Some people would be called thrifty. Others qualify as cheap (my personal category). And then there are those who throw nickels around like manhole covers.
If you’ve worked in the private sector for any length of time, you’ve no doubt run into a cheap boss. One who squeezes every penny until Lincoln screams. While many simply follow a budget dictated by corporate, I’ve had a few who took things way too far.
The nominees are:
The Bathroom Monitor: It was my first day at the TV station and the photographer and I were headed back to the newsroom. It was hot, so we stopped at a 7-11 to get a soda. He told me it was important that I get a Big Gulp, then explained his reasoning.
Apparently, the Grand Poobah in charge had put out a memo to the men on staff regarding behavior in the bathroom. Specifically, one should try to avoid urinating directly on the blue disinfectant urinal cakes because that made them dissolve faster.
Naturally, this had the opposite effect. I was told that to become a member of the resistance I had to drink the entire Big Gulp, hold it until I was about to bust, then fire away with everything I had at the round blue target in the urinal. Trips to the bathroom were never so much fun.
The Auctioneer: I worked in one newsroom that had, shall we say, a lot of character as far as the furniture was concerned. None of the desks matched, every chair was different. Most of the stuff would be the last things to go at a garage sale. Still, even though it looked like a dump, it was our dump.
One day a memo came out that we were to empty our desks since we would be getting new furniture. Desks and chairs that actually matched would be arriving.
I had mixed feelings about this since I had this incredibly comfortable swivel rocker that was the best office chair I ever had. It was seriously beaten up, complete with duct tape covering a rip on the seat. So I went to the boss. “Hey, since we’re throwing out all the old furniture, mind if I take my chair home? I love that chair.”
I fully expected him to give me the green light. Instead, this was the response: “What’s it worth to you?”
Incredibly, he wanted me to buy a chair that was going to be thrown out. I told him to forget it.
Well, this apparently gave him an idea to hold a silent auction for all the newsroom furniture. A few days later every stick of furniture had a big number on it, along with sheets to place a bid. Naturally, this was met with a lot of eye-rolling, though a few people actually placed bids on the stuff. A photographer (bless their sarcastic hearts) took one of the big number signs off a desk and taped it to a toilet in the bathroom. (No one bid.)
The boss actually put out a memo that the auction had generated more than one hundred dollars. The amount of time wasted on this was off the charts, but he was incredibly proud that he had generated money for the company.
The Bread-and-Water Guy: Most companies give an employee a per diem when traveling to cover meals. In most cases, it’s pretty reasonable. While you can’t go out and order lobster for every dinner, you can have decent meals.
Well, this boss decided the best way to save money on travel was to drop the per diem down to a whopping fifteen bucks. This announcement was met with an aversion to travel, something that had once been a perk. Were we supposed to carry oatmeal and ramen noodles and get hot water from the hotel coffee pot?
The first crew heading out on this new policy was met at the door by the boss. “Don’t forget, fifteen bucks a day for food. And I need documentation.”
The photographer didn’t miss a beat, “Vending machines don’t give receipts.”
Later, a sign appeared on the bulletin board.: “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”
The Woolworths Boss: We gave the guy this nickname since he literally nickel-and-dimed employees. One staffer had gone in for his annual salary review and returned to the newsroom shaking his head.
“What’d you get?” someone asked.
“A nickel! Five cents more an hour! A nickel!”
Apparently, the boss thought it was 1920.
Anyway, we had a rookie reporter who thought he was God’s gift to broadcasting. He was up for his first review and was not going to stand for a skimpy raise, telling everyone he was going to ask for a sizable increase. Our News Director warned him not to do this, as he had no shot and would only make the Station Manager angry.
Alas, when you’re young you rarely listen to advice. So the guy went to the GM’s office for the review and shortly returned to the newsroom, gritting his teeth, fists clenched, looking like a cartoon character with steam coming out of his ears. Most people bit their lips to keep from laughing, but no one asked him what happened.
When he was out of the newsroom the News Director shared the story: “He marched in and told the GM he needed to make ten thousand dollars more. And the GM told him to get a second job.”
If you’re going to be cheap, at least be clever about it.
Randy Tatano is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow, and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.