Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mind Your BM Business

Ages ago in London, so the story goes pub owners were facing a dilemma.  They sold ale by the pail to their patrons who paid a pittance for the heartily brewed brew but profits seemed paltry.

After a sober investigation it was revealed that the problem lay with their short-handed accounting practices.

You see when they bought or sold the brew they did so in one of two sizes, pints and quarts.  But who had the time to write an entire word on a chalk board when faced with thirsty customers so a pint became ‘p’ and a quart ‘q.’

Well as any dyslexic or observant person will tell you a ‘p’ is basically the mirror image of a ‘q.’

So the pub owners or their workers were inadvertently logging in many ‘p’ quantities as ‘q’ sized or vice versa.

This led to paying out the wrong amount to suppliers who I’m certain never complained if the error was in their favor or charging the wrong amount to patrons who surely self-servingly acted in the same manner.

Continuation of the practice thus threatened the entire establishment with bankruptcy.

Usually stiff upper lip pub owners also known as Publicans looked for ways to ensure their workers would not propagate the mistake.

The entire episode led to the famous phrase, “Mind your Ps and Qs.”

Last week a similar mistake on Wall St. threatened to bankrupt our entire financial system.  It is postulated that a single trader accidentally hit the ‘B’ button on his keyboard rather than the ‘M’ and inadvertently, one hopes sold 15 billions shares of one company instead of 15 million.

The subsequent panic sent sellers to their computers faster than parched sailors to a pub.  The shock wave went through the entire stock trading world and caused this investor to reach for more than a ‘p’ or a ‘q’ of alcoholic nectar.

Investigators will now sift through the evidence of the untimely act to see if it was indeed a mistake or if the ‘BM’ of a trader intended to send stock prices down so as to pick up a few bargains on the dip.

And back in London descendants of the brew and ale companies are smiling once again as they dust off the old phrase and prepare to insert new letters.

You certainly don’t need an MBA to figure the updated version.

Hey Wall St. mind your ‘Bs’ and ‘Ms.’!!

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