Once a fox came up with a fail-proof entrepreneurial scheme. Rather than following the usual practice of selling people something they probably didn’t need, the fox chose to take advantage of the marketing strategy of buying something they no longer appeared to have much use for. It offered to purchase their unwanted shame. In bulk. The fox made the following pitch to all who would listen: “Ever wanted it all, but never had the nerve to go for it? Put those days behind you. I guarantee whatever you desire in fame, fortune, sex, power, or anything else in return for your shame. If shame is all that holds you back from fighting your way over others to the top and doing whatever it takes to stay there once you’ve made it, then hesitate no longer. Your lucky day has arrived! If you’re not completely satisfied with this chance of a lifetime to be shame-free once and for all, I promise to return your shame in full, no questions asked. But wait, there’s more! I’ll even let you name your own price! But hurry, this offer ends soon.” That final line in the pitch was the masterstroke of the fox’s strategy. It had grasped the simple truth that once the offer ended, fears of a falling price would cause even the most hesitant seller to panic into unloading any and all remaining shame for whatever it might still fetch. Nobody wanted to be left with shame that was worthless. But there was another phase to the fox’s plan that came to be viewed as equally brilliant. Once it had cornered the market in what came to be called junk shame, the fox decided to issue an IPO for a startup named “Fruits of Shame,” gambling that shares in shame might prove attractive to speculators. The name had a golden allure to it, and the offering took off almost immediately, reaching new highs with every trading session. On television screens, computers, and news racks everywhere, the face of “The Fox of Wall Street” became easily the most recognizable in the land. Despite this stunning success, however, the fox was troubled by an unexpected and deepening sense of dissatisfaction. It was proving far too easy to convince people to divest themselves of shame for next to nothing. They practically begged the fox to take it, all but throwing whatever shame they might still have at its feet. There simply wasn’t any entrepreneurial challenge left in the enterprise. The same was true of dealing with imploring investors who sought bargains in others’ shame and hoped to make a killing whether the market went up or down. Alone in newly expanded offices at the end of another quarter’s celebration over beating analysts’ expectations time and again (and increasingly by triple digits as individuals and corporations vied to cash out their shame ahead of competitors), the fox brushed bits of confetti from its hair, then turned and walked away from the numbers scrolling brightly across the stock ticker overhead. “It just shouldn’t be this easy,” it grumbled with a disappointed expression, almost as if it had tasted something sour.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans