CEO’s wife ruined my job prospects

I’m on vacation. This was originally published in 2017.

A reader writes:

I have been going through a very rigorous interviewing process for a permanent job in a firm where I have been undergoing a two-month post-college training program/paid internship which is very prestigious and only very few trainees are offered the permanent job. It would be my first proper job after finishing university. I have worked very hard during the training and have been very much appreciated by all colleagues. I have successfully passed all stages of the internal recruitment and have been told repeatedly by HR that I would definitely be offered the job. All that was left was to do a final interview with the company CEO and another director, scheduled for an early afternoon on Monday. However, everyone treated this as a mere courtesy meeting or just a sort of final formality.

On Sunday evening, I was travelling home on a packed train with my bike. Suddently, I was approached by a lady who asked me, rather rudely, to give my seat to a man, her father, who was travelling with her. Since I was sitting on a regular seat (not a seat designated for disabled passangers) and had to read some materials to prepare for my interview, I ignored her. Unfortunately, when I was getting off the train, I accidentally moved my bike in a way that it caught and left dirty stains on her coat.

I did not think much of this till the next day when I ran into the same woman and one of directors in the lift in my office building. It transpired that she is the CEO’s wife. She said nothing and did not acknowledge me, but it was very clear to me that she recognised me.

My interview that day went very well. However, I was not offered the job! I was given some feedback about the skills that I have to develop but that was all. I am not sure HR knows about the above as nobody mentioned it. The HR person who handled my recruitment was very surprised, in fact he was in shock about this. In any case, I am very disappointed as I am sure that this is the result of the said woman badmouthing me to her husband. I have worked so hard to get this job and feel it is extremely unfair to be rejected for something that has nothing to do with my performance and ability to do the job.

I am thinking that I should complain to HR and also should request the meeting with the CEO and the second director (who interviewed me) to explain myself, or maybe even to offering to pay for dry-cleaning or reimbursement of the ruined coat?

Don’t complain to HR. And don’t ask for a meeting to explain yourself. It’ll come across as if (a) you feel entitled to a job that you aren’t actually entitled to and which you might have ended up not getting for other reasons, and (b) you’re only offering to pay for the coat now because you think you lost the job over it.

It’s unlikely that this is about a dry cleaning bill. It’s more likely that this is about … well, character.

Ignoring someone who asks you to give up your seat to an older person who needs it is, frankly, pretty rude. If you had a medical need to sit there, it’s of course fine to explain that. But claiming the seat for yourself because you were reading and didn’t feel like standing is pretty crappy. And not even acknowledging the request is worse. There’s a social contract around this kind of thing — you give up your seat to someone who needs it more because of infirmity.

The bike thing was just icing on the cake. I don’t know how you handled it when you bumped her and stained her clothes, and if you were mortified and apologized profusely, okay — stuff happens that you can’t always control. But you don’t mention apologizing or interacting with her in any way.

If I were your interviewer and happened to be on that train and witnessed all of this, it would give me serious pause about hiring you. I’d worry that I had just learned something about your character (rudeness, selfishness, callousness) that in time would cause problems at work too.

This isn’t all that different from losing a job because you were rude to the receptionist. People care about how you behave to others. Sure, it’s not exactly the same as the receptionist scenario because the person you slighted was the wife of an employee, rather than an actual employee … but if they’re hearing it from a credible source, it’s fair game for it to matter to them.

You could certainly offer to pay for the dry cleaning now (framing it as “I realized that you’re married to someone whose coat I stained on the train and now that I know how to reach her, I would like to pay for the cleaning bill”), but you should offer it just because it’s the right thing to do, not because you’re trying to change the hiring decision.

The hiring decision probably isn’t changing. I know that must be hugely disappointing, but I really urge you not to see it as unfair. Rather, take it as a way to learn early in your career that manners and kindness matter, and that attempts to determine how important someone might be or might not can easily go awry.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 346 comments… read them below }

    1. Artemesia*

      The hubris of the follow up is mind boggling. He still thought that being a characterless weasel should not have affected the hiring decision. And he still thinks his behavior was actually ‘fine’.

      1. br612*

        “Career services should’ve told me to not be rude to people!”

        Bro if you need career services to tell you that you have bigger issues than not getting a fancy job.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I was rolling my eyes at the quote below from the follow up. Why do so many people seem to think it’s OK to be rude to the receptionist/janitor/security guard?

          “I wish I had been told the receptionist/janitor/security guard story by career services at my university, which is one of those prestigious English ones. (Note from Alison: This is a reference to advice that you should be polite to receptionists/janitors/security guards when interviewing.) “

          1. RussianInTeaxs*

            Does he know not to be rude to the waitstaff? Nurses? Other people who are “below” his job and education?

            1. Batty Twerp*

              He went to a ‘prestigious’ English University. There’s one that immediately springs to mind – the one that churns out 99% of our Prime Ministers. And no, not a single one has the slightest inkling that you should be polite to those below you.
              These places also give us a disproportionate number of bankers (with a capital W).

          2. DJ Abbott*

            At one of the retail jobs I had when I was young, a colleague mentioned he would find himself being rude to wait staff because of all the customers being rude to him. A way of venting, apparently.
            Still not good, of course.

          3. Miguel Valdespino*

            This is not just good advice for interviewing, it’s good advice for life.

            For those who don’t see the intrinsic value of letting politeness be your default: Many “menial” jobs deal with lots of parts of the company. They interact with people across the org chart. If your name comes up, do you want your grandboss or a C-level employee to hear positive or negative things about you? If you are trying to cut through the bureaucrazy, then knowing the right assistant can help.

            Saying “Thank you” or “How’s it going today?” costs you nothing but a little air.

          4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            TBF, if it’s one of the places I’m thinking of, the biggest lesson anyone learns there is that if you graduate from there you are vastly superior to the rest of society.
            Not to boast, but it so happens that I went to a highly selective grammar school, one that’s always in the top ten nationwide, and we were basically told that our school was the gateway to these universities, and that we were the cream of the the cream of society, the future leaders of the nation and other crap stuff.
            (“Needless to say” I rebelled against all that and hotfooted off to explore the world instead)

        2. fposte*

          I think the commenters who suggested he might be an international student had a point–that this is somebody to whom some of these principles are literally foreign.

          1. Lady Meyneth*

            From someone who’s worked in several countries in North and South America, and with friends all over Europe… it’s really hard to find anywhere where “don’t be rude to people who might know your future managers” can possibly be foreign. And that’s only after we get past the general “don’t be rude to people”.

          2. AcademiaNut*

            Nah, being an asshole to people regarded as inferior crosses national and cultural borders, even though what counts as polite/rude behaviour can vary a lot. There are certainly a lot of native born Americans of European ancestry who think treating store clerks, janitors, receptionists and random people on the subway like garbage is entirely reasonable.

            The impression I get from the LW is of someone who was raised by people who never taught them that politeness, kindness and character are important, and is wealthy and privileged enough that they’ve never had to face real consequences for their behaviour.

            1. Artemesia*

              yeah it is universal. The Germans even have a word for it (as they so often cleverly do). ‘Bicycle personality’ in English — above he bows, below he kicks.

          3. Airy*

            I thought he was probably English upper-middle class and had been either encouraged to believe or directly told that his education made him better than other people (both caused him to become better and was evidence that he was already better and that’s why he received it). An attitude of ruthless self-interest is often promoted in that class, to be competitive above all, to the extent that being kind and polite even to people you don’t know just because everyone will feel better that way and get along more harmoniously really is a foreign consideration. If it isn’t strategic, why would you do it? Et cetera.
            And that’s how you get Tories

            1. Deejay*

              I used to work in a shop in a town adjacent to a certain well-known fee-paying school famous for educating a significant number of British Prime Ministers, including the current one and his last-but-one predecessor. The pupils there wear a distinctive uniform. They had a VERY bad reputation in our shop for behaviour such as walking right into little old ladies and sending them flying, or knocking things off the shelves and sneeringly telling us to pick them up.

            2. Rainy*

              My first husband’s sister married a dude who unblushingly told his children “We’re not better because we’re rich, we’re rich because we’re better.”

              Re-reading this letter brought that strongly to mind.

            3. Boadicea*

              This, absolutely. I also went to “one of those prestigious English universities” (though I have never previously described it as such in my life) – these arseholes were rare there, I promise, and yet from that minority I absolutely did recognize this guy.
              They think there are a lot of “tricks” to getting what you want in life (maybe there are), and things like being nice to the receptionist are just another tickbox trick.

              1. Boadicea*

                Also? Because this really annoyed me, obviously I have no idea whether we did indeed go to the same university, but our Careers Service was fucking excellent and the people who worked there utterly brilliant and hardworking. Bet his were too; he needs to get his head out of his arse.

          4. LisTF*

            I also got the flavor that the OP came from a culture with a rigid class/caste system where this type of behavior is fairly normal in interactions between upper and lower classes. And that now that they’re out in the real world they’re recognizing they need to learn different norms from the bubble they typically existed in.

            1. Eyelessbarrow*

              As someone from such culture, this is the vibe I got as well. People from my country who study at prestigious Europe universities are either scholarship kids (the majority), or super wealthy kids (minority). If they’re wealthy enough to afford the fees, then this is behaviour is the norm among them.

            2. armchairexpert*

              The English upper class IS a culture with a rigid class/caste system where this type of behaviour is fairly normal.

          5. Edwina*

            Actually, that would make it even less forgivable. It’s extremely customary in Europe, for example, to give up your seat to someone who needs it, if no reserved seats are available. And many countries–Japan, for example–have even MORE of a social compact and are known for being kind and respectful to everyone. Americans are quite boorish in comparison to many other countries!

            1. Lesley McCullough*

              I’m not American but Canadian and I disagree. Unfortunately, citizens of every country sometimes exhibit boorish behaviour although perhaps in different areas. I am always taken aback by how rude Germans and East Europeans seem to me in conversation but I try to keep in mind that the bluntless is cultural and in some cases linguistic. And yet, many are amongst the kindest and most compassionate people I have met. And I have to remember that they may think I am boorish in what they see as obfuscating or wasting their time. When we start generalizing about national behaviour, it’s a slippery slope that quickly takes us to an unpleasant behaviour.

          6. lailaaaaah*

            Nah, I work in a private school atm- the international students are often way more likely to be overly polite and deferential to try and smooth their way in an unfamiliar landscape. It’s the home grown ones you want to watch out for, particularly the rich white boys who have never heard the word ‘no’ in their life.

          7. RB Purchase*

            I’m a few days late, but I think fposte’s point here was a joke! They aren’t suggesting that international students are inherently rude, they’re using wordplay. It makes sense that the LW is _international_ because politeness is _foreign_ to him.

      2. Eefs*

        Hubris indeed! I swear when I read this and the follow up it sounds like a fake email! Nobody could be this clueless about themselves. “Whatever that means” and “one of those prestigious English ones” like gimme a break.

        1. ceiswyn*

          I studied at a prestigious English university, many years ago. And I learned that being nice to the administrative and menial staff gets you all sorts of unofficial perks :)

          Though I suppose that if you never tried it, you’d never learn that…

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            IMO it’s also nice to treat “menial” staff politely out of basic respect for them as human beings, not because it’s some sort of cheat code to unlock extra perks. But YMMV, I guess.

            1. ceiswyn*

              Why do you think I was being nice to all those people in the first place…?

              This is my point: it isn’t going to prestigious institutions that teaches you to treat some people like things. It’s having that attitude when you go in.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I expect that students being nice to admin and menial staff rather stand out from the crowd in such places…

    2. June*

      Absolutely. And I wonder if dirtying the coat was an “accident”. The follow up letter didn’t convince me much of a lesson was learned.

  1. Person from the Resume*

    Hmmm … update was great.

    I was thinking and it is confirmed by what HR said in the update, that the incident had nothing to do with the hiring decision. There were two people interviewing for the the job; some of the feedback the LW got was that she was overconfident. Seems true. LW assumed the job was in the bag and the interview was a formality when it wasn’t. She grasping a straws that an incident where she was a jerk to stranger who turned out to be important instead of the fact that she just wasn’t the top candidate.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      HR *said* it wasn’t an issue. Which is exactly what I would have said, even if it was very much an issue.

      1. MuseumChick*

        This. There is no way of knowing if it was or was not a factor. That being said, giving the way the OP presents herself in the letters and the fact that HR told her she come off over-confident in the interview suggest that even if this incident had not happen she still would not have gotten he job.

      2. hbc*

        If I had to put money down, I’d say it wasn’t The Issue, but it lined up with all work-based observations. I interview a guy who is radiating his belief that the job is in the bag, and then someone tells me that he refused to give up his seat to someone in need? My likely response: “Of course he did.”

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yup – the train incident was just the capstone. It was the event that just confirmed what people already suspected about them – that they are super confident and not all that polite to what the consider “little people” or less important jobs.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            This is consistent with how in the first letter the job was in the bag and the final interview just a formality. Then in the second letter there was another candidate competing for the position. My guess is that the LW went in thinking it was in the bag not because they were told that, but because of privilege, what with that degree from a prestigious English university.

            1. Paulina*

              Yes. They have the attitude that everything is in the bag even when it’s highly competitive and hardly anyone gets such a position, because they’re confident that the sun shines out of their nether regions. Even if they did the job tasks well during their internship, the arrogance would give most recruiters pause.

            2. Elle*

              >the LW went in thinking it was in the bag not because they were told that, but because of privilege, what with that degree from a prestigious English university.

              Which is bizarre, because they were in London applying for what sounds like a graduate scheme, so there’s about a 95% chance that their competition *also* has a degree from a prestigious English university! And the remaining 5% is that they have a degree from a prestigious Scottish university…

              1. Candi*

                First rule of people with this mindset: They do not think things through, particularly when the end result of the thought exercise would be a negative result for them.

                In this case, their thought process likely ended at “I’m better than them, so I’ll get the job.” Consideration of their schooling and whether they took the interview seriously wouldn’t even blip.

            3. RJ*

              And HR’s comment that he was “overconfident” was probably code for “arrogant” – which he then turned around and proved by complaining to HR that he didn’t get the job he was entitled to.

      3. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        That was my thought, too! After all, would the HR rep REALLY have said “As a matter of fact, you came across as an arrogant, entitled brat and what I found out about your behavior on the train just confirmed it. We wouldn’t hire you to clean the loo! Get out of here and don’t bother to ever apply to our company again.”

        Well, no, they WOULDN’T say that. Doesn’t mean they wouldn’t think that, though! And it doesn’t mean that this couldn’t have been the decisive factor in the OP not getting the job.

        It’s been a while since the letter was written. By now, I hope that the OP has learned humility, grown up and recognized that a world without courtesy and kindness would NOT be one in which they’d want to live.

        1. Observer*

          It’s been a while since the letter was written. By now, I hope that the OP has learned humility, grown up and recognized that a world without courtesy and kindness would NOT be one in which they’d want to live.

          Very much this. No one is perfect. But people who recognize that they can and do make mistakes, and react appropriately are much better off that the ones who are NEVER wrong.

        2. Velawciraptor*

          HR came damn close to saying that, though, between the “overly confident” and “need to develop life skills” portions of the feedback. It wasn’t that veiled if one’s head isn’t firmly lodged somewhere it oughtn’t be.

      1. Meep*

        I have notice men tend to misattribute all bad behavior towards women unless stated otherwise. Women, on the other hand, are typically better at picking up on social cues and figuring out if the LW/OP is masculine or feminine based on writing style, explanation, and actions taken.

        For example, I may ignore an old lady who wanted my seat if she was rudely asking me, but I would definitely mumble out at least a half-apology if I scuffed her clothes with my bike as women are frequently taught to overapologize. Men, on the other hand, are often taught to NEVER apologize.

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Not disagreeing with @Meep, just adding context:

        Alison defaults to she/her/hers pronouns and the AAM commetariat follows suit.

    2. PollyQ*

      advised about “life skills” development, whatever that means.

      This sounds an awful lot to me like, “You need to learn to behave decently to people at all times, not just when you think they can help you.” It also sounds an awful lot like LW had still not entirely grasped the point.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Yes! They still didn’t seem to ‘get it’ in the update — they said they wished someone had told them the janitor/receptionist story in career services… as if the ‘default’ is to be rude to receptionists etc and it’s a life hack to be polite to them instead!

        1. Jen*

          This is what I was thinking!!! “I wish someone had told me to be nice to people I don’t think matter,” I mean what the actual heck.

        2. Hydrangea McDuff*

          I had a high student once who said “I learned a life hack about how to get your teachers to do what you want.” He proceeded to explain to me: first, you prove yourself as reliable and polite by meeting deadlines and being a nice person. Then, when you need a favor like an extension on a deadline, you ask for it and the teacher will probably give it to you because you have HACKED THE SYSTEM.”

          I said something like, “That sounds like relationship-building to me. Of course someone will want to help out someone who is nice and reliable and has proven themselves as deserving of reasonable extensions!” I think I blew out a fuse in his brain. That is always who I picture when I read this particular letter. I also thought it was super odd, because he was a great student and on my publications team, but after that little life hack explanation I felt skeptical of him when he was nice to me or to other students!

          1. Meep*

            I said it above but I feel like it is a “raised as boy vs raised a girl” thing. (Cis-) women are often taught to consider other’s (especially men’s) needs and wants above their own. We are often crippled with indecision because it is hard to make a decision that may hurt someone else (again, especially a man). (Cis-) boys are not taught any of that. They are taught that demanding what you want is assertive rather than b*tchy and are often rewarded for it – unlike women who are labeled difficult.

            It, unfortunately, probably never occurred to him to see teachers as more than NPCs in his hero story. As indicated by the fact, he was actively trying to manipulate a teacher into giving him what he wanted.

          2. Candi*

            Weirdly, I did/do all that as a matter of course cause I wanted to flipping graduate.

            And when I genuinely forget to turn an assignment on time (happens almost once a quarter something’s a couple days late, I swear I need to tattoo reminders on my arms), teachers have every time taken it without docking points, because I’m not “hacking”, I’m doing what a good student does.

            (By now I have reminders on my phone, computer, CANVAS, and I’m about ready to stick sticky notes to the side of my home monitor.)

    3. Artemesia*

      I would bet that he was totally excluded from further consideration based on his behavior — of course HR is not going to confirm that. ANd it was entirely appropriate for the hiring manager to take this into account when deciding.

  2. Rusty Shackelford*

    The update to this is so depressing. “No one ever told me I should be nice to people! Shouldn’t my useless Career Services people have told me to be nice to janitors and secretaries? How was I to know???” Ugh.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Yes! “I attend a top prestigious university” was just too much for me. I lost whatever empathy I had right there.

        1. Ray Gillette*

          Honestly I think that’s a cause of the problem. Going to a prestigious rich people school in a highly class stratified society (which England most definitely still is) involves a certain amount of being taught – both implicitly and explicitly – that actually you are better than other people.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Exactly. In a previous job I worked at a hotel that had a lot of NFL coaches and staff come through as guests. Trust me- we knew which ones to avoid and which ones were awesome. It mostly came down to which ones actually treated all of the hotel staff like we were human – not just the managers. Trust me, all the staff knew and the nice ones definitely were remembered (and got hidden extras).

            1. James*

              In addition to that: People tend to forget that the “low-level” staff go EVERYWHERE. Your manager’s office, the CEO’s, the locked portions of the building, the office of that guy who’s competing with you for that new position–EVERYWHERE. And most of the ones I’ve met like to chat. If you’re nice, you can learn a lot.

              I’m not saying that this is why I treat these folks with respect. My view has always been that we have our jobs, and none are less important than the others. Plus, my grandmother was a maid, and I used to help her out, so I have some sense of what they go through. But if making sure the coffee’s fresh when they come in gets me some useful intel I’m not going to turn it down either!

              1. tangerineRose*

                “My view has always been that we have our jobs, and none are less important than the others. ” This!

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  To this day I can still hear the head of housekeeping’s motto ringing in my head:

                  Every job belongs to somebody, and you are not a nobody.

                  It just makes the point so well. I found myself thinking that ALOT over the pandemic, especially while watching people be rude to workers who kept things like supermarkets running.

              2. no name today*

                I have a low-level staff job because after decades of high test work I am tired. I’ll take lower pay & responsibilities in trade for less stress and fewer headaches. I still tolerate no disrespect from anyone and have just enough privilege in my position that I can make rudeness have consequences for the perpetrator.

                1. Maglev to Crazytown*

                  Mind if I ask how you came to this decision? After several years of intense burnout following a traumatic work situation involving retribution and harassment, I am struggling to “get back on the horse.” I have always been a high achiever, and still am a high performer despite permanent burnout. I just don’t think there is any point anymore “chasing the top.” I just want to be happy and get to life my life not in misery.

              3. DJ Abbott*

                Imagine what life would be like without janitors and wait staff. And dishwashers, factory workers, retail workers…

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  So much this. The guy we all loved the most from that NFL bunch was actually the General Manager (which on that team meant he ran almost the whole organization). He made a point of learning the names of every single housekeeper, maintenance guy, front desk clerk, and restaurant staff member he interacted with. Really made an impression – after all I’m telling all of you about it now almost 14 years later.

                2. ceiswyn*

                  Bus drivers, train station staff, baristas…

                  (Back when I was still commuting into the office, I used to get a season train ticket where the magnetic strip always demagnetised after a few days. So every morning and evening, I had to ask the station staff to swipe me through the gates. At Christmas I bought them a box of chocolates to thank them, and they were so astonished that I really felt for how thankless their job is most of the time. They also swiped me through a couple of times when I didn’t have a ticket, but… that really wasn’t the point.)

              4. London Calling*

                I once had a CEO who made a point of walking around the office and talking to people informally. Especially, he said, people like messengers and cleaners. According to him it was amazing what he learned from them about what was going on in the office and about people that he wouldn’t otherwise have picked up.

              5. lailaaaaah*

                Definitely this! There’s one guy at the place I work who looks down on support staff (and women, and I’m both, so jackpot!) He finds it really weird how all his support requests get pushed to the bottom of the queue across all departments now. Can’t imagine why.

                1. Candi*

                  That sounds like the Not Always Working story of the teacher who kept submitting requests to have his desk fixed. The submitter of that was in the office the third time the teacher came in, and the teacher was horrible to the secretary.

                  After the teacher left, the submitter asked and the secretary confirmed the teacher was always that terrible. The secretary said she couldn’t imagine why the desk hadn’t been fixed yet -as she put the paper forms through the shredder.

          2. Just Another Techie*

            Except he’s not actually a member of the upper class, because if he were, he’d have a position waiting for him. Which means he’s a member of the middle class, but grasping at moving up. Unfortunately, emulating the behavior of the upper classes doesn’t actually grant you admission to their ranks.

            1. UK girl*

              Spot on. Also I think an upper class person would have gave up their seat for an elderly man when asked. They also would have done the decent thing about the coat. This is an ambitious person without social grace.

              1. Your Local Password Resetter*

                I wouldn’t assume an upper class person is automatically more gracious or helpful. That feels like ingrained classism to me. They might be nicer, or they might be just as selfish and snobbish as the OP.

                1. Observer*

                  I don’t think that the upper class person would BE more gracious or helpful. But, in my experience, I would expect them to ACT more gracious and helpful. It’s matter of presentation, in many cases.

                2. Candi*

                  They probably couldn’t give a rat’s tail about the old man or the coat.

                  What they do give a rat’s tail about is how they’re viewed by society. To be favorably viewed, they’d give up their seat and fix the coat.

              2. lailaaaaah*

                How many upper class people have you met, out of curiosity? Because in my experience it’s the opposite.

              3. Neptune*

                It’s very sweet that you have such faith in the decency of the British upper classes. Have you ever met any of them?

          3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Definately. My abusive ex was educated at a VERY exclusive expensive private school in England, had a lot of money, and was absolutely dreadful to the ‘common folk’.

            I initially thought that because he was dating me (who was born on a council estate and wasn’t white) he din’t actually mean what he said. Turns out he really, really did believe I was ‘lesser’ and ‘to be controlled by the upper class’.

          4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            We were told outright that we were the cream of the cream and the future leaders of the nation at the selective grammar school I attended (a gateway to these universities).
            (Needless to say I rebelled against that)

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Not just any prestigious university, one of the English ones–presumably either Oxford or Cambridge. The whole thing is redolent of the Monty Python Upper Class Twit skit.

    1. The Original K.*

      “If I’d known being nice to peasants would get me something I wanted I totally would have done it.” Ugh, indeed. There’s a dating tip that says if a person is nice to you but not nice to people they perceive as beneath them, they’re not actually a nice person. I fully believe it.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, that whole attitude, and the lines about how “all classes” ride on the train…. yes? That’s true of most major metro areas? (LA maybe being an exception)

        He seemed to maybe get the faintest hint of a lesson there, but there was still a prevailing attitude of snobbery.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          My PRESTIGIOUS UNIVERSITY. My PRESTIGIOUS INTERNSHIP. I’m not poor because I ride the train! Why did no one tell me to be nice to COMMON FOLK.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Well, his university didn’t teach him to be nice to the receptionist/janitor/security guard, so it couldn’t have been that prestigious.

                1. workswitholdstuff*

                  There are certain Unis notorious for that sort of entitled behaviour. I’m guessing the LW attended either Oxbridge or one of the older Redbrick Unis….

                2. TechWorker*

                  Honestly the twats at Oxbridge learn their twattishness much earlier, presumably either from extremely wealthy parents or from generally growing up in an environment where everyone is wealthy and being clueless. I do not think it’s at all accurate to say Oxbridge teaches that, it just has a high proportion of rude people at the start and doesn’t do much to change that either.

                3. londonedit*

                  Wow yes, every single English person is a rude, entitled twat who goes to a posh university and learns to be even ruder while they’re there. Jesus.

                  That said, this person is quite obviously an arse. Anyone who doesn’t cop on when someone tells them they’re ‘overconfident’ and need to improve their ‘life skills’, and who instead falls back on blaming their ‘prestigious English university’ for not teaching them basic manners is an utter idiot.

        2. Andy*

          It is not true everywhere. Americans in particular tend to see and treat public transport as dangerous and generally lower class thing.

          That part was response to that sentiment in comments.

          1. PT*

            As an American and former power-user of mass transit, I’m side-eyeing the CEO’s wife for wearing such a precious coat on the subway that she can’t bear to get dirty and then pearl-clutching that a *gasp* bike tire touched it.

            I have seen FAR more vile things on the subway than the rubber smudge of a bike tire.

            If you wear something on the subway it will probably get dirty. If you have something that absolutely can’t get dirty, pay up for the cab/Uber/tolls and day parking. If you insist on wearing it on the subway and it gets dirty anyway, it’s your own fault, don’t go around blaming other people for your poor decisions.

            1. SarahKay*

              Why are you side-eyeing CEO’s wife? We have no knowledge if she *actually* complained, whether about the coat or his initial rudeness. All we know is that OP *thought* he didn’t get the job because she complained. And since this is a person that also thought his university’s career service should have warned him to be polite to receptionists, I don’t place much faith in his judgement.

            2. Barbara Eyiuche*

              This doesn’t really apply in London.
              In any case, the OP’s remarks about who rides the subway were in response to comments on the first letter from people who have a negative view of subways. The American view and the European view typically differ.

            3. Regardless of Personal Cost*

              But it wasn’t her fault. It was the fault of the guy with the bicycle who smudged her coat. If he’d given up his seat for her elderly father, like she’d asked, she’d be standing by the elderly father and not in the guy’s way.

              She might not have been upset under normal circumstances, but if the ass who just made my unsteady relative stand on a swaying train instead of moving…or even acknowledging my request…got my not at all precious coat dirty, I’d be extra frustrated.

            4. Bagpuss*

              That’s definitely not true of London – and I think the OP confirmed that they were in London?
              I mean, yes, there may be some pretty nasty things on the underground but everyone uses it, and it would be very strange to say you shouldn’t wear a nice coat because you were travelling by tube.
              It’s very normal to see people who are dressed up to the nines, going to/from evening events, and of course lots of people who are commuting who are dressed accordingly.

              1. UKDancer*

                Definitely in the before times I got invited to a black tie dinner at a posh Park Lane hotel each year. I always got there on the tube. Yes people raise an eyebrow at the outfit but it’s not unusual.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  Although there was a story of a poor girl who made it as an actress and went to some posh function wearing a ball gown that got crushed in the underground, only to be told by her agent on arrival that if you can afford the dress, you can afford the limo.

            5. LutherstadtWittenberg*

              What mass-transit system did you poweruse? If you’re making comments like that about the woman and you’re anywhere near the Main Line of Philadelphia, I’d say you’re a lunatic. The OP was an entitled brat who went around blaming people for his poor decisions.

        3. Software Engineer*

          A lot of people aren’t from major metro areas and it wouldn’t surprise me if the comments of the first post had a number of weird comments of people assuming that it was unusual for a CEO’s family (or even an intern!) to ride public transport.

          The worse the public transit is in your area the more it’s only used by people with no other choice

          1. Candi*

            Yeah, the transit system in my area is pretty decent, and there’s pretty high level riders who park their cars at the park&rides, or just take a uber or taxi in and out to their homes, and ride the bus into the big city areas where parking is horrendous and expensive. The major intercity buses are even outfitted with little desks so they can do office work.

            (Low-security office work, I suspect, since the wifi is NOT that secure and not everyone has VPN.)

        4. Observer*

          and the lines about how “all classes” ride on the train

          To be fair, that was a response to a number of comments (mostly from one person, I think) about how STRANGE and UNBELIEVABLE it was that the CEO’s wife would be on public transit.

      2. tangerineRose*

        Dave Barry said “A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.” He’s right.

      3. Worldwalker*

        Yep. Watch how they treat the server when you go out to dinner. If they’re rude to the server — and *especially* if they seem to be trying to impress you by being rude to the server — they’re a nasty person, no matter what they’re pretending to get what they want from you.

    2. Teapot Repair Technician*

      University Career Services is supposed to teach you how to behave on pubic transit? I remember learning that the first time I rode a school bus in kindergarten.

      1. Selina Luna*

        University Career Services is supposed to teach you to be generally polite to others? Honestly, if you need “advice” to be nice to administrators, janitors, security, and everyone else, I really hope the world smacks you upside the dang head!
        The fact that it’s someone’s job to greet people as they come through the door does not make you better than them, and acting as though it does WILL filter to those who make the hiring decisions.

        1. Candi*

          One of my absolutely favorite stories on that theme was in the AAM comments a few years ago.

          Guy comes in for an interview, forgot his pen, was rude to the woman at the desk about borrowing one, made some snotty remarks to her…

          …receptionist had stepped away for a moment. A higher-level manager was covering for her while looking for some files.

          Guess who’s department snotty was interviewing with?

          (And a manager who will let the receptionist step away and find the files themselves while covering for the receptionist has got to be a joy to work with.)

      2. knitcrazybooknut*

        I swear I’m still twelve years old. I can’t help laughing at the lack of an ‘l’.

        It’s been a stressful week. THANK YOU for the giggling!

        1. Mental Lentil*

          I’ve read that comment three times and I FINALLY caught that! Thank you for pointing it out. This is, indeed, the humor I needed today!

          1. Worldwalker*

            I finally found it too.

            There are some Certified Accountants that need to read their websites this closely.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        There is a reason lots of people know the phrase “Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten.”

        Being polite shouldn’t be something that College Career Services has to tell you to do.

    3. Aquawoman*

      That was what jumped out at me as well, that he faulted career services for not mentioning that he should have basic human decency. And the sort of nesting contempt of others–he’s contemptuous of career services for not telling him not be contemptuous of the janitor. Lesson very much not learned!

      1. lailaaaaah*

        Also I guarantee this is the kind of guy who approaches people living in poverty with a ‘well they should just work harder, they probably deserve it’ mindset while still not taking any responsibility for himself at all.

    4. NerdyKris*

      Be nice to the janitor, he might actually be the original founder of a spy organization in disguise. Also the cook, the park ranger, the mail man, the lifeguard….

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Always be nice to the lifeguard. They’ve got a lot of time to sit around and plot revenge. A lot of time. It can be hella boring up on those stands, and lifeguard pranks are not for the feint of heart.

    5. The New Wanderer*

      I thought it was a mixed bag. Yes, the OP (or anybody) shouldn’t have to be told to be nice to other people at all, much less by Career Services as though it only matters in the job-hunting situation. And it sounds like the OP’s been a bit slow in taking responsibility for what really happened in the interview and on the Underground, and still in the update thought the Underground event tanked the job offer.

      But they did appear to have rethought the whole situation in a way that showed they recognized it wasn’t as unfair as they originally claimed and I think if they continue on that track, this might help them go further in the future.

      1. Hopeful*

        You are a nice person. I’ve been reading all these comments critiquing the OP (not unjustly) and wondered to myself where the line for being nice begins and ends. If I’m only nice to nice people, I think that actually means I’m not as nice as I HOPE to be. You are a really nice person.

    6. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’d kind of like to hear from this letter writer now – four years later – to see if he’s learned anything.

      1. Czhorat*

        I’m with you on that. He came across as SO unlikeable, and so entitled. The bit about thinking that the “lesson” about being nice to the receptionist is some kind of life-hack rather than simple human decency set my teeth on edge.

        But as you said.. it’s been four years. People change.

        Perhaps this episode was a wakeup call.

    7. so much discrimination*

      A really depressing update. I should be nice to peasants in case they can do something for me?

    8. Lunar Caustic*

      Someone clearly didn’t read enough fairy tales growing up. He’s lucky he didn’t wind up with snakes and toads spilling out of his mouth when he talks.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        …huh, I forgot that that teaching kids was one of the uses of fairy tales. I read them for fun, so hopefully the lesson “be kind and compassionate” has sunk in bone deep.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          Fairy tales, folk tales, a lot of mythology—they were all about teaching people (not just kids!) important life lessons. Maybe we need to bring them back!

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Back when literacy wasn’t universal, oral traditions had to teach us – and the easier to understand the story was the better the likelihood of the story (and it’s lesson) spreading far and wide.

          2. Yay, I’m a Llama Again!*

            If you can get the bbc sounds app, the history podcast ‘you’re dead to me’ (which is excellent) has just done an episode on fairy tales and it was really good.

            This person should have been told more fairy tales in their younger years…

            1. Actual Vampire*

              “You’re Dead to Me” is available on most podcast apps, I think! I’ve listened to it on Overcast.

      2. Your Local Password Resetter*

        He was mean to an old woman he ran into while on his way to a Very Important Event.

        The only way he could have tempted fate more was by pointedly ignoring talking animals trying to give sagely advice, and having two younger brothers who were also trying to become Prestigious Job while having more smarts and less gumption.

        1. FD*

          The Starbucks barista offered him his drink in his choice of three cups–a gold, a silver, or a wooden cup. He chose the gold.

    9. Bamcheeks*

      As a university careers service (though not at one of those posh universities), I do in fact *frequently* tell students that and I always phrase it as, “I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this because it’s obvious, but there’s always one person who…” congratulations on being that one, OP!

    10. Elenna*

      Yeah, like, it’s Career Services’ job to tell you that you’re supposed to be polite to people? Pretty sure you should have learned that in kindergarten, dude.

    11. Elle*

      I did a law degree at a Scottish university (it’s an undergrad here) and my best friend and I used to get soooo pissed off that they would spend a good ten minutes every time we had a talk about career stuff going on and on and on about the need to be polite to receptionists, secretarys and door men – we’d both been brought up in and out of our parents’ work places, where they were often relying on these staff to do them massive favours along the lines of ‘please keep an eye on my sick kid while I have this meeting’ and were therefore taught to be even more scrupulously polite to them than to more senior staff.

      It became apparent why this was necessary about two months into my friend’s training contract, when one of our classmates who was in the same firm as her had a stand up row with an extremely senior paralegal about amendments the paralegal had made to a letter he wrote before sending it out, the substance of which boiled down to he thought he knew better than her, despite the fact that (a) the paralegal had about 20 years experience to his 8 weeks, and (b) the paralegal had been ASKED BY THEIR SUPERVISING PARTNER to make the amendments. This did not do wonders for his career…

  3. Workerbee*

    From the update: ” I wish I had been told the receptionist/janitor/security guard story by career services at my university, which is one of those prestigious English ones.” – that sticks out the most to me. Here is a person who got to university-and-beyond age and, if they truly somehow hadn’t already been told to do so by someone, didn’t manage to think on their own that they should treat ‘regular’ folks decently. And that they shouldn’t have been expected to realize that at all!

    That and the “she asked me rather rudely!” from the original and the “well, I guess it was a regular and non-shouty request” afterward. I wouldn’t believe this person accidentally did anything with the wife’s coat.

    1. Dream Jobbed*

      I got the feeling they lived in a very classist society and weren’t used to thinking about the people “beneath” them. But the disrespect to the elderly was hard to handle too. Hopefully this person has grown up some.

        1. Bamcheeks*

          There’s rudeness in every class, of course, but you’re much less likely to need to be told that receptionists/ janitors/ security guards are people too if you’ve *been* a receptionist/ janitor/ security guard.

          1. MK*

            Are you really less likely to do that? That hasn’t been my experience; jerks who used to be less privileged don’t have much empathy with their former peers.

            1. FD*

              There’s…a different sort of rudeness.

              I work in a job where I take a lot of calls. Something I’ve learned is that there are two types of angry customer. One is the person where you’re just their last straw on a really bad day. Usually there’s a sort of…almost a fear (I don’t know that that’s the right word, but they just sound overwhelmed as much as angry), when it’s a person who’s just been pushed to their limit and they’ve snapped and you were there. Usually, those people can be deescalated by listening, showing empathy, and letting them express their frustration. Often they will apologize after blowing up at you after you’ve let them run themselves down.

              The other kind is the person who has learned that being angry usually gets them what they want. They generally wield anger as a weapon and are much more likely to be actively abusive (more likely to attack you rather than your company, etc.). They generally will not show indicators of deescalating when you show empathy, and can only be deescalated by playing grey rock and setting professional but firm boundaries.

              Type 2 is, in my experience, much more common in people who seem, from the outside, to be a bit more privileged, whereas Type 1 occurs across all groups of people.

                1. workswitholdstuff*

                  Yes, I worked in a call centre for 6 years, and had my fair share of both kinds.

                  I was less upset by type 1, especially as they were often defused by a polite empathetic ‘please don’t shout/swear, I want to help sort this out, so lets get the information I need to to do that’ Often I’d get an immeadiate apology and a bit of a ‘it’s not you, I was just frustrated, and I shouldn’t have taken it out on someone trying to solve the problem’, and off we’d go into the conversation to get it sorted.

                  Type 2 were awful, and entitled, and even when you did try to emphasise and make concessions they’d throw it back in your face.

                  (I remember trying, and agetting a boiler repair callout moved from a ‘next wednesday’ to ‘this saturday’ for one such caller (this was friday afternoon, and frankly it was a miracle I managed it for a working hours policy), and I was yelled at and told it wasn’t good enough, because she and the kids would have to wait (the kids weren’t newborns, IRRC about 7 or 8, and well able to just put on additional layers for a few hours in a not particularly cold yet autumn….). And then the husband rang to berate us too, and got me. I just eyerolled… (though my very worst/hilarious complaint was the one who wanted a refund from us cos she’d turned away the person sent to service her boiler, because he didn’t look like he was a central heating engineer. When asked did she request the Corgi reg card/ to confirm she said and I quote ‘I didn’t need to ask. My husbands an architect and therefore I know what heating engineers should look like….

                  I certainly bear in mind my experiences on the phones when I in turn call contact centres now. I never yell at the person answering or blame them – I explain the situation… Normally gets you much better service!

                2. Bagpuss*

                  I really want to know what a heating engineer should look like. I never realised they cloned them wholescale.

                  (Is it possible that the one you sent was less white / male than they ‘should’ have been?)

                3. Candi*


                  I know that when I call in, I usually hold it together enough to get the process started -and then, if I’m frustrated, etc., I’ll vent while they’re doing their typing and whatever, cutting off long enough to answer questions and that sort of thing.

                  But I don’t use “you”.

                  I’ll rant about the product or service’s failure, the company’s faults (there’s always faults), if management’s been/being a pain I’ll talk about that, the store/site I bought the thing from… But I’ll stay away from putting the problem at their feet: They’re not the problem.

                  It’s amazing how often they’ll be laughing by the time I wind down.

              1. no name today*

                I’m breaking in a new boss who hasn’t experienced faculty meltdowns and the methodical abuse of any staff body they can collar, no matter how unrelated to their problem or able to help. I had to explain that me telling a prof ‘no’ will often unleash tirades upon newest newb to departmental dean.

              2. Ismonie*

                Sometimes I’m a type three, which is, I calmly explain the problem and the person doesn’t understand/care, but if I get more emphatic/upset I can get through to them. (See, bad delivery pharmacies.)

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              That’s a good point. I try to be kind to customer service workers because I am one, and I know how hard the job can be sometimes. But I do know other CS reps who are flat out terrible customers, and they justify it by saying they’re just treating people the way they get treated by customers. That mindset does exist, but I don’t think it’s the more common one.

            3. tangerineRose*

              I used to work in fast food, and I’ve worked in tech support. I try to treat everyone politely and reasonably. To be fair, this is also how I was brought up, and my parents did model this.

          2. Teapot Repair Technician*

            LW attended “one of those prestigious English” universities. He’s clearly intelligent enough to figure out through observation that all people are indeed people. Also at this prestigious English university, he was exposed to plenty of polite people and had the chance to see the benefits of being polite.

            If he hasn’t learned those lessons, it’s not because no one told him, it’s because he’s a jerk.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              I have $$ on when he was growing up, the adults around him didn’t teach him that being polite was for all people, not just people you want something from. Until this point, life hadn’t taught him otherwise, but hopefully in the past 4 years the lesson has been repeated and sunk in for the sake of everyone the LW interacts with

              1. ElsieD*

                I also wonder whether he was sent to a prestigious boarding school at the age of eight and so really didn’t see as much of the adults as the hordes of other boys around him…

          3. Tinker*

            It seems like it can go both ways on that one — in addition to the more conventional results, you can get a person who has never been a janitor and hence is grateful that some people are, and sometimes you can get people who were in these jobs, aren’t anymore, and consider that having left them is proof that they’re superior to folks still in them.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        It was even worse than disrespect – it was utter selfishness and unkindness. It was “My need to read stuff while sitting down is more important than this elderly person’s need to sit down on a moving train”!

        I sincerely hope the OP has grown up since then. And become a bit kinder.

        1. Paulina*

          Also problematic was the assumption that he was ok keeping his seat because it wasn’t one of the ones marked as elderly/disabled/etc. priority. The labeling of those seats is to show that you should move from them even if there are empty seats elsewhere, not that those are the only seats you should ever be expected to give up.

          Of course there can always be invisible or less visible conditions that would make it difficult for someone to stand, but in asking OP who had his bicycle with him, the woman was picking someone who showed strong evidence of being able-bodied.

          1. symmetry*

            fwiw I have reduced feeling in my feet and have nerve damage in my hands as well — taken together, these disabilities mean I can’t safely stand/hang on, on public transit. However, I DO own and use a bicycle and am far from the only person I know in that situation (did not meet the others at a support group or club for people who are disabled and/or bicyclists, which leads me to suspect that my situation might be more common than most people would think)

            On the other hand, I think that most people who have found ourselves begging for someone, *anyone* to give up their seat before the public transit begins moving, so that we don’t fall over or go flying, is probably NOT going to be the sort of person who completely ignores another person looking for a seat — big fan of shaking my head politely and holding up my cane, perhaps with the addition of a sincere “sorry, wish I could” depending on the situation.

      1. Heidi*

        The part I like is when OP came to the realization that “some people might not want to employ those whom they perceive as jerks.” As opposed to all the people who love working with jerks?

        Although Alison told him not to go to HR, I’m glad that he did. He seems to have gotten useful information and advice from them. And it also forced him to consider that he lost the job not because of this incident, but because he was not as qualified as the other candidate (who was a total non-entity in the first letter).

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          Ugh “perceive as jerks” rather than people who ARE jerks. He still thinks being polite is for his own benefit rather than just how he should be.

            1. Starbuck*

              Yep, it tells that he didn’t really feel he’d acted like a jerk but rather an unfortunate set of coincidences just made him *seem* like one, through no real fault of his own.

        2. Le Sigh*

          Agree with everything you said, but if I had to guess, OP didn’t think people actively love working with jerks, but rather, he didn’t have to worry about being a jerk because well, he had the job in the bag! He was so talented and killing it, so that’s all that mattered! I don’t think he’d considered that it could actually cost him a job. And there are definitely people who get away with being jerks because they’re brilliant or industries that excuse crappy behavior in general. OP read a little arrogantly to me, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he picked up those attitudes.

    2. PJM*

      I thought of that comment as soon as I read this story again. I forgot it was the OP who wrote it. I do remember being infuriated at the thought that someone thought someone should have been told to treat people with respect and decency. It told me that the OP really didn’t learn anything at all.

  4. Free Meerkats*

    As someone who has taken a bicycle on public transit, you should use a dry, wax-based chin lube. It is much less likely to cause stains should someone rub against it.

    1. Stitch*

      I’ve taken my bike on public transportation but I’ve never sat with it. I can’t see how you wouldn’t block multiple seats that way. In my city you’re also instructed to use the end of the train and not the middle with your bike.

      1. Cordelia*

        yep, same in London. So he was already being rude and inconsiderate even before ignoring the request for a seat!

        1. viv4*

          Not necessarily – this chap was definitely pretty blunt and careless (especially if he didn’t apologise for the stains at the time!) but in fairness to him there are definitely some (UK) trains I’ve been on where I’ve had no other choice but to perch on some regular seats (usually either near a break in the rows or those ones that face towards each other or sideways) awkwardly holding my bike either in front of me or to the side. Failing better carriage layouts, wax-based chain oil sounds like a gamechanger.

        2. TechWorker*

          Nah he said he was on the London overground, that’s a very wide aisle (I think train width but tube style seating) and there’s plenty of room for standing/bikes/pushchairs.

      2. Xenia*

        On what I call the ‘long-haul’ commuter buses I used to ride to college there was some sort of bike holding rack on the front of the bus that you could strap the bike into

        1. Mannequin*

          I lived in a lace where the buses had these racks, but they only held a very few bikes max, and if the bus you needed already had a full rack, too bad! They wouldn’t let you on & you had to wait for the next one, 20-30 minutes later.

          This policy resulted in me nearly getting stranded one evening after I’d been doing shopping/errands. I’d waited through 2 previous buses and the 3rd one, which was the last bus running for the night, had a full rack too, and I still had to BEG the driver to let me bring my bike inside.

          1. Candi*

            Side-eyeing the driver here. There’s sticking to policy, and there’s being so stuck in policy you forget customer service. (And human compassion.)

      3. Your Local Password Resetter*

        We have a dedicated standing/bike area near the doors where you’re supposed to wait with your bicycle.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yup – the transit trains I ride daily (and yes, I’m in America but a city that is blessed with a maintained and thought-out public transit system) has a designated zone for bikes. Makes it easier (unless it’s a university football game day) to avoid bumping a bike and getting tire runs or chain grease on another’s clothes.

      4. Worldwalker*

        I’ve been on buses where they had a section in the back with hooks where you hung your bike. (I didn’t see exactly how that worked, and my knee precludes bike riding)

      1. F.M.*

        Oh goodness. I just realized this is a typo for ‘chain lube’. I was really trying to work out the clever bit of wordplay going on regarding something like “take it on the chin” for how to respond to messing up in a situation like this.

        1. Le Sigh*

          Lol, I just assumed this was bike lingo I didn’t know about. One of those, who knows why it’s called chin lube, but it is, so just go with it….

  5. Sjpxo*

    This is a tough one as reading the update it was on the London Underground. Why it’s tough one is the literally no one gives up seats for anyone, infirm or not really as it’s usually such a short trip to the next station you kinda don’t need to sit. And while I wouldn’t ignore someone’s request for a seat and would likely give one up, I have knee issues at 30 and standing, especially on a jolty train like the underground is pretty uncomfortable so if I’m sitting Id prefer to stay that way..
    London Underground is usually all social norms and etiquette go out the window cause everyone hates being there and no one wants to talk to one another..

    1. Stitch*

      I mean, I’ve lived in New York, DC, and Chicago and this guy would be rude in all of them, but it would barely register on the list of stuff I’ve had happen on the train.

      I do believe the HR update and that he just wasn’t as good in the interview as he thought.

    2. Smithy*

      I have to say, from my US subway experiences while this would be a real “omg I can’t believe that happened, what a miserable coincidence” – it would also have to be some fairly egregious level of behavior for me to notice to that level. Getting stains while riding public transportation happens. People being dismissive/vaguely rude happens.

      From the LW’s follow up letter, it does sound like some broader attitude issues may have come across on their own in the interview process irrespective of the train car incident. And it’s not to say that for some people, this issue would have hit them on the wrong day and left a really strong negative impression that they’d remember and share instantly. But on like the NY Subway – in terms of bad behavior…’s hard to see this lasting with someone for a long time.

      1. fueled by coffee*

        Yeah, the attitude is the issue.

        I could 100% see myself empathizing with OP’s alternate universe counterpart: “I was stressed out about a job interview and was prepping on the train ride there. Someone asked me to give up my seat to an elderly man but I was so stressed I kind of brushed them off. Then later I accidentally stained their clothes with my bike tire, and I know I should have offered to help but all I could think about was making it to the interview on time. Then I *get* to the interview, and it turns out the woman I was rude to not only works there, but is the CEO’s wife! Is there anything I can do to fix this situation?”

        Of course the answer is still “you should be nice to people,” but it’s OP’s entitled attitude about the whole thing that makes him come across so horribly.

      2. FridayFriyay*

        This has not been my experience of rising the subway regularly in multiple US cities. Firstly, I have witnessed people giving up seats to people who need them on a near daily basis. Often without being asked but completely ignoring a specific request would be a stand-out level of rudeness. But also, reading between the lines I kind of get the vibe that the LW “accidentally on purpose” hit the CEO’s wife with his bike while he was exiting. I think many of us know this type of interaction. Someone just being a little spiteful and putting in an extra dig while smirking to make sure you know just how little they care about you. That would certainly make my highlight reel to share with a spouse at the end of the day, and especially so if I later saw the same super rude person at their place of employment!

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      I think it was the Overground, not the Underground. I’ve never been to London and so never ridden either, but it’s a different train layout and farther apart stops. Maybe the same attitudes, though.

          1. identifying remarks removed*

            Pre-plague times I planned to do the Wimbledon half marathon specifically to get a Wombles medal. Looking forward to getting one in 2022.

            1. Beany*

              When I was a child, I somehow convinced myself I *was* Orinoco Womble.

              I got better. But I’d definitely run a half-marathon to get a Wombles medal. Sadly living on the wrong side of the Atlantic now …

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          It’s more like commuter rail, while the Underground is the London subway system, as I understand it.

    4. marvin the paranoid android*

      It really takes the rudeness to the next level to ignore a direct request for a seat, though! He didn’t even make up some excuse for refusing, he just straight up ignored her. If I were the CEO’s wife in this scenario, I would have said something too.

      It sounds like this might be the first time the LW ever experienced the natural consequences of his actions, and I hope it was a learning experience.

    5. Cordelia*

      that just isn’t my experience, ok people tend not to look up and so maybe don’t notice someone who needs a seat, but ignoring a direct request for a seat for an elderly person is actually unusually rude. It’s definitely not the norm. I often see people giving up seats for others, and never had a problem myself when I was travelling while on crutches – I don’t remember even having to ask.
      Not sure why I am suddenly feeling defensive about the tube!

      1. BRR*

        That’s been my experience on the NYC subway as well. I see people get up all the time and while somebody might not proactively do it (almost aways because they’re tuning out everything around them), I’ve never seen someone outright ignore someone who asks.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Same for the UTA Trax lines (couldn’t speak for the busses though.

            I know FrontRunner insists that everybody is in a seat though.

            1. SweetFancyPancakes*

              I wondered if you were talking about TRAX when I saw your comment above. I used to take it daily. There are definitely people who ignore the designated bike areas and hold their bike next to them while they sit down, though, and don’t care if they are blocking seats. I think boors come in every shape, size, color, etc.
              I actually miss public transit! I got a lot more recreational reading done.

      2. Elenna*

        Yeah, this is also my experience on Toronto public transit. People might not notice an elderly person standing near them (or might even pretend not to notice), for that matter I usually don’t notice as I’m usually absorbed in a book. But it would be pretty rude for someone to ignore a direct request.

        1. Ginger Baker*

          Accurate. I have taken to asking immediately if someone has not already gotten up when we board when traveling with my mobility-impaired mother. Very often people jump up immediately (my mom is very easily visually IDed as needing a seat ASAP) but I have never had her not get one after a direct ask (which is often better than a General Ask – bus drivers did that a few times as she entered and it takes a moment longer as everyone does the “wait, does that mean me?” look-around).

          1. Candi*

            What’s interesting is I’ll often get up for a General Ask (assuming I’m paying attention), and someone else will say, “No, you stay seated” and gets up themselves.

            I’m usually hauling rolling luggage (in place of a trunk/glove box/backseat) that I have to keep stable (those things need brakes!), and I wonder if that might be a factor.

      3. londonedit*

        Exactly. If someone is there with their elderly father and they ask if anyone would mind giving up their seat, people absolutely will. In the vast majority of cases, when someone gets up from their seat to leave the train, if there are a few people standing they’ll all ask each other whether they want to sit down before someone eventually makes the decision to take the seat. People might not automatically look up and offer their seat to someone (though in my experience they often do) but if there’s an elderly or pregnant person and they *ask*? Yes, absolutely.

        The Overground is what used to be a local mainline train service, but it was taken over by Transport for London a few years ago and the trains all now look much more like Tube trains, with plenty of space inside. There are only a few sections of the Underground where you’re allowed to take a non-folding bicycle on the train, but I think you can on the whole of the Overground.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Travelling with my mother, who was frail but looked much younger than she was, I would hand her my baby and shout “a seat for the lady with a baby please” as we got on the bus. Somehow asking for someone else seemed to work much better. So OP is even more of a jerk than the usual ones who pretend not to see that someone is clearly in need of a seat.

    6. anon for this*

      Idk, I have seen plenty of people give up seats to elderly and those that seem to need it on the London underground. Myself included.

    7. PollyQ*

      as it’s usually such a short trip to the next station you kinda don’t need to sit

      What? What if the passenger is going more than one station? And if you have knee issues, then you’ve got a legitimate claim to a seat yourself, but that’s not going to be true of every last passenger under 50.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes I got the underground from one side of London to the other earlier this week and it took me 40 mins. The distance between stops can be short but it adds up. If you’re elderly or have a disability you material not want to stand for that long.

        1. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Heck, just the stopping and starting at every station can eat up a good chunk of time if there are that many stations.

    8. Short Librarian*

      I visited London in August 2019 and my experiences on the Tube were very different from what you describe. I have an obvious physical disability – short arms due to lack of radius and ulna. I found everyone on the Underground to be very kind and accommodating. There were multiple times that a person volunteered to give me a seat without me even asking.

      1. London Calling*

        There’s this perception that people who live in London are rude to strangers and wouldn’t give you the time of day. As you found, that’s not necessarily true. I live and work in London – have done for years – and your experience is the same as mine.

        1. londonedit*

          Yep, I’ve lived in London for over 20 years and can confirm people are not rude. No, we don’t all sit and chat to each other on the Tube, but would you like it if you were in your car commuting to work and someone got in and started talking to you? Londoners are generally more than happy to offer seats or help tourists with directions. And another point is that very few of us live in central London – the city is like a network of small towns and villages, and within those, where we actually live, there is generally a sense of community and people know each other and are polite and pleasant to each other. It frustrates me when people go to Oxford Street and Leicester Square and judge London by those standards.

    9. Budgie Buddy*

      Your example about your own knee trouble illustrates why people might need a seat even during a short trip tho? Your knee pain can be legit without it being extrapolated to other riders’ need for a seat being less legit.

    10. Bagpuss*

      That’s not my experience.
      I think people mind their own business and don’t normally start up conversations, but people do give up their seats – I have a ‘Please Offer me a Seat’ badge because I have (invisible) issues which mean I struggle to stand, – I find that about 90% of the time someone notices and stands up before I have to ask, and the other 10% of the time I ask and someone will give me a seat – often I’ve only got as far as “Excuse me..” and they look up, see the badge and stand up.

      When I visited London with my parents a few years back (they are both in their 70s, and visibly ‘elderly’, but both fit and healthy- better able to stand than I am!) they were offered seats on every bus and train we took. I’ve also notices that if there is a parent or family with buggy (stroller) someone will almost always offer to help get it up/down the stairs .

    11. generic_username*

      My experience with the London Underground is fairly limited, but I have found on most subway/metro/train systems, that the starting and stopping is the part that is hardest for some physical impairments as that is what jerks you around. As someone without a physical impairment who regularly rides a metro for my commute (at least before the pandemic), I have been knocked off balance and fallen over during a particularly jerky stop before. I always make it a point to look for people getting on the train who may need my seat (provided I’m not squashed into a window seat far from the doors)

    12. Candi*

      There’s no regulation or law saying you have to give up seats for the elderly, handicapped, or invisibly ill??? (And pregnant, but that’s not on the sign, it’s just in the book.)

      Around here, it doesn’t matter if the person is going one or two train or bus stops down. You give them the seat if they need it! And it’s customary the person who got up gets first dibs on sitting back down when the other person gets off.

  6. Teapot Repair Technician*

    When you do something bad to someone and they tell someone else about it, that is not “badmouthing.”

  7. MuseumChick*

    This is low-key one of my favorite letters because I love it when people who think they are the bestest ever get a dose of reality. Upon re-reading it (as well as the update) I notice that there is something about the way that the OP worded both that came off pretentious and almost smarmy. Plus the fact that their feedback was to work on “life skills” says a lot about how this person probably presents themself in real life.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Yes, these are always satisfying lol. I love that the update is like “They were actually considering someone else as well… and I guess in retrospect they didn’t actually tell me the interview was a formality… and they said I was too overconfident… and yeah, I guess she didn’t demand the seat so much as she asked nicely…”

      Dude completely misread every situation and then also intentionally misrepresented things on top of that! And didn’t know about manners being a thing because Prestigious University didn’t explain that you’re expected to have them at work. Life skills indeed.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Honestly the fact the skills to work on were “life skills” told me that this person probably was one of those people that thought they were so special because they went to “prestigious university” and everybody should just recognize how special and wonderful I am and give me what I want (because I deserve it).

      I am hoping that life has taught him to realize we all have value, and all people deserve respect and kindness. And that just because a job may be considered blue collar doesn’t mean that it isn’t necessary or important or valuable.

  8. PJS*

    Oof. I just read the update. If you have to be told to be nice to receptionists and janitors (because you’re not nice otherwise!!??), then I would prefer you not be told so that we see your true character before you’re hired. If you’re only nice to get a job, I’m pretty sure your true character is going to show up eventually.

    1. Worldwalker*

      Toads are honest, hard-working amphibians that eat what bugs you. And they have gorgeous eyes.

      You’re being unfair to toads.

  9. IEanon*

    “I wish I had been told to treat people nicely, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because failing to do so could have future consequences. Why has no one prepared me for interacting with people who expect a basic level of human decency?”

    1. irene adler*

      There’s a set of parents out there who are just itching to issue a “we told you so” to this person.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah or a teacher or something. You don’t get this far in life without someone telling you that you’re being a [insert descriptor of choice here]. You just didn’t listen until it cost you something.

        1. dawbs*

          I have given career-day discussions in schools to middle/highschool/college students a half-dozen times and I SWEAR that when I tell them that as an outside-person who needs to contact schools, my ‘business’ is based on repeat interactions with the same schools, I ask who they think the #1 person to have on my side is?

          I swear it floors many of them when I tell them it’s the secretary/custodian combo.
          But, really, my 11 Y.O. autistic kid (mentioned here because we have to spell certain social things out more than in neurotypical households) doesn’t always understand how to be polite knows that ‘never piss off the secretarial staff” is a cardinal rule, along with “if you’re not nice to the waiter, you’re not nice”.

          It’s a hard lesson to learn sometimes. If nothing else, this LW might have learned to at least keep it more under his hat. Which might not have made him a stellar human being but might have made the jobs of a bunch of support staff better.

          1. Candi*

            I’ll take acting like they’re respectful over blatant disregard.

            Besides, people like that aren’t introspective and don’t think things through. Including that if you act a certain way, over and over, it becomes ingrained in you, reflexive, and eventually becoming part of your self. Habit is an insidious thing. >:D

    2. FeralKittenLady*

      Why isn’t “it’s the right thing to do” enough?

      I think he could use a good therapist to help him clear his biases from his upbringing (like we all need)!

  10. I should really pick a name*

    “However, I was not offered the job! I was given some feedback about the skills that I have to develop but that was all. ”
    They told him where he could make improvements, but somehow that has nothing to do with why he didn’t get the job…

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Right? Also that’s way more than most people get from a rejection. This dude just comes off so entitled.

    2. BRR*

      From the update-“They also alluded to being ‘over confident’ during the interview and advised about ‘life skills’ development, whatever that means.” *My eyes bulging out*

      I almost feel bad for the LW (but also just don’t because he didn’t seem to have learned). It’s like he’s this close to putting it all together but still so far.

  11. Certified Boomer*

    I think the thing that stands out to me from the update is that a prestigious English university didn’t tell them to be polite to service people. Of course not! Half the point of the British prestigious university system seems to be to entrench the attitude of privilege and class and to encourage you to give jobs to your cronies when you graduate. Lesson well learned on this person’s part.

    1. CreepyPaper*

      My brain instantly thought of one particular university when I read this. At my school we were encouraged to apply to it and those of us who didn’t were looked down on as ‘lesser’ than those who were applying. Like we weren’t as clever, or we couldn’t afford it. Scholarship kid here mate, got into posh school because I was smart. Posh uni wouldn’t have been a problem for me but their degree course for what I wanted to do was pants so I didn’t see the point of even applying.

      Half of them who applied got rejected anyway but apparently that wasn’t the point, the fact they even applied made them ‘better’ than those of us who chose a ‘common’ university.

      Oh, and one of those who DID get in was expelled from said prestigious uni for not attending lectures and when they did show up to lectures, they were drunk. Those who stayed and didn’t have their brains totally ruined by the experience said it literally didn’t prepare them for life at ALL. It was all about grades and not about anything else, apparently. How can a university leave you that ill-prepared for life?

      1. SarahKay*

        I interviewed at Cambridge (they didn’t want me) and was amazed at how restrictive they were, at least back then (late eighties) if you lived in the college, which most people did for at least two years out of three. Pretty much all the students would have been 18 or over which is fully adult in the UK – drink, drive, have sex, join the army, carry a knife (that’s a list, not an itinerary for a night out!) – all legal on or before you’re 18th birthday.
        At this college you needed to sign out if you were going to be out after eleven at night, and get permission in advance if you were going to be out after midnight. I mean, my parents liked me to phone and say ‘I’m at a friend’s house, I’ll be back really late’ if I was going to be home a lot later than planned but that was just so they knew I wasn’t dead. There were also restrictions about visitors to your room, but I can’t remember details now.
        At the time I was disappointed not to be accepted, but by the time I went to the uni that did accept me I was very happy to live in halls of residence, with freedom to come and go at any time of day or night, with anyone I chose, and start to learn about being an adult.

      2. Candi*

        “How can a university leave you that ill-prepared for life?”

        That came out about A LOT of US universities during the Recession. Big Ten, Ivy, others, more not as well known, one of the biggest complaints was they learned how to be students, but not how to be workers functioning outside the school system. (Plus the career center complaints.)

        I don’t remember which college was claimed to have said it, but one line I remember was, “That’s what internships are for,” referring to the lack of preparation. I remember the comment since the reason that specific college was used was there were few internships available there, and those that did exist were usually six weeks long. So, someone trusted to speak for the college was seriously out of touch with how things worked, and that’s never a good look.

        One article I remember was a long article about a woman complaining her university had failed her, she was applying for office jobs and not getting anywhere, the Recession was making job finding hard… Real tear-jerker indignation stuff about how horrible things were for her.

        Way down in the second to last paragraph was the tidbit that her degree was in woman’s studies, with a minor in religious studies. This was the degree she was using to apply for office jobs that have specific educational/experience requirements, where you can sometimes wrangle a position based on related education/experience, but never when you don’t have anything.

        Yeah, her university failed her. So did a lot of other people, including herself a little. Only a little, since she was only 24 at the time of the article.

    2. Therese*

      This is the stereotype, but isn’t that true any more. I went to Cambridge for undergrad in the STEM field (also lived in Oxford and know plenty of students from there). Very, very few of the people I interacted with were ‘upper class’. I did meet with some hilariously upper class people (with accents and behaviors I thought they MUST be putting on until I realized they really couldn’t turn it off – but actually pretty nice as people) who studied subjects like Music and Philosophy. But those of us studying subjects that would lead to jobs often had a different type of entitlement – the type who received A’s all their school lives and think they are just smarter than everyone in the universe. I met the exactly same types in Stanford USA and every other elite institution I’ve studied / worked at. It’s not about British classism.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Oh absolutely. I have met a few of those “just defer decisions to me because I’m so much smarter than all of you” types. There’s a reason that people often made fun of or really disliked Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. It’s also one thing I really liked about a few episodes of Young Sheldon, where they emphasized that there is more than one type of intelligence. Sheldon may have been really book-smart, but his twin was way more people-smart than he will ever be.

      2. Humanities majors count too*

        Studying music and philosophy leads to jobs, too. That kind of assumption about studying humanities is pretty close minded.

        1. Candi*

          Not as many jobs, and definitely ones that don’t pay as well. (In current culture, anyway.)

          One of the talks I had to have with my very musically talented nonbinary now-adult child was the reality of how things work for people play instruments and don’t have a family bank account to fall back on. It’s very much like actors, with small jobs and pay and working a second job to cover the bills, but musicians can get injuries just from playing their instruments so much and so long just to keep up. And unless they have money, they can’t afford to take a break to recover. It’s a hard dream and most never make it. (See also acting and athletic stars.)

          Philosophy’s band is even narrower, since it’s perceived as having little applied value to most jobs. Two comments I’ve heard is “only get a philosophy degree if you want to teach it” and a Starbucks manager who was up for promotion, partially because he had a degree already, in philosophy. He said it was the only use he ever got out of it.

  12. Ben*

    It seems very likely that this person did something, or things, similarly thoughtless during their time at work that contributed to the hiring decision. Very convenient that the one time they happened to be rude it was to the CEO’s wife — more plausible they have been rude many other times and thought, wrongly, that they got away with no one noticing.

    1. Ama*

      Yeah I have a feeling that if the wife did pass on the incident, it was just one more example of several where the OP’s was rude to someone else, not the one deciding factor.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah I think if I put myself in the CEOs shoes, the incident might be a little unflattering for the OP but I wouldn’t reject an otherwise strong candidate for it. But as a last straw after a pattern of behavior? It might count then.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed – I kinda felt that may have been a “straw that broke the camel’s back” sort of incident. Dude was just so wrapped up in himself normally that he missed all those other “pieces of straw” rude behaviors.

      1. Nom*

        Not to mention that HR will never be able to assess the candidate in the same way the hiring manager could (in this case it sounds like the CEO was the hiring manager)

      2. Candi*

        Maybe it was covered relief, and he misinterpreted. I mean, the guy was likely terrible at picking up context clues that might reflect negatively on him.

  13. so much discrimination*

    I liked the HR explainer in the previous post. There needs to be a similar post explaining what is and is not ‘discrimination’ or a fair reason to not give an employee what it is they want, be it a job or time off or a promotion etc. I know they didn’t use that word but it has that whiff.

    All over the internet I see people crying ‘discrimination’ ! when actually discrimination in most western countries is fairly narrow and limited to things like race, gender, disability etc.

    Discrimination doesn’t apply to things like the interview thought you were a bit of a jerk or you went to a college that is run by a bigoted religion or whatever.

    The word ‘discrimination’ also doesn’t automatically apply when someone chose not to give you something. If I choose one friend over another to have lunch with because Mary complains too much, that is not for example ‘discrimination’.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Actually it does, but not in the way most people think.

      “A discriminating person” used to be considered a compliment — it implied someone who thought about the nuances of difference and chose correctly between multiple options. Discrimination has come, over time, to have an *additional* meaning of bad decisions made due to bias, but even today that’s not the *only* meaning. All discriminating means is to choose between two or more possibilities… whether or not that choice is based unfairly on a negatively regarded characteristic.

      All that said, you’re entirely correct that it’s not *bigotry* to choose somebody over you because of something you actually did or said, as opposed to because you happen to be a member of a marginalized group. Which is what most people mean when they “cry discrimination.” But it’s not the only meaning of the word.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        Prudent discrimination, based on factors actually relevant to the decision, is a good thing.

        Invidious discrimination, based on malice, animus, bigotry, or whichever label better fits the situation, is a bad thing. Ironically, it also frequently prevents the decision-maker from benefiting from the skills of an applicant that the decision-maker’s bias prevented them from seeing.

  14. braindump*

    If I were getting on a train and wanted a seat, a person with a bike (or other large parcels) and engrossed in reading something isn’t the first person I’d ask to move. I consider that as part of the same social contract as offering your seat to a “tired looking woman” (since one shouldn’t assume pregnant, I’ve heard) or an older person.

    But yeah, OP isn’t getting out of this one.

    1. anon for this*

      I have to wonder if the bike was blocking other seats, or if they were simply the closet person and they couldn’t get by because of well said bike

      1. Blackcat*

        Yep, this was my thought. It could be, because of the position of the bike, they could not easily get to other seats.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      There’s still a difference between “Sorry, no” and just completely ignoring the request.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        This. Sometimes the person sitting there does legitimately need the seat (invisible disabilities exist!) but in that case just say “I’m sorry, but I also need this seat.” Ignoring the request just makes you look like an ass.

    3. Tara R.*

      I was on a packed train a few years ago, sitting well back from the doors and the priority seating area (which had many young people sitting who would usually be expected to move when someone with a greater need came). I was somewhat taken aback when a middle-aged, apparently able-bodied woman walked all the way back to my seat and rudely snapped at me to move, and then also insisted the teenager beside me move so she could put her purse in the other seat (!).

      I still moved, because I operate on the principle that I would rather give up my seat to a rude entitled person than refuse it to someone with a genuine need having a bad day. But I’ve had more than one similar interaction. Between those sorts of experiences and seeing people blatantly pretend not to see those with canes/crutches/infants getting on so they don’t have to get up, I’ve given up on being surprised by lack of train etiquette.

  15. Jennifer Strange*

    I remember coming across this one in the archives and being surprised by how many people in the comments didn’t think it was rude to refuse to give up your seat to someone who needs it (assuming you yourself don’t have an equal need for it).

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I browsed through the comments today (I clearly need more work to do) and it seemed like a few people being really adamant about it rather than a whole bunch of people in agreement. Which Alison even called out, I believe.

  16. RJ*

    No matter how good you are, how tight your network is, or how current your job skills are, a job is never ‘in the bag’ until the offer comes through. Hiring is entirely discretionary with many opinions offered behind the scenes. Humility and kindness, though technically ‘soft skills’ are two qualities that shine through in some candidates. OP is not one of those candidates, to the detriment of this position.

    1. Gracely*

      For real. I’ve been on hiring committees where the candidate looked great on paper, but came in and was a complete jerk/acted like they were definitely getting the job (one person who did this was also more than 45 minutes late to the interview). Huge NOPE.

    2. Purple Princess*

      My OH recently had to learn this lesson, although I don’t think it sunk in. He’d been strongly encouraged to apply for a stretch promotion at his work. He was coached through the application by a couple of different people higher up in the organisation than him and was verbally told he’d be a great fit for the role. Of course, he understood all this to mean he was a shoe-in for the job and was incredibly confident he’d get it. I tried to talk him down a bit, to say it’s not a done deal til it’s a done deal.. but that just led to an argument that I was being unnecessarily negative.

      He didn’t even get an interview. He was devastated, and angry. He felt betrayed by his boss who had suggested he apply, he was upset because he’d mentally accepted the job and now had to face the reality that he’d be staying where he was. He was in a grumpy mood for a week.

      I didn’t do the “I told you so” dance, but it was incredibly tempting.

  17. Prefer my pets*

    Oh this freaking guy. I wonder if he ever became a decent, less-entitled human or if he’s still convinced everyone is just a means to an end, undeserving of any courtesy or thought if they can’t help him get ahead?

  18. Colorado*

    This guy is a tool and the billionth example that money nor a prestigious education buys or teaches class. The update is even more ridiculous.

  19. EmmaPoet*

    In the update, he says:
    “They said the second top candidate was “a better fit” (I forgot to mention that two of us were competing for this post in the final round). They also alluded to being “over confident” during the interview and advised about “life skills” development, whatever that means.”

    Gee, I wonder what life skills they’re talking about…

    Seriously, though, the fact that this guy had to have it spoon-fed to him by the commenters that being polite to people you’re not trying to suck up to is a good idea says a LOT about him, especially when he blames career services for not telling him that he should pretend to be a decent person! If he thinks they should have to sit down and explain to someone who’s nearly graduated from university that not being a jerk is important, then I honestly wonder what else he needs to be told. Also, I think we should all decline to do this kind of emotional labor for an adult.* I’m not his mommy and I won’t let him pass off his rude behavior to me to manage/correct because he can’t be bothered to be polite unless he thinks he’s getting something from it.

    *An adult who doesn’t have any reason not to understand this other than “I’m a jerk,” that is.

  20. Ellena*

    I don’t say this often but this LW is an a rse. Not only lacking basic manners but even after having it explained by Alison like she/he’s 11, still manages in the comments to spin and downplay it instead of showing genuine remorse and commitment to improve. I hope she/he grew up.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        The original post got heated about public transit etiquette – there were a couple of commenters (not many, but a vocal few) who insisted the OP probably ignored the request because the wife was rude, or that he would have been able to tell if the father “really needed the seat”. There were of course plenty of commenters on the other side who defended there were legitimate reasons not to give up your seat because not all disabilities are visible and you may need your seat too, but that was more hypothetical and not being applied to the OP.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          The fact that he completed ignored her is the real issue. You don’t ignore people who make a polite request. You either say “sure, go ahead” and let them have the seat, or you take the time to explain why you need it more than they do.

  21. a tester, not a developer*

    It still makes me sad that “be polite to everyone, even the receptionist/janitor” is something that this guy wished was taught in university vs. being a thing you do because we should all be courteous to each other.

    1. Beth*

      Exactly! Also it seemed like he only cared because it would benefit him – not just people don’t want to hire a jerk if they act like that to people who have no power over them.

    2. tangerineRose*

      I was thinking that too, but maybe this is something that should be taught in school, probably earlier than university. Although, didn’t most of us learn some basic manners in kindergarten? Still, it might be a good idea to remind people about this in school. Of course, that might cut down on the notalwaysright posts.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        There is definitely much wisdom in the phrase “everything I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten.” Especially when it comes to social graces and being nice to others.

      2. Candi*

        “Of course, that might cut down on the notalwaysright posts.”

        That made me laugh. Of course, people being nicer to people is a fair price to pay for fewer AAM and NAR posts, even if it makes me kind of sad.

  22. Just @ me next time*

    I love how the update sneaks in a crucial detail. “Oh yeah, and there were two of us competing for the position.” It takes a special kind of arrogance to decide you’re a shoe-in when there’s still another candidate in the running.

    1. quill*

      “Not only did I not consider being polite to strangers on the train, I didn’t consider that there was any doubt I would get a position after being told it was a close race between me and another candidate.”

    2. Mental Lentil*

      I think a lot of this goes back to parenting and telling your child that they’re the best at everything they do when clearly they’re not. At that point, why would it even occur to them that someone else in the running might have a chance?

  23. PivotPivot*

    I think one thing that is being missed is that the OP didn’t just offend the CEO’s wife, the OP was rude to the CEO’s elderly father-in-law. So in effect, the OP was rude to two people known and trusted by the CEO.

  24. AcadLibrarian*

    I loved the update. So they needed Career Services to tell them to be a decent human being to other human beings? Not sure if that falls under Career Services tasks.

  25. Chelle*

    Love the follow up where the candidate blamed it on career services that they didn’t tell him that he shouldn’t act like a total jerk to everyone. He didn’t realize these lowly people could make a difference in decisions that affect him, so now that he knows, he will do it for his own benefit. Thanks for the advice!
    The follow up is so so bad.

    1. Dancing Otter*

      Well, being polite out of self-interest is still better than being rude, generally.
      Maybe he read too much Ayn Rand at an impressionable age.

  26. Nom*

    I feel for OP’s reaction on the train a bit. I can see how if i was really tired interacting with someone asking me to give up my seat would feel like just too much and I’d ignore them too. There were surely other people to ask. I think in general we need to be giving strangers more grace in public, since you never know what they’re going through, whether they are neurodivergent, or the real reason they are reacting the way they are (in my case entirely shutting down due to extreme tiredness resulting from depression).

    All that being said, it doesn’t really sound like that is the case here or OP would have explained why they didn’t give up the seat in that light. It’s clear OP has some growing up to do.

    1. Mannequin*

      It makes me curious why the they pair would pick a person who was obviously busy/engaged in something to ask for a seat.

      I also might ignore someone asking me for a seat because in my bus riding days, I was young & *looked* fit & healthy, but STILL had multiple invisible disabilities (including one that affects balance/coordination!) that would have made standing on the bus difficult/painful. Most of them were not diagnosed at the time so I didn’t think of myself as disabled, but I still experienced all the pain, discomfort, fatigue etc they caused.

      I would have definitely picked “be thought of as rude & entitled” over “explain/debate/argue why a young & seemingly healthy person needs a seat without having known diagnosis/disability to back it up”

      1. Ella*

        I think even a “I’m sorry, but I’m actually feeling quite unwell so was hoping to sit” would’ve been fine. I often get asked to give up my seat, presumably because I am young and very “English” looking, so people won’t think there will be a language barrier when they ask.

      2. Nom*

        Yes I totally agree with this. I had an ankle injury that made it very difficult for me to balance on a moving vehicle for several years. I never judge people about not standing up. You never know what people are going through. There are also a lot of entitled people that will argue with you and that can be exhausting.

  27. anonymous73*

    Based on the update, OP learned nothing from any of this. Your university career services office isn’t supposed to teach you how to be a decent human being.

  28. AliCat*

    I hope that in the time since this post and the update were written, OP has learned what “life skills” are.

  29. Albeira Dawn*

    I feel like Alison is posting these letters that make me cringe on her vacation to remind me what my professional life could have been like if I didn’t read this blog.

  30. Sea Anemone*

    I was given some feedback about the skills that I have to develop

    How interesting! I don’t generally expect feedback from interviews, and I’m not generally offered feedback from interviews. I am offered a job, or I am told they won’t be moving forward. However, I recently went on an interview after which my contact followed up over email and said they had some feedback from my interview. I was seriously confused about what that meant and assumed it was just odd wording for telling me they were either making or not making me an offer and I had to call back to find out. As it happened, I had already accepted another offer, so I just replied and said I was no longer looking. But, I guess they might really have been intending to give me feedback!

  31. Gertie*

    Not surprised to see after the update that the OP is still an a-hole. I’m glad no one in career services told him not to be an a-hole to the receptionist if his take away is only to be decent to people who can affect him personally. That way employers have a better chance of avoiding him. I’m still amazed that there are people stupid enough to think they are better than others and expect special treatment for being part of a certain “class”. It’s everywhere, but I don’t know how British people put up with that crap. (Also, the first thing I think of when someone references the British upper-class is that Monty Python upper-class twit of the year sketch.)

    1. Ella*

      Only real a-holes do, people with real class (whichever social class they fall into) realise everyone deserves respect and kindness. This is just some arrogant kid, who had their first knock back to Earth.

  32. mw*

    I like in the update, he comments that he was told that he needs to work on his “life skills” and then says “whatever that means.” But doesn’t think the train incident had anything to do with not getting hired. I would think that not ignoring someone who asked you a question and apologizing for hitting someone with your bike and leaving a stain on their clothing would be some good life skills to have.

  33. Meep*

    Always act like the stranger on the street could be your next boss. If you are nice to them, they will do right by you. If you are mean to them, they will remember. And if they are actual jerks, well, you didn’t want to work for them anyway. (But by the same vein if everyone you meet is a jerk, it might be you. Looking at you, Auntie Dearest.)

  34. Beany*

    Leaving aside the issues of (a) the unmentioned other candidate, and (b) overconfidence showing through the interview process itself (per the update), I’d be skeptical that the CEO’s wife would scupper OP’s chances based on seeing them in the office the following day. Could the wife have been *certain* it was the same person she encountered in the train the day before? I wouldn’t want to take that chance in her shoes, unless OP is *extremely* distinctive in appearance.

    1. Worldwalker*

      It’s not impossible that the CEO’s wife had seen him around the office in the past few months and remembered who he was — which is why, in fact, she asked him to give her father the seat. He might not have noticed her — one of several hundred people in the company — but she could have noticed him — one of a dozen new interns.

  35. Denver Gutierrez*

    I read the update and it didn’t make me like this person any better. Did this guy really just blame his “prestigious university” for not teaching him about being polite to receptionists, janitors, etc. during interviews? You should be polite to others period, interview or not! That is Basic Kindness 101. Small children could have told him that!

    1. Pennyworth*

      Somewhere along the line he should also have been taught that you don’t take an oily bike on the Tube. Seems to be totally unaware of the normal niceties of life.

      1. London Calling*

        I read that and was amazed that he actually could GET his bike on the tube. Most of the time in normal times you’re packed in like sardines. People hauling their bikes on aren’t popular, to put it mildly (yes, man who insisted on cramming on with his bike in the morning rush hour and then riding for one stop, I am looking at you).

          1. Ella*

            Even on busy times, you can get your bike on the overground and would comfortably be able to get off without staining someone else (or if your bike was leaking oil so intensely you would, it would also be all over you).
            Source: I have used the overground near daily for a long time.

  36. BlueBelle*

    The entire original letter and the update have me both laughing and shaking my head. Of course, it is the fault of their university for not teaching them to be polite to people. Sheesh.

  37. Wowza*

    They said I was overconfident, whatever that means, and they never ACTUALLY said interview was just a formality, and oh did I mention there were two finalists for the job, and by the way what took you so long to answer my question! I’m important!

    Just. Holy cow.

  38. Badasslady*

    Both the letter and the follow up read as super entitled and overconfident to me (which, not surprisingly, is also the feedback OP got from the company about why he was not hired. To be honest, I doubt that he was rejected because of the tube incident. I believe that his entitlement and overconfidence was showing through the interview process, and that the process did not go as well as he thought to begin with. His lack of good judgement shows in him thinking that the interview with the CEO was just a formality.

    1. Worldwalker*

      And remember he’d been with the company for two months on his internship. They knew what they were getting — and they didn’t like it.

    2. Candi*

      When I read the update, all I see is the guy with his heels up on the corner of the CEO’s desk, leaning back with his arms behind his head. Sometimes he’s talking about how of course he’ll be fine not having his own secretary for a few months.

  39. Edwina*

    Am I the only one who thinks his “accidental” move to smear bike oil on the lady’s coat wasn’t so accidental?

    1. Ella*

      Based on the way this person comes across on their update too, absolutely. I am also a London overground commuter (which they state was used) and it would be really difficult to actually do this without intention. Also, in terms of their description, I went to a “prestigious English” university (incredibly cringe they felt the need to say that) and I think the careers service generally assume people do not need to be taught basic manners and kindness. Needless to say, I’m grateful this is a few years ago and can be optimistic that the person has either matured, or stopped likely sharing a commute with me (I don’t want the bike stains!).

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’m still rather surprised how someone can regularly ride the London Transport facilities and *not* pick up on the social rules surrounding them. Like ‘don’t be a twit’

  40. n.m.*

    All else aside, if someone on the train asks you to move it’s bizarre to not at least say “no” out loud!

    1. Anonomatopoeia*

      Yes! Even if you’re not going to give a reason, a simple, “I’m sorry, but I need it” is so much closer to reasonable human interaction.

  41. KHB*

    I know I’m deviating from the “pick on the clueless OPs” theme this week, but I still don’t think a CEO should be taking money from a soon-to-be-unemployed former intern for his family’s dry cleaning bills, no matter who was at fault. The optics of power imbalance are too great.

    1. Observer*

      Of course not. And, in fact, HR (like Allison) did tell the OP not to mention the coat nor offer to pay the for the dry cleaning. I think the OP at least followed that advice.

    2. Anonomatopoeia*

      This is a good point, but OP should have offered. Then the CEO could have rejected the offer, but OP would have met standards of civility.

  42. Chilipepper Attitude*

    There are entire TikTok series built around encounters like this one!
    “He assumed other people did not matter and lives to regret it”

  43. Beth*

    My first comment on here ever to say I worked with a woman in the hospitality industry who scheduled two pregnancies to be over the holidays so she could be home. It 100% happens. I was mostly just impressed at her level of planning.

  44. ohMy*

    I get that OP had some issues, but I laugh at HR telling them the job was theirs and then saying oops you were too overconfident after we said that….

Comments are closed.