It was an accident, the kind of split-second disaster played out in corporate lunch rooms around noon every day. I reached into the fridge to grab my cubby of leftovers from amongst the other tubs and containers, and out fell somebody else’s.
The yellow Tupperware tumbled off its perch, conked into a shelf and flipped to land on the floor – face down, lid off, pasta strewn. Lunch? Served.
Even if you subscribe to the 5-second rule, it surely does not apply to linguine and seasoned chicken chunks. Mop-sop-scoop? Wait – with hands? Ick. Container? Better. There could be no delusions of pretend-it-never-happened.
Mess disposed, evidenced tidied, floor sanitized, I washed the mystery person’s container, warmed my waiting pasta and beanballs, then returned to my desk to type a note to my coworkers.
Subject line: “Sorry about your lunch.”
My soy creamer, yogurt cups and entire meals have fallen to fridge phantoms. I like to believe it’s an accident, or maybe desperation, especially back in those jobs when the only spare food for miles came from a testy vending machine. Whether it's filched or spilled, food that’s missing when we expect it always leaves us righteously hungry, sadder but wiser to know we really can’t expect more.
“If you had the yellow Tupperware container with a pasta dish inside, I apologize,” I wrote to our staff listserv. “It fell out when I pulled my lunch from the fridge, the lid came off and it splattered on the floor. It’s cleaned up and the container is washed. Happy to buy your lunch, just stop by my desk.”
What followed was swift proof that we’ve suffered quietly through too much break room abuse.
“How often do our lunches or sodas go missing and we never know why?” one colleague wrote to the entire staff. “What a stand-up thing to do.”
“Like button,” came another response.
Still another: “I <3 u."
One person suggested they buy my lunch.
“That feeling you might have had when you realized someone's lunch dumped out on the floor, yeah, that should be gone,” a coworker messaged, “and completely replaced by the fact that you are now the coolest person in this newsroom for your honesty.”
Not so true: It’s not cool at all to splash around in noodle muck or ruin someone’s snack. But it seems there's potential for redemption around our rage-marinated office fridges.
Thing is, nobody ever claimed the spent meal. Whoever you are, pasta-less CNN employee, why don’t you stop by my desk? We should get lunch.
Previously - The politics of the office coffee pot
If my lunch disappears, I always assume it's filtched because I label my lunch clearly with my name, in a colorful container of some sort. Then again, no one takes my lunch, they fear my wrath. I'm the admin and I control expenses. ;-)
I must say that my missing lunch falls squarely in the "stolen" category. Especially since the only thing missing was my piece of chicken.
I had brought grilled chicken, beans, and a twice baked potato from a family dinner the night before. When i went to the fridge what i found baffled me. the lid was off my container, and a piece of chicken was missing. The beans and potato were still there.... but no chicken......
I can't fathom how this would be an accident, and really i had to laugh.... or run the risk of going crazy :D
I work at a National Lab. Lunches, snacks and spare change were disappearing, as well as our coffee supplies (and contrary to popular belief – we have to buy our own – no $16 muffins for us). We set up a camera and found out the base police were not only taking food and coffee, but using our conference room for party central.
We quietly put Ipecac in some fridge food and let them have at it. A drop of soap in a two liter bottle of soda is a wonderful thing...
In my office we had a new worker, that the Queen Bee of the office did not like. Queen Bee made no secret of her dislike, and was rude in every single conversation. One day the new worker couldn't find her lunch, which she had at her desk.
She looked and looked and couldn't find it. She of course blamed it on the Queen Bee, who denied it. It turned to screaming and yelling. The new worker quit shortly afterwards. Several months later we were cleaning out the desk and lo and behold guess what we found wedged into the bottom of the desk.
I used to bring in food, and have enough in the fridge for more than one meal. A little stocking up. I had been eating one particular type of brie cheese for lunch for a while. One day I had brie for lunch. Later in the day someone wanted to know who had eaten their food. I was so embarrassed. I never would have knowingly eaten someone else's food. I was so embarrassed I didn't even say anything. I should have because it was an honest mistake. After that I kept better track of what I had brought in.
OTHER. Someone who needed it more than I did ate it.
I did the ex-lax thing to a brownie thief, he ate an entire plate of them, leaving only crumbs. The best part was he was one of the office workout jerks and he rode a bike to work. I understand he soiled himself several times on the way home that day. Sweet chocolately justice.
I know someone who did the same thing, except he put pot in the brownies not exlax. No not only was the thief exposed, he was fired for being high at work.
Pecan pie hides the taste of Ipecac nicely. If you make it chocolate bottom you can get the ex lax in there as well. Our VP will never take another desert.
One time I was just about to eat my lunch when I got a phone call. I snapped the lid back on the container, put my fork on top and put the container on the far back corner of the kitchen counter out of the way. When I came back about 20 minutes later, the container was gone. I looked in the trash and in the 'fridge but it was nowhere to be found. I started asking around and turns out my co-worker was in the process of eating my lunch-with-my-fork! He couldn't even be bothered to get his own clean fork. When I asked him why he was eating my lunch he replied "It looked really good and I thought you were done with it." Geez. Some people are really bold. If you think I'm done with my lunch and you want to eat it at least ask me first! I might want the leftovers for tomorrow or it might be my dinner tonight. We ordered carry out one day and this same co-worker ate my bowl of rice and beans even though he had ordered a steak and cheese wrap. He claimed he couldn't remember what he had ordered so he just picked something. Sigh. My lunch again. It doesn't matter how big or small the office is. There is always one person who hijacks other peoples lunches.
Wow – if you were done with it, you'd have thrown it away, no?
It amazes me that people actually do this. We don't have that problem in my department. If someone brings something in to share, it's announced that it's for everyone. Other than that, it's hands off! No one even messes with anyone else's coffee packs (whatever you call them – for the single serve machines).
Of course, we also have more than one fridge. Mine's right in my office, so it would have to be a pretty nervy person to go in there.
Once the well meaning porter cleaned out the freezer (Janitors are called porters now). She removed all the plastic bags and put all the box dinners back in. We all stared at them uncomfortably – unsure how to identify our lunches now. So if someone snags my box dinner, I assume accident.
When I sign something and it's taken: then I consider theft. If my pre-chewed food in a tupperware disappears, I expect the person to PUT IT BACK once they realized "I didn't make this". So when my container's disappear: it's either theft or the porter messing up again.
Bless her heart.
One of my fellow Partners is infamous for raiding drinks out of the refrigerator. Whether it be a a 20 ounce soda or a 6 pack of Yuengling someone smuggled back to Texas on a business trip, he treats the kitchen as if he were at his own home.
HA – I guess it would be pretty hard to complain to the boss about that one – "hey, coworker stole my beer from the workplace fridge!"
Honestly, though – I hate to think we need a policy to cover every bit of common sense, but there should be support from whoever's in charge that, if you're caught with someone else's lunch, you buy them lunch. Even peer pressure should be able to help. "Well, Frank, since you're eating my lunch, I expect you to fork over money right now for me to go get something else."
Turn the other cheek. You never know for sure if that coworker is living in her car or not. Offer to buy her lunch the next day. "hahahaha so you ninja'd the spaghetti! I know I make awesome spaghetti, but if you wanted to eat lunch together, just ask! I'll buy at Reno's tomorrow, you HAVE to try their carbonara "
I'm all for being kind but that is kind of ridiculous.
I office from home these days, however I did have a long stint that required my presence at an office. The fridge section of our refrigerator freezer was so loaded with spoiled garbage, that we were affraid to disturb it. For example, nestled in the back of the top shelf was a full, unopened gallon of whole milk. The shelf date was prior to my hire date (I had been on the job for eighteen months!). Also present, one dozed grade a eggs dated from the prior spring. Worst of all, were the half dozen Tupperware containers whose translucence revealed only the vaguest hint of what they had originally contained. They swelled menacingly and seemed to say "open us and you've signed your death warrant."
So we all stuck to frozen food that could be placed in the clean freezing chamber above. I was a shameless Stoffers fan, dining on 5 cheese lasagna, macaroni and cheese, and (when I was really feeling decadent) fetucinni Alfredo. The rest of the gang went with their own brands of frozen delight. However, brand awareness kept everyone on the food straight and narrow.
I worked on a fishing boat in Alaska in high shool for two summers. I refuse to eat any Stoufers frozen dinners to this day. That's all we ate for a week. I have never been so constipated in my life, I ruined two pair of boxers one summer. Sharting sucks.
Shared refrigerators like that are when I bring in my small food carry bag with a freezer pack, and take it home with me after. Currently however there are five of us sharing one fridge and things are working out well - only three of us regularly use the fridge, and while milk for the coffee sometimes goes bad, we keep the thing pretty tidy.
As for Stouffers as a solution... have you read the ingredient list? Bleah, no way. Home cooked food for me.
Jamie – thanks for a well-written, light-hearted piece.
This is the saddest story I have ever read. The fact that someone's entire existence could be so absorbed by the empty theatrics of the hollow, soul-sucking and horrifically fluorescent-lit landscape of their meaningless corporate work life, at least to the degree that they are happy to waste their time writing an utterly vapid and vacuous article like this, is truly pathetic. Usually when people say "get a life" they mean it metaphorically. I am offering that advice in a purely literal context. I mean this in the kindest way possible. You have no life. You need to go out there and get one.
You know, my dad likes to use REALLY big, annoying words to trump someone elses good, original thoughts or ideas. Gee, dad, I thought you were over that?!
Paul – poor Thomas, he's such a condescending, sanctimonious loser. Can you imagine how lonely and unfulfilling his life is?
Ooops, pity poor TOMMY.
Sorry to scrape that raw nerve there (my comments hit a little too close to home for you apparently), but no I definitely don't think you can possibly imagine the freedom and fulfillment of my life, and that's exactly why you are so quick to defend the author of this article. But hey, when you heat up your leftover spaghetti in the little Tupperware container using the microwave oven in your dingy little office kitchen tomorrow, and then sadly carry it back to your pathetic little sunshine-deprived cubicle, past that broad array of co-workers and corporate superiors who you deeply loathe and despise but never have the courage to say anything to, maybe you can think up a snarky little reply to this message so you can vent a little bit of your deeply held personal frustrations without any actual consequence to your pathetic little life. Me? I'll be down at the beach around that time, and trust me I'll be fine. I just hope that the windows in your office building open wide enough for you to make that inevitable suicidal leap when the time comes. Tick...Tick...Tick. There goes your life, loser. Don't say no one warned you...
I think Tommy's brain got a little too fried out in the sun, and so must now base all his opinion's of the business world from the movie "Office Space."
Guess who stole the lunches?
Dude, you are so full of it. You posted at 6:55pm and then came back at 10:35pm to post your long boring winded "rebut." What's the matter Beach Boy? Bored?
Wow. Anal much?
sadly, me-thinks Tommyblackflag needs to get laid.
Is it hard being God's gift to the universe? I mean really – this was a great article; It hits the rest of us mere mortals where we live.
In the future I suggest if you feel the need spew self-righteous pedagoguerous cadswallop – do it elsewhere. The rest of us have lives and are not a bunch of scurrilous ninnyhammers.
What a pompous jackass you are with all of your holier-than-thou rhetoric! See you're not the only one who can shovel word poop. Do you think you can walk on water too?
Ever occur to you that it's not always the food or the cost of it (sometimes it is), but far more the lack of civility and respect for your fellow worker.
We had a food thief – got some of my lunches as well when I didn't have money to waste - that was finally caught. On camera and after the department announced to all that the camera was to go up. Always nice to everyone's face, but stole from us. He had that full time job and his own restaurant as well. He had alway been the first person to pounce on any left-over food from a sponsor-provided lunch. What a little weasel. Had one supervisor that would take soft drinks even if they were purchased by employee, take off the attached name-label and drink them. Complete disrespect for those unfortunate to have her a boss.
To reiterate, such theft is often far more than the cost. It's that someone with whom you work steals from you.
The next time YOU – and I'm betting you do – take something not yours from a communal 'fridge, I hope it's spiked with Ex-Lax. The outcome would completely match your attitude. Oh, by the way, your response shows that you completely missed the point of the article so you're not as smart as you think you are.
Another method would be to take a bite out of the sandwich when you prepare it. It would be the rare (hungry) thief who swipes a sandwich with a bite taken out of it...
I worked in a prison and you would think that your lunch would be safe inside the breakroom there. We were somewhat out of town so you just couldn't drive to get a lunch somewhere, you had to either eat in the dining room (where inmates made your lunches) or bring your lunch. People would just help themselves sometimes. I retired from there and now work part time at a local store. One day I walked into the lunch room and listened to one of the gals talk. She was so tired of losing her lunch to someone, so she decided to get even. She brought in her lunch the next day and it was left over pizza and before she put it in the fridge she spit on it several times. When she went to get it later is was missing. So while people were sitting there eating their lunches, she discussed in a loud tone what she did with her pizza. She never lost another lunch after that.
I worked at a company once that had a notorious lunch burglar; frozen food, homemade baked mac 'n cheese, sandwiches. This person was not a particularly picky eater and the whole office came to the conclusion it was this one guy. Emails were sent out, notes were left, still the food disappeared.
What stopped the lunch burglar? Well, the individual we suspected was arrested on a federal charge and the lunches were no longer missing.
I remember hearing about a marketing rep who was notorious for lunch-stealing, until one day, someone had had enough. They sprayed a fake lunch with a substance that would turn bright purple on the perp's hands. Oddly enough, after this, it NEVER happened again.
It's annoying when people leave their lunch for the day in the office frige. Or even worse their leftovers. I dont even think offices should have friges. Either order take out or bring it from home and put it under your desk until it is time to stuff your fat face. Then throw the rest away.
its spelled fridge not FRIG people.
I-i-i-i-i C-c-c-c-a-a-n-n-n haz -f-f-f-f-rridg-g-g-e?
Actually it's 'fridge' since it is short for "refrigerator".
who cares??? Keep your hands off my food!!!
We had this happen at work too. One day we came in and one of the ceiling tiles was replaced to one with a big camera in it trained on the refrigerator. Lunch thefts stopped. About a year later they were renovating the kitchen & it was discovered it was a dummy camera, not real. Lol.
If at all possible, do what I used to do. Got out for lunch!!!
Going out to lunch regularly makes one poorer and fatter.
I'll never forget the day that me and a bunch of lunch regulars went into the kitchen to have our lunch. While we were sitting at the tables eating our deli bought lunches, a number of people went into the refrigerator to get their lunches and one by one, they all complained that it looked as if someone took a portion of their lunches ............. apparently someone went in and took a little bit of everyone's lunches and had themselves a bit of a smorgasbord. As disturbing as that was, we couldn't help but laugh.
This is what passes for news?
Many years ago I was working at a client location on an extended assignment and had a problem with my lunch disappearing almost every day from the fridge, but then it appeared again – untouched – at mid-afternoon. The break room had three refrigerators and it seems there was an understanding, not known to me at first, that the fridge on the left was "reserved" for the folks on the second floor, and at lunchtime one or two people would come downstairs, empty it out into a couple of large tote boxes and carry everything upstairs. When my lunch went unclaimed they would bring it back downstairs, but since (as an outside consultant) I wasn't in the company directory no one up there knew how to find me. Finally, after about two weeks, I happened to head into the break room to get my lunch when the fridge was being emptied, and learned what had been going on... no more problems after that.
That's weird! I totally believe that due to the weirdness at my last job where everyone had to hike upstairs to leave their lunches in the break room.
That they would send scouts to retrieve the goods is a bit of a surprise but there ya go.
Putting a super-heavy dose of salt on a decoy meal might work.
When I was a teenager, I used to work as a janitor, me and my fellow cohorts would raid the fridge and empty it of whatever looked delicious. We had to rotate our plunder locations though, so we didn't succumb to the "laxative" or "dog food sandwich" trick. I ate well that year.
How about when the night cleaning crew heats up and eats your lunch AT YOUR DESK?
When my sandwiches kept disappearing from the break-room I cut a piece of cardboard about 1/2 inch smaller than the sandwich and placed it between the meat and cheese. On it was written "I know who you are." Whoever it was never took it again.
That's a good one!
My dad used to work for the city. His department had a frig, so people could bring their lunches. They started having lunches disappear, so he tried all kinds of ways to make sure people weren't stealing lunches – put your name on it; the secretary signed people's lunches in & out; he even moved the frig into his office. Nothing worked. Finally, they put a lock on the frig & the secretary had the only key. One day he came in & the entire frig was GONE! That was the end of the office frig.
Well, except the first one.
What gets me about this article is the person works in a newsroom, and the responses that the author quotes are all inarticulate or hackneyed.
I was working as a pipe fitter on a building site we had a mess room took in our food in a plastic box, at lunch time would take out a chocalate biscuit CLUB was the make,it was wrapped in foil and paper.But it was often stolen, so I carefully unwrapped one dipped a knife in hot water cut it open filled it with a laxative.Yes no more went missing, but it was very strong the theft was soon seen running for the loo, I filled pipe with a mixture of oxegen and acetaline lit a fuse
it made yje loudest bang lol,
lOl tHAT FUNNY IS SO! mY LAUGH HARD i FIND INTRIGUE!
Oh wow, these have to be my favorite comments of all time...
My husband works midnights and walked into the break room one day and found somebody else heating up HIS frozen dinner. He just shook his head and walked out. Lucky it wasn't me. I would have opened up my mouth...BIG time. I'll never understand why people think it's OK to take something out of the refrigerator that they didn't put in there.
I can steals cheezburger?
Ceiling cat is watching you....
Basment cat says do it.
I once saw someone drinking a soda I had in the company refrigerator. It wasn't in my lunch bag (just next to it), but we don't have a lot of food thefts here, so I wasn't expecting it. However, when I went to get it, it was gone and she just happened to be drinking the same off-brand soda I'd brought from home. Still, I hadn't labelled it, and there was no definite proof, so I said, "oh no, where's my soda?" while she was sitting right there, and left it at that, hoping she understood that I knew she'd taken it, and might be embarrassed enough not to do it again.
Passive-aggressive, I realize, but this is an office – a professional environment. Getting into a big argument over a 50 cent soda is just not worth it. I couldn't foresee any way that a confrontation about it could end well, so I just let it go.
However, if that was a regular thing, I'd have a real problem. I don't always have enough money to buy lunch, and if I bring one, it's because I'm going to need it that day. For it to disappear would mean that I just wouldn't eat – all well and good if I'm not working a twelve hour day. Fortunately, like I said, it's not usually a problem here.
I'm the type of person that would put a ton of Colon Blow in my decoy lunch if something like that were a perpetual problem. Not only do you find out who it is, but they learn a valuable lesson.
LSD would do it as well...
Exlax brownies work well, too.
As long as you can argue that you didn't purposely taint it for the thief ("I swear, I needed that laxative), you can totally get away with it.
I'm disgusted that courts side with the thieves and hold you responsible if you lace your own food with laxatives or hot sauce.
You know what? I think I've heard of that before, actually. That'll pizz you off, fo sho'.
There were a rash of thefts at a newspaper I once worked for. One of the workers got tired of being without dinner frequently. So, he made a dog food sandwich and placed it as a lure. Yes, that was an effective deterrent.
nowadays, that will get you jailtime
I had a friend who's coworker consistently stole her lunches and snacks, even from her drawer. This was happening on a daily basis and everyone knew who it was. To solve this problem, I told my friend to buy a box of those mini, white sugar doughnuts, sprinkle them liberally with Allum (the spice that makes pickles sour) and leave them opened in her drawer. The food theft went down after that.
How do you "accidently" take someone else's lunch. I worked at a company that had a community frig. I had a pre-packaged meal with my name on the box in felt pen....how can that be anything but what it is....theft.
The only accidental excuse that can work is because the food taken was not labeled. In our fridge, there are so many containers that are unmarked its crazy. Since I usually clean it, I email everyone ahead of time about a clean out day, then, on that day, any container not labeled goes into the trash. (Unless its a great container then I take it home). If you are too lazy to mark your stuff, then I count it as a tip to the only person willing to clean out the fridge..
It was the same thing that you ate. It was in the same bag, the person who took it, didn't label his bag so never really though of looking at it.
I don't think it even matters if you label it. I worked at an office about 15 years ago. Used to bring in cans of Coke because I didn't feel like paying the outrageous prices at the vending machine. The refrigerator was right next to the vending machine and I used to put my soda in the fridge with my name on a piece of paper TAPED to the can of Coke. I was lucky if 50% of the time my soda was still in there when I felt like drinking it.
It's gone + I didn't eat it = It's stolen.
Excuse me, I believe you have my lunch.
No, but I did take your stapler.
Thith ith my Thwingline Thtapler. They altho thaid I could lithen to the radio between 9 and 11 am tho long ath I kept the radio at a reathonable volume.
Yeah, well, that may be. But at least I never slept with Lumbergh.
Milt, we're gonna need to go ahead and move you downstairs into storage B. We have some new people coming in, and we need all the space we can get. So if you could just go ahead and pack up your stuff and move it down there, that would be terrific, OK?
And I said, I don't care if they lay me off either, because I told, I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I'm, I'm quitting, I'm going to quit. And, and I told Don too, because they've moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels, and they were married, but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn't bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it's not okay because if they take my stapler then I'll set the building on fire...
But I don't want to go to ANY prison!
Haha!! Best thread ever!
An accident is one thing; when people swipe your lunch consistently it's another. It got so that at least twice a week, my lunch went missing. I finally started taping a note to my bag, "Just so you know, I spit on this." No one ever took my lunch again.
Ooooo...I love that idea. When my sodas kept disappearing from the fridge at work I kept threatening to bring in a 20 oz bottle, let a little out and actually piss in it.
Reminds me of the episode of The Office when Kevin brings in big pot of chili and trips, spilling it all. Then tries to scoop it back in the pot. LOL
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