Since the first hit of opium...or coca leaf...or...ancient crack boulder...or whatever...changed hands at the dawn of human history, people have been dealing drugs to each other. It's always been perceived as a lucrative endeavor, its sellers of fortune romanticized and glorified from some of the oldest folk songs (such as "Pusher Man") to beloved classic films like "Scarface" and "Blow", documentaries like "Cocaine Cowboys", even current hip-hop in which pretty much everyone is moving 10 bricks a month (perplexingly, despite this implied income, many still have yet to pay back their advances).
The concept involved is pretty constant...the urban entrepreneur rises from humble beginnings, and after a while selling his product, gains wealth and power (usually by force), and enjoys the lavish lifestyle only someone with thousands of dollars tucked away inside the walls of their home can live. (Of course, at the end of just about every single story of this kind, the protagonist ends up in a box of some kind way before his time...nobody sees that part though.)
The palatial houses, fast cars, exotic women, and the intoxicating power such people posess can be a huge draw into "that lifestyle" especially for people too young to know any better (a state which can last to surprisingly high numbered ages in some folk). The appeal is easy to understand...who doesn't want to be on top of the world overnight? People often take to the block with dreams of one day reaching these heights...however, as many people find out, the lives depicted in this kind of media can be somewhat inconsistent with the realities of life.
You see, the people that are shown in these gold-plated, coke dusted fantasies are usually not on the block at all...they're behind it. Most people who take slangin' up as a trade will never see that status, or anything like it. The chiefs always get the songs and camera time...but for every chief, there are thousands of regular old Indians that don't get as much coverage.
Think of how a large company works...you have CEOs making millions of dollars to make decisions, middle managers who likely make just enough to maintain their lifestyle, and then you have the countless drones underneath them, collecting just over minimum wage to perform all the dirty work that keeps the company running while the big shots go golfing, talk global business and count money.
The under-the-table world is no different...you have the bosses making millions making major moves, you have middlemen, you have more middlemen (why do you think it's all so expensive?), then you have your corner boys. They're out there on the front lines, exposed to 90% of the dangers of the industry for less than 10% of the profits. Any way you slice that, it just doesn't add up...but many people just don't get that.
So, what I'm going to do is try and prove beyond doubt that being a low-level drug dealer just ain't worth it, even thought it may appear that way on the surface (go ahead and Google how many people start at the top, too...seriously, I'll wait). Follow me for a few bullet points, if you will...
- Profit margins for narcotics vary wildly by type, from marijuana, which can commonly have a 150% return on investment (that's if the seller doesn't like to roll up a few times a day himself) to harder, slightly less available stuff like heroin, cocaine, and crack, which can get up to 400% of what you spent back. For the purposes of this post, we'll assume that what you're selling earns 5 bucks for every dollar you invest for a 500% profit margin. Not bad, right? Let's continue.
-You start out with 100 units of your drug at a price of 10 bucks a unit, spending $1,000 to get your inventory. It takes you 5 days to move your product at a price of $50 a unit, and you don't even use any yourself or give out any bulk deals, leaving you with $4,000 profit at the end of a week... You've successfully managed to make a thousand a day...much more than you'd make at a 9 to 5, right?
-Let's factor in the fact that you had to stand outside, no matter time of day/night or weather conditions, for a standard 8-hour shift (and you really got off early, because most hustle men are out for 12, easy). That's $571 a day, but these were hours in which you were exposed to attack from a rival dealer, a stick-up from some kid with a gun, even a stabbing by a crackhead promised unlimited rocks for the week for doing so. Would you knowingly endanger your life at any given point in a day for $571? That's up to you. Moving on...
-If you want to keep all the profit yourself, for this $571 a day gross, you have performed a number of job duties. You were a salesman (with no commission and a capped earning potential), an advertising executive (who average the equivalent of $15 an hour) an armed security guard (who average a bit over $10/hr and likely more for protecting an active target like yourself), a customer service rep (another $10-15/hr...likely double to deal with zoned out rock zombies all day) an private accounting manager ($20/hr, easy), an inventory/stockroom manager (another $15 or so an hour)...oh, and a good lookout (potentially priceless).
This all comes to somewhere around $90-120+ an hour as separate jobs...but for $571 a day, you have done the work of 6 or 7 people...and gotten no overtime. That's a bad deal where I come from.
-While we're talking about overtime, let's mention the other benefits that a normal full-time salaried employee gets that you won't because of your chosen profession (like peace of mind). There is no paid vacation in that field...you're either at work or you're not making money. Personal days are your personal problem. Sick? No such thing as sick...cold, flu, stomach virus, gunshot wound...get out there and get that money. (There's no medical or dental either...that all comes out of your pocket.)
You'll never get to choose shifts, the fiends decide what your hours are. The pay can be somewhat irregular...you get paid when others get paid and pay you. Also, good luck with that 401k...your nest egg will likely be poached (by the cops or whoever else) when the time comes to use it. All these things are included with employment at most normal jobs...but this all comes out of your paycheck, and at great cost.
-On the plus side, you won't get taxed...but the expensive items you'll probably buy will attract attention, and eventually people will wonder just why you haven't filled out a W-2 lately. What's worse, the goods your money allows you to have are rarely absolute goods. The cars you buy will be followed, the house you buy will never be safe for you or your family, the girls you meet will have dollar signs instead of pupils...very little can be trusted when you fly blind into new territory.
-An added expense can be paying off those who would see your business shut down. Police, neighborhood folk who might not love their block crawling with dope fiends all hours of the day and night, local business owners, anybody that feels that your workspace is their territory and that you must share your profits to keep your venture (and yourself) alive...all must be paid off. This also comes out of your take-home pay.
-The prices of everything rise, and inflation is a bitch for everybody. During the course of the year, as a result of a big bust and scarce quantities, prices for your product go up from $10 a unit to $12 a unit. You have 3 choices at this point. Absorb the cost yourself and lose $2000 per pack of 100 units, decrease the quality of your product by watering it down and risk displeasing your clientele and driving them to a competitor, or find an alternate source for your wholesale purchase (if there is one). All 3 options will probably lose you money and leave someone involved upset...and the last thing you need is more ill will.
-Okay, let's talk about getting caught (and it WILL happen if you do it long enough). Unless you plan on sitting in jail until your court date, you're going to have to come up with some bail money, which, you guessed it, comes out of your own pocket. If you want to stay out of a state prison for the next 5 or more years, you'll want a private lawyer, whose services cost far more than your own. Of course, while you're dealing with these legal proceedings, you're not making money because it's a bad idea to be spotted on a drug corner selling drugs with an open drug case.
-Worst case scenario, you get caught, booked, and have to do a bid. They gave you 10 years for trafficking (because small-timers get big boy time too) ...that's 10 years of lost wages from your day job, pain and suffering, unpaid (or nearly unpaid) labor...oh, and 10 years of your fucking life. You might have made it a few years completely undetected...but once they gotcha, they gotcha. Is a year or 2 of the fly life (if you even get that) with parties at the finest bars and hotels worth 10 years of the all-guy life at the Iron Bar Hotel? I'll let you think about it.
Let's review. In a year, you can see over $200,000 dollars (that is, if you haven't blown all of it making it rain in local hood bars) pass through your hands. Admittedly, that's a lot of bread...but to get it, you've worked pretty much every waking moment, put your life in constant danger, put your family at risk, done more jobs than an immigrant...and unless you have a horseshoe, a 4-leaf clover, and an entire rabbit lodged somewhere in your pants, gotten arrested.
If you were willing to go through that much to accomplish any other end, you might have made at least twice that over time...however, I will admit this is much faster. All that said, I'll ask you again...you wanna be a drug dealer?