Did you see the press release? Alan Greenspan purchased a B&B in Vermont for $3.8 million. I decided to try it. The reviews said that the vistas were lovely, the days sunny and warm, the evening cool and comfortable. The Web site had all the info I wanted except you couldn't pay by credit card, nor was there an 800 number for reservations.
The lack of an 800 number didn't surprise me. It was an issue of supply and demand. More people wanted to stay at Greenspan's B&B than rooms available, so he didn't have to offer a toll-free number. Disneyworld is the same (well it used to be). If you wanted reservations you had to call a local number at area code 407 in Orlando. It was going to be your dime, not Disney's.
I called and Andrea Mitchell--Mrs. Greenspan--answered. I picked a weekend package and then asked which credit cards they accepted. Mrs. Greenspan answered, "None. And no personal checks, no bank checks, no wire transfers. And we don't use any local banks."
I didn't know what she meant when she said they didn't use any local banks. Maybe Greenspan deals only with the biggies in NY and London. I was getting frustrated, yet she was staying calm. Jokingly I asked, "Do you want me to pay with gold bullion?
She said. "Sorry, we stopped accepting gold about a week ago. Our investment committee, chaired by my hubby, Alan, decided the fluctuation in prices of gold made it too unstable as a means of payment. In fact, all we do is barter."
I had her repeat herself. Yes she said, "Barter." She explained that Alan was very uncomfortable with the international monetary system. He found it highly unstable and open to the real threat of international hackers. "The investment committee has decided to really hunker down," she added. I agreed to barter, asking if they would accept a goat and a pig.
Mrs. G. asked, "Is the pig fed only natural grains? We have a long-term agreement with the Bush family to accept their meat and poultry. In return, they get the presidential suite for the fall leaf-changing weekends in October, our busiest time."
This must be a prank phone call. One of my friends must have set it all up. But then Mrs. Greenspan said that her husband just returned from picking up 50 bottles of wine from the Gallo brothers. And he'd be happy to try and help me. A male voice came on the line, it sounded like Greenspan, and he started just like Greenspan would. No "hello," no 'to whom am I talking?"
Just--"Milt Freidman's views of M1 and M2 are correct." He was lecturing me. "The Bretton Woods Agreements are dead. Russia will definitely default again. The yen is so under priced that it threatens world stability. I am worried."
This was scary. When Alan Greenspan says he is worried, the rest of us should head for the bomb shelters (figuratively).
He continued: "The markets are overpriced--not just the equity markets but even the produce markets at the local Costco. Radical times require radical policies." My God, it was really him. I could tell; he spoke in a monotone, and he then started using words I didn't understand (and I have Ph.D. in Economics).
I interrupted him, "Mr. Greenspan, thank you for that scholarly presentation on monetary policy blunders in the past 20 years, but I really want to come up to Vermont with my wife. How can I pay? I don't own a farm or have quality wine or even some old stamps I could trade."
He asked if I had been a Boy Scout, and I said yes. "Do you remember how to make hospital corners on a bed? You and your wife could change the linens in the presidential suite in exchange for two nights at my inn."
I laughed. He has to be joking, and even if he wasn't I didn't know how I was going to tell my wife that we were going to be making up beds for two days. And yet, I agreed. I was afraid if I waited, I'd have to serve dessert in the dining room, too.
What happened? My wife didn't mind. She thought it would be kind of rustic and she could write a feature story about her experiences for our local paper. We went up to Vermont and even met the Bush family. (Well not really, they just happened to enter the suite as we were making up the beds one morning and we exchanged hellos.)
I do want to recommend the cottages by the lake. The mattresses are especially comfortable. I asked Alan what they were made of. He said, "It's an old family recipe, 60 percent US dollar bills; 35 percent Euros and 5 percent Japanese yen--a perfectly balanced portfolio of currencies. You sleep like a king."
Hesh Reinfeld (www.heshreinfeld.com) is a Pittsburgh-based writer who finds humor in business.