Wednesday, March 11, 2020

What just happened?

It was one of those crowded supermarket moments where I did that which-way-are-you-going-right-left-right-left dance with a guy coming the other way. (Come on, it’s like driving. Keep right.) We both rolled our eyes, shook our heads and smiled at the awkwardness. I backed up and waved him through.

We encountered each other a few aisles later. I nodded recognition and said, “We meet again.”

He replied, “Say, could you help me out? I need some cash for gas.”

Uh-oh, he’s hitting me up for money.

He continued, holding out a credit or debit card, “I’ll pay for your groceries if you can give me the amount in cash.”

Huh? “Um, I only have about six or seven bucks in cash.”

“That’ll be enough.”

“Um, okay.” We made our way to the self-checkout as I tried to figure if there was a scam and how it might work. I couldn’t see one.

I rang up my stuff. A little over nine dollars. As he used his card to pay I wondered why he didn’t choose to get cash back. And I wondered why he didn’t use the card to get the gas he said he needed. Or if he didn’t really need gas, why didn’t he buy something cheap—a pack of gum or whatever—and get cash back? Strange. But I gave him my seven dollars and off he went.

I’m trying to figure the damage here. The store got its money and I got my groceries at a discount. My card never left my wallet, so he couldn’t have gotten the numbers or PIN. He’s the one who came up short. Did he realize that? Did his need for cash mess with his ability to reason? Or am I the one who can’t see I was suckered?


  1. Maybe he was using someone else's card so he didn't want to do anything that would set off alarms?

  2. Or maybe he didn't have enough to cover the lock the gas station was going to place on his card:
    "Gas stations place a hold on your debit card when you swipe it at the pump, to protect themselves. The hold can last for up to several hours. (Federal law now prohibits a hold from lasting more than a day). Each hold can range from $50 to $125, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores."

  3. The best explanation I've encountered so far is that he had an EBT card, not a bank card, and could only use it for groceries, not gas. In that case, it was the government that got swindled.

  4. If his card had his name on it, probably OK, if not he borrowed or stole it or (worked a deal) from someone he was close to. Scams work because they sound good, I just give em 5 bucks if the vibe is good, otherwise err to caution, and walk...never talk.

  5. Food stamps are usually worth 50 cents on a dollar. $10 snap=$5 cash