Looks like the 15 minute rule for elderly/housebound publishers has flunked. It was said somewhere on the forum that an increase of 1-2% had been achieved in attendance using this unorthodox method.
I "reported" that, based on what a DO said at an elders' school three years ago when the 15-minute provision was announced. It was based on a "pilot program" in another country.
If that held true for the U.S., then last year's 0% increase was actually a 2% decrease if the publishers were counted in the same manner as three years ago (comparing apples to apples).
Second point: a few people have questioned whether secretaries make up the numbers. Well, I can assure you they do. Estimating field service time is a secretary's best tool when faced with a reporting deadline and procrastinating publishers. The "I gave you 10 hours because that's what you had last month and you can adjust it next month" statement above is a real-life example. I did it when I was secretary (actually, I would take a three-month average and record THAT number). This was especially prevalent in the month before the CO would arrive because elders all knew that when the CO went over the publisher record cards and the congo's accumulated time, the records had better be up to date. If 15 publishers had not turned in their time and had not returned your phone call, and it was already 9 o'clock at night and the report had to be mailed in the morning, well... a reasonable estimate fills out a card, completes a report and makes a deadline. And that's what it's all about.
All this makes me think of a story told by prize-winning journalist David Halberstram, who was a reporter covering Vietnam in the early days of the war. A few years later, after he returned to New York, there was a news story circulating that the U.S. Army was censoring American journalists in Vietnam. Halberstram was asked if he was ever censored by the Army back in the early days of the war. He said, "No, I was never censored. Of course, I pretty much knew what to write."
The JW numbers game is just like that. Nobody really "fudges" the numbers. In fact, much lip service is paid to the accuracy of these numbers and to the casual observer, the dubs are fastidious about getting these numbers right. But down in the trenches, where the numbers are being recorded, you pretty much know what to write.