How to “steal” Enough Food From Your Employer to Pay for Your Commute

Many workers claim—and numerous studies back this up—that telecommuting provides a better quality of life. In response, many workplaces go to great lengths to lure employees back to the office using the carrot and stick method. More precisely, in the style of carrot-granola bars, kombucha and sticks.

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I’ve seen firsthand how corporations try to get workers back into the office with promises of “culture” and “snacks” instead of investing in “health care” and “acceptable wages.” The pandemic has only reinforced a historic trend of employers trying to take advantage of cheaper perks like free meals instead of paying higher wages .

So, for the modern worker – hungry for justice, not just starving – every office kitchen is a strategy game. Your work is worth as many muesli bars and coffee bags that you can take with you, provided by the employer.

If you have “free” snacks in your workplace, you may not be ethically wrong if you make the best use of it. So, what and how much can you steal from work without getting into real trouble?

Your work is worth more than snacks

“Free” office snacks aren’t necessarily a scam, but they’re never worth the false hype your HR department creates. I put the word “free” in quotation marks because I consider any benefit provided by your employer to be another form of remuneration already owed to you.

Emily Stewart summarizes it well for Vox : “Snacks are not a substitute for more tangible, impressive benefits or higher wages. A free candy bar doesn’t generate enough income for the pension fund.” Meanwhile, blogging, in terms of office snack culture , reads like a satire on the corporate HR brain. I’m not a toddler, I get full easily and get distracted by fruit snacks. I am an adult trying to make a living and I want to use the funds to produce fruit snacks.

Disclaimer: We do not condone true theft

Workplace theft had already been on the rise in the years leading up to the pandemic. Taking a stapler, taking the leftover soda from a corporate party – this is nothing new.

Your office probably has some sort of policy against outright theft. Leaving the ethics of capitalism aside, theft of goods is still a crime. But at what point does stealing food and supplies from work become a felony? This is dark territory.

For example, your employee handbook probably doesn’t explicitly state whether you should eat said free snacks at the office. There’s just an implicit understanding that you’ll be eating employer-provided snacks during the workday, rather than treating the office kitchen like a free grocery store. Similarly, toilet paper is provided free of charge in the office restroom; Isn’t it so wrong to take a few rolls from the pantry for your own home?

Watch. I don’t know the culture of your workplace, the surveillance system, or the potential consequences you could face if you were caught with a backpack full of coffee pods. Let’s act within professional norms right now, and not get confused about what is “illegal” and what is not. More precisely, let’s act within the framework of the classic ” Airbud protection”, in other words, ” there is nothing in the rulebook against this.”

How to make commuting worthwhile: saving on petty theft

Here is a small example of how savings from petty theft can accumulate in terms of real money saved.

I live in a major city, so my subway ride costs $2.75 twice a day. One of my favorite snacks at the office is a single-serving cup of Sabra hummus , which averages around $2.50 each. Looking at these numbers, I have a personal goal: every time I go to the office, I get at least two cups of hummus.

Another one of my favorite kitchen perks is unlimited iced coffee on tap. However, “unlimited” depends on how much your body can physically handle.

If I wanted to buy a cold drink every day, 24 ounces of Dunkin’ iced coffee would cost $3.26 (their average size). Let’s say I go to work. For this math, I used the Flexjobs estimate, which says you can spend between $2,000 and $5,000 a year on travel expenses, including gas, maintenance, and car insurance. For ease of calculation, I’ll average this estimate to $3,500 commuting per year. There are 250 working days in a year, and each of those days I will have a “free” iced coffee at my workplace. It’s only $815. That leaves me with $2,685 in free snacks to pay for my commute, which is the equivalent of 1,074 cups of hummus, or four a day.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to eat four cups of hummus a day. And as I mentioned above, drinking that much iced coffee is a chore, even though my commute is well worth the expense. I can only drink that much iced coffee at work before I start to feel like I can smell the flowers and hear the thoughts of my desk mate. Even if I drank a tolerable amount of coffee at work and brought some home in my 24-ounce thermos for the weekend, it only saved me $3.26.

All of this doesn’t even take into account time and the fact that time is money, especially when it’s wasted on a crowded subway or away from home altogether. I won’t monetize the quality of the increase in time you spend with your loved ones while working remotely versus the time you spend in a cold office with your colleagues, but I bet it’s not exactly close.

Strategies to get more bang for your buck

Finally, we can get down to business. Stealing food from work comes down to being creative not only in what you take, but how you take it. There are two key methods of insanity here: the first is to stick to the little things that your office won’t notice, and the second is the power of forethought.

What to steal

  • coffee capsules
  • Sugar and sweeteners
  • Any one-time products: chips, muesli, yogurt, etc.
  • Shared items such as popcorn or cereal make enough for a Ziploc bag.
  • Carbonated and seltzer drinks
  • Milk (in a thermos, as described below)
  • Honey
  • Seasoning packs
  • Toilet paper
  • Tampons
  • Advil
  • Food from organized events that will obviously be thrown away (by the way…)

How to optimize petty theft

  • Always keep containers or packages of Tupperware and Pyrex at work. This is especially useful during catered events or parties with leftover food that would otherwise be wasted.
  • When you leave the house in the morning, make sure you have space in your bag for all your loot.
  • Take only two pieces: one to eat during the working day, and the other to bring home.
  • Bring a thermos for more discreet theft. According to official memoirist, Lifehacker editor-in-chief and alternative milk thief Jordan Calhoun : “I used to always have a thermos to pour silk into every day; I stopped buying silk at the grocery store.”

One last word of caution: this is all about getting the most out of your employer, not your co-workers. If you apply this logic to stealing an unmarked lunch from a communal refrigerator, please rethink your ethics.


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