my boss is making threats about the Mafia, my new coworker is acting like my manager, and more

I’m off for the long holiday weekend. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. My boss is making threats about the Mafia to me

My manager has on several occasions issued indirect threats, for lack of better wording. There have been several times over the last two years, but this past year has been awful and to the point that I’m having difficulty trying to do my work.

In January I did mess up badly and tried to fix it. I should have brought it up but didn’t feel comfortable because of the “shoot the messenger” culture here, unless you are a select few who can get away with anything. My manager told me a story about a former business partner who sued for monetary compensation and later approached the manager and his spouse while they were out shopping and confronted them about the lawsuit and there were accusations of lying. After telling me this story, his next words were, “I told him to never approach us again. You don’t mess with the mob.”

The most recent event was after we disagreed on something that would have resulted in heavy fines for the business if discovered. We were at a stalemate, so I asked another manager for an opinion. My supervisor was livid and told me to never go to another manager again over our issues. A few weeks later, we were headed to a conference, alone in the same vehicle, and this time I was told, “You shouldn’t piss off people with connections.” It was the manner of speech, body language, and the tone with which the words were spoken that sent chills through me. This individual isn’t known for being highly ethical, but I never thought staff would have intimidating comments directed at them.

I’m job searching and am fairly certain my manager is going to push to have me let go. We don’t have an HR department and I don’t think going to another manager will help. Our company is less than 30 people with three owners. Any advice until I find another job/they fire me?

Your boss is an incredible ass. But unless you have real reason to fear that he’d sic the mob on you — which seems fairly unlikely, unless you’ve seen evidence to the contrary — I’d internally roll your eyes and ignore the remarks. The type of person who makes this type of comment is usually someone who wants to appear more intimidating than they actually are. And dropping comments like “you shouldn’t piss off people with connections” into work-related conversations is so far beyond the line of reasonable behavior that you can just write this guy off as a complete buffoon. (I’d also be tempted to respond to any future threats by playing dumb and asking, “What do you mean?” and seeing how far he’s willing to go with this discussion.)

Alternately, you could just say directly, “Bob, it’s hard to have a work conversation with you when you threaten me with mob connections. Do you really mean that you’d like to have someone break my kneecaps over a work issue?” I tend to think that directly calling out ridiculousness will often put an end to it.


2. My new coworker is acting like she’s my manager

I am a writer at a small digital marketing agency (less than 20 people) and a new person was just hired as a “senior copywriter and digital strategist.” This would place her above me in the hierarchy, except we don’t have any real hierarchy … and she doesn’t have the writing experience to be a senior copywriter. And my boss told me before she was hired that he wasn’t trying to make someone my manager. Except, she is acting like my manager. She is often checking in on projects I’m working on and wants to meet every afternoon to see where I’m at. She hasn’t been here for a week yet!

I have a feeling the owner of the company has told her that she is in charge and then has told me that there is no hierarchy just so he can avoid confrontation. It also is highly possible that I’m just reacting badly to having an authority thrust upon me after several months of being my on my own and managing my own projects. And I don’t think I would feel this territorial if I knew she had writing experience and could actually mentor me. I know she doesn’t have the experience and instead I’m feeling micromanaged.

I’m trying to let go of feeling territorial and welcome her to the team. She is very nice and I like her as a person. I want to sit down with her and basically define our work relationship because it’s increasingly frustrating to not know exactly how we are supposed to interact. But I’m not sure how that conversation should go. Do you have any advice for me?

Talk to your boss first! Tell him that you’re getting the sense that your coworker thinks she’s supposed to be managing you (and be specific that she’s checking up on your projects and asking for daily status meetings about your work) and that you want to confirm with him that that she’s not in fact your manager before you talk to her. If he’s actually told her that she should manage you, this will hopefully prompt him to tell you that yes, she’s actually supposed to be doing these things. (And if that’s the case, boo to him for not telling you that earlier.)

But assuming that he says that no, you don’t report to her, then you can talk to her and say something like, “Hey, I normally manage this stuff on my own and report directly to Bob on my work. I checked with him to make sure he doesn’t want to change that and he confirmed that it’ll continue that way.” You could add, “I’ve gotten the sense you’re interested in me updating you on my projects the way I might with a manager, so I wanted to make sure there wasn’t any confusion there and you know I report to Bob.”

It’s also possible that she knows she’s not your official manager but thinks that as the “senior” copywriter she’s supposed to be in a sort of team lead role (and your boss may have told her that). If that turns out to be the case, there’s room for you to talk about what you would and wouldn’t find helpful (for example, you might propose a weekly meeting instead of daily ones, and if there’s something she could do that you’d welcome — like running interference with Bob or with clients — this is a good place to mention it and it might redirect her energy in a way you’ll be glad about).


Read an update to this letter here.

3. I’m embarrassed that my employee paid cash at a business lunch

One of my employees embarrassed me at a business lunch. When it came time to pay, everyone took out either their own credit or debit cards or their company one. My employee paid with cash with exact change and also left a cash tip. When I spoke to her about it, she didn’t see what she did wrong. There were four other people from different companies at this lunch. My employee said she doesn’t have a debit or credit card and uses cash exclusively. I explained this is not acceptable for business meals and events, but she says she will continue using cash only.

She is different, she is under 25 and does not have social media or any internet presence and when her name is searched for nothing comes up. She has a landline and no mobile phone and she doesn’t own a TV or any kind of streaming service, and when she isn’t job searching she only checks her email once or twice a week. But she doesn’t see why using cash a business meal or event is a faux pas or misstep. As her supervisor, am I able to mandate her to use an electronic payment? She has refused all attempts so far and says she won’t change.

What?! I am baffled by why you think it’s not okay for her to pay in cash. It’s perfectly fine for her to pay in cash, it’s not unprofessional or a misstep, and it’s super weird that you’re telling her that it is. Let her pay in cash if she wants to, and leave her alone.

And stop judging her for her all the other stuff in your second paragraph too — none of this is a problem.


4. I just found out I’m interviewing for a job with my coworker’s wife

I’m a corporate communications professional working for a start-up in the tech industry. The company I currently work for is not the best fit for me, and I’m currently interviewing for a new job.

A very exciting opportunity has come up at one of the major tech companies and I’ve been asked to come on site to interview with one of their communications teams. It turns out that the head of the department is the wife of a vice president at my current company. The last thing I would want is for anyone at our company to find out, especially this vice president (he’s a good person and we work well together). Should I remove my candidacy from consideration before the interview? Will she keep the interview confidential? What’s the best way to handle this situation?

Ooooh, that’s tricky. If she weren’t his wife but just someone he knew, I’d say that you could try explaining that you need to keep your job search confidential for now and ask for her discretion. But if she’s married to him, I just wouldn’t be comfortable trusting that she wouldn’t say anything. Maybe she wouldn’t — but a lot of people share things with a spouse that they wouldn’t otherwise share. And even if it she doesn’t share it at this stage, it’s really likely that she’d ask him about you at some point before hiring you; it’s hard to imagine someone hiring a spouse’s colleague without ever asking the spouse about the person.

I think you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to take the risk of him finding out or not. If you’re absolutely opposed to risking it, then you may need to withdraw — which really sucks.

(To be clear, she shouldn’t tell him. Interviewers should always keep people’s job searches confidential, and it’s tremendously unfair that you even have to worry about this. But people do sometimes violate that confidentiality, especially when they have a much closer relationship with the person they tell than with the candidate. It’s not okay, but it happens.)


{ 389 comments… read them below }

  1. TB*

    I am absolutely befuddled by 3. I’ve been working as a professional since 1998, and I have never heard of using cash at a business lunch / event as a social misstep or faux pas. Indeed, when splitting checks (professionally or otherwise) having someone willing to chip in with cash often makes the process simpler to manage.

    And I agree with Alison about the second paragraph. Absolutely none of that is a problem, and it is telling that the letter writer has not explicitly or implicitly listed any of the attributes mentioned with issues regarding the employee’s work performance.

    1. KT*

      Totally! If anything, when I see someone paying with cash, I automatically assume they’re good at budgeting and smart with their money.

      1. Green Mug*

        Same! I imagined that manager writing in again today, 6 years later, complaining that his employee has more money than he does.

        1. Raven Mistress*

          I would LOVE to see THAT letter!

          Seriously, though; that manager poked their nose into a LOT of aspects of their employee’s life that are none. of. the. boss’s. business! Hopefully, the employee soon realized this and put the manager on a strict information diet: work-related topics ONLY, no more sharing about their (perfectly fine but non-standard) lifestyle.

          And hopefully, too, LW3 grew up, wised up and came to realize that their job did NOT include being critical of aspects of their employee’s lives that in no way affect their ability to do their jobs…y’know, what those employees are there to do in the first place!

      2. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I would have gotten into a lot less trouble with credit cards in my 20s if I paid with cash more…

    2. Observer*

      Agreed. #3 doesn’t sound like a good manager at all. A lot of unexamined assumptions, and a lot of judgement about really irrelevant stuff.

      1. Random Dice*

        It’s so weird!

        Usually when someone has this kind of rigid enforcement of a weird internal rule, it’s a sign that they’ve only lived in one very small hyper-regional place their whole lives, and that’s one of those unwritten (and so to their minds universal and unchallengeable) regional social norms.

        But this one can’t be that. No region has an anti-cash rule, right? I’ve certainly never stumbled on it, in person or online.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Even in Europe, where you can be largely cashless, you need to carry some coins for the public toilets.

          And when I was there I often used cash and no one was thrown by it. It wasn’t like counting out change was a lost skill.

          1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

            Europe varies a lot:

            Germany is very much a cash culture, even sometimes for large sums, e.g. cash is still common if buying a car from a private seller.
            Some restaurants and small shops are cash only and everywhere that does accept cards usually has a 10 Euro minimum spend.

            1. Madame Arcati*

              Yes don’t forget Europe is a lot of different countries with conventions that often differ too. Here in the U.K. nearly everything became card-only (contactless debit) over the plague times* and they raised the limit for that too. Also we don’t tend to need change for public loos (eg the ones in large London train terminals are free now) and town car parks can be paid by card or app.
              BUT I am equally baffled by the boss’s attitude. I genuinely don’t understand why cash is embarrassing; now or pre-pandemic.
              *on which note – thank you for reminding me about the bar of chocolate I paid for with contactless at a station kiosk yesterday and forgot all about!

          2. allathian*

            Like Retired Vulcan says, Europe varies a lot. I’m in Finland, and I can’t remember when I last paid in cash. Essential providers like grocery stores and pharmacies are legally mandated to accept cash, but many small kiosks, stands, and boutiques have gone completely cashless. Accepting cash is a security risk. Banks are also charging fees to change money for businesses that are comparable to what card companies are charging.

            Many public toilets also accept contactless debit payments, either by card or using an app.

        2. Rebelx*

          It’s probably more like OP lives in an area and/or works in an industry where most people use cards, therefore has always seen people paying with cards at business meals, and in their mind interpreted it as a rule, rather than simply a common tendency. Especially if OP is the kind of person who has a very rigid view of what’s “normal” or how people “should/shouldn’t” act, which I don’t think is restricted to people who come from a regional or insular background, and would make sense given the list of other things they find “unusual” about the coworker. Some people just seem to have a hard time comprehending why someone might do anything that they perceive as outside of the norm, whether that’s using cash or dying one’s hair blue or whatever.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing. There’s nothing wrong with paying in cash for a business lunch. Of all the odd things to find concerning!!!

      1. Introvert Teacher*

        The LW’s employee is kinda giving off doomsday prepper/ off-grid vibes lol. I would put in in the “unusual” bucket, but nothing about it is unprofessional or the employer’s concern. Except “job searching” (i’m assuming during work hours?) and “only checking email once a week” — did anyone catch that part? I could see how those things, if negatively affecting work performance, would be the only things LW had the right to comment on.
        Reminds me of a former roommate who insisted we all pay with checks for splitting rent and bills when everyone else wanted to use apps. To each their own, though.

        1. English Rose*

          I had a different interpretation of that part. I thought LW was talking about the employee’s own personal email, not work email.

    4. coffee*

      I’m also surprised that “she has no social media presence” is supposed to be a bad thing. The usual advice I’ve been given (with the exception of some industries e.g. where you want a portfolio) that you don’t want employers/coworkers etc. googling you and making negative judgements about you, and the best way to avoid that is to not be found in the first place.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          It sounds like they’re looking to the most common actions (social media and debit card use) as ‘good’ and anything “different” to that as ‘bad’. It’s kind of fascinating how far wrong you can go with that one. I would love to be a fly on the wall when this employee mentioned something like buying a vinyl album instead of downloading music.

          1. Carl*

            “My employee ordered turkey on white bread, when everyone else ordered turkey on wheat. And, to make matters worse, she didn’t order mustard OR mayo, and she declined a pickle on the side. How do I get her to understand this is totally unacceptable?”

            1. Francie Foxglove*

              Yeah, next thing you know, she’ll expect to be paid on time. Then she’ll want the afternoon off to attend her college graduation!

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        I took it more as “evidence that my employee is an alien, which explains why she doesn’t know how scandalous cash is,” than necessarily “bad.” It’s still rude and judgmental, of course, even if her judgment is “she’s SO WEIRD” instead of “she does all these bass things.”

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            I read that as bad ass and was thinking, oh, the OP is intimidated by employee. And s/he kind of is. If paying by cash makes OP feel judged, then yeah, I feel bad for him/her.

      2. Michelle Smith*

        I’ve actually been advised in the past that having nothing come up when people Google you is a red flag, which is one of the reasons I created a personal website and LinkedIn presence. Now I understand better why – so people like the LW don’t think I’m hiding something.

        1. bleh*

          I have no social media presence and pay with cash because I am hiding everything… from marketers and anyone else trying to buy and sell my information. I think of myself as smart, not problematic. Dear goddess. Next this person will be telling us to give our social security number to chatGPT because “it’s normal” and “everyone else does it” Jeepers.

        2. Nina*

          I have nothing come up when you Google me, and I can’t realistically change that – both my first name and my last name are really common English verbs.

          1. Wenike*

            There’s a YA author who has my exact same first and last name (which are not common words), so their SEO is necessarily much higher than mine. I don’t care at all, but it does mean that someone has to actually invest in the search to find me with some minimum filtering (or they think I’m a successful author on the side!).

        3. Kit*

          The only compelling argument in favor of establishing a social media presence linked to one’s real name I can think of is for teachers, who are encouraged to have a social media presence, but not to be especially active. (Unfortunately, that advice is because of the number of teachers who were blindsided by students making fake accounts in their name; having a verifiable account helps prove to administration/school boards that the fake account is fake.)

        4. Anon for this*

          Unfortunately for me, the only employee I ever had who didn’t have a social media presence/didn’t come up on google ended up stealing from the company and creating a serious professional mess for me because I didn’t catch it right away (I feel terrible about it but there were circumstances). It turned out they had previously been charged many times so they changed their name. So unfortunately for me, I do get nervous about people who have nothing. I do agree that it is smart to at least have a LinkedIn profile so something comes up.

    5. bamcheeks*

      I was expecting it to be that she left exact change and didn’t tip— but then the cash tip was specifically mentioned and I was back to confused.

      Though I do wonder if their no-electronic-payment policy survived 2020-21.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I thought the same thing, where Op writes, “exact amount.” Awkward. “And left a cash tip.”
        Um, thank you?
        Was is a pile of sweaty cash covered in glitter because really, what’s the problem?

          1. Rose*

            When I was a waitress this would it have not been my weirdest or worst or grossest tip.

      2. lilsheba*

        I certainly hope not. The idea of handling cash makes me ill. It was one of the fastest ways to spread covid because let’s face it people are dirty. They keep money in the most disgusting places and I don’t ever want to touch cash again. Plus you have no recourse if you pay cash somewhere because you have no digital trail. If you use a card you can dispute charges that are wrong. Cashless is the way to go.

        1. atalanta0jess*

          ” It was one of the fastest ways to spread covid” – is that true? I thought surface transmission was basically not a thing…

          Using cash avoids fees for the vendors, which is one very nice thing about it.

          1. Imtheone*

            You are right, atlantaojess. Surface contamination was not a cause of spreading Covid.

          2. CoinPurse*

            Yeah, I’m as germphobic as the next nurse but cash handling was not a Covid issue.

        2. 3DogNight*

          Receipts are a thing. Yeah, cash can be gross, but I’m not licking it, and I wash my hands regularly. I rarely use cash, but would never judge someone for it.

        3. No Longer Working*

          No one can steal your credit card info if you pay with cash. That happened to me once – luckily my credit card company was on the ball and flagged it to me as suspicious – so now I always pay cash in restaurants and never let my credit cards out of my sight.

          1. bleh*

            Yup, the whole surface contamination thing was a ruse for restaurants to stop printing menus and taking cash.

            1. FlufferNutter*

              Yes, this. It infuriates me. I’m not spending 15 minutes paging back and forth on my phone, trying to remember what was in the oriental chicken salad vs the chicken salad croissant. Worse, though “no cash” discriminates against so many people! In my city, many of the “no cash” businesses are otherwise very preachy in the social justice area. There are predominantly Mexican and Central American men doing most of the construction and trades work and it’s well-know (in my geographic area, (ymmv) that community often gets paid in, and pays with, cash. So you will wrap yourself around the axle over what the guys who paved your parking lot should be ethnically referred to, but you won’t sell them a pizza and Coke. Well played.

            2. Industry Behemoth*

              Before going to a theater play in late 2021, two friends and I had lunch at a nearby restaurant. They had to look at the menu on my phone, because for whatever reason it wasn’t coming up on theirs.

          2. lilsheba*

            Even if they do steal the cc info, which is not that likely to happen, maybe once in a lifetime, you still have recourse. Those charges can be reported as fraud and you can recover. If you have cash on you and THAT is stolen, you are shit out of luck. I still would rather have a digital trail. And whether or not cash spreads covid it still is kept in nasty ass places. NO THANKS that is NASTY. And a debit card can be gotten a lot more easily than in the old days, I’m pretty sure anyone can get one somehow. Even a pre paid one. There is no reason to not go to a cashless society.

            1. cash is king*

              I’ve had my debit card info stolen three times in the last decade and every single time it was never clear how it happened, my accounts were frozen long enough to cause difficulty, and I had to go through an investigation with my credit union to prove I was the victim of fraud rather than the perpetrator of it, so while I hope your lucky streak continues, it’s just not true that it “maybe once in a lifetime” will occur. And while it was nice to prove my innocence due to a digital trail, not all of us want all our movements to be tracked relentlessly night and day by the powers that be.

              Also, I worked as a server for almost two decades and my entire living was based on cash tips. I couldn’t get to my credit union every day and often used cash because it was what I had. As someone up thread mentioned, the idea that digital payment works best for everyone is false. Stating that “there’s no reason to not go to a cashless society” ignores people who live off cash. It’s an accessibility issue. Until everyone is making a living wage and we’ve got universal income and healthcare there’s just no way it works for everyone.

              1. Banker*

                A debit card and a credit card are very different beasts. Under no circumstances should anyone be using debit cards to pay for gas – or withdraw cash from outdoor ATMs – or in otherwise risky situations. I don’t keep a debit card at all. The convenience is not worth the risk.

                Credit cards are essentially zero risk as fraudulent transactions are easily reversed and it doesn’t tie up any of your real money if compromised.

            2. Banker*

              “I’m pretty sure anyone can get one somehow.”

              Goodness. This is simply not the case. There are still large numbers of unbanked people in the US at least.

              Cash is certainly often nasty to touch (I worked on the teller line for about a decade) but really only in the aggregate if you’re the person handling it coming in from all kinds of god-knows-where sources. A normal person receiving cash from a bank, keeping it in a wallet, and paying a vendor isn’t really an issue.

        4. Moonstone*

          This is just as much BS as LW3. You can’t get Covid from cash and there is absolutely nothing wrong with using cash. And if you are worried about germs, just wash your hands or use sanitizer after handing it, which is what I do.

          Do you realize how discriminatory it is to only accept plastic/electronic forms of payment? There are a great many people who have been excluded from the banking industry and are unable to open a bank account to get a debit card. There is a wealth of information out there if you and LW3 are willing to open your eyes and do some research on the subject. I also think LW3 just plain dislikes their employee and I really hope they got over themselves and grew up since this letter was first published because they come off like a petulant child.

    6. Arthenonyma*

      I’m guessing it’s one of those coded-as-poor things that people can get very fixated on? It feels to me like it’s got the same vibe to this manager as “she wore the same outfit to work two days in a row” or “she buys her shoes at [bargain shop]” – that judgey horror that anyone might think you’re lower on the socioeconomic ladder than you want to be perceived.

      1. lucanus cervus*

        That’s all I can think of to try and understand LW’s thought process. That paying with cash looks like you can’t get credit and/or you’re budgeting carefully, and that this is a deeply shameful thing. Paying with plastic is a status thing in her eyes, I suppose.

        I hope LW got over this prejudice about How To Do Things Properly because it’s just…sad.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        The part about the landline and no TV or streaming makes me suspect she is quirky, of the wants-to-live-in-an-earlier-time sort. I know some people like that. None have adopted the cash-only bit, but it would fit in.

        1. Mister_L*

          The only reason I don’t have a landline anymore is that loading € 10 per year on my cellphone is way cheaper compared to the € 23 monthly just to keep the landline.

          1. nm*

            Idk how common this is, but I live in the US and for our area, paying for landline+internet service together is cheaper than just internet service with no landline. So we have a landline that we never use.

            1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

              Same. And to be clear, it was a difference of $75 dollars if I didn’t get the “bundle”: internet, cable, landline and security system.
              Two guys came to my house to install it. They asked, “are you going to use the security system?” Nope. Ok. Put this in a drawer.
              I also have a home phone number that I don’t use and don’t know.

              1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

                This is predominantly because of the way government subsidizes the various telecom services. If you’re able to claim the subsidy for phones as well as internet, you can make more money (as a telecom company).

                1. flora_poste*

                  TIL, thanks! I had always presumed it was something like this but never taken the trouble to look it up. Tiny curiosity itch now scratched :)

        2. Seahorse*

          It’s possible she lied too. If she didn’t want to interact with her boss on social media or be judged for her entertainment preferences, I could see the appeal of leaning into “weird Luddite” instead of constantly defending her boundaries & choices. Or she needed to be privacy conscious, or she had other priorities for her money, or she really was disinterested in tech. It could be any number of things.

          The OP’s judgement pours off the page so clearly that I wouldn’t blame the employee at all for saying whatever was necessary to shut down other judgey conversations.

          1. *kalypso*

            Escaping a terrible home environment (DV; LW, LDS and other interesting religious entities; disagreements about gender, orientation whatnot) also usually involves careful control of online presence to enforce the separation. It’s really nobody’s business why anyone chooses anything.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              This is a really good point. I had someone stalk me for years and they found every single social media I ever had. I never did anything about it because this particular “ex” was not a safety threat to me (just depressed and unable to take no for an answer re: relying on me to be their emotional support) but I can imagine someone dealing with anyone abusive or dangerous would not want to take the risk of being found. And all those scraping websites can publish addresses, cell phone numbers, etc. If I were dealing with an abusive person, I’d probably avoid, avoid, avoid all those websites.

          2. There You Are*

            Yep, I can easily see her realizing that, with this boss, there are no right answers so she didn’t want to give him any red meat to sink his teeth into. (But then he went and bit as hard as he could into her no-meat answers).

            Boss: “Please fill out this New Employee form.”
            Her: [fills it out, hands it back]
            Boss: “You left off your cell phone number.”
            Her: “I don’t have one. Just my landline [where I can’t receive texts or emails from you].”

            Boss: “What’s your favorite Netflix show?”
            Her: “Oh, I don’t have any streaming services.”

            Boss: “Who do you follow on Insta / FB / Twitter / Reddit?”
            Her: “You know, I’m not into the whole social media thing.”

            She’s ducking and dodging hard in every interaction with him.

          3. Teach*

            That was my immediate thought! Paying in cash can be a similar way of avoiding a boss/coworkers’ weirdness–specifically if they’re bad at splitting the check.
            Boss: “oh, wait, I think you need to put in $5 extra.”
            “Luddite” Employee: “Actually, I know the exact price of my lunch plus tip and I only brought that much, sorry!”

          4. Daisy*

            This is what came to my mind also. The easiest way to *not* friend your coworkers/boss is to (say at least) you don’t have/use social media. Don’t want to get work calls you are expected to pick up? Don’t have a cell phone.
            As far as not having a TV/streaming service or checking her email constantly – maybe she actually has a life with friends, reads books, pets to care for, or a million other things people do as hobbies.

        3. Lizcase*

          I know a great deal of people with no landline and no TV. if you live somewhere with good cell service, and have good internet, it’s easy to get by.
          They usually have 2-3x the devices (laptop ipad cell etc) as people, so it’s not about living in an earlier time.

          1. MPerera*

            I don’t have a TV or streaming services. Between a full-time job and several hobbies, I just don’t have the time to watch TV. If I need something going on in the background, there’s always YouTube or DVDs.

            I also pay with cash a lot because it’s more difficult to overspend when I have to take the actual, physical money out of my wallet and hand it over.

          2. Guacamole Nob*

            I have a TV that I haven’t watched in months. I don’t subscribe to streaming services though, and people are always so surprised by that. I don’t think it’s weird though – why pay for something you don’t want? I’m not a luddite, I have 3 reading apps on my Smartphone and have taken some computer programming classes, people just look for shortcuts to categorise people.

        4. Random Dice*

          I’m also guessing quirky, and possibly history-bounder (though most of them are pretty tech savvy, at least the ones I follow on YouTube).

          I would also guess she’s frugal (likely paying off debt, possibly into FIRE early retirement).

          For the social media, it’s either a choice (cybersecurity, not wanting to venture into the cesspit), or she has social under a different name that she doesn’t give out. But with no TV I’m guessing she doesn’t have one.

        5. Observer*

          The part about the landline and no TV or streaming makes me suspect she is quirky, of the wants-to-live-in-an-earlier-time sort

          So? What difference does it make? How would it change the advice for the OP?

          I can’t see any way that it matters to the OP, and I can’t see any way it makes the OP’s attitude reasonable, sensible or actionable.

        6. NeedRain47*

          or likes privacy and not handing all her personal life details to Facebook and HBO. Some people who do this tend to be *more* savvy about those issues, not less.

        7. New Jack Karyn*

          Combine with #1: She’s on the run from the mob, and/or in witness protection

        8. Nina*

          Granted I’m not in the US, but I have
          – no landline because it costs money and the only people who would want to ring me on it are a) telemarketers and b) my mom, who also has a mobile on a plan that makes it free to call my mobile.
          – no TV because I grew up without one and now I’m used to it, and there is nothing on TV, my god. I borrow DVDs from the library and get arthouse ones at the video rental, and if I really really want to see it and it’s not on DVD I put my pirate hat on
          – no streaming because DVDs and also I don’t like how much of my time it eats
          – no social media presence under my real name because a) my real name is super hard to google and ironically b) my real name is super distinctive
          – rare checking of personal email because it is never time sensitive. Ever.
          I do have a mobile phone and a debit card though so yay normal points for me? I don’t identify as quirky and Luddish, so it could be there’s just a bunch of ways to end up in the same place.

        9. Dahlia*

          I… actually would just think she’s younger? Like we only have cable and a landline because my mom isn’t great with tech and wants them. If I lived alone, I would not have cable TV. I own a TV so I’d probably keep it, but I would solely use streaming. And I would not have a landline. Why would I? I have a cell phone and barely anyone calls me anyways.

          1. Dahlia*

            Oh, I slightly misread this. Besides the landline thing, though, everything else stands. But I’ve only had a cellphone for 3 years, and my mom doesn’t have one at all, so like. Not that weird.

          2. L*

            The LW says that the employee *does* have a landline and does not have a mobile phone, which is the reverse of typical for her age demographic in my experience. But certainly not horrifyingly so. And depending on her location, the landline may be much more reliable than mobile. My brother lives in a residential neighborhood no more than a mile or two out from the center of a medium-sized city and there are rooms in his house that don’t get cellular reception.

      3. Phryne*

        That’s interesting, because I’m not in the US, and the first thing I would think if I was bothered enough to care about a co-workers way of paying would be off-the-books money, or tries to stay off-systems (as seems to be in character with the rest here) not poverty.
        But ‘getting credit’ is much less of a thing here.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Upon reflection, the coded as poverty bit may not be the mere fact of using cash, but of exact change. If you are in line at a gas station and the person ahead asks for, e.g., $8.37 in gas, it is a good bet that this is exactly how much money they have, and this is a likely opportunity for a paying-it-forward kindness of strangers act. That doesn’t apply here, but the exact change part is a bit odd. During football season I watch games at a bar over lunch and a couple beers. I typically pay in cash, adding the tip and rounding up to the nearest convenient combination of denominations.

          1. Cj*

            a year or so ago businesses were begging their customers to pay with exact change because there was a coin shortage. for reference, I’m in minnesota. I’m not sure how widespread it was.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              It’s at least widespread through the midwest. I’m also in the Great Lakes region and still see it at grocery & general stores.

              My thought on LW#2 was more about how streamlined digital/electronic payments are (swipe, sign, done) and how slow money changing can be, but the bills say on them “legal tender for all debts public and private,” so if LW#2 has a beef, it’s with the treasury, not her employee.

              1. Kara*

                Nit pick, legal tender’s only relevance is for debts. If she owed you money, you would not be able to refuse if she insisted on paying you in cash. But other than that, businesses are free to accept or not accept any form of payment they choose, including refusing to accept cash at all. (Note: a handful of states and cities have recently passed their own laws saying that businesses in their jurisdiction may not refuse cash.) Unsure how to link, but you can verify this on the Treasury website > currency > FAQs.

                1. Kara*

                  Regardless, the only actionable item for the employee’s manager regarding the previous would be to have a quick sit-down and remind the employee that not all businesses are required to accept cash, and do you have a backup plan should you find out that the restaurant you’re dining at with clients or other company reps is in fact one of these?

                2. Other Alice*

                  If a manager did that, the employee could reasonably ask to be provided with a company card. This is after all a business lunch that she’s attending as part of her job. It’s not reasonable to ask her to get a credit or debit card just because she needs to front the money for a business lunch taking place in a card only place.

                3. Michelle Smith*

                  I’ve been to lots of “business” lunches and still can’t imagine a scenario where no one at the table would accept the cash and let the charge for that person’s meal go on their card. I’ve seen it happen – people like saving a trip to the ATM.

          2. *kalypso*

            If I’m paying in cash I try to get as close to exact change as possible not because I’m penny-counting but because I view it as a kindness to the business so they don’t have to then give me more change back and count it out and whatnot, and when I’ve worked retail and we saw someone counting out exact change and there was a line, we were given latitude to trust that it was right as we saw it and add it to the till later instead of counting it again and holding up the line to go through the process of counting and recounting and getting the supervisor to make sure we could math. This is also not a situation where someone’s asking for $4.73 worth of a ham sandwich – they may well have picked out their order from a menu earlier and been able to prepare exact change, but that doesn’t in any way mean that’s all they have or that drawing attention to it by paying forward for them is in any way worth the visibility.

          3. doreen*

            Exact change may or may not be a bit odd – if it means she calculated her meal and tip to be $23.42 and left $22.42 that would be a bit odd. But if it means she rounded up calculated her bill plus tip to be $23.00 and left a twenty and three singles rather than leaving a twenty and a five , that’s not so odd. Kind of the same thing for the gas – someone asking for $8.37 worth of gas would be very odd but mostly because even people who only have $8.37 on them will most likely get $8 worth of gas.

            1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              Exact change means the server doesn’t have to come back with change. Saves time. Is actually FASTER than using a credit or debit card.

              Honestly this manager is just weird. I have never heard that paying in cash is a problem. Manager probably hates the no cell phone and not checking email because it means this person has actual work/life boundaries. You can’t call them if they are not home, they can’t check email from everywhere. It sounds like someone who has set her boundaries and boss doesn’t like it.

              1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

                This. Employee gave server the amount for the food. Done. Thanks. And left a tip on the table.
                OP should be taking lessons.
                they all could have been gone ten minutes earlier. It’s a work lunch. Time is money.

          4. On Fire*

            Nothing odd about it: I pay with exact change whenever possible, simply to get rid of coins.

            1. Enai*

              Me too: I hate it when my wallet is full of copper coins that don’t even amount to enough for a Mars bar at the local hole-in-the-wall paper and cigarettes vendor.

        2. vombatus ursinus*

          Yeah, I was thinking the employee is probably concerned about privacy and doesn’t want to have much of a digital footprint for one reason or another.

          1. She of Many Hats*

            Or may be cleaning up after having a bank account hacked or identity theft and may not have full access to all the tools she had prior to the incident.

      4. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, if I’m trying to make any sense of this, I would think that OP grew up poor and sees debit cards as a middle class or white collar thing, and they’re seriously overcompensating for some deep insecurity.

        Or maybe they’re also pretty young and feel like debit cards are the grown-up sophisticated thing, and again overcompensating for deep insecurity.

        1. alienor*

          I’d guess it’s less about their age and more about the employee’s. If they already perceive the employee as very young, then I can imagine them seeing her pay with exact change and getting vibes of teenagers going out to eat and having to scrounge up enough cash to cover the bill. To be clear, it doesn’t sound like there was any scrounging going on, and the employee just took out her wallet and paid like an adult, but age-related perceptions can be unfair.

          (That said, I do think the supervisor is probably on the younger side since an older person would be less likely to care about someone’s use or non-use of technology and social media. I’d guess they’re a few years older than the employee, but not much more.)

        2. Observer*

          and they’re seriously overcompensating for some deep insecurity.


          and again overcompensating for deep insecurity

          That’s a LOT of judgement.

          And I can’t think of the faintest shred of evidence from what little information the OP provided. And the fact that she’s being included in these meetings indicates that she is capable of acting in sufficiently “Grown up, sophisticated” ways without “overcompensating”.

          1. Observer*

            OK, never mind. I misread your comment and thought you were speculating about the young employee.

            I do think that it’s still a bit too speculative, but I do think that it’s not all that out there when talking about the OP.

            1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

              I think it’s a fair assessment of OP who thinks clients and coworkers at this lunch are judging the employee and by extension the OP for this “faux pas.”
              That’s a lot of concern over paying and tipping for lunch.

        3. E. Chauvelin*

          I was wondering if the OP reads credit cards used at business lunches as using the company card or at least getting reimbursed, and cash as paying out of pocket, and is angry at the employee for making them “look bad” by making it look like the company isn’t picking up the tab. Especially if it actually isn’t picking up the tab and the OP thinks using cash is a tip-off.

      5. wordswords*

        I was wondering if it was a “no paper trail” thing, but somebody paying with cash can still get a receipt! I guess they might have to write the amount of the tip on there themselves and be taken on trust, if they want reimbursement for that, but that still seems perfectly within the bounds of professionalism.

      6. Observer*

        It feels to me like it’s got the same vibe to this manager as “she wore the same outfit to work two days in a row” or “she buys her shoes at [bargain shop]” – that judgey horror that anyone might think you’re lower on the socioeconomic ladder than you want to be perceived.

        I think that that has to be part of it. But it doesn’t really explain all of it.

        I certainly hope that they got over it and learned better, whatever the underlying bad assumptions were.

    7. Bob Howard*

      Is it possible that the employee who pays cash and has no credit card or social media presence etc. is under some kind of coercive control – by a parent or partner?

      1. Nebula*

        I mean it’s possible, but there’s nothing to indicate that in the letter, and the LW isn’t concerned about that anyway, just the nebulous idea that it somehow looks bad to pay in cash.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Of course it’s possible, but it’s not a specific red flag and that’s clearly not what the manager is concerned about!

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Not having those could also be a sign of wanting to be sure the former controlling person can’t find her now.

        But those are pretty mundane old norms to still follow. Saving money, avoiding bother, keeping your spending within limits–those are all mundane reasons to do these things.

      4. Banker*

        It’s very bizarre to leap from this behavior (which, frankly, is well within the normal range of ‘just how some people choose to live their lives’) to ‘she must be being abused’.

        Especially given that this is a repost. Nobody here can provide any additional context or information, nor can we provide support if that were the case – so what’s the point of this particular line of speculation?

        More to the point, would you have lept to the same conclusion if the cash-paying employee were a man?

        It gets very tiresome to see people constantly reacting to any woman behaving in any unusual, harmless way with ‘but is she being FORCED to do that? Have we invaded her privacy to find out for sure?’

    8. Llama Llama*

      What I am assuming is that one of the reasons people don’t open up a bank account is because their credit is so terrible that they can’t. That translates into if you pay in cash you are terrible with money and it makes the company look bad that you are terrible with money. Not that is the only reason people pay in cash and most people would just see a person paying in cash and not have a crazy backstory as to why.

      1. moving on...*

        My parents are great with money, have a paid off house, no other debt and use cash every time we go out. They have credit cards, but never use them. All cash doesn’t mean no bank account or bad with money. It’s a way to keep on budget and monitor spending. I don’t see how that can possibly be interpreted as s bad thing.

        1. Antilles*

          There’s actually common financial advice and plenty of research out there showing that people should use cash rather than credit cards if you’re trying to limit your spending.
          Most obviously, it’s easier to track your spending when you can look in your wallet and physically see the shrinking stacks of green rather than a credit card where you don’t really get that same feel for “wow I spent a lot of money yesterday, didn’t realize I spent *that* much” until the end of the month when the statement comes in.
          Less directly, there’s also a different psychology in our monkey-brains. Paying with a credit card or phone where you get it back doesn’t feel as costly/painful as it does when you physically give up something (cash) the other person keeps.

          1. Momma Bear*

            This. There’s a whole put money in envelopes advice thing, too.

            I suspect that the problem for this manager is that it’s transparent that the employee is only paying what they owe vs the perception of largess. If they truly need the employee to pay electronically, then the employee needs a company card. Or the manager can just cover all employees on their card and expense it. I’d be curious to know how this panned out, but my guess is that this employee has moved on from this manager and this nitpicking was just the tip of the iceberg.

          2. Verthandi*

            That’s how I looked at it when I was young and struggling. I refused to get a credit card for similar reasons and fended off people telling me I had to get one or I wouldn’t be able to (fill in the blank with anything involving payments). Didn’t stop me from buying a house.

            I’m debt-free now and this is one way of many way I made that happen.

            1. Lisa Simpson*

              This was one of the causes of a giant fracture I had with a friend/roommate in my early 20s. I had two credit cards for building a credit score and serious emergencies, and I was very careful to only buy things I could afford to pay off at the end of the month.

              My friend/roommate viewed my credit card as free money for the apartment, and wanted me to use it to decorate our apartment like Monica’s apartment on Friends. I said absolutely not. Huge fight ensued.

            2. Kara*

              Out of curiosity, how did you do that? A car loan or similar? Generally speaking no credit history is just considered just as bad or worse than a bad credit history. My husband also didn’t want a credit card, and his car loan wound up saving him when we went to get a mortgage.

              1. Hush42*

                You have to find a mortgage company or bank who does Manual Underwriting- they will look at things other than your credit score to determine the risk of loaning money to you. Dave Ramsey is always pushing ChurchHill Mortgage because they will do this.

          3. Cat Tree*

            That’s interesting. I find it much easier to track spending with a credit card where I can easily see all transactions in the app, rather than cash where I’d have to keep all receipts to keep track of where everything goes.

            But I also grew up with a savings account and my allowance as a teenager was directly deposited into that account, so maybe that’s why electronic money feels as real to me as paper money.

            1. Antilles*

              It’s certainly not universal, just like anything else with human behavior. But in study after study, it’s found that on average, people will spend much more with a credit card than with cash AND not have nearly as strong of a handle on how much they spent.
              It’s less about tracking spending over the course of the month than being able to track it in the heat of the moment. If you want to only budget $20 per week for coffee/donuts/etc, if you put $20 in cash, it’s very easy to know when you’re going to the store where you stand. Once the wallet is empty of that money for the week, no more Starbucks the rest of the week. Compare that to a credit card, where unless you’re diligent about checking every day, you’re just sort of vaguely doing the math in your head about “went to Starbucks on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday so I think I should still have some left in the budget”.

            2. Emmy Noether*

              Yeah, me too. The cash thing would require the discipline to keep all receipts. I frequently open my wallet and find that I have less cash than I thought, and it takes quite a lot of thinking to reconstruct where it went. Whereas my bank account… my online banking will do nice little colored pie graphs for me at the push of a button if I want.

              That said, I don’t really watch my budget anymore. I’m not an unreasonable spender by nature, there’s easily more coming in than going out, so not worrying about it is a luxury that I afford myself.

              Also, on the psychological aspect of handing over physical money being “harder”: I think that part of my brain is stuck in the toddler phase of thinking that more coins are more money (when it’s often the opposite). “Breaking” a large bill doesn’t register in my brain all that much, because I’m getting a whole stack back! That’s often the purchase that will slip my brain the easiest.

        2. not a hippo*

          To quote En Vogue:
          So I’m a sista
          Buy things with cash
          That really doesn’t mean that all my credit’s bad

          Alternatively, to quote S&P: it’s none of yo business!

      2. CashDoesntMeanBanklessOrPoor*

        Paying in cash doesn’t mean not having a bank account. Not at all. People with bank accounts use cash for various things all the time.

        It doesn’t mean you’re poor either. I have a friend who is on the nicer side of middle class who has credit cards but doesn’t like to use them except for large purchases. Buying new furniture? credit card. Buying a meal or some random stuff at the drugstore? cash.

        1. Rainy*

          My LFS gives a discount if you pay in cash. (It’s actually not getting the surcharge for paying with a card–our state allows merchants to pass a percentage of the card company fees back to customers, and this is a common way small businesses do it.)

          1. Daisy*

            Yeah, there are many small businesses where I am that give a discount for cash/checks instead of a credit card. Often 3-3.5% of the bill.

    9. Glad I don't work there*

      What I’m having trouble wrapping my head around is that this is considered a business lunch, with people from other companies present, and yet no manager paid for the whole lunch and put it on their expense account. If it were not a real “business” lunch, then it was just a lunch among friends, no matter what their companies or positions, and it did not matter how people paid, including with cash. And even at that this manager is probably a cheapskate for not treating.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        I was thinking the same thing! What kind of business lunch is it if everyone is paying their own way? I don’t get that situation at all.

      2. Pine Tree*

        Could be non-profit or government, where the rules about buying food are really stupid. Source: have worked in government and non-profits for 20 years. Sigh.

        1. E. Chauvelin*

          Can confirm. I think the reason cash = paying one’s own way in my attempt to figure out what’s going on in the OP’s head is that as a government employee I don’t think I’ve ever had a meal reimbursed in nineteen years except when I was traveling and our parties are all potluck or require taking up a collection.

    10. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with paying with cash. The main thing I find odd (though not necessarily a faux pas, just odd – certainly more odd than paying for something with money) is if someone from the company has a company card, and there are multiple people from the company at the lunch, why would the company-card-having person not pay for everyone from the same employer? Unless these “business lunches” are not being paid for by the company, in which case OP3 has exactly zero say in how anyway pays. That said, every business meal I’ve ever been to that involved my company plus clients, my company paid for the whole thing. So both the concept of multiple people from the same company paying separately is weird to me, AND everyone at the table paying separately. Although I suppose if the clients are gov or something and not allowed to have lunch paid for for them or some similar ethics rule, but now I’m too in the weeds. My main point is business lunch = business expense. If the business isn’t paying for whatever reason, there’s no reasonable beef with how someone pays unless they’re like…paying in all pennies, in which case the beef is with them taking forever.

      1. Other Alice*

        My company’s accountants have at some point complained about one person paying for all, because of the need to divide expenses by department. They have to do an extra step if one person pays for multiple people from different departments. I can see LW’s company maybe having a similar policy? But even so, if LW’s report doesn’t have a card, I don’t get why she should get one just for what’s in effect a business expense. It’s bizarre.

    11. The Shenanigans*

      Yeah it reminds me of a friend I used to have who had a Thing about leaving cash and coins for a tip. In her case and LW 3 it seems like a personal quirk that they are trying to apply universally. Which is ironic given that LW 3 is SO mad about her direct report’s quirks even though it seems the direct report isn’t trying to change the LW at all. Live and let live, yall.

    12. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Only thing I can imagine is if the employee counted out cash out loud and included a statement of tip % different than what OP would leave it might have felt like a criticism.

      But I’m really stretching to get there. It’s more likely there’s something else about the employee that irritates OP, and I’d love to hear back if any concrete issue ever bubbled up.

      1. JKateM*

        I’m very jealous. I love technology and modern science but not busyness that comes with it. I myself am pretty disconnected when at home so I understand the appeal. It may be a little strange to some but a lot of psychological research is coming suggesting that all those “bad” things the employee is doing are actually good for you.

    13. PhilG*

      I suppose one could argue that, if it’s going to be submitted for reimbursement, accounting would prefer that it be on a card, the tip in particular. She seems too junior to rate a corporate card, but if, in the future she would be expected to host clients then a company card should be used. Otherwise, what’s the problem?

    14. New Senior Mgr*

      I’m baffled by this too. I really need an update on this one. I’m so interested in hearing her logic on this one.

    15. Mystik Spiral*

      I’m kind of embarrassed on behalf of OP that the employees had to pay AT ALL for a business lunch…

      1. Daisy*

        Exactly! You would think business lunch = company pays. Or at least the highest person at your company would pick up the bill. Every person picked up their own bill = going out as a group but not a business lunch.

    16. M*

      The only way it could possibly be a faux pas is if they’re getting rid of all their small change and everyone is waiting while the waiter has to count it. Sounds like it’s the fact that it’s cash that bothers the OP though.

    17. Jaid*

      If he wanted her to pay with a credit card, he should have arranged for a company card.

    18. Lalitah*

      Regarding LW#3: I’m going to proffer a possible explanation for why someone may only use cash, and not have an internet presence.

      Some people grow up in religious communities that forgo the use of credit and technology. Who knows if this person grew up Amish or extreme Hasidic or on a commune. Or they could’ve escaped trafficking, or ties to a mob family. The point is: you don’t know that.

      It’s really unkind to judge someone as unprofessional for using cash when they do their job competently.

  2. Observer*

    I would really love an update on #1 (mafia threats boss) and #3 (Boss “embarrassed” by employee using cash.

    I’m not surprised that #3 didn’t come back though. While sometimes they do, OP’s that get roasted in comments mostly don’t come back. And they did get a fair amount of push back.

    1. niknik*

      LW3 did not engage in the comments back then, did they ? Gonna start digging for the off-chance…

    2. Paying cash*

      re LW3.

      There are times when it is really valuable for an employee to have a credit card. For example, if they’re travelling.

      But if they don’t have a personal card, ot don’t want to use it, the solution is to get them a corporate card, not to berate them.

      1. Random Dice*

        My company’s corporate card interface is a nightmare, and there was virtually no support when I had an issue that impacted my own credit. I flat refuse to get another corporate card. I’ll take being able to access my account and having customer service, thank you.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        We’ve had past letters where the boss was like “Just stick the flights and hotel and fees and stuff on your card! And you can submit later!!” and didn’t remember that not all people–and specifically, young people just starting out–have credit cards with plenty of unused credit. Completely aside from the question of whether the company would reimburse before the bill was due or you would have to float them a loan–it’s the sort of thing that’s easy for someone in their 50s, who’s had plenty of credit for years, to forget wasn’t true when they were 21.

        1. CompaniesHaveWeirdRules*

          My current company sees corporate cards as unacceptable business risks so anything that cannot be directly purchased by the company needs to be purchased by the individual and reimbursed. I bought my laptop when I started and paid several conference fees. I’ve had no trouble getting reimbursed via check, but it’s a real PITA, and lately I’ve managed to come up with creative ways of buying things that do let the company pay directly.

    3. linger*

      Here’s hoping the lack of update from OP1 means they’re in witness protection rather than sleeping with the fishes.

      For OP3, we should not expect an update, because their employee’s reason for being unusually off-grid does not need to be shared with OP3, and should not be shared with us. (HR, maybe, for something like avoiding a stalker or abusive ex. But not OP3.)

      1. JamieLynn*

        I’m not interested in an update OP3 to find out why the employee is off-grid but to see if OP3 has realized that it’s not a thing and apologized for being pushy and invasive. Still probably wouldn’t expect an update though.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, exactly this.

          The update I would want to see is something like “HR heard what was going on and they had a serious sit down with me about it. I couldn’t BELIEVE that they were really admonishing me over this, but it’s a good job otherwise and I had to go along with it. I’m glad because she has turned out to be an excellent employee, despite the quirks. And clients love her.”

      2. Irish Teacher*

        The update I’d like from OP3 is more some kind of indication of why she thought paying with cash was a problem rather than an explanation as to why her employee didn’t like credit and debit cards.

        I am wondering more about why the OP cares how her employee pays than I am about why the employee pays that way.

        I agree though, that we are unlikely to get an update. Expecting somebody to return years later and say, “yeah, I realise now that I was hung up on something really weird. Hearing that most other people don’t care about it made me rethink my position and I realised I was overreacting because of X/because I was teased as a teenager for being bad with technology/whatever the reason is” is probably expecting a lot.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            I love updates like that. I think they might be my favourite. But yeah, they are going to be fairly rare, as even if people do recognise they are in the wrong, they might not want to say so publically.

      3. linger*

        I also mean OP3 is unlikely to come to any radical shift in perspective, because OP3’s employee was under no obligation to educate them on any of this, and would be even less inclined to share with OP3 after having their lifestyle criticised.

  3. xl*

    For #1…

    Over the years, I’ve known a lot of people who are actually involved in organized crime. A lot. Not something that I was ever involved in, but due to circumstances and geography of my upbringing, it’s something I’ve been around a lot.

    The guys who are actually involved in that world would never say something like the boss in #1 was saying. They wouldn’t even acknowledge the existence of “the mob,” let alone make threats to an outsider using such language.

    This boss is a blowhard who is going to get himself in serious trouble if he ever said something like that around the wrong person.

    1. Carl*

      Exactly. Similarly, I’m a divorce lawyer, and at least a dozen women in my career have reported to me in hushed tones that their soon-to-be ex husband says he’s in the CIA.

      Oh honey. He’s not. He’s a middle aged loser whose life has failed on its own merits. He is exactly as exciting as the old Honda Accord he drives.

      1. Not Australian*

        Yep. My dotty old uncle, who had some parachuting experience, once bragged in a pub that he was former SAS. All around him, a dozen *current* SAS members just rolled their eyes and carried on drinking. The first rule of Fight Club is …

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Yup. I have known exactly one person whom I actually believe to have been special forces. He didn’t brag about it. He used me as a de facto therapist to try to get his head back on straight.

          1. Random Dice*

            My former boss was a retired Navy Seal. The only way you’d know is that he was always drinking.

      2. The shadow*

        This is really stupid of them. The CIA doesn’t operate domestically, and the vast majority of CIA employees can disclose who they work for once hired.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I knew one person who worked for the CIA…his administrative role was so mundane as to get him teased by his friends.

      3. Observer*

        I’m a divorce lawyer, and at least a dozen women in my career have reported to me in hushed tones that their soon-to-be ex husband says he’s in the CIA.

        Oh honey. He’s not. He’s a middle aged loser whose life has failed on its own merits.

        Or you could refer them to “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”.

      4. Queen of the Introverts*

        Yeah, I have an uncle who claims to have run guns to Nicaragua for the CIA. He brings up guns whenever possible, just to try and shock the rest of his libtard family. We ignore him. Like, literally ignore him. I went to a family get-together once and wondered why my other uncles weren’t paying attention to a thing he said. Then one of them told me that when he arrived he’d said of his very tan wife, “If she were any darker, she’d be a Negro!” And yes, he said “Negro” in the year of our lord spaghetti monster 2022. So in response, everyone just ignored him completely for the rest of the evening.

      5. Fluffy Fish*

        Once upon a time my daughters father was potentially going to be stationed at Camp David.
        Daughter referred to it by name and (ex)stepmother yelled at her because it was top secret and you weren’t supposed to talk about it.

        We lived in the town outside Camp David – I had grownup there. The entire town knows where it is to the point that in olden days it was an occasional game to see how close you could get in the woods before some kind gentleman with a gun found you (hint – not very). Hell there used to be a restaurant that had a whole Camp David museum in it.

        People are weird.

      6. goddessoftransitory*

        If the CIA had as many actual employees as losers who claim to be in the CIA, they’d be running the world.

    2. Bo*

      I thought about that Columbo episode where the murderer framed the mafia. It was not the brilliant idea he thought it was…

      1. bamcheeks*

        Film idea: a guy who constantly threatens people with his organised crime connections, which he thinks he’s making up, but over the course of the film he gradually realises that a) they’re real b) they’re all around him and c) they’re pissed.

        (I feel like this film MUST have been made in like 1973 and star Dustin Hoffman.)

        1. Friday Night I’m thinking that we just might fly away to someplace they don’t know who we are*

          Or Warren Beatty

        2. JM in England*

          Adding to the film theme, I see being truly involved in organised crime as something like belonging to Fight Club ie you don’t talk about it!

          1. xl*

            It depends on the faction.

            Some groups, like the Russian Mob, have tattoos that easily identify themselves as being members. Whether that counts as “talking” or not I don’t know.

            I was at a pool at a resort in Vegas a few years back and there was another man there whose chest, arms, sides, and back were covered in identifying tattoos (identifying him as in the Bratva and his rank).

            I’m sure he wouldn’t publicly discuss business, but tattoos like that aren’t something you would see with the traditional Italian or Sicilian mob that are what most people think of when they hear “organized crime” or “mafia.” Members of those organizations traditionally don’t even admit to the existence of the organization itself. (And through context, it was one of these organizations that the letter writer’s boss was claiming to be a part of.)

            1. Observer*

              Some groups, like the Russian Mob, have tattoos that easily identify themselves as being members.

              They generally still don’t make those types of threats – if you know what those tattoos are, they speak for themselves.

              1. Ukdancer*

                Definitely. I was in a very upmarket hotel spa in Ukraine about 5 years ago and there were 3-4 oldish men in there with very obvious Russian prison tattoos which indicated fairly senior status in the vor y zakone.

                They did not go throwing their status around and were very pleasant. One of them apologised when he inadvertently splashed me getting into the pool. It was obvious what he was but he was still pleasant. I figured that even mobsters had a day off now and then.

                1. Emmy Noether*

                  Seems perfectly normal to me that even mobsters would want most of their human interactions to be pleasant. Those who throw their weight around all the time and mix business and pleasure too much probably also don’t get to be old mobsters.

    3. Antilles*

      That lines up with what I’ve heard/read about the current status of organized crime from the other (police/FBI/etc) side, too. The feds have come down hard enough in the past few decades that it’s basically forced such organizations to adapt, smarten up on security, and try to avoid notice.

      Any actual Mafia member who was stupid enough to shoot their mouth off like this to an uninvolved outsider would either be caught very quickly by the feds or (more likely) dealt with by the Mafia themselves as a security risk.

    4. Wintermute*

      That was my take too, you’re spot on.

      Someone “in the life” would never, ever use the word “mob”, someone adjacent to but NOT in the life probably wouldn’t either. First of all it’s sort of been drilled into folks that “admitting it’s a mob means admitting to a criminal enterprise, so please don’t make my lawyer’s job harder than I am already by bringing RICO into this.”

      Second of all, it’s never “the mob,” these days so far as I can tell the common code words from eras past have been too widely publicized to be used either (think “our thing,” “amiga nostra,” “this thing of ours,” “good fellas”, etc). If they refer to it at all it’s likely to be just talking about “my friends” or “our friends” or “connections” or a reference to being “with somebody”.

      Third of all, it’s utterly forbidden to admit to Mafia membership to someone who isn’t made, even to an associate of the family. Once you get “straightened out” you’re to pretend you never met those people in your life unless a mutual friend of equal or higher rank introduces them as “our friend”.

      You’re also very right that talking like that in the wrong company might get you a “so, who you with?” and a knowing look, fumbling around and making a fool of yourself will get you written off forever as a moron, but heaven help you if you lie, that could earn a beating from a real wiseguy that doesn’t like joe schmo acting like they’re ‘friends’ and using his name where it might cause trouble.

    5. Justme, The OG*

      Agree. I only know about my family’s connections because of genealogy research. And I would never make threats like that boss did.

    6. Smithy*

      While not entirely the same, I had a boss who was a woman in her 60’s and would frequently use colorful, violent language around things like “what would happen if you didn’t read a contract carefully” or sent her a task she disliked. And while she never called out organized crime, it would be things like “sometimes people end up dismembered and scattered in suitcases throughout the bus station”.

      Genuinely inappropriate and unprofessional stuff, but also if you ever called her on it – she’d push back about how she was an old woman and it was all jokes. Now this isn’t to say that anyone should enjoy this kind of language at work. Particularly from your boss. But it’s more about repeated examples contributing to a boss being unprofessional overall, and mostly likely using humor/hyperbole inappropriately as opposed to being dangerous.

      The latter still isn’t helpful and doesn’t lead to a positive professional development environment. But if you’re ever in a position to report/complain about something like this – it can be helpful in thinking about what you’re focusing on.

      1. Random Dice*

        “sometimes people end up dismembered and scattered in suitcases throughout the bus station”

        What the fork.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          She had been watching too much TV. IIRC, that exact thing was on Medium, the show about a psychic who could see how crimes were committed.

        2. Smithy*

          No one would ever give her a prize for professionalism…..that is for sure.

          Admittedly her age and size (she was shorter and overweight), did add a somewhat comical dynamic to it, though she was also a generic shouter. So while I was never worried that the threats were associated connected to genuine physical violence, I’m also not going to pretend it was pleasant.

          Specific to that workplace – she was the Executive Director, so the courses of action were basically limited to finding a new job and preserving my relationship with her as a reference (which in spite of the shouting, she did like my work) or trying to oust her via the Board. Ultimately, I went with path one – but I think it’s helpful to acknowledge that when something does indicate a genuine threat vs an overall unpleasant workplace environment.

    7. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Would have been funny is the LW had come back with, Really I asked my Uncle Vito and he said he never heard of you. But he knows who you are now.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      In fairness, the mafia is a family business like any other. Sometimes you’ve got that employee who would be fired in any other company, but he’s the big boss’s son/nephew and so his habit of saying “I am in the mafia” and “This business is a mob front for racketeering” keep getting waved away.

      Season two of Fargo rolled with this, with Jeffrey Donovan’s character continuously doing things that should have got him removed from management. And management knew it.

    9. Observer*

      The guys who are actually involved in that world would never say something like the boss in #1 was saying. They wouldn’t even acknowledge the existence of “the mob,” let alone make threats to an outsider using such language.

      A good line going around cybersecurity circles resonates: No one who is monitoring your lines is telling you, and anyone who is telling you, isn’t doing it. Which is an updated take on “the one know don’t talk, the one who talk don’t know.”

      I still hope the OP got out of there. This is a VERY bad boss.

      1. GarlicBreadAfficianado*

        I came to say this more or less.
        1) if their made, they won’t EVER talk about it. EVER. Especially like that. I also grew up around it. I had family “invovled” in it.. not in the made man sense.. but adjacent to.. think bootleggers and speak easy proprieters, running numbers/bookies, enforcers etc. You never ever talked about it. People knew of course. And even “clean” generations later families were still “close” I mean that’s how I got a cabbage patch doll in like 1984.. and it wasn’t from my parents standing in line at toys r us.. but in a dark parking lot with them being tossed off the back of a truck.

        Meanwhile.. on the other half of the family we had my great uncle who “traveled” a lot for work. All we knew was he was with the US State Dept. He just said he had a super boring job. Sometimes he brought home something cool for us from a far off place we had never heard of “Where the eff is Turkmenistan?” was said by 8 years olds in 1989. When he died a few years ago there was a letter that was sent from the White House and another from Langley… we were all like “HOLY SHIT UNCLE TOMMY WAS A FLIPPIN SPY!”

    10. Elitist Semicolon*

      Yeah, my neighbor once joked about a local business in my hometown being a Mafia front. Or at least, we thought she was joking; turns out she wasn’t. We really should have known better, since this wasn’t the first time a business in my hometown turned out to be a front. Definitely not the first time in the larger nearby city, either.

    11. goddessoftransitory*

      I remember that letter, and my first thought was, would anybody who actually had mob connections either say so, or go to Joey the Snake and Freddie Two Fists and ask for a “favor” involving breaking a coworker’s kneecap because of a work disagreement? I can just hear how THAT conversation would play out.

    12. Teach*

      While the specific language this guy used to LW1 does make him sound like a buffoon, in general I wouldn’t just blow off threats like this. I know plenty of people who say that they and their buddies are going to kick your a**, and then they and their buddies come and kick your a**. if he did literally use words like “connections” and “the mob,” then yes, he is probably on a Godfather fantasy trip. Probably. He could still have a group of friends who are aggressive and prone to violence. I don’t think there’s any harm in taking these threats at face value, because whether they’re real or not, you want to get out of there.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I think it’s more that they left the tip in cash rather than adding it onto what they paid on a card.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        I’ve often seen people advise to tip in cash to make sure the tip goes to the waitstaff instead of giving the restaurant a chance to take a cut.

        1. Eliot Waugh*

          Yeah, I always ask waiters if they’d prefer their tip in cash or on the card. 90% of the time they prefer cash.

            1. Dahlia*

              What happens with the cash after I leave is between my server and whatever god they may or may not believe in.

          1. Mayflower*

            Unfortunately, half the time you leave a cash tip, the restaurant will (illegally) add a tip to your credit card payment. I used to never audit my receipts, then when I did it for the first time, literally more than half my restaurant visits had a tip added! So for example, if my receipt was a $100 total, and I obviously knew that I would have left a $20 bill inside the black leather bill holder, my credit card would be charged $120.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I stopped putting tip on a credit card when I learned that the cc company tok a % from that too. (If that’s changed let me know.)

    2. Old Lady manager*

      So this was a business lunch with a subordinate and other business people. I can only assume by you being embarrassed, a business meeting for the business.
      How people pay for their food on their lunch time off the clock shouldn’t be your concern, which is why I am assuming this is a business lunch.
      The subordinate does not have a company credit card and as senior level to them, you did not pay for their meal and expense it because of some mystery reason. Yet, are concerned that they paid cash instead of being concerned how it looked that they paid at all?
      Yeah, reimburse them for paying for lunch at a business/work event and arrange for them to have a company card if this is a regular part of their job. If this was an off the clock lunch, it is none of you business how they pay. They may have perfectly good reasons for going all cash, like learning money management or saving for a purchase or liking cash. None of that is really your business

    3. Beth*

      They’re apparently freaked out by the use of cash itself, not to mention the existence of a human being who doesn’t do all the tech things the OP does (social media, TV, cell phone, etc.)

    4. Boof*

      It seems like maybe they are really overly concerned about their employee being wireless in their overall life. IDK why, maybe some vague notion of digital “illiteracy” being detrimental to a professional career because *vague handwaves*

  4. annabel*

    not to mention that the LW should have been picking up their report’s tab in the first place

    1. Isabelle*

      Indeed! I didn’t pick up on that the first time the story was published but a business lunch is a business expense and the boss would have paid for both of them.

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Agreed. I had a new coworker start remotely at the beginning of the year. This coworker happens to live in the same city as my brother. So when I visited my brother last month, I also scheduled a lunch with my coworker. I’m not a manager, but I am senior to this coworker, so I paid for lunch. (I also told my coworker that someday they would be the senior person in this scenario, and then it would be their turn to pay for lunch.)

  5. I am unable to can*

    I really hope the employee in letter 3 got a better job. The “you MUST use electronic payment on business lunches” thing is weird enough but imagine being judged for not owning a TV or paying for a streaming service…Guess I’m weird then, because I don’t own a TV or pay for streaming! (The streaming service I do use regularly has a free option with ads – and honestly anyone who thinks paid streaming services will remain ad-free forever keep in mind that cable was originally ad-free, and we know how that went)

    The only thing I could maybe see being a problem is the only checking email twice a week while job searching, but honestly that is her right to do and it’s perfectly fine for her to decide she doesn’t want to be an emergency hire on a ridiculously fast timeline because honestly I can see how that is a red flag.

    1. I am unable to can*

      Also it’s weird how LW 3 complains about the employee paying “with exact change” and then states she also left a tip. Like…is that not normal? Were you expecting her to cover part of someone else’s meal?

      1. Bilateralrope*

        The US practice of not including tax in listed prices makes having exact change say good things about this employee to me.

      2. Jaydee*

        I can imagine the paying with exact change being a legitimate (although mild) annoyance if everyone else pulled out a card and the employee sat there digging for coins to get exactly $18.67 or whatever. It would draw less attention to just slip a $20 in and receive a small amount of change. So I can see having a brief conversation with the employee to encourage rounding up to the nearest dollar/nearest bill you have. But in a “this is easier and quicker and draws less attention to you” sense, not in a “you’ve committed the gravest business faux pas by paying with cash!” sense.

      3. Elitist Semicolon*

        There’s a certain income point at which people tend to get all, “oh, let’s just split the check evenly” without paying attention to who didn’t order drinks/an appetizer/a side salad/the lobster. I wonder if that’s where the exact change judgement comes from?

      4. New Jack Karyn*

        I saw it as more like, her lunch was $23 and instead of putting down a twenty and a five, she put down a twenty and three singles. Or if it came to $23.15, added the correct coinage.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      I just reread to be sure and it says she only checks it twice a week when she’s NOT job searching, implying that she checks it more often when she is.

      1. I am unable to can*

        Ah, whoops, misread that. I can see how that might be an issue if she only checks her work e-mail only twice a week.

        And if it is only her personal e-mail she only checks twice a week and keeps on top of her work e-mail…again, what business is that of the manager’s?

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Yeah, that wasn’t very clear if it’s only her personal email.

          I assume it was, because (1) if it was work email, that could lead to actual problems that LW surely would have mentioned to support their case, (2) job searching is usually via personal email, and (3) from the description, employee seems to have her life pretty together – she’s unconventional, but not in a way that poses actual problems, so I’m assuming she’s doing her work just fine.

          1. Allonge*

            Yes, checking work email only twice a week would likely be an issue. But I am also on the side of this is personal email simply because the rest of the complaints are so strange – personal email fits more into the line.

    3. *kalypso*

      Boss is probably pissed that they didn’t reply fast enough while in the hiring process and is BEC about everything.

    4. Observer*

      The only thing I could maybe see being a problem is the only checking email twice a week while job searching,

      Yeah, that would be a bit weird, except that the OP says that she if she is NOT job hunting, she only checks email twice a week. So clearly, she changes things when she’s looking.

      Which tells me that she’s calibrating things based on circumstances. Which makes the OP’s issues even weirder.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        Does this mean the OP knows she’s job-hunting? Because that would be yet another level of weird – either she’s being unnecessarily concerned with someone who’s probably leaving anyway or she totally doesn’t care that she might be antagonizing someone into leaving.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          My guess is she mentioned something about only checking her e-mail twice a week and the OP or somebody else pointed out that wouldn’t be a good idea when job-hunting and she said, “oh, I check it more often then.”

    1. UKgreen*

      In the UK that may not be the case! Our business bank charges 3% to pay in cash – plus the demise of banks in the High St means shorter opening hours and long queues to pay in cash and get change, wasting the time of an employee during peak hours. The card machine charges 0.5%.

      1. londonedit*

        Yes, I think this has really changed in the last few years. Previously small businesses weren’t keen on card payments because the equipment was expensive and card companies would apply charges on the seller’s side – if small places did offer card payments it was usually with a £5 minimum spend or similar, because otherwise the fees weren’t worth it. Now, cash is more expensive and more of a hassle to handle (because so many banks are closing branches, etc) so a lot of businesses are card-only these days. I always have to make a special effort to remember the few places that are cash-only, because I rarely have cash on me!

        1. I am unable to can*

          Huh, interesting. Over here it’s flat-out not legal to be card-only (due to the impact on poor people) but you are also required to offer at least one electronic payment option (which one that is is up to the store to decide).

          1. I am unable to can*

            (And of course not being electronic payment only means you’re not scrambling for solutions if the electronic payment system goes down for whatever reason. Tech fails, and usually at the worst possible moment)

            1. WS*

              Yes, I live in a rural area and everyone local makes sure to have some cash on hand because internet outages (and power outages at some times of the year) are common. Unfortunately, the tourists don’t know this!

          2. bamcheeks*

            It was a pandemic thing– lots of places went contactless-payment-only to reduce covid-transmission opportunities, and some of them didn’t go back. It is absolutely is a problem for anyone who is unhoused or who doesn’t have access to electronic banking for whatever reason, though.

            1. FlufferNutter*

              This and just general privacy concerns. Ever use a card at a business and now you’re getting their emails that you didn’t sign up for? it’s just lazy/easier for them now that we know, hey don’t lick your COVID cash and then burn it and inhale it and you should be fine.

              1. FrivYeti*

                Okay, this is an American thing I’ve never heard of – why is your credit / bank card connected to an email account that the restaurant has access to? Is that common? I use cards for pretty much everything (Canadian) and that has never happened to me unless I’ve signed up for a warranty program.

          3. Madame Arcati*

            I’m not sure about the legal position before but many businesses went card-only in lockdown, to cut contact. I don’t remember anything in the news about it causing a problem for anyone on poverty grounds (I think eg supermarkets accepted cash throughout via the self-checkout) but I think our banking culture is different. Even many lower paid jobs pay wages into a bank account so I believe (although if my privilege is showing I’m willing to be put straight on that!) the vast majority do have a bank account with a debit card which does not incur a fee. And we haven’t really used cheques in years.

          4. allathian*

            I’m in Finland. Grocery stores and pharmacies are legally mandated to accept cash because they provide access to essential products. But small boutiques, kiosks and restaurants have largely gone completely cashless. It’s a cost issue, because banks charge more for handling cash than the card companies do for handling electronic payments.

            I can’t remember when I last paid for anything in cash.

        2. Wintermute*

          for what it’s worth often in the US it’s against the agreement with the credit card company to have a minimum amount– a lot of businesses do it anyway either because they feel they must or because they don’t realize what they signed or because they don’t care, but you can lose your payment processor.

          If I recall one of the big credit card companies had a PSA campaign and a tipline for a while because they thought it was getting excessive– they want “their customers”, as in the payment card company’s customers who own their cards, to be treated well which means they don’t want them being discouraged from using their chosen payment type or charged extra.

          1. doreen*

            That changed around 2010 ( Durbin Amendment to Dodd-Frank law) . Stores can require a $10 minimum on credit cards ( not debit cards) and have to treat all credit card brands and issuers the same.

      2. FlufferNutter*

        That’s so interesting. What about ATM’s? And why are banks closing? I just learned that on our side of the pond, a lot of the cash rewards we earn are being charged back to the vendors. I went to an art gallery recently where you either pay cash or they pass the 4% card fee on to you. My cash rewards are 2% so no brainer there.

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          Debit fees are way lower than credit fees, under 1 % in the US. Cash has its own costs: security risk, needing to keep change on hand, time and security necessary to take it to the bank, risk of employee theft… Depending on the business set-up, debit cards may be cheaper for the vendor than cash.

    2. Rachel*

      I don’t think this is a universal statement.

      Most of the restaurants I go to and venues I attend (ball parks, zoo, etc) are cashless.

    3. Admin of Sys*

      Depends these days – we’ve got a decent amount of folks here going cashless. When I asked a restaurant owner friend once, they said the cash processing fees were basically the same as the creditcard processing fees these dats and going cashless reduced concerns about theft / exact change /etc so overall saved them money.
      Mind you, there are serious concerns about marginalized underbanked people and how cashless places further marginalize them, so I’m not fond of cashless / card only restaurants. But cash is no longer king.

  6. no name*

    I remain baffled by #3. I really hope this person is just a troll, but their ridiculousness, biases, and pettiness are pretty much in line with too many of the managers I’ve had to work with and for over the years, so they probably are being quite serious.

  7. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW3 (paying cash) is giving me “People will think we don’t pay you enough” vibes.

  8. Emmy Noether*

    Tangential to LW#3*: since we have an international commentariat here, I’m curious how these thing work in different places. Here (Germany, Switzerland), I think the thing with not having a card is that it implies not having a bank account (are there still checking accounts that don’t automatically come with a debit card?), and companies usually pay salary/wages via bank transfer only, so you need a bank account to get paid. They wouldn’t be set up to pay out cash, and checks no longer exist. Jobs that pay cash are pretty limited, a lot of them probably under the table/undeclared. Also need a bank account to rent an appartment, and for tax reimbursements.

    There are also increasingly shops that don’t take cash, especially since Covid (and my understanding is that it’s even more common in other places?).

    So, question: how hard would it be to lead a cash-only life where you are?

    *To be clear, this is not a criticism of the employee in that letter. She seems to have it figured out, she’s fine.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Nothing in the letter implies the employee doesn’t have a bank account. She can have her check direct deposited but then she takes out the cahs she needs. Not sure how a bank could be set up to NOT give cash. Here in the US, if I want to withdraw cash, they have to give me cash. They can’t just say oh we will transfer it to another account. If you close your account, you get a check if its a large amount.

      Even during Covid, cash was discouraged but it wasn’t banned. The whole good for bets thing means ANY money owed not just a loan. A restaurant bill is a loan. So they have to take cash. Now they can say we won’t take any sock money meaning we don’t want your sweaty bills that have been carried around next to your skin. Exact change was requested due to the coin shortage, but it was never a you can’t pay cash.

      Hubby and I use our cash back cards for everything. But that’s because of the cash back feature. We pay them off in full every month. But that’s our choice. Some people prefer cash.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      In Ireland, it’s becoming hard. Well, it would be pretty impossible to manage without a bank account as most wages are paid into those, but I wouldn’t assume “cash only” to mean no bank account. I’d assume it means going to the bank and taking out set amounts of cash to spend.

      It is possible they have a debit card but just don’t use it or that they have a post office or credit union account. Those don’t have cards, as far as I know.

      Not having a bank account (or a credit union or post office one) would definitely be difficult. We actually had a Minister for Finance who apparently didn’t have one back in the ’90s and that was really unusual even then.

      Having a bank, credit union or post office account but not using cards is getting to a point that it would be difficult, as it would mean no online shopping and that would have been difficult when everything was closed during the pandemic. There are also some bills and so on that have become near-impossible to pay in person.

      Cheques do still exist here though. I have a cheque book. I mostly use it for donating to charities when I don’t want to do it online as that often requires including a phone number or e-mail address and leads to a lot of contact asking for more donations.

    3. bamcheeks*

      I lost my wallet recently, cancelled all my cards (and then found it again!), and the bank told me that my Apple Pay should start working again within 24 hours because it would just roll over onto the new cards as soon as they were issued, before they got to me. This didn’t work, and I had a bit of a panic about how I was going to buy any food or drink at work that day! Eventually I realised I could go to an Actual In-Person Bank and draw out some Actual Old-Fashioned Cash. I went to our university campus cafe, ordered a coffee, and then found out they didn’t take cash any more.

      I am not even sure how easy it is to have a non-electronic bank account in the UK any more. One of my dad’s friends a while ago was saying she’d got a smartphone purely because she needed an app for banking.

      When I lived in Germany in 2005-06, I did loads of things in cash there that I’d never done in cash in the UK. Rent and bills have been electronic bank transfer since I started working in 1998, but I paid all my German rent in cash in the Sparkasse. And I would guess this has changed now, but back then very few of the cafes or bars we went to would take card payments, and only the larger shops would, whereas even small shops and cafes in the UK were set up for card payments by then.

      1. Artemesia*

        I recently visited the Netherlands and Germany — IN the Netherlands EVERYTHING was by card — it was hard to use cash anywhere. In Germany many places required cash especially fast food or small shops.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Huh, I’ve never heard of paying rent in cash, that must be on it’s way out. I’ve often had setup of automatic payment as a requirement in rental contracts even.

        There are still some cash only cafés and shops around, and even supermarkets sometimes will take debit cards but no credit cards. It is changing though.

        1. alienor*

          I live in a very large city, and it can be odd who takes electronic payments and who doesn’t. I can pay the guy at the weekend farmers’ market with my phone, but the corner shop is cash-only. Some places have a minimum for credit cards and some don’t take cash at all – it really varies. I just wish everyone would have clear signage posted so I know before I get to the till.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      (suburban US)

      Truly cash only, no bank, would be a hassle in that, for example, the electric company is no longer set up with a window where you can go pay your bill in cash. Large distant institutions are less likely to have a cash interface. But it’s not undoable. You would need to, say, rent from someone who lived nearby and was happy to take a stack of 50s in person on the 1st of each month. And that person paid the utilities. Which is not an unusual renting situation, just not the default.

      Cash + check + debit card or other EBT (so you immediately “see” the money leave your account/wallet), really easy to live. This employee may well have a bank account and checkbook and online banking.

      1. Malarkey01*

        The unbanked (about 5% of Americans) are usually poorly, often undocumented. They use check cashing businesses to get cash from their paycheck and use prepaid credit cards that you purchase at gas stations, grocery stores, and big box stores.

        Sadly these methods take advantage of people and cost people more of their wages.

      2. RussianInTexas*

        Suburban US: rent would be difficult, but you can pay for electric and most other utilities in the most big supermarkets.

      3. Squidhead*

        Money orders also fill the cash-to-bill gap, and can be purchased at the post office and then mailed to the utility company. They cost money, though, so if someone is truly cash-only due to lack of credit then it’s just another way that being poor is more expensive.

    5. I edit everything*

      In the US, I think it’s not uncommon to operate with cash only. It’s one method of keeping to a strict budget (sometimes called envelope budgeting). There are some places that have gone cashless, but they’re not daily necessities. Think amusement parks and other entertainment venues. And they have machines where you can put in cash and get out a prepaid card, usable inside or outside the park.
      I almost never see anyone writing a check at a grocery store any more, but do see people paying with cash regularly.

    6. Wintermute*

      in the US a business must pay you by check if you ask, they cannot demand direct-deposit-only and they obviously cannot just not pay you.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Interesting. Checks don’t exist anymore in Germany. They fell out of common use around the late 90s, and I think since recently, law caught up with reality and banks don’t have to issue or accept them anymore. So no longer an option.

        The first time I got a check (France, late 2000s, they’re still in use but getting less common), I had no clue what to even do with it.

        I have no idea what a company would do if an employee had no bank account.

    7. Random Dice*

      I had the impression that in the US one legally cannot refuse cash. It comes up mostly when people pay with small coins, which is annoying.

      When I lived in Switzerland a few decades ago, I had to have a bank account with a set amount (€5k if I recall) in order to get my work visa. But paying bills was so insanely easy – one just brought ALL bills to the post office and paid them there, so fast and easy. It was the most efficient international bill paying I’ve ever done.

      1. Wintermute*

        It depends heavily on the exact details. US currency says right on it it is “legal tender for all debts, public and private” so if you have incurred a debt, they must indeed accept payment in cash. But if there is no debt, they do not have to accept cash.

        For instance, if you go into a formal restaurant, sit down and order a meal, a debt is created, that means they must accept cash for that debt. But if it’s a counter-service restaurant and you go up to the counter and proffer cash, they can refuse to serve you– no debt is created because you weren’t served your food first.

        1. Kara*

          Can you point me somewhere that explains that? My understanding was that a restaurant somehow does -not- count as a debt and that they can choose to go cashless, but I’ve never heard the full criteria of what counts as a debt or not. (Leaving the premises, perhaps?)

          1. Wintermute*

            It depends heavily on the details, restaurants can go cashless but they need to be careful in doing so because there are some ways of going about it that create a debt and others that don’t and these will vary by state. The example I gave was one I was given in a law class applicable to the state of Wisconsin at the time, but again, highly fact-dependent– for instance if you tell people up front that you can’t accept cash and they agree to this then that may be a valid exception I would have to look it up, and I’ll try when I get home today.

              1. Wintermute*

                so, it appears this is a deep, deep rabbithole. In general the fed has chosen to devolve the issue to the states, as I suspected. there is no uniform official definition of “Creditor” which means that, as with many things in US Law, they default to using the common definition unofficially, where it’s said that it’s anyone who has “any person who offers or extends credit creating a debt or to whom a debt is owed”.

                So basically it would have to be litigated but in general you can refuse service to anyone for any (non-suspect-category-based) reason, including payment choice, where same is not against state law, but if you tender goods and create a debt, or if you extend credit (such as a bar tab) you may have to take cash to satisfy it.

                However many states do have, or since the pandemic have proposed, laws that forbid businesses refusing cash payments for services rendered. In others officials have said they believe this is how the law already operates such as Mississipi State Rep Chad McMahan. There’s a federal bill in the house that’s floating around (the Payment Choice Act) that would federally mandate that all businesses in the United States accept cash with penalties for refusing service, but it is not yet law.

    8. Observer*

      , and companies usually pay salary/wages via bank transfer only, so you need a bank account to get paid. They wouldn’t be set up to pay out cash, and checks no longer exist.

      I’m pretty sure that in the US, this is not legal. You need to pay your employees in a way that they can use, and everyone can use cash.

      A number of years ago a major local government agency nearly got into major trouble over this. At the time electronic payments weren’t a thing, but they REALLY, REALLY did not want to deal with cash. But this is NYC and even now there are people who are unbanked. At that point, it was even more common. Which makes cashing checks a real hassle, and winds up costing money at a check cashing place. That’s illegal. So the agency had an agreement with a bank (Chase, if memory serves), to cash all checks from their agency. Then they decided to drop the agreement because they were trying to save money. The unions did NOT take this well, at all, and threatened legal action. The Agency lawyers went back to their agreements and paperwork and decided that it would be cheaper to skip the law suit that they were definitely going to lose. And management decided that it was cheaper to have this agreement with the bank that to deal with paying in cash.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I think you could insist on a paper check from an employer, but maybe not stacks of cash.

      2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

        Even if you don’t have an account at the bank, you can go to the issuing bank to get the check cashed. So, if I don’t have an account at Wells Fargo, but my employer uses Wells Fargo as their bank, I can go to Wells Fargo to have the check cashed with no fees. However, if I went to Bank of America, and I don’t have an account and the check is not from a BOA account then they may charge a small processing fee.

    9. Observer*

      So, question: how hard would it be to lead a cash-only life where you are?

      On a separate note.

      It would be a touch more difficult today than it was at the time the letter was written – in 2017 cash was still actually necessary for a lot of transactions. And paying expenses like rent in cash was not *common* but totally not weird. In fact it happened often enough that might see advice to renters that were having trouble with their landlords to pay by check only so that they could have a record that they had actually paid the rent that didn’t depend on the landlord.

      But even today, in most places, you can still live cash only if you really want to. And some cities are insisting that it’s possible to continue to do so.

      1. Nebula*

        I used to pay my rent in cash 2016-20: my landlord was ancient and didn’t understand bank transfers, and it wasn’t until Covid hit that he got his son to sort it out for him. It worked well for me, in that it meant I could at least get him in person once a month to talk about anything that needed done around the flat – he was far less likely to fob me off in person than over the phone (ofc he didn’t do email or anything like that).

    10. Dona Florinda*

      In Brazil, most regular jobs require a bank account so employees can get paid (we call them salary-accounts and they are free of charge for the employee) but people who work odd jobs often only get paid in cash. You also need a bank account to apply for loans and to buy a house, unless you do it off the books.

      Having said that, most if not all shops take cash, though a lot of places are often out of change, so that could be a hassle. It’s fairly easy to use cash to pay bills as well.

      So, not at all impossible to live cash-only, but most legit business would require *some* sort of banking history. Assuming the employee in #3 has a bank account but chooses to use cash instead of a debit card, she would be just fine.

    11. Nebula*

      Where I live (large UK city), there’s a bit of a class divide to that question quite frankly. Increasing numbers of bougie pubs, cafes, restaurants etc are cashless, while there are still places that are generally speaking catering to a more working-class clientele that are cash-only, particularly pubs. In fact, last time I was in one of those pubs, my total came to £6 or something for two drinks. I handed over a £10 note and the person behind the bar looked a bit surprised, like she wasn’t used to getting notes and giving change, so I think most people who go there are paying in exact change, like the employee in the letter.

    12. Hanani*

      This is a fascinating question. Truly cash-only, meaning no bank account at all, would be challenging in the rural US (where I live). My job will pay me by check if I request it, but I would need to pay a fee to cash that check. Doable, but literally money out of my pocket. Paying rent by cash is actually not uncommon around here, but I’d probably need to have a rental agreement where utilities were included. I actually have no idea if my electric company, gas company, trash company, etc. would take cash payments. If they did, I imagine I would have to drive an hour or more to their central offices. Same with car insurance, etc. – not sure if they’d take cash, but if they did, I’d probably have to drive a fair distance to their central office, and it would be something outside their usual process.

      Day-to-day stuff (gas, food, etc.), no problem. I know people who do that without an issue.

      If I can have a bank account but only use cash and checks, that’s very easy and members of my extended family do that.

      In conclusion: I think it’s possible to be truly cash-only, but it’s more expensive and would require a LOT of driving. It would also probably require a fair amount of hassle to get things set up.

      1. Hanani*

        It occurs to me I might be able to pay utilities, insurance, etc. by money order. If so, then living without a bank account is expensive (because I have to pay fees at various steps to get the money into the form
        I need it to be in), but entirely possible. Extra steps, too.

      2. Squidhead*

        I haven’t done it recently but banks used to cash checks that were drawn on that bank for free. So if your employer used First Republic Bank and you walked into the branch with your paycheck for the week, they would cash it for free. But your employer might also be using some mega-bank that’s nowhere near your home or work, so it would either be more driving or a fee at your local bank.

        1. Retired Accountant*

          I was just charged $10 to cash a personal check on the bank it was drawn on where I did not have an account. Maybe different for business customers. (I was a bank teller decades ago and we did cash checks drawn on our bank for free. It was a simpler time…)

      3. Cash is King*

        The nearby Wally World will take utility payments for everything except water and sewage, I believe, and they’ll cash a payroll or government check for a fee. My FIL pays his bills there, because that’s how my MIL set everything up long before she died, and he prefers to see the money instead of trusting his bank to do the math correctly anyway. He can count money, but he has a lot of trouble doing math on paper himself.
        He pays both of his store credit card (he gets a discount at those stores for using their cards) bills in person with cash at their store every month, and I think there’s a local bank that takes the water and sewage. If not, the water and sewage plant is about a 15-minute drive and they take cash payments.
        He lives in a small town in the US.
        The time it takes (and having to go to Wally World every month) would bother me, but it’s very do-able where we are.

    13. lin*

      I lived a cash-only life in West Africa 15 years ago – not sure how much of that has changed. Our stipends were direct-deposited in a local bank (nearest branch to me: two hours’ drive one way, so a day trip if the transport worked out and an overnight if it didn’t) quarterly. I’d travel in every three months to take out the entire amount in cash, and I’d pay rent/bills out of that on a monthly basis and then daily expenses. One of the first purchases I made was a lockbox to keep my cash in.

      When I took a management role later on, rent was paid annually in a lump sum, by direct bank transfer from the head office to the landlord. I was responsible for monthly bills and operating expenses, all cash. Postal service wasn’t really a thing any more than cards or electronic transfers, so every month the bills would be hand-delivered and I would have to go downtown to the water, electric, phone offices to pay them. I paid security and janitorial staff on the first of the month, also all cash.

      There were a few times when I had truly stupid amounts of cash on me because of this economy – thousands and thousands of dollars worth in a massive stack of bills, in a country where the per-capita annual income was $250. A bit scary, actually.

    14. Cash only spouse*

      My spouse has led a cash-only life since they moved out of their parent’s home….so 18 years?

      As long as you aren’t buying things online (or need to make a reservation or flight or something)…it’s totally feasible where I live. Rural USA.

    15. Double Dipping?*

      I have come across a few businesses locally who have gone or are going cash free. They have signs up at the front door & the counter that state they no longer accept cash or that they will soon cease to accept cash payments for goods/services. This is the norm in my industry, where transactions of over a million dollars are not uncommon (we manufacture mining equipment) but the businesses I have noticed adopting this practice are cafes, boutiques & the nail salon.

      The main problem I have with this change is that they are also charging card fees above the amount their bank charges them. Most are charging a flat fee of a dollar or two, while the bank charges a percentage of the amount (1.2% for Mastercard & visa, 1.4% for Amex & diners). For a $20 lunch my card fee should only be 0.24c but the café wants to charge me a flat $1 card fee & refuses to accept cash payments, forcing me to pay the higher fee or find somewhere else to eat (small rural town so this is not as simple as it sounds).

      I know, first world problems, but it is still irritating. I am grateful this is my biggest issue this week. :/

      1. FlufferNutter*

        My facials lady told me that it’s actually not legal in the beauty/salon industry to pass the card fees along to the customer, even though it’s a very common practice where I am now. The difference is they encourage cash. So yes, you are being double dipped in a way that sounds super annoying, probably illegal, and fiscally significant if you add it all up.

    16. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      So the employee could have a savings account instead of a checking. In the US most (all?) do not have a debit card. They may have an ATM card so they can go to a machine to get cash out but you can’t use it like a credit/debit card.

      There’s also things like prepaid cards where you get a a bank and routing number to use to deposit your checks too but you don’t have an actual bank. People might not want to use those for credit/debit because sometimes there are fees, etc.

      The fact is the OP’s employee could still have a debit card but not want to use it. They may be a bit odd, but I don’t see anything wrong with the OP’s employee

  9. The answer is (probably) 42*

    In case anyone else was curious, let me save you the trip: I combed through all the comments on LW3’s original post, and the LW never commented. We never got clarification on why they thought paying in cash was “embarrassing”. Lots of plausible theories on why LW’s employee might be paying in cash, and a few plausible theories why LW might object to it (usually along the lines of that LW should have covered their employee’s lunch bill as a business expense to begin with, and LW felt like by paying in cash their employee made them look cheap, which IMO would be deserved in this case).

    Sadly I don’t think we’ll ever get an explanation from LW themselves, I imagine either they have doubled down on their opinion and don’t read this site anymore, or they are worried about getting reamed out in the comments, however justified it might be.

  10. Safely Retired*

    #1… There are businesses out there that are owned/run by the mob, or by people connected to the mob. It isn’t necessarily obvious. I think a bit more allowance for that possibility is appropriate.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      There are definitely people with connections to organised crime. (I know of one or two people in Ireland with connections to dissident…well, terrorist groups), but while I’m definitely no expert, this guy’s attitude seems a bit…informed by TV? I don’t know anybody involved with “the mob” so maybe I’m wrong, but my feeling is that they probably wouldn’t say stuff like “you don’t mess with the mob.” It’s a bit too much like dialogue from an old-fashioned TV show.

      And especially since the issues are such minor ones. I have my doubts “the mob” target people for work mistakes. Or that they would want everybody knowing of their connections. Telling people at random, “I am part of a criminal gang that attacks people for minor reasons” doesn’t sound like a great idea.

      1. *kalypso*

        It’s an excellent idea if you want people to be terrified of you, which is apparently working. Using language targeted to make people reference a stereotype creates a much stronger image than ‘my weekend BBQ buddy’s kid is in the Disco Street Runners!’ and someone going ‘they’re… in a band? What?’

        The nature risk is too significant to disregard, especially in a way that actively feels like an attack on Bob’s masculinity – especially when we know how sensitive this general kind of man is about that.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, I meant it wouldn’t be a great idea if he actually was a member, as it could draw unneeded attention on them.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            That’s where I’m stuck. I think he’s almost certainly not connected to the mob because you need to not run around announcing that to people. But many a family business has an awkwardly incompetent family member who would have been fired if they didn’t share a bloodline with the owner.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              My dad used to call those people “Yes, Wallace.” Apparently his own father worked with a “boss’s wife’s nephew” kind of permanent annoyance, who had no idea what he was doing, so he’d watch somebody start to collate papers or some other task and then say “Steve, collate those papers, would ya?”

              With many an internal eye roll they’d say “Yes, Wallace,” and it became the go to saying at work, and then my family, when somebody said something very obvious or tried to tell you to do something you were already doing.

          2. Wintermute*

            That’s why it’s a big no-no these days to admit to an organization existing. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act changed everything. It criminalized mere membership in or association with any organization that committed multiple predicate offenses in a given time period.

            As a result admitting to the existence of an organization is strictly forbidden, because it’s basically handing the government one half of what it takes to prove RICO charges on a platter– the requirements are An Organization and two predicate offenses one of which is within the last 10 years and the other of which is no earlier than October 15th 1970.

            That means if this jerk is doing something illegal with his business, and it qualifies as a predicate, and anyone else in the supposed organization (whether or not it thinks of itself as a criminal organization or the other people involved would agree it is) has committed any predicate offense since 1970 they’re looking at a very very bad time– triple civil damages for anyone that sues them over their actions in regards to the organization and minimum 20 years per racketeering count, usually consecutive to the actual predicate crime’s legal penalty.

            Real wiseguys take claims of the existence of the mafia very very seriously these days because the penalties are too high not to, they don’t want anyone’s moron cousin causing a RICO beef.

        2. Random Dice*

          Yeah I was surprised by Alisom’s blasé response to the specifics (Mob) vs the nature (threats of violence issued by a man to a woman when he’s alone with her, in order to isolate and control her).

          It made the hair on the back of my arms stand up. I hope she got to safety.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Mob guy who’s pissed off because all the other mob guys get REAL assignments but he gets to go and put the frighteners on Julie because she cooked fish in the microwave again.

          1. coffee*

            Anyone who microwaves fish is probably immune to any threats. The mob guy winds up preparing lunch for Julie every day, after daily delivery got too expensive to keep up with. Suddenly mob guy is running a bespoke catering business and keeps accidentally adding customers to it. Shenanigans ensue.

            1. scribblingTiresias*

              If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Way of the HouseHusband. It’s not this premise, but it’s close in ways you might like.

    2. Anonychick*

      I think it’s more that, when someone is…shall we say…connected, they’re exactly the kind of person who never so much as even mentions such a thing. They treat it almost like an urban legend, something other people are silly enough to believe in.

      Growing up in NYC, there were lots of areas that everyone knew were mob-controlled, and many more businesses that were the same. What did they all have in common? They were of the safest places you could imagine. Why? Because anyone who actually WAS part of anything had a vested interest in staying under the radar, occasionally by any means necessary. The idea that anyone, no matter how low-level or peripheral, would risk the entire house of cards falling just so they could throw their weight around with with their (day-job) employee is…unlikely at best.

    3. Melissa*

      I’m assuming— based on no knowledge at all— that people who are involved with organized crime keep that pretty close to the vest. They probably don’t blurt out “Don’t mess with me, I’m in the mafia” every time someone annoys them, because isn’t secrecy kind of an important part of organized crime?

      1. Melissa*

        I just realized that my caveat about having no knowledge sort of makes it sound like I am also in the mob, lol

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m picturing someone yelling their exact mob connection at the maitre’d of the restaurant to try and get a table.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        They are exactly the types who’d try that at the grocery store while not realizing the person behind them in line is a cop.

    4. Wintermute*

      here’s the thing, being in the mafia (or any organized crime) is being part of a **Secret** society, with heavy emphasis on the secret. Modern Mafia “laws” demand you can’t even admit to there being such a thing as the mob– because if you do then your boss could be on the hook for RICO-related charges because his underlings are admitting to the existence of a criminal enterprise. Turning your (mob) boss’ 3-year tax evasion charge into a life-in-prison RICO charge is a good way to get yourself in mortal peril.

      Real mob guys (that are still active in the life and not in a podcast on their life in the mob, like Sammy Gravano and Michael Franceze are these days) don’t say they’re mob guys, they would never USE the word “mob”. They’d say “my friends”, they’d say “this thing”, they’d say “connections” if they had to be very explicit. They don’t use the word “mob” they don’t like the word “mob”, to them it’s derogatory. Internally when they’re sure they’re not on a wiretap it’s “our thing” (or to the traditionalists “this thing of ours”) or “la cosa nostra” and externally it’s not talked about at all.

    5. Fluffy Fish*

      Nah. He was absolutely full of it.

      Organized crime isn’t in the habit of 1. announcing it and 2. getting involved in petty crap.

    6. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      If the whole point is to not make it obvious its owned by the mob, bringing up the mob kinda blows that whole plan. The guy is a blowhard. A truly mobbed up business is careful to keep it quiet to avoid attention from the cops — and taxing authorities.

      1. Observer*

        Exactly. Especially the cops. Because that tends to bring in the taxing authorities. But also, sometimes it pays to just pay the taxes to keep the IRS out of things.

        1. Fun facts*

          Yup. There’s a reason the IRS is what took down Al Capone.

          Something interesting I learned from a podcast where one of the hosts worked for the IRS: apparently the IRS is not allowed to pass on info about illegal immigrants as long as they are in good standing with the IRS – obviously, the state wants the income and if the IRS rats you out anyway why would you pay. Not that ICE doesn’t occassionally try to get that info.

          Same goes for being a drug dealer. Just declare the income as being from self-employment/sales, as long as everything is declared correctly and you don’t claim to be poor while showing off your fourth Lambo on Facebook the IRS does not care.

    7. Smithy*

      If the reality is that you’re working with someone a) connected and b) genuinely considering professional violent discipline via those connections – then AAM probably isn’t going to have much more advice beyond getting a new job quietly and swiftly. And certainly go to law enforcement if you genuinely think you’re in danger.

      However, I think there are far far more supervisors out there who use inappropriate, colorful language as a means of humor or providing feedback that end up being unsettling and uncomfortable. This can be related to violence/organized crime, sexual activity, alcohol or recreational drug use, etc. And when it comes to that kind of colorful violent language, being mindful about the potential pushback of it being jokes, banter, etc. can help more junior people position flagging the issue to get the changes they way.

    8. DJ Abbott*

      There is someone in my social group who fancies himself a 1920s gangster. He puts on a show of the vintage clothes, the smooth talk and manner, the threatening hints.
      In fact, he’s a drunken, womanizing blow hard who is dealing (badly) with damage from having grown up in a gang-ridden neighborhood before it gentrified.
      It’s possible he might actually know real gang leaders, but I’d be surprised if they take him seriously.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Come to think of it, I don’t know how much of his problem is the way he grew up. Other friends who grew up in the same place and time are not like that. There is something else going on with him, and whatever it is is unpleasant and scary.

      2. Not A Manager*

        I want to know more about the vintage clothes. Vests? Pocket watches? Fedoras? Google tells me spats were going out of fashion by the 20’s but maybe his character still wears them?

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I’m sorry, that would be too identifying. Let’s just say it’s enough to create the image.
          It’s really a shame. There have been a couple of warm and friendly moments with him, but he’s so busy being this character who is rude, stuck up, and scary.

          1. Enai*

            Pity. I wanted to be charmed by the idea of a person cosplaying a prohibition-era gentleman with, ahem, *very discreet friends*. I imagined a polite person who plays poker and always wears suits. Oh well.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              That would be cool! I think that’s how he sees himself, at least in part. Never heard him mention poker though. He’s not as polite, charming, or subtle as he thinks.
              Don’t worry, there are others who do it better. :)

    9. Observer*

      There are businesses out there that are owned/run by the mob, or by people connected to the mob. It isn’t necessarily obvious. I think a bit more allowance for that possibility is appropriate.

      Except that it’s not just not obvious, these places take pains to make it not obvious. No one is claiming that it’s not possible for a boss to have organized crime contacts. What they are saying is that people who have those kinds of contacts *do NOT talk about them like this*

    10. Uncle Vito Said So*

      Of course there are. No one said there weren’t.

      But this guy isn’t one of them. That much is very, very clear to anyone with a lick of sense.

  11. Proofin’ Amy*

    The other thing is that while I mostly pay by card these days, I often bring cash to a big lunch or dinner because not all restaurants in the US will do individual checks for a large group. They may limit how many cards they’ll take for one meal. Also, if it’s a business meal and the boss is that weird about stuff, they should pay!

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah – splitting the bill by putting enough cash on the table to cover your own amount, is so common and incredibly unremarkable. I am truly gripped by what on earth OP3 found to be objectionable!

    2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Yeah, it’s less of a thing now that everyone has paypal or venmo, but even five years ago I would deliberately make sure to bring cash when going out for lunch with a group, because it was so much less hassle than trying to juggle eight different cards and one check. And I would have done the same with coworkers as well as with friends. (Though if there were clients there I’d expect my employer to pay for it.)

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Same. I usually make a point of showing up at group meals with cash in small bills so I can just plunk down my share and be done with it. Depending on the group, there can be a lot of crosstalk and mathing about who owes how much and how much goes on each card, which I find weirdly stressful. This way I get to skip all that! And someone is often grateful to charge my part and keep the cash.

      People have a lot of interesting mindsets around money, and my guess is the OP has insecurities about looking poor or money-conscious. The employee paying cash and knowing the exact dollar amount owed implies (to them) a lack of funds, a lack of credit, or a price sensitivity. I know people who want to feel/look carefree and flush, and throwing down a card without calculating or caring about the amount is what looks like money confidence (to them). They are projecting their insecurities.

  12. Cj*

    I wish the update to #2 had said if they talked to their boss about whether their new coworker was supposed to manage them or not, and if they did, what was the boss’s response.

    and if the boss said they were not to manage the OP, what was the co-workers reaction when the OP talked to them about this.

    it sounds like the situation resolved itself, but we never got an answer to the question posed in the original letter.

    1. Patty Mayonnaise*

      I read the update and had the same thoughts! My interpretation of this is that OP2 didn’t take Alison’s advice about talking to their boss, but didn’t want to state that outright, and the situation resolved because the senior copywriter became less micromanage-y.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah, I noticed the same thing. Original letter is all about “this person isn’t my manager, just a Senior X”. And then the update opens with “the new manager” so….

      1. Celeste*

        Yeah – I took that to mean that the person was actually supposed to be OP’s manager, but how that all came out wasn’t included in the letter.

      2. Energetic Freesia*

        I picked up on that as well. Either the new colleague was hired as a manager for OP3 and it wasn’t communicated well, or they were promoted to management over OP3 between the initial letter and the update. It’s not uncommon for people new to management to take some time to settle on the right style for each direct report, so I’m reading that they each had to navigate the new relationship and figured it out.

  13. Cj*

    there’s a good chance the wife of the OP’s co-worker already knows that they were contacted about interviewing at her company. even if they withdrew their candidacy, the wife might tell their spouse that the OP is looking for another job.

    1. ferrina*

      Yeah, I was wondering if one thing that drew the wife’s attention was that OP worked at the same company as her spouse. If she’s seen your resume, she’s already made the decision whether or not to tell her spouse.

  14. Rachel*

    I agree with everybody who said that people in the actual mafia do not threaten people with the mafia.

    This is somebody who watches too many movies.

  15. Fluffy Fish*

    OP 1 – Your boss is many things, including bananapants, but he is absolutely not involved in the mafia and doesn’t know anybody involved in the mafia.

    I would very much have a meeting with HR about your manager threatening you with implied violence.

    1. Phony Genius*

      The LW stated that the company has no HR, so they have nowhere to go with this.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Thanks missed that. In that case then the option would be to go to the managers managers, which is likely the 3 owners.

      2. ferrina*

        Glassdoor, if the company reads those. Even if the owner would rather sweep the dirty laundry under the rug, they’ll be more motivated to address it when they realize that any employee can air the dirty laundry.

  16. Sunflower*

    #3. Wow. Just Wow. Not everybody is able to get a card or even want a card. She has nothing to be embarrassed about as long as she pay her own way, no matter what method. If you’re so embarrassed, that’s your problem. Maybe the only reason the clients put their share on cards instead of cash is so they have a record to get reimbursed by their companies since it’s a business lunch.
    If you can’t live with your embarrassment, you can pay for her on your card and she can pay you back in cash.

    1. Observer*

      If you can’t live with your embarrassment, you can pay for her on your card and she can pay you back in cash.

      Gasp! Clutching my (non-existent) Pearls! You re expecting this Very Sophisticated (TM) manager to actually handle . . . CASH!? What kind of horror are you suggesting here? How low do you expect managers to have to stoop?!

      Seriously, this manager has issues and I can’t imagine them taking this very reasonable suggestion well.

  17. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    I have a near 100% agreement rate with Allison on almost all issues, but I have to say I can’t go along with her first answer. I think she is way underreacting. Whether or not supervisor really has “connections,” I can’t see this as anything as a threat to OP1’s safety. OP1, get out of that situation as quickly possible. A threat, whether it’s likely to be implemented or not, is still a threat and is absolutely unacceptable.

    1. Essess*

      Agreed. The boss is making repeated implicit threats to an employee’s safety. This is a massive HR flag.

    2. Melissa*

      You’re right and a lot of us (me included) have glossed over the fact that he’s making threats by focusing on his nonsense mafia connection. It’s still a threat! And totally inappropriate in the workplace; OP, there’s no HR so you probably need to quit to get away from this nut.

  18. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    Jeez #3 what’s wrong with a 25 year old using, you know, actual money?

    Note: They are likely on a very strict budget, and a lot of people on strict budgets are using something called “cash stuffing” in order to stick to it. It’s a good thing that teaches not spending beyond your needs. As to not having social media, who cares?

    1. Gyne*

      Yeah I got a Dave Ramsey vibe from the employee paying in cash! Which, while I understand the controversies about his advice, isn’t *terrible.*

      And the (lack of) a social media presence- also weird to get hung up on. She either doesn’t have them or has her privacy settings nailed down to exclude her boss and coworkers, both of which are perfectly reasonable.

  19. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    I commented on the original post from #4 that I had a similar situation! It all turned out to be fine, though resulted in taking a little longer than it should have for the formal offer to be extended. The good news in this case was that the spouse in question wasn’t part of the interview panel, just high up enough he would sign off on candidate of choice, so it wasn’t nearly the risk it could have been.

  20. Essess*

    I had immediate warning bells in my head about the boss trying to mandate using a credit card or debit card. Tread lightly there… some religions forbid debt and for some that includes debit/credit cards. There is also the possibility that the employee has extremely bad credit rating or has issues with impulse spending that necessitates using only cash.

    All of these possibilities are not an employer’s business and are a breach of boundaries to harass the employee about. I’m pretty upset that a boss would micromanage so much to care about how an employee pays for a meal. If this is a business meal and you want to control the image, then the company (ie – the manager) should be paying with the corporate card.

  21. Dances with Flax*

    LW3: I am far more troubled by LW3’s disapproval of that employee’s choices than I am by the choices themselves. LW3 describes the employee as “different” and goes on to make it quite clear that those differences call down their disapproval. Those choices are none of LW3’s business! NONE of what LW3 describes would hinder that employee from doing their job well or from getting along with their colleagues. And at the end of the business day, that’s all that matters.

  22. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (cash at a business lunch) – I tried to think of some possibilities for why the OP might feel this way, as it doesn’t look like they ever came back to the comments in the original letter. This is what I came up with, I don’t agree with the reasoning though.

    – It looks like she is poor / bad with money / can’t get credit or a bank account
    – It is obvious she doesn’t have a company card (is she “senior” enough really to be at this event?)
    – she’s a tin foil hat type who keeps gold under the bed and doesn’t have credit cards or TV because ‘they’ can track you
    – cash is untraceable and often used for under the radar transactions; why doesn’t she want anyone to know she was at this restaurant?
    – she has a lot of cash on her because she’s involved in some kind of questionably declared side hustle

    Again – I don’t agree with these, just stating them as possible explanations.

    1. Observer*

      she’s a tin foil hat type who keeps gold under the bed and doesn’t have credit cards or TV because ‘they’ can track you

      The thing with this one is that you don’t actually have to be a “tin foil” type to believe this. CC and Debit card transactions are a GOLD MINE of data for businesses and government. Why do you think that Google has been trying to get people using their wallet app? Apple is in the CC business for a reason. Amazon sellers are in a war with Amazon over the fact that that they often don’t get a lot of the data that Amazon gets because they CC transaction is with Amazon not the seller. etc.

      Google “data brokers” and you’ll see how big of a deal this kind of thing can be. The stories about businesses realizing that someone is expecting and outing them to family members who hadn’t realized / been told yet (because they send mail to a shared address) are not just urban legends. They are an illustration of just how much data gets collected and how much can be done with that data.

      And governments are getting into the action. In the US, government agencies need warrants to collect a lot of that data on their own, but they are apparently legally allowed to *buy* it on the open market. And apparently they actually do so.

      And then there is the issue of hacked data being used / abused. So, yeah, worrying about being tracked via your bank / credit card transactions is not just a matter of “conspiracy theory” thinking.

      1. Observer*

        For one of the most recent major hacks:
        This one probably would not have been prevented by not using CC, but if someone didn’t use a CC with these agencies, at least that data is not there to be exploited. And it just makes the point of how vulnerable your data is.
        This one is about location tracking, but it’s important because it covers what the agencies say is the legal basis for buy all of this information that they would otherwise need a warrant to collect.

        1. coffee*

          Interestingly, the “target knew a daughter was pregnant before her dad did” story probably is an urban legend. That’s not to say that your data isn’t being bought and sold, just that it might not actually be that useful for marketing. What it is really useful for is for fraud.

          I’ve also heard there’s so much data out there that it’s dropped in value because you can get the same information from multiple sources. Not sure how true that is.

          1. Observer*

            Interestingly, the “target knew a daughter was pregnant before her dad did” story probably is an urban legend.

            I’m sure there are urban legends about this stuff, and the Target story seems to be one of them. But companies do figure this kind of thing out based on purchasing patterns or specific purchases. Or not exactly figuring things out, but advertising in a way that looks the same (eg ads for baby services.) Do they do so with 100% accuracy? Almost certainly not. But predictive analytics and related disciplines really can reveal a lot more than people realize.

            It’s also not just CC data. In 2006 AOL resealed a whole bunch of supposedly anonymized data. Researchers were able to identify individuals based on this data. But CC data is the mother lode for a lot of businesses.

            I’ve also heard there’s so much data out there that it’s dropped in value because you can get the same information from multiple sources.

            Kind of, but also not really. It’s kind of true in that some pieces of data are less worth paying for in some circumstances because there are multiple ways to get that particular data (for a given potential buyer). But in another sense, the data is still extremely valuable to sellers, advertisers, researchers, and all sorts of people who want to exert influence. The fact that this information may be available in multiple places doesn’t make it less valuable to those people, it just means that they may pay less for it.

          2. Single Noun*

            Unexpected fringe benefit of being a larper: my search history is so full of character research that I keep getting ads for things like real estate in Istanbul (I do not live in Istanbul and have no plans to, and actually wasn’t searching for Istanbul real estate, just local real estate and separately a bunch of stuff about the Ottoman Empire)

  23. Jessica*

    I really find myself bristling at any letter that claims that someone else “embarrassed” the LW by engaging in behavior that has nothing to do with the LW.

    Like, “my direct report embarrasses me in meetings by loudly correcting my grammar”? Sure. That’s behavior directed at you, and about you.

    “My direct report embarrassed me in a meeting with a client by not knowing the deadlines for the project”? Maybe? That’s something that maybe reflects badly on you as their manager.

    “My direct report embarrassed me by having unicorn statutes on her desk”? Nah. Stop making everything about you.

    Like, so often “my employee/coworker embarrassed me” complaints seem to arise from people trying to exert control over people they work with in ways that are none of their business.

    1. Spicy Tuna*

      Yes, 100% this. When I was a teenager I would be constantly embarrassed by things my father did. This continued into my 20’s and 30’s when I finally realized he was just embarrassing himself by acting feral in public. It was a relationship-changing realization! And to be clear, my dad is awesome and we have a great relationship, but he is feral!

    2. Energetic Freesia*

      I think there’s a little more nuance in some offices. If the office has a particular culture, even if that culture is something they should really loosen up about, then somebody acting against the culture can reflect poorly on the manager. So in an office where cute statuettes are Not A Done Thing, a bunch of unicorn statues would be embarrassing to the manager. Or, if there is some Done Thing in the office of the LW where they use credit cards, then better advice would be tailored to that Done Thing. LW didn’t mention anything like that, but the example stands for why sometimes something that isn’t about you can be about you.

      1. Jessica*

        I disagree that someone’s desk accoutrements are ever “embarrassing” to their manager. If they’re actually inappropriate (e.g. sexual or bigoted), or if the employee is sitting at a desk that’s not their personal workspace (e.g. a reception desk, which explicitly is the customer-facing space that represents the company), that’s a job issue that needs to be addressed.

        You think your reports’s cube decorations don’t match the company culture, and you’re *embarrassed* by that? You are inappropriately controlling.

        1. popko*

          There are a lot of workplaces in very conservative fields where desktop unicorn statuettes in view of clients passing through the office could very well be seen as extremely unprofessional, and reflect badly on the employee (and, therefore, their manager for ‘allowing’ it to be the case.) If there’s no way that a client would see them, then yeah, the manager doesn’t really have any cause to have Some Kinda Feelings about it, but I understand why someone would frame the feeling of “oh my god my employee just did XYZ thing in front of a client” as ’embarrassment.’

          (I don’t think the paying with cash is embarrassing, though, especially because any role where the status-signalling involved in using a card over cash would be that important is also a situation where the boss should be paying for the meal anyway.)

  24. Spicy Tuna*

    I was once on a business trip with a colleague and we decided to change our flights and come home early (afternoon session of the conference was cancelled). Our company’s in-house travel agent had booked our flights, but we had to pay ourselves to make the change and then submit with our expense reports. The change fee could only be paid by credit card and my colleague didn’t have one. I paid for it and he gave me the cash. It was totally not a THING

  25. SurpriseInterviewPartners*

    OP4 I can do you one better – I once interviewed with the husband of a toxic boss. I didn’t twig to it until about halfway through the interview and I tried not to think about it when I did as there was nothing I could do about it, but it made me really uncomfortable and, as expected, I didn’t get the job.

  26. CashOrOneCard*

    OP3, in work environments one of two things is the norm in my experience:

    1) if not company paid, everyone is expected to pay cash
    2) if company paid, the most senior person puts it on a credit card

    every so often 3 happens, but only if everyone at the table is okay with it:

    3) Someone needs cash for some reason and asks to collect everyone else’s cash and put the whole meal on their (one) card

    I can’t imagine everyone in a group trying to pay their share of a meal on a credit card. It slows things down, it costs the restaurant more money (there is a fee + percentage for each and every card), it’s harder to manage, people might end up with the wrong cards, etc. It is well beyond normal business meal behavior and I can’t imagine anyone trying to insist on it at any company where I’ve worked.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      1) if not company paid, everyone is expected to pay cash

      I have never run into this expectation.

    2. Random Dice*

      Expecting cash is just as far outside the norm, as I’ve experienced it, as expecting credit.

    3. allathian*

      I’m in Finland, and thankfully here ending up with the wrong card has never been an issue. For the last 15 or so years at least, all sit-down restaurants have had portable payment terminals, so you pay without your card ever leaving your line of sight. The culture here is very much everyone pays for themself rather than the host paying for everyone, so you can even get the cost of a wine bottle split between drinkers. This is for social visits to restaurants, obviously things are different when it’s a business lunch or dinner.

  27. Fluffy Fish*

    OP 3 – now that I’ve marinated on it a bit, and just in case you still read here, if you simply can’t control yourself from judging and worrying about things your employees do personally, that have zero to do with actual work (actual work – not made up things you think are work related like how someone pays for their food)…. then by all means excuse yourself from any conversations that you would gain knowledge of such things.

  28. Copyright Economist*

    I don’t have any problem with someone paying cash. Now, combine the fact that the person is paying cash with the fact that they have no social media presence at the age of 25 and a number of hypotheses come to mind. The employee could be a raving conspiracy loon, worried about leaving any sort of a paper trail. The employee could be in witness protection, either for themselves, or a parent.

    As a manager, you are free to speculate about any of these, but you are not free to interact with your employee as if your speculations are real. Just note that some people left university with a penchant for paying cash, so they do not spend more than they have. Google Gail Vaz-Oxlade for a Canadian version of this advice.

  29. nnn*

    A way #3 can make absolutely certain that this and any other employee never pays cash at a business lunch again would be to buy lunch for all the employees, or put everyone’s lunch on a company card.

  30. ManagingProjectsNotPeople*

    OP2 I’ve had several jobs where I did not manage people from an HR perspective but I controlled their activities from a what they’re working on/how it’s prioritized/when it’s due. Perhaps that’s where the disconnect is coming in?

  31. SB*

    The only embarrassment here is that OP made her report pay for her own lunch when she was probably required to be there. I always pay for my reports if I require them to be at a business lunch or dinner. Booze too if we are having a tipple. This is what should happen.

  32. lychee tea*

    I haven’t read all of the comments so maybe I missed it, but has anyone figured out why paying with cash is supposed to be a faux pas?

  33. nodramalama*

    no 3 is so weird. I am not American so we do use cash a lot less due to the lack of fees of transferring between banks and the ease of paywave and squares. But I still wouldn’t blink an eye if someone used cash to pay for something unless it was like… cash to buy a car. And I thought in the U.S. cash was still quite prevelant?

  34. Oops*

    I did accidentally work for organized crime once, so do tread carefully if you think there’s at all a remote possibility you may somehow be connected to that kind of business. Gambling, shipping, waste management…some of them are stereotypes but not all, and organized crime is still alive and well and makes its money thru all sorts of things that seem innocuous…but then lead directly to drugs, death, and human trafficking. Even organized crime needs receptionists.

    1. Observer*

      Yeah, but those folks NEVER say this kind of thing. It’s asking for waaaay too much trouble. The guy is a terrible boss, and probably a terrible person. But he’s not someone with influence in organized crime.

      To repeat what others have said, the real guys do not talk about this stuff.

  35. ItsTheFinalCountdown*

    Regarding #3, Back in 2015 (only 2 years prior to the 2017 dated letter) I lived and worked in a major city and always paid in exact change in cash for my morning coffee when I could. It was so much faster than waiting for my card to process. Being a small coffee place the prices were always round (like $2.50) for a plain coffee. My corner coffee shop even let me skip line sometimes if it was busy because they knew my order and I had the cash ready. If the employee has cash, let her pay cash! It’s not weird.

  36. Anony77667*

    3. I’m embarrassed that my employee paid cash at a business lunch

    OP, there is something wrong with you, not your employee.

    I may be sensing that you think it is weird that she paid in exact change (not the paying in cash part) which leads you to think she is nickel and diming instead of rounding off to the nearest whole dollar but who cares she paid her exact bill. you are acting like she underpaid her bill and stiffed the waiter!

  37. Luna*

    That letter about the employee paying cash is so weird. It’s not weird to pay cash, be it a personal or business lunch. The service rendered is getting paid, that’s all that matters.

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