Twisted Widgets: A Modern & Cautionary Tale (MWE, WWE, 7/31/13, scams, SatWE: July)

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on August 2, 2013 0 Comments

“It sounds like a great deal,” Julie looked up from the OSHA-orange flier and smiled at the marketing rep with the bad comb-over and riotous uni-brow. “You send me a first shipment of Fourth Festive Sparklewidgets at the low introductory price, and I can choose among the Large, Super Large, or Colossal size intro kit. I place my next order through your website–at the full retail price–and you send the next shipment along with an invoice.”

“That’s right! These seasonal products have maximal selling potential in early- to mid-summer, but are still popular until the snow starts to fly. Our program rewards you for stocking up on your first order. We assume 7.5% of profits made on the first introductory price, but only 4% on subsequent orders,” he slides another piece of paper, this one pastel pink, across the desk to Julie. “This is your initial cost for your introductory order, and this is the suggested selling price.”

Julie raises her eyebrows in appreciation as she does some quick calculations. “That’s amazing, John! How do you stay in business? And why have I never heard of these Sparklewidgets before?”

“It’s a new product, but we’ve had many other successes. We like to encourage entrepreneurs such as yourself, who are willing to take a chance on a new product and are confident in their sales ability.”

“Well, I think these will really sell. What an amazing concept!”

“Fantastic, Julie! Are your ready to start today?”

“I am! Sign me up for the Colossal size intro kit!”

“I’ll just need to see a major credit card, please,” a wide grin splits John’s face and he raises his uni-brow in anticipation.

“Of course!” she fishes through her purse and then pauses. “But I’d like to see the Colossal box first, if you please.”

John’s brow lowers, but he swivels his chair around and hoists a 3 x 2 x 2 box from the collection of boxes stacked behind him and slides it across the desk. Julie smiles expectantly.  He grunts, pulls a box cutter from his coat pocket, and runs it along the middle of the box top.

Julie stands, tears open one side, reaches in and pulls out the Sparklewidget. It really is a gadget of beauty. She flicks the switch on its handle and a half-dozen laser lights shoot upward, around a base where three sparklers can be inserted. She presses the button next to the switch and the lights slowly rotate around the handle, another button press and The Star-Spangled Banner begins to play from a speaker on the bottom of the gadget. “Beautiful,” she murmurs.

“I’ll take half a dozen Colossal intro kits.” She meets his eyes and hands over her credit card. “I’ll just call in my boyfriend, Dave, to help me roll these out of here.”


The credit card is swiped, the SUV loaded with the six boxes, and Dave and Julie wave goodbye to the now-genuinely-smiling marketing rep.

“Did your Swipemeister 2000 divert John’s order to our phony billing site?” Julie clicks on her turn signal, checks for a break in traffic, and pulls out of the small factory lot.

Dave taps his tablet a few times and brings up the site. “Confirmed.” He looks over at Julie. “I feel sort of sorry for the guy. You say the product is genius, and he’s just small potatoes, but he seems like a pretty nice guy.”

“You can live a lifetime off potatoes, Dave. Caveat emptor goes for both the supply and the demand side.”

Dave shrugs and laughs. “So, when are we going to quit scamming people and get married? When are you going to make an honest man out of me?”

Julie smiles and pats his thigh. “Maybe when the economy improves, Dave.”


Moral of the fable: Happy is the man—or woman—who learns from the misfortunes of others.


Liz Husebye Hartmann

Len Maxwell’s Challenge: Use prose or poetry to talk about the month of July. It can be about the name of the month, any holiday in the month, something that happened to you in July, or something you expect to happen to you in some future July

Greg Schiller’s Challenge: write a modern fable.

 Pam Brittain’s challenge: Tell us about a scam you were involved in. You don’t have to be the victim. You could be the scammer. Make it up or tell us a real story.

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