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Dealing with local discount seekers

Roger Marolt
Aspen, CO Colorado

In Aspen there is a breed of skinflint that believes “the discount” is status quo. They don’t pay for drinks at local bars and restaurants. Ski shops are expected to shave a few bucks off the ticket for them. Whether or not they can afford the full sticker price is irrelevant ” they are entitled to a reduction anyway. These finagling cheapskates frequent all retail outlets from galleries to gas stations. They believe that the signature of a local is placed right below “20 percent off,” begrudgingly scratched onto the sales slip by the worn down manager.

As exasperating as this trolling for deals can be to merchants, none do anything about it. I’ve listened to shopkeepers moan and groan about this phenomenon for years. No business owner encourages these parsimonious pains in the posteriors, yet they come anyway. They might be the only creatures alive who have anything up against the cockroach’s survival skills.

I know that this type of person thrives here. I’ve seen how they operate. So, please explain to me why six months ago a well recognized locally-based traveling street vendor walks into my office as he regularly does to peddle his wares, weaves a sad tale of woe, and I end up with a stack of uncompleted sales tax returns from every town with a pedestrian mall between Boulder and Park City, to be filled out by me for him, for free?

Apparently I was wrong in believing that accounting service was something nobody took pride in wheedling a guy out of. I fell for his elaborate sob story. Instead of telling this clown to go to hell, I filled out the damn forms. It took me a couple hours, so he went for a cup of coffee and some loafing around instead of waiting! He must have noticed my red cheeks and the vein bulging from the center of my forehead when he came to pick them up, but, if he did, he put it out of his mind three months later when the next quarterly reports were due.

He marched right in and laid the new mess of paper on my desk. He spun an original sob story full of all sorts of sad details with the same old ending: He got screwed, again. I told him there must be a government agency that could help him. His eyes welled up as he informed me (pain in his quivering voice) that he was utterly alone and had completely exhausted all options for getting his sales tax returns completed on time.

I remained resolute. “Look,” I said. “My time is valuable ” maybe not to you, but certainly to me.” Then in a fit of frustration, I blurted out, “If I’m not here taking care of people who actually pay me for the work I perform, I’m heading home to spend time with my wonderful children … or to make love to my beautiful wife. It’s that simple! Got it?”

He bowed his head and gathered up the disheveled pile of triplicate forms, reeking of cheap government ink. He turned to go. He paused, as if mulling my words over. He turned back and gently set the pile on the corner of my desk again. “Well, if you do happen to get a minute.” He nodded his chin at the mess. Then he walked out. The nerve!

In a week, he returned. The stack of forms remained undisturbed, exactly as he had left them. “You didn’t get to them?” He asked incredulously.

I stuttered and stammered, ready to explode … and then a thought came to me a half-step ahead of my rage. I anticipated the next tall tale of great personal misfortune he would tell, and I decided to get personal myself.

“No, as a matter of fact I didn’t,” I informed him. “I was just about to get to them yesterday before lunchtime when my wife called. She wanted to make love.”

I went into some detail and enjoyed it so much that I might have gotten a little carried away. It was no matter to me, I hoped to embarrass the devil. And, it seemed to work. He picked up the pile of paperwork, shoved it into a manila envelope I silently held out to him and left, seemingly with complete understanding of my message.

But, to my near fatal shock, 10 minutes later he was back with that envelope and set it on the corner of my desk, where it had already met the residency requirements to vote in Pitkin County. He nodded at the package. “Thank you,” he said softly.

I had to give the scoundrel credit for trying, but as far as tenacity was concerned, I wasn’t going to play a second to him. He checked in every week without fail after that. I supposed he figured that he had nothing to lose in trying to wear me down to do his work for free. But, I remained staunch. I beat him to the punch in our verbal spar every time. Before he could get a single word out about his latest tale of misery, I launched into increasingly descriptive tales of more amorous trysts with my wife, leaving not even a modicum of doubt why doing his taxes wasn’t going to appear on my priority list.

I used my talents to the best of my ability. I spoke with passion. I’d gotten so imaginative at revealing the intimate and tantalizing details of my most personal life that many times I felt on the verge of rapture just in the telling.

One day I felt especially proud at the vividness with which I vocally illustrated a recent encounter. I felt such a complete release of all my tension toward that hapless buffoon that I decided I might have a look in that dusty envelope at the corner of my desk to see if it might not be such a hard thing to help him with his numbers after taking such advantage of his sensibilities by mercilessly shaming him all this time.

I peered into the dark recesses of that packet and found the inside completely empty except for a small, yellow sticky note.

It said: “I figured it out for myself. Re-use the envelope. Thanks.”

I wished that I’d simply done his taxes.


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