-- AmosStorkey - 30 Jan 2009

It seems that there are regular issues people have with kitchens and fridges, mainly relating to cleanliness. The fridges are non trivial to clean when full up. Food gets left around and goes off, walls are not cleaned and left dirty etc.

The cleaners understandably do not think it is their job to deal with these issues.

So the question is: Who's job is it?

All of us? Well this just isn't working. And it cannot. If I decide on a whim I want to clean out a fridge I have to take various things out of the fridge, many of which are yuck, clean it out, then replace the items, many of which appear to be a problem, or throw things out unilaterally, which invariably results in complaints. I don't use the fridge often, but I do object when it is filthy. I am willing to do the cleaning, but have only done so once as I do need to make time for it. Whimsical cleaning is no replacement for regular cleanliness.

My job but not just now? This is a common attitude - I know I ought to but I don't have the time just now. Cleaning out a fridge is nontrivial.

Someone else's? I didn't make the mess... A common attitude. But often we don't notice when we make the mess. Most mess is the result of accident. So the result is all the mess is made by people who think didn't make it.

The current status quo is not working. Because it has to be someone's job.

Here is my suggestion.

For each fridge (and kitchen), specific days are set for cleaning once a month. Different days for different fridges on each level. This is clearly labelled on the fridge.

On cleaning day, the kitchen(s) and fridge(s) are cleaned by someone. Anything in the fridge is thrown away (if you have stuff in a fridge it should be moved to or put in a different fridge before then). The exception may be for something clearly in their own clean container which is definitively a long lasting item but needs keeping in a fridge, and labelled as such. I am not convinced that there are any such things that are necessary in a work fridge. Mouldy stuff in cupboards is thrown. The cleaner gets to make a unilateral decision in this regard and noone has any right to complain. If you think something may look mouldy and isnt, then it is your job to label it so.

So who is the cleaner? The options are

1) We employ a cleaner to clean the fridges and kitchens under these terms. This seems fairly sensible to me. 2) A tip is offered to someone who is willing to take up the regular responsibility for cleaning each kitchen under these terms. Tips are collected in the kitchen. 3) We negotiate recompense with the current cleaners to do this additional job under these terms. 4) This duty is allocated to a particular member of staff in exchange for reduction of some other duty. 5) Some kind soul volunteers to do this out of the kindness of their heart. The main difficulty of this for (say me) is that it is hard to guarantee that I have the time to do this on the specified day, and this system does need things doing at the right time. But this could work. Or could work on a rota system.

One thing is not an option: we ignore this issue for the next 20 years and have continuous mouldy fridges, annoying numerous people and devaluing the hard work the cleaners do do by saying that we can't even be bothered to keep our little bit clean. We are going to have to solve this problem sometime. So why not sooner?

Comments (sgwater - 01 Feb 2009):

I agree with everything Amos said. At Brown, there were various minor service jobs for the department that needed to be done, and all graduate students were required to take one on at some point during their tenure. One of these jobs was "Fridge Czar" and basically worked as Amos describes. Unfortunately, we don't have a general system like that in place here, but I think it would be completely reasonable to either pay someone (either a professional or one of the postgrads) or have a staff member trade this duty for some other admin task.

I also think it should be accepted policy that anyone who finds moldy food anywhere in the kitchens is within their rights to dispose of it as they see fit. I certainly have no qualms about throwing away other people's disgusting food and have done so occasionally. As Amos points out, generally moldy food is the result of someone forgetting that it exists, so sending an e-mail to the entire building asking the responsible party to correct the situation is probably useless. I say just throw the food out. Note that this also makes the cleaning job easier since the fridge itself won't get gross as fast. If people are really concerned about having their food thrown away by others, we can easily institute a policy (again, inspired by one at Brown) that all items are subject to disposal unless they are clearly labeled with a date and email address. We could even try to leave markers near the fridges for this purpose. This way, if you really care, you label your food and are subject to harassment and embarrassment if you let it get disgusting.

A final point: I've noticed that recently the fridge I use most often seems to be very clean, but actually has a pretty bad smell which I believe is due to some items which I'm sure taste good in small quantities as flavoring agents but are extremely smelly and not well packaged. This is a slippery slope, but I wonder if we can try to encourage people not to place potentially offensive ingredients in the common fridges...

Comments (sterratt - 01 Feb 2009):

One other thought: currently Informatics has a tea, coffee and milk budget. One might argue that we ought to spend the money on basic hygine (i.e. a fridge cleaner), and we can all provide our own tea and coffee (which I do already). Admittedly, having communal milk is useful, but perhaps people would be more motivated to contribute to an honesty box for milk than for fridge-cleaning.

Topic revision: r4 - 04 Feb 2009 - 12:15:17 - DavidSterratt
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