July 16, 2003
come in many forms
businessman that I know charges his retail customers for
priority mail postage - as though it were a reimbursement
for his costs - but then collects a refund from the Postal
Service whenever it fails to meet the delivery schedule,
which happens a lot. In effect, this businessman has another
source of revenue: reimbursed fees that were subsequently
refunded. Is this right? Does this action have integrity?
a youngster, growing up in small-town Indiana, there was
an expression, actually a word, used to describe such
behavior. The word described individuals who were on the
borderline of what was legal and moral. They may have
been unscrupulous or maybe just greedy. They knew every
way imaginable to cut a corner, save a buck, take advantage
of any opportunity -- and they were not above pushing
their way to the front of the line at the county fair
just to get a corndog and a root-beer.
were the folks who complained loudly in restaurants and
often ate for free or for a reduced price. Their focus
on every nickel and dime was so extreme that some called
them tight and others described them as cheap. But the
one term that always stuck in my memory was much more
descriptive. It gathered the force of resentment that
can only described as suitable for selfish and nasty personalities.
This hideous term smelled of smoked-filled rooms where
questionable deals might be completed. And always, the
word carried with it a tone of rudeness and ruthlessness.
in my life, after living in Missouri, Illinois, Connecticut
and then California, I would be reassured the term had
been accurate. Even in friendly games of cards, horseshoes,
golf or Monopoly, this kind of person exists to do one
thing, over and over: take advantage of every occasion
and, where possible, cheat. They are beneath any level
of basic niceness. These individuals are hucksters. That's
right, hucksters. In more polite circles, one might call
them by different terms such as foxy, clever, prudent,
calculating, competitive, or shrewd. The truth is they
like your "postal fraud" gouger can all too easily ignore
integrity because they have forgotten that integrity matters.
Hopefully, their ill-gotten dollars, which sometimes have
led them to fame and recognition, will enable them to
"buy" enough friends to hang around so they will have
a social life when they are old, rich and often peering
through their squinty-eyed bitterness.