July 20, 2011
YARD SALE SCAM
As with any addiction, there came a time when my bargain-shopping pleasure turned to pain. Every closet, shelf, and drawer in the house was overflowing with valuable stuff that was never used. I don’t wear the designer clothing because I live in sweatpants. I don’t use the crystal salt cellars because I rarely entertain. I don’t have the time: I’m much too busy buying crystal salt cellars. After a family intervention, I agreed to go cold turkey. I wouldn’t give up treasure hunting, but I would turn my compulsion into a business. I started selling my goodies: some on eBay, some to resale shops, some to private dealers.
It was fun to have a little cottage industry but, like all entrepreneurs, I dreamed of The Big Score: the costume person from a film studio who would be My Main Buyer. This person would appreciate my exquisite taste and, since they were paying with someone else’s dime, would never haggle over the cost. I would sit in the audience and think, “That’s my Escada blazer! That’s my Weiss necklace!”
The check bounced. It wasn’t just an oversight: the account had been closed for several months. I called Dreamworks and asked for Laura S. No such person. “Are you sure? She’s doing wardrobe on Santa Clause 3.” No, that film was not Dreamworks, it was Disney. I called Disney and learned that the movie had wrapped three months ago. Laura S. was a total fraud. The assistant she talked to was probably a dial tone. Laura played on my greed, my vanity, and my pathetic eagerness to be a professional shopper for the movies.
My miracle had turned into a “be careful what you wish for” fable. It served me right, because as a secular cynic, I ought to know that miracles do not happen: just random events that usually end badly. I was, of course, furious, but I was also fascinated by the psychopathology at work here. If you’re a skilled con artist, why steal used goods from middle-aged yentas at yard sales? Whatever happened to professional standards? Even criminals should aim high.
I started leaving phone messages for Laura, sometimes several in one day. No reply, of course. We drove to the address on the check. No such person, of course. For many months to come, I was obsessed with revenge fantasies. I thought of all the things I would say and do to Laura S. if I ever ran into her: how I would make a loud scene in public and force her to pay me back.