SCAMS I HAVE KNOWN
I’m talking about personal experiences I’ve witnessed and to which I was complicit, with some of them being relatively trifling deceptions and others not so much! And I have quite a rich vein to mine on this, having been a management consultant in more than 50 companies over a 20 year period.
At Sxxx, for example. This was a contract bakery which made bread and cakes for most of the major supermarkets. The first deception I encountered was by the supermarkets themselves who encouraged the public to believe that they baked the bread in-store. The reality was that they bought in Sxxx’s par-baked bread and flashed it to completion in their own ovens, creating that seductive, homely aroma of fresh-baked loaves which wafted (and was sometimes piped) around the store.
But Sxxx promulgated their own tricks of marketing too. They made “ciabattas” which were nothing more than standard dough mixes shaped into rectangles and seared with a few stripes.
Gxxx had a water bottling plant north of Glasgow which piped Adam’s Wine from beneath the Campsie Fells. When I was inducted around I asked why there were so many small pipes entering the plant rather than one bigger one. I was told they were designated for specific customers, so that each supermarket could say their water was bottled uniquely for them from springs under the Campsie Hills. The deceit, of course, was all of them took it from the same underground lake.
One company colluded with racism, without which it wouldn’t have been able to function. The majority of their workforce was from the Indian sub-continent, through which a caste system pervaded. Superiors, for instance, from a lower caste held no sway over subordinates from a higher caste. If the company wanted a viable management structure it was obliged to promote staff according to caste rather than on ability. And women? Forget it.
Additionally, if a worker chose to blob on their shift (for example, because he was driving his brother’s taxi that night) he might send in a friend or a family substitute. It wasn’t so much that the company turned a blind eye to the practice but rather that it became absorbed through reporting channels as a cultural norm.
And at the Coal Board too where I spent the first 20 years of my career, senior management had a “blind spot” (let’s say) which enabled them to demonstrate profitability for donkey’s years. It did this by applying a notional value of £40/tonne to stocked coal. To be clear, this was coal they couldn’t sell because it had already fulfilled all its markets (power station, industrial and domestic). Now think about that. If this was a chip shop these were chips left unsold at the end of the night. Only a self-delusional fool would count the value of these chips among the value of his sales.
Yet the Coal Board did this for years until Ian MacGregor looked aghast at the practice and with blinding simplicity told us “You can’t claim sales for something you haven’t sold”.
But perhaps the greatest scam of all was perpetrated by me personally; persuading companies to part with sums of money for me to advise them of the bleedin’ obvious.