First, a disclaimer. This article will not significantly change your life or your work. That said, you should keep reading because you might learn something (albeit something funny) and who doesn’t like learning?
There are certain stereotypes that young people like me believe to be true about work. One: Everything is a bit gray and cubicles are as depressing as they seem. Two: People will make (occasionally strained) small talk with you often, especially around the water cooler. Three: Offices actually have water coolers. Four: People will steal your food from the office fridge.
I have found all four to be true but wanted some external validation, so Happy Spectacular ran a pseudoscientific survey to understand the geography of work. We asked the public two very important questions:
- Have you ever stolen something from the office fridge?
- Have you ever had something stolen from the office fridge?
In honor of transparency, authenticity, other buzzwords, and to encourage future, honest, anonymous responses, I will say that I answered “Yes” and “Yes” to both questions. (The public shaming can begin at a later date, thank you.)
Now, I was SHOCKED to see that the overwhelming majority of our sample (120 people) said they HAD NOT stolen anything from the fridge and they HAD NOT had anything stolen.
82% of people said they have never stolen anything from the office fridge and most people (60%) said they’ve never been the victim of an office food theft.
As any good pseudoscientist would, I have some theories as to why the chips (and the yogurt, milk, salad dressing and stray piece of pizza) fell where they did.
- Our participants are Pollyanna’s. They don’t believe it happens, so they don’t see it.
- Many participants took this quiz publicly in their office, and so even though it was anonymous, they did not feel they could be fully forthcoming.
- Getting your food stolen from the office fridge is an employment urban legend C-Suite execs tell their new hires to scare them before [what is the office equivalent of bedtime?].
- Participants did not consider using a splash of someone else’s milk in their coffee or a small pour of salad dressing to be enough of an indiscretion to answer “Yes.” They are wrong. It counts.
- People lie.
Perhaps, we’ll never know. Or perhaps Occam was right, and the simplest solution is correct: most people don’t actually steal from the fridge, but that one time your yogurt was stolen four years ago will be remembered forever by you and all of those you told about it.
Nora is a co-founder of Happy Spectacular, which she still can't really believe, and she's on a lifelong quest for the world's best cheeseburger (applicants accepted).