It was New Year's Eve 1997, and my Adams Morgan nightclub Crush was packed. Four hundred people were having a ball, and I was tipsy with success. It was my first New Year's Eve as a nightclub owner, and I had worked very hard to create a big night. I had planned everything -- well, almost everything.

I'd forgotten about cold weather and fancy coats.

Usually the club checked about 70 coats a night, but most people just tossed them on chairs. Well, that night we checked more than 300 coats. My coat-check person was unconcerned. "No problem!" he said, after he ran out of claim tickets. "I'm using Post-it notes." I looked dubiously at the mounds of coats, but I was so excited about our full house that I ignored the warning voice inside my head.

Midnight found me laughing and toasting with friends and patrons -- not a care in the world. That lasted about an hour. "There's a problem in coat check," an employee told me. It seems my coat-checker had put the claim checks in people's coat pockets. To find the right coat, you had to literally put your hand inside hundreds of pockets.

Our inebriated patrons were not amused, and a crowd began banging on the coatroom door. Finally, we let them in to look for themselves. Several coats vanished that night, and we had to pay for new ones. Lucky for us, coats go on sale in January.

Mary Abbajay, Washington

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