How to Deal with Food Thieves In the Office

Julia Bainbridge
Food Editor
April 9, 2014

Photo credit: Puzzleman Leung / Getty Images

In today’s episode of Slate staffer Emily Yoffe’s advice column, Dear Prudence, she tackles the Office Food Mooch. A reader who calls himself “You Can’t Snack with Us” wrote in:

“I work in a young, energetic office. Every Thursday, we have an organized snack club. Everyone takes turns bringing in a snack for the roughly 24 people who signed up for the club. When new people enter our office, they are asked if they want to join. Several months ago, two new people joined our team. One of them joined the snack club and the other opted out. The one who opted out still eats the snacks. While it may seem petty, we all take turns purchasing and setting up the snacks, and a lot of planning goes into them. The breaking point came today when he enjoyed four helpings of the snack. Additional invitations to join the club have been extended, but to no avail. How can we politely tell him, if we wants to keep eating, he needs to join the club?”

After ribbing him a little bit for being part of a snack club, Yoffe advises that whoever’s in charge of the club pull the mooch aside at the next meeting and ask for a check or cash. Today. “This thing only works if everyone participates, and you’re just not welcome to eat,” the administrator should say, if the mooch refuses. And, if the mooch is stubborn enough to walk over to the table and grab a honey bun, anyway: “Obviously, we’re not going to call security, but do you really want everyone to know you’re a freeloader?”


Isn’t there anything better than that? Snacks are really important. (We won’t rib you, YCSWU!)

Unfortunately, no. Our old friend Emily Post echoes Yoffe’s advice in a little section of her book called “The Food Thief.” “Unless you see someone eating your sandwich and you can quietly say something to that person, your only option is to bring the matter of food pilfering up at the next staff meeting.”

So basically: You can’t pin down the mooch with a heavy-booted foot, simultaneously chomping on chips as you wait for him to cough up some dough, but you can embarrass him by making his moochiness known to his colleagues. Confrontation is they key, here. After a while, he’ll likely back down.