Chapter 11

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"This is a nice restaurant you have here.
It would be a real shame if something were to happen to it."

People probably perceive that when the mob extracts protection money from shopkeepers, businessmen, and the public in general, that is a bad thing. But like many crimes, when there is a three-way among the people threatening, the people paying, and the people receiving, it somehow turns okay.

There is a Mufflers, Brakes, and General Repair shop in my neighborhood that is damaging people's cars, lying about diagnoses, and stripping money from people who absolutely are in no position to afford it. I used to go there for oil changes until I realized that some of the classic scams were being run on me. The last time I was in the waiting room, it was full of people waiting on inspections and oil changes. And, every single one of them, including me, was told that there was some horrible fault in their car that rendered it unsafe, and they had to fix it.

There was one poor young man, looked like a guy with a family and a job. He was in for inspection, and they told him that both of his front springs were broken. And they just happened to have his springs in stock. And they can fix his car right now for $2000. And if they don't fix it, they can't put an inspection sticker on the car and he can't drive it.

None of those things was true. The springs on his modest sedan weren't broken. That doesn't happen. A small muffler shop doesn't just happen to have springs for a particular make and model car, unless corporate put them there and told the shop to sell them. Springs don't cost $2000. And if a shop can't pass a car, they have to put a temp sticker on it so the owner can get a second opinion.

The poor guy was destroyed. He might have needed that car for his job and no car no job. He certainly didn't have an extra $2000 lying around. He was screwed, and I hate myself for not having the courage to intervene. Besides, they had my car on the lift and they would have damaged it even more than they did that day (yes they did). I'm not telling you everything.*

So about that protection money: This local chain advertises a lot in local media. Do you think that anyone anywhere in the media is going to expose these crooks for all the people that they are hurting?

They call it advertising budget. In reality, the advertising function is peripheral. The primary function of that money is as protection money.


* Here's just one thing I'm not telling you:
Just recently I saw a help-wanted ad from this company looking for a shop manager/customer interface. One of the criteria listed in the ad was "Must be money-motivated".