People are amazing, and the Tale of the Craigslist Scammer

People are amazing.

Today, we made a last-second, completely spontaneous decision to pack the Bartletts into the Buick and trek westward to Grand Forks for a day of shopping. We rolled into town about 10:45, far before any of the stores opened at noon, so we decided to have an early lunch at the Golden Corral buffet, thinking Helen would enjoy having a big ol’ spread of food to choose from. Forty-five minutes later, we were in the process of finishing up our meal that had been exactly the quality you would expect when considering it cost $22 for all four of us, combined.

Another family came in and sat at a table directly adjacent to us – a mid-20s guy with splotchy tattoos randomly dotting his arms, two small children, a baby, the woman who was probably their mom, and a couple that were probably the guy’s parents.

The baby was a cute, pudge-faced little boy, maybe nine months old, decked out in purple Vikings garb. He was smiling and giggly, and as Melissa, a mom of two, tends to do, she decided to smile at the baby. The male half of the “probably the guy’s parents” couple turned to Melissa and said “Take a picture. It will last longer.” Then he promptly adjusted his chair, moving from the side of table to a corner, so he had his back directly to her. Some jabbering back and forth with the woman we presumed to be his wife ensued, and after a few sentences the woman says “Well, if they want to stare, give them something to stare at.”

First, I don’t even know what that meant. What would they give us to stare at? A picture? Maybe he was going to do a dance for us? What does that even mean? Second, are you serious? People really act like that? Here is an adult, likely fully four decades past the point when the phrase “take a picture, it will last longer” should come out of a human being’s head in a serious fashion, immediately joined by another elementary-school contribution from his wife, berating my wife, and for what? For thinking the child we presumed was their grandson was cute? In a public place full of people? It was cartoon character behavior. We were completely floored by it, and even discussing it later were baffled as to what would’ve been an appropriate way to deal with that level of ridiculousness from other adults. I just cannot fathom the mindset of someone who would make a decision to act that way in public, in front of children, or, honestly, in front of anyone.

The best part of the story – Random Tattoo Arms comes back from the buffet with his plate of food, makes eye contact with Millie, and smiles at her. We should’ve told him to take a picture. Instead, we just quietly packed up the kids and got on with our day.

The Tale of the Craigslist Scammer

To cap our Sunday of insanity, Melissa had a nice exchange tonight with some perfectly nice people who were trying to steal money from us. A few days ago, Mel responded to a Craigslist posting from the Bemidji listings for a Yamaha GB1 baby grand piano — that was listed under “free stuff.” An email exchange led to the following story – guy moved to Florida, had bought this piano for his son, son died in a car accident a few months previously, he didn’t have anywhere to put it, wanted piano to go to a good home.

However, the piano was already in transit; a moving company, owned by a family friend, was taking the piano to put it in storage. We were provided with contact information for the mover, a Gmail address, and told that we could easily get the mover to deliver the piano to our home instead if we were willing to pay a transit fee of $300.

More email is exchanged, and finally Mel asks for a phone call so she can talk to an actual person. The call comes in within a few minutes; however, caller ID shows the phone number as being very unusual – it starts with 234, followed by another three-digit number, then six more digits. So, that’s not a U.S. phone number; we Googled it, and lo and behold, 234 is the country code for Nigeria.

Scam. Some more email was exchanged, and the longer it went on the more red flags were raised. Mel finally asked for the phone number of the owner of the piano, and the response was “why can’t you just contact him directly via email?”

Finally I did a Google image search for the piano, and found the same pictures that were in the Craigslist ad. They were in a Craigslist ad from Alaska, posted 12 days earlier than the Bemidji posting; the same post, with the same three photos. Further Google searches showed identical CL ads in many other places, from North Carolina to Utah and most points in between. Many other CL ads for free Yamaha pianos in cities all over the country were flagged for removal.

Mel texted the guy and said “I’m no longer interested.” He responded with a simple “OK.”

If it’s too good to be true, etc.

Andy Bartlett

By day, I am the executive director of communications and marketing at Bemidji State University. The rest of the time, I'm a husband, father of three, and proponent of super heroes, lasers, space ships and explosions.

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4 Responses

  1. Kimberly says:

    Sigh. People are idiots. They take the best thing humans can do (smile) and make it a negative. Weird.

    I have had craigslist scammers! When I was trying to sell my bass, a few people wanted me to ship it, and in return they would send me a money order. Wacko phone numbers and emails. You have to be smart!

  2. derek says:

    For the first story you should have just flipped the table and said “come at me bro.”

    For the craigslist guy you should have sent an email back stating that you were in fact a Nigerian prince that couldn’t afford the 300$ because you were on the run. If they just sent you 3000$ you would be able to access your millions you have in the bank and you would be able to give them 3million dollars.

  3. KSU says:

    Were you wearing Penn State gear?

  4. Oh, man, we should’ve thought of that…

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