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Admin Pro Forum

‘Can I borrow this, I’ll bring it right back’—sound familiar?

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Question: "In this office, to lend anything out to a co-worker is to have it disappear. Has anyone come up with a good system for lending out things like staplers, folders, chairs, rolling carts, etc., to guarantee these things actually come back?" - Joleen, Reservations Systems

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Judith September 4, 2018 at 12:59 pm

I recently transferred to the front desk, which is close to the first floor copy center. For some reason, most staff believed that my equipment, supplies, and even workspace were a free for all; some even complained when my “stuff” was not meeting their immediate needs. The funds for these supplies came from my department so I spoke with my supervisor and the HR director.
The finance office created a MBDG (Main Building) charge code. We now keep basic supplies and equipment in the copy area. At the end of the month, MBDG funds are drawn equally from all departments. This keeps people from taking the supplies and equipment from my desk and, ironically, the “general use” has been significantly reduced as well.
I was encouraged to set boundaries on work space usage – evidently, this has been a long-standing issue. When I explained that this was my desk and utilizing it as their work space was making me uncomfortable, the staff saw things from my perspective and this stopped almost immediately.
I really am thankful for the great support from “upstairs” that helped a lot to solve these issues!


Niblet March 27, 2018 at 9:15 am

For small office supplies or one-use items, I keep a pair of small boxes that my team can access. The contents inclue – staples, paperclips, pens, highlighters, scissors, tape, etc. This way if I am not there to give them general supplies, they can grab a few items. I also have a stapler, tape dispenser, some computer input converters (HDMI-mini HDMI, dispayport-HDMI), label maker, box cutter & USB conference speakers that they can use once & return. I have not had to chase the items down more than a few times, as the social contract here is that the items are for everyone to use.

My personal supplies are unique & this way I can identify the person who takes them. I have a different hole punch, oddly colored stapler and tape dispenser, etc…

It’s worked for me for the last 20 years.


Lori C. March 9, 2018 at 10:02 am

With a valuable Admin supply resource (e.g. a nice label machine, or business card scanner), I put a label tape on the back that says, “please return to (L.C.) or dept. desk/office” + if that doesn’t work, by the next day, I send a quick email to the borrower that says in the subject line – “please let me know when you’re finished with the _____resource today. TY”. I usually just say “no problem, you can have it” if it is routine (easily replaceable) supplies. If I need to borrow something short notice from a colleague or another dept., I usually add “+ I’lll return this as soon as the Mtg. is over, or when our order arrives, TY” Then keep your word to be reliable/dependable so colleagues know you will do what you say + they won’t hesitate to help in a bind.


Joanne March 8, 2018 at 8:58 pm

Put my name on it. Or have very unique looking items, like color, so everyone knows they are mine. Like my old job, I only used a purple pen, so if I saw somone with purple, I knew they took it from me.


Jackqueline March 8, 2018 at 6:33 pm

We used to keep a log, with the persons details and date taken and their signature and make them sign the item back in. Or equipment was still not returned. We now take a photo of them with our equipment. That seems to work in the 9 months we have been doing this everything has been returned with a request to delete the photo.


Lynn March 23, 2018 at 9:12 am

Hahahaha!! This made me laugh out loud! I hate having my pic taken enough to know this MUST be effective! :)


Penelope March 8, 2018 at 4:42 pm

I’m at an easy access spot to the main printer. People will ask to use my stapler all the time. It’s easier than walking back to their office. They will use it and give it right back.
How is your supply availability to co-workers? I order the supplies so I make sure everyone has what they need in their offices to work. Usually only have to buy items like staplers etc once, they hold on to them for years. . I used to have a big problem with production at night, taking my scissors. Then I started carrying a few where they can get to them and they stopped taking my scissors. For other stuff, I buy really generic cheap supplies that nobody is tempted to take off my desk. We also are in the process of going more green, so people know i’m buying greener options and employees know we are trying to keep our costs down and be good to the environment.


Terri March 8, 2018 at 7:46 pm

Hi Penelope — Why don’t you put a (cheap, but working) stapler at the main printer location? We do that by our copier with a label on it to leave it by the copier. Nobody wants it, so they leave it there!


Irene Dillon March 8, 2018 at 4:28 pm

Use index cards – write the date, description of item, borrower’s name, and expected date of return. Have them initial the card. Keep it on your desk or nearby so you don’t forget, then gently remind them if the expected return date passes.


Lisa Ashley March 8, 2018 at 4:44 pm

These are great ideas and what I do with personal stuff (books, DVDs, etc.) is take a picture of them holding the item. In your case, holding the index card and the item!


Diane J-H March 8, 2018 at 4:27 pm

I have given up on tracking the things I have loaned. I keep two sets of pencil cups on my desk. One is within my reach only, and the other is easily reached by anyone passing by. I put my stapler and scotch tape next to the communal pencil cup. It hasn’t been an issue.


AAinDMV March 8, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Luckily, my office is in a location that is not convenient to supply “thieves,” but part of my job is delivering supplies & orders to staff & teachers, so I do have to maintain carts to make some deliveries. I have 2 dedicated carts that I use on a regular basis – both are purple and both have bright yellow labels that say, “Please return to room 203.” In the past, people would take them w/o asking, so it was always a hunt-and-find game to locate my purple carts just to get my job done. Over time, I’ve learned to always ask 1) what they need it for and 2) for how long they need it, and I make sure to tell them that I need it back in order to do my own job. They have now learned to return it as soon as they are done. I haven’t had to track a cart down in a long time and I think by just having the conversation helps both the cart user and me remember it!


Adele March 8, 2018 at 4:18 pm

My team knows that I don’t loan my tools to anyone because when I need to use them I need them at hand. They can use it at my desk if they need it that badly. All of the carts in our office are labelled with the department name in bold on the handle – you can’t miss it! Everything else at my desk that might be borrowed also has a label on it so I can identify it as my own. Often I don’t put that label in an obvious place so that I can be assured no one will take anything when I’m not there, remove the label and call it their own. If someone wants to borrow anything else, I send them back to their own admin, either to use theirs or for the admin to order a dedicated whatever-it-is. That usually changes their priority of need for my tools.


Barb March 8, 2018 at 4:16 pm

I created a sign-out sheet which included a return date. Most found it annoying but after they got used to the idea others started doing the same thing in their departments.


Angela Kolak March 8, 2018 at 4:13 pm

For the little desk items – our staff has started writing their name in Sharpie on each item, then if they lend it, or even if they don’t, they can walk around and quickly see where the item ended up and recover it.


Meredith March 8, 2018 at 4:11 pm

First, all my office essentials are decorative (think polka dots), that way I know they are mine. Second, when someone asks me to borrow something (I’m closest to the graphic production center so it happens a lot), I ask when I can expect it back. I usually make a statement like: Sure, Sally, you can borrow my whole punch. When do you expect to bring it back? Hearing their name and item together and a question reinforcing that it is borrowed item to be returned, usually makes sure I get it back. We put colored duck tape on bigger items, like our carts and hand dollies, and mail scales, so there is no question about what division they belong to.


Kathy March 8, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Take a pic of them with the item before they go.


Barb March 8, 2018 at 4:13 pm

I LOVE this idea! :-)


Lisa March 8, 2018 at 11:20 am

I’ve started writing it down when someone borrows something. At the time you lend something out, you tend to think, “I’ll remember this” but if the person fails to return it in a timely manner, it’s easy to forget the details. The hardest situation is when someone doesn’t let you know they’ve borrowed something — they just take it without letting you know. Then it becomes a guessing game. That happens with our Admin Services department; they often find that people “borrow” their rolling carts without asking and without leaving a note, then they have to walk around the building to find them.


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