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Put On Your Scamming Shoes

| Liars & Scammers

(I work as a cashier for a local sporting goods store. On this particular day, we have two managers on the floor, as well as several other employees. During a lull, one of the managers and my relief cashier step outside to hang large sale signs in our windows. While I’m working the register, a haggard-looking man comes in with a box of running shoes and asks to exchange them. Our system requires a manager code to process any returns, so I call the remaining manager to the counter to start the process. As we wait for my manager, I open up the shoe box to inspect the contents. While it IS a brand that we sell, the shoes are a color and model that I’ve never seen before.)

Me: *to manager* “This man would like to return these shoes.”

Manager: *customer* “Okay. Do you happen to have a receipt for them?”

Customer #1: “No, I don’t.”

(Since he doesn’t have a receipt, we’re required to ask for his ID for loss prevention purposes. As my manager looks his ID over, I scan the shoes. Sure enough, neither the bar code or model number show up anywhere in our inventory. This isn’t terribly uncommon, since our store is located a few blocks away from another brand of sporting goods store, so people do occasionally mix us up.)

Manager: “I’m sorry, sir. These shoes aren’t in our inventory and this model isn’t carried by our company. We can’t return them.”

Customer #1: “That’s fine. I understand.”

(The customer takes his mystery shoes and leaves, and I go back to my usual duties. Not two minutes later, another haggard-looking man walks into the store and comes up to my counter.)

Me: “Hello. How can I help you today?”

Customer #2: *places a pair of ski goggles on my counter* “I bought these a couple of weeks ago and I’d like to return them. I never got around to using them.”

(There are two things sketchy about his statement. One: It’s mid-August. Any and all of our snow sports equipment was packed up and shipped back to our distribution center in April. Two: His ‘unused’ ski goggles are in very rough shape. The lenses are scratched so badly it looks like he’s been cleaning them with steel wool. I call up my manager again.)

Manager: “Hi. What can I do for you?”

Customer #2: “I’d like to return these. I bought them a couple of weeks ago and I’ve never used them.”

Manager: *equally suspicious* “I see. Well, let me check my computer and see what I can do for you.”

(My manager takes the goggles and starts typing in the bar code and model numbers into our inventory system. Despite being suspicious about the whole thing, I ask for the customer’s ID in case we do need to start a return. On the sly, however, I manage to write down the customer’s name on a small piece of paper and tuck it away. It is at this exact moment that I watch my relief cashier, who had been standing outside with the other manager, come rushing into the store and bolt for the back room. Seconds later, the phone next to the cash registers rings. My manager answers it, listens for a moment, then hangs up. He takes the ski goggles and hands them back to Customer #2.)

Manager: “I’m sorry, sir. We can’t return the goggles. They’re not coming up in our system.”

Customer #2: “They have to come up. I bought them from here.”

Manager: “I’m sorry. My system isn’t recognizing the model number or bar code. I can’t take them back.”

Customer #2: “Look again. I just want a return. I’ve never used these things!”

Manager: *picks up goggles and hold them up to the light* “Are you sure? These look really banged up.”

Customer #2: “No, I’ve never used them.”

Manager: “I mean, look at the lenses. They’re really scratched.”

Customer: “They’re fine. I was just cleaning them with my shirt to wipe the dirt off. I didn’t want to return them with dirt all over them.”

Manager: “I’m really sorry. We can’t take them back.”

(Despite Customer #2’s insistence, my manager declines the return. He’s forced to leave after a line of irritated customers starts to form behind him. Once he’s out the door, I hand my manager the slip of paper with Customer #2’s name on it. He takes it and heads into the main office. After the line dies down, my relief cashier comes up to the register.)

Coworker: “Are they gone?”

Me: “Who?”

Coworker: “The two rough-looking guys who needed returns.”

Me: “Yeah, they’re gone. Why?”

(As it turned out, there had been a van full of sketchy-looking people parked in our store’s parking lot that my coworker and second manager had been watching. They watched Customer #1 leave the van, walk into our store, then walk back out once his return was denied. Once Customer #1 re-entered the van, Customer #2 climbed out and walked into our store. My coworker told me that she had been the one my manager was talking to on the phone and was warning him about van full of ‘returns.’ We haven’t seen any of them since.)

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