Sunday, February 11, 2007

Re-sucking out on the worst beat of all

Despite my cynical journalist's mind, my tendency to view anyone with suspicion and my prickly and somewhat selfish nature that makes getting close to me about as easy as walking barefoot through a field of tire-popping goat heads, I truly believe people are good.
I believe most people do not have it in them to steal, to cheat, to lie. I believe it goes against their nature.
And that belief was severely tested starting in April.

I saved and scrapped and, er, won some good money from poker players (that last line won't exactly inspire thoughts of the American Dream, I realize, but screw it), and finally I had enough money for a new computer. My old iMac, God Bless It, was a little outdated. Actually, it was about as outdated as wood paneling.
Being the smart consumer I am, I went to Ebay to find a good deal. I had bought many things from E-bay in the past and, as a result, saved hundreds of dollars. CDs, video games and dog toys were just some of my purchases. I sold many things as well. Never once did I have a problem. One of my friends bought a car from E-bay. It was a gem.

So when I saw the new Mac computer for $1,270, well, given my past with E-bay, as well as my believe, again, that most people are good, I bought it. When the guy said he couldn't accept Paypal, I went to the bank and cut him a cashier's check. When he asked, a little impaitently by e-mail, where the money was, I sent it right away. He returned my calls twice, sounded like a good guy and told me the tracking number for the computer was on the way.
A week later, I had that sinking feeling in my gut that I was beat. My cynical nature? My poker player's instinct? Finally recognizing the neon glare of the warning signs? It's possible. I called my bank. No, there was no way to cancel the cashier's check.
OK, I'll give him a chance.
I called him every couple of days. No response. No answer. I continued to call. Nope. I e-mailed him many times.
I started to get angry. I threatened him, eventually, telling him I would go to the police in the hopes that I wouldn't ever have to do so. I swore once. Not proud of that, but eventually, I started to think rather long and hard about that $1,270, a lot, lot, lot of money for me, and I started to believe it was gone.
No, no, no, I thought.

So let me say one more thing about me. I don't like to feel like I'm being taken. This stems from my years of junior high school and elementary school, when I was one of the whipping boys, the guy you picked on a recess. I've lived the rest of my life determined to never, ever let anyone push me around. To many degrees, this has not served me well, taking far too many statements the wrong way at work, not allowing criticism, even valid criticism, to pass without a proper defense, or even dismissing relationships if I'm feeling ignored, even if it was not intentional.
But in other ways, it has served me well. I'm a good reporter because I not only don't care what people think (for the most part, I'm not bulletproof, especially when it comes to people I respect, like many of you reading this), when someone tells me to bugger off, it makes me three times more likely to get them.
I really, really don't mean to sound like a badass here. This will sound tough, arrogant and just plain stupid, but here goes.
I'm not someone you want to fuck with.

So I dug through the transaction files on E-bay, and of the 40 different pages, I found his address and phone number. I printed off every file I could. I contacted others on E-bay who dealt with him and got written responses of how he screwed them from three. I copied off every document that had anything to do with the police, contacted a friend there and took a deep breath and went to the police.
The cop there was sympathetic but said he had no jurisdiction over him: The guy was from Philly, and the Philly department would have to handle it.
It was July, three months after the guy took my money.
After another month, after no response, I got the detective to give me the fraud inspector's name, and many phone calls later, after another month, he said he would look into it. It took him another month, but one day at the Tribune, my phone rang.
"Yes, this is (the guy's mother), and we were contacted by the police. I'd like to send you your money back."
I was floored. Imagine suddenly finding $1,270 in your couch after you thought it was gone for good. Soon after the detective called me and asked if the mother called me about the money. I said yes and thanked him profusely.
I'd like to say it ended there, but it took another three months to get all my money back. She had to send it in increments, and it took many phone calls to get her to send them. In fact, at the end, I had to treat her the same way I treated her son, and every time I felt sorry for her, I reminded myself what her son did to me and quickly got over it.

A week ago, the final postal money order arrived in the mail. After eight months, I had my money back.
And I have a couple detectives who could have said "buyer beware" to thank for that.

My belief that people are good was severely tested for several months.
Now I believe it more than ever.


Guin said...

Still looking for a computer? I can sell you one... or 3... all for the one time low price of $336!

And I have some land available for sale at $3,636....

Beware the penguins.... do be do be do.

TripJax said...

Wow, dude, that was absolutely crazy. I can't believe you got the money back. Not trek your ass up to Best Buy and buy a computer. Don't forget the receipt!

TripJax said...

I meant "Now" instead of "Not."

pokerpeaker said...

Thanks guys. I did get a computer later on, a laptop that I love. Funny how things work out: I'm a lot happier with that than I would be with that desktop I originaly purchased.

CarmenSinCity said...

WOW! Good for you for being so persistent. I'm impressed. I probably would have given up cause I like everything to be EASY. hehe