Notes on saving money

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Notes on saving money

Recently someone known to our company, but not under our care, was kidnapped in Southeast Asia. We were called by the family, and it looked for a while as if this editor would be the one to physically handle the exchange of money. Under the best of circumstances being the bag man in a kidnapping is a particularly risky piece of the process, as the point at which someone has to emerge from the shadows to pick up the money is potentially fraught with danger for all parties. It is definitely not one of LUBRINCO’s activities that we tell our mothers about.

The best of circumstances, by the bye, are kidnappings by “professionals” in places where kidnappings are common and the rules are well understood. Thus, for example, this editor’s boss was the bag man in Colombia a while ago. He was picked up in his obligatory armored Chevy Blazer, driven into the mountains through a phalanx of armed men, and then entertained (sort of) while the ransom money was counted several times, dollar by dollar. When it was clear that every dollar was there, he was driven partway back down the mountain, the client was tossed into the car, and they were both allowed to go their way.

As chance would have it, the incident in which I drew the short straw — er, was considered most qualified — was in an area where the rules were less well defined and there was a lot less certainty as to what the bad guys or the police or the military might do. Fortunately, we were spared having to go through this particular exercise, but it reaffirmed our belief that it is preferable to prevent a kidnapping, rather than or recover the kidnapped party (or his body).

This may seem pitifully obvious, but it is not. The reason for this is that kidnapping is relatively rare and that protection costs a lot and is onerous for the parties protected. Think of it this way: Imagine that you have a warehouse a mile from the Charles River in Newton, Mass. In the decade you have owned the warehouse there has never been a flood. Indeed, in the half century that you have lived in the area the river has never flooded. As a matter of fact, there is nobody you have ever met who has ever even heard of the river flooding. How likely would it be that you would have flood insurance, or take active precautions against flooding? The probability, not unreasonably, is somewhere between slim and none, with the probability of there being a flood even less than that. Fortunately, our inventory of The Seven Steps to Personal Safety were stored on high shelves.

It is much the same with kidnapping. Even in really dangerous places hardly anyone is ever kidnapped, and it often appears frivolous to invest in adequate security, especially if you can buy K&R (kidnapping and ransom) insurance for a fraction of the cost of protecting your staff and their families. Or, even more cost effective given the low probability that anything bad would happen, not bothering even with the insurance, on the not-unreasonable assumption that a kidnapping would never happen. Based on the law of averages, this is a fairly safe bet much of the time.

Nonetheless, kidnapping does happen, particularly in certain parts of Latin America and Asia. And even if he is released unharmed, the trauma to the captive is life-changing, and not often for the better. Thus, if your company does business in high-risk areas, we strongly urge you to invest in appropriate site surveys and risk analysis, to implement the appropriate safety measures, and to review these measures regularly to make sure that circumstances have not changed or that the success of the preventative measures have not lulled people into a false sense of security, allowing them to put themselves in danger.

Doing this will help keep your people safe. Not to mention keeping us from having to worry our mothers.

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