Tag Archives: sneakers

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.”

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.




Vote For Pedro: A Tale of My Father

10 May

May 10, 2016

The Editors and Staff of Mr. Blog’s Tepid Ride rarely get political, but c’mon, look at this year’s election.

On the one hand, the Republicans are running Donald Trump, a favorite of this blog. I got a lot of material from The Celebrity Apprentice. Who could not love a show where Andrew Dice Clay called out Trump for having an early morning meeting and not providing bagels? (“No bagels, Donnie?”) I’m sure it was just a coincidence, but that was the same episode where Dice was fired, I believe. Watch out, Iran!

On the other hand, The Democrats are running Hilary Clinton who, I will say totally impartially, is a corrupt liar who has made millions on funds funneled through her Clinton foundation from foreign governments and big business. Just one of her speaking fees could have kept an entire third-world nation fed for a year. But I have to give her credit: Her fake Southern accent is a hoot.

(And yes, there is still, as of this writing, Bernie Sanders, who may get my vote simply to see four years of Larry David impressions. The only problem is that under his economic and social plans, I may have to watch those impressions on a collective’s black and white TV while sitting in a rundown commune.)

This being such a lousy choice, I know that many people will be writing in for this guy:

Doesn’t the guy on the left scream “presidential”?

Doesn’t the guy on the left scream “presidential”?

The guy on the left is Pedro, the guy on the right is Napoleon Dynamite, from the film Napoleon Dynamite (2004). If you haven’t seen it, um, it’s a beast to describe. It’s about whatever you’d expect a film starring those two guys to be about, and probably a little more and a lot less. But for purposes of this blog, the thing to know is that Pedro was running for some student council thing.

And that brings me to the point of this mess: A Tale of My Father.

It was 2005 and Dad and I were having breakfast in the now defunct King’s Plaza Diner in Brooklyn. It was one of the better diners in town but due to skyrocketing New York rents it is now a Walgreens. And a good thing too, since there are only 40 Walgreens in Brooklyn. Plus numerous Duane Reeds. Plus a great many CVS stores. Plus a multitude of Rite Aids. As you can see, Brooklyn is in the midst of a desperate big-chain pharmacy drought. I can only hope more open up soon, maybe right in the lobby of my apartment building or, as it seems to be going, in my living room. (Thanks New Yorkers. Keep voting Democrat, things are going so well in NYC. Ha ha, like real people can afford to live here.)

But I digress.

Dad was the kind of person who would talk to anyone. He wasn’t just a talker, he was a schmoozer. I was with him when he somehow schmoozed a lifetime discount from the owner of a sneaker store. For years I got all my sneakers from a place on Nostrand Avenue at 10% off. Dad would buy sneakers even if he didn’t need them just for the satisfaction of using the discount. (Dad may not have been good at budgeting, but he was well-shod.)

So we were in the Kings Plaza Diner that I mentioned long ago and we were being served by a waitress, you know the kind. She was a not too-badly-used looking middle-aged housewife type who you could just sense was waiting to make her next bad life decision. I’m pretty sure the next long-haul trucker would walk in and sweep her off her feet.

To complete the picture, she was wearing a Vote for Pedro button on her apron. Yup, a button for a movie that was aimed at the teenage angst crowd.

Or you could vote for Bernie Sanders. It would count the same.

Or you could vote for Bernie Sanders. It would count the same.

So Dad noticed the pin and asked her if it was a Pedro Martinez button. Pedro Martinez was just starting his run with the Mets (2005 – 2008) and Dad thought maybe it was a campaign to vote for him to get into the All-Star Game. (Yes, baseball fans, I know the pitchers are picked by the managers. This was Dad’s question, not mine.)

The waitress explained that no, it was button from Napoleon Dynamite and went on to explain the movie in a length not conducive to comfortable and casual buttered toast eating. She really went on and she lost me in the middle since, let’s face it, I didn’t care to begin with. Dad cared only as much as maybe he could schmooze her out of a free side order of sausage to go with his eggs. He was lost from “It’s a button from Napoleon Dynamite.” After all, the words “Napoleon” and “dynamite” are rarely paired together unless it is a lecture on The Battle of Waterloo.

So she went on and on, all through two pieces of toast, when at some point she said “I watched it in my basement with my son’s best friend.” This pricked up my ears. It not only pricked up Dad’s ears, but caused his face to show the same combination of surprise and confusion that you generally only see on people’s faces when they hear a Dane Cook routine. (“Huh? Wasn’t that a Louie CK bit he just did?”)

I don’t recall if Dad said something or just let his face say it all, but the waitress explained “he’s almost 17 years old.” What was that meant to explain? I don’t know, unless she was explaining why she was arrested on a morals charge.

Dad and I didn’t say anything about it. That’s the beauty of having unspoken communication with someone who is on the same wavelength. I knew immediately that Dad was disappointed that he didn’t get the free sausage.






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