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At my company there are three kitchens that are stocked to the brim with sodas and seltzer waters. They're there for us and we're allowed to have as many as we want.

Prior to leaving the office I'll make a pit stop to the kitchen and will fill up my water bottle, but on more than one occasion I've put a can of soda in my backpack and have taken it home with me.

Is it unethical of me to do so? I mean, it's true that the drinks are for us but deep down I feel like they're really for us during work hours.

  • 9
    Do you think about work on your way home? Do you think about work at home? – bishop Oct 4 at 22:31
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    If it's weighing on you enough that you feel the need to ask this question, you probably shouldn't do it. As a wise cricket once said, "Always let your conscience be your guide." – AffableAmbler Oct 5 at 1:51
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    Do you ever do overtime or extra work at home? – Juha Untinen Oct 5 at 7:50
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    Your company is likely paying 10 cents or less per can. I dont think any sane company will care. – Keltari Oct 6 at 17:37
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    I don’t think “chintzy” means what you think it does... – Matt Oct 8 at 17:52
18

I think as long as you're not filling a sack of them, you're ethically fine. That being said, you could find yourself in hot water if it's written somewhere that they're for you during work hours, and then find yourself on the wrong side of someone. You could be terminated for theft.

I'd trust your gut on this and leave the sodas where they are instead of stashing one for home.

  • 6
    +1 for "trust your gut". If you cannot rest comfortably knowing that you did it, it is better that you don't do it. – Juliana Karasawa Souza Oct 8 at 18:58
16

Is it chintzy of me to do so? I mean, it's true that the drinks are for us but deep down I feel like they're really for us during work hours.

I think existing answers are way too harsh here. Is it technically speaking against the rules? Maybe, that depends on what the rules are. But what are the chances anyone will chastise you for taking a free can of drink for the journey home? About zero.

Yes, if you find yourself in really hot water over something else they might feasibly choose to use it against you. And yes, if you're chucking 10 cans in your bag every evening so you've got a nice stash for the weekend party, obviously that's much more of an issue. But essentially a can for the journey every now and then? It'd take a right stuck up sod to make an issue over that.

If it's really weighing on your mind, check with your boss. But if I saw an employee doing this, it wouldn't even cross my mind they were doing something against the rules.

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    This is the best answer. Nobody cares if you grab a coke for the road any more than they'd care if you filled up your water bottle on the way out the door. – Kevin Oct 11 at 18:24
  • Is it worth it though? It is unlikely that someone will object but if they do it could get unpleasant very quickly. Is that risk really worth the cost of buying your own drinks? – P. Hopkinson Oct 13 at 12:24
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    @P.Hopkinson Seriously?! It's not a reasonable risk at any reasonable workplace. If it bothers you that much, you probably just shouldn't take any drinks, in case someone thinks you're taking too many in work hours, too many of the expensive ones, too many too early in the day so as to leave fewer for others, and so on. Even if you were spoken to about it, I can't imagine it being anything other than a "Bob, I'd appreciate it if you could leave those drinks for work hours only, thanks." There's no reasonable potential for that to get nasty (unless you make it so.) – berry120 Oct 13 at 17:08
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Yes, it's chintzy. But you're asking because you know it's also unethical.

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    In what way is it unethical? – Mawg says reinstate Monica Oct 9 at 9:39
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    @Mawg It's just like when a friend is throwing a party: yes, the beer is free, but you're not supposed to take a case of beers home with you. You're drinking the beer in the context of the party. Taking the can of soda home and not using it in the "context of work", what they're clearly meant for, may be considered unethical. – Pieter B Oct 9 at 12:02
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    Not being sure about something is not the same as knowing the opposite is true. – Flater Oct 11 at 13:46
4

It's bad form, stop doing it.

While there's nothing illegal or even more than a tiny bit unethical, it just plain looks bad, and can actually come back to bite you hard.

Management may not act directly against you, but they may pull the benefit from everyone. And when they announce that they are no longer providing complimentary beverages due to abuse of the program, your coworkers will find out who the culprit was.

If there are times when you are that thirsty at the end of the day, get the soda and drink it at your desk instead of taking it with you. If for some reason you really need that soda "to go", ask your manager if it's okay.

It may seem like a small thing, but your character is made out of a collection of small things. Now, this approach also helps you to be beyond reproach. If you become the guy who won't even take a soda at the end of the day without asking management, you are going to earn a reputation of being extremely honest which this day and age is a HUGE plus.

EDITED TO ADD (with a hat tip to Leon, for inspiring this)

If someone else is taking more than the occasional soda, but taking a bunch and depleting the supply, they might blame you for all of it if someone sees you taking it without telling someone.

However, if you ask your manager and let him know that you are taking one every time you do, and they notice a bunch missing, your manager will know you are not the culprit.

Which sounds better?

THIS

Huh? Bodrov? No, he took one home last week, but he hasn't been sneaking them out. He always tells me when he's grabbing one. He's not the thief

OR THIS

Hmmm, A whole bunch of soda has been disappearing. I think someone said they saw Bodrov grabbing something out of the fridge before he left...

  • 2
    Doubt taking one can for the trip home constitutes an abuse of the program. Asking the manager about such petty things is borderline abuse of their time I might add. – Leon Oct 9 at 9:00
  • @Leon the OP has stated that it's not one can. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Oct 9 at 10:08
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    I was very precise in what I wrote, see "here and there". Its a different thing to get a single can, even in more than one occasion, and another thing to systematically abuse the system, grabbing them by the dozen every single day or so. Outside that, you haven't addressed the second point which is "If for some reason you really need that soda "to go", ask your manager if it's okay, JUST THIS ONCE." seems to be overdramatic of a reaction to a not so climactic situation. – Leon Oct 9 at 11:19
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    I think a distinction can be drawn between if you start drinking it at the office and finnish it on the way home or if you are grabbing sodas for consumption later. – lijat Oct 11 at 16:36
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    @Leon you're right. I edited that out. Thank you. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Oct 11 at 16:38
3

Is it chintzy of me to do so?

Yes, because instead of using your own money, you're grabbing free drinks from the office.

I mean, it's true that the drinks are for us but deep down I feel like they're really for us during work hours.

Unless there's an explicit rule written down, it's really up to each individual to determine what they are comfortable with. I agree with taking 1 drink home on your way out of the office isn't a big deal.

Every company is different. I used to work for a startup that offered drinks and snacks. One day the COO's young children came to visit. She gave them a plastic Trader Joe's shopping bag and told them to fill 'er up. Then they took the bag home. Your mileage may vary.

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    There is nothing chintzy about taking something freely given away...I don’t follow the logic. The drinks when taken moderately (as you say, probably not a shopping bag worth) are literally part of the compensation of the employer. – morbo Oct 5 at 8:31
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    @morbo It's not freely given, it's given with certain expectations of how it will be used. For instance, would you take toilet paper home? It's freely given and people don't check up on it, but the assumption is that it will be used on the premises. – Stuart F Oct 7 at 11:19
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    Freely given away soda is not equal to mandatorily required toiletries. Your statement has an inherent fallacy. Better would be paper or pens. Your argument has a hint of truth, there is a certain assumed expectation at the use of the freely given thing, you shouldn’t over consume. However taking a soda at the end of the day is not being chintzy, packing ten of them would be. – morbo Oct 7 at 12:04
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    I think the toilet paper analogy fits perfectly. Because pen & paper are directly tools with which we do the work they are even more off limits. Toilet paper is just there as a side effect of humans being humans and needing certain provisions to do the work. Providing cans of soda is very similar, so if you feel that taking toilet paper home is not ok, then you should feel that taking cans of soda is not ok either. – user2705196 Oct 8 at 23:52
  • @user2705196 Should OP also not fill up the water bottle? If he has to go to the bathroom at the end of the day, but can probably make it home without being to uncomfortable, should he hold it? – Tashus Oct 9 at 20:28
1

Stop taking the sodas on your way home. The risks (if someone will ever search for a reason to fire you, that might be used as a pretext, also you may make a greedy impression) are much more severe than the gain (free sodas). Admittedly, it is unlikely that it will ever have the consequences above, but even if the probability is small, it is not worth it. Also it doesn't seem to be partcicularly ethical if, as you assume, the drinks are intended for during working hours.

0

First, it is risky. If the company needs to lay off someone they could accuse you of theft, and then you’re stuck. So better clarify with your manager first.

From an ethical point of view: If you have the choice between leaving on time, getting a drink from a shop which takes five minutes, and getting your bus, or staying five minutes later, grabbing a drink from the fridge and getting your bus, your employer will prefer the latter.

Or say you work without a break and take a can on your way out, while your colleague takes two drink breaks during their work time. Your employer should prefer what you do (although some superiors lack the necessary brain power).

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