Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Attempted Fraud Was Bad Enough, But To Make It Worse...

I'm sure that by now, most of you have seen the People's Court case that aired on Dec 2.  If not, you can view it at the end of this post or read the summary below.

An obviously frum couple are suing a dry cleaning establishment for $3000 for the destruction of a wig.  The couple's young child put a $3000 Georgie wig into the dry cleaning bag before it went off to the cleaners.  The dry cleaners saw the wig and phoned the customer what to do with the wig.  The person calling had limited English skills and there is some confusion about what transpired over the phone call.  The customer says that she told the dry cleaner not to wash it -- the dry cleaning employee says that she was told to wash, but not dry it.

In any event, the dry cleaner went ahead and washed the wig.  The couple said that they took the wig to three different stores to see if it could be repaired, but they were told it was a total loss.  The couple, however, did not bring any documentation of this (other than the receipt for the original wig purchase from Georgi back in May).  The judge called a recess to consider the matter.

When the judge came back from recess, she said that she called Georgies and confirmed that the woman did indeed purchase a $3000 wig from them back in May.  However, the wig was a long-haired wig (the one that the woman was wearing in court) and not a short wig (which is the one that was damaged).  In addition, the damaged wig was a cheaper wig that Georgies does not even sell.  The judge, in the end, tossed the suit.

What mystifies me about the couple's behavior is this: 

I understand if they succumbed to temptation and decided to sue the dry cleaner to get them to pay for the more expensive wig.  I don't approve, of course, but we're all human and we've all succumbed to some form of temptation or other.

However, if they did indeed attempt to perpetrate a fraud, I have to wonder what possessed them to do it on national television.  It's bad enough they brought the suit in the first place -- but had this happened in small claims court, the case would have been thrown out and, at worst, a small blurb would have appeared in a local paper.  But now, however, the attempted fraud is all over the internet.  The video has 20,000+ views on YouTube, not to mention the many more people who actually saw the episode when it aired.

There is a reason that Chazal tell us that when one is tempted to sin they should do so in a far away place... so as to minimize the chillul HaShem that will result.  I'm just utterly shocked and bewildered that they chose to attempt this on national television.  To me, that's just as bad as the actual attempted fraud.

 The Wolf

18 comments:

Menachem Lipkin said...

Not to mention the irony of this very immodest display being about a Sheitel which is supposed to, at least in part, represent modesty.

Here's a possible reason why they decided to take it to a TV show. From Wikipedia:

At the end of each show, the following disclaimer appears:

"Both the plaintiff and the defendant have been paid from a fund for their appearance. The amount, if any, awarded in the case, is deducted from this fund, and the remainder is divided equally between both litigants. The amount of the fund is dependent on the size of the judgement." No information is given as to what relation the amount of the fund bears to the size of the judgment, nor the amount of the fund if a verdict for the defense is rendered.


They probably figured it was a win-win situation assuming they wouldn't get caught in their alleged lie.

G@W said...

Wolf:

What I can't post on YWN is "their" concern they got caught or that they did the act?

G@W

A Muppet said...

I think if you think through how this probably happened in stages, this makes sense.

1. The basic scam here is to have the dry cleaner ruin a $5 wig and then claim it was actually worth 3000. In all likelihood, the dry cleaner, who knows nothing about wigs settles quickly, and worst case, you go to small claims court where the chances anyone investigates are nonexistent (as, in fact, the dry cleaner did not bother to try to verify the wigs value).

2. Unfortunately for the scammers, the People's Court gets involved, and now the dry cleaner has an opportunity to get out of paying anything (worst case, the show picks up the tab), and now refuse to settle.

3. Scammers now have two choices: 1. Go on the show and hope no one looks to closely at their evidence. 2. Don't go, risk making the dry cleaner (who already knows, or suspects, that they're lying about the original phone call) suspicious about why they'd turn down a guaranteed payment from a television show and the possibility of serious jail time beyond the fraud charge they're open to now.

I'm not sure it's obvious I'd go with choice 2 there, but I understand why they might have. The important thing here is that the plan must have been to get a quick settlement without going to court in the first place.

Dovid said...

Unfortunately for the scammers, the People's Court gets involved

A Muppet:

The frum couple was under no obligation to let the People's Court get involved. They could have kept it in Small Claim's Court by not agreeing to go to the People's Court TV show.

That being said, the TV show doesn't produce any conclusive evidence of who is right or if there was any lie, as the TV show judge claims.

A Muppet said...

I did address that. The scam here as I see it would have been about getting a quick settlement from the dry cleaner who wasn't in a position to refute the couple's claim. If this was going to a regular court, that is almost certainly what would have happened.

Once the People's Court gets involved though, the dry cleaner had an option that would have costed them nothing, and the couple would have needed to turn down that option (which would have ended in them getting more money more definitively than a trial or small claims court would have, should they have been telling the truth) in a way that did not make the dry cleaner more suspicious than she already had to have been.

ProfK said...

The chillul Hashem aspect aside for just a moment, there are a few "facts" that just don't compute here. Not a single dry cleaner in my area will just plain accept a closed bag for cleaning. Even if you bring things in in a bag, every item is taken out, shaken, and entered on the cleaner's receipt along with the price for that item's cleaning. A sheitle is not precisely like a button that could hide inside of an item being handled by someone without causing a visible bulge that would be instantly noticed. At the time the clothes were brought in that sheitle should have been discovered and the whole issue of the call and subsequent damage should never have taken place. Something simply doesn't compute about the whole story from start to finish.

Dovid said...

It wasn't a dry cleaner, it was a laundromat. There was a mistake in the video's description. Follow the defendant's presentation closely.

tesyaa said...

They could easily have gotten out of the TV appearance and kept things in small claims court by citing modesty. After all, they cited modesty as the reason for wearing wigs in the first place.

A Muppet said...

Admittedly that's what I can't figure out, but also I'd imagine that they did try to do that. I can't say I'm a regular (or irregular) watcher, but I don't remember ever seeing anyone on the show not give their last names like they did. I suspect the bookers for the show are very persuasive.

Nice Jewish Guy (signed out) said...

There's two ways I'm thinking this could have gone down. Scenario 1: they outright plan a scam, buy a fake wig and drop it at a dry cleaner, tell them to wash it, then act outraged when they get it back and start the proceedings we witnessed and claim damages and that they never authorized it. Scenario 2: the wig accidentally ends up in the bag, it accidentally gets washed due to communication snafus, they are outraged when they get the wig back- BUT- they take it to a sheitelmacher and get it fixed and restored for maybe a couple hundred bucks. Then she figures, I ought to get something back for what it cost me to fix this wig, so I'll just go for a whole new wig! Buy a shlocky wig, toss it in the washing machine, and bring it to court (all the while stupidly wearing the restored original wig) with the original wig's receipt.

I'm thinking scenario #2 is more likely.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ovadia Yosef (on this and only this occassion); Wigs make a mockery of the idea of covering your head. An Hermes scarf is plenty nice enough (and isnt it about time we dropped that we got rid of some of the fences around the Torah that make no sense any more?)

megapixel said...

I think the story did go as they said, but then they figured if we are going thru the whole thing,why not claim it was the 3k wig, and make them reimburse for that rather than the old junky one that got ruined.
all this while they explain their religious reasons for wearing a wig in the first place...

JRS said...

Agree with Megapixel, but I'd add the possibility that they even kinda 'didn't realize' this is the wrong receipt. Wrong, dishonest and silly, yes--but people kid themselves that way all the time.

Folks commenting on blogs are far too quick to overdramatize every silly incident of less-than-scrupulous dealing as an organized, elaborately planned "scam".

Noam said...

WTF were they thinking??!?!?!
Even if they were not pulling a scam, THE CHILUL HASHEM EVEN IF THEY ARE RIGHT! Its appalling I'd throw them out of shul and their kids too, what gives them the right to throw this kinda crap on the rest of us.
Scum.

I'm really ticked off.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

1] The main impetus of the judge was that this wig she was examining looked like a short wig.
The wig that was ruined was not, repeat not a short wig. It is a long wig. If you look carefully you will see that it is a long wig. It looks like a short wig b/c it's all knotted up, but it is not short.
2] The wigmaker charged $3000 in total including highlighting, streaking and cutting for ruined wig. The wig heidi was later purchased from georgi as a replacement for the ruined wig.
3] The judge called both Georgie companies. She first called the first number and b/c the office was closed her call was fwd'ed to a woman named Sylvia from company #1 and the judge ascertained that Heidi did pay $3000 for a long wig. The judge asked for the receipt number. Sylvia answered that the office was closed. The judge then called the other Georgie company #2 (there was a divorce involved here). The other company said that they do not manufacture that type of wig.

Master said...

Now that the couple has been proven correct, many people owe them an apology for the defamation they subjected them to.

BrooklynWolf said...

Master,

I believe you may have a misunderstanding of the word "proven."

A defense provided by someone is not a proof.

The Wolf

Master said...

Granted. Yet the burden of proof prior to condemning one, is on the condemner, not on the condemned.

Using your definition of "proof", where is it for your condemned?