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Sunday, May 5, 2013
A few weeks ago, this newspaper reported the happy news that yard sale season is beginning and advised that you can read its classified ads to find them.
So now here’s some advice for those of you who’ll be offering such sales. There are people out there just waiting for you to list your sale so they can swoop in and do their thing. Last fall, I was a victim.
As “Monk,” the neurotic police detective, likes to say, “Here’s what happened.”
A few hours after I opened, a mother-daughter team stopped, did some shopping, admired my offerings and then gave me a flier that I “must promise to read” as soon as the sale was finished. They were so friendly, warm and outgoing I liked them instinctively. The mother warned, “Hide your money box. People steal the money.”
Here, in essence, is what the flier said: “You don’t have to clean up the mess after your sale. Just call us and we’ll clean it up for you. We sell it all later at a yard sale in November, and part of the money will go to charity.”
Welcome news on all fronts. I’d been up all night getting ready. By 4 p.m., I was exhausted, and I do have some favorite charities. I sent the friends home who’d been helping and dialed the number on the flier.
The mother and daughter showed up in minutes, it seemed, with a truck — which they proceeded to load from my yard-sale leftovers before I could say, “Wait. Stop. I may want to keep that.” I just stood there dazed and limp as they filled their arms and loaded the truck, took it home and came back twice more to finish the job.
Since they were only doing what the flier said they would do, I didn’t smell any rats. In fact, I was heartened that they promised some of their sale money would go to the Veterans Administration Hospital. My husband is a vet, I had told them. Smiles and hugs all around.
As they were leaving, the daughter (let’s call her Susie) took my hand in both of hers, looked into my eyes and said in a caring voice, “If you need help tomorrow (the day of our move), please call me and I’ll help. Promise you’ll call.” I figured I’d be OK, but I did promise.
The movers arrived promptly at 8 a.m., and despite months of work, giving to Goodwill, packing and cleaning, I discovered that I did need help. My husband is ill, and I was alone and overwhelmed. I called Susie. She was at work, she said, but she’d send a friend and be over later.
Minutes later (do these people fly, I wondered) a slim, attractive young lady rang my doorbell. “Susie called me. I’m here to help.” And she rolled up her sleeves and went to work like a pro. I was impressed — and relieved. Then Susie came, and sure enough, by the time the movers were ready to leave, everything was packed and loaded. The two young ladies then said they’d follow the truck and help us unpack and put things away. Who says no to that?
They lifted and hauled boxes until even the strong, young movers were impressed, then began to unpack them and put things away. When they discovered I needed a storage box or book shelf, they’d go home and bring one back. They made up the beds, put food in the fridge and bought hooks and tape for our use. They didn’t even stop to eat or rest. I was deeply touched by their goodness and generosity and told them so. “Why,” I asked, “do you help people you don’t even know?”
“Oh,” Susie said. “It’s what we do.” Red flag? I didn’t see it.
Wonder of wonders, they (and the mother and even one of their neighbors) came back the next two days and continued to unpack and put away. I kept busy, too, and didn’t notice anything out of kilter. But there was.
They were stealing me blind.
In the following days, I began to notice the missing things — including the $450 we’d made on the yard sale. We have 11 children, and I’d counted on that money for Christmas shopping. Peace on Earth and good will to all, I thought. They were the Grinches who stole our Christmas.
They at least had shown good taste. Among the missing items were my Mom’s diamond ring, a lovely new blouse (gift from a friend), throws our daughters had made, many gifts from our kids and our siblings, and some small antiques from our beloved late parents. I know they are just material things, but every item had sentimental value. I was heartbroken.
I called the police and, at their suggestion, the Better Business Bureau, which didn’t have their names listed, but suggested I call Hollani Davis at Channel 7. She reports on scams, especially on the elderly, which I am.
Davis is a popular anchor, and I learned that lots of people had seen that piece, so they were warned. I wrote this for those who missed it.
If you have a yard sale, beware of a friendly, warm and caring mother-daughter team. You’ll get more help than you can imagine.
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