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checks & balances

So, my neighbor is a super nice, funny, bumble-y guy. Often we enjoy a few beers on the porch together, share tools, etc. He’s the kind of guy who can’t balance his own checkbook, so he just closes one account and opens up another. I always found this sort of endearing, and quirky until I referred my plumber to him, and he passed the guy a bad check, from a closed account, smacked himself in the head and said, “Whoops, I forgot I closed that account.” Well, just the other day, my neighbor was in his yard and I over heard him on his phone saying, “Whoops, I forgot I closed that account!” Now, I’m beginning to think the guy is kiting checks intentionally. It makes me uncomfortable living next to this petty larceny. Should I call him out on the scam? Or Call the police?


The Moviegoer says: Are you crazy? Report him? He could set your house on fire. Not that you’d deserve it, but you are kind of nosy. As long as he’s not ripping you off, it’s really none of your business. Now, because I share your nosy spirit, I think you’re right. This guy is probably a con-artist (eventually he’ll run out of banks). Watch your tools, don’t loan him any money and don’t refer anyone to him.

The Sales Guy says: It’s a tough one because there are flakes just like your neighbor floating around who bumble and stumble through life constantly apologizing for their foibles. Unfortunately there are sociopathic con-men who use that same persona to fleece people, sometimes in small ways like hustling pool to get out of small debts right up to moves that are major felonies. I guess the litmus test would be...what if he did this to you instead of your plumber friend? What would your recourse be?

The Practical Cogitator says: I guess you could still have few a beers and lend tools with the funny guy. It wouldn’t hurt to insulate a little bit though, find a way to change your locks on your tool shed, tools are expensive and have resale value. If the guy has your spare key, get it back. You should ask another neighbor to check your mail and watch the house when you take your next vacation. But the police? I guess leave them out of it, for now. If you’re wrong, and the guy really is a bumbler, then you’ll have a very uncomfortable neighborhood. Just be smart, enter the lock-down, don’t take any rubber checks, wooden nickels, etc...

The Straight Skinny: What you think and what you know are two different things. First you thought he was a bumbler, now you think maybe he’s hanging paper. But you don’t know either of these things; you have no evidence. Here’s another possibility that is equally unsupported by the facts you have at your disposal: Your neighbor wrote a couple of checks from an account that he forgot he’d closed.

Stupid? Yes. Unthinkable? Hardly. I can’t imagine myself doing it, but then I leave most of the check-writing to my more practical and frugal partner, and I’ve done a lot of stupid, embarrassing things of which I would never have thought myself capable. There’s certainly nothing that justifies calling the police.

That said, you’re well served to have taken note of this behavior. The proper course of action is to reserve judgment—and I mean really; you don’t have any sound basis to be suspicious of him—and don’t take any of his checks.

The Wheelman says: Wait until you find out what happens with your buddy the plumber. I’ve never known a plumber to let a bill slide. These guys carry a pipe-wrench around all day for crying out loud.

Call your plumber and ask him if he’s been paid yet.

If he hasn’t, and he’s anything like my plumber, your neighbor will be wishing you’d simply called the police.

The Cop says: Oh yeah, by all means call the police. Really. We’re all just sitting around the precinct with nothing to do, like the Maytag repairman. Right? Or we’re sitting around trying to figure out how to take injury time off, right? Or, I know! We’re hanging around at the donut shop, huh?

Do you have any idea what it’s like trying to keep some semblance of law and order around here? You think we have time to run out and investigate every story dreamt up by suspicious neighbors? “Hey, Sarge, we got a report there’s a guy who might have written a couple checks from an old checkbook. Should we send out the S.W.A.T. team?”

Look, I’m the guy who’ll have to go in there and arrest your neighbor if it comes to that. It’s not fun. In the meantime, just let me get on with trying to keep the community safe. Watch your tools, and if you’re drinking beer, leave the car keys in your pocket.

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