March 20 • 05:21 AM

Garage sale thievery reveals disturbing human condition

September 02, 2009
Thankfully, for all the bad news in the world today, we've been able to bring you double that in our pages of good deeds and charity performed by Tri-City area residents—food pantries, community gardens, free backpacks and haircuts for kids going back to school and the list goes on.

So it was with a heavy heart that I took a phone call from Linda Greenman last week.

She, like lots of other cash-strapped people, had a garage sale this summer. As a single mom with three girls, Linda said she wasn't wild about the idea but put a garage sale sign outside of her Imlay City-area home the first weekend in August.

"I was looking for money so I can afford groceries, gas, I can keep afloat," Linda said.

"I'm sure I'm not the only person doing this."

She was grateful that lots of shoppers stopped and bought. Linda acknowledged that she "did pretty good."

But after she accounted for what she sold and what was leftover, Linda realized several items had disappeared. She was shocked and rightfully so.

"Just the whole idea that someone would steal from someone having a garage sale is appalling," she said.

Considering the 'For Sale' sign in her front yard, Linda thought it was pretty obvious she was selling some of her prized possessions out of necessity, but obviously that didn't register with the thief or thieves or they just didn't care.

Not unlike other scams or retail thefts, it appears the 'shoppers' used the fine art of distraction to swipe the items.

Linda noticed a man pick up a large, hinged picture frame she'd tagged for sale. He appeared to be browsing through the other items and Linda assumed he'd eventually approach her to make an offer. Sometime later, she realized both the man and picture frame were gone.

"I was practically giving my stuff away, the stuff I treasure," Linda said.

She would have been willing to take a lower offer on the picture and the other things taken. As someone who's been going to garage sales as a youngster, she's familiar with the practice commonly called 'haggling.'

In another instance over the weekend, Linda recalls a chatty female shopper who struck up a long and wide-ranging conversation with her.

"She started talking to me about all sorts of things," Linda said.

The woman's partner in crime was likely scooping up the pool supplies or children's items Linda had for sale while she was distracted.

Between tending to her daughters and the sale in her pole barn, Linda admits there might have been opportunities for shoppers to steal but she didn't think people could be so cruel.

As someone who's hoping for a brighter tomorrow, Linda said she realizes her story is sad and wishes she didn't have to share it but she hopes she can forewarn others and maybe make would-be thieves think twice.

Exercise some values and morals the next time you stop at a garage sale, Linda says, and consider that the person putting price tags on their items "really needs the money."

Maybe I'm naive, but I really hope someone who'd stoop so low as to steal from a garage sale wouldn't be the regular newspaper reader-type. People who read our paper care about the community and their neighbors. On the off chance that thieves happen to stumble across this story, I hope they're shamed into never taking from anyone and instead take a cue from all the kind-hearted people who are so good at giving.

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