The business of Scrooge, what could’ve been   

15 December 2022    |    By: Nathan Bentley
"Marley was dead to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail."

Perhaps, one of the most famous opening paragraphs written by the great Charles Dickens – the first few lines of A Christmas Carol, a story about a business owners loss, his discovery and of course, Christmas.

Let us set the scene; in the story Jacob Marley and Ebeneezer Scrooge were proprietors of a firm called Scrooge & Marley. The story begins with a brief introduction into the death of Marley, which sets off a series of events during which Scrooge is visited by four ghosts – the spirit of Jacob Marley himself, followed by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Scrooge is considered to be a selfish man, he refuses to help the poor or give money to charity and also refuses to spend time with family at Christmas, he’s so focused on running his business and turning a profit that it becomes an obsession at the expense of those around him. The death of his business partner Marley changes everything, no doubt putting additional pressure on Scrooge to continue to make their business a success even without the help of his business partner and friend, driving him even further into his world of selfishness.

Perhaps the pair should have considered key person insurance, which can be taken out to cover the business against financial losses which could occur as a result of the death or serious illness of a key person.

Could the peace of mind provided by a quality insurance cover have taken the stress away from Scrooge in the wake of Marley’s death? Giving him better opportunity to reflect on the more important things in life?

Perhaps even, with better clarity, there would be no need for the ghosts to come and visit him in the first place?

Scrooge and the ghosts of christmas
The second ghost in the story, and the first ‘Christmas’ ghost to visit Scrooge was the Ghost of Christmas Past. This ghost takes Scrooge on a journey of reflection, looking back at the past and showing him memories of his childhood and his early adulthood. One of the key memories explored by this ghost comes when Scrooge is a little older and his fiancée at the time; Belle, decides to leave him because he seems to favour money over love, a theme which occurs regularly throughout the story.
The next ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge on a journey to explore the present day, he goes on to see how his treatment of his employee; Bob Cratchit, has led the Cratchit family into a life of poverty, but one where love prevails. Cratchit’s son; Tiny Tim is a sick boy who needs a higher quality of care than the family can afford. This ghost also exposes Scrooge to his own family talking about how ridiculous they think he is. Overall, this is a very traumatic experience for Scrooge.

Lastly, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to come peers into the future with Scrooge, showing him a bleak reality that is waiting for him. A reality in which Bob Cratchit’s son has died, and so has Scrooge himself – though those around him don’t seem to be phased or saddened by his death at all.

At this point, you might ask what this has got to do with business insurance? You might also wish you’d just watched the Muppets Christmas Carol instead – bah humbug! Bear with us, as now we’re going to explore the Scrooge & Marley business a little further.

So, back to business. After Marley’s death, Scrooge became the sole owner of the company. The nature of their business is a little cryptic in the story, thankfully though the following ethnography titled: More About the Business of Scrooge and marley: an Ethnographic Approach by Stephen Winick attempts to shed light on exactly what Scrooge and Marley did.

The story refers to a ‘counting house’ which was a term used to describe an accountancy or bookkeeping department within a much larger business. The story also refers to a ‘warehouse’ which according to Winick’s analysis suggests that the business had a storefront, or a shop in order to facilitate visiting clients. The story refers to a split office within this warehouse, one which housed Scrooge at the back, and a reception area at the entrance where Bob Cratchit worked – a setup which is still very common in consultancy firms even today.

So, we’ve established that Scrooge has a business premises which probably held stock in the form of currency and he also has an employee. In addition to this, Scrooge also used to undertake remote work at the ‘change, a shorthand name for ‘the exchange’ which would be a venue used to facilitate the trade of goods and commodities (much like a market). Given earlier references to a ‘counting house’ combined with a storefront, it’s likely that Scrooge would have operated under the guise of a bank, possibly dealing with the buying and selling of debts, a function which would commonly take place at central exchanges and certainly compliments the idea that Scrooge was obsessed with money.

With this in mind, Winick’s ethnography summarises the most likely nature of Scrooge’s business, though we must point out that this is simply an interpretation of fictional text, and therefore exactly what Scrooge did is always going to be open for discussion:

“The simplest solution is that Scrooge and Marley is a financial institution like a mortgage bank, which either exclusively or in part obtains debts on the Exchange, and which then collects those debts, sometimes ruining lives in the process.”

Source: More About the Business of Scrooge and Marley: an Ethnographic Approach.

In summary, Scrooge & Marley seemed to operate a bank, or some sort of firm which handled money for other people, be that individuals, or businesses. Their handling of debts made this quite a risky business to own, which does go on to explain why Scrooge might have been so obsessed with his work and his money, operating in such a high risk industry can be stressful and that’s why it’s possible that some specific business insurance covers could have helped to alleviate some of that pressure for Scrooge.

Based on the above analysis and some of the facts from the story, we can determine that in modern times at least, as a result of having an employee, Scrooge would probably need to take out Employers' Liability Insurance as a minimum. It would also be likely that Scrooge would want to explore a range of other covers to help protect Scrooge & Marley:

Let’s face it, these covers might not be able to protect a business against the sudden appearance of ghosts or spirits, however the peace of mind provided by a quality insurance package could have helped Scrooge to focus more on his personal life, instead of constantly worrying about his business and its finances.

We’ll never know the real answer to this question, but we do know from experience just how important it is to get your business insurance right. By ensuring that all aspects of Scrooge & Marley were covered, Scrooge could have saved money in the long run and might been more able to navigate the death of his business partner.

The true moral of this story is that love, compassion, consideration and selflessness are far more attractive traits than being selfish, miserable and often rude – Scrooge realises this in the end but it does take a number of visits from several ghosts before these lessons are learned. Maybe, just maybe, if Scrooge was able to protect his business financially he might have had more time and more confidence to give back to those around him, to look after his customers and his employees, to spend time with his family and of course and to step back and enjoy Christmas. Could business insurance be the key to that? Perhaps so.

Nathan Bentley
Article by
Nathan is a content writer at Premierline with over 5 years’ experience, specialising in news and current affairs which impact small businesses across various industries. Nathan is passionate about discussing topics that affect the workplace, covering everything from human resources, to emerging and disruptive technologies. In the past, Nathan has written for a number of different businesses, working within a wide range of industries from financial technology to hospitality and even men’s fashion.
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