I was part of a relationship management team for a family with hundreds of million dollars in wealth built in the growth of a Fortune 500 company. My job: taking care of the kids. A profoundly unforgiving form of employment infrequently contemplated while, say, studying for the Bar Exam or accepting an offer at a major national bank.
One of them called me on a random summer Friday at around 3:30. My mind was on golf and south-sides and otherwise figuring out how to get into and out of trouble that weekend. What I heard on the other end of the phone is the stuff of office legend.
“Hi Fraz – how are you?” Five words with one unmistakable meaning; THINGS ARE ABOUT TO GET VERY VERY STRANGE . . .
I don’t revel in formality, but this guy swings the needle all the way to the other side. He lives in Taos, NM. He is unmarried and has no responsibilities. I talk to this guy once a year to tell him everything is ok. His trust pays him 150K/year just to wake up in the morning and, believe me, that’s not enough.
“I need a miniature pony for this weekend. Let me know when I should expect it” Click.
This is a job for the concierge at the Four Seasons- unfortunately, our friend is completely helpless and I’m one of the only phone numbers that he probably has written down.
Fortunately for me, the distribution language in his trust is so broadly written that when the memo line of the check says “miscellaneous expenses”, no one is going to blink. So now the hard part is how do I find a horse within spitting distance of Taos, New Mexico and get it there- in 24 hours. As I wandered through the cubicles of our midtown Manhattan offices, I was met with blank stares of disbelief- not at the outlandishness of the request, mind you, but at our total lack of ability to fulfill it.
Meanwhile it’s 3:30 on a Friday and saying no to (one of) the dullard sons of a multi-hundred millionaire family is inevitably an unpleasant experience. So I did the next best thing, I went to our magazine kiosk in our ground floor lobby, “borrowed” a copy of the DuPont Registry and went to the back of the classifieds where I quickly located the “exotic animals” section. (I will never make fun of that magazine again).
There it was like a bolt from the blue- http://www.miniaturehorsefarmsdirectory.com/
Oh my god, I have a chance. So I zipped back up to my cubicle and went to work. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of education and years of government, legal and banking experience became focused with laser-like precision on the task of procuring a miniature pony and delivering it to mountain resort.
So I found a few possible candidates for the high honor of supplying micro-equines to the rich and idle. However, this obviously was no ordinary task – my young “friend” needed it NOW. My heart began to sink as the first couple of farms opted out. But the last one . . . .
“Hi, my name is Frazer Rice – I have a strange request. I’m a private banker and I have a client in Taos. New Mexico that needs a miniature pony for this weekend. Now I know this is very short notice, but is there a way to get a pony from your farm to Taos.”
“Sure, son – we can Fedex them.”
I dropped the phone.
“Really?! Like with a box with air holes in it that says, “This Side Up”?”
“No, son, they truck them . . . ”
“So I can get a pony to him this weekend?”
“Sure . . . I guess if it’s an emergency, and with ponies it always is, we can have it there tomorrow.”
My jaw dropped. This was straight out of a Simpsons Episode. (I mean a “pony emergency???” – Then again, to be honest, I have no doubt this guy knew his business – Chances are there aren’t many miniature pony customers content to wait a week or two.)
The next hour was spent figuring out wire information and making sure the paper trail was correct, but, sure enough, for $20,000 (which can probably get you a horse that can compete at Saratoga) and then another $3,000, you can buy and professionally truck a miniature pony 200 miles. Hell, for $3,000, I should have flown out there first class and trucked it myself. Nevertheless, I’d solved the problem and it was still only 5:10. Nice bad, I thought to myself. Not bad at all . . .
Fast forward to 8am the next morning when I was telling this story to some golfing buddies. They all looked at me in horror. What the hell is a single, unmarried ne’er-do-well with no kids going to do with a miniature pony? My mind went to a dark place very quickly. I didn’t think he had a girlfriend and I wouldn’t entrust a fern to his care. However, this was nothing a beer or six at the turn couldn’t blunt. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
So I called my client to make sure he got the pony that afternoon.
“Hey, X, did the pony get there ok?”
“Yes, it got here a couple of hours ago. I wish you had gotten a black one.”
“Well at least you got a pony.”
The rich aren’t like you or me. They’re worse . . . but they do have more fun (not that I always want to know the details).