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Unfiltered Story #299855

, , | Unfiltered | August 23, 2023

I was born in a developing country but moved to Australia at a young age. All my extended family – grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins – are in my birth country while I live here with my parents and sister. The situation in that country is really awful. While the cost of living is low, necessities like everyday medicines and decent quality clothing are overpriced. Also the mail services are severely corrupt as, in the past, we’ve had workers break into boxes that we send there and skim items off the top. We’ve even had our luggage broken into, despite it being locked and plastic-wrapped.
We have a family friend (I call him Uncle) who travels between our countries on business and always offers to take some things over from us. My mum usually sends over vitamins for my grandparents/aunts/uncles, as those are beyond expensive there, and always offers to get my cousins anything they request. The things they ask for are never pricey, for example one cousin always asks for a grocery-store shampoo and conditioner set that she loves that isn’t made there.
In the midst of the global health crisis, I get this message from a different cousin. This cousin used to be a bit of a deadbeat but has since supposedly turned his life around. Mind you, I hadn’t spoken to this cousin in over a year.
Cousin: “Hey! Is there any chance you could do me a favour?”
Me: “Sure [cousin], what’s up?”
Cousin: “Do you have [cologne from high end brand] in Australia?”
Me: (after a quick search) “Yeah I can see it’s sold at a couple stores. It looks like an old one, a lot of them are in clearance.”
Cousin: “How much would it be?”
Me: “It’s about $45 here, that’s roughly US$35.”
Cousin: “That’s perfect! Do you think that you could buy me 3 bottles and send them over with [Uncle] the next time he comes?”
Me: “umm…okay, but wouldn’t it just be easier to buy it online? Also all the airports here are closed, [Uncle] isn’t flying out anytime soon.”
Cousin: “You know what it’s like here, I’m worried it will end up stolen. And that’s fine, I can wait. There’s no rush for it at all.”
Me: “Alright. I’ll see what I can do.”
There’s a few red flags going off in my mind here, the main one being that whenever my cousins request something, they usually get their parents to ask my parents. I’m also a broke uni student and wouldn’t even dream of buying one of those bottles for myself on a whim, let alone three, and he never said anything about paying me for it. But I figure my mum offers to buy our our extended family things all the time so I decide to bring it up with her.
Me: “By the way, [Cousin] messaged me asking for a few bottles of [brand] cologne.”
Mum: “He did?”
Me: (sensing my mother’s worried tone) “Why?”
Mum: “How much is it?”
Me: “Well it’s definitely pricier than the presents you usually buy for them, but what’s going on?”
Mum: “Oh, no. He’s been doing this a lot lately.”
Me: “Doing what?”
Mum: “[Cousin]’s uni degree has a lot of out of pocket expenses, so [Cousin’s Mum and Dad] are paying for it because that’s what it’s like there – it’s not normal for students to have part time jobs and have their parents support them until they find work in their field. However lately they noticed he’d been asking for money more and more and in larger amounts. Her and [Cousin’s Dad] then started noticing packages coming to their house every week or so. It was always expensive colognes, video games and other things that were clearly being shipped from other countries. It turned out that he’d been exaggerating how much he needed for uni and pocketing the leftovers to buy these things for himself.”
Me: “Oh, no. Doesn’t he have an allowance or something?”
Mum: “That’s the thing, he does. But that’s not all though. When they found out, they cut him off and told him from now on he needs to show them an invoice for his uni expenses. Obviously this didn’t sit well with him so you know what he did next?”
Me: “What?”
Mum: “He started going to Grandmother. And you know what Grandmother is like, she would do anything for you grandkids. [Cousin] knows this, and he also knows that her memory really isn’t what it used to be. So he continued to play the same tricks on her that he did on his parents, except much, much worse. Right before his parents caught on, he was asking for money from Grandmother every day.”
Me: “What the h***???”
Mum: “His parents threatened to cut him off entirely so he promised to stop. But now it looks like he’s found a new way around it – going behind their backs and getting you to send him things.”
Me: “Did he really think I wouldn’t have told you, how else could I have gotten the things to [Uncle]? Actually I don’t care about what he tried to do with me, but Grandmother? I want to scream at him!”
Mum: “No, don’t, it’s okay. I’ll talk to my sister, let her know he’s doing it again. I don’t know what they’re going to do with him.”
Cousin messaged me the next day asking about the cologne again, so I lied and told him the places near me were out of stock and because it’s clearance they wouldn’t be getting them back. He then went on a search for them himself and sent me links to a major Australian chain that still had some left, which I ignored. He messaged a couple more time over the next week but I never replied. Around a month later I found out that this last attempt at shaking down the relatives for money got him cut off for good. His parents forced him to sell the unopened items he’d gotten and use that money for his last couple uni expenses as he was in his last semester. Hopefully that time he learnt his lesson.

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