Nutella theft may not seem like a serious problem, but the issue has caused quite a stir over at Columbia University, where the student body appears to have been completely hooked on the famed chocolatey hazelnut spread — to the tune of thousands of bucks in lost Nutella each week.
The Nutella theft issue reached a tipping point in a Facebook post by Columbia College Student Council member Peter Bailinson on February 22. It seems that while the Nutella situation was an issue before, Bailinson’s post kicked off a scarcity panic that increased the draw to the coveted spread significantly.
Originally, he says, the Facebook post was not meant to suggest Nutella was going anywhere — he explains:
“I posted it trying to get people to be aware of why Dining charges as much as it charges for things … I was saying that when people take more than they’re eating for that one meal, that takes away money Dining could spend on improving the dining experience. My original post said please don’t take more than you need at one meal or we’re not going to get more of these cool products. That got interpreted as Dining is going to take away Nutella because we’re using it so much.”
It seems much of the impact of the Nutella theft issue remains undefined, or at least undisclosed. The story made it all the way to the New York Times, where key players were almost comically vague about the implications — perhaps to discourage students from further ramping up their Nutella fetishes.
Bailinson confirmed that while students “take silverware, cups and plates, and that adds up over the course of a year to a lot of money,” he also admitted that with Nutella, “it added up much more quickly.”
The council member said that while Columbia Dining “might have to spend $50,000 to replace silverware and cups, they were spending thousands of dollars on Nutella in one week.”
Bailison said he spoke with Vicki Dunn, the executive director of Dining Services, who said the cost of Nutella theft and general consumption “was close to $5,000 in that first week,” or possibly “more than 100 pounds per day.”
Dunn was contacted about the Nutella theft issue, and said she is “not allowed to comment on anything,” directing media to “go through university communications.”