A specialized and highly complex piece of factory equipment is broken. None of the plant engineers can fix it. Production is down, inventory is piling up, costs are rising.
An expert from afar is recommended. This guy can fix anything, the plant manager is told. The expert is contacted and flown in.
When he arrives, the expert is a bit of a disappointment. He's not well dressed, he barely speaks to them, but instead asks to be taken to the broken machine. He spends the next few minutes looking at it, running his hands over it, peering inside. Then, finally, he asks the plant manager if he can locate a hammer for the expert to use.
Somewhat baffled, the manager calls for a hammer to be brought. The expert takes the hammer, rears back, and hits the sophisticated equipment on its side as hard as he can. Right away, the machine starts up and begins running smoothly. The whole process has taken less than 5 minutes from the time the expert set foot in the plant.
Surprised but relieved, the plant manager shakes the expert's hand. "That was amazing. I can't believe you got it running so quickly! What do we owe you for that?"
The expert calmly says, "my fee is $10,000."
The plant manager can't believe what he's hearing! The guy's barely spent 2 minutes on the job, and he has the nerve to ask for $10,000 for his time.
"Hmmm, that seems like an awful lot to me," says the manager. "All you did was hit the thing with a hammer! It wasn't even your hammer! Can you itemize that charge for me to justify it?"
"Of course," says the expert, with the first hint of a smile he's shown since arriving. "It's very simple:
Hitting the machine with the hammer ... $1 KNOWING where to hit the machine ... $9,999"