Let me preface this by saying that I do not in any way condone stealing things that don’t belong to you. I do, however, thoroughly condone stretching the definition of “belonging to you” to include some things which don’t really belong to anyone, like love and air, but not things like national monuments (I’m talking to you, Carmen Sandiego).
There’s always a bit of a gray area when it comes to taking things that are “free.” Yes, those apartment guides in the grocery store say they’re free, but does that mean you should take all 47 of them? On the one hand, it would be kinda funny to do it, and you’d have a little less competition for apartments which might impact rental prices in the long run. On the other hand, don’t be a dumbass; just take five or six copies like everyone else.
There’s probably no grayer area in the “free stuff” world than in the workplace. After all, there’s just tons of stuff lying around, begging to be absconded with. And if you’re like me and you work for a large, faceless multinational corporation, none of that stuff really belongs to anybody per se. In fact, if you own stock in your own company, then technically some of those computers and light fixtures and floor tiles belong to you. And who would blame you for taking your fair share?
Well, apparently a lot of people would because stealing things from work is generally considered to be illegal. If you try to walk out the front door with a dozen desktop computers under your arms… your grotesque, inhumanly powerful arms… you’re probably going to get stopped by security. At the very least, when someone notices they’re gone, you’ll probably show up on no less than 28 surveillance cameras walking out with the stolen goods.
That said, there really are some workplace items you shouldn’t feel bad about walking away with on occasion either because they’re worth so little or because everyone else does it. Here’s a list of some of those things you practically have a duty to gank from your job.
- Electricity. Are you still charging your cell phone at home like a stupid hobo? (No offense, hobos.) If so, and you use your phone to make even one work-related call a year, you should be charging it at your desk instead. In fact, I don’t think anyone will blame you if you just ran an extension cord a few miles down the road to your residence since you wouldn’t have all these electrical gadgets to begin with if your job didn’t pay you the money you used to buy them!
- Water. If your workplace has free exercise facilities, chances are it also has showers. Even if exercising isn’t your cup of tea, you can still take advantage of workplace shower facilities to cut down on hot water consumption at home.
- Housing. Still renting or paying a mortgage like a stupid hobo? (Really, I don’t mean to offend you hobos.) Why do that when you’ve got a perfectly good office or cubicle that just sits unoccupied each night while you’re at home in your so-called “comfy bed.”
- Internet. Let me be totally clear here: internet surfing during work is a big no-no; internet browsing at work after hours might not be so bad. Now if you’re gonna be looking at the pornographies, do yourself a favor and use someone else’s computer in case your network admin logs that kind of stuff. Just be sure to clean up after you’re done. Clean up your browsing activity, that is. Ew.
- Disk space. While we’re talking computers, I bet your work computer has gobs of unused disk space on it. After all, how much space can a few dozen spreadsheets take up? Assuming it’s not against company policy, you could use some of that extra space to backup your important personal files. It’s cheaper than using a commercial backup solution. But again, keep your dirty pictures somewhere else… like at my house.
- Desk candy. Some of your co-workers may be nice enough to leave small dishes of candy on their desks for people who walk by to take a piece. If your company has you working until 9pm without giving you a break for dinner, those candies can serve as a handy substitute for real nutrition.
- Storage. This doesn’t apply to those of you who actually use your office or cubicle’s space for storing work items. But I know plenty of you administrative types have nothing but empty lockable drawers that you like to pretend are full of important papers. Why not use some of that space to store books, old clothes, and other stuff you don’t want cluttering up your house? (Not that you even need a house if your office is that spacious…)
- Scrap paper. If you have young, artistic kids, you probably have to buy them a ream or two of copy paper every other week to satisfy their scribbling habits. (You know: draw draw draw, throw paper away. Draw draw, erase, rip up paper.) Stop wasting perfectly good new paper on them and just bring home whatever you can fish out of the workplace recycling bins. Just be careful what scrap paper you decide to give to your kids as you wouldn’t want them showing off their doodles to classmates drawn on the other side of top secret engineering schematics.
- Toilet paper. In general, you should be doing about 75% of your toileting at work anyway. You’ll find that doing so will really cut down on your household’s TP consumption. I’m pretty religious about my workplace potty break; stop by stall #2 on the third floor around 12:15 some day and say hi!
- Old magazines. Sure, they’re a little used and out-of-date, but those three-week-old magazines sitting in your office building’s lobby or waiting room would just get thrown away eventually anyway. Take them home instead and catch up on world events with such first-class publications as Time, Newsweek, and Soap Opera Digest.
- Expired holiday decorations. Does your workplace decorate for the holidays? And if so, does it throw out those decorations every year? A quick trip to the dumpster on December 26th could save you a boatload on Christmas decorations next year. Heck, stop by work early on December 25th and pick them up before someone else gets the same idea!
- Landscape. You may not realize it, but that finely groomed campus landscaping you see outside your window at work probably costs more money each month than you make in a year. I think that entitles you to make off with some posies and maybe a few small bushes.
What, were you expecting me to say that it’s okay to walk out with reams of stationery and a truckload of LCD monitors? Sorry to disappoint you, but I bet you’ll still save a lot of money if you pilfer these items. Plus you probably won’t go to jail… unless you’ve got one of those psychotic bosses who constantly inventories the toilet paper in the restroom and chastises everyone for using too much. And if you have one of those bosses, you may want to quit and find a better job.
Oh, and don’t forget to steal everything that isn’t nailed down on your way out.