Upon crossing the bridge this afternoon and being confronted with a huge ghost-money fire in front of a spectacularly bad, yet inordinately expensive restaurant there, I realized that there is a massively useful metric for telling whether a given company’s products will suck or not. In retrospect it seems obvious; I’m surprised nobody has thought of it before. Simply put:
The amount of ghost money a company burns is inversely proportional to the quality of its products and services.
There are many reasons why burning ghost money is bad, bad for public health, bad for the environment, bad for safety reasons, etc. But just concentrating on the business aspect, we can see why this particular relationship cannot be denied:
- A business that burns a lot of ghost money is willing to spend money on something of no practical use. This speaks volumes about its budgetary priorities, especially failing businesses or small businesses that really can’t afford to literally burn money. What does it tell you that they would rather spend their limited budget on a mountain of ghost money rather than better equipment or training? Such a company is more likely to engage in slip-shod, half-assed, temporary stop-gap measures to cover up problems rather than making effective changes to resolve issues.
- The business doesn’t care about its employees or its patrons. The decision to force employees as well as customers to inhale the fumes from toxic fires casts serious doubt over any aspirations of the employers to take even the most basic care of their staff and environment. So why should they care about their products or post-sales service? If they’re willing to compromise their sanitary standards in this fashion, allowing ask and other dangerous chemicals in their environment, do you think they will care about other safety and health standards in their workplace?
- The business is not willing to make concrete efforts to improve its situation. If the company is utilizing this method to fix its problems, it’s obviously either not serious about improving or is so incompetent that its products are most likely to be full of problems they didn’t care about fixing or were simply unable to fix. You can tell the entire mindset of a Taiwanese business by how it conducts itself in this fashion.
- The business isn’t really thinking about what it’s doing or its future, merely going along with established norms without thinking about it. If those running the business were truly interested in innovation and breaking the mold, they would have realized that a scam burning ghost money is, and would be spending their precious time and efforts on improving their products and services. Otherwise, they obviously aren’t looking ahead, but are simply going along with current business trends and following others’ leads without taking the initiative. Do you want to invest in a company that is only capable of bowing to peer pressure and slavishly copying others?
- The business is not green, sustainable or in any way interested in protecting the environment. Being “green” and “sustainable” have become catchphrases in Taiwan lately, but you can tell which company is serious about these areas just by looking at the amount of ghost money they burn. Small industry has ruined much of Taiwan’s pristine environment over the course of many decades, and the only ones worth supporting are those that have made real commitment to sustainability and the environment.
Therefore, I propose the formulation of a Ghost Money Index (GMI), where not just the general public but interested investors, would-be customers, employees and patrons can access this information directly. Businesses and other groups would be required to disclose accurate information (which would be directly observable in any case), while investors could see immediately which companies are the most forward-looking, innovative, and thoughtful, while job-seekers could pick out those companies that have their best interests at heart. Environmental Protection Agency personnel would have an easy time telling through such algorithms which companies are inherently likely to commit large-scale acts of environmental damage. Smartphone apps could show travellers which restaurants have better food, which recreational facilities are safer, which parks are cleaner. Schools and universities could use the data to track business trends and improve the general economy. Even real estate forums could establish a database of homes located further away from high-GMI areas for those who value their health and comfort. Resale values of homes and other buildings could be more accurately estimated based on whether or not their surroundings are high-GMI or not. Hospitals in low-GMI areas could even tout the fact in their descriptions.
The best part of the GMI is that the data isn’t buried in confusing statistics and hard-to-understand graphs; though a scientific system of measurement allowing for the precise ratio still needs to be developed, the basic principle is right out there on the street for everyone to see.
Start using the GMI today!