Neiman Marcus recently used one of their retail catalogs to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You may not have heard the story, so, allow me to paraphrase the rumor.
Story has it that many years ago a father brought his daughter with him for a holiday shopping trip to Neiman Marcus. She wanted a cookie so he asked the clerk how much it was. He was told “250.” He assumed that meant $2.50, but what the Neiman’s employee actually “meant” was “$250.” The father was furious and expressed his discontent to the employee. The employee, in defense, responded, “But you get the recipe with it.” And there you have it; the father paid $250 for a cookie recipe, and said that he would give it to everyone that he knew for free so that he could “get them back.”
Apparently, he did. I must have received this recipe five times over the past eight years with the same story attached. We could poke many holes through this nasty rumor, but many people assumed the story to be a true one. Recently, Neiman’s took an interesting approach to this rumor, and decided to set the “story” straight. First of all, Neiman Marcus didn’t even sell cookies when this rumor started. They used this rumor, however, as a business opportunity. The executive chef actually did create a special cookie recipe, and you can get it for free on their website.
Here at the PICPA, our recipe doesn’t even relate to cookies, but to electronic materials. Like Neiman Marcus, we are the subject of persistent assumptions and rumors surrounding our decision to use e-materials in lieu of paper materials. This decision was not an easy one, by any stretch of the imagination. There were several variables to consider: we were relocating offices, and if we minimized the size of the production room, we could save $1 million of members’ money over the term of the lease, or $100,000 per year in rent; we were killing a lot of trees, literally, with close to 12 million paper copies per year; and, one of our major vendors decided that it was no longer going to print materials for us, or any other state CPA society. We had a tough decision to make, and fortunately a number of other state societies had already been offering e-materials and were willing to share their best practices and experiences.
We decided to move forward and offer e-materials for 100 percent of our courses, knowing full well that some people would not like this decision. We even went to the board for approval of a new budget line item to smooth the transition from paper to e-materials through the give-away of more than 150 e-readers (Kindle Fires and Nook Tablets) at all of our conferences and a number of our seminars. We had been testing e-materials for our conferences, and were ready to make the change across the board for all of our events.
Now here’s where the “confusion” (i.e., assumptions, rumors, etc.) lies: with all of the “savings” from not printing materials, we must be keeping it. Not so fast. All of you have experienced the price hikes in gasoline and oil, and with the increase in food prices and everything else in our lives. Prices go up. Well, we have been able to use the paper savings to the benefit of our members by not increasing course prices. That includes the facilities where we host our CPE. Some have increased costs significantly; one location in particular increased food and beverage costs by 12 percent. This increase was not budgeted for, as it occurred during our fiscal year. Thankfully, we were saving money on paper, rent, and postage on hard-copy materials so we could continue to offer courses at the same prices as we have for the past several years.
There you have it. Just like Neiman’s, we want to dispel the persistent rumors. We review your written comments from the course evaluations and listen to your calls in an effort to keep your PICPA CPE experience as good, or even better, as it ever was. I welcome your comments, for if it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t exist, nor would we be able to make our programs better. For the record, my favorite cookie is, and always will be, the chocolate chip. The Toll House recipe is just fine with me; I don’t need a $250 recipe to put a smile on my face; just a good chocolate chipper to make my day.