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potluck ettiquette

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so my office has monthly potlucks where we all buy or make a dish. a small group of coworkers continue to group up and buy the same mexican platter every month no matter what theme the potluck is. the sad thing is most of us spend at least 10 to 20 dollars on our dishes while they barely spend over 5. they even bought this mexican platter to a luau theme potluck.
my question is it wrong that this angers us. what can we say or do? its gotten to the point we don't even want them to contribute.

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  1. That sounds frustrating. It seems like there are a number of options.

    1. End the potlucks.

    2. Set a price recommendation per person and mandate closer adherence to the theme.

    3. Have an opt-in plan. They may be doing this b/c they do not like having to participate, so it is their lazy, passive aggressive way of protesting. If you do a monthly opt-in plan, they can opt out and no hard feelings should result.

    3. Do a cost/benefit analysis. If the average courteous, well-mannered employee is spending $15 per potluck, and the average mooch is spending $5, that averages out to a $120 difference in what you are spending per year. You have to decide whether that $120 is worth upsetting office relations over.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Cachetes

      great suggestions. ending them would be sad though they can be so much fun. its sad when people try to ruin things

      1. re: starkrazi

        Not sure who would be trying to ruin it, the cheapies or the people who might point out their cheapness... let it go.

      2. re: Cachetes

        Either end them or respect the fact that there are people who don't have the time or money to participate in potlucks, I know that my budget is limited and I always choose not to bring anything to the potlucks, but I don't mooch, I simply go to a different part of the breakroom to eat my lunch.

      3. The rest of you should all bring the same mexican platter to a potluck so that all you have is this one platter x 10. Maybe they'll get the hint then.

        5 Replies
        1. re: lynnlato

          Ooh, I like this suggestion better! That would be pretty funny!

          1. re: lynnlato

            i like that one too. great idea!!

            1. re: lynnlato

              Talk about being passive agressive.

              1. re: PeterL

                seriously!

              2. re: lynnlato

                This is awesome. I vote for this one. tell them that since they like it so much you thought they might want more.

              3. i feel like there's always that person/group at every office potluck...mine was a person who'd run to chick fil-a and buy 3 small boxes of chicken nuggets. They looked pretty ridiculous next to the crockpot of swedish meatballs, tortelini salad and deviled eggs.
                no one ever confronted her...but we all gave her the evil eye when she went in for seconds.

                11 Replies
                1. re: taresa514

                  i agree its the principal of not contributing like everyone else is but they can still enjoy the other lavish foods that others make.

                  1. re: starkrazi

                    Sounds to me like they are trying to make a point that they don't like contributing to these things and don't have the time or energy to put into it. I personally hate these things as most of the food is stuff I don't or won't eat anyway and being forced to participate because everyone else does it would make me irritated and I'd probably just bring a bag of chips or whatever. I think this is the problem with these types of things being office-wide. Not everyone wants to participate in them.

                    1. re: rockandroller1

                      Seconded. Personally I just don't bring anything and then don't go - if/when (usually when) I'm prodded that I should go anyways, I will but I don't really care to participate in these sorts of things. If I'm in a situation where I'm pretty much forced to participate, I'll be one of those dopes who runs downstairs to the quickie mart to grab the proverbial bag o' chips (or mexican platter)

                      1. re: rockandroller1

                        Yes, but this particular person, as taresa stated, would always go in for 2nd helpings of food - so while she doesn't like contributing to it or have the time or energy, then she also shouldn't have the time or energy to go in for seconds.

                    2. re: taresa514

                      Yup. You'll generally have at least one in every large group. I knew somebody who always made sure she brought the cheapest thing to these events. And she'd brag about it -- "I'm going to bring the Chinese tofu dessert. And it's only two dollars!"

                      1. re: taresa514

                        I have a friend, otherwise kind and generous, who was like that. I think it was a matter of poor organisation, certainly not stinginess. She would always show up with something like a little tin of smoked oysters from a dollar store, and some horrid wine from a "dépanneur" (corner store - good wines are sold by a government monopoly in Québec).

                        Fortunately now she is married, and her husband is much better organised about such things - perhaps because he is vegetarian, so must always make sure there are nutritious and tasty things he can eat!

                        1. re: taresa514

                          Hey -- I once had someone bring a crockpot of Bush's beans -- and she took the leftovers home!

                          1. re: RGC1982

                            And you should thank your lucky stars!

                            1. re: BeaN

                              Bush's beans aside, I am curious what one would be expected to do with the leftovers from a potluck? If I brought something in a crockpot, I would put the lid on the pot and take home whatever was left in it. Whether or not it was edible when I arrived home would be my issue. Same if I brought a big platter of something.

                              Is that not acceptable? Should everyone dump everything out and wash dishes together in the break room? Or should the leftovers be communal? Very curious!

                              1. re: 16crab

                                "I am curious what one would be expected to do with the leftovers from a potluck?"

                                I suppose it depends.

                                I'm usually (always) relegated to dessert duty, so it's easier to divvy up and store. I'm partial to disposable containers for transporting just for this reason. Not cheap-o ugly stuff, but I buy bakery boxes in bulk in varying sizes and tie with ribbon to bring to dinner parties or casual get-togethers. I also have small decorative clamshell containers (plastic) which make it easy to give a half dozen cookies or what have you.

                                Anyway, I always offer up leftovers to the host(s) or other guests. Usually they keep them, but if they don't, I happily take them home.

                                I can imagine leftovers at an office potluck are more of a PITA, since you probably don't have a kitchen fully-stocked with Tupperware and a Foodsaver. Are you supposed to leave your crockpot in the office fridge for the next few days? Kinda gross. I think it's perfectly fine to just take your dish/platter/pot home with you at the end of the day, leftovers and all, unless someone has asked for some.

                                1. re: nothingswrong

                                  Yes, I agree potluck at someone's home is different. At the office, though, any leftovers left behind are inevitably going to become someone else's cleanup problem.

                        2. Maybe the next potluck should have an "International Econo Platters" theme. The office celebrates diversity with platters of cheap food from, well, Mexico's taken, a Chinese take-out joint, an Italian dried-out antipasti plate, etc. etc. Endless possibilities -- and everyone saves time and money!!

                          1. I'd also like to mention that not everyone has an extra $120-240 a year to spend on work potlucks! In addition to chipping in for birthday lunches, gifts, retirement cake, stuff people's kids are selling, I spend enough money at work and I can't afford to spend an extra $300 a year on a potluck for work.

                            16 Replies
                            1. re: rockandroller1

                              RR1, you bring up two good points -- some people don't want to participate and the money issue. For some people being cheap is not an issue of money. The person I was referring to in my post above had a bank account in the hundreds of thousands by her mid-20s (probably from her frugality). Being frugal was like a game to her -- how far can she go. But there are those who really do need to watch every dollar and there are those who just don't wish to participate in these office events.

                              To the OP -- before you use any of these tactics -- ie. bringing the same Mexican plate to the potluck, perhaps you should ask everybody if they want to be included in these potlucks.

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                However, if they don't wish to contribute to the potluck or play in the reindeer games, then they also shouldn't eat the food provided by others who *do* want to participate in the potluck.

                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  Agreed, but as I mentioned in a post up above, at my current job even if you try to "sit out" sooner or later the powers that be (of the potluck, not the job) come by and badger you to go anyways.

                                  So I feel bad, but I don't. If they want to force me to go even after I didn't bring anything and tried to not go, I'll eat their food.

                                  1. re: jgg13

                                    Tell them your fasting for religous reasons, tell them your keeping kosher and can't eat with Gentiles, tell them your a vegan and allergic to any meats, tell them you have a nut allergy, tell them you have a STD and don't want to spread anything....make up an excuse sometimes the more bizarre and they may get the idea !!

                                    1. re: Hue

                                      Then you're not only a non-team-player, but a liar as well!

                                  2. re: LindaWhit

                                    No office party is optional. Ever.

                                    1. re: tigercrane

                                      Excuse me, maybe not at companies at which you've worked, but yes they have been at several companies at which *I've* worked.

                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                        You just *think* they're optional.

                                        1. re: tigercrane

                                          tigercrane, please don't tell me what I think or don't think. I *KNOW* it was optional.

                                          In former companies at which I worked, I was the one charged with organizing the potlucks, much as I didn't really want to do so. And it was specifically told to me *by my management* that if people didn't want to join in, they didn't have to. However, they also didn't get to partake of what got brought in. And that was told to the division's employees. And guess what? Some people didn't contribute, and those people didn't show up! Voilà! How SIMPLE is that?

                                          Regardless, you have no clue as to what was or wasn't required where I worked. So please stop speaking as if you did.

                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                            You're missing my point Linda. Office potlucks are optional only insofar as you have the *option* to be the weird guy sitting at his desk eating cup of noodles.

                                            Its "optional" in the sense that tipping a waiter or getting your lover a valentine's gift is optional.

                                            You have the option, but there will be consequences.

                                            It's not mandatory, but obligatory.

                                            This is why I, and others on the board are skeeved out by a monthly potluck, especially one in which people are being graded on what they bring.

                                            1. re: tigercrane

                                              And yet again, tiger, you miss MY point. They're *not* always obligatory. NOR are there always consequences. Perhaps where you've worked there are. Not at two different places I've worked.

                                          2. re: tigercrane

                                            Boy, is that true. At least in my experience.

                                            Oops, meant to reply to tigercrane. Not sure where this will ultimately appear.

                                    2. re: Miss Needle

                                      I also wouldn't do it every month. We do a thing like that here but it's only a couple of times a year and you sign up to bring something in advance; if you don't sign up, you aren't required to bring and aren't supposed to go there and eat - there will be cannibals/food stealers everywhere but they are in the minority. It's best if there is a "manager" of the event so that they can look it over and call people and say, "oh, we don't really need a mexican platter for this event, it's hawaiian themed, could you perhaps bring some dried fruit instead or offer something else more with the theme?" If you don't assign someone to that duty, half the people will sign up to bring chips and then eat everyone else's food.

                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                        I was going to make the same suggestion. The few potlucks we've done at my work, the more successful were the ones with a big piece of chart paper with categories - mains, salads, desserts, drinks, cups, napkins, etc. etc. Perhaps you could start the signup sheet in a different department each time (and yes, I agree monthly is a bit much - 3 or 4 times a year seems sufficient to me!) so that everyone could have the opportunity to be cheap or lazy and bring the chips or napkins. Perhaps if they were less often, too, the Mexican-platter bringers would be more inclined to be a little more creative.

                                    3. re: rockandroller1

                                      I have to agree w RR1, and also keep in mind that not everyone is a cook, or has the time to cook. On staff development days we have a breakfast at work, I prefer to bring the tea selection and coffee. Not because I don't want to make something, but because when I get home from work I want to spend time with my daughter and my husband. My life is stressful enough I don't need to add to it :-)

                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                        Maybe those people should choose not to participate then.

                                      2. Maybe they don't cook. Maybe they have financial issues. Maybe they think you are imposing on them with this potluck idea and this is their passive aggression. Or maybe they are just lazy or cheap or both.

                                        Lots of possibilities.

                                        What can you do? Communication and understanding would be a good start.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: PeterL

                                          Maybe it's the only food they like? Starkrazi doesn't say if that group ate food that others brought in.

                                        2. I'm the social director/potluck organizer for my office's 2nd shift. There's only about 8 of us in the department, and the culinary skills of our current staff range from qualified to "ramen noodles with velveeta". When I'm asked to organize a potluck (by co-workers -- our managers are out the door long before we eat) I sometimes proclaim a theme, but it's mostly to narrow down what I'm bringing, since I generally end up cooking a main dish. The rest bring whatever they feel like bringing, and there's always someone who "forgets" and has to run down the street to Popeyes or to the cafeteria to buy individually-wrapped sandwiches and bags of chips. And there's always that one "ramen-themed" dish from the guy downstairs. He likes ramen, so his assumption is we'll like it, too. Everyone gets fed, but sometimes it bothers me that I spend a couple hours before work getting a dish ready for us to eat, and then someone puts out a jar of pickles and a bag of Doritos.
                                          Once a year, for the Thursday before Thanksgiving, I take up a collection and "cater Thanksgiving dinner" for the co-workers, the whole spread. I probably lose money on the venture every year, but once a year we get a real meal, the rest of the year I bite my tongue and eat the cheese ramen. At least we like to get together and have a bite to eat.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: podunkboy

                                            I'm feeling a little ill just thinking about the cheese ramen!

                                          2. I've never understood why people get upset about the amount of money spent on a potluck (or bridal shower, baby shower, wedding gift, or anything else voluntary). Why should the amount of money *you choose* to spend dictate the amount of money *anyone else chooses* to spend?

                                            I'm a pretty generous person, but I'd be irritated if I was told I needed to spend a certain dollar amount for a potluck. Maybe my fantastic (and very popular) coconut macaroons with almonds and cranberries don't cost $20 to make.

                                            It seems that the bigger issue is that the food they are bringing (as a group) is no longer wanted. If you'd like to avoid this Mexican platter, why not ask them to bring beverages, paper/plastic products, or decorations, or to supply appropriately themed music? And maybe someone has the tact (or balls) to tell them that the Mexican platter has worn out its welcome.

                                            1. Where are these people finding a 'platter' for $5???????

                                              You need to let this go. Someone will always be the weak link in a potluck. Ranting about it will drive away the 'good' participants. For many of us, the jr. high drama surrounding these events is the reason we would never think of getting involved.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Kater

                                                OP said a small group chips in to buy the platter, so they may mean $5 each.

                                                Either way, that is beyond rude, I would say something like "PLEASE no more bean dip and chip platters, last months bean dip caused a noxious cloud of flatulance in the office which lingered for several hours."

                                              2. I'm casting my vote for "let it go." I've seen everything from co-workers who just hate the feeling of obligation - that they have to "compete" as to what dish they bring, to those who relish the competition. (People: It's a potluck, not the freakin' Olympics!!) And I have a very good friend who is not a great cook and is truly really scared she's gonna poison someone (not intentionally, of course) if she attempts to cook something. She always goes out to buy something to bring.

                                                Other times, a co-worker ends up bringing jarred salsa and chips because a child got unexpectedly ill the night before and Mom wasn't able to cook her planned potluck dish.

                                                I really think part of the problem is that you're doing this every month. It's part of your office's "mandatory fun" (that's what I call it, anyway). At some point, these monthly things become drudgery for a lot of employees - I'd be willing to bet that's why your little group is now in its Mexican platter rut. They simply lack the desire and the energy to think of anything different to bring. If you all insist on doing this every month, I think you're just going to have to accept that these folks are just going along to get along. A lot of us do that in cubicle-world. Getting angry? Come on. That's a waste of YOUR time and energy.

                                                18 Replies
                                                1. re: k_d

                                                  Potlucks should be voluntary only. But I do think that bean dips are a huge no no at offices... close confined quarters and mexican food, NOT a good mix.

                                                  1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                    I agree with a lot of the posts. It’s a potluck, voluntary food, and other potluckers should not get upset because they decided to spend days planning/shopping/making something really good when someone else goes to the store 5 minutes before and shows up with a bag of chips.

                                                    I found myself in a similar situation, although not potluck. When my SIL would invite me over for dinner I would ask what to bring. I would go out of my way, find the best recipe, the freshest ingredients, spending top dollar, etc and find that my dish was the only one not out of a jar. Its taken years but I have finally accepted her way and now I do not go out of my way or spend a lot of money. Last week I made a simple veggie platter, saving me the stress and money and IMO it was still the best food there.

                                                    1. re: jesoda

                                                      I love veggie and fruit platters, or simple finger foods at potlucks, gatherings etc. I tend to gravitate to foods I can eat without having to use utensils.

                                                      1. re: jesoda

                                                        Funny, I learned a similar method with my in-laws' gatherings. There's always too much food anyway and almost all of it processed or done with shortcuts/assembling canned/frozen ingredients ("rachel ray cooking") so I quit bothering to make things to bring. If I end up bringing something, it mimics the plastic-covered, store-bought things that others bring. This is why we now have 2 holiday dinners every year - one at the in-laws with mr. rockandroller's family, and our own "foodie" version with a small group of close friends where everything is made from scratch and tasty.

                                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                                          so does hte mexican platter get eaten every time?

                                                          1. re: LaLa

                                                            Excellent question, LaLa.

                                                            1. re: LaLa

                                                              this last time not really. it was the only dish left full, everyone elses dishes were eaten up.

                                                      2. re: k_d

                                                        Agreed with the "forced fun" thought. A lot of people feel compelled to contribute because it looks worse to avoid the event entirely than to bring the same thing every time. Some may not have the time or ability to make something creative, others may not have the money. Maybe the coworker likes the camaraderie of the group and does not want to quit or admit that cooking isn't his/her forte or that there are financial issues?

                                                        1. re: queencru

                                                          At least potlucks are more democratic than those "forced fun" lunches out, where one's far better-paid coworkers usually pick a place slightly out of one's price range, proceed to order plenty of food and drink, and -- despite one's attempt to order one of the cheaper options and stick to water -- insist on splitting the bill evenly. (And last time I declined such an outing, three coworkers, including my boss...twice...asked why I didn't go. These things aren't as voluntary as they seem.)

                                                          I wouldn't necessarily be offended if someone brought doughnuts or a bucket of fried chicken to a get-together. Some people just have very little money to spend.

                                                          1. re: merrymc

                                                            I had a manager like that: He'd go all pissy if you declined attending an off-site lunch. I learned to be blunt; when he started paying for my meals, I'd happily attend. It wasn't an issue after setting the ground rules.

                                                            1. re: The Ranger

                                                              I would rather die than have to eat potluck with my office mates once a month. I really would. We do not all have the same ideas about food- from the secretary who loves fries and junk food, to the consultant who believes himself to be a great cook but is pretty much the dirtiest guy I know- NO WAY. Food is pretty personal. I like to know where and how it was made...perhaps I'm a bit odd on this?

                                                              1. re: nummanumma

                                                                Not at all. It is one of the reasons I don't agree to parties at my house in which the guest bring food. I control the food, and if they really insist, I let them bring desserts only. At then I know that the food was preparely safely, and cleanly, and is of good quality. Yeah, call me a control freak, but I hear too many "five second rule" comments for me to be comfortable.

                                                                1. re: RGC1982

                                                                  In my house it's "clean tile," even when SWMBO is around, but then it's not one of my buttons.

                                                                  1. re: RGC1982

                                                                    at casa jfood the 5-second rule is when you drop something on the floor you have five seconds to pick it up and throw it away or jfood yells "clean up on aisle 1" and I come running to help.

                                                                  2. re: nummanumma

                                                                    I've run into this attitude as well (socializing on any level with one's workmates is akin to a root canal performed with a butter knife and spoon without a local.) To those people, I live what I preach, "That's fine. Don't attend." There are lots of reasons that people don't like to attend company functions. It's when these things [company-sponsored events on- and off-site] get tied into amorphous objectives that it becomes tricky. That's when you should send out your updated resume.

                                                                    1. re: The Ranger

                                                                      I think there are just some people who prefer to keep their work life separate from their home life, but in some fields, it's sort of a requirement no matter what workplace you're in. It's not always that easy to do your work everyday and go home if you are in one of these fields, especially when promotion can be tied to how much schmoozing you do. At least with a potluck, you can participate with minimal effort. I've been to many workplaces where it seems like playing golf is essential to get promoted. This is something that requires a lot more commitment.

                                                                      1. re: queencru

                                                                        Ever see the Seinfeld episode where "independent George"and
                                                                        "commitment George"..collide?

                                                                2. re: merrymc

                                                                  Amen! I worked at a place where there were these exact lunches, to celebrate select birthdays, including one for the OWNER (pardon my caps, but it still annoys me) of the company. After I'd been there two years, I made it to the worthy-of-birthday-lunch list, and the blow-back from my polite but definite request to forgo it was just about unbearable. One of many (granted, lesser) reasons I don't work there any longer.

                                                            2. Maybe they're just truly oblivious. Perhaps they don't enjoy cooking or spending money but like the potlucks and just think they've found the perfect way to participate by being lazy.

                                                              1. Maybe they're fussy eaters and they just really really like the Mexican platters? Or their imaginations are as limited as their free time and they don't know what else to get... either way, it's really not worth making a fuss over it. If people want to eat the Mexican platter, it'll be eaten, and if they're sick of it it won't... not a big deal.

                                                                1. I would just like to underscore that this potluck is, to the extent participation is not truly voluntary, a work event rather than an authentically social event. In that case, one should not bring social etiquette expectations to it.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                    What are the social expectations for potluck? To me, it's all about individuals contributing what they are comfortable with. If the organizer wants to control the outcome (beyond a sign-up sheet or assigning general categories such as "dessert" or "salad"), then they should call it a Gourmet Club or some such and lay out the expectations.

                                                                  2. We had people that were bringing bags of chips, etc. so our office started giving the option to just give $5 to the person coordinating and she would pool all the money and order in pizza or have someone go pick up buckets of chicken.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: duckduck

                                                                      at the office I worked at where we had a monthly potluck, we did this also: either bring a dish or contribute to take-out...then the organizers would go get a Cheeseboard pizza (good stuff in Berkeley, CA)...

                                                                      but personally, count me in the every month is too often. I didn't want to attend that much, but felt an obligation (indeed, it was an obligation: my boss suggested to me at one point that I really should go to the potlucks more often...). I don't think there should be expectations about what people should do for a supposedly voluntary event that really isn't voluntary: so, for OP, think about what the office politics consequences of not going would be.....

                                                                      Besides, they may like the Mexican platter.

                                                                      In my most recent job, instead of potlucks we had a time every month or so where we reserved the conference room for a bring your own lunch, with an invite that made it clear it was strictly voluntary. People could bring in whatever they brown bagged, or go pick up something at the building cafe and bring it over, whatever. Now and then someone would bring drinks or a dessert to share, but only because they felt like it. We'd sometimes play cards or other games; the only rule was, "No Talking Shop". Much more fun than a potluck.

                                                                    2. I worked in an office that did a potluck lunch each month to celebrate birthdays and the two young single guys always cheaped out/ cheated and brought a bag of buns or a cheese ball. And of course they were the ones who always had third or fourth helpings. Basically they vacuumed down anything that was left. Finally one of the older women decided that each of us had to take a turn bringing the main dish. And not surprisingly, one had one small pizza delivered on his turn and the other brought tins of generic chili. So I think what we learned from that was that those folks who are not inclined to make any real contribution will always find a way to do a little as possible. |t is a fact of office life just like those folks who never make a fresh pot of coffee or clean out the fridge.

                                                                      1. Yes. It is wrong that this angers you. You are at WORK, not a family gathering or social event. Focus on your work and maybe this will not be an issue. Let's see. I was hired to do data entry, but now I have to be a creative cook to appease the food snobs in my office. Then, when I do participate, someone is going to call me out because I did not spend enough or make a big enough effort. Where was this in my job description? No thanks. I can think of a lot of better ways to spend $20 a month (like a nice lunch by myself). If I worked at this office, I would talk to the boss to stop this meaningless event. I think the mexican platter employees are making a point that they don't care about your little pot luck event. Back to work, people! That is why you are there in the first place.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: scscr

                                                                          Lunches BAH! HUMBUG!

                                                                        2. I worked at a place where they had a potluck every other week it seemed. I refused to participate, because I am a stickler for food safety and they were not. Platters were left out for hours, crockpots turned off and on all day, food left uncovered - and people on the evening shift actually ate this stuff - Blechh! The best part was all that food would be on the table the next day - ick.

                                                                          1. Are you in charge of organizing these potlucks? If so, you can simply assign the group another platter of food (fruit, vegetables, meats) representative of the theme. If it's a more informal gathering (no one is managing it) then there's nothing you can do and you'll just have to live with the Mexican platter. Eventually no one will touch the platter, including the group buying it, and it'll simply stop being brought.

                                                                            1. My business does potlucks on birthdays. The office provides a birthday cake, and everyone brings a dish....but if you don't bring a dish you are still welcome. Our experience is that there is always more food than necessary. Some people bring inexpensive takeout, some make elaborate dishes. No one seems to care. The one thing that seems to be missing is drinks (none are provided; no one thinks to bring them, and the only available drinks are from a vending machine or the water cooler.) I think some kind of non-alcoholic punch or fruit juice will be my next contribution.....

                                                                              I say if you don't like what they contribute every month, don't eat it...they'll get the hint. Or maybe they won't, becuase maybe THEY like it.

                                                                              1. Interesting that so much ire can be generated by something with such a self descriptive name. Pot Luck. Very chancy. One time I was the one who showed up with the chips and salsa - for various reasons it was the best I could do that day. In this case no one knew I brought it, and I heard a lot of people complain about it... most of them as they were standing there eating it.

                                                                                Yes, i know... in the OP's situation it is always the same group. They have their reasons. Apparently no one cares to find out what those reasons are. Is anyone eating the "mexican platter" (whatever the heck that is), or does it sit there untouched at the end of the event?

                                                                                Let it go.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                  I just read this thread up to here and I too have no idea what a Mexican platter is.

                                                                                  1. re: porky pine

                                                                                    I googled "mexican platter" when this was first posted. Still no idea what it is.

                                                                                    The idea of a monthly potluck is the thing my nightmares are made of. Makes me glad I no longer work a corporate job.

                                                                                2. There seems to be some confusion to my question. First off many of us can afford it for those who can't we know who they are and don't bother if they can't contribute as much or at all. But this same group brings the same dish (nachos) and no one touched it while everything else was eaten and enjoyed. Some one did ask them why they always bring it especially since we had a theme. they lied and said they didn't know it was a theme and that is just easy to go across the street and buy the nachos. they are lame because the invitation clearly stated it was a luau and we all knew it was a hawaiian theme. It is an inside joke that they always bring the same thing. So it isn't about money, it's that they don't care and are cheap and lazy. Which coincidentally is how they are at work. They complain about everything, talk about everyone, and are very very lazy. I just wanted to know if I and the rest of us are wrong to let it bother us and what we could do to maybe remedy the problem(if it is a problem).

                                                                                  Our potlucks are for each employee who has a birthday in that month. So this month we are having a bbq theme for a coworker whos bday is in July. One coworker never participates and its fine with us she has her reasons, so it is not mandatory for anyone to come. It is an open invitation.

                                                                                  22 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: starkrazi

                                                                                    sounds like the mexican platter is not the real issue. why don't you talk to the cheap, complaining, lazy liers about their cheapness, complaining, laziness and lying?

                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                      I am intriguedto the contents of said mexican platter. Maybe you should offer them some new "mexican" recipes - let's say - chorizo queso dip, guacomole, mexican wedding cookies if they like Mexican food so much. Do so in a kind way, not snotty - and maybe they will get some new ideas.

                                                                                      OR, you need to set a theme. For ex, Italian Week - the mexi platter will look pretty lame. The next time, BBQ, next one is salads or whatever.

                                                                                      1. re: stellamystar

                                                                                        The OP already said each potluck has a theme - last time was a luau, this time it's a BBQ. So the lazy folk who continually bring the nacho platter are just that - lazy and moochers, because they get to eat what everyone else brings that tie in with the theme.

                                                                                    2. re: starkrazi

                                                                                      Who's in charge of these events? Who's making sure your group doesn't have the same lame, cheap, very, very lazy non-participants bringing the same lame, cheap, very, very lazy dish?

                                                                                      As you said, it's an open invitation to participate in these potlucks so you're simply going to have to stick to the current group's passive-aggressive behavior of leaving the nachos until last (untouched) that's currently happening. If enough people (especially a manager) start noticing and making comments, then change will happen. Otherwise, you've already got your answer; they don't care and there's nothing you can do to make them change.

                                                                                      1. re: The Ranger

                                                                                        God forbid my manager start putting in their two cents about potluck contributions ;)

                                                                                        I would have no idea what to bring to a Hawaii-themed event, other than pineapple, which I can't carve to save my life, so it would have to be precut chunks from the grocery store. I would love to hear about what others brought!

                                                                                        1. re: julesrules

                                                                                          I once made noises about the items that were brought to a "potluck" at one company and found myself "chairman" of the next dozen. It helped prevent double-ups and the three times we went with themes (Halloween, Diwali, 4th of July) I was able to "cater" the dishes to the event. I also didn't allow the same people to bring a 7-11-sized bag of Doritos to every event. If you brought chips to one, you brought a salad to the next; if you provided a main, you got to bring chips the next time (loved my spreadsheet). It rotated nicely and no one felt cheated. If you attended, and chose to not bring something to one, I didn't say anything beyond "Okay. Next time you can volunteer for something." And I'd make sure to contact them first. I also called everyone the day before to remind them of the event and what they'd promised to bring.

                                                                                          For a Hawaiian theme, there are several items you can do: Pineapple, macaroni salad, pork ribs, chicken teriyaki... If you have either a J&J or LL (chain restaurants) near you, stop on by. The food's not bad and you can bulk up like a true Hawaiian. :)

                                                                                          1. re: The Ranger

                                                                                            I like organized potlucks and yours sound like fun. But I would resent any perceived expectation from my boss about what is supposed to be a non-mandatory social event.

                                                                                            1. re: julesrules

                                                                                              True enough but in the case of a manager speaking up, it was generally to prevent abuses from continuing by the "I'll bring a minipack of Zee napkins every time" duo that seem to be so prevalent in hi tech. (Or in this case, the Nacho Brigade.) :)

                                                                                            2. re: The Ranger

                                                                                              Hawaiian is an impossible cuisine for vegetarians! Coincidentally, our company (which provides employee luncheons at our monthly meetings) decided to go with Hawaiian for its last one - I guess they were sick of the Mexican or Chinese they usually order. Poor Morticia got stuck eating one spoonful of mushy macaroni salad, dripping with mayonaise - all she could stomach, unfortunately!

                                                                                            3. re: julesrules

                                                                                              here is what i remember some brought, a tropical punch, fruit salad, pineapple coleslaw, pineapple upside down cake, egg rolls, orange chicken, nachos, salad, Hawaiian sweet rolls, chicken katsu,

                                                                                              1. re: starkrazi

                                                                                                I'm in Canada and we don't have Hawaiian restaurants (well maybe on the west coast...). The food sounds good but overall on the sweet side! I have a sweet tooth and I like fruit and sweet sauces with my mains too, but I am wondering what they do for bitter and savoury flavours?

                                                                                          2. re: starkrazi

                                                                                            I'd say that for the lazy people, just give them the option of paying a certain amount in advance to contribute to someone else's dish. That way they can be lazy and still contribute to the meal in a way that will be helpful to others.

                                                                                            1. re: starkrazi

                                                                                              it seems that they feel they have a point to make, and there really isn't anything you can do - except ignore it. yeah, its annoying - but why let it get in the way of having a good time. they are gonna play their silly game, no one says any of the rest of you have to play along.

                                                                                              1. re: starkrazi

                                                                                                It's so natural that this would bother you, but it seems that it is ruining your fun more than the nacho-platter-co-workers (and maybe even giving them a little satisfaction that it is ruining your fun?). My last office used to have a sign-up sheet. If you really wanted to try to change them, you could have the dishes/paper products/drink options of what to bring already specified on the sign-up sheet and have people only bring what is on the list. Or, as another suggested, simply ask them to bring drinks. 2-liter bottles of soda and bags of ice are cheap, and are needed - so maybe you could channel their cheapness into something that would make everyone happy. And no one would have to look at bean dip again. If you are able to let it go, do so for your own peace of mind, and focus on having fun. That being said, I would never passive aggressively suggest that platters of nachos end up on their respective desks after the potluck.

                                                                                                1. re: starkrazi

                                                                                                  Starkrazi-
                                                                                                  I don't think there was any confusion regarding your post. In your initial post you mention a "mexican platter" Now you're saying they just bring just nachos. I'm curious as to what the difference is. Especially since you say they spend $5 each. nachos IMO are only $5-10 total. It sounds like you have issues with your co-workers beyond what they bring to the Pot Luck. Not everyone has the free time to make a home made dish for their co-workers. I hope you don't ruin the fun of your Pot lucks, simply because someone doesn't bring what you want them to bring.
                                                                                                  If it is that important to you, my suggestion would be to make a list and mandate what people should bring. I have to warn you though, that most likely many will stop attending all together.

                                                                                                  1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                                                    I don't ruin our potlucks nor could I,if anything I contribute plenty and everything I bring is a huge hit. I don't see why you are asking the difference between a mexican platter and nachos because nachos are mexican and are served on a platter. the ones they buy are barely 10 dollars and the last time they bought them 4 people chipped in so that was barely 3 dollars a person. In my first post I never said they spend 5 each I said they barely spend over 5. And for time spent making something I don't care if its store bought. One person brought pineapple coconut ice cream (so good) another brought chicken katsu from L&L, and another bought sweet hawaiian rolls.

                                                                                                    1. re: starkrazi

                                                                                                      You're missing the point. You may ruin your own enjoyment of the potluck because you can't either get over this, or ask them to bring something else. Why give them so much power over you, over nachos?

                                                                                                  2. re: starkrazi

                                                                                                    Put "no nachos please!" on your next invite.

                                                                                                    1. re: starkrazi

                                                                                                      What the heck are you supposed to bring to a Luau? Suckling pig, pink pork ribs, and poi are the only things that come to mind.

                                                                                                      1. re: tigercrane

                                                                                                        then you have never been to a luau. and what the heck are 'pink pork ribs'?

                                                                                                        if you want a 'traditional' luau you would have kalua pig, laulau, squid or chicken luau, chicken long rice, lomi lomi salmon, poke, poi, and haupia.

                                                                                                        more modern additions include teri-chicken, roast pork, a fish preparation, lumpia/spring rolls, kim chee, kalbi, chow mein, barbecue meat (shoyu not tomato based), fried chicken, and any other family favorites.

                                                                                                        perhaps you should research things more before you offer judgmental comments.

                                                                                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                          That's my point! I've never been to a luau, and I've not heard of most of the things you mentioned!

                                                                                                          "Pink pork ribs" are the sticky glazed spareribs that they serve at tiki bars. like this one:

                                                                                                          http://bahooka.com/

                                                                                                          I'm admitting to complete ignorance of Hawaiian cuisine, which is why its onerous to expect me to come up with a luau dish.

                                                                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                            kaimukiman, i wanna come to your luau!!!!!!!!! YUMMY!

                                                                                                      2. I hate potlucks. No one at one of my offices makes anything with any flavor or creativity. It's a lame taco dip, a dry pasta salad, a few bags of chips, and a pan of brownies. I, however, usually bring something that took me an hour or more to assemble and usually wasn't cheap. I started finding ways to work at my other office those days.

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Stillwater Girl

                                                                                                          True, Stillwater Girl. I can't imagine such an idea working in my organization.

                                                                                                          'Cheap' was the office motto.

                                                                                                          1. re: Stillwater Girl

                                                                                                            So doesn't that mean that you WIN?

                                                                                                          2. This thread seems to be mostly about office potlucks, and monthly ones at that. Personally, I don't necessarily feel like spending so much money on people I happen to work with, unless I feel a real solidarity with them ... y'know, "mates".

                                                                                                            Should those of us concerned with potluck etiquette outside the work environment start up another thread?

                                                                                                            I don't hate potlucks, but the ones we have involve friends (thinking at least two distinct groups of friends) who really like going to the effort of making or buying something nice. There are dishes it doesn't even seem worth the while of making for one or two people in a small household.

                                                                                                            1. I think the overall problem here is that most people are unimaginative and lazy when it comes to food preparation, and if throw "cheap" into the mix (probably because food is not that important to them), you end up with Mexican platters at the luau.

                                                                                                              I know one woman who is so Machevellian about the "cheap and easy" way out, that she usurps that option from the originator for the next potluck if she finds their choice cheaper or easier. So, in this case, my friend would order the Mexican platter for the luau and then have the audacity to tell the group that always brings it to pick something else because she has already purchased the Mexican platter. See how this works? It may even work for you.

                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: RGC1982

                                                                                                                'unimaginative and lazy'
                                                                                                                Oy. This is just the sort of statement that can cause all sorts of stress around a pot luck. Not everyone is a great cook. Not everyone has the luxury of time (some have less money and more caretaking). Not everyone knows where to get good food that's already prepared.
                                                                                                                I find that on these boards, there's a pretty unforgiving tendency. I wonder if we could all start to be kinder to those who may not be as fortunate... or maybe even as interested. Perhaps these same people have a thing to tell us about our wardrobes, our reading choices, our grammar...

                                                                                                                1. re: Lizard

                                                                                                                  Lizard,

                                                                                                                  Thank you for expressing this so well. (I agree completely.)

                                                                                                                  It's one thing to be passionate about food, but putting other people down because their attitude toward food is different...That's just unnecessary. We don't have to EAT their food. Potluck means you never know what will show up at the table. Sometimes the surprise is good, sometimes not.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Lizard

                                                                                                                    Personally, I take a job at a place to support my family, not because I cannot find friends to socialize with. I am not going to spend hours cooking some unfamiliar recipe just because someone declares that it is "luau day."

                                                                                                                    If you want a "luau day", invite all your friends over to your place and leave your poor coworkers out of the equation.

                                                                                                                    A potluck by definition is that you take your chances with what is brought in.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Lizard

                                                                                                                      Yeah, a lot of judging going around which takes some of the fun out of potlucking. That said, we have potluck a at my work fairly regularly and there's one person besides myself who can cook. We have a good laugh alone at some of the awful dishes we've endured such as one manager's soggy crock pot "hot wings" (raw wings and bottled buffalo sauce steamed in the CP all day mmmmm) but we are careful not to be mean and not to be heard, and I deliberately don't bring my awesome wings so I won't accidentally upstage or humiliate her.
                                                                                                                      Some people are just not in the spirit of the potluck, and I agree with the linked article "The culinary arts, for those with no interest in them, are nothing more than housework."

                                                                                                                      Those folks should bring cups, plates, 2-liters, etc.

                                                                                                                  2. Apparently, bringing store-bought to a potluck or bake sale is not popular with this writer either-> http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html...

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: pdxgastro

                                                                                                                      This is actually the same article from the NYT that I posted above, but the other paper repurposed it (crediting the original source).

                                                                                                                      1. re: pdxgastro

                                                                                                                        Want to bring something to a potluck that will work EVERY TIME. That will be GONE at the end of the night? That people will THANK you for bringing?

                                                                                                                        Get a bucket of chicken. Seriously. Trust me.

                                                                                                                        (Preferably Popeye's)

                                                                                                                      2. If you'e bringing food for a potluck, its meant to be shared, you should just feel good that others like your food and not worry about the other lousy contributions. When I attend potlucks I always make the food from high quality organic ingredients since that's what I eat myself and although mine cost more to make I find joy in feeding people good food. Although you're spending money, you're earning 'street' credit.

                                                                                                                        ...Or you could always team up with your colleagues and boycott the mexican platter, if its left untouched after a few potlucks, they may get the hint!

                                                                                                                        1. I think pot luck means you get whatever people choose to bring period.

                                                                                                                          I also wonder if people enjoy the platter. It is possible that participants other than the OP would revolt if the platter was not there.

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. re: calliope_nh

                                                                                                                            +1
                                                                                                                            thank you calliope - pot luck means pot LUCK. If you don't like it, eat around it.

                                                                                                                          2. I say let it go. It seems a little tacky to tally the dollar value on what people bring. We're only talking about a five dollar difference.

                                                                                                                            What business are you in where you are required to potluck every month?

                                                                                                                            1. I worked in an office like this once. I would always make dessert, usually a cake, a tart, or a crisp. Whatever I made disappeared during the event; some people even paid me to make cakes for them while I worked at this place. I'd never worked in this kind of environment before, or since (except when I cooked for a living). I thought it was fun.

                                                                                                                              I was never the organizer, though. I didn't want to be in a place where I would have to approve or disapprove of what other people brought. Not everyone likes to cook as much as I do (which I learned the hard way with one friend), and that's something to be respected.

                                                                                                                              1. Well, if you want to go the passive-aggressive route, I suggest that you when they show up with the platter, you choose the least lazy, least cheap one and say to that person, "Hi so-and-so, thank you for bringing this platter!" Then turn to the others and say "and what did you bring?" And when you receive the inevitable reply from one in the group "oh, we all chipped in on the platter," you hand them a pre-made plate of food to serve 1 person and say "great, we all chipped in on this plate for you guys, enjoy!"

                                                                                                                                Seriously though, I think the only way to avoid this is to have a more controlled pot-luck. A sign up sheet with dish suggestions is a great way to do it, or announce that everyone must let the organizer know in advance what they want to bring to minimize any duplications and if they don't "rsvp a dish" so to speak, they don't get to participate.

                                                                                                                                But if that's too much trouble, my final suggestion would be to let it go if you can. They may be lazy and they may be cheap, but at least some of them actually may not. You can even know someone's salary and not really know anything about their financial situation. Plenty of people I know with lovely looking paychecks and nice homes are struggling under things like family medical expenses, student loans and elder care.

                                                                                                                                1. i want this mexican platter! ;-).

                                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                  1. So eight years before this thread was started, I got my first desk job (after many years in retail, then going back to school) at a major health insurance company. My co-workers were very big on potlucks to celebrate birthdays. The first potluck after I started working there was announced and I brought a couple of 2-liter bottles of Coca-Cola. I didn't plan to eat at the potluck for personal reasons so I brought the drinks over to them and went back to work at my desk.

                                                                                                                                    A few days later, my supervisor informed me that he and I had to have a meeting with Jeanne and her manager. Apparently, Jeanne had complained that I had only brought soda. I was rather surprised that this was the subject of a workplace meeting. I had to explain myself?!

                                                                                                                                    I explained that I took the bus to work so that limited me as to what I could bring. Also, I didn't have much time to prepare food for 20 or more people after coming home at 11 pm after taking care of my elderly, totally disabled mother. Since they seemed rather unconvinced by my answer, I brought up a reason I'd often heard other people use. In my case it was absolutely true. I explained that in my culture and family, I wasn't exposed to potluck parties. When my parents and extended family gave a party, they provided all the food! That was the end of that meeting!

                                                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Kate is always hungry

                                                                                                                                      As I was reading this thread I remembered a discussion with other managers at one of my jobs. They commented on "team players" and how, with things like potlucks, etc., they could tell who was a "team player" and who wasn't a team player.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Linda VH

                                                                                                                                        I'm not sure when the American workplace became concerned with teamwork but I've noticed in several places it was valued way above work quality itself. After that incident, I always felt like I was being judged on my contribution to the potluck more than my job. To ensure success, I always brought homemade brownies. No one could resist them!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Kate is always hungry

                                                                                                                                          this teamwork model is a result of the coddling "you are a special snowflake" culture, where standards vary a/c to the individual's own level rather than objective standards requiring excellence.

                                                                                                                                          in short, it is political correctness.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                            That makes no sense. "Teamwork" means LESS "individual snowflake" and more subsuming the self into the team.

                                                                                                                                            In short, it is Fascism.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: tigercrane

                                                                                                                                              subsuming…yes. agreed. but teamwork concept lowers standards of performance to level of laziest, dumbest snowflake.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                From my experience, "teamwork" and who are "team players" are completely subjective. The manager, as "captain" of the "team," determines whether or not an employee is a "team player." Actual, objective criteria had nothing to do with this decision.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                              Whether it's political correctness or fascism, I've always found it frustrating to be judged not by the quality of my work but by the nebulous concept of "teamwork."

                                                                                                                                              I learned all I need to know about the meaning of teamwork while working at that famous bastion of fine retailing, Nordstrom.

                                                                                                                                      2. Just realize that you're a food-centric person who appreciates good food, proper food, etc. Many people don't and this kind of thing is a chore.

                                                                                                                                        So they do what they always do, which is to bring the same ol' Mexican platter. "Hey Joe, it's your turn to bring the Mexican platter. It's another one of those damned potlucks. They say it's a luau theme this time. Luau schumau. Bring the Mexican."

                                                                                                                                        So, your options are to just suck it up or end the potlucks.

                                                                                                                                        1. We had potlucks 3 or 4 times a year in my department. We find it helpful to have a signup sheet, so the cooks among us can help balance out the food. We also offer the option of signing up for $$$ ($5.00 recommended, or 7.50 or whatever). Guilt-free signup for $$$, for anyone who is busy or doesn't like to cook. The $$$ is used for paper goods/drinks/decorations/maybe a ham or turkey.

                                                                                                                                          Edit: Ooops -- old thread..

                                                                                                                                          1. Potluck should be allowed to mean just that.

                                                                                                                                            My wife lived below the poverty level when she was a VISTA volunteer in an impoverished urban center. Food stamps, public receptions, open houses and church one pot dinners were her year's life and social connections. She could afford to make, over and over again, potatoe salad, macaroni salad and flavored rices. That fit her means and in the process really perfected a killer potato salad but she was very self conscious that she couldn't afford proteins or more variety. Potluck implies not just casual but within one's own means.

                                                                                                                                            1. We have potlucks now and then here at my office. One of the guys always brings nachos. It is nacho sauce in a crock pot and a huge bag of chips. Help yourself.

                                                                                                                                              He happens to be Mexican and the nachos are always a big hit.

                                                                                                                                              At my apartment complex they have a "bbq" every week during the summer. Bring your own protein, they'll grill it for you and bring a dish to contribute to the "pot luck".

                                                                                                                                              I can't believe the stupid "crap" some people bring as their contribution, a can of baked beans, store bought carton on macaroni salad, Kraft dinner (and not even completely well stirred), well. . . . you get the picture. I bring something new and interesting (and almost always containing vegetables) to this carb-fest; and have that with my protein.

                                                                                                                                              I can't worry or get angry because others (either at work or at home) don't share my attitudes. personally, I'd rather bring something to work to share, and then eat at my desk, then have to go to a restaurant with these folks.

                                                                                                                                              Just another opinion.