Sales Pitch or Mugging Operation?

So a few days ago,

I was at a gas station minding my own business and doing all the regular things one does while pumping gas into their car.  I hummed to the beat of the last song I was listening to, made the obligatory mental note of “huh…look at those gas prices..,” and mumbled irritated threats at the pump machine when it took more than ten seconds to load.  As I readjusted the playlist on my iPod and prepared to pull away, I was waved to a halt by a random guy pulling up to the pump on the opposite side of me.

He motioned for me to roll my window down as he slightly frantically rolled down his own.  Guy probably just wants directions, I thought to myself.  “Hell-O,” he began with a thick European accent.  I couldn’t quite place it at first, but it brought to mind the scent of strombolis and spaghetti.  He spoke in such a thick accent that I could only understand about half of what he was saying.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that,” I apologized.  Having lived in Florida for many years now I was pretty used to tourists coming and asking me generally touristy questions, but it was still hard to muddle through the thick accents sometimes.

“Oh, I’m sorry.  I–I try again.  My English not so good.  Let me try for you to understand again.  I,” he said using exaggerated hand motions, “am Italian.”

That’s it!  He’s Italian.  That’s the accent.  No wonder I keep thinking about pasta… 

“I am Italian, and I come to America for beeznness…”

He then went on to explain to me that he had come to America on business for his company.  He was on his way to the airport to go back to Italy, but he had yet to sell a few of the product that his company had commissioned him with.  He explained to me that he knew Customs at the airport would just end up taking them away because he wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane with any liquid substances.

Keep in mind that this whole explanation took practically five minutes to convey as he paused to think of the right English word and I interrupted for clarification.  So I’ve been sitting in my car, window down, head leaned out and engine running for a while now, wondering what exactly this seemingly good-natured foreigner needed from me.  I had heard of scams where pairs of robbers would split upand have one of them distract a driver at the gas pump by talking to them while the other sneaks round the other side, gets in the passenger seat and puts a gun to their head.

The guy seemed nice and everything, but I couldn’t help but get a bit antsy.  A woman by herself and all.  Even if the gas station was pretty populated and near a major intersection.  I made sure to turn and look at my passenger side every fifteen seconds or so to monitor anything suspicious.  I must have looked paranoid or rude, but I wasn’t about to let myself get taken in by the young guy & his charming accent and be duped by a couple of criminals. I told myself I had to stay on the cautious side.  He continued his explanation.

“I would like to offer you a deal.  I have seven parfum–“

“Sorry?”

“Parfum.  Ahh, how do you say?…parfum…” he chuckled at himself and struggled for the word.

“Oh, perfume!”

“Ah!  Yes, yes!  Parfume.”  I had to admit he was pretty adorable. 

“I have seven parfume and I would like to give to you for price of one.  They will get thrown away otherwise.  Come, come.  I show you.”  He motioned for me to come and check them out.  He was still seated in his driver’s seat mind you, but he expected me to come out of my own car to see what he was talking about.  I couldn’t believe the guy.  He had stopped me from pulling away and spent so much time explaining his situation just so he could randomly pitch me some last minute deal.

“I don’t really need any perfume,” I began.  “Sorry.  Maybe someone else can help you.”

He kind of deflated for a second, but then perked back up.

“Maybe–maybe ju think I’m crasy.  I show you my passport for proof.  Come, come.  I show you.”

At this point I’m mentally face-palming myself at the persistence of this stranger.  Is this guy serious?  He’s genuinely trying to hustle me some perfume at a gas station.  I had seen no sign of suspicious activity around my car and the busy intersection was starting to reassure me.  He seemed so naive, like he was honestly just trying to make a last minute deal so it didn’t go to waste and wasn’t aware of how strange a setting this was.  Maybe it wasn’t so strange in Italy?  I didn’t want to make Americans look bad by being so rude as to blatantly refuse.  I decided that the best course of action was to humor him.

I got out of the car.

And then,

once I was close enough,

a man swung the back door open and abducted me while another guy hijacked my car!  I’m actually typing this out from a cell phone from inside the trunk of his car.

Haha.  No.  That’s not what happened.

But I did feel kinda derpy for giving in to this guy’s peer pressure.  Adorable accent wielding or not.  It’s amazing how the instinct to be polite can sometimes override the instinct to keep yourself safe.  Granted, I wasn’t in any real danger, but what if it had been some variation of that bait switch gas station scheme?  How stupid would I feel as I realized some guy had hijacked my car or worse?

The guy did actually end up showing me proof of his passport with the date of his departure from Italy marked and everything.  I let him show me a bottle of perfume or two and then politely explained that I didn’t want to waste any more of his time because I’m a broke college student in no position to be buying $90 perfume.  Even if it did come with six others thrown in for free.  The guy was a strange cookie to say the least, but he was harmless.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird would you think this guy was if he came up to you at a gas station?

~LDA

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