January 28, 2011

Scam Alert: Curb Number Painters Target Noe Valley


An old scam is back. The economy must be improving if the dregs of the con artist world can afford to flyer the neighborhood and buy stencils and spray paint. Murphstahoe tweeted (with photo) the first reference to this go-around and we've seen many since. Today we received the above image of the succinct notice left on L's door (typos and grammar errors preserved):
IMPORTANT NOTICE

Tomorrow fresh new address numbers will be painted on the curb in front of all the homes on your block, this is an important service as this is where Police, Fire, Delivery and Emergency personnel first look for your home. We estimate the value of the curb number to be $15.00, however, all donations, large or small, are greatly appreciated, if you do not wish to have this paint service performed, please tape a Notice to your curb and we will bypass your home.

Thank you!
Community Services
We couldn't find anything on the SFGov website to explain the process for painting curb numbers (however if you'd like to paint the curb around your driveway red check this out). But there are plenty of references to this scam around the country: Los Angeles (2009); Cleveland (2008); Gilroy (2006); Houston (2002); and (originally?) Los Angeles (1997) with the comment: "The scam has been going on sporadically for more than 20 years." Even Yelpers are on to this one.

So when you see address numbers painted on the curb...Is that resident a rube? A target?

35 comments:

ajw said...

I'm pretty paranoid about scams, but having had first-hand experience with this, I can tell you it's not a "scam". It doesn't take a rocket scientist to read the notice. Nowhere does it say you MUST do this; nowhere does it say you MUST pay for this. And having met the guy who's been doing this, I have to say it's a more creative, and certainly more useful way to make money than sitting on the street corner rattling change in a coffee cup...
How is this a scam? No one's forcing anybody to do anything. The worst that can happen is your curb gets your house number painted on it for free. Hardly an eyesore, hardly damaging to your property value. just a guy doing something to earn some cash. So don't pay him. Or look at it like, here's a guy doing something useful, only if you want it, for a reasonable price.
Think about that the next 15 times you drop a buck into somebody's coffee cup for no reason...you KNOW you do it once a week just to "feel good" about yourself. At least with this guy, you're getting something in return.

salsa said...

No, sorry, it's a scam. It states that numbers will be painted, follows it with bs about how emergency personnel will somehow get to you faster because of it, and then tries to guilt you into paying because it's some sort of charity. The kicker of tape-an-opt-out note on the curb is beyond ridiculous.

What really goes down: numbers get painted, painter knocks on the door and asks for $15. Rube says, "wait, I didn't ask for this" and painter says "well you saw the note and you didn't put a note out, so you must have wanted it." Rube pays, numbers are washed away by the next rain.

Scam, no question about it.

Anonymous said...

No, they don't wash away. They painted my neighbors # incorrectly about 2 years ago... and its still there, taunting the police and fire department with incorrect information.

Anonymous said...

/So when you see address numbers painted on the curb...Is that resident a rube? A target? /

Not necessarily. Every few years, someone comes around my neighborhood and does it "right" - they distribute a flier saying to indicate if you DO want it done. I always opt out, and then do it myself. So having the numbers doesn't always mean the homeowner's been duped, nor that there's always a scam going on.

Steven, Roswell GA

Mi Piace Kate Design said...

This happened a few days ago on our street- The painter came to our door for payment, and he became angry and started yelling, saying we owed him the money, and he deserved payment. He was really agitated, said he'd be back for the payment, swearing as he walked on to the next house.

Ocean Beach said...

I think maybe a better word for this is "hustle." I remember this same hustle from my parents' neighborhood near Stern Grove about 35 years ago, and I've heard of it in places from Redwood City to Seattle. I imagine it's practiced in urban and suburban areas worldwide. It seems to be executed with a different skill and style by each practitioner, with some adopting the polite style of a simple workman trying to make a buck and others resembling an aggressive panhandler with a paint can. Many of these people seem to be sole practitioners, but I would not be at all surprised to find that some of the more enterprising practitioners create larger operations in which they organize groups of hired hands to do the painting and collecting, perhaps traveling from place to place to carry out the hustle.

Anonymous said...

This is an outright scam. Don't pay them,and you also are NOT obligated to opt out. Do nothing.

yuenkay said...

This reminds me of those people who come to "wash" your windshield when you're trying to get gas. Even if it's technically not a scam (because it's asking for donations) it is still preying on people's fear of confrontation and I would at least consider it a form of harassment.

Anonymous said...

I got the notice on Dolores st. I taped the note to the curb and said, "no thank you". The wierdo came back later and wanted his money. I said no. He got supper angry and cussed and left. Here's the scary part, he came back at 11pm demanding his, "spray cans ans stencils".
I was going to call the cops but he ran away. F-ing scary!

Anonymous said...

They did the scam up market street. I'm at work all day so only glanced at the note and did nothing. The next day I came home any all three doors of my building had been tagged with the paint. Jerks

Anonymous said...

I gave the guy five bucks and he was happy to take it. The numbers look good and they haven't washed off in the rain. It's shady business tactics but it's not a scam. For every person who gives the dude a few bucks, there are ten that give him nothing. I suspect he barely breaks even...

Marvin said...

In the middle and late 60's I toured 30-states during college summers painting numbers on curbs, without prior consent (solicitation) of the homeowner, relying on contributions.
The average donation was $1.00, and averaging in those who were not at home when we collected, (about 24%), and those who did not pay, (1%), we averaged .75 per house. This was enough to net $100. per day, seven days a week. More money per week than my father earned.

People genuinely endorsed the outcome; a neighborhood where you could actually find and read one's house number. If we'd have asked first, maybe only 1 in 3 would have been done, and the outcome for the neighborhood would be practically worthless. Our way put house numbers in front of each and every house. Reliable.

No, we didn't suggest $15.00 per house, or even 2 bucks. But we were very efficient in painting and the 75-cents per house was profitable then, as I would suggest it would be today.

The paint didn't wash off, and the numbers served well for 2 to 3 years. No one was cheated. But the most quoted feedback was, "here's a buck for enterprise."

We leaned free market entrepreneurship, made a good
profit, saw the country, and met a lot of wonderful people, all the while making enough money to pay the cost of college.

Anyone who says this is a scam, has not gone back to the neighborhoods and gotten feedback from the homeowners; nor talked to the pizza deliveryman about how the numbers have helped him.

mthomason@rmi.net

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing: If this were actually a service that the majority of people wanted and were willing to pay for, the city would do it.

The city doesn't, because we don't. Maybe some people do. But less than half. I'd guess that it's WAY less than half. So anyone who goes around trying to guilt or bully people into paying for something they didn't ask for and didn't want is a scam artist or, more charitably, a hustler.

Sounds like you didn't have to guilt or bully anyone in the 60s. But it's almost certainly how it works today. I'd imagine the going rate is $15 these days because most people don't pay anything.

Signing the letter "Community Services" is also evidence of a scam, since at first glance it seems like an official neighborhood or city organization, instead of "John the Traveling Number Painting Guy."

Anonymous said...

I believe the guy was arrested in my neighborhood today. I feel bad for him. It was a "scam" or a "hustle," but he seemed like a nice guy......

Anonymous said...

I actually asked a coupe of my neighbors if they'd pay me $10 to paint their number on the sidewalk and the said they would ha! It really is an important service though, I only thought about doing this because a man thought he was having a heart attack and called 911 but they couldn't find his house in our neighborhood.. and luckily he wasn't having a heart attack like he thought. If you have prior consent and the homeowner pays you like two bucks I don't see anything wrong with that

Anonymous said...

This is now happening in Van Nuys, CA. Woman was extremely rude, claiming we 'owed' her the money, even though we'd bothered to put the notice over the curb, as requested. When she came to the door, we said we'd put in out to say no. Her response was "no you didn't, you owe me money". I told her to get off my lawn or I'd call the cops. It's more than a scam. It's a shakedown.

sfboy888@yahoo.com said...

Hello, I'm in the West Portal Area in San Francisco and would like someone to pain my address on the curb. People can't seem to find my house. In contrary to folks who are against this, I'm for one who really needs this service. Please email me if you or know someone who can do this. sfboy888@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

A quick glance on google will show that at least Scottsdale AZ hopes you will paint on the numbers....and will loan their residents a stencil kit.
http://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/safety/CurbAddressPainting . Numbers on the curb are good in most places....maybe not Noe Valley. I would be happy to pay $10-15 to get mine painted....the stencil kit alone would cost me $8.99
PRC

Anonymous said...

This is now occurring in Pittsburg/Antioch area. I believe in and encourage free enterprise but, I don't care for the tactics employed here. If it is a legitimate service that there is a demand for, give people a chance to opt in. Don't put the onus on them to opt out. The fact that they never provide a phone number or a business name speaks volumes. When the guy came to collect a couple of years ago I told him the same thing- I won't pay because of the tactics employed. He was polite about it and I kind of felt guilty afterwards. This time I put the flyer on the curb. However, I just decided to pull it back up. The tactics being used in this venture are just wrong.

BTW, to that cat who thinks that the city should provide the service if there is a legitimate need: The last thing we need is more incompetent services from overpaid and apathetic government employees.

Anonymous said...

I'm down in Pacifica (suburban area just south of SF) and just got a very similar notice. There's already a street# displayed just fine on the curb as well as fairly visibly from the street next to the front door. No one has ever had a problem finding my house. You can even see both numbers very clearly just with Google Street View.

The problem with this is that they make it OPT-OUT instead of OPT-IN. I shouldn't have to leave a note asking someone to not provide a service that I never asked for in the first place. They don't exactly demand it, but it's just strongly-worded enough to make you feel like you owe them for this service.

If this was really an issue, I'd rather buy the stensils and do it myself. Maybe with some creative coloring/design (although the curb is city property, so I guess we can't be *too* creative). And when it wears away in 5 years, I'll still have the stensils and won't have to pay for more than a little paint.

Anyway, I left a note on my garage door with "NO STREET # PAINT PLEASE" written in large letters with a sharpie and attached with packaging tape. If anyone shows up asking for "donations", hell no!

Anonymous said...

Ok everyone, it's not a scam! How is it a scam to offer a service to someone who has the option not to have it done!?
The only part that was fishy was "Painted on the curb in front of all homes on your block"
All they should have said is, "we're going to be servicing your neighborhood, painting numbers on curbs for your safety and convienence"
Before the GOV messed it up there was a free market and the American dream still existed.
P.S. It's not "BS", it would help firetrucks, friends, ect locate your house quicker!
RON PAUL 2012 for a free market!!!

Anonymous said...

I live in the Inner Richmond District and tonight, a Sunday I might add, someone knocked on my door with this very scam. He had on a safety vest and elbow and knees pads. He so did not look like and official worker and frankly, gave me the heebeegeebees. I found this blog then did a little more researcha dn found this, from the SFMTA http://www.sfmta.com/cms/pcurb/indxpkcurb.htm.

Total scam, people. Don't fall for it. Unless you want to, of course.

Anonymous said...

I live in Novato and received this notice. I did nothing yet they actually painted over curb number with white. Is that not illegal?

Anonymous said...

Who would call the cops on a guy painting curb lol what does he wait behind the blinds & call police just another unhappy cheap guy who wants it for free !!! Everybody pays its a great service !!! I love it when they come to my house & by the way cops fire police can find Yur house @ nite !!! Ok peace out

Anonymous said...

Some of you guy sound crazy thinking this is a scam. I have painted numbers on curbs for several years and I go door to door passing flying asking the owner if they would like curb numbers painted on their curb. I leave a phone number for them to call and email address. This is hard, hot, and legit work. So to you guy who think it is a scam just don't participate.

Anonymous said...

Just found this discussion as i recently received one of these notices... i find it funny that everyone saying that this isnt a scam is or has been involved in curb painting while everyone against it are the ones having to deal with this. The people painting curbs in this discussion seem honest and legitimate but they are forgetting one basic rule of business: Dont call me ill call you.

Jimmie said...

The actual creative work of applying a street address in front of a house is NOT a SCAM! I see plenty of businesses that can scare you into buying, but are left alone after further investigation by authorities. What can be a scam is how the artist or con applies his soliciting. I have done this for years. I have no criminal record and am a disabled man working for his dollar from soliciting to sale and the creative work done to the approval of the homeowner. I get stopped by police frequently caused by you WACKOS who are ill informed!! Get over yourselves and read the city laws before turning into a WACKO. i HAVE CHARGED RESIDENTS WITH THE COPS WHO TURN WACKO ON MY BUSINESS!! I knock on doors for a cheaper rate, if not home, I place a handbill with my name and a phone number to contact me for an appointment which I charge higher $$ for the expense to go back to your home independently for work. You should see how much the cities charge us and the background checks and finger prints, just to paint a curb address!! What about all the other businesses??
There are many scams that some solicitors do like any scam business in the real world and as a homeowner you should be smart enough to spot them and be strong enough to just say NO!
A real painter will be by your home if the address is close to missing, 1-3 times a year. A good new address does not need to be painted until 3 years or more.

Just think about all the many folks, fireman, and delivery people you are helping out by giving them a way to find your residence easier and the false knocks because they are trying to find a address..

Good Day!!!

P.S.- this site does not work for a guy who is low vision blindness!!

Anonymous said...

Jimmie,
Each city is different, but we don't ask for this to be done. As many people have pointed out, this isn't some pressing issue. It always look ugly, white paint with black numbers on an otherwise grey curb? It's tacky at best and sloppy at worst.

My old job required me to travel all over my city (Phoenix - huge geographically). I would meet with clients and I found every single home. It's not hard to use modern technology to figure this out. Fire and police have dispatch and computers and such in their vehicles. Plus, at night, you can't read this crap from far away anyway... and if you have half a brain you can figure out the number scheme for each city and get pretty close with just a flipping educated guess.

So please, stop defaming our neighborhoods and painting stupid crap on the curb. It's ugly and virtually not needed.

Anonymous said...

Is this company licensed and bonded why do they have to use scare tactics about 911 they say community service why not let boy scouts paint numbers for a merit badge or sports clubs/schools for fundraising

Anonymous said...

it's called creative marketing

Anonymous said...

Who would call the cops on a guy painting a adress no# Thats ridcious what a life standing at the windows waiting for poor soul painting a great service for at Night LOL get a life Yu unhappy person

Anonymous said...

hi im a curb painter i put out a fjyer also but its signed your curb painter i dont pressure anybody i work hard and make very little if they dont put there flyer on the curb and dont want to pay for it i tell them dont trip your not obligated thank you anyway and leave i never give them an attitude ive even had a couple of people tell me they didnt want it on there curb so i took it off with a pressure washer how am i scamming anyone i accept donations of 10 dollars or less im very honest with them this is just a way for me to make money im 57 years old im not on weltare just trying to make money to pay my bills is this really a scam

Anonymous said...

dont hate appreciate and participate

Anonymous said...

Sounds like everyone posting needs to get life and quit worrying about who is scamming who.
Use the brains that God gave you, be smart and you won't be scammed.

Anonymous said...

I paint curb number's for client's but I ask them if they would like to have it done first!! I do a quality job using asphalt stripping paint and I guarantee my work for up to a year. I leave my phone number and or email address for the client to contact me if it get rubbed off by a car or damaged by weather. I have had many addresses last for several years and rarely have I ever had anyone call me to re-do an address. I show class and thank them for their time even if they refuse my service. I have made many friends by doing this and find it fun! I do it on a donation basis only based on what ever the people think it is worth or can afford. Some addresses I even do for free if the person is elderly and cannot afford anything. I do not agree with these scam artists.
They give honest people like me a bad rap and make it more difficult for people like me to be successful at painting numbers. Just know that not all address painters are scam artists, but the ones who leave notes on your door or mailboxes are more than likely are scams! I hope all of you have better experiences in the future. ;)Sincerely, Dave