Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Things that are free have no value

When something is free, it has no value and people treat it as such. When I worked at a great hospital in Boston, we used to offer free printing to everyone in our small division -- 1000 people were generating printing costs of $100,000 per year.

So we put a program in place so that when people sent a job to the printer, they had to go to the printer to release the job with their username/password (this was also important for HIPPA reasons -- can't leave patient records on the printer tray). This allowed us to see how much people were printing.

After one year we had some pretty good stats on how much everyone printed, so we told people that we were going to start charging $0.01 per page for back and white prints and $0.07 for color. We also gave everyone an "allowance" of $50 a year, and we displayed their balance on the screen when they released their print jobs.

Out printing dropped by 75%.    It wasn't that anyone was deprived -- no one ended up having to pay us for more printing -- but because we assigned a value to something that was previously free -- people treated it like a precious resource.

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