the baked cheese thief, the missing pot pie, and other stories of office kitchen drama — Ask a Manager

Earlier this month, we talked about office kitchen wars, and here are 10 of my favorites.

1. The baked cheese

I used to work in an office where we would routinely have a lunch for a small group of people. There were usually leftovers from this lunch, and after the group had left, the people in the office were allowed to eat the leftovers.

There was a rule that whoever was the person who organized the lunch (there were 2-3 different people who could be in charge for any particular lunch) were responsible for giving the “OK” for people to come and help themselves. It was sort of understood that the organizer had first dibs.

Well, there was this one organizer who would often order Italian food–baked ziti, lasagna, etc. When the lunch was over, before giving the “OK” to the rest of the office, would take ALL of the cheese toppings from all of the Italian dishes–you know, the best part? She would peel off the layer of baked cheese, put it in a tupperware container, and put her name on it and put it in the fridge. And then invite everyone to eat the pasta underneath.

It was so weird, and bizarre, AND selfish!

2. The pot pie

In the early days of email, my roommate worked at a global company–thousands of employees with offices all over the world. Someone’s pot pie was stolen from the freezer in the DC office and naturally, he was furious about it. So he sent an all-company rant demanding to be reimbursed. To every office around the world. The reply-alls flooded in.

Some people had never heard of a pot pie; luckily folks stepped in, eager to explain the magic of the pot pie and share recipes. Some missed the pot pies of their youth and wondered if anyone knew where to find them in their region. Some thought the dollar amount requested was outrageous for a pot pie. Some couldn’t believe he would eat a frozen pot pie instead of making one from scratch. And why on earth did he get turkey instead of chicken?!

Entire conversations grew from this pot pie. Friendships and alliances were formed, enemies were made. My roommate would forward updates throughout the day and we would spend the evening rehashing the top pot pie stories. This was at least 20 years ago and we still laugh about it.

Best part? Weeks after the flurry had died down and the pot pie had been forgotten, someone came back from vacation and replied-all to let everyone know how unhealthy pot pies are. Which reminded the victim that he had still not been reimbursed. And so it began again.

3. The steak

When I worked in an office we had a few folks go to a discount grocer during lunch and buy a TON (not a literal ton, but still a lot) of steak on sale. They lived too far away to go home and back during lunch, so they came back to the office, threw everyone else’s stuff out of the fridge freezer, and packed it full.

Well, people were upset, so they took the discount steak and put in all a huge pile next to the fridge. Chaos ensued and my boss’ boss’ boss got involved. Eventually the people with the steak just got to leave early for the day. People would bring this up and argue about for it years after the fact.

4. The single bite

My old line manager took her sandwich out of the fridge one day to find someone had taken one single bite, then wrapped it up and replaced it.

5. The boxed lunches

We have a team member with a history of perplexing, norm-bending behavior. Just this week, a “help yourself” email went out for 12-15 unclaimed boxed lunches from an event. It was discovered that mere moments after that message (or perhaps before), this person had unsealed and removed the chips and cookie from each of them before returning the solo sandwiches to the fridge.

6. The water dispenser

When we got a new water dispenser for our kitchen one of our execs was really emotionally invested in it. Like, he was the one to unbox it, and set it up, and was very clear that we should leave the clear plastic film on all the shiny plastic parts.

One day someone peeled all the film off. The water-exec sent out a completely insane email: “who did it” and “what a terrible thing to do” and “I said not to” and “we won’t be able to return it if something is wrong”. We all already knew he was bonkers about inane stuff, but this was next level.

Peeling the plastic film off of things became a joke around the office, and I still think about this whole thing every time I have cause to do it.

7. The peanut butter

A coworker brought in a very large jar of peanut butter for her lunches for the next week. The following Monday-before she’d had the chance to open the jar- she discovered a large “divot.” Someone had taken their hand and scooped out a large fist full of peanut butter. Into the trash it went.

8. The cold cut bandit

We had The Cold Cut Bandit. If you had a ham and cheese sandwich in the fridge, the Bandit would take just the ham, and put the reassembled sandwich back. Or just the cheese. Or a piece of fruit. No one wanted to touch the remainder of their tampered with lunch for obvious reasons.

9. The note

My coworker’s noodle dishes kept getting stolen from our office fridge. Oddly enough, the thefts stopped when she started labeling the food, “If you take this, I will end you.”

10. The unthinkable

Years and years ago, a coworker emailed the entire company of a few dozen people with the subject line, “The unthinkable has happened.”

Now, this coworker could come across as peevish and even a little combative at times. We all opened the email with trepidation, wondering what grievance (or summary resignation letter!) we’d find. The email had only one sentence in its body: “Someone ate my big bopper ice cream sandwich.”

I thought it was hilarious. The email caused a lot of consternation within management, however — was feedback in order? discipline? was this the straw that broke the camel’s back? (I should point out that this person is a fine professional colleague today.)

The best part of this is that months later — months — another coworker replied-all to the email with a single line that makes me laugh to this day: “I think it was me.”

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