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“Little Baked Pieces of Heaven” Elicits Drooling

A few years ago I began a new job. One of my coworkers, we’ll call him ‘Jim,’ was a nice man who took me under his wing right away. I was around the same age as Jim’s daughter and he felt the need to protect me and show me all the ropes at work.

I have an enormous sweet tooth and spend my extra money on gourmet chocolates like some people might budget money for their hobby or going to sporting events. I seek out special bakeries, order custom goodies online and have even taken themed vacations for chocolate connoisseurs. I work hard for my special treats.

One day I was in a rush for work and I didn’t have time to pack my afternoon cupcake treat, so I grabbed the whole box of four. Oh, I’m sorry, did I only say cupcake? I meant delectable, dark chocolate fudge ganache filled extra moist cupcakes with whipped buttercream icing and French chocolate shave sprinkles that I had waited in line at the bakery an hour to get because they were a one-time special recipe I had been looking forward to for months. I had a planned date with each cupcake over the next few days and was so very excited about every ounce of that gourmet chocolate!

The box was sitting on my desk. I was about to dive into dessert paradise and munch on one of the cupcakes when Jim walked up with the look of a hungry puppy.

“Boy, do those look good,” he says as I made a futile effort to hide the box under some paper.

I hadn’t intended to share these and I wasn’t flaunting the cupcakes around the office, but since Jim was so helpful to me and was staring at the cupcakes like he was about to dive mouth-first into the whole box, I decided to offer him one.

He said he’d love one. As I carefully wrapped the little baked piece of heaven in some napkins and handed it over, its moist chocolate gleaming and sparkling in the florescent office lights, my heart aching a little to see it go but happy it was going to a good and deserving person, Jim said

“Thanks, my dear wife will just love this!”

I had never met Jim’s dear wife, and I’m sure she was a nice lady, but at that moment it took quite a bit of restraint for me not to fly through the air and ninja kick the cupcake right out of her husband’s hand.

The special treat was for him! Not for someone I’ve never met!

It was obvious by Jim’s skip in his step as he walked away with my treasure that he had been blind to his statement making my jaw hit the floor so hard it bounced.

Jim was the obliviously happy and ridiculously wholesome type who only sees the good in people. Think Brady Bunch character with an extra helping of positive thinking and honesty. He was also the type to be mortified if he did something that might upset someone, so there was nothing I could have said at the time without making him feel terrible.

A few weeks later, forgetting the pervious re-direction of my generosity, I offered Jim a piece of the small cake a coworker had surprised me with for my birthday. It was made from scratch and was magically delicious. I did not search Jim out to share the cake. I had intended to take the last piece home with me. It was more like Jim walked in the room and kept staring with giant puppy eyes at the remaining piece of delicious sugar and coco powder mixed into birthday joy. He accepted my offer, only to produce a Tupperware container and plop the little confection into it. He mentioned something about keeping it fresh for the dear wife.

It wasn’t long after this second ‘beg’ and switch that it became clear there was a long standing pattern of Jim spiriting away sweets from the office out to The Dear Wife.

One of the more memorable stories involves a large tray of gourmet chocolate truffles leftover from a catered meeting. My boss and I couldn’t wait to finish our afternoon call so we could try the sweets everyone had raved about. We finally get to the break room. The tray is gone. As we mourn the loss for being too late, another employee walks by and lets us know there was still plenty left; Jim had just gone to his car with it. Not just one or two truffles, oh no, The Dear Wife gets the WHOLE tray!

But wait! There’s more! My boss explained to Jim she was upset because she didn’t get to try the truffles as well as that it was inappropriate for an entire tray of office-funded leftovers to be taken to an outside person without permission. Jim felt really bad and had The Dear Wife bake some cookies for the office to make up for it. They were….. The WORST. Cookies(hard to call them that)… EVER. Of ALL TIME! It wasn’t just me; everyone who tried them spit them out in the trash. How could Jim take all these amazing treats home to a woman who couldn’t possibly have a single taste bud???!!!!!

Funny side story- Jim was excited to go tell The Dear Wife how much we loved her cookies, so he started asking. They really were bad enough that we couldn’t even lie, but no one had the heart to tell Jim. Cue the most hilarious sitcom-esque afternoon of people pretending their phone was vibrating, suddenly realizing they were late for meetings and diving behind file cabinets as Jim walked by….

Back to the baked goods-The incident with the truffle tray didn’t seem to sink into Jim’s head. Every catered meeting, every office party, every employee who happened to walk by with an extra treat in their hand: if there were sweets offered, out came Jim’s little sandwich bags and Tupperware container(s). Giving sweets to Jim was like donating to one charity only to find said charity is sending your money to a different organization that you know nothing about.

I understand everyone occasionally takes home their share of office sponsored treats to give to the spouse or the children, but with Jim it was an epidemic.

Jim was on the TMI side of sharing, so there was no health or mental reason he didn’t eat the sweets offered to him (people did ask). He said he made a choice to avoid the sweets he loved because he’d rather save the calories to use on a good steak dinner. He stated that he gave The Dear Wife any sweets he received to keep him “out of the doghouse.”

Our office was never lacking in healthy alternatives. Any office party or catered meeting always had lots of healthy items I know Jim enjoyed. But he would fill up on fruits and veggies and then, without fail, wonder over to the cake or cookies tray and grab a share or more for The Dear Wife.

I understand the concept of “once you give a gift you can’t dictate what is done with it,” but these sweets and treats were not gifts given specifically to Jim to do with as he pleased. Often, it was an office party with a cake paid for by employee pitch-in for the enjoyment of all coworkers. However, a large majority of the time it was as described in my first story, with Jim hanging around in a way that gave you no choice but to either offer him a share of your personal dessert or to just continue to rudely eat in front of him.

When you caved in to the stares and offered to share your dessert, Jim usually said “Oh, I’ll take it to The Dear Wife…” before you handed it over, which in theory gave you an out to say, “Well, in that case you can’t have it, I purchased this for people in the office only.”

I tried that once and poor Jim just looked so upset and embarrassed I felt bad for the rest of the month. Also, there were usually clients or other coworkers around who were unaware of Jim’s sugar smuggle racket, so you couldn’t exactly deny Jim what you had already offered without looking like a jerk.

What Jim was doing drove me and several coworkers berzerk, but we couldn’t think of an exact “rule” he was breaking, etiquette or business-wise. Should his behavior have just been accepted?

A supervisor did once tell Jim he shouldn’t take anything he wasn’t going to eat himself as this wasn’t a take-out bar, but Jim, in a surprising retreat from his usual sweetly naïve rule-following ways, said something along the lines of “well, it would be gone if I ate it, so let’s just pretend I did.” 0312-12


Regarding those four “little baked pieces of heaven” cupcakes you purchased, my suggestion is that you simply ignored the obvious drooling and silent begging by Jim and beandipped him by redirecting the conversation away from his focus on your cupcakes.   His comment, “Oh, those look good,” was an opening gambit, a hook with bait on it, to see if you would bite and offer him a cupcake.   There is nothing rude in ignoring the bait.   Just because someone compliments us about something we happen to own does not mean we are obligated to offer all or part of it to them. For all Jim knew, those cupcakes were to be a gift for another person and he had no right to presume his drooling would be rewarded.

As for Jim’s penchant for taking office goodies home, in my opinion, what he does with his share is his business, particularly if the treat was paid for by each employee pitching in to pay for it.   If he wants to take his share of the treat he helped pay for home to eat later or share with the wifey, so what?  However, what Jim does with more than his share as an employee is a matter for management to curtail.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith March 15, 2012, 3:08 pm

    Thank you to OP for such an amusing post! I love the turn of phrase that pops up here and there for emphasis and the backstory that adds drama! Not to diminish your pain, but you do seem focused on food,well-er..desserts! Defend your own property, let management defend theirs, and let the chocolate chips fall where they may! I love the theorist commentators who have said Iim might be a “secret eater”. That does make sense. Would it be appropriate to say “Swiper, no swiping! Swiper, no swiping! Swiper…NO swiping!”? Well, perhaps you could mutter it quietly like a mantra… It may not be effective, but it will give you a chance to take a calming breath.

  • German Shepherd March 15, 2012, 3:27 pm

    Ignore the bait. Perhaps the administration can put a note above trays of treats reminding people to take extras home at the end of the day after everyone has had their share. I’m hoping since Boss talked to Jim, he won’t take a plateful of sweets home when others haven’t sampled said sweets. I’d be so irked if a coworker did that.

    So what if Wife’s cookies didn’t taste good? Appreciate the gesture. She baked them to make up for the truffle tray and her intentions were good. The thought does matter.

    “It was made from scratch and was magically delicious.” This remark bothered me. Some of the best desserts I’ve eaten were made from scratch. I know OP is used to gourmet, but this comes off as rude and insulting to those who enjoy baking (and in many cases produce treats as good or better than gourmet).

  • Huh March 15, 2012, 3:39 pm

    All of this also reminded me of a former coworker and an exchange we once had. I like baking from-scratch cakes and would bake one for coworkers on their birthday. I had made one for a female coworker’s birthday and was showing it to her, cutting small pieces so everyone in our office could have a piece.

    Male Coworker: Ooh, cake!
    Me: Yep, it’s Female Coworker’s birthday. Here’s a piece.
    Male Coworker: No, cut me another one – I want a bigger piece.
    Me: No, I’m cutting them smaller so everyone can have one.
    Male Coworker: Then I want another piece.
    Me: NO.
    Male Coworker: (Slinks off, grumbling.)

    If I remember right, there was an extra piece leftover that female coworker took home. Because it was HER birthday!

  • Magicdomino March 15, 2012, 3:40 pm

    I have some mild food aggression issues; if I were a dog, I’d hunch over my bowl and growl. 🙂 Puppy dog eyes have no effect on me.

    Having said that, I have no problem with an employee taking his or her share of office food home to a spouse. I don’t even have a problem with that employee taking an extra share of any leftovers for that spouse, as long as it is one plate and all of the other co-workers have had plenty of time to get seconds. I consider food to be leftovers when it is within an hour or two of closing, although I’ve never asked my fellow co-workers their opinion. Anyhow, with this logic, doughnuts and bagels brought in for breakfast aren’t truly leftover until 4:00 pm or so.

    Taking a trayful of truffles? No. (Actually, in my office full of chocoholics, it would be suicide. 🙂 ) Packing up the bagels or doughnuts before lunch? Absolutely not. Someone with some seniority and/or authority needs to talk to Jim. Firmly. Shalamar’s Secretary had the right idea.

  • AnnieMauser March 15, 2012, 3:48 pm

    @Cat Whisperer

    I agree. Enough with the fretting about who got an extra sweetie. Focus on the fact he is a NICE GUY. For heaven’s sake, OP, he took you under his wing, and this is the gratitude/forbearance you show?

  • Abby March 15, 2012, 3:59 pm

    I’m sorry, I couldn’t get past the description of those unbelievably decadent cupcakes to comprehend the rest of the story and decide whether or not anyone was committing an etiquette faux pas. Those sound HEAVENLY.

  • sv March 15, 2012, 4:00 pm

    Cat Whisperer- your post is very harsh. The OP acknowledges that Jim is a very nice guy and has no problems with how he works, just with the awkward fact that he scrounges food. For you to imply that she is worried no one loves her enough to bring home treats or that she doesn’t understand what working with a terrible coworker is really like is inappropriate and unnecessary.

    What Jim does with his share of office goodies is his business, including the cupcake you gave him (but I feel your pain, OP, as someone who appreciates a really good treat.) Taking home more than his share or begging for food is annoying though. Stiffin your spine, beandip with a smile and don’t give him the opportunity if you can at all help it.

  • David March 15, 2012, 4:05 pm

    I had forgotten an incident that happened at my job. The company had sponsored a health fair for all of the employees and one of the things the health fair people had really focused on was keeping adequately hydrated, especially in the blast furnace that was our plant. Even in winter the factory was 100 to 105 degrees due to the heated material that we used.

    So the company decides to buy cases of bottled water to keep the refrigerator stocked for all the factory employees on all of the shifts. These were all then put in a truck by an office worker who took them home for his family reunion. So, it’s not just sweets and food that disappear.

  • Princess Buttercup March 15, 2012, 4:12 pm

    The comment of “those look so good” should have been met with “I hope they are, they certainly were expensive and required quite the wait/work to get.” And done, change subject. You’ve refrained from risking rude ignoring but pointed out that they are special and not just a whim to share with everyone. The begging puppy looks should always be ignored, never reward bad behavior.

    As for taking large amounts of treats out that have been bought by the company, that is theft and should be reprimanded.

  • Angela March 15, 2012, 4:12 pm

    Like a few others, I suspect that “Jim” is eating this stuff at home. Has anyone ever met his wife? Possibly she’s a dragon lady who won’t bring sweets into the house, thus his excitement and lack of judgment when there are some to be procured. “Obliviously happy” “Puppy eyes”…doesn’t sound like a man who is bringing stuff home to his wife. Wouldn’t he buy her treats if he was that enthusiastic about bringing them home to her?
    In any event, if your office is OK with him taking a little something home, I suggest cutting a piece of cake or setting aside a cookie “for Jim’s wife, since she likes sweets so much” and making it clear that bit of food is hers and no more.

  • Mabel March 15, 2012, 4:51 pm

    What an annoying mooch!

    I don’t mind sharing if it’s something I have enough of, etc. But if it’s a special treat for me, sorry. I would only share with my boyfriend. Not because the office mooch made puppy eyes at me. I would just have said “Yes, you can get these at [insert store name here]. How about those Dodgers (or whatever bean dip remark I could muster)?”

  • Etta Kett March 15, 2012, 5:03 pm

    Wow, Cat Whisperer, your post comes off as unduly harsh and mean. I don’t see how such an extreme assessment of what you assume to be OP’s base motivations is helpful. It that truly the best way you can make your case? Remember, the first rule of etiquette is to assume the best motivations of people until one is informed differently.

  • WrenskiBaby March 15, 2012, 5:10 pm

    The way to avoid giving away your food or any services or invitations someone is fishing for is that you give them the “whatever do you mean by that” look and say nothing.

  • waitresswonderwoman March 15, 2012, 7:23 pm

    I’m going to have to agree with the commenters that say OP is being a little dramatic. Jim seems like a great guy to have in the office and you should consider yourself a lucky girl to have him take him under your wing. Obviously you have never worked somewhere, that didn’t give a warm reception to the “new girl”. Bringing in the entire package of your precious cupcakes was kinda stupid, IMO. I myself would assume that if you brought that many in, you did so to share with someone (although I would never do the “puppy dog eyes” or ask for one), but after all he has done for you, I would think giving him one would have been a lovely token of your appriecation. And, of course, what he choses to do with it is his business. If they were that important to you, you should have taken the extra minute it would have taken to pack up just one for yourself. Perhaps the truffle thing may have been a bit daft, but he just seems clueless. And he obviously felt bad about it as he brought in cookies the next day. Which you very rudely mocked.
    I think you and your co-workers seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill (although, I suspect you may be the one stirring the pot about the situation). To agree with @Cat Whisperer, wait until you have had some horrible co-workers whose behavior actually affects your work and then you can complain. Give Jim a break. He seems like a co-worker who would surely be missed if he wasn’t there. It’s just a little chocolate (which IMO, you seem a little too obsessed with to be healthy). You act as if he’s commiting some horrible crime against mankind. Get over it and count your lucky stars this is your only workplace gripe!

  • Genevieve March 15, 2012, 8:09 pm

    While I don’t agree with taking more than your fair share, I think this gentleman could be cut a little slack as he seems to be a nice person. I’d also hesitate to condemn the cookies – not all of us can cook, but we still want to try and contribute. In some situations, too, people are aware that there’s a stigma behind buying cookies to bring to functions rather than baking them from scratch. I agree he shouldn’t be mooching, but a few polite deflections would probably deflect this in the future. I agree that anything more than a deflection should be left up to the manager.

    Also, I’m going to offer a slightly different side of a similar story. My husband works at an office where cookies are often brought in, cake, candy, etc. The problem is, he really hates chocolate. He thinks it tastes gross. His favorite sweets are vanilla, hard candy (like grandmothers have) and fruit-flavored sherberts.

    Now, everyone has their personal preferences, but,whenever he admits he doesn’t like chocolate, people (especially women) but up a huge fuss and act like he’s some sort of monster. I have even heard people actually say, “What are you, some kind of monster?!” It happens every. Single. Time. To the point where even I am annoyed at the level of flak he takes for a simple taste preference.

    To avoid that fuss at work, when he’s offered something chocolate like birthday cake or a cook he simply says, “Thank you,” wraps it up and tells everyone he’s taking it home to his wife. Which he does, because I love chocolate. But it gives him a convenient out rather than outright refusing the cake and having to deal with the social aftermath.

  • whoop March 15, 2012, 8:41 pm

    @German Shepherd: I think you are confused. The OP was blatantly using “made from scratch” as a compliment. If she thought that the cake was bad because it was made from scratch, she wouldn’t have been so upset about Jim taking it. Also, “gourmet” and “made from scratch” are not mutually exclusive.

  • Echo March 15, 2012, 8:53 pm

    I actually disagree completely with everyone.

    OP, if you don’t want to share your super duper awesome treats, then don’t. There’s no grey area, no, ‘Am I being rude?’ confusion; it’s actually incredibly simple. You can be an adult and deal with the situation or you can choose to share your treats with the man who, by your own admission, has been incredibly helpful to you. What you can’t do is cave in to a perceived guilt trip and then passive aggressively moan about how you were ‘forced’ to give your treats away to someone who didn’t even ask for them.

    And then the part about the wife’s cookies? Really, no one else thought that was incredibly rude? And even though, when the faux pas was pointed out to him, Jim tried to make amends, commenters here want to accuse him of being a mooch, having a dragon lady for a wife, and even ‘creating’ a wife so he can defraud treats from the OP? Yes, taking the entire tray of truffles was rude, but he tried to make up for it – and having a wife who can’t bake well is not a faux pas.

    My opinion? Jim is completely clueless and, since he’s helped the OP, he deserves to be gently told why his actions are rude, instead of being the subject of office gossip.

  • cori March 15, 2012, 10:21 pm

    I’m so confused as to why it really matters to you who enjoyed the cupcake. Maybe Jim can’t eat sweets, I would just relish the fact that the cupcake made her day…who cares if Jim ate it or his wife. Often times I am given things or buy things only to pass on to someone else who would appreciate them more than me and to me that is such a good feeling. If you didn’t want to part with the cupcakes then you shouldn’t have brought them to work. You can enjoy the cupcakes at home where you don’t have to share. I can’t believe how rude your comment was about Jim’s wife not having any taste buds, THAT comment was in poor taste (no pun indented). As for the truffle incident: that was inappropriate for Jim to take the whole tray but someone could have been direct with him and explained that not everyone had the opportunity to try the truffles and to please bring them back. You don’t have to share your baked goods with him and no one can MAKE you feel guilty about, puppy dog stares and all. I can’t get over how you think these sweet you begrudgingly share with him have to be conditional, he and he alone can only consume the items. Seems like you have some underlying issue with Jim, is this really about a cupcake? I get that you are a huge cupcake/sweet guru but your problem seems to have an easy solution, leave your “hobby” at home.

  • jessiebird March 16, 2012, 12:27 am

    It’s interesting that some posters think it’s just fine for Jim to take whatever food he wants because he’s a “nice guy.” Being a “nice guy” is also a manipulative strategy to get away with things. Don’t know if that’s the case with Jim, but being a nice person doesn’t entitle you to special allowances. Plus, do you think people who lack such boundaries or feel entitled to things or who are oblivious to what is fair to all concerned just stop at a tolerable place? In my experience, their habits escalate as they try to get away with as much as possible, until it does become unbearable. But by then, they’ve gotten away with the same pattern of behavior for so long it is hard to call them on it. No, Jim and people like them need to be nipped in the bud and/or educated about proper social relations.

    The comment about commensality (breaking bread together) is spot on. That is the whole point of office food! I’d argue that people who remove office food are not only depriving the group of food that helps to smooth social relations and create accord among people, but actively sowing conflict, resentment, gossip, sneakiness, disrespect…

    It’s not an innocent habit by any stretch. I can’t stand freeriders, freeloaders, the whole attitude toward “free” food. Tacky.

  • Kirsten March 16, 2012, 3:03 am

    I can’t understand why Jim thinks his wife would even know about the cakes, unless she’s some sort of weirdo who interrogates him every night with a lie-detector machine and asks him if there were cakes at work today. No need to tell her, no need to snaffle all the leftovers.

  • TheVapors March 16, 2012, 4:10 am

    It seems as though most people are in agreement that the cupcake situation could have (and can be) easily remedied. Just say, “Yep. I hope they are. TPS Reports? (Beandip?)” It’s OK to say “No” politely to someone begging for a treat that you’ve planned on for yourself. And if they haven’t voiced an actual request? Then ignore the implied look or puppy dog eyes. They’re your treats. No guilt needed.

    I think the only thing I’m unsure of is whether Jim is taking more than one share when these office treats go out. Is he just taking a cookie or two, or a small slice of cake and then happens to be bringing it home? Then, I don’t see a problem. If he didn’t say it was for the Dear Wife… if instead he just liked saving the treat for -his- dessert, then I don’t think people would be complaining nearly as much. Especially if he’s only taking one fair share. That’s not rude or clueless. That’s perfectly acceptable.

    Now, if he’s eating one share at work and then grabbing extras before the rest of the office gets them, then he’s being rude or clueless.

    Or, if he’s taking the whole tray of leftovers (like the one incident) without consulting anyone else, then he’s being rude or clueless.

    From the sound of it, though, he’s just a bit clueless.

    I absolutely love the idea of preempting. “Here’s your share, Jim!” In a very pleasant tone! “Let us know if the wife likes it.” His share (which he takes to his wife) is then accounted for in the beginning. At that point, a boss can say (if he’s going for seconds before everyone gets firsts) “Hey, Jim, I don’t think everyone got some, yet. Your share was already taken, right? Let everyone get some first, please.”

    I kind of find it endearing that he wants to include his wife. But, if the office gets involved in making sure he gets his share to take home, then it might make everyone less grumpy.

    The cookies? They might have been bad, but I see this as a situation to be incredibly gracious. We don’t know what his wife has time to do… and she took the time to -try- and do something nice for his office. This is the time to thank the gesture, if not the outcome. “Tell your wife thanks for baking! It was very nice of her.”

    Don’t blame the wife in any of this, whatever goes on. She’s not even in the office to -know- what Jim is doing. Perhaps he says “Hey wife! Leftovers that no one wanted.” And she just accepts. So, let’s not make any assumptions.

    Jim? I think with a little training he’ll improve, and the office attitude about his one (rather not too bad) quirk will seem even less annoying.

  • Kathryn March 16, 2012, 4:23 am

    Kim : If Jim wants to bring his wife treats, let him put his hand in his own pocket and buy her some, rather than trawling for handouts at the office.

    This! If I freely give a cupcake to someone, they can do what they want with it. I experience the “yay, giving!” warm feelings, everyone’s happy. If someone mooches a cupcake off me, I am giving it with the expectation that THEY will eat it. If Jim wanted this cupcake for his wife, then he should have been upfront about it. Or he should have gone to the store to buy it himself.

    If my friend makes 4 cupcakes for herself and I want one for my husband, should I mooch around her until she gives me one, or should I ask politely if I can take one home to my husband?? Because some of you seem to think that the mooching option is perfectly acceptable.

    Niceness does not cover a multitude of sins!

  • amyasleigh March 16, 2012, 5:19 am

    It can be surprising (though perhaps it shouldn’t be) what strange — and for many of us, seemingly trivial — things, can arouse extremes of passion in people, and prompt them to an almost “shooting wars” level of anger and hostility. This thread would seem to demonstrate that for sure, chocolate is one such. I was gobsmacked at the post telling of how work colleagues of the poster’s husband anathemise him and actually call him a monster, for his strongly disliking the taste of chocolate. As one who likes chocolate well enough, but way below obsession-point, my reaction was, !!!???

    I seem to remember reading that when chocolate was first brought to Europe from the New World, the Catholic Church was very wary of the stuff, opining that it stirred up various base passions in people; for a while, they actually banned it. Some of the material in this thread has me suspecting that in this, perhaps they were on to something…

  • Barb March 16, 2012, 8:18 am

    If someone had absconded with a tray of chocolate truffles in my workplace, you might have seen a “workplace tragedy shooting” story on the news the next day. Your boss called him on it and he STILL walked out with them?? Unbelievable.

    I would bake a batch of dry, tasteless cookies and hand them to Jim “for the wife and her sweet tooth.” See how she likes it.

  • --Lia March 16, 2012, 8:35 am

    It’s true that the recipient of a gift is allowed to do whatever they choose with the gift once it’s given, but isn’t there an implied idea that when the gift is food enjoying one another’s company while eating is expected? If I invite a friend to have dinner with me at a particular restaurant at a particular time, I’d think it both rude and weird if the friend said ” I’d love to come, but I’ll sit at a different table with my friends, and you can pick up the check.” That’s what Jim does, in effect, when he begs for a cupcake, then spirits it away to be enjoyed at another time and location with someone else. He’s held out the promise of a shared good time, then said that the joke’s on you. I don’t blame the LW for being miffed.

    It’s the same with company treats paid for with company dollars or money gathered by collection. If the idea was for everyone to get an equal share and then eat alone or at home, the food would be packaged in individual portions and handed out with no social aspect. Instead, it’s put on trays for people to wander by, take some, and eat together. Taking your portion home for later isn’t the worst faux pas in the world, but it does defeat the purpose

    That said, I agree with the others who have said that if you don’t want to share, it’s polite to be discreet and not wave around treats. Bagged lunches should be just that: bagged lunches. A wrapped plastic container in the office refrigerator is as public as anyone should go. Then the lunch should be eaten in the company lunchroom without waving around riches.

    People aren’t all good or all bad. It’s terrific that Jim was kind to the LW when she was a new employee, but that doesn’t get him off the hook for being the sort of person who avoids criticism by over-reacting. That’s a standard manipulative ploy. If I tell you that a small habit is annoying or that you made one mistake, try not to make the same mistake again; don’t look upset and embarrassed for a month. He may not have planned it that way, but he managed to escape all further corrections with that tactic. Look at what he’s doing. He’s the one who’s wrong, but he managed to get everyone else to feel like the jerk. That’s so impolite that I would suggest not falling for it any longer. When he does something designed to elicit guilt, quickly and quietly don’t feel guilty.

  • Cat March 16, 2012, 9:00 am

    I just recalled an incident in which I had done something rather odd. I had gone down to another office in my school to get some paperwork when I saw that they had a cake. I went over to see if it was inscribed with a name and happy birthday so I could congratulate the person being honored.

    Evidently one of the ladies who worked in the office interpreted that as “puppy dog eyes” and asked if I wanted a piece. Being obese, I certainly didn’t need a piece of cake and I said, “Oh, no, thank you.”

    Now I am wondering if she thought I was rude for refusing the cake-as if I didn’t think the cake was good enough for me once I had examined it. It would be very rude to ask for something, even non-verbally, and then refuse it once it was offered.

  • Fiona March 16, 2012, 9:56 am

    Jim’s account of his wife just doesn’t ring true. I agree with the other posters who bet it’s actually Jim eating the goodies in secret. I feel bad for Jim’s wife (if she does exist) because thanks to Jim’s concocted fiction, she’s being painted as a looney without her knowledge. Imagine the stares and whispers the poor woman will suffer if she ever attends a company event.

    The idea of pre-emptively setting aside “Jim’s share” is a great solution.

  • MellowedOne March 16, 2012, 10:41 am

    So the office ‘nice guy’ is the one no one will talk to about this decidedly MINOR issue, yet all will gossip about him for doing it.


  • Enna March 16, 2012, 10:51 am

    I’m in between those who say the OP is OTT and those who say that Jim is completely in the wrong. Yes there are worse people to work with but Jim is still being rude and inconisderate to his colleagues by doing things like taking the whole truffle tray. Mangement should have a word or HR. If Jim keeps on asking then say no politely OP. You did sound a bit selfish about giving up a cupcake especailly to a man who has taken you under his wing. If you didn’t want to give him one then you could have politely declined or not taken the bait.

    Maybe start asking about his wife? If you get suspicious he is eating them instead of giving them to his wife then maybe he needs some support if he has an eating problem. If he wants to take his share of workers’ food back for his wife that is his choice but he can’t expect more.

  • Calliope March 16, 2012, 11:00 am

    Echo, several of us have indeed pointed out that the part about the cookies was rude.

  • lkb March 16, 2012, 11:06 am

    I wonder now if Jim asked somebody before absconding with the tray. Obviously, it was a misunderstanding: He thought the meeting was done, therefore the truffles were leftover for everyone.
    Not saying he did the right thing by putting them in his car (hope it wasn’t a warm day), but I think I get the thought process now.

    Not to hijack the thread but as a Catholic I hate reading rumors that are intended to place my faith in a bad light. A previous poster said the Church banned Chocolate when “chocolate was first brought to Europe from the New World.” Sorry, Chocolate came from the New World and was brought back to Europe by Columbus. A bishop had to ban all food stuffs from Masses (should be a no-brainer to begin with, as Catholics are required to fast before Mass) because some women were drinking chocolate during Mass. I don’t know about Colonial U.S. but remember that Protestant Churches were pretty severe too — remember the Puritans?
    Just felt the need to clarify.

  • Ann March 16, 2012, 12:41 pm

    “It was made from scratch and was magically delicious.” A riff on words, I believe. From the old Lucky Charms cereal commercial.

  • German Shepherd March 16, 2012, 1:37 pm

    @whoop – It’s the word “magically” that irked me. It’s as if the OP believes desserts made from scratch aren’t delicious like her gourmet treats. In this case, the friend must’ve used magic to make her made-from-scratch dessert taste [surprisingly] good.

  • Goldie March 16, 2012, 3:25 pm

    The tray incident was bad. Other than that, it’s Jim’s share of food. He can rub it all over his body if that’s what he wants. Why the OP’s coworkers insist that Jim’s share be eaten by Jim himself during office hours, is beyond my understanding.

  • TheBardess March 16, 2012, 5:49 pm

    German Shepherd- “magically delicious” is how the Lucky Charms cereal is always described in its commercials. The OP was using a well-known, silly phrase as a light-hearted way to describe how delicious the cake was. She wasn’t saying that “made-from-scratch” goods need magic to be delicious, she was saying that, whoever made the cake, or however they did it, magic must have been involved because nothing could be that delicious on its own. I’m sure she would apply that phrase to various gourmet/storebought goods just as happily. And, as other people have pointed out, “made-from-scratch” and “gourmet” are not mutually exclusive.

    Let it go and stop looking for offense where none is intended. You’re blowing this way out of proportion.

  • Anon March 16, 2012, 5:51 pm

    I worked third shift in a clinic/hospital lab until recently. A few times a year, the clinic would provide food to all the employees. There were usually about 100 people showing up for the second and third shift food, which was usually available for about an hour, and pretty scarce for the last 15-20 minutes of that hour.

    My problem was that I had two 15-20 minute breaks per shift, and I had to take them when the workload would allow. If I showed up early in the hour, when there was still food, it took more than 15 minutes to get through the line. If I showed up at the end of the hour, there wasn’t much other than cookies left. This made me angrier than I thought it should, so the last couple of years I stopped going altogether – I could actually take a break instead of standing in line and I could take a break when it worked for me, so for the most part, I was happier.

    The worst part was one of my coworkers, who had to ask me, every time, “Did you go get food?” and when I said no, asked “Why not?” like it was the dumbest mistake I could ever make, to the point that I dreaded the food days, just because of that coworker. I understand some of her problem – I’d heard horror stories from before I started (and before the third shift supervisor made a fuss), when they didn’t have separate food for third shift and people from first shift took all the leftovers home at the end of their day – but I really wished she’d quit asking.

  • MellowedOne March 16, 2012, 6:11 pm

    @German Shepherd, the OP’s story indicates that she puts a high value on made-from-scratch goodies, for example the cupcakes she baked were from a recipe she painstakingly followed.

    I think her use of the word ‘magically’ meant that the dessert was so GOOD, it was if created using magic. That, and quite possibly Ann’s statement about a play on words using the old Lucky Charms saying, “it’s magically delicious”.

  • Calum March 16, 2012, 8:31 pm

    I’d be tempted to find Jim out by giving him a cupcake with black icing. I’ll bet he has those telltale grey teeth by the end of the day.

  • X March 16, 2012, 10:29 pm

    It would be rude of OP et al to criticize Jim for taking food for his wife if it were always freely offered or taken as a fair share of communal office fare. The fact that he lurks around and makes puppy eyes until offered a piece, then immediately procures Tupperware to take it home, is what crosses the line into him being the rude one. As another commenter noted, the sharing (of the cupcakes and birthday cake) were done in the spirit of community — sharing a treat and presumably conversing over it. If anyone were going to eat a second piece alone and at home, in both cases it ought to have been the OP.

    For instances where he takes a cookie or two from an office tray, it’s no one’s business who eats it and when, though.

    I’m surprised how vicious some of the comments have been on this story, though. Surely one can disagree with a poster–and even disagree vociferously and point out the OP’s own etiquette blunders– without resorting to speculation about the OP’s health, eating habits as regards chocolate/treats, or love life in terms of who does or doesn’t bring her treats?

  • amyasleigh March 17, 2012, 1:10 am

    lkb — sorry, I had no intention of ridiculing your faith; and realise that I am a bit given to passing on “urban legends”, or at least distortions of the facts, without stopping to look closely at them. Should take this as a lesson to me, to watch my step when tempted to rash commenting.

  • Katie March 17, 2012, 7:34 am

    I would have lied about the original gourmet cupcake incident. I would have said ‘Oh, I’m so sorry: normally I would offer you one of these, but they’re special ones from the gourmet bakery, and are a gift for my friend Sarah. I’ve just had to wait an hour in line for them.’ Then I would have put the box away and not eaten any of them until later. Chances are, Jim had no idea just how special these cupcakes were, or how much effort you had gone to to obtain them. It probably wouldn’t have occured to me.

    With regards to the rest of it: it wouldn’t bother me. I’ve worked with people who have got incredibly worked up about the eating of communal food/leftovers from meetings, etc, to the point where policies have been implemented. I just can’t bring myself to care about that kind of thing. I can see how it’s annoying, but it’s a pretty small thing in the grand scheme of things.

  • Lynda March 17, 2012, 10:58 am

    First: I worked with a man very much like Jim. His wife called him several times a day (office had a no personal calls policy but because she had health issues (minor) he was allowed two a day. Then of course he would call her at other times…and any potluck–well, he’d take things home for her…because at HER job they didn’t have potlucks!
    The real zinger was that a lot of our potlucks were baby / wedding showers…he’d turn up, no other men there, and eat away.
    He, too was very kind…to the point of being unctuous….customers loved him but….not so his co-workers.
    Both he and his wife were adopted (not as infants) and were the adult children of alcoholics…so I could understand that they had serious issues they were totally unaware of…she got her way by being very difficult, he by being submissive and smarmy….’Jim’ reminds me so much of ‘Tim’….

    Second: I go to a small church and there’s not a big feast afterwards, usually food brought by members and nothing really planned. (the idea being keeping costs down for extraneous things and leaving the responsibility in the hands of those who really want to do something.
    There are two women (partners) who come occasionally. Both receive disability for non-physical problems so are on limited incomes. One of them, when the food is being put away (or the serving ware taken to the sink to be cleaned) has hauled out a plastic bag or two and taken whatever is left.
    That’s not bad when it’s something that would otherwise be thrown out or that the person who brought it said, ‘yes, take it’.
    Some Sundays there is an evening service and the practice has been to leave any food that might be wanted after that service in the refrigerator. I had brought sliced (deli) cold cuts and cheese with extra for the evening group. The one swooped in and started stuffing her bag full. I noticed it because I was taking several dishes to be washed so I stopper her and told her what was left was for the evening group. She was highly affronted and asked “So you want me to go hungry tonight so someone who’s probably already eaten can have more?”. I told her quite firmly that her hunger later was not my concern and that my commitment was to those who would be serving in the evening. She started to take the food from the bag with her hands (having used the serving fork that had been provided to put the slices in the bag) and I told her no, just empty the bag on the plate. She liked that even less—but did it. I know some people there thought I should have let her take the food but it wasn’t just the food…she’s sneak drinks from the communion wine (kept in the fridge) when she thought no one was watching.
    I might have felt guilty except I had already heard one story of the pair showing up to ‘help’ someone pack for moving and then expected to be fed (‘why don’t you call for pizza, we’re hungry’) when they hadn’t been asked to help and were, in fact, told their help wasn’t needed…because a previous time someone they were going to ‘help’ was expected to let them stay with that person since they didn’t have money for rent.
    Several Sundays ago I made cream of mushroom soup (a large crockpot) and one of the priests complimented me on it. I knew he’d be doing the evening service so I asked him if he’s like me to leave what was left in a plastic container (I’d brought the soup in several large yogurt tubs rather than trying to carry it all in the crock). He said yes, he’d like that. So as I was spooning it into the container, one woman (who had been there for the hour and a half that the social went on after the service) asked: Oh what is that? (It had been on the food table the whole time).
    Another woman said, oh, that was really good mushroom soup–didn’t you have any? First woman: No, I didn’t know it was there (funny…only large item on the table and she didn’t notice it). So second woman tells me, ‘ give her what’s left’. Second woman can be a little pushy at times about things that aren’t her business. Well, I had no problem telling both of them, sorry, I already promised it to Jack.
    Filled the container, put the lid on and put it in the fridge. I was polite about it, but firm.
    To balance the story I should say that most people are very appreciative, not greedy, contribute what they can (many don’t cook or don’t have time) and don’t take anything for granted.
    Another woman who usually brings food in a crock pot often uses cabbage in whatever she brings. Someone once asked her ‘why so much cabbage?’. She replied, it’s good for you, and I like it. Later, same person came up and told her ‘I’ve really come to like cabbage, thanks so much for introducing me to it’.

  • Etta Kett March 17, 2012, 11:14 am

    I have to echo those who think Jim is at best being misleading by eying something with “hungry eyes” and then popping the treat in a container. I have an idea that Jim knows that asking for a treat for his wife upfront wouldn’t be as successful a maneuver.

    And yes, being “nice” is a great way to manipulate others into giving you what you want. You know, attracting more flies with honey than with vinegar? And who wants to confront the “nice guy” on his manipulation? Who wants to hurt that “nice man”? Better to give him what he wants and then grumble amongst yourselves. We all have these people in our lives…

  • Katie March 17, 2012, 2:19 pm

    PS: About the ‘made-from-scratch’/magically delicious comment. I interpreted this to mean ‘She had made the effort to make it from scratch and it tasted fantastic’. I don’t see how else this could have been read. Surely gourmet foods wouldn’t be made any other way than ‘from scratch’?? Correct me if this is a cultural thing, but here in the UK, we would say ‘from scratch’ to distinguish from ‘pre-made’, and would suggest a higher quality product.

  • Merriweather March 17, 2012, 4:56 pm

    Fiona, thank you, I was beginning to wonder if I were the only one who was feeling a bit sorry for the Dear Wife.

    All offices I’ve ever worked in have the occasional holiday party or summer picnic to which spouses and children are invited. I can just imagine that poor woman attending, and wondering why everyone is staring at her. Jim may be a “nice guy”, and taking his share of a treat home to her could be seen as a nice thing to do.
    But his constant comments to co-workers that he is taking it to “Dear Wife”, as well as his comments about keeping himself “out of the doghouse” do not paint a flattering picture of her. Granted, i’m a bit self-conscious of my eating habits as I fight a weight problem, but I’m sure I’m not the only woman who would feel embarrased if they found out their husband constantly talked about bringing them sweets and treats. Not to mention the insinuation that she’s difficult and must be appeased. Poor woman.

    I’m with the others who have stated that what he does with his share of food is his business – while it may be perceived as a bit anti-social to refuse to eat with everyone else at an office potluck, I certainly don’t see anything odd or rude with taking one’s dessert and saying “I think I’ll take this home for later”. Who consumes it when they get it home is beside the point. Personally, I almost never eat a dessert right after a meal, it makes me feel too full and very uncomfortable, so I would often say something on the order of “that cake looks yummy, but I’m just so full, if no one minds, I’ll take my piece home for when I have room for it”. More often than not, I shared it with my daughter, but didn’t see that it mattered one way or the other.

    As for taking home a full tray of truffles – wow. Food does not become “leftovers” until everyone has had a chance to have all they want – and in an office, that usually means letting it sit for a while to be sure everyone has a chance, including those who may not be available right at the moment it’s set out – there are always those tied up with phone calls, appointments, deadlines, etc. who may not have a chance to get any til later in the day. And even once it becomes leftovers (i. e. when the office closes) first dibs for taking it home should go to whoever brought that item into the office in the first place, and only after checking with that person should anyone take extras home (and then usually in moderation so others could take some too).

    IMO, taking home a full tray of food that others have not had a chance to get to is no less theft than stocking your (non-office related) home office with supplies from the supply cabinet at your work instead of buying them yourself.

  • anonymous March 17, 2012, 7:14 pm

    This seems a bit weird.

    Does anyone else think that Jim has something going on (I don’t wan’t to get all diagnosis-happy because I’m not a doctor, but I don’t necessarily mean a serious issue or disorder) and he feels he can’t eat sweets or unhealthy food around others, so he pretends it’s for his “Dear Wife” and brings it home to eat in privacy?

    I mean, I have no proof of this and neither does the OP, but that’s the feeling in my gut.

    I also wonder if the Dear Wife (or Jim – you don’t know who baked those cookies) made ’em taste bad on purpose.

  • MellowedOne March 18, 2012, 7:10 am

    It’s very interesting how many commenters label Jim as a manipulator, even going to dismiss all of his good, positive characterics as a ruse in order to get what he wants. And even more interesting to assert his wife is somehow involved in his deviousness.

    It is entirely possible we know people in our lives who DO act in this manner. But, in this story, as is the case just as many times, it is a case of someone truly nice and good that is doing nothing more than committing a etiquette faux pas or breach of one of the ‘givens’ most of us are aware of and practice.

    Re-read the story, folks. Focus solely on the statements by the OP praising Jim. For it is those words that show Jim’s true self. If you go looking for the bad, you will surely find it.

    “I prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble” – Rudyard Kipling

    • admin March 18, 2012, 11:33 am

      Mellowed One, Good comment! It would benefit all readers who choose to comment if they focused on the salient points of etiquette being committed rather than attempting to diagnose the perpetrator by speculating, particularly when there is little to no relevant data to support the speculation. Most times a faux pas is just a faux pas.

  • KD March 18, 2012, 8:21 am

    @Whoop: I can’t help but wonder if @German Shepard read the “was magically delicious” as “was, magically, delicious”. I would also wonder if, perhaps, we are familiar with the cereal that uses that as a slogan, and said commentor is not?

    @German Shepard: There is a cereal in the US, aimed towards children, that has a slogan of “they’re magically delicious” (with the leprechaun mascot often shown imbibing said cereal with magic) of which, it is implied, children can’t get enough. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with said cereal, but I believe that’s what the OP was alluding to in the “was magically delicious” comment, not that its tastiness was a surprise. 🙂 If you are, I apologize, I’m not trying to sound condescending in the least. I have a few foreign cousins who had no idea about some U.S. cereal and were confused when entering the aisle at the store. “)

    (Apologies if this has been stated already.)

  • babs March 18, 2012, 3:40 pm

    What struck me first off is 4 cupcakes on the OP’s desk. She said she was running late so she grabbed all four. How long does it take to stick a cupcake in a plastic container, baggie or wrap it in foil? Four delicious looking cupcakes sitting on a desk would be a temptation to anybody walking by. I’m afraid I’d probably be drooling over them myself! I’m hoping that she had just arrived and had not had enough time to put her things away when Jim stopped by her desk. As far as Jim, the sweet-snitch, the office can be proactive (I saw this suggested a couple of times). I used to make platters for after-hours meetings. After the fruit/cheese /crackers and dessert platters were all done and put away in a fridge, one of our bosses would get into the fridge, drag everything out and help himself. Eat right from my platters and stick them back in the fridge! No attempt to fix what he had messed up. It would be so aggravating. So, I started making him his own little plate and taking it to his office. It made him happy and it completely took away my irritation. I think they all could think through the situation and approach it this way “Here’s a piece (or a couple of truffles) to take home to Dear Wife since we know that she enjoys the sweets.” Since he seems to be a really nice guy an every other way, hopefully he will get it through his head that this is his portion to take – and nothing else!

    Also, although I think CatWhisperer came on a bit strong, I kind of agree her. In my 40+ years in the workplace, I’ve seen so much. Jim just sound a little clueless compared to the obnoxious weirdos I’ve worked with over the years.

  • amyasleigh March 18, 2012, 6:02 pm

    From Mellowed One : “I prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble” — Rudyard Kipling. Not a quote that I’d have readily attributed to him — but that guy was full of surprises.