Scrooge Lives! Employees Get Wiped Out

by admin on July 25, 2011

The law firm I used to work for was very small, only about 12 people (4-5 attorneys, 4-5 case managers, a receptionist and the owner). The owner, “Mr. Smith”, viewed all employees as people taking money out of his pocket instead of valuable employees.  The list of things he did to show this viewpoint is too long to ever go into, however, the best example is when he decided that someone in the office was stealing the (very cheap) toilet paper out of the one bathroom we all shared. So he began to ration our supply. On Mondays he would bring in 5 rolls, and that was it. Once that ran out, he wouldn’t bring in any more until the next Monday. Luckily, only about 5 of us were there everyday, as the attorneys mainly worked from home, so the TP usually lasted until Wednesday or Thursday. When it was out, our options were to either bring our own or go to the gas station next door and use their bathrooms! No matter how much we complained, he refused to “allow” us more TP. He only dropped this policy when the attorneys started complaining about it for the times they were there. I don’t think he ever would have changed it just for us!    0721-11

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

beckstar July 25, 2011 at 4:48 am

Stingy people like that are all too common in this world, aren’t they? I’ve worked for various employers over the years who have begrudged their staff tea or coffee, computers that actually work, chairs that are safe and comfortable, or decent heating in winter. But we’ve always had toilet rolls!

In the UK employment law requires employers to ensure the provision of toilet and handwashing facilities – I assume that would cover sufficient toilet paper, soap and hand towels to ensure hygiene.

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Quieas July 25, 2011 at 5:58 am

How big were the rolls? 5 rolls a week doesn’t sound that bad for 5 people… Or maybe I unconsciously ration my TP? :P

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Izzy July 25, 2011 at 7:19 am

What did the manager use!?

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Erica July 25, 2011 at 8:25 am

There has to be an OSHA or Health and Safety violation there somewhere…

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coralreef July 25, 2011 at 8:25 am

I’m trying to wrap my mind around this one and failing… o_O Scrooge is indeed alive and well.

I’m amazed you were actually allowed to breathe ‘his’ air. Did he charge the employees for the wear and tear on the office chairs or carpet?

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Hemi Halliwell July 25, 2011 at 8:35 am

Terrible way to treat employees but I have to admit that I did laugh a little.
The office manager at our parent company keeps all the office supplies locked in the supply room. If you need anything, you have to ask/tell her, she goes in, gets the supply and brings it to you. Then you have to sign a sheet stating what you received and date it. Oh, and you are allowed 1 pen every 2 weeks.

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Jennifer July 25, 2011 at 9:03 am

Wow, this guy sounds like something out of a Dickens novel.

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Kitty Lizard July 25, 2011 at 9:03 am

Ah, yes, law firms. I’ve been a paralegal for 15 years. Before that I was in hospital administration. I know, I really should get help for my masochistic tendencies. I got a job at a large law firm: 5 managing partners, 12 associates, blah, blah,etc. I am a paralegal with excellent qualifications, and they were eager to recruit me. It looked like a great fit. I’m married to a criminal defense attorney (no, he didn’t work there), and the money was great so I grabbed the job. BIG mistake. The place was run by the “office aministrator” the receptionist, who was a paranoid schizophrenic bubblehead who had a high-pitched, insane titter (hee-hee-hee), her wingman, a legal assistant who was a Snookie look a like, including the obnoxious habits and attitude, and the bookkeeper, who seemed quite nice until you realized she was aligned with the other two.

The place was an insane asylum. The OA apparently had some sort of hold on the senior partner, who dared not even breathe in her presence. Although I had years of experience in computers, the OA decided she needed to teach me the computer system. She started with, “this is the cursor.” I was shown to a cubicle with ratty furniture and a broken chair. Obviously, everyone had cannibalized anything good and I was left with what was left. When I started working, I realized the computers were interlinked and I would come back from lunch and find that my co-workers had been messing with my pleadings, altering and, in some cases, deleting entire pleadings.

I had been hired by one of the partners. I finally went in and confronted him (politely) as he and I were getting along quite well, I found him easy to work for, we meshed well, and he liked my work. I just could not work in that poisonous environment. I told him he needed to get the troika from hell off my back. He told me, regrettably, that what was happening was what always happened when someone new came in, that he would talk to them, but, unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot he could do. He said he was sorry.
I said I was too. I wished him well, and gave him two weeks notice. He was a nice guy. I never could understand it. It wasn’t the worst job I ever had. But it was close.

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kjr July 25, 2011 at 9:14 am

Unbelievable! I had a boss while working in a popular discount retail clothing store in highschool who would pull stunts similar to that. I remember one time, she decided that people were cutting it too close for getting on the floor on time – so she took it upon herself to secretly tamper with the time clock and set it 15 minutes fast. Everyone was clocking in late of course, so once someone found out what she did they called the home office and the clock was set to right again. Just because they are the boss doesn’t make them always the best person. She was later fired for stealing gift certificates and selling them on the side :)

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Diann July 25, 2011 at 9:23 am

Ok, I’m not trying to be judge, but 5 rolls for 5 employees for 5 days sounds more then reasonable. There were 8 people in my family growing up and even we didn’t go through a roll of bathroom tissue every day, much less 2 or 3 a day, and we were using the bathroom all the time, not just 9-5!
I’m not saying he was correct to ration it, I’m just thinking that it seems like the paper WAS perhaps disappearing faster then it was supposed to.

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Cat July 25, 2011 at 9:29 am

I worked for a Catholic school and was given one roll of Scotch tape (cellotape to the Brits out there). When it ran out (about February as I recall), I asked for a second roll and was told no, that I had my roll for the year.

The next year we were asked to submit a “wish list” for what we would like for the upcoming year. I asked for two rolls of tape. A raise would have been nice, but I had a better chance of getting the tape.

One thing I can say about that school, my salary did enable me to get a government-sponsored mortgage for poverty level people. A colleague also applied for the program but he was turned down. He was too poor (as a full time teacher) for the government’s poverty program.

In a public high school, I asked for a new typewriter ribbon as our computers would not address envelopes and handwritten envelopes do not have the professional appearance expected from a public school. My principal told me that we did not need to use a typewriter these days. We did not get a new tape until a new principal was appointed.

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Ashley July 25, 2011 at 10:33 am

Wow, that’s pretty bad. I can’t even think of anything to properly articulate how bizarre this is. Rationing toilet paper, good grief.

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SV July 25, 2011 at 11:01 am

Oh, the “Scrooge” employer…having worked for several (Once upon a time I worked in a busy, profitable veterinary hospital and during my yearly review I had all three partners justify mathematically how my annual raise was going to be 6 cents an hour. At that point I had worked there for 6 years. A penny a year? ) I can completely relate! Nothing makes you feel more like an “employee” than having someone resent every cent you cost them- no matter how much money your work generates. It’s insulting. I hope you were able to leave for a better position somewhere else!!

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Louise July 25, 2011 at 11:08 am

He thought someone was taking rolls of paper home, or unrolling swaths of it or what? Bizarre.

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nannerdoman July 25, 2011 at 11:18 am

That’s a pretty fundamental level of penny-pinching. Did Mr. Smith have his own bathroom, then?

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Snowy July 25, 2011 at 11:26 am

I worked in a music store–part of a small regional chain–where part of my job was ordering sheet music and accessories; our manager handled big ticket items. This was just before the internet, so all of it was done by phone. I don’t know how many times we got told, “Did you know you’re 30 days overdue?” Or 60 days. Or 90 days, and they couldn’t allow us to order until things were paid up.

I contacted the home office each time, and finally found out what was up. The company founder, when he passed a few years earlier, had left the chain to his son, a lawyer. Said son realized that if he owed a company money, he’d earn a little bit more on bank interest than he’d lose paying his creditors late fees. So he’d push it to the very limit, often leaving us with empty shelf space and unhappy customers.

The company had been in business since the 1940′s, at least. The son ran it into the ground in a matter of years. Penny wise… And very pound foolish.

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Li July 25, 2011 at 11:43 am

That has to be a health code violation of some sort.

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Ista July 25, 2011 at 11:56 am

Umm…This seems more like a “That’s My Boss” story than an Etiquette Hell story.

Though since the OP brings it up, 5 rolls for 5 people for 5 business days seems more than sufficient. What was happening with all that TP?

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lkb July 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Wow! That’s pretty cheap. I think he’s related to my former employer (a newspaper publisher) who once (in all seriously) cautioned the sports editor against taking too many pictures with the digital camera because “it will wear the button out”. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, I think even he realized how stupid that sounded.

Dorothy Parker had a line about not being able to finish her work because, “someone else was using the pencil.”

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lkb July 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Forgot to add that, as a former hospice home care aide who had several patients in a nursing home, I was floored to see in the nursing home’s staff room about the facility not having enough money to keep supplying gloves so they weren’t going to buy any more until the end of the month…
Think about it — the aide who has to change the backsides, brush the teeth, feed etc., (in this facility) eight-10 patients may have to do it without gloves (or run out and buy her own (on the $7/hr aide’s pay), thus sharing all those lovely germs, viruses and bacteria throughout the facility. (If you have a loved one who needs a nursing home, check for gloves in the room!)
I was once offered a chance to work at that facility full time — NO FLIPPIN’ WAY!

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SS July 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I did some searching to see what laws applied to bathrooms. I did see that OSHA requires toilet paper to be provided for outdoor bathrooms, but had difficulty find any requirement for indoor. Indoor, I could only find rules for towels and soap.

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david July 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm

What is it about cheap, scratchy, industrial 1ply toilet paper that brings out the Scrooge in some bosses? I’ve worked in places where you could use the tp as a replacement for some grades of sandpaper and others where the tp was normal and the tp Scrooges are always bosses with the sandpaper replacement.

Of course, if your employees have to steal a roll of work tp to make it through the week, maybe you should think about giving them a 2 buck a week raise and solve the problem.

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Flora Louise July 25, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I think this is a very common attitude among small business owners. I’ve known many who regarded all the revenue produced by the business as theirs. They very much resent having to “share” any of it with their employees. They can’t seem to understand that the employee is performing a job for which he should be paid.

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boxy July 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I get why a manager of a small business would be concerned over costs. Between taxes, insurance, theft, etc., it’s expensive to be in business! However, I could never see benefit in denying proper tools to my employees. That doesn’t make sense.

It’s been proven time and again that high morale equals high worker output. Depriving them of the ability to use the toilet? Or not give someone enough tape? Ridiculous.

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Alexis July 25, 2011 at 2:22 pm

I agree with Li, it HAS to be a health code violation of some kind. This type of bean-counting by someone who apparently does not apply those standards to himself, usually results in even more minute bean-counting on the part of the employees. I once had an employer rudely tell me not to clock in until AFTER I had removed my coat. The thing is, the time clock was next to the door and the coatroom further inside. It was logical to clock in on the way in, rather than to walk all the way to the back, hang up a coat, and then walk back to the time clock next to the door. Afterwards, my response was to take my coat off, clock in, put my coat back on, walk across the street to buy the daily papers for the restaurant, and then come in and remove my coat again, all on the clock, since going outside was part of my job. Formerly, I had just picked up the papers on the way in on my own time. So it cost the employer MORE money after that, not less. Penny-wise, pound-foolish. People who treat their employees like that wind up with employees who make sure they NEVER give a penny of money or a second of time for free to the business. Those same employees usually bad-mouth the business as well, which results in fewer customers and less business.

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Alexis July 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Also, I would probably begin tearing up sheets of copy paper or note pads to use instead of toilet paper. Heck, I’d tear up the curtains and towels for toilet paper if I had to. I certainly wouldn’t supply it for the business owner.

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Numa July 25, 2011 at 2:30 pm

This is also a good indication that a business may be in trouble. I worked for a large retail clothing store that, in the six months before they went out of business, rationed TP. This was for the customers as well as the employees.

Once the liquidators took over, we called the liquidator and asked if we could take money out of petty cash for TP. His response? “Why the h*$! are you asking me this?” When we explained, he went to Sam’s Club and bought three huge boxes for us. We loved him that day.

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Yvaine July 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm

For all those who think the TP supply was sufficient: A lot of the really cheap brands of toilet paper are 1-ply and rolled really loosely. The paper is really thin, and the roll is mostly air and lasts way fewer uses than you might think. And if this guy was stingy enough to ration it, I’m pretty sure he was stingy enough to buy the cheapie kind.

I’ve bought this stuff for my home in times of desperation. It doesn’t really save any money in the long term, because it goes so quickly that you end up having to buy more anyway.

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SML July 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I worked for a clothing store that didn’t pay it’s repair bills. The roof began leaking one day and it flooded the entire storage space on the top floor and started coming into our store on the street level. We couldn’t get anyone to fix it without paying cash first and our boss was conveniently away for the month. When we finally got in touch with him, his solution was to use the snow shovel we had in storage to push the puddles of water into the basement! The heat stopped working in the middle of winter and we had to resort to wearing coats and gloves indoors and huddling around “display candles” to warm up a little. It wasn’t a shock when I went to work one morning and found that the store was “closed for renovations” and wasn’t reopening.

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MetalRose July 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm

It sounds like it boils down to one roll of TP a day for the business working day for 5 people. Which is not a lot at all. Especially if the majority of them were women. It’s not necessarily that women go more, it’s just that they have twice the places to, um, clean.

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josie July 25, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I’m very happy that my employer buys nice, soft tp. Most likely because she uses the same bathroom as the rest of us. The oriental restaurent that we like has tp that, no kidding, is 3″ wide and your finger goes thru it before you use it.

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Leslie Holman-Anderson July 25, 2011 at 3:43 pm

It was my experience during my working years that many sole proprietorships, and not a few partnerships, are owned/run by smug, self-deluded bullies. The same sort often rises to the managership of chain retail stores. They deeply enjoy having the power to make others’ lives miserable, so they do. Rationing the TP, or the pencils, or the access to resources such as the computer, gives them a sense of power. There’s nothing you can do to change such people, so you quit if you can and roll with the punches if you can’t.

But it has also been my experience that tyrannical bosses eventually get their comeuppance.

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AS July 25, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Okay, I am in line with people who wonder why 5 people would run out of 5 rolls of toilet paper n 5 days (though, if the rolls are small, it can easily run out in a day. The ones I have seen here in USA are 1 ply, but pretty big rolls, so my idea is based on those big ones). I mean, I understand that there are a lot of scrooges out there and some of them ration things at the cost of their employees. But there might be an employee who is actually stealing rolls of toilet paper every day. If the office used 7 rolls instead of 5 per week, it might not cost the employer much. But, if they used 10 rolls per week, for 5 people, that can add up a lot (on an average, around 20 – 25 rolls per month). I don’t know much about businesses, but I’d assume that the owner of a small businesses / legal firms have to ration things (especially if they are new and have not yet got the hang of what works and what does not), otherwise all the extra money comes out of the company’s profit.

I am not taking any sides. I have absolutely no idea how small businesses work. I just wanted to discuss what I think could be the other side of the coin. If there is a small business owner out there, I’d like to know what you think.

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Otter July 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm

We have 4 in my household and we go through about a roll a day (were 75% female though, that makes a big difference).

I remember having a boss that measured out Post-Its. I asked for a pad and she peeled off 3 individual notes and gave them to me. I stood there stunned for a few moments and she stammered “We’ve been told to conserve.” Sheesh! Insane working environment too…

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etimodnar July 25, 2011 at 6:48 pm

If the TP was 1-ply, I can definitely understand going through 5 rolls in 4 days for 5 employees. If it was 2 or 3 ply, then I reckon it could hold out all week. It’s all about absorbency!

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LovleAnjel July 25, 2011 at 7:16 pm

To those of you questioning the amount of TP being used – if they were that cheap, then they had the cheapest 1-ply tissue on the market. You have to use 5 times as many sheets compared to any decent supermarket brand.

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KTB July 25, 2011 at 7:40 pm

@Flora Louise,

That’s exactly it! I’ve never been able to articulate it quite right. Every payday, the office admin and I (the IT/web/marketing person) are reminded that we are the tolerated unproductive money-suckers, greedily using up electricity, pens, and -you guessed it!- toilet paper.

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just sayin' July 25, 2011 at 8:18 pm

cheap toilet paper tends to run out much quicker than good toilet paper–you have to use more to do the same job. also, the rolls tend to be smaller, so even if you didn’t need to use more, they would still run out faster.

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Zhoen July 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm

A lot of folks who worked with a penny-pincher, would just steal office supplies on principle. I suspect this is what is happening to the 5 rolls. Could be one of the lawyers as well, of course. If it’s very cheap, it also doesn’t go as far as a mid-price brand.

This being the point, when an employer chisels the poorly paid employee, instead of being reasonably generous and valuing them, s/he gets crappy, light-fingered employees. It’s a vicious cycle.

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PrincessSimmi July 25, 2011 at 9:26 pm

At my last job, my boss harrassed me until I finally cracked, and verbally attacked me and chased me out of the building. And yes, there was hardly ever toilet paper in the bathroom.

I thank God every day for both my current bosses, who are wonderful, caring and generous people.

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Jared Bascomb July 25, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Coincidentally, I just got back from Costco (a warehouse/big-box store in the Western US) where I bought a 36-pack of tp for $18, or $0.50/roll. IMHO, this really puts Boss McScrooge’s rationing in perspective.

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majuba July 26, 2011 at 12:22 am

*shudder* toilet paper that could be used in place of sandpaper. I know it well! esperienced it at a very young age….how, you ask? my father was a prodigious stealer of office supplies!!
He worked in a branch office of a government department and was the very definition of scrooge. He used to supply our house with office pilferings rather then shell out his own money for our needs. Rolls of loo paper and stationary were favourite targets. As kids, whenever we needed school stationary we just used to climb up to the cupboard above my father’s wardrobe and fetch down the box. it was full of stationary; stacks of notepads, bundles of wooden rulers, several boxes of lead pencils, packs of biros…..you name it and it was there!!
When I was about 12 the government department decieded to shut down his branch office. They came to do a stocktake of the equipment and supplies and stuff was missing….good thing they never asked my mum or us kids, we knew exactly where it was!!!
My father was also that guy who’d strip a hotel room- teabags, sugar packets, towels, those little-bitty milk containers….

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Rug Pilot July 26, 2011 at 12:40 am

A good read: The CustomervComes Second by Hal Rosenbluth. Treat your employees well and they will treat your customers well and your business will treat you well.

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Angel July 26, 2011 at 7:22 am

AS, you want to discuss what you *think* could be the other side of the coin, but by your own admission, you don’t know what you’re talking about. At a cost of $1 per roll (which I am sure is more than they were paying) your scenario adds up to an extra $20 – $25 a month. I assure you that even a small law firm could manage that.

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Vrinda July 26, 2011 at 8:56 am

Angel, AS did say she didn’t know much about business. There is no need to tell her she doesn’t know what she is talking about. Scrooges are Scrooges, plain and simple. If they can save $20 – $25 dollars a month by skimping on toilet paper they will.

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Ista July 26, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I realize it doesn’t sound like a lot of money, and really it isn’t, but it does seem like a lot to go through…my office has 3 female employees, plus miscellaneous women throughout the week (visitors, clients, etc) we use the cheapest flimsy 2 ply I’ve ever seen and we use 1.5-2 rolls per week.

At home there are 3 of us using 2 ply (2 all day, I’m the only one who works; the child doesn’t attend school in the summer) and we use about half a roll in each bathroom each week.

I’d rather use cheap tp if it means I can have Good pens…which is how it evens out in my office.

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Ellen CA July 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Imagine how those employees felt when a client asked to use the bathroom!

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Angie July 26, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I used to work for a Scrooge like that in the 80s. He wasn’t as bad as rationing toilet paper, but he was always threatening to fine us when we made too many mistakes, and it actually happened to some people. When he found out the Civic Holiday in August and Boxing Day weren’t actually statutory holidays in our province (I’m in Canada) he decided we had to start working those days, although there was no work for us to do since almost everyone else had those days off, and of course he didn’t bother to come in himself. He would call several times during the day and ask to speak to each person individually though, as if he thought we would sneak off early or something.

When we first got our computer system he insisted on having all three of us run off one hard drive, although the company he bought the equipment from told him it wouldn’t work, and then wondered why we constantly crashed.

One time he decided to get an alarm installed, and we all had to leave the building while the tech was there, and I thought he was going to have a conniption at the thought of paying us to do no work for half an hour.

Oh, and he refused to provide coffee or tea for us to drink – he said it was because it was against his Mormon principles but he used to drink Pepsi all the time.

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Asharah July 26, 2011 at 3:39 pm

It’s 5 people there all the time, plus attorneys coming in and out and probably some clients. The attorneys may do some work at home, but I would assume they meet their clients at the office. And if client happens to be a Mom with a couple of small kids in tow………..

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Pickles July 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I worked for a husband-wife team, both of whom were certifiable, as well as cheapskates. I remember the first “holiday” bonus–the guy passed out envelopes that were surprisingly heavy. Imagine our…surprise…when we opened them and saw that each of us had been given…one silver dollar, well-wrapped, and a note saying that the date on the dollar was to remind us of how lucky we were that year.
One (mostly) silver dollar…

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