Ms. Ferguson, my
loyal office manager, was on the intercom. The tone of her voice, dripping
with intrigue, told me that she knew something I did not.
"Are you busy?" she
asked. "Wayne wanted to know if he could see you for a few
Wayne was a warehouse employee
who on the average spoke 12 words per year. He was a very good worker, but
communication didnít interest him. And now he wanted a private meeting
It could mean only one of two
things. Either he wanted to personally tell me he was quitting, which in
Wayneís case was very unlikely, or else he needed money, which in Wayneís
case was very likely.
The Bank of Hoppe was about to
open its doors once again. "Send him in," I said, sighing.
If I think about it long enough
and hard enough, Iím happy to give long-term employees interest-free
loans to help get them through their most recent financial crisis. At one
time or another, at least half of the 45 employees in my company have
borrowed from me and then repaid the loan through deductions from their
I have found that itís not only
a relatively inexpensive way to increase employee loyalty and morale but
also an excellent avenue for getting my hands on the latest juicy gossip.
Word seems to get around that
thereís easy money to be had if you can come up with a decent sob story.
I simply ask the employee why they need to borrow any of the scarce funds
that the company has available to avoid entering bankruptcy proceedings.
To date, no one has answered "none of your business."
On the contrary, I get stories
that would be too bizarre for daytime soap operas. Iíve often wondered
if a group of employees get together every few months just to concoct some
"Yeah, thatís a good one,
Sheila," the leader will say. "Thatís worth at least $800.
Make sure you find a really sleazy guy to play your boyfriend and then try
it on him in a few weeks. Weíve got to give him time to recover form
Fredís story. How much did you get again, Fred?"
"$1,200!," Fred will
say. "He even bought the part about my drug-crazed roommate stealing
my fatherís car and smashing it up."
"Good work, Fred. Close to a
record. Anyone else?"
I doubt Wayne made the meeting.
His story was without doubt one of the weakest Iíd ever heard. Iím a
guy whoís used to loaning money to pay for dead grandmothers to be flown
back to their homeland for burial (a common request). I expected something
of equal emotional distress from Wayne.
But no, Wayne told me he had
bought a car and couldnít make his first two payments.
pathetic," I cried. "You are asking me to loan you money so you
can continue driving a car you canít afford?"
"Itís a really nice
Iíll bet it is, considering it
was costing him half his monthly take-home pay. He had apparently
convinced a very true (and naÔve) friend to co-sign the note enabling him
to make the purchase.
After giving him a lecture about
the advantages of having enough money for things like food or a place to
sleep, I gave him the loan. Thereís no way heís going to be able to
keep the car, but thereís a good chance heíll land a couple of dates
in the time before heís forced to sell it or itís repossessed.
"Thank you," said
Wayne. "Youíve saved my life."
I think he was exaggerating, but
then again, friends who co-sign become much less friendly if the car is
As Wayne happily left, ignorant
of the future despite my warnings, I reflected on the Bank of Hoppeís
Over the years, I have made
countless loans to employees. All were repaid except two. In both cases
the employee was let go and the unpaid loan became part of the severance
package. So Iím claiming 100 percent collection rate.
Compare that to my few loans to
friends, in which my collection rate is hovering around 2 percent.
Thatís why I gave the loan to
Wayne, despite his weak sob story. He wonít ask again until he pays this
one back, and pay it back he will. And when the last amount has been
deducted from his paycheck, there will be a mutual respect and sense of
loyalty between us.