I don’t fly on the airlines any more but when I did I always tried to avoid talking with my fellow sufferers. I tried to do something more constructive, like biting my fingernails, searching the skies for birds or other airplanes, and praying we landed safely. But in this case I couldn’t help but wonder what job the man next to me had that would require so many electronic devices. “What do you do for a living?” I asked.
“I’m an offshore broker,” he said.
“You launder money!” I said in disbelief, surprised that anyone would admit it.
“No. I arrange for businesses to contract with foreign firms for services.”
“I’ve read about people like you. You make people lose their jobs in this country.”
“We prefer to say that we make our clients aware of the many and varied opportunities offshore and then help them make the strategic decision to outsource.”
“Thank goodness you can’t offshore my job.”
“Oh, what is it that you do?”
“I’m a humor columnist, or at least I like to think I am,” I said, as I shared a copy of one of my books with him.
He read a passage or two, obviously not very impressed and replied, “There are some wonderful opportunities in India now to outsource writing.”
“I don’t think it would work. You see, I write a lot about cows and I understand that the good folks in India have a different opinion about cattle than we do.”
“Yes, I can see where that might be a problem. They aren’t really into eating cows. But India is passe anyway. For outsourcing, China is the new India. I am able to find even cheaper labor in China now than anywhere else on earth. Many of the laborers in China that I contract to American companies are paid less than $2 per day.”
“That much huh?” I replied. “That’s more than I make. Maybe I should consider offshoring myself to China.”
“There are many other benefits to offshoring,” said my fellow traveler. “Overseas workers don’t receive extra benefits like pensions and insurance.”
“It seems we have a lot in common,” I said sadly. “What other advantages would there be if I were to offshore the writing of my column?”
“It will reduce the costs associated with staff turnover. Do you have staffing issues?”
“No, not really. But then I don’t have a staff either.”
“Well, then you should consider offshoring simply for the risk benefits. For example, what if you die? The column and revenue stream would die with you, whereas if your column was written by a team of writers in China your heirs could keep cashing checks and your column could go on without anyone knowing that you are dead.”
“Yes, I’m sure my wife could see the many advantages in that scenario. But how would I communicate with my ghost writers in China.”
“Oh, that’s not a problem. We have call centers to answer your phone calls.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen how well those work.”
“Then perhaps communicating with your writers via e-mail would be best.”
“But what about the possibility of other writers stealing my column out in cyberspace?”
“My dear new friend, I don’t mean to be rude and I’ve only read a little of your work but I really must say that I just don’t see any danger of that happening?”
“That’s probably true,” I admitted. “But still, I think I would be concerned about losing something in the translation. What about grammar, punctuation and maintaining the quality of my present work?”
“Yes, I see your point and the transition might be disruptive, but I really don’t think your readers would object to the vast improvement in quality.”
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