The Town of South Attleboro, MA sent out wildly threatening past due letters for folks with balances as low as 1-cent (thereby investing at least 42 cents to get one back). In response to charges that this was stupid, City Collector Debora Marcoccio responded:
A computer automatically printed the letters for any account with a balance remaining, and they were not reviewed by staff before being sent out, Marcoccio said.
"It would be fiscally irresponsible for me to have staff weed through the bills and pull out any below a certain amount," Marcoccio said. " And what would that amount be?"
What, are we living in the 19th century with clerks in a musty room preparing bills by hand? This fix probably requires one whole entire line of program code in the billing system to fix. I could probably teach myself to code whatever language the payroll system is written in (my guess is COBOL, which, god help me, I already know) in less time than this woman has spent fielding complaints and media inquiries. Compare this to what TJIC has to do just to get the mail out.
And don't you love people who don't even have enough spine to make a simple decision about the cutoff for minimum bill size. I have found this is one of those things the government is really, really bad at -- making decisions under uncertainty (which covers about all decisions, except routine ones embodied in SOP). Government has no incentives, in general, for productivity, or production, or customer satisfaction. The only time government employees get feedback at all is when they get negative feedback from having someone yell at them for making a decision that some higher-up didn't like.. So if a decision is not justifiable either by past precedent/SOP or explicitly by the rules, it is not made.
By the way, I had a personal programming milestone last night. I finally built a website without using a WYSIWIG editor that formatted the way I wanted it to all in CSS without a single table. I predict that now that I have finally gotten a decent handle on CSS, which mainly consists of learning all the workarounds for when it doesn't work as you would expect, that someone is about to introduce a whole new system for formatting web pages.