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I was, like many 19-year-olds, completely broke and in need of some quick, easy money. So I turned to Craigslist. I found a posting looking for “highly motivated self-starters who have a good attitude and a passion for talking with new people.” I replied, and exchanged a few emails with the poster, who made it clear I’d be selling something. What I’d be selling wasn’t entirely clear. She said we’d get to that later.
So a few days later, I showed up at her “office,” along with about six others. It wasn’t really an office. It was basically just a big closet filled with crappy art. It was the kind of stuff you’d find for $7.99 at Walmart — ugly pictures of potted plants in terrible, cheap frames. The stuff was stacked to the ceiling. I can only imagine where she got it all from. Our job would be to go door-to-door and sell this “art.” The whole thing turned out to be big racket.
But first, back to the woman running this operation. I’d say she looked like a New Age medicine healer you’d find somewhere in Arizona. She wore very bright clothing that looked like it was made of sheer scarves. The other people there were an interesting mix: burnouts, mothers, college kids, and so on. There was actually one guy who was in a metal band, who sort of seemed to be involved in running the whole “business” with her.
After we all met, we loaded dozens of the “artworks” into the back of the woman’s SUV and headed out. The plan was to go to the most expensive neighborhoods in the area. Fortunately, the woman had already printed out packets of all the recently purchased homes. We were told to hit only the places that had sold for $350,000 or more.
Each of us was dispatched to knock on the door of a different house, while the woman waited in the car on the street. We were supposed to wave her down if we had any interested buyers. The neighborhoods had “no solicitors” signs, but the woman told us to ignore them. “People are looking to buy stuff!” she said. She never said how much to sell the art for. It was basically whatever they were willing to pay.
At the first house I went to, the owner said he’d call the police if I didn’t get off his property. The same followed at other houses. “Get the f*ck off my property!” And so on. No one was interested in buying this crap. But I really needed money, so I pressed on.
At another house, it finally seemed like I had a buyer. A man opened the door, and goes, “Wow! I might be interested.” So I have the woman come up the driveway in the SUV. Then we open the trunk. At this point, he pulls out his phone, snaps a photo of all the ridiculous art in the back of the car, and tells us he’ll be sending it to the police as evidence of illegal solicitation and harassment. Turns out this woman had been bothering this neighborhood for quite some time.
It soon became clear that the whole thing was a scam. I probably should have seen the signs earlier. For example, everything was in cash. We didn’t accept checks, and she paid everyone in cash. And she had also tried to convince me I’d be able to make $2,000 a month. Not quite. I’m not exactly sure what she was doing, but it seemed sort of like a pyramid scheme.
I did learn my lesson: If a Craigslist job posting is incredibly vague, there’s probably good reason for it. I never saw or heard from the woman again.
As told to Hillary Reinsberg.