A Scam?

Today I was stopped on the way to lab by a man who looked very distressed. He told me he had a flat tire, his car was by the train station (2 blocks away) and it was going to be towed if he didn’t move it in the next 30 minutes. He had 30 dollars (which he showed me) but said he needed 40 to get a spare from the tire shop (which was up the road a few blocks). He looked halfway between an normal person and a homeless guy. He had glasses and a cell phone, but his shoes had holes and his clothes didn’t fit very well. He said he lived in East Brunswick and that he had ID on him.

I am no homeless-kicking city boy, but I am just a tad proud of proud my reaction. Firstly, I drilled him with 20 questions, making him repeat his facts and trying to get him to contradict the first version of the story he told me. He handled these pretty well, and I was starting to feel like he may be genuine. I told him I’d walk him to his car and see the flat and then he could have his ten bucks. He suggested instead that we walk to the tire shop, since it was closer, and buy the tire. I agreed and we started to walk there.

Then, without a ring to be heard, he picked up his phone and talked to his wife/”wife”. He hung up and told me his wife had gotten the money, barely thanked me, and quickly turned the other way powerwalked in the direction of the train station.

I am a little sad I may never find out whether the dude was trying to scam me. If only I had the wherewithal to ask to speak to his wife on the phone. I would have taken the phone, heard the silence on the other end of the line, then spiked the phone on the sidewalk and performed a touchdown dance over its shattered circuitry. Following this, I would have gone after the dude, wrastled him to the ground, broken his glasses, and taken $10 from his stash of 30. A few spits in his face and kicks to his kidneys and off to lab I go.

It’s true that his cell could have been on vibrate, but the whole mess feels like it may have been a scam. One would think that the tire place would accept some sort of collateral for being 10 bucks short? One would think a guy with a cell phone would carry a credit card, or have the resources to dig up some cash? One would think that a car with a flat could be driven to a metered space, or at least out of the way enough to buy more than 30 minutes time with the police?

Either way, I still have my ten dollars.

~ by wcuk on August 6, 2007.

4 Responses to “A Scam?”

  1. Hey Bro, just read this and I wanted to say that this guy was most definitely working a scam. These guys almost always work the train and bus stations that have heavy traffic of college kids and yuppies. I take public transportation every day and have heard these stories so many times. Doesn’t mean that these guys aren’t homeless or in need of help (or drugs). They survive using an elaborate well worn hustle that tugs on the heartstrings. Once you hear the same story twice on different days you won’t even stop to hear them out anymore. In my New Brunswick days living near the train station this one guy used to ask me and my roommates for money at least a few times a month. Not realizing he was hitting up the same guys for cash all the time we’d always hear some version of the same heartbreaking story. We nicknamed him 90Cent because his story almost always involved visiting his sick mother and needing 90 cents more for a train ticket. Students in marketing and psychology could take a lesson from some of these guys. (He’s not being greedy, he’s so close to visiting mom he only needs 90 cents! He knows you’ll round up and give him the whole dollar though.) Your guy was probably one of the best ones I’ve heard. They always have a little money on them to prove to you that they are not just your average panhandler or crackhead. Your last response to him was correct. If you still feel bad for these guys, never give them money directly, but offer to buy them what they are asking for. (eg- Oh, I’m going past the train station. Come with me and I’ll help you buy you that train ticket). If they want food actually buy it for them or tell them you’ll make a call and help them find the nearest homeless shelter. Those that really need the help will take it, but almost all of these guys just want the cash and will make an excuse to split.

  2. Yeah, that, and what tire do you know of that only costs $40?

  3. Umm… the tires on my car

  4. Someone tried to scam me on college ave once. 3 hours later they tried the same shit on Busch campus. The second time I saw them, I cursed them out, as was my right.

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