Office Food/Drink Thieves!

I’ve seen various other threads about this which are always entertaining.
I thought I’d share my own story of the situation in our office and see what fun things any of you have to add; and any suggestions you have too.

Here’s the deal. Big corporation, cubicles as far as the eye can see. Our little Business Intelligence group takes up about 6 spaces. We’re a tight knit group most of us have worked together for at least seven years.

Our little fiefdom is also near the break room where my company provides free coffee, free fountain colas, and free hot chocolate. We were gifted a Keurig for our group’s use. Additionally we frequently bring food items in to share with our group.

You can all see where this is going I’m sure. Some people just walk right in and take food and make themselves a cup of coffee. No asking, no nothing. What the hell?

I’m one of those people who think there are already too many signs in break rooms, cubicle walls, etc. (“please don’t throw garbage down the sink”, “Don’t leave food in the refrigerator over a week”, “Don’t leave toilet paper on the floor”, “Shh, people on the phone, working!” … etc. etc. ) However someone in our group want to leave a sign as stage one.

That’s where this post comes in. How about some serious, and not so serious suggestions for a sign to let people know that this food and coffee is not free?

“The food and drink in this area is for use of (X Group) only. Area monitored by and e-mail alerts sent by security camera”.

Free Food from Chipotle

The Keurig and food are in the break room, or in your cube pod? If it’s in the breakroom, there’s your problem right there. I’m not sure how anyone is supposed to know, unless it’s marked. The coffee is easy enough, just keep the pods at someone’s desk. Marking the Keurig as “BI use only” probably wouldn’t hurt either, in case people start bringing their own pods.

I’d move the food and drink to your cubes, though, if you really want it for your team’s use only.

We used to have our own break room with our own refrigerator. A few years ago they built us a new office directly adjacent to the original space, and we now share the break room and refrigerator with the new occupants of our old office.

Apparently one of the new people has an uncontrollable lust for Lipton Brisk tea, because I got a cube of them that I stored in my car and would bring one in each day to drink with my lunch, but after only a single day in the new office, every time I put one in the fridge it mysteriously disappeared within an hour, sometimes within minutes. I’m not in a place where I can just sit and watch who comes and goes from the break room, and I don’t really care about it enough to go to any lengths to find the culprit, so I just stopped bringing them in.

As to the OP, you need to clearly demarcate what stuff is provided by the company and what is “personal” for yourself and your group. I find that when people see a whole bunch of signs, they just ignore all of them, so I would condense all of the signs into a single sign of “break room rules,” posted on the inside and outside of the doorway, then clearly mark what is company-provided “free” stuff for all, and what is not.

Wait, the company provides the free coffee, free fountain colas, and free hot chocolate, but it’s only for your group’s use? The solution is obvious - get the CEO to send an email:

“The coffee, soda, and hot chocolate in break room X is only for use of the Business Intelligence group. The rest of you can have a nice fresh cup of go fuck yourselves.”

“If you are sexually active, use this coffee machine at your own risk. If you are not sexually active, go ahead, as you never will be. You have been warned.”

Having food/drinks in open space designated for a subgroup seems like a very bad idea and destined to cause never-ending problems. There is no workable solution which allows you to keep all that freely available stuff in the breakroom and not have other groups take it. Even if you can somehow prevent people from taking the free stuff, it will cause endless resentment.

One possibility is to get a fridge with a lock. Put the canned sodas, Keurig pods, etc in there. Leave the Keurig out for anyone to use if they bring their own pods. Or else put your stuff in a completely different area with a locked door.

I see I wasn’t very clear. Sorry about that.
In the nearby break room is all the free stuff.
In our little group of 6 cubicles, one of them is not occupied by a person.
It has the Keurig, etc. You have to specifically come into our BI area to get the goods. It’s similar to taking something off of someone’s desk.

Ah, much clearer.

In that case, I endorse a sign saying “Private Property of BI Office” or some such notification. Be aware that it will probably piss off some people, but they are probably going to be people you wouldn’t like anyway…

If that doesn’t work, I’d recommend barb wire and land mines.

Maybe you could put out a big jar labeled “Coffee Fund” or something similar, with a few coins in it, to give a more subtle message.

In my work area, one must go through security to get to the main break room. Other than two months of new security rules recently, our area wasn’t zoned for food or drinks. Now we are again.

Our group has a microwave and minifridge and we’re down the aisle from the coffee bar in the engineering office. Our biggest issue was one of the guys on the weekend shift who treated anything in the fridge or unlocked desk drawers as fair game. This went on for several years and, amazingly enough :rolleyes:, was no longer an issue when he left the company.

Most of us took to locking our desks all of the time or not leaving anything edible/drinkable in the area.

I worked in a place that did similar.

Is there any way to obscure the view to the food/Keurig. Maybe put a bookshelf or something in the way so that people walking down the hall won’t be able to see what’s in the cubicle without walking in it. If the general public doesn’t easily see it, they most likely won’t go in the cubicle to check. Don’t leave the Keurig pods out in the open in the cubicle because people will steal those constantly no matter what you do.

Put a sign on the desk which says “For use of BI Group Only”.

Get another Keurig for the breakroom. They’re not that expensive. If the company is springing for all that other stuff, they can afford a few bucks for the machine.

It’s not really that similar to taking something from someone’s desk, IMHO. Walk into an occupied cube, take a half eaten sandwich - obvious theft. Walk into an empty cube, take a donut out of a box of a dozen - not so much.

Does everyone know that the stuff in the cubical isn’t company supplied? If it’s not obvious that your group buys all that stuff privately, you really need to make that crystal clear. Otherwise any sign like “For Private Use of the BI Group” does read like my “fresh cup of go fuck yourselves” post above.

Well, the reality is I don’t think a sign or anything else is going to do anything. I’m actually of the belief that signs like this are petty, and even stupid in some cases. I’m not kidding when I say I actually worked at a place that had signs in the bathroom stalls that said “don’t pee on the toilets seats” Uhh, a sign isn’t going to stop the people who pee on toilet seats. I’m guessing it’s pretty much understood and agreed upon that leaving your piss on the the toilet seat is something other people do not want to deal with.

I have to disagree with you, muldoonthief. It’s not a stretch to know that a cubicle in the middle of other cubicles that isn’t in your department (cubicles are sectioned off by business function) is not your domain. That’s also why, in reality, a sign won’t help. People know they’re stealing. One break room serves about 200 cubicles (of course they’re not all occupied).

I’ve read that if you put up a warning sign that includes a large eye, thefts decrease. I read an article somewhere about a study that used a warning sign with a picture of a flower, and one with a picture of an eye. The sign with the eye was more effective. I can’t remember where I read it.

If you see it happening, can you just say something to the perps? Writing a sign seems almost like retreating a step, right at the start.

A sign can help somewhat when it’s not clear that the food is for just one group. When there’s food out at work, it’s not clear whether it’s only for a certain group or if it’s free-for-all leftovers from an earlier meeting. Yes, it should be obvious from the fact that it’s in a cubicle rather than the breakroom, but it gives the thieves some moral wiggle room. A sign makes it clear that it’s only for one group.

Another option is to make sure that someone from your team has a natural view into the cubicle. People are much less likely to go in there if someone is actually looking at them. That plus a sign should greatly reduce the number of people who go in there.

But be careful they don’t steal the money while they help themselves to your food and drink!