DSS Twins by
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I have never been much of a prankster. I don’t like having them played on me, usually don’t find them funny and am not creative in thinking them up. So this is a difficult prompt for me. I never created mischief on Halloween, or any other night, for that matter.

The closest I came was while working for Management Decision Systems in the early 1980s. They held an annual Christmas auction to benefit wonderful charities like the Globe Santa and Home for Little Wanderers, spreading Christmas cheer for needy children and had a great time doing it. The auctioneers dressed up in crazy ways and we all imbibed lots of alcohol. Creative things were auctioned off for large sums of money (we were young and all doing well, professionally. The flowing alcohol always kept the bidding going too).

I was friendly with another petite woman. We didn’t really look alike at all, except in stature and our dark hair, but clients sometimes mistook us for one another. We plotted up an auction item: dinner with the “DSS Twins” and did not reveal our identity to any one. Decision Support Systems were our major products.

As the auction approached there was much buzz about who those twins were. We didn’t let on until moments before our item came up for bid, when we changed into matching shirts and I combed my hair like Connie’s (the Featured photo, from 1982). Our item was announced and we came forward. We came to feel just a tiny bit like slaves felt in a slave auction, as people bid to have dinner with us while we were on display. I think we fetched a tidy sum and were happy that we had contributed to the overall success of the fundraising efforts. As best I can remember, who ever bought the dinner was so busy, that he never collected on his win (I’m sure it was a male high bidder)!

The next year, we upped our ante. This year, we offered to take a jacuzzi and home cook dinner with the DSS Twins (I had a large jacuzzi tub in my Back Bay condo). Of course, now everyone knew who the DSS Twins were, so Connie and I had T shirts made with our names, but wore each other’s shirts.

I think the offer to take a jacuzzi with us drove up the bidding and the item was won by the head of Tech Services, Jeff Stamen. I was quite friendly with him, but was still surprised by the amount he paid, though I don’t remember the sum now.

Again, busy schedules made it difficult to get us all together. I left the company before Jeff could collect, but stayed close to everyone involved. He did collect his dinner and soak, but not until 1985 and I was 8 months pregnant by the time of the reward (we cooked veal piccata, my speciality at the time) and couldn’t soak in the tub by that point, but of course, I do have photographic evidence of the evening, one month before my due date! I was a whale by that point. I eventually put on 42 pounds.

Dinner and jacuzzi with the “twins”. July 9, 1985

We all had a great time. We stayed in touch for a while, now occasionally even through Facebook. The next year, Management Decision Systems was sold to Information Resources, Inc., which was eventually swallowed up by Oracle.

I delivered David on August 20; 10 days late.

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: MDS Christmas auction, DSS twins, identity swap, pregnant


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    The hot tub picture with the man claiming his prize is pretty funny. Your prank was for a good cause and no one was hurt by it. In fact, I’m sure the dinner was delicious.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Connie and I enjoyed cooking it and a fun night was had by all, even if I was too far along in the pregnancy to get into the tub. We did enjoy our little prank when we first thought it up and then pulled out all the stops for the second auction. And as you say, it was for a very good cause.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Thanks so much for this, Betsy. In fact, what I really liked about it was the fact that I, too, have never been much for pranks, as there is an implicit cruelty to so many of them. So I really appreciated hearing about a funny little plan, though technically a prank, that was so entirely benign — indeed, philanthropic — both in intent and in outcome. Of course, knowing in advance that you did not fall victim to the white slave trade as a result was reassuring.

    The other thing that I really liked about your story was that you actually had pictures of the prank, both with your “twin” and of the Jacuzzi “reward. ” How rare and cool is that?

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      There seems to be a trend among us Retros…none of us are fond of pranks. But glad you liked my little one to aid our charity auction many years ago. We did get in the spirit of things, have lots of fun and raise money for a worthwhile cause. No one was harmed, though it took forever for all the busy schedules to align, and yes, the photos are fun too! I have a different one of Jeff sitting on the steps of the tub with his necktie still on, and one of me standing in full silhouette so you can really see how large I was. But those didn’t add to the narrative.

  3. I never liked pranks either, but this was a fun story, well written, with great photos to back up your story. I always look forward to your stories, Betsy, and they always help me know you better. Thanks for your generosity in sharing yourself through these posts!

  4. John Zussman says:

    I enjoyed this story and think it’s a fine fit for the prompt. What strikes me is the spirit of generosity of a company of prosperous professionals drinking freely and willing to be creative and spend a little cash for a good cause. I hope that spirit still reigns, even in these more divided, “greed-is-good” times.

  5. Suzy says:

    Not sure about the trend among Retros that you suggest. Two stories have been posted about playing pranks since you wrote that comment to John – one of which is mine.

    Your little prank of creating the mysterious DSS Twins was a good one. So typical that men would confuse two women just because they were both petite and had dark hair. My favorite part of your story is the picture of you and Connie wearing the shirts with each other’s names on them. You are lucky to have so many pictures from your past AND to be able to find them when you need them!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I will read the new stories tomorrow morning, Suzy. I look forward to reading yours! I do cherish my photos and kept them well-organized through the years. Sometimes the photos give me ideas for stories.

  6. I had to laugh at the ‘confusion’ that your colleagues (probably mostly male) experienced at yours and Connie’s ‘similar statures.’ One does wonder where they were looking when they mixed you gals up! I also admire your courage and dedication for taking the plunge when you upped the auction ante the following year. So… who took the photo? A chaperone?

    I enjoyed this story as much for your portrait of office culture as for your good-humored delivery. Thanks!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      It was clients who saw us rarely who mixed us up, Charlie. I had a client at Tyson Chicken, in Lancaster, PA (in Amish country) who used to say, “the girls from MDS are here!” We weren’t so happy with him.

      I think I set my camera to “auto-timer”, set it on top of the toilet seat and snapped the photo that way. It was a pretty good camera, back in the day.

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