Screen: CNBC

Pop Goes The Weasel

Marcus Lemonis nixes his investment in Planet Popcorn. This commentator has a few questions. (About other stuff; the ixnay was a no-brainer.)

I do not have any questions about why Marcus Lemonis finally gave up on Planet Popcorn on last night's episode of The Profit. Lemonis gave Sharla enough time, expertise, and benefit of the doubt to pull it together, and didn't see too many red flags before bailing on it.

But that doesn't mean I don't have any questions at all.

Is Sharry, Sharla's mother, a masochist or a moron?

That's harsh, maybe, but: seriously? Sharla is your child; you know how Planet Popcorn is run, which is to say barely and/or into the ground, stacks of cash lying around on the floor, no safe, no security cameras in the popcorn stands, no inventory tracking, blah blah blah. It's run poorly enough, in fact, that said child had to ask you to mortgage your house a second time to keep the business going. Meanwhile, she's driving a Benz and sporting a huge rock from her fiancé, Steve -- who, by the way, thinks he knows enough better than Lemonis that he's calling Sharla outside during the initial investment discussion all, "You can't give up control of the business," but as far as this viewer could tell has no skin in the game. So Steve needs to shut up, and Mom needs to nad up -- she shouldn't have given Sharla the loan in the first place, but since that horse is halfway to Canada by now, get a formal loan agreement in place. Documents. Signatures. Deadlines. I have done business with my sibling for over a decade in various iterations, and in any business transaction involving family and exceeding $1000, you absolutely must write the shit down, period, no exceptions.

Except slapping Sharla upside the head for giving you attitude when you dare to question her approach to the analysis of the accounting. That's free, and well overdue. You're a creditor, and a grown-up. Act the parts and don't let her talk to you like that.

How long did the Planet Popcorn ep take to film?

I want to say it's probably a shorter shooting window than others, because Lemonis is like, "I can't with this," and leaves at without investing -- but the reason I ask is that Sharla is sporting at least three different manicures. If the episode took 4-6 weeks to film, okay, but at the same time, if your business has reached the point where you need to go on The Profit to stay afloat, you may want to act like discretionary spending is under control on the personal side. In other words, get the weekly mani, but get the same color every time so know-it-alls like me don't wonder whether you lifted the money for it from petty cash, and speaking of that!

Could anyone turn that business around as long as Sharla is in charge?

Did anyone else see Lemonis trying to take the lottery ticket, and Sharla slapping her hand down on it so he couldn't? It symbolized everything hopeless about trying to do business with a Sharla: she buys scratch-offs out of petty cash and, worse, thinks it's cute; she forgets she has cameras on her and thinks she can lawyer/interpret actual footage that we just saw; she believes "I'm not a mathematician" absolves her from spending money she doesn't have, which is not a math question, exactly, because zero, being zero, is as much a figurative concept as a numerical one.

Dealing with Sharlae, in any sphere of life, is exhausting -- and this is exactly what they count on. Hair-trigger defensive, disingenuous ("I don't understand what's wrong" about going around Lemonis to buy the website he already reserved, for an organic brand he thought of, just for one), entitled (Sharla kept doing variations on a theme of "a billionaire won't miss the money" -- because billionaires become billionaires by misplacing the odd hundred grand?). Sharlae never admit mistakes and don't use earth logic in their arguments, and they count on others getting tired of their bullshit and giving in, just to get on with things.

I do wonder if he tried to go around Sharla to Sharry, who technically may "own" part of the business or its infrastructure if Sharla is in default on the loan from Sharry -- and then discovered that Sharry didn't get any paperwork and couldn't enforce the collection.

And now for some business nerdery.

Does snack food follow the same rule of clustering as restaurants do?

Apparently, in a cluster of restaurants -- even the same exact cuisine, like East 6th Street in Manhattan's row of Indian restaurants -- each individual restaurant does better than it would if it had the street to itself. It has something to do with people's willingness to travel to a given area to eat if they know they can get a seat somewhere, and I don't know if it translates to other cities or what (I read it in The New Yorker, so).

Does that also work for snack food? Lemonis went over the good businesses to have near a retail popcorn location -- a coffee shop (morning traffic), an ice-cream shop (evening traffic), a gas station (repetitive traffic) -- and they all made sense. But is it even better if you have a candy store/high-end chocolate "café," a cheese store, etc.? Or all "impulse" stores -- i.e., next to a Claire's?

How do you define "skimming"?

Every retail business has to build it into their accounting, and it's not necessarily stealing; the pizza place I worked at didn't care if we ate the merch, as long as we logged it. Accountant Casey guessed the amount at $35 a day -- did he mean strictly employees pinching small bills from the till, or eating the product? Did that include the assistant manager donking the drawer count? Little kids wandering off with unpaid-for bags of cheese corn? Dead stock/stale corn?

Lemonis didn't seem concerned with it on a micro level, probably because two accountants and Lemonis couldn't figure out where the eff 400K got to and Sharla pretended she couldn't explain it either.

Where did that money go?

Never mind that not only did Sharla not get "alarmed" that Lemonis assessed hundreds of thousands missing, but she also didn't seem bothered by inaccuracies she claimed to see on the balance sheet, or by the fact that she couldn't "say yes or no" to specifics on those inaccuracies…that level of ignorance of your own profit/loss statement is astounding, if it's actual ignorance and not more like plausible deniability.

And with piles of hundos used as doorstops at Planet Popcorn, it could have gone anywhere, I guess. But it probably went to personal expenses Sharla took "as a write-off" and didn't keep track of (she's probably calling that Benz a company car to herself, but didn't run it through the accounts as such, the better not to get bitched out by Casey or her mom). Steve isn't as savvy as he thinks he is, but I bet he knows where it is, and I'm kind of dying for the IRS to take Sharla to court for the taxes I furthermore bet she's in arrears on, so it's a matter of public record and we can see where it got to.

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