Smith: Beware of bicycle buyer’s car key collateral

Selling a nice, used bicycle? If a prospective buyer offers to meet you somewhere so he can take it for a test ride, you might want to take along a burly buddy and a video drone.

Santa Rosa cyclist Eric Fessenden received several replies to a Craigslist ad he posted for his Douglas Fusion road bike. Most of the callers sounded questionable.

But Fessenden had no particular qualms about the guy who offered to meet him the other afternoon in front of the Whole Foods on Yulupa Avenue. Before he left the house with the bike, his wife confided, “I have a bad feeling about this.”

Fessenden arrived at the market and met a fellow who looked to be in his mid-20s. The guy asked to ride the bike, a reasonable request, and he handed Fessenden a set of car keys as security.

He pedaled out of the parking lot. He didn’t come back.

Fessenden quickly realized the car keys in his hands were the props of a con man. He’d hoped to get $700 for that bike, so we can imagine how he felt.

He phoned the Santa Rosa Police Department and connected with a helpful and friendly technician. Fessenden tells of learning several things from her.

One was that the thief may well have suggested meeting at the Whole Foods because there are no security cameras in the front of the store.

The police tech also made the shocking revelation that Fessenden’s description of the thief was similar to that provided to the SRPD by a man who earlier that same day lost a $10,000 bike to the same ruse.

Fessenden said the SRPD employee technician told him that in the other case, the man posing as a buyer proposed meeting the seller at the same spot, in front of the Whole Foods. But that didn’t work for the seller of the $10,000 bike, so he met the stranger somewhere downtown.

The result was the same. The wallet the stranger gave to the owner of the expensive bike proved to contain nothing authentic or of value. Fessenden guesses that both times the crook had a vehicle parked nearby, he pedaled to it, loaded up the bike and drove off.

About finished kicking himself, Fessenden suggests that anyone in a similar situation ask to see the stranger’s drivers license and vehicle, and jot down or photograph the numbers on the license and plate.

It the person has keys as collateral but can’t point out his car and demonstrate that the keys work on it, excuse yourself and dial 911.

Fessenden wishes he’d thought to take a second bike and ride along with the guy, but it also gives him the willies to imagine riding off with someone possibly intent on ripping him off.

You cyclists out there may have other ideas for clipping this scam.


ANY DINNER PLANS for Tuesday, March 3?

Six restaurants will cook up something special for Dinner is Served, a clever and tasty idea of the Santa Rosa Symphony League. That night, the restaurants will serve multi-course meals, charge guests $40 to $100 each, keep just enough of that to cover their costs and donate the rest to the Music for Our Schools program.

Participating in this inaugural Dinner is Served are Catelli’s in Geyserville, Taverna Sofia in Healdsburg and Santa Rosa’s East West Café, Bistro 29, Ca’Bianca and Sweet T’s.

Reservations are required and can be made at


IT HAS RAINED, quite decently, since the second half of November.

Musician and shaman Francis Rico Hayhurst can’t prove that the rain dance and water ceremony he led for about 50 people on Bodega Head back on Nov. 15 bears any credit for that. But who could argue that it didn’t hurt?

Hayhurst intends to prime the pump with another ceremony on the Head this morning. Folks will begin to gather at 9:45 a.m., with the dance set for 11.

Hayhurst makes clear, “This is not a Native American event, and no native prayers, traditions, clothing or traditional dances will be used. It is a multi-cultural event, and people from every and any tradition are welcome.”

He asks that rain dancers wear flip-flops and step gently “so the plants don’t take a beating.”

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and On Twitter @CJSPD

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