Negotiating.

Time to Settle Accounts

January 4, 2012: Negotiating.

“Socks! Got those tube socks!” the man shouted on the westbound Green Line. “One pair for a dollar, pack of six for five.” He was a short man in a black leather coat and a black toque with furry ear flaps, and he was marching through the aisles as people looked away. A man seated nearby finished a phone conversation and looked up, briefly making eye contact with the salesman.

“You sir! I got socks! Got one pair for a dollar.”

“What am I going to do with one pair of socks?” asked the seated man.

“That’s why I sell the pack for five.”

“What’s the retail?”

“The what?”

“How bout this,” said the seated man. “Three bucks for the pack.”

“Are you crazy?” asked the merchant. “I can sell these for five!”

“Then sell ‘em for five.” The merchant was now occupying an empty seat adjacent to the seated man; with the action concentrated to one area of the train, the other passengers began to watch. “I’ve got three bucks.”

“How about four?”

“Three.”

“Three-fifty.”

The seated man eyed him more closely. “Three.”

“Damn man! Work with me!”

“This is me working with you.” The seated man checked his phone and looked back up. “You got a vendor’s license?”

“A what?”

“A vendor’s license.”

“Man, I got a friend who gets these, and he gives ‘em to me to sell ‘em.”

“Sounds like you guys got a good thing going.”

“Damnit,” mumbled the merchant. And then an idea flickered in his eyes. “So I guess you’re pretty broke, huh?”

“Excuse me?” asked the seated man.

“Only having three bucks.”

“I got three bucks for you,” said the seated man. “I got a roll right here,” he said, patting his coat pocket.

“Sounds to me like you only got three bucks,” laughed the merchant.

“You want my money or not?” asked the seated man.

“Yeah…” said the merchant. “What did we say, three-fifty?”

“You serious?”

“It’s really all you have?”

“This is my stop,” said the seated man, finally standing.

“So three bucks?”

The seated man pulled out three dollar bills. “Three bucks.”

“Sold,” said the merchant.

“Pleasure doing business with you,” said the seated man as he exited the train.

“Enjoy the socks,” said the merchant.

NEXT: Kings and queens. (1.5.12)

PREVIOUS: The first carrot. (1.3.12)

On this date, 2011: Let them eat digital cake.

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