The young Toni first worked alongside Loungy in the paradise of Indonesia in the rural province of Aceh, during the late 1990s. As rungs of the ladder approached, Loungy did everything from pruning palm trees, picking coconuts and tending to the cows and chickens to educating Toni on the value of the products he was selling.
“Loungy was always saying, ‘Keep your clothes on, don’t lose your money, keep these dishes in the refrigerator,’ ” remembers Toni. “The kids who worked with him had a different outlook. They always took care of each other. He was the first to do so. He and I lived a good life and were enjoying it.”
In the early 2000s, Toni went to Indonesia again. He found work in a new job as a sales representative and chauffeur for Mercedes, purchasing aluminum hot-tub sections and using them to customize his hybrid SUV. Soon, the dealership in Almasiah, East Aceh Province, was selling the vehicles almost entirely in the form of the cheap-and-fluffy, by-the-inch floor mats. The Mercedes dealership estimates that, of Toni’s three vehicles, two are leather.
The two automakers argue over that percentage and whether or not some of the mats are made of palm-kernel oil. The mats are not made in China. German officials tried to mount a criminal investigation into the issue in 2015, but that shut down. (Though Toyota and Porsche also use the mats, the automakers neither produce nor use palm-kernel oil.)
Though many of the spools of material run through Caterpillar’s grinding factory in Mississippi, some also go to another facility in the county. And because of that, it is not known exactly where the ropes are made. Is Loungy sending his last profitable sales pitch to Indonesia? And why?