I first heard about this on the radio, and then (being the militant researcher I am) looked it up to get the actual facts. I found the story in the Oakland Tribune, written by Jason Sweeney. This story is from August 7, 2009.
Apparently, on Wednesday, August 5, 2009, the whistle was blown on Anthony Myles, a 52-year-old from Richmond, in San Leandro, California because someone was suspicious of him trying to sell a 37” Sony flat screen TV out of his car. The box in the car had a Best Buy sticker stating it was priced at $1,949. The bargain price? $100 bucks. Great deal, huh? Except that it might be stolen, which is why the concerned citizen grabbed his proverbial whistle.
The police stopped Myles and arrested him for driving on a suspended license. Someone must have recalled the tip about a guy in a 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass possibly selling stolen goods, and when they searched the car, they found out what was actually in the official-looking box: an oven door, covered with flat screen TV decals! The box had installation instructions, cables, and all the proper packaging materials of a new TV. His story to potential customers? He had bought it at a flea market for $60.
Myles was attempting to sell the oven door in the parking lot of the San Lorenzo Wal-Mart, at 15555 Hesperian Blvd. According to reporter Jason Sweeney, the San Leandro police Lt. Pete Ballew referred to the scam as a variation of the old “rocks in a box” trick. Lt. Ballew called the man’s effort “ingenious”. In today’s economy, many of us are eager for bargains, and common sense can get lax – but go ahead and be suspicious when a guy tries to sell you a box out of his car; you’ve been warned!
In Sweeny’s story, Lt. Ballew said, “If you think you’re getting something for nothing, you’re probably getting nothing for something.” He also said you should call the police if you suspect someone is attempting to sell you fake merchandise.
Personally, I had quite a good snicker over this story. I also feel a little better about the collective IQ of humanity, that Mr. Myles hadn’t yet managed to sell his oven door. Now we know where the slang, “dumb as a box of rocks” comes from: that’s what you’d call someone stupid enough to fall for the flea market pitch! Still, points for cleverness must be awarded to Myles for his presentation.