The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Scam Sandwich

Perhaps you've been approached by one of the gentleman preying on your sympathies at our beloved Q at Parkside. One of them, a painfully malnourished drug addict posing as an AIDS stricken father, is particularly galling. If you're not hip to the age-old BABY FORMULA SCAM, let me skool you right now.

Dude or Lady comes up to you with big doe eyes and sobs about how they can't feed their babies. Would you buy them some formula? They don't need cash, mind you. Just go into the store and buy some Enfamil (e.g.) - the powdered formula. Looks kinda like this:


You might be surprised to learn that the canister goes for about $15. But by now, you're hooked. You wouldn't let those babies starve, would you? If you're in deep, you might end up buying a couple.

Turns out formula has a quick cash turnaround on the street, and believe it or not, often gets illegally purchased by some of the less reputable bodegas and markets. Your "father of three" could be smokin' a rock before you get home to catch the latest episode Glee. Actually, he's probably watching it too. Except he's watching it high on crack.

Formula itself is a bit of a scam, of course. Most indigent moms would be MUCH better off breastfeeding - financially, emotionally and developmentally. (Plus, breasts take up much less space in one's kitchen cabinets.) The above picture shows Enfamil's LIPIL brand, the latest "breakthrough" in formula - more breastmilk-like than ever before. (I jest of course; there are many valid reasons to use formula - I ain't no La Leche League Bullyman. Heck, I enjoy a tall glass of formula myself from time to time - goes nice with a plate of teething biscuits.)

I'm fondly remembering my favorite NYC scam I ever encountered. About 20 years ago, I lived on Flatbush at Sixth Avenue - above the since-relocated Royal Video Store. A guy came up to me claiming he had a gig on Long Island, and could I help him get a train ticket so he could make the show. Before I had time to fashion a response, he starts telling me about his band - Spyro Gyra, and how the gig is real important because his son, whose mother hasn't let him see in years, will be there in the front row. It's gonna be a tearful reunion! The story was so far-fetched it HAD to be true, right? I told him to wait downstairs while I went up to grab my wallet. He started to follow me in, and I had to physically restrain him from gaining entry. At that point I caught the glazed manic look in his eyes and came to my senses. At this point, he started asking if he could "borrow" my Sony Walkman to work on a sax part. I persuasively sent him on his smooth-jazzin' way.

Years later, my girlfriend (cum wife) would tell me a story about a man she met outside a rehearsal space. She and her fellow dancer took pity on a guy trying to get home. At first they were suspicious, but he won their trust by telling them he was a musician, trying to get to a gig with his band...Spyro Gyra.

I kid you not.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

This one time I heard I guy say "Man! I don't even give money to my girlfriend....beat it!" This has usually been my take on it. But, I guess I have a little bit too much of my mom in me and was taken in by this individual that you speak of. I made him though when the bodega man asked me if I wanted the can or the $15 mixer. He insisted on the larger of the two and I saw right then in his eyes. I bought the $5 can and told him to have a good un. For the next several weeks he would approach me unaware of who I was. I simply say to him very calmlywith out trying to avoid him, "I Don't believe you."

CCB said...

Just and FYI, if a family is truly in need of formula, they can get it free through WIC. Thanks Q at Parkside for calling bullshit on this. As a general rule, I don't give anyone money under any circumstances. While that probably makes me look bad in the eyes of others, I know for a fact there are many ways for a family to get assistance should they actually need it.

Rollo said...

NOOOOOOOOOO, I FELL FOR THIS, I'M SUCH A FOOL!

In my defense, I realized it was a scam immediately (because he asked the bodega guy for a refund BEFORE I EVEN LEFT THE STORE). And I was "smart" enough to insist that I'd only buy the small can ($6).

This was just two weeks ago - right outside the Q at Parkside! :)

Sdog said...

Thanks I was meaning to write to you to ask about this. I'm new to the neighborhood and have already been approached multiple times with this request. I figured this was a scam but thanks for the confirmation!

Anonymous said...

If only I'd known there was the option of buying the small can... Soon after I moved to the neighborhood last summer, I had the pleasure of meeting this responsible father who just needed "a can of milk for my baby." I, who consider myself fairly savvy and never give money to strangers unless they're musicians, was also trying to challenge my general cynicism and found myself inside Mansoob, floored by the $16.95 price. I looked to the guy behind the counter for clues as to whether this was a scam, which it seemed like it was but I just couldn't figure out how someone could get high off of Enfamil. The store guy gently nodded his head, which I took to mean, "I know, this looks like a scam, but he really is a father who's down on his luck and is bipolar like he's claiming to be." Two seconds after buying it I realized the nod really meant, "Go ahead, naive bitch, and buy the formula so he can return it to me for half a refund." Now when the guy approaches me I say, "Need another can of milk for your baby?" That quiets his paternal impulse.

Anonymous said...

Since moving to the neighborhood last summer, I've been approached by this same guy almost a dozen times- each time with a different supporting story beyond the hungry children part. Sometimes he's bipolar, sometimes he has aids, sometimes he barely survived the port-au-prince earthquake. And each time he has zero memory of the previous times we'd spoken together.

I got lucky in that he used the haiti story for our first meeting, and as i'd spent a couple of weeks there following the quake, i could tell from his vague knowledge of PaP that he was less than honest.

Having never heard of the formula scam, i always assumed that he was just hoping for folks that were too busy and would just give him some cash instead. now i know.

Thanks for the heads up!

Anonymous said...

Just met the guy this afternoon. What a creep. And I'm $17.99 poorer... he even tried to take my change!

Anonymous said...

Today in Manhattan, near Morningside Park, I was approached by a man wanting me to buy formula; his story included his wife having mastitis, the baby being premature, and his having visited a police station, 5 hospitals, and called 311. I was with my young son and must have looked like a good mark. Didn't ultimately go with him or give cash, but I did give it some serious consideration. Googled tonight, found this post, thank you for publicizing this!

Anonymous said...

The "aids" guy hounded me for weeks outside if the nostrand 3 station. Never gave him cash. He was so persistent one time I practically yelled at him and he got mad at me cuz I wouldn't give in to the scam. Messed up.

stpauls said...

I know this guy! He tried it on me. I told him I can't help you and walked away. As a native new yorker, this isn't new. Scams like this were more prevalent during the 90's. I don't mind lending a dollar to a poor man down on his luck but no way in hell will I pay $15 or $20 dollars for some baby formula. Get out of here with that.

Next time I see him, I will inform the police. He needs to go. If he wants help, he should go through the proper channels to get it.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, I just fell for this tonight and I feel like an idiot. I normally have a really good scam-dar and very rarely give money. But as the guy was talking, I thought, "There's nothing bad he could possibly be using baby formula for." Then I did some googling...guess I was wrong. This was off the Church Avenue Q.

Darren said...

Don't indulge these fools. I'm willing to give a a guy spare change or give him a snack if I have extra but no way in hell will I spend my hard earned dollars on a can of baby formula especially when you can get that using a WIC card. My heart has hardened over the years witnessing these scammers taking advantage of people's generosity. I don't say this to sound callous but you have to be more aware of who you are dealing with and how they approach you.



MAB said...

Add another idiot to the rolls. He's still out there, and I got taken. Right after I got home I googled "baby formula scam" and the Q at Parkside was the very first result. Oy.

The comments on this thread are filled with very familiar words, like "bipolar" and "can of milk".

Although I'm glad I'm not alone in my dupedom, I'm embarrassed to say that the dollar amount I'm out is even larger than any of the other ones quoted here.

Shariar joy said...

I just fell for this near fulton and marcy .... ugh

Anonymous said...

aaaah shit. just fell for this on amsterdam & 115 outside of mount sinai hospital. pharmacy was closed and i was so convinced his wife and kid were hungry i gave 30 bucks.

oh well. thanks for alerting people.

Anonymous said...

I just fell for this in Times Sq. Woman was basically hysterical saying she didnt need money - she just needed help. I agreed to go with her to Duane Reade to get formula and diapers. Went to Duane Reade - she said they didnt have the type of formula she needed - so I got her a gift card. I grilled her on her story and she seemed legit. Embarrassed to even say how much she took me for. Expensive lesson.

Anonymous said...

Woman outside the Duane Reade near the dyckman stop, same thing. "I don't want money, you could even buy the formula. I'll tell you what kind."

I sensed something, but I gave her $2 from a few bucks I had. She asked for more and I told her that I only had the singles in my pocket.

Anonymous said...

yall, same thing with freakin DIAPERS -- they can sell them on the street or return them... ugh. don't get fooled!!

Anonymous said...

what are you saying? nothing you wrote made sense