ouija board decor at work, coworker nags me about drinking diet soda, and more

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

1. Ouija board decor at work

I share an office with two other coworkers who seldom see — I work nights, they work days/my days off — so I don’t know them well. One has slowly been adding decoration to the office that is very understated fandom, that you wouldn’t recognize unless you are also a fan (which I am). That’s fine! But today I came in and they’ve replaced the mousepad with a ouija board one and I am weirdly uncomfortable with that. How can I object to it to people I barely know or see, especially without coming off as super religious (since that seems to be the most common objection to it, but I could not possibly be less religious)? Or am I being way too sensitive not wanting it at work?

Nah, you get to be uncomfortable with it. Some people are uncomfortable with ouija stuff for religious reasons, others because it just creeps them out, and others because they don’t believe in what it represents and don’t particularly want symbols of it in their space. All of those are legitimate, as is any other reason you might have.

Do you see this coworker at all, even just in passing? If so, you could say, “Hey, I really like the (name one or two decorations they added that you do like), but I’m weirdly creeped out by the ouija board mousepad. Would you mind if I brought in a different one, or if we just switched back to the other one?”

Worst case scenario, you just switch it out yourself at the start and end of your shift, but a reasonable coworker will get this and be fine with changing it. Reasonable people will not insist other people use objects that are known to bother others (even if she overlooked that originally).


2. My coworker keeps nagging me about drinking diet soda

I have a coworker, a retired doctor from Colombia, who wont stop badgering me or making comments when he sees me drinking diet soda. I am unsure of how to approach the situation because he is a director of an overlapping group to the one I work in, which is much higher up than my position (I’m practically entry-level but I’ve been here for almost a year and a half). Although he was an MD before coming to the U.S., he is no longer practicing and is very into alternative medicine and makes it a point to comment on the things that he believes are bad. One example is that he is strongly against microwaves and will comment if he sees anyone heating up their lunch.

His office is very close to where I sit, and it all started about eight months ago when he struck up a conversation about why I was drinking diet instead of regular soda. I have a lot of reasons, some personal taste and others because I have an insulin sensitivity to carbohydrates and sugar. I know diet soda is not great, but I will gladly drink it instead of risking pancreas failure and diabetes before I am 30. Although none of that information is anyone’s business except my own, I don’t feel like I should have to justify my choices even if I didn’t have to take my health into consideration.

My problem is that nothing I say seems to deter his comments, even explaining my health reasons. He’s even gone so far as to question if I want children or not (because he thinks the artificial sweetener will affect my fertility). He seemed taken aback when I told him that I’ve never wanted kids, and even if it did have fertility side effects it wouldn’t change my mind. After my initial rebuttal where I made my stance clear, he has resorted to only quick comments like “Still drinking diet?” or “What’s that on your desk?” when he passes by my desk about once a week, but it is frustrating nonetheless. I’ve tried to explain myself, ignore it, laugh it off, and act like it doesn’t bother me, but it has really begun to get on my nerves the longer it goes.

Ugh. He’s being rude. It doesn’t matter that he’s not practicing medicine here; even if he were, he’s still not your doctor, and thus he’s butting into business where he doesn’t belong.

On the other hand, you may have inadvertently signaled to him that you’re fine with all this — the laughing, explaining, acting like it doesn’t bother you, and engaging with him about your fertility all may have reinforced for him that this is a topic you’re okay discussing. So I think you’ve got to make it clearer that you’re not.

I get that there are hierarchy issues in play, but is this the kind of office where you can just directly say to him the next time, “Hey, can you stop commenting on my soda? Thanks.” Or, “I think we’re done with this debate, so can we put the soda comments to rest?” Or, “I have a ban on soda comments now. The window of opportunity has closed.”

If your office culture is such that you really can’t do that, then I’d try to ignore the offhanded comments (looking slightly incredulous that he’s still talking about it might help, though) and only address it if he starts another real conversation with you about it. If he does the latter, then you can say, “You know, I appreciate the info you’ve shared, but I don’t want to keep talking about it.” And then stick to that — if he keeps trying, keep declining to engage.


Read an update to this letter here.

3. Changing into biking clothes in the office bathroom

I’m in my first job as an HR assistant. Many people in the organization are similarly young and we’re generally pretty casual. I have been wondering about the social norms around changing outfits in the bathroom.

One of the great joys I’ve found since starting my job is biking home from work. I usually put my bike on a bus in the morning (wearing my work clothes) and change to bike back. We don’t have another space I could change other than the women’s bathroom. There is a bike room in the building, but anyone can enter at any time and I normally run into a male bike commuter every time I’m there.

People definitely change sometimes in the bathroom (I notice someone doing it like once a month), but if I had my way I’d be biking 2-3 days a week. Are there any tips for what I should and should not do? Am I overthinking this?

Changing in the bathroom is fine and normal! Use a stall so that coworkers aren’t walking in on you in your underwear (don’t be these people), but it’s totally fine to change in the bathroom.


4. Our new office toilet paper is terrible

The company I work for had a change over in president recently. This president has a much more significant financial background. Computers went from being upgraded on a certain timeline to only if they break and office supplies all got cheap, including tissues and toilet paper.

The toilet paper we now use is very rough single ply, and it’s causing havoc with my body. Over the weekend when I’m not at work, everything starts to feel better, but then I go back at the beginning of the week and it goes back to hellish uncomfortable conditions. I’ve always been super sensitive to things in that area but I’m a loss what to do. I really don’t want to have to carry toilet paper back and forth between my desk and the bathroom in our open office plans. Do you have any other suggestions for what to do?

You can try talking to whoever orders the supplies and asking if it’s an option to switch back to the previous toilet paper, but chances sound pretty good that you’re going to hear no. If it’s truly terrible toilet paper — like less sensitive people are also dismayed by it — then you might have more luck approaching it as a group. (Which will require you to discreetly ask coworkers you’re close to if they hate the new toilet paper too, which is exactly the kind of conversation I would enjoy but you might not.)

But otherwise, yeah, unfortunately I think you’ll need to bring in your own. Rather than carrying a roll of toilet paper about the office, you could put it in a bag or purse, although I realize that’s still not ideal.


{ 287 comments… read them below }

  1. Miss Chanandler Bong*

    #2 – I’m chronically ill and a cancer survivor and I swear, all the unsolicited advice… especially from the anti-diet soda crusaders…I don’t even explain why I drink diet soda anymore or do anything for my health. It’s no one’s business but mine and my doctors.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I was happy to read the update that OP2 was able to shut down the comments and improve their work relationship. It took a little longer than it should have for him to get the message, but in the end, boundaries were established and the work went forward. That’s a win!

    2. Hot Flash Gordon*

      Yah, my husband has type 2 diabetes and can’t drink sugared drinks. He doesn’t drink an obscene amount of diet pop (he’s more of an iced coffee drinker), but he’d prefer not to waste his sugar consumption on soda.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Exactly, what’s healthy for one person could seriously harm another. I also have type 2 diabetes and having more than a sip or two of a sugary beverage immediately results in a blood sugar spike and dizziness. Trying to finish a full Coke would probably put me at risk of major issues since I don’t take insulin. My poison of choice has been Gatorade Zero, mostly because I also have issues with dehydration that it helps mitigate. (I love the taste of iced coffee, but coffee messes up my stomach some kind of terrible.) Would it be healthier for me to only drink water so I’m not consuming any dyes or whatever? Probably. But I’m willing to accept that I’m allowed to have some joy in my life and some flavors in my drinks, even if it means not optimizing my health for every single chemical.

    3. LCH*

      #2 is a truly WTF sort of guy. “that doesn’t look gluten free!” why would it be? WTF dude.

      1. Miss Chanandler Bong*

        And he’s a doctor! That’s the part that got me. As a doctor, he should know that the general population doesn’t need to be gluten free, only people who for whatever reason are sensitive to gluten. OP was way more polite than I would have been.

        1. 2 Cents*

          Doctors are not immune from being jerks, misinformed, or biased based on their own choices.

        2. kupo*

          It can be actively harmful to eat gluten free if you don’t need to! I have an extra supplement I take because I don’t get enough of a nutrient that most people get from wheat.

          1. GythaOgden*

            GF food can also be high in sugar because they have to replace the taste of wheat with something else.

            The UK government launched a campaign around 20 years ago to cut the amount of salt in processed food. Unfortunately, the items lost taste along with the sodium, so they started adding sugar in instead.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Wheat itself is high in naturally occurring sugar. I have to avoid it because I’m sensitive to fructose.

        3. Project Maniac-ger*

          But he’s a doctor, so that “qualifies” him in his mind to give very unsolicited and wacky medical advice. It’s weird – I feel like most medical practitioners actively try NOT to give advice.

      2. Ama*

        We didn’t have the term “Main Character Syndrome” back when the letter was originally published but boy did that guy have terrible MCS.

    4. H.Regalis*

      It’s so damn annoying.

      I have a friend I love who does this sometimes, and it drives me crazy. No, I don’t have a fissured tongue because I have a nutritional deficiency. No, taking random OTC supplements isn’t going to fix the chronic health condition I’ve had for decades that’s causing the symptoms people can see. Very aggravating.

    5. tree frog*

      I’m not going to defend any diet policers, but I suspect the reason that diet soda is such a tempting target for them is that they perceive that everyone but them is too ignorant to realize diet soda is not a health beverage. I once knew someone who would not give up arguing that it makes no sense to drink juice because eating the fruit and drinking water is healthier. He did not seem to understand that some people just like juice.

  2. nnn*

    This is super counterintuitive and I can’t explain why it works, but in situations like #1, I’ve found people tend to respond surprisingly well to “I’m superstitious.” Even people who, in a vacuum, would tell you that superstitions are ridiculous don’t seem to argue with simple requests where the stated reason is “I’m superstitious.”

    1. Annie*

      That’s interesting! I wonder if superstition having the gravity of religion without anyone or anything that can be argued with explains why it works?

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I think it often works to preemp criticisms like that. It’s like if you say it, people feel like they can’t or something. It can work with things like the diet coke too. “Yeah, I’m being very unhealthy here.” Though it doesn’t sound like it would work with that boss.

      2. Earlk*

        I think it’s because, religious or not, everyone has something they think/feel which they can’t really back up with logic and “superstitious” explains that feeling without being pious or preachy.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes I think this is it. We almost all have things we’re superstitious about but can’t back up with logic. I have a deep aversion to giving gifts for a baby before the baby is born and I know all is well. If I give someone a knife I want them to give me a coin in exchange as otherwise it cuts the friendship. There is no logical reason for either of them but they are just things I feel on a bone deep level.

          It’s a lot easier for people to accept that Ouija boards are something people are superstitious about (because we all have these things) than to accept a religious argument.

          1. Donkey Hotey*

            Thank you. That’s the first reference I’ve seen to the “buying a gift knife” idea in a long time.

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              And here I was thinking that if you gave a knife you gave a coin with it… I guess I got that one wrong. Luckily, I don’t buy knives for people that often!

              1. Corrvin (they/them)*

                No, you’ve actually got it right– you give a coin with it and they give you the coin back to purchase the knife. (That’s how we did it, anyway.)

      3. Nobby Nobbs*

        I’d suspect it’s because “I’m superstitious” makes the request about you and not an implicit criticism of them. Suddenly you’re asking them for a personal favor rather than asking them to stop doing something wrong, heretical, stupid.

        1. Annony*

          I think it is also because it is leaning into it. “I believe in this which is why it makes me uncomfortable” vs “I reject this which is why it makes me uncomfortable.” If the person who replaced the mouse pad did so because they actively believe in it, they won’t be offended when someone else is agreeing with them but points out why that is not the place for it. If the person putting it up doesn’t actually believe it is anything but a cool object, it is hard to find a respectful reason to leave it up when someone who does believe it is more than a cool object objects.

        2. Savor The Peelies*

          I think you hit the nail right on the head. “I’m superstitious” comes with it a bit of acknowledgment that you might be being a little irrational and the other person didn’t do anything actively wrong; you give them a graceful out, much like saying “oh, this is just a weird personal thing”.

        3. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, framing a need as “this would be a personal favor to me” is likely to get a positive response. You’re not suggesting they did anything wrong, so they’re unlikely to be defensive.

          On the other hand, it forces the requester to kind of… make light of the situation? In my experience it can be harder to keep pushing afterwards if the person refuses, since by your own framing it’s “just a favor.”

      4. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        It’s more like they’re saying “I know it’s not rational so I can’t be reasoned with about it, but please humor me.” It keeps it very light.

        1. Evan Þ*

          Yes, this. “I’m admitting right out this’s illogical; don’t try to reason me out of it.”

    2. Jo-Maroon*

      I agree completely, but for whatever reason I assumed OP 1 was the diet soda drinker, and now I can’t help applying this same script to the second letter. XD
      Coworker: Still drinking diet soda?
      OP 2: I’m superstitious.

        1. Clisby*

          You’ve been putting on weight. Are you pregnant?
          I’m superstitious.

          When are you two having children?
          We’re superstitious.

          What church do you go to?
          I’m superstitious.

      1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        I think I might go with that.

        I don’t eat a lot of dessert. I am not dieting I just don’t particularly care for most sweets and really really despise most cake.

        But for some reason “I don’t care for cake” is obviously a cover for my secret diet of shame.

        I’m superstitious might confuse them enough to let it go.

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          I will eat your cake for you. I’m willing to sacrifice myself.


    3. Quoth the Raven*

      That’s what I say, and people generally react well to being told it’s superstition. I’ve also successfully said something along the lines of “It makes me uncomfortable and I’d rather not mess with that.” (I’m apatheist myself, but Ouija boards make me super uncomfortable for reasons I can’t put my finger on)

    4. Velomont*

      I’m sincerely not trying to be a jerk here, but why couldn’t LW just have his/her own mousepad and swap during shift change?

      1. Skytext*

        But they shouldn’t have to! When you share space it is very rude to take it over. A decoration on a wall or a shelf where it’s visible but not interfering is okay (as long as it’s not objectionable) but on the keyboard or monitor where it interferes is not. Switching out the actual tools other people also use is not okay. The LW shouldn’t have to switch all the time—if anyone should do that, it should be the coworker who wants to use the unconventional or non-company issued tool that has to make that effort.

        1. Annony*

          I agree. If the coworker wants to use a non-company provided mousepad, they are the one who should make the swap at the beginning and end of the shift.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Okay, but a mousepad isn’t attached to anything. You just put it in the drawer and move on. Also, with handwashing, etc., I would think we’d be happy not to share mousepads, anyway.

          I mean, I wouldn’t use a Ouija mousepad at work, either, because appearances, but I think this person is making a mountain out of a molehill when they could just . . . move it to one side.

          1. Clisby*

            Agreed. Apparently she doesn’t even work at the same time as the Ouija person, so as far as I can see there’s no reason for conflict. Just use the mousepad you want to use.

      2. Princess Sparklepony*

        I was thinking the same if they didn’t want to bring it up with the other shift.

        Also, the TP worker should get a super cute bag just for the TP. Eventually, the entire office will decide to do likewise and it will become a fashion thing!

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      That’s interesting, and I think gets at acknowledging upfront that you aren’t making this request on rational grounds that would win in a logic vs logic showdown.

      I was thinking of someone who couldn’t stand the idea that a spoon they used had been used to scoop dogfood, and the commenters practical suggestion to get some distinctive plastic spoons used only for that. Moving the ground from “I feel this way and everyone else should as well” to “I feel this way, I realize that it’s an extreme reaction most people don’t have, can we work with it so I’m comfortable?” (You can’t always work with it; not everyone is reasonable to request that you accommodate them; but as a starting point of figuring out how to coexist in the same space it’s not terrible.)

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        Grin, while it doesn’t bother me, at home I use (and reuse after washing) black plastic utensils for the cat’s food, and white and clear for mine. What the pet sitter uses is her business.

      2. kiki*

        I think people have a visceral negative reaction to anyone suggesting something they do or have is fundamentally bad in someway (like disgusting or evil), so they’re more likely to reflexively defend their actions than be willing to make a small change and compromise.

        I had a roommate once who insisted is was disgusting that I didn’t freeze all my food waste and put it directly into the dumpster on garbage day rather than just throw it into our garbage can. I was immediately angry and defensive– I’m not disgusting! Most people just throw their food waste into the garbage can, I think. But then when I was thinking about it a little later I was like, “well, it is easy enough to put banana peels into the freezer.” And going forward I just did it. If my roommate had approached me and just asked me to start doing that, I think I would have not thought about it twice. But implying that I was really gross really hurt me for some reason.

        1. Project Maniac-ger*

          What?!?! How big is your freezer? Do you have a bin or something? How do you keep the freezer from getting dirty? When do you throw it out to keep it frozen? I am fascinated.

          1. Bee*

            I do this because one spring I got an infestation of ants in my kitchen trash, and now I bring the frozen scraps to the compost collection instead, so it feels like a win-win for me! I use an old pretzel rod tub to collect them, which usually gets me through a week or two. I have a freezer on the small size of normal but live alone so don’t usually fill it up. It’s honestly really great – my trash takes longer to fill up AND doesn’t start to smell.

          2. tree frog*

            I do this with my compost. I live alone in an apartment and don’t want to make a trip to the building compost every day. I have a bin in my freezer. It does take up a bit of room but it’s worth it.

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              When we had composting, I used to have a plastic lettuce container for compost and I kept it in the fridge. I’d empty is weekly into the containers in the park on compost days (three or four days a week.) It worked pretty well. It didn’t get too ugly in the days between drop offs. And if it did, then the container got washed out when I got home. My fridge is much bigger than my freezer. I think composting is back, so I should go back to doing that but I stopped cooking…

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Oddly, I don’t think this would make me more sympathetic–I would silently be thinking, “You’re ridiculous”. I would comply (I wouldn’t have brought a Ouija mousepad in the first place specifically because people can be so weird about them) because I wouldn’t want you to take it to our supervisor or something, but I would also think you were irrational and kind of absurd. Especially since it’s not even a real Ouija board and there is no planchette. And I don’t believe in Ouija boards.

      1. Fuzzyfuzz*

        Agreed. You don’t get to control what other people do because you’re inexplicably uncomfortable. I’d internally roll my eyes.

      2. edabeata*

        Especially considering that Ouija is a freaking Hasbro board game you can buy in the most generic toy section of any bland department store. I get why “occult” symbols make people feel icky sometimes I guess (though I could get into a whole thing about what counts as “occult” and what is “religious symbolism” etc), but currently the only thing Ouija stands for is naked capitalism.

      3. metadata minion*

        Is that any weirder than “hey, could we switch out the butterfly mousepad; I actually have a phobia of them”? People have weird reactions to things, and when it’s purely aesthetic, why not switch to something neutral, or something you know you both like?

      4. Andromeda*

        I don’t believe in them either but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking Officemate to switch it out as long as you do it kindly. I think a Ouija mousemat actually sounds cool, but I know people who would be very uncomfortable with it for religious reasons and I’ve got my own odd anxiety-based superstitions. Like yeah, there are things LW could ask of Officemate that would be unreasonable/over-controlling but this isn’t even close to that line, as long as the LW isn’t mean about it. Surely this logic leads to having to justify every single favour you ask of someone?

      5. Princess Sparklepony*

        Your mouse is your planchette! And that is how you get demons….


    7. Administrative Professionals Day Sucks*

      YMMV, I would respect someone less for giving such a dumb reason.

      1. SnackAttack*

        Okay, can we not be so mean and condescending about people’s beliefs? You can believe whatever you’d like, but the entire world is filled with loads of different cultures, traditions, and yes, superstitions. As long as they’re not restricting your rights, you don’t have to be a jerk about it.

      2. Double A*

        Okay, but absolutely any reason to object to the ouija board mouse pad could be seen as “dumb” because it’s based on feeling and belief. There’s plenty of people who think anything that isn’t strictly rational (which usually just means what they already think) is stupid.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Wow, that’s a very judgmental. The vast majority of people believe in things that cannot be proved by science: a higher power, a creator, spirits, ghosts, lucky charms, aliens, or guiding ancestors. A lot of that is culturally-informed or religious.

        Calling it all “dumb” shows a real lack of interest and curiosity.

        1. A. Nonymous (on phone)*

          I have a degree in theology and I think it’s useless, unproven bullshit believed in exclusively by easily manipulated rubes. Thanks for making assumptions about my intelligence, though!

    8. theletter*

      I think even saying ‘Hey, the suggestion of inadvertantly communicating with ghosts gets a bit creepy at night,’ could get the point accross as to why it’s a problem that doesn’t need to go harder than just getting a more cheery mousepad.

  3. Yikes in NYC*

    I once worked in NYC public schools and traveled to a different school each day. There was rarely a trifecta of toilet paper, soap, and paper towels. And if there was any of the above individually or collectively, it was of such poor quality that my hands would itch from the cheap soap and my face would get scratched from the paper towels. The toilet paper was like sandpaper. I wound up carrying supplies in my backpack. I wasn’t the only one.

    1. Artemesia*

      The wet toilet paper comes in travel packets; if it is not irritating to you that is a good option for a pleasant choice. Or perhaps that and just a kleenex pack. You are not likely to win on changing out the toilet paper but it is easy enough to avoid it. And I bet the executive washroom doesn’t have cheap toilet paper.

        1. Beany*


          We had to call out a plumber to unblock one of our home toilets after a few months of taking the “flushable wipes” at their word.

      1. Magpie*

        Don’t flush the Kleenex either. Kleenex does not break up the way toilet paper does and will clog up the sewage system.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        I suspect there are travel packs of regular TP as well, for backpackers and travel to places where bring your own TP is standard, but have no idea of the quality.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          When I’ve found it, it’s been garden variety Charmin or similar name brand. It’s basically just a regular roll, only 1/4 size.

        2. lyonite*

          The usual thing when I was backpacking was a normal roll but you take out the center tube to make it smaller/more packable.

    2. another chatterbox*

      I would suggest that if you’re carrying your own, when at home, let your TP get down to the last 10% of a roll, and then it becomes one that goes to work with you. I did this when we went to bars in Europe which famously rarely had TP.

      1. MCL*

        You can also flatten rolls of TP so they’re more pocket/purse-able, easier to do with smaller rolls. That is what we do for camping.

      2. Baby Yoda*

        You can order very small TP rolls on Amazon, I did it accidentally during the pando when no one could find it in stores. And now I store one in my golf bag for emergencies.

    3. lilsheba*

      On the Ouija stuff, you would hate me. I have a an Ouija mousepad and a cup and a necklace as well as a welcome mat and a Ouija board collection. I have my mouse pad and my cup right by me for work every day. Now I do work from home but would I bring this into an office? You bet I would. And no I would not move them. They are part of who I am. I might be offended by what kind of stuff you have but that doesn’t give me the right to tell you what mousepads you can or can’t use.

      1. vulturestalker*

        Hmm. It’s not super clear from the letter, but I think the LW is saying that they need to use the mousepad when the other coworkers aren’t there. It’s not just sitting at someone’s desk.

        I think it’s pretty reasonable for the LW to ask for it to be changed, or at the very least switch it out with theirs!

      2. Magpie*

        You can use whatever computer accessories you want on your own computer, but LW is sharing a computer with several other people. You don’t have the right to impose your accessories on other people if they feel uncomfortable.

      3. badger*

        When you’re sharing an office space *and office supplies like a mousepad* with another person, you don’t get to make it all about you.

      4. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        That’s not how shared desks work. They don’t get to be decorated by one person who tells everyone else to stuff it if they don’t like it.

      5. Lisa*

        The difference is in LW’s situation it’s a shared desk. You can expect to do what you want with your own desk, but when it’s a shared space you have to consider others.

      6. Goldfeesh*

        I’m not understanding why it is so hard to move the one mousepad to one side and then use your own mousepad or the company-provided one on your own shift?

      7. Andromeda*

        Nobody’s stopping *you* from using those things but when you share a space you need to be considerate. There’s tons of reasons including phobias and religion why someone might not enjoy that symbolism. I would probably struggle to share an office with someone who had realistic spiders on all their stuff and it would totally be fine to raise that and ask to have each person take their own stuff in for their shift, or maybe even just both use the same stuff but decrease the overall spideriness level. Likewise if all their stuff had fire-and-brimstone Christian sayings on it. As long as LW asks kindly and does everything they can to make taking stuff to and from the office easier on Officemate, why should Officemate’s comfort matter more?

    4. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Many years ago, someone ordered truly horrible toilet paper at work. No amount of beging helped.
      And then there was the board meeting, where suddenly all the TP rolls were swapped out with rolls of sandpaper from the workshop. Somehow, the next day we got better TP…

    5. Everything Bagel*

      I had issues similar to the letter writer in that I had a skin condition and awful company toilet paper. I started carrying a toiletry bag with my favorite toilet paper from home, along with other things a comb and hair clips and whatnot. I chose the smallest bag I could get away with while fitting a mega roll of toilet paper in it, but basic black so it didn’t stand out. It came in very handy and I don’t think anyone ever thought twice about seeing me carry it. If anyone did, oh well.

    6. Hannah Lee*

      Years ago, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal about, of all things, how corporations manage their toilet paper supply. It was filled with quotes from any number of bean-counter-y executives and purchasing agents about what they did to minimize their cost of TP, including alternate sourcing, switching to the one at a time paper thin sheets, or other options that don’t work very well (such as the kind OP describes), having dispensers and supplies be locked down to prevent pilferage.

      While my MBA brain was kind of engaged in the practical business aspects the article was exploring, there was something about it that kind of didn’t sit right with me, that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. At some point while I was reading, it crossed my mind that probably no one interviewed for the article was currently or had ever been a menstruating woman. Quick check … yup, all men.

      Until the very end of the article where they interviewed one female executive. She was like “Yeah, it’s an expense, but it’s a necessary cost of doing business we just budget for, like trash pick up. Because at the end of the day, while managing this business, I want employees to have access to as much toilet paper as they need, when they need it”

      Bingo! She nailed it, with a common sense approach by someone who truly understands the bottom line impact of stocking bathrooms.

      (Also, one thing I recently noticed … some institutional toilet paper actually has a rougher side and a smoother side. It doesn’t make a huge difference, but it helps somewhat to use the less rough side. If you find yourself without your personal stash, check to see if that’s the case.)

  4. Lily*

    Support and sympathy for all the toilet paper allergy/sensitivity people out there. Working from home has been freaking amazing for that. When I was in an office I adopted a lot of clothes with pockets (including leggings with pockets worn under dresses, and jackets with pockets) and stashed mini rolls (ie just toilet paper wrapped around itself into a good size wad, sometimes in a mini zip lock bag) in all my pockets.

    1. LCH*

      i had a friend in college who was getting a lot of UTIs. she noticed a pattern that when she wasn’t in the dorm, they didn’t happen. after experimenting she realized if she was using toilet paper elsewhere (like my house, i lived off-campus), it didn’t happen. so she started stocking her own paper and was fine. i have no idea how TP can do this, but we didn’t come up with any other explanation.

      1. Seashell*

        Some TPs have a subtle fragrance to them. I wonder if that could cause problems for some people.

        1. LCH*

          i could see that (how gross, why would someone add fragrance?!) but this was just normal, cheap, crappy TP. i think our best guess was that it was causing micro tears.

        2. Dahlia*

          I think it can also be the different bleaching agents and things? I know my grocery store brand toilet paper isn’t like super rough or anything but I react very poorly to it because of some ingredient in it.

    2. Random Bystander*

      Yeah, it was hand soap for me that I absolutely had to provide for myself. A long time ago, I had a cold injury to part of my hands (frostburn), and I am hyper-sensitive to a lot of soaps and lotions. When they reformulate something that I have used, I go through agony trial/error to find something that doesn’t make my hands bleed or blister.

      Well, not all that long before we all went home, they’d changed the soap in the bathroom at work. While everyone complained it was way too drying, I was the one who tried the new soap once (while there was still a few remnants of old soap because new soap came with new dispensers) and ended up with little bleeding fissures all over the backs of my hands. So I carried my own soap back and forth with me every time. At home, of course, no products are allowed in that are “not safe” for my skin, and it’s nice to be able to leave the soap next to the sink and not have to cart it around all the time (if I’d left my safe soap in the bathroom at work, it would undoubtedly have been gone, because no one liked the supplied soap, I was just the only one who bled if I used it).

  5. misswired*

    Toilet paper makes all the difference!

    In some cases you get toilet paper that is such poor quality that it ends up all over the floor in tiny pieces when it lodges tight in the dispenser and can only be torn out bit by bit. Then it’s walked throughout the office from the bathroom.

    The quality of the amenities reflects an employer’s respect for its employees.

    1. ceiswyn*

      And I am willing to very that if they did the maths they would discover they’re paying a lot more for toilet paper because people need to use a lot more to get clean.

      1. BunnyC*

        We call that John Wayne toilet paper.
        Rough as he** and don’t take sh** offa nobody.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I want someone to check the quality of the toilet paper in the executive bathrooms.

    2. Mongrel*

      When the office starts cheaping out on the essentials it may be time to polish up the resume. This sort of petty cost-cutting is a common sign that things are going badly in my experience.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Yes and no. New guy took over and immediately starts petty cuts, sure maybe he knows things are about to go south, but also maybe he’s just petty and cheap.
        If existing leadership suddenly starts cheaping out on essentially, then it’s a sinking ship.

        1. AnonORama*

          This has happened at companies I’ve worked with, and the books were fine. It was half “petty tyrant” and half “need to look like I’m doing something to make us more efficient.”

          1. Hannah Lee*

            One place i worked at it was pencils. The only pencils they stocked were incredibly cheap, had both rubbery “lead” non-functional “erasers” that smudged, and would bend slightly under any pressure making handwriting more messy than it needed to be. The person who controlled the supplies list refused to buy any other kind, unless you were an “official” engineer or drafter and completed a special requisition.

            The $2.99 I spent at Staples for a box of 12 to bring to work was the best cheap purchase I ever made, eliminated so much annoyance from my workday.

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              Now if you were an entrepreneur, you would have bought two boxes and sold the second box as loosies for fifty cents each! :)

  6. Mia*

    I know this isn’t the actual definition, but offices with one ply toilet paper are truly hostile work environments :’(

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        Try living in Europe in the 80s, specifically Germany. All of the cheaper stuff was more like brown handtowel paper. One type actually was 10pfennig and had a postage-stamp sized sliver of soap stuck to it. (eyeroll here….The soap was very nicely scented with rose.)

        When my bestie moved there, I visited so we could tour all over- we did the “Weird Ways of Flushing” and the “Horrible TP” tours along with museums and castles.

        1. lyonite*

          My dad went on a high school trip to the Soviet Union in the sixties and one of the things he brought back was what he claimed was a sheet of toilet paper. Brown, about three inches square, and waxed on one side–you could put a sharp crease in it and it would stand on its own. I believed him when he showed it to me, but now I wonder. . .

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            When I was in grade school, here in the good old USA, we had waxy three inch square pieces that stacked like kleenex, so the first one pulled the second one down (does that make sense?) But they were white. I hated those, they were not good in any way.

  7. Nodramalama*

    Fair to not want a ouija board in your work space but I’m a bit confused by the idea of not believing in what it represents and its symbols. Isnt the idea it represents… A game? It’s not real. Isnt it kind of like not believing in light as a feather heavy as a board?

    1. Ellie*

      I always thought they were for communicating with the dead. There’s a whole host of reasons why someone might be uncomfortable with that. I don’t like them either, and I don’t consider myself either superstitious or religious.

      1. Nodramalama*

        Except it was created as and marketed as a game. You’re not really communicating with the dead and it’s not designed for that.

        1. Nodramalama*

          To add, it’s no more designed to speak to the dead than a magic 8 ball is designed to see the future

          1. Ellis Bell*

            I mean… that just makes it more disrespectful of magic and spiritual based beliefs? Imagine a more mainstream religion that was made into a debunked board game and see how well that plays out at work.

        2. Let's not*

          There’s a lot of stuff to this.
          – The modern concept is rooted in spiritual practices, hence why it was packaged and marketed as a “fun” thing
          – There *are* a subset of occultists who use this as a tool
          – Likewise, there are many Christian people who believe there is a demonic element to it (coming from this perspective: yes, there is).
          – Regardless of the above, you can find plenty of anecdotes from people – areligious or otherwise – who have had bad experiences with these – regardless of whether or not those were “real” or coordinated pranks
          – Even treated as a game, not real, not intended, the fact is the thing it’s associated with IS something that people are uncomfortable with

          1. Nodramalama*

            I don’t know how occultists can use it considering its pretty clear how it works

            1. IngEmma*

              I mean you’re welcome to look it up, they have historically been used by some spiritualists in some contexts.

              Lots of magic tricks are pretty easy to understand and people still go to magic shows.

              And if you’re not someone who believes in speaking in tongues / being possessed or what have you, that stuff can also be easily explained as ‘it’s not hard to make noises.’ But you’d still sound pretty inconsiderate in a work context if you told someone who did believe in that that they were ridiculous because everyone can make noises, because that’s not their belief of what’s happening.

              Responding to ‘this freaks me out’ with ‘well it shouldn’t’ feels like it’s missing the point to me!

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              Have you seriously never seen a movie in which people use a ouija board, and there’s a message from the dead, and then a gust of wind blows through the room and the lights go out? I feel like that’s common enough to be a trope, and specifically one of “messing with powers beyond what you understand; you thought it was a game but the power you summoned isn’t playing around.”

              I do not believe in ouija boards as a thing with actual power. But it would feel weird to have one as a mousepad, like I was filling out a spreadsheet while spelling out “raise ghost of Mae West.” I would also feel very weird if a normal office function was set up such that I made the sign of the cross, or imitated the path of a pilgrim at Hajj, or duplicated a Buddhist symbol.

              1. Nonanon*

                I would love to see the alternate horror movie where there’s just a standard office worker going about their day, when suddenly there’s a gust of wind, the lights go out, and the ghost of Mae West appears. “You summoned?” she asks. “No, just trying to file a TPS report,” the worker replies, confused. “Oh, that must mean…” and gestures to her Ouija board mousepad. Mae nods. “You wouldn’t believe how often this happens.”

                1. Panicked*

                  There’s a story called “Todd and Annette” about an old lady who accidentally summoned a demon while knitting and thought it was her grandson who finally came to visit. It’s adorable.

                2. Princess Sparklepony*

                  Love this! We really need a like button. But then we would want a love button…

              2. Princess Sparklepony*

                Don’t forget that when the lights come on one of the party has been murdered – usually with a knife.

                And I love the Mae West thing. But I’d be more worried about summoning a demon….

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Don’t forget that when the lights come on one of the party has been murdered – usually with a knife.
                  Right? Know your literary antecedents, people!

            3. AnonORama*

              There’s actually an interesting theory called ideomotor effect, suggesting subconscious or unconscious (not magical!) manipulation of the board. Or it may be that other thing called bullshit.

        3. Emily*

          Except that prior to this discussion, I didn’t even know that it was created and marketed as a game. The ouija board was introduced to me (in childhood, by a friend) as a vaguely spooky supernatural thing used for communicating with spirits. The only other times I’ve encountered it were in horror media.

          I’m guessing that I’m not the only person with a similar understanding of ouija boards. While I’m not personally superstitious or religious, I can understand why some people would be uncomfortable with them.

      2. DCLimey*

        I dunno man, my buddy used an Ouija board once and now he thinks he’s a glass of orange juice.

    2. IngEmma*

      It is trademarked by hasbro and sold as a game in that context, sure, but it also has a long history of being used in a spiritualist context and also just as a way to freak people out at sleepovers.

      But this response probably helps point out the use of ‘I’m superstitious’ advice above! Even if you personally haven’t come across the cultural context of it being used (as a prank or seriously) to commune with the dead / ghosts or whatever, you would maybe be confused if someone said they were superstitious but you probably wouldn’t argue much with them!

        1. IngEmma*

          Fair enough! I think if you’re asking out of genuine curiosity, you might have found the answer here as to why people think it’s used to talk to the dead.

          Talking boards (which are often called Ouija boards colloquially, like Kleenex for all types of tissue paper) have been used in seances quite a bit. I agree that the hasbro game rules certainly don’t say that! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          I also wouldn’t be that surprised if there’s someone out there freaked out by magic 8 balls, but I think this is actually a bit different and less surprising than that!

          1. I Super Believe in You, Tad Cooper*

            Yep. That person is my mother. I wasn’t allowed to have a magic 8 ball as a kid because A) it had magic in the name, B) she saw it as a gateway drug if you will to other forms of divination, and C) the answers available were snarky and she didn’t want to encourage sarcasm or an attitude in our home.

      1. RVA Cat*

        “Freak people out at sleepovers” is key.
        Honestly a Ouija board decor doesn’t bother me but I would rather not have it as a mouse pad because it’s so similar to using one. While it’s fun to relive being a teen who wanted to be Fairuza Balk in The Craft it’s not exactly my headspace for work.

    3. ceiswyn*

      Yes, it’s a game – designed to facilitate communication with spirits. It was designed during the height of spiritualism, when taking to the dead via seances and mediums was a common entertainment. During its original patent process, the designers had to demonstrate that it could genuinely facilitate that communication, by spelling out the answer to a question that (supposedly) they didn’t know the answer to. There’s a fascinating Smithsonian article available online.

      So whether you specifically believe in spirits and ghosts or not, the ‘game’ is genuinely for communicating with them. And for people who do believe in spirits, ghosts and demons, the fact that communication with them is being marketed as a fun family game… does not make anything any better.

    4. Two-Faced Big-Haired Food Critic*

      Maybe not so much the board as the way people use it. I’ve never done an Ouija session where someone didn’t start showboating, and that can start a chain reaction of people freaking out. Not that that’s likely to result from someone using a mouse pad, but it’s why I sometimes shudder when I see a Ouija board or planchette.

    5. Artemesia*

      I am a freethinker and assume the communication with the dead or spirits that is the core of the Ouija board is nonsense but it still someone how creeps me out a bit. I would not want to be using a mousepad with one on it and signaling who knows what to who knows whom. It is ridiculous and I don’t believe any of that and yet, there it is, creepy.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Yeah, I think for me it because I first encountered warnings about ouija boards when I was about 8-9, which is when your brains are forming some pretty core beliefs. And whilst a lot of the beliefs I formed that age have subsequently been shown to be entirely wrong through exposure (gay people are icky, sprouts are disgusting), ouija boards aren’t important enough to have spent any time re-training my brain so that “creepy” reaction comes from a pretty deep and fundamental place!

        1. fidget spinner*

          Ooh good take! For me, it’s not Ouija boards because I never really believed in them, but as someone who was raised Christian–demonic possession makes me uneasy! No, I don’t believe it’s going to happen, but I still get uneasy when people make possession jokes or joke about “selling their soul” or whatever.

          In fact, I get uncomfy even referring to things as “demons” or “demonic,” even in jest, like idk “speed demon.” So weird of me, lol, but I don’t see it changing?

      2. Quoth the Raven*

        I’m of the same mind in that regardless of what my beliefs in the spiritual may be, I don’t believe Ouija boards can be used to communicate with anyone, and yet the idea of using one (even as a mouthpad) makes me very uncomfortable. If anything, I’d just avoid it just so I don’t end up freaking myself out!

      3. DyneinWalking*

        I associate with superstition but also, importantly, the horror genre.

        So, while I’m extremely scientific, an Ouija board in the room would make me feel uneasy just as if it was a creepy doll or something similar. You don’t need to buy into the paranormal or be religious to be creeped out by something like that – if it has certain associations in pop culture, those associations shape your moods and feelings about it. They certainly shape mine.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Yup. That’s how The Exorcist started – the kid found an ouija board in the closet and was playing with it. No thank you.

      4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I’ve heard that creepy is often when something feels dangerous, but we can’t pinpoint why. So tigers aren’t creepy, they are just scary. But Ouija boards and that one dude at work and furby toys? Creepy. They aren’t actually dangerous, probably, and you have no logical reason to avoid them, but something is off and you feel unsettled.

        This is actually a really useful instinct because it allows us to respond to actual dangers that we don’t consciously perceive that are pinging our danger radar somewhere in the depths of our brains. But it makes it hard to explain.

      5. MigraineMonth*

        Entirely apart from the creepy aspect, there would also be a significant portion of my brainpower at any given moment trying to figure out what I was spelling out on the mousepad while filling out the TPS report. S…h…r… that could be the beginning of “shred” or maybe… Crap, I filled out the report wrong *again*.

        Part of my daily login process involves the generation of an alphanumeric string and that’s already too much brainpower wasted on trying to find patterns in randomness.

    6. Not Australian*

      IMHO the important thing, especially in a work context, is not to get mired in a debate about whether or not it’s “real”. What matters, surely, is that a workmate is upset/offended/creeped out by it (adjust according to circumstances), and as it’s not essential for the performance of anybody’s job it can just as easily be removed and replaced with something more universally acceptable. It’s pretty much the same debate as whether or not pin-up calendars (either gender) should be allowed: they add nothing whatever to the performance of the job and can therefore safely be dispensed with and replaced by something nobody could take exception to. Why is this even up for debate?

    7. Future*

      I personally see it as a toy too, but I don’t think it takes a great leap of imagination to understand that others may see it as something with genuine spiritual or other qualities for a wide variety of reasons. Especially once one knows its history. The one you can most easily buy now is licenced by Hasbro, sure, but it’s not exactly Candyland.

    8. learnedthehardway*

      I think that – objectively speaking – something that is designed to facilitate communication with spirits is – by definition – a spiritual item. The same way a cruxifix or any other religious item would be.

      I think people would be legitimately weirded out if someone put in a cross-shaped mouse or any other religious-inspired equipment in a shared workspace. It’s also perfectly fine to be weirded out by something that is an occult practice object (whether or not it is marketed as a game, it has a historical background in serious efforts to communicate with the dead / spirits).

      If approaching this as a personal superstition works, great. But some people will have a genuine religious objection to this, and that should be respected as well.

    9. Dust Bunny*

      I have had friends whose parents thought light as a feather was evil, too, but we all thought they were over the top. Remember the Satanic Panic?

      I mean, I don’t believe in Ouija boards, either, but that’s exactly why I wouldn’t personally care if you had one on your mousepad. I have two of them that I got with other stuff and the only reason I still have them is that I can’t reach the shelf. But no demons, I assure you.

    10. Empress Ki*

      I think there is a religious (or spiritual) element to it. It is the same as having any religious symbol (for instance a crucifix). Not appropriate for the work place.

  8. Nene Poppy*

    LW4 – Toilet paper

    Keep a pack of baby wipes in a toiletry bag and take it with you. Nobody is watching what you take into the toilets.

    Just be glad that your company isn’t using the horrible Izal paper that was used years ago in UK school toilets. It was like tracing paper.

    1. Mornington Crescent*

      For whatever reason, my grandpa loved Izal toilet paper, so they always had two rolls on the go at their house- Izal for grandpa, and normal paper for grandma and everyone else. Vile stuff, but I remember it fondly because of grandpa!

      1. ecnaseener*

        My parents do the same thing! Not Izal specifically, but my mom actually likes the scratchy one-ply stuff. I can’t explain it.

        1. anne of mean gables*

          My home also has a two-toilet paper solution. My husband uses the scratchy one ply because he’s convinced it’s better for the plumbing in this old house (he is probably right); I refuse to live like that (and refuse to treat guests like that) and stock slightly more fluffy paper (though not as fluffy as I would like, I made that concession after a particularly traumatic plumbing backup).

      2. Sunflower*

        As a child, my family didn’t have a lot of money so we brought the same (or similar) quality toilet paper they use in schools. I never know why people complained about the school paper. So I’m with your grandpa.

        The first time I used the two ply cottony soft paper, it just didn’t feel right. Like it’s so soft that I’m not getting clean. LOL

          1. Lenora Rose*

            it doesn’t have to absorb, it just has to remove. For instance, nobody thinks ceramics are absorbing, but apparently Romans used potsherds to clean up …

            1. ceiswyn*

              In some instances yes, but when you’re trying to…

              …never mind :) I’m still curious, but there are some discussions that this is definitely not an appropriate forum for!

      3. Not Australian*

        We loved it too – as tracing paper, and for making a comb-and-paper ‘harmonica’. On the bum, not so much…

    2. athersgeo*

      Not just like…I seem to remember being aged about eight or nine and being dispatched to the loos to get some because we’d run out of tracing paper in the class room!

    3. Forensic13*

      Please avoid using baby wipes if you can! There are actually none safe for flushing, whatever the packages say, and they’re really bad for septic systems.

      1. djx*

        Also I just read that for regular continued use they are not good on the most sensitive skin. Feel good sure, but the chemicals are not ideal unless you also wash the area with plain water.

        I use them from time to time (certainly if that’s all that’s available and also at times I have, ahem, issues down there). But would not do it every day.

      2. Seashell*

        If you’re in a public women’s room, you can throw them out in the little container for feminine hygiene products.

  9. Your Mate in Oz*

    FWIW a lot of people who ride to work wear cycling knicks against their skin and those are really not great to wear all day in an office. So it’s not just “down to underwear” that’s being changed, and you *really* don’t want to do that outside a toilet/change room with whatever local gender restrictions apply to your local legal and personal situation.

    Some employers are really good and it does pay to ask. One place I worked I was concerned about but when I asked the building manager instead of my boss I was shown the shower and change room, assigned a locker and shown where the bicycle parking was. The BM was excited when I asked whether I could park my windsurfer there when I used that to get to work :) So it might be worth asking what’s available just in case no-one else has, and maybe management will change the situation once the question is asked.

      1. dot*

        I had a buddy once who worked a summer at an oyster farm and was staying at another friend’s family’s summer house rent-free. He would kayak across the Chesapeake Bay at dawn every morning as his commute to work.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          *blink* All the way across the Bay? Crossing the shipping channel? That’s terrifying. Crossing a tributary, sure, or maybe wayyy upstream of Baltimore, but yikes. Brave guy!

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      That’s definitely true! In the letter writer’s case, they were coming in on the bus wearing normal clothes and biking home in biking clothes.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      OK, I need to know more about windsurfing to work! My wife would be jealous.

      1. Your Mate in Oz*

        that was Wellingon, New Zealand so the weather was more stormy than sunny, but at the time I was young and keen and really liked a good strong wind for windsurfing in. These days it’s more likely kite surfing, but we’re definitely talking strong winds and screaming along bouncing off the top of waves. Wellington does that very well.

        So I’d drag my gear a kilomoetre or so to a beach on the south side of the city and sail round the peninsula to the city (near Te Papa), then drag it up to the office, have a shower and do a day’s work. If the weather was still good and I felt up to it (depending on hard the trip in was) I’d sail home, or leave it at work and take the bus home, then sail the next day.

        Definitely not something most people, or even most windsurfers, would do. But generally I’d see a few other people out there when I was. Especially after work, because Wellington with the wind blowing into the harbour is awesome for windsurfing.

  10. goldfishlady*

    I would say this is a tough situation because of your coworker’s seniority. I think you should try to estimate his personality as well as you can, despite the fact that he’s not your boss. Does he look like a vindictive person? I’ve had a really bad experience after trying to stop rude comments from a senior coworker – this person made my work life difficult in various ways.

  11. Richard Hershberger*

    My father went to a small liberal arts college. In 1929, when the stock market crashed, various companies went belly up and simply abandoned stuff. This included a entire box car full of toilet paper, left at the nearby train station. The station master had to figure out what to do with it, so he called the college and asked if they wanted it. They did! It was terrible, terrible toilet paper. Just imagine the cheapest toilet paper available in the 1920s. My father went there decades later, and they were still using it. And decades after that, my father was still talking about how terrible it was.

    1. Seashell*

      My kid in college recently complained about the dorm toilet paper and asked what kind we usually use at home to buy a replacement.

  12. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

    For #2, I would bring in a doll and tell him to show me exactly where my diet soda hurt him.

    1. wordswords*

      Um. I get the intent of “see, my diet soda has exactly zero effect on you,” but this joke is in pretty poor taste, I think.

  13. Justin*

    Whenever Alison does this I think of the NBC slogan from the 90s, “if you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.”

    But I usually don’t remember them even though I’ve been reading for 8 years, so I guess she’s right.

  14. Marta*

    I feel like I’ve been missing something all these years – isn’t a ouija board just a toy? It’s not supposed to be legitimately connecting with spirits is it?

    Either way though, if it bothers you your colleagues should remove it – or if they really care you can just bring your own and switch it out like AAM advised

    1. Good Enough For Government Work*

      It is both a toy (legally, etc.) and also used for ‘legitimately’ communicating with dead people.

      (‘Legitimately’ in inverted commas because I don’t believe it’s real. But yes, there are people who do.)

    2. TX_Trucker*

      The “modern” ouiji board is a patented toy. But versions of talking boards are much older. The local museum had an exhibit on them for
      Halloween, and I think they said they back to 1200 AD in China.

    3. Sunflower*

      There are stories where people played with the toy for fun and regretted it after. I don’t know if the stories are real or not but they are interesting or creepy to read about.

    4. Dawnshadow*

      I mean, Crimes Against Humanity is also just a game but I don’t want to see that at my workplace either.

      And as many have already said, Ouiji boards have a whole history before Hasbro. If Hasbro came out with a voodoo doll pin set would that negate the entire history of voodoo?

      1. Marta*

        I haven’t played CAH and I don’t think voodoo is real, but if someone was doing those things at work and one of their colleagues objected, I hope they would listen and stop doing it.

        I don’t think the topic really matters – if they were talking about pregnancy or IBS for example those are also (potentially) topics to be avoided at work also and a colleague would be fully within their rights to ask them to stop

      2. Generic Username*

        Playing Cards Against Humanity at work is definitely one of the crimes against humanity .

      3. C*

        It’s worth noting that dolls that work on sympathetic magic are a feature of European folk traditions and not religions of the African diaspora.

  15. Glen*

    I still remember one of my colleagues thanking the boss for getting rid of “the single-ply wet and dry” in the loo at my last job. He always did have a memorable turn of phrase.

  16. CouldntPickAUsername*

    I learned a long time ago that defending my health or diet choices seemed to just make people argue more. The act of discussing it seems to be an invitation for them. It’s now 100% response of ‘this is not I discuss’ give 0 ground and make it clear it’s not welcome. Some people will drop it after a polite statement others will keep pushing. they get firmer responses.

    for boundaries some people just need the equivalent of a spray painted line on pavement and will respect that, others see the equivalent of a 50 ft rebar reinforced concrete wall with razer wire and go ‘welp, time to start climbing’.

    1. Seashell*

      I don’t know about obsessed, but it’s not surprising that people do write in about a wide array of things.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      People have strong emotions about toilet paper. *gestures at comments*

      The one thing that went right for me in 2020 (beyond, like, not dying from the cancer treatment) was that in early March I was in the grocery store, couldn’t remember if we needed toilet paper, and tossed in a pack. The panic buying started three days later. The whole nation became obsessed with toilet paper. There were news reports about toilet paper.

      1. londonedit*

        Yep. Occasionally I still think to myself how weird it was that for a period of time in 2020 I always knew exactly how many loo rolls I had in the house.

      2. C*

        There does not seem to have been widespread panic buying. The toilet paper shortage has to do with a confluence of factors including the fact that people use public toilets more than they’d realize and that stores had really bought into just in time stocking over the past few decades.

        If everyone anticipates being home for twice as long between trips to the store as usual and buys twice as much toilet paper as usual, that isn’t panic buying. It’s very sensible! But it still causes shortages when the stores no longer keep warehouses.

        And when everyone underestimates their toilet paper consumption because they never realized how much they poop at work or school or the bar, they’ll run out and realize that half of their life they use cheap paper on huge rolls that can’t be bought for the home market even if you’re willing to do so.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          On Monday I grocery shopped and things were normal. On Wednesday a certain president gave a speech to reassure the nation. Thursday I stopped in to grab some milk and the shelves had been razed.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              I disagree. FD noted how events in the news can cause people to react emotionally and behave in ways outside the norm.

              1. C*

                No. They noted that there were shortages. I am not disputing that there were shortages, nor am I disputing that people reacted to events in the news and that this affected their shopping.

                What I am disputed is that this can be chalked up to “panic buying” or “emotions”. When the government tells you to minimize spending time outside your home, the decision to go to the store less often is perfectly rational. It’s not emotional at all. When the government tells you that you may need to stay at home for up to two weeks if you are infected it is not panicking to decide you’d better have two weeks of food and toilet paper in your home.

                So let’s imagine a fairly typical grocery store in a fairly typical town. This store sees 100 shoppers every single week, and each of them can be trusted to buy one 4-pack of toilet paper every single week, and so the store buys 100 packs of toilet paper every single week.

                But now the news goes out that we all should, for sensible and rational reasons, stay home. Whoops, probably it’s best if we stop with our weekly grocery trip! So Mary decides she’ll go to the store and buy enough for two weeks instead, and so she goes to the store and buys two packs of toilet paper, and also two loaves of bread and two cans of tuna and two boxes of pasta and so on. And Maria goes to the store, and she buys two packs of toilet paper and two bags of onions and two sacks of potatoes, and Mario goes to the store and buys two packs of toilet paper and two cans of chili and the point is that by the time customer 51 walks in the door, let’s just call her Miriam, all the toilet paper is gone.

                Did anybody panic? Because if you’re defining “panic buying” as “purchasing an extra pack of toilet paper after you decided to go to the store every two weeks instead of every week” then I think the problem here is your definition.

                Nobody has to act irrationally to create shortages. Nobody has to react on emotions, least of all panic. Nobody has to stock up on wholly extravagant quantities of food. All they have to do is make the entirely rational and unemotional decision to buy for two weeks instead of one, and do it at the same time as their neighbors.

                This is not panic buying, and honestly, I wonder who exactly benefits from claiming that shortages are caused by your own neighbors acting selfishly and irrationally rather than by the realities of how our stores are stocked.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Source for your claim that there was not widespread panic buying?

          1. C*

            Source for the claim that there was? The fact that there were shortages does not prove panic buying. It only shows the pitfalls of the modern just in time stocking system that has absolutely no flex.

        3. Andromeda*

          (I’m in the UK) IIRC it was a little of column A and a little of column B — we definitely did have shortages of TP and other stuff before lockdowns etc really hit, and there definitely was *some* panic buying. (Shops were being careful not to let people stockpile loads of stuff at once, and people definitely did try to get around that.) By the winter of 2020 it had mostly chilled out, as well — even when a lot of people were still in semi- or full lockdown and would still have needed supplies to last longer than average.

          Undoubtedly supply chain stuff came into it as well, though, especially as we went from Feb into March and the pandemic affected more countries. I’d like to see a breakdown of the numbers there, ofc — plural of anecdote is not data etc. But I do believe there was a panic buying spike in late Feb/March that outpaced the frequency of restocks/didn’t completely correlate to where supply chains were breaking down and making restocks harder.

          1. C*

            My previous response had a link in it. I’m reproducing as much of it as I can recall without the link.

            The evidence specifically for the UK is that only a tiny percentage of shoppers bought exorbitantly large quantities of goods – only about 3% bought very large amounts of pasta, for example. (This data seems to come from the stores themselves, so whether that makes it more or less likely to be accurate is undoubtedly a whole second argument.)

            The trouble is that you don’t need panic buying to create mass shortages. All you need is for everybody to collectively decide, at the same time, to stock up a very little bit. The system can take one person buying one extra roll of toilet paper, but it can’t take everybody in the city buying an extra roll of toilet paper all at once.

            But I don’t think any reasonable person can call one extra roll of toilet paper, or one extra can of tuna fish, or one extra loaf of bread selfish, irrational, or “panic buying”, especially not when the motivations are wholly rational and based on the decision to go out less frequently for everybody’s benefit.

            1. C*

              And by the way, the fact that things evened out by the end of the year doesn’t prove that it really was panic buying after all.

              People only consume so much pasta or toilet paper or flour in any given year. Once everybody had stocked up a little more than they used to, all they needed to do is keep replenishing their stock at more or less the same rate as previously – which means that all the stores needed to do is the same thing. The first week everybody decides to go shopping twice a month instead of four times a month is a disaster. The 40th week after that is status quo.

      3. Le Sigh*

        Same! There was a good price on bulk supplies of TP and hand soap in Dec/Jan around that time, so I bought a bunch to get the deal, figuring I was probably set for the year. I coincidentally gave some to my mom — she scoffed and said she didn’t have the room to store it, but kept it anyway. When things got gnarly, she thanked me for having the foresight — I think it was just dumb luck, and maybe the one time in my life I was ahead of the curve. And hey, at least I could share with my neighbors, who gave me butter and flour in exchange.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          One of the people I swam with when things partially reopened had a cute hat with little ears. She said her daughter gave it to her because it was basically like her mom was a hamster and daughter would drive by to drop off food outside the enclosed habitat.

    3. Angstrom*

      It’s a universal human function. We may not have the same jobs or interests, but everybody uses the loo.

    4. Fíriel*

      I imagine because it’s a fairly common kind of thing to have problems with in the workplace because everyone does it and often does it while on the clock. I’d guess we have a similar number of questions about eating for the same reason

    5. Nobby Nobbs*

      Because we like to be judgy and mildly scandalized. What else are advice columns for?

    6. Donkey Hotey*

      Friend, I will point out that you had the chance to ask why it is a regular topic of conversation.

    7. AnonORama*

      I don’t think it’s scatological, as much as it’s “we’re people who need to relieve ourselves, and we’re stuck with someone else’s facilities for half our waking hours.” Workplace bathroom issues can really cause misery! It’s hardly like there’s a lot of bathroom humor or grossness here.

  17. Yup*

    I feel like there’s a lesson to be gleaned from 1-ply TP offices. Like after your interview, ask to use the bathroom. If they stock 1-ply tissue, run!

  18. TX_Trucker*

    #4. I wouldn’t worry about trying to be discrete carrying a roll of toilet paper in an open floor plan. If it’s awful, other folks probably agree with you and this will put it out in the open.

    Is the company buying toilet paper or is provided by a janitorial contract? We went through an awful year of cheap toilet paper because our yearly janitorial didn’t have any specs in our contract about what type of toilet paper they had to provide. We specified brands of hand soap and paper towels … mechanics wash their hands alot. But we somehow forgot to write anything about the toilet paper. We never made that mistake again.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I imagine the entire office is just waiting for one person to normalize carrying the roll, and then the flood gates will open.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I do think stuff like this lends itself to a casual comment when you are in the bathroom with someone else, which is how you generate the group effort Alison recommended. One time my office suddenly had industrial-strength soap that was killing my skin, and I just complained every time I saw someone else in there — they always agreed, and the soap did get replaced before we used it up. I can’t remember if I brought it to the higher-ups or if someone else did.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Funny you should say that but there’s a current TV ad for toilet paper in the UK where a woman, ahem, makes a digestive noise, then picks up a magazine and a roll of toilet paper and marches through the open-plan office giving knowing looks to her coworkers before entering the bathroom. The voice-over does indeed talk about not being ashamed of your body and normalising regular visits!

    2. I should really pick a name*

      Except if people see them with the roll, we’re going to get a follow-up letter about how their roll of toilet paper keeps getting stolen from their desk :P

    3. Binge Crosby*

      #2 My go-to line for people who appoint themselves gatekeeper of my personal choices: “I wouldn’t worry too much about it.” For repeat incidents: “I really wouldn’t worry too much about it.” Repeat ad infinitum, no matter what their reply. (Of course escalate the problem to management or HR as appropriate for the situation (“Do you plan on having children”????!!! WTF), but as far as your in the moment response to this guy… repeat and repeat.)

  19. Bast*

    Diet Soda — I read both the original letter and the update and am just baffled at how much focus this guy is/was paying into what OTHER PEOPLE are eating. Even more so that they are somewhat random people at work, and not even friends or family (wouldn’t justify it, but it adds to the weird factor that these two aren’t even close). And then to jump ship on the diet soda and focus on gluten? WHAT??? I’m curious how many people he does this too — sounds absolutely miserable to be around. I think it would be funny to completely change tack to point out how rude he is without saying it directly. *After a pointed silence and look** “So,some weather we’ve been having right?” or “Can’t believe the X team lost again. What a season.”

    1. Birb*

      I sincerely believe that some insecure people look for ANY way to be an “authority” over other people (usually women, I have NEVER seen a man be policed for food and beverage choices at work in this way), and that leads to them doing this kind of annoying harping.

  20. Nonanon*

    I appreciate the update to LW2 but REALLY need an update to LW4;did they get the good toilet paper back?!?

  21. Andre*

    re: changing clothes – perhaps the company has a wellness room that she could use. these are typically able to be reserved and, of course, private, with a lock on the door. given the brief time of the change and presumably it would be at the end of the work day, it’s highly unlikely that there would be any competition for the space (I worked for a company, for example, for about a year and never once saw anyone in the wellness room)

    re: the diet soda – ah nothing better than being in an office and someone making it their mission to explain why you shouldn’t like the thing you like (whether it be food, music, decor, etc). I’ve found that these people are all too quick to give everyone else their opinion but are *not* open to having it discounted or, worse, having others give them their opinion of their habits. I try to assume positive intent so perhaps the Doctor guy thinks he’s helping but it sounds like he just likes being the one in control of everyone and everything around him.

    1. djx*

      OP wrote: “We don’t have another space I could change other than the women’s bathroom”
      “People definitely change sometimes in the bathroom”

  22. The Rafters*

    Eons ago, our agency changed the TP. It was like sandpaper. Everyone was in an uproar. One woman sent an e-mail to my boss that she had to take the afternoon off to see her gynecologist about the rash that developed due to the TP. It was switched back to the old brand before noon that day.

  23. Safely Retired*

    Facial tissues (kleenex) works well as a substitute for toilet paper. It won’t be rough or harsh, and is available in small packets. But I would be inclined to keep a box, and carry it with me when headed to or from the facility, responding bluntly why if questioned.

    1. Synaptically Unique*

      Please do not ever flush kleenex/tissue that’s not specifically created for toilets. It doesn’t break down the same way toilet tissue does and clogs individual toilets/sewer lines/waste treatment systems.

    2. Sunflower*

      Tissue is not good for the plumbing though. I’d just carry a roll of proper TP to and from my desk.

  24. Marta*

    If the toilet paper issue is around finances, maybe use it as an incentive. If the management keeps a few premium rolls hidden and awards them to the employee of the month, or if you’ve hit a certain goal, the cost will justify itself from the performance improvements as everyone races to the top

  25. Peanut Hamper*

    LW# 4: The obvious solution to me is to just start using a lot more of the cheap things (which is probably not difficult because they are cheap) so that the expense for these things actually goes up.

  26. Phony Genius*

    As an aside to #3, it is much easier to change clothes in a bathroom stall if there is a hook on the door. I’m not sure how I’d do it if there were not.

  27. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, this might be cultural, but for what it’s worth, I would never have associated a discomfort with ouija with religion. In my experience, many people have some level of discomfort with ouija and most don’t even really seem to know why.

    My guess would be that it’s a combination of its use in things like horror films and haunted houses and so on and the fact that it’s something a lot of preteens and young teenagers do under the belief that they are doing something rebellious and counterculture. So I think a lot of people associate it with something scary, taboo, etc.

    Now, I suspect part of it may originally go back to objections for religious reasons. Like at some point, religious people may have forbidden their children, students, flock (if they were clergy or similar), etc from getting involved with it and then children grew up thinking of it as something they were forbidden to do and therefore they saw it as something taboo and incorporated it into horror films and so on. I know when I was a kid, I got a general sense that it was something adults were uncomfortable with, adults who would have laughed at things like astrology or mediums or stuff like walking under ladders. So I sort of grew up associating 8t as being something that made even people who were more sceptical, somewhat uncomfortable.

    Anyway, I think it is reasonable for you to not want to see it, just as it would be if there was a snake on it and you had a phobia or snakes or even something that is less commonly considered “creepy” like a bird and so long as you don’t imply your coworker was doing something wrong by having it. There’s a difference between, “this is probably going to sound a bit silly, but something about ouija creeps me out. Would you mind if we changed that mousetrap?” and ” your mouse pad is not appropriate for work. Ouija is evil and does not belong in the workplace.”

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      Interesting — here in the US, I’d associate that discomfort *primarily* with religion. The same sort of impulse that made people say that kids shouldn’t play D&D or read Harry Potter because they were “Satanic”. (Perhaps this was much less common outside the US and that was why?)

      But I totally agree that an attitude of “this is a me thing, but I’m creeped out by the Ouija board” is more likely to work than “this is objectively bad and I demand that it be removed.”

  28. PoopPro*

    TP is terrible. I haven’t used it for years.
    Wet paper towel is the way to go (way better than those UNflushable wipes).
    Just make sure to throw them in the trash so you don’t mess with your plumbing.

    1. Seashell*

      That sounds very rough. I’m going to guess you’re a man and only wiping after a #2.

  29. super anon for this one*

    I proudly switched to bamboo toilet paper at home early in the pandemic and it took me a ridiculously long time to discover I’m allergic to bamboo.
    It was causing me a severe amount of discomfort and I just… I just thought it was a symptom of a digestive disorder I had developed. Switching to recycled paper instead of bamboo brought me immediate relief (though I still have the digestive disorder, but it’s better when… certain places aren’t constantly itching).

    1. Delayed Sleep Phaser*

      OH NO. That’s massively uncool! As someone with digestive issues, you have all my sympathy. Making a mental note that if I ever want to try bamboo tp, to get a small quantity first…

      1. super anon for this one*

        yes, definitely do. The dumb part is I noticed that it was bothering my FACE to use bamboo paper towels to dry off after washing, but it did not occur to me for far too long that it might ALSO be bothering my…. bottom!

  30. BellyButton*

    I am an atheist and a complete non believer in ghosts, but Ouija boards still freak me out.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      In the same way: most people insist they don’t believe in astrology but everyone knows what sign they are.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        If you tell people you don’t know your sign, they will ask when you were born, and then tell you “oh, you’re a Leo.” And friends and relatives who already know your birthday will say things like “us Leos” or “this is a lucky day for Leos, you should buy a lottery ticket.”

        I genuinely don’t know my sign in the Chinese system, because that’s not something the people I grew up around talked about, whereas the newspapers we used to get had little astrology columns that listed a range of dates for each zodiac sign.

      2. Good Enough For Government Work*

        I don’t believe in astrology *because* I know what sign I am. I am literally the opposite of everything I am ‘supposed’ to be, which is why I know it’s bullsh*t.

    2. Empress Ki*

      If you are a complete non believer, I am curious to know what freaks you out. Not being judgemental, just curious.

  31. BellyButton*

    One of the things I have learned is that when you explain your choices or decisions to people, they see it as invitation to debate, judge, and/or offer their advice. Someone I work with, and do not know well, recently asked me why I never had children. I gave the WTF look and said “Why do you think it’s ok to ask someone such a personal question?”

    I start my response the same they ask their intrusive question “What are drinking?” “What does it matter?” “Why are still drinking soda?” “Why do you care?” It really throws them off and they usually sputter, make an excuse, and change the subject.

    One of the best lessons I have learned from therapy is that it isn’t my job to protect everyone’s feelings or to make everyone feel comfortable. I am allowed to protect my own feelings and be comfortable. I can do that by not engaging. It is so hard when you first start doing it, but you can still be kind when setting boundaries and not engaging.

    Try it! It is so liberating.

  32. Meryl Zukowsky Wheeler*

    Whether you like Ouija boards, are creeped out, or are indifferent, coming here to recommend The Confidence Men by Margalit Fox. A handmade board plays a crucial role in a WW1 prison break – a true story and absolutely gripping!

  33. Donkey Hotey*

    Random comments:
    – #1: “ouija board are a waste of time when they work and a waste of money when they don’t.”

    – Thank you for not making the letter about toilet paper “letter #2.”

    – #4: Has anyone else heard the term “John Wayne” to describe terrible toilet paper? “It’s rough, it’s tough, and it won’t take (crap) from anyone.”

  34. shrambo*

    In countries where public restrooms usually do not have toilet paper provided, it’s normal for everyone to carry around a bit of loose tissue paper in their pocket or handbag. So while it’s absolutely reasonable to request the LW’s office to use a more comfortable brand, it’s really NBD to keep some personal paper on hand.

  35. Pinto*

    I’d double down with the diet soda guy and literally have one one my desk permanently and in hand any time I expected to encounter him.

    1. Good Enough For Government Work*

      The only time someone tried this with me, I was eating a doughnut I had treated myself to with breakfast. I was legit speechless… but sometimes my brain finds a way.

      I looked her dead in the eye, swallowed the last of the doughnut she was outraged by, reached down… and picked up a second doughnut. I was halfway through eating that one, still maintaining full eye contact, when she got the hint and literally took a damn seat.

  36. Project Maniac-ger*

    I can’t imagine being “strongly against microwaves” and working in the average office space. The dings must drive this guy crazy. He sounds like the type of coworker nobody wants.

  37. YouCantWin*

    The first post amazed me as I used to get a ton of comments encouraging me to drink diet soda (so have many of my friends). Artificial sweeteners make me sick, but even if they didn’t why oh why do people think they have the right to chime in. Either way it’s obnoxious. But if I need to be in an annoying complain about what other people eat or drink office (which sadly appears to be fairly standard) point me to the no diet soda office please ;)

  38. Binge Crosby*

    #2 My go-to line for people who appoint themselves gatekeeper of my personal choices: “I wouldn’t worry too much about it.” For repeat incidents: “I really wouldn’t worry too much about it.” Repeat ad infinitum, no matter what their reply. (Of course escalate the problem to management or HR as appropriate for the situation (“Do you plan on having children”????!!! WTF), but as far as your in the moment response to this guy… repeat and repeat.)

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