Recap: On his first day at a large pharmaceutical company, where he has been dispatched to the Dandruff Shampoo Division, a newly graduated engineer, meets with the Division President, where he is told that his first assignment would involve, not dandruff shampoo innovation, but dandruff shampoo…packaging.
We now continue.
DANDRUFF SHAMPOO DIVISION PRESIDENT: Did you have a good rest?
NEWLY GRADUATED ENGINEER: I was just sitting here.
PRESIDENT: (POINTING OUT FROM THE SCREEN) I was talking to them.
P: Okay, are you ready to hear what I have planned?
E: Is that me? Or them again?
I’m sorry. It’s hard to tell.
I know. I break the “Fourth Wall” and all bets are off.
It’s kind of confusing.
It’s fun, though. Okay now, yesterday – or, for you, about thirty seconds ago – I relieved you of the concern of spending your days neck deep in shampoo formula, going home smelling like…whatever we make our shampoos smell like these days – it used to be lavender, but it made people sneeze – something “gender neutral”, but I don’t remember what it is. Dandruff is no respecter of sexual differences. It is an equal opportunity flaking scourge.
Are you a sufferer?
My sister is.
Sorry. Although, from the company’s perspective, “Great!” No, there will be no “shampoo work” for you, my boy. You are destined for loftier horizons. Let me start with the “Big Picture.”
Our company is in business to maximize profits. And provide the customer with a first class product. Although if doing so endangers our profits, we are fully prepared to lower our standards. Not a lot. It’s simply a question of priorities. First, profits. Then, the product.
Though a better product might very well increase profits.
Wouldn’t that be nice. Don’t get me wrong. We’re not charlatans. I’ve known charlatans. There was this man I knew once who sold matches. In bulk, not, like, on the street. But, instead of putting the conventional twenty matches in every book he sold, he only put in nineteen. Over the years, that man made millions.
But that’s cheating.
Who the hell counts matches? But you’re right. And we would never do that. If we say our bottles contain four fluid ounces of dandruff shampoo, they contain four fluid ounces of dandruff shampoo. A certain amount of it is bubbles, but that’s the inevitable outcome of the production process.
Would you like me to see if I can do something to cut down on the bubbles?
Maybe later. Right now, we have an urgent need for your inestimable abilities. Lemme tell you what we need.
As you probably know – or maybe you didn’t, but I have to start a sentence with something – our dandruff shampoo is packaged in plastic bottles. People, they’re standing in the shower, they flip up the top, they squeeze the bottle, and out comes the shampoo. You follow so far?
I am right with you.
It wasn’t that complicated.
Okay. What I would like you to put the full weight of your engineering expertise and incipient genius behind is this. I need you…to come up with a plastic dandruff shampoo bottle, designed in such a way that every time you squeeze the bottle, a little more shampoo comes out of it than you actually need. I don’t have to explain why, do I?
So they run out of shampoo faster.
Baldly articulated, but correct. Now, we’ve been experimenting with various thicknesses of plastic. A thin bottle, they squeeze the normal amount, and too much comes out. A thicker bottle, you think, “I’m going to have to squeeze harder”, they squeeze extra hard and too much comes out. They can’t put it back in. It’s already in their hand. They can put it all on their head, rub the “extra” on their leg – that’s not our problem.
Our mission is already accomplished – they are emptying the bottle faster than if a normal amount came out. And by the way, who knows what a “normal amount” actually is? That’s “Individual differences.” Although we’d like the “Macho Squeezers” to go overboard as well. Either way, our objective is the same – too much comes out, they use it up faster, they buy more dandruff shampoo – ca-ching, ca-ching!
More profits for the company.
That’s what “ca-ching, ca-ching” means. I prefer that to spelling it out. The thing is, the thicker-walled bottle is more expensive to produce, because you need more plastic to make it thicker. The thinner bottle is has been prone to leakage; they run out faster but in a bad way. What we need is the “Goldilocks Solution” – a dandruff shampoo bottle that is “just right” – economical, functional, but eminently vulnerable to over-squeezing.
Forgive me, sir. But that feels wrong to me.
It’s not nineteen matches! Remember the ancient admonition – Caveat Squeeze-or. “Let the shampooer beware.” They squeeze too hard, that’s their problem. Okay, maybe that’s insensitive. Let’s call it a “gray area.” Like putting menthol in the shampoo. The menthol makes their scalp tingle. Does it help with their dandruff? No. But they feel like it does.
How is that the same?
They think the menthol helps when it doesn’t. Maybe they’ll think extra shampoo will help too. And who knows, it actually might. More is usually better, isn’t it? It is with money and centerfolds. With brings us to the Bottom Line – menthol, a bigger squeeze glop than they intended – they both increase profits. So what do you say? Are you up for the challenge?
I don’t know, sir…
Nothing wrong with a little self-doubt. It’s a becoming characteristic. What I like best though is self-doubt, and then you do it.
How about this? Also a “Goldilocks Solution”, but with a wrinkle. Say I develop a bottle that is just the right thickness for the customer to squeeze and get precisely the amount of dandruff shampoo they need? People respect our integrity, their dandruff condition improves…it does improve, doesn’t it?
A reliable product, generating a grateful – and therefore subsequently loyal – customer.
And we jack up the price.
THE PRESIDENT MULLS THIS OVER.
I have to admit there is something to your thinking. It’s got kind of an “Honest Abe” quality. Here’s my counter-proposal. You produce a bottle – the tiniest bit extra comes out. The customer barely ripped off at all, we make a reasonable profit, maybe a little more, you win a packaging award – everybody’s happy. What do you say? Are you with me? Or are you going to hold out and get fired on your first day?
I’m your man!
THEY SHAKE ON IT.
Now go! Make me that bottle!
THE ENGINEER EXITS, AFTER, POSSIBLY SALUTING. THE PRESIDENT RETURNS TO HIS DESK, PICKS UP HIS PHONE.
Angelica, get me “Production!”…. “Production?” I have just met with our newest engineering discovery. I have sent him off to develop a new squeeze bottle that is relatively fair to the customer. I agree. It’s the right thing to do, and it makes me feel clean.
Oh, and one more thing. Every bottle of dandruff shampoo? Three point nine fluid ounces!”
HE SLAMS DOWN THE PHONE.
(LOOKING STRAIGHT OUT FROM THE SCREEN) What can I tell you? That match-selling charlatan was my father!