Dumbest thing your employer has done to cut costs.

Large public service organisation. Sacked casual workers from just before Christmas to just after Christmas so they didn’t have to pay workers Christmas bonuses. Sounds weird, but it was a wrinkle in the rules that allowed this, and the beancounters seized on it. MOrale plummeted, and the reputational damage was immense.

On a grander scale, my state government some years ago declared a Financial Panic when newly elected to underscore their claims about the profligacy of the previous government. Deciding that there were too many public servants, the new government sacked 10s of thousands and didn’t allow departments to hire. The new government thought they were on an electoral winner, because who likes public servants?

A complete failure of understanding of macro-economics was apparent. Tens of thousands of unemployed and unproductive people put a further hole in the state’s accounts, making things worse. They stopped buying stuff, spreading the pain to shopkeepers and tradies in the community. And all of those sacked people were voters. They liked public servants. Massive electoral backlash from the sackees saw the new government bounced after a term.

In a cafe; the place wasn’t doing well (new competitor opened close, with a bigger, better location and similar menu) and the owner started trying to save every possible penny. It reached the point that he was only allowing the person scrubbing pans a tub of water with a little washing up liquid in it, then hiding the normal bottle, because we were ‘going through it too fast’.

It was 49p a bottle and it was lasting about a week. We found more cash on the floor during clean up most days.

When I first went to work in Japan, I was employed by a small documentation company that did everything from layout to translation to printing.

The owner’s wife did the admin stuff and refused to buy big paper clips because they were “expensive.”

Every damn time I needed to keep more than 20 sheets together it was a major endeavor.

Had a boss that decided that we were using too much printer paper. Working in a 9-1-1 center, our printer was connected to Local, State and Federal systems that would generate automatic print outs for various things. One example was severe weather, when it was moving into our area, the National Weather Service would send out severe weather statements and then update them as conditions changed. One strong thunderstorm could generate 50 or so pages before it moved out of our area. Our center averaged one or two reams per 24 hour day. A lot of it was wasted paper, but it wasn’t us doing it. We bought multiple cases of paper at a time.
The boss had a theory that we were using too much paper because we were taking the reams out of the case and stacking them on shelves. This would allow us to get roughly three cases on a shelf. If we left it in the case, we could only fit two cases on the shelf. We were ordered to not take the paper out of the cases, which meant we could only buy about half as much paper at a time and store it. We bought the same amount of paper in a year, just ordered it twice as often. The boss was convinced we were saving money.

I presume they figured there was a cost-savings measure in here somewhere.

The airbase where I worked (this was a while ago) ran Windows 3.1 base-wide off servers. When the servers went down (which wasn’t infrequent), you couldn’t boot up your computer, and so you had offices full of people twiddling their thumbs until things got fixed.

I’ve seen this at more than one Computer Science department or university computer center.

The administration gasps at the salary needed to hire a competent sysadmin, network person or whatever. They have a “We are not paying that much just for a staff member.”

So what do they do instead? Hire 3, 4, … whatever it takes poor quality folk to do the job that one well paid person could not just do, but do really well.

Pointing out that the total salary for the poor sysadmins was higher than the salary for one good one just got stupid stares.

Framing the kitchen walls in a new custom home … I built it by the blueprints but my boss came by and said that was wrong, do it this way … pull all the nails, re-use the wood … owner comes by and tells me his son is wrong, re-build it by the prints … more nails pulled … boss says his dad doesn’t understand the cabinet-maker wants things this way … more pulled nails … owner says can’t pass inspection this way, go by the prints … more nails … boss says he’s an engineer, changed the prints and stamped them … more nails … ad nauseam

The other lead carpenter came by to visit and was scandalized to see a keg and a half (75 pounds) of bent nails in a layer on the kitchen floor … the customer hated my boss’ ideas and sued the owner out of business …

I lasted another month there, they figured out I could finish concrete but refused to do so … not for carpenter wages …

For field trips out of the office, we used to get reimbursed up to a flat rate of say $10 for lunches. Then someone in management got the bright idea that we might be making a buck or two out of the deal. Now we have to submit actual receipts for meals eaten on these trips and if we spent say only $8.47 that’s all we would get back. So to save that $1.53, we have to go through the bother of saving the receipts and then there are managerial/accounting procedures to make sure that receipts were attached and that the meal totals add up. If we’re paying someone say $25/hour to do this, if it takes more than 4 minutes of their time to process it we’re losing money. But management gets the pleasure of letting us know how little they trust us.

My employer went through a long phase where they seemed determined to let employees know that we weren’t shit, and the company was willing to spend some money to make this clear.

I worked in a huge cubicle farm, with standard-sized cubicles and the ubiquitous desks, shelves, and cabinets that fit inside them. The company decided to downsize our cubes to about 2/3 their original size. Supposedly this was done to create desperately needed space for additional employees.

Employees reacted negatively. The construction was enormously disruptive, and the results were nearly unlivable. The cubes were claustrophobia-inducing, and the furniture no longer fit, so you had to give some up, and what remained had to be awkwardly rearranged. There was no longer room for the things we needed in order to do our jobs.

The project did create a bunch of extra cubes, but they were never used. About three years later, everyone was moved to a different site.

Oh yeah, in response to our griping, we were forced to sign legal documents stating that we understood the business need for the decision and we were in agreement with it.

I work for a, um, large government agency center. They recently came up with an idea to save on utility costs: they will close most of the buildings every other Friday, and force everyone to telework or work flexible hours (e.g. 10 hours x 4 on those weeks).

I worked for a small family-run business. At the advice of his bookkeeper, the owner let go the three employees with the highest salaries… including me. It never occurred to him that there were reasons why he had paid us more than the others. Within a few weeks he was out of business.

I ran a diesel truck repair shop for a major leasing company. Our monthly expenses for labor and parts was about $300,000. Every time I would get a new branch manager in they decided they were going to streamline costs by monitoring the shop rags closer. Our shop rags ran about $400.00 a month and if you managed the hell out of them you might get it down to $300.00 per month.

Another one cost us a fortune as well as dropping our position in national ratings. We were instructed to put all shop foreman back on the floor as mechanics and let the shop clerks take in the trucks from the customers and start the repair orders. As shop foreman for over 20 years I always felt taking in the trucks and writing the orders was the most important part of my job. In over 50% of the cases I could fix them right on the spot and send them on their way. If I couldn’t fix them I could almost always diagnose the problem and order parts and also assess who should be assigned the repair. This one change drove up our costs by over 25% and when it was pointed out the simple answer was " Shop foreman need to pull their own weight" From that point on I started planning my retirement and lost interest.

I work as an IT administrator for a $3 billion (with a B!) a year site that serves the entire U.S. and international markets for critical medical devices. I used to have Deskside Support that fixed routine computer related issues for over 200 skilled employees but they took that away slowly and then fired the only support person we had for no reason. I was told by my boss just to let it fail because some bean counter looked at a spreadsheet the wrong way. The firing saved maybe $100,000 a year even though we do about $1,000,000 dollars AN HOUR in business and computer failures shut down entire production lines.

I am also literally the only person in the world that knows how to do my job and I get 5 weeks of vacation. When I am out, things inevitably go straight to hell because they don’t want to pay for a backup.

Things exactly like this used to fucking send me up a wall. Penny wise dollar stupid.

In the 1980s, I supervised a dispatch center that operated 24/7. It was far from paperless and the three-person shifts had quite a bit of paperwork to complete, including a central log sheet. The owner of the company put out a decree that each operator would be given a pen and that he/she must mark it with his/her name. No other pens would be issued until an operator returned his/her EMPTY pen. Up to that point, I had been making sure that the pen holder had half-a-dozen pens each morning, and our total value of “lost” pens was probably $4.00 a week. We definitely used up more employee time scrambling for pens or borrowing them than we saved. And this doesn’t count the attitude hit we took. (I just ignored the order and kept stocking the pens when he wasn’t looking.)

In the 1990s, I worked for a company that decided they didn’t need a receptionist/admin. Instead, incoming calls rang at ALL employee phones. Every time the phone rang, every employee would have to stop what they were doing and go for the phone. Our work was disrupted every ten minutes or so, and sometimes much more frequently. Tasks ended up taking two or three times as long. Of course, if I went for the phone and somebody else beat me to it, the call would then have to be transferred to me, so we all usually waited another 30 seconds or so before going back to work. We could have hired an intern or a work-release inmate or something, but the boss kept it up for over a year.

Old employer used to do [del]Christmas[/del] Holiday party on a Thursday night. This saved cost on facility rental. However, bonuses were paid, by check (only, no direct deposit for bonuses) on Friday.

This means all of these hungover people dragged themselves in. The receptionist basically put a small medicine cabinet on the shelf in front of her desk - aspirin, Pepto, etc. so she wasn’t constantly being interrupted. Then there was [del]gossip[/del] talk of the night before - who wore what wild/low cut/high cut/inappropriate (dresses for the women; guys were in suits). Who got crazy drunk; who went wild on the dance floor, & more importantly, what went on at the various afterparties, upstairs in the hotel rooms that people rented (on their own).

Any cost savings from Thurs night rental was more than offset by lost productivity on Friday. Had they had the party on Friday, people would have slept off their hangovers on their own time on Sat & been able to get a lot of the gossip out over the weekend, meaning we’d be back to being productive on Monday.

You just reminded of an employer back in the 70s who always cut corners on the ‘gifts’ he was giving employees. Took us out for a celebration lunch after a huge development effort then picked just two low cost items from the menu that we could order. This was following a promised bonus if we managed to finish up 3-4 months work ahead of us in just 3-4 weeks. Nobody worked any harder, we probably couldn’t work any harder than we were anyway, and the day after the bonus deadline arrived he went out and bought himself a new car.

We close every other Friday, working 9 hours M-Th. I’d hate having 10 hour days.

I have a similar story on the storage end. The company was going through a BAD period and so “no capital improvements” - but our SANs were full. The CIO gave them an option - buy more storage or archive some of the old data. Well, they needed the old data for reporting and audit. I was in IT and the CIO sat and told us in a company meeting “so its going to crash and then we are going to have to buy more storage and loose business, but I want you to know this isn’t YOUR problem and you won’t be taking the blame or putting in weekends to fix it.” Which got back to the CFO, and the money for storage was released.


The two huge property and casualty insurers (“home & auto insurance” to you muggles) that employ my wife and me have discovered that the companies are hemorrhaging money, and that by far the greatest expense generator is the claims department. Which makes sense because that’s where the company, you know, pays claims from as it’s sole reason for existing. They’ve also remembered the single biggest expenditure for a business is typically payroll. So the wizards connected some dots and…slashed staffing in the claims department. By like 80%. Not a typo, in my wife’s last department 5 people remained after the axe chopped 20–no new positions somewhere else, those 5 people got slammed with work. And because they can’t keep up, they get shitty performance reviews. One manager stood up to plead the case and he disappeared. Nobody heard from him for 3 months, and then one day his office was empty. So step 1: “Do more with less”, extreme version.

It gets better. See, when you present a claim to get your car unwracked or your house unburned down, the insurance company has to respond within a reasonable period of time. If the people responsible for responding don’t (which they can’t because they’re each doing the work of 5 people), then you get to file a bad faith lawsuit against your insurance company wherein you get what you initially asked for, plus about one gob of additional bucks as punitive damages. So, step 2: "Pay the value of a claim, add about 2 annual salaries to that payment, watch your reputation tank.

Step 3: of course, is take those giant executive bonuses you’ve been giving yourself for your cost-cutting brilliance and sail off into the sunset while the employees become unemployed when the company becomes insolvent. This is just a couple years from now.

Best news: I got recruited by a local plaintiff firm that is making bank waging war on my former employer. My wife is welcome to come aboard whenever she gets tired of smoothing things over with her employees and customers. Life is good.