Scared Curious


I got the results from the outgoing customer satisfaction surveys early Sunday afternoon as most of the customers left to catch flights home. They were very positive, commenting that the setting made them feel comfortable and isolated from their normal lives and routine: that the medical and other safeguards were adequate to allow them to them relax and enjoy their adventures: and that the experience had been pretty much just what they were looking for. They said all the staff had been great and they used words like 'thrilling', 'exciting', and even 'awesome'. The only negative comments concerned travel scheduling and airline customer service issues. I was also very surprised to see that all of the five initial customers wanted to sign up immediately for another place in line to come back again.

Two of the five surveys were so overwhelmingly positive as to be mildly suspicious. Both of them wanted to come back to do not just the 'oral experience' again but to go on to do the oral plus anal route next time. One used the term "The Full Monty", a phrase which I assumed came from the movie about male strippers who went all the way by being naked on stage; and the other called it "The Whole Enchilada" which I assumed meant roughly the same thing. The paid trusty staff surveys reported few problems: they had enjoyed giving the customers what they wanted, and said they could handle a larger group next time, and they were also ready to hold sessions at least twice per month.

After a two week break, I scheduled ten 'inmates' for the second session, and it got the same rave reviews, and this time four of the ten wanted to sign up again for 'The Full Monty' or 'The Whole Enchilada'. Once again the comments from those four surveys were so positive that I was a little skeptical about them. There seemed to be a 'halo effect', in that those four surveys had no negative comments at all, even about the airlines. I decided to do a little more analysis after a larger number of sessions had been run, and I had a more statistically significant number of surveys to work with. With the fixed costs spread out over ten paying customers, and even more paying trusties, the profit margin was fantastic. Running two sessions per month would net me a yearly consulting fee about 16 times my salary from the University, even after including some big fees for the attorney and his retinue of conveniently silent government officials.

For the third session, I scheduled in my supervising professor, who was actually one of the earliest to put up a deposit after one of my finely targeted search engine pop up ads tickled his fancy online. On the Thursday before his scheduled weekend he was literally whistling while he worked, and asked me to cover his Friday class so he could leave early to travel for some 'ongoing education and training'. I readily agreed, but let him know he owed me a favor. When he came back the following Monday he was literally beaming, saying he never knew Texas could be so much fun. I said I was glad it worked out for him, but did not tell him that I was also happy to bank his fee. That same night, he logged onto the private and offshore hosted web page and put up another deposit, signing up for 'The Full Monty" like so many others.

The program almost ran on autopilot for two months, with every group giving good reviews, and I had a very pleasant moment of quiet reflection as I deposited my latest monthly consulting check, putting the program to date total for me at over $100,000, all of which would be dutifully reported to the IRS on a year end 1099 form from a perfectly legitimate corporation several steps removed from my nest of shell companies. I even had a passing thought that I should just shut things down now and be happy with what I had received so far, but the potential for more money, maybe a lot more money, egged me on.

Feeling encouraged and expansive, I signed up for an expensive but highly recommended three day seminar entitled 'How to Grow Your Online Business 10X' and got lots of good ideas to try. The first on the list was trying to completely understand the 'customer experience' in order to make sure the customers would want to come back, and would allow you to develop a knowledge base from which to brainstorm new ideas for even more revenue. I immediately decided to re-prioritize my procrastinated in depth survey analysis.

But it was the lecture entitled 'Undercover Boss' that got me to thinking long and hard. The speaker said you had to go undercover and experience what your customers did without any special treatment if you ever wanted to truly know your business and really grow your business. That was the seed of my coming misadventure, so to speak.

The latest group of attendees had included some choosing the oral plus anal option, AKA "The Full Monty' and they had reported complete satisfaction, and once again exactly four of the 'oral only' set reported almost unbelievably high customer satisfaction, and a desire to return for the 'full experience'. The word 'ecstatic' actually appeared in two of the survey forms. A few of 'full anal' group complained about the preparatory and on site clear liquid diet that my medical consultants had prescribed, but they said they realized the necessity and that the overall experience was so positive that they really didn't mind. The 'halo effect' was also observed again, in that these four happiest customers reported no negative comments at all, and all signed up for another place in line.

After a few more sessions, I sat down to do my in depth analysis of the survey forms, starting with trying to figure out how to track and minimize the reported problems. Having had the experience many times of people reporting things that were either untrue or not their real motivation, I tried to find factual data to compare to the complaints. The first thing to tackle was the airline issues. Using a flight tracking site, I soon discovered it was pretty easy to identify the most likely flights that any given customer would use, and I was able to confirm that there were indeed schedule and weather delay problems with all of the ones that recorded such complaints. The lost luggage was a little tougher, but after a call to a former student of mine who was now in the operations department at a major airline, I was able to track and confirm most of those reports, too, under the guise of research work for a student startup that wanted to provide baggage services to the airlines. The most interesting discovery I made confirmed the existence of a 'halo effect': many of the most happily satisfied customers had scheduling and baggage issues that they never even reported.

I next looked at those especially 'happy campers' and looked for similarities to each other, and differences between them and the less satisfied group. I soon had some more data, but no conclusions yet. In each group of ten 'inmate' customers, there was always exactly one, two, three, or four of the ecstatically happy campers. Their surveys always reported a wonderful experience and their comments were full of loaded words like ecstatic, perfect, fulfilling, or transcendent. They had always signed up for the 'oral only' option, but all reported they wanted to come back and add the anal experience, too. Most curious was that only these specific respondents ever used the phrases 'Full Monty' and 'Whole Enchilada'; no one else ever did. And the distribution was consistent: when there were four such responses, it was always two saying 'Enchilada', and two saying 'Monty', and never four to zero or three to one. I also noticed that all of the 'happy campers' had selected mild domination. All of this data raised as many questions as it answered.

Another session in the seminar I had attended stressed frequent feedback to employees and frequent face to face interactions with them. Face to face meetings were not in my business plan, but I felt I needed to develop electronic substitutes. Using my disguised Skype identity, I interviewed the two 'real guards' that had worked on the sessions, and some of the 'trusties' who were in fact other paying customers. I went through the customer surveys and asked them for details on the customer's reported experiences and they gave me additional information and insight into the process. But when I tried to 'drill down' into the exact experience of the one to four super happy customers in each session, most of the staff could think of nothing special about those people, and many said they didn't remember interacting with them at all beyond the initial intake and medical exam. I consulted the activity logs and found all of these 'happy campers' had primarily interacted with either Montpelier Leroy, or his principal assistant, the only other real corrections officer, a guy from California named Picardo 'Mas Leche' Chingón. When I questioned them about these particular customers, they began to sound evasive.

I then spoke with them individually and assured them they were not in any trouble, in fact, these customers were overwhelmingly positive in their evaluations, but that I wanted to understand what they had experienced and why it was so positive for them. They still hemmed and hawed, using very unspecific phrases like 'they just seemed to respond well to the whole idea' and 'they really just got off on the whole thing' without giving me any real insight. They did say they liked working at my 'prison' and especially liked the extra money when there was no overtime budget in their regular jobs these days, plus they enjoyed having the weekend 'away from their wives'. They also said they really took care to show the inmates the 'kind of attention they really wanted.'

At that point I had to face the fact that I needed more data, and the only way to get it was to go the 'Undercover Boss' route. I sat down and had a stern talking to with myself: if I was representing to the customers that the risks were so low as to have been virtually eliminated and thus made the thrill of experimentation worth the considerable fee, so it followed that I had to put my mouth where my money was, so to speak, and try it myself, plus I might see some ways to make the enterprise better and even more profitable.

I scheduled myself for a session during the upcoming University spring break. It was easy for me to enroll myself with even more than the normal anonymity, and I chose the 'oral only' option, to see if I could find out what was so positive for some of those inmates. I was the one that assigned the inmate numbers, and they used embedded codes in the six and seventh digits. In the sixth digit was the code for 'domination level'; 0 for none, 1 for mild, and 2 for strong but not abusive; we could add a 3 if we ever actually wanted to do gang rapes later. The seventh digit was coded 0 for oral only and 1 for oral and anal. The rest of the number was a numerical serial number group and a few random digits for as yet unused codes.

No one knew about my little trip, and I even booked a circuitous route to another couple of cities, making DFW just look like a final stopover on the return trip from the Pacific Northwest. I arrived early Friday and rented a plain Jane sedan and drove around the location of the medium security prison facility, just trying to get a feel for the place. It was west of the airport and just south of a major freeway, tucked in between a small commercial airport and a big rail yard, and it looked like just another huge metal building in an industrial area. I pulled into the parking lot, and saw a big red awning covering a walkway from the parking lot to the building entrance. There was a wire fence all the way around the place, and coils of kinky razor wire on the top. It was stark and definitely out of my usual routine and experience. There were a few cars in the lot, mostly older models in need of some body work.

It was still a few hours before my scheduled time to report, so I drove around an explored a little, planning to have lunch before I reported in, since I was definitely not on the liquid diet plan. There were lots of fast food joints around, but not much in the way of a fine dining establishments, and I ended up in a place that was near the old stockyards. It was basically a big barbeque joint with a small rodeo arena in the middle that served lunch and beer during the day and had dancing and rodeo acts at night. It was certainly my first rodeo, but it did sort of set a macho and sweaty leather tone for the rest of the day. I am not much of a drinker but I did put away a couple of cold ones and had a little buzz on when I reported to the 'facility'.

When I drove back into the prison lot, I was more than just apprehensive. Even though I knew far more about what was about to happen than any other of my fellow 'inmates' and new customers possibly could, my pulse was pounding in my ears and I could barely breathe when I stopped the car, and applied the parking brake, something I almost never do. Every sound seemed louder than normal and my every move seemed to be in slow motion. I still had one more hour to report without being late, and I sat frozen in my car, listening to my heart race. I wondered how many of my fellow inmates had already reported. As I understood the process, unless I ran into them on the way from my car to the entrance, I might not even see many of the other 'inmates' at all: I would interact mostly with the trusties. Finally inspiration struck and I picked up my cell phone, put it to my ear, and pretended to be talking to someone while I nervously looked around the parking lot.

Another obvious rental car pulled up, found a parking space closer to the entrance than mine, and a young guy about 20 got out. He looked around with the same kind of nervous glance that I suspected I would exhibit in a few minutes. He locked some stuff in the trunk of the car, and walked into the entrance holding just one slip of paper in his hand. I knew that was his 'ticket' that he had printed from the website, which contained only his prisoner number and a series of other code numbers keyed to his prisoner number that confirmed that he belonged in this weekend's session. He had been advised to leave his wallet, phone, credit cards, jewelry, and anything else behind in his car, and to come in wearing only some light clothing, socks and shoes. As he got close to the entrance, the door opened and a short guy in a khaki uniform stepped out, holding the door open for him. The young guy froze, and just stood there, about ten feet from the entrance. I knew how he felt.

Finally he walked in though the door. The guard looked up at me, then walked back inside and let the door close behind him. I took about ten deep breaths, and was about to open my car door when another vehicle drove up, a big black Escalade SUV with Oklahoma plates, and parked way over on the far side of the lot, a spot chosen, I suspected, to minimize the visibility from the street. I would have driven a car without the vanity plates. A short guy in his forties got out, dressed in jeans and a crimson red polo shirt, locked the door behind him, and ambled over to the entrance. I waited a few minutes for another visitor to forestall my entrance, but no one showed up. I pushed open the car door and felt already exhausted from the effort. When I left the restaurant, I had already locked everything in the truck except my ticket and the rental car keys, so I forced myself to stand up and take the long walk toward the entrance. My heart rate seemed to increase with every step.

My footfalls sounded loud on the inclined ramp and pressure treated wooden deck that lead up to the door, and I pulled it open, not knowing what to expect. My first impression was like a waiting room in a discount tire store, with plastic chairs and old magazines like Southern Living and Sports Illustrated. The guard I had seen outside was seated behind a desk with a phone and a video monitor, and behind him was a big metal door that with a sign that said 'authorized personnel only'. I assumed I was about to be authorized, among other things. He looked to be about 50, and had a florid drunk's red nose and really bad skin, and a world class dusting of dandruff on his shoulders. I handed him my ticket, and he picked up a clipboard and compared my ticket to whatever was on the clip board, then picked up the phone and said "I got another special at the front."

He motioned for me to sit at one of the side chairs near his desk, and asked "Do you have anything in your pockets?"

I gulped. "Just the car keys."

"Let me have those and I'll log 'em in. You'll get 'em back when you leave." I suspected there were a few things I'd be leaving here that I would not get back. He put the keys in a bag, zipped it closed, and then stuck a pre-printed adhesive label on the bag and dumped it in a box on a cart behind him.

I jumped a foot when the door made a loud buzzing sound and then was pushed open. A tall and very white guy with dark hair and a bodybuilder's physique in a different kind of khaki uniform held the door open and said "Come in," in a drawling southern accent with a deep and serious tone. I guessed this was none other than Mississippi's own Montpelier LeRoy. His shirt and pants were starched and crisply pressed, and his black shoes were buffed to a mirror polish, and everything about his uniform said macho and squared away. He had a big set of keys hanging from a loop on the left side of his wide black belt, and on the right was a big black nightstick with a sort of L shaped right angle extra handle on it. For some reason I stared at the nightstick with my mouth open and noticed it had the letters "PR-24" engraved into the side. My first impression was that he looked and sounded like the 'Jethro Bodine' character from the Beverly Hillbillies movie, but after ten more years in the gym and on the unit as a guard. His cop eyes pinned me to the spot like a butterfly in an insect collection, and he looked me over pointedly and continued, with a bit of a smirk, "Come on in, first timer."

I said nothing, but he might have heard me gulp. Was I the one that wanted new experiences?

He laughed softly. He grabbed my arm like a bailiff placing a defendant in court and walked me to the infirmary, where he handed me off to an elderly physician's assistant in a white lab coat who drew some blood and took a urine sample, took my blood pressure, and pulse, and then had me take my shirt off and lie back on an exam table and then he hooked me up to a portable EKG machine. He twiddled a few knobs and pushed a button, and the machine made a harmonious beep and then printed a little strip of squiggles about six inches long, and I noticed that my inmate number was printed as the top of the strip. He peeled off some paper backing and affixed it to a folder he was holding. He gave me a big plastic bag to me put all my clothes in, including my shoes and socks, and then casually pulled on a pair of latex gloves and poked at and examined at every square millimeter of me, commenting almost like he was doing one of those autopsies on TV, although he did not seem to be recording what he said. "No tracks, no tats, no piercings. Hold still while I pat you down!" This was a considerably more invasive search than I had endured at the airport this morning, but he could be completely confident that I was not concealing anything in a body cavity. He asked me a few brief medical history questions, and then said "Here's your suit, flip flops, and your hygiene's" and handed me a maroon colored jump suit, some plastic sandals, and a little plastic bag, and told me to get dressed and sit in a chair by the door and wait for the "Good Ol' Boy", which I presumed meant Monty.

The jumpsuit had my inmate number stenciled on it, and the sixth digit was 1, and the seventh digit was 0, meaning I was her for the 'oral option, with moderate domination'. The bag contained a toothbrush and some toothpaste, some mouthwash, a bar of soap, a disposable razor, a little travel sized stick of Old Spice deodorant, and a little hotel sized container of shampoo. I put on the jumpsuit and waited. I realized that the code of the front of the jumpsuits was like a combination of the scarlet letter and a pink triangle, revealing something about the man wearing the suit. I could read the codes, and had spent some time studying my 'classmates' and their backgrounds, again something the other inmates could not do, but I just could not resist doing.

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byconanthe© 2 comments/ 69194 views/ 21 favorites

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