It was a little past four in the afternoon. I was driving the dogs back from walking with Syd and his dogs. Since my wife has been under the weather and not feeling much like cooking, I stopped in a place I had found to buy a rotisserie chicken. No sooner had I gotten into the car with it, than a rental car pulled up next to us. The dogs started barking like crazy, so I got out of the car to find out what they needed. When they learned my nationality, they started speaking in English, telling me about various relatives in America.
So far, so good.
They said they were Italians. The driver’s name was Marco. The passenger might have been Giulio, but I’ll call him Guido because it sounds sleazier. As you’ll see, that serves.
They worked for a company called Telarini, I think he said. Something about steel. Had I heard of it? No.
(Doesn’t matter; it doesn’t exist.)
They had a flight out tonight, and their manager had given them a parting gift of two boxes of tools their company manufactured for German companies – or something–, telling them they could sell them for [whatever they wanted]. They couldn’t take them on the plane tonight, they said, so they needed to sell them first.
OK, why? Even if they had to pay for extra luggage, if these tools were worth what they said, why wouldn’t they? And why are they waiting until the last minute to try to sell them?
They were looking for people who spoke Italian or English. Because they didn’t speak good Spanish, they didn’t want to just sell them on the street.
Umm, so what exactly are you trying to do here?
The boxes were in the back seat. He opened the first one, which had a very impressive looking hammer drill and cordless dril, with just enough charge to make it turn a bit. “It even has the diamond bits,” he told me.
He then opened the second box, with several shelves, which he said contained 200 tools of Vanadian steel. I think the number was a tad exaggerated, but the tools – as with the drills – certainly did look good. Better quality, at least, than 95% of what you can buy in Uruguay.
The he pulled out a “factura” (invoice; he had previously waved a piece of paper in the shape of an airline boarding pass to underscore their desperation), “since we’re gentleman.”
Yes, we’ve just met for the first time on a dirt road alongside a highway, so of course we’re gentlemen. Got it.
The “factura” had no currency indicated, and showed a total, with 23% IVA, of 2,800+. He said this is the dollar amount the Sheraton sells them for.
Aha! So now Sheraton Hotels sell tools, and your manager gave you a gift with an invoice? This narrative is getting rich!
Did I want to help them out by buying both toolboxes for $2,000 US?
Uh, no. The tools look impressive (that price is outrageous), but regardless, I need few tools, and don’t collect tools (or anything, including carcasses of ancient cars) for fun.
But I know someone who does! That guy could also evaluate their quality better than I. And he’d know what to really pay.
Enter Burkhard. I called. He was in the middle of something – slaughtering and dressing out a sheep, it turns out* – and couldn’t make it for an hour. Can I just lead them out there now? I asked. Sure: so ten minutes later, I pull off Ruta 11 and beckon them to turn in the driveway. I don’t plan on hanging around for long. We wave at Burkhard, who’s maybe a hundred meters away with a couple of people with a pickup truck, a carcass hanging from the raised front end of his tractor. With the remote, he opens the gate to the driveway and starts up the rise. Guido yells to Marco to pull the car in. More than once. Marco is busy playing with his cell phone.
Hey Marco, you’re going off script here – we’re supposed to be eager to sell some tools. Pay attention!
When Guido walks down and taps on the hood of the car, Marco snaps back into character. Within a minute, he’s got the car pulled in, Burkhard joins us, and Guido’s got the back door of the car open, displaying the tools. I bid them adieu, and Marco thanks me, calling me a real gentleman. But of course.
*Burkhard had sold some sheep to a pig farmer, and was amazed to learn that guy could skin a sheep in five minutes, something that took Burkhard an hour. So he arranged for him to help with this slaughter, and learn some new skills.
Back home, a while after dark (we’re at winter solstice, so that’s fairly early), when I figured they must be through, I called Burkhard on our land line. No answer.
After a while more, I get a little apprehensive. As I reach for my cell phone to send him a text message, our land line (with no caller ID) rings, and I pick it up saying, “I was just about to send you a text message. What happened?”
He told me that a couple of years ago, in the process of trading his chacra in the boonies (Lavalleja) for a gorgeous hilltop property on Ruta 11, and there talking to Sr. Fiore, the seller, one of these same two guys came by, also in a rental car, with the same story about the airport et al, and tools to sell.
“Incredible!” I said. “So did you send these guys packing?
No, he replied, I bought them for USD 500.
In fact, during the previous encounter, he had wanted to buy the tools, but so had Fiore, and Burkhard didn’t feel he should upstage him.
In this encounter, when Burkhard told Guido that they’d met before, Guido insisted it was impossible – before taking the cash, and returning to whence they came, to emerge another time with (smuggled? stolen? counterfeit?) tools they have to sell “before their flight tonight.”
Sounds legit to me, eh? FWIW, I find no evidence that a company called CAM Germany exists.