People Who Do Not Contribute to Get Togethers

Updated on June 15, 2017
N.G. asks from West Boxford, MA
21 answers

Hello moms, how do you feel about family members or co-workers, etc. who show up empty-handed to a potluck or get together? Yet, they eat and often pack up a to-go plate. I have heard folk complain, but others seem to brush it off. Please note that income issues do not play a part in their not bringing a dish.

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So What Happened?

I have been on the receiving line of folk who call after an event and state, "Did you see that ---- came in empty-handed but left with a plate?!". With that, no one person can excuse others-- there may be a lot of food-- but those who brought a dish may feel otherwise -- if they spent time cooking then why does someone else get to come eat, carry a take home dish and not have to buy nor cook.

I never will have that said about me, so I buy extra bottles of wine and keep them on hand for last minute invites-- whether it's a potluck or just a dinner invite. For me, it is just tacky to go to any gathering empty-handed. I will not call and gossip about it afterwards, but I do notice.

SWH: We had a small neighbor event yesterday and the some neighbors were miffed at those who showed up without their contribution...yet packed off plates.

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answers from Denver on

If you know people have this pattern, you might actually assign something for them to bring. If it is just "bring a side dish", they may wig out. But if you say, can you bring a salad? Or get very specific as to what they should bring, it will let them know that their contribution is important

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answers from Portland on

I would only be annoyed if it was clearly communicated that people were to bring an item - and they didn't. Even so, I'd likely not really care. I probably wouldn't make a point of inviting someone if this was a pattern. Or .. I'd ask them to bring such and such next time.

Some people really are clueless. Clueless people just need to be told what's what - in a kind way.

Rude people - are a different matter altogether. If they know they should be bringing something, but make a point not to - and then take food when they leave, that's a bit odd. I can honestly say I've never run into that.

We did have a few men at my old workplace who were in their 20's and didn't get what they were supposed to bring and so they would show up and help themselves to food. As others mentioned, you just say you need to contribute x dollars if you're not going to bring something.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

At work we often have a pot luck lunch about once a month to celebrate various things. We solved this issue by having 2 options. We say "please either bring a dish to share or contribute $10. Please let Jane know if you plan to come and what you'll bring or you can give her your $10." We use the $ to fill in any holes in the menu plus we use it to buy the paper products.

It works pretty well.

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answers from Columbus on

I think that it depends on the type of gathering. If it's a potluck, then everyone should be expected to bring something, unless there are extenuating circumstances. If someone routinely shows up empty-handed, when I extended the invitation to that person I would ask the person to bring something very specific that doesn't require a lot of effort. (ex. plates, drinks, etc.)

For other get-togethers it can be trickier. If it's not a potluck, then it's trickier because bringing something the host isn't expecting can sometimes create more work for the host. When I accept an invitation, I always ask the host if there's something I can bring. But not everyone does the same thing. So I think that in this situation, if you expect someone to contribute, then you need to politely ask them to bring something and give them a specific example.

Once the person shows up empty-handed, I don't think there's a lot that you can do about it. In my opinion, it would be rude to ask them to not take a to-go plate. I guess at that point, you just have to decide if their behavior is so problematic that you need to avoid inviting them in the future.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Whoever is organizing or inviting should speak to those known to do this in advance. I think a face to face request of "Will you please bring some chips and dip? It would be much appreciated"

I think a lot of people just aren't the making-food type. Some people just don't get into finding recipes, baking, or whatever. While some love this kind of thing, there are those who find it daunting. And would be embarrassed to buy a pre-made dish from the store next to everyone else's thoughtfully homemade things. I'd still value these people's company at a gathering. Just make it easier by asking them to bring something specific and very simple, like chips, or soda, or napkins and paper plates. They don't have to stress out about what to bring or trying to whip up a creative salad side dish.

As for packing up a to-go plate. I think that's pretty rude unless the host announces that guests are welcome to do so. But in some families, it's just a given tradition, so I wouldn't get too upset about it.

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answers from Atlanta on

My first thought was what several ladies have already written - assign dishes to everyone in attendance since some of these people clearly need a reminder that everyone should chip in and help. Actually I would never show up at anyone's house empty handed. It doesn't matter if it's a pot luck or if it's an invitation for a dinner party. But certainly at a pot luck the expectation is that you bring a food dish and if it's a dinner party - a bottle of wine, flowers or a hostess gift of some sort. That's just common courtesy and appreciation to the hostess.

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answers from Jacksonville on

How do I feel about it? I feel like it's extremely rude, if it's a habit for the same people to do this. However, if it's something like a church meal, then I always assume that either the person/family didn't realize the event was taking place or for some reason was unable to contribute (whether that means financially unable, physically unable-- some people get rides from others and aren't well able to cook at home-- or had time restraints for that particular event).
As far as taking plates of food after... I would never do that without being invited to do so, regardless of whether I brought a dish. I would simply take whatever remained of my own dish. Normally, even at non-hosted events (at a church or office where everyone is equally a guest/host), there is normally someone who tends to be "in charge" or organizing how food is laid out, etc. That person also tends to be the one to signal time to start packing up/putting away the food, and often is the one who would encourage someone to take a plate (beyond what the person brought). Most people wouldn't mind someone packing plate to go (for a spouse, say, who was unable to come but won't have a meal at home since their spouse was at the event for the meal and cooked for the meal), but I find it rude for anyone to pack up ALL of any item if they weren't the one who brought it. Or to pack up multiple plates for multiple people/meals later on.

What to do about it? That's another question. One you didn't ask. And I don't know a good answer... b/c people are rude and not everyone exercises consideration for their neighbor. You can't make people be kind. Either they learned it at home earlier, or they didn't.

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answers from Tampa on

I think it's tacky in absence of true financial hardship. I don't necessarily watch what each person brings, but everyone should contribute if it truly has been communicated to be a pot luck. I'm busy and frankly not a whiz in the kitchen. For stuff like this, I would typically pick up a fancy cake from a bakery.

As for what to do...not sure that there's much you can do except stop inviting the moochers. Are these otherwise pleasant folks and is this just a strange quirk?

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answers from Santa Fe on

I let it go and don't let it bother me. I'm more concerned with seeing them and spending some quality time with them. I tend to have too much food anyway!

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answers from Boston on

I think it depends on how the invitations are worded. If it's "Come on over for a BBQ" then bringing something is a nice gesture but not required. It is assumed that the host is handling things. Now, I always offer, but if the host says, "Oh, we don't need a thing, thanks," then I bring a bottle of wine or a small gift (bath soaps, plant, etc.). I don't usually bring flowers because the host has to stop preparations to go find a vase, you know?

But if the invitations are worded as a "pot luck," then there are 2 ways to go (but everyone is expected to do something). "Pot luck" technically means nothing is arranged, and everyone brings what they want, and all the guests are fine with that. It makes it fun.

Others really mean "a shared meal" and want to organize it. We have a group that gets together regularly, and the hostess provides paper goods/utensils and a clean house, and is not expected to cook/shop. But that's our arrangement with each other.

Another way to handle it, which works great for large gatherings but also might solve your problem, is to use something like Sign Up Genius. A lot of our schools use it for class gatherings and volunteer events. We use it for our neighborhood block party and for a meal chain for someone who is ill and needs help over weeks/months. It combines the invitation, the directions, and the needed sign ups, and it even sends reminders to people reminding them of what they agreed to bring. You can put in any categories: let's say you have 30 people/families coming: you might put in 5 appetizers, 5 main dishes, 5 sides, 5 salads, 5 desserts, and 5 for drinks/supplies. Then people get to choose what they want, they put in the specifics (pasta salad, sweet & sour meatballs, lemonade....) and everyone else can see what already was chosen. And in your case, it would make it obvious to all that certain people have not signed up for anything.

Beyond that, if someone doesn't do something, you have 2 options: stop inviting them, or specifically call and ask if they could help with either A or B. Let them choose, or perhaps they would suggest choice C, or they can say no to your face.

After that, you let it go. We find with our block parties that there is just so much food, it doesn't matter. As for taking home leftovers, this is usually a blessing unless they are taking unopened bottles of wine! We always keep containers around (from deli salad purchases or supermarket take-out bars) and put them on the table toward the end of the evening, inviting people to take home what they would enjoy. Saves clean-up, prevents food waste.

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answers from Portland on

Honestly, I just let that stuff go. Life is too short. When there's a gathering of that nature, there are enough people I do enjoy that I spend my time with them. I don't worry about who brought what..I'm there to have a good time with the people I like and I leave it at that.

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answers from New York on

Every potluck I have been to takes a moment at the beginning for each person to talk about the dish they brought (key ingredients, etc). Have you tried doing that? I would imagine that anyone who showed up empty-handed would feel awkward announcing to the group "I brought nothing"!!

I have also been to events with the option to either bring food or pay a nominal charge (say, $5). That money can then be used to order pizzas or something similar if more food is needed.

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answers from Dallas on

I think if friends on how the invitation is worded. If I have a get together, I do not expect others to contribute as s hostess.

If I'm having s large potluck get together, I make it clear that it's potluck on the invite.

In any case, when I'm invited somewhere, if the hostess does not want contribution for the meal, I take a nice bottle of wine and hostess gift.

As for take home plates. I think it's tacky behavior (especially for someone who did not contribute) unless the hostess asks people to take leftovers. I personally don't do take home plates for myself.

If I encountered that behavior, that person would no longer receive invited to my functions. My friends are not moochers and if I encounter a moocher, it's just once and never again.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Yes, I see this all the time. I like what Deedee said. It's perfect. Basically assign things out by asking specifically "would you please bring a pasta salad to the get together?" "Would you please bring some bread?" "Can't wait to see you, can you bring a green salad? Thanks so much.".

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answers from Los Angeles on

I agree with what many others said - if it's a true potluck where everyone is expected to contribute, then I do get annoyed and I do notice. However, if one person invites everyone over for dinner or a bbq, but doesn't call it a potluck or ask others to bring something, then I don't think it's bad.

I always bring something to a potluck. I'm not always good about bringing something to a dinner or party if it's not specified though. However, I am making a strong effort to be better about at least bringing a hostess gift or bottle of wine, if not a dish to share.

Though not quite the same... I have one friend that is always asking others for favors and freebies, but never gives in return. She will ask for fruit from backyard trees, to have pants hemmed or other garments sewn, or for a haircut for her son. She attends get togethers at all of our homes, but never hosts at her own. Many of us are getting increasingly frustrated... we all notice how much she takes and how little she gives.

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answers from Chicago on

If it's a potluck then they have to realize that's the theme. Everybody throws their food together. If it's just a visit then sometimes people do not understand it would be a kind gesture to bring something. We were invited once to a family dinner and brought along chips and homemade salsa and remember how the family was searching for silverware a previous time I brought some nice plastic ones. My husband and I were shocked when the wife was all insulted because we brought the silverware, said she could take of her own and she literally kept the salsa out of sight and threw it back in the car as we were leaving. It was all over. We were so hurt. So I guess the best answer there is to perhaps check it out before you go...such as do you need anything?

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answers from New York on

Some people don't know better until taught better. No need for all the chatter behind their backs, they were bold enough to take plates then I'm bold enough to gently call them out on it or boldly if required.

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answers from Honolulu on

Well, I'm going to raise the possibility that some people are intimidated, or fearful, about bringing a dish. Their previous attempts to make something to share may have been mocked, ignored, or laughed at. They may not know that their Tuna Marshmallow Surprise tastes horrible, until they see people rolling their eyes at the very idea. They slunk out of that get-together carrying their still full bowl of the Tuna Marshmallow glop.

I have known a few of those kinds. They want to come, but the thought of making something terrifies them, or brings up the memories of the time that they used whole ghost peppers in the sauce that called for a pinch of crushed red pepper. So they come, hoping no one will notice that they came empty-handed.

My suggestion is to purposefully ask those people to bring something specific and simple, like a bag of ice, a couple of bags of potato chips or tortilla chips, paper products, or a couple of bunches of grapes. They may be relieved. If they still come, and come empty-handed, feel free to speak up and remind them that everyone needs to contribute something.

Of course, they just might be jerks who freeload, but there is a chance that they're not.

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answers from Norfolk on

In our household - if you didn't bring something, you don't get to take any left overs home.
Some people are truly busy and/or forgetful - but how difficult is it to pick up a party veggie platter or a bag of chips or box of cookies at a supermarket on the way to the party?
It's not that hard at all!
If there's a repetitive moocher - eventually people stop inviting them - and that fixes it for you.

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answers from Wausau on

I don't often organize potlucks, but when we've had them with friends we've used a Facebook Event group to coordinate and people say what they are bringing so things go smoothly and all the bases are covered. Nailing down participation in advance is the only way to go if everyone in the group is not laid back about the outcome.

We don't really have family potlucks. Sometimes a person will bring an extra something with them, but family meals are typically hosted. Sometimes a pair of aunts, or a group of cousins, but not "everyone bring a dish" kind of thing.

The last time we went to a beach picnic with relatives I asked about bringing something because my teenage boys can eat like locusts. My aunt was adamant that I didn't. It is a point of pride in the family to have way too much food (imo) at gatherings, so so "eat more" and "take some of this with you" happens a lot. If you don't take a plate or container home, you might have to explain yourself. The phone-call gossip wouldn't get the reaction they are looking for from them. LOL



answers from Oklahoma City on

Some people just can't afford it. You don't know what their bills are and what resources they have.

I would say this next time you invite someone to come eat at your house.

"Hi, I'm having a get together at my house on XX-XX-2017 and we're providing XXXX. We're having a theme meal and want to make sure everyone doesn't bring the same thing.

What can we put you down for? That way no one else will bring the same thing."

If they say they'll bring something have a place on the table for it and when they don't bring it they'll see the space and little sign saying "Joe Blow's baked beans go here" and then they'll feel small and notice that everyone is missing out.

If that doesn't send them a message and get them participating then stop inviting them. If it's at the office then you need to not bring anything and eat anything. Go out to lunch and ignore the get together in the office. Let them eat what the others bring and then you don't have to feel used and taken advantage of.

Otherwise accept that you are going to a pot luck and sometimes people can't or won't bring anything. Either feel more gracious and share or stop participating.

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