Last night, I ended up reading a bunch of articles about the White Van Speaker Scam. It’s the one where a couple guys approach you about buying overstocked speakers from their van at a great price. They show you all kinds of brochures and magazines pricing their speakers in the thousands of dollars, and then see how much they can get out of you. The speakers are actually very poorly-made, and the guys have been hired to give this spiel to their targets as a way of selling inferior speakers. I have been approached by these shady people three times so far. The first time, I bought speakers from them. The other two times, things got weird.
1. The Sheetz parking lot, Kittanning, PA
This was probably around 1998. I was living in a very small apartment just across the alley from the Sheetz convenience store in Kittanning, PA. I was just getting something to eat there before I went to the bank to cash my paycheck. A young Asian guy came up to me and asked if I’d like to get some really awesome speakers for next to nothing. I checked them out; they were tall Dynalab speakers in impressive-looking packaging. He and the driver of the van showed me magazines that priced the speakers at $1299.
The warehouse overstocked his van, giving him 6 but only invoicing for 4, he said. He wanted to get rid of them before they got back to the warehouse, where they would have to return the speakers. So the Asian guy asked me for $600. I had nothing close to that amount of money available, going to college full-time and working part-time. All I could spare was $200, but only after I cashed my paycheck.
They agreed, giving me an invoice saying something about two speakers being paid for. They put the speakers in my trunk and followed me to the bank. I gave them the cash and split.
My plan was to sell the speakers and make a few bucks. I didn’t have Internet access at my place, so I went to my parents’ house and got online. I was unhappy to discover that Dynalab speakers were part of the White Van Speaker Scam. But I took out a free ad somewhere asking $600 for them. Never heard anything. I called the number on the invoice, which indicated that the company was based out of Export, PA. I got an answering machine, and I left a message, but never heard back.
So the speakers sat at my apartment for a couple weeks. One weekend, I had a bunch of people spend the night after my friend Tony’s wedding. One was a fraternity brother, and he was really interested in the speakers. He gave me cash down on them, and sent me the rest when he got back home. I made $100 bucks on them, and he kinda got screwed.
2. Parking lot at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania
This wasn’t long after the first encounter. I was commuting to the main campus of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and would often go back and forth to my car during the day. After my final class one day, a white van was prowling around the parking lot beside the football field where I had parked. When I neared, a man leaned out the passenger-side window — the Asian guy!
He asked if I wanted to look at some speakers, and I just shook my head and grinned. This pissed him off, and he scowled at me, flipping me off. I didn’t expect that! They drove away.
3. Millcreek Mall parking lot, Erie, PA
A couple years ago I came out of the mall and was about to get into my car. A white van pulled up to me, and a guy asked if I wanted to buy some speakers. Once again, I shook my head. “No,” I smiled.
When they drove away, I decided to take action. I followed their van in my car and called the police. I explained that I had been ripped off by guys like these, and that they approached me at the mall. The police said they wouldn’t do anything — basically blowing me off. The white van turned onto the interstate, and I just continued home.
What did I learn?
Why didn’t I think of this first?! Tricking people into buying crappy speakers out of a van for 2000% profit, with the blessing of the law enforcement. It’s amazing what people can get away with.