14 Comments

  1. Lilli

    I’ve had this problem in the past too and eventually I started buying the powdered version of the flavored coffee creamers and keeping it my desk drawer. I would use that only as a last resort if putting your name on it and having your supervisor talk to the group doesn’t work because they don’t taste quite as good (but still better than the old office sludge coffee!)

  2. First, tape a friendly reminder onto the container saying, “Would the vanilla fan please cease taking these contents?”

    I like this suggestion. Sometimes there are community items in addition to personal items within the community fridge, and I can understand a person mistakenly thinking that something such as creamer might fall into the “help yourself” category.

  3. Jess

    I’m sorry, but this does sound petty. Stop bringing expensive creamer into a communal space and acting surprised when someone uses it. I’m not saying that I would use someone else’s creamer, but to act surprised about this is nonsense. Perhaps you all need a coffee club at work so that the cost is shared and this type of thing is prevented. But the person really should stop being called a thief.

    • Jerry

      Stop calling this person a thief? If the shoe fits . . .

      You certainly wouldn’t say that a well dressed person in a bad neighborhood deserves to get mugged, would you? I don’t see how there is any difference in this case.

      • Zakafury

        An open carton of creamer in a common coffee room has no reasonable expectation of exclusivity. If there are sugar packets by the machine, is using those stealing?

        Put the thing in a brown bag or leave a no nonsense note on it. If someone’s going through a bag to take the creamer, it’s “stealing.” Complaining to the boss about missing creamer from the lunch room isn’t a way to make friends with the boss or the coworkers. Calling them thieves is also not a classy idea.

        • Jerry

          Most jurisdictions define stealing as taking something that doesn’t belong to you with the intent to deprive the owner of them. Taking someone else’s creamer meets that definition. Thus, if the shoe fits . . . (There are lots of offices where someone keeping creamer in a communal fridge would have the reasonable expectation of exclusivity. In my office, for example, we were told that the coffee room has X, Y, and Z, and if you want anything special, bring it yourself and put it in the fridge. And several people bring in their own creamer — from partners to secretaries — and no one messes with other’s stuff.)

          You’re right that a good way to respond is to put a note on the creamer. If that doesn’t work, the person can (i) stop bringing in creamer, or (ii) escalate by telling boss. You’re also right that escalating may not win friends. But that’s a cost-benefit analysis that the individual can make.

          And “classy”? What does that even mean? Calling a spade a spade is not a breach of etiquette.

  4. Vanna Keiler

    The problem with items like creamers, ketchup bottles and other used (i.e. already opened) condiments left in company fridges daily is they are sometimes interpreted by other employees as “free to use for everyone”. I would imagine the more etiquette-minded individuals would enquire around to ensure they could use it freely, but there may be others who are, let’s say, “etiquette-shy” to do so.

    So I propose another possible solution: Why not ask your supervisor if you can issue a company-wide email asking anyone who wants to contribute to Vanilla creamer permanently stocked in the kitchen to coordinate the purchase cost with you? Or a better idea might be to get permission to put a donation cup in the kitchen with a printed note inviting anyone wants to contribute to the purchase of condiments/creamers for everyone’s use to donate. If no one donates, then just label your creamer, or as others suggested, hide it/don’t bring it to work. It seems more than one person likes the creamer, so why not split the cost?

  5. Vanna Keiler

    I have a suggestion: ask your boss if you can place a donation jar and note in the kitchen for office condiments/creamers, etc. If everyone contributes to the cost, people can additionally take turns purchasing the items/stocking them. If this is logistically not a good idea, it looks like labeling your items is the only way to discourage pilfering, especially ones already opened. Those types of food items seem to be open to interpretation by others that they can use at will.

  6. Vanna Keiler

    My apologies for posting two similar comments above. I tried to upload the first message but it somehow failed, then my browser shut down. Then I made a second attempt, forgetting how I composed the first response. :)

  7. suggestion

    I don’t think someone is intentionally stealing something they think belongs to someone else. They probably made the mistake of thinking it was communal.

    It is not uncommon for workplaces to provide coffee creamer for everyone to share. It’s common enough that Staples and Office Max have an entire aisle dedicated to breakroom supplies like creamer, sugar, etc.

    If it isn’t labeled, I would start by labeling it with your name in Sharpie. You could even write “Property of” in front of your name. I don’t think there is a need to put a snarky comment on the label, because it’s probably just a misunderstaning.

    Someone taking your frozen microwave entree or bagged lunch is theft. Using some of your coffee creamer is an innocent misuderstaning.

  8. aw

    Put the creamer into a brown lunch bag with your name on it in the fridge. That way, no one will see it and be tempted, plus it is obvious that you don’t want anyone to use it except you. Most will just assume it’s your lunch.

  9. Mark

    In my office it’s abundantly clear that the company DOES NOT, under any circumstances provide coffee creamer. Any creamer in the fridge is personal property…..just like EVERYTHING else in the fridge. The Jerk who keeps drinking my creamer knows dang well that he/she is stealing….and doesn’t care. It’s pretty obvious if I bring in a bottle on Monday and it’s 80% gone Tuesday morning that the night shift used my creamer!

  10. Jenny

    This IS annoying. If you have your name on it, then one should ask you before partaking. Pour your creamer into another container and label it something like “Turnip Juice”….or something else disgusting.

  11. Kate

    I went through these problems for years. Office meetings revolved around office theft and office thieves (the workers). There was hardly time for the “business” amidst the personal conflicts of the coworkers.

    There is another solution, for the courageous. Work from home. There are plenty of reasonable opportunities, now that the 2000s are well under way. Any hardworking person can work from home, though lazy people should probably have a supervisor watching them all day to make them work.

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