people lose their minds over free food: discuss

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

Free food can make some people lose all sense of decorum and manners (and interestingly, the employees who get the most vulture-like are often the highest-paid). Some reports of free food havoc that have been shared here over the years:

 “I had a coworker who thought any treats were just for him. If breakfast tacos were ordered for my department, we’d usually offer other departments nearby any leftovers. If he hadn’t already, as soon as he heard that leftovers were being offered he’d go through and get all of the ones he wanted (example, all the brisket) and hide them in his desk drawer before the other department could get any. He’d also get in line first or near-first (he volunteered to help with setup), and would take massive amounts of what was there. If some folks didn’t get firsts while he was loading up his second, he’d say folks should have gotten there faster. Management did talk to him, but his answer was that he didn’t care.”

 “Pre-pandemic, my larger division moved to new office space and the building management ordered trays of brownies to welcome us. My physical office was near the kitchen and I witnessed someone from another group walk by with the entire tray that had been put out for the whole floor and carry it back to his desk. There were probably at least 75 brownies on it. Soon I heard everyone being very confused that we were promised brownies and there were none to be had. This lead to people from our floor going to other floors to find brownies, which caused its own drama. Finally, when I saw the same guy walk past my office again on his way to a meeting, I ran to his cube, grabbed the tray, and placed it back in the kitchen for everyone to enjoy as intended.”

 “At a previous job, staff were allowed to take food left over from client and other meetings. People would aggressively lurk or pace around the conference rooms waiting for the meeting to be over. Some of the conference rooms were all glass, so these lurkers were extremely conspicuous to everyone in the meeting, including clients (and this was a finance company that worked with high-wealth clients). Certain staff members were referred to as ‘the vultures.’ It became so awkward and embarrassing that the company established a new rule that people were not allowed to get food out of the rooms when the meeting was over. If there was anything left over, the office manager would bring it to the cafeteria and then people could take some.”

Let’s talk about free food debacles you’ve witnessed (or committed?) at work. Please share in the comments.

{ 981 comments… read them below }

  1. Tio*

    Just came to say how much I love the Brownie Hero story now that it’s up again.

    Surprisingly, I’ve never seen any serious free food vultures at my last couple jobs. I’m counting myself lucky there.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Tied with the woman who stopped the coworker from packing up a bunch of bananas into a grocery bag at breakfast meeting. “This is not a grocery store.”
      In first place is the company president who told the other executive to put back the trays of lasagna and go sign up for food stamps if he could only feed his family by stealing the company lunch.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        If anyone’s interested in reading the “this is not a grocery store” story in all it’s glory, search for the “banana thefts, peppers for potlucks, and other weird office food stories” post from November 22, 2017. It’s the second story there.

        For the “go sign up for food stamps” story, search for the “the thief and the hero, the crockpot discrimination, and other stories of potlucks at work” post from November 22, 2022. It’s the fourth story there.

        Links in a follow-up comment.

            1. Hlao-roo*

              Here it is (not mine, copied out of the comments on the linked post):

              1 box chocolate cake mix (I prefer Pillsbury)
              1 can cherry pie filling
              3 eggs
              Combine cake mix, cherry pie filling, and three eggs. Mix until well blended. If you mix by hand, the cherries won’t get cut up.
              Bake in well greased and floured 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 to 40 minutes.
              I prefer caramel frosting, but any type will do.

              1. WestsideStory*

                Just asking – do you mean do the mixing in a blender? Instead of a whisk?

                1. Hlao-roo*

                  Yvette’s copypaste (below–we copied different comments by the same commenter who originally made the cake) is more clear: mix by hand so the cherries stay whole.

            2. Yvette*

              I found it!!!!!
              November 16, 2017 at 7:12 pm
              1 pillsbury chocolate cake- follow the box instructions EXCEPT, leave out any oil or water and substitute 1 can of cherry pie filling. If using an electric mixer, it’ll chop up the cherries, so I hand mix. Bake as the box says; it’s done when a knife poked in the middle comes out clean. For frosting, either use canned frosting or caramel ice cream topping mixed with vanilla frosting. Eat; but make sure your SO is in the mood for, um, ‘cake’

              I hope cutting an pasting from the original column is OK.

        1. nobadcats*

          Okay, I forgot about the “human road flare” pyrotechnic story in that posting. Now chortling with utter glee.

          Like “Ed, NOOOOOOO!” in Shaun of the Dead. And thus Queen was still on random.

      2. Martha Eggert*

        Years ago, I worked at a small community hospital, and it was common for vendors or physician groups to gift the various departments a fruit, cheese and sausage basket at Christmas. Our department head was observed tucking the entire, unwrapped basket under his coat, looking both ways from his office door, then walking SIDEWAYS a down the hallway to the exit, where he stashed it in his car. This was observed by two department members and was soon widespread knowledge. His explanation? “I thought it was a gift just for me.” He had thrown the gift tag in his trash can, though, and it clearly read that the gift was for the entire department. The hospital director actually asked him whether he was having trouble affording food for his family.

        1. Lizzie*

          I love it when people are asked stuff like this! And its always the highest paid too who seem to be the greediest!

    2. punjabi hot mix*

      >>I’ve never seen any serious free food vultures at my last couple jobs.<<

      Same! Actually, any time free food presents itself in my current office, then so begins the endless cycle of "why don't you take the leftovers home for your kids?" … "You have teenage sons, they'll eat more of it than my kids!" … "No, that's ok, we've got so much food to use up at home" … and so on. No one ever feels "right" about claiming the food for themself, so it often stays in the fridge and we enjoy it again the next day.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, the same thing is true at my office. Nobody ever hogs free food. But then, I work for the government (not in the US), and even interns are paid a salary most people should be able to live on unless they have extremely extravagant tastes.

        1. Bouncy Shiny*

          I’m from Sweden, and Swedes have such an aversion to taking the last bit of anything that this happens all the time.
          We call it The Swedish Slice.

          1. Chirpy*

            It happens in the American Midwest, too. Probably because the area has so many descendants of Scandinavian immigrants…

          2. It's not just Swedes*

            In Japan apparently it is called something that translates to “the nugget of politeness.” (Source: my business partner lives in Japan w their Japanese spouse)

            1. Seconds*

              Interesting! Our family name for it is the “conscience morsel,” a phrase my daughter came up with.

  2. Dust Bunny*

    Hey, leave vultures out of this–vultures do a great service by cleaning up natural detritus. They don’t deserve to be lumped in with greedy food-snatchers.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      We put any leftovers in the staff break room for the evening employees. People around here are astonishingly civil about things like this.

      1. Light Dancer*

        What I find curious here is how many of the greediest, most selfish people described in these anecdotes are NOT the ones most in NEED of free food! I could understand an underpaid entry-level employee at least being tempted to scoop up enough food to tide them over until next payday because their own fridge is nearly empty – but executives?! Highly paid people who could easily BUY whatever they wanted to eat? Nope! No excuses for them!

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          It’s like the fact that they don’t need it snaps them into a video game mentality, where you NEED to collect ALL of the available items to get 100% completion.

          1. Just Another Cog*

            I used to work with a lady who would complain that she’d already eaten breakfast when the big boss would have an intern take orders for breakfast that he’d buy as a treat. She would order a bunch of food, more than one person could possibly eat, and would take it home. It was fast food breakfast, so I’m not sure how good it would be reheated, but I’m sure she felt entitled because – free food!

            1. Clara*

              A guy on a work trip at my company bought McDonalds fish burgers, kept them in his hotel overnight and then ate them on the train home (with the entire team watching, horrified).

        2. Llamalady*

          I used to work in an outpatient medical clinic attached to a highly rated research hospital. Drug reps would bring in food for the staff fairly regularly. After lunch, leftovers were put in the break room – nothing fancy, usually boxed lunches from chain restaurants or trays of sandwich meat and cookies. The janitorial staff would set some aside for themselves as soon as the food was up for grabs, and this drove our clinical director NUTS. She was probably making nearly a half million dollar salary, but she would be ranting all afternoon “that food was supposed to be for medical staff!” No one else cared.

          1. Random Biter*

            As an event planner one of the best things I learned is that you *always* feed the support staff and volunteers. Even if it’s something as simple as pizza or cookies, you make sure they get some and they’ll be back the next time you need them. One of the fundraisers I did yearly was a food tasting event at the local college during Christmas. One of the high schools had an extremely popular choral group that you had to book months ahead of time for anything. They would actually email me to find out the date for my event so they could be there. Their director told me it was because I would tell the kids to be sure to visit the food tables when they were on break, she told me so many places didn’t even offer snacks to the singers. My grandma woulda snatched me bald-headed if she thought I wasn’t feeding these kids.

            1. Anon for this*

              We used to hold special events outside regular hours. My department was tiny, so to staff events we relied on employees from other departments voluntarily signing up for an extra saturday shift… these were long hours, physically grueling work, in remote locations and awful weather. Work typically started at 6am.

              For years and years, we provided free lunch to event staff. Nothing fancy. Usually grocery store deli sandwiches and a bag of chips. Cost about $5 each.

              New Boss comes in and finds out about the free sandwiches. She lost. Her. Mind. Told me free lunches end immediately, no negotiation, no listening to the reasons. It didn’t matter that we had plenty of funding for it, or that we were explicitly allowed to do it because we were bringing employees to remote jobsites with no refrigeration and no transportation. When I told her people would be upset and might stop volunteering to work those days she said that was ridiculous and childish.

              Guess what? People stopped volunteering.

              1. Raven Mistress*

                I cannot understand people who expect unconditional loyalty from people that they’ve just (metaphorically) stabbed in the back! It’s as if they don’t grasp a simple principle of human nature; you’re very likely to be treated as you treat others.

                And as for the practical reasons for treating support, entry-level and cleaning staff well – if badly-treated “lower” employees were to suddenly quit (for jobs where they’re treated like, you know, human beings!), their former companies would find themselves in a terrible bind. And of course, more than one abusive executive / politician has been brought down by “lowly” employees who finally saw a chance to get a little of their own back…and took it! Ethically and practically, it makes absolutely no sense at all for employers to take an unregenerate Scrooge as their role model!

            2. umami*

              Yes! We always set aside food for the facilities folks and all volunteers in a separate room so we don’t have to worry about the food running out. And we make sure it’s either the same food or at least as good as whatever was being served at the event.

            3. The Prettiest Curse*

              Yup, as an events person – always feed your events staff, vendors and volunteers. Easy to do and keeps people happy!

              1. I have RBF*


                I used to do temp work as event staff – registration, ticket takers, room monitors, even A/V help. The best events were where the temps got swag and food. The worst were long days, rude people, and we had to find our own lunch in an expensive downtown venue.

                If you run events where you hire temps as day workers to staff your events, remember to feed them, hydrate them, give them breaks and provide seats if possible. Event swag is nice too, even if it’s just a t-shirt with the event name and “staff” on it.

                There were some events that I had no interest in, but were on weekends, and I would actually go back and work several times in a row, even when I had a full time gig, because they were great to work for.

                1. eventplannerhere*


                  Not only that, but the vendors I hire (like musicians, etc.) all know to take breaks as they need them and help themselves to some food and beverages.

                  Treat others the way you wish to be treated. Goes a long way.

              2. Dust Bunny*


                A friend of mine is involved in a specific hobby. She volunteered for many years for a big hobby event. It started out on a shoestring budget so volunteers paid an entry fee, too, to help it get off the ground, but at this point it’s become huge and self-supporting . . . but volunteers are still expected to pay to, I guess, not get to participate in any of the workshops? She finally told them to she wasn’t going to volunteer any more.

                I’ve volunteered for music events but I either paid a reduced rate but was only expected to “work” half the day, or had to work all day but got in free, and got meal tickets.

            4. Bookmark*

              Yes! I worked as a lifeguard in HS/College, and we occasionally had people reserve the pool for an after hours party. Some of these were absolute nightmares to work, in particular the Little League party where many of the kids did not know how to swim and parent/guardian supervision was minimal. By FAR the best party to work was the one a local seasonal business hosted for its employees near the end of the summer. We all fought over who worked it because they always fed us, cleaned up after themselves, and generally were delightful (probably because they had ALSO just spent the summer dealing with lots of rude, entitled customers…). We let them bend a lot of pool rules (ex: the prohibition on “chicken fights”) because they always listened to us about the rules we did enforce. Their behavior also made all of us want to patronize their business more.

            5. LifeBeforeCorona*

              I worked in a kitchen that did a lot inhouse catering. One year there was a big formal gala and we prepared all the food including a chocolate mousse dessert. After the dinner there was a tray of desserts left and the chef said the servers could have them. As they were being handed out a manager appeared out of nowhere and demanded that they all be put back. People literally had plates in hand and she wanted them all returned. Unlucky for her, the chef heard and returned to tear her a new one. Her rationale was that being paid was enough, they didn’t need a fancy dessert.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                Dang. Feeding good food to your staff is standard high-end restaurant practice–how is your staff going to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about your product if they’ve never had it!?

          2. Quality Girl*

            Wow, how shameful of her. Conversely, I did a few weeks of clinicals at a heme-onc clinic that had drug reps bring lunch every Monday-Thursday. The clinic and the reps encouraged us students to eat as much free lunch as we wanted. They knew we usually didn’t have time to work while doing our unpaid clinicals. That was the most coveted rotation and it was a huge help to know you were going to get a big, delicious lunch, even for just a few weeks.

            1. Ms. Afleet Alex*

              I first read this as a ‘home-ec’ clinic and then my brain made me stop and look at it until I figured it out. :-D

          3. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

            I worked with someone who was like this. She was, hands down, the worst boss I ever had and she tried to justify her bad take on having the cleaning crew eat some of the leftover free food by saying that because we subcontracted the janitorial work, our company shouldn’t be paying for them to eat.

            Mind you, she had absolutely NO issues with contractors/vendors who were performing work directly for our company in business or tech functions eating that food (with us!) so it was clear just how classist her BS opinion was.

          4. Kimberly*

            I had a principal who threatened to write up several teachers on the committee in charge of setting up the treats for theft. They would make up 4 plates for the custodians after everyone had firsts. (Stuff like cookies, cake, chips) Then they would take the plates to the custodian’s office for the 1 daytime custodian, and 3 evening custodians.

        3. pope suburban*

          Oh my, yes. My department is really good about this, and will make a point of setting aside free food for student workers and recreation aides who often have to have multiple jobs, because we know they are the most likely to be in need. But my wider agency is full of people who have like…really nice lives, the kinds of things I can only dream of, and they’re inevitably the ones who take everything when we have leftovers. It makes an already-icky dynamic here even more unpalatable, to be honest; it’s just insult to injury, especially now that so many people are struggling just to get by.

          1. Ann Onymous*

            As a grad student, I worked in a university office that helped facilitate research partnerships between our faculty and industry so we often hosted lunch meetings with the faculty and industry reps. I was usually the one who did the food ordering and my boss always told me to include myself in the lunch order even though I wasn’t usually in the meetings. That was a fantastic perk at a time in my life when money was pretty tight.

            1. I have RBF*

              When I worked at a university and was still on campus, we had a weekly breakfast, usually just bagels. Once a month it was real food. We knew that any leftovers would be handled if there were students on campus.

            2. Some guy in Oz*

              I got persuaded to do a short sponsored post-doc and got hundreds of hours of “free”student labour by finding a restaurant with an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s astonishing what you get get students to do if there’s lots of free food for lunch. The sponsor was very happy both with the research and the way I paid for the work – they were expecting lots of paperwork from hiring 20+ casual workers.

              Post-grads are especially notorious for that, and good departments are aware of it (and exploit it… “free supper after the meeting that’s totally not mandatory but we want you all there”)

            3. Majnoona*

              That reminds me of a time when I was in graduate school. When there were department events it was the custom for the graduate students to divvy up the leftover food. Well we got a new chair from outside and he decided that he was going to sell the leftovers and we would bid on them individually. Questionable legality aside, no, that’s not what we did with leftover food. When he realized that we were all going to leave without the food if he wouldn’t give it to us and then he would have to clean it all up, he relented.

          2. Anecdata*

            I still harbor a soft spot for the caterer who packed up 5 pounds of roast beef into a styrofoam and handed it to me with a “seriously, I have to throw it out if you don’t take it” when I was a grad student helping out with executive “summer school” type workshops, and casting what was evidently a much less discreet glance than I thought it was over the fancy buffet lunch leftovers

            1. UKDancer*

              When I was a young, impoverished worker just starting out, I was endlessly grateful to the boss who made sure any leftovers from any lunch buffets were directed to those in the most junior (hence poorly paid) jobs. Now I’m a middle aged, less impoverished manager I try and do the same for my staff in my current company.

              1. Chinookwind*

                I always made a point, as an admin assistant working with engineers, to always walk past the engineering students and verbally tell them about the “extras in the lunchroom” before sending the email from my desk to tell the floor about the food. Even if these students were being paid to be there, they were still on a tighter budget than most of my coworkers.

                The counterpoint to this was the day the school I taught at burned down just before lunch. We evacuated everyone safely and then had to figure out how to account for/sign out 300 K to 12 students to their legal guardians (in the days with few cellphones). At one point, someone though to bring food in. I went to grab a juice box and was harshly told “those are for the kids.” I looked the woman straight in the eye and growled “my lunch burned just like theirs” and walked away with nothing. The students were all released by 1 pm, the teachers there for another hour, waiting for the principal to decide what to do (and wondering if we still had jobs if there was no more building. Luckily, we did, just in creative locations). I am still bitter about that one woman who wouldn’t give me something to drink.

                1. eventplannerhere*

                  I still remember the office manager at a local theater company who did something similar to me.

                  I was a brand new volunteer who signed up to help at this local community theater. I show up as scheduled and nobody has time to show me anything or give me anything to do. But I just hang around and watch, hoping to be helpful (many others would have bounced). I genuinely just wanted to help as needed. Finally, this woman gives me something I can do- drive over to a local pizza place that has donated pizzas for the volunteers that day. I say no problem and pick them up. As I am unloading them from my car, she says to me very snottily- “The pizzas are only for the people who worked today!”.

                  Now I had not expressed any particular interest in eating pizza. And it wasn’t even around a meal time (the theater volunteers were working long shifts) so I wasn’t even hungry. I don’t know 1) where she got off and 2) if I did want a slice how would that have possibly mattered and 3) I was there to work and it wasn’t my fault they had nothing for me to do.

                  I did wonder if it’s because I’m overweight, but then again, she herself was morbidly obese.

                  Long story short, she remained a total b&&&& the entire time I was a volunteer there and I quickly learned everyone hated her, for good reason.

                  But I never forgot it because it was so insane.

            2. Dust Bunny*

              When I worked for a veterinarian the drug reps always brought pizza and pens. Vet staff are grossly underpaid and somehow pens always disappear right when you need them so if you give us lunch and pens we’ll sit through any spiel.

        4. 2 Cents*

          Yep, the CFO at my last place was the first to grab leftover sandwiches and pack them away for her and her family’s future dinner and lunch. Mind you, this is when they were barely in the breakroom. And she carried very expensive handbags. (Although, maybe this is how she afforded them.) This is also the same CFO who scoffed that they had to pay me to “not work” when I had company-granted maternity leave coming to me.

        5. Zombeyonce*

          While I am so frustrated at higher-paid people taking more than their share, I understand why the underpaid people generally don’t. They understand how difficult it is to be hungry and working on a very tight food budget and don’t want to take away meals from other people who may be in the same situation. Food availability means something very different to people that don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from or how much it will cost.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I volunteer for a non profit that distributes supermarket surplus in the community.

            I agree with you. The poorest are acutely aware of who else might be in need, and will not take what they can’t use. But there’s also a pride factor, that they don’t want to be seen to be in need. This is where we lean heavily on “Oh please take this, we have so much, you’ll be doing me a favour.”

          2. GammaGirl1908*

            I have seen this observed as there being:

            A) the people who, when told that there might not be enough pizza for everyone to have two slices, take one slice, and

            B) the people who, when told that there might not be enough pizza for everyone to have two slices, take three slices.

          3. Mewmew*

            It’s shame. When you are actually struggling- letting co workers know is dangerous. Many people associate poverty with personal failure. More than you’d believe unless you’ve actually been really poor.

        6. Nessun*

          I can believe it (and it disgusts me) – highly paid people who could easily buy what they want? Less likely to have experienced shame over food insecurity. They’re literally shameless, because they don’t know what shame even feels like. (And people who have food insecurity should not be ashamed, but they doubtless have felt shame nonetheless.)

          1. Laura*

            Higher paid people who are feeding their family on stale company sandwiches or leftover pizza!

        7. Hannah Lee*

          I still remember one of my first jobs, where the director of marketing, one of the highest paid employees, got caught stealing toilet paper from the company restrooms. She had like 8 rolls in her designer bag.

          We mere peons thought it was very funny that the person who acted like she was soooo sophisticated and above it all, all that and a bag of chips, and who had been very snooty to us got caught doing something so unsophisticated. If she was really short on cash, she could have traded in her very expensive sports car for something less expensive before resorting to pilfering bathroom supplies.

          1. umami*

            Just entitled, I think. They don’t see any reason to waste their money on things they can get for ‘free’.

        8. Distracted Librarian*

          I suspect the issue is entitlement. Some people think they’re entitled to anything they want and are oblivious to the wants or needs of others. Sadly–and probably not coincidentally–a solid subset of these people work their way into positions of power.

        9. Ubergeekian*

          Probably because most high paid executives get there by being pushy and greedy.

      2. Professional Straphanger*

        Once upon a time I was one of those second-shift employees. I had a manager who got mad when I spurned his “generous” offer of the leftover pizza they had ordered for day shift lunch.

        Sure dude, I’d love a piece of cold pizza that the flies have been walking on all afternoon because nobody closed the box!

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          I came in to cold pizza that had been orderd for the lunch crowd. No one thought to put one pizza aside the late shift. It was just picked over random slices jammed into one box.

      3. Wife was a nurse*

        Have you thought about the implications of offering only leftovers to the night shift? That happened to my wifes overnight shift that they would never get fresh pizzas, only cold ones from the dayshift. It hurt morale.

        1. Professional Straphanger*

          The implication was obvious and he had already shown me what he thought of me in a number of ways. My personal favorite: “We don’t send people to [expensive specialized training class] and if we did, we wouldn’t send you.” The pizza incident was a “whatever, that’s just Idiot Bob” moment. I didn’t stay there long.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      They’re nature’s janitors! They’re not greedy, they’re usually cleaning up something that no one else wants!

      1. Random Dice*

        But they definitely do circle aggressively, which is the behavior being referenced

          1. Autumn*

            A popular carhop restaurant has a sign in the Parking lot

            “Please Don’t feed the Gulls, They will SOU” (poop on you)

          1. Carol the happy elf*

            THANK YOU. That scene in Finding Nemo absolutely nailed it with the seagulls, and I hate them, too.
            When I was a little girl, someone told me that sourdough bread bits (thrown in the air) would make seagulls explode.
            Bitterest disappointment….

    3. Daisy Daisy*

      September 5 is International Vulture Awareness Day! Raise a glass to the hilarious, important birds and boo the human greedgoblins.

    4. Bit o' Brit*

      They’re also very chill about waiting for other animals to finish eating before they dive in, because there’s generally still plenty for them there’s no need to be aggressive.

    5. vulturestalker*

      Seconding this! Let’s hear it for nature’s cleanup crew (I study them, professionally)

    6. Grogu's Mom*

      I used to be happy to serve as a vulture – cleaning up natural detritus – but at a past job that led to being treated like a greedy food-snatcher, and it left a really bad taste in my mouth. What would happen is that there would always be a ton of food leftover from a manager-level meeting in another building, the managers would return from the meeting and tell their reports to go get free food, we’d arrive and the event staff would block us from entering because there were a couple of folks still hanging out chatting after the meeting. So we’d politely wait outside the meeting room. The event staff would then start attacking us, saying that we were being extremely rude, we weren’t entitled to the food since we hadn’t attended the meeting, and we should go hang out somewhere else until the meeting was really over, despite us explaining that our bosses said the meeting was over and we should go get food. I mean, we were all busy people who worked exempt positions with lots of unpaid overtime, we really didn’t have time to go wander about the building while Sally and Joe chatted about their weekend plans, we needed to get our food quickly and head back to work. When we started telling our managers we didn’t want to go over and get the food anymore they said the food was intentionally overordered as a perk for us and we should just barge in and get it, but it was just so uncomfortable that I started just saying I was on a diet or wasn’t hungry since I cared less about the food “perk” than about not being scolded like a child. I guess my point is, don’t assume that people lurking outside a room waiting for food are greedy food-snatchers, when sometimes they are just trying to follow their bosses’ wishes and be vultures.

  3. I should really pick a name*

    For Mr. Brisket

    If someone’s response to management telling them not to do something was “I don’t care”, I’d seriously consider firing them. Doesn’t really matter what the something was.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I posted above about the President or CEO who fired an executive who tried to steal pans of pasta.
        It can be done. It just takes a leader who understands that the greater good is served by not letting one horrid person make others miserable.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Hope he was retiring and didn’t need a reference because I suspect that bridge is burned.

      2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        To me it sounds like sociopathy. It’s someone who totally lacks empathy for other people.

    1. Phony Genius*

      Most management that I know wouldn’t waste time “considering.” The firing would be automatic and immediate. The exceptions would be government and anybody represented by a union. (Although there could still be consequences for them.)

    2. Marketing Ninja Unicorn*

      I would, too. The complete lack of regard for colleagues, for general social niceties, and for accepting feedback on soft skills would have me questioning that person’s fitness for the job.

    3. RunShaker*

      If I was that guy’s manager, I would be like, I’m not asking, I’m telling you to stop. Thanks to AAM for being able to say things like this in professional manner.
      My work places have also been good as well with food and potlucks.

      1. JJJ*

        After being in the military for a very long time, I’m consistently baffled by how often a manager’s instructions are interpreted as mild suggestions with no consequences.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          Me too!
          I literally had to tell a manager the other day that when I asked her to document all communication with a problem employee, it wasn’t a request.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I think it’s sometimes because it’s worded as a suggestion or request rather than an instruction. Cultural linguistic norms can be important, but if you come from an environment where managers say “do this” and arrive somewhere managers say “hey if you’re not too busy maybe you could think about whether you might like to do this” you might not realise that the two utterances are both management directions.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, this. But it’s on managers to be direct in that case. You can be direct and unambiguous without being nasty about it. Because not all managerial directions are necessarily “You have to drop everything else and do this now just because I say so.”

            I have a lot of discretion in prioritizing my own work, and my manager has explicitly said that she doesn’t expect her tasks to get a higher priority just because she’s my manager.

            I have had a former manager who had different expectations and expected me to drop everything else for a relatively low priority task because it came from her. And then she wondered why I worked a week of 9 to 10-hour days (my normal weekday is 7 hours and 15 minutes, although I have a lot of flexibility, and I get comp time rather than overtime pay). So I told her that I’d dropped a task with a statutory deadline to deal with her relatively low priority task and I still had to meet that statutory deadline. She looked sheepish and apologized. She was a rather difficult person to deal with so I worked long days rather than argue with her.

            Now I’m older and have more confidence in myself as a professional. I also work for the government in an unionized environment, so now I wouldn’t hesitate to push back on unrealistic non-statutory deadlines.

            1. Anonie*

              I completely agree the manager needs to be direct, and if they’re not, you can see how “I don’t care” would be the resulting response. E.g., “Joe, people are getting upset because when you take a second plate of food, there may not be enough left for everyone else.” versus, “Joe, you are not allowed to get second plates of food before everyone else has had a first serving. Please wait at least thirty minutes between plates.”

    4. Light Dancer*

      Or, if their work is otherwise excellent, simply arrange for them to be…elsewhere when the free food is delivered and assign someone else to do the setup. Let others have their “firsts” at their leisure. Then – and only then! – allow the shamelessly greedy person into the “buffet room”. And when they whine about getting leftovers, make it clear that their previous greed has led to this solution and that it will continue until and unless that they prove themselves capable of behaving like an adult instead of a badly spoiled 4 year old.

      1. It's Marie - Not Maria*

        I actually had to do this with a Contractor who was ALWAYS first in line, even if he wasn’t part of the event being catered. I literally body blocked him a couple times, after he ignored my requests to wait until others had gotten their meals. And then he was SHOCKED when he wasn’t converted to a regular employee. As HR, I got the pleasure of telling him that a good part of the reason he wasn’t being converted was his greed.

      2. Anon because mine was the greedy one*

        When our child was in preschool he tried to take food from others at snacks/lunchtime when he was done but they were doing the toddler “I don’t wanna eat that” so had food left (but as soon as he went for their plate they went into toddler “mine” mode). The staff solved by distracting him while they started the others eating, but saying once he started they couldn’t say no if they didn’t eat. The other parents all agreed because the picky eaters were driving them nuts too (we weren’t thrilled, offline we talked to him about better manners, but understood the reasoning and went with it). Lasted about 2 weeks before all the kids got the point and were eating appropriately.
        So I agree with your idea: you can act like a toddler, but there are consequences.

    5. Anonymous 75*

      or if you want to really to go Lord of the Flies they could just cancel breakfast tacos for a couple of times and let everyone know that we can’t have nice things because of brisket boy and the populace handle it.

      probably shouldn’t actually do this though.

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      Right? “Well, maybe you’ll care about getting your desk cleaned out by the end of the day.”

    7. Zee*

      I agree. Plus, if the food was bought for the entire team, and he’s taking 2nds before other people got any, he is essentially stealing his coworkers’ meals.

    8. Peccy*

      If management lets it stand then it shows that management, in fact, does not care either

  4. Sahara*

    I worked at {large corporation} and a few coworkers set up a full-on mailing list to let others know when leftovers were spotted in the building – resulting in multiple vultures descending at the same time. Organizers were very confused at how quickly info was passed.

    1. ICodeForFood*

      At one point, I worked in a room full of I.T. contractors on-site at a large corporation. Whenever there were leftovers left in the nearby kitchen area, one of the contractors would come running into the room yelling “Food!” or something similar (it was a while ago), and then most of the group en masse would get up and RUN to the location where the food was. It was both impressive and kind of distressing to see.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        This sounds like a Planet Earth episode. “Here, we see a young male member of the herd alerting the others that a food source is nearby. Almost as one, the herd surges upon the spot, each seizing as much of the precious nutrients as they can. The spot is clean in minutes and the herd waddles back to their original position.”

        1. Kittenrigly73*

          Bwahahahahahahaha!! I’m so glad I’m the only one left in my office today ‘cos I laughed way too loud at this comment.

    2. sushiroll*

      Conan O’Brien did a very funny video about this same thing happening in his office when he still had his show – there was a “club” of folks who had an email chain that would communicate on when good food was available and he did like a hidden camera thing to catch them when there was a planted free cake left. If anyone is familiar with his show – Jordan was DEFINITELY a member of the email chain! lol!

      1. 2 Cents*

        YES! I saw that! And Andy was too! LOL Basically Conan was like the only one not on the list hahaha

    3. Love Me Some Leftovers*

      At a previous job there was a Slack channel to announce leftover sightings!

      1. Alisaurus*

        My last job actually had a “free food” channel and people would post there if either they had brought something to share or if they spotted extra stuff out on a table. We were a huge corp. so there were multiple coffee stations with tables where food could be placed.

        I found it amusing to notice the mass exodus from cubicles every time a new post went up – didn’t even have to see the post myself to know someone had posted.

        1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

          Right? I definitely don’t look askance at people being motivated to go get some free food. Living and working under capitalism sucks, by and large, and when companies provide free things, workers should get it. I do wish some people wouldn’t abuse it so much though by hoarding/seagulling it and preventing more people from having their go.

          1. Alisaurus*

            Oh same. I’m all for advertising the free food, it’s the people who go hogwild with free food that are the problem.

            Whenever I saw a mass exodus, I’d check the channel just to see if it was something I would like and then usually follow along to see if there was any left.

          2. Caroline*

            Exactly. I think it’s GREAT to be quick about getting at some left over free food, I really do. I love free food, who doesn’t?

            It’s just really gross to hoard it, be greedy and entitled or similar. Take a slice, a muffin, a-whatever, and then back to your desk.

    4. EngineerResearcher*

      In grad school one of my friends was really good at this, she’d start a text chain whenever there was leftover food from an event. I think people were generally respectful and waited well until the actual event had cleared out, but it was a boon to us poor grad students.

    5. AspiringStoopCrone*

      A student at my college set up a free food email newsletter that aggregated all the campus events that mentioned free food in their flyers. It was very popular.

      1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        If I read about this in a cover letter, I would 100% hire this person.

      2. HBJ*

        And there’s always that one kid you hear about who forwent their meal plan and lived for an entire year off what he scavenged from various club meetings and such.

    6. Silicon Valley Girl*

      Every large company I’ve worked at has an email list &/or Slack channel for free food!

    7. BlueStarGirl*

      Occasionally all of the admins together would get invited by local caterers to free lunches to taste their food/hopefully get added to our catering lists.

      I was friendly with our department admin.

      One day she called several of us entry level employees into a rarely-used spare office for a meeting. This was odd, she didn’t call meetings and we worked right next to each other. Still, we go to this meeting, where there is a smallish tray of fancy desserts.

      And thus the Secret Dessert Meeting originated.

    8. flora_poste*

      I work in a multilateral institution and when summits are on, there are hundreds of interns (from State delegations, organisations, UN…). Each multi-week summit, the interns set up a whatsapp group to share the events taking place in the building which come with free food :) it’s great. It’s also very enjoyable to give a heads-up to the network if you’re organising an event with better-than-usual food

  5. No Thanks*

    I worked for an organization that had a Union. When “Management” provided food or snacks for a specials even, pizza party for meeting goals, holiday luncheon, cake for an anniversary celebration etc. There were about a half dozen Union members that would not eat but stood near the area watching poeple, maybe trying to intimidate them – I am not sure. Apparently the same few people have been doing this for years and sometimes other joined them.

    So there would be a cake on the table and 25 mechanics plus one or two supervisors would be standing around eating and talking and six poeple would stand off to the side and sneer.

    I know Union and Management relationships are are not always great but the refusing to eat was an odd way to protest.

    1. Undercover for This*

      Where I work, there are two unions. One union (mine) represents technical people, who tend to have higher-paying titles. The other is mostly admins, usually with lower titles. One day, our union had a meeting, and food was provided. After the meeting, most people had left the room, and someone from the other meeting helper herself to some of the leftover chips. One of our shop stewards ran across the room, took the bowl and dumped it right into the trash, followed by the rest of the leftovers. “If they want free food, their union can pay for it!” (It was well-known that their union did not have food at their meetings.) When the union members who had left found out, they were unhappy with him. However, union leadership backed him and made it clear to membership to stay out of it.

      Union leaders now wonder why I refuse to attend any meetings or functions.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        That’s just crazy. I understand not allowing the other union to immediately access the food until everyone from the paying union gets enough to eat, but to just throw it away is incredibly wasteful, spiteful and petty.

      2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        Back in the day, our Newspaper Guild meetings not only had free food, they had free booze.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I recall a while ago somebody on Jezebel saying that their editor at their first job had informed them that any reporter that turned down gratis food and booze was summarily drummed out of the profession.

      3. 1LFTW*

        That’s… a weird, shitty thing for the shop steward to have done.

        The only reason I can think of for the Union leadership backing them up is that there’s something in the contract language that prohibits the two Unions from working together, or advocating for each others’ members, or for resources of one Union being used to the benefit of the other. Yeah, the bowl of chips is trivial; it’s the membership getting involved in the dispute is what could potentially bring down all kinds of trouble for both Unions.

        I’m a leader in my own Union, and before I started my role I had *no idea* how tricky this kind of thing can be. IMHO, the shop steward was acting like a total dick, and I’d be having a chat with them about how rudeness like that makes the Union look bad and drives down Union engagement… and how that’s *the complete godsdamn opposite* of what a shop steward’s job is.

    2. Kara*

      I’m assuming that the Big Six weren’t there to keep an eye out for people pigging out?

  6. Falling Diphthong*

    Free food sets off some sort of divide-by-zero error in our brains. Like we must feast on the fallen mammoth now or risk starvation in the future.

    I remember reading a science piece about this, and one example was when Amazon started to offer free shipping if you spent a certain amount. In most places this increased sales, as people would toss in $10-20 more of stuff to get up to $50 and trigger the free shipping. The one exception was France. It turned out that France didn’t offer free shipping above the threshold, but rather 20 cent shipping above the threshold. And people who would happily buy $20 worth of stuff they didn’t need to get free shipping would not do that to score 20 cent shipping.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      IIRC, that was because in France, it’s illegal to ship books for free (as a protection of smaller book sellers who can’t afford it against megastores like Amazon).

    2. 1-800-BrownCow*

      While I 100% understand it’s a marketing tactic to get people to spend more, if I have a good enough reason to order something online and I know if I spend $20 more to get free shipping, otherwise shipping is going to cost me $10, I’d rather buy more stuff that I know will get used or I will need at some point than pay for the service of shipping. Recently, I was ordering something online and I needed to spend $50 more to save $9 in shipping. I browsed the website and didn’t see anything else I needed or wanted for the $50 so I opted to pay the $9 shipping. Very easy for me to apply logic and determine which is more beneficial for me. I’ve run into a few situations where I only need to spend $2-$3 more to save $12 in shipping. Even if I give away the $2/$3 item, to me I only spent a couple bucks on shipping instead of the $12 shipping cost, so essentially I spent less! That’s a no brainer for me!

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I keep a few items in my “saved for later” basket to top up orders and hit the minimum for free shipping :)

      2. Critical Rolls*

        Yeah, this is not necessarily people falling for a gimmick, it’s often people correctly doing the math. I’m sure both things happen, but I’m in the same camp as Brown Cow.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          If there were no effect, then France should have been comparable to everywhere else. Since the 20 cents is in fact pretty close to zero, so virtually the same number of people–doing the math–would opt to add stuff until they hit 20 cent shipping.

  7. MITBeta*

    We had an intern one summer at a very small 25 person engineering firm. Frequently, we hosted international guests and ordered sandwich and cookie/brownie platters for lunch. This intern was told to wait until the meeting hosts and guests had a chance to eat and then anything left was fair game. Minutes later he was witnessed hiding a large cookie behind his back on the way to his desk.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        If you don’t give a mouse a cookie, he will sneak in and take it when no one’s looking.

        1. Arabella Flynn*

          If you don’t give a rat a cookie, he’ll run up and snatch it right in front of your face, then stash it somewhere inconvenient, and come back for another.

          (I have kept pet rats for well over a decade. The infamous Pizza Rat was not that ambitious.)

    1. Beth*

      When I was in grad school, living on a budget that made shoestrings look fat, the people where I interned made a point of being incredibly generous with leftovers every time we had food. I was SO grateful!!

      1. 1-800-BrownCow*

        I’ve been there! I was finishing up college as a PT student, working 2 jobs, living on my own and could barely make ends meet (and I had no phone, no internet, no cable tv, etc). I worked with a guy in his mid-30s who lived with his parents and had zero bills, rent or anything. Essentially his paycheck was all spending money. He used to buy me lunch a couple days a week. And while I don’t like asking for help from others, I was extremely grateful as I typically ate only once a day because I couldn’t afford food, so to get a free meal meant a lot!

    2. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I don’t know, just 1 intern and they were told to wait?? I mean I get they want to ensure the guests get plenty to eat, but do they really think the intern was going to eat that much? Just buy a little extra. I find it pretty rude to make 1 person wait for everyone else to eat and then finally they can eat. Personally, I side with the intern in this case. Good for them!

      1. A Becky*

        I got the feeling this was the office kicking the leftovers to the one person in the office who was never in the Fancy Client Meetings.

    3. DataSci*

      So you made the most poorly paid person wait until everyone else has eaten? Never been an intern, but as a former grad student have some compassion. Buy an extra cookie.

      1. MITBeta*

        Lunch was not included in the job description, and there was always plenty of food left over. The intern wasn’t starving to death, he was just asked to wait until our guest had had a chance.

    4. umami*

      Wow, I would think they could add in food for the intern rather than treating him as second-class.

    5. Harper*

      Honestly, I always feel a little bad for interns and young adults right out of college when it comes to free food at work. I always wonder if they’re struggling to make ends meet and something inside me just wants to give them all the food. lol

  8. glitter writer*

    I spent many years as a reporter, and nothing makes all the heads in a news room pop up faster than a “free [brownies – pizza – snacks – etc] in the kitchen” email. It’s how you cause a reporter stampede, like the wildebeests in ‘The Lion King.’

    Meanwhile in my first job as an assistant, it was my job to order catering for lunch meetings and then nobody would ever eat it. If we had 20 people coming, I’d order food for 15 and still have enormous piles left over. So after my first six months at that job, when I got tired of throwing out perfectly good trays of sandwiches that were mouldering in the work fridge, I started making sure the orders were almost all things I liked, and then I’d take as much of the leftovers home as I could carry and my boyfriend and I would have dinner courtesy of the organisation the rest of the week.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Good plan. Everyone was happy.
      Meetings wanted food there. Great. Someone should eat it.

    2. AnotherOne*

      I interned someplace in grad school where there were basically tiers in informing groups abt food being available. The sorta started with executives and their support staff, working their way down.

      It took me a couple of weeks of wondering why I never saw the other summer interns when I was grabbing food to realize that I got the “food!” email why before the other groups.

        1. NeedRain47*

          Executives and higher ups get good food for their meetings and the rest of us don’t, it’s their leftovers we’re being offered, hence the news must trickle down.

    3. CR*

      At a previous job where I had to order lunch for board meetings I always made sure it was food I liked, too!

    4. Elizabeth West*

      This seems to happen at my work; they order food for lunch meetings and it sits around. Yesterday there were three very large containers of chicken salad. I would have taken some, but 1) I had already bought my lunch (expensive but it’s two days’ worth), and 2) I had nothing to put it in. I hate to see food go to waste like that.

      I think I’m going to stick a Ziploc bag or flat container in my backpack for when I’m in the office in case of leftovers. I can’t take a whole catering container home on the train. Well I could, but not at rush hour when it’s SRO. Of course, I will ask if anyone else wants any first; I’m not a pig!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Watch out for summer mayonnaise items– you need tp know if meeting hosts get food back under refrigeration fast enough to prevent bacterialgrowth.

        (And since I’m someone who still risks raw cookie dough & doesn’t discard food immediately after the best-by date you can trust me on the foid poisoning.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This was a green salad. The office manager and I had to toss out a whole bunch of sandwiches one time at my previous office because someone left them out all day. :(

          If I go out, I buy something that gives me leftovers for the next day since eating out around here is not cheap. So far, no one has poached my leftovers. When lunching outside on the deck, I keep a sharp eye out for seagulls. The pigeons handle ground-level mooching.

    5. 2 Cents*

      Having worked in a few news and news-adjacent places, this checks out LOL. Reporters (and marketers) will eat just about anything.

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        And if the newsroom won’t eat it, send it over to Sports, they eat ANYTHING.

    6. Web of Pies*

      One place I worked, people would do the thing where someone cut a donut in half, then someone else cut the half in half, and on and on into tiny sliver territory, so at the end of the day it was just a random box of 1/4 and smaller donut bits.

    7. Ellen D*

      I worked in a team once, where I didn’t need to read my e-mails to know there was free food as within seconds of the e-mail, they’d dash to the free food. Sometimes they managed this before I’d even closed the e-mail pop-up notification. I always felt it was rather rude, or greedy to be this desperate for free food.

      Although the thing that always annoyed me was that the person who took the last piece – slice of cake, doughnut, biscuit – but didn’t cleared away the package, wrappers, or plate. If someone has brought in free food, the least you can do is help by tidying up, when it’s gone.

    8. Ms. Afleet Alex*

      I worked in radio and it was the same – we on air folk/reporters loved our free food, not least of which was because we weren’t being paid particularly well. Local companies advertising with us would send over samples of new products to be discussed on air as part of a promotion. However, our receptionist – who, to be fair, probably wasn’t making a whole lot of money either and had a large multi-generational family living with her – would help herself before the food intended for the on-air staff even made it back to the studios. Sometimes sales did this too. I remember we were given three trays of giant muffins and she took one tray – a good twenty gigantic muffins – home for her family, and the ownership didn’t say anything. This happened a lot and got to be an in-joke, especially when management would ask the on-air teams how they liked the advertisers’ food and they’d say they hadn’t gotten any because the receptionist (and sometimes sales and other staff) ate it all. We had to start bringing the food directly into the studio or having someone stand guard until the on-air staff had gotten first crack at it.

  9. Maria*

    My worst experiences with free food at work (emphasis on FREE) were always about people *complaining* about the free food. Oh, we didn’t get what they wanted. Oh, they don’t eat chicken (or pork or beef or whatever). Donuts again?! Ugh. Everyone chose pasta as the appreciation gift from management? I wanted Chinese! Ugh! I don’t like chocolate cake!

    SO DON’T EAT IT. No one charged you money for it, no one’s forcing you to eat…appreciate it or at least appreciate the gesture and move on. But full-grown adults complaining about a free thing is just the height of awful entitlement, and I’ve seen it happen more than once. Keep it to yourself!

    1. ICodeForFood*

      Well, it depends… At one workplace, we were told that the company would be providing breakfast on a particular day. We got multiple reminder emails, telling us not to forget to skip breakfast at home that morning and come to work hungry, because “free breakfast.”
      When the day came, the VP’s secretary ordered 19 donuts for the 19 people on the team…
      As someone who needs actual protein as part of my breakfast, I felt justified in complaining about that.

        1. EPLawyer*

          If someone says they are providing breakfast and in fact tells me not to eat at home that morning I expect more than one donut.

            1. Presea*

              I would at least expect them to share the menu ahead of time too, if they were that insistent on everyone eating together like that. Donuts feel like a decently common food for people to have issues with – blood sugar, needing different nutrition for their breakfast to function well (or at all), just not liking them, etc.

              Personally, I don’t like most donuts. Having a single donut for breakfast, or skipping breakfast entirely, would both leave me feeling sick and struggling to function in a way I probably would not recover from for the rest of the day. I would be pretty miffed in this situation and I think I would be justified in being miffed!

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            Yeah, fair. I guess I’ve been to too many conferences and seminars where “breakfast will be provided” means “here’s a tray of stale pastries and some bottles of juice.”

            1. LifeBeforeCorona*

              My favourite will always be the motel that advertised a “continental breakfast” which was Krispy Kreme donuts and instant coffee.

        2. Anonymous 75*

          all I would think is donuts. unless explicitly told different it would never cross my mind to think of much more than that (though I’d probably expect more than one donut per person).

          1. JustaTech*

            Someone at my work must have complained (or maybe the person doing the ordering wants a substantial breakfast) because we’ve started getting a hot breakfast with eggs and stuff.
            Which I didn’t know, so I ate breakfast at home (I need to eat first thing in the morning), so I wasn’t hungry and then my director hounded me about “we’ve ordered all this food, eat it!”

        3. Irish Teacher*

          Honestly, if I were told not to eat before work because there was going to be a “free breakfast,” I’d assume a full Irish. Bacon, eggs, sausage and toast at the very least. Probably black and white pudding too

          I’d find a doughnut very odd anyway because I wouldn’t consider it at all a breakfast item. It would be like being offered candy for breakfast, but even apart from that, if they are saying “don’t eat beforehand,” I’d assume a full breakfast and a pretty large one at that.

        4. Lenora Rose*

          Even if you’re not getting bacon and eggs or sausages, I would expect a: healthier options than donuts, and B: more than one food group. If a prior workplace announced food at a morning meeting (And they usually said dainties, not breakfast) it would be multiple trays with half bagels and half muffins of several flavours, in quantity enough for everyone to take the equivalent of 1 1/2 or 2 wholes, and some fruit slices (usually 75% melon with some apple, strawberries, blueberries or pineapple to round it out, but still fruit.) Plus a full coffee and tea service and cold water, and sometimes lemonade or iced tea. That’s what I would consider minimal breakfast options, especially ***if you’re telling people not to eat ahead***.

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        I’m with you. We had a department conference last year, and meals were catered for. The first two meals were salad (literally bowls of leaves, no protein or other vegetables). I had to buy my own food both times, which took me away from the conference. I also bought my own food for the rest of the week. So yeah, I did complain.

      2. 1-800-BrownCow*

        I’m with you on that! I’d prefer protein, not sugary carbs for breakfast, even though I do like a good donut. Honestly, I complained about something similar at a hotel my family and I stayed at a couple years ago. The hotel advertised free continental breakfast. Turned out to be 100% carbs, no protein, no fruit, nothing. Donuts, pastries, frozen waffles, and frozen pancakes (heated up of course, but they were definitely from a box). I didn’t eat at all as I couldn’t handle a lump of carbs in my stomach. It was all sugar, carbs and highly processed.

        1. My Brain is Exploding*

          I wouldn’t expect protein to be in a continental breakfast. Just carbs and, hopefully, fruit.

          1. Bagpuss*

            Depends which part of the continent!

            I’d expect yogurt and fruit, as well as things such as croissants or other pastries, and usually, but not always, cheese and/or cold meat such as ham.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Same here. A continental breakfast means a full buffet but the only hot thing is the coffee. A full breakfast also includes hot items such as porridge, eggs, sausages, bacon AND BAKED BEANS.

              When you are young/poor you carefully make a cheese and ham sandwich to wrap in a napkin to take away with an
              apple for your lunch. Literally nobody cares.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          Unfortunately, that’s what the “Continental” part implies, often up to and including the highly processed bit. I think calling it a breakfast is a deception, arguably deliberate.

        3. Rachel*

          I think you misunderstood what Continental Breakfast means.

          The actual definition of a Continental Breakfast is cold or room temperature foods, usually something light like a pastry and an apple. I agree with you that it usually does include fruit.

          This is deceptive advertising if they said something like “full Irish breakfast” and gave you a doughnut.

          The fact that you saw fit to complain about this says a lot about you, and I don’t think it’s what you intended to convey.

          1. Empress Ki*

            The traditional French breakfast (which is considered a continental breakfast) is typically only bread, butter and jam/honey on weekdays, croissants on weekends.

        4. umami*

          That’s … exactly what a continental breakfast is, though, but usually with fruit (which is essentially more sugar). They don’t include protein. I’m kinda curious about what the hotel response was, because what you described is exactly what I would have expected.

        5. VisionBored*

          That sounds sumptuous compared to the free hotel breakfast I had once. It was just a loaf of the cheapest possible grocery store sliced bread and squeeze butter plus watery orange juice-from-concentrate.

    2. PizzaPizza*

      This is why I have cut way down on lunches for my staff and only order pizza. I got so fed up with the complaining and arguing I just ended the free food. It works for my 9 year old and so it must be good for grown adults.

    3. PJM*

      I’ve seen the same thing and it used to fill me with rage, adults being given free meals that they bitterly complain about. It is insane! It never seems to occur to any of the complainers that they can simply buy their own food or bring it from home.

    4. Bunny Girl*

      Ugh I had this problem when I did admin support for a graduate program. They would complain about the fact that we always got pizza. We could only order from places that would bill us directly (unless someone wanted to put it on their credit card and wait 2 months to get paid back). The other place we could order from was Panera. They liked that a lot better but it was also four times the cost so I couldn’t justify it very often. I was really stunned by their attitude.

    5. Corvus Corvidae*

      Ooh, I had one of these! The office grouch at my old job once encountered a homemade cake that someone brought in for the department. He took one look at the cake, scowled, yelled “That’s not KETO!”, and stormed off. Absolutely wild.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I used to buy a thing of cupcakes at the grocery store when they were on sale, eat two, and then take the rest to work at OldExjob so I wouldn’t eat all of them. They would vanish in SECONDS without so much as a whimper. If your grouch had worked there and done that, our shop guys would have given him hell for days.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          ETA (here since I can’t edit) – I get the whole thing about not having something he can eat; it’s the tantrum that would have gotten him razzed.

      2. Mari*

        Ok, so I used to bake a lot, and take it in to the office. Our office manager was diagnosed with Celiacs… and ALSO with Type One Diabetes (as ‘bad’ months go, that was a doozy). I learned to bake low-sugar, AND to bake gluten-free (and this was before easy access to gluten-free flour… I mixed my own from like six things). Oh, and there were a couple of lactose-free folks (again, before easy access to lactose-free milk – you had to use soy), and an egg allergy. I got to the point where I was making four or five different things every time I baked so that everyone could have SOMETHING. Which was fine – I had the time, and it made me a much better baker – right up until the day I walked into the office and someone turned around and said “For crying out loud, you’ve already done the mini strawberry cheesecakes* AND the snickerdoodle cupcakes** AND the caramel tarts***. Can’t you do anything NEW???”

        Last day I baked for the office.

        *Gluten-free and low sugar
        ***Egg free

        1. Lenora Rose*

          And if anyone complained you weren’t baking, point them at that person. And at a mirror.

        2. Zudz*

          I would set that person on fire.

          I would literally sing your praises if you brought snickerdoodle cupcakes into my workplace. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, so you’d probably ask me to stop. But I cannot wrap my head around that person complaining. What the Hellmann’s.

    6. Elitist Semicolon*

      I don’t disagree with you in the abstract, but we’ve seen enough letters here (including an update to one earlier this week) from people who can never eat anything the office orders to suggest that “then don’t eat it” isn’t always an equitable approach to free food. It becomes problematic when the same person or people repeatedly hear “don’t eat it” or “bring your own.”

      1. Silver Robin*

        +1 that part. It feels bad – I think it was a comment here on a different post that phrased it as something along the lines of feeling othered, not offended. And that gets tiring even if there is nothing inherently malicious behind the action.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          I see both sides of it. As a vegetarian with multiple food intolerances, it does get a bit disheartening when I can’t eat a lot of the free food provided at work. But on the other hand, I used to have to order food and had so many restrictions on where I could order from and how much I could spend that it a lot of times just wasn’t possible to cater to everyone, especially when you work at places like a university or a state office.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            The expense part is huge, and people who aren’t doing the ordering don’t realize how quickly things add up. Throw in factors like gluten-free food costing a LOT more and similar restrictions, suddenly four pizzas is well over a hundred bucks.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              This is true, but again, that’s something the employer needs to manage if they want to be inclusive. Otherwise, it’s always going to be the same people who don’t get to eat because “Sorry, gluten-free was too expensive.” If they can’t afford to make a good-faith effort, then maybe group lunches/free food aren’t the way to encourage team-building (or whatever their purpose is).

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                Oh, absolutely! If it can’t be afforded it’s time to switch to something else.

            2. LifeBeforeCorona*

              We do vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, lactose free, pescatarian, allergies and religious accommodations. The manger refuses to any diet that costs more than double the per diem for a meal. The argument is that out of all those choices, there must be something they can eat.

          2. Silver Robin*

            I see it this way:

            1) Office provided: if the office is providing food (aka paid for by org), then they need to provide everyone with food. Food restrictions can change over time, but they are not flexible in the moment that the person is eating, which means this is not something that a person can just “suck up and deal with” for the sake of a free meal. They also overlap significantly with religious and medical accommodations. No office should be systematically excluding people from a perk over their diets. If it is too expensive to do this properly, then the organization needs to be transparent about it and choose something else. Maybe instead of food, they provide drinks in the fridge. Or they do it less often but with a wider set of options. People can be creative; I have been the person handling office orders for limited budget situations, we talk it through.
            1a) Manager provided: even if this is coming out of their pocket, managers should be accommodating their entire team/department/whatever if they bring in a treat.

            2) Coworker provided: this gets a lot more leeway because it is a treat out of their own pocket and they do not have institutional power over the recipients. If Wakeen brings doughnuts but Fergus is gluten free, that can be something small enough to let go. The biggest factor here is the perception of frequency. If folks are regularly/often bringing stuff in it and it is *never* suitable for xyz diets then it can start to feel thoughtless/othering to not be included. The ones without food options miss out on bonding/social stuff as a result. But this situation is highly highly dependent on the individual and their specific contexts/feelings about stuff.

      2. NoSpicy*

        +1 also. As someone who can’t eat a lot of foods but likes a free treat as much as anyone, I will never understand why these office memos always go with “We’re buying lunch” instead of being more specific: “We’re treating everyone to pizza!” If I know in advance it’s something I don’t like or can’t eat, I won’t be annoyed, but I often feel like Charlie Brown with the football – I get all excited only to find out that I’m, yet again, not going to be able to partake.

        1. WellRed*

          Why oh why won’t food planners for events or in office food just say in advance what they are ordering?? Why? I went to a work conference (every year). The last one, The first night, the traditional hog roast did not also have chicken like they usually do so I ate ice burg lettuce and baked beans for dinner. The next night, we went to local restaurants for catered dinner. It was basically a giant charcuterie board. Unsurprisingly I had massive low blood sugars overnight both nights. Just let me plan!

          1. Alisaurus*

            I always tried to do that as the admin planning lunch meetings. There would be a menu included in the meeting invite, with a note to let me know by X date if you needed something else. I also had a list of food requirements for all my boss’s direct reports, which I would consult when planning catering.

            1. Sleeping Panther*

              Much respect for keeping that list of food requirements and managing to accommodate them. I’ve seen how much work that takes, since my college marching band not only needed 400-ish meals anytime we had to be fed, but some of those meals had to be vegetarian, kosher, halal, egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, diabetic-friendly, or PKU-friendly. Our admin assistant/logistics coordinator somehow managed to get all those special meals from everywhere that provided our boxed breakfasts and lunches on trips, and make sure each special meal was labeled for its recipient and on the right bus. After doing all that for multiple meals for every road game, she could have single-handedly planned the Normandy landings.

        2. Paulina*

          Also it’s not just about free food. The food is often provided as part of an event — a lunch meeting or even just a staff social — so being excluded from the food also means you’re excluded from the event (or expected to come and participate even if not being fed).

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            Exactly. And one of the additional consequences of coming and participating without eating is (often) having to deal with people asking a lot of questions/making a big deal about why you’re not eating.

      3. Jezebella*

        +1 As a vegetarian, I can’t tell you how many meals I have had to make out of a couple of rolls and/or a bowl of iceberg lettuce.

      4. Third or Nothing!*

        Yes! I am allergic to dairy and eggs. I almost never got to eat the monthly catered lunch that my old job provided for birthdays and anniversaries because they always chose food that I couldn’t eat, even when I researched menu options at the places they ordered from and suggested several options that were safe for me. I was told no one else got to choose their meals so I didn’t get to either. Except there is a large difference between being able to eat something and choosing not to and not even having the choice to begin with.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          …and then they ask, repeatedly, “how come you’re not eating?” Um, because Epi Pens are expensive (and not guaranteed to work)?

          Yeah, that’s been my experience. Its a smidge past tiring. Its the SAME people who are not grasping the difference between “choice” and “won’t cause me bodily harm” who are then turning around and asking “why aren’t you eating?”. Because its NOT a choice.

      5. Lenora Rose*

        I think there’s a difference between “Someone brought in a random free treat out of the generosity of their heart and I can’t eat it, oh, well guess I’ll have the lunch I brought” and “They order a full catered lunch every month but never once have an option for me.” I mean, the former is frustrating but as long as they *sometimes* manage a more accessible treat, it shouldn’t be crazy-making. The latter is where it gets ugly and exclusionary.

        (And even more of a difference between that and the bananapants “They’re whispering about it around me in hopes I don’t notice they’re avoiding even inviting me”)

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Absolutely! At my old job, I worked in a pretty small office. Somehow we all started doing breakfast potluck on Fridays, with one person bringing in something for everyone once a week and rotating weekly with who was providing the food. No one ever brought a dairy and egg free option for me, but I didn’t complain. I just brought my own meal and excused myself from the rotation.

          Now the monthly company catered lunches to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries were an entirely different animal. I absolutely complained about never getting to participate even during my own birthday and anniversary months. It made me feel like they didn’t value me if they weren’t even going to bother ordering one of the *several* options I researched and sent to them as safe foods for me from every caterer they used.

      6. Distracted Librarian*

        Yes. Also, there’s a difference between free food an employee brings in to share and food provided by the employer as a perk or to feed people during a working meeting. In the latter cases, the employer should be as inclusive as possible.

    7. Butterfly Counter*

      As we saw in the post/update from a few days ago, sometimes the free food that isn’t accommodating to all can be a problem. I remember several specific times when a catered lunch to celebrate me and my coworkers as employees had no non-meat options other than boiled, unseasoned squash. I gotta say, even though I didn’t spend money on it and I wasn’t forced to eat the meat, I did not appreciate the gesture (or lack thereof) from my employers. I got to take the free time of my day to watch my coworkers eat while a plate of mush stared back at me. Fun!

      1. Magenta Sky*

        I guess I’m fortunate in that I can invoke the diabetes’ dietary restrictions, which includes “eat on a regular schedule.” If I can’t eat what’s provided, I *need* to find something else, because while high blood sugar will kill you eventually, low blood sugar can kill you *right* *now*. (Which isn’t actually a huge problem for me, but I only need to exaggerate a little to make my point.)

        1. Lenora Rose*

          My sister-in-law has had some fun training her department, senior and junior, that when she says “We need to end this meeting now as I need to go eat”, she’s not joking. People have tried to push time limits and seen the result often enough that they now understand she means “I will wilt before your eyes and go from supremely competent and outgoing to barely able to focus”, not “it’s lunchtime, let’s wrap up so we can have fun.”

          Extra good, as when the building went on lockdown due to happenings outside one particular day, she had people checking in and even voluntarily pre-emptively bringing her stuff from their own snack stores.

    8. NeedRain47*

      A good friend of mine made up a saying, “Tastes free to me”. When I was working for the Disney Catalog taking phone orders they got lunch in for us a lot in the run up to Christmas. Those sandwiches were LOW QUALITY. But I was making like $8/hour so, Tastes free to me.

    9. goddessoftransitory*

      I get so many complaints about discounts where I work–why isn’t it THIS much off? Why not discount the small pie on its own? Why can’t you give me the sodas when I’ve ordered two larges? This is all in reaction to the discounts we DO routinely give. It’s simply never enough, or the discount’s on something the person doesn’t want, or whatever.

      No one is making you order this food! You aren’t entitled to it for free! I get we are capitalist pig-dog servants of the ruling class and all, but we still have to charge for our products!

      1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        “It’s simply never enough” is the key phrase here. There are a lot of adults walking around out there who adopt this attitude about everything. These people are exhausting.

    10. DataSci*

      I’ve complained about free food once, when it was publicized the day before that there’d be food on X day (so nobody brought lunch, to an office where the only other reasonable option is to order delivery from a place requiring orders by 11 am). Lunch rolls around and it’s from a place known for anti-LGBT hatred and waffle fries. I did not eat lunch that day.

    11. Presea*

      If people are just being entitled about the free food, I agree, that sucks. If they’re actually complaining about something free-food-adjacent, like being othered or actually being left hungry by not having anything they can eat in a situation where they can reasonably expect to be fed, those are different beasts.

    12. Daisy Daisy*

      Yes! One of our clients at one of my jobs was the owner of a local chain of pastry shops, and he was really nice and would bring in free pastries for the staff when he came in for an appointment. Except certain people would always complain in the break room that they like the other local pastry shop better. So go buy some from them! They are not our patient, and they’re not bringing us free pastries!

    13. Flowers*

      i mostly get that I do….but when yummy breakfast sandwiches are ordered for everyone and literally all of them have pork in it and I don’t eat pork…it’s a bit demoralizing.

  10. BaconDesperation*

    We have free cooked breakfast once a week. People would take it in turns to cook, and then announce ‘breakfast!’ over the phone system to all offices when done.

    A couple of people were known to be VERY hungry – I don’t think they took more than their fair share necessarily, but they were hugely invested in being at the front of the queue for hot bacon. I have seen this on film as I sat in another office but it was.. amazing.

    The phone would buzz and they would both JUMP up and sprint (I do mean sprint) out of the office toward the kitchen. Jumping over anything in their way and woe betide anyone who happened to be in the corridor. You’d think they hadn’t eaten for days :D
    (This is a well paid tech company, they could definitely afford to purchase their own bacon whenever they wanted)

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      This makes me wonder if some of the free food weirdness is due to so much office food being stuff that people have labeled “unhealthy” or “bad” in their own minds (like bacon, doughnuts, cake). So they never allow themselves to buy it or make it. But if somebody offers it to you, then you’re not choosing it—it’s being given to you. The guilt switch isn’t flipped! And suddenly you MUST! HAVE! THE! THING! NOW!

      (I am a bit this way about potato chips….)

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      That doesn’t feel so much about the food as winning. A warped competitive drive. I guess we no longer hunt lions so we must be the first to vanquish the free bacon?

      1. BaconDesperation*

        Loool it’s matured a bit since but I would say ‘warped competitive drive’ is a good description of quite a few things that have happened at my office :)

    3. Eater of Hotdish*

      Bacon…it does things to people.

      I used to work at a food co-op that had a hot deli bar all day long, with breakfast food available until a certain time. People would fill a plate or a to-go container and pay by weight. We could put literally any other protein on the hot bar at breakfast time and people would take reasonable portions, but the manager had to put a moratorium on bacon after a while. If there was bacon on the hot bar, people would stuff containers full of it and then whine to the deli staff about how shameful it was that we were out of bacon.

      1. morethantired*

        I was recently at a brunch buffet that called out specifically on the menu that they didn’t offer bacon. I was chatting with one of the servers after she asked about a sweater I was wearing and then I asked “So why no bacon?” and she explained exactly the scenario you did! When they used to offer bacon, people would just heap it on and they could never keep up with the demand! Yet they never ran out of sausage or ham or the beef at the carving station. You could still order bacon, it was just not part of the buffet so that people would show restraint. I love bacon, but it is wild to me to think people just lose control over it.

  11. rayray*

    I’ve never personally seen people be this weird about free food. Most people I work with and have worked with have good manners and take a reasonable amount of offered food, whether a potluck, provided lunch, treats, etc. Sometimes there would be a mad dash to get a specific kind of bagel if someone brought them in, but even then it wasn’t all that serious, there were just a few people who all liked the same kind.

    One thing I did learn while in an admin support role while still in college, if ordering lunch for the group, it really can be easier to order from somewhere that will do individual boxed lunches. Far less mess to clean up, less set up required, and everyone will get an adequate amount of food.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Me neither, and I had to dish out a lot of leftover food from trainings in my previous job. If anything, I had to encourage people to take it by sending around emails and leaving signs on the fridge. Maybe I was just lucky with my colleagues.

      I’m not as big a fan of boxed lunches as you just because it can make clean-up more complicated. I once worked a 100-person event where they served boxed lunches – nobody broke down their box before throwing it out and they ran out of bin space really fast! People were just stacking their used boxes on the floor by the bins, so it got pretty unpleasant.

      1. rayray*

        Oh man! Yeah that would be rough. The times I had to organize lunches, we were doing it for meetings of 20 people max, so it wasn’t so bad.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Yeah, boxed lunches are generally fine for small meetings. Though even then people can go wild trying to swap their desserts and chips for whatever is in somebody else’s box!

            1. The Prettiest Curse*

              Just like the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, the cookie in someone else’s lunchbox always looks better than your own.

          1. Bob-White of the Glen*

            No force on earth can make me take the BBQ chips when there are Fritos or Doritos available!


      2. Jessica*

        I avoid boxed lunches whenever possible. It generates more packaging waste and more food waste. I’d rather have buffet-style food so people can take the type and quantity of food they want, and not end up throwing out food they got automatically and don’t want. I can certainly understand a move to boxed lunches as an attempt to contain some of the insane behavior described in this thread, though.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          For what it’s worth, a standard buffet means more food prepared per person than a plated service. Caterers and restauranteurs know how bad people are about portion control and it’s how they avoid risk that customers at the end might go without.

          So it’s less paper/plastic waste, but may actually be more food waste. :(

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            Yes, making rice for a crowd. The box states 1/2 cup as a serving size but most people take 3 or 4 cups of rice on their plate.

    2. Artemesia*

      And that will be when you learn you work with people who will rifle through all the leftover boxes to just scarf up the desserts — or even do this on first round of offers.

    3. ONFM*

      I work with someone who will take as many boxes as he can until someone stops him. He’ll go through the line the first time like normal, just taking one…then a few minutes later he goes back for another…and when people start leaving, he’ll just start stacking them up.

    4. IDIC believer*

      My first time ordering lunch for a large group (25 staff & 70 faculty) was for an all- day retreat off-site. The Dean wanted Mexican which for him meant tacos (this was in early 80s when allergies & vegetarianism weren’t considerations). The caterer suggested 4 tacos/person. I’d ordered for small faculty group lunches before so I increased it to 6 plus huge quantities of salads and sliced cake for desserts. There were 3 buffet lines. It was a catastrophe! Senior faculty pushed to the front and quickly took all the beef & chicken, all the cheese, and 2-3 desserts. At least half the attendees got none of those & mostly just salad and taco shells. The caterer told me they actually provided 20% more than ordered.

      From that point on, for decades, I refused to ever order buffet style for medium to large gatherings. There were still complaints and problems – because “free” food. And anecdotally the highest paid were always the worst, the students the most appreciative.

  12. Sometimes I Wonder*

    I’ve worked in two offices where free food is constantly available. In both cases the food included snack packs with meats or nuts, cheese, and crackers; hard-boiled eggs; yogurt; fresh and dried fruits; protein bars; granola bars; individual packets of peanut butter; and miscellaneous sweets. Both offices eventually had to put up a camera with a sign saying “please take only one snack at a time.” But honestly you could (and at least one person admitted to me that they did) eat a full day’s nutritious meals on office days. It’s a really nice amenity, especially now that downtown has almost no lunch spots and a few people have been attacked on the sidewalks by houseless persons.

      1. Sometimes I Wonder*

        Yeah, it’s horrible that people are houseless. We need housing-first solutions. But the collapse of commercial real estate and the attendant retail and restaurants that served a central commuting population will be as bad, I think, as the 2007 financial collapse.

    1. different seudonym*

      A cursory perusal of recent news will reveal that people experiencing homelessness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Random hate crimes are common, and certainly underreported, such that it is far more rational for those living on the street to fear people with homes than the reverse.

      1. Beth*

        Thank you for saying that. There’s an important difference between being accosted and being assaulted.

      2. Roland*

        The comment you’re replying to isn’t saying that homeless people are living in beautiful safety and randomly hitting people for fun. It was just stating an experience that happened to some people in their city. You can want to reduce the violence inflicted upon homeless people while also wanting to be safe yourself.

        1. Daisy Daisy*

          Yes, but it is pretty common for people to describe being frightened, shouted at, or otherwise not literally assaulted by a homeless person as being “attacked”, when such a metaphorical description just places, homeless people as a whole at risk

          1. Sometimes I Wonder*

            I wish you wouldn’t assume I used attacked in bad faith. My coworkers suffered physical violence, not just having to exist in the same space as someone different.

      3. Sometimes I Wonder*

        Good addition, but I actually already know that. Without sharing individuals’ details, these were attacks of physical violence and theft, not just being afraid of someone who looks different, someone who might be experiencing something or need help, or someone yelling. We have a service that the building subscribes to for people who need a welfare check or aid in getting food or to a shelter that we can call any time.

        The preferred term in my city is houseless people. They have homes; they don’t have a house or apartment.

    2. Tatiana Angelica Tara Shannon*

      I worked as a temp for a software company that was *really* trying to encourage their software engineers to eat better – which translated into a lot of fresh fruit, organic milk for coffee etc. While some of the engineers did take advantage there was also always a veritable cornucopia of slightly overripe fruit and a small dairy aisle left over at the end of each week. Needless to say, I made a lot of breakfast smoothies, baked a lot of muffins, and made a decent number of crepes (with fancy organic milk!) during the two months I worked there.

  13. Eeyore's Missing Tale*

    Oh, we had one guy like the first one in my old office. He was the reason we made signs such as “One sandwich per person”. He even once took my container of candied pecans out of my hands and was walking back to his desk when I asked if anyone wanted more after a potluck lunch. And yes, I took it back from him and said he could get a cup and scoop out how much he wanted. He did not take me up on that offer.

    After he left for a new position, we were amazed at the amount of food we had left over after events. What use to not last even one day started giving us leftovers for 3-4 days!

      1. Random Dice*

        I mean, they did ask anyone wanted it.

        There was an unspoken set of social conventions at play there, that apparently he missed, or didn’t care about.

        1. Eeyore's Missing Tale*

          He didn’t care. I think he enjoyed being the weird guy who liked being “edgy” and not defined by social conventions or manners.

          1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

            Ooh, you were lucky your coworker did not throw the pecans on the ground! (See: the SNL video “Threw It On The Ground”, on YouTube). It is old but I only discovered it recently and I am still laughing.

    1. Elitist Semicolon*

      Both my mother and I (two different workplaces, two different states, even) have had co-workers who have assumed that treats we’ve brought in for our co-workers meant that it was okay to pack some up and take them home. My mother’s co-worker said, “Oh, I can’t wait until you bring in your Christmas cookies; my kids will love those!” Mom waited until the co-worker was on vacation and then brought them in. My co-worker, while we were packing up the leftovers to put in the office fridge, said, “We have so much; I’ll just take these home with me” and tried to walk off with the item I’d brought. I looked her dead in the eye and said, “those are for the office to share, not for your family.” She turned scarlet but put them back.

      1. Lizzie*

        I hate this too. I work with people like that. There will be cookies or brownies, or sandwiches, and people will grab multiples, to “take home” nope. you eat it here or leave it!

  14. Heather*

    I am a nurse, and during nurse’s week, many businesses have “free food for nurses” promotions. Usually something like a free cup of coffee or a scoop of ice cream. It is amazing to me how much people will endure in order to take advantage of these promotions. Like, No, I am not going to stand outside in the sun for 45 minutes in a line of people in order to get a free donut! Donuts cost like 89 cents!

    1. Irish Teacher*

      Heck, I think it was…Krispy Kreme…opened in an Irish city recently and people queued just to buy doughnuts from them. Just googling, it says people queued from 4am!! I was thinking, “um, wait a week and you’ll probably be able to walk in and just buy one without a queue.”

      1. lost academic*

        But when you know it’ll be right off the line it’s so different for Krispy Kreme!

        Now I need a donut.

      2. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

        They closed the Krispy Kreme location (for the third time) near me and it became a Chase Bank. I closed my account.

    2. Babs*

      I catered events in hospitals and corporate offices for a long time and I don’t have any hard data to back this up but nurses get more excited about free food at or from work than any other profession

        1. Babs*

          It has to have something to do with physicians getting free food all the time even though they make so much more money. Unpaid interns who actually need the meal are calmer about free food than nurses

      1. Nesprin*

        I’m a scientist and interact with nurses for clinical sample collection and the like- my collections are always done better than those for my peers because I bring in food for the staff. Amazing how a bagel tray or a coffee box means that I get the 10ml of blood in the right tube.

          1. Bob-White of the Glen*

            Note to self: Stop for donuts on way into ER room for bursting appendix.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’d amend that: people with long hours and/or rotating schedules.

        Food can trick our bodies into thinking we’ve had enough sleep.

      3. anon24*

        EMS is up there with nurses. We aren’t rude about it and won’t steal what isn’t ours, but if you waited until almost end of shift during a busy day when none of us have eaten or peed for 12 hours and offered a free shitty sandwich to whoever wins a fistfight, there would be quite the brawl.

    3. cottagechick73*

      I have seen a phenomenon like this with a 5-cent cone day, cars wrapped around the building but other days of the year, not a customer in the parking lot

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      We’re doing free slices on the Solstice, and I have never been more grateful to have my day off fall on a promo day!

      People go INSANE to get these slices: call up and are FURIOUS they can’t reserve them in advance, space out their family members, including small children, in the line so they can “score” more slices, call up and rant about how long the lines are, demand the price of two slices off the whole pie they ordered, call up and and rage about how they had to wait an extra two minutes for the pepperoni pie to be sliced and put on the bar…you name it.

      1. Heather*

        OMG! I can only imagine. Like… my dignity is worth more than the slice of free pizza!

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          It’s absolutely nuts. I’ve had people call me while waiting in line to rant about how long the line is! Like, dude, what exactly do you expect me to do? Have little gnome helpers trot your slices directly to you?

      2. Lizzie*

        A pizza place near me, every year, has one day where PLAIN pies are the same price as when they opened however many years ago. I don’t remember exactly what it is, as I avoid it like the plague that day, but its something like $2 and change, with a limit of one. My BF is friendly with the owner, and he’s told him stories how customers want every topping, and multiples, and then bitch, cry, whine and moan when refused. FFS. You’re getting a $15 pizza for next to nothing!

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Yep; this kind of person doesn’t see a promo as a bargain but as a negotiation opener.

    5. Juicebox Hero*

      My office is right across the street (actually the main drag through town) from a Dairy Queen (an old one that only sells ice cream and other frozen stuff, not other food) that is open seasonally. Every year, shortly after they open for the season, they do Free Cone Day.

      One (now retired) coworker made a point of getting a free cone every year and brag about how it was the one ice cream cone she ate all year. She’d keep asking me if I’d gotten my free cone yet even though she knew darn well I never got one: I’m not about to cross insane traffic just to stand in line for ages just for an ice cream, plus I’m not a big sweets person and I’m diabetic. If I’m going to splurge on calories and carbs, there are plenty of other things I’d rather eat – the instant ramen that comes in those styrofoam cups, for example.

      “BUT IT’S FREE!”


  15. Nonprofit321*

    I used to work at a large nonprofit and the food issues were between departments. The fundraisers got to have many of their internal team meetings catered, while no other departments did. It definitely created tension and resentment between teams, along with exacerbating the toxic nonprofit mindset that fundraisers are the most important staff.

    1. Please remove your monkeys from my circus*

      Oh, the look on a fundraiser’s face when, after she blathered on about how the whole place would fall apart without her, I pointed out that without my (programmatic) team, hers would have nothing to sell to potential funders. (I eventually got her to agree that our functions were equally important and interdependent, and we were on the same side.)

    2. This post is making me hungry*

      Oof, I see a version of this in my job too. A few times a year, vendors bring in lunch to convince us to come watch their presentations. My division makes the decisions about whether / what to buy from vendors, so we’re the only ones who get invited. We share the food with the rest of the org afterwards, but it definitely causes some tension.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Sounds like the guys selling timeshares. Free lunch (that’s barely edible), while you listen to our (high pressure) sales pitch.

        1. Nonprofit321*

          OMG timeshare people are the worst. We sat through a timeshare presentation once, entirely for the free lunch, and I was about 7 months pregnant. When we declined to purchase a timeshare at the end, the saleswoman said “what are you, hormonal?” I just about punched her for the level of disrespect and sexism, and would have happily used being “hormonal” as an excuse.

        2. This post is making me hungry*

          LOL, it’s usually good food and products we actually want, so the lunches are worth attending.

          I’ve definitely learned to be suspicious of sales-adjacent food though. Once I attended a vendor “breakfast” at a conference, and it turned out to be a box of donut holes and tiny plastic cups of orange juice. Their product wasn’t bad, but the disappointment is what really sticks in my memory.

        3. Timeshare*

          My family attended timeshare presentations a few times for the free stff- we got a guided tour to Chitchen Itza from one of them- and the lunches were always amazing. They were part of the buffet for the guests.

          We never did end up getting a share though.

  16. MsM*

    Different kind of weirdness, but unless it’s being offered as an incentive for volunteering, no one in my office ever communicates about free food. You just wander into the kitchen and there are platters of stuff sitting out, and you have to hope someone’s around who knows where it’s from and can confirm it’s available for the taking.

    1. Tupac Coachella*

      We do a lot of “free, take one” signs, but the inverse of that is we also have a lot of slightly unhinged signs when something’s *not* free to take. “This is for JEN. Not to share. It’s for the summer program, and the SCIENCE department owns it. JEN ONLY. Jen.” Followed up with a super chill “leftovers, help yourself” sign on about half of the previously verboten snacks two days later.

      1. Former Themed Employee*

        “Oh right, the cupcake. The cupcake for Jen. The cupcake chosen specifically for Jen. Jen’s cupcake.”

    2. Snubble*

      My place is like that. There’ll be leftover from a lunchtime training and it’ll be out on the side in the kitchen… but that’s also where it was before lunch, when they were setting up, so can I have that lil tuna sandwich piece or no? is this a leftover tub of pasta or a not-yet-offered tub?

    3. Elizabeth West*

      In the third-floor breakroom at Exjob, one table was for sitting and eating and the other was designated for free leftovers. Anything on that table was understood to be fair game. It was a great place to dispose of leftover Halloween candy and extra produce from the garden.

      1. UKDancer*

        We have an area like that as well in my company. Things that are free to take are left there (usually with a sign). If it’s not in that area, then it’s not free. It makes it a lot easier to know what you can take and what you can’t.

      2. Quill*

        We had a table like that once. The Box of Peaches was a highlight. (Someone had a tree that apparently was having a very good year.)

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          My boss had a glut of damsons. Nobody wanted more than a handful, so I turned the rest into jam. Boss had a jar, I had a jar, and the rest of the batch came back to work with freshly baked scones. Highly successful summer.

    4. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Years ago I worked in an unsecured high rise — anyone could come in the front door and ride up the elevator to offices. Our front door had a receptionist, but our unlocked / unattended back door entered into our break room. We’d often find unmarked snacks in there, maybe a tin of popcorn. Occurred to me at one point that we very trusting — we assumed it was a gift from a vendor but had no idea what most of it was or how it got there, and anyone could have brought it in. Happily, as we don’t live in a mystery story no one was poisoned :D

  17. Over It*

    Lately my workplace has had the opposite problem, where people just dump unwanted leftovers from home in the break room, where they’ll sit out for days uneaten before someone discretely trashes them. The weirdest was a few weeks ago when someone brought in 2/3 of a somewhat smushed sheet cake in a giant Ziplock bag. It was one of those cakes where they had gotten edible pictures printed out on the frosting (presumably their kids or grandkids?) I like cake, but hard pass on that one. People also like to leave coupons and about to expire OTC medications as well.

    1. cabbagepants*

      Wow, this is bad!

      I’ve occasionally seen home leftovers brought in, but only really nice stuff in good condition, like non-mushed cake.

      Medicine that is about to expire seems pretty gross to me.

      1. Over It*

        It’s usually things like Tylenol or Claritin still in their packaging but expiring in 3 or so weeks. Not gross…but definitely odd!

    2. AngelS.*

      Pre-pandemic, my work was like that. People would leave unopened packages, fruit, baked goodies, pens, keychains, etc. Once, someone left items that were passed their expiration date. My coworker printed out a sign in giant letters, that said “EXPIRED!” and left it there.

    3. Fashion Show at Lunch!*

      Ah, this reminds me of the time at a previous job when someone left a package of string cheese in the fridge with a note that read “Help yourself! Warning: It tastes terrible.” Unsurprisingly (or maybe surprisingly, given how often people tend to abandon all reason when it comes to free food), that package of cheese sat in the fridge for what seemed like years.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        Considering there’s also a weird tendency in people to go “Here, you have to try this, it’s *terrible*”, and for other people to then actually try the terrible thing, confirm it’s terrible, and pass it on to a third (fourth, and fifth, etc) person, who witnessed all this and still tries it … maybe they were hoping their sign would act a that prompt.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes I can confirm. I brought some chocolates back from a country and they were awful and tasted like sawdust (which I hadn’t realised because I bought them at the airport and didn’t taste them). Everyone in my floor of the company tried them to check how awful they were and agreed they were terrible. They then got other people to taste them to confirm it.

          It was really funny.

          1. Ev*

            Nintendo Switch cartridges are engineered to taste very bad, to prevent babies and small children from accidentally choking on them. Nearly every grown adult I’ve shared this fact with has later told me that they felt compelled to lick a Switch cartridge (if they had one available) to confirm it. (Including me – they do indeed taste awful.)

      2. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

        I once put a box of tea I didn’t like in the office breakroom. A few hours later I ran into a coworker in the hallway who said “hey did you try that tea in the breakroom? It’s awful” and I said “Oh, I know, that’s why I put it there!”

    4. desk platypus*

      While eating lunch in breakroom with a few coworkers one of them pointed to our designated free-for-all today and said, “Someone brought a big bag of chips that expired a whole year ago for some reason.” Another coworker said, “Oh, yeah, I brought them. I was cleaning out the pantry,” without any shame whatsoever and didn’t get why we thought that was weird/rude.

    5. Z*

      I bring in leftovers from home, if you can call them that. I’ll make a batch of peanut butter cookies and only eat maybe three, so the rest go to the office. Same with the scones. And that strange coconut bread. And occasionally a random snack food I wanted to try but turned out not to like. I throw any baked goods away at the end of the week and I haven’t had to throw out snack food yet.

    6. crookedfinger*

      My office is like this (minus the meds). We frequently bring in leftovers from parties, or snacks that we didn’t like that other people might enjoy. Usually it works out great, but occasionally someone will bring in something that should’ve been trashed, like a completely stale giant cinnamon roll someone brought in yesterday…

  18. TerribleName*

    I worked at a place with a vulture problem. Eventually, the company had to make increasingly strict rules:

    1. Do not scavenge the breakfast trays set up in the conference room BEFORE THE CLIENT MEETING.
    2. Do not scavenge DURING the client meeting.
    3. Actually, do not go in the conference room at all if you are not part of the meeting.
    4. No scavenging at all until the meeting is over and the food is dropped off in the kitchen.

    It was hilarious and/or bad. Also, there was a messaging board with “FREE FOOD in the third-floor kitchen” type announcements.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Both CurrentJob and OldJob have “Vulture Issues”. OldJob probably had more of a lifetime vulture subscription, but anyhow.

      CurrentJob is just handled by waiting to announce the existence of leftovers or the arrival of treats to one particular department. They ARE the vultures who lack any sort of manners and couth. No, seriously, we don’t let them out of the office much for anything where they’d be representing us in an official capacity.

      OldJob – it was situational. Heaven forbid anyone grab food provided during training sponsored by department A, but you know the folks in department A who weren’t involved in the workshop for departments B & C were the first in line for catering for that workshop. And of course there were executives from department D who had to have their hands brushed back because the catering tray was for specific customer presentation for department B and not general consumption. I frequently just brought coffee for reception/administrative that had to deal with all of this nonsense and stupidity over free food.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      I have an image of your harried HR person standing in front of the food table with a spear fending off the wheeling attacks of the company vulture pack!

  19. Lynn*

    I will hold this grudge forever.

    After big projects, my company will typically have a little party on site and get a big cake that notes whatever the accomplishment was.

    Last year, my project went live and on the day of the party, my project lead ran out to get the cake at lunch and put it in the empty cube next to hers. Sometime between then and the party, the person on her other side saw the cake, opened the SEALED box, and helped herself to the first corner piece. We hadn’t even gotten a picture of the cake.

  20. ConstantlyComic*

    My workplace has the opposite of the usual problem–no one ever wants to be the one to finish off the free food! If the branch manager gets us all donuts for a meeting on Friday, come Monday morning there will be at least a donut and a half left in the same box going stale because “so-and-so is part time, so maybe they didn’t get one” (never mind that they were on-site all day Saturday and had ample opportunity) or “I don’t want to take a second if someone else wants one.” Most of the time, either the last remnants of the food get thrown out about half a week later, someone bites the bullet and finishes it off, or the remains keep dwindling Achilles-Paradox style until there’s an 8th of a donut left.

    1. I Herd the Cats*

      The half-donut or half-cookie or cake thing! I used to laugh watching people cut another bit off … like, just take it.

      1. A person in retail*

        The other day I took half the last cookie. The half I left behind didn’t look so good. So… I threw it away! It felt wrong and right at the same time. :-)

      2. lin*

        In my last meeting where we had donuts, we established a ground rule as part of the morning getting-rolling discussion: “thou shalt not take less than half a donut. If you want less than half a donut, take half a donut and throw away what you don’t eat.”

        We put it on the flip chart right next to “if your marker dies, throw it in the trash, don’t put it back in the marker bag.”

        At the end of the day I had 3 and two halves of donuts left out of two dozen, but no mushed up crumbs. And we’d thrown away four dead markers.

      3. Lily*

        I worked at a place where one person would take an obvious bite of the last cookie or whatever (usually a cookie), then leave the rest on the tray.

    2. EPLawyer*

      The 8th of a donut left made me laugh. Just half, just half, just half, ad infinitum.

    3. ConstantlyComic*

      I forgot to add that I am not immune to this! A few months ago, someone brought in macarons from a nearby bakery, and I and a coworker almost got into a fight over the last one–because I was going to take it until she mentioned that she hadn’t tried that flavor, so I insisted that she have it.

    4. Siege*

      I swear to god I’ve seen people at a previous job “oh I could only eat half!” a bagel into 16ths, possibly 32nds. When there’s less than a bite left, eat it or throw it away, stop using it as a performative prop. Weirdly, it wasn’t a workplace with high image standards, so while some people were probably doing it for body image reasons, others were just absolutely phobic about taking all of something. And this was a multi-million dollar company with plenty of bagels to go around. It was just ridiculous.

      1. Random Dice*

        I think it’s one of those regional unwritten (and so utterly set in stone because it must be true everywhere in the galaxy) cultural things.

      2. Nobby Nobbs*

        Butbutbut you might inconvenience someone who wanted it more than you did! That would be selfish! I’m trying to fight this impulse in myself, to mixed success.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Like, if somebody is truly going to be put out by not getting one eighth of a bagel they probably have more problems then I can solve anyway.

    5. My own boss*

      This is totally a thing where I live. Every place I’ve ever worked ends up with one stale 1/8th of something because it’s so ingrained in the culture that it’s rude to take the last piece. But at the same time, everyone is sad to see good food get thrown out.

    6. Elitist Semicolon*

      And sometimes that gets tied into all kinds of food moralizing, too, like my co-worker who used to make a big deal out of “I’ll only take a little; I’m being good today!” and then go back for four more tiny bits of whatever (making the same comment each time). Like, I get that sometimes people prefer to have tastes throughout the day, but let’s not assign moral value to that approach over taking a larger piece and then picking away at it in one’s own office.

      1. Siege*

        Michael Marshall Smith, an author I adore, has a bit in his book Only Forward about how any piece of circular food (quiche, pie, bagels, etc) that is less than 20 degrees of the circle is fat free and calorie free. He’s highlighting the tendency of people to do exactly this, whether they do it out loud or silently.

      2. Anon For Now*

        We do occasional food for our department, and no one is excessively weird about it (thank God) but I hate the performative body talk!

        NotFromMyDepartment wanders in, spots food up for grabs, asks “who keeps doing this to me??” and helps themselves to a food. No one is doing this to you! It isn’t even *for* you! Stop making your weird dysfunctional relationship to food and/or your own body my problem!

      1. yllis*

        My midwest ex director saw 1/8 of a mini muffin and just let out “For christsakes people, it’s a MINI muffin” She’s normally so reserved, it was funny

        1. Lexi Vipond*

          Three people once brought me a quarter of a muffin (ordinary sized, to be fair) to try to bribe me to do something for them that wasn’t quite my job. It wasn’t a very big thing they wanted, and I suppose I got as much muffin as they’d each had, but still…

          (And one of them was the person who accused me of eating ‘seagull food’ because I was having smoked mackerel for lunch one day. The muffin looked FAR more like seagull food!)

    7. Admin of Sys*

      hah! Last cake day at work (some of us bake for folks once a month), I put the leftovers in the fridge. At the end of the day, I went to pickup my cake pan, and there was an inch square of cheesecake left because no one was willing to take the ‘last’ piece and it just kept getting smaller and smaller.

      1. UKDancer*

        I don’t understand this. If I want the last piece I take it. I don’t get this idea of cutting it smaller and smaller.

    8. Polar Vortex*

      The “can’t take the last, must half it forever” is very much the regional norm in where I currently live. Conversely I come from “can’t take the first of anything ever” region, so I violate their norms and I don’t ever have to violate my own. Or it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Depends on how you look at it.

  21. HonorBox*

    This isn’t so much a debacle but just a funny food-related story. We were a small office (6-7 people) and had a little potluck lunch the day before Thanksgiving one year. We all just emailed around and said what we’d be bringing. One of my coworkers made a big BIG deal about the fact that no one was bringing rolls. So in addition to what she was bringing, she made it a point to bring in rolls and butter. Thank cheap ass rolls. Nothing spectacular. No one ate any of them. None. Not even the person who brought them. We had too much other (better) food. So the rolls just sat there. For a LONG, LONG, LONG time. They didn’t get moldy. They just got to be rock hard. So one of my coworkers and I took them into the parking lot and played a little baseball (I had my softball bat in my car) with them. It was a blast.

    1. Some words*

      Does anyone else get a little creeped out by food that doesn’t degrade like we all know it should?

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I remember in MFK Fisher’s How To Cook A Wolf, she wrote about these really weird salmon squares she got–even for wartime rations they were bizarre tasting and she couldn’t do anything with them. Throwing away food during wartime is of course a cardinal sin, but the things were inedible.

        She snuck them out of the house and threw them out in a lane or skip? Somewhere where the local animals could easily snag them. Then a week or so later, she walked by the spot and they were sitting there, untouched and unchanged in appearance. Not even the local cats and foxes would touch them!

  22. Irish Teacher*

    Not really people getting over-enthusiastic or anything, but an indication of the culture in a school I once worked in. In this particular school, student teachers did not go into the staffroom and instead had their own separate “office.” (Personally, this strikes me as a very bad idea as it prevents them from learning stuff from listening to other teachers and overhearing the planning that goes on in the staffroom or from getting spontaneous advice.) Anyway, I was subbing in this school and somebody brought in chocolates. After everybody had taken what they wanted, there were a few at the bottom that probably nobody liked and one teacher asked, “does anybody want these? If not, I’ll take them up to the student teachers upstairs.” It really came across as crumbs from the rich man’s table and given that student-teachers are not paid, it seemed particularly mean to give them last choice like that.

  23. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    I used to work for a large company at the corporate office. Several thousand employees in many small departments. This company was also known for retention and had many employees hitting service anniversaries which was usually celebrated with a cookies/cake party for 10/15/20 years and a larger spread for 25/30 etc. These were technically open company wide to stop in, say thanks to the employee.

    We had an intern one summer go to every single one. He would wait until close to the end of it because often the honoree had gone back to work and would take as much as he thought he could get away with. Eventually there were a band of roving interns taking all the leftovers. It was more amusing than anything

  24. Gondorff*

    The current (and ongoing) free food fracas at my workplace involves candy. Like, fun size candy bars that you’d get/give at Halloween. This past Halloween, our office manager put out a cute Halloween display with a bowl of candy. This then morphed into a holiday display in November/December. Then, because people kept requesting it, candy stuck around into the new year.

    All of that sounds fine, right? A nice little treat for everyone, y’know?

    Except people have seemingly lost any sense of decorum over this because, of course, some varieties of candy are more preferred than others. Which has led to people hoarding candy in their desks, taking said hoarded candy from people’s desks, *breaking into* locked drawers and filing cabinets to steal candy, etc. One of the partners even directed an intern to monitor the candy bowl and call him when it was refilled with the type of candy he likes!

    I’ve told our office manager to just stop buying more candy, but thus far the candy bowl keeps getting refilled and grown adults continue to act like fools.

    1. HigherEdAdminista*

      Even if I was starving, I would be mortified to act like this about free candy. I don’t understand how people rationalize this to themselves!

    2. Becky*

      My company has bowls of candy out for Halloween and during “Founders week” and while there have not been any problems with people hoarding or descending like locusts, you will inevitably walk into the breakroom at least once while the bowls are out to find all the candy removed from the bowl and sorted by type in piles on the counter.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      These are all presumably grown adults who can buy entire bags of their preferred candy whenever they wish.

  25. Not my coffee*

    I used to have a “nice” single cup coffee maker and provided “good” coffee for mainly myself, but I was willing to share. My boss, who is not a coffee drinker, showed up at my office everyday. She said it was because the coffee was free. She said since I would be providing free coffee, she would stop by everyday. That was on Monday. Friday was the last day I provided coffee. I even took the coffee maker home.

    This is someone who made substantially more than me. I had no interest if she was a victim of food insecurity.

    1. Siege*

      There are a shocking number of people in the world who can afford to buy their own coffee or candy or other small item and will metaphorically (or literally) waste $20 in gas, time, and/or goodwill to get that thing free. It’s astonishing. I have no idea how they rationalize it to themselves.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      She stopped by your office to drink your coffee even though she didn’t drink coffee? What on earth?

    3. cabbagepants*

      Probably some goofball will write an article on LinkedIn about how a coffee maker is a hack for getting more face time with your boss.

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        ha! I double-dog dare you to make a fictitious tech-bro account and do this.

    4. I was a living economic trope*

      At my first office job, I brought in a small personal espresso machine — mostly because I was too broke to buy Starbucks, but I loved espresso. I was willing to share, but nobody took me up on it — apparently they were terrified by the VERY COMPLEX MACHINERY.

      They just kept buying daily lattes at Starbucks and complaining about the cost of living.

    5. Random Dice*

      ” I had no interest if she was a victim of food insecurity.”

      I’m so glad that so far the food-insecurity lecturers haven’t descended. That used to get so tiresome, that every story of people stealing food was met with lectures that maybe them taking the entire office’s share was actually food insecurity. It was really disrespectful to say that food insecurity makes someone a thief.

      1. Not my coffee*

        I would say no because she was the type who would never bring anything to the potluck but be first in line. She was infamous.

  26. Former GM*

    Previously worked at a small law firm that was actively involved in community events and would host meetings at our office for the outside events.

    One such meeting was for a neighborhood non-profit’s board meeting. I don’t think any of our attorneys were even in the meeting – maybe just the office manager. Our firm provided a catered lunch by an Italian restaurant – so there were multiple pasta options, salad, and bread. People ate, the meeting went fine, and then people started to leave. One of the attendees asked if she could take some food to go. Office manager said no problem (there was a lot left over) and this person took a plate and proceeded to pile it SO HIGH with food, she took a second plate, put it on top, and asked the office manager for some “heavy duty tape” and then proceeded to wrap tape all along the sides, completely enclosing the mountain of food between the plates.

    Me and my coworker who had a direct eye lines into the conference room stared in disbelief while this happened. She acted like it was the most normal thing in the world and walked out. All the office girls had a field day resharing the story with everyone.

    1. Tom*

      I…honestly don’t see the problem here. The event was over, there was a lot of food left, why not snag a large quantity?

  27. Bird Lady*

    I had a manager who used to purchase pizza for impromptu staff lunches. It was incredibly generous, because she paid for it out of pocket and was never reimbursed by the company. She accommodated all dietary restrictions, which meant occasionally buying a small pizza (6-slice) that only one person would eat. And she did it gladly!

    And yet, you’d think she was murdering babies. Everyone had negative comments about the pizza. And it was pizza – hot, tasty, and more importantly close by the office so they delivered! Was it a gourmet meal? It was not. But I point again to free, tasty pizza purchased out of her own pocket by the boss. It got so bad that at luncheons she would self-cater, people brought their own food to eat and large bottles of ranch dressing to share.

    1. PizzaRat*

      I had a workplace like this, where every office staff celebration featured the SAME TERRIBLE CHAIN PIZZA every time. Greasy, never hot, etc. The only person who liked it was the person in charge of ordering. Sometimes the ‘honoree’ (if a baby shower or retirement party) would ask **very nicely** for either a specific (similarly priced/local option) or “anything but xyz pizza” and yet every time… What made this even more frustrating was that we were the corporate offices for a restaurant group and our office was LITERALLY ABOVE AND CONNECTED TO ONE OF THE RESTAURANTS, so that we could’ve easily had the (very good) food our own company made instead, either from the menu or special made orders with advance notice.

    2. D. B.*

      Some people are really very picky about their pizza. I don’t understand it — I don’t think I have ever met a pizza I wouldn’t eat at least one slice of. Even when it’s bad, it’s still good! But when my brother and I still lived with our parents, I remember we could only get pizza from certain places or he wouldn’t eat it. Not coincidentally, my brother has always been a lot thinner than me. :)

  28. Babs*

    I catered special events, meetings, and trainings in a hospital and leftovers were typically reserved for volunteers and lower paid support staff. There was one department head, very well compensated but with a reputation for being extremely cheap, who kept what seemed to be a full set of Tupperware in his office and who would often show up after meetings and events to pack away all the leftovers to take home to his family. This was seen as an annoying and selfish quirk by the people whose department had paid for the food until he wrote into a local newspaper column where readers shared tricks and tips on being thrifty, saying that he did what he did. He wrote in with his full name, job title, and the name of the hospital that employed him. Suddenly, I had instructions from hospital PR and the CEOs office that they were to be notified if he was seen doing this again. The thing is, he didn’t stop. He was less blatant about it and stopped stealing leftovers from meetings in the executive suite but he still managed to catch me in hallways and elevators, with carts full of chafing dishes, and he never failed to make himself a plate or grab several servings of dessert “for his staff”. I never turned him in because $11/hr was not enough to get me involved in that nonsense

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*


      Full priced audacity!!!

      I agree, $11/hour was nowhere near enough to make this problem your issue!!!

      1. Babs*

        This was fifteen years ago and dude was making six figures in the rural south and he had a working spouse. I’m still blown away by how clueless and tacky he was. Not blown away enough to get involved in the little tempest in a teapot though

    2. reg*

      this dude reminds me of a reality show about extreme penny-pinchers who skate by charging their friends rent for free apartments and insisting on taking half their date’s meal

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’m convinced this is some kind of illness or disordered thinking the way hoarding is. There’s a distinct difference between being frugal or thrifty and being one of these extreme cheapskates. And it’s not always people who are living in poverty or used to be, either.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Absolutely. Extreme miserliness can be a symptom of that type of mental disorder.

  29. Jennifer*

    We had an elderly colleague that used to request a kosher meal and then he would eat the kosher meal plus whatever else was available. The office manager was too shocked/annoyed to say anything, I also think his age had something to do with the non-confrontation, so it happened a few times and then covid hit and we haven’t had any of those meetings in person. I wonder if he would try it again if they went back to in person meetings though.

    1. HigherEdAdminista*

      There were people who used to do this when we had this specific kind of lunch meeting here as well! There was a separate station for kosher meals, and people would go and grab one of those and then go for a non-kosher lunch to boot.

    2. londonedit*

      Probably. Those of us who don’t eat meat are familiar with the people who will regard the vegetarian/vegan options as extra side dishes. The last few catered barbecues I’ve been to, the organisers have asked for dietary requirements in advance, and then the veggie/vegans/gluten-free etc people have been invited to go up first to get their veggie burgers etc from the barbecue and so they can have first pick of the non-meat side dishes. Otherwise, if there’s no supervision, everyone else will get their meaty things and then go ‘Ooh, yeah, I’ll have one of those veggie sausages as well, and some halloumi on the side, and some of those grilled vegetables’ and they don’t think about the fact that they might be taking them away from someone who would actually be having them as their main meal.

      1. reg*

        a former coworker sprang up when at a staff event when they asked vegan/vegetarians to get their food first. someone pointed out that she was a meat-eater and she said “oh i’m getting this for jim.” like, a full lie.

      2. Quill*

        Not helped, of course, by the fact that the meat meal often doesn’t have any type of vegetables, and societal expectations that anything that doesn’t contain meat is a side dish…

      3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        As a lifelong celiac, it happens ALL THE TIME that there’s ONE dish at the buffet that’s gluten free (let’s say, a salad with some kind of protein) and it’s always the first thing to go. So frustrating.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          If not, it’s right next to the pasta salad and there’s only one spoon …

  30. Sprigatito*

    I had a coworker who was extremely fond of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. When he retired, he filled the freezers in our floor’s break room with pints of Ben & Jerry’s (literally to capacity) and left several ice cream scoops on the counter with a note thanking everyone in the department and encouraging us to “sample and share” the bounty. Within about an hour of him leaving, the freezers were completely emptied, as a few people not only collected armfuls of ice cream to take home for themselves, they had alerted friends in other parts of the building to descend and do the same. It turned a sweet and generous gesture into a ravening free for all, and those of us who’d actually worked with the guy basically got nothing.

    1. HigherEdAdminista*

      Something about this is so sad! Like it is such a sweet gesture, and these folk swoop in like predators to snatch it all up. It turned what should have been a nice send-off of a colleague into an annoying memory about how selfish people can be.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        Man, this story really bums me out. What a nice gesture by the departing employee!

    2. Megan C.*

      That is SO SWEET and I’m so mad that those jerks went and ruined it! People can be so awful.

  31. The Baconing*

    Our organization caters for many events, and there’s always food left over. We had a recruiter who was infamous for his frugality and would put out feelers every day to the administrative staff to see where there might be free food that day and at what time. I can’t be positive, but it felt like he wrote out a schedule and would somehow be in the area of the free food at just the right time with an empty lunch box and containers.

    He worked for us for years, and, in that whole time, I’m not positive he never bought any food for himself. I honestly think he sustained on all the food he procured from our catered events, which does impress me at some level. However, I happen to know he was not hurting for personal funding because he was also an over-sharer. He was just extremely cheap.

  32. Sorry Anon for this one!*

    There used to be a woman in my department who was a little odd to begin with, but when free food was involved she lost any sense of how to behave.

    Part of her job was to organize events, and two things happened that will forever stand out in my mind. In one instance, she helped to plan and organize a presentation for the organization; the presentation was going to be followed by light refreshments. While the presentation was going on, before a single guest had touched the food, she was in the conference room with the food, packing up to-go containers of all the items. She didn’t take everything, but she took a dinner plate sized container of every single item (and there were probably 15 different things on the display). Her boss didn’t know how to handle it because it was so far outside anyone’s experience, and he let it slide.

    For the second event, the organization had signed on with a sort of on-call cater. These were the folks who every department was mandated to use for all events. This wasn’t necessarily common knowledge, so when she suggested to one of the managers going with a better catering option for another event, they told her to take care of it. Of her own volition, she got a local company to provide platters of food and beverages for one of the department events. I heard similar behavior of packing up food occurred at this event as well.

    Afterwards, these folks expected to be paid and the accounts payable department had to figure out how to process it because this outside vendor was not on their approved list. This local business had to fill out a bunch of paperwork to become approved, all to get paid for the items they had provided weeks before.

  33. Henpecked Admin*

    I was the Office Manager at a 2-story office of about 115 employees. Every Friday, we had treats, alternating between donuts and bagels. Each week, I’d get them set up and would then send out a page letting people know they were available and ready on the first floor.

    One week, during setup I noticed that some of our order was missing. Because I was on the phone trying to sort things out with the shop before the delivery driver got too far away from our office, I was ten minutes late sending out a page and the first floor staff had a ten minute lead on grabbing snacks. One employee from the second floor was not able to snag a preferred cheddar bagel (there were still more than enough bagels left for him to find SOME scrumptious flavor) due to the delay and he complained about the indignity — to me, to my supervisor, to everyone else in the company — for the rest of the day, even making a big show of going out to buy his own bagel.

    In the following weeks, he made a point of lurking on the first floor before I could even set up or send out a page; on mornings when he couldn’t lurk, he’d greet me with a snide remark about me actually doing my job. No, I wasn’t terribly bummed when he was terminated a few months later.

    1. Sylvia*

      What a jerk! I would make a point of never ordering his favorite flavor after that, because I’m petty.

  34. PotteryYarn*

    I am notorious for only coming into the office on days when I know there will be free food. It’s a sickness!

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I thought it was well-known that food is the preferred lure to get hybrid employees into the office–not a sickness, but the system working as intended!

      1. Becky*


        I work full remote with the exception of a handful of meetings per year in the office (once per quarter for my department, and couple of company-wide ones). One of those quarterly department meetings happens to be today. If lunch were not included I would not bother going in and would instead just attend via Teams.

        In a few weeks is our annual celebration for the company founding, and tenure awards are given. The week begins with a speech and donuts. Donuts are not worth going in for me, I’ll just turn on the speech remotely. But the week closes with a fully catered cookout. Also includes the recognition for my 10 year anniversary with the company. That I will attend.

  35. ThatGirl*

    People are mostly fine at my office, though if there’s a group catered lunch being held in the break room there are often signs that go up to tell people not to thieve it. But typically leftovers are fair game, and there are few guys from compliance and engineering who are almost always first in line for the leftovers.

    Also, it’s really funny to me that any time someone has leftover Chipotle, the leftover guac is always gone in a heartbeat.

  36. Local Garbage Committee*

    Where I live it is the custom to NEVER be seen to be taking the last of something, most of our office food drama is of the ‘how long will the last one sit there before someone takes it?’ or the ‘this item is diminishing but never disappearing’ variety.

    1. ConstantlyComic*

      I feel you! I almost got into a fight with a coworker a couple of months ago over who was going to take the last of a box of pastries that had been gifted to the staff–I was actually going to take it until she mentioned that she hadn’t tried that kind before, at which point I made a complete 180 and insisted she take it, leading to a “oh no, it’s fine, you take it” showdown (which I eventually won, so I hope she enjoyed her macaron).

    2. The OG Sleepless*

      I used to have a coworker whose grandmother would occasionally send in a batch of the most delicious coffee cake I have ever tasted. The coworker has since left and Grandma passed away, and I still regret not getting the recipe. Any time it was there, nobody wanted to take the last piece, so as it was about to run out, people would cut it into smaller and smaller pieces. I looked in the pan once and there was a piece the size of a dice.

    3. NoOneWillSeeThisComment*

      YES! This is a thing in my area too. It’s so much so, I have no shame in throwing out the last one. I’m sorry if someone tomorrow decides they would have liked the donut/chips/candy/whatever that has been sitting out for 24 hours, but we’re people, not garbage disposals. Enjoy the food while it’s fresh, or take it home on your way out. There is no shame in keeping the work area clean!

    4. Rainy Cumbria*

      I see this sometimes extend to refusing to take the second-last item too, so there won’t be just one left *facepalm*

  37. Ann Onymous*

    I used to work on a team with some people who were really into free food. They had an extensive communication network to make sure they were the first to know anytime there were leftovers from a meeting or event anywhere in our building (and sometimes the neighboring buildings). One day I tagged along with them to snag leftovers from another building, and the admin running the event went off on us. She said, “I don’t know where you guys are coming from or how you are finding out about this stuff, but you need to stop!” She then threatened to report us to our manager. Little did she know, our manager was the ringleader of the free food gang and encouraged that behavior in the rest of us.

  38. Bunny Girl*

    I worked very briefly at the most dysfunctional law firm I have ever seen. There were a lot of client meetings that food was ordered in for. The assistants and admin positions made minimum wage in a very, very high cost of living area. I know I certainly couldn’t have afforded to eat out on what we were being paid and our lunches were mostly all peanut butter sandwiches or beans and rice. A couple of the lawyers (and we were an employment law firm and mostly worked with corporations) would literally SPRINT down the hall to get as much food as they could carry back to their desks; leaving the assistants with next to nothing.

  39. Qwerty*

    People used to take an entire stack of cookies (3-5 cookies) at a time when I used to bring in home baked goods. If I made sugar cookies, they would take one of each shape or color claiming a need to “try to them all” despite there being no flavor difference.

    Now I make cookie bars rather than cookies. While people may come back for seconds hours later, they generally take one per visit or even cut them in half.

  40. Elle*

    You guys are gonna want to sit down for this. We’ve had a box of uneaten pizza sitting in the office fridge since last week. It’s peppers and onions. Not sure if that’s the barrier to people taking it.

    1. A nony mouse*

      We once had free food brought in for a group of students, who, as a group, refused to eat anything with a vegetable in it. The hamburgers were eaten since the tomatoes and lettuce were presented separately, but since the potato salad had shredded carrot in it, it was rejected. Same for the macaroni salad because it had celery, and of course, the green salad was right out. They then complained that they were hungry, but we had no money to get any additional food.

      We’d been feeding student groups for years, and never seen anything like this before. We did ask for food allergies/preferences, but none of them had ‘will not eat any anything touched by a vegetable’ listed, so we were caught off-guard.

      1. Katydid*

        But…potato salad is made from a vegetable! How can adding an orange vegetable make it any more ‘vegetable-y’ than it already is? One might almost wonder if they weren’t pulling your tail.

    2. ThatGirl*

      That reminds me, a coworker from out of town left her pizza in the fridge last week, I should see if it’s still there

    3. pally*

      The cheese with black olives pizza was always the last to go where I worked. In fact, it usually went untouched and had to be tossed.

  41. Minerva*

    For a brief period of time, in an attempt to ward off “Free Food Frenzy” the admins stopped announcing when food/cake leftover from meetings would be in the breakroom. This largely worked as intended. Even with people reporting back to their groups that food was available it would stagger people coming in, instead of the big rush. There were often no plate or utensils provided so either you needed to have your own or hope the food was hold in a hand/napkin.

    The problem arose with The Ice Cream Sheet Cake. It was put on the counter. No plates or utensils were provided. I walked by shortly after it was put out, went back to my desk to grab my reusable plate and noted to my team there was leftover ice cream cake. We all managed to get a slice while it was still fairly frozen. I walked back an hour later and while a bit more was gone, an awful lot was left. And it was getting melty. A little after that…well let’s say the floor ended up eating most of that cake.

    The janitorial staff Was Not Amused.

    1. Charlie*

      …why would you not have put it back in the freezer when you walked by and saw it melting? Stick a post it where the cake was that says “leftover cake in freezer!” so people can still grab it.

      1. Minerva*

        The break room’s freezer is minuscule, nowhere near the size required to put this cake away.

        The only option would be to store in the freezer in the onsite cafe, and that request needed to come from the floor’s admin. And yes I did mention it to him when I saw it getting melty and said something like “Eh it won’t last much longer with this crowd.”

        Apparently it lasted longer than he though it would.

    2. Starscourge Savvy*

      …………why didn’t you put it back in the freezer if you saw it melting? You just left it to melt all over the floor?

        1. Starscourge Savvy*

          Makes sense. It’s so strange that they’d just leave an ice cream cake out like that and *hope* it got eaten before it melted!

  42. Beancounter Eric*

    Not a debacle so much as a means of avoiding one….pizza rules.

    A law firm I worked for had a written policy on the conduct of pizza events at work. The basics of the policy were as follows:

    1. Individuals participating were allowed two slices of pizza on their first pass through the line.
    2. Individuals could make a second pass only after all participants had gone through once.
    3. There was a policy section regarding type and quantity of pizza to be ordered, largely based on number of participants, but a list of prohibited pizza toppings largely driven by the Managing Partner’s personal preferences.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      Honestly though, for a big group its best to stick to the classics in toppings. It may not be everyone’s favorite but everyone who can eat pizza (thinking of the Celiac LW from yesterday) can eat a plain cheese pizza. The more toppings you add, the more you run into concerns with allergies/intolerances, dietary restrictions, and preferences.

      As someone who doesn’t eat pork for religious reasons, I hate when I get to the pizza line and there’s only meat lovers left. Just order a giant pile of cheese, a smaller pile of pepperoni, and call it good.

      1. londonedit*

        Definitely. All too often people do it the other way round – they think oh, we’ve got 10 meat-eaters and two vegetarians, so we’ll get mainly pizzas and one or two vegetarian. Then the meat-eaters all have a slice of meaty and a slice of veggie, and there’s barely anything left for the vegetarians. It should really be the other way round – everyone can eat a margherita, so get a few of those, maybe another veggie one, and only a couple of pizzas with meat.

        1. UKDancer*

          We always get twice as much cheese as anything else because it’s the most popular. I mean I’m not vegetarian but I always prefer the cheese one to the options involving meat. I especially avoid pepperoni because it doesn’t agree with me and I prefer not to spend the evening in the ladies room. So given a choice between pepperoni pizza and cheese pizza I would always go for the cheese one.

          So my company would go for about 70% cheese and 30% other pizza and that seems to work quite well.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          My rule is 80:20 if I know I’m catering for even one vegetarian, as in 80% vegetarian 20% meat.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Yep. I get so many people asking for my recommendations and after things like gluten free are taken care of? Honestly, get cheese, fresh veggie and pepperoni. Don’t waste time on the other pies, they’ll get two slices eaten and you’ll have a huge pile of leftovers no one wants.

      1. Minerva*

        If I worked for that supervisor I would not have quit on the spot, but I would have been tempted.

      2. Quill*

        If you’ve never had a corn pizza you’ve never lived.

        (Black olive and cheese would be a huge relief compared to the Pizza Debacles when I was on an archaeology dig. The number of people who went spare over the idea that we would not be having a meat pizza because that was not kosher… and we were in israel… I have never seen so much cheese pizza in my life. Especially given that on pizza day there would be literally nothing else to eat so for the love of god include a vegetable on at least some of the pizzas…)

  43. new year, new name*

    I admit this is a pretty low-stakes situation compared to some others. At my old job, there was a long-standing tradition of Pay Day Bagel Day, which is pretty much what it sounds like, and it was largely drama-free and actually a very nice low-key optional social thing. But this was a company with a handful of regional offices and, over time, the specifics of Pay Day Bagel Day evolved/diverged a bit between locations. For the first couple of years that I worked there, the offices were mostly independent but gradually they started to cross-pollinate more as staff transferred between locations and we began working on more larger, multi-region projects. We also switched from monthly to biweekly pay periods.

    At one point, someone realized that the City A office was getting FRUIT with their bagels. And the office in City B had transitioned to weekly Bagel Fridays so they were getting bagels TWICE AS OFTEN. And City C was on a non-Friday schedule for some reason, meaning that if your job meant you had to split your time between offices, you could get EVEN MORE BAGELS. Eventually, every office got weekly bagels and fruit. There were always leftovers, so I brought in a jar of peanut butter and basically had half my lunches covered each week, which was nice.

    I left that job before the pandemic, but I heard IMMEDIATELY from multiple former coworkers when Bagel Fridays were reinstated after the shutdown. Except all the offices are hybrid now and almost no one is there on Fridays, so it’s apparently Bagel Wednesdays now.

  44. Alianne*

    When I worked at a library, we would have a big Christmas/holiday potluck every December. Whatever anyone wanted to bring, from cakes and cookies, to spicy cornbread and butter, to meatballs, to my supervisor’s magnificent chess bars, all laid out on a long table in the circulation office.

    My coworkers? Took only what they wanted, and asked the makers if they could box up a piece or pieces to take home for kids/family before doing so.

    Librarians from other floors/departments? Called down to see if they could stop in, thanked everyone profusely for the treat.

    Patrons? Would literally try to barge into the office, or lunge past the low barrier between the circ desk and the space behind where the office entrance was. My two fondest memories are the woman who tried to guilt us for not feeding her and her child a full lunch (he was at least 12 and visibly embarrassed), and the longtime patron who pulled the “I pay your salary” card, insisting that after all his years of supporting the library, we *owed* him a sampler plate of baked goods. My supervisor refused to bend for either of them.

  45. GrooveBat*

    I can *kind of* understand people losing their minds over free doughnuts, snacks, lunches, etc. Work can be boring, and any sort of special occasion perk breaks up the monotony a little bit. Heck, I like a good handful of M&Ms as much as the next person! And birthday cake? Count me in!

    But what gets me is the people who go into conference rooms *before a meeting starts* and help themselves to the food set out for the attendees. I used to work at a very large, very profitable, financial services company that paid its people extremely well and we had to put big signs on the food tables saying “DO NOT STEAL THIS FOOD.”

    1. BlueSwimmer*

      My department had a long tradition of over-the-top department potlucks, with a strict rule that if you wanted to eat, you had to bring something. We had a lot of good cooks and we were all really into our pot lucks.

      We would leave crock pots heating in our department breakroom in the morning. We found that a group of four men from another department would always sneak into our breakroom and help themselves to food before our lunchtime rolled around. We tried to solve it with a sign that said- CONTAINS RAW CHICKEN! DO NOT EAT UNTIL 12:30!! We also hid all the utensils and plates and things until lunch time in an effort to thwart them. They ignored the sign and walked to another break room and got their own utensils and returned to steal food.

      They thought it was a hilarious battle of wills and we were enraged that they were stealing our lovingly prepared food (especially because we had always invited the rest of the departments to partake of leftovers after our lunch). We finally ended up with all the crockpots on a rolling cart, plugged in to heat up in a closet behind my desk (I’m sure the fire marshal would not have approved.) The four “eaters” as we called them, would walk around sniffing the air trying to locate the source of the delicious smells.

  46. The Working Bear Snores On*

    People at my work mostly do pretty good about fairness around free food but there are a few exceptions:
    -One guy a long time ago would pointedly -not- bring food to potlucks, because he was a guy and cooking wasn’t something he felt he should have to do. As you can imagine, his wife took care of their home-cooking as part of her wifely duties. Non-food related, he was also seen clipping his toenails at his desk more than once. Thankfully, his time here was relatively short-lived.
    -Recently, I overheard one of our newer employees saying she grabbed an “extra” burger to take home for her husband when we had Red Robin catered in, because he loved RR so much. There were only like 3 burgers leftover; I felt that was pretty rude. I could just be salty about that because I wanted another one for myself the next day, lol.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Sounds like you were better off not eating anything Potluck Dude would have made

  47. MansplainerHater*

    I worked in an office where on the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving you would get a free pie. It was from a local baker, but they were readily available at that bakery or in local grocery stores. Everyone in the office made a good salary. And yet… the pies would start to get stacked in the breakroom and everyone popped up from their cubicles like groundhogs and then lined up like they were trying to get TSwift tickets.

    The pies were a gift from a subcontractor. And as far as I knew, we never used any other subcontractor for that activity. “I need someone to paint teapots.” “Call the Pie Guy.” “The Pie Guy is expensive and got us in trouble with the Army Corps last year.” “Yeah, but he gives us pies!”

    1. Siege*

      When I worked at Amazon in a warehouse, they would give us a free pie the day before Thanksgiving. Oddly, it did nothing to make me better-disposed to them.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      OldExjob – free pie on Boss’s birthday, brought in by Bosswife.
      Also a vendor would bring us a cooler of ice cream once a year, and they insisted the shop guys get first crack at it, since the office folks usually got to gift baskets first. They also brought Kona coffee and pineapple back from their yearly trips to HI and shared it with us.

      For all their faults, Boss and Bosswife were okay some of the time. These were fairly wealthy people; not uber-rich, but definitely well off. We had the same veterinarian and they were in the office once when I was making arrangements to pay half my cat’s expensive yearly visit that day and the rest in a few days when I got paid (this was after I got laid off from there and was working at Exjob). They were fine with it, and then office later called me to tell me not to come in on Friday because Bosswife had paid the rest of my bill.

  48. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I had a situation related to Alison’s example #3.

    I was on a 2-month travel assignment when we moved into a new building, so was bottom of the list for requesting an office, and I got stuck on an interior hallway (most people had windows). The plus was that I was just around the corner from the kitchen that serviced the conference rooms, and I could hear when lunch meetings broke up and they moved the leftovers to the kitchen.

    One of our regular caterers had the best carrot cake I’d ever had in my life. Just amazing – perfect frosting, cake was always moist, not too many raisins, plenty of walnuts. I was almost always able to snag a piece of that carrot cake because I had the crappy office, and the rest of my department didn’t. That’s how I consoled myself to working without any natural light all day long.

  49. Sera*

    A former colleague kept a drawer full of Tupperware that she used whenever anywhere in the building had an event that had food. She’d find out when the event would end and show up right then with Tupperware and load up on food. People made bets at what time she’d show up or how many containers she would take.

    I was once at an event we were invited to and she was behind me in line. I had my purse with me and I felt rustling. Looked down and she had dumped a basket of butter packets in my purse and was busy shoving a bunch of mayo packets in there as well, “for safekeeping”. Horrifying! I made sure to never bring any bag with me to a work event until she retired.

    Her retirement party on her last day? She brought ALL her Tupperware with her from her drawer to made sure he loaded up on everything. As well as a bunch of bags. She cleared out the leftovers down to napkins, plastic silverware, and even took the ice in the buckets that had cans of soda.

    1. Sera*

      I said loudly, “Oh damn, Nancy, looks like you knocked the butter packets into my purse. Here, let me put them back.” Which got quite a few snickers from everyone, who was well aware of her food snatching antics.

      She was in general the building tyrant if you were on her bad side for whatever random weekend that day. Beyond the hilarity of her food focused stealing, she was moody, had a tendency to be mean, and territorial. We all were glad to see her go.

    2. Monty*

      The wildest thing I’ve ever seen, from an academic wine and cheese event, is a person I didn’t recognize marching up to the cheese board, flipping an entire wheel of brie into her person, and marching back out. I almost respect it for how gutsy it is, but it just shocked me that you’d do this without at least playing the game of pretending to be excited about the forthcoming book/new minor program/new dean of whatever.

        1. Fanny Price*

          I have to admit I was enjoying the image of flipping it into her person, and trying to figure out whether that meant the whole thing got swallowed like she was a snake or that she hid it under her shirt and which choice would be funnier to see.

  50. Astounded observer*

    Part of my job involves working as an external agency with a client in a day centre where lunch is provided free for all staff and clients. One member of the day centre staff will regularly help themselves to lots or all of the shared items on the table (e.g bread for soup) with no regard as to whether there is enough left for everyone else at the table. One day they were sat at my table, they got served their food first so they picked up the entire bowl of cheese that was supposed to be for six of us to share and emptied it over their meal without batting an eyelid. A few weeks later I saw her do the something similar, there was 1 roll per person at the table to put your own fillings in, she sat down and took 2 before anyone else could start eating so someone had to go and find another one from the chef because there then wasn’t enough to go round everyone at the table. I thought it was generally accepted that you wait until everyone has been served first before taking more but apparently not.

  51. Corn for everyone*

    No one ever went really nuts over it, but pre-pandemic, we used to have a “free corn day” every year in our office. One of the vendors we used was out in farm country, and one day a year, they would bring dozens of boxes filled reusable shopping bags, each containing about five raw ears of corn. For an idea of the amount, we probably had close to 100 people in the office, each getting their own bag of corn. Bizarre and hilarious. (Our office was downtown in a major metropolitan city, so it was even stranger.)

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Mmmm, fresh corn *makes plans for crock pot slow cooked spicy corn and chives*

    1. Jessica*

      I may have just lost my mind. I want to apply for a job (doing anything) at Corn, Corn, Freecorn, and Morecorn Legal Associates.

      1. Jm*

        Yes for a couple years I took coolers of sweet corn to the office where I temped. Then the new employee brought some already husked to share. We were very popular

        1. Quill*

          Honestly as a midwesterner who moved to a desert where good corn is both bad and expensive, you could easily bribe me with corn.

    2. JustaTech*

      As someone who, as a child, once took an entire suitcase full of sweet white corn to my grandmother in Texas, this sounds amazing and I would be thrilled!

  52. WavyGravy*

    My old boss was notorious for swooping in on any food. Some examples that come to mind:
    – Once I got a latte and it was bad, just very very gross. I went to dump it down the sink after drinking maybe a third and he got mad and said “I would have drank that!” to my cold, soy milk latte (he was not a vegan and mocked soy milk and veg products).
    – We had a company party and had individual desserts. I was stuffed so there was like 3 bites of my chocolate tart left – he took it out of my hand and finished it while scolding me for wasting (party was paid for by the co, not him personally).
    – Once I brought in homemade candy for Xmas, buckeyes, chocolate covered nuts, etc. Good stuff but not like anything truly thrilling. He took the box meant for the office and proceeded to eat a solid 1/2 – 3/4 lb of candy during one phone call, which I got a front row seat to watch.

    It was a law firm, he was a quite well off partner, and came from a rich family so no history of food insecurity or anything. Oh and he refused to bring food in or buy snacks for anyone.

  53. Sibyl Rose*

    I once ordered a large gift box of meats, cheeses, crackers and assorted treats for the office at holiday time. ONE person overdid it, making multiple sausage and cheese cracker sandwiches for lunch every day until the boss stepped in and told her it was meant to be a snack tray for everyone, not her personal lunch source. I mean… what is wrong with some people. Seriously.

  54. SpaceySteph*

    Not entirely *free* food, but my old organization did these elaborate potlucks where one of the 4 teams would bring in the food for all 4 teams to enjoy and it rotated quarterly. There was a small budget for staples and paper goods, and the rest of the items were provided by members of the team. The first year through, we did all breakfasts: egg casserole, bagels, orange juice, etc.
    The next year we mixed it up and each team chose some form of lunch theme. One team did baked potato bar. When it was our turn, our team did nacho bar. We used the money budgeted to buy a ton of tortilla chips and those little paper food boats like you get at a carnival. Then people in the group were supposed to sign up to bring the fixings. Well wouldn’t you know management all signs up to bring easy cheap stuff like shredded cheese or a tub of sour cream and one manager even brought in tortilla chips even though we’d purchased a huge amount of the food service nacho chips from Sam’s club already. Meanwhile the rank and file were left to come up with more expensive/laborious items like meat and guac and chile con queso. It created quite an uproar and eventually led to ending the potlucks altogether.

    The offending bag of chips our lead brought lived in the breakroom for several years, never eaten. We called them the “Emergency Chips” and they were the subject of many jokes.

  55. AMY*

    We had a client that was a local pizza restaurant and to thank us, they surprised us with free pizza at lunch one day! Awesome, right?

    No, several people ruined it. We had people, I swear they were close to tears, that they didn’t get any pizza. This wasn’t because the restaurant was stingy, it was because so many people grabbed like 3 or 4 pieces before some others even got a chance to get one.

    Then there was the people who complained about the toppings (there were several different ones, but it never failed that the one someone wanted, was already gone and all that was left was what they didn’t want).

    I was so embarrased when my boss thanked the pizza place, he also said it would be appreciated if they could drop off many more next time, have a vegetarian option, a gluten-free crust option, and more varieties in general.

    There wasn’t a next time!

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I have some sympathy for those who got no pizza due to the greed of coworkers. That really blows. Not really tears-worthy, but it blows.

      But yeah, the “ask” from the boss is really not how to handle things!!!

  56. Ally McBeal*

    Two from a previous job in the finance sector, where most people (not admins like me) were paid handsomely.

    1. One senior-level person started bringing in bagels & cream cheese on Fridays, paid for out of his own pocket (not reimbursed). This was greeted with much fanfare… until my well-paid colleagues started complaining that the office didn’t have a toaster. Weeks went by and the senior person’s admin told me he was getting frustrated at the response, so I – again, a lowly, low-paid admin – went on Amazon and bought the cheapest toaster I could find. This tamed the wild mobs… until they started complaining about our lack of a bagel slicer (steak knives were apparently not good enough??). I started hanging out by the kitchen and loudly telling off anyone who did complained, reminding them that they were perfectly capable of going on Amazon and ordering one because I had done so for the toaster. This more or less solved the problem. If you give a mouse a cookie…

    2. Also at that job, we had a lot of in-office lunch events for our clients. We had a couple people who were notorious for running to the kitchen the very minute that the last attendee shut the conference room door and scavenging as many leftovers as possible, sometimes even bringing Tupperware for their hoard. This backfired a few times when an attendee would arrive unusually late and all the food would be gone, so we eventually put a rule in place that no one (except the admin who ordered the lunch and employees who were required to attend the event) would be allowed to take leftovers until the event concluded and all clients had left the office. I really wish we’d had a corollary rule that anyone who wanted free lunch had to help with set-up or clean-up, since that would’ve truly solved the problem (the worst offenders were lazy sales guys), but alas. This one was slightly more understandable because none of us got lunch breaks and I get why they wanted the convenience, but our office was downtown and the nearest grab-and-go took less than 5 minutes to walk roundtrip.

    1. ferrina*

      One place I worked had an office manager that would strictly enforce that leftover food wasn’t to be touched until she sent out the all office email allowing it. If you were an attendee? Enjoy– but no leftovers until the email. If you weren’t- you waited for the email OR ELSE (good luck ever getting any of the nice pens ever again).
      She would quietly make exceptions for volunteers that helped with set-up or clean-up, or staff that were being deeply underpaid and overworked. I was in both categories, and she would actually come to my desk and quietly summon me to get leftovers, then once I was already at the food she’d send the email for other people to help themselves.

  57. Rachel*

    My old office had a policy like the one in the vultures story; that story is so similar to my old office that it makes me wonder if the LW was from there! We did not have a cafeteria, however, so our variation on the rule was that staff could get the leftover food from meetings if we did not “lurk” and went one at a time to where the food was laid out. The person who ordered the food would usually establish a hierarchy of who got to go first, second, and so on. Sometimes I would not bring a lunch to work on days when a meeting with a catered lunch was scheduled, but it was always kind of a gamble!

  58. Jester*

    Pre-pandemic, I worked for a job with an uptown and a downtown office. The downtown office had a central place visible to all the cubicles for our department to leave treats, leftovers, etc. Uptown only had a kitchen around the corner and down the hall from the cubicles. Maybe one person once or twice a week would camp out at the office they didn’t officially belong for meetings or whatever. Because of this, uptown would send an email to the entire department alerting folks to the presents of free food. Downtown would know there were leftover bagels in uptown’s kitchen 30 minutes away. It made people fume! Every time one of these emails went out downtown would complain. I can’t tell you the number of times it was pointed out that people didn’t go between the offices enough to need to email the entire department. My “favorites” were uptown was teasing downtown on purpose and whining about why downtown didn’t have leftovers from the meetings that had only taken place uptown.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      This reminds me of when I was in BigLaw. It was very common to receive an email to _All-(City) along the lines of “birthday cake in the fourth floor kitchen, help yourselves”.

      Every now and again someone would accidentally send to _All, as in literally everybody in six cities in the country and two overseas. And they would get a million Reply-All wags saying “save me a slice, it’ll only take six hours to get there” and so on.

  59. Juicebox Hero*

    Thankfully, my coworkers over the years have been pretty civil about free food, so I’ll share one from a charity event my sister used to (USED TO) organize:

    It revolves around a highbrow sporting event. In keeping with AAM tradition, I’ll call it the Worldwide Llama Polo Invitational (please don’t speculate on what it actually is; it’s niche enough that it could identify her, plus she’d probably kill me for telling this story). The event attracted wealthy men (there are very few world-class female llama polo players) and their families from all around the world and my sister’s job was to make sure they were all fed, entertained (translation: booze) between games, and kept happy. The event raises significant amounts of money for charity so keeping them happy is important.

    This shindig costs a lot of money, so to help offset costs the Llama Polo Headquarters solicits donations from companies, either of cash or goods; they get a tax write-off and free advertising at the event. One year, one of the donations was a whole pallet of Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers in snack-size bags.

    The crackers were a big hit with everyone, I guess a mixture of nostalgia and salty carbs plus the alchohol mentioned above. They vanished so fast that one… gentleman didn’t get any, and he threw seveneen fits in one straight row about it. According to my sister, he was ready to round up his team and their llamas and go right home, and forget about any donations or them ever coming back. A guy with a net worth of several million dollars was willing to screw over a charity over a snack-pack of goldfish crackers.

    My sister, my brother-in-law, and some friends of theirs gave him their own crackers, as did some bystanders who were basically like “here, take mine and shut up” and eventually the guy simmered down. I asked my sister if the guy was drunk and she said it didn’t matter; he always acted like a spoiled brat.

    Since then, she’s attended as a guest a few times, but has refused to have anything to do with organizing the event. The prestige and recognition aren’t worth the heartburn.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      OMG I am laughing so hard at the mental image of a bunch of people all dressed up in fancy clothes (I’m imagining this event as the Kentucky Derby because I like the fun hats) going absolutely bonkers over Goldfish crackers, and one dude throwing a toddler tantrum over not getting a bag! Favorite story so far on this post.

  60. Immortal for a limited time*

    I must work with more normal people. Our small gov’t agency (22 staff, 6 board members) has a handful of board meetings a year and usually a modest but tasty spread of breakfast or lunch items is brought in from local shops and/or Costco. Our admin person puts them all into our break room after the meeting and sends an officewide message inviting staff to eat the leftovers, and nobody acts like a greedy, weird jerk. In fact, she has to remind staff the next day if any quiche or muffins or whatever are still in the fridge and to help themselves. I live in the Rocky Mtn west, where of course we have our share of jerks, but they don’t gravitate to government jobs, I guess. Even the minor weirdness I observed when I worked in the private sector, including for a large defense contractor, didn’t come anywhere close to the depravity some of you describe around food… mostly it was just laziness about cleaning up after themselves. The idea of stealing someone else’s lunch, for example, is so weird to me that I can’t imagine anybody I know doing it, unless it was purely accidental, such as if it wasn’t labeled and someone thought it was leftovers from a meeting. I live in an area where there are actual wolves, but none of my coworkers over my 30-year career seem to have been raised by them.

  61. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

    I worked for a major league baseball team as a game day employee. Friends were security and ushers for the club box level and often catered sections went unused and the food was to be disposed of. Occasionally, I, and others, was able to take the food home and I would often take the food to school the next day for my department to have lunch.

    Often, interlopers would invade our lunch space and attempt to kidnap our bounty. It became so contentious that the principle of the school had to get involved and day care the food until lunch time.

    FYI, the meals included whole briskets, deli trays, fruit trays, veggie trays; anything you might find at a catered event.

  62. No thanks, I had a big breakfast*

    There was a guy in my office who would essentially put his whole mouth in the serving bowl of something. Using the serving knife to put more cream cheese on his already half-eaten bagel, licking the excess salsa off the spoon before dropping it back in the bowl, etc. Whenever there was free food, the rest of us would race to it so we could grab some before he contaminated the field. I regret never bringing in a big tureen of soup to see if he would drink straight out of it instead of putting some in an individual bowl.

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      No one said anything to him about it? I can’t imagine seeing a coworker behave this way and just…. letting it go. That’s just as weird as his behavior.

    2. Bob-White of the Glen*

      I’m guessing this was pre-pandemic. Today that would get you tarred and feathered! ;)

  63. EasternPhoebe*

    Putting tacos…in a desk drawer??? What the?? What does that guy’s work station smell like?

    1. JustaTech*

      I had a coworker who would pick up a tuna sub on his walk to work and keep it in his desk drawer until lunch.

      When he left we were all amazed that his desk *didn’t* stink.

  64. I Herd the Cats*

    In the Before Times I worked for a company that did a lot of conferences, and there were many catered hot breakfasts, lunches, snack trays in the afternoon, etc. In general people were reasonable and well-behaved. The conference area was separate from the offices, near the elevators, and there were other companies on the floor of our large office building. Mostly my policing involved standing there once the food was set up to prevent random passersby from helping themselves, which … blew my mind, but I guess it shouldn’t, having read other comments. I sent an email to everyone on the floor letting them know when they could have the leftovers. The only real issue I ran into was the people from one company would sometimes accost me while I was carrying some tray from the kitchen to its destination! I gave them a firm “NOT YET” and none of them ever took me down in the hallway but it still had a bit of a band-of-jackals vibe to it.

  65. Dances with Flax*

    What I find curious here is how many of the greediest, most selfish people described in these anecdotes are NOT the ones most in NEED of free food! I could understand an underpaid entry-level employee at least being tempted to scoop up enough food to tide them over until next payday because their own fridge is nearly empty – but executives?! Highly paid people who could easily BUY whatever they wanted to eat? Nope! No excuses for them!

    1. keyw*

      I notice this often. I’m involved in basically all the food logistics at my organization, and it’s never (or very rarely) the entry-level employees that swoop in to plunder. I have to guard food from the upper managers and directors.

    2. Bunny Girl*

      That’s what I said upthread. The lawyers in our firm would grab all the food and leave their minimum wage assistants with nothing. It’s shameful and there’s no excuse for it.

        1. I have RBF*


          When I was in my young and hungry days I really appreciated the admins/organizers of food for meetings that would invite the low paid staff for leftovers first. This wasn’t common.

        2. Moonstone*

          Exactly – overwhelming entitlement and arrogance. Also, this is how they stay so rich by being so dang cheap! I’ll never understand it and I loathe cheapness in general. These people make me fume.

  66. Prof Ma'am*

    Anyone who went to grad school for a PhD knows the power of free pizza. To this day, you’ve got a much better chance of getting me to show up to an optional meeting/training/event if you tell me there will be food.

    Also, tangentially related… can we talk about how the world’s brightest minds can be overtaken by animalistic rage when someone screws up the coffee station at a conference meeting??

    1. AFac*

      The last time I helped run a small regional meeting, we doubled the recommended coffee budget so that we allotted 3 cups* of coffee per break for each registered attendee.

      We still ran out during the first coffee break.

      We increased the coffee order for subsequent days, which almost broke the meeting budget.

      (*At least 3 people got an additional cup of coffee, since I don’t drink coffee.)

      1. Loredena*

        If it was a conference with long sessions between breaks you probably had a number of attendees who carried their own insulated coffee cups. I know I would just refill mine rather than deal with a spill able styrofoam cup-and it holds a lot more!

    2. Random Dice*

      PhD students are like wolves. Free food is texted around and the horde descends.

      1. Quill*

        All students, honestly. I once watched a bowl with nearly a GALLON of guacamole disappear…

    3. OtterB*

      Social scientists and program evaluators know that if you run activities with grad students (e.g. focus groups), you feed them. Period.

      My daughter who finished law school a couple of years ago said it was the same for law students. Students were much more likely to attend your club meeting, come to hear your speaker, etc., if you advertised food.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s DO. NOT. MESS. WITH. THE. COFFEE.

  67. HatesFoodThieves*

    I used to work in a university in a small department. We provided the events for the entire university and as we got really good at our jobs, the number of events we needed to plan and run increased. Due to the nature of the industry, overtime was not available and pay raises were hard won. So, in lieu of this, our manager would frequently buy us lunch, pizza, snacks, cakes, etc. during our busy times as a thank you and to make sure we actually took time to eat. This would happen usually about once a month.

    We never found out how, but every time our manager bought us food, a colleague in a semi-related department, who had nothing to do with our events, would appear. She even had to travel to our office from a different building! She would then precede to eat a very large portion of whatever food we had and stood at our desks eating it and talking to us as we were frantically working. She once tried to take a full large pizza as it ‘was leftover’. It wasn’t. Some of our colleagues were on their way back from a late meeting and hadn’t had any food yet.

    To this day, my blood boils whenever I think of that woman. Thankfully, I left that job a number of years ago and am now much happier :)

    1. keyw*

      I’m an Events Manager at a nonprofit, and I 100% have people who magically appear at catered events that are entirely unrelated to their position. They’ll walk from the opposite side of the campus to “just drop by and chat” and then act *surprised and delighted* when they “notice” the food.

      I’m strict and blunt about stopping any sneaking. I’m sure people have feelings about it, but come on! Taking others’ food is not cool.

    2. keyw*

      I’m the events manager at a nonprofit, and I 100% have people who magically appear when there’s food around. They’ll walk from the other side of the campus “just to drop by and chat” and then act *surprised and delighted* when they “notice” the food.

      I’m strict and blunt about stopping any sneaking. I’m sure people have feelings about that, but come on! It’s not cool to take others’ food.

  68. Veg Girl*

    I worked in an office who bought lunch for us on a regular basis. We’d eat leftovers throughout the week for more free lunches. If there were still leftovers on Friday, anyone who wanted could take them home (this usually meant person A took a tray of something, person B took a bag of chips, etc).

    We had a new hire, and in his first week he snuck into the kitchen on a Thursday afternoon and took ALL of the leftovers – we’re talking at least 4 catering pans of food. It took us until the following week to figure out where they’d all gone. When confronted, he just said “I’ve got family in town.” I don’t think he lasted a month at our company.

  69. pizza math*

    This was a positive food weirdness, but I interned once for a team that ordered pizza semi-regularly. In order to optimize the pizza order, this one guy kept a detailed spreadsheet of the number of RSVPs, the number of people who actual showed up and ate pizza, the number of pies ordered, and the number of slices left of each flavor at the end of lunch. He had a certain number of leftover slices he aimed for (because if there were none left over you hadn’t ordered enough) and would adjust his calculations each time based on the spreadsheet and who RSVPd to the pizza lunch. Unusual but it seemed to work!

  70. e.y.w.*

    Oh my gosh. The amount of time I spend on free food issues is absurd.
    We offer free light lunch. We’re very clear that it’s a *light* lunch. People constantly try to plunder as much food as possible. This year alone, my manager has sent out four all-staff emails reminding people it’s not appropriate to try to “claim” entire trays for their department, lie about having visitors in their office who “need food,” or take multiple overflowing plates “to save for later.”
    After the last email, someone started a rumor that my manager was going to post up in the cafeteria and police employee’s plates. This was entirely false, but nonetheless, I had a group of particularly confrontational staff come up to my office, and present a prepared rant about how ridiculous my manager is for watching people’s plates. I let them finish, then cheerfully told them I agreed and that’s why this rumor was so absurd. There was a moment of pause before one said “Oh. Right.”

  71. NewJobNewGal*

    Old Office would order huge lunches with the intent that the leftovers could come out the next day for a second lunch. It was usually Mexican food, salads, sandwiches, or pasta: all items that were equally good the next day.
    But then people began going into the fridge and taking ALL the leftovers. I’m talking trays of food disappearing. Notices went out to stop taking trays of food out of the fridge.
    Then trays of food for future meetings were being stolen. Cakes, fruit trays, desert platters that were intended for meetings the next day were vanishing.
    They put a lock on the fridge.
    Lock was shattered the first night it was on the fridge.
    The office had cameras that looked into the area with the catering fridge, but HR didn’t want the awkwardness of confronting food thieves. So they accepted that food goblins would take anything left overnight.

  72. Enn Pee*

    Once when I worked at Large State University, we had a staff cookout. It would start at 2 or 3 pm, there’d be some games, then the meal would be served after a couple of hours. (This was clearly explained in the invitation.)

    A coworker showed up promptly at 2pm, started berating the admin who’d spent weeks organizing the event on why there wasn’t food there. The admin tried to explain that there was supposed to be social time, activities, etc., and the food would be served at 4pm. “Well, I’ve got somewhere to be, I need to grab this for dinner.”

    1. WellRed*

      Well he was an ass but don’t make me play games for two hours before I can eat.

      1. Loredena*

        Except that the implication is the meal is dinner! 4pm is pretty reasonable for dinner and 2 for activities when you’re eating lunch at noon is also reasonable. If you don’t want to join in on the activities show up after 3.

      2. Anon for this*

        Then don’t come two hours before the scheduled meal time? It was apparently explained on the invitation, and 4pm is quite early to start serving dinner anyways!

    2. Em*

      What is it with people repurposing work food for their own meal planning??? My employer offers a generous budget per person for team dinners. It’s nice because we can usually invite along part timers/interns who don’t receive this benefit and remain well under budget. However, I had a colleague who would take the max personal limit as a challenge- she over ordered to the extreme to take home extra meals, extra drinks, extra desserts… Once she even bought a set of 2 fancy digestif glasses from the restaurant as part of the “dinner.” It was bizarre and uncomfortable and I’m not sure why our team lead looked the other way. She always had this little speech about how work owes her and this is her way of getting back (but of course, she was terrible at her job).

  73. Megaladondon*

    I worked on a commodities trading floor in Houston. End of month they would bring in a mass amount of pretty decent bbq, tacos or whatever for all the staff. Support staff went first so we could get back to the phones. We would be hissed at for “cutting” by the traders that made more in a year than most do in a lifetime. These same folks would literally run to the free food when it arrived and knock over anyone in their way. It was bizarre.

  74. ImJustAnAccountant*

    I have been involved in corporate event planning for 10+ years, and I have seen some doozies…
    – the local public official who walked out of an event at which he was a guest carrying a tray of untouched food. When we tried to stop him, he said he “promised to feed his staff” and kept walking.
    – employees who took whole pizzas (the entire box!) from employee appreciation lunches to “feed their families.”
    – a guest who walked off with a bottle of vodka from a staffed bar – he was a VIP client so we just watched in shock!
    – temps who would demand to “reserve” a boxed lunch from the pile before the event even started.
    – trays of food clearly labeled in the fridge would be opened and picked at before an event started.
    The audacity doesn’t surprise me anymore.

  75. Jojo*

    While my office has the usual problem of coffee creamer and ice cream disappearing from the shared fridge, people are pretty good around luncheons and leftovers. We even have people that will take the leftovers from potlucks to the homeless shelter.

    I actually had the opposite problem for a while. The woman who sat next to me was often the person responsible for moving leftover catering to the kitchen for freebies. In general, I don’t like most of the catering food, and don’t eat it. However, this woman would just continue to pressure me to take food for however long it took for her to move it to the kitchen. “Are you sure?”, “there is some fruit, take some fruit”, “it’s free, are you SURE?” And then, after she would move it, she would keep reminding me that there was free food in the kitchen. She was generally annoying and frustrating to work with, and this endless pressure to eat crappy catered food didn’t help.


    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Urgh. I’ve had people do everything but stuff the food in my mouth, too, usually with desserts. I’m diabetic (which I don’t want to announce to the whole place) and not crazy about sweets anyway. After an afternoon of “no thanks… I know, thank you… I know where it is if I want some… don’t give it to me, I’ll just throw it away… I don’t like those… [dead silence and the stinkeye]…” followed by a whiny “I’m just trying to be nice! You don’t have to glare at me like that!” I’m ready to hulk right out.

    2. Panicked*

      I have one of those people in my office now. She’s a sweet older lady and brings in treats all. the. time. I have Celiac Disease, so I don’t eat anything that I don’t make myself (or that come from a dedicated gluten free facility). EVERY time she brings something in, it’s a barrage of “oh it’s so good, a bite won’t hurt!” “Just try it, you’ll like it!” “My kitchen is clean, I wouldn’t make you sick!” and a whole bunch of other similar statements.

      I have talked with her several times and she won’t stop, so I just avoid her as much as possible.

    3. Rainy Cumbria*

      I’m vegan and used to have a colleague who would repeatedly offer me non-vegan leftovers from events because she didn’t want me to feel left out, no matter how many times I told her not to.

  76. MM*

    I work in healthcare and our practice policy has a very narrow allowance for drug reps to bring lunch. Like it is almost never. We share a kitchen with the practice in the next office space and they get lunches a few times per week. I have never seen adults act more like children than listening to my coworkers discuss the food options next door. The jealousy and judgement is bananas. They get offended when leftovers aren’t offered to us (why would they be? We are literally 2 different practices?!) It is just nonstop discussion about what is happening next door. But even more amusing is when we *are* offered leftovers! The joy! The planning! The Macguyvering of take home containers to get every last crumb offered! It makes me happy to see their joy. (I am only able to see this objectively and not participate because of personal dietary issues. I can’t partake in what is brought. But believe me- if there were ever kosher options I would be just as green with envy!)

  77. Cat R.*

    I don’t have any calamitous free food stories but there was a person stealing other people’s lunches from the staff fridge for a while. One of the victims left a note on the fridge demanding the thief repay them for the lunch they stole.

    TBH, it was probably a poor grad student worker.

    1. MadCatter*

      Years ago I worked for the state legislature. There was a member who would routinely steal his employee’s lunches, so they started a game to bring in odd items to see what he would be willing to eat.

      He also one time wandered into someone else’s office with some Chinese food and dumped their container of peanuts on his meal.

  78. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    Once saw a whole sandwich platter disappear by someone who was not part of the meeting. They literally just took it out to their car. Luckily we parked in a parking deck so the car stayed cool for them.

  79. Medium Sized Manager*

    I have no proof, but I strongly suspect that some previous managers got promotions & corporate cards just so they could buy lunch for themselves on a regular basis. The amount of “Oh, I have too many meetings so I will just order food” situations baffles me to this day.

  80. Lemon Zinger*

    I work for a university with a catering department that does an exceptional breakfast. A particularly beloved item is the bacon, which is genuinely outstanding. A few years ago, the leader of my division decided to hold an annual meeting off campus. While the venue was fine, the catered breakfast was sub-par. I kid you not, most of the conversation at the breakfast was centered around how much everyone missed the delicious bacon on campus. This was the first and last time this meeting was held off campus.

    1. Clisby*

      I mean, bacon is really important! You’d think it would be hard to mess up, but apparently not. A catering department that reliably produces stellar bacon is a pearl beyond price. If they can also scramble eggs without getting them all dried out, well, they’re a keeper.

  81. Morris Alanisette*

    At my old job, the CEO/owner was a very out-of-touch older man who was incredibly wealthy but was also a massive tightwad. At least twice a week, he’d come to the cafeteria during lunchtime, wander among the tables, and take food from his employees. And not just a couple of chips off of someone’s plate – I witnessed him taking two full slices of pizza from a pie that 3 people were sharing. I saw him take half of someone’s sandwich. I saw him take some pasta out of someone’s takeout container.

    With the power dynamic, nobody felt comfortable telling him to stop. Meanwhile, we were all horribly underpaid and resentful that this millionaire was literally taking food from our mouths.

    Finally, the colleagues I ate with and I decided to speak out and stop letting him take our food. A few days later, we’d all ordered Chinese and he came by our table with a fork and an empty plate, and tried to take the last dumpling from my plate. I said “Actually, I was about to eat that” and he looked SHOCKED. He then tried to take some leftovers from my friend, who said “Sorry, I’m bringing the rest of this home to eat for dinner.” He didn’t even say anything, just walked away silently and went to another table. He tried a few more times with us but we kept telling him that the food was spoken for and he finally left us alone, but still terrorized the rest of the cafeteria.

    Eventually, his daughter (who was a VP at the company) found out what he was doing and apparently ripped him a new one, and he stopped. Then she bought lunch for the entire company.

  82. cabbagepants*

    I have chickens so I will bring home the weird ugly leftovers in a giant container. It probably looks very unappealing to people seeing salad mixed with pasta mixed with fruit mixed with ham, but the chickens LOVE it. (I only do this after all the humans have had all they want.)

    1. Elizabeth West*

      For a time, I worked for a restaurant in my hometown that served amazing fried chicken and select chicken parts. We would save less-than-perfect livers and gizzards for a local man who would show up with buckets, take the discards, and feed them to his dogs. I took some livers home to the cats myself on a few occasions.

      Sadly, that restaurant is no longer there. The pies were legendary.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      For a second there I thought you were bringing your weird ugly chickens to be served FOR lunch!

  83. S*

    We decided to have a team lunch. 2/3 of the team was vegetarian. The catering was left to the most junior team member, who did not ask anyone about their preferences. Instead, she got platters and platters of subs. The two veggie options were gone in a flash, and all the rest sat there looking sad, and at lot of the team was hungry!

    1. Lizzie*

      We recently had an event with a food truck ONE. which had little to no vegetarian or vegan options. I wasn’t here but I saw the menu beforehand, and as I know there isa large group of people who are vegetarian, vegan, etc., I felt badly for them as there was literally almost nothing for them to eat! Just very poor and self centered planning.

  84. MadCatter*

    I worked at a place where we had an all team meeting every few weeks in the morning. Everyone was on board with bagels so we almost always went with that. One coworker would rush in there and load up her bagel with half a container of the good garden veggie cream cheese (there was only 2-3 containers in total). If you wanted anything more than a whisper of cream cheese you had to beat her there. She would then complain if she felt she didn’t get enough when others got there first.

  85. Ashamed Hindsight*

    I am a recovered free food nutjob.

    Early in my adult life, I spent a while homeless and a longer while housed but extremely food insecure; at one point I was living on a sack of rice, breakroom coffee, and whatever food occasionally got brought in to work for treats for the staff. Unsurprisingly, this led to one hell of an eating disorder even after my financial situation recovered. I think the disorder and how it developed explains why I became the way I did, but it certainly doesn’t justify it. My coworkers at my first full-time job were certainly not responsible for my troubles or my recovery from them.

    Basically, I did everything short of stealing lunches. If someone brought snacks for the team, I’d calculate what looked like one portion apiece for everyone else and then hide the rest of it in the breakroom fridge on another floor til the end of the day so I could take it home. Non-perishable treats just got hidden in my desk; I had two large desk drawers entirely filled with food that people had brought to work to share with the team and which I’d taken probably 70-80% of. I’d check the vending machines at the beginning and end of every day to see if there were any items just hanging by a thread where if I bought one it might dispense two. I was the queen of “are you gonna finish that?” I wasn’t eligible to donate blood because of anemia (due to the previous food deprivation) but every time my office did a blood drive I would sign up anyway, because the nurse would check my iron, freak out, and then give me some of their snacks meant for recovering donors.

    Basically, if there was food that didn’t have someone’s name on it, I would strategize ways to make it my food, and then hoard it. No one ever called me out, but my internal shame and growing distance of time from the food insecurity eventually helped me taper off that behavior, but I look back and wince – and, admittedly, kinda judge the people who are completely unabashed and forthright about taking food that isn’t theirs. Have shame!

    1. Jojo*

      Ashamed hindsight, thank you for sharing your perspective. It seems like food insecurity can really mess with people long term. I’m sorry you had to experience that.

      1. Ashamed Hindsight*

        Thank you. Food is a really primal thing. When this was all going on, I felt like an animal every time there was the prospect of food that might be within my grasp. The idea would grab hold of my mind that if I didn’t take possession of it right that moment, it would disappear as soon as my back was turned and I would be left with nothing and would go back to starving and feeling weak all the time.

        Looking at it in my ashamed hindsight, I think it’s ironically lucky that I was the only free food nut at the time; directly competing with someone else would probably have driven me completely around the bend. It also means that I might have been a trigger for someone else’s struggle against food hoarding, and I dearly hope I wasn’t.

        1. ferrina*

          I don’t think you need to be ashamed. Food is a basic, primal need. Not having primal needs met changes your brain. I was food insecure for a couple years, and it echoed for years after that. Saving food I didn’t want to eat because…it was food and what if I run out again? Taking home leftovers (I wasn’t quite a vulture, but I toed the line a few times) because it was food and what if I run out again? I’m much better now (quite well behaved with the free food), but I still sometimes feel guilty throwing out half a granola bar that tasted disgusting and I know I won’t eat. On bad days I’ll still wrap it up and save it for a few days before throwing it out.

          1. Ashamed Hindsight*

            Ferrina, thank you. I agree, there are still struggles. I have trouble getting rid of food that is starting to spoil, which I’m still working on with my therapist. The scars cut deep. I have been food secure for a decade and only now have I been able to start even very cautious dieting without triggering immediate panic.

            It is sometimes hard to think about, but I try to separate what was going on in my head from how it may have impacted my teammates. My feelings and my inability to afford care to treat my disorder at the time are not things to be ashamed of, but my conduct was still unkind and selfish, and potentially harmful to others. I deeply regret that.

            I wish more young people knew how to connect with assistance. I was homeless after my parents threw me out, and I had no idea what resources even existed. I had vaguely heard of food banks, but thought they were only for families, and didn’t know that food stamps were a separate program.

      2. Panicked*

        I have a good friend who grew up in a very neglectful home and completely relied on free breakfast/lunch at school for her nutrition. Weekends were hard, school breaks were even worse. Even now, as a financially secure 40+ year old, she cannot throw away food. She hoards it in her desk, her car, old purses, even in her bathrooms.

        It absolutely messes with people, even after they are out of food insecurity.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I worked for a while for a local food pantry, and their toughest season is summer, because kids aren’t in school and can’t get reliable breakfasts and lunches.

        2. Chauncy Gardener*

          I grew up food insecure and while I’ve never hoarded food at work, I for sure “pre-eat” to make sure I won’t be hungry later and have been known to feel very panicky if there’s a work sponsored meal where there’s nothing I can eat. Makes it super tough to lose weight, I will say.

    2. deesse877*

      I feel like it’s gotta be an eating disorder in a significant number of cases. Not a majority, but a lot. The co-workers who come to my mind in this regard were all food restricters who’d sit there and watch the rest of us, and then by way of chitchat go over their restriction regime, but I can imagine plenty of people who binge might find this hard to navigate too.

      thanks for your story.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      I hope you still don’t feel ashamed! There’s a world of difference between desperation and entitlement, and too many people of the latter camp try to assign shame and silence to the former while taking the lion’s share of everything.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      This is understandable; I’ve been in a similar situation (though not unhoused, I had no money for food) and it definitely messes with your head. Fortunately, the situation didn’t last long since I was able to go home to my folks’ house eventually. But to this day I’m very uncomfortable if the cupboards aren’t full, and I mean FULL. I’m like a cat who freaks out when the bottom of the bowl is visible — it triggers an often unnecessary trip to the store.

      I can’t judge anyone in this situation; if I knew, I’d do what I could to help if possible. It’s the entitlement of some people that sets my teeth on edge.

      1. Ashamed Hindsight*

        Hi Elizabeth – thank you for sharing! I definitely agree with feeling like the cat who panics when their food bowl is less than full. And at the time, when there was food and I was trying to figure out how to get it, I really did feel like an animal. There was so little human function left, just a desperate raccoon that saw food and wanted it. I don’t think I ever took food that explicitly belonged to another person, but that was the only line I think I managed not to cross, and even there I am not entirely sure.

        My grandfather was a POW and was very similar about food for his entire life. He told stories about how the other POWs in his camp scrounged to find him an extra potato for his 19th birthday. He and my grandmother developed a pattern where when they ate, she would take more food than she could eat so she could then give him part of her portion. Being consistently given “extra” food that way soothed his fears, both that there was enough food in general and that he could be assured of eating as much as he wanted. I think today we would recognize that as a manifestation of PTSD, but in 1945 when he was finally rescued, it was not seen that way.

    5. JustMe*

      I’m glad you bring this up because it’s very common. We have a PhD student at the university where I work right now who is very much like this, and we privately wonder if maybe he was food insecure growing up (or, let’s face it, now–he’s a fourth-year PhD in an expensive US city who can’t legally work outside the university due to his immigration status). We try to be compassionate and let him take as much as he wants.

  86. devtoo*

    I used to work at a non-profit that worked with a lot of community partners that would frequently use our space and leave leftovers after meetings. The executive director had a huge anger problem (like frequent, full-volume yelling). One day she walked past my desk in an unusually good mood and mentioned that there were donuts in the kitchen and she would bring one back for me. She was gone for a long time, and then finally returned and deposited a handful of crumbs in a wadded up napkin on my desk and said “Sorry it’s a little crumbled. I got in a disagreement with someone on my way back here.”

    Which 100% meant she had full-on screamed at someone in the back office and accidentally crushed the donut in her balled fist. I still ate it. It was delicious.

    1. Rainy*

      Oh my god, the laugh I just laughed. This is delightful (and terrible, don’t be Angry Boss!) but oh my *god*.

  87. Rainy*

    My undergrad institution was plagued by a Terrible Chancellor. The stories about her attempts to sell our life sciences students into indentured servitude and force new faculty hires to sign a “Binding Oath of Personal Loyalty” notwithstanding, she was also weird about food.

    She loved to hold big meetings with groups of faculty or upper staff etc, and of course they were catered, but she would order 3x the usual number of cookies, and then when everyone went to get hot beverages and treats, she’d caution them to be good stewards of the university’s funds and only take one cookie. After the meeting there’d be dozens of cookies totally untouched, and she’d tell people not to be greedy on their way out.

    I heard all this from the professor I worked for, including that after one such meeting, my prof was in the hallway outside the meeting room and the Chancellor came out of the room last, carrying dozens of cookies in unopened boxes. Scuttlebutt later was that she liked to schedule these meetings right before one of her school-aged grandkids had a party or a school function and she’d volunteer to supply the cookies. Was it true? No idea, but since I’d known her as a client of a small business I worked at before going back to school, I believed it, because she was constantly attempting to avoid paying for the work we did for her.

  88. Shanderson*

    So, I’ve worked in a bunch of places in different industries with large staff and occasional free food… and I’ve never experienced this! I am Canadian, so maybe demographic/ingrained WASP politeness? Any similar takes?

    1. CR*

      Nah, I’m Canadian and people at my company are vultures when it comes to leftovers.

    2. ChrisZ*

      I am also Canadian, and sorry ( yes, that is a Thing we all do) , but all the offices I worked in (and there were quite a few as I would temp between jobs) had frenzies that would put sharks and piranhas to shame when there was free food in the lunch room. Although I can only speak to Toronto :)

  89. HR Chick*

    Whenever there is free food, one particular employee is all over it. She is literally all over it. If there is a sandwich platter, she proceeds to touch every single sandwich. Picks one up, and starts to eat over the platter. Dropping her crumbs all over the platter. If I’m in the kitchen, and a coworker sees the free food, they ask, “Is it safe?” Meaning: “Did she touch all the food?” Most of the time I have to reply, “No.”

    Before Covid, one department would throw a large Christmas Holiday buffet that was open to all. Food Toucher would go in, make up to three plates, then store them in the refrigerator. She even stored some of the punch in a cup with plastic wrap. Well, I accidentally spilled it and she was annoyed at me. She made a snide comment, “I was storing punch in here but someone spilled it.” I replied, “That was me! I’m wearing it. It’s in my socks and shoes. I am drenched from the knees down. Next time, put it in a coffee cup with a lid.” She stormed out because trying to embarrass me didn’t work.

    I suspect the employee grew up with food insecurity. Sigh. It’s been almost 20 years of this.

  90. Just an Intern*

    Oh boy, this one is still fresh in my appalled memory
    Our office ordered a very generous holiday lunch for the company from a very popular (and expensive) local place
    After everyone had eaten their fill, we still had leftovers that would last several days, easily
    The nice folks who volunteered to clean up after, packed the refrigerator with the perishables and left out several TRAYS of sandwiches for staff to nibble on
    They also alerted overnight cleaners of availability of food
    The following day there was NOTHING left – we were gobsmacked when we saw the kitchen, even the refrigerator totally cleaned out – it was astounding – people took entire unopened trays of meat, pasta and sides
    Huge bowls of salads? Gone!
    No pun intended but it left a bad taste in my mouth

  91. fort hiss*

    Mine is just a story of being the odd guy out during a day of free food. We were having a big meeting during the holidays. The office admin got bagels from a local bakery (some of which had nuts in), various staff brought in Turkish delight covered in pistachios, Christmas cookies covered in walnuts and pecans, and everyone was gifted macarons (you know, the French almond flour cookies). I sat there with my tree nut allergy and sipped mint-flavored water all day. People kept asking why I wasn’t having any and then looking guilty when I explained my allergy. Despite that I wound up with the big plate of Turkish delight right in front of me, and while I don’t have issues with allergens in the air, the smell of pistachios made me sick with anxiety. Definitely did not have a fun festive day like was expected.

    1. WellRed*

      Why people like to ruin a perfectly good cookie with nuts is something I will never understand; )

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      I don’t get why checking that a nut-free option or three isn’t standard! That’s basic, 101 stuff.

  92. Young Business*

    I used to volunteer at a local community TV station run by a large telecom company. The set was located in the same building as the company’s call centre and there were other operational staff located there, too.

    It was a morning show so there was always a table of breakfast goodies intended for volunteers to snack from when they arrived on set and before we went on air.

    Frustratingly, I recall sometimes seeing paid staff from the adjoined office sometimes sneak onto set and help themselves to the free breakfast. Not cool!

    Pre-pandemic, I worked in a shared office building. In December, all tenants would be treated to a Christmas breakfast (think fruits, coffee/tea, pastries). It was quite lovely and a nice little perk, but nothing out of this world. However, colleagues would be fixated on the day it would take place and would be taking about it in weeks in advance.

    It’s like they needed to plan their entire lives around making sure they would be in office (we were quite flexible on WFH so people routinely didn’t come into the office 5 days a week.)

    Not anything major, but it’s reminiscent of the Pretzel Day The Office episode and I still can’t get over how obsessed people get with free food.

  93. Irish Teacher*

    Oh, just a funny story rather than anybody behaving badly but at this school I worked in, there was a tradition that everybody took a turn to bake something for the staff on a Friday. The staff were fairly loose about this; it didn’t have to be master baking, I don’t think anybody would even have cared if somebody bought some baked goods.

    Anyway, the deputy principal didn’t bake, so when his turn came around what he did was brought in a chocolate fountain and a load of marshmallows and strawberries (I suspect people can see where this is going). A couple of us helped him to cut up and lay out the strawberries, then I went in to the workroom to get some preparation for my later classes done. I came back into the staffroom and there was a note by the chocolate fountain, saying “please do not turn this on.” The deputy principal had done so and…chocolate went everywhere, all over the floor of the staffroom, down his shirt – he had to get somebody to cover his classes and go home and change.

    It was all good natured though and we still dipped the strawberries and marshmallows in the chocolate (that hadn’t spilled) and enjoyed them.

  94. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

    In one department I worked in many years ago, we had a semi potluck lunch one day. Management bought a number of pizzas for the department, but people also brought in various dishes to share. As lunch was winding down, I went to our kitchenette area to see if there was any plastic wrap or foil that could be used to cover the leftovers. In my search, I opened one of the cabinet drawers and found… several slices of pizza.

    Not wrapped up. Not on a plate, or a paper towel, or any sort of reasonable, commonly-used-for-food surface. Just placed in the drawer, directly on the drawer bottom.

    The kicker is, I just *knew* immediately who the culprit was. And when I showed my coworkers the pizza, they all immediately guessed the exact same person.

  95. bh*

    On the flip side, when I was interning the office manager announced free cake in the breakroom. We all jumped up cause, you know, cake! We’re standing there politely waiting when some lady walks in and ugly snort laughed and said “Oh look, all the interns are here. Of course.” It was really rude and I’ve never forgotten.

    1. Meep*

      Ugh. I really wish people would leave interns alone. They are working for pennies under the guise of “experience”.

      My former manager, who made more than all of us for 0 effort, would always steal her employee’s food. Like going into their office/desk and taking an entire fresh bag of Costco-sized popcorn to hide it in her office for herself. They were “privileged” because they weren’t college dropouts (her excuse – I didn’t care if she went to college or not but she hated we did). Interns were literally paying us to work because she would nickel and dime them and then steal from them.

    2. Rainy*

      Good lord. How rude.

      (In my office, we have interns and student workers, and everyone makes sure to tell them about any food. For our student workers who are providing front office coverage, a professional staff member will either cover the phones so they can go make a plate, or make them a plate so they can eat at their desk.)

      1. MadCatter*

        Having worked with both undergrad and grad student workers – the rule was always that students got the leftovers.

        1. Quill*

          When I was in undergrad and my roommate worked in the library we once ended up walking out with a whole cheese and fruit tray. Because the librarians would herd the professors out at closing time of catered talks so the student workers could actually have some food, especially on weekends when our on campus food was limited and many of us had run out of meal plan for the week.

  96. Meep*

    I work with engineers, so I literally have to open any food first so they know they can eat it. lol.

    It is kind of sweet actually.

  97. Pam Beasley*

    At a previous job we had a little baby shower lunch for a pregnant coworker. It was potluck style and our grandboss signed up to bring cookies. About a half hour in, as people were finishing up their sandwiches, but not yet starting on dessert, grandboss says this has been lovely but she has to leave for a meeting. She then asks if anyone wants a cookie before she goes. No one had taken dessert yet, and no one expected the dessert to be leaving, so one or two people awkwardly take a cookie from the tray and then she carries the rest out with her. This was during the 2008 recession, most of us were fresh out of college, and grandboss easily made at least double what we did, including the new mom. This became a running joke the rest of the time I worked there. Anytime there were cookies shared it was “Better get one quick before grandboss comes and takes them all away.”

  98. KT*

    I live in a “Midwest Nice” state so we have the opposite problem. People cutting the last donut or cookie in half so they don’t take the last one or refusing to take leftovers. We had a company catered lunch before Memorial Day and one of the managers was walking around our office carrying the pizza boxes as we were all preparing to leave asking someone to please take the leftovers home so they wouldn’t go bad in the office fridge over the long weekend and everyone’s response was “Not if someone else wants it!”

      1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        why? If someone knows they are only going to be able to eat half why should the rest go to waste, especially if there is another person who might eat the other half? Or what if you have to watch your sugar levels and can’t eat an entire donut but part of one is fine. Are we supposed to just not enjoy the donuts just because you don’t want us to cut it?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Splitting a donut in half is fine; when people start cutting in quarters and eighths and sixteenths, it gets silly.

    1. Super Candy Bowl*

      I hate food waste AND I hate “who’s the most polite” social games, but I also don’t want to take food from someone who might need it more. So I’m always the one who says, “I’ll take it off your hands if no one else does!” Either I get a guilt-free and free meal, or someone who I assume really did need/want it more does. :3 And the food doesn’t go to waste!

    2. SunriseRuby*

      Not an office food story, but a food-related “Minnesota Nice” story. I was born in Minnesota and, with the exception of the year I lived in D. C., have lived here all of my life, including my college years. One evening my roommate and I ordered a pizza and took it to one of the lounges in our dorm so we could watch t.v. Another girl from our floor, who we thought seemed nice but didn’t know well, came into the lounge to relax after her evening class, so, to be hospitable, we offered her a slice of our pizza.

      After a while, before we closed the box and went back to our room, we asked Girl from Our Floor if she wanted another slice since there were two remaining. “Sure,” she said right away, helping herself to one of them. Roomie and I bade her goodnight, then talked about her, and our mutual shock, behind her back when we were back in our room. IMAGINE! Girl actually ACCEPTED food that we offered to her!! After talking about it for a bit, we realized that we were shocked because GFOF broke one of the unspoken rules of the social contract: you must politely refuse any offers of a second helping at least once, playing along with the pretense of the offer that’s only made so that the one offering feels like they’ve been generous. Our Minnesota Nice conditioning and passive-agressivenes were strong in us. Also, GFOF was from Montana.

  99. H.Regalis*

    When my husband was in grad school, he would go to all of the “Women in STEM” events because that group had far and away the best catered food. He now works at a university and makes sure to wait until all the grad students have grabbed seconds before he takes anything.

    1. cabbagepants*

      As long as he attended the events in earnest and listened with an open mind, I’d say that’s fair game. I was active as both an organizer and participant in a lot of women in STEM activities as a grad student and we always encouraged men to attend.

    2. Clisby*

      When my sister was in college, she’d routinely drop by the religious organizations near campus. These were student-oriented places affiliated with, say, the Catholic church, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, … If they were serving food, she showed up and attended whatever program they were putting on. I had less tolerance for churchy stuff, but she said she saved a fair amount of money on food.

      1. Quill*

        My brother’s undergrad has a lot of people who will happily come and support jewish student association events… because they’re all held on the day that the cafeterias are all closed.

  100. CookieWookiee*

    Oh goodness, I have a bunch of these.

    There are two—well three, since two involve the same person—that stick out the most in my memory. Our union—using money from our dues, obviously—would order pizzas for members to enjoy after meetings, since the meetings were held during our lunch period. We had one guy, who was NOT, repeat NOT, a union member, who would show up as soon as the meeting was over and take pizza, sometimes before the rest of us got any. Dude was in his 30s, earning a high 5-figure salary, and still living with his parents. He wasn’t going hungry, he was just selfish and cheap.

    Related: one weekend a friend of mine from work had a milestone birthday party at a local restaurant, which included a (huge, delicious) cake that I ordered and paid for. Pizza Guy was among those in attendance. The Birthday Girl took the leftover cake home to her elderly dad and her son.

    That Monday she’s in my office and we’re chatting about the fun we had when Pizza Guy knocks on my door.

    Him: “Hey that cake was really good.”
    Us: “Yes, it was.”
    Him: “It looked like there was a lot left over. Can I get some?”
    Us: “…”
    Me, channeling my inner Han Solo: “We don’t have it WITH US, it was Birthday Girl’s cake. She took it home.”
    Him, disappointed: “Oh.”


    This one didn’t involve Pizza Guy. Every year during the December holidays clients would send or bring gifts, usually food, to be shared among the hundred or so workers they dealt with every day. One client dropped off two big trays of cookies from a really well-known bakery. Before any of the workers were able to dive in, one of the grandbosses walked in, took one of the trays, and brought it up to the great-grandboss’s office for her enjoyment only. Which I thought was really low.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      It’s one thing to ask for a recipe or the name of the bakery, QUITE another to ask, an entire day later, for the leftovers!!

      1. CookieWookiee*

        Two days after! Party was Saturday night, this was Monday morning. Not to mention that a) the party was in a different state than our office (we’re in the US); b) we all take public transit in, which is very crowded, unrefrigerated, and does not often allow room for bulky and/or delicate packages such as cake boxes; and c) I PAID FOR THE CAKE. It wasn’t included in the prix fixe dinner the restaurant arranged for the party.

        I certainly didn’t advertise that I covered this portion of the celebration, but even if I hadn’t, HE WASN’T THE BIRTHDAY PERSON. It wasn’t his cake to dispose of!

        I hated going out to eat when he was included, because his behavior went one of two ways: if we only paid for what we ordered, he’d usually get the cheapest thing on the menu. Which is fine. Except this rarely happened, because our group liked ordering appetizers and stuff to share, plus it’s a pain in the neck to nickel-and-dime bills for large parties that way, so we’d just split the bill evenly.

        This was Pizza’s Guy’s moment to shine, in his own mind anyway. Multiple cocktails or glasses of wine, the most expensive items on the menu, and of course dessert. Because the rest of us were subsidizing his meal. I stopped going to things he was invited to, and eventually others started to quietly arrange reservations without including him in their plans.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          The very fact that he was still obsessed with scoring cake THAT WAS NOT HIS a full two days later says he has the hide of a thousand rhinos. Wow!

    2. Crazy Canuck*

      At my office, our vendors would send huge gift baskets of goodies for the entire staff to enjoy during the Christmas season. We never got to see any of it, except piled up in the office of the company owner before he took it home.
      There were so many gift baskets, sometimes he would give a few of the smaller ones as door prizes at the Christmas party. His adult children and his friends who didn’t work at the company were also guess at the party.
      Yes, he was too cheap to even buy door prizes. And his staff had to compete with the other guests for raffle tickets for the