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Honestly, we’re all victims of lurky crooks

Published Sep 18, 2021


MY word! Apart from you and I, are there any honest people left?

Of course, thanks to you and I, we know there must be, but nobody believes it anymore. Nobody trusts anyone. Honour and integrity are history.

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This conversation does not include heavy-duty criminals like murderers, rapists, armed robbers, international money-launderers, fraudsters, some politicians and scaly business people. You have to be a special type of bad to commit these crimes.

This is about Joe/sephine Public liars, cheats, small-time scammers, fake emailers, stokvel and pyramid thieves who lurk everywhere to ensnare you out of whatever they can of your hard-earned pay.

While we cut expenses to the bone to match Covid-hit earnings and soaring living costs, look for (honest) side hustles, or just go without, these leeches suck our honour and whatever money they can get their paws on.

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They also steal one of our best assets: our trustworthiness. The real victims are honest people who are lumped in with the dregs and whom no one trusts anyone anymore.

For example: on a rare trip to the corner shop, the very dodgy-looking man posing as a car guard held my car door open as I battled to get out. I gave him R5 before getting my bread and lettuce while I had both hands free. When I got back to the car, he told me he had dropped the coin down the drain and please could I give him some more.

“My bad,” he said. Indeed his bad because I wasn’t falling for that one.

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I don’t believe for a second that he had lost it ‒ he was shooed off by the shop owners for harassing shoppers soon after ‒ and he gave off that lurky vibe. But what if he had really lost it?

An honest car guard would lose out because every honest person is permanently on guard (I know) against crooks and liars.

Try to get a service nowadays. In the olden days, it was generally accepted that the customer would pay half upfront and the balance on completion.

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Now we have a Catch-22: we don’t want to pay for anything upfront because there are so many dodgy operators who pocket the money and are never seen again while service providers don’t want to do the job without the full amount being paid because of scumbags who keep promising the electronic version of “the cheque is in the mail”.

It’s a bit easier if it’s a “thing” they can reclaim, but it’s very unlikely they will find themselves in that situation ‒ cash upfront only. If you are an electrician, plumber or the like, getting your money means debt collection or a long costly legal wrangle.

Honesty costs cash too, and honest “little” businesses feel it. Informed people know about the risks of paying for something upfront only to see it and the service vanish, and will opt for a long-established “bigger” provider. Smaller operators, often just to keep their doors open, will take the risk of a customer not paying (and on time).

Covid has changed much, and it’s my scientific guess that crookery has gone viral too.

Honesty at least gives those who practise it a better night’s sleep. I give you my word.

The Independent on Saturday

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