Sunday, September 26, 2004


From Memoir from Antproof Case, by Mark Helprin (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1995), at 462-63:

"Fees! No one questions them. They take advantage of people's lifetimes of passivity, their years of education and molding. There are two kinds of creature in the jungle--the tiger and the iguana. The tiger sets the fees, and the iguana pays them. I want more fees."

"Arbitrarily, sir?"

"What the hell do you think a fee is? ... Do we have transaction fees?"

"On what?"

"On everything."


"Levy transaction fees. And maintenance fees. And fees for opening an account, closing an account, and having more than two accounts. I want to see late charges, early charges, and surcharges on other charges. I want a fee for foreign accounts, a fee for domestic accounts, and a fee for accounts subject to audits. You get the picture? Gradually double or triple those fees over a period of two or three years, and index them to inflation. Institute a contact fee, a telephone charge, a bookkeeping adjustment charge, a flotation fee, a sinking fee, and ... go to the New York Public Library and--I don't care how long it takes--find five fees that no one has ever heard of. Look especially hard into Babylonia, the Sumerians, Byzantium, and the Holy Roman Empire. Those guys knew what they were doing, and they had balls."

"But Mr. Edgar, we'll drive away our customers."

"No, we won't. Just be prepared to drop the fees of any customer who appears to be making good on a threat to leave, and increase those on the ones who stay put. It never fails." ...

As he said, there are two kinds of creature in the jungle: the tiger and the iguana. The tiger sets the fees, and the iguana pays them.