A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were in Mombasa and had a lot of fun with a couple who have been our friends for quite a while now. Steve and Mary strike me as a very real couple. Not to be mistaken for Rev. Steve and Mary in New Zealand who are also very real. Anyway, we had interesting discussions about many different things. But Steve and I really had a lot of fun when we started discussing mortgages. It was interesting to see Steve confirm some of the funny thoughts I have had about certain organisations. One of the many definitions or explanations of the expression “laughing all the way to the bank” I found on the net was this
be laughing all the way to the bank (informal)
if someone is laughing all the way to the bank, they have made a lot of money very easily, often because someone else has been stupid eg. If we don’t take this opportunity, you can be sure our competitors will and they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.
For quite a while now, I have had the nagging suspicion that many organisations have a closely guarded secret department. Very few employees ever get to know this department. To be attached to this department you are probably required to take an oath or something to ensure that you never ever talk about this department even if you should leave the organisation. Only employees with completely unquestionable loyalty and commitment to the organisation get to know of even the very existence of this department.
Here are a few organisations I think, may have such a department.
1. Commercial Banks in Kenya
In the current news in Kenya, there is an issue about how last week MPs voted down a proposal to tame interest rates in Kenya. There has been underlying insinuations that there was a lot of bribery involved and that at one point MPs were being invited to have a Ksh. 50,000 per plate lunch. Sisemi kitu. Anyway, I think that banks have this department. Their main job is to laugh. They do not miss the irony that they are the place they laugh all the way to! As we chatted with Steve, we started suspecting that the reason your mortgage application takes a while is because it spends a slightly longer time at the laughing department. Some banks will even tell you “come to us, we have been in this business for over 30 years, come talk to us”. This strikes me a bit like an antelope consulting a panel of lions about good places to hide. Would you blame the lions if they excused themselves for a while to laugh?
2. Some churches
I heard the other day that a certain televangelist requires that the full recording of his services be played back to him. The intention is for his team of “experts” to monitor audience reactions so as to “improve” the performances so that people continue to give more as they see how the “spirit” is moving. I bet these people, his inner circle, can be considered the laughing department of the ministry. How hilarious it must be to them as gullible Kenyans queue and try to outdo each other in “planting a seed”, parting with their hard-earned money.
Remember the “often because someone else has been stupid” part of the definition. I think there is no field in Kenyan life that you will hear references to “the common man” than in politics. I have often wondered who is really the typical, “average” Kenyan. Is it the one who is usually referred to as living on less than a dollar a day? I don’t know. I just know that earning a million shillings a month is not average by any standard. This is about how much an MP takes home every month. These figures are sometimes blinding and can be confusing. To put it in perspective, if you earn Kshs. 6,000 per month, then an MP takes home in a month what you will take home in 15 years. So in three months, the guy has made what you will make in 45 years. Of course I am being simplistic and making several assumptions to calculate all this. But it is still a sobering comparison. For the MP, it is easy to look at the average Kenyan as a bit of a joke. This million shilling salary is the minimum you will take home, add to it all the other perks and interesting opportunities to reap where you have not sown. Anyway, moving on swiftly…
4. Oil marketing companies
It is about two years since the government started setting the maximum retail prices on petrol products. But if you are making money from these products, you must find it a bit interesting how minuscule the price drops are, compared to the increases. The price rises in shillings. The last increase last week was by 6 shillings. The prices drop in cents. Before this last rise, the previous month there was a 30 cents drop. This justifies having a laughing department.
5. My dream organisation
This organisation does not quite exist yet. But I envision an organisation where people will be begging me and my staff, days and night to accept just a bit more of their money for absolutely nothing in return. I will have branches in every county and expand across the region and receive money from more and more Africans for less and less. Then, I will start lending out this money at exorbitant interest rates… Oh wait!