NORTHWEST AIRLINES
Carlos Osorio  /  AP file
Soon-to-be-grounded Northwest Airlines workers can now spend their free time saving the environment by recycling trash.
By Brian Tracey Business Editor
msnbc.com
COMMENTARY

Here's a sure sign your company's morale may be in a tailspin: Bankrupt Northwest Airlines advised workers to fish in the trash for things they like or take their dates for a walk in the woods in a move to help workers facing the ax to save money.

The No. 5 U.S. carrier, which has slashed most employees’ pay and is looking to cut jobs as it prepares to exit bankruptcy, put the tips in a booklet handed out to about 50 workers and posted for a time on its employee Web site.

The section, entitled “101 ways to save money,” does not feature in new versions of the booklet or the Web site.

Northwest spokesman Roman Blahoski said some employees who received the handbook had taken issue with a couple of the items. “We agree that some of these suggestions and tips ... were a bit insensitive,” Blahoski told Reuters.

The four-page booklet, “Preparing for a Financial Setback” contained suggestions such as shopping in thrift stores, taking ”a date for a walk along the beach or in the woods” and not being “shy about pulling something you like out of the trash.”

The booklet was part of a 150-page packet to ground workers, such as baggage handlers, whose jobs will likely be cut after their union agreed to allow the airline to outsource some of their work, Blahoski said.

Prepared with the help of an outside company, the booklet encourages employees to manage their money better and prepare for financial emergencies.

Like perhaps having an emergency medical fund if you get tetanus from rummaging through your neighbors' trash cans.

Not-so-bad ideas

  • Workwear apparel maker Dickies has redesigned its jeans to tug less, shift more and improve comfort.

Just don't say the pants defend against the unsightly blue-collar phenomenon known as plumber's crack.

The new design does seem to curtail rear exposure, but Fort Worth-based Williamson-Dickie Mfg. Co. isn't promoting that aspect. In fact, after a newspaper first made the suggestion, Dickies spokesman Jon Ragsdale insisted the designers never had that in mind.

"(The pants) will stay more on the high-hip area," said Constance Russo, who led the new design at Dickies. "So when he moves in the jean, the jean will stay in place."

Dickies says the new design will be incorporated into its line of pants by the spring. Ragsdale called it the most significant change for the manufacturer's denim line in almost 20 years.

Dickies' new cut wasn't spurred by the nation's collectively growing waistline, but the new fit does respond to "more of the way men are shaped now," Russo said.

There's also a more "natural tilt" to the jean, featuring a lower front and higher incline in the back.

But that's about as far as Dickies wants to go in discussing the backside of the pants. There will be no cute or subtle plumber references when Dickies begins marketing the jeans next year, Ragsdale said.

But Ragsdale didn't rule out putting the new jeans on Big Tex, the stiff five-story cowboy who sports a giant pair of Dickies while greeting visitors to the State Fair of Texas every fall.

"It might be time for a change," Ragsdale said.

Of course, Big Tex never bends over.

  • Forget the frame: A Dutch architect has created a levitating bed.

According to the Ananova Web portal, the floating bed designed by Janjaap Ruijssenaar costs $1.54 million. The hovering home furnishing uses magnets built into the floor and the bottom of the bed. Thin steel cables keep the bed from flying off its force field.

Ruijssenaars, who said he has been working for six years on the project, admitted there are still a few problems. "It's lacking a bit of comfort."

He also advised that people with body piercings should not get between the bed and the floor because their piercings could be affected by the magnets.

Late-night laptop surfing is also probably not a good idea.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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