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Heroic IT Dept Less Likely to Steal... Lunches? 491

An anonymous reader writes "According to an article in the Houston Chronicle concerning lunch theft, people from IT are least likely to steal lunches because they are a "hero department." The most likely? Accounting and Customer-Support... "
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Heroic IT Dept Less Likely to Steal... Lunches?

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  • muffins (Score:5, Interesting)

    by legoburner ( 702695 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @11:38AM (#15989644) Homepage Journal
    In the book 'Freakonomics' there is a study about a man who used to drop off muffin baskets with a box to put a dollar in for each muffin that was taken. He kept very precise statistics for years in different white-collar offices about where he put the basket, how much money went in and so forth. The results are basically that the lower down in the office rank someone is, the less likely they are to steal and the higher up, the more theft occurs with CEOs and other top-floor executives being by far the worst. They put it down to a sense of entitlement in the execs and the invisibility of the crime relative to stealing from a muffin shop amongst other reasons.
  • by mgkimsal2 ( 200677 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @11:48AM (#15989689) Homepage
    I've heard some stories at work of people having their lunches/food taken from the communal fridges. Personally, I find it very bizarre. I think I used someone's mustard by mistake once. Some people have their names on condiments, and I only noticed half the name left after I used some, as the name had been partially smudged off already. I felt bad enough about that. But just coming in and taking someone else's food? Really, I just can't imagine ever doing that. Perhaps there's some sort of boundary gene that certain people have which leads them in to paths like IT which can partially account for the groupings this article laid out? But maybe I'm just a picky eater! Honestly, it takes me forever to make a decision at a restaurant, usually where I can see pictures of the food ahead of time. To just somewhat randomly grab something and eat it has no appeal. To spend time rummaging around 10 different bags/boxes to find what I wanted seems even more intrusive and wrong than I could fathom...
  • Steal my lunch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MajorDick ( 735308 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @11:58AM (#15989745)
    I had someone stealing my lunch for quite some time, SO I took the advice of my boss, he was ex military his suggesion was cook a pack of exlax in brownies and put the brownie in my lunch.

    I did

    It was stolen

    All I can do is assume it was eaten since my lunch was never stolen again.

    NOW Before all the goddam whiners start barking about liablity, and poisioning and the like remmeber theis was MY lunch meant to be eaten or discarded my ME, and it was STOLEN.

    Its sad I have to add that but it seems the kind of world we are in where all the know it alls have to bark up and say something they fell makes them look like they know something

    THE ONLY THING thats important to know is that if you STEAL MY LUNCH YOU WILL SUFFER.
  • by kingsqueak ( 18917 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:00PM (#15989748)
    I worked in the public sector for a number of years.

    You could bring in food in a Tupperware bowl, leftovers prepared by who knows who and handled in who knows what manner and people would actually eat it! The thought of eating anything left in a fridge by a stranger just makes me shudder.

    The habits of civil-servants never ceased to amuse, a herd of animals is the best way I can describe it. Filthy, filthy people. Shameless.

    They used to have to pay housekeeping extra so that the restrooms would be cleaned three or four times in an eight hour shift and they were still dirtier than the restrooms in Penn Station.

    There has to be some sort of psychology that attracts people to government jobs. It would be an amazing study to do.
  • Re:muffins (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:05PM (#15989774) Homepage Journal
    I know from running an IT department that there's a correlation between how much someone gets paid and how unlikely he is to return work items like phones, laptops and calculators upon quitting or retirement. (Note that I said correlation and not reverse correlation.)

    My theory is that scruples will hinder people's career advancement, and the more unscrupulous you are, the higher you'll go. Being able to steal a hungry baby's food without any remorse would probably be considered a useful trait for a CFO.

  • by ishmalius ( 153450 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:14PM (#15989810)
    An IT guy is always skulking around the office (as far as non-techies are concerned), and messing with other people's desks and computers. So he has the burden of being not just scrupulous and honest, but obviously so. He can't risk all of the goodwill and trust he so badly needs, merely for a single bite of a stale and badly made sandwich. Now, corned beef on a bagel is another matter. ^^
  • by shayne321 ( 106803 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:21PM (#15989838) Homepage Journal
    I was a victim of this, I find it just as bizarre as you. A couple of years back I met a friend at california pizza kitchen for lunch.. That day I only ate half my pizza, and brought the leftovers back to the office, thinking I'd stash them in the fridge and have lunch the following day. So the following day I arrive to work about 11:30am, and I walk in the break room and it smells of recently reheated pizza. I think "nah, no way" and head to my desk. About 2pm I head in for lunch, and sure enough 2 of the 3 slices that were in the CPK box are gone. I'm furious. Really mad. My name was plastered all over the box, it's not like it could have happened accidentally. So I figured the culprit would eventually return for the last slice since they enjoyed the first two so much. Time was limited, so I did the best thing I could come up with on short notice. I took the pizza to my desk, and looked in the janitor's closet for the nastiest industrial degreaser I could find. I took it back to my desk and REALLY soaked the pizza.. Sprayed it several times on the top and bottom over a period of half an hour so it'd REALLY get soaked in. My hope was the person wouldn't notice it until they took the first bite. So I stash the whole thing back in the fridge.. Sure enough, the following morning I find the CPK box in the trash, and sitting on top of it the last slice with a single bite taken out of it. Revenge never felt so sweet, and I never had anything else stolen from the kitchen. :) The bastard ruined my lunch, I felt pretty vindicated in ruining their snack.
  • Re:Steal my lunch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:28PM (#15989869)
    Had the same thing as a student. So I set up a pack of chocolate digestives (replaced the choccie ones with standard digestives coated with ex lax). Morning after, I came down to find the biscuits gone.
    On the walk in to Uni, I discovered who it was that had been stealing the biscuits. And no, he didn't make it to a lavatory in time.
    My food was pretty much left alone after that.
    The bit I found perplexing was that this chap was a hard core Christian (born again, I think). He was the last one I expected it to be..
  • Ick. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sulli ( 195030 ) * on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:31PM (#15989879) Journal
    Who steals the lunches in the office fridge? You have NO idea what's there or how long it's been there!
  • Real reason (Score:3, Interesting)

    by booch ( 4157 ) <`slashdot2010' `at' `'> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:41PM (#15989930) Homepage
    I think you're on the right track. I think the real reason IT people don't steal other people's lunches is that they are more picky about what they eat than any other group. And I don't mean healthy choices, just that they're more likely to dislike a large variety of foods.
  • Re:Steal my lunch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:52PM (#15989967) Homepage
    The bit I found perplexing was that this chap was a hard core Christian (born again, I think). He was the last one I expected it to be..
    A friend of mine works as a teacher at a private college and his observation is that the worst thieves (everything from simply stealing food to swiping scanners, computers, etc) are all kinda weirdo born-agains. His theory is that the greater someone's propensity towards immoral behavior, the greater likelihood that they'll seek some sort of organized system that in theory "forces" them to act morally. Just as one finds people with a hard-core capacity for drinking at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting (which is all about NOT drinking), it's not at all illogical to expect to find people with a tendency towards immoral behavior attracted to a very strict religious organization.
  • Re:Steal? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Erectile Dysfunction ( 994340 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:15PM (#15990052) Homepage
    On the side of the road is a vegetable stand. No one is there to attend to it, but there is a box and a sign with prices for the merchandise. In the box there will typically be at least thirty dollars and the stand itself is full of vegetables. No one has ever taken the box or the vegetables. All it would take is one unscrupulous person to stop and take the money and/or vegetables, yet it never happens. The stand earns a good sum and everyone has a convenient place to stop and purchase fresh local produce. An interesting question is whether this would change if instead of a local person this was conducted by Walmart. If Walmart left stands on the side of the road with produce, would people pay for what they took, or would they loot the stands?
  • by NetFusion ( 86828 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:19PM (#15990067)
    I use to have this problem till I discovered Mr Yuk [].

    Now I just put the Mr Yuk on my cans and lunch bags and noone dares touch them in the staff fridge.
  • Re:Steal my lunch (Score:3, Interesting)

    by badfish99 ( 826052 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:20PM (#15990071)
    Another explanation may be that this sort of Christianity makes people think that they are morally superior to other people who are not "born again", and therefore they begin to feel (perhaps subconsciously) that other people do not matter. This would fit in with the observation that highly-paid managers are also more likely to steal, as they also regard themselves as superior.
  • Re:muffins (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:21PM (#15990078)
    As someone who doesn't like to return phones or laptops or whatnot when I leave a company, I'd like to offer a better reason:

    Life's too short.

    It's that simple. When I was younger (and consequently less paid), I used to try to keep my home and work stuff separate. But when I'd get to a new company, I'd be given a new phone that didn't do what I wanted, a laptop that wasn't setup the way I liked, and I could spend months before I was finally using a setup that I was comfortable with and happy with.

    Then somewhere along the way, I realised that this was a stupid waste of time. Noone's going to want my dirty old cellphone with my earwax and phone numbers in it. Noone's going to want the laptop that I used while working through lunch for a year or two. They're almost certainly going to get sold off at some employee auction where the funds go to united way after they sit on a shelf for a year or two waiting to finally depreciate off of the books.

    Now when I get hired, I make sure that it's included in my contract that I have the right to purchase any equipment assigned to me at book value when I leave. That way I'm happy when I go that I still have the tools that I need, and the company doesn't need to hang on to some asset.
  • by roystgnr ( 4015 ) <> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:23PM (#15990085) Homepage
    If you cause any serious illness, you can get your ass sued off, regardless of the fact that your "victim" shouldn't have been eating stolen pizza in the first place.

    Did you ever see the movie "Home Alone"? In today's world, those burglars would end up making far more money from personal injury lawsuits than they ever could have stolen from one house.
  • Holidays... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Junta ( 36770 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:29PM (#15990110)
    I wonder how obvious the request for payment was. I could see that if most of the year a bunch of bagels show up, you might look more carefully to determine why they are there and notice the request for payment. I could see that around a holiday season the explanation is 'oh, someone brought in food for the holidays', and grab one without thinking or looking hardly at all. If it was a note in front of the food they might have assumed it probably said something like happy holidays or something, without bothering to read and just grabbing for the food.

    It could also serve to explain some of the executive stealing too. I've noticed year round as I talk to executives, they frequently seem to have some sort of food available for people to grab and much on, usually provided or acquired by their administrative assistant. An executive is more likely to be used to random cookies/bagels/muffins/whatever to magically appear for free consumption than us peons at the bottom.

    Just putting forth an alternative explanation.
  • Re:muffins (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NevarMore ( 248971 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:50PM (#15990198) Homepage Journal
    " Are the odds of someone making high six-figures not returning a laptop equal to the odds of interns making low-five figures not returning office supplies?"

    Having been a low 5's intern for a year now (3 companies in that time), with interns and part-time college student work (2 jobs in 5 years) it depends on how we're treated.

    The owner who laid the entire photo lab staff off the weekend before finals and didn't have the balls to tell us himself (making our favorite manager/office mom cry when she told us) lost at least $800 x 3 people on that deal plus some ahh intangibles hidden throughout the building.

    Current job, 3.000 EUR of computer gear and software gets delivered and stored right behind my desk. I leave the city tomorrow and the country on Tuesday and I know at least 3 shops + ebay that won't ask questions. I didn't even fondle the packaging.
  • Re:Dye... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:53PM (#15990206) Homepage
    An old theft detection technique is dusting the item with powdered Gentian violet []. When it gets wet, it produces a violet stain that is very difficult to remove.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 27, 2006 @02:12PM (#15990296)
    Let them prove thet you did it. Just set yourself up as the intended victim, after all the fridge was accessible to all and it was clear that it was your slice, so OBVIOUSLY someone tried to poison you and not the thieving scumbag who stole your treat.

    Oh and don't post about it on the internet. At least not using your own nick ;-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 27, 2006 @02:39PM (#15990384)
    Dangerous, if not bordering on illegal. Worse, you're left with 0 edible pieces of pizza intead of 1. You need to think of something truly harmless and that doesn't ruin your pizza.

    If it were me, I'd take a nice, stiff paper index card -- the kind of thing you couldn't easily eat even if you tried, but that wouldn't hurt you if you did -- cut it into a shape that would easily fit inside the border of a pizza slice, write the message "You owe me $X for eating my pizza, asshole!", hide the card in under the cheese layer (usually easy for cold pizza, especially after being in the fridge), and wait for the reaction. If nobody touches it before you want to eat it, lift up the cheese layer, toss the card, heat it up the slice, and enjoy.
  • Spit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wideBlueSkies ( 618979 ) * on Sunday August 27, 2006 @03:17PM (#15990566) Journal
    At one job, we had the same thing...a lowly lunch thief. I'd find sometimes that if I worked through luch hour due to some problem, or if I left my food in the fridge overnight it would dissapear.

    So I started dropping my saliva in my sadwiches and lunch containers. No warning notes, no nothing just spit.

    The lunch thief never really stopped, but I minded a little less knowing I was giving away a little piece of myself as well. Especially when I had colds and such.

    Sure it's disgusting..but the person shouldn't have been stealing.

    People like this also make it impossible to have a functioning coffee club. They always steal the milk and make coffee without paying in...unfortunately the spit solution doesn't work with 'community food' like milk and coffee beans.
  • by TClevenger ( 252206 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @03:18PM (#15990572)
    Exactly. The IT folks usually have the best physical access (master keys, access cards with 24x7x365 ability), so they will maintain the best appearance of honesty if they know what's good for them.

    On my second day of a previous job, I arranged to work on a machine of a user while she was at lunch. I had a visit from my boss the next day. Apparently the user left her purse under her desk while she was at lunch, and $200 was missing. I didn't even notice a purse under there; I just installed some software and left, so either she was lying, or somebody else saw what was happening and took advantage of the new unknown IT guy without an alibi.

    I strenuously maintained my innocence, and all was eventually forgotten, and I even eventually became friends with the user. (I worked there for 5 years.) But I'm much more aware of situations I can get myself into. I always ask before touching a computer (except in emergency, such as virus situation), make sure they stick around if there's personal effects in easy reach, and make sure there's a witness if I'm working on any 'known problem users.' I don't take old equipment home or put it on eBay without written permission from the financial higher-ups, and I never put it in my car when users are watching. (It's an appearance thing, remember.) I'm also aware when I work late and there's a lone female employee in the building; you never know when somebody's looking for the 'sexual harrassment jackpot.'

  • Re:muffins (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @03:43PM (#15990670) Homepage
    However, to this day I have never met anyone who has so much unbelievable wealth or life style that they care not for meager possessions. I'm sure they are out there somewhere, but it all comes back to one of my friends best lines. "They didn't get rich by wasting their money."
    Having spent most of the last 10 years doing work for people with money, I'd say that line is pretty dead on accurate for most wealthy folks. We have clients who are multi millionaires who complain about the price of a $120 door lock; who stall for three or four months before paying their bills; who say "let's wait until the old crappy one breaks to install a decent [whatever]". This is the narm, unfortunately. Clients with money who say "just do it right and install what you think it needs" are treasured rare jewels we bend over backwards to please. They get quality work at reasonable rates. The cheapskates get half-assed work with substandard materials and complain endlessly about how good workmanship in this country has declined. To them I say "you get what you PAY for, you fucking tightwads!"
  • Re:muffins (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @04:01PM (#15990728) Homepage
    All the envious "higher ups get there because they steal ha ha ha" comments aside, I think there's a simpler explanation. The more money you make, the smaller the theft seems. A buck to someone making a million a year is not the same as someone who has to watch every dollar and appreciates it.
    In my experience, the opposite is true. You get rich by being conscious of income and expenditures at all times. Really, you have to work at it. Personaly, I'm not one of those dopes who thinks rich people got that way by inheriting it. There are a few, to be sure, but nearly every wealthy person I've met got that way by working 80+ hours a week, and what they do for most of that time is think about how every little thing affects the bottom line. I'm fairly certain that execs who grab "free" stuff like that aren't doing it because the value is below their cognizance, but because the value is below a certain threshold that they "know won't matter, so why not choose the action that benefits me".

    Seriously, this is the biggest problem with being well off I see in observing the lives of the wealthy. It's extremely difficult to get rich without thinking about money all the time. Thinking constantly about money is a thoroughly unsatisfying way to live, because money can't really make you happy-- all it can do is bribe the more direct causes of unhappiness into staying away (ha ha). I'd have to say that the happiest people I have met have been pretty solidly lower-middle class folks who didn't allow the pursuit of money to dominate their lives.
  • Re:muffins (Score:4, Interesting)

    by netwiz ( 33291 ) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @04:48PM (#15990873) Homepage
    The above poster is absolutely, 100% correct. There are no penalties for failure for managers anymore. You can screw up every task of management set before you, and nothing will come of it. It's time for all competent workers (you know who you are) to find the competent worker management, and essentially tattle on the ineffective managers. Note that this requires skill and subtlety, and a willingness to keep at it even when it doesn't look so good for you.

    Ultimately, it's high time the incompetent 80% that's had a free ride to date either got with the program, or got cut off from the rest of the productive members of society.
  • Dogs will do that. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @05:05PM (#15990931) Journal
    I've had a dog do the exact same thing. It may show something about the psychology of people who steal lunches -- this dog was incredibly loyal, always happy -- but had no problem with doing something he knew he wasn't supposed to do, so long as he thought he could get away with it, and would perform pretty much any trick you asked, as long as he thought you had a treat for him afterwards.

    I've known people like that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 28, 2006 @12:32AM (#15992239)
    No shit. I once worked with a CEO that never kept anything in his wallet smaller than a $100. Stupid ass would tell people this too. Surprizingly he never was mugged the whole time I worked with him.
  • Re:muffins (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ZorbaTHut ( 126196 ) on Monday August 28, 2006 @01:32AM (#15992355) Homepage
    I'm moderately rich (I could retire at 25 if I wanted to move to Wyoming for the rest of my life, which I don't) and I do exactly this. Life is just so fucking easy that it's hilarious, and when I look at my expenses they're actually not much higher than if I didn't do this. I end up spending well under $100/mo on "convenience fees".

    People will tell you "if you want to get rich, you need to learn to pinch every penny". This is massively untrue. If pinching every penny actually gives you a significant amount of cash you're nowhere near being rich. If you want to get rich, you have to have good, useful skills, good money management (get rid of the expensive or recurring things, not the meaningless or quality-decreasing ones), and more than a bit of luck.
  • Re:muffins (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crucini ( 98210 ) on Monday August 28, 2006 @03:01AM (#15992503)
    It's time for all competent workers (you know who you are) to find the competent worker management, and essentially tattle on the ineffective managers.

    That is not a wise move. If you think your manager is incompetent, either leave or adapt. By "adapt" I mean, learn to compensate for his weaknesses.

    It's quite likely that the manager who looks incompetent to you is simply responding to issues and priorities beyond your knowledge.

    In any event, spreading negativity will most likely backfire on you. Upper management will almost always side with the manager versus the employee.
  • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Monday August 28, 2006 @05:57AM (#15992761)
    I think the point is the to the CEO, the fellow selling bagels for a living has no more worth than the bagel, hence it is okay to steal the bagel.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer