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Shenanigans in the Microkitchen (rachelbythebay.com)
102 points by luu 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 108 comments





We had a situation like this with chocolate milk at our company. It was suddenly popular and there were people doing stuff like this.

The office people who stocked the fridges were talking about rules for how many you could take and other dumb things like that.

I told them “stock twice as many”. They reply “but then people will take twice as many”. “So double the stocks again. And keep doubling until there are some left in the fridge at the end of the day”.

They looked at me like I was insane.

There isn’t any actual limit. The company isn’t going to run out of money because people drink too much chocolate milk. I mean, if people want it then just give it to them!

After a few days of oversupply, the popularity waned and now people take chocolate milk at roughly the rate of any other soda. The fad had past.


Every company I've ever worked at that had drinks and/or snacks followed this antipattern. At my current job it's spearmint Orbit gum vs peppermint. Last job, blackberry Hint vs .. I think pomegranate?

They'd stock identical amounts of two or three varieties of thing, never noticing (or deliberately ignoring feedback about) how one was the clear favorite and disappeared immediately, and another was kinda gross and nobody took any until it was all that's left.

Not that I'm complaining about "free" food; it just baffles me that this is so pervasive when the solution is so obvious. Why don't companies select flavors proportional to demand? It costs the same as buying identical amounts of each flavor.


Sometimes it's because of multipacks. We used to stock La Croix, back when there weren't dozens of flavors and knock off brands. We'd get a 24 pack of them at Sam's that had three flavors, six lemon, six orange, twelve lime. Over time the limes would accumulate until one day we had a stack of them from the floor to the ceiling of the supply closet.

We made a joke out of it, sneaking lime ones into people's fridges, replacing their lemon or orange with them mid-drink, etc. Our company was small enough that it never got hostile.


Where I work you end up in a funny situation since the contractor that stocks the snacks seems mostly to just stock whatever they see on the shelf.

Popular stuff gets entirely taken and unpopular stuff remains, slowly you reach a state where the only things on the shelf are unpopular.

You can try seeding an item which may get it stocked, but it doesn’t always work.


Popularity based stocking is probably best, but makes you scrounge when you like the unpopular flavor.

When I was at Google, I loved Apple Hint. Sadly, it was an unpopular flavor, and never stocked in the MK in my building. I had to scour surrounding buildings to get my fix. I finally hit the jackpot in an MK a few buildings over, where they stocked Apple, AND Hint Fizz which one of my teammates loved (and which was also not stocked in our MK). So I'd bring back 2 Apples for me, and 2 Fizzes for him.

I'd probably drink 4-6 Hint's per day when I was at Google. I remember emailing a friend after I left Google, joking that I could hardly believe I was paying for my own Hint now!


It's probably because those items come in a "variety pack" with e.g. 6 of each flavor to make an 18 pack of 3 different flavors. We have this problem with the green tea flavored Honest Teas. If you're ordering from Costco, in my experience many such items only come in a variety pack.

Who is “they” and how would they know one was done before the other? At restock time having both used up in the dispenser looks like both are popular and both need to be replaced.

There would have to be a rate of sale number available to the stockist. From the deliveries I’ve observed they don’t seem to have an algo more complex than refill what’s empty.


One could argue that unmet demand saves money; assuming they only pay for what gets stocked.

Yep. They always seem upset if anything is too popular.

Other pattern seems to be replacing something with a healthier variant, then removing the healthier variant because no one is eating it.


This, so much. If the cost of chocolate milk is going to kill the company, we have way bigger problems than people drinking too much chocolate milk.

If you're offering a kitchen, stock the damn thing. If you don't want to, then don't offer it.


Boss here: Stocking the kitchen quickly gets out of hand. We cut our monthly spend from 5.5k to 3k by stocking cheaper, less desirable snacks. The popular stuff goes quickly and you can easily spend a ton of money providing them. If you're stocking as much Tejava as the employees want your kitchen budget is going to balloon. $9/day in Tejava for that woman alone. $198/mo in Tejava. That's significant monthly spend on beverages for one employee.

Every expense kills the company. Every dollar is allocated somewhere.


That’s $30,000 a year. Well less than 1/4 the annual salary of an engineer in any major metro.

Is the reduction in employee satisfaction really worth it?

Reduction of snacks and office perks is a classic canary in the coal mine for those in the know to beware of coming cutbacks and start interviewing elsewhere.

Someone internet famous has written about this. I will try to find the link.


$30K/year may seem trivial if it's a VC-funded startup. However, if it's a bootstrapped company that's struggling to turn a profit, $30K/year could be the difference between life and death. For example, if you spend it on marketing you live, but if you spend it on snacks, you die.

> Is the reduction in employee satisfaction really worth it?

Not everyone cares about free food/drinks. The only freebies the company I work for provides are bad coffee and tea, but I don't care one way or the other. My decision to stay or leave is based on factors like the work I'm doing, the people I work with and the quality of management.



I can't even tell if this is parody anymore.

If you're genuinely spending that much on snacks, vending machines to limit spend might help. A number of companies have set up IT equipment vending machines that limit spend per employee.

I admit the downside is that you harm the kitchen appearance, which some companies seem to put huge efforts into.


So how do you square this with the employees you recruited using the kitchen stock as part of the benefits package sold to them? If you're cutting $30k per year in food expenses, is that then given to the employees to buy the snacks they want, or is it going to your bottom line?

I didn't sell them on a kitchen benefits package.

Where is the money going? I don't know. I have ~50 expense categories from utilities, raw materials, labor, transportatation, insurances, rent, interest expenses, accounting, taxes, etc. A dollar doesn't disappear from the kitchen budget and arrive in my pocket. Maybe it went to the R&D budget or maybe it went to buying a new dining room table.


Well that's my point isn't it? You saved money but you have no idea why or where it went. If the company was in dire straights, you could probably answer that question.

This is what middle management does, in my experience. They cut costs in different parts of a company without care of why, the point is only to make themselves look better. Who cares if employees are less happy, we saved almost enough to pay 1/4 of a new employee's salary! Who cares if the steel we're using is a lesser quality, do you have any idea how much money that saves? Who cares if our product now only works for 1/5 of the time because we removed voltage protection in a few spots, that saved us literally whole pennies per hundred units!

I mean it's not like the kitchen just appeared from the ether now is it? At some point, your company put it there, and decided to stock it with certain food and drink. So what changed?

This is why I will never work in a big corporation if I can help it. It's just a race to the bottom in every aspect.


Why don't people bring in their own drinks if they want so much of one particular thing over the course of a day that they can't depend on the common stock of it to have enough?

Hard to carry on the bike/bus/train.

But imagine if a company was always running out of coffee and gave a response like yours.


That sounds... completely fine? Why do people deserve gratis expensive beans from tropical latitudes more than some carbonated water with a few drops of flavor oils?

Free stuff always tastes better

I restocked the fridge at Blekko. Its a surprisingly interesting problem to solve efficiently, which is to say if you want to always have consistent stock of things people want. I had set up a model with a couple of feedback loops to set up orders such that the quantity on hand remained consistent. And adding in new things to replace things that were out of favor.

The toughest was flavored water which came in a variety pack but not all varieties were equally popular. If I could have the vendor make a special mix it would have been easier.


Sort of creeped out to realize how many of the folks here think that they're being contrarian by defending socially obnoxious behaviours. Ultimately, it's just a funny story but it's also a potent allegory about blindness to privilege.

To everyone else on the planet, this is the literal equivalent of stealing the red stapler.

Meanwhile, it's shocking that nobody has created a startup for employees to request and give feedback on free snacks at startups.


The phenomenon described is a significant source of social woes in every place on the planet. This is how you get overfishing, overgrazing, and other forms of overexploitation of natural resources. This is how you get people not caring about pollution prematurely killing others because hey, it's cheaper for me to burn actual trash in my stove. This is how you get companies like Uber and AirBnB, all too happy to strip mine the non-material, social commons. This is exactly why "we can't have nice things".

Sure, in a microkitchen this is just obnoxious. But this exact - not similar, but exact - pattern of thinking causes trouble everywhere. So I'm more than creeped out to see people defending it.


Maybe not contrarian, but game theory and denial.

If they prefer to take socially obnoxious actions for some benefit, then they would either have to react by defending the actions of others that parallel their own, or confront that they are being socially obnoxious to others.

Humans are, sadly, prone to doubling down on defending the right to be socially obnoxious rather than admitting that they are being socially obnoxious :(

And since this is a denial problem, it’s usually paired with “Theoretically”, “Not that I would”, “It’s fair game” and my personal favorite “They should work harder to prevent this” — which is beautiful as a cognitive dissonance:

1) They support acting selfishly (socially obnoxious) to some benefit to themselves at the expense of others;

2) They want everyone to fairly have access to that same benefit, as long as that does not interrupt their own benefit.

Thus, the ‘obvious’ solution to ‘stock more Tejava’: it combines the selfishness of #1 and the moral high ground of #2 without requiring any extra effort or loss of benefit.


I like how the person argues how hoarding the bottles is good for _them_, hence it’s OK. I bet their face is getting orange.

“It saves me time, so it’s not rude” jfc


This is like saying it's rude to choose not to give all your money to charity - after all, that too is a choice that is only justified by benefitting the would-be giver.

Doing what you want with the resources available to you is a perfectly valid choice within any system - unless there was a corporate decree saying you can only use so many Tejava bottles, that person's not doing anything problematic.

Their behaviour may be an inconvenience to other people, but that behaviour itself is not the root cause behind the inconvenience. The short supply in the office is an artificial constraint, and could easily be increased at nominal cost, which the bottle taker rightly points out.


You miss the point of the author. "Doing what you want with the resources available to you is a perfectly valid choice within any system" isn't valid social behavior when resources are constrained. That's how societies fail. This is called "tragedy of the commons", which author explicitly references.

Sure, in this case the company could easily increase the amount of resources at little cost. Then again, said person may then start taking a dozen bottles home, because they've already displayed antisocial behavior.

There are two separate problems here: one is unnecessarily constrained resources. Second is a person who defects instead of cooperating when faced with resource constraint.


This is a good point. I hadn't considered it from that angle, and I hadn't understood the significance of the "tragedy of the commons" remark.

In my original answer, I had talked about how choosing not to give money to charity is a valid choice. It seems to me this is similar to choosing not to cooperate when money is a resource constraint, and my conclusion there was that defection is perfectly alright. However, your argument would mean that defection wouldn't be the valid choice in this case, so I'm interested in understanding this discrepancy/my error.

Under what circumstances would you say is defection valid?


I'd say: only when the goal people are trying to coordinate around is something you consider invalid or wrong, so you want to shut it all down.

I think the difference between the microkitchen case and charity case is that in the former, you're using a scarce shared resource, whereas in the latter, you own the resources and choose what to use them for. It's a social norm that when shared resources are scarce, everyone gets to take a fair share of them[0], and if you try to take more than it's fair, you're defecting and considered a bad actor (a "freeloader"). It's also a social norm that the wealth you own is for you to spend as you wish. Charities are considered optional spending, which is why no one can demand or should try to shame you into donating. Contrast that with taxes, which are non-optional. Not donating to charity isn't defecting, because there's no cooperative situation happening. Not paying taxes would be defecting, because there's a social (and legal) expectation that everyone should contribute to the shared pool of money that buys public services.

--

[0] - For some definition of "fair". The Schelling point, when there's nothing suggesting a fairer split, is that "everyone gets the same amount". Unequal splits can happen too, if that ends up benefiting everyone more.


These are very good points. The beverages in the microkitchen are a public good not your own property. Hence it’s not the same as “not donating to charity” as you’ve so well described. I’d also add (leaving any empathy questions aside), that behaving in a solely egoistic, yet “lawful” way is still a bad strategy in mid- to long-term. Even if its utility in the short term seems great. The problem here is that you would be playing a zero-sum game, when everyone else is playing a positive-sum game. Meaning you would be constantly choosing a suboptimal strategy making the most optimal choice for other players to cooperate against you until you are out of the game.

Thanks for the response. This helped tremendously.

I've been fairly engrossed recently in readings on moral relativism, in an attempt to understand what ethical behaviour might look like without the influence of social norms. Your response made me realize I've been forgetting to take off my academic hat - I should be evaluating this from the perspective of the society I'm currently in right now. Thanks for the reminder to go speak to actual humans again :)


In terms of moral behavior without influence of social norms, it's also worth investigating morality as a dynamic system - if you'd erase all existing social norms from memory and gather a group of people, what norms would evolve over time?

This is one of those questions which I actually think requires empirical investigation.

Fortunately, Jonathan Haidt has excellent papers on the historical formation of moral systems in culture collision events, and the argument he has is that there are six different types of dichotomies moral taxonomies in societies exhibit, each driven by various kinds of evolutionary challenges individual societies faced. (https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=3680010931100921...)

I think the conclusion that societies are built primarily on cooperative rather than antisocial behaviour is a picture based mostly in game theoretic analyses (per that wonderful webpage, The Evolution of Trust) - but empirically societies do really vary in how harshly they punish or value non-cooperative behaviour, which I don't think game theory is sufficient to explain. Some societies hold that maximising personal utility over group utility is a social norm, though usually personal doesn't mean individual but individual and smaller subgroup (such as family), so they're not likely to view non-cooperative behaviour as problematic - these societies tend to be not influenced as much by the fairness/cheating dichotomy but are high on the care/neglect and loyalty/betrayal dichotomy.


A company I worked for when the first bubble burst took away our free (canned) beverages. Allegedly because some temp employees were witnessed exiting the facility carrying significant quantities of drinks but in reality the costs had crossed $5,000/m as we'd grown and that was the magic number where someone began to question it... nevermind that headcount had grown from 150 -> 350 since the free beverages had been implemented and the expenses had been fairly linear.

My current employer provides fountain drinks. BYOC.


Ideas: Install a vending machine that requires people to badge for high demand snacks/beverages.

Stock items wrt locality based demand.

Allow users to specify a couple favorite snacks and guarantee a floor of a certain quantity. Implement using distributed resource sharing algorithms already used in production systems.

Lastly googles culture does already prize selflessness and sharing. It’s surprising the author didn’t mention any pushback to this kind of behavior on the mailing list.


A subsidized vending machine is really powerful. The 25 cent barrier is enough to keep me from buying that candy bar that I don't reaaally want, and it thereby also ensures adequate supply.

Sure, even if it was completely free, the fact that you have to badge for it provides an air of accountability which would prevent hoarding.

This is probably more expensive than just stocking more of the item

I think the issue is with lack of data. The folks stocking the kitchen notice that at the end of the day all snacks are exhausted. From that they conclude that everything is equally popular and there is no need to change the proportions in which each is stocked. Instead if they measured twice or thrice during the day they’d realise that some items are more popular than others and stock more of them.

Often this issue is cast as the company refusing to spend more money on snacks but I don’t think it’s the money. It’s the fact that they don’t know which snacks are truly popular and which people are eating because they’re hungry and have no choice.


I've never heard "microkitchen". Where I work, it's just a kitchen. A pretty big kitchen, actually, so prepending "micro" would feel strange. Are Google's microkitchens small?

We have real kitchens too. Saying "micro kitchen" distinguishes it from the big cafes.

IIRC, there's some legal definition too: a micro kitchen can't have ice or something. Once it does it's subject to different rules, so we need to go to the real kitchens to get ice.


No, they are quite large. The joke is that the "micro"kitchens are larger than people's expensive bay area apartments.

Ours are called kitchenettes. They differ from an actual kitchen in that they don't have real food, cooking ware, or cooking appliances (except perhaps a microwave or coffee machine).

Second paragraph:

> Some other companies have the same sort of thing going on. They don't always get the same name applied (sometimes they're just "kitchens"), but similar behaviors seem to follow them around.


Unlimited vacation is the new unlimited soda. There’s actually a limit, but we’re not going to tell you what it is.

In both cases, your peers will shame you when you cross the line.

As it should be. It's the most basic mechanism by which groups regulate themselves.

A workplace is not a social peer group, it is a financial transaction wherein services are provided for compensation.

The compensation and terms should be known up front, not after crossing some invisible line. When I pay to go to a buffet, it’s not “all you can eat until we get annoyed and shame you”.

Services in, payment out. It’s a transaction and changing the terms passive-aggressively after the deal is struck is shady at best.


Isn't that mechanism broken lately with the vocal minorities playing that game?

> Perhaps there is some mercy in the madness. Those who wish to see vermin can, and those who choose to are provided with boundless purpose.

Unfortunately it is. One more reason I hate this.

The person in the story is right.

There's a simpler solution. A company can easily stock more stuff. It's not that hard.

If my colleague says that they need to take 6 bottles a day because it makes them 0.01% more productive, I'll be totally fine with that. It costs so little. I'll probably request the company to stock more.

Different people have different needs.

Why would Google want to create an environment where employees need to fight for food?

Why would Rachel blame that person instead of Google?


The company is obviously failing to meet demand, but there are also social rules about utilizing a shared resource. The person in question is extremely inconsiderate to preemptively allocate all shared stock to themselves. Did you see the argument they made? "Let me come first and take all of the popular snack, because otherwise other people will take some and I won't have enough.". That's defecting in a prisonner's dilemma-like situation; exactly not the kind of behavior you want to see in a team.

Rachel's reasoning is blaming a particular person. It's also possibly identifiable if you work at Google.

The person takes 6 bottles because they know they need 6 bottles. It's just so little.

I also don't want people who aim to blame other people first, especially when a systematic improvement is so obvious here.


Well, maybe that person should've raised the point about snack scarcity instead of hoarding.

> The person takes 6 bottles because they know they need 6 bottles. It's just so little.

They don't need 6 bottles. They won't die if they get only 2. They want 6 bottles, and are willing to disregard the fact that other people want a bottle just as much.

Blaming is a bad idea in case of mistakes, because mistakes are unintentional and you don't want people to hide mistakes. Blaming and peer pressure is absolutely a good idea when someone behaves antisocially.

The systematic improvement you're seeking isn't that obvious when behavior Rachel describes is tolerated. Say the company ups the supply. It may be that this resolves the situation, but it very well may be that the 6-bottle-taker now decides to take 8, or 12 - 6 for work and 6 for home. And then some extra for their kid. Others will notice it, realize that it's apparently accepted behavior and follow suit. Now the company has to either up the supply significantly, in hope of saturating the leak, or start regulating behavior. Either way, at this point a sane manager would just pull the free snacks program instead.

You'll notice that this exact pattern of behavior Rachel is exposing here is common enough to be recognized and named as a large social problem, that it's literally the meaning behind "that's why we can't have nice things", and that a good chunk of laws exist to prevent or punish this kind of behavior.


> It may be that this resolves the situation, but it very well may be that the 6-bottle-taker now decides to take 8, or 12 - 6 for work and 6 for home. And then some extra for their kid.

Let's stop extrapolate.

Taking stuff (meant for employees at the office) for your families at home sounds more like theft. It's a grey area, but it's clear cut when you do it consistently in large amount over a longer period of time... It's a totally different problem.

> Now the company has to either up the supply significantly

significantly? Please avoid exaggerating to make your point.

> Either way, at this point a sane manager would just pull the free snacks program instead.

Nah. A junior engineer at Google is paid ~$1000 a day. These bottles' cost isn't significant.

It seems more productive to make things more abundance and avoid scarcity.

> Blaming and peer pressure is absolutely a good idea when someone behaves antisocially.

Nah. Even Rachel (the blog post owner) would disagree with this...


> It's a grey area, but it's clear cut when you do it consistently over a longer period of time... It's a totally different problem.

It's not a totally different problem, it's an extension of the same. There's a shared resource meant for employees to be used in a reasonable way, and someone decides to take it all for themselves. The difference between this and taking extra for family starts with "I'm taking 6 bottles home, but I don't really need 6, might as well give one to my kid".

> significantly? Please avoid exaggerating to make your point.

Significantly, i.e. to account for growing demand caused by unrestricted freeloading. I can imagine it easily being 5x+ if more people decide to abuse the system too.

> Nah. A junior engineer at Google is paid ~$1000 a day. These bottles' cost isn't significant.

On the one hand, fair. Maybe this is how it works at Google. On the other hand, all other companies I had personal experience with agonize over spendings that are fraction of their developer's salaries, and most people wouldn't quit over just cancellation of free sodas.

> Nah. Even Rachel (the blog post owner) would disagree with this...

Well, she just did put a post that's chastising such behavior and that post can probably identify a person at Google to their peers, so I'd disagree with you here.


> Well, she just did put a post that's chastising such behavior and probably can identify a person at Google to its peers, so I'd disagree with you here.

Fair.

I'm disappointed in her blog post; she didn't even offer a systematic fix. The blog is, at best, unbalanced, and, at worst, screams public shaming.

It's just so unlike how google/facebook thinks about management in general.

So, I'd still give her some benefit of the doubt; and say that she doesn't believe in shaming/peer pressure.


My impression was that the blog post wasn't intended to discuss all the possible ways to approach the problem of undersupply in free snacks, but just to highlight an instance of tragedy of the commons out there "in the small".

Were I working there, I too would push for increasing the supply of the constantly out soft drink, though I'd still consider the behavior of that person inconsiderate and would expect of them to raise that issue too, instead of just hoarding.


It’s called sharing and you learn it at a very young age. There are people who don’t refill an empty coffee maker and probably think if someone else wants some they can make it themselves.

I’ve seen the same thing at Costco and fast food places. Some lady took all the ice at Costco so they could fill up their cooler outside but they do not buy anything. There’s a video online of the same thing. Same with fast food, people taking all the toilet paper, napkins, plastic forks, or ketchup to use personally at their house. Saw that in college towns and vacation places.


The person single-handedly consuming 3/4 of the total supply of a beverage stocked for dozens of people isn't in the right. Sure, a company can supply more; soda is cheap. That doesn't make the guy in the story not an asshole here.

Is right about future actions the company should take, is extremely wrong about what he/she _did_ already, if one person takes all the stock intended to be distributed company-wide that raises thousands of red flags as team player, doesn't matter if tomorrow they get a magic fridge that has an infinite amount of Tejava bottles, I still wouldn't want that person near any executive positions in the company.

If 6 bottles make them 0.01% more productive, I'd be okay with that. Actually, take 10, just in case.

This person takes 6 bottles. You are exaggerating that number to infinity. Really?

To add to your point, we don't want an exec who aims to blame a particular person instead of a system as well.


Don't you dare to fire me from your hypothetical company! In a more serious note, where did you find that drinking Tejeva is making them more productive? It sounds like an mild addiction wish I suspect is doing the opposite.

The infinity was to make a point about resources, you put much focus into it and is just a silly hypothetical scenario to state a point.

In organizations there is always problems with people and always problems with the system, pointing out the former doesn't mean one doesn't acknowledge the later; and like I said their solution for the future of just buying more stock is correct, so I agreed the system is flawed, their previous behavior is _also_ on the wrong and the one that raises red flags in a personal level.


> where did you find that drinking Tejeva is making them more productive?

In the blog post, the person said they wanted to drink 3-4 bottles a day. So, I assume drinking it makes them happy and, thus, more productive.

> It sounds like an mild addiction wish I suspect is doing the opposite.

I don't understand the need to drink Tejeva. But different people have different needs/wants.

In a similar situation, I'm not a parent or a handicapped or a minority. So, I don't truly understand their needs/situations.

But I don't assume that "oh honey your need isn't significant; you can absolutely live without X", especially when it costs so little.

> The infinity was to make a point about resources, you put much focus into it and is just a silly hypothetical scenario to state a point.

But we are judging a person's action, and we should avoid judging them based on something they haven't done.

Of course, if they start hogging 100 bottles a day where it's not physically possible for a single person to drink it all, then, yeah, I agree that it seems too many.

> their previous behavior is _also_ on the wrong and the one that raises red flags in a personal level.

This is where I disagree. The person's not in the wrong.

They are upfront about taking 6 bottles. They are clear that they enjoy drinking that many bottles.

Needing to drink 6 bottles is like any other need (e.g. need to leave early, need to exercise, need to rest, need to go on a walk, need to poop longer than normal, need to eat more than a normal person). Some people need something more than the others.

What raises a red flag is a person who points finger at another person instead of a system that creates scarcity. This person would be destructive in a post mortem, for example.


You are misusing the word exaggerating. Hypothetical != exaggeration.

By focusing on what you think is an exaggeration as a means of attacking the logic of the person you responded to, you entirely missed their point.

To restate what was already a clear point: even if the supply of drinks was a non-issue, the fact the person behaved so antisocially raises concerns about what other behavior they are willing to justify.


We are deciding whether a person is guilty or not. We can't judge based on a hypothetical situation where that person might do in the future. That seems unjust.

I'm flabbergasted. People do that every day, all day. We imprison people based in part on their future hypothetical behavior. If someone displays antisocial behavior every day and when questioned about it defends their antisocial behavior, I'd be stupid to think: well, I'd better not assume that he won't be this way tomorrow.

Whether or not the employer should have bought more of the popular drink, it doesn't change the ethical calculus performed by that person that day: there is a limited resource that many people would enjoy using; therefore I'm going to take all of it to maximize my enjoyment. Yes, yes, the long term solution is to get management to buy more drinks, or horror, buy your own. But on any given day, they deprived coworkers of the chance to get their favored drink.

Say the two of us go to a restaurant, and there are six delicious looking prawns on a bed of rice. You get the place first. Do you take all six because you like them and then tell me tough nuts that the restaurant didn't put more prawns on the dish? Or do you think to yourself: I'd love all six, but the fair thing to do is take three, and leave three?


"A company can easily stock more stuff."

The creep's behaviour isn't different from the multi-billionaire who has a scheme to shift his company profit-centre to Luxembourg to avoid paying corporation taxes. If everybody behaved in the same way, the employer would eventually end up providing the entire locality with free chocolate-milk.

And the creep's response is the same as the response you hear from those avoiding corporation tax: "Hey, it's perfectly legal, it would be irresponsible of me to pay more than I have to, why should I buy my own if $EMPLOYER provides it for free".

If you extend that fully, you get people sponging off the taxpayer-funded health and social security systems, which results in taxpayers voting for cuts in funding for those systems, which makes everybody happier (hang on, musht be shome mishtake).


Surely the non-selfish solution is for the person drinking all the Tejava to just say to the office manager "I really like that Tejava stuff but so does everyone else and there's never any left, can we stock more of it?"

I see our office manager and the guy who refills our snacks discussing what to stock a few times a week.


Also: isn't this way too much soda? ("Soda" meaning sweetened drinks, that make you obese). If you're thirsty, drink water. If water is too bland for you, add cool-aid. Or battery acid.

If I had to work with a colleague like that, I'd quit.


Two wrongs don't make a right

> it was me - taking 6 Tejava bottles and stocking them into our team's minifridge... if I don't stock up in the morning, there is no Tejava left in the fridge by noon and I have to scavenge ALL surrounding microkitchens in the same building and in ALL adjacent buildings to quench my thirst.

While the article and comments here suggest that one should get outraged by the perpetrator's selfish behaviour and shameless response, it is good to realize the power dynamic here. The stuff is provided by the employer as an advertised benefit. By taking what he needs and defending his actions, he is clearly signalling to the coworkers and to the management that if they want to have cool as-advertised working environment, they should stock the fridge with more stuff. This kind of behaviour empowers the employees and forces the employer to put the action where the words are. Any other interpretation is a mistaken application of socialism in a capitalist enterprise.

In other words, the stuff is provided by employer for every employee there, not for some imaginary community of employees which then should organize and share in socialist way. The company does not want employees to organize.

In a coop enterprise I would agree that this was wrong, but if you're working for capitalists, you should strengthen your power and negotiating position because otherwise the managers will wipe the floor with you.


Free snacks is all fun until somebody ruins it by deciding they can take an exorbitant amount of them home.

A co-worker once admitted to me she uses the communal tea kettle to make hard boiled eggs. I now have to go to another part of the building for my hot water. :/

Why? A metal kettle will not contain any trace of whatever was in it after washing.

Simplest solution: stop providing the snacks that people want to hoard

Or just buy more? Then people won’t have to hoard them.

I don’t understand why someone’s first reaction would be to email the group asking people to stop taking multiple items, instead of emailing the person in charge of the snacks and requesting more.


Right, it's bimodal. Absence or abundance; just avoid scarcity!

This would have to have been at Facebook. Rachel and I worked in close physical proximity for quite a while, and as it happens, I was a major Tejava consumer (but not an actor in this particular incident). For years, Facebook routinely maintained ample Tejava supplies, but then suddenly the 0-6 bottles per day stocking became the new norm. Many here fault the participants for making the commons tragic; my take remains that someone made a terrible decision to limit supply (probably due to cost), and it turns out that several of us employees countered with negative sentiment that made it a net loss for the company. I did not begrudge those who beat me to the inadequate supply, but I did begrudge the shortage.

This Tejava must be amazing stuff!

> You can pick your jaw up off the floor now.

I certainly can ... my jaw dropped that this deserved a blog post.


Somehow rachelbythebay links always seem to jump to the top of HN, no matter how banal they are. I never understand it.

Not being able to get the specific type of free iced tea that she wanted annoyed her so much that she saved an email about it for (presumably) years so she could make a blog post complaining about how mildly rude her coworker was.


The link describes a problem that i) affects many people ii) is present in many different places (over-fishing is another example), iii) is persistent across different countries and time and iv) appears hard to fix.

This makes it interesting. It makes it interesting for HN because (for one example) people here set up services that sometimes include free "as much as you can use" tiers, and are then surprised when someone starts using that 24*7 for terrabytes of transferred data, way beyond the normal use patterns of everyone else.


Not my tea. Not my company. I am none of the people in the post.

I share things from other people and places, you know.


There is a weird "Bay area" bubble entitlement on both sides of this story.

On one side the guy that wants to keep all the drinks for himself and thinks it's ok. On the other hand we got someone creating a blog post about "Microkitchen" which is something that 99.99% of the world's population has no idea about.


99.99% of the world's population probably would have no idea what MongoDB is, or Rust, or node.js, or whatever else might be the shiny thing of the week today.

Better complain about those, then. Get to it.


It’s pretty bizarre, but I guess it’s instructive about the bubble many HN users are in.

(My company doesn’t have a micro kitchen...)


You're right.

Adults debating about an imaginary problem, while it's a mere education issue.

I find more than normal not taking the last piece of cake or choosing another flavor of tea (or drinking water) if my favourite flavor is out of stock.

Oh, and I don't find so offensive going to the nearest supermarket or café to buy any groceries I need.


That is the one take away from this post. This is really a weird bubble of people with too much time and not enough issues.

For me the crazy part is reading all the other comments on this page.

- buy more beverages

- increase beverage supply exponentially until supply catches up with induced demand

- it seems selfish to hoard beverages for yourself

- it’s not selfish because there’s no rule on the books about hoarding

- switch to fountain drinks

- implement an automated, personally trackable snack surveillance system with badges

- stop buying beverages altogether


What, it's crazy that people have opinions, or that they post them in comments?

Apart from selfish/unselfish points, all other points are systematic improvements

Wouldn't you agree systematic improvements are a better way to solve the problem instead of merely blame a particular person?

Also, if a person wants to take 6 bottles because it makes them more productive, I'd let them take 6 bottles.


It's a blog post, not a Nobel Winning paper.

I don't get it. Is it in a food desert? Can't they bring their own, or restock from a shop/kiosk nearby during breaks? I mean it's not like the sites are in Area51, or are they?

Either supply more, or encourage employees to bring their own if they're addicted to it.

Or that employee could just stop engaging in selfish behavior. Company cohesion matters more than one toxic employees fixation on a bubbly drink.

All I know is that now I want to try out a bottle of Tejava

We used to call these First World Problems.

I guess it just shows you that privilege doesn't magically create culture, and that post-it notes are something like the workplace equivalent of YouTube comments.


Your company should provide enough of a given amenity that everyone can enjoy it as much as they like or it shouldn’t provide that amenity at all. Offering an insufficient amount invites this kind of behavior and the animosity this kind of behavior engenders.

That's ridiculous, sorry. I spent a very short time at one of those places you hear of and enjoyed the little bags of dried mango that I had never had before. I took one a day because anything beyond that started to be gluttonous. Same with the 'Dang' coconut chips...so good. Point being that it's obvious these are provided for convenience and a way for folks to get a little break. If you just horde everything for yourself when it's obvious you're denying everyone else a share, you've achieved pathological status in your behavior.

On a side note the floor also had a location where folks could bring in their spirits of choice to share with the 150 or so folks that they worked with. It was a beautiful thing.


Horde everything seems exaggerated. It's 6 bottles.

If we substitute the story with 6 bottles of water (as in I need to drink 6 bottles of water to be productive), we would immediately shift blame to Google as to why Google doesn't provide abundant drinking water for everyone. Because we can easily imagine that we need to drink water to be productive at work.

We only think this story is ridiculous because we couldn't possibly imagine how these sodas help with productivity.

I don't drink soda (which isn't healthy), so I can't imagine how it helps with productivity. But people are different...

This story just screams extreme lack of empathy.


Lack of empathy is hoarding. There are other people who may need that water/soda for productivity just as much. And if one has so specific needs that they really need 6 times the expected allocation of something that's meant for more people, why don't they buy it themselves? Or at least raise an issue with management that they need more of the drink to stay productive?

I agree that lack of empathy goes both ways. But that's the environment the company creates.

This is like a company provides only one toilet room. Then, there are 10 people who want to poop, and one is publicly shamed for using the toilet for too long.

Can we hold the poop? absolutely. But it would be more productive if everyone gets to poop.

Directing the blame at a specific person is just bad management/environment.


More like, one person "pooping" for 30 minutes because they like playing roguelikes on their phone while on the toilet. Had a guy doing exactly that at my previous workspace. Fortunately we had enough toilets on the floor so nobody minded it that much, it was only considered slightly pathetic.



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