By Marik Westerhof
— On a weekly basis, up to 100 euros worth of food and drinks are stolen from the canteen, coworkers say. Because of this, AUC’s self-service, which is unique among all Amsterdam faculty canteens, might disappear completely.
Ever since the self-service was set up in 2017 by catering company Cormet, its staff had been witnessing small amounts of revenue missing every few days. However, over the past year these amounts have been getting larger and larger. “We’re talking about ten to fifteen euros on an average day”, says Debby van der Haas, one of the co-workers of the AUC canteen.
Van der Haas suspects that most people do not straight-up steal from the display. Instead, people treat themselves to a little extra, such as upgrading the small coffee they paid for into a large. Freshly made sandwiches that haven’t been sold during the day are also prone to theft in the evening. They are one of the more pricier items available, so having many of these stolen is a massive cut in the canteen’s turnover. It’s surprisingly easy to do that: there are no cameras behind the register of the canteen, and it’s impossible to trace who ordered what exactly. Essentially, thieves can simply not get caught with the current measures in place.
Some students believe there is another reason that explains the theft. “Often when I’m buying something at the self-service desk, I simply can’t find what I’m looking for. I usually just pick something else with the same price label and pay it anyway. I think a lot of people can’t find what they want, and then just don’t pay up. It’s people being lazy”, says Noah van Genuchten, second-year Social Science major. Van der Haas agrees that the paying system is too unclear: “The whole register system should be different. Just put a few buttons with standard prices down, instead of the extensive list with every single product. If you have only four buttons with different prices, you can’t go wrong”. However, this might be more difficult to implement than it sounds, as Cormet will lose track of what exactly has been sold that evening.
Currently, Van der Haas believes there is not much to do to prevent things from getting stolen. Cameras are not cutting it and putting staff during evening hours and weekends is simply not profitable. The self-service system is based on trust in the AUC students and staff, and it is the only canteen hosted by Cormet that allows students and staff to buy something outside of opening hours; this option is not facilitated at any other faculty in Amsterdam. “It’s sad to see people abuse this unique trust-based system. If theft numbers continue to go up, we cannot really turn a profit anymore”, says Van der Haas. “As the evening hours sales are already hardly cost-effective, more food theft may eventually lead to stopping the self-service altogether.” The missing money account for around five percent of the daily self-service revenue, according to Jolanda Siebelhoff, also working at the canteen.
It is not clear whether the thieves are mostly students, staff, or unwanted guests from outside of AUC. Cormet has not made an official statement on the matter, but either way, if canteen theft persists, AUC students and staff may have to bear the brunt: no more coffee during evening classes, and no more snacks during weekend study sessions. Instead, any visitors will have to face the cold wind and rain on their way to the Spar for their quick break.
Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was entirely reported, written, edited, and fact checked by members of the journalism course. Some material may have been altered by The Herring’s editors to fit its style guidelines.