A story has gone viral this week about a restaurant in Denver, Colorado that charged a customer .38 cents for asking a stupid question. The patron posted a copy of his bill from Tom’s Diner online, which reads, “1 Side Mashed Potatoes $2.99, 1 Chick Tenders Basket $9.00, 1 Stupid Question $0.38.” The restaurant points out that “Stupid questions” are listed and openly priced on the menu, under the “Sides” section.

Toms Diner receipt

I have no idea if the gratuity one leaves is supposed to consider the amount charged for the stupid question or not. I also have no idea what stupid question the customer asked that earned him the charge on his bill. I would call the restaurant and inquire, but I’d probably have to pony up $0.38. 

This is a brilliant idea. Especially since I am in the workers’ compensation industry. And even more so because I run a website that many people around the country mistake as the governing authority of all thing workers’ comp. Answering stupid questions is directly in our wheelhouse. I think I’ve just figured out my retirement plan.

Stupid questions could make me a very wealthy man. 

I am not sure that $0.38 is really an acceptable price. We might have to introduce a “sliding scale of ignorance” in order to establish proper fees for this service. For instance, the angry woman who emailed us asking when we would be paying the settlement to her ex-husband so he could pay his past due child support; she might only need to pay $0.50 for that stupid question. However, a guy who emails us his birthdate, social security number and claim number from 1969 and asks us how much his last benefit check in 1982 was will have to pony up $4.00. The young woman who called and asked how she could collect money from workers’ compensation, only to discover that she is supposed to be injured first, would probably need to pay more like $5.00. 

And the state Department of Labor employee who emailed us to ask who in her department handled workers’ compensation notifications? $25.00.

There is also the opportunity to double dip in this scheme. If you think some of the questions we receive are stupid, you should hear some of our answers. If the questions are worth cold hard cash, then our answers should also require their fair share of payola. 

Some of the questions can be internally created, and may have nothing to do with workers’ comp. I once had an associate, when he heard of new processes we were going to adopt in the maintenance of one of our products, ask, “Shouldn’t we hire someone to do that?” I assured him I already had. I was looking at him. If this new pricing model had been deployed, between the question and answer we probably could’ve raked in $20.00. 

It was once believed that there is no such thing as a stupid question. That was before the workers’ compensation industry was created. Since that time there has been ample opportunity to prove that initial tenet to be wrong. The fact that we must deal with them has always just been part of our professional life. But now, thanks to a brilliant idea from Tom’s Diner in Denver, Colorado, they could be our unexpected path to fame and fortune. 

I may have to call Tom’s after all just to ask them how they did it. It would be $0.38 well spent.

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