Cold Cuts For Hard Times
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Hello! This communication lays out new guidelines for the spending of money while on Company time. Please look them over. Keep in mind that they are just suggested procedures to help us keep spending in line, for the benefit of all. Each individual's needs and requirements are different, we know that, so please report any breach that you spot in these voluntary guidelines to the Controller's office immediately.

Travel: Except for Entertainment, with which it is usually paired, Travel is the single biggest expense in the budget. Control in this area will make it less necessary for us to get medieval on you later. Therefore, all trips, be they short or long, must be cleared by the Company, specifically by Barry Barber in the Controller's office. A word about Barry. He's been selected because he doesn't care about you or what you need to get your job done. All he cares about is cost. Later, when this downturn is over, we're going to fire him. Until then, your butt is his.

Booking: All trips must be booked through Zippy Travel, a division of the company dedicated to providing the very finest in service as long as it's cheap. Book through, or the touch-tone system that is most convenient between the hours of 3 A.M. and 6 A.M. when fewer people are there to load it up with stupid demands. Register any complaints with your Human Resources representative, who will take care of you right away.

Status: All first-class passengers will now fly business class. All business-class passengers will now fly coach. All coach passengers will now fly in the little compartment where they keep the oxygen tanks and extra blankets.

Travel clubs: If you are a member of the Ambassador, Bosun, Trailblazer, Mugwump, Windjammer, Hottentot, or other prestigious airline club, you may continue to enjoy the big stinky chairs, tiny corn muffins, and free water provided in their comfortable spaces. You may also pay for those memberships yourself.

Limos: If you have to ask yourself whether it's okay for you to take one, it probably isn't. For those who wish to risk an audit of their expense accounts, however, here is the policy: If you can walk, walk. If you are in a city with a trolley, take it. If it's after dark and very cold, and there is a specific threat of a terrorist attack on your chosen form of public transportation, you may consider taking a car service. Check our Website for a list of approved car services, which have been selected with the following criteria in mind: (a) None will answer their phone within 20 minutes; (b) None will appear until it is too late; (c) All drivers will be frightening.

Meals: All business food expense is hereby capped at 20% of what it will cost you in the real world. The rest must come out of your pocket. No breakfasts will be approved that include bacon, and any employing cutlery (except small teaspoons) are forbidden. Luncheons will be capped at $12.50 a person in New York and Los Angeles and $5 elsewhere. Dinners will be limited to $15.50 in major cities with populations over six million, and $4.50 everywhere else in the world, except in China, Eastern Europe, South America, and portions of Indiana, where you can get a complete meal for under $1. Doggie bags must be presented to a dog approved by Barry Barber in the Controller's office.

Please note that expense caps on meals are not transferable and may not be stockpiled. Just because you do not spend your $12.50 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday doesn't mean you can spend $60 on Friday. And don't try to buy each other drinks, either! We know that's what you've been up to! Stop it!

Hotels: Cost of hotel rooms is limited to $49 a night, or no more than 50% of their actual price. Those who heretofore have rated a suite will now be booked into a double. All king-sized beds will now be downgraded to queens, except in the borough of Queens, where pull-out cots will now be the rule. Things no longer covered during your hotel stay include:

--Room service. --Anything from the minibar. --In-room movies. --Phone calls from the room. --Closet space that could be used by another executive to sleep standing up.

Gifts: The Company recognizes that sometimes in the course of business it becomes necessary to give clients objects for the purpose of securing good will/revenue. Cleverness and creativity, however, often mitigate the need to spend inordinate amounts on such keepsakes. In short, it's the thought that counts. One of the best presents the Company ever got was a little ring from the inside of a box of Cracker Jack, for instance. The Company loved that little ring and wore it for years before it was lost somewhere around here. Anyone who finds such a ring is hereby required to bring it immediately to Arnold G. Traum, Director of Financial Communications.

Offices and office decor: Some of us have nothing but a stinking cubicle! So if you have an actual office, thank your lucky stars and stay there. Do not move. If you move, the Company cannot promise that a new space will be found for you.

Personnel issues: No temps. That's that. Exploit existing support staff, although they may not under any circumstances be paid overtime. No overtime. No consultants, either, come to think of it. Who needs them anyhow? They're paid good money that could go to people who work in cubicles and haven't had a raise in more than 20 months! What's up with that? No new hires at all, in fact, and no pay raises for anybody until people who haven't gotten any for a really long time get theirs.

Meetings: No boondoggles, where pampered executive types with all that flexible plastic go to some lush location and stuff their faces and play golf all day while the rest of us stay at home feeling like second-class citizens. No food at internal business meetings, not even fruit. A lot of people have to pay for a banana if they want one, but you guys go around noshing out of huge baskets of free swag all the time. Well, that's over! Over! And you can forget about flying off to all those stupid conventions in Vegas too! You can join the rest of the human race and put your nose to the grindstone and start generating value for the Company instead of spending it on yourselves!

That's it for now. Your Company is sure that if these simple rules are followed, we'll survive this temporary reversal in our economy with everybody, not just the little people, suffering for the good of us all.

Oh, and turn off your lights when you leave a room, for God's sake! What do you think we are--made of money?

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He can be reached at