“Deal With It”: Employees Outsmart Entitled Doctor Who Kept Eating Everyone’s Homemade Lunches Interview With Author
Food, food, food! There’s hardly a more sensitive topic than food (aside from money) in the workplace. And God forbid someone tries to steal what you plopped into the office fridge—it can cause a scandal. However, some people come up with extremely clever ways to teach the thief a lesson.
Redditor u/ineedatinylama recently went viral on the r/MaliciousCompliance online community after sharing how she used to work for an orthopedic surgeon who felt entitled to everyone’s leftovers in the fridge. Read on for the full story. Bored Panda got in touch with redditor u/ineedatinylama, the author of the post, who shared her thoughts about people stealing food at work. Read on to see what she told us.
Unfortunately, it’s quite common for people to steal their coworkers’ food
Image credits: U.S. Department of Agriculture (not the actual photo)
One surgeon, in particular, had a thing for his employees’ leftovers. However, his staff quickly taught him a lesson
Image credits: Karolina Grabowska (not the actual photo)
Image credits: ineedatinylama
“It seems to happen everywhere”
Bored Panda reached out to the author of the post, u/ineedatinylama, to get her take as to why some people can’t seem to respect others’ boundaries when it comes to food.
“I wish I knew why people think they can just steal people’s food. It seems to happen everywhere,” the OP told us.
“There are even lunch boxes with locks on them to stop food thieves!” the redditor suggested that one way to really make sure that your coworkers stay away from your food is to physically stop them from doing this.
We were interested to get the OP’s thoughts on what the best way to handle someone stealing food in the workplace might be.
“Going to HR/supervisor should be the first step, which is what I did,” redditor u/ineedatinylama said. She also warned against teaching the thieves a lesson by adding something to the food itself: this is definitely something you want to avoid doing because it can backfire, badly.
“I would never mix a medication or other items into food to make someone physically ill,” she said.
“This is food tampering, food sabotage, or assault with intent to inflict bodily harm depending on the laws where you live, and it may be a felony,” the OP told Bored Panda. “It is best all around to let HR handle it.”
Anywhere between a fifth to a third of workers have stolen their colleagues’ meals from the fridge
The OP explained how the orthopedic surgeon she used to work for would take his team’s leftovers from the fridge because he wouldn’t get lunches off. He’d be too busy to go out and buy something for himself. He’d simply help himself to whatever was available.
You would think that someone as highly paid as him would be able to order food. According to Salary.com, orthopedic surgeons working in the United States make $525,870 on average, as of May 2023. Their salary generally falls between $413,430 and $680,310. Of course, these numbers might have looked slightly differently some time ago. However, the point still stands—the man was wealthy enough to eat properly every day. Instead, he let his laziness take over.
Naturally, the employees complained. The office manager then created a system that if the boss took a worker’s leftovers, they could then order lunch from anywhere. So the employees took full advantage of this, ordering the most expensive and delicious meals that they could. This went on for a whopping two months before the doctor noticed. Finally realizing that he was losing money with his leftover-eating habit, he finally switched to ordering lunch himself.
Workplace food theft happens far more often than you think! Not to rile anyone up, but you could be sitting next to a (reformed or current) food thief and might not even realize it. CNBC reports that, based on a 2017 survey conducted by American Express OPEN, a jaw-dropping 18% of respondents admitted that they’ve eaten someone else’s lunch that was in the office fridge.
Meanwhile, a survey done by Zippia found that 33% of American workers have stolen food from their colleagues. Or, well, that’s the number who’ve admitted to the thefts. 47% of respondents said they’ve been the victims of food theft in the workplace. And if you happen to live in Alaska, things are very grim: it’s the worst state for food theft, with 64.3% of workers admitting to having nabbed food from the fridge.
Image credits: Rubbermaid Products (not the actual photo)
Swiping food that doesn’t belong to you does a lot more damage than it seems
There are three main reasons why food theft is such a big deal. First of all, you have the practical dimension: the victim doesn’t have anything to eat that day. Secondly, the thief is affecting the victim’s finances because now they’ll have to buy something else to replace the meal they brought. Alternatively, if money is tight, they’ll simply stay hungry. And that’s bound to affect their job performance and morale.
Lastly, it’s the philosophical ‘ick’ factor that someone would dare take your belongings without so much as a polite request.
Alison Green, the founder of the ‘Ask a Manager’ blog, told CNBC that not all thefts are thefts. Some of them might be due to miscommunication, like someone taking a coworker’s yogurt instead of their own, by accident. Or throwing out someone’s lunch because they were cleaning the fridge.
Meanwhile, workplace expert Dan Schawbel notes that stealing food can have negative repercussions in the future. “It becomes a trust issue. This person might not ever be promoted, or when it’s bonus time, they might not get a bonus.”
Image credits: Mike Jones (not the actual photo)
Some employees choose to fight back on their own, but speaking to HR is preferable
There are many different ways to fight back against food swipers. You can talk to them directly, approach HR, or concoct a plan of revenge in your spare time. That last option might be the most fun, but it might backfire or cause an even bigger drama.
A while ago, Bored Panda spoke to redditor u/pervirgin_witch, who’d explained how their Muslim coworker kept stealing their lunch, but they had no hard evidence to present to HR. So they decided to bring in a pork sandwich one day to catch them in the act.
“Truth is, I would’ve shared my lunch with my coworker if he had asked. In fact, at least in my country, it’s a common courtesy to share food by asking others if they’d like some. In my opinion, there’s no shame in asking others if they’re willing to share a bit of their food and most people would probably say yes. That said, it’s beyond rude to just take food that doesn’t belong to you,” the redditor told us during a previous interview.
“The most professional and diplomatic thing to do would report the issue to management or HR. However, sometimes a little cathartic revenge is due. If you’re considering doing that, just make sure it’s something safe.”
Image credits: SHVETS production (not the actual photo)