Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Slogging away like an old dog"

One night when I was having a meal at one of the retired steward's (James) restaurant, I noticed an old fellow (about 68 yrs old) struggling to balance the plates and cutlery he was carrying to the kitchen. At one stage, he almost lost his balance and dropped a few cutlery on the floor.
It was sad to witness such a pathetic scene, I told myself. Out of the blue, the owner of the restaurant as though able to read my mind, told me that the old man was Ken a former multi-millionaire.
"But what is he doing here, slogging away like a dog?", I asked.
"It is a long story...I will tell you after you've finished eating your food " he smiled at me.

After dinner, it was told to me that:

Ken was once a regular pax with SIA and that's when he met James and some of the cabin crew. They were nice to him and on one flight to London, Ken invited them to his luxurious hotel suite for a party. Co-incidentally, it was on a New Year Eve.
James and his crew were treated to a sumptuous dinner at the hotel,courtesy of  Ken. After dinner, Ken handed James and his crew a red packet containing a thousand Sterling Pound each as a gift for taking care of him during flight.

No doubt about it, Ken was not only a wealthy man but a kind and generous one too. He told James to contact him each time they were in London and so they could party together. This went on for almost 5 years until one day, Ken was arrested and extraditated to Singapore to face chrages of fraud.

Ken spent 10 years in the prison and after his release, he contacted James. It wasn't a happy meeting like those in the London suite.
Ken was penniless and needed a job and that's when James offered him a waiter's position in his restaurant. Ken had little choice but to accept the offer of the $1,500 a month job.

It's a long story and I do not want to go into great details but Ken was really grateful to James.

This was one of the saddest story I have ever heard, whereby a once very rich man had to slog along to make a meagre $1,500 a month as a waiter at an old age.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like this mm used to be the founder of Ken A--?

Anonymous said...

He was a good pax always have been good to the cc. May God help him.

Snowy Beagle said...

Sounds very much like a re-telling of the Parable of the Shrewd Manager (or Parable of the Dishonest/Unjust Steward) from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 16, verses 1-14.

I am not saying the generous monetary tips from Ken were from dishonest gains, but its amount would have raised a red flags to auditors.

Some years back, I attended a corporate course on Fraud Detection and one of the suspicious signs in the behaviour of someone with dishonest gains is unwarranted or disproportionate "generosity".

Whether the suspect has visible means of income supporting such levels of generosity is secondary - if without, then it is additional cause.

Even if the person is wealthy through his own means or through generosity of wealthier benefactor, and is generous by nature, the level of generosity should be rationally proportionate to the event and to the relationship.

For example, Richard Branson and the Sultan of Brunei are well known to be rich, hospital and gracious, lavishing generous tips that can run into thousands of dollars. But their level of wealth is into billions, not *merely* multi-millions.

The Fraud Detection course instructor gave some psychological insight into the mind of a fraud perpetrator - with so much sudden money that exceeded his immediate needs and wants, such a culprit has a tendency to "share the blessing" with others, subconsciously seeking to mitigate any feelings of guilt or to assuage his conscience.

I am not dissuading CC from accepting generous tips and hospitality from pax - certainly most work hard to deliver good service regardless of whether the pax is from P, J or Y.

And I'm certainly not asking CC to look with suspicion to anyone who is lavishly generous but is not a Richard Branson.

At the end of the day, those of us who work hard to earn an honest living understand what it really means to earn that dollar - and we exercise a reasonable level of prudence commensurating how hard it took us to earn that money.

We will be careful with how much money we give as allowance or gifts to our children when they have not had the experience of earning their own money yet - because we do not want them to learn the wrong lesson and cheapen the value of money.

The same principle usually applies even to wealthy people when giving gifts of cash to others.

It was possible that Ken had just made a killing of millions of dollars in profits when he tipped thousands of pounds to the crew - that was understandable, but it would have been a special, not regular, occasion.

Over the years, I've heard stories even among CC who had windfall through either dishonest means or providing sex to rich pax - and how they "spread" some of that windfall to fellow colleagues in the form of expensive gifts or treats.

It will take extraordinary self-control and moral strength for someone to even question the source of, much less to turn down, lavish gifts that should have seemed disproportionate to the occassion or relationship.

A newbie CC may be unused to the genuine generosity of the many Richard Bransons that fly with SIA, and may even feel uncomfortable with receiving cash gifts (PS : most large companies have anti-corruption rules against staff accepting gifts of significant worth from customers, suppliers, vendors etc.)

But this can quickly wear off and be taken for granted even before the second year of service.

What is more important is not to allow our own conscience be moved even when the environment we live and work in changes.

Most of the time, we will not get into trouble with the Law for unwittingly accepting gifts which had been dishonestly obtained. Most of the time.

But there is no escaping Cause and Effect, some call it Karma, some call it Divine Justice.

We may see our own children and grandchildren following our footsteps and they may not be able to evade the consequences which we ourselves have been spared - out of sheer luck or something else.