Editor’s note: my friend Lazy Man’s ongoing battles with MonaVie distributors was the inspiration for this story.  However, the companies, products, and people in this story are all fictional.  Keep fighting the good fight, Lazy!

Marco Pariso took a gulp of juice and settled into his rather uncomfortable chair in front of his rather ugly desk. The chair, the desk, and even the juice were absurdly expensive – pretentious products marketed to those with more money than sense.

Marco was faced with a serious problem. After several years of strong revenue growth, his company was facing a sharp decline. In this economy, fewer people were wanting to shell out $18 for a bottle of juice – even juice as fruitfully delicious as Panacea.

Even Marco was not immune from the downturn. This week, he had been forced to downgrade hair stylists to a bum who charged only $200. As he ran his fingers through his hair, he could feel the cheapness of the cut – how his hair longed for Rafael’s artistry.

Marco had decided to forestall the declining sales by ramping up marketing efforts. Panacea had always been marketed as having “more vitamins than you can find in nature.” Now the juice was being promoted as fighting swine flu, cancer, polio, and even AIDS.

Marco knew better than to have the company make official claims regarding these alleged health benefits. He had engaged the top distributors and suggested they start spreading the word unofficially by sending the information down the pyramid. Before long, thousands of Panacea distributors were claiming that the product could cure nearly every disease known to man. Because Marco had been smart enough to avoid putting these claims in black and white, he was confident that he would be able to keep the FDA at bay.

Sales had picked up for a while. Then those nosy internet bloggers began to take aim at Panacea. They claimed that Marco’s company was spreading lies about the health benefits of the drink. Marco had initially ignored the bloggers – merely annoying little gnats. Before long, he realized that some of these clowns had thousands of people reading their tripe every day. People were actually taking them seriously. When Marco looked at the sales figures, he could see a small, by noticeable drop in sales.

Marco decided to pick on the top blogger, Caped Crusader, in hopes that once the Crusader had been squashed, the rest of the bloggers would fall like dominos. Marco had his people publish fake studies all over the internet and had dozens of Panaceas distributors go to Caped Crusaders site and quote these fictional studies as the basis for Panacea’s health claims.

Crusader was a bit more clever than he had expected. He posted details about the visitors in order to show that all of the negative comments were coming from just a handful of geographical locations. He then went even a step further, showing that the sites which presented the studies had all been created in the same week and were all registered to the same organization.

Marco had been foiled again. Marco did not enjoy being foiled, and he began to plan his next move. Caped Crusader must be stopped – but how? Physical violence was distasteful to Marco, and so he pondered the ways that he could tie up Caped Crusader in court. A libel suit, for sure – and perhaps copyright infringement. He laughed as he made a mental note for his legal team to send out a cease and desist letter in the morning. That would scare the little shit. Crusader was probably some wimpy teenager living in his mom’s basement.

Out of the corner of his eye, Marco noticed a light in the distance. Within a few minutes, the light got much brighter. He went to the window and peered out. What he saw shook Marco to his core. The villagers were marching upon his mansion. The torches shed enough light that he could make out the faces of some of his former customers – and he noticed that they were carrying pitchforks.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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