A discount department-store chain hoped to open a retail outlet in our town, and identified a site, on the edge of the city, where it preferred to build. The site lay at a bend in a creek, opposite a popular town park prized by both naturalists and recreationalists for its broad shade trees, clean water and abundant wildlife.

The town council, eager to bring new jobs to the area and stimulate further economic activity, immediately agreed to allow the chain to build, on the one condition that they choose a different site for their store. The park, the council explained, was too valuable to the community to mar its beauty with commercial development. The chain took offense at this condition and called in its legal team, who filed a series of suits, tying up the town’s attorneys and emptying its coffers with breathtaking speed. Ultimately the town gave up and issued the chain its permit, and the store was constructed quickly, using contractors from a neighboring state and laborers trucked in from the city.

For its opening day, the new store ordered several thousand butterflies to be released on the site, as a means of generating publicity and demonstrating its commitment to the natural environment. However, it was July, and the air conditioning in the van that was to deliver the butterflies broke down. The van driver, a temporary worker unfamiliar with the needs of butterflies, thought nothing of the problem and arrived uncomfortable but on time in the store parking lot.

The company’s CEO had taken a particular interest in this store, and now spoke in the parking lot to a crowd of reporters and eager consumers about the company’s virtues. Then, with a wave of his arm, he ordered the butterflies released.

Sadly, the butterflies had suffocated in the blistering summer heat. Undaunted, the CEO sent his employees into the store for fans, which were unboxed, plugged in, and deployed within minutes at the edge of the parking lot. These employees, mostly local teenagers, scooped handfuls of the insects from their plastic bins and flung them into the path of the fans, where they fluttered artificially for some seconds before coming to rest on the hot pavement.

The few would-be customers who entered the store after this debacle tracked butterfly innards throughout its aisles, leaving long green stains on the white tiles. Those who left were forced to use their windshield wipers to clear the butterflies from their cars. Both were captured in words and pictures by the journalists present. Nevertheless, the store has been an enormous success, as it has been in most towns it visits, and many regard the CEO’s performance with the fans as a perfect example of the resourcefulness and creativity that have made him the retail giant he is.