One of the pros for working for someone else is that you have co-workers to prank. There are the great office pranks, like covering your bosses’ office in Post-It Notes, or wrapping a cubicle in plastic wrap and filling the space inside the cubicle with everything from balloons to empty soda bottles or packing peanuts. Then there are the lesser-known pranks, and the outrageous pranks that make national news.
A lunchtime or pre-work can turn a ho-hum business setting into a corporation with a powerful team culture, as long as no one gets too pissed off, embarrassed or humiliated.
Pranking your friends and co-workers can also be quite lucrative. At least for some people. Don’t believe it? Then you have obviously never heard of Dr. Robert Woo. Dr. Woo was supposed to be replacing his employee’s two damaged front teeth with two new teeth. But somewhere along the way he thought it would be funnier to implant two boar’s tusks in her mouth instead (a boar is a pig for those of you not raised on a farm). [http://foxnews.com/story/0,2933,291118,00.html]
So, while she was passed out in his dental chair he put in the tusks, snapped a few photos and like any good prankster, removed the tusks and put in her real new teeth. No problem except he passed the photos of the sleeping, tusked employee around the office without mentioning it to her. Of course she eventually saw the photos. She felt humiliated, quit her job and sued Dr. Woo. She was awarded $250,000 for her pain and suffering. Woo said his jests were an attempt to nurture a “friendly working environment,” and then he turned around and sued his insurance company because they refused to pay for his loss due to his unprofessional prank.
Amazingly, Woo won! His insurance company had to pay him $750,000 plus his expenses for the case. So you see, even if you get sued for pranking someone, it could be more lucrative than buying a winning lottery ticket—or not. That said, as long as there are offices there will be pranksters. And so here are some of my all-time favorite pranks:
Warning: Construction Zone Ahead
Don’t Fence Me Out: Some of my favorite office pranks of all time have to do with construction, or what looks like construction, because no one thinks something is wrong. They just assume if workmen are there, it’s legit. My favorite construction prank was when some folks had professional contractors come into their office, and put up a finished wall on each end of a corridor that led to the main center of peoples’ offices. The confused reaction of each person as they rounded the corner expecting to walk down the hall to their office (only to be greeted by a new wall complete with a fake fire extinguisher box) was priceless!
Another variation of this prank where people come in over the weekend or at night and literally build a wall to close off the hallway where the executive staff offices are located. The executive staff comes in the next morning, go down the hallway and realize “what the heck? Where did my office go?” They keep returning to the original starting point in a futile attempt to find their offices.
Tin Foil Anyone? You don’t have to build a wall to have a good time. An associate in a top tier law firm (who was known as a bit of a prankster himself) took a two-week vacation. While he was gone his peers covered everything in his office in aluminum foil. When he returned and opened the door to his office the whole room (chairs, desk, computer, pencils, electric cords, cabinets, baseball cap on his coat rack, and even his light fixtures…) were all shiny in their new silver coverings.
Screwed and Glued: Don’t laugh about the foil. Another colleague had everything in his office glued to the surface where it was kept. I mean everything. His phone, fax, paper clips, pens, papers, chairs was glued to the surfaces in his office with hot glue (less mess to clean up and fast). Then his co-workers filled the office with balloons! Once he cleaned up all the balloons he thought he was home free, until he tried to move his computer mouse.
Talk to Me: Who doesn’t enjoy a good photocopier prank. Here’s one of the best I’ve heard yet. Someone taped an official “memo” from corporate headquarters on every printer. The memo stated that all the copier systems had been recently upgraded and until everyone could be trained in all the proper procedures they just needed to know the machines were now completely voice-activated—like Siri, to comply with new accessibility laws.
The memo read, “Please speak your copier request for printing, stapling or collating using a low, soothing tone.” A baby monitor hidden in the copy room allowed the rest of the office to listen to their co-workers attempting to get the machine to copy their reports by using everything from a seductive voice…”ooonnnne. ONE cop-py. ONE PLEASE.” To a robotic and computer like, “Co-a-late. KO-A-LATE.” To a loud Staple &*@#$!” This prank is best when used to initiate a new hire or intern into the office.
No Paper Clips: I have to admit; this prank got me but good. Someone photocopied a paperclip in the middle of a page otherwise blank copier paper. Then they made like 20 copies and put them back in the tray of the photocopier. I made copies and then went crazy trying to figure out where the paper clip on my documents was. I thought it was stuck to the page, then the glass of the copier. I went through my entire report about ten times looking for the paperclip. This apparently works even better with a few long, stray hairs, a finger smudge, a coffee ring etc. Excellent prank!
You know what, office chairs are designed for pranking. I can’t think of many things funnier than duct taping or Saran wrapping an air horn to the base of a chair just high enough that the bottom of the seat rests on the trigger that sets off the horn. If you do it correctly when the person sits down the chair depresses enough to set off the air horn under their seat. They won’t be seated long if you do it right. The bottom of office chairs are also great places to tape a remotely activated fart speaker, or a can of Febreeze that sprays every time someone sits down.
Watering Hole: Nothing has more impact than covering someone’s desk, and every flat surface in their office, even the floor, with paper cups filled with water.
Shave This: Apply shaving cream, whipped cream, or something similar to the bottom of the desk just before the victim sits down. As the cream warms up it will drip on the victim’s legs.
Fun with PhotoShop: Take a photo of your co-worker. Size it to fit the heads and/or bodies on any posters or signage around your workplace. Or, make it the same size of the people in a group on a safety poster. Glue or tape the photo on the posters and wait for someone to notice. Feel free to add hats, moustaches or other apparel to any official paintings or posters you can change without defacing or damaging them permanently. This is especially effective if you can do it to photos other co-workers have posted around their office or cubicle space.
Happy, Happy, Happy
The beauty of being part of a large work force is that every week, or at least every month, someone has a birthday, or retires, or gets a new intern in their department. Of course announcing holidays, birthdays and retirement parties or new interns coming on board is like chumming the waters for the really dedicated pranksters.
Happy Retirement: The best pranks involve everyone but the victim. One of the best-kept pranks I ever heard about was one that even the boss was in on. The prankee was working as a bookkeeper at her local library. She loved her job and thought her co-workers loved her — right up until her last day. She waited for someone to tell her when and where her farewell party would be, but no one said a word. She was scheduled to work until 4 p.m. that day, but at noon her boss went up to her desk, shook her hand and told her because it was her last day she could take off early. She wanted to sob she was so sad. No party?! As she walked to her car a co-worker ran out and yelled at her, “You’ve got a phone call!” She returned to take it and walked into her surprise party!
Happy Birthday to You! I knew a guy who managed a division of a large software company that operated out of two different buildings in the same town. One day, at around lunchtime, he got a call from the other building. The secretary told him that an employee he had just fired a few days earlier had returned to the offices with his attorney and was going through the office files, etc. The guy raced over to the other side of town, sprinted into the conference room that the two men were supposedly in, only to find that the entire office had arranged for a surprise birthday. If it had been me I don’t know if I’d have been more relieved or angry, but what a great prank eh?
NSFW (Not Safe For Work)
There are some in every crowd. Risqué can get you in trouble in some work places, but if yours is not one of those places nothing quite says totally hysterically funny, or embarrassing and shocking, like a hired stripper. I know of one company who found out their boss was a strip club fan so his employees hired a stripper to pose as an art director for a job interview. The employees gave the stripper a crash course in design lingo and a portfolio of work to show him. As he looked at her portfolio, she said, “I’d do anything for this job!” Then, she began to strip. He freaked out a bit and said, “No, no, that’s okay!” But, she continued undressing. When she was practically in his lap, his employees started laughing and cued him into the joke.
Lady Godiva: At least the art director stripper showed up in clothes. Not all of them do. There’s the story about the employees who hired a woman to dress in a skin colored body suit, a la “Lady Godiva” to help their boss celebrate his birthday (birthday, birthday suit…get it?) She rode into the factory on the back of a horse with long flowing blonde hair and nothing much else except the skin colored suit. From a distance she totally looked naked. She got enough attention while riding around the streets and factory that someone called the media and the story made it onto the local news. Go figure.
Someone Call a Carpenter? Men aren’t the only ones getting pranked by strippers. At a corporate meeting a contractor, a very handsome, very studly dude complete with hardhat, square chiseled jaw and tool belt showed up at the office. I know what you’re thinking but no, in spite of the incredible resemblance, it was not me. He knocked on the door of the conference room and asked for the manager. She later said her heart sank–because she thought there had been yet another building maintenance crisis. She didn’t worry about that for long. He approached her with all his tools swinging and began gyrating in front of her. Hello. I won’t go into graphic detail because I’m already blushing, but let’s just say there’s a reason he was a much sought after Chippendale dancer in the evenings.
You Rang? Not every one has to bring a stripper on the premises. Another prank I heard about was from an audit firm. The secretary’s decided to ‘prank’ their boss. The boss’s personal assistant called one of the local houses of let’s say, “ill-repute” and before anyone answered, she connected to the boss’ direct line. The laughs came when the lady on the other end of the line was adamant that HE was the one who called her! All the secretaries’ heard was a very loud, “Lady, get your facts straight!”
Depth Charge: One of the longest running pranks I’ve heard is from someone who intercepted a box of a co-worker’s new business cards. He wrote mortifying messages on the back of a few of the cards, like “I wear a pink thong. Want to see it?” and “Are you into hot guys like me?” and then stuck the cards back in the box. He then waited for the card to be passed to the right, but unsuspecting client. A few weeks later, the prankee unknowingly slid one of his newly personalized business cards across the table to his prospective client. The client picked the card up, noticing and reading the handwritten message on the back. It happened to be, “I wear a hot pink thong. Want to see it?” Twenty years later, this guy is still compulsively checking the back of every business card before it leaves his hand.
Remember Being 12-Years-Old?
Okay, okay, there are some things that are hysterical when you’re 12-years-old and stay funny even when you’re 20, 30, 40 or 80. I still laugh hysterically when anyone mentions the planet Uranus. This level of adolescent humor includes anything to do with body functions, especially farts, and prank props like whoopee cushions and snakes in a can, or plastic spiders, plastic dog poop or vomit. I know it’s so wrong, but it’s still so funny.
What Planes? Snake on a Truck: Speaking of snakes, I heard a really long running prank at a company where employees were required to drive company trucks. A while back the guys got a plastic snake and rigged it up inside one of the other trucks so that when the door opened the snake launched itself at whoever opened the door. So one of the guys opened the door and the snake went right for his jugular. It was hilarious watching him scream and run from the snake, but he wouldn’t be the last victim. It was a long time before anyone was able to open their door without looking for the snake first.
An Offer You Can’t Refuse: After I heard this, I wish I’d been there. I do a really, really good Godfather impression. I would have been a natural to carry this off. Anyway, there was a guy whose old office at the time overlooked the Sparks restaurant where Paul Castellano, a well-known mafia hit man (if you follow that stuff), was gunned down. A few months later, the FBI decided to subpoena everybody whose office was above the restaurant, including this guy’s boss.
The boss was nervous about it, so a friend and one of his employees decided to pull a “Good Fellows” kind of prank on him. They went to the fish store and bought three Bluefish heads. The employee put them in a FedEx envelope and cut out words from the newspaper that spelled out, “Clam Up Whistleblower Or Else” in that funky, messed up way crazy people use words to send a sinister message. He put his boss’ name on the envelope and put it on somebody’s desk to make sure it got to him. It was delivered to him shortly later… you can only imagine what happened. I can only hope he wasn’t wearing a pink thong!
Remote Controlled Farts: This remote controlled device is the most fun if you can plant it in a location where a co-worker (or boss) is interviewing people or holding meetings. Putting the device under a table in a conference room, or under someone’s chair, also excellent. The remote control works up to 50 feet away. (http://amazon.com/AMSCAN-Remote-Control-Fart-Box/dp/B004VSZ1QU)
Auto Correct: If you’re computer savvy, consider getting into your co-workers computer and changing his Auto Text in Microsoft Word. Replace his name with something silly. For example, change his name from “John Doe,” to His Royal Highness. Every time he types his name, the auto correct feature will automatically change it. This is done by going into Word/Insert/auto text/auto correct. Yeah, it’s really fun!
DVORAK? You can also change their keyboard to Dvorak. At first they think they’re mistyping but then they have no idea what is going on, or how to fix it. Get your best results by targeting non-geeks who think they’ve broken their computer or downloaded a virus.
Screen Shot: Take a screen grab of someone’s entire desktop and then open the image full screen. They won’t be able to figure out why nothing’s clickable.
Here are the instructions:
For Mac’s: Command/Shift/4, then click and drag to select entire screen. The image will be saved to the desktop as a “ping” file.
Windows: XP – Press the “print screen” key Vista – Use the new Snipping Tool under Programs
ABC’s: Only have a few minutes? A few years ago, for April Fool’s day, someone I know, ahem, popped the key caps off of a colleague’s keyboard and put them back on – in alphabetical order.
Keeping It Real
Not every joke is just intended to make people laugh. Sometimes there’s a serious message behind the prank that can only be communicated with humor. Like when people get promoted, praised or win a lot of awards—it helps to remind them they’re still human and that they should remain humble. Managers often prank their people to make a point without having to resort to annoying human resource type actions:
Doll House: One year, when a very prominent manager was promoted the secretarial staff took it upon themselves to have ALL of his new office furniture hidden in the women’s washroom while he was at lunch. They replaced it with doll furniture. The message they wanted him to get was to always continue to be the wonderful leader he has always been and to not get too big for his “office.” They made their point and he never forgot it. He even mentioned at his retirement party.
Beauty and the Beast: One year in NY a manager I know decided to use a prank to make a point. She had someone dress up as a “beast” in a gorilla outfit, and she dressed up as an Angel in a beautiful green gown with an angel hair wig and a golden crown. She opened her meeting by asking the 50 people in the room “Okay, which one are you?” The confrontation totally took them by surprise. But she got their attention. The environment in that office reportedly changed for the better.
Shake it Up
We all get into a routine and sometimes you just need a prank to shake things up. For one dedicated cubicle worker I know the daily ‘coffee break’ snack was Lays, plain potato chips. This dude was teased all the time. He had no variety in his life. So one day, when he left his desk to head to the break room to get his chips, several coworkers dumped thousands of Doritos, Cheetos, Funyons and Barbecue chips on his desk. When he returned, he was less than amused. Especially dealing with the red sticky and powder fingers he got when cleaning it all off. Me? I’d have just eaten the chips!
Rules Of Engagement
I love pranks, but not everyone does. If you’re going to prank someone:
1. Make sure it doesn’t embarrass the person you’re pranking or cause disruption or dangerous conditions in the workplace.
2. Don’t use April Fools’ Day or office pranking as an opportunity to “get back” at someone you don’t like, or to bully someone. Tempting yes, but don’t do it.
3. Totally make sure your prank is not illegal (like planting real pot or drugs in a co-worker’s desk and then calling the cops) and doesn’t involve fire, dangerous chemicals or poisonous snakes.
4. Try to think through all possible consequences of the joke, including heart attacks, tears and threats or even getting punched, sued, hit etc. Hey, it happens.
5. Just because your brother, dad, family or kids would find the prank hysterical, you may be working with co-workers who won’t. What’s appropriate with friends off the job might not be appropriate on the job—or it might only be appropriate in your department, not companywide.
6. If you’re pranking your boss or supervisor, especially with strippers, be extremely careful. You need to know your boss and their sense of humor (or lack of it) extremely well. Never do anything that would diminish your boss’s authority or other’s respect of him/her no matter how hysterical the prank might be, unless you’re planning on quitting anyway.
And not to kill the buzz, but if you’re going to prank someone, prank them only with humor for all (them included), not vindictively, cruelly or in retaliation for something.
Now go forth and prank responsibly!