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I'm working as a service provider, working directly at the customer's place, in Germany. The customer is in this case a very big company (>100.000 workers).

Recently someone from the part of the customer has decided to open a "household cash", to buy stuff for the kitchen, like washing-up liquid, sponges, etc. It is expected that everyone gives 5€ from the own salary for this cash. Beverages like coffee or tea or other liquids are not included in this, also snaks or food in general.

In my opinion the company we are working for should provide us with all this stuff, and not expect people to pay for it. I know it's just 5€, but due to some personal resentment I'm not really willing to give a single cent for anything.

My question: is this kind of expectation usual? Or at least not unheard of?


Edit: Since it's just 5€, and since to not to collaborate with this would be unfair against paying colleagues, the most of whom have nothing to do with my reasons to be angry, I decided to just give the money.

  • 9
    In the USA, that would be considered ridiculous. – Mister Positive Sep 7 '17 at 17:57
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    Who uses the washing-up liquid, etc.? Cleaners, non-cleaner employees on a rotating schedule or does each person wash their own things? Would you use it? What gets washed? Company-provided kitchenware or does each employee bring their own? Does the company provide e.g. coffee? – Dukeling Sep 7 '17 at 18:05
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    @MisterPositive I disagree. Coffee, dish soap, free candy and beer - they are all just perks. While many companies provide these things, there are many that don't as well. As an extreme example, if you work for the US government your office is not allowed to provide you these things. – David K Sep 7 '17 at 18:36
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    @MisterPositive I guess I'm not sure what you consider ridiculous then. If it's a frivolous perk that the company doesn't provide ("stuff for the kitchen" for the OP), then the employees either need to chip in and pay for it or not use it. – David K Sep 7 '17 at 18:45
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    So the company has a sponge and soap budget of 500,000€ as year? Seems a little high. – Hannover Fist Sep 7 '17 at 23:43
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+200

According to ArbStättV, which is the German regulation for workplaces, the company needs to provide a washing opportunity, including soap. This is related to the sanitary rooms (read: bathroom), which need to be kept clean, and you need to be able to wash your hands and/or body.

However, there is nothing in there to justify even the existence of a tea kitchen, just stuff regulating that such a room for example doesn't need to have a window. So it's legit that the company does not provide washing up liquid, though it is quite weird, but also not uncommon.

My mother worked in the Arbeitsamt in a large German city for many years. They had kitchen rooms (Teeküche), which came with a sink and empty cupboards. There was no dishwasher, no kettle, no microwave, no plates, mugs or cutlery, or washing up liquid, no towels or even kitchen paper. No coffee machine either. Every office room of two or three people used to bring and keep their own dishes, coffee, tea and devices like a kettle. Some people stored their stuff in those kitchens and labelled it, but others locked it in their office because sometimes things would disappear. My mom and her office roommate also had their own sponge and dish washing liquid in their room. The only thing that the employer (in this case a government organization) supplied were vending machines for coffee and sweets in the hallways, but those were probably also meant for the customers (read unemployed people).

On the other hand, if someone decides that they want to start a fund to buy some stuff, like coffee or whatever, and they ask people to participate, that's just that. It's them asking. No-one can force you to contribute, just as they also cannot force you to chip in for coffee that you do not want to drink. You're very much entitled to say no.

Of course you should then have enough integrity to not actually use the stuff the other people bought from their own money.

Just tell them something along the lines of this.

I'm sorry, but I do not want to contribute money. I don't wash dishes here regularly, and I'm fine using the dish washer that the company provides. If you want to buy your own stuff that's great. Go ahead and don't worry, I'm not going to use it.

  • @AllTheKingsHorses it says that break rooms need to have chairs with a back so you can rest, and tables. And something about the size, and windows. And that for offices, you don't need that because the desks and office chairs. The ready room is not relevant here, it's for people that spend lots of time waiting, like doctors in a hospital on long shifts. But it doesn't say there need to be cooking facilities or kettles or anything. My mom worked at the Arbeitsamt and had her own kettle and coffee machine in her office, locked away at night for example. – simbabque Sep 10 '17 at 10:49
  • @AllTheKingsHorses yes. But then cleaning surfaces falls under the whole clean environment thing in Atbeitschutz. I have updated the answer with a full anecdote that I think is quite relevant here. – simbabque Sep 10 '17 at 11:07
  • @All they didn't have the kind of arrangement OP is talking about. You can always not drink coffee or not wash your stuff. Some people would just bring and leave stuff unmarked for everyone, but she doesn't know if they had a fund. I believe in a place like that were everyone is on last name basis even with people two doors down some people are leeches, others are nice. I remember when she retired after being ill for a while and I went to get her office plants to carry them to my office across the street they talked bad about the woman who worked there, thinking I was the janitor. – simbabque Sep 10 '17 at 11:27
  • @Lilienthal thank you! Was that bounty because you really wanted to know an answer, or did you want to encourage proper research? – simbabque Sep 11 '17 at 7:28
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    Thankyou. If it was about coffee, I would just say no, basically because I don't drink this anyways. Since it is about something I will be needing to wash my cups/plates/etc., I decided to stop making a fuss about it and just accept the situation. – DarkPurpleShadow Sep 11 '17 at 18:21
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Is this kind of expectation usual? Or at least not unheard of?

I would say it is somewhat usual, but strongly depends on the company. However it usually is expected only on specific items that the company should not provide you with (that is, items unrelated to the work you are doing).

In my company we have a similar agreement between my coworkers: we take turns on who buys the coffee for the machine when we ran out of it. However, notice that coffee is not something that a company should provide you with (unless you work as a coffee quality tester, that is).

Regarding your situation, if those kitchen stuff you are asked to contribute are not necessary for your job (i.e.: your work does not involve cleaning dishes, etc.) then it is more reasonable to ask all coworkers to contribute to its purchase, as most probably everyone will eventually have to wash their dishes or silverware.

Just remember that you are not obliged to contribute the money if you don't want to or never use those items.

  • 7
    I worked as an external consultant in Germany for many years. You're answer is correct so far, but it doesn't apply for contractors. I was never asked to pay anything from my own money, e.g. for a team events I attended, a co-worker's wedding card, etc. Even if other persons in the same room were asked. So I would say it's unusual in that case. Exception is if you buy something together for your private enjoyment, e.g. coffee tabs instead of traditional coffee. – Chris Sep 7 '17 at 18:13
  • Maybe you are right. This is kind of a broad question, took a shot at answering it so it applies to most cases. – DarkCygnus Sep 7 '17 at 18:24
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    As a software developer I don't need to use washing-up liquid to do my job ;). The tolerated disrespectful behaviour is the reason I feel so reticent to do any more that isn't strictly necessary in general. And at the same time I know it's an inmature reaction, so I prefered to ask before doing something stupid. So thanks for your answer, it really helps. – DarkPurpleShadow Sep 7 '17 at 18:28
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You're not on the staff there, you're a service provider. Contribute if you want, don't contribute if you don't want to.

The pro's of contributing are social ones, and very small. It's like you're part of the team if anyone even notices.

The cons are also social, but people notice omissions much more than they do just going with the flow. So it will have more impact unless it's anonymous.

Having said that, just wait and see if you're even asked to contribute. It's quite possible you won't be asked at all.

My own experience is that I contribute unasked to many of my clients offices just for the sake of customer relations (whether I like the place and people or not), I also try and remember wives and children's names and important events for the same reason. On top of that, despite any personal issues I have, I keep a positive, cheerful facade and never show that I don't like someone or something and concentrate on my tasks. It's part of professional networking that can stand you in good stead in the future.

You don't have to like people and situations, but it's good policy not to be overt about it.

  • "despite any personal issues I have I keep a positive, cheerful facade and never show that I don't like someone or something and concentrate on my tasks" I have just a little question about this. In case someone from the client's side is directly rude to you, what do you do? An example for rudeness would be here insulting or interrupting when you talk. – DarkPurpleShadow Sep 12 '17 at 18:11
  • @DarkPurpleShadow it doesn't happen for several reasons. – Kilisi Sep 12 '17 at 19:58
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You make it sound as if it was expected from your colleagues. I cannot for one instant imagine your boss, or your service boss, asking this from you. For instance, it often happens that, at small companies, employees gather informally to buy coffee or drinks or what have you. That is just being socially "aware" as far as I am concerned. Now, if you don't feel like participating, which you are totally entitled to, just firmly, but friendly say something like: "I understand that this is the way you do that here, and look no offence, I will not participate since I don't use your kitchen/stuff and [some other reasons/or no reason at all]". It is your very own right, but then if everybody contributes and you are drinking the coffee there, don't be surprised if people give you the cold shoulder. If not, no worries, just say so.

  • This didn't come from none of my bosses, but from some co-worker from the customer's side. If it was about coffee I would just explain that I don't drink coffee at all, which is perfectly true. Part of the reason I opened this question is that in my opinion, the company should provide us with stuff to wash our dishes, in the same way they pay for our toilet paper and soap. – DarkPurpleShadow Sep 7 '17 at 18:44
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    I have more or less experienced the same situation in europe, but that just was the deal were I was. The boss was against perks and prefered to be pretty direct when discussing compensation. Nothing bad about that. It goes with the local company culture, I would say. Blend with the culture. If you find it offensive or disturbing, I wouldn't go through the trouble of making them change because from what you are saying, you are an external consultant. Very worst case, try to find another assignment. But don't fight battles that are not worth it, in my opinion. – darwin Sep 7 '17 at 18:52
  • "don't fight battles that are not worth it". So true. I will keep that in my mind. – DarkPurpleShadow Sep 7 '17 at 18:56
  • @DarkPurpleShadow see my answer for an explanation of what they need and don't need to pay for. Toilet paper is required by law. Washing dishes is not. In fact, they don't even need to give you mugs. In real life that's hard to implement, but it seems to be the law. On another note, does the company have a Betriebsrat? They would not actually be relevant to you unless you're a Zeitarbeitnehmer, but they might still know about this stuff and what's customary in that company. – simbabque Sep 8 '17 at 11:09
  • @DarkPurpleShadow Why do you believe "the company should provide [...] stuff to wash [...] dishes"? – Roland Sep 8 '17 at 11:36

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