IBJOpinion

MARCUS: Dirty toilets signal mismanagement

Morton Marcus
October 9, 2010
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Morton Marcus

Nothing clears my mind like a brief visit to my professional pill-pusher. Dr. Kenneth Kopay charges only $3.50 per minute for his couch sessions, which means he makes $210 per hour. At 30 billable hours per week, his gross earnings for a 40-week year are $252,000. Out of this, he has to pay rent for the office, wages and benefits for his staff, and subscriptions to numerous high-end magazines.

“Doc,” I say, “seems to me you are netting less than a quarter-million bucks a year, which definitely makes you un-rich. Don’t you think you are doing a disservice to your med-school colleagues by pulling down their average return on education?”

The good doctor says, “Listen, I get a haircut every week. My barber gets $15 from me each visit. That’s his fee plus tip. If he cuts four heads an hour, for 46 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, he’ll gross $138,000. He’s got rent and reading expenses just as I do, so he’s also un-rich.”

“What’s the point?” I ask.

“What do you think is the point?” he replies with that practiced professional cadence.

“I think you don’t want to talk about your income,” I say. “However, I want to discuss it because I’m concerned about you, barbers and other service-providers who cannot readily increase the productivity of their jobs. All they can do is increase their prices to keep up with inflation.

“Yes,” I continue, “you could work more hours or give fewer minutes to each client, as could the barber. But that might reduce the quality of your work and the demand for your services. There’s not much you can do by incorporating more technology into your practice. Sure, a massaging couch might help you just as computer-guided scissors could aid the barber.”

Suddenly, Dr. Kopay turns on the 54-inch TV screen and asks me to identify an “ink blot” that looks like a foggy photo of Saturn.

“That’s a business going out of business,” I reply promptly.

“Interesting,” he says. “Tell me more about why this business is going out of business.”

“Dirty toilets,” I answer.

“Truly?” he says.

“Dirty toilets,” I repeat. “They signal to customers and employees that management does not care about them as people. Most people take toilets seriously. A dirty toilet is an affront to people who care about themselves, their families and their fellow citizens. Management can always blame the users of the toilets for persistent filth and disarray, but ultimately it’s management’s responsibility.”

“At what age did you become a discerning toilet critic?” Dr. Kopay asks.

“Just after I figured out how the unemployment rate is calculated,” I respond.

He laughs. I laugh. We have good laughs at these sessions.

“Do you have special affinity for toilet attendants?” he inquires.

“Not more than I do for anyone who performs an important social function for which s/he is poorly paid and given little respect,” I reply. “Yet technology can raise the productivity and wages of toilet cleaners.

“However, facility managers don’t have the money to reward productive waste workers. Higher management often does not see the value of clean toilets beyond the executive suite.”

“Is this fixation,” he asks delicately, “on toilet matters something that troubles you? Do you hear commodes running through the night?”

“No,” I say. “It’s just that the important things are ignored, taken for granted, assigned low priority because we believe that, in our times, the basic problems have been solved. It’s not true. Dirty toilets are no different from the disasters waiting to happen to pipelines, computers, sewers, streets, bridges. They are the clear signs of a society that, through ignorance, has stopped caring about itself.” 

“Our time is up,” Kenny says.

“It may very well be,” I respond.•

__________

Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU’s Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mmarcus@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?

ADVERTISEMENT