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April 7, 2009

Top 10 Greatest Food Sins in the Workplace



Professor McIntyre came up with such a good Top 10 Tuesday topic that I think he ought to take over the feature.

Probably that's not going to happen.

Today, boys and girls, we're discussing the Top 10 Greatest Food Sins in the Workplace. Here's my list, compiled with a little help from my friends: ...



1) Eating erzatz butter-flavored popcorn. The smell makes me gag even more than the fish smell. (See No. 2.) For most other people, burning the popcorn is the sin.

2) Reheating fish in the office microwave.

3) Storing the kind of food in your desk that attracts rodents.

4) Leaving an open milk carton/yogurt/other food item in the back of the communal fridge until it's so far past its expire date it starts to smell/mold.

5) Leaving one ice cube in the freezer tray so you won't have to refill it.

6) Stealing someone else's food from the communal fridge.

7) Eating takeout Chinese or Mexican at your desk and then putting the cartons/wrappers in the trash so your co-workers have to put up with the smell for the rest of the afternoon.

8) Not cleaning up after an explosion in the microwave or a spill in the fridge.

9) Talking with a co-worker within earshot of others about what's in the hamburger meat served at your workplace cafeteria.

10) Zucchini dumping: Bringing in your garden's overabundance of zucchini that you've let grow bigger than a man's arm.

(Photo by Lori Shepler/Los Angeles Times)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:56 AM | | Comments (73)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays


You forgot to mention eating and drinking over computer keyboards. I've had to work on ones that were so disgusting I wanted to ... well, you get the picture.

A good one. EL

Zucchini dumping. Good call and a great name for a fresh category of hellish behavior.

I dont think I would mind #10. Even if they were oversized and potentially flavorless, I would be all about the free produce aspect.

Thank you for reminding me why I have not been in my office's break room for over 5 years.

If you're a cowboy ..... eating beans around the campfire

The ice cube bandit strikes at my work a lot.

Akin to no. 5 is leaving one paper towel on the roll so you don't have to change it. Happens at my office on a near-daily basis.

How about the one who leaves her tupperware bowl (or coffee cup) in the communal sink to "soak" for awhile? Next morning, when one goes to make a fresh pot of coffee, the bowl/cup is still there, full of now cold, greasy soapy water...with food floating in it. Yuk. Makes me ka-razy...

My pet peeve is abandoned food in the communal refrigirator, only to be discovered again when someone's sense of smell is affronted. It's a huge pet peeve of my boss too.

On the day I was laid off, I thought about being a gentleman and removing my egg salad. . . but then I thought, "Here's my severance package to you!"

I wonder where eating durian fruit at work would rank [pun intended]?

Personally, I would absolutely love it if more zucchini dumping took place where I work. Who doesn’t love some free produce? Or maybe I just love veggies a little too much.

I think zuchinni dumping becomes a problem when the person who brought in the extra produce doesn't take responsibility over what doesn't get taken. In my office the extras are often left behind in the break room to linger on until someone (generally not the giver) throws it out. Same thing goes for cake/cookies/bagels or any other donated food.

I think the zucchini are funny. Maybe it's because as a gardener, I know that at this time of year, we look at little tiny seeds or plants and can't imagine the volume of product possible.

As I consider this, I don't get what is offensive at all about sharing the zucchini. They don't stink. They don't hog the microwave. They simply exist as a freebie for those who are interested. Are tomatoes also offensive? Beans? What about the bean plants that I've started. I have 18 and only want 6 in my garden. Should I toss the other 12 plants on the compost pile, lest my coworkers be offended by their presence?

How about the one who leaves her tupperware bowl (or coffee cup) in the communal sink

We had one such Princess. When her job was moved to a different office, a couple different people wrote a variation of Don't forget to take your bowl.

Mitzi - This complaint can also apply to putting paper in photocopiers or printers or even clearing jams in machines rather than just walking away.

We had a lunch theif that was notorious at my last job. Said party would eat part, but not all, of your lunch and put the rest back for you to find. Nice touch, eh?

I never mind getting the produce freebies. Giant zuchs are still great hollowed out and stuffed with ground lamb and orzo. Always happy to take tomatoes and beans too, Eve. Come bring your produce here!

Bob UU, I think you worked with me! This person would eat half a tub of someone elses chicken salad and stick the rest back in the 'fridge.

How about the coworkers who sit at a CLEAN table to eat/snack but leave that same table full of crumbs and stains for the next consumer? Your mother doesn't work here; clean up your own mess!

Bob UU - That is just wrong! I can not even imagine the mind set of the person who does such a thing. One, not only is it plain disrespectful to the person you are stealing from. Two, who the hell knows what is in the food you are stealing! I am surprised no one got to the point where they "set up" the lunch thief and left an unexpected treat in their lunch.

The office manager here is guilty of several sins mentioned above. The ones that tick me off most are:

-the bowl in the sink
-jamming copiers and printers. And when something doesn't print, he sends it to the printer like 10 times.

I LOVE Zucchini dumping! I really don't mind people sharing their garden's bounty.

Several items on the list mention smell, but what about sound?

I really hate having to listen to people slurp soup in their cubicle every day. I am also annoyed by the sound of silver on teeth, but I know I am likely over sensitive on that one, since it's so commonplace.

Anyway, cubicle eating sounds (loud slurping, namely) are not fair to me, because I am in my cubicle working, so I can't escape the noise. Or the smell.

How about the folks who leave a tablespoon of coffee in the coffee pot so they don't have to make a fresh pot, then leave the burner on so that it burns and stinks up the whole office? Ik....

This top ten so made me laugh. I used to work at a place where people would constantly heat up leftover fish in the to the point that many of us would not eat in the lunch room because it smelled so bad. Also, I used to be asked to bring in my extra produce.

The co-worker with the iron willpower who leaves candy on her desk. Esp. when she sits right next to you, and your willpower is lousy.

This true: Leaving mice to rot in the lunchroom traps.
Smashing roaches and swatting flies on food handling surfaces.
Oh yeah, I left there!

One of my former co-workers would bring in tomatoes and various peppers, ranging from bell to cayenne.
By the next day they had been turned into salsa. That's one of very few reasons I'm sorry I left.

We used to have someone come from another floor to use our floor's microwave to heat up fish. I never understood that. Clearly, the person realized it reeked to the point of annoyance and didn't want to bother his or her immediate coworkers. But we could still smell it! Plus, why not use the one in the cafeteria? It boggled the mind.

Not as much as eat-half-of-someone-else's-lunch guy, though. That's insane.

The one smell that totally disgusts me is a McDonald Egg McMuffin. The smell gets in my brian and turns me off my feed for hours.

I work with an individual who is prone to poor hygiene – there is nothing worse than arriving at the office pizza knowing this person has already eaten their slice; grabbing the slice next to it and tearing their slice away. You never know what slice has been contaminated. I’ve missed many free meals.

I don't like soggy bread so I put the bread in one baggy and whatever I am eating in another. I have had someone open the bag and eat a slice or two of whatever I am having. Have though about putting tainted food in the bag for them. Maybe something with mayo left in the sun too long. The thought of someone elses paws on my ham/cheese. Gack.

the above does not apply to me at all. I was taught manners (Amy Vanderbilt's book of etiquette) after learning at home and adhere strictly to them at the expense of being told my standards of other people were too high; however good taste and manners never go out of style. One of my attributes is that the above lessons on food prep and storage and disposal are all common sense and basic good upbringing and I adhere to those standards. thank you elizabeth large for confirming what I already knew. ec send message

We had the same problem BobUU had with partial thievery until we solved the problem.

Well the CSI lab is still trying to solve it I should say.

This is anonymous isn't it?

Jamming the garbage disposal.

Here's one I haven't seen yet: People who jam the contents of their breaktime/lunchtime grocery shopping into the office fridge so there's no room for the rest of us to store our lunches. WHAT? The fridge was purchased for those who need to keep lunches safely chilled and NOT for MY shopping convenience?!?

How about saving "leftovers" that no one is ever going to consider eating in the communal fridge?

Sometimes a coworker will bring in donuts. If one is left, someone always ends up freezing it. Like anyone is going to thaw-out a freezer burnt donut and eat it!

If I ran the world, eating at one's desk would be ganz Verboten.

Giant zuchs are still great hollowed out and stuffed with ground lamb and orzo.

Or sausage and something I can't remember right now, but I will by the time zuchs are ready!

Jamming the garbage disposal.

Your office has a garbage disposal??? Lah-di-dah

Boy can our office relate to #6. We have a kitchen bandit who would do things like take someone's sandwich, eat the meat and leave the bread. It got so bad that HR had to send company-wide emails to remind everyone not to take other people's food. Still didn't work. HR put up a sign on the fridge about a 'hidden camera' watching the fridge (imaginary). Still didn't work. Finally, they installed a real camera in the kitchen. It's the most ridiculous thing ever, especially because everyone in the office has figured out who the food bandit is. Howard, if you're reading this, we're on to you!

If you don't eat at your desk or go out where do you eat? We have a little table in the kitchen but I would hate to sit there alone and eat lunch. At my desk I can read the blog.

Heather wrote: Like anyone is going to thaw-out a freezer burnt donut and eat it!

A couple weeks ago, we got stranded at the office overnight because of a snow storm. I would have thawed and eated a frozen donut if there had been one.

I know exactly what you mean. Add to that the people who put the fixings for lunch that would last a week or more, including a large loaf of bread. In a standard size fridge, where about 25 people work, its rather inconsiderate.

Or how about the bottles of salad dressing that stay on the door so long that they congeal and then mold forms. At the corporate headquarters, there must have been 10 bottles of ranch in various states of decay.

Fridge Bandits,
This Howard character has a real problem and needs help. If he does this impulsively, who knows what else he's doing.

HR put up a sign on the fridge about a 'hidden camera' watching the fridge (imaginary).

You gotta love HR people.

Ranch dressing in various states of decay--gack!

Bucky, you couldn't open a window, shoot a caribou, drag it inside, cut it up and wave it?
Not that warm donuts aren't good, too.

How about selling your kids' Joe Corbi's pizzas, Girl Scout cookies, band candy, the office?

I have to agree. Pure blackmail. :-) EL


I worked in accounting and payroll for a good while and worked closely with HR people. I did in the navy too, but there HR people were called personnelmen (PN).

They are good folks, and I got along real well with them both in and out of the service, even if the rest of the company regarded them as the secret police.

Never leave your car unlocked in the summertime...when you come back it will be full of zucchini.

Likewise, never leave your car unlocked with a banjo in it...when you come back there will be two banjos.

Instruments of war.

Bucky, you couldn't open a window, shoot a caribou, drag it inside, cut it up and wave it?

I used to work for a library director who was a hunter and a gourmet cook. Duck breast a l'orange, marinated venison tenderloin, grilled, elk curry...but, I digress.

Sometimes, to relax, he'd go duck hunting on his break. Staff were a little put off by him gutting and cleaning his ducks in the staff break room afterwards, but there were no complaints when it was time to eat.

Ah...I still have dreams of the potlucks at that library.

Leftover Donut Etiquette:

No one in the office where I used to work ever wanted to be caught taking the very last donut. So, instead the last remaining donut would be carved up into 1/2, then 1/2 of that, and then the remaining 1/4 would sit there all by its lonesome in the DD box!! - :)

I can't believe I did not see one post about Bananas! What about when people snack on a banana at their desk throw the peel in the trash and seemingly moments later there is an attack of the fruit flies-uuuugh.

BTW- I actually got so mad at an office fridge thief that I brought in several tupperware containers of dog food (the ones that look like stew) and sure enough the thief ate some of each of them-it did not make him/her sick and I never told anyone but it sure put a smile on my face!

you couldn't open a window, shoot a caribou, drag it inside, cut it up and wave it?

What? Do you think I live with Sarah Palin? Unlike Alaska, where you can't turn a corner without running down a caribou, here they are so rare that they are a state-designated endangered species.

Actually, we did bundle up and trudge across the parking lot to a Marriott Courtyard, where we were able to bag a hastily-arranged Italian buffet they put out for stranded travelers.

(By the way, if you are going to shoot something, cut it up outside and then drag it in. It's less messy that way.)

Bucky has windows that open??

Good one, Professor!

Hal, they forgot the bagpipes.

Bucky has windows that open??

Good catch, Eve. We don't.

PCB Rob - To be clear, I've spent a long career in HR. I love HR people to death. (And if you are in HR, you know that line is always followed by "but".)

But when I see something like...

HR had to send company-wide emails to remind everyone not to take other people's food. Still didn't work. HR put up a sign on the fridge about a 'hidden camera' watching the fridge (imaginary). Still didn't work. Finally, they installed a real camera in the kitchen....

my first thought is that the food bandit is probably one of the HR people.

Hal, they forgot the bagpipes.

Q: Why do bagpipe players walk while they play?

A: They're trying to get away from the noise.

I don't envy anybody in HR after having to deal with our food bandit. Howard, the bandit, is actually not in HR.

PCB Rob,
Howard definitely needs help. Nobody wants to confront him about it, as there seems to be a screw loose.

Oh, the dog food idea is soooo tempting!

This has to be the funniest list ever..and the comments, well...they are laugh out loud, pee in my pants funny! What the rule if you pee in your pants while laughing out loud at work??? Just asking...

If you are wearing dark pants, no one should notice. If you can, slink out of the office and go home.

FBK, also please do not sit in my office chair or any chair in which I might have to sit, including but not limited to any in the conference rooms. Otherwise, no smell, no foul.

Instead of of using dog food try making some "tuna" sandwiches with cat food.

When I was young and worked in construction, the favored revenge for lunch thieves was to lace the lunch with laxatives. Especially effective if the culprit had to work somewhere up high in the afternoon.

You made me laugh out loud. And you are exactly correct.

that would be a true and just reward for a food thief.

Just a guess, but this post may just get a spot in the Sandbox Hall of Fame.

For the lunch thieves, here is a solution.

FBK, et al.

I have a cartoon of Charlie Brown and Snoopy sitting on a curbstone with Charlie Brown saying "Doing a good job around here is like wetting your pants in a dark suit. You get a nice warm feeling but nobody notices."

We have a kitchen in my workplace - sink, fridge, microwave. People were leaving dirty dishes in the sink, so I brought in a big container of dish soap and a sponge-on-a-stick where you just have to pour some dish soap into the stem and - voila! you can wash your dishes immediately!

Still have the dishes-left-in-the-sink thing going on. What's up with that? Are people just lazy? Or weren't raised up right?

Oh that reminds me. I was raised up in a household of 2 female and 2 male children. For a while, all 4 of us pulled "dish duty", which meant we had to clear the table and wash the dishes. Pretty soon, my brothers were relieved of "dish duty" because they broke too many dishes. They were assigned to "trash duty". I appealed to my mom: "they're breaking dishes on purpose, because taking out the trash is easier". I lost that appeal. Oh, and one of my brothers became a lawyer.

Carol, the people who leave their dirty dishes in the sink at work? They were raised like your brother.

We used to have a sign in on of the places I've worked that said "You're mother does not work here. Clean up after yourself".

Lissa, I'm having a dim recollection of one of your brother's kitchen catastrophes.

Laura Lee, you mean the hardboiled egg story? The one where he didn't use water, or a pot? Or the time he caught the house on fire making breakfast in bed for Mom?

Lissa, yeah, those are the ones.

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About this blog

You are reading the archives. For updated blog posts about the Maryland food scene, see Richard Gorelick's new Baltimore Diner blog.
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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