The opinions stated in this column are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.
The famed English author Samuel Johnson said, “There is nothing too little for so little a creature as man.” In honor of him, I present “little” conversations with total strangers on my trip last week to two Midwestern cities.
“My daughter has named her children somewhat dated names,” says a women on the airplane. “One is named Victoria, you know, like the lake. And she named her second child Galilee. Can you imagine?”
“Interesting,” I said. “What will she name a third child? Atlantic?”
“You’re from Utah?” says a man at my hotel in Cincinnati. “I don’t know much about Utah, but I always think of...”
I assume he is going to mention either Mormons or the Olympics or possibly the Jazz. I was wrong.
“I think – and I don’t know why it is – that Utahns either swindle their friends or tend to get swindled so often. Is there something in the DNA that makes them ripe to get ripped off with get-rich-quick schemes?”
I don’t know how he is aware of such frauds, but I tell him the most common reason is association fraud through trusted church or family members. When I return home I open the newspaper to read of a Davis County man indicted for an alleged non-existent Nigerian oil investment scam (with one investor giving the guy $600,000) and a Utah County man arrested on charges of taking $618,000 from two high school bands through an alleged bogus travel agency.
Again, I think of the man’s question. “Is it something in their DNA?”
A well-dressed man in St. Louis is finishing up a $70 steak at a fancy restaurant. He tells me he is a local who lives in a million-dollar condominium complex in the downtown area.
“I started off as a bus driver,” he said, “but I knew I wanted more. So one day I went to the city and plunked down some money to lease a place on the sidewalk outside Busch Stadium so I could sell peanuts and bottled water to fans attending the Cardinal games. I still do that; I have about nine different locations for the baseball and football stadiums; and my prices are cheaper than inside the stadiums.
“But the real money now is through my on-line business. People are crazy – they’ll buy almost anything on the internet. For instance, I had several hundred ugly Seattle Seahawk beanies. I bought them for $1 and tried to sell them for $4 a few years ago. No one was interested. Then the Seahawks win the Super Bowl this year, and I’m darn near sold out of the ugly things for $50 each. The key to success today is holding on to stuff because at some point everything will be valuable to somebody on-line.”
“I work at City Creek,” says a young twenty-something woman sitting next to me on the airplane as I return to Utah. “I have a great district manager. Just to show thanks for our sales increases, he invited all the managers and flew us into his hometown in Texas for a celebration barbecue. He paid all of our expenses, took us out on the town, and just let us know how much he appreciated all of us.”
“I bet that cost him a chunk of change,” I said.
“But you know, it will probably come back to him in the long run. If a boss treats me like that, I’m going to bust my butt for him.”
That’s a lesson that should be included in the economics textbooks.