The Short Grift

I’m not proud of this. But that’s why I feel like I should own up to it. Because it’s a lesson and I don’t want to make the same mistake again. I was scammed yesterday. I was a woman with a crying baby all alone in her house in the middle of the day. I was a mark. Right random phone call, right time. This guy is an opportunist. He acts fast.

Our furnace was broken. So the husband asked me to call for service. “There’s a sticker on it,” he said. “It has the number.” So I located the sticker: “S & G Heating Services” and called the number.

“Hello?” said a man.

“Yes…is this S & G Heating?” I asked.

“…yes. How did you get this number?” He was Hispanic and didn’t speak English very well. Also the connection was very bad.

“It’s on a sticker on my furnace…Do you do service calls? Is this the right number?”

“Yes. What’s wrong with your furnace?”

I told him. He took down my information and said he could probably come tomorrow. He’d check his schedule. He was “working on a job” right then.

He called back to say he was 45 minutes away. An hour later he showed up. His truck didn’t have a business name on it. He didn’t have any business cards. I answered the door with a baby screaming in my ear. She was hungry but I couldn’t feed her right then. She didn’t understand this at all.

I showed him the furnace. He asked a lot of questions. He looked around, complimenting many things on being “nice”. He took a long time to assess the furnace. Lula cried in my ear all the while. I knew what she wanted but at least I was smart enough not to leave this guy alone in my basement. He fucked around with the fuse box. He used the bathroom. He complimented a few more of our possessions and decor choices.

“It need to be replace,” he said. “The gas valve here, it no work. The blower is also broken. The ignitor switch broken. All these parts very expensive. Better to replace.”

I asked him about prices. He basically said that each part would be about $500 each but that he could give me a really good price on a new one. $2800. He said I wouldn’t get a better price. I told him I had to ask my husband and tried to rush him out the door so I could feed the baby and call B. He asked if I couldn’t call right then. I left the room to call. B. was smart enough to say we should get other estimates. I knew the guy wanted an answer right then. I also kind of wanted to give him one even though I knew B. was right to shop around. He really seemed desperate for the job and I thought, “he must really need the work.”

I told the guy that we would get other estimates but that I’d get back to him soon. He said we would need to get back to him soon because his schedule was going to fill up in a few days. He also again said what a good price he was giving me. He also said if I did find anyone who would go lower that he would match it. I began writing a check for the $40 he’d asked for up front. I asked him who to make it out to. He asked if I had cash. I said I didn’t though I’m pretty sure I did. He asked if I could leave it blank and he could fill in the name later. I totally complied! I assumed that he just didn’t want to have to spell it out. That the language barrier was hard for him. In fact, I let a lot of things slide because of the language barrier. My goddamned liberal guilt. I assumed he had a difficult time finding work. That the recession was hitting him hard. But there were so many red flags that he was just trying to scam what he deemed to be a rich white woman alone at home with a baby. And I fucking fell for it.

Luckily, my husband is thinking clearly. Another company came today. A company that exists on Google. They poked around for 5 minutes and said it looked like our furnace just needed to be cleaned. 30 minutes later, it was and it was working just fine. $180 for the service call. No new furnace needed. They were so pissed off about this other guy that they took his number. They called him. He didn’t answer his phone. I wonder what they will say to him if he ever calls back.

But I am so ashamed of myself for succumbing to his pressure. For believing him and feeling sorry for him. I don’t know what this says about me. I didn’t want to be perceived as a Real Housewife of North Seattle so I trusted someone I shouldn’t have trusted. I really hope it’s just because I was distracted by the screaming baby. Otherwise, it just means that I’m becoming my mother. I’ve always prided myself on my astuteness (i.e. my general mistrust). I also like to think I can properly spot a genuine person. But these powers utterly failed me here. I need to stay alert. Vigilant. I need to learn to work with a baby screaming in my ear. Otherwise, I’m as good as chum out there.

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6 Comments

  1. Oh my god! I’m just glad that he wasn’t, like a serial killer or anything.

    • Me too. And since I still don’t really know anything about him, I’m a little paranoid that he’ll come back. Fortunately, I have mace.

  2. I am so sorry to hear about this…I would have freaked and kept thinking about the check with my address on it. Did you write him a check? Has it been cashed yet? I would probably also report to the better business bureau.
    I am glad you are okay and the most he got was a possible $40.

    • I did write him a check and he already had the address but of course a check has one’s account number on it. Still, I made it hard for him to change anything on the check and, interestingly enough, it HASN’T been cashed yet. I was planning on giving him a bad review on Angie’s List as soon as it is, but the Better Business Bureau is also a good idea.

  3. Why didn’t you stop payment on the check the next day?

    Did he ever cash it?

    • I didn’t stop payment because my bank charges $40 to do that. Losing $80 just to keep him from getting $40 didn’t seem worth it. He did cash it but his name was written out illegibly.


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