candidate said “you shouldn’t hire me,” inappropriate music in a family-friendly store, and more

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

1. A candidate said “you shouldn’t hire me” at the end of our interview

I wanted some feedback on the interview I conducted with a candidate earlier today. Overall, the candidate performed exceptionally well during the interview process, showcasing their skills and experience effectively. However, towards the end of our discussion, they made a surprising statement that gave me pause.

During the closing remarks, the candidate said, “I’ve got to be honest — you shouldn’t hire me. I am not the perfect candidate for this job.” I asked for further explanation, to which they cited concerns about competition from other candidates and mentioned feeling awkward. While I appreciated their honesty, it left me uncertain about how to proceed.

On one hand, their self-awareness is commendable, and it’s important to consider their perspective. On the other hand, I believe the candidate has a lot to offer and could potentially excel in the role despite their concerns.

I would appreciate your input on how to interpret this feedback. Should we take their advice into account and reconsider their candidacy, or should we proceed with our evaluation, considering their nerves and lack of confidence during the interview?

That’s a pretty weird thing for a candidate to say. It would be different if they were raising specifics — like if they’d said, “It sounds like you really need someone with strong skills in X, and that’s not an area of strength for me. To meet the goals you’ve laid out, I’m concerned you’d need someone with significant experience in Y and Z.” That’s the kind of honest conversation that can make for a great interview — not necessarily one that leads to an offer, but one that leads to a good outcome for both sides: the employer doesn’t hire the wrong person for the job and the candidate doesn’t end up in a job they’ll struggle in … and if X, Y, and Z actually aren’t so important, it’s an opportunity for the interviewer to clarify that.

But if this person was just feeling awkward about who they imagined the competition was, that’s different.

So: My advice is to think about whether someone without a lot of self-confidence will be able to thrive in the job. In many jobs, it wouldn’t matter. In others, it would make things hard on everyone. This is a situation where I’d bet a nuanced reference check would tell you a lot more. (As might an additional conversation with the candidate where you ask to hear more about what they’re thinking, saying explicitly that you thought they’ve done well in the hiring process so far and you want to hear more about their concerns.)

2. Manager plays inappropriate music in a family-friendly store

I work in a store meant to be family-friendly. Parents bring their children in all the time. I’m a stocker and help unload trucks and put things on the shelves. My shift ends when the doors open for business, but I’ve stayed over a time or two, and even come back in during business hours to shop for myself.

Our stock manager is an absolute piece of work. She has thrown fits at employees for not working as fast as she wants them to. I had to report her to the company hotline for demanding that we do unpaid overtime as “punishment for not working fast enough to get your job done in the allotted time of your shift.” A corporate bigwig personally paid a visit to the store to reprimand her.

She got really quiet for a while, but now a new problem has come up. This manager has access to the store’s music system, and she puts in her own music. Some of it is okay, and you wouldn’t raise an eyebrow walking into any other store. But one particular song is on the music list, and it’s a doozy. Once an hour, every hour, a guy starts singing about how he spotted a random beautiful woman. He has no relationship with this random woman; she’s just someone who is attractive and who rejects his advances. So he spends the entire song blaming this woman for making him want to kill himself so now it’s all her fault, how could she do this to him, and he wouldn’t be like this if she would just date him. The song is sick, manipulative, and downplays real depression and mental health issues.

The manager refuses to remove the song from her playlist. She insists that corporate okayed the music, despite complaints from staff and customers alike. Several parents with children have made their opinions known and have been brushed off. Those who ask for corporate numbers are refused with, “You don’t need the corporate number because corporate okayed the music we play here.” Then she walks away from them and refuses to discuss it anymore.

I have serious doubts that corporate okayed the music, but I also am not sure if I’m being overly sensitive, since it’s a single song. Having already filed a complaint over things that I know for sure are illegal, it might sound like I’m whiny to file a complaint over store music. Customers seem willing to complain to the manager in person, but are not offended enough to Google a phone number on the internet when a direct request is denied. (The information is there if you bother to take 10 seconds on your phone.) I’m afraid to hand that hotline number out myself since the manager has been giving me the side eye through most of my shifts and none of the other managers will lift a finger or even acknowledge the issue themselves. Am I being overly sensitive, or is this wildly inappropriate?

It’s wildly inappropriate. You’re right, she’s wrong, no question. But you’re also not really in a position to do anything about it. You’re feeling like this is on you to solve, but it’s not. It’s the definition of “above your pay grade.”

But this manager is so deeply out of her gourd that something’s going to blow up at some point.

3. How do I set boundaries with my building’s cleaner?

How do I maintain boundaries with my building’s cleaner? I started a new job at a university as an office assistant. The building cleaner is very nice but she has started to try to spend a lot of time with me at work. I am a private person but also a people pleaser and feel a lot of pressure to make sure people walk away from conversations feeling comfortable and happy. However, it has many times caused people to monopolize my energy and time, and my alone time is very precious to me.

The cleaner asked me to have lunch with them one day but then asked to go for a walk during my lunch the next day and to do something else the day after that. I only have an hour lunch and they want me to spend it with them every day and will constantly visit my office throughout the day asking if we are still on for our plans. I feel a lot of pressure and they seem to get their feelings hurt easily if I seem less than happy. I want to be left alone but I don’t want to hurt their feelings or to discourage them from being friendly. I am frustrated as I really value having alone time to myself to read or listen to music and to decompress from masking all day. I don’t know what to do. Can you please provide me with some tips or key phrases that I could use to set up certain boundaries without hurting their feelings?

The easiest way to set a boundary is to cite a different commitment — which can include commitments to yourself. For example:
* “I made plans with my sister to call her at lunch today.”
* “I need to start using lunch to get caught up on reading for my book club.”
* “I made other plans, but I’ll see you later!”
* “I’ve got a bunch of personal stuff I need to take care of at lunch.”
* “I can’t today, sorry!”

Since they’re asking you daily, it will help to come up with a reason that covers you indefinitely, not just for one day (so the reading one or a new standing call with a friend/sibling could be useful).

In an ideal world you’d get comfortable saying, “Most of the time I use my lunch hour to decompress on my own and if I don’t, I have a harder time later in the day.” But for now, whatever lets you set a boundary will get the job done.

Caveat: You can’t guarantee this won’t hurt the person’s feelings. If that’s your measure for “actions I’m allowed to take,” you’ll always be at the mercy of other people and your time will never be your own (especially when you’re dealing with anyone who’s more assertive about what they want than you are). Instead your goal should be “I’m polite and respectful and asserting something I’m reasonably entitled to assert.” How other people feel about that is up to them.

4. Should I bring up that our in-office rule is enforced inconsistently on our team?

I was hired in the pandemic and have worked in my position remotely for two and a half years. This year we were required to return to office two days a week.

My team is only five people, and everyone except one other person is based out of a different location than me. I do not work directly with anyone in my office day-to-day. My manager does not go into an office location even though, according to them, they live within a reasonable distance to commute. The one teammate who is also in my location only comes in once a week. No one else on my team is close enough to an office to reasonably go in.

I know there may be arrangements going on that I don’t know about, but when I tried to bring up a different arrangement with my manager they quickly shut it down and said it was above their head.

Performance reviews are coming up and we also get to review and have a discussion with our managers. I’m thinking of raising this issue that there seem to be differing expectations for in-office attendance across the team. Is this inappropriate? Should I just deal? I’m finding it hard to take this policy seriously when management will not follow it or appear to enforce it equally across the team.

It’s not inappropriate to raise it — you’re being held to a rule others aren’t being held to — but you might not be reading between the lines correctly. It sounds to me like your manager is saying they don’t have the authority to make any official arrangements for differing schedules, but they’re also clearly not enforcing the in-office days with your team. So you could just see what happens if you go down to once a week like your coworker has.

Obviously that’s not ideal since you could potentially be called out for breaking the policy. But it’s not unreasonable to conclude your team has different norms, based on what you’re seeing, and to just quietly follow those norms yourself. (Frustratingly, if you take this route, you’re better off not raising it with your boss again, because then it can become “we specifically talked about this several times and I told you that you couldn’t” … whereas if you just follow your boss and coworker’s lead, it’s “I was calibrating myself to the rest of the team.”) This doesn’t work if your job involves tasks that truly require more in-office time, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case.

5. What to say in an email that has your resume and cover letter attached

My boyfriend is applying for jobs. After a lot of work, he’s ready to email his resume and cover letter to his current first choice. As his cover letter will be an attachment, does he need to include anything in the body of the email besides:

Dear hiring manager,
Please find attached my cover letter and resume.

He should say what position he’s applying for. And it’ll look more polished if he adds a closing sentence and a sign-off. For example:

Dear hiring manager,

Please find attached my cover letter and resume for the X position. I hope to hear from you.

Barnaby Plufferton

{ 505 comments… read them below }

  1. Daria Grace*

    #1, while it’s probably just nerves, I also wonder if its a very bad application of the already very bad play mind-games with your interviewer to win them over “advice” that keeps doing the rounds on tiktok and instagram. If you think they are otherwise a strong candidate, definitely worth some further conversation with them about any outstanding concerns they have before making an offer.

    1. Testing*

      I’m thinking someone who’s obligated to apply for a certain number of jobs per week or month to collect unemployment, but who actually doesn’t want to get a job…

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I thought of an internal candidate who’s applied for the job even though a co-worker has been saying they want/need/deserve the job. We’ve all heard of someone warning off other applicants–this one might have done it anyway.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        It’s sad when we automatically think the worst about a person, when there are likely other reasons for their behaviour.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I don’t know if that’s “thinking the worst”. I have met people in that situation, and I have absolutely thought the worst of a horrible, inhumane system that forces people to do that, not the people who are forced to do it.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Same here. I had the same thought that it could be the reason, and I find it eminently understandable that unemployed people respond to a legal requirement that “you must apply for 5 jobs a week, no matter what” by… applying to 5 jobs a week, no matter what. It’s not a black mark against them in any way.

        2. JSPA*

          Not sure what you’re positioning as “worst” vs “best” here.

          That they’re telling the truth? Or that they’re lying?

          That it would be awkward for them to be offered the job?

          That it would be bad for the hiring manager to offer the job because they can’t / won’t actually take it?

          That it would be bad for the hiring manager to offer the job because the candidate knows they’re kryptonite in some way?

          That they have extreme self-doubt?

          That they are succeptible to bad job search advice?

          Those are all enough to give pause, yet no one is enough to definitively rule out absolutely any candidate for absolutely any job.

          1. Expelliarmus*

            The “assuming the worst” is assuming that the candidate applied for the job that OP1 is hiring for because they need to apply to a certain number of jobs to collect unemployment but they don’t actually want a new job.

            1. Claire*

              I’ve collected unemployment in the past. I’ve applied for jobs I didn’t want during that time. It wasn’t because I “didn’t want a new job.” It’s because while I was waiting to hear back from the jobs I did want, I still needed to put food on the table.

            2. JSPA*

              But candidates turn down jobs all the time.

              Applying to a job to keep access to benefits is not evil, not wrong, and in the long run not anywhere near as bad as hiring someone who’s super difficult to work with.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                In some states you have to take the first job offer made or risk losing benefits. And you can’t quit before working a certain amount of time, either, or you can’t reapply.

                Cruel? Unworkable? You bet. Does it save on unemployment? Yep.

        3. Selina Luna*

          My husband was briefly unemployed at the beginning of his teaching career and was required to apply to or interview for 4 jobs per week. He applied to every teaching job in his area or that he could reasonably drive to in the first 3 weeks of unemployment, and then he had to start applying to non-teaching jobs that he might be qualified for. He never told me about specifically telling jobs not to hire him… but he did tell jobs often if they hired him, they should know that if he was offered a teaching job, he would leave immediately. As he should have. It was enough to fulfill the requirements to keep unemployment while also ensuring that he would be able to leave for a new job when he needed it. And it’s good that he did. He was hired by the BIE (reservation schools). They had interviewed him in November of one year, but he had to go through dozens of bureaucratic hoops to actually be hired, and getting unemployment allowed him to survive until he was able to start, all the way in April.
          It’s not thinking the worst of someone to think that they might just apply for a job in order to fulfill unemployment requirements.

      3. Snow Globe*

        I was thinking that, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want *a* job, just that they don’t want *this* job and don’t want to have to turn down an offer, which could cause problems with the unemployment.

        1. Helen Waite*

          That’s my first thought, too. I’ve been there, unemployed IT tech trying not to end up at a call center. Turned out one of the jobs I interviewed for was 80% answering phones. I was honest about it and politely explained that this wasn’t a good fit for me, and thanked the interviewer for their time.

      4. Wilbur*

        Yeah, but unemployment doesn’t really pay that much money. When I was on unemployment it wasn’t enough to cover health insurance and rent, let alone anything else. I don’t believe in the welfare queen stereotype.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          It did not cover my insurance via cobra, and I suppose if you discount the fact that at that point my state did not withhold taxes from it, it covered the house payment.

        2. MassMatt*

          It doesn’t pay much, my state is better than most and it’s capped at 50% of your average weekly earnings prior to being unemployed. That doesn’t mean it’s not an important income stream, for many people that’s what allows them to pay their rent while looking for a job. No one is insinuating this is a “welfare queen” situation.

        3. amoeba*

          Eh, I definitely wasn’t thinking “welfare queen”. But there’s tons of situations where you actually have to keep applying for jobs you don’t actually want in order to not lose your benefits, some of which have been discussed here in the comments on various opportunities:

          – Candidate already has an offer (they really want) but won’t start until in a few months for whatever reason, they are required to keep applying for that time
          – Candidate is also applying to jobs they actually want, but there aren’t actually enough on the market to meet the required quota, so they have to write additional applications for jobs they are actually a bad fit for/overqualified/not interested in for whatever other reason
          – Candidate is doing something else full time for the next months (in my case, not US though, that was very typically finishing their PhD thesis because funding often ran out just a few weeks/months too early)
          – Candidate is burned out or has other health problems and do need a few weeks/months between jobs before going back full time, but don’t have an alternative source of income so need to apply for jobs starting right now

          1. Majnoona*

            I was your first example. I was denied tenure, but got another job starting in the fall. To keep summer unemployment I had to keep applying for a while

      5. Portia*

        Well, there are easier ways to blow interviews than doing great and then saying “Don’t hire me.” I’ve done it without even trying!

      6. Bad Wolf*

        It doesn’t have to be about collecting unemployment. A strong candidate will likely have options. They might simply not want this job and are trying to be nice about it – “It’s not you, it’s me.”

      7. Vio*

        I suspect if that were the case then there would be many other red flags. Somebody who’s only going through the motions is unlikely to make as good an impression as this candidate seems to have.

        1. A Person*

          Yeah, that was my thought as well. These sort of applications definitely happen, but they’re usually very low effort and poorly matched to the role. Unless you’re hiring basically anyone, they wouldn’t normally get an interview, let alone make a good impression.

      8. Mister_L*

        At an old job someone like that applied.
        Unfortunately it was the kind of job where they’ll take anyone.
        Yes, the whole company was dysfunctional in many way.

    2. Heidi*

      I was thinking this might be some kind of reverse psychology tactic. I also thought he might be getting pressured to apply for jobs he doesn’t want and is trying to sabotage himself. But he could just be really self-effacing. The thing is, none of these reasons makes me want to work with him, so I would probably take his advice if I had any better options.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I’m here at midnight eastern time to say this. Google this and see what “Five Sure Fire Ways to Stand Out in an Interview.”
      I did a quick search. Seems like the uno reverse to “why shouldn’t we hire you,” and one is expected to humble brag. One quick search showed an entire script.
      You were supposed to say “you don’t need perfect you need someone like him. “
      Maybe he really was awkwardly removing his candidacy, but I don’t think so.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Sadly this sounds pretty likely. Moreso than imposter syndrome suddenly grabbing the reins at the 22 minute mark.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      In that case I’d be worried about what future tiktok “advice” might get enacted in the workplace if I were to hire them…

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        “Test your coworkers’ devotion to you by asking them to stop what they are doing so they can tie your shoes for you, or peel you an orange.” -orange theory
        “Test your manager’s willingness to be gentle with you asking them to open a pomegranate.” -pomegranate theory

    5. Earlk*

      Or they were nervous and tried to say something they’d rehearsed which was more along the lines of Alison’s example, fluffed it, then when they were questioned on it got even more nervous and really didn’t know what to say.

    6. Awkwardness*

      This is where my mind went first, too.
      Some reverse pschology where you assure them that they are a good candidate (this creating a link in your brain that they are a good candidate) and to stand out (you think about the remarks and how to handle them, so the candidate occupies more room in your mind than other candidates).

      1. bamcheeks*

        >>so the candidate occupies more room in your mind than other candidates

        which seems to be working! Though not necessarily a Good Thing…

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          So often is this the way of the gumption.

          Five years later who do you remember and talk about? The person who showed up dressed as a banana.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Exactly – and they’re perpetually “the person who showed up dressed as a banana” because you don’t remember their name and they certainly weren’t hired for the job.

            I think sometimes the gumptioneers forget that being memorable and being hired may not have as much overlap as they think.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Yep. Save the schtick for when you’re ready to quit your job and come in dressed like a pirate. Become a story on your way out, if that’s your goal, but it won’t get you in the door.

            2. MassMatt*

              When I was a kid a family friend worked at a big advertising firm, there were some ads at the time people thought were great because they had memorable catch phrases and the like and he was always asked if he had done them. It was painful for him because they were NOT good ads, because people were remembering the catch phrase or the odd situation in the commercial and not the product.

            3. Vio*

              It’s been popular in marketing for about as long as there’s been adverts. Yes a memorable advert might get your brand name out there, but that doesn’t mean people will buy it. In the same way that printing your CV on an orange sheet of card and mailing it in a C4 (sized to fit A4 inside, nothing to do with the explosive) DO NOT BEND envelope will certainly stand out but fails to explain why you’d in any way be a better candidate (yes this happened, no he didn’t get the job, no I don’t remember much else about the applicant).

      2. Sloanicota*

        Eh, it’s possible, but I suspect it was just anxiety that he (ill advisedly) put on you, the interviewer, when he should have managed it himself. Citing tough competition, when he doesn’t know the competition, doesn’t come across as a power move. I bet he was just feeling awkward and insecure was wanted reassurance or felt like lowering expectations would help him feel less awkward.

        1. ferrina*

          I agree that it doesn’t sound like a power move, but it could still be the candidate trying to make a power move. I’ve known a couple people who were constantly trying to be power players and making “power moves”, but they were so incredibly bad at it half the time people just pitied them.

          Either way, this candidate sounds like they’ll need a lot of emotional management. That’s a mark against them, and if OP decides to move forward, do very thorough reference checks and try to screen for how much emotional management this person will need.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            When I hear “Power moves,” I always think of the film Ghost World, that had a character who basically lived at the convenience store parking lot: he’d pull in in his pickup truck every morning and just hang out all day, buying drinks and snacks, in full glorious mullet and tank top sunburn, festooned in gold chains, waving nunchucks around. Truly a legend in his own mind.

    7. I'm on Team Rita*

      Just wondering why so many people think the candidate is male. The OP did a great job of not the candidate.

      1. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

        People in the comments tend to assume that passive/shy people are female and outgoing/gutsy people are men. Which might be sometimes correct but reinforces stereotypes.

        I’m going with the bad online advice theory here.

      2. Heidi*

        I could have sworn the OP referred to the applicant as a male when it was first posted. It was midnight, though. I might have hallucinated it.

    8. Fluffy Fish*

      That was my first thought – they heard some horrible advice for how to get hired on the internet.

      1. Czhorat*

        The internal logic probably goes like this:

        “If I say I’m a bad candidate who shouldn’t be hired, the hiring manager will try to think up reasons that I’m a *good* candidate and will hire me! I’m very smart”

        This seems like the kind of “clever” job hunt advice one gets from social media and a great way to outsmart yourself.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          Yep. There’s no such thing as a perfect candidate so if I say that they’ll see I’m super self aware and humble. It’s the softer gentler side of gumption.

          I recently watched a video of a hiring manager telling people NOT to ask “What would prevent my from moving forward” with a great explanation of why. And the comments were full of “But i did it and it got me the job” or “But I saw so and so’s video about doing that and it got them the job”

          No friends – either they’re lying that they did it and got the job OR more likely, they got the job in spite of asking that question.

    9. Arthenonyma*

      Honestly I think just take them at their word! If they’re saying it because they don’t want this job but can’t turn it down (eg because of benefits) you’re doing them a favour. If it’s an awkward thing they blurted out, I would still kind of assume it was because they’d realised at some point in the interview that the job sounds like way too much for them. And if it’s a powerplay/neg sort of situation (which would be my guess if I they specifically said they weren’t the “perfect” candidate, definitely sounds like they wanted to be told they didn’t need to be perfect) it’s better not to reward the bad advice.

      1. Smithy*

        This is my thought.

        While I didn’t say anything during the interview, I had one job interview where they said something that immediately made me go “whether or not I can do this job, I don’t know if I can and don’t want to try and find out”. I withdrew via email, but then had a number of follow up requests to try and woo me back.

        I withdrew with certainty but the chasing really drove home how much I did not want this job. So truly if this person is being sincere then chasing them could push them further way. But also if that’s what they want – as yourself why….

      2. ferrina*

        My knee jerk response would be “Are you saying you would like to withdraw your candidacy?”

        Their reaction would tell me everything. Do they immediately backpedal and realize their mistake, taking ownership and managing their own reactions? Okay, I’ll keep them in the running, but I’ll be doing a very thorough reference check to make sure this was a one-time mistake. Do they try to word salad or make me responsible for reassuring them or managing their emotions? Nope, immediately out. I need a team that is straight-forward and honest in their communications.

        1. Awkwardness*

          That is my main point. If they are afraid, then they can withdraw or decline if they get an offer.
          But making the employer make the decision for them instead of owning it, does not look promising.

      3. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Yeah, it’s tough because they might really just lack confidence and if the job doesn’t especially need high confidence (it’s all clearly-defined IC work) then it’s a shame to pass on an otherwise good candidate who got too much into their own head. But of all the things that could be going on here, the majority of them would for one reason or another point to “don’t hire this person,” so it makes more sense to err on the side where more of the potential outcomes are stacked.

        And hopefully if the person really did just have a bad case of nerves, they’re probably already at home kicking themselves for torpedoing their own candidacy, and they won’t make that mistake again in the next interview – and since they do interview well and seem to have an employable background, hopefully one of the next opportunities will work out for them.

    10. Person from the Resume*

      We cannot say. It could easily be anxiety/poor self-esteem and a candidate dropping the ball.

      I can easily see this as some sort of tactic like something where the applicant say negative things about themselves and interviewer reassures them that they are qualified and the best. This is a terrible idea, but there are terrible tactics out there.

      We do not know what was going on in that applicants, though, so we will never know the answer.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        This is so wild to me that people could even entertain negging themselves so that the interviewer expends emotional labor to reassure them. It’s a place of business! The person who just met you isn’t going to coddle your feelings!

        When I interview, I listen for people being honest and telling on themselves. “I’m not perfect for this job and there are better applicants out there,” would directly lead to me asking, “Is this you saying that you’re withdrawing from applying to this position? Because, if so, I thank you for your honesty and we will remove you from our list of candidates.”

        For real, if this is all some emotional manipulation that is their idea or something they saw on TikTok, their either an awful human being that would be terrible to work with or they’re naive and kind of gullible/dumb and would require too much work to train.

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          As an interviewer, I might politely do some coddling because of who I am as a person, but I can confidently confirm that having to reassure insecure people has never once resulted in auto-incepting myself with the subconscious belief that the insecure person is any more brilliant than the evidence of their work otherwise suggests. It typically just means that I think of that person as, “{whatever skill/talent level they’ve demonstrated} and/but a bit emotionally fragile.”

    11. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

      Like everyone else this was what my mind immediately went to. It’s clearly super bizarre though and something that’s making you reconsider hiring him at all, so I’d definitely bring it up. If you do plan to hire I’d mention that it gave you concerns

      1. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

        Oops- pressed submit too soon.

        – I’d mention that it gave you concerns/second thoughts if you hire and if you don’t hire the candidate I’d tell them that this was why. They’re likely going to try taking this sort of advice again so I think it would be good for them to get specific feedback that they already *are* a good candidate and tiktok job advice is holding them back.

    12. BW*

      My gut feeling was that one of the interviewers may have said something off-putting during the interview, and the candidate decided that there was no way in hell they wanted to work there. When asked why, they stumbled around for something that wouldn’t burn bridges if they ran into any of the other interviewers again.

      1. AnonORama*

        Or, they heard about a task they hate or can’t do. The “can’t do” would be better explained with a specific script like the one Alison provided, but I can see someone being like “oh hell no” after hearing more about the job description and not wanting to say that for some reason, so what comes out is this awkward “don’t hire me” speech. Not optimal, but I can imagine someone doing that rather than trying to be manipulative.

    13. learnedthehardway*

      Regardless of the reason, I tend to think that the hiring manager should take the person at their word on this.

      I might invite them back for another interview – IF they are really stellar and if self-confidence isn’t a requirement of the role (sometimes, it can be). But it would be at least a yellow flag for me, and I would certainly explore it further.

    14. Festively Dressed Earl*

      I did something similar to the candidate once, and it didn’t stem from a lack of self-confidence, a stupid interview advice trick, or a need to put in applications to fulfill a requirement. It was good intentions coupled with inexperience and awkward execution.

      I was up against some of my classmates for a prestigious summer internship. I knew then and know now that I could have excelled in the position. However, I was friendly with pretty much everyone in my class, I knew the other candidates would also have excelled, and I found out the day before my interview (not from the classmates themselves) that a couple of them were in positions where they could truly use the pay. So when I got the “why should we hire you?” question, that’s more or less what I said – that I was sure I’d do great if they hired me because of ABC, but that I’d be lying if I didn’t mention classmate W would do great because of DEF, and so would classmate Z because of GHL. Classmate Z got the gig, it did help them, they’ve gone on to excel, and I have no regrets.

      1. Gemstones*

        Another vote for Beautiful Girls. It’s also the most family-friendly, wholesome song that mentions suicide.

        1. Lady Blerd*

          I was thinking it something by Eminem but that Sean Kingston’s Beautiful Girls sounds about right although I’ve mostly heard the radio edit that has him saying “in denial” instead of unaliving himself.

        2. NotARealManager*

          Until this moment I thought the lyrics were “you got me so excited, so excited”. Maybe they are on some edits?

        1. Banana Pyjamas*

          I thought so too, but that’s actually NOT a break up song. It’s about a cheating girlfriend who he expects to break up with him.

      2. Jackalope*

        Just read the lyrics and yikes! I’m not sure if I’d notice it in a store but if I did I can see how that would be objectionable in so many ways.

      3. singularity*

        This whole comment thread/section reminded me of my days as a summer camp counselor in the early 00s. Beautiful Girls by Sean Kingston had come out recently, and the little kids were hearing it on the radio. The station that played it never censored out the word s**cide, but these were like 5-7 year olds, and some of them had no concept of it, so they would sing, “You make me ooo-eeee–iiiiiii-DAL, ooo-eeee–iiiiiii-DAL!” All I had to do was have them sing it for their parents to get looks of shock and surprise.

        Several years later, I had the same problem with S&M by Rihanna. People let their little kids listen to the radio and didn’t really pay attention to the lyrics until 1st graders start repeating those lyrics and then they get upset. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. My Useless 2 Cents*

          Early aughts, I was at a grocery store when my (under 10) niece broke out singing “It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy. Granted the song was playing on the radio everywhere (I’m sure it was even on a store playlist or two) and it is very catchy but lyrics are so not appropriate for a kid who has no idea what they are singing about!

    1. Punk*

      It’s “Beautiful Girls.” I’m not sure why the LW described it that way instead of just naming the song, since if you look up the lyrics it’s clearly about the end of a real relationship, not a manipulative pickup line. Even so, if people are objecting to the song, it’s because of the word choices, not its content.

      The song was a massive hit (it sampled “Stand By Me”) and a censored version wouldn’t be out of place on a pop playlist. This is definitely above the LW’s pay grade but she also shouldn’t go above anyone’s head with incorrect information. She just just push for the censored version to be used instead.

      1. NotBatman*

        That’s a good call! If there is a ‘radio-friendly’ or Kidz Bop version of the song, then strongly suggesting that instead of the original sounds like a good compromise. The song will still be misogynistic, but then many pop songs are.

        1. a clockwork lemon*

          Oh man, Kidz Bob versions of anything outside of, like, an actual toy store (not just a “family-friendly workplace”) would be so much worse than whatever the actual song is.

          For what it’s worth, my mind immediately went to “Every Breath You Take” by The Police as the song in question.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        So you claim it’s that specific song, even though that song is different from what the LW described. So maybe it isn’t that song…

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I actually think OP is pretty of off-base here honestly regardless of which song it is. Songs are not generally considered “inappropriate” unless they have a lot of swearing or very explicit because most people don’t even pay attention to the actual content in songs. When I listen to the lyrics of some of my favorite songs as a kid I’m like wow I cannot believe I was allowed to listen to this lol.

        I do not think they would come off well if they complained about the song.

        If she is refusing to allow customers to complain that is a separate and much worse issue. But definitely not his to deal with.

        1. Anon in Canada*

          If this is a child-centric venue, songs explicitly mentioning sex are clearly not appropriate. Would you want “2 become 1” by the Spice Girls played in a child-centric venue? Probably not, no matter how “positive” the message is intended to be.

          Similarly, a song explicitly talking about suicide (as in committing suicide, not losing a loved one to suicide) isn’t appropriate in a child-centric venue. I might give a pass to “You’re Beautiful” as it’s not very explicit (although I’m not even sure about that). “Beautiful Girls” is clearly beyond the acceptable for a child-centric store.

          1. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

            It’s not a child-centric store though- just ‘family-friendly’ where parents tend to bring in kids, but that could also be a grocery store or most stores in a shopping mall. While I think customers should be allowed to complain if they find it objectionable, songs like ‘beautiful girls’ (pop song with little swearing but some objectionable references/meaning) are played in stores a lot.

            1. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

              Also- reading through the lyrics of 2 become 1, I would have no objection to hearing that at a grocery store/mall either. I wouldn’t play it at Toys R Us but that’s mostly because kids have no idea who the Spice Girls are anymore and Disney songs would probably go over better. The song is about sex but there’s no swear words and unless the child already knows what sex is and how it works and the slang around it (in which case, who cares?), they wouldn’t understand what the song was about at all. ‘Let’s get it on’ and ‘make love’ are actually very vague- it’s just adults who know exactly what those phrases mean that understand the song is about something explicit. Most malls nowadays play way more objectionable music- when I worked at a large mall clothing retailer we had Eminem playing on corporate-issued playlists (and that was way more explicit and did bother me).

              1. Cmdrshprd*

                I’m curious were they playing the actual explicit version, or the radio edit versions? For Eminem that is.

          2. Dinwar*

            “Would you want “2 become 1” by the Spice Girls played in a child-centric venue?”

            Don’t place any large wagers on that. I worked for an extremely Conservative boss in high school that refused to let us (a bunch of high school kids working in an ice cream shop/fast food joint) listen to pop music because “It’s all about sex and drugs and violence.” We were only allowed to listen to good, wholesome Country music We pointed out that the Country song playing on the radio as he was speaking was clearly about sex, as were the previous three or four. I also pointed out Johnny Cash’s career, which included songs like “Cocaine Blues”. Yet that got a pass because it was Country and therefore okay.

            I kind of wonder how he’d view The Pretty Reckless. They have a few songs in the Southern Fried genre, and those songs would be perfectly at home on CMT or the like, but pretty much nothing else about the band would fit in with the “wholesome Country singer” concept.

            People get really, really weird about music. It’s one of the reasons I rarely let anyone hear what I’m listening to–I’ve met maybe two or three people in my life that can accept that I’m allowed to enjoy what I enjoy. Few even understand that verbal abuse is not an appropriate response to hearing that someone enjoys music that you happen to not enjoy.

          3. Smithy*

            While the Spice Girls 2 become 1 song might be about sex, I’ve never paid that close attention and just assumed it was about marriage or coupling up. If I heard that at a child oriented business, I genuinely wouldn’t think twice.

            With lots of pop song lyrics – I think there are very often adult themes that can be found. So the overall appropriateness is usually way more about the vibe and cultural appropriateness at a given time. For years Baby It’s Cold Outside had no problematic interpretation, now there’s more of a cultural debate.

            Big picture is that if customers are complaining and those complaints aren’t getting through, that’s an issue. No different than if you worked for a spa/salon and customers found your mood music overly repetitive and therefore not relaxing. But I think engaging in a debate with an employer about pop song lyrics sounds far messier and less productive.

          4. Gemstones*

            I think most people would be fine with “2 Becomes 1,” because they’re not really listening to the lyrics. I also think most people would be fine with “Beautiful Girls” because it’s such a pop-py, sweet, dance-y song…you sort of gloss over the “you got me suicidal” part.

            1. Potoooooooo*

              See also: “Pumped Up Kicks”

              It very much fits the pop-py, sweet, dance-y song mold. If you listen to the lyrics though, it gets so much darker.

              1. LWH*

                Lots of cruise lines and stuff use “Let The Sunshine In”, an incredibly dire song about going to die in Vietnam. I cannot stand hearing it used in those contexts.

            2. Maggie*

              Even if you listen to the lyrics of 2 become 1 it’s hardly going to lead anyone into deviancy. I mean I guess it says “get it on” lol.

              1. I am Emily's failing memory*

                As I recall, in at least one rendition of the chorus, the back-up vocals switch to, “Put it on, put it on,” instead of “Get it on,” so it’s even a safe sex message!

                1. Anon in Canada*

                  It is. The message is positive – it’s clearly a “girl power” song – but I wouldn’t play that in a child-centric store or venue, as some parents may not be happy at having to answer a child asking “what do they need to put on?” after hearing the song in such a location.

                  However as someone else mentioned, it’s not clear whether it’s a child-centric store or just somewhere where lots of parents “happen” to bring kids.

          5. Maggie*

            Lol no I really wouldn’t care if two become 1 played somewhere with kids? That song is so incredibly benign and you could tell them it’s about hugging if you wanted. I listened to spice girls all the time when I was like 6 and somehow I survived unscathed. Man, no one put on any Neil Diamond! The content is far too adult.

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          Songs are not generally considered “inappropriate” unless they have a lot of swearing or very explicit because most people don’t even pay attention to the actual content in songs.

          I disagree. It’s completely reasonable for folks to not want a song that references suicide to be played in a public business. If a business is going to play music (especially if they are open to all ages) bland is the way to go.

        3. Ahnon4Thisss*

          I agree. This is not a child-oriented place, it is just a “family friendly” store.

          There are so many songs I’ve heard played over store intercoms that sound super fun/happy/upbeat that actually deal with super deep or depressing topics once you listen to them. “Slide” by the Goo Goo Dolls is about a woman getting an abortion and dealing with the feelings surround it. “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind is about drugs. “It’s Not Living if It’s Not With You” by The 1975 is about drugs. “Chandelier” by SIA is about dealing with alcohol problems. I have heard all of these played in stores.

          People just don’t really pay attention to lyrics fully while shopping. I just think this is out of LW2’s hands.

        4. I am Emily's failing memory*

          I’m reminding of the episode of 30 Rock where Jenna and her mother are singing “Do That To Me One More Time” at karaoke (with the lyrics changed to e.g. “a daughter like you”).

          Liz to Jack: How are you not moved by this?
          Jack: Because I’m listening to the words.

      4. peakvincent*

        That description was so weird to me. I also don’t love hearing someone croon “you make me suicidal” while I’m going about my day, but this was such a bizarre way to describe a very well known song.

        1. ABC*

          Yeah, it does seem a bit over the top. It would be like saying a certain song is about debilitating depression that drives people toward ending their own lives, and it’s “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley.

    2. Clementine*

      You’re Beautiful doesn’t mention suicide or the other dark, manipulative things the LW mentioned. It’s difficult to imagine multiple customers complaining about You’re Beautiful.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        You’re Beautiful is a terrible song that was played incessantly back when it was a hit. People might complain based on the fact they’re fed up of it (and that James Blunt has a whiny singing voice), but not the lyrics, even though those are whiny too.

        1. Deejay*

          James Blunt himself has acknowledged that the song is annoying. He did a commercial for the UK’s National Lottery about it. The premise was him saying “If I win the lottery I’ll arrange for the song to be played continuously everywhere”. The message was “Play the lottery to make sure he doesn’t win and avoid this horror”.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Even though he created an annoying song, James Blunt seems like a good guy with a strongly developed sense of the absurdity of fame.

      2. Cmdrshprd*

        Eh maybe not directly/obviously, but the lyrics combined with the music video I think kinda does sound like the song OP is describing.

        “But I won’t lose no sleep on that
        ‘Cause I’ve got a plan……And I don’t know what to do
        ‘Cause I’ll never be with you”

        to me that isa vague reference to suicide.

        I think it’s similar to the Xmas song “baby its cold outside” it’s a popular catchy song but when you take a min. and listen/think about the lyrics it can take on a different meaning.

        Even with seeing how the lyrics could sound darker, idk if I would agree that “your beautiful” or “baby its cold outside” are not family friendly.

        1. MK*

          Do people really pay that much attention to the lyrics of songs playing in a store? I think that, if multiple customers complained, it must be more obviously offensive, not “it can take on a different meaning”.

          1. Seashell*

            Yeah, I’d be surprised if more than one person would complain about a song played in a store unless it had actual swear words in it.

          2. Mongrel*

            Do people really pay that much attention to the lyrics of songs playing in a store?

            It may be that they already know the song and aren’t expecting to hear it in a kid-friendly store

            1. myfanwy*

              It’s such a ubiquitous song, though, and any real darkness in it is pretty obscure. I imagine most kids have heard it before and it definitely wouldn’t register negatively with me as a parent, other than ‘oh god are we really still playing that’. Almost all songs have at least some meaning I wouldn’t want to explain to my small child, and luckily they rarely ask.

          3. Genevieve en Francais*

            Yeah, my barometer is whether I’m going to have to have a conversation with my kid about a song. And while I may have to confess to once loving James Blunt despite fully understanding how bad the music was, I definitely wouldn’t complain about that. A conversation about suicide wouldn’t cross either of our minds.

            1. ScruffyInternHerder*

              Or whether I’m going to have to keep them from singing the song a cappella. Mine were fantastic at this skill early on!

              Sometimes its cute. Sometimes its “whoooooa wait a minute!!!”.

              1. Genevieve en Francais*

                For a while there my husband had my toddler son singing Casey Jones, or, as my son knew it, “the train song.” He thought it was *hilarious* to hear a three year old sing about cocaine.

                1. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

                  My mom introduced me to “The Name Game.” And then told me to try it with “Chuck.”

                  Okay, sure! “Chuck chuck bo-buck banana fana fo…”

                  I, age 8, did not know what the F-word meant, but I did know it was one of Those Words and I swear I felt the little quality control inspector in my head vault over three conveyor belts to slam the Brain-to-Mouth Pipeline Emergency Shutoff Valve button with both hands. Mom thought this was hilarious.

                  (If you don’t know the song, search at your own risk; it’s a particularly virulent earworm)

                2. Selina Luna*

                  My mom was apparently very naive and taught my sister and me “Rosie, You’re All Right” by Jackson Brown. If I heard this song in a family-friendly location, I doubt I would complain to the manager (I’m just not that kind of person), but I might reconsider going there again.

          4. Antilles*

            Especially when it comes to well known songs (like the ones named in this thread). Once a song gets beyond a certain level of ubiquitous-ness and fame, people hear it enough that a lot of people just sort of miss the message.
            So the fact multiple customers and staff complained feels to me like it’s either something way more explicit to be noticeable OR a song that people are hearing it for the first time and actually hearing the words, rather than mentally filtering out the 1,478th time hearing James Blunt.

            1. A Simple Narwhal*

              Reminds me of my mother in law, she loves Tom Jones and specifically the song “Delilah”. When my husband was like 10, they were listening to it in the car and he was like “Mom you know he kills Delilah, right? ‘I felt the knife in my hand and then she laughed no more’?” And she was shocked, she loved the song but had listened to it so much the lyrics never fully registered.

        2. Ex-prof*

          I don’t get any suicidal vibe from “You’re Beautiful”. More like he sees someone on the subway, feels attracted to her, has a fantasy of their life together that lasts as long as a subway ride, accepts that it’s just a fantasy and goes on his way.

          1. Anon in Canada*

            The music video absolutely alludes to suicide, as those those 3 lines also vaguely do (that someone just mentioned above):

            “But I won’t lose no sleep on that
            ‘Cause I’ve got a plan……And I don’t know what to do
            ‘Cause I’ll never be with you”

            However, this song is about running into an ex, not a “random woman”, so I don’t think it’s the song OP is talking about… unless OP hasn’t read about the background of the song (you kind of have to dig into what Blunt said about the song in interviews to know it’s about running into an ex).

        3. Bast*

          As someone who LOVED James Blunt as a teen and all the mopey, romantic aspects of the song, I never took it to be a suicide reference. In my head, the “I’ve got a plan” was “I’ve got a plan to win you over, make you notice me, etc.” The ending I took as him finally giving up that the girl was never going to give him the time of day, and him realizing the futility of his situation, particularly once he comes down off of his high that he mentions in the non-radio version of the song.

          1. Anon in Canada*

            That’s a way of interpreting it, but the music video shows Blunt in a situation where suicide is a clear possibility, so based on the video one can infer that the “plan” is suicide.

            Music videos don’t always line up with actual songs, (e.g. the music video of Wake Me Up When September Ends is about the Iraq War, but the lyrics aren’t), but when it comes to You’re Beautiful, they line up quite “well”.

            I don’t think You’re Beautiful is the likeliest “candidate” for the song involved here though.

            1. Maggie*

              And unless they’re projecting the video on all the walls kids won’t know what the video is about, but I agree it’s likely not the song anyway.

      3. I take tea*

        @Clementine: “You’re Beautiful doesn’t mention suicide or the other dark, manipulative things the LW mentioned.”

        You are quite right, I was apparently very influenced by the video.

    3. Gemstones*

      That one doesn’t seem as obviously about suicide, though. I didn’t know it was even about that until I googled and saw that James Blunt had mentioned it in an interview. Hard to imagine that many people complaining about it, because on the surface it sounds like just another love song.

      1. Jill Swinburne*

        Weren’t people using it unfortunately at their weddings? That has to be right up there with Bon Jovi’s ‘Always’ for songs that you really need to step back and listen to the lyrics.

            1. Irish Teacher.*

              I once saw “Ag Chríost an Síol” being recommended as a beautiful Irish song to play at a wedding. It’s in Irish, so I guess it wouldn’t matter too much for American weddings or whatever country was recommending it, but again most definitely a funeral song. The lyrics include, “from death to the end. It’s not an end but a rebirth. In Paradise, we will all live.” The entire song is about dying and going to heaven. It is also extremely religious, clearly. The title means “Christ of the seed” and refers to us all being gathered into the barns of God after death.

              1. The Prettiest Curse*

                And this is why people need to check the translation of the lyrics in any song that they’re using. (Or read the lyrics at all, see the Meat Loaf story below.)

                1. Anon in Canada*

                  Republican political candidates using “Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp at political events also comes to mind! They clearly misinterpreted the song.

          1. MBK*

            The Police have a remarkable number of songs about deranged one-sided relationships. Every Breath You Take, So Lonely, I Can’t Stand Losing You, Don’t Stand So Close to Me…

            1. UKDancer*

              Yeah Sting always creeped me out. Before I saw him singing, I saw him in a very dark play called Brimstone and Treacle playing an unpleasant character. It properly put me off his music.

              I’m sure he’s a lovely person though but that charter was so awful.

          2. Anon in Canada*

            Yup, I was not happy when they used that one in Stranger Things as though it was intended to be romantic!

            The use of Eve6’s “Here’s to the night” at high school proms is another example of a song that was horrendously misused and misunderstood.

            1. Expelliarmus*

              To be fair, Stranger Things is a) set in a time where, correctly or not, that song was likely played at school dances and b) about creepy things happening in a small town (that scene even ends with a foreboding shot meant to make us feel that all is not in fact well in Hawkins)

              1. AnonORama*

                Every Breath You Take was a classic “slow dance” or “couples skate” song in the 80s. Those of us who already thought it was creepy were often overruled by “but it’s romaaaaaaantic”

        1. MBK*

          A couple friends of mine used Meat Loaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” as a featured song at their wedding reception.

          The song literally concludes with him wishing for the end of the world so he doesn’t have to be married to her any more.

          1. Anna*

            Married? The narrator in “Paradise” is just having a one-night stand with this girl! He’s wishing for the end of the world so he won’t ever have to marry her.

            It’s such a fun song to loudly sing along to though. But yeah, not very suitable for weddings. On the other hand, our ‘walking up to the officiant’ song was Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Matrimony” and that was a conscious choice, we thought it was funny.

            1. BatManDan*

              No, listen to the softly sung lyrics at the end. “It was long ago, and it was far away, and it was so much better than it is today.” More loudly, “I’ll never break my promise, or forget my vow….” and the song opens in the past tense. They are definitely married, and he wants it to be over.

              1. Anna*

                Huh, I never realised that about the lyrics. Learned something new (that I will try to unlearn because my original reading is less sad…)

            2. Snow Globe*

              “I started swearing to my god and on my mother’s grave
              That I would love you to the end of time…”
              “I’m praying for the end of time…
              So I can end my time with you!”

              Definitely got married and they are regretting it.

            3. DramaQ*

              They’re married. The last refrain is
              “So now I’m praying for the end of time
              To hurry up and arrive
              Because if I have to spend another minute with you
              I don’t think I can really survive
              I’ll never break my promise or forget my vow
              But God only knows what I could do right now!
              Praying for the end of time that is all I can do
              Praying for the end of time so I can end my time with you!”

              One of my favorite songs by Meatloaf and I will sing the entire thing regardless if I am in public or not.

          2. Morning Reading*

            Wow. If people had divorce ceremonies, that would be the best song for it. It’s one of my fav break-up songs, if you can get past the weird bridge with narration ending “I swore I’d love you til the end of time,”
            “Now I’m praying for the end of time to hurry up and arrive, ‘cause if I have to spend another minute with you, I don’t think I could really survive…”
            Really nails that feeling.

          3. Ambrianne*

            My husband claims “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” was his fraternity’s after-party 3 am song when they wanted the girls to get out and go home. I believe him – that last line is cold!!!

          4. Cruciatus*

            This makes me laugh because my friends had this song at their wedding–and we were all together at my sister’s wedding and played it it there. But they are completely aware of the lyrics, they just love singing it. When I asked the DJ to play it at my sister’s wedding he did say “really?” Lol!

        2. NeutralJanet*

          And “I Will Always Love You” is a breakup song and “Marry You” is about drunkenly marrying a one night stand.

          1. Testing*

            I Will Always Love You isn’t even about a romantic relationship, it’s about the breakup from a long-standing professional collaboration.

            1. MK*

              Eh, I don’t think that because the artist was inspired by a specific event, that has to limit the interpretation of the song for evermore. It’s a breakup song, and frankly the emotion described would seem more appropriate for a personal relationship than a professional one.

              1. UKDancer*

                I think it’s kind of both. The professional relationship is ending and she knows the personal relationship won’t be unchanged. It’s an end of an era for her and she knows this is going to be difficult but that its the right decision.

                I agree though it’s not a wedding song in general terms.

              2. shedubba*

                The artist is Dolly Parton, and she wrote the song on the same day she wrote Jolene, so draw what conclusions you will from that. Personally, I assumed that if she was inspired by an event in her personal life, it was her man cheating on her, with I Will Always Love You written to her now-ex, and Jolene written to the woman he was cheating with. But that’s an assumption I made from putting those pieces of information together, and could easily be wrong.

                1. UKDancer*

                  I was under the impression it was written about the ending of her professional relationship with a more established star called Porter Waggoner so she could start her solo career. But I don’t know a vast amount about Dolly Parton so may be wrong.

                2. MK*

                  She has said in interviews that the story of Jolene was inspired by a random woman who flirted with her husband and the name and appearence from a young girl who asked for her autograph. And that “I Will Always Love You” was about ending her professional colaborration with her mentor. I know it’s tempting to imagine song lyrics are the product of heartfelt emotion, but a lot ot the time it’s about “this word rhymed” and “that turn of phrase sounds cool”.

                3. BubbleTea*

                  Dolly Parton has been married for almost sixty years to the boyfriend she met when she was 18 and newly arrived in Nashville, so I don’t think any of her break up songs are about direct personal experience!

                4. I am Emily's failing memory*

                  @MK And a lot of times it’s somewhere in between – the lyricist is moved by a specific personal experience to write a song, but they intentionally keep the lyrics vague enough to be relatable to people who could be in a range of similar situations, or maybe even slightly change them to be more relatable, because their goal is to produce art that resonates with listeners and they don’t need – or in some cases prefer not – to make the song also be a vehicle for a true story about themselves.

          2. Chairman of the Bored*

            “Friends in Low Places” is about a drunken ex terrorizing a couple at their wedding.

              1. Chairman of the Bored*

                I would have thought so too, but many people apparently don’t listen to the verses at all and think of it as just being a song about having fun with your buddies in a bar.

                I know at least one couple who considers it to be “their song”.

          3. The Prettiest Curse*

            In a similar vein “Who Knew” by Pink is not about a relationship that nearly didn’t make it, it’s about a friend of hers who died from a drug overdose. And “There She Goes” by The La’s (covered by Sixpence None The Richer) is about heroin, not about a captivating woman.

            1. Lola*

              Closing Time by Semisonic was inspired not about the end of the night at a bar but about a baby about to be born into the world. I heard an interview with the band talking about it – one of the band members’ wife was pregnant when they wrote it.

              1. Chairman of the Bored*

                I’ve encountered several examples of “Baby Got Back” being interpreted as a fat-positive song; it is not.

                The lyrics specify that the lady in question has an “itty-bitty waist” and encourages her to do workouts and situps.

                I strongly suspect that many people don’t really pay attention to song lyrics.

            2. I am Emily's failing memory*

              Oof, here’s another. Saw the music video for “Chandelier” by Sia, which consists entirely of the performance of a very talented young dancer (Maddie Ziegler at ~12 years old) doing a brilliantly choreographed interpretative dance to the song.

              One of the top comments was something along the lines of a person commenting at how joyful and free the Maddie’s performance was.

              Reader, it is not a joyful dance. The song is about self-destructive alcoholism and the dance involved a lot of exaggerated, jerky, violent movements that IMO very effectively conveyed the sentiment of reckless, self-destructive mania.

        3. Blarg*

          REM’s This One Goes Our to the One I Love.

          The literal next line is “a simple prop to occupy my time.” But people don’t listen…

        4. Seashell*

          Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton is one that gets misinterpreted as a great love song. The singer gets drunk at a party and she has to drag him to bed. Not exactly a romance to recreate.

          1. ChurchOfDietCoke*

            I was at a wedding a few years ago where the couple had their first dance to One. There were some rather askance looks from people in the room, not least a guest who has been moderating a U2 fanforum for most of her adult life… I thought she was going to pass out from the effort of not saying something about how inappropriate it was!

        5. Not Totally Subclinical*

          “One Hand, One Heart” from West Side Story. The lyrics are fine, but the context in the musical makes me shake my head over using it as a wedding song, unless you really did just meet your spouse 24 hours ago and you expect them to be dead in another 24.

        6. Reed Weird*

          Way too many people play Hozier and think all his songs are romantic… Cherry Wine is not about a good relationship!

    4. Anne Shirley Blythe*

      I thought that too but I don’t recall any threats of suicide/anger toward her in his lyrics.

  2. FunkyMunky*

    LW4 – so out of 5 ppl, only 2 come in and only you come in for 2 days and your boss never comes in. Begs the question – why come in at all? I’d definitely try 1 day instead of 2, see if there’s any reaction and continue with that. like screw this crap with forcing ppl to come in when barely anyone else is going in.

    1. Keyboard Cowboy*

      I’m not sure that doing it just to see if you can get away with it is the move. But I also don’t see in the letter that it’s actually being “enforced” for LW either. If they could use the extra flexibility that their team has, instead of saying to the manager “be stricter with everyone else,” why not say “since everyone else has the flexibility to work from home, it’d be useful for me to on Wednesdays too, so I’d like to start doing that”?

      1. Serene*

        Because the OP seemed to have tried that and was shot down with the manager saying the decision was over their head. That was the key to Alison’s take (and mine too) that while the manager cannot give explicit permission, they won’t really be tracking it. Probably anyway.

      2. Magpie*

        Because LW has already talked to their boss about this and been told it’s not possible. If they bring it up again and the boss says no, they’re directly defying boss’s orders. If LW just starts quietly working from home on Wednesdays, it’s likely no one would notice or say anything and if they did, LW would have more plausible deniability because they weren’t directly told they couldn’t do that.

        1. doreen*

          I can’t say for sure what’s going on with the OP of course – but it’s also possible that it has less to do with plausibility than with what the boss is willing to be responsible for. I once had a job where people would constantly ask me if they could do something against policy. One example was if they finished their work early at a different location. There were three choices – they could stay at that location until their workday ended, they could return to their office or they could leave and use some sort of PTO. I didn’t really have the time to check to see whether someone actually returned to their office and keep track of when which person left early and did they return to their office and what did they put on their time sheet . So I operated under the assumption that if someone left early, they would either return to the office or use PTO. But people would constantly ask if they go home early without using their PTO and the answer was always “no” – because while I was willing to chance getting in trouble for not checking up, I wasn’t willing to get into trouble because someone truthfully said ” Well, Doreen said I could” when they got caught. It wouldn’t even save them – they were expected to know that no one had the authority to allow them to complete timesheets inaccurately.

    2. Alanis*

      As an inveterate rule-follower that is only 5 years from retirement, I look back on the decades of following nonsensical rules while all around me broke them with impunity and I say, just do what you want. Go down to 1 day a week, skip some weeks, I bet no one will say anything or even notice.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        This is the correct response.

        I went to a strict private high school, and one of the real benefits of this was learning early on that most rules don’t matter and the people notionally tasked with enforcing them don’t care; so it’s better to just do the *right* thing than worry about “The Rules” as something to be followed for their own sake.

      2. MK*

        Or they will and it might have serious consequences. I am not saying you are wrong, but what you are betting here could be OP’s job.

        1. Alanis*

          Sure, it’s possible that the boss, who never comes in the office will all of a sudden decide that she is enforcing this one rule exclusively to the OP. However, it doesn’t sound like it’s the kind of place that would fire you without warning. So, drop it to 1 day a week and wait to see if there’s any push back. If none, don’t come in some weeks. Just keep moving the goalpost until someone says something. And if no one ever does, Bob’s your uncle!
          But I would seriously bet money that no one ever says anything, especially if OP just goes down to 1 day a week instead of 2.

        2. Venus*

          I think the key is to learn which rules are nonsensical. Alanis didn’t say to break all rules, because some will have serious consequences.

          I work for a big company that has told everyone that we must be at our cubicles at least 2 days per week. We all meet up as a big group on Thursdays, and the other day is dependent on each person. For the past few weeks I have gone in every day and… despite all the rules, and a form that we’ve filled out saying which days we’ll be in office… there are very few people at work other than Thursday. If I officially asked my boss he would say that I have to be there 2 days, yet there are no consequences if he doesn’t pay attention. I’m still doing the same good work, and I don’t collaborate with anyone on-site so I’m equally effective at home and my cube. At some point he might tell us that we need to be more careful and go in both days, and for now some weeks I will go in twice just to show some effort, but I’m not going to worry about the weeks where I only go once.

        3. learnedthehardway*

          At which point, you bring up that the policy is not being fairly enforced.

          Personally, I’m on the “better to beg pardon than ask permission” side of things. Clearly, nobody cares about the policy right now, and the manager would probably have to enforce it IF it was brought up. But as long as nobody does bring it up, the manager can ignore it.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        ^ If you’ve been following the rule and are not being rewarded (by society, work, the universe, etc) in the way you expected, it makes sense to try doing something else.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, at this point I don’t think I would keep trying the argument about fairness. I think there are two tacks to try:

      1) Ask forgiveness instead of permission. Just stop going in every day and see if anyone even notices. It seems like there is no one there to notice?

      2) Instead of looking at it from the perspective of whether rules are being applied equally, just argue what makes sense for yourself. Unless there are tasks that you can only perform in the office, there is no benefit to you going in if most of your colleagues and most importantly your manager don’t even work from the same office.

  3. Lost academic*

    LW1, I feel sure you are interviewing my brother. I have heard him say this in practice interviews.

    I’ll echo Alison and add that you should consider the potential that you’ll need to spend an unusual amount of time managing that person’s self confidence issues at work. It’ll still mostly be an unknown, but you know your time, role, team and company to know what’s reasonable and what’s not.

    1. Lilo*

      I’ve been in the position of training someone who needed constant reassurances (even though we gave very clear and specific feedback and she was told multiple times she was doing fine). Frankly, it was completely exhausting. This trainee eventually calmed down but it took the better part of a year and I think it was a symptom of it being her first professional job. I would definitely avoid hiring someone who made a comment like that in an interview because I’d expect a very difficult experience.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I’ve been in a similar position, and it was a lot of work but I wouldn’t describe it as exhausting, and the person in question mostly did a good job, though he had his flaws.

        That said, when the company hit a financial rough spot he left for a job that was more solidly within his comfort zone because he was worried that he’d be the next person laid off, so we only got about a year and a half of work out of him. (To be clear, I don’t blame him for his choices and he’s probably better off for it, but it’s a data point.)

        1. Bast*

          I don’t think him acting like that in the interview and him leaving when he feared layoffs are related. FWIW, I would never act like that in an interview, but job stability is important to me. Particularly if I were still relatively new (last one hired, last one fired and all that good stuff) and there were layoff rumors, I’d start looking. It has nothing to do with how confidently I portray myself in an interview, and everything with having a mortgage and a family to support. Job stability is one of the most important aspects of a job to me when I am looking.

          1. Bast*

            Sorry it should be “last one hired, FIRST one fired” — I am clearly having a case of the Mondays.

        2. Lilo*

          It was exhausting because she’d panic any time she was criticized even though we explained many times that no one was perfect in the beginning and feedback was normal. So she’d react by wanting to talk immediately instead of incorporating feedback. Given I was training 3 other people, it was unworkable. She eventually got the message.

    2. niknik*

      I’m quite baffled by this. For your brother, is it nerves / insecurity that makes him say this ? Any guess ?

    3. Gozer (She/Her)*

      I used to use a lot of that kind of language in my mid 20s – I’d been called out (correctly!) for being arrogant and prickly and I went too far the other way. Neither approach was particularly good.

      And there was not being able to vocalise professionally ‘honestly I don’t think this is for me’ in interviews.

      The good news is: it’s something that fades with experience or learning. I’m nearly 50 and still learning new ways to put things better from people on this site.

        1. AnonORama*

          I’m in my 40s and still have moments like this. I actually wasn’t like this in my 20s — I was a high flyer until about 32, when some really epic, really public failures totally killed my confidence. I’ve never really gotten it back, and I’m in a job rather than a career because of it, but I have learned to mask it enough that coworkers and managers can give me realistic feedback and don’t feel the need to reassure me. (Yes, I’ve tried therapy. No, it hasn’t helped.)

    4. ferrina*

      I’d probably respond: “Are you saying that you’d like to withdraw from consideration?”

      Tell your brother this is a terrible tactic, because it really sounds like he wants to withdraw but doesn’t want to be the one to withdraw. Personally I tend to respond by forcing the issue (i.e., asking directly), but plenty of other people won’t bother to follow up.

      It also makes him sound like he’ll need a lot of emotional management (as commentor Lilo described), and I’m too busy to hire someone like that. (That said, if an early career professional said that in a fit of nerves, I’d ask directly and see how they responded. If they realized their mistake and were able to manage their own emotions about it, I’d keep them in the running. If they expected me to manage their emotions or decide for them, they’re out).

    5. Laura*

      Yeah, I honestly would not move forward with this person if they are insecure about their ability to do the job.

    1. LadyAmalthea*

      The response made me look up the Hello Dolly character’s last name and now I’m annoyed it wasn’t Barnaby Tucker.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Yeah, a wall of text in an email comes across way different than a wall of text in an attached PDF, and can also be more difficult to read depending on your screen size (e.g. I wouldn’t want to read it Outlook on my widescreen monitor any more than I’d want to read it on a mobile device).

        1. ferrina*

          Don’t put a wall of text in an email. It’s visually overwhelming. I sometimes include 1 sentence about myself, but definitely not a whole cover letter.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I wouldn’t recommend that. In a lot of company’s hiring processes, the body of your email is going to be buried or mangled or detached from the rest of your application fairly quickly. Anything you want the hiring manager to read should be a pdf. So then the question is, do you copy-paste the cover letter into the email and have it twice? I also wouldn’t, because if someone *does* read both, it could seem weird or annoying.

      Alison’s example is really the best. Short and polite, just the relevant info for whoever is sorting incoming emails.

    2. bamcheeks*

      That’s what I would do, unless of course they specifically ask for everything or be sent as attachments. I don’t think anyone cares that much about formal letter layouts any more and don’t really see an advantage to putting the text of a letter in an attachments when you could put it in the body of an email.

      1. bamcheeks*

        (That said, I don’t remember when I last applied for a job by email rather than uploading attachments.)

      2. WoodswomanWrites*

        Hiring managers where written communication is a part of the job do care about formal letter and resume layouts. Attaching a cover letter and a resume as a single PDF avoids getting what you sent mangled in formatting if it’s forwarded, and makes everything easiest to read.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Written communication is a large part of my role, but “knowing how to lay out a formal letter” isn’t. Back when I started work in the late 90s, it was Every Professional Should Know knowledge, but these days, employers in my sector are more concerned with “can communicate effectively and use the right tone in an email” than formal letter layout. I’m sure it’s different in fields where formal hard-copy letters are necessary for some situations, but I haven’t written a formal letter in my job since I stopped being a medical secretary fifteen years ago, and if an employer selected for that they definitely wouldn’t be optimising their hiring search!

            1. Le Sigh*

              Yes, I think this is a really good example of knowing your industry. Properly formatted letters are absolutely still a thing in fundraising and at the level I’m hiring for, I need people who can adapt to all kinds of communications styles and formats, including letters.

        2. jojo*

          This hasn’t been my experience, as someone working in a writing-focused industry where everyone is expected to have excellent written communication skills. I’ve even worked at places where the formal cover letter as an attachment would be seen as slightly fussy.

          1. Le Sigh*

            Whereas I would find cover letters in an email annoying. I find blocks of text in an email hard to read — usually I’m reviewing applications in batches and the cover letter is part of that application, so it’s helpful to have everything in one folder in PDF/similar docs so I can read through easy. It’s also much easier to share with others who have to review the applications.

    3. londonedit*

      It’s still pretty standard in my industry to apply for jobs by email, and I always attach the CV and cover letter as separate PDFs, just to make sure they don’t get lost and there isn’t any confusion.

      In the body of the email I just say ‘Dear [whoever], I am writing to apply for the position of [whatever], as advertised [wherever]. Please find attached my CV and cover letter, as requested, and please do get in touch if you need any further information. Best wishes, londonedit’

    4. Dr. Rebecca*

      Certain industries (academia, for one) prefer that the cover letter be on branded stationery, so an attachment is more standard.

        1. doreen*

          It could be a monogram, but more generally it’s a specific combination of logo, fonts, colors and so on that is used for all sorts of documents as opposed to old-fashioned letterhead that may just have the entity’s name and address. I worked for a state agency and when “branding” stated, there was a 100 page or so document that described exactly how everything was to look from letterhead to email signatures.

            1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

              If you’re at a university, you might be. A lot of positions come to a natural end (postdocs, graduate fellowships) and while there’s always been some disagreement about whether it’s a legit use of branding/letterhead, there are good arguments on the pro side.

    5. Goldie*

      So someone has to collect all of this info and send it to other people. At my company that is me. I am not an hr person. I do put it in the job description that we want cover letter and resume in a single pdf. About 25% of applicants do this. We regularly hire awesome professionals who didn’t do this.

      Imagine having to copy what people put in their email into a word doc, then turn it into a pdf snd combine it with their resume x20 and all other combinations. No one wants it in the base of the email. And and pdfs too.

      Sorry but it’s a painful process

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        We don’t hire people who don’t put the cover letter and resume in a single PDF. Basic computer skills and the ability to follow instructions are super important – especially for entry level jobs, but at all levels.

        1. Goldie*

          Some of our current talented staff didn’t follow these directions.

          They also struggle with doing mileage claims right, etc ;) but they are talented at their various jobs.

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        You probably already know this, but: you can print the email directly (rather than putting the contents into a word doc) AND you can print it as a pdf. Why give yourself extra work?

        1. Lora*

          If a pdf printer is installed, my company PC doesn’t have one installed and the software respository also doesn’t offer a pdf printer, and I’m not jumping through the hoops with IT and permissions in triplicate to install software not on the repository.

          (Yes, even of it’s just a piece of software and not a physical printer, it’s not necessarily available.)

          1. Potoooooooo*

            Windows 10 should have print-to-PDF capabilities built in, and I’d expect 11 to be the same. You may need to turn on the print-to-PDF option through the Settings menu under Devices (for 10) or Bluetooth & Devices (for 11), just as you would set up a printer.

            I have no idea about whether MacOS or the rest of the Apple suite have a similar feature built in or not.

            1. Redaktorin*

              Macs have the same option. Virtually all computers available to businesses to buy for their admin and HR employees have this option. It’s not a separate software and I have never seen someone manage to turn the option off, though I suppose such a thing must be possible.

    6. hiring mgr*

      My org specifically requires that the resume and the cover letter be in one file, because one person collects the applications and puts them into a folder for the rest of the hiring team. It’s not about formatting, it’s about portability.
      In small orgs or for positions without a lot of applicants, I guess you could get away with it, but to be honest if I were going through the applications folder and didn’t see a cover letter attached, I’d assume the candidate hadn’t sent one rather than it being in the body of an email.
      Actually, when the cover letter is duplicated in the body of the email itself, I find that a bit annoying because I do read them all for any time-sensitive info (e.g. “I’m going to be out of email contact for the next two weeks so responses may be delayed”) and I’m not generally in a receptive headspace to evaluate cover letters at that moment. It’s not a black mark or anything, but it definitely doesn’t leave me with a positive impression.

    7. Michelle Smith*

      No, not if it’s a real, substantive cover letter and not just a “see resume” type email. I have never applied for a job in the past 10-15 years where there was just one person involved in the hiring process and 90% or more of the hiring managers have had very email-heavy jobs. Rather than hoping that my email doesn’t get lost in the sea of other messages, I always have a copy of the cover letter and resume in PDF format attached to the email. It not only makes the email easier to find and search for, but it makes it far easier to print out the cover letter, forward it to other people on the committee, and keep the formatting clean. Plus my cover letter is always multiple paragraphs and that’s just too long for an introductory email.

      1. Scandinavian Vacationer*

        Also, pls title the email “application for Job XYZ.” And also name your resume “FirstLastNameResume” or some combo vs. “resume.”
        Helps enormously in the sorting phase.

  4. Filicophyta*

    OP5: I was hired for one position and when I was chatting with the manager a few months later he said that many people were not selected for interviewing for applications like you describe. He said in some cases they didn’t say a word in the email body, just sent attachments. I used formal business letter style in my email body and this contributed greatly to my being selected for interviewing according to him.
    Of course, this will differ hugely on your field and position.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      In my field, sending professional emails is hugely important. Meaningful subject lines and clear communication are essential. While you wouldn’t get on the shortlist based solely on your cover email, it could certainly be a first level filter to take you out of the running.

      The only edit I would make to Alison’s suggestion is that I would say, “I look forward to hearing from you,” as it’s assertive in the right way.

    2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Honestly, if someone is so picky about formatting that an email like

      Subject: Senior Cyborg application

      Dear Hiring Manager,

      My cover letter and resume for the Senior Cyborg position are attached. I hope to speak to you soon.


      Cyborg Llama Horde

      is unacceptable to them, I’m not sure I want that job anyway. It sounds like someone who’s excessively picky about things that don’t matter that much.

      1. Billy Preston*

        But that’s not what the person said- he said no email body, so just getting an email with (maybe) a subject line and attachments. No, hello, I’m applying for [position]. Including just that line about what you’re applying for is pretty important and not nitpicky.

        1. Momma Bear*

          I’ve received those kinds of emails. They look autogenerated but they’re not and it baffles me when someone thinks their attachment needs no introduction. Also, that’s a quick way for an email to be stuck in IT quarantine.

          1. Beka Cooper*

            I work in higher ed in admissions, and we receive international documents from gmail addresses purporting to be the school sending us an “official” transcript. They frequently come like this, with no body text and a weird subject line. I’m like, if you’re trying to fake being a school official, at least make a fake signature and write something polite.

      2. Filicophyta*

        But your example does say “Dear” and presumably uses a name. (The job ad had a full name AND title, so I used them.) The point is, that was acceptable. The people who wrote only ‘resume attached’ or nothing at all, were not not considered. It’s a field where comms matter.

  5. Bilateralrope*


    Maybe get a friend of yours to pretend to be a customer when making a complaint to corporate. Make sure to include the part where she refused to give corporates number because it is a corporate approved playlist. That might upset corporate even if the playlist was approved by them.

    Oh and her refusal to give corporates number means a customer would be justified using whatever communication method they found first. If that’s a public complaint on social media, with details about why the song is inappropriate, that might get marketing/PR involved.

    Though the downside is that you might get a bland, uncontroversial, corporate approved playlist if they decide that the managers at individual stores can’t be trusted with music selection.

    1. GythaOgden*

      I’d prefer bland and uncontroversial to something that was actively making customers upset and causing them to not visit the shop.

      1. The Unapologetic Uber Karen*

        The thing is, tastes vary widely. Some customers might adore the song that a handful are complaining about. Some scolds always insist on complaining about “Baby It’s Cold Outside” ‘round the holidays, but I for one love it and would not be happy at businesses that dropped it.

        1. Andromeda*

          Iirc, in context, ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ is not half as bad as it sounds on first listen (the “what’s in this drink?” line, for example, is meant to be a playful “oh well, I’ve ‘accidentally’ had alcohol now so I can’t leave!”)… but also, calling everyone who complains about it a “scold” and saying you’d be upset with businesses that dropped it?
          The song does indeed have lines that sound dodgy as hell, and while I also like it, most people shouldn’t have to look deep into the context of the song for something that’s in the background while grocery shopping.

          Same thing with OP2’s — it sounds like it’s really obvious that this song is about suicide, without looking into it. (If it *is* ‘Beautiful Girls’ by Sean Kingston, yeah 100% it’s very noticeable and jarring.) If it’s noticeable enough that you’ve had multiple complaints already, there’s no point legislating around taste — the fact that some people happen to really really like it isn’t as big a deal. And I actually don’t mind that song! (For stuff that’s not about the direct lyrical content, like if a track is by an artist that has had an iffy history, I think there’s a bit more room for negotiation.)

          I think I’m just salty because the songs that benefit from this kind of argument are often of a similar kind — traditional, safe-sounding, given a bit of a free pass because they “sound” classic. More out-there songs don’t get the same treatment even when they are arguably of similar merit, aesthetically. (Sorry if I’m being a bit incoherent.)

    2. münchner kindl*

      Yes, that’s what I thought -the failure of her to pass on corporate number after several customers asked for it is a failure in her duty, and should be adressed by management.

      That none of the official store managers adressed this, is also a problem, and the Big Boss should talk to them, too.

      The song itself is (like the Iranian yoghurt) no longer the problem now.

      1. Observer*

        I think that this is a good point.

        At this point it’s not even relevant if all of the complainers are just “whiny speshul snowflake helicoper parents.” You still give them the number!

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        I suspect LW2 is upset about a whole lot of things, but has fixated on the music. But they still can just pass along the number. Anything else is waayyyyyyyy above their pay grade.

      3. The Unapologetic Uber Karen*

        Those who ask for corporate numbers are refused with, “You don’t need the corporate number because corporate okayed the music we play here.” Then she walks away from them and refuses to discuss it anymore.

        When I get this cr@p from customer service, I respond, “that’s OK, I know how to read a Form S-1 to find the number and names of senior management, and I’m used to contacting them because I’m an investment banker. Your name?” (Or, if they’ve already identified themselves, I say, “I’ll be sure to me mention that X’s lack of action prompted my call.”

        This almost always works, and if it doesn’t I do exactly what I say above.

        I once had a store manager threaten to call the police on me for this, though. In that case, I got out my phone, recorded her threaten me, and complained to corporate with an implied threat to sue. Got a VERY responsive call from an associate general counsel about five days later.

      1. münchner kindl*

        I think stopping the music altogether is both too far – customers complained only about this one song – and misses the actual problem: an employee in supervisor position refused to give customers the corporate number, and none of the other managers adressed the problem.

        1. MK*

          I was speaking generally, I don’t like hearing music in common spaces; the world is loud enough as it is.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Also you will never find music that pleases everyone. I’m sure there are many of us who would love if stores stopped playing music alltogether.

            1. Bast*

              Not quite music, but I agree that there’s nothing that will please everyone. I worked in a restaurant that had 2 TVs (no sound) that always played football when football was on. If for whatever reason we did not have football on during football season or the TVS were off, we’d get constant requests from a good percentage of the customers to turn football on. The vast majority of customers either loved watching the games, or were neutral enough to ignore it, but we’d always get the small percentage of people complaining about how we “always played football” and “can’t you put on anything else.” Other than for the fact that we only got a handful of channels, the owner was not going to change the TVs for the one or two people that did not want football. If she did, the other 25 people in the restaurant would complain, and she wasn’t about to upset 25 to please 2.

              I’m not denying that some things would be quite inappropriate and might upset some people, but that nothing is ever going to be universally loved, and someone will always be upset at the choice.

              1. DJ Abbott*

                Yes… music is a different beast. Football is not likely to be depressing like a constant stream of sad songs.

          2. Broadway Duchess*

            I agree with you that the world is loud enough. That said, I was in Target a few days ago and there was this flicker that caused… something with the lights and sound. It got dim and silent for about 10 minutes and I felt like I was in a zombie movie. The lights came back before the music but the combo of shuffling feet, cell phones, and low-tone conversations was jarring. I realized that some soft ambient music was missing.

            1. Daisy-dog*

              That does sound creepy! As a former fulltime retailer, I do think music is necessary.

              The most surprising thing is that the manager doesn’t rotate her music. She just has a 1-hour playlist that will be played in perpetuity. Every store that I worked in would change the music 6-8 times/year.

    3. Momma Bear*

      I had an experience where someone couldn’t give out information but said, “Google is your friend.” OP could nudge people to do a search. If parents are not happy with it, they need to speak up.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Hmm, this could work but I’d word it in a way that doesn’t sound so snarky. Maybe “I’m not permitted to give out the corporate phone number for this issue, as my manager has insisted that corporate approved this music. However, I am aware that the phone number is available online.”

      2. The Unapologetic Uber Karen*

        OP should it get involved in countermanding what her boss wants here. For one thing, it’s possible that corporate HAS okayed the music. It’s also possible that music is more innocuous than she says; there are a few pearl-clutchers in every crowd. But even if none of that is true, the decision is now on the store manager.

        The one exception might be if OP impersonated an angry customer and called corporate to complain under a fictious name.

    4. Maggie*

      If there’s a public facing corporate number it’ll be listed online and anyone can google it. I’ve never worked anywhere where there was a number to “corporate” that we were allowed to give out for customer complains. Usually the company would say don’t give out anyone’s phone number. That’s a strange thing to me to say someone “wouldn’t” give corporates number. Like if there is one it’s just online? Not arguing with you comment it’s just a really weird thing for a person to be like “you can’t have ‘corporates’ number” bc it’s usually just an 800 number you can google

      1. Observer*

        I’ve never worked anywhere where there was a number to “corporate” that we were allowed to give out for customer complains

        Yeah, but there SHOULD have been a customer complaint number that could be given out. That’s especially true in a retail type establishment.

        Also, it’s not the case that she’s not *allowed* to give out the number. She is explicitly refusing because “You don’t need to” and “Corporate already approved it. (And of course the would never change their minds because customers complained).”

        It’s also that unstated parenthetical which is probably why people are not googling the number.

        1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          I’m the kind of person where, if I weren’t afraid of getting caught with them on my person, I might use a mail merge or similar in Word to print out a sheet of business card sized pieces of paper (to be cut apart with scissors or a paper guillotine) with something like:

          The corporate customer service number for Westeros Grocery is 1-800-555-xxxx. This is at least the _5th_ time Overnight Manager Cersei Lannister has refused to give out the corporate number in response to a customer complaint about the song “I Will Stand In Front Of A Dragon If You Don’t Come To The Sept And Marry Me” by Marillion the Bard on the overnight playlist.

          Starting the count on the sheet at one more than the current known number, of course, and going up from there.

          That would get the point across to customers pretty clearly but there would be absolutely no explanation other than the real one if one of them came to the manager’s attention, which would always be a possibility.

    5. another fed*

      I’d mention it to corporate as a concern about royalties – they’re likely paying for a service that make sure royalties are being paid, and that’s why you can’t just play your own music publicly for exercise classes, receptions, parties, etc. Raise it as a cost/risk concern, that’s an area where the penalty isn’t worth the squeeze.

  6. BellaStella*

    I feel like for number 1 it could be low confidence or the influence of insta and tiltok trends. I have seen some doozies on insta that I keep blocking as I want to keep my feed to cats, Malamutes, seaglass, Bon Jovi and The Hemsworth.

    1. Synaptically Unique*

      This cracked me up. I have a friend from NJ who makes a point of posting negative Bon Jovi content and tags two of his friends (I’m one) who he knows are fans. I’m going to have to better curate my feeds and start tagging him in every Bon Jovi post.

  7. münchner kindl*

    #1, the Interview, I wondered if it was somebody who’s just bad at interviewing – from nerves or because they don’t like talking about their accomplishments (feels like lying or bragging), but actually competent at their job.

    Which is why Allisons recommendation about references is good.

    We have so many stories about people who interview well but suck at the work, and some stories about neurodivergent people who have trouble interviewing at all, but of course there must be people who are neuro typical, but still not very good at interviewing.

    I hope things become clearer one way or the other.

    At least it’s a welcome change from over-confident young men who know they are the best of the best while knowing … very little.

  8. Irish Teacher.*

    Lw1, that sounds to me like some kind of reaction to the poor advice about who you should end the interview by saying how you REALLY want the job or to those interview questions about “tell me why you’d be perfect for this job.”

    I’m guessing it was intended as a joke answer to something like that. “So why should we hire you?” “You probably shouldn’t. I can’t claim to be perfect, but…” And then they blurted it out without the question.

    I’d be inclined to not put too much store on it. Unless it’s a case of them and somebody else being really close, in which case it might indicate the other person has better communication skills under pressure, but unless you are really looking for some deciding point, I’d just judge them like any other candidate and not give that too much attention.

    1. Happy Pirate*

      That’s what I was thinking too. It sounds like poor interviewing advice – end with a humble but humorous self-deprecating comment – executed badly.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I wouldn’t be surprised if they read somewhere that interviewers aren’t impressed by people ending with stuff like “you should definitely hire me. I’d be perfect for the job.” So they thought it would be funny to use a bit of reverse psychology and say the exact opposite. And it was a lot funnier in their head than in reality.

    2. The best at everything (obviously)*

      A few years ago I interviewed for a position with very… nebulous job duties. I kept asking questions like “What would a day in this position look like?” and “What are the specific job duties?” and they kept answering with things like “That depends on the skills the person we hire brings in” and “We have a few things in mind on down the road.” Then at the end they asked “What makes you the best candidate for the job?”

      I couldn’t really answer that question. For one thing, despite myself, I hear questions like that very literally, and my first thought is that without knowing who the other candidates are, I can’t possibly know if I’m the best. That question is so common that I’ve learned to ignore my literal interpretation and answer it by talking about how my strengths match up with the job duties. But in this case, I couldn’t get a grasp of what the job duties actually were. So I said “Maybe I’m *not* the best candidate for the job.”

      I wasn’t trying to be funny or use reverse psychology or TikTok tricks or anything like that; it was just the only thing that came to mind when faced with having to figure out why I would be the best candidate for a job that apparently had no defined responsibilities.

  9. Green great dragon*

    LW4 you say that you’re aware there may be other arrangements in place, and I would tread with some care. I’m guessing there’s some allowance for those hired as remote workers who can’t get to an office, but other reasons might by invisible disability, end-of-life elder care, temporary childcare while going through a divorce. If you throw around phrases like ‘not taking it seriously’ and your manager has one of these issues it won’t go down well.

    It’s probably true that your manager can’t override the rules if there’s no special circumstances for you.

    1. Hokey Puck*

      If there is no one else in that office, as a manager, I’m not making people come in, regardless of the rules.
      Tell them they should come in the one day a week the other person is there and leave it at that unless they are specifically told they have to do that.
      There is no point in someone coming to an empty office to work, and as a manager I would definitely balk at that and push back at the company level, but if not, then I’m just running my team the best way I know how.

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        “There is no point in someone coming to an empty office to work, and as a manager I would definitely balk at that and push back at the company level,”

        I think it really depends, even if the work can be done mostly from home there might still be certain tasks the require in office attendance. Like collecting and scanning the mail to each intended recipient, being there to sign for certain packages etc….

        So having people in on different days might be useful.

        1. Le Sigh*

          Yeah we have a few positions that can’t be done without coming into the office, to the point where it’s written into their job descriptions (we tried doing it remotely, doesn’t work).

  10. Gozer (She/Her)*

    1. Never had that said TO me but I’ve said something similar when I judged from the interviewers that my health issues would not be accommodated. It was pretty clear that the culture there wouldn’t be good for my brain.

    Granted, I was younger and these days I’d just call a halt to the interview entirely, but I was sure it wasn’t the place for me.

    An extreme outlier to be sure. I think a ‘what do you mean?’ email might have led to me disclosing my fears/conditions (definitely not nowadays) so I don’t know. It’s worth a shot.

  11. Re123*

    LW 1: I’d say if there are other good candidates then go with them. Wether it’s a play, bad advice, insecurity, honesty or wahtever. It sounds like a lot of work to find out id they’re a good fit. I’d be inclined to think that the statement they made was declining to be moved forward in the process.
    If there is no other decent candidates then having another interview and references might be worth the effort.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      There’s a whole Leverage episode about how if you make the scam too complicated, the target may decide to just rage quit you in the middle of it.

  12. Earlk*

    I think Alison’s right on the money for LW4, my team is meant to be in 3 days but there’s a silent agreement that 2 is fine but we almost got picked up on our lack of in-office days from the higher ups because someone kept complaining that he didn’t want to be in 2 days a week and wanted to go back to 1. Very annoying.

  13. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW2 (inappropriate music): I think what’s being overlooked here is not just what the customers are doing in the store, but how they feel and act later on.

    I feel like the level of annoyance or upset you have to reach to feed back to management about the music choice is relatively high. For every person that complains, it’s likely another handful left unhappy, or thought twice about visiting again.

    Also, in most stores the music is there as background. I would say it’s unusual to notice exactly what song is playing unless you have a strong emotional response (Feliz Navidad in September, the song you danced to at your wedding, Baby Shark). So overall I think it’s wild that someone would dismiss multiple complaints about a single track rather than just removing it from the playlist.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      This was my thought to. I worked at a large retail store with an actual corporate approved playlist and with hundreds of customers through a day nobody EVER commented on the music (good, bad, or neutral.) For people to be saying anything at all this must be BAD.

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        When I worked retail we got positive comments on the music exactly once. It was December and one of the managers decided he’d absolutely had it with Christmas music and put on Motown. People actually told us they shopped longer to escape the barrage of Christmas music everywhere else in the mall.

        1. AnonInCanada*

          Give that manager a raise! But more likely that manager got fired when a district manager got wind of it. Sob.

        2. AnonORama*

          That would be AWESOME. I actually love Motown, but I almost don’t care what it is, as long as it’s not Christmas music. I’ve now started carrying my airpods on my key chain as early as October to drown out the barrage of ring-ting-tingling bells!

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          Saturday mornings at our local Costco used to have 80s pop, before the pandemic. I still miss it.

      2. Seashell*

        There have been times when I have enjoyed music in a store, but I have never commented. I heard “25 Miles” by Edwin Starr in the grocery store yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it.

      3. Applesauced*

        I worked at a chain coffee shop bakery in high school and college – the holiday playlist was about 45 minutes long.
        That’s long enough for the customers to finish their lunch before hearing too much repetition, but it’s the same loop over and over and over again for the poor souls working there. (10.6666x in an 8 hour shift)

        1. Bast*

          A few months ago I got my nails done at a new salon. I was only there an hour, and the playlist was the same 4 or 5 songs, which would then be covered by a different singer. I was there an hour and I was sick and tired of it; I felt terrible for the workers who were stuck there all days listening to various versions of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.”

          1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

            I used to live in a neighborhood with a Christmas Trolley. It played 3 songs, one of which was by Alvin & the Chipmunks, and made a circuit that passed under my window every 20 minutes for weeks. At the end of term, aka, paper-writing time.

            Sometimes the Grinch has a sympathetic backstory is all I’m sayin’.

        2. tree frog*

          In one of my retail jobs, we had this but with the most hellish Christmas music you could imagine. I don’t think there was one recognizable song on there, it was all mangled Christmas versions of already bad songs. I’m guessing the store manager found it in a dollar store discounts bin or perhaps a raccoon pulled it out of a dumpster while he was passing by.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            At my second retail job we had four or five CDs to play in December (including the Nutcracker). That pretty much covered the working day without duplication, and obviously we could choose which order to play them in.

            It was still *completely maddening*.

    2. Not your typical admin*

      This! I’ve worked retail and obviously I spend time shopping in stores that have background music. I can honestly say I rarely notice the music. If I heard a song that I felt was inappropriate, my initial reaction would be to wonder how it made it in the playlist and chuckle at the thought of whoever was in charge trying to change it quickly. For multiple people to complain it has to be pretty bad. I wonder if it’s a very non mainstream song, or an independent artist since it’s on the managers personal playlist.

      1. Ferris Mewler*

        I agree. **Multiple** people have complained? It must be bad. It might seem trivial after reporting her for such major issues, but I would report it. Especially for how the manager is reacting to complaints.

        1. Potoooooooo*

          Even if the song choice is trivial, how this manager is handling the complaints is very much not.

          And the refusal to give out the number speaks to how she knows it’s probably at least stretching the boundaries, if not entirely outside them.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I feel like this must be a song with unusually good enunciation, and so people for whom muzac is usually ignored are like “… wait, what?”

        1. Maggie*

          lol I thought the same thing! Like wow they must have crystal clear audio and a song where you can really hear each word

        2. JustaTech*

          I only recently learned that there are people who enjoy music but don’t actually listen to the lyrics – whereas I can’t *not* hear the lyrics to any song that’s playing. I’ve had to ask my husband to skip to the next song because the lyrics include words I won’t use and he’s like “huh?”. Or I comment on a song where the emotion of the tune and the emotion of the lyrics don’t really match (eg, Pumped Up Kicks) and again, he’s like “huh?”.

          So if *multiple* people have complained about a song played in a retail store, then it’s got to be super unambiguous. (Not like, “Every Breath You Take”, which is not a nice song, says the singer.)

          1. Expelliarmus*

            For me, if the song is in English, I can’t help but listen to the lyrics (lightly cringing when hearing “34+35” by Ariana Grande and “I Need to Know” by Doja Cat at a work-related barbecue comes to mind), but if it’s Bollywood music or some other music from another language, I don’t tend to know exactly what is being said. But Bollywood music (at least the stuff I listen to) doesn’t tend to be super crude in general (the movies they’re from are fairly appropriate), so there’s that.

    3. AnonInCanada*

      Agreed. If customers are complaining about the music they’re hearing in the store, then there’s got to be something really egregious about it. Most BGM in a commercial outlet is bland, middle-of-the-road “music,” most often with no lyrics to keep it as inoffensive as possible. It’s not meant to be listened to, really. It’s meant to not present a sterile atmosphere and thus engage customers to shop.

      I wonder what else this manager is doing that OP#2 or corporate doesn’t know about?

      1. Angstrom*

        I’ve been in plenty of stores where one can look at the customer demographics, look at the staff demographics, and conclude that the music was chosen for the enjoyment of the staff. It may not be *bad* music, but it can be inappropriate for the customer base.

    4. Jayne*

      Another factor that I haven’t seen addressed is that it is probably a violation of intellectual property that the store manager is using their own playlists for commercial purposes.

      Stores play music because studies show that it increases mood and amount spent shopping. There are companies that create playlists specifically for the type of business (retail, coffee shops, grocery stores, bars, etc.) Those companies contract with the copyright holder and pay them miniscule residuals. But it ain’t nothing.

      Much like you can buy a copy of a movie for your own enjoyment, but if you plan on showing it to 300 of your best friends in a movie theater, you would need to purchase the public performance rights at an additional fee.

      Now will that change things? Well, there is one stat out there that 83% of businesses in the U.S. don’t have the rights to the music that they are playing, but you can still be fined.

      If the company has paid for a copyrighted playlist, they may be unhappy that the store manager has put them into danger of fines.

      1. Expelliarmus*

        What’s your ideal length for a playlist that loops around in these situations? I would have thought one hour is a good length.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Not Cold Snap, but from my perspective as a customer, a one-hour playlist is also good with me. I’m rarely in a store for longer than 30 min, so I would not hear any repeat songs on any one shopping trip. If I were to spend about 2 hours at a coffee shop or similar place, I would hear each song twice.

          From the perspective of employees, who have to be in the store for 8 hours at a time (and be there multiple days a week), a one-hour playlist can easily feel way too repetitive–they hear each song 8 times on an 8-hour shift, 40 times in a 40-hour work week. A four- or even eight-hour playlist could be a big morale boost for employees.

          1. AnonORama*

            Yes, please. The last time I worked retail (admittedly 20+ years ago), our playlist had EIGHT songs. Brutal!

          2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            And a playlist with everything in the same order is so much more maddening than a shuffled order.

            The place I worked as a cashier I don’t think spent money on having a sound system or music, but my younger sister studied violin. The practice tapes were maddening until I grew able to tune them out, but if my sister played one wrong note while practicing I was suddenly paying attention again. I once cracked up laughing in the middle of a Chinese buffet because the playlist included not only those specific songs but those specific recordings of the songs. It was recent enough that they were clearly shuffled in with other classical music and probably not in an ordered playlist and certainly not in original Book 3 or whatever order, because I would have recognized the “correct” order in my sleep.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              Oh, I’m the opposite. Shuffle makes me break out in hives (not literally). The person making the mix had a reason to put the songs in that particular order, and I don’t like messing with that.

        2. Beth**

          I once had dinner in a nice restaurant where the play list was short. We stayed for three courses and by the time songs were coming around for the third time in exactly the same order, I was ready to throw things. (It probably didn’t help that I was dining with my in-laws, but still…)

        3. Cold Snap*

          I’m thinking of it from the worker’s perspectives, I’ve been in jobs where they tuned into radio stations that no joke, played the same set every hour. It was maddening! Straight to jail!

          For workers, I’d say at minimum, a 4 hour loop. 8+ is preferable.

    5. Leenie*

      I remember being thrilled a few years ago when the Pixies “Here Comes Your Man” started playing in Whole Foods. It didn’t have particular meaning to me. More just realizing that one of the bright spots of aging is that your favorite music from High School can become the background music to your errands.

  14. Jellyfish Catcher*

    LW#3: Alison’s scripts are great, for the lunch requests. You also need scripts for the work day.
    I like Alison’s general advice that you name the issue, and name the solution, in this case name a boundary.

    “I’ve found that I need uninterrupted time during the day, to be working effectively.
    “Sorry, I can’t hang out during the work day. I hope you understand.”NOTE: you don’t have to give a reason to
    justify your boundaries.
    You’ll may have to interrupt her overtures, as well.
    Long term, get some therapy to address the people pleasing. That will increase your confidence and make both work or play life SO much better – I know. You can do this.

    1. ThatOtherClare*

      It might help a bit to reframe the situation like this:

      If the person is really nice, they wouldn’t want to annoy you by taking up too much of your time, and if the person isn’t nice, you’re not being rude or breaking any taboos by politely protecting yourself.

    2. Julia K.*

      I thought it was odd that Alison gave several single-instance excuses as examples of ways to set a boundary.

      If I asked someone to hang out, and they replied with one of those single-instance scripts, I’d interpret that as meaning “I’d like to, but can’t today; let’s try again later.” And I would hope that if I had to (truthfully) give such a reply to someone else’s request, they’d take it at face value rather than as a broad boundary.

      To me, setting a boundary implies establishing a default rule, guideline, or mutual understanding of expected behavior for all instances of a certain category. Like “I prefer not to hang out during the work day.” Or “I’d like to keep things professional.” When that’s what I mean, that what I say.

  15. kitto*

    the interviewee for LW1 set off major alarm bells for me – this amount of self-deprecation is really offputting! if i were in the interviewer position i wouldn’t hire this person even if they otherwise seemed like a fairly good fit, partially because this lack of self-confidence suggests that this candidate might require a lot of reassurance/hand-holding in a job, but also because it feels manipulative in a guilt-tripping kind of way. if they felt comfortable saying something like this in an interview i’d be nervous about how they might use a similar tactic in the workplace. not sure if LW1 has the time/energy/inclination for this, but in this position i would let the candidate know that comments like this undermine their efforts and could negatively impact their chances of being hired for future positions.

    1. Hokey Puck*

      Yes, I’ve worked with people with such low self confidence that it really becomes an issue. I have had my share of work anxiety, but the thing is, I don’t TALK about it. I portray confidence because that’s what you have to do.
      I had someone who was objectively (numbers and all) doing so well but would CONSTANTLY tell me they weren’t doing a good job. I told them while I was understanding, other mangers wouldn’t be and they needed to reign that in.
      This candidate could be a real problem and will take a lot of energy and effort.

      1. AnonORama*

        I admit I’ve been this person — reasonable success followed by SPECTACULAR failure, crawling back to a job many levels below the career that crashed and burned, and running into an incredibly abusive boss in the new job permanently tanked my confidence. Before I realized I was a decent actress and could play the part of a normally-confident person, I know people found me exasperating.

  16. Ex-prof*

    LW #2 should really be looking for another job. If the company knows the stock manager is a piece of work, and keeps her on anyway, they’re going to lose their stockers.

    1. Observer*

      I think that that’s a good point. The Manager tried to do something illegal and all she got was a reprimand? Even in person, that’s just not enough. Especially since they don’t seem to have learned the lesson.

  17. Katie*

    Form#2 I think you may have grounds to contact corporate based on licensing issues. I’m no expert but I don’t believe that a store can just play random music on the speakers without paying licensing fees. So the manager may possibly be leaving corporate at risk for something like a copyright violation lawsuit.

    1. k.*

      I wouldn’t go this route. It doesn’t sound like the letter writer is in a position to know whether or not the business is paying PRO licensing fees. It very well might be, especially since it sounds like it might be a larger chain. I’ve worked for a lot of places that pay standard licensing fees for music, and a front-line worker wouldn’t typically have had any insight into that.

      1. Ronya*

        If corporate is paying pro license fees, doesn’t that mean that the music is selected by corporate or how general is such a license? Do managers have a list?

        1. k.*

          It depends on location, but PROs typically issue blanket licenses for their whole catalogue. I’m Canadian, but I believe BMI and ASCAP licenses function similarly — though not identically — to SOCAN.

          Regardless, the intricacies of music licensing for a public-facing business are probably not a rabbit hole the LW wants to go down. I’m with Alison that the whole thing is above their paygrade.

        2. UKDancer*

          My understanding in the UK is that a licence gives you a fairly broad array of mainstream music. When I worked in somewhere with one we just used a commercial radio station with middle of the road music and it covered everything.

          I’m not an expert but it seems fairly widely drawn to me.

    2. Tis Mia*

      I was about to type this myself.

      Stores approved playlist = the artists get paid the correct fee for ‘public’ performance.
      Employee’s own playlist = the artists get nothing.

      1. k.*

        It’s not quite that simple. Businesses typically don’t license the rights to individual songs. That would be prohibitively complex. They get blanket licenses from PROs (performing rights organizations) or B2B music services. From the details in the letter there’s no way to know if the manager’s use of that specific song is legal or not, especially without knowing where the LW is located.

        Raising it as a legal issue with corporate is also kind of a weird way to handle this issue, because it’s really a question of taste/appropriateness rather than legality. The business may be legally allowed to play Cardi B.’s “WAP” based on their license agreements but they probably shouldn’t, given their demographic.

        1. mreasy*

          Yes – retail stores have blanket deals with PROs that cover, essentially, all of recorded music. Whether or not the music is “approved” has nothing to do with whether or not songwriters are getting paid. (Note: artists get paid per stream based on usage regardless of the business’s PRO license or lack thereof. Also this is handled differently depending on which country you’re in.)

        1. yeah*

          A small business might not, but any store that is established enough to have an external corporate office with “corporate bigwigs” probably does pay blanket licensing fees for background music. It’s pretty standard operating procedure, and the fees are not that expensive. Even some high schools I’ve worked with pay licensing fees for music used for non-educational purposes (ex. events).

          1. Maggie*

            True- if they’re big enough they probably play by the rules more. I’d just report the song to the same hotline I reported everything else to I think? If it’s genuinely disturbing it’s worth reporting then

    3. Ask A Manatee*

      Professional songwriter here.

      Stores are supposed to pay a periodic fee to ASCAP and BMI, the two performance rights organizations, for blanket rights to play music in a public place. A tiny percentage of stores are monitored and used a representative sample to determine which songs’ composers and publishers get a share of this.

      For any one store, it’s extremely unlikely that the choice of songs has any impact on where the money goes. Furthermore, many or most stores don’t pay the fee at all because it’s almost impossible to enforce.

      This is what’s known as broadcast or performance rights and it’s exclusively for the composer and publisher. The recording artist has different rights that aren’t applicable in this situation, based on sales and streams regardless of public or private location.

      Speaking about the US.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        For anyone curious about Canada, we have both SOCAN fees (for songwriters/publishers) and Re:Sound fees (performers and record companies) that cover off both live and recorded music, depending on the context.

      2. lilsheba*

        That’s what I was thinking. This is slightly off topic but I am curious if someone plays music online, like on tiktok or whatever, don’t they have to pay those fees to ASCAP and BMI also? I can’t seem to get a straight answer on that question.

        1. mreasy*


          Music biz lifer here who has worked in publishing. When you stream music either somewhere like Spotify or on a video platform like TikTok, songwriters are paid based on blanket mechanical licenses that the PROs and music publishers hold with the services. However, playing music in a retail establishment (or restaurant, nightclub, etc) is a different type of license – a public performance license – which is negotiated separately between PROs and either individual businesses or companies who exist to provide music to stores. If a retail store plays music and doesn’t have a license, they can be fined by each PRO based on assumed usage, plus penalties.

          Currently Universal has withdrawn their master catalog from TikTok (meaning music released on their subsidiary labels), and if they don’t reach terms by the end of this month, they will withdraw their publishing catalog as well (which includes music released on many thousands of other labels outside of UMG).

          tl;dr – the manager’s music choice doesn’t have any sort of copyright implications but publishing is a wild world!

      3. Phony Genius*

        Curious about this one – a small store near me just pumps in the local radio station. You hear the music, DJs, commercials, and everything. Another one does the same with satellite radio. Does this rule technically apply to these stores, too?

        1. mreasy*

          Yes, technically they all need to be paying public performance royalties, because usage in a commercial environment is an additional type of usage on top of the broadcast or satellite radio license. The former is a license between the business and the PROs and the latter is a license between the radio station/service and the PROs.

          That said, as someone mentioned above – small stores rarely actually license from PROs because it’s expensive and it’s nearly impossible for PROs to monitor. This (in addition to ‘vibes’/branding) is one reason that big chains require employees to play approved playlists – so they don’t become liable if an employee plays music that isn’t covered by their existing licenses (though almost all music is, it’s not 100%). These fees can be significant.

  18. Rondeaux*

    I’m surprised people are paying that much attention to retail store background music, but if it’s that disturbing, why not report the same way you did the other violations? Is the hotline anonymous?

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I came here to ask the same. I assume the corporate hotline is for ethics/legal violations and this probably wouldn’t rise to the same level as asking people to work unpaid, but I do think if LW wants to do something, reporting that the manager is misrepresenting Corporate in how they communicate to customers is something Corporate might possibly care about. That it’s about the playlist is a bit of a red herring, since it could be anything (policies, etc.).

    2. JustaTech*

      That’s a good question: is the hotline anonymous, or is the hotline confidential?

      For the purposes of following up on complaints and concerns, it makes more sense that the hotline is confidential (ie, we won’t tell your boss you called) rather than anonymous (ie, we have no idea who called).
      If the hotline is confidential I can understand the OP not wanting to seem like a “complainer” to HQ.
      (Which is why someone upthread’s suggestion to ask a friend to call in on the “customer” complaint line seems like the best path.)

  19. Ex-prof*

    Any chance the guy who doesn’t want you to hire him is just trying to keep his unemployment benefits?

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      IIRC, all you have to do in most states is apply, not actually interview. So if that’s the case, why would he bother to go through with the interview?

      1. Cat Tree*

        15 years ago when I was on unemployment, I wasn’t allowed to turn down an interview or an offer unless it met some specific criteria. I don’t know how thoroughly they were checking it, but I wouldn’t have taken the risk.

      2. Filicophyta*

        When I last lived in North America, turning down an offered interview could incur a benefits penalty. I have no idea how they would know, it’s unlikely, but I guess it’s a risk. You did have to self-report these things occasionally. (This was decades ago, and I was only on unemployment benefits for about two months.)

    2. Gozer (She/Her)*

      Unlikely and from the experience of someone who’s been on benefits this is a problematic idea to jump to. Most people on benefits would love nothing more than to not be on them.

      Not to say it’s impossible, just very very unlikely. The ‘people on benefits just want to avoid getting jobs/are fraudulent claiming them’ trope is well overdone at this point in history.

      1. Ex-prof*

        I think you’re reading something that I didn’t say.

        My thinking was someone on lay-off who hopes to be called back to his original job, in which case 1) he’s entitled to the benefit, and I’m sorry you feel there’s a stigma attached to that and 2) it would not be to LW’s advantage to hire him because if he’s called back to his old job, he intends to go.

        1. doreen*

          About 1 – with a few exceptions, a person must be actively seeking work to be eligible for benefits. Which really doesn’t describe someone who is trying to avoid being hired, even if it’s because they hope to return to a different job. Also, I don’t think “Most people on benefits would love nothing more than to not be on them.” is referring to a stigma. I don’t think there is a stigma to being on unemployment – but people prefer not to be on unemployment because it brings in less money than a job. In my state the maximum benefit is about $500 a week – that’s for anyone who was earning around $1000/wk or more.

        2. Gozer (She/Her)*

          Basically I just get annoyed with any kind of ‘maybe they’re trying to claim benefits’ statements without serious proof because I had years of that.

          I accept its a personal gripe however and will refrain from raising it again.

      2. Jackalope*

        I don’t know about other people, but my feeling towards someone on unemployment benefits would just be compassion in this situation. The rules are not conducive to finding a good job; you have to apply for anything and everything (with a handful of exceptions depending on the state or country), and may be forced to choose between taking a job that doesn’t fit your skill set at all or losing your benefits. Someone who doesn’t want to work at all and is just grifting the situation is honestly not the conclusion I’d jump to. More likely that the person has other job applications pending that are more likely to work for them but they couldn’t turn this interview down because of the rules.

      3. ThatOtherClare*

        Anyone in 2024 still believing people on benefits are somehow ‘cheating society’ (even if they need to stay a little longer to get a better fitting job) is admitting they’d cheat society as much as possible if they could, and their opinion on the topic isn’t worth using for fertiliser.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      It could be, but my guess would be that it isn’t because it’s a bit too mild. If I wanted to ensure I wasn’t hired for a job, I’d say something stronger than I’m not the perfect candidate. If the interview was otherwise good, it doesn’t strike me as anywhere near strong enough to ensure not getting a job. Plus it would be kinda weird to take the interview seriously right up until the last minute and then throw it. If they weren’t really interested in the job, I’d imagine they’d do the whole interview badly or at least half-heartedly. And they’d probably say something more like “I’d be useless” rather than “I wouldn’t be perfect.”

      “You shouldn’t hire me because I’m not the perfect candidate” sounds to me more like a laugh at candidates who over-sell themselves. Like they were trying to say “I’m not going to claim to be perfect so if you want somebody who claims that, I’m not the candidate for you. I’m just a good honest worker.” And it came off… really wrong.

    4. Emmy Noether*

      I don’t think that’s likely, especially since the rest of the interview seemed like a good match. Like, maybe, *maybe* if the candidate is vastly overqualified and this position pays less than unemployment, but someone preferring unemployment to a well-suited job is exceedingly rare. Especially since those unemployment offices that make people do a certain number of applications no matter what are designed to be demeaning, and people want *out*.

      Also, seems to me there would be much more effective ways to throw an interview on purpose (like answering every question with “I don’t know”).

  20. DJ Abbott*

    LW2, One of the most important skills at work is knowing when to try to change things. It took me a long time to learn when I should speak up and then I shouldn’t, what I could change and what I couldn’t. It’s usually best to put protecting your job first. Others will notice problems and at some point others will take action. The exception would be if they’re actually endangering lives or safety, then take action. But still protect your job as much as possible.
    Since this is upsetting other people on what sounds like a daily basis, it’s only a matter of time before someone complains to corporate in a way they’ll notice. You can just sit back and watch.
    Parents, please don’t teach your children they have to solve all the social problems in the world like mine did.

  21. Peanut Hamper*

    #1 reminds me of so many people who don’t want to apply for a job they would probably be good at because they feel they lack some essential qualification that isn’t even mentioned in the job description.

    As I always point out to my friends when this happens, it isn’t your job as the candidate to sort out whether or not you’re qualified; that’s the job of the hiring manager. So go ahead and apply for jobs with confidence and don’t undermine your own chances of getting the job by self-selecting out.

  22. Chairman of the Bored*

    LW4 should start going in less often and see if anybody cares.

    There’s a very good chance they will not.

  23. Academic glass half full*

    Letter # 1
    I actually said that at my interview for this position.
    My qualifications were strong but did not align with the job description.
    I did not have experience in one of the really important areas of expertise but far exceeded in another.
    Because it was a very rare leadership role in my area of expertise, the other candidates’ CVs and names were public. (as was mine)
    It was not out of lack of confidence that I said,
    If you want someone with extensive experience in X, then I am not the person for this position. I was aware that the other candidates did have extensive experience in X.

    I was appointed and have been in this role for 12 years. After about a year in, we were able to hire someone to report to me that had experience in X.

  24. Hokey Puck*

    #4 my company is technically hybrid, but its really to the discretion of the individual manager, plus many people are remote…either specifically hired remote or live too far from an office. So yes, the rule is 2 days a week, but you can do what you want essentially if your boss is ok with it.
    Good managers make things work and often can’t bother going to HR for “official” stuff because it doesnt work. That’s not about “manager should just do what they want” but the best managers use their judgement to what works for their team and individuals on it and will not bother “getting approval.” Same thing for how they run their business. For employee things like this, I would never go to HR, I would just simply not enforce things unless specifically told.

  25. Zarniwoop*

    “Several parents with children … who ask for corporate numbers are refused with, “You don’t need the corporate number because corporate okayed the music we play here.”

    If you overhear this, follow them out and give them corporate’s number.

    1. ferrina*

      Yep. Or if you have a friend who can call corporate as a customer, I’d call them in. i.e., you want someone that can keep you well out of it, but also alert corporate to what was going on.
      If you have multiple friends who are willing to do this, I think you can make multiple calls at 1 friend per every 2 customers who complain in-store and are refused the corporate phone number.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      “follow them out and give them corporate’s number”

      Only if the boss doesn’t see you. Doing that in front of her would be like waving a red flag.

  26. High Score!*

    OP1: I’ve heard of people saying this because they do not want the job but are on unemployment so cannot technically turn it down without losing the unemployment benefits.
    It’s tough to find a good job while on unemployment bc you can’t say no.

  27. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Lots of reverse psychology speculation on this one, but is it possible the interviewee got knee-deep in the interview, realized the position wasn’t for them, and then wanted an easy way to bail? Sort of the interview version of “it’s not you, it’s me.”

  28. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I work with job seekers on Unemployment Insurance all the time. The people that fuss about “being forced to take a job at McDonalds” are universally NOT people who would be expected to work a job at that payrate. (My state has a wage cut off based on your previous wages where you don’t get in trouble for a low ball offer.) I tell them to apply to jobs they are willing to take, and if they can’t find enough jobs to apply for, they need to think about additional roles they could fill at a similar wage. (And remind them that when they run out of benefits, they’ll be getting $0, so sometimes you make adjustments in your goals.)
    No one is banging on their door forcing them to sweep the streets.

    1. Observer*

      In some cases, actually yes, they do have to apply for ridiculously inappropriate jobs. Because your assumption that it’s just about being too picky if they can’t find enough jobs is not the case.

      There are some fields where there are jobs a plenty. But there are many others where they just don’t exist.

      And then there are the situations where someone applied to a job that looked like it might be a fit, so it was a good faith application, but then in turns out that the job is not a good fit. Not just “not perfect” but some glaring red flags bad. But they are not allowed to turn it down.

    2. Gozer (She/Her)*

      I was unemployed for a long time because I simply couldn’t or wouldn’t do (without wrecking my health) the stuff the employment agency kept making me apply for.

      There’s very few jobs in my area for people doing what I did and the skills don’t transfer over into the ‘oh just do anything of the same wage’. I spent many a frustrating hour with those people telling me to apply for literally everything and getting them angry when I said that I simply can’t work past 5pm/be on my feet most of the day/deal with the general public/etc.

      So maybe it’s different here in the UK, I dunno, but it’s a hideously stressful situation to be in when you can only do a small range of things and there’s nothing for you. Or there is one but you know from past experience that employer is an absolute pit of hell.

      1. Flynnrose*

        It’s the same in Aus tbh, I have to apply for 16-20 jobs per month to meet my points target if I don’t have other things that count towards it and there’s not that many jobs locally (or even work from home, my previous industries are very much in person jobs) for me to apply to. There’s no money to move. I have ASD and am just impacted enough by it that applying, interveiwing and starting a new job are extremely difficult for me but I’m not considered disabled enough to qualify for extra support. After a horrific experience at my last job (worked there almost 10 years, nearly left in a coffin) I’m trying really hard to vet employers so it doesn’t happen again but the systems in place prevent me from doing so.
        Even my newish part time job isn’t enough hours and they want me to apply for more.

        1. ThatOtherClare*

          16 jobs per month! I work with some people who have highly specific skillsets. Appropriate jobs for them might come up in our area less than 16 times per year! I shudder to imagine.

  29. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    #2: This reminds me of the day I was in an antiques mall and the song “I’ll Be Watching You” came over the loudspeaker. When I asked a store clerk why they were playing “that stalker song”, he looked incredulous and blurted out “But that’s by The Police!” as if that made the lyrics any better. Uh huh…

    I think that we often give older songs a pass when it comes to jarring lyrics; we either forget what they’re really saying or we figure “Well, that was acceptable back then” and let it go. Most likely, though, they become background noise; we’re aware of them on some level, but don’t listen closely to their actual messages.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      As far as I know, that song was fully meant to be dark. It’s not “what was acceptable back then”, it’s just art not always and only portraying positive things.

      Although of course it’s legitimate to not want to hear songs about stalking while shopping… and you’re probably right about people not processing what the lyrics are saying.

      1. Clisby*

        Oh, yes, anybody paying attention to the lyrics when that song came out knew exactly what it was about. I remember it being played in a popular soap opera (All My Children, maybe?) as background music for an actual creepy stalker plotline.

    2. jane's nemesis*

      I don’t think the manager’s song is an old song.

      And “Every Breath You Take” is indeed a stalker song, but imo, it doesn’t glorify it or even deem it acceptable behavior.

      1. Maggie*

        There seems to be this idea taking over lately that if you consume any form of art you not only agree with its content 100% but you also promote that behavior personally, even if that art is meant to be a commentary or satire on said behavior. It’s really quite strange. Enjoying the song Every Breath you Take by the police doesn’t mean you love stalking people. I don’t get people anymore truly.

        1. Kindling*

          This is the one thing that ultra-rightwing people *and* ultra-leftwing people can agree on: we should all be running our media consumption, content creation output, and indeed our own thoughts by the Morality Police all the time. Otherwise how will we know if we’re thinking or saying the “correct” things?????

          1. ThatOtherClare*

            Politics is a circle. Once you go far enough in either direction you end up meeting together again at authoritarianism.

        2. K8T*

          Yeah the speed running into purity culture is pretty alarming. I’m genuinely baffled by asking an employee about it, like what did they think their response what going to be besides confusion? At least the employee got a great story about a strange customer to tell their friends.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        You might, or might not, be surprised by how many times retail employees are confronted over corporate policies. From my time in the 90s, I’d pin it at around “at least one instance a day, twice on weekends….” and I cannot imagine that its gotten any better.

      2. UKDancer*

        Yeah I’m not sure how much control they’d have over the music being played as that may be set at a corporate level. Also it’s a fairly mainstream song that was very popular at one time. So the sales assistant was probably a bit flummoxed at the request to change it

    3. Maggie*

      You can enjoy art without agreeing with its content, I don’t know if anyone from the police actually ever stalked anyone, people also write songs about theoretical situations or made up scenarios. Like Johnny Cash never murdered anyone? But the song he wrote about it from someone else’s perspective as a form of storytelling is still a great song (in my opinion)

      1. Observer*

        All of which is really irrelevant. It’s still probably not the appropriate thing to be playing in that venue.

        1. k.*

          I think this is a pretty outlier opinion. Very few people in reality are offended by hearing “Every Breath You Take”, and anyone who is would likely also be offended by the content of a lot of popular music. That song is not just popular, it’s quite literally one of the most popular songs of all time — 15 million radio plays as of 2019, the most performed song in the BMI catalogue, and a billion views on YouTube. It’s a pretty anodyne choice as background music goes.

          1. Andromeda*

            Agree on EBYT, but there definitely do exist songs that are NSFW because they contain more explicit references to violence (even if they don’t glorify it!). We don’t know what the actual content of the LW’s song is, but we do know that multiple customers have noticed that it has explicit references to suicide and complained about it. It’s probably a good idea to retire the track.

            Yeah, there’s probably a grey area here, but it kind of feels like we’re missing how it’s relevant to the OP’s actual situation.

    4. Leenie*

      I think her response was in self defense, as she had no idea how to respond to a customer who was bugging her about what was on the loudspeaker, as if she had any control over it. So, it was likely just her way of indicating that it was mainstream pop music (#1 on the charts, actually). And, to echo everyone else, I understand finding it unsettling enough to not want to hear it in a store. But it was supposed to be unsettling, and wasn’t a pro-stalking song, or some primitive 20th century version of ideal love.

    5. Winstonian*

      A lot of places just play a radio station so I’m not sure what the point was in confronting some more antique mall clerk over what a station is playing.

    6. It's me*

      Well, the song isn’t really that old (compared to songs about teenage girls in the ’60s) and it was not written to imply endorsement, regardless of the fact that many people didn’t and still don’t pay attention to the lyrics.

  30. Possum'smom*

    As a fellow people pleaser, it is so easy to assume I’ve hurt someone’s feelings when I’ve had to decline invitations because of my social anxiety. Sometimes I’m up for socializing, but often I just get so worked up in anticipation of the event, I become ill. This just confuses those who interact with me, because I appear so confident as a coping mechanism. My advice to LW to the cleaning person is to say ” you are so kind to want to spend time with me at lunch, but I daily meditate at that time to mentally recharge for the afternoon IS”. This is an explanation that should also stop future requests.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      The best thing for my anxiety was befriending a bunch of people who are total flakes. I love my friends to death but they never follow through on anything. And I still love them! That’s done a lot to help me when I feel like I’m disappointing people or like I shouldn’t put myself first.

  31. HannahS*

    OP3, when I started dating, I found it so, so hard to say no to future dates because I had internalized the message that it would be soooooo hurtful to reject someone and it’s soooo hard for guys to put themselves out there (along all kinds of unspoken expectations about being female and being a caregiver of others’ emotions and the importance of kindness, where kindness means “just say yes to things” etc.) that made it feel really, really fraught. The best–the BEST–thing that happened early on is that I summoned all my courage and asked someone on a date, and he said no (in a very polite and respectful way,) and I realized that getting rejected is actually totally not a big deal, unless you make it a big deal.

    If you wanted to hang out with someone, and they said, “Oh, sorry, I usually like to use my lunch hour to be alone–see you around!” would that hurt your feelings? Maybe you’d just shake it off and move on–in which case, this person will likely do the same. Or maybe you’re someone who would fall into a spiral of wondering what you did wrong and why it’s all your fault that no one! ever! wants to hang out with you and if that’s the case, then that’s something to work through. But I know I wouldn’t like it if someone who didn’t want to spend time with me agreed to hang out because of pity–if they felt that I couldn’t handle being told “no.” That’s way more hurtful than someone just saying, “Oh, sorry, I’m going to start using my lunches to read my book.”

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. You cannot guarantee that saying no to lunch and chatting won’t could hurt the office cleaner’s feelings. But it may not. Most decent people don’t want to spend free time with people that don’t want to be with them.

      Just kindly cite needing quiet time/alone time at lunch. And then spend it alone.

    2. kiki*

      This is a really valuable perspective! It’s important to remember that most people aren’t hanging their whole hearts on hanging out with you. Being rejected or told no to a hang out won’t be the end of the world for most people. And, especially if you’re able to add some context like, “I prefer to read my book on breaks since I’m on the phone talking all day,” most people will understand and not feel slighted.

    3. I am Emily's failing memory*

      And if LW is feeling like they’ve shut the door on that possibility because they already agreed earlier, it’s perfectly fine to explain that you were grateful she extended the offer when you had just started the role and didn’t know anyone or anything about the workplace and the work hadn’t really started to pile up yet, but now that you’ve gotten settled into the role you’ve realized that most days you’d be better off using your lunch hour to recharge your batteries or take care of personal tasks that you’d otherwise be too exhausted to do in the evenings.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yes! You are allowed to change your mind! You’re allowed to change your mind as situations change, as you change, or just, if you feel like it.

        OP3, unless you singed some contract that says “I will spend every lunch with this person in perpetuity” then you’re allowed to say “no thank you” or “not today”.

        And if you do like hanging out with this person *occasionally* you’re also allowed to say “hey, let’s do lunch the third Thursday of the month” or whatever cadence works for you.

  32. kiki*

    I know that this isn’t the main point of question 2, but a playlist that only lasts an hour (or for whatever reason plays the same song once an hour) is way to short for a retail setting! I feel for all the employees who work in the store and have to hear the same songs 8+ times per day.

    1. Czhorat*

      Yeah. If the store manager is using their own playlist they’re also quite likely violating the terms of service of the music service to which they subscribe by using it commercially.

      This and other reasons are why most retail stores use some kind of commercial-oriented subscription service. There’s all kinds of wrong with how this is being handled, but I agree with Allison that it’s not something the LW needs to fight.

      The previous issue – of LW being coerced into unpaid overtime – was definitely somethign to escalate. Violations of safety rules, illegal discrimination, and issues of that ilk should be escalated. This shouldn’t, unless the somg is SO bad as to be hostile work environment sexual harassment. It doesn’t sound like it quite hits this threshhold.

    2. I am Emily's failing memory*

      In high school I worked at a clothing store where corporate would send every store a 40- to 45-minute VHS tape of music videos curated from the current Billboard Top 40. Every two weeks corporate mailed us a new VHS tape and we were supposed to discard the old one and switch to playing the new 40-minute tape on repeat from open to close of the store, 7 days a week. A few super popular songs would appear on multiple tapes in a row but they were about 80% new songs each new tape.

      Thankfully, our store manager saw the potential for this to drive everyone (including herself) batty, and was sage enough to know that the best course of action was not to try to make corporate change the policy, but rather to just make an executive decision to hang onto each tape until we’d received 5-6 newer ones, so employees could pick a new tape to put on each time we got to the end of one.

      After all, it doesn’t take any special insight to realize a 40-minute playlist on repeat for 4-8 hours is a form of mild torture for a captive audience. That the policy was handed down as it was meant that at best they had never stopped to consider the employees’ experience, and at worst they had considered it but didn’t think it was important enough to do better. As a store manager I’m sure she had to pick her battles and this one wasn’t a hill worth dying on, and she probably correctly judged that there was little risk of blowback – it was rare anyone from corporate would be in the store at all, and if someone did stop by AND they even noticed the tape we were playing was from last month, they too would probably pick their battles and not come down on a manager whose store was hitting all its sales targets and who was still playing the corporate-mandated tapes, but was just keeping slightly-less-current-but-still-recent older tapes in circulation.

    3. Yes Chef!*

      I worked in a restaurant where, looking back, I don’t think the restaurant paid for the rights to use those songs anymore, and the playlist slowly dwindled to maybe 10 songs, with one song in between each of the other 9. Even the guests were able to pick up the fact that the songs were repeating, even in their <30 minute visit. This was over 10 years ago, and yet there's a certain horn intro that triggers me to this day.

    4. Bi One, Get One*

      In the 90s I worked at a shoe store that required us to play a video tape containing only 3 ads on it. I can still hear the little 45 second snippet of music that played over and over as I worked 8 hours a day for a whopping $5.15/hr.

  33. Susie Q*

    OP3 – The cleaner seems pushy – having lunch three days in a row is a lot! You’re being too hard on yourself. This person is extra pushy and definitely in need of a boundary setting conversation.

    1. Yes Chef!*

      Pushy? This seems uncharitable. To me, it sounds like they think they are making a friend. I would be so sad if I thought we were becoming friends and yet you saw me as pushy.

      Here’s another point that being direct isn’t being unkind. Behaving and speaking out of both sides of your mouth is unkind.

      1. kiki*

        “I only have an hour lunch and they want me to spend it with them every day and will constantly visit my office throughout the day asking if we are still on for our plans.”

        The cleaner may not be intentionally pushy, but this does sound like a lot of pressure on a person who is new to the office. LW can and should be more direct, but if the cleaner had written in, I would advise them to back off a bit and see if LW reciprocated any for a while.

        1. Susie Q*

          Yes!! “The cleaner asked me to have lunch with them one day but then asked to go for a walk during my lunch the next day and to do something else the day after that.” It seems one-sided without reciprocity from OP. Perhaps OP is a people pleaser, but the behavior from the cleaner seems overboard.

  34. Silence is golden*

    LW #2 – Could you make an anonymous call to the Corporate office and claim to be an offended customer?

  35. Michelle Smith*

    LW2 – I disagree with the advice. I don’t think it’s whiny to report the issue up the chain. Just because it isn’t illegal doesn’t mean it isn’t something that corporate should be made aware of. If you can, be specific about the complaint (name the exact song and artist, how many times you’ve received complaints from customers, etc.), and the specific language people have used when complaining. You don’t have to mention that you are personally offended, but if you are and it’s based on anything potentially actionable, go ahead and mention that. For example, if the music is misogynistic and you believe it is creating a hostile work environment to be subjected to that song, you can mention that.

  36. Bad Wolf*

    Op #1, I have to be honest. I have used the line “I don’t think I’m right for this job” many times when the reality was “this job isn’t right for me.” AND I doubled down how they are likely to find a better fit in their pool of candidates. Admitting awkwardness might have simply been them asking for you to stop grilling them on the subject.
    Sorry, but my reading here is that you just got turned down. That’s all.

    1. Bad Wolf*

      I just want to clarify, my industry is all contract work. So when I say I turned down work “many times,” I really do mean many times. We interview so much that we don’t even call it interviewing. We “meet” with potential employers.

    2. Formerly Ella Vader*

      Oh, that’s a good point.

      When I first read it, I was imagining a scenario where an overbearing co-worker or abusive family member had also applied for the job, so that by the time the interviews came around, the interviewee realized that if they were offered the job the other person would make their life miserable. I still think that scenario is possible, but it is much less likely than your explanation.

  37. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

    I’m in a “mandatory” two-days-per-week-in-the-office situation as well. I’ll do it as long as nothing with my schedule interferes, but if there’s a week where errands/little kid schedules/stress is building up, I do one day and call it good. I probably do half and half, one day a week and two days a week. So far no one has said a thing about it. I just make sure to “be seen” on the day I do go in and take all my meetings on-camera. Sometimes you just have to feel out your workplace on things like this. Some places are going to be strict, and some places aren’t.

  38. Ann Onymous*

    Letter #1 feels like the opposite side of the coin from the candidates who are certain they are the best qualified person for the job, despite not knowing who the other candidates are.

  39. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

    Since suicide can be a triggering thing to hear mentioned, I think it would be caring of this employee to pretend to be an upset customer and call the line themselves. Just do it once. If it doesn’t work, don’t obsess over it. You did what you could.

  40. Alex*

    I feel like interviewee in #1 heard some “one weird trick to get the job” advice that said to tell the interviewer NOT to hire you and play some reverse psychology bullsh*t or something.

  41. Student*

    I kind of hate how we’re approaching #1. If I were in the OP’s shoes and the comment were bugging me so much, I’d reach back out to the candidate and say, “Hey, you said not to hire you toward the end of the interview. I wasn’t sure how to take that. Was that interview nervousness, or did you actually want to withdraw your candidacy?”

    Then, if they do not withdraw candidacy when given a very direct opening, treat them exactly like other candidates in the pool for the job.

    All the rest of this, guessing about their self-confidence levels and adding a layer of questioning to their reference checks and guessing at their motivations, feels excessive. Like trying to read tea leaves about someone. I know people who are enormously self confident who still get interview nerves. I know people who try to play weird interview games and people who are just plain old weird. Some are good at their jobs, others are not.

    It really seems like EVERYONE is over-thinking the comment. Let’s focus. You’re making an educated guess about who’d be good at a job opening you have, with limited info. Just stick to that. If this was weird enough to drop the applicant, go ahead. If it wasn’t, keep them in the pool.

    1. Czhorat*

      I get what you’re saying, but “you shouldn’t hire me” is SUCH a weird thing to say in an interview that you need to make SOMETHING of it. If nothing else, saying such a thing is a sign of – at least in that moment – very questionable judgement.

      All other things being equal, I’d be likely to prefer someone who didn’t stand out for saying something that bizarre.

      1. Student*

        If it’s too weird in your field, then just drop them, just like you would any other weird interview behavior. I’m saying, don’t over-think it and don’t try to prognosticate so much about it. Go with the gut on this one.

        My field is all weird people. If somebody did this at an interview, I’d ask them if they were really backing out, mainly because eliminating them is usually a pretty irrevocable step and I wouldn’t want to do it based on a miscommunication. Then I’d weigh this bit of weirdness against the other candidates’ various manifested weirdness to see if it mattered to me vs their skills and accomplishments for the position.

        If you over-think it and treat it like something special, then I think you’re giving it way too much consideration in an interview setting. It’s barely a blip. And… you’re potentially playing into any dumb social behavioral tricks that they might be trying.

    2. Salsa Verde*

      I mean, there’s also: When people tell you who they are, believe them.

      The candidate said you should hire him, so don’t.

  42. CubeFarmer*

    I’m not a big fan of the white lie to get out of something that you don’t want to do in this context.

    “I’m not able to have lunch with you anymore.” And no apology afterwards (because you’re not sorry.)

    “But why? We had fun!”

    “It won’t work with my schedule anymore.”

    Then repeat as needed.

    1. I am Emily's failing memory*

      Isn’t “it won’t work with my schedule anymore” also a white lie of the same variety recommended in the advice, when the real reason is, “I just don’t want to?”

      1. Czhorat*

        White lies like that are the lubricant that keep society moving fluidly. “I don’t like you and don’t want to hang out with you” can come across as unkind, if not hostile. “It doesn’t fit into my schedule” implies that you’d *like* to, but just can’t.

        In reality, most people will realize that a repeated “it doesn’t fit my schedule” response really means “I don’t want to”, but it allows both parties to maintain the polite fiction that it’s nothing personal.

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          Oh, I completely agree! I think this is the exact situation a white lie is made for. I was just questioning CubeFarmer’s premise that this was an alternative to a white lie, rather than just a different white lie.

          1. Oregon Girl*

            I think telling the truth is a better solution. She prefers to lunch alone to recharge for her afternoon. It is honest, and also not hurtful. I don’t read subtext very well and someone telling me an obvious lie would hurt and confuse me. Also depending on how flexible the cleaning persons schedule is she might try and rearrange her schedule. The truth of the situation, which is very reasonable and normal, will simplify everything.

            1. Oregon Girl*

              I was thinking about this more. These “white lies” are one of the many things neuro typical people do that makes life harder for neuro divergent people. Just something to think about moving forward.

  43. Alan*

    #3 feels creepy. If the cleaner were a man, I think everyone would recognize the danger, but because they’re a woman, they don’t. FWIW, I once had a somewhat similar situation where this male security guard (I’m also male) would come into my office late at night while I was working and want to chat. It was creepy. Here’s a guy with a gun who feels that he’s entitled to my time while everyone else is out. He would come in every night until I started closing and locking my door, and luckily for me he took it as my not being there rather than just using his key.

    1. Oregon Girl*

      I used to work in a place that had a regular cleaning/maintenance person who was very chatty. He never asked me to lunch, but I got the impression that he really needed more people to chat with. I never once felt creeped out. I’m a woman. If this is all during the business day and the LW didn’t feel creeped out it is probably just someone looking to socialize and misreading the professional friendliness.

    2. Lydia*

      Good point. Before Mary Kay Letourneau was released from prison, the police in her soon-to-be hometown held a public meeting for the locals to express their concerns.

      No one attended because they didn’t consider her, a female sex offender, as a threat to their children.

      She had been a teacher who was convicted of molesting a student, and they married after he reached legal age. I always wondered if the townspeople would have felt differently had she been single when she moved into the community.

      1. Gemstones*

        …what? What does her being single have to do with any of it, and what does it have to do with a cleaning woman who isn’t aware of LW’s preferences/boundaries? Nothing the cleaning woman has done sounds creepy; she just seems to want to be friends. If LW tells her she’d prefer her alone time and the woman persists, then, sure, we can escalate to “creepy,” but let’s not assume the worst just yet, or start bringing in comparisons to sex offenders.

      2. Lucia Pacciola*

        They might have felt differently if she’d been single, and hired to teach at one of their schools. I think most people have the sense to tell the difference between a sex offender that has served their time, isn’t going back into the same situation, and appears to have moved on, and one that hasn’t.

        1. Gemstones*

          In this scenario, is Mary Kay supposed to be the example of the sex offender who has served her time and moved on, because…wow. Also, why is this poor cleaning lady getting compared to a sex offender?!

    3. Yes Chef!*

      “If “if” was a drink we’d all be drunk.”

      This isn’t necessarily creepy. The letter writer didn’t say they were creeped out. They just don’t want to go to lunch with them every day. That is a totally different question.

    4. JustaTech*

      I think this is one of those cases where it could be very creepy regardless of the gender of everyone involved, or it could just be awkward, and we have to rely on the OP’s read of the situation.

      I worked on place where the security guard gave off such creepy vibes that even my boss (a very bro-dude who was seriously oblivious to interpersonal safety concerns) joked that he always wondered if the candy the security guard liked to leave in our shared kitchen was poisoned.

      I worked another place where one of the cleaners and I got to chatting about Doctor Who and he got super into stopping to chat and friending me on Facebook and all kinds of stuff (to the point that I did have to say “I can’t talk, I’m working” several times), but even though by description he was more intrusive than the security guy, I never felt that he was creepy or I was unsafe.

      Since the OP hasn’t said the cleaner is giving off creepy vibes, just that they’re persistent, that’s why Alison and folks are focusing on scripts for saying “no thank you” rather than on advice for “this person is a creep”.

    5. JustaTech*

      This is one of those situations where the best course of action (and our collective advice) is very much dependent on the vibe that the OP is getting from the cleaner.

      If the OP was getting a creepy vibe then absolutely the advice would be very different. But the OP didn’t say or indicate that the cleaner was creepy, just that they were very persistent. And thus our advice is about how to say “I want to spend my lunch alone” rather than “how to deal with a creep.”

      I’ve worked with creepy security guards (to the point that my very bro-y boss joked about the security guy giving up poisoned candy) and I’ve worked with overly friendly cleaners who took a request for space with cheerful good grace. It really depends on the other person.

    6. Lucia Pacciola*

      Or – hear me out on this – it’s a security guard on a night shift, he’s bored out of his mind, and he’s looking for a little human interaction. Not everyone is an entitled jerk just because their personality differs from yours.

      1. Alan*

        Except I’m exhausted, I’m trying to catch up with my work so that I can do it all again the next day (and night), and despite all my “Well, I better get back to work now” statements he never leaves. I’m sorry he’s bored. I’d be bored too.

  44. Observer*

    #2 – Inappropriate playlist.

    Can you complain anonymously? If you do complain, anonymously or not, you should probably skip your opinion of the song. Not because you are wrong, but that’s the least of the problems here and it’s waaaay to open for argumentation.

    What is NOT open to argumentation:
    * You have heard multiple customers complain (and if you complain under your name, you can point out that you are hearing this in only a short part of the day.)

    * She is refusing to give people a number and saying that “Corporate” approved it and nothing will change if they call to complain. (That is TERRIBLE PR, even if no one changes the music. The last thing you want to tell customers is that “Corporate doesn’t care what you think or like. And they won’t listen to anything you have to say.”)

    * Since it’s a personal playlist, if this has not been done yet, someone needs to make sure that there are no licensing issues involved. (That is something that is likely to catch someone’s attention. They really don’t want any of the major labels to come after them.)

    But also, maybe think about job hunting. She seems like a piece of work, and I’m not impressed with how corporate handled the last issue.

  45. K*

    OP number 2 could complain to corporate “as a customer” and I bet they’d ask the manager to stop playing the song.

  46. Oregon Girl*

    RE#3. I am don’t read subtext very well, I am quite literal and I have rejection sensitivity. However I also want genuine friends and would never want to force someone to hangout with me out of politeness. I would encourage you to be a honest as possible about why you don’t want to have lunch together. Also your reasons aren’t about her, but about you and what you need. Saying something like “Honestly I prefer a quiet solo lunch to recharge for my afternoon of work, so unfortunately eating lunch together doesn’t work for me” is the most kind thing you can say. It isn’t actually a rejection of her. It still might hurt her feelings in the short term but it is better overall so she understands that you aren’t lunch time buddy material. If she has outsized feelings that is something she needs to manage.

  47. Oregon Girl*

    I think telling the truth is a better solution. She prefers to lunch alone to recharge for her afternoon. It is honest, and also not hurtful. I don’t read subtext very well and someone telling me an obvious lie would hurt and confuse me. Also depending on how flexible the cleaning persons schedule is she might try and rearrange her schedule. The truth of the situation, which is very reasonable and normal, will simplify everything.

    1. NotARealManager*

      Yes. If you said “I prefer to lunch alone most days” and that’s true, I won’t read too much into it. If you say “my schedule doesn’t allow it” or “sorry I have to call my grandma everyday at lunch” and then your schedule suddenly seems to free up or you’re not on the phone everyday, I’m going to be a lot more hurt by that.

    2. Enoby*

      Some people are inveterate problem solvers. You say you can’t travel too far because your car’s a clunker and you have to feed your cat, they’ll offer to drive you and recommend a pet sitter. You say you don’t have time today, they’ll pull out their calendar and check every single day until you run out of excuses. They take excuses very earnestly and don’t take them as hints.

  48. Justin D*

    I’m sort of dealing with the office day issue but where I go in everyone else is on different teams (related to my job but not closely) and I know some of these people are not going in at all, or maybe they worked out a deal to go into a different location that was more convenient for them, it’s unclear. I do know that some managers don’t go in. I also know that my manager has her location fudged so that she could stay remote and they didn’t have to fire her for not going to the office.

    I think it really stinks how companies swear up and down how crucial this is and then are inconsistent about enforcement.

  49. Joseph*

    #2 I was in a GAP-like store just after it had opened and the staff were still setting up. I’m singing along to the rap song in my head and turn to my wife and go “I think this is the explicit version?” and we turn around to see two employees running to disconnect a phone which they’d been using to play the music as tbet were setting up. They did get it disconnected before the first parental guidance lyric was uttered.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      LOL. They’d been playing it with no filter, getting the store set up before they opened, and forgot to use more family-friendly playlists when customers were there.

      “I got 99 problems but a–” RECORD SCRATCH

  50. Peon*

    #3 – It really really pays to just be honest, while still being kind, because otherwise you find yourself constantly coming up with polite lies.

    “Hey thanks for inviting me, I liked {doing whatever it was you actually DID like}, but I’m not really up for that more than {once a week/month/whatever is truthful}. This job is {stressful/requires a lot of focus/whatever} and I need to {just read/listen to my audiobook/stare quietly into space/eat chocolate} most days on my break.”

  51. Mrs. McCarthy's Award-Winning Strawberry Scones*

    OP #4: I manage a team of remote employees working from a variety of locations on the east coast. When I first came into the position, our department director required anyone within commuting distance to work on site one day a week. All of my staff have the same job responsibilities, so I ended up advocating for a change of policy. I don’t think it’s reasonable to require only some staff to work on site based on their proximity to the office, unless it was a pre-employment condition they agreed on. I have made it clear they are all welcome to work on site any time they like and I would love to see their faces, but the one day per week is no longer mandatory.

  52. NotARealManager*


    One of our standard interview prompts is “Tell us about a time you were successful.” A candidate we were interviewing couldn’t think of anything to say to that even after we said “it doesn’t have to be work, how about school or in sports?” Still nothing. We gave him a shot at the job anyway because it was VERY entry level and his other answers were fine.

    The first day he showed up for work (in a production facility) in flip flops! Then he quit the day after that. So I’d probably pass on someone who says “don’t hire me”.

    1. kiki*

      This type of fumble is so hard because if you give them an chance and they turn out to be a bad employee, it seems really prophetic: “Well, he couldn’t even name one time he was successful!” But so often this is the type of question I just absolutely blank on. I could have just come from the Olympics where I won the gold and I’d say, “Um, I made a really perfect toast the other day. Got that darkness setting dial just right finally”

  53. birb*

    You actually CAN’T just play your own music in a business. They absolutely pay for a service that keeps them legally in the clear, and the manager is absolutely subverting it in the hopes that if someone complains, corporate will say “but we have an approved playlist!” and not realize the manager is turning it off to play their own music on the speakers.

    If OP isn’t comfortable reporting the manager to the company for playing unlicensed, unapproved music in the store…. she could always report the manager to the company that owns the rights to the song, because I guarantee that song isn’t on a pre-approved playlist of licensed music for a retail space. They’d likely get a cease and desist, possibly a fine. The company would DEFINITELY be made aware.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      A million years ago, the pizza place I worked at ‘got around’ that rule by placing the speakers behind the counter. The working theory was that this meant the music was for the workers, and not the customers–and if customers heard it, that was by accident.

      It was a tissue-thin excuse, but we never got busted for it.

    2. yeah*

      For anyone else stumbling on this comment, this is misinformation and not how music licensing for retail works. See the discussion upthread about PROs from people who work in the music business.

  54. Raida*

    2. Manager plays inappropriate music in a family-friendly store

    I would argue that there’s probably a hotline because staff are supposed to report issues.
    If you don’t want to use the hotline, and it’s possible to google these phone numbers, I’d contact Head Office, asking to speak to Bigwig who reprimanded her personally last time, and setting up a meeting call for fifteen minutes.
    I’d tell them I’m concerned for my job “side eyeing me through my shifts”, and that I am sincerely concerned about retaliation. I’d tell them I don’t feel that any other management in the store is going to act to stop her since… nobody has so far. I would tell them she’s lying to customer and staff, she’s refusing to give out corporate’s number, and I’m just pissed off that nobody who is empowered to act is doing so. I’m not whinging, I’m reporting. And I’m not using the hotline because the other stuff I reported was illegal and this is… just shitty, but also bad for the business.

    and say “I feel like most people would say this isn’t my place to say anything… but honestly isn’t it everyone’s place to say something? Am I realistically not just ‘not paid enough to care’ but “not paid enough to be afforded the opportunity to speak”?

    I would say I know they gave enough of a shit before to come in person, I’m hoping they’re the right person to at least direct this reporting to the right person/team to check it out. I’d tell them the song is on once an hour, it won’t be difficult to chuck a mystery shopper in and prove it, or to have the shopper try to complain and prove how that’s handled, too. I’d email them the lyrics, too.

    But I’m a total bastard like that : P

  55. ZK*

    #2, your manager absolutely doesn’t have permission from corporate, because companies have to pay licensing fees to play music in store and no way a personal play list is licensed. She’s actually opening your company to hefty fines from the PRO. She’s not fooling anyone by refusing to give them the corporate number, since if someone really wants to complain, that number is available with a quick internet search.

    If you have an ethics or HR hotline, call.

  56. DJ*

    LW#4 as well as dropping to 1 day pw you can also have excuses for not coming in that 2nd day!
    I’d fly under the radar for this one rather than raise the inconsistencies with management!

  57. Goody*

    I wonder if LW2’s store is printing a link or phone number for a survey at the bottom of receipts. That might be a way for customers to get around the manager’s attempts at preventing complaints. So when LW2 hears another of these interactions, they could maybe mention to the customer that it would be a great idea for them to complete the survey after they check out and relay any concerns they might have. I know that when I worked at the red spot, those ABSOLUTELY got read and acted on (and receipts for employee purchases didn’t have those surveys, so LW wouldn’t be able to use this path for their own complaint if their store is the same way).

  58. Mag*

    I had a similar problem with an office cleaning lady once. She kept bugging me to go up on the roof with her to smoke a joint.

    I finally got her to stop by telling her I’ve always had issues with high maintenance women.

  59. A Va Ava*

    Letter #2-
    Is anyone else bothered by the phrase, “Our stock manager is an absolute piece of work.” ?
    While she may be a terrible manager and / or inappropriate, this phrase has me feeling as if LW will always find fault in the manager, deserved or not. Maybe because I have worked in some pretty terrible places where “piece of work” was always used to denigrate women employees.

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