Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Of all John Thain's pricey indulgences, none has gotten more press than than the $35,000 commode he bought for his Merrill Lynch office. I am pretty sure the reason is that word commode. Half of America is picturing a $35,000 toilet, and the other half knows it's furniture but can't help picturing a toilet. This isn't the first time someone's gotten in trouble this way. In the 1980s, the U.S. Navy took flak for paying $600 for so-called toilet seats. The Navy was refurbishing old fighter planes (to save taxpayer money) and had to pay that to refabricate some fiberglas pieces, long out of production, that reduced vibration in the toilets. The $600 parts weren't toilet seats, but some governmental document called them that. Someone else found out, and soon the $600 toilet seats were being given a "Golden Fleece Award" as outrageous government waste. There's something about expensive toilets. The populist impulse can't resist it.
Moral: If you're going to spend a lot of someone's else's money, don't spend it on anything that sounds like it could be a toilet.