Service of Smart Cost Cuts

October 13th, 2009

Categories: Accommodation, Cost Cuts, Customer Service, Media, Newspapers

Daily we read about and observe smart cost-cutting measures by people and businesses to help ride out the worst economic downturn in recent memory.

Some survival tactics like The New York Times selling one of its jewels–classic music radio station WQXR–are necessary. And the survival part is nerve-wracking. If cutting below the quick can happen to the newspaper of record, is anyone immune? What’s next? Scary.

I get the QXR move, but wonder what to think about the Times not paying to subscribe to other papers and magazines for its Metro desk-telling the staff to buy its own subscriptions. The memo, that appeared in The New York Observer,  offers the option to read the competition on line through the paper’s research department. Is wasting staff time a false economy?

Shopping in the back of your closet, creative gift-giving ideas and learning to cook and eating wonderful, imaginative meals at home all make sense.

In this context, closing down Gourmet Magazine doesn’t jibe, except the savings to Conde Nast are obvious. I read in the New York Post on Friday, October 9, that the editor-in-chief was paid $1 million a year and will get $5 million in severance–a chunk of change in any economy. I have talented, dedicated, brilliant editor friends who’d be happy to work for half that amount–perhaps less! I wonder if the staff was given the option of accepting lower salaries to save the magazine, but who can compete with $5 million?

For brands staying in business some cost cuts backfire. A favorite radio station is selling hour blocks of time, formerly devoted to creative programming, to alternative medicine or real estate sponsors who conduct humdrum, self-serving advertorials. In the short run, they generate income for the station as the sponsors pay for the time. My bet is that most of the audience turns the dial to another station or off. I do. I also worry about the talent: Will they be able to make ends meet on salaries based on shortened schedules?

A business that thinks it can get away with using inexpensive, insufficiently trained foreign labor in its customer service department or a maze of numbers to punch on the phone with a range of options, none of which fit your reason for calling, is making a mistake. You may be stuck with that brand for now, but you will never again buy it nor will your friends who will tire of your drawn-out horror story and never forget the brand’s name.

Have you come across business cutbacks that you predict will flop in the long run or intelligent ones that you admire?

5 Responses to “Service of Smart Cost Cuts”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    In an economic downturn wrought in large part by overspending, directed by and towards over-inflated egos, totally dedicated to self-gratification and the near elimination of service as concept or activity, it is hard not to read to the the plight of Conde Nast and its beleaguered staff as an episode of a sit-com or satire.

    Additionally the outsourcing, the use of inappropriate voice mail and insufficiently comprehensible live foreign staff as well as outstandingly rude and poorly prepared live domestic staff won’t save any one anything. The combination of wasted time and effort, and resultant dissatisfaction all just serve to perpetuate our downward spiral.

    We might rethink our expenditures on training and the inequities of our salaries within again given organization. Many of us thought that there would be some soul-searching or creative thinking about these matters since last fall.

    As for the buy- your-own-books policy of the news media, it sounds too absurd to be credible.

  2. EAM Said:

    The sale of QXR has created drama in my parents’ household as the signal is not as strong. My Mom had to buy another radio so that they could get the new station.

    In terms of cutting corners, I have been using coupons for many stores including books, drug stores, and restaurants. During the week, many restaurants are offering 20% off their weekday menus to retain patronage. I have also been renting DVDs from the library. And, in general, I’ve been asking myself “is this a need or a want?” If it’s usually a want, I let myself wait for it until it goes on sale.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Thank you Martha and EAM.

    Martha, can you imagine working with fewer colleagues and the minute-to-minute deadlines now required by Twitter and online news and on top of it, having to scramble to get the information you had at your fingertips for years?

    Funny you mention the new QXR signal, EAM. My family is having the WORST time hearing it. I listen through my computer at work and the signal is clear. I have a junky little portable radio, and it, too, gets the new signal. Our fancier radio gets a horrendous, fuzzy, crackly mess. My sister, who lives in Westchester, has the same crummy result and wrote to complain. Let’s hope it’s just the pains of a new system. Your other suggstions are tops.

  4. Simon Carr Said:


    A couple of comments:

    As to the WQXR signal: If you take a look at the numbers in the deal that The New York Times made to sell the station, it got roughly $25,000,000 for trading 96.3FM for 105.7FM. If anyone cared enough about hearing decent music, they would have raised $25,000,000 to buy 96.3FM. No one did.

    Remember when Issac Stern saved Carnegie Hall? He raised far more than $25,000,000. Time change. Stern would have no luck doing that today! Besides, Carngie Hall now pesents mostly “cross cultural” and “popular” music. It goes back to that old saw: “No good deed goes unrewarded.”

    As to cost cutting: I’m seeing my doctor on a routine matter covered by insurance. He wants to give me a new test that he thinks is worth doing. Thanks to my watching C-Span avidly–Senate committee meetings are far better entertainment than network fare–before I agree to the test, I want him to find out whether my insurance will pay for it. If it won’t, no test. Consequently, the goverment will save money because I will die sooner. Talk about rationing!

    See you on the other side,


  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I think that the old saw is: “No good deed goes unpunished.”

    As for cost-cuts, let’s hope that you do not become one of the cuts!

    I think that your family would scrape together the cost of the tests if the doctor wants you to have them. Speak about false economies…. I hope you ask them.

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