Monday, June 9, 2014

Bad business model

Monday, June 09, 2014

The problem with crooks is that they think you either want a piece of the action or are too stupid to notice as they grab theirs.
Or that the good times will last forever, when the basic business model is flawed.
Crooks are mostly incompetent capitalists, whose aspirations usually last for very short time.
But like the capitalism on the upside, only the most competent and unscrupulous thrive.
I went through so many dishonest bosses at my baking job in Willowbrook Mall in the 1980s that I became a kind of expert at recognizing those who would survive, and those that wouldn’t.
Most don’t because dishonesty depends too much on unknown factors, and the most successful schemes are short term, hit and run, unless you happen to be Madoff, and even his run came to an end.
The first job where I knew my boss was a crook was in 1972, when the head of purchasing at the hospital behind my house in Paterson hired me as a receiving clerk. The hospital was going broke, and was soon to move out of the city entirely. Management probably didn’t know of all the schemes this guy had going, but he was making a final grab for as much as possible before the good times came to an end, and hired me because I had a criminal record and he could pin the whole thing on me if someone caught on.
He had deals with vendors and with the trash people, getting kick backs from suppliers for steering the hospital orders to them, while he also got a kick back from the trash people – and even had a unique arrangement for getting rid of medical waste. The trash people charged higher rate for the medical stuff, but took it away with regular trash, with he and they splitting the difference.
Vendors had a similar arrangement. He ordered name brand items and they shipped non-name brands, and charged for the name brands.
Each time I checked in an order I raised the issue with him, and each time, he told me not to worry about it – but looked at me kind of funny as if he worried I might turn him in.
Although we were both crooks, his kind of crook gave my kind of crook a bad name. I’d spent a childhood stealing things I couldn’t afford to buy, cigarettes, booze, clothing, toys, even books – I took so many paper backs from Meyer Brothers Department Store in Paterson, I could have started my own library. Finally, when I broke into my uncle’s safe and stole mob numbers money (I thought it was my uncle’s cash), I went too far, and eventually turned myself in, doing the court thing and everything, and somehow escaped with only probation.
I was on probation when this guy hired me, a fact a simply background check – which was required of anyone dealing with prescription drug shipments like I was – would have discovered. And since my probation also involved weekly drug tests, I should never have gotten the job.
I loved the work, wandering around from department to department, flirting with pretty nurses I knew were exclusive to the doctors, making friends with janitors and others who were like me, part of the lower class of employee. But I knew I couldn’t stay. Crooks like my boss always schemed, and I didn’t need to get caught up in a scheme that would put me in jail, even by accident.
So one weekend, when I was supposed to work, I went off to a three day rock concert in the Poconos with Hank. He dropped acid. I smoked pot (despite the drug test) and ran into someone from the hospital who told my boss she had seen me there.
“I thought you said your grandmother had died?” he said scolding me as he got ready to fire me.
“I lied,” I said.
The truth was I had used that excuse so many times throughout school that it had become a standard excuse. Fortunately, she didn’t die for another 20 years. But by that time, this job was an old memory, and the hospital long gone out of Paterson.

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