I've dealt with lunch thieves before. N.A.T.s can range from sneaky to brazen. I've had everyone from the entire damn office raiding a bag of chips with my name on it, to a manager walking right up to me and snatching a handful of chex mix right off the napkin in front of me, to a nasty little sneak thief who stole food and then lied to my face about a "customer" going into the back (not a secured location) who had to have taken it, and I've even had a coworker who looked me straight in the eye and said, "I don't know what your problem is; I do it to everybody." Then he went out to a restaurant lunch.
I entertained fantasies of breaking every finger and both wrists for months.
They're everywhere. It's difficult to stop them. Can you deter them? Sometimes. It's usually a good idea to have a game plan for it and to take precautions.
- Write your name on it - note that this will only deter the accidental sneak thief. If a lunch looks like everyone else's and the contents are common lunch items, a coworker might mistake your lunch in the brown paper bag, with theirs, also in a brown paper bag, with the same contents. Your name distinguishes it.
- Write a creative phrase on it - "Control Group A", "NOT YOURS", "Organ for transplant", "Patient Zero Biopsy"
- Partially consume your lunch beforehand - take a single bite out of that sandwich or leave other signs that somebody has been working on it. Mouth germs sometimes deter thieves. If that doesn't work, continue to the next hint:
- Send a company-wide email - "I wish to thank the employee who ate my lunch. You see, I've been feeling poorly for days and think I may have a [cold/flu/infectious disease] and cannot afford to stay home. By eating my food, you have volunteered to share my time of misery. Sincerely [Your name]."
- Have unusual lunch contents - Radishes (I blame Fraggle Rock) and other vegetables and dip, dill pickles in the jar, Homemade chex mix (leave out the pretzels and it looks like dry cereal with no milk), a small jar of olives, and other unusual foods make your munchies look less enticing to steal and not as easy to sneak off with.
- Use an insulated lunch bag with two zipper tabs - this solves multiple problems. It can't be mistaken for someone else's. It's opaque so no one can see what they can steal. It requires rummaging, which takes longer than most sneak thieves want on the off chance they get caught. And finally those two zipper tabs. You can invest in a tiny padlock from Walfart. Keep the key with your car keys and stuff them in your pocket.
- Some assembly required - Most sneak thieves hate having to spend extensive time on the food they yank. Store the ingredients separately. This also keeps your bread from getting soggy from the ingredients and condiments.
- Keep It In A secured Location - an insulated lunch bag also lets you put a cool pack inside it and you can stash it in your locker or at your workstation (assuming you go to one spot and don't move for your whole shift. If the sneak thieves can't get to it, they can't steal from it.
- Try The Anti-theft lunch bags - here.
Some of these may be more effective than others. Some may be harder to pull off depending on your work situation. Just keep in mind that the harder it is for someone to get a hold of your food, the less likely you'll lose it.