why do people go so nuts over free food at work?

People are weird about free food at work. Really weird.

Some among us lose all sense of decorum and courtesy when free food is on offer — I’m talking taking whole pans of lasagna back to their desks or running roughshod over colleagues to ensure they get first dibs on the best doughnuts.

At Slate today, I wrote about the bizarre greed free food can bring out. You can read it here.

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{ 691 comments… read them below }

  1. limenotapple

    In my workplace, we occasionally have free bagels. We have people who say “oh I only want to eat half” and then eat…the top half. With all the yummy stuff on top. By the time I’d get there, there was just a pile of bagel butts.

      1. MatKnifeNinja

        That’s total human garbage right there. Cut the bagel like a sandwich and take half.

        The person who did that at my work had more money than all of us. So no food insecurity, no real reason except moneyed trash.

        1. Human garbage defender

          I don’t get why that makes a person so awful – they’re entitled to take the WHOLE bagel if they want, so leaving the bagel butt there is beyond what they must do to be polite! Would you prefer they take the entire bagel and throw the butt in the garbage, so that they haven’t upset people by leaving a bagel butt behind?

          1. fposte

            I love your username :-). I think the issue of taking halves generally is practically a religious schism. This one is the closest I come to being an anti-halfer–there is something about taking the frosted half that’s a little like eating all the marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms, even though the food math works the same.

            1. Elise

              I see what they are saying, but I prefer the bottom half as there is usually more bagel on that half. So I guess I’m the one happy person left after they come through and take the top!

              1. fposte

                Yeah, I’m a butt fan myself. I think there are enough of us that I’d advise anybody who likes the top half to find one of us to explicitly partner with, thus avoiding the disapprobation of the rest of Bagel Land.

                1. Macedon

                  I’m about to supply one village their idiot, but what do you mean by top half and bagel butt? Aren’t bagels… symmetrical? And then you cut them midway horizontally and stuff them sandwich-style? Why is there only frosting or spread on one half of the bagels?

                  I’m living in serious horror that I might have been doing bagels wrong all my life.

                2. fposte

                  @Macedon–I’m using “frosting” slightly facetiously. But a lot of bagels aren’t symmetrical. Think of most bagels as being like doughnuts with frosting and sprinkles. If you cut them in half horizontally and take the top, the people who wanted chocolate frosting and sprinkles don’t get that from the bottom, and a lot of people want chocolate frosting and sprinkles (or poppy seeds or cinnamon crunch or whatever). This is to yer basic deli bagel what Starbucks’ froofy drinks are to black coffee.

                3. Turtle Candle

                  I have done this! It’s a little difficult because “do you prefer top halves of bagels or bottom halves?” is not normal small talk and wandering about going “hey, do you want to be my bagel butt buddy?” around the office is also going to come of weird at most companies, but I’ve found that standing by the fresh box of bagels going “does anyone want the top half of a bagel and not the bottom? I’m not hungry enough for both and prefer bottom halves” nets me volunteers.

                4. Marthooh

                  @Turtle Candle – “Be my bagel-butt buddy” would make a great ecard, but, yes indeed, you want to be careful who you send it to.

              1. TardyTardis

                What frosting? Bagels are the ultimate delivery vehicle for cream cheese, aren’t they?

      2. pope suburban

        I agree, and I say this as precisely the kind of monster who would happily eat a bagel butt. No one should be trusting that their workplace harbors a soul such as me. Cut the bagel in half, so everyone gets a top and bottom!

        1. fposte

          Imagine in some hellish antimatter world where people like you and me are left battling over the bagel butts while the frosted tops languish untouched.

          1. Kat in VA

            I just snorted Red Bull all over my keyboard at (a) the absolute absurdity of the sentence “…people like you and me are battling over bagel butts…” and (b) there is absolutely an office where someone is in engaged in just such a battle.

            What a world we live in!

      1. MatKnifeNinja

        Or no one bothered to teach them any dining manners.

        There is nothing grosser than watching a person rip off a muffin top with their bare hands and leave the stump on the platter. Same with bagels. Unless you are wearing vinyl gloves, even if you are cutting the bagel with a knife, your hands are still all over it trying to top the top off. Do I really want a bagel butt that had your hands all over it? How many people even bother to wash their hands going to an office food swarm?

        At least with a muffin stump there’s a paper wrapper with and the person hopefully used a knife.

        I work with people who leave the restroom a crime scene. No way am I eating anything their hands pawed over.

        My office routinely tossed 12 bagel butts into the trash. Not my problem. That guilt is on the those who thinks others should eat their remnants. I’d go out and get a fresh, non pawed bagel.

        1. NotTheSameAaron

          It is possible to remove the muffin top without touching the stump, but usually only with the giant “three muffins in one cup” type.

      1. Antilles

        Agreed, but I’ve noticed that doesn’t seem to help.
        People who want a full bagel will obviously skip right past the half-bagels and ignore them. Other people who only want half a bagel won’t want to take the leftover half bagel and/or will want a different type of bagel, so they will also skip right past the half-bagel and ignore them.
        Then an hour in, it’s “why the heck are there 17 half-bagels on the tray and no full ones!”

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          I grab a half bagel all the time. We don’t have leftover halves in my office.

        2. Free Meerkats

          Then you reach the point where there’s only a half-bagel left, and nobody want to be the person who took the last bit. (Well, I will, but I’m shameless.) So they cut the half in half, and someone cuts that in half … Pretty soon there’s a tiny sliver of bagel butt left and it stays there until I walk by or the janitor tosses it.

        3. TardyTardis

          As long as there’s a tub of cream cheese somewhere in the vicinity, I’m ok with bagel butts.

    1. Crivens!

      Wait, I’m confused, what kind of bagels are y’all eating where the “top” half is any different from the “bottom” half, quality-wise?

      1. limenotapple

        Panera has these wonderful bagels that have cheese or cinnamon crunch or some other tasty thing on the top. They are good and probably wildly unhealthy. Asiago cheese is my favorite!

          1. The Other Dawn

            Yes! They’re SO good! My last employer usually got Panera for breakfast meetings and we loved when the leftovers would be brought down to the cafeteria. Most of the time there was at least one of two of those left.

        1. Irishmasms

          Those are not bagels, bagels are boiled before baking. Those are round bread with cheese on top

          1. smoke tree

            You can boil bagels and then apply your glaze and toppings prior to baking. My poison of choice–sesame seeds. But I will admit to being a bit of a purist, inasmuch as the bagel should stand up well enough on its own that it only needs minimal toppings.

          2. JSPA

            And lye in or before the boiling. If you live where these are still made — preferably by hand — please say where. There’s a lot of round dough with crusty extras on top, but precious few real bagels.

            1. Just Elle

              Jacksonville Florida, a place otherwise filled with despair (and even once mocked in Deadpool) but with shockingly incredible food scene… has one such hole in the wall bagel place. Bagels R Us Deli & Cafe. The old owners imported their water. The new ones do not but the bagels are still so good.

              And, completely not in bagel purist fashion, for the holidays they have a gingerbread spice bagel with a peppermint patty cream cheese. To. Die.

              1. Mr Shark

                Off-topic, but you should watch the show “The Good Place” if you want to see mocking of Jacksonville (in a funny way, though).

      2. Blue

        It’s not necessarily a quality thing, but bagels with poppy seed, everything spice, etc. on them are primarily seasoned on the top so the bottoms are less tasty!

        1. Crivens!

          Ooooh, okay, that definitely makes sense. I’d be very sad if my poppy seed and salt bagels were not poppy seedy and salty.

          1. The Other Dawn

            Yeah, in my area most of the well-known chains and grocery stores that carry bagels only season the top of the bagel. There aren’t many that season the entire bagel, which is disappointing. The only places around me, that I can think of, that season the whole bagel are Wholefoods and I think Stew Leonard’s.

      3. Quake Johnson

        I was a little confused too. I’m assuming there’s some kind of topping or seasoning on them?

        I personally hate all that, so I’d happily just grab the bottom half and some cream cheese!

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy

          haha, that’s just what I was thinking. ALL THE PLAIN BAGEL BUTTS!

        2. SpicySpice

          Everyone knows that the bagel is just the vehicle to get the cream cheese to your mouth.

        3. MJ

          Even though you don’t know where the bagel cutter’s hands had been. Yuck. I guess some people don’t care about it. But… yuck!

      4. fposte

        It took me a minute to work this through myself, since I’m a fan of the plain bagel. But non-plain bagels often have the extras, especially if they’re seeds or grains, sprinkled on top rather than worked through the dough, so if you don’t take the top half, you end up with a plain bagel when you wanted an Everything.

    2. AdAgencyChick

      Ha, I never thought to be annoyed by this, but that’s because I eat plain or egg bagels. But now that I think about it, every time we have free bagels, there’s nothing but bagel butts by 10:30 AM.

    3. irene adler

      We’ve got the “just want a little bit” folks.
      So there’s usually a doughnut, or cupcake or a cookie, with just a quarter cut from it. Then later, it’s down to half. Then mid-morning, it’s a little smaller. Then another piece is removed. By lunch time, it’s down to a quarter piece.
      Then, someone will come into the lunch room and cut off half of what’s left. The last bite will be cut once more, leaving little more than a large crumb.
      Just take the whole item.

      1. fposte

        See, to me that’s a sign of a protocol that works beautifully. That’s like 8 people who didn’t want a whole doughnut and didn’t have to take a whole doughnut. Though I do love the Zeno’s paradox of whatever’s left always being divided in half.

        1. RPCV

          Right? If there were 8 doughnuts with quarters cut out of them because people only wanted a little and didn’t want leftovers that would be awful, but the “how many times can I cut this in pieces” thing is kind of funny, and much less wasteful.

        2. Autumnheart

          That would be true, if they were a) taking their fractal donut piece from the same donut and b) not mangling the hell out of the rest of the donut. Instead, you wind up with 8 donuts that are all smushed into grossness because someone only wanted “a piece”.

          1. fposte

            That’s still funny to me if the complaint is that people should just take a whole doughnut, though. Consider that baby entirely decommissioned.

            1. Autumnheart

              The appropriate method is to collaborate with another half-donut-wanter, and split it!

              1. Lucy

                Agreed! You say “hey does anyone want to split a donut with me?” and if nobody does then you make a decision about whether you would rather have a whole donut or no donut. Or eat half and save the rest for later.

        3. KHB

          I don’t know why (except that it’s funnier that way), but my first thought was to assume that it was the same person going back to the same donut throughout the day because they kept wanting “just a little bit”…”just a little bit more”…”just a little bit more.”

          1. Mr Shark

            Yes, I know people who do that, KHB. They are on a diet, so they go and eat a 1/4 of a donut in the morning. And then go and get another 1/4 before lunch. And then eat the last half in the afternoon (if someone hadn’t eaten it already). At least they don’t continue to only eat 1/2 of what is left, until there’s an infinitesimally thin slice of donut left.

        4. Karen from Finance

          I love that you brought up Zeno’s paradox. My family accuse me of overthinking when I call it that.

        5. Turtle Candle

          Yeah, I do always wonder about this. Do I forego entirely? Take one and take four bites and pitch out the rest? Ask if anyone wants to split? I have a smallish appetite so this comes up with surprising regularity.

        6. Jen S. 2.0

          Sometimes I wonder if any office has ever gotten down to a molecule of brownie, and what happens when someone tries to split the molecule.

      2. KHB

        A former coworker liked to put half a packet of sugar in her coffee. She’d put the open half-empty sugar packet back in the box with all the other sugar packets. I do not know in what universe that would ever have been a good idea.

        1. Elemeno P.

          What? No!! I like a half-packet of sugar in my tea, so I reserve the other packet half on my desk for my next cup of tea. I can’t imagine putting it back and expecting people to be okay with that.

          1. Turtle Candle

            Same! Take the whole packet, then paper clip the top shut and keep it for Tea #2.

      3. That Girl From Quinn's House.

        Once I see the quarter-piece of donut surrounded by crumbs, I throw it out figuring it’s disgusting. It’s been handled a dozen times and appears to have been abandoned such that no one is coming back to clean it up. In the garbage it goes, before the ants turn up.

        1. HR Stoolie

          My office is great about public food except when it comes to the occasional box of donuts and not finishing off that last one. I don’t know if this is because of guild taking the last or not cleaning up the bulky and dirty box it sits in.
          I do the same, throw the last of it away along with the packaging.

          1. Drew

            My office has NEVER had a problem with people not wanting to take the last donut.

            One time, I went for the last donut in the box as the COO wandered by.

            COO: Oh, thank you. I can never bring myself to take the last one in case someone else wants it.
            Me: Weird.
            COO: I know, right?
            Me: Want to split it?
            COO: God, yes.

      4. Kat in VA

        And then there’s me – the repository of all things garbage. I will eat the entire cupcake, no, I will not give you a sliver, I will eat all your slivers and then some. I’m the roaring trashfire garbage dumpster eater and I eat EVERYTHING.

        1. catwoman2965

          You and me both! I have no shame. I’ll eat the whole darn bagel, cupcake, or whatever happily! with no guilt whatsoever. Life is too short.

    4. Maritza Reyes

      It’s not the top executives doing this. They have dignity because their immense salaries afford them the luxury to turn down any offer of free food. Your article is about shaming working and middle-class people.

      1. IvyGirl

        Oh ho ho, au contraire, mon frere.

        In a former company, one of the highest up consulting directors was the main vulture for EVERYTHING. Birthday cake that I made for a direct report? He’d swoop in and take half. Lunch for a training session? He’d take two plates.

        It’s a weird mindset, not a class struggle.

      2. Silence Will Fall

        I’m going to disagree. Some of our worst offenders are senior partners who make at least 10x what I do.

        1. Utoh!

          Agreed. When I worked at a law firm, one of the seniors would be the FIRST at our lunch and learn…to lunch only….

        2. swingbattabatta

          Can confirm. Our worst offender brags about how he could have retired 10 years ago, but works for “fun”, and doesn’t understand why everyone doesn’t buy a Tesla.

          1. Natalia

            Offices are not required to provide their employees with free food. If the food is for everyone they mean everyone and not just you…

      3. HarvestKaleSlaw

        I’m usually the first to make things into an income inequality issue – but no, sorry, nope. This is just garbage behavior from people with no basic decency. If you walk off with half the buffet tray, you’re not stealing from the man. You’re stealing with all the people you work with who are not getting lasagna now.

      4. Arctic

        The worst offenders I’ve ever seen of this was at my first law firm. Starting salary for associates was $160,000. Partners made millions, potentially. It was like a free for all whenever there was free food served at a training our meeting.

        1. Arctic

          In fact, it was almost always those of us raised in lower income homes who had too much dignity/were too insecure to do this.

              1. matcha123

                Yes! All of these! These people are taking because they have no shame. Growing up poor often means you grow up being ashamed of being poor and trying to hide it as much as you can.
                I hate that anyone would immediately think that someone with a lower income would be so entitled (!) as to jump in front of anyone to grab more food. In a white collar office, this level of entitlement is something that the rich have.

      5. Creed Bratton

        In many cases it is! I’ve been shocked at the level of depravity some of my wealthiest co-workers have shown around free food (see also: worthless conventions swag). Like for some it’s about the thrill of the hunt than it is the value of the food.

        1. MsChanandlerBong

          This reminds me of my best friend’s mom. The three of us used to volunteer to judge student competitions in a specific niche. Every year, the state-level competition was held in a nice hotel, and we would get treated to a nice breakfast buffet and a boxed lunch in exchange for our time. My friend’s mom always brought an empty tote bag so she could stock up on miniature jars of jelly (put out with the bagels and toast at the breakfast buffet), packets of peanut butter, and other food items. The same woman who makes more per month from her retirement pension than I do from my full-time job. This is the same person who had her daughter go to the local “closet” intended for poor kids to get prom dresses for $10 or $20 each because they wouldn’t be able to afford to go otherwise (and no, it’s not a matter of presenting as well-to-do on the outside and struggling financially behind closed doors; she’s just cheap).

          1. Former Employee

            I happen to be a sucker for miniatures, especially little jars and packets of foodstuffs. It’s a nice hotel, so I’m sure there’s plenty to go around, though I wouldn’t take more than a few; I use very little at a time, so I take as many as the average person would actually use. No harm, no foul.

            However, sending your kids to a place designed to help poor kids get prom dresses for what amounts to babysitting or other part time job type money when you can easily afford to buy new…well, I have no words – a least none that I can include here! For every person who can afford to spend money on a new dress, but sends their kid to the charity, there is a poor girl who can’t go to prom because there is no dress for her. Shame, shame, shame!

            1. matcha123

              If the mini jams are the ones I’m thinking of, I took some with me when I had an afternoon tea at a hotel with friends. However, that was because we’d opened them and there was no way the staff would have done anything other than toss them after we left.
              Very disappointed to read about those dresses. No shame…

        1. Quackeen

          I’m so relieved that there was an update to that letter in which the LW was satisfied with the outcome (she purchased a locking box, others followed suit, and the boss maintained a sense of humor about it) because that letter infuriated me. Sure it would have been better if talking directly to him worked, but clearly he wasn’t rational in this one area.

      6. Rainbow Roses

        I’ve read so many stories where the regular employees bring all the food for the potluck and then the executives, and sometimes their big shot guests, swoop in and eat most of the food while contributing nothing.

        Some offices wised up and bring out the “good stuff” after the big shots leave.

        Luckily I don’t work at one of those offices now, but there were one or two in the past.

        1. Artemesia

          That is so gross. Where I worked the ‘big shots’ would bring in the ham, the whole chicken, the box of fried chicken etc etc and the minions would bring salads, breads desserts. That way we had good stuff and people who couldn’t afford the good stuff i.e. the main course/proteins could fill out the array with inexpensive offerings. We had one big shot who actually roasted a couple of chickens and brought them in; most just bought something, which was fine.

          1. angrywithnumbers

            At our office they all just put in cash and have the planning committee buy what ever needs to be filled in. We usually get nice trays of holiday appropriate meat from the caterer we use for meetings.

        2. Kat in VA

          My understanding of it is if you don’t contribute to the potluck, you don’t get to eat from the potluck. On the occasions I can’t be arsed to make/buy something or I plain forgot, I abstain. That doesn’t make me an angel, but fair is fair.

          1. ClockworkTimeCrab

            I worked with a guy who would always pile his plate high at the company potluck but contribute nothing. He whined he didnt make enough to spare money for the food when the boss cracked down on him. She said everybody was bringing something so either he brought something or went without.

            He then changed his tantic to anger, saying he shouldnt have to bring anything because hes a man and that’s women’s work… in a call center where there was 20 odd women and 3 men… that didn’t go over well.

      7. MatKnifeNinja

        Nope. My bagel steal human trash was the an upper level manager making mad jack. I figure she was like an alpha dog marking her territory with bagel and muffin top stealing.

        She’d also double dip all the dips, potato chip, chocolate dip, hummus…

        Total pig.

      8. Quackeen

        Yeah, no. This just is not true. I have seen the Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at my previous job bring a few Tupperware containers to a dinner meeting and take 3-4 servings of each entree because “my son really likes meatballs” or “I’m too lazy to bring a lunch.” He was making 750k/year at the time, plus annual bonuses.

        The correlation between salary and dignity is not what you assume it is.

        1. Natalia

          How about they hire his son so he can have the meatballs he likes at the office potluck!

      9. TootsNYC

        According to bagel man Paul Feldman, who sold bagels in Washington, DC, office buildings on the honor system, it was the executive floors that had people stealing bagels.

        The Freakonomics guys reported on him.

        https://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/06/magazine/what-the-bagel-man-saw.html

        He also says he believes that employees further up the corporate ladder cheat more than those down below. He reached this conclusion in part after delivering for years to one company spread out over three floors — an executive floor on top and two lower floors with sales, service and administrative employees. Maybe, he says, the executives stole bagels out of a sense of entitlement. (Or maybe cheating is how they got to be executives.) His biggest surprise? ”I had idly assumed that in places where security clearance was required for an individual to have a job, the employees would be more honest than elsewhere. That hasn’t turned out to be true.”

        1. Artemesia

          There is quite a lot of press on the concept that being a sociopath is an important advantage in rising in corporate America. It conforms to my informal observations.

      10. SheLooksFamiliar

        Sorry Maritza, but no:

        The owner/CEO of my company piled his plate with food from a small employee appreciation lunch another team sponsored: ‘I paid for this, after all.’ He didn’t leave much.

        My boss, the VP of HR, took great pleasure in poking his finger in every single chocolate from a large box someone brought in, to see what each one was. The box had a map of which one is what, but he wanted to be sure. Yes, he thought it was funny as hell.

        I watched the VP of Engineering at a large telecom load his plate with sandwiches. I asked if he was taking some back to his team, and he said no. He just heard there was free food.

        The CFO of a former employer put his name on an extra tray of food from a team lunch, and threatened to fire anyone who took it. He wasn’t joking.

        Free food at work does things to people of all levels.

      11. Nana

        Several hundred years ago, people at the country club where I waitressed would ask ME for a dime to use the phone. Consistently.

    5. But you don't have an accent...

      Ugh this is like the people in college at the Au Bon Pain chicken noodle soup line. People would literally stand there for 5 minutes draining every ounce of liquid out of the ladle and fill their cup up with noodles and chicken and carrots.

      By the time I got there, there was a vat full of chicken broth with a carrot or piece of celery floating around in it -_-.

      1. Quackeen

        Man, I’d totally forgotten about this. I used to work in a building that had an Au Bon Pain in the lobby. Those soup-filling-swipers were the worst! And contrary to what someone posted elsewhere, it wasn’t an income issue. The companies in that building were mainly fintech. People were not starving.

    6. NotAnotherManager!

      Ugh, at least the guy on my floor who only takes 1/4 of a donut isn’t peeling off the topping side (and uses a fork to excise his caloric allotment).

      1. MJ

        But he’s leaving 3/4 of a doughnut that he’s had his dirty fingers over so no one else will eat it.

    7. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      This… doesn’t seem like a problem to me.

      If they’d taken the whole bagel, nobody would be complaining, right? So if they only want half, what’s wrong with taking the half that they want? Would it be better if they took both halves and threw away the bottom, to hide evidence of their crime?

      If they’re taking TWO tops to make one extra-tasty complete bagel, that’s another story altogether.

      1. iglwif

        Yeah, I use bagels mainly to put schmear on anyway, so I will happily eat everyone’s bagel bottoms, thanks.

          1. Lavender Menace

            Most people cut bagels and donuts with a knife or fork. Also, you’ve probably been exposed to worse germs simply by being present in the bathroom or touching money.

          2. fposte

            It’s food. It’s had lots of people’s hands on it before it ever got to you, and it hasn’t been sterilized along the way. This is just one more person in a long chain.

            People at my workplace are perfectly happy to eat the remaining halves of bagels and whatnot. Maybe we’re just naturally clean :-).

      2. Arctic

        It’s a huge waste of food and robs others for no good reason. Just cut it in half so you have a half of a top and a half of a bottom. Don’t be a jerk.

        1. fposte

          It’s a half a bagel. That’s not a huge waste of food. A huge waste of food is the shoveling of all of this into our sedentary maws in the first place.

        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          It’s not wasting food to only eat what you want.

          And would we really prefer that our colleagues handle every individual bagel and cut them in half vertically? (I’m assuming that these bagels are arriving onsite sliced in half lengthwise.) I’m certainly not taking the half bagel that some random colleague sawed in half with a plastic knife.

          1. Artemesia

            So do you cut off the top of cupcakes too taking the part you want and leaving cupcake bottoms for the plebes?

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

              I don’t. And I see your point that it’s equivalent to the bagel thing.

              But, seriously, is it better to take the whole thing and throw away half of it?

              I agree that it seems more polite to do so… but that’s actually sort of absurd, right? If I take the whole cupcake the “plebes” (nice, btw) don’t get any anyway. Is it better to hide my greed by taking the whole thing?

          2. LunaLena

            Even taking just the top half means you’re touching the entire bagel, unless you use a napkin to hold the bottom half the bagel while you rip the top off. If you cut it in half vertically, then hopefully you’re only taking the half that you held down while sawing, and leaving the other untouched half alone.

            And while it’s not illegal to just take the top half, it’s inconsiderate to take the half of the bagel that has all the tasty parts because, most likely, you’re not the only person who enjoys those tasty parts. Certainly you can do that if that’s what you want, but don’t be surprised if your co-workers comment negatively about you. If you go to a potluck or buffet, do you also just grab the entire plate of [insert your favorite food here] and walk away with it, because you’re “only eating what you want”? Or do you assume that maybe other people would like some of it too and take just a few spoonfuls? It’s the same concept.

            1. fposte

              It’s not the same concept, though, because it’s a situation where taking the whole bagel—twice as much—is fine. You’re not really depriving anybody by taking *less* of a portion. It’s just a variant on that “taking half is food waste” taboo of some places. (And, as some of us have noted, we’d rather have the bottom halves anyway.)

              And I find the whole thing fascinating.

              1. Cercis

                It depends on the office. I’ve worked in offices where they look at the leftover half bagels that others passed on (because without the topics they’re kind of tasteless) and decided they ordered too much and kept reducing the order each time until it was literally just the first half dozen people who got bagels.

              2. LunaLena

                You’re not depriving anyone of “less” food if you just take a whole platter at the buffet line either – after all, there’s plenty of other platters, aren’t there? If I just like mac and cheese, then what’s wrong with me just taking all the mac and cheese and leaving the coleslaw or pasta salad for everyone else? I’m not taking any of the coleslaw or pasta salad, so there’s that much more for everyone else, no?

                That’s why I say it’s the same concept. In both scenarios, yeah, technically you’re not hogging ALL the food, but that doesn’t make you generous or considerate either. It just says to me that someone doesn’t understand that free food is meant to be shared and enjoyed by everyone, not just that person. Not a judgment, just something to raise the eyebrows. And I say that as the person who has and will happily and uncomplainingly eat the bagel butts or quarter pieces of leftover donut, because hey, free food.

                1. fposte

                  But the people who take just the top halves aren’t taking more. They’re not hogging anything. They’re taking *less* than you want them to. That’s where logic fails.

            2. Don P.

              When my office has bagels, they are always pre-cut horizontally, so the touching aspect doesn’t come into it.

              1. LunaLena

                In my experience, pre-cut bagels are usually held together by a little piece so the halves don’t fall apart and get mixed up, so you have to rip apart or cut that last little piece to take just half. Probably differs depending on location and brand, though.

        3. Alianora

          In what way does it rob others of food? If we assume each person is entitled to a whole bagel, then taking the top half gives others the chance to have half a bagel. And some people like plain bagels. If there are toppings available, I’ll happily take a plain bagel bottom.

    8. Adminx2

      GAHHH The “always smaller piece” people! I cut cakes beautifully, little 2×2 squares. INEVITABLY someone will ask for “smaller” or cut in half or even a quarter! Just take the dang piece!

      1. NeedTheSmallPiece

        Some people can’t eat a whole piece of something and do need things cut smaller. For instance, I am diabetic and I have it controlled by diet. I also don’t like wasting food. So I can’t have a 2×2 square of cake- it has to be smaller or my blood sugar will be too high which creates a whole other host of problems. & I don’t like to deprive myself of having cake once in a while.

        1. Adminx2

          My answer is take the piece and eat as much or little as you want! I seriously have had people take a 2×2 piece and try to cut it into thirds leaving just a mess of crumbs and waste of time.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        I genuinely don’t get this… what if someone wants a smaller piece than you’ve cut? Should they take the whole thing and throw away some of it?

        (Also, this is hella cultural. In my culture, it’s inappropriate to take the last piece of anything — that’s why people shave the piece down to nothing.)

        1. fposte

          Custom cake slicing is definitely a pretty common request in my neck of the woods; I do a lot of “just a sliver,” and I’m with you in being fine on subdividing. OTOH, it sounds like Adminx2 may be subdividing a department’s worth of sheet cake, and I can see in that case that this could be more production line than personal service, and that special requests would gum up the works.

          1. BeeJiddy

            I’ll offer up my opinion here as the cake baker/cutter/server in my group of humans.

            If you are cutting in in the more traditional ‘wedge’ style, e.g. you’re at a birthday party and there are 8 – 10 people just sharing a round cake, someone asking for a specific size isn’t a problem at all. However, when you start getting into cutting up a cake in squares, say at a wedding or big party or staff party as you suggest, then I think it’s polite just to take what you are being offered. Not only is it a bit stressful for the person serving to negotiate cake size when there is a hungry cake crowd bearing down on them, sometimes the structural integrity of the cake doesn’t lend itself to tiny pieces. Buttercream can be unforgiving, and you end up with cake landslides if it’s a filled cake. What I will typically do is cut a variety of sizes in a way that I know the cake can handle/makes sense for the shape and ask them what piece looks good to them. Having said that, in my culture offering someone the food on your plate that you can’t finish is totally fine and not gross at all and someone would definitely take that cake off your hands because cake is glorious and we’re just pretending lurgi doesn’t exist for a minute. I believe in this situation it’s on the servee, not the server, to find someone to split the cake with.

            I just have a lot of feelings about cake, I guess? Hah.

    9. Minocho

      I prefer plain bagels, so I am unconcerned by the fact that I might have to create a whole bagel out of two bagel butts.

      But it is still inconsiderate behavior.

    10. GreenDoor

      Ooh the “I’ll just eat half” people are my biggest workplace pet peeve. Because one of two things will happen – either you’re lying to yourself about staying on your whatever diet, and you know you’ll come back and eat the other half. So just be honest and take the whole damn thing. You’re not fooling the rest of us.

      Or…. everyone will look at the other half like it’s somehow been contaminated and NOE ONE will eat it, wasting a perfectly good half-a-treat. So irritating either way.

      1. fposte

        I speak for the halves! Yup, sometimes I will come back and eat the other half later, but I can assure you it’s not because I care for a minute about what anybody else thinks, and I’m not on a diet. I just generally don’t want a whole one then. Sometimes I want more later, sometimes I don’t. But I’m in a region where lots of people eat only half and nobody’s being deprived of their buffet opportunity, so it’s NBD.

      2. Lavender Menace

        I take the second half of bagels and donuts all the time. I usually really only want a half and I am always pleased when there is a ready-made half there. I work on a team where it is very common for people to take half a donut or bagel – whether they have to cut it themselves or take the half that’s already been cut.

    11. MissDisplaced

      Or like when people cut a doughnut in half.
      Like really? NO ONE gonna eat the abandoned half.

    12. catwoman2965

      This reminds me of someone I used to work with; I was an admin in a dept. that was located on the executive floor. So there were always meetings, with TONS of food, which no one ever really touched, so we would sometimes bring back cookies etc. to our area. Once the meeting was over of course! This person was always watching what they ate, and would NEVER EVER deign to eat an entire cookie or donut or whatever. But they’d never nicely just take half or whatever. They’d pick a piece off, then come back for another, and another. But usually leaving a quarter or less of whatever it was they picked at, vs. taking the entire thing, and only eating what they wanted. I think they thought by doing what they did, it “didn’t count” But it was gross.

  2. Sarah

    Returned Peace Corps Volunteer here. Major food security issues when I first got home and returned to work…I was the person hoarding food at work. Embarrassing now to think about

    1. she was a fast machine

      I have a huge stash of food at work, two full cabinets in one of my file cabinets, but it’s all stuff I myself have bought. A few of my coworkers know to come to me for snacks if they’re peckish, and the whole reason I created it is because I grew up poor and have in my life had numerous food security moments so I really do appreciate finding a bag of chips or a container of nuts, even if they are stale.

      1. RabbitRabbit

        Same, which is why fighting my overeating at work is tough. I have a cabinet drawer with reasonable-calorie microwaveable lunch options that don’t make me gorge.

      2. Anonon

        Yeah I grew up way poor. Myself and my siblings all have food insecurity. I spend most of my time thinking about food – and being at work is hard definitely, because the impulse to hoard is there.

      3. SignalLost

        I have all the behaviour associated with food insecurity and I didn’t grow up poor or underfed – this is one of the rare things my dad was the parenting champion on because he was underfed intentionally as a child. But it comes in handy to have a drawer of snacks due to my hypoglycemic tendencies, especially since our complex has no food service in the buildings at all.

        1. Anonon

          It is possible to pass anxiety surrounding food on to your children. I am SOOOOOOO careful about that. Like if they aren’t hungry, ok eat it later. If they are full, ok you can stop. There will always be food. And they don’t seem to have it. I never mention to my kids phrases like “you never know when yo will eat again” or “you will want that later when you have no food”. My depression era grandparents would say this all the time – and they were right because we were so poor. I mean POOR.

          1. Drago Cucina

            Oh yes, my husband and I had many conversations about this. We each brought our own food insecurity issues to parenting and had to help each other correct. “This is not a restaurant” and “Eat three real bites so you can tell you really don’t like it,” were our decided upon phrases. Balancing the horror of food waste with not force feeding. Also recognizing that our children would really not go hungry if they skipped a food or meal after three bites.

            I have my own issues with sharing food. The forced sharing as a child so that I ended up with nothing of the treat I had saved for still trips me up. Hence my drawer full of special snacks.

            1. Traveling Teacher

              Yes. My husband is Weird about sharing, and it comes from the same place. He will guard the food on his plate with extreme prejudice and woe betide anyone who suggests getting several appetizers and sharing…

              1. Drago Cucina

                As an adult I had to learn to slow down because no one was going to take the food off my plate. Yep, if you didn’t eat it fast enough the adults would take it. For a long time my kids wondered why they didn’t get to spend summers with my family.

              2. WS

                My dad went to a British boarding school in the 60s. He finishes his entire meal in five minutes flat, and god forbid you look sideways at his plate or think about ordering things to share in a restaurant. He used to steal the tastiest food off his kids’ plates to try to teach us to guard our food better, but I think my mum must have had a word to him because eventually he stopped doing that. At the time it was deeply annoying and weird, but in retrospect I can see why he had deep worries about our food security!

            2. KTB

              We had both in my house. My dad, a product of military school and the Army, would inhale his food in, like, five minutes. My mom put a stop to that once my sister and I started imitating him, and kept nearly choking.

              She also had the three bites, then a bowl of Cheerios rule. She had been forced to eat every bite at meals and didn’t want to pass that particular torture onto her kids. But she also didn’t want to be a short order cook, so if we were still hungry, it was Cheerios. I was an insanely picky eater until my teens, and I ate A LOT of Cheerios.

      4. Bagel Butt

        Same here. Grew up with food insecurity, and now I get a little anxious if I don’t have food near me at work. I have a granola bar and some oatmeal at my desk now that I stashed in my drawers about 6 months ago, just in case. I may not ever eat it, but it’s comforting to know it’s there. Of course, that’s stuff I brought from home, not items that I hoarded from a free employees’ lunch.

        1. Natalia

          It’s fine if it’s food you brought from home. The problem is when there is a box of doughnuts for everyone in the office and some people take half the doughnuts for themselves. That isn’t very nice….

      5. Minocho

        Same here. I had to throw out stuff just yesterday because I bought it on sale! So I bought way more that I could consume before it went bad! So wasteful. :(

    2. Bee

      Also a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. I didn’t have to deal with food insecurity, but my community had issues with hygiene and food quality. Eating something questionable could result in being sick for a few weeks. I kept “safe” foods and snacks in my room and in my bags for travel. I now have snacks in my cube, laptop bag, and car. My office has a monthly birthday get-together with food which was nice until a coworker got sick eating chips and salsa that had been left out, uncovered, overnight.

        1. Bee

          Same! This weekend a friend nearly three out a nice water bottle they had received for free somewhere because they already had one. Why would you not want extra bottles of clean water?

        2. RPCV

          It took me years before I stopped carrying toilet paper & a water bottle with me everywhere. Even now, nearly 20 years on, I have to remember when going on road trips that I don’t have to pack absolutely everything and can pick up a toothbrush if I forget mine or something like that.

              1. Sarah

                always a barf bag. Although my aim out windows was pretty good.

                #skillsIwishIcouldputonmyresume

    3. AthenaC

      I wasn’t in the Peace Corps, but in college my kids and I were on food stamps and WIC. The first year of my career we were still on WIC, but we were still really broke most of the time, so it was in our best interest if I took full advantage of any and all free food.

      I’m a bit embarrassed at some of my conduct around food in those early years, too, even as I know how and why I was in that headspace.

      1. WellRed

        But I bet you still wouldn’t have said “tough cookies, they should have moved faster” had you been asked to wait until everyone had their firsts. He was just rude.

  3. Jennifer

    Ugh. I hate that so much. There are people who act that way when anything is free, not just food. When we moved, they were giving away artwork, old computer monitors, fixtures, etc., basically junk, and there were people walking about with boxes full of crap and arguing over it. I call it the Black Friday effect.

    1. Brandy

      I did do this at my work when they were giving away office supplies, since we now all work from home, but I was getting the supplies when no one else was taking them and I donated them to charity. I didnt need the supplies either and this saves the charity from having to spend money on office supplies for a while. But I only took when no one else wanted them. I didnt want something good being trashed.

      1. Jennifer

        That was nice. Actual office supplies that someone can use I understand. This was useless junk.

    2. Bored IT Guy

      I mean, I have a stock of 3 spare mice, a spare keyboard and various video cables (DVI, VGA and DisplayPort). It’s helpful when a co-worker leaves their cordless mouse at home, or when someone’s “G” key breaks or something. All of my spares were “scavenged” when people left or stacked up stuff to throw away.

      (and although I’m an ‘IT guy’, hardware repairs/replacements are handled by another team)

      1. Pipe Organ Guy

        Churches are hotbeds of “just in case” saving. I had a stash of usable keyboards and mice on hand for if/when someone’s keyboard or mouse up and quit. One day I came in and discovered that the junior warden had taken the lot away to donate somewhere. It was incredibly out of line, and I let him know. He grudgingly went out and bought ONE keyboard/mouse combo; in no time at all, I needed it. Turned out he had done a similar thing to the sexton (custodian with a bunch of extra tasks in church jargon), and he even admitted that it drove his wife nuts….

        1. nonymous

          We recently found a stash of about 15 tall mirrors (the kind you put on the back of a door) at ours. The shipping label indicated that they had been moved from the previous church location, some 25 years prior. Still unused.

    3. Richard

      When I moved last, I posted on CL that I’d be leaving some stuff at the curb one saturday morning. There were a bunch of dudes there bright and early hassling me about not bringing stuff out fast enough, and needing to know what was coming when so they could negotiate for it. I pretty quickly cut them off and said that was all of it, and they gave me long spiels about how far they drove. I’m glad they no longer know where I live.

    4. catwoman2965

      Yes. I used to work for a big pharma company, and had a friend who worked in marketing. Where they did all the giveaways for reps to give to doctors etc. Pens, pads, clocks, other doodads, you name it. Periodically, they’d put out the older promotional items, which were free for the taking. My friend said it was amazing how the “vultures” would swarm in whenever they did this. She said it was amazing; people grabbing 10, 20 and more pens, pads etc. like they had never seen them before! She joked if they put sh*t in a bag out, and it was free, people would take it.

    5. TardyTardis

      You should have seen us at the last national NSTA convention–I’d been to one before as my husband’s pack mule (those handicapped chairs have *very* small baskets, and so I took a rolling laundry cart (weight limit was 25 pounds, but some of those free textbooks weigh more than that, I swear. The poor cart died the last day from my abuse of it and we just left it in the hotel room). The vendors there are extremely happy to give things away, and so when we got home (we drove, so we had room for it all) we went the round of various schools and it was party time for the teachers who couldn’t go to the convention. (most of the posters were left at the elementary school because they always need posters).

  4. chocolate lover

    I love that my example from the finance firm with the “vultures” got included.

    1. Jl

      One of the executive assistants at a company i worked for in the past called people ‘hungry wolves’

    2. Doug Judy

      Having worked in a big financial firm it was so true. And the worst offenders (at least in my office) were older advisors who could easily afford to buy the whole office lunch every day. Once if a catered lunch was canceled (we’d have 2-3 lunches catered a week) you’d think they were being starved against their will. Never mind there were about 6 restaurants less than a five minute walk or plenty of delivery options.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt

        To be fair if they were canceling a catered lunch the day of that lunch I would be super annoyed. If you tell me you will feed me I won’t bring my own lunch, then when that falls through would be pretty mad to have to go out and buy lunch when I could have brought something.

        1. WeirdButTrueFoodHabits

          Yes, but I have a friend whose father, if her mother forgot to pack a lunch for him to take to work, wouldn’t eat lunch at all. Never mind that he worked in New York City and there were probably five delis within walking distance of his job.

    3. Bunny Girl

      Those people exist though and it’s super embarrassing. I used to work at a law firm, we had a lawyer who would literally run when food was set out in the break room. It really left a bad taste in my mouth because all the legal assistants and office staff were so poorly paid that the break room food was the only time most of us got to have a meal out and here comes this jerk flying down the hallway. And he always took enough for an entire family.

      1. Silence Will Fall

        We have one who will go through the box lunches to take out all of the cookies and chips. Anyone who comes late just ends up with a sandwich.

        1. madge

          “go through the box lunches to take out all of the cookies and chips”

          I want to commend you and your colleagues for not resorting to violence over this one. I’d bet that person is somehow rationalizing that s/he is being respectful by leaving the sandwich. Just WOW.

          1. fposte

            Yes, this is the workplace equivalent of leaving the empty milk carton in the fridge for your roommate/spouse to find. It’s not like there were people desperately yearning for a lettuce wrap.

  5. SushiRoll

    People at work are so weird about free food! My boss stocks us up with snacks (chips, cookies, candy, granola bars, etc) and most of us just go in there to get a treat here or there or grab something on those days when our lunch didn’t cut it, but a few people act like it’s their personal pantry and don’t really bring anything to eat for breakfast or lunch and just eat junk from there. And I know everyone pretty well so it’s more unlikely to be an issue of “I can’t afford to eat” over “ooh freeeee stuff!”

    1. Delphine

      Wait, what? We have a snack stock at work. My breakfast is usually a granola bar from there or a banana from the fruit basket. Is there some rule that I’m missing?

      1. fposte

        I think it’s workplace dependent, too. Are these for occasional use, or is there clearly enough for everybody in the office to take stuff every day? (I personally think if you’re going to do something like this the latter is the better approach.)

      2. SushiRoll

        It’s not that much stuff and it doesnt get restocked on a regular basis, we run out and sometimes it stays out before it gets restocked. It is communicated as just snacks. Some companies re-stock food in the kitchen regularly and it’s meant for that but ours is because our boss likes chips and candy and decided to let us in on it, basically. And it’s not in the kitchen either and it’s never fresh stuff, just junk food from Costco, etc.

    2. sunshyne84

      This is my workplace. One time the supervisor was out, but the snacks were still there and I got something for that day and was planning to get some cookies the next day and absolutely everything was gone!

  6. Jennifer

    “Some people were SO INSULTED that they couldn’t take more than one cookie (and honestly, I can understand maybe taking two, but these repeat offenders were taking between 6–12 each—legit strutting away with plates piled high). They complained so much about being denied more than one cookie that cookie day ended up stopping permanently. It was honestly bizarre. Grown adults throwing tantrums over being denied more than one cookie (and they were big cookies, too).”

    Wow. Whenever I see adults throwing tantrums, I just shake my head.

    1. Ruth

      I’ve worked in libraries for much of my adult life and adults throwing tantrums over not getting an outsized share of “free” food has always been a part of that… it’s kind of amazing. It also taught me early on about how I didn’t want to be.

      1. Jennifer

        It blows my mind. Throwing a tantrum over something you were never entitled to in the first place.

      2. Canonical23

        It’s interesting that that seems to be the librarian experience and a lot of my friend corroborate this but in my personal experience the 4(ish) libraries I’ve worked at are the exact opposite. Free food is brought by staff or ordered by management and while everyone takes a good share, there are always leftovers that no one can seem to get rid of. Once it goes in the fridge it’s like people forget that it ever existed.

      3. Mimi Me

        A few years ago my girl scout troop did a cookie decorating event with the younger troops. We had little stations set up – a decorating station (with frosting, sprinkles, etc), a craft station, and a cocoa station. Myself, my co-leader, and our troop (aged 11 at the time) were in charge of the stations. I took the decorating station, my co-leader the cocoa station. The younger girls were there with either a parent or a troop leader. One little girl (about 5) wanted to use an entire container for frosting for her one cookie. One of my troop gently said something to the effect of “only take what you need so we have enough for the other girls.” Her mom began shouting at my scout about how her daughter was there first, screw anyone else who wasn’t fast enough, etc. She actually said to her daughter “you take as much as you want. It’s not your job to worry about what other people get.” I stepped in immediately and shut it down, but she only moved over to our cocoa station where she starting putting packets of cocoa mix into her purse. My co-leader stepped in there. We ended up having to find the leader of the troop this girl belonged to ask the mom to leave. I often wonder what lesson that little girl learned from her mom that day. Was it sharing is caring or was it sharing is for suckers? :(

        1. BadWolf

          Seems like the mom was in serious need of some really remedial Girl Scout lessons herself!!!

        2. Former Employee

          Either this little girl turned out to be a greedy monster or she rebelled and works for a food bank.

        3. Lavender Menace

          She actually said to her daughter “you take as much as you want. It’s not your job to worry about what other people get.”

          …WOW.

    2. Quackeen

      I was volunteering once at an employee appreciation event and (gently and quietly) asked a Senior Director to please only take one ice cream. She blew up at me and made a point of reading my name off my ID badge, saying she was going to complain to the CEO.

      Funny thing was, the CEO and I had chatted once while serving free breakfast at a different employee event about how people lose their minds and become greedy assholes around free food, so I think she would have had my back.

      1. B

        When we had student appreciation food truck events, the students all got tockets; ONE ticket! It seemed to work fune (also, so much food hard to imagine really trying for seconds)

  7. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

    And this is why we can’t have nice things. I will never understand why so many people are so selfish at work – and it goes beyond hoarding free food. People leaving the kitchens and bathrooms a mess because “it’s someone else’s job to clean it up”. Stealing other people’s food from a community refrigerator. And most of the time when companies offer free food like this, they end up having to take it away because a handful of people take advantage of the situation. It’s sad, and I don’t think it will ever change, because the people that do it just don’t care.

    I do miss working in a big office though…whenever we had a party and I wanted to get rid of leftovers, I’d bring it to work and send an email. It would be gone in no time.

    1. No Mas Pantalones

      How coworkers leave communal kitchens is exactly why I never eat anything at a potluck. If they leave a communal kitchen like that, what does the kitchen in their own house look like? Yeah, I don’t want to eat from there, thanks. Same with home baked cookies, etc. Nope.

    2. The Other Dawn

      I’m starting a new job next week. I got a tour of the building last week. I saw that the kitchen had a dishwasher and a toaster oven. After seeing all the horror stories here, I’m really curious to see how that works out when I get there. Especially the toaster over, because I know what mine sometimes looks like at home!

      They also have multiple Keurigs and supply coffee, tea and hot chocolate for them. Also curious to see how people treat that. At my previous job they took it away because people were using way too much of it and also taking the K cups home.

      1. Jady

        That’s so bizarre to me. Every job I’ve worked at has had something like a Keurig, and always free coffee/tea. It’s never been an issue. This thought had never occurred to me.

        At one previous job getting a person to wash their dishes in a tiny manner became a (very small) problem. And by ‘timely manner’ I mean washed the same day they were used. They were never there for more than a day. An email would be sent out and the problem stopped.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

        Probably not a good idea on your first day, but I eventually got my own mini fridge and coffee machine. I didn’t have a huge space, but I made it work.

        1. Bunny Girl

          I ended up getting a tiny crockpot that heats up my leftovers. Our break room microwave looks like a crime scene.

      3. Quackeen

        As a data point to counter the multiple horror stories, it works just fine in my office. We have free coffee, tea, hot chocolate, instant oatmeal and fruit. No one loses their minds over it. I can honestly say, though, that this is the first time I’ve worked in an environment where that’s the case.

        1. WS

          Same and same! Everyone in my office is considerate about taking food and replacing it (from the office budget) if it runs out, the kettle, microwave and toaster oven are clean even between proper weekly cleans by the cleaner, and there’s only one staff member (the only male staff member, though I know from other places that women can be just as bad) who doesn’t clean up after himself when eating.

      4. catwoman2965

        We have a couple of Keurigs on my floor, BUT you have to provide your own coffee. We really only have them because on VP wanted one, and I guess they felt they had to put a second one in for the “peons” I’m fine with it. They also provide crappy coffee in packets, so while I’m not a huge Keurig fan to begin with, its MUCH better than the free stuff they provide. I can only imagine what it would be like if they also provided free kcups as well

    3. EPLawyer

      That’s usually the end result. If people cannot act like civilized grown ups the perk goes away. The temper tantrum folks still somehow manage to feed themselves without the free food. Amazing isn’t it?

    4. Ann O'Nemity

      “And this is why we can’t have nice things.”

      Yes, this! My org used to be extremely generous with free food – frequent breakfasts and lunches, snacks and soda stocked in break rooms, Friday happy hours, etc. Greedy and ungrateful employees ruined it for everyone. No one wanted to order, organize, or police the food in the face of so many complaints. No free food = no drama.

    5. Minocho

      We had an office where the tech people got free soda, but there were hourly employees that didn’t – and we knew they didn’t – so the expectation was to be considerate and not make it a “thing”.

      So, of course, some group of geniuses decides to parade over to the other office area with free soda in tow, ostentatiously talking about how they’re getting free soda while the hourly employees left listening to these jerks don’t. The hourly employees put up a stink, and then nobody got free soda.

      Thanks, guys.

    6. Former Employee

      Where I used to work, a number of people saw me wiping down the counters in the coffee/tea area and asked if I would come and clean their house!

      No, but based on how people left it and some other issues made me decide that I did not want to participate in potlucks. Plus I couldn’t eat most of the food people brought anyway.

      If the company had a breakfast and bagels were set out in boxes so that it was obvious they were packed at a bakery and not touched by others, I would take a bagel. I did not want to risk eating anything that might have been handled by a co-worker.

  8. BookNerdish

    I took one of my employees with me to a conference. There was a social event the first evening, and big bowls of cocktail peanuts were placed on each table. At the end of the evening, my employee went around to each table and emptied the leftover peanuts into the zipper bag she always carried in her purse. Peanuts that EVERYONE had dipped their grubby mitts into, all evening long. It was YEARS before people stopped talking about that.

    1. 2 Cents

      Would make you think twice before going to a party she held at her house. “Why are there 2 different kinds of chips in this bag?”

    2. A. Ham

      This is not quite the same kind of thing that this post is talking about – but this reminds me of a patron we had at my last job. He was a donor, and we had a special donor lounge area that high level donors could use before the show and at intermission. There were a few snacks out in the lounge (yes, including a bowl of assorted nuts). This guy was very unhappy that there was not also a private bathroom for the donor lounge, and when he and his wife attended shows he would complain loudly to anyone that would listen (and also call our offices the next day) that men were “going to the bathroom, touching their penis, not washing their hands and then touching the nuts”.
      We didn’t build a private bathroom, but we did get rid of the nuts.

      1. Close Bracket

        How exactly is a private bathroom going to solve this issue? The donors who don’t wash their hands in the general bathroom are not going to start washing them when they use the donor restroom.

    3. Close Bracket

      Eating peanuts that people of unknown hygiene have touched is gross even when the peanuts are still in the bowls on the tables. I don’t see extra grossness resulting from putting them in ziplock bags.

    4. Adminx2

      I would call emptying your own bowl into a bag at the very end of the night a good use of stuff (especially if the nuts were just going to be thrown away). Going around to all the tables takes it out of the reasonable level.

  9. WinethetimeKat

    This is how my bosses do it. We get to order what ever we want form where she is picking up. That is yours. That is it

    1. Harper the Other One

      This is the only solution I can see working long term, to be honest. Just about any place I’ve been (not just workplaces but volunteering etc. as well) there is always someone who hoovers the food.

      1. AMT

        The only other solution I can think of is monitoring the food so that there’s someone in authority to say, “Hey, just take one.” However, this assumes that the people in charge aren’t the ones strolling in with massive tupperware containers!

        1. Alienor

          The last time my company had an event with free food, that’s exactly what they did. It felt a little weird to have someone standing there making sure I only took one cookie (I only would have taken one anyway) but I figured it was probably the direct result of other people’s greedy behavior in the past.

    2. Merci Dee

      My company buys catered lunches for the employees once a quarter. They used to do things like order pizzas for delivery right before the lunch breaks, but we don’t do that anymore because they caught a couple of workers trying to leave the break rooms with ten. large. pizzas. each . . . before the lunch break even started. So that idea was out.

      Now, the food vendor that stocks our mini markets provides a catered lunch each quarter. Usually a barbecue kind of thing, with pulled pork and chicken, sides, drinks, and desserts. The catering group provides the staff to dish out the foods so that the portion sizes are uniform, and all the employees here on-site are given tickets that we have to bring in order to get a plate of food for the lunch. Since the lunch times are staggered for the line employees and the office employees, management had to implement the ticket system because line employees were going through for third and fourth refills on their plates before the office admin staff were even getting off for their lunch breaks — half the admin staff wouldn’t even have any lunch because everything was gone from people getting refills. But it all seems to have smoothed out now that we have to turn in our tickets in order to get a plate of food. It’s sad that it had to come down to that in the first place, but at least everyone is getting something to eat and management isn’t thinking about taking the perk away totally.

      1. Mimi Me

        A few years ago I worked for an insurance company that provided us with this huge catered lunch with choice of lobster or chicken. It was one or the other, with the understanding that it was one meal per person. There was no ticket system in place and there were staggered lunches. I worked in the call center and was in the group with the last lunch. A guy from the first lunch had 5 lobsters before his lunch was over…and he ate every single one of them at his desk while those of us from the last lunch worried about how many were left. There were only a handful of both chicken and lobster left when our turn came. None of us had brought lunch and the cafeteria was closed due to the company wide event. A lot of us went hungry that day. And nobody was upset months later when we had a round of layoffs and lobster guy was let go. Our nicest employee – like the sweetest, most kind employee – who had gone without lunch that day actually left a picture of a cooked lobster on lobster guys desk that said “Karma is a bitch! Hope you liked those lobsters…don’t think you’ll be eating that good on the unemployment line!”

  10. StressedButOkay

    Oh man, this brings back memories of my last job:

    * * We had a few folks who had food allergies or were vegan/vegetarian. In one meeting, we had one vegan so she had a special meal ordered specifically for her. When we broke for lunch, we discovered that not only had ‘the vultures’ already been at the food, someone had eaten the one lunch item specifically for our vegan coworker, so she had nothing to eat. Someone ran out to get her something but we were so upset on her behalf. Management sent out a furious email – not only were people ‘banned’ from hovering, food was to be kept in the meeting spaces until the meeting was over.

    * We had pre-ordered food for a meeting and put it in one of our fridges for the next day. It was all clearly labeled that it was for a client meeting the next day. Our admin came in to set up the next morning and discovered that someone had helped themselves to the labeled food – the next day we came in and found that they’d purchased a lock for the meeting fridge.

    * Staff who were notorious for being gross in their daily habit would take food with their bare hands, so there was ALWAYS a race to get there before these few folks so you could grab something without worrying that the woman who everyone knew didn’t wash her hands touched something.

    1. Nay

      Your comment about food allergies/vegan is spot on. I have celiacs and so I’m generally either 1) ticked off that there’s nothing (or almost nothing) I can eat 2) rushing to get food that I am able to eat before it’s gone…

      1. Psyche

        I’ve basically given up on eating any free food unless it is individually wrapped. I have seen way too many instances of people borrowing the spoon from the pasta salad to serve the gluten free dish to trust anything in an open container at work.

        1. KHB

          At our company picnic one year, one of the catering staff was blatantly using the same tongs to serve veggie burgers and meat burgers. I called her out on it (I’m vegetarian, and while I don’t especially mind eating something that’s touched something that’s touched meat, I know that a lot of people do) – and happened to be within earshot of one of the event organizers. Ever since then, all employee appreciation meals have had a separate serving table with all the vegetarian food. That arrangement seems to be working well.

      2. Corky's Wife Bonnie

        I do the ordering for my office, and I ALWAYS make sure the one with celiac is taken care of, people in the past never did that for her and she was dumbfounded and truly grateful. I make sure the caterer labels it specifically and I put it aside and hold on to it until she comes in the lunchroom. Once someone took her food and left her with nothing but salad so I won’t let that happen again.

        1. NotAnotherManager!

          People not having something they can eat at meetings is one of my pet peeves, and the lovely folks who take care of our in-house catering orders have it down to a science. I have had to tell a few people that they’re not being “high-maintenance” by asking for food they can eat (particularly when we are specifically asking about food needs so that they can be accommodated) and also that I’m not offended at all if they prefer to bring their own. We just don’t want them to feel left out and have caterers that can handle vegan, vegetarian, nut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, kosher, and many combinations thereof, if they’d like.

          We also have a list of who has special order foods, if I have to send someone to police it (thankfully, we’ve not stooped that low yet). Our department admin is lovely, but she’s not letting Guacamole Bob take the vegan meal we ordered for someone else.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood

          Good for you! A dear friend is diabetic AND on a low salt diet, and the party planner earned his undying gratitude when she started ordering cesar salad (sauce on side) to go with the pizza meetings. (And then half the meeting made a point of requesting same next time!)

        3. WS

          Yes, we have one celiac staff member and she thanked the other organiser and me for making sure she could participate in the staff dinner, which was really no trouble. But apparently that’s not common at all, which makes me sad.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood

        I seem to have become a bit of a food service explainer. I’m sure our corporate cafeteria people hate it, but I’m the one who points out things oike they shouldn’t be using the same tongs for the pork as the chicken as the fish — how to ruin lunch for our kosher and halal employees AND anyone with a seafood allergy. Oh and throw in the horrified pescatarians for good measure. I’ve also seen them set out drippy meat dishes on the far side of an advertised vegetarian entree…on a week when we had some high muckamucks in from an Indian partner. But at least they got rid of the guy who served vegetarian soup that had ground chicken in it.

    2. Jennifer

      Yes, I hate when people ask about trying the vegetarian food when they have a whole buffet of things they can eat and I have only a few things. Back off, lady.

      1. RabbitRabbit

        Yes, this. I started just passing on the free food entirely at work, but my lunch-ordering colleagues fortunately wave the vegetarians towards their able-to-eat options first, to avoid the omnivores just going “oo, I’ll eat this too” without realizing.

      2. Guacamole Bob

        But also, to people who order catering:

        Vegetarians can only eat stuff that doesn’t have meat. Omnivores can generally eat stuff that doesn’t have meat, and sometimes like to. Even someone who can eat a turkey sandwich might sometimes think that the caprese looks tasty, or want a little of the pasta salad or the dal or the mushroom pizza or the falafel or the stir fried tofu. If there is never any crossover at all from the omnivores interested in the veggie food, then you’re probably ordering bad vegetarian food. Order better, and order extra of the veggie options so that the vegetarians can still have some without having to fight for it.

        (At least in the fairly liberal US cities that I’ve planned events in. The situation may vary in other parts of the country and other parts of the world.)

        1. Tau

          THIS, so much. I’m an omnivore who doesn’t have the willpower to be fully vegetarian but is still trying to cut way, way down on meat for environmental and ethical reasons. I don’t appreciate being stuck with only meat options because someone thought 20% vegetarian attendees = 20% vegetarian food.

          1. Jennifer

            Maybe you can ask whoever handles catering to include you on the vegetarian-meal side then. Some offices order just enough veggie food for the vegetarians for budgetary reasons. This way they can take you off the “meat side” and not cost the company any extra money.

            1. Artemesia

              It makes no sense to order vegetarian food for a buffet if there are just a few vegetarians. If there are many then order lots so everyone can have it; if there are few so that the special orders are in jeopardy from samplers then hold that food separately by name.

        2. ThePinkLady

          On the rare occasions that we order in a sandwich lunch, we’ve started ordering all-veggie platters, so that there’s no issue for the vegetarians. Egg mayo, cheesy things, falafel, hummus, roasted vegetables – there are so many delicious options without meat that I honestly don’t think anyone’s even noticed the absence of the usual sweaty ham, etc. It’s such a simple change but has stopped the stress of trying to husband enough suitable sandwiches for vegetarian colleagues who are late to the buffet table.

          It doesn’t address the issue of the office vultures, granted, but that’s something we don’t suffer from in my very British office. Persuading anyone to take the last one of anything, on the other hand…

          1. Drago Cucina

            This is a good idea. It’s become an annual issue for me (and others) in one association. We’ll have a meeting a Friday during Lent and instead of asking us what we want the people doing the ordering assume they know. Hey, Drago Cucina and these other people eat roast beast, so we’ll have 3/4 of the sandwiches be meat. Sorry, it’s Friday. I’ll eat this garnish and offer it up.*

            I did attend a conference where all the meals during the week were vegetarian. It took me 3 days to even realize. The food was just good.

            *–It’s a Catholic thing. Taking the inconveniences and struggles of life to try and be a better person. Emphasis for me on try.

            1. Former Admin turned Project Manager

              Yeah, I had my fair share of conferences in which I had no protein at breakfast because they got fancy with the catering and did quiche/egg casserole (complete with bacon or sausage) on a Lenten Friday. I started keeping protein bars in my laptop bag so I had something to sustain me while I was taking minutes in the committee meetings.

        3. Jennifer

          We don’t really have the budget to over order vegetarian food, plus there are only three vegetarians on a team of roughly 50 people here.

          1. Janie

            It’s not over-ordering if everyone is eating it, though. Cut down on non-vegetarian food.

          2. Holly

            That’s actually the opposite of what Guacamole Bob is saying – there shouldn’t be an issue with ordering vegetarian food because likely more than those 3 people will want to eat something vegetarian.

            1. Jennifer

              Then they should let the office manager know that they prefer vegetarian lunches. You don’t have to be 100% vegetarian to prefer that.

              What I’m saying is the non-vegetarians eat the veggie food, plus the meat options. They just want to “try” the vegetarian food, plus have the meat option. They want to have their veggies and eat them too :) They like trying vegetarian food, but would be mad if there weren’t enough meat options for all the carnivores.

              1. MJ

                More likely they want the vegetarian food because 1) it’s free and 2) no one else is getting something that they aren’t getting. We’re back to “greed”.

        4. pleaset

          “Order better, and order extra of the veggie options so that the vegetarians can still have some without having to fight for it.”

          This. Also in a liberal US city and when we do sandwiches, often half a vegetarian and of those, a fair amount are vegan. So it’s not a problem if non-vegetarians eat some of the vegetarian or vegan food.

          “After reading on this site for awhile, I may have been a vegan/vegetarian meal thief inadvertently. I can’t think of a specific circumstance, but I don’t eat a lot of meat so if there’s a decent vegie option, I would gravitate towards that. ”

          Yup. Me too at least sometimes.

      3. Cheesesteak in Paradise

        Two points here on why I may be annoying but not malicious:

        1. Omnivores may eat meat but not all of them like the same meat in the same form – I eat meat but I hate cold cuts so if I go to a meeting, I can’t take a veggie sandwich? If that’s the case then I have nothing to eat. Guacamole Bob and others are right to over order the veggie options.

        2. Unfortunately, many meat eaters regard veggie dishes as sides. Even if you eat meat, unless you are on some extreme Atkins thing, you don’t want to eat nothing but meat. This applies more to buffets then individual items like sandwiches. Again the solution is to have MORE veggie stuff.

        1. Jennifer

          Of course, carnivores don’t just eat steak and nothing else. What I’m talking about more is when there’s veggie sandwiches and meat sandwiches, or the same with pizza, etc. I don’t think someone that just puts a little salad on their plate is taking all the vegetarian options.

          1. AcademiaNut

            If the veggie sandwiches or veggie pizzas have been ordered specifically for vegetarians, you need to *say* that. Put them on a separate table, label it “lunch for the vegetarians”. In the same way, if the rice salad was ordered for the gluten free folk, put it separately and label it “gluten free option”.

            Because I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect people to examine the buffet, work out the fraction of non-meat containing food, compare it to the number of vegetarians in the office and determine if this is food for everyone or reserved. And non-vegetarian does not mean “only likes food with meat on it” – lots of people like cheese sandwiches, or vegetable pizza, or pasta with tomato sauce.

            Short version – if all the food is served together it’s reasonable that people will eat it. If you’ve ordered food for specific diets, it needs to be labelled and kept separate. If people go over and eat it at that point, then they’re being rude.

            1. Cercis

              I’m an omnivore who doesn’t like most meat pizzas. Cheese pizza or margherita pizza for me. No pepperoni, and no I can’t just pick it off, it’s a strong, nasty flavor. I won’t even eat the slice of cheese that was next to the pepperoni on a half and half pizza. And if caprese sandwiches are offered, I’ll take one of those over a ham sandwich.

      4. Adminx2

        Two things:
        I agree and will make a sign that says “vegetarians only” “gluten free only” and “vegans only” to try and mitigate this.
        I once ordered a mediterranean place and the only thing that was NOT vegetarian was the chicken pitas- the salads, the falafel, the potatoes, the cookies were all vegetarian. One of the guys still came over and asked “is there a vegetarian option?” I guess you get used to not being accommodated.

    3. BadWolf

      After reading on this site for awhile, I may have been a vegan/vegetarian meal thief inadvertently. I can’t think of a specific circumstance, but I don’t eat a lot of meat so if there’s a decent vegie option, I would gravitate towards that. Like the cheese pizza or a salad or a veggie only sandwich.

      If there’s special food for someone, Please Please Please label it and/or announce it and/or set it aside.

      I know some people wouldn’t bother or care about a label, but give us well meaning people a chance to do the right thing.

      1. Goya de la Mancha

        “I know some people wouldn’t bother or care about a label, but give us well meaning people a chance to do the right thing.”

        Spot on. I know some people can just be dicks, but I think most are just oblivious and would pay attention to a label saying someone else’s name (especially if you know that person, and you’re likely to know WHY they have separate food).

        My current office set-up is pretty chill so I don’t have to worry too much about this. Because of allergies I generally don’t eat anything brought in, but if we get to order out and I know my dish is safe, I would be quite upset to know that it had been raided (even just a taste can risk cross contamination).

      2. Allison

        That’s what I was thinking. I’m an omnivore, but I’ve cut way back on my meat eating recently and will often gravitate to the veggie option if it looks good. That said, I also know this could be problematic, so I might ask “is there enough for everyone?” or “is this specifically for the vegetarians?” or maybe just take a very small portion.

        1. SarahKay

          I’m not sure why but the phrase “today I learned I have been a bad omnivore….” absolutely cracked me up. Also – I, too, have been a bad omnivore :(

      3. feministbookworm

        This is why I always plead with the people ordering food for any event to over-order vegetarian options (particularly for pizza, but also for other cuisines with good veggie options, like Mediterranean, Chinese, Indian, etc). So many meeting planners act like they’re ordering for tigers or some other group of obligate carnivores rather than humans. Yes, there is usually somebody in the room who will throw a tantrum if he doesn’t get his meat of choice, the vast majority will go the “oh, I’ll have one slice of cheese and one slice of pepperoni” route. Which leads to half-eaten sausage pizzas and sad vegetarians.

        1. Lucy

          Nowadays I reckon on having 80% of the dishes on an “omnivore” buffet be vegetarian – even my apparently obligate carnivore spouse has at least 2/3 of his plate vegetarian.

          Honestly? You could have a vegetarian buffet with a plate of sliced cold meat and I swear you’d get no more complaints than usual.

          Usual disclaimers about accommodating allergies, though I find the greatest difficulties come with user error, not catering – Dave doesn’t see a problem with using the same tongs for the salmon as the langoustines; Sally carries a dripping spoonful of stroganoff over the mashed potatoes; etc. Unless you can go up absolutely first, you need to observe people’s use closely, and work out where the likely fallout zones are.

          1. Lucy

            Clarification: You could serve an otherwise entirely vegetarian buffet with nothing unvegetarian but a plate of sliced cold meat … etc.

      4. Jennifer

        I’m sure some people are well-meaning, but at the same time if there’s a ton of meat pizzas and just two veggies, and you know there are only three vegetarians on the team, that’s pretty easy to figure out. Not directed at you but some of the people I’ve worked with in the past.

      5. Holly

        Yep. I was at a work event where every year there was a giant buffet, but this year the buffet was cancelled (I guess due to budget concerns) and instead there were appetizers passed around – and not enough, frankly. Meanwhile there was a huge line for food on a buffet table set up that was only halphazardly labeled “Kosher.” So essentially everyone thought they were lining up for the buffet they had expected, but really it was the Kosher food, and I know a few people who keep kosher that were too far on the line and the kosher food ran out. It was a terrible set up.

      6. Turtle Candle

        Yeah, this is sort of where I come down, in part because norms around this vary so much. Like, at my workplace there are catered buffet lunches, and usually there are 1-2 meat entrees, 1-2 veggie entrees, and 1-2 sides. There is sufficient food that deciding that quinoa tabouli looked better than braised chicken for my entree would make no nevermind; there are almost always leftovers (which are usually offered up first to the interns and then to everyone else), and there is as much if not more of a chance of meat leftovers than veggie. (There *is* a separate place for kosher, vegan, and gluten-free that is clearly marked and it’s known that you are not to touch unless/until the person in HR who is in charge of it says that the leftovers are a free for all.) Or most of the conferences I’ve either worked or attended, the banquet was so overflowing with everything that there was wastage of everything. So in another context it might not occur to me that if a table was piled up with sandwiches, obviously plenty of sandwiches, say, that I should not touch the caprese. It’s just so far outside my context. And simply putting “vegetarian” or “gluten free” on it will probably not make an impact, because in the three cities where I’ve worked, restaurants and caterers put that by default on everything that was, not just ‘special orders’–sometimes everything in the lunch but the rolls was gluten free, for example, and clearly marked thusly.

        I mean, obviously if something is an individual order of a meal, or is labeled with a name, or says “Please leave the caprese sandwiches for our vegetarian attendees,” or, like, there are twenty pizzas, and it’s clearly visible that seventeen are pepperoni and two are cheese and one is veggie, I will leave it alone. But some kind of assist on that in terms of marking/labeling/a separate table is helpful if it’s not otherwise super-obvious, because different contexts make this tricky.

        1. UKDancer

          Definitely. I think it’s best to label things that are specifically for people with special requirements. Despite being an omnivore I always choose cheese or vegetable pizza. The sort of meat they put on pizzas doesn’t agree with me and gives me a stomach upset. So if I were ever at a work event with cheese or pepperoni I would choose the cheese one to avoid having digestive discomfort. Likewise the meat in the office sandwiches at my company’s training events is really gross so I tend to avoid the meat sandwich platter. I am not the only one so the trainer usually orders more cheese sandwiches than anything else.

          So if there’s only a limited number of special order vegetarian meals, it’s best to label them accordingly. We have one Jewish llama herder at training events and we always make sure she has a special order kosher meal at training events and we collectively make sure nobody else steals it.

      7. Essess

        If there is far less vegetarian food than meat-food, then I will usually either wait until everyone else has had a chance to go through the line and see how much of the vegetarian food is left before I make up my plate. Or if I am hungry now and can’t really wait, I will go through the line and initially take just a small amount of the meat food to take the hunger edge off, and then go back afterwards to get some more food after I can see if there is enough vegetarian food left over.

    4. LizM

      I can so relate to your first one. I’m vegetarian (prefer vegan when it’s an option, but am willing to eat eggs and cheese when it’s not), and I can’t tell you how many meetings people will “forget” what they’ve ordered and take the vegetarian sandwich or dish. I’m sure others notice how I elbow my way to the front, but if I don’t, there’s no guarantee I’ll have anything to eat.

    5. Coldbrewinacup

      We have that problem here in my office– male coworkers who refuse to wash their hands after using the restroom. Someone will be kind enough to bring in bags of chips, cookies, or other similar items and these guys reach in with bare, unwashed hands and grab food. Urgh

    6. Lucida Console

      ” Staff who were notorious for being gross in their daily habit..”

      This right here is why I don’t eat any food at work that I don’t get myself…grubby hands poring through everything trying to find what they like, ugh.

      1. catwoman2965

        My former director was one of these. Rumor had it he did not wash his hands after using the men’s room. How true that was, I don’t know. BUT, i do know, at one of our dept. lunches, when the breadbasket came out, and it was one of those where you get a portion of Italian bread, cut almost all the way through, but not the bottom crust, he managed to ensure that I didn’t have ANY bread.

        What I’ll do in that type of situation, since its usually served wrapped in a napkin, in a basket, is touch the slice I plan on taking, and hold the rest using the napkin. And tear it off. So I’m only touching the piece i plan on eating.

        My director however, grabbed the entire thing in both hands, twisted and ripped it in half, looked at one, put the other back in the basket, then put that back, and picked up the first one. Ewwww. No way i was having any since he manged to touch it all!

  11. Murphy

    When I was pregnant, I wouldn’t hoard…but people had to walk past me to bring extra food to the common area. I started off debating how long I should wait to be polite, but eventually I just got right up. One co-worker would offer me stuff first.

    1. Clever Alias

      Currently pregnant. I feel you. I waited until the end of the day to eat the remaining mini cupcakes on valentines day but… no shame. I. ate. them. all.

    2. Eeyore's missing tail

      Currently pregnant as well. I wait until we have the email go out about leftovers. Just hovering outside a meeting waiting to see if they have leftovers is … not cool.

  12. RabbitRabbit

    I swung the opposite way out of literal self-preservation; I stopped eating ‘free’ lunches/treats at work. They’re usually crazy-high in calories and I’ve put on so much weight since joining this office, as we tend to order food at the drop of a hat and have a lot of lunch-time meetings. Plus if you don’t eat, people try to push it like you’re missing out. No, I’m not. I’m trying to quiet the screaming voice in the back of my head that’s insisting we need to go eat treats now, and it may take hours for it to subside.

    1. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand

      Yes! Recently I have stopped eating the doughnuts that get brought in on Fridays (not loudly announcing that I am not eating the doughnuts to all who can hear–just choosing not to partake), and all I hear is, “Have you had a doughnut yet?” “Why haven’t you had a doughnut?” “Are you trying to lose weight? Just have a doughnut, it won’t hurt anything.” Ugh.

      1. RabbitRabbit

        Food pushers, ugh. I had one who after listening to me talk about how eating one Thin Mint is literally a binge-eating trigger situation for me, told me that (she had given me a Thin Mint) it was rude of me to turn down a gift. I put it in my pocket, then threw it in the garbage later.

        1. nanc

          As someone who has crushed a sleeve of Thin Mints for a meal during Girl Scout Cookie season–I feel ya! For some reason once that sleeve is opened I see it as a single serving. Fortunately I only seem to do this with GS cookies.

          1. RabbitRabbit

            Exactly. Whole sleeve or whole box = 1 serving. I eat 1 cookie, my brain will be absolutely shrieking for more for hours. My boss is the same way, doesn’t even allow Thin Mints at home.

            1. Mimi Me

              This is how my brain is with sodas. I have been soda free for nearly three weeks – not a single drop! – and it’s been a version of hell for me. My well meaning husband keeps offering to get me bubbly water but bubbles are the whole reason I love soda so I know that one sip will send me back down the slippery slope. It’s plain ol’ water, milk, and the occasional juice for me.

              1. Mr Shark

                Good for you! I’ve given up soda before, but even if I do so for a few months, I always seem to go back to it. I hope you have more will power than I do! Good luck!

            2. Seeking Second Childhood

              For me it’s Munchkins. When the department near me offered around the box, I made myself set the stopwatch on my phone so I knew how long it was since I went…because otherwise I’d have demonstrated my total lack of self control.
              And I am really careful about chocolate munchkins, because a junior high slumber party binge once triggered a brutal case of hives.

          2. Falling Diphthong

            I’ve always assumed they contain opium.

            There was a Cathy cartoon from back when GS cookies came in a little tray with, say, four sections per box, and she had to eat one from each row so they would be balanced, and then oops there’s a broken cookie in the fourth row, so we must eat that, and then eat enough cookies to restore balance, and…

          3. JeanB in NC

            I actually only do that with Thin Mints! The other ones I can manage to eat an appropriate number at a time.

            1. Artemesia

              Turns out the gluten free Girl Scout Toffee Tastics are oddly beguiling too. I need to cut way down on sugar and it turns out for me it is better to eat none than some because once I start I want all of the cookies or cake. Thank goodness for the bubbly water trend as the la Croix and knock offs really do kind of work to keep from drinking cokes which is what I really want.

          4. LondonBridges

            Gah, those Tagalongs get me every time. I once ate a whole box because I was so absorbed in writing an essay I didn’t notice how much I was eating.

        2. Quackeen

          What a . What you choose to eat or not eat is none of her g-d business. Also, it’s not like she made the freaking cookies herself.

    2. Bunny Girl

      Ugh yes. Our department orders a lot of pizza for meals. Cheese and I really aren’t on friendly terms and sometimes it makes me really sick (throwing up, coughing until I can’t breath, more throwing up). So while every once in a while I’ll have a slice or two of pizza in the comfort of my own home, I really don’t like to eat any dairy while I’m out. But if when I decline a slice of pizza at work it’s A Thing.

    3. Aussie

      I’m with you. 10kgs in 12 months is obscene – but I’ve put it down to longer hours being sedentary.. along with the insane high calorie foods that are always on offer. I’ve banned myself from all office snacks/food – and informed my coworkers of such. So far so good – everyone is supportive, but there’s a mudcake in the kitchen as we speak and it’s killing me!

      1. Middle School Teacher

        Hahaha yup. Turns out my price is surprisingly low; my price is a couple of donuts.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      I once joked with a demanding marketing manager that if he was going to be that picky he should at least give me a product-logo pen. He took me seriously…I got the pen and a USB stick and a polo shirt. And I think he stopped only because I told him I had been joking. I should have gotten another shirt though that’s held up well. ;)

  13. Mr. X

    I work at the HQ for my company. A satellite office had sent in BBQ to celebrate….something. As expected, the lines were long (45 min wait) for this free BBQ. Totally normal and expected. What was NOT expected was the BBQ running out in an hour because people brought their families, or packed up enough BBQ for a full meal for the family at home. That office has said they will never sent in BBQ again due to the greed.

    1. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)

      At my previous client the rest of the office crashed our team’s 1000-solved-tickets celebration BBQ. The team leader sighed in defeat and let them in. No need to say we were not happy at all.

  14. Ruth (UK)

    I don’t know if it’s partly a culture thing at play (though I’m sure there are also British workplaces with similar issues to these articles) but at both my current workplace (a university where we often get free food of various types) and previous workplace (less often but occasionally had free food), people are almost awkward about helping themselves to the food and it’s more likely to sit out a bit too long rather than be snapped up by ‘vultures’.

    An exception is the students… We recently had an event where we provided pizza to students in our department in a certain venue. Students not from our department also showed up and took loads of pizza… It was a bit difficult to regulate as there were 200+ students from our department and we don’t know them all well enough to easily pinpoint who the other ones were (and a few other things with the venue we were able to get and how open and accessable it was, and some other things). Due to our catering budget we ordered enough pizza for 2 slices per student and advised them of this (ie that they shouldn’t take more than 2 until it was announced people go go back for seconds if any was left). However, everyone just surged forwards in an unstoppable mass that was not a queue and I saw many students making off with easily 5+ slices at once. It reminded me of the ‘queueing’ system in my highschool which was about the same…

    1. Murphy

      I had a…let’s say acquaintance like this. We ordered pizza for the group, he went first and literally took half of a pizza (maybe more). We had to coax him to give some up to somebody with dietary restrictions.

      1. Allison

        Yikes. I sometimes feel weird taking two slices when there’s free pizza. I’m often worried someone will see it and say “you’re taking two?? well, okay, it’s just that we only ordered enough for everyone to have one slice, we thought that was enough, but whatever, I’m sure someone’s on a diet or something . . . no no no, don’t put it back, you touched it, just, *sigh* two slices . . . must be hungry . . .”

      2. DivineMissL

        OMG, pizza…I ordered dinner for one of our volunteer boards; they got to choose anything they wanted from a pizzeria menu. Four of them wanted pizza, so I ordered two pizzas to cover them. One of the four picked up a whole pizza, put it in front of his seat, and started to EAT THE PIZZA USING THE BOX AS HIS PLATE. I was horrified and took it back from him, gave him two slices on a plate; but the other three wouldn’t touch it and split the other pizza between them.

    2. 2 Cents

      When I was a poor grad student, I used to go to talks where they served lunch just so I didn’t have to buy that day. But I either attended the talk, or waited until everyone else got theirs first. Maybe it was still wrong, but my grad school used to throw out so.much.food afterwards that I didn’t feel too guilty.

      1. BadWolf

        Sounds like you were doing it right — assuming these weren’t standing room only lecture where someone who needed to attend could not attend.

        If they had leftover food, I’m sure they were happy someone got to eat it especially if they needed it.

      2. The Original K.

        A family friend worked at a university for decades (she just retired) and her department often had student events with food. It was her policy to wait until students had taken food before she took any, thinking that students often have student budgets so they should get first crack at the food … but she regularly saw very senior-level administrators hustling to beat the students to the front of the pizza line.

      3. DAMitsDevon

        I did this in grad school too, but I feel like there’s nothing wrong with it if you were likely going to go to the talk anyway because it’s something that genuinely interests you or don’t mind sitting through the talk instead of just grabbing food and running. I also feel like as it got closer to midterms/finals, the attendance at those talks really dropped off because people wanted to spend all their time studying, so it left more food for the die hards (though I feel like not having to plan for a meal took a lot of stress off of me during finals?).

        1. fposte

          We had a social event baited with food and our rule was you had to sit for at least 10 minutes.

      4. Chicken Situation

        I was recently at a university event that had a lunch after a presentation. People who had not attended the presentation and who were in no way affiliated with the guest of honor were hovering outside the room and were the first ones through the food line. UGH.

        Luckily, there was more than enough food, but it was still distasteful. (And the leftovers are always put out for the students.)

    3. Weegie

      I agree there seems to be some cultural differences here, as I’ve never experienced this at any workplace in the UK. In my last job especially, there was a team on my corridor that regularly ordered in food for work lunches and brought the leftovers up to our shared kitchen afterwards: trays and trays of sandwiches and fruit, and often unopened bottles of water. The fruit mostly got eaten, but hardly anyone would take the sandwiches. After three days or so I used to throw away any lingering, gently rotting fruit myself and I think the cleaner disposed of the sandwiches (in the bin – she didn’t eat them!).

      1. Lucy

        I have experienced individuals who are known to be first to the free food, but never an entire office being bad at it. Pondering it after reading other comments, I’m pretty sure those people were the least happy with their job situation/more general life as well but not the poorest, so I’m fascinated by that angle.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz

      When I was in grad school for music, the orchestra management organized a pizza party at a nearby pizzeria to make it up to us for something that hadn’t gone right, I forget the details. Anyway, the pizzeria was not organized about making pizza for 50 or so hungry music grad students and the pizzas were taking forever to get out of the oven. When the first couple finally arrived we really were like vultures or flies swarming the pizzas and I got hot, just-out-of-the-oven pizza cheese dropped on my arm. Blistered the next day, so painful, and I still have a scar over 15 years later, though it’s faded over time.

      1. feministbookworm

        Favorite music school-related pizza story: my conductor ordered post-concert pizza for the ensemble, to be delivered toward the end of the concert so it would be available immediately afterwards. He was the contact for the delivery people (you can see where this is going…)

        A phone goes off in the middle of the concert. Conductor looks extremely annoyed… then realizes the ringing is coming from his pocket. It’s the delivery guys calling to let him know they had arrived. We all got a free pass on accidental cell phone noise after that…

    5. CTT

      Having been a student recently, I can say they are the worst about food. I’m still mad about a time in law school when the third years had a mandatory meeting (on the Friday before a holiday weekend) about bar stuff, the food wasn’t delivered on time for the start of the meeting, and when we came out, the first years had eaten almost all the pizza. STILL MAD.

    6. Drax

      I used to work at a place like this, not students though. We actually had to serve the food because one time we had purchased individual sized and packaged pizzas and the first 20 people took all of them, meant for 100+ people. They carried stacks of the little pizza’s out to their cars to take home.

      There was also the lasagna incident where we had purchased lasagna trays – the massive catering sized ones ( approx 1.5′ x 1′ size), and we’d planned the portions were about 4 people per large tray – so no one was going to go hungry with the sides. We were setting up in the lunch room before the lunch break and I had to pee, so I went to the washroom and when I came back someone had snuck out off the work floor and taken an entire stack of the lasagnas (5ish of them) to take home to their kids because they thought it would be a nice treat.

      (It wasn’t a food-resource issue, we confirmed that)

        1. Drax

          No firing. It was pretty hard to fire people on the floor, the conditions sucked (cold wet room) and we had full families working there. Like this lady’s brother, sister + sisters husband, and nephews all worked there too and they weren’t the only one that had pretty much the whole family there. I did make her bring them back, she had a meltdown about how selfish we were to not have accounted for their kids at home.

          There was such a high turnover rate that basically if you showed up and didn’t pee on the floor (that’s a whole other story of nonsense from there) you wouldn’t get fired. The Production Manager treated them like naughty toddlers and unfortunately a lot of them began to act like it. I assume it was a coping mechanism from how terrible the production manager was to them.

    7. Falling Diphthong

      The US has regional variations. For example, the thing where you can’t take the last doughnut–or the last half of a half of a half of a half of the last doughnut, and so cut it in half again–is common in the South.

    8. feministbookworm

      I spent some time in the UK and once got into a discussion on this front with some British friends.

      Scenario: there is one piece of something left on a communal tray (appetizer, cake, slice of pizza, etc.) and you WANT it. What do you do?

      As a Midwesterner myself, the answer is either a) offer it to everybody else (which, in a Midwestern audience translates as “I WANT THIS DON’T YOU DARE SAY YES”) and go through several rounds of “you take it” “no you” until you have sufficiently performed politeness and can eat the thing with a clear conscience or b) cut the thing in half and set in motion the Zeno’s paradox game discussed above

      my British friends looked at me in befuddlement and said “Oh, you wouldn’t want it.” Not even, you wouldn’t *take* it, you wouldn’t *want* it because it’s the last one.

      1. fposte

        Oh, I’m a Midwesterner too and that’s really funny–like they’ve gone so far beyond us that they’ve self-forbidden the possibility of wanting it.

      2. Lucy

        Am British; can confirm. It’s unfathomably daring to take the last one. You can want a doughnut but absolutely definitely not want the last doughnut and you will hear people say “YES PLEASE – Oh, wait, not if it’s the last one”.

    9. sunshyne84

      Were there tables? You should have everyone sit for a period of time, then allow each table to eat one by one. That’s how we’ve had to make sure everyone gets a fair amount before anyone gets seconds.

      1. Ruth (UK)

        There were no tables – it was a large open foyer-like area with the pizza along a long table on one side, and only enough chairs to seat maybe 20 people (but enough standing room for 200+). It was.. a difficult venue. I didn’t choose it.

    10. Dramatic Squirrel

      My last place had grad students and when the ‘leftovers, come and get it’ email went out they would descend like locusts. Nobody minded as they were the lowest paid people there. There was one woman though (non-student) who would arrive with Tupperware containers before the meeting attendees had even arrived at the food and load up. She was warned multiple times but wouldn’t stop. We had to post watchers to chase her off. Her excuse was that she didn’t want the food to go to waste.

      The worst was when she went to a buffet lunch at a restaurant (not free) and brought the same containers to fill up because her ‘husband would like this’. This was before all the people who had paid had gotten fed.

  15. Delphine

    My coworkers are very low-key about food. They’re all reasonable people but it also helps that we’re a small group. People bring things in to share fairly regularly because there’s never a mad rush or any arguments, judgement, or unpleasantness.

    1. Laura H.

      Same in my experience too. Coworker would usually bring in some sort of baked good and make sure we got a stab at it, and I sometimes abstained- but there was always enough that if I wanted two brownies (I’d wait for the dish to be emptied some and go for the smaller pieces.)

      And now I’m really missing my former coworkers brownies. (And her too, she’s so sweet.)

  16. Natalia

    Another thing I hate is the people who always ask others to go into the break room and get them a cookie..like you can’t walk 10 feet?

    1. RabbitRabbit

      A colleague who is now working in a different office in this complex used to bug me about that, but it was more of a “If you’re passing up on your free cookie, could you walk the block to get it anyway and give it to me instead?” request. Um. No.

      1. RabbitRabbit

        Sorry, this was unclear – my work will frequently provide freebie food to the entire complex, and you’d have to go pick up your free lunch/dessert/cookie/etc from the central cafeteria. He would go get his, and then try to get the abstainers to walk a block over to the cafeteria to bring him their freebies too. Plus he was just a glutton over sweets/desserts in general.

    2. Whatever Works

      Reading this made me realize how totally broken I am from my job, because my initial thought was ‘well, you’re not allowed to leave your desk more than 2-3 times a day, so that makes sense.’

  17. Crivens!

    I know this gets into “sandwiches” territory, but I often wonder if some of it is past experience with food insecurity.

    I grew up and spent a lot of my young adulthood uncertain about if and when I’d get regular meals. So even at 36, when there’s free food on office, I have to talk myself down from a deprivation mentality about it: I have to remind myself that there will be enough for me, that I have enough at home for later, and that I don’t need to take more than one share to hoard. I wonder if there are people who have experienced that but aren’t aware of what mentality is being triggered by the availability of free food, so they hoard unthinkingly.

    1. fposte

      I think for some people it may be, but honestly, I think it’s more widespread than that and it’s really primal. It may even be an attribution error–that it’s so common that many people who attribute this to food insecurity would have been like that even if they’d had no experience of scarcity.

      I’ve never experienced real food scarcity and free food made me crazy for decades. I wouldn’t take a bunch and hoard it, but if it got cleared out before I got there I would be devastated.

      1. Jennifer

        It reminds me of adults you see that will trample a child to get a free t-shirt at a basketball game. People just like free crap.

        1. BadWolf

          I like free crap — sometimes the “Free Stuff! Get now!!” tries to take over my brain and I have to fight it.

          1. Jennifer

            Or dirt cheap. I have to ask myself if I really need it or do I just want to buy it because it’s deeply discounted? It all adds up and it’s still a waste of money if it’s just going to collect dust.

            1. PlainJane

              This is me at the grocery store. Kitchen cabinets crammed with food, but I have to buy 5 boxes of crackers because they’re a dollar cheaper each if I buy 5.

            2. catwoman2965

              This is me. I love to shop. And what happens with me, I’ll get obsessed with that one thing. I will buy anything i see that’s a great deal (new, clearance, pre-owned but still in great condition) in sprees. Then i get tired of whatever that “thing” is and move on to something else.

              But I’m getting better. While I still shop a lot more than I should, I’m managing to curb my urges. I also have no problem selling or donating gifts I’ve gotten :)

        2. Rovannen

          I was on a vacation with my mom and she insisted we take the resort bus to the grocery store because it was !free!

          So there I was, sitting on a crummy bus, going to a grocery store for food we didn’t need…

      2. hbc

        Yep, me too. I have no excuse for it–never been hungry a day in my life, but there’s something about free food that hits me right in the lizard brain.

      3. Tau

        I have a pet theory that it’s really easy for our brains to slip into “FAMINE!!!” mode, and that any sort of history with hunger for any reason can get you there. I’ve never experienced food scarcity either, but when I started university I’d skip meals because executive function from an undiagnosed disability reared its head and I had problems making myself go shopping or fix myself something to eat when I was hungry. I also started struggling with free food, portion control, proportionate hunger, etc. at that point and still have problems to this day even though I got the executive function part under control years ago. It’s like the famine switch got flipped and refuses to be toggled off.

    2. WakeUp!

      There is almost always a lengthy discussion of this on any post about free food in the office.

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise

      The weird thing is humans don’t need to eat all the time and probably shouldn’t healthwise. So while I’ve never been food insecure I’ve gotten into intermittent fasting. It doesn’t help (or maybe it does?) that most free food is garbage – supermarket cake coated in sweetened vegetable shortenomg, chips, candy, pizza. It’s never healthy foods. As I have gotten into IF more, I realize hunger is temporary and for most Westerners not life threatening. So I can feel the hunger and still pass on the refined sugars and trans fats.

      1. Noah

        FWIW, choosing to not eat for 18 hours a day or whatever is much different than not eating because you can’t afford enough food. Intermittent fasting isn’t a treatment for poverty and it’s borderline offensive that you’re painting it as such.

      2. MJ

        Talking about not needing to eat all the time, we have become grazers because food manufacturers wanted more profits. There is no need for us to eat snacks throughout the day, so I cringe when I see people trying to make sure they have always plenty of snacks. They’ve bought into the lie food manufacturers have told us that we are supposed to need snacks throughout the day. And considering what these manufactured snacks contain, people who eat them are not doing so for nourishment. Snacking is literally killing people.

    4. ML

      Thank you for being one of the only replies coming from a place of curiosity or comparison. Yes the stories here are weird and not how I’d personally behaves, but the level of visceral disgust going on really bums me out and seems unnecessary.

  18. stitchinthyme

    My company provides various snacks bought in bulk at the local Costco — stuff like candy, chips, nuts, cookies, granola bars, ramen, etc. More than once in the time I’ve been there, management has had to send out company-wide emails to the effect that the snacks are to be eaten at work, not brought home. This was prompted by entire cases of stuff going missing right after the kitchen was restocked; they had to threaten to review the security camera footage in the kitchen to find and deal with the culprit(s) in order to get it to stop.

    1. StressedButOkay

      Oohh, we had that issue at the last job as well! People started walking off with entire 12 packs of soda that were being kept in the mailroom for restocking the soda fridge, it was insane. I think they finally moved them to a room that was locked which blew my mind.

    2. Bunny Girl

      Before I came to my department they had snacks and stuff from Costco that they put in the break room and the same thing was happening. Huge quantities of stuff was going missing. Well it turns out that someone who didn’t even work for our company was coming in off the street and was taking all this stuff. Now the break room is locked and we don’t offer free snacks anymore.

    3. Pomona Sprout

      Good on your company for makjng the effort to find and deal with the culprits! Maybe if more workplaces made that kind of effort, there’d be fewer of the crazy scenarios described in some if these posts.

  19. Jl

    Hahah these are great!

    At a previous role this was a huge issue. I was a junior employee then so it was infuriating for me as i ordered the food and often had to collect it. Managers… in their 50s and 60s would hover in the kitchen. They would steal food not yet eaten by clients before the meeting even started. Cookies would be stolen and huge holes left in the platter, sometimes sandwiches and chips. I decided that in my meetings all food would be delivered inside the meeting the instant it was delivered. Didn’t want to risk the chance of our F500 clients having no food and me getting in trouble. Sometimes they made special orders for dietary restrictions.

    One day one of the managers stole food from an executive meeting! So the executive assistants lost it. No more left overs were allowed and new rules were made for who can and cant be in the kitchen at certain times.

    Don’t get me started on sample clearouts. Ocassionally i would purge product samples and we allowed employees to have those. Sometimes I would reserve product and put it on my desk for someone in need or a new mom etc. (Baby products). These people would come and take what they needed from the help yourself pile and then would see stuff on my desk, on the other side of the counter and try and take that too! I’d be like noooooo in slow motion! I had to discipline managers above me for acting like they were in walmart on black friday and take things back!

    Then there was the time this girl got upset with me because I didn’t have the exact product she wanted. This was also not a free sample day. First of all it was discontinued, secondly this is not Target! Go buy your own stuff!

    This was all at the same workplace.

  20. spek

    Working at a shipyard and once per month had a Breakfast with the GM on a rotating basis, so, based on your last name, everyone was invited to two or three per year. A union shop, and at times worker relations with management was pretty strained. The breakfast was fully catered, with eggs, potatoes, fresh fruit, bacon, sausage, etc. There was always a core of trades workers who wanted to be sure to “get theirs” from management and would load plates of just bacon and sausage at the buffet. I’m talking 40 slices. Other workers who arrived on time, would go through the line and see there was no bacon or sausage left, and it came to near blows on more than one occasion. Thankfully, a management change let the breakfast tradition die a quick death…

    1. Quackeen

      I thought this was going to go the way the employee breakfasts went at one of my previous jobs. We had the same options, and people would complain that we didn’t have pancakes or waffles, or why was there turkey sausage but no pork sausage, or why were the eggs just scrambled eggs and none with cheese added in…

  21. elemenohp

    Food is such a proxy for unmet emotional needs. IME, I’ve noticed the food frenzy is craziest in workplaces where employees feel undervalued or unappreciated. The free food becomes a way for those employees to get something back/get “paid” for their efforts.

    I’m the opposite. My office has free snacks every day, but I very rarely eat them. The snacks are there so that we can be more productive by not having to leave the building to buy snacks. But my snack breaks are like meditation to me– the real benefit isn’t the snack, it’s the nice, quiet walk to the store. So I refuse to give up that valuable break time. Like I said, a proxy for unmet emotional needs, lol.

    1. BadWolf

      Recent free food has been met with some skepticism with what they might be taking away…. Low/no bonuses seems to be top on the list.

    2. The Original K.

      Yep. My best friend was a BigLaw associate and when I tell you she went on a rant when she discovered her firm was doing away with bagels on Fridays … she was FURIOUS. She made six figures, she could easily have bought her own bagels any time she wanted, but of course it wasn’t about the bagels. She was miserable at work and the bagels were a perk she enjoyed, so she felt personally affronted when they got rid of them.

      1. NotAnotherManager!

        Oh, yes. We went from twice-weekly pastries to once a week, and you’d think that they’d cut people’s health insurance from the fuss, almost entirely from higher-ranking attorneys. Yet, I notice that none of them have been bringing in even donuts from the shop down the street, and no one’s keeled over from lack of carbs yet…

        But, man, if the donuts are not there at 9 a.m. sharp on Pastry Day. Calls are made. Not by staff.

    3. NW Mossy

      That makes sense to me, and can explain a bit of why I tend to ignore those “free food” emails. I have one of those deep-seated fears of being perceived as grasping or greedy, and that tends to manifest as not wanting to jump up when the email comes in. By the time my brain thinks “ok, enough time has passed,” it’s gone.

      1. NotAMadScientist

        Can you go for every third? Ignore 2 instances of free food emails then plan the next one you’re going to go to the kitchen right after the email comes in? Then you’re not always the first in but nor are you missing out.

      2. Allison

        I worry about that too. I hate when I go get food and someone chuckles at me, and they’re there for the free food too, but they act like we’re both being piggy. There’s nothing piggy about responding to an email about free food!

      3. Alienor

        It helps me to stop and think about whether I *really* want what’s on offer, instead of just automatically going to get some. I don’t really like cake that much, so I can let a cake email pass me by, but I will go if it’s cookies, and that kind of cuts down on the number of trips I make to the feeding trough. :)

      4. elemenohp

        Oh yeah, I do this, too. “If I wait 30 minutes before getting a donut, I will have proven I have the utmost self-control.” By then the donuts are gone and then it’s, “Well I didn’t really want one that badly anyway,” lol.

    4. Grapey

      Same. Our company is generally excellent to employees as far as I can tell. Our meetings are usually followed up with an admin emailing the department pleading for someone to take the food. It’s sad to see custodial staff dump half eaten trays of food away.

    5. Jerry

      This. Is. Fascinating. What an excellent insight. I’m now wondering if this can be operationalized into an engagement metric, or at least an interesting business school research project. “Food Sociability as Leading Indicators of Employee Disengagement.”

    6. Mr Shark

      I agree completely. I think free food is considered both an additional benefit, and also because it’s free and generally everyone will be standing/sitting around eating/talking, it’s a brief recess from your job, and no one can get on your case for *not working*.
      As an additional benefit, it sometimes makes the day more tolerable than just another ordinary work day.

    7. Oska

      That reminded me of a Donald Duck version of Orwell’s “1984” that I read years ago. In this version, people were worked nearly to death by the tyrant (Scrooge, of course), kept down by the authoritative government etc. etc., all to make money for Scrooge / Big Brother. The one bright spot in people’s lives was the Sunday cake, provided by the government. They got to relax (a little) on that day, they had a treat, all was . . . not completely terrible.

      Then Scrooge realised how much he could save by taking the cake away. So he did. Boom! Viva la révolution!

      You just do not mess with free treats. :D

  22. Maude

    Early in my career I worked in a manufacturing facility that provided hams before we left for a week long break at Christmastime. The hams for around 300 employees arrived on a pallet at the end of the shift. It is generally not possible for each ham to weigh the exact same amount, but they were all within a few ounces of each other. My boss told me to go hand them out. I imagined handing them to employees and thanking them for their work. Once I started handing them out, it became a free for all with people grabbing hams, looking for the weight, tossing them aside for one that was a few ounces more, or complaining that they had a larger family and should get more. I was afraid I was going to be trampled. I fled to look for reinforcement. To this day I think my boss set me up.

  23. The Guacamolier

    I worked for a company that bought pizza for us during their 2-3 significant product launches per year as well as the Saturday before Christmas. For the last four years I was there, they had to institute a “pizza cop.” The for the whole time that the pizzas were in the break room, the pizza cop stood watch over them to ensure that no one took more than two slices of pizza.

      1. fposte

        But what a workday. “What did you do at the office today, honey? Did you get that lifesaving product out?” “Um, no.”

  24. One (1) Anon

    One of the things I learned during my first year of teaching was that teachers go wild with food the last day before a vacation. Pizza, cake, cheese plates, bottles of wine smuggled in out of sight of the students…

    It’s nice, but I keep wondering if some of them just go on to teach their last classes of the day vaguely drunk. (On wine! But still!)

    1. Rebecca

      With teachers there’s also the “recess duty vs coffee break” problem.

      I teach in France. Sometimes it’s my boss bringing in the wine. Some of my best parent teacher conferences have been after visiting the buffet…..

    2. C Baker

      Does anybody really “teach” on the last day of class? Do students learn anything if they do?

    3. Armchair Analyst

      As a mom just asked to provide a beef option for a Chinese-New-Year themed teacher appreciation lunch, I am at least glad that you mentioned this and, well, appreciate it.

  25. Drew

    I’m noshing on a couple of slices of pizza thoughtfully ordered by our CEO as I read this…

    …with not-fond memories of the former coworker who nearly turned us all into food cops because he would find out someone brought in a couple dozen donuts and go in to grab six of them for himself to snack on throughout the day. One time, our CEO went in for a donut, discovered they were gone, and walked over to this coworker’s desk and grabbed one of the four he still had sitting on a plate. Coworker just about lost his shit. It was glorious.

    1. Quackeen

      I worked with that same guy. Earned a decent wage, grew up with plenty (just to get the excuses out of the way). but every time there was free food, he would take enough to feed 4-6 people (oh, and he lived alone). I had an office 2 doors down from his, and I could tell when he got the “food in the break room” email because of the sound of him quickly springing up from his desk.

  26. Hooray College Football

    I don’t eat office food very often. It tends to be leftovers that have been sitting around unrefrigerated for who knows how long, likely pot luck leftovers. I don’t know who cooked it, how sanitary they were, or how many people sneezed on it. So, I suppose I have an aversion and/or am too germophobic to eat office food in general. Add to this my years as a sales rep, where people would pretty much sell their souls for a donut or free crappy plastic pen. I’d rather pay for my food any day of the week.

    1. MommyMD

      We have a complete kitchen and planned pot lucks and employer is generous in catering esp during flu season. So I’m lucky. Sometimes I have to ignore all of it which is hard but it can’t be a free for all everyday (calorie wise).

    2. DAMitsDevon

      Yeah, my coworkers are pretty lowkey when it comes to free food (people occasionally bring in treats, but everybody seems to control themselves). However, this post did bring back memories of the lasagna that someone brought in for our holiday party this past December that he kept in his office for like a day and then served to people. I am very glad I just stuck to the cookies and chips that day, since everyone that ate the lasagna was not feeling so hot afterwards…

    3. Surrogate Tongue Pop

      One thing I learned at work (because we deal with food professionally), food can only sit at room temperature for 4 hours before it starts growing stuff. Any food. So yeah…

  27. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

    We had an admin that would deliberately over-order for meetings so she could bring home food for her family. She’d take her portion out before serving it in meetings so we only caught on when I came to work early and saw her doing it. She’d also always be the one to volunteer to take leftovers to the kitchen and somehow they’d magically never arrive.

    1. irene adler

      Geez!
      That’s pretty bold.

      We had an employee who would eagerly purchase birthday cake whenever the opportunity arose. Only, she’d purchase something way too big for the 15 employees to consume. And always her favorite: chocolate-on-chocolate. Sometimes she’d help herself – prior to the blowing out of the candles- to a big piece. “Couldn’t wait, sorry!”, she’d say.

      Yes, the leftovers went with her.

      1. Asenath

        With our little group, the birthday person gets to take home leftover birthday cake (or other food; we’re expanding to cupcakes and crackers with cheese and sausage), so that wouldn’t work. And the birthday person gets to choose the food and the flavour.

        1. Tau

          Possibly a cultural difference: here, the birthday person brings in their own cake. It solves some problems!

  28. MerelyMe

    We have a Notorious Mooch in our office, who hovers in the foyer waiting for meeting rooms to empty at lunchtime (we have a lot of lunchtime meetings and we must provide food if the meeting includes students). The Notorious Mooch makes off with any leftover potato chips, including ransacking leftover tote-bag lunches just for the chips, and has been known to complain that nobody had a bag he could take half a dozen leftover burritos home in. But that’s just him being him, apparently, so nobody ever does anything other than say “There’s leftovers in (meeting room), come get them quick before (Notorious Mooch) gets there!”

    1. MommyMD

      I would love if you all started calling him NM. lol.

      We don’t have any mooches but we have out of department scavengers who sidle around waiting for the coast to be clear. Then quickly grab their prey.

    2. Falling Diphthong

      See, a real pro keeps plastic bags in assorted sizes secreted about their person so they are never left with no way to carry their haul.

  29. MommyMD

    If a coworker is coming in later, I always hide them a portion. Once the food is set out in my department, it’s like locusts on a feed. There’s no such thing as leftovers.

    1. Samwise

      We always do a plate for staff that have to be on duty during meetings with food, and always do a plate for our student workers. But then, everyone in this office is remarkably polite.

  30. BadWolf

    We are currently trying out some free snacks and soda. They installed a fountain machine instead of cans/bottles and suddenly this makes sense. You can cart away a bunch of cans, but are less likely to fill a gallon jug of Pepsi for the weekend.

    When we have a summer picnic, they have someone serving the meat (but not the other sides) which I always thought was a little strange. But I’m now guessing it’s because some people tend to grossly overtake and they want to be sure they have enough “main dish” for everyone?

    I have a friend who works in catering and they had an event that ran out of food early unexpectedly and she realized someone had put out the huge spoons for the sides so people were intentionally/unintentionally taking too much because 1 scoop was the implied serving size.

    1. Kenneth

      At ex-job, there was one location where the soda fountain was always considered a perk of going there. Because if you were there, it was for some kind of training typically, so I guess the soda fountain helped ease that pain a little. It was also the only location where that was available. None of the other locations had a free soda fountain. You either had to bring your own soda (which I did until I started regularly making peppermint tea), or pay to get soda at the cafeteria.

    2. sheworkshardforthemoney

      My friend who is a caterer always had someone portion out the meat because the first persons in line were always the ones who overflowed their plate with towering slices of roast beef or 5-6 pieces of chicken.

    3. Lucy

      Yes, that’s a good point about “implied serving size” – where I come from it’s customary to take three triangles of sandwich (where two slices of bread are made up into a sandwich and cut into four) but it’s very likely the caterers have allowed for 4-6 triangles per person, say. There’s nothing wrong with taking four to start with, but people just don’t because that’s the convention. Similarly you would take one slice of ham or smoked salmon, or one miniquiche, or whatever.

      For hot food, the implement would definitely indicate to me the expected serving size. It’s frustrating when for example a potato salad has a spoon which could comfortably hold an entire chicken breast: I could eat potato salad all day, but if there’s too much on my plate then I’ll feel unable to get any of these other lovely things.

      Having said that, portion control is out of the window when it’s your second pass! Depends entirely on how much is left – seconds look like half a slice of pastrami, big handful of tortilla chips, etc.

      1. Elena Schott

        That was actually the rule in my house growing up. firsts were moderate sized portions of everything, and only after a child had finished all of their firsts were seconds allowed. Seconds were of the take some leave some style, but kids were allowed to take just the dishes they wanted rather than some of everything.

        At work I have been a early arrival vulture in the past, but only while I was severely underpaid. Taking extra portions is just not done.

      2. ElenaSSF

        That was actually the rule in my house growing up. firsts were moderate sized portions of everything, and only after a child had finished all of their firsts were seconds allowed. Seconds were of the take some leave some style, but kids were allowed to take just the dishes they wanted rather than some of everything.

        At work I have been a early arrival vulture in the past, but only while I was severely underpaid. Taking extra portions is just not done.

  31. 653-CXK

    At ExJob, whenever we had a party (Christmas, end-of-financial year), people would initially descend on the tables with free food like wolves, take as much as they wanted, and whoever came in late, hard cheese. Management got smart to that and decided calling table-by-table out for their first servings, then letting those who served get theirs, and whoever else was still hungry could come up for seconds. Still, people would sneak out extra food in their first serving, grab clamshells out of the cafeteria, load it up with food, and take it home – or take entire pizzas with them, if that’s what they served. If I brought in candy/cookies and left them in the common kitchen, they’d be gone in less than 10 minutes.

    1. catwoman2965

      This reminds me of the holiday party my company used to have. Same place, same not so great food. But that never stopped people from loading up their plates, to the point of overflowing with shrimp cocktail, and other appetizers. What used to crack me up, aside from it being just greedy, was the food was marginal, at best. But it was FREE so I guess people felt like they needed to get as much as they could. We also used to have open bar for the first hour or so, then it was cash. The same people would have 3 drinks lined up on the table during the open bar hour, rather than pay for them.

      Alhtough they did eventually institute a 2 drink ticket per employee, i guess to curb that.

      1. 653-CXK

        We used to be able to drink at our company parties, but after a couple of years of less-than-professional behavior, the company instituted a buffet from the cafeteria with music and free gift cards. The company party was more orderly, but whoo boy, the lines snaked around and rare was the time you could get an extra serving – the unspoken rule was you didn’t dare cut other teams, so you got what you could and ate it.

  32. Jennifer

    The gossiping about who took how much can get annoying too. Once our boss bought pizza for everyone. There was more than enough for everyone. One girl went through the line first and took about six slices – which is a lot, but there still was enough for everyone. We all kind of side-eyed it, but these two other temps who weren’t even employees and had only been there a few months were talking about it for DAYS. DAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYS. We finally just got sick of them and told them it wasn’t that big of a deal.

  33. ZSD

    1) At an event my office hosted last year, one student (who was not in the target demographic for the event) went through the lunch line almost first and took nothing but *four pieces of salmon*. Before the actual guests had an opportunity to go through the line.

    2) I once had to turn into the candy police because I brought two bags of (individually wrapped) candies back from a vacation to share with the office, and immediately, somebody came and took an entire bag, not an individual candy.

  34. Tigger

    I worked a job that would order free food all the time but no one in my division was allowed to eat before our manager (no other division was like that). I never realized how many people had food quirks until I entered the workforce

    1. Jennifer

      What in the world? Did trumpets play when she walked into the room? Or did everyone have to bow as All Hail the Chief played?

  35. Narise

    A radio station in San Francisco had a contest about the worst reason someone was terminated. The guy that won told the following. He was working late and they had had meetings that day with clients. There were four slices of pizza left over and he took two slices. He didn’t know that two other employees had asked for the remaining pizza and had been told they could take it. They reported the missing pizza. This employee wasn’t fired for two months over the pizza. They literally used it as a way to get rid of him later.

    1. Jennifer

      Wow, how petty can you be? How was he to know the pizza was previously betrothed? How could they expect anyone to know if it wasn’t labeled? I probably would have taken a slice too if it was just left over.

      1. AMT

        I’m dying over “previously betrothed.”

        “For sullying the virtue of this pizza and aiding in the crime of pizza bigamy, you are hereby sentenced to…” *adjusts powdered wig* “…termination!”

  36. Phony Genius

    This can be self-causing. If you’ve been burned before and missed out on free food because others in front of you took it all, you are going to be more inclined to act like a Hungry Hungry Hippo next time.

    To combat this, in our office, at some events, we have servers who stand behind the table with tongs to give you the proper amount of what you want. They’ll give you extra of something if you ask, but you have to pass on something else. (This only works if you can get volunteers to be servers. Usually, it’s the organizers.)

    And it’s not just food. We’ve had employees taking supplies for home use from the first aid kits. One employee was caught by the health & safety officer and said that since the items are medical necessities, she should be allowed to have as many as she says she needs. Every time he refilled the kit, she emptied it the same day. (Obviously, you can’t lock up a first aid kit.) The union arbitrator actually AGREED with her, and she can’t be disciplined for it, even in the future. Now I have to keep my own band-aids in my drawer.

    1. Amber Rose

      Ugh, the first aid supplies battle. I had to actually have a meeting where I told people I wasn’t buying them stuff for their personal problems, and they needed to stop raiding the first aid room when they get hurt at home because we didn’t have enough stuff for people who get hurt at work. I have to have a stocked #2 first aid kit. I don’t have to have ice/heat packs, pain killers, etc. And if people are abusing the supplies, then we just won’t have any.

      I had one guy complain for three days that his shoulder was bugging him and we were out of ice packs. And another keep looking for pain killers. Like, dude. You’re an adult. The drug store is down the street. Go buy some. It’s not your employers job to care for your every hurt.

      I don’t raise a fuss if people hurt themselves at home and need to swap out some gauze or whatever as long as it’s not always. But that was just ridiculous.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz

      Wow, and here I was feeling bad for using some of the office ibuprofen when I ran out of my own supply at work. But taking the entire first aid kit from the office? That’s some crazy selfish nonsense, that is.

    3. WellRed

      They aren’t necessities if you don’t need them. This is why unions have a bad rep.

    4. The Other Dawn

      Ah, first aid supplies. My company was acquired end of last year and we recently had the system conversion. All of the people that didn’t get job offers are now gone; however, they left in waves. X number one month, X number the next month, etc. A couple months ago someone needed a band-aid. They went to get one of the first aid kits on our floor and found it completely empty. They tried another kit–empty. Then another–empty. They tried every one in the building, which has two floor and four wings, and every one of them had been emptied completely. We assume that a departing employee was upset (or just plain greedy) and decided to take what they could before they left. (The kits were filled about a month before that, and it’s unlikely there was a band-aid emergency.)

  37. Eeyore's missing tail

    Our office had someone like that as well. He was the reason we announced limits in emails about the events, but also made signs. Honestly, the guy was a jerk in a lot of ways, but this was one of his more jerk-ish qualities. Once he left our office, we were amazed at how much extra food we had after events. We were actually able to cut some of our catering orders back.

  38. Miss Fisher

    We have people like this and people who are germaphobes so have to be the 1st ones in line and know who cooked what, because they wouldn’t eat certain people’s food.

    On the other end, we have whole company food days, where they provide a catered lunch and people will complain about the quality of lunch. It is free, if you don’t want it pack something.

  39. Kristine

    I don’t think I’m as bad as some of the examples Alison cited, but I am a little weird with free food. I take a fair portion to start but I’m the first person sniffing around at 2 pm to see if there’s any leftovers. I will never pass up a free food offer, even if I’m not hungry and end up saving it for later (morning bagel becomes afternoon snack, etc). I grew up with food insecurity and even though I make enough money now that I’m never in danger of going hungry, there’s something ingrained in me from childhood that makes me take advantage of free food. It’s been years since I had to skip meals out of necessity but the devil on my shoulder still says, “Who knows when you’ll have access to food again? Take the bagel!”

    1. Eeyore's missing tail

      If you take a fair portion to start out with and then sniff around again at 2, that’s perfectly fair in my opinion. The same thing with taking a bagel back to your work space and not eating it immediately. In my office there’s a bunch of us, especially those of us expecting, that do that as well. The problem for us happens when someone take 5-6 bagels or donuts back to their desk or take half a pan of chicken when people are still getting their first serving. I’m all for people going back for seconds after everyone has had a chance to get through the line.

      1. Natalia

        If everyone has already had their first helping, I see no problem with going back for seconds/leftovers later on. My biggest pet peeve is people taking 5 doughnuts at once or coming back for seconds when people are still getting their first serving. When we have a potluck at work, at the end of the day people can take leftovers home if they like, so nothing goes to waste, otherwise it goes in the garbage. Everyone is supposed to take home any leftovers of stuff they brought in.

      2. Turtle Candle

        Yes, I think “I took a slice now and then went to see at 2 if there were slices left” is normal behavior. (And to me, good! Reduce the amount that has to be thrown away.) The problem would be “I took four slices and kept them all at my desk just in case there were none left at 2.”

    2. Mockingdragon

      I’m the same…I used to wash my tupperware at lunch and stick it on the end of my desk to dry, and half the time I’d forget to bring it home until the weekend. So when nice catered lunches came by I had a few containers handy…but I NEVER took leftovers until it was the end of the lunch and stuff was going away. And usually only Fridays…during the week they’d store leftovers in the communal fridge and first come the next day got them for lunch.

      I hadn’t been thinking of myself as food insecure but now that I think about it….being on an imposed diet for all of puberty probably felt similar to the body. I used to have a binge eating disorder that’s gone away since I’ve been in control of my food, but I guess there’s still part of me that says I need to eat as much as I can while no one’s watching.

  40. Alex

    I have a friend whose cube at a former company was near the break room. For “pi day” (3/14) the company would provide pie in the break room. She described it as a “business casual stampede” past her cube after the email went out announcing the pies had arrived. They had so many problems with people walking off with FULL PIES that the next year they had (presumably) highly paid managers dishing out single slices. Of course, there was no end to the whining from the full pie thieves about this. And this is why we can’t have nice things.

    1. AMT

      Good God. The drama junkie in me would really like to know what the pie thieves said. Like, what possible justification is there for a few people to have entire pies and everyone else to have none?

      1. Dr Wizard, PhD

        I guarantee the response from people like this is along the lines of:

        ‘Well nobody SAID I couldn’t take as much as I wanted! Why are you trying to impose all these made up rules after the fact?! If it’s free food, then it’s free – you don’t get to say how much people are “allowed” to take! It’s rude to pay attention to how much people take or don’t!’

    2. Natalia

      The sad thing is, all of these people could go buy a whole pie if they wanted to, but they act like they haven’t eaten in months!

      1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

        And no doubt that even if there had been enough for everyone to have one whole pie each, they would be crying because they couldn’t take TWO. Some people can never be satisfied.

  41. Rebecca

    But – but – the Dunkin Donuts peanut butter filled chocolate frosted donuts ARE THE BEST!! That’s the one I want, and will gladly shove myself in front of others to get it. Well, at least I’ll try to walk very quickly and hope for the best! At least I’m not the coworker who presses down on the filled donuts to see what comes out before choosing one :)

    1. Drew

      I…did not know these were a thing. I kind of wish I still didn’t, because now I’m craving one. Or four.

    2. BadWolf

      What??? You supposed to try peer at the filling hole and then say, “Screw it” and gamble on the donut.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood

      Still better than the guy I saw poke a hole into a donut to find out if it was jelly or creme. The TOP of the donut, with his finger. Happily multiple people saw this and made him take that donut or none.
      God I wish I’d not remembered that. Some temp jobs should be blotted out…

    4. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

      I just CANNOT EVEN with that last one but the visual image it gives me is making me cry with laughter.
      Life is indeed a rich tapestry…

  42. Phony Genius

    By the way, does anybody here think that pregnant women should get a pass on the rules of decorum at free food events?

    1. fposte

      Only pregnant women, I think. The rest of us pushing toward the front just think you’re all the easier to tip over :-).

    2. Eeyore's missing tail

      As a pregnant woman, I don’t think we should get a free pass to be a jerk about free food. If they want to take an extra helping of something, that’s fine. But if a pregnant woman walks off with a full box of donuts after they were just put out, yeah no.

    3. That Girl From Quinn's House

      I don’t, but if a pregnant woman was having blood sugar issues or dizzy spells or nausea I wouldn’t complain if she grabbed something small out of turn.

    4. here I am, the Anon

      ….no. Pregnant women aren’t special, and amazingly other people enjoy free food as well.

    5. Armchair Analyst

      Having been pregnant….. not really, but if they’re having food issues, then they can have another serving of whatever it is that they will eat & tolerate.

    6. HarvestKaleSlaw

      Pregnancy and food is weird. Everyone thinks that pregnant women are just these ravenous psychos eating for two. And yeah, sometimes. But also… the heartburn as your abdominal organs start squishing your stomach acid back up through your throat. And getting full after two bites because your stomach is squashed up in your ribs. Also weird food aversions, and sensitivities to smells, and bizarre cravings, and oh the gas… Plus all the things you’re not supposed to have according to doctors, and all the things you’re not supposed to have according to the internet, plus all the things you’re not supposed to have according to Very Concerned Strangers…. Oh and morning sickness (all day!). And gall bladder issues out of nowhere. And gestational freaking diabetes.

      To the physical things, add our culture’s psychosis and plain meanness about women’s bodies – about fat and fertility and weight gain and weight loss….

      I guess I’m saying: be nice to the pregnant lady and gentle, but also try and lay back a bit and not make any assumptions about what she wants to eat or when or how much.

    7. Alienor

      Nope. I mean, if you’re in an actual famine zone and there’s only one bread crust left, sure, but I’ve been pregnant and was still totally capable of waiting my turn to eat at the office pizza party, or having one donut instead of four.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood

      If you’re HG level barfing at certain foods and know there’s a very few things you can eat, talk to the organizer(s) ahead of time. Most people give you first dibs in that case. Please do stick with the standard portions.
      (This is what I did in my thankfully brief period of “morning” sickness. Morning, noon, and night was more accurate but again oh so thankfully short.)

  43. Goya de la Mancha

    “After a few months of the break room being completely empty by the second week of the month, management issued a policy saying that the break room food and drinks were primarily for staff working or attending meetings at the main office.

    People lost their minds. Petitions were organized, there was at least one hostile exchange during an on-site staff meeting and many nasty emails were sent. In the end, the company got rid of the break room refreshments completely.”

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  44. Kenneth

    This is the “tragedy of the commons” at work… Thankfully I don’t recall ever seeing anything like what was described anywhere I’ve worked. Indeed the exact opposite seemed to be commonplace: leftovers that people didn’t want, so often the night cleaning crew would help themselves to whatever might be left.

  45. Mayflower

    Y’all can hold my beer. In a large insurance company I worked at, we had bagels once a week, and there was one particular employee who would take precisely one bite out of every bagel and then put that bagel back on the tray. We protested to management but were told that he was untouchable thanks to his habit of bringing in a doctor’s note AND a letter from his lawyer every time he was reprimanded (things like: taking a 2-hour nap at work every day; responding to all work requests by angrily barking “No” at the requester; using the bathroom naked where he would take all of his clothes off inside the bathroom stall, fold them neatly, and put them on the floor for everyone to see).

    Management did have a brilliant solution to the bagel problem: they would bring in a VERY large tray of bagels so the guy would get sated halfway through the tray and quit, and then they would throw out all the one-bite bagels.

    1. irene adler

      Dang!
      And this guy’s essential role in the company’s success was-?

      I think I would have found out what his most hated bagel flavor or other food was, and made sure to only serve that one.

    2. SpellingBee

      Yep, I think you win! That is some serious weirdness, and the weirdest thing is that management caved on all of it.

      1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

        I think it’s going to be VERY hard for any story to top this one.

    3. RabbitRabbit

      I… wow. I would be tempted to see how far you could push him, like ‘accidentally’ spilling water on the bathroom floor, etc.

      1. irene adler

        I’d opt to put something wet and sticky on the floor. That way he can’t just wait for the clothes to dry out. He’s got to clean them.

    4. Phony Genius

      No matter what that doctor’s note said, most of those behaviors do not meet anybody’s definition of “reasonable accommodations.”

    5. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      And see…if I were management, I’d instead go around the office with a bagel cart (I’d get a bagel cart) and hand out the bagels to each person, or in some other way making sure to control the access to the bagels. Buying more bagels to accommodate is straight up crazy.

    6. Antilles

      I would like to know what doctor’s note could possibly justify the bagel thing.
      I would also like to know how you guys reacted, because I feel like this is one of the times when you’re fully justified for an immediate “WHAT THE HECK???” reaction.

      1. Helena

        I’m sure you can pay a lawyer to write a letter, but you’d think a doctor would balk at writing a letter saying there’s a medical reason this man must be allowed to take one bite out of each bagel.

    7. AMT

      This is an evolutionary strategy known as “predator satiation.” From the Wikipedia article:

      “Predator satiation … is an antipredator adaptation in which prey briefly occur at high population densities, reducing the probability of an individual organism being eaten. When predators are flooded with potential prey, they can consume only a certain amount, so by occurring at high densities prey benefit from a safety in numbers effect. … [A]s food supply begins to overwhelm the predator’s ability to consume and process it, consumption levels off.”

    8. Traveling Teacher

      Who was he blackmailing to get away with all this? I mean, there must have been something?!

      And, now I want a Thursday thread about “weirdest coworkers ever”!

    9. Close Bracket

      > using the bathroom naked where he would take all of his clothes off inside the bathroom stall, fold them neatly, and put them on the floor for everyone to see

      What happened next? Did he stay in the stall doing his business? Or did he walk out to a urinal to use it? How large were the gaps between the stall doors and the frame?

      Your company could definitely have afforded a better lawyer than he could. You wanna use the toilet naked? Knock yourself out. Two hour naps on company time? That is not a reasonable accommodation, nor is barking at coworkers and refusing to do delegated work.

    10. MJ

      “Management”. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  46. Admin Amber

    We had such giant pigs at my old office. A meeting occurred that did not include some of the employees and all kinds of food was brought for this meeting. Once the meeting was over these pigs were trying to pick off the trays of food that had been sitting out all day unrefrigerated. I was in the middle of tossing the food as the oils were separating from the dressings (it was almost closing time). They had a fit. I left them to their slops, let my supervisor know, and went home. These individuals also bugged me all day about the food. It was the most ridiculous behavior I had ever encountered from so-called highly educated people.

    1. ML

      This seems like a needlessly hateful way to describe people with slightly different comfort levels than you around refrigeration…

      1. Eirene

        I have a culinary degree, which includes ServSafe training. You’re welcome to eat food that’s been sitting out unrefrigerated all day if you really want to, but it’s not a “comfort level” thing. It’s a legitimate food safety thing.

        1. MatKnifeNinja

          My friend will eat rotisserie chicken that has sat out on the counter for two days straight.

          Grew up with him k-12. His parents were normal. No food insecurity. Just lazy and gross with his food handling.

  47. No Mas Pantalones

    At my last job, I had a candy jar that I stocked with really good stuff. I worked in tax and 6 months out of the year, we were doing 80+ hour work weeks, so anything to keep people a little happier went a huge distance. The jar was on my bookshelf and was basically a “grab at will” type thing. The bookshelf location was visible to me, but it didn’t bug me when people went to it. One Monday, a coworker came in, opened the jar, and proceeded to hold her shirt out and fill it up pouch-style with the candy. I side-eyed her and just said “Dude.” She said she was going to take it around to other people. (Lie. I knew her well.) I told her they could get their own if they wanted it, that I had just spent $100 on candy over the weekend and I wanted it to last longer than a day. She then said she thought my team helped pay for it as she put it back. She knew they didn’t and even if they had, she wasn’t on my team so wouldn’t have been entitled to the dang candy. Needless to say, the jar disappeared once that batch was gone. I heard tons of complaints once it was gone as well, all from people who had never chipped in, including partners making over $1m a year.

  48. Amber Rose

    I feel like our solution has been to order only the weirdest pizzas. Last time was pineapple and corn. Half the pizzas had pineapple on them actually. What the heck? There was one single meat pizza and it was gone when I got there. I made do with the one that had the least ingredients and plucked them off.

    I think that’s also why we tend to have BBQs rather than order in when the weather allows. It’s cheaper to just buy a couple hundred hamburgers from Costco than order enough pizza for everyone, and if we don’t cook them all, they can go in the freezer.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House

      One of the places I worked had an offsite location in a park with picnic tables and hibachis, so we’d host a barbecue there every summer. The offsite office had a full-sized fridge/freezer, so they loaded it up with Costco packs of hamburgers ahead of time, and left the uneaten packs in the freezer indefinitely.

      The offsite was shared, and someone killed the power to the fridge, causing the meat to defrost, then slowly spoil. We had to put up with the place smelling rancid for weeks before someone came along to clean it out. And of course, the person who made the decision to leave the food behind was not the person who got stuck scrubbing the freezer.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        Thats my idea of hell. I once had to clean out a minifridge that had rotten meat and that was bad enough I smelled my nightmares for a while. I just can’t fathom a walkim-in full.

    2. Coverage Associate

      I had a boss once go around the small office and ask everyone what we liked on pizza. Then she ordered pizzas that had all the ingredients someone had requested. So if one person liked peppers and onions, and another liked pepperoni, there was a pizza with all 3 toppings. I would understand if it was such a small office, there was only one pizza, but we usually got 3 or 4.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt

        This would send me into an absolute rage. I would much rather have a plain cheese pizza with nothing on it then have to deal with contamination from olives or mushrooms.

      2. Armchair Analyst

        That’s…. not how liking pizza toppings works. It works that you like what you like and you DON’T like what you DON’T like.

        1. irene adler

          Right!
          When management ordered pizza for both shifts, they would bring in all the hot pies at noon. The leftovers were for swing shift. So, cold by then. Told us we could re-heat in the microwave.

          And always, always, the leftover pizzas were:
          olive & cheese (completely untouched-why not order something else if no one eats this one?)
          vegetarian
          plain (untouched)
          ham & pineapple

          1. Natalia

            Our place just orders three kinds of pizza:
            Cheese
            Pepperoni
            And the works.

            Usually people will eat those. Yes, someone always complains but they can’t cater to everyone…otherwise they’d have to order a hundred pizzas!

  49. SpellingBee

    I’m still laughing about “bagel butts.” What a perfect term! I personally love the bottom half of a bagel (nice and chewy) but that’s just me. My best office food story is from a small law firm I worked at many years ago. When the office manager did a supply stock-up from Costco she’d always get a giant jar of mixed nuts to put in the break room. One of the attorneys would stand there and pull handfuls of nuts from the jar and pick out the cashews, then dump the rest back. He didn’t even try to hide it. It got so that no one would eat any except him, and he’d lose interest after the cashews were gone. The OM finally started buying just cashews instead of mixed nuts, even though they were more expensive.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      Ugh, gross! I don’t even like cashews, but who would want any of the nuts in that jar after he’s had his hands all over them?!

    2. Asenath

      I think the solution should have been to buy any combination of nuts that did NOT include cashews!

  50. Anonyna

    I used to work in an office of approx. 300 people, all for the same organization. Management hosted a barbeque one day, just hot dogs and hamburgers and some chips. Everyone got in line and got their free hot dog/hamburger and went back for seconds if they wanted it as there were always tons of leftovers. That afternoon, a staff-wide email was sent to the entire building from a random employee, asking that anyone who had extra hot dogs or hamburgers to please bring them to cubicle #blahblahblah and he would happily take them off our hands. We were paid very well so I have real doubts it was a food scarcity issue. It was bizarre.

  51. CatCat

    Fortunately, people at my office are reasonable about food! People don’t eat the meeting food until after the meeting is over and even then, they don’t cart it all home as far as I can tell (sometimes I think the organizers wished they would when there are a ton of sandwiches left).

    I thought they handled the holiday buffet nicely as well. You ordered something, but it was all buffer style (I assume your order just helped them tally how much they needed to get for the buffet). I was among a handful of people that ordered vegetarian. The chafing dish with the vegetarian option had a little sign asking people to please only serve from that dish if they had placed a vegetarian order. That made sense because people might not have realized it was a reserved main dish. They had also clearly over-ordered on the vegetarian option so that seemed wise “just in case.”

    Anyway, I am so glad I work someplace where people behave normally around food.

    1. Drew

      We had too much food at our end-of-year lunch and one of the admins had to walk around the building imploring people to PLEASE take leftover sandwiches home as the office was about to be closed for a week and they wouldn’t be any good anyway.

      Never seen anything like it. “I dunno, free food for lunch was good, but I don’t need even more free food for later.”

      By contrast, I was shameless in my vulture-ing.

      1. irene adler

        Does this qualify as “vulture-ing” when one is implored to take the leftovers home?

  52. No Mercy Percy

    My approach to all food in my office is to ignore it all, no matter what. Makes it easy to stay away from the chaos.

  53. Admin-a-Mom

    I’m in charge of ordering food for my office (anywhere from 70 – 100 people on a given day). We occasionally order pizza in at the discretion of the owner. I’ve started ordering pizza in waves so the people who aren’t hungry immediately can still get some. For example, I’ll order 15 pizzas to start, and then an hour later have another 10 delivered.
    I have learned not to ask about toppings or I’d order 85 custom pizzas. With the exception of allergies, intolerances, or philosophical bans on eating certain foods, you get and don’t throw a fit.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      Pizza waves is a wonderful phrase.

      Pizza waves & bagel butts and muffin stumps. ..this column has been memorable.

    2. It's a pizza party

      Wouldn’t your delivery fees be higher because of the multiple deliveries, thus adding to the cost of catering?

  54. Dust Bunny

    Current workplace is remarkably sane in this respect. They even leave stuff for the evening and weekend part-timers who miss all the parties.

    Preceding workplaces weren’t awful but we were grossly underpaid so, yeah, a free lunch was a big deal. As were free pens. We would listen to any garbage sales schpiel for pens and cheap pizza.

  55. BelleMorte

    I organized a free lunch from subway for employees, requiring an RSVP. Each person would get a pre-packaged box of a 6 inch sub, chips, an apple, 2 cookies and a drink, so pretty substantial. I had one employee RSVP for 4. I wrote back asking for the names of the people he was registering as everyone had an option of choosing from 3 meat types, and he responded that it was just him. He felt that a six inch sub was not filling enough (even with the chips and cookies and drinks) and required two full foot-longs so he wouldn’t be hungry. I asked if he would be paying for the extra as we have a government mandated per person spending limit, and he said no. I told him we couldn’t register for more than one, but he was welcome to leftovers as we always order extra just in case big wigs show up at the last minute. He said fine and gave me a bunch of special requirements to his sub.

    He didn’t even show up.

  56. Wing Leader

    One of the managers/executives in my office is a total sugar fiend. He would sniff out and chow down on any food–especially something sweet–that he finds…whether it belongs to him or not.

    Case in point: We often do catered lunches when we have meetings or conferences at our office, and that usually includes dessert. The receptionist and I have to pull away the dessert portion, cover it, and hide it somewhere until it’s actually time to be served. Otherwise, said sugar-fiend executive will come and eat it, no matter if it’s for our clients or not.

    1. Natalia

      Maybe we work at the same place! I work at a car dealership and one of our sales people is like this. He can smell food from a mile away! He has walked into meetings to try and get food!

      My co workers are thinking it would be funny to give him food with laxatives in it….

  57. virago

    I used to work for a company that occupied a multi-story building, with a cafeteria on the 5th floor where you could BYO lunch or buy it on site — sandwiches to order plus one hot dish a day.

    It was amazing how fast usually lazy people (including me) could travel the stairs when the cafeteria lady would announce mid-afternoon that she had leftover sandwiches if anyone wanted them. “Like ants to the sugar bowl,” one guy would always say as he observed the stampede.

    Now I work in a one-story building and I just received this year’s Girl Scout cookie order. Four boxes of Thin Mints — three of which will be left in the break room for my colleagues. I don’t dare take home more than one box.

  58. Dame Judi Brunch

    At old toxic job, we got free lunch once a month to celebrate birthdays.
    One month, an employee had a medical emergency right in front of the break room during free lunch. As a result, the lunch room where the food was was blocked off until the ambulance arrived. The exit door was right by the lunch room for context. Employees were trying to climb over her to get to the food, and saying she wasn’t that sick! It was horrible for them to do that. Prioritizing food over someone’s well-being.
    She was taken to the hospital and thankfully she was ok.

      1. Dame Judi Brunch

        These same people, if they had been the ones passed out on the floor, would have been outraged if people were climbing over them. But it wasn’t them, so they didn’t care.

    1. Natalia

      How horrible! What you can’t wait like 15 minutes for food?
      People treat free food at work like it’s the UN bringing food to a refugee camp. And it’s not like these people can’t/don’t get food elsewhere…

  59. Dr. Doll

    I have hated food at work since I was a grad student and put on the “seminar committee.” This meant that the professors chose the speakers and schedule and *I* had to buy, schlep, fix, and clean up all the seminar coffee and snacks every flocking week for a department with about 80 people.

    My job now involves a great many lunches, dinners, snacks, etc. I don’t have to do the ordering, but I have to tell the person who does the ordering in microscopic detail exactly what to order, exactly when and where it it should be delivered, and to follow up three times to make sure it does. I dream of retiring and never having to handle food for a meeting again.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House

      I once had a job where I was in charge of ordering food. If I ordered enough food for everyone, I got in trouble for spending too much money. If I stayed in budget, I got in trouble because the portions were too small. Basically, the company wanted to get lunch for 20 but only pay for lunch for 10, and was consistently angry and me and the restaurant we’d ordered from for not making food appear out of thin air.

  60. LaDeeDa

    We have a big event in the summer- it is a big catered breakfast and a day of fun (this is instead of a Christmas party.) If you have ever had contractors you know there strict rules about what they can and can’t participate in. Because of these rules, we send contractors an email letting them know that they can’t participate in the day’s events, however, we have provided them breakfast (usually breakfast burritos, hashbrowns, coffee and juice) in their break rooms, and new coffee mugs (or some other bit of swag), we also let them know that the cafeteria will be closed for the event. It sucks for contractors, but there are legal reasons why it is done like this.
    A couple of years ago I was in line to get my breakfast and noticed a contractor go behind the counter in the cafeteria and taking an entire tray of bagels and a bucket of cream cheese packets, and ran back to her building. I let it go, but the next day I found her and let her know that wasn’t cool and made her look really bad in front of a lot of people.

  61. Dr. Octagon

    I never paid much attention to free food but free office supplies? Now that’s my jam. I remember an old job that always stocked up on the huge planner note pads and G2(!!) company pens, I’m not proud to admit it but when I would go out to trade shows I would always add a few extra in the hopes there wouldn’t all get taken at the show. I now have more G2 pens and giant legal pads than I know what to do with…

  62. Nicki Name

    My current job uses people’s food greed strategically. There’s a once-a-month cross-team meeting that’s so incredibly dull that a lot of people wouldn’t go… except there are donuts and/or bagels. For occasional technical knowledge-sharing sessions, there’s free pizza to encourage people to show up.

  63. DCGirl

    I worked at a place that start stocking the fridge with LaCroix waters (no sodas, only health stuff at this place), and people lost their minds. There were maybe 50 people working in that office, and they weren’t ever all there every day, but the facilities manager told me he was putting out ten 12-packs every day. It was like some people refused to drink anything else cold after that, even though there was a filtered water dispenser that provided both still and bubbly filtered water, and the bubbly water had been just fine and considered a plus before the LaCroix waters arrived.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      Guilty. I would take like three or four LaCroix every day until my office announced they were switching to a different (yucky) brand.

      Lots of us were sad about the switch for a few weeks but we got over it.

    2. Jaid

      ShopRite has seltzer with flavors like Lime Mint, Grapefruit, Ginger, Cherry Vanilla, Cucumber Melon, etc. At 80 cents for a liter bottle (sometimes 5 for 2 bucks!), I laugh at LaCroix.

      1. catwoman2965

        Flavored seltzer is pretty much all I drink but I’m cheap to. I can drink 3-4 cans a day, so I generally buy store brand. Depending on what’s on sale and where I am :)

  64. LBB

    We had a dude at my office who would lie in wait for meetings to get out so he could pounce on the pizzas left over, he would literally take ALL the pizzas. 3-4 boxes of pizza with randoms slices, piled up at his desk everyday. I work in a large building with meetings going on all day and pizza is the usual food staple. He would have boxes stacked up at his desk everyday, it’s like he lived off pizza 24/7. Finally the building admin said something to him, that he could not just take ALL the pizzas everyday and not let anyone else have a chance. It was so freaking weird.

  65. No one you know

    I once worked at a place that had a tradition of filling a chest freezer up with ice cream and popsicles at the beginning of every summer. It typically lasted about a week and a half. I once watched a coworker eat 5 ice cream bars during a 15 minute break. He bragged the whole time that he would make himself sick everyday just to make sure he got his “fair share”. He was flabbergasted when I told him I don’t eat ice cream (v v lactose intolerant). He asked why I didn’t take some home for my husband but didn’t like my response that the ice cream was for employees, not spouses. He really didn’t understand that I wasn’t concerned about getting my “fair share” of the cheap ice cream bars.

  66. I'm Not Phyllis

    At my previous job we used to set up lunch for the Board of Directors outside of the boardroom, which was also the reception area. We had an issue with people taking food so for the last meeting I was there for, we had to send out an all staff email asking people not to touch the food and that leftovers would be brought to the kitchen after the BOD was done. When the food was all laid out one of the staff members came through and grabbed something with her bare hands and said “don’t tell anyone.” I was too shocked to respond.

    At my current place of work, I think I’m going to have to ask people to physically serve lunch at the next all staff meetings because people pile their plates so high. And also eat all of the vegan/veggie/gluten-free/insert-food-intolerance-here food. Despite it being served off to the side and clearly labeled.

    I think it upsets people that I don’t run for the free food honestly. Someone will tell me there’s cake in the kitchen and I say “thanks!” but I don’t run out to get some. “But it might be gone later!” … if this happened I would somehow survive it.

  67. TPPD

    Heh, free food oddness: a few months after I started working in a new lab, our communal K-Cup stock ran out. The K-Cup supply didn’t suddenly disappear; it just gradually dwindled down to zero. I asked a friendly co-worker about the process for restocking and was told that a collection was taken twice a year to purchase more. Since that wouldn’t occur for another month, I said that I would probably just order more myself and give them to the lab.
    “I wouldn’t do that,” she said. “People will steal them.”
    I didn’t need her advice, since no one seemed to steal K-Cups in the previous months, and soon brought in 72 K-Cups. The next day, they were gone. Someone stole them.
    I worked in that lab for 3 years, and as long as the K-Cups were communally purchased, no one stole them.

    1. LCL

      Ha. I buy some K cups out of my pocket for our group. I used to buy donuts instead, and would prefer to keep doing that, but one of the men (I know who it was because people talk) threw away a box with several left because they offended him somehow. With K-cups, there is an optimum number to stock-for us it is about 6/12 per day. Any more and they all disappear overnight.

  68. OwlEditor

    Allison, I love your blog because it makes me so glad I work where I do. We have a snack table with fresh fruit, nuts, candy, and other snacks in little bowls. No one hoards it (I do sometimes take more than one piece of fruit. I can’t have the candy). We do have “Tasty Thursdays” with cereal and milk or bagels and cream cheese, but there is always plenty left, sometimes even the next day. If free food is on offer, there is a rush, but no one takes more than a serving. It’s usually left over from a lunch for a meeting. When we do see lunch being catered and there are no leftovers, we are sad, but we don’t loudly complain. Dang, I love my workplace. Although I did catch one coworker taking a bunch of free Valentine cookies the building management sent to every floor, but it was toward the end of the day… I still didn’t think it was cool, though. They’ve since moved to another office. I’m not on the floor with the bigwigs, but they don’t seem the type to steal food…

  69. PrettySticks

    Years ago, I interned at a non-profit in the Executive Director’s office. He had a weekly catered meeting and it was my job to order the food, set it up, and then clear everything out of the conference room as fast as possible afterward, since the room was usually being used right away. (Not that I wasn’t going to grab an extra sandwich when I got the chance, but the cleaning was the main objective.)

    Anyway, one time I pop in after the meeting, push my hair out of my face, and start cleaning up. I wasn’t even touching food at that point – just the cellophane and the napkin stacks and such. One of the part-time telefunders (and a standard-issue vulture) had followed me into the room and started *screaming* at me about touching my hair and then touching all the food, and how interns just came in first to take the food, and now I was touching my hair and getting my germs all over it, and interns shouldn’t even be allowed to have any… I had only been there a few weeks at that point and was just stunned. And I couldn’t even walk away because I had to keep cleaning. It was surreal.

    As an aside, I’ve noted that it would be incredibly easy to take out an entire company with a laced muffin basket because, seriously, no one ever questions where those things come from. I’m not advocating it, mind you, I’m just… noting it.

  70. Asenath

    We don’t have free food as such (that is, not intentionally), but we do often have events that have the food set up in areas corridors or atriums – lots of passers-by. We always need a Food Guard because a surprising number of those passers-by think either that the food is intended for anyone, or that no one will notice if they take one sandwich or muffin. At the end of the event, there are sort of unofficial procedures for leftovers, and I can’t say that anyone is terribly greedy about them. There are certain locations where leftovers are deposited, and THEN you can take what you want. Not while the intended recipients are still in the meeting rooms and haven’t had a chance to eat or drink.

  71. Decima Dewey

    The branch I worked at had a Memorial Day potluck planned. As it happened, I got sent to work at another branch the day of of potluck. A coworker called me there and offered to put together a plate for me.

    Dubious food? Plus a three day weekend before I would be in to eat the plate? I declined the offer.

  72. Tisiphone

    A few years ago our company offered a Chinese food buffet for lunch, and announced it a few days ahead so people who wanted some could plan on that for lunch.

    But they didn’t order enough, so by the time I got there for my evening shift, rice was the only thing left.

    Fortunately, they ordered for the evening shift, and I happened to see when they brought the food in. Only three containers of food to go with the way-too-much rice. I took a modest amount, intending to come back for seconds later.

    I heard from a coworker who go nothing at all (because it was all gone) that one guy loaded his plate with half of a container of food which amounted to about 5 servings for an average adult. And then he joked about not leaving any for the people who were too slow. People talked about that guy for days.

    1. Elmer Litzinger, spy

      My one stint in retail the store was closing due to Chapter 11 bankruptcy by the company.

      During the liquidation sale sometimes management ordered lunch for everyone. When they asked from where something like 95% of the employees said X restaurant. I found out why! The chicken was excellent, the restaurant employees served the food to keep people from loading up and the restaurant was very generous in what it considered a portion. As well, they assumed everyone wanted all of the sides. It was great. Only the serial moochers complained.

      Here at the hotel I used to bring in candy for the front desk staff. That stopped because they never said thank you, complained when I brought in something they didn’t like and would eat the bag in one day. They continued to be whiners even after my friend the front desk supervisor told them they were being ungrateful. Also, they never reciprocated with me. If they brought in treats they never le ft me one.
      When one of them complained to me after I stopped I repeated back all their complaints. They complained to the front desk manager how mean I was.

  73. Rainbow Roses

    In our office of over 100, the same few people always manage to be in front of the line for food. If there’s an announcement and it took you all of 5 seconds to walk to the lunchroom, they are already there. It must be some kind of superpower.

  74. Clawfoot

    The worst behaviour around free food at my last job wasn’t moochers or vultures or hoarders, but just the incessant comments and diet talk and “I can afford to have a cookie because I took the stairs this morning” self-bargaining.

    IF YOU WANT A COOKIE, EAT A COOKIE, BARBARA. NOBODY REQUIRES YOU TO JUSTIFY IT.

    1. Allison

      THANK YOU!

      Look, I understand wanting to make better food choices, I’m watching my calorie intake too, it’s hard sometimes! But I don’t need to broadcast the reasons why it’s okay, or reasons why I’m not eating one. That’s just not how I prefer to bond with people. In fact, listening to peole say “oh this is only okay because I have a spin class tonight” triggers some pretty disordered thinking about my body.

  75. Nicelutherangirl

    Is there a scientist in the AAM community – a psychiatrist, psychologist, or someone else who studies human behavior and knows how our brains evolved over the years – who could help us all understand this behavior, at least as it relates to those of us who are well fed? I suspect that there’s an ancient hunter-gatherer in all of us, conditioned to take advantage of any mother lode of easily available food as a hedge against future scarcity.

    1. Falling Diphthong

      Someone upthread suggested that it’s most prevalent where people feel undervalued, which I think is onto something. Like Better Off Ted in which Vicki stole creamer as a tiny act of defiance.

      1. BadWolf

        Is that the same episode with the automatic towel dispenser set on like 1 inch of towel?

      2. Mr Shark

        Holy crap! Better Off Ted was the greatest thing ever.
        I think the episode “Racial Sensitivity” might be the single greatest episode of a TV sitcom ever!

    2. Lena Clare

      It’s hard wired into us to eat while there’s plenty, you prepare for times of famine.

      I don’t think this is about free food so much as about the *amount* of food available in a spread. It’s why diet clubs are always giving tips out for buffet eating – as humans we’ll almost always take more than we need, just in case.

      1. fposte

        I also think there’s the competition for resources thing–it’s the notion that everybody else is running in to get the food that sends you in. If I were doing an experiment, I’d set it in one of those offices where people are laid back about free food and authorize a regular employee to start diving in fast and taking the good stuff. I bet people would start to get in faster to get their share in response.

        1. Tisiphone

          When I was a child, I lived in fear at every wedding that all the good stuff would be gone by the time I was allowed to go to the buffet. My parents hated hated HATED standing in line and so they’d make us wait until the line went down instead of hovering by the buffet to be first, That counted to them as waiting in line. We were always last at the wedding buffet.

          There was always enough. But that didn’t settle my single-digit aged self. I still worried about if there’d be any left for me.

          Now, that little kid I used to be tries to be first at the buffet. My strategy is to be first, take a little less than I normally would, and come back for seconds after everyone else has had some.

          1. Don P.

            I have been to two bar mitzvahs (cousins from the same parents, and I figure the same caterer) where we were told DO NOT GET IN THE BUFFET LINE UNTIL YOUR TABLE NUMBER IS CALLED…and then they never called my table.

    3. Jaybeetee

      There seems to be some “bleeding the beast” attitude too – like you’re going to get as much as you possibly can off the company nickel. Then you start feeling entitled to it. The story here that really got me was the woman who would empty the office first aid kit as soon as it was stocked. Ain’t nobody need that many free bandaids.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        This is true for me on the rare occasions when I’ve been required to work through lunch so received a lunchroom ticket. Entree, drink, dessert, snack… I don’t eat that much usually but if I’m working lunch they’re going to give it to me! (Anything shelf-stable I can save for another day is best.)

  76. Autumnheart

    I feel lucky that my department has a good method for company food. We have a fair amount of hobby bakers, so treats are pretty frequent. When there’s a catered meeting, the food is labeled and AFAIK everyone leaves it alone. (My only complaint is that it takes up a ton of room in the fridge, so there’s less room for people to stash their lunch.) When there’s a department event, the Fun Team (yes, we have one) orders, sets up and serves the food, providing camaraderie and food police in one. Any leftovers of any food are put in the break room, and an email goes out to everyone, telling us to have at it. I don’t know if anyone would care at that point if someone made off with a whole thing of leftovers, but by that point, everyone’s had a chance at a first and usually a second serving, so it would actually be *preferable* for people to claim the rest.

    I’ve worked here for many years, and as far as I can recall, we’ve only had one situation where there was a recurrence of lunch-stealing. Someone posted a note to the effect of, “Please don’t eat my lunch, but if your situation doesn’t stretch to being able to provide your own lunch, I’ll make you a lunch and put it in X location.” I thought that was especially kind of the victim. The situation seemed to resolve itself.

  77. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    I don’t think my organization has a huge problem with food hoarders, but I have learned that any time there is scheduled free food — employee recognition lunches, etc. — I need to be there in the first 10 minutes.

  78. Phony Genius

    I’ve seen this behavior at the sample table at a supermarket, where the supermarket’s own staff raided the sample table before the customers could have any. The company rep working the table apologized and said it happens at many of the stores she goes to. (This was the company rep of a product that the store sells, not an employee of the store.)

  79. Falling Diphthong

    It’s day four of the zombie apocalypse, and Accounting has held out by barricading the doors with reams of tax law. Staplers have been retrofitted as slingshots, armor rigged up out of post-it notes.

    Fergus: “Hey! I just realized–it’s Friday! There are supposed to be FREE BAGELS ON FRIDAY!”
    Wakeen: “Doris orders the bagels, and she went down to that Wednesday surge from Purchasing.”
    Fergus: “That’s no excuse.”

  80. That Work from Home Life

    My boyfriend works at a tech startup that has extremely generous amounts of free food, drinks, and even booze in the (open plan) office. They also do weekly lunches and can order up to $15 each on that day. The office manager places the order for everyone and then they all sit down to a group lunch. One of his former colleagues was such a cheapass that while he was on vacation in Japan, he logged in and placed an order for $15 worth of malta sodas. Keep in mind he had to log on at THREE IN THE MORNING in order to place this order. The CEO found out as the office manager was placing the sodas on this guy’s desk and he was LIVID. He confiscated the sodas and then sent an office-wide email out reminding everyone that you had to be present for group lunch in order to participate. This was only one of many socially odd things this colleague did. He was fired a few months later for work performance issues, but I’m fairly sure his odd behavior didn’t help his case either.

  81. Bernard's Velouria

    Our office has free catered lunch daily, in addition to:
    – stocked kitchens on every floor
    – snack bonanza in the cafeteria
    – free bagels every Wednesday
    – sparkling choose-your-flavor water machine
    – cooking classes once a week (during work hours!?)
    – any coffee drink you’d ever want, plus aaaaall the flavor syrups
    – porters to clear your dishes for you and replenish the coffee supply all day on every floor
    and people STILL complain about things like the following: (all real examples)
    “Floors three and five have the gluten-free gummie bears. Why not my floor?”
    “There are more savory bagels than sweet bagels lately. Can we fix that?”
    “We haven’t gotten my favorite flavor of La Croix in weeks. Please update your orders to include Coconut again.”
    “The fresh fruits and veggies supplied for our free make-it-yourself smoothies stopped including avocados. Fix it!”
    “Why do I have to wait for everyone else to eat before I package up some extras for dinner tonight?”

    I once dared suggest someone griping about a missing Snapple flavor trot halfway down the block to Trader Joe’s and buy what he wants himself, and got brutally dogpiled.

    UGH.

    1. irene adler

      Sounds like no one will ever be satisfied with free food at work until the workplace also stocks up their home refrigerator.

    2. Drew

      Actual scene from work today (neither of these people is me, for the record):

      A: I’m going over to the Circle K. Want anything?
      B: Just a Gatorade. Don’t care what flavor but I don’t want a red or blue one.

      FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER

      B: Here’s your Gatorade?
      A: That’s different. What’s the flavor?
      B: Cucumber lime.
      A: Ugh! Why did you get this one?
      B: It is neither red nor blue.
      A: But it’s–
      B: NOT RED OR BLUE. Shut up and drink it.
      A: [shuts up and drinks it]

      1. OyHiOh

        Cucumber lime is my favorite. I will happily do several small office appropriate favors for anyone who can find me a chilled bottle of cucumber lime ;-)

      1. Bernard's Velouria

        It’s a great company! I’ve never had free anything at a job before, and nearly fell out of my chair on my first day upon hearing they provide free lunch daily.

        We’re in the tech industry and there seems to be some sort of contest about which company has the most perks, and that in order to attract the best candidates you need to stay at or ahead of the perks curve. Personally I would never hire someone who put much if any weight on the amount of free food versus other benefits, but blessed be I am not in recruiting. Watching recruiters show off our food and games embarrasses me deeply, but oh well. I’m that crabby manager who, when they asked for my input on what our new office needed to include, replied: “Chairs, desks, wifi, and coffee.”

    3. Jennifer Juniper

      What company do you work for and where is it located?

      *updates resume and cover letter*

  82. Her Blondeness

    I’ve lived everyone else’s stories way too many times. The well-paid thieves, the hoarders, the candy jar emptiers, you name it. But there is one that I still remember that no one has mentioned:

    Whenever we had cake or dessert for an occasion, this admin would show up to not only get a piece for herself, but then want to take a piece for her boss. Who we all detested. Who couldn’t even be bothered to say happy birthday, happy anniversary, go *&^% yourself to the celebrant. I put an end to it one day when admin sailed up and said, “I’d like a piece for jerkface boss.” I replied, “If Jerkface wants a piece, he can come and get it himself.” She did goldfish mouth (you know, where one’s lips move but no sound comes out) for a minute, then walked away. Worked like a charm and she never asked for a piece for Jerkface again. Did I add that when he quit we didn’t have cake for him?

  83. FeministFeline

    At OldJob before I started, somehow the team I worked on became responsible for ordering and serving breakfast for total Pain in the A colleagues who came in from out of town a few times a year. Now, mind you, the PITAs were road warriors who could function perfectly well when travelling, but seemed to become completely helpless when at the headquarters office three or four times a year. Well, somewhere along the line, people who had been on the team prior to my taking over its leadership had been required by my predecessor to: visit a Costco type place, buy eggs, boil them at home, and bring them back in so there could be the PITA-requested boiled eggs at breakfast. That wasn’t going to fly on my watch and when I said the PITAs could go to 7-11 and buy boiled eggs there, I thought there would have been a RIOT! LMAO. I let them whine and grumble and complain and finally reminded them that no one on the team was required to cook for them. Never catered another breakfast for these colleagues – they ate in the hotel where breakfast was included but where boiled eggs were not on the menu! Epically entitled group of people. Good riddance!

  84. ClumsyCharisma

    I have moved around to a few different departments at my current company but the one thing that remains the same is many of my reports are young and this is their first job out of college.
    I have had to chat with several of them about not touching every donut before deciding which one you want, or only taking 2 slices of pizza, or 2 cookies until everyone else has been through the line.
    Many of them were grateful for the feedback but who knows if they actually put it into practice when I wasn’t around.
    Same company – several years ago our property manager sent boxes of “cupcakes in a jar” as a thank you. They sent enough for everyone to have 1 but oh my we are lucky a riot didn’t break out that day. People were grabbing boxes and saying they now had all their Christmas presents and getting mad because they didn’t get the flavors they wanted. I’m not sure why the decision was made to just hope everyone follows the honor system. I mean it would be great if they did but unfortunately there are many who were either not taught or don’t care.

    1. Roy G. Biv

      I am of the opinion that the Honor System is one of the worst systems around. It counts on people behaving like reasonable, kind, mature grown ups. Hmph!

  85. JudyInDisguise

    Had a coworker who would bring empty plastic containers to office luncheons. Yes, she would fill them while in a buffet line, before others had been served while simultaneously filling her plate.

    Same coworker, brought empty plastic containers to outside/restaurant events and started by putting her leftovers inside, then all of the leftover bread baskets would be emptied into her containers, (plural) THEN – wait for it – she would scavenge other coworkers’ leftover meals. “Are you taking that home? No? Can I have it?”

  86. SalesGeek

    Part of my job (before retirement) was to either teach seminars or brief customers at one of my employer’s major briefing centers. These were nice places with perks like an espresso machine that cost more than my first three cars (always popular with customers). We had staff that prepared food…everything from breakfast to light snacks to full meals and the food was always outstanding. And they always made way too much. If there was leftovers (and there always was) we were encouraged to take some home.

    There were two unspoken rules. First, you always left plenty for the staff who did a great job for not much money. Second, unless you were part of the event or were invited in by the staff you didn’t come by for leftovers.

    I work with sales reps (I did the technical stuff and often ran the seminars). One rep was especially greedy. Originally he’d just scoop up some and take off to his office (in the same building) and eat. Then he’d bring containers and scoop up enough to feed his family. Finally, he got really bold and would ask the staff to package leftovers up for him to bring home. I’m talking amounts like a half a steam pan of lasagna (or stir fry or whatever tasty dish the staff made). He’d even bring home entire trays of cookies.

    This got him permanently banned from taking home any leftovers or coming in to mooch at any seminar/briefing he was not directly involved with. Even at events he sponsored he could eat with the customers but that was it.

    Ironically this guy made good money. Really good. He could afford anything he wanted but was “thrifty” when it came to free food that others could have used. He was a really good sales rep, a great guy that I still talk to occasionally. Go figure.

  87. Moose

    Trying to find my favorite free food story on here, in which someone ate so many ice cream sandwiches that they vomited to prove a point.

    1. fposte

      Do you…remember what that point was supposed to be?

      The one I liked was the loudmouthed co-worker who was up at the dais when she saw somebody bagging up buffet stuff to go and told them in terms the whole room could hear that this wasn’t a grocery store.

      1. Turtle Candle

        I assume the point was, “Behold! This is my nose! I am cutting it off TO SPITE YOU, face!”

    1. Lucy

      I enjoyed that – wonderful descriptions of food and highly accurate descriptions of office politics!! Thanks for sharing.

  88. GreenDoor

    My husband’s workplace is pretty lazy on food days. They always order pizza from the same “worst pizza in town” place. Everyone complains that it’s greasy, no flavor, and they all get indigestion. Yet this one guy will race down to the meeting room and plate up a huge stack of pizza. He’s one of the complainers – but he still pigs out on it, because it’s free, of course.

    1. Psyche

      When I was a grad student, the program would regularly order terrible pizza. They switched to the better pizza place when we all decided that it was inedible even if it was free. They were throwing away whole pizzas. It is the only time I have seen grad students not eat free food.

      1. Bulbasaur

        The same thing happened to me. It wasn’t so much that the pizza was bad – just that the kind they ordered was a specific local interpretation of the concept (no cheese, thick focaccia-like base, cut in squares and served cold) that was something of an acquired taste. Eventually they switched to ordering the heathen out of state kind, and they became much more popular.

        For the uninitiated, “grad students won’t eat the pizza” is actually a much more serious problem than it sounds. If the grad students don’t think you will feed them afterward (with food that they like) then they may not show up to the weekly guest seminar and pretend to care about the topic. That means either your faculty will have to do it instead (good luck with that!) or you will risk embarrassing the department by having no audience for a guest speaker.

  89. Pam

    Petitions were organized, there was at least one hostile exchange during an on-site staff meeting and many nasty emails were sent

    I read that as HOSTAGE exchange on the first pass.

    1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!

      Well, really, chocolate donuts and premium pizza ARE high value items, you know.

  90. JustAnotherHRPro

    if I didn’t have this kind of entertainment at work occasionally it would be sooo boring!!

  91. Suzwhat

    My story involves an intern and it was not her fault, but we still laugh about it years later after we hired her full time. We were doing an “expo” type thing at an area of the the business campus she had not visited before. We let her know that there would be food in yet another area she was not familiar with before her shift. She went to the food area but took a wrong turn and ended up in a room with a catered lunch for executives instead of the pizza we ordered for ourselves. She boldly helped herself and walked out. They all stared at her flummoxed.
    She came to the expo for her shift and told me about the lunch. That is when I realized what happened. She was mortified and was afraid she would get fired. It was totally not her fault, but was the organizers fault for not making sure everyone new where to go. Lesson learned.

    1. Working Mom Having It All

      I did this once at a friend’s birthday party. It was a bar in NYC, and it turned out that there were two birthday parties. What was worse, I think some people at Party A also knew people at Party B, so it was a little confusing which table full of snacks and cake and such was which. I made myself a nice little plate of party snacks and started mingling with friends. Only to realize I’d hit up the wrong snack table.

      1. Anonymeece

        Oh goodness. I feel your pain. I accidentally went to the wrong apartment for a house party one time, and they were, coincidentally, also having a party. I ended up hanging out with these guys for a bit, had a beer, before I asked, “So where’s [FRIEND]?” and we figured out the mistake.

        Cool dudes, though. They were like, “You’re welcome to stay!” as, face burning, I apologized *profusely* and exited stage left.

    2. Turtle Candle

      Poor her!

      There was a similar situation where a fan convention I attended had a coffee and bagels breakfast… right next door to a much more wealthy industry conference. One person took a wrong turn and merrily went through their buffet, picking up omelette, bacon, fresh carved ham, a fancy berry thing, and a mimosa. (The convention staff are supposed to looks for the right badge, but of course in a crowd they miss people… and of course she didn’t behave like she was doing anything wrong because as far as she knew she wasn’t.) She was mortified when she found out convention and realized what happened. (But then she shared her bacon, so.)

      1. Dr Wizard, PhD

        I did this once deliberately as a desperate grad student, but only once. I was teaching on a campus and snuck into an open expo / conference with free food that an unrelated department was hosting.

        In my defence, I was on multiple zero-hours contracts at the time and waiting literal months to get paid…

  92. Suzwhat

    My other story involves a co-worker and an ill-fated holiday lunch. Our manager had a tradition of taking the team out for lunch. He paid for it himself and was not compensated by the company. Said co-worker would always order two lunches and ask for them “to go”. He’d then awkwardly sit there with us sipping only on water. He’d take his two ‘to go’ containers home and eat them with his wife.

    Don’t get me started on the co-worker with herpes on his hand at lunch.

  93. Silicon Valley Girl

    Most every large tech company I’ve worked for has a “free food” email distribution list / messenger list / slack channel where ppl post about free food across campus. It can be anything from a brown-bag session that served pizza to a meeting with lunch outside the conference room to cookies in a breakroom. Always popular!

  94. MeMe'sMom

    I’ve got a ton of stories I could tell on this topic, but I suppose it is only fair that I tell one about myself. When I was pregnant with my third child, I had a constant craving for fresh fruit. One day a company sent me out a large bundle of fruit as a sample for their services of providing fruit as an office perk for employees. I was supposed to share it with my coworkers. Instead I sat in my office and ate over half of it by myself (in one sitting) until shame set in and I shared what was left with my coworkers.

  95. Natalia

    It’s not only free food, but the office supplies. We just ordered several boxes of ball point pens…we had people who were taking like five boxes each! Same with the packages of post it notes….

  96. SW

    Every year my organization has a holiday party and the email goes out to everyone to rsvp. I have stopped going to them because they run out of food every time and as a client-facing person I can’t get to the party at exactly noon.
    After the last time I went I was talking to a male co-worker in my department about the party. He had gone without sending an rsvp at noon and had taken double portions of the food because he felt taken advantage of by our employer and this was a chance to get something back from them. Of course he just hurt his fellow employees like me but he seemed completely unrepentant.
    So yeah, I think excessive food raiding stems from a sense of frustration and entitlement without a good way to express it. It’s a way to “stick it to the man.” Except of course it doesn’t. It just hurts the people around you who are similarly powerless.

  97. Anonymeece

    Nothing too special, I’m afraid, but we have regular potlucks and the same people always bring in food, while we had a bunch of free-loaders who scarfed it all down without ever contributing, to the point we had people who actually brought food didn’t get *anything*. We finally made a rule that anyone who brings food has first dibs, but the rest have to wait, and they can have whatever’s left. We still have to *police* this rule. Like, people are spending money and time to bring in stuff! It’s not the company buying this food for you! And we have some people who just buy a box of cookies and that’s totally cool – can’t cook? No worries, bring plates/napkins/bought food. But geez, bring *something*!

    I don’t understand people sometimes.

    1. Natalia

      It’s so annoying!
      My office provides lunch to the employees who have to work Saturdays (we’re a car dealership)..
      We have run into the order too much, you get in trouble because its too expensive. Too little, not enough food.
      Another issue is that people love to complain and are so picky…
      Like “Baja Fresh again?!” Why not Bertha Miranda’s?” Because catering from Bertha Miranda’s cost twice as much. No we can’t order pizza from Pizzava because one large pizza from there costs $30….
      We do ask employees for suggestions of places to get lunch, but some places we can’t do or can’t do often because they’re expensive…
      You can’t please everyone!

      1. Anonymeece

        Oh, completely agree. We have an all day staff training event and provide lunch and often breakfast. Last year, we received complaints – when we asked about feedback *for the event* – that the coffee wasn’t good enough, there wasn’t the *right brand* of food, etc. It was frustrating to be the ones organizing it and getting up at 5 AM to get the food for everyone and then have people react like picky children.

        We’re totally open to allergies, food sensitivities, dietary choices. Complaining because we had the wrong creamer for your coffee? No. We actually had to address it in a separate issue about how this day was about professionalism and training, and the focus for feedback should be on *that*, not the food.

        1. Natalia

          People love to complain. And at my company it’s not just employees but the customers!
          We provide coffee, doughnuts and fruit, yogurt and bottled water in our service waiting area….most customers seem to like that. But, we’ve had customers ask why we can’t have muffins, or sandwiches at lunch time or caramel macciatos (sp?)? Seriously, we value our customers and their feedback, but come on! We can’t afford to add on a Starbucks!
          As it is we have to keep the tv in the waiting area on the Home and Garden channel because one customer was furious that the TV was set to CNN instead of Fox News and we’ve had some customers get in spats over politics and sports….

      2. Bunny Girl

        We run into that issue A LOT in our department. We can only order from places who will direct bill us, and those three places are a cookie place, a pizza place, and a sandwich place. We only get the sandwich place on occasion because they cost twice as much as the pizza place. And holy crap they complain for days. Even though we do rotate and will get either pasta or pizza. But I’ve had people complain straight to my face.

    2. SpellingBee

      Yeah, potlucks. The same person I wrote about above who picked all of the cashews out of the communal mixed nuts jar would also show up at every potluck the office held with either nothing to share or else something like an apple. A single apple, unsliced.

  98. M.C.

    We have free food at my work place pretty often and while I don’t mind it, there’s one coworker is always the first person in there and then saves parts of whatever food is back there for herself and her “favorite” coworkers.

    Like, if there’s sandwiches, she’ll get back there right away and take 3 or 4 aside for her coworkers, wrap them, label them and put them in the fridge. Even if these coworkers aren’t there for the day!

    She did it with retirement cake once and the coworker she saved it for was on vacation. There was a gross, stale piece of cake in the fridge for over a week when the coworker came back and it ended up being thrown out.

    Such a weird clique thing to do.

  99. KayEss

    The one super dysfunctional office I worked in was, unsurprisingly, also super dysfunctional about food. This was most often an extension of the boss’s dysfunction in which she would buy us weird and extravagant (but somehow also self-serving) gifts and then being mad that we didn’t demonstrate sufficient gratitude (i.e. spontaneously become BFFs with her and turn to her for emotional support and advice on all topics personal and professional) for them, but my favorite insane outlier was the Great Case of the Chocolate-Covered Almonds.

    To make an excruciatingly long story short, the boss bought a jug of chocolate-covered almonds from Costco as a communal snack. Certain parties proceeded to eat them, in her estimation, too quickly given their expense. Rather than chalk that up as a learning experience and buy a cheaper snack next time, this resulted in an admonishment to the entire office about how greedy and inappropriate we all were, and a new jug of chocolate-covered almonds kept in the payroll/HR office to be rationed out upon request. I personally refused to go to the HR lady to beg for my daily six chocolate-covered almonds, so I abstained—but most of the rest of the office either found that totally normal or were such chocolate almond fiends that they couldn’t go without. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that second jug outlasted me in that office.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      Agree, walking over to payroll/HR for six chocolate-covered almonds sounds like too much work! I wouldn’t even abstain on principle as much as I’d forget to do it, or have better things to do. (But also on principle.)

  100. Bulbasaur

    Perhaps I’ve been fortunate, but I’ve never encountered this behavior. Reading this thread has been like watching a nature documentary for me.

    My current employer supplies a lot of free food and I can’t recall ever seeing this kind of thing. They got cupcakes in recently for Valentine’s Day, early-ish in the morning, and the last one wasn’t gone until almost noon.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      Yeah, I cannot come up with any examples either. Only example I can think of is the direct opposite – we had a project lead who, while a very nice person in all other ways, was a big believer in “butt in chair time”; and apparently so were her managers, because she got several awards a year for being a stellar employee, and they would always say “she works crazy hours”. She didn’t really work. She just sat there for 12-14 hours a day. One thing I’ve seen that person do a few times was, she’d force her team to stay late too, then at around 8 in the evening, she’d order them pizza and expense it all to the company. Because it was free I guess, she would order ridiculous amounts of pizza, several times more than her team could eat. People would take some home to their families and there would still be a lot left over. Then when she’d finally leave to go home late at night, she’d just leave the pizza dinner sitting out in the breakroom – I’m talking several whole pizzas worth of leftovers – so that the next morning, there was nothing else for anyone to do but throw it out. Company money down the drain.

  101. StaceyIzMe

    In the Way-Back time when I worked with kids, we had lots of snacks and parties: I don’t remember there being any real difficulty with them taking turns, understanding that others needed to have some before seconds were offered or waiting in line for lunch or snack. In the Somewhat-Far-Back time when I organized events for a variety of internal clients, I saw behaviors that weren’t considerate: taking leftovers to those who couldn’t attend before those present were served/ packing left overs in bulk without asking, lining up before honorees, loading up on “small plate” items that are clearly not the entree…

  102. Working Mom Having It All

    I spent a long time working on TV and film productions. In that world, it’s common for the company to buy lunch for the crew stuck working in the office (as opposed to out on set all day, which has its own food setup not germane to this comment). This is done because there aren’t really lunch breaks, per se. You’re expected to work through and eat at your desk. Most productions get food catered from restaurants, and they calculate how much to order based on the people who work there and will be in the office at lunchtime.

    On every single job I ever worked that did lunch this way, inevitably someone from the shooting crew would have a meeting scheduled around lunchtime. They’d drop by the office, see a catering spread — which EVERYONE KNOWS is lunch for the office staff — and make themselves a plate piled high. Without asking. Without taking in that this food is not for them. Without realizing that there are PAs and interns who make pennies, who are often waiting until the meeting gets underway to eat, who now aren’t going to get lunch because some teamster or gaffer dropped by just at the right moment and ate two or three lunches.

    We would do everything we could to stop this behavior, including making signs, having the producers talk to repeat offenders, etc. and still this always happened.

  103. The Giver of the Free Food

    I work at a theater and we often have pre or post-show events, and the caterers always bring more food than guests eat, so there are always leftovers for staff the next day. We have a relatively small staff, so there is always plenty for everyone. but I do have two funny stories.
    We had an event once that had last minute low attendance because of weather. so there was a full cheese tray, plus a full bag of tortilla chips and a big tub of salsa leftover (the caterer had brought multiple of all). I was the one working the event. I put the extra stuff in the fridge that night, then when I got in the next morning I sent an e-mail out the next day about all the food that was left and “please help yourself”. within minutes someone responded that there was, in fact, no salsa in the fridge, only the cheese tray. “Who stole the salsa” was a running joke for a while. We never figured it out.
    One of the groups that hosts an event for every show always uses a caterer that we don’t use for other events, so it’s special. Extra special because there is ALWAYS a full pan of tiramisu leftover. The staff has come to love “Tiramisu day”. They always ask me when it is and look forward to it. One time the caterer brought cookies as the desert instead of Tiramisu (yes, there were still leftovers) and you would have thought that the whole world was about to end based on the reaction. I mean, the tiramisu is, truly, excellent, but still… (P.S. I am not in charge of what food we do or do not get. that’s the decision of the group hosting the event, not me).

  104. Richard

    The worst boss I ever had would bust out tupperware containers (apparently he kept a full set in his office) about 15 minutes into a potluck and take home hearty portions of everyone else’s food often before everyone got a chance at it. This was pretty representative of his respect for social norms and other people’s time, money, and belongings.

  105. Middle School Teacher

    Teachers are TERRIBLE for free food. I think it hearkens back to our days as lowly student teachers, who don’t get paid and don’t have enough time in the week to work a legit part time job. We remember those lean days, so when there’s free food, you better believe we come out for it!

  106. Earthwalker

    Somehow this brings to mind a letter from ages ago from an impoverished employee who was ashamed about living on cupcakes scrounged from break room because she hadn’t enough money for food. Does anyone remember that one?

  107. Mrs. Fenris

    At awards banquets at my kids’ high school, they had to get the caterers to start plating the food instead of letting people serve themselves because people were piling so much food onto their plates that it ran out. I do not live in an area where there is a real chance that any of these people were food insecure (obviously you never know). People are just pigs.

    1. Middle School Teacher

      Last year our graduation was during Eid, and a lot of those parents requested cheaper tickets because they wouldn’t be eating dinner. We complied, but we ordered catering for people who would be eating. And then the people with the cheaper tickets showed up with Tupperwares (several asked the caterers for takeaway containers) and made several trips through the buffet line to pack up food for later. We were not impressed (and neither were the caterers, who were being besieged by complaints of “not enough food” and “give us containers”). It’s hard to feed 50 people more than you expected.

  108. Rachael

    I am a “yay! There’s free food!” person, but I play by the rules. I will “stampede” to the break room, but in a funny way and never rude. Also, if it is for another department, I wait until they have had their fill and take some for myself when they offer. You know…if you are polite and show respect, you might be the person that they email first to let know about the extra food (at my Last Job it was hilarious that I would have multiple people emailing me to let me know about the food). And, it doesn’t hurt to also make sure that people who can’t get away from their desks get a share (I would bring some to the admins or to others in my department on calls). It’s the vultures and rude people who ruin it for everyone.

  109. Lena Clare

    There’s something about these stories, and some of the responders’ own experiences with food scarcity, that makes me feel inexpressibly sad.

    Also, I think that need to fill up from a buffet-style situation (it’s not so much that it’s free, it’s that it’s plentiful!) can also be about overeating to fill an emotional need that isn’t getting met.

  110. Old Mountain Lady

    Many years ago, long before I retired from Nameless Federal Agency, Fergus was sent out from HQ in DC to a Regional Training Center to help conduct continuing professional education. He was scheduled to fly back to DC on Friday. On Friday, the RTC was celebrating its director’s birthday with a small party, including cake. Fergus requested that the cake be cut early so he could have a piece before he left to catch his flight home. The RTC staff naturally refused. Fergus took a piece anyway. He was banned from ever entering the RTC again, and his manager had to fly out to personally apologize for his behavior.

    1. polkadotbird

      We had a birthday cake, with Happy Birthday written on it, for a celebratory morning tea. Got it out of the fridge and someone had cut a slice out of the unsliced cake. ?!

  111. LabGirl

    Greedy (me unfortunately…shame face). We used to have monthly meeting at my workplace that has a cafeteria. Every other month the meeting was in the morning and the manager told us to get breakfast from the cafeteria and charge it to the department. I’d been there awhile before this tradition started and didn’t know the first time I went to a meeting. I was so upset with my manager for not telling me. I started “teasing” him about it regularly (teasing tone, but very real request) until a few days later he said FINE with much irritation and started reaching for his wallet to give me $5. It was only then that I realized how petty I’d been and apologized and slunk away.

    Hoarding and food shaming – threw out some food at work once that I’d left a few days (quickly deteriorating produce). I went to the bathroom and came back and the produce (half of which had mold growing on it) was gone from the garbage and another coworker was packing up her bag for the day. Neither of us said anything… until the next day when she asked if I’d thrown that stuff out and she tried to food shame me by saying she’d cooked her dinner with it and it was just fine. I just said “Oh!”.

    Acting like pigs (or pig). I was on a cake baking spree at one time and my lovely coworkers were the beneficiaries. I never had a problem until I brought in a bundt cake that had ganache drizzled on top. The first half of the day people took normal slices and at lunch it was about 1/3 gone. When I saw it a few hours later at the end of the day the other 2/3 was DESTROYED. Someone only wanted the ganache and took hunks (not slices – seriously it looked like they just grabbed handfuls off the top) off the rest of the cake. The remaining 2/3 of the cake (minus the top) was inedible carnage. I never brought a cake in again.

    Ick – At a Pizza party a coworker was picking toppings she didn’t like off her slices and throwing them back onto the pizza in the box. Not into the box but specifically back onto the pizza left in the box. I asked her to stop because nobody was going to eat those pieces now and she said “Why? If they have this pizza they must like these toppings and now there’s more so they’ll like it more.” I said “Like how you must like all the toppings on that pizza because you’re eating it?” She stopped

  112. Armchair Anthropologist in the Wingback

    I’m going to muddle through here—it’s been a long day here with very little coffee—but a chance to use my master’s degree in Gastronomy? Yes, please!

    Going into the “why” people lose it when free food is offered, the discussions about scarcity and a low-wage situations are definitely on point, but that underserved (really was not trying to make a food pun here, but that just sort of happened) population on covers a segment of these confectionary convergences. In cases where people are living in food deserts, dealing with harsh economic problems, long commutes, poor pay, etc., it makes sense to go for that extra bit of food that might keep you going, that might solve where dinner comes from, let you have the energy to go to your second or third shift, but in so many of Allison’s and everyone’s above—so much fun to read, btw!—there are multiple subtexts weaving through these gluttony gatherings. Another aspect to these feeding frenzies and hoarding hordes that should definitely be considered is conceptions of respect.

    When we participate in these repast rabbles, it doesn’t always matter if the food is good, if we’re hungry, if we even like what’s being served. We still show up, and we generally still fill our plates. On the surface, this doesn’t make sense, so it seems fair to presume our choices are being directly informed by a subconscious narrative. Dovetailing with other topics Allison’s covered, if we consider our impressions of our 1) perceived compensation of labor, 2) perceived value of labor, 3) perceived treatment, and 4) workplace self-esteem, we can create a “choose your own adventure” story that explains much of why we make certain choices. These four aspects, though, can also be applied to the employer’s perspective, which can help us piece together the story of why we all turn into Cookie Monster when the tray hits the table.

    In this way, we can reproduce the narratives from many of the comments above:
    1) Employee feels overworked, underpaid, undervalued → Employer provides pizza instead of giving bonuses → Pizza acts as a momentary panacea for employee
    2) Employer wants to provide a comfortable working environment, so provides fully stocked kitchen → Employees become used to provisions and begin to take more than they need → Unable to maintain the employee kitchen because of detrimental financial and social costs, the employer feels forced to end the benefit
    3) Employee feels overworked, underpaid, undervalued → Employee *knows* employer will be making choices and acting against their interests → Employee feels an obligation to take as much “alternative” compensation as possible

    So, from here we have:
    How the employer values compensation (compensation is provided in many forms and more than one type of compensation can and should be given to employees vs. just money); how they value the employees (treating them as adults vs. infantilizing them); how they value the work being completed (only managers deserve perks vs. it’s good to be able to share non-monetary perks); and how they value the time and labor their employees contribute.

    Mix-and match this with:
    How the employee values compensation (I receive enough for the work I do vs. big NOPE to that); how they feel their employer treats them (like a criminal vs. a professional adult who deserves respect); how much they value the work they are doing (I find my work rewarding vs. I come to work everyday and I hate it); and how they value the time and labor they contribute to the company (I work late all the time so I deserve this vs. I have no work/life balance so I deserve this, and many more etceteras).

    Throw in extras like “I’m bored, so I guess I’ll eat” or “There’s a task I don’t want to do, so I guess I’ll eat and put it off,” and we’ve created an all new tale as old as thyme.

    As far as a concluding thesis, I’m not there yet. I mean, we haven’t even gotten into the cultural artifacts (why are there never enough knives??) or ritual practices (silverware is always placed at the beginning of the buffet line, but you never know what you’re going to need until you get to the end!) or where generational divides might come into play. Somebody get me a phd here! (I kid.)

  113. Rainy days

    We often give staff who work events one bottle of wine each as a thank you at the end, and there are always a few lingering guests who think it’s a wine free for all and come grab bottles.

  114. polkadotbird

    The person who stashed brisket tacos in his desk drawer… why?! I sincerely hope he cleaned it properly afterwards but I would stake money on him leaving it dirty.

  115. Cercis

    Two food stories:

    1) I was a part-timer (3/4 time, 29 hours/week) and it was announced that the office was buying lunch to celebrate closing a great deal. This was talked up and reminders were sent. So that day I didn’t bring lunch. Then the lunch was ordered and I was told that I wasn’t on the team that closed the deal (literally the only person in that 10 person office who wasn’t) and that of course the lunch wasn’t for me. How dumb was I that I thought it was? With a heaping side of me being super stupid and unaware of office norms. Luckily I worked a short day because by the end of my day I was starving and had worked through my limited snacks (and with a short day, I didn’t have time for breaks). I found out later that there were people pissed at my “cushy” part time deal and that talking about the lunch around me was their way of “getting their own back.”

    2) One holiday the office decided to host a potluck. Each department was in charge of a different part of the meal. The sign-up sheet went around for us to sign up for what we’d bring. I didn’t sign up. I was told to sign up and I pointed out that I would not be in the office that day, so couldn’t bring in anything. I was told that I needed to contribute $5. I refused. It was talked about for the entire time I worked there and my boss never forgave me for embarrassing her. I mean, if I’d known it would be such a big deal, I would have paid the $5, but I still think I was in the right.

    Bonus story (same office as #2) each department hosted a monthly party. The higher paid employees would sign up to bring things like fruit or chili (for hot dogs). They’d show up with a bag of oranges or 2 cans of hormel chili (not the big cans either). To feed an office of 50+ people. The lower paid employees would be stuck buying all the hotdogs and hotdog buns (100+ of each), AND heating the chili and cutting up the fruit. I started signing up to bring tea, which I would brew myself in the office. It was cheaper than the 2 cans of chili, but served a lot more people. I also started telling people what choices they had to bring (“you can bring 100 hot dogs or 100 hot dog buns”) and making sure the cheaper items (cups, plates & napkins) were assigned to the lower paid employees. This was a government agency so we knew exactly how much people were getting paid (texastribune.com lists public employees salaries). This made me wildly unpopular with the higher paid employees, but at that point I no longer cared.

    1. WS

      People can be really weird about short hours and “entitlements”! I was working part-time in a back-office role in a store, and would sometimes buy my lunch from the store across the street on work days. I stopped when the woman serving me continually sneered about how great it must be to just work part time, and how amazing my life must be when SHE worked ALL THE TIME. I was fighting cancer at the time, which is why I couldn’t work full-time, but I certainly wasn’t telling her that, so I just stopped going and when the manager of that store dropped into mine, told him all about it.

    2. Lucy

      I can’t believe you managed to hit two workplaces with such dysfunction :-/ but I’m really glad you took the initiative to stick up for people at #2 once you realised.

  116. Penny Parker

    I volunteer at a food pantry. I have also stood in many food pantry lines. People who have to go to food pantries have REAL food insecurity, and they do not act like many of those in these stories. Simply having food insecurity is not a reason people act like this. They act like this because they are entitled, and expect to get away with it. And from these stories it is all too obvious they often do. That is disgusting. Please quit stating food insecurity as a reason to act like an asshole.

    1. CristinaMariaCalabrese (do the mambo like-a crazy)

      THANK YOU. I worked with the homeless for years, and I never witnessed such despicable behaviors as described in this thread. It’s so gross to imply that the “food insecure” have some built-in excuse for having no manners, when I’ve literally seen the opposite to be true.

  117. TeacherNerd

    It can be difficult to know who actually visits food pantries. This is not something everyone will volunteer. (People who work in offices with multiple college degrees can still visit food pantries. Please be kind; as you indicate, it can be difficult tell how others are struggling. And yes, many will act entitled anyway.)

    1. Penny Parker

      It is true that it may be difficult to know who needs a food pantry, but far too many of these posts are blaming the poor, blaming “food insecurity”, but when the examples are read many (most) of them are about employees who CAN afford their food but are hoarders. And, to use the excuse of “food insecurity” is basically blaming poor people once more for misdeeds the richer among us are responsible for. People on this site will support any minority, but then they implicitly blame the poor for deeds done by those more wealthy. Please quit blaming poor people!

  118. Doctor Schmoctor

    People are weird. I never partake in free food at work, because I’m embarrassed by other people’s crazy behaviour. Like starving hyenas.

    Now, I like me some free snacks, but .. just… no

  119. Lucy

    I worked at a big company in a medium office (50-100 spread over two floors). It was customary to bring in cakes plus a token handful of apples for your own birthday, and sweets/chocolates back from vacation, and to redistribute uneaten meeting food by taking it to the shared kitchen.

    “Bob” brought back some beautiful moulded chocolate from a trip away, and left some in the conventional place on each floor.

    Upstairs we ooed and aahed and smiled over them, and each in turn broke off a piece from time to time over a day or two and ate the pieces at our desk.

    Downstairs “Jane” helpfully broke the entire sculpture into sensible portions in the kitchen and put them in a bowl for people to take from, and threw away the packaging.

    Bob was VERY annoyed with Jane but couldn’t do anything about it – they were both senior but in different ways, and he had the good sense and grace not to embarrass her. I only knew about it because I was friends with him. But whenever I see moulded chocolate I think of them both and what they each thought the point was of bringing back something from vacation.

  120. CountryLass

    One place I managed said that all the leftover food could be eaten by staff, once I had counted/totalled it up to see the wastage. I had to keep and eye on one cook in particular who would send out a couple of his favourite items about half hour before close, to make sure there was some left.
    It came to a head when one of the Directors came in just after one station had closed, to find tables that needed to be cleared, and one member of staff sitting on the dishwash station eating some of the free food! I was busy at the other side and legit hadn’t seen this, so he told me and could see I was less than impressed. I got his agreement that I could just bin the food at night rather than give it to the staff until I felt the point had been driven home that it was a perk that they got when work was done. I had no problems with them popping in to put some stuff in a takeout box to eat when they had cleared their section, but they were NOT allowed to stop working for 20 minutes to eat! (They got 3 breaks in a shift)

    There was nearly a mutiny when I walked right past them all with this tray of goodies, and lobbed it all in the bin… I made it very clear that as someone had been caught taking advantage of it by a Director, that I was going to be throwing it away until I decided differently.

    The leftover baguettes were fair game though, as that station was the last to close and there was only a couple of us left, and we usually all took them home then had them for lunch the next day!

  121. SheWoulf

    I will never ever forget the time I walked into my office to find a fellow coworker ON HIS KNEES in front of a crockpot of pulled pork that I was bringing to an after work meeting (and had left unsupervised on the floor of my office). He was literally reaching into the crockpot with his bare hands and pulling up scoops of pulled pork and devouring it over the crockpot. I was beyond appalled. I had no words. I sort of spluttered and then very sarcastically thanked him for ruining the food that I had made. I don’t even think he felt bad. Random ending to that story is that I found out a few weeks later that he liked to smoke pot on his lunch break. I guess that explains the munchies.

    I work in a business that is half really well paid management, and half minimum wage earning warehouse workers. The warehouse workers are DISGUSTING when it comes to free food. We had a catered lunch for Thanksgiving, and I watched warehouse staff carrying around TUBS OF GRAVY drinking them. Unreal.

  122. ML

    For the most part these are not flattering stories about people taking actions I would endorse, and ya, I get that. But the level of intense hatefullness and visceral disgust is really unbecoming and off putting.

    Usually I think of this community as more compassionate than this. People are not pigs or vultures or hippos and there is a lot of complex, painful psychology around food. It’s enough to set boundaries and call people on bad behavior. There’s no need to be so gleefully thrilled by not having the food regulation issues or traumas your colleagues have. The really visceral language here is what gets me the most. People aren’t just annoyed, the language here is incredibly shaming and borders on dehumanizing. Not necessary…

  123. Jennifer Juniper

    At OldJob, they always had tables piled high with sweets for every meeting. It was so much that nobody could possibly eat it all. I once popped in three times to swipe a cupcake each time. There was still lots left over.

  124. Seeking Second Childhood

    I was reading the old columns at lunch and something reminded me of the furor when our company was purchased by a Fortune100 company and the Friday free coffee & tea & soda was eliminated. We now we only get free coffee & tea if we’re at the cafeteria between 6:45 and 7:15… or when the day’s subsidy runs out. There are more than 500 people work in this building and the corporation gives the catering company $200 towards coffee & tea. And the people who work there repeatedly take flack when they don’t make more coffee of a specific variety at 7:10.
    So free coffee in your canteen? You’re doing gooooood.

  125. Emily

    I’ve worked in admin/support roles for over 20 years and that comes with being in charge of ordering and coordinating food for meetings, training sessions, etc.

    Guess what I’ve noticed over these past 20 years? The people who are food vultures and food stealers are NEVER what Alison calls ‘quality employees’. Not a single one, regardless of being upper management or peon.

    Quality employees are the ones who share, and have manners. Again, regardless of what position they hold in the company.

  126. AnotherKate

    You would not believe the bitching and complaining I got from ostensibly grown adults regarding the free Tuesday lunch our bosses bought for the office. As an assistant my job was to pick 2 restaurants from the approved list and send the menus out in the morning. Not only would I constantly have to chase people down to get their order in time to get the lunch delivered in time (god help me if they were running late; somehow that was always my fault too), whenever I would send out the options, I’d get whining. “I don’t like that restaurant.” Ok, so pick from the other one. “I can’t eat anything at that restaurant that has an actual 5-page menu including various options for creating your own dish.” It amazed me that anyone would dare to complain that the free meal their company was providing wasn’t up to their standards. There was nothing stopping them from ordering whatever they wanted on their own dime, of course, but no one did that. They just made the lowest person in the pecking order’s life as miserable as possible.

  127. Nonyme

    My current employer has free food frequently — usually a couple times a week, and sometimes some pretty darn good stuff. Think high end gourmet food trucks, Starbucks drinks, ginormous fancy cupcakes, giant cookies as big as your face, entire 12″ pizzas per person (from a company that brought a portable wood fired oven and parked in the parking lot with it), etc. They’re generous.

    We still have Teh Vultures who will grab half a dozen pizzas, or ALL THE COOKIES if allowed.

    Employer’s solution?

    HR lady (whose job title is something other than “HR Lady” but we all know that’s her function, and she is known by all) parks herself by the food, happily types away on her laptop on whatever other work she has to do, and just …. occupies space. I have never once heard her say a word to anyone, but she’s conspicious in her presence, and it seems to tame the worst of the food-hoarding tendencies.

  128. Erin

    I generally dislike free food at work because it makes me really self conscious about how much I’m eating (and I’m a person with a very average relationship with food!). I always take less than I would usually eat (unless it’s a thing that’s a single unit, like a bagel or a doughnut) and wait to see what’s left at the end. Not worth it to me. I’ll just feed myself, thanks.

  129. PJ

    I’ve been a freelancer for a while now, but food was a constant point of conflict and debate at my former office.

    It was a large-ish insurance company and the sales team would often buy the administrative team (ours) pizza. I stopped participating after a while, because there was never anything left. Several of our co-workers would just pick up an entire pizza and walk it back to their desk. I mean, a few pieces, sure. An entire pizza? For real?

    The “vultures” are usually what I used to call the “three hour employees.” Even on a non-free food day, the day is all about food.

    They eat breakfast at their desk for an hour.
    An hour of work.
    Then an hour of walking around the office and asking every single other person in creation what they’re having for lunch.
    A lunch hour.
    Then another hour walking around and asking everyone how their lunch was. Was it good? What did it taste like?
    The remainder of the day might be work, with an occasional complaint about how hungry they are….

    Believe me, I am on Team Minding My Own Business. I swear, I am not that interested in what others do with their time. But as you can imagine, this all gets performed to a level of distraction.

  130. Mark

    It’s even worse if it is NOT their place of employment. I work at a big box warehouse store that is known for giving out free food samples to members in hopes of enticing people to buy them. Some food takes longer to prepare (certain foods need to be cooked to a safe temperature and then cooled down so people don’t burn themselves) and people constantly whine about having to wait a few minutes. They often do not even wait until the sample tray is put down. It is like a hoard of vultures! Then they take one and don’t even say thanks or acknowledge the person who prepared the food for them. And it is the older people (the ones who supposedly grew up being taught good manners) who are worse than the younger ones!

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