Saturday, January 30, 2010


It’s a good thing my job pays as well as it does, because I’ve noticed that my expenses have gone up. For one thing, I’m doing a lot of dry cleaning, because the dress code standards are higher than any place I’ve ever worked. I could actually wash the clothes myself, but at this point in my life, I can’t see spending all that time ironing.

Another unexpected expense is coffee. My company is a bank with trillions of dollars worth of assets under management, but they buy the world’s crappiest coffee for their employees. It comes in pre-measured packets, one packet to brew one pot of coffee. But the coffee is so horrible, the employees have developed an unspoken agreement to use two packets per pot, in a misguided effort to boost the flavor and caffeine content to acceptable levels. The result is a thick, sludge-like concoction that concentrates all the worst aspects of the flavor, without providing any measurable benefits.

Whenever possible, I stop at a convenience store on the way to work and buy my coffee there. Lots of employees do the same thing. I was asking one guy about it, and he confided to me that he had been thinking of opening a Dunkin Donuts franchise near the office. “I’d make a fortune,” he whispered. A Dunkin Donuts franchise license costs $40,000 to $80,000, and that’s if you qualify. To qualify, you need about $1.5 million dollars in liquid assets - about half will be used to purchase equipment and services, and the remainder is to ensure that you can run the business for awhile before sales take off. My company pays well, but not that well.

Finally, my lunch expenses have gone up a bit, mostly because the nearby restaurants are more upscale than those at my last job. I often bring my lunch to work, but on those days when I don’t, I find that it costs me $8 - $10 for lunch instead of $5 - $7. This doesn’t mean there are no deals available. Yesterday, I went out to lunch at a nearby Applebee's with a group of guys from the office.

Applebee’s offers a peculiar lunch deal. If you sit in the bar area, appetizers are half price. For those of you unfamiliar with Applebee’s, the appetizers are huge, the size of a full meal. I think the idea is that a group of diners will order one appetizer, and everyone in the group will share while they wait for their meal order. Our strategy was that each of us would order appetizers as our meal items. The logical part of my brain said, “Lunch will cost half as much.” So I ordered an appetizer, and sure enough, my lunch bill was $4.50.

But my lunch companions used a different logic. Their brains said, “Since appetizers are half price, I can order two.” The table was barely able to hold the platters, groaning under the weight of all the food. When we left, they complained about how full and sleepy they were, and how hard it was going to be for them to stay awake for the rest of the day. No one even considered having a cup of coffee.

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