Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Shrewd King 7.2: The bidding starts

“Pete” watched the slightly built, 30-year old man walk into his store. Though slight-of-build the man was not cadaverously thin like so many who walked through Pete’s doors.

The man took his time looking at Pete’s merchandise. That was common. People wanted every penny to go as far as possible.

Then the man took a long look at Pete’s “Wanted” board and the prices listed on it. That was also very common.

After giving the man ample time to assimilate the information, Pete asked “How may I help you today?”

The man grunted. “I am checking out prices.”

Then he added “What kind of volume discounts do you give?”

“It depends on the item you want and the volumes involved” Pete said. “But yes, we generally give volume discounts.”

“Would you take one, 600 Watt solar panel for a thousand pounds of grain?” the man asked.

“I would have to think about it.” Pete said. “When would you want the grain?”

“I want it today and another thousand pounds every three days thereafter.” the man said.

Pete risked a look outside. The man had no way of transporting the grain.

“And would you want that delivered?” Pete asked.

“Well of course.” the man said.

That complicated things. Pete could swing the 1000 pounds but it would wipe him out until the next delivery. The other complication was Pete could not commit to delivering until he knew where it was to be delivered to. Pete did not have the wherewithal to deliver that amount of grain more than a couple of miles from his store.

“Where do you want it delivered?” Pete asked.

“The other side of the M-99 bridge will work.” the man said.

Pete decided to level with the man.

“It would be better if I put you in touch with my wholesale distributor.” Pete said. “I would love the business but there is no point in me touching the merchandise if you have a regular schedule in mind and are asking for those kinds of quantities.”

“So who is that?” the man asked. The man was on an information gathering trip and he had hit the mother load.

“My distributor for grain is Kate Salazar.” Pete said. “Let me set something up.”

Pete got on the CB and dialed in Kate’s channel. “Pete to Kate. Pete to Kate. Do you have a minute to talk?”

Kate replied “Go ahead.”

“I have a customer who wants to buy a lot of grain. Can I send him your way?” Pete asked.

Kate asked “What is his name?”

Pete raised his eyebrow in the universal, unspoken question mark.

The man volunteered “Ben. Ben Schneider.”

“His name is Ben Schneider and he is from north of our area.” Pete said.

Pete then drew Ben a map of how to find Kate’s store. Ben noted that it was a scant ½ mile from Carson Duckworth’s home.

Ben decided to risk the two-and-a-half hour trip. He would shoot Duckworth on sight. Duckworth would not expect to see Ben walking like a common peasant.

Ben could not know that Carson Duckworth had been executed by a local vigilante two months prior.

Kate was studying her ledgers when Ben walked into the store. Kate offered him iced tea which he gladly accepted.

“Pete said that you wanted to buy a lot of grain but he did not say how much.” Kate said.

Ben nodded as he discretely looked around the store. There was nothing frivolous or frou-frou about it. It was all business.

“I need a thousand pounds of grain delivered every three days to the edge of the territory I represent. I can pay with solar panels or assorted salvage but I won’t be taken advantage of. There is only so much salvage available.” Ben said.

“We have the same issue.” Kate said. “We only have so much grain in storage and we only have so many acres planted.”

“What can you tell me about the solar panels?” Kate asked.

“They are 600 Watt panels salvaged from a four-year-old commercial solar farm.” Ben said.

Kate nibbled the eraser end of her pencil. “Let me make a call.”

She picked up the mic of the CB and fiddled with the tuning knob. “Kate Salazar to Dmitri. Kate Salazar to Dmitri? Are you out there?”

Dmitri and Kate had a short conversation regarding solar panels. Even though one horsepower is 726 Watts, there are losses in every system and he advised that a two 600 Watt panel be considered the same as one horsepower or the equivalent of 500 bushels of corn.

Kate took an extra minute to tap some numbers into her solar powered calculator to confirm her back-of-envelop calculations.

“Prices shift around” Kate said. “But as-of today I can offer 400 bushels of corn...roughly twenty, thousand pound wagon loads delivered to Dimondale for two, 600 Watt panels IF THEY WORK as rated.”

Perhaps it is ironic that was nearly identical to the relative prices between 600 Watt panels and corn before Ebola.

“The problem is that I don’t have enough grain in stock to deliver that much. The best I can offer is one wagon load every week.” Kate said.

That was a far, far more favorable exchange rate than Ben hoped for.

Then he asked "What if I ponied up four, 600 Watt panels for every four hundred bushels. Could you make deliveries every three days at that price?" Ben asked. Ben had 160 acres of solar panels to pull from. He was not nearly as short of panels as he implied.

"It depends on whether my other customers can match that bid." Kate said truthfully. She had one other wholesale customer who had been difficult to deal with and, frankly, she felt no loyalty to him beyond the five hundred bushels of corn already agreed to.

Ben promised that a couple of his lieutenants would bring the first panel to Kate’s store by mid-morning.

Kate checked to ensure Dmitri was available to check it out.

After Ben left, Kate placed calls to Farmer Don, Earl and Ken asking if it was too late to plant more acres of crops. The demand for food was rising faster than the ability to plan for it.

Maybe it was time to lead the duck.



  1. Are they letting anybody walk into the community now that the Ebola threat has passed, or did Ben have to talk his way through a barricade?
    If I were Kate, I wouldn't ask the farmers for increased production until I knew the customer better...

    1. Free pass as long as they are not invading or settling.

      Buying-and-selling is less likely to swap body fluids than some other types of "fraternizing".

      Also, dropping off wholesale lots at the border results in a net decrease in border crossings.


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  3. This is the best story I've read since Unintended Consequences. Can't wait for each new instalment.


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