Yesterday, I was at work (which entails a lot of driving), and I was in the parking lot of a restaurant that I was doing business with. I was about to get into my car when a guy about my age (late 20s) pulled up and flagged me down as if he needed directions or something.
When I walked to his car, which was a brand new Cadillac SUV, he said: "hey man, this might sound kind of crazy, but I've got this high-end home theater system that I am trying to get rid of." My first inclination was that it was stolen and I was about to walk away. But before I could do anything, he pulled out an "invoice" that accounted for four systems while he told me that he had five.
He said that he worked for a custom home theater company and that there was an error which resulted in him getting an extra system. He then told me that during the previous week he had shown up at a site with an extra plasma screen TV and his foreman told him that he was an idiot and that he could have kept the TV for him self as he took it home. Seemingly, he had to get to the site and didn't have time to take the spare system home and was trying to get what he could for it.
He then showed me the system, "genesis media labs 5.1 digital." I thought it could have been some ultra high-end brand that I've never heard of (I'm not too big of an audiophile). He also showed me a glossy catalog that had the product listed at a $4,199 MSRP.
Next, he told me that he talked to some guy down the street that was going to give him $600 for it, but with a check. He wanted cash, and thinking he would decline, I told him that I only had $200 and that he should drop the system off at his house on the way to the site. He then told me that he just moved here from Austin, didn't really know his way around town yet, and didn't want to get in trouble for being late. He then pressed me to get more money. "Is there anyone you know that could lend it to you...this is really a great deal...etc." I felt kind of sorry for him and wanted to help him, but I was still weary about the whole thing.
After tenaciously maintaining that I had only $200, he finally seemed to give-up. As I was getting back into my car, he comes back saying: "wait...wait...ok...I'll do it...I need to get to the installation site and I don't have time to find anyone else...you seem like a cool guy anyway." At this point I decided that this guy might really need the help and this might be a good deal anyway. So like an idiot, I had him follow me to the ATM.
After I paid him the money I told him some b.s like" I wish I had more to pay you" (although I could have paid him the full MSRP if I had really been convinced) Then he told me that: "if you see me around, just buy me a few drinks or something." Finally we parted ways. I didn't have time to check-out the system right away. I just dropped it off at my house and continued working. However, i did search "Genesis Media Labs," and they have a site with all of their products listed at extermely high MSRPs. http://www.genesismedialabs.com/homeaudio.htm
At that point I began to think that I might have had the best deal in town. But when I finally came home for the evening and set up the system, it sounded like...well...it sounded like about a $200 stereo. I then looked into it more on the Net and saw that the systems are being sold on eBay for several hundred dollars to unsuspecting victims.
I also found the Wikipedia article about the White Van Scam as well as this website. These jerks need to be stopped and put away for a very long time. The worst part about this horrible experience for me is not the loss of the $200, but thinking I was helping someone that needed it and just being plain fooled by him.