The follies of making judgements by appearance only

One afternoon in the mid 1980’s, I watched as a battered, dirty and noisy Ford Granada estate car pulled up outside my unit. The couple exiting the were in keeping with their transportation and had an almost gipsy-like appearance about them as I watched them enter the building. Some ten minutes later one of my guys called me over as the guy needed some prices on the Koi for sale. I walked over and asked if I could help, to which the man said – ‘What’s the best Koi you have here?’ I led him up the steps to the best pond and pointed to a large Sanke I had purchased some months before from SFF in Hiroshima. The man looked and said – ‘How much is that then?’ – I replied by saying ‘£22,000.00’. He then asked – ‘What’s the next best then?’ I pointed to a Kohaku and said ‘That one, it will cost you £10,000.00’.

He then said – ‘OK, I’ll have them, hang on – I’ll get some money’. I watched as he went to his unlocked car and pulled a cloth bag out of the glove box and then returned. He then began to produce wads of £1,000.00 bundles from it and started counting them out on the side of the pond. I mentioned it would be best to come into my office where I could make out a receipt for him. After this, he mentioned he needed them packing up so he could drive away with them.

As I locked the bundles in the safe, I then began to think it over and returned to ask him – ‘Is your pond OK to keep this class of large Koi?’ – he said ‘Oh, I suppose so, I’ve got a few Koi and goldfish in there already, they seem happy enough’. I asked where he lived which was only an hour away from me before mentioning my concerns that his pond may not be suitable. He then replied curtly by saying – ‘Look, I have paid for these Koi and have a receipt for them – they are now mine!’ I replied by suggesting that I paid a free visit the next day to his pond and then advise as to the suitability of it before introducing the new Koi. After a few moments he reluctantly agreed.

I arrived the next day with all his money in my car expecting the worst and I was not disappointed. The brown puddle was in the small, front garden of a semi-detached house. It was made waterproof by a plastic liner and must have held all of 500 gallons. Now and then a small fish would break the surface, I wish I could have seen my face that day. I said to the man I would refund his money and made my way to the car. He rushed after me, grabbed my arm and then said – ‘Look mate, those Koi are mine, I don’t want my money back, if the pond is no good then make me a proper one!’ I returned a little shell-shocked and went back some days later with initial designs to face another surprise.

He looked at my plans with great interest – especially all the pipelines. He then asked if all the drains in both pond and filters could have by-pass assemblies installed to them, which could be taken to a separate discharge box and operated to discharge automatically, for a few seconds, at hourly intervals by timer controls! I looked back at him and replied by saying – ‘There are five four inch lines and ten 2” lines which would require diversion valves to be taken to a very large discharge box that has to be connected to your main sewer. These would have to be pneumatically controlled, electric valves that are both very expensive and very large. They would have to be computer-controlled to operate in perfect sequence and so the large electrical control box would need to be wall-mounted and also very expensive’.

He looked at me and then said – ‘Look, if I need all this plumbing then I don’t want to spend my days turning valves and things. I want everything to be fully automatic so please go ahead and do it’. I had no idea at all as to how much this would all cost – not a clue! He then went to the house and returned with a cloth bag, he gave it to me and said ‘There’s £50,000.00 inside – come back when you run out’. And that was it; I got in the car and drove back to base.

The 15,000-gallon pond was eventually built with all the necessary items and the two Koi (followed by several more excellent ones) were later introduced.

Oh, by the way, the discharge box was 2m x 2m x 2m deep, the cost of the box and all equipment inside plus the control equipment outside was a touch under £70,000.00.

The pond build, the filtration and associated costs were, of course, all extra!

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