Tips to Stop the Food Bandit at Work

Dear Office Mom,
Someone has been stealing food from our office refrigerator. Sad to say, it looks like it’s my boss! I had to go to her office to get something and on my way out I glanced down and saw my lunch bag crumpled up in her trash can. I opened it and my Lean Cuisine with my name on it was inside. I can’t believe she stole my lunch! I don’t know if I should say anything or not. My friends say no way, but this is just wrong and I am pissed. What do you think?
— Kelly
As a young professional look for ways to solve sensitive issues at work to maintain positive business relationships.

As a young professional look for ways to solve sensitive issues at work to maintain positive business relationships.

Dear Kelly,

I don’t understand why food theft is such a widespread problem, but it is. Are we in grade school beating up kids for their lunch money? WTH? I wish people would, at least, have the decency to leave an IOU but they don’t. Or, they could just order a pizza. I don’t get it.  On the surface, it’s only a $2.75 Lean Cuisine, but it’s much more. It’s deliberate deception. Why didn’t she say, “Hey I don’t have lunch today, can I have yours? I’ll pay you back.” Or, if she is the sticky fingered culprit swiping everyone’s food, she may have a problem that runs much deeper than a few hunger pains. She may just steal sh*t, or have an eating disorder. It's hard to say, but that being said, I don't know how your boss might respond to your accusation, so I don't suggest you call her on it. Plus, it's your word against hers, the trash is long gone and you don't have DNA evidence (a little crime drama humor). Besides, you were in her office going through her trash. It may not play out well.

So, rather than confronting her, I suggest that you confront the problem of food theft in general. Depending on your office protocols go to HR and request they post new signage for the fridge that you and your co-workers create highlighting the problem. Make it a double whammy: one sign for the outside and another laminated sign for the inside of the refrigerator. Then, start securing your food more carefully.  No more open bags or food containers on open shelves unprotected.  Roll it, wrap it, make it difficult and time consuming to get at. As with anything thieves usually grab what’s easy and make a run for it, so make things difficult. Or better yet, buy an insulated lunch bag or tote that you can lock to secure your tasty treats. Look for one with two zippers that connect so you can insert a small lock (key or combination). You can find trendy totes to match your style online or at TJ Maxx or Target. These two remedies are likely to help in the short term. If the problem persists, or if you discover another thief in your midst that new insulated bag is your Plan B. It will fit nicely next to your desk. Just add an ice pack.

How do you handle this problem where you work? Do you have some other suggestions? Please share them!

Bon appetit!