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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Con Artist in the Parking Lot of Vons

I was just the victim of a con artist at the Vons parking lot.  Boy, do I feel stupid!  

I pulled into the parking space with the kids in the car, to get some groceries.  Some guy in his early 20's was driving past (in an older white car)and rolled down his window and said "excuse me, ma'am, I couldn't help noticing your dent.  I work at a body shop and today's my day off.  I've got my tools in the trunk and I could fix that really easily."

I said "Okay, sure, give me your card and I'll think about it."

He then proceed to tell me that he was usually really busy working, today was his day off but that it would be easy for him to fix and he could do it for only $80.  He then jumped out of the car, got out some tools from the trunk and said he was going to show me how he could easily pull it out without taking the door off.  He introduced me to the people in the car, his father, sister and kids.  He said that it would only take a few minutes, then his father also got out and they started drilling a hole in the car!  :( 

I said "Hey, what are you doing?!"  I told him that I didn't have $80 and I hadn't told him to do that, and he said they said "you won't even see this when we're done, it just how we access it" and that I wouldn't have to pay them if I wasn't satisfied, and that there was an ATM nearby.  He was also going to give me his business card and his personal phone # in case I had any questions or problems.  I somehow got suckered into agreeing to pay $60 for it and he promised it would look good as new when they finished. 

Which I doubted, but felt afraid, because two guys with sledgehammers were now standing next to my now-damaged car and I was alone with my 2 children.  So I went to get the money and when I came back and went to pay them, he pretended we had agreed on $160, and wanted $100 more and started to get mad.  I told him my husband used to work for the DA and I could get him there to settle this!   Suddenly $60 was fine with him and he was in a hurry to leave.

I asked him why there was still a dent (which now had some white substance on it) and he went on and on about how they had filled the holes with matching clear coat which would not show, and  applied a special cream which would "pull out the dent"  after sitting on it for a few hours,  but was very toxic, so I shouldn't touch it or let the kids or any pets near it until it dried.  When it turned blue, it was done "curing" and I could wipe it off.Of course I didn't believe there was any substance that could do that, but I was also starting to be afraid of them.    And he had suddenly run out of business cards  but jotted down what was supposedly his name, "John" and #, on a piece of paper.  

So, they  "pulled" the previous dent but left another new one and 2 drilled holes, and they took $60 and made me feel threatened with my small children in my arms.

My husband is really mad at me for falling for this one but the whole thing started off was the drilling holes in my car part that got me sucked in and afraid.  Yikes!  

I tried to call Pacific Division to report it, but couldn't get a live person on the phone.  Called our Senior Lead Officer on his cell phone and he said that since I had agreed to give them money (I did feel coerced, though!  Come on, someone standing next to you and your kids with a sledgehammer in their hands!) then it becomes a business transaction rather than a crime, that I would have to go in person to report it to the detectives in the West LA Fraud division.  I have a photo of the guy's back license plate, it was a white older model car, Buick maybe?

Yeah, I guess one day I will look back on this and laugh.  But right now I feel really sick to my stomach about it and it doesn't seem very funny!  Just wanted to  post this because I'm *usually* pretty street-wise (I tend toward my New Yorker attitude of being in a hurry and not even interacting at all with strangers in a parking lot let alone falling for this kind of thing.)  So anyway, be on the lookout and don't even engage with these kind of people and certainly don't get suckered by them!


Sarah Auerswald said...

This is terrifying and maddening! So sorry this happened while the kids were there! Yikes!

Sarah Auerswald said...

This is so frightening and it makes me so mad! So sorry this happened while the kids were there. Yikes!

Mama Willey said...

Oh my goodness, what a crazy story! And so scary with your kids there! Thank goodness you're safe!

Wendy said...

This kind of stuff makes me so mad. What kind of man (or men) takes advantage of a woman with her children. Argh! Did you say you got a photo of his license plate? If I were you, I'd SO take it to the local news station. Seriously. If the police aren't going to help you, you should get the local news to spread the word about these intimidating con artists. At the very least, notify the grocery store manager about what happened and if they see it happening in their lot again, then they can call the police.

My family has worked in the auto body repair business for many, many years. And I realize that you were ambushed but for anyone else who might read this please know that paint less dent removal does not involve any kind of drilling into your car nor is there any special "filler" that will pull dents out. Paint less dent removal is done with a suction cup contraption - kind of like a plunger.

I don't know exactly where you live, but my family does own a reputable body shop in the Marina Del Rey area and I'd be happy to talk to my dad to see if they could offer you some kind of discount considering what you've been through. Just a thought. Message me if you're interested.

Sorry again! Some people really suck.

Megan said...

Oh wow! I have no idea what I woul do, except threaten to punch someone touvhing my car (hubby's a mechanic). I'm glad that is all that happened, and that you all are safe but so sad it was with the kids around.

Caryn B. said...

Um...that is scary...and my husband (who is from the South) thinks I'm not kind enough when people approach me. This is exactly why I pretty much ignore anyone who approaches me in parking lots and gas stations. I'm so so sorry this happened.

Presley's Pantry said...

I hate that these creep target women with children. I wish you would have called the police right then and there!

Concerned about Security said...

I was approached by the same team I think. White car (older mid size car). Younger guy in the driver's seat -- possibly Eastern European with a slight accent. Same approach "Hi Ma'am..." This happened to me at the CVS lot at Ventura and Laurel Canyon. I was instantly dismissive of them but please don't fall for this type of con. So sorry to hear this happened to you!

Steve Paul said...

Nic Blog! keep the good writing going. Gatwick Parking

Freya George said...

What a frightening story, seriously its scary and crazy. Thanks goodness that your kids and you are safe. This world is becoming so fake and scary place. Stay Safe.
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Jenna Catlin said...

many negative incidences can happen in the parking lots, they can be prevented by having the regular monitoring system. Secure Car Parking Luton

Temi Giwa said...

I was just scammed for $850.00! I included a $50 tip totalling $90.00. I feel so sick to my stomach and I just cannot believe i let this happen to me. Same guys Paul, Steve and Mike!

carla grace said...

Parking is troubling as it is, people do not need a con artist to make it even more puzzling for them.....airport parking gatwick

perry cole said...

Parking scams are prevailing a lot these they. it creates a lot of trouble for innocent people. Authorities should take proper actions against it. cheap gatwick parking