Further Down The Record Collecting Rabbit Hole

Follow the White Van. Actually, on second thought, don't.

May 8 2012, 1:45pm

Record hustling can be fun, but it can sometimes prove to be considerably dangerous and scary. Here's a predicament I found myself in while chasing a record collection in South Brooklyn.

Two summers ago, I was casually browsing Craigslist's "collectibles" category when I came across the following post:

EVICTED! Moving home, need to sell my stuff FAST! TV, Records, Comics, More! - $25 (Mapleton, BK)

Hey there, I was just notified by my landlord that I will not be allowed to live in my current apartment as of this Monday. I have a ton of stuff that I have to get out before then so please let me know what you want right away! Help!

Here's what I have:
- Red Ikea couch
- Black five drawer dresser
- X Box 360 and 17 games
- DVD/VHS combo
- Boxes of Marvel and DC comics
- Vintage board games
- Large record collection
- Designer housewares
- Microwave (new in box)
- Canon digital camera
- Coffee Maker (new in box)
and TONS more! Please call or text me immediately if you are interested,

Thanks SO much!
(phone number)

[End of post]

My first reaction was that Kelly sounded like a rad girl, with really cool interests. I figured that since she was into comics and vintage board games, her musical taste must be at least decent. I had to get in touch with her and be the first to the score. I dialed Kelly's phone number and after only two or three rings I was prompted to her voicemail. "Hi, please leave a message," said the sweet and friendly Kelly. So I left my message and included my phone number. Ten minutes later, I received the following text: "Hey what's up? Sure come by I still have the records." To that, I responded: "Cool. What's your address?" Kelly texted me back with the address almost instantly, so I grabbed a few record crates, hopped in my Honda, and headed for Ocean Parkway.

When I finally arrived, I pulled up to Kelly's apartment, parked my car, and got out to take a closer look. Kelly's apartment building seemed to be under some heavy construction…to the point where I was almost convinced that her home was uninhabitable. Just then, a sunburnt man in a wife beater appears from around the corner. He's casually eating an oversized cookie and talking with his mouth full. "Hey. I'm Kelly's boyfriend, Tom. Kelly wasn't feeling well. You still want those records? Follow me."

I happen to be a gamblin' man, so as sketchy as this scenario was turning out to be, my curiosity made me say "Alright," and so I followed Tom a block down the street. When we got to the next corner, he said, "I'm in a white van. I'll flash you when I'm coming up on ya. Follow me."

At this point, I was extremely nervous. Thoughts were racing through my head. "Who is Tom, really?" "Where is he taking me?" "Are these records going to be good or what?" "Is Kelly real?" And so on. Tom's white, mostly windowless van came up from around the corner, flashed me, and passed me, so I pulled out to follow him. I then decided to send my girlfriend the following text: "Headed down the rabbit hole of another weird collection. Following a white van to records." I later made myself a note while driving which included the van's license plate information.

We had been driving toward Coney Island for about twenty minutes when I really became concerned with the situation. My mind was racing, but I needed to see these records and I had several hundred dollars burning a hole in my pocket (yes, I broke my own cardinal rule of never traveling to a collection with any money on me and actually made the trip to see the friendly "Kelly" with cash in pocket). This was getting more and more foolish by the second.

After driving for a while, we came up on a traffic light. Tom pulled up next to me and rolled down his passenger window. "Park your car on the corner over there, behind the red pick up," he yelled, still working on his giant cookie. So I made my way into the spot and he pulled up next to me and blocked me in. All I could think now was that this would be where the police would find my body, mutilated, robbed, and oh God who knows what else…

I got out of the car and took a look around, searching out escape routes. I quickly gave up, realizing that if I had to run, I would be leaving my car behind, and I didn't really even know where I was anymore. I had to finish what I started here, and what an awful feeling that was.

Tom walked over to me and said, "Come on, let's see those records." He pointed down into a storm cellar door that lead to a basement. "I'm not going down there, man," I thought. If there's anything I've learned from the countless hours of crime television my girlfriend subjects me to, it's to never get into a car or go into a basement or garage if you have the slightest negative feeling about the situation. I already blew past about five red flags that any other rationally-thinking human being would have responded to as an emergency, so it was time to make some decisions.

"I am not going down there, dude. You should probably move your truck so I can get on my way. This is turning into more than I planned for and I have to get going," I said, panicked, as I started to slink toward my car. Tom became visibly angry, his sunburn turned an even deeper shade of red, and for the first time, I heard him speak without his mouth full. "There's a thousand fucking records in that fucking basement and you're gonna give me five hundred fucking dollars right now. We understand each other?"

There was no one to yell to. The neighborhood was gloomy and quiet and really poor. I couldn't even see other cars passing by, but it could have been my adrenaline that was clouding everything at this point. I was spun.

I stood up straight and sucked in my beer gut and prepared for battle. "You aren't getting shit. Get your van out of my way" I could take Tom, I thought. He's weaponless (as far as I can tell) and about my height. It was then that two larger men, also wearing sleeveless shirts came up out of the storm cellar with crates of records in their hands. "What's the problem, Tommy?" the larger guy said. "Problem is that I hired you guys to grab some records for me and Jeff over here suddenly doesn't want em." Seconds later, I'm face-to-chest with the larger of Tommy's goons. Seconds after that, I'm holding out five hundred dollars cash, hoping it's enough to save me from a punch in face, or worse.

The rest was a blur. All three men filled my Honda to the top with records, to the point where I had to move my driver's seat up so close to the steering wheel that I could barely get back into the car. Tom moved his van and got out and approached my car. "Great doing business with ya Jeff. Kelly thanks you." He smirked, gave my car a pat on the hood and said, "Get lost."

I raced back to the shop, blowing nearly every red light I encountered. Once back at the shop, I shimmied out of my seat and out of the car to take a look in the back seat of my car. I estimated that it was filled with 650 or so records, all of which were totally worthless.

To this day I have no idea what happened other than the fact that I was deceived and robbed. I called the number back the next day but it had been disconnected. It took several garbage pickups to finally rid my shop of the junk, and I guess it could have been worse. I just hope Kelly got her stuff out on time.