When I joined my fathers business I wasn’t made a partner straight away, oh no, at the age of 28 I had to serve another apprenticeship, I’d done ten years of electrical contracting, now I had to learn how my dad did business and I must admit, it was quite unlike any other business I had ever seen up to that point.
My dad didn’t play by the normal rules of business, his favourite saying was “possession is nine tenths of the law” which of course is totally false for legal title to goods has nothing to do with who possesses them, you could for instance rent some equipment to another business only to find that the other business appoints a liquidator without you knowing and that liquidator could sell your rental asset and claim that he wasn’t informed that you held title to it – all above board, tough titty on you, sue the liquidator, you’ll lose, he knows it and so do you.
We once sold three items of equipment to someone who turned up at our premises with his chequebook, three days later his cheque bounced, our Ned went to the address he’d provided to find a building contractor renovating a building that the con man had told him he owned – he didn’t own the premises at all, the builder had done two weeks work for him, had a cheque bounce and was now looking for him along with us and several other contractors, worse still the conman had gone to the wholesalers and bought £2000 worth of materials on the builders account. We put on a united front and called the police claiming fraud, the police didn’t want to know claiming that it was a commercial arrangement not fraud and that we’d have to persue a private prosecution, if we could find the culprit – the police knew who he was, they’d interviewed him, but they wouldn’t tell us even his name.
So when you are presented with flaky laws of possession like that its no surprise that a hard bitten businessman like my old man would take a slightly different and not always totally legal (but always moral) point of view.
I grew used to going out on little “repossession trips”, we rented a lot of equipment out and sometimes either the cheque bounced or the equipment didn’t come back, or both.
Depending on what we found at the premises we would either smile nicely and convince the rentor that we had come to service the equipment then prise it off the wall when they weren’t looking, or we’d “gain entry” to empty buildings and have our equipment away before the landlord or liquidator took possession, and if that sounds like The Sopranos then maybe thats why I watched every single episode of every single season of that programme, we never killed anyone but we did a lot of the other stuff 🙂
I grew so adept at smiling nicely and convincing rentors that I was there to service their equipment that often it would be several hours later that they’d ring our office to complain to my dad that his engineer had been there and when was he coming back with their equipment – cue hilarious laughter from my father and the “Possession is nine tenths of the law” statement followed by, “Now about this bounced cheque”…
I once broke into a warehouse via a back door to find the whole place an empty burned out shell with no roof left, they’d stocked it up on credit, emptied it and then set fire to the building to make an insurance claim, the fire service had just left when I prised the back door open and steam was still rising from the blackened roof timbers that were now lying on the factory floor – we didn’t get our equipment back in that particular case.
And sometimes you just had to front up to the owners, “You either give me it back now or I call the police and charge you with theft” usually worked after a period of cursing you, your mother, and the horse you rode in on, nothing cheered my old man up more than me walking back into the office with our equipment “Thats my boy” he’d growl in a passable imitation of Spike the Dog from the Tom and Jerry cartoons, specifically the one where he lets his young pup bite Toms tail while he holds him down.