I don't know where this story should live. For now, I'm letting it have space on my fitness business' website because I'm not sure where else to put it but I know I HAVE to get it out and help someone else. Once I find the appropriate spot for it to rest or I feel like I've accomplished the mission of informing people I'll remove it from here. Until then please read on.
This past Saturday I made a significant financial donation to a couple fo scumbag scammers. I genuinely hope that it's put food on the table for a family or bought a kid something they desperately needed. I hope it's helped pay for a medical bill or is a blessing for someone who needed it more than I did. But in order to "raise my frequency" and not anihilate my integrity, I'm telling myself that's exactly what it was. My $600 charitable donation to someone who needed it more than I did.
$600 is a drop-in-the-bucket for some people. For others it could be a monthly salary (yes, I said monthly), a week's salary or a weekend side hustle. No matter how it's earned, it's exchanged for someone's time. This time it was my time, my effort and my pride. Once I realized I had been scammed and done everything they asked, I slid down the wall and balled into my hands (yes, in front of my kids and yes, in front of a complete stranger.)
I live in a bubble. A people-pleasing, responsible citizen, trusting bubble. And I like it there because I fee like people deserve the benefit of a doubt. Unfortunately that leaves me vulnerable. I forget that selfish, rotten people exist and will sit on the phone with you while you frantically try to accomodate their requests because you don't know any better. But they do. This kind of event rarely ends up on Insta or Facebook; who in their right mind would want to tell ANYONE how much of a dumbsh*t they felt like or what they allowed to happen or that they were so stupidly taken advantage of?! Me! Because I'll be damned if this happens to anyone else simply because I was too embarassed to put it out there.
I also know that there are honest, hard working individuals, like me, who trust people and will do whatever it takes to "make it right". They show up with 110% effort and put themselves on the back burner regardless. So if you want to know the details of how some d-bag got the best of me, read on. Otherwise please just take with you the gist and know that if something comes up in your life that causes you to worry, fear or RUSH LIKE A FRICKIN CHICKEN WITH IT'S HEAD CUT OFF then it is from the enemy and NOT an emergency and also NOT worth losing your integrity over. Obviously there are emergency situations but for the love of God PLEASE give yourself time to adequately assess the situation before taking any action.
In hindsight, there were so many signs to stop. God tried to intervene. But my worry and anxiety and emotions were through the roof. A beautiful, sunny Saturday morning I decided to bring my boys with me to my personal training studio. We were only going to be there a couple of hours and I was meeting friends for a class. We didn't reserve spots for ourselves because Saturdays aren't typically packed and we went in with full expectations to have a bike in the 8 am cycling class and room for yoga afterward. The class was sold out! Holy hallelujah, thank you Jesus! I was on cloud 9. We were able to fit in to the yoga class though so we warmed up on the treadmills and chatted about how awesome it felt to have a jammin Saturday morning. About 10 minutes into yoga, my friend (also my front desk staff) jumped up to answer the ringing phone. An automated message from our utility company called with a shut-off notice; that we had been red-flagged for non payment on our account and we were scheduled to have our gas and electric turned off in about 30 minutes (should-have-been sign #1) and they provided a phone number to contact to get it taken care of. I panicked; I cannot have a full studio (and also the co-tenant in our building who was working with her clients) not have heat or electricity. I was mad because we have automatic withdrawls from my checking account and I know my bill is current (sign #2). I called the number and spoke with a gentleman who provided me with an overdue amount; 3 months unpaid plus surcharges and late fees. He was kind enough to waive the fees if I was able to make a payment today and they would contact the workers who were on their way to shut us off.
You guys, he even had my service address number. I told him nothing. He instructed me that since it was the weekend I'd need to go to one of the local retailers to pay my bill because he's unable to collect the late payment via visa or debit (sign #3) and that I'd need to pay it in cash via pre-paid card. All I knew was that you can in fact pay your utility bill at places like Walgrees and Wal-Mart. I never second guessed it. I didn't know that your utility company CANNOT shut you off in the winter. I didn't know that if you have been late and they show up to disconnect you that you can give them a check or payment right then and they won't shut you off. I've never been late or not paid my bill, HOW WOULD I HAVE KNOWN THAT?!
I went to the bank, pulled out the cash that left me short in my account and thought "I'll pay this now so I don't get shut off and then raise holy hell with these guys on Monday!" When I was at the bank my dad was there (intervention #1) and I told him frantically what was going on. As I was talking, my friend called and I missed him say "they don't shut people off on the weekends." ....
I went to the local Rite Aid, called the "utility company customer rep" and spoke with him about the next instructions after arguing with him that I have proof on my NYSEG account that I've paid my bill because it's automatically taken out every month. Not only that but I have proof it was taken out of my account. He asked for confirmation numbers which my utility provider doesn't give for automatic payments, it just shows on my online account as paid. "You're telling me I can't send you a screenshot via e-mail of the paid invoices and withdrawals!" I was pissed. He responded "You can, I would have to put it on as a disputed transaction which they can take care of for you on Monday however I have to collect a payment from you in order for you to avoid being disconnected. If they find you have overpaid, they will either refund your payment or credit your account, whichever you prefer."
I carry the phone conversation inside and ask the girl behind the counter (who was on her phone and uninterested in helping me; intervention #2) if I could get a money oder. She replys "sorry we don't have those here anymore" and she goes into the office (intervention #3) and the gentleman on the phone, John, says "no, it's a prepaid gift card like you would use for phone cards, gift cards, etc". I could not find them or an employee ANYWHERE in the store. I tell him that they don't even have it here so I'm going to have to drive across town. This jerkbag stayed on the phone with me the whole time. I finally get the attention of the employee again and she helps me find the small end cap of gift cards and he tells me to purcahse the Money Pak cards; 2 of them because they only go up to $500 each and I owe $600 so because they require a $5.95 fee they'll take that off my bill (sign #4). The employee went BACK INTO THE OFFICE (intervention #4)! Lady! I need help, the utility company is on their way to shut my studio off!!! SMH.
I purchase the cards, get back into my car and scratch off the code on the back, read it to him (duh, Arielle, frickin duh!) and wait for my confirmation codes. I get back to the studio while I'm still on hold. My friend and her husband whisper "I think this is a scam." Seriously?! My 10:30 am client is warming up on the rower and I'm having a heart attack. John gets back on the phone, reads me my second confirmation number and I get off the phone. I have my 30 minute session with my client who was so sweet about me being a little late. After she leaves I call the number on my utility bill. The automation greeting SOUNDS THE EXACT SAME except for one minor detail at the end. The office is closed; if it's an emergency I can call 911. Otherwise the office is open on Monday.
I call back the number for John and I get the same greeting, push "0" and another gentleman answers. I say "is this the number for NYSEG?" He replies that it is; the payment collection center for disconnection. I say "is it really?" and I hear a click. I call back and am forwarded to an automated response (cue heart-in-the-throat). I wait. I call back again, speak to the same dude and ask "Hi, is this the number for NYSEG?" to which he responds that it's the billing department (que rage and a freak-out). I ask "wait, the billing department or the shut-off department?! CLICK. I dropped to the floor and sobbed. My bos came over and wrapped their arms around me. The other lady in the building who had finished with her clients came and asked if everything was okay. I blubbered out what happened, she awkwardly hugged me while I burind my face in my hands. I called my friends and confirmed what had happened, closed up the studio and took my boys to the local police department to file a report.
That was all before noon. On a beautiful Saturday morning after an amazing week. Life sometimes sucker punches you right to the gut. But this is not a situation that I will allow to steal my joy or comprimise my faith. My God is a big God and he can handle this. Whoever took my money must need it more than I do. And karma's a b*tch. I also found out from the officer who helped me (whom I am so thankful for) that this same scenario happened to another local business owner just a few blocks down. So I am writing this to cope and to help any other naive soul to avoid this happening to them. We work too damn hard to be raked over the coals because other d-bags are okay robbing people instead of working with integrity.
I have a friend who teaches meditation and at the end, before you open your eyes she says "remember, there is no hurry." The biggest lesson I learned is that I will never again give myself away to anything that causes me to fear, worry or hurry. Those things are not meant for your good but to destroy you. I will never hurry like that for anyone ever again. I should have known. I sleep well regardless because I may help someone and I already have. God is my provider and I will have faith big enough to prove it.