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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Time for a new scam

I hate when the other secy goes on vacation, because that means I have to deal with all the freaking weirdos that traipse into our offices off the street. The other secy sits at the reception desk downstairs, and my office is upstairs. So for the times when she's out of town or otherwise away from her desk, we have a fun little ding-dong device posted in the reception area downstairs with a little sign that says "ring bell for service". It's remarkable how many people are too dumb to follow these simple instructions. It's not unusual for me to be roused from my chair because someone is walking through the offices downstairs hollering, "Hello? HELLO!?!"

Okay people, have you ever gone into an office in which the front desk attendant is not there? I have -- I'm sure most people have. So what do you do? Well, you usually go to the front desk and see if there is a little bell that you can ring for service. And if that doesn't work (but usually it does), then you wait around for a couple minutes to see if the receptionist comes back. If she doesn't come back within a few minutes, only then do you walk through the office, because walking through someone else's office uninvited is rude.

Anyway, today we get some schmoe off the street coming in here, ignoring the "ring bell for service" sign, and hollering "hello?" from below. So I go down, and he apologizes, saying he couldn't tell where anyone was at (yes, he put that preposition at the end of his clause, and yes, that is the only preposition that I personally believe does not belong at the end of a clause). For a moment, I considered pointing out the little "ring bell for service" sign, but he looked a little bit stupid, and I didn't want to make him feel bad by rubbing his stupidity in his face, so I just said, "That's ok."

And that's when he launched into his little sales pitch. I'm sure you've heard it before. First he gives his name and shakes my hand, and then he tries to break the ice with a little humor: "I'm from New York... don't beat me up!" ::smile:: (Umm, actually if you are from New York -- and based on your accent I don't believe you are -- then I should be afraid of YOU beating ME up. But anyway, go on.) He continued his spiel, throwing out some acronym that he's apparently affiliated with -- I'll call the acronym ULOBS, for Utter Load of BullShit. He says that the objective of ULOBS is to earn points so the members of ULOBS can go on a trip to Europe.

This is the moment where I just want to tell the little scam artist to scram, but just like a telemarketer, he talks so fast that I can't gracefully get a word in edgewise. If I were at home, I'd tell him to fuck the hell off, but seeing as how I'm at work and thus representing the firm, I have to be a touch more polite. So I allow him to carry on for a moment, but I can't keep a grimace from surfacing on my face. And that's when he makes his first mistake by giving me an in. He asks me if I'm alright and then vaguely gestures to the corner of his mouth, and I know he's referring to the fact that the corner of my mouth just turned down in a major scowl, and I wonder for a moment if my face looks so hideously deformed at that instant that a person couldn't help but remark upon it. But I shake the thought off and tell him, "Yeah, we're not interested in solicitations."

And that's when he makes his second mistake by getting defensive. "I'm not soliciting," he says and then gestures toward the area at his feet, "I don't have a vacuum cleaner." For a moment I consider pointing out the fact that he doesn't have to be selling something to be soliciting -- asking for money is a solicitation, and though he hadn't asked for money yet, that's what these points-to-go-to-Europe scam artists always ask for. But this man is much larger than I am, and so I think better of it and simply tell him, "I'm sorry."

"Just once, I wish someone would let me finish before telling me to get lost," he continued, and I started to get a little nervous. Real salesmen are supposed to be gracious and polite. You are killing your chances of any present or future sales if you get argumentative or irate with your customer. Thus his behavior confirmed my suspicion that he was not a real salesman, but a con artist, and I can't feel safe in the presence of a con artist, so I began to edge backwards. "There's a lot of fucking cunts in this neighborhood, let me tell you," he said, and then he made an about-face and headed for the door, continuing to mumble slurs about my whoredom under his breath.

I breathed a sigh of relief when he shut the door behind him. "What a freaking psycopath!" My office manager was leaning over the railing listening in to make sure nothing went awry, and my boss yelled from her office, "Is it the guy in the plaid shirt out there?" And I said, "Yeah, he could at least dress the part if he wants to pass himself off as a salesman!"

It's true, this guy didn't play the part very well, but not all of these scam artists are as blunt in the brain as this guy. In fact, I learned the truth about this kind of scam the hard way during my first semester of college in 2001.

I was studying in my dorm one night when I received a knock on the door from a casually dressed college-aged kid who presented a similar sob story about how he was trying to earn enough points by selling magazine subscriptions to go on a trip to Italy to study architecture. It was right after the 9/11 incident, and I was feeling a need to renew my sense of faith in humanity and kindness, and I could also relate to his needs as a poor college student, so I told him to come in, and I picked out a magazine I would be willing to subscribe to from his official-looking magazine price list. Then he told me he would earn double points if I paid in cash. That should have been a tip off, but I was a naive 18 year old, so I didn't think anything of it, and together we walked to the ATM in the student building, and I withdrew and handed him $75 cash. He was very charismatic through the whole thing, even while he took advantage of my generosity in the post-9/11 world and ripped me off.

Back then, $75 was a whole lot more money to me than it is today, and even today it's a lot of money. But I didn't start working until my second year of college, and so all the money I had was what I had saved in a mutual fund from childhood, and most of that was to be reserved to pay for my lodgings in the dorms. When I realized I had been had, I felt extremely embarrassed at my stupidity, and extremely angry that someone could be so opportunistic right after thousands of Americans had burned and plunged to their deaths from a supposed terrorist attack. It was a huge wake-up call to me. Usually I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but now I know that people should not be trusted blindly and by default, so I am much more wary these days, unfortunately, but necessarily.

I got my revenge several years later when I was living in my current apartment and this very same guy came knocking at my door. I didn't recognize him at first, but when he shook my hand and launched into the exact same story he had presented me years before, I laughed and said, "You know what? I remember you. I used to live in the student dorms a few years ago, and you came around pitching this exact same story, and you ripped me off back then. I paid you $75 for a magazine subscription that I couldn't afford and never received. So you'd better get the hell out of here right now and stop knocking on these apartment doors, or I will call the police." He tried to deny that this was a scam, but quickly became defensive and said, "Well, fuck you!" to me. I said, "Fuck you too," and slammed the door in his face. Then I posted a sign about the scam above the apartment mailboxes and hoped that no one else had been reeled in like I was. Vindication is so sweet!

So let that be a lesson to you folks -- there are ways to make sure that your donations go to legitimate causes. Be very wary of college students who claim they are trying to earn a trip to Europe. Take it from a girl who's studied abroad twice -- you can't earn enough to go to Europe by selling magazines. But they can earn enough to reserve a special place for themselves in hell, and a special place for you under the dictionary heading "gullible". Learn from my mistake and make charitable donations to reputable sources only.





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9 comments:

Loralee Choate said...

I seriously hope that people like this are afflicted with scorching cases of genital herpes on a regular basis.

The Over-Thinker said...

What huge assholes. I've heard of the house-to-house (apt-to-apt) magazine scams but what they heck was he thinking going into a business to do his solicitation?? And he used the c-word. HATE that.

Sov said...

You are far nicer than I would be. Especially the guy at your office. It interests me that someone else couldn't have dealt with him though. From your description, there were other people downstairs at the time. Couldn't someone else have told him to shove off?

What kind of magazine costs $75?

Sra said...

I too wondered why he was brazen enough to come into a business. One thought was that maybe he was trying to case the place out. It is a large mansion after all. Anyway, I hope that's not the case.

Guys can get away with being mean. Girls can't. That's just how it is. Hell, I was nice to the guy, and he called me a cunt, so go figure.

No one else was downstairs. My office manager was listening over the railing on the second floor, and my boss was in her office on the second floor, but it's just a house so sound travels pretty well, and you can hear what's going on downstairs if you try to listen. It's my job to deal with people who come in if the downstairs secy is out, so that's why I dealt with it.

Ben Sloan said...

That magazine salesman thing almost sounds like the beginning to a Tales From The Crypt story. If only you had lured him in and taken a chainsaw to his sensitive bits, then it would have been perfect.

Sra said...

Ah yes, I shall remember the chainsaw for next time. Thanks :)

b. said...

You are funny!

Sra said...

Thanks :)

Sra said...

Ah yes, I shall remember the chainsaw for next time. Thanks :)

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