The Laptop Repair That Almost Became a Kidnapping

In my last post I wrote about an almost job I had from Craigslist where I could have gotten paid in five cars for designing a website to make a Russian man’s professions look more like real businesses.  I also used to tour the Computer “gigs” section and look for work after my regular job.  I stopped doing this in about 2006 when I got a better paying job with a more chaotic schedule.

Most of the jobs I took were filled with decent people who paid well but just wanted someone to come after regular business hours.  This worked for me since I had a regular job and so did they and it was always a pleasant exchange of services for cash.  The one I began to be wary about was Laptop repair.  In those days most computers were still desktops as laptops tended to still be on the expensive side and people who wanted them repaired were often clumsy people who broke the LCD screen and somehow thought they could find someone to fix it for $25.  They were easy to ignore.  One time I responded to one way down in Sunset Park in Brooklyn.  It was fairly late at night too but from the description I figured I would just have to re-solder the power supply that had likely been knocked loose when someone tripped over the cable.

When I got there it was at some Photography Supply store on the second floor.  I was supposed to meet a man named “Jim” and when I buzzed the place I asked for “Jim” and was buzzed up.

Upstairs there were three Orthodox Jewish men.  Sometimes people take familiar names to use with outsiders and it was clear I was an outsider in this place.  I asked them about the laptop and “Jim” showed it to me.  But…He put down a printed contract in front of me so I could sign it.  It was about two pages long in printed legal paper.  I found this to be very unusual so I read it all the way through, most of it was “blah Blah name of business hereafter referred to as the client blah blah”

Then, finally, “blah blah blah I hereby guarantee that if I am unable to repair this computer that I take full responsibility for causing its un-usability and agree to pay for all damages amounting to (handwritten) $2000.00”

So they wanted to pay me $100 if I fixed the computer but if I failed I had to pay $2000.00.

I said “no”.

Then “Jim” got very hostile.  Very, very hostile actually.  As I got up he and his friend shoved me back down in the chair and he slammed the pen down in front of me and said “Just sign the fucking paper and we will be done with this”.  I forced myself up again and backed away from the table with the laptop and the “legal” document.  “Jim” said again “Sign the fucking paper asshole.  No need to make this tough on you because you are not leaving until you sign the paper”  I let them back me toward the window and then I opened it.  “What are you gonna do pussy?  Jump?” and I told “Jim” that I was going to start yelling that there was a fire to the people below and that I had set it because I am “off my meds” and could they please send help right away before I hurt someone.

“Jim” and his bearded friends scowled and advanced and then paused.  I yelled “Help!” out the window and then suddenly “wait, wait no.  We are just kidding.  We are just teasing you.  Sorry.  didn’t know you would be such a pussy and take this seriously.” and they cut a swath for me and let me out the door.

They were smart enough to know that a little resistance could mean a lot of trouble for them so I let them go.  About two years later I remember reading that one of the photography stores in that area was shut down for bait and switch tactics and threatening customers who canceled their credit card payments, similar to what Vitaly Borker would get sent to prison for doing years later.

I gave up on laptop repairs after that.

Donate Your Used Car and Fund A Website Designer

Web Design is a tough business. It is so tough that these days I don’t do it at all except as a favor or to make some very quick money doing a routine upgrade or something I find on Craigslist.   But about seven years ago I had a few jobs, which is funny in a way because though I am technically skilled I have no sense of style or taste in web design.  In fact this site only looks like it does because my fiancée told me earlier versions of it were so ugly that someone in some country I was visiting might have a reason to arrest me for creating a public abomination with my face on it.

It looked as if North Korea had designed a promotional poster for a Three Stooges Movie.

In the salad days of 2005 I was in demand as a cheaper alternative to Web Designers who had a sense of style.  This way they could hire a separate graphic designer once I got all the critical things working like the MySQL database and the shopping cart.  The problem was that on Craigslist people wanted to pay nothing for everything.  They wanted me to do work for free so I could “put it on my resume” but I did not want to put most websites on my resume.  Plus most people who actually paid were hired to do the work themselves so I couldn’t put them on my resume, but I did many of them.  I always wanted $500 to $2000 for what would be one week to four weeks part time work.  A bargain really.

One day I got a call from this Russian fellow and he saw I had responded to his ad to design a website for his school and he promised he could pay me well for my work but he wanted to meet me.  So I agreed.

I met him in a bar near Canal St.  He wore cheap clothes and expensive jewelry and he told me about the job:

The State of New Jersey funded the education of released prisoners and also had given low interest loans to people starting technical schools.  I was to design a website to promote this technical school that offered everything from car repair, computer associates degrees and welding classes.

I thought it sounded good.  I asked about the pay and the man in the track suit said “Five Car”.

“What do you mean by ‘five car’?” I asked  and he said “Five Car…One Two Three Four Five Car.  You get paid in car.”

I had never had anyone offer to pay me in cars before and I had to say I did not like the idea.  Where was I going to put five cars in New York City?  How would I sell them all?

I then asked him if I could have money instead and he said “Car better than money.  With car you can drive taxi, make own taxi company.  Taxi make good money.  Make $600 a day driving taxi.  Lease other car for $100 a day for four car.  Make $1000 a day with car..No tax.”

I still was not interested in getting cars as payment.  I asked him why he could not pay me in regular money and he went on a long winded spiel about how easy America was and how he had started a school “for free” and how he also ran a Car Donation Charity that he used to make money for auctions where he was the only bidder and his used car lot would sell the cars for a profit while his “school” would get the cash earned in the auction “donated” and the people who donated the cars would get a tax deduction based on the auction price.

Apparently the first law of his business was that you never pay anyone in cash, so he decided that he had to pay me in cars.

I turned him down.

Every so often I see car donation charities advertising and I then wonder what sort of scheme this charity is funding.  Like he said, America is “easy” but only if you are willing to exploit it for your own gain.