“What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us” – Helen Keller

I like Mrs. Benda as a person.  She was open and frank and never hesitated to share with me the dumb things she did unintentionally.  She never pretended to be smarter than she really was. 

I remember when she told me a story not too long ago about her first visit to New York City.  She went to New York City for a cosmetics convention and stayed in a famous hotel where the convention was being held.  When she was walking around in the hotel to check things out, she observed that every employee of the hotel she came across, stopped and said “Hey” to her respectfully.  She was so impressed with their attitude until she found out the real reason.  The real reason was when she checked in, she had so many suitcases with her that she needed 3 porters to assist her.  Once the luggage was delivered, she thought she was tipping them with two ten dollar bills each.  In fact she tipped them $200 each.  She had no clue to differentiate between Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. It took a little while for her to realize that all American currency had the same or similar pictures and they all look identical unless otherwise you check carefully the associated figure printed on them.  Just to cut it short, in addition to those porters, she had also tipped some other hotel employees with a hundred dollar bill and therefore, everybody in the hotel knew that either she was a queen of some small country or she was married to some filthy rich dude.  In her defence, she was used to Canadian currency which had an entirely different picture for each dimension of the currency.      

While everything appeared to be hunky-dory at Eletex, there was something constantly bothering me subconsciously.  Lynda knew that I used to suffer from parasomnia or sleep talking which I used to do while I was asleep.  One night Lynda woke me up and said what’s going on.  You started talking in your sleep again.  I said I needed some water.  She said let’s go in the living room, I will get you a glass of water. Once we sat down across from each other, I said I guess I am worried about my job.  She said why.  She said why? only a couple of months back we been to the company Christmas party, everybody appeared to be cheery and affable with you, especially Mrs. Benda.  I said I know, I just cannot explain to you what’s bothering me.  She said try me.

I told her that I was struggling at Eletex as I was still trying to understand the “culture” of the company.  I had never ever worked for a small company like Eletex to see through anything and everything.  As you know that Mrs. Benda had a unique personality and she had been very good to me.  Nevertheless, Mrs. Benda’s generosity was an overriding factor for anything she did during the course of a day.  For instance:

  1. If she’s happy with one of the employees, she will pop in the warehouse and pick several pieces of cosmetics, put it in a bag and give it to it to that person;
  2. She insisted constantly the marketing folks not to go see any “Buyer” in any department store “Empty Handed”.  They always took a bag of cosmetics with them;
  3. If anybody came to see Mrs. Benda for whatever reason, she would give him or her a little gift of cosmetics; and
  4. She will have a couple of bags of cosmetics in her car just for emergency purposes.           

Lynda said, so what’s wrong with that.  I said there are two things wrong with that:

  1. Even though she owns the company, she has no right to grab anything from the warehouse without going through a process to make sure that the quantity of each item in the warehouse reflected on the computer is not compromised.  Let me give you an example.  Say the computer says that there are 100 pieces of certain type of lipsticks and when Mrs. Benda kept taking those lipsticks 5 at a time 10 times during a month.  It meant that there are only 50 pieces of lipsticks in the warehouse even though the computer said 100 pieces; and
  2. When an order comes in from a department store, requiring 100 pieces of those lipsticks, computer thinks we have the right quantity available to ship but when a person goes to pick the items to ship, she or he finds out that there are 50 pieces are missing.  It creates all kind of problems for the company to deal with those differences and Mrs. Benda had no idea about how badly she screwing up the inventory knowingly or unknowingly.

Lynda said I am assuming that she has been doing this for years.  I said, yes.  She screwed up the whole computer inventory.  I know that she’s not a stupid person.  Even if I go ahead and get the current inventory of the items available in the warehouse and get updated the system accordingly, the next time she goes and picks something from the warehouse, it will be screwed again.  To me it’s embezzlement.

Lynda said what else’s bothering you? 

I said you know that Mrs. Benda was incredibly generous person.  For instance, I remember when I took my first expense report to her; she looked at the total figure and said to me, what are you trying to do to me?  I said I am sorry if I misunderstood you and took my family out a couple of times for supper and plus the gas expenses but I am quite prepared to reduce it.   She said don’t be silly, I am not talking about reducing it.  She said the average monthly amount of expense account for all senior staff is close to $800 and your total amount is only $360.  You are going to make us look bad, Mir.  You know what I mean.  I remember saying to her that no, I don’t know what you meant, Mrs.  Benda and to be totally honest with you we don’t want to get used to eating out that frequently and spending that kind of money simply because we are not paying for it.  I said, what bothers me the most is that if we got hooked to eating out and all of a sudden I don’t have an expense account.  She said stop it.  I heard enough already.  She said I got only two things to tell you: 1. don’t get any ideas, you are not going anywhere; 2. spend whatever you feel comfortable with and that will be acceptable to me.     

Lynda said I am surprised that you never shared this conversation that you had with Mrs. Benda with me and I support you wholeheartedly.  We don’t want to get used to driving fancy car and eating out too frequently just in case. 

Lynda said is there anything else bothering you?

I said the other problem is that Mrs. Benda keeps a secret notebook which is dedicated to keeping track of the information on all major clients, their respective wives, and children.  For instance, she had their names, date of births, dates of their anniversaries, and any special occasions in their lives. Sandy, her secretary, spends every month a significant amount of time to send greeting cards, flowers, chocolates, and wines to those folks.  It costs company a bundle.  My problem’s that even though I am not responsible for the financial activities in the company, it bothers me that how can Mrs. Benda afford to spend that kind of money. I am curious to know what kind of profit margins these cosmetic products offered. I don’t have access to the any financial reports which are kept under lock all the time. Helen is always in Mrs. Benda’s office and they appeared to be very close.

Lynda said what the answer is?  I said either I will have to take a deep breath and tell “the Emperor has no cloths” or find another job.

Our Story – Chapter 25