Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Continuing to bring you all the important economic analysis of the day.
have you noticed there are fewer paper napkins at your favorite fast-food place these days? . . . the napkin shortage is real, intentional and revealing about American klepto-culture and the tiny corners that some businesses are cutting to curb costs.

. . . One survey found that nearly 45% of customers are paper pilferers. Same for those tiny envelopes of sweetener, ketchup and plastic cutlery. . . .

With increasing costs and fast-food competition, however, many places no longer put free stuff out. They ration napkins at the counter. They award you one, force you to ask for more or, more cleverly, secure them in dispensers packed so densely that no tray-holders but the Flying Wallendas could conceivably wrestle out more than one or, more likely, a half of one. Napkins now are also smaller and thinner. Live with it.

Cutting costs has become a corporate mantra in recent years. Before indulging in illness, check your health benefits. And have you noticed more of those one-paper towel dispensers in restrooms? If an airline can save $40,000 by withholding one olive from each salad, imagine the savings from corporate paper parsimony.
I must admit, when I buy soup or yogurt at the cafeteria, I often walk away with three or four plastic spoons in my hand. But that's backup for when I forget to pick one up in the cafeteria the next three or four trips. Am I a "plastic pilferer"? And will Corporate America take my plastiware from me?

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