Saturday, 22 May 2010

A shocking loss of $50

On Tuesday, when I was travelling southwards on the 55 tram in an effort to get from the Debaters Association of Victoria office in Flemington Road to my home in Carlton, I began a talk with another young man on the tram as it went down Peel Street - a road that my mother told me was infamous for its brothels.

Although I knew I would have to leave the tram at Bourke Street to take the 96 tram home, I spoke to the man whilst I had time about the weather. This, unacceptable as it is, is very normal for me whilst travelling on trams. However, when the tram reached around the southern end of Peel Street and moved into William Street, something quite new to me happened.

For a long time I have used a mobile telephone with a break in the front cover due to a temper tantrum. I have rarely thought about replacing it but know that a replacement would be valuable in case the crack should worsen. Thus, when the man I was talking to offered me a mobile phone with such features as a camera for $40, I was only willing to buy it whilst still on the tram.

Though the man promised to sell the phone for $40, I found that he could not give me the $10 back before I had to leave the tram. Because I though I was getting a good deal even knowing I would have to pay for a charger, I accepted anyway.

However, upon trying the telephone for the first time, I was in for a series of rude shocks. When I first placed my SIM card in the phone, it said that it was locked. I told my mother and brother, and they said that I had bought a stolen mobile - though the person I bought it from on the tram said he was merely offering me one he intended to replace.

Because of concern for my finances, I asked first about dealing with the code necessary to use the mobile, and found it would cost $27 - a sum I was by Thursday quite clearly willing to pay to salvage something from what I was worried was a case of me being duped.

I therefore went today to the Telstra shop in the city, and took the phone to pay the $27 to have it unlocked so that a Telstra phone could use a Vodafone card. I checked a number from one of my half-sisters, but several times I found that there were “call restrictions on your Vodafone mobile”. After a while, the phone shop salesman told me that the locking on the phone had been removed and that I had to go to a Vodafone place. Thankfully there was one over the road - indeed I was highly familiar with it - and I told the person there the problem. For the next half-an-hour, I watched them try to unlock the blockages on my Telstra mobile - and saw again and again that there were no blockages on either SIM card. I was told time and time again to switch on and off the phone I had bought - and nothing changed. It always said “please check the call restrictions on your Vodafone mobile phone”. Eventually the people in the Vodafone shop realised the the IMEI number of the mobile I had bought on Tuesday was blocked: thus I went back over the road into the Telstra show to see if they could unblock it.

Unfortunately, unlike SIM card numbers, IMEI numbers cannot be freely unblocked by a shop at a customer’s will. Because I had not record whom I had bought the Telstra phone from on Tuesday, I did not know who controlled access to it.

I therefore realised what my mother and brother suspected all along: that I really had been duped into buying a mobile that was not the seller’s, but had been stolen.

As a child, I did learn that buying stolen goods is regarded as a crime, but it was not until this episode that I realised people generally steal things
  • not because they simply cannot afford them but want them
  • but to make money from dupes like me!
As a result, I went to a familiar city police station to hand in the phone and tell them the story of how I came to buy a stolen mobile. The policewoman, called Marianne, was very helpful even though my mother was upset I waited so long to discuss the issue and to recall what happened when I was duped into buying the stolen mobile. It is a pity I recalled nothing of the appearance of the man from whom I bought the phone - in contrast to the time and place of the incident which I recalled excellently. Although I have little hope that the person who stole the phone and sold it to me can be found, Marianne and I both feel we did the right thing handing the phone in.

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