Don't Steal Sandwiches, and Other Office-Kitchen Etiquette Tips

If you've ever had your sandwich or leftover pasta stolen from the company fridge by some scoundrel without a scrap of morals or shred of sympathy for your growling stomach, you'll want to check out this hilarious series of photos telling the episodic, presumably satirical story of an office sandwich stealer and his hapless, hungry victim, posted on CollegeHumor.com.

Initially, the Internet seemed unsure that the epic exchange of notes hadn't actually happened, but one commenter did a fine job summing up the most-likely verdict: "Fake, yet based in reality, which helps make it funny."

Of course, you may be less inclined to chuckle if you yourself have been a victim of a merciless packed-lunch petty thief. And if you yourself have ever been guilty of swiping someone else's food from the office fridge, repent, before it is too late —  and review these workplace-kitchen etiquette tips:

Refrigerator:

• Space is limited in most office fridges, and other people have lunches and leftovers, too — so no hogging. You don't have to refrigerate ALL your snack-time sodas at once; one or two should suffice.

• Make sure you clearly label anything you put in there that you'd prefer others not consume. You can write your name on the packaging, a paper bag or a Post-It, though the latter may slip off, leaving your victuals vulnerable to sticky fingers.

• Don't leave stuff in there to spoil. Your long-forgotten half-eaten bagel and cream cheese may grow green fur, but it probably won't walk into the garbage can on its own. Spare the nighttime cleaning crew the unpleasant task of putting it out of its misery.

• Don't swipe other people's lunches and snacks. Office-purchased items like milk for coffee are intended for all, but Angie from accounting's spinach pie is intended for Angie alone. (Do you really need to be told this?)

Coffeemaker:

• If you drink the last of the coffee, make another pot. And don't leave just a few drips in it and waltz away thinking you've gotten off scot-free. If you don't leave a full cup o' caffeine for the next person, it's your turn to fill 'er up, pal.

Microwave:
  • Don't nuke smelly foods. Your co-workers don't want to spend the afternoon sniffing your fish dish or the broccoli you left in a bit too long. Trust me on this one.
  • Don't take forever, programming in first one minute and then another and then maybe another 40 seconds and then another 20 … until your meal has reached microwaved perfection. Especially during the lunchtime rush. Especially if there's a line.
  • If your marinara sauce or Thai food splats all over the inside of the microwave, pick up a paper towel and clean it up.
Basic cleanliness and courtesy:
  • Throw out your garbage.
  • Clean up your spills.
  • Don't let dirty dishes pile up in the sink.
  • If someone has brought in baked goods to share with the whole office, don't think that "the whole office" means only you.
  • If you use something up, replenish it — or alert the person whose job that is.
  • If you have scandalous gossip to discuss, don't stand in the middle of the kitchen and discuss it loudly. Take it outside. (But feel free to stop by my desk and tell me first.)

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