The One With the Shakedown

It’s difficult to live in New York City for any length of time without being on the receiving end of a shakedown. I had a few doozies when I first moved to the city, but since then I’ve honed my Spidey-sense. I thought I’d long passed the point of being bribed by deliverymen, plumbers, contractors, and the like. Oh, was I wrong.

This time, the culprit was a charitable organization. You can see how a person could be fooled by that. The charity was coming to pick up a desk I wanted to donate. I made an appointment through the organization’s website. I entered a special note: No elevator in building. Fifth-floor walk-up.

The day before, I received a voicemail from a guy at the charity to confirm the appointment. No mention of a specific arrival time or restrictions. In late afternoon the drivers arrived and I buzzed them in the building. They came trudging up the stairs, mopping their brows and complaining about the climb. This kind of complaining is like a dentist being annoyed over having to fill a patient’s cavity. I was so glad they showed up at all and I’d finally get the desk cleared out that I missed the first clue. This is NYC and walk-ups are not uncommon. These guys move furniture all day long. For a living.

Now let’s go to the actual conversation.

Guy #1(We’ll call him Henry): Whoo-wee! There’s no elevator in this building? This is crazy.

Me, trying to keep it light: It’s a good workout.

Guy #2 (We’ll call him Johnny): You think I can sit for a minute? I gotta catch my breath.

Henry: We got a bit of a problem here, ma’am. He shakes his head in sympathy. My boss says we can’t move anything from higher than the third floor.

Johnny takes a bandana from his pocket and wipes his face.

Me, my heart sinking: What? it doesn’t say that on the website. I even wrote it in the special notes.

Johnny looks at the print-out of my information: Yep. It says that right here…No elevator in building. Fifth-floor walk-up.

Me: So, if that’s a problem, why wasn’t I told yesterday when the appointment was confirmed?

Henry and Johnny both shrug.

Johnny reviews the print-out again: Looks like you made this appointment….

Me and Johnny simultaneously: Two months ago.

Johnny: I bet you need to get this desk out of here. He taps Henry on the shoulder. I hate to leave you in a situation, but if I tell my boss we took this desk, we could get in trouble.

Henry: Lots of trouble.

Like a babe in the woods, it’s slowly dawning on me.

Johnny: But, look, I want to help you out. We’ll do you a favor; you do us a favor.

There are only two choices in a shakedown:

  1. Pay up to get your 80-pound desk moved four flights of stairs and into the home of someone who could really use it.
  2. Don’t pay up and take a hammer to your desk (thereby freaking your dog out) so you can move it downstairs piece by piece to leave it on the curb for trash day.

Me: Fine. Just move it.

Henry, jumping up with new found energy: All right! I’ll go get my hand truck.

I could have told him from experience that the hand truck wouldn’t be of any use. The turns in the stairwell are too narrow. But he had to learn that on his own. Thirty minutes later, they decide, instead of lifting the desk and carrying it down the stairs—admittedly a difficult proposition, but they are movers, FFS!—they decide to slide the desk down on its top. By the time it reached the moving truck, the desk was scratched and battered, doubtful anyone could use it unless it had a fresh coat of paint and missing screws reattached.

But I went back into my apartment, my wallet a bit lighter, and I did a little happy dance in all that extra space.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a shakedown? 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 



  1. Wow, that blows, but like you, I probably would have paid to get it out. I recently bought a little co-op. This weekend I’m meeting with a few contractors about the work I would like to get done before moving in. I fear that this will be the opportunity for me to enter Shakedown City.


    1. Congrats, homeowner! Since you’re still on your purchase high, I won’t tell you about the shakedown I got when my refrigerator was delivered. It would just depress you. Besides, I think you’ve got Shakedown Protectors in your midst. 🙂


      1. If ISIS is my # 1 fear (alongside environmental Armageddon), # 2 is getting rooked by a contractor that I hire in good faith who turns out to be a scam artist that packs the job with surprises — exactly what happened with the con artist we hired to do our work at The Grind. I hope that you’re right that I have Shakedown Protectors in my midst!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ugh, that sucks. I hate chancers. Still, at least you got rid of it I guess! I had a taxi driver in Russia try to charge me three times what even websites said was the maximum rip-off amount. I shouted and cursed and threatened to call the police, he laughed and said he could just drive off with my stuff instead. I called his manager. Ended up paying half. Pricks.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pivot. Pivot!! At least you can claim some space back in your home. Does that mean Reggie gets a new place to lay his weary head 😉


  4. That’s the trick.
    Before I moved out to Brooklyn, I moved from the Village to an apartment on 22nd Street, East Side of Manhattan with my golden retriever, Harley. (not the kind of dog you can smuggle in and out of an apartment.) It had been very difficult to find an apartment in my budget that would accept dogs. The Real Estate market was doing well, no dogs, no dogs. The management company of the new studio said yes, I could have my dog, but within a week of moving the super told me that I needed to pay him a few hundred to keep my dog. No, I said, management said yes. He said, it didn’t matter, everyone here who had a dog had paid. I said, well, I can’t pay, I spent all my extra on the fee. Every day he reiterated what he needed. I complained to a friend who said, “Ah, yes, it’s a shakedown.” A shakedown?! I’m not the kind of person who gets in the middle of that, I thought and said. But I was, I’m an easy mark. I didn’t pay, I looked instead for a new place, and found one advertised in the Village Voice as “WOOF! WOOF! One-bedroom in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Dog-friendly.” Another friend got me out of my lease after two months without any fee required, and off Harley and I went to Brooklyn.

    Of course, then I got shaken down by the movers, but not since then!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a story, Amy! Serendipitous that you found that dog friendly place in Cobble Hill. 🙂
      (The shakedown by the movers goes without saying, sadly. I don’t know anyone who has moved without one.)


  5. In the spirit of sending out some opposing good energy, I’ll share what happened with the cable guy who came this week to “cut my cord,” as it were. After he disconnected all the wires and took my remote, he looked at me with my broken foot propped on pillows, so sympathetically, and asked, “Is there anything else at all I can do for you before I leave?” I wanted to ask him to take out the trash, bring in my mail and fetch me a snack, but I was so grateful for his offer, I said no, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Long-delayed reply here, Jackie, but I am just now beginning to get back on my embattled, wobbly feet! Please tell your feet you love them and buy them some cushy socks. They are unsung miracles.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the dialog between you and the movers! It sounds very familiar…..unfortunately. Despite our scam radar, we have been in those situations too. In those situations, it is worth paying a little to get rid the unwanted items. Like the dining room set that we inherited when we bought a summer house in NH and the sofa and the ugly dresser……

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so right, Patti. I had a moment of anger (“You can’t do this to me!”), but then I realized that it was better to put that aside. It felt good to declutter.

      Sounds like you had a lot of decluttering to do in that summer house. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh boy, have I ever! Movers are the worst! I was hoping you were going to say you out-witted these two in some way. But they are pros, and you did need that big desk out, so I’m sure it was worth anything they fleeced you for in the long run. Happy new spacious apartment, Jackie!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You won’t believe this, but there’s a scene in my current WIP centered around just this. Having moved so many times following my husband’s transfers, I got plenty of experience with shady, sneaky movers. And yes, my MC gets her revenge! My writers group loved that.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Don’t have much of this going on here. Those buildings more than two stories high usually have elevators. But I love this post. I was right there with you as they played out their well rehearsed (and no doubt well used) scam

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m so unfamiliar with ‘The Shakedown’ that I probably wouldn’t even have twigged that’s what they wanted! But at least the desk is gone so I guess it was worth it. LOVE that Friends scene!


  10. Duuuuuuuuuude sorry to hear about your shakedown but glad you got some extra space. I usually do stuff on my own or ask friends to help me out, plus I’m probably a novice hoarder so the opportunity to shake me down hasn’t arrived yet.


  11. Used to be, I would have gone with the hammer option just on principle. But as I get older my resistance is waning in favor of a “Oh, what the hell, I want to be DONE with it” attitude. Pathetic.

    And now I will say “pi-VOT, pi-VOT” all the time.


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