Do you like food? Yes, of course, we know that we have the same answer to that question. Now, how about FREE food. I’ll bet that most of us think that sounds good too!
When it comes to free food, some questions might arise as to why the food is free. As I have been quoted before, I think that frugality goes too far when you’re taking advantage of others, or lose your self-respect. That said, there is one source of free food that I have seen enthusiastically embraced, which is the topic of this 6th installment of Squirreling Gone Wild: The Office.
I don’t mean the television show, but I mean “at the office” at which you or someone you know works. The office with lots of cubicles, copy machines, printers, water coolers, executive corner suites…..and people.
About those people….
In a position from way back when, I observed that some very smart, highly professional individuals became just a bit different when it came to how they handled free food in the office. The free food would come in three primary ways:
1) It would be a free lunch, as a part of a meeting that one attended
2) It would be set out for all to eat, in the form of snacks sent by a supplier (pretzels, popcorn, etc)
3) There would be leftovers from a larger, executive-level meeting where some “good” food was served, and then set out in the common areas for everyone else to share.
With #1 above, people were professional in getting food at meetings. With #2, the snacks were nice but not enticing enough to change behaviors. With #3, all heck broke loose!
Now, it was civilized, but when the “free” food from meeting leftovers was left out, it would be gone in a hurry. Typically there would be restaurant-quality sandwiches, pizza, salad, cookies, brownies, and things of the like. The food would be rolled out on a cart, and left in a common area.
It was a typical scene: when the cart rolled by, and someone audibly commented words to the effect of “hey, there’s food!”, the reaction was as if someone in shallow water at the beach yelled “SHARK!!!”. People within earshot got up out of their cubes and scrambled to get the food. Within minutes, the food would be half gone – just as a result of those in proximity to the food.
Next, an email would typically be sent out. This would usually happen right as the food was set out, and as the first people nearby realized there was food. The emails would have a subject that usually had something very simple such as “Food”, and the body of the email would indicate where the food was stationed.
At that point, when people instantly opened their new email, the stampede was on. You would see plenty of people stand up in their cubes, like prairie dogs shooting out of a hole in the ground, looking in the direction of the food. Then, they would politely get up and walk toward the food. They weren’t running, or overtly doing anything uncouth, but they were like heat-seeking missiles, walking briskly toward the food. It was a sight to behold, as you would never see people move so quickly in the office – even for a fire drill. All done politely, but with a purpose: FREE FOOD!
As can be expected, there was one individual who went over the top. She seemed to have a sixth sense for the food coming out, as she would always seem to be in the mix of people with this food. When she did get it, she would go against the “protocol” of taking only one sandwich, cookie, etc – and take multiples. Further, she would come back after a while and take whatever leftovers were still there after nobody wanted anymore. I saw here walking with a huge salad container one time, and just laughed – she did too! That thing looked like it could feed a family for dinner.
This “outlier” individual said that she spent only $100 per month on food, as she was able to use enough leftovers from the office that nobody wanted. Apparently, eating grilled chicken pesto sandwiches 4 days in a row was no problem for her!
I’m guessing this overall scene might be typical for large offices. What do you think? Is this sensible frugality, or extreme frugality gone too far?
This article was featured in Festival of Frugality #280 at Penniless Parenting.