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When Bernstein Wang loaned $6,500 to his brother-in-law little did he know that he would be a victim of a magic charm. Study this case and provide answers to the questions that follow.
BERNSTEIN Wang, 58, a director of Wise Owl Enterprises was happy with his job at the regional trading company. After 30 years in the Civil Service, he had retired at 55, and for the first time in his life, he had a good credit balance in his bank account. He changed his old Sunny saloon into a five-year-old Mercedes Benz. To keep himself busy, he became a director of Wise Owl Enterprises.
One day, Lorna Auyong, 50, the finance director, heard a commotion in Bernstein’s room which was next to hers. The visitor had raised his voice although Lorna could not make out the conversation as the door was closed; she felt that something was amiss.
After a few minutes, a middle-aged man left the room in a hurry. As colleagues for over three years, Lorna was on good terms with Bernstein but she didn’t want to ask him what had happened.
Twenty minutes later, Bernstein entered Lorna’s room and said: “I’m sorry about the matter in my room a moment ago. That guy is Lim Boon Huat, my brother-in-law.”
“Yes, I heard him raising his voice, what happened?” asked Lorna.
“He borrowed $6,500 from me five months ago as his business was in trouble. He promised to pay me in six monthly instalments plus 10 per cent interest but to date, he has not paid me a cent,” explained Bernstein. “He asked for an extension of three months before paying the first instalment but I told him to pay me next month as I loaned him the sum on trust.”
“I understand that your gratuity is hard-earned money,” said Lorna who noticed that Bernstein had always been very careful with his money.
“When I said no to him, he knelt in front of me and pleaded that I keep the loan a secret from his sister, my wife. He promised to repay me when business picks up and refused to stand up till I agree to postpone the repayment dates,” said Bernstein. “I’ve no choice but to agree as he began to shed tears. But knowing him, I’m fairly certain he lost the money at gambling.
He goes to Bangkok twice a month on so called business trips and when he’s there, he also visits unlicensed casinos.” He apologised for the commotion and then left Lorna’s room.
The following weeks, Lorna noticed that Bernstein had lost some weight, walked around in a daze, arrived late for work, and was not his usual talkative self. He was usually half an hour early for work. Concerned about his well-being, Lorna went to his room and closed the door. She asked: “Something is not right. What’s happening at home? You can confide in me.”
Bernstein looked up and replied: “You’re right. I’m not myself. I have these fearful nightmares about a motor cycle trying to run me down. I wake up and find myself wet with perspiration. At home, sometimes the door would slam with a loud bang although there is no wind. I can’t sleep at night and I have the urge to drink beer. Only after three cans of beer then I can go to bed.”
“I know you’re a social drinker and not an alcoholic,” said Lorna. “What does Mrs Wang say?”
“She’s annoyed with me,” said Bernstein. “The worst part is that I can’t tell her the truth which concerns her brother.”
He explained that he was sure Lim Boon Huat had cast a spell on him. His strange behaviour began after a Sunday gathering of relatives at Boon Huat’s house. Boon Huat had served him Thai coconut water in a glass saying that he bought it from Bangkok. After that, he felt weak and listless and the urge to consume so much beer began.
Lorna believed him as she had a friend who had been charmed by black magic before. She gave him the contact of a Malay bomoh who can help to counter the charm.
Bernstein thanked her and said: “This is no normal charm. It’s a very powerful charm from Thailand and only Boon Huat can get the antidote from the same source. If he does not help me, I’ll get weaker by the day. I’ve no choice but to plead with him for help to get the antidote.”
Bernstein took three days’ leave and stayed at home. On the third day, he called Lorna on the phone and said in a weak voice: “Hello Lorna, I need your help. Listen carefully. Boon Huat has finally agreed to get me the antidote but he won’t come to my house. I’ve told him to hand it to you at the office and to give you the full instructions.”
“You can count on me,” said Lorna. “What must I do?”
“You please memorise the instructions and bring the antidote to my house. This is a matter of life and death,” said Bernstein and he hung up.
At 3 pm, Boon Huat turned up. He nervously handed Lorna a bottle of water and a packet of assorted petals for Bernstein. Bernstein was to take a bath with the water and petals and to drain the bath water and petals into a plastic bag and leave the contents along the side of a busy road. Boon Huat then left the room in a hurry.
Lorna drove to Bernstein’s house and explained to Mrs Wang that the office had sent him a small gift. Alone with Bernstein, she told him what to do. He thanked her and murmured: “I hope it works.”
The following day, Bernstein returned to work looking like his old self again. He told Lorna that after the bath, he felt the burden leaving his body and his strength returned. He thanked Lorna again for her assistance.
Questions to Ponder:
From the facts of the case, discuss the following questions:
a) Knowing that Boon Huat has a gambling habit, should he lend Boon Huat the $6,500?
b) When Boon Huat pleaded for an extension of the repayment dates, what is the right thing for Bernstein to do?
c) Was it a case of black magic or is the whole matter a figment of Bernstein’s imagination?
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All characters and firms mentioned in the case are fictional and bear no resemblance to any living person or existing firm.
Copyright © 2013 Singapore Institute of Management.