“A bag from Chipotle was dropped off at our door,” the text said.
“What?” I shot back.
“Someone delivered it to our front step.”
I wasn’t home, but my daughter was.
This was a puzzle. Did we get mistaken for another house, and now someone in my neighborhood was dying of starvation, looking for their order?
“Leave it there. Maybe they will realize the mistake and come back and get it.”
Later, our security camera captured a boy on a bike showing up. He looked a little suspicious as he glanced out in the street, circled a few times, and grabbed it.
I thought nothing of it, figuring he was the rightful owner. We had checked the contents before he showed up, and it contained a single bowl plus a drink.
The next afternoon, I happened to be home and was walking through the living room; I saw an unfamiliar car pulling up, and I watched as he dropped something on the step.
I said to my daughter,
“Who is that?”
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew we had gotten a second delivery. I raced to the front door and saw the familiar brown bag, just like the day before. Quickly, I picked it up and ran to the vehicle at the end of my driveway. My street was busy, so he had to wait for traffic to pass.
He frowned as I approached.
“Is something wrong with your order?” he asked.
“No. No one by this name lives here. The same thing happened yesterday, and I think you have the wrong address.”
He pulled his car into the street and parked at the curb. He started scrolling through his deliveries.
“This is the correct spot. You didn’t order this?”
“No,” I said, handing it to him. This time there were two meals instead of one.
I was starting to see the game being played but didn’t have the full details of it. I looked around, trying to see if anyone was coming to do a pick up, but there were just cars speeding by in both directions.
As he looked on his phone for an explanation, I glanced up again. I was on the sidewalk in front of my house, and across the street, I saw a kid who resembled the one from the day before. He slowly pedaled toward us but on the opposite side of the road.
“I wonder if this is his,” I said.
I walked around to the back of the car and yelled,
“Did you order food?”
He was directly across from me now and stopped.
It was so noisy that he seemed to have a hard time hearing me.
“Did you order this?”
He looked at me angrily and snapped back,
“No!” And then turned his bike and slowly rode away. For an instant, I felt terrible about asking him, and his reaction made me feel like I was the guilty party, like I was profiling him.
“He said it wasn’t his. I don’t want this food. What should I do with it?” I said, handing it back.
“I will call the help desk to see what we can do.”
There was no “help,” really. He was becoming exasperated with the poor communication while speaking to someone who understood very little English.
“No! She got an order. She doesn’t want another one! This one isn’t hers.”
“Can you hold?”
“Why not?” He barked. He was a kind man, but his patience was being tested.
After a long wait, the helper returned.
“Does she want a free meal?”
“No! She does not! Try to understand me. She got an order that isn’t hers! I want to know who placed this and was the address this one?”
“Can you hold?”
I never saw such a murderous look overcome a person before.
“Why not!” He said between gritted teeth.
Trying to free him from this predicament, I said,
“How about you take the food? I’m sure you have other work to do, and this is holding you up.”
“We can’t take the food back to the restaurant, but I was hoping to get some information, so this won’t keep on happening to you. Should I block your address from our route?”
“Yes. Take the food for yourself, but give me the bag.”
My criminal radar was going off.
He took the two bowls.
“My wife is going to be so happy. This is my last run, and now she won’t have to cook.”
At least something good was coming out of this.
I took a gigantic rock, placed it inside the bag, and put it on the front step. I wanted to see if anyone would appear. Whoever was doing this was up to no good. I realized that possibly a stolen credit card was being used to place orders, have the food delivered, and then gathered up at my address. I was an innocent party to a scam being run.
My daughter had looked outside when I confronted the boy on the bike, and she confirmed it was the culprit.
The decoy bag sat untouched. Had I scared him off?
When UPS pulled up an hour later, I became more concerned. Now the merchandise had been upped from food to clothes. My daughter took the tracking information off the H & M package, and she discovered that this purchase had been overnighted. The thief had been so confident with the first drop going so well, he was online shopping with greater confidence and spending a lot of someone else’s money.
I had reached my limit and called the police.
“We have gotten food, and now clothing delivered that doesn’t belong to us.”
He started laughing.
“So nothing is being stolen from you but being delivered to you?”
I was annoyed with how lightly he was taking this.
“You understand that this is someone with stolen credit cards, buying things and having them come here?”
That seemed to help him get the picture.
“I have heard of drug deals happening like that. They find a house where people are gone during the day and exchange money and drugs on the front steps. But not food or clothes.”
He told me to let them know if it continued.
My daughter noticed that the person who ordered the UPS delivery attempted to stop it, but it came to us anyway.
All went quiet after that. Every time I got in my car, I looked for that kid on the bike, and he had vanished into thin air.
This spring, I saw a delivery driver sprint across my front yard. We have this happen often, so I didn’t pay much attention. When I retrieved it, I noticed a name on it that wasn’t familiar.
Oh, no! Not this again.
The package was from Best Buy. Inside were a nice new pair of Apple AirPods. I called the 1-800 number to speak with a representative for the store.
“If that was bought on a stolen credit card, there’s nothing we can do. You got yourself a free pair of earbuds!” He laughed most irritatingly, and I had to hold down a scream.
“I don’t want stolen things in my possession. That’s wrong.”
He cleared his throat, remembering our call was being recorded.
“Oh, um, you could return them so they can be restocked.”
“That’s my plan.”
I hung up, wondering what happened to ethics.
My daughter had heard the entire conversation.
“I bet this is the same kid from a year ago.”
“If it is, he is horrible at this. Why would he target the same house if I caught him before?”
I decided to put the box in my room and deal with it later.
That afternoon, I got a text:
“He showed up on camera and knocking on the front door.”
Our small time crook was at it again. From the footage, we determined he was about thirteen, and this time he had shown up without his bike.
“He will probably come back later,” I replied.
And he did. Unreal as it seems, he came back that evening to my front door. I had the windows open, and I heard a loud knock. I looked out the security eyehole and saw him.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” He asked.
I was trying to decide what to do. Should I confront this again or let it slide? Was this worth my time? I could make the return and call it a day.
Of course, right then, my daughter dropped something in the kitchen. It sounded like an explosion, sending the message that someone was home. So much for having a second to consider my options. He heard it and began frantically pounding louder. I wanted to tell him off, but as usual, I wasn’t in control anymore. I felt a calm come over me.
I walked to the window and said,
“Can I help you?”
I decided to keep the screen between us. If someone can steal, they can also carry a weapon to get their way.
He sprang over to be in front of me.
“I had a pair of earbuds ordered. I think they came here by mistake.”
“Yes, here I will show you.”
He turned his phone toward me to show an order.
I glanced at it, pretending to believe him. I could have won an award for my performance.
“Do you have them?”
“No.” Technically, they were in the other room.
His face fell. I didn’t want to lie to him, but I also needed more information at that moment.
“It says they came to this address today. This morning.”
His voice was shaking, trying to convince me of what he was saying. I decided to drop a bomb.
“I do have them. I will give them to you if you introduce me to your parents.”
This made him instantly panic.
“No! Please! Can I just have them?”
“No. If you allow me to walk with you to your house, have your parents come to the door, I will give them to you.”
“I will prove it’s me. Here’s my student ID.”
He showed me his phone again, but I kept my eyes locked on his.
“I want to meet your parents.”
“Where do you live that they came to my address by mistake?”
He mumbled off some random numbers. This child needed help with his deception skills if this was the career of his dreams.
“I want to meet your parents.”
“No. They will be mad at me.”
“Why? If you ordered these, why would they be angry?”
“I got into a fight in school, and they told me I can’t have anything right now.”
“So, how did you order these then?”
“My friend let me use his credit card.”
Now we were getting closer to the truth.
“Please don’t ask to see my parents.”
“I can do whatever I want at this point. I have known about you since a year ago. You had food and another item delivered here. You stole them, and I called the police. They were looking for you and might still be now.”
His eyes got gigantic.
“You need to stop this before you get into trouble. What if you came here and I had a gun? You don’t know me. You are going to strangers’ homes and engaging in dangerous behavior. I’m not giving them to you. I’m taking them back to the store.”
“I want them so bad!” He looked like he was in physical pain.
“This isn’t the way to get them. You are smarter than this, and you know you are.”
Tears began to form in his eyes. There went my plan to dress him down verbally! God is nicer than I am.
“I keep getting into fights at school. My parents are mad at me.”
“So why don’t you show them that you can do better? Do it for yourself? You don’t have to live like this. You are smart; I know you are. You can have whatever you want. God wants you to have the best in life.”
Where had all my anger gone?
It was like no one had ever said a kind word to him, and he was soaking it up. I could feel my words touching his wounds.
As I poured on the encouragement, he broke down and told me all the scam details.
“Do you know why we picked your house?”
Inwardly, the word “we” set me back. This wasn’t a one man operation after all.
He looked over at my neighbor’s house.
“You don’t have cars in the driveway, and it doesn’t seem like you have a lot of people at home.”
“You have no idea how wrong you are, and this is why I’m telling you to stop this right now. I have you on camera from a year ago and today. I called the police once, and I will do it again. This whole street has cameras, and you are going to get caught.”
He looked at his feet.
“Promise me you will stop this, and I won’t turn the footage over to them.”
“I promise. Thank you. I’m sorry I did this. I can do better.” Humility was beginning to set in.
“You can quit right now. Do something to earn money. Show your parents they don’t know you. You can come back and talk to me anytime you want. You are going to end up in a place you won’t like if you don’t stop this right now at this very moment.”
“You have to leave this behind and work on something better. You can do it. Has anyone ever told you that? Has anyone ever said you were smart? Let God show you that.”
“No. I just get yelled at.”
“Well, then they don’t see what I see. Just prove them wrong.”
“I’m sorry. I promise I will quit. Thank you.”
As he walked away, he seemed somewhat dejected. I noticed on the back of his shirt he had an advertisement for a local church.
I could blame his age on the behavior he displayed, but that isn’t the problem. He thought a material item would fulfill a gaping hole in his heart. But really, he wanted recognition of his importance on earth. His logic was to try and stop the pain by obtaining an item. But for how long? Don’t adults call that retail therapy?
There is nothing wrong with having nice things, but it’s how they are acquired and where they fit in on the list of importance. Chasing them down and taking from others isn’t necessary when you know that your blessings can be obtained by applying your faith. He didn’t understand that and was acting like the rest of the greedy, desperate world.
He didn’t know these promises:
In Psalm 37:4-5 it says:
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. (ESV)
For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (ESV)
This young man wasn’t born to be a trouble maker, stealing other people’s food. He was put here for a more significant reason, and like all of us, he is seeking something higher. At some point, when he has worn out all options, he will figure out that only God can satisfy that type of hunger.