Penny-wise, pound-foolish

One of my frequent frustrations working for a large corporation is penny-wise, pound-foolish policies. Examples abound, but one annoys me at sufficient frequency and intensity to comment on it.

I have to print documents for reading or reference on occasion.  Often I would prefer to read them on my tablet, but my companies various security policies prevent me from doing so.  Working around the security policies would put me at risk (in terms of breaking company policy, not in terms of actual security), and would be time-consuming.  So I wind up printing them out.

Being an environmentally conscious guy I do so double sided, and generally 2 pages per side, so as to save on resources.  Typically the stuff I have to print out has some syntax-highlighted stuff, and maybe some figures with a little color in them.  Typically the color is sufficiently valuable that is worth reading it in color — The increased efficiency in understanding the content easily pays for the costs of the color.

But printing in color is more expensive than printing in  black-and-white.  Managerial classes do a lot of printing, and work with a lot of superfluous color: Big bold headers in color for visual style, pie charts, shit like that.  So in their wisdom, they have reasoned  that making all printing have the default to print to grayscale will save the company money.  As a result, whenever I need to print something in color (the usual case), I have to go through an annoying series of clicks to enable color printing.  Each time costs me a a minute or two.   When I haven’t done it in a while I lose a few minutes going over the gui trying to find the relevant fields to click.  Being a large corporation, this waste of time and energy is occuring hundreds of times a day.  That’s hundreds of minutes of time being lost.

The worst part is the psychological impact.  The company went to extra-expense to make it inconvenient to manually select color or b/w, because they don’t trust us enough to do it for ourselves.    Our time and concentration are disparaged as being worth less than the cost of a small amount of color toner.

Because we we can measure  the cost of printing supplies, we register cost-reduction.    The decreased productivity, reduction in employee satisfaction, and the ensuing increased turnover are puzzled over, but occur with a time-lag so connection are not made.    This pattern reveals itself again and again.

One thought on “Penny-wise, pound-foolish

  1. Hi Glen, I am very interested in your MEEP++ project. Is it still active? I do not know whether you have time, and I’d like to discuss (I am intensively learning it now) with you about MEEP. My email address is In my circle, it is very hard to find someone expert like you to talk it.

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