Wondering if anyone else who works encounters this problem

KathsgrdnOctober 22, 2012

I guess you'd have to work in a big office or hospital for it to even occur; I work in a hospital and it seems like everytime we have a potluck we get people from other floors who invite themselves to it. They never contribute but they have no problems with walking in and helping themselves. Usually it's not a big deal and we have plenty of leftovers but sometimes we don't and if we're really busy on the unit some of our nurses (who brought this food and who it's intended for) never get any or some of it. It really annoys me.

Yesterday we had a baby shower for one of our nurses and here come all the stragglers that usually show up for our potlucks. They have no shame. One of them worked on our unit the day before and that's how she found out about it. So, why didn't she bring a dish if she intended to come for it? Another person told me I was supposed to make a plate for someone else on another unit. I told her she could make it but I wasn't going to. I was told I was being mean. I saw this person on our unit about 15 to 20 minutes before that so why didn't she just help herself like she always does?

Just wondering if anyone else has this problem and what they do about it? I almost put a sign up on the door saying for "our unit only" but thought that would be just rude. LOL. When the manager and assistant manager or some of us bring in donuts or other treats, somehow the whole hospital hears about that too. Our manager tried to put a stop to that. Because some of the nurses weren't getting any. Didn't help because people still come in and take what they want. I would be embarrassed to go to another floor uninvited and help myself to their food. What about you?

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Not a work issue, but we've experienced the same thing.

Our block started having block parties about 10-12 years ago. It was supposed to be a chance for us neighbors to get together and socialize, share our meals, and for the kids to have the fun of having the street closed for their bikes and scooters.

A few years into it, people from all over started coming. And eating the food. It got to the point, that I felt like I was working all day to feed strangers. It got really crazy, not to mention expensive. Oh, and the 'extras' never brought any food.

Well, we finally moved away. I hear this year, they didn't bother to have the block party--some said they didn't have the heart for it since we were gone (how kind), others had had it with the drunken brawl it became.

And I recently heard via the grapevine that the night after our block party, the cops would find drunks all over town--passed out on peoples' lawns, asleep in cars, and they'd just assume the person was at the XXXX Avenue Block party!!! We were apparently known all over town!!!

Sadly--what you describe isn't that uncommon, I fear. Will be interesting to hear who else has experienced it.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 8:38PM
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This was a long time ago but we had that problem We continued with the pot luck but decided everyone had to pay $1 (or $2)for their plate. The money went into our birthday fund for the cake and card. If they wanted to eat they had to pay

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 8:41PM
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I'd be asking each of them:
"What did you bring to share today?"
If they say "nothing", very kindly and politely (as if you are embarrassed for them) explain how potlucks work.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 9:25PM
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I work in an office with 10 people so I don't have that problem. But that would irritate me for sure. Maybe you could somehow hide the food or put it somewhere else. Is that possible? I can't imagine eating food if I didn't bring something. The only time that I did not bring food to a potluck was when I hadn't been told because it was a last minute thing and I hadn't been at work the day before. I felt bad eating the food so I waited until all had filled up their plates before eating.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 9:34PM
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Years ago I worked with a group that loved to do potlucks. We started to have a theme to each one, too. Although we didn't have folks from outside the group "crash" the potlucks, we did notice that one guy never really seemed to bring any food, but always served himself a heaping plate of whatever it was we were having. So, one time our theme was "deli sandwiches." We made everyone sign a sheet saying what they were going to bring, to make sure that "everything was covered." We didn't want to have all sorts of sandwich "fixins" but no bread, etc.

Well, this guy signed up to bring the condiments. Imagine our horror when it came time to eat, to discover that the jars of mayo, mustard, etc., were all from his own 'fridge at home, and had all been previously opened and partially used!

Our supervisor was great. She took one look and said, "Oh, I'm afraid we aren't going to have enough!" Luckily there was a small store nearby, so she went to the store and bought brand new items. And we all "managed to avoid" using the stuff the guy brought.

I've sort of sworn off potlucks since then.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 10:56PM
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I would make a sign and say if you didn't bring food for the pot luck you have to pay a gratuity - either for charity, something to do with your unit or for the nurses on the floor who were too busy to eat so they can order something or go to the cafeteria. I would charge between $3 and $5


    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 11:00PM
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No, Scissors, we have one little fridge.

Interestingly, a couple weeks ago we had a rough day at work. So, the next morning I stopped at McDonalds and bought some breakfast sandwiches for the dayshift nurses. Most are brand new nurses and not too happy about the lack of help on the floor. Some are already applying elsewhere...so it was my little way of making them feel like someone cared, I guess...

Anyway, it was kind of expensive and I didn't have enough for both night and day shift. I knew night shift and other people it wasn't intended for would come in and try to help themselves so I kept them near me and offered them to the dayshift nurses only. Unfortunately the night charge nurse grabbed one too. I bit my tongue and didn't say anything but now wish I had. I even had made the comment that I brought them because the day we had yesterday was so bad and thought it would be nice to have breakfast...or something to that affect. Not night shift, not housekeeping, not the clerks, not anyone else...the nurses on dayshift.

Next time I will definitely be more vocal.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 11:11PM
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Anne, don't think we can do that...it's a Federal facility and they're kind of funny about things like that.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 11:13PM
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We don't have regular potlucks where I work, altho when there are farewells (and there were many in the past year because of buyouts), people generally bring in chips, cupcakes, cookies -- that sort of stuff. If I forget to bring something, I don't partake. But there are always people who don't think to go run down to the drugstore 2 blocks away and pick something up. And I haven't done a statistically correct visual survey, but many times it's the younger workers (and not from our department) who come a-calling.

What really annoys me is that if the goodies have been brought in to celebrate a birthday, the moochers don't have the courtesy to ask what the occasion is or say "Happy birthday" to the birthday lady or guy.

Also, we also have a couple candy jars in our area. I'm not sure why some people (some of whom I don't even know, and I'm sure they don't know all of our names!) think that because they're mini fun-bar size chocolate bars, it's OK to just come take a few? This stuff ain't cheap. I'm not either, but I'm getting tired of bringing stuff in!

Can I rant some more? A co-worker and I DID do a social experiment not too long ago. We had M&Ms in our department. We put them in a bowl and put a spoon in it. More than half of the takers used their hands, not the spoon. I don't bring M&Ms in anymore, and I certainly don't take any when someone else does and leaves them to be served by the handful!

(OK, my blood pressure's back down to normal...)

I like GardenSpice's idea, but you'd have to be quite tactful -- and that's not my strong suit! Maybe sometimes you have to embarrass someone (in private) to teach manners? It's tricky ...

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 11:39PM
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Be glad I am not the boss because I would solve the problem in a heartbeat. I would simply send a letter to every employee informing them that contrary to the popular view, this is a workplace,,,if you want to party, take the day off and go party.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 12:05AM
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Lazypup, we get a half hour lunch break, which is what we used to eat and for her to open the three gifts she got. It wasn't a big party...no games, etc...

We're getting ready to have Thanksgiving and Christmas potlucks too. Hopefully, the other units will have their own meals for their own people.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 1:49AM
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If you want the mooching to stop you have to be vocal about it. There is no way around that. You are dealing with an established pattern of behavior.

If you are uncomfortable with that you can try using signs first. Put a large clear jar (with some ones and a few fives and one ten already in it) and attach a large sign requesting donations from those who were unable to contribute. I too work in a government building - charging a fee could be a problem whereas a sign like that would not be.

A sign up sheet usually works pretty well. Ask people to sign up and write down what they are bringing and state only those who choose to participate are invited. Hang the list prominently on the door the day of the event. You may have to station someone at the door the first time or two (to establish a new pattern) but it should be clear sailing after that.

And the most effective option is to just say something when people walk in. Tell his that this party is only for those who made a contribution.

The situation will not change on its own. Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 6:28AM
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Why am I not surprised by this... just seems to be the way these days..if it's free I want it.. really disgusting.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 7:42AM
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I can't tell you the number of times I have seen this and worse. At our potlucks we would pass around the menu and everyone would write in what they would bring. It never failed, the same few people always wanted to bring condiments, paper products and drinks so they didn't have to cook. That's okay too, but if your going to bring drinks, etc. at least bring enough for everyone and not what happens to be on sale at the time. The real kicker though was when they would go to the cafeteria and get a take out box so they could take a plate home for supper, are you serious???, Glad that's over for me.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 8:15AM
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I like renee's idea. But I would take it one step further. It is not just the contribution part that is the problem. It is that strangers are crashing an event meant for an intimate group of coworkers.
Take turns with a person stationed outside. "Sorry, this party is for Unit 5 only! Check back for leftovers!" Say this with humor and also apologetically. Then it is up to you to give out food if they come back during clean up.
If it is the same people then hopefully they will get the hint.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 8:22AM
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Sally Brownlee

I think I would post a note:

"We are having a (potluck, party,shower, etc) for our floor today. If you brought something to share today, Thank-you!.
If not, please let someone on our floor know and we will make sure that you are invited to join us next time"
Thank you for understanding."

3rd floor day shift.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 8:34AM
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Yeah, I love it when some of these people eat the food and then load up all the leftovers to take home to their husband and kids. No problem if someone offered it to them but they don't.

A couple days ago one of the night time ward clerks asked someone if the assit. manager had brought in doughnuts that morning. She does quite often but I'm thinking, wow....when have you ever brought in anything for anyone and you're expecting it from someone else?

I quit putting my coffee and creamer out on the counter too because when I'd come back after being off work for a couple days it would be gone. For a while there were only two coffee contributers on dayshift but over half the people drink our coffee. I really don't mind them drinking it but it kind of annoys me that they never contribute their own coffee. People will come down to our unit because they know we always seem to have coffee made. One day me and the other coffee contributer were taking a break and I had just made some coffee and put quite a few coffee filters out. A ward clerk from another unit waltzed in and grabbed about half of them and left. I just looked at my co-worker and shook my head. I was speechless and didn't say anything (which I should have) but I quit putting more than 2 or 3 filters out at a time after that.

It sounds stingy but I"m really not, I give my coffee to patients who don't like the coffee on the trays or who want another cup, family members who don't or can't make a pot out in our waiting room, offer a cup to the house supervisor when they come up, etc....I just wish the people who drink it every day, every shift would contribute.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 10:58AM
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You could have these catered. Each person orders his or her meal in advance and pays for it. You chip in for the honoree's meal. The meals arrive, labeled with the contents. A 'host' passes out the meals using a checklist. ("Mary, here's your tuna on rye.")

No one has to 'cook'. People pay their fair share. There should be no 'food safety' problem. Outsiders just are not 'on the list' and don't get freebies.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 11:02AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The behavior goes on because it is allowed to go on. Why are people so intimidated by people who behave badly? If you cannot speak up, then you should stop getting irritated about it. It's not that difficult to say something in a nonconfrontational manner...even with a twist of humor....so that they have an 'out'.

I would stop putting food or supplies in a communal area unless you are prepared for it to disappear. As for the party crashers and moochers.....say something.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 11:40AM
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Ah, the world of work. It's a crazy place. I remember when we had a meeting in a room that had a glass window to the hallway. The snacks for our meeting break were on a table in the hallway, thoroughly covered and wrapped. It was obviously not meant for passersby.

During the entire meeting we watched as people walking down the hall helped themselves. At first they just kind of wiggled a finger under the plastic wrap. As that got looser, they went in for a little more. each person unwrapped it further and pretty soon it was a feeding frenzy out there. I was pretty appalled by it, although those of us in the meeting room who were facing the window were in hysterics at the comedy of it all. The people with their backs to the window couldn't understand what we were laughing at.

Then when our meeting took a break and went out to eat what was left, we could see people peeking around corners for us to leave so they could swoop in for the remainders. After that we kept the snacks in the meeting room.

Frankly I wished things like showers, retirement parties, birthdays, etc. would take place outside of work. They are such time wasters and you feel as if you must participate. I wish no one ever brought doughnuts and cookies and candy to work. It is so hard to resist when you have to walk past it a hundred times a day. Outside of work I would never eat a doughnut, but when I can see and smell them I eat three.

And don't get me started on all those people taking up collections for someone;s retirement party, engagement party, wedding party etc. I am sure over all the years of my career I shelled out a thousand dollars or more. I was already married (and divorced!) and had kids when I went to work, so there was no payback. I left when my job was eliminated (and then decided to retire), so there was no goodbye party either.

When I worked for a small nonprofit there was no budget for parties. Since I had one of the highest level positions, I felt compelled to buy most of the goodies. Leadership, and all that. Every birthday set me back $50. I'd load up on frozen TJs desserts rather than expensive bakery items.

Oh well, I am just glad I don't have to haul myself off to all that craziness again. I like the idea of putting names on each donated items so those who are eating and not donating may feel awkward (but I doubt it).

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 12:06PM
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FlamingO in AR

How about putting a little placard on top of the plates at the next pot-luck? "This meal is intended for those who brought a dish to share. If you did not contribute to this meal, please don't help yourself to any of the food."

That would irk me no end. I used to take food to work and keep it in the fridge. One guy used to help himself every day to a can of Coke and a brownie or 2. Remember the Sara Lee frozen/frosted brownies? It was a small tray and it would last me a week, if no one took any. When he worked, it would MAYBE last 2 days. And he never brought anything in to replace it. Finally I started keeping my stuff in brown bags with my name on it, stapled shut. And I had the only stapler. :)

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 2:55PM
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It is annoying but this is my thought. I don't know how big the hospital is, but here in our hospital, which is pretty good size, the nurses, aids etc may or may not stay on the same floor, or be floating nurses, and you may or may not work with them either all the time or occasionally. To me even though they are wrong taking food and if you later work with them, they could be a bit resentful and you would not get good cooperation. I would suggest having a general meeting with all, and have suggestions on how to handle this. Maybe bringing it up in nurses meetings would be helpful. Or discontinue it completely.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 3:18PM
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One place I worked had to put a lock on the fridge because the night clean up crew would eat all the food in there.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 4:04PM
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My DH used to treat his office staff to deli trays for lunch - that is until he saw one of the workers loading a tote bag with sandwiches to take home - and this was before the rest of the staff came in to lunch.

Unfortunately there are always moochers who will never contribute and it will keep happening unless you institute some procedure or rules and enforce them.

Would something like this work? Someone obviously organizes these potlucks - selecting the date, the occasion etc. Do you have sign up sheets? What if the organizer gave out tickets to the people in your unit and then when you have your parties put a large glass jug on the table where they can drop their tickets. But this would still require someone to actually tell the moochers - do you have a ticket?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 9:42PM
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Same here. So yesterday we put the food down a side isle. When our shift was over we put it on a more public table for the other teams to partake.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 10:49PM
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We use a ticket system. You can buy rolls of tickets at office supply stores, like Office Depot. There is a sign-up sheet where people sign up for what they're going to bring. The sign-up sheet is usually at one person's desk, and people stop by to sign up.

The sign-up sheet is broken out into different sections, i.e. salads, desserts, meat, etc. We identify the sections so we don't have a potlock of just desserts, or just salads, etc. After people sign up for what they are going to bring, they are given a ticket. On the day of the event someone stands by the food and collects the tickets. Those who don't have a ticket are reminded that they didn't sign up to participate.

We also give people an opportunity to pay an amount, say about $3-5 dollars, in case they want to participate but won't have the time to make or buy anything to bring. The money is then used to purchase the plates, forks, knifes, etc.

This process works very well for my group of about 20 people. There are 15+ other people who work in a different group but are welcome to participate in my group, as long as they contribute.

If you don't find a way to stop this, it will continue.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 11:28PM
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We do put up the signs. "For Grand Rounds attendees only". It's ok to do it.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 8:01AM
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WalnutCreek Zone 7b/8a

kathsgrdn, concerning the coffee issue. When the few of us who contributed to the coffee for the coffee maker got so tired of the moochers, we bought individual single coffee cup makers for use in our own office; that stopped the moochers. Also many employees purchased small refrigerators for their own offices, because the break room refrigerator was always being raided by employees who had put nothing in the refrigerator, and like one poster said, the night clean up crew.

I worked in a large federal hospital also. And we just stopped having potlucks because so many non contributors would come in and help themselves to huge plates of food. Sad.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 12:10PM
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