Thursday, July 22, 2010

Make Money in the Third World Part 1: Selling "Turkey" to Muslims

I've lived in a few poverty stricken nations in my day, and I've seen people scratching out a living using all kinds of ridiculous techniques. Howtomakeadollar is going to run a series over the next few days of true examples of Third World business models. To read the whole series, click here.


The "turkey" sandwich - I spent some time living in a Muslim theocracy several years ago. In these nations it is illegal to eat pork, or to have pigs, or anything related to pigs. There are lots of rules in these countries, and they are enforced strictly. They don't just give you a fine or something. They cut out your tongue (to punish you for tasting forbidden food) and cut off your right hand (just because) and then they put you in a prison for long time, and then they fine you. That type of thing. Not only are the laws strict, but there are so many of them that they are constantly creating Catch-22 situations in which it is impossible to obey all of them. Thats just the way it works over there.
Well one time I stumbled upon a little shack-restaurant that constantly had a long line of customers. Over a few weeks I noticed that this place was popular, and I asked people what it served. They all said essentially "this is the best turkey sandwich in the world." So I gave it a try. But it wasn't turkey. It was ham. It was obviously ham. It was dark pink, and tasted like ham. There was no turkey in the sandwich at all. Now remember. Everyone in this country is a Muslim. Ham is illegal. Nobody in this country has ever even tasted ham or seen a pig. So the guy running this shack was telling everyone that it was turkey so that he wouldn't get arrested for selling it, and all the customers were calling it turkey so that they wouldn't get arrested for eating it. In fact, I honestly believe that most of his customers actually thought it was turkey. Ham is completely foreign there. Its not that they've never eaten it. Its that they don't even know it exists. But I know it exists. After biting into it I winked at the owner. He glared at me. It was our secret.* I don't know where this guy was getting his ham. I have no idea. He was hundreds of miles away from the nearest country where pigs could be legally raised. But he was selling it like crazy, and nobody could turn him in for it.


If someone did try to turn him in, the cops would ask how the person knew it was ham. If the person said it looks or tastes like ham, the cops would ask them how they know what ham looks like, or tastes like. At this point any answer they give would land them in prison with their tongue cut off. Best to just call it turkey.


*He could have glared at me because a man winking at another man might be illegal there, or he may have glared at me because its illegal not to glare. Someone will have to ask an imam to sort this out. 

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