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Stealing student: “It was a joke”

Catering staff see cutlery disappearing all the time

MAASTRICHT. A certain ‘Na Cho’ put a photo on Facebook, in which he – we only see an arm and a hand, which appear to be male – is helping himself to tea bags and sugar while announcing that he is stealing the stuff, in the Randwijck library. Albron caterers say that they have no idea how great the company’s losses are due to such actions.

Reactions to the revelation in the Sharing is Caring group are varied. One is “happy to meet another anarchist,” someone else warns that “everyone should brace themselves for higher tuition fees next year”.

Students stealing stuff from university restaurants and other catering facilities is far from a new phenomenon. Nor is the fact that they brag about it in small circles. But to boast about it on Facebook? Has stealing become such commonplace behaviour these days?

Well, it has become commonplace enough for a clear message to have been posted near the coffee and hot water machine behind the Ffwd shop (fast forward) at the Randwijck library. A small laminated note stating that the displayed wares should not be taken free of charge.

An employee, who by the way had not seen the note, is not surprised. “Not much is stolen here in the shop, but it is different where the machines are. Especially tea, sugar and milk powder. We can’t keep an eye on everything.”

In the UNS40 canteen, staff are also familiar with ‘people liberating goods’. “Trays disappear all the time. In the days when we still had cutlery and plates, those were stolen a lot too. I remember that we had to order additional cutlery twice a year. My colleagues caught people red-handed stealing food. That doesn’t happen so much now, because we don’t have many items that fit in your trouser pocket.”

At the SBE university restaurant on the Tongersestraat, cutlery is the most popular item with thieves: Someone from the canteen staff tells us, “where trays and plates are concerned, it is not too bad.” “Every September, we start off with new cutlery. Within no time at all, loads of it has disappeared. That’s when the student houses are stocked up. Considerable amounts of milk powder and sugar are also taken. You see it disappearing into coat pockets. I don’t think that much can be done about it.”

Two Dutch students are standing in front of the Randwijck shop waiting for someone. “Steal? No, I don’t know anyone who does that,” one of them says resolutely. What do they think about someone who shares a photo of his actions on social media? “That is totally weird!” The other thinks that is “not very cool.”

A group of three Dutch students in the UNS-40 canteen laugh about it. “On Facebook, that is weird, isn’t it?” says one of them somewhat unbelievingly.

Of course catering company Albron is not happy with the stories about theft, the main office in De Meern reports. They don’t have figures (how often, how much loss). But they do have an opinion on the matter: “We work on the basis that our guests have the same standards and values as we do and we regret whenever this appears not to be the case.”

What about the tea thief? Is this the way he meets his needs every month when his bank account has reached a critical level? And what did he think about the reactions on Facebook? It was all just a joke, he e-mailed, still anonymously: “The only aim was to make people laugh. Stealing is not something I make a habit of and the products in the picture have been returned to their rightful owner. The post was not meant to encourage that type of behaviour. Besides I don’t drink tea. And when I drink coffee, it is without sugar.”

Sjoerd Willen/Wammes Bos

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