the bacon monitor, the baby boom, and other stories of holidays at work

Over the years, readers have submitted a tremendous number of amusing stories about holidays at work. Here are some of my favorites.

1. The cook-off

“Our office had a chili cook-off once. The morning of the potluck, it was announced that due to inclement winter weather and some people not being able to make it into the office, the potluck was canceled. Most people took this news with a normal level of disappointment.

A colleague of mine, Barb, had a crockpot of chili cooking at the office. Chaos erupted when Barb read the cancellation email. Yelling, punching things at her desk, crying, screaming, etc. She called HR (who had decided to cancel the potluck, the perpetrator in Barb’s mind) and chewed them out abusively over the phone, and then called her husband to blow off steam, and a handful of others. She yelled and cried at the office for 3 or 4 hours. (It was awful and I complained to her boss.) She ended up demanding that HR reimburse her for the chili ingredients, and they did.

At future potlucks, Barb proudly announced to anyone nearby on potluck day that she didn’t bring anything to the potluck. According to her, she had special permission from HR to attend potlucks without contributing to food (as was the office etiquette) as retribution for how they ‘screwed her over.’ We never had a chili cook-off again.”  (2022)

2. The apricots

“My BigLaw firm, pre-2008-recession, threw serious events/parties. At one event for ‘alums’ (i.e., for firm lawyers to schmooze with/try and get business from former firm attorneys now in house), every conference room on our meeting floor was a different theme. I was talking to a friend in the cheese room (which had assorted platters overflowing with cheeses, crackers, nuts, dried fruits, etc.) and saw my friend’s eyes go wide as she hissed, ‘Be casual, but turn around slowly.’ I did, just in time to see a partner who was the head of her practice group and easily making a few million dollars a year tip the ENTIRE PLATTER of dried apricots into her designer bag. It had to have been several pounds worth. She then casually turned and walked out of the room. We speculated about ‘Tammy’ and why the heck she needed so many apricots for years.”  (2023)

3. The bacon monitor

“In one of my last jobs, our party planning committee, used to do company-wide catering for most major holidays. I swear, every single time we did a breakfast one and included bacon, we always had to have a member of the committee stand watch as the ‘bacon monitor’ and count how many pieces of bacon each person had. Apparently, a few years before I started, some people would pile a plate full of nothing but bacon, and no one else would get any.”  (2017)

4. The baby boom

“My former company had a fancy dinner at a hotel party with an open bar. It was a great event. Many people got hotel rooms but my spouse and I went home. I must have missed something because HR sent out an email saying that in the future there would be a two drink limit, beer and wine only, no shots or hard liquor.

And as a side note, almost exactly 9 months later there was a minor baby boom in the company.”  (2022)

5. The engineers

“I love the engineering department at my old job for being The Most Engineers.

Their holiday gift exchange is: everyone who wishes to participate brings a $15 gift card. The gift cards are placed in a bowl. Everyone removes one (1) gift card. End of exchange.

Last year they had a festive holiday presentation on environmental compliance policies because ‘everyone’s already in the same room.’ The compliance people put some holly on the first page of the PowerPoint.”  (2022)

6. The light apps

“My worst story is a Friday night holiday party with one round of light apps (at dinnertime) and an open martini bar. People got blackout drunk whether they meant to or not. Nobody could look at each other the following Monday.

Highlights: One guy withdrew the max from an ATM and gave it to a stranger. A male supervisor patted a female staffer on the butt. There were martini races. I got a piggyback ride from the IT guy to another bar. Underage interns were served. There was a conference call the next day to try to piece everything together.

And that is the last time we had an event with almost no food.”  (2023)

7. The locked bathroom

“My husband had a fabulous over-the-top company Christmas party at our house every year for his small company. In our town, the university was famous for their co-op program and the company had several science students. One got really drunk and managed to pass out in our rather small powder room. His immediate manager tried to rouse him by banging on the door and couldn’t, so we got worried. He had fallen forward so even picking the lock didn’t work. The door had to be smashed off its hinges and removed.

All was eventually forgiven and he was hired when he graduated, but never lived it down.”  (2022)

8. The lawyer

“The most epic work-related celebration of the holidays that I encountered during my working years involved a three-day, that’s THREE-DAY, party put on by an attorney who worked with a lot of federal agencies and courts. It was basically an open house with free-flowing booze and catered food. It started as a half a day event, but so many people wanted to attend that it was expanded to a full day, then two days, then three. Some people in my office would take PTO so they could attend all three days, for the full 10 hours or whatever it was. I swear a couple of folks stayed drunk the entire three days and slept on the floor of their offices. There was great grief in the legal community when this attorney retired and the parties stopped.” (2022)

9. The gazpacho

“A coworker once brought in gazpacho (soup that’s served cold) and couldn’t understand why there was so much left at the end. We all thought it was salsa and ate reasonable salsa-sized portions with the tortilla chips that were placed directly next to it. The ladle and bowls did not tip us off.” (2022)

10. The Christmas countdown

“I once had a coworker who lodged a complaint with her manager’s manager that her manager was making her take her hours to Christmas countdown (yes hours, not days) off a whiteboard that was needed for something else. Wasn’t even like it was the week before Christmas at that point, pretty sure it was at least a month before. She was getting up and changing it a few times a day.”  (2017)

11. The casino

“There was a workplace where the Christmas party was a big buffet lunch with theme entertainment afterwards. We did have to pay for our tickets, but not too much. They kept adding more themes onto the most popular ones from previous years, like line dancing from the western one and leis from the Hawaiian one. Also, there were once piñatas, so they kept doing those. The casino was so popular that they found more themes (Vegas, Mardi Gras, and I forget what other theme) that gave them an excuse to keep using the games of chance, which had mostly been custom-built on site.

It turns out that it’s very hard to build a perfectly-balanced spinning wheel (like a Wheel of Fortune wheel), so I would just watch for a couple of rounds to remind myself which was the favored segment, and would then win more play-money playing the game of supposedly-chance than my colleagues who thought they were poker stars.

And then there was an auction for all kinds of odd prizes with the play money, usually culminating in one of the male workers jumping out of a box in a costume. And did I mention that the play money all had the department head’s face on them, and there was a big discussion whether or not to reprint when we got a different department head, considering which of the department heads would be more offended not to be on the money.”  (2017)

12. The reply-all

“My organization hosts an annual Christmas party where staff, spouses, volunteers, and board members are all invited. We get an email sent out when tickets are available so that we know when to go ahead and get them.

A few years ago, one of the board members accidentally hit Reply All to the ticket announcement email and asked the organizer to ensure that he wasn’t seated with our volunteer firefighters, since he was stuck at their table the year before and none of them wanted to talk to him. Within a minute, someone else had hit Reply All again saying that he would be honored to be seated with those firefighters, as they’re willing to risk their lives to keep our community safe. A few other emails went flying back and forth congratulating the firefighters for their hard work, and the board member soon sent out an apology email.

To make things even more awkward, one of the people making a speech at the company Christmas party did take a few minutes to commend our volunteer firefighters. I’m sure the board member couldn’t have looked any more uncomfortable as the rest of the room toasted them.” (2018)

{ 239 comments… read them below }

    1. Mad Harry Crewe*

      #5 is great, my kinda people. My brother (engineer) and I (engineering-adjacent) have a longstanding tradition where we ask what the other wants – and often if it’s more convenient, we just agree on what we’re getting and then go get the thing for ourselves rather than fiddle with shipping and exchanging.

      1. Miss V*

        When my brother and I were broke college students we would give each other empty gift cards and pretend they were full. We know our family would have thought we were being Scrooges if we didn’t exchange gifts, but neither of us had the funds to actually buy each other something. So, used gifts cards it was.

        Now we do pretty much the same thing you do. We buy our own present, wrap them, and pretend they’re from each other. This year he is getting me a lovely perfume sampler set from one of my favorite brands. I’m sure I’m going to love it.

        (Also I love The Blue Sword reference. It’s been a couple years, might be time for a re-read.)

        1. Momma Bear*

          That’s actually brilliant re: the empty cards. As long as you’re in agreement, what does it matter?

          I used to work for a small company that did a gift exchange. About half the gifts were gift cards. Seems to be an Engineering thing.

          1. Your Mate in Oz*

            I broke the system in one place by giving Lego (several little $5 sets to make up a $15 or $20 gift). You don’t ever want to be at a restaurant table with engineers and unopened Lego sets while the boss talks. There’s just no point doing anything else until the Lego is open and built.

        2. Indigo a la mode*

          My brother and I agreed long ago that there was no use in essentially swapping $30 we didn’t need to be spending each Christmas. We know we love each other. No presents needed.

          Now that I’m making decent money, though, as his older sister I do reserve the right to drop an “annibirthmas” gift card for a nice dinner on him and his wife each year. Both their birthdays and their anniversary are also in December.

    2. Ink*

      I think it might be the perfect work gift exchange tbh. Hard price limit, you drop a lot of the politics and guesswork, and it’s probably much harder to be offensive or nasty. Plus, people who are too busy or just dislike lengthy workplace-fun activities but want to participate can!

      1. Wilbur*

        Seems like too much work honestly. For V2 I’d suggest:

        10AM-A platter of cookies is brought out, everyone takes 1. Begin small talk.
        10:15 AM-Return to your desks. Conversation over.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        It’s a little silly in the sense that everyone spends the same amount of money to then receive a GC for the same amount of money. So your net gain is nothing, except that you had to go to the trouble to get a GC from some store and then you receive a GC for some (probably) other store that maybe you don’t even want a GC to. If you wanted something from that store, you could just spend your original $15 there and cut out the middle man.

        It is cute, though, and I suppose forces one to maybe shop somewhere they’d never think of shopping at on their own.

        1. Chirpy*

          It’s the same as any other gift exchange with a price limit- you’re just cutting out the physical item that you may not want, in favor of choosing what you want for yourself.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Right, but what if you don’t want anything at the store you get the GC for? I’m becoming anti-consumerism in my old age so I guess that has turned me into a holiday gift cynic.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                And all being equal denomination, they’re fungible to swap amongst themselves.

              2. Willow Pillow*

                If it’s legal for the cards to expire, or service fees to be deducted, there is some risk… The generic gift cards are worse for that, I find.

            1. Green great dragon*

              Sure, but more chance you’ll find something in a store than that you’ll like a secret Santa gift where you have no choice at all.

              I love the engineers and would like to join their party.

            2. Some people’s children!*

              TARGET. Everyone either shops there or has someone they can regift it to. Pretty low risk and they do a 10% off gift card sale in early December.

              1. Dark Macadamia*

                I would 100% bring a Target gift card and hope to get a Target gift card with a different picture on it, lol

            3. bamcheeks*

              Then don’t participate? It’s for the people who are willing to take the risk of getting an HMV voucher instead of a Paperchase voucher because they think it’s funny to optimise a gift exchange.

            4. Chirpy*

              I’d rather have a gift card (that can be given away or traded if I can’t find a single item in that store) than a useless item I won’t use or want (which will probably end up in a thrift store, harder to regift.)

            5. Vi*

              Then you’re… out $15. Or could re-gift. Or if it would bother you, you could not participate. Seems okay to me!

        2. MassMatt*

          “It’s a little silly in the sense that everyone spends the same amount of money to then receive a GC for the same amount of money”.

          I think this, along with cutting out the time of deciding what to get and shopping for it, is exactly the appeal. I can see the logic, and these ARE engineers.

          My Dad trained as one, and couldn’t understand buying wrapping paper only to tear it up. He would wince painfully when the presents were torn open, or one year, wrapped them in newspaper.

          He was really good at wrapping, though, very crisp folds, concealing the tape, precise cuts, etc. He taught me how to do it, but no I don’t use newspaper.

          1. Inkognyto*

            My Father loves the holiday.
            He’s one of 9 kids, so wrapping paper with that many gifts and kids was hard on his family that were farmers, and later I think my grandfather was a butcher. As kids, they had to carefully unwrap the few gifts they got and save the paper for next year. Yes, my grandmother re-used the wrapping paper year after year.

            For my family, the unwrapping was an ‘event’. Guessing the gift was a requirement, even if it was a poor guess. You often tried to make sure things that made noise didn’t, or added different noises. Mother made platters of various food/snacks for throughout the day for unwrapping gifts. The fire was started in the fireplace, and happy x-mas music was put on, and we didn’t rush it. Sat down, relaxed and just enjoyed it. You’d guess what it was, because that was part of the fun. My father loved to put things in to make it rattle, or box within box within box etc. All wrapped. Someone always got one. He also always told us “Tear it off! Just make a mess”. There was six of us total and it wasn’t un-usual for it to take 2-3 or more hours, with the guessing food and just laughter.

            Which is why once the paper started piling up at the house, he’d make balls of it and bonk you with it. He made sure his kids enjoyed the unwrapping and had fun because for him, he couldn’t.

            This is also the man who when they built a dream home. A massive 11inch yellow pine, log house with 30 ft vaulted ceiling. The tree reached the top the first year. It had to be WIRED on 3 sides to the walls. Tto ensure it would stand up and not fall over. The base was like 8-inches around and in a 5 gallon bucket. Only my brother was still at home so the rest of us walked into this in shock. My Father’s a master electrician, the lighting was something else, I think he said it was something like 4-5 20 amp breakers worth. This was over 20 years ago, so not LED. I cannot remember how many strings I know it was an insane amount, something like 40-50, and he said he couldn’t add anymore as the tree would get too hot. The base of the tree branches were over 6-7 feet long, and that was 4 ft off the ground and he cut that high off so you could move around near the base.

            Next year was a normal 10 ft tree. ;) seemed tiny.

      3. Dek*

        honestly to me, it feels sort of like…well, what’s the point. I kind of like our dirty santa, but it’s also opt-in, and mostly just a chance for everyone to joke around.

      4. RNL*

        It’s certainly the perfect gift exchange for the retailers! After a year on average 20% of gift card value remains unused.

        I hate gift cards. I do not like having to keep track of extra fiddly bits or having to spend more brain power on buying things than I already have to. I am the kind of person who may never use a gift card (6% of gift cards are never used! that’s just money to retailers for NOTHING)

        1. COHikerGirl*

          Gift cards aren’t exactly awesome for retailers. Unused gift cards are on the balance sheet as a liability. And a lot of liability isn’t a great thing. (Accountant who did not like gift certs or gift cards…a hassle for the accountants especially.)

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            While it may be a liability on the balance sheet, if they expire they are win for the store. So many never get used.

            Currently, I have a Barnes and Noble gift card for about $30 that I put away somewhere special so I wouldn’t lose it… yup, I can’t find it. But I know it never expires. I just have to find it before they decide to go out of business.

      5. Dorothy Zpornak*

        What on earth?? The whole point of a workplace gift exchange isn’t the gifts it’s the EXCHANGE. The curiosity to see what someone picked out. The suspense to see what someone got. The shared experience of befuddlement, teasing, or wonderment as you show everyone what you received. The gift itself doesn’t matter. It’s the fun of opening presents together and sharing those memories. It’s supposed to be about building camaraderie.
        What on earth is the point of swapping gift cards when I could just go buy myself something for $15? There’s no mystery. There’s no surprise. There’s no fun.

      6. Also-ADHD*

        I’m not an engineer, but I am in tech, introverted, and have many engineer sensibilities, and that was the most perfect sounding holiday exchange I’ve ever heard of. There’s a bit of fun and randomness, but very minimal and mostly risk free. I love the elegance of it.

  1. LCH*

    i think the most awkward holiday parties are the ones where your boss is who got inappropriately drunk. having an embarrassed boss for the next day/week/month/year is so, so urgh.

    1. Anonymous For This*

      When I was a legal secretary in downtown Little Rock in the 80s/90s, the entire month of December was spent hopping from office party to office party all up and down Capital Avenue. One firm was famous for inviting their clients as well as their colleagues so you might see a federally-convicted criminal boozing it up with the judge that sentenced them! Good times, good times.

      1. Reality Check*

        If this website is any indication, it seems like law firms have the best Christmas parties. And the 80s were a lot more fun, period. :)

        1. Liz*

          Even now, the parties are solid – now that “covid is over” (I know), my org’s annual holiday lobsterfest is back.

          There’s a mountain of lobster, there’s cold champagne, there’s non-lobster food for the non-seafood/shellfish eaters and there’s non-alcoholic cocktails for the people staying sober. All we have to do is listen quietly to some speeches and try not to get too drunk in front of any judges. (And I’ve noticed the staff are truly amazing at knowing when to diplomatically cut someone off.)

          I’m not even that big a lobster fan, but I always go.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Air Force parties are good, too! You have to pray you still fit in the silver cummerbund, drink lots, try hard not to *look* too drunk in front of a two-star general, admire the pyramid of bottles built at the pilots’ table, enjoy the skits (including “Samurai Crew Chief and Loadmaster”) and be happy the hall is close to base housing so the drive isn’t very far (or get a ride to and from the gypsy cab out front). There are a *lot* of toasts from the CinC down to the guy who answers the phone.

      1. Boof*

        I like engineer parties! I think of them as pulling stunts like (relatively safely) setting the roof on fire

  2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #2. Well that bag is gonna smell like apricots forever. I imagine somebody got it for a steal at a consignment store 6 months later and then was weirded out by the smell.

    1. The Starsong Princess*

      I like the smell of apricots especially if a good deal in a consignment store for the bag could be had. I’m not proud. I love designer bags but not paying for them.

    2. The Meat Embezzler*

      The sane part of my brain is going to the attorney in question is making apricot cookies and needs the dried apricots for the center piece and is just being cheap.

      The insane part of my brain is going to some really weird places that I think I’ll keep to myself on this one haha.

      1. Sleve*

        My boring guess is that something nasty had fallen on the platter and she didn’t want the firm lawyers to see (and judge), so she panicked and hid the evidence in the first place that came to mind.

        1. Distractable Golem*

          Oh like maybe she sneezed all over it. And while she was fine going to the party with a mild case of Covid, she had pangs of guilt about actually spraying it all over the food.

      2. Tabihabibi*

        As someone who reacts to sulfured dried apricots (the typical kind) with the most horrendous foul flatulence, my best hypothesis remains that someone at this law firm has the same reaction but less self awareness, and this may in fact have been a noble invention.

    3. Rose*

      I can’t get over how much more expensive a designer bag, or even cleaning a designer bag, would be then buying her own apricots. I am baffled.

    4. Phony Genius*

      I’ll repeat my comment from the first time this story was published here:

      If at purse you don’t succeed, try dried again.

  3. Mo*

    My extended family tends to do gift cards for Christmas. I can see a gift card Yankee swap as being a good thing for home or office. Far better than being a single person who has to buy a gift for everyone, but only gets one gift from each family.

    1. Choggy*

      In my office gift cards are actually frowned upon. Yeah, I’d rather get some ugly, brown crocheted wall decor instead from one of the people with the highest salary in the department (actually happened one year). His mother made it, and it ended up in his office after I was able to thankfully swap that sucker.

  4. nnn*

    Can someone ELI5 what a martini race is? (My attempts to google are being disrupted by the fact that the Martini & Rossi company apparently sponsors race cars)

      1. nnn*

        Oh, that’s so much simpler than what I was imagining! (I was picturing, like, elaborate relay races with martini shakers)

        1. Tammy 2*

          I was picturing something like an egg and spoon race, except you’re trying not to spill a full martini.

          That actually sounds like a lot of fun. Too bad I don’t really like martinis.

        2. Double A*

          I think I combined the piggy back rides with the martini races in my mind. One person, holding a martini, rides on another person’s back. They race another pair. Whoever has the most martini left wins. (Or loses, depending on how you like martinis).

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      If I recall correctly, there are two teams on either side of a table. The first person of each team starts chugging, and once they finish their drink the next person on their team can start drinking. And then when they finish their drink it’s the next person’s turn, so on and so forth. The idea is to get through it as quick as you can, and the team that finishes the “race” first wins!

      I’ve had races before, but only with crappy beer. I can’t imagine doing it with cocktails, much less martinis!

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          I believe so!

          …Though now that you mention it I think there was a cup flip involved, it’s just that flip cup usually works in a round where you don’t want the person behind you to catch up and a race is two teams against each other down a line.

          Not sure how that would work with martini glasses though!

        2. The Starsong Princess*

          We used to call those Boat Races. I was weirdly good at them. I couldn’t hold my beer at all but I could chug.

      1. Bee*

        I think it’s the kind of thing you only think to do with martinis when you’re getting martinis (and only martinis) for free!

  5. Veryanon*

    Bacon monitor: At a company where I used to work, we would occasionally have catered events for service award luncheons, that kind of thing. We very quickly learned that we needed to have HR and other staff monitor all the buffet tables, as there were employees who would bring to-go containers from home and fill them up from the buffet to the point that other employees wouldn’t get any food. :/

      1. ReallyBadPerson*

        It is, and it’s really shocking the sort of people who do this, like the apricot-hoarding lawyer above.

    1. Nora*

      We had a church member like that. She would come to all events with a bag of plastic containers and a thermos for coffee. No one would have cared if she filled up at the end of the event, but she would leave the service early to be first in line to fill up her containers. I personally had to tell her once that I wouldn’t fill up her quart containers with soup until everyone had a chance to have both first and second servings.

      1. Seashell*

        That seems like a prime time to ask “What would Jesus do?” Presumably, not be greedy about food and leave his fellow parishioners hungry.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Maybe she thought he was going to stop by and do a replay of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

    2. The OG Sleepless*

      Having run several buffets for kids’ sports/clubs end of year banquets, one of the things you learn is to either have the buffet supervised, or have volunteers actually plate the food for people. There’s something about buffets that make some people just turn into wild animals.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Mac and cheese is very popular. We serve people, otherwise their plates are ridiculously piled as high as possible.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      Yep: at first I thought the Bacon Monitor was one disgruntled employee who self-appointed themselves to the role, but it was clear this was needed due to hoggy behavior.

      It’s really, really tacky to shovel an entire tray of omelets or muffins into a carry all when you know good and well there’s fifty people behind you. It’s not at all the same as when leftovers, when the party is over, are up for grabs.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        A family member can always be relied upon to take leftovers in literally any quantity. When I first married in I found this a bit weird, but now I’m just delighted, and make sure to send him away with the things we would struggle to use ourselves. He always waits until it’s actually time to leave, and for him it’s a “reduce food waste” thing rather than greed or similar.

        1. vr518*

          P. S. That is very kind of you to give him the leftovers and for him to take him so nothing gets wasted.

    4. Rach*

      I have a relative like that – they will fill up leftovers of the Thanksgiving/Christmas spread to take home before others have gotten their plate (and we have a huge extended family). It’s honestly mind-boggling.

    5. Shan*

      I was helping out at a pancake breakfast once and we’d splurged and ordered the breakfast sausages from a really good local shop… people heard where they were from and started cutting in line to grab fistfuls of them. It was disgusting.

    6. Jessica*

      Agree the people taking food for to-go purposes are awful, and also you should try not to monopolize any dish. But if the demand for one particular dish is so high that you have to ration it, what if you just planned next time to have more of that dish?

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        The problem is that there’s a reasonable amount to take of a dish and a group of people can’t be trusted to stick with that reasonable amount, i.e.,

        “Oh, there’s so, I can load up!” (Rapidly leading back to the originl problem)

        Or, even worse, “Oh, there’s two platters of Desirable Food this year? Guess I should load up a second plate!”

        I’ve done a fair amount of event planning and ordering food is not simple, at all.

    7. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      What I find puzzling and intriguing is how often the people who shamelessly hog all the buffet food (sweeping all the apricots into one’s purse?!) are NOT those most in need of it! They are by no means all poor or underpaid – in fact, most of the worst offenders could easily BUY whatever foodstuffs they wanted! I could understand a very poor individual who literally couldn’t count on having enough to eat day to day doing this, but those don’t seem to be the ones doing it!

      Any ideas as to why well-paid, well-off individuals act as if they MUST take enough food to last them through the week?!

    8. Two Rubber Ducks*

      A former museum I worked at had to stop serving shrimp platters at receptions. The docents would swoop over and surround the table and stand there eating all night. You could get shrimp if you were brave enough to penetrate their defenses, but few people were.

  6. metadata minion*

    5 – Especially if you can choose and/or swap gift cards, that sounds like a pretty awesome low-key gift exchange.

  7. thelettermegan*

    Not that I’m advocating for Barb’s intense reaction, but given that the costs of chili can be expensive and the process of getting it to the office, in bad weather, I can see how she would be upset. Chili is one of those things were the cost and effort of making and transporting it can often go above and beyond any passion to do so.

    Years ago I participated in a chili cook-off, which required getting a ride into work from my husband. On his way home, he got into a car accident (no injuries). Soooo the fact that there wasn’t even a participation prize for all my effort really hurt.

    HR should have gone through with the cook-off with whomever showed up. If she’s the only one, give her the prize, then schedule a round two with Barb on the judge panel.

    1. Janeric*

      This is a really smart way of handling it!

      I was thinking someone in Barb’s shoes could sow a lot of goodwill by asking people in the office to come eat the chili “so I don’t have to schlep it home” and then just. Not bring in anything for the rescheduled contest. Probably if she looked winsome and said “I thought it was pretty good…” she’d receive proportional compliments!

      1. Bee*

        Right – reply-all and say, “well, I’ve got all this chili here anyway, so come get if you want!” and everyone will come in delighted for the free meal and tell you how good it was!

        1. RLC*

          Now that would be delightful! In previous workplace I was one of those intrepid souls who always braved the worst of the snow days (at worst, 2.5 hours drive each way) and a bowl of hot, homemade chili for lunch would be a treat. The chili chef would receive many thanks.

    2. Pan*

      Is chili not… very cheap? It’s ground beef/beans and some spices? Genuinely I think I must me missing something

      1. Julia*

        Chili is one of those things where it all depends on your recipe. Yes most use ground beef. However, using chuck roast, brisket, etc. isn’t uncommon. If I was doing a serious business chili cook off I could see myself using chuck roast, toasting my own chiles etc. It would be annoying to have schlepped it in for nothing but also it’s not that serious. I would have set it out and asked coworkers to chow down.

        A previous place I worked had would have explicitly non competitive cook offs. Apparently things got a bit too intense in the past.

    3. gmg22*

      There is being understandably a bit upset/disappointed that you put the work in only for a cancellation … and then there is Barb’s frankly unhinged reaction. (Agree with others that the gracious way to handle this would be to happily declare herself the unofficial winner and invite everyone who made it to the office to pop into the kitchen and enjoy some chili!) I found myself wondering what else she lost her mind about over the years at this workplace.

      1. Generic Name*

        Same. I’ve definitely felt disproportionately disappointed over things before, but her reaction was something else. As in there must be SOMETHING going on with her mental health/emotions/or whatever. I sort of can’t believe she still had a job after all that, but at the same time I’ve worked at places where folks got away with some pretty egregious behavior.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        AND she leveraged it into somehow never needing to bring food every again but being able to chowdown. You know darn well HR never said that. But no one wanted to set off another unhinged incident.

    1. Sprouts Make Me Choke*

      This seems like an opportune time to remind all to celebrate Gazpacho Soup Day on November 25th. Not a celebration of the soup, but of Arnold J Rimmer’s (BSc, SSc) ultimate humiliation.

    2. Mister_L*

      Somewhat embarrassing story from my childhood:
      Our whole family was invited to a large wedding, and I found what looked like a metal tub of ice cream at the buffet and got myself a medium sized plate.
      It was lard for the slices of bread next to the tub.

      1. Coverage Associate*

        I once went to a buffet where the horseradish sauce for the roast beef was left out at dessert time next to the chocolate cake, like creme freche or a vanilla sauce.

  8. EC*

    The apricots thing is real. My BF works at a white shoe law firm and they had to stop offering free sandwiches for lunch because full partners, who make several million per year, were taking them all.

    We had season tickets for the ballet, which got us access to the patrons’ lounge. The staff left out a plate of cookies, but if you didn’t get there right at intermission, one of the men would take them all. No one who doesn’t have money or is food insecure has access to the patrons’ lounge at the ballet.

    Some people just turn into deranged feral hogs whenever there’s free food.

    1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      That’s how some rich people stay rich, by freeloading their way through life. I’d call them swine, but that’s an insult to pigs.

      1. Roland*

        Nah, being cheap doesn’t help you get or stay rich, the amount one saves on a plate of cookies or apricots is irrelevant to their financial situation. They’re just rude.

        1. Sleve*

          Not directly, but it’s the money hoarding attitude that does it. If you’re willing to do whatever it takes to hoard up money without a care for other people you’ll end up stealing resources and opportunities. Cookies, apricots, project credit, land, water, jobs you’ve exaggerated your way into that other more honest people would be more qualified for, diamond mines, etc etc. Different situations, same thought patterns.

          An “I’m happy to take more than I’m entitled to and I don’t care if others miss out” attitude helps you get rich and stay rich, even if a single tray of cookies doesn’t contribute at all.

          1. Mister_L*

            There’s a very fitting quote about this in Terry Pratchett’s “The Truth”.

            “There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What’s up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don’t think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass! Who’s been pinching my beer?”

          2. amoeba*

            There’s a German saying – “you learn how to save money from the rich” (von den Reichen lernt man das Sparen) that basically sums that up…

            Obviously not to be taken literally, but yeah, basically about rich people being cheap.

          3. Phony Genius*

            Sometimes, I think it’s less about themselves getting the cookies as much as it is about “not letting them have a free ride” for anything. The less other people have, the richer you look in comparison.

        1. Sleve*

          No, but freeloading on society for the bigger stuff does. Think “stealing resources” rather than “stealing cookies”. Getting resources you’re not entitled to, by, say, winning a mining contract by lying about how much you spend on safety initiatives will absolutely help you stay rich. Your employees will try and keep themselves safe anyway because they don’t want to get hurt, so you’re freeloading off their work to get resources you’re not entitled to, and therefore money.

  9. Richard Hershberger*

    I refuse to confess that I am the reason they need a bacon monitor. But neither do I deny it.

    1. I heart bacon*

      I just screen captured the bacon monitor entry and sent it to my Friends of Bacon social media group noting that several of us might possibly be the offender in said scenario. =)

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        I just cooked up bacon for the cat in the oven. Great way to cook it. I hope he doesn’t mind that I ate some of it….

    2. Rainy*

      In my defense, the number of times I have showed up to a staff breakfast event and the only thing I was positive I could eat was the bacon is not zero.

      1. tangerineRose*

        As a vegetarian who doesn’t like eggs either, I’ve learned to eat something before these if possible or bring something else to eat. A lot of these have 2 forms of protein – meat and eggs.

  10. Amber Rose*

    Despite the open bar, our parties have been quite tame for the last few years. Prior to my taking control and exercising veto power with extreme prejudice over what actually happens at them, our Christmas parties were mildly traumatizing. I hold both horrified and amused memories of actually hiding behind a tree with my husband to get out of one of the games. I was too shy to just say no thanks. D:

    This year’s party is this week and we’re doing something pretty significantly different from the usual, so we’ll see what happens.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Dare I ask you to share? Were they over-enthusiastic cringy charades? Were they raunchy Two Truths And A Lie?

      1. Amber Rose*

        The game was “don’t laugh.” Everyone stood in a big circle, with the big boss in the middle. He’d say something and you had to repeat it back without laughing, and if you laughed you were out. But the things he was saying were very raunchy and quite frankly, I wasn’t going to laugh I was just not going to be able to say them out loud. I was dying just listening to other people say them.

        I don’t even remember what he was saying exactly, just that husband and I exchanged horrified looks and then decided we needed to refill our drinks, after which we “accidentally” ended up tucked behind the Christmas tree.

        It was followed by a VERY violent game of musical chairs in which several people walked away limping. I spent a long time behind that tree. D:

        1. Uranus Wars*

          This should horrify me but the image of you and your husband (who I don’t even know) hunkered behind a Christmas Tree watching All. The. Chaos. sent me into a giggle fit.

  11. ReallyBadPerson*

    #1, 2, 3: People are just weird about food. There is no accounting for it. It’s so emotional for some people, tied to past deprivation, bizarre parental attitudes, family issues, who knows? There’s a guy at my church who has plenty of money, but always hoards the potluck food, and even asks to take the leftovers home. We’re talking a spoonful of mayonnaise-y potato salad, cake crumbs, rolls that have been sitting out, cold casseroles–I will never understand this.

    1. cabbagepants*

      I do this but I’m open about the fact that my chickens would love these random leftovers and it feels like a pity to waste them.

      1. RLC*

        Once had a colleague who took unwanted potluck leftovers (stale, possibly unsanitary, or unappetizing-to-everyone kind of items) home to his pigs. We all enthusiastically agreed that was far better than leftovers going in the bin. The pigs also apparently loved the accidentally overgrown squash many of us produced in our home gardens. Win-win.

  12. Coin_Operated*

    I’m going to give #12 a little benefit of the doubt, in that there could be more context to the story. Yes, how they worded the request was bad, especially in a reply-all or a private reply, but I’ve been at social work events and can be a little socially awkward so I don’t like being seated with entire groups of strangers. Additionally, I have also been seated at events where it just seems like nobody wants to interact with me, or it’s difficult and it doesn’t make it fun for me. I don’t know if that’s the case here, or if this board member is generally a jerk, which is why everyone is making an effort to applaud the “volunteer firefighters” (which to be honest, also comes across to me as slightly insufferable too) but without that context, it’s hard to know if this board member is a jerk, or did the best they could to have fun with them previously and got frustrated and doesn’t want that to repeat.

    1. Cyndi*

      Yeah my suspicion about 12 is that it just inherently sucks being the odd one out at a table where everyone else is already a close-knit team, and the board member was hoping not to have to be that guy again and instead got it 10x worse.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Yeah, this is how I read it, and honestly, any one person at a table full of other people who know each other has reason to complain.

    2. Lana Kane*

      Yeah, I don’t really think he said anything terrible. He sat with them and no one talked to him (benefit of the doubt – he tried talking to them, wasn’t being rude, etc). It’s not like he didnt want to sit with them because he was too good for firefighters or something. The repeated “I’d be honoreds” seem a little much to me.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yeah, I agree. It’s a bit classless and very childish to me, to be petty piling on, and also not smart in a work context; This is a board member everyone is taking a not-so-subtle dig at. I’d honestly be concerned that the guy doesn’t have a sense of humor about it and could hold a low-level grudge against everyone who joined in.

    3. Myrin*

      That was actually how I read it, so I was really surprised by how the rest of the story unfolded. Then again, maybe he was generally known to look down on others or there was something specifically offputting in the way he worded his message or similarly.

    4. Chauncy Gardener*

      Yeah, in my case there’s nothing like the CFO (me) plopping down at your table. If you already knew me, it was fine. But if you didn’t it would just wig everyone out until they had enough to drink to calm down enough to realize that I’m actually OK and not snobby/stuck up in the least!

    5. fanciestcat*

      Having worked in City government, #12 makes total sense to me. Firefighters and their partners do tend to be pretty cliquey even when they aren’t trying to be, it’s just a function of them spending so much time together in a demanding job. I honestly wouldn’t want to sit at their table either if I was the only non-Fire member. It’s like sitting with a group of people you just met when they’ve all been best friends for 10 years, which is honestly often the actual situation. The people making a thing out of it make sense too, firefighters are pretty universally popular, even among people who otherwise hate the government so it’s a bad look to be percieved as dissing them and political advantageous to align yourself with them.

        1. Lea*

          Yeah I’ve known some volunteer fire fighters and they’re extremely clicky!

          There might be a class thing here too tbh

    6. Generic Name*

      I agree. The worst conference experience I’ve ever had was at a conference where a) everyone else seemed to already know one another, and b) nobody wanted to talk to anyone they didn’t already know. I tried engaging people at my tables in conversation, but I was either ignored or people answered be in grunted monosyllables. It was very strange and was made worse by the fact that the other person at my company who was there refused to introduce me to anyone and made literal shooing motions with his hand as he told me “shoo shoo, go mingle!”. Just WTF

    7. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Married to a firefighter and I can attest, sitting a table of all firefighters can be BORING if you’re not a part of their group. I’ve told my spouse (who’s also an EMT) on several occasions that I’ve never met a group of coworkers who spend every second together talking about their jobs, aspects of their jobs and their field in general. People I work with, when we’re socializing, we talk about other stuff, anything else BUT work. Every year, I supportively attend my husband’s fire company banquet, and really don’t look forward to it. The one year, everyone at our table was a firefighter, a few were couples. I was the only one at the table not a firefighter, nor do I find the field very appealing (sorry, just not my thing). I was bored out of my mind and ended up playing games on my phone while everyone else chatted about “fire-fighty” stuff.

    8. Ticotac*

      I assume people sent those fawning emails because they thought the firefighters would be either offended or worried.

      If I were one of the firefighters and saw the board members’ email, I think my reaction would have been “LOL, yeah, fair, lmao,” but I’m also a bit of a dick. I think it’s more likely there was a bunch of them worrying that the email may be a sign they fucked up, the board member dislikes them, and it’s now a year too late to do anything about it.

      If I were worried that I fucked up, I would appreciate the rest of the association coming together to say “just for the record, we love them and support them.” The whole “I’d be HONOURED” thing is a bit too much, but hey, I can never disapprove workers showing solidarity with each other.

  13. Slow Gin Lizz*

    #10 is my favorite because it reminds me of a friend who used to do this in high school. A couple of days before a long break she would write down each class she had left and then cross it off as the day went on. But she was, you know, in *high school* at the time. And also kept it in her own private calendar book. And didn’t start it a month out from the break.

  14. Johnny Karate*

    My favorite AAM holiday story is still “I will confront you by Wednesday of this week,” but these are all great!

    1. Certaintroublemaker*

      I love the whole concept of keeping all the best activities even under different themes! (And LW being the only one to figure out the odds on the wheel :D)

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I’m not always one for parties, but this one sounds fun. Like the planners actually paid attention to what people like and came up with an organized chaos funland.

    1. Chria*

      Genuinely asking, why does the board member suck? It sounds to me like he didn’t want to spend an evening ignored by people who all knew each other and would rather talk amongst themselves than get to know the one stranger in their midst. Nothing he said in his email sounds objectionable (literally just “I had a subpar experience last year, can I sit somewhere else this year), unless there’s some context about his previous behaviour not included in the letter. Not wanting to sit with a clique is not derogatory, and firefighters are not a marginalized identity.

      1. Seashell*

        Assuming he used language like “stuck at a table” and “no one would talk to me”, it sounds like the complaints of an 8th grader, not a successful adult. Why couldn’t he try to start a conversation with a firefighter? Why couldn’t he speak to people at other tables?

        He also sucks at using email.

        1. amoeba*

          I mean, I assume he did try (unsuccessfully), at least that’s how I read “no one would speak to me”.

          Definitely sucks at e-mail, but from the number of accidental reply-all incidents even just on this site, he’s not alone in that. It’s certainly an especially unfortunate one though!

        2. 1-800-BrownCow*

          As someone who has been stuck at multiple tables full of firefighters, I can attest that no matter how much you try to start a conversation, they will turn it into some story about firefighting with all kinds of inside jokes and whatnot. And if you’re not in their world, you can feel very left out and that no one would talk to you. You might start telling them about your paperclip collection and it reminds them about this one fire call they went on that was in the same shopping center as a Staples. Or maybe you have a funny story about a trip to Cancun, which they switch the topic to that crazy fire call at the local Mexican restaurant and what happened with the new junior firefighter, followed by lots of laughter, but no explanation of what happened, because if you’re not a firefighter, you likely wouldn’t understand.

          As for sucking at email, when the reply all button is right below the reply button in the dropdown menu, I can see how one unintentionally “replies all”.

    2. tangerineRose*

      Using e-mail for a request like this wasn’t a good idea in the first place. E-mails are soooo easy to forward even if he hadn’t accidentally cc’d everyone.

      Firefighters are heroes. I’ve never sat at a table with just them, so I can’t say what that’s like, but I can understand why people would be upset at the board member’s request.

  15. bamcheeks*

    What is a reasonable salsa-sized portion of salsa, please, I just need to know for not-embarrassing-myself purposes.

    1. Cyndi*

      As much as you can load onto a chip without losing structural integrity, times your desired quantity of chips. (A reasonable number of chips is however many the person eating them wants it to be.)

  16. Nea*

    I’m stuck on #1 and the fact that HR and her manager let Barb go on like that. Yes, she was disappointed but wow!

    1. PollyQ*

      Absolutely. I found myself greatly wishing that someone would say, “What the fuck, Barb. Get your shit together.”

    2. tangerineRose*

      Yeah, that seemed so over the top. This would have been a good time for her to just share the chili at lunch and maybe make a few jokes about having won by forfeit.

  17. Valancy Stirling*

    #6: “One guy withdrew the max from an ATM and gave it to a stranger. A male supervisor patted a female staffer on the butt.”

    These are VASTLY different responses to lowered inhibitions. If you’re going to get wasted at a work party (I mean, ideally don’t), be the first guy, not the second.

  18. recovering big law associate*

    Re: #2 — This is so strangely A Thing among law firm partners! One of the rainmakers at my old firm used to regularly take dozens of Crystal Lite packets from one of our shared office kitchens and shove them in his pockets. Have heard similar stories from many other Big Law associates, it is inexplicable.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      #5 The Engineers exchange
      Oh. Doesn’t everyone do exchanges like this?

  19. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #5 The Engineers exchange
    Oh. Doesn’t everyone do exchanges like this?

      1. carcinization*

        I’m the literal opposite of an engineer (I’ve seen the studies! Or possibly even done the data entry for them in undergrad!), a social science professional, and it sounds like a great workplace gift swap to me!

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Engineer here and this idea sounds amazing. In comes in second to what the engineers at my company do, which is absolutely nothing.

  20. Bruce*

    This is nothing outrageous, more of a cultural experience: Around 2003 I was visiting a customer in Tokyo the week before Christmas, the Friday before I flew home they invited us to their holiday party. Lots of beer and bar foods, I was offered whale fritter but passed on it. The entertainment was a local dance troupe of young women that performed a series of dances ranging from hip-hop to ballet to Martha Graham, ending up with a Rockettes style chorus line in Santa’s Elves mini-skirts. After the show there was a prize giveaway, the grand prize was a very nice electric bike and the winner was VERY HAPPY to get it… hardly anyone drives cars in the city but even 20 years ago E-bikes were big in Japan. Overall it was a fun party, was glad we were invited!

  21. pageall*

    Ha! The tantrum stories remind me of a holiday situation a few years ago. The HR office at my company gave out a treat every year around the holidays, and since my position involved planning staff events, they asked me to accompany the HR team as they passed out the treats. I was happy to join. Except, just a few months prior, I’d had quite an issue with one coworker, Sue. I bought a house in a nice neighborhood, and my coworkers were overwhelmingly happy for me. Sue saw how happy everyone was, asking for pictures and congratulating me, and she publicly began pouting and yelling that no one was *that* happy when her daughter bought a house (her daughter has never worked here, nor did she even know anyone here). Sue proceeded to be as passive-aggressive as possible for the next three months. HR knew about her antics, since she had gone so far as to lodge a complaint that was terribly, obviously false, but HR felt that she had not crossed the line into disciplinary action.
    Anyway, we approached Sue’s desk with the holiday treats. Sue had a nut allergy, and HR had specifically ordered cookies from a nut-free bakery to ensure Sue could eat the treat. Well, Sue took one look at the cookies, looked directly at me, and said “I can’t eat these, and SHE knows it.” The HR manager looked confused and said “Oh no, Sue, we ordered from a nut-free place so that you can eat! We all know about your nut allergy.” Sue narrowed her eyes at me and said “Well I don’t trust it. I’m giving them away.” The confused HR manager just kinda smiled and left. Another coworker who heard the whole thing texted me “Wow, she really showed you, huh! You will SUFFER knowing she refuses to eat her cookies.”

    1. Momma Bear*

      Yeah…that’s one of those moments where their behavior shows way worse on them than you. I hope someone enjoyed the cookies.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I hope a terribly obviously false complaint at least got a private warning.

      I hope everyone ELSE enjoyed her cookies!

  22. Generic Name*

    #6- This reminds me of the last party I attended at my former company. It was meant to be a combination celebration of several company milestones. The marketing group had spent months and months planning it. At the staff meeting the Monday before the party, one of the higher ups was giving folks some details of the night (where to park, etc.). While the event was “open house” style, staff were expected to stay the duration. The higher up made an offhand comment that folks should probably pack snacks for themselves, and people looked around at each other in confusion, because we were led to believe there would be food served. When folks arrived, it became apparent why bringing granola bars from home was suggested. The food table contained the oddest assortment of light snacks I had ever seen. Pineapple. Popcorn. Potato chips. And the largest vat of sour cream dip I had ever seen (like at least 2 gallons worth). It was the day before my last day (thank god), so I left right as the tribute speeches started, but I would have been ravenous if I had stayed until 8 like everyone else was directed to. Apparently a large portion of the staff went somewhere else afterwards for an “after party”, but I’m sure it was to a restaurant to get some actual food.

    1. Anonymask*

      Most of the guests that attended my cousin’s wedding did the same thing. They served basically only appetizers and light desserts for the 5 hour event. My partner and I suspected that would happen and ate beforehand. Mistakes to avoid if I decide I want a wedding.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I went to a wedding once with two receptions, because the bride’s mother knew the guests from Chicago expected more than punch and light snacks if they were travelling all the way to Tennessee to see the bride get married. (The second reception also had booze and dancing.)

        1. londonedit*

          This is pretty much what happens at British weddings. You have the ceremony which is followed by drinks and canapes while the formal photos are being taken, and then the ‘wedding breakfast’, which is usually a sit-down meal, and then speeches and champagne toasts, cake cutting, etc. Then in the evening you have dancing with a band or DJ, and there’s usually a buffet that goes along with that. Often there’ll be one set of guests invited for the full day – ceremony, sit-down meal, dancing, late-night buffet – and then extra guests who are just invited for the evening part of the reception.

    2. amoeba*

      I can absolutely relate to being shocked by the lack of food when you’re expecting dinner, has happened to me multiple times and was always horrible. I am slightly intrigued by the timing though – as a European, 8 seems like a perfectly reasonable time to go for dinner and if an event officially ended at 8, I wouldn’t necessarily expect dinner in any case. (And I’m not even from Spain or anything, haha!)

      Always funny to see these small cultural differences you never think about in action…

  23. didi*

    Also re #2 – happens with lots of people who make a lot of money. At my old job we had a gift exchange (limit $50) where you could steal presents from others depending on the numbers you drew. The two most senior people – who made way more money than the rest of us – were always greedy and openly dissatisfied if they didn’t like the gift they ended up with. One year one of them openly harassed a really junior person who ended up with the most desirable gift. The harasser easily was making 20 times what the junior person was getting.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Every year I remember an old workplace that did a raffle for door prizes. The manager and assistant manager always managed to win the most expensive gifts and the rest of the unwashed masses ended up with the cheap gifts.

      1. linger*

        That could follow if the few with larger disposable incomes were as a direct result able to purchase disproportionately large numbers of raffle tickets, and thereby have a much greater chance of winning.
        Or are you saying that they actually rigged the result?

  24. Don't Ask Me How I Know*

    #7: He had fallen forward so even picking the lock didn’t work. The door had to be smashed off its hinges and removed.

    This is why bathroom doors should open out…

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Bathroom and bedroom doors open in so that you don’t bang someone in the face with them as you walk out.

  25. carcinization*

    I know I’ve read #6 before, but this time I find myself wondering what exactly “martini races” are.

  26. Rage*

    I’m LOL-ing at the bacon monitor. Years ago, when I had far more energy and disposable income than I do now, I used to go to Dragon*Con in Atlanta every year. We usually stayed in one of their “core” hotels that connect via a series of walking bridges (the “habitrails”) to Peachtree Mall, which has a giant food court. One of the restaurants is a Chinese buffet place that also does a breakfast buffet. They would always have this gigantic pile of bacon on one of the steam trays with a sign “4 pieces of bacon per person MAX”.

    And the cashier would open your container to check for anybody exceeding their allotment of bacon.

  27. Addison DeWitt*

    If you’re going to serve something mysterious like gazpacho, you need to get little plastic shooter glasses too narrow to fit a chip into, so people have an idea what to do.

  28. Cookies For Breakfast*

    #6, I’m impressed your workplace switched to serving food after only one catastrophic party. I used to work at a place where party catering meant “serve minuscule canapes the first half hour and have an open bar the whole night”. I was there several years. I only remember food served at two parties towards the end of my time there.

    At one of these parties, there was a small buffet hidden away in a dark corner of a venue with no seats – not many people were eating, or knew it was there. On the other hand, we got given something like seven bar tickets each at the entrance. I left around midnight to catch the last train home, and must have made someone very happy when I left my remaining five behind.

  29. Office Drone*

    My story: For the love of all that is holy, if an office says they want to trade “joke” presents, then for goodness sake, everyone should be given guidance on what constitutes an expected joke present.

    Why? My very first Christmas at my old job, it was right before Y2K. We were asked to bring joke presents to the Christmas party (which was indeed a Christmas party, as this was a religious nonprofit). I was young and inexperienced, and didn’t yet know the office culture well. So, I took a cookie tin, emptied the cookies and left a few wrappers and crumbs. I thought the joke of an empty cookie tin would be, if not hilarious, at least an acceptable joke.

    Until people started unwrapping and stealing gifts. Some people brought in Y2K survival gear, others brought in framed joke photos (such as the CEO’s face superimposed over the Pope’s face), some brought in wine … just because they wanted to. So, as you can imagine, my joke fell flat as a crepe.

    I was so embarrassed at my mistake that I approached the person who got the tin afterward, to apologize and to offer to trade. Fortunately, he was a nice guy and just waved it off. He ended up being given party leftovers to take home in his cookie tin.

    1. Grim*

      Maybe I need the joke present guidelines as well, because I’m not picking up on what’s meaningfully different about your present compared to the others? I mean yeah, I don’t want an empty cookie tin, but I don’t particularly want a framed photo of the CEO-pope either. Although in my experience a genuinely funny and well-received joke present is hard to pull off unless you know the recipient pretty well.

    2. Minimal Pear*

      This gives me a great idea if I’m called upon for a joke gift in a situation like this in the future–do the classic “cookie tin filled with sewing supplies” thing!

  30. OfficeVultures*

    I am disabled and going through a food line at many of the places I’ve worked or getting food from a kitchen on demand each time I wanted to eat was hard. I would go through the line first and take what I thought I would want to eat if I went through the line multiple times (I would note there usually are leftovers at the end so I wasn’t depriving anyone of food, just taking more than one portion). I would load up on the free snacks in the kitchen then eat from my stash the rest of the day, or go once in the morning and once at lunch. I always $felt super self conscious about it, but if I didn’t I’d be hungry and unable to get to the leftovers or not have stuff to snack on throughout the day when I needed it. If I misjudged the amount I’d take it home unless I was going to be in the office the next day because I’d already taken the stuff and couldn’t put it back.

    I’m not saying this was the case for any of the seemingly bad behavior – there’s a reason my bedt friend coined the term office vultures – but I also tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. Just an alternate perspective.

  31. LifeBeforeCorona*

    My secret skill is cooking any kind of bacon or sausage to perfection every time. We had to add a “3 slices per person” sign to our bacon tray because people in line would be very excited to see crispy bacon arranged neatly in straight rows and scoop up a dozen or more slices. In spite of the sign I still asked people not to take 8 pieces until everyone had a chance to have some.

  32. Sunny Day*

    One day I stopped at Whole Foods on my way into the office to get some scrambled eggs and two slices of bacon from their self serve breakfast bar. A guy approached the tray tray of bacon just as I was approaching it – we were basically on either side of it and got there at the same time. There was only one serving tong, so I politely stepped aside to let him go first. Imagine my shocked surprise when he proceeded to take every single piece of bacon from the tray! He crammed it all into the largest size box, and didn’t even leave 1 or 2 pieces for me. No good deed goes inpunished.

    1. Baby Yoda*

      They had a similar breakfast bar at Harris Teeter, and much to my delight it was sold by the pound and cooked bacon weighs very little. Still no reason to take all of it.

  33. Lizzie*

    #4 reminds me not of a holiday party, but a party with our main department at our corporate headquarters and my satellite dept in a nearby state. We were merging, and some of us were being downsized so this was supposed to be a last hurrah.

    Mind you, this is a corporate legal dept. I was an admin in the satellite office, and my boss arranged for all of us to have transport into the city for the dinner. we went, it was nice, very upscale restaurant, but then we all left. Apparently the attorneys then decided to go bar hopping, and some apparently got so drunk they passed out, threw up, etc. these were VPs and so on, making boucou bucks. VERY glad we didn’t stay, or that we didn’t really have to work with them much anymore.

  34. Shynosaur*

    When I first started at my company, it was my first full-time job, first office job, and I was eager to become part of the group. The team did a Christmas potluck every year, so I worked hard to find something inexpensive and easy to handle (I was still technically homeless and had next to no money, which nobody at work knew) that everybody would love and could maybe become “my thing.” I settled on a crock pot cheese soup that pretty much just required Campbell’s cream of celery and bags of shredded cheese.

    Once I had the crock pot at work, I found out we technically weren’t allowed to have them because “nothing that plugs in” were allowed at desks because somebody had started a fire with an electric blanket a few years before. But the manager liked me, loved the soup idea, and was delighted to help me conspire.

    Once I had the soup in the conference room where we were gathering, though, I realized I had forgotten a significantly important thing about soup: it’s liquid. And I had not thought to bring bowls. or spoons. or a ladle.

    Cue me and the manager frantically pawing around the building in search of paper bowls and spoons, which we did find, and people dipping out soup awkwardly with little plastic spoons. Evidently everyone did love the soup, and months later my manager would still reference it to me, but unrelated to my failure to function as a human, future potlucks were canceled by upper management and I never got the chance to improve my performance.

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