Daily Archives: March 19, 2013

Swindler’s List

Certain good deeds are a no-brainer. Letting someone know they dropped a glove? Naturally. Opening the door for an old lady? Don’t even have to think about it. But some situations are trickier, like when doing a good turn could compromise your personal safety. Or when you suspect you’re being conned.

Last summer, a little girl went door-to-door on our street selling “chocolates.” I’m compelled to use the quoties around that word because the chocolate in question probably never existed. Yet the girl couldn’t have been more than eight years old, was precocious as anything – she brightly told me her sister had the same name as me, and chirped about the new school she’d be starting in September – and was cute as a button. She had a receipt book with her, the kind you can pick up at any office supply store. And her mom hovered on the sidewalk at a watchful distance, pushing a baby in a stroller.

The girl asked for four dollars in advance, explaining that she’d make a note of my order and return in two weeks with the chocolate. Of course I was suspicious. Especially after the chatty child told me where she lived – clear on the other side of the city.

But she looked up at me with her darling smile and big eyes. (I know, I know, all part of the con.) And I couldn’t resist shelling over a few bucks that I’d never see again.

The way I figure, if this family was so desperate that they’d travelled all the way to our neighbourhood with a receipt book and a story, only to scoop up a measly four dollars per house, then they needed my two toonies more than I did. We handed over the money. She never came back.

For a while, I kept my carbon copy of the receipt on my desk. I don’t know why. It showed my name and address in the little girl’s careful handwriting. I wondered whether the child was in on the scam. Perhaps she truly believed she was selling chocolates, never imagining that her struggling mom had no plans to fill the orders. I worried about the life lessons she might be learning. I worried more about whether she had enough to eat each day.

What would you do if you knew you were being defrauded, but the con artist needed a hand up all the same? Please comment! Coming on Friday: part two on this topic.

A small price to pay for a family in need?

A small price to pay for a family in need?