My encounter with the Chinese mafia

In March 2013 we received a strange visit in our office. A group of gentlemen, looking like Chinese rednecks, knocked on our door and asked to see “the boss here”. The receptionist told them the boss was out and he wouldn’t be back until the afternoon; then they wanted to talk to the purchasing manager. The purchasing manager told them the boss was out of the country. The boss finally came after a while, luckily they didn’t question the purchasing manager as to why she had lied to them.

There were four of them. One of them was clearly the leader and he did all the talking. Another one was the prototypical bad guy, with golden necklaces, ugly tattoos, and wearing a tank top and a leather jacket, like a gangster from an 80s Hong Kong movie. The other two were waiting in the car and making themselves visible enough, just in case.

I don’t know if calling them mafia is the most suitable term. They were more like debt collectors, but aggressive ones. The reason for their visit was that we were not paying the invoices from one of our suppliers. We had a legit motive for not paying: the products were faulty and we intended to sue them and solve the problem in court, but the supplier decided it was better to settle the issue with the “help” of the “debt collectors”. So they came to “discuss” a “solution” that didn’t imply going to court.

It was a weird situation. On one side of the meeting room table, the mafia leader and the muscular gangster. On the other side, our office’s boss (a 20-something skinny Chinese guy), a couple of Spanish colleagues that couldn’t believe their eyes and me, translating the conversation for them.

The conversation, like their looks, also seemed taken from a movie and included classic sentences like “If we have to come back, next time we won’t be so friendly”. But in the end we “reached” an “agreement” and they even gave us their telephone number, in case we needed their services in the future.

It wasn’t this guy, but he looked similar.