Friday, March 23, 2018

Installment 2.4

“The first thing I want you to do is to search through the city paper’s engagement announcements.  I want you to find every bride named “Patel” who is being wed in the next three months.”

“Then I want you to refine that list.  I want you to find me the three “Patel”s on that list whose families pay the most property tax.  Can you do that?”

“Sure boss.  Piece-of-cake.  When do you want it?” Liz said.

“I have a few errands to run and won’t be back until after lunch.” Denice said.  “If you have time, I would appreciate contact information for the families.  Oh, and by the way, put a piece of black tape over the camera lens and disconnect the microphone.  You work for me, now, and we play our cards close to our chests.”

Denice drove back to the motel where she had stayed.  Not surprisingly, Kamari was still behind the desk.

“Good morning, Kamari.” Denice said.

Kamari nodded.

“Where would I go if I wanted to buy a bracelet like yours?”  Denice asked.

Kamari said, “Is that a serious question or are you talking about costume jewelry that looks like mine?”

“Nope.  I want the real thing.  In fact, I need to know what a respectable bracelet is going to cost.” Denice said.

Kamari spun the chair around so she was facing Denice.

“Keep in mind the purpose of the bracelet.  Different brides have different lucky numbers so they would have different numbers of charms.  If you are not of our faith, then you cannot go wrong with 12 charms because there are 12 months in the year.”  Kamari said.

“A frugal bride can make five grams of gold feed a family for a month.  So a ‘respectable’ bracelet would have about 60 grams of gold.  You, being white, would have to spend about 120 thousand Callors for that bracelet.”

Denice asked, “What would you have to pay for that bracelet?”

Kamari said, “It depends on how good of a bargainer you are.  A good bargainer might beat it down to ten percent over the cost of the gold in the bracelet…say about sixty-five thousand Callors.  The price of gold fluctuates, of course.  That is what you might be able to buy it for today.” 

Kamari spun her computer screen so Denice could see it.  Kamari had the spot price of gold displayed on it:  about 995 Callors to the gram.

“So, getting back to the original question, where is the best place to buy a bracelet like yours?” Denice asked.

Kamari mentioned a block downtown near Chinatown.  There were several jewelers on that block and they competed fiercely for the Dowry-bracelet market.

While driving downtown, Denice made a detour to one of the Department of Food Security offices.  She made a small request which was immediately granted.

Entering one of the jeweler’s shops near the middle of the block Denice pulled out an index card.  She said, “Today I am going to buy a bracelet for a wedding gift.  I want a bracelet with twelve charms and I want the charms to be 22 carat gold with ten grams of gold each.  What is your best price?”

The wizened old man behind the counter said, two-hundred twenty thousand Callors.  He was sure that she did not have that kind of money.

Denice looked the man in the eye.  “I am willing to pay one-hundred twenty thousand Callors.”

The man said, “You are taking bread out of my mouth.  I cannot feed my family when customers want me to give away my merchandise.”

Denice looked thoughtful.  “I bet you have a computer around here that lists the spot price of gold, don’t you.”

The old man turned over his smart phone so the screen was up.  The numbers on the screen kept changing as the market moved.

“So let’s save ourselves some time.” Denice said.  “How much profit do you have to make today to keep your shop open?  A thousand Callors?  Two thousand?  Five thousand?”

The man shrugged.  “Five thousand Callors profit is a good day.”

Denice said, “So would have a good day if you sold me merchandise at gold-cost plus five thousand Callors, right?”

The man said, “Sure.”

“So you would have a good day if you sold me three gold bracelets with 12, 10 gram gold charms each for three-hundred sixty-five thousand Callors?  Right?”

The man tapped on his smart phone for a few seconds.  “Three bracelets?  Card or check?” he asked.

“Three.” Denice said. “Card.”

“I can’t do it.  The merchant charge is larger than my profit.” The jeweler said regretfully.

“Can you do it if it is a debit card?  The merchant fees are a lot smaller.” Denice responded.

The jeweler did not respond.

After five seconds, Denice said “Well, if three bracelets are more than you can handle I will try your competitor next door.  His shop looks larger than yours.”

“The price of gold may go up between now and then.  You would end up paying more.” the shop owner responded.

“And it might go down.” Denice replied.

Another five seconds of silence.

“I can do that if you have that much in your account.” The man said.

“Wrap them.” Denice said.  “Here is my card.  I don’t think you will find the account balance to be a problem.

The shop owner was smiling to himself.  He planned to put in a buy-order for 360 grams of gold at 990 Callors/gram and anticipated making an additional four thousand Callors on the trade.

“What a fucking rube!” a young man sitting at a computer terminal in a basement deep beneath Sacramento exclaimed.

“What are you talking about?” asked the young lady sitting at the computer stall next to him.

Bona-Brown kept a tight watch on all of the people beneath him, but most especially those who were not stationed in Sacramento.

“Delarosa just bought over a quarter million Callors of jewelry from a tourist trap near Chinatown.” the young man said.

The young woman was familiar with Denice and she grimaced.  “I cannot imagine a woman like that wearing jewelry.  It is like putting lipstick on a hog.”

“Good God!  I bet she is gonna look like a thirty Callor whore when she wears all those cheesy trinkets into the office.  She probably thinks she is elegant.” the young man said.  “I wonder how anybody will be able to not laugh at her.”

Next Installment

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