Volume 39, Issue 3, March  2004



by Lyle R. Hill

Though we hadn’t talked in months, I knew the identity of the early morning caller even before he had finished growling his first word. Dangerous to some … intimidating to most … and nasty to all, Johnny “The Mooch” Rago is without question the most unusual human being I have ever known.

“So, Mooch, how have you been?” I asked after he had opened the conversation by flinging a couple of insults at me.

“Well, Hill, I’ve got a new job.” 

This statement was not particularly noteworthy. The Mooch averages three to five new jobs a year. In fact, I’m not sure that the Mooch has lasted longer than two months on any job that he has ever held. Wait, let me correct myself here. He actually did hold onto a job as a bus driver for an elementary school for more than six months once … apparently the background check got delayed, but once the report arrived, his career as a school bus driver was permanently put in park. 

“That’s great, Mooch. Tell me all about it.”

“I will, but let me explain, Hill, that this is not a social call.” 

This comment intrigued me … the fact that the Mooch could actually differentiate between social and non-social activities was a bit of a revelation. I didn’t know what to say.

“Hill … are you still there?”

“Yeah, Mooch. I’m here. So why did you call … what do you want?”

“Well, this is a sales call, Hill. I’m calling you because I want to sell something to you.” 

“I’m proud of you, Mooch, I really am. By the way, how long have you had this job?”

“I’m in my third week and it’s really going a whole lot better than I would have ever expected.”

“Congratulations, Mooch. That’s terrific. But listen, we glass business guys are tough to sell. Don’t think of us as an easy mark. Oh no … this is a rough-and-tumble, no-holds-barred, down-and-dirty, take-no-prisoners ...”

“You know, Hill,” the Mooch suddenly blurted out while I was in mid cliché, “the glass-business guys have been my easiest sell. I have had phenomenal success with them.”

“That’s very interesting, Mooch. Tell me more.”

“Hill, I now work for a company called Quilted Southern Softies. We make the finest toilet paper known to man. Our rolls are two-ply, 850 sheets in length and we include free imprinting of your company’s logo … in a standard color of course … for a cost of 10 cents per roll … and delivery is free.”

“Mooch, are you putting me on?”

“No, I’m not. And as I said, the people in your industry have rapidly become my best customers. In fact, many of your competitors right there in greater Chicagoland have placed orders with me.” 


“Yes,” the Mooch continued, “one of your biggest competitors is giving it away to customers as a promotional item. Said they seem to like it better than some of those silly scratch pads you glass guys have been giving away for the last 50 years.”

“All right, Mooch. I’m in. Send me 100 rolls. And do our logo in royal blue.” 

“Great, Hill. You won’t regret this. Now of course, this will be COD. Standard practice when we sell to the glass industry. So get your credit card ready while I tabulate the final cost for you.”

As I pulled the credit card from my pocket I could hear the sound of calculator keys being pounded. Then, after what seemed like several minutes, the Mooch spoke.

“OK, Hill. The total for your order comes to $321.80.”

“What? You told me the rolls were 10 cents each delivered and the logo was free. One hundred rolls should cost me $10.”

“Calm down, little buddy. Let’s go through it together.”

“Go ahead … and don’t call me your little buddy.”

“OK … here we go. First we have to charge you for a box to put the rolls in. I mean we can’t ship them loose. They’d be all over the place. The boxing charge is $75. We also have to charge you a low-volume fee, which is 15 cents per roll. Naturally, you could avoid this charge by placing a high-volume order … 25,000 rolls … if you choose to do so. Then we have the paperwork-reduction fee of 8 cents a roll, a packing and processing fee of 6 cents each roll and a natural resources depletion charge of 7 cents per roll. We also get 4 cents per cardboard inner roll as a deposit, which we refund to you if and when the cardboard inner rolls are returned to us.” 

“Mooch, this is absolutely ridiculous. Are you out of your mind?”

“Please, Hill, we’re talking business here so try not to insult me. Now, back to the summation. We have to now add the one-time screen charge for your logo and then, of course, we have the set-up charge for when we actually run the logo … those two combined come to $240.”

“Wait. You said the logo printing was free!”

“The printing is free, Hill. But you don’t expect us to eat all those set-up charges do you?”

“Are we done yet, Mooch? Because I don’t think I can take anymore.”

“Just two more … my favorites, actually … and one of these is optional. First, I’ll give you the optional one. For just 10 cents more per roll you can contribute to the DUPED fund.

“What in the world is the DUPED fund?”

“It stands for Domestically Underprivileged People Easily Diverted. Contributions to this fund allow us to give these less fortunate people their rolls free. Sometimes, Hill, we need to remember how truly privileged we are and how unprivileged others are.”

“And by giving them free toilet paper with my logo on it they’ll somehow feel better?”

“Yes … yes, they will … and don’t forget, Hill, that your logo, in royal blue, was printed free.”

“I can’t stand it!”

“And last but not least, Hill … we absolutely have to charge you 32 cents per roll as our standard fuel surcharge.

 So, as you can now see, you owe us a total of $321.80.”

“And you’re telling me that a lot of people in the glass business are going for this?”

“Actually, Hill, the only people buying all of this are the people in the glass business.”

“I’m not going to place an order, Mooch. But could you tell me one thing? How do I sign up for the DUPED group? I gotta feeling I might already know some of its members.” 


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