the holiday perfume, the ancient fruitcake, and other stories of holidays at work

All this week I’m sharing holiday stories from years past. Here are 10 more.

1. The perfume

“My father’s story from a good 25 years ago. One time he’s telling us about what gifts they bought for all the staff. It was perfume (don’t get me started on the gendered nature of it, that’s a whole other thing) but one he didn’t recognize, and the salesperson from somewhere like Macy’s had ‘recommended’ to him. He’s telling us this, and says it’s called something like ‘plah-sen-tay’ like it’s French, he thinks (shades of A Christmas Story here). My mother and I start snickering. Really dad? She recommended it? And you said sure, sounds good? And he’s saying what, what? as we started laughing so hard we were crying and falling out of our seats at Boston Market … because he apparently had no idea he’d bought every woman on his staff PLACENTA perfume. Like something that had that in it, and it was maybe supposed to be a beauty aid? It was unclear, but we surmised that the salesperson had a truckload of this stuff to unload and could tell he had no idea what he was doing. He sits there horrified, and reflects, ‘Huh… i was wondering why people seemed a little weird about it. There was a lot of talking in hushed groups afterward.'”

2. The questionnaire

“When my office decided on a Secret Santa gift exchange, we all filled out short questionnaires (clearly labeled as being for the Secret Santa) that gave us an opportunity to describe things we like and don’t like. I drew my coworker’s name and was curious to know what she’d put about her likes/dislikes. This coworker, despite being very good at her job in many respect, was known around the office as someone who occasionally needed to be reminded to slow down and listen to or read the entirety of what someone was saying before speaking/acting. So I should not have been surprised to see that she’d listed her likes as ‘walks on the beach’ and ‘sunsets,’ or (my personal favorite) ‘making love.'”

3. Phillippe

“One place I worked had a fruitcake of undetermined origin which had been passed around for at least 10 years (longest tenured employee remembered it at her first holiday party, but it had been there prior to her). It had a name (Phillippe). Whoever won it built a shrine to Phillippe in their cube and proudly displayed it until the next year … Might have been a cheap gag gift, but dang the competition for Phillippe was intense.

The end of Phillippe’s story: An intern won it one year after I left and hadn’t realized that this wasn’t supposed to be eaten. Apparently Claxon Fruit Cake is still edible after at least 13 years. She brought Phillippe II for the next gift swap … All interns are now warned not to eat Phillippe II.”

4. The destruction

“A couple years ago, my company bought a plot of land with an old house on it next door that we planned on tearing down so we could expand. Then someone decided it’d be fun to host our holiday party at that house before it was demolished. (I don’t know why? Celebrating the expansion? Saying goodbye to this random house none of us had ever been in before?)

Anyway, lots of drinking and then someone pointed out how the house was being demolished next week … and utter chaos started. I have no one idea where or how it spread. Like literally, I was just chatting with a couple coworkers while hovering over the pigs-in-a-blanket, and then suddenly realized people were screaming and ripping down the banister to use the poles to stab holes in the walls.

There’s a reason I call that place ToxicJob and I’m not there anymore (still have friends there though). A lot of house-destruction-level pent up anger. Hahaha.”

5. Holiday card misstep

“I very briefly worked at a law firm a few years ago, and my short time there included the holidays. A couple of weeks before Christmas, we all (about 15 employees) received a card with a prepaid Visa inside (about $25). The front of the card was a professional photograph of the managing partner with his wife and three children, standing in front of their enormous house out of state. One of the employees was his son from his prior marriage, who I am sure appreciated the beautiful photo of dad’s new family that did not include him.”

6. The hammer

“In one particular office my partner worked in they did Secret Santas each year. One year they drew the name of the Office Manchild (who was sweet but remarkably taxing to be around) and we didn’t have a clue what to get for him, until I was wandering around a local toyshop and found a child’s plastic hammer that made a brief noise and lit up when you hit something with it. For some reason (cough), it said ‘Office Manchild’ to me, so I bought it. And it was, literally and metaphorically, the hit of the the party. Office Manchild adored it to pieces, everyone else was queuing up to play with it too, so lots of love for Office Manchild, and my partner smiled quietly and said nothing.”

7. The remark

“I work for a small family-owned company. Each Christmas, the owners, would host a fantastic Christmas party at their home with A LOT of wine. Years ago, a coworker’s wife got really drunk. As she and coworker were leaving, my boss said in a joking tone, ‘Are you sure you don’t want one more glass of wine?’ To which she replied, ‘Why don’t you eat my ass?’

We haven’t had alcohol at a holiday party since.”

8. The lap dance

“My significant other’s holiday party is NIIICE. Lots of good food, like excessive amounts and lavish displays of every appetizer, main dish, etc. you can think of. The same with the alcohol and open bar, there literally isn’t a bottom shelf option. No Bud Light. No cheap vodka. No Two Buck Chuck wine to be had. The dress code is relaxed and ranges from tailored suits to guys in Carhart hoodies. It’s a work party that we actually look forward to because it’s so laid back and we really do have a good time. The last one was in 2019, and it may be the last one period. Or at least the last one where drinking isn’t monitored.

At the last party, an employee’s guest decided to give his girlfriend a lap dance. In full view of, well, everyone. People around the couple were half-heartedly trying to get him to stop, but they increased to frantic levels of “OMG STOP!” once he took his shirt off and could tell he was fully committed. Eventually someone got him to stop by tackling him to the ground with his pants around his ankles and his belt still in his hand, waving it around like a lasso.”

9. The cookies

“Years ago, as part of our St. Nicholas Day (that’s December 6th) program, we set up a display of typical 1750-style holiday treats, including a plate of cookies. Those cookies were stuck to the plates with “museum putty,” had been sprayed with shellac and were AT LEAST 10 years old – quite possibly much older. The visitors were all told that, unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to serve them any food and that these cookies were for display only.

After the many visitors that day had come and gone, we were putting away the display cookies only to find that…yes, you guessed it, one of them was missing; some guest had sneaked it off the plate and, presumably, eaten it. The thought of actually eating that decade (at least!) old, shellacked cookie was, to put it mildly, unappetizing … but hey, they couldn’t say they weren’t warned!”

10. Most likely to kiss under mistletoe

“We had a people scavenger hunt based on self-volunteered random facts. The facts were pretty innocuous, but one girl used it as an opportunity to flirt with a coworker. Her facts about herself were ‘Won Most Flirtatious in High School,’ ‘Voted as Homecoming Queen,’ and ‘Most likely to kiss under mistletoe.’”

{ 188 comments… read them below }

  1. ZSD*

    9. Is 1750 a company or something, or did this group set up a display specifically reminiscent of the year 1750?

        1. pugsnbourbon*

          Former museum employee here. We had a lovely chocolate-and-candy themed experience one year. There were oversized lollipops made from coated foam – they looked fantastic! Except for the two (possibly more) that we had to replace after guests had bitten into them.

          Also someone tried to give me a live crawdad (in a lil tupperware) during one of our free nights. We did have a small aquarium but … we weren’t taking donations.

          1. Admin of Sys*

            omg, I am in love with the (also: horrified) at the idea of living! donations to museums. I just have this image of someone coming into our local Science museum with a box of locally sourced bugs for their collection!

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Many years ago, I went to an exhibition of spiders at the Field Museum. In one of the tanks they had some live tarantulas that had been confiscated from a smuggler. It was all very interesting! :)

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery has a circa-1750s recipe for “sugar cakes” which are described by a historian as basically sugar cookies with rosewater.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Isn’t there a recipe in there for a cake with some ridiculous amount of eggs, like, two dozen or something?

          1. Hound Dog*

            There’s pound cake recipes that call for a dozen eggs. Can’t think of any requiring more unless you’re doubling the recipe which I would not advise.

          2. B*itch in the corner of the poster*

            I believe (thank you, Dear America books I was obsessed with at age 11) that the recipe for George Washingtons birthday cake during the revolutionary war included 40 eggs.

            1. Water Snake*

              It was probably intended for like 100 people. Look up recipes for election day cake and Emily Dickinson’s Black Cake.Some historic cakes were intended to feed dozens of people, and that’s why there were so many eggs, so much sugar, etc.

              1. Free Meerkats*

                Depends on how big the cake is. This makes a pretty massive cake…

                Washington’s Great Cake Recipe
                “Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth, start to work four pounds of butter to cream and put the whites of eggs to it a spoon full at a time till it is well worked. Then put four pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same way, then put in the yolks of eggs, and five pounds of flower, and five pounds of fruit. Two hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace, one nutmeg, half a pint of wine, and some French brandy.”

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Those of us who play in an older period know of a medeival English king’s recipe book where one recipe starts “take a thousand eggs or more”!(Cindy Renfrew’s modern cookbook by that name makes the style of cookery accessible…including scaling down the volume.)

                2. Thegreatprevaricator*

                  2 hours to bake a fruitcake that size? It would be more like warmed cake mix (takes me longer than that to bake a 12 inch fruit cake)

                3. E. Chauvelin*

                  Yeah, I have a cookbook with an adapted version of that cake in it. It doesn’t say what size the original would have been (other than referring to it as towering and comparing it to a wedding cake) but the version that actually fits in my Bundt cake pan uses three eggs, so roughly less than a tenth of the size.

            2. Dragon_Dreamer*

              Remember that chicken eggs were about 1/3rd to 1/2 smaller than they are now! We’ve been breeding chickens to lay larger and larger eggs since then.

              1. Maglev to Crazytown*

                This too. It is why I often use either bantam eggs or eggs from my smaller breeds when baking, especially older recipes. Even heirloom eggs are much smaller at their largest than grocery store eggs nowadays.

            3. Gato Blanco*

              My mind immediately jumped to Winter of the Red Snow too! I think about that cake sometimes. Must have been a behemoth!

    1. Adds*

      I read it to mean the year. OP referred to a program and visitors which makes me think it’s at a museum or historical location or some other place that also does seasonal programs. Although I’m pretty sure the Feast of St. Nicholas predates the mid-18th century so I’m not sure what the connection is with the cookies from that year unless this is at a specific place that focuses on that era (like Mt. Vernon, maybe).

      1. History Miss*

        Yeah, it’s almost certainly a museum or historic house, focused on Colonial America. I used to work in a similar place. Saint Nicholas Day was one of our big events.

        1. Maglev to Crazytown*

          This too. It is why I often use either bantam eggs or eggs from my smaller breeds when baking, especially older recipes. Even heirloom eggs are much smaller at their largest than grocery store eggs nowadays.

      2. Curatorally Challenged*

        Museum worker here! There really are some spectacular food stories out there. My old mentor spoke fondly of an old catalogue card in the Victoria and Albert Museum for a piece of Queen Victoria’s wedding cake (the wedding was in 1840) which had the absolutely glorious note at the bottom: “Accidentally eaten during a school trip in 1986.”

      3. Chocolate Teapot*

        St Nicolas Day is still popular in Europe and local schools and nurseries will get a visit from the man himself, and his various scary accomplices. (In Austria it’s Krampus who absolutely terrifies me) At one workplace, the head of Compliance used to dress up as St Nicolas, so it was an opportunity to humorously berate employees.

        From what I understand, Christmas Day was originally more of a religious event, and St Nicolas Day was an opportunity to give children presents.

    2. Dances with Flax*

      This happened at a living history museum in New York’s historic Hudson Valley region; it’s “set” in 1750, and we demonstrate several aspects of life on a provisioning plantation in the mid-eighteenth century.

  2. CommanderBanana*

    The story of Office Manchild happily playing with his new light-up toy hammer was unexpectedly sweet!

      1. Tired*

        I am just hoping to draw my local OM fir secret Santa now so I can get him one – it would just be perfect!!

    1. Gerald*

      It was! Kinda sucks that someone gave the guy a gift to mock them, but at least they weren’t hurt by it and everyone [else] was good natured and had fun.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I didn’t read it as mocking, just that it seemed suitable. I got someone a children’s dinosaur excavation kit for secret santa one year because he reminded me of my cousin, who I knew would love the kit. Thankfully my recipient did too! People were quite envious of it and he immediately started chipping away to find his dinosaur bones.

    2. ShortT*

      Would someone please post a link to this toy hammer? I know a man who’d enjoy receiving this for Chanukah!

    1. CommanderBanana*

      The boutique where I worked would put out fancy dog cookies for Doggie Halloween and despite the LARGE YELLOW sign saying DO NOT EAT THESE ARE FOR DOGS…well, you can guess the rest.*

      *The apple ones weren’t bad.

      1. LimeRoos*

        Bahaha that’s great. I’d try them. Reminds me of when I tried milkbones in middle school during track meets – surprisingly not bad, but very bland.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I remember liking the (hard) dog food we had when I was a kid. Which is why I didn’t freak out when I found the grandchild eating cat food.

          Me: Are you hungry, Emmy?
          Emmy: No
          Me: Then why are you eating the cat food?

          1. Mandrake Root*

            Are you hungry, Mandrake Root?
            Me: No
            Then why are you eating (fill in the blank)
            Me: bc it tastes good

            I get your grandkid

        2. Nina*

          Growing up I had friends who had a dog, a cat, and two kids. The dog wouldn’t eat dog food, only people food; the cat wouldn’t eat cat biscuits, only wet food and the dog’s biscuits; and the kids ate cat biscuits as snacks. Surprisingly tasty.

      2. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        When I was in retail, we sold dog treats that were darn near identical to Animal Crackers in the circus train car box. A woman on her cell phone and her probably four-ish year old son came up to my counter. He put the box of treats on the counter, then asked if he could have one. The mother goes to open the box and I said, “Ma’am, those are for dogs.” She waved me off because she was on her cell phone. I more forcefully said, “No, those are DOG treats- for DOGS.” She seemed taken aback, but fortunately hadn’t busted into them yet.

        The apple dog treats were a little hard, but otherwise, they were good, I agree. ;)

        1. CommanderBanana*

          My dogs were gifted a box of freshly baked dog cookies from a local dog bakery that were basically just little oatmeal and cinnamon cookies and they were so tasty we all shared them. Also, my neighborhood bakery makes “pupcakes” that are tiny pumpkin and peanut butter cupcakes with cream cheese frosting that everyone likes!

          1. Water Snake*

            Peanut butter and cream cheese–I guess if the cupcakes are small, it’s fine, but that sounds like a lot of fat for a dog. Pets get pancreatitis from fatty foods. Or is that only if it’s animal fat, so the peanut butter would not contribute?

            1. Aldabra*

              Pancreatitis would not occur from eating small cookies and tiny cupcakes. It generally happens after the dog eats the Thanksgiving turkey or something like that.

              1. Mandrake Root*

                I don’t think it takes that much fat. My friend’s vet told her to stop feeding her dog cheese and hotdogs as treats bc of the pancreatitis risk. It was a very small dog, though.

                1. Kit*

                  Frequency and proportion both apply – if cheese or hotdogs are an every-day occurrence, that’s not great, nor is (say) a whole hotdog or several slices of cheese for a toy dog.

            2. CommanderBanana*

              They’re tiny – like the size of a Reese’s peanut butter cup. My big girl gets 2/3 of the cupcake and my tiny girl gets 1/3. They’re adorable; the bakery garnishes them wee the tiniest milkbones.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Dog cookies: 1.75 cup old fashioned oats, 1 cup pumpkin puree, 0.5 cup peanut butter. Whiz the oats in a food processor to flour them, then throw the other stuff in and pulse to make a dough. Form into nickel-sized balls and bake at 350 for about twenty minutes. Store in the fridge.

          The dogs go gaga for them. My housemate says they’re alright, but not sweet enough.

          1. JustAnotherKate*

            I make cookies for our pups that are pumpkin, peanut butter, oat (or white whole wheat) flour and egg. And yes, I’ve tasted them. Flavorless and could use some sugar but hey, they’re healthier than what I make for the humans!

      3. Juicebox Hero*

        In the US, pet food has to be made from human-grade ingredients just in case curious children or boutique clerks decide to take a nibble :D

        There’s a fancy doggie boutique in my neighborhood and some of the holiday cookie assortments they get are just about indistinguishable from those sold for people (in appearance. I’m sure they don’t taste like people cookies.)

      4. yala*

        Something similar happened to me.

        In my DEFENSE, not all of them were bone-shaped. There were lots of stars and hearts.

      5. Rainy*

        I had a client whose teenage daughter worked at the original Three Dog Bakery, so I heard about this about a week after it happened. A Very Important Dude in a three-piece suit walked in, talking on his cellphone, impatiently ordered “that bagel”, stabbing his finger at one of the dog treats. She put it in a pastry bag and handed it to him, told him the price, and then said “Sir, it’s a do–” he cut her off angrily, pointing at the phone. “But sir, it’s–” she gave up, took his money, and he left.

        He was back ten minutes later, ranting about how their bagels were disgusting, he almost broke a tooth, he wants his money back, he demands a manager. The manager, already briefed on the situation, says “Sir, this is a bakery FOR DOGS, we sell DOG TREATS, my associate tried to tell you, but you were busy with your phone call. Also, of course, the giant sign at the register, and the one outside.”

      6. PhyllisB*

        One year I was buying stocking stuffers for the dogs, and came across some doggie breath mints, shaped like tiny bones. One of my grandsons ate them.

      7. Bunny Girl*

        They have some that look like Oreos and at a party at a friend’s house I ate several of them because I was sort of drunk. The next morning I told her those were the best Oreos I have ever eaten and she told me they were dog biscuits. Don’t care. I still buy the dog ones instead of the human ones.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Queen Elizabeth II used to have a favourite trick of leaving out dishes of dog biscuits for unsuspecting visitors. From what I understand, they were made in the palace kitchens and looked like digestive biscuits and not obviously canine.

    2. FedIT*

      Way back in the 90s, I worked at a tobacco store which sold cigars. We also had cigar shaped candles that were displayed in a box, but kept out on a table rather than in the humidor. The number of people who were surprised when I asked if they knew they were candles was a little disturbing.

      1. Sydney Bristow*

        I’m in a Facebook group that focuses on food and product photography. The number of times that I have seen the most delicious-looking food that turns out to be soap is higher than you might expect!

      2. irene adler*

        I attended a cheese tasting where many unique cheeses were placed along two shelves above a table with plates and such for sampling the cheeses. In the middle of the table was a Swiss-cheese-shaped candle with obvious cuts into the sides.

        A sign was posted just below the candle to caution folks to please not eat it.

        I gather that the staff believed the candle would incur no harm as true cheese connoisseurs would have no issue passing by such an ordinary cheese.

      3. Puzzled2219*

        This reminds me of the chili cook-off I went to where the tables full of pots of chili were decorated with piles of various raw dried beans. Some of the older people (80+) were scooping them into their bowls of cooked chili. Whomever decorated should have thought a little harder about that one.

    3. L.H. Puttgrass*

      “Don’t put out things that look like food but aren’t food”—especially when you aren’t serving any real food! That’s just cruel.

      1. LikesToSwear*

        At my cousin’s wedding, the favor was a couple of pieces of cream colored soap shaped like doves in a pretty little net gift bag. I was in the restroom when someone came running in and stuck her head under the faucet saying
        something about don’t eat the doves… she had thought they were white chocolate. How she did not smell the VERY stong soap smell before putting it in her mouth is a mystery.

        1. Divergent*

          I make a very nice peppermint fudge and a very nice peppermint soap. They are visually indistinguishable and both smell like peppermint. I have the strong urge every year to gift a slice of each to everyone, unlabelled.

          1. Kacihall*

            I am kind of wishing I made soap now. For the sole purpose of doing this.

            Not sure if it’s because I’m having a bad day or if I am always this ornery.

    4. Avery*

      A renaissance faire I’ve gone to a few times has a soap stand that always gives out samples. And also a sign next to the soap stand counting how many people ate the soap samples. One day I went the total was somewhere around 100 soap-eaters. In one day!

      1. Bacon Pancakes*

        I was in Victoria Secret with a friend and she picked up the perfume sample at the register, asked the clerk if it was breath spray, and sprayed it in her mouth immediately before getting an answer. People move faster than their brains can think.

      2. whingedrinking*

        I used to work in customer care for a bath and body products company, and our training included, “If someone calls in to ask if our products are edible, SAY NO. If they say they’ve already eaten one, tell them to hang up and call poison control.” They were unlikely to be seriously harmed but it was definitely better safe than sorry.
        I didn’t work in a shop, so luckily I never had to deal with people going to take a bite out of stuff right in front of my face, but shop workers told me it happened semi-regularly. A lot of our products did contain ingredients that were food, but like – my bathroom cleaner smells like lemon, that doesn’t mean I’m going to take a swig.

    5. my cat is prettier than me*

      This morning I was stopped at a light behind someone who had a bumper sticker on their car that said “legalize it” with a picture of a tide pod.

    6. Thistledown*

      MANY places – from restaurants to museums to stores – routinely put out “faux food” displays and it’s understood that you don’t try to eat them! When you are specifically TOLD not to chow down on a display piece and you do it anyway, well, you deserve to taste something that’s less than delicious.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      People need to rein in their inner Pac-Man. As someone with a dietary restriction, my mind is blown by the idea that some people out there just shovel stuff in without having any idea what it is.

    8. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

      It was a museum, though. You’re not supposed to touch, why would you think you are supposed to eat?

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Ah, to have been there when Phillipe’s fate was learned.

      “Where’s Phillipe?”
      “He was…eaten.”

      Shocked gasps ensue…

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      Unfortunately, I really like fruitcake, so I’d wind up being the intern who ate poor Philippe :(

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          Me too.

          There’s only one of us for twenty fruitcake-haters out there…but it only takes one to do in poor Phillipe.

    3. Nightmare on Christmas*

      I’m just horrified they passed around old food without making darn sure everyone knew the story.

      1. Bagpuss*

        In fairness, a good rich fruitcake lasts for ever and (unless it is so small it drys out) tastes better and better as it matures.
        Same with Christmas pudding.

        I recall a few years back someone sold a slice of Charles & Di’s wedding cake and one of the points made was that it would still be edible (although presumably as it was a single slice, a bit dry!)

        I bet Phillipe tasted amazing.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, traditionally in the UK you’d save the top tier of your wedding cake (which would traditionally be a rich fruit cake, like a Christmas cake) and use it as the christening cake for your first child. You’d take off the icing and marzipan, wrap the cake up in paper, and it would keep for at least a year if not more. People often freeze the top tier of their wedding cake now, and it’ll keep for literal years in the freezer. Most fruit cakes, especially Christmas cakes, are fed with booze (brandy or whisky) for a few weeks before they’re iced (last Sunday was Stir-Up Sunday, where you traditionally make your Christmas puddings and your Christmas cake so you can feed it for a month before Christmas) and the fruit used to make them is often soaked in booze before it’s mixed into the cake batter, so they’re pretty well preserved.

            1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

              2 questions: how did you lose the Christmas cake and where did you eventually find it?

              1. Bagpuss*

                It was in a tin in the pantry.

                We had to rush to my grandmother’s house a few days before christmas as she was taken seriously ill, and then ended up spending christmas there rather than at home, and the cake got left behind.
                It was all rather chaotic as the first trip was a case of throwing esentials in the car and driving down as far as possible as we were being told she wouldn’t last the day, then when we arriaved and she had stabalised, a dahs back (8 hour round trip!) to pick up things like gifts and pre-ordered food to give the younger members of the family some kind of christmas.
                (My grandmother did survive but was in hospital for a long time and then had to be moved to a nursing home, but while we all thought that she wasn’t going to make it, initially there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with all the extrnended family.

                So with one thing and another no-one remembered the cake or if they did, assumed that it had been taken to her home and either left there or eaten, or that somone else had mistakenly taken it home with their stuff, so we didn’t look for it

                It was found in the pantry where it had been all along, disgusied as an empty cake tin.

          1. Jonquil*

            There are still slices floating around the UK from Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth’s wedding (75 years ago this week).

            1. Bagpuss*

              Yes, although I thinklast time one came up for sale the auctioneers were saying it wasn’t edible, although I don’t think they explained why, so it may have been preserved in some way for disply, rather than being inherently inedibledue to age!

    4. Voldemort's Cousin*

      “One of the employees was his son from his prior marriage, who I am sure appreciated the beautiful photo of dad’s new family that did not include him.”

      That is brutal!

    5. Pants*

      I love Phillipe. I look forward to him every year. My family did that with a packet of Peeps for several years. They were ultimately lost in a move.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        I really like stale Peeps too. The more stale the better. So it’s a good thing I’m not one of your relatives :D

    6. CanadianMama*

      I was laughing at the story and wondering what the likelihood was that there were different offices passing a fruitcake around.

      In my mid 20s I went to a restaurant to celebrate a school friend’s birthday. Everyone there knew my friend through school as well. Not a single coworker in sight. My friend is opening presents when suddenly the owner of the restaurant and the entire wait staff come out of the back, singing and making a big deal about her birthday. The owner hands my friend a wrapped present, which she opens, then she starts laughing tears. You guessed it, a fruitcake. Apparently someone received it as a Secret Santa gift at the office and they had been secretly gifting it to each other for a couple of years by then. People would find ways to sneak it into each other’s gym bags, or one time they managed to hide it under one coworkers car seat and he didn’t discover it for months. So when someone overheard my friend make plans to have a birthday dinner, they jumped into action and had the owner get in on the act.

      The best part though? A year later my friend takes a monthlong trip to her tiny home country in the Caribbean to visit her grandmother, who she hadn’t seen in a decade. She arrives at the house, full of nostalgia, and her grandmother throws the front door and comes running to greet her….holding said fruitcake in her hand.

      1. whingedrinking*

        The Christmas episode of The Vinyl Cafe features a similarly well-traveled fruit cake. It’s a very cute story.

  3. Antilles*

    I know it’s been listed here before, but I always wonder what the outcome was for #10. Was there ever an update?

    Would love to know if it actually worked, whether the correct co-worker got the document or if it turned into a sit-com esque “wrong guy reads the letter”, and so forth.

    1. Office Lobster DJ*

      I probably would have shrugged and gotten her a pair of water shoes for her long beach walks.

  4. Mitford*

    Re: Number 9, people will eat anything…..

    I once worked a convention on behalf of my employer, and on one morning we sponsored breakfast in our booth with pastries, bagels, doughnuts, and so forth. For the bagels, we had cream cheese, butter, and jelly. The butter came in fancy little butter balls, and when the event was over there was still a small bowl of them. A straggler came by and we had to tell her that, unfortunately, all the baked goods were gone. Whereupon she proceeded to heap all the remaining butter balls onto a plate and eat them.

    1. CheerfulGinger*

      Oh man, I gagged a little at your story. I would have needed to look away if that was happening in front of me!

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I used to work with a woman who admitted she loved real butter so much she would get a stick of it and just eat it like cheese — it is a dairy product. There are definitely a few condiments and spreads that I would definitely just eat with a spoon and skip the “conveyance” food, but straight butter is too much for me.

      1. Kacihall*

        My kiddo ate an entire packet of bbq sauce from McDonald’s one long car ride. Then complained he didn’t have any to dip his chicken in. (And by the end of the car ride, he was feeling nauseated. But didn’t ACTUALLY throw up.)

      2. Artemesia*

        I have been known to eat good French salted butter; not like a candy bar but a taste at a time till a big hunk was gone. It is fabulous stuff. Just can’t get butter this good in the US.

      3. Raw Flour*

        Gnawing down on a stick of butter straight out of the wax paper is too much for me, too. I will admit to eating butter (Kerrygold or other quality stuff) on Ritz crackers.

    3. RVA Cat*

      The caterer at our wedding had those little butter balls set out in a bowl. My sister-in-law ate one thinking it was a mint.

    4. SarahKay*

      My parents have a photo of their Italian friend’s daughter enjoying her “English breakfast” of toast, butter and raspberry jam…. without the toast! She adored butter, especially salted butter which is apparently not a thing in Italy, and would absolutely have eaten the butter balls like that.

  5. L*

    Re No. 2:

    Last year, I was still at a (very dysfunctional) small company and we did a Secret Santa (it was mandatory) around the holidays. The woman whose name I drew was very openly religious (Christian) and her likes were: “Crosses, Jesus, the Bible.”

    I am not a Christian (and I think I probably would’ve felt uncomfortable by this even if I were) and I didn’t know what to do so I got her an Etsy gift card for the recommended amount of money we spend. I later heard that she was disappointed by her “unoriginal” present.

        1. L*

          Omg, if this had been an in-person job instead of a remote one, I … would have absolutely been tempted by that (no pun intended, lol)

    1. Education Mike (she/her)*

      Pet of the weirdness of this, to me, is why would she even WANT anything in those categories from you? I assume she already owned a bible of those are her top three hobbies. I think Jesus is either free or very not for sale, depending who you ask. So that leaves crosses which are usually like… home decode? Jewelry? Fairly meaningful (you’d think)? It’s not the kind of thing I’d ever want from a coworker even if it was my thing.

      1. coffee*

        I guess you could give money to a charity like the Oxfam gifts? The Australian branch have a fish one, to support poor fishing communities along the Mekong. Very thematic.

        It is still a very weird set of categories and I have no idea how the coworker would take it though! What was she expecting?

      2. HostessCupcake*

        I’m also not Christian, but reading this suddenly reminded me of a thing that might be helpful for any future Secret Santas like this: they make a lot of these journals with pre-printed prompts out there, and a *Lot* of them are Christian-related prompts. I’m usually disappointed when I open some sort of “Mindfulness Diary” and it’s a bunch of religious things I’d never want to use, but maybe this would be an application for that at least? Depending on the budget, that and a nice pen/set of colored markers or something may be a good solution if you did want to get an “””actual””” gift (though I probably would have gone for a gift card as well, if I wasn’t thinking of those journals or couldn’t find one in budget lol)

      3. Eater of Hotdish*

        The thing that gets me with just putting down “Bible” is that there are tons of different translations out there, and picking a translation isn’t just about accessibility or readability. It gets to be a theological/political statement *real* fast. Does coworker want the 400-year-old translation unsullied by modern textual criticism techniques, or the contemporary translation that intentionally avoids all gendered language for the deity?

    2. JayNay*

      how grating! she gave you no useful info to go on (“jesus” is just not a helpful prompt for a small office gift) and then she was disappointed that you gave her something nice but somewhat impersonal?
      I think you can happily let that one roll of your back.

    3. Critical Rolls*

      I might have done a charitable donation in her name. Do a little good… and get to see how “Christ-like” her reaction is.

  6. Chili Cheater?*

    Oh my goodness, chili cookoffs. One year, I made “Five Ingredient Chicken Chili” and I won first prize. When SOME people (read: people who make complicated chilis and are used to winning) found out that one of the ingredients was a jar of salsa verde, SOME people were miffed and insisted that the jar of salsa was more than one ingredient (as if that would have affected the outcome of the judging). So, fine, next year I submitted the same chili, only I called it green chicken chili or something like that. And I won again. That was years ago and I still snicker. It’s darned good chili.

    1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

      I won my company’s first chili cookoff with a chicken chili verde that came off of a can (originally). I had since tweaked the recipe, though.

    2. Be Gneiss*

      That’s my favorite chili. Perfect weeknight instant-pot dinner even if you forget to thaw the chicken.

      1. Chili Cheater?*

        6 cups chicken stock, 4 cups cooked shredded chicken, 2 15-oz cans of beans (your choice), 2 cups salsa verde (my preference is Mrs Renfro’s), 2 teaspoons ground cumin. Dump it in a pot and heat until the flavours meld. Boom. Award-winning chili that will tick off the fancy chili chefs.

  7. Juicebox Hero*

    Not the same as the shellacked cookies, but reading that brought back a memory.

    Once my sister got hold of some display pieces from a chocolate shop. They looked like fancy chocolates but were solid plastic. She and my mother decided to pull a little prank on me, and arranged a few of them on a napkin and called me to come have a candy.

    I thought “ooh, candy” and picked one up and bit into it. Bit the solid piece of hard plastic right in half. The look on their faces was priceless and they never tried to prank me again. But I was bummed at not getting a piece of actual chocolate.

    In hindsight I’m just glad I didn’t break a tooth on the stupid thing.

    1. Tree*

      I used to have glass candy as decor. My (then) 3 or 4 year old nephew came over and picked one up. I stopped hime before he got it in his mouth and told him it was glass. The look of absolute betrayal he gave me! All he said was “why” in the saddest little voice. I gave them away shortly afterwards.

  8. Bob*

    #4 – Not a party but when I was in the Navy I was in a work party to empty an old barracks of trash/furniture/etc before it’s destruction. Because it was all going to the dump, we not only were allowed to destroy all the walls and building stuff we wanted, but the items as well. We had contests for lamp tosses, go to use sledgehammers on toilets, etc. Was a fun day. Still wondering how much asbestos I inhaled that day.

    1. yala*

      I was thinking of that episode of Brooklyn 99 where Charles’ bachelorette party idea is to demolish a shut down restaurant, and it wins

    2. Jessica Ganschen*

      We never got to wreck a whole building, but when I was in the Air Force, I loved decommissioning equipment. Circuit cards and their chassis got the sledgehammer, and program CDs got microwaved, which produced a light show for a couple seconds and a really cool crackled pattern on the CD afterwards.

  9. Jennifer Strange*

    Like literally, I was just chatting with a couple coworkers while hovering over the pigs-in-a-blanket, and then suddenly realized people were screaming and ripping down the banister to use the poles to stab holes in the walls.

    That visual image had me CACKLING!

    1. The Cat’s Ass*

      Christmas parties, hooo boy. I think there have been some real corkers on this site, for which I am eternally grateful. I have 2 party stories.
      1. Ex job with narcissistic Hellbeast boss-the “minions” -her word-got a pharmaceutical rep’s catered lunch and secret Santa. Mid level folks ( including long suffering DH and me, unfortunately) and top managers got a Hornblower boat tour of SF bay, in December, with way too much alcohol and way too little shitty food. About 1/2 way in, some of us start singing the theme to “Gilligan’s Island “ because it was THAT interminable. Designated driver hubs and I drove so many people home that we didn’t get home till about 3 am. Fortunately nobody barfed in the cars and we never did a Hornblower cruise again. Safe to say, it blew.

      2. Fat year at current job many years ago. V dressed up, posh venue awash in delicious food but way too much alcohol. Co worker’s vanity project rock band is the entertainment and, predictably, they are terrible and so loud that folks start chucking things at them to get them to stop. A couple of folks broke a sink in the bathroom doing the dirty, and there were two fights in the parking lot at the end of the evening. I got my 50+ ass grabbed and had to remind the owner of that hand that did the grabbing that we’d be seeing each other on Monday and that he needed that hand to do his job.

      Office parties are the worst.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, if anyone ever tries to make me plan a party on a boat (I’m an event planner), I’ll immediately resign. Too much can go wrong, and people can’t leave if they’re not having a good time.

        1. Ganymede*

          I remember a ghastly, *ghastly* dinner cruise on Sydney Harbour with my husband, invited by a sales guy and his wife. At one tantalising point the boat actually moored at the wharf just below where we were staying, the other side of the harbour from the main Quay, but they wouldn’t let anyone get off. We just drank Chardonnay in a steady stream. The wife started a conversation about how “aboriginal traits” could be “bred out”, after which the four of us just sat there in dazed silence for the last… hour? I’m not sure.

          I will NEVER go on a dinner or party cruise EVER AGAIN. (This was in the early 80s).

  10. KG*

    #1 just brought back a scent memory so strong it made me queasy. I’m one of a team of bookkeepers who provide services for several medium sized businesses in the same industry. It’s not uncommon for a client to give us chocolates, wine, or a branded item like a mug or hat at Christmas. One year all the women in my office got perfume. Really strong perfume. It was by far the oddest work gift ever. I have no recollection of what any guys got so possibly they didn’t get gifts.

  11. ShortT*

    Phillipe must be the French cousin of Shmuel, the Rosh Hashanah honeycake that no one dares to taste.

  12. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    “One of the employees was his son from his prior marriage, who I am sure appreciated the beautiful photo of dad’s new family that did not include him.”


    Also, the ass eating story never gets old, LOL.

  13. ILoveLlamas*

    Many, many years ago….. at the start of a new job, I was put in charge of the Holiday party for over 200 people. I was young and this was my first “professional” job in my chosen career field. My boss left on maternity leave with little direction. I got the caterer who did my wedding, my assistant was a party planning expert and she handled decorations, etc. based on previous parties. It was a fiasco. We ran out of food in about 45 minutes. Before she left, the boss got karaoke for the entertainment and NOBODY wanted to sing in front of basically a group of strangers with some coworkers thrown in. It was open bar, so everyone sat around and drank….and drank. We had one of our maintenance guys dressed as Santa with a sleigh and artificial snow….he drank too. The end result was not pretty. The next day Santa had to be bailed out of jail for DUI, the rented Santa suit was a total loss and the local leadership was scrambling to hide the entire fiasco from our corporate HQ. Yeah, the party the next year was quite different… I was still in charge, we still had liquor, but I learned so much….. LOL.

  14. no lap dances*

    went to a party like #8:
    lots of amazing food, lots of great beverages.
    fantastic gifts handed out.
    no lap dances, but instead a CHAINSAW was given.
    said CHAINSAW was revved up and WAVED IN THE AIR like the champion she is.
    Party ended.

    1. LW from the #8 Lap Dance*

      Danger! Danger! lol

      At that same party, there were a few huge flat screen TVs in the gift drawing. A big Ohio State football game was on that night, so the owners had four huge flat screen TVs set up on rolling stands in an area for people to watch the game. One exceptionally intoxicated employee grabbed one of the game TVs and started rolling it out to the parking lot, being under the impression they were the TVs from the drawing. He had the back door of his SUV open and was only stopped by the much soberer coworker who he asked to help lift it in.

  15. Caryn Z.*

    Remember in Seinfeld when Elaine ate the 100 year old wedding cake? The cookies made me think of that!

  16. NYanon*

    #2 reminds me of a story from my old job that I heard from a friend of mine who attended the annual senior management retreat, which was a weekend thing at a resort where they went hiking, ate & drank etc in addition to meetings. They were doing an icebreaker thing & everyone was supposed to go around & talk about their hobbies outside of work. People were saying stuff like baking, reading, running, normal stuff. Then this guy who was really an external consultant but was considered management because he provided expertise in our particular field, said “I really enjoy f—ing.” The gross part is that this wasn’t even out of character for this guy, he came to our holiday parties & hit on all the younger women. I avoided him like the plague in social settings.

    Anyway, my friend said they all kinda just nodded & kept going with the meeting.

    Regarding LW2, I really want to know what that woman ended up getting from her secret Santa!

  17. Anonymousse*

    I worked at a store with handmade soap that we had arranged in various sized “slices,” because it was priced by the ounce (and very clearly soap, I thought.) A woman once took a bite of a small slice of soap and said she “didn’t like this cheese very much.”

    We did put up little signs not to eat the soap, and people still ate the soap!

  18. Happy Little Cog*

    Coworker gift exchanges are fraught with peril.
    At one workplace, we did an ornament gift exchange where we each bought an ornament with no intended recipient, and simply picked a package. Inexpensive and fun!
    The years my friend ran Secret Santa went really well, because her pre-gift surveys were amazing. Favorite hobby/snack/drink/movie/music/color/animal, ect. And she would ask about allergies!
    But the ones where the boss got involved were the absolute worst. He was Michael Scott, but less… bumbling? He favored White Elephant exchanges, where everyone brings something they don’t want, and one person brings a gift that everyone wants (like a Visa gift card), so there will be fighting. He introduced some bunko element as well, with dice. (I dunno, I don’t play bunko.) Participation was mandatory in the White Elephant years.
    So you get rid of something, there are fights, then you end up with something you also don’t want. IT’S DONATING TO GOODWILL, BUT WITH EXTRA STEPS.
    White Elephant is the freaking worst.

    1. LW from the #8 Lap Dance*

      Unfortunately, no. There has been a bit of belt tightening in the last two years and this year is a nice dinner out with my partner’s immediate team and guests (maybe 30 people total). It will certainly have intoxication, but probably on a smaller scale because we’re all paying for it ourselves. lol

  19. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*


    I have two jars of 30-40 year old (glass) jarred plums. Not sure their exact age, thats part of the mystique of them.
    I’m just imagining someone opening them and eating one!

    They look normal somehow, but i sometimes wonder how they would taste?
    Gotta go check on them now.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Heirloom? Gift from beloved grandparent? To fill in the empty place on the shelf, and now it’s tradition?

      2. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

        They had been purchased and then forgotten in a closet for about 20-30 years. Once they were found they were deemed too valuable to not preserve further.
        There were 4 bottles but two were given away as gifts and are presumably still being cared for unopened.

  20. Bacon is overrated*

    Can someone explain the point of 10 year old fruitcake? I mean, if you’re not going to eat it, why does it exist?

  21. Galadriel's Garden*

    #7, omg – I am in *hysterics*. This is absolutely the sort of thing I fear slipping out of my mouth after one too many in the wrong environment, because that is Who I Am as a Person in my personal life.

Comments are closed.