But Her Light Bulbs?!
November 1, 2017 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Last night, our landlord called to make sure that we didn't have anything stored in the basement, because apparently the former first floor tenant that just moved out took a bunch of stuff that wasn't hers...including the light bulbs. What? Why on earth would someone take light bulbs from a common area when moving out of an apartment?

We didn't have anything in the basement, fortunately, and taking a few extra storage boxes that you don't realize aren't yours could be an honest mistake...but we are completely perplexed by the light bulb thing.

Possibly relevant details:
--This is in a common area that all tenants in the building (first floor former tenant, second floor landlord and his wife, third floor us) all have access to; landlord generally supplies the light bulbs for this area
--The former tenant had been there for maybe six months, left because she bought a house, not because of anything negative; she seemed perfectly nice whenever we talked to her. She was not super-young (has a doctorate), this probably wasn't her first rental.
--Our landlord is amazing, takes care of everything immediately, is quiet and friendly, so I can't see this being some weird "bad landlord revenge" thing

Why on earth would someone take light bulbs from a common area when moving out of an apartment? It seems like it would take so much time and effort (to unscrew the bulbs, to package them for moving) that unless it's for some really petty revenge on a crappy landlord (which, see above, he's awesome), I can't imagine a reason. Is this a thing people do? Why?
posted by okayokayigive to Human Relations (35 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe she had replaced the bulbs with expensive LED bulbs or something? Given that they're often $10-$20 a pop and last for years, I'd consider taking them with me if I had bought them.
posted by tivalasvegas at 8:44 AM on November 1, 2017 [21 favorites]

Honestly, there is no answer for this. People are crazier than you realize. Lots of people. Who knows why anyone does anything.
posted by something something at 8:47 AM on November 1, 2017 [37 favorites]

Did she use a moving company? A friend just had an experience where his professional movers packed and shipped everything that wasn't nailed down, including stuff any sane person would leave behind, like half-used bar soap and half-used toilet rolls (from the holder). It was super inconvenient because he had one more night in the old place and had to go out and get fresh supplies.
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:48 AM on November 1, 2017 [15 favorites]

I have moved into apartments where the previous tenants took everything, including the lightbulbs. People are weird.
posted by coppermoss at 8:49 AM on November 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is a thing people do. She needed lightbulbs in her new place, so she took them. Simple as that.
posted by pupsocket at 8:52 AM on November 1, 2017 [15 favorites]

TivaLasVegas - Even if she had changed them out w/o notifying anyone else, why not put the old ones back in or otherwise replace them with cheap versions. It's a shared space (maintained by the landlord) and incredibly jerky to the other tenants.

People are seriously weird.
posted by RhysPenbras at 8:53 AM on November 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

If I'm reading correctly, she took the lightbulbs from the basement? The part of the house least likely to have natural lighting? People are so weird.

Are you able to ask if she took the lightbulbs from her apartment as well, or just this common area? I can imagine her taking the bulbs from her apartment, especially if they're the long-lived new ones, but taking them from the basement renders the basement unusable by the remaining tenants. I can only imagine that she had outside help for packing and moving and the people assisting her were unaware of the shared nature of the basement.

I'm perplexed by this as well, thank you for introducing me to yet another wacky facet of humanity.
posted by Mizu at 8:56 AM on November 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm confused as to whether she took (or someone took) the lightbulbs out of basement fixtures, or just boxes of spare lightbulbs from the storage area.

If it's the latter, and she used movers, it was almost certainly just her movers not understanding what stuff they were supposed to take.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:59 AM on November 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

In my mom's building they had to stop putting up cheap-o wall clocks in the laundry room because people (seniors) kept taking them. In my building I keep asking for a cheapo paper towel dispenser in the laundry room (to clean up messes) but they keep saying no because people used to steal all the paper towels.

People take things. Some people will take anything that's not nailed down. Some people take things in retaliation because they have no other power.

posted by Room 641-A at 9:02 AM on November 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

I went to a very nice college with a bunch of privileged kids. My first year I shared a dorm suite & bathroom with 3 other girls, and we had a storage system set up by the toilet with a separate shelf for all of our individual stuff. Every one of us had a supply toiletries and the ability to get more. Yet all (well, certainly 3 of us) of us had stuff stolen. I'd open my box of tampons to find like 4 tampons left, even though I had just bought them. I'd pick up a bottle of face wash to find it questionably light.

Some people just take things because they can. It doesn't have to make sense, it doesn't have to be driven by need or even any particular motivation. It's there and I can take it, so I'll take it. Sometimes that's all there is to it.
posted by phunniemee at 9:13 AM on November 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

For clarity: she took the (common, incandescent) bulbs out of the fixtures in the basement ceiling rendering the common area unusable by the rest of us without a flashlight. This is part of why I'm so perplexed, as she would have had to use a flashlight to get out of the basement after taking them out.

Sounds like this is just some weird human quirk, though. Thanks, all!
posted by okayokayigive at 9:22 AM on November 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used to read an innkeepers' forum. It was fascinating. There was consensus that some people either think anything that isn't nailed down is an "amenity," and/or a lot of people are just nuts. It was pretty common for every innkeeper / B&B owner to have multiple stories of people who absolutely stripped the room, including lightbulbs, bedding, towels, stationery, toiletries of course, hangers, and batteries from the clocks and remotes. The bold ones would take a whole tray of muffins on their way past the breakfast buffet.

There was often a sense of "these people seemed to think they were paying too much for their stay," so maybe were making up for it in "free" stuff. But this behavior often came from people who seemed well-off. Some people just steal.
posted by jessicapierce at 9:27 AM on November 1, 2017 [11 favorites]

It is entirely possible that this tenant had a bad relationship with the landlord and did this as revenge. Just because they were nice, normal people to you doesn't mean they were that way with each other. Who knows what kind of backstory there was. My guess is something romantic or more than a casual business friendship. This could also explain why they bought a house and moved after only six months.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:44 AM on November 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Things are different around here, but a friend of mine once complained when one of his neighbours moved out, they decided to take everything they paid for, and this included a lightbulb on the stairs on their floor and on the entrance, two potted plants, a 4th of what was left of a bottle of bleach and windex used to clean the stairs and the engraved plastic marker on the mailbox (it only had the floor, not name).

Why? Who knows. But I feel "strange" behaviour with common areas isn't that rare. Could be a case of feeling they paid for "building maintenance", and since they weren't living in it anymore, they'd be entitled to 1 (one) lightbulb from a common area.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:44 AM on November 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

People will take stuff if they feel entitled to it, and some people feel way more entitled than others. We just bought a house and the sellers took not only the light bulbs out of the fixtures sometime between inspection and closing, but also a recessed medicine cabinet, leaving a big hole in the bathroom wall. We threw a fit and they eventually returned it but why would anyone think that's OK? Some people have broken moral compasses.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:52 AM on November 1, 2017 [16 favorites]

Well like you said, she just took "a bunch of stuff that wasn't hers" so is presumably not operating on a rational level. Maybe she hated the landlord.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:16 AM on November 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some people are just unethical, even people who seem perfectly nice. I had a roommate during a hospital stay who stole her hospital gown, towels, sheets, a blanket, and the frickin' phone. To this day, I regret not turning her in.
posted by FencingGal at 10:20 AM on November 1, 2017 [12 favorites]

Someone might also do this if they're feeling spiteful or resentful of the landlord and/or other tenants.
posted by stillmoving at 11:02 AM on November 1, 2017

Some people are cheap larcenous jerks who don't care how their behavior affects others. Pretty much the reason we can't have nice things.
posted by theora55 at 11:14 AM on November 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Someone moved out of another flat in a divided house I lived in and took their unit's radiators, oven, everything. Some people suck.
posted by w0mbat at 11:27 AM on November 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think I can beat any of these. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I worked for a law firm in Australia doing property sale and purchase work. On one purchase I acted for, I sent my clients round to look at the house just before closing, as usual. They reported all in order so we went ahead and closed. After my clients moved in, they came and told me that when the previous owners moved out, they had cut each of the curtains vertically into pieces of unequal width, taken away the wider pieces, and pushed the rest back so that you didn’t at first notice that anything was wrong. To this day I have no idea why.
posted by Logophiliac at 11:40 AM on November 1, 2017 [22 favorites]

1) punitive for some argument with the landlord.
2) payback if they figured they weren't getting their damaged deposit back.

Also some people are pettily dishonest. I share a work residence with up to three other people and the last time they all moved out one of them cleaned out all the cooking errata I had on my shelf (spices, oil, sack of rice) and the ketchup/mayo/relish (all opened) I had in my fridge. (Everyone has their own shelf in the kitchen and I was the only one using the downstairs fridge at the time so it wasn't a case of mistakenly grabbing my stuff). Both of my roommates were travelling by greyhound to boot. It makes no sense.
posted by Mitheral at 12:01 PM on November 1, 2017

I guess I can still come up with somewhat half-cocked but plausible reasons for this that aren't revenge/malice, because moving sucks and drives everyone a bit up the wall, but yeah...simplest solution is usually the correct one.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:48 PM on November 1, 2017

If she stored her stuff in the basement is it possible that the lights had burned out at some point and she replaced them ? Light bulbs are not that cheap.
posted by pintapicasso at 1:13 PM on November 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Were they incandescent lightbulbs?

Some jurisdictions were/are phasing them out and are no longer available for purchase.

Some people really don't like CFL/LEDs (although some current LEDs are now almost as good as incandescent), or think that they don't like them.
posted by porpoise at 2:02 PM on November 1, 2017

Depending where they were located, she may have removed them to more easily move large furniture.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 3:00 PM on November 1, 2017

I had a tenant's family take the screen door from the tenant's apartment after he died. He did pay for the screen but the lease agreement says these things become the landlords at move out. Funny thing is they only took the door and not the frame which made it not very useful.

I had another guy take his wall-to-wall carpet.

People are idiots and jerks.
posted by vespabelle at 5:17 PM on November 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

The last place me and my partner lived, 2 out of 3 lightbulbs in our room never worked, so we we replaced them. I would not have felt the least bit weird about taking them with us if we had needed them for the next place.
posted by aniola at 6:05 PM on November 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

People are batshit crazy for sure. Friends who were landlords had a tenant (who was MONTHS behind on their rent) pull a midnight move and they took the newly laid laminate floor with them. Top that!
posted by kate4914 at 6:05 PM on November 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Seconding movers, who neatly packed up the racks from the oven, the sink stoppers, and the full kitchen trash bin which contained half-eaten Chinese take out for a friend's cross country move. We estimate the moving truck was crossing Kansas when the maggots hatched.
posted by jamaro at 9:29 PM on November 1, 2017 [7 favorites]

In my current apartment my cheap “energy- efficient” light bulbs burn out all the time. It’s frustrating enough that when I broke one of the sconces in my apartment and then I found a box of them in the basement I totally stole one.

Your former neighbor may be pissed about something similar.
posted by bendy at 9:34 PM on November 1, 2017

A friend from high school accidentally broke one of the four blades of his apartment ceiling fan, so he entered a neighboring apartment that he knew was unrented, climbed up on a chair, removed a blade from that apartments ceiling fan, and then fixed his. I imagine the next people who rented that apartment (or the manager showing it) was like either
A: WTF?, or
B: “Who moves out and steals a single blade of their ceiling fan?”
posted by blueberry at 9:59 PM on November 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Way back when, my boyfriend's mother purchased a house. On inspection before moving in, she discovered the previous owner had dug plants up from the garden, destroying the landscaping and disconnected the water hose to the air conditioner (meaning the motor would burn out when it was turned on.) Luckily she flagged all of this. Turns out the previous owner felt she didn't get the price she wanted on the property but felt forced to accept it and this was her retaliation. It didn't work, thanks to eagle eyed new buyer, and she was forced to fix what she destroyed but yeah, some people are just vindictive entitled assholes.
posted by Jubey at 1:36 AM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm with porpoise. I live in CA and will filch an incandescent from anywhere I can.
posted by kensington314 at 8:30 AM on November 2, 2017

Agreed - I understand that conservatives have managed to stall or slow the legislated phasing out of incandescents in some jurisdictions, but my own observations indicate that although lower wattages are still available, the selection is poor and 100w bulbs are no longer to be found in California hardware stores. Like vintage toilets and muscle cars, there's still demand for the old, non-earth-friendly stuff.
posted by Rash at 9:17 PM on November 2, 2017

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