There's nothing worse than working half the day and dreaming about the leftovers from the previous night sitting in your office's fridge only to find the box missing when you take a break for lunch. The rage, disgust, and disappointment that overtakes you are indescribable. Your faith in your coworkers is lost.
It's no surprise that there's an endless list of people who have been the victim of the office lunch thief, and several of those people shared their stories in a recent Reddit thread. In that thread, people revealed how they got back at the coworkers who made the mistake of stealing their lunch. All posts have been edited for clarity.
"Someone was eating my dumplings when I left them in the break room fridge. I knew because I counted how many I had before I left the house each time I brought them with me. It was happening for a few weeks on the days I brought dumplings, so I had a batch I cooked that I wasn't planning on eating and injected it with some super hot chili peppers my aunt got while vacationing in Vietnam. These things burn and make you uncontrollably teary-eyed when you ingest a lot.
A few hours after I left the dumplings in the fridge, I saw my coworker sweating and coughing. Then I saw him run towards the exit where the bathrooms were located with tears running down his face. I couldn't help but laugh and told my other coworker about it. He spent at least an hour in the bathroom before rushing home.
I eventually told him what I did, and he laughed it off, saying he deserved it. He apologized and then asked that the next time I brought some for lunch, to bring him some without the chili peppers."
"I walked in on a co-worker eating part of my lunch that was in the fridge. I said, 'Are you seriously eating my lunch, dude?' The guy just gave me a 'Yeah, I guess' kind of expression,' so I sat down in front of him and watched him eat it with an evil grin on my face.
When he was finished, I asked him if it was good. He said it was ok. I started laughing and said, 'You're about to find out why you shouldn't eat other people's food. You never really know where it came from.' Then I left. He never ate my food again."
"After putting with a lunch thief for too long, I put a notice on the fridge saying, 'Whoever ate my chili, please contact me on ext #### ASAP, as it contained my medicine.'
When they contacted me in a panic, I admitted there was nothing in the chili, but that they were a jerk for eating my lunch. It turned out it was some slimy guy from sales who insisted that he thought it was his lunch, but then 'realized' he must have left his at home.
My food had been going missing for months, but that stopped after this incident."
"I had a sergeant in the Marines that was having his lunch violated every couple of days. Someone would go to the office refrigerator and take one bite of his sandwich and put it back. When the sergeant would open his lunch, he would get furious. Since it didn't happen every day, and the refrigerator was in a back room all the way on the other side of the office, it was difficult to determine who it might be.
He suspected a few people but never told his suspicions or his plan to anyone. Instead after a few times, he put what appeared to be his regular lunch in the refrigerator but carried his real lunch in a small cooler and kept it under his desk. About a week later, he was laughing at his desk and let us all in on the joke. He had made his normal sandwich, but instead of mustard, he used yellow spray paint on the bread. He planted the 'lunch' and checked it daily until someone finally got a mouthful of yellow spray paint. There was the sandwich with a single bite taken out. No one ever admitted to the crime.
His lunch was never messed with again."
"When I worked in a prison, we had a correctional officer who stole food. He was what is known as the compound officer, so rather than be on housing unit, he roamed free throughout the facility.
He would patrol various areas since he had keys to everything and steal food out of each of the different refrigerators. Of course, at the time, no one knew it was him. This was evening watch, and there were only a handful of people in the prison, so it was particularly galling.
We had one medical person on each evening to administer meds and see anything urgent. We in medical, I'm a physician assistant, were sick and tired of having our food taken over and over. So we hatched a plan to bake a batch of brownies with ExLax in them. We did, left them in the fridge and they got taken. This is where the plan went awry.
The officer was so delighted with this prize, he took it to the lieutenant's office and shared it with the other officers on duty. Everyone who ate a brownie got the expected response. The lieutenant was a real straight arrow, and he reported the incident to the captain. In the investigation that followed the officer got in hot water for taking food that wasn't his and he was roundly disliked by everyone who got ill.
In medical, however, there was a wave of amnesia. No one know who baked those brownies. What brownies? There were brownies here? I think the captain knew what happened, but he dropped it even though the lieutenant wanted the guilty party punished for this 'assault.'
One silver lining is no food was stolen from anywhere after that."
"I am a nurse in an Emergency Room. My lunch was getting stolen on the regular. I wrote a note and placed it in my bag: 'Whoever is stealing my lunch, please stop. I will catch you. This is a warning.'
The culprit continued.
It wasn't every day. I noticed a pattern: if I brought a PBJ sandwich, nothing happened. If I brought ham and cheese, it was definitely getting eaten. I tried making two, hoping to sacrifice one as an offering with a note, 'I made one for you and one for me. Please leave me one.'
The thief ate both and put the note in the sandwich bag. I was furious. Swore revenge and decided to finish this once and for all. I ordered some Carolina Reaper pepper and put it on the ham and cheese sandwiches. I mixed the seeds into the mayo.
Two hours into the shift, one of the housekeeping guys (from another floor) was screaming about being poisoned while flushing his mouth in the sink. He checked in due to severe esophageal spasms.
Apparently, his body did not tolerate a Scoville Heat Index of 2,200,000. Scoville is the 'spicy heat' measurement of peppers similar to temperature in Fahrenheit. By comparison, a jalapeño has a Scoville Heat Index of 2,500--5,000. Yes, you read that right, a Jalapeño averages around three thousand and the Carolina Reaper is over two million!
Did I get in trouble? The assumption by my boss was that it was a revenge prank gone wrong. They opened an 'investigation' because the culprit lied and said someone spiked his sandwich. He told them to check the 'blue lunchbox' with the name 'Keith' written on it.
That is how I came to be summoned to the office.
I walked into the office with my boss and a Human Resources (HR) representative already there and my lunchbox sitting on the desk. My boss said, 'Is this yours?'
I confirmed it was.
'Did you realize Darryl was poisoned after eating a sandwich out of this lunchbox?'
'Wow. No. Thank god it was not me.' I said. 'Who poisoned the sandwich?'
'We were hoping you could explain why a sandwich is so spicy it's inedible,' my boss said. 'It sent someone to the ER with esophageal spasms.'
I explained how I loved hot pepper on my ham and cheese and, had he asked, I would have told him to be careful. I asked, 'How can I reasonably be expected to make a lunch for myself reducing ingredients that may cause a reaction on someone who steals it? I would need a list of all the allergies and intolerances of the people planning to go in our fridge and steal our lunches or---here's an idea---they can just not steal our food!'
I think Darryl had confessed to eating (stealing) my food out of my lunchbox at this point.
Just an assumption, I was never told this, but he had obviously told them about the notes I left, and they thought I would admit to 'spiking the mayo' when they confronted me about the notes. I never admitted to writing the notes.
Just kept saying, 'What note? Where is it?'
Fat chance I was admitting to anything. The HR representative being present was an indication of their intentions if I had confessed. I stuck to my gut, pled ignorance, and asked for my lunchbox back."
"I'm a bit of a chili head; I love my hot sauces. I also love to cook, which includes cooking a delicious lunch for my wife each day. She kept complaining about someone stealing her lunch out of the fridge at work.
One day, I made her some buffalo wings for lunch. They were really popular with her colleagues, but I spiced them up just a little with some Blair's 4 am Reserve. I should note you are meant to dilute it with one drop per five liters of liquid. I added a couple of drops of Blairs per wing with a nice dusting of ghost chili powder for good measure. I ate a couple of them to make sure they wouldn't kill anybody; they were really hot. Even cream won't cut that level of heat, and ghost chilies keep getting hotter for about five minutes.
Needless to say, just before lunch, there was a shrill from the kitchen. A young male college decided to help himself to my wife's lunch which was clearly marked with her name. He ran to the toilet and vomited over and over. Apparently, the moans sounded like he was dying.
My wife just sat there innocently pretending nothing was wrong.
She has not lost a single lunch since."
"A senior business executive decided to quit because of stress, then opened a small business providing doughnuts and bagels to other companies, paid for by the honor system. People in most businesses paid, but in a few, he got almost nothing.
So he asked the HR guy at those businesses to allow him to set up a hidden camera to figure out who was ripping him off. When he showed the video to the HR guy, he was shocked because every one of the ripoffs had been under suspicion for other, much more major problems, from embezzlement to theft.
I guess being corrupt about little stuff was a great indicator of being corrupt about the big stuff as well.
With the video evidence of the stolen doughnuts and bagels, it was enough to fire those employees, and this gave the former executive an idea for another business - rolled into his doughnut and bagel business - to sniff out dishonest employees, so they could be fired before they hurt the business or cost it a fortune."
"Many years ago, I worked at a large company that had discounted ($0.25) soda vending machines if you worked for a certain group within the company. I was part of this group.
Over time, management began putting up more and more hurdles for access to the machines, complaining of other groups aggressively buying the group's sodas. They put the machines behind keypad locked doors, and the codes were changed repeatedly. They finally switched the machines to tokens which were available only from the secretary. Then they limited how many tokens you could buy per day from the secretary. This caused people to visit the secretary more frequently, which overwhelmed her. A few other people volunteered to distribute tokens, but they were rarely available at their desks. Employees started to notice that if tokens were left on their desks or even in unlocked desk drawers, they would slowly disappear.
I brought in a small thermoelectric cooler and would keep a couple sodas in it, but then I took notice when some of those started to disappear. I was in the middle of a decent sized cube farm in a group with access to discounted soda machines, so why on earth would a coworker steal sodas from me? I was determined to stop this, so I set up a webcam with software that started recording when motion was detected. The next morning, BAM, I had video of some guy I didn't know coming into my cube after hours and stealing a soda. I showed it to a coworker, who recognized the guy as one of the nightly cleaners, and had me show it to my manager. My manager told me to share it with the group's secretary to deal with. She, in turn, turned it over to the company's security personnel. The security personnel first grilled and scolded me over the incident saying my recording violated company policy and thus couldn't be used as evidence, but once they got past that, they said they would set up their own surveillance that was literally just their own hidden camera they could remotely monitor. They did so, told me to keep doing things exactly the same and keep quiet about the surveillance, and then a week or so passed where they ignored my requests for updates while I noticed sodas were being stolen almost every other night. My expectation was once they caught the guy, he'd get a good grilling and given a warning to stop.
A few days later, a man I had never seen before showed up at my cube, who I believe was the soda thief's union rep. With a hint of repressed anger, he shoved a card into my hand and said he was 'sorry that things turned out this way' in a way that implied I was the bad guy. I read the card and it was an apology card from the soda thief, with a $10 bill inside. Still a bit confused over the unexpected visit and method of notification, I made some kind of comment to this effect, and the guy flat out told me the soda thief was fired. I was shocked by this news; I didn't set out nor expect anyone to get fired over this! But then hindsight kicked in and I recalled a few other, more severe theft incidents had occurred in the months prior, and while I don't think the incidents were related the firing may have been done as a heavy-handed approach to set an example to others."
"My father (who's a good cook) was always getting his lunches stolen at work. So, one day he took extra care to make an amazing lunch with two sides to go with it. To top it off, he took laxatives and ground them up to mix in with all the food.
He put his lunch in the fridge and waited. He said it didn't take long to find out who had been taking his food because they were crying in the bathroom. You probably couldn't do anything like this now, but this was the '80s, and everything was fair game back then."
"I got tired of my lunch being eaten or at the least touched. I had an idea who it was and remembered she liked tuna fish.
One day, I made a tuna fish sandwich and put some little cakes that I knew she wouldn't touch because A) 'She's on a diet,' and B) That would give her away.
She had to leave around 10 am because she wasn't feeling well. Anywhoo, Cathy, if you're reading this, I find it ironic that you have five cats, and don't like cat food."
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
"I worked in a satellite office for an engineering firm based near Atlanta, Georgia. The building, which used to be a courthouse, not only housed our office, but the FEMA office for the county, some local staffing service, an office for the county's traffic signal department, and an office for the county's maintenance department.
For a while, people who were sentenced to community service were instructed to report to the maintenance department's office, where they'd be given tasks such as picking up trash along the shoulders of the highway, emptying out trash from various offices (including ours), cleaning the restrooms, and whatever else was asked of them. We'd often have to redirect these people down to the maintenance office because they'd come to our office asking if we were the community service office.
There was also a break room with a refrigerator, a microwave, and a few tables. I would keep a handful of frozen dinners in there.
One day, they had a large group of community service folks. Most of them were young kids, late teens/early 20s. The woman who was overseeing them all had picked up some lunch meats and other items for sandwiches and had instructed them to help themselves to the supplies.
One kid misheard and removed one of my frozen dinners from the freezer. I went to the office and asked if it was true what he said; he could help himself to anything in the fridge. She said there was stuff for sandwiches. I told her he had removed one of my lunches but hadn't eaten it yet. She apologized and pretty much tore him a new one.
How did I know he had taken one of my lunches down? I saw it spinning in the microwave, and I didn't recall taking it down myself. I always kept a week's worth up in the freezer, and when I went to grab one, I noticed I was minus one. I saw the microwave running and one of my dinners in it. I didn't remember putting it in there, so I hung around and waited until the kid showed up. He apologized as well and made himself a sandwich when she straightened it out.
He was later arrested because he had called a buddy to pick him up before he was released for the day. As part of his community service, he was not supposed to have a cell phone on him."
"I worked in a place, and someone kept stealing my frozen dinners - even after I started marking them with my name. One day, our manager took us to lunch, and I had forgotten my shrimp linguine frozen dinner in my car in the summer heat. Well, the food started to stink and I did not want it to smell up my cube or the break room, so I threw it in the freezer - someone took it.
About two weeks later, I heard that a sales guy (one of the highest paid employees) was sick in the hospital from food poisoning. It was an accident, but I was very smug."
"A guy I used to work with was an evil genius. Every day for about a week, the sales guy would eat my boss's soup (and whatever else his wife made him). That is until one day, the sales guy left an apple on his desk, really conspicuously.
My boss thought this was his chance. Over lunch, or when the sales guy went to the toilet, he took a massive bite out of this apple and put it back on his desk with a smile like a beaming toddler. The sales guy came back and saw the apple with a big bite out of it but didn't say anything. Five minutes later, the sales guy's desktop background was a photo of said apple placed firmly between his buttcheeks, which he'd taken a few hours earlier.
I should add that this was all in good humor. These guys were always playing jokes on one another, and I guess this was the sales guy's revenge for the boss installing a USB mouse into the back of his desktop and ever so slightly moving it at random times throughout the day for about a week (until the sales guy went crazy). Was good times in that company.
Moral of the story - NEVER try and one-up whoever is stealing your food by eating theirs."
"One of my friends is notorious for just eating people's food at their houses without asking. He'll just go into monkey mode when he drinks and raid peoples fridges.
We were at my buddy's house, and my buddy offered me one of his 'extremely hot' wings to try out. It was the hottest wing I've ever had in my life, it hurt to eat. I couldn't eat anymore after one.
Later on in the night, I was chilling in the kitchen and saw my wasted friend in his usual 'wasted and gonna eat some food' mode. I knew he would go into the fridge, see the wings, and go to town on them. That is exactly what he did, but I decided not to warn him about how hot they were.
He devoured like two or three wings too quick to realize his mistake. After he realized how hot they were, he went into panic mode. He was drooling all over himself with watery eyes and ended up dumping water on his face and stripping naked and getting in the shower and dry heaving for a solid 10 minutes."
"I keep a small tub of butter in the work fridge. One morning, I went in and another employee was blatantly helping herself to it. I called her out on it, and how did she think was the appropriate way to act?
She got angry at me for daring to catch her.
Seriously, she was shouting at the top of her lungs in a kitchen full of people until her manager stepped in and told her to go calm down.
Some people seem to have this absolute conviction that 'I want it' equates to 'I can have it,' and they bitterly resent having this illusion shattered. There's no compunction, not a shred of guilt. Their sense of entitlement is absolute. We'll never understand it."