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 prizes.

      The staff often brought in home-baked goodies or organized pot lucks. There was always lots of food. The company owner would be one of the first in the break room for free food and go back for several more helpings of baked goods throughout the day.

      He and his wife would take at least 2 month-long vacations per year to some great place like an African safari.

      1. CookieWookiee*

        That is TERRIBLE. How can anyone treat their employees like that? It’s literally stealing food from their mouths. And I’m sure the vendors would not have been happy to discover what the owner was doing.

        I don’t get this behavior, especially with what I can only imagine is a huge economic disparity. You can afford your own gift baskets/cookies/baked goods, don’t steal from your subordinates.

  101. Super (Candy) Bowl*

    The–thankfully *very* minor–candy drama at my workplace just ended recently. There always used to be a bowl of candy at the reception desk. There wasn’t a budget for this, just something the former receptionist did on her own, despite making much less than anyone else here.

    When I got put on the front desk full time, I decided I was not going to be wasting my rent money buying candy for a bunch of manbabies who made six figures compared to my minimum wage (and were sexist, classist jerks about it). So I just kept filling the bowl from the preexisting mega bag till it ran out. Then I…stopped. And put the empty bowl out of sight in a drawer.

    The complaints! Good lord, the complaints over the next month. So many “I can’t believe you’re not filling the candy bowl anymore!” “This place is falling apart. They can’t even keep the candy bowl filled.” “I guess people just don’t want to work anymore.” (Yes, this was said over a freaking *candy bowl.*) “You’re falling down on your job, aren’t you, girl?” (LOLwut buying you candy is exactly 0% of my job, jackass. Also: not a/your girl.) Most people just expressed surprise once and then let it go. Except for one of the engineering managers, who complained to me every single day for actual months, after he’d come back in from his smoke breaks. Like, dude, go buy a pack of gum or mints or something if you need to hide your bad breath. You make more in a week than I make in three months!

    Then we moved to a new building in April, where that engineering manager uses a different door to go in and out, and not a single person has mentioned the candy bowl to me ever again. :) I don’t even know where the bowl is now–it got lost in the move, probably misplaced or broken by the mover team that packed up my office. It never made it to the new building, is all I know.

    (If I could go back in time, I’d have ended the candy practice the day I started that job. Take the candy bag home and enjoy it all myself. People could correctly assume that the free candy practice began and ended with the previous receptionist.)

    1. bh*

      I totally would have told them why there was no candy. Shame them right out of their bellyaching.

      1. Super Candy Bowl*

        I’ve heard more than one of these jerks say that poor people are poor because they’re lazy and deserve it, so I’m not too sure that would have the desired outcome for me. D: On the plus side, my last day here is Friday!

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Ohhhh, buy a whole bunch of expired, sunbleached gross candy from a gas station vending machine and leave it on your desk with a note reading “All the candy you deserve!”

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      It is astounding to me how often and how quickly “nice thing” becomes “expected thing,” to be provided by the lowest/worst paid people.

  102. Ham Bone*

    I will always remember the pre-covid year my company bought a nice ham for our company holiday potluck. It was delicious. We’re a small company so there was a decent amount leftover.

    As the potluck was being cleaned up, before anyone else could even think about taking anything home, the most notorious company vulture bagged up every last bit of that leftover ham and took it home. It would have been enough for four or five people to split…this person lives alone and is just selfish.

  103. Zoe Karvounopsina*

    So, on-topic, as I had two meetings today where I returned with leftover baked goods!

  104. Jennie*

    I worked in an office where food safety wasn’t a thing. Think all sorts of sandwhiches being put out without ice at 10am for a luncheon and the leftovers sitting unrefrigerated all afternoon in the break room for people to snack on. I can’t count how many times someone on the night shift would come in and go “Looks like I’m set for supper” as they reached for a sandwich that had been sitting on the counter for 10 hours. Most of them had no clue how long the sandwiches had been sitting out until the next day when they called in sick with food poisoning. :(

  105. Jzilbeck*

    Oh man. My office used to hold annual potluck lunches during the holiday season. Everyone signed up to either make a dish or donate money towards buying a tray of catered food (like one of those 6ft subs, trays of chicken wings, etc.) But we had a guy who was a free food vulture and massive cheapskate (that’s a story for another day) despite not having any spouse or kids and having quite the hefty retirement fund. Back when we used to have parties celebrating a marriage or a new baby, my coworkers and I would take wagers on how many slices of cake this guy would eat….anyway, he retired but *just happened* to show up to visit on the day of the annual luncheon. As everyone who had cooked/paid lined up to grab food, this dude LOUDLY exclaims how he didn’t bring any food or pay any money, but jumps in line with everyone else and helps himself to multiple overflowing plates of food. And then the next day, when the leftovers were put out….this jerk (reminder, he’s retired and doesn’t work here anymore!!) comes back with bags. He packed up 3-4 grocery paper bags full of even more food! I made sure I was within earshot and loudly exclaimed to my coworkers of just how obnoxious this move was by someone who contributed nothing. I never saw him again on potluck day after that year (I ALWAYS made something for that event so I attended every year) or he got really good at avoiding me….pretty sure it was the former, not the latter lol.

  106. Teach*

    Our school/PTA will occasionally set up free food for the teachers, which is nice, but they are the absolute worst at organizing it. Things like serving the food in a crowded hallway while students are changing classes, or only announcing free coffee AFTER everyone has already arrived with their Starbucks. The worst was the time they said they would order pizza on a night of parent-teacher conferences, so no one ate dinner beforehand. The food arrived exactly at the time the conference started, so the only people able to go get pizza were teachers whose parents did not show up. After two solid hours of meeting with families, I ran to the cafeteria to grab a slice, to learn that the only vegetarian option had just been thrown in the trash. the custodian let me know that it was right on top of the trash in case I wanted to grab some.

    1. BlueSwimmer*

      This is the most “teacher life” thing ever.

      Our PTA brought the lunch buffet they told us they were providing during teacher appreciation week at the very end of the final lunch period of the day. None of the teachers had brought their lunches, since the PTA hyped up the buffet we were getting, and we have 20 minutes to eat so no one could run out and get anything. Everyone who had an earlier lunch period had to teach the entire day with nothing to eat.

      I have never felt so unappreciated. It would have been better if they just hadn’t told us they were providing lunch for us.

  107. Pumping ain’t easy*

    Generally my office is really tame with this stuff (overall excited for food, but polite; no one will take the last of anything). We also work with a lot of companies in Asia and they send candies/treats that are exciting for the U.S. around the holidays, which I find really fun. All good!

    However. When we came back to the office after the pandemic, my dept ordered (really good, local) pizza for us all; great! I had just come back from maternity leave and was on a non-dairy diet while breastfeeding, so my manager specifically made sure there was a vegan pizza for me; great! I told her I’d be late to lunch because I had to pump and when I got there, the entire (one, small) vegan pizza was gone. I think there might be one vegan person in the department but I can only assume everyone else was excited to try it (it’s the best vegan pizza I’ve ever had). Since the whole point about coming back to the office in person was to build relationships, I just sat there for the rest of the lunch hoping no one could hear my stomach growl (as anyone who’s every nursed can attest— you’re starving all.the.time.)

    I don’t really hold any grudges to the overall group (except that my manager was there at the lunch, knew I was going to be late and why, and could have said something), it was just another slap in the face about being a working mom with a tiny infant, returning to the office in person for no reason other than to socialize with coworkers. Grrrrr.

    1. JustaTech*

      Oh my goodness you have so much more self control that me! If someone made off with the only lunch I could eat right now I’d probably cry, and defenently make sure everyone knew *exactly* how hungry I was.
      (The hangry is *real* while you’re nursing!)

  108. Catwhisperer*

    At my previous big tech company, there was soooo much drama about the free food they provided. Off the top of my head I can remember:

    – An engineer complaining that the cherry tomatoes in the salad bar were hard to eat because they weren’t sliced.
    – People complaining prosecco fountain/tap in one of the international offices, then other people complaining when it got removed.
    – Someone complaining in Texas that the food was too spicy for their French palate even when it was marked as mild spice levels.
    – Workers in Silicon Valley having the takeaway boxes removed from the cafes because there were too many people boxing up full meals for their families and taking them home every night.
    – Someone complaining that the freshly washed trays sometimes had water on them.

    I’m sure there’s more that I can’t remember, but all of said complaints were posted on internal groups visible to tens of thousands of employees across the globe, including the contract workers who sometimes weren’t even allowed to eat the free food at the cafes.

      1. Catwhisperer*

        And I guarantee you if staff took the time to dry all the trays perfectly, the complaint would be that re-stocking trays takes too long.

        I wish I could share the post with that complaint, though, because the diatribe was WILD. Paragraphs about how awful it was to have to use napkins to dry the tray because they then ended up with a lump of soggy napkins which was apparently both gross and contributing to killing the planet with excess waste.

    1. JustaTech*

      The complete out-of-touch-ness of big tech workers and food is impressive.
      One time for a grad school assignment I had to do the SNAP budget challenge (*everyone* complained about that one). My husband (who had to do it with me) was explaining it to his Big Tech coworkers while they ate their free lunch, saying that we’d decided that his lunches cost a nominal $5 a day (because the professor said I had to lose some of my budget).
      So one of his coworkers says “you think lunch costs more than $5?”
      “We’re having rabbit. Yes, lunch costs more than $5.”

      1. Catwhisperer*

        It’s wild. I worked in non-profits for a decade before coming to tech and have been on SNAP myself as an adult, so seeing people complain about the free food was one of the most shocking things to me about the transition.

        The level of disconnect from the real world in tech is wild to me, but I also know it’s done because CEOs and investors want to create what are essentially company towns where employees never leave and never stop working. The pandemic has changed things a lot, especially when people started to realise that the food was part of their compensation package and not accessing that benefit during WFH put a measurable dent in take-home pay. My current company has stopped providing food on some days when there’s low office turnout, bc it turns out people would rather have better work/life balance than free food.

        Also now they’re holding the threat of layoffs over all of us so everyone is too freaked out to complain about anything anymore.

  109. Lady Ann*

    I worked at a big company with multiple locations. Every year at Christmas, one of the higher ups would order a cake from a fancy bakery for each location. One year, the cake arrived at the office I worked at labeled with just one department name instead of the site name. That department decided that meant the cake belonged exclusively to them. Again, this happened every year, so they knew very well that it did not. Also, their department made up less than half the employees in that office so it was pretty clear this giant cake was not meant just for them! They took it out of the communal kitchen and brought it to their work area, and told anyone else who tried to come get a piece of the cake that it was theirs. It caused a lot of hurt feelings, so the next week someone else ordered a large sheet cake for the whole office (sadly, not nearly as fancy a cake).

    The fancy cake was usually topped with fresh strawberries, and another year someone took all the strawberries off the top of the cake (so like 3/4 of the cake was left, but 0 strawberries.)

  110. And the oscar goes to*

    I used to work in an office where most of the staff were in one room and the senior staff were down the hall in individual offices. When people brought in snacks or baked goods they were often left on a free desk and people were free to take what they liked. One of the senior guys would always show up shortly after the goods were put out. He’d come in with a document in his hand looking for a member of the team to discuss it with, he was always looking for the person who wasn’t in that day. He would then notice the items and take something. One time he left the document behind and we realised it was a folder just full of blank pieces of paper. No idea why he created this little charade, there was no problem with him taking something and many other staff did just drop by take something and leave. Always found it slightly funny.

  111. Daisy Daisy*

    When I was promoted to assistant manager at a very small retail store, I started getting cookies/pastries/treats every week or so for the crew when I went to Whole Foods for breakfast. I’d let everyone know there were treats in the breakroom, and the accountant would come out from his office almost immediately.

    It wasn’t until after he was later fired for embezzlement that I found out he was also appropriating the whole tray/box of treats to his desk before anyone could get to it. Sometimes he’d leave one or two. The floor workers just each thought they got to the break room last and missed the opportunity.

    He embezzled my cookies!

    1. Csethiro Ceredin*

      Whoa. That sure goes to show entitled, selfish jerks are just gonna be jerks in all areas.

  112. Fuzzy Initiative*

    At my last workplace, one of my coworkers was coming back into the office after her lunch break and let a food delivery driver into the lobby. He was in a rush, so she told him to leave the delivery on the front desk and she’d message the office to let the person know that their food had arrived.

    The message went out on the office-wide Slack channel that “The lunch delivery from X is at the front desk”, someone responded within about 2 minutes, “Thanks! Got it!”, followed by the person who had ACTUALLY ordered the food posting on the same channel 5 minutes later “Wait, so did TWO of us order [uncommon food] from [tiny mom & pop restaurant] today???”

    Person A had already scarfed down the entire order, and sheepishly dropped off $10 to the person whose food they stole. I’m pretty sure they only paid for it because the whole thing played out on the company Slack channel like some kind of soap opera.

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

      That is so hilarious. I once had my Jimmy Johns order mixed up with someone else’s but neither of us had eaten the other sandwich. I had just unwrapped mine and realized it was wrong, and that my name wasn’t on the receipt. Found the person, explained i hadn’t touched the sandwich and we swapped.

  113. b-reezy*

    I was an admin years ago and would order breakfast for the office twice a week. Once a week it was usually just donuts and then once a week it was breakfast sandwiches, fresh fruit, coffee, hot cocoa, pastries, a whole super nice spread with lots of variety. The ungrateful ******* I worked with had the gall to complain about the FREE FOOD the office provided, while at the same time waiting around reception around the time it would normally be delivered and then whining if it DARED be late. (And god forbid I stopped on my way to work to get the donuts because I was doing a work thing on company time when they believed I should apparently be doing work things on my own personal time. Not a single one of these people was over me nor had any business worrying about what I was doing all day.)

  114. Everything All The Time*

    I work with a food snatcher and I started saying “In my house we have “FHB”: or Family Hold Back. Don’t take massive quantities until everyone’s had a chance for firsts.”
    it didn’t used to bother people but after the most recent food ordering debacle: lunch being ordered by the company is now tied to who answers the survey, NOT the actual headcount for possible employees so we now get 2 large pizzas for 50 people. This is “being fixed”

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      2 larges for FIFTY? Oh, man, they must order from me–I can’t believe how common it is for people not to be able to parse portioning. Then, when I tell them X size is good for Y number, they NEVER believe me. I’ve had people order three seventeen inch larges for two people and others the same amount for thirty.

  115. Fred Flintstone*

    Pre-pandemic my job had a “lunch club”. Once a week, “Kyle” would be in charge of picking a local restaurant and collecting orders and money. Most people left a tip for the business. Kyle would use everyone’s tip money to purchase his own lunch and pocket any leftover funds. Management found out, didn’t care, Kyle always was picked for special projects, and eventually was fired for sexual harassment.

  116. Iridescent Periwinkle*

    These work lunch threads are always entertaining but they are always kind of sad too.

    I have coworkers following me around like I’m the lunch Pied Piper when I take lunch extras to the breakroom, so I get it. I’ve needed to tell coworkers to back off unless they were willing to help me clean up, which was crazy talk and they scattered (for five minutes).

  117. Alisaurus*

    I once worked at a company with a regular monthly all-hands meeting. The company would pay for breakfast for the team, which the other admin and I would set up buffet-style for employees to file down the line and get food before the meeting started. It was ridiculous how many people would load up their plates with 2-3+ servings’ worth of food when they were some of the first in line. We’d get to a point where the last attendees to arrive had no breakfast while those who had gone first and loaded up would have leftovers on their plates – and then the other assistant and I would witness those people wrapping up their leftovers to take home at the end of the day.

    I ended up printing signs that said something like, “Yes, we all enjoy breakfast, but please let your coworkers also enjoy breakfast. Be mindful of your serving size, and leftovers will be up for grabs at the end of the meeting.” Miraculously, it worked on 99% of our company, and we had fewer issues moving forward.

    (We did have one guy who would bring his own Tupperware to take home leftovers at the end of the meeting, but it meant we didn’t have to cart it all to the kitchen ourselves so we were fine with that.)

    1. Alisaurus*

      I did speak up about it once or twice before the signs were put up, but I was usually running around with last-minute tasks for the meeting coordination and was unable to catch most people in the act. (I have no problem calling out offenders if the situation warrants it.)

  118. Plum*

    I baked some scones and muffins for a friend’s birthday and decided to bring the leftovers to the office, the following morning.
    Mind you, it was all untouched food since we had so much to eat at the party. I put the two trays in the kitchenette and let people know free food was there.
    10ish minutes later I saw a well-known colleague march to the kitchenette and leave with one of the trays. This person was famous because he would hoard anything in the office that was free (food, pencils, t-shirts, you name it).
    Well, sir, not today!
    I followed him to his office, knocked at the door, entered after his answer, took the tray from his desk, and left with it, in complete silence.
    He. Was.Livid. and followed me to the kitchenette. He started to complain in front of other colleagues about my rudeness and how the sweets were supposed to be for everyone.
    “Everyone indeed. You are not everyone,” was my very calm reply.
    He left the room and didn’t return that day. He still kept hoarding stuff until the day he got fired for other reasons, but he never put the stunt again when I was the one to bring something.

  119. Constance Lloyd*

    One year, my coworker brought donuts into work for his birthday. We were a small team, so he went to a nicer specialty shop in town and brought in a cool half dozen. The manager of another team brought in 2 dozen donuts for her team in the same day. Her donuts were from the grocery store, and were perfectly delicious but not as fancy I guess? She ate THREE of the six donuts my coworker purchased, saying each time, “I know there are donuts over at my team, but the donuts you guys have are just so much better!”

    1. HigherEdAdminista*

      “I know I brought in something of my own, but I’d rather steal your more expensive treat and I have zero shame whatsoever!”

  120. Narise*

    We did the twelve days of Christmas which resulted in each different department/team providing lunch or large snack everyday. My team chose breakfast and brought in French Toast, sausage, and hashbrown casserole and fruit and syrup. Plenty of food for everyone. (We joked everyone gained 12 pounds from the 12 days of Christmas.)
    The person who brought in syrup brought in one small bottle of blueberry, a large Sam’s Club bottle of regular syrup, and a small bottle of strawberry. The blueberry was the most popular and we ran out. The complaints and snide comments regarding not enough blueberry syrup on their free french toast was insane. I mean it wasn’t even name brand or anything just a Walmart blueberry syrup and we had comments about it through January!

  121. CRM*

    In my very first office job, the kitchen often contained food that was leftover from events (usually non-perishable stuff purchased in bulk like energy bars, cookies, and water bottles, that would then sit in the kitchen for the next month as our small office went through them). As a poor college grad, I considered it a small perk of an underpaying non-profit job. One dreary Monday, I walked in to find a box of mini-bags of my favorite kind of potato chips. I happily took a bag every day for the whole week. On Friday, our Executive Director saw me walking out of the office with a bag of chips and freaked out. Apparently I had been pilfering from his personal stash all week. I was absolutely mortified! He was pretty miffed and didn’t seem to believe that it was a genuine accident, and so I was jokingly labeled the chip thief by the rest of the office. I offered to buy a consolation box but he wasn’t interested.

    To this day, I’m still unsure why he didn’t just keep his personal snacks in his own office (which is what most other people did; I didn’t have an office but always kept my personal snacks in a drawer at my desk). But from then on, I didn’t take any snacks from the kitchen unless they were offered to me. Eventually I overcame my chip thief reputation, but it still makes me cringe.

    1. kiki*

      Ahh, this is my nightmare. It always frustrates me when workplaces have some food that is free to take and others that isn’t, but folks don’t clearly identify which is which. I would never intentionally take somebody else’s food! But once I was horrified to learn I was taking a splash of a coworker’s creamer every day. In my defense, it was unlabeled and in the communal fridge and I was told that there was creamer for everyone to use in that fridge. I probably should have guessed that the company wouldn’t splurge for the really nice speciality creamer, but I just thought maybe it was an office of people who appreciate some good creamer in their coffee!

      1. CRM*

        I know! I was so incredibly embarrassed.

        Your situation would have had me confused as well. They told you there was communal creamer, and then there was creamer! Not unreasonable to assume.

  122. JustMe*

    Not me but my mom: she had a boss who was the well-respected director of a well-known nonprofit (think, executive director of the local St. Jude’s or Salvation Army). He was also a drummer in a rock band and still had the mentality of a musician who never knew where his next meal was coming from. He would tell my mom that he loved working at the nonprofit because almost every day presented an FMO, or Free Meal Opportunity. Ex. “How was the event, Fergus?” “Eh, I didn’t need to be there, but it was an FMO.”

    On one notable occasion, a fancy gala event was put on in his honor. Representatives from the major corporations, the city, the state, the county, and the other local organizations were there, as were several major individual donors. It was formal dress. Several people got up to give speeches to honor Fergus, and he was asked to stand up to applause on numerous occasions. At one point, he leaned over to my mom and whispered, “So what is this event, anyway?” My mom, aghast, explained that it was a gala dinner honoring him–what did he think it was? He said, “Oh I dunno, just thought it was another FMO.”

    1. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

      I’m weirdly charmed by someone who has the oblivious humility not to realize that an event where he’s been applauded several times is, in fact, all about him.

  123. one time at band camp*

    I’m going to preface this by saying we had no reason to think food insecurity was an issue for this person; they were compensated very well for their work in a low cost-of-living area.

    Management hosted a barbecue for staff one day. Someone sent an email after the barbecue, using the all staff distribution list that included literally hundreds upon hundreds of people of all levels in the org chart, asking everyone to please drop any leftover hamburgers and hot dogs off at their desk, located on x floor, thank you very much.

    1. Bob-White of the Glen*

      I’d immediately think someone was trying to feed pets and looking for scraps. Unless they were asking for containers of items, rather than plate leftovers? In any case, it’s a weird ask, but I’d trot my half eaten hot dog right down there.

  124. NeedRain47*

    Ugh, I really can’t stand these types of grasping greedy people. I’ve never witnessed anythign like some of these but the “minor” transgressions are bad enough. A woman from a different department used to come to our department parties (which were mostly supposed to be a way for staff to give the student workers a treat, as this was at a university) , and take an ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE plateful of food. No one else in the entire organization would have done that.

    Another coworker would bring a tupperware to get stuff for her husband, who also worked in a different department. Again, You do not work here This is not for you! I don’t know why this is hard for people. (the folks mentioned above were definitely not too poor to feed themselves or anything like that.)

    When we would have department parties at old job (potluck sty

    1. NeedRain47*

      I shouldv’e added, massive plateful taker did eventually get told by a manager to stop it.

  125. Waiting on the bus*

    I’d say that I would never complain about free food, except I was part of a food debacle once where I did just that:

    At one company, we had mandatory monthly all hands starting at 8am. Since most of the company started between 9am and 10am, people hated the all hands, so the CEO decided to sweeten the deal by offering free breakfast. Each week, a different team was put in charge of organising breakfast, with expenses being covered by the company and a really generous budget.

    Teams would get competitive about organising the best breakfast. There would be themes! And enough leftovers to last us into lunch. People loved the breakfast more than they hated having to get up early for the all hands, so all was well.

    And then one time HR decided that on their turn, they’d do a healthy breakfast. Which in their mind consisted of a small selection of some muesli and milk alternatives as well as protein shakes.

    About 60 people staggered in around 7.30/7.45, tired and cranky and hungry. There was disbelief. There was misery. There was (h)anger. The mood was absolutely foul and got worse with every new employee that arrived to find that there was no food. Meanwhile, HR defiantly sipped their protein shakes and pretended they didn’t notice how pissed everyone was. The cherry on top of the whole disaster was the CEO arriving and being told that the only things available were a bunch of shakes and some soy milk – the muesli was gone almost immediately. He thought people were taking the piss.

    Anyway, that “healthy” breakfast ended with the CEO’s assistant running out to buy a bunch of boxes of donuts, the all hands starting about twenty minutes late while people descended on said donuts, an actual apology from the CEO and an early lunch featuring a company-sponsored pizza party.

    All was well in the end, but between 7.45 and 8.15 (when the donuts arrived), most of the company was ready to riot.

    And yes, I was one of the would-be rioters.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Yeahhhh….that ain’t a stunt you want to pull with peoples’ first meal of the damn day!

  126. Chocoholic*

    I kind of forgot about this but a boss at a past job would help herself to my lunch…as I was eating it! I usually had a sandwich of some sort and potato chips, fruit, etc. and she often would eat my chips out of the bag while I was eating lunch. She never asked if she could have some, just took them.

    I thought it was really weird, and of course she was my boss so I didn’t feel I could really say anything.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      20-something year old would not have said anything either. But you can be damn sure that 46 year old me dgaf and would have no problem saying something. No way I’d let anyone, not even my boss, touch my food, unless I offered some of course.

  127. 1-800-BrownCow*

    Sooooo….many…..stories….. I’ll stick to my top 3.

    1) First place I worked was a manufacturing plant, I was the 2nd shift engineer. I quickly found out that any food events at work, food either needed to be kept back or hidden or people needed to get their food immediately. Shortly after I started, one of the owners retired so they ordered cake for each shift. I was asked to help set out pieces of cake just before break. Breaks for the manufacturing floor employees were spaced out over 3 sets of breaks so machines could be kept running and operators covered each other’s machine during breaks. I set out all the cake (more than enough cake for each person to have a piece) before break started and came back during the 2nd groups’ break and all the cake was gone! I was told by the supervisor not to do it that way because many of the employs would take multiple pieces (like 5+ pieces) and put them in their lunch bag to take home from their family! Apparently this would happen all the time and no one ever stopped people from doing it.

    2) At my previous job, we had approximately 300 employees. One time they ordered pizza for lunch as a celebration for hard work. Sent out an email a few days ahead so everyone knew they got free lunch that day. Hourly employees all took lunch at 11:30 and office employees at noon. Well, when office people started trickling in at noon for pizza, we were out of luck as there was no pizza left!! Apparently they told some people when they came in at 11:30 they could only have 1 slice of pizza. But that was the only food, no chips or anything else, so some people were taking 2 slices, a few took 3. As a result, only about half the employees got lunch that day as they had only ordered enough for each person to take 1 piece.

    The kicker?!?! They didn’t learn their lesson, 2 more times after that, they did a pizza lunch and same thing happened!! The company made good money so their was a lot of disgruntled employees that the company couldn’t spend more money and order more pizza to ensure everyone got some! Or have someone serve the pizza to ensure people only took 1 slice.

    3) Again, my previous job. We had an employee on 2nd shift that had no qualms about eating people’s leftovers in the fridge, even when people put their name on it! He would be confronted about it by management and HR and his response: “The fridge is for all employees to use, so any food in it is for all employees.” But that’s not all. Every quarter, they would do a fridge clean-out and signs were hung up the week before that clean-out was happening at 3pm on Friday and anything not labeled or that was past expiration was going to be tossed. Same employee looked forward to that day as he would pick through all the tossed food in the trash after they finished cleaning the fridge and take anything he deemed okay to eat, including stuff that was expired!

  128. Doctor Fun*

    I used to work for Microsoft. Among the hundreds of non-work email listservs that employees could subscribe to related to things like hobbies, social affinity groups, health diagnosis support, et cetera et cetera et cetera, there was one for sending out notifications of leftovers from catered meetings. It was the listserv with the highest number of subscribers.

  129. Admin no mo*

    My least favorite behavior is complaining about the leftovers to the person who organized the food. I will cater lunches and order in different things depending on who is attending. I ordered Indian food for my team because we all agreed on it. Once lunch was done, I sent out the standard “leftover Indian food on floor 5 – come and get it” email to the building and the vultures descended.

    I had someone hunt me down and complain that I should have ordered pizza so everyone would like the leftovers. He was so angry (and a senior VP) that now I just let the admin assistants in the building know that there’s free food and they can tell other people if they feel like it.

  130. Sneaky*

    Our sweet, elderly security guard (think Barney Fife but closer to Three’s Company era Don Knotts) takes one piece of candy out of our office candy dish each time he makes his hourly required walk through. When we have treats for special occasions, he does the same thing, one on every walk through. He’s so sweet that no one is offended by it, but it cracks me up.

  131. Insert pun here*

    Many years ago, I worked at a smallish company in a college town whose compensation could probably best be described as adequate, but not generous. I was in the early stages of my career and had a lot of coworker friends who were too, and so we set up a shared spreadsheet of bars that offered free happy hour food. It was very useful! Being young and careless, we were often drunk or hungover, but we were well fed at least.

  132. yllis*

    As much as a jerk the guy in LW1’s is….gotta admit, this made me laugh

    “Management did talk to him, but his answer was that he didn’t care.”

  133. Turtle Tower*

    My old office LOVED baking cookies. Every holiday season, three full-size folding tables would be set up and crammed with homemade, hot cookies that would put Betty Crocker out of business. Now, in this office, only the full time people were allowed to provide the cookies. This left the rest of us – several underpaid college students – without a single obligation. Once the snacking session ended, Ziploc bags would quietly passed around only to us college kids. BIG Ziplocs – the kind that you could marinate a chicken in. I stuffed several bags full of fancy baked goods. I even snagged some for my engineering major (read: depressed) roommate.

    And at Thanksgiving? The crock pots gave us meals for DAYS. I miss those office parties. Not the office itself, though.

  134. DiamondDogs*

    I made cinnamon raisin cookies when I thought I could still cook without my readers. Instead of cinnamon, I used cumin and didn’t realize my mistake until after the last batch came out of the oven.
    Brought them to work and people still ate them…cumin raisin oatmeal cookies…

    1. Quill*

      I’m laughing like a deranged magpie but also, raisin oatmeal cookies? Sounds like the only time you could get away with that flavor profile.

  135. Not all that glitters is gold*

    It might not always be what it seems. I was food insecure when I first graduated college and got married during an economic crisis in my country. Working 4-5 part-time jobs at low wages trying to get by. My spouse working two full-time jobs. Not qualifying for assistance by the major programs. We did not fit the stereotype of someone needing assistance-at least the stereotype people who’ve never needed assistance have about people who are food insecure.

    One time, the grand-boss at a non-profit I worked a few hours a week for, told me to take home a gallon bucket of leftovers from a meeting so I’d have food all weekend. (He was aware of my situation and would office leftover whenever he could). They had gallons and gallons of extra food. I tried to leave with it discreetly. A full-time, established co-worker saw me leaving with it and announced to the office that I was stealing food from a non-profit and I should be ashamed of myself. I quickly put it back and left, trying not to cry.

    Later, I found out the grand-boss pulled this co-worked aside to talk about how not everyone who needs assistance “looks the part.” And that shaming people publicly is against the organization’s service mission. So if she couldn’t stop judging others this non-profit wasn’t the place for her.

    The grand-boss later stopped by my apartment with the food. The co-worker was cordial from then on out; but they still held stereotypes of what someone who is food insecure should “look like.” (Apparently being clean and dressing respectfully is not allowed). I owe a lot to that grand-boss. You never know what’s really going on with people.

    1. Jam on Toast*

      Your grandboss deserves a gold star! Good for them for not only talking about equity, but taking meaningful steps to support you and dismantle stereotypes, too.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      That is a kind grandboss.

      I’d like to see this type of kind impulse translate into systemic advocacy for everyone in the org to be paid a living wage with benefits. There’s no reason ANYONE working full time (in however many jobs) should be food insecure.

      1. Not all that glitters is gold*

        I was just working a few hours a week there. I was hobbling together a bunch of gig type jobs because unemployment was so high. It was a trade off between keeping our apartment in a nice area of town where we could walk to work and stores…or get a cheaper place farther away, drop some of the work and get on assistance. Very fortunately, we were in a better place in about 14 months when I found a full-time job.

  136. RJ*

    After twenty plus years spend working in office cultures, I’ve come to the conclusion that free food brings out the best in some people, the darkest, ugliest instincts in others and a serious feeling of WTF for the rest of us. I’ve seen people arguing over the fact the snacks we kept in a pantry were too high in sodium…and then too low in sodium. I saw someone physically pick all the olives out of a massive pasta salad and announce loudly that she was the olive queen. I saw a team of engineers create a Wanted poster with the picture of an engineer from another department to ban him from their Friday donut potluck due to excessive pilfering of their horde.

    I have seen some stuff on this topic. SMH.

  137. Jam on Toast*

    When I had to organize team meetings, I always ensured there was a range of food options. Reading some of these stories, I just…hello people, have you heard of ‘basic decency’? Sure, *I* eat dairy, meat, nuts and gluten without a second thought but I also realize that *not* *everyone* *does*. So I not only did I always make sure there were tasty vegan and gluten free options for any catering or restaurants we attended, I would also send out a quick email or Teams reminder to let folks know there would be food at the upcoming meeting and to tell me about any dietary restrictions by X date If they shared a condition or preference I didn’t have experience with, I’d just ask ‘what works for you?’ and they’d have oodles of suggestions. I once managed a team of 10 that included a vegetarian, someone with a serious gluten allergy, someone who was lactose intolerant, a diabetic and someone with IBS. Miracle of miracles, everyone always had something tasty to eat and no one had the temerity to steal the gluten free muffin or complain their apple crumble donut would have been better if only it had walnuts on it.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Will you order from me, please? I can’t tell you how many people try to cram all the “special” dietary stuff into one eleven inch pie, and the crestfallen “oh, really?” I hear when they’re informed that our gluten free crust contains whey powder and egg whites and thus is not vegan or dairy free and they will have to get a second pie for that.

  138. It's all elementary*

    My first week week on the job, early 20’s so really still kind of green, I bought deli meat, cheeses, and bread and left in the kitchen refrigerator with my name on it thinking I could eat it all week. Someone ate ALL of it. I went to HR to ask what I could do. They found out who did it (they thought it was meeting “leftovers” yeah, right) but even then no one offered to reimburse me for my loss even though they admitted they took it. The company was out in the sticks so there was no fast food nearby. I didn’t last long there.

    1. Sunshine*

      I hate this for you! This would be a totally normal and respected thing to do in most offices (or at least mine)!

  139. Marcella*

    I once worked at a company that would cater every executive meeting. There would always be brownies, popcorn, sandwiches and such left over. My office was next door to the big conference room so I’d carry the trays into the more populous section with hundreds of cubicles and leave it out.

    Until a new admin started. She began bringing in empty shopping bags and whenever I put down a tray of food, she would just scoop all of it into a bag and take it home. Even after people gently pointed out how rude and tacky that was, she just couldn’t see why it shouldn’t all go to her.

  140. Office Baker*

    One time I bought cricket powder and used it in brownies that I brought to the office to share. Since it is ground up crickets, there’s a small risk to people with shellfish allergies. I put out a sticky note so people knew what they were eating, but apparently a lot of people just grab food and don’t care what it is because there was definitely confusion when I mentioned crickets in conversation.

    1. Sunshine*

      Oh wow! Why the cricket powder? Is there a health benefit? Note to self, always read the sticky notes just in case!!!

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Environmentally friendly protein! Check out Dr Benyon’s Bug Farm as an example.

        My teen tried it, but I have a shellfish allergy so abstained.

  141. Nanc*

    I have a nice free food story! I worked for a satellite campus of university in a very rural area. We ran degree completion programs that met evenings and weekends (prior to the internet!) so working people could finish a degree. I had student who was a potato farmer. He drove 1.5 hours twice a week to attend class for three hours and then drove home (and it was dark–over some very twisty, narrow mountain roads!). Every year during the two weeks or so of harvest season he would fill the bed of his pick up truck with potatoes and a bunch of old-school gunny sacks and during break he would let anyone in the building take as many delicious russet potatoes as they wanted and if you chose to take a sack, he would help you load it and carry it to your vehicle. Many of our students lived paycheck to paycheck and those free potatoes were a big help. That was 25 years ago and I still think of him and hope he’s doing well.

  142. Amaryllis*

    When I was an event planner at a large university we had a few people who would scan the school newspaper and sign up for free event that might have food. One retirement-age couple would sign up for free conferences or symposiums, and only show up for meals, never participating in the activities. We watched them get in the front of the line and stuff bagels and muffins into baggies, leave, then come back for lunch to grab as many sandwiches as they could carry. Evidently the man was a retired professor who knew how to game the system. We finally had to pull them aside and tell them they needed to wait until after the actual participates went through the line before they loaded up. I didn’t get the impression there was food insecurity, just a weird hobby or a compulsion to get free food.

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

      Makes me think of a lady in my small home town who would go to every funeral in town because there would always be some sort of lunch-type of thing (Minnesotans, especially Lutherans, are famous for feeding people after funerals). She would go even if it wasn’t her church and didn’t know the person. But to be fair she wasn’t getting much food at home as she was in a toxic/domestic abuse situation.

    2. UKDancer*

      Not going to lie, when I was a student and when I was at the start of my career I went to quite a lot of things because there was food involved and I was financially struggling. I did sit through the session though and made sure I only took my share of the food and waited my turn.

      If memory serves this included a series of lectures about different aspects of economics theory. I did not understand the subject but the pizza was free.

  143. HeatherNotFeather*

    Oh, I have some good ones….

    1) I worked at a company years ago where the CFO would send an email to the whole company stating that bachelors had first access to all leftovers from company lunch on Fridays, and if anything was left after that, then the rest of us could have at it. It ended up being a good thing because one of the lowest-paid folks at the office had roommates and they all didn’t make much, so the food was appreciated. On the other hand, it definitely set an interesting precedent that I somehow missed at that time.

    2) At another company I worked, we would take turns buying lunch and occasionally the company would take us out to dinner. One girl on my team consistently ordered TONS of extra food because (and I quote) “my boyfriend and I always order extra so that we don’t have to cook for a couple days.” If it was her turn to pick up/buy lunch, she would conveniently bring lunch or choose to go somewhere else for food so she didn’t have to pay. I soon stopped participating in team lunches because of her, and we then limited how much people could order in those circumstances.

    3) The same company from #2 gave us all free snacks and beverages. The IT department had a hybrid schedule and was only in on Tues and Thurs. They would ALWAYS come in and trash the kitchen and eat most of the snacks (some would even grab extra to take home), so the company had to release a Google-esque email asking people to stop treating the breakroom like a grocery store.

    Food does weird things to otherwise even-tempered folks, y’all….

    1. Csethiro Ceredin*

      Wait, the CFO meant single MEN specifically? Because, of course, how could they possibly feed themselves. Yikes. Insulting to everyone, including the bachelors!

  144. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    So, at the age of 12, my father brought me to work for one of those “bring your kids to work” days. Being young, distracting, and distractable I was eventually told to Go. Away. “Go buy some fruit for everyone, or go to the library or something,” was the precise wording of my father.

    And so I walked into the city, through an area where the Bloods and Crips were having an active turf war, looking for a fruit seller. Bought some fruit of various types from a guy under the highway overpass, brought it back and piled it in a bowl.

    A few montghs later, my dad says I should come in to see him after school on Friday. After a little while of entertaining myself, I’m sent out to get fruit again. And then the next Friday, and the next, and the next, until the Busy Season is over.

    For the next ten years, this became my Friday routine. Finish school, scour the local markets for produce, then go get to spend some time with my father at his office. Make a fruit bowl/ tower and leave it out for everyone who has to work the weekend. Do it in the snow or the sunshine. In sickness or in health. Without fail. I thought my father must have really valued our time together.

    When I was twenty, he told me that he’d once been written up over the lack of a fruit bowl when I hadn’t worked on my birthday (I’d have been 14 or 15 at the time). Write Ups were serious – more than three (ever) and you could not be considered for partnership at the Firm (and he did eventually make partner). It was literally the only write up of his professional career – and was over the (unpaid) labor and (unreimbursed) produce that went into a weekly fruit bowl made by his child.

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*


        And this was an office of very well compensated individuals – a fruit bowl was well within everyone’s ability to acquire. Possibly not as good as I made – I spent a lot of time on my bike getting to know the local food suppliers. At that point in time, supermarkets were just starting to take off, and getting good produce was nowhere near as simple as it is today. Farmer’s markets wouldn’t even become a talking point for another decade and change – you wanted local fresh stuff, you had to actually know the farmer. If you wanted out of season stuff, it was harder, because someone had to know the guy who could knock a crate off the boat/truck it was being shipped in on. There was a whole subcommunity of food sellers who would get good food near the coast or out on the farm, and sell it out of the back of a truck along the side of the highway, in the back of a park, or under an overpass. And I was a friendly young kid who showed up on a very regular schedule, didn’t haggle particularly well (hey, I didn’t get to keep any money I didn’t spend), never actually carried enough money to make myself a target, didn’t need a whole lot of material, and was perfectly willing to trade gossip and listen to stories. Most of the folks I went regularly would set aside a few nice pieces for me each week – or at least nice enough for my purposes.

        But yup. He got written up over the lack of a fruit bowl – to hear him tell the story, he was called in, given the write-up, and told that it was “incredibly disrespectful” to his colleagues to start a trend and expectation like there being free and prettily presented fruit on the weekend and then fail to deliver on it. Especially without warning. Wasn’t he committed to his coworkers’ wellbeing and the company’s success? Leadership knew the two were intrinsically linked – if they couldn’t trust him to continue to follow through on meeting his coworkers’ expectations, could he be really trusted to meet the clients’ needs and deadlines? It was very clearly portrayed as having been a Serious Misstep.

        1. Csethiro Ceredin*

          …I don’t even know what to say.

          If this site has taught us all anything, it’s that people’s “expectations” are a mysterious and at times surreal thing and certainly can’t always be met.

  145. Formerly Frustrated Optimist*

    This happened a couple decades ago, in an office where employees were presumed guilty until proven innocent.

    Anytime there was, say, a board meeting, afterwards, the extra food was made available to staff. However, one time an employee didn’t realize the meeting hadn’t taken place yet, and she mistakenly thought that the food that was out was leftovers for staff. She took one piece of bread.

    A director saw her, and went to her manager. The director wanted the manager to discipline the employee. The manager, who was a very decent guy, stuck up for his employee and said that he understood that it was a mistake, and that he wasn’t going to discipline her over it.

    The director became irate with the manager and told him they wanted him to resign. The manager said he didn’t feel he had anything to resign over, and if they wanted him gone, they’d have to fire him. They did, and we lost one of the best managers we’d ever had. Over a piece of bread.

    When he (the manager) was telling me this story, I asked, “Have you ever seen Les Miserables?”

  146. K8M*

    One year around the holidays, my husbands office wanted to do a cookie swap. I am the baker in the family, and I really love making Christmas cookies, so I was on board with making a big batch of his favorites. Except then he said that they wanted him to bring one dozen cookies for each person in the swap! There were 11 people in the office so that meant I would have needed to make 11 dozen cookies! I tried to get him to see that 132 cookies was too many for anyone to make for a simple cookie swap, and that I didn’t want him to bring home 132 cookies either! He ended up pulling out as no one else saw it that way.

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

      Wow! I’ve done cookie swaps and stuff before and it was always like 1 or 2 dozen cookies and everyone got 1-3 of each cookie. What were they thinking with 132 cookies!

    2. Quill*

      Oh heck no.

      Several years ago I worked someplace where vacation didn’t roll over so the only people in office all December were contractors. We did a large and well received cookie swap – there were about six to ten of us. Depending on the size of the cookie (and because it’s much easier to bake five dozen italian wedding cookies or fudge cubes than gingerbread men) you might get three cookies, or eight.

      I made gingerbreads in lab coats, since we were all (microbiology) lab techs. They were such a hit that this year I made thesis treats that were gingerbread plates of agar and germ samples.

  147. HannahS*

    When I was a medical student, there was an “appreciation lunch” at the hospital. I was doing my clinical practicum, so I worked on the wards full-time and did 26-hour call shifts every four days. I was paid nothing and was in fact digging myself into staggering debt. I lined up only to have someone peer at my ID and haughtily inform me that it was for “EMPLOYED staff only.”
    My current hospital hands out vouchers to everyone, from students to janitors to department admins and surgeons so that we can all have a mediocre hot dog, chips, and pop. As it should be.

  148. Cranky-saurus Rex*

    I used to work for a company that had all new hires start on the first Monday of the month, allowing everyone to go through orientation together. “New Hire Monday” was also “Donut Day” — a concept that was intended to lure experienced workers out of their offices into the kitchens to meet the new folks and each other.

    When it started, the entire company was a few hundred people, located in one building with 1 central kitchen. By my start in 2005, the company had grown to over 2000 people, located in the original building plus a few rented office spaces scattered around town (and far from the new hires). By 2010, the staff numbered over 5000, in about 10 buildings, and new hire orientation was in a completely separate location, so they decided to cancel donut day.

    The person who had to announce its cancellation at the all-staff meeting was booed loudly. I still can’t believe how up in arms people were!

    1. Irish Teacher*

      This reminds me of how during the recession, a lot of cutbacks were made to our perks and allowances when correcting. The government cut stuff like how much we could claim for travel and so on, but…the thing that seemed to cause most complaint was that they also cut our doughnuts. We used to get doughnuts and other bakery goods during our break and yeah, people were more annoyed about the loss of them than about less money for petrol, etc. They were really good doughnuts!

      1. Cranky-saurus Rex*

        In retrospect for my company’s situation, I feel much worse for the bakery(ies) that suddenly lost a monthly order for thousands of donuts than I do for the employees that wanted their free food!

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

    I will never foget the one place I worked. The call centers hours were 7am to 1am, so there were shifts that came in in the afternoon. The managers would often try to boost moral with donut days and such, but late shift almost never got anything. We would come in at 2pm and there would be piles of empty boxes over 4 feet high (I am not exaggerating I am 5.2 and stood next to it for measure. It was almost as high as I am tall). The managers had bought a huge amount of donuts, enough for everyone working the entire day, but because all of the morning shift ate them. They must have had like 6 donuts each or something. The same thing happened with pizza and the catered dinners. They had someone come back at 6 for thanksgiving dinner (since we had to work the holiday) and what was left was just scraps of food because people earlier in the day had 3 or more servings.

  150. Meeeeeee*

    I am going to attempt to paint a word picture to convey the utter ridiculousness of this…

    I work at a very small manufacturing company that doesn’t make teapots, but makes all of the components for someone to make their own teapots at home (not teapots. haha) It is family owned/run. The man who started it is well into his 70’s, so his three grown children run the business. Many of their (also grown) children work here, along with a few other peons (myself included) that do not share the family name, but Were All A Family (as toxic as you think it is)

    So one of the guys in our shipping department (who wasn’t very well liked by anyone else because he created many problems by being overall terrible at his job) announced his last day, and then it was announced by management that we would have a potluck to send him off. I, being slightly petty and mostly excited I don’t have to fix this guys screw ups anymore, decided to go a little above and beyond and make a homemade chocolate cake. Three layers, displayed on my favorite glass cake stand, homemade frosting, with about 4-5 whole strawberries on top that I sliced and fanned out.

    Potlucks are typically an all day affair. Some people will bring breakfast items, some will bring something in a slow cooker that won’t be ready until about lunch time, but overall it ends up just being a free for all as soon as everyone gets to work.

    I arrived at work at the start of our work day, 8:30 am. The cake is inside the glass dome of the cake stand. It had not been sliced or anything yet. Right away I received several compliments on how pretty it is and how excited people are to try it. About an hour later my Dear Husband who also is an employee, comes to my desk and tells me that another employee (my direct bosses 20-something daughter who also “works” here) cut into the cake, but took almost a full quarter of it, because “she wanted a strawberry”. It took everything I had to not lose my sh*t. I took a deep breath and just had to chuckle.

    This girl 100% should have known better.
    The potluck was in honor of someone else.
    It was barely past breakfast when she massacred the cake.

    I was prepared to say something to her if I found even a small part of it in the trash, because shortly after eating part of it she was complaining about not feeling well (you don’t say). But she boxed it up to take home…before anyone else had even had a piece.

    Luckily there was still plenty to go around, since we have such a small crew. But I still couldn’t believe she would do that. To be fair, every single person in The Family acts that entitled, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

    1. Shanderson*

      When you made a point of mentioning your “favourite glass cake stand” I had a moment of horror that someone swanned off with the whole thing, stand and all! The missing quarter cake was almost a relief.

  151. PizzaThief*

    This was more an act of vengeance than it was about the food, but I need to share.

    I recently (as in the past month) left a company I had been with for almost 20 years for a new role. There was A LOT of drama with my manager after I gave my notice. She claimed all my reasons for leaving were wrong, I should learn to deal with it and stay, and so on. It reached a point that she was ignoring my existence my last 3 days – and we were in the office. My coworkers threw a farewell pizza party my second to last day. Manager did not participate and one of the people that planned the party told me she didn’t contribute. We had a few pizzas left over and I asked if we could leave two slices in a box in the fridge for my lunch the next day. I had to be in the office to turn in equipment and as the offices are basically a ghost town on Friday’s the on site cafeteria is closed. We very clearly labeled and dated the box to make sure our janitorial staff wouldn’t clean out the fridge and throw it away. I even checked before I left that evening to make sure it was still there for the next day. You can imagine my frustration when I opened the fridge for lunch the next day and the pizza was gone. The only other person in the office was my grand boss who was also an executive. He saw my face and asked what was wrong. After I explained he looked horrified – he and my manager had been there late the day before and he saw her take the pizza when she left! Grand boss told me I didn’t need to work my full last day and handed me $20 to buy lunch on my way home. I do wonder if he said anything to her.

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

      I hope she got called out! good on your grand boss for doing the right thing

  152. La Triviata*

    I’m always reminded that the first webcam ever was set up in a lab in England so that the people there could check on the coffee pot and see if it was full or not.

    1. Csethiro Ceredin*

      That’s somehow both surprising and not surprising at the same time. Love it.

  153. Programmer Dude*

    Less problems and more craziness.
    A decade or so ago, I worked at a regional grocery store (about 15 locations) in the corporate office. Every week or 2, a communal table was laid out with the various samples that made their way in (vendors trying to push products). The office only had about 15-25 people, so there wasn’t usually a huge fight for the food, but it was always interesting seeing what did/did not go. Sometimes, if the stuff was large, they would have big tastings (think 6 different flavors of ice cream). The really crazy days were once every 1-1.5 months, when there would be enough wine bottles to fill the table. There was always a rush for those (and the halls were narrow, so you either joined the stampede or got out of the way). I also got a reputation for having a major sweet tooth, so there were times where I got asked to try something, just to see how it was.

    Overall, they had a solid system down, you just had to pay attention, as these freebie days rarely had any warning.

  154. Dona Florinda*

    I just want so say that I was the food thief once, but consider it an act of anarchy.

    A few years ago, at a very dysfunctional company, a scent of popcorn floated to the open-floor office. I went to the kitchen to check it out, and was bruskly told that the popcorn was only for attendees of a certain meeting, which coincidentally were only higher-level people. So all of us low-level employees were supposed to work with the overwhelming scent of fresh popcorn looming over us, but couldn’t have any.

    When they were taking the trays of popcorn to the conference room, I unashamedly stole a full tray for my department. Now, the cherry on top: there was a ton of leftover when that meeting ended, and only then us peasants were offered the popcorn, which by then was cold and saggy. We later got an earful from one of the VPs about how they had to throw most of it away and that’s why we (the low-level people who refused the cold popcorn) couldn’t have nice things.

  155. Veryanon*

    I used to work for a company that had a luncheon every year to celebrate anyone who had a service anniversary of 5, 10, 15, 20, etc. years of service. It was a very fancy buffet-style lunch with hand-carved roast beef, mashed potatoes, other entrees, and vegetarian options. We had it catered from a really nice place, we put flowers on the tables, etc. The luncheon was only supposed to be for the employees who were being honored, their managers, and select guests (usually the CEO and other members of the executive team). However, we had such a problem with people trying to poach food that the Security Manager actually hired extra security guards for the day and would station them around the tables to monitor attendees. Everyone who was there had to show their invitations in order to be seated. The security guards would count the number of cookies/desserts people would take as they went through the buffet.
    Once the buffet was over, we’d allow anyone who was interested to help themselves to leftovers. People would actually show up with Tupperware containers from home and within 30 seconds, all the leftovers would be gone. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.

    1. Veryanon*

      The only thing that matched service award craziness there was when this company would have sample sales for employees (it was a womens’ clothing company so they would have lots of samples of different products we sold, and they’d sell things for a few dollars just to get them out of the facility. Sometimes they would sell designer products that retailed for hundreds of dollars for like $5.00). We not only had to hire extra security for that, we also had to check employee IDs because the sale was only for employees, but lots of people would try to sneak in their relatives, friends, neighbors, and so forth.

      1. Veryanon*

        Oh, I almost forgot about Pretzel Friday! Same company – every Friday our department admin would bring in fresh, warm, soft pretzels for our department. We all contributed to the Pretzel Fund. Yes, this company was based in Philly, known for its delicious soft pretzels. Anyway, one Friday our admin brought in the pretzels as usual, but about 5 minutes later they were missing from our conference room. The CEO had told his admin to go steal our pretzels because he loved soft pretzels but he was too cheap to buy them for himself.
        That was the end of Pretzel Friday.

      2. Tommy Girl*

        So this actually makes sense – as compared to the free food. Why would you go crazy for like $1-5 of free food? $200 dress for $5 – now THAT makes sense.

  156. ivsaur*

    This hasn’t happened to me but someone I know has told me stories of how people would take four or five plates of food out to their car before anyone else would get to eat the food. This person works in healthcare and is a healthcare provider. The providers such as doctors and nurses would go to lunch later than say front desk and other departments. Lunches actually had to be cancelled for a month or two so that they could get the issue of no lunch being left for the doctors under control. Now there’s a food minder who checks people’s lunch bags as they leave the lunch room.

  157. CookieMonster*

    We had a cookie swap/contest at our very large office. Those interested would bring homemade cookies, we’d taste them, and vote for our favorites. There was supposed to be enough that the people participating could bring a container and take a little of each home. We publicized it on internal comms, hoping to get folks who didn’t normally mix to meet and mingle. About seven of us signed up and come cookie day we assembled in a conference room. About triple that arrived, decimated the cookies, and took off. They didn’t even vote. We instituted a rule that for future cookie swaps, you must contribute uterus a cookie in order to participate.

    1. CookieMonster*

      I don’t know how “uterus” got in there, but obviously that had nothing to do with the cookies!

      1. Snell*

        Sure they weren’t asking for placenta cake?

        *Threw me for a loop when I was reading historical fiction and came across the term, and obviously, I had to stop reading to look it up. It is the organ that is named after the cake.

  158. Sparkly Unicorn*

    I worked in a medium sized office with a well known vulture I’ll call Jane. Every once in a while, the company would buy food for the office – pizza, sandwiches, snacks. One day the company bought pizza for lunch so we all headed to the kitchen. Jane was there getting herself FIVE slices of pizza and explaining as she was doing it that her kids love pizza and now she didn’t have to make them dinner. No one else had gotten any pizza yet. Another time the company bought cookies for everyone and one of Jane’s direct reports was at lunch when they were given out. Jane said she would hold onto the cookie for her report but somehow she “forgot” to give the cookie to her DR and ate it herself.
    Lastly, Jane decided she really liked the vegetarian sandwiches that were ordered when the company catered in lunch. There were two vegetarians in the office (I was one of them) and the company would just order a platter of mixed sandwiches, and then two veg sandwiches which were placed off to the side. Jane could have just told the admin in charge of ordering that she wanted a veg sandwich too but instead she would make sure she was first in the kitchen and take the only two veg sandwiches available and then tell me how good they were later.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      She took BOTH? I’m very impressed that you didn’t push her down the stairs.

  159. CrankyPants*

    Oh I have so many stories about this topic – most from my old job which was a nightmare in every single way……

    The owner would authorize a pizza day – I would have to order dozens of pies as there were about 120 employees – I’d then spend the next hour circling the building to see who had hidden whole pies under their desks to take home, who had 6 extra slices hidden in drawers. All sorts of things like this.

    There would be a “management” only catered lunch once a month – there was a kitchen off the big conference room. Aside from this kitchen having to be locked at all times because china, flatware and coffee cups going missing the owner insisted that all the food be removed from the catering trays and put onto the fancy platters and such…..the management staff didnt behave any better than anyone else – the amount of food on the counters, all over the conference table where they ate was unbelievable. They would go into the garbage and find the catering trays so they could try to hide food for themselves for later, and of course the very second the meeting started the rest of the staff would try to sneak in and steal food. The owner would keep the camera feed from the kitchen on the giant screen in the conference room to catch people so he could scream at them yet no one ever learned.

    Once we had a coldstone vendor bring his whole set up into the lobby, the owner thought it was great and wanted to do it annually but we couldnt get the guy back or find a different vendor because our staff had been so out of control trying to get them to make a dozen things for 1 person or threatening the poor guy over the serving size.

    During one of the pizza disasters one employee had taken a whole 2 liter bottle of soda back to her desk – when she was told it was for everyone she stormed into the lunch room and threw the whole bottle into the sink along with a few others.

    Kcups and hot chocolate packets were kept under lock and key. Owner put a coin collector on the cafeteria kurig so people would try to sneak into his office to use his personal one…..I had to lock up the water reservoir.

    Owner decided paper cups were wasteful – bought sets of mugs for the executive kitchen, one for his office personally, one for the cafeteria for visitors, one for overall give aways and then one for each employee; each with a different shape/design so it was obvious where they belonged…..they were all missing within 1 week – even after I had to go buy paint pens and mark each individual mug. People would have a pile of dirty crusty mugs on their desk cause they couldn’t be bothered to walk them back to the cafeteria, put them in the dishwasher or just rinse them out. Owner wanted photo’s of the dirty mugs sent to him daily so he could berate people – didnt change any behavior though.

    At my new job its much different – its a tiny staff but some things are pretty funny

    Owners buy everyone lunch on Fridays – everyone plans their entire schedule around it, there are some guys you only see on Fridays and they start debating where they are ordering from around 9AM.

    Because I have a heck of a commute and its a little out of the way to stop I started ordering Uber Dunkin – in the beginning only a couple of us would get anything (I always ask everyone) and then the owners decided to go ahead and put it on the company card so everyone in the building gets something… its weekly and while I still get my own order on my own dime the other days of the week no one else will anymore. They even texted me their order while I was home with covid and I placed it from another state. Recently when I was out sick there were enough comments made about it that I created a color coded operating manual that I printed and bound with the dunkin process (yes – instructions on using uber eats) and listed everything from downloading the app, signing up for a business account and everyone’s regular order. The book came in handy recently as I was in the office but had an injury and couldnt do the walk around for delivery – they had to use the book to give out the orders. Everyone got a kick out of it.

  160. Hannah Lee*

    At one tech company I worked at, the exec assistant to the CEO used to keep a chocolate bar in her desk, she liked chocolate and also sometimes wound up working late on short notice and would want a snack.

    One Monday she came over to my department, horrified and told us: She’d had a Snickers in her desk that she’d opened and had piece of on Friday, and on Monday morning, she’d noticed someone else had taken a piece off of it, likely thinking she wouldn’t notice. Like who would pilfer an inch of someone else’s Snickers? And if you were going to, why would you take it from essentially the 2nd most powerful person in the company? (because whatever the org chart said or how many Executive VP’s there were on it, she had a lot of control and influence over what happened, what got approved, who got to meet with the CEO.)

    Because she was a bit of a wisea.. She moved her “real” snack stash to an file cabinet by my desk and ran an experiment to see what food this thief would take and what they’d leave. One completely wrapped candy bar stayed untouched. Two completely wrapped candy bars meant one would disappear entirely. Anything opened (candy bar, bag of candy, cookies, Ritz crackers) would disappear bit by bit over the course of a couple of weeks, but never be eaten entirely. Beef jerky in any form stayed untouched.

    Unfortunately the company closed suddenly one day before the identity of the thief was found. While my co-workers suspected the cleaning crew, my money was on one of the Exec VP’s who had some boundary issues.

  161. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

    One of my coworkers used to bring in some seriously delicious molasses cookies whenever he felt like baking. I arrive pretty early in the morning, so I would be one of the first to see them and I wanted to unhinge my jaw and eat all of them BUT! I was raised properly so I would take two (they were smallish and he made a bunch) and wrap them in a napkin for lunch dessert, heroically resisting the urge to take more. I thought I was being very polite and nobody had noticed my yearning cookie-ward glances until one day the baker popped his head over my cubicle wall and said, “Everyone else has had some, you can take more cookies. It’s okay.”
    I am entirely capable of baking the molasses cookies I wish to see in the world, but somehow free workplace molasses cookies hit different, you know?

  162. Free for All, I Guess*

    Oof, we had a recent food incident actually – myself and three other members of the department pitched in together to purchase a few catering trays of food for a birthday lunch for a much-beloved admin. There was more than enough food to go around so we were excited that we’d be able to retrieve our trays and take leftovers home for dinner. I had to zip out for a quick phone call, and when I came back to the meeting room, a rolling cart of to go boxes was being wheeled out and the food table was bare. Someone from the front office came back, thought the entire meal was provided by the company, and decided to ship food out to our satellite location. There were a LOT of people asking whether they were going to be compensated for the “stolen” food. What a mess.

  163. Silver Robin*

    My office does pretty reasonably about free food but there was a weird time when somebody brought an uneaten cake from a celebration and put it in the fridge. They meant it to be available to everyone, but since it was
    1) in the fridge rather than out on the communal tables
    2) not labelled as “take some!”
    3) still in its packaging
    nobody touched it. It sat for weeks. The receptionist and I joked about the mystery cake. Finally, we decided to take it out of the fridge (was it still good?? Reader, it was not). We commented on how it had been there for so long and the person who left it happened to be in the kitchen at the time! Told us they were confused why nobody took the proffered sweets when stuff is usually eaten entirely. We had to explain that “free food” needs to go in the “free food” spot and, ideally, be labelled/announced as such for folks to know that it could be taken.

  164. Felicity*

    We do a yearly charity event where the company provides a lunch and you donate whatever you’d normally pay for lunch to the cause. Typically people will just donate between $10-$20 and we typically net a couple hundred more than we spent on the food for the donation.

    One year we had an individual calculate down to the penny what they would spend on lunch….this person would buy a premade grocery store roast chicken at the beginning of the week, keep it in the office fridge, and break off pieces of it every day for lunch along with some rice they also kept in the communal fridge. Well after doing the math they calculated they spent a little over $3.00 for their lunch on any given day and donated the $3 and change to the event…. they then helped themselves to 4+ plates and packed up leftovers which they ate for lunch and dinner over the course of the next week… Usually I give people the benefit of the doubt that they may be suffering from food insecurity but I know for a fact they were just being a cheapskate because at least once a week I had to hear about how they were on track to be a millionaire before 30 because they never spent any money.

  165. Sunshine*

    Not really a weird story in the same way as the others, just out of touch maybe? We have a difficult coworker who is generally rude to everyone. For her boss’s birthday, she made a big deal about the fact that she would be bringing in bagels for everyone. Great! Everyone loves bagels, right?

    Except that to go along with the bagels for about 30 people, she brought was half a brick of old cream cheese from her fridge at home, the kind wrapped in foil – not even in a plastic container or anything. She didn’t get any other cream cheese for the bagels because “I don’t like cream cheese.” Many bagels went uneaten due to the lack of cream cheese. It was just so weird to me – normally when you buy a dozen bagels it COMES with cream cheese, so she would have needed to tell them “we don’t need that.” And the old cream cheese from home was so strange.

    It’s important to add that she volunteered to bring in bagels unprompted, so it’s not like she was being forced to do this under duress or anything. Just a very odd experience.

  166. Sister George Michael*

    I’ll tell two stories so I’m telling one on myself.

    I worked at a 50-person nonprofit, with people working in different sectors. Almost everyone was extremely nice, except a few people who seemed to have been born with a chip on their shoulder. The policy was that a new person would be assigned a ‘mentor’ in a different sector who would take them out to lunch their first week (on the company) and then in the future if they had a question they would know someone in another part of the company to approach (there was nothing else in the ‘mentorship,’ like on-going support, etc.). Nice tradition. A woman was hired as a temp in one sector; I guess she didn’t get a mentor because she was temporary. After 6 months, she was hired on permanent. She then began constantly asking when she was going to get her ‘free meal.’ I was not in charge of these lunches, but my personal opinion was that she already knew everyone in the office so no need for a mentor. Some of the shoulder chipped ladies in her sector, however, decided the lady should get a lunch and that _I_ should be the one to take her. Why me? Because I had just taken a different new staffer to lunch and she quit that same week (not because of me! She was a talented person who was offered a great job at a different nonprofit). The shoulder chippers decided that I had ‘failed’ as a mentor and therefore it was still my turn. I refused and I guess out of stubbornness they never asked anyone else. The lady would stop by my office for MONTHS to mention getting her free meal. (I did already dislike her because she would camp in the copy room next to my office and loudly tell her life story to everyone who entered despite attempts to keep that room quiet.)

    For me: I frequently went to meetings at other similar nonprofits (and hosted meetings at ours) where there would be juice and snacks on the side, and then when the meeting broke up the attendees would take the leftovers. But once our meeting was hosted at a BigLaw firm, and afterwards as I snagged two bottles of juice I realized the grabbing was NOT the practice there because I noticed a BigLaw person giving me a Paddington Bear-esque Hard Stare. Sorry, buddy!

  167. The OG Sleepless*

    Our office manager gets lunch (paid by the business, obvs) for our monthly staff meetings. When she first started doing it, after the meeting she would pack the leftovers back up in the containers they came in, and take them home. She’s a nice person but she can be self-absorbed, and maybe in her mind since she had picked it up, it belonged to her. It took a few months for everybody to figure out why there was NO food from the meetings in the break room the next day. Everybody was annoyed and she was told to stop (and she did), but I mostly remember how outraged one person was in particular. This person has been on their own and fending for themselves since the age of 16, so it was understandable.

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

    Reading all of these made me flash back to high school. In high school and a few years afterward I worked at the local grocery store. It was a small town so I knew a lot of people. There was one guy who used to work there but was still friends and he knew me and my mom. He had a thing that he would bake something for someone’s birthday. He would ask what type of cake or cookies etc, you’d like. He would also occasionally just bring stuff into the store and put it in the break room. Well he asked what I wanted and brought it in the next day I worked. Since I worked as a cashier there wasn’t a lot of places for me to put anything behind the counter, so he set it in the breakroom with my name on it. I was so excited because he made amazing cakes. Only to find on my break that over half the cake had been taken, and while I sat there looking at the cake the boss came andtook an entire section of the cake, like 2/3rds. I let the baker know what happened and he was pissed.

  169. Old Mountain Lady*

    I worked for many years in the national headquarters of a large government agency with local offices throughout the country. People were pretty normal about free food, except for this one attorney I’ll call Fergus. Fergus was on a teaching assignment at our regional training center in Cincinnati, scheduled to fly back to DC on Friday. He learned that a party was scheduled for Friday afternoon to celebrate the center director’s birthday. He asked the people setting up for the party if they would cut him a slice of the cake, since he had to leave before party time to make his flight. They naturally refused, so Fergus cut a piece for himself! Fergus’ grandboss was required to fly out to Cincinnati to personally apologize to the training center director. Fergus was never again allowed to leave headquarters on official business. There are many stories about Fergus (he’s kind of legendary) but this is the only one about food.

  170. nobadcats*

    At Current Job, when we were still in the office (now we’re all WFH now), I used to have a candy dish on my desk. I usually filled it with m&ms or reese’s pieces or jelly beans (and some “fun size” candy leftover from Halloween). There was ONE co-irker who would take a candy or two and if she didn’t like the taste/texture, would spit it into her hand and dump the remains in the candy dish. It’s a Snickers bar! You already know what it’s going to taste like. Keep your grubby mitts out of the candy dish, my gawd.

    I … who DOES that?? I had to retire my candy dish until her contract was up and done. But, really, WHO DOES THAT???

    1. MagicEyes*

      That is disgusting! I used to have a candy dish, and they really are the source of endless stories. I did have someone complain one time that she didn’t like the free candy, but at least she didn’t put the chewed-up candy back in the dish. I have more stories, but I’ll save those for another time.

  171. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    I used to be a terrible vulture and earned the nickname “Bottom Feeder” at my first professional job way back in the day. I didn’t hoard food or go in for helpings before the team, much less take seconds before others had been able to get any food at all. But I did have a homing beacon-like ability to know/find out when free food was available. I think the biggest violation was eating leftover food from potlucks where I brought nothing.

    Looking back, and learning fairly recently (in the past decade) I have ADHD, I think a lot of what drove that behavior was not having my sh*t together and never being able to plan meals ahead (or if I did, not remembering to bring them, because hello, untreated ADHD).

    Now, I still don’t really have my sh*t together, but I’m more chill and don’t want to be THAT person who’s relatively senior and paid well and makes a beeline for the free food.

  172. Hornswoggler*

    I think this classifies as free food – it was a lunch provided by the venue at a conference I organised many years ago – one of the newer Cambridge colleges. It was a sandwich/fruit/cake sort of affair, very normal for that type of event.

    The problem was that the sandwiches, which were made with sliced bread, were cut in half, rather than in quarters. I had to field a slew of complaints, both verbal and on the feedback forms, about the cutting of the sandwiches. People said they couldn’t hold them in one hand (fair criticism actually), but also that they were only able to choose two different sandwich fillings, rather than four! Nothing else on the whole programme attracted anything like as many comments.

  173. Erin*

    I had a co-worker who would show up if she knew free food was happening, even if she wasn’t working that day. It didn’t matter if she didn’t like the food being offered, it was free, and she felt that it wasn’t fair if she didn’t get any.

    She brought containers to take home “leftovers” even if it looked like there was just enough for everyone to have a serving. I believe management intervened after she did that a couple of times.

    She was such a difficult person to work with on so many levels. I was pretty relieved when she left the company.

  174. Jamie (he/him)*

    The marketing department at one job would over-order expensive canned drinks whenever they had a show or a presentation or visitors. The remaining drinks would be brought back, and the director of marketing would take all of our lunches out of the shared fridge and fill it with with the drinks. The ‘abandoned’ lunches would then become a free-for-all for anyone passing by.

    Other departments would then work their way through the chilled expensive drinks in the fridge until they were all gone, allowing us to put our lunches in the fridge again. The director used to get hopping mad that the drinks in the communal fridge were being drunk – I think she saw the fridge as being the marketing department’s fridge that we were all using, despite it being on a different floor in a communal kitchen, and despite the marketing department having its own kitchenette and fridge because marketing department.

    Marketing people are the worst for this type of shenanigans.

    Signed, someone who later worked in marketing as an employee, manager and consultant for 15 years.

  175. DeeDee*

    On my last day of work at my government job there was a thank-you lunch for people who had participated in a big event a few weeks prior (run by a different department, but I had participated). As it was my last day, I didn’t have a ton of work to do, so I helped clean up the lunch, and was offered to take home some leftovers.

    “I worked for the Government for 6 years and all I got was this quart of beans.”

  176. Purchasing Agent 007*

    So many stories but this is the first one that come to mind. The most offensive one, to me, was that my company was hosting a memorial luncheon for a beloved client that had suddenly passed away. His family lived far away and didn’t have the funds to host a memorial, and we were asked by his colleagues (who were also our clients) if they could use our beautiful courtyard to have the memorial, and they were scraping together funds to host it. My company very graciously offered to foot the entire bill, plan, and host. Not all of our employees knew this client, so we were very careful in only inviting those who knew him best, and inviting his colleagues, friends, and others who personally knew him to the memorial. It was a beautiful day, celebrating his life, achievements, artistry, and remembering a great man. Both tears and laughter were shared by many. But I will also remember several coworkers showing up mid-way when they heard there was food, loading their plates up with sandwiches and pasta, stuffing their pockets with cookies, and walking out. It’s a small area and it was painfully obvious what they were doing. I walked up to one guy and said, “Oh, I didn’t realize you knew [Client’s Name]” and he responded loudly, “I didn’t, I’m just here for the food.” Uhg.

    1. Snell*

      Unfortunately reminiscent of that time my dance troupe (of a particularly acrobatic style) was hired for an event. The organization that hired us would also be providing food. Come meal time, all the dancers line up at the out-of-the-way tent full of stacks and stacks of clamshells full of food. There was a nonzero number of randos unaffiliated with either the dancers or the host org who lined up, sticking out like a rusty nail in the line full of costumed dancers, only to get turned away. Mostly they immediately walked away without saying anything, but of course the one woman who responded pretty gracelessly is the one that sticks in my memory.

  177. WritingIsHard*

    I worked in an office where the manager would bring a box of donuts on Friday and there were people who would consistently cut donuts in halves or quarters. Nothing wrong with splitting with someone if you don’t want a whole donut (but also, who doesn’t want a whole donut??), but just leaving a quarter of the donut in the box is weird. I don’t want someone else’s food scraps!

    1. ElenaSSF*

      Who doesn’t love a whole donut? Anyone with sugar or weight or carb issues that would love a little but can’t handle a lot. Granted if you’re still young you can be pretty oblivious to others’ dietary restrictions. Who wants to have to find a splittee before they are allowed to have some donut?

      If I’m getting donuts or cupcakes for the crew I make a point of cutting about half of them into quarters, and getting donut holes to satisfy the puffy kind lovers.

  178. BellyButton*

    Every year my former employer would hold a big company wide event on campus with food, games, a guest speaker, awards, raffle, etc. There was another company on our campus that rented one of our buildings. We sent a notice every year to all their employees letting them know the cafeteria would be closed that day for our event. One year I was setting up breakfast, which included big trays of bagels and cream cheese. A person from their company wandered in and took an entire huge tray of bagels and cream cheese and was high-tailing it back to their building, when I had to intercept. It was an awkward conversation, she said it wasn’t fair that we were doing this for our employees when there were other employees on the campus. UHHH you do not work for this company! Tell your leadership you want an employee appreciation event.

  179. Nan*

    Not food, but the cheap plastic plate it came in on.
    Years ago, we had sub sandwiches delivered on disposable plastic platters. Usually the platters got thrown away, but I washed one off once to reuse for a family get together.
    The next day I got a lecture about how I should have checked with a specific employee to see if she wanted it. When I mentioned that they usually get thrown away and I waited until late in the day, I was told that didn’t matter. Like what? LOL I was not worthy of the $.50 plastic tray.

  180. Sunflower*

    I had a coworker who rant and rave whenever anyone bring in snacks for the team like boxed cakes, donuts, and cheese puffs, etc. She would not shut up about how junk foods are poison. I really think she believes it. Yet she’s the one who eats the most (I’ve seen her eat three donuts in one sitting, one after another, and grab more later if there’s any left).
    She would then eat fruit and veggies for lunch and brag how she’s eating healthy and the rest of us are eating trash. It’s like something in her head can’t resist junk food but is also blocking all that she’s snacking on while lecturing the rest of us.

    1. Alisaurus*

      This is actually a big thing with restrictive mindsets around food. You tell yourself you can’t have it, it’s bad, etc. – then when you let yourself actually have some (even if you might say “just a taste”), your brain goes into “starvation mode” because when are you going to have some again?? So you end up wolfing down way more than you might have taken ordinarily if you just allowed yourself to eat it if you want it.

  181. Mianaai*

    I’ve weirdly had the opposite experience sometimes too! I or someone else will bring in a treat (government, so that’s the only free food on offer) and people go so far out of their way to make sure that “everyone gets a chance to have some” that hardly any is eaten. There’s also the “last brownie” effect where nobody wants to take the last brownie, so someone cuts it in half… and then someone else cuts the remaining half in half… and then someone cuts the remaining quarter in half…

    1. Rachel*

      I think people just don’t want food as a treat.

      A lot of people are watching their food intake and do not want to “waste” a cheat day or meal on the freebie at work. Or they have health considerations that means a food is off limits.

      Also, a lot of people (self included) do not like communal eating like a buffet, especially post pandemic.

      “I want to make sure everybody gets some” is EXACTLY what I would say when I don’t want free food but I also don’t want to say so bluntly.

      Food is not a treat for this particular office

    2. Phony Genius*

      I’ve seen this nearly lead to pulling out an electron microscope to break down the last remaining brownie molecule.

      1. Quill*

        I’ve been at some labs where the primary thing that would prevent that is the hard line against food in the lab, not the ridiculousness of the idea.

  182. Laura*

    People at my place of work are relaxed about free food — they like it, but they do not hoard — but in the last millennium, there was the Case of the Disappearing Salmon Rolls.

    For most of the small standing gatherings which were a bit celebration-like (good news, anniversaries, births, retirements), management ordered plates of open sandwiches: Half of a white bread roll, something on it. Usually there were three halves per person, with cheeses, lunch meats, and several sorts of fish.

    So, you went into the meeting room, speeches were held, jokes were made, gifts were given, you turned to the plates — and found that all the smoked salmon rolls were gone. Nothing else, though. That happened again and again over the course of several years.

    There were jokes about the salmon-eating ghost, but no one was ever named as a likely suspect.

  183. Carrot*

    “but his answer was that he didn’t care” I still haven’t recovered from this response, jfc my guy

    Once worked at an activity venue and it was common for some of my coworkers to hoover up any remaining pizza slices from kids parties once the group had left, reckoning they were “perks” (in fairness to them, some folks would outright donate them to us on the way out). Incredibly awkward the time the parents actually came back to pick up the leftovers, only to find my coworkers (shift manager included!) riffling through the huge stack of takeaway boxes like a gang of hungry foxes LOL

    1. Hornswoggler*

      Ooh this isn’t food but flowers. For my husband’s 60th birthday we had a full cooked lunch catered by an outside caterer in a community hall. I ordered a dozen small bouquets for the tables, with the intention of handing them out later to various guests – three dear little pink roses and gypsophila.

      After lunch, I put them in their vases on a high shelf, meaning to come back for them later. We went into another room for speeches and gifts and a toast, and when we came back into the main hall for the dance, the vases were empty. I asked all the catering team where the flowers were, but they denied taking any – butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, frankly.

      My husband is now nearly 90 and I still remember that with intense irritation.

      1. Veryanon*

        Haha, this reminded me of a story about flowers from the service awards luncheon we used to do (see in comments above). We would give out the bouquets of flowers from the tables as raffle gifts after the ceremony was over. One year, one of the male employees in our distribution center won a bouquet, and said he was taking it home to his wife. Okay, great! Except…the wife’s sister worked there too, saw him with the flowers, and then followed up with her sister to see how she liked the flowers. Reader, he had given the flowers to his secret girlfriend (also one of our employees). The wife showed up at our office the next day, completely irate *not* about the fact that her husband was stepping out on her, but that she never got her flowers. She caused such a scene that we ended up scrounging up an extra bouquet that someone hadn’t claimed and giving it to her just to get her out of the building. I still think about her sometimes.

  184. cheap-ass bananapants*

    I always thought it was just librarians who acted like they’ve never seen food before.

  185. Suzy*

    I’m a Director working for the federal government. Several times a year all of the Directors and higher ups are “charged” $40 each so that we can buy pizza for the whole department – the optics of using taxpayer money to reward our staff wouldn’t be good, even though we’re a high-functioning high-performing department. I wouldn’t mind so much if I ever got to eat any of the pizza – it’s always all gone before I can get my hands on a slice.

  186. Food Donor*

    Our workplace does a food drive every November. Every single year the highest ranking officers, who make more than twice what the rest of us make, refuse to donate food to the drive. The frontline employees are always the only ones who bring food for the local food pantry. It always is frustrating that the highest paid employees never contribute while the lowest paid ones, some of whom use the food bank occasionally themselves, contribute.

  187. nm*

    My office has started “opening up” again and having food events, but because all our work is doable remotely, a LOT of people don’t come into the office. But whoever puts in the catering orders is still ordering pre-pandemic-like quantities of food. So if you’re in the office on a food event day, be prepared for a staff member to come insist that you take home a whole pizza or something of the sort. Especially if they know you have a big household

  188. MissMarple*

    A nonprofit I used to work at touts itself as a ‘human rights organization.’ They’re really just a government contractor providing substandard senior housing, etc. Their frontline employees are not well paid and are guilted into working overtime off the clock (“if you really cared about our clients, you would work unpaid”). Once, the CEO, who earned north of $250k, held an all-day mandatory meeting for certain staffers at….his summer house. I not only had to attend, but had to drive my toxic boss there, 3 hours from our office. There wasn’t any breakfast food. For lunch, he got a single platter of lunch meat/cheese from the grocery store. I was the last in line and when I got there…the platter was empty. He was standing there chatting in the kitchen so he knew the platter was empty (the guy in front of me mustn’t have gotten much either). I didn’t know what to do, it just seemed SO awkward to me. (Now, I would have just said ‘I’m driving into town to pick up something’ but I wasn’t comfortable doing that back then, probably because my toxic boss was so far inside my head.) So I just sat there hungry for the afternoon. The only food available in the afternoon was a bowl of cut fruit that the CEO kept digging his hand in to scoop out fruit, despite having a cold and constantly sneezing into said hand.

  189. ChaoticNeutral*

    At a previous job we did monthly birthday celebrations where the people who had birthdays that month each got to pick out a cake and everyone in the office would share the cake(s). The first year I worked there I was the only birthday in my birthday month so–the cake I picked out was the only cake served that month. Well folks, my favorite cake (dessert, really) is cheesecake. It’s cake-y enough in my mind. NOPE. Apparently this was offense of the highest order. Birthday cake day (aka my birthday celebration) was bedlam. “There’s only CHEESECAKE?” “I don’t like cheesecake!” “It’s not even real cake!!” It’s free food people! Take it or leave it! Next year luckily we had hired someone who shared my birthday month so a more acceptable cake was also served, but I still had people come up to me in the months leading up to my birthday month “You’re not gonna ask for a cheesecake again are you?”

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I’m not normally a petty person, but in this case I might have made an exception. Ask for the cake you want on YOUR birthday, Sheila. What is wrong with people? Everybody has one birthday and one chance for a cake request. I would have seriously considered asking for something absurd and unpopular like fruitcake or just a plain sponge cake or black forest cake.

      1. ChaoticNeutral*

        I must be a real menace because I also love black forest cake and didn’t realize it was unpopular XD. Which was also my initial reaction to the cheesecake debacle, I was like wait, you DON’T like cheesecake? I thought everyone loved cheesecake!

        1. Csethiro Ceredin*

          I don’t much like cheesecake, but I certainly understand most people do and have politely refused (and politely e