Have you ever made yourself a lunch that you are so excited to eat? Something so good, it makes you countdown the hours until lunch and it’s the only thing getting you through your morning? When you finally get to the lunchroom, you find your lunch is missing.
Just like a dog coming to steal your food, there are ways to get “The Lunchroom Phantom” to stop that doesn’t involve a squirt bottle. Here’s how:
Note: During COVID-19, there should be NO sharing of food or drink in the lunchroom at all and certainly no lunchroom phantoms! This article is general advice and doesn’t take into consideration all the safe practices you might currently be taking in the lunchroom for the pandemic.
Inform your manager or supervisor. They can send a notice to all employees making it clear they are aware of the situation, and if it continues, they’re going to go to more extreme precautions.
Hang a poster on the refrigerator. Make sure it says “Don’t eat food that is not yours unless clearly marked!”
Choose dark containers to hold your lunch. The Lunchroom Phantom probably won’t open the container to see what’s in them to avoid being caught.
Label your lunch with your name and date. Sometimes your lunch might just get stolen because someone might have thought it was theirs. It seems simple, but it’s a good way to claim your territory.
Observe the lunch bags in the refrigerator. Does your lunch bag look like anyone else’s? It might be time to go and buy a lunch pail that is unique, and maybe even one you can lock.
Pack ingredients separately. Don’t build your lunch at home, people are more likely to steal something that’s already prepared rather than something they have to put together. Having a sandwich for lunch? Pack your bread in Ziplock bags, your lunch meat in a container with lettuce and tomato on the side. Put your condiments in a separate container or even save one’s from fast food bags so you can pack them in your lunches. As an added bonus, this will keep everything fresher.
Ask to take your lunch a few minutes earlier than everyone else. Sometimes if you take your lunch a lot later than other people and your lunch is just sitting there, they may eat it or think it’s old and throw it away.
Try to hide your lunch behind everyone else’s. Even if you are the last one in the fridge, try to put your lunch at the very back so it’s not the first one seen and stolen.
Avoid pre-packaged individualized foods. Bags of chips, frozen meals or yogurt cups; these items are more likely to be stolen then food you packaged yourself.
Don’t keep your food in the fridge. Opt to put a cooling pack in your lunch bag and keep it with you at your desk until it is time for your lunch hour.
The problem with communal lunchrooms and sharing a refrigerator is that so many people go in and out of the room that it’s hard to narrow down who The Lunchroom Phantom is.
If you absolutely know who The Lunchroom Phantom is, you need to keep in mind that although you are upset your lunch has been stolen, there might be a reason behind it. Is this person short on money and can’t afford to buy their own lunches? Whatever the reason, try to approach them with a sympathetic perspective; this will make the person less defensive.
If a solution isn’t figured out while confronting The Lunchroom Phantom, then you will have to bring it to the attention to your manager or supervisor. Again, make sure you have all the facts and avoid pointing fingers. We wouldn’t want to see someone get in trouble for something they didn’t do.