Lost Benefits: a parable of sorts

Lost Benefits: a parable of sorts

Jan 09
Lost Benefits:  a parable of sorts

There were many perks to working at the Willowwares Company, but the one most important to this story was discounted soft drinks.  The company purchased cases of soft drinks and put them in the refrigerator of the break room.  A small bowl was left on the counter next to the refrigerator.  The expectation was that everyone would give a quarter for each beverage they consumed.

This benefit was probably one of Chris’s favorites.  He loved Coca Cola and would have a few cans a day, each costing less than he could get them anywhere else.

Sam also enjoyed this benefit.  After work, when nobody was around, Sam would take as many cans as he could carry out to his car in one trip.  He would drop twenty-five cents for each can into the bowl.  He would take the cans home and put them in his refrigerator where he shared them with his friends and family.

Sherry also took advantage of this benefit.  Whenever Sherry took a beverage from the break room, she refused to pay for it.  While she was always discrete about it, it didn’t bother her because she was underpaid and felt like the least her employer could do was give her free beverages.

Alice wanted to take part in this benefit, but practically every time she went to the refrigerator there weren’t any of the beverages she liked.  After many weeks of this, Alice complained to the Human Resources manager.

The manager began an investigation.  The investigation uncovered that not only was the company purchasing more and more soft drinks each month to keep up with “demand” but the amount of money being recovered was far less than it should have been.  It was decided and announced to the company that soft drinks would no longer be purchased by the company.  Furthermore, the company was instituting a wellness program to encourage employees to make healthier food and drink choices.

Alice was satisfied by this decision.  She wasn’t benefitting from the discounted beverages so the policy change didn’t impact her.  If anything, it made her feel like things were more “equal.”

Sherry was furious.  She saw this as yet another way the company was robbing her of what she deserved.  Shortly after the announcement was made, Sherry began interviewing with other companies.

Sam started bringing soft drinks to work and selling them for fifty cents each.

Chris was sad.  He knew that the company said it was a growing cost that couldn’t be justified, but he didn’t understand what was making it so expensive.  His habits hadn’t changed and he always paid what was asked.  For the most part he stopped drinking Coke, but every once in a while he’d buy one from Sam (until Sam announced that he didn’t have any more).

Each person felt perfectly justified in their behavior and attitudes.  None of them felt like they were hurting anyone and none of them felt like they were to blame when the benefit went away.  Over time, as more and more benefits were lost, the employees blamed the “greedy” company.


  1. Tina Inmon

    This is a very true statement of what goes on in a business. Employees blaming the company for taking away their benefits. Someone did something good and others took advantage. Who loses in the end… BOTH do.. Thank you for writing this maybe it will wake up those Sam’s and Sherry’s.

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Tina. The same idea applies to more than just businesses, whether it’s government, relationships, food, insurance, etc. Any place where we can try to “maximize” our personal benefit

  2. Todd

    See: Tragedy of the commons…aka…where’d my buffalo go?

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