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Jun 17, 2008 09:36 AM

potluck ettiquette

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

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

              2. 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!

                                    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: 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.