Saturday, March 26, 2011

There's always . . .
. . . an angle

In Italy, DoD employees purchase gasoline coupons which are redeemed at Agip stations, and no cash exchanges hands. The coupons exempt us from the very heavy Italian tax. With the coupon, gasoline costs me about $3.75/gallon. Italians pay about $8.30/gallon.

I won't argue whether this is fair or not, only that the cost of living is much higher here, and DoD employees who volunteer for overseas work are allowed some compensation for doing so.

So, some of the service station attendants have figured out a way to make a quick profit. Here's the conversation from my gas purchase today, after I handed him coupons for 40 liters.

Him: (Seeing another full coupon book in my hand,) Change?

Me: Non capisco. (I don't understand.) I thought he was asking for a tip.

Him: Do euro, dai cedole. (I give Euro, you give coupon.)

Me: No grazie.

Him: (Writing €250 on the back of the coupon book,) Offerta. (Offer.)

Me: (Doing quick math and realizing that he is offering more than $350 for coupons that cost me $200,) Ho detto no! (I said no!)

Him: Perche? (Why?)

Me: Perche non è legale e perderò il mio lavoro. (Because it is illegal, and I will lose my job.)

Him: Shrugs, smiles and walks away. He thought it was worth a try.

Why would I decline a quick profit?

First, it's not ethical.

Second, it's a waste of taxpayer money. Our government shells out money for gasoline that was never purchased.

Finaly, it's a serious crime. I could be fired, prosecuted under U.S. law, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Italian law - and probably the code of Hammurabi, sharia, and Newton's third law of motion.

This choice was simple for me, but I worry about some low ranking sailor being tempted and losing his career for a few dollars.


By the way, did you pick out the use of first person, proximate past and first person, simple future tenses? Not bad for un straniero (a foreigner), eh?