Help me come up with some creative office pranks
August 23, 2005 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Help me win a good-natured office prank war with a co-worker.

Over the past month, some co-workers and I have been involved in a little prank/joke war with another department in the office. Most of the stuff we’ve done is pretty benign (stuffing a desk drawer full of plastic snakes and spiders, switching desks, replacing their bag lunches with plastic fruit and food, switching phone cords) but we are looking to step it up a little. I’ve Googled around and most of the office pranks I’ve found either require access to the mark’s unlocked computer (we don’t have that), involve destroying or ruining something, or are just plain mean. Help me cook up some borderline cheesy, yet clever, pranks that don’t involve the aforementioned and would be appropriate for an office setting?
posted by Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs to Grab Bag (55 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Employ an actor:

Fake customer?

Fake deliveryperson?

Fake maintenance person?
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:19 PM on August 23, 2005

You have come to the right place my friend.

A personal favorite of mine is reprogramming the message on the little LCD most office printers have to something comical. See here. "Microwave needs help" or "Insert Coin" are particularly amusing.
posted by phrontist at 12:20 PM on August 23, 2005

Up the ante and fill their desk drawers with real snakes.
posted by cmonkey at 12:22 PM on August 23, 2005

I remember reading about someone who filled (actually only appeared to fill, but that is part of the cleverness) his co-worker's office with packing peanuts. Do you have offices with windowed doors? Or is this a cube setting?
posted by mzurer at 12:23 PM on August 23, 2005

Response by poster: Yes, important to note, that it is pretty much a cube farm, no offices (at least for us peons, heh)
posted by Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs at 12:24 PM on August 23, 2005

1- take an egg
2- with a needle, carefully drill a hole in each end.
3- use needle to pop the yolk sack
4- empty egg
5- fill with water
6- tape shut
7- go up to cow-orker in the most public setting possible, scream "I've had it with your stupid little jokes!" Smash water-filled egg on head.
8. run, it'll take a while for him to realize that's not egg yolk sliding down his forehead.
posted by signal at 12:31 PM on August 23, 2005

De-construct a musical greeting card, and take the little speaker/connecter thing out. Attach the speaker/connector to the bottom of an office chair in such a way that the connectors are barely touching (works best with the kind that swivel). Doesn't sound great on paper, but can be really annoying if you hide it well enough.

Took a coworker of mine 2 and 1/2 hours to find one of these once, but only after he un-plugged all of his electronic devices to "better locate" the source of the sound.
posted by SweetJesus at 12:33 PM on August 23, 2005

Almost empty milk carton left in desk drawer Friday afternoon. The cube will be more than borderline cheesy on Monday morning.
posted by scruss at 12:33 PM on August 23, 2005

I've done the cubicle full of balloons (which is a little less messy than packing peanuts. This took a lot of work and about 1100 balloons. My fingers were raw.

How about the old piece of clear tape over the end of the CAT-5 cable trick (assuming you’re not a wireless shop)? They'll have no clue why they can't get anywhere on the network. This can be done for the phone as well.

I've also witnessed a co-worker tying everything on the victim’s desk to fishing line, and then tying the other end of the fishing line to the bottom of the victim's chair. When the chair is pulled out, everything falls back behind the desk.

If you can keep a straight face, play a prank on yourself some time and try to play it straight, blaming it on everyone else - "I don't know who did this, but they are going to pay!". One guy I work with is really good at this and he gets everyone else going "Did you do it? I didn't do it."
posted by bwilms at 12:35 PM on August 23, 2005

Once a co-worker got is cube covered with post-it notes, all saying "Wanker". Wasteful, at best.
posted by NewBornHippy at 12:36 PM on August 23, 2005

For low impact and cheesy, how about turning everything in his cubicle upside-down? You could take it as far as you like - the things on the desk, in the drawers, on the walls...
posted by Moondoggie at 12:38 PM on August 23, 2005

First, wait for a rainy day.

Next, find the office paper punch and empty the contents into a paper cup.

Now, walk around the office and while chatting with fellow office workers, pour a small amount of confetti into their umbrellas - usually hanging of the handle of their door or on the side of their cubical.

At the end of the day or at lunch, find a place where you can watch them leave the building, opening the umbrella over their heads . . .
posted by cptnrandy at 12:38 PM on August 23, 2005

Did you ever see that episode of the Office where Tim puts Gareth's stapler in a huge mold of jello? Yeah. I've always wanted to do that.
posted by billysumday at 12:43 PM on August 23, 2005

At my brother's office, they covered everything in some guy's office with aluminum foil. Including pens, computer, books, etc. I'll post a link to a pic if I can find one.
posted by moosedogtoo at 12:46 PM on August 23, 2005

Hire a stripper

Then flowers (with a "deepest sympathy" card)

Then a singing telegram

Then lunch

Then flowers from a different company (with "It's a Boy" card)...

so on and so forth over the course of one day.

At least it will be entertaining.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:47 PM on August 23, 2005

There's some fairly innocuous but good ones here: ZUG
posted by tetsuo at 12:48 PM on August 23, 2005

Response by poster: These are great, keep them coming.
posted by Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs at 12:48 PM on August 23, 2005

Best answer: Here's the foil pictures:
Before and After
posted by moosedogtoo at 12:50 PM on August 23, 2005

If you have a little time and the right kind of phones in the office (where the handsets come apart without breaking) then you can switch the microphone and speaker, end-for-end.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 12:53 PM on August 23, 2005

Place a small piece of scotch tape over the mouthpiece of their phone. People calling in will still be able to hear him but will ask him to speak up. He'll spend a week yelling into the phone before he figures it out.

Unplug his mouse but leave the plug resting in the USB socket so it still appears attached. Madness ensues.

Tape those fresh car scent evergreen trees under his desk. The aroma tends to drive people mad.
posted by quadog at 12:55 PM on August 23, 2005

Attach fishing line to various items on the desk. Attach lines to chair leg. When your mark sits down, things will inexplicably come flying off the desk at them.

Remote control fart machine?
posted by Specklet at 12:56 PM on August 23, 2005

A close friend (and former colleague) went away on vacation. While she was gone I took her favourite Nalgene bottle, filled it with white grape jello and let it set. My original intent was for her to try and drink from the bottle, but she was more grossed out than anything so that worked for me.
posted by smcniven at 1:00 PM on August 23, 2005

Specklet: look up.

Tape the phone hook down, then call them.
Alphabetize their keyboard keys.
Leave raw eggs all over their desk.
Upside-down cups full of water covering their desk (could be expensive if there's a spill).
posted by Four Flavors at 1:02 PM on August 23, 2005

First buy lots of paper cups (it's important to get paper, not plastic or foam, you'll see why in a minute).

And I mean lots. Dozens and dozens.

Arrange them over every possible inch of space on the victim's desk.

Then staple them all together as close to the rim as you can, each cup to the ones on each side, so they are all attached. (This is why you need paper cups, foam or plastic split or disintegrate.) Wherever one cup touches another at the rim, staple.

Next, fill each cup as full as you can possible get it - surface tension full - with water.

You get the picture?

Finally, retire to a safe distance, wait, watch and enjoy.
posted by essexjan at 1:04 PM on August 23, 2005

I just tried the laser jet thing and it didn't work. :(
posted by knave at 1:10 PM on August 23, 2005

I take that back, it works! (I was looking at the wrong printer.)
posted by knave at 1:17 PM on August 23, 2005

Best answer: Kidnap your coworker's favorite office toy, doll, action figure, whatever. Email pictures of the toy bound and gagged and hidden various places in the office and/or surrounding area from an anonymous email account. Include clues with each email that will gradually lead your coworker to their toy. Stage appropriate tableau for discovery.
posted by MsMolly at 1:21 PM on August 23, 2005

knave: I don't even know where to begin, how did you do it? Where do you input that command line?
posted by mullacc at 1:25 PM on August 23, 2005

I remember reading about someone who filled (actually only appeared to fill, but that is part of the cleverness) his co-worker's office with packing peanuts. Do you have offices with windowed doors? Or is this a cube setting?
posted by mzurer at 12:23 PM PST on August 23 [!]

Yeah, that was me.

Here's the file with the info on what happened, and how to do it. If you've got any questions, believe me, I am more than willing to help!
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:25 PM on August 23, 2005

Works if they have a drop ceiling, takes some prep:

1. Cut a hole in offcenter the bottom of a cardboard box so that the mouth of a milk jug (1 qt ought to do) can barely fit and hot glue it in place so that the jug is outside the box and the rim of the jug is inside the box.

2. Get a cork or stopper that fits in the jug and put a screw eye into it.

3. Hot glue a mousetrap to the bottom of the box so that a string tied to the flip arm and to the screw eye will remove the stopper when the mouse trap is sprung.

4. Tie a string to the flip arm and tie a hook to the other end

5. Fill the jug with confetti or glitter and put in the stopper just firmly enough that it will hold upside down

6. Move a ceiling tile out of the way so that the gap is over the victim's chair.

7. Run a string from a drawer or keyboard return up into the ceiling and tie it to the moustrap release, allow yourself a couple inches of slack--but not much more.

8. Set the mousetrap but do not connect the string from the mousetrap arm to the cork. Test it once. If it works, reset and CAREFULLY connect the string from the mouestrap to the cork.

When the drawer is opened, the victim will hear a loud snap and will instinctively look up, only to be showered with glitter/confetti.

For an easier trap, run a string from the drawer to the cork, but it loses something without the nice loud snap.
posted by plinth at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2005

I had a coworker who had a small rubber duck that he was very fond off. One of my peers found the duck's clone and bought several. He got the biggest, rustiest nail he could find and pounded it through the head of a clone and substituted it for the original. After the highly predictable and emphatic outrage from the victim, he discretely put the original back. Lather, rinse, and repeat with the rest of the clones using equally gruesome modifications.
posted by plinth at 1:35 PM on August 23, 2005

Chia Keyboard. I *so* want to do this to someone.
posted by Invoke at 1:43 PM on August 23, 2005

Cha, cha, cha, Chia!
posted by lee at 1:51 PM on August 23, 2005

And older coworker once explained what they used to do in the good old days (1950's) .... back when real men wore hats. Apparently this one coworker used to obsess about his appearence, and most importantly, his hat. He would buy only the best hats. So his coworkers took up a collection, and bought a hat that was identical to his - only it was a full size bigger than the original hat - then they corrected the hat size label in the new (larger) hat. For weeks they would switch the 2 hats - and watch him fuss over the hat not fitting.

Since no one wears hats anymore, perhaps it would work with a jacket?
posted by R. Mutt at 1:56 PM on August 23, 2005

If you can gain access to the pc, there are many funny and stupid tricks. Sysinternals has an excellent screensaver that looks like the Blue Screen of Death.

If the monitor cable is long enough, cross connect user A's monitor to user B's pc and vice versa.

Tiny pieces of tape on the bottom of optical mice.

Whoopie cushions never fail to amuse.

And check these guys out:
posted by theora55 at 2:06 PM on August 23, 2005

I second the confetti idea. I once helped rig a mouse trap attached to two paper clip boxes inside a coworkers desk drawer. He comes back from vacation, opens his desk, and they are still cleaning up glitter.

This was in response to the confetti in the umbrellas trick. So that's good too.
posted by trox at 2:07 PM on August 23, 2005

Put a post-it note under ball mice, or clear scotch tape under optical mice.
posted by BradNelson at 2:07 PM on August 23, 2005

Cubicle full of balloons except fill all the balloons with nitrous oxide.
posted by alms at 2:17 PM on August 23, 2005

Best answer: Hostage-taking's a good one. And if I didn't know better, MsMolly, I'd think you were the one who kidnapped my ninja hamster...

(Of course, when Oreo cookies were requested by the kidnapper in exchange for the hamster, I retaliated by hollowing out sections in the white filler stuff, packing them with wasabi, and re-attaching the tops. The hamster stayed vanished, but it was worth it.)

I'd go the subtle route with keyboard shenanigans: just switch the "M" and "N" keys with each other. If you're doing something stink-based, maybe deck out the victim's cube with a forest of those tree-shaped air fresheners. Or hide them. Whatever you do, there should be as many conflicting scents as possible.
posted by Vervain at 2:46 PM on August 23, 2005

Another fun thing to do if you can get access to their PC is to take a screenshot, then set it as the background and hide everything else.
posted by solotoro at 2:54 PM on August 23, 2005

With the optical mouse, you can't just use clear tape, you need to color it in or use solid tape.

Taking the ball out of the mouse is a fun one too.

ALso, stand in the office doorway and talk to your coworker. Have his office number programemd into your phone and hold your phone just outside of his door. Press the send button and talk to him while he reaches for the phone. Hang up just as he picks up the receiver. Repeat. Only works with direct lines and without caller ID, obviously.
posted by jonah at 3:00 PM on August 23, 2005

Rewire the phone so the ear piece and mouth piece are reverse. They'll have to turn it upside down to talk.

Or, just put something thats gross smelling into the mouth piece of the phone. So whenever they talk, they smell the rancid smell.

Pry the m&n off the keyboard and switch them. Or I think there's a program that you can actually reprogram the keyboard to switch two letters.
posted by Mroz at 3:16 PM on August 23, 2005

If the bathroom doors open inwards, wait for him to go to the bathroom, then tie the rope to the doorknob and a stationary object to trap him for a while... A classic.

One thing we once did was block off the elevator doorways with aluminum foil, and hang signs like "This floor burnt down" and "This floor moved to 13" on the elevator side and stuff like 'You are out of shape, take the stairs." on the outside.

I've never looked inside an elevator control panel, but it couldn't be that hard to rewire the buttons so pressing 2 sends you to 7 and pressing close will open the doors. I don't think many of them are easily openable though.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:17 PM on August 23, 2005

Best answer: A list of pranks a former coworker and I pulled on our boss while he was on vacation:

1. Plastic wrap and aluminum foil all surfaces in the office. (The plywood Eames chairs look really cool covered in aluminum foil.)

2. Police tape around office. Tape body outline on floor.

3. Took the plugs out of his telephone handset, mouse, keyboard, etc. and then gently laid everything back in its place so that everything looked plugged in but wouldn't work. Loosened all drawer handles to the point where if you'd pull them, they'd fall off.

4. Taped everything on any flat surface in his office to the surface it sat on with double-sided tape.

5. Bought several tubs of plastic army men and set up multiple battlefield scenarios (in some cases, complete with incoming aircraft and tanks) all over his office. (If you're doing this one, make sure to hide some army men so your coworker can find them for years to come.)

6. He constantly forgot to sign out, so we used close to an entire brick of post-its to write him little reminders. He was still finding these years later, as well.

And in all cases, we also lowered his chair to its lowest possible setting. Sometimes he'd remember it was going to be set like that, but just as often he'd forget.

We also did the cube full o' packing peanuts, but he got back at us with that one and made us clean it up. It wasn't fun. I don't recommend that one.

Also done to another coworker during her first week in the office:

1. She was obsessed with her little labelmaker, so we labelled everything in her cube, including individual tissues.

2. While she was at lunch we moved everything in her cube -- except the phone -- into the empty cube behind her. She didn't notice until her phone rang later in the after noon.
posted by aine42 at 3:18 PM on August 23, 2005

I had a co-worker who had just moved to a new apartment, and was horrified by the cockroaches there. I found a store that sold very realistic rubber cockroaches, and went around the office, getting everybody to 'sponsor' a cockroach for $0.50. I made tiny labels with the sponsor names, and stuck them on the underside of the 60 or so beasties, then hid them in every nook and cranny of the guy's cubicle - in books, under keyboard, everywhere. After the initial eardrum-piercing shrieks, he sort of enjoyed finding Doris, Andy, etc. for many days afterward.
posted by fish tick at 5:27 PM on August 23, 2005

Cubicle farm, eh? Too bad you can't do this.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:19 PM on August 23, 2005

Identify your target's favorite coworker "X", for reasons of either fondness, respect, great working relationship, indispensability to the team.

Buy a "Congratulations" card ostensibly for person "X". Have a few confederates sign it, saying how much they'll miss her/him, and best wishes for the new position in a city far, far away. Then casually pass it along to your target. ("Oh, you didn't hear? His last day is Friday!")

I pulled this prank where "X" happened to be me (so I had to surreptitiously leave the card on her desk) and I heard her reaction from across the cube farm. It was awesome.

Ironically, two months later I left anyway.

(P. S. I know the following won't work, because it requires PC access, but around the same time I changed a coworker's "new email message" chime to the scream of a game character pleading for his life ("No... no..." from Marathon 2, BTW). We were in the middle of a runaway project. Lots of emails being sent from on high.)
posted by kurumi at 6:37 PM on August 23, 2005

Or, just put something thats gross smelling into the mouth piece of the phone. So whenever they talk, they smell the rancid smell

Try camembert. It may be a bit hard to clean up...

Or try giving them a Dvorak keyboard and watch them try to figure out which key goes to which letter.
posted by Lycaste at 6:51 PM on August 23, 2005

Even better then switching their m & n keys. Switch their keyboard layout to one-handed dvorak.
I used to do this to every new trainee at the tech support place i used to work at.
I would sometimes pair this with taking a screenshot and setting it as their background..
good times..
posted by JonnyRotten at 7:11 PM on August 23, 2005

Mind Molester.
posted by flabdablet at 8:12 PM on August 23, 2005

I've always enjoyed replacing family photos with photos of beloved coworkers. If you are good with Photoshop and have a scanner, you can wreak advanced havoc this way; cloning extra fingers on to Jeff in Sales' wife, or making evil demons of his children for example. It is unwise to annoy or prank any Photoshop experts you may have in your office, gang....
posted by Scoo at 8:22 PM on August 23, 2005

One thing we do in the office quite a lot is changing the phone so that it only reads it something interesting like Greek or Hungarian. (This only really has effect if the phone has a lot of settings or you need to be able to read the screen.)
Unless your friend knows Hungarian, they'll probably be sitting staring at their phone with quite a WTF expression.

Oh also, make sure you either write down or memorise how to change it back, because they sure as hell won't be able to do it.
posted by trampesque at 2:12 AM on August 24, 2005

A coworker went on vacation for a week... so we convinced everyone that it was for a new baby, and decorated.

The best part was for like a week after he got back, people kept coming up and congratulating him on the new baby. Apparently he even got a few snide remarks from some of the older women here because he's not married. Pure comic gold.
posted by KirTakat at 7:39 AM on August 24, 2005

Best answer: I once pranked a co-worker by reprogramming the speed dial on his office phone. He picked up the receiver, punched *1, and got connected to a sex line instead of his wife.....
posted by Daddio at 11:03 AM on August 24, 2005

Response by poster: Marked as best some of the stuff we did.

Thanks for your help guys.
posted by Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs at 11:13 AM on September 12, 2005

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