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We all have urban tales of the strange. Dumb criminals, however, are a niche that are unto themselves. Like the guy who got caught in a high-speed car chase- because he habitually used his turn signal. Or the pet store thief who was unfortunately allergic to cats and passed out in the middle of his robbery. Or the coffee and Krispy Kreme robber who tried to do a stick-up... during the local police precinct's lunch hour. Here's my own, personal experience with helping bring a dumb criminal to justice. Enjoy:


It wasn't often that I can say I'd had a good day when I worked at CompUSA. Most of the time I had middle managers that were always breathing down our necks, customers who knew zip about computers but refused to believe that I did and co-workers that wouldn't think twice about screwing me over or framing me for their screw-ups. No, indeed, my time at CompUSA was mostly spent covering my backside more than anything else. But all that said, there were a few occasions when I could come home with a smile. This is one.

A customer walked up to the Upgrades desk, where I was stationed, and placed his system on the counter with a loud, obnoxious thud. "My hard drive has failed," he said immediately, in a harried tone. "I need a new one!"

Being mindful of my customer service skills, I remained calm and collected and I said, "Very good, sir. What size hard drive would you like?" He selected the 4.3 Gig Western Digital drive off the wall since it was on special for $99 (this was about 2 years ago). As I was pulling it off the shelf, I asked, "Have you ever switched a hard drive before?"

"No," he sounded agitated. "I haven't. How hard is it?"

I shrugged as I handed the new drive over to him for inspection, "Not difficult as long as you follow the instructions enclosed. Basically it's Tab 'A' goes into Slot 'B' kinda stuff. Fairly simple. Before you buy this, let's make sure your system can accept it. Do you know anything about your system? CPU speed, motherboard type, date of manufacture?"

He looked cautiously at the system he'd dragged in with him. "I dunno. I stole this from work just before I quit. All I know is that it's not working and it was just yesterday."

I did my best to not show any surprise at the admission that he'd stolen the computer from where he worked. Instead I just tried to sound conversational. "So where do you work?"

"Best Buy. Quit six months ago," he stared at me through narrow eyes suspiciously.

I simply nodded. "I see. So the system got a lot of wear and tear, then, I suppose. Right?"

His eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Why, yes, it did!"

I stroked my chin. "Hrm... I wonder... do you think it'd still be under Best Buy's warranty? Since it was owned by the store and was a floor model, they might have gotten warranty protection on it- you know how companies don't like to open up new merchandise if the old stuff fails, they'd rather just have it shipped off, fixed and sent back to them." I didn't know if this was true, but I wasn't going to tell the "customer" that. The second he admitted that he'd stolen the computer system I was ready to let him hang himself some more. Actually, I was curious to see just how blindingly stupid he really was. I had no love for Best Buy, but I don't tolerate theft of any kind.

He just nodded and took it hook, line and sinker. "Yeah...." he mused. "It probably does have a warranty." Then he giggled. "Wouldn't it be a hoot if I had them fix it?"

I shrugged. "You never know, man. Sometimes all you need is the serial number. Rattle that off to them and they might be able to catalog it with the warranty information- all it should say is that it is under warranty." It was a stretch, but the guy didn't seem all that bright. Yep. He bought it. He asked me for a phone so that he could call and find out (a reasonable precautionary measure). I handed him the phone and even dialed the number for him.

I overheard his side of the conversation and noted that the Best Buy techs 1) recognized his voice 2) weren't ready to commit to the repair and wanted him to come in personally so that they could check out the system 3) knew way too much about the system itself after he'd told them the serial number because he was saying things like, "Yeah, I got it sometime around March. How'd you know? Oh, the warranty told you that? Cool."

When he hung up the phone he was all smiles. "They're waiting for me now and they say they'll be able to work on me as soon as I get there." I declined to tell him that he was walking into a trap- because I was the one who helped set it. He handed the 4.3 Gig hard drive back to me. "You've really been a big help. What's your name?"

I gave him my name and watched him leave with the system in hand, whistling a tune and feeling a lot happier about his situation.

An hour later I got a call from Best Buy's manager, thanking me for helping them nab a thief. I just smiled and said back to the manager, "It's all part of the service here at CompUSA, sir. Computers, updates, software and occasional detective work.... no job too big or small. You guys really should expand your market. I'll send you a bill."

Baffled, he hung up.

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