giving tattoos at work, boss lied about getting engaged, and more

I’m on vacation today. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. My coworker gave someone a tattoo at work

I have a question about the ethics of telling on someone who exhibited unethical behavior at work. During an internship I was at this summer, one of the interns gave another one of the interns a stick-and-poke tattoo during work hours, in the organization’s building. I should clarify that we were interning at a very well-known art nonprofit, not a tattoo shop or anywhere this would be an acceptable use of our time! Additionally, the intern was slightly younger than many of us and had some issues with professional norms, but I feel like this was pretty much a no-brainer even for a young college student. I did not personally witness this, but at least four other interns did witness it (since it took place in one of the building’s conference rooms) and were told to “keep the door shut” and not tell anyone.

None of the other interns said anything to a higher-up because they were shocked by the situation and they didn’t want to be labeled a tattletale, and I didn’t feel like I should be the one to bring it up because I hadn’t seen it. Although the internship ended about three weeks ago, I just thought about emailing you to ask whether I should fill in our former supervisor about what happened. I personally don’t want our former supervisor to unwittingly endorse someone who has exhibited such unprofessional behavior, and I don’t want someone who would knowingly endanger their coworker (no sanitation!) and the art in the building (permanent ink!) to continue working in my field.

Do you think telling my former supervisor would constitute tattling or be a reasonable professional courtesy?

This is weird and unprofessional to do at work, and if I were those interns’ manager, we’d be having a serious conversation about how they think they’re supposed to be spending their time at work, why this seemed like a good use of said time, and why “keep the door shut and don’t tell anyone” is usually a flag that your work judgment has gone seriously awry. And unless they’d been exemplary up until this point, I’d be considering ending their internships early, because engaging in top secret “don’t tell anyone” conference room tattooing makes me think they have real disrespect for the jobs they were hired to do, and that’s something I’d assume would come out in other ways too.

That said … I’m not convinced it’s something you need to report, especially now that your internship has ended. If you’d walked in in the middle of it, you could have gone to your manager in the moment and said, “Hey, I think you should know what’s happening in the conference room right now.” But now that the internship is over, I don’t think this rises to the level of “must report.” It’s more just a horror story about fellow interns that you can tell as a cautionary “what not to do” tale when you have your own interns.


2. Intern uses “stay gold” as her email sign off

There’s an intern at my office who signs off all her emails with “Stay gold.” For example, an email from her might read, “Thanks for sending me the TPS reports! Stay gold, Jane.” I asked her about it and she confirmed it’s from the quote “Stay gold, Ponyboy” from the book The Outsiders. We work in a pretty casual industry so it’s most likely that people will write it off as a weird quirk, but I’m afraid that if she tried using that sign-off in a more formal industry or office that people would think it’s unprofessional. Should I encourage her to start using a more common sign-off?

First, this is hilarious.

But yeah, that’s going to come across weirdly in many (most?) offices, and as an intern she won’t have the capital built up to make it read “amusing quirk” rather than “inexperienced worker who doesn’t take work seriously / has no sense of professional norms.”

If you’re her manager or oversee any of her work, it would be a kindness to talk to her about professional sign-offs.


3. An angry eBay buyer is threatening to contact my employer

My husband and I have a joint eBay account that is technically in my name. We’ve had it for over 10 years with no issues. We don’t have an eBay business; we just occasionally buy stuff and now and then sell stuff, like extra books, gifts we can’t return, items that have been upgraded with newer versions, etc. Recently my husband sold an item that ultimately, the buyer wasn’t happy with. He instructed the buyer on how to resolve it, but the buyer wasn’t happy with that either. At that point the buyer started sending emails threatening to report us to eBay. Which was fine, starting a claim was what he should have done. Then he started threatening bad feedback. That escalated to threatening to write on my Facebook page and telling everyone he knows how terrible we are. This is ridiculous since I don’t have a Facebook page related to selling stuff on eBay because again, we don’t run a business. Finally he threatened to go to my employer and have them make me pay. This got my attention because he named my employer. I don’t have a common name, so obviously he found me on LinkedIn.

At this point, I reported him to eBay for harassment. Part of me thinks that if someone at my company got this complaint from him, they’d scoff at it and send it right to the circular file. But I don’t want to assume that and am wondering if I should give my manager and/or HR a heads up that this guy could be contacting them? For the record, I work for an insurance company, and I certainly don’t sell anything related to my company on eBay or anywhere else. I’m not a broker and I don’t work in sales. I don’t represent my employer anywhere on eBay or any other ecommerce website. So I’m not sure what he intends to gain by contacting them. Any insight you could provide would be helpful.

This guy sounds like a lunatic, and “I’m going to tell everyone you know what a terrible person you are!” tends to be a statement made by people who know they don’t have any real recourse. It’s very, very unlikely that your employer would care about a private eBay dispute you’re having (or actually, your husband is having), and if this guy were bizarre enough to contact them about it, it would most likely make them think he was a loon.

That said, to give yourself peace of mind, it would be totally fine to give your company a heads-up, saying something like: “I feel ridiculous even mentioning this, but I’m being harassed by someone following a transaction on eBay. I’m handling this directly with eBay, but the person seems a bit unhinged and has threatened to contact my employer, so I wanted to give you a heads-up just in case he does. It’s not a big deal and I’m confident we’ll be able to put it to rest soon, but I didn’t want you to be confused if he does try to contact you.”


4. My boss lied to a client about getting engaged

My boss recently visited some of my clients who were out of state. In an effort to build rapport, he told them he was planning to propose to his girlfriend over the weekend. (I’m not sure why he wouldn’t talk about the weather or sports, but whatever). He has no intentions of proposing, and did not propose that weekend.

He asked me to send the follow-up materials to the client, and when I did, she replied and cc’d him and asked how the proposal went. This is where it gets weird. He then sent a follow-up email, detailing in multiple paragraphs the proposal and including pictures of him with his girlfriend. The client and members of the team all congratulated him.

Maybe this was just a joke and he was having a laugh (although if I was the girlfriend I’d be annoyed! – he is not engaged) but what worries me is how easily he lied, and then I realized he’s told white lies (stretched the truth?) about other stupid stuff that isn’t even worth lying about. Now I have to deal with a client who is super excited to work with us and keeps asking for updates. I’ve talked about this to a trusted friend at work and we agree my boss crossed the line with the email and photos.

Advice on how to handle the clients? Just shrug it off? How can I tell my boss he needs to cool it with the little white lies? He’s still young, only 27, so I feel he needs to get the straight path before these lies get bigger and bigger.

What the hell!? Seriously, this is so weird. And even weirder and more disturbing that he kept the lie going — the multi-paragraph description of the proposal and the photos take this from one instance of bad judgment to a real integrity and character issue.

I’d say this to your boss: “Hey, Jane keeps mentioning your engagement and I feel really uncomfortable lying to her. Can you tell her the engagement is off or postponed or something? I really don’t want to be in the middle of this.”

If you can also get your coworkers to make it clear that y’all don’t think this is funny and that in fact it’s disturbing and makes you uncomfortable, that might disincentivize him the next time he’s thinking of doing something like this. (That also means don’t laugh just to smooth over your discomfort when he talks about it; he sounds like he’ll think you’re laughing along with him. Shocked, uncomfortable looks are what you want here.)

But you know, your boss is a liar, and willing to lie for the smallest of reasons. Proceed with caution with him.


5. Can I wear a sheet mask at work on days I don’t have meetings?

I’m a software engineer, one of the desk jobs with generally lower standards for office apparel and general standards. But how low is too low?

In my office, we don’t have meetings on Wednesdays, so that people can really have some heads-down coding time.

It would be totally unacceptable for me to wear a sheet mask at my desk on Wednesday, right? Even though I’m practically hidden by monitors, and don’t have meetings? Because I really want you to say, “it’s fine, go ahead and do it” so that I can have a relaxing, cooling, post-lunch ritual for myself (even though it makes me look like a human-skin-wearing-psychopath).

I was so excited when I saw a question about sheet masks in my inbox. (Here’s info and photos for people who don’t know what they are. They’re like other facial masks for your skin, intended to moisturize, deliver serums, etc., except that they make you look like a mummy.)

I am sorry to say that you cannot wear a sheet mask at work. This is nothing against sheet masks, which I quite love; you also cannot wear an old-timey Queen Helene mint julip mask (remember those?) or cover yourself in cold cream or so forth. I mean, I suppose if you worked with no coworkers and no one ever appeared at your office unannounced, you could wear a sheet mask while you work … and you can certainly wear a sheet mask while you work from home … but if you’re in an office building with others, it’s a no-go. Even with engineers, sadly. Sheet masks are super weird looking, and you’ll seem way too focused on a beauty regime when you’re supposed to be in work mode.

That said, if you choose to ignore me and do it anyway, please report back.


{ 388 comments… read them below }

    1. Heidi*

      Couldn’t the OP just rip it off really fast if someone came into the office anyway?

      I’m also getting a kick out of how “you can certainly wear a sheet mask while you work from home” seems almost quaint now. My immediate thought was, “How would that work on zoom?”

      1. Autumnheart*

        No, because it leaves a layer of product on your face that you’re then supposed to rub into your skin to fully absorb. Even if you weren’t wearing the sheet, you would clearly be in Warm Liquid Goo Phase.

          1. Free Meerkats*

            I just snorted warm semi-liquid oatmeal. One of my reports stuck her head in to ask if I was OK.


        1. Heidi*

          Ah, you see I was imagining that they would just look very, very moist, like dewy to the max, but an actual viscous layer would be more difficult to ignore.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            It’s pretty gooey when you first take it off.

            Also maybe I just have an abnormally slippery face but I have to really be at least slightly reclined for a sheet mask to adhere to my skin for 20 minutes and not slide off. I don’t think I could be bent over a notebook or even really upright in front of a computer.

            1. Birdie*

              Oh, interesting. I generally don’t have a problem with them staying on, and I have a really oily face!

              I have a private office and my last couple of work places have had clear “if the door is shut, the person is unavailable” norms, so I could easily shut the door for 20 minutes for sheet mask time and I doubt anyone would notice (if I normally went bare-faced in the office, anyway). However…in my mind, sheet masks are more of a pampering thing that I would want to do on leisure time. Associating it with the office would probably ruin it for me!

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                Maybe the oil is the secret to making it bond! My skin is pretty dry so it just kind of flops on there.

                Same I could probably pull it off in the office but I’m not sure I’d want to.

            2. Gothic Bee*

              Same! I was wondering how on earth the LW was going to be able to keep it on their face and code at the same time, but maybe some sheet masks stick better or maybe it’s to do with face shape because I’ve never been able to keep a sheet mask on without readjusting it every 10 seconds and keeping my head back. I mostly stick to clay masks or peel off masks for that reason (and those old mint julep ones are actually really good!).

              1. kittymommy*

                Same. I can’t stand sheet masks for this reason: the eyeholes are always way to big so half my face isn’t covered and the mask ends up hanging way down off my chin and anytime I try to adjust it, it just slips right off. Give me a nice old-school mask I can just paint on with a fan brush.

            3. Nom*

              There are silicone sheet mask covers that you can wear over the top of a regular sheet mask to keep them in place. It does take the look from “slightly creepy mummy” to “horrifying skin-wearing monster”. (My partner & dog are both terrified/repulsed by it.)

              Anyway, in a WFH connect you could absolutely use it while doing quiet solo work (data cleaning, writing code, etc), but for the love of all that’s holy please keep it off of Zoom!

          2. Carlie*

            It’s kind of like… have you seen Star Trek DS9 when Odo is having difficulty maintaining his solid phase? Kind of like that.

          1. Miss V*

            I have referred to myself as ‘twelve rabid weasels wearing a human suit pretending to be a person’ so many times that if my partner asks how my day was I can tell him ‘it was a rabid weasel day’ as shorthand for my day was so irritating I wanted to gnash my teeth and scratch someone’s eyes out.

      2. GNG*

        I like sheet masks, but I feel like I wouldn’t be able to relax at all if I have to be on the alert for someone coming in unexpectedly. I would rather do it at home when I can fully enjoy the experience.
        I also don’t want to chance any coworker seeing me wearing a sheet mask. I’m sure a non-zero number of people will say mean things about it behind my back, or find some way to make a big whooping deal out of it. It’s just not worth the risk to me.

        1. Joyce*

          I had a co worker who spent her days doing various treatments while in office. Once I passed by her desk to see she had goo slathered all over her eyebrows. She was always behind in her work (duh!). Management would make me jump in and help catch her up.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Yeah, I save masks for at home, but I do keep a travel size micellar water and some moisturizer in one of my desk drawers so I can have a quick after-lunch pick me up. It helps prevent mask acne and just overall makes me feel nice.

      3. ecnaseener*

        I’m imagining walking to a coworker’s office and seeing them appear to rip the skin off their face as I approach.

        1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          I was imagining LW doing the charcoal one and a coworker reporting them to HR because they caught a glimpse of it and thought they were doing blackface.

        2. Carlie*

          Can you imagine the mess when their brain short-circuits and they can’t figure out whether to rip off the lotion mask or put on the covid mask and then do both at the same time?

      4. Lily Rowan*

        Honestly, a coworker called me on Teams the other day and told me she wasn’t on camera because she had just “put something on her face” in preparation for a work thing that night. So it’s totally possible!

        1. Applesauced*

          I’ve done something similar – I had my hair in curlers while I worked in advance of a dinner reservation and just said I wasn’t feeling camera ready that day

    2. Stitch*

      I do sheet masks occasionally and I can’t fathom why someone would want to do them at work. You’re supposed to wash your face before so it’s best to just do it at home. You’re only supposed to leave them on for 15-20 minutes so it’s not like it’s something that takes all day. Just do it right before bed or when you get up.

      1. londonedit*

        That’s what I was thinking! I like a face mask or sheet mask now and then, but it’s something I do as part of my evening routine, I’d never see it as a relaxing thing to do at work in the middle of the day.

      2. WellRed*

        I seem to recall in the comments on this one that a lot of people thought this was fine to do at work. Too messy for me!

      3. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I’ve read that it’s really good for your skin to wear them on planes, because the air on planes is so dry, but I’ve always been too self conscious to do it, because planes are so non-private and I don’t want to look like that crazy lady.

        1. Stitch*

          They’re not designed to be worn for that long, though. Why not wear like those watermelon overnight options masks? They’re clear and designed to be worn all night.

          1. Paris Geller*

            I have to admit that I am that person who has worn a sheet mask on a plane. I don’t leave it on the whole time (20-30 minutes, generally following the directions) but I’ve done it either halfway through the flight or about 45 minutes out from landing. At the time I had quite dry skin (though I turned 30 in May and now my skin has become noticeably more oily, which I find odd) and it definitely helped. I did get self-conscious about it but I figured no one on the plane knew me and I would never see any of those people again, so I just went for it.

            1. Cactus*

              I also use them on planes, and also only for the recommended time. I know I look ridiculous, but it feels good on my skin.

        2. Artemesia*

          I am about to fly to France and actually bought a couple marketed as ‘plane masks’ — I will probably just use them once I get there although I did upgrade to business and will be in a little sort of private pod — so maybe. Planes are crazy dry and my eyes are miserable on long flights.

  1. PollyQ*

    That said, if you choose to ignore me and do it anyway, please report back.

    Hall of Fame advice. First ballot, unanimous.

    1. Thursdaysgeek*

      That reminded me of the time one of my co-workers was asked to join a work committee. He proceeded to don a snuggy (backwards, like a royal robe), a Burger King crown, and made a scepter using a broom and a tennis ball. He wore it around a lot – like multiple days. Of course, he also always dressed up for ‘Tie Tuesday’ and one time wore a suede and cream colored disco suit (pants, jacket, vest, shirt) from the 70s, which looked awesome. He was in IT, which probably explains all of that.

      1. Cat Tree*

        I have so many questions. A Snuggie is already a backward robe, so if he’s wearing it backwards why not just wear an actual robe? And if he owns such a disco suit, why wear it only one time?

        1. Thursdaysgeek*

          As to the Snuggie, I think it is because it was available, at work. He claimed to have other disco suits and I’m still disappointed that I didn’t get to see the rest of them.

  2. Sami*

    Ohhhh OP 5– I hope you followed Alison’s advice on not wearing a sheet mask. Only at home with the screen off please last year and this one. And I hope your skin looks awesome. Regular masks are the way to go nowadays.

    1. DiplomaJill*

      Right — another person in my team, who I trained and casually reports to me day to day, came onto a large team zoom mtng sheet masked up. We laughed, and then I had to be like no, seriously, if you’re wearing that you need to keep your video off.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        And here I was yesterday on a meeting with my camera off, because I had forgotten about the meeting and was in workout clothes and my hair in a messy ponytail. I need more of that person’s confidence. Not all of it, mind you, but some would be good for me I feel.

    1. Mockingbird*

      I do too. And, possibly because I default to a little too formal and polite until/unless I know people and can come off as cold when really it’s just anxiety, I think if the rest of their emails are professional, this is fine. It’s a touch of personality. Unless they go into an industry that’s very formal, or are dealing with someone who is, in which case their boss should instruct them on what to use. I had a grand boss who banned blue pens, because she thought signatures in blue looked tacky. Twenty years on, many jobs later, I still don’t use them.

      1. Vanilla Bean*

        Off topic, but I once had a job where signatures in non-black non-red ink were required. Discerning between an original signed document and a copy is harder with black ink, and red ink didn’t photocopy clearly always with the photocopy technology that was widely available at the time. I still tend to hunt for a blue pen when I have to sign something official for that reason, lol.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            Same, we sign everything in blue. Signing something in red makes it seem angry (because we use red for corrections).

        1. EPLawyer*

          Yeah I still sign all originals in blue ink. So I know I am filing the original. The court appreciates it. Of course with the move to online filing that will go away.

        2. Lacey*

          Oh that’s interesting! I never understood why some places want you to sign in blue ink! I mean, probably not anymore, but I used to come across it occasionally.

        3. fantomina*

          I worked at a college (within the last five years!) where different types of hourly workers had to use either the time sheets on white paper or the time sheets on colored paper. White time sheets demanded non-black ink and colored time sheets demanded black ink only. Mixing up the two would result in a returned time sheet and delayed paycheck, every time!

        4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Agreed – where I work all “wet signatures” are required to be in blue ink, specifically for the ability to distinguish between a photocopy and the original.

          (Wet signature means a signature done by your own hand using ink, which if wet can smear a bit.)

        1. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

          That’s the point. If you sign in blue it’s easier to distinguish between a copy and the original.

      1. All the words*

        I would faint with joy upon hearing that in the office. But I’m pretty nerdy that way.

        That being said, I will sometimes sign off with “Have a groovy day” when e-mailing co-workers I’m friendly with.

        1. Galadriel's Garden*

          Seconding that!

          Fly you fools,
          Galadriel’s Gardens

          P.S. Where was Gondor when the Westfold fell?

      2. American Job Venter*

        That would be magnificent. I would probably holler back “Aiya earendil elenion ancalima!” (Well, probably not, but I can dream.)

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I thought it should read “Stay Golden,” but “Stay Gold” is a reference to a Robert Frost poem. I’d advise against it on those grounds–such are always going to be hit-or-miss with people.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        The reference in The Outsiders is to the Robert Frost poem. It’s a sort of a transitive reference. Link to follow

            1. Mannequin*

              I was in high school when The Outsiders came out & still have never seen it. I only learned this reference a few years ago & had to have it explained to me too.

    3. Gothic Bee*

      I love it too! I get why it could be too informal and maybe a bit juvenile, but I was an English major, so I enjoy the reference (or references since from The Outsiders which is referencing Robert Frost).

    4. Pennilyn Lot*

      Yeah, bless them, I think there’s an argument for letting people keep a bit of their quirk and individuality even if it’s not strictly the most professional. Honestly there’s sometimes a bit of a vibe in AAM that if you don’t correct an intern on something in the moment, they will never ever change a single one of their habits for the rest of their working life. I get that an internship is an opportunity to learn professional norms, but you really don’t have to stamp every slightly oddball habit out of someone.

      1. Zennish*

        As a manager who will occasionally start emails with “Greetings, Starfighter” or something similar, I tend to agree. :-)

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      It would totally work in my field, but then, a lot of librarians I’ve worked with include a “currently reading” line in their email signatures and I know that’s pretty field specific.

    6. Twenty Points for the Copier*

      That was pretty much my response. Email signoffs are always stilted and overly formal. The world would be a (very slightly) better place if people used them to express personality or reference their favorite books/shows/movies.

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

      If someone comments on it, then at least you know they read the whole email ;-) I think this one should have been left as is since so few people are probably even going to see it.

      I can see advising the intern in a more general way — you should have a signature block for internal/known people that is less formal (and doesn’t include as much detail such as your title, department, org, phone, fax, website, etc.) AND a formal signature block that is for external/unknown people that includes ALL the details.

    8. Filosofickle*

      I loved when this letter ran! I’d just finished a corporate values project and we made Stay Gold one of them. If we can make it an organizational value, it’s fine for a signoff. :D

    1. Fergus The Llama Juggler*

      Walgreens sells a dupe under their store brand. I tried it and it was the exact same as the Queen Helene.

  3. Skytext*

    I wish this wasn’t an old column, as I would love to recommend to LW#4 the book “When Your Lover Is A Liar”. I know this isn’t a romantic relationship, but the insight would help her tremendously. It explains the psychological reasons people will lie about things that don’t matter, and then double-down on the lie. It also helps people like me, who tend to be painfully honest, understand liars. Before reading it, I had trouble comprehending liars, and how they will blatantly lie even in the face of the truth. And yes, I have been married to a liar for 35 years.

    1. Anon for This*

      I had a girlfriend who once wrote me a multipage email about everything she did while I was away on vacation. None of which was true. It had built up from little lies (saying on the phone that she had met a friend for dinner when she had microwaved a frozen entree) to great swathes of detail about the restaurant and the conversation.

      I learned that someone who doubles and triples down like this has an emptiness they are trying to fill. I cannot imagine having that person as a boss.

        1. Anon for This*

          Pretty easy to figure out when you ask someone “how was dinner with girlfriend the other night” and get a blank stare. And then go from there.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        One of my college roommates was a liar. She had constructed this elaborate story about her life and had several volumes of journals, which she wrote in all the time. Sometimes she’d show bits to me and our other friend to read, and eventually I turned one page too far and read about how a particular significant event was very different from how she’d presented it. I’m not sure if it was a deliberate attempt at manipulation or a symptom of other mental health problems she had, but she ended up dropping out and going home for some pretty extensive treatment. It was all bizarrely elaborate, though.

        1. Lunch Ghost*

          The bizarre part to me is that she never decided to just… call it fiction? I thought that’s what all kids who made up elaborate stories about their life (I was one) learned to do as they got older.

        2. EvilQueenRegina*

          That sounds a bit like a former friend at university. In her case, she had started at university a year earlier than a lot of her peers (the Scottish education system allows for people to skip their final year of school and go straight to university), and was in the younger half of that year group anyway, turning seventeen a couple of weeks after she started, and found herself suddenly in a peer group of people one to two years older than her, and felt she had to make herself sound more interesting to keep up, and ended up creating this whole long elaborate story involving lots of boyfriends, including a relationship with Jack White of the White Stripes at one point. I don’t think that one happened, but I’ve never been sure whether any of the other boyfriends existed at all.

          1. londonedit*

            I also had a flatmate in my first year of uni who was a compulsive liar. They claimed to play a (fairly niche) sport at a semi-professional level, but we discovered they were making trips to see an ex-girlfriend when they’d said they were going away for a match. They had all sorts of lofty claims about their life and their past, and the longer time went on the more we suspected the whole lot was a complete lie!

            1. EvilQueenRegina*

              Forgot to add (this happened after I’d ended my friendship with the person) that the person I mentioned also once lied about being engaged when she was nothing of the kind. Her then-boyfriend found out about it because someone mentioned something to his sister and she didn’t know what they were talking about so asked him. Former friend tried to fix the situation by proposing and he said no.

          2. desdemona*

            The “young and trying to sound interesting” thing just made something CLICK for me.

            I worked at my alma mater briefly a year or two after I graduated, and was easily mistaken for a student.

            Working with a group of freshman, one of them kept telling me about how she was actually an alumna, but she had never fulfilled this core requirement, so they made her come back to do it now, etc etc. I just smiled and nodded, but she was very clearly an awkward teenager and not a 20-something.
            Also, if she HAD been a recent alumna – I would have known her or at least recognized her from years of passing in the hallway…she either thought I was a current student, or a random hired person and not an actual alum.

        3. Emi*

          I had a friend who would tell random and more or less alarming lies with no provocation. She once told me that a mutual friend of ours hadn’t come home from a party, and didn’t reveal that this was completely made up until I was on the point of calling the police. Apparently she thought this was very funny?

        4. Dwight Schrute*

          I had a liar on my freshman floor too. She lied about having to make dinner for her brothers in the evenings and help care for them…. She was an only child

      2. quill*

        Knew a guy like this in college and it got to the point where nobody, including him or his advisor, actually knew what he majored in, so… problems arose.

    2. ebbe*

      i have always struggled with telling lies, not because i want to hurt people or mislead, but just because for some reason my brain doesnt differentiate between “true” and “made up” nearly as well as it should. So if you ask me “what were you doing in the conference room yesterday?”, my instinct is to sort through possible answers to find the simplest and most reasonable answer, not the most truthful one- i have to actively remind myself that i should pick the answer which is *actually correct*, particularly if the real answer is complicated or weird and less believable than the fake one

      so i guess thats one mindset which leads to lying

      1. Laure*

        Ebbe this is a very interesting answer and I totally understand. It will help others understand too I guess, I find it fascinating, that you don’t see it as lying but as choosing between a series of possibilities.

      2. Sasha*

        This also used to be me. Years of hiding stuff from my mum meant that when somebody asked me a question and the answer was long, involved a complicated backstory, or otherwise sounded like it would be an effort to answer, I’d just say something plausible and simple because it was easier for me.

        So, if somebody asked what I’d eaten for dinner, and the actual answer required some explanation that I’d been out to a sushi place for lunch with my friend, and we ended up running late so it turned into more of a late lunch, so I wasn’t actually hungry at dinner time, and planned to just eat toast later, I would just say “pasta”.

        It took me quite some time to understand that other people don’t like that, even when it’s a topic where the answer doesn’t matter.

        1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          Why not just “oh I had a late lunch so I just had a little snack”? Sounds like you might get hung up on details that aren’t that important unless it was something unusual or worth reporting. In this case maybe you could also say “oh I ended up having an excellent late lunch of sushi so I wasn’t very hungry at dinner”, or even just “oh, dinner was nothing special”.

          1. mlem*

            I’m not Sasha, but if you have to keep truths hidden from someone in your life, any measure of detail AT ALL is a hook for them to start prying. “Pasta” is short and boring.

            You had a late lunch — why? What was more important than lunch? What where you doing instead of eating at a normal time? Sushi?! That’s weird/foreign/expensive/other-judgment-worthy! Why would you get that?! Who were you WITH? And then toast after — that’s not a proper dinner! I’ll spend an hour lecturing you on nutrition and adult choices.

            Oh, nothing special? Then why won’t you say what it is? What are you hiding from me? Why won’t you tell me the truth?! Etc.

            Short and generic to let you disengage quickly can feel far safer.

            1. Lora*

              I see you’ve met my mother.

              I didn’t lie, I mostly just withdrew from her completely (no answer will ever be good enough –> how about zero answer at all then, and I’ll just fk all the way off?), but when I was a young adult all my answers came with waaaaayyyy more detail and backstory than necessary. It took me a while to adjust to normal conversation without massive over-justification of everything. This has actually served me somewhat well at work, where in my male-dominated field, everything I present is automatically suspect as wrong or stupid, sorry to say…

            2. Joielle*

              YUP, this is my mom to a tee. I would also probably have said pasta. (Actually, I probably would have said I met a friend for dinner but not gotten into the timing or content of the meal.)

              It’s never bled over into my work or other relationships, but if I’m talking to my parents, it’s simple/bland info on everything except a couple of safe topics (cats, gardening). It’s just easier that way.

            3. braindump*

              yes, this.

              Although it helped me in the long run to eventually just grey rock people like that (even mom), because otherwise the habit would bleed into every conversation and would make me feel/seem unreliable.

              If you tell the truth you never have to remember the lies.

            4. DrSalty*

              My husband has this kind of relationship with his parents. He lies to them very easily to make things boring so they don’t nitpick him to death. It was very surprising to me when I first realized it as my first instinct is always to tell the truth. It makes me uncomfortable, but I understand why he does it. I will call him out though (in private) if I catch him lying to me or our friends. Old habits die hard sometimes!

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

              Yes, this…and add in when dealing with a narcissist — which that line of questioning and interference would suggest — you sometimes get into the mode of…protecting…the truth. Since they want to make it all about them and you just want to live your life without them inserting themselves. Had lunch with a friend?…now the narcissist wants “in” on that friendship…had sushi? They like sushi, now you owe them a meal at the sushi restaurant… If you grow up in that situation, that becomes your default to any questions from anybody…protect the truth, protect your privacy.

            6. Ebbe*

              Ooooh- my mom does this too! I never really made the connection but that is exactly my train of thought a lot of the time. She’s not a bad person she almost always means week she just wants to have a really detailed discussion of every. Thing. I mention.

          2. Serenity*

            I had an older sib whose relationship with my parents was… challenging. One time my parents asked me if I had done something (bad). I knew instantly that I had not. I also knew that if I said so instantly, they would say that I had answered too quickly. So I “thought” about it, then said no. They said that I thought too long and must be making up an answer. I complained that I knew it was no, but knew that wouldn’t believe me if I said so right away (luckily, didn’t get hit for talking back here). They actually acknowledged that I was right, and believed me. The point is that an entire childhood of dysfunction can totally warp your understanding of norms and acceptable behavior in lieu of survival skills.

      3. BethDH*

        This is me and I have never heard it explained so well.
        I did it less around people I wasn’t anxious around, and very rarely now that I’ve learned that I can be vague if the real answer is just something that will take longer to explain than the question merits. The conference room example is a good one — I’d want to avoid spending ten minutes telling you about HDMI cables, so I’d say “looking for paperclips” and it would never occur to me that I could just say “tech stuff for the presentation.”
        That said, I can’t fathom lies like the one in the letter.

      4. Female Engineer*

        I used to be unable to lie until I had to lie out of neccessity to cover up the fact I was going to grad school. The last time I told the person I lied to I was taking a class, she went around bragging to everyone how ~we~ were taking the class ~together~. It made me beyond uncomfortable so when she asked if ~we~ were taking another class, I said no. Felt horrible about it, but sometimes it is easier to lie to a pathological liar like that.

    3. Laure*

      I wish all the liars became writers! I am not kidding, I know compulsive lying is connected to childhood trauma (it runs in my family) but seriously, use it, guys! Your imagination builds a better, more interesting world. Go forth and write fanfic!

      1. pancakes*

        Nah. All of the lies in these examples, including the ones in the letter about the fake engagement, are quite banal. Which makes sense, given that they seem to be constructed on the fly, in response to scenarios that are themselves banal – low-stakes chatting with a work client, or chatting about lunch. I also don’t think there’s any particular reason to believe that resolving to put all of one’s little lies in one place (fiction writing) is a more effective way to try to recover from trauma than any other. Seeking professional help, for example.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Sure but I think the idea is “if you can come up with this kind of believable fiction on the fly imagine what you could do if you actually put your mind to it”.

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

        The lies and stories of compulsive liars tend to veer into Mary Sue tropes. They are neither believable nor really entertaining. Writing might be an outlet for liars as hopefully a part of therapy…but I wouldn’t want to read it.

        1. Candi*

          It might make them better liars if they learn how to handle multiple stories and plot threads. No one in their lives needs that.

          I know I could handle a complex, ongoing lie and keep it going for a while. The key would be keeping certain people from talking to each other… and they don’t talk to each other much anyway.

          BUT. The last time I pulled a lie that thorough was when I was leaving my ex. And it was exhausting. Justified due to mental, emotional, becoming physical, abuse, but I don’t want to do that again. Plus my conscience would never stop bothering me if it wasn’t for a reason with at least as much at stake as my and my kids getting away.

    4. Whonow*

      When I first started dating my husband 15 years ago I would lie constantly for no reason. About the littlest stuff, that had exactly 0 consequences. It made no sense then and it makes no sense now.

      What I started doing was when I’d lie about something I’d immediately follow it up with “that’s not true/that’s a lie/whatever” and tell the truth. I didn’t give myself a hard time about it – it was my brain’s first reaction, but I did work to correct it.

      I still sometimes lie randomly, but it’s lessened SO MUCH over the years.

      1. comityoferrors*

        I really love this comment. I’ve been working on changing behaviors with self-acceptance and self-compassion in therapy, and this seems like such a good example of it — you recognized a behavior you didn’t like in yourself, immediately acknowledged and corrected it, and carried on without shame. I hope this doesn’t come off as patronizing or too off-topic; I’m just really chuffed because I feel like the concept clicked for me in a way it hasn’t before. Thank you!

      2. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

        Thanks for sharing this. I have a tendency to tell my spouse what I think he wants to hear when I’m in a rough emotional place–“what do you want for dinner?” “hmm, let’s throw some pasta together,” when I’m really wiped out and don’t feel like cooking anything, but I have this idea in my mind that he wants to cook at home.
        It’s only in the last few years that I’ve realized my dad, as much as I love him, is terrible at hearing anything but what he wants to hear, to the extent that he’ll go with what he wants and retcon it later. “Wait, you wanted X? But I thought you said you wanted Y! Isn’t that what you told me?” So it’s not the most useful thing, telling him what I actually want, and it just sets me up for disappointment.

    5. Lacey*

      Oh I wish I’d had a book like that back in college. I had a roommate who lied about things that were immediately obvious as lies and it was baffling.

      1. Chelle*

        I knew someone who lived down the hall from me who had a boyfriend that lived out of state. She would often talk to him on the phone for hours. He actually became online “friends” with one of her good friends and they would IM all the time. He also would email other people to tell them that she had admitted to being stressed and could they include her in their plans and bring her things like pizza.
        They eventually got engaged. She was supposed to be married over Christmas break, but he was killed in a tragic car accident.
        Yes, this was all made up. No boyfriend/fiance. The person she SAID was her bf was actually a real person she had met at camp one summer. This all came out because the friend who had been in communication with “him” looked him up online to call his parents in order to send flowers. This is when the story unraveled.

        1. The OTHER other*

          This happens a lot online, someone constructs an elaborate imaginary relationship and then sadly the BF is struggling with cancer, etc. I need support. Often there are multiple sock puppet accounts trying to lend plausibility. It happened at a hobby message board I was on a lot years ago, the saga went on a long time and took over a good part of the discussion. Finally suspicions were aroused and it was apparent that not only was the relationship and crisis nonexistent, many of the commenters (ostensibly from all over the world) were the same person. By that point many people had invested a lot of emotion into the drama (I had not, and was shamed for it) and the community was never the same after that.

          1. Chelle*

            People definitely felt really weird about communicating with someone who was their floormate. It also made me think of the elaborate steps she took – talking on the phone, buying an engagement ring, getting transfer materials to “andy’s” university.
            A few years after graduating the guy she had known from the fraternity shared all of the emails that “andy” had written and they were so bananapants. We loved reading them.

    6. TimesChange*

      I’m going to see if I can get this from the library so thanks for posting. There’s a person in my hobby group that I generally like, but I get really annoyed by what I perceive as lying. Or more generously exaggerating. And I don’t know why it bothers me so much. It feels like bragging, but logically, I know it’s more of insecurity on her part and I shouldn’t let it get to me. In her case it’s things like, “I gave birth to all my babies at home with no AC and hours and hours of labor.” But she’s also told us multiple times about one child at a birthing center. I can’t figure out if she just lumps “at home” together with anything not-hospital so in her mind this is correct (while my mind is very literal and if she’s not at her house, it doesn’t count?). Or it’s just easier to round up? From personal experience, I know when she says she does something all the time, it maybe have happened a few times and a long time ago. Like, watching 1 movie at her house 1 time turns into “Oh yes, we’ve had so many great movie nights.”

      Now it sounds very petty when I type it out. Also the comments above about bad family members interrogating every answer is very enlightening — thanks for sharing that. I see where that could come into play here as well.

      1. Generic Name*

        My mom is somewhat like this. She has what I call a “hyperbolic memory” in that she’ll say, “Remember how we used to do [activity] all the time?” And my sister and I are like, no, we did that once.

      2. Alice Ulf*

        I have a coworker friend that does exactly this, and it bothers me, too. It’s not enough that I’ve ever confronted her and I probably won’t, unless the lie includes or involves me somehow in a negative light, but I’ve learned to do the same thing you have and kind of…reduce the intensity of all her described experiences by 25-50 percent? In her case, I really feel like it’s some kind of distortion of memory. As if once she says it, it becomes True to Her and she remembers it that way from then onwards.

        For example, her recent favorite claim is that we used to go to this particular local brewery “all the time” before the pandemic, and the truth is that we went there maybe once or twice a year, if even that often. It’s so peculiar. I feel like she’s trying to impress someone, but I can’t imagine who.

        1. Candi*

          It probably is that way in her memory. It’s surprisingly easy to rewrite memory if you don’t make a solid effort to hold onto it. There’s even a joke that you write to memory every time you read it.

    7. Aquawoman*

      This whole thread has been interesting and educational. I appreciate (and sympathize with!) all the people who shared the experiences that led to lying as a defensive habit.

    8. Anon4This*

      My mom is a chronic liar. I’m pretty sure it stems from a traumatic, abusive childhood- when she was a kid she probably had to lie a lot to outsiders about everything being ‘fine’ at home and she never broke that habit. I don’t know much about neurology or psychology, but suspect her brain has been permanently rewired to not absorb anything negative- she automatically rewrites things to be in the best positive light and I think she really believes those lies are the way things happened.

      1. Boadicea*

        I dated a compulsive (I think?) liar once – often stuff about money, like they bought me this amazing necklace that I loved and still wear today (it doesn’t remind me of them). But they told me the small stones in it were diamonds. I mean. I may be from a small town but I know what’s not a diamond when I see it, and these were not diamonds. Not long afterwards there was a “ruby” ring – lovely, not a ruby, very beautiful. I cannot believe for a second I ever came across as wanting precious gems. Weird stuff like this, all the time.

  4. Stitching Away*

    I actually have an example of when tattoing yourself (or someone else) at work using unusual techniques is appropriate!

    I was listening to an interview with an archaeologist whose niche is studying artifacts used to make tattos. Unsurprisingly, it can be really hard to tell if something was used for that, since most of the tools are natural materials and a tiny piece of hollow bone might be a needle for punching through hide or to tattoo. So he described how he and his colleagues would sometimes do practical testing to see if the things they thought might be used (not the actual artifacts! modern ones they made!) would work.

    But otherwise, yeah, if you start with “close the door and don’t tell anyone” and a lawyer isn’t present, that’s a strong sign you shouldn’t be doing this.

    1. Mongrel*

      I can’t help thinking that a trip to the Butchers for a skin on pork joint would be less permanent.
      Unless it’s some, weird, academical one-upmanship.

      1. Sasha*

        This. “Give yourself a tattoo” is surely not the first step in determining whether something is a functioning tattoo needle or not.

        1. James*

          Depends on the archaeologist. I’ve worked with a few (paleontology and archaeology overlap more than you’d expect), and…well, let’s just say that people who spend their lives dealing with dead things tend to be a bit off-center. Most would certainly follow some official protocol (established by their employer and local regulatory framework) and do things systematically. There’s always a few, though, that’ll go gonzo and do strange things. I’m guilty of this myself, to an extent–I call it “kitchen paleontology”. There’s all sorts of neat things you can do with household tools, providing you have an understanding spouse or clean up before you’re caught.

          Experimental archaeology also isn’t limited to professionals. The better HEMA groups (historic European martial arts) and the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms) both include a fair number of experimental archaeologists. We know that this thing existed; let’s use it and see what it does. No big deal if you’re talking about kitchen tools or writing implements, but….we’re all a bit nuts, so sometimes things get weird.

          This is par for the course in science. There’s a long history of people doing stuff that’s insane but which provides useful information. I’ve seen books on researchers who’ve died doing research on themselves. It’s a fascinating topic, and one that really does separate the scientists from the non-scientists. A scientist reading about this stuff looks on these people as heroic; non-scientists think they’re all lunatics who got what they deserved.

    2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I suppose that is technically doing it at work but if it’s your actual research project then it isn’t any more weird than working in an actual tattoo parlor.

    3. Dr. Rebecca*

      Although I am an archaeologist, I don’t know the *exact* specifics of the study in question, but I guarantee it had to go through the Institutional Review Board for human subjects research, so it’s not like they were just going at each other with ink from a roller ball pen.

    4. MissBliss*

      This type of archaeology is called experimental archaeology! My advisor in undergrad was an experimental archaeologist and he was always doing cool things. (No tattoos, though. )

  5. nnn*

    Even if the boss in #4 is unwilling or unable to say the engagement is off or postponed, at the very least he should stop talking about being engaged, stop giving details, etc.!

    Something like “Oh, you know, same old same old” or “Please, I need a break from thinking about wedding planning!” or otherwise just taking it off the table as a topic of conversation.

    Although the devil on my shoulder would be tempted to convince him that the only solution is to actually propose to his girlfriend, and then sit back with the popcorn!

    1. Countess of Upstairs Downstairs*

      From personal experience having worked with people similar to the boss in #4, Alison is absolutely right that LW should proceed with caution. But this weird behavior is only weird to people who are usually honest. Most likely, he told the lie to manipulate the client, and he wouldn’t stop with this tactic unless he had a reason to. I’m pretty sure he was deliberate about manipulating them into seeing him a certain way, like “aww what a sweet romantic guy!” or even just to make sure there’s something positive to talk about whenever he met with the client. When he runs out of steam on the engagement story, he’ll just tell a new lie on top of the old one.

      1. Sue*

        I’m trying to think of a business where it wouldn’t matter to me if my boss did this but, no luck. I could not work for someone this unethical. It would stress and upset me even if I was never directly involved in the lies. Just knowing they were ok with it would be a dealbreaker for me.

      2. Meep*

        I work with a pathological liar. Often times there is no rhyme or reason to her lies. Sometimes it is things about her personal life – like dating an NFL player when she was 17, or how she had to replace brake pads on a car while not knowing how to change a tire, or even that she saw George Clooney. Other times it is about work-related things that are so low steaks, they aren’t even low stakes – like “I won’t be in the morning meeting” but then will show up less than 30 seconds later because of ~attention~ or how we are moving to a new office closer to ~your~ house (we have been in the same office for 6 years now – she does this every year for brownie points with the new hirers).

        She is so entrenched with her lies, she doesn’t know how not to lie. Don’t get me wrong, she lies with the intent of manipulating and gaslighting her employees for gain. But 80% of the words out of her mouth are lies and the other 20% are her bumbling attempt to be deceptive.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      And thus the rom com begins and ends with:
      – The boss and client hooking up
      – The girlfriend finding out and teaming up with the LW to make the proposal real
      – Other plotlines?

    3. KayDeeAye*

      Honestly, it’s manipulative and just plain weird. (Really, really weird.) I don’t think I could continue to work closely with a person like that. I mean, if it was just some person who sat several desks away and all I had to do was a little mild colleague-type chitchat, I could probably cope with that, though it would forever color how I thought about him. But actually work with someone like this and *cover* for someone like this? Not unless the choice was between working for him and not getting a paycheck.

  6. Jack Straw*

    A former boss signed her emails AND texts with “And….. Keep Rising!” followed by a combination of punctuation characters that made a swirly, shooting asterisk thing.

    This was so far down on the list of unprofessional things she did that it was never addressed in the two months she worked at our org before being let go, but it bugged the crap out of me.

    Stay gold, Jack

    1. sorry I could not help myself*

      I find them cute when it’s correspondence between friends and/or family maybe, though I do admit some find it cringe but one has to know their audience. If I ever send a message with sparkles by accident to anyone at work, I would probably consider resigning just at the thought of the sheer embarassment I would feel but hey that’s just me.

      Stay gold and…keep rising 。・:*:・*:༅。.。༅:*゚:*

    2. BatManDan*

      Okay, can anyone help me reorient my gut feelings about “Best,” as an email signature? It makes my skin crawl, but maybe I’m thinking about it wrongly. If you mean to say “best wishes,” why not type out both words? It’s like people that type (or say) “k” in place of “okay.” Could you REALLY not be bothered with that extra word / syllable? Help me out, folks, because I’m seeing “best” more and more and I truly think less of people that use it.

      1. Email Opinion Haver*

        I guess my thoughts on email sign-offs are:

        There’s never going to be any one sign-off that pleases everyone. What some people find warm, others will find unprofessional; what some people find professional others will find cold and brusque; some people hate “Best”, some people hate “Regards”, etc etc etc. Especially when you consider that different parts of the world, or different companies, or even different teams within companies will each have their own standards for sign-offs. You can personally dislike it as much as you want, but thinking less of people, for an email signoff? Feels a bit over the top. Focus on the content of the email and move on with your day.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I agree. If ‘stay gold’ makes her happy, whatever, because everyone has sign off pet peeves and it’s an endless conversation.

        2. Le Sigh*

          +1. I get really tired of these debates, because there is no winning. I’ve seen people in these threads and on Twitter pick apart Best, Thanks, Sincerely, Regards, Ciao, Respectfully, and on and on and on. I work in a field in which communication is important, so I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get tone and word choice right — but at a certain point, I have to just move on and do my job. Are there sign offs or email quotes that might raise an eyebrow? Sure, but I think people invest way to much meaning in this.

          Though I still side-eye the guy I worked with 15 years my senior who was a walking definition of mansplaining and constantly talked over me, but signed his emails with the Maya Angelou quote that starts, “When someone shows you who they are…” That was a bit eye-rolly, but that’s because I’d met him and he sucked.

        3. Environmental Compliance*


          To be honest, I was really confused by one of the management staff here signing off with just “BR” but that was because my brain could not conclude for a long time it stood for Best Regards. It took me at least a month to have that lightbulb moment. I just ignored it and moved on, though.

      2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        I’ve never encountered “Best,” as a signoff, but if I did I suspect my first reaction would be “Best..what? Best wishes, All the best, Best friends forever, Best in show?”
        It would likely bother me a little, but can you reframe it in your mind as some weird quirk that’s not worth your energy to react to? Or you could make a game of filling in the blank to suit the sender: Best procrastinater, best troubleshooter, best cupcake hoarder..

        1. A Beth*

          When I use “Best” I am indicating that I am, in fact, the best. Just reminding the recipient how lucky they are to know me, etc.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Exactly. Encourage their adoration, discourage them from asking me to do things because I am too amazing and important.

      3. ecnaseener*

        We had a conversation about this a few months ago, maybe in an open thread? And yeah for literally every signoff there were some people who like it and some people who HATE it.

        Idk, I sometimes use Best when Thanks doesn’t work (and I know some people HATE Thanks) and I’m not really thinking of it as meaning “best wishes”? That would feel hokey. I think of it as closer to “all my best” but less stuffy.

        So I guess that’s my answer: most multi-word signoffs feel stuffy or hokey or both. I like a one-word signoff because it doesn’t draw attention to itself, it doesn’t feel like a meaningful part of the message (which it’s not).

        1. Valancy Snaith*

          I’ll have to try to dig up that thread, because email signoffs are weirdly interesting to me. Especially the myriad ways in which someone can intimate “I’m incredibly ticked off with you right now but I can’t say so, so I’ll just demonstrate it by my email signoff.” It’s fascinating.

          1. ecnaseener*

            It was very interesting! For something so inconsequential, it’s weird that there are no safe options.

          2. Jack Straw*

            A coworker used either “Thanks.” vs. “Thanks!” to indicate how she was feeling about the person/issue/situation. Each time I was copied on an email from her, I’d look at the signature BEFORE the body of the email to add the appropriate tone as I read it.

            1. Mannequin*

              I’m ND and it wouldn’t even occur to me that people are trying to send a hidden message in their email signoffs, I’d take it exactly at face value, and if I found out that someone was, I’d most likely keep them at double arms length the entire time I worked with them.
              It’s such weirdly petty, immature, and passive-aggressive behavior, I wouldn’t be able to trust that any of their words or behavior towards me from then on were genuine or some secret power play that my disability leaves me unable to discern.

              It does give me some food for thought however, about why neurotypicals so often read my honest & straightforward communication style as blatantly lying or playing games.

        2. Joielle*

          Yep, this is exactly how I think of it. It’s basically “all my best” but that feels like it would be awkward somehow. So I just go with “Best” when “Thanks” doesn’t make sense. Or sometimes I just use “Thanks” anyways. Thanks for reading this email, I guess?

        3. Recruited Recruiter*

          I personally use “thanks” when I expect a response, and something else that clearly closes the conversation if not.
          I typically default on Friday to “Make it a Wonderful Weekend!”

          1. Cold Fish*

            I was working at a store checking people out and said “Have a nice day!” to the customer… who then proceeded to lecture me about how rude that is (as I am telling them what to do). It took everything in me to not respond, “on second thought, have a crappy day.”

            1. Candi*

              That comes up in the Not Always Right posts and discussions. “Have a nice day” is such a culturally ingrained thing in the US that all I can think is the people who respond like your customer are just looking to pick a fight or take out their temper on someone who can’t fight back.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            Some people see it as some kind of passive-aggressive assumption that OF COURSE the recipient is going to do the thing. Which might be kind of a leap of faith if we’re talking about “Will you pick up 3 people at the airport in the middle of the night and drive everyone home for no pay or mileage?” But if the request is for something in their job description, such as “Can you please include a dozen blue rollerball pens in the next supplies order?” then it makes sense.

      4. WritingIn*

        I’ll weigh in here, because I’ve recently come around to really liking “Best” as a sign-off. I default to Thanks, [My Name], but in situations where I’m not thanking them, that’s weird, in particular when I’m turning them down or want to permanently end the conversation. “Best” feels to me the equivalent of “No need to respond again and no hard feelings,” but I don’t actually know what other words would go with it appropriately. It’s not Best Wishes, it’s not All my Best, it’s just, “I’m being polite because I have nothing else to say.” For me, it’s a nicety that doesn’t actually mean much – which is the exact purpose I need it to serve. It’s a more casual version of Sincerely (since no one is ACTUALLY being super sincere when we write that).

        1. Student*

          In the context of a sign-off from a letter, “sincerely” is not about being sincere in the sense of the word we understand today.

          It is attesting that the letter is genuinely from you (hence, followed by your “signature”, now digital but once upon a time handwritten and difficult to fake) – not that the sentiment in the letter is a reflection of your genuine feelings. You’re attesting to authorship, not to an emotional investment in the written contents. It was once regarded as a very neutral and proper salutation on a letter.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I also default to “Thanks”

          I think it pretty much always works because even if there isn’t anything in particular to thank them for, I figure it’s just y’know “thanks for taking the time to read my email” I guess lol

          1. comityoferrors*

            I default to “Thanks” but also tend to be demonstratively grateful in the body of my emails. So sometimes I write a 4-sentence email, and I’ve already thanked the person twice in that email, so it feels really stupid to sign off with “Thanks” a third time. So then I use “Best.” It is a ridiculous and arbitrary decision that I spend too much mental energy on.

            It’s especially arbitrary because if I sign off with “Best regards” I’m either emailing the higher-ups or I *hate* you. Logically “Best” would be an even more hate-y signoff, but, nope.

      5. AY*

        If someone is using “Best” as a signature, I would assume that that person’s company or division or group or boss or whatever adopted “Best” as a standard practice and the person is just following along with the standard. I really would discourage you from thinking less of anyone because of an email signature. Honestly, it ranks on par with thinking of someone less for using a blue pen in lieu of black.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          If someone is using “Best” as a signature, I would assume that that person’s company or division or group or boss or whatever adopted “Best” as a standard practice and the person is just following along with the standard.

          My first thought would be that I’d made it to Hazzard and were now reporting to Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane (James Best).

      6. This Old House*

        At my first real job, most people used “Best” most of the time, so I got into the habit of doing it. I use it less now, but when “Thanks” or some other standard signoff seems too casual/too formal or just not appropriate to the content of the email, I tend to use “Best.” Like, if I’m sending a report to the president of the organization, I wouldn’t say “Thanks” because I’m not asking him for anything, I wouldn’t say “Sincerely” because it seems too formal to end a two-line email, I wouldn’t drop the signoff entirely and just use my name because it seems too casual for correspondence with the president. I guess I think of it as being short for “all the best,” but less . . . warm? intimate?

      7. Gothic Bee*

        I use it sometimes. I saw it being used and really liked that it was vague. It could mean “Best wishes”, “All the best”, “Hope you have the best day”, “I’m the best” (lmao, not really). But part of it is that I hate most sign-offs with a passion and “Best” is simple and can kind of mean a bunch of different things at once so it fulfills my desire to be a little vague and unknowable.

        I do also use “Thank you,” or “Have a great day,” where appropriate. But I feel like I have a similar ick reaction to the term “warm” in a sign off, like “Warmest regards” etc. Ultimately most sign-offs are weird and aren’t going to please everyone, so I figure you should just pick the one that offends you the least and know that some people will probably hate it. I would say the least professional thing would be to judge someone based on how they sign off an email (assuming it’s not like racist or something).

      8. KayDeeAye*

        I dislike “best” too. It sounds like an error! Why not just say “Best wishes” or “All the best”? There may not be a perfect alternative, but there are, IMO, many better alternatives, so I say use one of those.

      9. Nom*

        I use it rarely, but like others have said it’s a professional, neutrally polite sign off in situations where “Thanks” isn’t appropriate. This is often the case with difficult conversations, or where I have to assert professional boundaries within my org.

        For example, an email reply of “No we can’t do it the way your department proposes, because that would violate the federal nondiscrimination protections mandated by Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act” is going to get the “Best” sign-off.

      10. Duckles*

        I use “Best,” and it doesn’t mean anything other than I can’t use “Thanks,” because I’m not asking you for anything and I don’t want to strangle you so “Regards,” isn’t appropriate.

      11. Meep*

        I am a person who signs of “Best” as a polite way of saying “You are being a dumba** right now. Get your crap together and don’t email me until you do because I am not wasting more time on your childish antics.” lol. So I guess that is pretty fair. Otherwise, I just sign off with my name unless it is a formal email.

      12. fhqwhgads*

        As a thought experiment, how do you feel about the phrase “Give so-and-so my best” ?
        If that irks you in the same way, then, I’d say you’re internally consistent about how this annoys you.

        However if “give them my best” sounds idiomatic and fine and not like a word is missing, then I’d argue that a signature that says merely “best” is the same, and also not omitting a word (wishes), and thus should not annoy you.

        Alternately, I’ve actually worked places that mandated the sign off greeting – as in the “best” bit was part of the required signature”. So at minimum, if you want to stop thinking less of people who use it, consider it might be their employer’s choice rather than their own.

    3. Constance Lloyd*

      I worked with a woman who insisted on using purple and teal (the shades from Disney’s Little Mermaid) for the text of her signature and topped it all off with a stock photo of kittens in a meadow of flowers. I was not her manager so I loved it.

      1. Windchime*

        There was someone at OldJob who would use the Outlook stationary along with weird, colorful fonts. Her emails were really hard to read.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Someone I had occasion to work with who was the head of a parasitology lab signed off, “Remember, with parasites you are never alone!” as her official signature. I always chuckled and since she was head of a top lab in the world, I figure it didn’t hurt her career or she started doing it once she hit a point nothing could hurt her career.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Well, she had a good point! I worked for someone who always closed off with “Be careful out there” – which was somewhat strange, but did make one think about the implications of one’s decisions.

        1. Gothic Bee*

          That’s amazing and kind of ominous. If I could use anything as my sign-off, I think I might go for the X-Files “Trust no one”.

        2. comityoferrors*

          Aw, I like that one. One of my reports signs off with “have a no-drama day” which I find endlessly endearing, especially since he’s only emailing internal peers. I’m going to start using some of the quirkier sign-offs in this thread with him–I bet he’ll love “be careful out there.”

        3. DivineMissL*

          I believe “Be careful out there” is a reference to TV’s Hill Street Blues “Let’s be careful out there” catchphrase. Or maybe I’m just old…

      2. marvin the paranoid android*

        I volunteered with an aquarium where the standard sign-off was “Best fishes.” I’d like to carry that forward into all areas of my life.

      3. quill*

        Well I now have an urge to sign something “with love from Quill and her commensal microbes” but the only person I know who would appreciate that is my brother.

    1. Bamcakes*

      I had hair dye on once and went with, “uhhh— my broadband’s really bad today, so I’m going to keep my camera off.”

      1. DiplomaJill*

        YES — another person on my team, who I trained and casually reports to me day to day, came onto a large team zoom mtng sheet masked up.

        We laughed, and then I had to be like no, seriously, if you’re wearing that you need to keep your video off.

    2. Perfectly Particular*

      Accidentally clicked the video button in a Teams call while wearing a robe & my hair up in a towel. Clicked back off immediately and I wasn’t talking, so hopefully no one noticed

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I bought one of those little slide-y camera covers. Mind has a little panda covering its eyes and its adorable, highly recommend lol

          1. Perfectly Particular*

            I forgot about those! I had one for each of my computers and my phone, but my fidgety adhd kid peeled them all off. Time to reorder.

        2. Gothic Bee*

          My workplace just upgraded my laptop and it has a built in camera cover, which is awesome. But before that I put a piece of black electrical tape on top of a piece of painter’s tape and cut it to fit. Since my laptop was black it blended in nicely but was easy to move because painter’s tape comes off easily. And the tape lasted several years despite taking it off for meetings.

          1. Bamcakes*

            I use the camera on my laptop but have an external monitor, so if the laptop’s shut, the camera’s definitely not on.

            However, when I first got the external monitor I did have about three phone calls to IT about why getting an external monitor had broken my webcam before I realised it was because the laptop was shut. *blush*

          2. ecnaseener*

            Yeah, I used electrical tape for awhile but didn’t put it together precisely enough so there was a little bit of exposed stickiness that got stuck every time I closed the laptop. Eventually I got sick of it and replaced it with a sticky note + binder clip.

    3. WellRed*

      No but I was taking a giant bite of bagel when the camera clicked on. It was on my lap so it was a nice double chin angle as well!

    4. Butterfly Counter*

      I saw that my class was trying to get into an online meeting that I hadn’t created that day while I was wearing a gold peel-off mask. I told everyone to “go home,” we weren’t having a meeting that day (it was still early days of the pandemic and students were confused whether we were synchronous or asynchronous), before I thought to make sure my camera was off. Luckily: yes.

  7. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    Okay, gotta say that the interns in number one crack me up. Maybe because Junior Orchestra is now a teenager and I’m dealing with wonky teenage explanations and that almost irrational fear of “tattling”, but really like Alison said nothing good is ever going on when the phrase “close the door and don’t say anything” is deployed.

  8. Toasted Coconut*

    One of my friends a bought an expensive snail slime sheet mask from Korea, only to have a nasty reaction from it. Her face was basically covered in hives and crusty sores. So to counter the nasty reaction, she proceeded to use a soothing face mask at her desk during work hours. Despite not being a customer facing role, she was working at one of the big Banking sectors in the Southern hemisphere so management asked her to either go straight home, or stop wearing sheet masks as to stop scaring her colleagues.

    1. CarCarJabar*

      I am obsessed with Korean skincare but can’t bring myself to try the snail mucus stuff. Or to google “how to harvest snail mucus” even though I’m dying to know.

        1. Joielle*

          Oh interesting! I love COSRx but have never bought the snail stuff because I just assumed the snails did not survive the harvesting process. I’ll have to take another look!

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        During “harvest” time they basically hang out on soft, fine mesh screens so the slime runs through it.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          That’s how the fox/coyote pee is collected for rodent/deer deterrent products as well.

  9. Simply the best*

    I’m sure most people are going to focus on the lying aspect of number four, but I just need to point out how bizarre it is that this client was still asking for updates. Like, he gave you a multiple paragraph explanation of the (fake) proposal and pictures. What more do you want?

    1. Stitch*

      I agree. Even if this wasn’t fake, it wouldn’t be appropriate to be sharing this much engagement stuff with a client.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I have a vendor who I talk to pretty regularly. He had let me know a few months ago he would be taking parental leave and gave me a person to contact in the meantime. When he returned, I asked him how his family was doing and he responded with a photo of his older daughter (like 3yo) and his newborn daughter together and a one-sentence note about how the family is doing well.

        Big difference for us, though, is that I’ve known him for years and we do business with them because my boss is good friends with his boss. It’s always felt more familiar than a standard vendor/client relationship. Even so, he didn’t go into any specifics and the photo he sent was just the two girls on a couch, no other information or anything personal could be seen in the photo. Also, I doubt he sent the photo to just anyone.

        To agree with both of you, sending as much information as the “fiancé” did was definitely inappropriate! As a client, I would feel weird receiving that email.

    2. Laure*

      Sure, but maybe they were, polite asks for updates? Like it would feel weird not to mention it after all the fuss?
      To be honest the client certainly thinks they have shared “a moment”, that because of this incident their relationship is now different than a usual client/vendor relationship. And that’s what the liar wanted to attain… He succeeded!

    3. Snow Globe*

      Weirdly, it’s likely that the more details provided by the boss, the more interested they became in the whole situation. Like they were just given the first chapter of a novel, now they want to see what happens next. If the “engagement” was just a one-off comment, they would likely have forgotten about it.

    4. Humble Schoolmarm*

      My guess would be the if it was a multi paragraph description, the fictional proposal was the kind of elaborate creation that invites follow up (Ie How dd your fiancee feel about the marching band? How on earth did you manage to get Idris Elba to recite a sonnet to her beauty?).

      1. EmKay*

        ….. were I a bride and my fiancé surprised me with Idris Elba reciting how beautiful I am, I’d run off with him then and there, lol

    5. hbc*

      I’m wondering if this guy is *really* good at reading people or did some top-notch research, and therefore found the best way to fraudulently connect to his client. Maybe he would have talked sports and how he was going to a weekend training camp if the clients were sports nuts, but he correctly pegged them as romantics who would latch on to an engagement saga.

    6. I should really pick a name*

      They client might be taking their cues from the manager.
      If the manager sends a multi-paragraph explanation, it’s safe to assume that he likes to talk about this subject.

    7. WellRed*

      Yeah this is weird all around. More so on bosses side but yeah, get to work and stop gushing like a lovesick teen.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      I don’t really understand what you mean. Engagements don’t end with the proposal that’s where they start! Then comes a million months of wedding planning, and something like “hey, how’s the wedding planning going?” is pretty standard small-talk when you know someone is engaged. It’s on par with “how is your wife?” or “how are your kids.” Lots of people love weddings and want to hear about it. That all seems very normal to me, at least in a situation where the “engaged” person hasn’t made it up for no reason.

      1. SimplytheBest*

        I mean, lots of people are engaged for years before they actually get married. To be following up looking for wedding details immediately after a proposal seems very odd to me. Especially if the person they’re following up with is *not* the person who actually got (fake) engaged, but their employees.

    9. marvin the paranoid android*

      I choose to believe that the client guessed it was a lie and is now angling to see how big a hole he’ll dig for himself.

      1. tangerineRose*

        That would make sense. I also thought it was odd for the client to be this interested in this. Is the client also getting married and looking for ideas?

  10. Speaks to Dragonflies*

    Hmmm…With some slight modifications, a sheet mask wouldnt be too out of place in our currant times. How things have changed…

    1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

      In our currant times you’d still be raisin some eyebrows if you wore one for Teams meetings.

      1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

        I agree. I didnt catch on that there was usually skin care product applied on the inside. I dont remember the original post and I wasnt familiar with this type of mask. When I saw what they were, my first thought was “why does it cover everythong EXCEPT the nose and mouth?”

      2. Lord Peter Wimsey*

        lol – trying desperately but failing to come up with an equally clever “sultana” rejoinder…..

        1. The Rural Juror*

          I’m sure there’s something punny that could be said about dates or prunes…but I’m really bad at puns! >_<

    2. Stitch*

      I know this is a joke but it is an interesting point that you really can’t wear a sheet mask and a regular face mask at the same time. You’d dampen your face mask leaving it useless.

  11. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

    #3 about the angry eBay buyer reminds me of an aggressive landlord who was furious about having to spend money to replace the gas boiler and tried to blame me for “damaging” the property.

    He claimed that he had contacted my employer to complain. I doubt that he did, and in any case I had actually left the employer I had been with when I first moved in, and my new job was with a domestic abuse charity, who definitely would have given him short shrift if he had tried to complain about me there!

    1. TechWorker*

      Yea I’ve also experienced an angry eBay person, in my case a seller. I *was* in the wrong (disputed a payment on my credit card that I had actually made, just it came through as some totally random I had no record of on email and couldn’t work out what it was). I spent a bunch of time on the phone sorting it, but they were really aggressive about it and in their first communication claimed they knew my boss (it was delivered to work address so not hard to find the company), when I’m 100% sure they just looked up the owners name on companies house. It was a bizarre threat tbh and I don’t know what people think they gain out of it. Can’t think most employers would want to get involved at all.

      1. hbc*

        I think what goes through people’s minds when they make this threat is “No one would want to employ a scammer like you,” which is pretty much true. I definitely wouldn’t want someone untrustworthy on my staff.” But what they miss is that 1) having some rando contact me claiming my employee is unethical is not the same as *knowing* my employee is unethical, and 2) even if there was incontrovertible proof, most companies wouldn’t consider this in isolation to be a termination-worthy offense. At most, I keep a closer eye on the reimbursements and such.

        1. Boof*

          Yeah the thing is, if the company’s experience with the employee has been reliable and good to work with, the unknown caller will appear particularly unhinged and like the one who is actually the problem.

      2. ecnaseener*

        There are also definitely some employers who will fire people for general “bad behavior” outside of work, wasn’t there a letter where the LW got fired after someone looked over her shoulder on the bus and saw her writing mean texts?

        1. Candi*

          “I was fired after a stranger sent photos of my private text messages to my employer by ALISON GREEN on SEPTEMBER 14, 2015”

          Part of that was apparently management was worried about how that LW would treat customers she didn’t approve of.

    2. WellRed*

      I had a coworker who was a landlord and wound up with the tenant from hell. Tenant did indeed call the office and indeed, made herself clear as the nut she was.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Many years ago I worked for a small company and the owner had one rental property that was having some issues (owned by him personally, not associated with the company whatsoever). He gave our office number out as the contact to his tenant and so she called pretty regularly and would complain to me. It was SO inappropriate! I was so thankful when we got a phone system where I could just forward her calls to his voicemail without even having to pick up. It was not part of my job description to deal with is tenants!

        1. Art3mis*

          I used to work with a woman who sold Mary Kay and would give our her work number to her clients. One time a call bounced to me and she wanted to reschedule her appointment. Um, no. Not going to do that.

    3. irianamistifi*

      My partner bought a $10 baseball card on ebay and never received it and when he asked the seller about it, the seller accused my partner of being a scammer, said he worked for the post office, threatened to put a stop on our mail, told him he “better watch out, I know where you live”, and threatened physical harm. And just kept sending all-caps emails.

      The guy was completely unhinged. We are going to report him to ebay eventually, but we wanted to put some time between the incident and reporting so there’s less of a chance of retaliation. People are awful.

      1. Candi*

        Might want to check ebay’s fine print. There’s probably a deadline by which you have to report stuff like that.

  12. LilPinkSock*

    LW #1: tattooing someone in the average workplace can also be incredibly dangerous. Is there any guarantee that the tools were sterilized and/or the tattoo-giver knows how to mitigate the risks of blood-borne pathogens?

    1. quill*

      Even if they did try to sterilize the equipment, lab safety brain is playing the “don’t touch blood” seminar on repeat right now.

      Like, I have been in workplaces where we had sterile needles, gloves, antiseptic an autoclave… and I would STILL figure there’s some health problems incoming had someone tattooed someone else in the office. Sharpie ink, for example, is not investigated for internal use.

      1. nym*

        *no* ink is investigated for internal use – I wrote an honest-to-gosh peer-reviewed paper on this a while back. FDA’s information, when digested out of legal-ese, basically said “we should regulate tattoo inks under the Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act, but we don’t have the manpower or the expertise. Good luck with whatever you jab into your skin, hope it works out for you.”

        That entire paper was about tattoo safety and how it was regulated – or not – by state public health authorities. Oh my word, the horrors that this scenario opens up!

        1. nym*

          Journal of Environmental Health, 2011, if anyone wants to go looking. September, I think, but I could be wrong?

          1. Candi*

            That would explain why I’ve heard of city health departments regulating what ink is used in tattoos. (You’d think the FDA would at least look at their paperwork…)

            The closest I can find to what you said is:

            Tattooing Regulations in U.S. States, 2011
            Journal of Environmental Health
            Vol. 75, No. 3 (October 2012), pp. 30-37 (8 pages)

  13. Stitch*

    I can’t remember if I was this jaded in 2014, but my impression of most reseller websites is that scammers and bots are super common such that I honestly wouldn’t even think twice about an email about Ebay, I’d just delete it.

  14. Anonomatopoeia*

    I once had a micromanaging boss who insisted that I sign off on everything with “warm regards, me.” I despised it. For some reason, it struck me as incredibly insincere.

    On the other hand, to this day, if I sign something with “regards,” only, what I really mean is “screw you.”

    1. ecnaseener*

      I was taught to use Kind Regards. Blegh. Even stuffier. (And we were supposed to be going for “approachable!”)

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      An ex coworker would just sign off as “Fergus”, with no “regards” or any other kind of sign off at all, when he meant screw you. It was always noticeable when he did the same thing in team birthday cards – most people got “Happy birthday, Fergus”, or a more personal greeting to those he was actually friends with, but for someone he didn’t like it was just “Fergus”.

      The manager at that same job always used to joke about signing off “love and kisses” when she really meant screw you. I always wondered if one day she would accidentally type what she was thinking and actually send that.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        I sign off with:

        Sea Anemone

        when I’m happy or neutral. For “screw you,” I sign off with:

        Sea Anemone

        People familiar with how modern text punctuations conventions have evolved will get the difference.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          Mine is similar. I use “Thanks” if I’m feeling warm or neutral, and occasionally “Thanks!” depending on the context.

          If you ever see me sign an email with “Thank you,” then you better believe I am Not Happy.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I have one coworker in another department (have never met the guy in person, probably never will since that department is in another state) that always gets “Thank you for your assistance.” as an email sign off from me. He is forever sending stuff to my department to be worked when he has missed one of three small steps (that we don’t have access to finish), so just about everything has to be shunted back to him. Yeah, it’s annoying – the most I will vent the annoyance though is the sign off. Maybe one of these days he’ll clean it up, but after almost a year I am doubtful.

        2. Valancy Snaith*

          Exactly. “Thanks!” is happy, “Thanks,” is neutral, “Thank you.” is “I am one interaction away from calling your supervisor and getting this straightened out once and for all.”

          1. quill*

            I once went so far as to type out “Thank. You.”

            Imagine that my teeth are gritted and I am five seconds away from reaching through the screen to strangle the recipient.

            1. Sea Anemone*

              I would know that meant screw. you. :) I love replacing the comma with a period at the end of my typical sign off for the plausible deniability factor.

              1. Candi*

                “It was a typo, honest. See, I also switch the h and a around in “thank you”, but I certainly didn’t mean you’re tanking the rest of us with your miserable performance.”

                (Yes, “tahnk” requires thinking of specific accents, but my weird sense of humor is amused.)

    3. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

      There are a number of folks who have abbreviated their “Warm regards” sign off to just “W/r” and their “Very respectfully” to “V/r.” It took me ages to figure out the meaning of the letters. I tend toward “Thanks” (with an explanation point if I am actually thankful and comma otherwise) or Regards.

      Keep on truckin!
      Former Admin

  15. Erin*

    My how things have changed!! I wore a sheet mask during a meeting just last week!

    I WFH due to covid, and sheet masks have gotten thinner/more translucent. A few people commented that I was glowing. I loled and straight up told them the secret of my glow. Then we all loled and got to business.

    1. Rayray*

      I also think there’s generational shifts and as Millenials get older and into higher positions, things like this just don’t matter as much anymore. I’m sure many Gen Xers and Boomers would clutch their pearls at the very idea but most millenials and Gen Zers wouldn’t be the slightest bit concerned about it.

      1. Dwight Schrute*

        Yeah I could see this in part being due to generational shifts. I’m a millennial and I wouldn’t care. I don’t care at all how you look if you’re work is fine. I’m also very pro casual workplace dress codes

        1. pancakes*

          I’m very much in favor of casual dress codes too, and I think “Stay gold” is a fun signature that ought to be harmless in many places, but I’d rather people not do personal grooming that openly at work. Applying makeup in the bathroom, fine; wearing a sheet mask while working from home, fine (and I’ve done it myself); wearing a sheet mask at one’s desk in an office, though, seems like a bit much. It’s a little too intimate, somehow.

      2. SimplytheBest*

        I’m a millennial and would find this unprofessional. Same as if you brushed your teeth, your hair, or any other kind of grooming in the middle of meeting.

    2. Mask Newbie*

      Serious question- what sheet mask is this that’s thin and transparent enough to be worn during a meeting without others realizing? Please let us know- I’m not a sheet mask person, but I’d try this.

  16. Serenity*

    Dear LW2 (Outsiders Fan coworker),

    I dunno. I kinda think we should ALL start signing off every one of our emails using pop culture references that the C-suite might not understand. Whoever they catch onto first can explain them all.

    May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor,

      1. Pippa K*

        Dear ecnaseener,

        This sounds like an easy way to amuse ourselves while still getting through our email inboxes, so let’s see what happens.

        So say we all,
        Pippa K

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Dear Pippa,

          It definitely adds a bit of levity to the email slog.

          Goodbye and thanks for all the fish,


        2. No Sleep Till Hippo*

          Hi, Pippa K!

          I’m totally on board for this, and just imagining how it would go over in my fairly-straightlaced workplace is giving me the giggles.

          See ya, Space Cowboy,

      2. Curious*

        I would normally sign off “Best, [nickname].” If I am … less than happy, I would instead conclude with “Respectfully,” But for you, Ecnaseener, the only proper response is:

        Peace and long life,

    1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      If you want people to wonder about your phrasing, which is an admirable goal, you’re going to have to be a lot more obscure than that. It’s just too instantly recognizable.

      I’d prefer something from an older style of letter myself, if I was to go for a weird sign-off.

      Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance,

    2. WFH with Cat*

      Dear Serenity,

      I think this is a great idea. Totally on-board for me and my team … er, cat.

      (Love your name, btw!)

      They Can’t Take the Sky from Us,
      WFH with Cat

    3. Free Meerkats*

      So many of mine would be from one of three authors.

      I’ll just continue with my normal no closing, just my name.

      Ho, the Megapode!

  17. anonymous73*

    #1 – Good rule of thumb…if you didn’t witness something first hand it’s not your business to tell.
    #4 – wonder what happened to that boss? I would explain to him that the client keeps asking me for updates and I’m not going to lie for him. He’s putting her in the middle. I might even go as far as reporting it to HR because he’s messing with a client and putting you in a no win situation.

  18. Art3mis*

    I was LW #3 and wanted to update even though nothing came of it. I told my boss about it and his response was “OK. Weird” and he passed it on to HR. If the buyer ever did try to contact my employer, I never heard about it. Eventually he stopped trying to contact us about the problem. He claimed the item didn’t work and arrived wet. His post office said they received it in that condition. Well we certainly didn’t soak it before sending it out (it was an electronic item). Still, had this guy actually tried to return it via eBay, we would have taken it back. But he didn’t do that, he just started with the abusive emails and demands. We said OK we’ll take it back, just click on the start return button or whatever the process is. Nope. Just more abusive emails. I was a little concerned that he’d be crazy enough to drive the 10 or so hours to our house since he had our home address. But we never heard from him again. I think a commenter on the original post said something about having my Facebook profile public. Yeah, it’s not. He found me on LinkedIn. If you were to Google my name it’s the first thing to come up. Only three people have my last name in the country, so I’m not hard to find online.

    1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      Thank you for the update! It’s strange that some people seem to have a mentality of “Never the path of least resistance!”. All he had to do was follow the correct process and it would have been sorted relatively quickly and painlessly, but instead he had to get all riled up, make a huge stinking deal about it for weeks, and.. still not get what he wanted anyway. These people baffle me.

      I’m glad he dropped the issue though, it sounded like a thoroughly unpleasant experience.

      1. Boof*

        My thoughts too, wonder what their other ebay reviews are like – do they run around demanding refunds with no questions asked for a lot of things?

    2. Grey*

      Thanks for the extra details. That original letter had me wondering if his anger could have been justified.

    3. TimeTravlR*

      He was definitely trying to get it for free or a reduced price. Otherwise he’d have been happy to return it, I’d think.

    4. have we met?*

      I love seeing some of these old posts, and I was hoping we would get some updates, so thank you for this!

      I’m so glad your workplace was reasonable, and that the seller just… went away.

    5. Mother of Cats*

      People who opened too many not as described and didn’t arrive cases got banned from the resolution centre by ebay. It’s almost a sure thing that either the buyer was trying to stay under the ebay radar and was trying to bully sellers into refunding them without the need to open a case and draw ebay’s attention or they’d already abused the resolution center to the point they actually couldn’t open a case. People caught on that Ebay would typically take the buyer’s side no matter what evidence a seller shared and it caused a huge rise in people scamming ebay sellers for free stuff but Ebay would eventually catch on to people who did it too often.

      1. Mannequin*

        Back in the early days of eBay, a friend of mine was getting a divorce from her abusive drug addict ex and was selling on eBay to bring in income to support her small child (she couldn’t get a job because she had no childcare.)
        Someone bought something expensive & wrote her a check from an account that had been closed before they wrote it, but it still (somehow) cleared her bank before it was discovered, and she had already sent the item and left good feedback.

        She messaged the person to ask why they would have done that & explained how it had affected her, and the scammer had the nerve to write back and shame her for not having a “better job” to support her toddler!

  19. EPLawyer*

    Aaah the Stay Gold sign off. Such a happy memory. And such a low stakes question.

    As for #1 — yeah anything that starts with “shut the door and don’t tell anyone” is probably NOT a good idea. I imagine the other interns kept quiet because they were worried they would get in trouble too. When they were probably shocked at this was really happening and didn’t know what to do in the moment.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah. These are interns, probably in college, and not much removed from their teenage years as well. I honestly don’t fault the one who didn’t witness and therefore didn’t feel comfortable reporting rumors. Betting the other interns did think they’d get in trouble for some reason with regards to the tattoo.

      1. EPLawyer*

        which yeah, if I were the supervisor and I heard about it, I would have a SERIOUS talk with the interns about professional norms and reporting behavior. But more talk than in trouble, you know. Now the intern who did the actual tattoo, they would get the that is so not acceptable that we cannot continue your internship. but the rest unless I had proof they actually encouraged/participated in some way besides being present — yeah just a talk so they do better next time.

  20. Three Owls in a Trench Coat*

    Thanks to LW #5, I am now wondering how many people would, if given the chance, create an impromptu face mask a la Mrs. Doubtfire so as not to be recognized by That Coworker or That Customer.

  21. Sam Yao*

    I sometimes wear just the undereye masks at work, the Burt’s Bees kind that is mostly oils and doesn’t need much time. Full face, sadly, not even me.

  22. Anonymous for Today*

    This will completely out me–after I gave two weeks notice at my last job, I changed my email signature to “Stay gold” bc I was fresh out of figs to give. It was in honor of the intern in Letter #2. The only person who said anything was an external vendor who said he loved it. :)

    1. Rayray*

      Personally, I just don’t see the issue at all. It’s just a sign off and it’s not vulgar or crude. I’m surprised at the amount of attention some people pay to such minor things as an email send off. I guess they could just be another one of the millions using “Best,” or “Thank you,”
      I’d kinda like seeing a young intern use a little personality. Some offices are just too rigid and formal IMO.

      1. Anonymous for Today*

        It’s a little casual, that’s all. However, the main message I have learned from this site is that the world is filled with Judgey McJudgementals who look for things to get upset about. In my case, I decided to give it to them. :)

        1. James*

          It’s standard cultural evolution, at least in the USA. It’s pretty firmly established that what we consider formal was what was considered casual in the past, and what we consider casual will be what’s considered formal in the future. Take clothing for example–in my dad’s day you wore a button-down shirt and dress pants every day, even on a jobsite. In my grandfather’s, you wore a suit and tie. I usually wear jeans and a t-shirt. Language is the same. Even body language is the same. This is just another example of this trend. No one’s ever succeeded in fighting it, so why bother?

          Plus, being able to show some personality is a good thing. It injects a little bit of joy into our lives. I cannot comprehend why anyone would dislike that.

          1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

            Who else remembers that scene in Downton Abbey? The Earl of Grantham was showing off his new trendy evening wear that he thought was not really going to catch on because it was so casual: his tuxedo.

            1. James*

              I remember a scene from MASH where Major Houlihan walks into Colonel Potter’s tent while he’s dressing. Potter’s wearing a t-shirt, but no over shirt, and is immediately mildly embarrassed, stating he’s not dressed. It was underwear to him. Even in the show the younger generation didn’t think twice about walking around in a t-shirt; it was normal informal apparel to them.

  23. Missy*

    Oh boy, I’ve done sheet masks at work! But I work in a office where I never interact with the public and co-workers all talk via slack. I’ve never had anyone just come to my office without setting up an appt. And I have a private office with a door so, sure, sometimes I slap one of those on while I’m listening to a CLE for work.

    1. Rayray*

      Sounds like they were trying to go through the correct process and the buyer was sending angry emails and threats. They were trying to do things the right way. That letter writer actually posted an update on this thread.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yeah if the buyer wanted a refund he simply needed to go through the return process as OP’s husband had said to do.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        The official EBay process exists for a reason, if you have a problem go through the process because it protects the both of you.

        1. Art3mis*

          Right and just giving a refund is why these scammers exist, because they can get away with it. My husband sells enough stuff on eBay to know how scammers operate but not so much that this is a serious source of income and we would be concerned to lose it.

    2. WFH with Cat*

      Gotta say, that would have made sense about three steps prior to when the OP wrote in. I understand wanting people to just use the processes in place — and it may be that the LW had a no-returns policy or something — but getting stalked online and harassed? Definitely time to ]return the buyer’s money and mark that cusotmer persona non grata (sp?) … Ebay sellers can also leave feedback on buyers. Just sayin’.

  24. Oryx*

    Pretty sure a licensed tattoo parlor would also be very much against stick and poke tattoos for OSHA related reasons.

  25. Delta Delta*

    Ah, I remember #1 from before. I think OP is probably best advised to let this go, since she learned about it after the fact and didn’t personally witness it. If OP’s path crosses with the other interns again in the future she may want to be wary of them, while remembering that people mature and change, and that they’re unlikely to engage in future in-office tattooing.

  26. Caboose*

    I love the Stay Gold person. I hope they’re still out there, doing their thing– I know if I got an email with that (or anything else brief but quirky) in it, I’d be very charmed.

  27. Expelliarmus*

    #4 reminds me of a post I read in Buzzfeed or something where some guy lies about having a kid so he could leave work early to pick the kid from school, and it snowballed into him needing to bring a random kid for Bring Your Kid to Work Day. I don’t think he managed anyone, so maybe why it didn’t unsettle me as much as #4 did.

  28. EmmaPoet*

    If I saw Stay Gold as an email sig, I’d think the person was a YA librarian, personally. If this wasn’t in a library setting, it would depend on the field. I would personally prefer that my doctor, lawyer, finance professional, or undertaker not be quite that informal. Outside of those fields, I’d be indifferent so long as it wasn’t in sparkly font.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Nonstandard email signatures I’m fine with. Nonstandard fonts are a one way ticket to my shit list.

      1. Rayray*

        I’m with you there. I don’t mind most fonts but when it’s a jumble of three different fonts for their name, company name, and phone number and all different colors and sizes it looks absolutely atrocious.

  29. HoneyWest*

    Agree with “no” to sheet mask or any personal hygiene tasks at your desk IOW no nail clipping either.

  30. H.C.*

    I know it’s a typo, but half-amused/half-horrified at the idea of a “beauty regime” in Alison’s letter 5 response. (per Dorothy Zbornak, “Why don’t I just wear a sign that says ‘too ugly to live’?”

  31. English Teacher*

    FWIW, if you’ve seen or read The Outsiders, “Stay gold, ponyboy” is a weirdly intense scene to invoke as a casual sign off. I say this as an English teacher whose partner is constantly uses the phrase and I am just like *confused Jackie Chan face*

  32. B Wayne*

    I clicked the sheet mask link, photos immediately popped up and it was disturbing! I’ve learned all I need about sheet masks!

  33. DiscoCat*

    I had a colleague who signed off her out of office with “feminist greetings”. I’m a feminist and seethe at the continued injustices, but seriously… I don’t even know what feminist greetings are as opposed to male supremacy greetings or whatever

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