Sunday, October 7, 2018

a man of means by no means

In the late 1990s, I worked for a local chain of floor covering stores in the Philadelphia area. Among other things, my primary responsibilities were to produce full-page newspaper ads and full-color, multi-page circulars for insertion into the Sunday newspapers, My boss was the owner of the company. He was a soft-spoken, pleasant guy who, due to some extremely wise investments, had  accumulated more money than you or I would ever see in a zillion lifetimes. He founded, and later sold, several well-known retail chains in the Philadelphia market. He was also partners in another business with some of his family members

Did I say he was pleasant? Actually, he was pretty ruthless.

Like most folks in his income bracket, he believed that once you achieved that level of wealth, the rules of society no longer applied. I witnessed him go the wrong way down a one-way street. I saw him park in spaces clearly marked "No Parking." I was present when he negotiated an annual advertising contract with the Philadelphia Inquirer that he had absolutely no intention of fulfilling. He just wanted the rock-bottom price and he got it. As head of advertising for the company, I saw, as the end of the year approached, that we would fall short of our advertising commitment. My boss just smiled and waved me off, explaining that he would just renegotiate the contract in the new year, with no regard for late fees or penalties for non-fulfillment of the contract.

He forged and fabricated documents that were submitted to suppliers for advertising reimbursement. He lied to customers and suppliers about stock, delivery dates and installation schedules. He made up a wild promise to get a local news station to produce a commercial for his stores for no charge.

And, every once in a while, he would stop me from working on an ad that had to hit a deadline, to run out and get him a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

After three years in his employ, I was contacted by a former boss who offered me a position at her current employer. The job paid more money and was thirty minutes closer to my home. I didn't waste a second on my decision to leave my job. I hung up the phone, marched into the office of my boss at the floor-covering company and tendered my two-week notice. He didn't bat an eye. He actually smiled — the smile of a comic-book villain. "Can you give me the weekend to make a counter offer?," he asked with a tone that implied no one ever turned down his offers.

"Sure," I replied, "I can wait until Monday."

So, Monday rolled around and I already made my decision, but I was anxious to entertain his counteroffer. He arrived at the office a few hours after I did. I was busy packing up my personal belongings from my work area, as I knew I would be leaving in two weeks. Once he got settled, I was invited into his office. I came in, taking a seat opposite his large, dark wood desk. He leaned back in his dark brown leather chair and began.

First off, he offered me a considerable raise — an amount of which I had previously asked, but was denied. He wasn't close to finished. Next, he offered airfare for me and my immediate family to Orlando, Florida once a year. He was well aware of my family's affinity for Walt Disney World. Lastly, he offered to pay for my Phillies season tickets. At the time, my wife and I were rabid baseball fans and were the (proud?) owners of three Sunday games seats at the new home of the Philadelphia Phillies Citizens Bank Park. After presenting the final piece of his generous counteroffer, he leaned back in his chair and waited for me to say "Okay."

I did not.

Instead, I felt I had to struggle to keep myself from busting out in loud laughter. Who the fuck did this guy think he was?

I imagined the future of these offers. I would have to beg for the salary increase. This guy wasn't giving up money that easily. I would have to beg for the plane tickets. He wasn't about to buy airplane tickets for a trip he wasn't going on. I would have to beg for the Phillies tickets. I imagined him giving my tickets to his family members or business associates, in order to secure a better deal on product. Oh yeah, I wasn't going to get any of his promises. See, he had forgotten that, for three years I watched him fuck over everyone in his path. I declined his offer and two weeks later, I was working in my new job.

Five years ago, I read that this guy passed away, My wife asked if I planned on attending his funeral. I had no plans in doing such a thing. Mrs. Pincus reminded me of my relationship with him. He had attended my son's bar mitzvah on an obligatory invitation and his wife was a teacher at my son's elementary school. But, I reminded my wife of the callous and heartless boss he was and how he treated his employees on a day-to-day basis. 

I didn't take his counteroffer. I didn't attend his funeral and I didn't have to get him coffee. 

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