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Employee humiliates lunch thief at work; coworkers debate if revenge was 'cruel.' AITA? UPDATED 2X

Employee humiliates lunch thief at work; coworkers debate if revenge was 'cruel.' AITA? UPDATED 2X

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When this employee is determined to get back at her coworker, she asks the internet:

"AITA for embarrassing a lunch thief at work?"

So pretty much the title, I don't think I am the A-Hole, but I've been getting some flack for it, so I really want to clear this up. (F)

So I started a new job recently; I work in a small studio, and there are several others in the building, think open-plan office with sections assigned to each studio. The person I had an altercation with doesn't work for my studio, just FYI.

I eat lunch at 1 PM-ish, and most people eat at 12. I came down early to eat at 12, I made coffee, and while at the counter, I noticed my Tupperware in the sink, empty.

Imagine my surprise when I turned around and saw a man I didn't know sitting down at the table with my food on his plate. He had just stuck it in the microwave. Acting rashly since I was mad, I sat down next to him and said 'hey, that looks good, mind if I try it?'

Then before waiting for an answer, I yanked the plate away from him and snatched his fork out of his hand; he just blinked in shock as did the other people there as I started eating.

He then, quite loudly, asked what I thought I was doing, and I replied 'huh, you know this was actually much better when I first cooked it; it probably lost some flavor in the fridge.'

He caught on quickly that it was my food and went a lil red. I then asked him where he got the gall to steal someone else's lunch and then ask them what they were doing when they took it back.

He stuttered out some nonsense about not knowing it was mine, and I replied, well, you knew it wasn't yours, right? He just mumbled something like an apology, and I said that's no problem; it was nice he'd warmed it up for me at least, in an admittedly b*tchy tone, and then he just got up and left, and the people there just stared in silence.

One of the silent watchers, maybe his mates, idk, told me that I was cruel to him and that there had been nicer ways to go about it. I told them to think how they'd feel if someone ate their food before saying they should focus on their lunch, and I'll focus on mine.

Well, it's been a little awkward at lunch since, and I have the impression a few people are talking shite about me at work now; maybe I could've been nicer, sure. I still don't think I was wrong, but tell me, Reddit, AITA?

Before we give you OP's updates, let's take a look at some of the top responses:

gaga7 writes:

Unpopular opinion… YTA. People who steal food for no reason ABSOLUTELY are assholes, but you don’t know this guys living situation or financial situation. He should not have stolen your stuff, but publicly humiliating someone who may have to steal to survive? Nope, I wouldn’t ever do that.

OP responded to this comment:

I would have pulled him to the side and politely let him know it was my lunch. That way, you get your lunch back, don’t humiliate him, and don’t look like an asshole to the rest of the office.I see where you are coming from but I don't see this as an acceptable excuse.

He doesn't know my financial situation either.I've moved recently into a new apartment with a roommate and had to pay 3 times rent the 1st month (deposit and first month's rent) and my low 3 months probation pay at work just barely covers rent not considering utilities, groceries, fuel for my car etc.

I've been dipping into savings till I can get better pay and spent the first month in my place eating on the floor cause we had no furniture or spare cash to get some. It's very unfair to put a strangers financial situation ahead of mine when I cook in bulk to save money and sometimes eat the same food for lunch all week.

Okay, this blew up, just wanted to drop an edit on here to say thank you so much for all the comments, support, and awards; it's great to know I wasn't completely overreacting. Maybe I should chat with some people and see if the food thief has struck before. Will update then if y'all are interested.

Otherwise, additional info, I saw some comments saying I should go to HR, but my studio doesn't have HR, and the perp doesn't work for the same place; we do have a de facto office manager, but I don't want to take it any further since I'm still new here and on probation/think my reaction might have been enough.

Before OP's official update, let's take a look at some other top responses:

rabidrahman writes:

Probably kinder than what I did to a lunch thief at my work 10-15 years ago. At this time, there was a notorious lunch thief.

Several times a week, people's lunches were going missing, but no matter how many times management asked who was responsible (and even said "if you stop doing it now you won't get into trouble etc") no one ever admitted to it (unsurprising).

They even put signs up all over the tea room and on the fridge saying "Do not eat food that isn't yours! If you didn't put it in the fridge, don't take it out!" and people would put their names on their food, but it kept going missing anyway.

I was working 9 hour shifts on Sundays at my retail job, so I'd put my chicken sandwich in the fridge when I started at 9am and by the time I went to eat it at 1pm, it was gone.

Over the next month I kept asking if anyone knew who had taken it every time it happened, but no one owned up to it. At that point I concocted a plan and was able to put it into practice about 2 weeks later.

Started my shift and put my sandwich in the fridge as usual, then came up to the tea room at lunch time and sure enough, my sandwich was gone. Instead of going out to try to buy something, I parked myself in the tea room and waited.

10 minutes later a staff member - woman in her 50s - went tearing past the tea room and into the toilets next door, and everyone in the tea room could hear her being violently ill for the next 10 minutes.

Eventually she stumbled into the tea room to get a drink, her face as white as a sheet. A manager who was there asked what was wrong and she said "I don't know, I had a chicken sandwich for lunch just before and suddenly felt really sick." (she then had to run back out to the toilet to be sick again)

When she came back in again, the manager asked her if it might have been food poisoning, and I butted in with, "Oh, DEFINITELY." Manager asked how I could be so sure.

I replied, "Well, when I made MY chicken sandwich this morning, I couldn't work out if the shaved chicken I had in my fridge was fresh or the stuff I bought two weeks ago and forgot about. Guess it was the latter. Sure is lucky *I* didn't get to eat it, huh?"

Okay, this blew up, just wanted to drop an edit on here to say thank you so much for all the comments, support, and awards; it's great to know I wasn't completely overreacting. Maybe I should chat with some people and see if the food thief has struck before. Will update then if y'all are interested.

Otherwise, additional info, I saw some comments saying I should go to HR, but my studio doesn't have HR, and the perp doesn't work for the same place; we do have a de facto office manager, but I don't want to take it any further since I'm still new here and on probation/think my reaction might have been enough.

concerte writes:

If you’d been a guy and reacted like you did there would likely have been no flak for calling someone out for blatantly stealing your food.

Thus I suspect their issue comes from how you reacted defensively to their calling you out on calling them out. Unless you are English? In which case there are a whole lot of unwritten social rules broken in this situation.

Tackle it as an etiquette issue if you do still feel uncomfortable. Allow that you MAY have lost your temper. Perhaps you reacted somewhat defensively to your colleagues because you lost your temper.

In general it’s probably best to let it go on account of you being the new lass in the office. Treat it as a “it was just the bloody cheek of it!”

Avoid calling it stealing - since people will reflexively defend the person they know rather than the new lass. But allow yourself that mum look that mums do: (you know the one) “I know it was theft.

You know it was theft and I know both you and he know it was theft.” There’s no need to say it aloud since this is undoubtedly a pattern with this guy. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been so bloody blatant about it.

The gall to have even microwaved it! NTA - but probably best to let it go knowing that at least one or two others in this small office (which somehow makes it even more rude) have probably had their own lunch go missing and now know which sod did it.

toxiclogic writes:

NTA - People inherently don't like conflict and feel awkward being caught in the middle of something that isn't their fight. There is no nicer way to go about it. Let him finish your food and then ask him to buy you lunch to replace it? How could you possibly have resolved it a different way.

As you pointed out, he knew it wasn't his, so his intention was to take. He should have been apologetic and offered to buy you lunch anyway. I could see if you both brought leftover pizza to work and it looked similar? That doesn't seem to be the case. Lunch thieves are the worst.

When I was young and worked at a bank, I took the last lunch (2pm) and was SO hungry. We get a half hour and pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I go in the back and see my lunch bag is open and my container in the sink. Clearly wasn't their bag, wasn't their container, and wasn't their food, but they enjoyed it anyway.

They literally ate everything in my lunch, including a few bites of the apple that was in there and threw the rest out. I didn't have time to go out and buy lunch, so I speak loudly across the branch to my boss to ask permission to go get lunch and bring it back because someone ate my lunch.

We played detectives afterwards and figured out who it was, which is the only person it could have been. She was pig in so many ways. I think it's also good to establish that you are nobody's door mat.

realistic6 writes:

NTA. If he is the type to steal lunches, it’s best to get it straight right away that it doesn’t fly with you. The office chatter will die down eventually and the “jokes” about it will begin.

This happened to me some years back. I was a fairly new employee at a small company. Our branch office had only 9-10 people in it, and was very laid back and everyone got along. I went to get my lunch one day and couldn’t find it in the fridge. I called out through the office asking if anyone had seen my lunch.

My boss answered back “ is it insert describing the food here…” I said “yes”. He said “ umm it was really good” then apologized all over the place. We laughed and I ate his lunch.

His wife always packed his lunch and he never looked at it until he went to eat, so he never had a clue what the food was. She tried to make him eat healthy, so he often gave me his lunch, usually baked chicken and veggies ( very yummy) while he went out and bought burgers and fries.

And now, OP's official update:

So not sure if anyone wanted an update, but I finally found out from a new friend at work that yes, the lunch thief had struck before! Apparently, everyone wrote their names on their lunch to combat this, and the thief then targeted unmarked lunch or lunch items; guess no one told me ha.

People apparently started being petty and standoff-ish to the thief since, and he blames me for that lol. Also, according to my new friend, most were actually very pleased that the thief was finally identified/dealt with. I had no idea this would create extreme tension in the office.

I was assured that besides the thief in question and his cronies, no one thought I was being a b*tch.

However, not knowing much about me, they assumed I was a very serious or clique-y person from my reaction, which I mean fair, I dress very professionally when most of the office dresses quite casually, which probably added to that (think high heels, blouse, and skirt VS shorts, graphic tee, and slops).

I've started to come down to lunch earlier to chat with some people, and the office seems to be warming up to me.

So not a drama-filled update, but I'm very happy things turned out so well, and my reputation with my colleagues is off to a good start; thanks again for all of the comments and support. Think this will be the final edit slash update too, thanks!

What do YOU make of OP's story? Are they TA or not?

Sources: Reddit
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