the plum liquor, the free lunches, and other times people used their power for good

Last week I asked about times you’ve seen people misuse their power for good. Here are some of my favorite stories you shared.

1. The over-orderer

In one of my first professional jobs, where I was paid barely over minimum wage, any time my boss ordered in lunch for a client, he would “accidentally” over-order (who knew the client wouldn’t want to eat TWO entrees? or that three people wouldn’t eat 8 pounds of barbeque?) so I could bring home leftovers. Corporate didn’t know exactly how many people were at any of these meetings since we were a satellite office, so he was never caught and I ate much better than I got to eat from some of the best restaurants in the city that I never would have been able to afford on my own.

This boss was also a wine aficionado so any time we went out to lunch in the office he made sure to order us a good wine.

2. The mute button

Last week I learned that I could mute people on web-based calls, at the exact same moment that a chronic mansplainer was talking over the project lead and multiple other people for the fifth time in fifteen minutes (please note, Chronic Mansplainer is not in fact an expert in the space the project is in, he just has strong opinions that he thinks should always be not only heard, but articulated until other people bend to his will). So I muted him. I got to watch his face as he realized he was muted, and they were very angry, but a few minutes later he actually apologized for the interrupting! His excuse was that “he’s just a passionate old [title]” but I’ll still take the apology, and I’m very excited to now have this tool that we (I’ve shared this with a few colleagues who have had similar challenges with others) can use against the small segment of our colleagues that think it is acceptable and appropriate to act this way.

Bonus — I tested it with a friend, and it turns out when someone is muted, they just receive the message “Someone in the meeting muted you,” which means that even though I was prepared for there to potentially be consequences (and I’d already given my manager a heads-up), this does not appear to have hurt me professionally at all.

3. The retreat

My team was ludicrously burnt out (the executive suite literally called one of my devs at 1 am to get data from him). We’d all been working upwards of 10-hour days, occasionally on weekends, and none of us had a good amount of vacation time. Our manager was advocating for us as best he could but it was pretty relentless and he didn’t have much power. Eventually, he said our department was doing a three-day business retreat and couldn’t be disturbed and then told us to go home and rest. It was a pretty dysfunctional workplace but I appreciate my manager doing all he could.

4. The contractor discount

I was at a Sherwin Williams several months ago getting paint for a project. There was a lady in there apparently doing a little bit of research before doing her own project, and she got all huffy about a sign stating that a $.25 supply chain surcharge was going to be added to each item (not sure of the price exactly). She was absolutely berating the poor guy who had been answering all her questions, “Well, Sherwin Williams needs to rethink that because it is absolutely ridiculous.” So I spoke up: “I work in supply chain management [it’s true!] and it is not ridiculous. There are constraints on almost every single part of the supply chain and honestly, you should be happy that it’s only $.25. From what I heard on a call with a supplier before coming here, Sherwin Williams would be completely justified in a higher surcharge.”

She GLARED at me, spun on her heels, and flounced out. When my paint was finished being mixed, the guy behind the counter asked me if I was doing all the painting myself, and I told him no, I had some friends who were going to help. “Ok, I’m going to give you the contractor discount then.” It was 25% off each can of paint I bought! It literally saved me over $100.

5. The bikes

I used to work in a recycling center. Official policy was no salvage allowed – for both customers and staff. Once it was in the bin it was supposed to be gone for good. Partly for safety, partly because recycling centers make money by selling the recyclable materials so salvage reduces revenue. In practice, management turned a blind eye to staff taking things every so often as long as it didn’t get out of hand… but for liability/safety reasons, they were very strict on the policy with customers.

A lot of people toss perfectly good stuff. And a lot of our regular customers were low-income or homeless.

I had a coworker who would set aside every useable bicycle that came in and hand them out to customers who needed them. I helped expand the service by repairing some of the bikes that weren’t rideable when we found them during slow periods (I had the tools/skills from fixing my own bikes). I don’t know how many he gave away over the 15 years he worked there, but it must have been hundreds. Maybe thousands.

6. The vieille prune

This takes place in France 30 years ago. A lot of files were still paper only, and not much was on computers.

A friend of mine, let’s call him Thomas, was interning in a very important bank. Thomas was 23 or so and already very competent, kind of cutthroat. He was given some responsibilities and sent to go and see an elderly farmer, heavy in debt, somewhere in the mountains far from civilization. Thomas was supposed to tell the man that if he kept missing his loan payment, the bank would evict him and sell the farm.

The farmer, who did not have many visits, received him well, got out his older “vieille prune” bottle (plum liquor, it’s very strong) and offered Thomas a drink. They had a great time and spent all night drinking and talking, about the history of the farm, about the farmer’s family, etc.

Thomas’ internship was coming to an end a few days after. When he got back to the bank, he shredded all the paper files about the farmer, erased the only mention of his debt on the computer (no back up at the time of course), and went on his merry way.
Even if the bank did find out, a few years after, that there was something fishy, the time it would take such a huge, slow administrative structure to realize what happened and to recreate the farmer’s file, the man would have been long dead, hopefully in his beloved farm hidden in the mountains…

7. The pet charge

When I was in my early 20s, I lived in an apartment complex which charged a monthly fee for each pet a tenant owned. My then-partner and I adopted a cat from the local animal shelter, notified the apartment management, and began paying the monthly fee. Some months later, we realized that this sociable, good-natured cat would benefit from having another cat in the home. Though we didn’t earn much, we did the math and knew that we’d be able to afford to care for an additional pet–including the monthly pet rent. It’d be a bit of a stretch, but we knew we’d be glad we did it.

After adopting the second cat from the same shelter, I went to the apartment office to let them know. On my way there, I encountered the new manager, and shared the news. When I mentioned that we’d adopted the cats from a shelter, she told me not to worry about the second pet rent.

“The way I see it, you’re saving a life,” she said.

8. The raises

My husband almost doubled the salaries of his mostly female inside sales staff (salaried at around $40k, no commission even though they were pulling in huge contract renewals) after having a request for raises under pay equity turned down. He did it by eliminating their department on paper. This was a huge cost saving measure in Sales Support because of how budget lines were set up. He then hired them for the openings he created in Sales. Salaries in Sales were then way over budget but because he could justify it with the revenue numbers he already had from Support, he was covered.

This was 20 years ago and they all still talk about the career changing after effects.

9. The rug

Big Box Home Improvement Store: A near-daily customer was the first member of his family to immigrate to America. His family was coming for a visit, the first time he’d seen them in about a decade. He was making improvements to his home to impress his parents and siblings.

He had also fallen in love with American football, specifically the Miami Dolphins (were weren’t in Florida and our area’s team had its own rabid fan base). His crowning touch in his home was going to be a wall-to-wall, custom Dolphins rug for his Entertainment Room.

The rug manufacturer messed up and sent the wrong one. It was still the Miami Dolphins but it wasn’t the pattern he wanted. The best we could offer was a refund or re-order. His family was due in a couple days but the order turnaround time was long, like two months. He started to cry. The stress of getting everything “just right” had gotten to him and this was the proverbial straw. He chose to re-order and left the store, upset but not yelling at anyone. Just really, really heartbroken.

I had his phone number from the order and called him later that day. I told him that it had been decided that since we likely wouldn’t be able to sell the rug to anyone else, we’d just give it to him since he was a steady and loyal customer. And that way he’d have at least *something* in his Entertainment Room when his family arrived. He drove over immediately and I helped him load it into his vehicle. He was teary this time, too, but in a good way.

So, yeah, I stole an expensive rug from my store.

10. The lunches

To entice people to return to the office despite the pandemic, management arranged for daily, freshly cooked catered lunches.

When Omicron hit, fewer and fewer coworkers came to the office though and of the ones that did come to the office, well. Let’s just say that for many, a free lunch five times a week is a big enough reason to risk exposure. But with so few people coming into the office, a lot of food went to waste. Management wasn’t happy with the (food and money) waste and there was talk about having to pause the free lunches until more people returned to the office again.

Our office manager said she’d take care of it. We assumed she’d cancel the service. Instead, she bought lunch boxes and send out a company wide email to inform everyone when the caterers would come to pick up their equipment and the leftovers. So anyone who was in the office should load up on leftovers and take them home. The way she phrased it it sounded like this was coming straight from management. We have a lot of part-time employees in low level jobs; students, mothers returning to the work force, single parents, pensioners supplementing their income. A lot of employees are grateful that the company doesn’t just turn a blind eye, but basically insists that people take home bunches of leftovers every day.

Management didn’t know anything about this. But since our office manager had already set everything up and sent the email they also didn’t care enough to put up a stink.

People are now returning the office. Our office manager is obviously increasing the number of lunches ordered as well, because there are still plenty of leftovers that people take home despite the increasing number of people. Management is keeping quiet since employees are happy and returning to the office now anyway. And most employees don’t even know that the only reason the lunches have continued is because our office manager went rogue.

11. The contest

I was the manager at a fitness club that had facilities and a reputation for being friendly for elderly and disabled clients (connected with a physical therapy clinic). We had one elderly client who really enjoyed the heated pool for her arthritis, and the pool classes were one of her few social outlets. When her husband passed away, she let me know the end of the current month would be her last, as she was no longer going to be able to afford it. She was clearly upset, but I didn’t know what I could do.

As the manager, I was allowed to create various promotions and giveaways for the club, within reason. I made flyers for a new drawing where members could win a t-shirt, water bottle, sports drink, or the 1 in 100 chance – a year of membership!

I made a little bowl of tickets that were mostly sports drinks (so my boss wouldn’t kill me LOL) and let members draw a slip when they checked in. I made a second bowl of tickets that were ALL a year of free membership. Guess what, when she came to check in on Contest Day, she got to pick from the rigged bowl. After she “won,” I disposed of the rigged bowl and tickets, and she literally cried tears of joy and hugged me.

Look, everyone got a free sports drink they never would have received if I hadn’t made up this mostly harmless scheme, and I have no guilt!

12. Daylight Savings

I’m a manager of a small team of engineers. I’ve unilaterally decided that our team doesn’t observe the start of Daylight Saving Time on Sunday at 2 am, but rather the prior Friday at 4 pm. So one Friday a year, the clock springs forward, and like magic it’s 5 pm on a Friday and my team ends our workday an hour before the rest of the company.

13. The laptop

After 30 years at my company, I was job eliminated over the phone while on vacation. Part of this call was to inform me that I had bring to my six-year-old laptop to the office by the end of the week. I requested that the company send a shipping box (something that was done routinely) and they insisted I had to show up in person.

I brought the equipment to the head of Desktop IT, a professional and unfailingly honest man. He took my old laptop and asked me to sit down and wait. He took a brand new laptop out of its box and put it in a brand new computer bag. He then took my very old laptop, reformatted the disk and did a software reload while we chatted. When the software reload had completed, he put the old laptop in the box than belonged to the new laptop, and sealed the box. While handing me the new laptop in the new bag, he said, “The guy who fired you insisted that I order him a brand new laptop, so I did. I never said I’d give it to him. Now it’s yours.”

So I left with a brand new computer that had switched identities with a computer that was slated to go to the electronic burial ground. I’m told the new division head who did all of the firings never noticed that he was using a six-year-old laptop.

{ 288 comments… read them below }

    1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      I love #6 so much, and it reminds me of my prior favorite AAM story about the young man who, after repeatedly failing to get a bunch of timeshare transfer paperwork filled out correctly and signed, just pulled over somewhere and set it all on fire. And it all worked out.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        Upon further consideration, another entry was chosen. But if you search the original post for late fees, I’m sure you can find it!

    2. Laure001*

      I was the one telling Thomas’ story. We were a group of friends, Thomas was our role-playing games pal. We played Call of Chtullu and Middle Earth rpg together (and a bunch of French role playing games you guys wouldn’t have heard about).
      Thomas was a fun, cynical, no nonsense guy, sadly we lost contact, but I bet I could find him on Facebook and tell him he’s famous now.

      1. KarateSnowMachine*

        My dad is France. He grew up in a small town in the Pyrenees. I have met people like the farmer. This story made me really happy. In the small village in the foothills there was a small creek/river that ran through town. One of the houses had a stone mill on the creek that was powered by the water. I brought my young daughter to see it with my sister. The owner invited us in, started the mill to grind wheat, and served us wine for several hours while telling us about the history of the mill and the town. He knew my grandfather who was the town doctor many years ago. France has a reputation for being full of snobs, but when you go outside of Paris people couldn’t be friendlier.

        1. Crooked Bird*

          Oh good Lord that story got me too, I’m so nostalgic right now. I grew up as an expat kid in central France, places Americans haven’t heard of, and it’s so true. When a French person (especially one who lives somewhere… unhurried) is hosting you, really hosting you, they create this sort of warm golden bubble around yourselves, around the evening, it’s amazing. (And no, it’s not just the booze, I’ve seen it happen with teetotalers involved!) And then the other thing that makes the story so French… bureaucracy suddenly becoming flexible when the human element comes in. Man, it’s been too long.

  1. Nanc*

    I love all of these but especially the spirit of The Rug. I hope the rug owner and his family had a wonderful visit!

    1. Just Me*

      That one broke my heart. It’s such a good reminder that many things that seem small can be big for one person and/or can be one of many burdens really weighing them down.

      1. fposte*

        I have a huge soft spot for people who have fallen in love with a particular material item, too, so I keenly felt his grief at not getting the rug he’d been excited about for ages.

      2. BurnOutCandidate*

        In a past life, I was the manager of a video game store. One Saturday morning, a man came in the store with his two boys, one was probably five, the other seven. He was on his cell phone the whole time, while the boys wandered around, looked at stuff, asked a few questions, and ultimately decided they wanted two packs of Japanese Pokémon cards.

        When I rang up the cards, the man was still on his cell phone. He handed them to me, I scanned them, and the two packs came up a penny each.

        Pennied-out merchandise was to be thrown away. I should have said, by the book, “I can’t sell these to you, I’m sorry.” Instead, I looked at the tray of Pokémon cards I had, scanned a few others to make sure they also rang up at a penny, and when they did I said to the boys, “Guys, would you like these? All of these? I can’t sell them to you, but you can have them all.” And when I write “all,” I’m talking about a hundred and twenty packs.

        These two boys literally started to glow with excitement. I voided out the transaction, “disposed” of the packs of cards by putting them in a bag and handing the boys the bag, and…

        I thought we were done.

        We were not done.

        The father, still on his cell phone, asked for a piece of paper and a pen. And while talking on the phone in one hand, he wrote out with the other that he was the assistant basketball coach at the local, nationally-ranked college basketball power, he appreciated what I did for his boys, gave me his phone number, and said if I wanted tickets he’d hook me up. He handed over the note, he shook my hand, and that was that.

        I never did take him up on the offer. Basketball, honestly, isn’t my thing.

        People at my current job sometimes ask me why I have the awards I won at that job hanging on the wall of my office. My current job doesn’t have awards, so there’s nothing from there to hang on the wall, but really, I like the reminder that I was good at what I did and that I did some good for people in my time there. I did some unorthodox things at times, and I got criticized for it by my higher-ups at times, but it came from a place of wanting to help others.

    1. Pippa K*

      #11 has actually improved my day. Such kindness, extended in a way that maintains the recipient’s dignity and just generally makes the world a better place.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And I loved the fact that this woman was able to keep a social outlet that was even more vital after the loss of her husband. Everybody won there.

    2. Salaried health issues*

      I’m smiling so hard right now! That one really got to me. All of them are great though.

      I missed the post. I’m going back to read it.

    3. Katherine*

      I used to go to a gym that was right near a senior center, and lots of seniors used it for exercise and socializing. I can totally imagine the manager of that gym doing something like this for one of her seniors. A little human kindness like that goes a long way, especially for people who don’t have much.

  2. JY*

    The gym membership…i feel like this was my grandmother in this story. When my grandfather died, she thought she would need to leave the gym and her beloved classes and social group. She won a free gym membership and was so happy about it.

    1. Purple Cat*

      Aww. Contrary to most stories on AAM, I want to believe this ISN”T your grandmother, because that means there are more awesome people out there.

    2. Rigged*

      OP #11 here – this was in northern California, if that helps narrow it down. However, I’m actually more excited if it isn’t and there are more “rogue” managers out there!

  3. Miss Chanadler Bong*

    Re: Contractor discount.
    I’ve had sooo many people try to tell me that the supply chain problem isn’t real. I work for a distributor in their finance department. I’m quite aware of how real the supply chain issues are. One such person (an internet stranger, but still) tried to tell me this after I’d just worked a 50 hour week because of the supply chain issue. I was about ready to come through the computer and bite off that person’s head.

    1. Boof*

      I’m confused why they don’t just raise prices? Tacking on something on top of the apparent price is doubtless what gets people irritated

      1. ThatGirl*

        Because raising prices overall would require more work than tacking on a surcharge, and that way it can be removed more easily when supply chain bottlenecks ease.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          Ever notice how those “fuel surcharges” never seem to go away when prices drop? It’s just a scammy way of adding to the bill at the last minute after the customer has agreed to an artificially low number, like when you’re buying airline tickets.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Fuel surcharges have gone away in the past.

            Yes, sometimes it’s an excuse to raise prices artificially. Sometimes it’s a way to be transparent about WHY prices have gone up. Especially if they tell you up front.

          2. Lab Boss*

            I don’t know as it usually seems like a scam at the time they’re implemented- but I agree, that they’re way more likely to become permanent “temporary” surcharges than to go away when the emergency does. The company raises the price by X just to get by, but they’re still struggling, so then when the situation eases they can’t bring themselves to prolong the struggle by cutting the surcharge.

            1. Lydia*

              Friends, we’re talking 25 cents tacked on to a paint bucket that might cost $50 at minimum. They aren’t making a boatload of money off this surcharge. I totally get what you’re saying about it becoming permanent, but sometimes it is exactly what they tell you it is. This feels like one of those situations. And either way, that woman was an ass. The guy behind the counter has no power over the surcharge, or, if he does, he’s much less likely to extend that power to someone who shouts at him like it’s his fault.

          3. tamarack & fireweed*

            Our water delivery people and fuel delivery people (two different companies – and we only use the second now since we have a well, but I see their posts on Facebook) have fuel surcharges that have definitely gone away, and now recently returned. Whenever fuel prices fall their real cost *do* substantially go down, so – given that they’re solidly run businesses – they can afford to do something that feels nice to the customers (“no more surcharge! you saved $x!”) without strain.

            Also, for example when they are in the neighborhood and have extra, they may call their regular customers offering to come by (because it suits them – they don’t want to drive back 30 miles into town half full) and as an incentive to take them off on it they’ll say “no surcharge”. Easy discount that feels more real than a percentage.

      2. London Lass*

        I wonder if this is a difference between countries/regions. In the UK I think they would just put the price up. When I visited the US for the first time I was really confused by the way tax got added on top of the stated price so there seems to be a precendent for that kind of thing.

        (I think that apart from the fact the US has different sales tax rates between states which make thing much more complicated for retailers who want to make the same profit in every sale, this is also connected to laws in the UK that tie retailers to the advertised price tag… but I stand ready to be corrected on that.)

        1. Nanani*

          Different tax rates in different states is correct (as well as things like exemptions on tax for essential products in some places) – it’s much easier to have a centrally-set list of prices and then add the details in each location, not only for the price tags themselves but also for adverts that have a price in them.
          They can make one advert that says “only 5.99*!” *plus applicable taxes instead of 50+ adverts that have the local adjusted one.

          1. Beany*

            For advertising that crosses tax jurisdictions, I can *kind of* understand. But when I’m walking through a store, I don’t see why the price on the shelf can’t just be the final, post-tax price. The whole setup seems to me like trying to deceive the customer, and/or to direct their ire at “evil taxes”.

            1. Bryce*

              Because then the customer yells “the ad said $5.99 how DARE you list it for $6.35!” If everyone did it one way or the other I agree it would work, but once one way is established switching causes issues and the benefits don’t outweigh them.

            2. tamarack & fireweed*

              Europeans like myself are used to seeing the final price because European law requires prices (for the end consumer, not B2B) to be listed that way. To a degree it’s a matter of what you grew up with.

              1. Violet Rose*

                To a degree, yes – but I grew up in California, where (when I last checked ten years ago), we were required to list the pre-tax price, but could list or not list the post-tax price at our discretion, and I thought that was the dumbest thing I’d ever read. Especially since sales tax in California is some hideous number like 7.75% – good luck figuring that one out in your head!

                1. Violet Rose*

                  “That was the dumbest thing I’d ever read” refers to the pricing law, not anyone’s post, just to be 100% clear!

                2. Lydia*

                  Agreed. Especially in areas like San Francisco where you have a state sales tax and a city sales tax to contend with. Whenever I’ve been in states with sales tax, I just give up knowing how much I’m paying for anything. (I live in Oregon where we don’t have sales tax.)

            3. Jonquil*

              It gets me too – in Australia it’s illegal to display a price without all taxes included (we don’t have state taxes here, to be fair). It makes travelling in America, where the money is already difficult and confusing with all the tiny nickels and the lack of tap-and-go card facilities, quite stressful.

        2. Been there, done that*

          It’s not just states. Different cities within the same county might have different tax rates! So you have state tax and then whatever local taxes apply.

          1. HBJ*

            This. Additionally, taxes are often capped at a certain dollar amount, so whether or not you pay tax on an item depends on whether you’ve hit that limit in a given transaction or no.

          2. Incessant Owlbears*

            And there can even be different tax rates within the same city, even within the same zip code!

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, and in those situations posting the pre-tax price certainly makes sense. It’s different for me, I’m in Finland and VAT/sales tax rates apply nationwide. The standard VAT/sales tax for most products is 24% (food and animal fodder 14%, and medicines, cultural services, and paper and magazine subscriptions 10%). I’m really glad that I don’t have to factor in the tax when I’m shopping.

          3. NNN222*

            This is why the “good” mall in Fargo-Moorhead being in Fargo bothered me while I was going to school up there. One of the reasonings for why it made sense to have it in Fargo was that ND’s sales tax was lower than MN’s. The thing is, though, Fargo often had an additional city tax to raise money for special projects and that additional tax often made the total sales tax the same as MN’s but worse when thinking about most of what’s purchased at a mall because ND charges sales tax on clothes and MN does not.

      3. Warrior Princess Xena*

        They do raise prices. Not sure about Sherwin Williams specifically but Home Depot’s revenue and cost numbers have both skyrocketed over the past two years and they aren’t listing a supply chain surcharge even when that is part of the problem.

    2. anonymous73*

      Even if the issue wasn’t real, it amazes me that people think bitching and moaning to a sales associate is going to solve anything. The sales associate has no control over what the corporation changes, yet they’re the ones that take the brunt of customer anger. I’ve always said customer service folks need hazard pay.

    3. quill*

      Great sympathies from someone who spent their last hour going through paperwork that the supply chain crisis caused.

    4. Bailey Sassypants*

      I don’t have anything to say re: supply chain but I did want to tell you I literally laughed out loud at your handle! Thank you for the memory.

    5. Chirpy*

      I had one customer who, after being told an item was out of stock due to 1. raw material shortages at every level 2. port delays on imported materials 3. can shortages 4. trucking shortages at every level 5. factory shutdowns/slowdowns 6. distribution backups 7. a move away from American manufacturing since the 1950s 8. pandemic = not enough people available to work in all the many, many jobs required to get any given item from raw materials to stocked in stores because millions of people globally are either out sick, caring for someone sick, overworked because everyone else is out sick, or actually dead….

      Customer still asked “but why are you out?” !?!?!?!?

    6. Autumnheart*

      People just seriously don’t realize that it takes 10,000 people to get an item from the manufacturer to the shelf. You have to get the raw materials, make the thing, package the thing, ship the thing, offload the thing from the ship, drive it to the distribution center, log it in inventory, bring it where it’s supposed to be sold, and put it on the shelf and list it on the website. It’s a very delicate chain of dominos, and frankly it’s incredible that it works so smoothly that people honestly don’t understand how issues could have an impact. Supply chain is like the timing belt of the economy. If it breaks, now you have a big mess.

  4. StellaBella*

    These stories made my day. I got home from work an hour ago and I had a grumpy day of dealing with things that were difficult. All of these stories are amazing and full of kindness. The world needs more of this. Thank you to all the writers and Alison for hosting this. I am going to share this on my linkedin now and with friends.

  5. Rileybear*

    These all made me so happy!! Thank you for sharing. Let’s make this a regular thing!

  6. OyHiOh*

    My boss did something similar to #3 last fall – we’d worked flat out for six months to complete a project that we’d originally budgeted 12 months for (the deadline got moved right after we’d finished the schedule). He scheduled a long weekend for the staff to have a “planning retreat” and then told us to get away from work and not think about our to-do lists for three days. Got a paid “vacation” day that didn’t count against our vacation accrual and, for me, a glorious weekend in the mountains. Those three days made a really big difference in feeling fresh and ready to work the next Monday.

  7. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    I am impressed with the ingenuity displayed in these awesome stories.

    1. Margaretmary*

      I love that too. Everybody won. The lady got to maintain her membership, the rest of the customers got a drink or a t-shirt they wouldn’t have otherwise had, the gym probably got a bit of publicity/extra customers that day and as the grand prize was advertised as a “1 in 100 chance,” I doubt anybody felt too disappointed not to get it – it was a long shot anyway. So all good.

    1. Lab Boss*

      I think IT guys are the best corporate Robin Hoods- they’re steeped in security and have to be constantly aware of threats and vulnerabilities, so they know exactly what they can easily exploit. Plus every IT tech I’ve known has become so jaded by the human condition that they don’t feel bound by our mortal rules and regulations :D

  8. Forrest*

    OK but what the heck is going on with a recycling centre system that DISCOURAGES salvage and re-use. That’s absolutely nuts.

    I get the safety concerns, but that should just mean that you have rules about who can salvage what when, not that once it’s tipped it’s got to be sold on / melted down / shipped to China or whatever.

    1. Forrest*

      actually a lot of these are “the time someone saved an orphan from the orphan crushing machine”. Whole lot of systemic problems here!

      1. pugsnbourbon*

        Yep, I get that vibe, too. There’s a whole Facebook group about dystopian events spun as feel-good stories. Like the kid who needs a special wheelchair and insurance won’t pay, so the local robotics team builds him one.

        1. Resident Catholicville, USA*

          This is my problem with Go Fund Me type websites- not that people need help (because making it easier for people to get help is great) and not that people are willing to help each other (because helping each other is wonderful) but it depresses me that people have to basically ask for help with things that they shouldn’t- medical, educational, housing costs, etc. If we had a better structure in the US for providing basic services, we wouldn’t need to hope our appeal goes viral and it’s funded completely.

          1. Lusara*

            Right. I know a doctor who refuses to work with the Wounded Warrior Project because he says the military and/or government should be providing these services in the first place.

            1. Deanna Troi*

              I’m not a doctor, but I have said this many times. I’m horrified that anyone who was injured serving in our military isn’t having all of their needs met by our government. I can’t believe more people don’t feel that way when anything about Wounded Warriors comes up.

              1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                I feel that way every time I see one of those spots on tv. Like WTAF?

      2. Starbuck*

        Yeah, totally. They’re all nice outcomes and I appreciated the post, but some end up being downers when you think about the bigger context of the issue.

      3. BikeMom*

        Yeah, but recycling centers can sometimes only handle a few categories of things.

        This sounds like an excellent use of down time with a single set of specialized skills, and it probably happens less now that Facebook has made “buy nothing” groups a whole lot easier for moving on functional items…and for a bit during the pandemic it was awful to try to even purchase a bike!

        Student power still creates good karma – our engineering students often have a capstone project for a nearby school to customize a bicycle or three for students with disabilities – they are literally custom, and the students learn how to create functional adaptions, and generally everyone’s happy.

        I know better than to drop off an outgrown bike at a recycling place. I’m glad bikes are finding new people.

    2. Nanani*

      The idea that recycling, of all things, needs to be for profit is a devastating problem.
      I’m still mad that after growing up with all these lovely REMEMBER TO RECYCLE messages we still blow up the carbon footprint shipping stuff across the ocean because it’s “not profitable” to recylce it here. BURNS ME UP

        1. quill*

          Yep. It’s both cheaper and less illegal to burn a bunch of plastics somewhere across the ocean.

          If recycling was subsidised instead of for profit, it would make a huge difference. (Also if every household within a recycling jurisdiction was given a list of EXACTLY what could be recycled… sure, some people are lazy, but most don’t know that their municipality doesn’t recycle the specific type of plastic their laundry detergent bottle is made of.)

          1. Lina*

            I have a list! unfortunately it is painted on my recycling bin issued by the county, not the kitchen bin where I store recycling until I take it out to the bin in the garage, but it’s super-helpful. We just got those bins about 2 years ago and the old one didn’t have the list on it.

            1. Them Boots*

              I had that problem too! Took a pic of the label with my phone, printed it & glued it to my kitchen bin

          2. A mathematician*

            Australia is introducing these nice simple labels on the product itself that tells you what has to happen to the packaging (though they aren’t compulsory yet, so not everything has them). So if you have a tub of olives, say, it might have a set of little pictures on the side with box that says “lid and tub” and a recycling symbol, and then another one that says “film” and a picture of a rubbish bin. So you know that the tub itself and the lid can get recycled in your normal household recycling, and you’ll need to put the plastic film in the bin because it can’t be (and when you’re choosing olives at the shop you can pick the ones that you can recycle all/most of the packaging, rather than the ones you can’t). It’s wonderful and simple and I can’t wait until it has to be on everything.

            1. MsSolo UK*

              Something similar is on UK packaging, but it just indicates “can potentially be recycled”. Most council recycling has more stringent limits. Like, ours can take types 1,2, and 4 in plastics, but a lot of countries take 1,3, and 5 . All types are potentially recyclable, but unless you want to drive around various types across the country, the label isn’t as helpful as it should be. There was a big thing a few years ago about take away coffee cups, because they’re all labelled as potentially recyclable, but there’s only a couple of places in the whole country that take them, and putting them into the cardboard recycling can contaminate the whole bin and require it to be destroyed. As a result, anywhere that provides them also has to recycle them (but it’s a takeaway cup, so unless once you’ve finished your coffee you then go into another coffee shop to recycle it…)

            2. Ace in the Hole*

              Those types of labels kinda drive me nuts. The problem is that manufacturers label their packaging based on what can theoretically be recycled, not based on what your local recycling infrastructure can accept.

              For example, my region has no way to dispose of film plastics or Styrofoam. They are recyclable materials if you have the right processing equipment… but nowhere local has such equipment, and we’re so remote it’s neither economically viable nor environmentally responsible to transport such a low-density material to facilities that are hundreds of miles away. However, with these labels people don’t avoid buying these products because they think they are being environmentally responsible with recyclable packaging.

              1. wittyrepartee*

                Additionally, they don’t make packaging that’s easy to recycle. Like, mixing plastic and tin foil together make the thing really difficult to recycle.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        You may be happy to learn that a lot of the countries our recyclables used to be shipped to have started refusing to accept the material. In some cases it’s a total ban, others have implemented strict quality/contamination rules to ensure the material is actually recyclable before it can be unloaded from the ship.

        I agree with you on the profit aspect as well. Personally I’m in favor of extended producer responsibility policies, which force the people profiting off of a thing to be responsible for its ultimate disposal. This gives manufacturers a really strong incentive to reduce waste and improve the ease of recycling/composting/reusing products and packages.

    3. Amy*

      Where I’m from the cost of disposal is heavily subsidised by the fact they run the salvage part themselves and make money on that to go back into the costs of running (our recycling depot is fully nonprofit). If they allowed the general public to go in there’d not only be safety concerns, but a loss of revenue which would then hike the price for everyone (and the people salvaging aren’t contributing to the running costs). There’s also potential legal issues (injuries, people ‘salvaging’ personal information etc) that are avoided by only letting employees work onsite. It’s not that the stuff is left to landfill, it’s just not a free for all – where I used to live actually ran a store alongside the depot that had anything working available for super low cost (like $10 bikes and 10c books) and parts etc for donation so people could still pick stuff up for refurb without all the accompanying issues.

      1. Forrest*

        Yeah, it totally makes sense that recycling places can be dangerous and you don’t want random people coming and trying to haul broken fridges out of a container or whatever! But the situation described here is that staff at the recycling centre weren’t supposed to identify items which were still usable or easily fixable, and that putting them back into use was allowed to happen under the table. That’s NUTS, and the exact opposite of what a recycling centre should be doing.

        1. Anonymous4*

          I’m afraid you’re misunderstanding what a recycling center does. It’s not the Goodwill, and there are an awful lot of people who won’t know when something is still usable or easily fixable — for instance, I wouldn’t know when a bike just needs a little work or when it’s way past that. For a recycle center employee, there’s nothing in the job description about “recognizes fixable bicycles that can be rehabilitated, and removes them from waste stream” and it’s not reasonable to expect it.

          Mind you, I understand your feelings! It makes me crazy to see people just throw away perfectly good items. And I have gone dumpster-diving to rescue things. But the fact that #5 and his friend were able to rescue bikes and fix them up doesn’t mean that it’s a universal skill or should be universally expected.

          1. Forrest*

            >>For a recycle center employee, there’s nothing in the job description about “recognizes fixable bicycles that can be rehabilitated, and removes them from waste stream” and it’s not reasonable to expect it.

            Why is it not reasonable?! Neither the purpose of a recycling centre nor the recycling centre job description is sent from God. There is absolutely no reason that “identify and fix reusable goods” shouldn’t be part of the work of a recycling centre and part of the skillset of some of the employees.

    4. Ace in the Hole*

      Hey, that’s my story so hopefully I can answer! First off I agree with you that our system is broken. This is an explanation of how it currently works… because understanding that is the first key to improving it.

      Recycling in the US is almost entirely done as a for-profit business. So the revenue side of things is a very real concern. Recycling centers are typically operating on a very thin margin. They make money by selling the scrap material. Allowing salvage is kind of like a grocery store allowing people to walk out the door with free groceries. One or two little things isn’t an issue, but if it happens on any noticeable scale it will put them out of business. While that is a big problem socially and environmentally, it’s not the fault of the recycling centers since there is basically no funding to operate any other way.

      We had less financial pressure because (unlike many recycling centers) we were a publicly-run operation connected to a garbage dump. They lost about a million dollars per year running the recycling center anyways, so management wasn’t too fussed about an extra dollar or two. Safety was a much bigger deal. Theoretically, yes – you can have specific times for salvage, dedicated areas that salvage materials are set aside, etc. In practice, that’s much trickier than it sounds. We didn’t have the space or staffing to handle that. Materials we took in went straight to the area where heavy equipment was operating. Any significant amount of staff diversion would have required essentially doubling our staff and building a larger facility… which we did not have the funding to do. And because of how people work, it’s much easier to enforce a “no salvage ever” rule than a “no salvage except between 8am-noon on Sundays.” People don’t behave sensibly when they think they can get free stuff. We routinely had people climb into dumpsters, wander back into areas where heavy equipment was running to try and grab a thing, etc. It was safest just to block off the whole area and not allow anyone in. This wasn’t the liability-averse handwringing type of policy that’s trying to keep people from suing over a splinter – there was a very real risk of someone being killed.

      Actually solving the issue comes down to two things. First, stop relying on for-profit recycling. We need recycling infrastructure that is publicly funded, both collection centers and materials processers. Ideally with enough funding to run good diversion programs. Second, get people to stop throwing away useable stuff! A lack of salvage at recycling centers is only a problem because people keep trying to recycle things that still have useful life. We need to put way more emphasis on the REDUCE and REUSE part of reduce, reuse, recycle. For example, this story wouldn’t have happened if people donated their old bikes to the local community bike workshop, thrift stores, sold them on craigslist for cheap, or even put them out on the sidewalk with a sign that said “Free!” These options are all locally available and easy to access. People just don’t use them out of either laziness or ignorance.

      P.S. if you think it’s bad at recycling centers… you should really focus your anger on garbage. Anecdotally we get about 5-10 times as much good salvage material in the trash compared to the recycle, and it’s going to a landfill.

  9. Fieldpoppy*

    These are all so great — though I have some misgivings about the library situation, since I’m sure there were other people in those classes who might have also needed those books and could have accessed them for a time if they’d been in proper rotation. I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon but I have strong feelings about the ethics of libraries!

    1. Language Lover*

      As someone who has worked in academic libraries and in charge of things like this, this would more than likely be fine.

      For things like textbooks, it’s usually a first come, first served situation. People want the textbooks at the very beginning of the trimester because they need the books right away. If they don’t get the textbooks from the library right away, the odds are pretty low that they’d come looking for the books a month into the semester even if they had been returned.

      And if they do, they always have the option to put a hold on the book or talk to a librarian that it’s way overdue.

      Trust me, most students don’t even think of looking in the library for textbooks. I did this (although checkout was 3 months) in grad school and I’m pretty sure none of my masters cohorts thought to do the same. My program? We were in school to be librarians so it should have been top of mind.

      1. young worker*

        It wouldn’t have occurred to me to ask the librarian where a book was – if its overdue its overdue. Don’t really love this library story as it does seem to screw others over :/

  10. mlem*

    #4, I missed the decimal at first. The customer was kicking up a fuss about twenty-five CENTS!? Good grief.

    1. Leenie*

      It would be a bit clearer if they used a zero ($0.25 vs. $.25). But the decimal does indicate that it’s 25 cents. Petty people being petty.

    2. Oh man did I have a headache*

      When I was a kid I once spent 15 minutes waiting for the cashier behind a woman at Macy’s going ballistic that she was “only” getting the Sacramento County sales tax for a return on something she swore she got in San Francisco (but didn’t have the receipt for). The difference was 0.5 cents on the dollar for an item that was roughly $30. When the manager finally showed up he very quickly realized the difference was about 15 cents and gave the lady what she wanted. Sometimes people are ridiculous.

  11. Daisy-dog*

    So much respect to #12! I was miserable yesterday with this time change and having a little bit more weekend on Friday evening would have been amazing.

    1. allathian*

      I just hope they don’t expect their employees to work an extra hour when they switch back to standard time…

  12. MP*

    Not arguing about the surcharge on #4 but why don’t they just include it in the price? Is there a reason it has to be added after.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Probably because it might vary, or it was added after the contract was signed about pricing.

      To all who struggle with supply chain issues, I understand because I do too. Not as much as purchasing, but I have to test new and available materials.

    2. Ellis*

      They’re probably assuming/hoping it will be temporary and don’t want to have to put new price tags on all the items and update all the prices in the system. That’s a lot of work.

    3. Saberise*

      I just looked into it. SW is actually changing 4% on to it’s prices for the surcharge. The belief is rather than going through and changing all the prices it’s just easier to do a temporary surcharge. On paper that is the reason. Most critics feel that it’s more so customers that don’t see the signage will get all their supplies, paint tinted, etc not realizing it will cost more and then pay it rather than going elsewhere and starting the process over again.

      1. Lab Boss*

        A cynic might also point out that it makes it easier to just quietly never remove the surcharge no matter how much supply chain improves, and making it percentage based means it automatically creeps up along with any other future price increases.

        1. Bananarama*

          Honestly, I’d expect that to be less likely with a surcharge that is a separate line item, than with an increase in item price. If you’re putting that line item on your invoice, your customers are going to ask about it and push back if it doesn’t make sense (or even if it does, as in the story).

          The supply chain issues in our current world have been so dynamic, applying a surcharge is a way to apply added price quickly in most pricing systems without making entries to new prices for all items, and increase or decrease it as things change without redoing all those entries. It also makes it easier for contractors to calculate on large jobs they’ve already pulled quotes for (no need to grab new quotes, just add X% to the one from last week).

  13. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    No. 5 – the story about the bikes, reminded me of an old manager I had back when I worked at a Borders bookstore.

    Every morning around 6am, well before the store opened, some of the local homeless people would be let in to use the bathroom facilities and get some of the extra pastries.

    I’m not actually 100% sure if that was an “abuse” of power because I’m not sure if it was officially disallowed, but it was widely understood that the opening staff never talk about it.

    1. Red 5*

      Once upon a time, I worked at Borders. Corporate would have never been okay with that, primarily because they could be really strict about the food “waste.” I knew a manager who bragged that they would fire employees who “sampled” the soup or chili even though we threw out half the pot some evenings. (Samples were maybe a 1/4 cup, so not much). That manager didn’t last long at my store where we pulled in high enough sales to be left alone and -really- didn’t care for corporate.

      That said, good for your manager. Our morning staff would have gone for this too if anybody had thought of it.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Oh man, that reminds me of Quizno’s. There was a corporate policy saying food waste had to be thrown away… could not be taken home by staff or given away for free. But there was no rule against employees getting free sandwiches, as long as the franchise owner allowed it.

        Our owner allowed employees to have 1 free sandwich per shift, plus unlimited free sandwiches made within 1 hour of closing from product that was due to be tossed at the end of shift. Some nights there was almost no waste, but every so often I’d walk home with a dozen sandwiches and pass them out to everyone I met.

    2. Adam*

      I used to work for Google, and the catering people at our office spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to give away the leftovers from the cafeterias after lunch had ended. Food service has a *lot* of rules about what you’re allowed to serve to whom, when, and how, and they had a hard time figuring out a way to do it that didn’t run afoul of something. I think they eventually came up with something, but it took months.

        1. Delta Delta*

          I used to live down the street from Store #1. I worked with an insufferable woman who refused to go to Borders because she would only ever shop at local stores. I was like, “um, you know that Borders *IS* local to Ann Arbor, right?” She literally couldn’t process that information. (She also told our city’s mayor he was mispronouncing his own last name. So, while yes, Borders was a Big Evil Corporation and Not Local, this person was exactly the right person to short-circuit with this kind of information.)

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Snickering over likely knowing the insufferable one, or at least one of her brethren.

            As a student in Ann Arbor, I learned that if our required texts were ONLY available at one particular locally owned bookstore? Yeah. We were screwed. It was going to be ridiculously pricy and might be worth dropping the class. (Academia in general, $48 for a 300 page standard size paperback book from which we were using one chapter?!?! Can we do better please?) Borders may have been evil, but they sure seemed less evil than the campus bookstores at various points.

            I vaguely recall looking at that particular (likely) mayor’s name and deciding I really hoped I never needed to address him in person because I was completely clueless.

            1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

              Oh bless, you’re taking me back to the good/bad/something old days when I was a grad student there. A visceral memory of making my one-way trip through twisty stacks of books at that very bookstore just slammed into my head.

              I, uh, got told I was pronouncing my name wrong in A2, also. Lot of pretentiousness to go around in those parts. Part of me misses it. Part of me is okay with the idea of never going back again.

  14. Nonprofit Lady*

    A lot of these just make me realize/remember that so many employers make it “against the rules” to be a decent human being! I’m glad there are a select few who will buck the system, but gosh, I wish they didn’t have to!
    Also… the bikes! Are you telling me that people are regularly recycling USEABLE bikes??? That hurts my heart and I’m glad someone is saving them and giving them to people who need them.

    1. quill*

      Useable or “would be useable if I knew how to fix it.” My brother makes a decent chunk of money picking up beat up bikes and cobbling them back together. Turns out a lot of people don’t have the knowledge or tools to fix the things, or assume that it will be more expensive to fix than to get a new one.

      Even if the repaired bike is worth $200

    2. Nanani*

      Sometimes people recycle things because -they- don’t have a use for it anymore rather than because it’s completely unuseable by anyone.

      1. BlueSwimmer*

        Our city waste management will pick up and take pretty much anything, up to a piano, from the curb if you can get it out there. We pay sky-high city taxes but we get great service. The city used to have an annual spring tradition officially called the “Spring Clean Out” but known to the locals as “Big Trash Day.”

        Big Trash Day was everyone’s chance to put out that still-good stuff that you just don’t want to put in the landfill and know that someone would most likely pick it up and use it. People came from the next state over to drive around and glean treasures off the curb. I have a co-worker at the school where I work who took all the BBQ grills he could fit in his truck, fixed them up, and gave them away in the nearby Salvadoran immigrant community. I still have two wrought iron patio chairs that I got on Big Trash Day twenty years ago. Everyone got in the spirit of the day and would write up notes for their items, like “vacuum works but is missing the upholstery attachment” or “works fine!”.

        Alas, the city has discontinued Big Trash Day. Now, you can put your big trash out anytime as long as you put in an online request for pickup. The magic of Big Trash Day lives in our community social media group where we all take photos of the good stuff our neighbors put out and post it so someone can get it before the trash truck comes.

        1. OtterB*

          My daughter lives in a college town where Move-Out day at the end of the semester is like your Big Trash Day. Her appartment is partially furnished with bookshelves, end tables, lamps, etc. she’s acquired on Move Out day.

          1. LunaLena*

            I work in a university and it’s like that here too. I’m constantly amazed at what people will throw away – I’ve salvaged furniture, a rug, and some small appliances for my office, and have also taken home a few books that I literally took out of the recycling bins.

          2. Claritza*

            At a university near me, Move-Out Collection goods that students get rid of are shared with neighbors in need.

            1. A Genuine Scientician*

              At my undergrad, the locals knew *exactly* when move out day was, and would monitor the dumpsters — there were a lot of out of state, relatively well-off students who didn’t find it worthwhile trying to get certain things back home. I was amazed at the students heaving to get perfectly good things into the dumpster when there were clearly people standing right there looking through the trash, and the students didn’t even try to ask them if they wanted something.

              I felt a bit weird asking in my semi-broken Spanish if they wanted my coat hangers or the half a bottle of laundry detergent I wasn’t going to pack for a 5 hour flight home after my initial offer in English wasn’t understood, but geez, I’m not going to make someone dig through a dumpster for no good reason.

          3. Snowball*

            In Boston August 31/September 1 is “Allston Christmas” because about 3/4 of the leases in the city turn over that day and a lot of students live in the Allston neighborhood

        2. Elizabeth West*

          My neighborhood in OldCity was a great place to curb stuff. I once put a lawnmower with a leaky gas tank out there with a sign on it that said My gas tank leaks but I’m FREE, thinking someone would want it for parts or could fix it. Then I went inside to pee. I was gone maybe three minutes; when I came back out, it was gone.

          And the day I moved, I put out a shelf and an old dresser and some lady who lived in the apartment complex on a nearby street was really chuffed to get “exactly what I needed!” She stuffed the dresser in her back seat and drove off holding the shelf on the roof of her car with one hand!

          1. Pikachu*

            I once had to toss an area rug because it had been personally victimized by a cat with a urinary infection.

            I felt really bad for the guy who pulled it out of my trash can, put it in his pickup, and drove away. I saw him do it but couldn’t get to the window in time to shout out a warning.

            I wonder how long it took for him to realize.

            1. GammaGirl1908*

              I have a chair and a half with the exact same problem. It smells like burning rubber and feet, thanks to my cat. I have purposely not put it in the give-and-take area of my apartment building for that reason.

        3. A Feast of Fools*

          We have Bulk Trash Day once a month in my city. The day rotates based on the location. We can put things out starting 4 days before our official pick up day. My neighborhood’s day is the 2nd Monday of the month, so we can start putting things out the Thursday before

          People put out all kinds of re-usable / re-purposable stuff. There are “pickers” and “junk trucks” that cruise the neighborhoods during their Bulk Trash window and rescue a lot of things from ending up in a landfill.

          We all try to put signs (in English and Spanish) on the items to indicate if they’re completely broken, ugly-but-work, or need some kind of repair.

          Although, there’s a retiree in my neighborhood who recycles metal and donates the funds to our neighborhood association for our annual Night Out block party, so he gets a phone call or text for First Rights’ on metal items (or items that contain metal).

        4. Seeking Second Childhood*

          For anyone who likes big trash day, keep an eye out for the children’s book “Junk Day on Juniper Street”!

        5. Anonymous4*

          I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of using Craigslist for stuff I desperately wanted to get rid of. The trick, I’ve found, is to use the word “FREE” in the title. And people will gallop out of the uncut timber to snatch up something advertised as: “*FREE* Junky old kerosene heater that doesn’t work *FREE*”

          I’ve pretty much cleaned out my garage that way — gave an old riding lawn mower to an absolutely thrilled 10-year-old farmer’s son who loves fixing things, gave a 50+ year-old Singer sewing machine to a young woman who drove 2 hours to get it and who cradled it like a baby on her way back to the car, and so on. It’s junk to me, but it’s something precious to them. And I just love handing the stuff off to someone who’s eager to get it, who’ll fix it up and get some good use from it.

          1. Grumpy Old Sailor*

            This. Local “” sites are excellent for this. I’d far rather give something away gratis to someone than toss it in the landfill. Even when I’m fairly certain the person is just going to turn around and sell it.

    3. Molly the cat*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of those came from overwhelmed family member’s sorting through a dead relative’s stuff, especially if said dead relative was on the hoarder spectrum. There’s only so many bikes the people in the family can use, and it takes a lot of legwork to fix stuff up, figure out if it can even be fixed, determine what can be sold, figure out prices, find people who want free stuff, etc.

      1. WellRed*

        +1. My brother died 18 months ago. There was a bike in need of work among his possessions. It’s leaning against the back porch till I decide.

      2. Liz*

        This. When my 90 year old downstairs neighbor passed away, her kids had to clean out her apt. in a matter of under 2 weeks. They called a couple donation places, but no one showed up! they ended up giving a lot away, hiring a junk haul away company, AND throwing a lot in the dumpster. nothing valuable, but stuff they had no use for, and had been unable to donate or give away.

    4. Koala dreams*

      People often throw away broken things that can be fixed, either because it’s too expensive to fix or because there isn’t anyone to provide that service locally. A dress you can mail to be fixed, that doesn’t work for bikes. (And a lot of people would throw away the dress too…)

      I really miss living within walking distance of several bike repair shops.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Yeah. No excuse here though. There was a bike repair shop 2 blocks from the recycling center, and a community bike workshop with free tools/classes a half mile away.

    5. Ace in the Hole*

      Yes. That one’s my story.

      It drove me bananas. Especially since we have so many easy, accessible options for getting rid of bikes! Donate to thrift stores, give it to our local community bike workshop, sell it for cheap on craigslist/facebook, or just leave it on the sidewalk with a sign that says “FREE!”

      A lot of people either don’t know or don’t care.

    6. Shallow Sky*

      “Useable” can be a variable term. We were well on our way to tossing a bike which had literally hospitalized three previous riders, because we could tell it had serious issues (mostly in the brakes) but not where they were or how to fix them. Repair might have been possible, but the local repair place was quoting $50 to look at it and say if it could be fixed, plus cost of parts and labor to actually repair it. We could not in good conscience donate it elsewhere, given what we knew it could do when it acted up. At that point, melting it seemed to be the best thing we could make happen to it.

      My dad mentioned it to a co-worker who pointed him at a local bikes-for-poor-kids organization. They took it happily, because they do have people who can tell what parts are safe to use for repairs on other bikes. But without that, yeah, we were looking at recycling it because… we didn’t know what else to do. None of us have the mechanical skills to diagnose and fix brake system problems.

    1. Funbud*

      Thomas and the French farmer! I’m going to be thinking about this story for years…and smiling!

  15. Anon all day*

    The thing that gets me about the paint surcharge, though, is that it is ridiculous they’re charging a minuscule amount for supply chain issues (which are real!) while still having such massive contractor discounts.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Is it though? Contractors presumably buy in bulk while average consumers don’t — most things are cheaper in bulk and it absolutely makes sense that they would want pass over some of those savings to incentivize contractors’ repeat business.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        And contractors come in knowing exactly what they want, and how much of each color. The counterperson doesn’t need to spend an hour with someone and end up selling juuuuust the right color, then deal with the irate customer because “It looked different on the wall!”; they get a list from the contractor and fill it.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      It’s an incentive for the contractor who buy in bulk to return to that store wheras someone painting their house buys paint rarely.

    3. Lab Boss*

      Someone above also said that it’s a 4% surcharge, which isn’t necessarily all that tiny unless you’re buying things that are pretty cheap.

    4. Sasha*

      If a 20% discount saved $100, the total bill must have been $500.

      If the average contractor is spending $500 a week on paint, do you want them coming to your shop, or your competitor? I assume even at a 20% discount the store is still making a decent profit. They didn’t pull 20% out of the air.

  16. Carolyn m Peterson*

    This was my mother’s story. She was a first grade teacher way back in the late 50’s, and it was her first year teaching. She had a student who was a charmer, she said he had more emotional intelligence in his little finger than most adults do after a lifetime of living. Unfortunately he did horribly on tests and always scored below way average, but he could sell anything to anyone and made all the kids in the classroom feel wonderful, along with always being cheerful and empathetic. There was a test they administered to all kids in first grade and it was the IQ test. She learned this was the only time the test was given to kids in this school district, and it stayed with kids throughout their school career. She also found out that teachers treated kids according to how high their IQ test scores were. If they scored low they were treated like dummies and were disrespected. She wasn’t surprised when his test score was below average and hated to think he’d be treated accordingly. So she changed his score. Overnight he became one smart little boy! This was back in the 50’s and schools have changed quite a bit, as they have since discovered we all learn differently and that home life and other factors can also affect how high a child scores. I always felt she was ahead of her time. And she often commented that she would have loved to see where he ended up in life.

    1. OyHiOh*

      I love your mother! I too have a child who does poorly on tests – neurodivergent in some way that can’t quite be pinned down, global language delay – and the IQ test I allowed the school to do as part of an IEP process was about the stupidest thing I’ve ever allowed to have happen. Multiple tests – different companies, verbal vs non verbal – all show a number that suggests a child who will never ever live an independent life. The child seen in classrooms and demonstrating on homework is completely at odds with that number. Intelligent, curious, strong critical thinking skills (albeit in a unique logic pattern you have to listen to for awhile to understand how they work through problems), ambitious.

      The best thing I ever did for this kid was to have them live in a different state, with relatives, for two years. Completely reset my child’s expectations of themself, and got a brand new shiny IEP that erased the IQ test results (because in my state, at least, once and IQ test in on the child’s IEP, that number cannot be removed for any reason). If one of the several people I asked about getting IQ tests taken off the IEP had the power to just, accidentally, loose information, it might have been different.

    2. Margaretmary*

      She might well have changed the trajectory of his life. If teachers believed he was above average, they would treat him that way and encourage him which might have helped him to achieve to the utmost of his ability.

      1. Anonymous4*

        Oh, sure. It’s been proven. I remember reading about an experiment in which a group of kids was randomly divided in two, and Teacher A was told, “We’re giving you our brightest students because we know you can handle the challenge,” while Teacher B was told, “You may find them a bit of a challenge; they’re good kids, but . . . well, just do your best, okay?”

        You know the results, right?

    3. Empress Matilda*

      As the parent of a kid just like that one, I thank your mom from the bottom of my heart. My son has all the empathy and emotional intelligence in the world, and he doesn’t score well on academic tests (or on deeply flawed IQ tests, ahem.) Your mom changed this boy’s entire life. <3

    4. Artemesia*

      There is some very old research on this that showed that kids got labeled in kindergarten — and likely by how clean they were, how they smelled, how nicely dressed they were etc — and the tracking and labeling (regardless of intelligence) determined the rest of their school experience.

  17. Calliope*

    I love all of these. Definitely needed today. I particularly like the (presumed?) transformation of young Thomas in (6).

  18. RJ*

    OP #13 and the IT guy – you are both my heroes and I wish you both a lifetime of happiness. Even in a dark situation, you find stories of kindness in the face of loss and it just reminds me of the importance of humanity.

  19. Wing N Wing*

    This whole thread has totally changed my day from a “Monday” to a “Yay!day.” I just wish I had been that creative.

  20. the cat's ass*

    This thread totally gives me life on a Monday. Y’all are fantastic. There is lot of good out there!

  21. Toolate*

    For some reason, the story in #8 The Raises is so satisfying to me. I think the theme here is breaking the rules slightly for everyone’s benefit, but in this one it seems like the manager was really operating within the rules in a creative, ingenious way.

    1. Lab Boss*

      I extra love it when companies are so so happy to say “well this is TECHNICALLY within the rules” when it’s to their benefit, and then an employee does the exact same thing to them from the inside :)

    2. Anonymous4*

      I am absolutely in awe of Mr. #8! I would NEVER have thought of anything of the sort, and that maneuver was just amazing!

  22. Blinx*

    These stories are so wonderful! Little changes, big changes, all because people chose to be kind. They found a way to help people they knew, or like the lunch boxes, many, many folks. Thank you for sharing.

  23. Empress Matilda*

    I love all these people. Thanks so much to everyone who has shared their stories! Here’s mine:

    Approximately a million years ago when independent bookstores still existed, I worked at one with a persnickity (and mostly absent) owner, and an absolutely lovely manager. Technically I was considered part time staff, but I was working full time hours, and treated as a full-timer by everyone who worked there.

    One day a vendor came in to invite all the full time staff to lunch, and it became clear that the invitation didn’t include me. I tried to keep my professional face on, but I must have failed, because the manager called me over later that day for a Talk. I was expecting him to say something like “I know it sucks, but this is just the way things are right now.” Instead, what he said was “I’m going to put you on the schedule tomorrow, and I want you to stay home. If anyone asks, tell them you were sick.”

    As someone who was working full time during the day to put herself through grad school at night, it meant the absolute world to me. Not just the paid day off – which was great, obviously – but the fact that he wanted to do something nice. It’s easy to feel invisible when you’re just slogging through everything like that, and it felt so good to know that he noticed me.

  24. Beth*

    That was one of my favourite threads of all time! I missed some of these stories the first time around.

  25. Michelle Smith*

    Okay, the two stories about helping out elderly folks made me cry. There really are still good people in the world.

  26. doreen*

    Some of the stories are about someone “abusing” things they actually have the authority to do – the Sherwin Williams employee was apparently allowed to give discounts to contractors and the “abuse” was considering the LW a contractor to provide the discount. Presumably the library employee had the authority to remove late fees in some circumstances or they wouldn’t have had the ability. The gym manager was permitted to create promotions and the “abuse” was rigging the contest. Some of them seem to be about people doing things that they don’t have the authority to do but that someone else might – for example, someone else at the Big Box store might have had the authority to dispose of that custom rug in some way even if the LW didn’t. Some seem to be operating within the rules, like the raises and some seem to be more “well the bikes never actually made it into the bin and we definitely didn’t let customers pull them out”

    But Thomas – I may be in the minority , but Thomas did something very different. He didn’t have the authority to just make all the records of the loan disappear and I’m sure nobody else at the bank did either.

    1. A Feast of Fools*

      Thomas had the authority needed to access the records, though. The average person off the street wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near those records.

      And, yes, an executive / higher-level manager at the bank would have had the authority to zero out the farmer’s loan, as long as the accounting was above board, like writing the debt off as unrecoverable. [Source: my mom’s entire career in commercial banking]

      1. doreen*

        I’m sure it’s possible that a higher level manager would have had the authority to write off the loan as unrecoverable – but that’s not the same as making all the records disappear , which is kind of the opposite of “as long as the accounting was above board”.

        1. A Feast of Fools*

          Welp, then you’ll have to put the rug incident (which was me, btw) into the same category.

          Sure, a store manager could have marked it down to $0.00 and given it to the customer, as markdowns are in their authority to do. But they didn’t and so I stole the rug. Just walked it out of the store in a cart with a smile on my face.

          I abused my power as a Customer Service Desk employee — and my implicit power as someone who was trusted fully by management and therefore had access to all areas of the store (including the cash vault) — to steal merchandise.

          The Sherwin-Williams associate could have been fired if discovered, for breaking company policy and giving money away to someone who wasn’t a contractor and wasn’t going to provide boatloads of repeat business.

          The gym employee might have been fired if the boss had found out that she created and rigged a contest solely for the purpose of benefiting a single member.

          The boss in #1 (Over-Orderer) could have been fired for falsifying expenses. The company intended to pay for their clients’ lunches — which they can write off as a business entertainment expense and which they did to facilitate sales — not pay for a low-level employee’s meals.

          Taking bikes from the recycling bin is no doubt a fireable offense. It’s also stealing. Once the bikes are in the bin, they’re company property. If the company cared to, they could have had the OP arrested for theft.

          The IT person’s act of giving away a brand-new laptop to an ex-employee is 100% theft and a fireable offense.

          The one thing all of these have in common is “abuse of power/authority”. Not in the “am I authorized to do this thing?” but “Due to my job role, I have a certain amount of power/authority — whether that’s through access to systems, access to physical items, access to a person in power — and I have exercised that power in a way that benefitted someone even though it went against company policy.”

          Because if the person did something good that was within the normal bounds of their authority. . . then it wouldn’t be abuse. It would just be. . . a normal working day for that person.

          “Hi, yes, I am the store manager, I mark things down all the time; of course I’ll mark this rug down, too,” isn’t an abuse of authority. It’s *using* authority.

    2. Firm Believer*

      I felt the same way. Not only is it a fireable offense I bet he could have been prosecuted for it.

      1. Laure001*

        I’m the one who told Thomas’ story, we were friends when we were a bunch of twenty something playing role playing games.
        You’re right, Thomas definitely could have been fired, and prosecuted for it. At the time, we were young and stupid, we didn’t realize it, we just thought what he did was heroic!

        That is where the time period is important. Now, no way he could do that. Not with the information system as tight as it is, but also because business ethics and rules are taken much more seriously that they were at the time…at least in France. People cut corners all the time here thirty years ago, and such an action was not as big a deal as it would be now.
        But the huge thing in Thomas’ favor, not morally, but practically, was the fact that this was a dusty, old, set in its ways establishment. Think Brazil. Before they even realized something had gone wrong an eternity would have passed. :)

        1. Anonymous4*

          I’m not very young (although I may be somewhat stupid), and I still think Thomas’s act was heroic. Good for him! He did a righteous thing, albeit illegal, and in this case I’m okay with that; and long may he thrive.

    3. Goldenrod*

      Something can be illegal and still be the right thing to do.

      (See: The Underground Railroad; hiding a Jewish person in your house in Nazi Germany, etc.)

      1. Kate 2*

        All these lovely comments and them something like the far above comment. I knew this was going to happen. Thank you for writing what I was thinking Goldenrod!

    4. Insert Clever Name Here*

      The SW story was mine; I did not have a contractor painting my house, just some friends I bribed with pizza and wine.

  27. Isabel Archer*

    Alison, thank you so much for these. A few brought tears to my eyes. I wish everyone would be this kind to their fellow humans,

  28. Dona Florinda*

    BRB, starting a petition for Alison to make this a regular post.
    Thank you for making my Monday lighter!

  29. Anallamadingdong*

    This was absolutely delightful to read and I would love to see more stories like this in the future!

  30. Didi*

    I had a manager one time who would occasionally allow employees to take a day or half day of PTO off the books. If the employee had a really rough day, or finished a big project, or otherwise was just in need of some time, she’d confidentially just say to the employee “take a day off, off the books.”

    Everyone had two weeks of vacation – a ridiculously small amount – and you had to enter your PTO into a timekeeping system. But only the manager could see who took which days, so only she knew about the extra days. No one ever audited it as far as I know.

    Technically, she and the employees were stealing time from the company. Over the course of the year maybe six or seven extra PTO days. But we loved her for it.

  31. Third or Nothing!*

    Gym Manager: you actually made me tear up. Exercise has been so huge for my mental health and relationship to my body, and I’ve really missed being able to go lift weights at the gym during this pandemic. Thank you for recognizing that the gym can be so much more than just a place to exercise for a lot of people and for giving that woman her happy place back in a way that maintained her dignity.

  32. ObservantServant*

    My own story: I was laid off from a very high-end investment company. The company was moving but I chose not to go with them. I was on the lower end of the pay scale in Operations but still well paid.
    As the office closed, we were allowed to take anything we wanted (small filing cabinets, office supplies, plants) which I took a bit of.
    Higher value items like printers, monitors, the microwave were given away via drawings. My boss, who was the head of compliance and our OSHA floor officer was particularly concerned about safety and it extended to all aspects of his life. I mentioned I had hoped to get the really nice microwave since mine was ancient and he ranted about how unsafe older microwaves were, how I could it tested, etc. The CMO handled the majority of the drawings. Somehow, all of the high value items went to the lower paid employees who were either not moving or weren’t offered relocation. I got the microwave and a great monitor. The CFO personally made sure I took home two chairs worth over $1K and helped me wheel them down to the parking garage and past security himself.
    Writing this from my well furnished home office where I’ve worked in the years since.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I love this.
      When LabJob closed down, I bought several items of furniture from my boss, super cheap—a desk, a printer stand (both solid oak), and a stainless steel-topped lab table that lived in my garage as a worktable for lo these many years. Sadly, I don’t have them anymore; when I moved in 2019, I had to downsize.

      We were also allowed to rescue the office plants. I still have two VERY old pothos. I have no idea of their true age because they were in the office when I first began (in 1999!). I just throw water on them once a week and they’re fine. When (not if) I leave the state I’m going to buckle them into the passenger seat of my car like babies and take them with me.

    2. A Feast of Fools*

      I worked as a field sales person in a leased office space that was remote from corporate (which was several states away). A new VP of Sales was hired and he promptly “laid off” all the remote folks across the country.

      There were three of us in this particular leased space and, on the day we packed up our stuff, my manager asked if I wanted to borrow his SUV to take my stuff home. I was like, “An SUV for *this*?” and gestured to my one file box of personal items.

      He said, “No, for *THIS*,” and gestured at everything in my office: printer/fax/scanner, monitor, keyboard, white board, markers, eraser, ethernet cables, cases of paper, printer ink, file folders, filing cabinets, desk chair, surge protector power strip. . . literally everything except the desks and the [cheap] art on the walls, because those belonged to the property owners.

      When my jaw dropped open he said, “Well, they *did* tell us to ‘clean out our offices’, and I believe in following orders from upper management.”

      I’ve had to replace the printer and the monitor but I still have everything else.

  33. Hailrobonia*

    I work with the administration/operation of professional development programs. When we get cancellations for health reasons, in order to waive the cancellation fee we are supposed to require documentation (doctor’s note etc.). The rule is that it is supposed to be either the individual or immediate family.

    I interpret “immediate family” in the broadest meaning: your dog get hurt by a car? cancellation fee waived! I also try to be kind and understanding when it comes to documentation… we’ve had people call us and say they need to cancel due to a miscarriage and there is no way I would make them have to submit any paperwork for the fee waiver… I just say “my heart goes out to you and your loved ones and am waiving the fee” without requesting a doctor’s note.

    1. What She Said*

      I’m still trying to get my grandfather’s name of my cable. First trip my mom made to the company she had the death certificate. The person she spoke with said I’ll mark in here I saw it but I don’t want to keep a copy, it’s just not right. Then I go in with her to switch it over to me since I had to do it in person. New person refused to accept the previous person’s note and demanded to see and make a copy of the death certificate which we did not have with us. That was right before covid lockdown and the cable is still in his name. I am tempted to cancel and go with another provider over this and making sure they know why but just haven’t done it yet. All this to say, I appreciate what you do in regards to the required documentation.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Is there an open estate? If not, I would be sorely tempted to simply stop paying without cancelling. The cable company can’t collect from a dead man.

      2. El*

        There is a certain cable company I will never use because when my father was dying of cancer, we got multiple harassing calls from the cable company about an unpaid bill, but they insisted that they needed to speak with him and only him as the contract was in his name. When I finally explained that he was on his literal deathbed, the customer service rep hung up on me. They did not waive the fee.

        OT, but I also appreciate what these folks have done for others.

      3. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

        I have successfully removed my dad’s name from a few accounts by calling and telling them that receiving mail with my dead father’s name was distressing my elderly mother. It wasn’t, but I got the accounts fixed!

        1. Empress Matilda*

          I did the same when my (now ex) husband was in Afghanistan with the army. Some problem came up with the cable and they insisted they had to speak to him as the account holder. I got nowhere saying “I’m his wife, he’s out of the country right now.” But it’s remarkable how quickly they actually can help when you say “he’s in an active war zone right now!”

      4. KuklaRed*

        O this brings back horrible memories from when my mom passed away. I could NOT get her sole credit card company to cancel the account. There was no balance on it and I provided a death certificate, but they just WOULD. NOT. CANCEL. And they kept charging the annual renewal fee every year. It drove me batty, but after a while I realized that they were billing a deceased person and they weren’t going to collect. For all I know, they still are and she’s been gone for 20+ years.

      5. Claritza*

        Similar experience when my Dad died. Phone service provider required a death certificate and created a lot of hassle and cable company insisted on the return of an ancient cable box which we were sure would be pitched in the dumpster.

  34. Goldenrod*

    oh my gosh, I love ALL of these, but I think my favorites are Vielle Prune!!!

    And the fake contest!!

    I love this topic!

  35. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    I want a movie for #6! I adore the new Thomas. I’d also really love to know how future Thomas turned out – but only if it’s good.

  36. Elizabeth West*

    I only got through Last week I learned that I could mute people on web-based calls, at the exact same moment that a chronic mansplainer was talking before I started laughing. Well done, OP #2.
    Also, I need the laugh right now so thank you.

    1. mli25*

      I have totally muted someone on a call. He was off mute, not talking, and breathing heavy. He also may have been eating too. It felt good to make that go away.

      1. Grace Poole*

        Many of us have been doing the video call thing for two years now, and it blows my mind how many coworkers just aren’t muted, especially during big staff calls. And even when called out, like, “everyone make sure you’re on mute!” they’re completely oblivious. I never have the power to mute, but would use it real quicklike.

      2. Critical Rolls*

        Among my group, this is known as “Vadering.” As in, “Could you adjust your mic? You’re Vadering.”

  37. Phoenix Wright*

    I’m loving all these stories! I missed the original post, so this is an unexpected yet beautiful surprise.

  38. Brett*

    So sad I missed this last week, as I went through a different version of #1.

    I used to work emergency management, part of our local police department, and the last half of 2014 we were activated for several weeks as an emergency operations center in response to civil unrest in our area. If you are putting together the dots with 2014 and civil unrest, yes, you are probably right. Neither I nor my former boss work for that agency any more.

    We did a ton of social media monitoring and knew pretty quickly who the significant protest leaders as well as the main people running logistics for protesters. The logistics people, in particular, were always seeking food donations. Meanwhile, we had a response budget to buy food for everyone in the response center. Despite how things might have seemed, we (the police department) were generally pretty supportive of the protesters and the reforms they were supporting (but there were plenty of rioters overshadowing the protesters).

    So, much like LW #1, we started over-ordering for dinner. Every night, we would have several pans of untouched extra food. And, at the end of my shift, my boss would not notice when I packed those “leftover” pans up in my car and hauled them up to a rendezvous offsite with someone who ran food logistics for the protests.

    So, ultimately, the police department was providing dinner to the protesters, using federal funding even, and only three people really ever knew this.

    1. madge*

      If this references what I think, thank you from the bottom of this St. Louis native’s heart. I hope the Universe or the entity you three believe in blesses all of you. What a heartwarming story.

  39. CW*

    #3 – You could mute someone else? That reminds me on Google Meet, where you can not only do that, but remove someone on the call as well. But I wouldn’t do that unless the person completely goes out of line.

  40. Richard Hershberger*

    #3: So letting the employees get a good night’s sleep is not regarded as important, but a “business retreat” is absolutely sacrosanct! This is at one wrong on all levels, and entirely believable.

  41. Bookworm*

    Thanks to all the LWs for writing! Thanks to Alison for publishing this on a Monday. It was such a nice read. :)

  42. KuklaRed*

    All of these make me so happy – Allison, can we make this a regular feature? – but #12 I want to institute everywhere. And #9 made me a little misty-eyed.

  43. Too Shy So Anon*

    Long-time reader, too shy until now to comment. I finally screwed up my courage to comment because I am going through a very difficult, possibly life-changing (not a good change) time right now. I felt like I might never smile again, but these lovely stories of kindness made me smile, gave me a brief reprieve from my troubles, and reminded me that there are lots of generous, sweet people in the world. Thank you Allison for putting this post together, and thank you to the lovely community members who shared/instigated these events. This post is extending the ripple effects of the initial kind actions.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Mojo to you for your situation to work out as well as it is possible to do. Offering this [hug] if you would like to accept it.

      1. animaniactoo*

        And also for you to find happiness on the other side of it, however it turns out. [fingers crossed]

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      Thank you for piping up. It can be hard to share when you’re going through tough times. I’m glad you were able to get a few moments of happiness from these. Take care of yourself.

  44. Who Am I*

    I knew a guy about 20 years ago who, with his wife, made enough to live on and even eat out once in a blue moon but they lived pretty much paycheck to paycheck. And he and his wife both lost their jobs the same week. She was able to get a temp job pretty quickly but when rent was due, they didn’t have the whole amount yet and the apartment complex wouldn’t accept weekly or bi-weekly payments, only monthly. They went to the office to see what they could do and the office manager was very sympathetic while he talked and his wife was sitting next to him quietly crying, but said there was nothing she could do. They worst thing was, they’d just renewed the lease and the fine for breaking the lease was huge. My friend knew they’d renewed it because he’d turned the renewed lease into the office himself. Well, would you believe when the office manager looked for their new lease she couldn’t find it anywhere? She said it must’ve somehow gotten lost (wink) and not to worry about it. (They were able to find a place to live – one of those weekly rentals that costs as much as an apartment but at least doesn’t require deposits and accepts rent by the week or by the month, so they were never on the street. I’m not really in touch with them anymore, but last I heard it took a while but they recovered financially and are doing ok.)

    1. ShinyPenny*

      A good reminder to not let the Perfect be the enemy of the Good.
      The office manager did what was in her power to do, and it mattered–even though she couldn’t fix the biggest problem. Kindness FTW.

  45. PivotPivot*

    I think the OP who posted about adjusting a motel rental fee for a guest in obvious distress deserves a mention.

  46. Sylvia*

    Thomas is my hero.

    Number 13 reminded me of a friend years ago who used to work at a store which was owned by, shall we say, a famous entertainment company with some very well-known cartoons and TV shows. The store sold fan merch, etc. The store went out of business and everyone got laid off, although the entertainment company itself was still doing fine. All of the displays, many of which were human-size replicas of famous cartoon characters, were supposed to be burned (I guess this is something they do for brand control). The store manager, who had also been laid off, “misunderstood” the company directive and told the employees to take whichever displays they wanted, with the understanding that they should probably lay low with it for a while. This was great for my friend, because he loves collectibles. It was definitely worth it to him to be laid off in exchange for the amazing pieces he has now.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      “They were supposed to be ‘burned’? Oh no! I thought you said ‘churned’, as in turnover, like you wanted them out the door. Oops, silly me!”

  47. Anonymous4*

    #10 – The Lunch Lady

    God love her, she was making sure people having a hard time could eat. That is purely wonderful! I fully expect that when she finally gets to the Pearly Gates, St. Peter will get down from his stool from behind the lectern and shake her warmly by the hand.

  48. A Genuine Scientician*

    Along the lines of number 8:

    My father was an executive in a customs brokerage organization, at a time when things were switching over to digital entry and/or computer filled forms, rather than writing things out by hand. He realized that it was a lot easier to train any ambitious secretary to pass the licensing exam than it was to train someone who had passed the exam to type at the speed and precision of a secretary. So for years he coached many, many secretaries through studying for and passing the licensing exam and becoming brokers at the company. Their salaries went up hugely once they became brokers, their entry and error rates were phenomenal compared to the people who had started out as brokers, and the company saw less turnover in these new brokers because they were grateful for having been given the opportunity. A number of them did eventually leave for higher level positions elsewhere, in career that went very different directions than they had envisioned back in their secretary days, but continued to send new prospects my dad’s way whenever they knew someone who was looking for a post if their own firm wasn’t hiring.

  49. WoodswomanWrites*

    What a wonderful collection of kindness! Reading these brought tears to my eyes. I’ve bookmarked this as a reminder. Thanks so much, Alison.

  50. LittleMarshmallow*

    Ah the mute participant button! Awesome invention. Some programs have an eject participant option also. I would only use it in extreme situations, but I have seen the mute participant work great when someone goes rogue and the meeting leader can’t get them back on track.

  51. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

    In my early teaching years, I spent summers working for the township recycling yard. So many computers were left with us. When I had time, I removed the CPU’s and Memory chips and took the hard drives and gave them to a non-profit who rebuilt computers and donated them. I own boxes of scrap gold and was a godsend to the non-profit. (The computers were just shredded into scrap metal)

  52. Scout*

    I missed the first round of these but have to share mine.

    My husband and I bought our first house shortly after we got married. It was a 1940s bungalow, so has had all sorts for work done to it over the years. Purchasing it was a big financial stretch, and about a year after we bought the house, my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. He didn’t qualify for any disability pay because he had recently quit his job to go back to school, and now had no prospects of returning to work for a long time. Within a couple weeks, city code enforcement showed up at our door telling us that our garage conversion, which must have been there for 20 years before we bought the house, was unpermitted. The inspector came back and gave us an overview of all of the changes that would need to be made. (The building wasn’t unsafe, but fixing it was going to be very expensive). At that meeting, my mom told the inspector about my husband’s cancer and our situation. Not long after, we got a letter from the city confirming that all the issues with our property were resolved. I’ll never know if it was a mistake or the kindness of that inspector, but I like to think it was the latter.

  53. Officecat*

    Lucky #13.

    These were all great stories.

    I worked at a very small tech company with all great people. The guy who was the director would sometimes send out an email on a Friday morning telling us we could go home at 2pm and clock out at 5pm, he would especially do this on a holiday weekend.

  54. Peanut Butter Snob*

    I used to work for a major car rental company at the airport of a hugely tourist town. One evening, we had a large family come in; they’d wrecked their 15 passenger van and needed to rent two minivans to get home. Of course, one way rentals are expensive, plus mileage over a certain point. In our lobby there was a magazine with coupons and discounts for the city. I went over and grabbed one of the magazines and handed it to the husband who was renting the vehicles. I told him that I couldn’t GIVE him a discount code, but if he turned to (whatever) page, he could find a code to give me that would get him a 10% discount and waive the 10% airport fee. He didn’t trust that I was helping them out until he saw the rental agreement with the discount and fee waived.

  55. CNB1981*

    Allison, though I’m clearly in the minority on this thread, I’ve lost all my respect for you with this post—applauding fraud, theft, pettiness, and stereotypes—and everyone here cheering it on. You’ve all revealed yourselves.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Revealed ourselves as valuing human beings over capitalism and corporations? Yes. Yes, we have.

      1. Sorrischian*

        Some of these stories do make me kind of sad – in a just world, no one would have ended up in a situation where they needed to bend or break the rules like that – but CNB1981 makes me even more sad.

        1. CNB1981*

          People with an ethical sliding scale make me sad, and a full blown echo chamber of others applauding said behavior makes me depressed. Particularly when it’s amplified by someone who markets herself as an SME for professional, respectful, and equitable behavior.

          1. DrivingDitalini*

            People with rigid “ethics” that value corporate profits over human decency make me sad.

            Bravo to the folks making this world a little better.

          2. Grumpy Old Sailor*

            May I suggest two things?
            1) Adopt the Tin Woodman’s goal; and
            2) Stop reading “AskAManager”.

          3. Carlie*

            Please look up ethical frameworks. There are many, and just because these examples don’t fit yours doesn’t mean they don’t fit any. In fact, yours is deontological only, while these fit many others.

    2. pegster*

      Wow. Didn’t see that coming. This is why we can’t have nice things.

      Also, you can’t have really respected Alison all that much if
      a) you didn’t know how to spell her name
      b) you hadn’t figured out by now that this topic is totally her wheelhouse (and why I for one totally love her take on things).

    3. Non*

      I don’t fully agree, but I get where you’re coming from.

      Some of these are good stories, where “abusing their power for good” means doing something that is actually in their power, for the benefit of someone who deserves a break.

      Others are… outright theft. The last one with the IT guy and computer doesn’t sit right with me at all. I don’t see any wholesomeness in it. Sure, the guy got laid off unceremoniously and had the inconvenience of having to bring his work laptop back in person, but letting him walk away with a new laptop seems actively unethical, not just bending the rules.

    4. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Yup, revealed ourselves as people who recognize that ethics isn’t black and white and that discretion is necessary to treat people with kindness and compassion. You probably shouldn’t associate with us anymore.

    5. moonstone*

      You’re standing up for the wrong people in my opinion.

      Companies and corporations steal from employees all the time. The values of laptops and extra food portions pale in comparison to the amount lost in wage theft from employees. And mansplaining is not a stereotype – it describes a pattern of observed sexist behavior.

  56. Giraffe Girl*

    Awww, I love these stories. Very heartwarming and I needed that right now. My two favorites are the plum liquor farmer and the Miami Dolphins rug. ❤️

  57. Bébé Chat*

    I had tears in my eyes when I read #6. Maybe it’s because I’m from France and grew up in the countryside, but it’s such a great story and Thomas is a hero

  58. Eyes to the Sky*

    Reading these comments makes me feel like some of you would argue about anything because it doesn’t fit into your moral schematics.

  59. Janet Snakehole*

    I meant to share this on the original post but forgot and now it’s too late so I’ll share it here. This was something that someone else did for me a few years back.

    I got hired at a company that had several brands under one corporate umbrella, but after less than a year things got very toxic. I won’t get into the details but my manager unfairly hated me and even though everyone else liked me, my performance reviews were good and I was hitting and/or exceeding all of my goals, she wanted me out of there and was making my professional life a living hell. I ended up making an appointment with one of the corporate HR managers, and she couldn’t have been more helpful and empathetic. She tried to go to bat for me but when she looped in her boss, the director of HR, he took my manager’s side over hers and didn’t allow my manager to fire me, but allowed her to “restructure the department” and “eliminate my position” so that I’d get laid off with a severance package.

    I was given a two-week notice period to transition my work and the HR manager who had my back spent that time trying to see if she could find me a similar position for one of the other corporate brands. Unfortunately, there were no open positions for any of those brands, so instead the HR manager gave me extra severance (the company standard was two weeks pay for year or service and since I was there for just under a year I’d have gotten just one week pay, but she gave me four).

    However, two weeks after my last day, I got a direct deposit into my account for my usual salary amount. I called the HR manager to let her know and didn’t hear back. Two weeks later, another direct deposit, another email, another no response. Two weeks later, ANOTHER direct deposit. I was starting to get anxious because I knew that it wasn’t my money to spend and that they were going to eventually realize the payroll error. Well, the HR manager finally called me back and I told her that I’d held onto the money and I asked her how they wanted me to pay them back. She paused for a while and said “Well…. since it was a payroll error and not your fault, I think the best thing to do is for you to just keep the money.” She said she’d fix the error so that I wouldn’t get any more pay, but that I didn’t have to pay back the SIX WEEKS of additional pay I’d gotten.

    A few years later I saw on LinkedIn that she got a new job so I reached out to her to congratulate her and I straight up said “Now that you’re no longer there, I have to ask (although you’re under no obligation to answer) was that REALLY a payroll error?” She responded that yes, the extra payments were a true payroll error, not her doing, but she thought that what happened to me was so unfair that she’d made the decision to let me keep the money.

    I should add that I found a new job within two weeks so I didn’t even need that money for everyday expenses and ended up making out like a bandit! I was engaged to be married at the time and that extra money ended up paying for a portion of the wedding and a killer honeymoon.

  60. It'sABonesDay*

    I used to work for a place that did really shady things (like call me an independent contractor in order to not provide benefits but issued a w2 for my taxes). When the office manager eventually quit (they didn’t tell her until after she was hired that they also wanted her to also function as HR), she set me up with the company retirement account I should have had.

  61. Van Wilder*

    #11 – 20 years ago, my now mother-in-law won a raffle at work and got a new car, shortly after her husband died. Now I’m wondering if that was rigged.

  62. Alianne*

    Yay for all these people!

    When I was a librarian (PT, straight out of high school), we would charge $1 a night for DVD rentals, plus the usual 10-cents-per-day late fees for books. However, I noticed that on a few patron records, there would be a note from the Circulation Manager that said “Fees waived”. I learned as I went along that that particular manager kept track of the addresses of local halfway houses and shelters, and if a patron was renting children’s movies or checking out children’s books and listed one of those places as their address, she would quietly make a note to waive all their fees.

    And when I worked for a bookseller, two of our managers conspired to ensure that leftover sandwiches and pastries made it out to their cars, and from them to the food bank or shelter, at least once a week. Pretty sure they took turns paying half-price (at that time, employees got half-off all cafe items) for the lot out of their own pockets.

  63. Kayem*

    I meant to post this in that thread, but my mom was visiting and I got a wee bit distracted.

    In my first week at my previous job as property manager for a low income housing complex, I had to move in a family. They were immigrants from China with two children and both parents were graduate students working at the local university. They were living in campus housing, but that campus housing block was slated for demolition in a couple days.

    I was supposed to move them in on my third day, having triple checked the paperwork on my first day when I took over, but the head of certification wouldn’t approve it (for reasons I posted about in the petty abuses of power thread). I was told that in no uncertain terms, I was not to proceed until I got the okay.

    When I told the family, they were crushed. The day they were moving in was also the day they had to move out of their campus apartment because demolition was beginning that week. They couldn’t afford a motel and the small rental truck had to be returned that afternoon. The move-in day was a standing appointment already made by my predecessor, not their fault for being ready to move in on time. Plus, you know, their apartments were being freaking demolished.

    So I said eff it, grabbed the keys and an inspection sheet and moved them in. Approval was waiting in my email when I got to work next morning, so I made the proper corrections for the move-in date and happily took a formal reprimand from the higher ups.

  64. MCMonkeyBean*

    I had a small interaction like the paint one once in college. I was buying some DVDs at Borders and they were doing a donation drive with a bunch of children’s books near the checkout you could buy to donate. I impulsively grabbed Rainbow Fish and was like “oh man that’s such a great book I will donate this!” and then when it rang up it was… a bit more expensive than I would have guessed! Which, duh, because it is a very colorful book of full-page illustrations! It’s not like it’s wildly expensive, but certainly when compared to the usual kind of “impulse” donations you might agree to at checkout.

    I probably let the surprise show on my face because they were like “are you sure you want to donate this” lol. I said yes I definitely wanted to donate it, and they scanned a 25% off coupon for me–so then in the end my total order including the donated book ended up costing less than if I had just purchased the DVDs I went in for.

  65. Carson*

    During college I worked during the summer at a bookstore. One day, a former high school classmate came in to buy a book. He told me he was in the army and would be deployed soon. I wished him well and told him that while we didn’t have a military discount, I’d give the paid club membership discount to him. A small gesture, to be sure, but how else do you thank someone for serving?

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