While making a deposit at the bank the other day and realizing I didn’t have a pen in my pocket, I thought about stealing the pen on the deposit counter. This kind of little theft happens all the time, and we all do it. It’s like doing 51 in a 45 mph zone — we don’t really consider it wrong. So I thought, how much do banks spend in a year in replacing all the pens that all of us miscreants blithely walk away with? Is it more than banks lose to robberies?
Because banks don’t publish their annual pen budget, I have to run this backwards and see where the two amounts meet. I’ve done the research, so let’s do some math. Here are my results.
- Number of bank branches in US (2010): 98,515. [Source]
- Cost of a single pen (current): approx. $0.25 [Source]
- Lost amount of cash and travelers checks, minus the amount recovered in the US (2010): $34,823,034 [Source]
So what I’m really asking here is: ($0.25 cost of a pen) x (?? number of pens) = $34,823,034 amount stolen.
So, we would need to steal 139,292,136 pens a year to equal the amount that banks lose to robberies. Divide that number by the number of bank branches and the minimum number of days a bank is open every year (365 — weekends and bank holidays = 250) and you get an easily digestible answer. If every bank branch in America loses 5.7 pens per day to theft, then banks spend more on pens than they lose from robberies.
Ta-da! To answer these kinds of questions I was inspired by the book Freakonomics, which I only recently read. Asking novel questions is fun. Thankfully, the internet has made these kinds of knowledge journeys much easier. Imagine trying to do this 15 years ago…