Taken for a ride by little con artists

By Lori Clinch

I absolutely adore kids. The fact that we decided to have four children might be concrete proof of that, but I also love chubby little babies and have been known to take them from their mother’s arms and hug them like a politician working the crowd on the campaign trail.

Yet, if there is one thing I have learned about loving little kids, it is that sometimes it will cost you more than you are willing to spend.

Take, for instance, the year I was working Santa Sales at our local grade school.  The seasonal Christmas store is set up so students can purchase gifts for their families and loved ones at bargain prices.

This particular year there was a little dear who could barely peek above the counter and all I could see was his gold rimmed glasses and bangs that he apparently had cut himself.

I tallied his total and told him it came to $14.50. He smiled, dug deep into his pocket and dumped out a conglomeration of bills and change that added up to $13.25.

Tears filled his eyes when I told him he was short on cash. Knowing that he would have to cut out a loved one, I did what I had to do.

“Here honey,” I whispered so no one else would hear. “I’ll cover the extra costs for you.” With that he thanked me, packed up his purchases and went on his way.

Moments later he reappeared with a little buddy at his side, pointed to me and loudly said, “That’s her, Wesley! She’s the lady that will give you money! We can buy whatever we want!”

Sleigh bells were suddenly jinglin’ to the tune that I’d been had.

Did I learn anything from that experience, you might ask? Well, that’s going to be a big fat no. Just last week a young whippersnapper came to our antique shop with two crisp $1 bills burning a hole in his pocket.

Sadly enough for both him and me was the much-coveted purchase of Billy’s dreams – a little cowboy pen and pencil set marked at a whopping $10.

Being the child-loving sort of woman I am, I took the time to take the cash-laden little lad to a section of our antique shop where many lovely antique pens and pencils were located.

I happily pointed out all of the $2 ones, including an antique Mickey Mouse pencil and a pen that was shaped like a hungry dinosaur.

“But I really want the cowboy set,” Billy said to me as he looked up at me with sad eyes. “Do you think you could take any less?”

I’ve been haggled on prices by many a folk, but the determination of this little 5-year-old was a first for me and the playing ground was anything but fair.

“Could you do three dollars?” he asked with a bat of his eyelashes.

“But you only have two dollars,” I gently replied.

“Yes, and I could pay you two and then I’ll bring the other dollar out to you sometime. I live far away and it will be hard to get here,” he said as he skipped along beside me as we made our way back. “But you could trust me for it and I promise I will get another dollar to you.”

Then Billy leapt in the air in an attempt to catch a moth and landed like a cat before dancing around me some more.

I consider myself to be a savvy businesswoman, but there was no way I was going to disappoint little Billy. I took him back to the cowboy set and sold it to him for two crumpled up $1 bills.

“Gosh,” he exclaimed as he ran away with his prized possession. “Thanks lady!”

I felt at peace with my decision and felt as though I had done the right thing.

I had even gone so far as to mentally pat myself on the back for the choices I had made and was happy about it right up until Billy brought his darling, big-eyed little sister, who happened to be toting an $18 vintage purse, to the register.

“There she is,” Billy exclaimed, “that’s the lady who will sell you anything for two bucks!”

I may adore babies, but one thing is for sure. If Billy ever decides to hit the campaign trail, he’ll make one heck of a politician!

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to loriclinch2010@gmail.com.