Hotline was discussing the Indonesian tin producers’ pricing circle, which broke down late last month, with one third-generation metal man last week.
The internal pressure that generally destroys such arrangements struck a chord for him.
When his father, a steel merchant in the north of England, learned he was joining the industry, he told him a cautionary tale about the likelihood of such syndicates collapsing – and doing so in less than two months, which is roughly how long the Bangka island tin smelters held out for.
His father attended a meeting with a dozen or so of his peers and rivals.
Together they must fight to ensure a fair price for their product.
There was, therefore, grim and unanimous agreement to a proposal that they would not sell any steel for less than £30 per tonne.
Which was all very well.
But as the merchant left the meeting, which was breaking up in ones and twos, he heard a fellow syndicate member talking on a payphone.
“They’re all set on £30. So if we offer now at £29 we should get business done.”
History does not record the merchant’s reaction.
But the pricing ring had not even lasted the night.