It Begins with One Black Olive


It is most enlightening to learn that the president of an airline managed to save his company $70,000 a year simply by eliminating one of the two black olives served with in-flight salads. There are those who would contend that eliminating the entire salad could be the difference between profit and loss for the airline and, besides, the salad -- with or without black olives -- was barely palatable.

In these days of troubled economy, any cost-cutting measure is welcomed.

With that in mind, let me ask about parsley. There are few dishes served in restaurants or airplanes that do not contain a sprig of parsley. Most of the time it is for decoration; rarely do I see diners gulping down their parsley.

Parsley is put on top of a filet mignon, on one- or two-black-olive salads, on fruit salads and on just about any other food dish. I often have marveled at the marketing success of the parsley industry. But just think of the savings generated by eliminating the obligatory sprig of parsley and just using it when parsley is required for a dish, as in . . . what?

There is a downside to all this, of course. Take the black-olive people. With the airline buying just half the number of black olives it used to purchase, there obviously are going to be layoffs at the black-olive factory. There is where economics becomes as muddled as computer program help manuals.

If we cut back to only the most essential of items, then we are going to see half the country laid off and the unemployment ranks swell to greater percentages than the budget deficit. But it is the role of chief executive officers, with the possible exception of the President of the United States, to cut out all unnecessary expenditures and damn the unemployment ranks.

With that in mind, here are other ways to save money:

When was the last time you brought in Chinese take-out and found fewer than two packages of soy sauce in the bag, even though you didn't ask for them or use them? Let's cut back on soy sauce; ask for it or you don't get. How often have you gone to the fast-food restaurant and had your order supplemented with multiple miniature packs of salt and pepper, whether or not you wish them?

Waiters and waitresses are being trained not to bring water unless you ask for it. Why not do the same with those little servings of cream for the coffee which, like soy sauce, seemingly always are delivered in twos -- whether or not you take cream in your coffee.

I never have understood the relationship between lamb and mint jelly. It is rare that I order any lamb dish at a restaurant where I don't get a dollop of mint jelly with it. I don't use mint jelly, and from what I can tell by peeking at other tables, neither do most of us.

If you think a $4,863 screw driver for the Air Force is excessive, then what about all the money wasted by superfluous mint jelly on thousands of plates every day?

If the guy down at the bakery cut just one roll from his traditional baker's dozen, we'd have 12 rolls, which is all we wanted in the first place.

The executive who cut costs by eliminating one black olive may have started something. Now I would like to talk with him about all those unread pages on airplane tickets detailing the conditions of the Warsaw Convention.

Howard Kleinberg is a columnist for Cox News Service.

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