Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Sign of the Times

It's no secret that the economy is in rough shape these days.  Unemployment is high, Obama's approval rating is low, and people are trying to find ways to save money any way they can.  And it's no different for businesses.  A few weeks ago, as I waited at a metered on-ramp on the drive to work one morning,  I saw a stark reminder of just how bad things have gotten:

I don't have the first clue how the Gustave A. Larson Company makes its money, but I do know that they haven't been making much of it lately.  When a successful business decides to roll out a new logo, it hires an army of high-priced graphic designers and consultants to craft a trendy image that conveys the company's core values and cutting edge vision.  A healthy company does not reach for a black Sharpie and an 8.5'' by 11'' sheet of white paper.

And I would've thought that something a little more official was in order for the U.S. Department of Transportation number on the sign, but there it is, hand-written in bold marker right there next to the Gustave's sorry excuse for a logo.  This creative, cost-efficient signage got me thinking....

Does Gustave's bold experiment mean that I can create my own license plate tabs?  All these years, I've been paying the Department of Motor Vehicles an exorbitant amount of money just to get a pair of those fancy new colorful stickers to add to the corner of my license plates. I have a Sharpie; I have masking tape--I think I'll save fifty bucks a year and do it myself.  And when that dreaded day comes that I need brand new plates, a half-sheet of white paper and the same old Sharpie will save me both time and money--not to mention the mental anguish of waiting in line at the DMV.

It's easy to see how quickly things snowball out of control when the economy starts to struggle.  Business at Gustave A. Larson Co. starts to slow down...and just like that, the graphic designers and consultants find themselves with a little more free time than they'd like.  As Gustave looks to slash costs even further, the state of Minnesota's stream of vehicle registration revenue slows to a trickle.  And every time an observant driver such as myself pulls up next to one of Gustave's trucks and starts thinking, the fine inmates at Minnesota's correctional facilities quickly find themselves out of work, replaced by a motivated crowd of do-it-yourself, home license plate makers.

With a challenging economic environment, expect this trend to sweep the nation in no time at all.  Look out, Obama--the snowball has started rolling downhill...but at least the folks at Sharpie will be living the high life as the rest of the economy crumbles.

Fun fact: A Google search revealed the exciting truth about Gustave A. Larson Company: the company operates in the exotic world of heating, air conditioning, and ventilation and has been making its own license plates since 1936!

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