If there’s one set of figures that gets less skeptical scrutiny than law enforcement’s estimate of the “street value” of seized drugs, it’s “lost productivity” claims. How do you figure lost productivity? Well, it depends, I’d imagine. If I break my ankle and I’m out for five days, on reduced duty for five more and hobbling for another month, I suppose you’d add my salary for the days I was off, take a percentage of the next five and go mfffmmfmf over the month spent hobbling and whatever that added up to, that’s my lost productivity.
Where it gets dicier is when you try to extrapolate from the known to the estimated. Which brings us to today’s Page One story in the Detroit News, about that hardy perennial, the NCAA tournament pool. Paragraph five:
Here�s the math: Employers nationwide lose about $101 million in productivity for every 10 minutes their employees spend obsessing about the tournament, according to New York outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
OK? This is just me here? But this is crap. That’s not to say the tournament doesn’t take people’s minds off work, but “$101 million.” Verrrry interesting. Why not an even hundred mil? Why not 99? Or 102? Or 105? By this measure, the premiere of “The Sopranos” is a veritable millstone on the American economy, and Janet Jackson, when we’re done striping her boob with the lash of our outrage, should be charged with high financial crimes against all those who employ others — for their lost productivity, of course, when they spent all those minutes around the water cooler talking about it.
You ask me, the most important part of that sentence, to the poeple at the New York outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, is the phrase, “according to the New York outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.”
Just a thought.