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Royale with Cheese

Victimizing unsuspecting customers is 'just business', as American as genocide and slavery. There is no morality when it comes to greed: from nine to five, God is green.

Marcellus Wallace is the name of the menacing uber-underworld boss in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 movie, Pulp Fiction. The story begins with two of Wallace’s associates, Jules and Vincent, trying to recover a briefcase containing something of extreme value for Wallace. You never see what is in the briefcase, only the glow it emits when it’s opened and the looks of awe of anyone who sees what it contains.

It is so powerful that Brad and his cohorts, who were supposed to get this briefcase to Wallace, have been seduced into trying to keep the briefcase and its contents for themselves.

It was a bad idea, and things did not end well for Brad. (He did not get to finish
his "tasty burger.")

Much debate has raged over exactly what was in the briefcase. Some have theorized jewelry, diamonds or gold while some, according to Snopes.com, believe that the case contains the soul of Marcellus Wallace, something that has been stolen from him by the devil.

And as the old saw relates, “The devil is in the details.”

Marcellus shale is the name of marine sedimentary rock formations in eastern North America, which hold vast deposits of untapped natural gas, according to Wikipedia.

Where there is Marcellus shale, there are energy companies looking to release that natural gas, with a method called "fracking" whereby the shale is fractured underground using high pressure "fracking fluids," releasing the trapped gas so that it can be collected and used as an energy source.

Recently, a supposed representative of Western Land Services, a brokerage company based out of Michigan, approached my mother about leasing some
acreage adjacent to her house in Northwest Pennsylvania.

My mother, who just turned 84, did the bookkeeping for my father’s business for more than 60 years. She is a trusting person but not naïve. She and my oldest brother Logan, who manages the business since my father’s passing, met with the broker to talk about the deal being offered.

My brother is a meticulous person and has been accused of being overly analytical when it comes to making decisions.

Let’s just say that my brother and mother were listening intently.

Supposedly, the deal was this: The company would lease the land for an initial 90 days. At that point it could call off the deal, or if it decided that there was the potential for the discovery of natural gas, it would pay my mother $2,000 an acre for the rights, and if gas were discovered, pay royalties on what was taken out the ground.

A contract was presented, and the pressure (on my mother to sign it) increased.

Did I mention that there were two Western Land Services representatives
making the presentation? I experienced that good cop/bad cop scenario too many times when I had my own business. If someone sets up an appointment, you naturally assume that you will be meeting with that person, not with his or her entourage—unless you’re hooking up with Prince or Sarah Palin. When I objected, I was always told that the other person was in training. (Well, if you are indeed in training, then shut your gob!)

It got to the point where I would throw salespeople out if they showed up ready to double team. I enjoyed that.

So anyway, the pressure is on, and I’m sure these guys are drooling because they’re throwing numbers around that I’m sure do their magic with most of their victims, ‘er, I mean, clients.

But Logan insisted on reading over the contract, and guess what?

Those nice guys were not being honest.

The contract stated that Western Land Services would pay my mother a one-time fee of $10 for all 27 acres, and that would give them the rights to the land for five years. That’s $2 a year, not even 7 ½ cents per acre. And, if they felt like it, Western Land Services would pay her $2,000 per acre. In five years.

Hey, that’s a big difference, isn’t it?

So Logan called them up and said that they wouldn’t sign the contract until it said what Western Land Services said it said when they originally said it.

They never called back.

Natural gas is the new American gold rush, and I guess that some people will do anything to get their fingers in the pie. I wonder how many people fall for this. This way of doing business used to be the exception, but now it’s the norm. We really have evolved, haven’t we?

My mother is and always has been a very religious woman. She told me that as the salesmen were at her house, she kept saying how this was a blessing and that it must be coming from the Lord.

She said they looked at her with blank faces as if she were speaking a foreign language. At least they didn’t burst into flames; my mother keeps a very neat house.

I guess some people are willing to give up their souls to get a look at what’s in the briefcase.

The devil is not always just in the details. Sometimes the devil is in a business suit, sitting across from you, saying anything, freely deceiving you to get you to sign on the dotted line or buy something you don’t really need or gamble away your life savings in some risky investment scheme and not think twice about it because it’s “just business.”

Marcellus did get his briefcase back, and then he got what he deserved.

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