The Specialist Online Retailer

By chadfiske | Daft Stories | 1 Dec 2020


The broker was bored. He was on auto-pilot writing up meeting notes when the call came through that his 11 o’clock appointment was waiting in reception. As it was only 10.48, the broker continued working until he came to a convenient point. In spite of the mind-numbing task in hand, it irritated him when appointments arrived early and he didn’t want to encourage it, even if they were only by twelve minutes. This was to be the broker’s first meeting in person with this particular client to discuss possible funding for a new small business venture. During their brief telephone conversation, the client refused to disclose details of this venture. All he would say was that it involved online sales, and it was something that eBay didn’t do.

At 10.59 the broker left his desk and went downstairs to the reception. There were two men and a woman waiting. The broker called a name and the youngest-looking of the three stood up. He was roughly 6 feet tall, short light brown hair, wearing a wax coat and tracksuit bottoms tucked into football socks. A strange get-up. The broker suspected that the lad had not seen much soap recently. He looked about thirty-five, so the broker estimated his true age to be around ten years younger.

“Hello. Come this way, please.”

The client sauntered after the broker, hands in pockets, swaying his shoulders a little as he moved.

The broker entered the client’s details on the system. He was twenty-eight, so his guess had almost been correct. He had been recently been made redundant from his gardening job with the local authority. The referral had ben made by Pam Newton, the client’s work coach. The broker had regular run-ins with Pam. She seemed to take care to make life as difficult for her clients and for the broker. Pole-arsed waxwork. The broker thought to himself.

Pam was indeed a pain in the arse. One of those individuals convinced of their own superiority and wisdom, who nevertheless confirmed their ignorance every time she spoke. The President Trump of the Job Centre. The broker was by no means blameless. He thought of the government official who became his nemesis years ago when he first started the job. Another pole-arsed specimen. The broker enjoyed pushing things as far as he could with that guy and usually won. This guy was infuriating, but the broker enjoyed crossing swords. However, that was when he was young and keen. Now middle-aged and somewhat blunted, he trudged though his job.

“Have you thought about setting up in business as a gardener?”asked the broker.

“No. People aren’t interested this weather.”

The broker looked out of his window at the sunny day outside. It was early April and the weather had been fine all week. It was this kind of response that had sapped the broker of much of his enthusiasm, but he tried to push his cynicism aside. Can’t blame him for wanting a change. Easy for me behind this desk.

“So, what about your idea? Would you like to tell me about it?”

The client smiled and rubbed his face. “I’m not sure that I want to say too much. Is there any help for online businesses?”

“There might be, but you’ll have to tell me what it is before I can help.”

The broker had worked on many cases where the client was so sure they were onto the next big thing they were reluctant to give details of the idea in case it was stolen. In ten years, the broker had never heard a business case so new and original as to warrant such guarded secrecy.

“All I need is a bit of money from the grant to buy stock and a laptop,” pleaded the client.

It used to be vans but now people know the grant is running out they ask for a laptop instead.

“We have to write a business plan, with solid market research, cash flow projections and a full discussion of the idea. The panel then decides if the plan is good enough to receive the grant.” So you’re going to have to give me a lot more than that.

Following some persuasion, the client started to relent. “You know people with a fetish who want to certain clothes?” He leaned towards the broker, breath reeking of onions. The broker leaned back.

Not another kink business. What is it with people these days? Although Price managed to get that leather tat online thing going.

“Oh, you’re selling that sort of stuff? My colleague has just helped a business set up in the same niche.” Maybe I can get rid of this one.

The broker shouted his colleague over. “Neil. You set up that leather goods shop, didn’t you?”

Price strolled over and leaned over the partition board. “Yes. We have a rival?,” he grinned.

“How was it financed?” asked the broker.

“They self-financed. No funder would touch it. We can still claim the time for it, though.” Meaning the department would still get paid if the business went ahead.

Price gave the broker the web address. The broker punched it in to his keyboard and the website appeared on his desktop monitor. A swish website materialised but the professional appearance was undermined slightly by a range of leather studded, shorts, masks and sundry accessories. The client shook his head. “No. That’s not the type of stuff I’m selling. Different fetish.”

The mind boggles.

Price chuckled. “I’ll leave you to it.”

“OK. What are we talking about?” The broker asked, but didn’t want to know.

The client leaned in again and spoke. “You know clothes for people with a fetish?” Again, the whiff of onions, again the broker leaned back.

“Yes, we’ve established that.” Are you going to tell me or what?

“I was just flicking through Instagram the other night,” began the client.

Oh yes, I bet you were.

“I noticed some people were selling clothes, used clothes.”

“You want to sell second-hand clothes? Vintage stuff?” Why didn’t you just say?

“Not exactly,” said the client. “Used socks, pants, vests to people with a fetish.”

The fog cleared and the broker immediately understood. You dirty, dirty boy. You just happened to stumble on this?

“You want to sell soiled clothing to fetishists? Dirty socks and pants?”

“Yes.” The client looked tense, but more like he wanted to harbour a hot secret rather than he was ashamed.

Bloody hell. Why would you think you’d get a grant for this?

“How would you promote this? You couldn’t make much through Instagram or Facebook. They’d probably shut you down.”

“No, sometimes they sell for £50 for a vest. Here, I’ll show you.”

“Please don’t.” The broker had heard enough and had no intention of setting a real image to the one he was trying to extinguish from his mind.

“Look. The harsh truth is that nobody is going to give you money to set this up. Funders will run a mile. This grant has to go before a panel made up of the great and the good. Local church people, magistrates, business people. There’s even a knight of the realm on this panel. Think about how it looks. Do you really want your kids to be the ones at school whose dad flogs dirty kegs for a living?”

“Hmm.” The client looked a little deflated. “I haven’t got children.”

“Have a think about it over the next few days. We’ll have a chat over the phone to discuss any other ideas that might be more appropriate.” I’ll let him derive his own conclusions then maybe suggest he looks into gardening or something.

The client skulked out of the office and the broker heaved a weary sigh of relief.

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