it in order to prevent this. Its called adulting – sometimes you have to do Not Fun things for long term happiness (like eating oatmeal for breakfast instead of a donut).

          5. Important Moi*

            Maybe LW was scared she’d get in trouble for throwing away the food without getting express permission to do so? In my experience, this is not unusual.

            Everybody can think something is wrong, but Nobody does anything about it because Somebody might get in trouble for addressing it.

            1. ACDC*

              Eh but it’s perfectly reasonable to send a quick text or email to the boss saying “I think you left some food in the fridge the last time you were here. It is starting to look a little past-due, would it be OK if I threw it away?”

              1. Important Moi*

                A lot of people have noted the food could have been thrown away and the boss could have been contacted.

                I just gave a possible reason, based on my experience, why the food was not discarded.

                1. Yorick*

                  But that reason isn’t plausible when you consider that they could have easily asked for permission.

            2. Rocket Dog*

              That would explain he first week of sitting there. Not week 2 or 3 when it’s pretty clear no one is coming back for it.

              It also can’t explain failing to mention it to someone who could deal with it. A simple ask of the HR or boss: Can I throw out Jane’s food? Would have solved the issue.

              Fear is not a justification to let office owned equipment get to the point it is either unusable or needs major and expensive repair.

      3. cacwgrl*

        Yes, this! It can take a LONG time to properly clean a fridge. We have one here, a nice one less than a year old. We keep ice cream in the summers and always have half and half for the coffee mess. At one point last summer, we did a fun kids activity with leads to a couple gallons of left over diary. I brought it all back to the office, put it in the fridge and we collectively agreed that we all could use the leftovers for coffee before it went bad. We’re big on creamed coffee as you might guess. Well right in that window, we had two major acts of God, which killed power for a good amount of time, in the middle of the summer, in the desert. It took over 10 days to get everything back up and have the building cleared for occupancy. Can you imagine what our fridge was like after losing power, melting down the freezer and warming all the dairy for a couple days? It was RANCID. And while I was the one who put the dairy in there, we had all agreed to keep it and it was literally no one’s fault that our fridge was in bad shape. I’m the weak stomach in the group and everyone knows that, so literally, the whole group took turns with the clean up. We all did it. We all wanted to barf and did short shifts. We did bleach, we did vinegar, we did baking soda. So many towels, so much spray. Long story longer, we all suffered, we all were adults and helped each other. It took a week to get the fridge right again but 7 months later, the fridge is totally fine.
        To the OP, I hope the lesson was learned. The boss leaves something, whether on purpose or accident, just throw it out since you clearly don’t want to take responsibility to regularly clean it otherwise. Ask the company or janitorial service to do a solid deep clean and move on, being the responsible adult from now on…

    2. Maria Lopez*

      It sounds like it is only the LW and the co-worker who work in the office with the boss occasionally stopping in. I don’t know why they didn’t just toss whatever was in the fridge after the first week. It seems like they were just waiting to see who would take care of the problem, and even when it got bad they STILL wouldn’t just toss the food.
      And after you toss the food, unless it was spattered all over the inside, there is no need to do a deep cleaning, whatever that is. Just keep an open box of baking soda in there.

      1. Kitty*

        Exactly! I don’t know why they just let it rot there when the boss isn’t even in the office very often and they could have just asked boss “hey do you still want this, otherwise we’ll toss it out at the end of the week to keep the fridge clean”. Probably the boss forgot they even left it there! This seems like extreme conflict avoidance, for a relatively low level conflict.

        1. It's a Yes From Me*

          It seems like one of these strange power struggles people in relationships sometimes have where neither wants to do a particular task so they try to hold out the longest to force the other person to do it. It sounds like that happened in this case, when the OP’s co-worker stepped up, but by then it was too late because they’d let it go too long. Alison responded much more kindly to the OP than I would have.

          1. Bee*

            Yeah my eternal power struggle with roommates was over the trash. I once left a full kitchen trash can, went on vacation for a week, and returned to find that my two roommates had just…continued to shove stuff in there until the lid wouldn’t close and the whole apartment smelled like garbage. Fun! BUT when the person responsible is not actually there to take responsibility, and there are just the two of you, you team up to throw it out *within the week* and spend the five minutes griping about your inconsiderate/forgetful boss, and then move on.

        2. Marmaduke*

          My most charitable guess would be that it was left in a crisper drawer or something that nobody ever used, so the food simply went unnoticed until it started to smell.

          That happened once in one of my college apartments. A roommate’s parents dropped by while we were out and left her some food in an opaque bottom drawer that none of us ever used. By the time we noticed the drawer was occupied, things had gotten a little unpleasant.

          1. Snuck*

            I had the power mistakenly turned off on an apartment for ten days in high summer in sub tropical Brisbane while I was over in Perth…. ten days of stewing… I’d left a little milk, some carrots and lettuce. My bad, but it would have been fine if the power wasn’t off for TEN DAYS. (Thanks building management for THAT screw up!)

            The milk exploded everywhere, the lettuce turned to soup. I ‘deep cleaned’ the fridge in about 15 minutes, and yes it STANK but not forever… and it was fine after a solid wipe out with bleach and then vinegar and bicarb. I’’m trying to imagine what was in a fridge for a few weeks that means they need gas masks to deal with it AFTER it’s been turfed?

            1. TreenaKravm*

              This. I really don’t understand how it could have gotten that bad with both of them there, using the fridge 5 days/week!

          2. Jaid*

            Ah…my college roommate made pickles and left it in our shared dorm room fridge. I have a lousy sense of smell, so it bothered her more than me that she forgot about the pickles until it was too late.

            LOL, a bit of a side note, my dorm had a lot of Asian kids and one of the girls liked me enough to gift me a dried squid, that I took home and shoved under the mattress (it was dried and packaged nicely) and G-d bless my parents but where else would I have put it? Mom eventually got me to toss it, because back in the 90’s there weren’t a lot of cookbooks in my library that would have explained how to use it and the girl didn’t give me instructions.
            *sad face*

            1. Seifer*

              If that ever happens again, you can just eat the squid as is! Like beef jerky. My cousins loved tearing it apart to dip in ketchup, and my dad loves putting it in the toaster. Putting it in the toaster will spread the smell throughout your house, and it’s a very, very fishy smell. I’ve heard it’s good, but tragically, my brother and I are allergic to shellfish, and our mother was paranoid enough that she decided we could consume nothing from the sea as a precaution, so I can’t tell you for sure that it’s good.

      2. JamieS*

        Yeah I’m wondering how it even got to the point of the food being rotten. I’m thinking maybe OP and their coworker don’t work in the office when the boss is visiting since it’s her “apartment” while there and didn’t come back to work in the office until after the food had rotted.

      3. London Lass*

        Yep, that was my thought too. Sounds like they filed it under “not my job, therefore refusing to do” despite the obvious outcome if no-one cleaned it out. Surely it wouldn’t have been that hard to dispose of these things earlier on and then gently mention to boss next time she visits that she left some food behind last time?

        1. Rocket Dog*

          Yeah, it’s one thing to do that wrt to something that will cause no harm if left. But rotting food in a fridge? That’s going to come across as petty and immature unless there’s something else we don’t know about.

          I’m going to give LW the benefit of the doubt that something we don’t know about explains her inaction. But she does need to be able to address it and justify why she didn’t act.

      4. Cheese Cheese Cheese CHEESE*

        I know! I’m struggling to imagine what they’re supposed to say to HR: “So, um, Jane left some food in the fridge and we…watched it rot for three weeks! But it’s totally Jane’s fault! Where’s the budget for professional fridge cleaning?”

          1. Unpopular Opinion*

            And you know it couldn’t have been three weeks. It had to have been darn close to a year. I really want this LW to tell us what kind of food this was! I’m imaging one or two Styrofoam containers of leftovers or takeout from a restaurant or delivery. Maybe it was like 30 pounds of raw beef?

            1. Yvette*

              I just don’t understand how to reasonable, mature adults could let it get so bad. For it to get to the point where it “… rotted and smelled so bad I could barely stand to be in the office.” and “… gagging every time I have to walk by this fridge…” it had to be there for weeks and weeks, not properly wrapped and perhaps even a power failure thrown into the mix. This did not happen overnight. And if they normally “… never leave food in the fridge even overnight.” and normally “…take it home with us the same day.” then they were using it until it got to that point, so they had to have known food was in there. Yet no one did a thing.

              1. Decima Dewey*

                I’m boggled that they continued to put food in there. Even if they “never leave food in the fridge even overnight”, the stink probably affected the taste of food placed in there.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          Yeah, it’s two people working out of an apartment. There’s no janitorial staff or janitorial budget. There’s probably even a landlord who provided the appliances, so they can’t even throw it away and get a new one without looping in the landlord.

          1. Dahlia*

            The letter says, “We have a janitorial staff that comes in once a week but they mostly just vacuum and clean the bathroom.”

      5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Yep. It sounds like OP is choosing principles over common sense. Should OP have to clean up after a grown adult? No. But after OP’s boss left I would have tossed the food immediately knowing she wasn’t coming back. And it honestly may have slipped their mind – I’ve forgotten about leftovers in a hotel fridge. Those of us who have worked in large offices with a communal kitchen know that people are gross. Employees shouldn’t be responsible for cleaning up after others who think magic fairies clean up their messes, but the reality is that some people just don’t care, and cleaning crews are generally not cleaning out the office fridge. So OP needs to try and get the company to pay for a deep cleaning by someone else, and in the future just throw it away after boss leaves.

    3. Willis*

      It’s worth asking about the janitorial service doing it…a lot of times you can add stuff like that on pretty easily.

      But, after that I’d do a check of the fridge the day after the boss leaves and toss anything that might have been left. Or, ask her to be sure and throw any food out (…and I’d probably still check). It does seem a little odd something was left to rot that badly with just three people using the fridge.

      1. It's a Yes From Me*

        It’s because two of them were essentially saying “it’s not my responsibility” while the third one was long gone. It reminds me of something I read in a book titled “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” (and it’s all small stuff). This particular piece of advice was along the lines of: don’t argue about whose turn it is to take out the garbage — just take out the garbage!

        1. valentine*

          I’d do a check of the fridge the day after the boss leaves
          This is the way to go. Not only is she sure to forget, but it’s worth doing when it’s you and not them who’ll suffer for it.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          That’s reasonable if everyone’s on board but every time I’ve heard this in real life, it was one person who never did [chore] saying [chore] is no big deal and probably only takes like 5 minutes so whoever notices it needs to be done should do it—and then they continue to neglect [chore] forever until the resentment from the other part(y/ies) picking up the slack is too much and the relationship implodes “because of [chore].”

          *There’s also an inherent sexism involved in that expectation because women tend to be socialized to take on invisible labor while men aren’t socialized as strongly to do that. Generally, women do more household chores while men take on household projects. It’s basic maintenance vs a goal with a defined end.

          My counter-advice is “Don’t argue about whose turn it is to take out the garbage — if they refuse to take out the garbage, remember: you can leave them.” (Minor edits to make this for work. It’s good advice.)

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yeah, that bit of advice tends to just end with the person who actually cares doing all the work.

              1. Unpopular Opinion*

                You know the saying, “would you rather be right, or happy?” You can apply the same logic here.

          2. Ann Furthermore*

            This may be true, but given the choice between cleaning out the fridge and sitting in my office with the window open in 40 degree weather to avoid vomiting, I’m going to clean out the fridge, inherent sexism be damned.

            1. TreenaKravm*

              Agreed. Also this is *not* inherent sexism. The boss who left the mess behind is a woman! So worst case scenario, a woman is cleaning up after another woman.

              1. TootsNYC*

                It might be inherent inequality–but this is the boss, so the inequality is actually built-in and appropriate.
                Whether the boss should leave the tossing of leftovers to the subordinates might be something we could debate, but I’d land on the side of, “she forgot, you’re there, it’s not terribly difficult. throw out the leftovers.”

                Our OP and her colleague do in fact use the fridge during the day–if either of them opens the door and sees the leftovers, they should toss it.

          3. Smithy*

            While this is entirely true – I think that because the OP and their colleague let this issue become a more significant maintenance/janitorial issue – it’s not really leaving either of them in a strong position to flag a any potential sexism in how this has played out.

            Neither employee contacted the boss to confirm her upcoming travel schedule and whether they could just throw out the leftovers. If there is sexism at play with chores being expected, there are far more direct ways for an employee to go to their boss and talk about wanting to be a team player, however when it comes to communal cleaning, organizing meetings, party planning, etc. that work is being overwhelmingly assumed by women. The approach of just refusing to bring this up to the boss, refusing to throw it out until it smelled very badly – it doesn’t set the groundwork for those conversations. But rather “how can the three of us avoid this in future”.

          4. Antilles*

            “Don’t argue about whose turn it is to take out the garbage — if they refuse to take out the garbage, remember: you can leave them.”
            Wait, really?
            This isn’t some major time-consuming, effort-draining chore – on those rare occasions the boss comes in, you open the fridge the day after she leaves, glance in to see if there’s food left, if so toss in the trash can.
            I can’t imagine leaving a job over a task that happens once a month and takes like, 30 seconds.

              1. TootsNYC*

                what larger problem? The boss (not the spouse) forgot food in the fridge. I’m sure she didn’t intend to leave it there for them to clean up after her.

                If my colleague forgets and leaves the dictionary out on the main table, I just put it away.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  there aren’t other things going on.
                  The boss isn’t dismissing the OP’s concerns; they aren’t fighting over who cleans the toilet…

                  I have every sympathy for a boss who orders food for delivery and holds onto half of it in the fridge, thinking she’ll eat it for lunch/snack/tomorrow’s dinner, and then forgets about it. It’s behind an opaque door, and she has other things on her mind.

                  I don’t even think that it would be inappropriate for the boss to delegate that task to them.

          5. Snuck*

            So… I’m about to set up a thing with my near tween son, and grumpy husband, and kid let other son… that is basically all the house chores on pop sticks and we all pick three. I don’t care which three you do, you do them, your choice. If it’s rubbish people are fighting over, and no one wants to do it… pay someone. But every one contributes, everyone shoulders some of this.

            You’d can’t just leave people over taking out the trash, but you can leave people who don’t respect you enough to help you carry the varied load of life. If they care, they’ll help shoulder… Something

          6. Observer*

            The key here is that the advice in the book is for reasonably healthy relationships, not one that is borderline abusive or completely one-sided. I think it’s Carolyn Hax who talks about not bean counting – it’s a similar idea. Not that you just ignore when a relationship is one-sided. But you don’t tally each and every task that each person does, and each time someone does a favor etc.

          7. TootsNYC*

            This is work, it’s tossing the food that someone (their boss) forgot in the fridge.

            This isn’t a personal relationship; there are no other chores on the table here.

          8. Red wagon*

            The problem with the men taking on household projects v. Chores is this: it doesn’t even out in the end. All those projects do not add up to the daily chores. Men think they do, but they don’t.

            If you read studies about how much work people think they are doing, they will report it as about equal. If you track or even ask how much free time men have v. Women, it’s very clear that men have much more free time.

            It’s not the work they are doing/not, it’s that women don’t have down time but men do.

    4. kittymommy*

      I’d love to know that as well. After Hurricane Irma I was without power for a month. Not only did everything in my fridge and deep freeze rot and sit there the house itself had no AC in September in FL. I just threw the stuff out, cleaned all the removable parts (shelves, drawers) separately, by hand as I do not have a dishwasher, sprayed a bleach solution and both are fine. Leaving out the time I let the bleach solution sit (maybe 10 minutes) it took less than an hour.

    5. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      I’d stop using the fridge completely after that and tell the boss we’re no longer using it. Heck, unplug it to save money and have her turn it on when she arrives. Make it completely hers.

      If the OP brings in food and takes it home each day, it’ll be safe outside the fridge if it leave home cold.

      1. Artemesia*

        Have you ever smelled an empty used fridge even one that has been ‘cleaned’ but has been left sealed and off for a few days or weeks. The worst.

        1. Not Australian*

          The clue is not to leave it sealed. In empty apartments, caravans, etc., an unused fridge is always propped open so that air can circulate and keep it fresh.

    1. Half-Caf Latte*

      Honestly my first thought was that OP3 could probably find some interested candidates in that “loyal following” she’s built.

      Many of my oenophile friends joke about getting part-time jobs in retirement in tasting rooms, or leading tours.

      I bet there are people in her fan club who’ve daydreamed about a “fun” wine job and could use the cash.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Half-Caf Latte, you beat me to the punch!! When I used to drink I got asked plenty of times if I was interested in working part-time because I knew a good bit about wine and was good at recommending wines that women would like.
        Also, OP said manager, not owner. If someone else owns the store, why not approach them and mention these concerns? I’m betting the owner would agree with you.

        1. Wino*

          I have tried this approach as well! Everyone seems to be on the same page and then we start the hiring process again, and again we get seemingly eager, but inexperienced, applicants.

      2. Washi*

        That’s what I was thinking! Perhaps OP3 could offer to advertise the job in any regional FB groups/listservs/newsletters that they follow.

        1. Half-Caf Latte*

          Even a little sign next to the bottles at a tasting … wish you could do this job? Ask me how!

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, it seems really weird that they’d have trouble finding candidates who aren’t at least interested/knowledgeable about wine at an enthusiastic amateur level. It’s not exactly an uncommon interest.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I assumed it was a minimum wage retail job, and there just wasn’t much overlap between people looking for that and people with wine experience. High turnover in those jobs is pretty common.

          If it’s higher paying, then I think OP has more space to push on the manager for hiring someone with more than enthusiasm.

            1. CarolineChickadee*

              Oops- read your post too quickly and didn’t see that you’d already mentioned turnover. My bad!

          1. Dragoning*

            This was how I felt reading it. If it’s a winery or other type upscale liquor store, that makes sense. If it’s a retail job…no, no one cares about this job, and I would absolutely not do outside of work “training” to learn about wine if I don’t care about wine (and I don’t), and I’m being paid minimum wage hourly.

            1. MYOB*

              I was hoping someone else would pick up on this too. LW describes the job as being within the wine section of a larger retail store. As a lover of wine, I don’t go to my local grocery store for wine expertise (though to be fair, I do happen to live in an area that has several local wineries, so maybe I’m biased) so I’m not sure how many folx are going to think of a grocery store if they are looking to be involved in the wine business. It honestly sounds like LW’s expectations are just too high, not that the manager’s standards are too low.

        2. Amy Sly*

          Yeah. I mean, I get that wine recommending experience might be hard to come by, but wine drinking experience should not be unless the pay is so bad the employees can’t afford two buck chuck!

        3. remizidae*

          Among people who apply for low-paying retail jobs, an interest in wine is less common (due to age as well as the cost of a wine hobby). It may be that the manager isn’t hiring people who are into wine because the applicants aren’t there. Might need to raise the pay to get applicants who are serious about wine; most people won’t pursue education on their own time for short-term retail work.

          1. RecoveringSWO*

            Exactly my thought as well. Outside of the pay factor, retail jobs are not known for scheduling part time work consistently and according to employee’s desires. So even if there are wine enthusiasts who may enjoy working part time at the liquor store, they may be discouraged from applying (or have their applications tossed by management) because they require a specific schedule (full time job, caretaking obligations, medical obligations, retirement activities, etc). LW can ask about scheduling options, but I just honestly wouldn’t get your hopes up.

          2. LJay*

            Yeah I worked in the seafood department of a grocery store for awhile. I was not super knowledgeable about seafood at all, nor was I going to educate myself to be for that wage.

            I knew what I needed to know about our products (where they came from, wild caught or farmed, how fresh they were) but if you asked me generic stuff (like whether farmed or wild caught was “better”) I couldn’t have told you. I was a college student making about minimum wage and miserable that I smelled like seafood every day I came home.

      4. TootsNYC*

        I agree–it seems the OP *has* made this case to the boss before; I don’t know why we’d think it will work this time.

        it’s time to do some independent recruiting of candidates.

        1. TootsNYC*

          and if you can only get a retiree who is interested in fewer hours, maybe you can find a couple of those to tag-team

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Y’all need to go look into working with actual tasting rooms and wineries.

      The problem here is that it’s a section of a bigger store, they duncur about wine in the end. Sigh.

  4. Aphrodite*

    OP #1, buy a gallon of plain white distilled vinegar and some ceramic or glass bowls at the thrift store. Pour the vinegar into at least three bowls and place them on different levels, including in the produce drawers. The smell may get worse before it gets better but it WILL get better. This works far better than baking soda. The refrigerator will still need deep cleaning but this will really help.

    1. valentine*

      Given they’re enduring cold to avoid vomiting, I don’t see OP1 getting any closer than necessary to remain employed.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            It was only vaguely implied, but OP said that “my coworker and I never leave food in the fridge even overnight. We always take it home with us the same day” which suggests them using the fridge is at least a semi-regular occurrence.

    2. Fieldpoppy*

      This would have been great advice if they had thrown the food out a week after the manager left. As someone posted up thread, once mold spores get into the seams and mechanisms nothing superficial will work.

      I once bought a large pack of salmon fillets on sale and put it in my freezer and went away for a week. The fridge triggered a fuse blowing for some inexplicable reason while I was gone. The salmon rotted and exploded pink goo everywhere. I had to throw out the fridge.

      If I were the letter writer I would be looking at what other parts of my life I might be stuck in a self righteous “I shouldnt have to do x” about instead of acting at an appropriate time. That’s a sure way to nurse a lot of resentments.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Could also apply to OP3. Buy a gallon of plain white vinegar, present it to the wine-indifferent employees at the next tasting session and see if they notice a difference…

      … but on a more serious (?) note, thanks for the tip about vinegar to get smells out. Do you happen to know if it’s effective in areas other than the fridge and freezer?

      1. Gatomon*

        It’s great for stink in general! I bought a place where the previous occupant just didn’t clean. They instead used scented plugins to cover the dog smell, so the walls right by the plugins reeked of floral, and the rest of the place reeked of dog. I sat bowls of vinegar out in each room for 2 weeks, and sprinkled baking soda over the carpets overnight before vacuuming it up. 0 stench after this, and I live a low-scent life so I am probably more sensitive to the presence of odor than most.

        I would absolutely try vinegar on this fridge before declaring it a lost cause. It takes a bit of time and tolerance of its own smell, but it totally works.

  5. Kitty*

    #1 sounds like you need a policy similar to our workplace: anything that isn’t labelled with a name and date gets binned at the end of the week. Maybe also a rule that anything that’s been there for more than X number of weeks gets binned, regardless of label.

    1. Chili*

      Yes! It sounds like it’s never been an issue because it’s mostly just the two of them and they don’t use the fridge overnight, but it is important to have a tossing policy for work fridges. It is very easy to forget things in a fridge, especially if someone isn’t using it every day. It sounds like this escalated pretty badly, but it really could have been resolved pretty easily if you there were a biweekly toss system.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      But honestly, it’s just three people! When the third person leaves for a while, the other two can just say “This yours?” “Nope” “OK, into the trash!”

      1. Marny*

        +1 These policies are fine for companies with a bunch of people at them, but this place is 2 people plus a remote boss. Can’t the 2 co-workers have a conversation? I’m truly baffled at what sounds like the most passive-aggressive environment on the planet.

        1. JSPA*

          Unless there was some unusual circumstance not mentioned like a power outage, if I were the boss I would be giving considerable side eye to both employees. Refrigerated food does not go from edible to “so rotten that the smell permeates plastic and fouls multiple rooms” overnight. I can see no explanation that does not include the two employees playing a game of chicken (olfactory variant). Whether it’s passiveness or passive aggressiveness or even misplaced politeness, their failure to address the situation in a timely manner was not preordained, nor excused by “we have a policy.”

          If I were their boss, I would wonder: if they had smelled burning insulation rather than rotting food, would they have waited to see flames?

          I’d suggest OP do at least a little breast beating over having failed to handle the situation expediently before it became a big problem. “Welp, we ignored the stench because anything that’s not an official assigned duty isn’t something we’d ever take on ourselves, now buy us a new fridge” isn’t a great look. (Neither is, “terminally unobservant.”)

          I know, labor market is tight, decent employees are hard to come by, etc. But come the downturn (and they do eventually come)… do you want to be one of two people who saw nothing wrong with ignoring the situation for what almost must have been weeks? OP, eat crow, and invite your coworker to do the same.

          And if your boss pays to remove the old fridge but not to replace it, that’s a pretty straightforward “consequences of your actions” / “this is why we can’t have nice things” outcome.

          1. LJay*

            Lol they might have.

            The owner of a local game store we played at was ignoring the smell of a burning coming from the fridge there. We had to convince him that we were going to leave if he didn’t replace it ASAP since it was kind of making us sick.

            At our prompting he went and got a new one but without that he was content to deal with it.

  6. AutolycusinExile*

    #1 – I work customer support for a refrigerator manufacturer. Your office should definitely be hiring this out.
    If something goes moldy inside a refrigerator and you can still smell if after it has been cleaned once, particularly if they used bleach, that’s not a great sign. I’m not sure exactly how bad the situation got, but from your description it sounds like there’s a decent chance it might have gotten into the air circulation/fan systems and that is *not* easy to fix. If the first person who cleaned it only did a quick pass or didn’t use bleach or vinegar then it may just be the gaskets and seals throughout the unit, in which case the janitorial staff or a professional cleaner may be able to resolve it themselves with a deep clean, but be prepared for the possibility that a standard cleaning professional may not be able to fix it. Usually then you’d want to consider either an appliance repair service or replacing the refrigerator altogether, depending on how high-end the refrigerator is.
    Once it reaches full critical the mold spores really spread and you can end up needing to disassemble things far past the point a consumer can to actually sterilize everything. Usually I’d tell my customers to have a service provider ensure all the internals are safe but our refrigerators are painfully expensive so that factors in to the decision – a service bill can go easily over $400 and major disassembly can throw it above a thousand, so if this is a cheap common brand and you’ve had it a few years, it’d almost definitely be more cost-effective to just get a new one with a full lifespan ahead of it.
    And this isn’t even considering the massive morale sink of forcing anyone in the office to deal with this health hazard alone with no training! Mold is really dangerous! Play that up as much as you need to in order to get this taken care of properly. Mold isn’t anything to cheap out on, especially when dealing with when it comes to food.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      This is really useful advice. You’re clarifying that the situation is beyond unpleasant and is an actual health hazard to be dealt with by professionals. Perhaps getting a new refrigerator is the best solution.

      1. Grits McGee*

        Getting a new refrigerator was the only viable option when something similar happened to my grad school program’s communal fridge; an interviewing professor was pumping and left behind a container of milk. By the time we figured out who it belonged to, the smell had truly sunk in, and nothing we tried could get rid of it.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        Since it’s an apartment, there’s a chance it may be owned by the property management company rather than the tenants. Assuming they rent instead of own, anyway.

    2. Myrin*

      It’s always so delightful to me when we have very specific questions here on AAM and there’s at least one person in the comments whose actual job it is to deal with exactly this kind of situation. (Not that dirty fridges are a rare thing but it’s still really awesome to me to read “I work customer support for a refridgerator manufacturer” as a reply here. Like, what are the odds?)

  7. lyonite*

    OP1, I just want to know if you happen to be working for a certain Holistic Detective Agency, and if so, warn you that you should probably be on the lookout for angry eagles in the near future.

  8. Tomalak*

    “it will likely be at least 40 days before this candidate receives a questionnaire”

    This is just ridiculous. It’s a bit like getting phone numbers in a bar for 40 days then finally starting to ring women back, expecting to find the attractive candidates you spoke to all those weeks ago are all still single and available and enthusiastic. If you can’t do rolling interviews you should definitely have a much narrower window. This would be true even if you didn’t have a quite specific skill set in mind, but it’s doubly true as you do.

    As Alison says, the questionnaire sounds a bad idea too. All this reads like you haven’t thought about recruitment at all from the perspective of actually attracting and hiring the best candidates.

    1. Tea Rocket*

      That’s a very effective metaphor and really gets to the heart of why good candidates might not be available by the time OP2 is ready to interview them.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      That sounds a bit like my dad’s dating method! He was single for a good 10 years after most men his age married (back in the day). He would go on one date and call 6 months later for a second date. They were almost always married or in serious relationships by then.

      1. Artemesia*

        During a single stretch I had a date like this. I was not wild about him but had enjoyed his company and would have been interested in getting to know him better but he didn’t call. By the time he did 6 mos later, I was dating the guy I ended up marrying. So weird.

    3. Half-Caf Latte*

      Yes I was glad Alison called out the questionnaire, although honestly even an hour on a project like this would irritate me ( and my huge org make people make videos! For non-digital media jobs! And take a personality test! We’re terrible!!)

      OP, if I were a desirable candidate with options, the process as described would tell me you have very rigid approaches to hiring, and that would make me wonder if you were a very rigid manager, and I’d be very wary.

      1. Tomalak*

        At least with a project it can sometimes be fun and creative to do. With an interview style questionnaire you don’t even get that.

        Seems like LW2 has come up with a recruitment process that will deter all but the least qualified and most desperate, and is now looking for ways to make it attractive to others without actually being willing to change the process.

        1. Dragoning*

          “How do I get my neighbors to drop by my house? No, I won’t remove the moat, or the alligators, or the barbed wire fencer.”

    4. Joielle*

      Yes! I was the candidate in a similar situation during my last job hunt, although I’d at least had an in-person interview with the slow employer. After the interview I didn’t hear a word from them for three weeks, and in that time I interviewed for and was offered another job, which I accepted. When I emailed to withdraw from the first job, I got three separate calls asking me to reconsider. “We were trying to get the salary increased!” Well, I was clearly a marketable candidate, and since I was interviewing with you I was clearly on the market, so I’m not sure why you’d think I was waiting on tenterhooks for your offer. I feel like I dodged a bullet – it really did not give me a good impression.

      40 days is more than enough time for your top candidates to be hired somewhere else!

    5. Artemesia*

      The Questionnaire jumped out at me too. I sent you my resume and cover letter — now it is your turn to do a phone screen not have me fill out a bunch of BS forms — that is, if I am not desperate and it isn’t an entry level job. If this is an important niche to fill and hard to fill then making the applicant wait and wait and fill out questionnaires will turn off anyone worth having. I know someone with high level skills in software who was asked by HR to come to a ‘job event’ i.e. job fair. when the hiring manager found out, he went ballistic and called the candidate to come in for an interview — too late. The process had totally turned him off. You court good applicants, you don’t logistics them to death.

      1. Tomalak*

        “You court good applicants, you don’t logistics them to death.”

        Bingo. I am guessing here but I wonder if there is an assumption in some HR departments that good candidates will be happy with a very laborious process – and that only bad, unenthused candidates would mind going through hoop after hoop. “If they can’t spend an hour filling in my questionnaire they aren’t very committed!” or whatevs.

        But from the candidate’s point of view, they will often have a lot of jobs to apply for – and one that takes two or three times as long as another will be lower priority than doing two or three simpler applications. Yes, your company might be truly unique – but from what the candidate can see on your web site it probably looks like every other company in the field. So why would they spend 3 hours applying to you rather than applying to three otherwise identical looking companies? Why wouldn’t they accept an offer from a company that takes two weeks or so between contacting you for first interview and making you an offer?

        So your hiring pool is disproportionately those with a lot of time on their hands – the underemployed and the unemployed – and those who get no other offers. Maybe you’ll strike lucky with them: very good candidates can be in all those categories. But it’s not the way you want to bet.

        And then maybe they sit down as a department and ask why they don’t get the quality candidates they need and some bright spark suggests yet another laborious element to the hiring process to screen for the best candidate!

        1. Nanani*

          I mean, they have no reason to be committed at that stage in the process. Expecting commitment based on the fact that they applied is ludicrous. They need to be interviewed and given all the information that’s not in a job add before they can even begin to consider “committing”.
          (Scare quotes because what job is really about commitment in this age anwyay)

        2. LJay*

          And what it says about the company may be enough of a turn-off that highly valued employees don’t apply or don’t continue in the process even if they’re not applying for tons of other jobs.

          I’m selectively beginning to look around.

          I applied to one company that I thought I would like to work for.

          They set up an interview quickly.

          But before the interview they sent 2 personality profiles, a sales aptitude quiz (it was not in any way a sales position) and a specific writing sample test that they said needed to be filled out before the interview.

          I completed them, and then bailed on the process. Because I don’t want to work for a company that puts a ton of stock in personality profiles, and especially not a company that requires their logistics managers to take a sales aptitude test.

          I was on the fence to begin with due to the commute length and that just pushed it over the top into a “no” for me. I did let them know why I was withdrawing as well.

          Though they may feel it’s for the best as well since apparently they really want someone who fits in personality wise and I am probably not that person.

  9. Uldi*

    LW #3: Sounds like a disconnect between how you see the job, and how your manager looks at it. You see it as a job requiring extensive knowledge and passion, while your manager sees it as a retail position; and likely pays that way as well*.

    Honestly ask yourself this: How often do you really use that knowledge of wines in your day-to-day tasks? Compared to how often you are just asked where the Rieslings are. If you are asked for an expert opinion frequently (and let me be clear, I’m not talking about questions from one hobbyist to another but for your professional expert opinion), you could take that to your manager to help support that you need to hire people with a solid grounding in wine and wine appreciation.

    *Which means that anyone hired will likely object to the extensive expertise you want them to have. No one is going to be interested in developing such knowledge for what is likely barely above minimum wage. Those that do have that knowledge will not be willing to accept such a wage either.

    1. Tomalak*

      I think this is right. Maybe the manager is just being realistic about the requirements and salary of the job.

      Personally, while I drink wine on far more days than I have days off, I’ve never been able to develop any kind of intellectual interest. I really can’t force myself to care where the grape is from, why this wine is oaky and so on. There is a market for this knowledge but it’s probably not at the level of a shop assistant.

    2. Ego Chamber*

      The fact that LW3’s boss is balking at the term “experience” tells me the boss is definitely hiring for a disposable retail worker in a disposable retail position with a disposable retail rate of pay and he is very, very lucky to have hired LW3.

      Thing is, you can still find people with a basic interest in the product without paying well. I worked at a book store like 10 years ago and the managers went out of their way to only hire people with an interest in—if not an undying passion and love for—books. (This was in a college town and it wasn’t hard to entice the lit majors into an easy part time gig.) That was my favorite job I’ve ever had: the turnover was almost nonexistent and everyone had a common interest to bond over. Compare and contrast with the times I worked at clothing stores where no one had an interest in fashion, or the times I worked at electronic shops where half the staff had no interest in technology.

      What I’m wondering about all the training material and online classes LW3 is finding is whether this stuff is covered during work hours or if the employees are expected to do it on their own time. Because when I was told to research electronics after work, unpaid, to learn information I would only use at work … I didn’t do it. Why would I work off the clock? Eff that noise. At the book store I learned all about new books coming out without being paid for it because I was going to do that anyway (and I was never explicitly told to do it by management).

      LW3: Ease back on telling your boss he needs to hire people who are “experienced” but definitely explain how at least a casual interest in wine will reduce turnover and make your job easier. The cynical take is that people who are interested in the product will do training for free off the clock of their own volition while the people who aren’t will leave as soon as they find something better—and you have the receipts to back that last part up. Good luck!

      1. Uldi*

        I’m curious to know if LW #3 has considered if their own passion and expectations might be having an effect on new hires. If they’re pushing this training as hard as I suspect they are, and the training is not being compensated for as part of the new hire’s job, then that might be playing a role with turnover.

        1. Massmatt*

          Good point, are these hires mostly stocking shelves and paid low wages and yet you are pressuring them to study wine regions in their spare time?

          Maybe YOU are the person with expertise and passion, and people come to you with questions about what wines to buy, but the other staff don’t get these questions.

          Honestly, most liquor stores, even large ones, don’t have a lot of knowledgeable people on staff, and I would not expect someone stocking shelves to know Gigondas from Cote de Rhône.

          It’s great that you want a knowledgeable staff but maybe that is too expensive and just plain overkill for the job.

          Now, if people are flaking out completely and staring blankly at customers asking where are the Chilean wines, that’s a different matter.

          1. valentine*

            the boss is definitely hiring for a disposable retail worker in a disposable retail position with a disposable retail rate of pay
            He also seems to be hiring people simply because they’re available and, if he sees it primarily as filling their needs, not those of the business, it’ll be that much harder to convince him to change.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Yeah, this is the typical retail hiring experience I’m most familiar with. If I don’t get called back for a retail job within a day or two, I just assume I didn’t get it because there’s usually not much of a bar to meet to get that work but you never know what that bar is from store to store.

            1. CupcakeCounter*

              This. If OP has said a grocery store and that was simply something they were passionate about I would definitely say they have expectations higher than is realistic. However, they mentioned a large liquor store with a wine department. I have several of those in my area and they all advertise their expertise in certain areas (on-site sommelier, largest selection of local brews, wall of champagne, etc…). If I went to this store expecting someone like OP to be on hand to assist me in selecting a wine, I would not be happy if I got a standard shelf stocker who knew nothing other than “reds are on the right, whites on the left”. Wouldn’t be shopping there anymore.
              So it really comes down to what type of store this is, what they advertise, and what the customers have come to expect (within reason). On-hand wine expert during all business hours? OP is correct in what is needed for the position.

              1. LJay*

                Yeah if this is a Spec’s or a Total Wine and More I would expect them to be hiring people with some level of expertise, and paying them to match. (Though from my glance at glassdoor the pay looks pretty dismal for everyone so I guess that expectation might be wrong).

                On the other hand the guy in the wine portion of the grocery store or in the small bottle shop next to my apartment I don’t expect much other than “reds on the left, whites on the right, can I see your ID?”

                1. LJay*

                  Though even at the more boutique type stores I don’t expect everyone there to have a level of expertise.

                  My dad manages a winery (it’s a family owned business and we’re distant family) but he’s not huge on wine, honestly (he had decades of F&B management experience though). But he has employees who are wine experts. And also employees that are there to bus glasses etc. But the glass bussers etc know who the wine experts are and to get them to come answer any guest questions that are out of their depth.

        2. Wino*

          Training is on site only and is compensated. And I’m not looking for perfection here! Frankly, I just want someone who can show customers where product is and answer very basic questions (and not make up answers!).

          1. Another Millenial*

            I wonder if boss is hiring mostly students who feel like they already have too much schoolwork to learn more. Perhaps you could explain the amount of learning that the role would require (maybe give him an outline of each subject matter that you will cover), and suggest that the boss inform the applicant of this expectation during the interview? That way the applicant can decide for themselves before accepting the role if this is a good fit for them.

          2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            (You’re the OP, yes?) – there’s quite a difference between what you ask in the question (e.g. we keep hiring people with no experience or interest, they don’t work out and leave, then I have to start all over with training, but I have low expectations) and what you say you are looking for here “show customers where product is and answer very basic questions”.

            Showing them where product is – seems like a fairly factual question. Are they lacking in information to answer it or just don’t care? What kind of questions are they asking e.g. “where are your French red wines please” or something more complex? (can’t think of a decent example as I know nothing about wine myself, but e.g. I’m making steak and should I buy a claret or a bordeau?)

        3. TootsNYC*

          I had this very thought–that people may leave earlier if they are given the impression that LW#3 expects them to invest that much mental energy and enthusiasm, into their low-paying job.

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          I was wondering about that as well.

          Maybe I’m really underestimating how much help most people expect to get from the wine guy at the liquor store (in my state wine is not sold in liquor stores so I truly have no frame of reference for what this job should entail), but I would have thought of this as more like a retail position as well and having and interest in wine is a nice bonus but not a requirement. If I got this job thinking I’d just be there to point people to the right aisles and was handed a bunch of literature and told I had to study up on wine I would probably end up quitting too.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            *Note: I see now that the OP had commented with further context! Though I’m still not clear if everybody (boss, OP and new hire) are all on the same page as to what the job should require.

          2. SimplyTheBest*

            I think it makes a difference if this is a liquor store or a quality wine shop. A liquor store I wouldn’t expect the guy working the register to be able to answer expert questions. A boutique wine shop I would.

      2. Allonge*

        I agree. It’s not necessarily the experience, but why not ask people about some passion / hobby level connection to the idea? If nothing else, they will pick up the stuff they do need to know sooner.

        1. Uldi*

          My question then becomes: Do they need to know this to do their job? This is a liquor store, not a wine shop.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Right, but if LW3 works in the wine section and is being assigned employees to work under her in the wine section and is training them specifically on wine and not on other liquors, it seems that they’re meant to specialize in wine.

            Unless LW3 has completely different expectations than her boss, which is something that she might want to consider because it will make a pretty big difference to how she should approach this.

            1. londonedit*

              If they’re working specifically in the wine section then, as a customer, I’d expect them to at least be able to offer a bit of advice about the different wines. It sounds like the OP is able to help people with their purchases, but none of these new hires are, and if that’s meant to be part of their job then the boss really ought to be either hiring people with even just a basic knowledge of wine, or hiring people who are willing/able to learn quickly if they read through the information OP is providing.

              1. Allonge*

                That is where I am standing, too – if there is a wine section and there are wine section employees, this place has selection. I can read just fine, so as long as there is some signage, I can find the South African reds. Beyond that, I would prefer to talk to someone who can recommend a specific wine for some things.

                I do not expect a minimum wage employee to learn that on their own time and dime, mind you. But the manager could and maybe should think about this.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              Yeah, I don’t think what the OP is expecting is inherently an issue, I think the problem is whether everyone is on the same page.

              Like, if the job ad is “VACANCY: Retail assistant, Wakeen’s General Liquor Store. Duties inc. maintaining stock levels, cashier duties, assisting customers as required. [Minimum wage]/hr” and OP is attempting to train the resulting hires into wine specialists, I’m not surprised the results are poor. If the ad is “VACANCY: Sales associate (Wine department), Wakeen’s Fine Wines, advising clients and assisting department manager with all matters wine. [Decent wage]/hr” but the manager for some reason thinks no experience or interest is necessary for that… they need to talk about that.

            3. Yorick*

              It sounds like LW3 is the employee who’s supposed to know a lot about wine. They pay her to be the person customers go to when they want to talk to a wine expert. The lower-level employees that get assigned to work with her in the wine department are probably just supposed to stock shelves and point people to the product they ask for and stuff like that.

              1. Wino*

                Yes, I am the primary sales person/wine manager. The assistant is supposed to stock shelves and point to product that people want. However, if I’m not on the sales floor my assistant should be able to help customers with the basics. Where is the Malbec? Argentina and France sections.
                Is Vouvray a grape?
                Nope, Chenin Blanc.
                What’s a good Australian red?
                This one! (Not look up at the signs to see where the Australian wines are)

                1. RecoveringSWO*

                  What’s particularly sticky about your situation is that the vast majority of people do not get an interest in wine until they are older. That really stinks. My first job was at a sports facility and I and all of the high school and college aged workers played the sports it catered to. Someone earlier mentioned a bookstore + college lit major employees. In those instances, there are enough applicants who have the schedule/experience level for retail work. Here, the pool must be smaller. I hope you can get some traction with advertising and scheduling, good luck!

                2. MCMonkeyBean*

                  As a person who does not drink wine but occasionally buys bottles to bring to other people, I personally feel like that’s actually a pretty broad range of questions and I would only say that some of those are “basic.”

                3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

                  I see where you are coming from OP3 (not with wine specifically which I’m a doofus about, but the general principle). And I know how you feel! I started out a little bit critical of you (sorry!) but I think I understand now.

                  Ultimately it comes down to this: things that are “the basics” are relative to some system of knowledge you (generic you) have already. As a wine doofus myself, the basics as I understand them are like this: red wine generally goes with game and darker meat and tomato based sauces; white wine goes with chicken, pork (sometimes) with cream/milk based sauces. I would have no clue where to find a Malbec. I don’t even know if that’s a red or white wine. And a “long finish” means you will have an aftertaste in your mouth until you brush your teeth before bed. (ask me how I know!) And don’t even get me started on rose (can’t find the accent mark on this keyboard) which is just indistinct and bland to my unsophisticated palate. Sorry!

                  The point is: I realize there are intricacies that this “very broad brush” approach doesn’t capture. Just as there are aspects of my work (in a STEM field) that would probably be perceived as “intricate details” to the uninitiated but are actually fundamental and critical to what I do.

                  In my role, I spend about 80% of my time dealing with things that are “intricate details” that would go unperceived by the outsider. and 20% doing routine stuff (that I try to offload where possible, but my colleagues have got wise to it…)

                  Your problem I think is that the 80% is routine work like stocking shelves, running cash register or similar retail tasks and the 20% is knowledge and information about wine beyond “where is your French reds section please”. (Whereas you are in the opposite 80/20) … adjust percentages as needed.

                  I’ve come across this problem many times – that 80% (say) of the work is routine stuff but 20% is the higher level stuff. But employers, including yours it seems, aren’t willing to pay for that 20%.

                  Is it possible that you could negotiate a raise for yourself as “wine expert” ?

                4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

                  Sorry, I didn’t finish my thought. Is there a possibility that you can write out a “cheat sheet” of things that should be basic knowledge for a wine department assistant which they can refer to? i.e. based on your experience are there any questions that come up frequently which you could give/train easy answers to?

                  I do appreciate that each individual question is just one aspect of a complex system! But I am wondering if there are any “oh no not this again” questions that you could deal with relatively easily?

                5. EventPlannerGal*

                  So I have been in pretty much the same position as your employees, in that I previously had zero interest in or knowledge of wine but had to learn about it for work. Coming from that position, I would say that these questions vary quite a lot in complexity.

                  I think you’re definitely on the right track with offering trainings, wine classes, readings etc for your employees to learn facts like grape types. When it comes to things like “What’s a good Australian red”, though, I think this probably seems basic to you as a wine expert but actually requires quite a bit of background knowledge to answer. In order to offer an informed opinion like that you need to have tasted a variety of Australian reds, have the knowledge and palate to discern quality, and know what questions to ask the customer to find out what *they* mean by ‘good’ and make recommendations accordingly.

                  I think this comes down to the interest/expertise issue which both you and your manager seem to be conflating in different ways. Someone with interest (and motivation) can quickly pick up facts with appropriate training, which you’re providing, but it does take experience to develop informed opinions. I feel like a broken record here but again, you all need to be on the same page about

                  – does this job require prior experience or will interest and motivation suffice?
                  – do they need to be able to offer basic facts (‘where is the prosecco?’) or informed opinions (‘I need a nice Pinot, what do you recommend’)?
                  – are the applicants being made aware of the knowledge level they are expected to have/develop?
                  – are employees paid enough that it is reasonable to expect that level of knowledge?

      3. EPLawyer*

        This is where I came down. OP seems to want to turn the new hires into wine afficionados. the new hires are all “it’s a job, I get a paycheck at the end of the week.” If someone told me I had to learn all this extra stuff and show “passion” for what is essentially a retail gig, I would leave to. There are other retail jobs where I don’t have to do homework.

        OP maybe ease up on the expectations and training. Give them some basics. Remember you chose to learn all this stuff, your boss did not require it. If someone wants to learn more they will let you know. If they don’t, leave them alone.

        1. Saberise*

          But that isn’t what she said. She said “I’ve been told that anyone can learn about the characteristics of wine, even if they don’t drink, and that I’ll just need to teach them about all things wine (on top of all my other duties).” So unless she is exaggerating what her boss said she’s expected to do just that.

          1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

            The boss isn’t wrong – it’s absolutely more than possible to have a retail-working knowledge of food/bev without prior experience or even consuming it yourself. I became a bartender practically the instant I turned 21, never having drank alcohol before. But I was committed to being a good bartender, so I studied up and was very quickly able to speak more knowledgeably about most of our inventory than all of my coworkers who were just heavy drinkers. Many of the people I worked with in restaurants over the years were extremely capable and could give excellent, informed recommendations despite being vegetarian/allergic to shellfish/celiac/not French/whatever.

            But the catch is that people need to be motivated. Being knowledgeable was part of those jobs, and required to do them well. If boss is hiring without communicating that to the new hires, then OP is in for a bad, apathetic time trying to train them on things they likely don’t see as required for the job.

        2. Wino*

          But they are hired with the expectation that they either know wine or want to know wine!
          The materials and training given are on paid time only. And should I mention that the only “homework” given is literally sample bottles of wine that they can bring home and drink?

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            Can you give more detail about how they are “hired with the expectation that they either know wine or want to know wine”? For example is this in the job spec as advertised? Do you (collective you i.e. the company) ask any wine-related questions when you interview people?

        3. GothicBee*

          And if you don’t have easy to find documentation on the info you want them to know, create some! A cheat sheet or something that will make it easier for them to find this info as they need it.

        4. ...*

          I think its pretty typical to expect retail employees to have an acceptable level of “product knowledge”. Even at minimum wage jobs I got product knowledge training and information on things like the types of materials we sold, types of add ons, etc.

          1. LJay*

            Yeah. Of the OP’s examples above I think knowing “Where are the Malbec’s?” and, “Can you recommend me a good Australian wine?” are representative of the types of questions I would be expected to answer at pretty much all of my retail jobs after a ramp up period.

            The one about the grapes seems more in-depth and like it requires more expertise, but I honestly don’t know enough about wine to know that.

            But when I worked in clothing retail I would have been expected to be able to competently help someone who needed clothes for a job interview, a wedding, a funeral, or a date. In food service I was expected to be able to advise people about potential allergens and make recommendations of different foods, etc.

      4. jam*

        Yeah, the interesting thing between the letter and Alison’s response is experience vs. interest. Experience – probably going to cost you, not least in that someone with experience probably wants responsibility/opportunity to progress. Interest – it’s more likely that the role could serve as the opportunity for *getting* experience for someone who has an interest. I think LW needs, if nothing else, to pivot away from focusing on experience to maybe convincing the manager to look for someone who’s interested in wine. That’s of course if there’s not a major misunderstanding about the role in play.

        I worked in the shop at an art museum once upon a time, and the manager when I started made a point of hiring people who had some kind of interest in art. We were just doing normal retail stuff, and there really was no *need* for us to know about art per se, but it meant we were often interested in new merchandise, and every once in a blue moon might be able to help or engage with a customer above and beyond expectations. Aside from that, I think it contributed to the team cohesion — not the only factor, certainly, but I for one found my fellow employees interesting people doing interesting things. A later manager had a background in big box tech stores, and just hired people based on their ability to make change, not steal from the registers, etc. Again, they were fine on all the core duties, but there was less sense of camaraderie among the staff over time, and every once in a while there would be a customer who was dissatisfied because they couldn’t get a question answered. Where you have a choice, it’s nice to have people with interest working with you.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          This is why I can’t stand big-box stores. Ask a question in Lowe’s or Home Depot, and all they can tell you is that plumbing is in Aisle 12.

          1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

            Versus when we went to our specialty plant store last weekend, we had a 20 minute discussion with a random employee about the best way to grow peach trees and blueberries in our specific soil and climate.

        2. Jennifer*

          This could be a great job for someone who is studying to be in that field in the future. But even then, they aren’t going to stay long-term once they get the experience and training they need.

        3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          I think the OP is open to people who are interested (vs experienced) in wine, but is struggling with the fact that the entry-level people recruited so far didn’t show any particular interest. She is more than willing to provide training information etc if they could absorb it.

      5. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I wonder if the manager is deliberately avoiding people who express an interest in the product. My buddy’s wife is a functional alcoholic, and was turned down for a job in a winery tasting room because they correctly deduced that someone a little too enthusiastic about working there would be a problem employee!

      6. Wino Who Says Ni*

        I am also a manager of the wine department at a large liquor store. It is tough to find knowledgeable people at the wages that are frequently offered at these kinds of stores. If they know about wine, they want to be buyers or will make more money working in restaurants. My best employees are retired types that have good work ethic, want to stay busy, and have a previous interest in wine. Most younger people (certainly not all, but it is a fairly common thread) think that you sit around and taste wine all day and don’t understand the importance of stocking, display building, or showing up regularly when scheduled. I would consider where they are advertising open positions. Maybe they could post with a local wine enthusiast Facebook group, your store’s own social media outlets, or a message board at a local gourmet food shop if those are options for you. If the schools in your area have a culinary/food & bev program, you might look there as well.

        Secondly, it might be worthwhile to explain to your boss that starting with a new hire that already is interested in the product is like starting at zero. Starting a new hire with zero knowledge of the product is like starting at -20 and climbing all the way to zero takes a lot of time and resources that end up being wasted if they don’t work out.

        Ultimately, it sounds like your boss just goes for the first warm body to fill the position. It can be difficult to get them to see this hypothetical employee as an important “touchpoint” on your customer’s retail experience at your store. These are ways that the customer interacts with your store, which leads to an overall positive or negative impression. Negative impressions don’t help to foster repeat business, which is essential for this industry. Encourage them to look at it as as investment in a valuable resource rather than a warm body to fill in the schedule.

        Another useful point to make is that there can be costly mistakes made by the inexperienced. The cost difference between Duckhorn Cab and Merlot is pretty substantial, and to the untrained eye, they look pretty similar. They could be stocked improperly, which will be a bad experience for the customer and might cost you money in the end.

        Good luck!

        1. Jennifer*

          Hiring retirees who enjoy wine is a good suggestion! They won’t be relying on this paycheck as their primary source of income, have the time to learn, and might want to stay a while.

        2. Junior Assistant Peon*

          Good point about Duckhorn Cab. It’s a common scam now for someone to print out a sticky label with the bar code for a cheap power tool and stick it over the one on a far more expensive power tool. Most of the time, a big-box cashier isn’t familiar enough with tools to tell the difference between a cheap homeowner versus commercial grade power drill, weedwhacker, etc, and the cost difference can easily be 10X. This could easily happen at your store if the cashier doesn’t know wine and doesn’t see a red flag when a $200 bottle of wine rings up for 7.99.

      7. Kimberlee, No Longer Esq.*

        Yeah, I was wondering why OP (and, to an extent, Alison) seem to be using “experience” and “interest” here as tho they mean the same thing? Does OP want to specifically hire people who have professional wine-related experience? Or is this something that they could fix with 5 interview questions that ask them really easy questions about wine to show they know the difference between old world and new world chardonnays? Or is it a matter of having interview questions designed to allow candidates who are truly excited to learn more about wine distinguish themselves from people who aren’t, regardless of experience level?

      8. Elsajeni*

        Your bookstore experience is similar to my experience at a big-box craft store — yes, it was a minimum-wage retail position, and there wasn’t any expectation that we would be experts, but it’s not difficult to find people who have some interest and experience in sewing/knitting/cake decorating/whatever, so the store manager was able to pretty consistently staff the place with people who knew enough to answer basic questions and had enough of an interest in the products that we’d pick up on new merchandise without having to do specific training. I’d expect that to be tougher with wine, though, because it’s both a rarer hobby than “some kind of arts & crafts” and a more expensive one. I wonder if just emphasizing the “answering customer questions/making recommendations” part of the job in the hiring process might make a difference, by screening for people who will enjoy that part of the job and want to be good at it — since I see the OP has said that training is paid, during work hours, doesn’t sound super onerous, maybe the trick is just getting people who will be engaged in that training and see it as valuable.

    3. Lilyp*

      Yeah, your manager has pretty clearly decided that the benefits of hiring people with less experience (cheaper salaries, less effort in the hiring process) outweigh the benefits of hiring people with more experience or an interest in wine. Don’t run yourself ragged trying to make up for that, just make one or two self-paced trainings that cover the basics and can be re-used and accept that the associates mostly just need to know where different types of wines are stocked and how much they cost.

      1. Gamymede*

        While this may indeed be the case, one source of ammunition might be that this turnover is actually costing the employer more money than if he just bit the bullet and did a proper recruitment if someone more qualified. OP3 might try to evaluate any actual monetary costs of the revolving door and use that as an argument against hiring poor quality staff.
        To me, hiring *uninterested* staff is bonkers – you could still, with a little selectivity, get a cheap novice who actually wants to learn.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Good luck with that. Explaining business costs that don’t show up as an obvious line-item in the expense sheet is super hard, especially when the boss is focused on a different line-item. Most people are just really, really ridiculously bad at evaluating the true cost/benefit of most things.

        2. Oh No She Di'int*

          I agree. But this sounds like a manager who doesn’t see the value of such employees.

          In my business, we’ve decided that it’s imperative at every level to have some basic, at least tangential interest in the service we provide, even for a receptionist position. That doesn’t mean the receptionist has to be passionate about llama grooming, let’s say. But maybe they just like animals in general, or have 8 cats, or something along those lines. This doesn’t necessarily translate into an employee with undying loyalty. But it increases the odds that your receptionist stays for 18 months instead of 6 months. And every little bit helps.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Not gonna lie, my usual questions are:
        “Do you have Gewurtztramminer?”
        “Do you have raki?”

        It is very akin to asking the grocery store clerk where the tea or masa are kept.

    4. pcake*

      Uldi*, I’m not the OP, but I knew a guy who worked in – and later managed – the wine department in a local chain supermarket. He had a passion for wine – he actually had a climate-controlled wine cellar built at his house. And he used to tell us about all the people who came into the store asking for wine recommendations for specific events or to pair with particular food every day. Customers would sometimes ask him to describe the taste of a wine.

      The thing is, over time he developed a following. Some he made friends with, and they went to wine tastings together. Over the years, he had a lot of customers who came in to ask for advice or just talk wine, and not only did they spend money in the wine department; most of them did their shopping at that store since they were there already. Some of them who had events would come in, ask for suggestions and buy a case or two.

      So wine experience can really matter even in a non-wine-specific store.

      1. Artemesia*

        I get fair wine advice at Trader Joe’s so I assume they hire people for that area who have experience/knowledge.

    5. Gazebo Slayer*

      Seconding the bit about pay and expertise. If you’re expecting Eiswein for Arbor Mist prices, expect disappointment.

    6. Senor Montoya*

      I shop at a large wine store in town. I am not super knowledgeable — I expect to be able to ask questions and get knowledgeable answers. If the staff are unable to answer even my unsophisticated questions, I’m going to one of the other wine stores in town. OP 3 is correct. This store needs people who actually know something about what the store is selling.

      1. Jennifer*

        But that’s what the wine department manager is for. I wouldn’t expect a sales clerk making barely above minimum wage to be a wine expert. I don’t expect any retail clerk to be an expert nowadays because I know in general how poorly they are paid. If I’m at a bookstore, for example, I’ll usually just ask where I can find a certain title if I’m having trouble finding it myself, but I don’t usually ask for recommendation unless we strike up a conversation and I can tell they’re a book nerd like me.

    7. Minimax*

      Was coming here to say exactly this. Especially if op is expecting those new hires to become experts outside of the job like she did.

      Ive seen this happen once in my career. Person works hard to cultivate skill which rarely and tangentaly helps there work. Gets promoted, then wants to insist that all new hires in their old role have this skill. Turnover ensues, and eventually the newly promoted is taken off of training duty. Poof turnover fixed!

  10. Leo*

    Letter #1 OP, you and the other co-worker seem to use the fridge frequently so did you just leave the food in the fridge rotting? Why not throw it out as soon as the manager left? Even though it was the manager who left the food, you both let it sit there and rot so I think a request to HR will look quite pathetic.

    1. Avis*

      Agreed. If someone had just thrown it away as soon as it got a bit whiffy, this whole problem would have been averted. This all comes across as a bit precious.

    2. TreenaKravm*

      Yes. I can’t imagine having the balls to request a professional clean in this scenario, unless there was some very specific reason the rotting went unnoticed.

      1. Lonely Aussie*

        I mean if the office shuts down over the Christmas period it could have happened then. Boss flies in right before the holidays, flies out leaving stuff in the fridge that op1 and her co-worker don’t know is there. They then don’t find until they get back into the office a week or two later and the stuff is off.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          I mean that is totally a possibility but my spidey senses tell me this is more of “it’s not my responsibility so I’m not going to do it” situation, even though the boss only comes into town occasionally. Some things aren’t worth the fight.

  11. Observer*

    I do think you can reasonably ask to have the fridge properly cleaned. But I’m really struggling to understand how this actually happened. Your boss left food in the refrigerator and you left it there, why? I mean you KNEW that she was out of state. What were you expecting to happen?

    Which leads to two things. Firstly, do NOT complain that the person who left the food to rot isn’t there to clean it – YOU (you and your coworker) *also* left the food to rot. Throwing out what was there would have taken a maximum of 5 minutes if you had done it right away. If you were concerned that your manager left if for a reason, you could have added a whole 3 minutes to shoot her a quick email.

    Going forward, don’t worry so hard about who should clean the fridge. If your boss (or anyone else) leaves food behind, chuck it. Don’t get hung up on who “should” clean the fridge.

    1. Clarey*

      It’s bizarre how they both passive-aggressively left it there until it became so unbearable one of them was forced to take action.

      1. Anonymouse*

        I once went to a friend’s apartment and while visiting had to use the bathroom–and discovered that she and her roommate were having a passive-aggressive war over whose hair was clogging the sink. I-THE GUEST- ended up pulling all the disgusting hair out so I could wash my hands.

        1. Shan*

          I ended up having to clean a toilet when I went to spends a weekend at my friend and her roommate’s place in uni. And the roommate had the nerve to act grossed out that I’d done it. I think the proper response should have been complete mortification a guest had been forced to do so.

          1. Anonymouse*

            I think the proper response should have been complete mortification a guest had been forced to do so.

    2. Jem One*

      I equally can’t understand how this happened! The boss forgot to throw her food out before leaving after her trip to the office – not ideal, but an easy mistake to make. OP and their coworker militantly left the food in there to rot (for weeks? Months?) Because they felt it wasn’t their job to throw it out, and in doing so let the fridge get the the point where they’re now potentially asking the company to buy a new one.

      I get not wanting to do office cleaning and admin if it’s not part of your job description, but part of working in a small office is pitching in occasionally, to keep on top of stuff like this. If I was HR, I would be seriously irritated by OP and their coworker.

    3. Rebecca*

      I totally agree!! The two coworkers are at fault here. Yes, the boss forgot something in the fridge, a part of a sandwich, some takeout, whatever – BUT – she forgot. We all forget. The two people who go to that office every. single. day. and don’t leave food in it overnight (which means to me they are using it!!) left this grow into a toxic mess that may result in hundreds of dollars for a new fridge. I would not want to be the one going to HR and basically saying that I left food to rot in the fridge, and oh, it can’t be cleaned without spending money on a professional service and may need to be replaced.

      In my office we have around 15 people using the fridge, we take turns tossing things – and will even send an email like “if the glass container with the red lid is yours, it’s now a science experiment. It’s sitting on the garbage can lid in the break area, please get it or it’s going in the can at the end of the day”. But, these things rarely happen, usually someone goes on vacation and forgets something and we don’t toss until we locate the owner.

      1. Anonymous at a University*

        +1 My office fridge once had an insulated lunch bag in it that started smelling really awful after sitting there for a month, and I took it out, wrapped it in several plastic bags, and e-mailed the list of all the faculty who worked in that building to say, “Here is [this awful-smelling bag’s description], I’ve taken it out of the fridge and it’s in [area], come get it by the end of the day or it goes.” No one came and got it, I tossed it, and two or three weeks later the owner showed up very angry and yelling at me, but I didn’t actually feel guilt because, dude, you didn’t even MISS IT until seven weeks later, sorry, it’s just not that important to you.

        I would not have left it it in the fridge out of either a misplaced sense of guilt or a, “Well, it’s not my job to clean this” righteous indignation.

      2. Michelle*

        We do something similar- email to staff who have company email and notes at the clock and on the fridges. If you don’t get your stuff or you are not labeling it ( we provide labels & markers) , then it goes in the trash. If it’s outdated, it goes in the trash. I’ve even thrown out food that is obviously bad and sent an emails letting whoever know that your food went bad and I tossed it.

      3. Starbuck*

        Agreed, I actually think the coworkers are way more at fault here than the boss – boss had one opportunity to fix the problem when she left, and forgot. It happens, especially when you’ve got a flight to catch! But OP and her coworker had multiple opportunities, every day, to throw out the food that they had to have known didn’t belong and wouldn’t be claimed. And they CHOSE not to, every day! That’s just absurd. If they’d described this scenario to me, I’d certainly expect them to at least take a stab at cleaning it before someone else was paid to. But I hope they can get janitorial services to help, as it seems they let it get quite bad.

  12. Jay*

    OP#1, as someone who has had to deal with this more than once over the years, this is my advice:
    1) Vicks under the nose (or on a little paper breathing mask) makes a lot of terrible smells bearable.
    2) Using the Vicks trick, get the fridge open and toss in a few boxes of baking soda (the ones with the side panels for preference). Close it up again until the next day.
    3) If you and your coworker can stomach the smell of vinegar, do as Aphrodite suggested. Talk it over with everyone in the office, however, as some folks, myself included, find vinegar to be among the most horrific smells on earth. I’ve done field necropsies on rotting seal carcases and they smell like roses to me compared to plain white vinegar.
    4) After the vinegar, if you use it, has had some time to work, put more, fresh baking soda in. You will need to change it up fairly frequently.
    5) After a couple of days of this, buy some good, industrial strength, bleach and a spray bottle strong enough to handle it. Unplug the fridge, open all the windows, spray it down, making sure to get the seels, the corners, and anyplace else liquid may have pooled at any point. Shut the fridge over night.
    6) Repeat step 5 the next day, only this time leave the fridge open over night.
    7) You might need to repeat step 6 a couple of times if you need to.
    Now, you might not need to do everything here.
    The baking soda alone might be enough.
    But if you do ALL of it and it still doesn’t help, that fridge is almost certainly a lost cause.

    OP#3, have you talked to your manager about what he actually wants out of the wine department?
    It sounds sort of like you want to run a boutique, higher end, department, with the highly trained and experienced staff that such a department entails.
    It sort of sounds like your manager wants to run a big box store featuring low to medium end drunkmakers for all tastes. Wine is just “grape flavor”.
    If that’s the case, then he may not think you need to train them on anything other than “Red wine, white wine, and that weird new one the kids drink that’s named after the robot maid from the Jetsons.”
    Then you need to make a financial case to your manager that the extra time and money spent training personnel, and then retaining them once properly trained (because otherwise they will take your training and use it to get a higher paying job elsewhere), is going to lead to higher profits down the line.

  13. Not Australian*

    LW#1 – have you considered “Oh, whoops, the fridge has stopped working, I think we need a new one!” and a bit of judicious sabotage? Wasteful, I know, but it might be easier and less stressful to get the thing replaced than to have to go through all this rigmarole.

    1. Artemesia*

      Only way out I can see — refrigerator went out, blew a fuse, whatever — and we don’t use it much and didn’t notice and now it is festering and not cleanable. Or get in there an seriously sabotage it so it IS broken for good.

    2. Anon, lol*

      Yeah…LW#1, you know your boss and your coworker best. If you think that your boss may react poorly/retaliate for your request to get the fridge cleaned, or if you need to spend your political capital on a different request (i.e. not fixing a problem your boss caused), this might work. Particularly if you and coworker agree to toss bosses food after every stay in the future. I also wouldn’t tell coworker your plans, I would tell them that it broke and “luck for us, we can spin this into fixing our fridge issue”

  14. Astral Debris*

    #5 – If it makes sense for the position, would it be reasonable to try to negotiate working remotely until you’re ready to move to the area?

    1. Ego Chamber*

      This is a good idea to consider.

      Alternatively, what about living apart for part or all of the 2 years until you can both move to the goal city? LDRs suck a lot but there’s no reason one person should take a potentially large detrimental hit to their career (maybe the perfect company won’t be hiring when you’re ready to move, maybe you won’t be able to find a comparable position with a similar salary and benefits, etc, etc) without evaluating all the options.

      1. Annony*

        Or even if two years isn’t doable (and the OP said that she isn’t ready to move just yet) think about what timeframe would be doable and tell them that. For example, if you would be willing to move after the election, tell them that you would be available in November and see what they say. Depending on the role and their typical hiring timeframe, November may be doable for them while two years would not be.

        1. Kira*

          Came here to say this. If you guys can’t move until after the election, I feel that’d be a lot easier to swing than saying you can’t move for several years.

    2. AnonPi*

      Just what I was going to suggest. If you are able, maybe even offer to fly out there on occasion if absolutely needed until you can move.

  15. Impy*

    Sommelier – he’s hiring people with no experience because they are cheaper. Additionally have you thought about leveraging your passion into actually becoming a sommelier? You could take courses and get a role you find more fulfilling and challenging.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Yeah, it doesn’t sound like the manager particularly values wine expertise the way that OP does – did they do all this training on their own time/dime? Are they getting paid accordingly to their skill? A sommelier job or even a retail role in a different store that does value specialist knowledge might be more satisfying.

    2. Alfonzo Mango*

      Or leave the liquor store to work at Gallo or any of the other wine companies or alcohol distributors. It would likely pay better and that would put your passion to work.

      1. doreen*

        Or even leave the “large liquor store with a wine department” for a wine shop. Customers don’t expect the same level of knowledge from every store that sells wine – when I go to the “liquor supermarket ” (carts and all) or the warehouse store, I really don’t expect any more knowledge that telling me the prosecco is in aisle 21.

      2. Wino Who Says Ni*

        As someone who works wine retail and loves it, we need all the help we can get. People always act like being a sales rep is the end all, be all. There is real value in working the “front line” and helping the end consumer of your product. Also, Gallo kind of sucks to work for.

    3. Unpopular Opinion*

      Yeah, I can’t imagine Total Wine and More is such a great workplace that they’re attracting tons of people who have a deep interest in wine willing to work for what I assume is a bit above minimum wage. I think the manager’s expectations are pretty reasonable that the person just has to be able to help people buy wine at a very basic level.

      1. Allypopx*

        The one near me actually has VERY knowledgeable staff. I also assume they pay at least decently given the age of the employees, the location they’re in, and the fact I see the same people whenever I’m there so it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of turnover. But that could be an anomaly and I’ll admit I haven’t looked into it very deeply.

  16. Lady Heather*

    LW1: kitty litter is a terrific deodorizer. If you put a bowl in the fridge and perhaps one in the room, the smell will lessen significantly.

    Kitty litter is great in general. We don’t have cats, but we do have litter. Mysterious smell somewhere? Kitty litter. Someone got sick? Kitty litter. Want to keep your wardrobe smelling nice? Fill a sock with.. kitty litter.

    It’s not a permanent solution, but it’ll make things more comfortable until there is a permanent solution.

    1. Massmatt*

      I was all ready to give this… endorsement some side eye yet realize one of the very WORST and most pervasive smells in the world is cat pee, and while a litter box is no bed of roses, it does work well.

      1. Lady Heather*

        I got the idea from a CSI episode where the killer filled the murder scene (in an apartment, I think) with half a dozen bags of kitty litter and it wasn’t discovered for months because there was no smell.

        Decided it was worth a try. I haven’t tried it for a decomposing body yet but for everything else it works like a charm.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Yes, and if you keep the decomposing body in the fridge, the kitty litter will work even better.

          1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

            With note posted that all decomposing bodies will be tossed at the end of the day on Friday unless picked up.

          1. Allonge*

            Lady Heather is being precise in their language, as befits a true lady. As far as I remember, the CSI Lady Heather was also in a job where you just need to be specific.

        2. Heidi*

          On a related note, there are companies that clean up crime scenes professionally that will also clean this refrigerator.

          My office is pretty strict about the food. You have to label all the food with the date you put something in the fridge and the date you expect it to be consumed or expired. If they find something in there past the expiration, they don’t even have to wait until Friday to toss it. It helps make sure there is room in the fridge for everyone’s stuff.

        3. Faith*

          Need to hide your murderous rampage? Kitty litter. Sprayed by a skunk? Kitty litter. Need cheap deodorant? Kitty litter. Beached whale? Kitty litter. Are you vampire that needs to ward off garlic? Kitty litter. Coworker microwaved fish? Kitty litter.

    2. amanda_cake*

      Kitty litter is also excellent for drying out the ground. Stuck in a driveway? Throw down some kitty litter. Need to dry out a wet spot on a baseball field? Kitty litter. Oil spill in the garage? Kitty litter.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        I worked for a company that made the conveyors used by Big Retailer. The employees were supposed to put all items in plastic totes, but would throw the bags of kitty litter directly on the conveyor. Which would be fine except the bags would break and kitty litter would get into the works of the conveyor. Where it would absorb all the oil and make the conveyor stop working. Kitty litter really is absorbent.

    3. Sleve McDichael*

      I don’t know if you’re using paper, clay or crystals but the clay with charcoal is an even better deodouriser than just clay or paper (I don’t know about the crystals, I don’t use them as they’re bad for young cats).

  17. EventPlannerGal*

    LW3: What actually is the job (as in how is it advertised/paid)? It sounds like you’re looking for someone who is or can learn to be another wine expert for the store and your manager is hiring shop assistants. If he’s hiring people because he wants another set of hands on the till, shelves stacked, customers directed etc and is paying them accordingly then I don’t think it really is reasonable to expect them to have much experience in or desire to spend significant time learning about wine – it’s a pretty niche and often very expensive hobby. Is it an essential part of the job *as it is currently advertised*? Did he hire you/has he ever promoted you or given you a raise because of your wine knowledge, or does he just view it as a bonus?

    If he is trying to hire someone to help you and just keeps hiring the wrong people then that’s another matter, of course.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Forget that last question, I misread! But overall still, I feel like there is a mismatch between what both of you think the job actually is.

    2. Half-Caf Latte*

      Such a good point about the cost of wine as a hobby as a deterrent!

      Yes, great bottles can be had for reasonable deals. But that’s relative. If you’re hiring people at very low wages, they may not even have the wiggle in the budget for it.

      1. Plestera*

        Reminds me of when I worked at a Macy’s in college. The manager wanted all of us to scan the local happenings (ie concerts, baseball games, etc) so we could engage customers in better small talk. And learn trends, all that.

        We all looked at the guy like “dude, this is a barely above minimum wage cashiering job, you’re gonna get what you’re gonna get”

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        Yeah, I suspect that that may have a lot to do with it. I’ve had to do quite a lot of wine training for work and IMO it’s quite difficult to develop a specialist-level knowledge of it (ie better than ‘this is from X region where you get a lot of Y’ ‘this is a red so it’s good with meat’) without trying quite a lot of it in a variety of contexts, which can get expensive fast. The wine tastings and trainings are a good start, but it’s a different, more theoretical experience.

        I think pretty much any retail outlet for an expensive niche hobby will likely take longer to find staff who have both the personal resources to have/develop good product knowledge and are also interested in probably low-wage retail work. And of course, many people *don’t* treat wine as a specialist hobby, so depending on what type of shop this is, applicants might not be expecting that they need to be especially expert.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        You usually have to try a lot of wines to find the great bottle at a good price. It’s a high barrier to entry.

    3. Lizzy May*

      This. In every minimum wage retail job I’ve ever worked, I knew there’d be a bit of learning involved but if the expectation was to learn about the products in great detail, I’d look for another job too. If I can get paid the same at a clothing store and I don’t need to do unpaid homework, that’s an easy decision.

  18. Eng*

    > Telling them they have a good application, and will hear back in a month won’t make any difference in their actions.

    That really gets at the heart of the issue! What is OP hoping to accomplish with a message like that? Once you figure that out, maybe consider what other ways there are to reach that goal.

    1. Product Person*

      I disagree–it might be helpful under certain circumstances. In my last job search, I wasn’t in a hurry to leave my job, but started to put some feelers out.

      If I got a reply from the hiring manager explaining they liked my resume but would only be able to start interviewing in a month, and I was intrigued about the position, I might decide to wait.

      I would also be much more inclined to go for an interview if I had received heads up that there would be a delay than if I was simply contacted a month later, when it might look like to me their preferred candidates fell through.

      That said, of course this should be the last resort–as many have already said, a rolling interview process would drastically reduce the risk of a talented candidate accepting another job before you finally contact them,

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I think telling them now won’t change the fact that they might find another job in the next 40 days, but if they are still looking in 40 days I think having given them a heads up may make them feel more favorable toward you.

      2. SimplyTheBest*

        I agree. I think a lot of people are thinking about this as if the applicant is definitely in need of a new job ASAP, but that’s just not always the case. I do agree with others that the timeline seems overly long and the questionnaire not the greatest idea – but the reaching out to let you know what our timeline looks like and that we’re interested in you if our timeline works for you? Yeah, that seems pretty smart.

  19. HA2*

    OP#2 – yes, reach out to strong candidates. Even better would be finding a way to do rolling admissions.

    Strong candidates aren’t going to be “contented” to wait for anything. They will follow Allison’s advice – assume that any job that’s not given them an offer might fall through at any time, and they will keep looking. In that 30 days, they will CERTAINLY be applying to other positions at other companies.

    And if those other companies go through the hiring process faster than you, you may lose those candidates. Maybe they’ll get an offer before the 30 days are up. Or maybe they’ll at least get through a phone screen or an interview – so when you get around to it, they’ll be further in the process elsewhere and the other company will give them an offer before you have a chance to.

    There’s actually an even worse possibility, which is that of the people who apply early, the GOOD candidates are going to drop out (because they’ll get offers elsewhere) and the BAD candidates won’t (because they won’t). So a long waiting time is actually a way of weeding out good candidates and leaving yourself with bad ones.

    OP #5 – two years is just too long to plan. Things change faster than that.

    If you go through the whole interview process and then it turns out you were never going to take the job (because you’re not moving for another two years) that’s actually going to leave a bad impression, they’ll think you were wasting their time. It’s better to bow out gracefully now. In two years you can ask and see whether it makes sense to start a new hiring process – if there’s a relevant position open, if the company’s still in business and if the people you’re talking to now are still at the company (any of which might not be true in 2 years). But that’s a conversation for 20 months from now.

  20. Birch*

    OP #3 Not only do you and your boss seem to have different ideas of what that role is, there also seems to be two separate problems in keeping staff. My main question–if your boss is in charge of hiring, but YOU are the one unhappy with new staff, how is the turnover happening? Are you forcing people out because of your dissatisfaction, or are these people generally just flaking? If they’re flaking, why are you focused on their lack of wine knowledge? Surely showing up to work is a bigger problem?

    I have suggested to my manager several times that hiring someone with experience would be beneficial to our customers, that this constant turnover is stressful to me, and that spending so much time trying to teach Intro to Wine to complete novices means that I’m not fully working on other projects. I thought after our latest associate flaked our that my manager had finally seen the light…

    What “other projects” are you referring to? Isn’t your main job as a wine department manager to manage your associates and educate and help your customers? We need to know whether the new staff are being fired or leaving on their own, and then to figure out why. I agree with others that it could be that this is actually a fairly low paid position, and when people come in and receive your training materials, they realize they’re not a fit for the job. You’re frustrated because you see people being hired who don’t care about wine, but you’ve put that qualification into a role that wasn’t designed for it. I think you need to sit down with your boss and have them lay out their idea for this role, and accept if that means less enthusiasm is needed. I’d also ask–how are YOU being paid? It’s great if wine geekery is your hobby, but if YOU aren’t being paid for putting that extra work into it, you can’t put that expectation on other people.

    1. WellRed*

      “What “other projects” are you referring to? Isn’t your main job as a wine department manager to manage your associates and educate and help your customers?”

      I picked up on this, too. I guess my question is, why are people leaving the position (I mean, sure, it’s retail, but still). Is the pay too low? Are you showing your dissatisfaction with these non oenophiles? Are you simply not a good people manager?

    2. Archaeopteryx*

      I’m guessing the turnover is relate to it being a bog box retail liquor store instead of a specialty wine shop. The latter might function more like a small book shop, where a crew stays for many years at a time. The former, which it sounds like OP works at, functions mainly as a stopgap while employees apply for harder to get jobs in their field. When I worked at Staples, if one coworker was passionate about office supplies and became known as a local guru, that would be nice. But if they expected me to have the same passion and do homework for all of $11.50 /hr, person not.

    3. Senor Montoya*

      I think we can trust the LW that there are other projects and tasks they have to work on, without them having to list everything out. Just because LW”s main job is to manage the associates and assist customers, doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty of other things to do. Things that may have nothing to do with being the wine dept manager — many of us have jobs like that, where there’s the main part of our job that matches up with the title, and then there’s all the other stuff we have to do, some of it high priority and time-consuming.

  21. LGC*

    #3: it sounds like there might be a mismatch between your vision of the job and your boss’s idea? It seems like he just wants or needs to have standard store clerks, and you want to have other sommeliers.

    It definitely sounds like your boss might not have the same appreciation for your products as you. So…you might want to start by giving yourself the gift of doing less. Train new hires in store procedures to start, and then move into the finer points of wine once they’re settled.

    Also…I hate to dunk on you, but it’s still retail. Six clerks in “the past few years” doesn’t sound that awful.

  22. Pibble*

    LW3 – One option is to provide resources for your new trainees to learn about wine, but not put in nearly as much effort as you are now. You’ve already found websites and courses for your past trainees, so compile the best of those into a short list that you can easily give to each new trainee. One of three things will happen:

    1) Knowledge of wine is necessary, and your trainee will realize this and study the resources. (This only works if they get paid wine study time, mind you. Virtually no one is going to spend their precious free time studying for work – if that’s what you’re requiring, skip giving people the resource list entirely and scenario 2 or 3 will occur.)

    2) Knowledge of wine is necessary, but your trainee will not study the resources. Customers will complain, providing tangible proof you can point to in favor of hiring someone more knowledgeable. If your boss says you should be teaching people more, see Alison’s excellent advice on on discussing which of your other projects will have to be delayed/canceled with your boss, so he’s fully aware of the tradeoffs involved in hiring inexperienced people.

    3) Knowledge of wine isn’t as necessary as you feel it is, and everything will be okay regardless of whether or not the trainees study the materials.

    It sounds like right now you’re putting in a lot of effort and stress to teach people about wine, which has the side effect of insulating your boss from any negative consequences of hiring uninterested people. If talking doesn’t convince him, letting him feel the consequences just might. (Plus you’ll be less stressed out and can spend more time on your other projects.)

  23. Half-Caf Latte*

    OP5: have you done the thought experiment of “how good would an opportunity need to be to get me to change my plans/move now”?

    I’ve been a trailing spouse, and have had some tough conversations over the years… move to Kansas but the pay is enough I could fly home first class when the whim struck? Leave my good-not-perfect role now, with the risk that it won’t be here for me in two years when we move back, or quintuple my commute?

    It’s hard, but getting on the same page as a couple can make a big difference.

    1. Kira*

      I like that idea. Trying to move two people is going to be tricky – what are the conditions that Job #1 has to meet in order for the other spouse to quit their job and move?

      From personal experience – my parents pulled a similar move. We lived in one city, but they had vague plans to move closer to their home town to be near family, someday. Then one of my parents got an offer within commuting distance of the hometown and… that was it. We moved then and there.

  24. Lisa B*

    OP1, I also think you need to have a conversation with your boss about her use of the fridge. It doesn’t have to be big, but otherwise you’re not addressing the root cause of the problem and in six months you’ll be right back here again, with a brand new smelly fridge. Try “Opehlia, going forward we’ll be throwing away anything you leave in the fridge the day after you leave. Since you’re not here that often, nothing will keep until the next time anyway.”

    Is she maybe thinking that you and your co-worker will eat it, and she thinks by doing this she’s leaving it for you guys and it won’t be wasted? If that’s the case you can add on “Sally and I have different tastes, and we always bring our lunch from home. Thanks for thinking of us! But we’ll just toss it so that we won’t get caught in this again.”

  25. hbc*

    OP3: “He mentioned the other day that he had someone in mind who he thought was a great person….” It sounds like the owner is just hiring people from his network, maybe because it’s easier, or maybe because he likes feeling generous. I wonder if you could convince him to let you put together a job posting that includes a requirement for wine familiarity and the salary. Either he’ll learn that you can get someone with both skill and personality, or you’ll learn that there aren’t any wine aficionados out there willing to take that pay rate.

    Either way, I think your time would be well-spent coming up with a few cheat sheets or training documents that cut down on the onboarding time you need to invest at each go-round, because I’m guessing this will be a high turnover position regardless.

  26. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    I could see the letter the wine employees would write asking for advice here: “I’m a just over minimum wage employee at a liquor store and was hired as a stock clerk and cashier. My manager gave me a pile of books, online resources and videos he expects me to study on my own time off the clock. I don’t think it’s appropriate or legal and I have to work a second job at night to make ends meet.”

    Don’t expect a sommelier or even someone with strong interest if the boss has a budget of $10/hour. I see it all the time in my industry- hiring employees at gas station wages and expecting high level professionalism because the management is passionate about what they do and it’s just a job to the poor employee.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      This is something that happened to me once. I was hired at typical chain shop for minimum wage (at the time, in Britain, that was £6.50 an hour). I was just there to work the tills and stock the shelves, all I wanted at the time, but my manager had me doing all sorts of training on the various products we stocked and made me an “Ambassador” for a particular brand that required a lot of knowledge about ingredients and the manufacturing process, and I remember vividly thinking that I wasn’t paid enough for the amount of work he wanted.

      Being young and a bit oblivious to tempering my tone, I told him bluntly that if he wanted that level of work from me, he could pay me for it. I ended up staying at that job for four years part time whilst I got myself through a suicidal period and it was the best job I’ve ever had, but if he’d pushed the extra work outside of hours on me, I’d have left.

      It feels like there’s a very strong disconnect what OP thinks the job is and what the manager thinks the job is and only one of them can be right. I would argue that considering the fact that the job is minimum wage, then OP needs to realign their expectations of the people that they’re going to managing and proceed accordingly.

      1. Shad*

        When I worked a retail job (grocery store deli), we were expected to have pretty solid knowledge of the upmarket brand we sold.
        And they sent us to a paid training day at one of the bigger stores, with lunch provided, to learn about that brand and turned a blind eye when we sampled a slice at a time at work.

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      I once worked a retail job at a place like Lowe’s (only not Lowe’s) that had non-mandatory online training that you did in your own time. Every time you completed a module set, you got a free work shirt. Since work shirts were not cheap (the good ones were $25-30!) and I could complete most modules in an hour, this was a good deal, especially considering I would have to work 3-4 hours to pay for that work shirt otherwise.

      Maybe this employer could do something similar—complete some training and get a free shirt or cap, or even alcohol (if that’s allowed in their jurisdiction).

      1. Marny*

        They expected you to pay for your company-branded work shirts? Wow. Any place I’ve worked that required me to wear a branded article of clothing provided that clothing for free. What a sneaky way to make employees do unpaid training.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          Lots of places do that. You get one free vest once a year, and if you want something else, you gotta pay for it.

          And the training was in no way mandatory. Lots of employees skipped it.

    3. Filosofickle*

      The OP (under the name Wino) has clarified all the training happens on the clock. Agreed that a minimum wage employee may not be paid enough to care about wine, you’re right about that. But if it’s all on the job it’s not crazy to find someone who’s a bit of both — entry level retail + interested in learning. As a young person, I’d have been a good fit for this job.

  27. Avogado Avocado*

    OP #1: I fear your argument and the script Allison has recommended may be undercut by the statement that you and your coworker do leave food in the refrigerator during the day — in other words that you’re still using the workplace equipment that makes you gag when you walk by it. Thus, you may want to stop using the workplace equipment for storage before calling HR.

    I realize that inconveniences you, but otherwise the complaint could seem to HR and your boss that this problem was caused not by your boss leaving food in the fridge, but by you and your coworker — who, by the way you’ve presented the issue, seem to use it daily — not cleaning it in time. This likely seems an unfair characterization and I point it out so that you can bulletproof your argument to those off-site should they be overly focused on cause-and-effect rather than the present condition of workplace equipment, which is after all what a fridge is.

  28. Jdc*

    LW1 i really can’t comprehend complaining to this extent over something you easily could have solved. Once it was starting to smell, toss it. It really isn’t cleaning your throw something moldy out.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I’d take it one step further and say that once boss leaves, toss it. There was no need to leave it in there until it smelled, especially since OP said they and co-worker don’t leave stuff in there overnight so they KNEW it belonged to boss and they weren’t coming back for it.

    2. WellRed*

      I agree and commented below. Just toss the food! To have it get to this point is bizarre and pretty gross.

  29. Unpopular Opinion*

    OP 2 – this is the best way to lose good candidates. If a company reached out to me and told me they might send me a questionnaire in a month to decide if they just wanted to interview me, I’d think they were out of their mind. I probably wouldn’t continue the application process even IF I didn’t have offers. It stands to reason that good candidates will have their pick of employers, so why are you making this harder for them? Unless you work for one of the FAANG companies, no good candidate will put up with that and you’ll be stuck with your second best.

    OP 3 – You’re not going to get a trained sommelier for $10 an hour, part time. Your manager knows this. If I go to a wine shop, I might expect the owner or a manager to make recommendations, but that’s way too much for me to expect from an underpaid person who probably spends most of their time unloading merch and working the checkout counter. Another commenter mentioned that a sommelier role might be better for you, and I would have to agree. It’s way more money and you’ll be paid to continuously learn about wine and get to travel all over the world. Shit, it’s basically my dream job lol.

  30. panic everywhere including the disco*

    LW2: if the job posting says the closing date on it specifically, I don’t see any problem with waiting 30 days to contact them. Yes, they might take another job, but that’s always a risk.

    However, the whole questionnaire thing is a little iffy to me. What kind of questionnaire do you need filled out, that couldn’t be part of the actual application process, but that is so important it has to be done before a phone screen?

    1. Constance Lloyd*

      And if it does need to be completed before a phone screen (assuming it isn’t too time consuming and truly is a necessary step) why not at least give that to strong candidates on a rolling basis to minimize the amount of time with no contact? (I lean toward getting rid of the questionnaire entirely and switching to rolling interviews, but if the questionnaire has to stay and interviews truly can’t start before the post closes, this small change might help).

      1. panic everywhere including the disco*

        From a candidate perspective, that would be worse for me.

        Two scenarios:
        1: I apply
        2: A month later, I get an e-mail “hi, we’re excited about your candidacy! Please fill out this questionnaire about llama biology and someone will contact you for an interview”.
        3: I fill out the questionnaire (or I nope out)
        4: A day later, I get a follow up e-mail asking me to schedule a phone screen.

        Result: an initial wait but I really don’t ever expect to get a quick response to any job application, so not a big deal.

        Second scenario:
        1: I apply.
        2: Two days later, I get an e-mail “hi, we’re excited about your candidacy! Please fill out this questionnaire about llama biology. We’d like to get a head start but we won’t contact you for an interview until the closing date.”
        3: I either fill out the questionnaire or ignore it. I have in the past gotten automated e-mails after applying that tell me that for my application to finish going through, I have to fill out a personality quiz. After one I did took 45 minutes, I resolved I would never ever ever do one of those again. So an out of context questionnaire followup to an application (not specifically as a prelude to an interview) may be a nope, depending on how interested I even was in the position.
        4: I hear nothing for three weeks. I have completely forgotten about them entirely.
        5: If I didn’t fill out the questionnaire, do I get a follow up e-mail asking me to do it, or does the hiring manager assume I didn’t care?
        6: If I did do the questionnaire, I get contacted for an interview. And I get to wonder how long it takes them to look at the bleeping questionnaire results and why every single candidate had to do one.

        I don’t like either scenario, but if I had to choose, I’d take the first one.

  31. WellRed*

    Good lord, OP 1, how long did you and coworker wait before cleaning out the fridge? To have it smell that bad, closed, is not normal. Next time, just toss the food if she leaves it behind.
    You probably need to have the current fridge replaced.

  32. Allison*

    Sometimes I hate having to take my food out before the weekly fridge purge, but stories like #1 remind me why they’re necessary. Rotten food can get bad!

    I mean, okay, a small office with two people, maybe a strict “we’re cleaning out the fridge at 3 on Friday, anything in there gets tossed” system isn’t necessary, but carving out 15 minutes a week to open the fridge and check for expired or rotting food is a good habit to be in, at work and at home. A quick email like “hey, we found your leftovers in the fridge, is it cool if we toss it?” would suffice, boss would probably say “oh yeah, totally spaced on that, feel free to throw it out!” or, she may not even notice if you toss it, or she might remember but totally understand that you threw it away.

    Obviously this doesn’t solve the current problem, though. Absolutely ask if you can hire someone to have it deep cleaned.

  33. Jennifer*

    #1 The next time your boss stays over, if she leaves food behind can you just ask her if you can throw it out since she’s not going to be back any time soon? This will avoid the same thing happening in the future.

    I understand why you don’t want to clean it out now – I wouldn’t either, but I don’t understand why the food was just left to rot there in the first place.

  34. Bunny Girl*

    I’m not going to lie, the best day at my job was when the office fridge officially died and we were able to get rid of it. It was such a nightmare trying to get people to clean up after themselves. It was supposed to be used by our department but other departments left their stuff in there too. More than us actually because when they went to decide if anyone wanted to replace it, the overwhelming answer was “Well I don’t really use it.”

    Definitely get your boss or whoever to hire someone. As others have mentioned, it might be a much bigger job than just giving it a good bleach scrub. Once you’ve gotten it taken care of, maybe ask your boss if she would mind if you guys tossed things once she left if she doesn’t use the fridge for long periods at a time so it doesn’t get this bad again. It might prompt her to remember to throw things away herself.

  35. Jennifer*

    #3 If you want wine experts working in your department, your store manager needs to pay wine expert money, which I’m guessing he isn’t doing. For you, this is your passion, but for the people he’s hiring, it’s just another retail job. I would expect the manager and owner to have wine expertise, but not any of the sales clerks. I don’t think any other customer would either. You might be running off potentially good employees with the unofficial Wine 101 classes you’re teaching. Most people don’t want to invest that much time and energy on learning something they don’t have a passion for.

    Focus less on making these employees miniature versions of you and more on just training them on the nuts and bolts of the job. When I worked at Macy’s for a summer I didn’t learn about every single designer that sells clothes there. I learned the basics of how the store was organized, how to help customers, what things we carried and what we didn’t, etc. In these types of jobs, there’s always going to be high turnover.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      While what you are saying mostly makes sense, people go to these types of liquor stores over a regular grocery store wine section either to get a specialty item or to talk to the staff since usually they can help find new things or proper pairings. I nearly always buy my wine from a particular store and I enjoy talking with “the wine guy”. He has recommended some great wines, let me know of big sales coming up, helped special order something for me, etc… I probably pay an extra buck or two per bottle over another store and once I find something I like I will probably check around to see if I can get a better price, but he is the first place I go when I am making a new dish or having a party. I probably wouldn’t go to that store at all if he (or someone like him) wasn’t there.
      If this was just a standard stock position that happened to be in the wine section, your point about learning the nuts and bolt and getting on with it is valid. But my take on the OP’s store and position seem like the knowledge he is trying to pass on is relevant for this role.

      1. Allypopx*

        Depends on where OP is located. Most grocery stores in my area aren’t allowed to carry alcohol, so these places are often just corner shops that people go to pick up a cheap bottle of dinner wine.

        1. Senor Montoya*

          LW said it is the wine department of a large liquor store. So not a wine shop, but a big enough store that it has a separate wine department and a manager specifically for the wine dept.

        2. Jedi Squirrel*

          Wikipedia has a compendium of liquor laws by US state. (Just look for list of alcohol laws of the US.) Some states are pretty loose in these regards, and some are pretty strict.

          In Michigan, most grocery stores sell beer and wine, and quite a few sell liquor from behind the service counter; they even have tastings every once in a while. Most gas stations sell beer and quite a few have a very small wine selection. (Yep, gas station wine is a thing here.)

          We also have low-end liquor stores, where you don’t even bother to take the bottle out of the bag, and higher end liquor stores that sell a selection of microbrews, table wines to fine wines, and a huge selection of liquor. They will often have tastings, as well. Physically, they range in size from small (think convenience store size) to large (like a small grocery). And they usually have a wine specialist. I was thinking that OP works in a place like this, but that’s just based on my experience.

          (And yep, I’ve shopped at all of these places.)

      2. Jennifer*

        I think the OP would be your go to “wine guy” if you shopped at his store. I just think different employees fill different needs. For example, if I were at a fancy restaurant for dinner, an annual occurrence, if that, I wouldn’t ask the busboy clearing plates one table over for wine recommendations. I’d ask our server or the sommelier.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          Absolutely agree, but it sounds like they are trying to hire another “wine guy” since OP cannot work 24/7/365 as opposed to just a stock person or checkout lane attendant. I don’t think OP is trying to convert the entire staff to wine experts, just this specific position in his department. They have commented a few times, and it appears the expectations aren’t all that high and they are getting some free wine to sample.

          Can I apply???

  36. Employment Lawyer*

    My manager makes me hire people without experience, who never work out
    AAM is right. To add my $0.02:

    1) It might be helpful to try to understand why he’s making those decisions. There are always tradeoffs (if you demand expertise in Subject A, you get less expertise in Subject B) and he may have a good justification for preferring more generalist people. Do you think you have the understanding of the whole-store needs, or just your section? Do you think you can find those people for the same wages as the novice generalists?

    2) It’s probably important to get into the process early. By the time he has decided to hire and sent out the ads (much less interviewed) it’s too late for you to change his mind. Think long-term (i.e. “next time” and not “this time”) and try to set the foundation for FUTURE change.

    3) Consider alternates. For example: Can you keep on using mostly novices, but add a second-in-command for training? Can you try using two differently-worded ads and see how the candidates differ? Etc.

  37. Allypopx*

    #2 I’m curious about why you aren’t willing to revisit your hiring process. “Willing” stands out to me, as you speak as if you do have some control over the decisions surrounding hiring and you don’t frame it as something you’re unable to do.

    As others have pointed out, this process isn’t great, and your top candidates aren’t likely to wait around for you – they don’t have to. Other people will snatch them up. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re operating within normal timelines if your competitors are willing to operate within better ones.

  38. CupcakeCounter*

    Maybe instead of harping on the experience piece, since experienced people cost more money and I am guessing that is a key point for your boss, at least get him to gear the search towards people with an interest in wine.

  39. Jennifer*

    #3 A suggestion – do you have friends who are also wine nerds? (I mean nerd in a good way) Maybe some people in the community who share your passion for wine may want to make some extra $$$ on evenings and weekends, when I assume the store is busiest, and have fun at the same time. Maybe you can recommend some candidates to your boss next time.

  40. Mbarr*

    LW4: I have my own “Sarah” in my life. While I’ve never worked with her, I’m best friends with her spouse. I know she’s been fired/quit multiple times in the 5 years I’ve known her. I referred her to a couple of jobs at my old company – but that’s because I worked at a huge international company, and they were in a completely different department and our paths would never cross. I would NOT have referred them if I thought they’d interact with people I know.

    Luckily my best friend makes enough money to support them both, but it sucks to know they’re shackled to this “dead weight.” (Not that I’d ever say that to him.)

  41. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP3 – does your manager truly understand the “loyal customer base” part? I’ve worked in wine, and this is a much bigger deal in wine than it is in distilled spirits. He may not see the customer base for hard liquor side of the business as an important asset – for the most part, if somebody wants a bottle of vodka, they’ll buy it, but they won’t go out of their way to go to the store with their favorite vodka guy. Wine is often different.

    Have you tried explaining that the untrained and disinterested sales staff are a threat to the bottom line, because they’ll drive away loyal customers if you aren’t there to intervene? It seems like most of the things you’ve told your manager have been about your time and effort, not a threat to revenue. He might consider things differently if you concentrate on that part. Good luck!

  42. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

    I’m just really confused as to why you left the food so long. You knew that she was gone and not coming back for awhile. So why not toss it as soon as she left? You left it until it smelt so bad that you can smell it while it was closed?
    That’s some serious passive aggressive bs, and now you’re paying for it.

    1. agnes*

      this. Trying to prove a point backfired. Who suffers? Not your boss. My adage is that if “something” winds up having its greatest impact on me, then I am taking the initiative to make sure “something” is addressed –even if I didn’t have anything to do with creating the “something” in the first place.

      1. Marny*

        Also, who was she trying to prove the point to? The boss who isn’t even there? I can’t imagine a 2-person office environment where the coworkers wouldn’t have a conversation about what to do with the food left behind and instead would just let it silently fester as they each waited for the other to act.

    2. Ramblin' Ma'am*

      Right? There’s a difference between “this food was in the fridge for a few days and isn’t good to eat anymore” and “this food rotted so badly that the fridge now needs to be deep-cleaned.” How does this happen?

    3. Matilda Jefferies*

      I was thinking the same. OP, for next time, ask yourself which is more important – being right, or having the food not be in the fridge any more?

      Of course it *shouldn’t* be your responsibility to clean up after your boss – nobody is disputing that. But the thing is, there IS food left in the fridge, and the person who put it there IS NOT available to get rid of it. You can stand on principle all you want here – and again, you’re technically right – but all that does is leave you with a stinky fridge.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      Yeah, I truly don’t get why they left the food in there so long. OP says they both use the fridge everyday and don’t leave anything in there overnight. So, what happened that the boss’s food sat in there long enough to smell up the room *outside* of the fridge?? Why would you and your coworker let that happen? I understand it might have been shoved so far back or in the bottom that no one noticed at first, but once there was a smell…no one checked? If you and your coworker use it only during the day for your lunch and don’t leave stuff in there, I have to imagine it’s not full, which means additional items should be easily found or noticed. And now that you know it still smells, you’re sitting in your office with the door shut and the window open when it’s 40 degrees and windy rather than throwing some baking soda (or whatever is supposed to work) in there?

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        Reading this, I suddenly had a mental image of OP a the bears in the Charmin commercial gathered around the underpants on the floor, all going, “I’m not picking it up!” “Are you picking it up?” “I’m not picking it up!” Etc.

        OP, don’t be a Charmin bear!

  43. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: You and your coworker take turns.

    We have a weekly janitorial service that does floors, bathrooms, and the surface areas (tables, kitchenette counter, etc.) but we’re responsible for the details, including the fridge. We’re also responsible for cleaning the bugs out of the overhead lights and some other weird stuff, but that happens a lot in small offices. Just have a “toss everything on Friday” policy.

    There is really no reason you “shouldn’t have to do this” except that it seems you’re annoyed with the person who left it there and are kind of sulking. And in the future, throw stuff away sooner, before it becomes unbearable.

  44. RussianInTexas*

    So, the wine guy – you work for a big box liquor store, not a fancy wines specialty store. I guarantee your store pays regular retail wages, and retail “benefits”. It is nice that you like wine, educate yourself in wine, etc. But in general? I don’t expect for a floor sales personnel in Best Buy to be super passionate about QLED TVs, and I don’t expect the floor sales personnel in a big box store to be super knowledgeable in wine either.
    When you pay retail wages, you get don’t get to dictate super qualifications.

    1. Jennifer*

      Agreed. I see people in the grocery store asking the clerks for recommendations on skincare products and other things and I have to shake my head in confusion. If you want a specialized experience, you’re gonna have to pay for it.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        We have a local liquor store chain that prides itself on knowledgeable staff, and they recommended a friend of mine the WORST Scotch to bring to my housewarming (she doesn’t know Scotch). Like, smell and tastes like burnt socks bad.
        It’s been a source of jokes for years now.

        1. Allypopx*


          My husband likes really smoky islays and they are not my taste but I like to think I could still pick one outside of the burnt socks category. I can at least read a price point, cmon liquor store dude.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            It was only aged for something like 3 years, so the bare minimum.
            I think the store ordered the employees to get rid of it.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        When I worked retail – and not even at a store that was specifically a pharmacy – a customer once asked me if a particular type of cough drop was safe to use during pregnancy.

        I could really only reply that I wasn’t a doctor or pharmacist, but that the box didn’t have any warning like that.

    2. Wino*

      A couple things about this:
      Not a big box store. Large, independent store with everything from $5 to $500 wines.
      Assistants are paid more than minimum wage. We’re in a state with a high minimum wage and they are paid several bucks more than that. We also have full medical & dental, paid vacation, 401K. Although, I have to say that a lot of our younger employees don’t seem to understand that those things are part of their overall compensation.
      And frankly, I do expect someone at Best Buy to tell me about the features of various tv’s, especially if they in that section.
      Also, one more small thing. I’m the wine gal, not the wine guy.

      1. paul*

        So you’re still paying within spitting distance of minimum wage?

        Your state can have a high minimum wage; that just means that you’re facing increased competition for employees.

        I mean….yeah, employees should be able to say where XYZ is, but if you want someone (and I’m going off whiskey here, since I don’t do wine) to tell person X a better version of Bulleit Rye because they like one particular aspect of it….good luck, with part timers. You’re just not likely to consistently get that.

        1. a1*

          “several bucks more” is “spitting distance”? really? And then add in medical, dental, paid vacation, 401K? That is leaps and bounds better than a typical min wage retail gig.

  45. frockbot*

    OP2 – Alison’s response is perfect. I just wanted to chime in because I saw a lot of other commenters who were surprised by the idea of waiting a month to contact a candidate. In most of the jobs I’ve had and most of the ones I’ve applied to, application deadlines are hard deadlines. If the posting says you won’t hear anything for a month, you don’t expect to hear anything for a month. This is especially common in library-land, government-land, and university-land. So depending on your field, your star candidate may very well not expect to hear from you for 40 days. But Alison’s right that you still run the risk of losing that person to somebody else in the meantime. If you’re afraid to let that happen, and you don’t HAVE to wait until the application deadline to start talking to people, consider talking to your star player now.

    1. Stormy Weather*

      If the posting says you won’t hear anything for a month, you don’t expect to hear anything for a month.

      and seeing that might mean candidates decide not to apply at all.

      1. frockbot*

        Yep, that’s possible! But if you already work in an industry where it’s normal, you might also decide to apply and see what happens. If the OP is in one of those industries, they’re not out of line to follow convention.

  46. Wow is all I can say*

    I usually don’t disagree with Alison but OP#1 has one other person in their office. Which means daily they are the only 2 people in the office and the only people who use the refrigerator. I’m not sure how OP#1 is not mortified that they let this happen, and not sure how they would have the balls to ask for someone to clean up after 2 people. I wont even get in to that the other co-worker was the only one to clean when it got to smelling awful. I get it wasn’t their food but still, this is petty stuff that just hurts yourself. I would understand in a group setting where many people are using the refrigerator but 2 people this is on OP and her coworker. If my employees were in this situation I would question so much here, including myself.

    1. sleeplessKJ*

      Right? And who leaves food to rot in a refrigerator that only two people use daily? Throw it out when the remote worker leaves. Problem averted.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      In that size of office, most often you’re all responsible for the upkeep, even if there’s not a designated chore list. Asking to have it professionally cleaned out would just result in “No that’s not possible. If you don’t want to do it yourself, we can have it removed completely and disposed of…”

      We take fridges pretty much as a “given” but they’re not required by any means.

  47. Marny*

    OP3: You might need to accept that these part-time associates can only be helpful in telling customers where they can find a certain item or unpacking boxes or whatever tasks don’t require true wine knowledge. Finding someone with real wine knowledge (or who wants to spend hours studying wine) who is willing to work a part-time job in a liquor store is not an easy task– your boss may understand he just needs to take whatever pleasant person he can get regardless of knowledge level. He got lucky in finding you– lightning is unlikely to strike the same place twice.

    Instead of focusing on the need to train these associates to become junior sommeliers, it sounds like the best way to handle it is to tell these associates that if they encounter customers who need substantive information about wines, they should call you over to handle it. Have these associates handle the tasks they can handle and it will free you up to be the resident wine expert.

  48. sleeplessKJ*

    Re refrigerator: If it was someone who works remotely that left stuff in the refrigerator, and you and your co-worker go into this refrigerator every day, why didn’t you just throw the stuff out when she left? I think you bear some responsibility for the situation to have gotten out of hand. That being said, if HR won’t now hire someone to clean it, pick up a couple of filtering face masks and gloves, and wipe out the frig with a vinegar/water mixture and get a couple of open boxes of baking soda in there. Another thing to try: dump ground coffee into a cookie sheet and let it sit on the bottom shelf of the frig for a few days. That will absorb the odor too.

  49. Uncle Bob*

    Re: #2 – It befuddles me that companies make decisions like this. If you have a strong candidate then you should move quickly, because your competition is. Especially if they have in-demand skills. I’ve had companies do this to me, where I applied before Christmas and heard nothing until February by which point I had 3 other offers and had already accepted one. Doing these forced 30 day opening things just means you get left up with the scraps.

    1. Stormy Weather*

      The same thing just happened to me. Last week I had a company reach out to me and I had applied for a job (with a referral from another employee) in November. I’d already started a new job.

      I did get an apology for the delay when they replied to my response. I appreciated that.

  50. Stormy Weather*

    ”Or should I feel confident that the norms of job searching means they’ll be contented to wait the month+ to hear from me?”

    What? Really? Oh, LW#2 this is a terrible attitude. If you want to be an employer someone wants to work for, you break the norms, not expect someone to be content doing something they don’t like and shouldn’t even be necessary.

    If you insist on not changing to rolling applications, then you have accepted the risk that you’re going to lose good candidates along the way. If you were to schedule the phone interview now, you might be able to keep your candidates interested, but unless they’re in a completely secure position, they’re likely to keep looking and move on when they don’t hear from you.

    1. Allypopx*

      Yeah even if it’s normal it’s definitely not something you should “feel confident” about. People don’t typically apply to one job at a time (unless they’re recruited, in which case this time frame would be ridiculous) and you can’t be sure how your process aligns with the timelines of other companies. If you want to operate by rigid norms and keep people on the hook, you’re VERY likely to lose them and only have second or third tier candidates to choose from.

      If you scheduled a phone interview or otherwise made it clear I was in the process I might keep that in the back of my mind but I wouldn’t hang my hat on it. I’d keep interviewing and take a better offer if it came up. And remember, an equivalent offer that lets me start sooner will always be a better offer. You’re just shooting yourself in the foot here.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        an equivalent offer that lets me start sooner will always be a better offer.

        Precisely. In my experience, most people who are job searching want the new position to start sooner rather than later.

        I’m also going to look on a potential employer more favorably if they respect my time.

        1. Allypopx*

          I think a great way for employers to frame it for themselves is even if they are flexible on the start time and *I* want to start later, the fact that they would *allow me* to start earlier means they are literally offering me more money. I would be getting paid for those two weeks or month or however long, by them, out of their budget. Making the process take longer than it needs to is costing me time, energy, and quite possibly actual income, and that is not going to endear me to you.

  51. Carlie*

    Add me to the list of those confused as to why OP1 and co-worker left food they knew wasn’t going anywhere for a month so long in the fridge, but that’s water under the bridge now. (or mold oozing out under the fridge…)

    As to the current fridge situation though, my pitch at HR would be that the fridge is old, it smells, and it’s too big for what your needs are. They should buy a new mini-fridge to replace it, and that will lower the utility bills and encourage everyone to keep it empty and tidy.

    1. Observer*

      but that’s water under the bridge now

      Well, not entirely. The OP needs to understand that when they are going to go to HR, they need to just explain that the fridge stinks and they can’t get it clean. Because if they get into what happened, they are going to get push back.

      And if they get into who “should have” cleaned the fridge they WILL be told that THEY “should have” prevented the problem, regardless of who left the food.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        Yeah, if they REALLY get into what happened, OP and coworker might even be expected to pay for a new fridge. Afrer all, it got smelly, not because the boss left some food in it, but because the 2 employees on site passively aggressively sat on their hand and LET it get that way.

        If I was their boss, I’m afraid I would take a very dim view of the situation, unless there is some extenuating circumstance that wasn’t mentioned in the letter.

  52. Observer*

    #2 Or should I feel confident that the norms of job searching means they’ll be contented to wait the month+ to hear from me?

    Earth calling space!

    There are so many problems here, especially in the context of the rest of your post.

    Firstly, what “norms” are you talking about? Many, many companies do rolling interviews. Enough that it many areas THAT is the norm.

    Also, you’re violating some “norms” yourself. Standard questionnaires as screening tactic long after the the applications come in are not a norm. I’m not saying that no one does that, but it’s not something smart companies do, especially not for high skill, hard to fill positions!

    Why would strong candidates be “content” with an overly rigid process? For a strong candidate, this could easily be a yellow flag.

    Even if a candidate is essentially ok with it (ie they would not reject the company over it) what makes you think that they are just going to sit around and wait for you to contact them? It’s true that even a strong candidate will still be available when you make yourself available, but the stronger the candidate, the lower your chances are.

    You seem to have a very strong sense of the power that the employer has in such situations, but seem to be totally ignoring that not only is this a two way process, but that candidates actually have some agency. Is that a reflection of the culture of your organization and how it treats employees?

    1. Allypopx*

      “You seem to have a very strong sense of the power that the employer has in such situations, but seem to be totally ignoring that not only is this a two way process, but that candidates actually have some agency. Is that a reflection of the culture of your organization and how it treats employees?”

      That’s definitely how I’d take it. For me, this would actually be a red flag as opposed to a yellow flag. Respect is a huge thing for me in a professional relationship. If I saw signs this early in the hiring process that an employer didn’t respect my time or thought I should be grateful for the privilege of their attention a month after applying, I’d be moseying right on by.

  53. Chronic Overthinker*

    LW 1: Because you have such a small office, it would be imperative that you and your co-worker split the duties of “kitchen cleaning.” It may not be in your job description, but working in a small space with a small staff means there are a lot of “hidden” duties included in your job. Every week send a quick reminder email to staff before emptying the fridge on a weekly basis and do that consistently. This will help avoid issues like this one in the future.

    Now with this issue, maybe see if the janitorial staff can help you clean the fridge as they should have the right tools necessary to get the job done. Or you can try the plethora of ideas in previous comments. Good luck and try to be proactive about this stuff in the future so you don’t run into this issue again as this was easily preventable.

    LW 3: If this is a typical large scale store with a liquor department, then I understand where your boss is coming from. They want a retail staff member first, and a department specialist next. I applaud your desire to learn about wine and you can certainly pass on what knowledge you have, but I recommend talking to your manager about what his expectations are for the role. Should the new hires have a basic idea of wine pairings/flavors? Is it as simple as white goes with chicken/fish, red goes with beef/pizza and dry v. sweet? Or would he like the staff to know more? Also, I would recommend creating a binder of your knowledge and showing him what you know and why it’s important. It can also help with newer staff who may not have the extensive knowledge you do, but can benefit from your expertise and help retain staff more with the provided training documents.

    LW 5: If you’re not ready for a job within two week/months of an interview, then you are wasting time and resources with that company. If I were you, I would say I love this position, but I am unable to make a move at this time. Make sure you have a contact at the company and keep in touch while you are still working things out in your current city. Two years is a long time, but things can change in those two years so it’s always good to have feelers out elsewhere.

  54. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I feel your pain, #3

    Part of it is your boss is of the mindset that anyone can just be dropped into that job and that it’s a nice warm place holder so they have a “full roster” even for a minute.

    I had this happen with customer service positions prior to working somewhere that uh…cared about the quality of customer service in their company. They assumed anyone could learn [I wish that were the case] and it was a plug and play position. It was also why they paid so awfully, so actual experienced folks wouldn’t even look at the job advert.

    You’re a good employee, with a good head for wine. You would do well if you have a local winery or tasting room, I hope you think about going that route and leaving this dud in the mud where they belong. They don’t respect your POV because they don’t need to. It’s some retail BS in the end and they don’t care about retention, let alone how much work they’re creating for you. This isn’t the place for someone with your knowledge and passion. You don’t need a certification. But I come from one of the many “wine country” areas of the PNW and there are a ton of places here that will pay you the same cruddy-ish base pay but with tips! And they do require you to be knowledgeable, this is a great launching pad for you and proof you love to learn about the wine, so please think about that option if you have anything like that around you.

    You’re simply in the wrong section of the business =(

  55. 503inthe513*

    LW3, the store manager is accustomed to hiring people and then training SKILLS – this is the most efficient way to stock shelves, here’s where we keep brooms and buckets, this how to scan items at checkout, be gentle with avocados.
    You want the store manager to hire for KNOWLEDGE. Big difference.

  56. The Ginger Ginger*

    OP 5 – Is there any chance you can work remotely for a time? Depending on your industry, it doesn’t have to be now and move immediately or wait 2 years. Maybe it can be now, or 6 months from now, with remote work and occasional travelling until you’re ready to move.

  57. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    #3 (boss keeps recruiting people without wine experience).

    I had a similar experience, as a team lead and then line manager of a team of people with a particular function in the company, let’s say llama grooming.

    The team members as part of their daily responsibilities had to be able to groom llamas from beginning to end e.g. figuring out what the customer is actually asking for, working out a plan to groom the llama to that specification, being able to question it with the customer if the request seemed odd or needed clarifying, actually grooming the llama accordingly and checking other llama groomers’ work on a “peer” basis to ensure that it had been groomed correctly and there were no fleas left in the fur.

    As the line manager I also acted as the ‘senior’ to get difficult or problematic cases referred to me when they were unsure what to do, I also took part in projects to develop new llama grooming offerings e.g. different styles, pedicures when we didn’t used to offer them, etc. And I had the job of training the team members.

    We needed people ideally with llama grooming experience, but if not then dog grooming experience or llama herding experience would also be helpful, but certainly they’d need the aptitude and interest to learn to groom llamas effectively even if they were a complete beginner.

    Trouble was that the salary on offer for the llama groomer role was only slightly above minimum wage (averaged out over a year to a salary basis) so the people we were able to attract were entry-level type with no relevant experience which as I said above, may be ok if the person was trainable and motivated. (You would think they’d be motivated to learn by wanting to do a good job rather than be called out for under-performing, but that’s another issue…)

    I went through the same cycle the OP 3 did of trying in vain to provide them with relevant training, reference material, knowledge transfer etc etc. Unlike the OP 3 though we didn’t have massive turnover but what happened instead was I got stuck with a bunch of underperforming employees with no interest or motivation to learn and no consequences for them (management and HR was toothless). We had hard deadlines for returning each groomed llama to the customer and the deadlines were often quite… aggressive … as we were dependent on another process before we could handle the llamas (let’s say they had to be cleared by a vet before they could be groomed, but for whatever reason the vets were always late in releasing them to us).

    In turn as the manager I ended up completing most of the llama-grooming work myself while the direct reports browsed the internet or whatever. I did delegate basic tasks but it was more trouble than it was worth (yes, I know this is poor management and I had already tried all other avenues), we always intended that “next month” they would be trained properly but in the meantime there were more llamas appearing with urgent turnaround times. Predictably it ended up with burnout and underperfomance myself as a manager as I didn’t have the time or opportunity to do the more higher-level “management type” work that I ought to have been doing, which was perceived by my own boss as a failure on my part.

    It isn’t a fashionable view these days but I think some people are just fundamentally untrainable/unsuited to some jobs. Of course I don’t go into situations assuming this about someone, but sometimes/often it does turn out to be true.

    I rambled a bit but what I was going to say was I think my boss had a similar view of the llama grooming work (it’s entry level because the salary is entry level… what a circular argument!) as the OP 3’s boss does about the wine department assistant work, Fundamentally there’s a mismatch between what “the company” perceives the type of person to be and what’s actually needed.

    I have come across this before in situations where it wasn’t necessarily about salary/”level” (e.g. entry level retail vs senior wine nerd) but just different perceived requirements for the job compared to what was actually needed. For example searching out someone extremely outgoing and “bubbly” for a job that does involve interacting with customers but also involves a lot of internal thinking time, paperwork-filling, analysis of complex data or whatever.

    To echo the others here – have the conversation with the boss; try to reframe it in a different way that will get at the boss’s motivations.

    I gather since the boss is described as the “store manager” rather than (e.g.) proprietor or owner, that this is a chain of some kind rather than a “boutique” liquor store where it’s just one person running one store. As such, I fear the OP may be limited in how much this discussion can yield as it’s likely that the company overall has a policy that ‘department assistants will be paid X’ where is X is an entry-level retail amount.

    Ultimately OP if this is your situation I think you need to make peace with the situation as it is in some way, others have suggested apperoaches for change and they are worth trying but if I’m honest I think they are less likely to succeed.

    Can you “dumb down” the training in some way? Without disrespecting wine knowledge as I know it is complex, but is there any way you can simplify some of the stuff you’d like the people to know which would give a more ‘accessible’ route?

    I don’t think we are expecting them to become wine nerds, but it is reasonable to expect them to know something about the product they’re selling.

    As an example — the other week I went with someone to buy a formal suit for an interview and I didn’t know how to measure for a suit. We asked the guy working in the clothing store and he knew exactly what to do and sorted us out. I wouldn’t have been very impressed if he’d shrugged and said “dunno, I just work here” or its equivalent, as I presume the company trains its staff on relevant things like how to measure size of a suit, when that’s what they are selling. I don’t think “how to pair a wine with a meal” or similar things is really too far from that.

  58. Wasted Years*

    I have no advice, but I sympathize deeply. I left my last job in part because I was training lots of new employees who didn’t really care about our line of work. They needed jobs, got one easily at our company, which was chronically understaffed, but they didn’t really have much interest in the subject matter. As soon as they were trained (and sometimes during the training), they would quit the minute they landed another job, often without warning and the cycle of being understaffed continued.

    The senior staff encouraged our boss to be more rigorous about the interview process and set higher bars for employing people to help with this turnover issue, but the boss was of the mindset that “anyone could be trained to do it”. Yes, theoretically, but it was specialized work and sometimes unpleasant so a background in the field and/or interest in the field should have been a necessary requirement.

    Now I work the same job at a different place and the boss here is much more careful in the interview process. Not everyone who applies gets the job, even when we find ourselves understaffed. The result is the current staff feels much better about pitching in during these crunch times because we know we’re all in it together, dedicated to the work, and won’t be wasting time training a rotating roster of drop-outs when someone does get hired. The result is the retention rate of staff and morale is much higher and it’s periods of being understaffed, not a defining characteristic of working for the company.

  59. Andre*

    #1 – operating as a full-time business out of a residential apartment could very well be illegal, and even if it’s not, it’s hardly professional – what happens when your boss is staying over, do they walk past your desk in pyjamas?!

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