Sticky-note bandit sticking it to Newfoundland businesses

A con artist who likes to use sticky notes has been making the rounds of retail businesses in the St. John's area — and in at least one case — making off with a store credit note for $600.

According to store owners, the man goes into a shop, discreetly places a sticky note on a piece of merchandise, and tries to persuade the store clerks that the item has been paid for.

"It's a first for me," admitted Peg Norman, owner of The Travel Bug.

Norman said the man came into her shop in the Avalon Mall recently, convinced a clerk that his wife had bought an item at the shop and had asked the shop to hold the item for a later pickup. But now, he said, his wife had decided she wanted a refund.

He then took the employee to an item which had a sticky note attached to it with the words "purchased, customer coming back."

The clerk then gave him a credit note for the $600 item and the man walked out of the store with $600 worth of merchandise.

"My employee is devastated that this happened," said Norman.

Lee Edwards, an employee at Brewery Lane in Mount Pearl, also had a run-in with the con man earlier this week.

The man came into his store, and said that his wife had purchased a wine kit. Edwards said there was no evidence of the purchase in his store's computer, but the man showed him a wine kit on the shop floor with a sticky note on it.

"Written on the sticky note was 'paid for item, left behind, refund.'" recalled Edwards. "And on the bottom was 'manager', which was spelt wrong, and some scraggly kind of signature I've never seen before."

Edwards said he took the note and asked the man to call the store back later. Edwards said the man never returned.

Kelly Jones, the owner of Brittania Teas and Gifts, said the so-called sticky note bandit also visited her store on Water Street.

She received a call from her employee, who said a man was at her store, showing her a tin of tea with a sticky note on it that he said his wife had purchased.

"And I said, 'Oh my God, it's the sticky-note bandit, I'm on my way, I'm calling the cops,'" she said.

By the time the police arrived at the store, Jones said the sticky note bandit was long gone, but her clerk had kept the sticky note, which had a scribbled signature, and the word "manager" misspelled.

All three retailers describe the man as somewhat heavy set, and as having tattoos on both arms, a piercing over one eye, gauges, or large earrings, in both ears, and a raspy voice.

They also describe him as charming, articulate, and even suave.

"And I guess that's what makes a good scam artist," said an exasperated Norman.

All three retailers are urging anyone who sees the man to call the police, and they are spreading the word to as many other shop owners as they can to be on the alert for the sticky-note scam.