The Tear Gas Story
A true story written 4/5/2015
Some how during a recent discussion, someone mentioned tear gas, and it reminded me of an experience I had with the stuff.
Back in the early 1990’s, I had a wholesale automotive parts warehouse located in Miami called Automotive Parts Industries. One of our methods of sales was by using
telemarketers, our telemarketing department was headed up by my son Jack. He had two or three motivated telephone salesmen working for him. They called all our customers on
a regular basis to advise them of deals and weekly specials we were offering. All of these fellows were salaried and also on commission.
At the time, I had a good friend who had an automotive electrical parts business located several blocks down the street from us called Auto Electric of 54th Street, his name was Joel Friedman.
Well, one day Joel called me, he said that he was moving to Naples Florida, so naturally I wished my friend the best of luck. Joel said that the reason he was calling me
was because he needed my assistance. He said he had obtained at an auction a quantity of tear gas canisters called “Lance”, and he had them in a rented self storage unit. Joel explained what his problem was. Now that he was moving, He didn’t want the expense of shipping the tear gas over to Naples, nor did he want the expense of continuing to pay for the storage. Joel said that he knew that I had extra warehouse space, and he said that if I would agree to it, he would turn over the whole load of teargas to me as a partner. He said I could store the teargas in my warehouse, and pay him when we sold it, the deal sounded great, as Joel said he didn’t want any money. I thought, how, could I lose, I was getting the teargas for free until we sold it.
That afternoon Joel came over to my office with cardboard carton full of Lance. In the carton, there were twelve beautiful black aerosol tear gas canisters. The aerosol cans were, about one and one half inches in diameter and about eight inches tall, with a picture of a silver knight on horseback holding a lance. I recognized that the tear gas canisters were the same kind that the Miami police carried on their belt. My first thought was that the canisters were small enough, so a woman could carry one in her purse to use for personal protection.
So as Joel said he was moving in the next few days and he gave me the key to his self storage locker which he said was paid for to the end of the month. Because I was so excited, I never asked Joel exactly how much tear gas there was in the storage facility. After all, he was practically giving it to me as a gift, and I didn’t want to appear ungracious by asking too many questions, he might change his mind. The following week we rented a twenty foot U haul truck and went to the storage unit to pick up all the boxes
of teargas and transport them to our warehouse. When we got to the storage warehouse, to my surprise there were enough boxes of teargas to fill a forty foot container truck. We had no choice, so we made several trips, and filled our whole main warehouse building with the cases of teargas.
We did some research and found that each can sold for twelve to fourteen dollars apiece, so my son Jack told our phone salesman to sell them for two dollars each, or twenty dollars a case. At first sales seemed pretty good, the telemarketers sold at least a hundred cans. Things looked good, and I was so enthusiastic about it, I took a case of it home to show my fiancé. My fiancé Katherine managed a large freight forwarding company in Miami with quite a few female employees, so I thought perhaps she could offer them to all the women to use for self protection. I was advised that everyone loved them, but no one wanted to buy any.
After a few weeks, we realized the huge quantity of teargas was blocking up our warehouse. There were so many cases of teargas we could hardly walk around it, so we decided to move the teargas to another one of our buildings up the street. This move took us several days to do, an as we were doing it, I noticed that everyone involved was scratching what seemed to be a rash on their skin. Someone said that they thought a few of the teargas canisters might be leaking, but there was no way to tell which ones were
Leaking. As we were moving them out of our main building anyway, it didn’t present a terrible problem at the time.
Our telemarketers continued trying to sell the tear gas by the case, but after several weeks, my son Jack informed me that the sales for the teargas had dropped off to almost nothing, it seemed that no one wanted to buy the stuff. It looked like my wonderful deal wasn’t so wonderful after all. At our next meeting my warehouse manager said it was better if we stopped selling the stuff, he said that because no one could enter the building where they were stored. It appeared some of the cans were now leaking so bad that no one wanted to go into the building. He said that if anyone went in the building their skin would become irritated and their eyes would start tearing. Well, that scared me, I got to thinking that we might have an EPA problem, and if the EPA ever caught us with this leaky teargas we could get in a lot of trouble, and it might cost us a fortune just to dispose of it, not to mention the potential for a fine.
We had a brain storming session with all the telemarketers to figure out a way to get rid of the stuff, and do it quickly. My son Jack told me that they had only one potential customer that showed any interest at all in buying the whole load from us. The problem was that he was a well known out of state dead beat, that never paid his bills. I remembered that last time when he owed us money. We had big problems trying to collect from him, and eventually had to use a bill collector.
I thought long and hard on the situation, and I went over to the warehouse to see how many cases that we still had there. Well, there were a lot of cases, we still had almost a whole forty foot trailer truck load. The worst part was that as soon as I entered the building my eyes became watery and I began scratching all over. No wonder my friend Joel Friedman was so happy to have me take the tear gas off his hands for free. He knew that if the EPA ever got wind of this pollution nightmare there would be no end to the problems. I thought that Joel was smart enough to get me to take the deal off his hands, I needed to do the same thing.
I suggested to my son that he call up the deadbeat potential customer and tell him we considered him a valued customer, and because of that we were giving him a thirty day open account. I assumed that once he heard he had credit with us, he would buy anything we offered him, with no intention of ever paying us.
Jack told me that the customer was so happy that he now had credit with us, h said he wanted to buy the entire trailer load of teargas, and he offered one dollar a can, he said he would pay the freight to get the teargas to him. We all knew that he never had any intentions of ever paying us.
Well loading the trailer truck was quite a problem, but we managed to do it with everyone crying and scratching. I was told the customer received the shipment and he did pay the freight. As expected he never made any payment to us after the thirty days when the money was due. I didn’t ever try to collect the money as I was afraid he would return the teargas to us.
As time went on, I spoke to Joel Friedman several times, but he never mentioned the leaking teargas, nor did he ever ask me about his share of the profit.