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Potential Employer Cancels Return Flight (stackexchange.com)
186 points by chrisbennet 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments

I don't buy a word of this. That fourth paragraph is an over the top perfect storm of woe-is-me.

> I'm completely broke due to poor financial decisions (that's a different story), so I can't afford a last minute plane ticket. It doesn't help that this is a small airport, so ticket prices are high. So basically I've been stuck at the airport for the past 3 days. Yesterday, my credit card started being declined, so I've had to eat scraps from other customers.

A mild troll, but SE still got trolled.


I guess I should clarify. Responses below are right, it's not hard to believe that there are people without savings, I've also been in that boat.

But this portion has nothing to do with the point of the post; given the outrageous nature of the post in the first place, this smells to me like a sob element to hook more people in.

Every part of the post is hyperbolic. "I blew every question and I could tell that they didn't like me personally." Really, every single one? Oh, and now they decide they don't like you even though you've gotten to the stage where they flew you across the country??

Laying everything on this thick just doesn't increase credibility for me. It makes me suspicious.

I can relate, because I have had situation where I blew every question and at the end of interview I felt that people were annoyed by me, or my lack of knowledge.

The thing was at that moment I just left shitty job, with 24h phone support for our systems switching with other person on weekly shifts, also I was quite under attack by one of better established guys. I had savings so no problem there. But still I had to find job in something like 3 months before going back to my town.

My self esteem was on the bottom. They got 4 people to question me and senior guy was math phd. After second question it went downhill. Logarithms were not my strong side and then SQL stuff that I was doing day in and out just 'PUFF' went away. (now I am senior, leading team of 5, delivering loads of value, but back then I would not believe I could do that)

I believe that environment and surroundings contribute a lot to what you thing about yourself. I picked wrong fight in wrong time. That guy probably also should work on his basics, or maybe it is just sob story.

This is the thing that really scares me about burnout. You get so mentally exhausted, that you are unable to think straight enough to pass an interview even if you would have enough skills to blow them away after a couple months of rest.

I was in a similar situation, basically not recognizing the signs of burnout until layoff time, and it took me 4 months to be able to properly interview (fortunately, the economy was down so it also took 4 months to be able to schedule any proper interviews anyway).

Similar story here. I'm a TL at a Big N company right now with a team of ~8, but I failed pretty badly interviewing at a unicorn a bunch of years ago. Don't know if I was having an off day or wasn't prepared properly or what, but I just flubbed it. Shit happens. Interviewing is very high variance. Where I currently work, there's a small proportion of interviewees who are good enough to always get hired, and then a much larger number who are good enough to sometimes get hired, depending on factors outside their control. Hence why people can re-interview a year later so long as it didn't go terribly the first time.

> Oh, and now they decide they don't like you even though you've gotten to the stage where they flew you across the country??

Why is that surprising? E.g. Google flew me on my interview as a student kid with pretty much barely any screening (and yeah, as a student I also didn't have nearly enough money to buy a ticket home from Zurich airport on the spot at that time - with 150EUR of scholarship income, it's hard to have a few K EUR at hand on your credit card).

Skepticism is warranted here (it's entirely possible that the post is fake), but this isn't an impossible situation if I think of all the petty vindictive garbage humans I've met that led companies.

Why is that hard to believe? When I first started my tech career I was in a similar boat trying to go to interviews with no money in my pocket.

> Laying everything on this thick just doesn't increase credibility for me. It makes me suspicious.

Counterpoint: if you've gone through enough hardship, your self-esteem can tank so much that you start thinking in black-and-white -- "I blew every single question" etc.

Every once in a while someone's gonna go through something really bad: "perfect storms of woe-is-me" do come by, and our selection bias of upvoting those specifically means that we're disproportionately more likely to see really horrifying stories.

I honestly don't believe it either. It's the perfect mix of "this is terrible and totally happened to me" and "I'm afraid to say who". If this happened to me I would absolutely start my first sentence with "I went for an interview at..."

Maybe, but there are plenty of people in terrible financial situations that would be seeking for anyway out of it. Maxed credit cards and nothing to fall back on, etc..

Considering there are at least a million people in this situation any one of them could have accepted a remote interview.

>That fourth paragraph is an over the top perfect storm of woe-is-me.

I've had my credit card declined when I tried to buy gas 2 hours away, late at night, because they assumed it was fraud. For 2 years and change, paying a hospital bill every month, my debit card issuer would flag it as fraud every single time, I'd have to contact them and say it wasn't, then attempt to pay again. Every single time.

It's wholly plausible, even without the card balance being near or at the limit, that they are having their card declined.

It's quite realistic that they have no one they can call and ask to have money wired to them, to buy their ticket, etc.

It's quite realistic that they are sleep deprived if they've been in an airport for even a day with no means of leaving which can severely impact mood and mental status, add this with the defeat of not only not getting the job but having their return flight cancelled as well as possibly being unemployed with no savings at all, it can be incredibly easy to go full-Eeyore.

Ticket price out of a smaller airport likely means one or more connections, last minute flight also often means considerably pricier.

I had a company interview me last year 3 times via video for an entry level customer service type position including a half hour with one of the co-founders as the 2nd interview, he wanted me to talk to a different department about an even higher job so I did for the 3rd interview, he started the call "I'm not sure why we are talking, why did co-founder have us schedule a meeting" and after talking to me for 45 minutes "well I don't have any positions right now, I wish you the best of luck". This is 12 days from the first interview, for the position I applied to, so I pinged the co-founder stating 3rd person said he didn't know why he was talking to me as he didn't have any positions an was busy training his most recent hires, and mentioned it had been 12 days since the first person interviewed me and I'd not heard anything on that front and if he could update me since the interviewer never gave me their email address. Within a few minutes "Caught up with first person, they mentioned you're likely not a good fit for us on THATPOSITION side either. Definitely encourage you to keep honing your skills. Maybe find a relevant side project or a local company..." so I fully buy that a company would show that level of interest and then "sorry bout ya, by!"

Here in the midwest if you get 3 interviews, one of which with the CEO that also tells you the starting salary, you've got the job not "yeah bye Felicia". I was in a funk for 3 days and I was comfortable in my bedroom, not stuck in a random airport.

> Laying everything on this thick just doesn't increase credibility for me. It makes me suspicious.

No doubt. But then again I see no company name mentioned, or even hinting at it. Also:

> But this portion has nothing to do with the point of the post; given the outrageous nature of the post in the first place, this smells to me like a sob element to hook more people in.

Not so sure here. Not that I ever had to eat other people's leftovers, but assuming this story is true I could absolutely see that you want to release steam and just process what happened, maybe because you can't really believe it yourself yet.

> But then again I see no company name mentioned, or even hinting at it

It doesn't have to be an attack on a specific company; I think it's just posted for laughs: "Can you believe they're responding seriously to this?"

I have been on the other side of this. I didn't cancel the return flight, but I was sorely tempted.

In my case it was the early days of a company, and I flew a potentially important applicant from Europe for an interview, paid for hotel, food etc. They performed terribly. When I sat down with them to figure out why, it quickly became apparent they had fundamentally misrepresented themselves. Partially through lies, even more through slippery worded deceit. They finally admitted to being basically a starting-out developer, skilled at attaching themselves to high-profile projects and claiming this work as their own.

I did talk to our lawyer about trying to recover the costs. They told me he wasn't worth the lawsuit.

It was a learning experience. I did things differently after that. In the same way one would change one's behaviour after being the victim of any con.

So I do wonder what the other side to this particular story is.

This is the cost of doing business, and indeed is the entire point of interviewing candidates for jobs. Would you have preferred to pay full relocation for the guy and give him the job without any interview, and then find out a week or two after he starts that he's incompetent or has misrepresented himself?

Is there anything that could have been different in the phone interview or skype video that would have exposed this earlier? Or is it too easy for such a candidate to cheat when remote?

Was also wondering what is in it for the candidate -- if they know that they are going to flunk the on-site interview, do they just want a free vacation out of it?

> Is there anything that could have been different

I certainly changed the questions I asked. And it never happened again. But I also think wilful deceit isn't that common (massaging the truth is, but this was a different league to that). So who knows if my changes were effective, or if it just felt good doing something.

> if they know that they are going to flunk the on-site interview

I really don't think he did. I think he thought he could charm his way to the job.

A free one-day vacation where you have to spend most of the day doing job interviews is a shitty vacation.

Flying an interviewer in assumes this risk. You have to be okay with the fact that you might fly in a dud. It happens, especially if you're an early company lean on resources and don't know what to look or.

Unless they are a national security risk of some kind (imagine, lol), there shouldn't ever be a reason to fly someone in and having them pay their own way back.

I agree. I have decided not to employ people on the basis of a final on-site interview, with no hard feelings. If that isn't a realistic prospect, I struggle to see what that interview is for.

But there is a difference between a dud and a con man. There is a reason I only sought legal advice over one of them. In the end I did assume the risk and learn from it.

But if I had to pay out of pocket an additional payment at that point I would've refused. For that individual only.

Note the answer on law.stackexchange: this is breach of contract. The consideration provided by the candidate is the time and effort of traveling, so company employees wouldn't have to do it. A possible exception is if the candidate lied to get the interview.


I agree this sounds pretty damning for the company. But life has taught me to always get both sides of a story before reaching any conclusions.

I absolutely agree with you. But at the same time I'm really having a hard time coming up with a reasonable explanation for this from the company's point of view.

Unless the whole thing is an outright lie. It's a brand new Stack Exchange user. There's absolutely no legitimacy to any of the story at this point. People do this sort of thing all the time on the internet, after all.

But assuming it isn't totally fabricated -- even if the guy was completely unprofessional, rude, and/or vulgar (lets say, he stormed out and told everyone to go F themselves), I still can't see it being acceptable for them to cancel his return flight home if they flew him out in the first place.

But I don't think we'll ever get the other side of the story in this case because I don't think we'll ever get confirmation that this is even real.

> It's a brand new Stack Exchange user.

Though often times people make new accounts to post on law.SE and workplace.SE.

They may have discovered in the interview that he had lied on his resume about his work experience/ education, etc. Getting a free trip by lying would be grounds to cancel any more of the free ride in my opinion.

I can’t think of any circumstance where it would be acceptable for a company to cancel a candidate’s return flight, stranding then in the airport.

The only other side of the story that would be ok is literally “OP’s whole story is made up” and the interview never happened. If the candidate misrepresented him/herself then shame on candidate AND shame on company. Otherwise, shame on company.

I dunno, it seems a lot safer to let them finish the trip and then sue to recover the full cost of airfare and hotel, rather than risk being sued just for a partial refund on a single leg of the flight.

> Getting a free trip by lying would be grounds to cancel any more of the free ride in my opinion.

Why? How? On what grounds?


> Unless the whole thing is an outright lie. It's a brand new Stack Exchange user.

My thoughts exactly. The person claims they've been stuck in the airport for 3 days and eating scraps? That seems awfully dramatic to me. Like someone looking for generous internet strangers to offer assistance via Venmo.

Mentioning that he already has a way home probably isn't the way to get donations.

Agree to disagree. I can't think of a fate worse than 72 hours on a greyhound bus.

96 hours?

> But at the same time I'm really having a hard time coming up with a reasonable explanation for this from the company's point of view.

It's that OP is lying. I take BART in the SF bay area about twice a month, and have ran into the same scammer a few times. He claims he has to go see his kids, has $xx money for a southwest plane and needs $yy waving around something that says southwest on it.

I've run into such folks. But why should one post to Stack Exchange? To establish credibility for the next time he wants to hustle at SFO? (Man, you won't believe what that startup pulled on me!).

The thing I find odd is the hanging about the airport bit--after allowing an hour or so denial/rage/bargaining I'd be finding my way to the Greyhound station.

After they told me over the phone it wasn't a mistake and I was on my own I'd probably have marched myself back to the company and been like "WTF?! I came all the way out here, across the entire country for this interview and now you leave me stranded here unable to get home?! I'm going to sit here until you sort this out or until you have security throw me out. If security throw me out, you can be sure you'll be hearing from my lawyer and the press when I get home!"

Exactly. And no mention of the where or what company. Sounds suspicious to me.

I'm always one to consider my reputation and professionalism before I speak, but if this were true, I would definitely be naming names - right down to the name of the employee who cancelled my ticket. I'd be livid.

Though, I've had times in my life where I have had to take a chance on job interviews that I didn't have the money to get to. I drove to Vancouver from Calgary with $20 in my pocket, borrowed $50 for a rail pass and crashed on someone's couch on the promise of an interview that wasn't even a guarantee of a job because I was so broke. I got the job and it was water under the bridge, but if I hadn't got the job, I'd have been screwed.

> I'd probably have marched myself back to the company and been like...

Nah, I'd do it like this "Since you've cancelled my return flight, and I have no means, I'll be contacting local press and seeing if they have any interest in my story. My second round of calls will be to local law firms to see if they have any interest in becoming part of case law in exchange for some pro bono work since you've left me no way to get home after my interview with me".

why should one post to Stack Exchange

Trollers just like to troll.

Also there are plenty of gullible friendly souls online and if even 1 person writes him “hey, I can help you out” he’s established a possible payday.

Scammers just throw stuff out there and see if anyone bites. Asking “but why would he tweet it, why would he post to Reddit, why would he email me? Etc” all come down to: because it works.

This sounds like it should be a "name and shame" situation, as well as a small claims court case for the cost of return transportation and any additional expenses from the time stuck in the airport.

Don't agree that this is clearly a "name and shame" situation. Even if the candidate is the aggrieved party here, there may be repercussions to one's reputation to reveal who the company is... Especially if its a "he said, she said" type of situation with minimal proof.

What's this broke person going to do, fly back to take them to small claims court?

This is where the press can be leveraged.

The only situation I can justify this if there is an undeniable proof of FRAUD. That is a different person takes phone interview and from the one that shows up for in-person.

Its very likely that some one did not do due diligence and ended up with a wrong candidate and wanted to cover their budgeting ass.

If fraud was committed, the right answer would be to sue the applicant in small claims court for the cost of the ticket. Canceling their flight was just a petty move.

The "right answer" would have been to simply reject the candidate if they didn't meet expectations for position and, if the fraud was truly egregious (and not just a guy trying to get a foot in the door for face-to-face), blacklist them within company from further consideration in the future.

edit: eh, nevermind

What protocol? How would that work?

Personally, I would not have cancelled the flight under any circumstances. Whatever prompted that action is probably a good indicator that having the candidate far away is a good idea. As opposed to keeping them local and angry.

I'd take it as a lesson learned to shore up screening before flying anyone in.

> I'd take it as a lesson learned to shore up screening before flying anyone in.

Yep. Whoever made the decision to fly them out in the first place is now going to live with that on their track record, and rightfully be questioned whenever they want to spend money on a candidate: "Remember the $xxxx we wasted on that other candidate? What did you do differently this time to be sure we don't repeat that situation?"

Assuming this is a company of any size, the fact it was an actual tangible expense (and not just employee time) will probably make this scrutiny come from more and/or higher places in the management chain, because now more departments are involved.

Afaik, it’s next to impossible to cancel a return ticket on the day of the flight and get a refund too. Most likely done out of spite rather than financial concerns.

Depends on the airline. I've done it with one, whose rule is/was to allow cancellations with full refunds until... IIRC 40 minutes before departure.

And I suspect that corporate buyers tend to get full-fare refundable tickets more often than tourists anyway.

ehh, I dunno about that. We (750 person company) always buy non refundable, but if we cancel, the credit can go into our company account to be used later sometimes.

So at least it's pseudo-refundable, assuming that you tend to rebook with the same airlines and end up using that credit later anyway. Which is still a small incentive to cancel someone's return flight. Although I guess this only steers the motivation away from "irrational spite" to "petty sociopathy".

If there's a shred of truth to the story, I can only see two scenarios.

1 - The hiring manager had to put in a lot of effort budget-wise to make the flying in happen and when he found out it was more of a complete failure than a rubber stamp, he had to save face.

2 - The candidate dramatically misrepresented themselves and lied to get in the door. Especially in the case of a cash limited start up, that could hurt - even more so if the story about high air fares due to location is true.

Either way, I think it's a lie, or at minimum the candidate isn't being entirely up front.

There's also a chance that the company ran out of money. Sometimes the CEO comes into work one morning and says "foo deal with bar investor broke, we have six weeks runway, cancel every expense you can."

Another important question to ask. How far of a drive was his home? I could see an employer doing this if they had told them they would pay for a ticket if the drive was over X hours away, then discovered that they lied about it. I supposed this falls under fraud as well.

Nope not even flat-out fraud could justify stranding someone in another city. Some folks are desperate to work and may resort to deception to get their foot in the door for an interview. On the scale of nefarious activity, I put that pretty far down on the list-- slightly worse than jay-walking.

I have my doubts about the veracity of the story, but if it is true then that company needs to be shamed.

I disagree -- fraud absolutely justifies this -- if an overweight dark haired guy did the initial video screen and the company flew him out for an interview, but then a skinny blonde guy shows up and can't answer any of their interview questions, I don't see why the company has any obligation to fly him back home -- they agreed to fly out the guy from the video call, not the guy that showed up.

Maybe, but it does open up the door to a lawsuit. What if the overweight guy was actually working for a recruiter who had a scam going on to get unqualified people hired. The skinny guy might not know that someone else took an interview for him because it was all a plan by the recruiter. In this instance you're punishing someone who was acting in good faith, but had the misfortune to find a corrupt recruiter.

Better would be to use the legal system to recoup your costs. This way you don't accidentally recoup your costs from an innocent individual with zero oversight.

>Better would be to use the legal system to recoup your costs. This way you don't accidentally recoup your costs from an innocent individual with zero oversight.

Or strand someone that fibbed about their experience, that then writes a suicide note (after throwing screenshots of the emails and cancellation up on their social media) claiming you stranding them in a city far from home with no money and no way home was the last straw and then commits suicide in front of your building

Or someone that comes back and sets the building on fire "with nothing left to lose".

Or waits for the person that interviewed them to walk out of the building and assaults them. Or follows them down the sidewalk and shoves them in front of a bus/trolley/train.

There's a bazillion reasons why this was a horrible idea for the company to do, if it is a true story.

Those also sound like reasons to hire everyone you interview regardless of how badly they performed, just in case they are mentally unstable enough to act out inappropriately after rejection.

I'd think that this scam would be uncovered pretty quickly:

"Why are you asking me about X? I don't know anything about it"

"You sure seemed to understand it on the phone screen"

"Phone screen? What phone screen? My recruiter gave me this plane ticket and told me to come interview on-site"

A plane ticket does need a name on it.

Then contact the TSA, but don't cancel the ticket.

Pretty sure, if nothing else, that you could sue them in small claims court.

Unfortunately, in my experience (IANAL), small claims courts only have the power to enforce ruling via liens or other local means. Which means that if you bring suit in your local small claims court, the only way to collect is if the company in question has real estate or other holdings in your local area. Alternatively you could bring a suit in the company's home district, but that means you actually have to show up in court there. Which means travel expenses. Usually it isn't worth it.

My then-girlfriend had something similar happen to her years ago. She drove around 5 hours to interview at an engineering/architecture firm and was put up at a budget hotel for the night. Although she had to pay for the room in advance, the company said they'd reimburse her for it and the mileage. Of course they did neither and effectively ghosted her after the interview when she tried to recoup her losses.

I learned early on in my career to not bother interviewing with non-local companies that wouldn't pay for my interview expenses up-front (hotel, airfare if necessary). If they're that cheap, they're not going to be a good place to work for.

I've also found that smaller companies tend to be really bad about this stuff (not universally!). Big companies are almost always very fair and honorable about treating interviewees well.

Big companies have legal, HR, and compliance departments who know that it's not worth nickel-and-diming on petty shit.

Yep, exactly this. HR can be evil at times, but here their evilness is actually a good thing, because it's cold, hard rational logic: "nickel-and-diming on petty shit" is bad for the company's bottom line.

I agree with the others that are skeptical of this story.

The only justification I can think of for this is if the company felt they were defrauded.

Like if the guy had a great resume with years of experience in all the skills they want and he passed the phone screen with flying colors and then when brought on-site he couldn't answer a single question, maybe the company thought that he had someone else do the phone screen.

I really can't fanthom the thought process that could bring anyone to the point where he wants to strand someone on an airport with a huge bill.

I get that you're angry... but this is vindictive beyond words.

Sue the guy on small claims court, blacklist him, shame him publicly. But cancel his plane ticket so he's stranded and broke on an airport? How inhuman has to be a person to do that? Over a single dumb interview?

I really want to know the name of the company now

There's another part of this story that doesn't quite add up. Airlines, in general, like to book round-trip flights rather than one-way flights. Not only is a round-trip flight generally less expensive than two otherwise equivalent one-way flights, but sometimes it's even less expensive than either one-way flight booked alone. So why would you ever get a refund for cancelling the return leg of a round-trip flight?

I wish people would name the company, especially when it does something this awful. Why be coy? It’s not like there is a chance that you’d get the job anyway. You could save lots of other candidates time and grief. Name the company and the first and last name of the recruiter who stonewalled you when you told them you were stranded at an airport due to their unacceptable behavior.

That might come following legal advice or action. I can understand erring on the side of caution here.

You can always name and shame later. However, once the name gets out, you can't take it back. Erring on the side of caution is the right move.

> I wish people would name the company, especially when it does something this awful. Why be coy?

Agreed. The cynical lawyer in me believes that people who don't name and shame in these situations aren't telling the whole truth. If they named & shamed and the story wasn't true it's defamation.

This could easily make national news. Name and Shame.

Put it on Glassdoor. Let people learn more about this employer.

There is zero chance that this is authentic; ie that this gives us enough of a view into what actually happened.

What a petty company

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