#011–A Question of Etiquette: Where’s the line between considerate & rude regarding gifts?

Ooh, a two-fer today. This question’s been bugging me off and on for over a year and recent events reminded me of this annoying incident. This was the scenario that happened (compressed for time):

A certain co-worker made a somewhat nice gesture. I was at work when an illness I’d just gotten over came back full blast mid-morning. I was going to try and stick it out (thankfully I didn’t have to work around people that day, so I wasn’t getting anyone else sick) at least through lunch, and had packed some piping hot soup in a thermos that morning.

Well, this one guy asked me out to lunch with he and the guys, but I said no, that I thought it was rude of me to spray the place and be a bio-hazard around other people, so I was gonna pass. He said it was okay, and he’d bring something back from the restaurant.

Well, I said “no, thank you, I already have some soup.” And I even held up the thermos in my bag.

He said it’d be no trouble and he’d bring something back.

I said no, I already have soup, but thanks.

Well, I had to go do some rounds, came back to the office, and he was at the computer looking up the menu for the place he was going to go. Again, he said they had several types of soup there and which one do I want.

I told him I already had hot soup and that’s what I was going to have for lunch.

He said he was already going to get some.

I said he could give it to his mom or something, but I was fine and taking care of my cold.

He said his mom wouldn’t want it for dinner and he’d just pick something good for the throat.

I said I didn’t want any. I repeated that at least half a dozen more times.


Doesn’t “no mean no” with food, too? (sigh)

Well, about two hours later, I’m in the break room eating my wonderful chicken noodle soup (or trying), when he comes in and drops a bag in front of my face containing–you guessed it–soup from the restaurant. Soup more expensive than anything I’d seen on a menu anywhere and I was angry as hell.

If I wasn’t sneezing and bleary eyed, clearly weak, waiting for my boss to come in, I would’ve slugged him. I pushed the bag back toward him, saying I was fine and I didn’t need any more soup, that I had plenty and he should hang onto the bag and have it for lunch the next day or something. Heaven knows soup reheats well.

He said it was mine and he was going to leave it. Then he got up and left.

I sat there, fuming at the bag and wondering what the heck I was supposed to do with it. I wanted to leave it there, but knowing it was a cream based soup and would go bad, I didn’t want it to go to waste.

Had I been thinking clearer and not in impotent anger, I would’ve dug up a Sharpie marker and wrote “to whoever wants it” and put it in the staff fridge. I should’ve done that. Instead, I took it with me.

I wish I could say that I gave it all to my dog. I wish I could say I dumped it out into the river to feed the birds on the way home. Instead I ended up taking it with me, put it in the fridge (and let the dog lick the pan after I reheated it).

When I got better, I went back to work and was angry with him for a few days. He didn’t understand what I was so angry about. I finally said that it was because I’d indicated at least fifteen times that I was taking care of myself and didn’t want him to buy me anything and he just railroaded over my wishes as if they didn’t matter. I had soup–I wasn’t going hungry at all, and I was fine. Sick, yes, but not incapacitated!


Weird–that was kinda my reaction…and his, now that I think about it. A-hole!

Plus, I knew about his crush on me and didn’t want to encourage him.

So, after he apologized, he asked “but you took it home with you, didn’t you?”

I wish I’d lied. The little “Yes!” in his eyes and grin made me want to punch him.

A week later, the guys he went to lunch with were wondering what was wrong with me and I told them. The person that invited us out told me that he was going to pay for everyone’s lunch, since he invited everybody out, and the “certain co-worker” insisted on paying. Well, this went back and forth a few times, until the “inviter” was getting irritated and finally let him pay.

Apparently, it was important that I know the “certain co-worker” paid for everyone, not just me. Dunno why exactly, but it made me mad, and somewhat assured that it wasn’t just me miffed by his behavior.

I mean, yes, it’s a nice gesture, but where’s the line between rudeness and consideration, when someone declines an invite, food, or a gift fifteen times? Isn’t it rude for them to persist and then just do it anyway?

I got to wondering if I was being rude, like is there a gift declining etiquette I was missing out on? All I know is I ended up taking it, and he practically did a damned victory dance afterward.

And I knew if I let him keep pushing me in the future, he’d push me into something I wouldn’t want. That event startled me, because it went WAY beyond considerate…at least to me. It’s like he had to have his way.

Is there a way I could’ve handled this better (other than calling H.R.), or is there some bit of etiquette I missed? Remember, I’m lousy at social skills, but trying to get better. I just want to know of a better response to this should something like that happen again.

Did anybody ever do that to you, and how did you respond? Can’t seem to find much on this online.

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