Potlucks Yield No Return on Investment

  Potluck or bad luck? I say both.

If potluck is not my least favorite kind of luck, it’s in a close tie with bad luck. Just like bad luck, potluck usually comes as a surprise. I have been to my share of job interviews, and not once has a prospective employer given me any indication that if hired, I would be expected to cook for my coworkers.

When an interviewer offers me the opportunity to ask questions, I manage to come up with something good, like “Will you be paying me in real money?” or “Will I have Casimir Pulaski Day off?”

Never once have I asked, “What is your policy on potlucks?”

Maybe if I had, I could have disclosed some sort of moral objection that would exempt me. Since I was not so clever, I find myself participating in potluck season once again. The reasons I loathe potlucks are numerous, so I will list just a few.

  • Fear of the unknown. My imagination conjures the most nauseating images of snot-nosed children helping prepare something yummy for Mommy to take to work. Because health inspectors do not pay visits to private residences, I picture cats jumping on counters, dogs licking spoons and animal hair flying everywhere. I imagine my coworkers’ kitchens looking like those featured on Hoarders.
  • Fear of the known: When you work with people, you learn who does not wash her hands after using the restroom.
  • I do not like green bean casserole, chili or just about anything people traditionally bring to potlucks. Most kindergarteners have more refined palates, and I am fine with this little quirk of mine. I am not fine with going hungry.
  • My lunch hour is normally my time to escape for just a little while. Since I am not being paid for that hour, I feel entitled to spend it however I see fit, rather than spending two minutes pretending to put things on my plate and 58 minutes back at my desk, working for free. Even if I just hit the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant, I feel liberated. To do so on potluck day, I have to fabricate some errand I must run.
  • I barely like to cook for myself, let alone a bunch of people to whom I am not related. When I leave work at five o’clock, my evening is jam-packed with all sorts of exciting activities such as laundry, homework and having some semblance of a life outside work. I do not have time to prepare a side dish and then get up extra early in the morning so I can load a Crock Pot into my car and reheat it at the office.
  • Some guy always shows up with nothing. Still, he manages to fill his plate at least once.
  • Some may call me a cheapskate, but I prefer the term frugal. Whether I buy all the ingredients and make something from scratch or pick up something from the grocery store, I am always disheartened by the dollar amount that I invest into potlucks. The way I see it, the whole point of going to work is to earn money to pay for my own household bills and food, not to spend it on some social activity that would not exist if I had no job.

All of these factors lead to one conclusion. Potlucks yield a pathetically negative return on investment.  ROI may matter to the business bottom line, but employees have little regard for the concept. To calculate ROI, I must consider the benefits. They include eating a roll and a piece of the cake I brought, the very cake of which I could have easily eaten half if I’d left it at home.

Now, let’s divide those pitiful benefits by the costs: contamination, starvation, captivity, an hour of free labor, resentment towards those who do not contribute fairly, and the fact that I just spent three times on a potluck what I would normally spend on my own lunch. Using this formula, I calculate potlucks to be a poor investment and myself to be the worst killjoy there  ever was. Happy potluck season, everyone!


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