Factory Worker Swindles Nelson Peanut Butter Buyers
To his workmates and employer, Ahmed Crundlestein was a man of few words, a conscientious worker whose life revolved around his job at Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter factory and a tattered collection of early issues of the Invercargill Tribune. A man of simple needs, his main meal of the day was a peanut and diced beetroot soup that he prepared on Monday mornings in the company tea room, and drank cold during the week.
It was rumoured that he had been living in the coal bunkers that feed the peanut roasters, but the only evidence of this was a newspaper clipping from a Tribune advertisement for Dunlop milking equipment featuring a moon-faced woman with large hands and an uncertain smile that was found pinned to the underside of the bunker roof a few weeks after his disappearance. Crundlestein managed the company’s container refurbishment department, and was, for the six months from his engagement to his mysterious disappearance, responsible for receiving used peanut butter jars, removing their lids and labels and scrubbing them out prior to sterilisation.
Factory manager Craig Dawkins recalls a certain furtiveness about Crundlestein’s manner.
“He was certainly furtive” Dawkins reports. “Never looked you straight in the eye – and God help anyone who touched his bags of old lids and label scraps. I collected those labels myself for a time. A lot of them used to have quite good poems on the back. But those old lids …. ” Dawkins shakes his head in a mixture of disgust and disbelief. “Who would have thought it eh?”
Dawkins’ incredulity is typical of the thousands of New Zealanders who have followed Crundlestein’s dubious career from the backs of their peanut butter labels, to the front page of the Invercargill Tribune and a dramatised television documentary funded by NZ on Air.
One of the worst affected victims of Crundlestein’s illegitimate activities, Nelson peanut butter magnate Pic Picot, takes up the story:
“In 2008 we hired a Clinton printing company, Clinton Print And Rubber Goods Distributors, to produce our new labels. The guy who owned it had a brother, Bill Smith, who wasn’t quite the full quid, but who wrote passable poetry. Anyway we ended up buying some of Bills poems for the backs of our labels. It kept him in tea bags and paid for his Listener subscription, and the odd customer quite liked them.
The labels come in huge self adhesive rolls with a peel-off backing. They go straight into the labelling machine, so nobody here gets to see the backs of them. Bad mistake.”
Picot sighs and pushes a yellow plastic clear file across the desk. Inside the first pouch is a wholesome, brown paper Pic’s Peanut Butter label, but on the back of it, in 10 point arial, is a chilling message:
Please help me please. I am Ahmed Crundlestein, captive in secret peanut buttering factory which has no windows. I can hear cars, so near road. At night I hear dog barkings and cat fightings and Hoo Hoo of owls. I eat only peanut butter and peanuts, sleep on plastic bags. All day scrape, scrape, washing clean recycle jars for Mister Pic who beats me with spurdling stick and swears bad words in my ears. But I will, God Blessing and with your kind help, collect money for ESCAPE! If you wish to help, very well, here’s how: Take the lid of the empty jar from what you removed the label in your hands and with chewing gum, fix a gold coin to its inside. Return the lid to the jar and the jar to Pic at the market for reusing (he is fat and lazy, and will not look inside). Your jar will come to me to wash and inside I will find your merciful gift! Imagine my delight! Imagine my gratitude (especially if you have also carefully cleaned your jar)! Many entreatments such as this have I sent to no avail alas! But I pray that you, kind sir or madam, will hear my sincere calling and God Bless You.
“What really hurts” says Pic “Aside from being called fat and lazy on the back of my own labels – I’m well under 90 kilos – is the suggestion that I was keeping him here against his will. I’ve had the Department of Labour and the police crawling all through the place and now some wacko anti-slavery groups picketing our stockists. All I ever did was to try to help the guy. I admit we locked him in at night, but we keep a lot of valuable gear here, and he had nowhere to go anyway. And we were going to pay him at the end of his contract, but now… ”
Picot shakes his head in disbelief, pulls a couple of letters from a battered manila folder.
“Take a look at these. The first one arrived hidden in an empty jar with a gold coin attached. Some dope-addled hippy from out the Moutere way is offering the guy a place to stay! And he’s suggesting that if the money is missing I would probably have taken it.”
The money, a $1 coin, was still attached to the letter he proffered (see below).
He produced another letter. It was written in German, but was clearly addressed to Mr Picot.
“I had no idea what this one was about” he sighed, “but I knew Crundlestein had some German blood somewhere, so I spent $45 plus GST on getting the thing translated. It’s from his sister apparently, wanting me to put her in touch with him. Unbelievable! As if I’m suddenly some kind of welfare agency. If I ever get my hands on that scoundrel I wont be sending him off for a nice cup of tea with his sister and that’s for sure.”
To be continued ...
I was shocked to intercept this message for Crundlestein from a long time customer, Barbara, from Bach on Breakwater in New Plymouth. I find it astounding that Barbara, a fellow employer, could be so naive as to be fooled by Crundlestein’s absurd claims. I mean, I have personally met this Barbara woman and she knows for a fact that I am not fat….
Oh my goodness you poor man (I presume you are a man as no woman would tolerate such barbaric conditions). I am heartbroken and griefstricken. Oh what a tragedy – what can I do? Unfortunately the inner lid on my jar was faulty and popped off every time I opened the jar of glorious peanut butter so it would not hold the gold coin that I so wanted to send you. Also I cannot chew the chewing gum as it sticks to my dentures something terrible. It occurs to me that I COULD send you a gold coin stuck to my dentures with the chewing gum? But then my gums could not cope with the gritty bits of the glorious peanut butter. That would be a tragedy for me and one I cannot even allow myself to dwell upon.
However I have a cunning plan of hope for you dear man. I own a restaurant in the land of milk and honey (mostly milk) called Taranaki. My evening dishy is a drug addict and his time with us may soon be coming to an end. Even tho he too is a very dear man, with skills at dishwashing that are truly a delight to observe, his other habits are sometimes creating problems. (he can peel potatoes at great speed until there is no potato left – just a pile of peelings and this is becoming a concern to me). From your letter I deduce that you also have truly wonderful dishwashing skills. Anyone who has such experience cleaning the peanut butter off the jars would do very well with me. If you could see your way to trick your evil and lazy employer and get that spurdling stick off him, you could hit him over the head with it (which would put a stop to the stream of dirty words), and then intimidate him in such a way that he would immediately offer to tunnel a way out for your escape from that peanut buttering hell hole and head to Taranaki (land of milk and honey – mostly milk). Then I would get shot of my druggy (but very nice) dishy and give you the job. Does this sound like an attractive plan to you my good man? I’m feeling quietly excited just thinking about it. This would be such a good plan for you – to exchange your current fat and lazy, spurdle stick bearing employer for me! I am skinny, very hard working and do not beat people very often at all. I have other harsh qualities but hey – good bosses are hard to find and so are good jobs. And this would be a very good job for you.
However if you are unable to take up this generous offer of mine, could you find it in the goodness of your heart to let me know how to get the fucking peanut butter off these jars?
Yours in hope
BARB THE BOSS
Bach On Breakwater Café & Restaurant, New Plymouth