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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Other pattern seems to be replacing something with a healthier variant, then removing the healthier variant because no one is eating it.
If you're offering a kitchen, stock the damn thing. If you don't want to, then don't offer it.
Every expense kills the company. Every dollar is allocated somewhere.
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.
> 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 admit the downside is that you harm the kitchen appearance, which some companies seem to put huge efforts into.
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.
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.
But imagine if a company was always running out of coffee and gave a response like yours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“It saves me time, so it’s not rude” jfc
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.
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.
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 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, 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.
 - 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.
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 :)
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.
My current employer provides fountain drinks. BYOC.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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 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.
> 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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).
I see our office manager and the guy who refills our snacks discussing what to stock a few times a week.
If I had to work with a colleague like that, I'd quit.
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.
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.
I certainly can ... my jaw dropped that this deserved a blog post.
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.
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.
I share things from other people and places, you know.
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.
Better complain about those, then. Get to it.
(My company doesn’t have a micro kitchen...)
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.