1. Country Girl

    I do not care for (nor am I really able to stomach) wine or beer. I simply have never been able to acquire a taste for either. This is not typically a problem, as when I attend functions with only beer and wine, I will usually become the designated driver.

    This year our company holiday party is to be held at the owner’s home. From what I have heard, every person in the company, including owners and managers, drinks quite a bit at these parties. I hear the “epic stories” from past Christmas parties at many a meeting. The owner has even arranged drivers to pick us up so that employees are able to enjoy themselves safely. I know he will be serving very expensive wine as well as beer.. but that is it.

    I am really not seeing any great options for myself at this point. It will be pretty embarrassing to be the only stick in the mud by not enjoying any drinks and having to ask for water the whole time. (And I certainly don’t enjoy having to explain to 30+ people that I just don’t enjoy the taste of wine or beer which is why I’m not drinking.) I don’t think it sounds very polite to grab a glass of wine and walk around not drinking any of it, only to waste it. And this will be the type of party where bringing my own drink would be completely tacky. Staying home or saying that I am not drinking in order to drive home safely will not be options either. Ugh.

    Any advice? Is there an option I’m missing?

    • Alicia

      Well a good host always has a selection of alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks availible. I have a friend who also does not drink and what he does in this situation is he brings this fancy iced tea or fancy lemonaid or some other high end non alcoholic beverage. ( actually the spiced sparkling cider he brought on tuesday to a friends birthday party was fantastic.) He will bring that and a host gift tell the host he just wanted the share this fantastic drink. Similar to how someone brings a bottle of good wine or fancy beer. Then he drinks a few glasses of the high end non alcoholic drinks in pretty glasses so do a few of the other guests. So the sparkling spiced non alcoholic cider for example was in champange glasses. Then if someone asks if he would like a glass of something else he declines and says no thank you but that he already has a delicious glass.
      If there is a bartender or a full bar it is usually possible to get a champange glass with sparkling water or my grandmothers classic trick of a red wine glass full of cranberry juice.

    • As Alicia said, a good host will have something else available. I love wine, but can’t drink it all night! I have to have some seltzer water at some point. :) There will likely be several “mixers” in addition to water: Coke, 7-Up, Seltzer, Cranberry juice, Orange juice, etc. Sounds like you work for a fun and responsible company. I’m a little envious.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      I agree that you shouldn’t bring your own drink. It is possible there will be nonalcoholic options available as I doubt you will be the only one who doesn’t drink. If not and someone offers you a drink, say “no thank you.” If the person is polite, that will be as far as it goes. If they push further, say “I’m not drinking tonight.” If they ask “why not?” say “I just don’t want to.” That should be the end. I’ve had many experiences being the only person not drinking at a party, and I know it’s frustrating when people try to ask follow-up questions. Bear in mind they are the ones being rude, not you, especially because many people have very personal reasons for not drinking.

    • Nina

      Dear Country Girl, I don’t drink at all and never have, and though people used to bug me about it when I was younger, I find most adults respect your privacy on this issue. People who don’t know me well never ask why I’m not drinking–for all they know, I might be on medication, pregnant, in AA, or any other private reason. If you just say, “Oh, just water/pop/juice for me, thanks,” are friendly and enjoy the party, there is no reason why this should be an issue…though at a certain point in the evening most people’s jokes might not be that funny to you anymore.

    • Elizabeth

      Country Girl,
      Are you saying that you prefer liquor rather than wine or beer, or that you don’t want to consume alcohol at all? If it’s the latter, then the previous advice is all very sound. However, if it’s the former, I think it would not be tacky for you to bring a nice bottle of whatever you do like to drink. Especially if it’s something you can drink neat or on ice, like scotch, bourbon, whiskey, etc. I don’t think it would be remiss for you to bring this “to share.” I think it would also work if it were a fancy liqueur, like calvados or whatever. If you’re feeling awkward about it, and if you have a certain kind of relationship with your boss/the owner, you could email him in advance, say that you’re really looking forward to the party but that you would really like to bring a bottle of your favorite scotch to share. There’s no way he would say no.

      If you do end up at the party with no other options – take a page out of the old boys playbook and bring a flask, which you can gleefully offer around to people once they’ve had a couple of beers. (or just keep for yourself – in which case, carry around a beer)

    • Country Girl

      Thank you all for your thoughtful advice. Yes, thank you for the clarification Elizabeth, I do enjoy drinking whiskey, scotch and the like. I hadn’t thought to bring an alcohol as a host gift, although that might actually be appreciated by the host. I do know how to make a fantastic apple pie tasting drink that would make a great gift. I guess if he chooses to use it for the party, wonderful, if not I might have to just stash a little flask in my purse as suggested and take a couple trips to the ladies room ala back in college. 😉

  2. Camille

    I agree 100% with Elizabeth. I don’t think it would be tacky to bring a nice bottle of what ou like to drink. It is probably just more convenient for the host to just have beer and wine. If you choose to bring a bottle, I would make sure you leave it there at the end of the evening. It would be tacky to bring it and then take it home with you. If you don’t want to do that Elizabeth’s flask idea is fine too. Think of it this way, it may be others want to drink what you bring too! I am not sure anyone would really notice the flask, especially if everyone is drinking it up as you have heard.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      I disagree. As a host, I wouldn’t be happy if I went to a lot of trouble to select beverages only to have someone bring their own drink and have the guests passing around the flask and ignoring my efforts. A good guests restricts herself to what is offered.

      • Elizabeth

        That would be the case for a dinner party, but for a large raucous cocktail party – it is very typical for guests to bring additional alcohol.

      • Winifred, you are correct; it is inappropriate to “bring your own beverage” to a party of this nature. This sounds like a well thought out, well planned event, and I would agree with those who say that the host will have other, non-alcoholic options to choose from. To bring your own bottle, even under the guise of “sharing with others”, is tacky. It is like attending a dinner party and, upon finding out that beef will be served, asking for fish, or worse, bringing fish of your own to be prepared for you instead. A host will spend time and effort choosing the beverages just as carefully as the food, and a best guest will simply say “thank you”.

        • Jodi Blackwood

          Country Girl — One additional thought for you. This is your company/office holiday party, and no matter how much the owners and managers may drink, no matter how everyone else behaves, your actions will reflect off of you and will be tied to your professional image. How do you wish for your supervisor, your colleagues, the company CEO, etc. to view you on the day after? Do you really want to be remembered as part of an “epic story” from the company holiday party?

    • Zakafury

      I also agree with Elizabeth.

      Mention it to the host. “I have never acquired a taste for wine or beer. I hate to add more work for you, but I also don’t like to look like a teetotaler. If a brought a bottle of scotch to share, would you mind at all? Also, will there be glassware out for virgin drinks anyway? I really don’t want to leave extra dishes. ”

      Office parties are not the same as friendly dinner parties. They’re more like performance art than partying. You need to come across as caring, professional, and relaxed all at once. Offering to share, not being an epic story, and making it clear you’re not uncomfortable around the drinking can all be helpful in this.

  3. Office Girl 2011

    Thank You Note:

    While I understand the importance of thank you notes for gifts and other acts of kindness, I feel like my co-worker may not quite understand their place. Or maybe I am the one who is mistaken, hence my question here. I have worked at the same law firm for nearly 11 years now. I have received a Christmas bonus from my boss every year, along with a summer bonus every year, in December and in June, respectively. These bonuses are part of my pay; they are not gifts. They are not based upon performance or how well the business is doing, they are simply bonus money I receive twice yearly, which I was promised at the time of beginning my employment. My boss has always made good on these promised bonuses. At the time I receive my bonuses, he gives himself the same amount. On bonus day, I simply smile and say thank you and place my check in my purse.

    About a year and a half ago, we hired a part-time assistant to take care of some of my workload, and to cover my days off and vacations. She has become very helpful and we like her, and plan to keep her employed. This year after she received her Christmas bonus, she sent a thank you card addressed to my boss and his wife (who is in no way associated with our office), which came TO the office, thanking him for his generosity. I feel like this was a little bit of overkill buttock-kissing on her part. Am I wrong? Is an employee supposed to send a thank you card to his or her boss after receiving a work bonus that is a part of his or her pay, which was promised to said employee at the time of hire?? Please set me straight if I am incorrect, as I do not wish to appear rude or ungrateful, because I do appreciate receiving my pay as promised. Thanks!

      • Office Girl 2011

        Thank you for your response, Winifred. So Miss Manners thinks that yes, a thank you card would be in order. Now I feel like a thank you card from me this year would be seen as an afterthought! Perhaps I will go out and purchase my boss and his wife a gift card to a nice restaurant for Christmas…

    • Jodi Blackwood

      Hello Office Girl,
      If a bonus is part of your employment contract, then no, a written thank you note is not necessary. It sounds as if when you were hired on with this company, the twice yearly bonus payment was negotiated as a part of your compensation plan — yes? If so, then it would be the same as writing a thank you note for your insurance coverage, your vacation pay, or your regular paycheck. A verbal expression of thanks is satisfactory.

      A holiday bonus, such as the assistant received, is a gift of sorts, and a thank you note is appropriate in this situation. I would suggest you refrain from purchasing a gift card for your boss and his wife, as technically, he did not give you a gift, and for you to start now, after 11 years, would be awkward. What you could do is write him a New Year’s card (so it doesn’t look like immediate turn around), expressing your appreciation for your job, for his guidance, what you enjoy about your work — whatever fits for you — and what you are looking forward to in 2012. Keep it brief, keep it professional, and simply say thank you for everything in general.

      • Office Girl 2011

        Thank you, Jodi. I like your idea! I think that a ‘New Year’s card’ is a good way to make the separation between Christmas and the bonus, and having it appear like I am just trying to keep up with my co-worker and her thank you card. :) Although Miss Manners has spoken, and believes that a thank you card is necessary, I still feel like it’s not a necessity, but probably a good idea in light of the current job market, and the fact that my co-worker has sent a thank you card. I have purchased my boss gifts and gift cards in the past for birthdays, bosses’ day, and Christmas, so this wouldn’t be the first time. Thank you again for your input!

        • LC

          I agree with Jodi. Thank you cards are not required or appropriate for employment contract-related compensation. Also, it is generally inappropriate to purchase gifts for bosses or supervisors. That can definitely be seen as “buttocks-kissing” and inappropriate.

          • Office Girl 2011

            I’m not sure that in a small company, these rules apply. In our company, it is literally just my boss, my part-time co-worker, and myself. I’m not sure of the etiquette for these situations in such small companies. In a large company, I do agree for certain that many of the things we’ve discussed here could be seen as buttock-kissing, and are not appropriate. However, I think the office politics change a bit when it is just three people involved? Regardless, I’ve already purchased a gift card to a restaurant for my boss, so I’ll let everyone know how that goes over! Thanks all.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      I’m a little fuzzy on the circumstances surrounding the bonuses as you describe. Do you have a contractual right to a bonus? I sit on a board of directors where we award bonuses outside the holidays and our manager always writes us a thank you note on behalf of the staff and it is appreciated. My point being, lets pretend, for the sake of argument, you receive your annual bonus outside the holidays (many companies have taken to this). Honestly, a gift may seem like more of an afterthought than a thank you note. And I agree that the note should not have been addressed to your boss’s wife. But a kind note for a bonus is not sucking up or inappropriate. Its simply a way to acknowledge your appreciation of your boss going above and beyond in a very difficult time.

      • Office Girl 2011

        Thank you for your thoughts, Rusty. Yes, I have a contractual right to two bonuses per year: one in June and one in December. I think from now on I will find *some* way to say ‘thanks’ besides just literally saying ‘thanks’. :) I wouldn’t want my boss to think I’m unappreciative, and since my co-worker is an incessant thank you note writer, it’s just going to make me look like the office jerk if I don’t do something in line with what she’s doing, I think.

  4. ruth alota

    I am always in a quandry about what to get family members gifts for Christmas. Would it be appropriate to give them gift cards? Do I need to provide a rational with that? Help!!!

    • Zakafury

      You’ll find wide variations among the posters here.

      There is a certain camp which feels that gift cards send the message “I’m sticking to an exact budget and not thinking too hard about what I know about you.”

      There is a camp which says “I know you’re remodeling your kitchen, so I got you a Lowe’s gift card,” shows that you are paying attention and being genuinely caring.

      There are also people who think “Cash is a great gift, but gift cards make it clear you don’t trust me to spend my money on what I should.”

      You’re obviously not in the first group. Think about the opinion of the recipients, and how close you are. I would never get my mother or sister a gift card, I can find things they want. I have made hand-made gift certificates for theater tickets for my grandmother, so she can choose a show and date, but some years I’ve picked a show and bought tickets. My stepfather will be getting a gift card to a bookstore, because I would typically get him a book, but I found out he recently got an e-reader.

      I feel like he got the lame present in the group, but I think he’ll enjoy it and I know he won’t be offended.

      So…do what you want!

      • Count me in the anti-gift card crowd (for several reasons), except that I agree with Zakafury’s statement: There is a camp which says “I know you’re remodeling your kitchen, so I got you a Lowe’s gift card,” shows that you are paying attention and being genuinely caring.

        I’ve found that friends who are remodeling LOVE getting Home Depot/Lowes/Local hardware store gift cards, since home renovations nearly always go over budget. Or, like with my brother in the Navy, he and his wife move periodically, and can’t keep accumulating “stuff.” Gift cards for experiences such as a dinner and movie, or museum tickets, have worked out well for them. Unfortunately, I have friends/family who have gotten me gift cards for Major Chain, but the nearest Major Chain store is 80 miles away. I’ve had to regift them, or sell them on eBay. If you do get a gift card, please put a lot of thought into it!

      • Lilli

        I’m also in the anti-giftcard camp, but have broken it for very specific occasions. I hate generic gift cards that can be used anywhere, but last Christmas one of my gifts to my dad was a gift certificate to his favorite restaurant. He was struggling financially at the time so I gave him the gift card so he could enjoy a night out guilt-free. He really appreciated it!

    • Jody

      Gift cards (or cash) are definitely appropriate for family members, and in some cases the easiest gift. For example, my nieces and nephew live 750 miles away. I know what stores they like, but I don’t want to purchase a DVD/app/whatever because I don’t know which they already have and which they want. A gift card solves that problem. I know that my nephew is planning a big vacation over spring break, so I gave him cash to go towards that vacation.

  5. Alicia

    There is not ettiquette rule agaist gift cards. Anything you make the choice to give someone is a kind thing and should be appreciated by the gift recipient. So if you want to give gift cards that is fine.
    That said gift cards are just cash that can only be used in one place. It seems nicer to give a crisp dollar bill in the amount you want to give with a note that you were thinking they might want to use it to do whatever you were thinking they would do with the gift card.
    So yes it is a fine gift and perfectly polite and kind just not a great gift.

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