The Paper Towel Caper

I laugh out loud at those Staples commercials where the company has, as a cost-cutting measure, only managed to invest in one pen. I laugh because it’s not so damned far-off from some of the things that I’ve seen.

I worked for a guy who one day became incredibly concerned that his employees were going through too many paper towels. For three days straight, this industry mover and shaker came out to the office and started interrogating our receptionist about the paper towels.

“Well, do you think the cleaning staff is using them for cleaning?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Belding*.”
(frustrated pause)
“I swear, I just can’t figure out where all our paper towels are going to!”

His eventual solution to the problem was to stop providing paper towels in the bathroom. This lasted for a few days. Hopefully, somebody eventually explained to him that, if you discourage people from washing their hands, you are actually creating a health issue in your office. I haven’t reviewed the regulations, but I’m sure that OSHA would have had something to say about it.

This is why I insist that capitalism is a wonderful system but has a fatal flaw. My boss was spending more time squinting at his bottom line than he was realizing how ridiculous his nickel-and-diming was. This was a cat who spent thousands and thousands of dollars every week on newsprint, and the cat was bent out of shape about paper towel use in the office. I think this is where one could appropriately use the word “Dayum.”

So don’t go thinking that these Staples commercials are far off. They aren’t.

*Mr. Kirkland’s name has been changed in this example to “Mr. Belding” to protect his anonymity.

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