The workplace I work in provides a lunch room, fridges and cutlery for people to use.

The problem is that people keep taking the cutlery home. It gets replaced periodically but within about 3 months the forks are gone again.

Has anyone managed to solve the problem of keeping the cutlery in the office, if so how was it solved?

I don't really know why people take the cutlery home, most people in the office would earn enough to not need to supplement their own cutlery with cutlery from the office.

It's possible that they eat at their desks and then take it home.

We have not tried anything and I imagine possible issues, so I'd rather know what works, and is cheaper than periodically replacing the forks.

  • 1
    Why do people take the cutlery home? I can't imagine anyone is making money on the side by stealing cutlery, so I'm a bit lost as to why anyone would want to take a fork home from the office.
    – Erik
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 6:15
  • How is any other case of office thievery handled? If it happens so regularly and nothing gets returned, it's not easy to believe this is being done by accident.
    – user34587
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 8:14
  • I wonder why only forks? Perhaps the answer is Runcible spoons?
    – Mawg
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 10:27
  • 7
    @Erik Not justifying people doing it, but I've definitely got a couple of forks from an old employer at my house. Nothing taken on purpose - just simply mindlessness by packing them up with my lunchbox when leaving the canteen. In an office of 100 people, I would be surprised if I had come even close to the worst offender.
    – user81330
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 13:06
  • 1
    @DavidK the cutlery is purchase a central function. I guess it's the same group that looks after facilities Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 22:33

7 Answers 7


TLDR: There are other reasons than stealing. Don't assume the worst in people.

I've noticed this happening with tea spoons as well as forks in different companies. It turned out that they were in fact rarely stolen. More often, people would take them from the lunch area to their offices to eat something, then either leave them and build a collection of slowly moulding cutlery on or near their desks, or accidentally throw them away. Pizza boxes are great for knifes going missing.

If there are several floors and tea kitchens in your office, people from different floors coming to meet with someone who grab a coffee from your lunch area might take a mug and spoon, then just without thinking take it with them to their floor. Go and check there. We'd regularly even out the spoons and mugs between floors as things kept disappearing from ours.

  • 3
    +1 on "accidentally throw them away". I work part time in a food court and we've noticed this, a solution to this would be to have people put their tray/plate on a counter or something and have employees throw away the garbage. Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 13:36
  • 2
    They also make magnetic trash lids to catch cutlery as it's being thrown out because it is that common.
    – Summer
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 19:02

One option is to use the most hideous cutlery you can find in the workplace.

Another option is disposable cutlery, but that tends to be more effort than it's worth and can sometimes be annoying to use.

If the cutlery is so ugly that only old ladies would steal it, then you've already narrowed down your suspect pool while still having usable cutlery that doesn't bend and break while in use.

  • A bonus point is that they can be environmentally friendly by buying a mixed set from a second hand store! Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 6:57
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    While ugly & disposable cutlery both immediately sprang to mind when reading the title, I will not be upvoting this answer, owing to its prejudicial attitude towards old ladies
    – Mawg
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 8:00
  • 33
    As a 69-year-old woman, I want to know when the urge to steal ugly cutlery will kick in. Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 9:24
  • 2
    @PatriciaShanahan : right when you turn 70! be careful :D [ happened to me ]
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 10:07
  • 2
    As @Nick C commented on another answer, disposable cutlery has a significant environmental impact. It's also getting banned in some countries for that reason.
    – breversa
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 8:25

If people think you are not aware of their actions they wont stop because of lack of consequences.

Write an office-wide mail and make people aware, that stealing cutlery is not okay. This will be the cheapest form of action. By not addressing anyone specifically, you can ensure, that the fork-thief stops without the need of blaming someone in particular. You can write that you noticed forks gone missing. With this, you give them the benefit of doubt.

If this does not help, you need to consider other options as the answers before mine suggests. At the end of the day, it is your (your management) decision which measures will be taken, but there must be consequences if the fork thief does not stop.


I would chose one of two options.

  1. Announce that it won't be replaced in the future and leave it at that. If there are no forks because someone has taken them home, tough luck. Let people sort that out among themselves. I bet, everyone will have their personal fork real soon. In a variant of this, you could provide everyone a fork with their name engraved.

  2. Keep replacing it regularly and consider it a cost of benefits.

But I wouldn't put any more of my time into this issue. It's a never-ending battle that is simply not worth fighting.

  • Agreed with the 1st point. When cutlery stops being replaced, people will realize this is not just the office's problem and should become more involved / responsible.
    – Aserre
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 9:45
  • Can I come word at your place? I have always wanted a fork with my name engraved on it
    – Mawg
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 10:28
  • I worked in a place where spoons would disappear completely. They did #1 and the spoons went missing again. Then we had no more spoons and it was the worst, but I really don't think anybody learned anything from that
    – kioleanu
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 10:51
  • 1
    "If there are no forks because someone has taken them home, tough luck" tough luck for everyone except the person who took them...
    – komodosp
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 12:06

Did you try using disposable cutlery? Small items like cutlery are prone to be lost in an office environment. Also it is not very sane to reuse the same cutlery across the office unless you have a dish washing machine or staff responsible for it. In that case, why bother with the costs while some plastic fork does the job just as well?

  • 6
    Disposable cutlery has a significant environmental impact.
    – Nick C
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 15:11
  • 2
    So does detergent
    – Layman
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 16:15

From sad experience, there is only one way to stop it: Find someone in the process of stealing, get him fired, and make sure that everyone with access to the cutlery is told about it.

Your chances achieving this are low.


You could engrave the cutlery to identify it as the company's property. Perhaps that would embarrass people sufficiently. It should help if somebody accidentally takes some parts home and doesn't realize s/he took it from the company. I'm not sure that this is cost-efficient, though. Engraving could cost more than cheap generic cutlery, but maybe you can get a better price when ordering a lot.

Also, if there is a dishwasher in the lunch room that might encourage people to leave the cutlery there. (You didn't specify if there is a dishwasher.)

  • TBH I want a fork with the company logo on it more. Branding your cutlery makes it more enticing to me (and probably others)
    – Summer
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 5:30

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