I’m not a gambler but my girlfriend Irene is. What’s in it for me? Well, win or lose a trip to the casino always heats up that lovely little love box of hers. Like I said, I’m not a gambler so generally I sit at the bar with a Kino card or drift in and out of the nickel slots – I’m 100% small time, but Irene is all about the craps tables and her favorite blackjack. At the casino there’s a little bar called “Nickels” that’s just off the row of blackjack tables where I can watch Irene. And watching her play is where I got the idea, the idea that has made me The Man.
A lot of chumps sitting at a blackjack table actually tip the dealer. Win a hand and they’ll pass a chip to the dealer. Never mind their losses. I don’t get it. It’s like paying someone to rob you. “Hey thanks for screwing me, here’s five bucks.” But it’s done hundreds of times an evening in all the big casinos. Do they think that the dealer is actually going to make sure that face cards and aces will tumble their way? And if they believed that then reason would have it that the decks were stacked so the dealer could control who wins all the time. Then again reason isn’t in it; not at any card table in a casino. But there you have it; I reckon that not five minutes ever pass without some dealer holding up high his “gift chip” for the pit boss to pass on it. And isn’t it natural to assume the pit boss gets a nice cut of this largess. Irene, to her credit, never tips.
Well this tipping thing at the casino is where I got the idea. My million dollar idea. Our stores had suffered some really bad press all within a week. One of our geriatric security guards had shot dead a hearing impaired Gulf War amputee in a wheel chair who Gramps claimed had shoplifted a pound of bacon then ignored the old fart’s orders to halt. The clip of the local TV reporter’s interview standing before the store’s name and logo spelled out with 12 foot letters with that shaky 69 year old security guard went viral on the internet. The corporation took a real ass pounding. Right away boycotts were begun all over the country. The VFW and The American Legion ran full page ads in the Times and WSJ. Sales took a huge dip, and just as bad was the random vandalism. Clothing racks were spray painted, garments slashed, food containers punctured, graffiti was everywhere. Letterman, Leno, and every jerk-off stand-up comic in America was roasting the corporation. And just when headquarters believed it couldn’t get worse the Nell Proctor thing happened.
Miss Proctor an eight year cashier at one of our stores in New Jersey was a single mom with twin five year old girls. She had drafted a petition for a store vote to bring in a union. The manager following standard procedure reduced her hours to part time and moved her to the night shift. Just as this happened her food stamp eligibility expired, something not even within the company’s purview. Miss Proctor took her case to a local TV news station. This is expressly forbidden in writing and acknowledged by signature by every employee. The store manager followed company procedure and fired Nell Proctor who then with a 2 liter bottle filled with gasoline self-immolated in front of the store during the Wednesday rush the day before Thanksgiving. Horrendous pictures of this appeared on the front pages of newspapers all over the world. Even in Pyongyang. The AF of L was running 30 second spots a hundred times a day on the afternoon chick shows and network newscasts.
The regional heads of merchandising and of public relations were all summoned to corporate headquarters down south. It was ugly, very ugly. As assistant to our regional PR director, I had to tag along as his bag carrier. Oh wasn’t it sweet to watch those all powerful division chiefs ready to crap their pants. The Family holds 51% of company stock, so those super-rich sons and daughters of the company’s founder were all there scowling like fucking gorgons sitting on either side of the CEO who read the riot act glaring down the long conference table at the division chiefs. Essentially the message was that a lot of heads were gonna roll if “some big new thing to correct the company’s image” didn’t get hatched out before Christmas. As spankings go, this was pants down with a razor strop. Daddy was pissed.
So timing was perfect. I drafted a white paper outlining my idea, had it witnessed by my attorney, sealed it in a company envelop and mailed it to myself Registered Mail and left unopened in the safe. You see I was small time with no chance of ever moving into the company’s big league, but I wanted my boss’s job. I reckoned that if the idea flew he would try to take all the credit. I could trot out my sealed affidavit and stake my rightful claim. And if the idea exploded, he’d get the axe and just maybe I’d get his job. Beautiful. My idea was wild, but opportunity was a-knockin’.
The negative message being pushed by the press and rabble rousers was that Nell Proctor had set herself on fire because the company paid shit wages, used part time employees to avoid responsibility for insurance and pension benefits and that the company was heavy handed towards any hint organized labor. Well, yeah all this is true; it isn’t like our company invented these models which everyone knows are accepted as sound business practice. Ask any graduating MBA. And if you want to look it up in the library, go to the Cs, read up on Capitalism, Corporations, and Congress.
To be sure my bold plan met some heavy opposition. Eventually, however, the go-ahead came from corporate. Later I learned that the big push came from one of The Family Daughters who coincidentally owns huge chunks of several casinos. The plans went forward with all the energy the company could muster. IT brought in the best gaming programmers, and company attorneys; we call them bag men, visited over 200 state legislators in the six Atlantic states where gaming laws were iffy. PR set up training syllabi for the districts to employ at store-wide levels and created a gigantic Super Bowl ad blitz. A myriad of details were covered, as only the company with unlimited resources can. A fund was set up for the Proctor twins and with much hoopla and The Nell Proctor Scholarship was established for single moms. Then came the biggie. Wal-Lotto launched 4th of July 2013 in stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
Here’s how it works. Remember the chips tipped to the dealer at the blackjack tables? At stores in the selected states customers have the option of tipping their cashier at checkout by debit or credit card. The tip is simply added to the bill. Sweet isn’t it? So what if the company underpays the poor gal at the front of the store, the customer can make it better. Much better, in fact, for with each dollar in tips a cashier receives one chance entered in her name and the customer’s for a two million dollar drawing which will be split with the customer who tipped via credit or debit card; each lucky winner receiving a million bucks whenever that state’s collective tip jar reaches two million dollars. The tipping took no time to catch on. Within ten days a 55 year old grandmother cashier in Jersey City and a Camden kindergarten teacher split two million dollars. By September winners were coming in three times weekly. Other states were clamoring to get on board with Wal-Lotto. Any vacancy for a cashier drew not hundreds, but thousands of applicants. The media, whores that they are, quickly changed their focus from the Nell Proctor tragedy to the joy of so many instant millionaires.
Corporate loved it, absolutely loved it. Remember the pit boss back at the blackjack tables? Like the pit boss who drags his cut from the dealer’s tips at the end of the shift, corporate had worked in an “operational fee” allowing the company to legally skim 25 percent of all tips. No one hollered, because everyone felt like he was getting something for nothing, even if it were only a chance with astronomically stacked odds, at a million bucks. And whereas previously, company cashiers seemed as though they had been selected out of the menopausal bitch pool, now the same ladies were cheerful, helpful, and full of smiles. Initially there were a few kinks to work out. A few cashiers attempted to rig customers’ bills deliberately by not ringing up items for customers who promised to pass half the savings back as tips. But the new overhead cameras and security measures easily snagged those foolish attempts.
So successful was Wal-Lotto that within two years every state, except Utah, featured Wal-Lotto. The game spread internationally with phenomenal success in our stores in China. Competitors copied the plan. Supermarkets, fast food restaurants, gas stations, hospitals, and even the Roman Catholic Church employed tip to win options. Government too got into the action when the IRS provided a tip option on 1040 Forms, with tips to help pay down the national debt. During tax season television ads feature the IRS Prize Patrol Crew dressed in clown suits and Uncle Sam costumes delivering balloons and giant cardboard million dollar checks to deliriously happy taxpayers in every state except Utah.
My boss, who did indeed take credit for my idea, ended up with a seat on the Board of Directors and when I produced my dated registered proof of originality for the idea, he maneuvered my promotion to his old spot as Regional PR Director and a $50,000 bonus guaranteed every year for as long as I keep my mouth shut. I dig the new spot. Maybe you’re familiar with my current ad campaign featuring the car giveaway for some lucky shopper who returns the shopping cart to the store corral. And you’ve probably seen those big Wally Wheels of Fortune at all our store entrances. Shoppers spending more than $100 get to spin for valuable prizes like a trip to Jamaica, dining room furniture, free coffee for a year, and many more smart gift items. I think you’ll agree with our new slogan, “Good luck, shoppers.”
© Gary Ives
first published 3 November 2013, Fiction on the Web