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Tag Archives: health

The South Brooklyn Shoe Scam

30 Jun

June 29, 2018

Someone got scammed. I don’t know who it was but it wasn’t me. I ended up with five pairs of free sneakers.

I recently got married and one of the wonderful, truly beautiful things about marriage is that I had to go through the nightmare of changing my insurance. I had to give up my insurance and go with another plan but, as my wife pointed out, my old plan had benefits that I had never taken advantage of, so I should finally get everything I’m entitled to before it goes away. (My Dad would have not only already taken advantage of all the free benefits but somehow gotten them doubled. More on him in an upcoming post.)

One of the things I never took advantage of – or even knew about – was that my insurance offered free sneakers. My wife, with similar insurance, had been getting a free pair a year for the last two or three years and it always used to seem legitimate.

So one Saturday we went down to a medical supply store which, although named “MEDICAL SUPPLY STORE” was really nothing but a shoe and sneaker warehouse. No wheelchairs, no canes, no catheters, just displays of sneakers like you’d see in any shoe store, just a whole lot dingier. I told the girl behind the counter that I had so-and-so insurance (that is not the real name of my insurance, believe it or not) and I’d like a pair of sneakers. She was happy and chirpy, even chippy and genial, to use a thesaurus, and informed me that sure! I could! get sneakers here! 🙂 🙂 🙂 – yes, she somehow talked in smiley emojis- but I had to go to a foot doctor and get a prescription first.

“Oh,” I said, “I guess-” was as far as I got

“”We have a doctor! Right down the block! Tell him his cousin sent you and you want free sneakers. emoji, wink, happy gif.”

So I went from some sort of medical supply store/shoe store to what I expected to be a kind of foot doctor speakeasy, where I’d knock on the door, a little slot would open and a pair of eyes would look me up and down while I said the password “your cousin sent me and I want free sneakers.”

But what it actually was, was a legitimate looking doctor’s office with an actual legitimate looking staff in legitimate looking white scrubs who legitimately took my insurance information and ran it through their legitimate system. I was a little disappointed, to be honest. Legitimately.

The staff for some reason was very interested in where my wife and I were from.

“Brooklyn,” I said.
“No, before that. Your family.”
“Brooklyn.”

They got less information from my wife, who said “why do you want to know?”

After a few minutes I went into the doctor’s office. He had a broken arm but he conducted the exam with one hand. The real drawback, for him, was that he couldn’t write on the chart and needed an assistant to do it for him. This really slowed him down as the assistant apparently had no idea what any of the medical terms meant, or where to write them. I’m talking about very technical terms that any layperson would be clueless about, like “foot,” “heel,” and “today’s date.”

He asked how my feet were doing.
I said they’re doing good.
He asked me if my feet hurt.
I said no.
He asked me if I had any foot-related medical conditions.
I said I don’t think so.

He then asked me to take off my sneakers and while I was doing that, he had his assistant help him slip a glove on his good hand, not an easy task as he was also reviewing her notes and using that same hand to point out her mistakes. “You spelled ‘exam’ with an h again.”

He then carried on with the “exham” by groping first one foot then the other in what I must point out was not particularly different than what I do when inspecting a potato at the supermarket. After a few seconds on each foot he said to me “OK, you’re getting shoes. Want insoles?”

I wanted insoles.

So I went to front desk where they gave me a form, which I took back up the block and gave to the chippy/chirpy/happy/genial/lobotomized girl at the counter. She asked me to look over the shoes on display and tell her what I liked.

I liked none of them.

A word about the free shoes and sneakers. They were all perfectly wearable, pretty well-made and sturdy. They looked pretty good. But none of them were brand names, or even names you heard of, and likely not even names you might have overheard mentioned somewhere. But if I’m wrong, and Prooop´lr sneakers (with an accent mark over the second p) are trendy in your neighborhood, please drop me a line and let me know what part of the Baltic you live in.

 

So while I didn’t like any of the display shoes I did find a nice pair of sneakers in one of their catalogs, and after trying on some of the displays to find my size (what? They never heard of a Braddock device?) I found the ones I wanted and as luck would have it, they were out of stock so they had to order them.

So a couple of weeks went by, during which I had to fax them another form, only hindered by the fact that the fax number on their card goes to a full, unmonitored mailbox, the second fax number they gave me was not a fax number at all, and the third one was missing a digit. But eventually they told me to come in, my sneakers were ready.

This is where it gets weird. (Weirder, actually. It was kind of weird to begin with.)

When I went back for my sneakers, the same amazingly upbeat girl remembered my name. (“Hey! It’s Mr. Big Pants!”, she didn’t say.) She gave me my fashionable Prooop´lr sneakers (with an accent mark over the second p), I tried them on, they fit, and my wife and I were ready to leave when she said “here’s your coupon!” emoji emoji.

Coupon? Yes, a coupon. It entitled me to two pairs of shoes or sneakers at the shoe store across the street for just $5. OK, makes about as much sense to me as the rest of this did. At this point I must remind you that this whole thing began as a legitimate benefit of my insurance, and now I was going to a dingy shoe shop that, as I soon saw, looked like it was the last shoe shop in Hanoi after the US army pulled out.

Well, I was getting a good deal on sneakers but my wife? She was not, and if anyone is going to get a good deal it is going to be her. So she asked why she didn’t get a coupon when she got her free sneakers a few weeks ago. We didn’t get an answer but it didn’t matter because the girl, instead of giving her a coupon, added my wife to mine, meaning that we were now going to get four pairs of sneakers for $5. Instead of 2 pairs for $5 twice, ($10, $2.50 per pair) they are doing 4 for $5 once ($5, $1.25 per pair).

I know what you are thinking, that this makes no sense. Not economically, not medically, probably not fashionably either, but there it is. To that I say, simply go with it and don’t think about it, which is pretty much what I did.

We crossed the street to a shoe store with the highly imaginative name SHOES and stopped. Remember Goodfellas, when Karen is afraid to go into Jimmy’s warehouse because she was afraid she was going to get whacked? It was a bit like that, and also a bit like if Sesame Street was filming an episode while Karen got whacked. The place was full of kids. It was dirty and messy, the shelves were broken, shoes and sneakers littered the floors, while dozens and dozens of kids ran around, some throwing shoes at each other, some ducking those shoes, and their parents trying to buy them shoes. What was this place? I never found out.

My wife and I walked in and we gave the coupon to the girl behind the counter, who was almost, but not quite, as chippy/chirpy as the girl in the other store. She did not seem surprised at all to be practically giving away 4 pairs of sneakers.

What is the connection between this store and the medical supply shoe store? The people working there seem to be related. Everyone, from the girls behind the counter to their “cousin” the foot doctor (who was very likely not related at all) seem to be all in on it. I’m sure that the insurance company has nothing at all to do with the seedy shoe store across the street. And the coupon I was given was not really a coupon but a receipt like you could get out of any 99 cent store receipt book with a stamp on it. It appears that the shoe store is trying to liquidate their shoes to the point that they are willing to give them away, and using the medical supply store to drive in customers. Why? I don’t know. the purpose isn’t to make money, that’s obvious.

My wife and I picked our shoes and I am actually wearing one of them as I write. They are a comfortable and pretty good looking pair of green and blue sneakers. Sturdy and feel good. But if you’d say that the Prooop´lr shoes were a second rate brand (at best, and it’s a stretch) the ones in this store were eighth or ninth. Again, wearable, durable, good looking, but two have no company or brand name, one has something written in characters that I can’t even identify, let alone read, and the last one, the pair I am wearing, has no brand but a logo that looks very much – but just different enough to avoid a lawsuit- like the Nike swoop.

So there’s a scam somewhere. More than one, I think. The medical store seems real, and so does the foot doctor, but the mechanical and rote way they did things in his office (people marched in and out of his exam room like an assembly line while I was there) tells me that this place exits just to work the insurance company. He may be a real foot doctor but if I had trench-foot I’d go anyplace but there. But he’d the first doctor I’d see if I wanted to know how to score free insoles.

There’s also obviously something shady going on at the shoe store across the street. If the goal was just to get rid of the shoes, just take them all and donate them someplace. Why pay rent on a store, pay employees, pay utilities, just to sell shoes for almost nothing? You’d do better selling them from a folding table on a street corner. It has to be a front for something, I just don’t know what.

It’s The South Brooklyn Shoe Scam, and it netted me five pairs of shoes for $5, plus two pairs of insoles.

 

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The Agent of Fate

22 Mar

March 22, 2018

My real estate agent called me the other day. “Hey! I got an apartment that’s perfect for you. It’s right in your price range!” The last apartment he said was right in my price range was $500 per month above my price range so I was not excited by this call.

I’ve seen a lot of apartments lately. They ranged from awful (the mailboxes were all broken into and some were hanging open while others were shut with padlocks) to amazing (enclosed terrace, recessed lighting) yet somehow they were all “perfect” and “right in my price range.”

But I agreed to see this one. Hey, one really does have to be prefect and right in my price range, right?

This is a stock photo. The real thing was worse.

Agent: “Can you come tomorrow? Meet me at the office at noon.”
Me: “Ok, tomorrow noon.”
Agent: “You’ll be there, right? At noon?”
Me: “I’ll be there. At your office at noon.”
Agent: “Call me if you can’t make it.”
Me: “Don’t worry, I’ll be there.”
Agent: “Noon.” [Hangs up]

This all stems from the fact that a couple of weeks ago I made an appointment with him to see a place, then something came up and I called to reschedule. He said he was unable to reschedule, so I moved some stuff around and went to the appointment at the original, agreed upon time. I made exactly two phone calls to the realtor about two hours apart, two days before the time we were scheduled to see the place. Not exactly a big deal, yet now every time he wants to show me a place he treats me like I’m completely unreliable.

So the next day came. I live a short ten minute walk from the real estate office but I left early so as not to give any illusion that I may be no-showing and got there ten minutes early. The office was closed and locked. More upsetting, there was a drunk sitting in the entrance to the pharmacy next door. This used to be a really nice, upper-middle class area. Not so much anymore.

I called the agent. “Hey, I’m here, at your office. There’s no one here. Are you coming?”
Agent: “I’m five minutes away. You’re at the office?”
Me: [Exasperated] “Yes, I am standing right in front of your office watching a drunk trying to figure out why his bottle is empty in the doorway next door.”
Agent: “Maybe he drank it all. See you in five minutes. At the office.” [Hangs up]

He really did arrive in five minutes, almost to the second. The drunk still had not figured out where his liquor went and was checking his pockets to see if they were wet.

The agent pulled up, a little too fast, came to a short stop in front of a fire hydrant and got out of the car. “I have to make a call. Watch my car!” He ran into the office. I stood next to his car, asking myself if a policeman tried to give it a ticket, what did he expect me to do? But it didn’t matter since he was out in a minute and we both got inside.

Agent: “I can show you the house, but I can’t take you back to the office.”

This was perfectly fine with me. The apartment we were seeing was closer to my house than the office so I had already planned to walk home from the viewing.

Agent: “I just spoke to my wife. She is very sick. I have to take her to the doctor.”
Me: “Oh.”

The agent was very apologetic. We had to make it fast, but he got me all the way out here (he said) and he wanted me to see the place. Then a call came in and he put it on speaker. It was the homeowner.

Homeowner: “So sorry to do this but I have to cancel. I’m stuck in Jersey and I can’t get out there today.”  That’s exactly what the agent thought I was going to do. But OK, we understand. “Come tomorrow. I’ll show it to you tomorrow.”

Then another call came in, this time the agent didn’t put it on speaker. And when he was done:

Agent: “My wife is even sicker. I have to take her to the emergency room.”
Me: “Ok, let me out here, I’ll walk home.” We had only gone a single block.
Agent: “No, I’ll take you home.”

I was very worried that this would turn out like the Seinfeld episode where George ends up with Mr. Peterson’s mother on her death bed so I said no, no, I’ll get out right here, thank you very much.

Agent: “I got you all the way out here so I’ll take you home.” He was strangely insistent about taking me home while his wife was very sick and he had to rush her to the emergency room. But as luck would have it, things finally went my way. The street we were driving down was completely closed ahead for construction and the detour took us away from my house. There was a red light at the corner and when the car stopped I opened the door, said thanks for the ride, and got out. Quickly.

Agent: [Through the window] “You are a good guy! Maybe we’ll see the house tomorrow!”

The next day he didn’t call. I wonder if his wife is OK.

 

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