How We Did Business The Mob Style

He screamed a lot if you made a mistake. He swore like a sailor. He threw things such as his cell phone at men (never at women, although I was sure he wanted to) when he thought they were stupid beyond his reasonable expectations. Over the years I learned how to duck quite vigorously to avoid flying cell phones, pens, staplers and such. He didn’t care what people thought about him. He knew that some of us were deadly afraid of him, and said to me once that fear, in his opinion, equals respect.

We were afraid of his tantrums. We were scared for our lives to make a mistake, and always checked our work at least three times before submitting it to him. We spoke in whispers so that he could not hear us if we were not sure what numbers to use, how many tires to order or how to calculate a sales price.

In 1995 I graduated from the University with a Master’s degree in Library Science. Lithuania was bankrupt and a lot of people were poor. But the environment for business development was not too bad, the economy was weakly but steadily kicking, and even the purchasing power of the population was increasing slowly. New privately owned businesses were emerging all over the country.

My first language was Russian, but in 1990s the Russian language wouldn’t do you any good. Fortunately for me, at the university, I studied in Lithuanian, and learned the language so well that when I spoke it no one could determine that I was Russian.

It served me good until I started looking for a job. Then I found out very quickly that no one would hire me because of my Russian name. An interview would go pretty well until someone would clarify my first name with a question “Your name is Russian, isn’t it?” After my confirmation, all I got was a polite and cold smile followed by “We’ll call you.” Of course, I never heard from them again.

He didn’t care that I was Russian. All he cared was that I had a university diploma, spoke Lithuanian, could type and was willing to work long hours. I became an Office Assistant who used a typewriter (yes, in 1995!), answered phones very quickly, served coffee to the clients, filled out customs paperwork and lied to my boss’ wife about his suspicious whereabouts.

It didn’t take me too long to notice that when a certain two men wearing sport suits came in to talk to my boss, he would always close the door behind them and never would ask me to bring coffee.

One day, however, my boss had an appointment at a bank that he could not miss. He decided that I could handle the meeting with the two sport suits. That morning he came to my desk, dropped a Wal-Mart style plastic bag in front of me, and said that his two good friends would be coming in to pick it up. My job was to make sure they got the bag.

The bag was wide open, and I froze when I saw that it was filled with very valuable currency, US dollars. Right now I would say “hell no,” or ask how much was there, and if I should recount, and maybe if we should seal the bag. Back then, I took the bag and put it in my desk.

The two sports suits came in the office a couple hours later. It was an odd experience because neither of us said a word. We looked at each other and nodded like good old acquaintances. I pulled out the plastic bag from my desk drawer and handed it to them. They looked inside, then at me, and that’s when I got really scared. A wild thought crossed my mind “What if they think I stole money from this bag?”

In those days, no matter if you were in the business of recycling aluminum cans, having a barber shop or selling tires, as a business owner you had to pay what we called “ a roof fee” (a security fee) to the mob in order to avoid any physical or economic harm. Mostly physical.

A few months later my boss stopped paying the “roof fee“. I didn’t know it until one day some man brought a car into our auto service that was located in a small garage. According to this man there was something wrong with the engine. Two of our mechanics took the car in, and luckily for both of them, they decided to take a smoke break outside of the garage. Meanwhile, whatever was in the car exploded, and the garage burned down to ashes.

The firm survived in spite of the big loss. However, we had to move to a different location, to the outskirts of town, because the mob did not allow my boss to do business in town anymore.

24 thoughts on “How We Did Business The Mob Style

  1. retirebyforty

    Jeezz, that’s NUTS!! We have it pretty good here in the grand scheme of things. Your old boss sounds like a jerk.

  2. Everyday Tips

    How fascinating! Did you count to see how much money was in there? At first I wondered if maybe he was testing you. Instead, it seems like it was kind of ‘business as usual’ for him. How scary. Did you contemplate quitting? I bet they were armed…

    1. Aloysa

      It blows me away when I think about it right now. But back then I never counted the money, I never even asked my boss how much was in that bag. I worked for him five years and never thought about quitting.

  3. Marc

    Reading this makes me think of my current boss. Although he never threatens anyone with physical harm it’s the mental and emotional toll he puts on everyone at my work. He believes everyone is stupid until you can prove him otherwise. I must have as I have been here three years.

    My dad was born in Lithuania and fled with his family when the Russians invaded. I enjoy reading your posts about Lithuania, kind of reinforces the stories I have heard from my grandparents and dad.

    1. Aloysa

      It is really hard to perform when you work under constant pressure of emotional and mental abuse. A lot of people could not handle it. Those who could, stayed with him for a long time. But it was very hard.

      I am sure you heard a lot of interesting stories from your family. You should put them in writing!

  4. yesiamcheap

    “Roof fee” huh? I guess that’s what kept them from blowing the roof off the building. Boss could have warned you at least.

    1. Aloysa

      I guess he assumed that I understood what was gooing on. And I kinda of did… at least if not at once then definitely later.

  5. Deidre @ TransFormX

    My God! How long did you actually work for the jerk? I am sure you were scared witless of going to work every day and even more scared if you didn’t!

    Thank goodness nothing awful happened to you while you were there…and if something did I hope you are ok now!

    1. Aloysa

      I worked for him five years. It was not all bad. We had some good things too. He did teach me a lot about business. But he was one scary boss!

      1. Deidre @ TransFormX

        Im glad you learned alot But being in all that negativity sometimes leaves a lasting impression…I’m glad you are ok and took it all in stride !

  6. Finanzas Personales

    Great story, Aloysa! Seems very movie-like… it reminds me that real life can sometimes be scarier / wilder / tougher than fiction…

    1. Aloysa

      It is true. Life can be much more interesting and wilder than any movie. In fact, I probably need to write more about this man. He was quite a character.

  7. brokeprofessionals

    And now your an accountant……and probably loving every second of what some consider to be a somewhat “boring” job.
    Amazing. I will be a little more grateful at work tomorrow.

  8. Buck Inspire

    I was on the edge of my seat. You should write a book! The only thing I knew about Lithuania was Sarunas Marciulionis when he played in the NBA. Now I know about flying cell phones, roof fees, and the mob. Thanks for sharing!

  9. 101 Centavos

    Wow…. glad you kept your cool. Them guys don’t mess around. I saw Sarunas Marciulonis play with the Warrious at the Coliseum when he was with the Gold State Warriors. Great player to watch.

  10. Lindy Mint

    Whaa? I was going to post about my crazy past work experiences, but I think you win on this one.

    We had Italian neighbors growing up, and we were convinced they had mob ties. They owned an Italian restaurant that never had any customers, ever. Yet they still stayed in business. They too had visitors come to their house in suits.

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