More Important Than Brexit? How To Protect Your Chocolate Biscuits When You’re At Work:

Imagine this scenario: You’ve just bought a couple of your favourite almond croissants or some cookies at Pret-A-Manger for your morning tea-break at your place of employment. You leave them on your desk while you go to another part of the office to do some photo-copying. When you get back to your desk, the croissants or cookies have gone. One of your co -workers has taken them and is happily but discreetly eating them at that very moment.

Possibly this has already happened to you. If so, you’re definitely not the only one to have suffered such a fate. According to ADT, the UK’s “leading integrated alarm and security system provider”, 25% of the population in Britain are victims on a regular basis of “light-fingered” colleagues”. The company has reported that the personal items most likely to mysteriously disappear at your workplace are your tea-bags (34%), your favourite mug and your lunch (29%). Even putting your milk, yoghurt and sandwiches into the office fridge in a sealed carrier bag with your name on it and a notice declaring “Hands Off” doesn’t provide any guarantee that it will still be there the next time you look for it.

However, it seems that ADT may have come up with a solution: They have used their expertise to create MAIA, “an innovative concept design that uses smart technology and motion –sensor software, sending a picture of the would-be pilferers to the owner’s phone as soon as they go near the alarmed item. So you can catch the culprit with their hand literally in the cookie jar”.

ADT’s initiative has received the enthusiastic approval of the Daily Express journalist, Claudia Cuskelly. In an article on March 27th captioned “Has a Colleague Stolen Your Lunch?” – illustrated by a photo of a smartly-dressed employee leaning furtively over a low partition to help himself to a fellow-worker’s Danish pastries – she hailed ADT’s new invention as “the perfect way to stop sneaky office thieves”. She pointed out indignantly that “from milk to biscuits, stationery and even your own clothes, it’s easy for your possessions to make their way into other people’s hands” and professed her shock that “one in every third person admits to committing the act themselves”.

ADT have noted that this situation doesn’t just arise in the workplace. On the contrary, “it seems that these belongings aren’t sacred at home either, with family and flatmates ‘borrowing’ food (37%), using toiletries that aren’t theirs (30%) and drinking someone else’s alcohol (21%)”. Have you ever started making a cup of tea, asks ADT, “only to find out halfway through that one of your flatmates has finished all your milk and that there are only a few crumbs left from your custard creams?” These incidents, they emphasize, can have dramatic effects, as “one in 25 people admits to having broken up with a partner as a result, one in 30 has even moved out of their home, and one in 20 says they have ‘booby- trapped’ their property, either at home or at work or both”.

For individuals, all this can be extremely annoying. For companies, it can prove a major headache. A survey conducted by Banner Business Services (BBS) has revealed that more than two-thirds of people in office jobs have admitted taking stationery from work. As the BBS marketing manager, Anne Patton, stressed “although this may seem trivial, the costs soon start to add up”. Indeed, “Management Today” has estimated that “British workers take home around £2 billion pounds worth of biros, lever arch files and even laptops”. ‘Post-it Notes’ are at number one on their list of the “top ten most pilfered items from UK offices”, followed by sellotape, scissors, toilet rolls, photocopy paper, USB memory sticks, notepads, pens, staplers and highlighters.

The “Toilet Paper World” website has acknowledged that commercial enterprises around the world now take great care when selecting the kind of dispenser and the type of toilet paper to stock in their restrooms: “The idea is that a person is less likely to try to steal it if it’s difficult to take it off the dispenser or if it can’t be used easily at home. For instance, a jumbo toilet paper roll is too large to put under your sweater or in your briefcase and won’t fit into a household dispenser.”

In China, this has become a major issue in one of Beijing’s busiest public toilets. As The Guardian reported on 21st March, an “automated facial-recognition dispenser” has been installed at the facility in the Temple of Heaven park as a response to elderly residents who were removing large amounts of toilet paper to take home: Now, those in need of paper must stand in front of a high-definition camera for three seconds and remove their hat and glasses before a 60 cm ration is released”.

However, in the opinion of a 63-year-old pensioner, Wang Jianquan, interviewed by the New York Times, the sheets are far too short. Furthermore, the machines are apparently very slow. According to a Chinese Radio International report quoted in the Chicago Tribune, they take 30 seconds to dispense the paper. If someone needs more than that, they must wait another nine “potentially excruciating” minutes to use the machine again. Those people who are deemed to be visiting the toilet too frequently won’t be allowed any paper at all.

Filed under: Society | Posted on April 4th, 2017 by Colin D Gordon

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