When a $21 Difference Made a Difference

         One of my first jobs when I started in the business in 1968 was working on a Wisconsin utility’s stock subscription offer.  My function was to “cure” deficient items and to keep in proof those items held in a pending file. The pending file was used to keep track of items awaiting further information from shareholders.

         Each day at the close of business I would try to balance my pending file, so I’d be sure that on expiration night balancing would be easy.  I was having difficulty balancing one evening – I was off by one share, or $21. My desk was on the platform and the division head had to pass by me on his way out of the office. That night he noticed I was still there and stopped  to ask what the problem was. I explained it to him. Instead of leaving he took off his coat and worked with me until the difference was resolved. It turned out to be just $21, but it could have been a lot more had compensating errors been involved.

         My point is that in 1968 it was considered important to resolve a difference, regardless of how small. As the years passed the emphasis shifted to cost-benefit analysis – consideration of what it would cost to resolve what on its face appeared to be a trivial difference.  While I fully understand the importance of managing costs, my question is: “Have we lost something?’


Barry Shapiro, Manny Hanny alumnus