“A couple things about me that made it really suck to have a food thief:
-I have a lot of food allergies, so I can’t just get lunch at the cafeteria or at a nearby restaurant
-I have a new baby, who I pump for when I’m at work. You know how hungry pregnant people are? Yeah, the caloric requirement for pumping is 100-200 calories higher. I am always hungry.
-Because I have a new baby, half the time I don’t manage to show up at work with a lunch. I either run out of time to pack one, or if I did remember, I leave it on the counter.
My solution to all of this was to leave lots of nonperishable snacks in my office. (And also a lot of candy, because I also have a three year old and therefore work is the only place I can shovel Skittles into my mouth without a little hand extending into my field of vision and a little voice saying ‘pwease?’) Snacks that were specifically free of my allergens. Some of which were specialty foods because of this. The type of specialty food that just doesn’t taste as good as food that contains the allergen, and also costs twice as much. Because I’m not getting a lot of sleep right now. I deserve nice things.
So, because I’m not getting a lot of sleep right now, when I first came back from maternity leave, assembled my snack hoard, and started having things go missing, I genuinely thought I was just losing my mind. Boxes of candy were running out faster than I thought I was eating them. I’d come in in the morning and things wouldn’t be where I’d left them. At one point I brought a bag of chips to work, folded the rim of the bag down so I wasn’t plunging my arm elbow-deep into a grease pit, and then put a bag clip on it when I went home, and when I came in the next morning the bag was unrolled and re-clipped. I went ‘wow, I must be more tired than I thought,’ rolled the bag back down, and the next morning it was unrolled again. Just little things like that, almost every day, that made me go ‘wow, the post-baby brain is worse than I thought!’
And then. And then! Then I got the flu. I got the flu, and I was out for a whole week. Left behind at the office was an almost-full box of Enjoy Life cookies, which are not enjoyable but are free of all major allergens, and are also $5 a box for, like, 12 sad little sand pies with some cinnamon on top. I ate one row of these cookies. And then I was out of the office for a week. For one week, I was not eating any of my snack hoard.
But someone else was. Because I came back to work, opened my box of cookies, and found one. There was one single, solitary cookie left.
And, on further examination, the one box of candy that had been opened was nowhere to be found, and on top of that the thief had done me the courtesy of opening a new box for me, except that they actually followed the ‘push here to open’ instructions instead of just ripping one end of the box open like I do, which they should know well at this point because by this time they’d been stealing from me for two freaking months.
The combination of these two things- the sheer freaking audacity it takes to open a new box so you can continue stealing from someone, on top of the consumption of almost a whole box of specialty cookies that aren’t even GOOD- enraged me enough that, after going to my boss and getting some vague promises about checking if the security cameras in my wing of the building are functional or not (what??) I went straight to Amazon and ordered myself a nanny cam.
Not for my baby. For my snack hoard.
Conveniently, it arrived the day before Valentine’s day. I set it up on top of a file cabinet looking down at my desk. On the desk, I laid out a fantastic spread of bait snacks. I got all my thief’s favorites, and then I took it one step further. I bought myself a Valentine heart, broke the seal to make it more inviting, and left it out on my desk.
The next morning, I came in to some very obvious snack carnage. My thief had slowly been getting more brazen (again, who OPENS a new box of something?? And opens it DIFFERENTLY than the person they are stealing from??) but this was just on another level. Individually wrapped things had been dumped out of their boxes. Bits of packaging had been thrown away. And, yup; they’d eaten some of the Valentine candy.
For shame, office thief! Don’t you know that’s from someone who loves me??
I played back the video. All was quiet throughout most of the evening, and I was just watching the shadows lengthen as the sun slowly set through the hallway window. And then! Shortly before midnight! The night janitor arrived!
And went right ahead and took a 12-minute break in my office, sitting in my chair, eating my food.
I started taking screenshots. I got him shoveling candy into his mouth with full palm-to-lips intensity. Pouring things out onto the desk to pick his favorite flavors. Not even bothering to put them back where he found them. And yes. Eating my freaking Valentine’s candy.
Screenshots went directly to my boss in an email. I went directly to my boss’s door to hover and grin and ask if he’d read my email. And I got assurances of a strongly worded email to the cleaning company and the barring of this particular employee from our place of business.
I was also, tactfully, asked to please take my unauthorized spy camera home, which I did.
I thought this was over, until the girl who works the concession stand dropped by to thank me. Apparently the food thief would start his shift just as she was closing down for the night, and would try to get free coffee in that ‘creepy guy’ way. And then one of the reception staff came by with the same sentiments. I’d never met the guy face to face, but apparently, as a woman, it was not a fun experience to have. I’d shown my screenshots to a few coworkers and word had spread fast. I worked an earlier shift, so I didn’t recognize him, but people who’s shifts overlapped with his did.
I hadn’t told my husband about what I’d done because, when I came home raging about the blatant theft that had gone on while I’d had the flu, his only response had been ‘you really shouldn’t be leaving food at work, then.’ But, when I came home with the nanny cam and explained where and why I’d gotten it, his reaction surprised me.
‘You know, I think this is the first time I’ve seen you stand up for yourself. I’m proud of you.'”