|Another illusion blown
||[Jun. 3rd, 2008|10:46 am]
Despite being a cynical bastard, I have little pockets of Pollyanna where I harbor these illusions about how things are and I'm always a little disappointed when they're blown away and it turns out that things are as tawdry and incompetent and screwed up as my inner curmudgeon suspected they were. |
Oh, yes, the glamour of my new job -- having my finger on the pulse of the toilet paper industry. Pulse? Well, you know what I mean. My inner pollyanna has always assumed that these large corporations were, well, inherently evil, but at least competetent.
Inherently evil because once you get a certain size in an organization, it starts sounding okay to say "our responsibility is to our shareholders" and when you get a certain number of shareholders, the only thing they "care" about is return on investment. So suddenly you've got a whole bunch of people who might choose to do the right thing on their own, justifying all sorts of heinous stuff in order to shoot another penny in the direction of some guy in Idaho, who also might do the right stuff on his own, but will allow his investments to do all sorts of heinous things because well, they're big and far away and what does he know except for his quarterly report that tells him whether he's making or losing money?
Or bath tissue, as we call it. Although I just then think "bathtub" and "toilet paper" in it and think "bad idea" unless you're doing a really large papier mache project.
But anyway -- so I may have told you that your toilet paper has shrunk. And now the hospitality industry is facing the same shrinkage. But they have special dispensers in some cases that relied on the roll being a certain size. And now it's not, so they've had to make adapters to make them fit.
But here's the rub. (Which is a sort of a gross cliche to use with toilet paper) One major manufacturer (there's a 50% chance you've wiped your butt with their product today, but I will protect confidentiality here) made the paper smaller, notified the industry ahead of time, found out who was using the old dispensers and shipped the adapters.
The other major industry player, shrank the rolls, started shipping them, wasn't quite sure when the adapters would be ready and didn't quite know how they were going to distribute them once they arrived.
What, no one in the whole company thought "Gee, if we ship the toilet paper before we ship the adapters, that paper is just going to fall on the ground and the customer will be PISSED." No one? Bueller?
To make it worse, now that two weeks worth of phone calls and e-mails from pissed off customers and panicky distributors have settled down, this same company calls me to say "Um, we've actually located some stock of the older, larger sized rolls -- about 56,000 cases and we were wondering if you wanted to distribute that to your customers."
This is like coming around the corner and finding Santa smoking a ciggie. I dunno, I expect a large multinational corporation to be evil, maybe, but not grossly incompetent. This is the sort of thing that could happen at Virginia Faire because we're all volunteers, running around like nutcases, trying to get things done in our 20 minutes of free time a day, never making/having enough time to communicate effectively....
But these guys have procedures. Meetings. Powerpoint demonstrations! No e-mail goes un-CC'ed to fewer than half a dozen people. Clearly, size and scope is no proof against the stupid.
I just have this vision of someone somewhere looking for those last two cases of product #1542 and thinking "Gee, hey, Joe, what do you suppose are all those boxes back there?"