the controversial calculator, the highlighter war, and other drama over office supplies

Last week, we talked about drama over office supplies … and good lord did you deliver. Here are 20 of my favorite stories people shared.

1. The purple pens

“I briefly was the Supply Order person, and learned REALLY fast how passionate people are about specifics, often color. We were new and had a small budget so as instructed I bought decent pens and such, but didn’t spend more for prettiness.

Once I ordered a bunch of purple ball point pens because they were on sale for the same price as the black/blue ones, so why not have something fun. Biggest mistake of my year. I explained about the one-time sale price and that we didn’t have a budget to spend 5x more for a pretty colour, but those pens haunted me for months.

People hoarded them. People complained that someone else had two and they didn’t have any. People checked the supplies daily in case more pens had appeared. One person cried about not having one and feeling ‘so excluded’. Another said it made her feel unappreciated that we didn’t keep ordering them. People wrote PURPLE PENS!!!!! on the supplies needed list every week for months. People came to tell me they were so disappointed after each new order came in with no purple pens. Finally they stopped carrying them, thankfully, so no more people saying, ‘I checked the office supply website and they HAVE the purple pens.’

10 years later I still occasionally see one floating around the office and it all comes flooding back, though now I can laugh about it with the only other person who remembers all the purple pen passions. Of course now, we could just order them, but our current bunch of staffers don’t seem to care much as long as the pens write well.”

2. The chair

“I worked in an office where there were two fairly senior people who had a major, months-long dispute over the angle of a chair. I worked in an open office that was L shaped, and in the front of the L, there was a small waiting area, with a little loveseat and two wooden chairs. One manager though that the one chair should face THIS way, and another manager thought that the chair should face THAT way. The difference was literally about five inches.

For months, manager A would fix the chair, and manager B would walk by and move it five inches, only to be fixed later in the day by manager A, and then later manager B, etc.

But I was the only one who knew that manager B was moving the chair because I was the only one whose desk faced the L. Manager A was very vocal about how the chair was always out of place, but manager B kept her mouth shut and just casually moved it as she walked by. Manager A, who was my own manager, would interrogate me about who WHO WHO was moving the chair, and I would just shrug and say I didn’t know, maybe it just moved as people sat in it or whatever. People speculated on who the second Chair Mover was, but I was the only one who knew, and I took my secret with me when I quit that crazy place.”

3. The pencils

“At my first professional, only leads or above were allowed to get supplies (pens, highlighters etc) for their group. There was an admin who managed everything for the director in charge of all the groups and she managed the supplies. Which were kept in a locked room. Up to this point, it’s fairly normal. Not a free for all to get the supplies. A process. Bit rigid but a process.

Except that to get a new pen, pencil or highlighter, you were required to turn in the old one to prove it was used up!!! No mechanical pencils were allowed for anyone lower than a lead. The rank and file got regular pencils and had to return their stubs to get a new one. Leads got ONE stick of lead at a time for mechanical pencils. Highlighters had to be proved to be completely dead before getting a new one. No Post-Its were allowed to be requested. One notepad at a time. Everything was doled out in the smallest possible amount. When I moved to a new team in a different building, I found out that this was NOT the norm for the company. The rest of the company had a supply closet and you just took what you needed. It’s been 28 years since I left that group. The madness of it all still makes me laugh.”

4. The paper trimming

“I worked for a company where the main admin would order A4 paper and then trim the excess off to 8.5×11. This was for a few years, always ordering the A4 size. Finally, she got a new boss who asked why she did this, as it was horribly inefficient and she said it’s just how they order and that’s how she was trained. Turned out, the previous admin had been told by the exec she worked for to do this because he’d gotten some insane deal for this size. The intention was to take advantage of the price this one time and then go back to buying the standard size, but the original admin didn’t know that and trained the second admin to do the same. The new executive put and end to the practice, but now all supply orders have to go through him.”

5. The key

“I once worked at a Catholic girls high school where the very officious school secretary refused to let the PTO parents have a key to the closet where the PTO kept all its stuff. They had to check the key out every single day from Edith and then turn it back into her before they left the building. One day, the PTO president checked it out, unlocked the closet, then walked to the back door of the school and handed the key to another parent volunteer who was waiting there. That person then went to the nearest hardware store and had copies made. Edith never figured it out.”

6. The correction tape power game

“I once worked at an otherwise-excellent nonprofit agency in which the office manager was…very controlling. This was back in the typewriter era; to correct a mistake, you had to use correction tapes. She insisted that I keep the used-up tapes in their original box and would ONLY send me a new box of correction tapes after I’d sent her the box of used-up ones; this meant that, in between the time I used the last of the tapes and her sending me the new box, no corrections were possible on the typewriter. Since I worked in a branch of the agency that was several blocks away from the main office, this was NOT just a matter of walking across the hall to get new tapes! This went on until I told my supervisor (the second-in-command of the agency) about it. I’ll never know what she told the office manager, but the correction tape power game stopped immediately.”

7. The ancient pens

“My sister is 13 years older than I am. She started her first job when I started kindergarten. She brought home some branded pens that the bosses told her to take because they were awful and they were trying to run out the supply. (30k employees in the state) Blue and black would work, the red were nightmares.

I took a job there when I was 24. THEY STILL HAD THE PENS. And they tried to give them to me because I was new. I wasn’t trying to say or start anything, I just blurted, ‘Those look like the pens from 20 years ago!’

‘Oh, you know these?’

Those are the same pens?’


‘Oh, I know them. They don’t work. Got stuck during a spelling test!’

awkward pause and chuckle.

‘Well, there are other pens over here.’”

8. The soap

“My first post college job was at a very small office (only seven people). The office manager was a very nice older lady. I don’t know how her compensation was figured, but I always guessed that it was in some way tied to how much money she could save on supplies. She could squeeze a nickel until the buffalo pooped.

My favorite example was the office bathroom. We only had one unisex bathroom, which really wasn’t an issue considering how small the office was. She would buy the supplies like toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, etc. She would usually go to the local dollar store for these items. She would purchase the liquid soap in a pump dispenser. When the dispenser would get about halfway empty, she would go in and fill it back up with water. She continued this process each time the dispenser got to the halfway mark, diluting the soap inside each time. Eventually, all that was left was basically water. It usually took a customer commenting to get a new bottle of soap purchased. I eventually learned to keep a bar of soap in one of those travel containers inside my desk which I used when needed. I know several other workers did the same thing. I was only at that job a short time. Not long before I left, this office manager hosted a party at her home to which I was invited. At one point, I needed to use the bathroom. On the lavatory, there was a brand new bottle of liquid soap. I couldn’t resist myself. I opened it up, poured a small amount out and refilled it with water. I never told anyone else about it.”

9. The stapler

“One of my peers at my first job was proprietary about his stapler. I kind of got it – the company had started buying cheap plastic staplers instead of the heavy-duty, metal Swinglines we’d had for years, and the ‘good’ staplers became a hot commodity. This guy named his stapler (Annie, I think), engraved his name on it, and locked it in his desk when not using it. He had it out one day and stepped away from his desk for a few minutes and an executive assistant, unaware of the stapler drama, grabbed it on her way from the copy room to bring stuff to her boss and clients, fully planning to bring it back. This dude flips out about where ‘Annie’ is, finds out where it went and, goes into the conference room and TAKES HIS STAPLER BACK FROM THE EXECUTIVE’S HAND IN FRONT OF CLIENTS, while loudly declaring it HIS stapler. Needless to say, this was not well-received.”

10. The highlighter war

“We had two people start an all out interpersonal war over one of them ‘hogging’ all the highlighters of a particular color. My office is not stingy with office supplies – there are unmonitored supply rooms on every other floor (that are restocked weekly) as well as a central supply room. Granted, it’s harder to find a purple highlighter than yellow, but apparently this one person went through and picked up all the purple ones and locked them in their desk. The other person went to HR because they couldn’t use yellow as the bright color gave them migraines and *only* purple would do – not light blue, not green, both of which were in abundant supply everywhere. They also asserted that the highlighter hogger was doing this to them deliberately and wanted them to have migraines, miss work, and get fired and demanded HR fire the highlight hogger (still unclear on what grounds they expected this to happen).”

11. Furniture hierarchy, part one

“One of my summer internships was at a place with a policy that stated what level of chair each position was allowed. Interns got basic models with no arms, admins and people with a year of tenure got arms, senior staff got a nicer chair style with arms, and the c-suite got Aeron chairs. I’m not sure who was so bored and short on actual work that they thought writing a chair policy was a good use of time, but it was ENFORCED. One of my fellow interns worked in the c-suite and was offered a chair swap to a C-somethig-O who hated the Aeron chair… they got formally reprimanded by HR. Yet HR was still surprised when none of the interns applied for a full-time position post-graduation…”

12. Furniture hierarchy, part two

“I accidentally got an admin in trouble for getting me a credenza that was too nice for someone in my position to have. I just wanted something to hold some files and put my coffee maker on. An admin went to the warehouse of old furniture and brought me back a slightly beat-up 40 year old wooden credenza. The front-office admin got very upset because apparently only certain levels of management are allowed to have wooden furniture. So SHE took the wooden credenza (since she supported a higher level of management, apparently she deserved it?) and gave me her cast-off metal credenza. That credenza was actually in better shape and had better storage organization than the wooden one. But it was not made of precious higher-management-level wood.”

13. The calculator

“My office mostly used those large, clunky, tape-filled adding machines. As I didn’t work in accounting and simply needed a regular old calculator for basic everyday math (this was in the days before smartphones), my boss told me to request one from IT (who, oddly, handled supplies).

I made my request, and for reasons I still don’t know, a power struggle ensued regarding whether or not I could acquire said calculator. This was brought up at management meetings, emails were sent for ACTUAL WEEKS back and forth discussing the merits of my need for a basic calculator instead of using an old adding machine that was already in the supply closet, etc. It was an absolutely ridiculous overreactive shitshow that I wasn’t even really part of; managers just fired off nasty emails back and forth about it.

Someone finally brought me a supply catalog so I could pick out my calculator. THEY WERE TEN DOLLARS. TEN. DOLLARS. They must have wasted at least a grand on peoples’ time discussing the calculator purchase. I’m thrilled to say I don’t work there any longer.”

14. The grocery orders

“I used to work in an office that was very generous with supplies and more importantly food and drinks. We had granola bars, fruit, pop tarts, oatmeal, pretzels, nuts, etc. As a new college grad, the ability to eat breakfast at work was a huge perk!

The office admin was a really kind woman who would typically take requests for the grocery order if you asked nicely. So if we had creamy peanut butter but you like crunchy, you could ask and she would buy both going forward. As you can imagine, this quickly gets out of control…

It all came to a head with the drink fridge. We were ordering no less than 20 different types of soda, 6 different flavors of sparking water, and various powerades and gatorades due to requests people had made over the years. The fridge was impossible to organize logically due to the variety! The admin finally had enough and presented everyone with a survey to reduce the the drink options. We each had 15 points to allocate to drinks. So if you felt strongly about something, you could put all 15 points on your favorite option to try to keep it. The day of the survey, people were running up and down the halls strategizing the best way to ensure they could keep their favorite. In the end, I think we reduced the options in half, but the admin was still taking requests, so I have to imagine the process will have to be repeated again soon.”

15. The label maker

“At an old job we hired an office manager who was super young new grad, and as we hadn’t had an office manager for over a year at that point, they kind of just gave her the job and told her to run with it with no real guidance. A few days after she started, I opened up the supply cupboard to see every. single. item. labeled. Like she had found a label maker somewhere in the office and just thought “this is what office managers do.” So the whole time I worked there we were using stuff labeled in all caps – ‘STAPLER,’ ‘HIGHLIGHTER,’ ‘PHONE,’ et al. She grew into the role and was great at her job, but the sight of the over-labeled cabinet was equal parts insane and wholesome.”

16. The toilet paper

“During the pandemic, only a few people in my office were in daily. One of my staff apparently did not like the office toilet paper, and brought in their own. They conveniently labeled the two sides of the dispenser ‘Office supplied TP’ and ‘X’s personal TP.’ I noticed it about a month before they were going to retire and decided to ignore it. However, other staff apparently noticed and brought it up to their supervisors. (I don’t know why. Were they mad? Did they also want to bring in their own toilet paper?) Those managers took it to our facilities management team. Fortunately facilities was willing to let it go given the retirement scenario. Thank goodness. I was not sure how I was going to have the conversation about it being inappropriate to load your own supplies into the TP dispenser. (And I still wonder how in the world the staff managed that – I have no idea how those things work.)”

17. The mangos

“I was the new office manager when there hadn’t really been one before. Mondays were snack delivery day, and the most coveted was the dried mango–a plastic shopping bag full of it just got plopped on the table, a feeding frenzy ensued, and it would be gone by the end of the day.

My two mistakes were a) believing the hirers when they said I had ownership over kitchen decisions and b) letting my Psych Major brain take over. I figured everyone’s scarcity mindset was ruling them, and they were eating more mango than they wanted because they knew it would be gone soon. So I rationed it out to make it last a few days–put some in a bowl, and the rest in a tupperware in the cupboard.

Not. Popular. People went and raided the secret stash. (I had to start locking it in my desk.) People also, like…hated me. It was a terrible introduction to the office. None of my supervisors had my back and literally no one appreciated the fact that now there was mango on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Did I learn from this? Not really. I did the same thing with the cold brew concentrate that no one was diluting. (We got permission to order two weekly boxes instead of one and I forbade anyone from opening the second box until Wednesday every week, regardless of when the first one ran out.)”

18. The vending machine

“This is very Silicon Valley, but my company got a device vending machine where you could get a new mouse the same way you could a bag of chips: one letter, 2 numbers, and it dropped down. However, you had to scan your card and that automatically tied the device back to you. I was shocked at how many people thought it was just free range for whatever and ‘bought’ 3 pairs of AirPods (one for home, one for work, and an extra just in case) and were shocked and upset when IT immediately contacted them and told them to return 2 of the pairs. It took IT one day to put lock down controls on the machine so that you could only get 1 of everything. Then, people started getting things they didn’t even need, and would keep them wrapped and new in their desks until they needed to trade them or whatever. One guy scanned for a single device every day and got caught trying to return them (without a receipt) to a store at the mall nearby. It was so wild and I could not believe how entitled everyone was. I sat right in front of the machine and would hear the most bonkers comments.

Pro tip from the IT team: when someone puts in their notice, immediately cut off their supply card access because that is when they go on a spree.”

19. The URLs

“I used to work for a company that made websites for clients. We hired a new account director who the higher-ups kept praising because she dazzled them in her interviews, but those of us in the trenches noticed that she kept dodging questions and didn’t seem to know what she was doing. The higher-ups shrugged it off when we tried to tell them.

According to the story I heard, the CEO found her poking around in the supply closet and asked if he could help her find anything.

‘Where do we keep the URLs?’ she asked. When he asked what she meant, she said, ‘I’m meeting with a prospective client in ten minutes who doesn’t know our work. They asked me to bring some URLs to the meeting.’

She was gone about a week later.”

20. The copier

“I was the department admin of a massive research university department for seven years. We were FINE for money (you have to house the students – can’t cut that department!) But OH, the crazy shit I have seen!

We had a copy machine that was 8 years old and would overheat, make ominous noises, then stop working for the day until it cooled down. But we weren’t allowed to call for repairs or ask for a new one BECAUSE. I never knew why, but WE WEREN’T. Repairs or replacement costs did not come out of our department budget. This was considered part of essential work business and the university as a whole had a 24/7 repair contract with the company. If you called, they would arrive within the hour.

I was in my twenties and it was my first office job, so I would just go, ‘Oh, X is broken’ and would do what HR told me to do and call the repair service immediately. The repair men came, got it up and running and put in a request for a new one for us as the copier was very old and out dated and a security risk. I said in passing in the next staff meeting, oh, this will be delivered X day, and IT will come later that day to make sure everyone can access the new copier.

My department director went BALLISTIC. How dare I do that? She NEEDED the old copier. She cancelled all her appointments the day the new copier was to arrive, sat next to my desk all morning, and sent the repair and install team away, giving them a stern talking to. They explained this had to be done, this was a security issue as someone could technically break into the network through this unprotected wireless connection between copier and our department computers.

IT appeared moments later as the copier guys called them to explain the situation. The junior IT staff (there were two) explained that this had to be done, this was a security issue, and the copier guys are just waiting outside. They will explain how the copier works, etc. My director dug in her heels: NO. NEW. COPIER. All of us were in our twenties and very confused with what to do with this situation. But it’s an awesome new thing? That is not broken? Hurrah new tech?

IT left, copier guys stayed outside as they were required to replace this copier. 10 mins later, the director of IT comes in. He explains the same thing, this is going to happen. My department director says NO, walks away, and locks herself in her office. I deer in headlights at the IT Director because what am I supposed to do here?

So my boss stays in her office as the copier is replaced, the IT director stays and does all the setup on everyone’s computers except our boss’, knocks multiple times on her door to get her to come out and witness training/installs/etc. Nothing, silence. Process finishes, IT Director and I had chatted gaming and Mass Effect, and then IT Director heads out with repair guys. Within moments, my boss storms out, screams at me for betrayal, unplugs my phone and says I am done working for the day, that I will be written up for my unprofessional behavior, and forces me out of the office. I had already turned in my hourly time sheet and knew I would be paid any way for the day as she had no idea how to do payroll, and this was the millionth time I was told I would be written up and never was, so I just shrugged and headed out. This was Friday afternoon.

When we returned to the office on Monday, the new copier is sitting outside the office, like physically outside the building. It has been rained on and was destroyed. Inside, the old copier (unplugged and slightly burnt as if there had been an electrical fire) was in its previous place. Our department director was no where to be found. I shrugged because this was not abnormal things for my boss to do, and called the IT Director and dean of our section of the university (my boss’ boss) to explain this was what I found when I came in, what should I do?

IT Director, Dean, Assistant Dean, and another university Dean came down and looked at everything themselves. I was given the day off while they fixed the issue, got us a new copier, and made sure there wasn’t another fire issue else where in our old 1890s aged building. Sure, whatever, its Boston in the early 2010s: I went day drinking at the Hong Kong with friends, this was not a ME problem.

We discovered later that our department director had called the repair company, demanded they bring back the old copier, which for some reason they did. But they would not remove the new one. So she hired movers out of her personal money that Saturday to remove the new copier, put back in the old one. However, some sort of fire happened inside the old copier when she plugged it back in. So she just unplugged it and left.

Tuesday rolls around, and I go into work with my other coworkers like normal. We have a new copier, all pre-set, IT Director comes by to explain to me how it works. My department director is there, working, acting like nothing is amiss. That nothing strange happened last week. My other coworkers and I looked at each other, shrugged, and just went with it because what else could we do? The next week, our department director gushed about how wonderful our new copier was, how great it was that we could afford it, etc.

She kept her job for 4 more years. She ‘survived’ our department, including me, getting laid off in 2017 and crowed about it. I was offered another job at the university, but I declined.

She did not think it was strange or suspicious that her entire staff was laid off and not her. She was let go without fanfare and no option for unemployment as she was let go for cause for theft: she had been embezzling for years. I spoke in a variety of depositions against her filed at a civil, state, and federal level. She was required to pay back her entire retirement (over two million dollars) plus restitution to the university in order to stay out of jail.”

{ 733 comments… read them below }

  1. IT Relationship Manager*

    #3 Just how much time and salary did they waste on having someone be in charge of doling out a single piece of lead when someone needed it?

    I would have *lead* a revolution.

    1. Reba*

      “ONE stick of lead at a time for mechanical pencils” — it’s worse than getting controlled drugs.

    2. aunttora*

      When I requested some leads, our supply person took my mechanical pencil and SHOOK IT to confirm there were no leads rattling around in there.

      1. Ashley*

        So you are in the middle of a big project on a tight deadline, and you are going through the lead because it is one of those days. Imagine explaining you missed the deadline because it took to long to get more lead for your pencil. Personally on slow days I would claim to be low so I could create a stock pile in my drawer.

        1. Amaranth*

          Excellent. Of course, you’d have to remove all the lead from the pencil to pass the shake test, but then you could totally hoard them and just give a wide-eyed look of innocence when you went back every day.

          Good grief, how much time was wasted trekking back and forth for supplies?

          1. Jasper*

            Personally, at that point I’d start to buy my own stuff. Mechanical pencil lead isn’t all that expensive, after all.

            1. never mind who I am*

              I buy a lot of my own stuff, including my own keyboard and monitor because I like a mechanical keyboard and my job is a lot easier when I can open multiple windows which doesn’t work well on the work-supplied monitor–my eyes aren’t what they used to be. I also buy colored printer paper and some other things that aren’t on the organizations approved list. A few dollars here and there aren’t going to bankrupt me, and it’s just easier that way. On the other hand, I haven’t purchased plain printer paper in a long time. The president of the organization told me that’s fine with him as long as he doesn’t find out about it.

              1. never mind who I am*

                I should have added: I’m finally at a point where I can afford to buy some supplies now and then. I know that’s not an option for a lot of the people here.

    3. Can't Sit Still*

      Even when I had to tightly control pencil leads, because Reasons, I was still allowed to give someone an entire packet!

    4. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

      She was the director’s admin. I’m not sure what she made but she’d been with the company for YEARS. It wasn’t just supplies that she locked down tighter than Fort Knox. Her desk was centrally located on a rather open floor plan. She could see the restroom doors from her desk. So you know what else she did? Yes, she kept track of how many times a person went to the restroom! If she felt you were overdoing it, she would tell your manager and your manager would discuss with you about ensuring that you used the facilities during your breaks and at lunch. She could get away with this because the director was exactly the same. He was former military officer and you were in the army now! They were quite the pair. Fortunately, I only spent about 2 years in that group before moving to a normal one. One where the supplies ran free and nobody counted your bathroom trips.

      1. TinLizzie*

        I had a boss chew me out in the bathroom for wasting paper and taking too many paper towels. It was a really hot day and my face felt oily, so I just wanted some back at my desk to wipe my face occasionally.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        I never understood the people counting potty breaks. You don’t have anything better to do other than count how many times someone had to pee? Do you not have any work to do?

    5. Puzzled*

      I had to read this one twice to make sure it wasn’t where I used to work. We had a manager do this in our department. Occasionally we would share staff and when hers would come to my building they were SHOCKED that they could just take whatever supplies as needed.

    6. Aggretsuko*

      Fun fact: the lady in charge of the kitchen during FDR’s presidency was notoriously horrible at running the kitchen, like literally making sure every dish was ruined. (Supposedly hiring this woman was Eleanor’s revenge on FDR.) Apparently at one point FDR claimed he wanted a fourth term just so he could fire her. However, he never did. Truman finally fired her when she refused to provide a stick of butter for his wife’s luncheon when asked.

      1. Candi*

        If that is why Eleanor hired her, it was only a distraction. Eleanor Roosevelt was a strong, capable, and very scary person.

    7. Amethyst*

      This one reminded me of a job I once had at a chain supermarket. Orders came down one day that the store would no longer provide pens to their employees and we would have to provide our own. Under the guise of a “cost saving measure.”

      Pens were watched like hawks if they were lent to someone else on our shifts and approached for returns if it hadn’t automatically been handed back once they were done.

      The cashiers and service desk workers suffered most under this new policy as those jobs required pens.

      It didn’t last long, maybe three months, but the damage was done. A large exodus followed shortly after the policy was reinstated.

      1. calonkat*

        I haven’t been INSIDE a walmart in well over a year now, but I remember when they did this to their checkers. It still staggers me that they didn’t just supply them with pens branded with the corporate name/colors (so if people walked off with them it was an advertising expense). But no, if you walk off with a checker’s only pen, they have to stop work (and stop getting paid), go and buy a packet of pens, then they can clock back in and start checking again. So that’s why you saw huge puffballs and feathers on the pens.

    1. Kvothe*

      Honestly that one deserved a post all on it’s own. I would watch a two hour documentary on how it all went down (deposition and all)

      1. Gobbo McGobberson*

        SAME omg I love this story!!! I NEED to know why she hated the first new copier with such a passion!!!!

        1. Hannah Lee*

          I wonder if there was some fraud/embezzlement scheme somehow tied to it?

          For example, say she had a line item/procurement account that somehow recorded a monthly “stuff for old copier” expense that funneled to an account she could personally siphon off without immediate detection.

          Either that, or she just really really hated change.

          1. JB*

            I was wondering something similar, but more physical. Did she have something hidden inside the copier? Was the fire caused by her removing whatever she had hidden in there?

            1. Dragon Toad*

              New theory: a jewel smuggler rigged it up to store their loot, with the secret compartment opening up only if you hit the buttons on the copier in the right combination. Copier gets mixed up with real copiers when the smuggler got arrested, copier was sold to the company; she’s a true crime buff who knew about the crime and realised what the copier was, and has been hoarding onto it ever since trying to test out combinations after everyone has gone home for the night. When it was due to be trashed she went nuts trying to break into it, resulting in the thing catching fire as part of a fail safe booby trap – like the cryptex in the Da Vinci Code destroying the paper inside it if you tried to force it open.

              That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it!

          2. Olivia Mansfield*

            That’s what I was wondering by the end of the story. At first I thought she really just hated change, but once the embezzlement was mentioned, I thought that the copy machine was somehow part of her scheme. Or maybe she thought the inner workings of the Xerox would reveal all her old past copies where here entire evil plan was revealed, so she got it back and burned it out to destroy the evidence??

            1. Nynaeve*

              Probably the opposite. That the new copier, being networked and all, would record all the nefarious printouts and copies she was making. More so than the “a hacker could get in through this copier”, I would think that would be why IT wanted the copier to not just be locally networked in their department, but networked through their central system.

              1. Properlike*


                Or, she was paranoid enough where she thought people were on to her scheme, and were trying to catch her in it with this new-fangled technology.

              2. Candi*

                I remember part of a tv story about 10-12 years ago now, discussing how copiers could cause a violation of HIPAA.

                The leasing company for the copiers -big heavy-duty ones for colleges, large work places, often have printing capability as well- claimed that it always cleaned out the digital storage when they got the copiers back. So no one had to worry about their data being compromised by the machines storing jobs in a queue -it would all go bye-bye when it got back to the company.

                Hah hah hah no.

                The investigators rented on of the machines and went poking around. (Totally violating the terms of the lease, of course.) Turns out the company hadn’t cleaned it out from the last leaser -they hadn’t cleaned it out from the last three. Two were medical/hospital type companies.

                Now, say you’re a university that suspects a department head of malfeasance. A lot of people run things through computers and associated equipment without ever thinking how devices can keep a record of their crimes. So you upgrade the copier and ask the leasing company to strip the data from the old one -they’re legally allowed to do that, since it’s their machine. And you can have the legal department ask nicely for them to hand over the data -since the data is the leasing company’s property, they can do that. Or they can evaluate the data themselves and hand over relevant results to you.

                If the leasing company was helping with the embezzlement investigation and had already stripped the data, it would explain why they were willing to give it back. It would cover up what they were really after. I doubt anyone was expect the boss to set anything on fire.

          3. Worldwalker*

            Our first apartment after we were married had a problem with the building roof leaking. The building manager made excuses … “All roofs in New England leak! The wind blows the rain under the shingles!” A few months after we moved out, the ceiling caved in on the new tenants of our apartment! Nothing like waking up sharing a bed with a few hundred pounds of soggy gypsum board. Apparently the building manager had been submitting invoices to the absentee owners for roof repairs that were, of course, never done, and pocketing the payments.

            On the plus side, she introduced me to fado music (she was Portuguese) … though there are some people who would hold that against her, too.

            1. Mannequin*

              If you hadn’t mentioned the state, I would have been sure this was an apartment complex I once lived in because the on site manager did the same thing – embezzled all the repair money and finally someone’s ceiling collapsed.

              The kicker here was that when it was taken care of & the roofs started getting repaired, they were happy to move you out of your janky apartment into one with a new roof- at a significant increase in rent!

              We found someplace else.

          4. Aggretsuko*

            I strongly suspect what she eventually got fired for was on the copier. Like she was hiding that stuff.

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

            I think the “fire” was deliberate somehow and strongly suspect the copier was linked to the embezzlement.

            I suspect the real timeline is like this: shuts herself in her office deleting incriminating files and planning what to do; then she puts up a show of shrieking what a traitor OP is, sends OP home early on the Friday for ‘insubordination’ (or whatever) to get OP out of the way.

            Boss calls the printer company to bring back the old one (probably arranged for after people had left the building). Destroys the evidence on it or whatever and that’s when the “fire” happens. Gets ‘movers’ on the Saturday to move the new printer out (the movers may be accomplices of hers… perhaps the fire happened then instead.)

            She didn’t think it was odd that she was kept and everyone else laid off, because she already knew why. Maybe being protected by someone who makes the decision (were they in on it?)

            I think the copier has to be linked to it more intrinsically than just “pocketing money for printer repairs that didn’t happen” although I can’t put my finger on what it is. Nothing relating to counterfeiting or fake cheques etc as those are different offences than embezzlement.

            Thanks OP – this is going to keep my mind busy puzzling this out!?

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I reread the part about the layoffs few times as I wasn’t sure I understood–but I *think* it’s not that she was protected, but rather she was just excluded from the initial layoff announcement because she was fired instead.

              1. Candi*

                Yeah. “You’re laid off, and you, and you” is much less likely to get someone trying to destroy data and property than firing the embezzler who’s already shown themselves to be somewhat erratic. The second you want to can in a private meeting, with security outside and IT yanking their permissions.

          6. Just Jane*

            I had worked in employee benefits before becoming a SAHM and I volunteered to help someone working at an very decentralized organization sort out a considerable amount of medical bills for their spouse confined in a nursing home. There was a lot things that did not make sense about the bills and the claim payments. The nursing home was not getting its payments (directly assigned to them) even though the employee’s paperwork indicated that the claims were paid. I called the benefits office and spoke the its director. She was extraordinarily angry that I was interfering (pre-HIPAA but I had the employee in the room with me) and told me that everything was as it should be. I got no where with her. I suggested the employee consult an attorney and let the boss at the satellite location know what was going on.
            Fast forward a couple of years. One morning I read in the paper that, after a long investigation the director and her relative had been indicted for embezzling a couple of million from the medical plan by diverting payment intended for providers and putting phony employees on the plan. The director and relative got substantial time and much of the money was seized from their bank accounts.
            Fast forward a couple more years when I resumed my career. I got a job in the same benefits department formerly led by the embezzler! The “new” director was highly experienced, scrupulously honest, and one of the best bosses I ever had. I didn’t disclose my brush with the embezzler until I was there for a while. The one employee who was retained (after she was cleared of any part in the wrongdoing) told me that the embezzler used a second set of computer tapes and a lot of excuses to divert the funds to her account. When anyone questioned her about a missing claim payment, she would get defensive and angry. The decentralized nature of the organization helped her hide the misdeeds.

        2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          The new computer may have had a hard drive and stored images of past copies, which might have been used to prove her malfeasance.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            That’s the most baffling part of this to me. She trashed a brand new piece of equipment on purpose and stayed!?! How did that work? Was she able to blackmail someone into keeping her job? Was someone part of the embezzling and protected her? So baffling.

          2. DoggoMom*

            If they suspected she was embezzling they might have let the willful destruction of property slide so they could build a case. Similar to someone else suggesting that could be the reason why the department was laid off yet she remained. If she’s fired or laid off then they may not get the proof they need to press charges. Here extreme reaction to replacing the copier would have been a red flag if there was already a suspicion she was doing something illegal.

          3. Candi*

            As DoggoMom said. When a business is building a case against a malicious employee, they’ll often let certain behavior slide so they have time to gather evidence and to give the lawyers time to work.

            It’s a PITA in the short term, but long-term it has two benefits:

            1) The shenanigans can be added to the charges

            2) The employee often begins to think they’re untouchable, and acts out and breaks things even more, including with the initial crime being investigated. Since they’re under investigation, this provides even more evidence.

      2. Tara*

        2could she have been printing money? Newer copiers have restrictions built into their software that stops you from doing that. An older machine might not

        1. Copier Girl*

          Thank you. I’m baize about myself in the situation, but there are a lot of other details that I don’t want to talk about that involve students and I don’t want their privacy injured. Please know: everyone in the situation got punished, even if it was delayed, and it was settled in civil court. I’m glad you got a laugh, but I’ sorry I can’t share more details!

          1. never mind who I am*

            Thank you for sharing your story. I know you can’t share more details, and I wouldn’t either if I were in your situation, but that doesn’t mean that I wish you could!

            1. Airkewl Pwaroe*

              Yeah, that’s the comment that’s going to have me checking with my network to see who knows the full story …

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                I chased down the facts of the embezzlement case, but it doesn’t say anything about the copier incident, unsurprisingly. Oh well. :)

              2. Stay-at-Homesteader*

                Oh no, I just mean it cracks me up that OP and I may have been drinking together in the same establishment at some point! I did also work in higher ed admin around that time, but I feel like if anyone I knew was in any way involved, I’d have heard. We all know what gossips we are!

            2. FormerlySomerville*

              That line was the sort of detail that instantly contextualized the story in such a specific place and time– instantly transported, could practically taste the scorpion bowl.

      3. Candi*

        I’m imagining this in a New Detectives: Case Studies in Forensic Science episode, probably focusing on forensic accounting due to the embezzlement.

        Since they ran a docu-drama format, they would have included the copier business for the “wait, what!?!” factor. And probably explained if and how it tied in to the main embezzlement case.

    2. Garlic Knot*

      Same. Almost makes it easier to survive the absurdities of my current workplace… But not really.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I KNOW. That one has it all – junky copier, insane boss throwing a wrench into modernization bureaucracy, the whole crazy-town weekend copier swap + fire (!?!), everyone else getting laid off but the nutjob, and then millions of dollars of embezzlement as a bonus.

        Five stars, recommend.

      1. JelloStapler*

        Yes- academics refusing change and technology… Seen it too many times. This? Plot twist!!!

    3. Artemesia*

      I don’t understand why she wasn’t fired when she destroyed the new copier. The management above her is obviously grossly incompetent.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I didn’t think tenure extended to things like lighting office equipment on fire…

            1. bluephone*

              LOL same. I’m pretty sure tenure was designed for such circumstances*

              *making a joke based on previous experience as an admin for tenured professors, blah blah

      1. PDX*

        They probably were still trying to gather enough proof and evidence of her embezzlement to indict her so they couldn’t her.

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

        Grant funds tied to her or some research…tenure (as already said)… friend or relative of a major donor…known ADA-covered mental health issue that they work around.

      3. Amaranth*

        I wondered if the drama uncovered something like pocketing “copier lease” funds for one that is ancient and paid off and they kept her around to build a case. I just can’t imagine it taking four years so that angle dried up for me.

        1. Kal*

          Higher ed is a world of its own, so 4 years to get enough evidence to override whatever tenure/grant money/etc. kept her there, especially if the copier incident had her hiding things and being more careful for a while until she let her guard down again isn’t really outside the realm of possibility.

      4. BethRA*

        I was briefly an admin for a professor at a Very Important University who literally drove grad students out of her lab (despite being funded) because she was…very hard to deal with. But she was also a big name in her field and brought in enormous quantities of grant money.

    4. Paige*

      This story is epic and yet so, so relatable (my boss still used Windows 2003 until 2018, refusing to upgrade until the CIO enforced several patches that, “oops”, broke his computer). I want a movie!

      1. TinLizzie*

        Makes me think of my boss. He writes everything out long hand and makes someone else type it up, has multiple rolodexes on his desk, no contacts saved in his smartphone, and refuses to open an excel spreadsheet if you email it to him. You have to print it out. We go through so much paper.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I really hope there was a secret explanation here, like the old copier is where they hid the cocaine.

    6. Student Affairs Sally*

      I also work in higher ed and have a similar story (minus the embezzlement). The school I’m at now is very small and doesn’t have a lot of resources, and all of our IT-related things are basically held together with metaphorical shoestrings, duct tape, and hope. Most of our technology on campus is severely out of date. We literally have two different wi-fi passwords on campus – one for students and visitors, one for staff and faculty. Our IT director is currently doing like 3 different roles in IT (the school is generally understaffed and IT has it the worst right now), so his second-in-command usually handles the more end-user stuff. My office is located in the library, and we recently had a new Head Librarian start.

      One of the first things that she noticed is that our library database was still running on Internet Explorer. She calls the larger library organization that we’re a part of to see if this is standard – they basically laughed and told her no, we should have switched the database to Chrome years ago. So Librarian calls IT guy to ask him to switch our database over. He tells her no, it needs to run on IE. So she calls the library org again to confirm, and they once again declare that we need to switch over to Chrome ASAP. Asks IT guy again, he still tells her no.

      A day or two later, a representative from the library org happened to be on campus to help the librarian with something else, and IT guy happens to walk by. Librarian asks Library Org guy to tell IT guy that we need to switch the database to Chrome, and IT guy literally STANDS THERE AND ARGUES WITH LIBRARY ORG GUY that IE is totally fine and has worked for years and years and there’s no reason to change it. We had to go above his head to the IT director to get him to (begrudgingly, and while grumbling the entire time) move the database to Chrome, which took literally all of 5 minutes. And shockingly, we’ve had much fewer database crashes since the switch.

      It’s one thing to be resistant to change or behind the times on getting things updated (although it does seem strange for IT of all departments), but to make “what browser is used to run a database that I don’t even work with” the hill you die on is utterly bizarre to me.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Um … IE and Chrome are browsers, not databases. Is there something I’m missing here?

        Also, it does not take 5 minutes to change your DBMS. That’s not even time to start the backup you need before you even consider thinking about touching it.

        1. Nynaeve*

          She’s probably talking about database access, rather than the actual databases. Which, would be more buggy and prone to crash on IE. All the IT guy had to do was switch the default browser on the computers in question, probably not even one at a time because there was presumably an image involved. And, update the shortcuts on the desktops, if there were any.

          The fact that the library org guy was involved probably means he was the product supplier and knew that the access to the databases worked best in Chrome, and it’s what they were optimized for.

        2. kitryan*

          Maybe it’s like the document management system my office uses and it’s cloud based? Those systems can be finicky about which browsers they support.
          We were told this year that we should stop using IE and now only use Chrome as they weren’t going to support it for all the features anymore.
          I have another cloud based tracking system/provider we use that only works properly w/IE. they’re changing that in their next redesign though, aaaannny minute now. (It was supposed to be done 4th quarter last year and we still don’t have a migration date.
          Then it wouldn’t so much be 5 min to ‘move’ or back up the database as 5 min to set up Chome as default access to said database on their computers, which would be more reasonable

        3. Candi*

          Big Fish Games uses a Game Manager running off IE to access both your on-computer list of games, and download the games you buy. (It’s the only time I’ve seen IE work well.) I don’t know what they’re planning with IE no longer being supported, but that and email programs blocking their beta test game links and preventing downloads is probably irritating a bunch of staff.

          (If you’re in the BFG club and have been tapped as a customer beta tester, they send you the link in an email. When you click on it, it downloads a tiny packet that pops open Game Manager so you can download the beta test. But it won’t download until you tell it to. Yahoo, gmail, and hotmail apparently put in algorithms that decide that tiny packet should be blocked -even if you give it permission to download.)

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, this sounds typical. We had to upgrade our database because it only ran on Internet Explorer and were forced to switch, but the “upgrade” only made the database even worse. Like it had about 90% functionality on IE and now only has about 70% and so much stuff is now straight up broken and can never be fixed on it. NEVER fixed. NEVER.

        Anyway, my workplace has so many old/busted/broken systems we can never get fixed. Maybe 20% of any fixing requests can get fixed here.

        On a related note, we’re also trying to get new printers….since ours have been around since the dinosaurs.

    7. Miss Muffet*

      yeah that one was just batshit bonkers – i kept thinking, my jaw can’t drop any lower and then the next thing would happen…

  2. ThatGirl*

    I reaaaallly want to know why crazy director lady was so focused on keeping THAT copier. Was she just that afraid of change? Was there some secret thing hidden in it? Maybe some of the money she was embezzling?

    1. TweedBook*

      This is comment fanfiction, but considering that it was a security risk, I’d be willing to bet that security was being breeched by her method of embezzlement.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          My personal story now goes that it was old enough to not recognize the do not copy code embedded in currency, and she was also using it for counterfeiting.

            1. londonedit*

              Could you really print money on an old copier, though? Our notes have all sorts of anti-counterfeit features, there’s no way someone would mistake a printed-out £20 note for a real one.

              1. Sleepless*

                Not really. US money doesn’t have all the cool features UK paper money does, but the paper and ink are very distinctive, plus there is a watermark embedded. Counterfeiting is possible, but it’s pretty hard core.

                1. The Prettiest Curse*

                  UK money isn’t paper any more. They switched over to plastic-y notes a few years ago. They are harder to counterfeit and also will stay undamaged if you get them wet (insert money laundering joke here.)

                2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

                  US currency isn’t actually printed on paper – it’s technically a cloth product (a combination of cotton and linen, if my memory serves). Hence the distinctive feel, ability to add security threads, and much longer durability than you would see from an actual paper product.

                  The bar to photocopying or printing bills is built into the software of the printers and copiers – sufficiently old machines did not possess those software blocks, and yes, it was a method of creating counterfeits that people used to use, back in the late 80s to early/mid 90s.

                  They often weren’t good counterfeits – but family that worked retail at that point in time would see an average of 3 to 5 counterfeit bills a week – some better than others. I have a small collection of the ones they kept.

                3. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

                  You can get pretty convincing though. Someone at my workplace almost caused a riot among the student by dropping a wad of paper $100 bills in the hallway. They looked absolutely real, but once you touched them, if you were savvy (I.e. not an excited teenager) you could tell it was just a stiff paper. But it felt pretty close to what a really fresh bill feels like.

                4. Anonny*

                  @The Prettiest Curse

                  Apparently they do shrink like a crisp packet if you run them through the tumble dryer, which is pretty funny

                5. Candi*

                  US money is printed on a mix that is 75% paper, 25% cotton -all 100% supplied by Crane Currency, who has had 15+ years at this point to come up with a polymer mix they could sell to the US government to replace paper, but prefers to lobby to keep the US gov. buying its paper mix instead so they don’t lose the contract and don’t have to change. (The government contract is their largest by far.)

                  The UK fixed the problem of the incredibly shrinking 5 pound notes by using a different polymer, but it was hilarious while it happened!

              2. Leela*

                someone at my middle school found out that a local machine that traded dollars for coins (I think at a bowling alley or something) would still give you coins for a straight-up, black and white photocopied dollar bill, front and back, stuck together. No person involved.

                Of course, eventually it was discovered when someone came to re-stock the quarter machine but they got away with a bit before then

            2. Charlotte Lucas*

              Unless she had access to the right kind of paper, she wouldn’t be able to print believable bills.

              And why embezzle if you can counterfeit? I bet it was tied to the embezzlement scheme somehow.

              1. Artemesia*

                In all the stories, people somehow bleach out one dollar bills to have the right paper and then print 20s or 50s on the blanks.

                1. Metadata minion*

                  I’m pretty sure you’d end up with suspiciously-bleached bills caught in every single element of the printer and also on fire if you tried to do that on an office copier. At least, every one I’ve ever used gets Extremely Upset if you try to do anything but standard letter-sized paper. (Don’t get me started on label printing. We have a printer just for labels because it’s set to the exact specifications that will not get labels stuck to the printer innards.)

                2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

                  Yup – supposedly certain chemicals can cause the ink to lift off the product, leaving you with blank notes that can then be re-printed. The problem with doing so is actually about margin spacing – the way the mint does it is printing a whole sheet, and then cutting it down to individual bills. Use the bill sized piece, and most printer/copiers have to hold onto the edges as it moves through the printer, meaning part of the design can’t be transferred.

                  It doesn’t stop folks from trying, of course – especially because the other part of passing a fake note is how uncomfortable most people get about calling you on attempting to do so, if it’s a small denomination.

              2. Worldwalker*

                Want to get free drinks? Here’s a good bar bet for you:

                Question: How many dollar bills can be made out of one average-sized pulpwood tree?
                Answer: Zero. US bills are printed on 100% rag paper.

                1. Dawbs*

                  That also leads to the delightful science of counterfeit pens.
                  You know the pins that write purple/ black on counterfeit but not in “real” bills?

                  They’re iodine. Which, science class reminds us, turns blacky/purpley in the presence of starch- like found in paper. But not for cloth.

                  So, if your supply person won’t buy you counterfeit pens, q tips and iodine work.

                2. Candi*

                  “US bills are printed on 100% rag paper.”

                  Nope. They stopped that several decades ago. Part of it was quality control issues, and part of it was they simply couldn’t collect enough rags to keep up.

                  Now they print the bills on a mix of 75% paper and 25% of a linen specifically produced to make the mix. Company’s Crane Currency.

          1. Berkeleyfarm*

            Given the timeline the OP mentioned … I’ve been supporting color copiers since the 199os, and once they got good enough to copy money, the code was there.

            Turns out the director was just super weird and controlling. As an IT person I hope the department is still telling the story to newbies.

            1. Candi*

              Frank Abagnale mentions in The Art of the Steal (2002) home color equipment being used to duplicate money, which I suspect was an oversight and tunnel vision on the part of the companies producing home equipment. Up until then, counterfeiting required a printing press and space to put it in, so it was easy to connect the large copiers to the possibility of counterfeiting. No thought about how the revolution in home equipment would affect the potential copying of money.

              That must have been one heck of a scramble to write and push out that patch.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Given that she went down for embezzlement, I wonder if she really was using the old copier as part of the scheme.

        1. Low Carb Recipe websites?*

          This is the plot of a terrific episode of Leverage (the source of my user name), which is exactly where my mind went as soon as I saw copier and embezzlement in the same story.

              1. Jessica Ganschen*

                I could see it if they were trying to take down another corrupt food manufacturer, or maybe an unethical diet company?

        2. Kal*

          I wonder if the connection is actually the change they’d have to do to her computer – and thus why she locked herself into her office that day (possibly deleting/moving things so it wouldn’t be noticed) and then pretended like everything was normal afterwards. Though that doesn’t explain why bring the old copier back in, unless it was a move of overacting that she really just was legitimately resistant to change and it totally wasn’t suspicious behaviour, or trying to get herself more time to hid the evidence before IT returned to actually make the change to her computer?

          1. The Rules are Made Up*

            This is it! Whatever “unsecured” thing she was sending to the printer plus whatever she had on her computer. So she sent everyone home and locked herself in her office to delete as much evidence as possible. Got whatever she needed from the old printer over the weekend then came back to work like nothing happened lollllll

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I am having a hard time coming up with a scenario, and an even harder time coming up with a scenario that doesn’t require implausibly strong tech skills.

        1. Worldwalker*

          The person may not have been in it solo. The OP only knows about her — but it’s not at all improbable that there was at least one other person, possibly with considerably stronger tech skills, involved.

      3. Captain Raymond Holt*

        Once I got to the part where the director was losing her mind about the copier being taken away AND that the copier was a security risk I saw this coming. Was in no way surprised at the end.

      4. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yeah, I’m guessing the security breaches allowed by the old copier were things like file transfers that allowed her to reassign funds to other accounts.

      5. Olivia Mansfield*

        Yeah, like she was exploiting the security risk and didn’t want the window to close on her? But if they knew it was a security risk, wouldn’t they check to see if it had been exploited — and maybe that is how she got caught!

        1. Candi*

          Either the leasing company or the university legally owned the copier, and could legally copy or strip the information in its memory to give to the investigation team. They could easily have done it before giving it back to her to distract her from what they were really doing.

          I honestly don’t think ANYONE expected her to start a fire, whether accident or arson.

    2. Heidi*

      If there were something hidden inside the copier, she could have just removed it at night. There was no reason to try to plug it back in. This only makes sense if somehow the copier is enabling the embezzlement or if the copier issue represents some other point of derangement unrelated to the embezzlement.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Well – they said it was a potential security breach issue – wonder if that how she got in from home?

      2. JB*

        Yeah, but that would have made it really obvious that she had something hidden in it. And it’s worth remembering that people who engage in long-term embezzlement usually think very highly of themselves and very lowly of the company/higher-ups.

        I’m thinking she got the old copier back, retrieved whatever was hidden inside, and then plugged it back in to maintain the facade that this was about some kind of essential business use for the copier. It may have caught fire because of her mucking around inside to get out whatever was stashed in there, or just because it was old and had just been repeatedly transported back and forth (and probably not too gently). And then she stuck the new one out in the rain to teach everyone a lesson about ‘crossing’ her.

        I’ve worked under a couple of embezzling and thieving managers. They’re always superficially charming to anyone important, absolutely nasty to anyone under them, and they throw bizarre fits when you’re close to catching or inconveniencing their schemes – but those fits are about 50% bluster/distraction to cover their tracks and 50% actual emotion, because they’re stealing in the first place because they’re convinced they deserve the money! So they’re personally offended if anyone dares to ‘get in their way’.

        1. Olivia Mansfield*

          I wonder if whatever was inside was something electronic, or she suspected the evidence of her activities might be stored in there somehow? So she had to destroy it and that is why it was burned up on the inside?

          1. Worldwalker*

            It doesn’t sound like that copier is new enough, but modern copiers are basically scanners/printers, and they frequently store some number of scans on internal hard drives. She might have been expecting to find something like that.

            Or it could have just caught fire on general principles.

            I have deep-seated hatred in my heart for a certain Versatec 1100 electrostatic plotter, because of its tendency to do everything from spew premix (essentially, a combo of toner and kerosene) everywhere to, yes, catching on fire. Rather spectacularly. It sat in a metal tray they’d had custom-made so the spewing premix didn’t dissolve the carpet again. That fiend in hardware form gouged up the hands of people swapping out the fuses it blew daily. The official field change order came from Versatec: Use a bigger fuse. It stopped blowing fuses and started blowing DACs instead. A $10 part was protecting a 79 cent part. We went back to the smaller fuses. I hated that thing with the fury of a thousand suns … and still do.

            That company keeps *everything*. It’s been decades, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they still have that wretched thing in storage somewhere. When we retire and move to a rural property in Maine, I’m going to call them and find out. If they do, I’ll buy it from them. Further important detail: I own a shotgun. I think you can see where this is going….

            1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

              I have heard that they actually store a HUGE number of scans, which is why you need to be careful when disposing of them or selling them, especially in finance and law.

            2. quill*

              Oh dear. My worst printer melted a sheet of labels and I had to pry it apart with forceps. That was nothing compared to this.

            3. KoiFeeder*

              Worldwalker, talking into the camera: I’m Worldwalker. This is the Versatec. The Versatec is about to meet its maker.

    3. Meep*

      She could just not like anything not run by her first. I work with something like that. She is a massive control freak and gets p*ssy if you email the owner without a) running it by her first and c) cc-ing her. I work for a very technical company and she is not technical at all (by choice) so she won’t understand anything but it is the need to be in charge.

      She blew up at new hirers and interns over it in similar spectacular fashion. She also hoarded the old copier and refused to bring it back to the communal space despite the owner asking her several times to. We ended up picking out a newer (nicer) copier together and now she is p*ssed off about that too.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          I definitely had to reread that a couple times to understand correctly, lol

      1. Copier Girl*

        I’m sorry I missed this thread when I was writing an update. A friend just told me to reload and read and omg. You guys cracked me up trying to fit the copier into the embezzlement!

        I don’t think the copier had anything to do with it – I explained below. But she was also really weird about letting go of old tech and being very possessive about decisions had to be run by her. I think that’s what this whole thing was about. I had also written about her obsession with old paper reports in the original comment thread here:

        But I do think it might have partially she was afraid of being audited. I don’t remember our department ever fully going thru an audit the entire time I was there.

      2. Candi*

        And the owner hasn’t canned and replaced her because -why?

        If it’s sentiment, he needs to get rid of that. It’s bad for the business. (And other employees.)

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Can anyone come up with a theory of how you’d involve a copier in embezzling? I’m really baffled by this one and would like to hear some theories of how you’d really do it.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, I am really curious if it was somehow involved in the embezzling or if it was just a weird control freak thing.

      2. londonedit*

        The only thing that came to mind would be someone using a company printer to print fake invoices or something, or to scan in documents somehow relating to whatever fraud they were carrying out, and those prints/scans being linked to their user account – we have to sign in to our printer/copiers using a fob, and in theory someone could go back through my account and see what I’d been printing or scanning in. But it doesn’t sound like this was a printer/scanner/copier, and it doesn’t sound like it was protected like that (from the mention of it being a security risk). So really I have no idea – unless there was somehow a log of copies being made (or she thought there was).

        1. Candi*

          That reminds me of a possibly fictional story of a university with PIN codes on the massive printer copiers. To get your job, you had enter your PIN to start it printing. Saved on waste, especially special printer jobs.

          One professor gave his code to his grad students so they could get the jobs started for him, then he’d pick them up. Then he started having the students pick up the jobs for him as well. Not just the “safe” ones, but the ones like exams. You can guess how things went.

          In the story, it’s always the professor 20 or 30 feet down the hall from the copier that does this, not the one two floors down and on the other side of the department.

      3. Xenia*

        Someone up-thread had a good comment that she might have a fund set aside for “old copier maintenance” and that was her embezzlement source—but otherwise I can’t think of what on earth it might have been

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I read & watch enough stories about fraud. There are some twisty ways people who do it think. I’d say she might have used the copier as an excuse for a fake account, but who knows?

          This behavior could also be tied to the level of control an embezzler needs to get their schemes to work.

          1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

            My guess is that the copier wasn’t actually involved in the embezzlement BUT her crazy behavior wrt to that copier got management attention focussed on her such that the embezzlement finally came to light.

        2. Heidi*

          Spending $2 million on copier maintenance sounds like a lot to me. Even spread out over years.

        3. Olivia Mansfield*

          Yeah, maybe that is why they couldn’t ever get the machine repaired or maintained? Because she was already siphoning off the funds for that, so if there was ever any real maintenance it would be dipping into her slush fund?

      4. Dust Bunny*

        Same. I mean, our (new! functional! awesome!) copier is networked to, like, everything but it doesn’t tell you the content of what is being sent, and I can’t imagine how you’d use it to send stuff to your bank or whatever? I mean, I could email my bank with it, I guess, but that’s not typically how you embezzle (I don’t think. I don’t actually have any embezzlement experience).

        1. Hillary*

          It doesn’t tell normal users the content, but it’s very easy to see it if you have full admin access. The default now is that print/copy/scan jobs sit in network memory for however long the company’s record retention policy says.

          1. Magda*

            Maybe it’s that simple – the old copier might not have had functionality like that, but she feared the new one would create a paper trail? (I’m a mystery writer).

        2. Mockingjay*

          ExToxicJob bought a high-end, super deluxe copier and publishing machine (that we never used nor needed – one more instance of waste upon many). It handled any type and size of paper and bond imaginable. It had ink cartridges like Rainbow Brite. This thing took up an entire room – I kid you not. It looked like the W.O.P.R in Wargames.

          It produced FANTASTIC, clear, detailed, full color images and docs. Beautiful! And it was connected to EVERY computer in the building with no other security than the department-issued log-in. It would have been very easy to use for counterfeiting.

          People were staying late and coming in on weekends to print their kids’ school projects, brochures and business cards for side businesses, church bulletins, volunteer agency newsletters…I’d come in Monday morning and there’d be a stack of someone’s personal stuff in the printout tray.

          Did I mention that our agency leaned toward paperless and I almost never printed anything myself? We did 99% of the work online or in a database.

          1. Berkeleyfarm*

            In all but one company I’ve worked at with color copiers, I have been requested at some point to set up security on them.

            Consumables are expensive and printing the school flyers, etc. runs into money.

            The first time I got asked to set up security though was early on in color-copier history and … porn had been printed on it in the wee hours of the morning but not retrieved.

            (Maybe some director wanted to be able to print flyers for free.)

          2. Candi*

            “It would have been very easy to use for counterfeiting.”

            Which is why the companies put in programming that says, “This looks like money. NOPE.” Nobody wants “can be used for counterfeiting” as an advertising byline.

      5. Autumnheart*

        Falsifying vendor invoices, and blaming “bad copier” for fuzzy signatures and other things that make it hard to see who really signed?

      6. Hannah Lee*

        A couple of ideas:

        – If it were fully depreciated but you kept charging a “depreciation” expense to your department every month, and somehow re-directed those funds into your own pocket? It would take a few entries to do it, and the university’s accounting staff would have to be asleep at the wheel to not catch it.

        – Copying documents/checks that had been signed off and then cutting and pasting the approvals onto other documents/checks … and you’d use the copier to make copies of the forged documents or print the fake signatures onto checks. Maybe the old copier didn’t have embedded memory to save documents which had been scanned, but the new one did and didn’t want to leave tracks.

      7. Nesprin*

        Some copiers store copies of all documents that have gone through em- it’s possible that credit cards/account numbers/evidence of the dean’s extramarital affair could be downloaded from such a thing. But given that copier was older…. no idea

      8. Retro*

        I’ve read historical fiction where the plot hinged on a wonky R on the chief bad guy’s typewriter.

        1. Crocheted Familiar*

          I swear there’s an Agatha Christie (maybe Miss Marple?) mystery that likewise hinges on a typewriter and the fact that a letter on an envelope has been changed to a different one, therefore placing the time of typing at a different point than originally considered. I think it’s a general ‘poison pen’ anonymous letters plot.

          1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            Typewriter abnormalities are common in both true crime and old crime fiction. It was a real forensics technique, because like dental records, no two typewriters were both made and aged the same.

            1. ten four*

              Yup, typewriter anomalies are also essential to the plot of Dorothy Sayer’s Strong Poison!

        2. Nana*

          Not “historical fiction,” but historical fact: The Alger Hiss case rested almost entirely on proving which typewriter had been used by a Spy to contact his Contact. [late 1940’s, early 1950’s…big-time Commie plot]

        3. Candi*

          It happened in real life at least once. A fellow in the 1980s altered a will to give him a bigger share. He made sure that the inserted page plausibly fit the flow of the will’s writing, and used the same typewriter. Buuuuttttt….. One of the letters had been chipped between when the will was written and when he made the page.

          (BTW, it’s also a case for numbering pages!)

      9. Bernice Clifton*

        In addition to the other suggestions, if the copier was also a printer, she was afraid that IT would go on her computer to add the new printer to her network and see something.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Oooh, I like it … it fits with her storming off and locking herself in her office while the IT guys were there to install the new one. She wasn’t locking herself in, she was locking her computer in where they couldn’t access it.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            And moving/renaming files so an IT person wouldn’t see anything concerning when they were finally allowed in to finish the setup…

          2. Dana Whittaker*

            Don’t most IT departments have the ability to remote into a user’s desktop?

            This is crazybananapants behavior (and I worked in higher ed for 7.5 years!) and would have warranted a call to security to unlock the door that first day. Someone getting that verklempt over a copier would have sent up 739 red flags.

            1. Candi*

              It’s surprising the number of people who don’t realize remoting in is a thing. Or they know it’s a thing, but they’re only familiar with the customer service type, where CS needs explicit permission to enter, and you have to download or enter a one-time key sent to you that lets them in.

              Then there’s the occasional nitwit who thinks they’re so clever and have configured their computer so IT can’t do that. Even though the ultimate admin access needed to make that actually work is usually locked down to everyone but…. (drumroll) IT.

      10. Not that kind of lawyer*

        Here are my theories of how the she was using the old copier for embezzlement:
        1) inflating costs: she was grossly inflating the amount of paper and toner that was being purchased for the copier, and with the new copier it tracks how much is being used, and so she could no longer do this.
        2) tracking: as others have indicated, each person has to swipe in with their badge id, and the new copier has a memory and can track what everyone has printed or copied. She may have created two book keeping documents which for whatever reason was printing.
        3) printing things she shouldn’t have been: as part of her embezzlement scheme she was printing a series of documents that she wouldn’t necessarily have had a need to print and this would have been tracked by the new printer, and thus IT security
        4) exploiting security risk: somehow she was exploiting the security risks identified by IT to access information that assisted in her embezzlement.
        My gut, is on number 2, she was very concerned with having her printing activities tracked, and she was forging and fudging documents as part of her scheme. As much as I enjoyed the Good Girls series, I am pretty confident she was not printing money, that is a federal crime, and paying her pension back would not by any means get her out of jail.

      11. Owler*

        A very banal reason: a new purchase would have triggered a financial review or audit. If the previous copier was totally paid for, a new copier (leased or purchased with monthly installments) would have required a new budget line item, and maybe the department was overdue for a review. A lot of departments float along unnoticed until some big purchase comes along and draws attention from the head office (or the university’s financial department).

        Embezzlement might come to light if a financial review was triggered, especially if it was clumsy.

        1. FrenchCusser*

          I work in Finance at a community college, and all I can say is that university must have had the WORST internal controls. Here’s what has to happen here for a check to be issued:

          1) Requisition signed by department head and Finance supervisor
          2) Purchase made by the college Purchaser
          3) Invoices input by Accounts Payable and signed off by the Finance supervisor
          4) Checks signed by President of college or CFO

          Plus, we’re audited twice a year and the auditors look very closely at large checks and checks made out to employees.

          1. Candi*

            Doesn’t surprise me. In my reading of crime and criminal history, it’s absolutely shocking and terrifying the number of businesses, universities, and every other thing that run on the honor system until there’s an explosion.

            I will note that government departments are the worst for swinging too far in the other direction post-explosion.

      12. serenity*

        If this case is what I think it is (given the details provided) I think a quick Google search will help answer the question. The person(s) involved used university funds and corporate cards (I believe) to buy all sorts of personal supplies including sex toys. I am not kidding.

        1. serenity*

          Actually, given the timing and OP saying the case received little fanfare, maybe it’s not the same. A wild coincidence though.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I’d go with “A scheme that occurred independently to a whole ton of people with the right copier access, of which these two were caught.”

      13. You get a pen and you get a pen*

        I am not quite sure how the copier plays into the embezzlement, but I do have a strong feeling that it is linked to the fact that everyone got laid off. Seems odd that an entire department would be shut down (seemingly overnight) right before she was brought up on theft charges.

        1. Candi*

          I suspected tainted by association played a part. While OP on that was whistleblowing to the university administration (check their comment on the original office thread about the stored paper), they weren’t of high enough rank to keep on or transfer, and everyone else they just couldn’t be sure if they were involved or not. That’s the problem with mud; it tends to splatter.

          Since it was a vital department, I also suspect a total restructuring was in the offing when OP was laid off.

      14. S*

        Some sort of numbered controlled requisition or reimbursement form available in the old copier’s memory without a sign-in verification, or something of that sort?

      15. TiffIf*

        So I have read that anything that gets copied/scanned on a modern copier is stored like on a harddrive so those with the right tools/access can see everything that was copied.

        I wonder if maybe the older copier had less memory/no memory so there would be no proof of malfeasance?

        1. I Love Purple Pens!*

          Back in the 80’s I was a legal secretary with a security clearance for several patent attorneys. We had a special copier that had to be used for all government work. There were a certain number of blank pages that had to be copied before and after your actual copy job. So, I think even old copiers must have been able to store data from copies that were made on that machine.

          1. TiffIf*

            The requirement to copy blank pages actually sounds to me like the machine had a limited memory buffer–so the blank pages would fill the available space, purging/overwriting the sensitive data. I wonder if the boss knew something like that about her beloved machine and was taking advantage of it somehow.

      16. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Line item in the department budget that she controls for expensive and hard to find supplies for the out of date copier.

      17. Worldwalker*

        My guess, given mentions of security issues, is that the copier was functioning as the backdoor to their network, and a friend/relative of the director was using that to get in and embezzle, and the two of them together were sharing the resulting profits.

      18. Selina Luna*

        A cursory Google search shows that there are several ways a copier could be useful in this and that an older one might even be more helpful due to the small size of a hard drive.

        Faking vendor invoices seems the most likely to me, especially since some large institutions don’t look too closely at paper invoices. And many smaller businesses deal with much larger groups frequently. My parents owned a computer store, printed their invoices from Quickbooks, and built all Windows computers for the local school district, for the local vocational college, and for the entire city government. They were very trustworthy (the business has since closed), but someone unscrupulous and good with Adobe could totally have embezzled using their invoices, a printer with a minimal hard drive, and about 2 minutes with Acrobat.

        If they used a paper timesheet, she could have been making copies of those for hours not worked or for employees who don’t exist (three school districts ago, I literally submitted my timesheets for after-school tutoring on a timesheet with students sign-ins attached; however, you had to get a signature from admin and from the grants office to get paid, so there was little dishonesty).

      19. Tex*

        If it was ancient (as in from 2000) or so, it probably had a fax feature vs a networked connection. She could have paid for a couple vendors out of her own pocket (sound familiar?) and then sent fake contracts (from another company she fronted) along with inflated bills to central purchasing. If the vendors had to send any correspondence, they had a university assigned fax number to send it to. They got paid, so no complaints by them, but there are no smoking gun records of what was actually sent, like an email.

        I would be suspicious about the fire caused by plugging it in again. I bet she fried the electronics on purpose. As for the four years between the the xerox incident and her eventual firing…well, if she couldn’t embezzle anymore, central accounting was probably puzzled by how there was a bunch of spare money in the budget.

        1. Candi*

          Until she found another way to embezzle, or had multiple scams running at once.

          That’s the issue with most embezzlers: They never know when to back off.

      20. Faith the twilight slayer*

        Given her complaints were about people accessing the copier info offline, my guess is she was creating fake documents with the old one and thought they’d be able to track her behavior with the new one having storage capabilities and separate logins for each user.

      21. marvin the paranoid android*

        My highly banal theory is that because the funds for replacing the copier come from outside the department, she was afraid bringing the copier in would result in higher scrutiny of the departmental budget.

      22. Anya*

        I can think of a few:
        If the device truly is a security risk, she may be using that exploit for her own means; ie selling data.
        She could be pocketing the ‘lease’ for the printer every month.
        She could be using the printer to print out Golden Girls erotica and making work pay for the paper/toner supplies and selling the booklets for $10 a pop.

      23. Youth*

        I thought maybe that she was embezzling from the account that the new copier would be charged to and was worried that it would bring attention to the discrepancy somehow.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It made me think of the episode of Leverage – The Office Job – where the office manager chick was using the copier to print counterfeit money.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Oh blessed memory of the temp we had in once who tried to scan and print a fifty quid note (both sided) on the office machine and logged a call when it refused to. Such a funny moment :)

        (There’s a pattern of dots, I think, that every copier and printer will recognise as money and refuse to print a double sided sheet)

        1. londonedit*

          I’ve said this further up, but how could anyone possibly think they’d get away with photocopying a banknote?! It wouldn’t look anything like a real one! What would you do, cut it out with scissors?

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            In the US, bills are printed on paper that is definitely not copier paper. You’d just need to touch it to know the difference.

            And it is very hard to get your hands on the right kind of paper.

            1. Kevin Sours*

              You can still get paper closure than standard bond. And you don’t necessarily need to fool a bank teller, just a night shift cashier who isn’t being paid enough to care.

              1. FrenchCusser*

                When I worked at the mall, we had people pass ‘copier paper’ 20s during Christmas rush. You just wait until someone is busy to pass it, sometimes having a confederate distract the cashier.

            2. Vito*

              US bills are printed on “paper” that has no wood fiber in it.

              It is manufactured by Crane company in Dalton, Mass

              1. Metadata minion*

                Why the quotes? Rag paper is absolutely a thing, and is way better quality than wood pulp!

                1. Candi*

                  It’s 75% paper and 25% linen specifically made to make the money paper. Using rags suffered from quality control and just not being able to collect enough.

              2. FrenchCusser*

                Other countries use plastic for their bills – harder to counterfeit (next to impossible), last longer, don’t get destroyed if they go through the washing machine.

                I don’t know why the US doesn’t. There are so many advantages to plastic currency.

                1. Metadata minion*

                  US currency doesn’t get destroyed if you put it through the washing machine, at least not usually. It’s made of rag paper, so unless you’re hitting it with a stick, it won’t disintegrate if it gets wet. I’ve washed tons of bills in my pockets.

                2. Candi*

                  Ask Crane Currency why we don’t. They sell the paper/linen combo that US money is printed on. The US government is by far their biggest account, and they lobby to keep it that way.

          2. More anon today*

            The better ones I’ve seen, they “wash” a lower denomination to remove the ink, and then color print a $100 on that paper. That way the paper is right, and it will pass the counterfeit detector pens we use. They were fakes of our older notes, which are still in circulation. It isn’t hard to tell if you know what to look for, but you have to actually look closely, and a busy cashier may not. Our newest $100s are a different color from other denominations, so you would have to do very good printing to recolor it if you had washed a $1 or something, and they have a wide embedded plastic strip with a prismatic effect that would be more obviously fake if you just photocopied it. (There are other anti-counterfeit features too, this is just the most obvious.) I have never seen a fake one of these. (I guess it’s possible I have seen such a good fake I couldn’t tell, but the point is that you couldn’t do it with just a copier – you’d have to replicate that plastic prismatic strip somehow.)

          3. pony tailed wonder*

            I work at a university and about 20 years ago, students in one dorm were caught using photocopied money in the vending machines. They were printed on regular paper and the vending machines were taking it. They were expelled and charges were brought. It was a small potato scam with large consequences.

          4. Kevin Sours*

            People have gotten away with it. In the early days of high quality color copiers there was a rash of it and concern that they were getting good enough that there was concern that better color copiers would make counterfeiting very easy. Standard copy paper isn’t going to produce good results but you can get thicker/higher quality paper. I’m not sure anybody was successfully doing this on the office copier though.

            Subsequence security enhancements — including software blocks on copying money — make this harder.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I can get awfully attached to computer hardware (I name my PCs and can tell you their personalities) to the point of having distress when one is broken beyond repair and has to be thrown out. Granted, I’m weird, but I’ve also seen others get really attached to a particular bit of kit.

      Having said that, it’s never been a photocopier.

      1. Mockingjay*

        It’s hard to get attached to a printer or copier. They’re very aloof. Like a cat demanding fresh food if the bowl level is half-full, the printer will refuse to work if the ink percentage is only slightly low in a single cartridge.

        1. Paige*

          They are truly the demons of office hardware. Fax machines don’t even warrant nefarious categorization.

          1. Regular Human Accountant*

            Printer/copiers are the only category of office equipment that’s ever made me curse out loud. They work great, right up until you’re in a huge hurry.

            1. Galadriel's Garden*

              I used to work as the administrative assistant for a civil engineering firm, and because my desk was next to the printer and my job description was largely Do Office Things, part of that responsibility became Printer Fixer Person. Mind, these are brilliant people I’m working with – people who design roads and bridges and drainage systems who do all sorts of complex math day in and day out – but following basic prompts on the printer to fix a jam was just…beyond them. I did end up establishing a pretty good working relationship with the printer after some time in the trenches, but there were certainly days where knowing how to curse in a language no one else at the office spoke (or at least never called me out on it) was *extremely* useful.

        2. Susan Ivanova*

          Printers are the whiny teenagers of the device world:

          “You want me to print? Fine, whatever.”

          … some time later …

          “You mean *now*? But I don’t want to do it now, and besides, I’m all out of magenta.”

      2. Helenteds*

        Exactly, I am slightly sad that my laptop is on its last legs, though I am starting to get used to the idea that I might need a new one very soon (the adapter failed yesterday, causing a great deal of frustration and panic), and I do sometimes think of it in a sort of anthropomorphic way. I never feel that way about a printer though, they are real jerks.

      3. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

        We have an absolute workhorse printer at home that we left in storage when we relocated for a year for an internship. I look back and am embarrassed about how much of a fit I pitched every time I had to wrestle with another, inferior, printer during that time. If it ever breaks down, I may have a funeral for it. I’m not saying it’d be the first thing I grabbed if the house caught fire, but…I’m also not saying it wouldn’t be.
        IT ALWAYS WORKS. It is a hero among printers.

    7. Reba*

      I don’t think there is a nefarious reason beyond run-of-the-mill resistance to technological change crossed with department chair power tripping. The unending copier and printer struggle is a microcosm of everything that is nonsense in academia.

      1. SparkyMcdragon*

        If a copier was identified as a security risk then it was networked. So basically IT was saying this copier creates a backdoor into our servers we can’t protect from. You guys are thinking too physically someone was using this copier as a backdoor into the network and embezzling via this portal if the copier was involved.

        1. TrackingCookieMonster*

          I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess you possibly haven’t watched the show Arrested Development to understand the joke I was making.

    8. TL -*

      There’s a great Leverage episode where someone in an office is using a broken copier to counterfeit money…

  3. DarthVelma*

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry over the purple pen story.

    I really like purple and about once a year our admin will add a box of purple pens to our supply order – mostly to make me happy. But I don’t hoard them and if we had to stop ordering them I wouldn’t throw a fit. Plus that admin makes sure we have various office supplies in a variety of colors so that there’s something in there that makes everyone smile. She’s a gem.

    I’m sorry the person in #1 worked with jerkfaces who frankly didn’t deserve nice things.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I bought myself (with the company credit card) a multipack of Sharpie pens one day because they were out of the packs with just one color. I needed blue, red, and black, which all came in the multipack, but I also ended up with green, orange, and purple. I made use of them by color-coding notes on presentations and making a to-do list with color-coded levels of urgency. It made me SO happy. Who knew multi-color pens could bring such joy?

      You’d be amazed at how many people commented, “Wait, why do YOU get different color pens?” These people also had company credit cards, but never bothered to get any of their own supplies. Nothing was stopping them from getting a multipack. I’m pretty sure one of them stole my green pen…

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I do this too. I have many fun colored pens! Honestly my brain processes my notes better if I switch colors every week or so and no one cares.

      2. Birdie*

        I rarely write in black – color is so much more fun! And color-coding is so convenient! It’s not like anyone else will see the things I’m hand-writing, anyway. I currently have on my desk a page of meeting prep notes written in green ink, ha. I also prefer a very specific pen to all others, so I just buy them myself instead of trying to get my employer to supply them. To quote my grad school advisor, “You have to have the pens that make you happy.”

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I use those pens as well and I really like them. I mostly use the blue/black/red for official documents and then most of my personal notes are in the purple and green pens. (The orange does not get much use…)

    2. L. Ron Jeremy*

      Never got to use a purple pen due to company requirements that ALL documents be signed with black or blue pens.

      I sure missed out…

      1. Mockingjay*

        We also only get blue, black, or red (for corrections) pens. I started buying my own pens in rainbow packs to use in note taking and my running task list. They make me happy.

        1. Artemesia*

          When I graded papers back in the day I always bought my own — red makes a lot of student anxious so I would use green or sometimes gold to add notes to papers.

          1. Wendy*

            One of my high school English teachers graded in purple crayon for this same reason. Best teacher I ever had :-D

            1. Phlox*

              My high school (all four years) math teach is obsessed with purple (purple wall, purple copier paper, purple windex, purple clothes, purple stapler, etc etc etc) and of course entirely graded in purple pens – I’ve been using the same purple pen at work this week and its bring back memories! (Generally a lovely teacher and there was enough variety in the shades of purple that it wasn’t a terrible monochromatic experience to be their student).

    3. Threeve*

      I worked at a health food cafe years ago, and there was a woman who came in 2-3 times a week who brought her own pen to sign receipts with: purple. She was nice about it, but she absolutely refused to write in our regular black/blue pens. She never wore anything but purple. Turned out she was part of some kind of hippie commune and purple was a Big Deal there.

      1. TiffIf*

        Immediate thought:
        “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple, with a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.”

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I always wanted the purple highlighters too, and since I was in charge of the office supplies at OldExjob, I just ordered a pack for myself. They were the same price and we had plenty of yellow for everyone so switching out one color on the regular order was no big deal.

      I had power, mwahaha.

    5. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I must work at the world’s most boring organization; when I started reading that one I though everyone would be mad at the unprofessional pens! I’m glad people in other offices get to use fun office supplies that bring them joy.

      1. DarthVelma*

        I will admit to being really fortunate – my agency works with very very young children. And even though I’m in the central office and don’t actually work with the little ones, our agency branding and work spaces are full of bright colors. My love of purple pens, ladybug thumbtacks, and having my file folders in rainbow color order doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. :-)

        1. Nanani*

          …why? Is it because accounting is notoriously stogy about change, or is there a legal or technical reason?

          1. ForeignLawyer*

            I don’t know about accounting, but in some jurisdictions contracts and other important legal docs are supposed to be signed in blue pen. Only blue, not purple or green or whatever. It used to be that you couldn’t sign them with *black* pen because it would be harder to tell which were the originals and which were copies, but now with colour photocopying I have no idea why it would matter, and I also have no idea why it would have to be blue and not green or purple or whatever.

          2. COHikerGirl*

            Accountants definitely have a stodgy and uptight and no fun reputation. But this accountant has a love for colors and uses colorful pens and highlighters for her work! I still fill out paperwork in blue or black (but that’s rare…so much is electronic now!). But my notes are 100% color coded. As are my Excel/Sheets docs.

          3. Ben Marcus Consulting*

            Odd colors can be difficult to read, where normal blue/black would be fine. I had an employee that loved to use lime green pens, but I couldn’t for the life of me read anything she would hand-off to me. I had to politely ask her to stop using them.

            Blue was required for years to differentiate between copied and original, but now that’s moot because of color copiers.

    6. Robin Ellacott*

      That was me! And I liked the purple too, just less… passionately. I thought the first person who came in to complain about unequal purple pen distribution pens was joking.

      I still don’t get the tears and angst – if you care enough to cry about it, maybe just buy yourself a purple pen?

      1. Olivia Mansfield*

        But purple pens that you have to buy for yourself aren’t the same as purple pens that you get for free because the office love you. /s

      2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        This is what I really don’t understand about these stories. I worked for a place where we needed to use specific types of pencils and markers. Sometimes people went a bit nuts with getting new pencils all the time so they’d get put away in the office where you’d have to go ask for a new one. People got upset because they couldn’t get a new pencil whenever.

        I just went to the stationery shop and bought a pack of my own. They were about £3.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I feel like your last sentence sums up most of this! People certainly should not have to pay for their own office supplies generally, but if you feel so strongly that you absolutely must have a particular stapler or pen to the point that you are having issues with other people at work… just freaking spend $5-$15 of your own money and get yourself whatever you want! I have often bought my own pens just because I know I can be picky about them so that makes it my own issue to deal with.

    7. Quoth the Raven*

      I really like purple, too, and I tend to colour code my notes, but I’ve never found a purple or a pink pen that doesn’t bleed through to the other side of the paper in a relatively short time, making my notes harder to read, so I never really use those two colours. With that, people acting like jerks over it makes even less sense to me!

    8. Olivia Mansfield*

      There is one professor in our department who loves purple, and we admin staff periodically buy special purple supplies (folders, highlighters, pens, etc) just to make her happy.

  4. bamcheeks*

    I opened it up, poured a small amount out and refilled it with water. I never told anyone else about it

    I want a B plot in a film where everyone at the party does this.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – wondering how many other people did the same thing and how watery the soap was by the end of the night.

    2. WellRed*

      That made me laugh out loud. To anyone else suffering with A Soap Extender, remove the dispenser and hopefully force the purchase of a new one.

      1. La Triviata*

        At a previous job, the cleaning crew had a schedule for when they’d refill the soap dispensers in the rest room. The dispenser almost always ran out before the scheduled date and we’d put in a request to fill them. For whatever reason, the cleaners would fill up the dispensers with water, which was fine. The first time. But then, when the scheduled day for refilling the dispensers came around, they were full and didn’t need to be filled. So, when the dispensers ran out again, of course before the scheduled refill date, they’d get filled with water. Which wasn’t too bad the second time around, since there’d be some soap sediment in the bottom. But the cycle repeated until we ended up with what was basically plain water in the soap dispensers. sigh ….

      2. Hannah Lee*

        I shared an office with a Soap Extender, who would do this to the dish-washing liquid in the break room. We don’t wash a lot of dishes there, just a couple of mugs a week, individual forks, spoons people use for lunch instead of plastic utensils and plates and serving utensils maybe 5-6 times a year when a client came to visit and we brought in lunch. So, on average, a small dispenser of dish-washing liquid lasted IDK, 2 years? So watering it down doesn’t really save THAT much money because it’s a non-material expense.

        The last time things were getting pretty watery, when the break room was getting a lot less use during COVID (no customer visits, people keeping their mugs, lunch stuff to themselves) the liquid just sat there … probably a few months without really being disturbed. Well apparently all that watering down had both diluted whatever anti-microbial properties soap liquid has AND introduced something to the bottle … because one day when I reached for it, I noticed had some very interesting stuff growing in it … kind of pale and tendril-y but throughout the bottle. I brought it straight to the Soap Extender to show her “THIS is why we don’t mess around with this stuff”. And she leaves it alone now.

        1. PT*

          I sometimes Soap Extend at home, but that’s because watering down the soap a tiny bit makes it easier to slide the last bits of soap out of the bottle without having to store it upside down so it can sloooowwwlllyyyy run to the top. But that’s for single-use items you’re going to throw out when they’re empty, like shampoo, not multi use items you are going to refill from a refill bottle, like hand soap or dish detergent.

          It’s really not sanitary to do it for more than a day or so.

          1. Shad*

            I’m also really bad about remembering to go grab and open up the next new soap when the old one is almost empty. So I add *just a bit* of water so I can wash my stupid hands when I notice after I’ve already used the toilet that the soap is an issue.
            That, and fiance likes the foaming dispensers, but the non-foaming soap is the same price per volume and different only by water content as far as I can tell. Add in my preference for the non-foaming dispensers and resultant mix of dispensers at different sinks, it’s easier and cheaper to just buy the non-foaming refill and water it to foaming consistency when we fill the foaming dispensers.

          2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

            Well, and what you do in your own home is no one’s business but your family’s, and presumably they will not complain out of fear of being forced to take charge of bathroom maintenance.

          3. Berkeleyfarm*

            I use Mrs. Meyer’s and actually like it extended for my personal handwashing. I started out last March when liquid soap was tough to find, and found I like it. Continually doing that at an office is not cool though.

        2. Liane*

          THIS. In a previous job, at a medical device company, there were a lot of things in use I tested for microbio contamination. One of them was soap used in bios clean rooms where product was made or packaged. I once had a bunch the grew like crazy – because the antibacterial soap was being diluted with tap water!!! Thankfully it was a room that hadn’t been used for months but still had to be kept ready for use including soap and sanitizing chemicals.

    1. Mr. Shark*

      It almost feels like an episode of Fargo. Some small-time criminal getting caught because of a new copier, and panicking! Add some North Dakota accents and you have yourself a winner!

  5. Myrin*

    #8: “On the lavatory, there was a brand new bottle of liquid soap. I couldn’t resist myself. I opened it up, poured a small amount out and refilled it with water. I never told anyone else about it.” had me giggling maniacally. OP knows how to live life to the fullest!

    #20: IDEK. This read like a mini thriller and coupled with OP’s nonchalant way of narrating, it might just be the best thing I’ve read all day!

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I’m just disappointed at the “small amount”. If I’d thought of doing it I’d have poured out two-thirds at the very least.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I know, right???!! My mouth was hanging open in the middle, and then it KEPT GOING AND GATHERING SPEED.

  6. Old Admin*

    #20. The Copier Story.
    A true Work Of Art, so very worthy of being part of the BOFH (Bastard Operator From Hell)!!!
    I once was briefly in contact with Simon Travaglia. Maybe I need to contact him again…

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I suspect the BOFH would have demonstrated exactly what the security issue with the old copier was, in a very creative and possibly flammable manner. Actually, given the fire when the old copier was plugged back in, are we sure he wasn’t involved?

    2. Distracted Librarian*

      BOFH – what a wonderful blast from the past! Now I really want to reread those.

  7. This is not my first time.*

    The one about the copy paper reminds me so much of the five monkeys experiment!

      1. Beth*

        Links are in a second comment: it’s an internet myth about monkeys learning negative behavior from each other. It never actually happened.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        It’s a myth with regard to the monkeys, but it also happens. My mother and I have an ongoing fight about the route to take to a destination we visit once or twice a year. I want to take a straight and familiar route that goes closer to a congested city; she wants to take a longer route that kind of circumvents traffic … but she can never quite remember how to do it; she just started insisting one year that we go another way. We’ve had a few very pointed fights on the highway at 85 mph about this.

        Finally I was like, “WHY don’t you know which way this is, if you’re so committed to it?” Turns out my aunt, her sister, had gotten lost and stumbled upon this route that she felt saved her time, but wasn’t quite sure how she did it. Me: “So you want to get us lost because Aunt Mary wandered around the backwoods five years ago and came out alive?” **facepalm**

    1. kitryan*

      Another version (that’s flavored with a bit of antiquated gender roles) is where a new husband asks his wife why she cuts off the end of the roast before cooking and she says it’s just how her mother did it. Well, the next family holiday he asks his mother in law why she cuts the end off the roast, to be told that it’s because that’s how her mom did it. So, he asks the grandmother, who laughs and says that she did it because otherwise it wouldn’t fit in the pan.

      1. Imtheone*

        I’ve heard this one, with the variation that a mother is showing her teenager how to make a roast (ham or beef). She explains that you cut off the ends, the. Put it in the pan. The teenager asks why — the answer is that grandma taught the mom to do it this way. So the call up grandma, who explains that her pan (and maybe oven) was too small.

      2. Jessica Ganschen*

        I’ve heard a similar story where the woman always turns any cans upside down and opens them from the bottom, her child asks why, it’s something she learned from her mother, and her mother’s answer is that they used to store their canned goods in the cellar, and the tops always got really grimy really fast.

      3. Candi*

        There’s a version where the parents are visiting their daughter and her new husband for their first Thanksgiving togethers. They get their early and Mom notices that the daughter has the drainrack over the turkey in its pan in the sink. Mom asks why the drainrack is over the turkey.

        “That’s the way you always did it.”

        “Yes, dear, but you don’t have a cat.”

  8. awesome3*

    #5 to be fair, it’s not great that a bunch of parents have unauthorized keys to the school now, but as a private school I imagine the rules are more lax anyway. But that’s one where I’m actually siding with Edith. Sorry.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      I don’t think it’s keys to the entire school, though? Just the one closet where the PTO keeps its supplies.

    2. Former Llama Herder*

      I’m also with Edith-I get that it’s annoying to ask for a key everyday, but that could so easily get out of hand if the school doesn’t know who has a key. Especially since parents should be checking in at the front desk anyway when they come to the school!

    3. Skytext*

      I don’t think they have keys to the school, just that ONE cabinet that only has THEIR PTO supplies (that judging from my own PTO experience they either fundraised for or outright paid for out of their own pockets). So I don’t see a problem with them having that key. They still have to have a valid reason to be at the school to even access that cabinet.

  9. Corporate Lawyer*

    These are all so awesome, and it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I gotta go with #20 because Boston is my home and the erratic, tyrannical boss getting her comeuppance was such a satisfying ending. Also, you had me at day drinking at the Hong Kong – LOL!!

  10. Teapot, Groomer of Llamas*

    I was wondering how anybody could beat the furniture hierarchy but then got to number #20.

  11. Michelle*

    #4 reminds me of a story about a family with a tradition to always cut the Thanksgiving turkey in half, put it in two different pans, and cook them separately. The mom was teaching her daughter to do this, and the daughter asked why, but the mom didn’t know. She said that was just how her mother taught her to do it. So she went and asked her mother, who also said she didn’t know, that’s just how her mother taught her to do it. So they finally go to the matriarch and ask her why they always cut the turkey in half and she says, “My oven wasn’t big enough to cook a whole turkey.”

    1. curly sue*

      I heard this one as a brisket for the High Holidays – newlywed daughter cuts the ends off the brisket when she’s hosting for the first time, husband asks why. She doesn’t know, asks her mother, etc. Bubbe’s the last in the chain and she explains that she never had a roasting pan large enough.

      1. Michelle*

        That makes more sense. I can’t imagine how it would work to cook a turkey in two pieces, LOL.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          I’ve heard of people spatchcocking the turkey (for anyone who doesn’t know the term, it means to cut out the spine and thus lay the bird out flat), but not cutting it in half. I’ve done the spatchcock thing with chickens or game hens. It helps it cook more quickly/evenly and helps avoid drying out the breast meat.

          I’ve heard the basic story with a Sunday roast. I wonder where it originated.

          1. Need More Sunshine*

            Spatchcocking also works super well with rabbit, if you ever have the opportunity to roast one!

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Mom & I used to read Ann Landers and Dear Abby to each other when I was a kid, and I remember her reading me the story about cutting the end off of the roast. So there’s one source for one variation. (1970s)

        2. Need More Sunshine*

          It’s actually really great to either spatchcock your turkey or to separate the legs and breast meat because then you can control the cooking better – take the breast out when it’s ready but leave the legs in to cook longer and you’re guaranteed to not have dry turkey breast. And also means you can cook two different recipes/styles!

    2. Green great dragon*

      My mother never put the pans straight back in the cupboard after drying them. She used to wipe them dryish, then sit them on the (cold) hob for a while.

      When I queried it, she was eventually brought to admit that maybe her grandmother had only done it because she cooked on a coal range, and it was hard to keep it really clean, and she didn’t want the soot from the bottom of the pans on her dish towels.

      1. Drifter*

        Having cooked on a coal range for years I doubt soot on the bottom of the pan was the issue, the stovetops are surprisingly clean. It is however, the best method of drying older cookware. Wash it, then set it back on the range to dry thoroughly. Of course the range would have been warm or hot because they didn’t get turned off. Your mother’s method was missing a crucial ingredient by changing to an electric range…heat.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Go old enough, and the stoves were intentionally blackened–but I have no idea if that involves the top of the stove.

    3. irene adler*

      These kinds of situations just bug the stuffing out of me! Common sense, people!

      I’d be inclined, were I the admin tasked to trim A4 paper down to size, to simply replace my handiwork with 8.5 X 11 paper and see if anyone takes notice.

      Cutting up a turkey is quite a task. Not one I’d be willing to do. Here too, I’d be wondering why so few roasting turkey recipes instruct one to cut one in half. Sorry Mom, I love you, but I’m not gonna do what you instructed me to do. Just not.

      1. Artemesia*

        If I were going to do this for any reason (maybe prepare half this weekend and freeze the other half for later?) then I would have the butcher do it and I have had the butcher do similar things. Hacking away in my own kitchen — not gonna happen.

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

        If I were the boss of A4 Paper Admin I’d be giving some side eye to her critical thinking skills…

        1. Candi*

          For me, I’d be side-eyeing the first admin harder. She knew her boss had used letter size up to that point.

          I can imagine second admin being nervous, worried about keeping her new job, and feeling she had to cater to what likely looked like an eccentricity

      3. marvin the paranoid android*

        To be honest, I actually really enjoy this kind of thing! Maybe not if it’s something as annoying as cutting a turkey in half, but there are definitely some minor kitchen rituals that I do just because my mother and grandmother did them, and I think it’s a lovely kind of intergenerational continuity. I tend to find cooking meditative in general so I don’t mind taking a few extra minutes for a semi-unnecessary procedure.

        However, my big exception to this is when it comes to food safety. My mother’s sense of safe defrosting practices leaves something to be desired.

        1. Candi*

          Was it the leave the ground beef out on the counter for 3 or for hours idea of safe defrosting? (This was partially because she was terrible at planning in advance.)

    4. Nesprin*

      Sure, my family did this- I was taught by my mother to flip over cookies to cool once cooked. One day someone asked me why I did that and I had no idea. I asked my mom about this, she thought for a moment, then called my grandmother. Grandmother thought about it for a tick, then admitted that her mother was a miserable cook and would check for how many burned cookies there were in each batch.

      1. quill*

        I love this but in my experience with cookies, it’s either they’re all burnt or they’re all not…

        1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          Sometimes if you have an uneven oven you’ll get half a batch burnt, with a gradient across the pan.

        2. Candi*

          I found using a lighter weight pan helps prevent burnt cookie bottoms, as well as putting the pan on cooling racks until the cookies are cool enough to remove.

          (The first one I tested after reading about using heavy aluminum foil in the shape of a tray to avoid burnt bottoms, the other after leaving the pans resting on the (off) burners on the stove to cool.)

      2. pieforbreakfast*

        My mother taught me the same thing, and I never thought about it until a college roommate asked me why. My mom just explained it was easier to flip the spatula then slide the cookie off.
        I still put cooling cookies on newspaper though.

    5. Distracted Librarian*

      I heard a version of this story that involved a ham. I love how apocryphal stories/urban legends evolve.

    6. kitryan*

      Ah! I just added this story up thread. That’ll teach me not to read thru all the comments before posting :)

    7. JessicaTate*

      My mom tells a version of this story every year as we’re putting cloves in the Christmas ham. She’s not convinced it does anything, but her mom did it, her mom’s mom did it, and now she and I do it, but there’s a 95% chance it’s for some useless reason.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        According to reddit, the stated reason is that it’s supposed to impart the flavor into the ham, but the general consensus is that it doesn’t really do that and it’s probably just decorative.

      2. Mannequin*

        Cooking a ham that was decked with whole cloves, pineapple, and maraschino cherries was all the rage in the 50s, it was still pretty popular when I was growing up in the 70s.

        I don’t like ham & haven’t eaten it since I was a kid, so I didn’t realize that clove studded Christmas hams were not the standard anymore.

        1. Candi*

          Pineapple that’s been cooked with ham is delicious. It’s the only way I will eat pineapple, at least when I’m not helping my younger kid with their homework.

          (Tasty, tasty homework. They’re going to online business/culinary school.)

  12. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #17 I totally get it. Because when I buy a bag of dried mangos, I can’t help myself and will polish it off within 24 hours.

    1. FrenchCusser*

      Mango person is a control freak. Why did she think it was her job to control the mangoes?

      1. imaginaryoranges*

        Seriously. No wonder they were disliked. Can you imagine telling a bunch of adults that they can’t eat mangos (OR HAVE COFFEE) on certain days of the week…because you have decreed it so? Unbelievable.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          People get SO territorial about free stuff, particularly free food. I’m not surprised at all that this didn’t end well for the office manager.

        2. rl09*

          “they can’t eat mangos (OR HAVE COFFEE) on certain days of the week”

          But that was the whole point, they were running out of those things too early in the week, because people were hoarding and/or being wasteful. So prior to mango person’s arrival, they already couldn’t have any mango or coffee on certain days of the week – because most likely a small handful of people were taking more than their fair share on Monday. The whole point of mango person rationing things out was to make it last for the entire week.

          1. SAS*

            But everyone accepts there is no mangoes for the rest of the week- it’s just for mango Monday! I felt really bad for this office.

          2. MangoFreak*

            Yeah before I started the whole office was running out of cold brew on Tuesdays because no one was diluting it and people were taking huge amounts. (There were other forms of coffee throughout the week though.) Before the Great Mango Rationing a lot of people just never got mango at all. (It also looked really sloppy having the whole bag on the table, and I’d been explicitly tasked with making the snacks look less sloppy.)

            The funny part was that the company was politically aligned and had really progressive values so it always felt ironic to me that people were being so individualistic about it when it was a clear Tragedy of the Commons issue. Shouldn’t they believe in regulation for the greater, more equitable good? Obviously the answer was, “Yes, on most issues, but keep your mitts off my mango.”

            In the end we found a snack provider that gave us unlimited, though slightly inferior, dried mango, and that settled things down. The sheer fact of having more cold brew than before helped ease them into the “schedule,” so that worked out alright in the end.

      2. RabidChild*

        I half expected a story further down the page about some mango control freak being the least popular person in the office

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          The only problem is if Mango Monday leads to TP Tuesday… dried fruit can be like that.

          1. SaffyTaffy*

            See, I was fully expecting the story to go that way. My freshman year in college a housemate’s dad sent her 10 pounds of dried fruit. She left most of it in the common room, and the 9 of us in the house ate all of it in like 3 days. And then we all shit ourselves to death.

    2. Rachael*

      This happened at my last job! There was a fruit basket and dried mango for us. People would treat the basket and mangos as their own personal grocery store and take 3-4 fruits and a large handful of mango and we would run out of fruit by Tuesday. The receptionist ended up having to keep the fruit in a cabinet and dole out the fruit throughout the week and people would just throw fits. Especially about the mango. She was getting harassed so much while trying to do her job that they just stopped providing it. It was so sad when the fruit went away.

    3. Elizabeth Bennett*

      I am that way with Promised Land’s Midnight Chocolate Milk. No matter what size jug I buy, once I open it, I drink the whole thing to the last drop.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        There’s some farmer’s market chocolate milk that I don’t remember the name of off the top of my head but that I can only get once or twice in the fall, and the only thing that makes that glass jug last more than a day is that I turn it into milkshakes and I can’t drink more than three cups of milkshake in one sitting.

  13. Spencer Hastings*

    I was giggling at the thought of someone looking through a supply closet for URLs…and then I got to the copier saga and oh my god. These were amazing.

        1. North Wind*

          You have to wonder if the account director asked someone about it who casually said, oh yes – check the supply closet.

          1. Zona the Great*

            I choose to believe this. This is gold. Casual person over there just filing her nails as CEO picks his jaw up off the floor.

          2. Filosofickle*

            Okay, your scenario actually makes a whole lot more sense than an account person thinking something a client asks you to bring to a meeting would be in the supply closet! Usually you bring ideas or documents to client meetings, not supplies. Especially at an account level.

          3. anonymath*

            Like the nurse hazing scene from a 1950s novel I read — ask the new “girl” to go get the neck tourniquets from the supply closet…. (I think this was Clara Barton)

          4. Candi*

            That would make sense. The workers already smelled a rat and suspected that account manager didn’t know nearly as much as she’d pretended to in the interviews.

            Then Acct Mng. gets the client request, panics, and asks the workers where to get URLs. Cue perfect setup to expose her. Just nudge and let the ball roll.

            (I will bet real money the higher-ups did NOT have a subject matter expert sitting in on the interviews, and did not have such assess what the account manager actually knew at any point.)

    1. Filosofickle*

      I was getting distracted and had semi-decided to stop reading…but then I committed and I’m so glad I did for 19 and 20. Looking for URLs!!! That’s wild.

    2. LTR/FTP*

      I feel like the URL story got robbed a little bit, because it was followed by such a whopper. But I will say that I audibly gasped when I read the punchline!

    3. Pipe Organ Guy*

      “Where do we keep the URLs?” is absolutely priceless, and had me figuratively rolling on the floor. I have this mental image of a box of URLs of all sorts, with someone rummaging through them.

      And then the copier saga! If Rossini were alive now and composing operas, this would be a perfect comic opera plot!

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        Yes, just delightful. I wonder what she thought they looked like?

        I once did have to tell a contractor (very educated in a non-tech field) that no, your website issues are not because “the internet is loose inside your computer” and NO COME BACK DON’T GO GET A SCREWDRIVER!

        1. Candi*

          Good grief. I thought it was bad when I was trying to get my dad to understand the difference between a cheap-but-adequate computer being slow and the internet being slow. At least he understood it was “out there”.

          I hope you safely kept the screwdriver away from the poor tower.

  14. SentientAmoeba*

    The last one is the best because wow. The others were alternately funny and sometimes concerning but that one was a jaw-dropper.

  15. Meep*

    #20 – Not related to office supplies but sounds like my Toxic Coworker. I was renewing the business license in mid-May every year for 3 years because the owner asked me to do it once and I figured I would just do it. (It expires in late June – which is important here). Well, the pandemic happened and she was being extra abusive and cruel. However, she would constantly tell me how we needed to “communicate”. So I communicated to her that I had renewed the business license. Cue literal screeching for 20 minutes, “WHO THE F*CK TOLD YOU THAT YOU COULD DO THIS?! WHO THE H*LL GAVE YOU PERMISSION?!” Dazed I told her the owner did to which she got all cheerful and said “OK” before hanging up without an apology. Well, this year rolls around and I see the license renewal letter so I ignore it. She comes to snatch it up later so now it is definitely not my problem.

    August 9th, I realize we don’t have our business license displayed (again, it expired June 22nd). I send both her and the owner a note about it, casually just asking where it is thinking she cannot possibly be THIS BAD. She lies and tells me it is in her office (big fine for that one). It appeared a week later dated for August 10th, 2021.

    She is an idiot.

    1. Candi*

      It wouldn’t surprise me that the only reason someone didn’t get on your business’ case about the license not being renewed was covid and things being jumbled worse than an explosion in a Lego storehouse.

  16. Zuzu*

    #20 was such a ride, and if you were day drinking at the Hong Kong in 2010, I might have seen you there!

    1. grizzlebee*

      Same here! Also using context clues I know which university this is and…it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      Same. I actually enjoy 1-ply (yes, I’m a monster, I know, I know…) but I’d do like…lipstick removal or something, because if you’re going to move in your own supplies to a public place, the public is going to use them.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        You’re the unicorn. I always assumed people who bought 1-ply ONLY did so because they had either very delicate septic tanks or very small TP budgets.

        My cheapskate sister sometimes buys this utterly horrific 1-ply with the excuse that it was on sale, and then she has to endure my constant complaints from her bathroom for the life of that package of paper. I sometimes offer to supplement her TP budget from my own pocket if it means not wadding up 1-ply with wood chips in it.

        1. RabidChild*

          I am another unicorn. It happened to me once when I was like 5 or something. Of course now I have problem solving skills and a plunger, but man that fear has never left me. Never again!

        2. Shad*

          My parents switched to 1-ply during the Great Recession, after dad was laid off, and just…never switched back (I was in high school at the time).
          I’ve gotten so used to the cheap stuff that the fluffy stuff doesn’t feel like it cleans.

          1. kitryan*

            I like 2 ply- firm enough for a… good result, not linty like the fancy stuff, not too coarse and thin like 1 ply. Sort of inbetweenie.

        3. Candi*

          I bought 1-ply last time because it was cheap. But, even though it’s pretty good for 1-ply, we’re still using way too much of it compared to the 2-ply.

          But wood chips in the 1-ply!?! Why doesn’t she go cut and dry moss if she’s going to be that cheap -at least the moss won’t poke you.

        1. LavaLamp(she/her)*

          Meanwhile I’m still annoyed that my boyfriend accidentally bought scented toilet paper. Lots of folks with septic tanks don’t flush their TP so it’s scented and as a person with an allergy to lavender, it was hell.

          1. Freya*

            I get allergic dermatitis from a lot of artificial scents. Like the ones on tissues and toilet paper :-(

        2. Mannequin*

          I loathe “cushy” toilet paper because it makes your hooha linty & falls apart easily, but those are the expensive luxury brands of TP. Plenty of other 2 ply brands are sturdy & serviceable, and less expensive that the cushy ones.

  17. Marie*

    Oh man I didn’t remember this story for the first submittal, but these stories have jogged my memory:
    About 5 years ago I worked for a small-ish government IT contractor, owned by a husband and wife (CEO and COO, respectively). One of the more ridiculous micromanagement things that they did was insist on bargain hunting for all office supplies- paper, pens, coffee, whatever. So instead of just having a “set it and forget it” standing order with Staples or something, they’d spend half a day every other week tirelessly comparing pricing on things between Amazon, Staples, Office Depot, and Costco and then driving around town (in their company-financed fancy car, no less) to buy various office supplies.

    And then they’d always be complaining about how busy they were and how they just didn’t have enough time to do the things they needed to do.

  18. Nea*

    Now, see, this is why I didn’t add an office supply story because I knew mine was going to be terribly boring in comparison. I just had to write “This is [color]” on the top of the notepads because the boss was color blind and once got teased for taking pink notepad into a meeting.

    1. katkat*

      aww, thats kind of cute in a way. And I agree, these are WILD!

      my only story is when I got teased because I ordered teal colored scissors instead of blacks…

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I see that as actually helpful (and a strategy by someone to work around a problem they know they can’t fix on their own).

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I used to work in a library where the copy machine was ancient and would jam if you were trying to process anything more than like, 4 pages. We had to make about 150 copies of our monthly program calendars to distribute to the public, and there was no way our machine could handle it, so we got permission to take those orders to a local print shop. That duty got assigned to one of my colleagues, so he took the master over to the print shop and the print shop employee asked what color we wanted them printed on. Colleague is colorblind, and didn’t realize this was a question he was going to be asked, so he just pointed to a color and hoped for the best. We ended up with a month’s worth of calendars on a terrible brownish yellow that our boss REALLY hated, but she wouldn’t reassign that duty to anyone else. So every month at calendar printing time, Colleague would ask me to find something in the building that was a good color for the calendar, I would grab a piece of construction paper or cardstock or something, and he would take that with him to the print shop and tell the employee there to use whatever color was closest to the color he had brought in.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Probably because he could say “pink” but there might be a range of shades of pink from pale to eye-searing fluorescent. At least by handing a page over, the copy center person could go for a best-match.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Exactly this. That’s how he ended up choosing the world’s ugliest color the first time. They guy asked what color we wanted and Colleague went “…yellow?” And then they guy said “sure! Here’s our selection of yellows, which one do you want?”

  19. Dust Bunny*

    “She could squeeze a nickel until the buffalo pooped.”

    I just snort-laughed while my supervisor was giving an interview, thanks.

    1. Other Duties as Assigned*

      I liked this as well and it’s reminiscent of a slang 19th century term for payday: “the eagle screams.” Workers would joke that on payday when the paymaster would pay you in silver dollars, he’d hang on to the money so tightly that when you took it, the eagle on the coins would scream out. The term was common in railroading and likely in other industries as well.

      1. Govt Mule*

        In the military and US government, payday is traditionally called “the day the Eagle $#!^$”

      2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        “I get my hands on a dollar again,
        I’m gonna hang on to it till that eagle grins.” – Jimmy Cox, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out

    2. H.C.*

      I remember this as one of Rose’s lines in The Golden Girls, which prompted Sophia to go #2.

      This made more sense to me later on when I found out older nickels were printed with a buffalo on the tail side.

    3. Candi*

      My dad says I can squeeze change till the presidents scream -but I have never been THAT cheap. Health and safety are still priorities!

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Solidarity! My label maker is one of my most treasured possessions. I may or may not refer to it as my precious.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I labeled the label maker when I was testing out the fonts. No one else around here seems to get my sense of humor, though…

        1. Windchime*

          I got a label maker for Christmas last year and my son (who is a 35 year professional man) labeled both the label maker and the cat.

          1. Candi*

            We weren’t allowed to label the label maker. Mother got one when we were teens for… some reason to do with crafts, and we were only allowed to label with permission. :(

            This was an early 1990s’ label maker. It was so heavy.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I would say labels spots in closets/shelves is a great idea from an organization standpoint.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        My read was that she had actually labelled the stapler and the phone, not just where they were on the shelf. In which case *lol5eva*

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Oh totally what I thought as well – that she was labeling actual items. I just know one place decided to label the shelf spots to make it easier to organize and put away supplies (so it could be done if the office admin *gasp* took a day off) and people were nitpicking about it for almost two years.

          Yes, I am now long gone from there, common sense was very not common at that job.

      2. quill*

        It’s standard laboratory practice!

        Though sometimes it’s, uh, a little nitpicky. I worked at a place that had a spot to put “Erlenmeyer flask 3”

        1. Adultiest Adult*

          I’ve seen that in some medical places, and in that case it’s not because they’re actually numbering the individual flasks, but a handy guide to whoever stocks the rooms of how many of each item need to be present to be considered fully stocked. So in this case, if there weren’t 3 Erlenmeyer flasks there, (i.e. one or more had been used), the stock person would know how many to refill. Made me chuckle but I understood the point.

    3. *daha**

      I was the admin assistant in a small office in the 1990s. We got a little electronic label printer. I was delighted. I had only ever used the older style Dymo embosser labeler. So I had fun with it.
      I made a label that said “Desk” and stuck it on my desk. I made one that said “Chair”. Before I got tired of playing with it, I made one that said “Ceiling” and climbed up on a chair to apply it to a random spot. I hope somebody discovered it eventually.

      1. pagooey*

        Waaaay back in my retail days at a mall Waldenbooks, on a slow afternoon, we got carried away with the Dymo labeler and labeled everything behind the cashwrap counter. REGISTER 1, PENS, SMALL BAGS, BOOKMARKS. The enormous, unmistakable cast iron SAFE under the counter. The old carbon-paper credit-card embosser (KNUCKLEBUSTER). Eventually we also labeled the spots where we, the cashiers, would stand…so it said ALAN and KIM behind that counter at hip height, presumably until the store was gutted.

    4. Rainy Day*

      I really want a label maker just so I can label everything, but I have no other reason to own one beyond “be silly with it”, so I resist temptation.

      I did get opportunity to label filing cabinet shelves in a previous job- the cabinets held all the personnel files, and to make them all fit they were arranged by contract then site, then alphabetically. Filing was a tedious job, but I enjoyed using the label maker!

  20. Beth*

    I will now add “URLs” to my personal list of non-existent items to put on supply lists — along with fabric extender, pole stretchers, and prop-wash (which is used for washing props).

    1. MarsJenkar*

      I wanna say that Prop Wash is an actual product now–used to clean propellers on aircraft. (There used to be a longstanding “snipe hunt” in the Air Force and Navy air service where newbies were asked to fetch “prop wash” for others–“prop wash” in this case being the turbulence produced by the propellers. I would not be surprised if the cleaning product was named as such specifically because of this snipe hunt.)

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I actually met a pilot once who had a former CO who would use a scavenger hunt with all his newbies to make sure the safety briefings had taken. You had one week to locate 100 points with of items from around the base – and two of the items could only be found by being on really good terms with the mechanics and hanger crews. You could complete the hunt without those items – but doing so got your a talking to about how critically important it was to be on very good terms with the mechanics – you can’t be the best pilot in the squadron if your plane always is in need of repairs.

        (According to the guy there were somewhere between 175 and 200 points worth of things on the hunt, depending on the version you got.)

        1. Candi*

          I like that CO. Got their brains working, got them to think about what’s important, and since they had to go around the base, it gave them a chance to become familiar with the layout. Much better than any snipe hunt or yelling.

    2. Arachophilia*

      I worked for a boating supply company – “shore line” was the one I always heard (line to attach your boat to the shore… except not). And then when I was working for a restaurant, the manager of the day asked me to go to the other restaurants on our street and see if we could borrow some “compressed steam” since we were out. I am not A Idiot, so I just laughed at him. Other new staff were not so savvy – and one restaurant actually agreed, and sent her back with an empty pot – telling her she had to hold the lid on tight and upside or it would decompress and escape.

    3. Drifter*

      I have elbow grease on mine.
      The local apprentices used to be sent to search for left handed screw-drivers. One diligent young fella couldn’t find one in the tool boxes, so visited all the local tool supply stores in search of one. One of the supply stores spent half a day searching their supplier’s catalogues and ringing reps looking for them to help the apprentice out.

      1. workswitholdstuff*

        According to my parents (ex Army Nurses both of them), tartan paint and ‘long bed weights/waits’ were common requests to make of the newbies….

    4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      in the old days, new people at a newspaper would be sent to find the “type stretcher” or the striped ink.

    5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Jacques Pepin talks about being sent in search of soufflé weights at his first restaurant job.

    6. Rob aka Mediancat*

      I read a story, I think on Not Always Right, about a construction company that did the typical rookie hazing with instructions to go buy 16 skyhooks. It turned out that now there WAS a product called a skyhook, and it was extremely expensive — and the company owner had to do some fast talking to cancel the order after the new person came back with the completed order.

      1. Candi*

        “Got Them By Hook Or By Crook” -one of my favorites. Not Always Working sister site, Pranks tab.

        The Maintenance Team Leader thought he was pulling skyhooks out of his rump, as something that didn’t exist. But they existed -at 300 pounds each!

  21. ItIsWhatItIs*

    She was absolutely using the copier for embezzling stuff because I bet it wasn’t being tracked on the school network. Once it started getting tracked stuff started lining up.

  22. Karl Havoc*

    At my last job, each of our three floors had three jars of free snacks in the common area. The yogurt-covered pretzels were everyone’s favorite – until they were replaced with plain pretzels. Why? Because one big-deal partner couldn’t stop eating them and demanded they be gotten rid of to remove the temptation. Not just on his floor, but on all three floors. I permanently resented him for that.

    1. Yessica Haircut*

      Wow, that’s so crappy of him. “If I can’t have [nice thing], then NO ONE can!”

    2. Candi*

      What is it with these people who say, “you can’t have nice things because I can’t/won’t control myself”?

      Even if it’s a genuine addiction, it’s just wrong to take it out on other people. Ask for the treats to be locked and giver permission for you to be denied when you want some -don’t just chuck it out the door.

      (Addiction literally damages the brain, but that’s no excuses to be crappy to other people.)

  23. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

    The last one. Just. WOW. what a ride. I think that’s an excellent note to kick-off my lunch break, LOL.

      1. David*

        It is my firm belief that the internet-in-a-box plot line is the funniest thing ever to appear on television.

  24. The Bad Guy*

    I feel like there is no closure about why she killed the new copier and wouldn’t let the old one leave. Did she think there was evidence of her embezzlement in there or was she just cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?

    1. CBB*

      My guess is that she could plug a mouse and keyboard into the copier and use it to edit network files in a way that couldn’t be traced back to her and/or access network drives that she couldn’t access with her own network login.

      She needed to use it one last time (with no one else in the office) to delete incriminating files from the network.

      1. Windchime*

        I was thinking something along these lines. Somehow she was accessing files or a network drive via the copier due to the security loophole. The new copier probably required a password or access code and that would have ruined her ability to access areas anonymously.

    2. anonymous73*

      Based on the fact that the old copier needed to be replaced because it was a security risk, maybe that helped with the embezzlement (or she thought it did).

    1. #16 OP*

      Oh yeah, I was totally sympathetic to WHY it was being done (not being a unicorn who prefers 1-ply myself) – but, just…

  25. Dust Bunny*

    I can’t actually do this but I’d now love to send out an all-staff email to thank my coworkers for not being lunatics.

    1. Ashley*

      This is where Linked In can be helpful — share this article and a post how you are glad these aren’t from your co-workers. It does make me think though next job interview to see the supply closet on the tour and see if anything seems off.

  26. Bilateralrope*

    If I was in a job where I needed a pocket calculator, I’d probably end up filing a request for one. Then buying one myself that weekend if it hadn’t arrived.

    Honestly, I’d probably still do that even with a smartphone. I’m faster and more accurate with physical buttons than I am with a touchscreen.

    1. anonymous73*

      I just started a new job working from home, but had to drive an hour and a half away to pick up my laptop. I had to do this twice because they couldn’t get it to work the first time. After a week or so I asked someone if they would supply a monitor so I could have an extra screen. I was told that it would take about a month to approve, and I would have to drive to headquarters again to pick it up. That weekend I got my husband to go buy me my own monitor. Sometimes it’s worth it to just get something yourself.

    2. CBB*

      With things like calculators and special writing implements, I bring my own. I consider those things part of my own personal toolkit (along with measuring instruments, magnifying lenses, gloves, etc.).

      Seems silly to get excited about an office-supplied calculator or purple pen when you can spend a few dollars to have your own.

  27. Chloe*

    “One person cried about not having [a purple pen ] and feeling ‘so excluded’.”


    *sigh* I mean…..

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

      I’m agog at some of the stories here of people being so petty about office-supplies-drama (like the purple pens). Have they never been in a situation where something real is actually at stake, like the loss of a big contract or layoffs or regulatory changes or or or… I’m not sure what I should be feeling here – pity, jealously or superiority!

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        Exactly!! I always have to stop myself from asking people why they have so much emotion about normal office things like minimal process changes and supplies. You do wonder if they have literally nothing else going on in their lives.

  28. ginkgo*

    Ugh, the soap one reminded me of a family-owned small business I worked at in an old building with a crappy old tiny bathroom with a pedestal sink and nowhere really to put the soap. There was an exposed pipe that worked well enough to balance a bottle of liquid hand soap on, but my boss insisted on bringing in these travel-sized soap bars because she “had a ton of them at home” and would set them on the pipe and then they’d slip off and fall everywhere because IT’S SOAP and also the residual wetness from the soap made the paint all gross and why why why why couldn’t we just have a bottle of liquid soap. I threw the bar out the window on my last day.

    1. ginkgo*

      I should add that the owner of the business was not at all stingy. My boss was just crazy and completely inflexible.

    2. Robin Ellacott*

      Ha! Love that it got thrown out the window.

      Seems like even an eccentric boss would see that having random slippery soap on the ground was less than desirable.

  29. Apostrophina*

    I found #1 kind of funny; when my SO worked in a different department of my company, he used to buy purple pens for his own use because he found they were *less* likely to be stolen. Maybe all the purple pen fanatics were working in that one office?

    1. Dana Whittaker*

      When I worked in an academic division of a community college, my door was directly across from the office for fire science and EMS. I had a package of hot pink pencils that I loaned out if a student needed one. The fire science instructors appreciated being able to tell who came to class prepared, and who did not ;)

      1. Candi*

        This made me laugh. Fortunately, I’d swallowed my soda before reading.

        I can understand why the instructors in that specific course would be concerned about preparedness.

  30. Daniel*

    Number 20 is in contention of being the “I will confront you by Wednesday” of office supplies. It also made me feel very nostalgic about my time in Boston. I wasn’t so much a Hong Kong guy but there were many a day in Kendall or Inman Square. Many too many, given that I’m not there anymore.

        1. Candi*

          That is an example of technicians programming in a message that makes sense to them, but doesn’t make sense to the user. It means reload the paper tray.

          That kind of nonsense is why UX Design tries to involve users when developing products. Although some business types are still getting the importance of knowing what the user thinks before the product’s beyond the changeable point thunked into their thick skulls.

  31. Elizabeth West*

    9. The stapler

    I worked the front desk in an open office where I was the only woman (there were two other women in the company besides one of the owners, but not in that area). My desk was located directly opposite the supply closet. I had meticulously organized it into categories to make supplies easy to find.

    Despite this, these men would constantly come up to my desk and use my stapler, borrow a pen, etc., or ask me if they could flat-out have something of mine. I would just point to the supply closet. This pissed them off since it was just too much trouble to walk across the room and get something for themselves and apparently, it was my job to take care of their needs. *eyeroll*

    After my stapler walked off one too many times, I ordered a violently salmon pink-colored Xacto stapler from the office supply store. I printed out a label with a picture of Milton Waddams from the movie Office Space next to the word “MINE!” and affixed it to the stapler. No one touched it after that.

    1. The Smiling Pug*

      That’s almost what I resorted to after my pens and scissors kept mysteriously walking away…

        1. Candi*

          My dentist’s office apparently hits the Dollar Tree for the post-holiday sales. Those St. Patrick’s Day flowers were pretty distinctive. (And pretty.)

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Lol – I remember the original thread having a whole lot of talk about identifying marks or stripes in odd colors going on tools/supplies.

    3. Essentially Cheesy*

      I can totally relate. Spoiled coworkers are the worst that way. And yes I have a red swingline stapler and no one better touch it!!

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      When my two sons were teenagers, I developed a habit of buying things like pens, headphones, chargers etc, in hot pink color. Items in any other color would walk away within days of being bought, but I was always safe with hot pink.

      1. Windchime*

        One of my sons used to always swipe my socks because his didn’t make it into the laundry. I started buying white athletic socks that had pink on the toes and heels. He didn’t care about the color or that they were too small for him. He kept stealing my socks. Now he’s a married man and his wife has given up; she just buys all matching socks in bulk and they share.

        1. nym*

          My mom’s done this for 50 years. The first time I realized for my own self, as an adult, that I could buy socks that fit me and were not thick scratchy black wool one-size-fits-none was transformational. The world of women’s dress-weight socks, nerd fun-socks, and now, hand-knitted socks that perfectly fit my feet in beautiful colors!

          The Sock Realization was similar to the day I realized I could buy office supplies for myself if I wanted 40 colors of marker or five sizes of post-it. My office admin will buy requested supplies, within reason (a big step up from my last job), and I have a reason for multiple colors of markers and post its – I do a lot of brainstorming with groups – but sometimes I want something unreasonable for the fun of it, yaknow?

        2. Airkewl Pwaroe*

          Are you my ex-boyfriend’s mom? He used to steal my socks and, because his feet were slightly larger than mine, end up stretching them until I couldn’t wear them anymore (loose socks just feel weird). After we broke up, I threw out all my socks and bought new ones and it felt soooooo good.

    5. Butterfly Counter*

      I remember reading a Readers Digest story of a woman who worked at an autobody shop where her coworkers kept stealing her oil rag(s). Her solution was to sew lace around the outside of all of her rags and she mysteriously never lost another one.

    6. Bucky Barnes*

      I feel this. My cube used to be next to the copy room. I can’t tell you how many times people would come up to my cube to borrow something of mine. This is going to sound piddly but the worst was when someone took my silver staple remover that I’d been using for the last 12 years at work. It’s stupid but I loved that thing. It was gone. I finally found it in a conference room *months* later when my boss commented on what an odd staple remover it was. One of the claws had been bent at that point. It’s now in my file cabinet drawer and doesn’t sit out on my desk anymore.

      1. anonymous73*

        I totally get this. Personally, unless I knew someone really well I would never go rummaging through their things if I needed something like a pen or a stapler. That’s just rude.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        There’s nothing wrong with that. Your desk and the items on your desk are sometimes the only thing you can control at work, and not only marks your space, but marks your job and your importance in that job. If people just ignore that and take your stuff, they are not treating you as a peer or a fellow employee, they just think they are more important than you. It’s ridiculous.

    7. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      In my first newspaper job out of college, I worked nights, and there were not enough pica poles (basically rulers) and proportion wheels (used to resize photos) for everyone. Frequently I would come in and find that dayside had stolen mine, leaving me rummaging through THEIR desks before I could get any work done.

      Finally I bought my own oversized versions of each tool and labeled them with my name and the legend STEAL THIS AND FACE DIRE MEDIEVAL TORTURE. That was 1987 and I still have both of them!

  32. AnonInCanada*

    That copier story (o)-(o)

    What would make that director so fond of that old copier? Other than “I don’t want to learn how to use the new one.” I can’t fathom why would she be so attached to the old one?

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      I think, paired with the embezzlement, she didn’t want too much scrutiny on what the department could or could not afford. Never mind that the university paid for and approved that, she needed her own budget/reckoning to be the ‘official’ one. However, as zealots so often do, by trying to deflect attention she actually drew more.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        I was so baffled by the copier attachment, I missed the last paragraph in the story about the embezzlement! Now it begins to make sense to use this as a deflection on what she claims they can afford and what she spends and what she submits. Yeah, that’s why you have audit teams! Good that she ended up screwed in the end.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          *nods* You get a new copier, involving several levels of administration from several different departments, and suddenly someone in power is saying “hey, why are you being so parsimonious, you can DEFINITELY afford [pizza parties/the fancy pens/whatever else she used to cut corners]” and then there’s Trouble.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I think it was the wireless feature. She thought it was a side door into her computer. Which, since she was using it to commit a crime, is something she wanted to avoid.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        If I were going to be committing crimes at work, I wouldn’t be doing it with a work computer! But I guess this is what happens when you think “Well, I’ve been getting away with this so long, I’ll never get caught,” until the auditors come and oopsies!

    3. Must I Name Myself*

      Based on the OP’s comment below, I’m pretty sure “I don’t want to learn how to use the new one” was the actual answer, haha!

  33. L. Ron Jeremy*

    Re #20. Most all copiers make an electronic copy of whatever is copied and then store it internally.

    I’m not sure that everyone knows this when you’re making copies of your tax returns on your company’s rented copier or making copies of company IP.

    I let my manager know about this function when I saw a story on the news of stolen IP that was gleemed from old or replaced copiers. He immediately called the copier company and had them reformat the copiers hard drive during service or copier replacement.

    Just a word from the wise…

    1. irene adler*

      I know about this. And management does not.
      And I know everyone’s annual salaries, tax returns and the like, but management does not know that I know.
      Not gonna tell them either.

    2. TiffIf*

      I wonder if this old copier had less memory storage/purged the info regularly/no memory or something so there could be no proof of her activities?

  34. Gobbo McGobberson*

    Alison, I LOVE these office wars columns so much — you could run one every month and I would eat them up!! The coffee wars compilation is one of my favorites of all time XD Thank you for providing us with so much entertainment this Wednesday!!!

  35. Artemesia*

    Reading about Edith and the supply closet key reminds me of my first year as a professor. It was a long time ago before PCs and projection etc — and most of the faculty didn’t use newfangled media like overhead projectors and we still had to make the slides with typewriters and hand applied gels — but I the newbie and innovative did use an overhead projector. There were like 3 for the entire faculty and kept in a supply closet blocks away from the building I taught in and I had to physically carry the machine across campus — and even I as a newbie could see that was silly for one or two slides. I discovered there was a supply closet in my building and so started getting the projector there. WHEN the head of media found out he had the lock changed on the closet so I could not access it without a complex rigmarole. and so the next time I had an overhead, I just kept it in my office. i.e. stole it. The demand was low enough that I didn’t feel guilty But I always think about the media guy whose role was apparently to make it impossible to use media.

  36. Girasol*

    What is it with naming staplers? Whenever I got a new position I went to the office supply closet to see what I might reuse. I always found staplers that were named. “Evelyn,” I learned, was named after its previous owner’s wife. I can’t imagine a greater honor than having your husband name a stapler after you.

  37. Ebarr*

    Most office supply excitement I’ve ever had was finding a box of print heads for a golf ball type printer, which had been described as obsolete when I’d been in school. Office dinosaur bones you might say.

    1. Artemesia*

      I remember when those were the hot new thing — you COULD CHANGE FONTS on a typewriter. Such a marvel.

      1. Global Cat Herder*

        When my grandpa died, the thing I asked for to remember him by was his box of IBM Selectric print heads. I still look at it and remember how insanely happy he was, showing that off.

    2. Paris Geller*

      At my last job during my first month when cleaning/reorganizing my desk I found floppy drives that were older than I was. At least four people had the position (and thus, the desk) before me, all for at least 3-4 years each and one for over a decade.

    3. Nana*

      When our Office Hoarder retired (after 35 years, in 2007), we found an almost-full can of mimeograph ink. The custodians debated calling out a Hazmat team!

      1. Candi*

        “A blue or purple mimeograph ink comprising a blue or purple dye-stufi or its base, linoleic acid, a small proportion of phenol, magnesium carbonate, mineral oil and Turkey-red oil.”

        “Turkey Red Oil is also known as Sulfated Castor Oil. It is the only oil that will completely disperse in water. The oil is expressed from the seed. Sulfated castor oil is created by adding sulfuric acid to castor oil, and is considered the first synthetic detergent.”

        I think the custodians had the right idea, myself.

      2. Candi*

        “A blue or purple mimeograph ink comprising a blue or purple dye-stufi or its base, linoleic acid, a small proportion of phenol, magnesium carbonate, mineral oil and Turkey-red oil.”

        “Turkey Red Oil is also known as Sulfated Castor Oil. It is the only oil that will completely disperse in water. The oil is expressed from the seed. Sulfated castor oil is created by adding sulfuric acid to castor oil, and is considered the first synthetic detergent.”

        I think the custodians had the right idea, myself, between the phenol and the castor oil.

    4. WFH with Cat*

      STOP IT! You’re making me SO nostalgic for the IBM I had at work back in 19…mumble-mumble. It had a built-in correction tape as well, but you had to type everything backwards to use it. I got so fast correcting stuff that I could type backwards as fast as I typed forwards. It boggles my mind now.

    5. Rainy Day*

      I used to work in a Post Office (UK) and we had a refurbishment whilst I was there. In prepping for the refurb, we cleared all the cupboards out to get rid of anything we didn’t need or want any more.

      Lurking at the back of the cupboard was a device our regional manager excitedly referred to as a “zip-zapper”- some kind of analogue device for doing the accounting required for the job. They’d been using computers for at least 15 years by this point. I have no idea how old this thing was, let alone how it was meant to be used! I let her take it back to head office as a novelty since it was so old and obsolete.

  38. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    I forgot this one until I immersed my mind in the stapler stories. When I first started my current job (in publishing, back in the photo ready print days, so pro-paper) everyone had a stapler, but only two people had one that worked on more than two sheets. I did a user survey; tested them all; I created a stapler matrix. I determined that the best stapler is the Swingline 767. And it is sitting next to me now, twenty years later.

  39. Lacey*

    What a WILD set of stories. I kept thinking a story couldn’t be topped and them I kept reading and… oh boy!

    The paper trimming is mild yet hilarious, I can see that happening in one of my old jobs.
    The calculator story is the kind of thing that did happen at my old jobs.

    But the toilet paper – that was fantastic. Who does that? Who doesn’t realize they’re being wildly inconvenient? Oh my, I loved it.

    The URL was fantastic.

    But, obviously, Alison saved the best for last. That copier story is epic.

  40. SwampWitch*

    All I have that’s even close is in the college health center I worked at, our “office manager” (read: set in her ways older lady who couldn’t use the computer and would handwrite everything) would take old medical charts, cut them up, and use the backs as formal notepaper NOT scrap paper. She was literally sending memos and letters on medical carts with PHI on it. We got hit hard by the board of health that year, and I think the department was fined. I made out okay because I was the one who snitched.

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      Was she fired? As in “get your purse and get out, we’ll ship your stuff” fired?

    2. Candi*

      [insert .gif of a crowd wildly applauding]

      I hope she got bounced -“set in her ways” = “lawsuit waiting to happen” at that point.

  41. Joan Clayton*

    For #9 I would play “Smooth Criminal” at least twice a day for the rest of my tenure! I don’t care, write me up!

  42. Jessica Fletcher*

    The thing I miss most about being in the office is the annual benefits fair, where I would stock up on my favorite free pens from a particular vendor. I have one left, and I keep it in a special drawer in my home office. I’m saving it.

  43. Eeyore is my spirit animal*

    I have to laugh about the toilet paper one. Thanks to a collegiate stint as a janitor, I was the only person in the office that could change the toilet paper and fill the paper towels when we moved to a new building. I made some of the men learn since I wasn’t going into their bathroom.

    The Copier saga was hysterical. If its connection was unsecured, I wonder if she was using it to access the college network after hours.

  44. Uranus Wars*

    These are all so funny but at I couldn’t resist myself. I opened it up, poured a small amount out and refilled it with water. I never told anyone else about it I came absolutely unglued…and it only got worse from there.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My mom does this at her home. She used to come to my place and do it there. She does it to the hand soap, and the dish soap.

      My favorite (after the copier story and the Edith coup) was the pencil stub lady.

      1. Liz*

        I’ll admit to doing that with hand and dish soap in my own apartment, BUT only once, and just to get that last little bit out as I am cheap. and refuse to throw any jar or container or tube away that MAY have a teeny bit left.

  45. Robin Ellacott*

    The copier story also reminded me of Leverage and I am HERE for it.

    But #3 made me laugh so hard because this exact scenario is in a Terry Pratchett book at the wizards’ university. The librarian asks ‘Santa’ (not actually Santa – long story) for pencils, the Santa character wonders why, and the head of the university says they have to bring him a worn out pencil stub to get a new pencil. Santa is like “they must show the absence of a pencil??”

        1. Candi*

          My favorite bit in the book:

          “You can’t give her that!’ she screamed. ‘It’s not safe!’
          IT’S A SWORD, said the Hogfather. THEY’RE NOT MEANT TO BE SAFE.
          ‘She’s a child!’ shouted Crumley.
          ‘What if she cuts herself?’

  46. Newplanetneeded*

    and THIS is why I hope Aliens don’t contact us. How do we even BEGIN to explain our logic and behaviors…

    All of stories make me laughcry and feel second hand embarassment!

  47. Things*

    I will have you know that after reading #1, I immediately felt the urge to go on Amazon and buy a box of 12 purple Bic ballpoint pens. I don’t know if $5 is cheap or expensive for ballpoint pens, but that’s what it cost.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      You may have started a chain reaction. I, too, bought purple pens. Mine are a box of three Z-grip Flight ones for $5.

    2. pony tailed wonder*

      This may be the secret to Planet Fitness’s success. They have cups and cups of yellow barreled pens with purple ink at the front desk of all of their locations in my area. I used to take one each time I would work out there and bring it to work.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        They have pens? I just started going back there (took a year+ off for the pandemic) – I love them, but never saw the pens – that’d make me love them even more. Will take a closer look next time.

      2. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

        My dentist’s office has really nice personalized pens — like, truly good pens. And when they hand you one to sign something in the office, they tell you to keep it. Covid, you know. (I’ll take my silver linings where I can get them.)

    3. Mannequin*

      My favorite colored pens were the Paper Mate write bros stick pens in green, and I’m thrilled to see that they still make them!

  48. Not that kind of lawyer*

    I think we should start a chat on what is the strangest things people have tried to claim or expense at work! A friend of mine was waiting outside his former boss’s office for a meeting with him, when he overheard this conversation after his boss dumps a bunch of crumbled receipts from his pocket onto the admin’s desk:
    Boss: Here are the receipts from my trip to Vancouver for my claim.
    Admin: (looks them over and gives him back one) Oh, I don’t think you want me to claim this one.
    Boss: Yes, I want you to claim all of them, I wouldn’t have given it to you if I didn’t.
    Admin: No, I don’t think you want this one to go on our claim (gently but firmly)
    Boss: (Getting exasperated at this point). Just do what I told you and put all the receipts on my damn claim.
    Admin: Sir, I don’t think you can claim this purchase from the drug store for condoms.
    Boss: (turns beat red, as he grabs the receipt) and mumbles something under his breath.
    Then it was my friend’s turn to go into boss’s office for a meeting with him. Fun facts: Boss is married. Boss’s wife did not go with him on his business trip to Vancouver. Boss took a lot of business trips to Vancouver for meetings that could have been handled with a phone call. Boss was asked to take early retirement 2 months later.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh my god! oh my god! That should’ve been on the list right next to the copier one!

    2. A Feast of Fools*

      I was once the executive assistant to the president of a software company. He regularly had the company pay him back for prostitutes, cocaine, and strip clubs. The strip clubs were credit card receipts, at least. The others were either ATM receipts or receipts from writing a check out to “Cash” at the bank. He’d just write “Client Entertainment” on the cash things, sometimes listing one or two of the salesmen or maybe a client.

    3. Candi*

      I’m curious which Vancouver, WA or Canada?

      I think the screwiest I ever heard was someone trying to expense the hotel room they wrecked. Apparently cigarettes, broken glass, and multiple bodily fluids were involved.

      When that failed, they tried to get the hotel to forgive the expense for the damage. The hotel had already filed a police report by that time, though they eventually declined to ask the DA to press charges. So the response was “ha ha ha nope”.

      Somehow nitwit was still surprised when he lost his job and was banned from that hotel chain.

  49. Bethie*

    I dont have any crazt stories on office supplies – but I love this and everyone’s comments. Makes me greatful!

  50. Toots La'Rue*

    I also hate the Aeron chair… why would anyone frame the cushion that you sit on with plastic? One year my boss gave me an Amazon gift card for the holidays and I used it to buy a $50 replacement chair.

    1. Liz*

      We moved to a new building right before the pandemic. I had to google Aeron chair, and don’t you know, its what we have. our CFO got a deal on them. And I agree. i hate it. i’m, shall we say, fluffy, and the plastic cut into my fluffy thighs.

      1. Toots La'Rue*

        Yessss! I want softness where my legs hang over, who in the world wouldn’t? I’m also short enough that I can cross my legs or tuck one leg under me while I’m working, which just put my ankle directly in contact with the plastic.

        I’ve heard this is a nice / expensive / desirable chair, I’m surprised I’ve come up against it in two different jobs now.

  51. Robin Ellacott*

    The two managers in #3 fighting over chair placement delighted me because it’s just such a silly, recognizable human thing. So many of these reminded me of the story on here somewhere about the people passionately resisting a much-needed software update and going to a meeting with a folder titled HILLS TO DIE ON.

  52. FORMERHigherEdPerson*

    That last one was a ROLLER COASTER and I loved it.

    I hope the OP enjoyed some Scorpion Bowls at the Hong Kong ;-) They’re wicked awesome.

  53. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    The Furniture Hierarchy: I once worked at a place where the new hires were all given the intern-level chairs; the ones without armrests. The coworker that I was sharing an office with on my first week there, and that was training me as she was transferring to another department on another floor, had been with the company for years, and had a higher-level chair. It was a puffy-looking, pale pink chair with armrests. It also looked like it’d seen a lot, and was kind of losing its pale pink color. Truthfully, the chair looked nasty. But I was miserable without the armrests, so when the coworker asked me, on her last day, if I wanted the chair, I said sure! She then gave me the chair and left to go home early that day. I went to the restroom, came back, and my pink chair was gone and there was an a basic armrest-less chair sitting in its place. I looked around and someone in the room next to our office was sitting in my chair. I mean the chair was pink and hard to miss. It was almost time to go home, so I finished the rest of my workday, and then, as I was leaving, brought the basic chair to the chair thief, and said, “Hey Margot, here’s your chair back. Can you put mine back where you got it when you leave? Thanks!” Somehow, Margot did as I asked. The pink chair was back at my desk the next morning. Not that it endeared Margot to me, but the chair was worth it. This was the same workplace I posted about a few days ago, where I gifted a microwave to the office and never got around to using it myself, only to be told to clean it after my coworkers had messed it up. It was interesting.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Years ago, I asked if our team was going to get upgraded chairs anytime soon – the armrests were getting shredded, various controls didn’t work, and sometimes if you sat on the wrong chair it would slowly descend to the bottom of the pole. Was told, no, it wasn’t in the budget.

      Literally a month later, a whole swath of new chairs arrived in advance of summer intern season. You better believe those were swapped out overnight for the crummy chairs we’d been putting up with for several years. Sorry interns, you’re only here for 3 months (pre-pandemic) and we have to live with these all year round.

      Somewhere in that building, there’s a chair with a label of my name on it on the underside of the seat, so I could find it if I ever fell victim to a chair swap of my own. I forgot to remove it when we moved buildings so it could still be there.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I hear you about labeled chairs. This one was unintentional, but one time in my current job, after we had a meeting that was crowded to the point where people had to bring their own chairs to sit on, a well-meaning new guy decided to help out and take everyone’s chairs back to their desks after the meeting. Except that everyone’s chair looked the same, so everyone got a random chair back. I had to go track mine down, because my sweater was on it. I tied a piece of bright-colored ribbon to my chair after that, but nobody tried to play musical chairs (sort of) again, so I never ended up needing the ribbon.

  54. R*

    I’m imagining #5 as a heist movie where they’ve been planning this for weeks and there’s all quick cuts and dramatic music, one of the parents has to ask Edith all these questions to distract her, maybe the guy at the key store is behind someone who is getting 20 different keys copied. Edith starts getting suspicious and begins to make her way to the supply closet while we keep cutting to the guy frantically driving back. Maybe someone enlists their kid’s dance troupe to slow Edith down and block her way. Finally, he arrives just as she’s about to open the door, he desperately draws on his high school football skills (I think his character is like an Al Bundy trying to relive his glory days type) and throw it perfectly through the window and into the hands of the person who borrowed the key in the first place just as Edith enters. “Wow, these paper clips were really hidden!”

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        I bet it’s Danza Kuduro, like in that one heist scene from the Fast and the Furious! >D

  55. Allornone*

    The Key story reminded me that in my old office, the bathrooms were locked (we shared them and the floor with other organizations). We had a key for the men’s bathrooms (almost never used because we actually had no men in that office), one for the woman’s bathrooms, and one for the single-occupancy handicap/unisex stall. When we had to use the restroom, we had to sign out the key, almost like taking a bathroom pass in school. I heard of an app where you can take a picture of a key and have it made and sent to you. So I did just that. Within a week, I had my very own bathroom key. I told my boss (wanted to be on the up and up), and she found it hilarious. Next thing I know, several people are asking (and paying) for me to have individual keys made for them. I even gave one as a birthday gift. It made me quite popular in that office.

    1. anonymous73*

      I have never understood the reason behind locking the bathroom. Unless you’re in a building in the middle of a busy city and would have randos coming in to try and use them, what’s the point? Even if a building has multiple offices from different companies, everyone needs to use the bathroom.

      1. Windchime*

        My old office had to lock a restroom for this very reason. Someone came to work early one morning and found a naked homeless man washing up in the ladies’ room sink. They quickly put locks on the restrooms on that floor. They chose an easy passcode for employees so anyone could use it, just not people from outside.

      2. Allornone*

        To be fair, we were in a building in a major city, in an area where there was a significant homeless population. That being said, my office was on the seventh of an eight-floor building, surrounded by much larger and more impressive buildings, with a gated parking lot and sufficient security. I doubt anyone would be walking in. But hey, why fight the system when you can find easy loopholes around it?

    2. Nana*

      In my LA high-rise office, in a high-rent area, we had a Peeper…some man would go into a stall, stand on the seat, and then peep over at a woman in the next stall.
      Enough women complained that they locked every multi-stall women’s restrooms.

      1. Rainy*

        When I was in undergrad there was a peeper who haunted the third floor women’s washroom of the library. (No staff desks on the third floor==no one guaranteed to hear screaming.) The only people who cared were women students, it felt like at the time.

  56. Trombone*

    Is anyone else out there super picky about pens/paper, so just buy their own? I like a very specific kind of pen – smooth, thin metal (as opposed to the popular thick and sticky), so I just buy it myself? I mean, my pen will last 3-4 years with refills. I also enjoy pretty notebooks, esp. with narrow lined, slick paper, so I’m just going to buy them myself.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Me! Been doing it for years. Started a new job once that did not have a supply closet or any other way to get supplies from, went out and bought my own at a discount store, and then just continued doing it. Then again, every once in a while, my workplace would get new kinds of supplies that I wouldn’t have found otherwise, that I loved. Then I’d get the same brand for myself after they’d stop ordering it.

    2. imaginaryoranges*

      Me! I always use dot-grid notebooks (LIFE CHANGING) and good luck finding those on W.B. Mason. I DO load up on Pilot G-2s from work, buuut have brought in my own extensive supply of colored pens, highlighters in non-standard colors, etc.

    3. Liz*

      Yes. my company provides the basic BIC pens which I’m not a fan of. So I bought some Pilot G-2 pens. no one comes to my cube anyway, and I’m happy as a clam with my “nice” pens

    4. miss chevious*

      Oh, HECK YEAH. I am particular about my pens (Pilot V5 Precise OR DEATH) and paper (Milko A5 square grid spiral bound) and I don’t want any grief about it, so I just get my own. Most of the people I work with do the same, honestly. We are all office supply nerds. :)

    5. Candi*

      I think there’s a difference between the company supply basics (that work!), but you prefer something else and buy it, and paying the company to work by buying your own supplies since they only supply crap, or don’t supply anything. The first is preference, the second is need, and getting stuff you like is a side effect to having to buy stuff you need to do your job at all.

  57. JR*

    #4 drives me BONKERS. I can’t stand people who do something ridiculous over and over at work without ever questioning why, or if there’s a less tedious way to accomplish the same thing. In this case, the less tedious way is very obvious (just order the right paper size), so why isn’t the admin asking every 2 months if they can do that instead?

    1. CBB*

      The problem is you can’t trim A4 paper to standard US letter size because A4 is about 6mm narrower than letter.

      It sounds like this office had accidentally established its own unique paper size that could not be purchased.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I had to look up the sizing and that stuck out to me–google is telling me it’s roughly 8.25×11.75, so you cannot possibly trim that “down” to 8.5×11!

        Aside from that, I cannot imagine any deal at all would ever be worth the time it would take to trim each individual piece of paper and then the fact that once they had, they probably wouldn’t be quite perfectly straight!

        1. Candi*

          You’d need one of those paper cutters like crafts folk and teachers use. That would get you the straight edge and you could cut several at once. I still don’t think it’d be worth the time.

    2. anonymous73*

      Agreed. If something doesn’t make sense to me, I have no problem questioning why it’s being done. And “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” is not an acceptable response.

    3. Sea Anemone*

      Maybe bc they work for people who don’t like to be questioned. Maybe the ridiculous process is actually way less onerous than the fall out from suggesting something else.

  58. BeoWulf*

    Dang it, I missed the original post requesting these stories. I am a nurse in private clinic. A few years ago, we had a new manager come in and she didn’t like how the supplies were handled. We had coffee & tea for doctors, nurses, staff and patients. We also carried certain flavors per the request of district manager. Our manager decided we were drinking too much coffee which caused us to use too use the restroom to often which resulted in us using too much toilet paper. So manager kept the toilet paper locked in her office & would only replace it based on when she felt like it! Said manager also stopped ordering drink supplies since they caused us to use restroom more often. A few of us had to bring in our own supply of toilet paper. One of nurses ended up reporting manager to HR. HR investigated & also found other issues. She quit before HR fired her.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      “Keeping employees dehydrated in order to save TP” is certainly a new one to me!

    2. The Smiling Pug*

      “Replaced it when she felt like it??” O.o
      So sorry to hear that you experienced that…

    3. Berkeleyfarm*

      Good for your co-worker.

      Some people with their obsession with other people’s toilet habits, I swear. (Unfortunately they often find employment as office managers/executive assistants.)

  59. A Feast of Fools*

    #18 – We, too, had IT / electronics vending machines at my last company’s HQ [the Fortune 1 company]. At least, the machines were in the building where most of IT sat.

    I had a meeting with one of the IT bigwigs in that building and my manager went with me. After the meeting she was like, “Hey, let’s go check out the machines and see if there’s anything we need.” She had me badge a couple of the machines and get 7 or 8 expensive things that we split between us because that way she could approve my purchases when IT sent her an email. Which she happily did the next morning. Right before she turned in her two-week notice.

    I was like, “You genius of a sneak!” :-D :-D

    1. Enquiring Minds*

      If the writer of #18 is here – was this a company where, shall we say, boxes get dropped?

  60. Katherine*

    #12!!! I got moved to another floor and people complained because I then sat at a desk with wood trim that was for higher level staff. I was eventually moved across to the way to a lower level cubicle and the wood trim desk just sat empty. This furniture hierarchy was a hold over from a renovation from almost 20 years before too.

  61. RabbitRabbit*

    I’m getting the same results – googling “Massachusetts embezzlement scandal” is a full first page of the college admissions bribery issues, plus one article on overseas scammers targeting students.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      I found it, but it didn’t get much publicity because it utilized student information- which is also why OP didn’t post more information, and probably part of why Alison keeps deleting the threads where people say what the incident was.

  62. megatron*

    Wait a minute…. would this be admin from a prestigious university that embezzled approx $110,000 for some “x rated” items????!

    1. Copier Girl*

      AHAHA no!!!! That is not me!! BUT I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.

      What is with higher ed?!

      1. The Smiling Pug*

        Higher ed tends to be a hotbed of strangeness, if not outright dysfunction because they tend to run on tradition and the mindset of “This is the way X has always been done, even if it’s not right or common-sense.” It makes for a very interesting environment.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          And some of the people drawn to higher ed march to their own beat. Signed, a lifelong higher ed person who marches to her own beat.

  63. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

    The purple pens reminded me of an incident when I moved to the normal part of my company. Each director on a floor was responsible for doing the weekly order for the supply closet in their section. He had delegated the task to one of the more senior non managers in the group. One time, she ordered purple legal pads instead of the standard yellow ones. They were lovely. They were popular. They went like hot cakes. She ordered more. We took more. He got the invoice to approve. They were expensive. They were disallowed. One of the more vocal managers wasn’t happy. She loved them. After the supply ran out, she became more vocal about it. My best friend and I went out, bought our own purple legal pads AND purple pens. Every meeting we had with her, we took them and made a big show of using them so she’d notice. Notice she did. She wanted to know where we got them. We replied, from the supply closet. This set her on a hunting trip to find out who circumvented the rules and how it was that she didn’t get a purple legal pad. Months. We did this for months. It. Was. Fun.

    1. Robin Ellacott*

      Fantastic. :)

      Funny, we seem to be seeing a lot of desire for purple pens, highlighters, pads…. I am torn between asking the current Supply Person to get something purple and see what happens… and fear of what happens.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Add in t-shirts. We recently got t-shirts for all staff, and one of the sample shirts sent for *sizing only* was purple.

        Probably 3/4 of people got really excited by purple shirts, then very disappointed when we said they were sizing only, we were getting grey.

    2. Candi*

      That kind of taunting says her worst fault was far beyond being vocal.

      Or you two were terrible people.

      But I’m going with her have severe faults.

  64. Anon For This*

    Missed the original thread. I worked in a company that occupied 5 floors out of a 9 floor building. There was not a single tampon or pad dispenser in the entire building. I looked in every bathroom and on every floor. No dispensers, no supplies. The building had a convenience store, no supplies. I asked fellow coworkers, and they mentioned it had been a problem that had been brought up to management before without resolution. None of my immediate coworkers had supplies I could borrow that day. I had to drive a mile to get to the nearest store. I escalated the need to HR. They didn’t view it as necessary for supplies. But we had free cereal and soda and gourmet coffee that they stocked and monitored. I brought it up to my director. They escalated to their VP. Nothing. I mentioned it to the women’s diversity group, the leader of which didn’t fee like it would be professional to bring it up to leadership and that it would hurt the credibility of women to emphasize the need for “supplies” and that it wasn’t relevant to DEI initiatives. Finally, they hired a woman VP. I mentioned it to her. HR started stocking supplies for free in all bathrooms the week after. It only took me nine months to get it accomplished. I found this overall scenario to be indicative of the company’s overall attitude towards women.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Well done you for persisting with this! It’s NOT OPTIONAL for women to need access to these.

    2. Berkeleyfarm*

      Good for you.

      My present company is kind of out in the middle of nowhere in an industrial park and runs a 24 hour operation. I was impressed with the full baskets of “supplies” in all the women’s rooms.

  65. Copier Girl*

    Hey, #20 Copier OP

    I”m glad I could give you guys a laugh. I was in that job for seven years, and it was A RIDE. The in real life LOL was intense, and I’ve legit gotten free booze at conferences repeating some of my stories. All y’all have given me a laugh trying to figure it all out – I didn’t know people would care!

    Spoiler: I don’t think the copier had any evidence of her embezzlement! I think she was just weird about the copier. She was like that with a lot of things – I had a time clock-in stamper by my desk that did not work, was not used, but if I dared MOVE it to a location in the office not my desk, she flipped. I took to wrapping it in colorful scarves so I didn’t have to look at it.

    Some of the things I spoke about in dispositions were about students, which was the parallel federal level investigation going on at the time, so I’ll keep that there. The embezzlement… I’m trying to figure out how to explain it, but it is not a traditional “she stole the petty cash” situation.

    I think the best way to explain it is, no one in the upper management checked that salary budgets in our department were actually paying out what was agreed on. So, my boss for probably for over a decade wrote her own raises, that were really outside the norm of the university, until she was paid way outside her max band of salary for her position, on top of a very high 401k match payout. However, since she had been there for so long, when people started to notice, they were newer employees and assumed this was part of her grandfathered in compensation package (if you got in before the recession, uni benefits packages were INCREDIBLE). It took the lay offs to start and how my boss reacted to finally get her caught. She tried to fight all of our unemployment claims because… no idea, she was mad? And that kicked off the state investigation, which got added to the federal investigation, which led to an increase in civil suits from both students, employees, and eventually the university against her.

    She managed to get another job at a tiny college after she was let go, since our big research university didn’t make waves at the time, before the students at our big university figured it out and outed her. She was let go very quickly after that, and I haven’t heard about her since. At one point, she interviewed at a HBCU, and I had a friend that worked there called me screaming IS THIS YOUR EXBOSS? IT HAS TO BE. It totally was: she was scandal ridden and tried to slip into her old job at another uni after their equal department director was forced out for WAIT FOR IT– embezzlement. After I confirmed to friend, suddenly that interview just disappeared. LOL.

    Be nice to your admins: we won’t haunt you, but we know everyone and will spill tea when prompted.

    1. BethRA*

      Was an admin for a high-ranking professor at one of Boston’s major uni’s, and until the embezzlement bit, I was convinced we’d worked for the same woman. Brilliant woman, but… bananas.

      1. Copier Girl*

        Yeah, this was staff side! This was not a professor! I think if we had been an academic department, this would have been caught sooner as they are more carefully audited. I don’t even remember an audit ever happening while I worked there.

        1. TL -*

          That would not fly for most professors – a lot pay part of their salaries through grants and those numbers get looked at very, very regularly.

    2. Sea Anemone*

      Was there any fall out for upper management? I mean, it’s a problem that she subverted the system, but the system allowed her subversion, so the real fault is there.

      Man, if I had retirement worth $2M, I would not be looking for another job (unless health insurance was hard for me to get). I’d just frickin’ retire. But then, I’m in this for the paycheck, not the power trip.

      1. Copier Girl*

        Yes, there was! It was just folded into the very large layoffs that were happening at the time. But everyone that was a supervisory role over her or was in an equal standing that should have been a check-in point to prevent the issue is no longer at the university. Most retired during the investigation process as they saw the writing on the wall, some took other non-supervisory roles at other campuses before moving on. Lots of people were offered early retirement payout at a lower amount across the university at that time if you left then because again, retirement packages for legacy employees were EPIC. It saved the uni money and they saved face. Stuff did change afterward.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I am convinced that fighting unemployment always leads to bad things (as well as generally being a shitty thing to do) and this confirms it.

      1. Copier Girl*

        Yes, I don’t think it would have been caught (in the same way) and would have gotten an early retirement buy out to get her gone if not what her attempt to fight unemployment. Best way to get someone gone with least fuss and cheapest option: retire them.

        1. Berkeleyfarm*

          Probably went to people who weren’t the regular “we are letting her get away with this” crew.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        Fighting one unemployment claim led to a big clusterfudge for my one crazy ex-boss who also didn’t pay us for a month.
        Turns out he was withholding all our payroll taxes but not paying those taxes.

        1. Candi*

          If he was in my state, the DOL would tear him a new one. If they were in a good mood that day. They mean Serious Business when they step up.

          Worst law-breaking OSHA-violating union-forbidding place I ever worked still didn’t mess with them.

    4. Olivia Mansfield*

      Wow — what an update to an already epic story! I love that the chain of students and admins kept her from doing this at another college.

      1. Candi*

        In the “my employee sent me a “letter of intent” to look for another job”, there was a discussion on how the academic grapevine runs old and deep, and demonstrated it with a reference to a 1980s’ conference referred to in an OP comment as “that Icks and Herps conference”.

        This is never going away.

    5. serenity*

      I was sure I knew what this case was (others referred to it above) but it was not the same and I’m a little gobsmacked that this happened at what sounds like another major university. I’m so curious! But kudos to you for moving on and it sounds like things have been – at long last – put under control at your old workplace.

    6. Berkeleyfarm*

      Oh wow. What a ride.

      Yeah, “grandfathered in”. I would say that those multi-function copiers aren’t cheap and she should have been on the hook for the $$ for the one she destroyed, but if she was adding funny money to her budget, she actually had it squirreled away. (She had intended it for her own pocket.)

      You’re right in that she should have been better supervised. She was obviously “managing up” well.

  66. Lady Blerd*

    Oh man I missed the initial prompt but my story is boring compared to these. I used to be the supply person for my department and one thing we needed by the dozen were red pens because we were constantly making corrections in documents and it was required that it be done in red pens. So one day I send my order and the office administrator wrote back asking why we needed red pens for. I only heard about it afterwards because the email stopped at my boss’ level who told off the administrator, they had a reputation for being tight fisted with the budget. When I moved on to my current employer who would just hand over the catalogue when we needed something, it took a long time for me to to let go of a self-imposed frugality regarding office supplies.

    1. Berkeleyfarm*

      I knew a company was circling the ground when the office administrator yelled at me about a CD-ROM order. Which was part of our offboarding process. Which we were laying a lot of people off.

      Obviously people tried stealing my CDs so I had to lock them up.

      It’s nice being allowed to order necessary supplies.

  67. Dana Whittaker*

    These are just awesome, and so representative of office culture no matter what industry. Also why I buy my own damn office supplies with my own dang money and have no problem saying “Nope, that is my personal _____. Here is the link if you want to purchase it for yourself.”

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

    All of the furniture for higher level people stories have me very worried — after my boss retired this last Spring, they ended up moving our department to another floor, and as part of that shit show, we had to surplus about half of our furniture/stuff (not crying about that, Old Boss was a hoarder but not quite as bad as copier lady). Since it would just get trashed (literally), I snagged my old boss’ chair — with approval from my new supervisor, since he was keeping his same chair — and now I have a leather executive chair! Except that I also have a convertible standing/sitting desk so I almost never sit in the chair.

  69. CatsRule*

    I once worked at a major law firm in a major city (current/former employees of the same vintage may recognize these stories; the person who told them to me some 30 years ago and was actually there obviously isn’t there anymore but I hope the stories are still part of the admin staff lore about the place). This was told by someone who worked in the typing pool waaaay back in the day. They all used carbon paper. They were given one sheet of carbon paper at a time. When they needed a new sheet, they had to hold up the old one to show that you could see through it, then the manager would give them a new single sheet. When the office switched from manual typewriters to electric, infrastructure hadn’t yet caught up. There was only 1 electrical outlet in the room, so the typists had to take turns typing. I imagine the wars over who needed the outlet the most were legion (my partner is more important than your partner)! So office supply wars have been going on for decades if not forever!

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      my ex owns a tiny chain of copy centers. On one storied occasion, he found a misprint in the Staples flyer and was able to score 10,000 letter openers for 1 cent each. For a while he was giving out a free letter opener with every order over $50.

  70. A.*

    All the kitchen ones (why is there so much kitchen drama in offices!!) (I know why) reminded me of the time I had to literally label the milk shelves to stop grown adults from opening multiple cartons of milk when there were already open ones in the fridge. We were spending twice as much on milk because it kept going bad due to it already being opened. The fridge required big “DO NOT OPEN IF THERE IS OPEN MILK” signs on the shelves.

    I delayed doing it because it felt so patronizing, like I was dealing with four year olds. But the problem really did stop once I put the signs in. ugh.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Is this a British thing? Because I’ve been in lots of offices across the US, including some really upscale ones, and milk was never provided. At best there’d be some little mini packages of cream, enouvh for one cup of coffee, or plain and flavored non-dairy creamer.

      1. misspiggy*

        Because you can’t use creamer in tea without creating an eldritch horror, milk is needed frequently in the average British office. Those that are foolish enough not to provide it end up with fridges stacked full of individual milk cartons, all going off much quicker than one big one would.

    2. quill*

      I once had a coworker store an entire 14 pound turkey in our biosamples freezer.

      1) absolutely NO food in the lab.
      2) No really we worked with both human and porcine biosamples. cross contamination was a concern. In both directions.
      3) the other thing in the fridge was 2 million tiny vials of concentrate for the turkey to conveniently crush…

      1. Cute Li'l UFO*

        My goodness, even trying to fit a turkey in my own home fridge leading up to Thanksgiving is a high-stakes Tetris game. I can’t imagine trying to jam one in a freezer with tiny biosamples! Let alone the cross contamination. Plus causally carrying around a frozen turkey!

    3. Candi*

      Honestly? I think half the effect of those signs is the people who have been ignoring manners and “forgetting” reminders can’t pretend they “didn’t know/forgot” any longer once it’s IN THEIR FACE right at the time. Which says very sad things about their mentality.

      My theory on “why” they kept opening new cartons is the same as Ramona’s when Beezus caught her taking one bite out of each of a pile of apples -“the first bite/sip is the best!” Keeping in mind Ramona was something like four in that book.

  71. fort hiss*

    Someone else who gets migraines from yellow highlighters?! Wow! I thought it was alone! Though I would be perfectly happy to use pink, green, or blue, just not yellow, and no orange if it’s very bright like the yellow. I

  72. quill*

    I have to wonder if the old copier was tied to the embezzlement scheme? Like “embezzles the funds for the copier, terrified of being found out when the new one comes in” or “somehow needs a copier to embezzle, afraid a new copier will get her caught.”

  73. FD*

    #15- Oh, how I wish that she had prefixed Bat- to everything just to make the aesthetic complete.

  74. LunaLena*

    In fairness to #9, the stapler guy – the admin kind of proved his point by taking his stapler without asking the one time he relaxed his guard over it. I don’t care that the narrator said that they fully intended to return it; I used to work in front-facing customer service and know for a fact that even the most well-meaning borrowers forget to do so. There were many times that someone would ask to borrow a pen, for example, and as I handed it over I would ask them to please remember to return it because our office was running low on pens from people walking away with them all the time. They would say they understood, and then I’d watch them start to put the pens in their bags as they walked away and would have to yell after them to Bring the Pen Back, Please.

  75. fine tipped pen afficionado*

    Pretty sure #19 is fake because that is the plot of like the very first episode of The It Crowd.

    1. XF1013*

      I’m OP #19. I didn’t witness the supply closet incident, so all I’m doing is relaying the story that became a bit of a legend in our company. It happened around the time that “The IT Crowd” came out in the mid-2000s, so it could have been made up by the first person who told it; I’ve never seen the show and wouldn’t know. I really did hear the story (multiple times), and the rest of the details about the account manager’s length of employment were real. I still remember the CEO introducing her in an all-staff meeting as this brilliant genius who was going to bring in lots of new business and grow the company, which was obviously never mentioned again. :-)

      1. fine tipped pen afficionado*

        Definitely not doubting execs being garbage at hiring and putting completely the wrong person in position! It seems like the details of the supply closet incident might have been mythologized a bit into a better story than what actually happened, but still illustrated the frustration of the situation accurately.

      2. Candi*

        It wouldn’t surprise me if it were an example of art inspiring life. Someone saw the episode, account manager comes around asking about “URLs”, someone realizes this is a golden opportunity to expose her ignorance and uses the IT Crowd inspiration to do so. As a bonus, there’s plausible deniability since they can claim they were totally just talking about the TV show.

  76. Former HR Staffer*

    one of my first jobs was admin at an accounting firm. new manager gets hired in, and current manager is somehow threatened and on the warpath.

    1. office space. she literally measured his office (they were all pretty much the same) and one length was 1 foot longer. angry campaign ensues to move her to an office of the exact same size or greater.

    2. names on the magazine subscriptions. new guy was put in charge of professional publications. my job was to catalog each issue by putting them in a bin with the same title for that year. we kept several past years issues the same way for reference in a hallway closet.

    he had me change all the subs to his name. when she found out, she was livid and asked me to change them back to her name. the. he found out and asked me to change them back. not wanting to change them again, i went to the partner (their immediate boss), and he said to change them to HIS name so they’d stop bickering over who’s name was on the magazines.

    3. admin tasks. if i was working on a task for one, the other would immediately tell me to stop and give me a task to do that was more important and needed to be done now. even if it was a menial BS task.

    it was the pettiest bunch of ppl in their 50s i’ve ever worked for (and the co was regularly featured in working woman’s best companies to work for list… HA!)

  77. river*

    The overlabelled cabinet warms my heart. It reminds me of the time I house sat for someone, and they were learning a new language, so every object in the house was labelled with the name of the object in the other language. It was a little surreal at first but it was amazing how quickly I tuned it out. I hope it worked for them.

    1. kitryan*

      I grew up in a fully labeled house, as it’s part of a method for teaching children to read while very young (the Doman method). So everything was labeled for me and then later for my sister. Friends would come over and ask why the chair said ‘CHAIR’ and so forth.
      To be fair, it definitely worked for me and I think for my sister as well.

  78. A313*

    Wow, these are amazing! My first office job also made you request from the office manager a new pen by turning in the old pen to prove you needed it. I was making $11,000 a year in 1985 (it wasn’t much then, either) and I was buying my own pens.

    Same job had free coffee, soda, and juice (limit on soda/juice to 2 a day). At the end of the year, you were given a pretty standard printout of your salary, the dollar amount of your insurance benefit paid on your behalf, how many sick days you took off, etc. Except, they somehow *knew* how many sodas and juices you drank all year and put an accurate dollar amount of the benefit you received in beverages. One employee NEVER drank any of their soda or juice, and even though I worked next to her, never realized this. And at the end of the year, her printout for her juice and soda benefit was zero.

    We had rudimentary computers for data entry, but we had to type checks (with multiple carbon copies) on the typewriter. My typewriter used a font ball that was proportionally spaced — if you needed to correct an “i” and make it an “m” good luck — there wasn’t enough space, as the “m” takes up much more space than an “i.” I was told that the office manager (she of the “provide a dead pen to get a new one”) favored the proportional font. However, it became clear that I was wasting too many checks (with carbon paper copies — multiple — that also needed to be corrected), that I was finally allowed to use a ball where each letter and number took up the same amount of space when typed, and was more easily correctable.

    Same office manager would ask me who last used the copier if it ran out of paper while she was using it, since I sat near the copier. I always said I didn’t know/couldn’t remember.

    And at the advice of a coworker, I started taking my mistakes home — ruined checks that I had mistyped, something printed out by accident. She told me the office manager went through our trash every night, and I believed her. Could also be how the coworker who never drank any juice or soda had a zero balance, as there were never any empties in her garbage can.

    And though I had an inkling this was all bonkers, it was my first office job, so what did I know?

  79. Data Analyst*

    Seeing the phrase “controversial calculator” summoned a memory of an early job I had, where I shared an office with a guy who was the owner’s son, and he had a novelty calculator that played a different sex noise for each button.

  80. Distracted Librarian*

    The furniture hierarchy: I first encountered that sort of ridiculousness when I was an undergrad student employee in my campus library. We got a new dean, who was right out of library school (back in the days when if you were male, you could become a dean or director right out of school) and… interesting. I worked in Special Collections, and the head of that department had a lovely antique wood desk that had been a gift from a donor ages ago.

    New dean shows up and decrees that she has to give up her wood desk because staff who outrank her have metal desks, and that Cannot Stand. That level of pettiness did his reputation no favors, even in academia.

    One other fun story about this guy (which has nothing to do with office supplies):
    Part of my job was to greet researchers when they came to Special Collections (part courtesy, part security). The Dean would come and go regularly, usually heading straight for either my boss’ office or the stacks, so I’d look up from my work, notice it was him, and go back to work without saying anything (since he didn’t deign to speak to me if I greeted him, me being a lowly student worker and all). Next thing I know, my boss tells me the dean has issued a new decree: All students working in the reading room must make–and this is a direct quote–“oral contact” with everyone who enters the reading room. I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling her they’d have to pay me a lot more than $3.50/hour for that service.

  81. SweetFancyPancakes*

    “On the lavatory, there was a brand new bottle of liquid soap. I couldn’t resist myself. I opened it up, poured a small amount out and refilled it with water. I never told anyone else about it.”
    Am I the only person who felt kind of bad for the lady who put out a brand-new bottle of soap for her guests and then one of them dumped some of it out?
    I do get that it would be annoying (and worse- I read the comments above that say it can harbor bacteria) but it seems really petty to do it at her house. At a party she invited the LW to. Just me, then?

    1. Candi*

      Most people I’ve heard of who are that level of tight-fisted and petty have a bad attitude that seeps into every part of their lives. They rarely have enough people who are willing to come to a party they throw if the invitees can come up with a socially plausible excuse.

      But the people who have to work for these penny pinchers can be invited, with the implicit understanding that life will be Cerberus territory at work if they don’t attend.

      You’ll find a much milder version of this on situation comedies, often written by people who don’t realize how exploitative this practice is.

  82. ggg*

    OP for furniture hierarchy #2:
    Even though my company was (maybe still is) weird about doling out the precious wooden furniture, they are awesome about providing ergonomic chairs and I have never wanted for pens or other office supplies. For that I am truly grateful.

  83. ThatLibTech*

    I really, really did not think any story was going to top the simple phrase “She could squeeze a nickel until the buffalo pooped” but #20 really, really went there. Oh my god.

  84. Berkeleyfarm*

    Oh my God, #18. As someone in IT Ops I can tell you that people regarded our spare-parts cabinet as Frys/Office Depot they didn’t have to pay for or make a trip for. Whole laptops disappeared as well. We had to put in locks and cameras.

    We could not keep USB drives in stock. And the pouting when we said we didn’t have X thing they wanted – “well if you want a 30′ long crossover cable, you can order it from Fry’s in and drive over to pick it up”. They’d come back later and ask another one of us, not realizing WE HEARD THE WHOLE INTERCHANGE BEfORE.

    I can totally see people going hog wild with a vend-o-mat that they didn’t have to put their own cash money into. I imagine charge-backs of everything to their dept as an itemized thing would have fixed it.

    One of the smarter things we did was getting a personal laser jet that was old _out of the building_ after the person who had wheedled it had quit. The vultures came around sniffing for “a printer to take home”. N.B. all of those people were making good money.

  85. raida7*

    20. The copier
    Great story!

    I know of a few businesses that, after seeing others have issues with ‘great’ or ‘unreplaceable’ staff being thieves introduced new policies very quietly.
    If someone is one more than two occasions *overly difficult* then they check their email, chat, file etc history. They audit them to see if the displayed behaviour is of someone entitled enough to steal, who thinks they are important enough that nobody will check, who is a blocker to remain in control of processes they are manipulating.
    Turns out it’s a pretty good policy, and they just get rid of these terrible staff, charge them with the thefts, move on with happier work environments.

  86. MagicEyes*

    We can order any supplies we want as long as we’re not too extravagant, so we don’t usually have a lot of drama around supplies. Except for one time when I was out of the office, and my Horrible Coworker needed some folders. So she took some from my office, which should have been fine, but instead of telling me she had taken them and would replace them like a normal person would, my boss got upset that I was “hoarding” folders in my office, took all of my folders and put them in the supply cabinet. Then she told me I couldn’t keep any office supplies in my office. So in revenge I ordered more folders when I ordered supplies and squirreled them away in different closets and cabinets, and of course hid some more in my office. When we reorganized the office supplies much later, there was a whole shelf full of these folders, which we don’t even use anymore.

    One time I requested a six-pack of Kleenex instead of buying it myself. Before I even knew it was there, several of my coworkers went into my office and helped themselves to my tissues. I wouldn’t have minded sharing if anyone asked, but now I feel like I can’t trust these people. I suspect that my coworker who somehow sees all and knows all spilled the beans to some other people.

    I’m still holding a grudge against my evil ex-boss for stealing my highlighter. It’s an unusual size, and I can’t get them at my local pen emporium now. I should have stolen it back.

  87. Giraffe in a Funny Hat*

    Not exactly office supplies, but kind of related: at my previous job, a lady was retiring, who was on the same level as me but had been there for ages. And that should probably be “retiring” in scare quotes, because what actually happened was that the higher-ups had been after her for some time to make certain specific changes to processes in her area of responsibility. She didn’t want to, and eventually–when she ran out of stalling tactics–said something like, “If you want it done that way, I’ll quit and you can get somebody else to do it.”

    And they, instead of begging her to stay and promising she could do whatever she wanted for the rest of ever, said, “Okay–what should we put as your last day?”

    So I had to take over some of her duties until a replacement was hired. She pulled all kinds of tricks–refusing to produce any documentation about the processes she was responsible for, telling me that the only time she possibly had available to show me her procedures was first thing in the morning (while I worked 2nd shift, and lived over an hour away), giving me slightly-wrong passwords for the systems she was supposed to be training me on, etc.

    But the creme de la creme came when it was time to hand over the email address for her job function. This was a totally separate account from her personal address–think “,” except it wasn’t returns. (But it was something where the address was used in a number of external systems relating to that function, and also listed in a ton of places for people both inside and outside our organization to contact us about that function.)

    For several weeks, she kept telling me she didn’t “have it ready” to hand over. Finally I had to get our boss to speak to her about it, and she said flat-out that she was not going to give me the password to it. For me to see the emails she’d sent using it was an invasion of her privacy. (Even though the only thing she *should* have been using it for was the specific job function that I was taking over. When asked why she couldn’t just delete any personal material that had accidentally been sent through the account, she said that she was too busy to go through it and find them. And she couldn’t just delete everything, because there were things in there that she wanted to save.

    Since she was leaving anyway, there wasn’t really any leverage anyone could apply on her. We ended up having to get IT to create a new email account for that function–and then I had to find every place that the old address was used or displayed, and change it to the new one.

    And then, of course, we got IT to axe the old address, so the disgruntled retiree gained absolutely nothing from having held it hostage, except for the pleasure of knowing she had caused significant inconvenience to several people who had nothing whatsoever to do with the grievance she was flouncing over.

    1. Giraffe in a Funny Hat*

      She also:
      1. Threw herself an enormous goodbye party,
      2. Mysteriously acquired an enormous desk–bigger than the one our boss had (and with a wooden credenza, no less!)–that took up like half the space in the work area she shared with me and four other people, and
      3. When she finally left, we found no fewer than six staplers (two still in their original packaging) in said desk, despite a chronic stapler-shortage in the shared work area.

      So you can see why this listicle reminded me of her.

    2. Candi*

      Is there a reason IT couldn’t get into the email account? I know that in a lot of organizations, all emails, both internal and external, get stored on servers, and no one can hide their shenanigans if someone goes sniffing around. IT should also have had access to do a hard reset on the password -that level of access should be configured from the start.

      (Guess what next week’s IT classes are about?)

  88. MelissaJB*

    Amazon Prime has the series Modern Love based on the NYT column. I think they need to make some of the letter Alison gets into a series, too. #20 would be a great episode.

  89. ForgotMyNameAgain*

    #3 – oh god this would drive me potty. I work in a library with a manuscript department, and I am forever losing pencils because the manuscript staff forget to bring their own. Then the pencil slides into the pocket once they’ve done the work in their department, aaaand I’m down another pencil.

    I tried to circumvent this once by buying some pencils with brightly coloured and very clashy barrels – very obviously Not Provided By Work. They lasted a little longer – a few months instead of a few weeks – but I have none of them left either now. So now I just have a bad name with the supply closet for my constant demands for more pencils!

  90. Violet*

    #7 – I’m old enough to remember the awful red pens. They drug on the paper, left bare patches, and made thinner lines (or thinner patchy lines) than they were supposed to. I still remember the feeling of shock when I used the first one and the growing disappointment and loss of hope with each subsequent pen. I love colored pens, but I haven’t bought a red pen in all the years since. Good on you for turning them down!

    1. Candi*

      Try red gel pens. Very nice and smooth.

      (I use the black and blue ones for signing stuff… accidentally shoved a sparkly black one in my purse before going to the doctor’s one time. The assistant thought it was hilarious.)

  91. often trapped under a cat*

    The reference to wooden office furniture reminds me of how an employer provided people with “new” furnishings. New staff at higher levels were given a furniture allowance, which was kind of cool. Sometimes the company would acquire a smaller firm and move them into the existing offices. So over time, the company gradually developed a stock of used furniture of varying ages and quality. This was all kept in the basement of our office building.

    Which meant that if your desk or chair or whatever broke, you had to go down into the basement to “shop” for a new one. Usually desks, credenzas and the like would be old and somewhat battered, but usually in better condition than whatever you were trying to replace. Not so the chairs, which generally were in very bad shape. But unless you were a bigwig, you could not get the company to spend money on a new chair.

    I developed back pain at one point and went through something like four chairs in the course of a year. In the end, I found one where the seat was in reasonably good condition. The back was awful–wrong height, wrong shape, etc. and I had to bring in a cushion from home to make it bearable–but I could not get them to give me a new chair.

  92. Chilipepper attitude*

    “precious higher-management-level wood”
    I’m giggling over this one. Did not read all the comments but am I the only one to read this in a NSFW way?

  93. JB*

    #2. Chairs can be such an emotional roller coaster. I worked for a company where we got new chairs for the classroom where customers received their EXPENSIVE product tutorial. But apparently there was nothing in the budget to get new chairs for the staff. Everyone complained and then the head of Sales decided that since we only hosted classes about once a week, the sales guys could take chairs from the training room and every time we had a class the instructor would go throughout the building to gather the chairs for the day. You can imagine how that went over.

    The arguments. The sheer amount of time wasted. Instructor came in early to set up class so many came into office with no chair that day. Those already working would refuse and a director would have to mediate. It was insane.

    I’ve frequently been involved in jobs with training and have never failed to encountered one where there weren’t at least a few instances of chairs being “stolen” from the classroom and an older, banged up one left in its place. This also is crazy as the set is normally purchased to match, often a different color from standard office chairs (for exactly that reason).

  94. Shelli*


    That turned quickly!!! We need UPDATES on #20 – I was totally invested in the Karen who wouldn’t agree to update stuff, and then, BAM! Embezzlement charges!

  95. Lumme*

    At OldJob, the head of my department and one of her subordinates would make hardboiled eggs for two dozen colleagues who came into the head office for meetings because many of these colleagues wanted to eat them for breakfast every day or a three or four day meeting. They would do this 3 or 4 times a year, shopping at Costco and then spending the night before the meeting started boiling dozens of eggs….. When the egg boilers left the organization, the new director refused to cook for colleagues. She was like “we can order catering for breakfast that includes boiled eggs, but no one is cooking for you or going to Costco. That is not the function of our team.” People were mad that she wouldn’t make the eggs at home for them but she held firm. Good for her!

  96. notasecurityguard*

    re: the chairs. I actually HATE chairs with arms. like to the point where at half the buildings I was in the only chairs they had for me had arms so i’d go in with a screwdriver and take the arms off. (which did get me some weird looks the first time i walked into my office whistling with a screwdriver and walked out carrying two chair arms)

    i can only imagine the uproar that would have caused

  97. Candi*

    I suppose I should be glad the biggest drama I ever had was when we ran out at work and the boss told me to grab a pack from the floor -it was a family-owned dollar store. (Not the Store or Tree.) I don’t know how they balanced that, though.

    The biggest annoyance I’ve had is with school supplies. Every. flipping. year. the kids had to have shiny new supplies. Even if they’d only used 5 pages in a 30-page notebook because so much had moved online.

    I saved all the stuff that was salvageable.

    I’m going on three years in college and still haven’t had to buy notebooks or binder paper -even after the class where the teacher was due for retirement at the end of the year and until then insisted on doing the minimal amount on Canvas the maximum amount with paper.

  98. MCMonkeyBean*

    Dang, apparently purple is the popular color all around haha. I guess that makes sense as it’s like just different enough to feel “special” but not so far from blue as to seem super unprofessional? I do have a purple sharpie pen that is my favorite for taking notes!

    I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a purple highlighter though! My multi-packs are always: yellow, orange, pink, blue, green. I’m gonna have to go hunt some down now…

    1. Candi*

      Back-to-school sales are best for finding multicolored big packs of highlighters in the store. Otherwise, online is your best bet. (Even with office stores!)

      I like the thinner “Sharpie Pocket Style Highlighter” type, and the 12 pack has orange, pink, blue, green, yellow and purple.

  99. christopher*

    Regarding the copier machine story, it sounds like the director was actively exploiting the security issue that IT wanted to close. Considering she “needed” that vulnerable copier and considering she was siphoning company money into her own pockets.

  100. Lissy*

    Damn. Perhaps I need to take my ‘controller of the supplies’ duty slightly more seriously than stick my head in the cupboard every so often….. I wonder if my colleagues realise how lucky they are that I don’t GAF about what they take

  101. Money4Jam*

    One year our boss made us all line up outside to receive an end of year gift.
    He & his wife walked along and bestowed on each individual a clipboard & pen with the company name of the company on them.
    These were items we needed in our day to day jobs going how to house checking on compliance with a local gov regulation.
    We were expected to thank them. I was nearly hysterical trying not to laugh.

  102. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

    You saved the most for last, Allison. Good gracious, that’s a story.

  103. Candi*

    After reading a bunch of stories, I’m of the opinion that the day that pink tools and office items go walkabout at the same rate as their blue and black counterparts, we will finally be well on the way to true gender equality.

  104. Friendly Neighbourhood IT Person*

    The copier story gave me palpations, those devices are expensive, like upwards of 40k expensive. That’s an insane amount of money to leave outside in the rain. Academia is wild.

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