I’ve been hearing about this speaker scam going on in parking lots across America for the past 10 years or so, and I was finally approached by the “White Van Speaker Guys” over the weekend in a mall parking lot!
If you’re unfamiliar with the scam, here’s the gist of it:
The typical white van speaker scam involves one to three individuals, who are usually casually dressed or wearing uniforms. They drive an SUV, minivan or a commercial vehicle (usually a white commercial van, which may be rented inexpensively) that often displays a company logo. To find suitable targets, the van operators set up their con in moderately-trafficked areas, such as parking lots, gas stations, colleges, or large apartment complexes. Alternatively, they may target people driving expensive cars and wave them down. The marks (victims) are usually affluent, young people, college students, or others thought to have large amounts of disposable income.
The operators often claim that they work for an audio retailer or audio installer and that, through some sort of corporate error (warehouse operator mistake, bookkeeping mistakes, computer glitch, etc.) or due to the client changing the order after supplies were purchased, they have extra speakers. Sometimes, it is implied that the merchandise may be stolen. For varying reasons they need to dispose of the speakers quickly and are willing to get rid of them at “well below retail” prices. The con artists will repeatedly state the speaker’s “value” as anywhere between $1800 and $3500, prices often purportedly verified by showing a brochure or a magazine advertisement. They will usually also have an official-looking website verifying their claims.
If the mark declines the offer, the scammer uses various high-pressure negotiation sales tactics. Among these techniques are producing glossy material that details the quality and high retail value of the speakers, and bombarding the potential customer with technical jargon, whether correctly or incorrectly used. If still unable to convince the mark that he is turning down an incredible offer, the con artist will almost always lower the price significantly. Some con artists will even suggest that, since the customer got such a great deal, he should pay a little extra as beer money for his supposed benefactor.
In my case, they were actually driving a GREEN mini-van, and the driver who approached me looked like Manny from Modern Family.
He rolled up next to me as I was walking to my car, and the dialog went like this:
Manny: Hey man, you wanna buy some home theatre speakers?
Me: No thanks.
Manny: No problem.. Mind if I ask you a question? Why did you say No?
Me: I’ve already got home theatre speakers.
And with that he drove off. I was tempted to screw with this guy, but I was already in a hurry.
Hard to believe that this scam is still going strong almost a decade later! But you really can’t stop these guys, since technically they’re not doing anything wrong. They’re just selling crap-quality speakers with an over-inflated MSRP, and it’s the buyer’s greed that does them in.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Can’t believe that people fall for such a scam? Ask around, there’s sure to be someone who’s been taken by them.