By Phineas J. Stone
Boston is notorious for low-level scams, putting on the hustle and general dirty tricks.
In fact, a native might be so adept that you may not even know you’ve been scammed until you’re five miles on the other side of the Mystic/Tobin.
Around here, it’s good to be a sneak.
You’re better for it. The pressures are so great to hoodwink you in this city – whether it’s the City or some neighborhood con man – that one has to be on the offensive.
So it is we come to the space savers – the biggest, most laughable scam within the City limits.
I’m not talking about the age old practice of saving spaces with various bits of garbage. I’m talking about the Br’er Rabbit song and dance the crafty neighborhoods around the city pull on undiscerning pols.
It goes a little like this:
So every year we have a big snowstorm and the entirety of the neighborhood (minus the South End, of course) puts out space savers, but no one moves them. Then the mayor gets mad and comes down hard on the community – threatening to trash them if they’re not moved.
The community puts up a faux pushback, a lot of angry calls and such.
The mayor holds fast, puts a deadline on when he’s going to throw every space saver away in the trash.
Meanwhile, in cozy enclaves like Southie and Eastie and such, the phone tree starts chiming.
Everyone lines up all the crappy junk in the cellar that they want to get rid of – the old computer monitors, the window A/C’s that don’t work, the paint cans from 1972, and the busted up statue of Padre Pio. Overnight, all the nice cones that were space savers are replaced by junk that the normal trash won’t take. A few hours after everyone leaves for work, the trash trunk comes through the neighborhood under a strict mandate from the mayor to throw away every space saver.
And they do.
And the neighborhood gets to empty out junk from the cellar for free.
It takes a certain skill, honed from generations of angst, to win such small wars.
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I had another friend who came up with a scam on the post office.
For quite some time, he got one over on them, but he got his in the end.
What he would do is buy a roll of one-cent stamps. If he was mailing a letter within the Greater Boston area, he would put a one-cent stamp on and then write the destination in the return address, and his return address in the normal place. So, when the post office would reject the letter for insufficient postage, they would return it to the place he wanted it to go in the first place.
It took years to craft the scam, and all for the purpose of saving him like 18 cents a letter.
What a haul, huh?
Well, that fella got a little too proud of the scam, and he started sending the light bill and the sewer bill in such a fashion.
It worked pretty good for a time, but then one day the lights went out.
The Post Office had caught on.
And apparently they weren’t sending him any shut off notices as payback.
For a yearly savings of less than $2, he had a pretty bad week without the lights, but he had such a great story to tell for years and years.