Friday, March 6, 2009

The Carpet Racket

It'd be interesting to know whatever happened to Sam. He took that job at the carpet store and shortly after that we lost contact with each other. He had me come over that one time, trying to get me to work there too. But all I had to do was look around once to know that such a life wasn't for me. When I see a seedy looking guy in the office, looking out the door, and nothing but pieces and rolls of carpet stacked around, I'm out of there.

I'm sure this was a dishonest racket, and I'd rather keep my life clean, free of these kinds of entanglements. Maybe the owner looks seedy because he's in it for something on the side. One guy and Sam together in the store. Sam was just an innocent kid. The guy showed up in town from nowhere, supposedly there to sell carpet, but where'd he come from? What was the real story? What'd he have to hide?

You need to establish a reputation to do an honest business in one of these small towns. And you don't get a good reputation by just showing up, especially with a fly by night racket. Then trying to bring every fresh-faced kid in on your scheme and acting suspicious. My instincts have always been pretty much right on when looking at people and knowing they're up to no good. There's more going on in that office than meets the eye. Sam fell for it, but I never would.

Now, we know carpet stores are like an extensive pyramid scheme. Stores in other towns are on the lookout for vacant buildings in other towns. They split their inventory and even if they have to spread it super thin, they're willing to put up a sign, stack up a few rolls, and call it a store. It takes about 10 minutes to talk a desperate landlord into giving you a month's lease and another 10 minutes to get a local kid in there as your go-between with the public. Now you're sitting in your office, looking out at the kid's friends -- hoping they're as clueless as he -- so you can snare them as well, either for your own store or the store you hope to split off to tomorrow. Once you've got them in the door, a little fast talking does the trick. And certainly once you've got them in the car on the road to another town, they're trapped.

Sam and I grew apart. I never thought he was happy with that job but he either couldn't come back or his pride kept him from it. Or maybe they "disappeared" him. The evidence is long gone by now. It's one of the many forgotten cold cases. Poor kid, they dangled "something better" in front of his face, and like a fool he went for it. He should have held back, but the fact of the matter is he didn't. That store literally wasn't there for three days and they were angling for him.

I've never forgotten and I never will, what it was like seeing Sam stand there, the sad sight. He was waiting for people to come in and buy carpet, waiting for a commission. He had the best of intentions. And all the time that other guy was sitting back there in his office, looking out. Like a crook.

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