I have a coffee mug on my desk. Every time I finish a can of soda, I pop off the top and throw it in the mug. It's a quirky way to represent how long I've been at this job.

I noticed someone stole it over the weekend. It has basically 0 monetary value (the mug was free too), but it does have decent sentimental value. I'm just not sure what the tolerance policy is of typical American corporate offices.

Even if I dig through the footage of a security camera around my cubicle and find damning proof of who stole it, would anything even be done? The stolen article is worth nothing, but would it still be a fireable offense? My only concern is that I do some investigation, and HR and other managers on this floor are like "so what?", and I get pinned for overreacting. I just want to double check that I'm not being unreasonable for raising an incident report and starting a whole process with security, HR, etc.

Edit: Reason I think someone stole it is that I've had other items like my macbook charger, board markers, etc. stolen from my desk when I wasn't there. Couldn't reasonably follow up on those since they happened before the security camera was installed. Also, I understand it's possible some cleaner just threw it out. But my question is how far I should go with it if I do find something in the footage of the security camera.

  • Might a nightly cleaning crew mistook it for trash or possible emptied it and put it in the dishwasher? Malice seems less likely than mistake Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 0:41
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    That was an important detail to leave out; you should have pressed for security to look into it with the Mac book charger; that is not very petty theft Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 0:50
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    It was a few months ago, before there were any security cameras on the floor. I did report it but then they just pulled out a used charger for me out of a closet containing boxes of them.
    – WestaAlger
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 0:58
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    Upon bewildered comment to a coworker, I learnt that some people collect the ring-pulls as they believe some charities accept donations of ring-pulls to build wheelchairs. There is a mistaken belief that the ring-pulls are composed not of aluminium, but of titanium. Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 6:47
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    @GregroyCurrie Charities do collect pop tabs (or ring pulls as you call them), and it has nothing to do with wheelchairs - they are sold to recycling companies. Ronald McDonald House is probably the biggest charity that does it in the US, but lots of other smaller local orgs and school districts do it too.
    – David K
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 12:40

3 Answers 3


A mug full of pop can tabs seems like it might have easily been mistake for trash by a cleaning crew. It's also possible that the cleaning crew was emptying it and accidentally broke it and then threw it away. I'd hardly raise a fuss over a missing coffee mug full of pop can tabs.

Generally, in most parts of the world, pop can tabs are considered to be trash and not considered to be objects of sentimental value. In all likelihood, your mug was tossed in the rubbish.

In reading your edit to your question, maybe you should have presented the question as

"I've experienced a number of items being stolen from my desk. The latest was a mug full of pop can tabs. What should I do?"

I'd hardly make a fuss over a mug full of pop can tabs, but if this is the latest in a string of thefts then it bears investigation and reporting to HR or to the management.

  • I worked at a shop that instructed the cleaning crew to spiffy up the space, and one of them decided that included washing the coffee mugs. Nobody got their mug back, unless they got lucky in finding their mug near the dishwasher before someone else took it as a community mug.
    – Edwin Buck
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 4:38

Since you have a series of thefts, you need to document it and file a complaint with your HR. As far as security footage, I would be surprised if they let you review it. File the complaint and provide updates if anything else goes missing. Otherwise, I wouldn’t harass HR about the status.

You should lock up anything you have on your desk that means anything to you to help with the issue going forward.


I've had other items like my macbook charger, board markers, etc. stolen from my desk

If you are experiencing theft it is likely someone else must be experiencing the same. Ask your co-workers if their possession is missing as well. If so, then by all means you can complain about the same to your boss.

I agree with @joeqwerty. Filing a complaint about a missing mug full of pop can tabs sounds frivolous but macbook charger does not.

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