Petty Authority

August 26, 2023 by Joshua
in Humor, Leadership

Regular readers know I volunteer to deliver overstocked perfectly good food from stores that would throw it away to a community fridge and pantry for anyone to take for free (there’s a fair amount of doof in it). I do it mainly to reduce waste to landfills, with feeding people as a bonus. It replaces watching TV, browsing the web, or feeding a social media addiction. I don’t understand how people devote so much time to such things. I wish I had the spare time they do.

The group coordinates through a chat, which has moderators. Two people moderated for a year or so. Someone new started the role. When a volunteer delivers, we post a picture to the chat. Recently someone posted this picture, showing a delivery of bagels.

Someone responded, “That’s a lot of carbs.”

I responded, “And plastic.” It’s not the first time I’ve posted about how much plastic we create.

I don’t write, but do know that humans fed ourselves without plastic for hundreds of thousands of years, I know we don’t need it. I also know the plastic will last centuries or more, poisoning humans and wildlife the whole time. When I’ve posted about it before, some people complain things like “what else can we do?” Others send me direct messages of support.

Some of the guests—that is, the people who take food from the fridge and cupboard—tell me that message is important since we produce so much waste. It’s not obvious that feeding someone today outweighs centuries of harming others. We may be net hurting people.

This time the moderator, whom I’ll call ‘K‘, responded directly to my two-word response. Her response reminded me of a friend who told me how people with petty authority exercise it because otherwise they don’t feel they have it. I’ll be curious your thoughts about it. I don’t want to lead the witness, but as a leadership coach, author, and professor, I would call K‘s approach the opposite of effective leadership. What do you think?

(Keep in mind, I’m a volunteer. I’ve been delivering through rain, snow, and darkness for years. The guests applaud and sing sometimes when I arive. Everyone volunteers.)


Hi Josh – while I appreciate your passion for the anti-plastic movement, it is not the mission of this group and comments like this are unhelpful. Please abstain from making comments that may be misconstrued as combative or aggressive in the future if you’d like to remain an active member of the group. Thanks


If there is a written mission statement, I wouldn’t want to violate it. Could you please send me a link to it so I can understand it?


I’ll dig up the pamphlet that we have for the organization. However, now that [former admin 1] and [former admin 2] have stepped down I am the most senior admin, so I am responsible for decisions made within *this* group and I am frankly not comfortable with your way of delivering your opinions on plastic, although I agree with you on the subject.

Please confirm that we’re on the same page and that this is to suffice as a written warning. I know we’ve discussed this in the past. If we have to have this discussion again I will have to ask you to leave the group chat.

Please let me know if you require further clarification.

Alternatively, you are welcome to purchase, donate and pass out bagging supplies to volunteers – then they could be made from the material of your choosing.


I can use clarification. My comment “and plastic” responded to a post “so many carbs” which could be offensive and unrelated to our mission. Did you speak to that person? Also, I looked up “food waste” and found many sites including “packaging” and “plastic” as elements of food waste. Also, your characterization of a “passion for the anti-plastic movement” in me is insulting and wrong. I would like to get on the same page there. Thank you for telling me I am welcome to pass out bagging supplies to volunteers.

By the way, if your intent is to make me feel threatened and hurt through displaying your ability to take something I care about away from me, you have succeeded.


Carbs being delivered to the fridge is directly related to the mission of the organization. While I appreciate your zeal, plastic is unfortunately a part of day to day life at the fridge and I am respectfully asking you to comply with my request. Your behavior has made several volunteers feel uncomfortable in the past, myself included. That cannot and *will* not continue. How you choose to proceed is up to you, but I’ve been clear on my expectations and what it will take for you to continue being a welcomed member of this group.


Hi Josh – I was made aware by a guest that you let guests know you wouldnt be bringing your DM donations to our fridge anymore? Let me know if you’re no longer interested in your Mon/Tues pickups and I’ll coordinate with Jonathan to have your pickups covered.

If you’re planning to bring them elsewhere, I will let him know that you’re no longer affiliated with the chelsea fridge and you can provide him with your new org. Info

Please advise asap so that I can proceed with arrangements. If I don’t hear back from you, I’ll consider it as you not being interested in doing the pickup any longer and will communicate that to the Astor Pl. team


Are you okay?


Excuse me?

It ended there so far. I’ll update if any more comes up.

UPDATE: She texted the place I normally pick up and told them the fridge was stopping working with that pick-up place, specifically naming me as not working with the fridge. The manager was confused. I read him as seeing her as causing a problem since I have great relationships with everyone in the store and told him I valued volunteering, but can’t say for sure, I presume by what looked unnecessary and unprofessional from K’s part.

To clarify, I never indicated to anyone any interest in stopping working with the fridge.

UPDATE: September 21:


Hi. We need to have a sitdown regarding the fridge and your involvement. I’m getting stories from all over regarding the DM NoHo situation and it’s frankly becoming a full time job to manage. What is your availability to meet in the AM on 9/28?

I would like to clear the air so that things can (hopefully) move forward in a more peaceful manner without additional action being required.

September 22:


Following up, thx.

September 23:

Josh Spodek

That morning is open 10:30 to noon.

September 25:


Lets plan to meet at the starbucks on 8th and 16th at 11:15AM, then.

Josh Spodek

Okay, see you then.

September 28:

Josh Spodek

Walked up. Waited fifteen minutes. Did I not see you? Heading home.


Hi Josh. I just arrived. Been dealing with post op problems. LMK if you are still in the area.

Sorry for the delay.

June 29:

Josh Spodek

Hi K. It’s been a while. Two reasons to write. First, my book launching this fall is in the last stages of editing and it mentions Chelsea Fridge and a couple people, including you. I met with the other person, who liked it and asked to include their last name. If you’re open to meeting, I could show you the part mentioning you. I welcome feedback.

Second, I remain blocked from Dashmart Noho. How about we resolve the issue?


Hi Josh. Congrats on the book. I am in [other place] until mid July but would like to read the except about me. When I return would also be open to meeting to discuss dashmart as well. I would believe it to really be a quite easy resolution.

June 30:

Hi Josh. After speaking to my lawyer, I’ve decided that I do not want to be included in your book by name. Please confirm that you understand this and will not mention my name or likeness.

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