should a successful gamer put it on their resume, “free” company gifts that aren’t free, ad more

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

1. If you’re a successful gamer, should it go on your resume?

My son is in college and needs to find a job while he’s home for the summer. He hasn’t had much luck so far, and his experience is limited to stocking shelves at a grocery store for two years, and some volunteer work. He didn’t work at all last summer — I had surgery and was out of commission for quite a few weeks, so he took care of me, the yard, the laundry, shopping, etc. (It’s just the two of us.)

This spring break, he went on a trip that I didn’t know he could afford so I asked him where the money was coming from, and he told me that he had earned it through online gaming. I knew he had done this once in the past, but I didn’t understand he was still doing it, and that it had added up to thousands of dollars. Through skill or luck, you can earn things like weapons for playing, and the ownership of them is transferable, so they can be sold. As best I can tell, it’s legal.

Should this go on his resume? Would it help him find a job, or turn people off? It’s unusual, but would maybe be looked at as entrepreneurial? If he should add it, how should he list it?

Leave it off. Most people seeing that on a resume are going to think “how is this relevant to the job you’re applying for?” and a lot of them will judge him for including it, unless he can really spell out in concrete and credible terms how the skills transfer … and even then he’d encounter a lot of skepticism.

Related:
can I put World of Warcraft leadership experience on my resume?

2. Complaining to a manager after an employee corrects you about her gender

Was my sister-in-law wrong to complain to someone’s manager?

While I was visiting my sister-in-law, she asked my opinion on a situation she recently encountered. She was calling a customer service line and the person on the phone sounded male so when they asked if they could put my SIL on hold, she responded, “Yes sir” (she’s southern) The rep responded with, “I identify as female, please address me as such,” then placed my SIL on hold.

My SIL was incensed by this and send a nasty email to the customer service manager about how the behavior was rude and the rep made my SIL feel as if she had committed a cardinal sin, but my SIL had no way of knowing their gender other than by their voice because they were on the phone.

My response was that if the rep had said “my name is X,” then you should address them as X and not use sir or ma’am. Am I missing something?

Whether to address someone by their name or by ma’am/sir or by nothing at all is deeply cultural/regional.

But if you use gendered greetings like “ma’am” and “sir” (like much of the American south does reflexively), then occasionally you might get someone’s gender wrong and you should handle a correction politely. Sending an angry email to complain was out-of-line; even if the rep sounded irritated, it didn’t warrant a complaint to the manager. Any chance your sister-in-law is responding to something other than what happened … like is she affronted by issues around gender identity more broadly?

3. Our director left while my coworker was on vacation

I have a colleague who left for a long vacation in their home country (five weeks). In the middle of her vacation, my former director announced that he would be leaving, did his two weeks, and has now left. I was previously a peer to the colleague and now I am the acting director. My colleague is a very anxious person and I think she will feel really troubled by coming back to him having left and me being in charge. My former director has an office in town near the colleagues house in a workspace/coffeeshop-type place. Do you think we should aim for her first day back to meet there so he can break the news himself?

I really want her to have a smooth transition back after such a long time away and I don’t want her to be overwhelmed by the changes. She really likes and trusts our old director and I think she would ultimately be okay with me being the acting director, but I think the whole thing will come as a shock! She is back on Monday. Any advice?

I think asking her to meet at a coffeeshop before coming in risks setting off her anxiety on its own. And it’s too much to ask your former director, who doesn’t work there anymore, to do a Monday morning meeting at his old job just to break the news to someone delicately. That’s just … a lot of handling of someone else’s feelings for them.

Just share the news with her once she’s back and figure she’ll be surprised and need some time to process, and she’ll handle that however she handles it. Otherwise I would worry about (a) signaling to her that it’s a bigger deal than it is by setting up a special off-site meeting just for her, and (b) the precedent you’d set by trying to manage her feelings to that extent about a fairly normal workplace change.

4. “Free” company gifts that aren’t free

This is a very low-stakes, probably no-stakes question that seems unlikely to come up, but I’d like to get your take.

I started a fully remote job this week. One of my orientation tasks was to pick some standard starter items (branded notebook, water bottle, etc.) from the company’s online store, which are free and will be shipped to me for free.

New employees also get a $20 credit toward anything else in the company store. It’s a very expansive store with everything from golf tees and fridge magnets to high-end jackets and camping gear, all covered in the company logo. We also “partner” with an NFL team, so there’s some pretty cool co-branded stuff too.

However, with the exception of, like, some stickers, nothing in the store is under $20. AND shipping is $8, minimum. AND you can’t bundle your “gift” with the mandatory items. So unless you’re so into free stuff that you want $12 of bland logo stickers, this “gift” is effectively a way for employees to pay to advertise for their employer.

I realize this is pretty common practice and barely even registers on the scale of corporate grossness, so my solution is to just not buy anything and forget about it. But if someone (my boss, who probably has to promote this “perk,” or the marketing department, who almost certainly has to budget for it) asks why I haven’t used my credit, is there a tactful, professional way to say “This is icky” or should I stick to some fluff about not needing another t-shirt?

Yeah, that’s poorly thought-out!

I doubt your boss will even notice, let alone ask you about it if you don’t order anything. But if it does come up, as a new employee I wouldn’t get into it; just go with, “Oh, I’m trying to have less stuff around” or something similarly bland. However, once you’ve been there longer and have accumulated more capital, feel free to point out to whoever manages this stuff that there’s no way to use the credit without dropping a bunch of cash along with it. They might be well aware of that and fine with it — who knows, maybe a bunch of employees love the company-branded hoodies and so the credit is super popular — but it’s reasonable to point out once you’ve been there longer.

{ 956 comments… read them below }

  1. Viki*

    L1 think of it as like Facebook marketplace. He’s selling his things online, it is neither impressive or really hard to achieve. The nature of the items is irrelevant, and not resume worthy.

    1. allathian*

      It’s not the selling that’s the point, it’s the earning of the items by playing the game. Then you sell the stuff to other players who are either less skillful or less dedicated but are willing to pay can progress faster in the game.

      If nothing else, it shows that the person’s able to dedicate both time and effort to become successful at something.

      That said, I wouldn’t necessarily put gaming on a resume unless you’ve been a pro in e-sports. AFAIK most pro gamers are in their teens or twenties, maybe early thirties, and although some become millionaires, few can afford to retire completely after their first career.

      1. anon_sighing*

        I think there are a lot of skills that can spiral out of gaming, but grinding for gear isn’t really one of them. It’s not remotely the same as e-sports…afaik, what he’s doing is looked down upon (the other thing he’s probably doing is selling starter accounts or something — he starts the game, grinds to a certain level and then sells the accounts to people who wanna start at a certain place or with certain characters. I think this is popular in gacha games where which characters you get are random chance and a lot of it is grinding if you aren’t willing to pay).

        1. coffee*

          Yeah, he’s basically trading his time spent grinding for money. While you could say that it shows his ability to stick at doing the same thing repeatedly until he gets the outcome he wants, I’m sure you could show that skill from shelf stacking too, and that would show that he can do the same thing to a certain standard, in a certain timeframe, while following the workplace rules. And that’s a better example to show off to an employer.

            1. Nomic*

              But if it’s, “basically just…a job?” then shouldn’t it be on the resume?

              Stocking shelves is “just a job” too, but you put that on your resume (along with how you were efficient and on time and did the work correctly).

              Don’t get me wrong, I think Allison is right that hiring managers would laugh it off — but even if the skill is just, “working 8 hours a day doing this boring thing that averaged out to about $15/hr, while handling occasional tasks and trust management”, it *should* be relatable to a Real Job ™.

              1. Venus*

                It’s not really a job because it has no oversight. It’s more like a hobby that happens to have a small financial benefit if he’s lucky. Jobs are on resumes to show that people have interpersonal or technical skills. This one doesn’t show either, so isn’t worth mentioning.

                1. goddessoftransitory*

                  I think this is the best way to think of it. He’s monetized a hobby, but not in such a way that translates into “working well with others” or similar skills needed in real life.

                  Shelf-stacking may not be glamorous, but anybody who’s worked retail can tell you the stock levels and presentation can make or break your job. Good references from this job shows he understands how that task fits into the larger picture, he understands direction, and so on.

              2. Knope Knope Knope*

                Maybe. But thinking through the lens of Alison’s advice to build a skills-based resume, it sounds like it won’t be relevant in the way the mom hopes.

            2. Lucia Pacciola*

              A job typically involves things like supervision, deliverables, deadlines, and delayed gratification. A job isn’t going to give you a little dopamine-triggering “ding!” every couple hours to keep you hooked on the grind. A job isn’t going to let you produce what you want when you want, and then call it a day. A job is going to expect you to produce certain quantities or values, in a certain time frame, consistently and correctly.

              Someone can make a living playing poker, and good for them. But those skills don’t really translate to a job where you’re working for someone else who expects deliverables on a deadline. Not unless the job is high-stakes negotiation, or bearding international terrorist financiers in Monaco.

        2. FrivYeti*

          If the mom looked into it and it’s legal, he’s probably not selling starter accounts; those sorts of games usually ban trading those those for a variety of reasons, some of them fraud-related and some of them “we want your money”-related.

          There are a number of the larger MMOs that *do* allow gear selling, or even have large in-game marketplaces in which those sales can take place, and my guess would be he’s playing one of those.

          1. i drink too much coffee*

            True, but “we’ll suspend your account” and it being actually illegal are two very different things!

          2. Thegs*

            The mention of “weapons” made me think of Counter Strike skins, for which there is a very large secondary market endorsed by the developer, Valve.

      2. Double A*

        As a teacher, I have seen many, many students neglect necessary skills to become excellent gamers. The skills they learn gaming don’t transfer to school success. Which is not the only kind of success, but gaming is often actively detrimental to building skills that aren’t so immediately gratifying.

        1. WellRed*

          This is what I’m a little worried about. Gaming can get a little obsessive or addictive for some. I wonder what types of jobs he’s looking for.

        2. JSPA*

          As an employer I’d also worry that this can be a pretty problematic combination of borderline-addictive hobby and pseudo-side-gig. It’s pretty easy to convince yourself The the modest money you’re making on the side justifies hours gaming, even if the hours spent gaming are cutting into your sleep health and work-readiness.

          Not that it’s the employer’s business whether you go to sleep at ten pm or three am. Nor whether you’re spending those potential sleep hours rescuing kittens, swiping on tinder, gaming, at the gym, or basket-weaving. But, “sounds like a likely time-suck and time-management disaster” is 100% Is something there allowed to take into account, when flipping through resumés.

          So I’m team “leave it off” as well.

          1. Bast*

            The gamer in question seems to have accumulated enough money to take a fairly expensive trip as indicated in the letter, so it doesn’t seem like “modest money.” The issue that I’m getting from you is that it’s gaming, and all of the stereotypes surrounding games and gamers. If he had an Etsy shop selling hand knit blankets because he found that enjoyable and earned some money, would you still look at it the same way? Or if he ran a successful blog (gaming or otherwise) that brought in money?

            1. Michelle Smith*

              Those are businesses. He isn’t running a YouTube channel, he’s just playing a game and trading weapons and skins. It’s not a skill. I’m not saying it to be judgmental – gaming is pretty much my primary hobby to the exclusion of almost everything else. I love it! But being good at a game and earning money from trades is not the same thing as running a gaming channel as a business or running an Etsy business.

              1. Anon for this*

                And even if it could be considered a business, it’s almost certainly against the ToS of the game he’s playing.

                1. AMH*

                  LW1 below said it was CS:GO, so it’s very much allowed. Not that I think that changes the answer!

                2. Purpleshark*

                  Is he paying taxes on the monies he receives from this? If he is not I have to wonder how this could be defined as a business. An Etsy shop or a Youtube channel would need to be more defined than this.

            2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

              I don’t know if every time a person makes money that they need to declare it as a job on a resume. I think the time he spent stocking shelves shows work experience, and if he needs to explain the gap, which he might not as a college student, he can explain how he was taking care of his parent after surgery. As others stated, there is limited skill sets associated with gaming that can be translated to a job. I wouldn’t list the Etsy either unless it had skills that translated to the job I was applying to, as I think it would be within bounds if someone denoted that they were running a side business that the potential employer may ask how that would impact a person’s ability to do their ‘primary’ job. The blog also falls into the same realm of things that you need to put in a lot of time to be successful, so it may detract from getting a job rather than help.

              1. Elitist Semicolon*

                Having a successful Etsy store does demonstrate financial acumen, or at least competency, though – to be profitable, a crafter has to consider the cost of materials, compensation for their time, and any fees/percentages Etsy takes, then price their products accordingly without pricing out their potential customers. It’s not that far off from running a small in-person store. If the person’s making, like, an extra $20-$30/month, that might not be worth mentioning, but there are folks for whom Etsy is a considerable part of their income. That’s worth highlighting.

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  That all depends; there are a lot of Etsy stores which are literally just re-purchasing the work of others (often gewgaws from places where production is cheap, not even handmade) and selling those, often with the implied idea you’re making it yourself; THAT kind of Etsy store wouldn’t belong on a resume either, even if they are making bank.

                  Selling your own products, on the other hand, with all the steps you included, can definitely be an impressive enterprise.

                  Sadly, grinding stuff in a game is more like the “selling product from Bangladesh” Etsy than the “look what I made for myself” Etsy.

            3. CarlottaHere*

              But if he had an Etsy shop or YouTube channel, he could at least discuss his business plan and growth options, along with his shop or channel metrics to potential employers. He would be the business owner and marketing/sales team rolled into one. An online shop or YT channel would also show that he had a decent understanding of business operations, customer engagement, and customer acquisition – all backed up and proven by his shop’s metrics. It’s hard to show/tell concrete professional skills from gaming, however, if he could turn it into some type of business, things could be different. Personally, I like gaming too, but mainly just for fun or stress relief.

            4. JSPA*

              It would be equally true of anything where the return per hour is (a almost certainly) less than minimum wage, there’s no directly transferable skill set (beyond some level of coordination and reasoning), no room for advancement, and it’s something that some people do for fun to the point where it is a quasi addictive behavior.

              Some people also get that way over playing chess, and somehow chest does not have that level of stigma. Fair enough.

              But plenty of video games are effectively designed and tested to have adequate behaviorally addictive potential. (And there are a lot more hard-core gamers than Bobby Fischers in the world.)

              It’s not just unfounded bias for a hiring manager to wonder if someone who makes big money on this does so by gaming at the expense of the rest of their waking hours, and possibly has people skills and norms that are more informed by online gamer interaction then by work experience. Or to wonder if dialing way back on gaming hours might not be psychologically trivial.

              To be clear, I’m not saying that most people would have a problem reducing their gaming. But “could be a problem” isn’t something you want a line on your resumé to suggest, when there’s no clear upside to including it. “knows how to game for swag” isn’t a workplace skill unless (say) you’re going into video game design.

          2. Anon for this*

            This. I fired someone in the recent past for an inability to show up anywhere close to on time, which I’m 90% certain was a result of a late night gaming addiction. I definitely wouldn’t hire someone who felt their gaming was appropriate to include on a resume.

          3. Olive*

            I agree he should leave it off, but in the specific context of the letter, it doesn’t sound problematic at all that he’d found a way to make money at home while being a dedicated, reliable caregiver. Caregiving can be extremely difficult and caregivers are especially prone to burnout.

            1. Parakeet*

              This. I think some people are conflating whether it should go on a resume – there are plenty of things I do that are worthwhile, legitimate activities, that I wouldn’t put on my resume – and its legitimacy as an activity. I don’t know anything about CS:GO so I can’t speak to whether what he’s doing is acceptable within its culture. But it’s not an illegitimate activity or “wrong” way to earn money just because it’s gaming (and I can think of plenty of gaming-related activities that I do think are fine to put on a resume, especially for related industries). Some people’s biases about gaming and gamers are showing.

              I might have had better grades in college if I’d spent less time doing student government. And believe me, I knew a lot of other struggling students at my known-for-difficulty university who were spending a ton of time on student activities (including “prestigious” ones like student government, the IT club, sports, and student groups) so that they could feel a sense of accomplishment and self-worth about something, and in the process making their academic struggles even worse. But I never heard anyone suggest that those were suspect types of activities because students spend too much time on them and suffer academically.

        3. Nomic*

          You can say the same thing about high school sports. Plenty of good HS sports players neglect their studies (and their teachers give them a pass ). They think they’ll go to college on a scholarship, or go pro, but that rarely happens either.

        4. goddessoftransitory*

          This. It’s like when people think doing crosswords makes you all-over brilliant. No, you get really really good at…doing crosswords. You can expand your vocabulary, take it seriously, go to competitions; but none of that is really going to translate directly to “you should hire me as Marketing Director.”

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        My tangential impression–from reading sci fi, I don’t game–is that accumulating your stuff by buying it from other players is looked down on. Like if one team got to the 30 yard line by playing the game, and another team by paying $300 to someone else to play the game until that point.

        So I think listing it could give a negative impression for some employers who do know what it is. (And of course, a manager somewhere is like “yeah, I made some money doing this in school, this kid has gumption.” Where gumption is a good thing to have in moderate amounts, applied rationally in the right contexts.)

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          There’s a reason people don’t like the Yankees… :)

          Major League Baseball is the only major US sports league that doesn’t have a salary cap. (The NFL, NBA, & NHL do.) There’s definitely a perception of cheating or buying talent rather than growing it amongst some teams.

        2. Girasol*

          Some gaming providers object to this behavior and will stop it if they catch it. It’s not illegal, and it’s always “okay” if you don’t get caught, but it might raise questions about ethics if the interviewer knows gaming.

        3. sparkle emoji*

          I think your perception point is a good one. Either the hiring manager is unfamiliar with the practice and Son risks being perceived as someone unfamiliar with professional norms + all the stigma that “gamer” can carry, or the hiring manager is familiar but may not respect the practice.

      4. ferrina*

        it shows that the person’s able to dedicate both time and effort to become successful at something

        I disagree with this- dedicating time to your hobbies is very different than dedicating time to your job. Doing things that result in an instant dopamine hit often isn’t notable, and the skills required for gaming often don’t translate into a work environment. This is true of most hobbies- even though a lot of the skills can indirectly translate, that’s not something that employers can count on (for example, my youth sports league taught me a lot about teamwork, discipline and strategy, and I dedicated hundreds of hours to playing my sport, but it’s not resume worthy).
        The fact that he made some money is cool, but still not resume worthy. I sold some things on Craigslist- that doesn’t make me any better at business or retail. If he created a scaled, sustained business, that would be noteworthy. If he’s running a full-blown online store (to the level where it impacts his taxes), that would be resume worthy.

        Plus there’s the stigma against gaming in general. The minor accomplishment definitely isn’t worth introducing the gaming stigma.

        1. Olive*

          As far as resumes go, there’s a lot of classism in acceptable hobbies to mention. Putting upper class, ambitious hobbies on your resume often gets good results.

      5. Runcible Wintergreen*

        I mean, I can do a Rubik’s cube in less than a minute, and my jam won blue ribbons at the state fair last year. Both of those things took time for me to accomplish but I don’t put them on my resume as it’s simply not relevant to my job.

        There are “socially acceptable” options for putting things on one’s resume to demonstrate skills and experience. Whether gaming SHOULD be acceptable is one debate. But a student is not really in a position to impact that conversation. If the goal is to get a job (not to make a point about transferrable skills from hobbies/side interests), they should attempt to follow these “social norms” that most hiring managers would be looking for.

      6. Tulip Madness*

        Being “able to dedicate both time and effort to become successful at” a fun video game isn’t impressive in a job context. That kind of dedication doesn’t map onto spending time and effort on something that isn’t inherently fun and exciting, aka most skills people have to pay you to do.

        Basically, spending hundreds of hours on something you want to do anyway doesn’t show that you would also spend hundreds of hours learning Excel or whatever.

      7. fhqwhgads*

        If he were a professional gamer and applying for jobs that might care about that, he’d list it. Playing well enough to sell stuff really is more comparable to having a successful ebay store. And for most jobs will not be relevant experience.

      8. Angela Zeigler*

        Except the most lucrative game ‘economies’ don’t have anything to do with playing the game or even earning the items- it’s often just gambling, opening up random digital item crates and hoping to get a rare item that can be sold for a lot. Then, there’s an entire ‘economy’ of game items where people track current values, prices, and demand, so people buy low and sell high.

        Yes, some of those skills technically carry over into real-world jobs. But It’s a big difference between ‘playing pro-level and earning money by winning tournaments’ and creating a bot account that buys up a Hot Pink Razor Knife whenever it dips below a certain amount, just to flip it at a profit to (most likely) children or less-savvy players.

    2. Artemesia*

      For the uninitiated it also reads as gambling money, not something you want on yoiur resume even if you are for example an amazing poker player.

        1. Emily Byrd Starr*

          Which is something that the uninitiated don’t realize. I have never done online gaming, and I, too, would have assumed it was the internet version of gambling at Vegas.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            And not all games are viewed the same. An International Master or Grand Master title at chess is somehow way more prestigious (in my perception) than being in the top 100 World of Warcraft players (if such a list exists). This is purely in the eyes of the beholder, of course.

        2. watermelon fruitcake*

          As a gamer… If you’re selling weapons that rely on a random number generator (whether they are enemy drops, randomized chests, or they come from “gacha” or loot boxes), it is very similar to gambling. If it requires an investment of real life money (microtransactions), it’s even closer to gambling, and I think the EU is seeking to regulated loot boxes as such, if they haven’t already.

          It sounds like the son in LW1 is not participating in e-sports. He’s not like, a professional Starcraft or League of Legends player. He’s selling CounterStrike knives and guns. The former would be something to include on a resume – either as work experience or as just a cool factoid, your choice. The latter is more questionable.

          1. Lydia*

            I think it’s most similar to selling scrap, and while that is a legitimate business, you wouldn’t put the actual selling of the scrap down on your resume. You’d put all the other stuff you do as a business owner on the resume. I don’t really want to make judgements on what is and is not a productive use of time. We’re all wage slaves, essentially, and if this is how this young person found a way to make some extra cash, good on him. If he wants to include it in his resume, he should do all the other required business stuff you CAN put on it.

        3. daffodil*

          but if someone told me they made a bunch of money in “online gaming” and then didn’t elaborate I would assume the games were poker or sports betting.

          1. Dogwoodblossom*

            This was my assumption when I read the letter the first time. And I’m familiar with video games and some of the ways people earn real money from them. But yeah, I think a lot of people would read this as online poker.

        4. Tulip Madness*

          This kind of loot box type system is gambling though. Check out People Make Games’s video on the subject. Between law-skirting gambling type video games and legal sports betting, we’ve got a generation of guys hitting college already deep in the throes of a gambling addiction.

        5. penny dreadful analyzer*

          Poker players say the same thing! There’s a whole discourse about how pro poker players are professional athletes actually, it’s just a sport that’s played sitting down in a casino. They are dead serious about this.

      1. zuzu*

        One of my classmates in law school spent a year subsisting on gambling winnings after college and used the experience as the basis for his law school application essay. It was very much a “here’s what I learned about myself” kind of essay, and he also had the GPA and test scores to back him up.

    3. Bosslady*

      My son put a successful money-making YouTube channel teaching a skill (related tangentially to his STEM major) with tens of thousands of followers on his college apps and on some of his resumes, depending on the job/internship. It seems like it’s in the same category as gaming but somehow seems more appropriate. Any thoughts on that?
      In interviews, it’s always something the hiring manager is interested in and brings up.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        That’s completely different. LW’s son makes game-specific, time-intensive but pretty simple widgets (my personal definition of grinding in video games) to sell to other people. Your son creates videos teaching other people a skill related to his major. They’re very different in terms of transferrable skills.

      2. ferrina*

        Different. This is effectively a portfolio for a couple different skills:
        -Creating a successful curriculum/lesson plan
        -Presentation
        -Social media engagement

        Yes, it’s technically a hobby, but it’s a hobby that is also usually a paid job.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        That strikes me as very different. Your son is teaching a skill. Whether he does it on Youtube or in a club or a community centre, it’s all the same skill. On the other hand, the LW’s son was making money by selling things. Again, whether he does it online or in a car boot sale, it’s pretty much the same thing and you wouldn’t put “I made €1,000 by selling my childhood toys at a car boot sale.”

        It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the latter, just that it’s not a job and doesn’t necessarily require any skill. The LW mentions that you can gain these things “by skill or luck” and especially if the manager isn’t familiar with the game, they aren’t going to know which it was. For all they know, it could be a case of “I got lucky in a game and decided to monitise it by selling items to less lucky players,” which is really only one step above “I won a raffle” as regards how much it says about your work skills. Or it could be a case of “I had a load of useless items that I sold to game newbies who had no idea they were useless!”

        I don’t know the game so it’s possible there are skills that translate to the workplace, but selling items you didn’t need isn’t really one of them. Teaching, on the other hand, very much might be.

    4. Beth*

      Yeah, this is a case of “not all things that make money are resume jobs”. Babysitting funded my pocket money from age 11-19…but when I started looking for my first post-college job, my resume consisted of the part-time and summer jobs that I got a W-2 for. Babysitting felt too informal and irregular to put on there even when I didn’t have much work history to show. (Now I’m wondering where that line is–I would’ve put nannying on!)

    5. Knope Knope Knope*

      LW#1 – I am late to respond so I am sure my comment will be buried, but if you happen to see it, I have a different take than most of these comments. I know nothing about gaming, so keep that in mind, but I do digital marketing. How is he getting his products in front of a target audience? Is he using keywords? Effective imagery? Does he track his expenses or profit margin in any way? Does he doing to encourage repeat customers – aka a customer retention strategy? If he is a student, does he apply anything he learns his courses to how he earns his money? If the answer to any of these is yes I think he could have some resume-worthy points.

  2. Evan8*

    Lw1, he definitely shouldn’t put it on a resume. Interviewers who aren’t familiar with gaming will find it odd and irrelevant. Interviewers who are gamers, will most likely be put off by it. In most circumstances, selling gear/characters/farming for profit is not viewed kindly by most people.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      That’s what I was thinking. He’ll confuse non-gamers, and gamers are at least as likely to count it against him as consider it an advantage.

      FWIW, once reason many gamers object to it is that it allows people to buy an unfair advantage in the game, and on a large scale can throw off the balance of the game. There are more complex issues too – googling “gold farming” for games leads you to interesting links, including a Wikipedia article.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I’ve been playing video games for 25 years by now but not ones where this is at all relevant, so I haven’t encountered it IRL except for hearing about it in passing here or there, so I was super confused at first – he sells stuff in-game but receives real-world money? And then I went like “wait a minute…”.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I’m familiar with gaming and this is what would go through my head on seeing that on a resume:

        Selling stuff (probably against the TOS – it usually is) so people can unfairly get an advantage without putting the work in. What does that say about his own work ethic?

        Will he be incoherent or late most days because of being up too late gaming?

        Why didn’t he apply himself to learning more relevant skills (for this role / this field) as he clearly has time to spare?

        etc.

        1. Artemesia*

          I know a really brilliant middle aged man whose life is gaming and who does show up bleary eyed for the low paid job that pays the rent. Putting it on the resume is going to raise concerns for many people.

        2. londonedit*

          Yes…I’m not really familiar with gaming and I’m probably quite old and stuffy at this point, but my first thought would be to wonder whether he’s going to be staying up all night gaming and whether he’ll actually be able to dedicate his time to a ‘proper’ job.

          1. Bast*

            Why would you assume that someone is up all night gaming as opposed to all night doing… anything else they might state as a hobby? I’ve definitely stayed up all night reading a book I was excited for, or to see a midnight release of a new film (back when that was a thing). It baffles me how willing someone is to just judge someone’s perfectly normal hobby and create a fictionalized version of them with no evidence. It’s not like he states he’s robbing banks, which is also stereotypically at night and is kind of something you might judge one for.

            1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

              Your analogies are more one offs though, as opposed to the stereotypical understanding of the gaming ‘job’. Calling it a ‘job’ because OP wants their kid to potentially list it as work, thus denoting that the kid is spending somewhat significant time with gaming. If you wanted to put that you were a movie reviewer that watches midnight premiers of movies, I think employees would think twice about whether you could function if your job started in the morning.

              1. ferrina*

                I don’t think Bast is saying that the gaming is a job. Bast seems to be saying the opposite- the gaming is definitely a hobby. (and it doesn’t seem to be a resume-worthy hobby)

                Bast is critiquing the reputation that gaming gets as a “less-than” hobby. Like the stereotype of the gamer who comes in bleary-eyed because they were up all night. Bast is pointing out that there are other hobbies that impact work that don’t have the same negative reputation. I’ll second Bast’s example of reading- my family has a chronic reading habit, and staying up too late is something that happens every other week. Er, including last night (in my defense, I’m currently reading Legendborn by Tracy Deonn)

                1. Lydia*

                  This. The stereotype of “one more chapter” doesn’t raise any eyebrows and is generally laughed at in a knowing way. The same would not be the case for someone who said they needed to explore more of a new map. And there is very little difference between the two.

                2. Rex Libris*

                  Gaming isn’t a “less than” hobby, but unlike say, book reading or water polo or whatever, it has an actual subculture that does indulge in staying up half the night, night after night. I had friends who failed out of their undergraduate programs because of it. I’ve seen a coworker fired because of it.

                  It’s a thing that sometimes happens with gaming, and therefore a legitimate concern if someone is attached to it at a level where they think it belongs on a resume, for example.

                3. Lydia*

                  @Rex Libris You have given two examples of how gaming did that, while ignoring that all of that happens in other situations, too, not just gaming. It’s time to push back on the idea that gaming is significantly different than any other addictive activity and stop singling it out as having an out-of-proportion impact on people’s lives.

                4. Rex Libris*

                  Except I didn’t single it out, the topic of the thread is gaming, specifically. I also didn’t indict all gaming, but said that there is an element that does gravitate toward consistent late night gaming, primarily with MMO games, that it was a thing that “sometimes” happens, and that the factor that qualifies it as a problem is it being so important to you that you feel it should be on your resume.

                  I’ve been a gamer, though not hardcore, since the Commodore 64 came out. I don’t denigrate it as a hobby, but I do think if someone thinks it’s resume worthy, they need to reassess.

            2. AngryOctopus*

              Banks aren’t open at night :)
              The perception of a gamer who earns enough to be selling to others is that they’d constantly be up very late and not giving 100% to any job they have during the day/working hours. I’ll also stay up too late reading or out at a performance, but that’s not an every night kind of thing, and it doesn’t affect my overall performance at my job.
              Bottom line is that it’s not a resume worthy activity the same way that a small Etsy store or a volunteer job would be, and he should leave it off.

              1. Irish Teacher.*

                Well, I read every night and yeah, if I wasn’t disciplined would definitely stay up too late pretty much every night doing it. There is maybe one or two nights a week when I’m not thinking, “could I read another chapter? Is it a short one?” *flicks through* “No, it’s 20 pages and it’s 11 pm and I have to be up at 6:30, so I suppose I’d better stop here.” I don’t see why books (or TV shows) are more likely to be a one-off than games. Performances, sure, they tend to be one-offs.

                1. Wendy Darling*

                  I’ve stayed up until nearly sunrise trying to finish a sewing project that had no particular deadline. But no one is like “Oh that Wendy is so unreliable, she stays up all night doing crafts.”

            3. Dinwar*

              “Why would you assume that someone is up all night gaming as opposed to all night doing… anything else they might state as a hobby?”

              Because gaming is the latest cultural bogyman. Comics and movies and TV have all had their turn, and it’s gaming’s turn. Our community has yet to shake the stereotype of the fat, unhygienic slob living in their parent’s basement. Never mind the fact that many of us grew up playing video games, the majority of gamers are women at this point (though demographics are heavily influenced by genera), and so many mature, responsible adults are playing video games that it’s having a measurable impact on how games are designed….

              It seems our culture needs someone to hate. And gamers are the target for many people.

              1. not owen wilson*

                I’m trying really hard to be kind, but it’s very hard when you compare being a gamer to being bullied by society….. have you seen how women and people of color are treated? And you think GAMERS are the current target for hate? I’m sorry people don’t understand your hobby, but calm down.

                1. SnackAttack*

                  Yeah, I agree, @notowenwilson. Sure, it’s unfair to lump all gamers into one category and hate on them, but there is SO. much. hate. in the gaming community. It’s true that the majority of gamers are women (and many are POC), but the people who control the gaming landscape are by and large straight, white males who antagonize people different from them. The sexism and racism in the industry is rampant, and it’s often echoed by those who are consuming the product as well. It’s not necessarily the majority of gamers, but when you get online and all you see are racial and gendered slurs being thrown around, it’s hard to think of them as a vocal minority.

                2. not owen wilson*

                  @SnackAttack — exactly, and this kind of behavior is why I don’t play online games. It’s even worse if you’re trans, just look at the responses to the second letter here. Some people are just desperate to feel oppressed, I guess.

                3. Jackalope*

                  I encourage you to look up things like Gamergate, which was a coordinated attack by male gamers against female gamers, including hate speech, doxxing, death and r@pe threats, in order to drive them out of gaming. Being a woman and/or a person of color in the gaming world can cause very real bullying.

                  Beyond that, and perhaps more to the point, it’s true that gamers as a group have been used as a scapegoat for society as a way to point a finger about “kids these days”. I Al not a millennial, but I’ve heard similar comments from them about having endless articles and news shows and so on painting them as the Problem With the World Today. Does it count as bullying? I don’t feel like I can comment one way or another, since I wasn’t the target. But it gets tiring to be the scapegoat for so long and have society constantly denigrating you just for your age or your hobby or whatever. I don’t think that’s a bad thing to call out.

              2. SnackAttack*

                I’m a gamer myself, but I don’t know if I completely agree with everything you said. While you’re right that a lot of people unfairly hate on gaming, there’s also a LOT of hate within the gaming community itself. I purposely limit myself to one-player games that don’t involve interaction with anyone else, because so much of the stuff I see looking over my husband’s shoulder in multi-player online games is so vile. It’s not a majority, but it’s not exactly a minority, either.

                Also, a lot of games are designed to get people addicted (since more players/time playing=more money). Granted, this is more anecdotal, but I’ve seen so many stories from wives, girlfriends, and moms talking about their husband’s/boyfriend’s/son’s dependency on gaming and the nasty attitudes they have because of it.

            4. Beth*

              I wouldn’t assume that about someone who’s gaming as a hobby. Plenty of people enjoy video games without compromising their ability to do other things.

              I might about someone who’s taking their gaming so seriously that they put it on their resume as a job, though. That’s a different level! I’m not enough of a gamer to judge the way OP’s kid is making money (other people are talking about TOS and gold farming and whether they’re above board, and none of that would’ve occurred to me). But seeing this on his resume would make me wonder if he’s planning to treat the role I’m hiring for as his ‘real’ job, or whether it’s going to come second to his gaming business.

            5. Venus*

              Gaming addiction is a known thing, whereas I’ve never heard of a book reading addiction. I have several friends who had to stop playing games or limit themselves substantially because they were losing a lot of sleep and consistently struggling with work and school, whereas I don’t know anyone who has had the same problem with other hobbies.

              1. SnackAttack*

                I’ve also noticed that people addicted to games have a much more drastic change in demeanor and mood compared to people who get into other hobbies.

              2. Polly Hedron*

                I’ve never heard of a book reading addiction.

                I have, and Googling “book reading addiction” will get thousands of hits.

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            I don’t think that’s fair though. I mean, I love reading and yeah, if I didn’t have a routine, I probably would stay up half the night reading – I did as a child, before I learnt that getting some sleep is a good idea – and lots of people watch TV daily, even for numerous hours daily or talk about binging boxsets or people spend hours on social media – I do myself. I don’t see any reason to assume somebody who games is more likely to spent all night on it than somebody who reads 3 books a week (me!) or who binge-watches box sets or whatever.

          3. Star Trek Nutcase*

            This is just an updated version of what I dealt with 30 years ago as a “single” woman. I actually had more than one moron interviewer ask if I partied a lot or drank much because they were concerned about me being on time and alert at work. This despite me having 10+ yrs of excellent references and verifiable top level skills. Their assumptions about my outside work activities/life were inappropriate then and so are those about gamers.

            As a manager, I never cared about my employees’ choices outside work, only whether they met work requirements. And before other assumptions are made here, these interviewers were of both sexes – judgmental jerks are equal opportunity.

        3. Jujuuu*

          I agree with everybody that he should leave it off his resume – for all the reasons listed above…but I also want to add that the stereotypical picture of gamers (young, male, staying up all night) is often not quite accurate anymore. Sure, young men are still the biggest group in gaming, but there are plenty of women and middle-aged people with “normal” jobs who enjoy gaming – myself included. :) I’d never put it on a resume, just wanted to say there are plenty of moderate gamers who treat it like a game night with friends or a movie before bed.

            1. Jujuuu*

              Yes, you’re right, I could definitely have worded it better. I was trying to add another perspective to people describing stereotypical things about gamers for which there was no indication in the letter (staying up too late, wasting time). The point I was trying to bring accross is that gaming, for many, is just a hobby and not necessarily linked to not being able to do a proper job. (Apologies, if I worded that awkwardly again, English is not my first language)

              1. ecnaseener*

                I think the disconnect there is: if hiring managers worry about him staying up all night gaming it won’t be because of stereotypes about gamers. It’ll be because he’s grinding to make money, which incentivizes him to play as much as possible.

        4. metadata minion*

          “Why didn’t he apply himself to learning more relevant skills (for this role / this field) as he clearly has time to spare?”

          Do you not have hobbies? I agree that this doesn’t belong on a resume, but it’s a perfectly reasonable way to spend one’s time.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            No I appreciate that people have hobbies, but if he’s spent enough time on this and built it up to the extent that he wants to treat it as a “job” on his resume, I’d have to question whether the time spent building up that ‘business’ was the most productive use of time relative to his intended field. It would be the applicant, not me, characterising it as work rather than as a hobby.

            1. Silver Robin*

              unclear if it is he who wants to add it as a job or if it is parent who thinks so, since kid has made money off of it. I have definitely had moments where my parents say “you should do XYZ to get a job!” and I do not necessarily do that because I know it does not make sense to do (early as I was in my career).

              1. ferrina*

                +1
                My mom thinks I’m funny, and she has always told me that I should be a comedian. Yeah, that’s not going on my resume, and I am not giving up my steady pay check to try to break into comedy.

            2. pope suburban*

              I think he’s young and caught in the “you need a job to get experience to get a job” trap, and he’s just doing his best to try to break out of it. I understand his impulse. Poor kids today can’t really get a foot in the door the way people used to. I had a hard time when I was in college in the mid-00s, because employers in a college town with three high schools could be picky and only hire kids who’d worked before (My mom did not allow me to work as a teen; every time I got a job she’d sabotage me). It hasn’t gotten any easier from what I hear, either. So he’s off the mark, but it makes perfect sense because he’s new to working and doesn’t know the norms yet. He’s just doing his best in a tough market with limited resources.

        5. I should really pick a name*

          Will he be incoherent or late most days because of being up too late gaming?

          I don’t think this is a fair question, it’s just based on stereotypes.
          Not to mention, he had a job stocking shelves, so a reference could give a good idea of his actual on-the-job performance.

          (To be clear, I still don’t think he should put it on his resume)

          1. Lydia*

            I think, more relevant than it being based on stereotypes, is it’s exposing biases against gamers. Stereotypes are not just free-floating ideas that people aren’t responsible for. Every person who has posted a comment stating that it’s shows he’s staying up all night, or people will think he’s staying up all night, are demonstrating a bias that needs to be addressed.

          2. sparkle emoji*

            If it’s coming up here, it’s a stereotype that could come up with the hiring manager. That’s unfortunate and you’re right that the stereotype needs to be challenged but I think it’s useful for the LW to see how many people still have that perception.

        6. Lydia*

          Apparently, it’s not against TOS in Counter Strike. Setting that aside, if you are buying and selling stuff online, normally you don’t include the actual transfer as a skill on your resume. You would include all the other stuff that comes with running a business: marketing, delivering on time, bookkeeping, etc. If the son had set up a licensed business, those are the things employers would be interested in; not that he transferred 95 digital pieces in a day.

          1. Angela Zeigler*

            Counter Strike runs an official marketplace for people to buy and sell items, with the game developers getting a small cut of every transaction. Money ‘earned’ is also within that ecosystem. They make it as easy and accessible as possible, so the only noteworthy part of OP1’s story is either the guy got lucky and got a rare item and made a big profit, or buys low and sells high a lot.

        7. Angela Zeigler*

          There are some high-profile games with fully official, easy to use marketplaces, allowing someone to set a digital item for sale, tracking historic prices, and for other people to find that and buy it. All with a couple of clicks. The ‘money’ goes from one virtual wallet to another, all within the gaming company’s ecosystem.

          Some people work it like the stock market, buy low and sell high, or just open digital loot boxes until they get a rare and valuable item. (Basically gambling, but also set up by the gaming company and legitimate.)

    2. Lizard the Second*

      Agreed! I come from the era when most games banned this, and even though things might have changed now, I still have negative associations with it.

    3. Katie Impact*

      Yeah, that’s usually the case. There are a small handful of games, like EVE Online or Second Life, where trading in-game assets for real money is openly encouraged… but even then, it’d be hard to explain it as relevant work experience except to people who are very familiar with those specific games. At best, it’s more of a “could get your foot in the door with specific people under specific circumstances” thing than a general-purpose resume builder.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        I feel that I should point out that, while Eve Online allows the buying of in-game stuff with real money, selling in-game stuff for real money is against the rules.

        1. allathian*

          Many games allow buying items for real money. Or at least the mobile games I play do that, and actively encourage bying because that’s how they make their profits. The games themselves are free.

          1. Zephy*

            Right, but what those games allow players to do is buy in-game assets *from the company,* not from *other players.*

            1. EmF*

              Yep. I used to work for a game company that was doing very well until a black market started where players could buy in-game currency from other players. Literally bankrupted us in two years because, on top of cancelling one of our revenue streams, it hugely disrupted the in-game economy and made the game practically unplayable for the ~90% of our players who played entirely for free, and then the remaining 10% of people had nobody left to play with.

    4. Skittles*

      I think the only time it would be relevant is if he were applying for a job in a retail game store.

      1. MsM*

        And even then, if you’re hyperfocused on one game, are you going to be able to advise customers on different genres?

        1. ferrina*

          This is pretty easy to weed out in an interview. If he were applying to something where a knowledge of gaming were relevant, maaaaaybe this would go on the resume? But still probably not a good idea unless it were a game where selling assets was part of the game (not seen as a hack or pay-to-play)

  3. Aphrodite*

    LW #3, is your SIL one of the (seemingly many) people who came out of the pandemic with more tension, less willingness to be patient and understanding of minor mistakes, and perhaps just overall inclined to take offense of things that pre-pandemic would not have affected her? To me, it sounds like an over-the-top reaction to something that is, in truth, no big deal.

    Someone cut me off while I was on the freeway coming home today. It wasn’t in a dangerous way but I suspect more of an impatient and annoyed action on his part. But it was the kind of thing that used to instantly rile me and leave me irritated for quite a while afterwards. Now, though, it doesn’t even register on my radar. Better in front than in back, I think.

    Plus, I make a strong point every day to give people a lot of slack for things that a month from now, hell, even a few hours later, I won’t even remember. It makes my day–and anyone’s with whom I interact–a lot better and life a lot more relaxed.

    Instead, she is spending her time remembering it, telling it to others, and basically, hoarding her own emotional reaction. Plus, of course, she probably wounded a nice customer service rep. A shame all around when a far different reaction could have made the encounter better for both parties.

      1. meowmeowmeow*

        I’m genuinely asking, what exactly is rude about what the CS rep said? I can’t think of any real better ways to let a customer know that they’ve accidentally misgendered me, and that I am not open to debate/disrespect about the matter? In my years of retail/restaurants, i can tell you it really isn’t far fetched to feel like you have to draw the line firmly and immediately lest you get dragged into someone’s 30 minute unhinged rant…

        1. Myrin*

          I guess it depends on how exactly it was said – intonation, speed, stuff like that – but I can see “please address me as such” as sounding needlessly authoritative/commanding/chastising.
          As for a “better way”, she could’ve said “I’m (actually) a woman” and left it at that, especially as she then put the SIL on hold and didn’t have to deal with her anymore anyway. But seeing how the SIL seems to either have a short fuse or a hangup about this particular topic or both, I don’t know that there necessarily is a “better way” in this case.

          1. Boof*

            I agree; the phrase is overall polite but the tone can be a bit brusk especially for someone from a southern culture that i think tends to be a lot more indirect – Something like “oh, it’s ma’am please”, would probably be more normal for that. Of course, the normal southern response would be to declare “well bless your heart!” And move on i think? LW knows best know if this is out of character for their sister-in-law. It’s impossible for us to really know the tone, although going to the boss is a pretty extreme reaction to it sounds like a fairly polite phrase

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              It’s not clear that the CSR was brusque, but I think it’s understandable – and even appropriate – to be brusque if you’ve been misgendered or treated dismissively by customers.

              People learn to adapt by repetition, and also by dealing with the aftereffects of their behavior. You may think calling someone ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ is polite because you’re Southern, but the person you address may not think so even if they are also from the South.

              But polite people everywhere should understand it’s a big world with people who think and feel differently. Being polite isn’t about making yourself feel comfortable, but about making others feel comfortable. Not Sir-ing and Ma’am-ing everyone would be a nice start.

              1. Boof*

                I mean, ok? No reason to take out frustrations on the world with a customer. (Like i said i get it and maybe they’re so used to saying it they didn’t realize that saying that and immediately putting on hold/transferring- if that’s what happened- starts to get pretty rude if you’re the person on the other end who has no idea it was fraught territory. )

                1. MC*

                  The CSR did not “take out frustrations on the world on a customer”, she simply asked to be addressed correctly.

                  SIL, on the other hand, did do so by getting angry and complaining to a manager because she was corrected about misgendering someone.

                  As for it being a bit brusque for someone from the South – the world does not revolve around Southern sensibilities and there’s no way the CSR would have known that. Most people would just take that as the mild correction it was.

                2. Irish Teacher.*

                  There’s no indication she did take any frustrations out on the customer though. All we know is that the sister-in-law thought she was a man, she corrected her, saying she was a woman and being corrected made the sister-in-law feel guilty and “like she’d committed a cardinal sin” and therefore she complained.

                  It’s possible the customer rep sounded irritated (either because she was or just because it’s easy to misinterpret tone) but it’s equally likely that the sister-in-law just felt embarrassed about being wrong or that she felt like the customer rep might think she was transphobic and doing it deliberately.

                  Given that we didn’t hear the tone and nor did the LW, we have no reason at all to assume frustration. All we know is that they said they were a woman.

                3. Lenora Rose*

                  Two sentences containing no insult, even if the imagined tone is slightly brusque, are not in any world “Taking out frustrations” on a customer.

                4. Texan in Texas*

                  Actually it does. The South drives a lot of American culture, from Taylor Swift to NASCAR. The person is in CUSTOMER service and should adapt to her customer.

                5. Jennifer Strange*

                  @Texan, No, a CSR doesn’t need to adapt to their customer over something like being misgendered. Also, how would the CSR even know the SIL was from the south?

                6. Rainy*

                  The only person in that interaction who took their frustrations out on the world was the SIL.

                  The CSR just wanted not to be misgendered. I used to do a lot of work on the phone, including a stint in an inbound catalog sales center, and I had several coworkers with naturally deep female voices and a lot of the younger guys had very light alto/countertenor customer service voices. So people do get misgendered over the phone based on their voice and over time those microaggressions add up. The CSR, who may get misgendered all the time because she has a deep voice, said that the SIL had done it.

                  The SIL, however, sent a complaint to the company to try to get someone fired because she was…embarrassed for a few seconds? A transphobe? Something else?

                  Do you really think the CSR is the one who behaved badly?

                7. Lydia*

                  One of the things we do is ask marginalized people to be endlessly patient about being misgendered, mistrusted, questioned, and discriminated against. We require them to always give the benefit of the doubt and assume neutral if not good intentions. And then, when someone displays even a scintilla of impatience or frustration, we chastise and ask why they couldn’t extend their patience just a little bit further. My point is, we have no idea how many people had previously misgendered her that day, and her request was not out of line. It was really on the SIL to be the kinder person in this situation since she was already in the wrong.

              2. Emily Byrd Starr*

                Especially since there’s no gender neutral/non-binary equivalent of Sir of Ma’am. All the possible suggestions (friend, pal, buddy, dear, love, etc.) are only appropriate for someone who you have a close relationship with, not a stranger or a customer service representative. I suppose you could say, “neighbor,” but it’s hard to say it without sounding like Fred Rogers.

                1. Rainy*

                  I mean, I just say “Thanks!” or “Yes, thank you” or “Yes, I’ll hold.” You don’t actually have to make that interaction gendered.

                2. Lydia*

                  I say friend. It is, in fact, not overly friendly! I use it all the time because I once realized when I was at a Pride festival vending that I shouldn’t make assumptions based on who was standing in front of me and how they presented. So, I switched to friend for when I feel the need to be friendly, but don’t know for sure how someone identifies.

                3. Kay*

                  How about just… not use a gendered response!? It is so very easy! What do you add to “Thank you” by adding “sir/ma’am”? Gender! Possible offense! Just leave it off.

                4. Goldenrod*

                  “Especially since there’s no gender neutral/non-binary equivalent of Sir of Ma’am”

                  Right?? I have to say, I really love the fact that gendered greetings are going away, especially in the Northwest where I live.

                  I am a straight cis-gender woman. But I also have short hair and I am 6 feet tall. I can’t tell you how many times (before things shifted), some stranger has called me “sir”…then looked closer at me and said, “Oh! Uh, sorry – ma’am!” and it’s incredibly annoying, like, why do you feel you need to tell me what my gender is and then make me take an embarrassing journey with you as you realize your mistake? I don’t even know you!

                  That doesn’t really happen much anymore. So yeah…this cultural change has definitely benefited me! And yeah, I think people should stop using gendered greetings, it is completely pointless and potentially rude.

              3. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

                I think that part of the issue is that English has not yet adapted to current uses, and therefore there is no gender-neutral honorific that is equivalent to “Sir” or “Ma’am” (both of which derive from Latin, and are therefore gendered).

                1. daffodil*

                  that is partially true, but also plenty of dialects of English have stopped using any honorifics at all so it’s not a pressing problem for most of us.

                2. Rainy*

                  Mmm…yes and no.

                  The English “sir” as a word used to indicate respect is a loanword from early French, “sire”. The French sire is a simplification of the earlier French sieire, which was derived from the classical Latin comparative of senex (senior). Now, the reason I say not exactly is because the French word that became our “sir” does actually indicate respect and is pretty close in meaning to how we use modern-day English “sir” but the Latin word that it came from doesn’t mean that and isn’t used in that way. So while “sir” does *ultimately* originate in Latin (and we can go farther back than that, as the Latin is from a proto-Italic root which originates in one of those fun PIE super-common roots), the meaning we use in English is much closer to the original French loanword than anything else.

                  Again, madam in English (shortened to ma’am), is a direct loanword from the French “madame”, which does originate in Latin. The classical domina (feminine form of dominus: owner, ruler, etc) was syncopated in later Latin to domna, from which we then get the Old French madame (ma dame) as well as of course Italian madonna. In the French loanword, the sense of madame is virtually identical to the English usage both at the time English assumed it and as the word came forward in time in both languages. However, in Latin you would not have used “domina” in the same way you use ma’am today, as it denoted a specific relationship between speaker and person referenced. So again, I would call the origin French, not Latin.

                  TL;DR: while of course you can trace most words in English that were directly borrowed from French back to a Latin root (and even further back if you want), both the intervening time and the culture shift between when late Latin became early French has more influence on the meaning of these words as they were borrowed into English. The argument that Americans should be allowed to misgender people because Latin is both uninformed about the basic mechanics of inflected languages and a particularly egregious use of etymological fallacy in service of discrimination.

                3. Cassielfsw*

                  (this is directed to Rainy but the nesting is maxed out)

                  The argument that Americans should be allowed to misgender people because Latin is both uninformed about the basic mechanics of inflected languages and a particularly egregious use of etymological fallacy in service of discrimination.

                  I don’t think NoIWontFixYourComputer was making that argument. They were just saying that the reason we don’t currently have a commonly accepted option for a gender neutral honorific is that our current options for honorifics came from highly-gendered languages and are therefore highly-gendered themselves. That doesn’t make it okay to misgender people, it just means there are situations where it’s a bit unclear what word one should best use to avoid doing that.

                4. Rainy*

                  @Cassie

                  I understand what you are saying, but I honestly can’t be certain when this kind of justification is merely relatively uninformed thoughts about language and when it’s something much more serious. Once non-Latinate people start dragging Latin into their argument, that’s often a dog-whistle for a certain kind of argument that attempts to enforce thoroughly c21 American discriminatory beliefs based on some awful YouTuber’s extremely uninformed take on history or language. So when I can, I feel like it’s my responsibility to challenge that and to clarify the distinction between etymology and meaning/usage.

                  Etymology isn’t destiny. It’s just which pockets a word was in before English stole it.

              4. fidget spinner*

                “Being polite isn’t about making yourself feel comfortable, but about making others feel comfortable. Not Sir-ing and Ma’am-ing everyone would be a nice start.”

                This is really dismissive of cultures that aren’t your own. I’m Southern and I no longer use “sir” and “ma’am” because I’ve lived places other than here and it’s dropped out of my vocabulary, even though I currently live in the South. But I also know that I come across as rude to people because I no longer use them. That’s a price I just have to pay because I’d rather not use them at all than misgender somebody.

                But I currently live in a predominately Black city (Memphis), and using honorifics is a HUGE thing in the Southern Black community. Beyond that, Black children are taught to use “ma’am” and “sir” literally for their own safety. I’m white, so if I don’t say “sir” to a cop, it’s probably going to be fine. But if I were Black, that might not be the case.

                I think the LW’s SIL was absolutely absurd in her response… but I also think that just flat-out saying “stop using honorifics” is unfairly dismissive, especially when it’s something Black children are taught to keep them safe.

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              “the normal southern response would be to declare ‘well bless your heart!'”

              What? No. And we can handle direct requests just fine, thanks. The CS rep said “please,” so as long as the tone was not hostile, that should have been fine. There’s no way, even in the South, that should have gotten an angry rant to the rep’s manager.

            3. Esmae*

              I’m in the south, and the normal southern response from a woman who’s just been called “sir” is usually a frosty “It’s ma’am.” The more times she’s been called “sir” in her life, the frostier it tends to get.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                Which if anything, is more brusque than what the rep did say, which suggests they were trying not to be too firm about it.

            4. Jessica*

              The level of “I got called (or implied to be) a transphobe so I had no choice but to BECOME a transphobe!” energy in this thread is truly disheartening.

              Yes, if you use gendered forms of address with strangers, you risk guessing incorrectly about their gender.

              Given what trans people are going through in the US (not to mention the UK), if you screw up, the appropriate response for learning you’ve accidentally made the world a little more hostile to someone for whom it’s already mega-hostile *is* to feel a little bad about it.

              And to deal with feeling bad about it by attempting to repair it (apology) and letting feeling bad about it be a reminder to be more careful in the future. Rather than, you know, attempting to hurt the person you’re embarrassed about hurting even more as a way to get rid of the embarrassment.

              It’s okay to feel embarrassed sometimes. It won’t kill you. It helps you learn.

          2. Lily Rowan*

            Who knows if the phrasing in the letter is even the actual phrasing the CSR used? We’re getting it third hand.

            1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

              This.

              I do think that “please address me as such” would feel a bit hoity-toity to me if it came at me out of nowhere. But we don’t know if the customer service person said something much gentler first, and got pushback from the customer.

              That phrasing, combined with putting her on hold, sounds to me like it might’ve been the “I give up” moment after something else had already happened. And maybe in telling the story, the customer is skipping some of the earlier part.

              (Not saying we know that the customer _is_ prejudiced against trans people or gender-non-conforming women, but it is very common for prejudiced people to retell stories in that way, citing only the micro-aggressed person’s biggest reaction and not the run-up)

              1. Irish Teacher.*

                It’s also possible, even probable, that the sister-in-law didn’t repeat the rep’s words word-for-word to the LW. In my experience, most people don’t remember the exact words of a conversation, so it might have been just “oh, please, call me ma’am, not sir” or something like that. Now, it’s also possible the exact words were what is reported or even something harsher, but I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the exact words when we are getting them third hand. It’s very likely that either the sister-in-law or the LW has forgotten the exact phrasing/didn’t quote word-for-word.

            2. Bayta Darrell*

              I agree we can’t know about the phrasing. But I also think the phrasing may have been what set her off. I wonder if the CSR had just said “I’m a woman” if that would have been fine, but if the phrase “I identify as a woman” triggered some kind of “anti-woke” sentiment. Basically what I’m wondering is, is she the kind of person who would have been simply embarrassed by the mistake of misgendering a cis woman with a deep voice and moved on from the incident, but is angry that she got called out for misgendering someone who she doesn’t think is deserving of respect and so wrote a complaint?

          3. Lindsay*

            Exactly. Thinking about people’s feelings goes both ways. I’ve been called a sir (wrongly) and would not dream of scolding anyone, let alone a customer or stakeholder at work, unless it was clearly meant as an insult. Saying she was over the top to report it up the chain seems pretty gas-lighty, and might reflect a clear bias and blind spot in this area overall.

            1. watermelon fruitcake*

              From my angle, framing “please refer to me as appropriate to my gender” as “scolding” is… revelatory. A well-adjusted, empathetic person would feel mildly embarrassed by their error, apologize, and correct, not treat it as some grave insult that needs to be escalated so that the employee can see repercussions.

              Not to mention, repercussions – even retraining an employee for what could be characterized as abuse based on gender identity – could have the employer run afoul of EEOA protections, if the employee knows anything about her rights.

            2. Lydia*

              Politely correcting someone on your gender is no more scolding than asking to be called by your correct name. And someone being offended by being asked to gender you correctly is just as ridiculous as someone being offended by being asked to call you by the correct name.

            3. Reebee*

              Agree with Lindsay. I am a middle-aged woman with a deep voice, and, on the telephone, have been called “Sir” periodically. I wouldn’t even think to correct someone on it, unless it was a situation where I interacted with the person often enough that I needed to correct things. But this isn’t that. It was a one-time call, and it’s not like SIL set out to insult whoever answered.

              Nevertheless, SIL over-reacted, but, frankly, it sounds like CSR did, too.

            4. Kay*

              I struggle with the notion that, after there being significant awareness raised that society as a whole has been crappy to a segment of people in our midst, we should continue accepting crappy behavior because “feelings”.

            5. Jellyfish Catcher*

              I’m a woman with a low voice. If I get called sir on the phone, I let it slide if it’s a one-off. Otherwise, casually say, I’m a woman and go right back to the conversation.
              It’s an honest mistake, not an assault on my identity.

              I served 3 years in the military and it got amusing. We talked to personnel at other locations using our rank and last name. Sometimes, the other person and I would later meet in person.
              There were some double takes, or silences. I’d just calmly smile and say, “Yes, I am rank/ name , yes I’m a woman, nice to meet you.

              I understand how it could feel different for trans folks, but most people are trying their best.

        2. Leenie*

          I think the “Please address me as such.” is easy to read as scolding. Not that the LW’s SIL was right to be so offended, let alone to call to complain. That was absolutely in the wrong, even if the rep sounded a bit prickly. But that precise phrasing, assuming it was used just like that and not mischaracterized or embellished by the SIL, really does sound a bit on the brusque side.

          1. Green great dragon*

            Agreed. The first part is giving info. The second part implies that the rep doesn’t believe SIL would correctly gender her without an explicit request, and maybe that the rep believes SIL was deliberately misgendering her – it’s a behaviour correction phrase not an info-giving phrase.

            But a total overreaction on SIL’s part to do anything more than pull a face to herself and wonder if the rep’s having a bad day.

            1. Goldenrod*

              “One of the things we do is ask marginalized people to be endlessly patient about being misgendered, mistrusted, questioned, and discriminated against”

              As Lydia pointed out above – let’s not ask misgendered people to be perfect with their tone when pointing out a mistake. When we make those kinds of mistakes, a simple, “whoops, sorry!” can go a long way.

              Instead of getting all reactive and making it all about us and how the feedback wasn’t communicated perfectly. Let’s not center ourselves in these situations.

          2. amoeba*

            Yeah, I’d probably be a bit annoyed at being chastised for an honest mistake. But, like, not remotely on the level of writing an angry e-mail to their boss! Just like “OK, try to let it go, amoeba, they’ve probably heard it one too many times and are prickly because of that, it’s not personal…”

            1. amoeba*

              Ah, the “identify”, didn’t notice that – yeah, that makes transphobia way more likely, unfortunately… :/

              1. Emmy Noether*

                That was my read – that the use of the word “identify” made SIL think (rightly or wrongly) that this is a trans woman, and that she would have reacted differently if she thought this was a cis woman with a deep voice.

                To be clear, I don’t think the word choice is an actual indication of trans or cis. It’s just a phrasing that’s in the popular consciousness right now, but it’s also a phrasing that seems to bring out the bigots.

                1. Beth*

                  We also don’t know if they actually said that or SIL heard a voice she thought was too deep and decided to scapegoat using the scare stories she’s seen on conservative media instead of admit a mistake.

                2. watermelon fruitcake*

                  @Beth yep, my mind went here, too. When you have a prejudice, you read into things beyond what is there. This CSR could very well have been a cis woman with a deep voice, never said she “identified” as a woman but merely stated she was in fact a woman, and on being corrected, the SIL went on the defensive in the only way that would save her embarrassment. “I’m not wrong, it’s the evil trans agenda!”

                  Relatedly, there is this movement in the US where bigots claim “we can always tell” and have devoted time to trying to “out” a lot of people as trans… Many if not most of whom are actually cis, but perhaps they are gender nonconforming in some way or other. “Gender non-conforming” often meaning, “a taller-than-average woman” or “a woman with a deep voice” or “a woman with short hair” or “a muscular woman who gave birth 6 months ago.” (Realistically, they target people they don’t like.)

              2. Lenora Rose*

                IF that was what the rep said and not how the SIL told it. Even a lot of trans people don’t use the “I identify as” language, and SIL could be making assumptions and rewriting the dialogue to make her assumptions clearer.

                1. Moira's Rose's Garden*

                  Same. Interpreting your correction / correct information as “chastisement” is a ME problem, *not* a you problem!

                  The civil response was “My mistake, thank you for letting me know”.

          3. Someone Online*

            On the other hand, how often is the CSR having to deal with being misgendered on a daily basis? It may have been the fifth time that day, depending on how deep her voice is. I come from a place in the world where I do reflexively use sir/ma’am and one of the prices I pay for doing that is I will occasionally be wrong. It’s on me to be gracious about that, not the other person.

            1. TeaCoziesRUs*

              I like the way you phrase this. Am Southern. Have taught my kids to use Sir / Ma’am to those in authority – until the adult tells them they prefer a different term.

                1. Donkey Hotey*

                  There was a rather lengthy discussion about this on AAM within the last few months. The problem was that any serious suggestion was shot down by people saying it sounded condescending.

            2. NotRealAnonForThis*

              Cis woman here, deeper end of the vocal scale, and the number of times my voice is mistaken for being a man (on the phone) is > zero every single work day. It gets old.

              Of course, if I received a complaint filed with my manager about a similar response, I’d probably just cackle out loud. But I don’t deal with the general public on the daily, and I’m old enough that my give-a-whuck is broken.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                There are a cis man and a cis woman in my semi-regular work contacts with *very* similar voices. After making that mistake once and calling Jim “Anita”, I am glad that most of our business phones include the caller ID (he had just moved to a new role so no name came up). I haven’t called Anita “Jim” yet, though .

              2. Jessica*

                Fellow cis woman contralto here.

                I think the issue here is that there isn’t a war on the existence of cis women with low voices the way there is on trans women.

                And if I were living in a country that literally had “I killed her because I found out she was a cis woman with a low voice” as a legal defense, I might have less emotional bandwidth for patience and finding it amusing.

              3. Dogwoodblossom*

                I used to work at a call center with a cis dude who had a fairly high voice but a clearly masculine name and I’d listen to him get stuck in regular arguments. “Yes, my name is X. I am a man. Yes I am.” He was totally polite and trying to focus on helping the clients but it would go round like that for 5 or 10 minutes sometimes and it was super frustrating for him.

                I get that there are some people who this kind of thing doesn’t bother much, because I’m one of them. My name sounds kinda like a bunch of other names so if I get called by the wrong one I don’t bother to correct anybody. I’m unlikely to deal with this person again. (I realize that getting called by the wrong name is not the same as being misgendered). But even if you think this wouldn’t bother you it doesn’t mean somebody else is wrong if they *are* bothered by it. And for the people it does happen to it isn’t one customer one time, it’s all of them all day long.

                It takes 2 seconds and costs zero dollars to just go, “Oh, my mistake” and then we can both blame it on the quality of the phone system and move on with our lives.

          4. RagingADHD*

            I could see where it might come off as scoldy with the “as such.” But of course, if the rep has a deep voice and spends all day on the phone, that may have been the 27th time they had to deal with it that day.

            I think it’s incumbent on a customer/client/patron to be understanding of what service workers, phone reps, and other public-facing workers have to put up with all day and try not to make their lives harder over minor stuff. Complaining to the manager was unnecessary even if it came across a little snippy.

          5. CdnAcct*

            Really? This sounds a lot like tone policing to me. What is direct to one person will sound ‘brusque’ to another, especially if that person is at all sensitive to being corrected – which frankly this SIL does sound like. And if they had been more ‘nice’, that feels more like they’re trying not to piss of customers, basically being subservient or roundabout, which other people don’t like.

            CSRs are not customers’ servants and shouldn’t have to soften everything for prickly customers, especially for this type of thing, asking to be addressed correctly.

            1. Linda*

              And there’s no approach that’s going to work with everyone. I’m frequently misgendered and have been my whole life; once I turned forty I decided to just stop correcting people, and there’re folks who get mad about that, too. Part of it, in my opinion, is that a lot of people are reactive to being wrong and will find a way to push those negative feelings onto someone else. The rest of it is gender policing.

            2. Leenie*

              I was thinking about this. I think for me it’s that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve taken to giving a lot of grace to people for their mistakes. That includes everyone – clients, people who report to me at work, other colleagues, relatives, friends, and anyone who is helping me with anything as part of their job. I can, and sometimes do, correct a mistake. But I do it in the least accusatory, personalized way that’s reasonably possible. It’s not a matter of power dynamics or gender to me, just about softening some of the rough edges in life, for everyone. I don’t expect everyone around me to take the same approach, but I think there’s a lot of value in it for me. So, as I said, I think it’s “easy to read” that one part as being scolding. Not that it necessarily was. Just that it could be.

              So, the customer service rep wasn’t necessarily wrong in any way at all. And certainly did nothing that required a complaint, even if she did sound a tiny bit harsh in the moment (that would also be included in giving grace to people). Also – I’m unconvinced that the SIL is accurately reporting exactly what was said. The customer service person could have simply said, “Actually, it’s ma’am” or “I’m a woman” and the LW’s highly sensitive, quite possibly transphobic SIL translated it to what she thinks an accusatory transgender woman might say to her. And I have zero doubt that SIL left out anything that she did that would have made a slightly edgy tone the natural response to her own behavior.

              In any event, I think the customer service person’s response is almost irrelevant here. I was just responding to a thread about how people read her phrasing. The main point of the story is that the SIL was massively unkind to someone who had less power than her in a situation. And that always sucks.

          6. tree frog*

            This is third-hand information, so I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the exact phrasing. Tone would also play a part here.

            I think most likely the SIL is fragile and defensive about being called out about a mistake she didn’t realize she was making. Especially people who tend to operate in homogeneous social circles don’t usually have a lot of practice reacting with grace to a correction. It’s understandable that she is embarrassed, but that is for her to figure out, not make life harder for a customer service employee. And potentially endangering her livelihood (which tends to be more precarious for trans people, although we don’t know if this rep was trans).

            1. sparkle emoji*

              Yeah, with all the layers of retelling here, I doubt we’re getting the CSR’s words verbatim. This is normal, we change our memories slightly each time we remember them. SIL has some big feelings about this, any fuzzy details are being filled in in the least flattering light for the CSR.

        3. Momma Bear*

          I agree. CSR was not rude. The response from SIL should have just been “OK” and moving on. When I had a CSR job, it never failed that the people who were the most impatient or rude themselves were the ones who gave me a trash rating.

          As for SIL, “bless her heart”. She needs a nap or a snack or something.

        4. Name_Required*

          If the CSR said it the way it was written, I can see how it came across irritated, with a tone, whatever. I’m not sure there’s a need on a business’s customer service line to let someone know “that I am not open to debate/disrespect” when it was an accidental one time misgendering that could have easily been handled with “oh it’s ma’am; let me transfer that call for you,” or whatever. I certainly wouldn’t fire off an angry email about it. That was definitely a bridge too far. But, I might have responded with, “Sorry, I had no way to know that.” But, there really is no need to harshly lecture a customer in a one off phone interaction. Very different in the workplace with someone who does it over and over, but what purpose was served here, when it’s unlikely the SIL is going to speak to that person again? Whenever I call for assistance, the CSR will say, “This is Joe/Sue/Ebenezer, who am I speaking with today” or whatever, which gives a clue as to their gender. Apparently, this one did not, so the caller had no way to know. It wasn’t like she was deliberately disrespecting her. She made a guess with the information she had at hand. If she had CONTINUED to do it on the call, then that’s when to say, “I told you I am a female please address me as such.” But again, the email to the manager was too much. She should’ve just assumed the CSR was having a bad day and one too many people misgendered her and she took it out on the SIL and then just … let it go.

          1. Jack Not Jackie*

            Not necessarily. I have a traditionally masculine name that I use at the beginning of every call, but people will constantly misunderstand it or feminize it (think “Jack” to “Jackie”) or ask about it in ways that make it clear they don’t think they could have possibly heard correctly. Honestly, it’s exhausting, but I just let their confusion hang in the air unless they double-down.

          2. Katara's side braids*

            “Harshly lecture” and “Took it out on” apply a much more aggressive phrase than “please address me as such,” which is perfectly polite and professional. It just isn’t shrouded in ten layers of softening language, but I simply don’t think that that level of softening is reasonable to expect from a CSR.

            I have to wonder if I’m reading the same letter as some of the other commenters.

            1. Boof*

              There is endless speculation to be had with this 3rd hand story- all i was getting at is there is a way for the phrase to be delivered very frostily + immediate hold that would be pretty out of line for a customer service rep, especially if the customer really was just trying to be polite the whole time. Or it’s possible SIL is the one who was frosty and way over the top the whole time. Writing in to complain to the manager seems too far no matter what so SIL has that working agains them, but lw knows if their SIL best if they are prone to transphobia vs usually an lgbtq ally (or at least if they lean liberal cs conservative), usually chill vs usually Deeply Offended by tons of things, etc. Just dont know / lw can judge accordingly from all the extra info they have about their SIL.

        5. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Absolutely nothing. Unless SIL is a transphobe who views being called out on misgendering as worse than the misgendering itself.

        6. fhqwhgads*

          Regardless of how it was said, the sister is the one who misgendered someone. Accidental or no, she was the one with the faux pas. “I am irate that you dared point out my mistake to me when it directly affects you and only you” is not a good look. At best the sister has too quick a temper and too much defensiveness, at worst she’s hella transphobic to be so set off by this.

      2. allathian*

        Indeed. I don’t think either of them looked good in this interaction. Although I’m not sure what the service rep should’ve said instead. In an ideal world, the rep would get another job where she wouldn’t run the risk of being misgendered on a daily basis, but for many call center employees, that’s much more easily said than done. Many people take call center jobs only because they can’t get anything else.

        That said, if the SIL had reacted with something like “Oh, I’m so sorry, thank you Ma’am,” it would’ve ended there.

        If I misgender someone, I’m naturally embarrassed by my mistake, but I apologize and resolve to do better in future. I definitely don’t take out my shame for my mistake on the other person by getting angry at them.

        That said, the language I usually interact with strangers in, Finnish, only has gender neutral pronouns, and we’ve largely done away with gendered titles and honorifics for everyone except top politicians like the President, the Prime Minister and their cabinet ministers, the Speaker of Parliament, and the leaders of the opposition, as well as the armed forces.

        I wonder if the SIL has shown in other ways that she’s uncomfortable with LGBTQ+ issues in general? Or just gender-related issues?

        1. amoeba*

          I mean, honestly, I’m not even sure why LGBTQ+ issues would necessarily come into this – my first thought would definitely not be “oh, they must be trans”! I (cis woman) have been taken for a man on the phone may times because I have a deep(ish) voice, so I’d say that’s at least as likely?

          1. allathian*

            In general, yes. One of my oldest friends has a very deep voice for a cis woman. She sings contralto in a mixed choir, and is usually put with the tenors because she can sing in that range and there aren’t enough contraltos to fill a whole section of the choir. She’s frequently assumed to be a man on the phone, although because we don’t use gendered pronouns, it doesn’t often come up. The most WTF reactions she gets is from service providers like plumbers who assume she’s a man on the phone, but are taken aback when they see her in person and realize she’s a woman.

            Apparently the sales rep said “I identify as female, please address me as such,” and that to me indicates that she’s trans. A cis woman with a deep voice but who is otherwise generally assumed to be a woman by her appearance wouldn’t need to say that, she’d probably say something like “I’m a woman, I just have an unusually deep voice” if she wanted to be corrected. But given how men are all too frequently taken more seriously than women, she might just prefer not to correct that assumption.

            1. sparkle emoji*

              Eh, that assumes that we’re getting the CSR’s words verbatim when this story is third-hand. There’s a lot of room for words to get changes in this game of Telephone, I think reading into the “I identify as” that may or may not have been said isn’t useful.

          2. Artemesia*

            most cis people don’t use ‘identify as’ language and so the overreaction by the SIL does feel like transphobia. but the scold by the agent also feels like someone with a chip on their shoulder just waiting to chastise. How would someone on the phone hearing a ‘male’ voice have any clue about the gender identity? I am a woman with a voice that is often mistaken for male on the phone; I ignore it if it is a one off relationship and just correct it with ‘actually that is ‘ma’am’ if it is with someone I will have repeated contact with. Both parties in this interaction were unnecessarily prickly but certainly someone making their living in customer service with a masculine voice needs to get a grip and response with more grace.

            1. Testing*

              I agree with Artemesia. If the interaction is just about serving the customer, and not really about who the customer service person is, what’s the point of correcting the customer?

              My colleague has a first name that the customers we serve (who don’t speak our native language) don’t recognize as being female. She regularly gets very friendly emails thanking Mr Lastname for his services. We laugh about it and get on with our day. I appreciate that a transperson may feel a lot stronger about being misgendered than my cis colleague, but if the if it’s an easy mistake to make they need to give the customer the benefit of a doubt and focus on the job.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                I have a name that people who don’t speak my language don’t have a clue what to do with. I’m a woman in a male-dominated field, so with written-only contact I get misgendered about 75% of the time by people who don’t speak my language. Funnily enough, my husband gets the reverse, because he has a unisex, but currently predominately female, name (the unexpected perk: we can pose as each other when it’s convenient).

                I usually sign off [Name] (Mrs.) as a response when it happens, that fixes it about half the time.

                Funniest was when I followed up by phone on an urgent email and got a “yes, Mr. [mylastname] already emailed about that”. I said, “yeah, that was me” and let that sit for a few seconds of awkward silence until she got it.

              2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                ‘If the interaction is just about serving the customer, and not really about who the customer service person is, what’s the point of correcting the customer?’

                Using this logic, that means if you have a job that serves a customer – for many of us, that’s an internal customer – then you shouldn’t expect to be addressed appropriately. After all, it’s not really about you performing or handling the task because you’re a support person in the org structure.

                1. Doctor Fun!*

                  And with all the dehumanization being advocated for in this thread, are we even justified in using the term “support person”?

                  God, sometimes the discussions here get so deeply depressing.

                2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  Sorry, ‘support person’ was all I could think of, I was taken aback by the comment I was responding to.

                3. Emily Byrd Starr*

                  What’s wrong with “support person?” It literally has the word “person” in it. How can it be dehumanizing?

                4. Petty_Boop*

                  If you expect to be addressed appropriatey throughout a conversation, or expect to talk to them again, of course. But a one time phone chat about … I dunno, the electric bill, does it serve a purpose? And in that case why not identify by name (if it will help) when answering the call, rather than taking offense to an inadvertent mistake. People keep forgetting that the caller had no way to know she wasn’t addressing the CSR by her chosen pronoun. There was clearly no malice–she used “Sir” to be polite and got shut down pretty harshly for it. Presumably the CSR knows she has a masculine sounding voice and a “oh it’s ma’am” and moving along with the call would have been the thing to do. Nobody’s feelings needed to get bent over this!

                5. Kay*

                  @SheLooksFamiliar and @Emily Byrd Starr
                  While I’m not @Doctor Fun! I read it as they were agreeing with @She – basically saying that all the people saying that support people have to shut up and take everything thrown at them, would we even be treating them like people anymore?

                  Kinda – it is depressing to see so many people advocating for treating other humans inhumanely.

              3. AMH*

                ” If the interaction is just about serving the customer, and not really about who the customer service person is, what’s the point of correcting the customer?”

                I don’t like this at all. The CS agent is still a person who deserves respect and to be seen as an individual, not just a cog in the service of the customer.

                1. Czhorat*

                  THIS so much.

                  “get my name and gender right” is SO MIMIMAL a level of respect that it’s quite honestly shocking to me to see anyone pushing back and saying “they should just swallow it”.

                  If the CSR *is* in fact trans then this is likely a bigger issue for her than it would be for a cis person in that misgendering is a form of hate speech trans folk are too often exposed to. It makes her wanting the customer to get it correct that much more understandable.

                2. Momma Bear*

                  Yes. I cannot tell you how many times I got yelled at for not being able to control Comcast or change the code or anything else that was beyond my abilities. The only time I was allowed to hang up was if they swore at me. CSRs deserve respect, too.

                3. Name_Required*

                  She WAS treated politely and as an individual to the extent that the caller KNEW. So many here act like she deliberately misgendered the CSR. Most people, even the many many virtue signallers here, would presume male voice = male. Her “yes sir” was polite and she could also have been treated respectfully with “oh it’s ma’am, going to put you on hold now” but instead CHOSE to take offense at a mistake and chide the caller over it. The SIL was wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy out of line AFTER the call when she complained to the manager, but up to the point of being reprimanded for her mistake, she didn’t do anything wrong.

              4. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                Customer service reps are still people, and ought to be treated with basic courtesy – including not misgendering them. If someone does accidentally misgender you, the polite way to handle it is to correct them and move on… which is exactly what this woman did.

                1. Anne Elliot*

                  Chiming in to agree that the rep had every right to make the correction but to disagree that they did so politely. “Please address me as such” is unnecessarily peremptory and directive when dealing with a customer, and presumes that the person you are correcting will continue to misgender you even after clarification, so you need to tell them to do the right thing because otherwise they won’t. So I read it as a customer making an honest mistake and feeling chastised for it. Does that merit an email of complaint? No. But is the customer reasonable to feel some kind of way about it? I vote “yes,” because I would have felt similarly. I mean, pardon the hell out of me. The rep could have said, “Actually, I identify as female” or “Oh, I’m a woman” or any number of other things. They didn’t have to add “please address me as such” as if the customer isn’t going to do the right or polite thing once they know what it is. And it’s true that it might be the eighth time the person has been misgendered that day, but how could the customer know that? If you sound like a man — for whatever reason — and you’re in a phone-based role so that the person you’re communicating with has no other clues as to your preferred gender, then IMO there’s a reasonably high risk of being misgendered, probably repeatedly, and if you’re not up to politely correcting people, probably repeatedly, maybe that’s not the job for you.

                2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                  Anne, I think we can distinguish between “polite” and “warm/friendly”. I’ll agree with you that this wasn’t exactly service with a smile, but it’s in no way impolite.

                  I had a customer service job for a bit where my role was almost exclusively telling customers they were on their last chance. If they did not change their behavior they would no longer be customers. My tone was chilly, for sure, and very firm – but scrupulously polite. This would have been entirely within the accepted company voice for that job.

                3. Anne Elliot*

                  Sure we can distinguish between “polite” and “warm and friendly” but most customer-facing positions are expected to skew towards the “warm and friendly” end of that spectrum, as opposed to “technically polite but cold or unfriendly.” Because, y’know: customers. Is it worth escalating? No, because it was technically polite. But was it a great interaction from the customer’s seat? Also no, and she wasn’t crazy to have thought so. It is of course different if your job requires you to take a firmer or most distant tone with the customer, like if you’re responsible for escalations. There’s no indication that was in the case in this question.

                4. Tally miss*

                  @Namrequired – I don’t think there are “virtue signalsrs” here, just people tired of bigots bigoting.

              5. Octo*

                I’m sorry, if you were misgendered, you wouldn’t correct it, because your mission is to do X instead?

                1. Reebee*

                  Let it go. That would be my mission. That’s what I do when I am mistaken for a man by way of my voice on the phone. SIL over-reacted, but look, it was an honest mistake she made. I don’t understand the comments here that imply SIL should have known better. If SIL was otherwise being polite, why bother to harangue her when SIL and CSR never will likely interact again? What is the lesson to be learned? Just accept she didn’t mean anything by it.

                2. Katara's side braids*

                  @Reebee I haven’t seen a single commenter suggest that SIL should have “known better” at the very beginning of the interaction, but it’s a big comment section so maybe I missed something. But from what I’ve seen, most of the criticism from SIL comes from taking two perfectly polite and professional sentences and magnifying them into, in your words, a “harangue.”

                3. Kay*

                  @Reebee & @Katara
                  It is 2024 and misgendering isn’t some obscure discussion at this point. If SIL didn’t know that making a gendered comment could go wrong then there is some serious willful ignorance being thrown around. The polite thing is to refrain from using gendered comments or assuming someone’s gender without actually knowing.

              6. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

                Customer service reps are human beings and have a right to be treated with basic respect and dignity. That includes being addressed by the correct name and pronouns and you do not get a “get out of being called on misgendering the person I’m speaking to free” card just because that person happens to be a CSR. Hope this helps.

            2. sb51*

              Also, we don’t know how accurately SIL is reporting the conversation to the LW—it could be verbatim, but it could also have some interpretation. Was the phone rep annoyed or did she really need to put SIL on hold?

              Most trans people I know don’t use the “identify” phrase either—to me that’s the bit that makes me think SIL’s paraphrasing, because these days I tend to only hear that from either transphobic people trying to emphasize that the person in question was trans and that they weren’t “really” a [gender] (ugh!) or from genderfluid people who are talking about which part of their identity is resonating more today to other queer people. (Which are very different!). It really sounds like a somewhat over-the-top conversation made up or exaggerated by SIL to me, and my advice to the LW is to watch for other indicators of how SIL behaves.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                This was my immediate thought — that the rep probably just said “it’s ma’am” and the SIL donned her banana ensemble because of her existing prejudices.

                1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                  That’s how I read it. I’m a cis woman who gets misgendered in a variety of situations (tall/broad/square build, contralto voice, male-dominated career, clothing choices that are practical for working outdoors, and a name that’s only one letter off from a much more common masculine name…). The growing transphobia over the last 10-15 years has been unreal, and what used to be a simple mistake folks sometimes made has become A Thing.

                2. Admin Lackey*

                  @Boof, everyone knows that transphobia is not a uniquely southern phenomenon and I think you’re reading this bias into comments.

                  Also, the prejudice against southerners is not nearly as widespread and serious as the bias against trans people so like, priorities

                3. Insert Clever Name Here*

                  @Boof, I’m a born and bred Southerner currently living in the South. Certainly members of one group can have prejudices about other members of that group, but let’s not pretend that transphobia is a uniquely Southern thing. Sure, maybe she’s not transphobic (but like, doubt it seriously) but having such an outsized reaction to someone you’re gonna talk to once correcting you from “sir” to “ma’am”? That’s banana pant behavior.

                4. penny dreadful analyzer*

                  I had a related but opposite assumption–I bet the rep probably said “It’s ma’am” two or three times and the SIL has absolutely no idea that she said that because she wasn’t listening and her awareness skated right over it, so then the rep said something with enough words and seconds of speaking that she would have to hear that she was in fact speaking, and the SIL got mad that she’s being spoken to like someone who didn’t listen the first few times.

                5. sparkle emoji*

                  @Boof I haven’t seen any commenters attributing SIL’s bananapants behavior to being southern. Possible bigoted attitudes as suggested by her actions? Sure, but not her region. And claiming you were harangued, lodging a complaint, and generally carrying on because someone corrected you about whether they were a sir or a ma’am is in fact bananapants behavior.

              2. Doctor Fun!*

                This was my thought, too — frankly, SIL’s flying off the handle and sending an angry email to the manager automatically flags her as an unreliable narrator to me.

              3. Buffalo*

                Yeah, “I identify as…” is very ten years ago. A trans person in 2024 is just way, way likelier to say, “I am…” So I’m assuming there’s some paraphrasing going on.

                What’s weird about this letter to me is that the LW acknowledges that the SIL wrote a “nasty” e-mail. Generally speaking, though, if even someone who’s on your side perceives your e-mail to be “nasty” (as opposed to “righteous”, “warranted”, “maybe a little strongly worded but definitely apt and correct”, etc), you’re probably in the wrong.

            3. Ex-Teacher*

              >certainly someone making their living in customer service with a masculine voice needs to get a grip and response with more grace.

              Nothing was ungracious about the wording described in the OP.

              1. Irish Teacher.*

                And we don’t even know for sure she HAD a masculine voice. Not that she should just accept being assumed to be ma,e and never correct people even if she HAD, but it sounds like the sister-in-law only spoke to her once, over the phone, so it’s quite possible she had a cold or it was a bad connection and in the case of the latter, she may not have even known that was why the sister-in-law thought her male and may even have thought the sister-in-law was deliberately mocking her and knew full well she was female.

                One person thinking somebody sounds masculine on one phone call doesn’t necessarily indicate that that person has a masculine and should just accept they will be misgendered over the phone.

                1. Ex-Teacher*

                  Accepting that being misgendered will happen does not require someone to choose not to correct the mistake.

                  And, to follow up on my original point, the wording used was not ungracious.

            4. SJ*

              One of my dearest friends is a phone rep at a call center. She is also a trans woman. I get *daily* texts about how exhausting and difficult it is for her to be misgendered over the phone (because intent aside, that’s what’s happening). It’s a double edged sword for her as well, she can choose to correct dozens of people every day and potentially deal with transphobia as a normal portion of her job, or she can, to use your words, “get a grip” and not correct them and then have a panic attack, go home, and cry because it is extremely mentally painful for her to deal with the wrong pronouns. She is not paid enough to deal with this sort of mess and would quit in a heartbeat if she were able to find work elsewhere in her small southern town. It would take nothing for the letter writer’s sister to get a grip (my words) and deal with the fact that sometimes you get something wrong, you can just respond with grace and not try to get someone in trouble at their job because you were offended that they were trans.

              1. Annie*

                I can absolutely see how frustrating that could be for her, and how in the letter the CSR would be very frustrated and let that slip through in her tone to the SIL because she has to deal with that several times a day.

                But unfortunately the customer has no other way of determining whether to use sir/ma’am other than voice, so as long as that’s a thing, it’s not going to change, and yes, your friend and the CSR have to figure out a way to deal with that (as someone else said) in a graceful way, and probably in a way not to trigger anyone who is transphobic.

                Simply saying “actually, it’s ma’am” seems like the right way to go, as annoying as it may be, and the CSR in the letter certainly using that phrase sounds annoyed that she needs to be correcting someone. The SIL definitely overreacted and yes, there’s probably some transphobia there.

                But that’s going to be part of your friend’s daily issue and the CSR in the letter and they have to find a way to work with it.

              2. pope suburban*

                The reminds me of working in a call center in college with this very, very Californian kid whose family was Middle Eastern. He learned early on to go by fake names because if he gave his real one, people would go feral on him. He was the sweetest kid, only 19, just out on his own, and this crappy job paid better than the rest in town because no one wanted to do it. But he couldn’t even give his name for fear of violent racial abuse. People are awful and I can’t fault anyone for being tired of dealing with that kind of thing.

            5. Buffalo*

              I’m a cis man with a soft voice and I get misgendered on the phone once in a while. It’s no big deal to me. If instead of once a year it were ten thousand times, often accompanied by hate speech, often accompanied by anger, and if it were really important to me that people perceive me as my correct gender, I’d likely feel differently.

            6. Lenora Rose*

              I didn’t read it as a scold even in the phrasing the OP used; it was a correction. And as has been pointed out, we don’t actually know for sure if the word choice we’re nitpicking is what was said, so saying the customer service Rep should have said something else is not as helpful as it might be if the rep was the one writing in and was asking about wording.

          3. Ex-Teacher*

            >I mean, honestly, I’m not even sure why LGBTQ+ issues would necessarily come into this

            Those who are homophobic/transphobic use their perception of gender roles, gendered clothing, and gendered characteristics to decide how they interact with people and the world around them.

            Expecting all cis women to look, act, dress, and sound certain ways means that if someone doesn’t fit that mold you’ve created in your head, then *obviously* they’ve done something wrong or are a trans person. Even though they claim it’s “increasing” people’s rights, it’s really just reinforcing gender roles and misogyny.

            There’s a good chance that the SIL thought “What? This person has a deep voice, therefore they are a man because ‘real’ women don’t ever have deep voices. They can’t correct me when I’m already right about their sex!”

            I know it doesn’t make sense, but homophobia and transphobia really don’t make sense when you think about it.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              I agree with all of this, but I just want to say, on a light note, that there’s all this discussion and nobody has made a Dr. Girlfriend joke?

          4. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            They come in when SIL gets huffy about being corrected politely. That’s a “how DARE you challenge my assumptions about your gender when you aren’t performing your gender to my expectations” leap right there. And those are born of transphobia, even though cis women get caught up in it too. Accepting the correction gracefully? Yeah, it’s not necessarily transphobic to assume “deep voice on the phone = male”. It’s the reaction to the correction that matters.

            1. Reebee*

              “Yeah, it’s not necessarily transphobic to assume “deep voice on the phone = male”. It’s the reaction to the correction that matters.”

              This.

        2. kitto*

          it would not be ideal at all for the rep to get another job because people react poorly to misgendering her at this one! in previous jobs, i have been the recipient of a lot of racist behaviour but it would not have solved anything or been fair to me if i’d quit each of those roles because i ran the risk of being discriminated against. the solution is for people to learn how to share space respectfully with marginalised people.

          unfortunately, if the service rep is trans and/or people (other than op’s SIL) misread her as “male”, she’s probably going to experience misgendering from customers/clients and, potentially, coworkers in most jobs. requesting politely/neutrally for folk to respect her gender feels like a really small ask that most reasonable people should be able to take in stride

          1. Artemesia*

            Her phrasing sounded like it had a nasty edge. It is on the PHONE. She sounds masculine. How would the caller know she is a woman. The person isn’t ‘misgendering her’ as if that were a conscious act of rejection — the person on the phone hears what sounds like a masculine voice and acts accordingly — a more gentle correction is called for.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              We’re getting a third-hand report via someone who got riled up.

              I could easily imagine a CSR introducing herself with an obviously feminine name and having a “gentler” correction ignored.

              I can easily imagine a prickly CSR taking offense at OP’s sister’s first use of “sir”.

              We’re just not close enough to the events to judge the CSR’s script.

              1. Annie*

                We are supposed to take the facts presented in the letter at face value, so we should be just evaluating based on the script that is in the letter.

            2. ChiliHeeler*

              You’re putting a lot of assumption into how gentle it was or was not. Tone can make a lot of difference as can the person hearing it. I think we’ve all seen someone react poorly when corrected on something well out of proportion to the situation.

            3. kitto*

              misgendering can be accidental; it doesn’t have to come from malice in order to be defined as such. and it doesn’t sound (from what we were told) like the csr was assuming ill-meaning from the SIL.

              what’s more, her correction was gentle – just neutral and direct – but i think the way people are reacting to her in this thread just goes to show how lightly trans people, or people perceived as trans, have to tread in order to not offend cis people! it says a lot that some people in this thread are painting the csr as hostile or rude when the SIL is the one who wrote “a nasty email” to her boss.

              1. AMH*

                Thanks for this comment, I agree fully but was struggling to phrase it. For me, “please address me as such” is direct and not padded in softening language, but I don’t think it’s rude. Obviously there are cultural and perception differences that might make others view it differently, but it’s disappointing to see how many people are assuming the worst here.

              2. Green great dragon*

                So I think the phrasing does sort-of imply an assumption of ill-meaning from the SIL. An honest mistake just requires info – “Ma’am, actually”. Going on to say ‘Please don’t misgender me” implies SIL needs to be asked directly to avoid misgendering.

                To be clear, I agree SIL was way over the top and the csr’s slightly suboptimal phrasing in no way justifies anything other than a mental shrug.

                1. AMH*

                  But she didn’t say “please don’t misgender me,” she said “please address me as such.” I understand that some folks read that as brusque or even rude, although I don’t agree, but I don’t think it is an assumption of ill-meaning. She’s just saying how she’d like to be addressed after being addressed incorrectly.

                2. Green great dragon*

                  Out of nesting – yep, I got the phrasing wrong, but the point stands. “I’m female” conveys all the info needed for SIL to get it right. The second sentence doesn’t add anything unless SIL needs to be told to address people according to their gender identity, which would make her pretty ill-meaning in my book.

                  (again, no excuse for SIL’s ridiculous overreaction, and possibly csr did have reason to believe that SIL was ill-meaning or careless rather than mistaken.)

            4. Seashell*

              To me, it sounds like the phrasing was polite. Asking someone to please do something isn’t nasty, unless it’s something like “please go to hell.”

            5. Prof*

              misgendering just means you got the gender wrong. Even if it’s an accident, it’s still misgendering. Intent is actually irrelevant here, there’s nothing wrong or reading to much into it by calling it misgendering.

              Also, wow, let’s maybe stop tone policing how well people correct errors like this, especially when they likely face this daily/constantly. It wears on you.

              1. Annie*

                I’m sure it wears on her, but the SIL has no idea that this happens all the time or that she was misgendering the CSR person in the first place. And yes, unfortunately, as a CSR you do have to watch your tone when responding.

                I certainly understand how the CSR would be tired of it, but that’s not really the customer’s fault. They have no idea that the CSR is not male by the tone of the voice.

            6. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

              Aren’t all these arguments about what the person said just tone policing? For everyone else, being neutral and direct is fine but people who suffer microaggressions all day need to be nicer and sweeter than is expected for everyone else.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Yes, the “if you point out my racism/sexism/transphobia in a way that coddles my feelings then I can listen to you (and not change), but if I don’t like your tone then my racism/sexsim/transphobia is actually your fault” line that minority groups have had to deal with since forever. There is no polite enough way to correct a person who has misgendered someone if the person doesn’t want to be corrected. They will always find a way to be offended, always find a way to be not wrong.

                And the way you can tell that’s what happened here is that the SIL wrote a letter to the CSR’s manager. “Please address me as such,” as shown by the many people in these comments who don’t see anything wrong with it, is not *objectively* rude. Even if it feels *subjectively* brusque or rude to you, it’s not so rude that it merits a strongly-worded letter. The SIL is clearly overreacting, so why are some people here trying so hard to give her the benefit of the doubt?

                1. MEH Squared*

                  This is what I wanted to say to everyone who said the CS Rep just phrased her request wrong/poorly/brusquely/rudely/etc. I’m in my fifties and am a minority in several ways. In every category, there has been the criticism that the minority is being too strident/angry/nasty/uncivil. As if the only thing stopping the people in the majority from supporting equal rights was how it was phrased.

                  It’s a neat trick to put minorities further on the back foot and to make them (us) prove that we are worthy of being treated with common decency.

                2. Annie*

                  I agree in most situations. Obviously if this was an in-person conversation and the SIL mis-gendered the CSR, and it was obviously based on intent to misgender the CSR person because there was no doubt the person was trans, then I understand the CSR being more than annoyed but offended.

                  In this case, the SIL had no basis on which to judge the CSR except her voice, and so I can see why the CSR would be annoyed but also why the SIL would take the reprimand negatively. The CSR certainly have taken a kinder approach since we are relying on the LW as the actual narrative that happened. The SIL complaining was still over the top, obviously.

            7. Irish Teacher.*

              I really wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the exact phrasing. I think the odds are probably against both the sister-in-law and the LW repeating the phrase exactly, simply because most people don’t. Not intentionally, but simply because people tend to pay more attention to meaning than exact words. The odds of one or the other of them, if not both, rephrasing something…well, I’d say they are fairly high. Most likely, it is something minor (if anything has been changed), but even something like “please address me as ma’am” would sound less abrupt than “please address me as such” and that’s the sort of thing somebody could easily misremember.

            8. Baunilha*

              I’m honestly surprised with some of the comments today, ’cause I don’t see anything wrong with the CSR phrasing. Maybe (and that’s a big maybe) the tone was a bit brusque (and we can’t know that for sure), but giving that the SIL jumped straight to complain-to-the-manager, I’m more inclined to think that the CSR was not the problem.

            9. Irish Teacher.*

              We don’t even know she sounds masculine. One person, who spoke to her once, over the phone thought she sounded masculine. That doesn’t mean she sounds masculine in general. There could have been a bad connection that made her hard to understand. She could have had a cold. She might have sounded confident and assured and the sister-in-law might associate those qualities with men and she therefore read the tone as male.

              Nor would I put too much store on the exact phrasing. It’s distinctly possible, even probable that either the sister-in-law or the LW didn’t remember the exact words/changed something slightly because most of us do when passing a story on. I think it would be…not unusual but the less likely option for a third-hand account to be word-for-word faithful to the original. It’s very easy to misremember “I’m a women. Please call me ma’am,” as “I identify as a woman. Please address me as such.” The meaning is the same. But the first sounds gentler. Not saying it was that, just that even a slight misquote could change how we read the tone and those are common.

              1. Annie*

                We are expected to take the LW as gospel. Certainly the LW received the information second-handed from the SIL, but still, we should be evaluating what the LW wrote in and not coming up with ideas that “maybe the CSR didn’t sound masculine” or “maybe the CSR didn’t say that to the SIL”.

                1. sparkle emoji*

                  I don’t see why it’s an issue to point out that this is a third-hand retelling. We take the LW at their word, but this isn’t the LW’s story so they don’t know all the details.

        3. DJ Abbott*

          I would not have complained to management, but if I was addressed this way by a phone rep I would be annoyed by being expected to know something I couldn’t possibly know, and there’s no way I would apologize. I’ve had too many bad experiences with people doing that.
          After the things I’ve read here about what happens to call center reps who get complaints, I would only complain if they did something extremely bad.

          1. AnonymousToast*

            “ I would be annoyed by being expected to know something I couldn’t possibly know”

            Then don’t guess people’s identity and you won’t have to be annoyed by getting it wrong. Problem solved.

          2. kitto*

            she (CSR) wasn’t expecting her (SIL) to know her gender, she simply told her what it was because she got it wrong… there’s nothing in her response that implied expectation from the SIL.

            refusing to apologise when you get something wrong is a pretty strange and hostile response to being corrected, but the CSR didn’t even ask for an apology in this case so i think you’re reading her as more offended than we knew her to be

            1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

              Yes. The SIL said she “had no way of knowing their gender other than by their voice because they were on the phone.” Well, she did have a way to know and that we when the person told her, and she didn’t like that, either. It all sounds like “I should be allowed to misgender women with deep voices without being corrected” to me.

            2. DJ Abbott*

              I was replying to allathian, who said they would say they’re sorry.
              It’s the phrasing that seems adversarial to me. Like the rep’s gender identity is obvious and a stranger on the phone should know. If she’d said gently, “I’m female, please call me ma’am”, or similar, it would be completely different.

              1. fhqwhgads*

                Point is, we’re all reading the words recapped by a third party. No one here has any idea if the CSR said anything “gently” or “harshly”. We didn’t hear it. The words in question could’ve been totally neutral and chill or could’ve been clearly pissed and we know nothing, so assumptions that its one or the other are speculation.

                1. Annie*

                  Right, we have to rely on the what the LW told us, and I do think the phrasing could be taken negatively. the SIL sending an email is still over the top and unnecessary.

          3. NotTheSandwich*

            But the first thing a CSR does is introduce themselves. The sister didn’t mention that the name was masculine and being corrected was a surprise because of that. If I introduce myself as “Annie” and someone calls me “sir” that is off-putting.

            1. Craig*

              I know a male Anni and a male Maddie. so that name doesn’t give you the gender(at least over the phone) oh and a female Toby .

            2. DJ Abbott*

              Many people are not good at remembering names. For me it’s because I’m distracted by the problem I’m calling about.

              1. sparkle emoji*

                The initial “sir” isn’t the issue here, it’s the reaction. If you forget a name and politely accept a reminder that’s fine and normal. If you complained and wrote a nasty email after being reminded that would be an issue. The latter is the one that’s comparable to SIL’s actions.

            3. Annie*

              I can see that as being frustrating. I’ll admit that most of the time I don’t pay much attention to the persons name. That’s a fault of my own whether on the phone or in person a lot of times. (although if they said “Annie” I’m sure I’d remember that! :) )

          4. Productivity Pigeon*

            I don’t understand why you couldn’t just shrug it off and call the person ma’am and finish the call?

            It’s a simple correction, just like if you’d pronounced a name wrong? Why would that make you annoyed?

          5. EmF*

            Nearly every call centre script has reps answer the phone with ‘Thanks for calling _____, my name is _______” or some variant.

            Granted, 95% of clients I’ve spoken to haven’t actually listened to my name and have occasionally addressed me by the wrong one all the way through the call, but I’ve always told them my name. Names are typically (not always, but most of the time) a good indicator of gender.

          6. Dasein9 (he/him)*

            Apology? No, an accidental misgendering doesn’t require a formal apology. Social conventions do call for a more informal type, though. The same kind of “Oh, pardon me!” we give when we find we stepped on someone’s toe unintentionally. It’s not really a mea culpa so much as a reassurance that our hurting another was unintentional and they don’t need to fear hostility from us.

          7. Kella*

            Given that we live in a world where we cannot guess someone’s gender accurately 100% of the time regardless of auditory or visual cues, you have two options:

            1. Avoid using gendered language to describe someone until you have an opportunity to learn what language they prefer you use. This opportunity is unlikely to come up or be necessary in a conversation with a call center rep.

            2. Accept when someone corrects you on their gender, with grace, make the correction, and move on.

            If folks who have to deal with frequent misgendering can cope with the immense discomfort of having that conversation over and over and risking abuse or retaliation every time, then you can deal with the two seconds of discomfort of being informed you made a mistake.

        4. ENFP in Texas*

          “Although I’m not sure what the service rep should’ve said instead.”

          I’m thinking “It’s ma’am, actually” in a friendly tone might have worked? (As a cishet female with a gender-neutral name and an alto voice, it’s happened to me once or twice)

          1. penny dreadful analyzer*

            While we’re all guessing about what the exact precise to-the-letter wording here was, how do we know the CSR didn’t say a short two- or three-syllable correction and the SIL simply did not process it? I can’t count the number of times in my life I’ve seen someone react poorly to being told something for the third or fourth time because the third or fourth time had “saying this for the third or fourth time” energy and why would you skip right to third-or-fourth time phrasing the first time you say the thing to me, rude!

        5. 1952*

          “That said, the language I usually interact with strangers in, Finnish,“

          Plot twist: she’s actually from St Petersburg (Pietari to you, ma’am)

        6. Nomic*

          ” In an ideal world, the rep would get another job where she wouldn’t run the risk of being misgendered on a daily basis, ”

          This sounds like you’re trying to disappear anyone that doesn’t conform to an exacting social stereotype. In a world where plenty of people don’t conform to standard social stereotypes, disappearing them from any public facing job is gross.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            I think that’s quite a reach. The CSR would probably be more comfortable in a job where she’s not always getting misgendered. It would be a win for her.

      3. Lokifan*

        Really?? Honestly, depending on tone, I feel like “I identify as female, please address me as such” could be very neutral and not impolite at all.

        I’m not sure what you mean by “gender issues are a big deal and for good reason”, but getting angry about the sheer fact of being neutrally corrected on gender is kinda transphobic.

        1. doreen*

          I think it’s specifically the wording “Please address me as such” that doesn’t sound neutral. It’s not impolite exactly – it’s more that it’s chiding/scolding/implies that SIL should have known and it was a therefore a deliberate insult. There’s a difference between ” I have a PhD. Please address me as such” and “Actually, it’s Dr.” That doesn’t mean the SIL wasn’t overreacting – she absolutely was.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Yes, that’s the point I was trying to make. Also, I think everyone agrees the SIL massively overreacted.

        1. 2eyessquared*

          Yeah, not a fan of people tone policing this woman. Maybe don’t assume someone’s gender if you don’t want to be corrected

        2. Turquoisecow*

          Yes. It’s common for women using direct language to be perceived as rude and that seems to be what’s happening here. I wonder if the CSR was a man with a high pitched voice who used the same words if he would also be perceived as rude.

          1. N C Kiddle*

            If the issue was that SIL assumed him to be trans, I think he would. We’re not supposed to be too assertive either.

      4. MEH Squared*

        I disagree about the customer service rep’s response. She was misgendered and she corrected the person who misgendered her. I am AFAB, identify as agender, and am constantly called ‘sir’ on the phone because I have a very deep voice. I don’t bothre correcting people because it’s a one-off for me, but if I were in a job situation in the CS rep’s position, I might be spurred to say something after the twentieth person did it. The customer isn’t always right, and the OP’s SIL was in the wrong in this scenario.

        Also, in this day and age, gender-identifying titles are just not needed. Call the person by name or no title at all.

        1. Noks*

          But the customer on the phone can’t help being the 20th one that day.
          I understand that getting misgendered is very annoying and hurtful, but a random caller who cannot see you, has never talked to you before, only talks to you presumably because there is an issue somewhere (and they much rather not be on that call), and with whom you will never have to talk again does not really seem like the most useful battle to pick. I don’t think the call center employee is wrong in correcting people I just wonder what, if anything, that would achieve for them.
          But I very much agree that this particular situation does not call for gender, or in fact a name. Answering ‘Yes, X’ would be weird and unnecessary too. When being asked to hold, you can just answer ‘Yes, sure’, ‘Yes, I’ll hold’ or ‘of course, no problem’.

          1. kitto*

            the customer service rep didn’t act out of line whether this was the first or twentieth misgendering of the day – it’s perfectly reasonable to let someone know that you’re not the gender they think. and, from op’s letter, it sounds like she put op’s SIL on hold, which means they were going to continue that conversation after the misgendering comment; it makes sense that the rep would want her to know that she’s a woman so there aren’t more “sirs” directed at her.

          2. amoeba*

            Sure, and I certainly wouldn’t use any gendered form of address myself – but I’ve learned from this site that there are cultures in the US (which I assume the sister is from?) where it’s very much drilled into you that you *have* to address people by Sir/Ma’am to be polite. Which I agree would be great to change! But being angry at people because they’re following the politeness norms they’ve learned all their lives (and I assume are still common in their social circles?) is not great either, especially in customer service…

            1. slashgirl*

              “But being angry at people because they’re following the politeness norms they’ve learned all their lives (and I assume are still common in their social circles?) is not great either, especially in customer service…”

              The chances are that the CSR isn’t even IN this person’s state (or perhaps country; I’m Canadian and worked at a call centre here that was on contract with an America only company, I certainly wouldn’t know southerners were raised to use sir/ma’am). They could be dealing with people from multiple states–she doesn’t have a responsibility to be aware of every cultural norm from every area of the country that clients call in from–plus what about immigrants to an area, including the south? Where does it end? That’s a ridiculous expectation for call centre employees.

              You’re assuming they were angry? They’re probably more resigned to the fact that they’ll be misgendered on calls–and have to correct folks.

              Let’s be fair, the SIL could’ve simply said “Thanks”, no sir or ma’am needed. I don’t think I’ve ever, on a phone call like that, used gender. I try to make sure I use their name–because after being a CSR myself, I know it’s appreciated.

              The CSR didn’t do anything wrong and the SIL needs to get over herself–her reaction was over the top and unnecessary.

              1. Amy*

                There’s certainly a tradition to use gendered terms in address in Canada too. Perhaps not in English but certainly in French. “Oui / non, madame / monsieur” is common in addition to having more gendering in grammar.

                1. amoeba*

                  Yeah, I actually got taught (quite recently) to do that, because just replying “oui/non” would sound impolite!

            2. bamcheeks*

              Do you really think, “I’m female, please address me as such” is “angry”? I literally cant think of a more neutral phrasing. Obviously they could have said it angrily, but there’s nothing in the letter to say that she did.

              This is either “it’s absolutely unacceptable for a customer service rep to correct me on ANYTHING” or “I’m a raging transphobe,” or both.

              1. amoeba*

                “Oh, actually, I’m a woman”/”It’s ma’am, actually!” would sound much more neutral for me! I think it’s the formality of “please address me as such” that would make it sound scolding for me… while the other two would sound like correction of an honest mistake. But maybe that’s because it’s so different from the communication style I’m used to, who knows!

                And yeah, obviously, the sister’s response was waaaaay out of line and she’d much more in the wrong here! Just saying I might also be mildly annoyed at getting that reponse, but, like nowhere remotely close to writing an angry e-mail about it.

                1. Commenter*

                  I understand why this is a charged topic for people, so I think there’s a lot of emotion coming into the conversation, but I agree with all that you said. If someone called John the CSR “Joe,” and he said, “My name is John, please address me as such,” that would sound much more scolding than, “Actually, it’s John.”

              2. TyphoidMary*

                Agreed, bamcheeks.

                It’s especially interesting to me how many people are saying the service rep should have softened her tone. How often on this site do we see folks railing about how women often have to soften or accomodate in ways that men don’t?

                1. MC*

                  A lot of people here just do not see customer service, food service, retail workers, etc as human. It’s okay to be annoyed if it’s an office situation, but not in this sort of situation! Because service workers only exist to do the background work that makes the world run and aren’t actually people.

                  *insert Elmo flames gif here*

                2. amoeba*

                  Well, at least I’m certain that I’d find “please do XY” equally brusque and impolite from a man as from a woman (in general, not even in this specific example). I do have colleagues who write like that and I always perceive it as pretty brusque and want to go “Oh my god, I’m sorry, what have I done wrong?”

                  I do work and live in a country that’s known for being polite and indirect though, so who knows, maybe it’s that! But yeah, if you’re used to that communication style, “Please do XY” is… definitely not friendly.

                  Again, absolutely none of that remotely justifies the complaint! But it would have stung me just a little, yeah.

            3. Baunilha*

              But if SIL was trying to be polite, isn’t the polite thing to do to address the other person as asked?
              If someone tells me “no need to call me sir”, then I won’t. If I called them sir out of politeness, then the polite to do is follow their lead, not dig my heels in.

    1. whyblue*

      This letter reminds me of the time I accidentally misgendered our CSR whom I had talked to on the phone quite a bit but never met in person. I was convinced that Dana was a woman, albeit one with a very male sounding voice. Until the sent a team photo and I learned that Dana was a six foot something guy. Ooops. I would have preferred for them to correct me (even with a slightly snappish wording), rather than getting it wrong for months… (This happened over a decade ago when being openly transgender wasn’t a thing.)

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I have a gender neutral name IRL and was often misgendered over email (before I started including my pronouns in my signature!), but my voice is unambiguously female…. except to one guy I was working with who continued to refer to me as “him” even through a conference call. We weren’t going to have an ongoing relationship, so I didn’t correct him, but it did kind of make me laugh.

        Unlike the old man who called my job many years ago to yell at us for misgendering him — he had a name like Marion or something that used to be more common for boys but not for decades, AND he was a donor to a feminist nonprofit! No wonder our direct mail company made the wrong assumption.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Being openly transgender certainly was a thing over a decade ago! Just because you didn’t happen to know anyone, or lived in an area where trans people weren’t comfortable being out, doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          People were openly transgender, sure. That’s been true since the 1970’s. BUT it wasn’t, eg, a thing that a character in a TV show would have been, and things really have changed over the last couple of decades. It used to be that you had to be part of the community to know folks in the community, and that isn’t true anymore.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Things have changed, sure, but it’s not at all true that you wouldn’t have seen a transgender character on TV before the last decade or that you couldn’t know a transgender person unless you were in the LGBTQIA+ community.

          2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            So, unless someone is on TV they don’t exist? That’s bonkers.

            If you went to school in the Jennifer era you’re about my age, and I certainly knew trans people long before 2014. Granted I’m lesbian, but I’m cis, so I suppose it depends on what you mean by “the community”. (I also see you’re moving the needle from “over a decade” to “a couple of decades” which does matter here.)

          1. Ex-Teacher*

            That might be true- If that’s thje SIL’s proper response, then I’m all for it. I’m seeing some pretty casual transphobia in the comments though, a bunch of “who cares if a customer service rep is misgendered, it probably happens all the time” is rather frustrating, and I may have misread the comment.

            However, if this was the intended response for the CS rep, well that’s wildly unacceptable.

    2. e271828*

      SiL could do with a lie-down and a cold cloth. She seems overwrought about something that is nothing, and determined to pick a self-righteous fight.

      Parenthetically, I don’t think I’ve ever addressed a CS phone rep as Ma’am or Sir, but I ask what the weather’s like where they are, sympathize with their noisy call centers, and always say it’s okay to be put on hold, thanks for looking that up! Phone CS is such a hard job, I could not do it.

    3. DameB*

      Gotta be honest — I don’t trust the SIL’s memory. Anyone who reacted like that is very likely to misremember the actual wording. It’s very likely that the customer service lady said something different and SIL twisted it in her memory. (Memories are very very malleable and it’s HARD to remember precise wording. I’m a trained interviewer and I misremember things all the time. Someone who is emotionally having a reaction isn’t nearly as likely to remember precise language) We’ve spent 900 comments parsing the exact wording when it could have been very different. Let’s stop tone policing the customer service woman and recognize that SIL was way the hell over reacting.

    4. Dogwoodblossom*

      I’m kind of baffled at all the folks going on about the rep. My reading of the letter was that the rep gave a correction and put this lady on hold presumably to transfer her call. Maybe rep sounded really snarky about it or not, it’s not clear from this third hand account, but like ‘customer service rep isn’t as polite as they could be when asking essentially ‘how do I direct your call’ is surely an everyday occurrence right? Like I don’t get bent out of shape when the people working a drive through sound tired/stoned because who cares.

      SIL cares apparently and fires off an angry complaint letter.

      Then a different representative of the company *backs up their rep and tells this lady to f-off*. That’s where the “treated like I’d committed a cardinal sin” comes in. Which, the fact that the company stood by their rep, and also this use of ‘cardinal sin’ is what makes me assume this lady is just a big ol’ transphobe. It’s so fucking rare for even managers who know their reps were in the right (we’re often all in the same ding dang room) to not just cave and apologize to irate clients just to get them to shut up and go away.

      So, for them to side against a customer makes me think this email was some nasty stuff, and fucking kudos to them for standing up for their employees.

  4. J*

    L1 Depending on the type of work he’s looking for, however, being your caregiver can be job experience. It’s not uncommon for even paid caregivers to be family members and paid or not it’s not looked down on in fields where that’s relevant experience.

    1. Phryne*

      Yes, being a caregiver to a (temporarily) disabled person would be way more useful to use as work experience than gold farming a game. But even then only if he wants to go into a care related field.

        1. Phryne*

          Sure. You can put it on to explain a gap, but you might not call it experience then, I guess, if it was unrelated.

        2. Annisele*

          But L1’s son is at college – unless he’s a mature student, he can’t really have a “gap” in his CV yet :).

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I think it’s pretty common to have a summer job of some form, whether that is stocking shelves or a clearly relevant internship. (A lot of summer ’20 internships fell through, and it was still tough in summer ’21 if your internship couldn’t be remote, but this is summer ’23.)

            I will say that my son was absolutely wonderful when he moved home at the start of the pandemic while I was undergoing cancer treatment. He went to the grocery store so I could avoid humans. He drove me to treatment when I was so exhausted I could barely walk. But I am sure it’s not on his resume, nor my husband’s resume, nor my daughter’s (she looked after me after I had the first surgery). It falls into a life experience that is valuable, but also common enough that if you try to cite it as really a job it will bite you. It should be his answer to the question “What were you doing in summer ’23?” just as other people would explain they were themselves recovering from surgery, or decided to use this block of time for travel.

            1. I'm just here for the cats!*

              When I was in college there was a few summers that I did not have a job or internship lined up and it was no problem. There is no expectation for a college student to not have a gap. And really, how much is a employer going to look at the employment history of a college student? If they pay attention they aren’t going to be adding up the dates.

            2. metadata minion*

              It’s common, sure, but not universal, and I wouldn’t expect a college student to be asked to explain the “gap” in their resume if it was just not listing what they did over the summer.

            3. Irish Teacher.*

              I don’t think employers usually ask people what they were doing during their college holidays. I don’t even think I put my summer jobs on my CV, mainly because I didn’t know what was relevant and what wasn’t back then. I have never been a hiring manager, but if I was, I think I’d assume that if a student didn’t have something down for a summer, it was either that they figured it wasn’t relevant to the field or they couldn’t get a job that summer. Heck, even adults often take longer than 3 or 4 months to get a job and that’s with qualifications and experience. I know one year in Ireland, it made the news that only 50% of college students managed to secure a summer job. Admittedly, that was during the recession, but still, if you’re at college, it’s not really a gap in your resume.

            4. sparkle emoji*

              Semi-recent college grad here, I had a summer where I didn’t work and never got any questions about it in an interview. I did summer classes to get done faster, so my summers weren’t ever school-free anyway. If you’re in a field where it’s important to do internships every summer YMMV but generally I don’t think a summer break while in school is a true “gap”.

        3. Tulip Madness*

          Until a year after college graduation, no jobless period is a gap. That’s not a thing. Even if you had a summer job one year and not others.

  5. Daria grace*

    #1, While this can’t go on his resume it could point to possible career interests or talents. Worth exploring if there is elements of however the game sales work (negotiating sale prices with buyers, managing inventory ect) that particularly appeal to him and see if there’s resume suitable work experience or self employment he can pursue.

    #2 your sister is out of line here. It really isn’t necessary to use sir/ma’am and part of what choosing to do so means is that sometimes you’ll get it wrong. Even people who identify with their assigned gender don’t always sound like it on the phone. Being advised you got someone’s gender wrong should be no more confronting than being told you got their name wrong. Just quickly say sorry and move onto the rest of the conversation using the correct name/pronoun where applicable

    1. duinath*

      fr, even in the best light, this lw’s sister wants to complain because she made a mistake and was corrected. “the customer is always right” applies to matters of taste, it’s not a general broad statement and it certainly does not apply to someone else’s gender.

      1. ferrina*

        +1

        I think correcting gender should be treated the same way as correcting a name- it’s quick and factual, you say “thank you”, then everyone moves on in life. (at least for the first time it happens; multiple times by the same person is a different story).

        And if the rep had called SIL “sir”, what do you think SIL’s reaction would have been? I bet there’s a double standard, and I bet SIL has excuses why she’s entitled to the double standard.

    2. Hyaline*

      While I agree that using sir or ma’am is not “necessary” in a strict sense, it is cultural and a legitimate geographical linguistic practice. I don’t think it’s right to police it. Yes, it means sometimes getting it wrong and being corrected (and learning to take correction graciously!), but implying people ought to stop doing it is probably a little insensitive.

      1. TeaCoziesRUs*

        Yup! It sets my teeth on edge to be repeatedly told that Sir / Ma’am is not polite, when in both of my primary cultures (Southern and military) it dang well is.

        I respect when people express they don’t like it, and try hard to not use it, but I’m fighting 40+ years of cultural conditioning at this point. I’m going to make mistakes. I am gracious when I mess up. I try harder.

        That being said, PLEASE stop telling me it’s rude overall. It’s not.

        1. Ma’am means “advanced age” in NE and everywhere else in the US*

          You can’t decide what people consider rude or not. I consider it pandering and rude.

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*

            Lovely thing about culture clashes within the US, huh? I can treat you with respect, as my culture sees it, and then course-correct when I find out you don’t care for it. I could also treat you in a way I see rude from the very beginning, hurting my own sense of dignity every time. I prefer to start with politeness.

            I’ve definitely seen Sir / Ma’am used as “you dumba**.” I’ve even used it myself in that context (you can’t be in the military and not use it that way every now and then), so I understand that you can see it as pandering and rude. I would simply ask that you consider it as a Southern / military compliment and correct the person if it sets your teeth on edge.

              1. Silver Robin*

                Because it is not an opinion, it is a cultural norm.

                Cultural norms just are, and sometimes they differ and they always change over time. Clearly, “sir/ma’am” is rude in some places and polite in others, but it is not an opinion in either case, it is simply reflective of the cultural norms of that particular person.

                We even have cultural norms around how to deal with conflicting norms! The one being brought up right now is: be gracious both ways – the one who thinks it is polite should do their best not to use it to the person who thinks it is rude and the person who thinks it is rude should try to focus on the intent of respect while the person who thinks it is polite adjusts their phrasing.

                This presumes good faith efforts on behalf of both. Bad faith actions are dealt with differently because the social contract of “do not intentionally be an ass” is broken and the protections of politeness are rescinded.

            1. morethantired*

              In some regions, like parts of New England in the US, referring to someone as “ma’am” is seen as rude because it’s seen as “you are telling me I am too old to be ‘miss'”
              It’s just a regional quirk.

            2. Starbuck*

              I do find it rude actually to be looked at and addressed based on my gender first and foremost! I’m glad it’s not a practice that’s common where I live because I find it extremely grating to be greeted basically as “hi [female]” instead of just “hi [person / greeting only]”.

          2. fidget spinner*

            I live in the South, and Black children here are taught to use “sir” and “ma’am” for their own safety, particularly when dealing with police, but also just in general.

            It’s really important to think outside your own bubble when you want to get offended about something as innocuous as an honorific.

        2. TeaCoziesRUs*

          And just to clarify… the SIL was WILDLY out of line and dang well knows it. No one without a vendetta would do anything further than mutter “Well bless her heart.”

          And the CSR WAS polite – especially if she was just DONE with her day / tired of being misgendered / whatever. She sounded firm but fair.

          My response would have been, “If you’re going to use a gendered expression you’re occasionally going to guess wrong and be corrected, SIL. Hazards of being a polite Southerner / military person or family member. You were out of line and you know it.” with a shrug.

        3. Michelle Smith*

          If I am not a sir or a ma’am (I’m neither actually), it is rude for you to address me as such. Norms are changing and accepting that is part of living peacefully together in a society. The fact that you are trying to not use it when people ask you not to is great, but it negates the point you’re making. If it weren’t rude to use it with people that don’t like it, you wouldn’t be working against your 40+ years of cultural conditioning to make that polite change.

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*

            Trust. As soon as there’s a culturally UNDERSTOOD version of Sir / Ma’am, I’ll embrace it. Right now there isn’t.

            1. Ex-Teacher*

              So just because there’s nothing better, you’ll continue to use something that is perceived as rude?

              1. Happy meal with extra happy*

                This is so disingenuous. The whole point is that for like the vast majority of people that TeaCozies interacts with on a daily basis, it is seen as polite and proper.

                1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

                  I don’t know how you get to disingenuous. It’s not necessary to use a gendered term, it just isn’t. SIL could have easily just said, “Sure” instead of “yes, sir.” Since she chose “yes, sir,” then she should take correction with grace.

                2. Silver Robin*

                  Except, Radioactive, it *is* often necessary in TeaCozies’ situation to use a gendered term because not including an honorific like that is considered rude/insufficiently polite.

                  And nobody is saying SIL was in the right! Not even TeaCozies, who explicitly takes CSR’s side in this in another comment. That is not the argument being made right now.

                3. RussianInTexas*

                  ^^^ this.
                  Where I live this is a standard greeting by the vast majority of people. It’s used in grocery stores, post office, even between colleagues occasionally. Someone saying “it’s rude” would be very much thought of as being strange.
                  I am sorry it’s perceived as rude to you and people in your area, but it is not so where TeaCozies lives, and I am not sure why you refuse to understand it.

            2. Lenora Rose*

              I kind of want to promote “S’am” as the gender neutral version, especially as Sam, being short for Samantha and Samuel and a name in its own right, is already one of the notoriously agender names. But it would take a few hundred thousand other people doing so before it could even be considered a possible thing.

              (I do know someone non-binary who was tickled to be addressed as “sirmam” by the waitstaff through an entire meal, because the person using it made it sound fluid and intentional. YMMV – it would be really easy by a slight change in tone and approach to make the same thing sound like a passive aggressive dig.)

              Like saying “Godzilla” when someone sneezes instead of Gesundheit, because it’s sufficiently secular.

          2. jasmine*

            I don’t understand why people are understanding when you tell them that something is cultural, except when it’s the American South, and suddenly their culture must align with the rest of the country.

            It’s not rude to use sir or ma’am. It might be rude to you. It might be rude in your culture or the culture you grew up in. That doesn’t mean it’s universally a bad thing. As far as I can tell, there are parts of the country where it would be rude not to use those terms.

            As far as accidentally misgendering using these terms, how is this different than misgendering in other ways (i.e. if someone mistakenly uses the wrong pronouns)?

            1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

              It is not rude to use sir or ma’am initially. It is rude to continue to do so in a particular conversation when you have been asked not to. Exactly like if you continue using the wrong pronouns after having been corrected.

              1. fidget spinner*

                Yeah but there are people here saying it’s ALWAYS rude to use “sir” or “ma’am.” I’ve stopped using them and I’m Southern, so I know there are Southerners who think I’m rude. But I’m also white….

                I really wish people would realize that Southern Black children are taught to use honorifics because it can literally save their lives, and it’s not as easy as “just don’t use them anymore.”

          3. fidget spinner*

            Black children are taught to use “sir” and “ma’am” for their own safety. I don’t use the honorifics anymore, but I’m white so I can get away with being seen as a bit rude in the South.

            You think it should be easy to just stop using honorifics, but when it’s been engrained to use them so you don’t get killed… it’s not that simple.

  6. Potato Potato*

    People like the LW2’s SIL is why my go-to for correcting people on the phone is a cheery “I’m a man, btw”. Using the word “identify” seems to frequently set off the bigots. (I’m not criticizing the customer service representative- it sucks that anyone has to soften their language to get gendered correctly without people throwing a fit. I’m just sharing bc I’m in that position a lot.)

    1. Tinkerbell*

      Yeah, the easiest way to avoid this as a trans person is to preempt the question (although many just put up with the annoyance), and the easiest way to not put your foot in your mouth as a cis person is to retrain yourself to use non-gendered language whenever possible. I live in Alabama, where sir and ma’am are a heavy part of the culture, and my wife is trans but people read her about equally as male or female depending on how she’s dressed. It’s sometimes funny how someone who’s used to saying sir or ma’am gets all tangled up when they can’t tell which to use and don’t have an alternative in their head :-P

          1. Prof*

            no, that’s the gender neutral for Mr./Ms.

            Also, I look forward to the day we stop using Mrs. and Miss. Like, thanks for picking out which man you think I belong to as a form of addressing me. Yuck. One of the many reasons I like being able to use Dr//Prof. in my job….

            1. metadata minion*

              I’ve also seen it used as a replacement for sir/ma’am, usually pronouned “mix” or “mux”. It’s very far from being universally accepted or even recognized as a thing, but I think it’s one of the more plausible replacements we have to work with.

              1. Silver Robin*

                +1 it slides nicely into common phrasings like “oh, miss, you left your phone!” –> “oh, mix, you left your phone!”. Not a huge shift, which has the added bonus of being relatively easy to adjust to. Yes, we could just do away with having a pronoun/name stand-in (and we might, over time!) but that is harder to do because it actually shifts the flow of speech.

                1. AnonORama*

                  Ha, I’m doing well if I can get out “excuse me” if someone is walking away without their phone or wallet or whatever — if I don’t know their name, usually it’s just “hey!”

              2. MEH Squared*

                I am agender and don’t use any gendered pronouns. I like Mx and would use that to replace sir/ma’am (for myself).

            2. Not Totally Subclinical*

              Unfortunately there are a lot of women who still insist on using Miss/Mrs. rather than Ms., and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

              1. Stuff*

                I’m of two minds about that, in that I don’t use Miss/Mrs. for others unless I’m specifically told that the person goes by one of those titles, but at the same time, I do strongly prefer to be referred to as Miss over Mrs. or Ms., and I’m actually particularly annoyed by Mrs. But like even Ms. is just wrong to me, it isn’t how I want to be referred.

              2. Deck chairs*

                I’d honestly prefer being called “Miss (Last Name)” even when I’m an 89 year old spinster, or incorrectly called an “Mrs” all the time instead of “Mx.” I get why it exists and I’m not going to begrudge people who want to use it but something about it just falls flat.

            3. Galadriel's Garden*

              I strongly prefer Ms. as opposed to either – I *desperately* hate being addressed as Mrs., as I resent the sort of “ownership” implications.

              And it makes me feel old.

    2. ConMom*

      I feel for you, and the fact that you feel the need to preface situations. My son gets mid gendered on the regular because he is a boy with long hair (his choice) and he favors my features over his father’s, he simply says “I’m a he” when it happens, and he moves on… I’m positive that he sounds annoyed sometimes but there’s no ill will toward the offender.
      I think the sil has some unresolved feelings, for her to be sharing this story with any feeling other than slight embarrassment.

      1. AnonORama*

        Yeah, this is awkward but can be handled with grace, not gross (SIL). A colleague of mine briefly brought in her child last week, and all I saw was lovely, long blond hair — the next day I asked “did your daughter enjoy seeing where you work?” My colleague said “actually my son — doesn’t he have the most beautiful hair?” I felt like a jerk for assuming, but just said “sorry, and yes, he does!”

        It’s a little different because I wasn’t talking to the person whose gender I was wrong about. But a shitshow can be avoided! (In this case, SIL was the one who created it — I don’t know if CSR’s reply was brusque, which would still be a less-than-huge deal, but SIL escalated waaaaay out of proportion.)

    3. Myrin*

      Yeah, I find it really interesting how certain words/phrases seem to trigger strong reactions in people, but the same thing expressed slightly differently only gets neutral responses.

      This happens with all manner of topics but the one I’m most familiar with is my sexual orientation, which I don’t generally talk about but which I’m open about if the topic comes up.

      If I say “I’m asexual” people either don’t know what that means so I have to explain the whole, or they do know what it means and they already have some sort of opinion about that, which I can generally do without. However, when I say “I’m not interested in relationships” or even “I like being single”, people are either understanding and lose interest literally immediately, or they’re like “good for you” or even “I wish that were me”. I think it’s mostly that “asexuality” is a whole concept with a name and theories whereas “not interested” is just a manner of (dis-)like.

      (Now obviously, if you have some sort of hardliner who can’t bear the thought of other people being Not Like Them, it probably doesn’t make much difference how you phrase it, but I’ve generally had great success with this approach.)

      1. Circe*

        I’ve broken the (ace) news gently by saying “I’m not attracted to men” when someone assumes I am. Depending on the conversation, I leave it there or also clarify I’m not into women either.

        It saves the “What’s that?” [explains] “I’ve never heard of that” tedium.

      2. Married Ace*

        Your answer is also better because they are different concepts, and that’s the one that is relevant.

        – Happily married asexual

      3. Dek*

        I usually just go with “I don’t date” when asked. But, like…I’m not *opposed* to the idea of dating. Just…never really met anyone that I’d want to.

        1. Myrin*

          I really like this, it’s just not something you can say in my native language (which these conversations exclusively happen in; the only time I’m speaking English is on the internet and there I just say I’m asexual) because we don’t have a word for “date”. I will absolutely remember this for future internet usage!

    4. Nebula*

      I mean tbh we only have the sister’s word for it that this was the language used. There’s certainly a kind of person – maybe the kind of person who would take serious offence at being corrected on someone’s gender – who hears “I’m a man/woman” from someone they perceived not to be and repeats it as “they said they identify as a man/woman”. Maybe that’s what they said, maybe it isn’t, seems like the SIL was going to act like this either way.

      1. aqua*

        This was my immediate thought too. I’ve corrected people *extremely* politely and gently about my pronouns in the past and had them go off about how rude I was. The reaction to being corrected is much more about the person receiving the correction than it is about the phrasing of the person correcting.

      2. animorph*

        I’d agree, the wildly overreacting hostility that SIL displayed suggests she’s a bit of an unreliable narrator.

        1. Pyjamas*

          But the LW does not say the sil is an unreliable narrator, and surely the LW is in a position to know. The convention here is to accept LW’s version, yes?

          How about: CSR’s tone/wording was brusque AND the sil over-reacted.

          Me: if the interaction with a CSR went south for any reason, I’d say “sorry can’t hear you, must be a bad connection,” and then ‘accidentally’ disconnect. After a few deep breaths, I’d call back and start over. No reason for either of us to get het up

          1. Dahlia*

            The convention is believe them about what they were told or experienced – we do believe that’s what SIL told the LW – not that they are inherently right in all things.

    5. Anon for This*

      I agree – the use of “I identify as” makes this a political statement rather than a correction. A simple “it’s Ma’am” would be sufficient.

      Misgendering on the phone is not all that uncommon, as the voice in the only clue you have.
      True story – woman I knew with a deep voice was often assumed to be a man on the phone. Saw more than one message that “a man named Rosemary called…”

      1. ecnaseener*

        I disagree that the word “identify” makes it a political statement. At most, it alludes to the existence of trans people, who factually exist.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          For many, our existence is political. How dare we be here, simply existing, like we own the place.

      2. Seashell*

        “It’s ma’am” wouldn’t be sufficient if you don’t actually want someone to call you “ma’am”, which some women don’t.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to be called “ma’am” because they want to be called “miss”.

      3. PhyllisB*

        Yep. My grandmother had a deep gravelly voice and she got called “sir” on the phone constantly. I remember her sighing one day and saying I’m so tired of people thinking I’m a man. But she didn’t get upset about it.

      4. Chickadee*

        I’m cis and occasionally get misgendered, which is no big deal because it’s infrequent, I’ve never had to fight for my gender, and people generally apologize when they realize I’m a woman.

        My trans friends, however? They have to deal with frequent misgendering, including after they’ve corrected people, and getting clocked as trans can be life or death. For them, misgendering is a micro aggression with the potential to become physical aggression.

        On top of all that – this is a very second hand story! The CRS didn’t write in for advice, and we don’t know if that’s the wording they used or the first time they corrected SIL. Focusing on the wording/tone of the CRS (and whether they’re cis or trans) misses the point of the letter, which is that the SIL’s reaction was wildly out of line.

        (As an aside, service workers shouldn’t have to put up with rude customers and it’s wild that they’re expected to smile 24/7 and tolerate any abuse. Not having 100% perfect wording about your pronouns =/= being rude.)

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          This is so key. As a tallish cis woman (I once looked it up, and I’m exactly as tall for a woman as I would be short for a man) with short hair and androgynous dress, I get sir’d a lot. And it doesn’t bother me, because I haven’t had to fight to be identified as a woman. If I had, though? Those “sirs” would hurt a lot more. When people realize their mistake with me they fall all over themselves to apologize, which I doubt they’d do if I were trans.

      5. Moira's Rose's Garden*

        “I identify” is language I’ve adopted to convey the message that the problem is the default assumptions about gender which marginalize people. It’s solidarity language so that trans / NB people don’t have to inadvertently out themselves in the way they describe themselves.

        See also: using “partner” & “sig O” instead of gendered husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend.

        It’s not the marginalized people who’ve made living their lives political. Fullstop.

      6. Commenter*

        Saying you identify as a particular gender is not making a political statement – it’s just stating a fact. It’s not a political statement just because it activates people’s prejudices.

    6. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I’m short and always dressed androgynously, plus have v short hair, so until I was 40 I was usually assumed to be a mid-teen boy.
      Mostly I didn’t correct people as I don’t give an eff, but when it was relevant I’d simply say “actually I’m a woman”, which is quite sufficient info.

      imo, “please address me as such” is scolding, especially to a customer and only justified if the customer continues to address the rep as the wrong gender and the rep gives a damn about some dim random caller.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        We don’t and can’t know what was going on in that rep’s life that made them respond that way. For all we know, that’s the fifth time in a row they’ve been misgendered. Let’s try to give people some grace over their perceived tone.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Exactly. When you’re a minority, you get disproportionate impact. If half of the people in the majority mess up once a day, you’re personally dealing with a shit-ton of mistakes/micro-aggressions/thoughtless behavior every single day.

          If someone overreacts to you stepping on their toe, it might be because it’s broken from the last 20 people stepping on it.

      2. Zarniwoop*

        Maybe it was a bit scoldy, less than perfect response. If so it doesn’t seem that great a transgression, certainly not worthy of a half hour stewing and an official complaint.

        Is she always like this when someone in a serving capacity is insufficiently obsequious?

    7. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah I think the word “identify” probably set off transphobic alarms in the SIL’s head because “identify” implies “I am not actually (gender) but I want to be,” whereas if she’d said “I’m actually a woman,” it would be clear that it was just a deeper voiced woman and SIL might not have had such a strong reaction.

      Or she could be one of those people who HATES being corrected by service people and would have complained regardless no matter what phrasing was used. OP might know better.

      I don’t think the CSR was rude at all but it is a very direct tone that I could see someone who is a) from southern super polite passive culture (with women being especially subservient in terms of language) and or b) against being corrected by CSRs and wanting to make sure service people know their place being insulted by the directness. If the CSR wrote in I might suggest modifying her actual phrasing (assuming this is what she actually said, it’s third hand from what I would say is an unreliable narrator in terms of the SiL) if only to avoid stuff like this in the future, because I could see it being perceived as rather scolding and some people obviously don’t like that.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        We’ve established several times that we don’t know if the CSR used the word in the first place or if that’s just SIL’s paraphrase, but more than that, I REALLY want to push back on the idea in your first paragraph that trans people are not *actually* the gender that they are.

      1. Cicely*

        Interesting, because I have a feeling SIL was responding to the wording and tone more than anything. Accusing someone of being transphobic without clear evidence is a bit much.

  7. EA*

    If you go on vacation for five weeks, I think it’s a little unreasonable to be surprised that things happened while you were gone.

    On the other hand, I’d personally be annoyed or at least find it really weird if none of my coworkers, or the boss himself, had at least texted me about the change when it happened. Just as a heads up, even if I’m on extended leave or vacation, for something that significant. Is there a company rule against contacting employees while on vacation?

    1. Shakti*

      Yes this! My husband and I were on a week vacation and his boss the director of the department accepted a new job and she called him to let him know that! This is a large Fortune 500 company and it’s pretty standard to call for that kind of info and he had coworkers texting him too. They shouldn’t leave this person completely out of the loop and it’s not hard to communicate that

      1. purple monkey & bubblegum tree*

        Tbh I would be really annoyed by that level of disturbance on a week long vacation! Like damn, I’m only gone for a week, I don’t need my boss AND multiple coworkers contacting me to tell me something I’ll find out in a few days…

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I agree about the 5 weeks, a lot can change in that time.

      If she’d stress about it though, I’d about texting her (or emailing or whatever) while she’s away, because then she’ll just be worried while on her trip and unable to do anything about it.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        If she is known for being unusually rattled by change, the leaving boss could have written her a personalized note (or email, but a note is more personal) explaining they leave, expressing regret for not saying good bye in person, and thanking her for her work. But after they worked their two weeks that ship has largely sailed.

    3. Allonge*

      Yeah, last time my then-boss resigned, those of us who were in the office texted people on leave almost immediately (and individually, so they got five-six ‘boss resigned, OMG’ messages).

      1. ferrina*

        +1

        When there was a sudden departure, the folks that were on leave/out for more than a week got an official company statement either from HR or grandboss or the interim boss, then the coworkers also reaching out saying “just wanted to let you know….”

        It’s really helpful to get this email before getting back, because then you have a sense of what you are walking into. Even if it is stressful. And as interim boss, LW has good standing to email coworker with the situation, then briefly sit down with them and reassure them that nothing else has changed/let them know what has changed. It gives LW a chance to set the tone and messaging

    4. borealis*

      From my perspective (not in the US), five weeks is a shortish-to-standard vacation, while two weeks feels like an extremely short time between giving notice and leaving a job (though I’m sure that varies a lot between different professions here). If LW3’s colleague comes from a country with similar conventions to mine, it might not be all that obvious that there might be such important changes in five weeks.

      1. Phryne*

        I have a 5 week summer vacation because I work in education, but (nearly) everybody has those same 5 weeks off so it would be rare for something of this kind to happen in that time. Both people leaving and people starting tends to happen at the start of the new schoolyear and those changes will be well known before the holiday starts as we have 3 month notices in our contracts, and the class schedule of the first quarter will already have been made.
        So it would be strange if someone would decide to leave during the holiday. Not that I would think it would be texted to us, that would be something to communicate on our first day back. Only thing I can think of important enough to communicate during summer break would be the death of an employee or student.

      2. amoeba*

        I, as a European, am now intrigued which country would consider a five week vacation short – that’s my yearly PTO, haha! (And while it’s not out of the question for people to save up and have four or five weeks off, it would definitely be considered long…)

        Two weeks notice would be impossible by law here though, I think, that’s why I assumed the LW was in (a country similar to) the US?

        1. Peachtree*

          Yeh, I’m in the UK and have friends in Europe … there is no country where five weeks is a “short vacation” in Europe. Sure, some places do have the tradition of going to the country in August etc, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s swanning off for a “short” five week trip. Sounds like someone doesn’t realise that five week of annual leave per year doesn’t mean you get those five weeks at the same time …

        2. bonadea*

          Shortish :-) I think I’m showing bias and privilege based on my (upper middle-) age and line of work here: in Sweden, 25 working days (that is, five weeks) is the legal minimum per year for a full-time worker, but many unions have negotiated more generous agreements with employers. It is common in the public sector to get 28 days / year until the year you turn 29, then 31 days / year, and from the age of 40 it is 35 days / year. The law also states that you have the right to 4 weeks’ (20 working days) continuous holiday during the summer, but again, that’s the legal minimum and in my line of work and my age bracket, a six-week holiday is definitely not seen as odd. In academia, where I work, the summer is generally when we have time for research, so “holiday” is a relative term!

          This is a simplification, obviously. Emergency and hospital workers, for instance, can be ordered to take shorter summer holidays. And there are all kinds of other complexities as well. So take what I say with a grain of salt!

          1. borealis*

            uh, that was me, and I have no idea where the user name “bonadea” came from. It’s not one I have ever used!

            1. amoeba*

              Hah, interesting! Yeah, 30+ days are pretty common in Germany as well, but I believe almost nobody goes for more than 3 weeks at once – the norm is much more to have multiple shorter vacations, so like 2-3 weeks in the summer, plus an additional week or two in spring/winter, plus a few days here and there…

              1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

                I’m in Germany. We had 32 days vacation at FinalJob and a 4 week summer vacation would not be unusual.

                In fact a few folk liked to take 6-7 weeks winter holiday, taking 3 weeks each from the old and new years allocation plus the public holidays

    5. Artemesia*

      If it is FMLA leave then there is supposed to be no contact, perhaps that is it. If it is a vacation then the boss should have texted her news of his leaving and the OP’s appointment. The meeting would terrify me. I am gone for over a month and they want a private meeting before I return. I am obviously being fired. What else would she think?

      1. doreen*

        Even with FMLA leave some contact is allowed. There’s a line where it becomes work but a simple text saying that X has left the company and Y is taking over the position is not on the wrong side of that line. It doesn’t even require an answer.

      2. Snow Globe*

        Even with FMLA, you can contact the employee briefly, for something like “what’s the password for the Geller file?” They can surely send a text to let the person know that their manager is leaving.

      3. ferrina*

        I got contacted during parental leave so I could be notified that my boss was leaving and a new boss was taking over. It was a short convo, I wasn’t asked to do work, and it let me know what I would be coming back to.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          That’s the biggest thing here, IMO. You want the person to know what they’re coming back to, so that on Day 1 post-vacation they don’t waltz in and try to find the director, only to then realize that the director is Gone! And Someone Else is now the director! And now they have to process all the new information immediately because they’re back at work, instead of having some of their away time to sit with the news and be ready to come back to the difference.

    6. coffee*

      In my workplace, it’s usual to send a text on the Friday before the worker comes back along the lines of “Hi [name], welcome back, hope you had a great vacation. We look forward to seeing you on Monday. While you were away, Director resigned, so I’m Acting Director for [time period]. I’ll fill you in with more detail on Monday. Thanks, [name].” Or something along those lines.

      Alternatively, an email sent to their work inbox late Friday/early Monday letting them know about the change as soon as they come in, so they don’t feel blindsided by it.

      1. londonedit*

        I wouldn’t say it’s the norm where I work, but my boss has absolutely sent me a text on the last Friday of a holiday saying ‘Hey, just wanted to let you know so it’s not a shock on Monday morning – Jane has resigned, so for the moment Bill is taking over the department until they can hire Jane’s replacement’. I’m sure there are people who wouldn’t want to know until they got back, but personally I’d prefer to get a heads-up like that, just so I wasn’t blindsided first thing on Monday morning when I’m trying to catch up after a week or two weeks off.

      2. Be Gneiss*

        I feel like this would be totally okay in my workplace as well. The whole meeing-for-coffee thing gave me instant second-hand anxiety, as I imagined getting a text that said something like “Let’s meet for coffee instead of in the office so I can fill you in on some changes.” Instantly I assume I’m coming back from vacation to get fired, and all those good and restful vacation vibes immediately evaporate.

    7. Emmy Noether*

      Five weeks seems like a time span where I wouldn’t necessarily *expect* things to change, but I also wouldn’t be surprised.

      When I was out on parental leave for 8 months, I came back and it seemed like nothing had changed. Then it turned out that there had been a person hired, worked a while (and sat at my desk!), then resigned… Found out when someone said “oh, you never met Mona, did you?” and I was like “who?”.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        We had a temp hired, annoyed everyone, and was fired in the 3 1/2 weeks my officemate was stuck in India for her visa processing. She came back and we were all talking about his disastrous tenure, and she was like “wait, who is Ted??”.

    8. el l*

      I think OP meant well in not telling her colleague, but – should’ve told within a day or so. Easy to forget at work, but fundamentally you can’t control someone’s reaction to big news. Carefully controlling the circumstances and timing may send its own message to colleague, and it may not be one that reflects well on OP.

      But what’s done is done. Call her now, at least give her the weekend to process it – or if all else fails just have her come in and tell her first thing.

    9. Prof*

      we literally constantly talk here about NOT contacting people on vacation so….this isn’t an emergency and there’s nothing to be done by anyone. Emailing her right before….well, if I’m out, I’m not checking my email until I’m back on the clock. I’m in a contract position actually, and the moment my contract ends my away message goes up (ok, I do check occasionally to delete the insane pileup of irrelevant stuff, but I explicitly answer nothing).

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        I got back from my wedding and honeymoon (almost 4 weeks off) to be greeted with “have you been watching your email? No? I’m your new boss” – When I left, I knew two colleagues on my team were finishing up their notice. While I was gone, oldBoss decided he would rather be a tier 3 (one of the empty jobs) and someone from a different team moved over to be newBoss. It was certainly a surprise, but it wasn’t some kind of catastrophic news and I didn’t feel like someone should have kept me up to speed. I was on vacation. Stuff happens.

    10. I'm just here for the cats!*

      But the employee is not surprised. We don’t know anything yet. The OP is just assuming they are going to be anxious when they learn about the boss’s departure.

    11. prof*

      Agreed, I don’t see why this can’t be communicated in an email. Coworker can choose when to check email, but mostly will start checking at the end of vacation whenever they want/are ready to start mentally getting back into work mode. I’m all for not bugging people on vacation, but I imagine most people are starting to think about returning to work at the end of the time off! Seems weird to wait until they walk in on Monday morning.

    12. Turquoisecow*

      If it’s as important a role as Director there might be a company-wide announcement of a new one being hired, or the outgoing boss could send a “it’s been great working with you all, keep in touch,” type email to the entire team. If the coworker isn’t checking emails they wouldn’t see it. Since OP seems worried about how they react I could see texting them “FYI today is boss’s last day,” or “Boss gave his notice! Will be leaving on (date)” or something like that. I don’t think it warrants a phone call.

    13. Ama*

      Yeah I was on a two week vacation once when my employer laid off a few people and my boss texted me to let me know because she didn’t want me to come back and be surprised. (I do think to a certain extent she wanted to control the messaging by telling me before I could find out through gossip — she knew I was good friends with the person who reported to the most senior person laid off). I have pretty strong work-life boundaries but I did appreciate the heads up.

    14. Garblesnark*

      I will say that we don’t actually know that the EE is surprised or being unreasonable about this; LW is trying to preempt what they think will happen when the EE returns, which may or may not actually happen.

    15. Office Lobster DJ*

      I agree with the advice that sending a quick text or email on the last day of the vacation would be nice without getting into Feelings Managing territory.

      If LW wants to go an extra mile, they could check with the departing boss whether they can provide some preferred contact info to the employee. The employee would probably appreciate a chance to send well wishes, ask to be a reference in the future, or otherwise just kind of close things out.

    16. Ariaflame*

      Depending on where you are, and possibly what the message is, it might be illegal. Though that may be more for communications that obviously expect a response immediately.

    17. Yeep*

      I had to do this when I left my last job. My direct report went on a 3 week vacation and got COVID while they were there so was gone another two weeks. I told them when they called to tell me they were sick, which was fun and awkward.

    18. MsClaw*

      I agree. I think part of the reason this feels so freighted is exactly because they waited until her first day back to say something, as opposed to having sent a text/email shortly after the events or on the last Friday of her time off.

      So it’s been snowballing for the LW when it’s probably not that big a deal in the great scheme of things.

  8. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

    #4: This made me think of a sitcom from the ‘90s called ‘Working’ that took place in an office. One of the characters was a young woman who was so enthusiastic about the company that she had a registry at the company store. Made me chuckle.

  9. Twix*

    LW1, major gamer here. I know exactly the sort of systems you’re talking. Yeah, it’s not impossible to do something like that professionally, but unless you’re actually doing that it very much does not belong on a resume. People who aren’t gamers will not know what he’s talking about and will find it weird and irrelevant. People who are gamers will know what he’s talking about and will still find it weird and irrelevant.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      Not just weird and irrelevant, but actively might hurt his chances. I’d rank “professional gold farmer” up there with writing spammy listicles or cold-call telemarketing for a living, personally – yes, you get money from it, but you’re actively making the world worse for other people in the process.

      1. Twix*

        I agree with that, but “professional gold farmer” is not the only way to make money off games these days. Obviously I don’t know what game(s) we’re talking about here, but there are plenty of competitive games where it’s expressly allowed for exchange items in real-money transactions and a skilled player/team can make a decent amount of money winning prizes and selling them. But you certainly run the risk of someone jumping to “gold farmer” or “con artist” even if that wasn’t actually the case.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      I don’t know about irrelevant. Selling in-game items for real money is usually forbidden by the games terms of service. So here we have someone who is openly saying that they are willing to break the rules for their own gain.

      That’s rarely a good look for a potential employee.

      1. Twix*

        Often, but not always. There are plenty of games where it’s expressly allowed, so I was taking LW at their word that it was legal. If not then obviously it’s an even worse idea. But it is true that people who aren’t familiar with a particular game might assume that’s what was going on even if it wasn’t.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Something can be completely legal and against the terms of service, though – violating the policy gets you kicked off the platform, but not arrested.

          1. allathian*

            Depends on the security system of the game. I honestly don’t understand how you could sell game items for real money in a game that doesn’t explicitly allow it without some illegal hacking, which would get you arrested.

            1. Roland*

              You just accept real money on some 3rd party site, them gift the item in the game. Gifting is usually allowed. Nothing complicated.

            2. Chas*

              I’ve played games where people did these trades, but never did any trading myself, so take this all with a grain of salt. But a lot of games have systems available for trading in-game items with other players, so it’s more likely that people arrange out-of-game to have their characters meet up in an obscure in-game location and trade valuable items for a cheap item, then have the money sent by Paypal or Venmo or whatever. And selling an account would just be a case of giving the buyer the passwords/security question answers once they’d sent the money.

              Of course, there’s risks to both people in this kind of transaction (what if you trade the item and they don’t pay, or you pay for an account and then the seller calls customer support and gets their passwords changed back, etc…?) but it doesn’t necessarily require hacking the game. And even in cases where hacking or modding the game is involved (like using computer scripts to automatically harvest resources to sell in an MMORPG) it just results in the offending players getting banned rather than any legal action.

            3. Twix*

              Yeah, process-wise it’s not complicated at all. Lots of games have trading systems that are intended to be used for in-game trading. For an RMT transaction, you just agree on a different platform to exchange real money for items, the buyer sends the money, and then the seller trades them the items for nothing or a nominal amount in return. It can be tricky to police because people also use these systems in the same way for valid reasons (e.g. “My friend just started playing and I’m going to give them some stuff for free to get started” or “My clan member needs a particular item and I have extras, so I’ll just give them one”.)

          2. Twix*

            True. ToS violations are legally a breach on contract, not a crime or tort. I was assuming by “legal” LW meant “allowed”, since that’s not a distinction I’d expect most non-gamers to appreciate, but that is a valid point.

        2. Bilateralrope*

          I can’t think of any games where selling items for cash is illegal on its own. Just games where it breaks the terms of service. So, if caught, the worst that could happen is the company running the game banning the players involved from ever playing again.

          That’s why the term “grey market” is often used. The trade itself is legal, but not without consequences if the participants are caught.

          Also, there are games where such trades are allowed. But I’ll note that the LW said legal, not allowed. That distinction would matter to me if I was having to decide if I wanted to employ that applicant.

          1. Twix*

            True, ToS violations are legally a breach of contract. I assumed by “legal” LW meant “allowed”, since the distinction between the two is not something most non-gamers would appreciate, but that’s a valid point.

            It is worth noting though that the legal landscape is a lot more complicated than it used to be as gambling laws have evolved to cover MMOs and e-sports. There have been cases (most notably with CS:GO) where certain kinds of exchanges have been ruled illegal.

  10. nnn*

    #4: In the unlikely event someone asks why you haven’t used your credit yet, you could say “I haven’t needed anything from there yet, so I’ll use it when I do.”

    Same way you would if someone gave you a gift card to Amazon and you haven’t yet had a reason to order anything from Amazon.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      The OP might also find that recognition programs give them more “company money” over time, and that they can save it up for larger purchases later. Obviously not cool if this is taking the place of a cash bonus, but some companies do have “bonus bucks”. My spouse ended up getting a nice laptop with his bonus bucks – took him a while to save them, but ended up being an essentially free computer.

      1. PotteryYarn*

        This was my thought as well. My husband’s work has a “store” (it’s more like a credit card rewards site because nothing is company branded) and he can get “points” for the store from his manager or when he gets recognized for a job well done or for work anniversaries, etc. Over time it adds up and he’s usually able to get a nice $200-$300 gift for himself every year or every other year.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          We have the same, with a lot of options. I’d assume that you’d be able to get more $$ as ‘rewards’ from coworkers (in our company we use them to recognize others for helping, or for going above and beyond for us personally, or being part of a team that puts something together outside of regular scope of duties, like volunteering to coordinate a poster session). Then the catalog has tons of items at various price points (think from grilling tools up to really nice Yeti coolers or brand name jackets), or tons of gift card choices. It’s a little extra perk.

          1. Coverage Associate*

            Yeah, this. It can be a good way to reward people for being good employees outside their core job duties. What’s the line? “No one gets promoted for serving on the party planning committee.” But a free coffee tumbler is nice.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        This is what I came here to say. My company has a similar program and it’s possible to receive more gift cards to the company store for awards, years of service, etc. If I were the OP, I’d wait to accumulate more instead of paying out of pocket.

      3. Coverage Associate*

        Same. My last employer was large for the industry and just setting this up. You were going to get points/dollars for “business good citizenship” things like participating on a committee, attending conferences and trainings, leaving and receiving recognition on the public portal for that purpose, etc.

        I could see it being a good way to reward employees while keeping cash compensation about more direct job duties. Like, it’s good for the business to have employees willing to do small, not work-related favors for coworkers and attending webinars by the health insurance and retirement plan representatives, but probably not good to have those be the focus of performance reviews.

    2. KateM*

      I am wondering about the wording here: “One of my orientation tasks was …”. If OP doesn’t order not even a sticker out of company store, wouldn’t it mean that they have failed their orientation task? Maybe it doesn’t matter, but would be wise to make sure. If they absolutely have to buy something, I’d treat that $20 credit like “let’s play shop, here is some play money to you” and buy a sticker so that I could show my task as done.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I read it as there is a set of items that is actually free (and LW is tasked with getting), PLUS the 20$ for stuff they can choose freely.

        1. Snow Globe*

          Yes – with the free stuff the employee may need to go in and select color or size. The $20 credit is something that they can choose to spend, if they see something they really want. Or, as stated above, they can save it for later. Maybe they get $20 each work anniversary, for example, so eventually they can get something nice.

        2. I'm just here for the cats!*

          Besides this take it could also be that it was on the orientation list to look at the online store. And FYI of a perk. We have similar tasks on our orientation about campus dining, and setting up a staff meal plan. You DONT HAVE TO but its something you can opt into.

    3. Mockingjay*

      My company rebranded last year. They sent us a free basic polo w/ logo (FYI, the brand they picked runs smaller than true size, so I have a shirt I can’t wear).

      Anyway, they set up an online store and good grief, is it expensive! The cheapest item is a $27.25 t-shirt. The basic polo is $37.50 for women, $33.50 for men (don’t get me started on the price difference). A ball cap with logo is $47.25.

      Anyway, OP4, do as @nnn suggests.

  11. anon_sighing*

    LW1, it sounds like selling skins (? – do I sound like an old person using the wrong language), which is legal but I think frowned on my the game makers themselves. I agree with Alison to just leave it off. It’s a side hustle, but it doesn’t take much savvy. It’s like saying “I have organized many garage sales on my lawn” in terms of accomplishment.

    LW2, I get if the service rep was very abrupt and assumed the worst. My “hot” take here is that the service rep shouldn’t have been rude about it, but honestly, if I spent all day taking verbal abuse (those lines are not peaceful all the time) and then in real life, I am sure they are misgendered/misinterpreted (people are assuming they are trans, they may be…they may also just be a cis woman who wants to be addressed as a woman) so the fuse is shorter than usual. SIL is weird to send an email — it’s not that big of a deal, but again, to be treated hostilely and as a bad person when you’re trying to be friendly without the ability to defend yourself is a terrible feeling. On both ends, no one likes being misrepresented and misinterpreted. At the end of the day, SIL would have felt better venting but I imagine she sent the email then vented. Doing things in anger is never the right thing to do…always stop and breathe. Give it a day or two.

    LW3, my first thought is this is sweet but also I do agree this is a lot of song-and-dance for something that a working adult should be able to deal with fairly easily. She was gone for 5 weeks — things are bound to change and there is a lot of catch up to do. Granted, someone leaving is a big deal but by the time she comes back, you will have been acting direction for a week or two. (Also, you have as much adjustment as her…)

    1. Katara's side braids*

      I fail to see any rudeness or evidence of a “short fuse” in the customer service rep’s response, though. People seem to be fixating on “please address me as such” as some kind of self-righteous dressing down, which feels like a huge reach to me.

      1. anon_sighing*

        That’s not all I am focusing on — the “very abrupt” part feels like what set the SIL off, as in being corrected and then put on hold without a chance to say ‘sorry’ or follow-up to the comment.

        If SIL is a generally transphobic in some way, then LW should have just said that and save us all the theorizing of “wires crossed” and “tone”-reading.

    2. David*

      I think you’re right on with “selling skins” by the way. Skins are basically anything that can customize a character’s appearance, and it’s pretty common to buy/sell/trade them.

      Or it could be other in-game items besides just skins. That doesn’t really matter though.

  12. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    LW4 “Free gifts like this always irritate me. One year everyone received a $20 gift card to a particular business that had nothing priced for less than $60. It wasn’t possible to combine cards so giving it to someone else to use was pointless. Looks good in theory but fails in practice.

    1. Double A*

      A gift like this is basically a coupon. Which is great if it’s for something you want to buy anyway, not so great if it can’t apply to anything you want.

    2. MK*

      Free stuff that is impossible to use is a way companies use to cultivate good will for nothing, but it mostly leads to aggravating the customer. I just got off the phone with an airline who gifted me a free ticket because of a delayed flight last summer. There were a lit of limitations, and when I did find an eligible flight to use it on “there were no places left for this category of dare left”, a.k.a. “you can only use it in a flight we expect to be half empty”. It is infuriating, and it made me frustrated with them needlessly; the delay wasn’t their fault, it would Gabe been better PR to give me a free coffee coupon or something, instead of trying to get brownie points for nothing.

    3. Your Mate in Oz*

      AAM has a whole series of posts in the archives about bad company gifts.

      The “free $20 off coupon” would only annoy me if it was instead of money or management expected to be thanked for the gift. Doesn’t sound like either is the case above?

      One place I worked in had a retail front end and someone who managed the retail staff bought them all expensive pens. The annoying thing was that the pens were too expensive to just leave on the counters in the shop, but not expensive enough to be worth selling (who buys a $50 pen second hand?) There was enough grumbling out the front for engineers out the back to be aware of it…

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        It’s the lack of consideration that’s irritating. You can always default with a gift card to a major chain like a grocery store. A card from a very niche business isn’t that. A food insecure person doesn’t want a spa visit when they have $20 to payday. Several times we’ve received huge flower baskets as gifts and I would rather get something I could really use.

      2. Khatul Madame*

        It may be time for another series, focused on company stores, gifts and other recognition programs.
        Our company has moved to points-based recognition. While there is a wide choice of merchandise to redeem the points and the shipping/handling is “free”, it means that it is built into the item value, so they end up grossly overpriced. For example, a common kitchen appliance is listed for $200 in points equivalent; while its regular price at stores is $130, it can be discounted even lower and usually ships for free. I feel a little better about gift cards, but those can also have fees, expiration dates and other nonsense tied to them.
        And of course, awards are taxed at the highest rate.

    4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      The company shouldn’t be tooting their horn about their marvellous “free gift”: It’s not useable as a free gift, more like a discount on certain products.
      FinalJob has a great program of discounts on a wide variety of non-grocery goods, for employees and retirees. I really appreciate the savings on sportsgear, which I buy a lot of, being a gym rat. However, they’ve never tried to pretend it’s anything other than a discount program, so we appreciate the program rather than being disappointed.

  13. Dorothy Zpornak*

    “my SIL had no way of knowing their gender other than by their voice because they were on the phone.”

    But if she wasn’t on the phone, she still wouldn’t have any way of knowing, because you can’t determine someone’s gender based on how they visually present. Either someone has told you their gender, or you don’t know.

    Personally, I always go with “they” if someone hasn’t identified their pronouns (which is rare these days, anyway), and I think sir/ma’am needs to be jettisoned at this point, regardless of where you’re from, since there’s no inclusive form — unless someone invents a gender-neutral form, which I’m all for.

    1. fluffy*

      One of the cashiers at the local Target uses “My friend” as a gender-neutral honorific, which I feel is pretty nice, if a bit parasocial.

      1. Noks*

        I think being called my friend by a bunch of random strangers would piss me off way more than being called the wrong gender (but I am a cis female so I understand gender is not as sensitive to me as it would be for a trans person). A gender at least only relates to me. ‘My friend’ starts to make assumptions to some kind of bond between me and a total stranger that is not there. I appreciate the effort being done to be inclusive, but this is surely not the solution.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          That is an odd take for something so minor. It is not assuming a bond with anyone. I’ve seen the “friends” thing being used in elemetary schools where teachers say “we don’t throw sand at friends faces” they call all students friend but the students aren’t actually real friends.

          I see it as the same way as saying buddy or dude like “hey buddy, you dropped your wallet” only its less gendered than that.

          1. Nightengale*

            I actually worry about it MORE in the school setting because it blurs children’s understanding of how friends should behave towards each other and leaves neurodivergent kids even more open to bullying. All children at school should behave in a friendly way towards each other but aren’t actually friends.

            Being called friend by a stranger or store worker, as in “you dropped your hat, friend” or “here’s your change, friend,” rings fine for me. They aren’t saying “We’re friends!” I have a non-binary friend (really is a friend!) who uses the term a lot this way, like, “friend, the insurance system does not work that way!”

      2. Frieda*

        I will sometimes call a mixed group of my students “gentle friends” which they do not seem to take in any particular way – usually I’m reminding them class has begun so it’s time to stop side conversations, or asking their group if they’ve finished discussing their assigned question, or whatever.

        1. Yeep*

          Yes, I coach a running program for children who identify as girls/non-binary and we are encouraged to use “friends,” “ya’ll,” etc.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        If someone I didn’t recognize called me “Friend”, I’d assume they went to my old Meeting House start doing the lapsed-Quaker shuffle.

          1. Ms. Murchison*

            Never been called buddy, pal, or mate. If someone did call me one of those, it would be weird, but probably depend on context. When strangers call you “friend,” it comes off like they’re trying to manufacture false intimacy, which raises all sorts of red flags.

            1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

              I disagree – when a cashier or other person with whom I’m expected a very limited and rather formulaic interaction calls me friend, I have zero inclination that they want anything from me except my attention. That is not how people make friends, so why would I read more into than a gender neutral greeting?

              1. Ms. Murchison*

                I’m not sure how else to say “it sounds creepy” in a way you’ll accept. How about this? “The way people say it IRL, not in writing, sounds weird and often patronizing in a manner that is creepy 99% of the time.”

      4. purple monkey & bubblegum tree*

        I would rather just be called nothing, ie “Have a nice day!” instead of “Have a nice day, my friend!”

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          Me too. But that may be a cultural difference; in my native German “mein Freund” (as an address) can be pretty aggressive depending on context – so I might carry that notion over to English.
          In any case it would feel a bit patronizing to me.

          1. purple monkey & bubblegum tree*

            It wouldn’t offend me, it would just make me pause a tiny bit. Not even my actual friends call me “my friend” so…

    2. Double A*

      You really default to “they” with everyone until they have stated their gender to you? So you just misgender 99% of people that you speak to until they correct you?

      We’re all going to misgender people from time to time. I think it’s fine to guess based on a person’s presentation which pronoun to use, or to ask if you’re really not sure. Humans have certain ways they communicate gender, and it’s okay to make assumptions based on those cues. Just be open to correcting yourself as needed.

      1. LDog*

        It’s pretty common in English to use they if the gender of the speaker isn’t known. It’s a jump to call this misgendering.
        Using he or she and being open and gracious when corrected seems a fine approach as well.

        1. Noks*

          yes, we just had a discussion about this in another thread. They is a term that has been used in situations where gender is either unknown or irrelevant to the discussion or transaction, and it has had this use since the 16th century at least in the English language. Using they about people is not automatically misgendering them.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I look forward to the day when “they” is *the* third person pronoun, and “he” and “she” sound quaintly archaic, like “thou” does, and like “thou” the rules about which were used are weirdly outdated. This won’t happen in my lifetime, but we are well on our way there. And while there will be a longer period of complaining, the same was true of singular “you,” most notably George Fox’s 1660 book “A Battle-Door for Teachers & Professors to Learn Singular and Plural; You to Many, and Thou to One; Singular One, Thou; Plural Many, You.” Reading it today, if you don’t go into it knowing what was the argument, the book is quite mysterious.

            1. Noks*

              Interestingly, the only reason why they works as a third gender is because it is already an existing thing grammatically. English is not my native tongue and of course in my language we have this same discussion about how to make language inclusive, but we do not have this ready to use grammatically correct option available in the language. Several suggestions have been floated by the community about how to address someone gender-neutrally, but all of them would bend a sentence in a way that is, under the codified rules, grammatically incorrect. Now, language evolves, so perhaps the solution here is that the rules must change, but the fact that you have to wilfully construct a grammatically incorrect sentence to be inclusive makes it much harder to use in casual conversation. It really does not come naturally the way it does in English. I am very interested where this might go. I hope for the community involved a good solution can be found soon.
              Languages and their evolution are fascinating.

              1. Usually Lurking*

                I have been really curious about how inclusive language works in languages that are strongly gendered grammatically. It certainly seems like it would be much more difficult than in English!

              2. Richard Hershberger*

                The key to understanding the development of the English personal pronoun system is that it only subtracts, never adds pronouns to the mix. English of a thousand years ago had a vastly more complicated pronoun system than it does today. When a form drops out, one of the other existing forms expands its usage. Thou/thee/thine was the most recent to drop out (from Standard English–some dialects retain it), and is the only one likely to be familiar to a modern English-speaker, as it lasted long enough to make it into Shakespeare and the King James Bible. It also, conveniently, is closely analogous to the singular they/them/their.

                This is why I am confident that singular they/them/their will prevail. It both serves a useful purpose and fits well with how English works. This also is why I am confident that none of the myriad novel proposals will catch on. If one of those proposed pronouns were to catch on, it would be the first time in the history of English.

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  Except that new ones do enter. When the folk of a certain area started feeling the need to differentiate between singular and plural second person again, now that thou was gone and you was covering both, they developed “ya’ll”, which quickly changed from an abbreviation of a two word phrase into a pronoun of its own, meaning the plural against the singular you. When, in the course of language, the plural “ya’ll” started to be used in singular vernacular as well, then a new plural form was developed, which is “all ya’ll”.

              3. Yorick*

                English does have a grammatically correct gender neutral singular third person option – “it” – but its historical usage toward people is rude and hateful, so it’s not an accepted way to refer to people. If nobody had ever called someone “it” in a bad way, I think we’d probably use it for people instead of “they” with no problem.

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  I’d say it’s a bit more than just historically rude; “it” is only used for objects, animals and sometimes (for some reason) babies. So its usage is literally dehumanizing.

                2. Silver Robin*

                  +1 to MigraineMonth. “It” is insulting because it is dehumanizing; it is for *inanimate* nouns, aka those without anima, a soul. Obviously there are exceptions – tiny infants, and, depending on your spirituality, animals – but to apply it to any human past infancy is quite literally dehumanizing.

                  I know some folks who have played around with using “it” as their pronoun (one was a college classmate 8ish years ago who was absolutely doing it provocatively and others are more recent friends who mean it quite sincerely). I have yet to meet someone who uses “it” exclusively so I usually end up using the other offered pronouns (usually they) because of how deeply dehumanizing it feels to call a person “it”. Were I to meet somebody who goes exclusively by “it” I would get myself over it, but I am not sure I want to cross that bridge quite yet.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          There’s a substantial difference in using “they” for “the doctor” when you don’t know anything other than job title, and “they” for the person standing in front of you, who presents as traditionally female, and has a traditionally feminine name, but by gosh has not explicitly stated any pronouns for you.

          1. triss merigold*

            Yeah, I’d like a world where we didn’t have to make assumptions, but the options aren’t possibly misgendering someone vs. safely using a gender neutral pronoun, they’re possibly misgendering someone vs. making someone mad at you for NOT assuming their gender. Obviously, it’s one thing to default to they or a gender neutral honorific in, say, Portland or your DND discord, and entirely another to do that at your Red Lobster job in rural Mississippi.

            I like the brave new world! But not everyone is ready for it, and not everyone wants to risk a confrontation because you offended someone by implying they’re not performing gender enough–even though that wasn’t your intention at all. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality of many situations.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              In sci fi this has been dealt with by having the equivalent of an email signature that people can check on their personal internet interfaces, or having earring styles that everyone is very strict about following, or in other ways. There is something you can quickly, discreetly, usually visually check that tells you the pronouns to use.

              We are not living in any of those sci fi worlds.

              (Perhaps worth noting that stating verbally “My name is Alex Carpenter, my pronouns are they/them” and then no one ever forgets is actually not one of the models I’ve seen working fluidly in fiction. Fiction that has solved this problem uses something that is immediately visible and easy to unobtrusively check.)

          2. I'm just here for the cats!*

            No it’s not.

            I have an example. A childhood classmate of mine was named Kirby (like the baseball player). At one point growing up she had short hair and was what people called a tom boy. She was a girl, is not trans, but often got put into boys groups based on her name and looks.
            Also, given that a lot of clothing is pretty gender neutral (jeans and t-shirts look the same) or given that a lot of customer service uniforms are very masculine looking (hello police uniforms, hello polo shirts and khakis!) you cannot tell, especially in a work setting if someone is male or female just based on their looks, what clothes they wear, their name or how they look.

            This is a dark road to go down. This is what leads to people yelling at a (cis)woman who just wants to use the bathroom because she doesn’t “look” enough like a woman. Or a cis woman who was arrested put in lock up with men because she took estrogen because she had a full hysterotomy and needed HRT and the officers figured she was trans.

          3. vulturestalker*

            You know, I agreed with this for a long time! But then I moved into a social circle with more queer and trans people (I’m a cis woman) and I was surprised at how matter-of-fact and easy it became to either say “they” or briefly ask “what are your pronouns? she? ok cool” and then proceed with the sentence/question/whatever.

            It’s absolutely true that this isn’t universal. But I was happy to realize how natural it felt after just a little bit of practice. Explicitly asking is a really nice demonstration to the interlocutor that you respect them and are prepared to use whichever pronouns they want you to, just as a matter of course.

            1. Emily Byrd Starr*

              But the problem with asking for pronouns is that some people aren’t ready to come out of the closet yet; so they have to either give the pronoun they were assigned at birth, which would be lying; or come out when they aren’t ready to.
              I’ve been places where the leader said, “We’re going to introduce ourselves. Please give your name, your pronouns if you feel comfortable doing so, and where you’re from.”

              1. Butterfly Counter*

                Yes. This can get dicey, but that’s where we are culturally at the moment.

                I have a student who presents more masculine than feminine, has a name change from very feminine to masculine (I know because students can have whatever name they want show up in my grade book/roll, but it still not be changed on some official records that I have access to), and who probably identifies as either non-binary or as a man. I don’t want to put pressure on this student by asking for pronouns or making any assumptions, so I just address my student by name, which is easy enough. I do have to do some linguistic gymnastics (as in this comment), but I really want to make sure I’m respectful of this student, so it’s not really too much work.

      2. aqua*

        This is extremely common in my social circles and people would find it rude and bizarre to guess rather than defaulting to “they” until told otherwise.

        1. amoeba*

          Huh, I guess we really do live in very different bubbles! In mine, most people are very clear in their gender presentation by everything from name to clothes to hair and make-up. I mean, I’m very much all for moving away from the binary, but yeah, people would probably be very confused if I started asking everybody for their preferred pronouns…

          1. Lilac*

            I’m non binary but still prefer to present as feminine because I hate the assumption that there’s only a single “true” goal of androgyny or veering towards masculinity. This was after I’d tried to achieve the above but just felt like I couldn’t recognise myself in the mirror or feel comfortable in my own skin. I felt more dysphoria trying to fit into someone’s conceptualisation of “non-binary” rather than exploring what it meant for myself. So please, please ask people their pronouns instead of assuming.

            1. metadata minion*

              Solidarity fistbump! And I still got she’d when wearing men’s clothing and a buzzcut, so it didn’t even work for social signalling. Dang curvy hips…

          1. Noks*

            Considering ‘they’ is in this usage is a replacement for the third person singular he/she, you will never be addressed as a they, cause that is definitely not how language works in any situation. There is no gendering of ‘you’ in the English language, so you are quite safe from this imaginary rudeness.

            1. WellRed*

              Thank you. I was getting very confused by the supposed concept of addressing someone to their face as they.

              1. doreen*

                I’m always confused about this whole concept. I can understand someone wanting the correct pronouns used – but what I don’t understand is how I will know which pronouns someone uses to refer to me. Nobody is going to use “she” “her”, “hers” when speaking directly to me. They are going to use them when speaking about me. Even if they are speaking about me to a group that includes me , it will usually be ” Doreen, you are going to park your car under the tree” not ” Doreen is going to park her car under the tree”.

                1. Hlao-roo*

                  It does happen occasionally. The scenarios I can think of off the top of my head are:

                  – A work meeting with multiple people, where someone might say “Mark and I were talking about this problem earlier and he suggested XYZ as a potential solution.” Mark is in the meeting and hear that the speaker uses he/him/his pronouns for him.

                  – A work meeting with multiple people where someone is being spoken over, so another person says “hey, Alice was talking, let’s listen to her ideas” and now Alice knows the speaker uses she/her/hers pronouns for her.

                  – Two people discussing a work problem in an open office. One of them says “hey, I think Casey worked on something similar in the past. Let’s ask them for their input.” If Casey sits close enough to where the two were originally talking, they might have overheard the conversation and now know that the speaker uses they/them/their pronouns for them.

                  Definitely not as common as names and you/your pronouns but it does happen sometimes.

                2. metadata minion*

                  Depending on the situation, it can come up a lot. It gets on my nerves most often in medical situations — I don’t generally insist on they/them pronouns at appointments because it bothers me less if people assume I’m a woman than if I’ve told them I’m not and they ignore me — because it’s one person after another going SHE has X condition and these are HER readings and did you take HER vitals yet. And I don’t want to have an awkward conversation with all 27 assorted medical staff involved in the procedure.

                3. Jackalope*

                  I mean, I use third-person pronouns all the time when I’m a group with the person that I’m referring to, and I don’t think it’s that strange. “We had the funniest thing happen on the way here; Maria was waiting for me to pick her up when SHE got a phone call…” “I think Andrew was saying that HE wanted to be in the blue group; is that right, Andrew?” Etc. These are perhaps a bit stilted because it’s early and I can’t think of the best examples, but it’s not that odd to regularly have sentences with third person pronouns (emphasized above) even when the person is there.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                The one time I misgendered someone, I was speaking to my cat about the catsitter. Catsitter corrected me. Cat was firm that I would use the correct pronouns for the person providing food. It did revise my view on whether you ever refer to someone in the third person in front of them.

                It would be pretty common, for example, for the vet front desk person to tell the vet tech that “she” (meaning me) is waiting for the dewormer.

            2. Yorick*

              We do often use “he,” “she,” or “they” to discuss people in the room and even in the conversation with us. Not when speaking to them directly (“you”) but when saying something about them to another person (telling a story, giving instructions, etc.).

          2. MigraineMonth*

            Would you find it bizarre to be referred to as “they” in cases where you hadn’t actually been introduced, though? Often the defaulting to “they” is almost automatic linguistically when referring to someone by their role.

            For example, something like, “Ginger, could you remember to get the customer their Diet Coke?”

            If you have been introduced to each other, there’s an opportunity to exchange pronouns or to just use names (which is awkward but grammatically valid): “Ginger, could you remember to get Alex Alex’s Diet Coke?”

            1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

              In that particular example, “a diet Coke” would be natural, as it arguably becomes Alex’s upon serving, but I see what you mean – replace it with “laptop” or “ID card” and the “a” would not work any more.

      3. allathian*

        Yeah, this. I’m still going to go about life assuming people’s gender by their appearance and accepting any corrections with good grace and a smile, and by defaulting to “they” in situations where the person looks so androgynous that guessing would be pointless.

        Personally I would be seriously offended if someone misgendered me by referring to me as “they” or the Swedish equivalent, “hen.” Even if I don’t look particularly feminine, I *certainly* don’t look masculine, and I’m no enby, either. My gender is a central part of my identity, possibly the most unchangeable part, and won’t be relegated to “gender unknown or irrelevant to the discussion.” If that makes me transphobic, I can honestly live with that, even if I believe that my other actions and thoughts prove that I’m open to the idea of more than two genders and that gender dysphoria is often a life-threatening condition that can only be treated by whatever amount of medical treatment the person concerned deems necessary.

        I have to admit that I have serious trouble understanding people who state that they don’t identify with any gender or find gender completely irrelevant to who they are as individuals, but that is totally a me-problem. I may be confused, but I don’t have to understand this to treat such people with as much dignity and respect as I do everyone else, at least as long as they can accept that my gender is a central part of my identity that needs to be acknowledged for me to feel respected.

        In Finnish pronouns wouldn’t be an issue because we only have the gender neutral pronoun “hän.”

        Granted, it has to be said that in my social circles, binary gender is still very much the norm. I have an AFAB cousin who identified as lesbian in her early teens and started wearing masculine clothes and using they/them/hen pronouns in their late teens while continuing to date women.

        My husband has an AFAB cousin (or rather child of a cousin) who legally changed their name to a gender neutral one as soon as they hit 18. My FIL and their grandfather are brothers, but it both saddens and upsets me that several years after their transition, the paternal grandmother still keeps deadnaming them, at least in her messages to my MIL. It twists my heart every time. I want to be a good ally to my husband’s cousin, but I only see them at larger family parties where my MIL and their grandma are also present, and I have no idea what I should do. All I can really do is use their real name when I talk to them. We speak Finnish, so the pronouns don’t come up and I’m using they/them here for convenience. I’m not really close enough to them to ask what their correct pronouns are in English. I’ve tried to talk to my MIL about it, but she agrees with the grandma in that both of them have used (deadname) for so long (20 years) and they don’t see any need to change that. As long as the person directly concerned is willing to remain in contact with the old-timers under these conditions, I don’t think there’s anything else I can do.

        1. Huttj*

          I’m honestly confused by this statement.

          The times you’d be referred to as ‘they’ would be like: “Did you see allathian’s post? I’m not sure what sort of conversation they were thinking about that would feel so awkward. Do you know what they were getting at?”

          This is a statement that’s completely normal conversational English.

          1. Huttj*

            Adding that nothing in your post indicated your preferred gender, so you are literally ‘gender unknown’ in terns of this text conversation.

            1. Yorick*

              “Even if I don’t look particularly feminine, I *certainly* don’t look masculine, and I’m no enby, either.”

          2. Yorick*

            allathian obviously meant in person, where her gender would be obvious from looking at her. Yes, for the vast majority of people, you can ascertain gender from appearance. Even for trans people – if I see someone I might suspect is AMAB but has feminine hair, makeup, clothes, etc. I’m going to assume the preferred pronoun is “she” and be right most of the time

        2. Lenora Rose*

          I believe the assumption is that you can use the visual social cues at least 9 times out of 10 and be correct – the issue is, as well as visually ambiguous cases, you do get non-binary people who present gendered on a given day or given situation, so you need to be one of: open to being corrected when you guess wrong, OR(/and) open to everyone being treated as gender neutral until indicated otherwise.

          Even among cis people, different people feel different levels of attachment to their gender. I have met cis women who are not so much attached to their gender as okay with it and accustomed to it . (One described herself as liking her body parts but mostly thinking that for her, any other gender presentation was too much hassle).

          By contrast I, and it sounds like, you, are pretty strongly attached to the fact that we’re female, and in my case, to my pronouns being she/her; I am also inclined by my fashion choices, hair, voice, and body type all to be correctly gendered.

          However, the discomfort I would feel if we were in a world where addressing everyone as they until indicated otherwise was the norm, is a drop in the bucket compared to the actual misgendering, and is also an opportunity to be empathetic to the people for whom their gender isn’t as easily and naturally applied to them NOW.

          So no, I don’t think being strongly cis and feeling your pronouns should be respected is transphobic in any way — as long as you don’t try to assume all other currently female presenting people feel exact the same way.

      4. I'm just here for the cats!*

        the singular use of they has been used for over 600 years! It is nothing new and it is not misgendering anyone, because it is gender neutral. non binary people use they because it is gender neutral, but it’s not that if the person is nonbinary and you call them they that it is wrong or harmful

      5. Ms. Murchison*

        Using “they” isn’t misgendering people who use a gendered pronoun. I’m Gen X and have used it my entire life when I didn’t know the gender of the person in question. It’s proper English.

  14. fluffy*

    LW4, another thing you could consider is casually mentioning how weird it seems to one of your coworkers. Maybe they’ll know a little workaround to it, or at least agree with the weirdness.

    1. Fluffy Initiative*

      I think this is the best approach – your coworker might also have some context that you don’t have, like “Oh, yeah, that was *a thing* last summer, there was nothing under $80 in the store so they finally added some $5 stickers and won’t be doing anything else,” or “that’s weird that you only $20, we’re supposed to get a $100 credit towards company store swag – you should reach out to Marketing.”

    2. katydid*

      This makes sense to me too. If you find out that everyone buys one company polo to wear for photos or events and just uses the $20 as a discount so they have one, you don’t want to be out of the loop on that.

  15. spacecowgirl*

    This is something that troubles me a little bit. For background, I spent 8 years as a manager and now am I graduate student whose often recruits undergraduates to work on my research.

    Given my industries and age, both this student and the World of Warcraft letter writer from 2017 would have been wise to tastefully add these items to their resume under freelancing and volunteer work respectively. Both tasks required transferrable skills that I want in candidates. Frankly, I am dismayed that many professionals would pass over resumes with such content because of stereotypes they associate with gamer culture. I am thrilled to recruit PC gamers given the amount of problem solving and critical thinking that goes into playing those games and sometimes just getting them to run. Many of these recruits can independently learn new software without extensive explicit training, function well with remote teams, and tolerate monotonous work. All of these qualities make effective research assistants and transfer to other industries. I implore you – don’t dismiss candidates with listed gaming experience as being immature or lacking judgement. If they can explain how their skills are transferrable, let them do so without judgement. Making a living selling digital gaming items requires many patient hours of work, knowledge of platforms to safely transfer those objects, and background knowledge to figure out how to make the time investment lucrative. That’s the kind of student I know could stick with a project.

    1. nodramalama*

      I don’t think the issue is that its gaming, its that being good at videogames isn’t really a measurable thing to put in a CV. If they had competed and won an overcooked tournaments in an esports league that would make sense to put on a CV. But putting experience as playing video games is like putting in my CV that i have experience knitting multiple jumpers. Even though knitting is difficult and requires good counting, concertation, following patterns and spatial reasoning skills, its still more of a fun fact but its hard to see how that translates to relevant work experience.

      1. allathian*

        Spacecowgirl explained in quite some detail the transferable skills that PC gaming can teach you and how those skills appy to her field. The problem isn’t the gaming, it’s how to explain the skills you learned while gaming. Perhaps it’d be better to explain that in a cover letter rather than the resume.

        1. nodramalama*

          Yes, many hobbies have transferrable skills to their jobs. It doesn’t mean they constitute professional experience. I am excellent at escape rooms. A lot of those skills are transferable to my job. It doesn’t mean “being good at escape rooms” is relevant experience to include on a CV

          1. allathian*

            I’m not saying it’s relevant experience to include on a CV, but in some cases it might be possible to use it as an example where you used those skills, at least if you have no other relevant experience. In your case, you do, so there’s no need to include the escape room stuff.

        2. MsM*

          Unfortunately, in my experience, being willing to grind for XP or learn how to navigate frustrating issues in a game where the reward for persevering is clearly delineated doesn’t necessarily transfer to being willing to do those things in a work setting where those tasks are just part of the job and there’s no direct reward.

    2. Observer*

      both this student and the World of Warcraft letter writer from 2017 would have been wise to tastefully add these items to their resume under freelancing and volunteer work respectively.

      That’s an incredibly irresponsible piece of advice, given that you yourself admit that “ I am dismayed that many professionals would pass over resumes with such content.” You are far more the outlier – even here, where one would expect to see much more acceptance your take is an outlier – and you know it. Why then would you say that it would be “wise” to put something on their resume that you know is going to trigger negativity?

      1. Birdie*

        Well spacecowgirl didn’t say it would be wise for the op’s son to put the experience on his resume. They said that it would have been wise for the op’s son to put it on their resume if they were applying to a job that spacecowgirl was hiring for.
        It wasn’t general advice, it was a comment on how spacecowgirl is able to see how this sort of gaming experience is applicable.

      2. Hendry*

        One reason is that when your relevant work experience is thin, you’ve got to fill that page with something. I wouldn’t put the gaming as a job, but I could see listing it in a “skills” or hobby section or whatever. People put that they were the captain of their HS baseball team and it has no effect on their resume – why is this so different?

        1. doreen*

          It’s not that different – it shouldn’t be listed as work, just as being the captain of or a member of the baseball team shouldn’t be . And while it may be beneficial with some interviewers to list it as a hobby or in a skills section , it’s going to turn a lot of them off. I could really wonder why someone put that they were captain of a HS team on their resume, since in my experience what that usually means is they won a popularity contest. My experience is not universal but it’s also not unique.

          1. Hendry*

            I can see people being neutral or indifferent but why would it be a turnoff? Again we’re talking about a college kid looking for a summer job.

            I’m not saying put it on the resume but the negative reaction is surprising

            1. doreen*

              Because being captain of the HS baseball team isn’t relevant to any job and the fact that someone though it was relevant to go on a resume makes that person look kind of clueless in comparison to another college student with no experience who didn’t list an activity as if it was relevant.

              1. Hendry*

                I guess it comes down to who is doing the resume evaluation. Personally, whether a student knows what is or isn’t relevant to put on a resume seems like a minor thing to judge them on.

                Lots of people throughout the years have put skills or hobbies that aren’t exactly relevant to the working world – Eagle scout, student organization leader, that sort of thing.

              2. Polly Hedron*

                being captain of the HS baseball team isn’t relevant to any job

                It might be relevant to being a baseball coach.

          2. sparkle emoji*

            I was a captain for the color guard at my high school and had to teach new members, help organize parades, resolve conflicts, etc. I was accountable to our coach and the band director. The selection process was focused on my teaching skills, not my popularity. The external expectations are relevant here.

        2. a clockwork lemon*

          I was in leadership positions in my sorority, and those were on my resume under a volunteer/other experience section until I was out of college. I did statistical calculations, ran meetings according to specific governance procedures, oversaw the recruitment voting process (including handling “sensitive” potential member information and making sure my sisters were evaluating prospective members in accordance with our diversity and inclusion criteria) and was being held accountable for my “work” by a national oversight body of paid, full-time employees. I also represented our chapter at a national leadership conventions hosted by large organizations.

          Aside from the formalization of the activity I was doing, the oversight is a key piece in my opinion. I wasn’t just doing something on my own time for fun, the volunteer work I was doing was closely supervised and validated by paid staff members who had been sent to our college campus by a well-established nonprofit organization. I had actual humans looking at what I was doing who could use as references for my work. It’s just not comparable to making a few thousand dollars on a side-hustle in the silo of your own personal space.

          1. Hendry*

            The sorority work sounds more like an actual job that should clearly go on a resume.

            For this letter, it’s a college student with little or no experience looking to fill up a resume – i think putting something like gaming in a hobby or skills section is ok in this instance.

            1. a clockwork lemon*

              I think this was a nesting fail–the person I was replying to made a comparison to being the captain of a sports team (another “frivolous” extracurricular role where students are participating in school-sponsored/recognized programs with paid staff in accountability or oversight roles). My point was more to highlight that the distinction in these cases has to do with not just the work but also the way the work is structured and supervised.

    3. Double A*

      As a teacher I find that a lot of the most dedicated gamers lack persistence when the problem solving isn’t highly immediately rewarding, which most of life is not. I have not observed video games building transferable skills in young people and in fact find the most ardent gamers seem to have lack patience, persistence, and the ability to solve open-ended problems in the real world.

      When people game as a healthy balance with real world activities, then I think it’s a more neutral or even positive thing. But I have seen so many teenage boys especially who have no interests and no skills outside of gaming and it’s really sad. I would not hire them for any job.

      1. Missa Brevis*

        I think you’ve hit on an interesting point here! The games that tend to attract/create the sort of fanbases that are, as you say, ‘the most ardent gamers’ – they have those kinds of gamers as players because those are the games that I think are the most designed to absorb the maximum amount of time and invite players to construct their identity around that game. MMOs and PvP shooters are the worst about this, and even worse because they’re also the games that tend to have the highest ongoing costs in things like season passes and subscription fees, as opposed to a game that you buy once and then own (for as long as your platform has backward compatibility, but that’s a different can of worms). And so, of course, those games are also going to have the least inclination to include the kind of game design that does build patience, persistence, or problem-solving, because they want the frustration level to remain low to avoid turning off any of their perpetually paying customers.

        So while I, as someone who does play video games in what I think is a healthy balance with other interests and activities, feel a knee-jerk urge to defend a medium that I like and enjoy, I will concede that many of the most successful and popular games in the medium are the ones with the least redeeming value. It feels kind of like a betrayal to say, because there are games that I feel have strengthened my mental muscles, as it were, (Return of the Obra Dinn is one big lavishly illustrated logic puzzle, for crying out loud) but it would be hopelessly naive to claim that those are indicative of the whole genre and not exceptions that prove the rule.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        The ability to solve open-ended problems in the real world.
        The distinction between being good at solving a problem on a worksheet, where you know the teacher has given you all the relevant data, and the problem is solvable. Versus being the IT person trying to solve the printer problem.

      3. Cat Herder*

        I find this really interesting, because I used to be a manager in engineering (i’m an IC now, by choice), and I often found that gamers made great employees, especially modders and esports/semi-pros that made up a big percentage of our team.

        Modders tended to have a “hacker mindset” that made them a lot more resourceful and efficient in their day jobs, and also had a lot of experience with customer service and support by supporting the mods they’ve developed. Competitive gamers tended to be more confident, were very good at training juniors, and had a growth mindset, which are all skills that engineers tend to struggle with. Both of those populations also tended to have a passion for comprehensive and accessible documentation.

        The only problem we tended to have was that during tournament seasons or big expansion releases for MMOs, most of the team would suddenly be requesting PTO. But this could also be age related, the team was slightly on the older end, so everyone was very used to balancing their hobbies with their other priorities already.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          I think the only thing those have in common with grinding and selling are that they involve gaming and gamers.

          Modding also involves learning at least basic coding, sometimes fully elaborate coding, and doing extensive testing and problem solving even for a pretty basic mod.

          Playing at a tournament level often involves fine tuning skills, training themselves and peers, and the like. The level of detail and precision and knowledge of every detail in a game necessary to do a tournament are absolutely stunning to those of us who are casual gamers.

          Both of these are demonstrably different from what this kid was described as doing.

          1. Cat Herder*

            I was responding more to the commenter’s notion that they wouldn’t hire a gamer than the LW situation, and I’d agree that just gold farming or grinding and selling gear online are not really the same skill, but my point was more that gaming CAN be indicative of job skills in certain scenarios, and in my field it’s very common to talk about them in interviews and on resumes.

    4. Bilateralrope*

      How do you feel about employees who break the rules for their own personal gain ?

      Because in most games, including World of Warcraft, selling in game items for real money is explicitly against the rules. That is what this applicant is talking about when they talk about selling weapons.

      Personally, I’d worry about how well this applicant would follow the rules of my business.

      Making money through streaming and/or esports is different, because that doesn’t break the games rules.

    5. Siege*

      Sorry, we’re taking the secondhand word of someone angry enough about being corrected for misgendering someone they tried to interfere with their livelihood that the rep said exactly that sentence? LW2 did not hear the sentence, only what her SIL reported it was … and her SIL was furious enough about being corrected to take the time out of her life to complain to someone’s manager.

      That sounds like an emotional enough situation to a) misremember exactly what was said, and b) to make it worse, intentionally or otherwise, when you report it out. But of course half the commentariat so far is more outraged by the wording/tone of a secondhand conversation or the idea that call center workers have genders than by how bizarre it is to get that mad that someone corrected you.

      1. kitto*

        (hope it’s okay to respond to you here rather than upthread)

        100% agree that LW2’s SIL was clearly angry about this situation and also just completely out of line in a way that makes me cautious about how she’s reporting the behaviour of the rep on the phone. also i really appreciate you calling out all the tone-policing going on in this thread. it feels very weird to categorise what sounds like completely neutral and non-shaming language as the problem here

    6. Lora*

      Now days you only have a very small bunch of gamers actually doing the problem solving, ghe majority just follows the guides or tools other people made and are very helpless one there.

      And especially grinding for gear to turn into money only involves problem solving when there processes in place to prevent exactly that, otherwise it’s just mindless grinding.

    7. LW1*

      Space cowgirl, are you by any chance hiring remote employees for the summer? If so, have I got an undergraduate for you!

    8. Hyaline*

      I think much of the “questioning his judgment/immaturity” reaction comes not from “gamer stereotypes” but from including a non-work-related hobby on the resume, especially if it’s in a prominent spot. You may be looking for these kinds of skills, but many people aren’t, and so seeing someone trying to (what they see as) shoehorn hobbies into professional experience can come off as awkward at best and disingenuous at worst. (Can I really tell that you’re going to be a meticulous teapot inspector because you paint rocks in your spare time? Probably not in the same way I could tell if you’d previously held a job as a kettle inspector.) It’s not just gaming–someone including their baking because “it shows my attention to detail” or fiction reading because “it shows my critical reading skills” might get a similar reaction. It can read as clueless or that the person doesn’t have the “real work” experience an employer is looking for. And you’re recruiting undergrads–you have to look for alternative ways of showing skills and ability to do the job! Good on you for doing so! But most recruiters and managers aren’t doing that and don’t have to, for better or worse, so these kinds of inclusions can come off as a lack of awareness or maturity.

    9. ecnaseener*

      I think it would be a great idea for you to put something in your own job postings along the lines of “If you have transferable skills from a hobby, please include that even if you wouldn’t normally put it on your resume!” — because you are willing to dig into those hobbies and assess whether the candidates really have those skills.

      The reason most people aren’t interested in digging that deep is that there’s no accountability for hobbied. The linked WoW post explains it well — you can tell me you manage your WoW group effectively, but no one was going to fire you if you didn’t.

      Similarly, you can tell me that grinding for gear has taught you patience and dedication, but I have no way of knowing if that actually translates outside of the game. Absent other evidence, I am going to assume it probably won’t translate because games are designed to be fun, and many are also designed to be addictive. Unless you’re hiring them for work that’s fun and addictive, it’s probably not relevant!

    10. Irish Teacher.*

      While I agree that some commenters have raised stereotypes and I agree that there is no more reason to think a gamer will neglect his work than that somebody who enjoys reading or watching TV or music will, I think the issue here is that what the son is doing is neither freelancing nor volunteer work. It’s more like selling one’s old items at a car boot sale and you wouldn’t put that on a CV.

      Now, there may well be transferable skills from the game itself. I don’t know. I don’t play any games where you can sell stuff like that. But the hiring manager may well not do so either and then…well, as far as they know, these items could be very easily obtainable or it could just be a matter of luck (the LW mentions luck or skill) and “I was really lucky in a game of chance” definitely wouldn’t belong on a CV or it could even be a case where the LW’s had a load of useless items and they managed to con some game newbie into buying them (I’m not saying this is likely; I don’t even know if it’s possible, but a lot of managers won’t either).

      What I am saying is that to people who aren’t familiar with gaming culture, “I earned a lot of money through selling items I won in-game” isn’t going to sound much different than “I earned a lot of money selling my collection of childhood Barbies in their original boxes.” It’s cool you could do that, but all it tells me is that you were lucky enough to own something valuable.

      As somebody who hasn’t played the games, I wouldn’t even be able to tell from the letter whether he was any good at the games or not.

      I’m reminded a bit of this guy I was at college with who won hundreds, maybe over a €1,000 (can’t remember; it was twenty years ago) when we went to the dog races for a night out. His family raised greyhounds so he knew about them and betted strategically and made a lot of money. I am sure there are some very impressive skills involved in that, but betting isn’t a job and doesn’t really belong on a resume. This is similar, in my opinion

    11. LAM*

      I’m kinda an older version of your student in that the skills I learned to figure out how to get a game on a floppy disk or CD to run still serve me. I work with a lot of old things and that’s useful when a CD I viewed and transferred files from gets stuck. And I suspect that honed my problem solving skills and helped me think more like a computer would.

      I’ve enough experience that I wouldn’t go into the well to put it on my resume. If I wanted to put it there, I’d put it in other skills as if it was specific software. I would be vague. They don’t need to know I was really wanting to play Carmen SanDiego, Titanic Adventure Out of Time, or the Diablo.

      Though I do mention soft skills in my cover letter, such as learning technology from an early age. At the same time, we were running games from DOS or locally. Running a game from Stream or on a recent generation console doesn’t take the same skills.

  16. nodramalama*

    For LW1 i think it would different if they played games competitively, e.g. esports. Then surely you could include it the way you’d include playing on a soccer team. But I don’t think playing a game WELL and thus making some money would be something that could be included, like I beat level 660 of candy crush or something

    LW2 i am so confused by SIL’s response. Surely if you’re going to explicitly address people using a particular gender, you have to be prepared to be corrected if you use the wrong pronoun.

  17. Swan*

    LW1, often selling in game items for real life money is against terms of service for the game – I’d leave it off for that reason too, along with several excellent reasons Alison and other commenters have already brought up.

  18. What, Me Worry?*

    LW#2 – Your SIL may be a lovely person in many ways, but trying to get someone in trouble or even fired (which is, basically, what you’re doing when you “send a nasty email” to someone’s manager, whether you are thinking specifically of that outcome or not) just because they didn’t want to be misgendered (and for all we know, this was the 15th time that day it had happened to her) is WAY over the top.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Absolutely. The customer service representative was the injured party in the initial interaction, and then SIL escalated to threatening her job. I don’t care if the customer service representative was snippy or had “a tone”; that is Not Okay.

      1. Cicely*

        Huh? If someone is snippy with me without provocation (which that was the case here, as SIL could not have know how the CSR identified), I just might complain, too. After all, snippy could be the norm for that person, and no way should anyone have to put up with that. Think of elderly people who would feel meek and defenseless over a mistake they didn’t mean to make. Talk about Not Okay.

        Identifying anywhere on the gender spectrum is not an excuse to put people in their places at any given time. That’s someone who shouldn’t be in a CSR role regardless of gender identification.

        1. sparkle emoji*

          Plenty of commenters disagree that there was anything snippy about the CSR’s response. If you are writing emails that could be described as “nasty” over a minor correction, that is in fact Not Okay.

  19. BitterGayWaiter*

    LW2, re: misgendering the service rep

    Your SIL is the asshole here. Hear me out:

    I definitely refer to people as Sir or Ma’am. It’s reflexive. It’s what I was taught. If someone corrects me, I’ll integrate that new information. If someone corrects me aggressively and I’m caught off-guard, I may be a bit ruffled, but I’ll interested the new information and let it brush past.

    If SIL in this situation had responded reflexively and offendedly while they were caught off guard, that would make sense, but that is not what happened. They took a new action later, reflectively and thoughtfully, in a calculated bid to harm a stranger’s job. WTF. Who even has that kind of time?

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes I expect the SIL is the “I want to talk to the manager” type in many aspects of her life and that this isn’t an isolated incident. It’s a good point about affecting her job. OP could ask SIL what did she expect to happen as a result of sending that email. Maybe she just wanted to blow off steam. She needs to reflect more on consequences of her actions, if so.

      It would have to be something really egregious for me to “talk to the manager” in any situation. Even staff members being rude (carrying on a conversation with their friend while doing a customer transaction and ignoring the customer) I’d just think “huh, how rude!” and then forget about it.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I think whether the SIL is in the wrong here depends on how she was treated by the CSR. If the CSR was brusque or rude or acted offended, then the SIL had a valid reason for complaining about how she was treated. Many names aren’t gender-specific, and personally, I don’t remember the names of CSRs half the time, so even if one was offered, the SIL may have forgotten by the time she addressed the person again. The CSR could have asked her to call them by their given name, or could have said “Please use she/her, as that is how I identify” or could have recognized that having a deep voice means people are going to assume you are male and aren’t trying to offend you.

      This sort of thing is why the retailer for which my spouse works decided to NOT let people put their preferred pronouns on their nametags. The perspective was that the store employees are there to serve the customer, not to be correcting people about how to address them – any more than a cis-gendered person should be correcting a customer on how to pronounce their name, etc.

      1. nodramalama*

        No i think SIL is wrong either way. She was the one who decided to gender them unnecessarily, so if shes going to go around calling everyone Sir/Ma’am she needs to be ready to be corrected

        1. Cicely*

          “gender unnecessarily”? Please elaborate on how SIL would have know ahead of time, and over the phone, the gender of the CSR.

          1. Dahlia*

            She didn’t. That’s the point. She assumed she could, and she did not have to. It is not necessary to call people sir/ma’am. She made the choice, and people being displeased about that choice is a natural consequence of it.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        I mean, it’s pretty gross to tell employees they have to put up with people getting their name wrong because it’s “bad service.” I wouldn’t bother correcting someone in a retail situation like that, but I’d be pissed if someone told me I’m not allowed to.

        I’ve never been misgendered but it makes me think of when people have assumed I’m pregnant because I’m fat. It’s awkward! It feels awful! Doesn’t matter how many times it happens or how nice people are trying to be, it doesn’t feel good when it happens and it’s not my job to make someone feel comfortable about their mistake that made me UNcomfortable. Same goes for this rep’s voice, and if the SIL can’t handle being corrected she needs to not call people by gendered terms.

      3. Anonychick*

        This sort of thing is why the retailer for which my spouse works decided to NOT let people put their preferred pronouns on their nametags. The perspective was that the store employees are there to serve the customer, not to be correcting people about how to address them – any more than a cis-gendered person should be correcting a customer on how to pronounce their name, etc.

        Wait, huh?! Putting aside all the other issues with that attitude…having employees’ pronouns on their name tags is the easiest way for them to NOT HAVE TO correct customers on their pronouns, because they’re right there! Obviously, there will still be customers who accidentally misgender employees because they didn’t pay attention to the name tag, but that’s no worse than if the name tag didn’t say them at all, and it certainly reduces the percentage!

        (Also, FWIW, the vast majority of people—though I actually happen to be an exception!—don’t have “preferred pronouns”; they just have pronouns. You wouldn’t say a cis woman’s preferred pronouns are she/her; you’d say her pronouns are she/her. I know it can seem like semantics, but it’s really not: we stopped referring to people’s sexuality as their “sexual preference” because we realized that implied it was a choice, and the same goes for pronouns as other gender identifiers.)

        1. Ariaflame*

          Well, I certainly prefer mint choc chip ice cream to pistachio, but I don’t know that was a choice I made.

        2. Cicely*

          I really, really love even the idea of pronouns on name tags. Would love even more to see it in practice (and the closest thing to it I see is pronouns on Zoom, which I have). Thanks for mentioning, Anonychick.

      4. unpleased*

        This is such an odd choice on the part of the retailer that is not in keeping with modern norms, even around name pronunciation. I worked in a grocery store where customers actually did care about that. Asking about a name they were unfamiliar with on a name tag was a small way to make a mundane interaction more interesting and pleasant.

        This honestly makes me concerned about some other policies. What’s the perspective on dealing with harassment at work? The worst harassment I ever suffered was in retail jobs and some of it was freaking gross. I was allowed to walk away from customers who said gross things to me or insulted me and call in a manager to deal with.

        I just think that you would do well not to use your spouse’s retailer as a norm here.

      5. Yes Anastasia*

        Most names ARE gender specific, and it seems pretty likely that the CSR introduced themselves as “Susan” and got a “sir” in response, which is crappy. You don’t have to remember Susan’s exact name to immediately slot her in a likely gender based on that name – gender is the first thing we notice about a person when we meet them.

        We can’t know if the SIL was being careless, or intentionally rude, or made a genuine mistake. But she messed up and it’s okay for the CSR to be offended. The reason to put on a cheerful customer service affect in the face of a microaggression is to make the interaction go smoothly and deescalate, not because it’s wrong to show negative emotions at work.

        1. Yorick*

          But it’s just as possible the CSR’s name was Jordan or Taylor or even something like Kelly (which is commonly but not always a woman’s name) and then had a masculine sounding voice. SIL isn’t necessarily wrong for misgendering the CSR, she’s wrong for being upset about being corrected (and even more wrong for complaining to management).

      6. Huttj*

        My doctor corrected me on how their first name is pronounced literally less than a month ago, and it was fine.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Me too.

          Look, I expect service professionals to be professional most of the time and reasonably efficient unless there are other factors. Not to just take all the crap the world piles on them and never break a smile.

      7. MC*

        “This sort of thing is why the retailer for which my spouse works decided to NOT let people put their preferred pronouns on their nametags. The perspective was that the store employees are there to serve the customer, not to be correcting people about how to address them – any more than a cis-gendered person should be correcting a customer on how to pronounce their name, etc.”

        This is…really gross and frankly insulting. Employees are still humans deserving of respect and being addressed the correct way. This kind of policy is just straight out telling the employees that they do not matter.

        1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          And it’s weird for the customer! Like… yes, please correct me on how to pronounce your name, and if I’ve misgendered you! Not only do I want to be polite to the people I meet, but for practical considerations I want to know how to accurately identify folks if I may need to refer back to the conversation.

      8. Maisonneuve*

        I thought the attitude of your spouse’s employer should have gone away with the pandemic when we should have learned to respect customer service people more. They’re not just robots to serve the all might dollar, I mean, customer. They’re people. They’re entitled to having the basic courtesy of their name being properly pronounced just like anyone else. They’re entitled to their pronouns and pronouns on nametags if people want them there would help.

      9. Katara's side braids*

        Please drop the name of that retailer so I can avoid them. Customer service workers are complete human beings and deserve to be treated as such. The way we address people, both in name and pronouns, is a non-negotiable part of recognizing each other’s humanity. I’m cis, but come from a culture that is a racialized minority in my area. My name reflects that. An employer telling me to let customers overwrite that aspect of my humanity – especially such a racialized aspect – would have me RUNNING to HR.

      10. Lenora Rose*

        Add me to the people saying Ick to refusing to allow the staff to add preferred pronouns – it REDUCES the chances of misgendering or needing to correct misgendering, and makes the customer’s life easier.

      11. Parakeet*

        Hate to tell you but your spouse’s employer is just transphobic. Having pronouns on a name tag isn’t any more a correction than having the name on there. The difference is that a bunch of bigots get whiny about the former.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I will say, if the rep had said something like *very mild tone* “Actually it’s ma’am” that would probably have landed mildly; SIL would have used the correct term going forward. Some women have deep voices. This could have happened in the 1940s or last week, over the phone, where voice is all you have to go on.

      Issuing a firm and annoyed correction is likely to elicit a defensive reaction from the person corrected. Sometimes that’s called for, and sometimes it’s “You’re right, but the way you’re going about being right is driving people away, and not leading to the outcome you want.”

      1. 2eyessquared*

        The onus is not on the person being misgendered. We don’t get to tone police them or decide how they reply.

        1. Cicely*

          But the misgendering wasn’t on purpose. If the CSR was short and clipped, she can expect a consequence. I think SIL wayyyy over-reacted by threatening the CSR’s job, but rudeness – even perceived rudeness – comes with a price.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        So, the first time I (knowingly) met a trans person was in college. I knew basically nothing about trans issues and had never before stopped to think “Is this the right pronoun?” before using one, so I misgendered her pretty shortly afterward, and she snapped at me. I apologized, but I thought she really overreacted.

        I was really hurt. After all, I was a good person. I was trying. I didn’t know better; it was my first time meeting a trans person! It was an honest mistake, and everyone makes mistakes.

        It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize: everyone makes mistakes. This woman was one of only a couple of trans people on a college campus of thousands, and most of those thousands of people were probably making honest mistakes when first meeting her, which meant she was constantly being misgendered, constantly expected to put her own feelings aside to forgive the people who had just injured her, constantly needing to make them feel better about themselves for her own safety (because no one defends a woman if she uses the wrong tone).

        She hadn’t overreacted to me stepping on her toe. I just hadn’t realized that toe was already broken from the last 20 people stepping on it.

        1. Cicely*

          But, as you say, you were trying. You’re a good person. You meant no harm, and were trying your best to be sensitive and accommodating as well as you knew how to.

          And you should not have had to take on all the weight of what 20 people did before you. I mean, we discuss at length here about how we can’t manage other people’s feelings; that people normally don’t do things “at” other people. I don’t know why that’s gone away suddenly (not referring to you specifically – just generally).

          The world doesn’t organize itself around anyone no matter their personal situation. Rightly or wrongly, it just doesn’t. We should all show each other a bit more grace no matter from where we are coming.

          All of us.

          1. sparkle emoji*

            You’re right that people should show others grace. That generally includes not sending nasty emails to try and get people fired. Your comments seem like you want to give all the grace in the world to SIL, and none to the CSR.

      3. Siege*

        Why do you assume SIL is accurately portraying the correction? I take LW at her word that’s what SIL said, but it’s such a stilted way of speaking I question it, particularly since if SIL has other TERF/“gender critical” beliefs, she’d be motivated to remember the interaction as worse than it was.

      4. Moira's Rose's Garden*

        Your framing implies that marginalized people have to find The Exact Right Way to express basic needs – like how to be addressed – in order to be respectfully treated. That’s very very problematic.

        It’s on me to correct my mistake, not to tell the other person they don’t deserve to be properly named &/or gendered because they didn’t follow some magic formula. In fact, someone giving me good information instead of the wrong-ass assumption I was working off of, is a gift of trust that I will put momentary embarrassment aside and do better going forward.

        I value being a GOOD person far more than I value acting out on momentary embarrassment about being wrong.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, thank you. The “your driving people away by your tone or phrasing” idea is baloney, and history has proven that time and again. If you can be driven into being a transphobe because one CSR phrased a correction in a way you didn’t think was friendly enough, then you were already looking for a reason to be a transphobe. Like, no amount of trans people being rude to me is going to make me think trans people don’t deserve the same rights and treatment that cis people get. If the SIL cared about using the correct term going to forward, she would not have wildly overreacted by writing that angry letter about the way in which she was correct.

  20. Decidedly Me*

    LW1 – he should not out this on his resume. In many cases, it takes little to no skill to do and even in cases where it does take a bit of skill – it’s not applicable to work skills.

    It can make sense for professional esports players to put their time on a team on a resume, but even that isn’t going to be seen as giving them very transferable skills. I’m tangentially related to esports and the players are skilled – but in ways very different from work skills.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        It was over a college summer break, I doubt many will consider one summer without a job a gap. On the off chance he’s asked, he can just tell them the truth: he was taking care of his injured parent.

  21. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – I wouldn’t suggest your son add the gaming to his resume – employers are more likely to think that he’ll be absent from work because he is addicted to video gaming, than to realize that he has any kind of marketable skill (and honestly, it’s questionable if he does have a marketable skill, unless it is a video game critic or possibly video game developer role to which he is applying).

    He might put under his interests that he does a team activity (if it is team oriented) or that he’s won competitions (if he has). But that’s an “interests” rather than “job experience” kind of thing to include.

    1. 653-CXK*

      As part of my fifth anniversary award, my company gave me a $25 gift credit to use on any gift card I wanted. I had $5 in additional credit, so I spent it on a $30 Target card.

      This morning, my paycheck was $7 lighter. They taxed the gift card.

      Little wonder that in ExJob, my company intentionally gave $24 Target gift cards – it was to avoid us paying taxes.

      1. Be Gneiss*

        OldJob did that, and told us “there’s just no other way!” NewJob does that…but offsets it by giving you $7 “Other” pay on the same check (or whatever amount to make up the extra taxes).

  22. Kstruggles (Canada)*

    I think a heads up phone call or message would be helpful, if you want to let your co-worker know before hand.
    if needed a message like. “hey, there’s been some changes at work since you’ve been gone, let me know when you are back in town and rested. Just wanted to have a quick chat about the changes before your first day, so you aren’t blind sided by them and have a chance to think of or ask any questions you have”
    The quick chat before your first day back, would assure me that my. Job wasn’t at risk, just) I would think policy change or something up with a coworker. And I have bad anxiety prone to catastrophic thinking. (but we can’t always predict how people will react)

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I feel like if you’re going to reach out to them ahead of time, you may as well tell them about the change right then and there.
      Otherwise you’re saying “Something out of the ordinary has happened. It’s important enough that I want to talk to you about it before you get back to the office, but I’m not going to tell you what it is.”

      Sounds like a recipe for stress to me.

    2. purple monkey & bubblegum tree*

      That message would absolutely terrify anyone prone to anxiety, and a lot of people who aren’t prone to anxiety.

      OP should either call her and just tell her what’s going on, or say nothing until he speaks to her on Monday. Please, no vague “something big happened but I won’t tell you what just yet!” messages.

    3. Cordelia*

      wow, if I got this I would immediately jump to the worst possible case scenario. Why be so cryptic? I wouldn’t think it was a policy change or something about a coworker, because I wouldn’t assume I was being contacted on my vacation for anything like this, which could easily wait till I was back.

  23. ConstantlyComic*

    Unless I’m mistaken (or it varies more from game to game than I thought), while trading real life money for transferrable earned items in online games isn’t illegal, it does tend to be frowned upon by the rules of the game, to the point that people frequently get banned over it, so even if LW #1’s son did list it on his resume, there’s a pretty good chance that even someone who knows what all this means will be unimpressed.

  24. I Would Prefer Not To*

    Undoubtedly LW3’s SIL was out of line sending a formal complaint to HR but honestly I would also have been taken aback by being corrected for something that would clearly be an innocent mistake in my VERY FIRST exchange with a stranger (it sounds like it was the second sentence coming out of the customer reps mouth). We may all think that things like pronouns and gender identification are by now universally integrated into everybody’s ways of thinking and that if it hasn’t been then somehow that is a conscious political choice. But that simply isn’t reality, and somebody from a different background – whether national, regional or subcultural – may easily have this sort of thing roll of their tongue without even thinking about it. It’s so easy to assume the worst of people instead of the best. If this had been a repeated mistake throughout the conversation with the CS rep I would totally understand that they would correct it but in their very first exchange it seems over the top. (It still in no way justifies a complaint!)

    1. nodramalama*

      You would be taken aback if you are corrected about something you’re wrong about? Are you also taken aback if you call someone the wrong name and they correct you? It doesn’t really matter if its something you’re not used to, youre still incorrect and you should not be offended if you are corrected. The same way that you shouldnt be offended if you call France Germany.

      1. I Would Prefer Not To*

        Having your name mispronounced, or somebody not knowing basic geographical facts, isn’t as sensitive to most as misgendering, so I don’t think it’s really a reasonable comparison. That said, I think people can easily taken aback (I didn’t use term “offended) by being corrected by a complete stranger, and if I had accidentally called the capital of France Berlin in my first convo with an airline rep, and their response was, “it’s called Paris, please address it as such”, I would indeed be wondering to myself why they felt the need to speak to me in that way, even if they are technically correct.

        1. H*

          You say most people don’t care as much about being misgendered, but… Is that true?

          I don’t feel like much of the cis male population would respond great to being called “ma’am” in conversation.

          But also, that comment is incredibly dismissive to people who have to deal with being misgendered over and over, including by people who are doing it intentionally because they can’t respect other people.

          1. I Would Prefer Not To*

            Hi there – I think you’ve misread my comment? It intended to say that people generally will care MORE about being misgendered than e.g., having their name mispronounced, which was the example given by another commenter.

            1. H*

              You’re right, I did misread, and I apologize. My brain is fried from all the tone policing of trans people in this comment section tbh.

            2. Not Alison*

              I am a tall woman who prefers to wear non-feminine colors and wear my long hair in a pony tail. I am often called “sir” at the cash register when the cashier doesn’t specifically notice that I am a woman. I never correct them and sometimes they will look up and notice that I am a woman and will say “oops, sorry”, but it is no big deal to me. However, if they mispronounce my name I will ALWAYS correct them.
              So, don’t assume that everyone would rather have their name wrong than be misgendered because I would rather have my name pronounced correctly and take being misgendered with a grain of salt.

    2. Dahlia*

      If I introduced myself as Tara and you called me Sarah, would you be “taken aback” by me correcting you? It’s really not about you.

      Also you, and many people here, are just assuming this person is trans. My mom gets misgendered on the phone sometimes and she’s a cisgender woman. Would you really be taken aback by her correcting you?

    3. bamcheeks*

      I am so baffled by this. You’d rather continue to misgender someone and make them feel ahitty than be politely corrected and just say, “oh sorry, my mistake?” Why??!

      To me this is an absurd amount of investment in being Right, if someone politely correcting you is such a threat you can’t handle it without getting annoyed and wanting someone to be punished. That’s something you should probably work on?

      1. I Would Prefer Not To*

        I think we’re coming at this from two different angles. I am not defending what the SIL did in her follow up action, I’m trying to look at why she got riled up about it. I personally wouldn’t want to misgender anybody and I certainly don’t agree with punishing anyone. However, I don’t actually think the way it was done by the CS rep was very polite from the way it’s presented in the letter – I think it is the use of the phrase “please address me as such” and then the fact that it sounds like it was literally the second thing that came out of the CS rep’s mouth. Maybe it is my own non-US backgrund that is acting up here but in my home country this sort of very formal correction so early on in an engagement with a stranger could be off-putting regardless of the actual topic.

        1. aqua*

          this is the way the sister in law reports the interaction. I know from personal experience people are very prone to overstating how abrupt someone was when politely correcting misgendering

          1. I Would Prefer Not To*

            Sure I understand that – I guess my approach is to try to understand the SIL without assuming she is necessarily transphobic or anti-woke or something (though she is clearly prone to crazy over reaction).

            1. Esti*

              Might be worth reflecting on why your impulse here has been to try to understand the SIL and give her the benefit of the doubt instead of the service rep, who you’re assuming was rude and abrupt in order to read the SIL as generously as possible.

            2. Emily Byrd Starr*

              There are, unfortunately, a LOT of transphobic and anti-woke people out there, so it’s a valid assumption.

          2. Dek*

            Yeah, to me the phrasing on how SiL reports it feels…very off. I don’t know a lot of trans folks who would use “I identify as…” as part of the correction.

            My surname gets mispronounced a lot, and it’s sort of a kneejerk for me to immediately follow with the correct pronunciation (which was a little embarrassing when a grandboss mentioned my contribution in a meeting once…)

            The language SiL reports feels more…like the Scary Stories version.

        2. AMH*

          I guess I don’t understand where you’re coming from with this — why is the fact that correction occurred early bad? Surely it’s better to correct an error early? It’s a factual correction that will mean you don’t continue to misgender someone.

          1. Yorick*

            I think I Would Prefer Not To thinks the fact that the correction was early AND was so abrupt (based on the info we have) makes it worse. If SIL had misgendered this person repeatedly this wording would be an appropriate correction. If the early correction had been a cheerful “actually it’s ma’am” it would have been appropriate.

            1. AMH*

              I see. Now I have at least a better understanding of their argument. I fall into the “wording was direct and no-nonsense but not rude” camp so I definitely think what the CS rep did was appropriate no matter when it happened.

            2. I Would Prefer Not To*

              Thank you! I have clearly expressed myself poorly. That is exactly what I mean. On reflection I also think that my reaction to this stems a lot from my own context where everyone is extremely conscious of making sure that statements that can sound critical are adequately softened and that impacts my own response to the reported phrasing. Presumably this is an incident in the US so if you tell me this is a perfectly polite phrasing in the US, then I stand corrected

        3. Zarniwoop*

          Sure it’s “off putting” but is it worth stewing and ranting and sending a formal complaint?

      2. londonedit*

        Totally agree. Where I live people don’t use ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’ or ‘Madam’ in everyday interactions, but I’m likening this to when I’m on the phone to the bank or my energy provider and they say ‘Hello, Mrs Londonedit’. Usually I let it go because I don’t really care, but if I didn’t feel like letting it go then all it would take would be me saying ‘Oh, actually it’s Ms Londonedit’, then the rep on the phone would say ‘Oh, my apologies’ and that would be that, everyone moves on. If the same rep addressed me as ‘Sir’ and I said ‘Oh, actually I’m a woman’ then it’d be the same situation. I don’t understand how it’s a big deal.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      How are you supposed to know you made an incorrect assumption if they don’t tell you?
      By saying something, they’re saving you from continuing to make the same mistake. Why should they wait for it to happen again?

    5. Cat Tree*

      I don’t understand this. If you’re factually incorrect about something, you just don’t want to ever know? This is so weird to me.

      Everyone makes mistakes. If someone is so fragile that you’re “taken aback” by a polite correction, how do they function in life?

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Just tell them it’s a mistake, but don’t scold them (if it’s the first time).
        “Please address me as such is scolding” because if someone tells me they are a woman then of course I’ll address them as such. Scolding should be reserved for the thickos who keep misgendering after the rep says they are a woman.

        (Whether it’s worth correcting random thicko callers is personal choice. I worked in a 95% male STEM field and even though my forename is clearly female I was often “Herr Doctor Vulcan” in EMails from those who hadn’t met me. I didn’t bother correcting the terminally stupid who I’d never need to contact again)

          1. Yorick*

            Not to all listeners. Some commenters have said it just sounds straightforward but many others are saying they take it as harsh/scolding.

            1. Seashell*

              If you were about to exit a store through the front door, and an employee said, “Please use the side door”, would you think they were scolding you or would you think it was a neutral request for something that was easy enough for you to do?

              1. SHEILA, the co-host*

                FWIW, I wouldn’t regard asking a person to exit a certain door as a scolding, but in my retail days I definitely met people who absolutely would, particularly if the employee was a teenager and the shopper was older. I once had to explain to my manager that the “offensive” thing I said to a customer was to please not touch a glass case we had on display.

                Perceptions of what is rude/harsh/scolding vary greatly and are often steeped in regional, cultural, linguistic, and political values. Many times folks do not realize that their experience is not universal (and sometimes they do realize it but don’t want to acknowledge it).

                There’s a non-zero chance the woman who thought I was rude for telling her not to touch the case really did think I was being rude – if she was raised in such a way that deference to elders mattered above all else, then likely the thought that I was just trying to protect the case (and avoid having to wipe off yet another set of finger prints) likely never crossed her mind.

                I want to be clear that I’m not saying that this somehow excuses bad behavior on the part of customers – just that even neutrality can be a matter of perception.

      2. Zarniwoop*

        “ If someone is so fragile that you’re “taken aback” by a polite correction, how do they function in life?”
        They spend a lot of time and energy complaining about and attacking anyone who dares to correct them.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I specifically checked as to whether the operator was transferring SIL (so this interaction is now done) or putting her on hold (so the interaction will pick back up). It’s the latter, in which case I think a mild “actually it’s ma’am” would have been quite reasonable. Just as if you called me “Flayer” when it’s “Falling”–let the one-off go; for an ongoing interaction it’s both reasonable to want the correct name and to issue any corrections early.

      For the operator, I think a mild tone and treating it as an understandable mistake would be a much better way to obtain the goal of being correctly gendered on phone calls.

      For the SIL, this is something to let go. Maybe you were the 8th person to get it wrong today and she was just out of patience. It’s weird to expect a woman to do a lengthy phone call with you as “sir” because you don’t want to discover you’re wrong. It’s absolutely not the sort of offense that is worth trying to get someone in trouble at work–it’s the kind of thing where you reflexively recoil a little, raise an eyebrow, and proceed with your day. You had a measure of sympathy from onlookers until you decided to wildly escalate, and now you’re the problem.

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      I made this comparison somewhere else too, but this reminds me of having strangers assume I’m pregnant because I’m fat. My response isn’t always perfect because the mistake *makes me feel bad.* People stumble over their words when flustered. Sounding overly cold is often a way to seem calm when upset. It’s not over the top to try to hold it together when someone hurt your feelings, even if it’s “your fault” for being fat/having a deep voice/whatever caused the error.

      If the rep is a woman with a deep voice this might happen a lot, and she might be having a hard time sounding polite about it. She’s allowed to be a human with a human response and it’s so weird to say she’s not. It’s not her job to make SIL feel good about doing something rude, even if it was unintentional.

    8. purple monkey & bubblegum tree*

      So, according to you, it’s rude for minorities to correct others the first time, and, in order to be polite, they must put up with being misgendered at least once before being allowed to correct someone? That’s completely ridiculous.

    9. Persephone Mulberry*

      (it sounds like it was the second sentence coming out of the customer reps mouth)

      We have NO context for how long the call had been going on or what the tenor of the call was prior to the specific exchange in question. It could have been three, five, ten minutes into the call. And, to be frank – if SIL is the type of person who gets “incensed” enough at being corrected by a CSR to send a (ridiculously hyperbolic) email to a manager over it, I’m gonna bet she was not a peach to be on the phone with from the get-go, and can absolutely sympathize with the CSR if her language and/or tone got a tad on the curt side.

  25. Sherm*

    OP4: Well, the things that they claim to be free — the standard starter items — are actually free. As far as I can tell, they haven’t claimed that the additional $20 dollar credit can get you something else you want at no cost to you. It’s like getting a store discount for working retail: You won’t obtain something for zero dollars, but you don’t have to use the discount, either.

    I do understand the icky aura of paying to advertise for the company, but that describes many stores that sell merchandise with their logo on it.

      1. Snow Globe*

        It sounds like the LW is thinking that they are required to spend the $20 (they are asking what to say if they are asked about it), which would be kind of outrageous. But it is extremely unlikely that this is a requirement. I can’t imagine anyone would ask why they didn’t order anything.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          OP4 is savvy enough to write in and ask for advice on how to handle it. But think about the poor entry level person who thinks they have to spend it and buy logoed gear in order to fit in at the office.

          This is terrible from an optics point of view — unless its made clear, here this is, but no requirement to wear branded gear or buy something.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Agreed. The $20 is presented as a “credit toward” anything they want, which LW4 notes– that means it won’t cover the entire cost of anything. And I wouldn’t read that and think I was required to buy something. The company partners with the NFL, so there’s probably a lot of demand for company swag, and hey, you work here now so you get $20 off! This is pretty typical at companies I’ve worked for. My last company was very big, a household name, and had really nice swag– none of which I could ever justify paying for.

  26. H*

    For LW2 – I know we’re supposed to take the letter writers at their word, and I’m not doubting that’s how SIL phrased it. However, as a trans person who knows many trans people, I don’t know anyone who would say “I identify as xyz” as opposed to “I am an xyz.” Because that’s what they are.

    However, the word “identify” is a big trigger for people who don’t feel comfortable with trans people. Aka “oh I guess I’ll go identify as a cat then.” This wording smacks of someone who felt attacked by having to deal with someone they thought was trans (of course, this could have been a cis woman) for all we know, and then phrased her telling of the story to sound as aggrieved as she felt.

    I also can’t imagine building up the energy to go out of my way to affect someone’s livelihood over this and then brag about it to other people.

    1. orange line avenger*

      Seconding. I’m trans, many of my close friends and loved ones are trans, and “I identify as female, please address me as such” isn’t something any of them would say in a million years. It is, however, the kind of language that anti-trans groups and Fox News types attribute to trans people.

      It’s pretty disheartening to see so many people accepting this thirdhand account of what this rep said at face value and going, “well, the SIL has a point, it WAS rude of this trans woman to correct her!” It just seems like a lot of people readily accepting a stereotype of trans people as hypersensitive, demanding, and rude when we’re literally just trying to make it through the day.

      1. surprisedcatface*

        but… we don’t know the CS rep was trans and that their phrasing meant to indicate that they were trans and no we don’t know what happened in the actual call, but presumably the LW knows better than any of us commenting. In light of that it also feels rather unfair to assume the SIL is anti-trans rather than simply a run-of-the-mill jerk whose default is to be mean to customer service people (and goodness knows there a millions of those).

        1. orange line avenger*

          The language the SIL used is an extremely common anti-trans dog whistle. I have literally only ever heard that phrase in the mouths of people who are bigoted against me.

          You’re welcome to give the benefit of the doubt to a person using charged language and making silly complaints that could threaten the livelihood of a random customer service rep, but you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t feel like doing the same.

          1. Art3mis*

            I have used “identify” and I didn’t realize it was anti-trans. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              When it was originally used, it was more common.

              But since “I identify as an attack helicopter” became the only joke transphobes ever seem to have about trans people, (and because “I identify as” was always meant to be softening language for “I am”, and we’ve discussed a lot why minorities needing to soften their language is an issue) trans people have moved away from the language.

              1. H*

                I literally just passed a large pickup truck covered in Donald Trump stickers with a sticker that said “my truck identifies as a prius” and I feel like that kinda proves the point lol

              2. H*

                I literally just saw a large pickup truck covered in bigoted stickers, including one that said “this truck identifies as a prius” which I feel like proves this point lol

                1. H*

                  Please ignore my double post, my first comment never showed up so I assumed I just never hit send, and then when I posted again, the first comment was there, ugh

            2. Parakeet*

              It’s more that it got appropriated by transphobes for mocking purposes and therefore is dated. I used to hear it from people using the phrasing about themselves a lot more than I do now. As Lenora Rose says, it was softening language (and dovetailed well with terms that are also clunky and and a little softening but are still commonly used, like “gender identity”). Transphobes found it easy to mock so it became fodder for bigoted memes. You’ll still hear it from people using it about themselves and such, because of generational differences, differences in how online/meme-exposed people are, and so on. However, if it’s being used by someone who is willing to try to get a CSR in trouble over this…yeah that’s a bit of a flag there.

        2. Dek*

          I mean, if the CS wasn’t trans, then the language makes even less sense.

          Like orange said, it’s a common dogwhistle.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          I think the point here–and I agree with it–is that if this was a woman, born a girl, named Elizabeth, who happened to have a deep voice, the correction would be “Actually it’s ma’am” or “Actually I’m a woman.” And that for a trans woman, it’s the same correction.

          That “I’ll have you know I identify as a woman! And you will address me as such!” isn’t something actual real humans tend to say, but it’s exactly the sort of thing that made-up humans say in certain “let’s all stoke our outrage at minorities together” forums.

          That said, it is certainly possible for humans of all sorts of persuasions to behave ridiculously. See cheap-ass rolls.

      2. Orsoneko*

        I think the point here–and I agree with it–is that if this was a woman, born a girl, named Elizabeth, who happened to have a deep voice, the correction would be “Actually it’s ma’am” or “Actually I’m a woman.” And that for a trans woman, it’s the same correction.

        That “I’ll have you know I identify as a woman! And you will address me as such!” isn’t something actual real humans tend to say, but it’s exactly the sort of thing that made-up humans say in certain “let’s all stoke our outrage at minorities together” forums.

        THANK YOU. I’m 1000% with you and orange line avenger on this. I don’t doubt that the letter writer is faithfully presenting the interaction as the SIL told it, but if the CS rep actually said something even approximating “I identify as a woman, please refer to me as such,” I will eat my own hat.

      3. tree frog*

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the SIL completely fabricated this story or at least heavily embellished it. Classic anti trans propaganda move.

      4. sparkle emoji*

        Yes, I’m cis but have many trans loved ones, and the “well maybe the CSR was a snippy cruel monster who deserved to have nasty complaint emails sent to her boss” or “if you point out this info is third-hand and some of the wording may not be verbatim you’re doubting the LW gospel” comments are very frustrating. Even if the CSR said the exact words in the letter I don’t think the SIL’s actions were warranted. I also think it’s fair to say that the SIL’s actions might have been motivated by transphobia even if the CSR is cis. Her language about the CSR points to that conclusion.

    2. Bats*

      Absolutely disappointed in this comment section agonizing about how mean the phone rep was for telling LW’s SIL she’s a woman rather than, I dunno, the SIL’s dogwhistling or attempt to get her fired.

      1. West*

        “ Absolutely disappointed in this comment section agonizing about how mean the phone rep was for telling LW’s SIL she’s a woman rather than, I dunno, the SIL’s dogwhistling or attempt to get her fired.”

        I mean, it’s definitely not the first transphobic dog whistle letter that has snuck through by a long shot so I’m not surprised. I’m just surprised that it’s not worse.

    3. DameB*

      Nod. I address this higher up but… I don’t trust SIL’s memory. SIL sounds like she had a Big Emotion about being corrected and people’s memory for remember precise language is very very poor on a good day. It’s miserable when you’re Having A Big Emotion.

      I suspect that SIL heard something different and reworded it in the way to get the most sympathy possible. Think about how Amy Cooper reacted when she was gently corrected (Central Park Birder Incident).

  27. Knitting Cat Lady*

    LW2:

    I’ve known cis men with voices higher than the average cis woman’s, if known cis women with deeper voices than the average cis man’s.

    For all we know the customer service rep never used the word identify. For all we know the CSR is cis and the SIL just assumes the CSR is trans.

    I don’t doubt OP that SIL said what she said. I doubt that SIL is telling the whole truth and is likely embelleshing things.

    Whether the CSR is cis or trans doesn’t matter. SIL is way out of line in how they reacted.

  28. Varthema*

    LW4, I agree it’s unlikely to come up, but I think it’d be fully acceptable to say (lightly and matter-of-factly) “Oh, I looked and the stuff is cool! Nothing was under $20, and I don’t have the budget for anything more expensive just now. Hopefully later!” That sort of nudges at the issue without spending capital.

  29. MTG*

    #1 – this is not relevant for his current situation of wanting work for the summer, but in the longer term (depending on what he wants to do) I wouldn’t discount this experience. I work in the games industry and we would absolutely take into account gaming experience and interest when looking at a CV. Granted, a lot of people who apply for jobs with gaming studios are passionate gamers with no relevant industry skills or qualifications, but with a relevant degree that experience would put him head and shoulders above other applications at a grad level. Just a consideration.

  30. Seeking Second Childhood*

    LW1 I’d ask another question – is your son in an e-sports program at school? That *is* something I’d mention, just as I’d mention other “unexpected” teams like table tennis or pickleball. The key is the team structure, because that comes with obligations and commitments for all participants.

    To Alison & commenters, This is going to become more common over time, so it’s worth wrapping our minds around it now. My teenager touring colleges wasn’t interested – but there are even scholarships.

  31. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    OP3 That’s a lot of emotional labour you’re putting in for this employee. You make her sound very fragile. I’m wondering why you should go to such lengths to break the news to her? Was the leaving manager her mentor, did he protect her?

  32. Yup*

    LW #3: It sounds like your SIL is either uncomfortable with being wrong/corrected at best, and transphobic at worst. Venting angrily to a manager is a way to avoid having to learn and do better next time. I’m guessing this is part of a bigger life pattern.

  33. ChurchOfDietCoke*

    I think we can all agree that a CS rep using the phrase ‘please address me as such’ is… a bit up herself. Rude, even, and strangely archaic. If someone said that (especially if it was said in the haughty tone that I am imagining here) I’d probably ask if she’d been watching too much Downton Abbey.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      What? No. It’s totally fine. Maybe a touch formal, but this was a business situation. Asking someone to use your correct name or pronouns isn’t uppity, FFS.

    2. sb51*

      *If* that’s what the rep said at all and not SIL’s paraphrasing. (We take letter writers at their word but it’s not SIL who wrote in; my advice to the LW is to remember this and see if there’s a pattern coming from SIL.)

    3. KH_Tas*

      Nope, I view her as tired and just trying to get the basic respect that everyone should have.

    4. Seashell*

      It sounds more modern than archaic to me. Identifying with genders is something I would associate with people who are trans or gender fluid, and those things have only recently become more commonly discussed in public.

      Your phrasing “a bit up herself” sounds British to me, so maybe I’d expect that to be from a show set in England. ;-)

    5. I should really pick a name*

      Actually we can’t all agree on that.

      Tone matters hugely in that sentence. It can be frosty, it can be warm. It can be “how dare you get that wrong!”, it can be “just a heads up going forward”.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, assuming that was what the rep actually said, I could read it either way, either as “I expect you to do as I say, you naughty child” or “hey, would you mind addressing me as ‘ma’am,’ thanks?” It would depend on the tone.

    6. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yeah, just say you’re a woman; adding the “please address me as …” would grate on me.
      It reminds me of an early student holiday job in the UK when I didn’t know or care that a visitor had a title and addressed her as “Mrs UpHerArse” instead of “Lady UpHerArse”

    7. MsM*

      Yeah, how dare a lowly customer service rep…*checks notes*…respond to someone addressing them with a formal title with an equally formal correction.

    8. Czhorat*

      No, we can’t.

      Some of us use language differently; “please address me as such” is quite honestly something I can see myself saying.

      It’s also a touch formal; this creates a bit of distance and is not inappropriate in a business setting.

    9. MC*

      Just because something isn’t hidden in a pile of fluff and cheeriness and apologies doesn’t make it rude. It was neutral, straightforward, and to the point.

    10. 2eyessquared*

      I don’t tone police people, so I don’t agree. Also what she said is not rude or archaic. It’s probably either exaggerated by SIL, part of her script, or out of left field for a woman with a female sounding name who was called sir due to a deep voice

    11. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      Adding my vote to the phrasing being straightforward, direct, maybe a touch chilly, but very polite and very correct. I would not consider it rude at all.

    12. Bats*

      Being straightforward isn’t rude unless one’s ego is fragile (not accounting for tone of course).

    13. Irish Teacher.*

      I think it depends on how it was said.

      But honestly, we don’t even know that was how she phrased it. Given that this is the LW’s memory of her sister-in-law’s memory of the phonecall, it is very likely it might not be a direct quote. People just generally don’t remember and pass stuff on exactly word-for-word.

      I don’t think it’s rude, unless it was said rudely, but it does seem a bit formal and more like written language than spoken. I can’t imagine saying it in conversation, but I can very easily imagine using it online if I couldn’t remember the exact words the person used. I can easily imagine starting to type “they told her ‘I identify as a woman. Please address me as a woman.’ No, I’m sure she didn’t say ‘woman’ twice. What word did she use? Oh, it doesn’t really matter anyway. The point was she told her to address her as a woman. I’ll just write ‘as such.'”

      If something third hand sounds…not really like spoken language, I’d be more inclined to assume somebody remembered something slightly inaccurately than that the original person deliberately phrased something oddly to sound rude.

      Not that it matters anyway. Even if the rep did use the tone some people are imagining, being very formal to address the sister-in-law like a naughty child, well, then it would be something that would kind of have one shaking one’s head and thinking, “well, that rep seemed in a bad mood today,” but it would hardly be worth complaining formally about.

      But I think it’s far more likely that either the sister-in-law or the LW rephrased things slightly, either because they forgot the exact words or because the conversation got long and rambling and rather than repeating or writing out “she said ‘thanks sir’ and the customer rep replied ‘I identify as a woman’ and my sister-in-law said ‘oh, right,’ and then the customer rep repeatedly herself because she wasn’t sure if my sister heard her or not and my sister-in-law said ‘OK’ and then the customer rep said ‘please address me as ma-am.'”

    14. tree frog*

      Okay but why do we care about this? Having to correct people about your gender constantly is exhausting, particularly when they are prone to get fragile about it and make your life difficult. There is literally no way to phrase this that won’t upset people and it’s hard enough as it is. Let this person live.

  34. Agent Diane*

    OP3 – whilst focussing on how to break the news of the director leaving without causing an anxiety spike, remember you are also changing the relationship with your colleague. You will no longer be her peer, but her manager. So think about how to set those boundaries.

    I like others’ advice to inform her quickly – you’ll know if a heads-up on Friday is a good idea or not. The head’s up can include “I know this will be disconcerting – let’s chat once you’ve had a chance to do the usual post-holiday stuff like clearing emails?”

    Then have a coffee chat in the place she is comfortable in by the end of the week. Give her space to ask the questions she has, and assure her of the things she needs assurance on. Ask her what systems she had in place with the old director that she finds crucial to her mental health. You’re her manager now, so whilst you mustn’t treat her like a precious porcelain doll you should follow the reasonable accommodations she has in place. And that might be that all catch-up happen in the coffee shop.

  35. FashionablyEvil*

    LW1–I think you’re overlooking your son’s grocery store experience. I hire a fair number of entry level staff (my company is in the research/consultancy type space), and I actually like to see that type of experience on early career applicants’ resumes. It shows me they have had a job where they had to consistently show up, on time, and work with a range of colleagues and the public. Often not the case with internships.

  36. David Rose*

    Any particular reason why we’re all assuming the rep in #3 was “snippy” and “rude” and “overreacting” when we have no idea what tone she used (or frankly, the exact phrasing, since we’re getting this secondhand)? I feel like a breezy “oh I identify as a woman, please address me as such” is way different than saying the same thing in an angry or chilly tone.

    Which is more probable: that the rep accidentally picked kind of an awkward script to correct misgendering and it ended up coming out kind of harsh, or that the rep, whose livelihood depends on talking to people who are already pissed off and avoiding pissing them off further, was genuinely snippy about an honest mistake that probably gets made a zillion times a day?

    1. surprisedcatface*

      I guess people are assuming it because the SIL reacted so badly to it. But I don’t actually read most comments in here as assuming they were snippy, etc., but as assuming that the SIL’s response is anti-trans (the SIL seems as a minimum to be a jerk, which overlaps with, but isn’t identical, to being anti-trans). Honestly for me both of the scenarios are plausible – that an overly sensitive customer reacts very badly to an awkward script (or a message they don’t like) and also that a CS rep who is very tired of this happening to them (and possibly being bombarded by generally unkind customer calls all day) accidentally used a tone of voice that made said customer feel scolded for what they consider an honest mistake.

      Anyway I guess everyone agrees the complaint to HR was totally out of line which was after all the LW’s question and regardless of motivation, the SIL should have a look in the mirror to see why they felt the need to react so strongly to something that would, for most people, amount to at most slight consternation (if we stay in the “feeling scolded” scenario).

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I suspect those of us thinking the CSR may have been overly snippy have had too many frustrating experiences with wilfully uncooperative CSRs, totally unrelated to misgendering.
      However, I’d only complain if the issue I called about isn’t resolved due to the CSR’s incompetence/lack of action.

      I also wonder if those who think the CSR wasn’t overly brusque would think the same if the correction had been from “Ms” to “Mrs”, i.e. nothing to do with possible trans.

      If I call someone “Dawn” and they correct me that it’s “Dwane”, I don’t feel any more need to apologise than if the correction is to “Doreen”. I’m hard of hearing, I mishear a lot and I long ago rejected the expectation that as a woman I have to keep apologising all the time.

      1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        For what it’s worth, I’ve absolutely gotten “Mrs. Smith is my mother; please call me Ms. Smith” and found it very friendly, even charming!

        And it’s a tangent, but please remember when dealing with “uncooperative” CSRs that you’re more likely to be dealing with inflexible company policies and sometimes just poorly designed tools. Most CSRs aren’t trying to make your life difficult, but it’s their job to say “no” much more frequently than they say “yes”.

        1. dawbs*

          It’s been more than 20 years since I was a CSR and my teenager (who wasn’t even thought about yet makes jokes about “the job where people screamed at you all day and made passive voice apologies”

          Because man…it’s a job where you have to be AGRESSIVELY cheerful with your voice 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, after you’ve spent 7 hours and 58 minutes literally being screamed at, sworn at, threatened, hung up on (and at THAT employer, also had the damn paychecks bounce because it was mid bankruptcy–forever fearing that we’d not have a job tomorrow–like the other CSRs in the OTHER location had happen the week before when they came to work to find the doors chained shut).

          I was good at it (really) and I actually did right by a lot of people (and snuck through a whole lot of discounts and helped people. Really) and I actually had people ask to speak to my supervisor to say how awesome I was more often than you’d think…
          But I am 100% sure I sounded ‘uncooperative’ and surly on occasion–I remember it happening.
          And I am 100% sure I misgendered people–also remember that happening.

          Emailing to get this CSR in trouble for….being a human being makes me want to cry.
          (I have a much different (better!) job now. Where I was also told today that I was awesome at what I do. And I’m still employed to be agressively cheerful, but I LIKE this one :)

  37. Cabbagepants*

    LW1 you’re over thinking it! They have an online store and want to give you a little discount if there’s anything you want from there. That’s it. It’s not a ploy to make you buy boring stickers or to shell out a lot to cover the rest of the cost of something more desirable. It’s extremely unlikely you’ll be grilled about your failure to use the money. It’s also not a statement about how they expect everyone to gladly pay to buy their branded apparel.

    Some HR person thought that it *could* be a nice gesture and $20/new hire was little enough to be approved by the brass. That’s all.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I agree — especially because there was what sounds like a sizable amount of actually free stuff included with the gift!

      In the nicest way possible, LW…isn’t this how all gift cards work? Businesses sell gift cards because on balance they make a profit from the extra money people spend while using up the gift card. Your company is giving you a gift card (on top of several free items!) rather than selling it, that’s all.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Having refreshed the page after coffee, this was not as coherent as I thought lol. The profit from selling gift cards is presumably mostly from the ones that get sold and never cashed in. But I *have* been handed a free gift card as a promotion, and that’s just like a coupon as cabbagepants says!

  38. kitto*

    you’ve hit the nail on the head here. some commenters are really giving LW2’s SIL’s CSR an unsympathetic read and i think it’s because she’s (1) a woman, and women have to be Ever So Gentle and Sweet or they’re seen as mean/cold, and (2) being perceived as a trans woman, and trans women are made out to be violent/aggressive no matter how nice/unemotional/neutral they are. dogwhistles aplenty in this thread and i’m so disappointed

    in short: *Alexis voice* ew.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, like, how should the CSR have corrected her?

      “I’m ever so sorry, but I’m actually a woman. I must assure you that you did nothing wrong in your infinite wisdom. The fault is entirely mine for having a deep voice and of course you made the correct conclusion based on your experience. However, if it isn’t too much trouble, might I kindly request a generous favor from you? Please, could you find it in your heart to address me a a woman? Again, only of it’s comfortable to you to do so.”

      1. Stardust*

        There are several examples upthread for corrections that might’ve come across better. Or they might not. For all we know the rep actually used one of those and SIL just relayed a version she thought would make her sound more justified.

      2. kitto*

        haha! i’m delicately placing a “no worries if not” on top of this beautiful comment like a glacé cherry

      3. MsM*

        Apparently, a blunt “I’m not a dude” would have gone over better than bringing the dreaded i-word into it.

      4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Just briefly, no drama: “actually I’m a woman”
        No need to scold/order the curomer how to address her after a natural mistake.
        “Please address me as” is maybe acceptable from a customer to a CSR, but is odd the other way round, at least without repeated misgendering.

        Also, I’m wondering if the SIL complained because she was put on hold an unusually long time and thought it might be a passive-aggressive punishment.

        1. kitto*

          there really was no scolding or “drama” from the CSR. but even if so, we don’t need to invent an additional infraction to explain away SIL’s behaviour!

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        “acting like disgruntled pelicans”
        Wonderful phrase! May I borrow it? In exchange, you can use my “dysfunctional hyenas.”

        1. 2eyessquared*

          It’s from Schitt’s Creek, which the OP of the thread was referencing. Just look up quotes by Moira Rose, that’s where a lot of the interesting phrases come from. Apparently the actress found a book with weird sayings and used some for her character

    2. tinybutfierce*

      Yep x infinity. The original letter and a lot of the responses here are a perfect example of why I’m absolutely never coming out as a non-binary at work.

      1. kitto*

        ah pal, sorry you have to hide who you are to stay safe. hope you come across some cool people in your workplace

  39. Anonymous 274*

    L1:

    For reference the game I’m fairly certain they are talking about a game called CSGO (Counter Strike Global Offensive). In the game skins don’t affect the actually gameplay beyond looking interesting, and the makers of the game support the selling/buying of the skins on an official community market for r