my mentor has a shady side business, drinks that look like beer but aren’t, and more

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

1. I just found out my mentor does an MLM on the side

I was assigned a teammate (Eric) as my mentor about a month after I started my job. Our boss (Bill) picked Eric because we had some similar personality traits and work styles. Eric’s and my workflow styles are very similar, and we get along great! This has been a valuable asset in my first few months learning my job.

Another important detail — I’m getting ready to transfer to another office. It’s a similar position, generally the same skillset, but with some fundamental differences and much closer to home. Bill really went to bat for the transfer for me, even though it would mean me joining a new team, and transfers usually aren’t allowed so early in your tenure. I am incredibly grateful for all Bill’s done for me.

Bill has left it up to me whether I want to continue my mentorship with Eric, or find a new mentor on my new team. I was totally on board with sticking with Eric and using the opportunity to learn from each other … but last week, Bill mentioned in passing to me that Eric’s side hustle was an older, very well-known MLM (one that your readers would certainly know). Bill seems to think it’s a great thing that Eric can hold down a full-time job and also take part in this MLM.

All of the sudden, I’m questioning both their judgments! I looked up to these folks but my respect for them is slipping in a major way because of this one thing. Am I overreacting? Should I use this as an out? Should I try to maintain these relationships? Professionally, I know I shouldn’t just write them off if I want to be able to advance in this company (and because I like these people and they’ve always supported me in a major way!), but this is affecting me way more than I expected.

For readers who don’t know the term, MLMs = multi-level marketing schemes, like Herbalife or Lularoe, as well as older ones like Mary Kay. They use an exploitative business model, which especially preys on women, and people who sell for them often spend huge amounts of their own money buying products and never recoup that investment.

When you find out that someone you respect holds an opinion or takes part in an activity that you find harmful, it can be hard not to wonder if you need to rethink your entire assessment of them. Sometimes you do, depending on what that opinion or activity is. But sometimes, it’s just a reflection of the fact that people are complicated.

If you found out Eric hunted puppies or marched in racist rallies, you’d need to end the mentorship. But I don’t think MLM involvement rises to that level, especially if he hasn’t tried to recruit you or sell to you.

MLMs can ensnare even people with otherwise good judgment; that’s part of what makes them so insidious. If Eric has been a good mentor to you and you’ve learned from him and found the relationship valuable, I wouldn’t end it just because you’ve learned this about him. (Although don’t take side hustle advice from him, obviously. And if he starts trying to recruit you, that would change things.)

And as for Bill, he may not even fully realize the story with MLMs — a lot of people don’t — and may not understand that that’s what Eric’s Amway (or whatever) gig is.

2. Drinking from a can that looks like beer but isn’t

My partner has recently started enjoying a hops-flavored sparkling water type beverage at home in a bid to cut out casual beer consumption. He really likes it; it’s basically made of a combo of sparkling water, tea, citrus, and hops and tastes like an IPA (beverage innovation these days is crazy, man). It kinda looks like non-alcoholic beer because of the hop art on the can, but it is not actually non-alcoholic beer, doesn’t have any known alcohol brand names on it, and nowhere on the can does it say “beer.”

He’s wondering if it would be weird for him to drink at the office and is hesitant. Due to the can art being suggestive of beer, I suggested he either pour it into a glass or use a koozie over it if he’s nervous. To me, this isn’t weirder than drinking something like kombucha, minus the can art. Any thoughts?

Using a koozie or pouring it into a glass is the way to go. There’s no point in having people wonder if he’s drinking beer at work … and a lot of people who see it will just assume and not ask him, so he won’t necessarily have the opportunity to clear up that misperception.

3. Is it OK to take notes in an interview?

Is taking notes during an interview acceptable? Is that proper interview etiquette? Will doing so make the candidate appear less engaging? Doing so can definitely help in remembering what was covered in the interview in order to compose follow-up emails.

Taking notes during an interview is fine! Many interviewers like to see it, since it shows you’re interested and engaged. The one caveat, and it’s a big one, is that you shouldn’t be so absorbed in note-taking that you’re creating long pauses or not connecting with your interviewers. (Also, I wouldn’t take copious notes just so you remember details for follow-up notes; that would be putting too much weight on your follow-up notes, potentially at the expense of connecting in the interview itself. Jotting down one or two things for that purpose is fine, but don’t get so sidetracked on that that you’re not focused on the interviewer and the discussion.)

4. Pizza moochers

I’m very generous and want to treat my colleagues every once in a while. I’m sure they don’t realize how much I pay for the remaining bill. I recently asked to have everyone who wants pizza to pitch in $5 each. I know that among 10 people $50 is not going to fit the bill so I will pay the difference. However, there are people who will actually take home an entire pizza if it is left over. What do you think of this? Any recommendations on how to resolve this ignorant and selfish act? It is so sad that people have no manners.

I think (a) when you ask people to chip in, they assume their contribution is covering their share and they don’t realize you’re making up the difference, (b) you might be sending mixed messages by asking people to chip in and also calling it “treating them” (although I understand you’re making up the difference), and (c) anyone taking home an entire pizza from a group order without at least asking first is being rude and a moocher.

I think if you want to keep doing this and want to stop the moochers, you’ll need to take a more active role in managing the food — meaning saying things like, “That pizza is for the group, please leave it here so people who want another helping can get one.” If someone challenges that by saying they chipped in, you can say, “$5 covers a couple of slices, not a whole pizza. Please leave that here.”

5. Why are job applications asking me about disabilities?

I’ve been applying for jobs and some applications have a voluntary disclosure for a disability. One company I applied for offered a list of “disabilities can include but are not limited to,” with an extensive list that included two chronic medical conditions that I have. One condition is fairly common, the other less so. Both conditions are well managed, and personally I consider them to be medical diagnoses, not disabilities. They do not affect my work life, my productivity, my attendance, and I would not need accommodations for either one. I don’t feel it is necessary or appropriate to disclose them in a job interview.

If I answer “yes” to the “do you have a disability” question on a job application, can the company force me to disclose my chronic medical conditions even though the condition does not need an accommodation? I am of an older generation and not used to seeing these kinds of questions on job applications. If I answer “yes” to that voluntary disclosure question, what exactly am I agreeing to?

You are not obligated to disclose anything in response to that question. If you choose to, the company can’t legally consider that information in its hiring decision. In fact, they’re legally required to keep that information completely separate from your application, and they can’t follow up with you to request additional details. And if you choose not to answer, you can’t legally be penalized for that either.

The reason they’re asking is because companies over a certain size, as well as companies with government contracts over a certain dollar amount, are required by law to report the demographic makeup of their applicants and employees to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (in the aggregate, not individually). Also, if you’re applying for work as a federal contractor or subcontractor, it’s to help them meet a target of a 7% workforce of employees with disabilities.

{ 501 comments… read them below }

  1. Unkempt Flatware*

    #3- I have been praised twice by interviewers for taking notes (I have to write the question down or it’s gone). One said I was the only one he’d seen do it. I think Alison’s advice was spot on. If I don’t need to write the question down for whatever reason, I jot down very quick key words while they’re asking to give myself some help.

    1. Little Beans*

      Sorry, I have to mostly disagree with your interviewers. I won’t fault someone for jotting down a few keywords on a long complicated question, but literally, like one or two words. For a straightforward question like, why are you interested in this role, you should be prepared to answer without writing anything down or needing to take time to think about your answer. I once interviewed someone who literally spent about 30 seconds after each question writing down notes and thinking about her response before she answered. 30 seconds of silence in an interview is WAY too long, especially for every question.

      1. Your Local Password Resetter*

        I absolutely take notes after every answer from the interviewer though.
        Not 30 seconds, and not when i’m answering questions myself, because that would break the pacing of the interview. But I’m not going to remember the details unless I write them down, and by the end I usually have a page full of notes and details.

        Most interviewers seem to appreciate it, and several noted it as unusual or a sign that I’m interested in the job.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I frankly would consider it odd not to bring pen & paper to take notes. But my professional career has all been in communications or training/instruction (mainly in government or for government contracts), so maybe it’s also based on industry?

          1. The Rural Juror*

            Yep, definitely depends on the industry. I’m in the AEC industry (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) and it absolutely made sense when I was interviewing to have a notepad. There are SO many different softwares folks use (some are required, some are preferential) and the 3 interviewers and I got into a tangent conversation about programs they like and asked me about what I liked. A few they mentioned I wasn’t familiar with, so I wanted to jot them down. Even if I hadn’t gotten that job, it may have been beneficial to know what they were talking about. Luckily, I got the job and I had a list of software training to look up as soon as I started (and it was VERY helpful!!!).

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        You’re the odd one here, sorry. 30 seconds is on the long side, and taking notes after the question as opposed to the answer may stand out. But your approach is going to passively discriminate against large groups of job seekers, and in general taking notes shows engagement.

      3. Fluffy Fish*

        People interviewing are nervous. Taking some time to gather thoughts shouldn’t be a problem.

        You’re assessing their fit in your organization and unless that job requires answering questions in less than 30 seconds you should be focusing on the answer itself not someone taking 30 seconds to long (in your mind) to answer the question.

      4. The Girl in the Red Sweater*

        Counterpoint, I recently had an interview where I forgot to bring a pad and paper for notes, and I REALLY wish I had done so, because they mentioned some projects that I ended up wanting to research a bit more after the interview (but couldn’t because I completely blanked on the name of the project). I would air on the side of taking notes in the interview when you hear something interesting or complicated.

      5. Willow Pillow*

        I am autistic and my brain really struggles to remember spoken information if I don’t take notes. It’s attitudes like this that make interviewing so difficult for neurodivergent folks.

        1. just some guy*

          Same. I get so tired of these situations where I have to choose between guessing at some stranger’s idea of what “paying attention” looks like, and perform that, instead of doing the things that actually help me pay attention.

      6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Taking 30 seconds to come up with answer to a question like a technical one, or a “tell me about a time” one is only WAY too long if you came prepared with the list of the exact questions that will be asked. (True story, old job was hiring from a consulting company and that’s how their recruiters prepped candidates. A teammate had a suspicion and asked a question from his interview sheet out of sequence – like, question #7 after #5 – candidate immediately responded with the answer to question #6.) With questions like “why are you interested in this role” or “what did you do at your job at Fluffy Llamas, Inc”, yes, I agree that no additional prep should be needed to answer, but that’s not what the majority of questions at my interviews have been like. And, like others, I mostly write down my interviewer’s answers. Not mine.

      7. umami*

        Many questions have multiple parts, so I can see it being helpful for candidates to jot down the portions of the question so they can keep track and answer fully. I am taking notes during the interview as well, so I don’t see any reason this would be a negative, other than your one illustration where one candidate wsa perhaps overly thoughtful in providing responses. Some people interview really well, and others get nervous and can struggle. I am not grading their interviewing skills as much as their ability to be thoughtful, concise and specific when answering the actual interview questions.

      8. Unkempt Flatware*

        I didn’t think I needed to mention that I wouldn’t have to write such a simple question down.

      9. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        In addition to being ableist, this is a bad practice unless the jobs require being quick on their feet. All kinds of thinkers are beneficial, and people who ponder a little bit are just as useful as people who can rattle off answers quickly.

      10. Ace in the Hole*

        You seem to be assuming that people will take notes on the questions being asked in order to answer them… which seems odd to me.

        I take notes to keep track of information I’m getting about the job or interview process. For example, what sites/conditions are normal for fieldwork, who should I follow up with post-interview, key expectations or details about work culture that matter to me, answers to any questions I asked. Basically a memory aid for me to use when reflecting on the interview to help me assess whether or not I want the job.

      11. TomatoSoup*

        In general, I don’t think that’s what people are talking about regarding “taking notes” in an interview. It’s mostly writing down responses or noting follow up questions.

        I do feel for the interviewee you described. I do much better expressing myself if I can write out all my thoughts first, which is totally in line with the work I do. However, I do that whole process before the interview. I’m not creating word for word responses to memorize but the process helps me gather my thoughts. It also helps me capture everything if I remember something else later. I might write one word reminders on my notes, which also have my questions prepped on them.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      I take notes in many contexts at work. When I’ve gone into interviews, I explain upfront that I’m a notetaker and they’ll see me jotting things down because the act of writing it helps me remember things we discussed in our conversation, even if I end up not looking at it later. I’ve never had this be an issue. Often the interviewers reply by saying that they’ll be taking notes, too. My notes aren’t practicing what I’m going to say, they’re to remember what the interviewers said.

      1. Cmdrshpard*

        When I interview, often as the interviewer is speaking they may say something that prompts a question from me, I will write it down to make sure I don’t forget to ask about it and not interrupt them mid sentence.

        Interviewer: “At llama grooming inc we do a lot of work with purple llamas, some with green llamas and a little with fuzzy llamas. another 1 or 2 sentences about other work.

        Me: Did not realize they did some green llama work jots down “Ask green llama work.”

        If I don’t write it down, I either have to really focus/keep in my head to ask about green llama work. That might mean I can’t pay attention as closely because I have to keep telling myself “ask about green llamas, ask about green llamas, ask about green llamas.”

    3. AlwhoisThatAl*

      But don’t do what I did, after the interview I checked my notes and they consisted mainly of answers “Yes” and “No” but I couldn’t remember what the questions were and which answer referred to which question….

      1. mlem*

        Yeah, my notes tend to consist of illegible keywords that make sense as I write them but then never again.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        One thing I is to write out the questions you plan on asking, and leave some room for jotting down their answers. I don’t have to write down full questions, just enough to jog my memory and give context to those “yes”s and “no”s. For example, if I plan to ask “is remote work allowed in this role?” I write down “remote” and then next to it “yes/no/sometimes.”

        1. starsaphire*

          I also write out my questions beforehand, and I draw a line through them if they’re answered ahead of time.

          Then, when they ask me the inevitable question that makes my mind go panickingly blank, “Do you have any questions for us?” I can flip back to that first page – and if they’re all lined out, I can say, “Looks like you’ve covered everything I’d intended to ask, so … (insert generic question here, like “what’s a typical day like” or “how would you describe the company culture”) so that I have time to catch my breath.

    4. Madame Arcati*

      This is a bit niche but in my field (U.K. govt) you are not allowed to take away with you any notes you make during interview (it’s a security thing I think; possibly a guard against cheating by getting the questions offs other candidate when they are the same ones in a large campaign). You are told this at the start though very clearly, and it is fine both to refer to notes you have brought in, as you will have been told the basic subjects of the competencies, or indeed to scribble down the question to look at while you take a moment to think.

      1. Ali*

        Oh man, and people ask me why I don’t apply for civil service jobs. I’ve interviewed at other places lately (third sector, UK) where they’ve been more than happy to accommodate my disability by sending the questions to me in advance. Interviews shouldn’t be like school exams!

    5. Erin*

      +1 to this!

      Also, I always ask/inform the person I’m speaking with that I would like to take notes, so if they hear clicking, it’s just me typing. Everyone has always been supportive of it!

      1. Antilles*

        This is important if you’re taking notes on a computer or ESPECIALLY a phone because if you don’t say anything, it’s going to look like you aren’t paying attention.

        Taking five seconds of “oh just so you know, I always like to take a few notes, so you might see me [look off-screen for a few seconds / hear typing / see my typing on my phone / whatever as relevant]” prevents that mis-perception.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Great point! Not work or an interview, but I once joined a new meetup group started by a philosophy professor – we were supposed to meet at a local cafe for philosophy chats. Only made it to two meetups. At the second, he stopped the discussion to scold the only person in the group that was paying full attention and taking notes, and to make her stop taking notes as the only condition of him continuing and her being allowed to stay… because she was taking the notes on her phone. She’d warned him ahead of time, and tried to explain when he objected anyway, to no avail. I never went back (as I do…) That was many years ago and people are now more used to phones being utilized in that way, but a heads-up is definitely needed.

    6. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Size may matter – I favor small notes to avoid going overboard. Last time I interviewed for a job, I used a postcard-sized index card. On one side it had core elements of my resume (just years and maybe 8 words in total) to jog my memory if needed, the other side had a few keywords on what I wanted to ask and space for a few notes.
      This worked well to the point that my interviewer remarked on how well prepared I were. This “lifeline” kept me relaxed, as I knew I would not be caught off-guard with things like when I graduated or miss half of my questions. It also reined in any tendency to spend too much time with my notes (writing or reading).
      It must have worked as that was 12 years ago (although the job has changed a lot through multiple promotions and a merger).

      1. ThatGirl*

        I almost always have a small notebook with me when I interview where I have already written down a few key things I want to remember to mention (specific job experience that’s relevant, for instance) and a few things I want to be sure to ask. I jot down answers to my questions and other little tidbits as I go.

        I have never once gotten any sort of negative feedback on it. My memory sometimes freezes up in higher-pressure situations so it helps me be more relaxed, stay on track and mention things I want to be sure to mention.

    7. Sangamo Girl*

      ¡Government Weirdness Alert! Note taking is explicitly forbidden in our process. We provide paper and pen and then take them back at the end of the interview. When doing virtual interviews we have to read a (stupid) warning that if we believe that the candidate has anything other than a resume in front of them or are taking notes, we must end the interview.

      It’s supposed to ensure no one “cheats.” How exactly someone is going to cheat on a behavioral interview, I don’t know.

        1. Selina Luna*

          I’ve been in teachering interviews that gave a scenario to solve, and asked you to solve them in a computer program. I could see paper and pen used for that in a situation where they don’t wish you to take the supplies with you. I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here, though.

        2. I edit everything*

          Taking notes can also help get information into your brain, even if you never refer to them later. The act of writing it down and then seeing it on the paper in the moment helps memory.

        3. Bookmark*

          I think they mean you can’t take the notes *with you* at the end, which for many (but not all) people is the main point of taking notes– so you can refer to them later. In formal government processes where there’s a bunch of procedures around making sure interviewing is fair, the prohibition against taking notes with you is to keep you from writing down the questions and sharing them with another applicant. Does this make a lot of sense? Not really. After all, you could just as easily remember the questions and tell them to someone else, but government hiring is weird and regimented and generally if they can make a rule about something they will. Please don’t blame your friendly government employee running a hiring process for this. We know it sucks. We’ve probably tried to change it, and failed.

    8. Saraquill*

      I’ve been praised for taking notes in an interview, though the interviewer wasn’t a good one. I was writing things down, and folding the paper up because privacy. The interviewer told me to stop and keep the paper flat because he wanted to see what I had written. I didn’t accept the job offer for many reasons.

      Before I do an interview, I’ll prepare a list of questions I want to ask, as well as a copy of my elevator pitch. I’ll jot down what the interviewer says under the appropriate question. I’ll refer to these notes to gauge whether or not I’m compatible with the workplace.

    9. Najek Yuma*

      As an interview-ee, I always have a notebook. Generally it’s filled with the questions I have about the role/company, and then I write down the names of everyone I meet with as well as some key items that come up such as surprising things about the role/company, projects they are working on, things they seem to value, etc. During an hour interview I probably only write down 5-6 short things. This has been fine in every interview I’ve done.

      As an interview-er, I have my laptop with me and a word doc of all my questions up, and basically spend the whole time the candidate is answering a question writing down notes about their answer. I rarely refer back to the notes much, but the process of typing them out helps me retain the information way better than just sitting back and listening. I always warn the candidates at the beginning of the interview that my note-taking helps me remember things and that I’d be lost without it, and ensure them that I am paying attention to their answers.

  2. Aphrodite*

    OP. #2, if he is going to pour it into a glass or use a koozie, he also needs to think about how he is going to dispose of the can. It’s unlikely someone will do more than glance at it in a trash can and a quick glance may also make them think it’s beer. More so if he tries to hide it. Can he transfer it to another container before leaving home?

    1. Jackalope*

      That was my first thought too, but it’s complicated by the drink being carbonated. If I were in that situation I would probably just take the can home with me for “recycling”.

      1. Pennyworth*

        Any bottle that is intended for a carbonated drink will do – I discovered this when I used a clean plastic soda bottle to store left over champagne after a party. It was absolutely fine to drink the next night, still bubbly.

    2. Sunny*

      At that point, when you’re hiding the drink in a cozy and then taking the can home to hide it (and making sure those last few drops aren’t spilling in his bag), maybe it’s not worth the hassle of having this at work? Inevitably he’ll forget, or someone will notice he’s always hiding empty cans of something that looks like beer.

      It just sounds like he’s better off accepting that this is an at-home beverage.

      1. I was in a hurry and couldn't find my water bottle*

        When I was in college and wine coolers were a big thing I was super into this obscure brand of sparkling juice. I bought it because it was consistently on sale and it was pretty good. (Too this day I’m convinced I was the only one buying the dang things, hence the constant sale). Anyway the can looked very similar to a wine cooler. Once I cracked one open mid-lecture, much to the disapproval of the professor who launched into a lecture about my alleged disrespect. To this day I think about at 2 am when I can’t sleep, that’s how mortified I was. Save yourself the mortification OPs husband. It’s not worth it.

        1. Coffee and cats*

          I feel like it’s your professor who should still be waking up at 2AM mortified to have publicly shamed a student based on a mistake about what they were drinking.

          1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

            Was it a mistake about what they were drinking or opening a carbonated beverage in class? Maybe I’m older than I realize, but that would NOT have gone well in any of my classes. The sound is disruptive.

            1. DWIGHT SCHRUTE*

              With the popularity of seltzer water now opening a can in class isn’t something most people blink at. Source: recent graduate student

        2. SofiaDeo*

          We weren’t allowed to have food or drink in lecture halls/classrooms/libraries At All. Much like work refrigerators and kitchen areas become disasters, the rooms became such as mess from spills no one bothered to clean, that the school just banned all food/drink. I worked in one small library briefly, and was appalled at the messes people left behind. That I had to clean. Or notify the janitorial staff about the carpet messes, etc. that were on the floor.

      2. MissM*

        Totally agree plus I wonder what it smells like both in a glass and on the breath. I think if it’s a marketed as a beverage for people who like the taste of beer, it’s best enjoyed out of the office because it’s too easy to misinterpret. While Kombucha has a little alcohol, the perception isn’t that it is a NA version of anything else, just it’s own thing whereas hops are so intrinsically part of beer and beer culture

        1. Sunny*

          I’m also imagining him accidentally telling someone – while trying to explain why he’s hiding a beer-like drink – that he got into the drink to help him drink less beer. Basically, all the workarounds are way too similar to workarounds for hiding a drinking problem, and that’s just not the vibe you want in the workplace.

          1. londonedit*

            I don’t know about that – where I live Dry January is massive and at this time of year it would be totally normal to say ‘Yeah, I tried this stuff during Dry Jan and it turns out I really like it’. I do think there’s a difference between a sparkling drink that happens to look a bit like beer and one of the non-alcoholic beer options, though – the latter are totally designed to look and taste like beer and I don’t think they’d be appropriate in the workplace. But if it’s something that just looks like a fizzy drink, I think that’s fine.

          2. doreen*

            I’m kind of wondering how drinking something that “tastes like an IPA” , is made from hops and looks like beer at work is actually different from drinking non-alcoholic beer at work – apparently it’s made by a different process that doesn’t produce alcohol rather than having the alcohol removed, but that’s not going to matter if someone sees you drinking something that looks and smells like beer.

            1. Two Dog Night*

              Except it probably doesn’t look like beer. The one I drink is Lagunitas’s Hoppy Refresher–it’s basically hop-flavored sparkling water, and it’s surprisingly good. It’s clear, and it’s not made the same way that NA beer is. It totally shouldn’t be a problem at work.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                It definitely shouldn’t, but it’s more of an optics things and like Alison says – a lot of people won’t ask for clarification. If it’s clear, a glass makes sense.

              2. MCMonkeyBean*

                The can, not the liquid, is what OP’s partner is worried looks like beer.

                I just did a quick google search and see several brands, and one that I guess is what OP may be referring too as it’s the only one I see with big hops all over it but there may be others that do too. I do think it’s likely that if anyone were to see that particular brand, they would assume it was beer.

              3. Roland*

                If I see a can that says Lagunita’s and hops, I’m assuming beer, and would be very thrown off at work.

            2. Themoreyouknow*

              Interestingly, when I worked in the restaurant industry, we still had to card for our NA beers. In the US, anything with less than .5% alcohol by volume (ABV) can be labeled as NA. So, if you’re sober or don’t drink, it’s still good to research anything labeled NA.

          3. ecnaseener*

            I wouldn’t be worried about that, you don’t have to explain it with anything about “trying to cut back on beer” – you can just say something like “yeah it’s completely non-alcoholic but it has a nice hoppy taste I like!”

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          Yes, the smell is my worry, too.

          My husband loves IPAs and I hate them. I know the smell very well and if I smelled a coworker who had hoppy breath or beverages, I’d think the worst because this is the first I’ve heard of a hoppy non-IPA drink.

          It’s best not to bring that drink to work, IMO.

            1. Colette*

              I disagree. If we can reach conclusions about coworkers based on their behvaviour out of the office ( such as being part of an MLM), we can reach conclusions based on them drinking a drink that smells like beer.

              I’ve worked places where it was normal to have a beer if you went out for lunch. I worked at a place with a beer cart that went around once a month. And I’d still find it weird to have a coworker drink a beer they brought form home at the office (and the issue is that this drink appears in some ways to be a beer.)

            2. Roland*

              Well that’s rude. Is this not exactly what the letter is about? Here is evidence that some people don’t about these new drinks and will assume beer. The guy in question can do what he will with that info.

            3. Ace in the Hole*

              How is it unreasonable?

              Beer is very common. Hop-flavored water is not. I’d never heard of it before either, nor seen it in any of our local grocery stores. If someone is at work smelling like beer, most people will understandably assume they’ve been drinking beer… since there are no other *commonly known* beverages with that particular smell.

      3. Fluttervale*

        I’m the opposite. I would show up at work with a bunch of it and tell everyone about this cool new drink I found. Knowing my peers we would do a taste test and everyone would try it. Then everyone knows what it is and no one has to worry its beer.

        1. Kab0b*

          Yeah I think this is probably the way to go. (If this product really is different from a NA beer, I’ve never heard of a beverage like this, but i am intrigued now). Own it, talk it up offer some cans to coworkers, I feel like it would be one of those things that if you let become a stigma it will.

          1. Constance Lloyd*

            Yeah, for me, drinking this at work feels like one of those things that should be okay, but for right or wrong could still negatively impact the reputation of LW’s husband. He has to know his office culture and make a judgment call, but if he’s going to bring it to work I agree that talking it up to get ahead of any suspicions is going to be better than hiding it, in the long run.

        2. CR*

          People in my office are always drinking cans of different sparkling waters/seltzers/etc (the office supplies them) so I honestly wouldn’t think twice about someone with this can.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            Our office also supplies a variety in the break area fridge, but we also have mini fridges scattered throughout the work pods in the open office and it’s common to see folks bring in their own preferred drinks. They also hand our koozies with our company logo, so no one would ever notice or care what someone else was drinking.

        3. Me ... Just Me*

          This is a wonderful suggestion. He might even bring a couple of different brands, along with more mundane other types of sparkling waters, and set up a sort of taste test of these beverages for coworkers. Physically grouping it with more mundane drinks will help solidify the legitimacy of the new drink.

        4. Office Lobster DJ*

          This would work at my office, too. If it’s possible for LW’s partner, this seems so much easier than worrying about koozies, recycling bins, residual hoppy smells, the cover-up itself looking suspicious…

        5. Ozzac*

          I think this is the best approach. Make a big show of it, show it to managers and coworkers so that they know that it exists and this way you can drink it freely without subterfuge, since sooner or later Op’s partner is going to slip up.

      4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        And how long will it be (clue: not long) before someone reports this to management or HR: I saw him drinking something that smells like beer, but thought I must be mistaken… but I keep seeing him hiding the cans. (It’s never as discreet as you think!) At that point the powers that be have to get involved and would then tell him to stop consuming it at work rather than saying “oh, ok”. It doesn’t give a great impression as it really looks like “I’d be drinking real beer if I could”.

          1. PostalMixup*

            I am required by my employer to report colleagues that I suspect of drinking on the job or coming to work drunk. It is a safety hazard, so it is everyone’s business.

            1. L-squared*

              If its a safety thing, sure I get it. But most jobs aren’t like that. And I feel like you probably know I was referring to jobs that don’t require driving or heavy machinery.

              But if its just a random job with no safety concerns, and it doesnt’ effect me, why do I care if you crack a beer in the office or have one at lunch.

              I’ve learned from this site that MANY people are just busy bodies who don’t know how to just ignore things that don’t involve or affect them.

              1. Rosa Rosa Rosa Diaz Diaz Diaz*

                It’s not just a safety issue re heavy machinery. In a LOT of jobs, people would be expected to report that.

                I used to work in an industry where we drank all the time during the day. I moved to a new job and got a culture shock when I went for an afternoon meeting and suggesting getting wine. I found out there’s a clear policy of no drinking during work hours.

                Which actually makes a lot of sense for a million reasons.

                No one is at their best when drinking. It will l definitely be impacting your work, your relationships with colleagues, all sorts.

                I probably wouldn’t raise it with anyone myself unless there was a clear issue (like they seemed unwell or were causing problems for the work) but in some places, you’d be obligated to report it. Or at least you’d be jeopardising your own reputation if you knew and didn’t raise it.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Really depends on the job, the implications of someone drinking at work, if there are any safety problems (working with equipment, sensitive data, children, a number of things). And even if people should, chances are they won’t, and OP’s husband is the one who would have to face those consequences not the busybody.

            And again, optics. Reputations can be harmed one bad assumption at a time.

          3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Isn’t that worse? That they’d mentally categorise OPDH as “the dude who drank/drinks beer at work” without seeking clarification?

            The product is unusual enough that it’s going to be noticed, either by its packaging or its smell. When that happens, OPDH needs to be the one explaining what it is proactively, not in an awkward meeting with HR, or mysteriously being passed over for interesting projects.

      5. Coffee and cats*

        I wouldn’t worry about what my coworkers think, but one reason I’d keep it as an at-home beverage is that I wouldn’t want to ruin the magic of my beer substitute. Beer is an off-duty drink – part of why it’s so satisfying to crack one open after a hard day at work is that it means I’m not working. If I drank beer all day at work, it wouldn’t have this effect. I replaced my post-work beer with sparkling water during a previous dry January and it was really satisfying as a beer substitute right up until I started packing it in my lunch and drinking it at work, too.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          My thought as well. I wouldn’t want to drink a faux-wine or mocktail at work. Those are leisure beverages.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          I like this thinking. it’s interesting how a little ritual (“crack open my NOT WORKING” bevvy”) can make a difference to a mindset. I know people who use little detail like that to do work from home, but they mostly talk about what they do to get into “working” headspace, not to get out of one.

        3. Bear in the Sky*

          Exactly. If LW’s partner started drinking this drink to replace beer, surely it’s an off duty drink. When he was drinking actual beer, did he drink it at work? Probably not.

          If you wouldn’t drink the original version at work, don’t drink the substitute at work either.

      6. Yum Water*

        I drink “Liquid Death” which is a sparkling water with “punk” branding. it’s totally work appropriate as a beverage but my office is not punk by nature so I just decant it into a reusable cup with a straw that fits the office vibe more, and shove the empty can into my bag to recycle on my out for the night. Its really not as onerous as you’re describing!

        Then again, my bowing to the office vibe only goes so far, because I do keep a 12 pack of it under my desk at work, so anyone visiting my office has a chance, from the right angle, of seeing a box with a big skull on it and the slogan “BERRY IT ALIVE.” Since it’s literally just GenZ branded La Croix, I don’t sweat the idea of having to explain it that much.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I work in a water delivery-related company and my coworkers are a little obsessed with Liquid Death. My problem is it’s expensive! But their branding is….unique.

          1. Yum Water*

            I agree, it is! I actually keep the box under my desk because I don’t drink it daily – more if I’m having *a day* and want a “treat” or if I’m particularly hungry and ran out of snacks, it can help tide me over through the afternoon. I just pop one in the department fridge to chill on an ad-hoc basis.

            …This is how I know I’m no longer One of The Youth. The more expensive sparkling water is now my “work treat” LOL

        2. Sam I Am*

          I played a gig last week and the guitar and bass players were looking for our water we had been told was on stage, I had to point out the “Liquid Death” cans are water. Once informed, they were stoked to find waters that aren’t in plastic bottles.

        3. Slightly Above Average Bear*

          I drink Liquid Death and I’ve been asked if I’m drinking beer because of the can.

        4. Subscription*

          When by boss says, “I don’t care that it’s NA, don’t bring it in,” I leave it at home.

          It’s not complicated.

      7. Yorick*

        I agree, I think it’s better to just drink it openly and explain to people who see him what it is. Throwing it in the trash or recycling is probably fine, since a busybody will look closely at the can and discover it’s not alcohol.

      8. Happy*

        Yeah, I think that using a koozie/pouring it into a cup and taking the can home instead of throwing it away (!) are going to look way more suspicious than just drinking out of a can and explaining what it is if you get any odd looks.

      9. Lulu*

        Yes, I agree this needs to be an at-home beverage. The key thing is that he’s drinking this (or initiated drinking this) as a way to replace beer. That’s fantastic, but I’m assuming he wasn’t drinking beer at work, so he doesn’t need to introduce this to the workplace. Is it legitimately totally fine? Yes. Is it going to be more trouble than it’s worth, and potentially a lot of trouble? Yes.

    3. Pennyworth*

      Any bottle that is intended for a carbonated drink will do – I discovered this when I used a clean plastic soda bottle to store left over champagne after a party. It was absolutely fine to drink the next night, still bubbly.

    4. Bayta Darrell*

      I would also worry about the koozie route simply because I’ve never seen someone use a koozie indoors. It might just be the people I surround myself with, but I’ve only ever seen them used outside, like on a boat or something. I literally brought a soda with my lunch today and it stayed at a drinkable temperature the whole time I had it, so honestly seeing a coworker with a koozie would definitely make me do a double-take and wonder what was up with that.

      A vacuum-insulated stainless steel bottle with a screw top should be able to keep his drink cold, fizzy, and inconspicuous. For best results, he should get one that is as small as possible to minimize the amount of air in the bottle. So a 16 oz bottle would be better than a 24 oz.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Yeah, I also thought that hiding it might look more like there is something to hide rather than being less conspicuous.

        1. PhilG*

          A friend at work got into craft root beer. The bottles looked like beer bottles: dark brown & same shape. The first time the boss walked by was, interesting.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            Not sure if they still do it, but Wisconsin has a craft brewery called Sprecher that also has their own (non-alcoholic) root beer and other soda, and they bottle nearly all their beverages in the same brown bottles. The labels are similar too, with the non-alcoholic beverages having a cartoony version of the standard logo. When I was in college, a friend of mine was studying in our student union’s combined bar/dining hall area and had piled up about 3-4 Sprecher root beers/empties, and she got some massive stinkeye from passing new student/parent orientation groups until she realized they didn’t know about Sprecher.

            1. Interplanet Janet*

              LOL yup Sprecher is still a thing and I was wondering why everyone else in this thread seemed more concerned about the implication of the container than me… maybe as a Wisconsinite I’m more used to not assuming based on container appearance.

              1. miss_chevious*

                Yeah, it’s been brought to my attention in recent years that those of us from Wisconsin sometimes have … different perspectives on alcohol that people from other states. :) Also, Sprecher is delightful.

                1. RabbitRabbit*

                  My sister works in public health research in Wisconsin; we’re both Wisconsin born and raised (though I moved south of the cheese curtain). She talked about a new colleague from California who joined their team just before one of those “most heavy binge drinking counties in the US” surveys came out with Wisconsin scoring huge as always. The new employee was horrified and concerned, while all the locals were basically ‘yup, damned straight, represent.’

                2. Interplanet Janet*

                  Even as a mostly sober resident (I call myself a “champagne at weddings” drinker) I agree… I’m so used to seeing it everywhere around me all the time that I forget that the fact that a bar on every block (literally) is not the national norm.

                  It’s a shame that’s our reputation and might even turn off people from considering moving here for work. There’s a lot to love about WI that isn’t alcohol… the great outdoors, the great lakes, the great people just to name a few!

          2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

            the first time I was at work and someone brought an IBC root beer (brown bottles) there were a few raised eyebrows. He talked about how he’d found this great new root beer and everyone got bored and went away.

            1. Kit*

              Taking the shiny-new-thing enthusiastic evangelism route is a really great way to handle this! A tiny fraction of people will be equally enthusiastic and you might make a connection; the vast majority of the rest will quickly learn to avoid mentioning it lest they perish of terminal boredom. No sneaking around or surreptitious behavior required, and it’ll become normalized in everyone’s minds. Win/win.

          3. Owlet101*

            I recently picked up a “butterscotch beer” soda. It comes in a brown glass bottle. I want to take it to work but have thought better of it. Although it has a very “magical” font on the lable I’m afraid that it wouldn’t be enough. The talking to I would get from by boss wouldn’t be ideal.

          4. icedcoffee*

            I used to work at day camps and school programs, and would bring ginger ale in dark brown bottles. It was honestly no big deal–either kids, teachers, and parents could see the label and it was obvious, or they couldn’t and they would ask. But these were incredibly popular brands that everyone had seen in the grocery store, and the label didn’t look anything like a beer bottle. I would also make a point of keeping the label outwards and always visible.

            I also like hops sparkling water and because the one I get is made BY a craft brewery, the can does look like their other products. Maybe OP’s husband can find another brand of sparkling water instead.

      2. philmar*

        I use a koozie pretty much every time I take a can out of the fridget because I don’t like holding a cold drink can. I used them at work too, and if people made comments like, “wow, philmar’s partying!” I’d show them the diet coke can. Or make a joke that yeah, I was drinking a beer at work at 10 in the morning in front of my boss.

        1. ecnaseener*

          That’s good to know anecdotally though, that people saw your koozie and immediately thought beer. So it’s not a good method of hiding LW’s husband’s drink.

          1. ADidgeridooForYou*

            I also think it might be regional. Where I grew up (northern Midwest), coozies were only ever used for beer at outdoor barbecues. When I visited my husband’s family for the first time (North Carolina), I was surprised to see that coozies were absolutely everywhere and used any time someone was drinking from a can, even if it was just Coke. Not sure where OP’s husband’s office is, but that might be something to take into consideration.

            1. Tupac Coachella*

              Another Midwesterner cosigning that. When OP said their husband was considering putting it in a koozie, I thought “well that won’t help.” I know that’s irrational (the koozie does not care what drink you put in it), but the only time anyone I know ever uses one is to hold a beer at a barbecue, so that’s where my brain immediately goes when I see one. Very curious about the geographic distribution of unconscious koozie bias.

              1. Bookmark*

                Yeah, similar geographic area, and similar immediate association of koozie with alcohol. I think this is because I have most often experienced them in places where the letter of the law is that no alcohol is allowed in the place (ex: public park, while operating a boat, public campground, etc.) but the culture is that these rules are basically never enforced and drinking in all of these places is absolutely expected (and even encouraged). So the koozie becomes a weird fig leaf that allows plausible deniability.

        2. BlueWolf*

          Yeah, I will use a koozie if I take a can of seltzer in the car with me because it keeps it colder and it doesn’t bounce around in the cup holder. I definitely get a bit worried about drinking it in the car because maybe people think it looks like I’m drinking beer!

      3. DataSci*

        If I’m drinking straight from the can (which is rare, I prefer a glass) I use a koozie. Keeps my hands warm and the drink cold (and doubles as a coaster if I set the can down). Usually seltzer, but the same goes for the occasional beer.

      4. STG*

        That was my first thought. Ditch the koozy idea. Some of us have only ever seen them used with beer.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          I think that depends on your situation. Our office has a big basket of branded koozies for the taking and I see them all over the place in our office. I would just say to assess your own situation/surroundings and use your best judgement.

      5. Olive*

        Koozie also says “beer” to me.

        I think drinking it out of the visible can is the best option. It will be clear that he’s not trying to hide anything and if anyone is curious, they can either ask or (more likely) quietly sneak a look at the can.

    5. Maggie*

      He’s probably drinking HopTea from what I can tell and it’s… tea… I think OP is over thinking it. There’s also Hop Water. Both of them clearly say TEA or WATER on it. I would never think someone was drinking a beer at work just because they had a can of something.

        1. ecnaseener*

          I mean, any can that doesn’t look like a coke or pepsi product (so I guess any matte can?) looks like some alcoholic beverage somewhere. I don’t think that’s avoidable.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I agree. Also from the description, it doesn’t really sound like the can actually looks like beer, but more like “could be slightly reminiscent of (nonalcoholic!) beer” and at least in my office that would be like… no problem at all. Hop Tea, from a quick google, certainly doesn’t look like beer to me at all.

        But it’s probably also worth knowing your office environment. In mine, people would almost certainly not jump to assuming I was drinking at work (even with something much more “incriminating” like non-alcoholic beer). They’d be like ” oh, must be something non-alcoholic as amoeba is drinking it at work!”

        If it’s different, I’d go with the glass for quick glances that might mistake it. Anybody curious enough to look at your trashcan will probably have enough time for reading the label that clearly states it’s… not beer.

        1. Perfectly Particular*

          For the not-beer drinker…. If he’s drinking three hop tea as a substitute for beer, wouldn’t that be an after~hours thing anyway? From the standpoint of just having it in the office, it probably makes no difference if he drinks it, and I agree with the others to make it no big deal and offer a can for intrigued coworkers to try. BUT I think I would be concerned about a colleague who drinks beer so regularly that they need a beer substitute during the day. I agree with your partner – leave the hops beverage at home and stick to other beverages at work

          1. ecnaseener*

            You’re implying that liking the taste of beer enough to drink something similar-tasting during the day hints at an addiction, I think? But that’s not the case. If you’re craving the alcohol of beer, the taste won’t do it for you.

            This is not just you, I’ve seen a few comments dancing around this idea that if you seek out a nonalcoholic beverage that tastes like alcohol, it must be because you have A Drinking Problem. But like, alcohol causes health issues other than alcoholism. It’s entirely possible (and dare I say, a good thing) for someone without a drinking problem to say “you know what, I’d like to consume less alcohol, let me see what yummy alternatives I can find.”

            1. I scream for ice cream*

              Right, exactly. Like my thing right now is the calories. I enjoy beer as my preferred alcohol, and I basically only have 1 or 2 cans/bottles (of the normal size, to be clear) on a Friday or a Saturday if I have it at all. Having an option with a nice beer flavor, but not the calories, would be a nice option too, though. Then I could mix and match, but have the same kind of Friday night vibe.

              Not wanting to give up something you enjoy in moderation is not a sign of alcoholism. If someone didn’t want to give up ice cream upon discovering they were lactose intolerant, and tried to find a suitable alternative that fit their dietary needs and tasted nice, you would not tell them they have ice creamism.

            2. icedcoffee*

              The trouble is, all these new premade beverages marketed at non-drinkers aren’t immediately recognizable to a nosy bystander. It doesn’t help that the labeling or packaging tries to set it apart from a “kids” drink like soda or a “boring” drink like la croix, because their target market are people who aren’t looking for either of those. So process of elimination, if it’s not sugar soda or club soda, obviously it’s alcohol.

          2. amoeba*

            Well, I understood it the way that he originally started drinking it to reduce his beer consumption, but found that he really likes the taste and would thus like to have it during the workday as well. (Which should be fine, as… it’s non-alcoholic?)

            1. Mill Miker*

              I know personally, half the time when I grab a beer it’s because I want the “cold and fizzy”, but don’t have the sweet tooth for a pop.

              I do drink a lot of soda water and sparkling water, but sometimes I crave some kind of flavour.

              I’m going to have to see if this stuff is available anywhere near me.

        2. Adultier Adult*

          Yeah- at first I was like “why would you go to the effort if it really looks like a beer” But I image searched the can- and there would be no confusion at all- it looks more like a energy drink- super common around!

        3. nona*

          I drink hop tea, mostly because I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and want something more interesting than water. I usually put it in a glass, but just last week, I caught myself on camera during a meeting drinking straight from the can, and realized it looked pretty beer-y. I explained, and we all laughed about it. I think it was the tall-boy shape more than anything else that said beer (but then, energy drinks come in those cans too). Put it in a glass, and you’ll be fine.

    6. londonedit*

      Surely if he just crushes the can and puts it in the recycling, no one is going to notice or mind?

      1. BethDH*

        This reminds me of how horrified I was the first time my now-husband crushed a cab before putting it in the recycling. I’d grown up in a place with a redemption value for cans and you’d never crush them, even in a workplace (where they were often redeemed for charity or for parties).
        Obviously most places it would be fine to crush the can, just funny that my first thought was that that would be incredibly suspicious behavior!

        1. londonedit*

          And that’s interesting because when I was a child, the BBC kids’ TV programme Blue Peter had aluminium can collection as one of their annual charity appeals – you could send off for a kit with signs to put up at school and magnets to check whether a can was aluminium or not, and you were instructed to crush the cans to save space. So I grew up with the idea that you crush cans before you recycle them!

          1. mlem*

            In Massachusetts, most grocery stores have scan-and-crush machines for deposit aluminum cans. You feed in your cans one by one, hear it SKRUNCH each one, and at the end get a printed voucher good for one shiny nickel per can. (Yes, the deposit rate is that tragic.) So the cans do eventually get crushed, but only after you’ve gotten your “deposit” back.

            1. A Simple Narwhal*

              Man I love the sounds of those machines, the crunch is so satisfying!

              SKRUNCH is a perfect onomatopoeia.

            2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              that’s the most common deposit rate, isn’t it? Last I knew Michigan was the only state that did more, and they do ten cents.

        2. Totally Minnie*

          Where I grew up we were required to crush the cans before we took them in for redemption. The amounts were based on the weight of cans you were returning rather than the number, so we had to crush them and put them in garbage bags to be weighed at the return center.

          1. Be Gneiss*

            The places with a deposit on cans, the machines that count your cans have to be able to read the bar code to verify it’s a valid container of a product they sell. If the cans are crushed, the machine spits them back out.

    7. Lauren*

      yes, just use a metal water bottle. a cosy screams beer more than a can even one that looks like beer with flashy art on it. depending on the color, it may also look like beer too. Maybe save a tea bottle and use that?

  3. LulaNO*

    Personally, I do think the MLM involvement rises to the level of ending the mentorship, specifically because it shows that your *career* mentor has bad judgement about *business*. If he was your mentor for something unrelated to work, I would understand letting it slide, but I agree with you, OP1, that it’s worth questioning his judgment in the workplace. It’s the same reason I would have no problem having a tennis coach or piano instructor who’s struggling with a gambling addiction, but I certainly wouldn’t take their financial advice.

    1. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

      I think it depends on what the MLM is though. Something like Tupperware I don’t have a problem with, although some are more predatory.
      I’ve even had friends join makeup MLMs not to sell but just because they buy the products anyway and get discounts as “sellers”. If you found the companies themselves to be unethical you might have a problem with someone who would be involved with them, but I don’t think that MLM involvement always equals terrible judgement about everything.

      1. it's-a-me*

        I think the fact that Eric never tried to sell to the Letter Writer strongly indicates that this is the case here – he might be a member just to supply himself and his family and friends, not to push it for sales. Especially the older ones like Tupperware, Amway, Avon etc. are fine in this regard – as far as I’m aware they do not expect their sellers to pre-purchase stock, but operate on an order basis.

        1. KatEnigma*

          Avon does require you to buy anything you want to show as samples. At least they did 20 years ago, and I doubt that has changed. But my aunt sold Avon for decades, and she only bought “samples” of what she wanted to buy for herself anyway, or that she knew someone else in the family would want. She didn’t have to buy the “orders” up front and then try to sell it off. Which was why there was always a 2+ week delay in what you ordered and receiving it.

          1. doreen*

            When I sold it more than 20 years ago, if you wanted samples ( those tiny lipsticks or perfume vials ) you ordered and paid for them – but you didn’t have to use them at all.

          2. Dinwar*

            That’s how it was where/when I grew up as well. Each town where I grew up (largest may have had 2,000 people in it) had their Avon Lady. Everyone knew the woman, and the woman knew everyone. She’d buy “samples” that just happened to be what the women in town typically used, and she’d take requests for “samples” from folks for the next time they showed up. Worked out pretty well for everyone. Give the amount of gossip spread during those discussions–and “gossip” was a MAJOR way news spread in those small towns–the Avon Lady was considered a major asset to the community at large.

            If the MLM was something like that, I’d have no problem with it. Sure, it’s a bit shady to make the seller buy the product up front, but the way they did it was more a matter of filling orders–I give you the money today, you give me the product next week. Not functionally different from buying from Amazon and getting the stuff later.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree it’s a good sign that Eric hasn’t already tried to recruit OP, but the boss specifically and unprompted referred to it as a side-hustle and discussed it in a way where it sounds like Eric really devotes time to it.

          Personally, I think I would probably look for a new mentor on the new team, but would otherwise maintain these relationships and not fully write them off.

          Also though I think you are off base listing Amway as one of the less harmful ones, I would actually say if that’s the one he is involved in (which seems likely to me just because honestly most of the men I have encountered in MLMs are involved in either Amway or Primerica) it would change my “I think I would probably look for a new mentor” into “I would definitely look for a new mentor.” I think Amway is one of the most predatory of them all, and is also responsible for what most of them are able to get away with now.

        3. Frickityfrack*

          Every MLM encourages inventory loading because the sellers are actually the primary customers. Amway is one of the single worst MLMs out there, and I would actively avoid anyone involved because it’s a borderline cult. I’m not saying that to be dramatic, they actually use multiple tactics that cults use, like telling members that anyone who doesn’t wholeheartedly support them (generally by joining their downline and/or buying a bunch of overpriced mediocre products) just wants them to fail and should be cut out. Or by making audio – used to be tapes, but they’ve probably upgraded – that members are supposed to listen to pretty much constantly. Listening to anything else is strongly discouraged because it means you’re not committed enough to the “business.”

          They also recruit like cults, by dangling the idea of meeting someone who is supposedly super successful who can help mentor prospective recruits, but only if they’re good/committed enough to the business (which is never named because they don’t want people to google it until they’ve bought in). They try to make people feel like they need to prove themselves to join this elite club, and they’re so warm and friendly, unless someone indicates they want to leave, and then you’re shunned immediately.

          There’s more but I’m trying to keep this brief-ish. Suffice it to say, Amway ruins lives and should be avoided at all costs.

      2. Emma*

        Right. MLMs can be complex. If you want to make a meaningful amount of money from them – say, enough to support yourself – then you have to get involved in the exploitative side of things. But for some of them, particularly the older ones, you can also just order a few bits each month for a handful of regulars, and make pocket change, and it’s really not unethical. Typically I see people doing this when they’re already employed and are just looking for some extra pennies, sometimes with the side benefit of getting discounts on products they like.

        Of course, it also depends on what the MLM is selling. I’d have serious concerns about anyone involved in an essential oils MLM, for example, regardless of what their involvement is, because I think it’s deeply irresponsible to sell powerful and often toxic substances, marketed for uses which have not been proven safe, and usually with woefully inadequate product information and warnings. But if someone is selling Tupperware or toiletries, that doesn’t apply.

        1. Observer*

          If you want to make a meaningful amount of money from them – say, enough to support yourself – then you have to get involved in the exploitative side of things.

          That’s actually not true for all MLMs. At least it didn’t used to be that way. I used to buy a certain set of products from an MLM, and person I bought it from made a decent living just selling his stuff. Don’t get me wrong- he worked hard, but he definitely did ok, and I know that he didn’t have any “downstream” people.

          And I also know people who’ve made reasonable money (not enough to live on, but to make a real difference to them) also from the direct sales. Again, it depends on the MLM and the structure.

          1. doreen*

            And it also kind of depends on what you mean by “downstream” – my mother did a fair amount of direct selling when I was a kid. And in those days with those companies it was not “recruit other representatives and earn commissions on their sales” – but it was not uncommon for an Avon/ Fuller Brush/Stanley rep to leave brochures at a hair salon or other business and split the rep’s own commission with the business owner.

      3. 1-800-BrownCow*

        I also agree it depends on the MLM. My mom sold Avon a couple decades ago and she never purchased sample products. All she did was hand out books to anyone who she knew wanted to buy Avon stuff and that was it. She didn’t bother people or do parties or invest any money. She just ordered stuff when people asked and delivered it when it arrives.

        Also, my MIL, before she passed away, did Stampin’ Up. For those who aren’t familiar, they sell rubber stamps sets, inks, paper, and accessories primarily for making greeting cards. My MIL got into it because she enjoyed crafting and thought it was unique and fun. She didn’t do it to make money and knew that she was actually spending her own money to buy the newest sets to demo and stuff. But she ended up making friends with a group of ladies who really enjoyed crafting as well and she would host “Stamping Parties” every month with her friends and they’d all sit around, chatting and making cards and crafts. While yes, it was an MLM that exploited women, she honestly just had a lot of fun doing it. She never pressured people to buy anything and doing it brought her a lot of joy. I even attended a few of her parties and made some really neat cards. It was fun making them and sending handmade cards to family for birthdays and holidays. But if it wasn’t for her, I never would have done it otherwise. Likely I wouldn’t have even heard of it either as outside her circle, I’ve never known someone who sells Stampin’ Up.

      4. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        Tupperware, Avon, Mary Kay, Amway – those are some of the oldest. They are all MLM “party” type businesses where the person has to spend a lot of their own cash.

      5. Ollie*

        I buy a certain kind of makeup that is an MLM. The person I buy from earned enough through them to be rewarded with one of the cars (not the Cadillac but a nice one). She had been doing it for years at that point though. She was always very professional about it. A person who has been doing it for several years probably has a business plan that works for them and is not starry eyed, “I’m going to make a million” about it.

    2. BlueberryGirl*

      I agree with others that it depends on the MLM. My aunt sold Avon years, primarily because her skin was sensitive and they sold a product that worked for her. To this day she sells and I get a few bottles of their bodywash every year for my birthday from her. She’s never pressured anyone else to get involved as far as I know. While I tend to be super cynical about MLM companies, I don’t think everyone who gets involved with one should be assumed to have bad judgement about business, because no everyone plans or thinks of it as a business.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, also, stuff like Tupperware has been around since before there was so much awareness around MLMs (because the “worse” ones were not around at that time, I guess?)
        I can absolutely see somebody start selling Tupperware on the side, say, 15 years ago, without any bad intentions/trying to recruit aggressively/etc.
        Also because I know so, so many people actually buying/using that brand that it would seem weird to judge some for selling it!

        1. londonedit*

          Absolutely – when I was little there was always someone in the village selling Avon, and my mum used to go to Tupperware parties. Everyone loved Tupperware! I don’t think anyone really thought of them as MLMs and they didn’t quite operate in the same way as the really shady ones do nowadays, the ones where it’s all about aggressive recruiting on Facebook and constantly having to spend your own money on useless stock that you can’t sell. It seemed to me that the people who sold Avon and Tupperware were actually making a bit of money from it, and I don’t remember any sort of hard sell. Here in the UK there are some well respected legitimate companies (The Body Shop, Neal’s Yard Remedies) that have a sort of offshoot direct selling business where people become ‘independent consultants’ who facilitate parties for people, and it’s the whole ‘the more the host and friends buy, the bigger the discount they’ll get’ thing which is totally MLM, but again I don’t think there’s any particular big sell from the consultant about trying to recruit others, and that’s not what the business model is based on (unlike the shady MLMs where the only way to earn money is to collect a load of lower-level sellers whose sales give you commission). I think there’s definitely a difference between the two.

        2. Ellie*

          I immediately thought of Tupperware too. I know many people who sell that who don’t even have the parties – they just leave their details and the brochure in public areas, and people contact them with an order if they want to. I don’t see a lot of harm in that, although I hate most MLMs (Amway, etc.)

          Honestly, I don’t see this as being significantly different to meat-eaters being friends with vegans, or people who avoid mining stocks and other suspect companies, from those who don’t. You might decide you don’t want to hang out together after work, but mostly, these kinds of values shouldn’t prevent you from working together.

      2. shedubba*

        I agree. My mom sold Tupperware back in the ’80s, to supplement my dad’s income. She was quite good at it, but she was also low pressure in her sales tactics and never recruited anyone. We certainly could never have afforded the amount of Tupperware we had on my dad’s salary.

        For me, it comes down to two factors: is the product itself questionable, and how does the person conduct themselves at work? If the person is pushing their MLM business while at work (barring maybe leaving a catalog in the break room once a year or something low key like that), that’s a red flag for me. But if it took you months to find out the guy even sells this stuff, he’s probably not being inappropriately pushy at work. As far as products, if they’re selling Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Avon, or Mary Kay, I wouldn’t even bat an eye. They have a long history of decent products and not-terrible reputations as MLMs go. But if it’s one of those that sells “wellness”/weight loss products, or essential oils, or Lularoe, or Younique, or even Amway, it would definitely lower my opinion of them.

        1. Stitch*

          Especially Amway because of the cult type stuff they do. I thought based on the letter it was Amway. I’d really steer clear of someone who did that particular one.

          1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

            Yeah, Amway started doing the high pressure, cult like garbage back in the 80s. Too bad, because the products are actually decent. But it’s one of the oldest, along with Tupperware and Avon. My mother at one point or another has sold all three.

            I tried Amway in the 80s and bailed fast, because they wanted me to spend a lot of money and go to all these creepy meetings, when the reason I tried it was that I was broke!

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          We have a story in my family about how, in their first year in the US as new immigrants in their late 50s, my parents befriended several other immigrants in their age group through their ESL classes. One couple moved, and invited my parents to their housewarming party. My parents showed up with a gift and it turned out to be a sales party and my parents felt obligated to buy something, as well. They literally cleaned houses for a living at that time, did not have the money, and had to stretch their finances to fit that product (on top of the housewarming gift) into their budget. It was a reputable product, some kind of kitchenware I think? But that couple certainly gets a side-eye from me for how they went about selling it. Like you say, if the person is pushing the MLM business in not-work-appropriate ways, red flag. (And it appears that Eric doesn’t?)

        3. Rebecca*

          Mary Kay is one of the really awful ones, actually. They’re very aggressive about getting the sellers to buy inventory. And there’s a whole lot of stories of women that have thousands of dollars in credit card debt because they were pressured by the person that recruited them.

          The other 3 companies you mentioned don’t have a reputation for aggressively pushing folks to buy “inventory” and don’t have compensation structures that reward those that get new recruits to spend thousands. But Mary Kay is absolutely not one of the somewhat ok ones.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I knew someone who sold Mary Kay who tried to get colleauges to come to a ‘seminar’ (we’re in Boston). One person said yes, and then literally 2 days before, was informed that actually the seminar was in New Jersey, so pack your bag we’re staying overnight! Add to that that when she got there, she was being pressured by other reps that “the best way to help person to succeed would be for YOU to join Mary Kay as a sales rep!!” It’s bad. Not to mention that the whole seminar was about using products that you didn’t even get to keep at the end. You’d have to buy a whole thing of it instead of just being able to keep the sample size.

            1. Becca*

              My friend’s stepmother sold Mary Kay when we were growing up (long after the days where every town seemed to have a rep I believe). Thinking about it during this discussion I think it’s quite likely that I was invited to one of the parties as a teenager because she was struggling to get people to come and possibly in debt, because I do not and did not wear makeup.

              1. Katy*

                When I was a Girl Scout, they brought in a Mary Kay rep to ostensibly talk to us about skincare but actually try to sell products to us. That was when I quit my Girl Scout troop and joined the Boy Scouts. Even as a kid, I found that hugely inappropriate, and I didn’t even know what MLMs were at the time. (The Boy Scouts weren’t actually much better; they took us to a weird youth recruiting event at the FBI Academy where we were prayed over and then handed semi-automatic rifles, but that’s another story.)

                1. Kayem*

                  Oh my bob, my GS troop (the only one in town) had the same thing happen.* Our leader pitched it as we were going to learn about makeup and give each other makeovers (still problematic, especially for those of us who hadn’t yet realized we didn’t like wearing makeup). Instead, the rep gave the leader and co-leader makeovers and pitched sales, sending us home with brochures. My mom (who used to be our leader and did awesome stuff with us, but had to quit when she went to work full time) immediately pitched them in the trash. Less than a year later, the troop disbanded and the town hasn’t had one since.

                  *You’re the first person I’ve encountered where this also happened. I’ve mentioned it to others in GS over the years and they look at me like I’m bananas. Was starting to think I imagined it all. Also, now I want to hear about the FBI Academy event.

                2. Blue Canary*

                  YES! Omg I was a Girl Scout in the 90’s and there was legit a badge you could earn called “Fashion Fitness and Makeup”. It was part of the World of Well-Being.

                  I’m thinking it was to satisfy this requirement (which I will quote in its entirety because it is just too good)

                  “Learning about makeup- the different kinds,colors, and uses- takes time and practice. Actually there’s no final word on what eye makeup, blusher, lip gloss, powder, or nail polish you should use. The color that’s best for you is the one that is most attractive on you, that blends with your complexion and enhances your features.
                  Visit a department store or place where a makeup consultant or cosmetologist works; try to choose a time of day when the store is less crowded. You might be able to arrange this in advance by calling the store. Have the consultant explain the proper techniques of applying makeup and some tips for choosing color tones. With parental approval, one of your members might act as the model for the cosmetics. Later, try out what you have learned, either individually or with a partner (each girl making up the other). Experiment with different makeup plans for different settings, such as school, a dance, a fashion show, a circus.”

            2. Bookmark*

              Yeah, I think a major part of what defines the line for me between “eh, not my thing but I guess fine” and “red flag problematic” is how much of the sales pitch is actually about the product vs about pitching becoming a sales rep yourself. The latter is a super clear indication that the money-making portion of the business is in extracting money from a “downline.” I had a similar really bad experience with Mary Kay in getting invited to a get together someone hosted and getting a hard sell to host a party myself and become a sales rep. This was clearly way more important to the rep than actually selling the product.

          2. Malarkey01*

            That’s really interesting. Our office administrative assistant sold Mary Kay ten-fifteen years ago and she didn’t have parties or downstreams or buy products but would just have an order form at her desk that you could fill out if you needed anything and then it would arrive a few weeks later. She once mentioned that her “leader” or whatever was encouraging her to branch out but she wasn’t interested and just kept placing orders for us.

            1. DragoCucina*

              I have a family member who sells May Kay in a similar fashion. She never has parties. 90% of her business is just re-orders. A couple of times a year she makes “spa baskets” and takes them an area with a lot of auto body shops. The workers flock to her to buy gifts for their mothers, girlfriends, etc.

          3. shedubba*

            To be honest, I hesitated about including Mary Kay in that list. I’ve known a few people who had bad experiences with them. But I’ve also known enough people who sold it in a low pressure casual way, mostly so they could order their own product, that it wouldn’t be an instant red flag for me if I heard someone sold it. Certainly not as big of a red flag as if they sold Young Living or Lularoe.

          4. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

            This. Since Mary Kay has been around for over 50 years and Mary Kay Ash herself was/is very much admired, so people think it’s one of the “good” MLMs, but it’s definitely one of the most predatory ones out there.

          5. Not my experience*

            I buy MK and have never been invited to a party, seminar or anything. Never been pressured to sell or buy, I just buy the makeup I like.

      3. Clisby*

        Yeah, I don’t even think of Avon as an MLM for just that reason.

        When I was growing up during the 50s and 60s, we lived in a rural area where the closest town had maybe 5000 people. At least a couple of women’s hair salon owners sold Avon. No pressure, not even door-to-door; they just had the catalogs in their businesses, and if people wanted to buy they’d put in an order for them. It’s not like there was a WalMart (or even Family Dollar) that had a big supply of makeup/personal care products. A drugstore would likely sell some, but it would be pretty limited.

        I realize Avon technically is an MLM, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there are a fair number of people who offer catalog sales as a customer service or to a friend/family group and never bother to be pushy or recruit other salespeople.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          That was 100% how we bought Avon when I was younger. Just picked stuff from a catalog and it was ordered for us by the rep. I never even thought of it as an MLM for that reason, although as you say it technically is.

        2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          In most of the offices where I’ve worked, there’s been at least one person who sold Avon on the side. They were never pushy about it – they’d give you a catalog if you asked, and/or left catalogs in the break room, and then you’d give them your order from the catalog and they’d order it for you. If any of them were building teams, they never mentioned it at work. I think Avon was much more about actual direct sales back then, though. They’ve been putting a lot more emphasis on team building of late.

          Fun fact: in the late 1990s-early 2000s, Avon had a very swanky day spa in NYC, complete with a separate line of products created for and sold exclusively at the spa.

    3. Allonge*

      Which could be fair enough – it’s probably best at some point to question any mentoring advice, to be honest.

      But then ‘business’ covers an immense stretch of things. And on top of that, career is not just about business. So even someone who is doing a serious MLM thing could have good insight into how your non-MLM workplace functions and so on.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      If your mentor is mentoring you on software development, I don’t see what impact their business skills has on their ability to do so.

      1. Rebecca*

        I would be very skeptical of anyone’s judgement if they’re actively involved in an MLM. You cannot make money without exploiting those under you: that’s the business model. Personally, I wouldn’t want a mentor that is actively involved in exploiting those under them. Because how are they going to treat me? Different context, but same dynamic. I’d be uncomfortable, because I’d be waiting for them to take advantage of me.

        A lot of people are victims and quickly move along, and I wouldn’t judge someone for realizing it’s a scam and getting out in a month or so. We all make mistakes. But I absolutely would judge someone that’s involved for an extended period of time.

        1. Allonge*

          OK but the mentorship was working just fine until now, when OP discovered the MLM connection. So we know that there is some (apparent) value in it.

          Obviously it’s fine to stop it, but it’s just as fine to take this as a reference point on what kind of person the mentor is, but still listen to their advice.

    5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I judge the boss more than the mentor. Regardless of opinions about MLMs etc (which are valid), I don’t think “he does such a great job moonlighting” is a good message to send.

      1. BeeMused*

        Yes, exactly. If the company was paying him well, would he even need some sketchy side hustle? A boss endorsing it seems like an indication the company’s culture is not about paying employees enough so they don’t need to moonlight.

    6. L-squared*

      I don’t really agree.

      I’m not into them, but I know a few people who have done pretty well in some MLM things as a side job. But either way, as long as you are good at YOUR actual job, your extra curriculuars don’t really matter.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Ooh hard disagree. I can think of a lot of extracurriculars that would impact the judgment or character of my colleagues in a way that carries into the workplace. That doesn’t mean I’m entitled to that information, and we all have a right to privacy about our personal lives, but if that information comes to me I’m not obligated to ignore it either.

        I think this goes double for a mentor.

        1. L-squared*

          If your job is, say, accounting. and your mentor is great at doing and advising you on that, I don’t really care about what they do outside of work.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            There are tons of places for bias to enter accounting, especially if you’re conducting audits. It’s a more regulated field for sure, but there are few to zero fields where knowledge about the mindset and bias of those training and advising you would not impact how you receive that information.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This is what I came here to say based on my own experience. In an old job, I had, and even went to sales shows of and bought things from, work friends that were deep into MLMs (makeup, skin products, and costume jewelry), and it’s exactly as you say – these people were still good sources of onboarding-type information like how to do TPS reports, where in the in-house app to find the information on llama brushes, submitting a timesheet, etc. But I quickly realize that I needed to take those folks’ inputs on the more complicated aspects of our work with a grain of salt. Definitely not accept everything they said on blind faith, no questions asked. Oddly until now, I never thought that there might be a relationship between the two.

      (Side note, I would be very cautious even with a tennis coach or piano instructor who’s struggling with a gambling addiction – open to continuing the lessons, but ready to bail the moment they decided I needed extra lessons or doubled my fee for no reason)

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        This, exactly. I don’t think you have to end the relationships outright but I think it’s wise to move forward with the new information and some extra grains of salt. For instance, in your parenthetical example – if my tennis coach rates doubled and I knew they had a gambling addiction I might not assume they were suddenly super in demand, I might have more questions and consider moving on if I found out they were trying to exploit me.

        I have a strong stance that you can’t be successful in most modern MLMs without being exploitative, and that would definitely color my views on advice from a mentor. Especially in terms of interpersonal advice. It may be enough that I personally would not be able to respect them as someone to mentor me, and LW seems to feel the same way. I think that’s a valid choice to make.

      2. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

        This is where I land, too. Since Eric has so far been a good mentor, there’s no reason to burn that relationship. But the transfer to the new location provides a perfect time to transition to a new mentor based there. If I were Eric, I wouldn’t take that mentor-switch personally at all. And then OP is free of the sticky MLM questions without drama.

    8. Totally Minnie*

      I think a better technique is for LW to reset expectations for this mentorship. Eric may be an excellent resource for information about their company and/or industry, and now LW knows that some of his general business and life advice might be less reliable, so they know to take that advice with a grain of salt.

    9. RagingADHD*

      I think it depends on the work / type of mentorship. If Eric is mentoring LW in how to understand profit and loss statements, or ethical investing, something like that, the MLM is a problem.

      If he’s mentoring LW in how to build a personal / professional network, how to sell product in a saturated market, or how to keep your direct reports motivated through repeated failure, then his experience is probably relevant.

    10. Observer*

      specifically because it shows that your *career* mentor has bad judgement about *business*.

      It depends on the MLM, and it depends on the person’s behavior.

      Note that the OP didn’t know that their mentor was in the MLM, even though he clearly also doesn’t keep it a deep dark secret. That indicates that he’s not peddling his wares at work, much less pushing this stuff on mentees.

    11. Loch Lomond*

      I don’t think it’s “end this” level, but definitely “put an asterisk around his advise” level. (For both boss and mentor.) I know people are varying degrees of online, but info about how destructive, predatory, and futile MLMs are is SO readily available. It’s been a bonanza of podcasts, documentaries, YouTube commentary videos, articles… it’s hard to imagine someone not encountering the info at some point, and also not being able to figure out that the choices in participating are either “Lose money (over 99%)” or “Profit exclusively via directly harming others” (less than 1%).

    12. Rasberry*

      Lw1- There isn’t actually any link between intelligence and who falls for a scam or joins a cult. It can happen to anyone. Doctors and lawyers get scammed into investment schemes all the time. Even experts in preventing scams fall for them. The only characteristics that seem to help prevent this is not having confidence and refusing to act when emotional.

      If anything, him being legitametly good at his job probably made him more likely to join a MLM. People who are intelligent and accomplished in one thing often assume they are “smart” and don’t carefully analyze things that actually aren’t in their expertise. Unless he is starting an MLM or displays a knowledge and acceptance that he is exploiting others, I would leave the judgement to yourself. There will absolutely be a time you will fall for something stupid (and probably not realize it) and will need to hope others around you don’t assume you are incompetent.

  4. Heidi*

    The situation in Letter 4 is the opposite of what happens in my workplace. There’s always so much food people will beg you to take a whole tray of brownies. If the unequal distribution of leftovers rankles, it sounds like LW4 could order a lot less pizza next time (if there is a next time), which would also reduce the amount the LW needs to contribute. They could also buy food that gets ordered individually, like burritos or sandwiches. It’s potentially more complicated to order but there aren’t massive amounts of leftovers.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I think OP4 has chosen a massively confusing way to share food with colleagues. I have only ever heard of someone either paying entirely or splitting the bill equally. If it’s the former, you’ll get a lot more gratitude, and holding back were leftovers are concerned (not with everyone of course but it’s more likely). If everyone thinks they have pitched in equally, you’ll still be thanked for organizing it, but if people think everyone has an equal claim they might take leftovers if no one else is showing interest in them. It all depends on why OP is only asking for partial payment; is it because they like cold pizza and want dibs on leftovers? If they want to keep dibs on the pizza, I’d call it mine, say I have too much and offer everyone a slice or two.

      1. Willis*

        Agreed. It’s rude to take an entire extra pizza when you only chipped in $5 but if OP wants the leftovers or to control who gets the leftovers, it probably needs to be more obvious that they paid for the balance of the pizza. Maybe just do the pizza lunch half or a third as often and pay for the whole thing, if OP is really committed to be a pizza provider. Otherwise, I’d just not bother with this or split the cost evenly so I’m not so invested in what happens with the extra. (Or ya know, order one pizza less.)

        1. EPLawyer*

          On what planet does $5 equal a whole pizza, right? Even Little Ceasar’s is more than $5.

          Some people are just massively entitled when it comes to office food.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            But if LW isn’t explicit about paying for it, a person might see twelve people and ten pizzas and think “wow, LW must have had a great coupon / found a great deal online” and believed that they personally had contributed one equal twelfth of the cost.

      2. Allonge*

        Yes, while OP is obviously doing this to be nice to coworkers, it’s way too complicated (and free or semi-free food is almost always complicated anyway – look at all the discussions on this).

        I would try to figure out what exactly I want to happen: no leftovers at all, all leftovers are mine, leftovers are shared equally by those who want any… and communicate based on this.

        OP, I know this is frustrating! You are treating people to something and it should not be this complicated, but it can be. For me, the best solution was to go into these things with no expectations at all, other than people help clean if necessary. But this is just a personal preference, you can go for yours.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          The psychology of how people act around free food (particularly people with no food insecurity or strong financial worries) is fascinating.

        2. Loch Lomond*

          That’s another point- the more minor the favor you’re doing someone, the less “involved” it needs to be. Kind of like how if you’re giving someone a ride that will save them less than 15 minutes, you can’t offer that and then be late or ask them to walk 10 min away to meet you.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          It’s definitely more complicated than it has to be.

          OP, the best thing to do is call BEFORE you’re ready to order. Ask how much X amount feeds and what the total (after tax–that adds up fast) is, then figure out how much you can or want to kick in and how much others who want to participate need to pay. Then, before you place the order, get everybody’s requests and cash/Venmo. That way everybody who paid in knows what was ordered and how it’s split.

          I answer these questions all the time–at least three or four times a day. It’s not unusual in the least. If you don’t want to talk on the phone or don’t have time to talk the whole thing through, go to the place’s online menu and get a general idea of costs that way.

          Setting parameters is really important with office food treats. If people don’t know what the borders are, they’re going to make up their own.

      3. Antilles*

        I have only ever heard of someone either paying entirely or splitting the bill equally.
        Same. If you asked me for $5 to split the cost of pizza, I would absolutely assume that’s the entire cost of the pizza. The idea that you’re “treating me” because the split cost is actually $7 so you’re paying a bit more than everyone else would never cross my mind. And I’d bet money that if we asked the co-workers, every single one of them would say the same thing.

        So in that context? Yes, it absolutely makes sense for someone to grab the leftovers (which they paid an even share for!) and take them home rather than letting them sit uselessly in the breakroom to eventually get tossed in the trash. The person who took an entire pizza should probably have been polite and asked “anybody mind if I grab this remaining pepperoni pizza and take it home?” before grabbing the entire pizza…but if it’s been sitting untouched for a long time, it’s somewhat defensible to assume that if anybody else wanted to take it as leftovers/afternoon snack/whatever, they’d have done so already.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          100%. If someone asked me for $5 for office pizza, and there were 40 of us, I would assume that $200 was spent on pizza. I would also assume that it’s fine for me to grab some slices to have for lunch tomorrow or dinner tonight, or yes, even a whole pie if one happened to be left over. I might not grab it until a couple hours after the lunch, but if it’s still there at that point, it’s fair game.
          LW, you need to take all the good advice out there and either 1-split everything evenly, or 2-treat people 100% and also say “please leave leftovers out for people to grab a slice, at least until the end of the day” or something. But also! If there are whole pies left at the end of the day you need to let people take them! And also order less next time!

          1. Becca*

            Especially since it’s not as obvious as OP seems to think that $5/person won’t cover it. Most places near me that sell by the slice I can get a slice for under $5. Maybe 2 if it’s cheese (discounting tax). Since whole pizzas will be more cost effective per slice a $5 chip in seems perfectly reasonable. If you go dominos and use their $7.99 carryout coupon (available most places I believe, maybe slightly different pricing) everyone can have half a pizza, probably even after tax depending on local taxes, and maybe enough left over to get a couple of 2 liters to share (not checking if it would work out that way here right now, but I could see it working out places with low/no tax).
            Maybe OP lives in a place where COL is very high and at least some people would be expected to realize $5 doesn’t cover it, but I would assume it does.

        2. ferrina*

          Exactly! When it comes to payment, LW is splitting the difference in a really weird way. I’d assume I was covering my share, or that I was being fully treated. The middle ground is strange. If LW wants to simplify it, just raise the pizza $ ask with “hey, I realized I wasn’t asking the right amount so I was covering a large share”, then do something else to treat coworkers (baked goods are always popular).

          Luckily that’s not what LW is asking about. When it comes to leftovers, I think it’s fine to be proactive. “Hey guys, please only take a couple slices. If there’s any left over at 1:00 (or whenever lunch would end), you can claim a couple more slices to take home.” Hold everyone to the same standards, including yourself. This will be easier when everyone is paying equal share.

      4. Colette*

        I also think the OP is setting a confusing precedent – if she’s not around and the others want to order pizza, their $5 each won’t cover the cost.

        If she wants to contribute, she should charge them the actual cost of the pizza and buy salads/wings/dessert as her contribution – and be clear that that’s what she’s doing. “Hey, the pizza is $7 each, and I’m going to buy a couple of side salads to go with it”, for example.

        But honestly, a lunch I don’t have to plan and bring is a treat, and I’d rather pay the actual cost than have a coworker cover it.

      5. Loch Lomond*

        Agree, there’s not a clear way for people to feel when you’re partially treating them but partially chipping in. It’s falling between two stools. Either split equally or treat them fully, and the way they should act will be clearer to everyone.

        (That said, of course dibsing an entire pizza for leftovers is ride and greedy in either scenario.)

    2. NatAttack*

      I also maybe wonder if people realize it is the letter writer covering the difference from personal funds and not the company picking up the tab (as I interpreted it)? That might encourage people to ask for fewer slices or be more considerate with the leftovers

      1. londonedit*

        I agree – if people are being asked to chip in for the pizza, then I think it’s reasonable for them to assume either that it’s covering the whole cost of the pizza or that any extra money is coming from somewhere else and the OP is just the one who takes the money and orders the pizzas. I also think it’s a bit odd and confusing for the OP to frame this as ‘treating their colleagues’ when they’re then asking for a contribution. When the OP says ‘colleagues’, do they mean peers or are they the manager? Personally I think it would be odd for a peer to ‘treat’ colleagues at their own level so maybe that’s where the confusion is coming from and that’s what’s making people think the £5 is covering the cost, or on the other hand if the OP is a manager and the perception is that it’s a ‘treat’ from the boss, I can totally see why people would assume the company was picking up the tab for any extra cost.

        I do think taking a whole pizza without asking is rude, but if there are whole pizzas left over, maybe the OP needs to rethink the amount they’re ordering, or at least make it clear that people should ask before taking leftovers (or have a rule that any pizza slices left after 3pm are fair game, or whatever).

      2. Tyra*

        Yeah, I felt LW4’s wording suggested that they were doing something no one asked them to do, or was aware they were even doing, and then was annoyed not be receiving praise / people acting outside of boundaries that haven’t been set. That’s not really fair! If someone more senior than me said they were ordering pizza for the office (or I was asked to put in a nominal amount), I would assume that the company is covering. Surely there’s the option to just stop putting your own funds towards it / ordering pizza to begin with?

        1. Reality.Bites*

          I can’t think of any reason someone should be regularly (or irregularly) treating (or semi-treating) their co-workers to lunch, especially in a way where they’re not even aware they’re being treated because also they’re being asked to contribute.

          The clear and obvious solution is to just stop doing this absurd thing.

        2. ferrina*

          Yeah. LW4 was really judgmental of their coworkers. “Ignorant and selfish… sad some people have no manners.”

          It’s possible that the coworkers really are this rude. In which case…..just stop buying them pizza? You’re (theoretically) doing them a favor, and if you don’t like the outcome, just don’t do it. It’s not your job to judge/educate them on manners. (and seriously, what were you going to do with the leftover pizza? If they thought it would go to waste, taking it home is a better option)

          The worst of both worlds is to do someone a favor without them asking and expect them to be grateful and behave in a certain way because of the favor that they didn’t ask of you and may not have even known you were doing (see other comments on how most people would assume they are paying their share). If you’re going to attach strings (even little strings), just let people know. A true “treat” doesn’t ask for anything in exchange.

    3. mlem*

      I’ve actually scored two whole pizzas over the past two months this way — the organizers were shoving leftovers at us and insisting that, yes, I really should take that entire pizza!

    4. theletter*

      Yeah LW4, you might want to take a hard look at why you want to give your coworkers food. Most people are not expecting it and wouldn’t ask for it if they knew what was going on. Is there a party planning commitee that you could join instead, so that you’re not paying out of pocket to feed people?

      From my personal experience, bringing lots of treats/food into the office can ultimately be detrimental to one’s reputation. If it’s more than the ‘celebrate by birthday/favorite holiday with me’ and the occasional ‘I baked too many cookies and had to share’ situations, it’s too much.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Also, I assume people are taking this pizza home at the end of the day right? If so, I think it would be odd to say “no you need to leave that here in this empty office overnight.” Someone *should* take it home, and if OP wants it to be them then they need to make that clear upfront. If OP doesn’t necessarily want it but doesn’t want the same people “hogging” it every time then maybe you could make like a game out of it, roll a dice to see who gets the leftovers or something.

      And also yes, if they are regularly having an entire pizza leftover then it sounds like OP should probably be ordering one less pizza anyway?

    6. Lucy P*

      When we bring in food, we always make a point to do it early in the week. That way people will eat the leftovers throughout the rest of the week.

      On the other hand, we stopped doing pizza where everyone chips in because someone always ends up bearing the extra cost. There’s too many pizza personalities so we have to order several to cover everyone’s taste. That leads to $10-12 per person and people don’t want to pay that much when they’re chipping in (which is probably why OP asks for $5 and then covers the balance). Plus there are the people who eat 1-2 slices and the people who eat 5+ slices. We’ve started letting people order off a menu and covering their cost. Then the only thing that’s left is covering the tip.

      1. Antilles*

        If you’re getting pizza for a large group, the usual method I’ve seen is that you’re NOT trying to accommodate everyone’s pizza personality: Something like “we ordered 2 cheese, one pepperoni, and one veggie”.

        In other words, rather than trying to nail everybody’s favorite pizza, just get enough of a cross-section of common types that everybody will at least find something they can eat.

        Of course, if it’s ordering off a menu and everybody paying their own is logistically feasible, that’s usually the easiest way of handling it.

    7. Daisy-dog*

      I worked for a company a few years ago that did free/group-paid food all the time. I used public transportation to get to work at the time. I always refused taking leftovers minus something appropriately wrapped that could fit in my bag, which did mean some of my co-workers may be taking way more.

      Though we also did get more into leaving leftovers in the fridge to indulge the whole week.

    8. Office Lobster DJ*

      I would also be very confused by this payment set up, for what it’s worth.

      I agree that by asking them to contribute, they feel like they’ve paid their share and the leftovers are theirs, while if it were a full treat, they would probably be more deferential to what LW wanted to happen to the leftovers.

      My advice for LW is frankly to stop altogether, if it’s causing you hard feelings and resentment. You might be too invested. If you truly want to continue, find a new system that works better for you and you co-workers. First, make sure it’s optional for them. Maybe you do it less often but foot the whole bill; maybe everyone pays their full share but you are still in charge of ordering and collecting everyone’s money (trust me, managing the logistics is often the biggest part of the treat); maybe you manage it more by giving specific directions ahead of time like “$5 will get you X slices and we’ll split whatever is leftover equally.”

    9. goddessoftransitory*

      And ASK the person you are ordering from!

      This is my literal job–I take pizza orders. One thing I’ve learned in my years doing it is that the average person is absolutely terrible at mentally picturing an amount of food and then how far said food will stretch for multiple people. It’s the “eyes bigger/smaller than stomach” thing but multiplied exponentially. People usually either panic and order way too much, or panic in the other direction (the price goes up quick) and get way too little.

      Our large pie is 17 inches, twelve slices, usually feeds three to four adults. I’ve had people order enough for ten people to each take half a pie home with them and others get one pie cut in teensy bits for ten people. (Last week I took an enormous order that was, literally, twice as much as needed–enough food for at least a hundred people when they were feeding fifty or so. I told them over and over that they were getting too much, but hey, it’s their money, I guess.)

      Same goes for salad, breadsticks, and so on…I can give you at least an estimate of how much of everything is the baseline based on twenty years of experience doing this. A lot of food and money could be saved if more people listened to the person whose job it is to know portioning.

  5. Someday We Won't Remember This*

    #2: Those hops waters often smell a lot like beer too, and could make a person’s breath smell like they’d been drinking. Might be better to skip it at the office.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      I was going to comment on this. I *hate* the smell of beer, so I don’t drink it, which means if I had a coworker who was drinking something and it smelled like beer, it wouldn’t occur to me that there might be non-beer options (even if it didn’t look exactly like beer close-up – I wouldn’t get that close).

      There are plenty of times in his life he can enjoy his new favorite beverage – at work is probably not one of them.

      1. Anon for this*

        Well, after reading this thread, maybe now it should occur to you?

        I follow a ketogenic diet because I am trying to lose 50 lbs, which means I always have like to breath”, which smells a lot like hops. You need to stop being so judgmental.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            People learn new things every day and OP2’s coworkers might know the smell of beer but not know about hop drinks or the side effects of a keto diet. Everyone makes judgements on what we know of at the time and as long as your boss and business doesn’t treat you differently once they have a valid reason for something many, many people would consider suspicious, it works out.

            And there’s a difference in the situations. OP2’s husband can decide to just drink his drink at home where you don’t have the option to change your current body chemistry.

        1. ferrina*

          This is not exactly common knowledge.

          It’s pretty normal to assume “person’s breath smells like X- person has been consuming X”. People assume that because it’s statistically the most likely option, by a wide margin. People’s brains are evolutionarily designed to make assumptions based on likelihood- otherwise we’d be putting a lot of brainpower into things that should be really easy. And yes, this does mean that people won’t be correct 100% of the time because either a) they don’t know the full extent of all possible options and b) sometimes extremely unlikely and rare things happen.

          I’ve never heard of “keto breath” before today (appreciate the new knowledge!). If I had smelled hops on someone’s breath, I would have definitely assumed they’d been drinking beer. I work in an industry where a beer at lunch wouldn’t matter, but I might have some due diligence to make sure it wasn’t impacting their work. It would be a suspect-but-verify thing.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I think it’s weird that he’s specifically drinking it as a replacement for regular beer, but then wanting to drink it at work. That’s not really the same thing as something like replacing soda with seltzer water to cut out sugar and could come across kind of strange – like why are you “pretending” to drink alcohol at your job?

      1. Greasy monkey*

        From what I gather from the question, OP’s partner just enjoys the taste of beer and is drinking the new found favorite because it has the flavor they enjoy without the worry of becoming inebriated. I use margarita and pina colada flavored drink mix in my water for the same reason. I enjoy the taste, but quit drinking decades ago. I guess OPs partner REALLY likes the taste of beer. I don’t understand liking it, but to each their own.

        1. OP*

          this is accurate. i assure everyone my partner is not an alcoholic, he just likes the bitter flavor of hops lol

          1. Marmalade*

            I love hops too – and as a gluten free person who mostly doesn’t drink alcohol, hoptea is amazing! The smell is not very beery. I’ve been ordering the hop water, which is clear, but I definitely wouldn’t drink it at the office or out of the can at on a zoom meeting that wasn’t a social event on a Friday afternoon. I wonder if you could find tea leaf bags that were hops for a DIY option that would be closer to office-acceptable.

            1. DataSci*

              Tea bag hops, if they existed, would produce a warm flat “beer” tasting drink, which sounds nasty. As a beer drinker I’d rather have regular tea.

            2. PostalMixup*

              My spouse tried to make his own hop water and it was…not good. And we homebrew, so he’s familiar with hops! I think those are more finicky than one might expect.

            3. BethDH*

              That’s a great idea! I just googled and there are a ton of recipes, at least a few of which seem to involve adding carbonated water to a strong hop tea infusion, so seems like you could just pour some concentrate into a can of seltzer.

          2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

            I love nice, hoppy beers, too. But I wouldn’t drink this beverage at work. It falls under my general rule of thumb: is the benefit (I like the taste) worth the costs of (a) almost certainly needing to explain this to multiple people, and (b) possibly leading to someone making an incorrect assumption about OP’s partner? And with (b), what if the person making the assumption doesn’t tell the partner, but does tell other people?

            I agree with others: drink it when off the clock.

          3. ferrina*

            If you have a garden, you may consider growing hops. My dad grew hops when I was a kid. It was…..aromatic. That part of the yard was always hoppy. Annoyed the jeepers out of me as a kid, but your partner would probably really enjoy it!

            1. Willow Pillow*

              Hops can range from a fast and aggressive growth to outright invasive… Anyone who may be considering growing hops, please research it adequately first!

      2. Chikkka*

        There’s a difference between really liking the taste of beer, and not being able to make it through a work day without one.

        1. OP*

          that’s… not what is going on. he’s just found a new thing he likes and is wondering if he can bring it to work. idk why everyone is jumping to the conclusion that he NEEDS it – he’s the one who hesitant to do it, not me!

          1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

            I am not jumping to the conclusion that he needs it–but his coworkers might. Many people would look at it with concern, and since (as you say) he doesn’t need it, he should probably just skip it IMO.

          2. InquiringMinds*

            What is the name of this brand?! I’ve never heard of such a thing and know some people that might want to try!

        2. ADidgeridooForYou*

          But…that’s not the case here. Imagine you really loved iced tea, but every version out there was an alcoholic one. Then, suddenly, a company isolates the tea-flavored ingredients you like the most and puts it in a beverage without the alcohol. Choosing to drink that version doesn’t make you an alcoholic who’s trying to quit – it just means you can finally enjoy iced tea without side effects.

          1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

            Right, but if you bring that iced tea to work, and your coworkers’ first association with iced tea is the alcoholic kind, they might be concerned that you’re soothing an addiction to iced tea. So, if you’re not, maybe just drink that iced tea elsewhere!

      3. I should really pick a name*

        I think the logic goes like this:

        1. Partner likes the taste beer.
        2. Partner would drink beer at work if it was allowed.
        3. Partner finds beer substitute.
        4. Because beer substitute is non-alcoholic, partner no longer has to restrict consumption to outside of work.

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          Yeah. I don’t think he’s an alcoholic or anything but it feels like a weird choice. Either it’s fine and he can treat it like soda/juice/tea, or it’s not fine and he shouldn’t have it at work – if he’s debating it, trying to figure out how to hide it or justify it, etc, he’s already not treating it like a normal beverage.

      4. ADidgeridooForYou*

        I feel like lots of people don’t understand that there are people who legitimately like the taste of beer, and they’re not just drinking it to get a buzz or feel cool or act like they’re drinking on the job. I genuinely like the taste of hops and all things bitter. I guess as long as it’s not specifically labeled as non-alcoholic beer, I don’t see why it would be taboo at work. Like, in my mind, hops are just like tea in that they’re a kind of herb/leaf that you put into liquid to change the taste.

        1. OP 2*

          i agree! i do find the assumption weird. some people just like bitter things. and this beverage is actually black tea based with hop flavor, so even calling it a hoppy seltzer is sort of inaccurate. it’s closer to a sparkling iced tea, basically

        2. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

          The issue is that it’s not a binary bad/totally fine situation.

          It’s definitely possible that no one would bat an eye. But it’s also very possible that people will be nervous and concerned, and if it’s not a big deal for him to just NOT drink it at work, then he should just not. Like working someplace that allows t-shirts, but you’re worried a certain punk shirt has a graphic or slogan that’s a little too edgy. It could be fine, but also you could wear a different shirt and not worry about it! There is a whole life outside of work!

    3. misspiggy*

      Yes. If it smells at all like beer, I wouldn’t bring it to work. The LW’s partner might become nose-blind to it and think it doesn’t smell, but others will definitely notice. Due to life experience, I automatically respond to the smell of beer in unexpected places as a cause for alarm.

    4. Forgot my name again*

      Came here to say this – hops is a very distinctive smell and I’m going to assume it’s beer if I smell it. Obscuring the label is just going to make me more suspicious that you’re drinking on the job in that case!

    5. Stitch*

      I feel like we went through this with the person drinking near beer at work. My advice is just don’t even go there. There are tons of sparkling waters, including some with bitter flavors. There are also TONS of alcoholic sparkling drinks now as that seems to be the new trend. So just don’t go there. It’s a judgment thing.

    6. Thistle whistle*

      My general rule of thumb is if you have to do mental gymnastics to explain/excuse/justify something in work then you need to step back and have a really good hard think on why it’s problematic and (even more importantly) why you are working so hard to justify something thats obviously problematic.

      In this case although there are several “workarounds” suggested uptrend, you are trying to explain away drinking something that loomks and smells like a product that you generally can’t have at work. To have it you either need to be the odd person who continually explains away their quirks or use some political capital.

  6. Yry*

    “I’m very generous” is such a weird way of starting any sentence, especially when you are asking for advice on how to spend less money on others. Maybe this is not the right way to frame the situation, LW

    1. Myrin*

      Generosity doesn’t have to stretch endlessly for it to be called that.
      And speaking of framing, I don’t think calling this “advice on how to spend less money on others”, while technically correct, does the situation justice when OP isn’t in any way obligated to treat her team to pizza in the first place!

        1. TechWorker*

          I think pizza is just hard to split this way. If a manager buys the first round of drinks that’s still ‘treating’ their team even if further optional drinks are paid for.
          The equivalent here would be something like ‘I’m covering half a pizza each, if you want to order extra let me know and pay for your contribution’ – only that’s a bit complicated with pizza :) I agree that if people are all being asked to contribute they’re probably not viewing it as a ‘treat’

          1. BethDH*

            Wonder if it might work better if they frame it as “participants buy pizza, OP treats everyone to the sodas/dessert and coordinates ordering.”
            Honestly, I’d find half the “treat” to be not having to manage the whole adventure, but if you haven’t been the person charged with doing that before you might not realize the effort. But it makes me wonder if part of it is that OP is going to a lot of “hosting” trouble for people who aren’t being thoughtful guests.

            1. Colette*

              It sounds like the OP is going to a lot of trouble hosting people who don’t know they’re guests, which is an exercise in frustration.

      1. Loch Lomond*

        I think the reason it sounds strange is that a key component of generosity is generally not thinking about it that much, or not regarding as dear what you’re doing for people in comparison to the happiness you’re giving them. So it seems amusingly contradictory to be saying “I’m very generous” rather than “I try to be generous” or just “I get a lot of joy out of treating people.”

        Like, I get what OP means. But I think Yry is pointing out that it sounds a little like saying “I’m the humblest person in the world!”- slightly oxymoronic.

    2. bamcheeks*

      I am generally confused by the set-up and what LW is getting out of it and what they want to happen. I don’t get why people taking home leftover pizza is bad, or why LW perceives is as an ignorant and selfish act. It’s leftover! But LW, if you do have plans for that extra, it’s fine to say upfront, “oh, I actually ordered and paid for that extra so I could take it home to my family / take it along to the teenage mutant ninja turtles I volunteer with.”

      But LW, as far as I can see, you have set up a situation to satisfy your own image of yourself as generous, without being transparent with your colleagues, and then you resent them for not behaving precisely as you think they should, *even though they don’t have all the information you have*. You could just— not do that.

      1. Jackalope*

        My interpretation wasn’t so much that the OP didn’t want others to take home leftovers as that they didn’t want someone to take an entire pizza. We’ve had a number of stories here about people who would take “leftovers” even before everyone had eaten once, so not everyone got some, or so that no one else got to have any leftovers. I understood it to be more like that.

        1. Skyblue*

          I wondered about that too, but she does say, “an entire pizza if it is left over.” I assume she wouldn’t describe it that way if it wasn’t truly left over.

      2. Samwise*

        Depends on when they are taking the whole pizza. End of the day? It would be nice if they asked if anyone else wants some to take home, but not a big deal. Middle of the afternoon? That’s being a greedy guts — people may want a slice for a snack.

      3. theletter*


        Capitalism is a awful thing but at the very least, you know that in the office you can be generous with your knowledge, your presence, your time (to some extent) BUT NOT your money. Don’t go above and beyond spotting bus fare and buying a round of drinks.

      4. ferrina*

        you have set up a situation to satisfy your own image of yourself as generous

        My ex and his family are like that- they will do you a “favor” that you didn’t ask for and may not even want, then use that favor to show how magnanimous and generous they are (of course, they won’t actually do any real favors that you need). My ex would brag about a basic common courtesy he did and expect me to praise him, to the extent of pouting and calling me unsupportive if I wasn’t sufficiently enthusiastic (including several instances of: dude, I’m in the middle of writing a complicated report and you interrupted me so I could heap praise on you for meeting the bare minimum of decent human being, and now you’re mad that I’m distracted by this work I’m desperately trying to finish after so I can clock off after my 10 hour day?).

      5. yala*

        I think people taking home a whole pie (or even half a pie) after only paying $5, unless someone explicitly said “Please someone take this leftover pizza” is kinda…grabby?

        1. Colette*

          But as far as the coworkers know, there is no one to offer them the pizza because everyone contributed equally. If they’re packing it up at 12:30, they’re wrong, but if it’s 3? It’s better that someone take it home and eat it than that it get tossed.

          1. yala*

            I mean, they know one person coordinated the buying of it. When we have staff potlucks or birthdays or kingcake or whatever, there’s usually an email that goes out afterwards letting people know that there are leftovers to have.

            At any rate, I would still never assume I could take half a pizza home, let alone a whole one.

            1. Colette*

              Sure, but that doesn’t give the person who coordinated the lunch a bigger claim on the leftovers, if everyone is paying an equal share.

      6. Happy*

        Yeah…at the very least, instead of saying “can you chip in $5 for pizza”, LW could say “if you and everyone else chip in $5, I’ll cover the rest.”

    3. Pam*

      Don’t forget the closing of the letter, where LW calls their coworkers ignorant, selfish, and bemoans how it’s “so sad that people have no manners”.

      Either these are absolutely terrible coworkers (who don’t deserve pizza anyways), or LW needs to tone it down. This letter writer is one potluck away from bemoaning the quality of certain rolls!

      1. Heidi*

        Yeah – the LW doesn’t really seem to like their coworkers very much. They also aren’t comfortable enough with each other to say something like, “Could you check to see if anyone else wants leftovers before taking the whole pizza?” which is pretty innocuous. I think the LW should just stop with the “treats.” It’s not getting the LW whatever it is they want to get out of it. If anything, it’s creating resentment.

  7. Lily Potter*

    LW #1 – I wouldn’t worry about the MLM, particularly since your mentor hasn’t mentioned it to you before. There’s a world of difference between someone who keeps the title “consultant” for purposes of getting a friends/family discount and someone who’s managing a down line of 600 people. If your mentor has kept his MLM experience to himself thus far, he’s likely closer on the continuum to the former than the latter.

    1. Stephanie*

      Agreed. My mother is technically an Amway “Independent Business Owner”. In reality, her and her friends wanted some of their cleaning products so they went in together and mum just orders it. No pushing, no sales, no weird parties. It’s an annoying, expoitative business model, but they’ve found a way to game the system.

      Also, their LOC cleaner? I take it on holiday and use it for everything. Washing clothes, washing hands, wiping down counters, rinsing hotel glasses. Excellent garbage.

      1. Newly minted higher ed*

        My parents did exactly this for a little while! I was sad to let their vacuum cleaner go since I couldn’t get filters anymore but I still have the pans and pots set 25 years later and it’s going strong. Some of their stuff is quite good. Loved their LOC cleaner too.

        I used to get some stuff from a friend who did Avon for pocket change. Once that was the only way to get their mosquito repellent.

        We had neighbors who really wanted to replace an income with an MLM though and that was too much.

        But otherwise I steer very clear of it all.

      2. PhyllisB*

        Yep. I sold Avon in the 80’s and 90’s mainly to support my own habit. I never recruited anyone, and I never pushed products. I put out books in my neighborhood (in fact, went into labor with my first child while putting out books!!)

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I don’t know if I agree with that analysis. He’s smart enough to keep it out of work, which is certainly encouraging. But it’s enough of a thing in his life that their boss is praising him for “managing” it as a side hustle.

      1. Willow Pillow*

        Even the boss’ disclosure is a yellow flag for me – that’s personal information that they shouldn’t be sharing.

    3. Chocolate eclair*

      Agree, It sounds like he is not really selling or at least not selling to make a profit(friends and family orders to keep his activity level). My mom did Mary Kay for years supplying us and other family but never selling.

  8. Jujyfruits*

    OP5, I hate filling that out. I also have multiple diagnoses that fit the bill but don’t consider myself disabled. (I do prefer to work from home so I can control my environment.) I always check “prefer not to answer.” But it’s so tedious between that and the demographic/veteran forms. Some apps have them as simple drop downs, in others I have to re-type my name and the date. Why???

    1. TechWorker*

      For the latter, probably because the information is stored separately to the rest of your application (which it definitely should be!) and they’ve not got things set up to avoid asking for it twice.

      1. BlueberryGirl*

        Yep! I work with one of these systems and that’s 100% why. They black box that data, so the two can’t be linked (and shouldn’t be).

        1. Asker of Question #5*

          So relieved to hear it is black boxed!

          that tracks, when I have been in a Hiring Manager role, I would get the person’s resume and absolutely nothing else.

    2. Enescudoh*

      As a note of geography – in the UK, you are considered “disabled” under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a medical condition or impairment that, if not medicated/treated, would not allow you to do your work. So although I find it counter-intuitive sometimes, if I didn’t take my inhalers for asthma/didn’t go to therapy for anxiety, I wouldn’t be able to go to work (or, you know, breathe), therefore the law says I have a disability.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Same thing for vision – not American but we have similar equity questions in Canada and my nearsightedness is to a degree that, if I don’t have glasses, I would really struggle to function, and that can count (if I choose it to.)

      2. Madame Arcati*

        In the U.K. the other reason they ask is so that if you need any “reasonable accommodations” during the application process, these can be set in place; from “when you fetch candidate from reception for interview, you will need to escort her via the lift not the stairs” to “candidate will need extra time for written tests so make sure the room is reserved for long enough”.

    3. Enginarian*

      hypothyroid is on the list and is extremely common. So controlled on medication, not much of a problem. No medication, almost catatonic

    4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I always fill it out and always disclose that I have a disability. Yes, unscrupulous companies can use that information to discriminate, but those aren’t places I want to hire me.

      For what it’s worth, my company’s applicant tracking system does not show the results of those forms to the hiring manager. I wouldn’t count on that working everywhere, but at least some places are following the letter of the law.

      1. SchuylerSeestra*

        For what it’s worth, companies cannot see individual answers. Only the admin of the system can pull data for reporting. And again, it’s not individual results.

    5. Ruth*

      You totally do not have to disclose, but it’s important for companies to ask. We have very limited data on disability in SO MANY data sets, so it’s hard to evaluate disability discrimination, disparate access, etc. There are definitely better/worse ways to ask the question and I’m sure some employers do it all wrong. But when it’s collected appropriately, the data is really valuable.

    6. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

      You’re right, you’re not “disabled”. However, you do have conditions that are considered “disabilities”, even if they are well managed and don’t impede your life because they are well managed.

      IMO, it’s important for employers to realize that quite a few of their employees have disabilities. That helps other disabled people in the long run, as they realize that hiring people with disabilities is not a barrier to hiring productive people. So yes, I always disclose on those demographic forms, but generally not in interviews, etc. unless they are in-person.

      Working remotely, I don’t have to disclose in an interview my disabled status. It’s very nice. When I was interviewing in person I could always tell if the job wasn’t going to pan out by how the person reacted to the fact that I am mobility impaired.

    7. Legalize Texas*

      I’m not trying to needle you, the LW, or any of the other commenters chiming in in a similar light, but I think it’s really important for folks to realize that if you have an ongoing medical diagnosis then you have a chronic illness and that is a disability. If you have a disability, you are disabled. There isn’t anything to consider about it, it’s not something you get to opt into or not. Creating a barricade between yourself and all other disabled people (usually with the logic “well I don’t actually need anything” or “I’m fine with my medication though”) is a problem that we all have to work to get rid of. And we have to stop holding up the standard that asking for help or accommodation is something we need to try to avoid.

      A really big step in ending disability discrimination is correcting our framework on this– disability isn’t something that only happens to other people. It doesn’t vanish if you simply don’t ask for things, or if your treatment is working. People say “I don’t consider myself disabled.” Why not? Why is that not just a simple neutral status that is easy to accept on oneself along with a diagnosis? Generally, whether we realize it or not, people do not think of disability as something that happens to them. Disabled people are extremely othered even in spaces that are ostensibly about us, and that’s convinced a lot of people that they can opt out of it and protect themselves that way.

      1. just some guy*

        I hear where you’re coming from, this is stuff I’ve thought about a lot, but for me it still isn’t simple.

        I wear glasses for bad eyesight. I have no problem thinking of that as a disability accommodation.

        Also, I’m autistic, which is a big package deal that comes with a lot of positives as well as negatives. Both of those are significant, and the exact balance varies from person to person. Overall, for me the positives are worth enough that if I had the option to lose the whole package deal, I wouldn’t take it. This is not an uncommon position among autistic people.

        One of my friends has a different package deal. She’s comfortable chatting with strangers, she can switch focus from one task to another pretty quickly, but that comes at a price. People with her condition have difficulty communicating – they seem to understand one another okay, but when talking to anybody else they often get distracted by superfluous clues or imagined layers of meaning instead of interpreting what was actually said. They find focussed deep thought difficult; after just a few hours concentrating on a single thing, they desperately need a break.

        The fact that my package deal gets an entry in the Big Book of Mental Disorders, and hers does not, isn’t because she is healthier or happier or a better person than me. It’s because hers is the default one, and mental-health frameworks have a tendency to equate “illness” with “deviation from the norm” – something which is itself inherently othering.

        I’m not uncomfortable with the idea of being classified as “ill” or “disabled”. But I’m very uncomfortable with being classified as “ill” *on that basis*. An illness invites attempts at “cure”, and when the illness is deviation from the norm then the “cure” is to try to normalise our behaviour, no matter what harm it might do.

        (Indeed, I think that conflation of “illness” with “deviation from the norm” is a big part of why so many people *don’t* interpret glasses as a disability aid.)

        Meanwhile, there’s no room in that framework for recognising positive differences. Something like hyperfocus, which can be a great strength and source of joy for us, has to be reframed as a negative if it’s to be seen at all.

        Because we also don’t have a framework for handling “deviation from the norm” other than as “illness”, there are times when I have had to invoke that medical classification in relation to autism. But it doesn’t sit easy with me.

        1. Ali*

          This is why I’m keen on the social model of disability, even though some of it in its strongest form sits a bit uncomfortably with me. The social model framing makes it easier for me to see myself as as disabled, not because there is something wrong with me (ADHD and probably autism too – am sitting with that for a bit before seeking formal assessment), but because the way society is built sees some of my traits as problems. In another society, I might not be disabled. (Not everyone likes the social model and I get that, but it’s helpful for me.)

          1. just some guy*

            I think the social model is a very useful thing to have in the mental toolkit as long as one understands that all models are approximations, and whether they’re good or bad models depends on where you’re using them. My understanding is that the social model is often less helpful for conditions like depression and chronic pain where even the most supportive society might not fully mitigate the negatives of those conditions.

            For me personally, the social model is helpful for tackling questions like “do I ask for disability accommodations?” But when somebody else pigeonholes my autism as “disability” that categorisation is very often *not* based in the social model. If it’s based in the medical model that assumes differences to be deficits, or in “Rain Man” stereotypes and assumptions about what the life of an autistic person must be like, then I’m going to contest that categorisation and possibly the entire model they’re basing it in.

        2. Happy*

          Thank you very much for sharing your perspective! This was a really thought-provoking and interesting comment.

      2. Enescudoh*

        This was really provocative (in a good way!) to read so thank you!
        I guess the subtext of my answer, and possibly the LW’s (though not trying to mindread), was that I wouldn’t want it to appear that I was claiming I had undergone the same experiences – like I know people won’t make snap judgments about me, I won’t be infantilised, I’ve never missed out on anything as a result… so whilst I’m not “opting out” of being disabled, I do feel in some circumstances I should “opt out” of spaces for disabled people, because I haven’t experienced most (or indeed any!) of the oppression. I have a lot of privilege proportionally to disabled people so I don’t want to take up room. But you are right, I should probably work to take out the word ‘technically’ or ‘legally’ when I describe myself.

  9. The Prettiest Curse*

    #3 – I take notes during in-person interviews, as it’s useful to refer back to them later if it’s a multi-round interview process. And also because I tend to wave my hands around when talking and when I’m nervous it makes me overdo the hand-waving. I’ve found that having something else to do with my hands other than waving is a good tactic to reduce nerves and stay focused.

    1. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

      That’s interesting, usually when I’ve taken notes in an interview to help my thought processes, the interviewers have made it clear that I won’t be allowed to remove the notes from the room. Are you always allowed to take your notes with you?

      1. CharlieBrown*

        That is absolutely bizarre! Who are you applying to? Top-secret spy agencies?

        Not being able to take the notes pretty much negates the entire purpose of taking notes.

      2. Yoyoyo*

        I always take notes in interviews and have never had anyone comment on it. Do you work in a field with significant security concerns?

  10. Astrid*

    #2 I’m a lifelong teetotaler (no judgments, I just don’t care for the taste of alcohol), but I love product design. When I was a first-year associate, I would occasionally treat myself to a fancy bottle of root beer. One afternoon, the managing partner made repeated passes outside of my office before he came up with some excuse to come in and ask me a question. Only then did I notice that he was eyeing the label on the bottle and I made the connection that he thought I was brazenly drinking beer. I shrugged it off because he wouldn’t come clean about why he was being so nosy. (He needn’t have worried – considering how many closet alcoholics I’ve encountered in my profession, it’s unlikely that anyone with a problem is going to be consumely alcohol in the open. )

    I guess I’ve remained fairly jaded over the last 20 years – even if it may be misperceived, I’m still not likely to cover up a beautiful bottle of pricey root beer.

    1. Captain Swan*

      There are a few brands of ginger ale where the design on the can looks similar to a beer can. I have occasionally brought one to work to drink and also occasionally received some good natured ribbing about drinking on the job. Since anyone making a comment is someone that I have a long professional relationship I would just joke with right back. They all know that I am a one glass of white wine and then water person.
      But if someone who didn’t know me was eyeing my ginger ale, that I might comment on.

  11. Manglement Survivor*

    I have always been taught the appearance of impropriety is something that can set you up for trouble. I think there’s nothing wrong with your colleague drinking a hops-based beverage. But pouring it into a glass would definitely be more prudent.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      or maybe a fancy stainless steel water bottle! I have like six of these that various organizations have given me.

      1. DragoCucina*

        I do that with my diet cola. When perception influences reception of my presentation, presuming I’m drinking water from my stylish steel bottle is not a bad thing. If someone asks, I’m honest and tell them I’m keeping my caffeine level up.

  12. Manglement Survivor*

    As long as Eric has not tried to entice OP into his MLM, he’s probably OK to keep as a mentor. Hopefully it’s a sign that he knows to stay away from that topic at work.

  13. AmericanExpat*

    In my field, it would be weird if you didn’t take notes during an interview. How do you organise your thoughts to give a substantive response to a STAR Q? I always find it odd when people answer Qs right away (unless they have a slam dunk answer already) instead of taking a moment to think it through and strategise a response.

    Also when you ask questions, people are telling you stuff that they expect you want to know and retain… just make sure it doesn’t interfere with your ability to be present and engaged in the moment.

    For the non-beer beer guy, I would just keep drinking whatever I was drinking at work before I decided to cut back on beer consumption at home. Makes the whole thing a non-issue.

    For pizza person, perhaps you aren’t clear that you are subsidising the pizza and people are just taking home what they perceive as leftovers because they want them to go to waste? I’d be clear about the total cost and how much you are paying for. Also if you have whole pizzas leftover, maybe order less?

    1. I should really pick a name*

      People’s brains work differently. You might need that moment, but not everyone does.
      Also, if you’ve been interviewing a lot, you’ve been asked the same questions a lot of times and probably don’t need to think about the answers anymore.

      1. Allonge*

        Also, for some jobs you need to have a ‘well, that’s a difficult one, nothing comes to mind right now, let me see… [skill you asked about] was of course very important in my job at X, when I was doing Y, so, oh, yes, that’s a good example, I was [actual answer]‘ kind of patter down while you are thinking.

        And for a lot of us this comes pretty naturally after a while.

      2. AmericanExpat*

        if you’re getting a STAR Q and you use a canned response, we can tell. I recommend taking the moment, even if you think you don’t need it.

        1. Allonge*

          I would never argue against thinking for a second, but there are plenty of behavioral questions that are used frequently enough in interviews that it’s actually a good idea to have a response to them in your pocket (tell me about a time when you needed to manage a difficult customer, conficting deadlines etc.).

          Canned does not mean untrue, it can mean the interviewee prepared well/with some luck. Why take notes for something where you do have a good response?

          1. Willow Pillow*

            I agree. I don’t understand how to do well in a job interview without that level of preparation. It’s not like the questions are unique!

        2. Hen in a Windstorm*

          You’re obviously implying that “we can tell”=”this is bad”. You’re mistaken. And FYI, you’re admitting you discriminate against neurodiverse people. A pre-prepared response is acceptable. It is how some people get through the anxiety and stress of an interview.

          I recommend you stop judging people for being prepared.

        3. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          After the 15th interview with the same old behavioral questions, you will get a “canned” response, because the 15 interviewers before you asked the same danged question!! If you flunk interviewees for having a practiced answer, you are essentially saying you don’t want organized, prepared and experienced people. Are you really sure that’s what you want to do?

          Yes, there are interview prep guides out on the web that tell you the most common behavioral questions. It’s considered a plus if you actually have prepared and practiced STAR answers to these. To bounce people who are prepared for your oh so (not) unique questions is, IMO, not very smart.

    2. Samwise*

      When I was in grad school, we were advised to take a minute to think about the question — even if we had already formulated an answer. Otherwise we risked looking glib and smarty-pants-ish. Some colleges/U’s — it was ok to be our usual snappy, well-trained selves. But for many it was not. Since part of an interview for a tenure track job is seeing if you all want to work together for decades, it was important not to be off-putting.

      “Hmm, let me think a minute…”

      U of Chicago. We were trained and expected to think while listening and be able to talk intelligently right away. So we really had to work at not doing that…

  14. AmericanExpat*

    On the disability one, I think it’s totally fair that people don’t want to disclose. I am not sure I would, unless I really trusted the company was asking from a good place.

    But for companies committed to increasing diversity, these are good questions to ask so that hiring managers have data to challenge their unconscious biases. People really gravitate to very traditional means of assessing candidates (eg, standard degrees, mini-mes, etc) without realising it.

    1. just another queer reader*


      I’m conflicted because from the employer/ DEI side this data is incredibly useful!

      AND from the employee side I 100% am wary of sharing any of that info with my employer

      I think it’s also tough because like, I can guarantee that most companies are discriminating even without seeing the data. AND how are you going to make progress (and know that you’re making progress) without the data?

      It’s a real pickle!

      1. Johanna Cabal*

        I also worry people lying on these forms because they think, “If I say my race is X, I’ll get preferential treatment.” Or, more nefariously, as part of a calculated effort against DEI. People like that do exist (and I’m sure some companies encourage this to “make their numbers look good”).

        But perhaps I worry too much…

        1. Super Anon*

          That is what I was thinking too. For companies that have to have so many of a demographic, does this sway things?

          I am hiring now and our company asks these questions too on the application, but I don’t see them. I don’t know who does. Maybe HR? And at what point in the hiring process do they see them?

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            For my company, only HR sees them. And they can see them at the beginning of the process, but they have no input into any decisions around hiring and the information is not accessible to the hiring team.

            We test the pool at different points along the way to see if diversity fell off at any specific point. This helps us continually adjust our hiring process. Those metrics may be reported to the hiring team, but only as percentages.

      2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        There’s also an aspect where I don’t consider myself to have a disability… but I have dietary restrictions that would be extremely disabling if I weren’t in a position to control my own food. So on the one hand it feels like data that’s valuable to the employer, but also I feel weird claiming a disability so that they can feel like they’re doing a good job on their DEI efforts.

    2. Captain Swan*

      My daughter has a disability that qualifies and she normally doesn’t disclose it. Her choice since odds are she wouldn’t need accomodations to perform the job anyway.
      Most companies ask because if they are required to provide data to EEOC.

    3. Saraquill*

      I’d rather disclose the need for disability accommodations after I’ve already received the job offer. If I’m still an applicant, I don’t know if my answers will be used as an excuse not to hire me.

  15. bamcheeks*

    Is the MLM “pressure others to buy huge amounts of stock by promising they’ll get rich, and get them to pressure others who you’ll also get a commission from”, or “take a few orders from friends and family / door-to-door and get a small commission”? I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with the latter, but the former would make me question their ethical judgment and their business sense.


    #4. I’m unclear what the OP expects to happen with the “leftover” pizza. If it’s lunchtime, it’s rude to eat/take home half the pie. But by writing “leftover” it sounds like everyone ate. No matter who pays for food, either someone takes home leftovers or it goes in the trash. Does the OP want to take it home? If so, they need to say upfront, I contributed $x to buy the pizza and if there are any extras, I’m taking it home. And if the OP doesn’t want it, I think it’s great that someone saved it from the trash. Buy less pizza if leftovers bother you.

    1. PsychNurse*

      That’s what I thought too! If there is a big communal pizza lunch, and after everyone is done, who is supposed to take the extra home? If it’s LW, that’s fine, but he needs to make that explicit. It’s not fair to assume people know they should leave it there / waste it.

    2. Snow Globe*

      I’m thinking the LW may have paid $30-$40 to make up the cost, so expected they would be the one to take the leftovers, and was surprised that someone who chipped in $5 thought they were entitled to an entire pizza.

      1. Allonge*

        To be honest even if the pizza-financing situation is completely 100% clear to everyone (which may not be the case), even then the leftovers are a bit of a questionable territory – sure, I would ask but cold pizza may or may not appeal to a lot of people on any given day.

        I would not take it for granted that someone who contributed more even wants the thing, no matter who paid what. If OP wants all the leftovers, or ordered an extra pizza to take home, they need to spell that out.

      2. Snell*

        That’s still on LW for paying extra. As far as any other coworkers know, LW also paid $5. This isn’t a case of the coworkers thinking their $5 contribution entitles them to as much leftovers as LW’s greater contribution. The coworkers are completely in the dark about the greater burden LW voluntarily takes on. It’s not reasonable to resent others for ignoring your sacrifice when they don’t even know you sacrificed substantially more than everyone else.

        As for taking home whole pizzas, I’m in agreement with a number of other commenters here—if everyone has had a chance to get seconds, thirds, etc. as they wish, then when work is over, well, so far as everyone except LW is concerned, they all contributed to the pizza. At that point, whoever wants leftovers figures out among themselves how much goes to who. For some reason, LW has not involved themselves in doling out leftovers, even though that would address all their complaints.

    3. doreen*

      The way the OP writes that some people will take home an entire pizza makes me think that the issue is that one person is taking the entire pizza, rather than multiple people each taking a slice or two. But I’m really not sure what the OP can do about that other than pay in full and take the leftovers.

    4. The Pizza Whisperer*

      It sounds like the solution to Pizza LW’s problem is just buy less pizza? Maybe OP doesn’t need to be “making up the difference” if they regularly have so many leftovers. Also, if there are about 10 people, they probably need four pizzas…if one large pizza is at most 20 dollars (though I found some for 10), that’s only 60 dollars, so OP is just paying an extra 10. If OP is buying way more pizzas than that, they could just order less…or even have people chip in a bit more.

      1. Snell*

        Yeah, one thing about this letter that struck me as off (not rising to the level of looking bad on LW, just…a little bit weird) was that LW is buying surplus pizza and getting miffed that people were taking home leftovers. In the LW’s words, their coworkers take home pizza “if it is leftover,” so it doesn’t seem to be a case of blatant hogging.

        TBH I wouldn’t see subsidized pizza (that I contributed some of my own money for) as “very generous.” It’s a nice gesture that makes the workplace a little brighter, but since it’s the first thing LW mentioned, their generosity (perceived and actual) seems important to them, which might be why they’re buying so much pizza that there are whole pies leftover. I just think that if LW covered the entire cost of less pizza, their colleagues would see them as MUCH more generous, it eliminates any possible resentment over unequal contributions, and there would be fewer leftovers, so LW won’t be getting put off by people taking home huge amounts of leftover pizza.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Yep. From the description OP is buying too much–maybe to have the leftovers, but it would be easier simply to order extra for herself and keep the box in her office or in the fridge with her name on it if that’s the goal.

    5. Person of Interest*

      OP – could you ask people to contribute to the pizza order with a “$X per slice” rather than just asking people to chip in $5? This might get you closer to the actual amount of both cash and pizza that you need, and would signal to the moochers that you only get to take what you pay for? (Not that some people won’t mooch anyway…)

  17. PsychNurse*

    #1, I definitely think you should let the MLM thing go. All of us make decisions that other people would find questionable or disagree with. If you separate from this mentor because of his MLM, think about your potential next one. Does he run any shady side businesses? Who did he vote for in the last election? Does he mow his lawn at 7am even though his neighbors have asked him not to?

    1. 3lla*

      I love taking notes at in person interviews because it gives my an opportunity to write down the interviewer(s) name at the beginning, which I would otherwise instantly forget.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think you’re right that you’re going to run into issues with any mentor, but that doesn’t mean that you should let it go. It might mean you don’t *end* the relationship completely, but it should definitely change how completely you buy into the advice they give you.

      In theory, you should always be running professional advice through some kind of filter in your head. This just tweaks the filter. So the lawn mowing, maybe that doesn’t impact professional judgment. If you voted a certain way in the last election, maybe that does sway your bias towards certain things that may come up in a work setting (that would definitely be true working in nonprofits). Different things in people’s lives might reflect on their risk tolerances, someone upthread mentioned gambling. And on and on.

      The takeaway being: everyone has biases, nothing we do exists in a vacuum, and if you’re in a mentoring relationship with someone their biases have a strong chance of impacting you. So taking what they say with a grain of salt and understanding where they might be coming from is never bad a stance.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Two of those are things that would absolutely be dealbreakers for me in a mentor and I don’t know why they shouldn’t be. The other one would only be a dealbreaker for me in a neighbor…

  18. Aunt Dahlia*

    Remember that you’re interviewing the company just as much as they’re interviewing you. They take notes, you take notes.

  19. Perfectly Particular*

    Re: note~taking in interviews, I’m guessing this varies by industry. I work in a technical field, and at 3 of the 4 companies I’ve interviewed at, the interviews lasted for a full work day, with 5 or more people. Notes are absolutely required, or you won’t remember who you met with and what was important about that interview. (It’s pretty common to not carry business cards in our roles). Also, you need to have at least 8 questions ready to go (2 per interviewer/panel with some repeats)and some place to write down those answers. Sometimes there are math problems, and you can bet I’m writing down those details before I try to formulate an answer!

  20. DJ Abbott*

    #3, I took notes in my interview and explained that I like to take notes to refer back to, and this is a big help in learning processes and procedures. I got the job. :)

  21. L*

    #4 Echo everyone else’s comments but also: I’m honestly confused how many pizzas you’re buying for 10 people that costs so much. And the fact that there is a whole pie left over also seems to indicate you’re buying too much pizza. This is an informal lunch, not a company-sponsored pizza party event. You don’t need everyone to have 4 slices and guaranteed leftovers. A couple slices for everyone seems totally sufficient.

    1. londonedit*

      I’m willing to accept there are places where pizza is more expensive than London, and I don’t know, maybe the OP is ordering nice artisan pizza where each one is £10 or something, but generally, I agree. Where I live there are always a ton of BOGOF deals or similar on Domino’s or Pizza Hut or whatever, and you can definitely get a load of pizza for a £5 contribution per person if you’re doing one of those.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Our local pizza place (so, nicer than Dominos but not “super fancy artisan”) run $17 for a 14-inch pizza and $20 for a 16-inch pizza with no toppings. Which is large, yes, but I assume you’d go with bigger pies if you were trying to feed a crowd. The pound and the dollar are not too far off each other. You can only feed a crowd on $5/person if you’re getting dirt-cheap Little Ceasars, I think.

        1. Malarkey01*

          Nah, I order pizza for kids’ events and when you start getting into 3+ pizzas it gets a lot cheaper. If I’m not doing delivery and not doing specialty pizzas I can easily feed people for $5 a person (combination adults and pre teens). When I get to teens, the cost does go up to around $7.50 a head because some of them literally inhale the pizza.

          Chains are a lot cheaper than any of our independent places too. $20 for a large no topping pizza is high when comparing to chains.

        2. Loch Lomond*

          Yeah our place is about $20 for a large (it’s worth it!) so it may be a “treating to a nice pizza” situation vs functionality with just Dominos or something.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        The place we usually order from charges about $8 per pizza, so even when you factor in sales tax and the delivery fee, $5 per person is plenty.

        We’ve done pizza twice since I started here, and both times the person placing the order asked for people’s topping preferences and a rough estimate of how much everybody wanted so we’d be sure to have enough without having to pay extra for food we didn’t need.

        I think if LW wants to stop feeling resentful on pizza days, they need to be a little more intentional about their process.

    2. BubbleTea*

      If I buy a pizza it’s going to cost at least £12, but that’s because I’m vegan and don’t fully trust the new vegan offerings from places like Papa John’s not to be cross contaminated.

      1. Tyra*

        If you’re in the delivery range I would wholeheartedly recommend Yard Sale (for vegans and non-vegans alike). It’s so good.

  22. Tobias Funke*

    Interesting to see the comments change with regard to MLM over the years. I’m not saying op needs to cut ties with the mentor by any stretch. But there is no non predatory MLM.

    1. Stitch*

      I have to agree with this fully. The whole business model is predatory and targets people who are least able to afford it (usually stay at home moms and military wives). Pretty much everyone who joins loses money, sometimes substantial amounts. Those who do make money do so by taking advantage of others.

    2. LB33*

      I’m not too familiar w/MLMs but is that true even of examples given here, like Tupperware, which many commenters are saying is benign?

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think a *true* MLM is predatory, because the “multi-level” part is specifically about the fact that the money comes when you recruit others, adn the need to buy stock in the first place. But traditionally there was a sell-at-home model used by Tupperware, Avon, Ann Summers, Body Shop which was just one-level– you effectively were a mini-franchise, you contracted directly with the organisation, and you used your social networks to take orders and sell, not to *recruit*. I don’t know if that still exists or if they’re all turned into multi-level now.

        1. londonedit*

          I think there is still a difference – I mentioned further up that The Body Shop and Neal’s Yard Remedies have offshoot ‘direct selling’ arms to their businesses, which are basically MLMs because the way it works is that someone becomes an ‘independent consultant’ and then the way they make money is by getting people to host parties in exchange for discounted products. I think that’s also the way things like Tupperware have always worked. I think there’s also some level of ‘Hey, if anyone at this party wants to become an independent consultant too, here’s how you sign up and here’s how much money you can make’, but I’m not sure whether the original consultant would get any kind of commission from people they recruit.

          That’s where the really predatory ones differ, I think – with those, the whole model is that you can’t realistically make money unless you become a ‘top-level’ consultant with a stream of lower-level people below you that you’ve recruited, and who are actually managing to sell stuff themselves, whose sales go towards commission for you as the top level. Those are the ones where the lower-level people get scammed into the idea that they have to constantly buy the latest products and hold a certain amount in stock, so they’re mainly just spending their own money on stock they can’t shift – friends and family might buy a bit to start with, but those sales quickly fall away and meanwhile they’re being told they can’t move up unless they start recruiting people and unless they buy the latest ‘kit’ to showcase the products. The company pushes aggressive selling and recruitment tactics, and promises huge prizes for the people who supposedly reach the upper levels and get ‘promoted’. And even the top-level people won’t make much money as their income relies on everyone else selling stuff. There *might* be one or two people who do manage to make some cash, but on the whole it’s all a scam.

          1. to varying degrees*

            Yeah, those seem more concerned with the actual selling than recruiting. Like I don’t consider Pampered Chef in the same category as Young Living (?). Whenever I’ve gone to the former it’s always “hey if you want to host something…” almost as an afterthought.

            I’ve had to block people from those essential oil groups.

          2. Nea*

            Agreed that the definition of “predator” is in how important it is for the MLM runner to aggressively recruit new sellers.

            IMO, this is because the “good” MLMs – Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Avon – have decent products and can thus earn profit by selling those products. You can go directly to any of those companies dot coms and buy products directly now.

            Whereas the predatory ones force you to have a downline to make a profit (making them ponzi schemes) or force you to buy product sight unseen (Lularoe) – anything to make a profit OTHER than “buy this product, it’s nifty.”

          3. Bookmark*

            I think the other distinction here is that the overall business structure of MLMs are inherently on a scale from problematic to villainous, but in some of them it’s possible to be an individual seller with individual business practices that are no less unethical than any other way we operate under capitalism. i.e. low to no pressure sales tactics, not spending a bunch of money on inventory you may never sell, not recruiting people for a downline, etc. The distinction matters for how the OP deals with her mentor, though it doesn’t change the fact that she’s wise to be very very skeptical of the industry as a whole.

      2. Loch Lomond*

        Tupperware is a weird case, because it’s one of the only ones where a) you can buy it other places and b) the product is actually genuinely good.

        1. Loch Lomond*

          (Which is not to excuse its MLM structure. All MLMs should be illegal, and WOULD be if Amway didn’t have friends on the Supreme Court when that case was decided.)

    3. LulaNO*

      For real, some of these comments are showing just how effective MLMs are at brainwashing their sellers and the people around them.

      1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        My mother sold Tupperware and Avon in the 60s. Technically both of those are and were MLMs. The difference between them and the predatory ones are that A) The products were the focus, B) You could actually make money by selling the products, and didn’t need a “downline”, and C) They did not push aggressive marketing techniques. Amway used to be one of the non-predatory ones, but that changed in the 70s/80s – now they are essentially a prosperity gospel cult.

        If you’ve ever bought Avon or Tupperware, you have participated in an MLM as a buyer.

  23. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

    Re #3: I’m a little old school since I started interviewing over 20 years ago, but I keep a portfolio just for interviewing. It has at least one extra copy of my resume in it (for me to refer to and to give out to other people, in case it’s a group interview and no one printed out copies for everyone) and my handwritten notes, on ruled paper, on the company. It usually has the name of the company, the address, the time and date of the interview, and my notes about the company and any question I have for them.

    I’ve only ever had one person ask to see my notes (I was more than happy to oblige) and I don’t think anyone has ever said anything about my note taking. I agree that mostly, I take note about what the interviewers said (answers to questions I had, relevant details about the job/company that I didn’t find in the posting or on their website). I might reference my own resume if they ask about a job (mainly to see how I phrased something on the resume) and I don’t take notes while I’m answering or to prepare for an answer.

    I am an office assistant and have done mostly that type of work (some specialized, some not) so I’m not usually interviewing for a highly specialized position. Most people seem happy that I’ve taken time to prepare and know something about their company and the work they do. I don’t know that any of them dinged me for taking notes- if they did, they never mentioned it.

  24. Stitch*

    I’ll be honest, I take notes in meetings and interviews because it’s an outlet for nervous fidgeting.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yup. It also helps me focus on the meeting and gives me something to do if I’m not an active participant in a meeting.

  25. CharlieBrown*

    Bill seems to think it’s a great thing that Eric can hold down a full-time job and also take part in this MLM.

    Something about this bothers me, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Is Eric not paid a good enough salary that he needs a side-hustle? Is Eric working 60-70 hours at his regular job? Does Eric have such a busy personal life (kids, dogs, cats, elderly parents?) that he shouldn’t have that much spare time? Is this MLM making him work a full 30-40 hours a week on top of everything else?

    There is something fishy in the state of Denmark, methinks.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      For me it’s the commenters up above saying maybe it’s one of the innoculious MLM schemes, old school tupperware party type. If feel like what the LW paraphrased Bill saying makes it sound like Bill thinks Eric is working hard (a number of hours) on this MLM scheme.

      On the other side of the equation is that the LW didn’t know about it until Bill mentioned it so Eric hasn’t mentioned it all. Points for Eric being professional about it and not bringing it up to the LW at his workplace.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, if Bill doesn’t realise it’s an MLM/direct selling thing and thinks Eric really is an ‘independent consultant’ with his own business, then I can imagine him thinking ‘wow, Eric puts in a shift at his day job AND runs his own business on the side’.

    2. Myrin*

      I might be misreading you but that statement actually gave me the exact opposite mental image – Bill is impressed that Eric can devote time and energy to his MLM, all while being a good employee at his full-time job (I’m inferring “good” because the part you quoted is exaclty the kind of situation where a boss would say “well, no wonder he sucks (since he only puts in 20 hours of work while spending the rest of his time dealing with his MLM)” but it’s in fact the opposite).

      1. OP #1*

        This is the impression I got from Bill! Eric is a great employee, at least as far as I know, and so far hasn’t steered me wrong, at least in the eyes of Bill and my teammates, I think. To clarify, we are hourly and task-oriented, so generally everyone puts in exactly 40 hours and then goes on their way.

        1. Nea*

          The vibe I’m getting off Bill in this description is “I like the product Eric sells.”

          Obligatory disclaimer, I used to sell Pampered Chef, so feel free to filter though that statement. That experience is why I’m going to repeat what a lot of people are saying – that there are predatory MLMs where the profit comes from a “downline” of recruits and requires an aggressive approach by the seller, vs and neutral-to-decent MLMs where the profit comes from actually selling the product, allowing for a low-pressure small-change sideline for a sales person.

          Both MLMs include “well-known” names – if you want to know which one Eric is in, go to the company’s main website. Predatory ones try to get you to sign up as a sales person. Product-based ones allow you to buy their products directly from them.

          I think it’s incredibly important for you to know which one Eric is in if you’re putting his mentorship at stake. Judging him for putting emotional/economic pressure on people outside the office is one thing; judging him for selling spatulas in person to people who want to see them first rather than buy online is quite another.

            1. Bookmark*

              Unfortunately the distinction between the two isn’t so clear-cut because the FTC was basically prevented from going after all but the most egregious cases of MLMs operating more like pyramid schemes due to some of these companies’ (specifically Amway) political connections. The first season of The Dream podcast goes into some depth about how this happened.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      When I was a bank teller I worked with a guy who had a “side-hustle” lawn care business. If Bill were describing something like that I could see it as a good/impressive thing. He clearly had a good work ethic but the bank job didn’t require any overtime or anything so he was able to devote a lot of his other time to the lawn business. He was like aggressively ambitious and I personally did not have any desire to emulate him but I know that’s a trait a lot of people admire.

      But he actually, genuinely owned his own business so for me it’s really only the MLM aspect that makes what Bill said concerning.

    4. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      I read it more like when someone runs a marathon or is a triathlete and does that well on top of doing well at the job. People are inordinately impressed by those of us who get up early to do something with our lives besides our jobs. I tend to get–and hear–a lot of “that aMAZEing!” type comments, and I’d put this in that bucket.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Plenty of people have a side hustle even though their day job is more than sufficient to pay the bills and give them a nice lifestyle. One reason I often see is that it’s insurance against an unexpected layoff or downturn in whatever industry the day job is in. And the very definition of a side hustle is that it doesn’t take nearly as much of one’s time as the day job — a lot of side hustles are 100% or nearly 100% passive income.

      Said differently, there are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy

  26. MicroManagered*

    OP4 I think this is how petty office resentments are born… People are chipping in and then thinking “well there are whole pizzas left over, someone has to take it” (which is understandable) and you are thinking “well but I chipped in more than anyone else, so if there’s a whole pizza left over, I should get dibs” (which is also understandable but also attaches some strings to your generosity).

    Personally, I say stop doing it. If 10 people want to chip in on pizza for lunch, have them chip in their real share (how much more could it be?) and then the leftovers can be divvied up the usual way — which might still mean someone ends up taking home a whole pizza, but alleviates you being generous and then feeling some type of way about what happens to leftovers.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Right, that’ll be my advice too. OP, don’t pay extra and there will be no resentment. And someone taking an entire pizza home will be shut down a lot quicker if there are 1-2 pizzas total for the group to share vs a large enough number that there are whole pies left over after everyone has eaten.

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    The thing I don’t get about the pizza is that LW says $50 for all the people won’t cut it, but if there are leftovers maybe the $50 is enough, so is there even a need for LW to be paying extra”

  28. CatLady*

    LW #3 – taking notes in an interview

    I’ve always done this and when I’m interviewing someone I think its a good thing when they do.

    For remote video calls, regardless of which side of the interview I’m on, I call out right at the beginning that if I seem briefly distracted it is because I’m taking notes (usually in an app, not on paper), and not because I’m texting someone on the side. It seems a bit awkward to say, but I think its very important to do so.

  29. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    My interview note taking is as follows: Bring an ordinary note pad. Along the left margin is reminder notes about questions I have and stories I plan to tell. The topics come right out of the job posting, which I’ve heavily notated and have with me but don’t refer to during the interview.
    Teeny tiny lettering that maybe takes 2 inches along the left column.
    Top of the page is for me to try to capture everyone’s name and title, and to jot words about them. I draw it like a map because sometimes I remember where the question came from physically instead of who said it.

    The real estate that’s left is for whatever the heck else I might need to write down to remember in the moment, but really I don’t use it.

    When the Do You Have Any Questions part comes along, I run down my little list and confirm that we covered all the topics and either ask the leftovers, or restate the most relevant and my take away from when we discussed it.

  30. JTP*

    Thank you so much for the answer to question #5! This comes up all the time on the Anti-Work subreddit and uninformed people give so much misinformation about that part of the application.

    1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

      IIRC, they really do keep it separate. I always disclose on those demographic forms, albeit not what type of disabilities I have.

  31. BellyButton*

    I will silently judge anyone involved in a scammy MLM, but as long as they don’t come at me with “a great business opportunity” I will keep my judgment to myself.

    1. Looper*

      If I was in sales and found out my mentor managed to convince dozens of people to get into his MLM “downstream”, I’d honestly still want his advice lol

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Great example of how this could be beneficial to OP, honestly. I think it’s all about knowing how it might change or impact the mentoring relationship – in sales, specifically, it might be helpful.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Side note – a family member was looking for a job in sales after college, drove 50 miles one way in a suit and tie for an 8AM interview, only to realize that it was for an MLM. They herded all candidates (20-30) into a meeting room, and, after a brief talk about the company, had everyone introduce themselves. When Family Member’s turn came, he stood up and said “my name is FM and I think this is an MLM” to which the interviewer said “well that’s what you think, haha” and FM walked out. Gave his visitor badge to the person at the front desk, wished them “good luck with your pyramid scheme”, and drove the 50 miles home. Now working in actual B2B sales! word of caution for those looking for work in that field. FM could’ve saved himself a 100 mile roundtrip if he’d googled the company name the night before.

  32. B Wayne*

    Interesting to see that question on the sparkling water can. Until I watched a culinary type video on YouTube last night showing a couple of cans I didn’t know these existed. This guy has had a number of local IPAs and craft beers on his videos so I had to pause and look close at the can and finally figured out it must be IPA flavored sparkling water. Two references in about 12 hours for something I didn’t know was available.

  33. Looper*

    As someone who’s done office admin in a variety of settings and in turn thrown away A LOT of leftover pizza, I would like to advise everyone to make a plan for leftover pizza at the moment you bring it into the office and state it to the group who will be sharing in said pizza. So many hurt feelings and so much needlessly wasted food because of unstated expectations and mismatched personal views on manners/relationships to food/office politics.

  34. Fluffy Fish*

    I’ve seen some comments along the lines of oh not all mlms are bad. It is the business model itself is predatory and in every single one, even the ones people think aren’t so bad, the vast majority of people lose money. Some people doing ok doesn’t change that. There’s so much information out there on this – they’re all bad.

    That said I wouldn’t end a work relationship over it unless they were trying to rope me in or sell me something. The thing with mlm’s is they spend a lot of time and money on how to convince people its a good thing – I’m not going to hold it against people that they fell for it.

  35. BellyButton*

    The way our disability, gender, race, vet questions are sorted and uploaded into our system means they are not seen by our recruiters or the hiring manager. They are for reporting purposes as Alison mentioned. As the leader of People Ops I look at the report to analyze the candidate pool and to make strategies around more diverse recruiting practices. The report I run doesn’t show anything about the candidate except their state and the job they are applying for.

  36. ABCYaBYE*

    OP2 – I had to chuckle because a coworker had a bottle of water on her desk yesterday that looked like an aluminum beer bottle. Our boss even joked with her about it. I’d say if there’s any sort of indication of the hops, it is probably best to find a way to cover it. Like Alison said, a koozie or a cup of some type would be best.

    OP4 – Call out those who are taking whole pizzas. Regardless of your payment setup, taking a whole pizza without first inquiring about anyone else wanting some when others have pitched in is terribly inconsiderate. I don’t know that you need to mention that you are paying more than everyone, but if someone takes a full pizza and then gives you any sort of crap for saying something about it, pull them aside and explain. Hopefully just telling them not to take a full pizza will be enough public shaming for it to not go farther.

    1. ABCYaBYE*

      Edit: Having full pizzas left over might mean you’re ordering too much. It doesn’t change that I think it is rude to just grab a whole leftover pizza and walk away with it without checking to see if people want some, too. But if you have a full pizza left over, you can probably slim down your order by at least one pizza going forward.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Same where I work: The purchaser would have dibs on leftover pizza, but we’d probably leave it in the break room for the evening shift. But anyone who just took a whole pizza would definitely get called out–that’s just wrong.

      And I agree that if there is that much left over, too much is being ordered.

  37. JustMe*

    #4 – that’s really nice of you, but I would actually suggest moving away from it and just telling people how much their share actually is. Some of them may really not want you to spend that much money on them. You are thinking, “I want to be generous and treat people” but they may think, “Wow, I make more than OP or am their project manager, if it comes out that they’re paying for my lunch, it could be a big issue.” Or they might think, “OP hasn’t been asking me to pay the full amount for lunch–do they think I can’t afford it?”

    Offering to place the order for your coworkers and/or go pick it up from the restaurant is a very nice gesture and generous enough on its own. At my office, one person in the chat will say, “Anyone want lunch from xxx? I’m placing an order–here’s the menu, I’ll pick it up for everyone, and you can just venmo me your portion.” It’s a very nice gesture on its own and everyone knows exactly what is “theirs.”

    1. JustMe*

      I’ll also add that we typically order things that are individually portioned (like bento boxes). If it’s a big meal where we’re all sharing (pizza, big platters of Mediterranean food) it’s typically all paid for by the department and is explicitly set up as a department lunch.

    2. Snell*

      Coworkers may even be thinking “LW is collecting money for pizza from me and multiple others. LW brings us pizza.” and stop thinking there. LW feels differently about the situation because they have information their coworkers do not. The coworkers’ ignorance of LW’s greater monetary contribution isn’t on them, though, it’s something LW elected to do on their own.

  38. Ari*

    This is such a funny question because I was drinking that exact beverage on a work call the other day. (It truly is just hops flavored seltzer, not even anything like non-alcoholic beer. I don’t even like beer, I just like the taste of this particular seltzer.) Anyway I became so paranoid that someone would think I was drinking a beer at 2 PM that I stopped the call to explain what it was to all my coworkers. I’ll be pouring it into a Yeti from now on just to avoid the perception of impropriety.

    1. Generic Name*

      Ha, something similar happened to me during Covid. I have these absolutely enormous stemless wineglasses that I won n a raffle. They fit a whole can of pop plus ice in them, so I use them for soft drinks/iced tea. I was drinking flavored iced tea in them during a meeting, and the ice had melted, so my red-tinged iced tea probably looked a lot like wine. I took a sip and watched my colleague get this horrified look on her face. I had to say, “no, this isn’t wine, it’s iced tea!!” I’m not sure she believed me.

      1. BellyButton*

        LOL I had the same thing happen. I have a stemless wine glass that is made from recycled windshield glass. I just like the size and weight of it so use it as my every day glass. I had watered down cranberry juice in it and when I saw it on the screen I was like “OH< BTW this is cranberry juice!!"

  39. JF*

    In the same boat as #5, and I usually say “I prefer not to answer”. Don’t want to lie, but there’s never any chance for clarification and it’s such a large list!

  40. SpringIsForPlanting!*

    For the “beer”, if it’s a small office, another way to go might be making a big deal of it. “Hey I found theses new things I really like! It tastes hoppy and stuff but it’s actually fizzy tea! They’re fun, wanna try one?”

  41. OP #1*

    I’m OP #1. First, thank you for your advice Alison! I really needed a gut check on this one and I appreciate you taking the time. Commenters too, of which I’m sure there’ll be many more, based on the subject matter! I will be reading them all for sure.

    I know people come down in a lot of different places on MLMs in general. I didn’t name the MLM mostly for anonymity’s sake, but it’s definitely one that is known for being especially predatory and terrible. But, in the six months I’ve been here, Eric has never mentioned it to me (Bill’s mentioning was the first I’d heard about it) which I hadn’t thought about as being a good sign until it was mentioned here.

    I also do want to give Bill the benefit of the doubt. It did seem at first pretty wild to me that Bill wouldn’t know about this MLM’s reputation, but you’re right–not everyone knows, and I should remember that!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      All information is useful information, and you have more information on Bill and Eric than you did before. Whether or not that means you can’t trust their judgment fully or if it just means you have a new grain of salt to take it with will depend a lot on the advice they’re giving you. But if you’re at the stage where the mentorship is optional, you probably have pretty good judgement yourself built up and I bet you can lean more towards the grain of salt end of things.

      1. OP #1*

        “All information is useful information,” is a great take I’m going to keep in my back pocket!

        I’m coming down on the side of, engage with a new mentor on my new team, since my job will be similar but not identical to the one I’m doing now, and maintain my relationship with Bill and Eric, taking things they suggest with a grain of salt.

  42. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – if your mentor hasn’t pushed you to join the MLM, I would take it that they have a good sense of boundaries, and would consider that they may have found a way to make the MLM work for them or that it isn’t one of the really bad ones, etc. Some people do make money out of MLMs, based on their sales.

    My sister joined one of the better ones for reasons other than making money – the one she joined gave her sales training that she needed in her regular consulting job, but which her company wasn’t providing. She did her research to find one that wasn’t exploitive, did pay some for the initial product, and while she found the level of work required to make real money at it wasn’t feasible while she had her full time job, she DID get sales training out of it that made it worth it for her. She was careful with how much product she bought and she resisted buying more than she knew she could sell within a few months time. She did the program for a couple years, until she felt she’d learned what she needed, then quit.

  43. LawBee*

    #2 – honestly, if he’s worried about how it looks, the easiest solution is just to not drink that beverage at work.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It does seem like a lot of effort and risk when you could just drink something else, I do agree.

    2. Cease and D6*

      Maybe I just have a suspicious mind, but if I saw someone with a can in a koozie (a word I have only just now realized I hate) I would immediately think they were drinking beer. Nobody ever uses those things for liquids that aren’t beer.

      The more you try to cover up your can of hop-branded hop-smelling liquid, the more it will seem like beer. I think those are probably best left at home.

      1. Parakeet*

        I’ll be honest, as someone who rarely drinks beer I didn’t know that people associated koozies specifically with beer until reading these comments! I always thought they were just for keeping any cold drink of the right size cold, and for a better grip!

  44. Dust Bunny*

    If you ask people to chip in, you’re not really treating. Pick one.

    (And I’m totally fine with contributing to a pizza fund if I plan to eat the pizza, nor will I eat pizza if I didn’t contribute any money.)

  45. One HR Opinion*

    LW #5 – If we were a Federal contractor we would periodically resurvey staff to let them know of the importance, the confidential nature of the information, and encourage them to report more accurately. I can tell you that we have track this in our system and literally 100% of people either said no or I wish not to disclose. We have someone who only has 1 leg and many that I am aware of that have other disabilities. Even I would qualify under the EEOC guidelines, but say no or wish not to disclose because I feel like unless I need an accommodation the company doesn’t need to know.

    As an applicant, I don’t see an advantage to answering the question other than prefer not to answer.

    1. Two Dog Night*

      The one I know of is Lagunitas’s Hoppy Refresher, but I don’t think the can is hoppy enough to fit the LW’s description. It’s delicious, thought!

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      When I looked up “hops flavored sparkling water”, HOP WTR is the first thing that came up. Other things that came up were DayPack, H2OPS, and Hop Splash.

      I’d say the DayPack and Hop Splash cans were the most “beer-looking” of the bunch.

  46. thatoneoverthere*

    There are alot of people who simply don’t understand that MLMs are predatory or how understand how they work entirely. I know myself I didn’t start hearing of this until about 2-3 years ago. I have alot of family and friends that sold MLM products. Until the LuLuRoe stuff came out not many people realized it. Even still, I have a lot of people in my life that don’t get it.

    Personally unless he tries and recruits you I would leave it be. He may not, and if he does a firm and simple “No” , hopefully will suffice.

  47. anonymous applicant*

    #2 I’m glad to know this exists as I don’t drink and this might be a good option to bring to events where people hassle me about why I don’t drink.
    #3 I literally had this come up in a zoom interview the other day. The interviewer said they were taking notes and might be looking down occasionally, I said I’d be taking notes too.
    #5 I was wondering about this, too. I don’t disclose because it’s none of their business but I wonder if they really are keeping the info separate and I might be missing out on opportunities. Same for gender, race, veteran status. Most systems let you opt out though one job I applied for didn’t let you opt out of gender or veteran status and only listed binary genders, ugh.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      #2 More people know about this, but there is a brand of canned, plain or flavored water in the US called “Liquid Death” that has very ‘heavy metal’-looking graphics on the can. An entrepreneur created it as an alternative to plastic-bottled water and after hearing about musicians at festivals who’d be refilling their “Monster Energy”/etc. cans with plain water to stay hydrated without getting jittery, but still looking cool.

    2. Green Goose*

      When I was pregnant but not ready to tell my coworkers I knew I needed a drink in my hand at an event or people who hassle me. I went to the bartender and discreetly told them I was pregnant and wanted a drink that looked like it had alcohol in it, and he winked at me and made a a virgin mojito! No one bugged me all night since I was driving and I just nursed my pretend alcohol and pretended it had booze in it, hah!

  48. Purple Loves Snow*

    To OP #5:
    In my country (non-USA) marking the box for disability actually gets me a merit point on my application and bumps me up the marking system (aka one step closer to getting the job). It is part of the DEI to have more folks with disabilities or from minorities in the work force. However, if I were ever to apply in the USA, I would not mark off the disability box due the perceived prejudices.

  49. JelloStapler*

    #2- I once was drinking out of a root beer bottle as a kid and my mom walked into the kitchen and did a double take. LOL!!

  50. Michelle Smith*

    LW1: I understand your concerns and I think that the relationships will naturally become more distant as you get integrated into your new office. I wouldn’t cut them off entirely, and I agree with Alison that it’s not necessarily a reflection of their character or intelligence (even I tried selling Avon at one point, without understanding the business model, so I’m not judging these people at all). But if it makes you uncomfortable, it’s okay to let these relationships naturally fade a bit while still maintaining professionalism and looking for mentorship opportunities at your new office. I’ve actually never worked anywhere where mentorship is this formalized – you’re allowed to develop relationships and seek advice from anyone you like, outside this program or not.

    LW2: He just should enjoy those beverages at home. I like those hoppy sparkling waters and fake beers too, but if I’m drinking them, I don’t even do it out of the can on Zoom. Same with Kombucha. Putting it in a glass at work is still going to require him to bring in the cans. There is a thing with judges where they are not just supposed to avoid unethical activities, but they are also required to avoid even the APPEARANCE of impropriety. A similar principle applies, in my mind, to your question. If there is a chance people are going to think he’s an alcoholic drinking on the job and/or has really poor judgement, why even bother risking it? There are plenty of other beverages he can drink until he gets home.

    LW4: I’m confused as to why you’re ordering so much pizza that this is regularly happening. Wouldn’t it make more sense to buy the amount that people paid for? If you’re charging for two slices a person and there are 10 people buying, that’s 2.5 pizzas. I wouldn’t buy more than 3, I’d explicitly state that people are to get 2 slices a piece and no extra, and I’d put the extra 4 slices away to take home after people have been served. Then, if someone wants to give their extra slice away to someone who wants 3 pieces, who cares?

    LW5: Alison is completely correct, but I also want to add that I often skip those questions and I’ve never had a problem getting interviews. If you are uncomfortable disclosing, even given the legal implications, don’t disclose. It literally does not hurt you either way.

    1. MicroManagered*

      I wouldn’t buy more than 3, I’d explicitly state that people are to get 2 slices a piece and no extra, and I’d put the extra 4 slices away to take home after people have been served. Then, if someone wants to give their extra slice away to someone who wants 3 pieces, who cares?

      I agree with you that OP4’s office is clearly buying too much pizza, but this also feels overly controlling. If one person wants 3 slices they should not need to find someone else who only wants 1 and do some kind of prisoner exchange.

      Normally you guesstimate 2 slices per person and then order slightly more than that to accommodate someone who might want more than 2. There shouldn’t be a need for such hard-line rules about the other 4 slices.

      If that’s what’s needed, this might just not be an office that can handle having a pizza party, I’m afraid. LOL

      1. Colette*

        I think it’s fine to say “$5 for 2 slices” – that way someone who knows they’ll want more can either pay more for extra slices, or order something else, or otherwise figure out how to get enough food.

        But since the OP isn’t charging people the full cost, she’s likely purposefully ordering too much pizza so everyone will have what they want, and it’s complicating the whole process.

  51. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

    How much pizza is she getting for 10 people? and how much extra is the OP talking about? Is she getting some super bougie pizza? A typical large pizza in my area is about $15 and 3 pizzas large pizzas would be enough for just 10 people maybe do 4 pizzas and that’s just a little more that the $50.

    I also wonder if the OP is asking people what they want? I would not want to pay $5 and then have a bunch of stuff I can’t eat.

    1. Green Goose*

      I live in a VHCOLA and a “cheap” large pizza is probably closer to $30, and bougie pizzas would be $55-$90 for a large. Unless you are going to Dominoes, I don’t think you’d be able to get a large for $15 around here. I remember being shocked when I offered to get my cousin and his wife pizza from a bougie-esque place for his birthday, thinking it would be closer to $30/$40 but the bill was close to $100 for two small pizzas and a salad.

  52. Elizabeth*

    #5: they may also be asking you for the purposes of creating evidence that you are not disabled (to combat a later claim for discrimination based on disability)

    1. NeutralJanet*

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those questionnaires that wasn’t voluntary or didn’t have a “prefer not to disclose” option (and LW5 notes that they’re talking about voluntary questions), so it would be a pretty convoluted scheme for a job to run.

    2. TruetalesfromHR*

      Absolutely not the case. It’s 100% for EEOC reporting as Allison said. Please don’t spread false information.

  53. Moonlight*

    LW5 / OP5 / LW #5:

    I fill out these forms. In a lot of ways, I don’t consider myself disabled but it’s largely because of how I have structured my life to limit the impact of my diagnoses on my life.

    That said, I realize that my conditions would make me disabled to others (think neurodivergences like a TBI, ADHD, or autism). I have come to realize how I’ve worked in many workplaces that are really NOT neurodivergent friendly, which contributes to my ongoing practice of not having permanent jobs. For example, due to having autism, I benefit from consistency in my work; a regular routine, limited interruptions, not being told last minute I have to do things that aren’t my job, especially when it means being public facing. Working for a neurodivergent friendly org and having forms like these means I can try to find out what the expectations are so that I can at least plan for it (e.g., because I realize that interruptions and sometimes having to cover other staff are “normal” even if it disturbs my sense of calm). Organizations that make no space for it have also been more ableist (also, you get rogue ableist managers even in orgs that, on the face of things, care, so it’s not a flawless system by any means).

    My point is that I can think about my conditions however I want, like I said, I don’t really feel like I am disabled, but I also realize that my diagnoses have an impact/role in how I approach my work and that I want to be able to be upfront about it so that I can be successful and not have to worry (or worry slightly less) about dealing with ablism if I try to talk about it with a manager or whatever. One thing I have learned from situations where my roles are largely unsupervised is that I do a lot better when I have managers who’ll support me when I need it, provide relevant training, will assign ad hoc tasks based on suitability in addition to whoever seems to have time, and who mostly don’t care how you go about it, they just want you to get your work done on time, accurately, and within any applicable ethical or legal frameworks. This might just sound like good management, but oh boy, I know we all have stories about ineffective managers, micromanagers etc. and I feel like the effects of bad management is compounded when you’re disabled, a parent, etc. (e.g., the kind of manager who’s a stickler for being on time and/or who expects people to stay late is 10 times worse when you have a kid that you can’t just not pick up from daycare). And if you’re able to be transparent about you’re disabilities from the get go it can be massively useful.

    Another reason I like to fill out the forms… so Allison already mentioned that a lot of large orgs have to report to the government or that it’s required for contracts, etc… but another reason that she didn’t touch on is because I want orgs to be able to go back and see that they’re not hiring women, disabled people, LGBTQIA, and/or people who are Black, Indigenous, Asian, etc. I want them to be able to go and look and hopefully have someone who will identify the discrepancy and push for change. I have been asked about my intentions to get pregnant in interviews, for example, and would prefer organizations be able to see that, for example, X number of people are identifying as women but are not being hired somewhere in the process at higher rates than men, white people, etc. (I’m not trying to point fingers at white men, I know y’all work hard!)

    All that said, I have friends who advocate the opposite way though; they are like “I need a job and I have bills to pay and can’t afford to risk being discriminated against unnecessarily”.

  54. Somehow_I_Manage*

    LW4: This whole scenario arises when a black and white situation is converted to gray. Stop sponsoring corporate expenses out of your own pocket. If it’s a business event, seek approval and reimbursement. If it’s a shared voluntary lunch, equitably share payment for lunch. The gray area is a no-mans land, where nobody can see you or help you. Boundaries are valuable in these situations.

  55. OP 2*

    OP 2 here! thanks for all the comments and thoughts. to reiterate what i posted in a few replies – my partner is not an alcoholic. he is not dependent on beer and would never drink on the job. he just likes bitter flavored beverages and this hop drink (“really really hoppy” from the brand hoplark) is just a recent discovery. frankly very few people come into his office these days (he’s there 3-4 days a week) and neither of his bosses are almost ever on site so, the chances of the appearance of impropriety is low, but i will suggest to him that something like a yeti or water bottle would be a good compromise if he wants to have one of the seltzers at the office

    1. Colette*

      I think a clear glass is the way to go, or the can itself. Having a bottle with a liquid you can’t see that smells like beer is going to lead to the reasonable conclusion that it is beer.

    2. Rosa Rosa Rosa Diaz Diaz Diaz*

      It sounds like he’s definitely not doing anything wrong, it’s just whether it’s worth the risk, and how important is it to drink it at work? It would have to be pretty important to me to take that risk, and I work a fairly rational, non judgmental workplace (most of the time)!

      But he knows his workplace so ultimately if he feels it’s worth the risk then why not.

      Is it worth him mentioning casually, in passing, to a couple of colleagues and even a manager, just in case it ever comes up?

  56. Green Goose*

    LW 4
    I agree with Alison to over communicate with food expectations, so many people have different food norms. If you want to pay more and then get more pizza (which is totally fine) just be clear about it. At my office, we have so many different ways that we get communal food, sometimes a coworker picks up food/treats and the office has paid for it, other times they bring food in that they paid out of their own pocket and unless I’m told, I have no way of knowing.

    I was pretty horrified when I found out someone who was junior to me and making way less was essentially doing what OP was doing and footing much more of the bill for food because he didn’t want to “bother” people when the bill ended up being more expensive than he had originally anticipated. He had ordered Boba for about ten of us and with tax and fees each drink ended up costing $2.50 more than he had told us, and then he silently ate the cost. I also had assumed he was using a Business credit card to pay but found out later he was using his personal card.

  57. Happy*

    I’m going to share my MLM at work story. This was in a restaurant 20 years ago. See if you can count the number of things that shouldn’t have happened in this story!

    A manager was in a sex toy MLM. She had a sex toy party after hours at work to sell the toys. All the women were invited and encouraged to attend, as well as the one gay guy. The manager promised our orders would be confidential, and specifically that she would not tell her boyfriend (another manager there) about them. Of course, she did tell him and he brought up our predilections with us at work. The lube that I ordered (and paid for at the party) never came in and I was never refunded. Questions about it were always answered with “it should be here soon.”

    1. OP #1*

      HOO BOY if I had a nickel for everything wrong with that situation… I could probably join an MLM! (kidding, kidding)

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I really hope one of your friends jumped in and shut that down. If not, I am sure it was pure shock. But if your maid of honor turned your shower into her own MLM party, I hope you told her that she was no longer your maid of honor after that!

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      ummmm, wow! Granted, I would never have bought anything like that from a colleague, no matter how confidential they promise to be! Sorry, manager, but unless you can also erase it entirely from your own memory, no promise of confidentiality will ever be enough.

      And that is without even getting to the part where she totally violated that promise!

      1. Happy*

        Yeah, I felt obligated to buy some stuff but I definitely picked items that I wouldn’t mind if everyone I worked with knew about them.

        They never got used.

  58. Rosa Rosa Rosa Diaz Diaz Diaz*

    Why do you keep buying everyone pizza?

    You don’t seem to like or respect them much.

    You say you like treating them but you are mostly complaining about how they respond and you also ask them to chip in.

    Do they even want to share pizzas? Are they chipping in and eating some because they’re invited, but not really bothered either way?

    Do they know you’re covering the cost?

    Do you ask people if they want to share lunches together and choose a food? Or do you choose pizza, give it to them, ask them for money, and then get upset because they act like they’re sharing food with colleagues rather than being given a generous treat?

    Why are you treating other adults to food anyway? Maybe it’s normal in some places but “treating” everyone to lunch regularly seems a bit baffling to me.

    Most of all, this seems to be making you irritable and “sad” that “people have no manners.” So don’t do it.

    I mean, sure, taking the whole pizza without saying “hey does anyone mind if I take this pizza?” could seem a little rude, but you also say it’s leftover? So perhaps it’s a bit of a misreading/faux pas on their part? Rather than “sad that some people have no manners.” Which honestly feels very dramatic and a bit self righteous.

    Just stop buying the pizza. Or, if it’s really important to you, stop “treating” everyone, and ask if people want to split lunch evenly together.

  59. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    I just need to call this out. I’m so sick of generational assumptions.

    LW5, maybe you haven’t job-hunted recently? You say “I am of an older generation and not used to seeing these kinds of questions on job applications.” But I am also of an older generation and I’ve been seeing these questions for a couple of decades at least.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I am not sure I would call that a generational assumption, because usually those are imposed on others. I do think they are saying that they are of an older generation and that the last time they were applying for jobs, they do not remember seeing these questions, and that makes sense. I am not really seeing any big generational assumptions in LW5’s letter though.

      On the other hand, if you have seen generational assumptions in the comments, I admit I haven’t read many of those yet.

    1. TX_TRUCKER*

      Hops are the seed cone (flower) of the hops vine plant. It’s used in brewing beer and other drinks. It’s what gives beer it’s distinct flavor.

    2. DC suburb*

      They’re the thing that makes beer acidic and taste “beer-y,” and they come from flowers.

  60. Not-Notes Taker*

    Re: LW#3, I do want to say that folks who don’t already take notes during interviews don’t necessarily need to *start* doing it. I have ADHD, so my working memory is limited, which means that I absolutely cannot take notes and have a conversation at the same time without creating long pauses.

    That said, if I learn something really important to remember, sometimes I might say “I’m going to take a moment to write that down” or something like that. Doing this only once or maybe twice during an interview isn’t going to seem weird; in fact, it demonstrates the important note-taking skill of prioritizing what you write down.

  61. MLM not always bad*

    Some people are members of MLMs just for the discount. I realize LW1’s mentor is working it as a side gig, so that doesn’t apply here.

  62. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    LW 5, the list of disabilities is probably from a list of conditions recognized as “disabilities” as legally defined in the ADA. This can include diagnoses that are not what many consider disabilities, because the list is just a list, and not a fully comprehensive one, of conditions that one has the right to ask for reasonable accommodation for. So, having one of those conditions does not mean you are disabled or need to think of yourself that way; it just means if you work there and need a reasonable accommodation for one of those conditions, you are covered. And you are likely covered too for things not included in the list.

    And, as Alison said, you are not required to disclose or answer yes, and even if you answer no (your right since you aren’t obligated to disclose, though there should be a “prefer not to answer” option), you wouldn’t be lying because you do not think of yourself as disabled. Again, the ADA does not define if you are disabled overall, just if you have a condition that qualifies you for reasonable accommodation.

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