Recently, there were a couple of people that I worked with who retired. They were old balls. When each of them announced their retirement, I was surprised at how much pressure was put on me to attend happy hours for them and contribute to gifts. I didn't realize that I was obligated to give someone I barely knew money for retiring.
The first old ball to retire, a person took it upon themselves to collect money for a gift card to the old balls' favorite restaurant. I tried to back out of it, but the collector was persistent. I asked "How much are other people giving?" "$20" was the response. So, into my purse I went and produced a crisp and clean $20 bill. I couldn't help feeling bitter about it. I work hard and since I've started my job I've been denied a raise or even a yearly increase because of budget problems. However, many senior employees have been given those raises and yearly increases because they are unionized and can't be denied things like that. So, I'm supposed to give money to a person who makes more than I do, has been getting salary increases for the last 3 years even though I've been denied them and will be able to dip into social security (something that will likely be unavailable by the time I retire)? In the end, something like 15 people contributed $20 giving this particular retiree $300 to spend at their favorite restaurant. That seemed excessive.
When the second retirement came up, I was able to duck out of giving any money to the gift card, but I felt like a cheapskate. It's not that I couldn't afford the $20, but I just didn't want to spend $20 on this person. And I didn't really want to be pigeonholed as someone who would say "yes" every time a retirement came up. There are currently 3 people who I can see retiring in the next year, so if I gave to each of those retirements, I could spend $100 on people who I will never speak to again and I don't even really speak to now about anything other than office small talk.
Even though I felt like I was taking a good stand, I know my coworkers thought I was a parsimonious bastard. But I didn't care, I was $20 richer. What is the appropriate retirement office protocol? Do you just give up the money to save face, or is it acceptable to act like times are tight and you've got mouths to feed (or in my case jeans to buy)?