Tony stories #2
temptations come from strange places
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The temptations were there, for sure. A real easy way to skim some money for myself. Who would know? And it would still save the company a lot of money. I just couldn't do it.
I wish I could say absolutely that it was because of my upright and moral character. I think it was more from fear - and walking that close to 'the other side'. Money, greed - they're big tempters. Beware!
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On another of my evenings out with Tony, we went to an ethnic Mediterranean restaurant.
Tony had previously mentioned that if we needed any office equipment or other supplies that might be used in our business, to let him know - he might be able to help find it at really good prices. I did not know in advance that this restaurant would play a role in that offer of help.
The trucking company I worked for was in the process of building a new trucking terminal in the Gary, IN area to better serve our steel-mill customers there [Gary is on the southern shores of Lake Michigan, immediately east-southeast of Chicago].
Oh, yeh - Tony was going to be putting his vending machines in the new facility.
After the greeter had us seated, Tony said that we were going to meet with someone who could help me get things that might be needed in the new facility. Then he asked if "that was OK" with me. I was a little bit caught off-guard, which I was beginning to recognize as a pattern when meeting with Tony. He liked to be 'in control' of whatever was going on.
Not wanting to seem ungrateful, and as much out of curiosity, I agreed that it was "OK" with me.
The instructions that followed were something like this. "You just follow along with what I say ... you respond appropriately to indicate you might be interested in locating some office equipment, or whatever you think you could use. You got that? Just play along with me ... OK?"
I nodded my approval, and wondered just what was going to happen.
At this point, our waiter came by and introduced himself and presented us with our menus. He offered to take our drink order and give us a few minutes to review the menu before making our selections. Just as the waiter started to leave the table to get our drinks, Tony spoke to him.
"Is Petros in tonight?" he asked. The waiter affirmed that he was.
"Please tell him that Tony is here ... and if he's got a minute, I've got a friend I'd like him to meet." With that the waiter departed. Tony then informed me that Petros was the owner of this restaurant.
Moments later, the waiter brought us our drinks, and said that Petros would be out shortly.
We sipped on our drinks and small-talked as I was wondering what exactly was going to happen next. I was also trying to think of things that I could 'mention' as possibly needing to purchase. Just as I was really starting to question why I agreed to this, a gentleman came from out of the kitchen area and approached our table. He was very obviously of Mediterranean descent - he reminded me of 'Zorba, the Greek' - kind of large and worn and not prone to foolishness.
After polite introductions and conversation, Petros told Tony to wait a few minutes, then bring me and make our way back through the kitchen to his office. We followed his instructions and made our way through the kitchen.
When we got to the far rear corner of the food preparation area, Petros came out of a small office in the corner and and motioned us to follow him - I had thought we were just going to talk in his office privately or something - but not so.
We walked past a large walk-in cooler and around a corner to a doorway. Petros removed a ring of keys from his pocket, selected one, unlocked the door, and motioned for us to go on in. He came in behind us and relocked the door. We went down down a long a flight of stairs and entered a small room that obviously was merely a small office enclosed in glass. Petros flipped on several light switches.
Beyond the glass of the office, lit up like a gymnasium, was a small warehouse. On one side were racks of fur coats [still in fashion back then]. On another side were cases and cases of TV's and stereo record players [again, this was a few years ago]. On the near side but across to the far end of the warehouse, was a small office supply store: desks, file cabinets, calculators, typewriters, etc. You name it, it was there. And, in a special caged-in area, there were cases of watches and jewelry and various high-ticket small item goods.
Petros handed Tony a pen and note-pad. "If your friend here sees anything he likes, just write it on the pad. Bring it up when you're done and I'll let you know what I can get it to him for. If there are things he wants that he doesn't see here, just let me know what the items are and I'll see if I can locate them for him. Turn off the lights down here when you're finished. When you get to the top of the stairs, their is a button on the right - like a door-bell button. Press it. It buzzes in my office. I'll come and let you out."
Tony and I wandered around for 1/2 an hour or so. The more stuff I saw and looked at, the more uncomfortable I became. Tony kept reassuring me that I'd save a lot of money if I worked through him ... and I didn't have to report all those savings to the company, if I didn't want to. "If you know what I mean.", he said.
We wrote down a number of items then took the list up to Petros. Petros took the list and told Tony he'd get back to him tomorrow. We went back to our table in the restaurant, talked and had dinner - and Tony bought. I wish I could say it was a wonderful evening.
The net result of the outing was that the next day when Tony contacted me, I had concocted a story that our company's purchasing department in Detroit was already way ahead of me on this one. Because I was not directly involved with that aspect of the new facility, I had to yield to them...but I would gladly pass along to them the pricing he got from Petros. Tony was sharp. I sensed that he didn't expect me to bite on this. It seemed like he had other thoughts going around in his head. He said that he understood if I was a little nervous - don't worry about it - just let him know if we were interested.
I called him two days later and told him all the things for the project were already ordered and in the pipe-line...but "Please be sure to let Petros know that I appreciate his time - and if there is anything else in the future, I'll get ahold of you."
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And it really just looked like a nice restaurant from the front outside. The warehouse was behind and below - the property dropped off on a gentle slope in the rear - you couldn't see that from out front.
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That was not the last time I saw Tony. There are more stories to tell.
[Previous Tony Story found on May 20 post]
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