When Asking Permission Over 50 Cents Costs Far More Than 50 Cents
I recently ordered some specialty black-colored Texas license plates. We have a vehicle that's a very deep red with black accents, so the default white background Texas plates really jump out.
For about $50, we could get plates that look like this:
When the plates were ready, I got an email from the local county tax office saying that they were ready to pick up. That's the normal process anyway.
I replied to the email, asking if I could pay to have the plates mailed to the house.
Somewhat surprisingly, the answer was “yes.” That's a welcome accomodation for the Covid-19 era. I'm not afraid to leave the house (and when I do, I wear a mask to protect others), but I do try to avoid unnecessary trips. Or maybe I'm just lazy, LOL.
One reply from the person at the county office read:
Good afternoon Mark.
Since the fee is just 50 cents for this transaction, I emailed the supervisor a couple days ago asking if we could just not worry about the 50 cents and complete the transaction and mail the plates to you. I am currently awaiting an answer.
Sorry for the delay. I will let you know as soon as I know something.
For one, I wondered how the fee could be just 50 cents. Surely it costs more to package and mail the plates, including labor time. I would have gladly paid $10 or something for this convenience.
But I also noticed that he had to “email the supervisor” to get 50-cent waived.
I'm glad that he did that. He did get approval.
But talk about a systemic problem. Again, why have a fee of just 50 cents? More importantly, if you don't trust your employees to make a judgment call over 50 cents, why are you employing them?
How much did the time and effort cost to get that fee waived? Clearly more than 50 cents.
It's shocking (but not surprising) when there is lack of common sense about things like that.
I also think about companies that will mail a refund check for something like $0.17. Or a doctor's office that will demand payment for $1.28. Again, collecting that $1.28 certainly costs more than $1.28.
Oh, and when the county did finally mail the plates, they discovered this process problem first:
Good morning Mark.
I'm really sorry for the delay on this. I thought someone else was going to assist me with it, but the plates were still in the drawer. I had someone process these on Wednesday and mail them out. You should hopefully have them by mid next week. Let me know if you do not have them within 2 weeks.
Have a nice day!
I wonder if they went back to fix the process so that doesn't happen again? Probably not. At least this is just about the furthest thing from a life-and-death issue as we see in healthcare. It's tragic when healthcare doesn't learn from its process problems… we are doomed to repeat them.
Do you see similar situations in your workplace? Do you see the same things happen when you're a customer?