company says only moms can work at home, was I rude for turning down a carpool, and more

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

1. My company says only moms can work at home

My company has been back in the office full-time, five days a week since September 2020 (when it was deeply unsafe). Our jobs can be 100% completed from home, which we did from March-September. Productivity was actually up during those months! Now they’ve decided that any mothers with children at home will be allowed to work from home one day a week, but employees without children, or even fathers, will not get this benefit. Is this legal? Would it be legal if they offered this benefit to parents of any gender, but not non-parents? All I can find online is discrimination laws when the policies hurt parents.

Nope, it’s flagrantly illegal. It’s illegal to assign perks by gender, just like they couldn’t assign them by race or another protected class. The part where they’re not offering it to non-parents is legal (except for in the small number of jurisdictions in the U.S. where parental status is a protected class) but the part where it’s allocated by gender is very clearly a violation of law.

2. A kid is making our customers uncomfortable

I’m the manager at a small independent bookstore. We have a healthy community of regular customers who have gotten to know our staff. Most of our regulars are very fun people who myself and the staff are excited to see.

However, there is one customer who fills us with a bit of dread. They’re a kid, around 11 from my best guess. They come into the shop once a week or so and sit on the floor towards the front of the shop reading a graphic novel which they have not purchased. Their parents are almost never with them, although occasionally we will see their father.

There are other repeat visitors who are children. These kids keep to themselves and are respectful of others. The issue with this child is that they will harass other customers — following them around talking about books, asking for people’s phone numbers, never taking no for an answer. My staff have received several comments from other customers about this kid.

But because they’re an unaccompanied minor, the staff don’t feel comfortable asking them to leave. The kid has also burst into tears several times from their father trying to set boundaries. I know there isn’t a clean solution for this but I’d love to know if you have any advice.

You’ve got to say something to the kid the next time you see it happening! For example, “You’re welcome to sit in here and read quietly, but you can’t bother other customers when you do. The means you can’t follow people around, ask for their phone numbers, or try to talk to them when they’re shopping. Okay?” Use a kind but firm tone — think camp counselor, teacher, or children’s librarian. If they cry, explain that they’re not in trouble and you’re very happy to have them in the store but they have to follow the rules.

And then if it still keeps happening: “Hey, you’re breaking the rules we talked about so we need you to leave for today.” (If it’s not a situation where kicking them out would be safe, you could instead ask them to sit quietly near the front — where they can be observed — until they’re picked up.) If they cry, say they’re welcome to come back another time when they’re ready to follow the rules.

But also, if you see the father before this is resolved, talk to him! Explain the situation and that if his kid is going to come to the store unaccompanied, he needs to follows the store rules.

Read an update to this letter. 

3. Was I rude for turning down a carpool?

Two coworkers and I are scheduled to go to a short conference next month in a town about three hours from our office. The plan is to drive up early morning, attend the seminars, and drive back in the evening. Today, in private, my boss casually mentioned that my two coworkers are carpooling together and asked if I was going to join them. Not thinking much of it, I replied that I’d just drive myself. My boss’ face immediately hardened, and she demanded to know why I wouldn’t ride with my coworkers. Taken aback and put on the spot, I pointed out that I have IBS (which she is aware of) and that a bad day could mean I would frequently need to pull over at various restrooms on the journey. This flustered her, and after some floundering she said that she understood, but also that my seemingly flippant refusal could come across as insensitive or rude if I had said it directly to my coworker, and that I should carefully consider my words when turning down an offer.

I’m a little baffled by the whole thing, but I do have problems with social cues, so I’m curious on your opinion. If someone turned down a carpool offer from me, I would simply assume they enjoy their own company, or like listening to their own music, travel at their own pace, or a dozen other innocent reasons. My boss seems to think that a refusal indicates I have some sort of problem with my coworkers, which I don’t.

There is a way you could say “I’ll just drive myself” that could come across as rude — like if you recoiled at the suggestion of carpooling or scrunched up your face with disgust when it was offered. (Honestly, having either of those actions internally wouldn’t be unreasonable, but you wouldn’t want it to show on your face or in your body language.) But assuming you didn’t do that and just calmly said, “No, I’ll just drive myself,” your boss is being weird.

I do wonder if she was coming up with a reason after-the-fact to justify her initial reaction — like when you first said no, she thought you were being anti-social, but then when you explained about your IBS she realized she was wrong and then tried to retroactively come up with a reason her original scolding made sense. (To be clear, being anti-social is still a perfectly good reason to drive yourself in many cases and wouldn’t warrant her initial response, but some managers have weird reactions to people turning down opportunities for togetherness unless they offer a “good enough” reason.)

4. How to tell clients I’m shutting down my business

I started my own business doing freelance admin and programming. This managed to turn into, let’s say, clown booking for local clowns after I assisted one with a website and correspondence (I’m using clowns as a placeholder here to stay anonymous). Word of mouth took over and I had 12 clowns I was working with. I did alright the first circus season, but have since realized I just can’t do it. I try and am not sure what I’m doing wrong. I don’t get responses to get anything booked. I have nine acts now, and it’s just a struggle. How can I explain, tactfully, that I want to cut them as clients and stop doing this? They already see that there are very few deliverables. I do know another circus agent that i could potentially refer them to. Any suggestions?

I think you might be feeling like you have to explain your reasons, but you really don’t! You just need to let them know that you’ll no longer be available for this work effective on X date and explain any logistics. For example: “Starting on February 15, I’m no longer going to be doing clown booking, and all work on your account will end on that date. Any unused retainer payments will be refunded back to you by the end of that month. If you’d like records of the outreach I’ve done on your behalf to share it with a new booking agent, please let me know by Feb. 1 so I have time to compile it for you. I’ve enjoyed working with you and wish you enormous luck in your clowning career.” (You can warm that up by personalizing it a bit for each person, of course — “I can’t wait for the day I see your balloon animals on Stephen Colbert” or so forth.)

Read an update to this letter

5. Recruiter kept asking me if I was still interested until I was not

I recently applied for a job I’m 100% qualified for. I’m on the east coast and the position was on the west coast.

In the initial response from the recruiter, they asked if I was still interested or if I would like to remove myself from the applicant list. I found that perfectly normal since a few weeks had passed since I applied. I responded and confirmed I was still interested in the role. We had several emails back and forth, including one regarding the fact that the position was not remote and would I be willing to relocate, which I said I would for the right position. All but once when they emailed me, they ended with a sentence about “if you’d like to be removed from the applicant pool, please let me know.” This did not seem to be part of a standard signature and was being added to the message above their signature line. They even included this line in the email requesting to setup an online interview with me.

Eventually I read into this that they were not taking my candidacy seriously and I finally opted out rather than waste my time. I know recruiters are trying to weed out candidates who may be wasting their time, but I want to also feel some level of excitement for my candidacy and continually inviting me to bow out rubbed me the wrong way. Is this common or was I reading too much into the exchange?

It’s definitely a bit much! It makes sense to check on a candidate’s interest in moving forward at certain stages — after a discussion of responsibilities or salary, for example, or after discovering the job isn’t aligned with some key things the person is looking for — but doing it in almost every email is unusual. But it’s most likely a quirk of the recruiter rather than an indication they weren’t interested in you. It sounds like something they were probably doing to every candidate, not tailoring to you in particular.

{ 481 comments… read them below }

  1. BuildMeUp*

    #5 – Yeah, this is a bit odd, but I would assume the recruiter is sending similar, if not nearly identical, emails to each candidate for a particular job. I doubt that sentence was aimed at you specifically.

    Maybe they’ve had a lot of issues with candidates ghosting and are hoping that by including that language, people will be more likely to communicate that they’re not interested anymore.

    1. Observer*

      You are probably right. But, as can be seen from this LW, it doesn’t really have the effect that they seem to think. I’m betting that they will take the OP’s removing themselves from the candidate pool as proof that this works, without realizing that the OP was in fact serious but was pushed out specifically by this language.

      1. Winterblossom*

        Eh, maybe. But we only have one anecdotal piece of evidence here. It’s entirely possible (if not perhaps probable) that this strategy is actually working for them with other candidates, and the risk of putting off people like the OP is worth it to them if it reduces a bigger problem they’ve had. We just can’t tell from this.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      It may be because the job would require relocation, if they’ve had candidates get to the offer point and then declare that they want to be fully remote, hoping that it’s negotiable.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        That was my thought. I definitely don’t think it was because of OP personally, but it does seem like it would be so odd for them to say that to *every* candidate, so my first guess would be that they do that with every candidate that would have to move for the job.

    3. Sasha*

      Oh I don’t know, I had one job application where the hiring manager kept emailing me and explicitly telling me “I had better withdraw my application”, whilst moving ahead with my candidacy on paper – there was somebody else he wanted to hire, and he didn’t want to risk the rest of the interview panel hiring me over his preferred candidate, so he kept sending me weird threatening private emails until I withdrew.

      I had assumed he would just reject my application if he didn’t want to hire me, but it seems he wasn’t in a position to do that, but was in a position to be an absolute nightmare to work with if I was actually hired. I had plenty of other options, so considered it a bullet dodged and went elsewhere.

      1. Lenora Rose Patrick*

        I would formally withdraw my application with the rest of the committee… and cite every email he sent you privately as the reason. If I didn’t know contact information for the rest of the committee, I’d see if they have an HR contact person besides him.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      I think it’s an odd way to phrase things. It feels a bit manipulative to me, somehow. But it’s probably not designed to get the OP to drop out. It’s more likely to be designed to get candidates to reaffirm their interest. Just happened to backfire, in this case.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        My guess is it’s a sort of semi-automatic tagline – where I end most of my emails with “let me know if you need more info,” this person is ending them with “let me know if you want to be removed from the candidate pool.” They may be typing the words, but I don’t imagine they’re putting much thought into them.

        It’s weird, obviously, but I don’t think it’s specifically directed at OP. And I definitely don’t think it’s worth dropping out, if you’re otherwise interested in the job and this is the only indication of weirdness! You might try asking the hiring manager if this is standard practice for the company, but other than that I’d let it go.

  2. Observer*

    #1 – WFH restrictions. That’s one of the weirdest things I’ve heard in a while.

    And, yes, this is one of the rare cases where “Is it legal” is actually “no”, at least in part. But what on earth is their thinking? Are there any other signals that these folks have incredibly rigid gender roles mapped out? And, is that pattern perhaps showing up in the work roles women vs men have?

    1. Tired but happy*

      A friend of mine was a stay at home dad (his kid is now 20 something!), and this policy is bonkers to me.

      1. Marley's Ghost*

        I’m a working mom and my husband is a stay-at-home dad. Our son is in part-time preschool and the fact that he’s in the house most of the time is the reason I don’t want to work from home (because he will want Mama attention). This is kinda wild.

    2. Kim*

      As a mother, I would HATE this policy. There are already so many things that create a divide between coworkers and this would be a big one. It doesn’t matter that it’s company policy, it could very easily cause a ‘them vs us’ rift between colleagues.
      I also hate the implication that mothers are somehow either more or less capable because they have a kid?

      1. Antilles*

        That struck me too. The company is setting up a dynamic where everybody’s going to be resentful of the moms in the office – and that’s true no matter how well/poorly the WFH goes.
        If things go well, people will be irritated that only moms get the policy, which will spill over to blaming the individual employees in addition to management (it shouldn’t be this way, but it usually does).
        If things go poorly, then the moms become an easy target of “you know who’s not doing their share while the rest of us are here”.

      2. blam*

        Me too, absolutely. It’s an employer handing me a ‘perk’ that will breed resentment among my colleagues, while also ensuring that it will be mothers and not fathers who end up doing the childcare/work juggling act. Plus making it clear that they don’t actually think WFH is a good idea (or they’d let everyone do it) but they assume in advance that I’m going to be a less productive employee because I’m a woman with children. Just have flexibility for everyone who needs it!

      3. Emmy Noether*

        Absolutely! I’d be very wary of using this “perk” and how it may be perceived by both coworkers and bosses.

      4. Fishsticks*

        Oh god, yes. You will absolutely make some childfree or childless people upset and hostile at the perceived ‘unfair perk’ to having kids, despite trying to work from home with kids in the house being one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done (worked during the lockdown in 2020 for eight weeks as a full-time employee, teaching my 6 year old kindergarten, and caring for her four year old sister at the same time. I aged more in that eight weeks than in the past three years combined).

        In my experience, some people will put the hostility where it should go – at the people who make the decisions. Some people will just get mad at the moms.

        1. smeep248*

          I struggle to work from home with a needy cat, I literally cannot imagine the nightmare of doing it with small humans

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Seriously! The number of times my cat has knocked my water or coffee all over my keyboard and lap…

            At least my cat sleeps 23 hours a day, feeds itself and uses a litter box; my understanding is that small humans do not.

      5. TomatoSoup*

        As a mom of two young kids, I would also hate this policy. Both because it would create a rift, but also it is so sexist and harmful. It reinforces the idea that female parents should be primary caregivers because of their gender. While helpful to me personally, it feels in the same vein as schools operating under the model of having one parent who either doesn’t work or whose work is so flexible they can be expected to show up at any time of day. The same idea that results in parents with feminine names, rather than masculine names, being the one who is always called in the middle of the day to pick up kids or talk about issues. Not to mention expectations/judgments about how mothers prioritize work and family, vs how fathers prioritize them. I can also seeing it perpetuate the idea that mothers are less dedicated to work than other employees.

        I want and need the flexibility of WFH in parent due to being a parent but if my job can be done from home, I don’t see why anyone else doing the same job can’t have the option.

        1. pieces_of_flair*

          Yup. I am a working mother and my husband is a SAHP. Guess which one of us the school calls every time no matter what we tell them.

      6. Random Dice*

        Sexism hurts all genders, and this policy is no exception.

        Men are being judged as lesser parents and then being forced to be lesser parents by this policy. (In alignment with a long sexist history.)

        Women are being subtly labeled as breeders who are less reliable. (In alignment with a long terrible history.)

        Nonbinary people are being erased.

      7. Curmudgeon in California*

        Plus, it’s not even a real difference – oooh, because I’m female with kids I get one whole day WFH? It doesn’t even help, FFS.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Oh wow, I missed that. Does the company think that daycare closes/child gets sick for only one day a week?

          I’m so glad my workplace gave up on getting my role to return to the office after realizing full-time remote was our most competitive recruiting advantage.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      On a team of 6, we have 2 remote work-from-home Dads. Both of the mothers on our team have children in the late teens or older, who are already independent (and those ladies also work remotely).

      Of course, the only on-site programmer we have is local and prefers the office. LW#1’s office’s rules are just bonkers–tell me they’re prejudiced without telling me they’re prejudiced.

    4. WillowSunstar*

      So singke unmarried women are to be punished fi not having found “the one” and having kids? Wow, I guess that’s a place where I wouldn’t want want to work.

      They could also be discriminating against other kinds of people. Some people can’t have children for medical reasons.

        1. WillowSunstar*

          Right, it would also discriminate against LGBTQIA. This company is setting themselves up for a lawsuit.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I wouldn’t have an issue with them only offering this benefit to parents with young children; that’s not any more discriminatory than offering parental leave only to new parents.

        I think the bigger issues are the gender discrimination and the arbitrary lack of flexibility around WFH for people in all sorts of situations (caretaking elderly relatives, disability accommodations, or just people who prefer it).

    5. Construction Safety*

      Yeah, based on the company’s previous behavior, I think we all know how this will go down if anyone complains.

    6. OP #1*

      OP #1 here! Yeah, this company is bonkers. I will have stories for the rest of my life from this place! It’s definitely a bit of a good ole boys club with some “old school” values that certainly play out in gendered ways. While I of course completely understand that parenting with a full time job (or without, frankly) is remarkably difficult and am happy parents are getting flexibility, it is certainly breeding some hostility among the child-free staff who also would love flexibility in our also busy lives!

        1. Observer*


          And the hostility is mis-aimed. I mean, it’s not “Parents” who are getting flexibility but “Mothers (who really shouldn’t be working out of the home, anyway)”. Please don’t blame women for the misogyny of the management.

          1. kitryan*

            OP #1 doesn’t actually say that the hostility is to the parents (subclass: women parents), it could be that it’s appropriately aimed to the management implementing the rule.
            Of course, if not, and people are getting frustrated with the parents, it wouldn’t be the first time that the recipients of a unfairly applied benefit were unfairly targeted in lieu of those applying the benefit unfairly. It seems to be something of a common trait of humanity (which we should try to not do).
            (Let’s band together against our *oppressors*! Viva la revolution!)

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        You really need to get out. They’ve plainly stated that they don’t care about your health and safety, demanding people come in to the office, to do stuff that could be done remotely, back in September 2020, when there wasn’t even a vaccine yet.

        Run as soon as you can.

    7. jojo*

      Since it says only moms than it is gender based which eould be sex discrimination. If ir says parents of small children it would not.

    8. Quickbeam*

      Pre-Covid my company absolutely granted WFH flexibility to parents but not non-parents. They did not bat an eye when confronted. This was on a day to day or hour to hour basis. Zero flex for non-parents.

    1. Pencil*

      Yeaaaah. I WAS bookstore kid for a couple years. The kindest thing the adults present did was set very clear boundaries, like “good to see you again, but I am working now and cannot talk. have fun reading!”

      1. laser99*

        My family owned a bookstore for quite some time, and it absolutely was used as a default daycare by some people. The child’s behavior needs to be nipped in the bud.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, I worked at a toy store where one child (around 7 years old) would regularly come in on his own, play with the toys for a couple of hours, then leave when his mother knocked on the window. The mom never came inside the store and neither of them ever bought anything.

          It felt weird to be providing childcare without ever being asked, but at least the child wasn’t disruptive.

    2. Rosie*

      And if this is the case, most likely clear rules will be helpful anyway so you can proceed as you would normally – being clear about what behaviour is and isn’t ok in the shop and that they are welcome as long as they follow those rules.

    3. JSPA*

      Without having seen the comment, regardless of potential “issues” (genetic, developmental, trauma-based, philosophical; intellectual, emotional, psychological, cultural, facing difficulties at home, fell through a wormhole) the same rules have to apply.

      State limits clearly but kindly. Affirm their value and personhood. Name and define behaviors that are unacceptable, and explain that nobody is allowed to do them. “No” has to mean “no”–not “try again later.”

      It may help OP to be firm if they
      consider that the kid is also at risk, if some hiddenly-skeevey patron quietly takes them up on their desire to forge relationships with adults. I was probably also that kid (except shy!) and can vouch that there’s no place (even an independent bookshop) where would-be groomers are guaranteed absent. Kids should not be trading phone numbers with random strangers.

      1. Fishsticks*

        As an awkward, loud kid who sometimes just failed to grasp those unspoken social rules that everyone around me just… knew… having clear, concise, and KIND communication that explicitly spells out allowed vs. not allowed would have been amazing! And it so rarely happens. Adults always just expected me to ‘get it’ without being told. Allison’s advice is spot-on, to speak firmly but also with clarity and maybe even invite Kiddo to ask questions if they have any.

        I was a bookstore kid, too. My grandma was a librarian so I knew to be quiet in places where books are, because I was TAUGHT to be.

        1. TomatoSoup*

          Same! I had a large vocabulary and was “well-spoken”, so adults just assumed I had the same social-emotional knowledge and understanding. If anything, this assumption ended up putting me behind my peers.

      2. Won't even use my name for this*

        I was probably also that kid (except shy!) and can vouch that there’s no place (even an independent bookshop) where would-be groomers are guaranteed absent.

        100% true. In fact, disgusting people will seek out places like this because they know the quiet kids who hang out there are often less likely to put up a fuss than kids running around being boisterous on a playground. The very first time I saw part of an adult man’s anatomy that I was definitely not supposed to be seeing, I was a shy eight-year-old child reading kids’ fantasy in a mall-chain bookstore while waiting on my family. (I did not speak up at the time and instead just pretended I didn’t see. I went to camp out at the staffed register till my mother arrived because I knew if I said anything, I’d lose this one refuge I had away from my abusive family.)

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’m so sorry to hear this happened to you. I’m glad you were able to take steps you needed to feel safe there again, even if that didn’t include telling someone at the time.

          1. Won't even use my name for this*

            Much appreciated! :)

            (I would absolutely raise a huge f*cking fuss if this happened to me now as an adult, or if I saw it happening to a child. But as an eight-year-old child, I didn’t have the wider perspective I have now. I don’t blame younger me for not speaking up because it felt ultimately unsafe for me, and I don’t blame anyone else who doesn’t feel safe or capable of speaking up.)

      3. Zap R.*

        “[R]egardless of potential ‘issues’ (genetic, developmental, trauma-based, philosophical; intellectual, emotional, psychological, cultural, facing difficulties at home, fell through a wormhole) the same rules have to apply.”

        Yes to all of this.

        In high school, a guy used to come in to the store where my best friend worked and stroke her hair. He had some sort of intellectual/developmental disability and family members who came into the store with him would just say things like “Aw, he likes you!” No one knew how to tell this man to knock it off and the implicit rule was that my friend just had to put up with it because “he didn’t mean it.”

        Setting a boundary would have been a kindness to my friend *and* to the man (who is presumably still stroking random retail workers’ hair.) You can be compassionate about the reasons for the behaviour without explicitly condoning the behaviour itself.

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          I wish people would realize that just cheerfully saying, “Oh, no, you can’t touch me without asking first!” gets the job done 9 times out of ten.

        2. Observer*

          I still can’t get over this one. It’s just TERRIBLE.

          The family members were bad enough, but I can sort of understand their being in denial. But the *MANAGEMENT*. No. Absolutely NOT!

        3. Iris Eyes*

          Absolutely. Some people need boundaries spelled out precisely and that’s ok, I think the language Allison provided does just that, lays out exactly what behavior is and isn’t ok and what the consequences will be if those boundaries are violated.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            Yes. I am Autistic, and two things that really bug me are:

            * Parents who refuse to teach Autistic kids boundaries because they don’t think it’s possible, so their kids end up being boundary-stomping creepers

            * People who think it’s “rude” to state boundaries clearly and then get mad that you didn’t “read between the lines” when they said “no, not a problem” and meant “do this again and you’re out of here.”

      4. Random Dice*

        Agreed. Also didn’t see the original post, but I live in a neurodiverse brain and have a neurodiverse family.

        What works for all of our issues is kind consistency. Clear rules, explained with clear words (no hints or body language or expectation that they know unwritten social rules), and followed clearly.

    4. Siobahn*

      Devil’s advocate here: Is it possible you’d be liable for unaccompanied minors, and, if so, create (and enforce) a policy that disallows unaccompnaied minors?

  3. allathian*

    Bugging other customers by asking for their phone numbers is reason enough to remove someone from the premises, pretty much regardless of age. It’s a bookstore, not an after-school daycare. You’re already being very generous by allowing the kid to read without buying, you aren’t a library either. When I worked in a bookstore, browsing was definitely allowed, but we did look askance at people who read a whole magazine without buying. Luckily there was a public library in the next block, and we’d sometimes mention it to people who spent more than about 10 minutes reading. Most of them bought whatever it was they were reading, though.

    But definitely, start by talking to the father.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      This is definitely a common problem at bookstores and libraries (and toy stores, and game stores, and other places geared toward kids) – parents assume it’s free babysitting. Sometimes it’s blatant – parent tells the kids to stay put and they’ll be back in a few hours! – and sometimes the parent just parks their kid in one part of the store and wanders off to browse somewhere else so they’re technically on the property but not actually able to parent their child.

      Unfortunately, what you can do about it often comes down to management. If anyone from corporate down to your local manager says you’re not allowed to kick kids out for anything short of arson, then you’re stuck. (That was the case in my bookstore; in a later job my library system had nice clear guidelines for us to follow up and including calling authorities for abandoned children so that was much nicer!) Often you end up in this endless loop of trying to harass the mom or dad into parenting their kid but not TOO much so they complain and get you in trouble :-\

    2. Emmy Noether*

      This is kind of a tangent, but I’ve noticed a trend for more and more nice bookstores to actually encourage reading in the store. Like an in-store café, comfortable seating, reading nooks, signs that it’s expressly allowed, etc. One bookstore I was at recently had a really cool playhouse reading nook in the children’s section. My theory (which I don’t have any numbers to support) is that this strategy actually increases sales. The children may not buy anything, but they’ll get their parents in the store and they’ll bug their parents to buy their favorite books. And parents can browse in peace. Some may never buy and just take advantage, but it probably averages out to a profit.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        What I’ve heard is that letting customers read books in the bookstore doesn’t increase book sales. But the people who are reading books buy enough from the cafe to make it worthwhile to let them read without buying.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Interesting. What about those bookstores that just have seating for reading, no café? Why do that if there’s no profit?

          Personally, those bookstores do feel more welcoming to me, and I may choose them over other bookstores, even though I very rarely read more than a few pages in store (and I feel more at ease reading those few pages knowing it is expressly permitted). So maybe those that read don’t buy more, but it increases traffic overall.

          1. Antilles*

            My guess would it might be just a long term effect of feeling welcoming, getting people to come back, etc. So while making it a cozy place to skim a book might not cause you to buy more books during the current visit, it makes you much more likely to come back in the future and buy then.

            1. A reader*

              My spouse and I like to check out local bookstores when we travel. I tend to have one or two sections I want to browse, but his interests are more varied and he like to spend longer in any section. Letting me sit and read the one book I’m possibly buying facilitates him not getting dragged out early and thus definitely supports sales of the 6 books he winds up buying.

              1. Zelda*

                It was a llama’s years ago, but I used to work in a craft store. Making “trailing spouses” comfortable so the “shopping spouse” stays longer & buys more was ocasionally an implicit part of the job.

                1. Emmy Noether*

                  Seems like a sound business strategy. Probably also works for trailing children (or trailing parents, for that matter).

                2. Chinookwind*

                  This was exactly why, pre-covid, my mother had a toy corner which she stocked with a playskool castle and other toys from our youth laid out on our old play table right by the front door of her gift store. Not only did it give a place to “park” kids who could knock over fragile things (she also had a policy of “stuff happens” when it came to these accidents), but more than one child has dragged a confused parent into the place while downtown because the child wanted to visit “their store” and then just plop down for 10 minutes to play with the plastic dragon while dad ended up shopping in a place they normally wouldn’t (think stereotypical redneck father being stuck in a place with scented candles and fancy kitchen supplies).

                  My mother is also known to keep handwritten wish lists that she is happy to pull out if the confused parent asks if there is anything in here that their spouse might like (the child often can point out things that the other parent likes too). Catering to the trailing child definitely works better than any social media campaign in a small town.

        2. Random Dice*

          I always get sucked into buying more books when I get to read first. And if they have chocolate and tchotchkes for sale by the seating (which my local bookstore does), I fall for all that too.

      2. Citra*

        I thought this was common in bookstores for the last few decades? Maybe it’s just that I lived in larger cities, but I haven’t been to a bookstore without seating, reading nooks, and a play area with a train table or castle or something for children since I was a child myself. They don’t all have cafes, but most freestanding ones do.

        Again, maybe I just got lucky with the places I lived, and all the bookstores there were ahead of the times.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Mh, I think I first noticed it about 20-ish years ago? Wasn’t common in my childhood. Seeing as bookstores have existed for hundreds of years, that’s still a trend to me.

          It’s still not common in train station or airport bookstores, probably to keep from being used as inofficial waiting rooms for hours at a time (which I understand).

          1. RagingADHD*

            I always get shocked when I realize that the 1990s weren’t 20 years ago, too. But here we are. That’s when this became prevalent in standalone retail bookstores.

            Not newsstands in airports, or most used bookstores. But B Dalton started doing this in the 80s, and Barnes & Noble and Books a Million took it up.

            If you were a child 20 years ago, it’s possible you had a limited experience of the stores available to you.

      3. Rosa Rosa Rosa Diaz Diaz Diaz*

        I wonder if this is part of developing the benefits of a bookshop over buying online. If you in, out, get told to put it back when you browse, a lot of people would feel they may as well use Amazon or whatever. If there’s a reading nook and a proper bookshop atmosphere, it makes visiting the shop a whole experience.

      4. Sevenrider*

        I cringe that someone is dropping/sending an 11 year old out by themselves? The bookstore employees are not babysitters. I would call the police and tell them there is an unaccompanied minor at the store. Is this legal to drop your kid off someplace and leave then there alone?

    3. Washi*

      I’m wondering about maybe also getting some contact info for the father as a last resort if talking to the kid doesn’t work. I too would feel a little nervous just kicking the kid out and it would make me feel better to be able to call the dad to let him know I had to ask the kid to leave.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree they have more than enough reason to stop letting the kid hang out there *if* that’s how they want to handle it. If it’s normal for people to hang out without buying anything (plenty of bookstores are set up in a way where that is not usual) then it seems like trying to set some rules first would be nice.

      But yes, if it comes down to not wanting him there at all that should be a conversation with the father saying he can’t drop him off there anymore because this isn’t a library or daycare, rather than a conversation with the kid telling him to leave since he may not be able to safely get anywhere else.

      1. Clisby*

        Except it sounds like they have other child customers who are sometimes there alone. If they’re OK with well-behaved kids being alone there, they should politely and firmly set the expectations for how this kid needs to behave. I don’t understand why they haven’t already done this – talked to the child and, if necessary, to the parent. Yes, plenty of 11-year-olds already know not to behave like this, but there’s no reason to think this kid will disobey rules that are clearly stated. Of course, another option is just to ban unaccompanied minors – that’s fine too.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          There’s no reason they have to apply the same rules to every kid if they don’t want to. If the other kids are sitting quietly and not bothering anyone and they are fine letting them stay, but not letting this kid stay–that’s their choice to make.

          Yes, they can try to talk to this other child. And doing so would be kind! But I also acknowledge that doing so and then having to keep an eye on him and monitoring his behavior and talking to him again if they don’t see enough changes… that’s well beyond what should be expected of them as bookshop employees. It’s their call whether they want to take that on or just say “this should not be our responsibility.” Especially if they suspect he has already driven away other (paying) customers.

    5. Fishsticks*

      Oh man. I have a bookstore I visit nearly weekly as part of my “three hours away from my kids to get some free time to exist by myself” weekends, and if someone mentioned the local library to me I would probably never go back to that bookstore, I’d be so embarrassed. Granted, I also go pick out a book to buy and start reading it with a cup of coffee and a pastry, than buy it when I finish up and leave. Or I go in to buy new cookbooks and end up browsing through three before leaving with the fourth one I actually came for.

      I assume since I’m regular enough to be recognized and greeted when I come in that they know I’m going to buy, not just be there. But oof I would sink into the ground of embarrassment to be called out for reading when I just wanted a couple hours of peace and quiet.

      1. Siobahn*

        The kid isn’t being “called out for reading,” but for inappropriately engaging with other customers.

        1. Fishsticks*

          I realize that in the case of the question, but I was replying to a comment by someone who spoke about calling out people who were just reading in the bookstore at their own workplace.

      2. Skytext*

        Fishsticks, I don’t think they would bother you the first couple times, even if they didn’t know you and already knew you were going to buy. But if you made a habit of coming in, reading for hours, but never buying anything, then they would remember you and know you were a “lookyloo” and not a customer. So at that point they may gently suggest the public library. But they won’t do that if they think there is a chance you will buy something.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, exactly! Presumably, it’s desired for customers to pick up a book and read enough to know they are interested and buy it. But it’s *not* desired for them to… read the whole book and then put it back and leave without having paid for anything. And suggesting a library would be entirely appropriate in that situation, since that is what libraries are for!

      1. Worldwalker*

        Yeah. The part that would worry me is an unaccompanied 11-year-old. What kind of liability does that open the store up to?

        1. Empress Matilda*

          Eh, my kid is 11, and I’d be perfectly fine with that. I mean, maybe not that specific activity, allowing for bookstore rules and social restrictions and so on – but an unaccompanied 11-year-old is not cause for worry on its own.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Sure, for you, but from a store liability point… yeah, that’s not great. If the kid gets hurt, who’s fault is it? Would the store be able to be put at fault? By allowing it, is the store unwittingly then ‘in charge’ of making sure the kid is safe?

            1. Empress Matilda*

              Oh yeah, I’m definitely not saying the store has to put up with it! I just mean that an unaccompanied 11-year-old is not necessarily cause for concern.

            2. New Jack Karyn*

              At what age do stores stop worrying about that? It’s got to be lower than 18–many places employ people younger than 18. If a kid is doing unsafe behaviors, address that. If the kid doesn’t respond to that, then ask them to leave, just as you would any other disruptive or unsafe customer.

              1. Siobahn*

                But a workplace that employers under-age minors has policies to fall back on, so not really a comparison.

              2. MCMonkeyBean*

                Yeah, I wouldn’t imagine there is a particular liability issue since kids under 18 shopping alone is in general a very normal thing. My friends and I spent tons of time at the mall in high school without any adults, and I spent plenty of time camped out in Barnes & Noble. I don’t imagine insurance sees any difference between 15 and 11 but maybe I’m wrong.

            3. Emmy Noether*

              I’m trying to think of anything in a bookstore that would be safe for an adult but not safe for a preteen and coming up empty. So the answer to the liability question is: the same that would be at fault if an adult got hurt.

              Now if it was a toddler, that’d be different. Those buggers are creative in finding ways of hurting themselves.

              1. SAS*

                I mean, I work with child victims so I’m primed but the obvious thought is if a predator sees them unaccompanied. An act of abuse can happen within seconds.

                1. Lellow*

                  Perhaps you can correct me if your experiences say otherwise, but I was under the impression that someone abusing a completely strange child in a public place is *incredibly* rare and abuse is overwhelmingly committed in the home by a relative or family friend? Is that wrong?

                2. Emmy Noether*

                  In addition to this being extremely unlikely (and the “stranger danger” panic being… not helpful in general), how in the world would the store be liable for this?! It’s in no way their fault or responsibility. Also, adults can also be assaulted or abused – and we wouldn’t require f.ex. women to only shop accompanied (well, at least not in the western world).

                  Maybe I’m just too German for this train of thought (we have a very, very different concept of liability.)

            4. Roger Beagle*

              I work in liability insurance and absolutely adults are the ones that are going to get hurt, unless a kid is like scaling the bookshelves. People are dumb and they constantly cause problems and slip and fall or do things that injure their old bodies. Seriously, adults are a menace lol!
              It would be a sad day indeed when older kids can’t go into stores on their own. My 9 year old goes to a corner shop a few blocks from our house all the time and it’s a big help.
              However, they should act mature and stores should not hesitate to require certain behavior (as you would an adult) or ask them to leave.

        2. Lellow*

          At my local swimming pool, children can swim by themselves at age 9. I’d expect most children who live near enough to walk home from school by themselves at age 10. An 11 year old is certainly not too young to be in a bookshop!

      2. ThatGirl*

        I mean… personally, I think teenagers should be allowed to shop alone, assuming that they’re behaving themselves. I spent plenty of time in Borders and Barnes & Noble as a teen and was never disruptive. But 11 is a bit young for that, probably.

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          One of the issues parents face (my kids are young adults now) is there is a period of time which can start fairly young when they are still “minors” but can be unsupervised. At some time before eleven, our kids could walk the half block to the playground to play, they could go on a ride at Disney that their parents didn’t want to go on while we waited at the gate. Within a few years, they had more independence. And certainly – while still minors – they had a lot of unsupervised freedom when they got their licenses. My youngest was a college student at 17 (as was I).

          But each child has different capabilities and matures at a different rate – and each parent performs a different risk analysis based off the situation and their child to determine what is appropriate – so “no unaccompanied minors in the store” makes no sense at sixteen, but probably makes no sense for most responsible thirteen year olds – and makes complete sense for ALL four year olds. Whether it makes sense for an eleven year old – depends a lot on the eleven year old.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, 11 is really on the fence. And it sounds like the main issue with this kid is mostly just that the other customers don’t want to talk to him, which isn’t really anything to do with his age.

        2. C Baker*

          But 11 is a bit young for that, probably.

          No, it’s not. In most of the world, including the USA in the not-so-distant past, this was perfectly normal.

          1. Rain's Small Hands*

            Just for reference, Audrey Hepburn was eleven when Germany invaded Belguim. By 13 she was working for the Resistance. And we are afraid to let our eleven year olds spend time alone in a bookstore.

            1. C Baker*

              Heck, Freddie Oversteegen was only 14 when she started shooting Nazi soldiers.

              If you ask me, they would’ve had it coming even if they *weren’t* occupying her country at the time. Who walks off into the woods with a 14 year old girl!?

      3. Trillian*

        My favourite such sign was my local comics store at one point, which said (allowing for memory), “Unaccompanied minors will be given a free puppy and a can of Red Bull.”

        I’m not sure that they ever carried through, but the combination would have struck terror into all but the heart of the most feckless parent.

    6. Kaisa (The Librarian)*

      Definitely try to talk to the father. But also, if the parents decide the kid is old enough to be dropped off at a bookstore by themselves they are also old enough to be asked to leave by themselves (for the most part – I know sometimes much younger kids get parked at “kid friendly” places and that’s a whole other issue). You are not a daycare and have every right to ask them to leave. I work with teens in a library – we have groups of middle schoolers going in and out of the library all afternoon by themselves (and 11 can be middle school); we don’t ask them where they’re going when they leave and we most definitely have asked them to leave the library when they can’t handle themselves (library edit: I promise we try not to ask them to leave – we really do want everyone to stay and hangout).

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        “But also, if the parents decide the kid is old enough to be dropped off at a bookstore by themselves they are also old enough to be asked to leave by themselves”

        I don’t agree with this–if the parent dropped them off and then left, where is the kid supposed to go? Depending on where the store is located this may be okay, but lots of places would leave that kid awkwardly stranded and I would certainly not feel comfortable kicking him out without knowing his parents were coming to get him. This is why I think if the goal is for the kid to stay but behave, talk to the kid and lay down some clear rules. If the goal is for the kid to not be there, then talk to the parent and tell them they can’t just drop the kid off there anymore.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      When I worked at *Rhymes with Orders* we had a whole cadre of campers who thought the place was their personal living room. One woman came in every day and stayed all damn day, hoarding expensive art books and taking reams of notes. She’d put them on hold so no one else could move or buy them.

      I finally got fed up when she came up and complained about something–reshelving or similar–and said she wasn’t going to buy anything if things got moved around. I just looked at her and said you never buy anything anyway. Which was 100% true.

      And she was only one of them. My personal least-favorites were the jerks who thought it was funny to take dirty magazines and hide them in the kid’s books section.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        My school had a panel last week discussing the dangers of early exposure of children to pornography and it unlocked a very specific memory for me of a pornographic picture of a man tucked inside of a library book for tweens. (I believe it was the Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, or one right near that book.)

        It took me a good minute to decipher the picture as I’d never seen a naked man before, and when I did, I thought I would have gotten into SO much trouble for seeing it, so I didn’t say anything.

        I don’t know if someone was thinking it was a funny prank or something more nefarious. But I felt so terrible for seeing it.

    8. e271828*

      When I go to a bookstore, unless it is specifically selling used books, I expect to buy new books and see new books on the shelf. Books that have been handled heavily and read show it. One local shop with a wonderful children’s books buyer stocked great picture books and books for younger readers, but the staff wouldn’t stop parents and kids from sitting and reading, cover to cover, so the merchandise was shabby and I never bought books there.

      So, bookstore owner, browsing is fine, but the cover-to-cover reader is not your friend if they never buy. This eleven-year-old should be at the library.

    9. laser99*

      As I posted above, I have experience with this dynamic. Be ready for the father to pull out the whole fake-outrage routine. “Well I’m a CUSTOMER! Are you saying children are not welcome here? What type of establishment is this, anyway???” Etc, etc. Btw I would bet the farm he has never actually bought anything, which means he is not actually a customer.

  4. KC*

    The fact that it’s legal to discriminate against people who choose not to or cannot have kids in ways like this says a lot about this country and none of it is flattering.

    1. Educator*

      If anything, I would think a company should want parent in the office more, not at home distracted by childcare! The adult household members and pets who live with the childfree are likely way less disruptive to a person’s work than dependent children. I’m astonished that any company would put our weird cultural deference to motherhood above their own productivity.

      1. allathian*

        It’s the old misogynistic idea that women have to choose between a career and motherhood, and if they choose the latter and continue to work, they’re only doing it for pocket money or the heck of it, not because they have something valuable to contribute.

        I’m wondering if moms can WFH at their own discretion when nobody else can do it, or if it’s only in special cases like looking after a sick kid, or being at home with the kid while their daycare’s temporarily closed?

        Granted, it’s a fact that Covid is still rampant in many places and closing daycares, for a lack of staff if not for any other reason, and WFH while monitoring a sick kid who sleeps much of the time is better for the company than not working at all.

        While I’d vastly prefer it if everyone regardless of gender or parental status whose job can be done remotely could WFH at least part of the time, in this case the gender discrimination bothers me much more than the parental status discrimination does. What if a man’s the single parent of a minor child, would he be granted “mom status” and permission to WFH? This obviously completely ignores the existence of trans parents, and cis men who are invested in caring for their kids on an equal footing with their spouses.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          I’m not sure it’s possible to separate the issue of gender discrimination from discrimination based on parental status here. I’d bet money the idea that the only good woman is the one who’s fulfilling her gender role by making and raising babies comes out in other, subtler ways in this workplace.

          1. Jasnah*

            Yes, this is one branch of the tree that says childcare is women’s work, and external/paid labor is men’s work. The sexism is appalling. If WFH is an accommodation offered to caregivers, men should be just as as eligible as women.

            I’m interested to see their paternity leave policy…

        2. Despachito*

          I’d be wary of using the word “misogynistic” lightly, as this measure is apparently giving an advantage to female parents over a group of non-parents consisting of all men and women who are not mothers.

          I’d call it gender-stereotyping, and although it is wrong, I can see the intent behind it was likely positive (as in – WFH is an advantage and we are not willing to give it to everyone but just to those we think need it most) . I think speculating along the line how awful the employer is won’t help much to achieve what OP wants to achieve – I assume it’s WFH for everyone.

          Doing it like this is still wrong because it is discriminating against non-parents, but I’d see it as slightly less wrong than if they were discriminating against women/parents. I think it can, and perhaps should, be disputed, but I can see two possible outcomes – the desired one, when the employer allows everyone to WFH for one day a week, but also one when the employer takes this one WFH day from mothers to be fair to everyone. I do not know exactly the legal implications but I assume either of these would be legal because they do not treat one group of people differently than the other. Is this a risk you would be willing to undergo (that you will not get your WFH day AND the mothers will lose theirs)?

          Perhaps a different framing than discrimination would help your cause more?

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I just want to point out that a lot of misogyny hides behind “good intentions”, and some of it gives an advantage to women on the surface (but not if you dig even a little). See also: “benevolent sexism”.

            Anything that rests on the expectation that working mothers do more childcare than working fathers and encourages that is most definitely misogynistic. Good or bad intentions are irrelevant to that.

            And as I wrote below, there’s a good chance that this “perk” will backfire on those that use it.

            1. Caramel & Cheddar*

              Thank you for saying this. A “positive” outcome doesn’t make it less misogynistic, and it probably only looks positive if you’re willing to look past the misogyny in the first place.

            2. Despachito*

              If I get it right, the mothers here are given the opportunity, not the obligation, to WFH. If they do not want to use it, they do not have to.

              The same opportunity is not given to the rest of the people.

              I see it as a discrimination against non-parents, as there is an advantage provided to the mothers and denied to others. It is definitely not fair towards non-parents, but how is that misogynistic, given that this perk is something almost everybody wants but just women get?

              And I also do not agree that intentions do not matter at all. They offered to mothers something that might improve their work-life balance. We do not know the mothers’ stance but from OP’s letter it does not seem they are not happy with the arrangement. OP’s goal would be for everyone to get the same perk as the mothers. Where is the misogyny?

              What solution would you propose, then, for it to be not misogynistic and fair?
              1) ideal – let WFH everyone who wants it
              2) let all parents and caretakers of children up to certain age WFH if they want it
              3) least ideal – take away the possibility of WFH from everyone
              4) something else?

              1. Emmy Noether*

                Well for one, anything based on misogynistic reasoning is misogynistic, by definition.

                Any solution 1), 2), or, yes, even 3) would be preferable. As a working mother, I don’t need “opportunities” that are really traps and that will make coworkers and bosses resent me and look down on me. If I take the “benevolent” sexism, I have to take the malevolent sexism, and I’d rather do without either.

              2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                “up to a certain age”
                hey yes, I mean I’m a mother, but since my kids are in their late 20s they don’t need magic kisses any more. I’d probably abuse the heck out of this policy just to show how stupid it is.

              3. Venus*

                At the very least offer it to fathers. The expectation that women are the only ones expected to care for children… is misogynistic to the core.

              4. not again*

                This take is totally lacking in any historical and societal context and critical reasoning. People have given reasons above, and you’re asserting that a discriminatory, reifying non-perk is actually a superb advantage. It’s not. Read the room.

          2. Observer*

            Is this a risk you would be willing to undergo (that you will not get your WFH day AND the mothers will lose theirs)?

            Yes. Absolutely. But if the latter happened, I think I would be looking at my options to leave.

            As much as it stinks to lose the WFH day, the culture that says “Women are MOTHERS” and “Men are MEN who need to do MANLY things” harms mothers. And it makes it almost certain that the day a woman announces a pregnancy (or someone figures it out) she’ll be put on the “Mommy track”.

            1. Despachito*

              I’d rather look at hard facts:

              – do those who WFH have any disadvantage coming from that?
              – is it obligatory to WFH if you become a mother?

              If not, I’d look at the WFH rather as an accommodation (you may or may not use it as you want) than misogyny.

              Having the possibility of WFH enabled me to be with my kids when I felt they needed it, and at the same time to work and to produce the same quality output, or even better, than if I was at work. It enabled me to reach better work-life balance than if I had to be “butt-in-seat”, and I am glad it was possible. A lot of people will be like me, a lot of people will be different. Have you asked the women concerned how THEY feel about it? Because disregarding the POV of those directly concerned would be more misogynistic and patronizing than introducing a possibility just for them.

              On the other hand, I’d think it perfectly fair if the rest of the employees said “it is not fair we as non-parents are not getting this perk, and more so that the actual productivity was up when we all WFH” than speaking on behalf of those who do get it without even knowing they would appreciate it.

                1. Despachito*

                  Of course they do, and I find extending the perk to them ( and to other parent-level caretakers) as a much fairer solution than providing it just to mothers.

                  (However, still not entirely fair to of non-parents, but if the company for some reason cannot (or does not want to) allow everyone to WFH, this would probably be the most viable solution.

                2. Emmy Noether*

                  Do they? because the only way that not extending this perk to fathers makes any logical sense is if they’re not expected to do any childcare or housework. There’s a term for that, and it’s not “perk for mothers”.

              1. Michelle Smith*

                It’s very strange how hard you are working to discredit the use of the word misogyny here. Very strange.

                1. Despachito*

                  It seems that our definitions of the word “misogyny” do not completely overlap, and my opinion is that if you use a word for something that isn’t “it”, deprives the word of some weight that is needed in case you use it to denote the “real thing”.

                  We can of course agree to disagree, and I do not see anything particularly strange about that.

                2. Former Hominid*

                  It’s not strange, because he’s sea lioning, he’s done it before, and he’s done it so hard that Alison’s had to close threads he’s been on. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

                3. nnn*

                  Didn’t Alison ask Despachito to stay out of discussions on sexism and racism because they live in a country with a really different culture on those things and their refusal to acknowledge that ended up derailing every time here?

              2. Observer*

                – do those who WFH have any disadvantage coming from that?

                Yes. When the ability to WFH is allocated this way, it’s always going to cause problems for the people who make use of it – but probably also different problems for those that don’t because they are not playing to the very gendered expectations of their bosses.

                In this case, it’s not theoretical – the OP comments in another thread that it’s breeding resentment against the mothers.

                If not, I’d look at the WFH rather as an accommodation (you may or may not use it as you want) than misogyny.

                Which is all good and fine, but that doesn’t negate reality.

                On the other hand, I’d think it perfectly fair if the rest of the employees said “it is not fair we as non-parents are not getting this perk, and more so that the actual productivity was up when we all WFH” than speaking on behalf of those who do get it without even knowing they would appreciate it.

                You’re responding to something no one said or suggested. Everyone here thinks that this perk should be given to everyone, or at least to ALL parents, not just men. And absolutely NO ONE is suggesting speaking for the women in the company. Why would you make this up, while resolutely ignoring what people are actually saying?

              3. Keymaster of Gozer*

                It absolutely IS misogyny. I don’t care to get into a discussion about what loopholes someone wants to invent to pretend it’s not.

                Assuming women = mothers = ONLY ones who look after kids is blatantly sexist and why we have laws against that.

          3. Rhoda*

            It can still be sex discrimination even if it doesn’t affect ALL women etc.
            For example, if you had a height requirement for a job role, that would be indirect sex discrimination, because statistically women would be less likely to meet the requirement, even though there are tall women.

      2. Employed Minion*

        Just because a parent is wfh, doesn’t mean they’re also doing childcare simultaneously. Most of us don’t want to juggle both, if at all possible.

        Also, as a parent one day wfh isn’t that useful if I DO have childcare. If I need to wfh for my child, its probably because they are sick. And they are most likely going to be sick for more than one day.

        1. allathian*

          Very true. It also depends a lot on the how old and how sick the kid is. A preschooler is going to be a distraction, no matter what, unless they’re sick enough to sleep most of the time.

          Before Covid, I was allowed to WFH, but didn’t use the opportunity much because I preferred working at a proper desk with large monitors rather than the dining room table. I pretty much only worked remotely when my son was sick or a convalescent, taking turns with my husband. So I definitely agree that being able to WFH for just one day doesn’t help much.

        2. Beezus Quimby*

          Yes, a lot of assumptions people are making here about anyone’s reasoning for wfh! Parents like wfh for the same reasons as non-parents, it doesn’t mean everyone has their kids at home with them. For me personally, before I had kids I would just leave the office when I was done and the time it took to get home was what it was. Afterwards, the commute between work, home, and daycare was this stressful rush. If I could lessen that commute and get back a couple hours with the kids that would be a great benefit! But – a mere one day a week is such an odd flex, both as something to deny people and something to bestow upon one particular group.

        3. Emmy Noether*

          Mmmmh, in my experience, even one day WFH can be better than nothing. For example, for my previous daycare situation, on days I could work from home I could actually go get my daughter on time (my husband did the other days). Also, WFH often does allow one to do a couple loads of laundry during break times, do the dishes or vacuum during lunch break, be there if a parcel is delivered, etc. It’s not a lot, but it can take the edge off having to take care of all this after work.

          Now, OBVIOUSLY, all of this also applies to fathers, anyone in a caring situation of any kind, or really most people in general.

          1. Worldwalker*

            “…most people in general.”

            Exactly. Fathers, childless people, and single people also need to do laundry, do dishes, vacuum, wait for parcels, etc.

          2. Beezus Quimby*

            It’s helpful and better than nothing but I can’t figure out the company’s motives here. People are saying it’s because the company views women as moms over being workers but, while obviously discriminatory and problematic, I don’t think that one day a week quite rises to that level of pigeonholing. And what would be the big deal about just offering everyone one day a week wfh? It’s baffling to me.

        4. andy*

          To me, wfh as a parent is super useful for kids related reasons. First, if they are sick with common cold and thus not in school, they are not alone and I dont have to take day off. I do actually work, they dont need that much usually.

          Second, I am at home when they come from school, feed them talk to them. Then they go on doing their thing and I go back to work. Absent kid, it would not matter at all.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            I got to work from home when my kid had COVID this past fall. I did have sick time to use but most of the time I wasn’t doing anything to help her because she’s a teen and was isolating in her room. I have an otherwise hybrid schedule though.

        5. doreen*

          Whether one day a week WFH is useful depends on details – when my kids were in school, their parochial school had an afterschool program four days a week. No afterschool on Wednesdays , when classes ended at noon , so people needed solutions for that one day a week. And because we’re talking about school-aged children , they basically needed someone in the house with them , not constant attention.

        6. Observer*

          Just because a parent is wfh, doesn’t mean they’re also doing childcare simultaneously. Most of us don’t want to juggle both, if at all possible.

          That’s true. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s discriminatory. All it does is make me wonder how clueless the decision makers here are.

          The fundamental problem here is that there is an assumption that somehow MOTHERS need this accommodation – non-parents don’t and FATHERS don’t. It makes no sense. I can’t think of any reason that is reasonable, realistic or non-discriminatory. In fact all of the reasons I can think of fail on all three counts.

        7. Educator*

          Just to clarify, I was speaking about OP1’s company, which developed this policy for mothers “with children at home.” I took that to mean not at daycare or school or their grandparents’ house, but literally at home, where they would need to be cared for. While, of course, a small minority of people can afford to hire in-home help, it appeared to me, based on the information in the letter, that this policy was designed so that mothers could take care of children. And I think we are all in agreement that that is not ideal for anyone!

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I think “children at home” is ambiguous. It can mean literally in the house, or it can mean still living at home, as in not yet adult.

      3. Allonge*

        No, but you see, the “logic” of this is obviously mommies need to take care of kids and that is the only reason they are allowed to WFH when we all know that people don’t really work when work from home. Taking Care of Kids, which Only Mothers Can Do, is the only thing that is more important than Work Ethic TM.


        It does probably make sense in twisted-land where whoever came up with this lives? Over here it’s pretty wtf.

        1. Sasha*

          Yep, the alternative is The Horrors of Paid Childcare, and ^obviously^ no decent mother would ever use that. After all, why have children at all if you don’t want to look after them yourself?

          (Said nobody ever to working fathers)

          1. Fishsticks*

            Oh, I had a friend say something like that to me once. “I just couldn’t imagine leaving my baby with total strangers all day!”

            Okay, friend, but A. if both parents don’t work in our home, there’s no home to speak of, and B. she’s known these daycare teachers since she was four months old, and they are second aunts and grannies to her, she adores them and they have loved her from the start.

            Like, my kiddos went to the same daycare, the first starting at four months and the second starting at three months old, and they both loved their teachers so so so much and their teachers always adored them in return. They have this amazing extended family as a result of women I know have been right there with hugs and helping them learn things, just like if grandma watched them all day. They are eight and six and in school now and their teachers are always thrilled to see them and come right over to talk if they see us out and about or if I stop by the daycare to drop off clothing donations or anything.

            1. Random Dice*

              I commend you for the not-murdering you did of this friend with bullshit mom-shaming views. (I am assuming your gender because that is a statement that is virtually exclusively thrown at women, while men are treated like caped superheroes for pushing a stroller.)

              1. Fishsticks*

                Haha, yes, you are correct, I am a woman. And it is indeed quite true that no one said anything like that at any time to my husband. Not ever.

              2. whingedrinking*

                There’s also the flip side, where it’s assumed that men are utterly incompetent at child care and can’t be trusted even to push the stroller, so a man with a child in public gets grilled about where the mom is (holy heternormativity, Batman!).

            2. Coffee Bean*

              I never saw the logic of putting your child in daycare as “leaving them with strangers”. The people who work at the daycare are known by you and your child after day one. There maybe staff changes, but it’s not a revolving door of people coming through the daycare to work.

        2. BubbleTea*

          The only way I can sort of see this, at a squint, as being originally founded in logic is if they were thinking about someone who is expressing milk. But then one day a week wouldn’t help much, not all mums do that, and not everyone who does express is a mum. So it still doesn’t actually hold up.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I think it’s probably a response to a specific employee needing it, but generalising out to “all mothers” rather than “all employees with caring responsibilities” or even “all employees”.

      4. TinySoprano*

        I come to this comment section to share the anecdote that, as a childless woman, my pet snake has caused some significant disruption in a zoom meeting before.

        But yes, it’s so frustrating in the year of our dog 2023 that we have a company not realising that men can be active parents and need to work from home, and that some mums will prefer to be in at work. I’d even venture it was homophobic, given in a gay couple there is no option BUT for a dad to stay home with the child.

        1. Worldwalker*

          My snakes stay in their tanks. I have showed off my scorpion, though.

          Out of the six people usually in our weekly team meetings, three have cats, one has a dog, and one has both. The exception is my boss, who’s allergic. I gave him a little plush cat. :)

        2. Random Dice*

          There’s a company I avoid because they do exactly this – my gay male parent friends were treated like they had a little woman at home doing the parenting, and couldn’t possibly need to care for their kids.

      5. Liv*

        Not disagreeing with your comment at all, but it’s worth pointing out that needing to WFH/more flexibility because of childcare doesn’t necessarily mean the parent is caring for their child WHILE working from home.

        For example, I need to WFH the majority of the week because my husband is the main caregiver, but he’s also self-employed. So he works 1am-9am while I’m on parenting duty, and then he cares for our 2yo from 9am-5:30pm (bar my lunch break) while I work. On days I’m in the office, I have to leave the house at 6:45am, which means he loses 2+ hours of his work day, which isn’t feasible for his business.

        It could also be due to drop off and pick up times of childcare which, when combined with commute times, make coming into the office impossible/difficult.

        Of course, there are instances where WFH and childcare combine – if a child is ill or regular childcare fell through – but it’s definitely not the only example of needing to WFH because of childcare.

        1. bamcheeks*

          yeah, it’s commuting + childcare that makes things really tricky, rather than working in the office per se. For me it’s the difference between spending most of the hour between 4-5pm trying not to get too deeply into a piece of work, because if I lose track of time and don’t leave at precisely 4.55pm I won’t make my train and I won’t be back in time to pick the kids up by 6pm. Crossing my fingers and hoping this meeting naturally finishes at 4.50pm rather than drawing attention to the fact that I definitely need to leave at 4.55 and hoping everyone doesn’t think I’m slacking. In school holidays where all the activities finish at 4pm, it’s even worse. Not having to stress about this stuff on the days that I am working from home is honestly amazing.

        2. Sasha*

          Yep – I don’t wfh but I do work a ten minute walk from home, and that means I can drop my son at school/pick him up, and take him to afterschool activities. If I was in my old job, with an hour’s commute, I have literally no idea how I would manage childcare.

      6. bamcheeks*

        This sounds like you dislike the idea of offering flexibility to people with caring responsibilities more generally, rather than the ridiculousness of only offering it to mothers instead of to parents of any gender and people with other types of caring responsibilities. It’s not at odds with productivity to offer flexible working options, especially to people with hard limits on their working day!

        1. Allonge*

          I think Educator is just pointing to the absurdity of the whole setup – even forbidding all people with caring responsibilities from WFH would be a bit more logical* than allowing it only for a (legally relevant but otherwise pretty random) subset of this group.

          *In some abstract, ivory tower “logical” way, that still ignores a lot of reality, as you say.

        2. Worldwalker*

          People can be caring for parents, spouses, even siblings, though, and don’t necessarily tell people at work about that. They are far more likely to talk about having children than, say, a spouse with a terminal degenerative disease.

        3. Educator*

          Absolutely not! It is essential to offer flexibility to people with caring responsibilities, especially given the gendered way those responsibilities usually fall. But it is not fair to carers or the cared for to expect anyone to work and provide direct care *simultaneously*. Need ten minutes every hour to help with bathroom time? Cool. Screaming child in the background of every client call actively preventing you from doing your job? Not cool. Companies need to work with individuals to find solutions that allow focused work and focused care, not develop absurd policies like this one, which implies that one gender’s work is less important than their role as “mommy.” That’s not in anyone’s best interest–company, parent, or child.

      7. CL*

        As a mom, I personally find it less disruptive to work from home than in the office. A quick parent meeting can be during my lunch time or before work rather than having to take a 1/2 day off. When kid is home sick (a lot this year), working remotely means I have everything I need to work while they sleep, watch TV, etc. My elderly family member is actually more disruptive than my kid when I work from home because they don’t understand the concept of remote work. Of course it may be completely different for other families but it has nothing to do with my gender.

      8. TomatoSoup*

        This assumes the parent is also providing childcare there on a regular basis. Daycares in my area still haven’t been able to provide as many hours of childcare as they did pre-COVID. Not having to commute makes everything doable. For slightly older kids, it can mean having an adult in present when the kid gets home from school and can otherwise entertain themselves. Or be around when a kid is sick or school is closed for weather or whatever. I know there are parents who try to accomplish both WFH and parenting young kids simultaneously, that doesn’t last long because it is too much.

      9. Random Dice*

        “our weird cultural deference to motherhood”

        Oh wow that’s a whole hive full of bees in that phrase.

        This policy hurts female mothers as much as it hurts all other genders, parent or no.

      10. Roger Beagle*

        I assure you, being at the office surrounded by adults is far more distracting. After full year of doing virtual school at age 7, these kids know how to function pretty well on their own. Plus, I end up working longer because I’m not running out to pick up my kid.
        Also the fact that I have no interest in putting my kid back into childcare – I enjoy having him around, so I would just leave that company anyway.

    2. Jackalope*

      I’ve actually seen it more as a discrimination against parents (often mothers); some people will refuse to hire them, give promotions, etc. based on their perceived lack of commitment to their jobs (because of course it’s not possible to be a woman with children and also committed to your work. /s). There are definitely ways in which non-parents can be discriminated against, but they are less likely to be denied jobs due to their family status.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        It just occured to me that this “perk” may well come to bite those that use it in the butt.

        Reasoning: this company is apparently anti-wfh on principle, as well as paternalistic and mysogynistic. Probably the powers that be believe that people that wfh are slackers. It’s not a leap to think that they will hold back on promotions and opportunities for those that use the wfh possibility. A sort of double-whammy mommy-track. Maybe they even avoid hiring mothers so they don’t have to give the perk.

        1. blam*

          Yeah, I would not be at all surprised. If they’re this begrudging about allowing WFH, and they’ve chosen this one very specific group to receive the perk, it says a LOT about how they view that group. I bet it doesn’t work out that great for mothers at that company in the long run.

        2. OP #1*

          Yep, this is exactly it. They think if you’re not in the office you’re not working. I really can’t see this going well for anyone, but I’m biased as I’m child-free and would love to WFH occasionally but can’t

    3. OP #1*

      OP #1 here! The fact that they have been so extremely rigid about WFH overall is certainly breeding resentment. Fathers and child-free people have reasons to want WFH too! I’m thrilled parents are getting flexibility, it just feels like if the company agrees WFH has a place in the workplace, why can’t we all be offered some flexibility. For context we are not even allowed WFH when sick, we must take a sick day (of which we have very few) or come in, and since there’s so few sick days people come in ill all the time. It’s a vicious cycle. So even just allowing WFH when sick for any employee would go a long way.

      1. Roger Beagle*

        I think this is the main issue and not surprising that they are only allowing this for mothers and not even all parents. They clearly are terrible.
        Seems like a bad company.

  5. Educator*

    LW#2, two other thoughts:

    First, adults and some teens understand and respond when you point out a pattern, like bothering other customers. Younger kids need less abstract direction. So I would modify Alison’s script slightly–rather than listing all the behaviors at once, you should correct each thing in the moment as it happens. Also, it helps to list the alternative behavior for each individual disruptive action. So when he gets up to follow a customer, it’s “Kevin, you can’t follow people. You can sit here and read.” When he starts talking to someone who is not interested, it’s “Kevin, you can’t talk to Susie right now. You can sit here and write down your favorite part of Maus so that you can tell your dad about it later.”

    Second, this sounds like a kid who might be looking for connection and community. It is not your job, but it would be a kindness to try to connect him, by talking to him or his parent, with some appropriate places to talk about books with other people his age (and be in a more supervised context.) Your local library and school district would be great places to start, and there may be some creativity-based programs for kids run by nonprofits in your area as well. Ten minutes of Googling could transform this kid’s life.

    1. allathian*

      Great ideas. That said, it’s really the dad’s place to figure it out. The most important thing is to stop the kid bothering other customers in the store, and any but the completely clueless parents would support a business in trying to enforce appropriate behavior on the premises.

      1. Educator*

        Totally. This is a business, not a childcare provider. At the same time, it is nice when the adults in a community choose to help its next generation. I worked for a nonprofit that got a noteworthy number of referrals from members of the community who were positioned to notice a child’s needs when their parents were unwilling, or, more often, unable to do so. It always made me feel like we were really on the same team for our city’s future. And bookstore folks tend to be fairly community-minded. :)

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yeah but it doesn’t sound like the parents are very involved. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a fact. Ten minutes of googling would not only yield some great ideas for the kid, but also show that the bookstore employees are not just there to lay down the law, they’re also friendly caring people. So that the kid would still feel welcome despite getting “told off” (because that’s how they’ll see even the gentlest of redirection).

      3. DJ Abbott*

        “It’s really the dad’s place to figure it out”
        If these parents are anything like mine, they are not going to make an effort to help their kid. It would be nice if kids with bad parents had help from other adults, when there’s an opportunity to help.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          Yeah, its kinda like picking up trash in the park. It might not be your responsibility but it definitely something worth doing to make your life and the life of others better.

    2. AnonInCanada*

      Well said. Except I’m sure OP #2’s job is to sell books, not be this 11-year-old kid’s babysitter. Personally, I’d ask the kid for his father’s name and have him paged to remove the kid if he’s being this disruptive. If no response, call security and have the kid escorted out of the store and have the father paged again. Still no response? Call the police and/or CAS/CPS to report an abandoned child. This is child neglect, plain and simple. It’s not fair to OP #2, nor the bookstore and its customers, nor especially the kid, who shouldn’t be put in this position in the first place.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        This would be a wild overreaction, do not call CPS or the police because an 11 year old kid has been hanging out at your bookstore wow.

        1. Casper Lives*

          Yes, I don’t know why you’d call the police on a child who’s being annoying and disruptive. Please don’t do that

        2. Clisby*

          Agreed. It’s also a wild overreaction to call the father to remove the child if they haven’t even taken the obvious, basic, step of telling the kid how they expect him to behave in the bookstore.

        3. The Other Dawn*

          Agreed. The time to call the police or CPS would have been the post about the employee leaving their baby in the car while they were working, not an 11-year-old reading and sometimes annoying people. JFC

      2. Bibliothecarial*

        That could go so, so, badly. The child is old enough to be treated like a rational being. The child is also old enough that getting the cops called on him would be at best stigmatizing – at worst, dangerous. At my library, kids 8 and older are allowed to visit by themselves. I’ve never had problems where a firm conversation didn’t create the desired behavior.

        1. Observer*

          Good point.

          But also, why in heavens name would you waste the resources of CPS / CAS over something like this?

          And it’s also worth noting that this could go VERY badly for a store manager who pulled this. Most other customers (even ones who are annoyed by this kid) are not likely to have a positive reaction, especially if the cops show up. And having the cops show up in general, even if nothing bad winds up happening, is not likely to bring good publicity to the shop. And you don’t want to become the address that cried wolf – what happens when you REALLY need the cops or CPS? (I know, officially it shouldn’t matter, but in real life it can.)

        2. Dahlia*

          Yes, if this child is disabled or non-white (I’m not saying they are, just saying those are factors that matter in police interactions) then calling the police could be deadly.

      3. HannahS*

        Canadian here. Do not use CAS as your own personal police force against children who are annoying. Allowing an 11 year-old to be in a store alone is not neglect, definitionally.

      4. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

        Did you forget your /s tag, or are you actually suggesting calling the police on an 11-year-old for *checks notes* reading books and sometimes annoying people?

      5. I'm just here for the cats*

        This is not child neglect. An 11 year old is allowed to go to a store. For all.we know the dad is in the store next door. This is not an abandoned child.

        In the moment I would talk to the kid to say that he’s bothering people and then have a conversation with the dad.
        I do wish we knew how long the kid is in the store. If it’s for an hour or so that’s one thing but if it’s for longer, like 4 to close, then I think you could ask the kid for their parents number.

        1. Observer*

          This is not an abandoned child.

          Yes. The OP specifically notes that Dad is enough of a presence that he sometimes tries to set limits with the kid (who then cries).

      6. Empress Matilda*

        Good grief, absolutely not. Agreed that OP2 should not have to be the child’s babysitter, but there is no indication that this child is either abandoned or neglected.

        Police and CAS are very much examples of “if your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” Their only tools are punitive – they have no resources available to actually help anyone, other than removing the child from the home. This will cause significantly more harm than the kid being annoying in a bookstore. And *especially* if this child and/or his parents are people of colour – neither CAS nor the police has a very good track record with families like this.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          “Their only tools are punitive – they have no resources available to actually help anyone, other than removing the child from the home.”

          This is patently untrue.

          1. Empress Matilda*

            I hope so! But unfortunately my family has been the subject of multiple CAS investigations due to my ex’s drug use. When I asked what resources they had available to help me and my children, they specifically said they didn’t have any. Their approach was very much all or nothing.

        2. Observer*

          Their only tools are punitive – they have no resources available to actually help anyone, other than removing the child from the home.

          I can’t speak to Canada, but in New York this is clearly and provably not true. CPS here doesn’t have the best track record at all, and I wouldn’t call them for anything other that REAL and potentially dangerous neglect or actual abuse. But they most definitely DO have other tools, and the do NOT just take kids out of the home.

          There are enough good reasons to not even think about calling CPS on the kid. Don’t make stuff up.

          This will cause significantly more harm than the kid being annoying in a bookstore

          Nevertheless, this is quite likely to be the case.

          And *especially* if this child and/or his parents are people of colour – neither CAS nor the police has a very good track record with families like this.

          That’s also true.

          1. Appletini*

            Haven’t you just told Empress Matilda she didn’t experience what she describes personally experiencing?

            1. Observer*

              No. Firstly, my reply to her went up before her response to other responses went up.

              Secondly, I specifically said that I can’t talk to Canada but that in New York this (no resources, ONLY punitive and only can take the kids away) is absolutely and provably not the case. Claiming that this is the case universally is fiction.

      7. Random Dice*

        This is AWFUL advice. NEVER call CPS or the police out of annoyance. That could be murder or abuse.

        Calling the police is a good way to get people killed. Especially if they’re brown-skinned or neurodiverse!!!!

        Calling CPS for something that is not actually child neglect is ***abuse by the person calling***. It’s weaponizing an enforcement agency against someone who’s only mildly bothersome, and taking understaffed resources away from adults who are actually doing terrible things to children.

        It’s a horrible thing to do to someone. Having to deal with CPS is expensive, traumatizing, and creates a terrible false trail.

      8. Siobahn*

        Agreed. Getting the police involved could lead to finding out that the kid is neglected in other ways, and that the problem is larger than “just” dropping a kid off and disappearing – especially in these days of kidnappings and molestations (and all it takes is one predator to notice over time that the kid is always alone).

        1. Observer*

          Please. For one thing, the father does show up.

          Beyond that, calling CPS has the extremely high likelihood of doing a LOT of damage, all because the kid annoyed someone. Do you call CPS every time you see a kid who is not dressed the way you think they should be, is eating something you don’t think they should be, etc?

    3. Heffalump*

      What’s his agenda in asking for people’s phone numbers? What would he do with a phone number if he got it? Or does he really expect to get anyone’s phone number?

      1. Zap R.*

        It reads to me as loneliness. Poor kid is very socially inept and this is an attempt to make some friends.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          Yeah, I would go with lonely and socially awkward. He sees other people connecting by sharing phone numbers and talking on the phone (or whatever apps), but he doesn’t necessarily get that it’s not appropriate in all situations.

        2. Splendid Colors*

          I’ve had “social skills trainers” who give out really unhelpful advice, so they might have said something like “if someone shares your interests, get their number.”

      2. Quokka*

        This is the best question to ask to get it to stop. You could say to them in a curious/inquisitive tone “hey, I’ve noticed you are often keen to get phone numbers of other people in the store. What’s that about?”. It’s amazing how a non-confrontational conversation can affect change in an individual faster, be longer lasting and build a positive relationship all at the same time. It will also tell you quite a bit. I mean, there’s no point telling this kids dad that they are harassing people for phone numbers if it is the dad who has taught them to do that. The other side is, if the person knows the thing they are doing is not ok, a gentle conversation like that subtly and respectfully calls them out on it, and they are likely to stop and/or leave of their own accord to go elsewhere. If the actions are a misguided attempt at social connections, etc, then it allows you to explain how something like that would make you feel, suggest others may feel the same way, and state a more appropriate way of doing it that “you” would prefer (or that you see often works for other people, etc).
        Sure, it’s a lot to do when you have other work to do, but a bit of extra work now may save quite a bit of hassle and unpleasantness in the long run. Especially when working with customers. Start the conversation with respect for the person as an individual who wants to do the right thing and is a good person with value, and frame the undesirable choice/behaviour as the problem (not them), then guide towards a more suitable choice/behaviour that allows them to meet the same need. You can also give suggestions for where to find more strategies, since you are uniquely placed as a bookstore to have options right there. Apply to any mildly problematic behaviour you come across from staff to customers.
        I use this with teenagers I teach all the time, and it works excellently with that type of power dynamic. It can be adapted for coworkers/peers, and also for managers who don’t handle outright questioning or suggestions well.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I’m wondering if it would be a good idea to also warn the kid about potential predators. It’s possible no one else has.

        2. GreenDoor*

          Came here to say the same thing as Quokka. Using the observation + “what’s up with that?” phrasing might give you some insight into what the kid is thinking, which could help OP reiterate the store rules.

          But even if you don’t want to get into that, the best part of Alison’s script is the “FOR TODAY” part. Kids understand, “I was given a boundary/rule…I broke it…I got a consequence…but I can regroup/think about what I did and try again next time.” And I agree – talk to dad.

    4. ThatGirl*

      Just a note that the kid is not gendered in the letter, we don’t know if it’s a boy, girl, or nonbinary kid.

    5. Bibliothecarial*

      Agreed! I have quite a bit of experience in this and highly recommend Bryce Kozla’s blog post about Iron Fist child management. (It’s much kinder than it sounds.) Basically, as in Alison’s script, you set a firm directive for the child (I.e. “walk please!”) and if the child does not follow that directive, the space is not for them that day. Kozla gets into the child psychology, which is why I recommend reading the original blog post. Helps adapt the script to more situations.

    6. e271828*

      Parenting this child who is not the LW’s child moment to moment sounds exhausting and liable to blow up in their face if the kid has tantrums.

      The child’s father needs to park the kid elsewhere.

      1. Clisby*

        There’s no indication in the letter that the kid has tantrums in the bookstore. 11-year-olds having tantrums is not all that common, in my experience. If it hasn’t happened, no need to assume it will.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          Yes crying does not mean a tantrum, people are in fact allowed to show emotion in public spaces.

          1. Siobahn*

            But a kid (although not the one in question). Alone in a place of business. Crying. That would get my attention more than an adult doing so would.

            No one’s arguing prerogative to show emotion in public, and to do so misses the whole point.

            1. virago*

              Bookstore Kid isn’t crying alone, according to OP, who says that “the kid has burst into tears several times from their father trying to set boundaries.”

              (Which I would still find disconcerting. When I was 11, I was intent on being seen as older than I was, and crying in public to one of my parents would have felt, in my tween mind, like something that a much younger child would do.)

            2. virago*

              Oh, whoops, I missed that you weren’t specifically referring to Bookstore Kid.

              That said, the rest of the comment stands.

  6. Mockingbird*

    I’d try talking to the parents first, politely and away from the kid, and explain that if he’s going to be in the store unaccompanied he needs to be able to follow X, Y, and Z rules on his own, and otherwise a parent needs to be with him to supervise and make sure he’s not doing A, B, or C. And that your staff aren’t qualified or able to babysit while doing their actual work (you’ll probably need to be much more euphemistic on that). A parent once put a toddler on the cash wrap at a store where I worked, and was upset employees told her they couldn’t watch her kid while she shopped. I nearly got my head taken off by a little boy playing with a curtain rod while his father did nothing a yard away. I understand parents are exhausted, but it’s rude and thoughtless to expect retail employees to supervise their kids. If this kid struggles so badly with respecting boundaries, for whatever reasons, that’s the parents’ job to teach him. Not a store manager or employee. I’d also recommend getting the parents’ phone numbers to call when the kid inevitably shows up alone again and starts bothering other customers.

    1. Hell Job Escapee*

      The number of times parents just let their kids run amok around stores when I worked retail is too many to count. I would try to keep a weather eye on them, but there is only so much you can do from behind the cash register with customers in front of you. One memorable instance was when I was working the register and this kid was just running laps around the store. Not full on zoomies, but just a jog like he was in the movie Rocky. It was kind of cute, until he got a hold of a shopping cart and started running with it in a store full of floor to ceiling mirrors. I was so nervous he was going to run the cart into one of the mirrors and shatter it that I asked the manager to find his parents and tell them to come get their kid. That was just one of many instances where the store staff was expected to babysit the customer’s kids.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        A million years ago I saw a toddler climb a shelf full of heavy glass Coke trays, which promptly crashed to the floor one inch from her tender skull. Her parents were less than a foot away, but clearly each thought the other was “watching her.” How that didn’t end in something horrible is beyond me. I can still hear those things smashing to the floor.

    2. Kiki is the Most*

      I am respectfully disagreeing as a teacher for this age group. It is perfectly okay for the business to talk directly to the child first in the manner Alison suggested. Should the child not follow the directives stated, then I’d follow up with the parent regarding next steps (ex: child behaviours and steps taken to abate them, asking parent to support the rules of the business with their child, child being asked to leave for the day, child not being permitted to come to the business). Good teachers set reasonable boundaries in their classrooms, and it’s the same for social settings as well. Most children when given clear instructions and expectations (and consequences) will understand and want to abide by them as I’m sure the child here wants to continue going to this bookstore. Alison’s dialogue was spot on.

    3. Observer*

      A parent once put a toddler on the cash wrap at a store where I worked, and was upset employees told her they couldn’t watch her kid while she shopped. I nearly got my head taken off by a little boy playing with a curtain rod while his father did nothing a yard away

      Your examples are not really useful here. In such cases, the parent needs to be the *first* (and in the case of the toddler ONLY) address. But by the time a kid is 11 years old, it’s quite possible to talk to them directly. And in this case, I suspect it’s going to go much better. It’s certainly worth trying.

  7. duinath*

    lw4 that is the funniest placeholder yet. good luck losing those clowns. may your circus be free of monkeys.

    1. Megan*

      I literally cannot stop laughing over this. Circus season! Other clown agents! Clown bookings! Balloon animals! It’s honestly hysterical.

    2. LW#4*

      I really struggled with a place holder, i couldn’t figure out how to ask the question if I used llamas! Haha

    3. KayEss*

      I got to “I had 12 clowns I was working with” and thought “man, haven’t we all been there!”

  8. Bookie*

    As a former bookseller at an indie bookstore, we had customers (children and adults) who behaved like the boy. They didn’t understand social cues. For the adults, it was usually other customers who would gently walk away. For the children, we would set boundaries and keep reminding them what the boundaries were.

    1. allathian*

      How kind. Especially the other customers, who could’ve turned nasty instead of simply walking away. My guess is that word got around and your bookstore got the reputation among the socially awkward that they could shop without being harassed at your store.

      1. Despachito*

        I am afraid it could get the reputation among the not socially awkward that THEY would be harassed at their store, and drive them away. And if the socially awkward do not usually buy anything (like this kid), it would be quite a loss for the store.

        The socially awkward definitely do not deserve being harassed, but it does not give them free pass to harass other people, either. And the store’s primary interest is to sell books, not to cater for socially awkward people who do not know their boundaries.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          “Gently walk away” can mean quietly leaves the store and doesn’t come back.

          An 11 year old following me around wanting to talk books – annoying, but not threatening, although if it keeps happening I might avoid the store. An adult man, following me around the bookstore, refusing to leave me alone, asking me for a phone number, and I’m going to be thinking about how to escape without them following me out of the store (and I’m definitely not thinking about buying stuff).

          1. Apples and oranges*

            Honestly if an 11 year old strange kid is following me around, asking for personal details like my phone number I’d be worried about why they want that information and who they’d pass it on to.

            1. Clisby*

              It wouldn’t occur to you to say something like, “Honey, it’s not a good idea to exchange phone numbers with total strangers”? Because that’s the first thing I’d do. No, my first thought would not be that they’re working for criminals.

        2. allathian*

          Yup, I agree, in spite of what I said above. Everyone deserves being able to shop without being harassed, but what people consider unacceptable behavior varies. Some would be bothered by a fellow customer approaching them for any reason at all, while others would be able to shrug off a kid or young adult asking for their phone number, at least as long as they didn’t persist after being told no.

          In my case at least it’d also depend on how often those approaches happened. If it’s a store I visit once a month after work while waiting for a friend to show up for our after-work meetup, and there’s a socially awkward person trying to chat me up every time I go, I’d soon find somewhere else to go. But if it happened once a year, I’d probably shrug it off.

        3. CTT*

          This is also the problem with bookstores (or just stores) where there are regulars any where in the awkward scale who are super-friendly with staff – it can make non-regulars feel unwelcome. I still order from my local bookstore because it’s the only one in town, but I only order from them online and never browse because the owners’ friends are always there hanging out and chatting and I’m made to feel rude for interrupting their conversation when I need help. It’s not great!

        4. Willow Pillow*

          Can we not generalize to this extent, please? I am socially awkward and would also be gently walking away.

      2. ceiswyn*

        Except that they would have been harassed – by other socially awkward people.

        Just because A is socially awkward, that doesn’t mean they want to be talked at by B. And if they’re socially awkward, they don’t know how to deal with that situation. It’s actually worse for them than for ‘normal’ customers.

        As a socially awkward person, I would have fled and never come back.

      3. Willow Pillow*

        Am socially awkward, would not want to shop there either. Please don’t generalize like that.

      4. They see me cheap ass rollin'*

        Not to me, it wouldn’t. To me, a socially awkward person, it would indicate that if I go to this store I’m going to be harassed by other socially awkward people who can’t read signals or behave appropriately. If given the choice between going to a store frequented by other socially awkward people or going to a store frequented by people with appropriate boundaries, I’m going to choose the one with appropriate boundaries every time.

        My guess is that you either aren’t socially awkward yourself or haven’t spent much time around other people who are. You seem to be thinking only in terms of how you personally would feel in a situation where you were the only socially awkward person present. I invite you instead to consider how many people refuse to set foot inside comic book and gaming stores, which are famously frequented by socially awkward people who make the environment miserable for everyone else.

    2. Casper Lives*

      That’s kind of you but I wouldn’t want to shop there as an adult. A higher than average number of people bothering me when I’m trying to zen out on books? Every time? Hard pass.

      I’m surprised OP allows their employees to allow a customer (well, sort of, the kid doesn’t buy anything) to make other customers uncomfortable for this long. It’s a lot of conflict avoidance.

      1. Rainbow*

        Yeah, I’m pretty awkward around kids at best and this would make me feel really uncomfortable!

      1. Tiger Snake*

        I think people are mixing up pronouns, because the father attends sometimes and so we get both ‘they’ and ‘him’ pronouns in the post.

        Although admittedly, from a personal perspective I’ve encountered many boys like this and literally only one (1) girl, I probably do have a gender bias.

    3. Bookie*

      I should add that we are a small town and have a pretty large customer base. The people who shop regularly love the store. Those who decide not to come back are usually because they can get the book cheaper on Amazon and don’t really want to be in a storefront to begin with.

      It was never a situation where the store was known to have a deluge of creepy people harassing shoppers. The community is full of all types of folks, and the bookstore and library are welcoming places to everybody.

  9. Darn, heck, and other salty expressions*

    LW #3 doesn’t mention if the person organizing the carpool invited them to join before the boss said anything about it to them. Maybe the other two co-workers didn’t ask LW #3 to ride along in the first place. I know if I was asked if I was carpooling to an event and had not been approached by the others in the carpool I would have casually said I was driving myself to avoid potential drama.
    The only reason I can think of that the boss would even care about carpooling is if the company is providing the car or will only reimburse mileage for 1 driver since technically 3 people shouldn’t have a problem sharing a ride. Either way its weird for the boss to have that much emotional investment in whether or not people like each other enough to share a ride.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      This is also how I read it and how I would have reacted. Which would have made the boss’s reaction really awkward. I really hope I would have been able to think of an excuse other than “well, they didn’t ask…”, because that would 100% lead to drama.

    2. English Rose*

      Yes, it was the expensing part I was wondering about. We get reimbursed mileage and I have had push-back (we’re a nonprofit) along the lines of it would be cheaper to pay one lot of expenses rather than three if several co-workers are going to an event.
      But I usually play an active/coordination role in our events, so I’ve argued successfully that I need the mental headspace of driving alone. Which I do, but the thought of making small-talk for three or four hours… ugh!
      Definite over-reaction by the boss though.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Yeah this is the first thing that came to my mind, so I came here to see if this occurred to anyone else as well. Mileage for 6 hours of travel seems like it would come to a lot. Perhaps the boss made the “it would have been rude” excuse to not come off as being all about the expenses, who knows?

        1. Rosa Rosa Rosa Diaz Diaz Diaz*

          Well, if that’s the case, it’s equally weird, maybe even more so.

          Expenses are her remit. Whether people enjoy each other’s company for hours in a car is not.

    3. Despachito*

      I thought they didn’t invite OP to join the carpool, and I would absolutely do the same as you I (“if I was asked if I was carpooling to an event and had not been approached by the others in the carpool I would have casually said I was driving myself to avoid potential drama”).

      The reaction of the boss was very weird indeed. I get that it may be a financial concern and that they only want to reimburse one driver, but in such a case, he should tell all three employees that this is the case and that they need to go in one car. The emotional investment is wildly out of place (did it not occur to him what we just said above – that the coworkers did not offer OP to carpool and OP does not want to throw them under the bus? To be that considerate and to get guilt-tripped because of this sounds very unjust.)

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I’m sorry, but as someone who is both antisocial and has IBS, I would still drive myself.

    4. Asenath*

      I can’t imagine why the boss should criticize someone from doing this. Even when a former employer, in an effort to save money, tried to increase carpooling by paying only for those drivers who actually carpooled on trips from outlying offices to the main one, all that was said was that anyone who drove alone would not get their expenses reimbursed, which is fair enough and I was willing to pay to drive alone. One of the reasons I bought a car back then was because I really hated carpooling because of the delays at the end of the day in getting home (and the inability to run errands in Bigger Town). On one memorable occasion, the driver decided to stop and watch his child in a school game for an hour or more on the way home, and none of the carpoolers, including me, were willing to object. Anyway, although I suspect some people thought privately I was a bit weird to spend my own money to drive myself, no one gave the slightest hint that they thought I was weird or unsociable or would deeply offend my co-workers by not carpooling with them.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Honestly, I don’t think I would devote a nanosecond of thought to why anybody would prefer to drive themselves–if I did it would be something along the lines of “they must need to bring a lot of stuff/have errands to run” or similar. And that’s not throwing in “the car’s owner may decide to watch their kid’s ball game FOR AN HOUR.”

        Unless I was already aware of a ton of drama between workers, in which case I would not be down for carpooling with that tension cat’s cradle for six hours anyway, I just wouldn’t even think about it.

        1. Loch Lomond*

          Yeah, even with coworkers I liked I’d never agree to carpool to something like this unless forced. Privacy, time for thought, control of music/temp/breaks vs. being both “on” in general and in the twilight zone between work manners and hangout vibe? Obvious choice.

    5. Hamburke*

      I had assumed that either the other coworkers didn’t know lw all that well – maybe they are in an adjacent department or sat near each other while lw’s desk was in another area, or they weren’t aware lw was attending, or that bos mys was the one setting up the carpool. I assigned nothing to the coworkers.

      1. Random Dice*

        I had a coworker who asked me to carpool for 6 hours round trip. He didn’t know it but I disliked him intensely. The idea of spending 6 agonizingly awkward hours, when I have social anxiety and don’t like him, was awful. Fortunately I had an out.

    6. Lacey*

      I wondered about this too. Because otherwise the boss is just weirdly invested in how this coworker would turn down an invitation they haven’t even gotten!

    7. LW #3*

      LW#3 here. The other 2 coworkers hadn’t mentioned it, which yes makes it even more weird. The driving coworker and I had worked together quite a bit and were friendly with each other. The other coworker was brand-new to the company, which was an angle I hadn’t thought to mention originally. Maybe my boss had thought the drive would make for a good bonding opportunity with the new employee? I doubt it would have, but her emotionally charged response doesn’t seem to match that either. I’ve just put it down to a weird reaction she had in the moment.

    8. DameB*

      I suspect the boss is what I call “a consensus person” — someone from a family where being straightforward is considered RUDE. If you’re from that sort of family, then a bald “No,” to an offered favor is like a slap in the face. (Ask me how I know? And why it took me decades to learn the whole ‘no is a complete sentence’ thing.)

      This is, of course, the boss’s problem, not yours LW. I’m glad you’re taking good care of yourself by driving yourself.

      1. Here for the Insurance*

        I thought something along these lines as well. Some people are absolutely incapable of saying no thank you without attaching a reason they think will be acceptable. It never occurs to them that a reason isn’t required and they don’t actually need the other person’s agreement or understanding.

    9. Nickle and Dimed For Travel*

      I had a boss who was very weird about travel to offsite places, I think because she didn’t want multiple people expensing trips to the same location – even though many folks traveled from different areas and we frequently had to be at meetings quite early in the morning.

      She’d always try to bully/cajole people into meeting up to drive together in ways that were impractical and difficult. It caused so much stress and angst for staff. Alternately she’d sometimes try to make people drive “company cars” that were not well maintained and were only meant for quick trips around town (many of our trips were over an hour each way in kind of desolate areas).

      I avoided the whole mess by not caring about getting reimbursed and driving myself, but that wasn’t an option for some (nor should they have felt obligated to do what I did). It was odd because we had plenty of funding for travel, yet she expected people to drive up to an hour out of their way to meet at park and ride lots so they could carpool.

      1. Just Another Cog*

        I wondered if it was reimbursement cheapness, too. I had a weird boss who was a cheapskate about expense reimbursements. Once, I was stuck sharing a hotel room for three nights at a seminar with a junior employee who snored like a freight train. I had no clue the reservation was for a shared room. Our manager made the arrangements and gave us both confirmation numbers – that were the same. Every other employee in our organization had private rooms, so it was just my boss being thrifty.

        When we got back, I pulled my boss aside and told her about my experience and asked that that not happen again. She was visibly annoyed that I wasn’t ok with the arrangements she’d made.

  10. Michelle*

    I’d just say, as a former weird awkward kid (used to show up for my 7pm karate class at like 4pm and thought everyone there was my friend): please take to the kid BEFORE the parent. Save talking to dad as a last resort. I didn’t have great role models and if my dad had heard something like that about me, he’d have mocked me forever.

    1. jtr*

      Michelle, I’m really sorry that you grew up with such a jerk for a dad; you didn’t deserve that. And, honestly, as long as you weren’t causing a disruption or problems for the instructor or office staff, they knew that you felt community there that you didn’t get at home, and were probably happy that you were finding it in a healthy place and not in a gang or with troublemaking friends. {{{Michelle}}}

      1. Sessional worker*

        I have to disagree with the idea that it was probably fine for a participant to turn up a few hours early for a karate class. I really like the idea of community spaces where people can just come and go, and be welcome (and of course Michelle, I hope they were welcoming to you!) But it doesn’t sound like this was that kind of building. I have given sessions/classes in lots of contexts over many years. People turning up earlier than the usual ‘classroom is open’ time can be a serious inconvenience. As with many workers, my day is full of duties, and there isn’t time to spend much time with someone who has unexpectedly turned up in the building, not to mind make sure that we’re sticking to our child protection policy while they’re there (or other policies if they are a grown up.)
        It’s not that I don’t want to hang out with the folks who might turn up early for my sessions – I’m a people person, very interested in my clients, and will use any tool I can to keep participants engaged and happy. I want to create safer and warm social contexts. But in most of my working days, I’ve got a boss who expects a lot of me and I’m a bit stressed trying to meet that. And even for my self-employed work (days when I am my boss), I need to allocate an appropriate/normal amount of time to each session I’m doing, and spend the time around that doing other elements of my job. Contract sessional workers are paid for the session (sometimes their prep, sometimes set up time and clear up time), not time outside of that, and they’re usually not paid very well so they need their other work time for work. Also, when you’re setting up a room for a session you need to concentrate a fair amount on what you’re doing, so people chatting to you while you’re doing that can be a distraction that might mean you forget something you need to do. (I know from grim experience – a safety issue that I failed to flag up because I was distracted by someone expecting me to mind their very lovely and engaged 6 year old while I was setting up!)
        Sorry for ranting, thank you for listening :-)

        1. doreen*

          Especially since there is likely to be something else going on between 4 pm and 7 pm – I doubt the karate school’s first class of the day is at 7 if the building was open at 4. There are some places where showing up 3 hours early for an activity wouldn’t be a problem but those are places where people generally come and go that also have scheduled activities – for example, showing up at the library hours before your class is probably just fine. ( unless you are showing up before the library is even open)

          1. Sessional worker*

            All that said – Michelle, I hope my comments don’t make you feel even more awkward in any way for turning up early to your class years ago :-) I would not feel personally annoyed with any child that used my workplace in that way – it’s a total compliment to a workplace if a child feels comfortable enough to want to turn up early. I would be internally stressed and I’d have to try and arrange for it not to happen again, but my feelings towards the kid would be ‘well, we must be doing something very right if they want to hang out with us, so that’s nice’.

        2. Roger Beagle*

          Yes, my kid always wants to be soooo early, but I have to explain that more than 10 minutes is not fair, even if he is being respectful and quiet, we should show up closer to ontime.

        3. jtr*

          I didn’t actually say it was fine – we have explicit language in our member agreement that people NOT show up more than 15 minutes early to classes.

          My point was that the instructors wouldn’t hold it against the kid – they probably knew that Michelle was NOT getting that kind of acceptance and community at home.

          They no doubt talked all KINDS of trash about the parents.

    2. Sasha*

      If you had a class there later, it is totally possible that everyone there ^was^ your friend, or at least thought of you in a friendly way. I’m assuming you weren’t following strangers around the dojo asking them for their phone numbers, but were hanging out and watching, and making chitchat. Lots of kids find community in their sport.

      Agree your dad sounds horrible, and I’m sorry he was such a jerk to you.

    3. Melissa*

      Also, a kid of 11 or 12 is old enough to be talked directly to! If a preschooler is causing trouble, obviously you have to address the parents. But a child old enough to be shopping alone can handle a gentle, direct conversation. His behavior might even improve when he realizes that he is expected to act in a more adult-like manner, modeled by this adult speaking directly to him.

      1. Observer*

        His behavior might even improve when he realizes that he is expected to act in a more adult-like manner, modeled by this adult speaking directly to him.


        1. virago*

          Because a lot of parents will take exception to another adult’s talking to their child and asking the child to change their behavior.

    4. DJ Abbott*

      Seconding Michelle. My father would have used it to emotionally abuse me and make me feel like a big jerk, and I would’ve been too embarrassed to go back to the store.
      When dealing with older children, it’s good to keep in mind that not all parents are going to do what’s best for the child or even care what that is.

  11. Enough*

    Re #5 – this reminds of dealing with an insurance company after my daughter was in an accident. Even though there was never any question that the other insurance company was responsible for the cost of repairs every correspondence from them included the disclaimer that nothing indicated liability on their part. And it took a lot longer than it needed to.

  12. Ellis Bell*

    OP3, does your boss overstep or have negative overreactions in general? You might have larger issues here; talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. They really don’t seem to understand business relationships if their face “hardened” at the revelation that you weren’t going to be singing campfire songs with colleagues on your way to an event! I completely think Alison is on target that they jumped to an uncharitable assumption that there was no good enough reason for the worker sibs not to make parent-boss proud with a display of togetherness. When you responded with a great example of why it’s not always appropriate, they were too embarrassed to entirely walk back their overreaction. There are actually a ton of reasons why carpooling is not convenient and a reasonable person would assume a benevolent one. You might not want to wait on other people before setting off, you might have a stop off to make, you might want to leave earlier or later than other people, you might be in the middle of an audio book, you might be too introverted to make *multiple hours* of off task conversation with colleagues. Even if you did just find your colleagues a bit much for a car ride that would be a fine reason too! Lots of us have had at least a few colleagues where the extent of our relationship is asking about the weekend, making a brew for them and then popping in the ear pods. The extent of our closeness as colleagues is something we can manage as adults if we’re allowed to.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, absolutely.

      Carpooling can make sense from an expenses point of view, but it shouldn’t be the default assumption.

      I’m a fairly private person, and while I’m not averse to talking about the weekend or my vacation plans with my coworkers, and most of them know that I’m married and have a teenager, and I’ve even mentioned the neighborhood I live in, I still wouldn’t be comfortable sharing my address or personal phone number with most of them.

      When I travel on business, I’ll usually either fly or go by train, and I’ll make a point of not booking a seat next to my coworkers, particularly on the return trip. I’m introverted enough that I just want to be left alone after a day or two of togetherness.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Carpooling also makes sense from an environmental point of view, which is why I do it. Train is even better, but not always possible.

        I am also introverted, but lucked out and my colleagues are also mostly introverted. We have carpooled several hours in mostly silence before (and sometimes someone will nap, which gives a nice excuse for the silence). We mostly meet/drop off at the office or the train station, so no need to share home adresses.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. Although it has to be said, that for my employer, having employees drive their own car on business trips is literally the last resort. The first is public transit when it’s available and practical, the second is a rental car, and the last alternative is using your own car.

          They don’t really like carpooling on business trips for insurance reasons.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            > They don’t really like carpooling on business trips for insurance reasons.

            Of course, the other part of that is the concentration of risk (whether it’s in a personal car, hire car or even on public transit come to that!) with multiple employees travelling together, especially if their work is closely linked. One serious accident and 3 people are out.

            We had this at my previous company, where 2 people who were each other’s “backup” carpooled together every day as they lived fairly far from the company but close together. One day they were in a fairly serious accident that resulted in them being off work for a few weeks, and of course because they were each other’s backup, there was no real contingency plan from the company. Business continuity plans had to be put in place, and there were more rules around car sharing after that. (They were both OK in the end!)

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Ohhh, that’s another reason I wouldn’t want to carpool– I tend to fall asleep, like a baby, on long car trips, but not in a cute way. More a “snort-snore, head bobbing, perhaps a bit of drool as I snap to and fall back into my semi-coma state over and over” way. Not something I want coworkers to remember me by.

    2. Tiger Snake*

      My initial assumption is that the boss is seeing some sort of pattern (whether rightly or not) from OP3 where she doesn’t socialise or ‘make nice’ with her coworkers where a certain race or gender was involved.

      Like, to spitball – if OP3 always refuses these two coworker’s invitiation to join them for coffee in the morning, and that’s really the only time they get out for a quite break and chat – well, it might because again OP3 has IBS, but no one but OP3 is going to be remembering that part unless she regularly adds ‘it really doesn’t agree with me’. An unfair pattern, but still noticable if its correlated with something else like “the two that always go out for coffee are the asian guys”.

      1. Rosa Rosa Rosa Diaz Diaz Diaz*

        Tiger Snake, surely not of that is the boss’s business? Not wanting to have coffee with your colleagues and not giving your reasons is still well beyond the remit of a manager. It isn’t playschool, where you have to be taught to play nicely together.

        Of course, if she replies by snapping at them or saying “urgg, no, I don’t want coffee with you losers, how dare you ask me” then that’s different. But we have no evidence of anything even close to that in the letter.

        1. Rosa Rosa Rosa Diaz Diaz Diaz*

          If the boss was assuming something as serious as racial discrimination (based on not saying yes to coffee, which would be a massive reach), the boss would need to look into it. Discuss it. Consider all the data points. Consider the work impact.

          This would be a bizarre conclusion and a terrible way to handle it.

          No matter how you slice it, this manager is unreasonable.

          1. Tiger Snake*

            You’re misunderstanding me. I’m spitballing one example that might be part of an accidental pattern. Not just the coffee, but an example of one of multiple behaviours that might be piling up that mean to an outsider, it looks like the OP had a pattern of anti-social behaviour with specific groups of people.

            If that had accidentially occurred, and it did make it look like she was avoiding people of particular ethnicities, sexual-presentation, etc; then its not unreasonable for people to start having personal concerns until its clarified as a misunderstanding.

    3. Tiger Snake*

      My initial assumption was that OP’s manager was (rightly or wrongly) seeing a pattern that unfortunately linked her refusals (‘antisocial avoidance’) with a specific race or gender. It just seemed to naturally explain the whole conversation, from the facial hardening, the backtracking when the reason is understood, to giving her a reminder anyway.

      Like, to spitball an example; saying you won’t carpool sounds worse if you already have a regular habit of saying ‘no’ when those same teammates invite you to join them for morning coffee, when that’s the one main social moment of the day. Especially if these wo are both asian, you’re not, and they’re the ones who really lead the charge for said cofffee.
      OP3 would simply be refusing because their IBS makes coffee, and that’s a valid reason; but unless she regularly reminds people “coffee really doesn’t agree with me”, they’re not going to know that, they’re just seeing the correlation.

  13. Casper Lives*

    Aside from the permitted conflict avoidance, I’m surprised LW is okay with preteens staying for hours without an adult in the vicinity. What happens if the kid gets hurt? Or there’s a fire? Does the kid have a way to contact their parent if they’re asked to leave the shop for violating the rules (that the conflict avoidant staff have to actually communicate first)?

    I’d sit and read manga at the mall near that age. However, I was quiet, didn’t bend the pages, didn’t talk to other customers, and occasionally bought something. I expect I’d have been asked to leave otherwise.

    1. Despachito*

      What can LW do about this, though?

      I think it is considerate from them to not just kick the kid out but think about him as well although he is a nuisance for the store.

      I like the idea of clearly explaining the rules – I was a bit of a weird kid too, and sometimes ipeople frowned at me for obviously doing something wrong in their eyes but I did not understand what it was. If somebody explained it to me firmly but clearly, and added the part about not being in trouble and being welcome if I abode by the rules, it would have been a great kindness.

    2. Allonge*

      11 year olds (or around) are capable of surviving without costant parental supervision and we are not doing anyone a favor by raising the age where kids can be separated from their parents for an hour or so higher and higher – how will they learn to exist without parents being there all the time? (Sorry, this is a pet peeve of mine).

      OP says they have other kids coming in unsupervised and this is not an issue as such, and outside of problematic behavior, it should not be! If there is a fire, presumably the shop staff does what they would do if the kids’ parents were there (get them all out, it’s not like they pair people up before evacuating).

      The issue is that this particular kid is not yet 100% sure on how social interaction works, which is part of being a child. It really is ok for OP and their staff to help this learning process by explaining what Alison wrote.

      1. Batgirl*

        I think this is in reference to the fact that OP feels like avoiding conflict and tears has so far been the safer option… but it really isn’t when a kid needs this much supervision. Besides, there are mature 11 year olds, and there are immature 11 year olds. When I was growing up it was common for all children of this age to be kicked out of the house for the day and expected to entertain ourselves. However there’s no way local businesses would have hosted and taught any and all of us, including the most immature! Sure, we might have used libraries and bookshops if we stayed out of the way, but we would not have been tolerated in any way that required active, ongoing supervision. So I share Casper Lives’ surprise that this is being tolerated. Yeah, give them a chance to stay but don’t let obvious problems germinate. Particularly if they give his dad the heads up that he may get asked to leave if he doesn’t follow the rules. This puts the responsibility for the kid back where it belongs. I would personally be horrified to know my 11 year old was sourcing the phone numbers of strangers. That is so much more dangerous than a fire alarm!

        1. Allonge*

          In the particular case, maybe.

          I agree that a business can certainly determine who much it wants to invest in being part of the community in this sense. It’s nice if they can play a role, but not obligatory.

          But I am afraid that saying they should not tolerate a ~11 year old because what if there is a fire leads to no 11-year-olds ever getting to sit at a bookstore (it’s not like mature 11-year-olds are better at fires), and in three years it will be 12, then 15 and so on. And I am also not wild about the implication that all issues NEED to be addressed by the parents. Because it really takes a village and sometimes parents are less than awesome.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Oh sure, I don’t think anyone is setting rigidly concrete rules regardless of context. Sometimes you have to give kids a chance to be independent, sometimes you have to roll back that chance; sometimes any responsible adult in the vicinity is capable of helping, sometimes the most responsible thing to do is alert parents about your limits of being able to help.

        2. Colette*

          The kid needs the rules explained, but that’s different from needing supervision. (If she were 32 and doing the same things, the issue wouldn’t be lack of supervision; it would be that she’s not behaving appropriately.)

      2. Helewise*

        I completely agree. We can’t moan about helicopter parenting and college kids who haven’t the foggiest idea how to handle themselves and then also require minute-by-minute supervision of kids who are at an age where it’s more than developmentally appropriate for them to learn to exist in public.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Eleven year olds get more practice in “what to do when there’s a fire” than adults, really. At least in my state, schools are required to conduct monthly fire drills, so an 11 year old would be in regular practice of “get up and exit through the nearest exit without running, pushing, or shoving” if a fire alarm went off. (This training does seem to “stick” pretty well through adulthood, in the sense that when I’ve seen adults in a “no obvious fire, but alarm is going off” situation, it tends to be a calm, annoyed walk to the nearest exit rather than a mass panic.)

    3. doreen*

      I’m not surprised that the LW is OK with an approximately 11 yr old ( who could actually be 12 , or 13 or 14) staying without an adult, assuming that it’s the sort of store that allows people to stay and read books/magazines that they haven’t bought. ( I don’t see where the letter says the kid is there for hours). What does surprise me is the reluctance to tell the kid or the parent they can’t stay there because of their behavior – I’m not sure why they are uncomfortable telling the kid to leave, since after all, the kid is going to leave at some point on their own, Since staff rarely sees the father , it doesn’t seem to be a case of the kid being dropped off/picked up at the store by the parents but rather the kid is getting to from the store itself independently.

    4. Observer*

      I’m surprised LW is okay with preteens staying for hours without an adult in the vicinity.

      That seems like a rather over-heated take on the matter. This is not an “adult” space in the sense that it’s dedicated to adults. It’s a space that’s inhabited primarily by adults, true, but clearly it’s not designed specifically, much less only, for adults. And it really is not a big deal for a pre-teen to actually spend time around adults even without another adult acting as a shield.

      What happens if the kid gets hurt? Or there’s a fire?

      The same thing that happens if there is a related adult around and / or if it happens to an adult.

      Does the kid have a way to contact their parent if they’re asked to leave the shop for violating the rules

      How is that relevant to the question? Are you saying that the store should never allow an unaccompanied pre-teen into the store?

      However, I was quiet, didn’t bend the pages, didn’t talk to other customers, and occasionally bought something. I expect I’d have been asked to leave otherwise.

      That makes sense – and is in direct contradiction to your first paragraph.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        The contradiction isn’t that hard to understand; it’s simply that you would refuse to hover over unsupervised kids but would make exceptions in cases where the kid’s behaviour doesn’t require hovering over.

        1. Observer*

          Huh? You mean that a kid who is annoying is suddenly going to be harmed by being in a space where adults are, and a kid who is quiet won’t?

          Either pre-teens don’t belong in that space – a stand that I find fairly ridiculous. Or it’s ok for them to be there. Whether or not they are annoying is totally irrelevant to the fact of it being a space primarily occupied by adults.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            I actually think he could be harmed yes. Asking strangers for phone numbers is really dangerous. A more streetwise kid wouldn’t do that. I’m not saying ban him from the store: it could be that a talking to is enough; equally it might not be enough and his parent needs a heads up on the risk. I also don’t agree that it’s either an “all allowed in, or all allowed out” rule for kids. It doesn’t need to be set in stone as that black and white, you can apply common sense on a case by case. I’m not sure what your point is regarding the space being “primarily occupied by adults”. Most spaces are!

            1. Observer*

              None of this has anything to do with “a preteen in an adult space”, though. It is about a person who is misbehaving, and in a way that might be a problem for that person as well as others in the space.

              1. Ellis Bell*

                I wouldn’t want to nitpick on the matter of that quotation; the entirety of the comment you’re quoting from, did allow for kids to be in stores sometimes.

                1. Observer*

                  As I pointed out, the entirety of that comment was self-contradictory.

                  Your attempt to explain doesn’t really resolve that.

                2. Ellis Bell*

                  I wasn’t explaining, I was disagreeing. It’s just a pet peeve of mine when someone jumps all over the wording of a comment.

              2. Casper Lives*

                My comment wasn’t contradictory. I had this thing called a cell phone. If this kid has one, that alleviates those concerns.

                You seem hell bent on arguing my comment makes no sense. Maybe you should accept that you disagree with it and move on!

    5. Julia*

      Preteens go places like the library for hours unaccompanied. My public library policy is 10 and up can be there unattended. It is the responsibility of the parent to ensure their child has a way to contact them. The bookstore is a private business but also an 11 year old can legally do a fair amount of things solo.

  14. anon24*

    LW#2 Not every kid is born knowing how to “human”, and some of us aren’t given much guidance from our parents. I was the annoying kid at times as a child, following adults around and talking their ears off. Looking back I wish someone would have just kindly told me to stop and explained social norms, because I didn’t know. I was desperately lonely because I had no friends and didn’t know how to talk to people, and I think adults thought they were doing me a kindness by just bearing my obnoxiousness but if someone would have just told me to shut up it might have been better in the long run.

    Of course its not your job to teach social norms to a random child, but if you are able to tell them that it’s not okay to bother people or ask for their phone numbers they may appreciate it. Or they may take it poorly and it may end up causing drama, so that’s a choice you have to make, but they’re only 11 and just may be socially inept rather than an intentional nuisance.

    1. Despachito*


      Speaking from experience, as a kid, I sometimes had difficulties to understand the “unwritten norms”, and was confused when someone was cross at me because of that as I did not understand why. I usually assumed they were right that I broke some rule and I would not want to do that if I knew what the rule was… but I didn’t. (This would be why I’d cry like the bookstore kid, or at least want to – my feeling would be “I meant well but it appears I screwed up again, everybody hates me and I do not know why and what to do about it”). Telling me basically “you are by no means a failure but THIS is the thing I need you to differently and THIS is how” would have been a great kindness. I do not blame people for not doing this, but I dearly remember those who were able and willing to do it for me.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, I was a socially awkward kid who didn’t “get” unwritten rules. I was lucky that my parents taught me how to behave in stores (probably overly strict because some adults did stuff in stores that I was taught was bad, but…) But if his parent/s just expect him to absorb the norms, that’s not good, because most kids that age need stuff spelled out for them, especially if they are highly intelligent and/or on the spectrum.

        People expect smart kids to somehow magically know the unwritten rules just because they are smart. But smart does not mean socially adept. As a former “smart kid” (with ADD, plus other issues), I hated being expected to somehow magically deduce the unwritten rules of a social environment, whether it was a store, park, party, or wherever. Take the kid aside and explain the store rules, and a kid scale reasons why.

        1. Adultier adult*

          Yeah…. I’m not going to complain to the store- I’m just going to leave – if it happened twice, I wouldn’t go there again. I am a mom & a teacher, but this is not what I want (or should have to) deal with in my two minutes a month of bookstore peace

  15. Kat*

    Moving to the opposite coast is a huge deal. If they feel a lukewarm response from you, I think it’s reasonable to ask if you want to be taken out of the pool.

    1. parsley*

      In every single email? At some point you have to take people for their word that they’re interested.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Or if they really don’t think that OP is sincere about relocating, they could just end the interview process themselves.

  16. Despachito*

    OP1 – it sucks because they are discriminating AND it is clear that WFH is possible and yields higher productivity from everyone.

    It would be definitely worth pointing out but’d be careful about how I word it because I can easily imagine that if confronted that they are not fair they will remove this advantage from the moms instead of allowing it to everyone.

    1. OP #1*

      I never thought of this! Thanks, that’s definitely really useful as I think about how/if to broach this

      1. Despachito*

        You said that you already did work from home and it worked allright, and that the output was better than when you were in the office.

        Could you possibly use that as an argument (there already is positive experience with WFH)?

        You also mentioned their unwillingness of letting people WFH when they are sick. You could perhaps use this as an argument too – many times it can happen it is preferable not to come to work in person but you are still able to WFH (COVID is a perfect example of this – I caught it two or three times despite being vaccinated, and every time I had to stay at home for at least a week but was perfectly able to work because fortunately I had barely any symptoms). And in general, isn’t it preferable to not having sick and contagious people come to the office to spread the disease among their coworkers yet have the work done?

        I do not know what standing you have at work to use those arguments, nor how receptive your superiors are, but it can be worth a shot. I’d focus rather on the advantages it can have to your employer (you already have a history of WFH and it did not decrease the output but on the contrary, work gets done even if people are not able to come in person, it will create more loyalty as people will be less stressed and less prone to leaving..-)

    1. Allonge*

      I think that is just how shops refer to people even if they don’t buy anything (in that particular session). How would you prefer they refer to to the millions of people / day who are ‘just looking’?

  17. talos*

    #5: I once had a phone screen with a recruiter who followed every. Single. Question. with “would love to hear more”. It was super weird (and slightly aggravating) but not really an issue. Recruiters just have tics sometimes.

  18. blam*

    What the actual, LW1! I could possibly understand a policy of allowing specific flexibility for caregiving responsibilities – whether that’s kids, older or disabled family members, whatever. That’s something I’d love to see companies accommodate better, because when you’re needed for care, you have zero choice but to drop work and run. But just mothers? Excluding even fathers, let alone other carers? (What the hell do they do with a gay dad?)

    It’s SO BAD.

    1. OP #1*

      THANK YOU! It felt SO BAD in the moment but then I felt guilty for being upset that mom’s were getting flexibility, which I know parents need. But 1. child free people need flexibility too and 2. Not even dads?!

      1. Observer*

        I think the key here is to think about what you are upset about. Are you upset that Moms are getting a perk, or are you upset that you can’t get this very reasonable accommodation that can be HUGELY helpful to all sorts of people.

        The former is not good. But the latter is totally reasonable. And it sounds like that’s really what you are after. So, that’s the way to frame it, if you bring it up.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        It’s not brilliant for the working mums either to be honest. Sure, they’ll take the perk and it’s certainly going to be a convenience in the short term. However, if I were them I’d be thinking that I’d already been mentally sidelined by management. When you have managers who believe that 1) real work takes place in the office and that 2) working mothers get to have a day off from that … then what do they really think about their contributions? Then you also have the rest of the women, even the non parents, feeling twitchy about the high probability of women being typecast as the future-childcarers-who-dont-want-promotions. Not to mention the working dads who will be loathe to even mention emergencies with their kids because it’s already been made clear they shouldn’t be caring for their children. I’d love to know how they’d handle a gay dad with no female partner to shift the childcare onto in line with company expectations. It’s all just so bad.

      3. blam*

        Parents do need flexibility – but that’s all parents, not just mothers, and actually it’s caregivers of every kind. I mean, obviously it’s EVERYONE, but I guess there is one point of difference between caregiving and most other forms of being busy – you really, absolutely, 100% cannot fail to show up to your caregiving responsibilities. There’s no option to just…not do it, or do it later, or something. I have other personal commitments that I could skip or drop entirely if it came to it, though I’d be furious to have to do it. But I cannot ever just let my young child do their own thing once childcare is done for the day. Obviously everyone occasionally has an emergency – I’ve also had to leave work to deal with plumbing disasters etc. – but that happens a whole lot less and people tend to be understanding when it does.

        I’d much rather see WFH for everyone because it’s a godsend, but failing that it should at least be available for everyone who has that kind of absolute responsibility for another person. The current policy would have a mother of self-sufficient teens getting more flexibility than a single father of a toddler or someone caring for a parent with dementia. It makes no sense.

  19. Garfield*

    For letter #2:

    Eleven is old enough to manage being outside on their own. Don’t hesitate to kick them out if needed. That being said, I commend what other commenters said about handling the situation with care and grace. I like “we need you to leave for today” formulation, maybe even add “we welcome you to come back another day”.

  20. Harper the Other One*

    For OP2: the armchair diagnosis rule is posted at the top of this comment section for a reason, and I’m sure part of the reason you’re unsure what to do is because you wonder about being “mean” to a kid and possibly a neurodivergent kid. But as the parent of 2 neurodivergent kids, a clear and kind explanation of the rules is EXACTLY what you should do, whether this kid is neurodivergent or neurotypical! Alison’s scripts are great – particularly how they emphasize that he is welcome as long as he follows the rules – and they are extremely important social norms for any kid to learn. This isn’t like telling a kid to stop stimming or that their interest in Japanese culture is weird. So if any guilt comes from that worry, please, know that you have nothing to be guilty about.

  21. Lady_Lessa*

    For LW4, my pet sitter just did the same thing. After a number of years, she just decided to let us know that she was quitting. She sent a letter, with some explanations and let us know how to contact her if we wanted our keys back. After a specific date, she would destroy them and shared the method.

    She also offered tips in finding a new one. I’m sorry that she has quit, but understand her reasoning. (I wasn’t really surprised because earlier “no new clients”

    1. LW#4*

      Thank you! I knew i was thinking toi far into it but that’s unfortunately just how my brain works haha

  22. Eater of Cupcakes*

    The phrasing “reading a graphic novel which they have not purchased” sort of indicates that reading unpaid books is a problem. On the other hand, the part with “the issue with this child is” doesn’t mention the free reading. I can’t really make heads or tails of whether I’m reading too much into the phrasing.

    On a related note, one passive-aggressive way to handle the situation would be to act as if you were indeed a free babysitter–that is, ask the dad for what to do if the child is injured somehow, and if you’re allowed to feed them when they seem hungry, and so on. That should clearly send the message that apparently, he expects you to be this child’s unpaid babysitters. (I’m not recommending that you actually do this; I’m just mentioning it as a fun thought.)

    1. Sasha*

      A neglectful parent will seize on that as a green light to leave the kid there from 9am-6pm, assuming you will feed and supervise them as offered.

      Never use passive aggressiveness to shame completely shameless people. It doesn’t work.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Hard agree on how offers to more formally babysit the kid are going to land.

        The part about not buying things gives context to the central problem, which is that the child doesn’t know how to act when left in a bookstore for an hour and is making things uncomfortable for others.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      I took that bit to imply if the kid bought something/lots of things every time, they might be more willing to put up with the kid annoying other customers a smidge more. But since kid is both not purchasing anything and annoying other customers, there is less reason to give the kid so much leeway. But I am reading that into it and acknowledge maybe that’s not what LW meant.

  23. Greasy monkey*

    OP3- I don’t think your response was rude at all. Your boss on the other hand…If the company isn’t providing transportation, the default would seem to be that its the employees issue to get there and back. Having to disclose medical info to defend your reason to your boss is another thing. If it’s on the employee to arrange transport,its kinda not the company’s business unless they are compensating for travel expenses.
    If I were in your place, I wouldn’t want to carpool either. There are many reasons for not wanting to spend hours in a car with coworkers. What if they want to stop to eat and you’re really wanting to get home? Or vice-versa? There has been many times I’ve been stuck with someone who needed to “make a quick stop” along the way that wasn’t actually quick. You have to deal with the drivers whims,or if you’re the driver, theres pressure to deal with the passenger’s whims. Just no…
    On a side note, am I the only one who thinks it’s a bit much to expect employees to drive 3 hours, spend however long at the conference, then drive 3 hours back? I’m gonna guess that it’s an 8 hour conference (hopefully shorter)and another 6 hours drive time for a possible 14 hour day. Mayne I’m out of touch on the subject though.

    1. doreen*

      It’s a long day with a lot of driving – but I’m torn on whether I think the “drive three hours each way for a six hour meeting” is worse or if “drive three hours each way for a two hour meeting” is worse.

      1. Rich*

        I drive a lot for work for short customer meetings, in a large city where commute times can be shockingly bad. Almost always my drive is at least 2x the length of my meeting. In my experience, when you’re explaining it to someone else, the idea of 6h of driving for 1-2 hours of meeting is mind-blowing to the listener. But it’s a pretty normal work day duration, and driving is just part of the job. 6h of driving wrapped around a normal work day is loooooooong, because at that point it feels like the drive is burning _my_ time, not work time. I’ll choose a long drive with a short meeting almost every time.

        1. Doreen*

          I think it depends – when you say driving is part of the job, it sounds like you are talking about driving interspersed with meetings , like you spend an hour driving to customer #1 , spend 10 minutes there and then drive 30 minutes to the next customer. That’s one thing and I’d prefer that to six hours of driving and a six hour meeting . The one that I’m not sure about is three hours driving to a two hour meeting ( with people who work for the same employer) and three hours driving back – and that’s mostly because I spend so much time annoyed because it almost always could have been a conference call.

    2. Here we go again*

      Yeah an extra 6 hours with coworkers after a full day of work isn’t fun. Even if you like your coworkers you’re kind of sick of them at the end of the day.

  24. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    Clown LW4, if you feel strange about telling them you’re stopping, you can tell them exactly Alison’s script. Then one or two of them may follow up with a question of why or what you are doing next. You can say “Thanks for asking! I am pursuing other opportunities” and leave it at that.

    Don’t give in to the pressure to share more (unless you want to!). Make the focus about what you’re doing next, and not about reassuring them you liked them.

    You might feel internal pressure to reassure them that it’s not them (even though it is), but they don’t know that it is them and they don’t have to know!

    Plenty of people make decisions to take their careers in different ways and you get to do that too, without apology or justification or a ‘good enough’ reason. You wanting to is a good enough reason.

  25. I should really pick a name*

    For #5 I wonder if it actually WAS part of the signature and the signature block was just larger than what they were used to. That makes a lot more sense to me than adding it in to every message.

  26. birch*

    #3, ugh, can we as Workplace Culture in general start coming from a default of privacy for employees? If the company can’t afford to reimburse mileage individually or pay for individual hotel rooms, etc., they can’t afford to send employees to those opportunities, full stop. Yes, it helps to save money, yes it’s more environmental to carpool, sure some people will be fine with sharing or want to share. But I’m so sick of companies throwing employees together as a default and then acting weird about it rather than allowing people to opt-IN rather than opt-OUT. There’s so many reasons someone would want their own room or not to be in a car with coworkers for hours! And none of them are the company’s business.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The manager was being weird in this case, but I don’t think the fact that it was opt-out was a problem.

      For lengthier trips, it can be safter to car pool. People can trade off driving, and keep an eye on the driver if they’re getting tired.

      They should make it clear that opting out is an option and doesn’t require a detailed explanation, but I don’t think car-pooling as the default is a misstep.

    2. doreen*

      I think the carpool can be different from the hotel rooms – my employer has no business telling me I must ride in a co-worker’s car or that I must allow co-workers to ride in my car. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with requiring people to use employer-owned cars for travel ( and not reimbursing those who choose to use personal vehicles) and requiring people to carpool in those employer-owned cars.

    3. Lily Potter*

      At risk of incurring the wrath of the commentariat, I don’t see a problem with requiring employees to carpool to an out of town event or even to share rooms with one another at said event, as long as they know what they’re signing on for ahead of time. Sometimes it’s the only way to make the money and/or the PR to work. For example, there might be enough money for two cars and two hotel rooms. That’ll mean two people can attend driving/lodging alone or four people can attend doubling up. Also, sometimes its just bad optics to not carpool. I once worked for a smaller town, and you can bet that both our city council and our public at large would disapprove of the idea of reimbursing for four individual mileage requests instead of one or even two. It’s just bad optics. All this said, carpool/hotel share parameters should be made known ahead of time, so an employee could opt out of going if they didn’t want to rideshare or roomshare.

      OF COURSE it’s more fun to have one’s own room and to not have to make chitchat in a vehicle. But, as my grandmother was fond of saying “they call it WORK and not FUN for a reason.”

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I actually think an upfront expectation, particularly for reasons of costs and optics would have been a whole lot less weird than a boss hiding that expectation and then being close to rage just because someone automatically doesn’t want to do it for funsies.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, no. When I traveled for work in my younger days I was often the only female person among six guys. We didn’t double up, even the guys. When you’re doing field work you are at close quarters for 10 to 12 hours a day. The last thing you want is to go back to a shared hotel room.

        I would rather pay 100% of my hotel than be forced to share with a coworker. Same with carpooling – unless I knew them well enough to let them drive my car I would be a hard no on carpooling for a long trip.

        I’ve carpooled on long trips multiple times – with friends. But I’ve usually been the one driving, and yes that makes a difference.

        As I’ve gotten older the less I think work should be like some sort of extended college experience where you do everything with your coworkers, and more like something you do for a few hours a day then return to your real life.

        1. Lily Potter*

          I’m with you on parts of this. If your whole job, or even a large part of your job, involves living out of motels, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish! In that case, tmployees totally deserve their own space at the end of a long day! It’s a little harder justify having seven people each driving individually every day unless there’s a business reason for it though.

          My response was geared more toward the occasional out of town business trip or training seminar. In an environment of limited budgets, people demanding to drive alone and bunk alone will naturally mean less money for others to also attend.

          A story – had a job once where a new department head was trying to find the budget to send more people to a training seminar at a resort about three hours away. He looked at the previous year’s budget and realized that the all-male contingent was each driving alone and getting their own rooms…….and bringing along their wives and kids to stay with them! Department Head was able to make the budget stretch much further the next year……

        2. birch*

          This. Being around people I did not choose to have in my life constantly is exhausting (and I even like most of them!). Maybe I’m also a curmudgeon, but I don’t want to have lunch together every day, I don’t want to travel together and I absolutely don’t want to room together. I refuse to put my work email on my phone. Enough of my time, energy, and mental space is being taken up by the necessity of doing work for other people to earn money to live, I will not give up my right to my own time and space, too. Disclaimers: I’m in academia, so it often feels like work owns everything about my life; and I’m also very private about my mental space, which may be a neurodivergent thing. The uncertainty and demand of other people’s attention is exhausting, even more so when I have less control in a situation or feel like I have to perform a role. I’ve heard similar things from other people so I know I’m not the only one who really needs time to be alone and control over how I engage in the world. Increasing the time we have to be professionally “on” should always be an informed opt-in (if that’s part of the job description, then fine!). Most people think opt-out scenarios work fine until someone makes it weird like in OP’s case and then it’s an exception, but if you’re like me, people making assumptions and then making it weird when you opt-out is actually the rule.

      3. Been There*

        The workday also ends at a certain point…
        I need time alone to decompress at the end of the day. It’s not about fun, it’s about my mental health. I am not bunking with coworkers.

      4. Eyes Kiwami*

        Carpooling is one thing, but I cannot imagine how it is OK to make employees share bedrooms. Employees should not have to take a professional hit (not going to the event) because they can’t or don’t want to sleep next to a coworker! That gets into weird gender things (are you going to make them share mixed gender rooms?), medical and privacy issues, and just general common sense: sharing bedrooms is an incredibly intimate act that most people don’t want to do with their coworkers!

        It’s not about what is more fun, it’s about what is appropriate and acknowledges the dignity and privacy of workers whom you are asking to travel for work.

    4. SofiaDeo*

      I would think the culture should be more along the lines of “clearly communicate with each other, by asking questions and having discussions.” Let’s not make assumptions about what people want, whether it’s opting in or out. IME I am seeing people making a lot of assumptions, instead of having conversations. Then acting on the assumptions, then being surprised when others disagree. In this instance, it would have started with clearly stating expectations around job travel. And LW#3, sorry to hear you have an inappropriate boss. “Demanding to know why you aren’t carpooling” makes a lot of assumptions. Plus is weirdly aggressive.

  27. FashionablyEvil*

    #3–the only other thing I can think of is if there’s a race or gender angle to the mix (e.g., you’re a white person who refused to ride with two colleagues of color or a man who refused to ride with two women.) Otherwise, sounds like your boss it a bit too into togetherness.

    (Also, that’s a really long day to do a three hour drive on either end!)

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I agree about the 6 total hours on the road being WAY too long.

      I would rather have a room to stay at either the night before the session or afterwards, depending upon the start and end times of the meeting.

    2. LW #3*

      Hmm the man riding with two women part is true. And my boss is also a woman, so maybe she saw it through that lens? That hadn’t factored into my decision at all, but maybe it came across that way?
      Being familiar with my boss’s habits, though, I’m more tempted to think it was part of a togetherness crusade.

    3. Allonge*

      This woud have to be part of a pattern for me to qualify a an issue. The sample size is just too small (and in this case there is a legit medical need to factor in).

      Sure, if OP was happy and willing to carpool with men and not women, or wiht white people but not people of color, then there is an issue. As things are, it does not seem to matter.

  28. Delta Delta*

    #3 – I worked with someone who had IBS, and seeing how her days went sometimes, and how unpredictable it was for her (yes, I know everyone’s different, but this is my data point) I empathize with how tricky a long car trip might be for OP. OP shouldn’t have to remind the boss about the issue, and the boss shouldn’t have behaved the way they did with the information.

    Second, sometimes a quick stop isn’t a quick stop, for whatever reason. I once went to an event with a group. We traveled in 3 cars. First, people were late, so we got a late start getting on the road. Then someone wanted to stop to eat, and it took forever. The lateness made me incredibly anxious. I felt like I was going to climb out of my skin. We ended up being late to the event, and it wasn’t a big deal, but it was an unnerving experience for me and for some others. This isn’t to say OP’s needs will make people anxious, but suppose she says she needs to stop and the driver misunderstands and keeps going. Or OP doesn’t want to be seen as an inconvenience and suffers through 2 long car rides she can’t control. Not good.

  29. Fastest Thumb in the West*

    #2- I definitely would not kick the child out of the store. Remember the Adam Walsh case? He was kicked out of Sears while his mother was shopping in another department, then kidnapped and murdered. His dad went on to create America’s Most Wanted. I would let the dad know that unaccompanied minors are not permitted and that he needs to be with his child in the store.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Okay, come on.

      People are usually not kidnapped and murdered. And children who are kidnapped are almost always kidnapped by a relative, not by a stranger intent on murdering them. This is incredibly rare and by no means a likely scenario, or something that it is primarily on bookstore employees to overcome.

      Spelling out norms of how to be a non-annoying store inhabitant is going to help the child any time a “head for an area with other people around” situation might arise.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        It’s not that rare. Last year two people I happen to know told me about times when a stranger tried to kidnap their sons. Both times the parent was able to prevent it.
        People thinking it’s so rare it can’t happen to them makes it easier for it to happen because they don’t take precautions.
        LW’s young customer should have been taught safety rules to avoid being kidnapped or molested, but by the way they go around asking strangers for phone numbers, it doesn’t sound like they have. If anyone does end up talking to them, it might be a good idea to mention the dangers of doing this.

        1. virago*

          Anecdotes aren’t data. Research shows that most child kidnappings take place in connection with child custody disputes.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Does that research include attempted kidnappings?
            In the second case I heard of, the kidnapper tried to take the child’s hand And lead him away while his father was right there! His father pulled the child back and detained the man, who had other children with him. Those other children turned out to have been kidnapped.
            No matter how rare it is statistically, people should always take precautions. It being rare won’t comfort you when it happens to someone you know.

          2. They see me cheap ass rollin'*

            That’s absolutely true. It’s also probably cold comfort to Adam Walsh’s parents.

            Saying “This very rarely happens so we should act as if it never happens” is fine for some things, but not when the consequences of the thing actually happening are a child getting murdered. “Anecdotes aren’t data” is also true until you have a large enough collection of anecdotes, but lands poorly when each of those anecdotes involves harm coming to real children.

    2. Seashell*

      Technically, a 16 or 17 year old is an unaccompanied minor, and they’re old enough to work at a store.

    3. C Baker*

      Remember the Adam Walsh case?

      No, I don’t, because it happened before I was born.

      That’s how rare stranger abductions are – people have to keep asking me if I “remember” cases that happened decades ago!

  30. Pierrot*

    LW2- I think you should talk to the kid directly and talk to the dad as well. If you catch the kid in the moment doing something inappropriate, you should tell him “It’s not okay/it’s against the rules to follow the other customers or ask for their phone numbers. You are welcome to read quietly while you are here, but we need you to follow our rules.”

    Then you should talk to the dad about the overall issues you’re seeing. It doesn’t need to be a big serious conversation, but as the parent who is leaving his kid unsupervised in your store, he should know what’s going on. I would just say something positive about how you’re glad Timmy enjoys coming to your store and reading and then explain the overall issues that are arising. Then you can maybe get the dad’s phone number to call in case it happens again.

    I at a small business that attracted a lot of customers who were children, but usually the ones who were under the age of 12 would have adults with them. There was a father who would drop off his daughter (who was about 9) and she was pretty quiet, but then one day he dropped off his younger son as well and that was more of an issue. The son got upset and wanted to go home and we didn’t know where the dad was. I think that when parents drop their kids (under the age of 12 or 13) off at a business that’s not in the realm of childcare for an extended period of time, they should at least have a conversation with the workers who are there and give them a phone number in case of an emergency.

    The dad in LW2’s situation probably knows that his child enjoys reading and the general atmosphere of the bookstore and that’s why he brings him there. He might have assumed that because the employees hadn’t said anything to him directly about his son’s behavior that there weren’t any issues. That’s definitely presumptuous but it’s how some people seem to operate. Hopefully the dad and kid are receptive to your boundaries going forward, and I’d love to hear an update on this one.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      Mh, I think your age limit is kind of high. Also, fobbing off responsibility to the workers by giving them a phone number doesn’t seem great to me either.

      Really, at that age, the child should have a means to contact of the parent (a mobile phone, one of those watch things that can send messages, or whatever), and/or be able to make their own way home or to wherever the parent is.

      Dropping someone off at a store with no means of contact or way to get home seems a bad idea at any age, really. I wouldn’t like it, and I’m in my 30s.

      1. Scarlet Magnolias*

        My library has a policy that no child under the age of 12 can be left alone without an adult (Connecticut). It is amazing how many people will dump the child and sidle out to run errands. We’ve had to call police about it several times. This is a very entitled community so I think they want free daycare.

          1. birb*

            Libraries and businesses have to have reasonable risk management policies to avoid legal liability, and likely do not have control over the age cutoff at individual locations. Employees are beholden to those policies or are taking a personal risk if something happens.

            Many malls now even have minor curfew hours and parental escort policies for ALL minors under 18 (sometimes 16) with limits on how many minors an individual adult can accompany (with exceptions for store employees who are scheduled). No organization wants the liability.

            A parent may think their 11 year old is mature enough to be alone in a public space, but should definitely call and ask for the policy up front to make sure it is ok.

  31. jr*

    “Anti-social” is the wrong term here. “Anti-social” means destructive/harmful to others. The correct term is “asocial.”

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      There’s a rule about not nitpicking word choice, as it’s derailing.

      “Antisocial” is a perfectly fine word to convey not wanting to socialize with your coworkers. “Not sociable; not wanting the company of others” from Oxford.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Quite frankly, the word IS “anti-social”, because after too long with talkative strangers and I end up wanting to harm them, if nothing other than putting duct tape over their mouths to shut them up!

      Your pedantry is unwarranted.

    3. enlyghten*

      Thank you.

      In general conversation, asocial and antisocial are often used synonymously. Merriam-Webster defines asocial as “not social: such as: a) rejecting or lacking the capacity for social interaction, b) antisocial.”

      In psychology and psychiatry, however, the terms have distinct meanings. Antisocial behavior violates the basic rights of others, causing harm or disruption in some way. Asociality involves withdrawing from others, while antisociality involves negative acting out towards others.

  32. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    OP #1…

    A company that’s willing to enact an illegal policy will be equally willing to fire anyone who points out the illegality, whether by casually discussing it with coworkers or formally reporting it to a state/federal agency.

    If you plan to go that route, make sure to document, document, document both the policy and your own work performance (because they may try to say that you were fired for incompetence rather than whistleblowing) — and prepare to be let go on the spot.

    1. Observer*

      I think that you may have a point. On the other hand, these folks might genuinely not see that this is actually illegal.

    2. Splendid Colors*

      Yeah, my landlord sent a threatening letter implying I would be evicted, after I complained to the City about multiple issues Landlord had failed to address, including Fair Housing violations.

  33. Melissa*


    It’s amazing how often “talk to the kid” gets overlooked! My son is 11, and he can be annoying. But if you had a brief direct conversation with him, giving a specific— like “You can’t ask people for their phone numbers”— he would totally follow your instructions.

    I know it’s not your job to parent or be a teacher to this kid, so I’m not expecting that you should be spending a lot of time correcting all his behavior. But the specific things you mentioned seemed like they might be simple to address.

    1. Maggie*

      Exactly! All 11 year olds are annoying, it’s kind of a standard feature. Our job as adults is to politely set boundaries so they learn how to function socially with others!

    2. Rara Avis*

      I think a lot of people are reluctant to correct the behavior of other people’s children for fear of parental backlash. (I’m a teacher and constitutionally incapable of not addressing issues with random children, but our training for parents who want to chaperone school trips is very explicit about the expectation that parent chaperones must control the behavior of their group.)

      1. PsychNurse*

        That’s definitely true– and I fall victim to it myself! I was at church a few weeks ago, and there was a child throwing stuff. I was sitting there being annoyed by the behavior, and then I heard another adult say, “Hey, let’s not throw stuff, okay?” to the kid. The kid quit throwing, and I thought, Well, that was easy, why didn’t I do that?

  34. Cheesesteak in Paradise*


    Considering this company allowed the absolute minimal WFH (6 months in 2020?) and even now only wants to offer 1 day per week to a very limited class of employees, it’s clear they believe in butts in seats. Honestly, rather than fight the battle of mothers vs others, I’d just look for another job if WFH is a priority to you. They are more likely to make everyone come in than expand beyond mothers based on their past behavior.

    And a company is allowed to say they don’t want to support WFH. And their employees are allowed to leave if that doesn’t work for them.

    1. 60 years young!*

      All good points. I just want to add that my former employer had us back at the building in May 2020. Yes May 2020 we were all back in the building and despite assurances, the first thing I saw when I walked in was a supervisor with her mask off talking to another employee.

      There is a reason that is my former employer.

  35. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

    I feel so bad for the 11 yr old, s/he sounds lonely. I have a family member around that age who sometimes will hang out in a coffee shop near school after classes are out for the day, waiting for his parent to pick him up. It breaks my heart to think of him in there by himself just sitting there, I’d hope if he tried to talk to other people because he’s outgoing and doesn’t want to feel so alone, that the shop owners/workers wouldn’t just kick him out.

    1. Maggie*

      Part of that is a parenting issues though – it’s a coffee shop, not a drop off/pickup site for children. Also, I would be fine talking to a kid for a bit, however I would not be fine being followed by them and then asking for contact info. It’s ok to set a boundary with them and ask them to leave if it’s not followed (and they’re not banned or anything, they just need to come back and try again). Bookstores and coffee shops are generally quiet places where people expect not to be approached a lot.

      1. Scarlet2*

        This. And respecting other people’s boundaries is a useful skill to learn…

        You can be welcoming and friendly to the kid while also telling them that other people are entitled to their own space and privacy.

        1. blam*

          It is useful, and important. Eleven is an age where they can start spending more time independently out and about, and part of that means experiencing the consequences of how they behave while doing so. I definitely wouldn’t treat a kid crossing boundaries in the same way as an adult, but I wouldn’t accept being followed and asked for my contact details either. It’s OK to ask the kid to stop.

          It’s not a terrible thing for a kid to figure out how to cope with temporary loneliness and boredom. Not for many hours every day, but once in a while it’s just…life.

    2. C Baker*

      It breaks your heart to think that he might sit alone in a pleasant environment, perhaps doing his homework while eating a pastry?

        1. C Baker*

          How would you describe “sitting in a coffee shop after school” then?

          Because no matter how I look at it, it’s just not a heartbreaking situation and it’s really weird that the person I replied to said it is.

  36. squirreltooth*

    I used to be a version of the kid in #2, though I was so quiet that I was never asked to leave the bookstore/comic book shop/library, and 25+ years later I still feel gratitude to those places of refuge. So my heart goes out to them and to the LW, who seems very kind. Personally, if any adult in charge had even kindly told me I was being disruptive or annoying, I would have been so mortified that I would have never come back, but something tells me this child has a higher tolerance for embarrassment than I did.

  37. jojo*

    #3 carpooling. Perhaps as this is a work function your boss was considering renting a vehicle for the three of you to ride together. Often an employer is responsible for transportation to work functions. You threw them for a loop with your IBS and preferring to ride alone.

    1. Rosa Rosa Rosa Diaz Diaz Diaz*

      Jojo, the boss could have set out very clearly that there’s a travel policy and therefore they need to share. They didn’t. That’s the bit that makes it weird.

  38. Katefish*

    This comment made my day! My brother has a beloved pet snake and I’m enjoying imagining her making a Zoom ruckus.

  39. Reading a good book*

    LW2: this child obviously loves your store, books, and being around other people. Is there any way you could channel their energy and refocus it by having them volunteer for part of the time they spend there (with parental permission, of course)? Not only would it take their focus off of the other customers, they would be learning about a business, learning discipline and self-control in a practical way, finding acceptance, feeling like they’re helping and making a difference, *actually* helping (shelving books, dusting, whatever), etc.

    I loved bookstores/libraries as a kid (still do). I wasn’t left alone for hours in one, but if I had been, I would have LOVED to been asked to help out by the staff. It would have made me feel so valued that bookstore staff would have trusted me to help out with something as precious as a book.

    Just a thought.

    1. Nancy*

      There are laws around how old someone can be before they work or volunteer. At that age, a parent or guardian present is usually required.

    2. RagingADHD*

      This would create so many different kinds of liability it makes my head hurt. If you had been asked to do unpaid child labor for a business, that would not be a matter of trust or a mark of honor. It would be exploitative.

    3. Former bookseller*

      Apart from all the other considerations listed below, the staff did not sign up for child-care as well as doing their jobs and keeping the bookshop afloat financially (difficult at the best of times.) I can envisage a scenario in which word gets around that they’re providing free child-care, and get swamped with can’t-be-bothered parents and their offspring.

      Not great for staff who just want to sell books.

  40. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

    Re: carpooling: I would decline mostly because hello we still have this very contagious novel Covid virus going around that’s still killing 4,000 in the US every week, and 6 hours round trip shut in a car with other people could be a prime way to get it (or flu, or any other airborne anything), especially if no one is masking, poor ventilation, etc. Why aren’t more people concerned about that aspect?

    1. Seashell*

      If you’re already exposed to these same people at your office and at whatever event you’re going to, the car isn’t likely to make matters that much worse.

    2. Antilles*

      Because the answer is because in the vast majority of the US, Covid simply not a primary concern any more. Airlines, restaurants, and event venues are back up to their pre-2020 bookings, you can go days if not weeks without seeing someone masked in public spaces, and most workplaces have stopped all their Covid protocols unless/until someone actively reports a case.
      Are people still getting Covid and dying from it? Yes. But it’s become part of life – no different than the 40,000 annual deaths from traffic or 32,000 annual deaths from falls. People still drive their cars and accept that risk, people still walk around their house without constantly worrying about losing their footing.
      If you have a particular reason to still be as worried about Covid as you were in mid-2020 when

      1. Antilles*

        If you have a particular reason to still be as worried about Covid as you were in mid-2020 when nobody was vaccinated (e.g., history of breathing issues, unvaccinated family members, etc)? Then absolutely, do what you feel you need to do to keep people safe – in the same way that some people choose to avoid driving at night or during bad weather.
        But you do need to recognize that’s not where most of America is right now. For better or worse, the vast majority of Americans are well past the point of allowing Covid to be a major concern in how they act on a day to day basis.

      2. Colette*

        I would argue that people are ignoring COVID, even though they should be concerned. The numbers (both inital deaths and deaths after the initial infection has run its course) are bad.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        275k people in the US died from COVID in 2022. That’s more than all accidental injury deaths combined (200k). The only causes of death that beat covid were heart disease and cancer, and those aren’t contagious.

      4. Splendid Colors*

        People aren’t concerned about COVID but it is still out there. We are having 300 deaths PER DAY from COVID.

        My large metro area county has a webpage to check the wastewater sampling of COVID. It’s been at levels comparable to previous seasonal surges since November.

        Unless someone has a cargo van for this carpool, everyone’s going to be in a far smaller, more poorly ventilated space than an elevator for 6 hours. That’s not comparable to being at the office in a regular office building with an HVAC system.

    3. Eyes Kiwami*

      Because everyone has decided the pandemic is over, and if you’re at risk for it it’s your job to keep yourself safe.
      Even the people arguing in 2020 and 2021 that “public health is not an individual choice” are shrugging and going around maskless…

  41. no one reads this far*

    LW2, I commiserate. I used to work at a pet store and parents would dump their kids off while they went to do other shopping and it was so aggravating. On top of doing my job, now I have to keep little fingers out of fish tanks and little fists from slamming on the bird cages or little kids from slipping on the wet floor (from when they were splashing in the fish tanks)

    Worst was when some dude looked at his kid, then looked at me and said “now stay with the nice lady while I go shopping.”

  42. no one reads this far*

    Everyone saying “I don’t know why the staff haven’t spoken to the kid about their behavior!” clearly never dealt with parents who go batshit on you if you even dare to ask their kid to please stop running in the store, it’s dangerous and we don’t want anyone to get hurt!

    1. Appletini*

      I do and I agree with you. I’d bet a shiny nickel that the father threatens to sue or something. He obviously has no case but it’s still not fun to be the clerk in the store being yelled at by an angry parent and also knowing that one’s manager will come to one in a few days and say “Explain why this customer complained about your terrible service, or be fired,” because in retail managers don’t back up employees.

    2. Luna*

      That’s when you turn around and start going off on the parent for not doing something themself earlier. Go for the root of the problem.

      1. They see me cheap ass rollin'*

        I think you might have missed the “We don’t want anyone to get hurt” part. It’s one thing to sit at your computer and advise other people to do potentially dangerous things; people who have to worry about the safety of their employees and/or their business are much better off choosing not to do potentially dangerous things advised by internet commenters.

  43. Kimberly*

    #3 You were not rude. I was told I was rude in a similar situation. 7 teachers were going to a conference in our town. I wasn’t going to drive with the one that announced she was driving us because of her history of DUI and reckless driving. She nearly lost her teaching license over the charges.

    Thankfully I had another handy excuse. I was not going to drive
    1. 45 min to work.
    2. Get in a car drive 1 hour 10 min to the conference
    3. leave drive 2 hours (due to traffic) back to work
    4. Drive home an hour (due to traffic)

    When I could
    1. Drive 20 min to the conference
    2. Drive 40 min home from the conference

    The driver was still pitching a fit a month later claiming I must have put in for the mileage. She had filled out the form incorrectly that is why she hadn’t received reimbursement.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I had the “opportunity” to ride 3 hours there and back for a conference with my reckless driving, mansplaining, and generally odd supervisor.

      I opted against it, gently referring to having a slightly different travel plan.

      I would have paid out of pocket for the trip.

  44. Nathan*

    Re: LW3 – I’m curious if the boss might just be someone who’s not used to being told “no”. I once worked for someone who seemed to believe that even their most casual suggestions were absolute edicts which must be followed. They liked to think of themselves as casually making friendly suggestions, but if you said “no” it immediately became A THING unless you had an ironclad defense. This would of course be incredibly off-putting, as the casual nature of the original request made it seem like the response could be equally casual, and it would leave me floundering and baffled by the tonal shift in the conversation.

    So if I could elaborate on Allison’s excellent response, I would ask the LW if this is a trend he or she has observed elsewhere from interactions with the boss.

  45. Luna*

    LW1, go into the next meeting with any higher up you have and loudly say, ‘Is that *gender discrimination* we’ve got going on by insisting only mothers can work from home? Yes, yes it is! Oh, this is basically *begging* for a lawsuit!’ and then watch them all sweat into their shirts. Because… how can anyone even think of saying something like that, even remotely aloud, and not think it sounds really, really bad?

  46. Elm*

    LW2: My local library has had this happen. They did kick the kids out or, in extreme circumstances, reported an abandoned child.

    To be clear, this is EXTREMELY rare. The latter is mostly when a kid is like 5 and has been left “in their care.” But, this kid isn’t safe. They could annoy the wrong person or, worse, actually get someone who wants to engage in conversation further…

    Talk to the kid like you would to an adult. It helps. Talk to the parents next time they show up, too. If they get hostile, kick them out and tell them they’re no longer welcome. In some places, returning would be considered trespassing–and honestly, I wish more places would take that route if customers act inappropriately toward their patrons or staff!

    If there are security guards you can access, call them. If that isn’t possible and talking to them doesn’t work, I do recommend calling the police so they can call the parents. That’s likely all they’ll do if this is a first time thing.

    These are extreme options. Chances are talking to the fam will work. But, be open to everything, bearing in mind it’s for the safety of the child. Most people are good. Some people are not.

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