Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Great Scratch Pad Caper

Of all the stories that came out of StarText, the one that never fails to make me smile is the one about scratch pads.

To say StarText was a "low budget" operation could be the understatement of all time.

As proof of that, I offer up something I affectionately refer to as "The Scratch Pad Caper."

It started when StarText Editor Christine Russell asked if the staff could get some scratch pads to have at their workstations.

Typically that would have been handled by our in-house "Job Shop," which took care of internal printing orders. While jobs were done at cost, they still were charged to the department who submitted it. While normally scratch pads didn't merit a strict review and approval process, at the time StarTert was struggling to become profitable, so everything got close scrutiny.

When I spoke to my boss Joe about it, he mulled it over and offered up an alternative.

There really wasn't a need to buy our own scratch pads, Joe reasoned. Since virtually every other department had their own, why not just "borrow" a few of theirs when we were meeting with them?

Made sense to me. Besides, whatever suited Joe just tickled me to death.

So I passed that word back to Christine who in turn passed it on to her staff.

For all the past and present Star-Telegram executives and managers, you now know why you saw StarText memos and notes bearing "From the Desk of .... (fill in the blank)" circulating around the building.

But I have to admit Christine did Joe one better on the scratch pads. She came up with her own solution.

One day Christine popped her head in my office and said she was on the hunt for scrap printer paper. Sure, glad to help.

It turned out she had been gathering up printer paper from all over the building and arranging it oh-so-carefully in a very neat stack on a table. She then applied a thick layer of glue to one side. After it dried, she took it to the paper cutter and sliced it up into ... what else ... scratch pads.

Not necessarily part of her job description, but I had to marvel at her problem-solving skills!

And yes, StarText did become the only locally-run online service run by the newspaper to achieve profitability in the Eighties.

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