To my fantastic readers -- sorry for the very long break in the story. My writing mojo disappeared!
To start at the beginning of this tale, go here.
To recap: M and Beth's new stamping company, Beautiful, is off to a very slow start. On the first day of its existence, only Beth's friend, Susan, purchased a set. M gets nervous and buys out the entire inventory on day 1 using her own credit card, without telling Beth or M's husband, John. Over the phone, M and Beth celebrate selling out and, at the end of the day, John suggests that he and the kids help M by packing up all the "orders".
Chapter 21: It's Capitalism
Gah. I couldn't have John and the kids help me pack all those "orders" because there were no orders. Plus, I was starting to worry about using our own credit card. How was I going to pay that bill? I needed to find a way to cancel the orders without Beth finding out what I did.
Before I could respond to John's offer, the phone rang. We never answer the phone during dinner, but I leapt at the chance to buy some time.
"I've got to get this," I said, as I rushed over to the phone. John nodded that he understood. After all, I was a business owner now.
"Ma'm, this is Bill Menow. I'm the Deputy Assistant Chief Security Officer for Masterly Credit Card. We believe that your credit card was used online in a fraudulent manner. Someone seems to have made multiple purchases from one company using a variety of names and addresses."
"Oh no! I hope we don't have to pay for this. This is awful."
"No, ma'm. We just wanted you to be aware of the fraud. We are going to have to cancel your cards and of course, all those orders. Never heard of the company. Some two bit outfit called Beautiful. We'll be sending you new cards with a new number. You should have them within 3 business days."
"Oh, wow. That's crazy. Thank you so much for letting me know."
I hung up and walked over to the table. Everyone was looking at me. My mind was still trying to figure out how to deal with John's offer to pack the orders.
John put down his fork and said, "What was that all about?"
I told him and the kids, "Wow, that was the security office from our credit card company. Seems someone used our card online to buy a bunch of stuff and they figured out it wasn't us. Whew. They are cancelling the cards and sending us new ones. What a pain, but I am so glad they caught it."
John listened and then said, "Ugh. This happens more and more lately. I think our Washington Post subscription and the gas bill are paid automatically through that card. Can you straighten that out, please?"
"Oh, I completely forgot about those. Sure, I'll take care of it when the new cards come. But I'm not going to let a little thing like this ruin my day!!"
John replied, "Absolutely! I am so proud of you. And so are the kids."
Silence from the kids.
Before John could say anything else, I said, "You are so sweet to offer to pack up the orders, but I'm beat. I'm just not up to printing out all the orders and making labels. I think the excitement today just robbed me of all my adrenaline. But I really appreciate the offer. Kids, is your Dad the best or what?"
"Fine with me," said Buffy. "I mean, Mom, I'm happy for you and all but I have homework."
"Yeah," said Garrett, smirking. "She thinks instant messaging her BFF until 2 in the morning is homework."
And off the kids went, teasing each other. The dishes were done. Before John and I each went into our own offices, John turned to me and put his arm around me. "M, I am so proud of you! Let's celebrate next weekend. How about steak and champagne Saturday night? You can wear that gorgeous black cashmere dress. You are a knockout in that."
What could I say? Beautiful was going nowhere, but I smiled and hugged him back. He really was the best.
"That would be fantastic."
As soon as I got to my office, I clicked on the computer. Time to check the Beautiful store. Beth had placed a notice letting customers know that we were sold out but taking preorders. I held my breath while I prayed that there were preorders.
I was sick. All that work. CHA. The lawyer bills. The patents. All that money and we had nothing to show for it.
Stampers can break your heart.
And then, an idea! Of course. It was so obvious!!
I logged onto Splitcoast using a fake name and posted:
"Wow, I see that that new store Beautiful already sold out. I am sooo disappointed. I HAVE to have those stamps! Anyone know if we can preorder?"
Sure enough, someone else posted right after me:
"Thanks for the heads up. I just checked and they are taking preorders! I placed one already. Good luck everyone!"
By noon of the next day we really had sold out, and more. We had 1100 preorders! We were going to be rich! I knew it. I knew I could do it. All those years of being shunned by those PTA moms and here I was, a CEO of a successful business.
Beth had called me twice that morning and left messages. Now I could call her back, but I had to find a way to explain everything to Beth.
"Hi, Beth!; M here. Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. I had to drive John to work today! His car's in the shop."
I hated lying. But sometimes we have to do things we hate.
"Oh, M, I am so excited. We have 1100 preorders plus the 500 orders from yesterday. This is crazy!!"
I took a deep breath and said, "I am so excited too!! Beautiful is a huge success!! And it is all because of your design talents and brilliant idea to create clear stamps. I am so lucky I met you."
Beth responded, "Aww, M, that is so sweet of you to say. But we couldn't have gotten this far without you."
"Listen, Beth. So, you know how yesterday we sold out?"
"Of course, it was awesome."
"Well, we didn't. I placed all those orders myself. They are bogus."
Sometimes, when nothing else will work, honesty is the only way out.
Beth was quiet for a few seconds and then asked, "WHAT? Why would you do such a thing?"
"Beth, calm down. It is all good. In fact, it's spectacular. Eventually, we did sell out. We really did sell out our original 500 sets plus we now have another 600 preorders. It just took 24 hours longer than you thought."
Beth said, "I don't understand. What are you talking about? We are partners. You lied to me?"
Now I was getting annoyed. We had sold out and had a huge preorder, and Beth was going all 10 Commandments on me.
"Listen Beth. Here's what happened and I swear on my kids' lives this is the truth. No one was buying anything. Except for my friend Susan, the store was a bust. We were about to go bankrupt on our first day. So I bought out the store myself to create some excitement! And then I went on Splitcoast with a fake name and told everyone it was sold out, which it was, technically. Then I had another fake person announce that we were taking preorders, which we are. The next thing, boom! All 499 sets that we have in stock that you thought sold out yesterday are now really sold out. Plus, we have preorders for 600 more. To be honest, I thought once you heard what happened, you would thank me."
Beth interrupted, "You lied to me and you lied to the stamping community."
"Now wait a minute Beth," I said. "Actually, I was honest where it really mattered. I didn't use Beautiful's money to get the ball rolling. I used my. own. personal. credit. card. to create a buzz. I could have just put a notice on our website that we were sold out, but I put my own money where my mouth is. I did it for US, not me. Yes, I wasn't totally honest with you yesterday. That's 'cause I was afraid that you wouldn't agree to the plan. And no stamper was hurt by this. All I did was make them want your beautiful designs. They'll get their stamps and we'll get their money. It's capitalism!"
I continued, "Oh, Beth. You know how stampers are. We love to buy what others love. I mean how else can you explain the popularity of the those dancing file cabinet stamps? People actually made Christmas cards with a dancing file cabinet. They made sympathy cards with sad-faced file cabinets doing the Tango. Stampers will buy anything if you just help them figure out what they want."
Beth laughed, "Well, you got me there. I guess that makes sense. But promise me. No more fibs. We have to be honest with each other."
"Absolutely. I promise." And I meant it.
Whew. Beth was ok. Before she could change her tune, I told her, "And I have another idea. I found a way where I can manufacture our stamps myself right here in my basement. This will cut our costs by half! Do you want me to tell you about it?"
Next: Chapter 22