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No I Don't Want to Eat Your Catered Lunch, But I Still Like You!

So my medical office is always getting catered lunches brought in courtesy of various pharmacutical companies. The pharmacy representative brings lunch for the entire office and talks to the doctors and staff about the product they are pushing. Almost all of these lunches are awful catered crap, i.e. rubber chicken in a chafing dish alongside some wilted rice with sad looking salad,etc. And I really have no intention of eating any of it. My problem is the constant pressure I face by co-workers, doctors, and the representative to eat this stuff. They act as if I am almost being rude by ducking out the back or bringing my own lunch.

I am aware of my duties as a good guest when I am in someone's home about eating what is given to me regardless of whether I like it or not. I am aware of no such societal restraints when it comes to an office lunch catered by an outside company. Am I being rude by not eating this stuff? What should I say?

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  1. I have issues with my coworkers ALWAYS wanting to go out to lunch, and I always bring my lunch and just say, "Oh, bummer! I already ate. Thanks, though."

    3 Replies
    1. re: MuppetGrrl

      That's me, it's not an 'issue' though... they are just used to it and since I bring them baked goods all the time, they stopped thinking I'm horribly anti-social (In general I DON'T socilaize with people I know from work... the less they know about my personal life, the BETTER)... but I think part of them can also understand why I'd perfer my home made sammich over a run to Subway, and actually now get complimented a lot about being 'smart' about brining my lunch...


      1. re: Dommy

        "In general I DON'T socilaize with people I know from work... the less they know about my personal life, the BETTER"

        Took the words right out of my mouth ...

        1. re: Dommy

          "and actually now get complimented a lot about being 'smart' about brining my lunch... "

          I think that means they hate you and talk about you at the gourmet Subway.

      2. This is a business, not a social, situation. You are under no obligation to attend or eat whatever they're flogging. This is a great example of using our ingrained "good manners" against us. It's the same as telemarketers calling at dinner time and we feel it would be "rude" not to listen. Just hang up!

        3 Replies
        1. re: pikawicca

          Excellent point, Pikawicca!

          The wonderful Miss Manners keeps making this point - commercial activity (inappropriately) using social forms should be dealt with in a businesslike manner. Social etiquette does not apply, no matter how chummy or generous the come-on is.

          1. re: pikawicca

            I don't think you're obligated to eat a lunch you didn't request or accept and invitation for.

            When telemarketers call and ask if they can "Speak to Mr. or Mrs. Davwud," I simply say "NO" and hang up.


            1. re: Davwud

              Oh, I tell them to call back in an hour....

          2. I work in a lab and there are often product reps who come to campus and bring food to entice people to come by and look at their products. The food is just a marketing ploy, something that makes everyone's drug and medical care costs go up. I don't think you owe them anything.

            1. I second all the above posts.

              Here's a trick ... works in many situations:

              You WOULD, in fact you'd absolutely LOVE TO, but it's not your choice, you CAN'T.

              Think up a reason: religious, dietary (vegan or Kosher or something), medical (maybe a bit of a problem in your office), be creative. And suffer no challenges to your "private personal decision," it aint nobody's bizness but your own.

              6 Replies
              1. re: wayne keyser

                I would avoid lying about something, like an absolute dietary restriction, that you might get caught out on later. As you said, it's nobody's business, so there is no obligation to explain.

                I'd either say "no, thanks" with a smile and leave it at that, or I'd serve myself one or two bites of whatever looks like the least horrible dish. You could make a joke about dieting or something just to lighten it up.

                1. re: Kagey

                  I have used the excuse of "dietary concerns" without being specific enough to describe it as better taste than that crap you just brought us.

                2. re: wayne keyser

                  If you ask Miss Manners, you don't even have to come up with a reason. She says just to say, "Oh, I couldn't possibly!" Without explanation, repeating the simple phrase as necessary. Works like a charm.

                  1. re: wayne keyser

                    These situations always seem to include people you either hardly know or have only met once who insist on wanting to hug. I (holding a diet coke) put out my hand firmly and smile, so I've avoided the soggy food and the physical 'attack'.

                    1. re: ZoeZ

                      Funny, I was going to say something about how many sales reps do you actually want to have lunch with but held back. Certainly most are normal, some are nice, cool people (and that's how they got ahead) that you could see hanging without elsewhere but most I'd rather be pleasant to, get info and leave it at that.

                      Re: keeping biz and personal seperate...that's why the holiday party is often weird or a drag. Most of the time it's harmless but sometimes I'm think why oh why.

                    2. re: wayne keyser

                      I'm against lying in these situations, a simple "thanks, but I brought my own" usually works for me.

                      Saying you have some special dietary need when you don't usually comes back to bite you later.

                    3. I've worked at places where sales rep brought lunch and did their schtick. The smart ones call ahead and ask you want you want. Any way, even if I had to be there for biz reasons I just show up for the info part and then leave. My rationale - I'll stay for the info but lunch is my time and I spend it how I want. That's how I handle it.

                      1. I personally am more likely to listen to reps if they bring food or even better take me out to lunch. The smart ones will find out what you like and bring that.

                        1. I've had to call out a contractor for being wonderful enough to bring pizza for all the engineers. Pepperoni. Sausage. I reminded him that one engineer keeps kosher, one keeps halal, and four others were vegetarian.

                          Now he calls ahead.

                          1. Maybe they just want you to attend the meeting; do they really care if you actually eat or not? I have a friend who makes a good portion of his living right now doing these pharmaceutical catering jobs, and complains how greedy everyone is. If he goes to take the empty boxes back afterwards, they get mad and ask him how are they going to take the leftovers home.

                            1. I've had a somewhat similar problem before.

                              I work in education and when there are workshops, seminars, small conferences, the hosts go to great pains and machinations to be able to provide food. The problem is when it's flu season (for teachers and school staff it seems as if it's always flu season) and there are lots of people in various stages of it hovering over the selections. I have gotten sick before from such communal offerings (especially those platters where they stack the sandwiches. . .tongs or no tongs), and I appear standoffish when I go to the deli downstairs or some other such place.

                              I usually don't tell anyone my reasons and try to be as unobtrusive as possible. If asked I say, well I've had sandwiches all week and want something different.

                              In the sales rep scenario, I guess individually wrapped sandwiches works for me. . .so coordinating in advance is definitely the solution.

                              1. Dealing with the rep is one of the issues addressed by many of the contributors here.

                                But another issue glazebrookgirl raises, one that's not addressed as much, is how to deal with co-workers who treat her poorly for not eating the free lunch.

                                These are people you see day in and day out. They know your dietary restrictions (or lack thereof). They (oftentimes) know what you like to eat or not eat. Furthermore, in glazebrookgirl's case, they are likely to be her supervisors and the decision-makers of the office.

                                Definitely: it's inappropriate for any of them to judge her because she doesn't want to eat a rubber chicken. But the ramifications of how she responds to this type of situation extend beyond the food itself.

                                1. You're in a tricky spot because your managers have expressed the expectation that you join in on these lunches. Were you the most senior person in your workplace, you could easily brush off the reps by saying that you're willing to sit in and have your staff enjoy the luncheon.

                                  Are you willing to affect some kind of nutritional issue? In a medical office you'll have to be vague... in fact you'll probably have to insinuate that you have a propensity for 'digestive' problems because if you claim celiac or something they'll be all over you and you'll never be able to being a baguette in your lunch for the rest of your days. Ooh - maybe you can pass it off as some sort of mild compulsion, rather than "I don't shake hands" your thing will be "I don't eat food from kitchens I don't know", but just prepared for them to start calling you Monk!

                                  1. "Maybe they just want you to attend the meeting; do they really care if you actually eat or not?"

                                    Aren't more people likely to attend if the food is decent?

                                    You're fulfilling the only possible obligation here - to attend the meeting. If people care whether you eat or not, they need to get a life, and maybe take a closer look at what and how they eat. Personally, I'd let them think whatever they want and continue to avoid the crap.

                                    1. How about (smiling) "Gosh, Bob, quit giving me such a hard time. Do I bust your chops about what YOU have for lunch?"

                                      1. A lot of the reps here have starting doing snack like offerings.Usually quite a diverse offering and stuff you can munch on throughout the day.

                                        1. Thanks everyone for reaffirming my own feeling that I do not have any obligation to actually eat this food. I am not going to feel bad anymore and probably come up with some witty comment to make when people give me a hard time. I was more afraid that I had some sort of obligation to eat their food.

                                          I think I am going to smile at everyone, say something funny and hope for the day when the reps start bringing tortas or pupusas instead of rubber chickens.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: glazebrookgirl

                                            hey, these reps paying you for your TIME? thought not.

                                            I'd just say, "Not interested" and leave. They're not feeding you out of the goodness of their hearts. They WANT something from you.

                                          2. In my office, it's a badge of courage when you DON'T eat the food because there are usually so many people that go crazy over free food. If I don't like what they're serving, I just hang back and sip on a soft drink. If someone says something, I sarcastically say, "Oh, today isn't my white meat day." Half the time they think I'm serious.