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Etiquette regarding Food-Gift-Receiving...

I have a question regarding something I think is presumptuous and rude.

My office occasionally receives food gifts from Vendors during the holidays. Usually cookies and the like. An employee whose job is health/diet related wants to send some sort of memo to all vendors requesting only fruit & veggie related gifts as opposed to the cookies.

I think this is presumptuous & rude to assume that you will get a corporate gift, even if one was received last year. I also think it's rude to dictate what that gift would be, regardless of how well-intentioned.


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  1. My thoughts are identical to your thoughts. You don't tell people what to gift you (unless they ask), and you also don't tell people what to gift your co-workers (unless they ask, and your co-workers also ask). The only exception I can think of - and this is only if everyone at the office is on board - is to request charitable donations in lieu of gifts. Because at least that doesn't make you sound like a controlling, ungrateful asshole.

    1. I can't imagine telling anyone what will and will not be considered an acceptable gift, either personally or professionally. Is this person in a management role where she has the authority to alienate the vendors? "We demand fruit or we'll never buy from you again!!!"

      People can sometimes be blinded to the big picture by their own agenda.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Terrie H.

        No they are not mgmt. but in any case IMO anyone doesn't have a place dictating what gifts to be received.....it's just not right....you don't like the cookies - then don't eat them!

      2. I think it is presumptuous and rude as well. I can't imagine anyone doing such a thing. One rule of business is never to do anything that will annoy your vendors. I can tell you..if I got such a letter..there would be no "gift" forthcoming from my company. Someone should tell this employee that your office consists of adults..and they are certainly free to partake in whatever food gifts are received.

        1 Reply
        1. re: SimplyMarie

          I agree - why potentially PO a vendor who gifts food? Or anything? I don't think one should dictate what gifts one receives....accept gracefully, then eat or donate....

        2. "employee" needs a little woodshed talk from "boss".

          1 Reply
          1. re: Veggo

            I'm hoping the Boss doesn't agree....

          2. The vendors have most likely ordered and have delivery set up for their annual gifts, if they haven't already been delivered.

            If the food will remain unopened and uneaten, then take it to a local organization or neighboring office, which will appreciate it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Cathy

              No, it doesn't remain unopened or uneaten - they are trying to prevent such. And while they have good intentions, IMO it's once a year so don't worry about it. Not a large office - 30 people or so. I see their point, but IMO you don't tell a gifter what to gift.

              1. re: jenscats5

                30 is a lot of people; it isn't like each person will get 3 dozen cookies in one gift.

                This person is not management and it isn't his/her place to initiate a memo to vendors.If there were some sort of need to send a memo, it should have been done a month ago, by management. Sorry you have a control freak co-worker who should be more interested in his/her job and not this once a year gift thing from vendors.

            2. Be a secret Santa and gift this person with an etiquette book with the section about gifts bookmarked.

              This is wrong on so many levels

              An important rule of gift giving is never to overtly expect a gift. If you’re not expecting a gift, how can you tell the giver what you want?

              . There really is no nice way to ask for specific gifts, be they cash or something you would rather have ... especially if you are not sure someone is giving a present. That is like urging someone to give a gift.

              If I were a co-worker or an employee of a person who would presume to tell me what I should eat ... especially during the holidays ... I would be really angry.

              If that person doesn't want to eat cookies, I would suggest that person refrain from partaking of the gift.

              2 Replies
              1. re: rworange

                I agree - I'm all about healthy, but Christmas is once a year, so it's not a big deal IMO.....start the diet Jan. 1....while I do eat healthy most of the time, I don't want to be told I can't have cookies at Christmas. Agree with you 100%.

                1. re: rworange

                  "This is wrong on so many levels."

                  This was my exact thought when I read the post.

                2. we get tons of cookies, candy, chocolates and other sugary things at Christmas from patients, reps and others. We all thank the gifter because it is really nice of them to think about us. Gift baskets are split up and shared, we take what we want and if we don't want things then the others get more to bring home.
                  You can't dictate the gifts and as others have said most vendors and suppliers have set up accounts. I think it would be wrong to even ask for charity donations because that assumes up front that they were even going to send something.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: smartie

                    Thank you! That's exactly what I was thinking....

                  2. I'm siding with the majority here; it is rude. It is also impractical.

                    From my experience, the vendor has chosen one source for its gifts. From that source it has chosen three gifts: one for small\low volume clients, one for mid-level clients (the largest sector), and one very nice selection for the high volume\high value clients. The vendor then e-mails which clients fit which category and the source sends them as instructed. No personalizations or accommodations are allowed (unless it's a MAJOR client).

                    1. If it's a fruit cake it alright. Everyone know and accepts that tradition.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Withnail42

                        Haha! No, not any fruitcake.......usual gift is cookies....one time we got a platter of Tastycakes.

                        One of the VPs I mentioned this with saw no issues with manners or politeness. Sigh!

                        1. re: jenscats5

                          I totally agree with you (and it seems to be the consensus here on CH), it's completely rude to do anything but say "thank you" to these gifts.

                          Since you have mentioned this to a VP and they don't seem to understand that there is a problem, then you have probably done everything you can do. Just have to sit back and let your co-workers embarrass themselves.

                      2. Fruit goes bad. Maybe he/she could request cash instead?:-)

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: chowser

                          Fruit goes bad. Maybe he/she could request cash instead?:-)


                          That cracked me up! Addressing the original question - no, the person cannot/should not be telling vendors to send healthly options.

                          OT - I used to work at a company that received really elaborate holiday food gifts from clients, analysts, vendors, etc. The CEO instructed his assistant to make these available to all of the employees. She woud open up the packages and set them out in the lunch room.

                          The assistant told me that one middle manager told her to hand over certain gifts to him. When she refused, he snuck in to the lunch room, repackaged the stuff and put it in his office. We assumed he was going to re-gift the items.

                          When the CEO's assistant found out, she marched right into his office and reamed him out for taking the treats away from the staff. It was awesome. And she took the stuff back (It was coffee and chocolates)

                          1. re: cleobeach

                            Because there is one person who is more powerful than a CEO: the assistant to the CEO.

                        2. Way out of line. Way.

                          1. My first thought was that this was out of line, but after I had a chance to ponder - I am not so sure. Gift-givers want to know that you enjoy what they give you. If you'd rather not have it, then that's totally valid. But asking for something else isn't ok. I'd say it would be fine if you did tell the vendors that you've loved their generous cookie platters in the past, but perhaps a bit too much and so as part of your healthy workplace initiative the office has a "no sweets, please" policy. No biggie. It's not like you're telling Grandma you don't like her fruitcake!

                            16 Replies
                            1. re: akq

                              Still not ok, unless the gift was to that person. Othewise, if it is a group gift, unless everyone in the group is asked and agrees, it is selfish and rude.

                              1. re: rworange

                                The particular process by which to decide the "no sweets" policy (e.g. whether everyone in the group has to agree) isn't what the OP asked about, rather OP asked whether it's rude to "dictate" the types of gifts they receive.

                                Most posters have a categorical yes it's rude answer, but I think it's fine to make a polite request to not receive a particular type of thing, like sweets, as long as you don't "dictate" what you want instead. Not clear how that is selfish.

                                1. re: akq

                                  Such a request requires a level of intimacy that is not present in the corporate situation. The only thing you can do is request that you not receive gifts that violate the law or cause clearly foreseeable offense. This is far from qualifying. It's not even in the same planet. Way out there, like Pluto.

                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    We disagree. Such is life. I'd argue that perhaps the opposite is true - some of the closest people (like grandma!) are the hardest people to tell you don't like something. The vendors don't care - they probably get a form generated by some office manager or something with client names and whether to send nothing, a card, a small basket, a big basket or whatever. More likely than not, whoever is checking off the list won't put the memo with the "no sweets, please" request together with the name or perhaps that means you just get a card this year.

                                  2. re: akq

                                    The "selfish" is purporting to speak as the voice of a group, when the rest of the group has no knowledge of the matter or input to it.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      Missing my point...sheesh.

                                      The "group" is the company. There is someone (or multiple someones) who are authorized to speak for the group. However that happens, if it happens and a "no sweets, please" policy is set, then it could be communicated by the "group" (a/k/a the company).

                                      If the OP is asking whether a rougue employee should unilaterally send a memo to every vendor requesting no sweets, then I agree that is an easy no...but I don't think that was the question.

                                      1. re: akq

                                        The OP went on in a reply to say that 'No they are not mgmt". So that presumes a fellow coworker taking on themselves to dictate the policy.

                                        The OP went on to reply "while I do eat healthy most of the time, I don't want to be told I can't have cookies at Christmas"

                                        So this person has ticked off at least one coworker and decided on a policy that does not have consensus. That is rude. Whatever your motives may be ... they are YOUR motives ... that is selfish.

                                        Would you think it is ok for this person to snatch cookies out of people's hands to save them from themselves.

                                        Unless you are asked .. never ... never tell people what you want for a gift. No, it is not ok. NEVER.

                                        If anything is no big deal it is accepting cookies from a vendor. If you don't want cookies, don't eat them. Don't tell others how to eat.

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          Whoa, I must have struck a nerve! Just to clarify, RW, I would never tell you that you can't have Christmas cookies! No need to yell! NO NEED! (couldn't help it!) I support your right to choose.

                                          Re-read my post. I said there's a difference between requesting not to receive X vs. Requesting that someone give you Y instead.

                                          It's weird that you only see the "other" person as "dictating" policy and not the OP. Aren't they two sides of the same coin?

                                          1. re: akq

                                            No, they are not the same side of the coin.

                                            Say your company provides free coffee. Someone out of the blue decides coffee is not healthy and does away without without asking another coworker. I know personally I would be pretty angry. Does that make me a dictator for just asking to leave things as they are?

                                            At the very least, I would have expected to be included in the decision. As in this case, I would fail to understand why this person could just not drink the coffee instead of telling me what to do.

                                            If I insisted coffee was good for that person's health and they must drink coffee every morning, that would be dictating ... and rude.

                                            What is next? Approving what coworkers can bring to potlucks. Monitoring the dishes people can select should the company decide to a holiday party at a restaurant?

                                            I guess I'm not being clear that no etiquette rule allows a person to ask for "y" instead of something else. The only time you can bring that up is if asked first.

                                            If you doubt that google the thousands of people who would rather have cash at a wedding, birthday, anniversary, etc. Or in those situations want people to buy a specific gift they need.

                                            That doesn't mean people can't do that. You just have to decide if some thing is worth people thinking of you as someone who is greedy and without basic manners.

                                            In this case, this person's action will not only be personal, but serve to speak for the company. If I were a vendor, not only would I not send a gift, I'd start consider looking at other companies to do business with. I would doubt that any business agreements I had with someone specified a gift must be given for the holidays and then spelled out what that should be.

                                            1. re: rworange


                                              Say your company provides free coffee. Someone out of the blue decides coffee is not healthy and does away without without asking another coworker. I know personally I would be pretty angry. Does that make me a dictator for just asking to leave things as they are?
                                              Someone sets the policy at some point. Then a motion is made to change the policy. There are two sides of the coin (1) keep policy X, or (2) change policy X. Not sure why either side is necessarily "dictating" to the other side. It's a judgement call as to whether the default should be keeping policy X (i.e. in the absence of unanimous consent to changing policy X, we will keep policy X as is forever) vs. the default should be something else (e.g. we will do whatever the majority wants, even if it's 3 votes to change policy X vs. 2 votes to keep policy X, with 1,000 abstensions).

                                              None of this, as I see it, answers the OP's question.

                                              As for your cash thing, again - I don't see any problem with the couple including a "no gifts, please" on the invitations, but requesting cash (or any particular gift) is generally considered rude (with the caveat that I don't find it rude to ask that in lieu of gifts, please contribute to the couple's favorite charity or a charity of your choice). You say you don't see the difference, so here it is again:

                                              1. Please no gifts, or please, so sweets or please no food gifts (not rude).
                                              2. Instead of the crappy cookies you used to give us, give us fruit instead (rude).

                                              But then again, aren't we sending a mixed message re: asking for specific gifts when we encourage kids to tell Santa what they want for Christmas?

                                        2. re: akq

                                          There wasn't a "no sweets" policy communicated by the group. There is a tapestry of faux pas inextricably woven together here - and every element from the latin declension -nominitive, genitive, dative, and accusative are all at work - and throw in a bit of ablative, absolutely.

                                          EDIT : Kris, you addressed the "selfish" better than I could...

                                          1. re: Veggo

                                            Got it. The question, as I understood it was whether requesting no sweets and/ or requesting healthy gifts is per se rude. My answers are no and yes. It's not per se rude to request that someone not give a particular gift, but it is rude to request a specific gift instead. My example was that IF there were such a wellness initiative, it would be ok for the company to acknowledge past gifts and request no sweets in the future.

                                            1. re: akq

                                              There is currently a commercial where a girl sings about what she wants for christmas including all the crappy gifts she's gotten from relaitves in the past and doesn't want again this year. Everyone is hurt and offended by this.

                                              You might say good for her. She doesn't get another hand-knitted something or another. Saying you don't like something from the past and what you want in the future ... if you can't see that is rude and incosiderate, there's nothing else to say.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                You and I are in agreement that it is rude to tell people that they gave crappy presents in the past and you don't want them again this year. Of course, this is not what I suggested doing in my earlier posts.

                                                1. re: akq

                                                  A final time, i hope. i know what you suggested. it is still asking for a gift no matter how off-hand the comment may be. Also, that is not what the OP suggested. It was contacting vendors and telling them their gift wasn't unacceptable and they wanted something else. No matter how good-intentioned (and I don't believe that for a second) it is just not proper etiquette.

                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                    I disagree. But it's good to be reminded how black and white and unnuanced arbitrary "rules" of ettiquette are in some minds. Thanks for that.

                                2. Rude, tacky, AND hypocritical, because no one, no matter how health conscious, eats that way all the time! I hope someone reins this person in!

                                  1. Unless you're running a diabetic health clinic, a weight-loss center, or something similar, where you could make a valid excuse for not wanting to contaminate your message by having lots of sweet things around the office, you don't get the choice. If they want to give you cookies, they're going to give you cookies... the 'healthy' person wants to request 'healthy' gifts only, but they don't get to choose for the rest of you. If they don't want the cookies, they can just not eat them!