This year, N and I are having the olives at Campo di Pere harvested for the first time. Not having a clear idea how much oil our trees would produce, or the money to pay the laborers fifty Euro a day, the going rate here, we decided to enter into an oil-sharing agreement. In exchange for their work, the harvesters receive fifty percent of the oil produced, a fairly typical division.
N is Neapolitan, which means that anytime money or goods change hands, he’s on the look-out for a fregatura. Sometimes I find his distrust astonishing, and I’m a former New Yorker. This time, though, I shared his concerns. How could we know that the workers weren’t putting some of the olives aside for themselves? There’s no way either of us could monitor the work up there every day. But not being able to harvest them ourselves, we decided that it would better to be robbed of a few olives than let them all go to waste.
So far, the olives have gone to the frantoio in two batches. N wanted these trips to the press to made on Saturdays, so he could go and make sure the oil was divided fairly, and watch out for imbrogli by the workers at the press. But the olive harvesters preferred not to wait for N, saying that they wanted to have the olives pressed while fresh, and made an agreement with N’s aunt to take the first batch to the press on a weekday.
N insisted that the next batch go to the press on a Saturday. This time the harvesters offered a different reason for not wanting to wait: the olives might be stolen in the meantime. Now, these olives are stored in a locked shed to which there are only two keys, ours and theirs. So it seems that the distrust is mutual.
Regardless, N prevailed, and the second batch of olives was pressed on Saturday, and at a different frantoio, because he wanted to compare prices. The difference was only one Euro, but it turns out that going there saved much more money than just that. Because at the second frantoio the same quantity of olives produced fifty percent more oil than at the first one! And the oil is superior in quality as well. What’s odd is that the first frantoiois the more popular of the two. I suppose that most people, like N’s aunt, simply go to the same businesses year after year, never seeing a need to compare services elsewhere. I understand consumer loyalty, but only if it’s deserved!