The Mooch Coworker: Why Am I Still Paying for Her Lunch Every Day?

Some coworkers are harder to gauge than others, but there are a few types like the talkative coworker, the depressed smelly cubicle mate and the mooch coworker who need to be distinguished and dealt with, the sooner the better.

Dear Jane Harper:

Every afternoon, I like to nip out to the nearest Starbucks for my daily dose of Joe. Caffeine is the only way I can work for long hours and put up with the pressure of doing a two person’s job as my team member is in rehab and we’re having trouble finding a temp.

A couple of weeks ago, Rose from the accounts department bumped into me while she was having a smoke outside Starbucks. From that day onwards, she pings me on Slack every time she’s craving for junk food so we can head out together. I wouldn’t lie – I enjoy her company and going out with her for ten minutes every day was a no big deal. This was until I realized that she has been making me pay for her lunch and coffee!

Honestly, I feel so stupid even thinking about what I pushover I am. Incident one: We were at Subway, where she ordered her lunch while I stood outside playing Clash of Clans. She came outside to ask for my card so she could pay for her lunch.

Incident two: She saw me stealthily heading out to Starbucks. (I hadn’t invited her!) So she pulled a jump-scare me by following me until the counter and tapping on my shoulder when I was giving my order. There again, I had to pay for both of us, because “Boo, I am not carrying any money.” Oh, poor you!

The last straw was yesterday when Rose said she said she’s craving for coffee. I said, “Sure, I don’t need anything but I can accompany you.” Again, she ordered her coffee and asked me to pay for it. When I told her, I didn’t have any money on me, she had the nerve to tell me that she saw a couple of tenners in my purse. What in the Sam Hill?!?!

She once bragged that she likes to go on dates for free food so she can run her Instagram account. I don’t judge her, a lot of people that I know do the same thing. My concern is that she thinks I’m her ATM. In the past few weeks, I have paid for both of us every single time, while she has only paid once!

I don’t like labeling the people I work with, but in this case, I feel entitled to call her the mooch coworker.

Broketh Jones

mooch coworkerDear Broketh,

You’re acquainted with the good old mooch coworker. They borrow pens, mooch lighters & cigarettes, help themselves to your lunch and even treat your wallet as their own. I was flabbergasted when she expected you to pay for her sub when you didn’t even order anything for yourself. Rose feels entitled to your money! So, how do you handle the office mooch?

The best way to deal with a mooch is to be proactive. The next time you go out with Rose begin quizzing her before she has the chance to strong-arm you to pay for her coffee. E.g. “Hi Rose. Did you bring your wallet?”

If it’s an embarrassing situation because Rose pushed the bill to you after ordering all food for herself, so be it. You are going to have to just stand there and look at her like she’s got two heads, what was she thinking ordering all that stuff and not being prepared to pay for it? If she asks you why you are not paying for it, say “no, I don’t want to,” you don’t need to justify or explain why.

Tell no to anybody, for that matter, you want to, at any time when you know you need to. Your relationship with the mooch coworker will probably not survive because she will not get that power thrill from making you pay for her anymore.

Better yet. Start with a direct approach: “Hey, Rose, I've paid for all these meals for you, it's time for you to step up and treat me a bunch of times.” Do this a few times, and she might start thinking that you’re not a pushover she thought you were. You should also ask her to download an app to split bills. This should send the message.

Put your foot down girl, you got this!

I would suggest a few more lies to avoid going out with a mooch coworkers like Rose for anyone who is in a similar situation:

“Oh, I brought my own coffee. Thank you for asking though!”

“I’m sorry I’m on a specific diet. I’ll definitely accompany you on a cheat day.”

“I have too much work to do, I don’t think I can go out today.”

“I am not feeling well today. Maybe later this week.”

Do you have any experiences with the mooch coworker? How have you handled it? Share your tips on how to deal with a mooch coworker in a comment below.

Q&A with Jane: The brutal and straightforward answers to HR-related queries and concerns. Send in your queries with the subject line ‘Ask JANE HARPER’ at [email protected]

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