Competitive cost/benefit analysis

He had a problem. Or, rather, something more akin to a nuisance. His job was to oversee the logistics of moving stuff to and fro, and a non-trivial amount of this moving happened by means of containers. Most of these containers were full, but some were not. Some were definitely not full, and incurred the administrative fee levied on containers containing less than a certain amount of stuff.

His first solution was to encourage the marketing people to up their marketing efforts. More stuff in motion meant more stuff to cram into those not-quite full containers, after all. After an unfortunate series of misunderstandings, he and the marketing folks reached a mutual understanding that there would never be a need to talk about anything at all ever again.

His second solution was more indirect. Instead of moving more of the company’s stuff, he arranged to move other people’s stuff. Specifically, he would pay them to fill the available container space where there was a risk of incurring the dreaded (and outrageously disproportionate) administrative fee. This would incur a non-zero cost, to be sure, but it would be substantially less than the fee, so the result would overall be a net positive.

To his surprise, and to the dismay of the marketing people, this turned out to be a widely popular service. Customers showed up left and right to move single items that otherwise would cost a small fortune to ship. For some thirty-odd months or so, he was the only logistical administrator to not incur a single fee, and was suitably commended for it. Profits were made, and everyone involved (except the marketing folks) liked the status quo.

Then, disaster struck.

Due to a glitch in the system, he ended up with an empty container. Due to it being a particularly busy day, he did not have time to look too closely at what cargo the company was shipping. His eyes were fully focused on the quota needed to avoid the fee, and boy did he avoid that fee. In a fit of administrative and logistical prowess never seen before or since, he managed to fill the whole container with miscellanea, and have everyone paid as per usual.

The company was not pleased at finding that it had paid twice to ship an entire container of other people’s stuff for no reason or profit whatsoever.

%d bloggers like this: