Watch how many paper clips they buy

Building on my recent post about employees’ shopping issues, I am adding another scenario that has never faded from memory. Again, some things seem so obvious to me, but alas, they are not really obvious to everyone. Many years ago, some of our promotional materials were held together using a paperclip. Because this clip was prominent, I wanted to use something more impressive than the basic little silver paperclips we all use so often. So I hunted for and found a gold colored paperclip with an unusual, triangular shape, and I bought a box – probably 100 clips. When it was time to order more I asked the office assistant to buy some and she did. She bought about 10,000 of them! I could see maybe 1,000, but 10,000 for an item that we used perhaps 100 per year. I was shocked at how many little boxes of 100 each paper clips appeared. There was no quantity discount, no shipping discount, just a thoughtless purchase. And, we had a supply of these paperclips long after we quit using them to hold these promotional materials together, meaning they were not useful. In fact, that supply of paper clips lasted many years longer than the employee. Maybe I’m being petty, but again, spending, in this case perhaps $50 instead of $10 was insulting to me. That she didn’t ask how many to order before doing so was also concerning. I guess the $40 lesson was be specific; do not ignore some of these small details unless you know the employee fully understands what it means to have purchasing power.

David and I evidently harbor strong resentments against some former employees, particularly those who have wasted our time, money, or both.  I am saying this because, years later, we both remember having spent too much money for, of all things, paperclips!  Not only did we waste money on paperclips, but we also had another employee who had an odd fondness for hanging file folders.  She ordered box upon box of hanging file folders and now that we mostly obtain clients’ documents via electronic, paperless means, the hanging file folders are moving into the realm of typewriters and fax machines.  In fact, I daresay our supply of hanging file folders will outlast my remaining work life!  Another of our employees loved labels, the kind that peel off from the back and affix to an envelope,  file folder, etc.  This former employee printed thousands of labels with the name and address of one of our vendors.  This vendor is paid with a check twice monthly, meaning we use 24 labels per year to mail his payment.  Fortunately for us, he has not moved in all the years we have known him, allowing us to use some of the labels we have stockpiled; nonetheless, as with the hanging file folders, I believe the pre-addressed mailing labels will outlive me!  These frustrations are being mentioned as examples of employees’ lack of foresight into why they are being asked to do certain things. Buying a limited supply of paperclips or hanging file folders, then replenishing this supply as needed is far more preferable than wasting the employer’s money stockpiling supplies as if the end of the world were upon us. (And, if the end of the world becomes imminent, what possible good would result from countless paperclips or hanging file folders or pre-addressed mailing labels for a vendor?)  It does not appear, at least to me, to be too much to expect for someone to use common sense or, if in doubt, ask my preferences when making purchases on my and my company’s behalf.  Is it?

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