God helps those who help the needy (1972)
Sasson: In Hamburg we had a carpet repairer who worked for us. He used to ﬁx damaged carpets from early morning till late at night in order to support his family. Despite his sufficient salary, he was always in a state of need, and would always ask for a raise.
One weekend, I was about to leave the warehouse when he called me and said: “Mr. Sasson, I need a little money!”
I said: “You just got some!”
I started walking towards the warehouse door when I heard him say: “Ok, Mr. Sasson, let it be. Can you at least give me some old clothes of your children to make my family happy before Nowruz, the Persian New Year?”
His words broke my heart. I reached into my pocket, gave him some money, and headed to the home of my in-laws, Agha Youssef Khakshouri and Margrit Khanom. They lived in a beautiful apartment opposite the Alster tributary of the Elbe River in Hamburg, because Margrit Khanom loved water, and so does my beautiful wife Gollar to this very day.
My children were already there. That day, Agha Youssef took our daughter Nannette in his lap for a walk. Nani was a small and extremely frail child. When they came back, they entered the building and took the elevator. They pressed the third ﬂoor button, and the elevator began to move. Suddenly, my daughter Nannette had a temper tantrum, as little children often have, and threw herself on the ﬂoor. Then, nobody knows how, the elevator stopped and Youssef realized that my daughter’s hand was caught in the elevator door. Agha Youssef screamed aloud. By a lucky coincidence, his Afghan neighbor, Mr. Najib Raﬁq, pressed the button to use the elevator. The door opened, and Agha Youssef and my daughter could go out. Our whole family witnessed that miracle — how Nannette’s arm, having been stuck between the iron walls, was miraculously released, with hardly any damage. We went to the elevator a few times that evening to try to ﬁgure out exactly what had happened and how, but we just couldn’t explain it. I sincerely believe that this event was an alarm that the Creator has sent to me, to be more aware of the way I treat the needy.
But sometimes one needs to draw a red line. There was a broker who always came to our warehouse to ask for loans. I gave him money, but he always came back for more and asked for larger sums. I didn’t know what to do anymore!
One day he came to the warehouse while my cousin Steve (Sadegh) Harouni was there. Steve saw me frown at his sight, and asked: “What’s the matter?”
I explained to him, and he said: “Let me take care of it.”
I watched him approach the man and talk to him quietly. The man left the premises without asking anything. He didn’t even look at me, and he never came back again.
I asked Steve: “How did you do it? What did you tell him?”
Steve laughed and said: “Don’t be mad, it was for a good cause. I told him: ‘Sasson is broke, he needs money urgently. Can you lend him some?’”
Luckily, the broker was a good keeper of secrets, and Steve’s little lie never reached my father-in-law.
The stunning Brazilian and the vanishing trick
Sasson: At a time when all the carpet dealers to whom we sold were men, one day a beautiful lady came to our warehouse. She introduced herself as Isabelle, representative of a Brazilian carpet dealership, bought some carpets, for which she paid in advance, and returned to Brazil.
A short while later, she returned to Hamburg, and this time asked to pay half the price in advance, and half thirty days later. Her wish was granted. On the third time she came to Hamburg, she made a huge acquisition, and asked for a thirty-day credit line. All the carpet dealers in Hamburg agreed and sent her carpets to Brazil.
And then she vanished. We never heard from her again.
She disappeared into thin air, and her company declared bankruptcy.
Some of the carpet dealers traveled to Brazil to pursue their debt, spent a great deal of money, and returned to Hamburg empty-handed and shamed, or as we say in Persian — with arms longer than their legs.
I would have liked to say that we learned from this experience, but such events are inevitable. You can never know when a trusted customer might declare bankruptcy, and you certainly can’t avoid giving your customers credit!