Doing Good Business

Entry by: Phidgers

2nd June 2017
Doing Good Business

Dear Sarah,

When I wrote this, you weren’t even old enough to read, let alone understand. But now, hopefully, you are. If this gets to you, I hope you can forgive me once I’ve explained. I did everything in the hopes of building a better life for you and your mother. I’m guessing that’s not much consolation on its own, but there it is. Probably won’t matter much to you at this point, it just sounds like the most pathetic excuse ever. You’ve probably seen my face held up and demonised across the world. Just please, read on.

Before all this happened, I was a man working a normal retail job. Start at nine, wait for five thirty to tick past, and pray the customers had been shepherded out by that point. It should have been a simple role. But people happened. Every day, I was surrounded by cynicism. I don’t know if that word’s been outlawed by now, so sorry if you’re not allowed to even read it anymore. But anyway. People would come in every day, and scream at me for the smallest thing. ‘My toy broke when I trod on it,’ or ‘this takes five batteries and I only wanted a remote controlled car that takes four.’ They knew they were being unreasonable, but they didn’t really care. I thought cynicism would ruin me.

Turns out I right, but in a much worse way than I expected.

That’s how things started. I’d got home one evening a complete wreck. I was earning minimum wage, you were already on the way, and I didn’t think I could take much more. A full time job couldn’t provide properly for you, so I had to do something. My solution was meant to be a joke. I suppose in a way it was. Just the worst type, and I was the butt of it, eventually.

I remember sitting there, in front of my computer, gripping a can of beer. Yeah, I was drinking on a Tuesday evening, add that to my list of faults. I knew I had to earn more, somehow. I opened my search engine and typed out ‘how to start a business.’ Up popped a few results, and one caught my eye. Successex, Some American entrepreneur startup site, offering UK clients a package for one hundred pounds. Domain name, advertising, business development. Even product development, albeit for an additional fee.

Before I’d thought about it properly, I’d signed up. I figured it was one of those things where you made a profile to feel good about yourself, and then forgot about it. However, a chat window popped up, and there was a real guy typing on the other end. He thanked me for getting on board, and asked how I’d like to pay. I thought about just slamming the power off, but my Britishness stopped me. I was hooked now. I gave him my credit card details, knowing your Mum would be justified in introducing me to a meat cleaver when she found out.

Once that was done, the guy introduced himself as Jerry, and asked what I wanted to sell. My fingers hovered above the keyboard, while my mind froze. What the hell could I produce? I still don’t know what made me type it. Probably I just panicked. Maybe I thought he’d go away if he believed I was messing around. I typed one word.


I waited, while some dots appeared in the chat message as Jerry typed. He was going to berate me for wasting his time, and inform me my hundred quid was non refundable. But no. Instead, he asked for more details. Well, I was in by that point. So I just started making stuff up as I went. I pointed out there was plenty of cynicism out there, and no one was profiting from it. Not directly, anyway. What if we patented it as a measurable commodity? I joked that we could charge prices through the roof. That way, no one could afford to be cynical anymore, and they’d have to start being genuine. I made the situation as ridiculous as I could, and waited for Jerry to get bored, or for his supervisor to tell him to move onto a worthwhile customer.

But no. Of course not.

Jerry said he needed some time to research patents, and look into potential product development. He gave me his personal number and signed off. I reckoned it was a hoax, and I’d passed my card details to some overseas fraudster. I decided I’d phone the bank the next day, and have my card cancelled.

Instead, I woke up the following morning, and did nothing. Again, I’m British. I didn’t want to cause a fuss. If money disappeared, then I’d do something. And nothing did, except the fee I'd agreed to pay. I went back to work for a couple of days, and everything was a normal sort of horrific. Until Jerry got back in touch, desperate for my phone number. I’d hardly passed it across when he rang me, and I’ve not heard someone more excited.

Successex could patent cynicism.

I thought he was joking until he told me to check my bank account. Twenty thousand pounds had appeared. Well, that minus a fiver when you deduct the replacement cost of the mug I dropped, after seeing twenty thousand pounds appear in my account. Jerry said they ran a prize each year for the best startup idea. They’d given it straight to me this time, because there was no way anyone would get something better.

We were going to stop people being cynical. It was perfect, because it would be profitable, and good business practice. We’d make a killing, while improving peoples’ lives. Tolerance would have to go up, and maybe we could even incentivise honesty somehow, a bit further down the line.

Three weeks later, Successes had set up everything for me. I had an office in London, a team of assistants, and no idea what the hell I was doing. Journalists lined up to interview me, all of the financial magazines plastered my face on their front pages. Apparently, the US government had hurried in a tax on cynicism. And as part of that, a percentage of the tax revenue would be paid to me to administer the system. The UK got on board too, and Europe, Australia, I don’t know where else. Of course, the mechanics only got shared with me later, otherwise my fall would have come way earlier.

To this day, I don’t know how they measured how much cynicism everyone had. Body language, speech patterns maybe. What I do know is that it had all the longevity and sense of a playground toy craze. Money started flowing to me. After a month, I couldn’t tell the number of figures in my bank balance just by looking. Part of me pointed out that I was getting obscene amounts for doing absolutely nothing, but I ignored it. I was a figurehead for something I didn’t understand. That was what most people dreamed of.

But figureheads, as you can well guess, also make great scapegoats.

People didn’t stop being cynical. They just got more angry. Well, except the big companies. They didn’t get more angry. They got even more cynical. Luckily for them, they could afford to. They bought shares in my business, which someone at Successex had named ‘Uncynico.’ The common people saw this happening, and, yep, they got more cynical. Lawsuits started coming against our shareholders, who simply hired the best lawyers. To give you an idea how much money these companies had, the lawyers were paying over ten million pounds a month in cynicism tax, and they still made a healthy profit from winning cases.

So some smarter people stopped going after the shareholders. They went for me instead. It was about the same time as I started seeing what was happening for myself. My stomach churned, from the top of my five hundred and something floor office. I couldn’t believe how quickly my idea was being abused. And I was at the head of the ones reaping the rewards at the expense of the many.

I actually said out loud, ‘Well isn’t that typical? Of course people would take something good and turn it into something awful.’

Two hours later, I was all over the news, but for different reasons. ‘Head of Uncynico is the most cynical of all, and dodges his own taxes,’ the news bulletins blared. Someone discovered a loop hole in the law, somehow making me exempt. No matter that I had no idea about any of it. My disgusting amounts of wealth were broadcast, and someone found a clip of me arguing with an old neighbour who’d left their bins out for the seagulls way before refuse collection day. I’ve got no idea who filmed me, I wasn’t even famous then. ‘Uncynico boss hates the elderly.’

Jerry was very helpful about everything. When Successex declared my business in violation of their terms and seized all my assets in compensation, his e-mail of regret really seemed genuine. Although it quite was hard to tell, as I only skim read it. I was too busy planning how to avoid the hate mob who had turned up to watch me evicted from my office.

Three months after all this started, the cynicism tax was declared illegal, or unconstitutional or something. Successex and my company’s shareholders decided to hold onto their profits. But they agreed it would be doing good business to donate an entire fifth of my former personal wealth to help those affected by my heinous actions.

Sarah, we’ll probably never meet each other. I caught the most severe case of scapegoat syndrome. I was arrested and tried for all sorts of financial crimes. The stories of people who died in riots during the tax months were all blamed on me. I lost count of everything I was charged with. I think there was even a war crime in there somewhere.

I pleaded guilty on the advice of my lawyer, who assured me the judge wanted to be lenient. In a sense, I suppose she was. When I was sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences, she was kind enough to change my identity, and send me to serve my time in a secret location. You and your Mum also got new identities, as it was nowhere near safe for you to be related to me.

If I’m lucky, the prison guards won’t just bin this, and your Mum will actually receive it, along with the letter I’ve written her. If Mum does give it to you, I want you to know that I’m immensely proud of you. I only held you once, right after you were born. That was the day before my fall from grace happened. I saw a goodness in you, a sincerity unmarred by my own situation.

So in summary, your father is not the evil, greedy man portrayed on TV. I got in too deep to back out, and I did the best I could. I was simply trying to do good business. Hopefully you can understand that, and you’ll be part of the generation that changes the way we all interact. Be careful and kind, and try not to take shortcuts, especially late at night after a few beers. I love you, and maybe one day, we’ll be permitted to see each other. I reached for the wonders of corporations. I should have realised that you and your mother were what was important. Family is the best business to do.

With so much love and the very best wishes,