There was a large company, with many complex machines. Bob, the senior engineer, retired. They gave him a retirement party and allowed him to purchase a gold watch. (Companies used to give a gold watch at retirement, but they don’t any longer.)

Six months after Bob retired, one of the old machines broke. None of the new engineers could fix it. They all said, “Only Bob can fix this generation of machine.”

So they called Bob. Bob said, “I don’t want to work any longer.” They said, “We really need this machine. We’ll pay whatever it takes.” Bob said, “$10,000.” They said, “OK.”

So Bob came in to work. He looked at the machine for a while. He listened to it making noise. He took out a role of masking tape and marked an X with it. He said, “Smack it right there with a hammer and it will work.”

So they smacked it and… the machine started working again! Bob said. “I want my $10,000.” Leadership said, “You can’t expect us to pay $10,000 just for putting some tape on a machine. You have to send an itemized invoice.”

A week later, they received an itemized invoice:

  • Placed tape on machine: $1
  • Knowing where to put the tape: $9,999