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Posts Tagged ‘Craigslist’

I recently sold a dresser to a guy through Craigslist, and upon delivering it realized that my buyer was Ron Heathman from The Super Suckers.  I’m no Super Suckers fan, but I know enough about them to appreciate how cool it was to be standing in this guy’s apartment, talking about music, furniture, coffee and life.  It made me think about how cool Craigslist is, how it brings interesting people together, how it makes great transactions possible, and how it is a picture of the possibilities and perils of a free market. And so I introduce Craigslist Chronicles, a column about interesting things that happen through Craigslist (or ebay, since ebay is basically the same concept but with fees, rules, and less awesome).  My hope is that others will contribute as well, so please start collecting your stories now.

For my maiden voyage I will tell of my stolen bike, and how I got it back.  I woke up one Saturday morning to find my 1960’s Raleigh 10-speed stolen.  It was my fault really because I didn’t lock it.  I figured it wouldn’t be worth stealing.

I initially didn’t grieve the loss too much, since I’d gotten the bike for free, but began to become more and more bothered by the loss as I considered that Jana had the matching she-bike, which was pretty damn cool.  Plus, I didn’t have a bike now, so I was going to have to go buy one.  Plus, that was my bike, and it had my cup holder, my lights, my recently purchased seat, and my son’s child seat attachment.

On Sunday morning I was struck by a thought- if I had stolen a bike, how would I go about selling it?  Put it on Craiglist, probably.  And with that thought I went on Craigslist and typed in “Raleigh bike” and boom, there was my bike, stripped, cleaned-up, and for sale for $80.  Now I ask you dear reader, what would you do if you were in this situation?

I called the number in the ad and left a message: I’m interested in the bike, please call me.  I went to church.  I asked all my friends at church what they would do, and I soon had a posse of about 20 guys who just wanted to the time and place to meet to go take the bike by force.  But what if the thief is a violent man?  Or what if he calls the cops on me?  No, I had to go through legal channels on this.  But how would I prove the bike was mine?  I had not registered it, did not know the serial number, and really didn’t have any pictures.  In the meantime, the guy with my bike had called me back and we had set up a time to meet.  His name was Nicoli, and he was from somewhere in the former Soviet Union.  He sounded like a cool guy.

I called the police and hoped to just convince him it was mine, and show him Jana’s matching bike, and just generally win him over with the Pete Deeble charm offensive.  That didn’t work, but the cop agreed to look at some photos on my computer, and we found one of Luke sitting on the bike.  The picture was really just of Luke, but you could make out one small part of the bike- the stem that supports the seat, with a small rust mark across it.  We blew it up, printed it out, and the cop agreed that if I could show him the same mark on the allegedly stolen bike, he would take necessary action.

And so we drove over to Nicoli’s place, near Anaheim and Termino, and the cop and I mapped out our sting operation.  I would approach on foot, ask for a test ride, ride over to the cop who was parked around the corner, and go from there.  The plan went off without a hitch, I showed the rust mark to the officer, and it was on.

Naturally, Nicoli claimed he had not stolen the bike, but had bought it from some other guy.  I would have taken my bike and dropped the whole thing but I wanted my cup holder, lights, child seat attachment and seat (they switched out the seat for some reason).  Nicoli swore he didn’t have those things, but said he’d buy me anything I wanted.  The cop threatened him that I would press charges if he couldn’t produce these things, and before I knew it we were on our way to the place he had bought the bike from.  I rode my newly reclaimed bike, Nicoli rode with the cop.  Soon we were at a dumpy garage near Temple and Anaheim and speaking to an old Asian man who, wouldn’t you know it, had some bikes for sale.

The man denied knowing anything about the bike, then claimed to have gotten it from Salvation Army, then claimed to have bought it from a kid down the street.  Meanwhile I was able to locate my things in his garage.  While the cop had been rather slow to show much interest in my bike up until this point, the prospect of busting a petty crime ring seemed to get him buzzing a little bit, and soon another cop car was on the scene and they were running serial numbers on some of the other bikes for sale.  Soon, I had all of my bike parts except my cup holder.  Neither Nicoli nor the old man seemed to know anything about it, so I told them I’d drop the whole thing if they gave me $20.  Nicoli told the old man that he “owed him big time” and pulled out a $20.  So I had my bike, all my parts, and $20.

I rode my bike home, and the cop dropped by later to deliver some of the parts I couldn’t carry on my bike.  Apparently they weren’t able to make a bust, because none of the bikes were registered.  Nicoli called me and apologized, and told me that if I ever need any bike parts, give him a call.  I told my friend Josh about the incident, and he told me that he knew Nicoli and had gone riding with him before.  Nicoli told me that he bought the bike off the old man for $40.  My guess is that the old man bought the bike off a kid on the street for $20- there’s no possible way he got it from Salvation Army, and I really doubt he personally stole it from my porch.  I think a kid was walking by, saw an unlocked bike, and figured it would be a free ride and maybe a little cash, and he was right.  So think about that: in two days the bike changed hands three times and in the process went from stolen to $80.  That’s a lot of criminal activity for a very minor reward.  For me, it was the ultimate vindication for all the times I’ve had something stolen and thought ‘I’d give anything to find the guy who stole this.’  For one sunny afternoon, I got to see almost everyone involved in the taking of my bike, and I actually got it back.  It was awesome.

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