Calling out the food thief

The food thief is an unfortunate constant in life.

Every office has one, it seems. Every place I've worked had one, anyway.

You know the scenario. You bring your leftover barbecue sandwich and a bag of chips to work and put them in the breakroom fridge. Four hours later, when you're good and hungry, you head back to the breakroom for lunch only to find some lowdown, mangy dog has eaten your lunch and left nothing but crumbs in the bag.

Other times, it's the company they steal from. I worked for four different grocery stores in my teens and early 20s. We occasionally had shoplifters. But the amount of stuff stolen by employees was staggering. Several people were fired for taking more than their paycheck away from the company.

There seems to be no limit to the depths to which food thieves will stoop or to the brazenness of their crimes.

I worked in one office where a guy put a chicken leg in the microwave to heat it up and walked out of the breakroom. He was only gone a minute, but when he got back someone had eaten the chicken and left the bone in the microwave. It was like he'd dropped it in a tank full of piranhas.

Here at the Post has been no different. Over nearly eight years at two different buildings, I've seen episodes of food thievery that boggle the mind.

Packaging does not deter the food thief. You can seal last night's soup in Tupperware, wrap it aluminum foil, put it in a plastic bag, double-knot it and chain it to the shelf. But if he's hungry enough, he'll get it.

Warnings do not deter the food thief. I've seen notes on packages in the company fridge that said everything from "I've licked everything in this bag" to "For every sandwich you steal, I will kill a puppy." Yet the vittles violations continue.

The food thief has no conscience and no fear. Both breakrooms in both buildings were centrally located on the main hallway. Yet someone still found time to take a former writer's sandwich that already had a bite out of it.

And as you can see, the food thief is not a picky eater. It can be leftover lasagna, mystery meat or week-old Chinese. The food thief has eaten it all.

Over the years, we've discussed options for dealing with the food thief. Sabotage with hot pepper or a laxative is a popular one. A security camera is another. The company bought some to keep our computers from walking off, but I doubt it would spring for one just to protect a casserole.

But after seeing the look on one person's face after her Doritos were stolen out of her lunch bag Wednesday night, I'm going for the direct approach.

After all these years, whoever you are, it's time you stopped stealing food. The company fridge is not your home refrigerator. The stuff is not up for grabs. People bring their lunch to save money or because it's their favorite food or because they're busy and can't take the time to go out. They don't bring it so you can stuff yourself for free.

And make no mistake, it's theft, and you know what you're doing. Certainly you don't look at a strange plastic dish and say, "Maybe I did make chicken and rice last night. That must be mine."

I don't know if it's always been the same person or a series of people over the years. But it's always gone on, and it's high time it stopped, not just here but at every office everywhere.

And if you're really that poor and hungry and can't afford lunch, come by my desk. I'll give you a few dollars for lunch if you'll just stop stealing.

Because sometimes you steal from the company. And sometimes you steal from your co-workers. But every time you make somebody angry.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.