I saw two mobile phone-related incidents this week. While the victims weren’t hurt, their stories should make us more vigilant when using public transport systems.

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Incident 1: Snatched
Cubao is indeed a busy place to pass by, having an uncanny mix of people–from those who buy Starbucks to those who sip a cup of coffee from some eateries around. Many people walk along Cubao to go to their respective offices, boutiques, bus stations and food establishments. It’s undeniable that some people take advantage of this chaotic scene.

A few days back, a girl riding an ordinary bus yelled at someone. I was walking along EDSA-Cubao. Curious who she was yelling at, I saw the snatcher diving under a steel fence. He accidentally lost his grip on the phone while rushing to break away. The unit was quickly recovered though and the snatcher blended with the crowd.

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Incident 2 – Swindled
A man rode the bus I was into. I didn’t really care until he talked with someone. At first, I thought he just saw a friend.

Unintentionally, their conversation hooked me. Curious what the conversation is about, I glanced, quickly took my eyes off them and secretly listened to what has been happening.

The man (let’s call him “The Seller”) was actually selling a mobile phone to the passenger (henceforth Passenger A). Priced at P500, The Seller started the sales talk. He said, “Bilhin mo naman ‘tong cellphone ko. Nokia ‘yan, original.” [Will you please buy my phone? It’s an original Nokia unit.]

Passenger A did not respond, but The Seller continued his spiel.

“P500 ko lang binebenta ‘to. Tingnan mo, o, original ‘yan. Hindi ‘yan China phone, colored pa.” [I’m selling it for only P500. Look, it’s original. It’s not a phone made in China, plus it has a coloured LCD.]

With its price and features considered, who wouldn’t be provoked to act on impulse?

In an attempt to solicit sympathy, The Seller added, “Pare, kailangan ko lang talagang ibenta. Talo sa sugal, e.” [Man, I just need to sell this because of gambling (and losing money on it).]

Surprisingly, Passenger A said no.

Failure to convince Passenger A did not stop the seller though. This time, he went in front and tried to spot potential “buyers”. Then he saw two other guy passengers (Passenger B and C).

The Seller rehashed his spiel but essentially it was the same. Passengers B and C were surprised of the random, personalised selling but they entertained him. Passenger B said, “Wala kaming pera, pamasahe lang.” [We only have money for our fare.] However, Passenger C was interested to buy the unit. The Seller enthusiastically handed out the phone. Passenger C was examining the unit’s condition. He looked satisfied.

The Seller got the phone back and was (un)surprisingly willing to do some important demo, from its menu, functionality and other codes, to exhibit his reliability. The conversation continued among the three. Passenger B even pulled his phone out of his pocket–he has that Nokia phone.

At this point, I’d like to clear that Passenger B and C know each other.

The signal is very clear now. Passenger C has been persuaded to buy the phone, given the benefits bought from such price and his friend’s ownership of the same unit.

After a couple of minutes and some persuasion, Passenger C grabbed a couple of bills worth several thousands of pesos from his pocket. Momentarily he kept the bill on his hand.

He asked for the phone now. This time, The Seller placed it inside a black pouch. Passenger C (now The Buyer) re-examined the unit. The phone still has power. The phone was handed out alternately between The Seller and The Buyer. Whenever The Buyer asked The Seller to give him the unit, the latter actually did but he always got the phone back. The Seller was ensuring he has done the “necessary checks” for The Buyer’s convenience in using the unit. He needed to remove the SIM card, to reset the phone, etc.

The Buyer became restless with the current scenario. Perhaps he can’t understand The Seller getting the unit every now and then. To be honest, I was expecting The Seller to run away when the opportunity comes. As if he has read my mind, he reassured The Buyer, “Huwag kang mag-alala, hindi ko itatakbo ‘yan.” [Don’t worry, I won’t get away with this (phone).]

One observation I saw: the phone was always inside the pouch whenever The Seller returns it to The Buyer.

The Seller finally gave the phone to The Buyer and said, “O, sige, sa’yo na ‘yan!” [Fine, this phone is yours now!]

He immediately went off the bus. I didn’t see when The Buyer gave his P500-bill to him but I presume he already did.

When did he find out he was swindled?

The Buyer pulled the phone from its pouch. It’s a demo phone of the same unit, not the phone The Seller had shown.

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