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I guess I’m not unlike most people, in that I’m a sucker for a “good deal”.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s not an obsession.  I won’t drive across town to save a few cents on a pack of hot dogs or anything like that.  Having a rudimentary understanding of what they put in hot dogs, I won’t even quibble over the extra price you pay for kosher dogs v. the ones made of lard and floor sweepings.

But, occasionally I’ll find myself confronted with an opportunity to save a bit on an item I consider “less risky”.  Case in point – dental floss.  If you price check you local drug store, you will find that they sell name brand dental floss as well as their own “store brand” of same.  The wording on the packages is almost identical.  It’s “tape” or “floss”, “waxed” or “unwaxed”, “mint”, “fruit flavored” or “plain”…you get the point.  It’s so easy to reduce the buying decision to one thing – how many denari does it cost to buy this dental floss vs. that one over there.

A few weeks ago I found myself in just such a dilemma.  Doing some mental “professional auditor” mathematical calculations, I realized that I could buy a two-pack of the nondescript store brand for the price of just one of the name brand products.  Well, I thought, Colgate can go hang.  I’m taking the deal so off I went, feeling fairly self-satisfied that I had made a wise and virtuous purchase.

Dental floss, if you want to get technical, comes down to three basic components: 1)  The floss or tape  2)  The packaging and 3)  The little metal piece that cuts the floss into desirable lengths.  From my experience, as you move from component 1 to 3, the difference between store brand and name brand dental floss begins to emerge.

The floss is pretty comparable.  You might find the store brand a bit more delicate, requiring you to toss a broken piece and replace it with a new length.  But, all in all, there’s not much difference.  When you come to the packaging, the similarities begin to diverge.  I can’t overstate how frustrating it is to give the store brand floss a tug, only to have it bind up, the lid pop off and the remainder of the spool roll under the commode.

But the almost insignificant thing that separates the two products, is the little metal cutter.  I opened my new purchase and pulled out a length of floss and tried to cut it…no go.  I pulled harder thinking it was a matter of pressure however the floss just slid by the cutter, leaving a thin film of wax buildup ensuring that the next and every subsequent attempt to use the blade would be less and less effective.  Finally, standing there with 9 feet of floss on the floor, I began digging through a drawer looking for a pair of scissors.

By now you’re probably thinking – get to the point.  Alright, here it is:  “A product isn’t a good value at any price if it doesn’t do its intended job.”

In my more than 30 years in business, I’ve run into countless audit managers who base their buying decision for audits on one thing – PRICE!  Their entire process is based on who can save them a nickel.  A friend, the former president of a large, national audit firm, used to say “I’ll do audits for $2 an hour if you promise to never complain about how many hours I charge.”  There you have it.  Audits, like most service products, come down to price, speed and quality.  All companies have to pay their auditors.  All of us have overhead.  The math requires a certain amount of money to properly perform the task.

What are you getting for your audit budget?  Are you wasting resources, in spite of your best efforts to be a good steward of your employer’s money?  It’s worth consideration, I think.  We all love a great deal.  Sometimes it’s just difficult to know what we’re getting in the bargain for a cheaper product.

~ Myles

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