Sunday, June 7, 2009

$59.50 screwdrivers and other bad ideas

We've all heard about the feds paying $300 for a hammer. They're a bloated bureaucracy; that's what they excel at. But even a non-bloated, non-bureaucracy runs the risks of such inefficiencies. All it takes is for otherwise-smart people to fail to think things through.

About a year ago, my neighbor Anne-Marie borrowed a screwdriver from me--a standard-issue Stanley phillips head. Then she accidentally left it in a rental car. She said she'd replace it, and I told her not to worry about it. Then she moved out of town.

Fast forward to last Friday. I'm running my freelancing business in Canada, but maintain a U.S. business address in order to make life convenient for my clients. We've also forwarded all of our home mail to the business address, and every two weeks, the mailing service packs up and forwards everything to us in a letter-size Priority Mail envelope.

So this week's shipment comes in a huge box, and inside that is a smaller box, and inside that smaller box are two bubble-wrapped (!) screwdrivers from Anne-Marie. (Addressed to "Matt," which just added to the unintentional comedy.) For fun, let's do the math:

  • 2 new screwdrivers=$20
  • Postage to send screwdrivers from Anne-Marie to Phoenix=$4.50
  • Excess postage to send big box instead of letter size to Canada=$20
  • Original lost screwdriver=$5
  • Screwdriver that I'd already bought 11 months ago to replace the lost one=$10
  • Jake's lost braincells=Priceless

Because my head already hurts, I'm not going to calculate the time cost of all of the participants, or worry about why someone would bubble-wrap a screwdriver. And, in her defense, she had no idea of the Rube Goldbergian route her kindness would take. But let's just say an alternative plan would have been, for example, mailing me a $10 bill or $10 check. Or simply forgetting about it altogether.

1 comment:

  1. Forget? Hell she addressed it to Matt. I think she met that requirement but only in the wrong category.