Editor’s Note: HuffPost reporter Ron Dicker is well known for ferreting out crazy, NSFW stories that our readers often love (and our Newsdesk editors invariably loathe). But as great as he is at spotting penis-shaped clouds, he’s even better at finding free food.
Indeed, this always-noshing 55-year-old Brooklynite has reptilian-like ferocity when stalking his prey ― leftover lunch from sales meetings, training sessions and big shot events lowly reporters are typically excluded from at work.
We’d like to assure you that Ron also has a heart of gold, a lovely wife, and two great kids, to whom he is devoted. He’d also like to put his great talents to good ― to prevent food waste. And help us all eat for free.
I scavenge for free food in the office. Or, as I like to put it, well, there’s no nice way to put it. I’m just a cheap man who enjoys eating for nothing.
I forage on a daily, even hourly, basis, making the rounds on all three floors of our New York City office. These aren’t stops on the way to somewhere else. They are planned expeditions to fill my belly on gratis grub.
On the plus side: I’m doing my part to combat food waste. I’m chowing down on the house. At any one time in the AOL/Huffington Post headquarters, there are sales meetings, editorial planning sessions, all sorts of top-level powwows.
I stalk these huddle rooms. I note when catering comes in. As I file each story, I pass by, again and again, to perfectly time out that magical moment when the food comes out. These people always order too much. After all, they’re big shots.
And I’m popular among some associates who follow my lead to the complimentary treats.
On the negative side: Are you kidding? It’s FREE. I imagine some coworkers think I take my mission overboard and that I’m rude. I say let them eat cake ― and leave me the leftovers.
Here are several tips to score free food in your office.
1. Follow your nose. No joke. If something smells delicious, find the source. It might be the pre-packaged lunch just nuked by a colleague. Bleh. Or it could be that someone just lifted the Saran Wrap off a giant catered spread waiting for you to attack. Huzzah!
2. Watch the traffic flow of the room. You can get a sense of when shareable vittles have arrived by noting if a few colleagues are walking faster than usual toward certain areas. There could be a birthday party about to kick off. And does it really matter what the occasion is? Just go!
3. Know the delivery pattern of goods. Public relations firms and vendors are constantly sending samples to HuffPost. I try to be aware of when they first arrive on my floor so I can get an early green light to indulge. But sometimes deadlines distract me. Damn you, deadlines.
4. Cruise the free bins. We have areas for free stuff ― some designated with a sign and others understood. Visit them often.
5. Act like you belong. If you’re insinuating yourself into a catered lunch, calmly serve yourself and leave before anyone objects.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask. There are times when chutzpah won’t cut it. If you see a buffet that you suspect is meant for a certain group at a certain time, ask if you can have some. Even if you’re told no, at least you look semi-polite. You can still move in later when the invited attendees have had their fill.
7. Know your time of day. It sounds silly, right? But it’s critical. If you see a meeting that’s stocked with yum-yums, have an idea of when it will adjourn so you can swoop in and do a hyena number on the remains. A few reconnaissance missions to the area beforehand can’t hurt.
8. Work with a colleague. Hey, even Batman has Robin, right? My Robin is Lee Speigel, who sits behind me. It is Lee’s job to watch a training room that often hosts both breakfast and lunch. Lee casually does surveillance on the comings and goings out of that room. I do not even buy a $1 bag of Cheez-Its until I get a briefing from Lee on what could be up for grabs and when. Lee covers UFOs for HuffPost. For me it’s all about other UFOs ― Urgent Food Offerings.
9. Know your time of year. At a media outfit like ours, the swag pours in according to calendar. Fall and winter are particularly full. Halloween = candy. Christmas = tears of joy for the bounty of free shit everywhere. Super Bowl = beer and other alcohol promotions. Keep an eye out.
10. Develop a high tolerance for the complimentary snacks that may already be on hand. At HuffPost we can generally have our fill of cereal, yogurt, string cheese and carrots. But you can get tired of them fast. If you simply refuse to pay for food, you must make due with the staples until the next windfall.
Who says there’s no free lunch?
This article is part of HuffPost’s Reclaim campaign, an ongoing project spotlighting the world’s waste crisis and how we can begin to solve it.
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