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High Finance in the Cabbage Patch

Posted by Dr. D , 14 September 2012 · 483 views

It was many years ago when some astute art student had created a phenomena called the Cabbage Patch doll.  It was a rather simple doll with an appealing face but the marketing was absolutely brilliant.  You didn’t just buy this doll, you adopted it.  It came with an “official” adoption certificate that this stuffed creature would be your responsibility forever.  It wasn’t a fad, it was insanity.  Toys R Us had waiting lists numbering in the hundreds.  In the final three weeks before Christmas that year, not one Cabbage Patch doll could be found.

And then it happened.  The ad appeared in the classified section of the Los Angeles Times.  “Six Cabbage Patch dolls to the highest bidder.”  It was something that could not be refused.  It was like finding a job counting money on commission.  I called immediately and offered fifty dollars.  The woman on the other end of the line simply laughed hysterically and hung up.

Close to my office was the suite belonging to an elite investment group.  These were men who had sealed multi-million dollar deals on the golf course.  They had once committed themselves to a ten million dollar debt, writing the terms on a bar napkin.  They were high rollers and negotiators at the god level.  The problem was, like me, they all had little girls.  The little girls watched television.  On television were the Cabbage Patch doll commercials.  I don’t need to tell the rest.  But I knew if anyone could get a Cabbage Patch doll for me, these were the guys.  I took the newspaper ad to them and suddenly, the office was another New York Stock Exchange.  “One hundred!” one shouted on the phone and then muttered, “damn!” and slammed the receiver down.

“One hundred twenty!” shouted another.  “What?  How much?  You’re kidding!  Okay, don’t sell!  I’ll call you back in a sec!”  Turning to the others he widened his eyes with alarm and muttered, “Three fifty!  They’re going for three fifty!”

One of the senior officers of the company jerked up the phone, punched numbers and announced firmly, “Four!  I’ll give you four hundred!”  He listened for a moment and his mouth fell agape.  “Who was that lunatic?  Five twenty-five?”  He gazed toward his desk where the angelic photo of his daughter rested.  “Okay!  Five fifty!  Save one of those little b******* for me, okay?”  Turning to the others, he sat on the edge of his desk and shook his head with resignation.  “She’s got offers of five twenty-five and the day’s not over.  What are we going to do?”

Six months earlier, these men met to conclude the purchase of one of their companies by Japanese investors.  They had negotiated for three months and consulted daily on their strategy.  They had purchased skyscrapers, won a sub-contract with Boeing and dealt directly with the Pentagon but during all those times, they were never so panicked as in the moment of risking the loss of the Cabbage Patch dolls.

“Let me handle it,” said Ralph, the corporate attorney.  He pushed the redial button and pretended to be calm and unconcerned.  “Good afternoon,” he began, “I understand you have six Cabbage Patch dolls.  I’d like to make you an offer of three thousand dollars for all of them.  I can send someone with the check within the hour.”  He smiled with confidence to the others as they gathered around him with anticipation.  “Oh, I see,” he said suddenly.  “That much, huh?  But you haven’t sold them . . .  good.   I’ll be in touch with you.  Thank you, good bye.”  His face froze with a hardened concern.  “She can get forty two hundred dollars for them selling them individually for seven hundred each,” he informed the group.

“Okay,” said Mark, the senior leader of the group, “time to ante up.  A grand each if she closes the sale now, agreed?  No more negotiating.  This is the bottom line and we set the limit, agreed?”

The Cabbage Patch line was busy for several attempts to reach it but finally it rang.  “Okay,” the boss started, “six thousand dollars.  Cash, out front.  But you have to cut the sale now, okay?  Tell everyone else that they’ve been sold.  Whadya’ say, do we have a deal?”  He frowned deeply and listened with intense interest.  “Until when?  Hell, that’s six hours from now, I mean, this isn’t Sotheby’s with a Picasso, for Godssake, it’s a damned doll!  Okay, okay, I understand.  Five o’clock this afternoon.  Okay, we’ll be in touch.”

The group retreated to the conference room where elbows were planted on the long table and all the faces were solemn.

“She’s gonna’ take us to the cleaners on this one,” the boss moaned.  “She knows she got us by the . . . . ”

“Okay, but what choice do we have?” interrupted the marketing VP.  “Do you know what it’s gonna’ be like if our kids go down to the Christmas tree and there’s no Cabbage Patch there?”

“Hell, that’s what’ll be, absolute hell,” confirmed another, “she’ll think she wasn’t a good girl, her grades weren’t good enough and if Santa didn’t bring it, where in the hell was her dad?”

“This could go up to two grand,” said the chairman who had spoiled his granddaughter past the point of repair, “two friggin’ thousand dollars for some stuffed little piece of crap made outta’ denim scraps from Levi!  And it has that damned smile.  We’re gonna’ look at that face every day and it’s gonna’ be grinning at what idiots we are!”

“It’s simple,” said Ralph the lawyer, “there’s six of us and six dolls.  Whatever the bid is at five minutes to five, we’ll top it.”

“Okay,” agreed the chairman, “but find out where she lives and have someone at her door at five o’clock with the cash in hand.  But if it’s one of those damned dolls with a recorded giggle, I’m gonna’ tear it apart!”

The marketing VP leaned forward with an aggressive scowl, “And if anyone beats us to them, do anything necessary to get their names and addresses.  If we strike out on this one, maybe we can deal with the buyers later.”

“I don’t think she’s gonna’ have the names and addresses of the buyers,” said the economist.  “She’s just gonna’ sell them and forget about it.”

Tim Harrison was probably the misfit of the group.  He was part of the firm through some relationship with the founders, a nephew I think.  But he offered the gem, “We could check the adoption records!”

“Jesus, Tim,” moaned the chairman.  “It’s not real adoptions.  If it was, I’d be calling someone in Guatemala right now.”

“I’m going to have some of our security guys check out where this woman lives,” the attorney assured them.  It was later rumored that the woman didn’t want to give out her address except to the final buyer but one of the high rollers had a contact with Bell Telephone.

And for the rest of the day they eyed the clock and had secretaries calling regularly to check on the most recent high bid.  At four-fifteen a messenger on a private security car was sent to the seller’s address, his leather bag closed around bundles of cash.  He would be contacted by radio about how much to pay.

At precisely 4:57, the deal was struck.  There were handshakes, shouts of ecstasy, hugs and body bumps and congratulations to all.  The high rollers had done it again.

And so it was that the great Cabbage Patch merger was settled and at eight o’clock that night each drove home with a smiling doll at their side, standing proudly In their box waiting for Christmas Eve.  On Christmas morn, my daughter, Wendy, squealed with delight at the sight of her Cabbage Patch that was named Emily.  They were constant companions and eventually Emily found a home on the pillows of Wendy’s bed where she resided for the next twenty years.

Not long ago, I rummaged through old papers and there it was; Emily’s adoption certificate.  I have no idea where Emily is or where she went, but she was adopted and genuinely loved.  With her  unchanging expression that I always thought resembled constipation, she had graced our home and kept our daughter happy.  I never thought again about the cost.  How could I ever pay for what she gave us, especially my lesson in high finance.

Ever Learning
Sep 14 2012 01:37 PM
When i first scrolled down and saw the amount to read, it almost made me turn away but reassured myself that if it was good i would be able to tell from first few paragraphs. was a pleasure all the way to the end and am glad i did finish it.
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Sep 14 2012 03:57 PM
Wonderful ;) I remember that year - I didn't get a doll...
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Sep 14 2012 03:58 PM
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Vernon the Great
Sep 14 2012 09:13 PM
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This is really making me smile.  My Gran gave me a $50 note so I could buy my Cabbage Patch in the mid 80's and I truly understand the pressure these men were under, those dolls were powerful.  I have two real kids now but I must say my mothering skills were honed somewhat with my boy Barclay (who still lives in my bedroom).
That doll was (is) so special, it's hard to explain...

As an adult I worked for a toy company here which imported the Buzz LIightyear dolls when Toy Story first came out.  It was a similar environment when those first samples were delivered to our office, and in the weeks that followed as stock ran out.
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