Across The Counter
Reprinted from April 1991
During my life, I must have registered for at least three thousand giveaways. I’ve purchased countless chances on cars and merchandise and registered for so many “free drawings,” I’ve suffered from writer’s cramp.
I finally came to the conclusion that the odds are so overwhelmingly stacked against a person winning anything it is useless to try. At least I felt that way until a few days ago when I received a nice letter from the IRS.
“Dear Taxpayer: Your account has been selected at random by our computer to be audited.”
Gee, how lucky can you get? Out of 99,999 other independent jewelers, we were selected.
So with trembling hands and far more courage than I actually felt, I gathered together all the necessary records and went to the IRS office.
“Well now,” stated Mr. IRS Agent. “Let’s just run over the deductions you claimed on your return.”
“Good heavens!” he shouted. “What is this deduction of $26,950? Write off for contributing your personal papers to the jewelry trade?”
I nodded again.
“Now, really Mrs. Williams. We simply can’t permit this sort of thing. I’m sure there is nothing of any interest which goes on in your store which could be of special interest to others in the trade.”
“We have all sorts of interesting things happen every single day,” I protested.
“Is that so? Tell me about some of these incidents. They would have to be very interesting to qualify for such a deduction.”
I flipped through the pages. “Here on April 22nd there is a notation about a woman who came in to purchase an un-mounted diamond. “
He drummed his fingers impatiently. “Yes, go on please.”
“Mr. Williams seated her in the diamond room and sat down across from her. He got out a nice one carat diamond and held it out for her to inspect.”
“I don’t see anything unusual about that.”
“Holding a diamond in tweezers is really a very difficult thing to do, Mr. Agent. Especially when one has one’s eyes focused elsewhere. Somehow RB flipped the diamond up in the air and it went right down the front of the customer’s dress.”
The agent was more alert now. “Yes? Then what happened?”
“RB looked pretty silly. He didn’t really know what to say. This problem was never included in the textbooks he read. The customer looked a little bewildered and then asked coyly: ‘Would you like to have your diamond back, Mr. Williams?’
“Poor RB, he mopped his brow a little and stammered: ‘Well, yes… if it isn’t too inconvenient.’ I knew he was wondering what he’d do if she said: ‘Well come and get it!’”
“Did she say that?”
“No. Fortunately for RB she was a good sport and retrieved it herself.”
“Did he make the sale?”
“Yes, he did and that shows right over here under gross income: sale of (1) one carat stone.”
“My, my. I never realized such interesting things went on in jewelry stores. What else is mentioned in your papers?”
“On March 20th, a customer brought in a watch belonging to the late Paul Revere. Would you like to hear about that?”
“Er… let’s go on to something else.”
“Let’s see. On August 2nd Miss Flossie came in to purchase a nice chiming clock for her house. Er…I mean for her home. RB showed her what we had and she really liked one model. “
“Your clock is very nice, Mr. Williams. Perhaps we could work out a satisfactory trade?”
RB was willing. “Of course, Miss Flossie, what did you have in mind?”
“Up at my place, I have an ‘old timer’ you might be interested in. It would be worth your while to drop by and take a look for yourself.”
“Did he go?”
“Yes, he did. In fact, he came back from Miss Flossie’s with his shirt torn half off. By the way, can we take that off as a business deduction?”
“Take WHAT off?”
‘Well…I don’t think so…an…what happened at Miss Flossie’s?”
“I don’t actually know. Evidently RB didn’t offer her enough for her ‘old timer’ because she never purchased the new clock.”
“Er…yes…evidently he didn’t.”
“Shall I read you some more entries from our personal papers?”
“No…I don’t think that will be necessary.”
“Will you allow the deduction?”
“Oh, by all means, Mrs. Williams, and I find your estimate of $26,950 to be very conservative. We’ll leave it that way under one condition.”
“Give me Miss Flossie’s phone number. It sounds like her assets and liabilities need a proper investigation.”