your coworkers are stealing from you

You’d like to think that you can trust the people you work with all day – that coworkers who know you by name, hear about your kids, and trade jokes with you before meetings wouldn’t brazenly steal items that clearly belong to you. But in reality – at least judging from my mail – it appears a shockingly high number of petty thieves walk among us.

At Slate today, I wrote about the weird items that go missing at work — from purloined Pyrex dishes to stolen heirlooms — and why office thefts are so common. You can read it here.

{ 377 comments… read them below }

  1. Blue*

    I’m sad we never got an update on the caboose story. That one made me exceptionally mad and also seemed to surely exemplify much deeper dysfunction at play.

    1. Fishsticks*

      Any time office thefts are mentioned I think of the guy who stole a letter writer’s food and then claimed LW had poisoned him because the food he stole was spicy.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Thank you, that was extremely worth the read!! I hope she is still living her best and spiciest life out there somewhere.

    2. cabbagepants*

      that one is bizarre. why were all the personal items moved into boxes? was there, like, a water leak over the weekend that required hasty removal of personal items from the cubes?

      1. Rainy*

        It sounds like they decided to shuffle cubes (maybe one of those “my team all has to sit together!1!11!!” things) so somebody just shuffled the cubes and piled everyone’s personal stuff wherever.

      2. Temperance*

        IIRC, the issue was a wacky manager who made people pack all their stuff up and then randomly “redecorated”.

    3. Cyndi*

      It doesn’t even say whether LW got the caboose back! If they did, it must have involved the manager getting ratted out as a thief to the CEO, right?

    4. Jane*

      The caboose story comes up a lot, and puzzles me every time. What is a caboose!? Google is no help, unless it’s an actual railroad car. Please assist a British reader – is it some sort of tankard? A lantern? What?

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I assumed it was indeed caboose meaning the last rail car, a mini model of one

      2. run mad; don't faint*

        You’re correct; the caboose is the last car on the train. I think the train crew had quarters there? So the caboose in the story was a cast iron small model of a caboose.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          As a child, I learned the caboose is painted red, the last car on the train, and had some special function which I have forgotten. I remember seeing one on a train that was stationary and shown as a part of history.

      3. FisherCat*

        I read it to mean that it is a toy train piece basically. “My grandfather’s cast iron caboose” suggests its like, part of a model train. I don’t think there’s another meaning of that word in the US and I’m from here.

        1. EC*

          I’ve heard it used as a slag term for butt, which would drastically change the mental image of the model. But, based on the CEO being a model train guy, there’s no reason to think he’s got a model of LW’s grandpa’s shiny metal a**.

      4. Former Hominid*

        A caboose is a railroad car that’s at the very end. Hence why “caboose” can be slang for a butt. It was a figurine of a railroad car, specifically the end of a train.

      5. coachfitz13*

        In the US it’s the very last car on the end of a train. I’m sure there’s some more a train hobbyist could add, but that’s the basics.

      6. MJ*

        A caboose is the final car on a train – apparently used as crew quarters. This is why it was given as a gift to a train collector.

          1. DadBodsAreFatherFigures*

            I had really hoped the “best friend” who was shown it would have stuffed it in her purse at some point in the evening and brought it back…. but I guess that IS asking a lot to risk getting caught. I do hope the caboose found it’s way home at some point. OP PLEASE UPDATE US!

      7. hmmmmmmm.*

        It’s a miniature cast-iron railroad car. For Americans, “caboose” only ever means the last car on a train, or, rarely, a reference to bottoms (the caboose being the butt of the train).

        If you go back through the link above, the OP says it was their grandfather’s, so it’s likely an antique toy train car.

      8. Frigidlizard*

        A caboose is, as you’ve said, a railroad car. In this case it is implied that the object is a small model of such.
        Americans also use the term ‘caboose’ to refer to one’s rear end :)

      9. Lurker Cat*

        The item that was stolen was a model of a railroad car. As it was cast iron I’m assuming it was a desk ornament or a paperweight and not a car for a model railroad.

      10. Jane*

        Thanks everyone- I’d assumed the word had a different meaning than the one’s Google was suggesting, and perhaps it was a tankard traditionally presented on retirement or similar.

      11. Artemesia*

        The last car of the train, which has a distinctive look, is usually red and was basically the home for the train crew or conductor or their personal office space. It is a cute car.

    5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Same. I felt so bad for the LW that they didn’t feel like they could point out that it was theirs and reclaim it.

    6. wordswords*

      Yeah, that one is infuriating. I really hope that LW got their grandfather’s model back.

    7. James*

      Yeah. It was so personal and there was no justice (that we know of).

      We all hope we’d be the person who calmly speaks up and says that’s our stolen property, but like the OP I think most of us would be too shocked in the moment.

  2. Addison DeWitt*

    At the Big Ad Agency it turned out that they knew that a secretary who was working for our group was pilfering from, say, cash advances for travel. You’d sign for $200 in cash but there’d be $160. Nobody ever counts the packet your secretary hands you.

    They knew she was doing this but wanted to catch her in the act so they let her keep stealing from other employees till they had “enough evidence.” Needless to say they made us cover whatever she stole.

    How was management any better than the thief?

    1. slashgirl*

      She wouldn’t have gotten away with it with me on an ongoing basis. Having had parents who owned/operated a convenience store, I learned about cash early on. I ALWAYS count money I’m handed. I count the money coming out of the bloody bank machine. She would’ve done it once–and realised I count, so most likely wouldn’t try it again. Although, tbf, people are stupid.

      How do people NOT double check? That’s surely part of money handling 101.

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        It is smart money handling. People doing money grifts or theft also have a lot of techniques to try and prevent you from doing it. Handing the envelope off sealed, creating a sense of urgency (for instance only giving you the envelope at the end of the day when she knows you’re desperate to catch your bus), even using moral authority to make you feel rude. (Oh! I already counted that so you don’t need to– don’t you trust me?)

        They don’t work 100% of the time, but when you’re already in a position of trust like she was they work fairly frequently. And they don’t have to work 100% of the time.

        1. Rocket Raccoon*

          I hire a couple kids in my neighborhood to do odd jobs and I pay them in cash. I always make them count it right then and there, and I hope the habit sticks.

        2. Reluctant Mezzo*

          I remember a major’s secretary who was very unhappy that I made her give me a hand receipt for an envelope full of charity collection money. Sometimes I wonder why…

      2. nobadcats*

        Sorry, I just had a flashback to Harvey Korman as Count du Money.

        Second best to “HEDLEY! It’s Hedley Lamarr. HEDLEY!”

      3. Snow*

        That’s the other genius of it, I think – if someone does count, they’ll go “Jane, this envelope says $200 but there’s only $180!” and she’ll go “oh, I’m so sorry, I must have miscounted, silly me, let me grab the rest of it” and you’ll think it was an innocent one-off mistake. It’s only once you realize she makes this mistake all the time and the “forgotten” money isn’t where it should be that you realize she’s stealing.

      4. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Back in the day I had to get travellers’ checks for my office whenever someone was travelling. I counted them at the bank, I counted them when I got back to the office and I counted them in front of whomever was receiving them and then I made them count them back to me. I was terrified of losing one and being accused of theft.

      5. Princess Sparklepony*

        That makes me feel not so weird. I always count the money from the cash machine. It’s never been wrong … so far… Nice to know I’m not the only one.

        1. Pointy's in the North Tower*

          I used to teller. I always count cash as well. From the ATM, as change, doesn’t matter. I’m counting it.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            This. I was a head cashier at a bookstore at one point, and I have a small business now. I count always, no matter what. Hell, I’ll count when my friends hand me money reflexively, even though I know I can trust them.

      6. Sharpie*

        I’m ex-military, when I was given cash it was always counted out in front of me, and if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t take it without counting it myself. Old habits die hard, I still count cash I’m given.

    2. EPLawyer*

      That makes no sense, they know who is stealing so they … cover it up by making others pay up?

      Also offices are not courts of law, you don’t need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Knowing someone is mishandling money is a walk out the door immediately fireable offense.

      1. MelMc*

        I worked at a bank and we knew one of the back office girls was stealing money. Caught red-handed at it. But the bank president was only a couple of months from retirement and didn’t want “a fuss” in his last weeks so she was reprimanded and someone else had to check all her work from that point. I don’t think she even had a write-up in her file since the bank examiners would definitely blow a gasket if they saw that.

        1. Maisy Daisy*

          Not a workpace theft but another bank cover-up
          . My recently widowed mother-in-law was receiving a monthy transfer from her investment firm to her checking account. She told my husband that her balance was getting low but she could not unserstand what was happening. We tried balancing the accounts but nothing made sense. Fortunately we knew an officer at the bank who said he would look into it. Within a week, my mother-in-law was made whole by the bank. Shortly after, most of the staff at that branch were replace by others. All our friend would say was that theft involved a couple of employees in cahoots. We were pretty sure the bank examiners were not told about the embezzlement.

      2. Jen*

        In my experience, many people worry about documentation because they think they’re going to get themselves or the company sued. They might even think there’s a legal obligation to collect as much evidence as possible or to have some sort of smoking gun. When I was a corporate counsel I saw a lot of that, and I’m not sure where it comes from.

        1. Just Another Cog*

          I’ve wondered about the documentation thing. At a former job, the company’s receptionist took customer payments in for the loan department to pick up later. After a couple of months, payments came up missing and she was the prime suspect. We went through a whole thing where we were all given lie detector tests by the retired police detective husband of one of the employees….after being told beforehand that the receptionist was the real suspect. They told us they needed these tests to show they had turned over every leaf. The kicker was that these interrogations were done in the company attorney’s office at the attorney’s recommendation. She still stole money for a couple months after that until they finally fired her. I am glad you verified my suspicion that the documentation wasn’t necessary.

          1. There You Are*

            Not only is that level of documentation not necessary if the outcome is firing (versus criminal prosecution or a civil lawsuit to try to get the person to repay the money), but telling everyone that the receptionist is the real suspect breaks my Certified Fraud Examiner’s heart.

  3. OlympiasEpiriot*

    I think I have asked about the caboose every year when it gets to update time.

    No idea why people take things at work. It is often the oddest item, too.

      1. yala*

        I know Allison’s advice was to just consider it gone, but tbh, I think I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from going up to manager and just straight up saying: “I’d like my caboose back, please.”

        Not “Oh, hey, this went missing, have you seen it?” If the manager played dumb, I would tell them exactly what OP wrote about how their friend found it. If the manager is like, “Oh, but it’s gone” I would still be like, “Yeah, no. It’s mine. I would like it back.” And make it the manager’s problem of how to get it back.

        Would it cause trouble? Probably, yes. But I would be so livid at the idea that someone just helped themselves to something that didn’t belong to them TO GIFT TO SOMEONE ELSE…like just… I don’t think the “best case scenario” is plausible at all.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          I’m especially livid that it’s a sentimental keepsake (a memento of someone’s grandfather, for crying out loud), rather than just some random knickknack!

        2. H3llifIknow*

          I think first I’d start with “Hey when you were moving and packing up all our stuff, what did you do with my caboose?” and see if she goes pale and says, “Oh no. I didn’t realize that was anyone’s and I gave it away” and let her FFer to get it back before I went full on accusational. Unless I had already put in my notice then, meh, do whatever.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I think about how cavalier I have been about my purse / laptop bag at work, especially in the earlier years of my career — I usually didn’t even put it in a drawer, just left it by my chair. Nothing ever walked away! Grateful for that. I’ve also never had food stolen.

      1. It is what it is*

        I agree. I used to be so trusting. Then I had people steal things from my desk (unopened muffin off my desk top while I was in the restroom; pens and post it’s out of my drawers instead of walking 5 feet to the supply closet; my Starbucks cup of coffee off my desk while I was at the printer…).

        Now the first thing I ask for is keys to all desk drawers and overhead bins no matter what company I work at. At the very least I need one desk drawer and one overhead bin that I have keys to. When I leave my desk for more than 5 minutes everything I use except computer and phone goes into the drawer or cabinet and gets locked up until I come back. Boss has extra keys for emergencies/vacation.

        I keep no personal items like photos etc. at my desk (can’t steal for frames) and certainly nothing I couldn’t replace.

        Now if I could just get people who borrow my desk chair from adjusting it to their liking I’d be extremely happy.

        1. HotSauce*

          Someone once stole a donut off my desk. I left it on a napkin on my desk while I went to the restroom to clean the chocolate icing I got on my shirt when I accidentally dropped it & bounced onto the floor. I was planning on throwing it away in the kitchen garbage when I returned, but someone took it. Also, the carpeting in our office area only gets vacuumed once per quarter, if that, so I can imagine what was on that thing! I hope it was loaded with hair.

        2. coffee*

          They took your coffee while you were at the printer?! What vultures, and that’s an insult to vultures.

      2. three cheers for*

        Decades ago I learned a hard, hard lesson about being cavalier like this, to the tune of my roommate’s cash toward our rent payment disappearing. So naive of me. I never accused the coworker who bought new shoes during lunch hour that day, though everyone was whispering in my ear about it and admittedly I did sort of look at her sideways ever after.

      3. Artemesia*

        When I worked at a university we often had people from the outside come in and steal things. One of my colleagues put her purse in her file cabinet — WHILE she was in her office, someone came in and emptied her waste basket then opened her file cabinet and stole the purse on the way out. Because he was doing this maintenance task, she didn’t even look up.

      4. LavaLamp (she/her)*

        Same honestly although I was really lucky at one job to have a desk with a locking drawer. I was able to keep things like my nice calculator in there with no issues. We did have a rash of coat thefts for some reason though so I only left a cardigan I didn’t care about in my cube.

  4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I would also like to hear about the people who get possessive about company property without actually appropriating it. Like the communal paper cutter that somebody tries to claim for their exclusive use. How much of that is the well-meaning “I need to take care of this valuable company asset” vs “This is cool and I want to be able to use it at a moment’s notice, and screw all you other people.”

      1. nobadcats*

        The one thing of actual value I nabbed from the office after we went fully remote (aside from my confuser and other electronics I was entitled to), a full metal black Swingline stapler.

        I’ve not used it once, but I have it in my arsenal, just in case.

        1. PlantProf*

          I know it’s just a typo but I’m in love with confuser for computer. I feel that some days.

          1. nobadcats*

            It’s not a typo.

            For my own amusement, I use “confuser,” “co-irker,” and “copy/pasta” in my regular conversation both written and oral. Aaaaand now, seven years on, my co-irkers are also using “copy/pasta” and “confuser” with strenuous regularity. They tend not to use “co-iker” as much though, for obvious reasons.

            Yes, I do work in educational publishing! We’ve all got to have our little steam valves.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Several jobs ago, someone was taking over the office of someone who had left abruptly and still had a bunch of random stuff and office supplies there. The new occupant tossed a bunch of stuff into little garbage bins outside the office door. The bins got emptied daily and were clean. So I swiped anything useful, which included a decent (non-Swingline, not red) stapler, which is currently in the drawer of my desk at home.

          I know this argument wouldn’t fly, but I figured that if it was just going to get thrown out it was fair game to do whatever I wanted.

    1. cabbagepants*

      This is a funny piece of human psychology that I can’t really explain. 9 fall victim to it, too! I have found myself getting indignant if I saw someone else taking snacks from the snack table at “my” end of our long, skinny office rather than the much larger stash at the other end. Of course I quell my indignation. They are the same snacks and I do no work to stock either snack pile.

    2. Mockingjay*

      At ExToxicJob, there was one co-irker who did exactly that. He routinely walked off with the paper cutter instead of leaving it in the copier room. I had to start locking it up. I also caught this same guy rifling through the drawers in my cubicle looking for some other office supply (I think the spiral binding machine? which was also supposed to be in the copy room). Had to start locking those too. He also switched all the chairs around in the facility. He would start a pot of coffee at 5:00 pm so he could take one on the road, and got irritated when I shut off the pots because we were locking the building for the night (he didn’t have keys).

      1. AA Baby Boomer*

        I hear you on both. I have a faculty member that carries off the paper cutter and gets mad if you go into her office to get it a day or two later. Same with the 4:30 coffee pot. Mine would leave it on and it got burnt up one day. We got a coffee vendor contract after that event. He (call him S) tried to get the pot back. He didn’t realize it was a national service contract versus just our location. There was quite a stink between him and the facilities manager over it. He’s the same project manager that got caught running political flyers off on the copier in the regulator room (little traffic) and loading up with so much music on the company’s server that it slowed it down. We had issues with the server being slow. I called the IT department (in another state) about the slow load time. We had 5 people streaming music at the same time (2 worked for him) and had loaded a ton of music on the server. IT was furious and called each person individually and wiped the files. He’s the one that kept turning me in for being late not realizing that my hours had been switched to 9 am – 5:30 pm. He wasn’t my supervisor. Sometimes co-workers steal services, benefits from an employer that effects everyone in the office. He was a nick-picker that misbehaved himself at a larger extent. We all have these.

        1. allathian*

          I’m so glad I don’t have one of those…

          My biggest office annoyances have been the people who leave their dirty dishes in the sink because they can’t be bothered to put them in the dishwasher, and those who never empty the dishwasher because they think it’s beneath them. Oh, and the occasional pen-borrower who fails to bring my pen back, but as they’re just pens from the supply closet, I get a new one when that happens.

    3. irene adler*

      Does small lab equipment count?
      Cuz in my lab, there is one person who puts her name on every single thing that has surface enough to write a name on. Tube racks of every size, pipettes, pipette holders, pipette tips, glassware, stands, Styrofoam holders, chairs, thermometers, incubators, timers, water troughs, workstations, parafilm dispensers, scissors, tape and tape dispensers, pens, sharpies, tweezers, spatulas, scales, paper cutter, stapler, boxed disposable plastic items, etc.

      Thing is, we’re so understaffed that there’s more than enough equipment for 3 times the people we have. So no one is going without here. And no one else does this.

      1. Violet Evergreen*

        I feel her. :) I get that she doesn’t need to do this bc you have plenty of equipment. However, I have BAGGAGE from previous labs which didn’t have enough equipment. People are happy to just grab something from your set up bc if you are not standing right there using it, you must not need it, right? And why leave a note to tell you who took it and how long they needed it? In one place, I started taking my tweezers home to make sure I had a pair to use the next day. I actually think it is, in general, a rational thing to label the bejeezus out of everything, even if in your lab she comes across as a loon.

      2. Starchy*

        when I worked in the lab, I had an analyst hide boxes of nitrile gloves in the ceiling. she would remove the ceiling tiles and attach them up there.

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          I wonder if she kept finding that there weren’t any gloves her size and in order to do her work, she felt she had to hoard supplies.

          In college I worked a custodial crew that got dirty on our jobs. Uniform shirts were provided to us, there were locker rooms to change, and there was an on-site laundry so we weren’t taking our shirts home. We had a VERY large Samoan man on our night crew so they special ordered him a 4 or 5XL shirt — he was the only person on staff his size. But it kept going missing because day crew kept thinking it was fun? to wear the “baggy” shirt and then he didn’t have one for his shift. Requests to leave the shirt for the night crew went ignored, so he was the only one allowed to hide a shirt away at night.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I saw that shirt once! It was hung up in Hilo Hattie’s…and we saw the guy who could have worn it.

          2. Blue*

            In my former lab, this type of hoarding was *why* there were never enough supplies. You would run out of something and later find out that someone had socked away 4 boxes underneath their lab bench.

            I remember being really annoyed because of this once. During early COVID we weren’t getting the nice pipette tips because of supply chain issues, and everyone made due. Well, almost everyone, because a lab mate had enough tips to last them six months squirreled away. They’d swiped them the moment a small shipment had come in and the excuse was that they liked these better over the ones we had. *Everyone liked those tips better.* You’re not special and it came off as super entitled.

    4. Dulcinea47*

      My former coworker (she retired) put her name on EVERYTHING. By which I mean, stuff that definitely belonged to the employer and not to her. Her chair, her fan, her bookshelves, if it wasn’t nailed down and maybe even if it was, her name went on it. This is the same coworker who I once very calmly said was overreacting and she didn’t speak to me for years, soooo.

      1. My Useless 2 Cents*

        when I first started at my current company, 20 years ago, there was a lady that wrote her name on all the desk items from the company (tape dispenser, stapler, scissors, etc.). She left the company about 8 months later. I still think of her every time I grab “my” scissors still bearing the marking “Cheryl’s, return to Chery’s desk” written on them :)

        1. many bells down*

          I will admit to writing my name on my scissors, but I got lefty scissors and I’m the only lefty!
          People still take them, though, and I generally find them discarded open on a random desk. Probably, in my experience, because righties just think there’s something “wrong” with the scissors.

          1. La Triviata*

            I was once working at a conference and brought in scissors from home. I put a tassel on them and, at the first staff meeting for the conference, I waved them around, said they were my personal pair … and people laughed. Two days in, I was the only person who could lay their hands on a pair of scissors.

        2. Bibliothecarial*

          Was your colleague from Mrs Piggle Wiggle? That is straight out of her stories. “Dick’s apple. Do not touch.” “This is Dick. Do not touch.”

          1. laser99*

            I loved those books so much! I have practically memorized them, in fact. Dick was a selfish little bugger who wouldn’t share anything!

        3. Fran*

          My wastebasket still has Lucy written on it. My name is not Lucy and it belongs to the university.

    5. A Simple Narwhal*

      My company is moving to a hoteling/hot-desking model, and I already foresee people claiming a desk as “theirs” and getting mad when someone else sits there.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Oh, they will. It has pictures of my cat, therefore nobody can sit here even if I am not here because it is ‘my’ desk.

      2. No Longer Looking*

        To be reasonable, there is near-zero benefit to hoteling in an office you’re expected to be in more than 1-2 days a week.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          Yea we’re supposed to be in 50% of the time so in theory it shouldn’t be that bad.

          In theory.

          In practice? I’m not super confident.

      3. Cyndi*

        So is mine and I forsee becoming this person, because I’m the only noise-sensitive person on a team of otherwise very loud chatty people and if I can’t at least sit at the end of the single long desk that’s replacing our individual cubicles, I don’t know how long I’ll remain a professional and diplomatic adult with people having loud conversations directly over my head all day long.

    6. Irish Teacher*

      When I was a student teacher shortly after the turn of the millennium, computer equipment in schools was fairly new and many teachers hadn’t really been trained to use it. So the computer teacher in the school I was doing my student teaching in had nearly sole use of it. For an assignment, we were supposed to teach a class using computer equipment and write a report on it, so I asked him about using it and he replied, “well, you can but don’t touch such a button because it could cause huge damage and make sure the students don’t do x and take care of y…” Very encouraging for a work experience student!

    7. James*

      Your forgot reason number 3: ‘If I become the keeper of the piece of equipment that everyone needs to use my job security is guaranteed.’

  5. cabbagepants*

    I liked your closing remark, Alison, about how some people stealing from work may be doing so out of an impulse to get something back from a demanding employer. It wouldn’t excuse it in my mind, especially because of how often the theft ends up hurting fellow employees more than “the man,” but it certainly explains my decision to keep my mouth shut when I quit an unpleasant job and they forgot to ask me to return some of my supplies.

    1. Anon4this*

      I’ve taken things I shouldn’t have so I could “get something back from a demanding employer” (or employer that wasn’t paying me fairly). I’ve done it at several places. It was always company property, and never something that would impact my coworkers. (honestly, most of the time the office manager/person in charge of supplies knew/didn’t care/actively encouraged me to take stuff, so I have no idea how bad it actually was).

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      I was a shift manager at a Taco Bell when I was 19. We got a new store manager who was an absolute nightmare, so I put in my two week notice. When I came in for my next shift, I discovered she had taken me off the schedule for those two weeks and was covering my shifts herself (meaning she would be working 18 hour days). I told the mostly teenage workers what had happened and that tonight would be my last night. They were not happy, to say the least.

      When I woke up the next morning and went out to my car, I found out that they had put a 25-pound bag of pinto beans and several cases of hot sauce in my back seat, along with several other items.

      I was broke at the time, and I lived for almost a year off those beans. (Also, in the right circle, Taco Bell hot sauce is practically currency.)

      1. LIZZIE*

        Something very similar happened to me, but I was “let go”. It happened on a Friday, and they gave me the option to clean out my stuff that day, or come back the following week. As I commuted over an hour by bus, I opted to pack up my personal stuff then. Co-workers were very unhappy with what had transpired, and helped me pack my stuff up.
        A week or so later, when a ton of boxes arrived (I worked in publishing so much of my personal stuff was books), I found they had loaded up the boxes with pretty much every supply on, in and around my desk! Including a commercial packing tape dispenser, whcih my mom uses to this day, and that was 35 years ago!

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Those packing tape dispensers are worth their weight in gold! You had some awesome coworkers!

        2. Sharpie*

          I was very tempted to sneak ‘my’ tape gun home with me after I left my warehouse job last year. Those things are absolutely awesome!

    3. TPS Report (Toilet Paper Stealer)*

      I’ll confess to stealing toilet paper from my job when I was fresh out of college. A roll of TP lasted me awhile, had low to no impact on my coworkers, and made me feel marginally better about the low pay. Once things stabilized (and a horoscope admonished my sign for stealing TP from our work places!) I stopped. Not proud of it- but also don’t particularly regret it!

      1. Area Woman*

        OH I did this! I would take all the partial rolls of TP from the hotel rooms I cleaned, and ANY items that a guest left behind. Single beer, half a bottle of shampoo, whatever. I didn’t take unopened stuff from the supply closet but I would take like 5 x 1/3 rolls of TP all the time.

        1. Texan in exile on her phone*

          I would much rather someone take these items and use them than put them in the trash!

      2. Molly*

        I did that occasionally from a summer job where the owner had us work 10-hr days with no breaks. I was too young and stupid to look up the regulations so didn’t demand breaks. She was a piece of work. To make myself feel marginally better, I’d swipe a roll or two.

      3. There You Are*

        I did this, too, at my first professional job, when I was young and broke. It helped me with the “food or utilities?” conundrum. If I didn’t have to buy my own TP, I could afford food AND utilities.

        I also stole the feminine hygiene items that were in a free-to-use dispenser. Never all at once, but 1 or 2 tampons a day on the days I didn’t need them. Those, too, figured into the “eat or pay bills” equation.

        And, during those lean times, I ate more than my fair share of any office freebie foods, and would take two of anything where it wouldn’t be crazy-obvious that I was doubling-up on, say, slices of pizza (when there were 50 boxes of pizza for 100 people).

        But, yeah, never once did I cross the line into stealing someone’s personal stuff.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      Oh, I remember a manager I worked with “writing off” and drinking a can of Coke (or something) when he’d been working unpaid overtime when I worked retail (managers were salaried, so they didn’t get paid for overtime and were working nearly one and a half times their contracted hours). It was most out of character and generally, if we wanted something after hours, we put the money aside and “rung it up” the following day, but I think he was just so annoyed with the company for exploiting its workers (I don’t think the hours were even legal) that he decided they owed him a can of drink.

    5. IDIC believer*

      I’m amazed at people who justify theft because their employer was crappy and/or combined with needing it. Don’t these people realize every thief has a reason for stealing – and none of the reasons make a theft okay. Those who admit to stealing from an employer are no different than the theif at Wally World stealing electronics or make-up. Is this what you teach your kids that theft can be okay if the owner sucks?

      1. Mrs Marple's Favorite Niece*

        I think there are absolutely moral reasons for theft. Given the fact that large corporations like “Wally World” are notorious for wage theft from their employees (not to mention extensive exploitation) I think that stealing a soda or a stapler from them is about on par with jaywalking. I would teach my children that there are grey areas and to trust their own judgement- which includes evaluating the reasons behind an action. Would you fault a parent for stealing to feed a starving child?

        1. H3llifIknow*

          Right. I used to think a lot more black and white about it, until I became a Mom and often money was tight on our military pay. Never had to resort to theft and thank god for WIC back in the day! But, if I saw someone pocket a couple jars of baby food/can of formula and a small pack of diapers? I’d keep my mouth shut. Now, a laptop, some jewelry? Something they’re clearly stealing for profit? I’d sing like a bird.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            There’s a saying I came across once: “If you see someone stealing bread, no you didn’t.”

        2. H3llifIknow*

          I also recently saw the traveling Broadway cast version of Les Miserables… and maybe it’s softened my thinking, too!

  6. Rainy*

    My office is pretty good about theft in general–sure, the odd individually-packaged string cheese will go missing, and you really should put your name on any flavoured fizzy water you put in the fridge, as they are often considered fair game–but I once, during a dark period when we didn’t have assigned offices and were just expected to show up and sit somewhere and keep all the stuff we needed to do our work in rolling file cabinets and try to find our own chairs every morning (this is a story on its own, frankly), laid my (branded, office-provided) sweater down on top of my rolling cabinet for a few hours (because the AC had broken), a thing I had seen other people do with their office sweaters a million times, and when I came back it was gone.

    It had a pocket full of my business cards and a couple of fun character pins on the breast, but don’t let that stop you I guess. I sent out an all-office email that said “Whoever took my sweater, if you won’t return the sweater, at least bring back my business cards and the pins.” The sweater was returned, pins and cards intact, but no one ever owned up. I’m still salty about it.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      My office is weirdly idyllic. The only thing of mine that’s gone “missing” is a charging cable, and I genuinely don’t know if I took it home or lent it to someone and forgot, or if someone borrowed it and forgot. Either way it’s a micro USB charging cable so I have 20 more at home.

      Our worst theft “problem” is that the company sells us their really high quality company-branded insulated travel mugs at cost, so employees can get a $35 mug for $15. The upshot of which is EVERYONE has the exact same branded travel mug and they get accidentally swapped around all the time. Most people have taken to putting stickers on theirs.

      1. Dhaskoi*

        I thought this was going to be a story about how people were getting the mugs and reselling them on ebay at a profit.

    2. Reluctant Mezzo*

      Someone stole my Betty Boop coffee cup. It was left in my cubicle after I complained about it and said my husband had given it to me for my birthday–I do wish they’d cleaned their old oatmeal out of it first, though.

    1. HotSauce*

      We just started coming back two days a week last month and I had to go right back to locking my drawers. It’s honestly sad.

      1. Tracy, Essentially Cheesy*

        It IS sad. Unfortunately some people think that the items on my desk are communal property and they aren’t!

    2. onetimethishappened*

      I just started a new job in November. All the drawers to my desk are locked, but I was given the wrong keys. So I can’t use any of the drawers. So I mainly use the overhead bin things. #largecompanyproblems

      1. She of Many Hats*

        There are companies online that make replacement keys for most brands of office desks. See if your office manager can order one for you.

      2. Rainy*

        Check and see if there’s someone in your office who has The Giant Box of Tiny Keys. I’m betting you have the same general type of desk drawers/overhead bins that we do, and if so, the keyset is engraved in teeny tiny letter/number combos on each lock. Ideally all your overheads and desk drawers will use the same keyset since it’s the same office, but they may not. Write down the keyset ID for your drawers/overheads, then go to the keeper of the Giant Box and ask to go through it. You’re just looking for a keyset (or two) that matches your desk and overheads. The keyset is also engraved on each key in teeny tiny letter/number combos.

    3. Boolie*

      I had new field techs sit at my desk during lockdowns while I was WFH. The desk was mostly emptied off but I still had stuff in my drawers. I had gum and hair ties missing, and even unruly tangles in my sewing kit threads. Savages!! Stealing from a desktop is bad but from the drawers?? That’s got to be worse.

    4. ArtsNerd*

      I dropped $150 of my own money on a “cute” desk organizer because I needed a locking drawer without it screaming LOOK I AM A DESKTOP SAFE I BET THERE ARE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS INSIDE.

      The quirks of the bureaucracy in my office meant that even an old filing cabinet was not going to happen in a timely manner. I had been begging for months (for drawers of any kind) before giving up and buying my own.

  7. NerdyKris*

    I was so happy to be able to put things on my desk at my current job, because at my previous one, anything you brought in would be destroyed. And I mean literally. They’d just tear things apart, smash mugs, and generally destroy everything. One time I came in to them all away from their desks making horror scenes with a massive duck plushie. When I mentioned it to someone once they asked if I was a kindergarten teacher. That’s how out of control that office was.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Oh please, don’t stop there! What made this ok there??

      I’ve been at some truly traumatizing places and never encountered this (and I am very happy to be able to say that).

    2. NerdyKris*

      I should have specified a call center help desk. So a vestigial appendage of the main company that would hire any warm body, and a bunch of team leads with no firing power that didn’t care. Anyone with options went elsewhere, because there were a dozen other call centers in the area.

      Yes, I know what that says about me, and it is accurate.

  8. Marna Nightingale*

    “Cast Iron Caboose” is my new favourite euphemism.

    As in, “Whoever stole that chicken can kiss my…”

  9. SeeSpursGo*

    I worked at a healthcare place and had so many people stealing my milk that I used for my coffee. Like a half gallon would be gone in a day, it was wild. I had just had my daughter around that time, so I filled up a few of my freezer breast milk bags with regular milk and then used my “breast milk” for my morning coffee. Definitely gave me a weird reputation, but hey-I had milk for my coffee! :D

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I keep a tiny makeup fridge in my office to hold my creamer for this reason :(

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Ugh I remember at my oldjob I wanted some flavored creamer, and it came in either a jug that required refrigeration or small individual servings that didn’t. The individual servings option was more expensive, plus it seemed like a wasteful amount of plastic, so I got the jug, labeled it like crazy, and put it in the fridge. I came back a week later and it was almost all gone!

      It was frustrating that people either ignored my name written all over it, saw it and didn’t care, or saw it but figured that I wouldn’t notice a splash of it gone – except that adds up when everyone does it! I switched to the wasteful single servings that I could keep in my desk to ensure I could use the thing I paid for.

      1. irene adler*

        There’s a guy in my office who pilfers from large containers in the breakroom refrigerator in much the same way.
        Every morning I would hear him open the refrigerator door when he never had anything in there.
        Volumes of flavored creamer, milk, etc. all dropped much faster than when the same containers were at home. Took a while for folks to catch on.

      2. coffee*

        I had the same problem! I got on with my coworkers quite well but as a result multiple people would be like “I need some milk, I’m sure coffee* won’t mind” and the cumulative impact was a crisis of the commons situation.

        I fixed this by no longer labelling it with my name, but instead by putting a little doodle on the carton in the same place each time. I could find my milk, because it was the only one with that doodle, but because it was anonymous people “borrowed” it on a more even average between all the other cartons in there (or took their drinks without milk, idk) and I always had milk from then on. It was pretty fascinating.

        *My username is a bit confusing in this context, lol

  10. OofandOuch*

    At my new job I noticed that everyone had personal mini fridges in their offices. At first I didn’t think anything of it, but then I realized that there are also large fridges in the kitchenettes which should be more than enough space. I asked a coworker about it and he said they were fine to use during your shift, but that things left longer than that tend to disappear overnight when other shifts are in the building. I figured he had to be exaggerating, but I accidentally left half a sub in over the weekend and when I went to throw it out it today it was just gone.

    It’s frustrating because you have to get a special kind of fridge/microwave and they require manager approval to buy, and I feel ridiculous asking when there’s a perfectly good empty fridge right there.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      “I feel ridiculous asking this since there’s a perfectly good empty fridge right there, but I can’t actually use it since things disappear when I do. Please see attached request for a mini fridge in my office. Thanks!”

  11. Goldenrod*

    I’m still mad about the pen (it was a special, pretty pen) that was brazenly stolen from my desk about 20 years ago.

    I’m still not over it! :D

    1. ItsAlwaysSunnyinTheOffice*

      I always had a lot of pens in a pen holder on my desk, this was about 15 years ago. They were good pens I’d purchased on my travels from museums etc. I once went off sick for a couple of weeks. I came back and I had no pens left. I did once spot someone using one once and managed to get it back. I stopped keeping any stationary out in the open.

      1. Not Joanne*

        I used to keep a jar of cheap “decoy” pens on my desk, and hid the good ones in an inobtrusive place in my desk.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          I’ve done this! I’ve also (at various stages of my life including, but not limited to, high school, graduate school, and my last job) carried around a selection of cheap and/or beat-up pens to loan to people who ask for one. That way, I’m not out a nice pen when they inevitably forget to return it, and I get to tell them to keep it in the grandest tone I can muster.

          (One time a friend responded to me handing her a crappy pen by saying, “No, I want one of your good ones” and nodding towards the green fineliner I was holding. I promptly offered her the worst possible color from the pack. She said, “No, I would like a good color, please.” It was hilarious since we were both clearly trying to needle each other, but anyone else would have gotten the pen with the tooth marks.)

        2. HotSauce*

          I too have a mug full of decoy pens on my desk. They’re the crappy Bic stick pens you can get by the box-full in our supply closet. You’d think people would just go there if they need a pen, but no. I have my good pens (Pilot V7), in my drawer, hidden under some files.

      2. Nihil Scio*

        Retired teacher here. I used to have a vase filled with pens that I had attached flowers (from the dollar store) to with floral tape. Everyone knew where those pens belonged.

      3. I Have RBF*

        One place I worked I was in the cube right outside a conference room. Any writing implement on my desk would walk off, even if I was sitting there – a hand would reach onto my desk and take a pen or pencil. Same for post its and scratch pads. The office supplies were halfway across the building. Signs saying “Don’t take pens, pencils or post-its from this desk” did absolutely nothing.

        So I started sticking them into my drawers. Sure enough, if I was away from my desk people would go through my drawers to look for stuff to write with/on. Purple post its? Gone, the whole pad. Mechanical pencils? Gone. They would leave their chewed on wood pencil stubs as a “replacement”. Good pens, like purple Pentel R.S.V.P., or Uniball Signo? Gone. Chewed on stick pens would be left behind, like I was going to use someone else’s spit covered pen?

        I started trying to maintain a cup of stick pens, wood pencils and generic post-its on my desk to discourage the thefts. So then they were gone by noon, and my drawers would be rifled anyway.

        I had to literally lock all of my drawers when I left my desk, because if I just locked the pencil drawer they would rifle through my entire desk looking for stuff to write with/on.

        I had to leave when ill in a hurry on a Tuesday, and was out for several days. I was sick enough that I didn’t lock my desk. When I came back the next Monday, every writing implement and blank piece of paper, notepad or post it was gone, including the nicer stuff I bought myself. They also swiped a couple of my books, too. I had to trudge halfway across the building to get some low-end office supplies just so I could work. (This actually hurt, because I am disabled plus had developed a heel spur.)

        I started not only locking my drawers, but also carrying my writing stuff in my messenger bag. It was too expensive to keep replacing stuff that I could use.

        This was ten years ago, and I’m still angry about it. The company wasn’t broke, and most of the people there actually made more than I did. But they would steal anything off of my desk, including staplers and notepads, that wasn’t locked into a drawer. The stuff in the office supply cabinet was the cheapest stuff they could buy, and often people would put chewed on pens and wood pencils back in there. Yuck.

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Freaking MONOGRAMMED Cross pen that I’d gotten as a graduation gift.

      Yes folks, it had my full gubmint name inscribed on it.

      Can we say “full priced audacity”?

  12. Dana Lynne*

    I shared a large closed-door office with one other person once. A few weeks after I moved in with her (until then she had had the office to herself), instead of simply telling me that she could not tolerate the smell of the tuna sandwiches I had a habit of bringing for lunch, she stole my entire lunch in its small-size plastic cooler and hid it somewhere.

    It mysteriously reappeared on my desk about a few days later with all the spoiled food inside, all intact.

    If she had simply said she couldn’t stand the smell, I would have gladly stopped bringing tuna, or made a point to go somewhere else to eat.

    But no. Her passive aggressive tactics ruined my relationship with her. I could never prove it was her, so all I did was immediately ask to move to another office, but this was over a decade ago and I still can’t believe it.

    1. Jaid*

      An ex-coworker kept stealing the hooks I’d use for my coat, in our shared cubicle. It wasn’t until I put white out on the back of one and wrote a “curse” on it, that I found out that 1. Her OCD or whatever was triggered by the hook being slightly on “her” side of the cubicle wall and 2. She was a good Southern Baptist (her words) and she took my curse very seriously.

      A statue of the Virgin Mary, palm cross, talking to EEO and her going over the chain of command later, she finally got moved to another desk.

      All she had to do was say, hey, can you keep your hook in a particular spot and that drama wouldn’t have started…

    2. SB*

      That is some seriously passive aggression, although, I am on team “fish should be banned from the office”.

  13. LCH*

    the only “personal” stuff i bring in to work is stuff i’ve purchased at a thrift store specifically for this purpose. like thrift store mugs or utensils if the office doesn’t provide them. not ones that i like. that’s it! nothing irreplaceable.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This. I never take anything I would hate to lose. I have found that it’s best to travel light.

      1. irene adler*

        Yep! That’s the way to play it. Leave the valuable stuff at home.

        A co-worker brought in a measuring cup for coffee purposes. Only, this measuring cup was part of a much-prized set she’d had since the 1970’s.

        The measuring cup disappeared in short order. She was heartbroken.

        Decades later, she still laments the loss. Only, additional items of great sentimental value to her have gone missing since then. She refuses to leave these things at home.


        1. Flowers*

          Does she have someone at home who would steal or misuse these things? Only saying because while I agree in theory that leave the valuables at home – I have a 2 year old who loves stacking and playing with cups and she’d have a cow if she saw all my starbucks cups. She’s already played to death with the plastic ones, I really don’t want to give up my limited edition starbucks cups.

          Now if only I could bring my entire makeup collection to work to keep it away from her……..

    2. Maple (not syrup)*

      Yeah! I never ever take anything to work that doesn’t go home with me at the end of the day. Every single thing I’ve had to leave at my desk because it belongs to the office gets stolen eventually. And since the place is so dysfunctional, the only way for me to get my own office supplies without buying them myself is to slip into the useless purchasing department’s supply closet and steal what I need when they leave at the end of the day. Which then all get stolen from my desk when I’m gone anyway.

      I had six pens on a Friday two weeks ago, which I got because people taking a certification test just left them in the testing area when they were done. Not one of those pens was in my desk the following Monday. I’d hidden them in the back of a little-used drawer under a mound of files, too. So glad when I’m out of this place for good.

      A long time ago, I worked for a doctor who was *so* mad that I wouldn’t decorate my office space with personal items. “Our customers want to feel at home!” she’d insist. Honey, we were an emergency doctor’s office. Not a single person in the years I was there commented on the decor anywhere. They only cared about the office being clean enough to safely get their head injuries X-rayed and their wounds stitched. When I quit, I’d never lost a thing of mine in that office, and all I had to haul home after my final day was the bag I came in with at the start. :)

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Same. It’s not that I don’t like this stuff, but it won’t kill me to lose it either. I do also keep a small written inventory of the personal stuff I have at work, and if they ever decided to box up my stuff for me, I would present them with the list. The headset/mic, space heater, X-acto knife, cutting mat, lumbar cushion, stapler, etc. are mine…they may be low dollar and not precious (so I probably wouldn’t sue over it), but I have the purchase history to prove it’s my property. I’ve had people try to take or borrow items they think are communal and I’m “hoarding.”

    4. Booksalot*

      At a previous job, when I had a cubicle, my decorations were from the dollar store: mugs for pens and pencils, picture frames (containing photos that could easily be reprinted), etc. The only other things I used were scavenged from around the office. I didn’t want to risk losing anything and also wanted to be able to walk out of that god-forsaken place at any time.

  14. Yoyoyo*

    The worst is when everyone knows who the thief is and nobody does anything about it. At a former job, all manner of things were stolen, from the mundane to the expensive/sentimental. It was a longstanding pattern and everyone knew who the culprit was (it only happened when they were in the office, and they had even been caught in the act multiple times!). For whatever reason, nothing was ever done and everyone just learned that they had to lock things up and that if their lunch was stolen, oh well. The only explanation anyone could think of was that the thief had some sort of dirt on one of the higher ups and was using that as leverage, because this was not a place where people never got fired.

  15. Wendy Darling*

    At a previous job I was mostly remote but had a desk with some basic items — I’d brought in my own mouse and keyboard and a phone charger, and a few random bits of stationery.

    They quite abruptly decided that those of us who were mostly remote didn’t get desks anymore, and someone packed mine up for me and they just gave me a box. The box was missing about half of my stuff (RIP keyboard and charger) but also contained an apparently-random assortment of stuff that was NOT mine. Like a pair of scissors and one of those Kensington cable locks.

    I think I came out about even. I still use the scissors.

    1. ferrina*

      During the pandemic, a lot of staff went remote and even relocated away from the office. Because the office had shut down so abruptly, quite a few people had never been back to pick up their stuff and had even forgotten about it! It was amazing what wasn’t stolen- a coworker left a quite nice blazer on her chair and forgot about it for over 2 years when she moved away. When I pointed out she had a blazer in the office, HR actually boxed up the blazer and other personal things on her desk and mailed them back to her in her new location.

  16. Chairman of the Bored*

    I found my soup etc stopped disappearing from a shared fridge once I began labeling the container as “Cat Ear Medicine”.

  17. Routine_Poutine*

    When I started at my new company last year, I brought in my Barack Obama mug, which was promptly stolen. Whenever I think about the possibilities, it always comes down to:

    1. Someone who doesn’t like Barack Obama
    2. It was accidentally broken and no one fessed up/replaced
    3. Someone who really likes him and just had to have it

    While probably not likely, #3 is the most charitable so I like to think that’s what happened.

    1. Manders*

      Somebody left a nice Anthony Fauci mug in our breakroom (we work in the Infectious Diseases field), and I can’t believe they did that. This was in 2020. I looked up the mug and it cost over $50! Still there, too.

  18. Holy Carp*

    It’s been decades since I worked at this place, but I was swing shift manager at a food plant. My section worked Monday-Friday, but the other section worked Monday-Thursday. They had an agreement with the union to stay as long as needed on a Thursday to finish whatever jobs were scheduled so they could have Fridays off.
    After a certain time of night, I was the only woman in the place, and I soon discovered that the industrial size toilet paper rolls disappeared from the lone women’s rest room every Thursday by the time the other shift had left.
    I reported it to management and even left pleading notes inside each stall, but those massive bath tissue rolls continued to grow legs the whole time I worked there.

    1. Pam*

      Honestly, I feel bad for that person that was stealing it. That is quite uncomfortable toilet paper. It would take a lot for me to be that desperate.

    2. Be Gneiss*

      yeah, for real. This came up at toxic ExJob during the pandemic, and involved a group of self-appointed TP-vigilantes following “suspects” out to their cars and demanding to inspect them for stolen 1-ply.
      Trust me, nobody who had any other options was stealing that stuff.

  19. SaffyTaffy*

    After replacing our 3-hole punch too many times, we secured it to the “stationery desk” with a metal cable tie. When it went missing, Security said whoever did it must have used bolt cutters.
    I now label everything with “Theft is unbecoming of a medical professional. Leave the X here.” It’s passive-aggressive but it works.

  20. Not putting that in my ear*

    I walked into work one day, ready to tackle the day ahead. I sat down at my desk and reached for my trusty earbuds, only to find a strange pair in their place. My first thought was, ‘Wow, someone must have really admired my grime-covered, cracked Samsung earbuds, if they decided to steal them.’

    But upon closer inspection, I realized that the new ones were actually an upgrade. Sure, they were still plagued with the typical wired headphone grime, but they were nicer than mine had ever been. I couldn’t help but wonder why someone would trade their own earbuds for mine, especially considering they were practically antiques.

    The more I thought about it, the more my mind raced with sinister possibilities. Did someone break in and play a twisted game of earbud switcheroo? Was it a secret Santa gift gone wrong? Or maybe, just maybe, there’s a black market for vintage Samsung earbuds that I don’t know about.

    I may never know the truth behind the earbud exchange, but one thing’s for sure: I’ll never look at my own grime-covered earbuds the same way again.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      ew…just…ew. I would never wear another person’s ear buds. Over-ear is probably fine with a wipe, but never buds.

      My coworker once had a 4-6 inch USB cable — the kind in the check out line, 6 for a dollar, cheap cable — get stolen out of her desktop tower. Nothing was attached to it at the time. Why tho?

    2. Mademoiselle Sugarlump*

      I was expecting this story to end with you happily starting to use them….only to find they didn’t work.

  21. The Wizard Rincewind*

    The only theft I’ve experienced at work was not perpetrated by a coworker. It really creeped me out: I worked in a large but single-purpose office (i.e., not an office building with multiple tenants) and there wasn’t really security beyond a front desk employee. My unit was down the stairs and at the very end of the building, and my cubicle was toward the end of the office. Just to set this scene, this was not a crime-of-opportunity, easily spotted location. I went to lunch one day in the cafeteria and came back to discover that someone had swiped my phone and wallet out of my purse.

    Eventually, HR showed me security camera footage of someone who didn’t work in the building enter the building, enter our office area, and walk out again holding my phone. Additionally, that week, most of our unit was out of the office at a conference. Did this person know that or did they just get extraordinarily lucky with the timing? How much planning went into this? It was so creepy! I never felt safe the rest of the time I worked there.

    1. ferrina*

      Based on your handle, I was almost expecting it to grow legs and walk out of the office on it’s own. Or walk back on it’s own. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a cell phone that took after the Luggage?

      1. Momma Bear*

        I don’t think sapient pearwood gets good cell reception but if it did that thief wouldn’t have walked off, either…

        1. The Wizard Rincewind*

          I must say, I didn’t expect to stumble on such a community of Discworld fans when I started commenting on here, but it’s a real treat!

          1. allathian*

            Indeed. And The Luggage is my favorite Discworld character, with Rincewind a close second.

    2. Purple m&m*

      Several years ago in the SF Bay Area we were all told to put our valuables, purses, phones in a locked drawer because there had been a rash of such thefts. Nicely dressed people would gain entry & steal from desk drawers.

      1. AnonPi*

        My mother was told the same thing, this was like 20+ years ago. It was a rehab facility so there were always people coming and going, but the administrative offices were in a whole separate wing which you were supposed to have to badge into. Didn’t make a difference, they still had people getting back there riffling thru peoples stuff and stealing.

      2. Shandra*

        Or carry around a company-named banker box, so that they’d look like a business vendor. And have something to put their stolen goods in.

    3. Chutney Jitney*

      Ooh, that happened to me at a job about 20 years ago. Our office (on the 19th floor!) had a back door that was near my desk. It was also near the men’s bathroom in the outside hall – they would otherwise have to walk out the front door and all the way around and all the way back. You can see where this goes – they guys were going out the back and leaving it propped open for their own convenience.

      A totally brazen thief came in (in cutoffs!), saw my bag under my desk, stole my purse out of it, walked through the office and out the front door! It was a Friday, I had just been to the ATM at lunch, and I didn’t discover it until after lunch and I had to wait until Monday morning to handle it with my bank. After that the guys did stop propping the door though.

      1. La Triviata*

        I used to live in a building that had a secured front door, with a (mostly) staffed desk nearby, a back door that was locked and alarmed and a side door to the cross street that was locked but didn’t at that time have an alarm on it. A number of people took to propping the side door open so they could walk their dogs, go a few blocks away to the store, etc. Once one of them caught me closing the door and tossing the rock they used to prop it open into the plantings and threatened to beat me up if I ever did it again.

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      They just added keycard scanners to our elevators and stairwells (in only, out is unsecured for emergency exit) because despite our security guard downstairs trying to keep unwanted visitors out, if people could enter the building they could go anywhere once inside. The org wanted that extra layer of security that even if someone could get past the front lobby, they couldn’t really go anywhere except out again.

    5. Nobby Nobbs*

      My father’s workplace has that problem ages ago! This serial scam artist would con their way into workplaces with social engineering then go through purses and coats, and they were one of the ones that got hit.

  22. Bronze Betty*

    OK, I appreciate the resourcefulness of the employee who attached their chair to their desk with a dog leash because people kept stealing it to use in the conference room next door. And the visual of that just makes me smile (even though the necessity for this makes me angry). Just imagine the reactions of people grabbing the office chair only to discover it literally chained to a desk.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Back when I was working a later shift to train PT staff, my chair would also get taken for conference room use. I wish I had thought of this solution. (Stopping people as they are rolling your chair away or going into the conference room to retrieve your chair is tiring!)

      The fun part is that we were right by training rooms & a break room all full of chairs they could use!

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I never had anyone steal my chair while I was gone (or if they did, they put it back before I returned), but I ROUTINELY, like once or twice a month for a couple of years, had people stopping by my cube to ask if they could borrow my chair to take to the conference room. Like, the chair that I was actively sitting in and working at the time. And they always got really shirty when I said “Uh… no? I’m using it?”

      1. Tired*

        That’s really excessive! Looking around for an empty chair (preferably a visitor chair) and asking everyone around if it’s available is really not that hard…

    3. Tired*

      I have had to borrow office chairs for conference rooms but I do give them back! I’m a plus sized person with wide hips & in my place of work conference room chairs all have fixed arms attached meaning I can either cram myself into the gap between the arms leading to numb kegs or broken chairs (and general humiliation and pain), stand all meeting (also very awkward), or borrow a chair with no arms or adjustable arms…. Guess I should start carrying a stool around with me…

      1. Chutney Jitney*

        Or use your words and ask your company to provide an armless chair for the conference room? That is the simplest option. They already order that type, so it should be easy. Don’t push this off on your coworkers or tell yourself you “have to” do this.

        1. Tired*

          There are nearly a hundred conference rooms and meeting rooms, and I’ve been trying that for years – sadly no joy, they just either don’t care or think it serves be right.

          1. Tired*

            And I should add that their attitude is that having a range of chairs would spoil the look of the meeting rooms (or office spaces come to that, it took several broken chairs & a trip to occupational health & safety to get slightly more durable office chairs for the larger members of my team, because the more substantial ones looked a bit different (higher back, wider seat, slightly different colour) and that just… wasn’t tidy). Sigh!

            1. I Have RBF*

              The last office I worked in, when we had to move into the New! Special! open plan two cities away (can you say longer commute?), took away all of our ergonomic chairs, saying we had to “justify” keeping them by presenting the original paperwork from when we got them. Of course, they didn’t have the paperwork either, so we were all crammed into these mid-grade “Sayl” chairs that were all uniform in appearance. I ended up with bruises from that thing, because I am a larger person and it was too small for me.

              But why did they not want to move everyone’s chair? Because then the office desks wouldn’t be “uniform” – identical, like a robotic assembly line. They also demanded that we not “decorate” or “personalize” out desks, and wanted them “clean” (cleared of anything but our cheap keyboard and cheap mouse) at the end of the day. We had no bookshelves, no whiteboards, and we weren’t even supposed to have bookend and books.

              I was the office rebel. I had all of my little stuff mascots that I got a trade shows, plus my drinking vessels, plus a whiteboard that I managed to purloin, all on my desk. Periodically there would be memos raging against “a forest of drinkware” on people’s desks, which I promptly ignored.

              They also didn’t let us have actual trash cans or recycle bins. You were supposed to take your trash to a central location. They “allowed” a little desktop trash bin, but you weren’t supposed to line it. You had to carry it along with all you other trash to the badly set up bins near the break room. Guess who lined their trash bin?

              The place also had zero coat racks. Not even the kind that you could hang on a cube, because there were no cubes, just rows of desks. Fortunately, I had brought my coat rack from the old office. It was mine, I wasn’t going to leave it behind at the old office. When I left, I willed it to my boss, because he actually used it more than I did. Somebody tried to complain about it, but I asked them just where I was supposed to hang my coat? They blithered something about the back of my chair or the break room. I gave them a dirty look. They shut up.

              Needless to say, this cheapskate place laid me off due to covid, because they didn’t make as much as they though they should during a pandemic.

      2. t4ci3*

        is wheeling your chair from your desk to the conference room and back not an option? Do other people have a different kind of chair at their desks?

    4. Chaordic One*

      Yes, Bronze Betty. If this site had a button for “likes” or “thumbs ups” I’d give them to the person who posted this.

  23. Amber Rose*

    Nobody has ever stolen anything from me thankfully, but I have pilfered approximately 100 pounds of pens, three boxes of paper clips, a few rolls of tape and a box of batteries. And my coworker just walked out of here with a whole, unopened pack of printer paper a few months ago.

    In my defense, I usually don’t realize I’ve walked off with anything, it’s just that I have this habit of putting stuff in my pockets while I walk around and forgetting it’s there.

    1. Bit o' Brit*

      My husband did this ALL THE TIME at his old job. Every few days he’d come home, pull a biro out of his pocket and leave it on a table. Never took any back. When I got sick of them I donated and/or recycled almost 200 of the things and we still have a pot full of at least 30.

      1. Deborah*

        I didn’t think I was stealing pens but one time I found about 100 pens under the passenger seat of my car with NO RECOLLECTION of how they got there.

    2. Elitist Semicolon*

      Every single binder clip in my house is there because I brought work home, took off the clip to do the work, got up to do something else in another room, forgot where I left the clip, and rediscovered it at a later time (usually by stepping on it). After 10 years, that’s a lot of binder clips.

    3. Bob-White of the Glen*

      How does a coworker walk out with a whole, unopened box of printer paper by accident? You just don’t notice that in your pocket?

      1. Mister_L*

        I once went to buy lunch during the break and when I arrived a checkout I realized I still had my stanley knife in my pocket. Luckily I notice before accidentially pulling it out while paying.

  24. Dulcinea47*

    This is where being an anxious and suspicious person due to an unsafe childhood comes in handy! I just don’t keep anything I’d be crushed to lose anyplace where others can access it. Never keep food in the common fridge, and anything at my desk is low value.

    My current workplace has cameras everywhere, and both previous and current workplaces have locked staff areas, so on the few occasions things did go missing it was pretty easy for them to figure out who could have been present at the time.

  25. onetimethishappened*

    Someone stole my nice Yeti (or Yeti like) water bottle. I brought it to a meeting with me and forgot it and never found it again. It was unmistakable as it was BRIGHT PINK. Which i did on purpose. In case I forgot it, everyone knew that I was the one with a bright pink water bottle. Apparently said thief took it home or maybe just tossed it. It was never seen again.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I had a really nice water botttle and one day it went missing. I found it a few hours later in soneone else’s office. They took my half drank water and drank the rest. I don’t have cooties but still… Now I have a very nice black one with red roses and I alway leave the cap off so if someone steals it, it’s useless to them.

  26. Catabouda*

    I had cash stolen out of my wallet. As in, they had to go in my purse, grab my wallet, take the cash and then placed the wallet back in my purse. So I didn’t notice right away. I’m still not sure which day it happened, but I do have an idea of the few days it could have happened.

    Once I reported it, I found out that it had happened to several others. Thanks for warning all of us useless HR. Still pissed they “didn’t want to cause a panic” vs actually help keeping others from losing money.

    1. jtr*

      Oh, my goodness, this brings to mind a time when I first started working over 40 year ago. Not theft, but I was on a VERY small team (4 people, 3 of whom, including me, were women) working the night shift at a very large aerospace company. We heard through the grapevine that a woman working night shift had been raped in a bathroom in our building. When I contacted security to ask why they hadn’t thought to let us know about this so we could minimally take protective measures, their response was that they didn’t want to worry us.

      My blood still boils. The security dude tried to get me in trouble with my department manager for it, too.

      1. Dr. Vibrissae*

        Wow…I mean, you should be worried, right? Like, you tell people something like that *in order that* they know to be worried and can take some sort of precaution and/or to tell them what additional precautions you have enacted. If you don’t tell them it’s more like YOU don’t want to be bothered about it.

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I had that happen at work, I was missing a $2o and I thought it was just me miscounting. Then another co-worker had her grocery money ($200) stolen from her purse. This was just after payday so it was a big hit. We weren’t allowed to have locks on our lockers so people either left their wallets in their cars or tucked them into their uniforms somehow. It was a womens’ locker room and by the process of elemination we had a pretty good idea of who was doing it.

  27. slashgirl*

    I work at an elementary school library (2 of them). Early on in my career, anything that I either bought or used specifically in the library I would label. Up to and including my metre stick (one of the teachers that chuckled at it…I later found my metre stick in HER classroom…we laughed; she hadn’t taken it on purpose). I also keep my good pens on my side of the desk and have the disposable ones the schools provide out for others to use.

    One thing I hadn’t labelled either of my schools was my electric pencil sharpener; it’s about 7″ tall, 4″ wide and 5-6″ deep, same model at both schools. Didn’t think I needed to I mean, it’s electric and you have to unplug it to steal it!

    Until about 3 or 4 years ago at the larger school. We had our opening day, September staff meeting in the library and someone needed to borrow a pencil, I told them they could sharpen it and turned to point at my sharpener. Which was NOT on my desk. It was NOWHERE in my library. I was pissed. I had used Book Fair credit to purchase it FOR the library. And thing was, if any teacher had needed one, I would’ve ordered them one with the credits.

    I sent out an all staff email and included a picture of it–for the visual learners–but no one admitted to anything. Anyhow, after about a month, it hadn’t come back, so I ordered a new one. I came in one Monday morning to the box with the new sharpener in it (I’m not at that school on Fridays, so it must’ve come in then) and my old pencil sharpener sitting on the desk in front of it. To this day, I still don’t know who took it; no one ever admitted to it. I put the new one on my desk with labels (I even put labels on the waste container on the inside, just in case), kept the old one until a teacher needed one cus hers died and I gave it to her.

    Label everything.

  28. Orange You Glad*

    The only major theft I’m aware of at my company was years ago we had someone who was on paper in charge of the mail room but actually was just there to be at the beck and call of the CEO (running errands, picking up lunch, etc). This person was terrible at the mail job and had a lot of complaints but was untouchable as the CEO’s “assistant”. What finally got him fired was when he would go out to get the CEO’s lunch he would buy himself drinks/snacks with the CEO’s credit card. I’m not sure how it all came out because he had to have been doing it for years.

    1. LJ*

      I can’t help but wonder if they had just asked, whether the CEO would’ve ok ed a few snacks and drinks here and there

  29. WillowSunstar*

    This is one of the few good things about not having a permanent spot. That being said though, the most valuable thing I bring to work besides our company laptop is my cell phone and I keep it with me at all times.

    Did have a coworker go through my purse at least once or twice, in the days before COVID, and it still creeps me out to this day. I now keep my purse with me at all times also. I’ve had a purse stolen once, but not at work.

  30. teacher gifts*

    I had a very frustrating experience when I was teaching in Korea. I co-taught two kindergarten classes with a Korean teacher. We’d switch off so she’d teach one group of students and I would teach the other. We worked in a rich area and would get gifts from parents semi-regularly. I didn’t speak Korean and the parents didn’t speak English so communication went through my Korean co-teacher.
    One boy Ricky was in our class and his mother gave us gifts and she always gave us the same thing. For teachers day and Christmas she gave each of us a sweet card and a $100 Visa card (which was amazing for me on my $24k salary) then when the second teachers day rolled around Ricky gave us our cards. My was empty and hers had two $100 visa gift cards.
    I asked her if she could ask the mom if that was a mistake and she refused and said it was rude. So even though there is a chance that the mom randomly upped her Visa card and gave me nothing I always felt like she had taken my gift card.

      1. La Triviata*

        At my old (terrible) job, there was one woman who was nuts. She also disliked me and hated that I’d been promoted and given a real office. At one point she was claiming that someone had taken a $20 from her purse … and soon afterwards I realized I was missing a $20. I still think she decided that somehow taking it from me was justified.

  31. Prorata*

    Not exactly on point, but back at 1990’s Oldco Mortgage, we would order each loan processor new -hire various office supply stuff, including an HP-12 financial calculator……after a while, one would think we would have enough of the things turned back in as people left to outfit replacement new-hires….but nooooooo!! Every one of those calculators walked out the door permamently!! And back-to-school season – we would have the strangest office supply orders….”Hello Kitty” notebooks, “Thomas the Tank Engine” bookbags, loose-leaf paper, Crayola crayons (the big box with a sharpener!!)…turned out people were outfitting their kids for the new school year on the company dime!!

    Good times.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Wow. That was back in pre-eBay days when you could sell things like those calculators pretty easily.

    2. Baby Yoda*

      I remember those old HP calculators in the 80s! They let us keep ours, and used it for probably the next 20 years until loan processing programs became reliable.

  32. MagicEyes*

    I was robbed. My office door was locked, so there was a small group of suspects, but I never found out who did it. I had a peace lily in my office that had a lot of babies. I was making plans to move them into other pots, but I came in to my office one morning and they were gone. :-( Somehow, without making a mess, someone had dug up my baby peace lilies and took them away. I was not pleased. It was about 1/3 of the pot, so it was a lot of small plants. I still miss those little guys.

    1. Maple*

      My mother-in-law also had plants stolen, though not at work. Several dozen small Japanese maple saplings stolen by what she’s sure was the construction contractor working on her house, who a few days before asked her if the trees she’d recently planted were “red marijuana.” He didn’t seem to believe her when she said what they actually were. A few days later, they were all dug up and hauled away in middle of the night.

      Smoking Japanese maple leaves is probably not harmful, but I hope that guy had a severe allergic reaction to the first maple joint he lit up. That was thousands of dollars of trees he stole!

      1. La Triviata*

        Right before Mothers Day, there seems to be a rash of flowers and plants stolen from people’s yards. And there was one man who was known to go through certain neighborhoods and dig up flowering plants … I don’t think anyone knew what he did with them. And people who have plots in community gardens frequently have vegetables, etc., stolen.

        1. WillowSunstar*

          It’s one thing if a small child does it trying to pick the parent a flower, but I think older children and adults should definitely know better.

  33. The Eye of Argon*

    When I worked retail, we kept our purses in the stockroom, where they were sort of hidden but any sufficiently nosy thief would be able to find them. It wasn’t at all safe, but the only alternative was to lock it in your locker 3 floors down with a big public restroom next to the locker room. Stuff vanished from the locker room all the time, so it wasn’t any safer.

    One night I went in to get my purse at the end of the shift and my trifold wallet was laying open on top of the purse. My credit card was there (humungous sigh of relief ) but $60 in cash was gone, and when you’re earning peanuts at a crappy retail job, losing $60 hurts. I suspected a couple of customers (a man and a woman; she went to try clothes on in the fitting room, next to the stockroom, and he started asking me a million questions that were distracting enough for her to sneak in and grab my money) but of course I couldn’t prove it, and store security would have just called it my fault for leaving my purse in an unlocked stockroom so there was no point in reporting it.

    I quit carrying a wallet at all, just would put any money that I needed in my pants pockets, and used my purse for just random and valueless stuff. A year or two went past.

    Then I came in and the big news was that a coworker from the next department, whom I’ll call Miserable Thieving Scumsucking A$$hole, had been fired for stealing money out of someone else’s purse, and when security caught her she admitted to having stolen money from other coworkers, including me. Fortunately, she was fired on the spot.

    Coincidentally, a night or two before she stole my money, MTSA had announced to me that she was going to McDonald’s while on the clock and she’d be back later. That was, of course, super-duper against the rules, and on top of that the store was busy and I kept getting all her customers on top of my own and other things I had to do.

    The next day I told her department manager about that, and obviously MTSA knew it was me who told on her so she started being downright nasty to me. She stole my money to get revenge.

    She was an older woman, probably 60+, who had worked for the store for decades. I was in my 20s, just out of college and trying to make ends meet. Thankfully my coworkers since then have been human beings and not walking leaking bags of reeking, maggot-riddled human garbage.

  34. Won't Get Fooled Again. Maybe.*

    I work for one of the biggest companies in the world. Their online security is ridiculously complicated; the parking lot is gated, the building is turnstiled and gated, both requiring badges to enter and exit. Yet when personal items began missing, their answer was to tell us not to bring personal stuff in that we didn’t want to lose. Oh okay. Then perhaps you can stop rationing pens and staples and post-it notes so that we didn’t have to provide our own.

  35. Chrisssss*

    I once left a pretzel in the kitchen while I was going in the bathroom, and when I returned, half of it was gone. One guy told me with a guilty face and still chewing something that it had no name, so if was fair game. I told him that was not a nice thing to do. I lost the appetite for my pretzel, and I’m still angry at that thief.

    Apparently I also accidentally stole a spoon from that company, but didn’t realize until I was gone. I guess since it belonged to the company and not to someone, it will be fine if I just keep it.

  36. HonorBox*

    I read the comment about the carton of milk and am thankful I wasn’t drinking milk (or anything) because I’d have needed a new keyboard. Gosh I needed that laugh.

  37. Nicki Name*

    I was just thinking about how so many of the office theft stories that appear here have highly paid perpetrators. This weekend, our local paper ran a story about a city manager making $150k/yr who was caught shoplifting, and the city council chose to reinstate her afterward. Apparently she’d been fired from another city manager job in the past over shoplifting, had sued that city claiming the firing was over something else, and had won the lawsuit!

    1. Fluffy jellbeans*

      I read the same article. The residents of that community are definitely not happy with their elected officials reinstating the city manager!

  38. Retired Merchandiser*

    I used to do merchandising at Walmart stores, and occasionally TPTB would decide vendors/merchandisers weren’t allowed to use shopping carts, they were to be reserved for CUSTOMERS.
    I used too many things in my daily work to carry them in my hands (toolbox, stick-on coupons, sometimes whole display units to set up in the store) so I would… just ignore the directive. Most of the managers just looked the other way, but once in a while one would decide it was time to enforce THE RULES.
    Anyway, one day I had my cart I knew the Enforcer was there that day, but I really had too much to tote. So, I hid my cart in the ladies’ wear between some tightly packed clothing racks. I came back in a bit to find all my things sitting on the floor and scattered around, except for a roll of stick-on coupons. I just figured the manager did that and shrugged because I knew I wasn’t supposed to do it.
    Well, I went to lunch with my lunch box and when I looked into my zippered compartment to get money for a beverage, I realized all my money was gone. Then two days later I was getting something from the storeroom and found my coupons. Then I realized it must have been an employee.
    And yes, I realize I should never have left money unattended and after that made sure I never had more than a couple of dollars in there, but I never could figure why they wanted 100 coupons for fifty cents off paper towels.

    1. The Eye of Argon*

      If they were anything like my cheapo aunt, they’d probably try to use however many 50 cent coupons in order to get the paper towels for free. I refuse to shop with her because she uses every “it’s not really stealing!” gimmick there is, and it IS stealing.

  39. Bird Lady*

    I worked in non-profits for many years, and I noticed three types of theft.

    1. Honest to goodness mistakes: For example, a board member consistently stole my sparkling tea from the communal fridge. Normally I’m fine with room temp water, but our AC broke and my office was a stifling 97 degrees. I’d pop a few cans of cool, refreshing beverages to use to cool down throughout the day. When the board member found out he had been drinking my beverages, he purchased me a gift card to a local gas station within walking distance to make up for drinking my tea. He was terribly embarrassed!

    2. Lack of Corporate Support: Working for non-profits, it was accepted that sometimes you need to purchase your own equipment. To set up dual screens for lectures/ presentations, I purchased an HDMI splitter. It wasn’t very expensive, but not something I wanted to purchase over and over again. And yet, because my organization didn’t have it in the budget to purchase this tech, people just took my HDMI splitter and often times just threw it in bags during clean-up. Eventually, I put a lock on my tech drawer. This essentially forced the org to purchase some technology.

    3. The “I Don’t Get Paid Enough” Mentality: This is the one that frustrates me the most, because in my experience, it’s not theft against the employer, but either co-workers or clients. I worked with a person who was security for our space rentals. He plated himself half a client’s tray of shrimp and spent the rest of the night in his office eating the plate he made himself. When my team and I suggested to him that this was not appropriate behavior, he replied that he didn’t make enough to bring lunch and dinner to work, so he deserved the shrimp. Readers, the clients always gave us the left overs at the end of the night to avoid having to package up and transport the food off site. He was going to get some shrimp, just not abundant shrimp!

  40. mydish*

    I gotta say, the pyrex one is so strange…I’d have to assume that someone had brought a similar dish in the past that was stolen (or perhaps disposed of during clean-out), mistook the OP’s dish for theirs, and stole it back with prejudice.

    1. Artemesia*

      Could be. I once ‘stole’ a spoon that I was quite certain was mine that had been stolen at an earlier potluck.

    2. Ariaflame*

      It may be just due to sheer rarity value if it’s an original actually good in the oven pyrex dish. After the company and name got taken over the food grade dishes aren’t nearly as good because they’re not using the more expensive formula for the glass with the lower heat expansion coefficient like they used to. Proper original pyrex may be like the proverbial hen’s teeth.

  41. JelloStapler*

    I had a coffee mug I loved at my old job and it disappeared one day- never came back, and never saw it anywhere. I lamented to my friend who had given it to me and she very nicely bought me a new one – I kept that one at home. ;)

  42. Mom*

    I had a glass mom picture frame. It said MOM and the O held a picture of my baby. It was from Avon products. I came in one day and the picture was sitting on my desk and the frame was gone!

    1. Sunflower*

      That happened at one of my old offices too! Someone had a picture frame with a pic of her family and one day she found the picture face down and the frame gone.

  43. Bex (in computers)*

    I wonder whether the office thefts aren’t also partially fostered by that thing offices love to do – claim we’re all family.

    Because I wouldn’t think twice about snagging a soda out of the fridge at my sister’s house (or my mom’s), even though I don’t live there. We’re family. And I wouldn’t get stuck in moral questions if I grabbed a throw blanket from the living room and it ended up living in my office for a while.

    This doesn’t entirely explain it, and I don’t condone the office thefts at all. They’re frustrating and annoying and the tiny trust violations can be absolutely disheartening. But I do wonder if that underlying thought that so many companies (destructively) push has a hand in it.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      YUP. If you can’t guarantee I’ll still have boots at the end of the day, you don’t get to say sh*t to me.

  44. Lenora Rose*

    I guess I technically stole a mug from a former business… but it was when they were renovating the kitchen. There had been multiple email calls for all staff to get their mugs and take them home or keep them at their desk, then they were put in a box on a central table with another email – and large signs – for a week saying everything in the box was going to be donated to a secondhand place if not picked up.

    So I took a specific nice mug home on Friday after the prior owner had had ample time and multiple chances. It was commercial, not handmade, and not deeply unique but it was a nice shape and size.

    I have taken a splash of milk from someone else’s milk carton – but only at places where I brought in my own most of the time and knew others were doing the same to me, and it all balanced out.

  45. Mitford*

    Not sure if Kleenex even makes colored tissues any more, but I had one job where I started buying pink Kleenex for the box on my desk to keep all the men in the building from wiping out my supply on a regular basis.

    1. Chrisssss*

      Reminds me of a comment somewhere, where a woman working in an office used to keep tampons and pads in her roller container, so that coworkers didn’t take her office material away.

    2. Chaordic One*

      Also reminds me of the tool kits with pink-handled tools (screw-drivers, hammers, wrenches, etc.) that some (almost always female) employees kept at their desks. Supposedly, even when “borrowed,” the tools never walked off or disappeared and always came back to the (almost always female) person who was in charge of them because no one wanted to steel a pink-handled tool.

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      Sharpies have interchangeable caps, and you can put a pink cap on a black Sharpie to keep them from walking off.

  46. Area Woman*

    I worked a call-center type job with a security camera on the lunchroom fridges. We were told under no uncertain terms, if you were caught stealing another employee’s lunch you would be immediately fired. I thought that was such overkill until I started reading this blog. Yikes!

      1. Area Woman*

        I just didn’t think people stole other people’s food!? I thought it was soo gross, like who would want to gamble with other people’s hygiene and whatnot. So that was what seemed so crazy, not that people shouldn’t be fired for it. I would think it was so rare, but nooooo people are so weird about this. It is truly a mystery to me.

  47. Fives*

    I used to have a cube near the copy room. Several times a week, someone would ask to use my stapler, staple remover, etc. One day, my beloved silver staple remover went missing (don’t laugh, I’d had it for 10 years at that point and it worked beautifully). It wasn’t in the copy room or anywhere near by. Six months later, I’m sitting in a meeting in a conference room… and there it is in the middle of the table. It’s now back home in my drawer.

  48. Newly minted higher ed*

    Not a theft story, but had to watch a video about what constituted theft for work every year for a few years. Apparently, using a few paper clips for personal use was almost or as bad as borrowing the backhoe to cut a driveway on your property. I always wondered what prompted that particular comparison.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      You know, I don’t think one can or should justify theft… but honestly, one of my prior roles in my current workplace was an office supply person. And the person two before me ordered SO MANY PAPERCLIPS. There were sealed boxes aplenty in the supply cupboard (15-20), and also at least two trays of paperclips collected from around the office and returned to the supply closet that probably added up to almost as many. Plus the ones on every desk or in the drawer, plus the tray on the mail desk… I was wondering if we ever would open any of those still sealed boxes.

      No, using a few paperclips is NOT the same as using a backhoe.

  49. It is what it is*

    I worked for a large financial institution and was in charge of ordering supplies for our department. These supplies then were stored in unlocked cabinets in our area.

    I quickly learned that several employees did their kids school supply shopping from our office supplies. Not allowed.

    So from July -November I would order very few office supplies or keep them in a locked cabinet in an empty cubicle next to mine where only I had the keys. I would then put out only a few of each item into the supply area.

    I had a few complainers but I kept detailed lists of what was ordered when, how many were put on the shelf for employees to take, what was locked up, etc.

    My boss received a complaint one day and asked me about it. I pulled up my spreadsheet and showed her I had put 48 black pens on the shelf the day before at close. I asked her how 48 pend disappear in less than 24 hours in a 5 person department?

    We went in the habit of keeping track of the exact quantity of supplies anyone took. However, 48 pens gone in less than 24 hours with 5 people still makes me scratch my head.
    Furthermore, there were 3 or 4 other pen options available but no one wanted those. But when told by the boss that X pens would be restocked the next month, suddenly Y and Z pens were okay for work. (Y and Z pens weren’t on the local school supply requirement lists)

  50. Delta Delta*

    I had an internship at a small law firm in law school. 5 lawyers (4 men, 1 almost-retired woman), 2 support staff (women). I brought a couple pairs of dress shoes that I could easily change into if I had a meeting or court. One pair was a very plain pair of black Candie’s pumps. I left on a Friday and the Candie’s were there. Came in on Monday and the Candie’s were gone. One of the support staff mentioned stopping in with her kids over the weekend, and the only thing I could think is that one of them took them. They never resurfaced, even after I mentioned to everyone I couldn’t find them.

    Different law firm. Everyone had phone books and bar books. One person habitually and repeatedly took everyone’s phone books. I got to the point where I’d make a big deal of writing my name on my new book every year with fancy markers.

  51. Meep*

    I will still always be traumatized by my coworker who stole my half-eaten chocolate bar at the start of the pandemic. Like who does that on a normal day, let alone one with a deadly unknown virus spreading like wildfire?

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      “If I’m gonna die in this pandemic, I’m at least going out with this…um…half-eaten bar of chocolate!!”
      -Ur Co-irker.

  52. Sitcom Writer*

    When I worked in food & bev in college, I brought in my own pens from home, my favorite of which had pretty distinct markings. It disappeared from my host stand one day, and I asked every server and manager that came by if they had seen it. Finally, one girl came up right when my manager, who was a pretty chill and fair manager, was up there, and just as I started to ask if she had seen it, saw it in her pocket. So, I was like, “Hey, that’s my pen!”

    And she said, “No, this is my pen!”

    And I said, “Oh, did you go visit the [State] School for the Deaf & Blind too???”

    Our manager thought it was funny, and I got my pen back. Then our manager joked, “Have you stolen anything else?”

    And this girl replied, “Well, do you remember when we had the meeting about all of the tea bags going missing? I stopped taking them after that.”

    My manager was SHOCKED that she actually responded and asked, “Did you take anything else??”

    And the girl CONTINUED and said “Well, do you remember when we had the meeting about the mini bottles of whiskey going missing?”

    It turns out she thought they were just free samples because the bar never used them (she conveniently forgot that we were also a hotel, and the mini bottles were for hotel guests). This is just one story of MANY about this coworker. I have to say it was never boring. Treating her like a character in a sitcom made everything much more bearable.

      1. Sitcom Writer*

        Everyone who worked there got a free shift drink anyway, so that wouldn’t have mattered much.

      1. Sitcom Writer*

        She stopped taking each item after they said not to. Plus we were all in college and she was a good server and got along with everyone, so I’m assuming the pros outweighed the cons for my manager. Also, the manager is someone I really trust the judgement of, so I never really questioned it lol

  53. SunriseRuby*

    I have a confession about “stealing” from my own workplace. In the early 1980s, before my freshman year in college, I had a summer job cleaning rooms at a decent but not expensive local hotel, one of a national chain. This was years before key cards, so I’d sometimes pick up a room key that a guest had left behind instead of returning to the front desk at checkout. Sometimes I’d stick the key in my pocket instead of putting it in the ice bucket sitting on my cart in the hallway because interrupting my efficient workflow to walk out to the hall – what a pain!

    Many times the keys would remain in the pocket of my jeans or shorts because I’d forget they were there, so they’d come home with me, and I’d turn them in to the front desk the next day. As the summer wore on, however, and a few forgotten keys remained on my dresser, I thought it would be really, really cool if I could manage to get a key for every room of the 6-floor hotel by the end of the summer!!! I snagged a plastic ice bucket from a supply closet, put it in the bottom drawer of my dresser at home, and dropped every key I collected for about 6 weeks. I was 18, what can I say? I also hadn’t been a high school rebel by any stretch of the imagination, and since I intended to return them, I wasn’t really – stealing – .

    My mom found my collection by accident after I’d gone off to school 200 miles away, and gave my younger sister, who had taken over the weekend hours of my job, the task of returning the keys to the hotel. I hadn’t gotten at all close to my goal, but I had probably collected about 20 keys, which was enough to royally embarrass her when she brought them to the manager at the front desk.

  54. irene adler*

    Small company here. We had no theft. Just the occasional misplaced -but found later- items. We trusted each other. As such, we were very nonchalant with locking things up.

    Until a new temp was brought in.

    We noticed all manner of small items began to disappear: lab calculators, a spoon from the lunchroom, stapler, small tools, lab coat, lots of pens and sharpies. This caused a bit of fuss as these were items needed to perform the job. But not expensive items. Replacements were procured and work continued. Although everyone speculated as to who was responsible for the thefts.

    Someone’s nice jacket disappeared. He’d taken it off and put in on the back of his chair. Now it was getting personal.

    Then one day, I found my purse unzipped, wallet gone. Couldn’t believe it! The worst capper to a hectic 12-hour workday.

    I got home to a cryptic phone message that my wallet could be found at a certain college. But which location? There were six locations in the immediate area. I called each one, explained the situation and finally, someone said yes, your wallet is in our lost and found.

    Well, my retrieved wallet had no cash – but all else was intact.

    Next day, I let folks know what had happened. Lock up your valuables: wallets are being stolen. Every single person was visibly upset by this- except for the temp. He suggested that given how lax we were with security, most likely someone from the street walked in and swiped the wallet.
    Except we work in a very remote, low traffic location. Little chance of anyone not an employee just walking by the place.

    We let the temp go shortly after this. Bad fit. He apparently was not happy reporting to a female boss (me). He made that clear to anyone who would listen.

    And there were no more thefts ever again.

    1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

      We had the son of the owner’s friend “intern” at our lab one summer. This guy would regularly disappear from the duties he was supposed to be learning about to go through the breakroom cupboards and take whatever he liked. We even caught him just standing there with a jar of peanut butter, eating directly from the jar.

      This was a teeny-tiny lab, so I can’t think he thought no one would notice somehow, which means he thought it was acceptable behavior. We had a chat with him directly at the peanut butter incident and filed a formal complaint to the owner. Guy was removed and we never had an “intern” again.

  55. Clefairy*

    Back in 2013ish, I worked at a smooth shop…one of my coworkers was a super bratty teenager who came from an affluent family and was forced to get a job to “build character” (this is all from her directly). One time, someone’s rent (over $500 cash) was stolen from their bag in the back. No one owned up, and when the owner checked cameras, it was her.

    When I worked with her, she had had a couple of very small Nickelodeon/Disney type acting roles previously and had also been featured on one of the televised singing competitions. There were a few times where, when it was slow, I read lines with her for upcoming disney channel auditions. Well, over the years, her acting career has taken off- she’s been a supporting character on a fairly popular TV show (that is a big upgrade from Nickelodeon/Disney work), starred in a Netflix movie that’s been really well recieved, and is starring in an upcoming theatrical release movie from a huge studio that I was very excited for until I realized she was in the starring role. I’m sure she’s grown up a lot, but I’m kind of irritated that the bratty spoiled thief I worked with is now on her way to becoming an a-list celebrity lol

    1. But he'll still die someday*

      Me ex-best friend was a malicious narcissist plagiarist who was obsessed with becoming a famous writer when we were close. I left that friendship behind when I saw how deep his intellectual theft went–he was self-publishing a series of novels where everything was ripped from his favorite anime and video games and books “with the serial numbers filed off.” I even found a few of my own creations renamed and recolored in the text.

      Now he’s building a name for himself writing TV scripts and tie-in novels for existing popular franchises. Completely destroyed my enjoyment of some series I’d previously loved for decades. Guess plagiarism has served him well. :/

      1. Clefairy*

        Eeeeh. I dropped enough that if someone really spent time, they might be able to pinpoint this person, nothing in the above was a lie, just vague- I don’t want to get super specific because, even though it irritates me that this person is gaining success, I also acknowledge that I knew them when they were an idiotic teen and I don’t think it’s fair to publicly share her stupid actions from before her brain was fully developed lol

        1. SB*

          Congratulations on being an adult. Cancel culture is toxic & leaves no room for personal growth & development. I am not the same person I was when I was a teen (thank the gods) & I doubt anyone else is either.

  56. Chaordic One*

    In my office we’ve had problems with people stealing other people’s company-issued computer equipment. It belongs to the company, although the individual who it is assigned to is responsible for it. We now have a company policy that all laptops and monitors are required to have a (company-issued) cable lock attached to them and for them to be attached to and locked to the employee’s desk. There have been people “written-up” for not using their cable locks.

    We’re still having problems with people stealing keyboards, computer mice, headphones, various computer cables, computer adapters or transformers, and docking stations. So far the office has been good about replacing stolen computer equipment, but we are required to fill-out reports with our security department. We’ve been threatened with having to pay for replacing them out of our own pockets, although so far I’m not aware of that happening.

    As for things to bring in the office, I pretty much bring things in with the idea that if I ever had to leave, I wouldn’t care if I had to leave the things behind. I don’t have anything there that is irreplaceable and the few knick-knacks I have all came from Dollar Tree.

    1. Temperance*

      Someone took both my chair and the cable to connect my laptop to my docking station. Such a weird set of thefts.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I guess it is easier to steal a chair or a peripheral (such as a cable) than to go through the hassle of contacting the department responsible for issuing a new one. Admittedly, the process of procuring a new cable in my office is quite convoluted and time-consuming. I guess people would rather just take one from someone else than spend the 15 to 30 minutes or so it takes to do paperwork and track down a new one from facilities department or the the I.T. Department that issues them.

  57. Elizabeth West*

    Ugh, there’s nothing worse in an office than a thief. Keep your hands to yourselves, pond scum!

  58. Sunflower*

    Back when Beanie Babies were hot items, I got one from my Secret Santa. The one time I forgot to to put it in my drawer after the work day, it got stolen. I’m still upset decades later because I hate stealing and it was a gift.

    1. Artemesia*

      When my grandmother was in a nursing home during the end of her life my mother got her a tickle me elmo which she adored — for her it was like holding a baby. It was of course stolen immediately. After that my Mom would bring things like that in and then take them home till next visit — just sad. It was always staff. When my grandmother died, her diamond engagement ring was ‘missing’ — and the chair my mother had had made specifically for her use had ‘disappeared.’ My mother made a fuss and finally the ring was ‘found’ — in a place of course my mother had already searched. And the chair was found in another room. The home claimed ‘oh you can’t prove it was hers’ and so my Mom flipped it over where my grandmother’s name was woodburned into the base — it wasn’t her first rodeo.

      Because her mother’s clothes kept disappearing when she would buy her a new dress she would write her name in huge sharpie letters on the back of the dress. My grandmother would be sitting in her chair or a wheelchair and thus the name was not a problem for her, but it made her nice clothes useless for the staff thieving them.

        1. laser99*

          I believe in the afterlife. I absolutely believe that anyone who mistreats anyone defenseless—the elderly, children, animals and so forth—will end up in a state we cannot comprehend.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I suppose it is a hassle to keep track of what clothing belongs to whom when they are sent to be laundered. My mother bought a bunch of embroidered name labels from a catalog and then sewed them into the back of my great aunt’s clothing to prevent this. But still, this is horrible.

        1. SB*

          It shouldn’t be. I worked in aged care for 20 years in my early career & part of the package when you moved in was a sheet of 50 name labels that were to be ironed into everything. There was a smaller sheet of 20 that were for stitching into items that could not be ironed. If you ran out you could order more for about $10 a sheet.

        2. Booksalot*

          The home my great aunt was in attached labels for them. I have a set of sweats that she bought me for Christmas but the home didn’t know, so they attached a label and laundered them. She’s been gone many years, and I get a kick out of seeing her name in my comfy clothes.

  59. Lizzianna*

    I had a coworker who hated that we stocked disposable plastic cutlery in the break room, so he convinced our admin to use the budget to go to the thrift store and buy cutlery there. It was cheap enough that if a random fork or spoon walked away, it wouldn’t break our budget to refresh the collection every few months, but people weren’t throwing away their silverware every day.

    Except, the entire collection went missing every time one particular coworker broke up with his live-in partner or had a falling out with a roommate and had to move into his own place. It happened at least 3 or 4 times in the several years we worked together.

  60. My Name is Mudd*

    At an old job, I was pregnant and craved ice cream daily. So I bought myself ice cream bars and stored them in the communal freezer. Labeled the box and the individual bars (food theft was rampant, but I didn’t have another freezer option). When my last two bars got stolen on a day when I really needed an ice cream bar, I had a complete meltdown (pun intended). Like so hormonal over the top, 40 hundred months pregnant, feet swollen, so uncomfortable, that HR sent me home for the day with pay. The next day, the freezer was completely STOCKED with so many ice cream options. I cried again, but it was happy tears. And then had my baby a week later.

    1. SB*

      HR understood the assignment. God I would have lost my noodle too. Imagine stealing ice cream from a woman who has a 7 to 10 pound human rearranging her internal organs 24/7

  61. Chaordic One*

    Perhaps on one of the Friday open comments threads we might have people write about things that employees who left the organization left behind at their desks.

  62. CLC*

    A few years ago there was a rash coat thefts in my large office! I don’t think they ever found out who did it.

  63. Flowers*

    and here I literally brought a bag full of gold jewelry that I was planning to take to the pawn shop after work and left it in my cabinet for…days.

    I have left 2 sets of headphones (total of $400 worth) here on a regular basis. A coworker has left her Louis Vuitton bag for days and doesn’t take it home.

    I just cannot fathom ppl who steal stuff. I wouldn’t even take a paperclip from someone’s desk without their permission.

    1. Katie*

      Nothing of high expense was ever stolen from me. It was the office supplies I bought myself. So annoying.

  64. Gato Blanco*

    The way that I managed to keep food in the freezer at work and not have anyone steal it was to happen to have a dairy allergy and to buy Tofutti ice cream sandwiches. Most of my coworkers were really snotty about eating “real” food and were super disgusted by my tofu-based dessert. I’m part Japanese, so tofu is a normal real food to my palette. Though I had to endure repeated rude and snide comments about my diet, no one ever touched my summer snacks!

    1. Delta Delta*

      Also clever – get a Tofutti box & fill it with whatever you don’t want stolen. Could be Tofutti, which is pretty good, or Dove bars, or tamales or whatever.

  65. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    I’m still salty about an incident from grad school AGES ago. I bought a large container of peanut butter and left it in the kitchen in the lab building (in a high-up cupboard). Used it a couple times, then went away for 2 weeks. When I returned it was nearly half gone. I’m assuming that several people figured they could take a little bit and it wouldn’t be a big deal / be noticed. A couple friends didn’t see the big deal and argued that people may not have known that they weren’t welcome to eat the peanut butter. Since the department bought us no foodstuffs at all, my counter was that if you didn’t buy it, don’t eat it. But I kept my peanut butter in my filing cabinet for the rest of my time there.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I agree, and I wouldn’t eat it because I wouldn’t know the freshness of it (who am I kidding, in grad school I ate everything). But I also would associate a large and unlabeled container of a thing with communal property (like when you buy in bulk for parties) so I could see people assuming it was fine. Then the next person sees a rando eating it and thinks it’s fine and tells their hungry friend and so on.

  66. reg*

    i would like to formally apologize to the faceless, nameless colleague from whom my 20 years younger self pilfered like a third of a bag of fancy chocolate truffles. i couldn’t help myself. i was the only one in the office, it was a giant bag, and it was already open.

    1. Rainy*

      A zillion years ago at one of my first professional jobs, as the front end of a busy service-type boutique, one of our clients came by mid-afternoon a week or two before Christmas with a giant tin of home-made rum balls. She said, with a laugh that I find a bit nefarious in hindsight, to be careful because she got a little excited with the rum. I had never had a rum ball, and I thought she was kidding about them having alcohol in them. They looked and tasted like truffles to me (her recipe used broken up chocolate wafers and broken-up brownies mixed together), and I ate quite a few through the afternoon, as it was a slow day and everyone who did the service we sold had already finished up and gone home. They were super delicious.

      Then I stood up. Whoops. I have since looked up recipes and for a batch the size of what she brought, even if I’d eaten the whole tin it *should* have had maybe two shots of rum in it, but I’m pretty sure there was a LOT more rum than that.

  67. Katie*

    I fought back after too many things from my office went missing. I labeled a new office item I bought and brought in. Soon went missing. I asked around. No one copped to it. So I filed a claim with security lol. Made sure everyone knew and that I asked for the camera footage to be reviewed. (There’s not any lol) The said item was shoved behind my phone a day later.

  68. BabeRoe*

    Food kept disappearing from our communal fridge. Someone put a note that said, “Please don’t take food that isn’t your own.” But it continued. Finally, video was looked at and turned out the culprit was a security guard who was in the building on the night shift eating everyone’s leftovers. Then there was a note on the fridge. “Hey! Security! There’s a camera in the kitchen! We know it’s you! Stop eating our food!” It stopped after that.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      He’s keeping the food VERY secure. In his tummy.

      (If I were Danny Lavery I would be responding with a heart-wrenching narrative about how this guard is probably distributing the leftovers to hungry children in his neighborhood, so you should probably leave MORE food for him.)

  69. SOUPervisor*

    I ran my (personal) phone charger through the cable hole in the desk and I leave it there (I have separate ones for home, car, purse, etc.). One day I came in and the cable was still there but the adapter brick that plugs into the outlet was gone and there was just a sad cable end hanging loose under my desk.

    I suspected one coworker who had just left for a business trip (and didn’t even mind that much, because if I was leaving from the office and realized I didn’t have a charger honestly I might have done the same) but it turned up a week later in my least favorite coworker’s drawer.

    1. There You Are*

      When we went back to the office (2 days of the week) in March of last year, I was given the primo cube (outer wall with windows, tucked into a corner away from Nosey Nellies). But the prior occupant like the desk really low. Like, the middle of my kneecaps were even with the desk edge.

      I put in a ticket to have my desk raised (the desk is attached to the cube walls).

      When I left on Tuesday, I had a personal-property adapter brick plugged into the company-owned power strip under the desk, and a bright lavender charging cable snaking out of the brick, behind the desk, and tucked under the edge of my [equally-bright lavender] mouse pad.

      When I returned on Thursday, the desk was raised but my brick and my bright lavender cable were nowhere to be found.

      At least my manager let me expense the replacement brick and cable, and an extension cord to get the brick up on top of the desk so I could easily unplug it at the end of the day and put it in my locked cabinet.

  70. Cyndi*

    I’ve never had anything memorable stolen, but I did have my phone “stolen” once when I finished my shift, went to the coat room, and it was missing from my coat pocket. Security checked the cameras and discovered that someone had bumped into my coat, the phone had fallen out of the pocket–and they’d very helpfully picked it up and put it back into the pocket of the coat hanging next to mine.

    The real hassle was sleuthing out who owned the other coat so we could get permission to go through the pockets–a couple hundred people used that coat room. I think I was stuck at the office a couple hours late, off the clock.

    1. Love to WFH*

      I’ve noticed a tendency for mangers to not do as much vetting for contractors because “they’re just a contractor”. That’s a bad idea.

  71. Love to WFH*

    My husband kept quarters in his desk for the vending machine. He told me that they’d been stolen, and he thought it was a person who had been hired recently as a software engineer. I scoffed that he’d probably used the last quarters without noticing, and why would a well-paid person need to steal quarters?

    Then several people said that change had been stolen from their desks. Then another coworker spotted the guy sleeping behind a dumpster, and about a day later he was fired.

    He was a contractor, and the hiring manager hadn’t bothered to do a background check or call references until these observations surfaces. His software skills were fine, but he had an out-of-control drug habit.

  72. The OG Sleepless*

    Somebody stole my stethescope years ago! Medical peeps, it was a Littmann Master Cardiology that cost me $180 in the early 2000s. I left a note that said “Whoever took my stethescope home, please just bring it back and leave it on the stethescope rack, no questions asked.” Never saw it again. I can’t even.

    1. SB*

      That is awful. We gifted my sister a Littman Pediatric when she graduated from post grad studies & landed a highly coveted full time paeds CNA job. It was beautiful – one of the multi shifting coloured ones. We got it engraved with her initials but that did not prevent it being “borrowed” several times. Thankfully the engraving meant that it always came back to her (usually because a nurse saw a junior doctor using it & the second they put it down they grabbed it & checked for the engraving & returned it to her. It was always a bloody junior doctor).

  73. Chaordic One*

    Well, it is a hassle if you don’t have change for the vending machine, but I can’t imagine stealing change from other people. And the sleeping? At their desk, beside their desk on the floor, in the break room or on the sofa in the lobby I have heard of. But an employee sleeping behind a dumpster? That’s a new one. I guess the drug habit explains it. (We have had random homeless people sleeping behind our dumpster, but never an employee that I’m aware of.)

  74. Zee*

    It’s just mind-blowing to me how badly people (adults!) will behave when they think no one’s looking. I’ve taken a rubber band or two in my lifetime from the company’s office supplies for personal use, but I’d *never* take personal property from a coworker.

  75. There You Are*

    I’ve told this story here before, but I once worked for IBM and we had two kitchenette areas per floor. The kitchenettes each had massive, double-door, super deep, commercial-grade refrigerators, alongside some vending machines.

    The machines sold sodas. I drank a lot of Diet Coke back then. It was cheaper to brink in a case and put it in the fridge on Monday morning and use that instead of the vending machine.

    Someone else decided that it would be even cheaper [for them] to steal my sodas.

    I went through a whole series of ever-escalating notes on the outside of the case, to no avail.

    So, one Monday morning, before I put the case in the fridge, I took it to my cube and pulled all the cans out. I then slathered on the brightest, reddest lipstick I owned and “kissed” the tab-opening area of each can, then put the cans back in box.

    No one ever stole a single “kissed” can of my soda again.

  76. Rater Zed*

    When I was working in Milwaukee back in the 1990’s, I had a tariff setup on my desk about three feet long to hold my copies of the contracts I used for rating freight bills. It was 36 one inch clips jammed full with paperwork. I had to use a hammer to open up and pound closed each clip. I would pull the pages with just boiler plate on them and keep what I needed to do my work. The other guys would just keep contracts they needed the most but I was working with shipments to and from about 65 different terminals each night so I needed them all.

    Two or three nights a week, I would come in to work to find from one to three clips missing from the setup. They would wind up on a chair in the traffic manager’s office. It turned out they were finding them easier to use than the full master contract files in the big file cabinets perhaps ten feet from my desk but they still had to walk past the file cabinets to get to my desk.. It was annoying to begin with but I finally got used to it.

  77. QuarterStealer*

    I once stole a few quarters from the desk of the worst person I’ve ever worked with. I’ll spare you the details, but she was a really awful person. I did it out of pure spite and certainly didn’t need the quarters. It was very out of character for me, I knew at the time that it was petty and beneath me, but I actually don’t regret it. I’ve never stolen since then and probably never will again.

    1. Yup.*

      Petty theft–with emphasis on the “petty!” I don’t blame you. I highly doubt she was going to die if she didn’t have those few quarters in her life.

  78. Kitty Slove*

    I had my extracted wisdom tooth on my desk.
    I work in a pathology lab, so this isn’t as weird as it sounds!
    Someone stole my wisdom tooth.

  79. QuarterStealer*

    I also used to occasionally have a box lunch from a meeting and would put it in the fridge for the next day. It had my name on it, but that didn’t derer someoiuo

  80. QuarterStealer*

    I also used to occasionally leave a box lunch from a meeting in the office fridge for the next day. It had my name on it, but still someone regularly took the cookie from the box. I started putting our VP’s name on the box instead of my name, and that stopped the cookie thief. (I told the VP I was doing this, he was fine with it.)

  81. AllThatJazz*

    I have a mini fridge in my classroom for my lunch, soft drinks, water, yogurt, whatever… (last time I put my lunch in the communal teacher’s lounge fridge, someone moved it resulting in an open drink spilling all over my lunch bag and soaking it.) I’d bought a big bag of Russel Stover sugar free chocolate candy mix and put it in there. I’d occasionally get a piece of chocolate… those days when I needed a little sweet, so not very often. I noticed one day, when moving the bag, it seemed a lot lighter than it should have been. I opened it and realized someone was eating my candy. What should have been a nearly full bag had about 6 pieces left in it!! I had a feeling it was the night janitor when I came in one morning and discovered candy wrappers on my desk that I knew had not been there the afternoon before when I’d left. So I stuck a note on my fridge that says not to take food or drinks from this fridge. I know things are being eaten and I have proof, continue and it will be reported to administration. Nothing has been taken again. My room is also suspiciously cleaner than usual.

  82. mim*

    What really sucks is that it’s illegal (in most or all states; don’t know about outside the U.S.) to carry around certain prescribed medications in a container other than the one they came in from the pharmacy, with the label info, etc. So do I bring my ADHD meds to work with me and just hope/trust that they are safe, or do I put them in a more discrete container and know I’m unlikely to be caught, but constantly worry about the potential felony if I were caught? I do limit it to what I will need to take that week at work, leaving the rest behind at home in an old bottle. (Day by day would be even safer, but would also guarantee that I’d forget to bring meds with me a lot of the time.) I’m tempted to buy a huge bag and fill it with stuff I don’t actually need, just so it would be harder for a potential work thief to find my meds in that mess. Of course, would I be able to find my meds in that mess?

    On the plus side, having this problem means I actually have ADHD meds right now. Which we all know is a huge win. lol/sob

    1. Rainy*

      With the caveat that my state doesn’t have a shitty rule about pill minders and other containers used for pills–I wear my afternoon ADHD med on a bracelet. I found that the many steps between “alarm goes off” and “swallows pill” when I’m keeping my afternoon dose not on my person means that I get sidetracked, whereas “alarm goes off”->”open bracelet”->”swallow pill” is a pretty straight line, for me.

      You might think about asking your pharmacy for a “travel bottle” if you live in one of the states that bans pill minders. That way you can take a single dose out of the main bottle, put it in your travel bottle, and put it in your pocket. Also, some pharmacies will blister pack your meds, and that would probably work too.

  83. Norskie*

    Several people in my office area noticed little things gone one morning. Missing from my pencil tray was a few coins and – I kid you not – my USED chapstick. Yuck!

  84. SB*

    I have never had an issue with theft from my desk, but we have zero forks in the office kitchen. In mid-January I bought a bulk pack of 50 new forks from a friend who owns a catering supply store as we were down to three. It is not almost the end of April & we have zero. I keep getting requests to buy more forks but I have replied to each email with the invoice for the 50 I bought in January & told the requester that employees will need to BYO cutlery as I am not spending $50 every three months on cutlery.

    I absolutely know what is happening to the forks…the guys are using them to eat their lunch at their desk or out in the courtyard on nice days, then instead of bringing the fork back to the kitchen to wash & put away they just chuck it in their lunch box & take it home. It is not malicious, but they could bring them back the next day!!

  85. MiaHouse*

    The year school went back to in person our PTA filled up our fridge with drinks and the counters of the workroom with snacks. It was great! One day I started noticing they were supplying a few yellow red bulls. I was ecstatic and took a red bull. The next day I took another. Then the third day my coworker saw me taking one out of the faculty fridge and yelled “IT’S YOU!” Those were his private unlabelled yellow red bulls. I felt so embarrassed, but also thought, why the heck store it with literally all the other donated drinks. Since I drank two of his drinks, I bought him four to make ammends.

  86. Cat*

    My team and I were working on an off day (voluntary OT) so I brought a box of Crumble cookies and a cookie cutter as a thank you out of my own money. By the end of shift, an empty box was all that remained and someone had taken the $5 cookie cutter.

    That was not the main or only reason I left the company, but I’ll never forget it.

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