Q&A: There’s a food thief in the office. What should I do?

The best way to avoid having your food stolen from the communal fridge is to label what’s yours.

Q: There’s a food thief in the office. What should I do?
A: If this problem doesn’t exist at your workplace, consider yourself lucky — food theft from the communal fridge is one of the most common office etiquette complaints. But unless you catch the burglar nabbing your mixed-berry yogurt (or there’s a closed-circuit camera in the kitchenette — don’t laugh, some offices have one), there’s not a heck of a lot you can do.

If your salads keep mysteriously disappearing, or you suspect your milk is the one that everyone’s using in their coffee, the best you can do is label what’s yours. “Personalizing your brown bag or milk carton by labelling it with your name and the date — thereby announcing to one and all that it is not communal — may deter a thief, but don’t count on it,” says the Emily Post Institute in New York. “It’s almost impossible to catch a food thief. Unless you see someone eating your sandwich and you can quietly say something to that person, your best option is to ask to bring up the matter of food pilfering at the next staff meeting.” Odds are that if he’s taking your tuna, he’s probably snatching your colleagues’ food too. Being called out might just nip the thievery in the bud.