I don’t think I will ever understand how Jarret’s brain works- I swear he’s got this internal indexing system that allows him to precisely catalog everything he reads (which is a lot) and generate appropriate reponses and articles on the spot. (I am hoping that this will come in handy for literature reviews at some point. Jarret, consider yourself warned.) For example, following are the links I got after the most recent “Dilbert On Incentives” post. I love that the stories, in addition to being absurd, pretty accurately characterize the current state of the economy.
The first article that was sent my way is a New Yorker piece from November 2008 that talks about how high end promotional and deal gift companies are suffering due to the recession. In other words, some organization called Icon Recognition is sad that it can’t get companies to pay $300 each for lucite blocks with dinosaur heads inside. (I kid you not. That is an actual example in the article.) Some other items mentioned in the piece:
— a faux emerald-and-ruby crown to celebrate a deal for Merrill Lynch
— a gold-plated replica of the Mandalay Bay Hotel commissioned by Merrill Lynch (I am noting a bit of a disturbing pattern here)
— a Lucite banana split commemorating Sun Capital Partners’ acquisition of Friendly’s
— a little (functional) banjo commemorating a deal that Merrill did for G.E. called Project Bluegrass (I was right about the disturbing pattern*)
— a miniature statue of the god Apollo commissioned to celebrate a private-equity deal for Apollo Capital (Apollo was bare-chested, and his foot was planted on the torso of a writhing grizzly bear, which he seemed about to shoot in the face with a tiny bow and arrow. Obviously.)
This all reminds me of an economic paper by Joel Waldfogel entitled “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas.” The general idea is that gift-giving is often inefficient because the gift receiver doesn’t always value the gift as much as it cost to buy it. I don’t know about you, but I doubt I would ever shell out $300 of my own cash to get a dinosaur head trapped in translucent plastic. Well, maybe if it was a real dinosaur head. And if it was in Jell-O instead of lucite. (Interestingly, the article does briefly mention an example of Goldman requiring employees to pay for their own deal toys. I wonder how many actually did that.)
While we’re on the whole “paying for your own sh…er, stuff” subject, let me introduce you to the second article. This one was from Sunday’s NYT, and it, well…just read the important part for yourself:
“When Ian Schafer, the chief executive of the digital ad agency Deep Focus, won 10 Communicator Awards for the agency’s work on Web sites, including one for HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords,” he was delighted.
He was less thrilled when he received a note from the awards: If he wanted the actual trophies, he would have to spend $1,590.”
Yeahhhhh…for the record, I made good use of the “Contact Us” feature on the Dilbert web site- apparently there is a section for submitting strip ideas. This one’s just too good to go to waste.
* My favorite part of the article is the quote “Icon Recognition is already coming up with a pitch to commemorate Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill.” I have a very good friend who is working on the BoA/Merrill transition…and given that the job makes him feel a little dead inside, I have to reason that a deal gift referred to as a “tombstone” is particularly appropos. I think he is still waiting for his to arrive.