America's worst office Christmas parties, gifts, and bonuses.

Commentary about business and finance.
Dec. 21 2006 4:41 PM

The Corporate Scrooge Contest Results

America's worst office Christmas parties, gifts, and bonuses.

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In 2004 and 2005, employees of one giant insurance firm received a $500 after-tax bonus on the last paycheck of the year. This year, however, the formula has been changed to a discretionary performance-based bonus. "Conventional wisdom estimates that the employees who actually receive one will net about $100 in March," Moneybox's insurance correspondent writes.

The winner:An employee of a very large law firm in Chicago reports that the firm in 2005 had a positively bacchanalian blow-out. It sprawled over four floors, "including one floor decorated to look like a forest glen in medieval England, complete with suits of armor and fake-fire torches with buffet tables stacked with serrano ham, sausage, smoked venison, cheeses, etc. And, naturally, a chocolate fountain." Mmmmm. Chocolate fountain. This year, our legal source writes: "no decoration, barely edible food, and worst of all, the party was completely dry." Completely dry? Why, a corporate party without alcohol is like, well, it's like a corporate party without alcohol.

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There's more. In a news release, United Steelworkers Union Local 12-192 reports that Riverside Cement Company, a California-based unit of TXI, is using the Christmas party as a cudgel in negotiations, "In previous years, union hourly workers and their families have been welcome at the company's holiday gathering, where common laborers could sip eggnog with corporate managers in the spirit of fellowship," the release states. "But this year's party at the Hilton [in Victorville, Ca.] is for non-union, salaried employees only."

The lamest party ever? There are surely many contenders. But this one ranks high on my list. A former employee of Manhattan's legendary Strand Bookstore writes that the store treats its staffers to a holiday party, before the 18 miles of shelves are open to the public, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. "Few employees actually attend," the ex-Strander writes, "given that to do so would have them arriving at their workplace a full hour early to eat bagels in dismal surroundings with their coworkers."

Perhaps the most Dickensian example comes from Scrooge's homeland. One writer nominated his former employer, David Bury Ltd in the Dickensian-sounding town of Grimsby. "During my time with the company as a consumer electronic service engineer, the annual Christmas bonus given to all employees was a bag of potatoes," he writes. Apparently a relative of the boss owned a potato farm.

God bless us, every one.

Daniel Gross is a longtime Slate contributor. His most recent book is Better, Stronger, Faster. Follow him on Twitter.

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