backing out of a social trip with coworkers, colleague has a bad attitude with a good reason, and more

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

1. Backing out of a social trip with coworkers

My best friend recently agreed to go on a trip with his boss and some coworkers from Thursday to Monday. He’s way too nice and often agrees to things because he doesn’t want to rock the boat. (It’s a social trip, not a work one, but it’s all work people.)

His boss bought the plane tickets so he can’t change/cancel the flight on his own. He doesn’t know if the tickets are refundable or not. We’re trying to think of good wording for “this is not the best use of my limited free time so I don’t want to go.” Thoughts were to maybe go and cut it off early? Or plead an emergency? Any advice?

Why why why didn’t he speak up before the boss bought those tickets? Agreeing to things because you don’t want to rock the boat is problematic in a bunch of ways (for both you and them) … but it’s definitely not “nice” to let other people make plans based on your answer and then back out later because you never wanted to agree in the first place. Maybe point that out to your friend once this is all wrapped up, and talk about wording he could have used to decline from the start?

As for what to do, he can have a conflict come up now, explain he can’t go after all, and pay for his ticket. Sample wording: “I’m so sorry about this, I’ve had a family thing come up that I can’t get out of, so I can’t go that weekend. Let me know how much I owe for my ticket and I’ll get it to you ASAP.”

But he should not use any of those other ideas, like saying some version of “this is not the best use of my limited free time so I don’t want to go” (that’s rude after he’s already agreed and tickets have been bought) or going but leaving early. He should just explain it won’t work, back out, cover the cost, and be done with it. The ticket cost will be the cost of hopefully learning the “don’t agree to expensive stuff you don’t want to do” lesson.

2. Using other people’s Facebook photos in sales pitches to them

I am in a field where we rely heavily on referrals and though it is not real estate, we follow the principals in the book Ninja Sales. I typically do agree with the methods outlined in the book. One of the methods is to write personal notes daily to whomever you can think of regarding whatever subject is applicable, so you can connect with them on a personal level. Many people choose to send cards through online services. On the surface this is great, but one of the tips really bothers me: the idea of going to the Facebook page of someone you know, saving/taking one of their own pictures (think graduation, wedding pics, family pics), and then putting it on a card to then send to that person. This is a widely endorsed tactic and one that I am encouraged to use for my own cards. I feel uncomfortable doing this. I don’t want to be the person to remind them that their pictures and info can be used without consent for esentially marketing purposes. It feels creepy and violating to me. I understand that it is easy and legal to do, but is it ethical?

Noooo. It’s not ethical to use someone’s personal photos to advance your own business goals, and it is indeed creepy and violating, and also just incredibly strange to forward a business acquaintance their own wedding photo or family pictures.

If a salesperson sent me a card with my own personal photos from Facebook on it, I would tell that person off and never do business with them. Are you saying you have seen this method work with other people?? Unless we are living on different planets, you have triggered a profound existential crisis in me.

3. My coworker has a terrible attitude … for a good reason

I am the lead of our team but am very involved in the day-to-day aspects of our work as well, so I work side by side with this coworker. To put it frankly, he has a bad attitude. Negative about everything: our job, our clients, life in general. A constant rain cloud. He brings down morale quite a bit, and other coworkers have made comments to me about how hard it is to work with him because it affects their mentality, too.

Where I struggle is that I have a lot of sympathy for him and the many health and emotional problems he has been struggling with the last few years. He was in a car accident that he sustained pretty big injuries from (he was an athlete previously and the loss of that outlet has been big), was also diagnosed with a chronic disease which causes him constant pain, and also has had to deal with the sudden loss of a sibling. I mean, I feel like I would kind of hate the world, too. How do I address this without adding yet another blow to his mood?

You can have empathy for what he’s going through while still making it clear that he can’t be a chronically demoralizing force on the team — although specifically what you can do depends how much authority you have as team lead. If you have the authority for it, ideally you’d talk to him with kindness and understanding about what’s going on, explain the impact it’s having on the environment, and ask what would help. Does he need time off? More flexible hours? A connection with the EAP? The message isn’t “you must stop being sad” but “I care about you and I’ve got a whole team of people I’ve got to think about too, so let’s figure out what to do.” There’s some sample language in this post.

But if you don’t have that authority as team lead, it might be a job for your boss instead (who hopefully is equipped to do the above in a kind way).

4. Is there a polite way to ask a contact “should I even bother applying”?

I began job hunting a few months ago and reached out to some former coworkers to ask if they were willing to act as references. Jane, who I worked with closely at my current job for over two years, cheerfully agreed. We had a positive and friendly relationship while working together.

Jane shared on LinkedIn an open position at her organization, and I would imagine she will have some influence over hiring for this role. The position is a little bit of a stretch for me, but I certainly have the skills to do it (it would involve dedicating 100% of my time to a skill set that currently occupies 50% of my time). I certainly don’t feel entitled to the job due to my connection with Jane, but the job market in this sector is highly competitive and I’m burnt out from months of applications. Is there a respectful way to ask Jane if I should even bother applying, given what she knows about my work … or should I just bit the bullet and get it done?

I’d just go ahead and apply. In theory, you could say something like, “I’m really interested in the X role you posted. Based on what you know of my background, would it make sense for me to throw my hat in the ring?” But I don’t love that because Jane may not have the full picture of your skills unless she was your boss (and it doesn’t sound like she was), and if you’re going to ask her to review your resume to get a fuller picture, at that point you might as well just apply anyway. You could include a short blurb bringing her up to speed — but it still would make more sense to just go ahead and apply (since you’d be asking her to assess you as a candidate at that point anyway).

In part my answer is because you said the job is based on something you currently do with half your time — so you’re almost certainly a plausible candidate. If the job were for something wildly different than what you’ve done previously, there would be more of an argument that checking in with her first could save you some time.

5. When should I let my internship boss know I’m job searching?

I’m about a month into an internship that is a complete career change for me. I’m in a graduate program and I’m a bit older than the typical student, so I have a few years of work experience under my belt, but I’m in uncharted territory now. So far I like the internship for the most part. The team is great, and so is my boss. He was very clear in my interview that he couldn’t promise a job opening at the end of the internship, though. Which, of course, I understood and expected.

When it would be acceptable to inform my boss that I’m going to be job searching? I’ve already started looking just to get a feel for what’s available around me. I’ve actually found a nice entry-level position with a school district, which appears to only be during the school year, so it might start after my internship is over anyway. I want to apply, but I don’t know how open I should be with my boss. I don’t want him to think I wouldn’t take a permanent job here, but I also don’t want to count on that possibility. Being that this is a career change, my only practical experience in this field will be this internship, and it would be nice to have my boss in my pocket as a possible reference. I will have eight weeks left at this internship after this week. Is it too soon to be open about my plans for afterward?

It’s very, very normal to job search during an internship. In fact, I’d be concerned if an intern weren’t, because I’d worry they were counting on staying when that wasn’t something I could promise. So you definitely don’t need to hide it.

But you also don’t need to go out of your way to keep your boss posted on your job search, and you don’t need to tell him about jobs you’re applying to (unless you’re asking him for advice or to be a reference). If it does come up, you can say something like, “I’d be very interested in staying on here if that becomes a possibility, but meanwhile I wondered if I could ask you about this position I’m applying for with X.”

One caveat: if you’re applying for jobs that would start well before your internship ends, I’d be more circumspect about that. It’s one thing to end an internship a week early, but if you’re talking about multiple weeks early, that can easily be a sizable chunk of a summer internship and your boss is unlikely to be thrilled about that. (Which doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but I wouldn’t speak cavalierly of it, or probably at all until you know if it’s happening.)

{ 532 comments… read them below }

  1. PollyQ*

    #2 — In addition to it being weird and creepy, it is also probably not actually legal. Just because someone’s posted a photo publicly doesn’t mean anyone else can use or share it themselves, especially not for business purposes. Are you going to get sued for it? Unlikely, but getting into the habit of being 100% sure you have the rights for any images you use is a great habit to form.

    1. revanche @ a gai shan life*

      So so true and I wish more people thought like you.

      In the course of my work I’m regularly astounded by the number of people who think “it was on the internet” and “because I want to use it” are as good as permission to use other people’s images for their own gain.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, technically using pictures that way is a copyright violation, though it’s very unlikely that anyone would sue. I’m sure someone, somewhere would find it funny or adorable and sign right up, but I’m firmly in the “creepy as hell, no way would I give these people my business” camp.

        And the idea of sending daily (!?) notes to a sales target is also pretty creepy, in addition to being guaranteed to waste a ton of the target’s time. (I think the idea is to annoy them to the point that they just give in – but annoyance is not a good place to start a business relationship.) Again, if someone tried this on me, they would not get my business.

        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          My first thought (even before the dreadful photo idea was mentioned) was “That would go straight to Spam!” It’s like sales calls; some know my name, some don’t. I hang up on both.

        2. Stitching Away*

          Following tactics in a book titled Ninja Sales says it all. I don’t have to read it to know it’s nothing but stunts that will annoy and offend almost all of the targets, but there will be that one person it worked on so others can claim it works.

          You know what sells? Having a product or service that is needed and competitively priced.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            A few years back I bought a car from a dealership. For the next few months my phone and email were barraged by the salesman wanting to be my bestie. That was two cars back. I haven’t gone back there. I bought a used car just a couple weeks ago from a classic small used car dealership. I normally am skeptical of those, but this one has been here for literally generations, founded by the current owner’s grandfather, and has an excellent local reputation. I liked the owner. I could imagine actually going out for a beer with him. He hasn’t pestered me a bit. My daughter will need a car in a few years. I will probably go back to him.

            1. The vault*

              My dad was in sales, but worked with the same dealers, but he NEVER pressed a sale. He said his dealers really loved him and would go out of their way to find something they needed to buy from him. Hard sales make me run away….fast.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                What got me was that this wasn’t even a hard sale. The sale had been made. This was about setting up the next sale, years down the road. The idea clearly was to make me think we were friends, so of course I would go back to them for my next car. It was all about smarmy fake friendship. The thing is, I really will do business with people with whom I have a personal connection. We picked our real estate agent when we bought out house on the basis that his daughter had been a favorite student of my wife’s. We were happy with him, so I used him again when I was the executor of an estate. I will use him in the future, should the situation arise. This is, however, entirely unlike smarmy fake friendship. That is the sales version of the management observation that in a happy department, the employees often socialize together outside of work. Management, not having a good grasp of cause and effect, thinks that it can create a happy department through mandatory socializing. It doesn’t work that way.

                1. Red 5*

                  Yup, this is exactly what they were trying to do, along with two other things. 1-If they have a maintenance department they want you to bring your car there for all repairs and oil changes, etc. and 2-They want to start the work on convincing you that you need to “trade up” for a new and better car in a couple years. And then oh gosh, right there is your good buddy from a dealership with an awesome sale!

                  Some car dealerships really thrive on making sure that you actually never leave the debt cycle by paying off a car. It’s part of their business model. It’s a quieter and larger version of how cell phones work these days.

                  If it’s not obvious, I really don’t like sales people like this.

            2. Zephy*

              I started getting marketing/spam/”followup” emails from the dealership where I bought my current car *before we even left the lot.* The ink wasn’t even dry, the engine was still hot from the test drive. Like. I’m here, right now, actively in the process of purchasing a vehicle. What more do you want??

            3. Bryce*

              When I got my car I got a card from the salesman letting me know he’d moved to a different dealer if I was ever interested in another car from him.

              That’s all well and good, but then the card continued, going straight into a sales pitch about how [nuBrand] cars were so much better and more affordable than the brand he’d just sold me! It was odd to have the switch flip from person to sales in the same letter.

            4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              I get a great deal of physical mail from the realtor I bought my house from, which started pretty much immediately after I moved in. If I decide to move out of the house you found for me within a couple of years of buying it and purchase a different house in the same area, I am probably going to go with a different realtor on the theory that if I’m moving that soon it’s because the house was unsuitable in some way that you did not detect and warn me of, and I’m going to try a different realtor who I might better align with. (My actual plan is to stay in this house for decades and eventually pay off the mortgage, which I think I was pretty clear about to my realtor when looking for a house. It just doesn’t seem like a field with a lot of repeat customers.)

          2. Harper the Other One*

            When I spent time in sales, the most effective “tactics” were all the ones based on relational selling – building trust and understanding what the customer actually needed. I became a top seller because I understood how to explain the benefits of a product TO THE CUSTOMER, rather than just listing a bunch of features.

            But I will admit that I was surprised by how many people wanted “permission” to make the purchase. There were people where I had to say “look, you’ve come in and drooled over this item multiple times and you’ve told me you can afford it. You love it and you should buy it.”

            1. Anoni*

              This. For a brief period of time, my husband was in sales for a small, boutique gaming computer company. He made TONS of sales because he was honest with his clients, would tell them they didn’t need that product for what they wanted to do, even if it meant his commission would be lower. Without notice he got moved off sales and it wasn’t until later he found out it was because his affable coworker who was doing him a favor by entering in his sales for the day was switching who the salesperson was on the record. That guy was using hard sales tactics and not doing as well. Color me unsurprised.

              1. Zephy*

                Wow, gross. I’m sorry your husband had to be around that person. I’m sure they’re scummy in other ways too.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              This exactly is why my brother is really good at it. He’s very skilled at putting people at ease, connecting with them, making them laugh, etc., whether he sells anything or not. They think of him when they need the thing because they like him.

              I suck at this because I’m awkward AF, so I avoid sales jobs. I’m better at customer service where you’re helping existing clients but I don’t like that much either, probably because I’ve done it so much I’m sort of peopled out.

            3. pleaset aka cheap rolls*

              I read “principals in the book Ninja Sales” and immediately knew something creepy was coming.

            4. Chalupa Batman*

              Same-Mr. Batman is in sales, and he’s constantly getting flack for not being aggressive enough, even though his numbers are consistently high. They don’t like that when a customer says they want to think about a major purchase and will come back tomorrow, he actually trusts them to come back instead of laying on the pressure. And they do, and they ask for him, because he makes sure they feel comfortable with the decision before they walk out the door. He says they have a good product that people need, and once they have a minute to think/talk to the spouse/compare prices, they’ll most likely return (he sells an item that people generally buy based on an immediate and pressing need; they’re still going to buy it even if they don’t buy from him).

              The other sales staff insist that once the person leaves the building it’s over, despite the fact that it works fine for Mr. Batman. His “secret” to getting them to come back is that he’s a nice guy and doesn’t hard-sell them. For some reason the rest of the sales team doesn’t know the difference between “I’ll come back tomorrow, I have all of the information I need and just need to think a little” vs. “I’ll come back tomorrow, because your aggressive sales tactics have put me off and I want to end this conversation, so now I’m going somewhere else.”

          3. Zennish*

            I wonder if the book is subtitled “How to get cease and desisted without really trying.”

              1. The Prettiest Curse*

                The ninja part is that you have to silently break into the Better Business Bureau and destroy all the complaints about your company.

          4. Aquawoman*

            I know a real estate agent who I think does great marketing. He’ll email his whole client list every month or two with a neighborhood real estate market report, sends a little gift on your anniversary date of buying your house, stiff like that. It keeps him in people’s minds in a way that is not gross.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I used to get a tiny magnetic calendar every year from the realtors who’d initially listed my house. They were still in business so I called them when I sold it 17 years later.

            2. Brisvegan*

              My mortgage broker is a bit similar. Holiday cards and market information every few months. He also found me a great deal on my mortgage. Because he did a great job, I would definitely use him again and tell others how great he was.

              If he had sent me daily emails or anything with my own photos, I would have blocked him, done a very adverse review online mentioning creepiness, told anyone I know to not use him, and never, ever considered using his services.

              LW, the advice from your Ninja Sales book is very bad and would ensure a lot of people like me won’t work with you.

            3. TheAG*

              Yes our real estate agent(s they’re twins, which I find amusing) send us a “to do” notepad each month. The one touching thing that would make me go back to them is that after my workplace had a very tragic (and very public) event they called me to make sure I was doing alright. That was 4 years after we bought the house. Someone emailing me every day I would actively avoid. CREEPY.

        3. Allie*

          I hate to say this but have you ever had an old classmate or friend contact you out-of the blue? Have they never NOT pitched you an MLM within 5 posts? So disappointing.

          1. Minerva*

            My husband was finishing his degree and some of his classmates invited the two of us to hang out with them. We didn’t really have a mutual friend set, so we were excited to meet people. Turns out they were recruiting heavily for a campus ministry organization and when they found out I worked at a church, they dropped us immediately.

          2. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Ugh, yes. So, so many college acquaintances. “Ooh, I remember Lauren! It would be great to catch up!” Followed immediately by “buy my expensive crap.” Disappointing indeed.

          3. MusicWithRocksIn*

            I actually have. Cowboy had guy from HS recently sent me a friend request – which I was a little wary of at first because while he was friends with my best friend at the time I don’t think he every spoke two words to me (or at all really, he was very… stoic) but I hit yes anyway, and he has been a delight. Supper funny posts all the time. 100% do not regret.

          4. Environmental Compliance*

            My spouse and I have an ongoing bet every time this happens of how many messages it will take before the MLM pitch starts.

            It was really disappointing the first couple times – oh, neat, I haven’t seen them in forever, I hope they’re doing well! to oh………..well, thanks, I guess, but no thanks. Now it’s mostly entertaining, though I’ve become jaded whenever someone messages me that I haven’t spoken to in a while.

          5. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Even my own COUSIN! I hadn’t heard from her in years, and then she reached out by Facebook messenger and I was glad to hear from her. And THEN she tried to pitch plexus and pink drink, etc. to me. Booooo!

            1. Elizabeth West*

              A relative of mine sporadically comments on my posts but only messages me when she wants something. When the love-bombing starts, I heave an inner sigh. If I ever become famous, I predict she will be the one I’ll have to block.

          6. quill*

            Yeah but the time it’s happened was because the person had just gotten out of the military and was trying to figure out if anyone was still in town. The MLM one happens way more frequently.

          7. Queer Earthling*

            I’m so glad I was one of the school weirdos. The only old classmates/friends who’ve contacted me were also the weirdos. The rest don’t seem to remember me, so I am free from MLM pitches!

            1. Anoni*

              I’m fortunate in that most of my high school friends keep their MLM BS off my timeline. We actually post about stuff in our lives and exchange thoughts on those things. I know the MLM stuff is out there, but they keep it to themselves.

          8. doreen*

            I have- most of them , in fact. Some of them pitch an MLM later on, but that sometimes happens with people I’ve been in continuous contact with.

          9. DrRat*

            A few times – but unfortunately when they are male it almost always turns out they are trying to get into my pants. Not sure whether ‘desperate horny middle aged dudes’ or MLM is more annoying. Wait, yes I am, MLM is worse.

          10. A Feast of Fools*

            Uggggghhhhh…. MLM people are the *worst*!

            I’m in a kind of support group (?) of women. It’s a safe space where we share things that we wouldn’t otherwise. You get banned for life if you share anyone else’s posts / details outside the group.

            During a daily check-in thread, I mentioned that I’d just been diagnosed with IBS, was seeing a doctor, trying some treatments, etc.

            Within minutes, I got a PM from a woman in the group commiserating with me, asking how I was doing, how bad the symptoms were, etc. I was like, “Aw, how nice of her to reach out since she, too, has IBS.”

            Yeah, after a little bit of normal conversation she busted out the essential oil pitch. She’d be happy to send me a free sample. Great stuff. Changed her life. She’d give me a huge discount if I decided I wanted to buy a full-sized product.

            I blocked her.

        4. MsSolo (UK)*

          I would hope it never went as far as having to sue, but a very stinging “this is illegal, I did not give you permission to use my copyrighted material for marketing purposes, this is personal data under GDPR and you can be fined for using it without my explicit consent, please desist immediately or I will report you to the ICO/start charging you a commercial rate for use of my intellectual property” (drafted with a little help from someone who knows what they’re doing) might set the cat amongst the pigeons a little.

        5. FrenchCusser*

          If someone used my personal photos in a sales pitch, I would send them a cease and desist letter.
          It wouldn’t be worth suing over, but I’d let them know I know my legal rights and that they were violating them.

        6. Essess*

          If someone was using MY photos to turn around and use them to annoy me by trying to sell something to me, you bet I’d consider pursuing my rights for copyright infringement.

      2. Anonym*

        Alison, if you see this, I would strongly recommend updating your response. This IS illegal – for profit businesses are required to gather specific consent/permission to use, not only from the person who created the image, but also any people whose faces are recognizable in the picture. (At least in the US, but we have far from the most stringent laws about this globally.)

        Source – I work in communications for a large US based company, and have regular meetings with IP lawyers on these very issues.

        1. mophie*

          Is this true? I am not a lawyer, but sending pics of someone from a public website back to them is different than taking them and using them in promotional materials or sending them to someone else.
          Like I think printing out a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone to use in your ad is illegal. But is it illegal to send a copy of it to only JK Rowling in a personal email? I don’t know, but it seems different.

          1. Anonym*

            My understanding is that it’s commercial use (might not be right term). You’re using an image you don’t have rights to to make money, and that’s why it’s not allowed.

          2. Allison Wonderland*

            I think you’re right; as far as I can recall, copyright violation involves publishing or send the work to a third party, so sending it back to the copyright owner would not be a violation. Still very weird, and I would wonder about other potentially risky practices they’re trying.

            1. GothicBee*

              Not really. This is based on US copyright law and I’m not a lawyer, but I do work with copyright as part of my job. Using someone’s copyright protected photos without permission is a violation of copyright unless the use of the photo is protected under fair use (or another limited use per copyright law). Fair use has four factors to consider, and effect on the market is one factor that can help determine if something is fair use or not, but you do not have to have an effect on the market (by publishing or sending the work to a third party for example) in order to violate copyright. Making an unauthorized copy of Harry Potter for example would pretty much always be a violation of copyright no matter whether you sell it or just keep it for personal use. That said, if you were just making a personal copy, it’s unlikely something you’d be sued over because it’s not worth it (assuming the copyright holder was even aware of it). If a copyright holder became aware you were making unauthorized copies of their work, they’d have every right to send a notice to you to stop. And if you didn’t stop, they could certainly choose to pursue it in court (though again, it’s unlikely unless it has the potential to have a big financial impact).

      3. Mockingjay*

        At ExToxicJob, they decided to do a monthly newsletter. Rather than write content about the company, they copy/pasted wellness and management articles from ALL over the internet: news corporations, blogs, official websites. They were really puzzled when I pointed out they were massively violating copyrights, needed to provide attribution, etc. “But it’s on the internet!” “Yes, but look at the bottom of the website or under the author byline. See the instructions to request permission to reprint?” Sigh.

        In terms of creep mail, we get letters weekly from shady real estate companies with the Google Earth picture of our house, asking do we want to sell. (I say shady because we have to look up these companies – never heard of any of them. The complaints and reviews are eye-opening.)

        1. Autistic AF*

          I’ve seen a hard-copy version from realtors (no one I’ve communicated with) where they’ll take a photo of my house, print it, and tape it to a 8.5×11″ calendar. There’s always a disclaimer at the bottom of the sheet saying that it’s not illegal. If you have to say that then it’s probably a bad tactic regardless.

    2. PurpleBear*

      Super creepy – I wholeheartedly agree with Alison that if any company or salesperson sent me an e-card or whatever with my *own pictures* off Facebook, I would instantly resolve never to do business with them; plus they would become an amusing/horrifying anecdote to tell everyone I know when the relevant topic comes up. The book seriously advises this?!?

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      YES – “Public” doesn’t mean “public domain”.

      Legal Eagle has a great recent 101 on his YouTube about this (link in reply).

      Don’t steal people’s IP!

    4. BatManDan*

      I have a friend in the business-greeting-card business. She recommends this. I’ve seen nothing but positive reactions from people that have received cards with their own pictures in them. I send cards, but not with personal photos. (Up to now, it’s simply been because the labor was so intensive for that particular approach, but now I have additional reasons since I read this column.) I had never thought someone would have a negative reaction to this, much less a STRONG negative reaction. Again, I have seen many VERY positive responses. Just adding my experience / perspective.

      1. BethDH*

        This fascinates me. I wonder whether there are specific industries or regions where this would feel less invasive than it does to me now? If you can share any details, I’d love to hear them.
        I’m going through my mental list of people I know and trying to imagine one who would like it. The only situations I can come up with would be something like including a picture of your kid doing some activity previously (like summer camp) in the invitation for the following year. But I’d actually find that terrifying if they had the photo from Facebook and not just from their own media files.
        I guess the summary there is that I wouldn’t mind the personalized note (but once! Not regularly) but would want the content to come from the person’s actual existing relationship with me. Even then there are only a few situations where I think it would be more than a neutral. Otherwise it feels like an over-invested ago date who mentions things from ten years ago that they found in their google search of you.

        1. Forrest*

          My first thought was fundraising. I have a friend who works in fundraising and does quite a lot of industry-related tweeting and re-tweeting (at least she used to, pre-children), and like, everything she tweeted about how you engage and maintain relationships with major donors was like, the rich are NOT like us. Literally everything was, “this would register 11/10 on my Creep-o-meter, omg”.

          1. quill*

            Have a family friend who worked in alumni relations (schmoozing the rich) and she told me once that people who are very wealthy are not at all surprised if it seems like someone else’s life revolves around them… while the rest of us (rightfully) think it’s weird.

        2. BatManDan*

          Ahh, some elaboration is in order. Let me be more precise. The suggestion / idea / execution is in the context of sending birthday cards (through this system) of people that you already have a relationship with. Not cold sales pitches. So, I reckon that makes a pretty big difference. I use the cards as “nice to have met you, we should follow up” (and then I follow up through other means, but they are more generic and not customized with any photos. I sent a handful as cold introductions (probably 50 or 60), not pitches, (these were to people that I have nothing to sell to, just wanted to connect / coffee / LinkedIn), but got ZERO engagement, so I stopped with that expense. (As an aside, I know several iterations of the business-greeting-card business, including several that specialize in recreating your own hand-writing. It really is a thing, that has traction, and lots of happy customers.)

          1. disconnect*

            A card by itself with a personal message inside (even if it’s as simple as “it was nice to meet you at Alice’s BBQ, here’s my card, hope we can connect when you buy that house you were telling me about”) is a truly nice thing to receive. A card with a picture that you scraped from my fb account and printed out? Over the line. Same thing with an e-card. The only social media engagement that doesn’t immediately sound alarm bells is when I tell you “I have some of my bike pictures on my fb, I’ll send you a friend request and you can check them out”, then you go there and like and comment on a few pics. And when you do that, be real clear that you’re not doing it as a sales tactic, because ugh.

          2. El Tea*

            It doesn’t make a big difference. Hopefully reading this thread will make you see that a lot of people find this to be, at best, super creepy.. but mainly invasive and probably not even legal.

            I’m amazed that a single person would want a card wither their own face on it in any circumstance.. but, as they say where I’m from, there’s nowt so queer as folk.

            Whatever upside you get from the people who like it shouldn’t make you think it’s a worthwhile tactic. Chalk me down as someone who would blacklist you, and your company, forever if you did it to me or anyone else I heard of. Stuff like this makes me so glad that any social media of mine is locked down, guarded with pseudonyms, bereft of photographs, and never gets within 500 miles of mentioning my work.

            Don’t do it. Fair enough if you didn’t realise how many people would have such a strong objection.. now there is no excuse.

          3. Anon librarian*

            I work in a public library helping people use their devices and our services. I see a lot of people who just don’t understand how all this works. That means that about half would find these cards with their photos really amazing, “how did you do that?, that is so cool!”
            And the other half would say, “how TF did you do that?, its really creepy! I knew I should stay away from the internet!”
            I suspect that the folks who are happy with these kinds of services don’t realize the “stalkery” aspect and just sort of look at it as magical.

          4. Zennish*

            This is all just my personal opinion, but FWIW, I’m in a job where I maintain a number of vendor relationships. A few of them (usually the ones I have the least personal contact with) send me periodic faux-personalized cards or emails. My usual reaction is an eyeroll as it heads towards the trash, and then I immediately forget about it. It’s a colossal waste of time and money on the vendor’s part.

            If it was personalized with actual photos of me (which is, as far as I know, a copyright violation) I’d start looking for another vendor. It would give me a very negative view of their integrity and boundaries, and put them in the category of “wrong sort of used car salesperson” in my head.

            1. Anoni*

              Yep. Because I live in a neighborhood flippers really want to get into, I get a TON of “personalized” messages with faux handwriting. They all go into the trash. I don’t care if it’s friendly and personalized, it’s fake, it’s weird, and also don’t text message me weirdo.

              1. Autistic AF*

                Same. I had a new spin on that recently, though – a (clearly) handwritten, mailed letter from a Jehovah’s witness in the neighbourhood. Anything addressed to “dear neighbour” is suspicious, but I mostly feel bad that anyone would feel compelled to handwrite that much for a minimal response.

          5. Lizzo*

            1) Generally speaking I think there is a marketing benefit to be had from personalizing things, and 2) if you have an established relationship with a client, it could be a nice thing for them to receive that shows you’re attentive to them. Also, 3) if the photo is from something that is relevant to the business relationship, e.g. a photo of the client at a fundraising event or volunteer gig, cool!

            But if you pull something random from the internet that makes it clear you had to go digging for personal info about me, and we have little to no established relationship, you are going to 100% be labeled a creep in my book, and you will get 0% of my business.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Right, and it’s also pointless! If you got the photo off my Facebook, I already have it.. If I wanted it printed, I’ve already done so. If you snapped it at your gala and I don’t already have it, eh, sure.

          6. PeteAndRepeat*

            But why would I want a birthday card with my own picture on it that is totally unrelated to the business sending me the card? “Happy birthday from Business, here’s a picture of you at your own wedding” is weird, out of context, and extremely creepy. It doesn’t feel “personal” because the business has no connection to my wedding. It would be much better to personalize it with something *about* me. Like, if I love to golf, send me a golf-themed card. Don’t troll my social media, take my personal photos, and then present them back to me as a greeting card. That is weird!

          7. Pickled Limes*

            I think you’ve actually pointed out the limitations here in your own comment.

            Sending cards is a good way to maintain an existing relationship, but a terrible way to initiate a relationship that doesn’t exist. That’s why those cold introduction cards you sent didn’t get you any responses. People got them, thought “who even is this person and why do they want to talk to me?” and deleted them.

            And I think adding pictures is the next step of where the line is. You want the communication you send to be in line with the level of closeness of the relationship. The only time I’ve ever been excited to get a card that included a picture of me is when the card came from a person I had known for some time and the picture was of an experience the two of us had together. “I found this picture from our trip to the Grand Canyon and thought you’d like to see it” is a great thing to send to someone. “Remember that time you graduated from college, even though I don’t remember it because I wasn’t there and I just copied this photo of you in your graduation cap from your facebook page” is a great big no.

          8. Infrequent_Commenter*

            Question, though; if people have a strong negative reaction, would you necessarily know? To me, this is bordering on serious enough to call to complain about, but knowing how lazy I am, I’d probably just fantasize about calling to complain and ghost them.

            I agree with the others that people having a strong positive reaction may mask just how strong a negative reaction others are having.

            1. HoundMom*

              In this hot housing market, we have been inundated with calls, texts, and yes a picture of our house with our sitting in the window. I ignored all the other irksome, not desired, spam contacts, but I called the real estate company’s manager and told him how creeped out I was. It is probably legal as he likely did not step foot on my property, but I felt violated and angry.

              If I received a picture of myself, I would have taken out an ad to ream them out. Totally gross.

        3. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Yeah, if my kids’ pediatrician sent me a card with the picture they took (with my knowledge) of my child holding the lollipop and “I was a big kid during my shots” sign, I would think that was personal and cute. If my kids’ pediatrician sent me a card with a picture **I** took of my child at our neighborhood pool last weekend, I would flip out and be the patient of a new pediatrician before my heart rate returned to normal.

        4. PT*

          I mean, it makes sense if you send your kid to Camp Fun and they have pictures of your kid playing softball from Summer 2019 in a file somewhere!

          It would be creepy if you posted a picture of your kid playing softball at Camp Fun on Facebook and then Camp Super Softball went to your Facebook page and stole it and sent it to you as an advertisement.

        5. Uranus Wars*

          I think the difference for me here is, in my world, if I am getting a greeting card that is personalized from someone they know me well enough that I might think they had the picture anyways or should. And usually it’s been a picture of me and that person together if I am in the picture!

          I have also had pictures of me reposted with a “Thank you for donating!” but it has also been explicitly asked if I was ok with them doing that before it was posted.

        6. Lexie*

          I think the mildest reaction I would have to someone sending my own picture to me in a card would be along the lines of “why are you sending me my own picture?” It wouldn’t make any sense to me as a marketing tactic. I’m also not a fan of the personal notes. Just be upfront about what you want and don’t act like we are friends.

      2. LadyByTheLake*

        At a large company I worked for, if you used our own intellectual property in a pitch to us, that would get you a cease & desist letter and permanently banned. Ask me how I know.

      3. sswj*

        Really?? The whole concept repels me, starting with the personal note from a stranger trying to sell me something. Using my own photos would creep me out AND piss me off.

      4. The Prettiest Curse*

        Huh. I mean, if it was someone who already knew me well outside work and who just happened to be a FB friend too, it would seem less creepy, especially if it was just a greeting card. But if it was someone I didn’t know who just looked up my page, grabbed a random photo and slapped it onto a sales pitch – no, nein, nyet and non.
        And context also matters – if it was a photo from a public FB page for a business, that’s also different (though again, dodgy for copyright reasons.)
        And this is another reason I keep my social media accounts private!

      5. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        You have likely seen the many positive reactions because MOST of the reactions happen entirely outside of your view – people who just shiver and throw the card out, or get mildly peeved and rant. Or offices where the internal gossip is very much about how out of touch X vendor is to think these things are a good idea.

        It’s a situation tailored to create confirmation bias – there are some people and situations where this will work, and it probably will work well in those circumstances. You and your friend are most likely to have continued interactions with those people who are in those situations, so it will appear that the practice is working well.

        In that context, it may actually be a net positive for the business – you’re identifying groups that are susceptible to your sales tactics, because they will respond and engage positively, and the rest of your tactics are likely to be in a similar vein.

        It’s very similar to how email scammers write slightly poorly worded and outlandish scenarios in their messages, because the people who do respond to those are more likely to fall for the scam overall – thus, the scammer concentrates their time on a target pool that has already self-identified as being likely to fall for the scam.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          THIS. If a company has already shown me that they are cyber-stalking me (to a very mild extent) in order to drum up business, the last thing I’m going to do is engage with them further. Also, my first instinct as a woman was to recoil from LW2’s words – this sales tactic sounds very much like it was developed BY men, FOR men, and if a man is soliciting me with pictures he’s pulled from my social media, I’m going to be even more nervous/uneasy than if it were just a pushy woman.

        2. GraceRN*

          I’m thinking the same thing. I think the positive reactions might be only coming from the smaller group of people who wanted attention from someone – anyone so much that the creepiness aspect just went over their heads. The large number of people who are skeeved out ran as far away as fast a possible that none of them stuck around to give the negative feedback.

        3. Kelly L.*

          Incidentally, this is how I feel about pushy sales in stores too. Corporate keeps requiring them because “it works,” but I doubt they have accurate records of how many people just leave the store without buying and never come back. It’s very, very possible that if they experimented with a more easygoing sales model, they’d see sales shoot up, but the pushy crap is so much the received wisdom that no one will dare to try.

      6. Anon for this*

        Daily greeting cards, for something we likely don’t even want, or would rather budget for something else? With pictures from my social media account included, proving you’re being a creep and snooping around my social media like a spear phisher? The greeting cards would infuriate me, and the social media snooping would have me on guard waiting for the phishing attack.

      7. Reba*

        You’ve *seen* the positive responses, but you also haven’t seen all the non-responses when people roll their eyes/feel mildly creeped on/think wtf? and promptly delete.

      8. Elliott*

        Aside from the privacy angle, it seems risky to me to bank on the assumption that using people’s personal photos will evoke a positive emotional response. Someone who’s going through a messy divorce might not like seeing a card with their wedding picture on it, for example.

      9. RussianInTexas*

        My first though would be “where did you get it?” and “I don’t like myself in photos”. So weird.
        But mostly I would throw it in to recycling anyway.

      10. D3*

        Dan, please realize that your “friend in the greeting card business” has a reason they have only shared positive reactions with you. They’re not going to be sharing the negatives with anyone, because THEY WANT TO SELL THESE KINDS OF CARDS.
        They have a vested interest in those people around them only hearing positive stories. Because then the friends might become customers. They might go around the internet posting about how they’ve never heard a negative story in a thread FULL of negative stories about this tactic.
        Do you think all the negative stories in this thread are all made up? That you are more of an authority because you “know a guy” who has said (claimed) that there are only positive responses to her product?
        This tactic is rude, creepy and illegal, *even if your friend only shares positive stories.* It just is.

        1. Vermont Green*

          If the card company makes personalized cards for customers to use, I can see that they may want you to see a mock-up of what your new business card, or holiday card might look at. So they pick a design, find a photo of you on line, and send it to you as a sample of what your cards might look like.
          Still creepy, but there would be a logical point to it.

      11. Akcipitrokulo*

        Ooh… for me it would be a strong “block this person’s number and/or report data breach to ICO”.

        If it is a close friend, fine. Random business contact? Never, ever call me again.

      12. Allison Wonderland*

        But is she talking about sending personal cards to your friends/family with their photos? Or to business contacts? I would be creeped out by a business contact/salesperson who I do not know going through my Facebook and picking out my photos… but that is why I keep my profiles mostly private.

    5. Delta Delta*

      Yep. I’m friendly with a number of people who are photographers either full or part time. They post lots of photos on Facebook and always watermark them. But people still steal them and try to use them as their own. At least one organization I’m familiar with actually does sue the image stealers and they get judgments but are rarely ever able to collect.

    6. ThatGirl*

      This is not quite the same, but I occasionally get solicitations from realtors who want to help sell our house and the creepy thing is that the envelopes are often printed with a picture of the front of our house on it! I know this is publicly available through Google Maps streetview, or you could drive by and take a picture, but it still creeps me out.

      1. Joielle*

        I get those too! It’s creepy. I throw them out immediately. And I don’t even understand how it’s supposed to help them – I know what my own house looks like, thanks??

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, I really don’t know why they think it will persuade me. Congratulations, you know what the front of my house looks like? So do I!

          1. Collarbone High*

            I get ones where the previous owner’s car is parked out front, so the photos have to be at least eight years old. It’s not even a *recent* photo of what my own house looks like!

            Also, sending someone a photo of their own house is literally a mafia-movie tactic for threatening someone, so … not a big selling point.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Oh yeah, we used to get postcards with photos all the time when people were trying to persuade us to sell the house we inherited. But the fun thing was that the house was not visible at all from the street. So instead of a photo of the house, it would be … a photo of the house’s mailbox that they pulled off Google Street View.

      3. Anoni*

        For us, it’s the flippers. They really want our house. I throw the postcards away and if they text me (WHYYYYY do they think that would make me want to do any business with them?), I always ask if they’re paying market value. And by market value, I mean almost every house where I live goes for well over the asking price after a bidding war.

    7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yeah, I think the social media may have the right to use it but not just any Tom Dick or Harry.

      I guard my FB profile very fiercely, don’t let anyone tag me etc, so if someone were to send me a card with my photo on it, I’d feel violated and sure as hell would refuse to ever have anything to do with that person again.

    8. I'm just here for the cats*

      I wonder if someone had a picture on their profile that was copyrighted (lets say they used it for they do their own photography and use this photo for own business purposes) and the LW or one of their coworkers used that photo to send marketing materials (or whatever) to this potential client. That could end up in some murky legal stuff.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        In most jurisdictions copyright vests automatically. The USA is unusual in having a copyright register on top of that.

        It’s safest to assume that copyright applies until and unless you have explicit permission to use something (eg a contract, Creative Commons licence, etc).

    9. Beth*

      + eleventy million

      I’d also like to challenge this statement: “One of the methods is to write personal notes daily to whomever you can think of regarding whatever subject is applicable, so you can connect with them on a personal level.”

      If I do not have a personal connection to you, and you write me unsolicited personal notes every day (or even every week), I will block your ass so fast you will have digestive issues for a month.

      And if your “personal notes” use material from my social media, I will lock you out and mentally tag your company as “the one with the stalker”.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I don’t think they are writing personal notes everyday to the same person, but that they choose different people each day to send notes too. Either way its terrible

        1. Red 5*

          That was my take on it too, after my immediate “no, ew” reaction I reread and figured they meant spending a bit of time each day writing some notes, not writing the same set of people every day.

          It’s still not great, but spending some time each day thinking about how to expand your network or whatever isn’t the worst I guess? I hate sales so much that it’s hard for me to be entirely nonjudgemental.

      2. Lexie*

        The line about whatever subject is applicable gets me. If you don’t already have a personal relationship with me you aren’t going to know what I’m interested in and my social media may not be helpful. They could see I have a pic of my kid playing soccer so they try to relate to me about how wonderful soccer is. Only I don’t like soccer, my kid asked to try it so I agreed but I’d be perfectly happy if they decided not to play next year.

      3. Nesprin*

        Agreed- I talk to sales reps when I need Thing X. I do not need to be friends with sales reps to buy Thing X, and no level of personal engagement will make me buy Thing Y in addition to Thing X.

    10. Idril Celebrindal*

      Absolutely this! As someone who has to monitor my library’s copyright compliance in a previous job, I would 100% have shut this all the way down if someone tried it on my staff. It’s a copyright violation, it’s using someone else’s intellectual property to promote your business without license or compensation. I know I’m not a lawyer but from everything I’ve ever researched this isn’t even a grey area, it’s just wrong.

      Not blaming you OP, since you’ve been given incorrect information, but your gut feeling is right on point.

    11. Nanani*

      This. One of these days the people using this sketchy tactic will get sued by the wedding photographer, if they haven’t already.

    12. Red 5*

      It’s definitely not legal. In the U.S. copyright law is not vague on the point that even if you publicly share an image, the copyright belongs to the person who took the photo (unless otherwise assigned through a work for hire agreement, etc.) Any use of it is technically a violation of the copyright unless you have some kind of contractual agreement with them (an example being the terms of service with the social media network itself, which only allows that company some limited rights usually). Will anybody actually pursue this avenue and sue anyone for it? Eh, probably not, I can’t imagine they could make a claim for enough money to make it worth their time. But it doesn’t make it legal or acceptable or even good practice.

      Also, just in case, let’s get on my favorite soapbox:

      In the United States you do NOT have to register or pay for anything or fill out any form whatsoever to own the copyright for something. Copyright is AUTOMATICALLY assigned to the person who made the creation into a tangible form. If a thing is protected by copyright in the United States, then the moment it is made tangible then the copyright exists.

      You may want to _register_ your copyright. That provides additional legal protection and makes it easier to prove your ownership if a problem should arise. But registration is not necessary for copyright to exist in the United States.

      Stay tuned for my second and third favorite soapboxes: don’t trust fair use advice on the internet, they’re wrong 95% of the time and let’s learn about the distinction between copyright and trademark!

      (Disclaimer: IANAL, I just stumbled into a lifetime of dealing with copyright restrictions for work)

      1. Pibble*

        They don’t even need to sue – just file a DMCA takedown notice with the card provider to demand they remove your copyrighted materials from their servers. Most companies ban users who get more than a couple of those…

    1. Liane*

      Read her answer to the boss that wouldn’t let a rockstar employee (& person in general) take off for her graduation and wanted to tell the rockstar off for “being unprofessional” and quitting over it. Or Beer Run Manager, who couldn’t believe she got fired for pushing out an employee she didn’t like because employee “made me & team look bad” by being better at the job.

      1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

        I don’t remember the beer run manager! Do you remember the headline or have a link handy?

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I thought that as Ask a Manager you would side with a manager.

            This made me laugh out loud!

          1. Laure*

            I am not the one who asked but I reread all the posts, so thank you. What a fascinating story. The most interesting thing was to see how the LW actually defined harassment and explained very sincerely and naively that it was what she was doing: making the employee feeling alone and encouraging bullying against her in the hope that she’d quit.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              What jumped out at me was how the LW thought the employee doing a good job was showing her up. Combine this with LW’s higher-ups specifically directing projects be assigned to that employee. This all comes together when the employee quits and tells HR why, leading eventually to the LW being fired. Put this all together and we have a department treating the office like a frat house, except for this one party pooper. But where everyone else is doing just enough work to get by, the party pooper is treating the job like a job. And the higher ups noticed. The LW is entirely right that the employee was making the rest of them look bad, but didn’t know how to connect the dots.

              1. Tara*

                Yeah, particularly that first update, it seems like she was actively trying to be the worst manager possible.

                1. New Jack Karyn*

                  Yeah. I haven’t gone back to re-read, but I recall that the whole episode–and the volume of commenters describing how bad her behavior was–led her to some painful realizations, namely that she had a problem with alcohol and entered treatment.

                2. comityoferrors*

                  @Jack Karyn I just read through the updates again and (unless I missed a comment somewhere), this particular LW did not have any substance problems. She did enter therapy and ate serious crow about the situation, and seems (at least from her last update) to be in a much healthier and happier place, but rehab wasn’t part of it. I feel like it’s important to note that.

                  I do remember the update I believe you’re thinking of but cannot recall which LW it was for the life of me. I hope she is still doing well, too.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        My favorite Alison smackdown is the leap year birthday letter. You can almost hear the steam coming out of her ears hissing between words.

        1. So Tired*

          Oh, I vaguely remember that one, but not all the details. Do you happen to have a link for it so I may reread it?

          1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            Google “Ask a Manager leap year birthday” for an eyeful and a half! And don’t forget to click on the “Update” to the first letter too. It’s a situation right out of a sitcom…but unfortunately it’s real.

            1. Pickled Limes*

              The update where the manager was like “clearly I’m very, very right and you and all your commenters just don’t understand why I need to be able to deny that this person has a birthday when it is not a leap year” was something else.

              1. Red 5*

                Seriously, the update is my favorite (least favorite?) part. It was like, hey, there’s the point over there, and you totally missed it.

            2. Lils*

              I just LOL’d all over again at the leap year letter, thanks for reminding me of it.

        2. Phoenix Wright*

          Yep, especially because the issue itself was so petty. It’s incredibly low stakes (just a birthday day off), which in turn made LW’s actions the more baffling. Like, c’mon LW, you wanna destroy the morale of one employee, and potentially the entire team, just because of one day off? And the icing on the cake was that she was willing to move the date when someone else’s birthday fell on a weekend or holiday, which means the “We can never move the date, ever” argument was false.

          Alison’s reply to the update says it all: “…I want to state for the record that this is insane.”

      3. Guillame Dautrive*

        Those are absolutely incredible letters. Thanks for reminding me about these both.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I like the one where the woman complained about being fired and wanted to sue after her boss “redid” her work.

      Although she had only been working there a few months and had not worked for a few years, she basically took over a project that was her bosses project while the boss was on holiday and after the boss told her specifically NOT to do it. Then she got called to a meeting with the boss and grandboss to discuss. She took over the meeting and told the boss to stuff it because this was her work. She was basically perp walked out of the meeting and was indignant about it.

  2. Greyscale*

    All of my social media profiles are locked down with all my privacy settings, but if a company sent me a marketing pitch with my own personal photo on it they’d be blocked before they even got the read receipt.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes! First, eew, second, why would my (non-existent) wedding photo from a random company convince me of anything but to check my Facebook / other social media settings? It’s creepy! Who comes up with these things?

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        It’s so weird! How is randomly sending someone a low-quality print of their OWN photo meant to be a good business strategy??

          1. quill*

            It’s not the day of your daughter’s wedding, but I have pictures from it, will you do me a favor?

          2. Phoenix Wright*

            Good thing I don’t own a horse, because I imagine how those fine folks might think it’s good marketing to put its severed head in my bed while I sleep.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed! In what universe do I, as the recipient of a marketing pitch, need to see my own photo?!??! I HAVE A MIRROR.

      Besides which, it’s just plain weird.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Not to mention, if you go and grab a random photo from someone’s social media, it could be their beloved deceased grandma, an ex who cheated, a pet that’s battling cancer …. you could end up really upsetting or offending someone that way.

        1. Anonny*

          I’m reminded of the chap who got postal spam from a credit card company where the address was

          [his name]
          Daughter died in car accident
          [rest of address]

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            In the EU and UK you’re entitled to know what information an organisation holds about you (with very few exceptions) so people tend to be very careful what they put in notes fields. You’d never see “yells on the phone” but you might see “speak to Bob in Engineering before calling this customer”.

            But populating an address with the contents of the notes field is just WILD.

    3. Wendyroo*

      The only way I could imagine this working is if you already had an existing business relationship AND they were friends on Facebook. Maybe having a photo together with the person on the card to say “thinking about how much fun we had at this conference” or whatever.

    4. I'm just here for the cats*

      And what if that picture was something that was not happy anymore. Like they took a picture of you and your mom you had on Facebook and your mom just died? or your wedding picture and you just found out that your husband has been cheating on you for 5 years.
      It’s just bad and I doubt it actually gets sales.

  3. Mer*

    #1 – With the pandemic, it might be easier to get the flight refunded or a credit issued than it would be in normal times. I would definitely check the airline’s website to see what it says. I just booked flights with American and United and they both have more generous refund policies right now.

    1. Pennyworth*

      I think the friend should just suck it up and go on the trip, and make sure he has the presence of mind to say no next time. It will be a permanent reminder of the importance of not just going along with stuff you don’t actually want to do.

      1. London Lass*

        I agree. Pulling out because you’ve realised you just don’t feel like it, AFTER someone has put in time and effort to include you, isn’t a good enough reason to me.

        1. Gammagirl1908*

          Especially when you knew all along this trip wasn’t your jam.

          This is one of my biggest peeves: people who say a reluctant yes when they really mean maybe or no, and who then punish / blame / wildly inconvenience / make miserable the people who took them at their word when they said yes.

          I would always rather have a fast polite no than a slow passive-aggressive rude one. It’s not rude to say no. It’s just rude to say no rudely. “Thank you so much for the invitation, but I won’t be able to make it,” would have worked just fine before these tickets were purchased.

          1. BethDH*

            I’m giving them a bit of grace and imagining a situation where they felt put on the spot, maybe in front of other people going. Or it even sounded fun in the moment talking about activities and vacation after a year of sequestering and they weren’t thinking about the awkwardness until later.
            But if that’s the case, what they need is to learn phrases to buy time and answer when they don’t feel anxious and cornered (I really relate to this, obviously). “Sounds like you’ll have a lot of fun, I need to check my calendar before I commit and I’ll tell you by tomorrow/Friday” covers almost all of these situations! I find having a phrase that I always use, even if I’m 95% sure I do want to go, is really worthwhile.

            1. Anon for this*

              “Feeling put on the spot” is not a good reason to agree to go on a trip with people. I’ve had multiple people in the past agree to do…. anything, go on a trip, play a game together that requires meeting up regularly, even get dinner together, act excited about whatever it is so I make plans, sometimes even (for a game) show up for a couple weeks then say something came up and they can’t attend, and meanwhile I am acting under the assumption that, yes, they care about whatever it is. So I’m sending them plan info, game info the other people who were playing found while they weren’t there, reminders that hey we’re meeting for the game in an hour…. stuff I’m sending to literally everyone involved in whatever it is… and then they message me telling me they didn’t want to do it in the first place and I should stop pestering them with info. And it makes me feel terrible, both because for things like games or trips there’s a minimum number of people you have to either successfully play the game or make the trip make financial sense, and they never back out in time to find someone else, and their previous acceptance means I didn’t ask other people who might have wanted to join in. And because I don’t want to be rude to people, and the other people, and learning that I’ve apparently been annoying someone for weeks when they were feigning enthusiasm is really, really upsetting.

              My response to people who do this is to never invite them to anything, ever again. If you’re going to enthusiastically say yes to something, and then later on tell me that enthusiastic yes was a lie… As I type this I realize I don’t actually feel quite safe around people who say yes when they mean no, for reasons I can’t really articulate at the moment.

              1. BatManDan*

                Trust is a thing. You probably don’t feel safe around them because you can’t trust them to say what they mean. I’d do the same – never invite them to anything ever again.

              2. Luke G*

                “Play a game together that requires meeting up regularly”

                So… you’ve had a bunch of D&D campaigns collapse because 2 of the 6 people start regularly cancelling last minute, too? I feel your pain.

                1. teacher*

                  This made me smile! My husband plays a lot of D&D and there’s ALWAYS one or two people who bail two hours before. It drives him nuts!

                2. Anon for this*

                  D&D, “let’s all play Monopoly until there’s only one person left” challenges (seriously, if you aren’t enthusiastic about it why not just intentionally bankrupt yourself and give yourself the golden “well, I’m out, don’t want to sit there watching you all so good luck and tell me who wins!” excuse?), really any game that requires a group of people to really have fun with it.

                  I really wanted to play my tiefling sorcerer too : (

              3. fhqwhgads*

                Yeah but in this case they were “put on the spot” by their BOSS. Not just an acquaintance or coworker or friend. The power dynamics here are weird and different, so I’m on team “give the person some grace”.

                1. New Jack Karyn*

                  I get agreeing on the spot, we all feel awkward sometimes. But a couple days later, go back and say you can’t. Forgot about a family thing, whatever. Make your apologies and excuses, but do it quickly.

                2. Caliente*

                  Well he might’ve been received better without the “there are better ways to spend my limited free time” comment. AFTER accepting. Rude much?

            2. Dust Bunny*

              Nah, even at that you go back in an hour or in two days or whatever and back out–you don’t wait until after the tickets are purchased.

              1. Ama*

                Yeah, unless the boss went and bought all the flights immediately after getting a yes (although I’d point out that these days a lot of airlines let you cancel without penalty within 24 hours of purchase) he should have had time to go back and say “Actually I don’t think I can commit to this trip, thanks for inviting me, though!”

                When I was a teenager/just out of college, I twice had adults in authority positions try to “voluntold” me into doing something I really didn’t want to do (I was a softspoken, responsible young woman and both of these tasks were extremely big asks for someone my age — the adults just assumed they could ask me to do it and I wouldn’t say no). The first time, I was in high school and I did actually say yes but then when I told my parents what I had been asked to do they helped me come up with language to go back and say no (while also telling me that if the teacher continued to push they would contact her themselves). The second time was my then boss — I said “I’ll think about it” confirmed with my parents that I wasn’t wrong to not want to do it and then said no the next day.

                It was not easy at all, but I’ve actually always been thankful that my parents had me do the initial pushback in the high school incident rather than taking over the situation themselves because it taught me at an early age how to politely stand up for myself — and that I was *allowed* to say no to people just because I didn’t want to do something, no matter what authority they might have.

            3. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              There have been times where I gave an enthusiastic yes and absolutely meant it, and when the day comes, I simply don’t have the spoons or the executive processing skills to actually go. However, I don’t get the sense that’s what happened with this person; I understand how hard anxiety can make it to say no, but unfortunately it is a skill they’ll have to develop.

              1. Phoenix Wright*

                I can totally relate to this. Truly wanting to do something, but not feeling like it when the time comes, is a horrible thing.

                That said, the difference with OP’s friend is that he didn’t want to go in the first place, so he should have said no back then. And even if he was initially enthusiastic and changed his mind later, saying “This is not the best use of my limited free time so I don’t want to go” this long after he agreed to go (and after tickets were purchased) feels incredibly rude to me.

        2. Cat Tree*

          Yeah, it’s important to keep commitments to other people. When I was a kid, I had a planned sleepover at my friend’s house, but then I got grounded for something I don’t even remember now. My parents still sent me to the sleepover because my friend and her parents had put in effort planning it. They were teaching me to be considerate of other people’s feelings.

      2. Juniper*

        Yep, it’s not just about the flight. Hotel rooms may be unrefundable, restaurants booked, activities planned.

      3. June*

        Yes. It’s not nice to accept a trip invitation knowing you are going to cancel, and the whole better use of my free time sounds very arrogant. Have the courage to politely decline the invite instead of plotting to cancel after airfare has been purchased. How hard was it to say I have a family obligation that weekend?

        1. Pickled Limes*

          I would never, ever, under any circumstances use that “not the best use of my limited free time” line. With anyone. That’s the rudest possible thing you could say to a person who has invited you to do a thing with them.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            i agree with this 100%. Unless its an ex who wants me to go to a family function, I am not using this line on anyone.

      4. Threeve*

        Go on the trip, and consider your “wasted time” a 5-day learning experience in assertiveness (and just…growing up a little, tbh). Don’t flake out on people, and especially don’t flake out your boss.

      5. New Mom*

        I was coming to comment the same thing. I think they should go, and it will be an invaluable lesson for them to not agree to things in a people pleasing or conflict-avoidant way in the future. They will remember that weekend the next time someone suggests something that they don’t want to do.
        I feel like if they make up some excuse, then it won’t really break the pattern. And I agree with Alison that if they were to say “it’s not a good use of my free time” that would cause so much more damage then just saying no in the first place.
        Also, maybe unpopular opinion but I feel like it’s not great to use the “nice” narrative when talking about people who have trouble asserting themselves. It is a bad situation for all involved, your friend probably feels resentful when people ask certain things of them because they feel paralyzed to say no. And, I bet the coworkers would not feel great if they found out your friend didn’t actually want to spend time with them but felt obligated to. I don’t think the situation should be equated that with kindness.
        If the narrative is “I’m too nice and that’s why I do things I don’t want to do” instead of “I’m afraid of conflict” then it seems like a way to avoid working on an issue, because being “nice” is not considered a problem that people need to work on.

        1. Llama Llama*

          Yes! They aren’t too nice. People who agree to do things and then flake out like this are either so conflict adverse they won’t say no to anything OR they are incredibly selfish and just do whatever they want. “Oh it sounded fun when we talked about it so I said yes but then I realized that I’d rather do xyz so I can’t go.”

          I had a friend cancel on a trip we planned together at the last minute and I ended up going alone because I had already paid for it. I will die salty about that.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            OMG Saaaaaaaaame.

            It was a trip in college where a friend wanted to “go out and meet new people” but begged me to go along so she’d know at least one person there. I reluctantly agreed and payed for it up front. She bailed the night before, so I got to go on the camping trip with complete strangers who all knew each other feeling like the 5th wheel the entire time.

            So damned salty 20 years later.

            1. quill*

              I’ve been wheel 5 at a convention before but at least there was something to DO there. Camping, there’s plenty to do but it’s, uh, a different level of intimacy / not being easily able to bail on an activity.

          2. Uranus Wars*

            I used to do this, a lot. And it was a huge issue I couldn’t see and am embarrassed about as an adult. It was a combination of selfish/people pleasing/not wanting to say no/conflict adverse/easily swayed. It took A LOT of work to fix and if someone would have described it as “being too nice” instead of being really selfish I wouldn’t have worked on it.

            My new rule is once I agree to something I do it, even if something better comes up. Unless the other thing is a funeral or emergency situation.

            I hope OP’s friend goes on the trip or pays for it and doesn’t go but also does some soul searching into WHY this keeps happening.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Miss Manners 1.0’s rule was that the substitute thing has to be less fun. Obviously you wouldn’t choose to have food poisoning, or wait for the plumber to make the dining room waterfall go away, or attend a funeral.

              “Got a better offer: byyyyye” or “I realized that now that you have put a lot of money/time/effort into bringing this off I don’t actually feel like it” are not okay excuses.

              1. GammaGirl1908*

                And even worse is “now that you have put a lot of money/time/effort into bringing this off” based on my yes, I’m bailing because I never really wanted to do it anyway even though I said yes and let you go forward.

                That’s potential friendship-ender for me.

          3. New Mom*

            This happened with two friends in our early post-college friend-group and it actually permanently ruined their friendship. They spent months planning and then the People Pleaser friend realized she couldn’t afford the trip and told a few of us but not the friend (Travel Friend). It was so uncomfortable and myself and others kept telling her she HAD to tell Travel Friend but she dragged her feet for so long. Travel Friend eventually found out through another friend and…

            It caused so many problems. Travel Friend and another friend got so mad about it that they stopped being friends with People Pleaser and then started quarreling with other people that didn’t stop being friends with People Pleaser too.
            We were all young, and it was more dramatic than it needed to be but if People Pleaser had just been honest as soon as she realized that she couldn’t afford the trip, so much unnecessary issues and severed friendships would not have happened.

            1. Kristina*

              Yeah, I have had broken an important friendship over this; especially the ’I said yes when you asked but I really meant no, and I’m now blaming you for not telepathically knowing that’ was a dealbreaker for me. How could I trust anything that person told me ever again?

        2. emmelemm*

          the narrative is “I’m too nice and that’s why I do things I don’t want to do” instead of “I’m afraid of conflict”

          Ugh, yes. You weren’t too nice to say no, you were too scared to say no. And it’s not like I’ve never done that! I feel that pain! But I’m older and wiser now, mostly.

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          >Also, maybe unpopular opinion but I feel like it’s not great to use the “nice” narrative when talking about people who have trouble asserting themselves

          Thank you for pointing this out! Conflict-averse is not the same thing as “nice.”

          Some people do over-commit out of niceness – they genuinely want to do something good for others, so they agree, but lack the ability to tell when they’re taking on more than they can accomplish. I think of this as being nice but flaky. The intentions are selfless and kind, the effort is usually genuine, but the follow-through is not there.

          But LW’s friend sounds like they agree to things because saying “no” is uncomfortable for them… not because they want to do something nice for someone else. The giveaway is that now they have a chance to avoid the trip without the discomfort of telling someone no, they try to get out of it. Even though by agreeing first and then backing out, they have created a situation that will be MUCH more upsetting for the boss. That’s not nice – it’s self-serving. The nice thing to do would be either agree and then follow through (even if he realized he’d rather do other things), or to decline the invitation in the first place so people don’t get emotionally and financially invested in the trip.

          Sometimes there’s a place for being self-serving…. but it shouldn’t be confused with being nice.

      6. Me*

        I agree. Unless he wants to find a new job, he needs to write this weekend off as a loss. The “good use of your free time” is the price you pay for not speaking up when you should have. It’s one weekend. He will live.

      7. MCMonkeybean*

        I agree, but only if he thinks he can go without like sulking the whole time and bringing others down (I only mention that as someone who is myself prone to sulking but is trying to get a better handle on it haha) cause otherwise he should drop out and take the financial hit.

      8. Tali*

        Completely agree. How disrespectful to agree to go and let others invest their time and money, while knowing you don’t even want to hang out with them! “Sorry, I actually don’t want to hang out with you” doesn’t cut it after plane tickets are bought!

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If friend isn’t otherwise traveling already, pandemic is completely valid. “The virus variants are making me nervous, and I don’t want to get on an airplane. Los Angeles is starting to recommend masking in public again even for vaccinated. Can you get someone else to use my ticket?”

      1. Nerd by trade*

        He really should reimburse the person who bought the ticket rather than force them to scramble for someone else who would be willing to go. He flaked out, he should find the solution, not palm his flakiness off on others.

      2. Dilly*

        Transferring plane tickets is not an easy thing (heck even getting the airline to correct a spelling error in the name that the ticket is issued under is a major feat)

        1. English, not American*

          I’m reminded of a news article about a guy who changed his name because that was cheaper than getting the airline to change the (wrong) name on his plane ticket, even with the cost of getting a new passport.

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Can confirm. My mom once got my husband a plane ticket under ‘Rick’ but they wouldn’t accept it because his name is Richard. He goes by ‘Rick’ 100% of the time, so she forgot his full name was Richard. But they basically had to cancel and re-issue the ticket which took about an hour. If we hadn’t been super early we would have missed the flight.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I remember Bill Bryson, the author, recounting a similar mishap over Bill and William. He pulled out one of his books to show that he did go by Bill most of the time, but the check-in guy was sceptic. Then we were treated to one of Bill’s fine rants along the lines of “do you really think I’d go to the trouble of having an entire book printed up just for this moment?”

          2. Artemesia*

            I was flying to China on business and my husband was to accompany me and the office that booked the tickets (elsewhere in the company) just assumed we had the same name (obviously negligent as the Rick example shows — you need to get the passport name when booking tickets). Because it was a group purchase and perhaps had not actually gone through but just been reserved, we didn’t have to pay to change. But we had to rebook. And even though he had a ticket on my flights they would not sell him THAT ticket. I was flying Nashville/Seattle/Tokyo/Guanchou — he had to fly Nashville/Detroit/ Tokyo/ guanchou and we met up at the airport in Tokyo. They clearly HAD a ticket that matched mine but they would not let us buy that one that was being freed up he had to take another route.

            Back in the day if someone was ill they could change their ticket; I have done that with sick kids rather than bring a kid who maybe just vomited once for no good reason but might be sick with highly contagious norovirus onto the plane. We were able to fly a day or two later. Now the expenses of changing tickets mean people fly when sick routinely which probably also contributes to things like epidemic spread.

          3. Pickled Limes*

            I use a shortened version of my legal name and every time I travel for work, I remind the employee in the finance department who does our booking about my legal name so they can use it to book my travel.

            I’m always baffled that my bank will allow me to deposit checks written to my shortened name, but I can’t use that name when I travel.

      3. twocents*

        I kind of think the pandemic isn’t a valid excuse. This isn’t April 2020 where it was really starting to dawn on people hope serious it was. Acting like you didn’t know there was a pandemic and your own risk comfort level now would just be a painfully thin excuse.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Thank you for this. A friend of mine reluctantly agreed to attend a family reunion. She’s not estranged but doesn’t care for certain relatives. She didn’t even book the flight. A week before the event last month she told the organizers she decided it was too risky to travel, because pandemic.

          Her family saw through her excuse, and asked why she didn’t just say no. They know how she feels about certain relatives, and also that she’s fully vaccinated. She caused some hurt feelings, but at least she’s trying to mend fences now.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          This. My daughter canceled a planned trip a week out in March 2020 because pandemic. People understood.

          July 21 “Great scott there is a pandemic this changes my response “ is not fooling people

        3. EvilQueenRegina*

          Another thing with using the pandemic as an explanation, and it’s something I’ve thought about with a lot of letters here where people have suggested using that as the reason for not doing something, is that in a lot of cases it’s kind of kicking the can down the road, people can say “no because pandemic” on one occasion but the same or a similar situation could come up again at a later date when they’re fully vaccinated and restrictions are relaxed. (examples: the OP whose boss was trying to get her to meet up with her son, the OP who didn’t want to attend a regular Harry Potter event…there are others.) Probably better for the friend to come up with ways to not get himself into this position in the first place.

        4. quill*

          I don’t know about this in principle, because the landscape in terms of variants and what information we have about how effective various vaccines are against them *is* still changing, and even the USA is not sufficiently vaccinated to not have further pockets of spread.

          But that said, OP should probably either deal with the awkwardness of refunding and pleading a nondescript excuse about a thing that came up, or sit and stew in the fact that the time to speak up with a bland “don’t think I can make it, sorry” was BEFORE SOMEONE BOUGHT TICKETS.

      4. Nancy*

        The pandemic is not a valid excuse to back out and leave the other person out of money.

        Friend should say “I am sorry something came up and I cannot go. How much do I owe you?”

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        I think transferring an airplane ticket to someone else might have been a thing in the 80s. Even 90s. Not post 9/11–and it’s 20 years post 9/11.

    3. Smithy*

      While it’s easier to get credit refunded, actually getting cash back remains a challenge. And if this is an airline that the boss used due to getting a deal or the specific destination – but doesn’t use regularly….it’s not the same. I have a flight from 2020 that I canceled for credit and likely will never use the entire credit.

      That all being said, even if the boss can get credit – it’s probably worth some bridge building to just pay the boss back for the plane ticket. Even if the boss can get cash back, it’s still a hassle. And the composition of the group may have been impacted by the colleague going. Unless they were all staying in individual rooms – planned shared cost of an Airbnb or even just split rooms will now have one less person paying. And if this were a group of like 2 men and 3 women, then one man dropping out may make the dynamics weirder. Which again – these are his work colleagues.

      Unless the OP’s friend truly can not afford the trip, I think they should suck it up and go. And if not, then paying the cost of the fight is as much about buying back some goodwill.

    4. EventPlannerGal*

      It depends a lot on the airline; a lot of the ones I book for work are theoretically refunding people but in practice are doing everything they can to get you to take credit, points or transfer the flight to a later date. Getting actual cash out of them has been a struggle!

  4. Echo*

    LW#2’s story reminds me of a realtor in my hometown, who sent my mother a postcard a week after my father died, offering to sell their home. She didn’t know them – they’ve made it part of their sales technique to pull names from the obituaries, get their address from the county assessors office, and send these postcards to the survivors. Suffice to say, they made an impression, but they’ll never get our business.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yup – be careful of the business impression you make – it may not be a good one. And once made, a bad reputation is really hard to come back from.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        Talk about predatory. I live in South Florida. I already got an advert mailed to me about having my concrete checked for cracks, etc.

          1. Frank Doyle*

            I guess, but also, I would think that there ARE now a lot of people in Florida who want to get their concrete checked for cracks right now, but don’t know who to call.

            1. The Prettiest Curse*

              Yeah, but the good companies are probably all booked months out by now (like with roofers in storm season), so it’s the dodgy operators who need to do postcard blitzes.

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                THIS!!!! So much THIS!!!! The hood guys are booked, the crappy guys are the ones spam mailing the whole zip-code….

                So glad I don’t live in FL and have to worry about hurricane season and storm damage anymore.

            2. Red 5*

              It probably depends on how you actually write the sales pitch/postcard. But you’re right, it actually is a moment where people need a service and need to know how to find that service. And if you provide it, and it’s a service that’s actually vital and helps people…I can’t get that mad at it? It would really, really depend on the wording and imagery used though.

            3. MCMonkeybean*

              Or heck, probably a lot of people who would never even think of that as a service they could hire. I think in that case I’m on the side of that being pretty reasonable advertising…

        1. Elizabeth West*


          That reminds me of when Exjob was hit by a tornado during the 2009 super derecho (look it up; it has its own Wikipedia page). A guy out scouting for roof repair came in and said, “Hey, I noticed [the massive wind-rolled ball of metal roofing]; here’s my card.” This was not even an hour after the event—luckily no one was hurt, but what if they had been? My boss laughed in his face.

    2. allathian*

      Oh, no, I’m so sorry this happened to you.

      The sad thing is that this sales technique might actually work. A week is usually far too short a delay, but some bereaved people who don’t intend to stay in the same house will probably be grateful that a business contacts them so they don’t have to start asking for offers. But I still think that the practice is skeevy and they’re taking advantage of often emotionally vulnerable people.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        We inherited my mother-in-law’s house a few years back and got so many of these solicitation postcards (at least 2 a week) that we just didn’t pay attention to any of them.

        1. Exhausted homeowner*

          I get these all the time. Phone calls, texts, postcards. I am still alive. I want to be text back sometimes and be like “do you find cold texting someone asking to buy their house ever works?”

          I have gotten several a day for the last few weeks. My renters moved out at the end of May. Someone pays close attention to all of these things

          Joke’s on them. They assume I am a multiplayer home how we since o don’t live in the house I own. I am not no own a home in one state I used to live in and now can not afford to buy a 1980s 2 bedroom townhouse for $1.1M even if I sell (I live in one such townhouse for $3k a month and it’s pretty outdated and an insane bargain in my neighborhood, considereing the one next door just rented for $4500), so I am holding onto the thing I own until I retire or die. But texting and calling me all day every day is exhausting.

          1. Flor*

            We get constant pseudo-handwritten letters in the mailbox offering to buy *the house we live in*. These letters all impress upon the reader that they’re personally written by local people looking out for local people, who just love the area so much and want to help out their neighbours (lol no, they love the housing bubble so much). We’ve been getting them since we moved in, but they’ve seriously picked up since COVID. The area we live in is a couple of hours from a major city with very unaffordable housing, so our housing market was already bubbling pre-pandemic, and with people moving out of the city over the last year house prices have absolutely shot up, with massive bidding wars where 3-bedroom ranch houses and semi-detached houses go for $300k over asking (and their “asking” is what we paid for a larger 4-bedroom detached house in 2019).

            These letters all pretend they’re doing you a favour, that if you’ve been struggling to make your mortgage payments due to COVID restrictions they’ll take the house off your hands, so they can turn it around and put it on the market and get double what they paid for it (and probably thrice what most homeowners in this area paid, if they bought their house more than 8-10 years ago). Vultures, the lot of them.

            1. Quickbeam*

              I own my house outright (paid off) and we get 5-10 unsolicited offers to buy our house, most with a picture of the house on it. “We’ll fix it up nice!” etc. People even come right to the house and 1:1 me while I am WFH. It is very intrusive.

            2. MCMonkeybean*

              Yeah, I get a lot of mailers and calls and texts about buying my house and it really bothers me. I guess it’s not inherently unreasonable but is the type of thing that the cumulation of occurrences makes it feel violating. Like… this is my home! Stop trying to kick me out of it!

            3. Exhausted homeowner*

              Agreed. I got them all the time before, but definitely notice I get them with increasing frequency when the house is up for rent. So people are paying attention, like with the obituaries.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Of course it works, or they wouldn’t bother!
            Just like sending doctors to conferences in the Bahamas, and giving out pens and notebooks with your company’s name on it and all sorts of other stuff.

            1. Exhausted homeowner*

              I don’t think giving out pens and notebooks is the same. That might actually work. Like oh I need a realtor. If you have been cold texting me to suggest I sell me house “as-is” for probably pennies on the dollar – eh…not so much

              Obviously it must sometimes work. I just can’t believe it’s that often.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      They’re still doing that?! That happened to my mom in the 70s when my dad died young. She was determined not to move after several contacts like that, and you can bet your bippy she remembered the names and told friends to use one of the ones who did not assume a single mother couldn’t stay in the house alone.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        My mother told me that when she was a kid, other people in her neighborhood would often come to the door after a funeral to see what the family was planning to do with the house. But this was definitely expected & OK in her very working class ethnic neighborhood, where most people still don’t use professional realtors for home sales & often know the person who they sell to.

    4. LlamaLawyer*

      Yes, my poor mother in law received one of these less than two weeks after my father in law’s passing. Vultures.

      1. Lizzo*

        Reminds me of how tow trucks listen to the scanners and show up at the scenes of crashes where vehicles will need a tow. A friend (who is in her late 60s) got totally scammed by one of those companies–she was in a very vulnerable state after her parked car was smashed by a truck, and this tow company miraculously showed up. They assured her that they would tow her car to her body shop. Well, they took it to their storage yard instead, and it cost her several thousand dollars to get it back. Cash only.
        I didn’t say anything at the time because another neighbor was helping her, and they’re both adults, but if I ever see this happening again, I’ll be intervening and telling the tow trucks to scram.

      2. quill*

        Dad got some similar after my grandmother died and her tiny little house had been kicking around in foreclosure for some time, so that was a fun mail sorting experience between “wants to buy house we have no claim to from us” and “bank that wants to convince us that we own grandma’s debt even though they are the ones who gave a 30 year mortgage to an 80 year old woman whose memory was going and who then spent years in assisted living.”

    5. 867-5309*

      I traveled with two cousins last summer to visit our grandfather (standing outside, etc. etc.) and the driver got into an accident. I was checked out by the ambulance for concussion but nothing major.

      I started receiving letters and packages from attorneys asking if I wanted to sue.

      Ummmm… no, I’m not going to sue my cousin for accident and also, leave me alone. Even if I needed to sue, I’m certainly not giving my business to ambulance chasers. That felt incredibly invasive so I can’t imagine receiving cards/postcards to sell a home following the death of a family member.

      1. Delta Delta*

        Copy those and send them immediately to that state’s attorney licensing authority. That’s solicitation and in most places is prohibited under the rules of professional conduct.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Trust me there is a BIG old loophole for these types of letters. They have to be clearly marked as advertising, etc. Remember, the lawyers write the rules, so they leave themselves outs all the time.

          1. Delta Delta*

            Yep. I’m also a lawyer and am constantly trying to think about the advertising line. I’m also in a jurisdiction that has very public-friendly rules, so our advertising/marketing is sort of hemmed in a bit. It does help cut down on the gross marketing tactics.

    6. metadata minion*

      Yeah, my mom gets these at least once a week. No “we’re sorry for your loss”, no checking to make sure this is property she’s inherited and wants to get off her hands and not HER ACTUAL HOUSE, just “hey, we see you’re the executor, sell us your house”.

    7. Richard Hershberger*

      Some criminal defense lawyers use a similar tactic. They go through arrest reports, which are public record, and send letters to the person arrested offering their services. Reputedly getting arrested can result in an impressive pile of junk mail. I wouldn’t use any of them, were I in that situation. Your lawyer is too important to go with the one whose marketing efforts reached you first. As it happens I have a friend who is a criminal defense lawyer and I would use her, but ordinarily the best bet is to ask around within your circle of criminal friends and find out who they used and if they were happy with them.

      1. Def anon*

        Yup, we see it with people who are in foreclosure – the scam legal mill flyers they get are just awful. And people, who are already in dire financial straits, sometimes spend thousands for their BS services.

      2. Delta Delta*

        Nope. Solicitation like this is generally prohibited under the rules of professional conduct. Saying things like this does nothing but further make the public distrust attorneys, especially criminal defense attorneys.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          It depends on the state. I know for a fact that it happens within my jurisdiction, or at least has within the past ten years.

      3. Texan In Exile*

        “circle of criminal friends”

        * busy the rest of the morning making a list *

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          “You don’t want a criminal lawyer… you want a ‘criminal’ lawyer.”

      4. turquoisecow*

        Yeah, I was pulled over and issued a ticket for running a red light. A really minor thing (ended up going to court and paying a fine and the whole thing was expunged easily) but basically two days later I started getting letters from attorneys volunteering to defend me.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      My friend’s parents died (one of them a long time ago and one very recently) and he’s getting flooded with mail about their house. Some of it is either a really good imitation or the realtors legitimately had their small children write the notes, which seems beyond bonkers and really inappropriate.

      He’s compiling a list of realtors who have texted him. The plan is to text them back all at once and then drop out of the text group so they inadvertently spam each other with replies.

    9. Artemesia*

      This happened to my mother as well who went on to live in that home for another 12 years. She also had men coming out of the woodwork wanting to romance her 80 year old self. Probably looking for an excellent cook and nurse — she wasn’t doing that again LOL

    10. Good Vibes Steve*

      I think knowing the right time frame here is is key. My grandpmother passed away earlier this year and my mother got a similar letter 6 weeks after her passing, and she gladly went for it; it meant a whole load off her shoulders. A weeks after her passing? That would have been awful and crass.

    11. Red 5*

      When my dad passed, the funeral home director actually sat down with us and said “I don’t think you should even look at anything or talk to anybody about selling the house or making major financial decisions for at least six months. You’ll get messages, just delete them or throw them away. If/when you’re ready, then you can find somebody better.”

      My mom didn’t intend to move, so we just nodded and said “of course.” But that conversation with him was really eye opening about how predatory people get, that was just the tip of the iceberg of the stuff he warned us about and helped us navigate. I don’t actually know if she got any postcards or phone calls like that, but my siblings and I all took turns sorting the mail for a while just in case. It’s gross that people have to think about that.

    12. Alice Watson*

      It reminded me of when Facebook put a happy anniversary joining picture and banner on my page with a random picture of mine in it. The randomly chosen picture was my Grandmothers grave stone (posted when I was showing out of state family that it had finally been placed after a delay). Yes I complained about the idea of a computer choosing without a human vetting for appropriateness. In this case though a human chooses but there’s still the possibility of choosing something that is a picture from a bad memory or includes someone who passed away so…….just a really poor idea all around

  5. Nettie*

    I sort of think OP 1’s friend should just…go on the trip, and learn a lesson for the future about not agreeing to things he doesn’t want to do. It’s already planned and paid for and it’s four or five days of his life. Alison suggests offering to pay, but I were the boss, I wouldn’t accept money from my employee for a plane ticket in this situation. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I don’t really see a way for the friend to get out of the trip and come off well at this stage.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think this is the price of the hasty agreement as well. If the tickets hadn’t been bought yet, I would try Alison’s “Family Commitment” that can’t be gotten out of, but at this point – you’ve said you would go – I really don’t see a good way out of going. But learn from this to say “let me check my calendar and get back to you in a few days” before the next social group work trip (or any other thing that you don’t want to do) invite comes up.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s a social trip, not a work one, so I think offering to cover the cost makes sense here. (I’m picturing it like “let’s all go to Vegas for the long weekend!” In fact, I’m not clear on whether they were always supposed to be reimbursing the boss for their tickets or not.)

      1. Nettie*

        If they were supposed to be reimbursing the boss anyway, I agree it would be fine. But if it was the boss’ treat then the friend paying seems very different. Imagine a letter saying: I agreed to go on a social trip with my team, paid for by my employer. An unavoidable family conflict came up and now I’m on the hook for the plane tickets. Most of us wouldn’t sympathize with the boss who made his employee pay him back (and yes, I realize in your scenario the friend is offering to pay, but it still would make me uncomfortable).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Agreed, if it was paid for by the employer. But if it’s a social trip paid for by the boss personally (the “let’s all go to Vegas this weekend” scenario above), I think that’s different. (But I also think in that scenario it’s way less likely the boss would be picking up the cost of the tickets personally, so who knows.)

          1. Blue Eagle*

            Exactly. I bought an extra ticket for my sister to go to a sports game with us. If she had shown up I would not have expected a reimbursement. However, she did NOT show up – – and she sent a reimbursement for the ticket; which I happily accepted.

            Similar to my high school drama club which made up give a check for the cost of attending a conference. If you showed up to take the bus, you received your check back. If you didn’t, your check was cashed that day to reimburse them for the cost of the conference which you signed up for but did not attend.

        2. Juniper*

          That’s why the whole issue about whether to reimburse or not is a red herring since there’s really no scenario in which this wouldn’t be problematic. Not offering to reimburse would be in poor form, since he already committed to going and is only backing out because of a change of heart. But a fair boss wouldn’t make his employee reimburse the cost of a ticket because “something came up” (which could genuinely be interpreted as a family emergency or some other urgent matter they wouldn’t want to punish the employee for), in which case the employee would essentially be lying.

          The guy has to suck it up and go, and take it as a lesson for next time.

        3. Uranus Wars*

          But there isn’t a family emergency – they just didn’t want to go. At any point. That isn’t the same – they accepted knowing they didn’t want to go.

    3. allathian*

      It’s still possible that the boss could get a refund from the airline for an unused ticket, but I don’t think there’s any way that the LW’s friend can back out of this so that it doesn’t have a negative impact on his reputation with the boss.

      Suck it up and go, and let it be a lesson in how to say no to things you don’t want to do. That said, I thought it was refreshing to see that a guy has problems saying no, it’s usually women and girls who have this problem because we’re socialized to avoid rocking the boat.

        1. allathian*

          Fair point.

          Speaking purely for myself, I do know that life became a lot easier when I learned listen to my gut and to say no to things I really don’t want to do. It took me a while to learn that lesson, though.

        2. Myrin*

          I’ve always found it intriguing when that point comes up on the internet because in my life and experience, almost everyone is socialised that way.
          There might be a difference in degrees based on someone’s actual personality, but I’ve never seen this play out in a gendered aspect whatsoever so it’s always highly confusing to me when people talk like boys/men are always assertive, can never be badgered into something, won’t be looked askance at if they refuse to do something, and will always be seen favourably when being direct.
          All that is to say that I really appreciate your pointing this out – it becomes frustrating after a while when you feel like you must be in some kind of twilight zone where “[thing] is seen as good in [people] and as bad in [other people]” doesn’t line up with your own experiences at all.

          1. allathian*

            That’s fair. I’d also like to add that I’ve never, not once, felt that I’ve been belittled at work or my expertise has been called into question because of my gender and I’ve been working for more than 30 years. That said, I’ve never worked in a male-dominated field. Every place I’ve worked at there’s either been a significant female majority or else a fairly even gender distribution. My team is very female-dominated, but my organization as a whole isn’t. Even our C-suite is pretty even, about 60 percent male. Sure, as a teenager I felt like I wasn’t always taken seriously at my first jobs, but I always felt that it was more a matter of age rather than gender. Yet that happens all the time to so many people.

            It has to be said, though, that I’m in the EU and in the Nordics specifically, and while sexism does exist at work, and there’s still a disparity in pay, I think that because employment conditions in general are more favorable to employees than in the US, there’s also less room for sexism to flourish.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          I’m a woman and I highly recommend that everyone learn to say “no” politely to stuff they don’t want to do. I have a strict policy of not accepting invitations or requests that I’ll resent, which means that a) I don’t resent very much in life and b) my friends know that when I do accept, there are no hard feelings lurking in the shadows. People still think I’m really nice.

        4. Anonny*

          Also, socialisation isn’t a passive process, especially not in humans. And it’s not a concious or straight-forward process, either. Children have hundreds of influences growing up, which are very rarely uniform, and most of the time adults don’t realise *what* they’re teaching children by their actions and behaviours. We can talk about trends in socialisation, but ultimately every human’s socialisation (both the input and the processing of it) is unique.

        5. Guillame Dautrive*

          Thank you for making that point. These stereotypes are incredibly unhelpful and inaccurate.

        6. photon*

          A lot of these traits end up being two highly overlapping bell curves. Like height. Yes, men are taller than women. But if you tell me that someone is 5’5″, I couldn’t tell you their gender. If you say someone is 6ft, I could probably have a statistically accurate guess, but that’s a far cry from perfect accuracy.

          There are also realms in which people have it differently. I think women are pushed to say “yes” to family, whereas men are pushed to say “yes” to their work. Again, it’s *not* an absolute – it’s just a statistical shift in where problems like these tend to pop up in our current society.

          Regardless of gender, it’s helpful for all people to learn healthy ways to say “no”, draw their boundaries, figure out & assert their needs. Just like it’s helpful for all people to learn to have a healthy amount of compassion for others.

      1. Artemesia*

        While tickets were refunded early in the pandemic that were booked before — I had 3 round trips to Paris reimbursed but it took a lot of persistence — getting an airline ticket reimbursed normally is virtually impossible. The best you can do is future credit.

    4. Viette*

      I agree that the social capital it will cost him to bail right now doesn’t really seem worth it. There’s no evidence that the trip is going to be something innately awful that he’ll hate, just that he never wanted to go but he said yes anyway.

      Lying is not a truly reliable way out of this. I don’t think there is a truly reliable way out of this. If he manufactures a family emergency he’ll have to answer questions about it. People will think (understandably!) that he wanted to go on the trip but couldn’t, and sympathy and discussion will ensue. And what is he going to do if they offer to reschedule?

      The desire to belatedly fix this single instance sounds like a misguided manifestation of the desire to not have this kind of thing happen to him anymore, ie the desire to learn to say no. He can go on the trip and come back motivated to learn to say no.

      1. Smithy*

        I am in this boat.

        Provided that ultimately this is money and time that the OP’s friend would just rather spend on a different kind of vacation – this seems like a chance to lose a lot of social capital at work. Not just with the boss but also with coworkers. In my experience group trips like this include a lot more shared costs when it comes to things like splitting a whole Airbnb, a rental car/ride shares, going in an even number so everyone has someone they tolerate to share a room with, etc.

        To back out is likely to get a lot of “oh no, what happened” where the normal boundary work excuses of “family emergency/commitment” will not likely garner the same respect or understanding on their own. And thus there’s the path of pushing for a more elaborate lie to explain why you’re so sorry you can’t go…..or again, really lose social capital.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        If the tickets are non-refundable, no they won’t reschedule. But there would still be plenty of awkwardness. And he’d certainly be expected to join in – at last – next time round.

      3. CatCat*

        This is where I land. I get that this is a social trip and not a work trip, but making a commitment and then flaking out just isn’t going to come across well here and that could spill over into work life. The friend will have to spend most of his days otherwise with these people at work. To me, it’s just not worth the reputational risk of being That Guy Who is a Total Flake.

    5. CM*

      Agreed! If you commit to doing something, and later realize you really don’t want to, then too bad. Do it anyway. (Unless there are consequences beyond being annoyed with the situation.)

  6. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    OP2, there is this company that keeps selling in my neighborhood door to door (pest control for what it’s worth) that keeps using a neighbor’s name saying “Kjersten” is getting services, but we have some extra time and thought we’d ask if you were also interested. The only problem is that I know they are lying about who invited them into the neighborhood and am totally not even interested in listening to the pitch – why, because Kjersten is the person I bought the house whose doorstep you are on from 5 years ago. If something like this is useless and offensive (because who want to sign a contract to do business with someone who lies about stupid stuff that’s easy to prove false), think how much more offensive and invasive using photos from someone’s social media is to try and “sell them on doing business with you” is going to be.
    Just walk away from this tactic- it’s never going to reliably get the result the seller of the idea thinks it will.

    1. Artemesia*

      We were just in the neighborhood doing X service and have extra (roofing, driveway surfacing, whatever) is pretty much always a scam. It will result in shoddy product and delivery.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        The really funny part was the guy trying to get me worked up about wolf spiders and sugar ants…..I just laughed. I spent 31 years living in the Deep South – daddy-long legs, scorpions, and fire ants require professional treatment (ditto for termites). Sugar ants will get eaten by the wolf spiders, and that means I don’t need your services……

        But still – stop blatantly lying about why you are on my doorstep.

        (Haven’t ever seen that company spray a single house in the neighborhood either – but they still keep knocking…they don’t seem to learn.)

  7. staceyizme*

    LW1- no! He committed. He should go. His issues with speaking up when he doesn’t want to do something are entirely his own responsibility. Commitments (social and professional) shouldn’t be derailed by “buyer’s remorse”. If his boss were abusive or his coworkers were bullies, it would be different. But- if he’s easily bored, prone to anxiety or merely unimpressed by how much of a time suck this is? No. He’ll be the office “flake” (and for very good reason!). He’s better off dealing with the discomfort, honoring his word and resolving to work through whatever issues he has with any necessary resources (class, coach, counselor, consultant or good friend) he may need.

    1. SS Express*

      I agree. If it’s something that he really can’t bring himself to do – like he can’t afford the food and accommodation, or it’s a white water rafting trip and he can’t swim, or they are all just awful awful people – then Alison’s script is the best option. But seriously, if he just feels like it won’t be the most fun way to spend a few days I think he needs to suck it up! People can usually tell the difference between someone who genuinely had something come up and someone who said yes to something that deep down they never intended to do, and the latter is a really bad look.

    2. Allonge*

      I am all for honoring commitments but this is a social/fun trip – with coworkers, for sure, but still. If he does not go, it likely does not stop the others from having fun, or going in the first place.

      Don’t say yes to things you don’t want to do, sure, and pay for anything that others bought in your name. But I don’t see any point in the ‘by gum, you shall have fun or else’ attitude either. People get to change their minds about an optional social activity.

      1. Juniper*

        But what kind of commitment does one honor then, if not a trip that you already agreed to and has already been paid for? People can change their minds, sure, but that’s not what happened here and “not feeling like it” isn’t generally a good enough reason to back out of something that you have said yes to. All social activities are by definition optional, but people plan, make financial outlays, and set expectations around the answer you give. Him not being honest about how he really felt has put his problem now onto his boss, and potentially coworkers.

        1. Allonge*

          If LW1’s friends’ presence is essential to the proceedings, then sure, it has an impact and that should be considered.

          But I don’t see a major difference if it’s four of us on a long weekend instead of five if the person dropping out covers all costs.

          Maybe we have really different scenarios in mind for what they have planned? We go to restaurants, visit a museum, go to a movie, see a game – none of that is less enjoyable because someone is not there. If they set up an elaborate treasure hunt ending in a card game where it all falls apart if someone is missing, that is different but I never had that experience.

          And again, this is meant to be fun. I don’t want someone coughing up their lungs there just because it’s a commitment, and I also don’t want someone there who is going to be miserable the whole four days.

          1. Juniper*

            Most of what you mentioned are things that need to be planned in advance. It’s a huge hassle to coordinate a 4-day trip, with upwards of 8 individual restaurant reservations, hotel room configurations, tickets to shows, transportation, and other odds and ends. The hole left by a person dropping out isn’t something that can simply be absorbed by the wider group. Maybe the boss is a poor planner and hasn’t done any of this, but chances are good that if he’s bought plane tickets he’s already made other arrangements.

            I don’t see the alternatives as dropping out or being miserable, either. This is a good opportunity to put on a game face and decide to have fun despite preferring an alternative outcome. For some reason the LW and BF struck me as young (though that is a total assumption on my part and I could be wildly off base) and I think an important lesson of getting older is learning how to manage your feelings in order to make the best of a situation.

            1. Allonge*

              Look, if this was my friend, I would strongly recommend that he considers one more time to go or not.

              But the other side of this is: the more complex a program you set up for any trip, the more of a risk you take when someone cannot join in the end. We are in a pandemic still! People get sick and hit by buses and so on. It’s really just part of the deal.

              Also, I have never been to a show or any event where if you show up with 3 people instead of 4, you get kicked out (they may well exist, I just don’t know about them!). Restaurants may be different (I live in Europe, so I am not used to the US system) but I imagine that this will not be the first group that shows up minus one for any restaurant they visit. Anyone who would have been ok sleeping in a twin room should be ok sleeping on their own. If part of the programme is sometihng where they absolutely have to have four people, that’s really bad and just about the only thing where the others may be legit upset that this person is not there.

              Will it still cost money for LW’s friend? Sure. It should. And ideally they would be the ones making any additional arrangements that need to be made. If he chooses to do that instead of going to the trip, from where I am sitting they get to make that choice.

              Because again, I have not been to any event ever where a fully miserable fellow traveler would be preferable to a no-show.

              1. Juniper*

                Of course there’s always the risk of people getting sick or some other emergency coming up, which is why it’s reasonable to expect that those instances will be restricted to those with genuine emergencies.

                And it’s not that each one of those things you mentioned is an insurmountable challenge in and of itself, but taken together it’s a huge headache for the coordinator. Sure, you can just show up minus one person to most things, but either that has to be communicated in advance or you expect to be out the cost of that ticket/meal package/entrance fee/whatever. Most likely the boss would prefer not to pay for someone they know isn’t coming, which means all this will have to be adjusted. If they were already an odd number, with rooms booked to reflect 2 people per room, this could mean a cascade effect as everything is re-sorted (happened on a work trip where cancellations and a tight budget meant finding a last minute junior suite that could accommodate 3 people, which then led to a whole mess of room reassignments).

                And I don’t actually think it’s reasonable to expect the drop-out to do it, either — the back-end communication for this stuff isn’t something that can be neatly commandeered by someone unfamiliar with the planning. I say this as someone who has done a lot of event planning and business trip planning — it’s a nightmare when someone peripheral to the planning involves themselves.

                Which is why he’s in kind of a catch-22 if he does drop out: by not being honest about why he doesn’t want to go, his boss will assume there’s a legitimate reason for his late withdrawal and more than likely won’t make him pay for anything, which would make this seem even more shady. But if he does insist on paying, he’s pretty much giving himself up as a flake who would rather bail at the eleventh hour than spend time with his colleagues.

                1. Allonge*

                  Ah, then I see where we don’t connect on this: my assumption is that he cannot avoid being considered a bit of a flake and that he should in all circumstances find a way to pay for any costs or cancel them with minimal impact on the organizer. That’s the price of flaking out! It’s not something he can avoid (as you say, some of these things contradict one another).

                  The other option is to go, but not because ‘that will teach him a lesson’! If he goes, he needs to either enjoy himself or fake it really well. Because him being there but messing it up for everyone costs even more than the work needed to cancel things or just pay for them in the first place – it will screw up everyone else’s time, and will not reflect better on him than cancelling. But he needs to commit to that! And it really seems like he does not want to.

                2. Juniper*

                  That definitely explains why we seem to be speaking past each other (without seeming to disagree all that much!) I took it as a given that he was trying to find a way out without giving himself up, and I just didn’t see how he would be able to accomplish that. So yeah, the smart thing for his career and work relationships is definitely to go, but if he’s will to take a reputational hit then paying for everything is a not unreasonable ask.

              2. traffic_spiral*

                “I have not been to any event ever where a fully miserable fellow traveler would be preferable to a no-show.”

                Sure, but those are hardly the only two options, are they? “Put on a brave face and make the best of it, even if it’s not exactly what you wanted, instead of being a sulky sad sack that drags the whole group down” is one of those basic decency things grownups are expected to master, along with “don’t be a flake” and “learn to say no to things you truly don’t want.”

                It’s like saying “I have not been to any event ever where a confrontational constantly-picking-a-fight-with-the-service-workers-over-every-tiny-problem fellow traveler would be preferable to a no-show.” Like… you’re not wrong, but also it’s reasonable to expect baseline not-a-douche behavior from people.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  This. I made a rule, for example, that any time I go to a talk I come up with some sort of question for the end. So that if everyone else is sitting there in silence, I have some engaged query ready to go. If other people have questions, I can let my emergency backup question slide.

                  Because I am over 18, and so my attendance at various things has a degree of choice to it.

                  Also one of my rules for marriage–once you agree to do the thing your partner prefers, you try your level best to have a good time and make it work. It applies to other relationships you want to preserve for the future, too.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              Personally I have always found that 90% of the hassle in changing numbers is when you have to *add* people last-minute, not subtract. When someone cancels the costs are the main problem, and I think everybody agrees that OP’s friend should be covering any costs. In terms of the actual admin/booking side, I’ve personally never come across a hotel/restaurant/transportation company that would have a problem with adjusting your party size down by one if you let them know in advance.

              1. Rainbow Brite*

                I think the issue (that a few people have raised) with covering the costs is that if OP’s friend comes up with a good enough fake excuse, the boss may insist on not letting him pay it back. Which would be an actively shitty thing to do, rather than the passively shitty thing of flaking at the last minute.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                This stuff does assume that only 1 person is being flaky. If 3 people are trying “definitely I will maybe be there” it’s harder to plan for all possible configurations.

            3. she wants to be anonymous*

              I really like your perspective and what you said here. I recently went on a trip with a group of friends (I am friends with the organizer but didn’t know anyone else). I committed but didn’t want to actually go. However, I was not going to bail. I just kind of “got my mind right,” put on a game face, and powered through. Learned a lesson in being more discerning with what I do in my free time in the future.

      2. MK*

        Just because it’s a social activity does not make it OK to flake out on people. Maybe I am weird, but I don’t cancel firm social plans just because I changed my mind.

        1. Allonge*

          I strongly perfer for people not to flake out on me (and that I don’ flake myself). But if I need to choose between a miserable companion and one that did not show, I go for the no-show.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            I agree, but are those the only two options?

            Personally, if someone agreed to something they never wanted to do and then flaked out, I would probably not invite them to anything in the future because that’s a kind of shitty thing to do. If they agreed to something knowing they didn’t want to do it and then ruined the event for everyone else by being a miserable turd, I would definitely not invite them to anything again because that’s an extra shitty thing to do.

            Barring exceptional circumstances, I expect people to either show up with a good attitude or say no in the first place. Once you commit, you need to suck it up and be a good companion unless something has genuinely and significantly changed (e.g. family emergency, illness, etc) since the time you committed. Part of being an adult is managing your attitude so you don’t act inappropriately.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          I don’t think it’s okay to flake out on people, but having someone along on a multi-day travel trip who is only doing it out of obligation and really doesn’t want to be there sucks for everyone. It’s pretty easy to tell and it’s just a drag, especially if the trip is supposed to be fun! I’d say it’s better for everyone for them to (apologetically and politely and while covering costs) drop out than force themself to go. If their presence is somehow essential to the trip – eg a certain number of people are required for some activity or something like that – then maybe, but even then I would find it preferable for the original person to drop out early so I could find someone to wanted to take their place. But the best solution would be for adults to use their words and not sign up for things they don’t actually want to do in the first place.

          1. staceyizme*

            I’m not sure that the only 2 choices are a) go and be miserable or b) cancel and be happy. It’s more nuanced, surely. Anybody competent enough to have secured full time employment who also relates well enough to be part of a group of coworkers doing a social activity has a decent likelihood of being able to reset his “don’t want to” into some at least neutral curiosity/ looking for some silver lining.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Well, no, I don’t think those are the only two options! It’s just that in my experience when somebody doesn’t manage to maintain that attitude it negatively affects the whole atmosphere, not just their own enjoyment. Since it’s a social event, I think that’s more of an issue than it would be on a purely work trip. If the OP’s friend can convincingly act like he wants to be there and participate fully etc etc then sure, why not go, but if not then cancelling might be worth the hassle.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I do wonder if a frequent pattern for this person is “That sounds new and different and fun! I should do it! Yes, count me in event organizer!” followed a few days later by “Oh no, this is new and different! It might not be fun! How can I escape this horrible thing I’m trapped in?”

            1. Humble schoolmarm*

              This is a bad habit of mine, but I also know that (mostly) the best approach is to follow through on my commitments, because I usually enjoy myself despite my earlier flip flopping.

        3. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I would say there are two categories of social events, because “let’s get a drink after dinner” can usually be rescheduled, but “let’s go to Vegas” cannot. And I think it’s fair to weigh certain things with the former. Maybe I’m just feeling guilty because I bailed on happy hour last night.

          But in this case, yes, this was a commitment with a set date and set plans, plus a significant outlay of money. And while it is more than ok to ask to think about it, once you’re in, you’re in. This is on the friend, and honestly I think he should take his lumps and go try to get something enjoyable out of the weekend.

        4. EPLawyer*

          THIS. Although it is a social trip, it is still with coworkers. He is going to take a hit at work for bailing out at the last minute. He would not have taken a hit if he just said no in the first place.

          He made his bed, now he has to lie in it. He’s needs to suck it up, put on a smiling face and GO. This will maybe be the impetus to start being more assertive.

          1. twocents*

            Even if this was a purely social trip with friends, I would seriously be reconsidering if I invite him to something else again if he flakes out after I’ve spent money and time planning a trip.

            He is burning serious capital here either way.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Yeah, this is well into “I have decided to set some social capital on fire. This won’t blow back on me, right?”

              It will blow back. Pulling this with your colleagues and boss spreads the blowback into your professional life.

        5. MsClaw*

          Also “this is not the best use of my limited free time so I don’t want to go” is just breathtakingly rude. There is no nice way to say you agreed to an invitation, let the person spend a bunch of time and money on it, but you’ve now decided they are not worth your time and money.

          I’m not saying it’s wrong to *feel* that you’ve got better things to do with your time and you’d rather not go. But there is absolutely no polite way to express that to the person who’s invited you.

          I agree with many others that at this point there are two options. 1. Suck it up and go. 2. Back out with a vague excuse about a family emergency, reimburse the boss for any expenses, and deal with whatever blowback follows.

          And either way, in the future, learn to say ‘let me check my calendar and get back to you’ instead of just saying yes to everything. *That* is when you decide whether this is or is not the best use of your limited free time.

          1. twocents*

            Yes!! I’ve been focused on the fact that he has literally no good excuse to worm his way out of this without harming his reputation, but it is an excellent call out that even the best excuse he can manage is laughably offensive.

            1. Guillame Dautrive*

              FWIW there are some really excellent reasons to not go. But not going into those details.

              The “better use of limited free time” is my phrasing. I’m the rude one here.

      3. CTT*

        “If he does not go, it likely does not stop the others from having fun, or going in the first place.”

        I do know the extent of what’s been planned for this trip, but when I planned a bachelorette party and someone pulled out at the last minute, I had to spend half a day calling around to modify hotel and dinner reservations and activities to let them know we were down a person. We still had a good time without her, but plans were made based on a certain number and it was a huge hassle to change the fact. And I have to imagine things are even more tightly planned now, so LW’s friend runs the risk of putting everything out of whack for the planner.

        1. Allonge*

          Yes, the ‘likely does not stop the others from having fun’ is not always applicable – I realised later that some companies might prefer a more elaborate programme than what I am used to and indeed if someone flakes out on an event where you have to have gender balance and a certain number of people or something has been organised based on their specific food allergies or whatever, then that is more of an issue.

          And he should take care of the administration this requires, for sure.

          1. Smithy*

            I think the biggest part of this issue is that he really can’t take on the administration. The flights aren’t in his name, and if he dropping out means that the remaining group chooses to change hotel rooms or Airbnbs – that’s not really work he can lead on. Because he’s no longer going and isn’t going to be the person to decide on questions like paying $25 more and being closer to the beach vs cheaper, further from the beach but with a hot tub.

            Honestly, if he really just doesn’t want to go – I think the best move is to deeply apologize, saying he forgot about a family obligation and pay for his flight plus a bit more. There have been a few friends where I genuinely wanted to go to their weddings and made initial “of course I’ll be there!!!” comments when they were first engaged. Then when I saw the details, the reality of the cost to attend was just beyond me and my approach was always to RSVP no and then send a far more generous gift than normal. Far less than the cost of going, but generous.

            If he truly just doesn’t want to go and wants to have good will, I think the bet way out is likely through money. Cover the plane ticket and then some.

            1. Allonge*

              Oh absolutely. I would go with something like ‘boss, I am sorry, I cannot make the trip, totally my fault, according to my calculations you have already paid X amount and will be still out of Y, here it is, let me know if I owe you more, thanks for the invite and sorry once again.’

              I am NOT saying he should get to just drop the whole thing without any consequences – he needs to pay and apologise. I do think that the ‘you show up even if it makes you break out in cold sweat’ is not going to end well for anyone. And short of having a time machine, he cannot say no in the first place, although hopefully next time he will.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        I actually think pretty decent rules are:
        1) Once you’ve committed and other people are expending effort (money, turning down other things, arranging a babysitter, etc), you need to show up.
        2) Once you’re there, you do your best to have a nice time and to help others have a nice time.

        Maybe following those rules makes people more likely to beg off things they wouldn’t enjoy, so the “I’m just doing this because I love Katherine” events are few and you can bring at least your B-game to executing them.

        Note that I type all this as an introvert. Know you’ll hate a long cocktail party? Say no! Or, if you feel you must say yes (e.g. your partner wants you there), do your best to be pleasant to the people who (checks notes) planned something they thought you would enjoy, and then expended time and money to entertain you.

        1. Allonge*

          These are decent rules! For 1, though, I have a qualifier: you need to show up as long as your presence is in any way essential to the success of the event. When we have a company party of 300, chances are that nobody is going to feel their ball is totally ruined unless one specific person is there. A fun weekend for half a dozen people? Eh, could go either way, but there is something to be said for organizing it in a way that someone can drop out without the whole thing falling apart.

          1. twocents*

            I just think “your presence is essential” is such an oddly high bar for whether you’re allowed to flake out without being seen as rude. Even if we’re, say, going to a movie just the two of us, your presence isn’t ~essential~ to whether I can see a movie or not.

            1. Allonge*

              It is if the goal is that we see the movie together :) But ok, yes, maybe essential is not the best threshold for this.

              On the other hand I am seriously wondering about the ‘but others made arrangements and babysitting and whatnot’. OK, but they wanted to be at the event, right? They did not do it for random coworker X, they did it to be able to attend the thing, expecting the majority of people who said they will attend to be there. And if the thing can go ahead without X, it’s a bit too much to expect X to show up because of the babysitter someone else arranged. If 10 of us are going to the movies, the whole thing is not ruined for everyone when someone wimps out.

          2. Juniper*

            I’m sorry, I have to disagree with you again! Having planned several company Christmas parties for 300-ish people, it was awful and obnoxious when people cancelled at the last minute. Some let us know the day before, which was almost worse because then we had time (but not really) to sort it out. Seating assignments and games get thrown into disarray, speeches have to be re-written if there are references to a person who is no longer attending, and if enough cancel aspects of the program have to be entirely re-done.

            For a guest to make a judgement call about whether their presence is necessary for the event to be successful is arbitrary and generally not based on complete information of the event in question.

            1. Allonge*

              I have never been to a 300 person event (or a 20 person event!) where the expectation was not that ‘we confirm final number of attendees on the day before to caterer’. I am saying this because it looks like there is a cultural divide thing happening – your rules work for your world but not for mine.

              For what it’s worth, I am glad to have less… involved I guess is the word? events around here. No, if a friend does not show up to three, they may not get an invite to the fourth one. But the ‘must show up and have a good time or else they have ruined everything’ looks really rigid from over here. But hey, I learned something today!

          3. Thursdaysgeek*

            This reminds me of a reunion of friends I planned a long time ago. A half dozen said they would be there, another half dozen or so said they might be there, I made reservations at a restaurant, showed up and went to the reserved banquet room. And waited. And finally ordered and ate without any of them.

            Each one of them must have felt they alone were not essential, so if they didn’t show up, it wouldn’t matter.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Agreed. He can use this as motivation to address the underlying emotions that got him into this situation. And who knows, he might genuinely have a good time.

  8. louvella*

    Is Ninja Sales why I keep getting emails from someone named Carrie several times a week that includes updates about how she is currently staying with her mom in Ohio and what the cicadas are like there?

    1. Nea*

      Now I’m fascinated at the notion that out-of-your-state cicadas are of interest to anyone but an entomologist.

      1. NotMyRealName*

        This entomologist has only a passing interest in cicadas. Certainly not enough to hear about them from a non-entomologist stranger.

  9. No Facebook photos!*

    #2 – OMG NO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NO. honestly, I’m super creeped out when people reference my LinkedIn summary and that’s just a professional site. My Facebook picture would creep me out even more.
    I get about 10 sales emails or phone calls a day and I just ignore all of them. Literally all of them. If I needed something from you the first time your Rachel our I would respond.

    After years being one of many in large corporations and never hearing from any sales people unsolicited because I’m one of a gazillion, I’m literally the only strategic sourcing manager for my current company, which means I get so many emails and phone calls. I used to accept LinkedIn requests from general people but now I don’t because I will be hounded over and over again.

    When I first started this job I was very polite with people and said no thanks, I would keep them in mind, etc., but people are too aggressive. “May I ask why you don’t need …fill in the blank… service” or refusing to take a polite no for an answer or whatever. I could use a full time assistant to answer all the pushy sales people. So I stopped replying.

    Also – do not send me daily notes. I am so busy. I will now hate you forever and seek out your competitor in a proactive attempt to give business to the non stalker who does not send me daily notes.

    If I needed your product and you sent me a card with my Facebook pictures like you were stalking me I would never reply. Ever.

    But thank you for the insight from the sales position, I guess.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah. I keep getting emails from people from a certain attorney listing site. I ignore the emails AND the phone calls. The emails are usually something like I’ve been trying to reach you and you haven’t gotten back to me. I finally snapped one day and wrote back and said:
      Get a clue by four. I haven’t gotten back because I am ignoring you. Stop calling and emailing. You will never get my business.

      It … didn’t help. Just someone else from the company is now calling and emailing.

    2. Reba*

      The social media pictures seem so invasive to me.

      But aside from that unpleasantness, even the milder versions of these tactics are just so… Cheesy? Do some recipients find this flattering? Like, we all know that you’re only contacting me about [random topic] or my birthday for sales reasons! We’re not friends! At least my realtor sends me related information, lol.

  10. No Facebook photos!*

    Ugh. Autocorrect.

    “If I needed something from you the first time you reached out…”

  11. John Smith*

    #4, sounds like your colleague needs professional help – physical and mental. Could he be referred to occupational health? I don’t know the situation in your country, but having been in a bad place myself following deaths in my family, I suffered with a lot and so did my team because of me. I was eventually diagnosed with severe depression which is counted as a disability. Because of that, I was eventually referred to OH and underwent therapy sessions which helped loads. I’m in a much better place now personally – a very much changed person and get on really well with colleagues (though my employer still uses me as a scapegoat for all our teams problems because, you know, a leopard never changes its spots, right? Thankfully the team knows that management is the problem and not me).

    Your colleague needs help, desperately and urgently. This should not have been going on for a number of years imho.

  12. Dusk*

    #2 Honestly my only thought about someone trying to market to me by sending me *my own photos* is a solid WTF??? Is this technique actually successful?

    To answer your question though, I don’t think this is ethical, or possibly even legal (given I’d imagine copyright would still lie with the owner/taker of the photo and you’d be using it for commercial purposes – IANAL though).

    But really – who on earth came up with this?

    1. appo*


      what is the reasoning behind this? How… What… I mean…? How are you supposed to read it? “Oh, they took all this time to get to know me, thats nice.”? Or “What an interesting tactic, I need to find out more about this company”? Or “Thats gumption, me likey!” OR WHAT!?

      Honestly, I’m humoring my brain trying to come up with a plausable explanation, but… No. I cant.

      1. EPLawyer*

        So muuuuuuch bad marketing, sales, etc. lifestyle coaching, job seach, etc advice is literally just GUMPTION. It worked for this one person ONCE (maybe) so it will totally work for everyone else.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, quite apart from the creepy stalker vibe I don’t understand why anyone would think it would be a positive thing . If you’re getting the picture from my social media, I already have the picture, I know you don’t actually know me (and sending me a photo from my own social media would be a weird thing to do even if you *did* know me.

      Literally the only scenario I can imagine where this might be a plausible sales tactic would be if they were selling some sort of cyber security product and it was in a “look how easy it is for strangers to see your stuff and mine for information, let us show you how to improve your security” kind of way, and even then I think it comes over more like a mafia protection racket that a good marketing strategy.

      OP, does the book explain why they think sending cards with someone’s own photos in would be a positive thing?

      1. Dusk*

        Hahaha at least there’s a kind of logic to that scenario. I still don’t think it would work as a marketing technique though – I’d be more motivated to revisit and lock down my privacy settings rather than buy whatever the creepy company was selling.

        OP2, please do share the rationale if you have it! I’m certainly no salesperson so I could be missing… something?

      2. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        The OP mentioned/implied that these tips were geared towards real estate, and I can kinda see how they could be used there – pictures of someone’s house interior with a note like “your dining room is beautiful. I sold two house on your block for $$$$$$$, and think that feature could make yours worth more” would be a bit creepy, but combine flattery and personal interest in a way that might land you some sales listings.

        It would still piss ME off, but I can see how it might work.

        1. londonedit*

          It kind of reminds me of the companies that used to go around taking aerial photos of houses in a particular area, and then knock on the doors of those houses saying ‘Hey! We’ve taken these super cool aerial photos of your house! Would you like to buy a print of one of them in this lovely frame?’ My parents actually have one of those for each of the houses they’ve lived in, because back in the days before drones and Google Earth it seemed like a pretty cool thing to have a photo of your house from the air. Look, the dog is in the back garden! Etc. But it is also a little bit weird if you think about it. And that’s just someone taking a photo themselves and trying to sell it to you – let alone using your own personal photos to try to sell you something.

          1. Joielle*

            My parents have bought three of these for their current house! It actually is kind of neat to see the same view years apart. Different landscaping, different seasons, etc. But I’m sure they’re the drone company’s best customer, haha.

    3. Epsilon Delta*

      Yeah, I am really trying hard to think of a situation where receiving my own wedding photo (or whatever photo) in an advertisement would not make me feel deeply violated, especially if it jumped from Facebook to another medium. I think most people understand that their photos “are” public but the norm is we don’t lift people’s photos and use them without consent.

      What’s the target demographic? It must be pretty vulnerable or desperate already for this type of advertising to work, which adds an extra level of ick. Perhaps I’m wrong, but OP I’d go so far as to suggest this is something to job search over. It sounds fishy bordering on unethical at best.

    4. Nella9*

      This reminds me of when my brother was a senior in high school, a university was trying to recruit him and sent him newspaper clippings about himself with notes like “congratulations on your recent success in the school play!” There was no additional information about the school, just the clippings and notes. He did not end up going to that school. This school was like 2 hours away too, and I am trying to imagine the person in admissions who had the job of getting and pouring through all the newspapers in a 2 hour + radius to find photos and articles about high school seniors that might be a good fit for the school. It came across as really creepy.

  13. Keyboard Cowboy*

    Stunned that anyone would tolerate receiving DAILY notes from a salesperson. I get weekly or monthly emails from some recruiters (very common in my industry/employer) and even that drives me crazy. Daily would not get you blocked – it would get you a nastygram.

    1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      Yeah, that’s too much for me. But I once sent a cease and desist letter to a guy who I had bought a car from, because he sent me a happy birthday text a year later. I recognize that I may not be able to be reasonable on this topic.

      1. Shhhh*

        A dental office I went to twice in high school (because I ended up not liking the dentist at all) still sends me happy birthday texts. I’m 30. I would send them a cease and desist letter (actually I probably wouldn’t…), but at this point I want to see how long it takes them to clean out their old patient contact info.

    2. Artemesia*

      The attempt to play on guilt that YOU are remiss for not ‘getting back’ when they have tried so hard to reach you is a classic. My parents generation (now mostly dead) were very gullible for any shaming type billing scam; that is why you see envelopes from marketers with ‘final notice’ in big red letters to embarrass you in front of your postman and neighbors and make you feel like you have not met your responsibility — when they are just trying to sell you something.

  14. Pikachu*

    #3 – this is… hard. I went through some things and definitely came out with much more cynicism and sarcasm. I coped with dry/dark humor, which was a hit with the crowd for a while, but there was a moment when I cracked a joke that was just a little too cynical for the occasion. Someone told me later (in a helpful manner) that I should “know my audience,” and it finally clicked that I was living in a dark cloud and not everyone experienced the world the way I did during that time.

    Once I was made blatantly aware of it, I was able to find better ways to express myself with more positivity. Therapy helped.

  15. nnn*

    #2: My visceral reaction if some random acquaintance sent me a card with my own wedding photo would be to wonder if I should file a police report in case things escalate.

    And what would stop me from filing a police report would be my qualms about the police, not any sense that the fear of things escalating would be unfounded.

  16. Eden*

    #1 – if your friend is invested in seeing himself as “nice”, maybe point out that agreeing to plan you won’t enjoy isn’t actually nice. Other people generally want to hang out with people who want to be there! The nice thing to do is not to agree to plans he doesn’t want to do. The least nice thing to do is back out of a trip after plans have been made and money has been spent.

    1. Juniper*

      I came across a really eye-opening statement the other day about how people-pleasing is essentially a form of manipulation. Essentially, you are managing someone else’s opinion of you, rather than showing up authentically. As someone who has always struggled with people-pleasing and wanting to be seen as “agreeable”, I never thought about how I was shortchanging myself and not giving other people the benefit of the doubt in our interactions. When you say “yes” to something you don’t really want to do, oftentimes it’s followed by grumbling, a bad attitude, and resentment.

      So yeah, this guy has to go since he already committed, and also make every effort not to let his true feelings ruin a good time for everyone else.

      1. ceiswyn*

        Plus, do you know what really doesn’t please me? It’s never knowing whether I’m actually annoying someone.

        If you will tell me that hings are great no matter what, your apparent happiness is completely meaningless. It’s just a big ol’ information void. And believe me, after I’ve hung out with you a few times, I will know that that’s what you’re doing.

        I do still have friends – close, long-standing friends – who do this thing. But while I enjoy hanging out with them, trying to constantly manage their insecurities and figure out whether they’re lying to me is exhausting, and I just don’t have the patience for it anymore.

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        One of the most hurtful things in my life was having a relationship end and learning through the course of the conversation that the person ending things had wanted to end it for months but had held back because they “didn’t want to make me sad.”

        This person had accompanied me to events, offered support, texted me back — all while discussing with friends how to end things with me.

        No one else is entitled to ‘manage’ anyone else’s feelings. It’s OK for others to feel disappointed. A straightforward statement of boundaries is 100x kinder than letting someone become a chore without them realising.

        1. Bumblebee*

          Ugh, a thing like that happened in my friend group ~10 years ago. One of the people spent half a year being Sad at us all about how she really wanted to break up with her girlfriend. Meanwhile the girlfriend thought they were still ontrack on their plans to move in together and get a cat. It was AWFUL and we all still remember it, and not fondly. (The girlfriend who was in the dark is still in our social circle; the other one everyone ended up doing individual slow fades from, largely as a result of this mess.)

          1. EmmaPoet*

            Yikes. That makes me very sorry for the GF, and totally out of sympathy with the person who was leading her on. I think I’d have stopped being friends with them too.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yeah, but sometimes, if you’re depressed, you don’t feel like doing anything ever so you revert to people pleasing because you don’t want to lose all your friends

        1. The vault*

          But if you say you are going somewhere and cancel anyway at the last minute….that’s not going to make your friends happy.

      4. New Jack Karyn*

        Yep! A friend was heading out to dinner, and I half asked/half invited myself and she said she’d much rather dine solo. I thanked her, and told her now I know that when we do spend time together, it’s because she really wants to and not because she feels social pressure.

    2. Gammagirl1908*

      Agreeing to plans **and then wimping out** certainly isn’t nice. That goes double when people have you in the head count and have spent money. It’s triple when you gave them a firm yes but knew all along you were a weak maybe. For the love of little baby cats, just decline politely.

    3. Esmeralda*

      Or the friend could go and make an effort not to be a pill. I’ve attended many social obligations (work, friend, school, family) that I did not particularly want to do, but I agreed and then my part of the bargain was, act like you’re glad you’re there. That’s what grown ups do.

      And give yourself time to not be with the crowd all the time. “Hey, hope it’s cool if I have my coffee and toast by myself, I’m a bear in the morning, meet you in the lobby for the (outing)!”

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      Amen to this. For years I was close with a guy who always said “yes,” even when the answer needed to be “no,” and he ended up just pissing everyone off because while it would have been fine if he’d just said “no” at the outset — it was really upsetting when he would cancel at the last minute (or more often) leave early when one had made plans that revolved around him being there. He was always baffled why people were so very angry with him when he stood them up/left early. For heaven’s sakes, say NO or explain the constraints before you agree to plans.

      1. londonedit*

        Oh, I have a friend who does this. They apparently can’t bear the thought of missing out on anything, so they say they’re coming for dinner and then on the day it turns out it’s ‘Hey, I’m just meeting up with a friend after work for a really quick drink, then heading straight to yours – might be a little late but I’ll get there as soon as I can! What time is dinner? Only my friend from Cornwall is visiting this weekend, and I said I’d pick her up from the station, that’s not until 9 though…’. It is extremely frustrating.

        1. staceyizme*

          That would drive me bananas! Time is so precious that people who abuse it merit being included only in plans that aren’t dependent on their punctuality.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      When you find yourself trying to figure out how to carry out the least-nice option–to your coworkers, including your boss–you should usually keep right on looking for some other strategies. Ones that convey “I’m a capable reliable, low drama member of this team.”

    6. GraceRN*

      I would certainly not think of the person flaking out last minute as “nice.” People are generally able to tell whether a real situation came up, or if it’s just a flimsy excuse. I would even go as far as losing respect for this person, for their inability to keep their word, their lack of genuineness, and unreliability. I imagine I won’t be the only person who would feel this way. This blowback in a non-work friend group is bad enough, and in a group of work-friends including the boss, the blowback would definitely have an even wider impact.

  17. IGoOnAnonAnonAnon*

    “Unless we are living on different planets, you have triggered a profound existential crisis in me.”
    This may be my favorite Alison line ever.

    1. Bagpuss*

      If we ae living on different planets, it’s depressing to think that even seeking out new worlds and new civilizations won’t get us away from terrible sales tactics.

      1. Kpas*

        I prefer to think that some worlds out there are so good their inhabitants do not need to contact Alison.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It does explain all those “Well everyone I know…” claims about things that are definitely not the norm for most people. Other planets weighing in.

      3. SarahKay*

        Bagpuss, your comment brought me disastrously close to a mouthful of coke over my keyboard!

  18. V*

    LW5 – don’t be so negative on yourself! I do a lot of hiring, and if I’m hiring someone to do 100%X and I have an applicant who currently does 50%X, that’s absolutely great – it means they completely understand what X involves and know they enjoy doing it, and want to do more of it.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes, this is the rare letter where the correct advice is:

      “More gumption, OP!”

  19. Maree*

    #1 I always understood that once you have accepted an invitation then you are committed. Barring illness, accident or emergency it isn’t acceptable to not attend. Having a better offer or not feeling like it are particularly rude reasons to no show.

    I think your friend should go, and make the best of it. If he goes in with the right attitude he should be able to make something positive out of the trip (if only a satisfying sense of martyrdom! -jk).

    1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      That’s nonsense. Many invitations aren’t high cost situations, and an early indication that you are withdrawing should be perfectly acceptable. The key is in indicating your withdrawal early, and ensuring you weren’t integral to the overall plan.

      Imagine saying to a person “you said you would go for drinks with that person so now you have to show up” without any consideration for what they may have learnt, seen, or experienced in between that acceptance and the actual night in question. It’s an unhealthy attitude to have or inflict on others.

      1. Esmeralda*

        This isn’t early. Plane tickets have been bought, likely hotel accommodations, meals, outings. If he doesn’t have a good reason, it’s a d*ck move. Lesson learned: when someone asks, your first response should be “Ooh, that sounds fun! When do you need an rsvp? I have to see if it will work.”

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          You are correct, this is clearly a situation where there is significant cost involved – I do not disagree with that assessment. In these very specific circumstances, it will be difficult to impossible for the invitee to back out without burning bridges, because of the very real expenditures involved. Paying those back may enable them to do so (or may not).

          The general attitude that the acceptance of an invitation creates a binding obligation which must be fulfilled, unless you have a True And Valid Emergency is a piece of societal poison we should be expunging from our collective consciousness.

          1. I'm A Little Teapot*

            Except that breaking your word SHOULD be something that gets you in social hot water, especially if you do it a lot or there are consequences to other people. In general, if you commit to doing something, follow through. If you don’t want to do the thing, don’t commit. There are plenty of people who back out repeatedly and then years later wonder why no one ever invites them to anything. They only have themselves to blame.

            1. The vault*

              Absolutely. I have a friend who is no longer a friend. Trying to plan things around her, she bails each time. Besides being annoying, it just shows that I’m not valuable to keep plans with – so, it’s good info to understand and if you are not ok with it, it’s fine to just no longer put effort in.

          2. pieces_of_flair*

            I disagree. Accepting an invitation SHOULD create a binding obligation which must be fulfilled barring some kind of emergency. Canceling because you changed your mind or something better came up is incredibly rude to the other person/people involved who now have their plans ruined (and possibly are out some money) because of your flakiness.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Not always. My partner is a total extrovert and very charming and people all just love him and want to invite him to all sorts of things. If it weren’t for boring little introvert me he’d be out all night every night. He flakes out on people all the time and they forgive him every time. I don’t understand but it’s happened time and again.

              1. unpleased*

                Then that likely has more to do with his personal charm than any validity to the original suggestion. If it were you, do you think you’d be treated the same way?

              2. Annonynon*

                Are you sure they really forgive him every time? My husband has a friend who is very much how you describe. Very outgoing but cancels plans frequently because his partner doesn’t feel like going out. People were nice to him about it, but eventually they stopped inviting him to things and now they rarely see him. Just because his friends seem okay with this now doesn’t mean he should expect them to put up with being blown off forever. The answer to not being out all night, every night is to not accept all these invitations to begin with instead of canceling on people after already making plans.

                1. Gammagirl1908*

                  Also, the definition of “out all night every night” is very different to a self described “boring little introvert” than it is to the extroverted people issuing the invitations.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            I will defend that rule–I think in pure social situations there is now way too much “My friends love to run free night clubs with free food and they don’t need to know anything as mundane as ‘how many people are we feeding?’ because I live my life unconstrained and also These Modern Times.”

            “We should get drinks sometime” is not a binding obligation. “I’ll meet you next Thursday at 7 at Chip’s” is. Sure, you can back out early with an excuse if you have since learned that getting to know this person better is NOT what you want to do after all. But it would be weird to have a frequent problem where you make specific social plans with people and then learn that they are bad people you don’t want to socialize with. That’s “the common factor is you” territory.

          4. Joielle*

            The bigger the commitment, the more you’re obligated to follow through once you agree and plans have been made. If you’re just meeting a friend for drinks, you could say “I’m so sorry, I’m exhausted today, can we reschedule for next week?” and that would probably be fine (if you don’t do it too often).

            If plane tickets have been bought, you pretty much have to go unless there’s an actual emergency. I mean, nobody’s gonna drag you on to the plane at gunpoint, but it’s really, really rude to cancel at that point unless it’s unavoidable. So the friend’s options are go on the trip or make up an actual emergency (or be really rude to their boss, I guess). Personally, I wouldn’t be comfortable lying about something serious so I’d just go. It will probably end up being fun, and if not, lesson learned for next time.

          5. NotAnotherManager!*

            Clearly you’ve never dealt with a devastated middle schooler whose birthday party attendees cancelled/no showed because something better came along.

            If you aren’t sure you want to attend an event or do something with someone, the polite thing to do is to decline or defer answering until you’re sure. This flaking at the last minute thing that is becoming more common is really rude and even if there is no monetary cost, often hurts people’s feelings or inconveniences them.

            1. pieces_of_flair*

              I think if you’re unsure whether you want to attend, the polite thing to do is decline. Deferring until the last minute is also rude. Sure, take some time to check for conflicts, but then give me an answer! I hate it when people respond to invitations with “maybe” when the only reason they’re not willing to commit is “I don’t know what else is going on that day.” My event is going on that day! If you’ve committed to something else that day, decline my event. If you’re free, just decide whether you want to attend or not and show your host some basic respect and courtesy by sticking to that decision. Don’t leave the host hanging, unable to finalize their own plans.

              I encountered so much of this flakiness a few years ago when planning a birthday party for my husband. I need to give the venue a headcount by a certain date, so no, it’s really not ok for you to be a “maybe” until the day of the party so you’ll know for sure there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing. It’s just so self-centered and rude.

          6. unpleased*

            What? Then how on earth could people ever learn to depend on each other? The people I want to do things with are the people I can trust to show up when we make plans. I truly don’t understand.

      2. Gammagirl1908*

        I even theoretically agree with you that there are times when it’s not that big a deal to back out of plans. If it’s low-stakes, and it’s early enough that the person can find something else to do with their time, and nobody has committed hard-core? That’s perfectly okay to ask to reschedule. A friend of mine asked me three weeks ago to go to dinner this coming Friday, and then two days later realized that she double-booked herself and asked if we could reschedule for two weeks out. Fine! No biggie. Happy to do it. Super low bar.

        But it’s not clear that this is one of the times that backing out for a non-emergency is a low bar. This involves someone’s supervisor, so work relationships are on the line. Tickets have already been purchased. Plans are in motion. The invitee clearly had a chance to decline and didn’t take it. The invitee and LW1 are writing to an advice columnist to try to find an acceptable excuse, which insinuates that they haven’t found an obvious one on their own.

        Also, and most importantly to me, the mistake is 100% on the invitee and was fully avoidable all along. He never wanted to go in the first place, and now he’s groping about for a suitable lie. Nothing has changed. Nothing has happened. There is no emergency. Nothing new has “come up.” He’s not suddenly ill or swamped with work. He didn’t want to go then, and he doesn’t want to go now, and he’s trying to find a lie to undo his initial lie of saying he wanted to go. But now the stakes are higher because he told the first lie. If he had just not committed, he wouldn’t be in this situation.

        1. Colorado*

          exactly this. Oh the web of lies we weave.. I’d go just because I’m a terrible liar!

      3. Juniper*

        But it’s almost never as cut-and-dry as you make it seem. If I make plans to meet with a friend for drinks next week, say, it would almost definitely qualify as a low-stakes situation. But what my friend might not see is the schedule re-jiggering I had to do with my husband so the car would be free, the MIL that needed to be booked to babysit, or the other plan that I postponed in order to accommodate this particular evening.

        I’m having a hard time imagining what someone could “learn, see, or experience” between the acceptance of an invitation and the event itself to justify cancelling, short of a legitimate logistical, health or other urgent matter. I wish you would elaborate on that. I mean, if my friend was exhausted or burnt out, sure, I would be understanding. But simply having a change of heart doesn’t qualify.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          In the context of going out for drinks? I was thinking about it terms of a date, and maybe you had seen the person be a complete tool after you agreed to the date, learnt that they were married, or just met someone else who interested you more.

          Even in the context of going out with work friends – perhaps someone else heard your plans and said “Drinks with Pam is a bad idea – she’s a gossip who is on the verge of getting fired, and executives won’t trust your judgement if they see you going out with her.” or “Cyril has a habit of arranging these weekends in exotic locals, and they always seem to end up involving hookers, cocaine, and someone needing to make bail.”

          Other possible reasons
          -You find out the list of other attendees includes a former stalker.
          -You realize you’re all going to be riding in a car with someone who has a history of being a drunk driver.
          -You realize that the plan is to rent a bus and sing the wheels on the bus for a 3 hour drive to the lake house that was rented.
          -It turns the “weekend retreat” to a cabin is actually going to a hunting lodge, and everyone else going has started talking up what they’re hoping to catch and dress this time.

          What constitutes a legitimate reason to cancel is firmly something within the purview of the canceller – and it may literally boil down to “I thought rafting/parasailing/fishing sounded fun, then I found out none of us have ever done it before and now I’m scared.”

          1. Juniper*

            Ha! I do like some of your examples for sure! They’re all either so specific or extreme that it’s hard to argue against, and I better understand your point about learning new information. But for the sake of this exercise I think it’s safe to assume that most people cancel because they just don’t feel like doing the thing anymore. The rise in bailing at the last minute is a well-documented social phenomenon, and can’t be completely explained away through an increase in family emergencies or a boss who has a propensity for organizing hunting trips.

            I do disagree though that the legitimate reason to cancel is in the purview of the canceller. This isn’t something arrived at in a vacuum — expectations, mores, and what constitutes good manners all exist within a wider social context and inform the “legitimacy” of cancelling, and to complicate it even further we don’t always have access to complete information. If I found out that one of my friends cancelled because they thought we were going to sing wheels on the bus for 3 hours, but what they overheard was someone making a joke about taking a bus together, well I would honestly be a little peeved about that.

            1. Simply the best*

              This conversation is fascinating. Because I honestly can’t imagine not being able to call up my friend and say “hey I had a really long day and I’m kind of exhausted and just not feeling drinks tonight. Can we reschedule?” That just would not be the big SOCIAL CONTRACT BREAKING deal people are making it out to be.

              What OP is describing is different – plane tickets and hotel rooms are involved. It’s a significant cost. But to the people saying every commitment you have ever made must never be broken under any circumstances…nah.

              1. pieces_of_flair*

                There are levels and nuances, of course. I don’t think it’s a big deal to reschedule casual plans like you’re describing because you’re just not feeling up to it. But if the friend had to turn down other plans, arrange coverage at work, hire a babysitter, etc., then canceling for any reason besides illness or emergency veers into rude territory. And even with very casual plans, if the cancellations are frequent enough, you will come across as flaky and unreliable.

              2. Juniper*

                5 years ago, I would have thought the exact same thing. And who knows, maybe in another 10 I’ll be at a place where it won’t matter again.

                But generally, these days, there’s a whole hoopla happening in the background in order to make anything social work. Because of that I don’t commit to much, and when I do, it matters to me to follow through. If I’ve found a babysitter and made all the other necessary arrangements, yes, cancelling because you felt tired after work would be thoughtless. You don’t have to be breaking a social contract in order to be inconsiderate. Fortunately all my friends are in the same boat, so while we don’t make a lot of plans you better believe we will all be there when we do.

              3. GammaGirl1908*

                I also don’t think people are saying you must NEVER back out of ANY plans OR ELSE you’re going TO HELL. It’s never a great look, of course, and it’s often inconsiderate and rude, but you can reschedule on your friends because something changed** (you’re suddenly sick, unexpectedly swamped at work, child care fell through, etc.).

                There are differences here. For me, it makes a difference that we’re talking about a boss, not a friend. Also, as I noted above, nothing has changed. This isn’t a sudden unavoidable unforeseen conflict. LW’s friend never wanted to go in the first place, so this is a problem completely of his own making.

                **That said, and as others have alluded, if you’re a person who frequently wimps out of plans for a foreseeable reason, I don’t get that. Why do people commit to plans they know they have an 80% chance of breaking? Once I figure out that this is a flaky person who frequently bails on plans, I cut WAY back on ever planning to hang out with them one-on-one. They get group invitations from then on, so my evening isn’t ruined by their unreliability.

              4. Despachito*

                I think this is a “read the room” situation.

                For me, it would be OK to do this if

                – it is a really good friend
                – we see each other pretty regularly
                – I know that it is probably not a big deal for the friend to reschedule (no babysitting)
                – I’d be able to offer another time to meet up very soon

                But still, I’d proceed with caution and apologize profusely, and do this rather as an exception than as a rule

          2. Despachito*

            I think all of your examples are valid reasons (something comes up I was not aware of when I agreed to go, and it is potentially dangerous (the drunk driver and the stalker) or changes the whole perspective (the hunting lodge). Even the example with “none of us have ever done it before and I am scared” counts as you did not have that information before.

            But in LW’s case there is no such change.

      4. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I think in the event that you agree to go have drinks with a person on Friday and on Thursday discover they’re a racist, misogynist, puppy-kicker then society will support you in not going to drinks with that person.

      5. doreen*

        I don’t think going for drinks is an invitation in the sense that the rule about showing up when you’ve accepted an invitation contemplates. I’ve only seen that rule referred to regarding invitations for which there is an actual host and event – you don’t cancel going to your sister-in-law’s house on Thanksgiving because you received a better invitation afterward , you don’t blow off a friend’s BBQ because when the day comes you just don’t feel like going out.

        Backing out of this trip with a vague excuse along the lines of ” I’m sorry, when I agreed to go I forgot I had another commitment that weekend” would have been fine as long as it was done both within a day or two of agreeing to go and before any tickets were bought. However, the longer it’s been since the conversation, the less plausible that will be – if you agreed to go on Wed , it’s believable that you might not realize the conflict until Friday. It’s a lot less likely if you agreed in January and you are cancelling in April.

      6. GraceRN*

        I guess it depends on your social circle. I personally prefer to spend time with people who can keep their word and commitments, even social ones, precisely because I’m considering we all continually learn, see or experience many, many things in our lives. I guess as my friends and I get older, our lives all get more complex and require more planning. And planning is a lot harder if everything is just “penciled in.” For example if I agreed to get drinks with a friend on a certain date, I know she would have gone to the trouble of arranging child care in advance for that evening, getting money to pay the baby sitter for an extra 1.5 hours, coordinating with her husband, etc. It’s not just one friend. Many friends are in similar situations, so working with tentative or constantly changing and evolving plans are actually disruptive and unfeasible for many people in my life.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          I don’t even mind penciled-in plans, as long as it’s clear that’s what’s happening. Don’t tell me yes when you really mean maybe-assuming-6-other-things-fall-into-place-and-I’m-not-too-tired. I can firm up your maybe closer to the date, but I’m organizing my own schedule and turning down other invitations for you once you say yes. That also means to me that you’ll be organizing your energy to specifically avoid being tired when our date arrives.

      7. Despachito*

        I very much disagree.

        If I make a firm commitment with someone, I MUST honour it, unless some genuine emergency comes up. It does not very much matter what the commitment is. It’s a question of credibility of your word.

        I consider it incredibly rude to accept an invitation/make a commitment and then flake out because something more interesting comes up.

        We use to have annual barbecues with a group of friends. The instructions are “we are starting around 1 pm”. It is not a big deal if someone shows up at 2 but there’s the one friend who shows up at 3 or 4 (still no big deal) but then proceeds at length counting how they had their lunch late and they ABSOLUTELY had to take this long walk after the lunch, and do this and that which was not an emergency but just a thing for their pleasure . To me, it reads “I really do not care about your company that much, I have more interesting things to do and the gall to give you detailed information about it.”

        It really pisses me off, and if I was the host I’d seriously hesitate whether to invite her the next time, and that is when she DOES show up.

        Not showing up at all because something more interesting came up in the meantime is unthinkable for me, and would seriously damage, and very likely end, my relationship with that person. And I think that if such people felt it isn’t so easy to get away with it, they’d probably be less prone to doing it at all.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      Truthfully, this mindset is (one of the many reasons) why I just don’t go anywhere anymore. I can just about reliably get out of bed most days, and that’s it. I’m not gonna make someone rejig their schedule to accommodate me if I’m just as likely as not to have to cancel due to illness.

      1. Despachito*

        I am sorry that you are going through such health problems.

        However, I’d hope that if you are upfront with this, true friends could understand and you would be possibly able to together find a way how it could work.

        I think this is a completely different situation than if you just flake out, and as strict as I feel about promising to come and then not coming, I would never hold this against you, because it is NOT “I promised to come but then changed my mind” but “I say beforehand that as much I’d like to come, it is possible that my health will not permit it, are you OK with it?” which is not flaking out, it is honest and fair.

        I keep my fingers crossed tight for your health to improve, and in the meantime for you and your friends to find a way that enables you to go to the events your health permits you to go rather than having to give up all of them.

  20. Teapot supervisor*

    #3 Alison’s advice on this is excellent but wanted to add that there seems to be a widespread misconception that mental ill-health – or even just going through a tough time – gives you a free pass to act however you want, and that’s not the case. I say that as somebody who has both experienced problems with mental health (so I know how it can warp your thinking and your outlook) and has been team lead for people with mental ill-health.

    One of my worst experiences was when I was team lead for a woman who was going through a lot and wasn’t handling it very well. Started with things like eye rolling and sighing, then escalated to storming out in the middle on conversations, then to answering back to instructions she didn’t want to follow with insults. When called on it, her response would be along the lines of ‘I’m going through a really hard time right now so I think you should cut me some slack’. My boss (who would have been the one with the power to get her in touch with EAP etc) ALSO seemed to be of the view that ‘She’s going through a really hard time right now so I think you should cut her some slack’. He eventually stepped in when it reached the insult stage but more to tell her she had to follow my instructions, not that insulting people wasn’t ok. (I’d like to say that I handled this all with dignity and grace but, by the end of it, I had taken the bait and probably ended up doing my own reputation some damage in the process). In fairness to my boss, her problems were numerous and complex and I think he was figuring out how to handle it as well. But, even though this was years ago, I still haven’t totally forgiven him for letting me be treated like her emotional punching bag!

    I eventually got some closure when doing some mental health training in a later job. I asked the trainer about what she would do in a similar situation and was told that, while you may want to set the bar a little higher for people going through a tough time, it is ok to go say something like ‘I know you’re going through a tough time and I sympathise with that, but I won’t be treated or spoken to like this. I’m going to step away from this conversation for a while – we’ll pick back up later.’ Of course, this applies more to situations where somebody is being an outright jerk but you could probably modify this script if somebody’s being overly negative as well.

    And to add to the excellent sample language Alison has already provided, one thing I’ve picked up is to avoid blaming language. A tip for that is to think ‘I’ not ‘you’ – so instead of ‘Your negative talk is making you hard to work with.’, it’s ‘I notice you’re talking negatively a lot recently and I’m worried about you.’

    1. Stitching Away*

      From a work perspective, the problem isn’t that the person is depressed (if this is the case) or upset or sad. The problem is specific behaviors. It’s always more effective to point out the specific behaviors that are causing problems, rather than a vague “you need to improve your attitude.”

      People cannot control their feelings, and should not be expected to. However, controlling their behaviors is another thing entirely.

      I wouldn’t agree with having a conversation about being worried about them – that’s crossing a boundary in a weird way, and likely to cause guilt on top of everything else, which is not helpful. It’s why crisis line training will often emphasize not telling someone with a suicidal ideation to think about the people they would be leaving behind – it adds guilt and self-blame and escalates the situation.

      Instead, focus on the behaviors. You don’t have to involve blame. It’s the difference between a manager saying “I’m so disappointed in you” versus “doing x was a problem, instead do y.” The manager’s emotional state is not relevant.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I do think one of the behaviors to focus on is his being negative about the job and the clients. It sounds like he’s experienced a lot of difficulties but you didn’t say work was one of them. So his negativity about work sounds uncalled for plus you know that’s just a terrible attitude to have about work. If he’s that bad with coworkers is he venting to or around clients, what impact is he having on them? They may well take their business elsewhere than tell you about it.

        Also how much complaining is he doing about life in general? Can he be asked to stay focused on work topics and discussions? Is he spending too much time complaining and venting about non-work related stuff? It sure sounds like it.

        He can feel whatever he feels and keep it to himself. He doesn’t have to be perky and happy. He can be quiet and frowny. But to reach the point that other coworkers have made comments about how hard it is to work with him because it affects their mood and attitude means he’s spreading unhappiness and sadness and is hard to work with. That needs to stop. Maybe he just needs to stop venting at work.

    2. Coco*

      Hi! I’m the “Question Asker.” Thanks to you and others who shared their experiences. I have had conversations with this employee where I’ve stated things like, “It’s obvious you are feeling really unhappy” or “I’ve notice you seem really negative and I want to find a way to help” and asked them what could be done to help them. All of the suggestions I’ve had for them, they shoot down – such as working less hours, switching to an open position in a slower, less stressful department, taking some time off, prioritizing doctor’s appointments, etc. They will say that there’s nothing that can be done. I’ve always framed these conversations in a way that mainly is showing concern for them and their experience, and what we can do to help them through this. I think I do need to change it up a bit and use some of this language that more directly asks them to change their behavior. I also don’t know if I should, or how I would, bring up the idea that they might need mental health help (therapy?).

      1. JillianNicola*

        Do you have an EAP? If you do, I’d strongly recommend that to them. There really isn’t an ethical way for a supervisor to tell an employee they need therapy (that I can think of), but an EAP is far more equipped to do so. In the end though, they have to be able to want to help themselves. Just keep giving them the resources and suggestions, and while this part will definitely suck – if they continue to shoot it down and their behavior is affecting the quality of their and/or their coworker’s work, you’ll need to put them on a PIP.

      2. Reba*

        My observation is that the things you mention here center on the coworker’s feelings — those are things for therapy! What you need is changes to her *behavior,* as you say, and that is something you have standing (or your boss does) to require that she change.

        You can’t really do anything about her feelings! It is hard to see someone in an emotional pit like this. And it’s so great that you are giving her tools to take care of herself better. Kudos to you for that!

        But I would suggest from now on, let her know that you are not going to be talking about her mental state and instead on her words and actions. The corollary is that her mental state cannot be an excuse for unacceptable, unprofessional behavior.

        You can’t make her do therapy, but you can require her to improve her behavior at work.

        And of course, you need to get on the same page as your boss about how to frame the requirement for civil co-working, and what the consequences will be if she continues to insult (!!) you or others.

        If it helps, you can remind yourself that setting these expectations is helping her, too.

      3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        All of the suggestions I’ve had for them, they shoot down – such as working less hours, switching to an open position in a slower, less stressful department, taking some time off, prioritizing doctor’s appointments, etc. They will say that there’s nothing that can be done.

        Does your employee have any suggestions or ideas?

        Unrelatedly, is the employee’s position one with accomplishments, or one where the status quo is maintained for another day?

      4. Person from the Resume*

        A behavior change could be just to stop complaining so much. It really sounds like she does it non-stop. If you don’t have something work-related to say don’t say anything at all. And tell her to knock off the complaining about work and CLIENTS!

        It’s one thing to discuss work and discuss an issue to try to resolve it. It doesn’t sound like what she is engaged in.

      5. Artemesia*

        Be empathetic on round one but if that is not helping then describe the precise behaviors that need to change and how they need to behave. You can let them know it is understandable to feel depressed, or angry or frustrated but that it cannot be expressed in these ‘very specifically described ways.’ Cutting people slack when it means allowing others to be bathed in negative talk and insults is bad management.

  21. learnedthehardway*

    LW#4 – instead of asking whether you should bother to apply, why not reframe that line of thinking?

    I mean, you seem to have most of the qualifications and experience. I would apply, and then drop your friend a note to say you’d be really interested in being considered, have applied for the role, and then mention areas of the requirements that you have, that your friend might not be aware of.

    1. txcalc*

      Yes, came here to say this – LW4 should definitely reach out to the friend and flag their own application. The friend can make their own decision about whether they want to help the application along but it’s always better to know someone where you’re applying/make them aware you are applying.

  22. The Other Katie*

    LW#2, your instincts regarding photos is spot-on – that is beyond creepy. But I want to push back a little bit on the other tactic you mention as well. Does this actually work? Is it actually helping get leads or gain sales? You can’t force a personal relationship just by writing random notes to people.

    1. Allie*

      Also, your sales pool should NOT be your friends and family. That’s the tactics MLMs use and there’s a reason people always lose money on them. If you’re relying on selling to friends and family either it’s a scam, your company is badly run, or you’re not marketing a product correctly.

    2. WellRed*

      I don’t even understand the concept, photos or not. Sending “cards” as a sales tactic? Huh? What a horrible job.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        I don’t see any cold sales tactic as being particularly likely to succeed, but I can see the logic bhing it. Low risk for potentially high reward.

        On the other hand, occasionally, as unobtrusively as possible, reminding active prospects that you remain interested in doing business with them, and likewise, reminding existing customers, from time to time, that you value the relationship, can lead to further business.

        The rapport you have with the existing prospect/client makes a big difference in how to go about it. A prudent salesperson takes into account whether he thinks the prospect/client will be annoyed.

        I never liked high pressure sales tactics, and that made me sensitive to my customers’ preferences. The balance varies with each individual.

        I made a point of sending a “Thank You” card to everyone I sold a car to.

        But that’s very different from what is described in the letter.

    3. Nea*

      I once got the advice to find some CEO and start writing them a letter a week, offering solutions to some problem they had, then, after several weeks, ask for a job.

      I blurted “I don’t work for free!” at the time, but the more I think about that self-sales tactic the more confused I get. In the CEO’s shoes, why would I be impressed by some random unknown assuming they know more about my assets, issues, business process, and legal restrictions than *I* do?

  23. EventPlannerGal*

    OP1 – especially agree with Alison that your friend absolutely should not say anything to the effect of “this is not the best use of my limited free time so I don’t want to go”, regardless of how the sentiment is phrased. Your friend is an adult and therefore in charge of his own free time; nobody press-ganged him into agreeing to this trip, he just didn’t want to say “no”! If he was going to say anything along those lines he had the opportunity to do that back when the trip was suggested.

    1. June*

      “Friend” made an obligation and needs to suck it up and go. Lesson learned for next time.

  24. Reality Check*

    #3 I was this employee once. I had some horrible things going on in my life (and I pray I never have to go thru anything like it ever again), and my boss, who was fully aware of the situation, sat me down for a Come-to-Jesus moment. My attitude had been dragging everyone down. She was sympathetic, and this conversation alone was enough to make me aware of the effect I was having on the team, and try to be more positive. And while I didn’t get there overnight, I did get there eventually. Her talking with me and making me aware of the effect I was having on others is what got the ball rolling. Hopefully this will help in your situation, too.

    1. cncx*

      yeah i was having a mental health situation at one job once and i cosign this, i had a coworker pull me aside and basically be like “look i’m here to do a job and get paid and i can’t have things be heavy all the time, i can’t take this on at work all day every day” and something clicked in me and i tried to not actively bring the mood down moving forward. cutting someone slack over their own situation doesn’t mean not taking care of the other people on the team.

      1. June*

        Yes. Every single person goes through hard times. You can’t bring it to work day in and day out.

  25. LlamaLawyer*

    LW2- this sounds like a creepy MLM sales tactic taken to the extreme. There’s ways of doing something similar in a much less creepy way. For instance, when I have been featured in a news article or professional publication, I receive emails and notes from contacts who saw it and offer their congrats- or maybe they’ll send me a copy (which I appreciate greatly).

    1. Allie*

      I’m glad I am not the only one for whom this immediately pinged “MLM”. At least, every time I’ve gotten one of those out of nowhere communications, I’ve inevitably been pitched an MLM.

    2. londonedit*

      Absolutely, I immediately thought this sounded like the ‘real-life’ version of those people who want to ‘reconnect’ on Facebook and then two seconds later are messaging you about their ‘fantastic work-from-home business opportunity’ MLM nonsense. I would NOT react well to a stranger sending me an unsolicited card with one of my personal photos on it. It would feel like a massive violation, it would come across as extremely creepy, and I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with whatever they were trying to sell beyond telling them to eff off and keep out of my social media.

    3. Red 5*

      OMG, I didn’t make the MLM connection but you’re right, that is exactly what this is like and almost certainly where this evolved from.

      There’s a great article I read a little while ago about how MLM’s are ruining female friendship because of these kind of marketing tactics.

  26. Pyjamas*

    #1 why are you writing for your friend??? He seems rather passive: saying yes to a trip he doesn’t feel like going on, letting you write a letter, etc. Next time, send him the link to AAM and let him write his own letter

    Hot take: maybe he felt ok about the trip when he agreed to it, is feeling socially anxious now, but will enjoy himself on the trip. That happens to me with purely social events all. the. time.

    1. Toptoast*

      Or maybe the friend is so wishy washy that they agreed to the trip because they want to go, but the LW themselves is who doesn’t want the friend to go on the trip. So now the friend feels guilty and has agreed not to go because pressure from the LW. This poor friend needs to learn backbone or they’ll go through life constantly being pulled one way and then another by whoever’s around.

    2. Guillame Dautrive*

      You’re accurate with all these statements. And I imagine the trip will be fun! But also I can understand feeling anxious about social travel with your boss.

      1. Guillame Dautrive*

        This reply was for Pyjamas btw. Toptoast you seem a bit harsh towards me for writing in, fwiw. IDGAF if he goes or not. But I also don’t like seeing him rush to agree and then rethink it later. It’s frustrating watching someone I care about be pulled one way and another by whoever’s around.

        1. Artemesia*

          By taking up his task for him you are playing into his usual game of being pushed about by one person or another. This is a guy who needs to take care of his own stuff for awhile.

  27. Harper the Other One*

    LW1: the most useful phrase I use when I’m prone to saying yes without thinking is “let me check my calendar.” It gives me time, even if it’s just a few minutes, to think about whether I really want to do the thing, and an automatic out if not – “sorry, I have an appointment/commitment that weekend.”

    In this instance, where I had already committed and tickets were purchased, I would attend the weekend. But if your friend finds he’s often getting into this situation he really needs to actively work on comfort saying no.

    1. Guillame Dautrive*

      You are exactly right with this. He is terrible at saying “let me get back to you”. And at the moment, he’s actually genuinely interested! Which makes it even more challenging, since he doesn’t give himself time to think about it.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I get that very much! I’m prone to overload myself because in the moment, yeah, I definitely am interested. All the more reason for him to practice an automatic “let me get back to you.” It’s very freeing when you finally establish that habit!

        1. Guillame Dautrive*

          I’m sure it’s so helpful! If you have any suggestions on establishing the habit, I’ll pass them along.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Or he would love to go, then his wife points that it would mean her being alone with the kids for all that time, and she’d been hoping to go out with some friends of hers.

  28. Junior Assistant Peon*

    #3 – I’ve seen a lot of situations where the employee with a bad attitude was legitimately treated poorly by the company. Usually, someone didn’t wake up one morning and decide to be negative.

    1. English, not American*

      The guy’s got a whole list of non-work reasons to be unhappy, there doesn’t have to be anything wrong with work if he’s seeing the world in general through a dark lens of depression.

      1. Jack Straw*

        Or of a potentially terminal cancer diagnosis (which every cancer diagnosis is until it isn’t).

        My org is wonderful. I truly enjoy working here. My boss is bending over backwards to make sure I’m able to have time off for appointments. But there are days I need to remind myself that I am choosing to stay at work throughout treatment and I need to act a little more like the person they hired–which has ZERO to do with the org and everything to do with me and what I’m dealing with outside of work.

        If I’m ever at the point of LW3’s coworker, I hope my manager sits me down and kindly and compassionately lets me know how I’m impacting my team.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, I thought this was going to be about work treating him poorly, but it’s about life dealing it out with both fists to him over a couple of years and his coping skills are in shreds. I feel for him, for OP, and for the coworkers.

  29. bluephone*

    “One of the methods is to write personal notes daily to whomever you can think of regarding whatever subject is applicable, so you can connect with them on a personal level.”

    I’m sorry but what the (redacted). This seems like the best way to get a potential client to NOT want to do business with you.

    1. Jellyfish*

      Yeah, this suddenly explains a lot of the unsolicited sales emails I get at work. I assume this method works often enough to make it worthwhile, but it completely turns me off to those products.

      The salespeople I have good relationships with are the ones who are upfront about their goals and offer quality products that I want. Strangers who act overly familiar or who have clearly internet stalked me do not inspire trust.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


      This is a crazy idea. I don’t want a personal relationship with the guy who sells me toner. I just want the right cartridges, at a good price, when I need it.

      I’ve never heard of this Ninja Sales thing, but it sounds diametrically opposed to the Cluetrain Manifesto.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I looked at the Amazon preview of Ninja Selling, and it’s basically your standard sales/management book tripe infused with practices of gratitude and positivity. I am generally immune from sales tactics and emotional pitches, and share your what I need, when I want it, at a reasonable price philosophy. I just assume I’m the outlier – if there is a market for this crap, surely it must work on someone?

        And this is one of the many reasons I don’t do social media. I don’t need my information being harvested for a sales pitch. Using my photos would totally creep me out.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I looked because I wondered about the ninja imagery. Are they trying to assassinate their customers? The metaphor seems to be one of stealth, your marketing so subtle that the customers don’t realize they are being marketed to. I suspect they are usually wrong about that.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Suppose you and the guy who sells you toner really hit it off. Every time he comes over to fulfill your toner needs you chat about life, the universe, and the local sports team. One day he is there at the end of business, so the two of you go out for a beer. Pretty soon you are at his house for a barbeque, and he is at your daughter’s wedding. Naturally you are going to keep going to him for toner, without even shopping around for a better deal.

        This is what these sales strategies are trying to fake.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          Sorry, but I compartmentalize my life. This is not Mad Men. I’ve seen what happens when you mix personal and business, and there are times that it turns out very bad.

          I don’t care if you’re my drinking buddy. If your toner sucks, I’m going to buy elsewhere.

          Now if you’ve done me a business favor – like making a rush delivery in your own car when I desperately needed it late on a Friday, then I’ll cut you some slack. But just because we are both into the same music/sports/TV/whatever doesn’t mean squat when it comes to the bottom line.

          1. Arctic*

            The person you are responding to was citing a general phenomenon that works on some people. Not you specifically. If it didn’t work they wouldn’t use it. The fact that you are different doesn’t change that.

          2. doreen*

            And maybe if the guy’s toner sucks you don’t buy it. But suppose your buddy and his competitor both sell the same toner at approximately the same price ( to you *) – most people will buy from their buddy in that case.

            * I specify “to you” because the buddy thing works in both directions and your buddy may give you a better price than other customers get.

      3. SnappinTerrapin*

        People can buy from whomever they want. For most people, value is an assessment of price and quality.

        The intangibles that “make it easy to do business” affect our assessment of value, too.

        Having said that, when there are multiple sources offering similar value, people tend to buy from people they like and whom they would like to see succeed.

        There is a big difference between building real business relationships and trying to find some magic formula that converts a cold call into something resembling a relationship.

  30. Hiring Mgr*

    Ideally #1 should just go and deal with it for a few days, but if they are going to flake, they better come up with a seriously good emergency excuse/lie (and reimburse if needed).

  31. Delta Delta*

    #2 – My Facebook photo is a screen grab someone got when I happened to be on television during a major sporting event. It’s… not necessarily flattering but it’s obvious where I am and when. My twitter photo is the back of my head. Neither of these is going to get me to buy gutters.

    1. Toptoast*

      Someone sends me a picture of myself opening a Christmas present with the message “your gutters are looking pretty bad lately!” and I am taking that to the police office and saying “my stalker is back” -_- This needs to be reevaluated as a marketing technique. It is horrendous.

  32. Polecat*

    #1 I think your friend needs to suck it up and go on the trip. Whatever happened to honoring your commitments? He said he was going to go and then he had regrets because he really didn’t wanna go. Well too bad! Go on this trip and if another one comes up, be a grown-up and decline the invite. Canceling on your boss is not a great idea, he’s gonna look flaky, and the reason he’s gonna look flaky is because he is.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The reason he’s gonna look flaky is because he is.

      I think this comes into is it judgy? Of course! People judge you! People at work judge you all the time, on things like whether you’re good at your job and pleasant to deal with and reliable. Work has never been a judgment free zone.

      Yeah, this is a private life social event, but all the people involved are from work, so OP’s friend doesn’t get to argue that his actions toward these people should in no way affect their professional opinion of him.

        1. Blue Eagle*

          I invited a co-worker to an event where I had an extra ticket and agreed to pick co-worker up at their home. Noone was there when I arrived. So I had to go by myself.

          The next day the co-worker gave some lame excuse and said they hoped to be invited the next time. Guess whether or not they were ever invited again?

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            (…unless they or an immediate family member were actually in the emergency room or similar…) That person would get the side-eye from me for the REST OF ETERNITY.

  33. Nea*

    Anyone who tried to connect with a personal level with me based on social media needs to be extremely knowledgeable about Good Omens, Yuri on Ice, or Sherlock Holmes, because that is all I ever talk about.

    …and then they still won’t stand out from the crowd, because that’s what I’m on social media to discuss.

  34. Cat Lady of Oxford*

    Sounds like an MLM on LW#2.

    That’s really creepy and a red flag for me. I would not do business with people who take my photos and send them to me.

  35. Worktolive*

    “One of the methods is to write personal notes daily to whomever you can think of regarding whatever subject is applicable, so you can connect with them on a personal level.”
    This is a one way ticket to Blockedtown.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      I assume the idea is that you spend time every day writing personal notes to various people, not that you write to the same people every day! So the vendor writes notes daily, but each prospective client receives them only monthly or whatever.

      Either way, I’d still rather not receive them at all. I have business relationships and I have personal relationships, and I try very hard to keep them separate. If the streams get crossed, it’s because *I* made a conscious decision to cross them, usually by doing a very careful risk analysis on the possibility of doing business with this particular friend. I can’t think of a situation where it happened the other way around and I became friends with a business colleague – and I definitely would not respond well to a business colleague trying to insert themselves into my personal life this way.

  36. Jack Straw*

    LW3, maybe this will help you know you’re doing the right thing, at least from my perspective as a fellow in-treatment, still-working, not-as-positive-as-I-used-to-be, cancer-haver…

    My org is wonderful. I truly enjoy working here. My boss is bending over backwards to make sure I’m able to have time off for appointments and allowing me to make my time up vs. take PTO (I don’t qualify for FMLA yet). They have made dealing with my recurrence as smooth as possible. (I am also making every effort to schedule things at opportune times, around team member’s PTO, etc.)

    I’m not at the all caps emails stage, but there are days I absolutely need to remind myself that I am choosing to stay at work throughout treatment, and that I need to act a little more like the person they hired. If I’m ever at the point you coworker, I hope my manager sits me down and kindly and compassionately lets me know how I’m impacting my team.

    I’m choosing to work because I like my job and I physically can. I also, like your coworker, have a fair amount of my sense of self wrapped up in my job and my performance. If I was not being that person, I’d want to know.

  37. Erin*

    I cannot imagine a universe in which someone I do not know sends me a photo from my social media in a card as a sales pitch. I also can confirm that this would be promptly deleted, and that company would never have my business.

    That is an extremely creepy and a possibly non-legal use of social media photos? Either way, it is creepy and inappropriate. If you have a product or service to sell, get some actual marketing materials together.

    1. Toptoast*

      I feel like this can’t be legal. Just because a picture is out there doesn’t mean it’s available for use–isn’t that why Wal Mart won’t let you print any studio photos, regardless of whether you say you have the copyright or not? When you sign up for Facebook, you grant them permission to use your photos if they want, because you’re hosting it on their service–just like a photo studio can use your pictures as display in their shop. But a random person can’t pull your pictures out of the shop display and use them for whatever they want. Seems to me like this advice is looking for a lawsuit to happen.

  38. Jean*

    LW1 – If someone had agreed to go on a trip with me and a group, and I paid for their ticket, and then they came back to me with “This is not a good use of my lImItEd FrEe tImE” I would be disgusted. It would change my view of them permanently. Which is something you particularly want to avoid when that person is your boss.

  39. Jyn’Leeviyah the Red*

    LW #1 — I truly empathize with your friend, as I ended up in this position as a first-year teacher (although it was for a conference, not a social event). I didn’t have the skills to set boundaries or buy myself time yet (and I had massively untreated anxiety). I ended up paying for the plane and conference tickets, which was several hundred dollars — not great on a starting teacher’s salary! What Alison said about it actually not being “the nice thing” when you make a commitment and then back out is what shifted things for me, too, all those years ago.

    For now, I think the thing to do is either go with Alison’s advice (including paying for the ticket) or just going with an open mind and hoping for the best. Who knows — your friend might have a good time! And if not, it’s only 4 days, in the big scheme of things. For the future, your friend definitely needs to come up with some techniques that will help in the moment when these offers come up. The best tactic I learned was to say, “Thank you for the invitation! I will need to check my home calendar and get back to you.” It doesn’t matter if you actually have a “home calendar” or not. What matters is that this buys you time and space to think about the offer, and removes the pressure in the moment. Then you can answer honestly a few hours or days later, either with an acceptance or a “Sorry, I have a conflict scheduled.”

  40. straws*

    LW2 – My mother-in-law does this. She prints out our photos and sends them to us as cards or printed onto various household items. It’s weird enough coming from her, when we just write it off as one of her quirks. I can’t even imagine receiving something like that from a stranger and for business purposes at that!

  41. Falling Diphthong*

    #1, if the problem is that the parts of this trip not covered by boss are way more expensive than your friend can possibly afford, I’d take Alison’s advice.

    But if the problem is what you list, of limited free time and not wanting to spend it with these people because, what, friend said he would spend this time with these people, and they made plans based on what he said, and have laid out cash based on what he said? In that case I would advise that he PRETEND that he is the sort of not-wishy-washy person who would never do that, do his level best to be fun and charming over the long weekend, and in future say things like “I’m busy that weekend; you guys have fun.” Or, who knows, maybe he has a good time and decides he should do things outside his comfort zone more often.

    Canceling at the last minute (or turning maybe yes maybe no who can say what even is time) is very frustrating to people. 10 times moreso if they have laid out money based on your claims about being a solid yes. “That really annoying guy” is not how you want your boss and coworkers to label you in their mind.

  42. Toptoast*

    LW#2: As others have said, this is disturbing and terrible. Not only should you not do this, but please, if you can find a way, push back against anyone who recommends it so this procedures can be curtailed! I had a stalker in college, and being sent my own pictures back would terrify me. Even if the picture was being sent for innocent reasons, it’s a kind of PTSD and I can’t help the reaction–racing heart, inability to breathe. Who knows, you might be giving someone a stronger reaction than merely being offended. (I know this is how I react to having my own pictures sent to me because a mentally ill guy in a Facebook group used to do that–my Facebook pictures are hidden to non-friends, but not my profile pictures, and he would take my profile pictures and send them to websites or message them back to me and it was a horrifying experience.)

    1. EmmaPoet*

      This is a really good point, You have no idea how this will land with the person, or what it might trigger for them. I’ve never been stalked, but this would probably unnerve me as well.

  43. The vault*

    #1 – I hate the narrative of “way too nice” to whatever….as Alison explained in her response.
    I have a friend with a super toxic mother in law who keeps ignoring her wishes on keeping her son safe, and one of my other friends is like, wow, I couldn’t put up with that, she’s so nice. NO. It is often easier to go that way. It takes guts to be assertive and stand your ground. And it’s not nice. Sorry, always rubs me the wrong way.

    1. Jean*

      THIS. It’s not “nice” to accept invitations to things you have no intention of actually doing, especially when it involves other people putting time, money, and effort into planning around all who accepted the invite attending. It’s crappy and dishonest, and dressing it up as “too nice” is a cop-out. ESPECIALLY when the instinct when backing out is to give a reason like it’s “not a good use of my time.” Puke. (This is a major pet peeve for me, if that wasn’t obvious lol)

  44. Great Anon*

    That “Ninja Sales” book should have probably been called Hari-Kari Sales. Because that’s basically what you’re doing to your sales prospect if you follow nonsense like that.

  45. Colorado*

    #1: I think your friend needs to suck it up and go on the trip he committed to going on. This isn’t a “hey, I didn’t realize I had other plans so can’t do dinner Friday night” kind of thing. Someone bought plane tickets based on his agreement. I hope he goes and has a great time and also learns the lesson of saying no thanks next time. Be an adult, follow through.. hell, I make my kid do this

    Someone mentioned above that it seems these days people are quick to cancel plans without considering the other person/people, not showing up to birthday parties they accepted invites to, etc. and I see that trend too. One of my pet peeves is people accepting invites to kid’s parties then not showing up. I tell my kid if they committed, they go. It’s rude and hurtful otherwise.

    1. londonedit*

      You’re so right. There seem to be two schools of thought – personally, if I make a commitment to go to something, I put it in my diary and unless something legitimate happens (like I’m ill, or a family member is ill, or there’s some sort of household emergency) then I go. But I know other people who do the ‘Oh no – is that *tonight*? I can’t make it…’ thing, or the ‘So sorry, can’t make it after all’ thing, or the ‘Something’s come up’ thing, or the just not turning up at all thing. I think they just don’t see it as a real commitment – to them, it’s ‘Oh yeah, there was that thing I said yes to, I’ll see whether I feel like going nearer the time’. And if something more interesting comes up, they ditch the original commitment. Whereas if I’ve committed to one thing, unless I then found out I was being offered tickets to the Cup Final or my sister was having an engagement party or something, the original commitment would win out.

    2. EmmaPoet*

      Yeah, I feel like once someone has committed to buying a plane ticket per your agreement to the plan, you can’t just bail. An emergency is one thing, but “not the best use of my limited free time” really isn’t going to land well, especially with coworkers.

  46. Guillame Dautrive*

    OP1 here, a few comments:
    Several commenters are spot on that my friend needs some assertiveness training and therapy both. This is just one of many times that he’s been looped into things half-heartedly out of a desire to not rock the boat.

    The “better use of limited free time” is my phrasing. I’m sure everyone can tell that I have no issues with stating my mind. He is more of the mind of “this sounded fun at first but now I’m not so sure”.

    IMO I would absolutely never take a social trip with managers or bosses (and only sometimes with co-workers). But it is not uncommon for folks in his industry to blur personal/professional.

    Not sure if folks think this is a “my friend says” when I’m actually talking about myself, but maybe that led to some unreasonably harsh comments? I appreciated the folks who extended him grace in the situation – it can be so difficult to say no! I can confirm that there’s no maliciousness or duplicity on his part.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      If this is just a not-really-sure thing then sorry, at this stage your friend should just go. I’ve actually been arguing the opposite above on the assumption that he really really really didn’t want to go, but if he’s just swithering now after plane tickets have already been bought? He should go. Maybe he’ll come full circle and have a great time!

      (I will say that the reaction is probably more to do with the phrasing you used, which IMO doesn’t come across as “speaking your mind” so much as it seems quite rude and contemptuous – maybe the response illustrates why he should stay away from any phrasing to the effect! If he really can’t bring himself to go, apologetic and polite would be the approach to take.)

      1. Guillame Dautrive*

        That would absolutely be the approach he would take! He’s very much the polite one in our friendship. And I can certainly see how it is a rude and contemptuous way to phrase things.

        Frankly, I am horrified by the idea of social travel with one’s boss, particularly with blurring the lines around money and travel (one person purchases this, the other person owes, etc.) – that is just a weird icky vibe to me and (TBH) I judge pretty harshly any supervisor that thinks that’s okay. So I can see how that contempt is bleeding through in my phrasing.

        But like I mentioned earlier, I also have a VERY strict no-social-with-bosses policy, while he’s in an industry where those lines are more often blurred.

    2. photon*

      I feel for your friend – I’m a recovering people-pleaser (who didn’t even realize she was one!). There IS light on the other side, and life gets much better afterwards!

      If he’s not up for training or therapy right now, perhaps a book would be good to throw his way? “Not Nice” by Aziz Gazipura has apparently helped a lot of people. I personally found “When It’s Never About You” by Ilene Cohen to be helpful, but Aziz’s book has more of a male perspective that may resonate more strongly with your friend.

      “Just say no” is oversimplistic advice for people like your friend. At the end of the day, yes, he is an adult responsible for his own actions, and he needs to own up to that. But there are *concrete techniques* people like him or me can employ to improve over time. Long term, he (and the people who rely on him!) would be much happier if he starts shifting his thinking/behaviors.

      1. Guillame Dautrive*

        Photon thank you so much!! This is super helpful. And I am so grateful to you for your compassion and your advice. I’m looking at these books now!

        1. photon*

          No problem!

          I’ll add one more note for anyone interested in people-pleasing behaviors here–

          When you say “yes” to everyone by default, you don’t get the opportunity to develop your own sense of what you need. Do you need a free day each weekend? Is 3 social events a week too much? Do you need events to not last too late? Who knows! Your schedule’s not up to you.

          A common result is that people will say yes to everything, until there’s a critical burnout point reached, and then they will suddenly get sick and cancel everything at once. Then they recover, and start the cycle again.

          I didn’t realize a lot of my needs until *after* I started saying “no”.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      A bit of commenter advice on here that stuck with me is that shyness can be making the focus of everything all about you. And whether everyone is doing the exact right (often unknown-to-them) things to make you comfortable. Lifting your gaze off your navel and onto how to make the social gathering pleasant for people beyond yourself was an excellent way to think about something beyond how awkward you were feeling.

      For your friend, I’d say there’s a similar vibe of being a people pleaser that he needs to realize actually isn’t being nice. Because people go out and expend effort planning to include him in something he happily agreed to do, and then they are stuck when he bails–that’s not nice, or kind, or compassionate of him to have not said no, or “I have to check a few things.” It’s on him to get better at reducing his flakiness, not on everyone else to get better at only inviting him to stuff he won’t flake on.

    4. GammaGirl1908*

      With this information, I agree with others that he should suck up and go.

      “Now I think maybe this might not be the most fun thing ever but I’m not sure” is … not an acceptable excuse for backing out of plans where someone has already spent money based on your yes.

      He has absolutely no idea what the trip will be like unless he goes.

  47. Veryanon*

    #1 – fake an injury/illness, pay for the ticket, and chalk it up to lessons learned.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Ooh, no, don’t lie. Now you’ve got to extend the lie. “How you feeling now?” “Your back okay now?” Nah.

  48. HD*

    1 – “This is not a good use of my time” is a nasty and contemptuous thing to tell someone who wants to spend time with you socially. Whatever else your friend says, he shouldn’t say anything like that.

    1. Guillame Dautrive*

      OP1 here, yes you’re correct, that was my phrasing, I’m the nasty and contemptuous one. Thanks so much for your grace here.

      1. mophie*

        That was unreasonably harsh, Guillame. You come here asking for advice and HD gave it. and yes, “this is not a good use of my limited free time” is not a good thing to say to someone, especially your boss, but anyone really.

        1. Pyjamas*

          Well if you’re married & spouse is blazing mad bc you just spent a long weekend in Vegas with your work bros, telling aforesaid spouse, “that was not a good use of my limited free time” is just good journalism (& somewhat mitigated if you made a killing at the casino and hand over the booty)

          OP sorry if I sounded harsh — as I wrote, I sometimes agree to do social stuff and regret it as the day approaches. Thing is, the regret doesn’t correlate with whether I have a good time or not. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

          There was a good suggestion to say “let me check my calendar” and mull over the invite a few days, deciding once and for all what IS a good use of free time

          But I’m commenting again to give you some unsolicited advice. It’s very satisfying to solve other ppl’s problems. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. But I’ve found that it’s not really good for them (why should your friend learn to extricate him/her/their self from complications if they can get assistance from a helpful friend will) and it’s really not good for you or the friendship. You risk becoming a magnet for wounded sparrows and consequently don’t make good use of your limited time. And it puts a lot strain on relationships if one person is doing the heavy lifting. Clearly you value this person and would not want the friendship to end. It is less satisfying to accept your friend, warts and all, and privately sigh over their foibles, than to swoop in and suggest solutions. Yet this acceptance is an investment into what will hopefully be a friendship lasting many decades

          Off soapbox & best of luck to you both. I hope you’ll write in with an update after the trip takes place!

      2. Alianora*

        HD is right, though, it’s a very rude thing to say, particularly in this situation where your friend already agreed to go.

        I’m surprised you have no problem with the bluntness of your suggested statement, yet you’re getting offended when commenters here are bluntly honest about how it comes across.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Let people’s response to this line be a guide to how much even third parties are put off by that way of thinking.

        When people say “Bert, would you like to go to Las Vegas with us the third weekend in July?” they are not thinking “Is this the best possible use of Bert’s third weekend in July?” They think it might be! That’s why they asked! If Bert knows otherwise, it’s not on the inviter to discern that from Bert’s response of “Sounds great! I’m in! Yup, go ahead and buy airline tickets, and book that nicer AirBnB where we need to have 4 for it to make sense. I can’t wait to do this.”

  49. Allison*

    #4, here’s the thing about job applications: if it’s a simple process of submitting your resume, contact info, and filling out a brief survey for diversity purposes, there’s never any harm in tossing your name in the ring and then following up with your contact to see if they can put in a good word. There’s no penalty or punishment for applying to a job you’re not qualified for, it literally does not hurt.

    Now, for more complicated applications, where you have to write a cover letter, fill out an ’employment history” form after uploading your resume, furnish a writing sample, do some sort of exercise to prove you know how to do the things, fill out a lengthy personality assessment, provide three references, and/or fill out the forms needed for a background check (“just in case”), then yeah, I can understand wanting to make sure that the time it takes to do all that is at least somewhat likely to result in a call from the employer.

  50. Nanani*

    Any professional wedding photographers reading this might want to look into #2s business and line up the lawsuits.

  51. 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches*

    #5: You can/should certainly be looking for a job and open about the job search, but PLEASE try not to cut your internship short if you can avoid it. Internships are competitive and time-limited, and the organization is making an investment in developing you in your field. It also took the organization’s time and resources to get you set up and oriented before you could start doing any substantive work. If you quit early, both you and the organization lose out, and the other candidates who did not get the internship lost the opportunity, which is in itself not a small thing. (This is fresh for me, since we just lost an intern after 1 week(!) who got a permanent job — which is great for them, but we feel like maybe they knew this could be in the cards, so accepted our offer in bad faith. They were basically here just long enough for me to process the new-hire paperwork…)

  52. mophie*

    Is there ever a situation in which “This is not the best use of my limited free time,” is an appropriate response when someone asks you to do something? Even if you’re declining from the get-go?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      When they haven’t noticed that you lit the bridge on fire and are now liberally salting the ashes.

  53. Empress Matilda*

    I have my wedding pics on Facebook because it was an important day in my life – and because honestly, I love the way I looked with my professional hair and makeup! I’m never going to look like that again, that’s for sure. :)

    But the thing is – I’m divorced. So if I happen to connect with you on FB, and you try to sell me something by using a picture of me with a man I’m not married to any more…that would be super weird. Like, you’re clearly trying to capitalize on a personal relationship, and the fact that you’re sending this picture proves that we really don’t have the relationship you think we have.

    Or imagine a situation where someone sends you a picture of you and your grandmother at a picnic, but doesn’t know you well enough to know that Grandma died in the meantime and this is a really painful memory for you. To anyone thinking of trying this tactic – if you don’t know the people well enough to know the context of the pictures, and anything else that might have changed since the pics were taken – it’s a really bad idea. Just don’t.

  54. Creeped Out Homeowner*

    RE #2: I recently got a sales letter with a photo * of my own house * printed on the envelope! It was the entire front of the envelope, full color. They clearly got it from google maps but it was SO creepy. They wanted to sell us new home insurance. Obviously we would never do business with them.

    They did include a little blurb at the bottom stating they are in Florida, have never been to my house, and used publicly available images, but somehow that makes it worse – they know it’s creepy and do it anyway.

  55. RagingADHD*

    LW #1: Dude. No.

    The time to say he didn’t want to go was before he said, “Yes, I want to go!” Or, really, at any point before the tickets were bought.

    Does he live his whole life this way? He’s going to wind up in some seriously bad situations and really deeply hurt other people if he can’t say no to stuff he doesn’t want. What is he going to do when someone wants to have kids he doesn’t want? Truly terrible situations lie down that road.

    LW#2: Duuuuude, no.

    Downloading someone’s FB photos and sending them with a note is like my creepy neighbor who said, “I like what you’ve done with the furniture” when they’d never been inside my apartment.

    Yes, I know that windows work both ways, and FB is googleable, but we live in a society FFS. You don’t do stuff like that.

    I would have a serious re-think of the rest of that book, too.

    Just, no.

  56. MCMonkeybean*

    #2 is so baffling to me! I have definitely never heard of that and I can’t imagine anyone would find it charming rather than creepy.

    The normal version of this is that if you want to make your notes more personal you use *your own* pictures. I might get a mailer from some real estate agent in my area that has a nice photo of her and her family on it or something. The point is to say “hey, there is a real person behind these notes!” which is not at all accomplished by using the picture of the person you are sending to.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      (Note also that using your own pictures is not only less creepy but also waaaay easier and cost effective since you can obviously send the same note to everyone instead of having to creepily stalk each target individually.)

  57. CoveredInBees*

    OP2 That is so creepy and invasive. I would be genuinely upset to receive something like that and not want anything to do with the person who sent it. If we were allowed to post GIFs here, there’s one featuring Maya Rudolph that sums up my feelings perfectly.

Comments are closed.