June 21, 2013

UPDATE: Just prior to publication, a Bloomberg spokesperson told the Erik Wemple Blog that the company will not be installing cameras in the snack area. The memo, says the spokesperson, was not properly vetted before its release.

One of Bloomberg’s claims to fame as a workplace relates to snacks. They’re provided, that is. Here’s Fox News on the perks:

Employees at Manhattan’s 55-story Bloomberg Tower — which houses Bloomberg L.P., retail shops, restaurants and condominiums — enjoy unfettered access to pantries stocked with juices, soft drinks, coffee and tea, as well as health-conscious snacks such as fruits, trans fat-free bites, nuts and vegetables. Although no one counts how many trips workers make to the freebie shelves, drink portions are 12 ounces or less, smaller than the giant gut-busters Bloomberg wants to ban at city restaurants, delis, sports arenas and movie theaters.

Unfettered access to snacks, however, can invite the tragedy of the commons, as indicated in a memo published by JimRomenesko.com. Employees of Bloomberg BNA, it turns out, have misinterpreted their workplace pantry as a complimentary takeout joint. The memo states, in part:

As many of you know, the pantry was put in place for your personal consumption while you are at work. Unfortunately, over the past few months there have been several instances where employees have been observed filling bags with sodas, snacks, fruit, and in some cases cartons of milk, to take home with them. It has become so excessive that in the last few weeks there have been multiple times when the coolers were almost completely empty prior to the end of a workday. Employees who worked later in the day, or over the weekend, found there were essentially no snacks or drinks available.

To prevent further plundering, the company is planning to install, and you’re not going to believe this, surveillance cameras. “[I]f you are observed taking any amount of soda, juice, milk, fruit or snacks home you may be subject to termination from BBNA for cause.”

The pantry in question, says a Bloomberg BNA employee, is stocked with things like peanut butter, cereals, chips and crackers, low-fat sweet things (like Snackwell cookies) and bags of popcorn. Fresh fruit is also on offer. When asked about the smuggling allegations, the employee confirms them. In one case, says the source, a mother was finishing work well into the evening; on her way out, she bagged a couple of Pop-Tarts and remarked that the items would please her young son.

Is that a firing offense?

Not in the view of the Bloomberg BNA source. One of the benefits of the snacks, says the employee, is that it keeps everyone closer to their desks and longer on the job. “They’re getting a little extra work out of people,” says the employee.

In 2011, Bloomberg completed its acquisition of BNA, a massive newsletter mill with specialties across a vast range of policy areas in Washington. Tension over snacks was not a part of the BNA status quo ante Bloomberg, says the source: “This is very un-BNA-like. This was always a family-friendly company. To me, this is creeping Bloombergism.”

“First the NSA and now this,” says the employee.

Observations:

1) If this is the biggest problem that managers at Bloomberg BNA face — or even if it’s among the problems that managers at Bloomberg BNA face — then we need no further evidence that they have little in common with other media outlets. Especially your average newspaper, for which the main pantry issue is whether to spring for free salt and pepper.

2) No snack-napping offense is great enough to warrant placing surveillance cameras in the pantry. None. It appears that Bloomberg BNA came to its senses on this one.

3) That stuff about snack-related “termination for cause” says one thing to any Bloomberg BNA employee: Print resume.

4) Snacking is dumb to begin with. Eat three square meals and go to bed.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.