I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy. This was originally posted August 22, 2006.
You’ve probably heard this by now, but to help the employees that it just took a 40% pay cut from, Northwest Airlines sent its employees tips on saving money.
Now on the surface, providing their workers ways to save money seems like a wonderful thing to do. One might also think that the airline is looking after its people. It’s when you go beneath the surface that Northwest’s tactics start to look a little odd. I’m sure the company never intended its tip sheets, part of a much larger book on dealing with pay reduction created by a separate vendor, to end up on the Wondernet (as I now call it because it provides wonderful stories such as this).
But the fact is the tip sheet did end up online and now I get to share it with you. Some of the tips provided to Northwest’s employees are: air-drying clothes, taking in renters, changing your own oil, asking family and friends for hand-me-downs and replacing kitty litter with shredded newspaper (which I actually thought was better for cats anyway, but that’s certainly not the point here). However, the tip that received the most attention basically urges employees to take what they want out of the trash. That of course is better known as dumpster diving.
I don’t know what it’s like in your neck of the woods, but the pickings are pretty slim in dumpsters here in Southern California. Oh sure you might occasionally find a new pair of high heels that fit perfectly with your flight attendant dress or a brand new plasma TV, but that’s certainly the exception, not the rule.
Fortunately the originally planned tip sheet did not get leaked. Some of the suggested tips in it were:
Sell your lawnmower and save gas by borrowing a herd of grazing animals to trim your lawn
Give yourself a hair cut with scissors and a large bowl (it worked for the Beatles)
Forget the expensive meal for your anniversary, dress up in your best hand me downs and sit by candlelight behind the expensive restaurant waiting for scraps
Eat smaller main meals, collect food giveaways from other national airlines that have not filed for bankruptcy, and use them to supplement the meals
Things are bad enough when your company files for Chapter 11 and you have to take huge cuts in pay from your employees. It’s even worse when you feel you need to give them tips on saving money because you can’t pay them enough. But seriously, I want to meet the folks sitting in the think tank somewhere that thought a good, dignified money saving solution was dumpster diving. I’m pretty confident that I know how most of Northwest’s employees will respond to the tip sheet. In the words of the famous David Spade/Helen Hunt Saturday Night Live flight attendant sketch: Buh Bye Now…I said--- Buh---Bye---Now.