For most people, Christmas is the most exciting holiday of the year. But for Richie Sorrento (his real name has been changed to protect his identity), Black Friday is like Christmas on steroids. All of the stores open at midnight and everything from DVDs to snow blowers are on sale. Richie Sorrento, 39, your typical scam artist, has been taking part in Black Friday festivities since he turned 23.
The 5’6 black haired Italian works as a real estate agent making anywhere from $70,000 to $100,000 a year in Marlboro, NJ. He has been married for 17 years and has three young boys who are too young to take part in the “real” family business yet. Sorrento plans to introduce his boys to his hobby once they reach the age of 16.
The night before Thanksgiving, Sorrento always makes sure to get plenty of sleep. He fills his body with hazelnut coffee, carbohydrates and five-hour energy drinks anticipating the lack of sleep. “At around 7:00 pm on Thanksgiving, I get in line at the Manalapan Best Buy. When they open the doors I am in with my plan already orchestrated perfectly. I find the items that have the best deals running and purchase them as quickly as possible before the line accumulates,” said Sorrento.
Next, he heads to Target. Target always has ridiculously low prices on Black Friday, and he always manages to fill two carts with computer printers, cameras, laptops, toys, and more while he is there. After Target his next stop is Staples, where he buys almost everything advertised on the front page of the flyer.
“I don’t just buy this stuff because I like sales or have a shopping addiction, I do it to make money. This might make you think to yourself that I am crazy,” said Sorrento. He then takes everything from Best Buy that he purchased on sale, and lists it on Craigslist for the full price. “I made a point to familiarize myself with Target and Staples’ return policy, and noted that neither of them requires a receipt for returns. As a result, I am able to return all of my Black Friday purchases that cost me almost nothing, for the full price in the form of a gift card. Last year I turned my $2,000 purchases into $4,500,” said Richie.
Sorrento’s favorite scam of all time is his restaurant scam. Sorrento is known by his friends as the one with a complimentary gift card every time he goes out to eat. This is because he contacts restaurants and writes long complaints about “experiences” he has had at their location. Richie has found that he will always get a gift card in the mail promptly after sending his letter if he states that the hostess was rude. Sorrento has received complimentary gift cards from over 25 different restaurants such as $50 to Olive Garden, $40 to Longhorn Steakhouse, $50 to Cheesecake Factory, and $40 plus a free appetizer to P.F. Chang’s.
“I swear, every time we go out to eat Richie whips out one of his 200 gift cards no matter where we are because he has written some form of a complaint to the manager,” said Richie’s wife, Lisa Sorrento.
Richie’s most recent scam consisted of buying a black pair of Hugo Boss Oxfords from Nordstrom. He already owned a pair in size 11 that were pretty beat up, but since they cost $225 a pair, he was reluctant to buy another. Instead, he purchased a new pair online in the same size, replaced the new ones with his old beat up pair, and went to Nordstrom complaining that the company had sent him a “used pair” of oxfords. Sorrento received a full refund, and got to keep the new shoes.
“My eyes lit up when the sales associate asked me to swipe my credit card to receive my refund. This was the first time I had tried something along these lines and all I kept thinking to myself how this is a great success,” said Richie.
The feeling of triumph that Richie feels when completing a scam provides him with a rush. “I know what I’m doing is risky, but I benefit so much from it that it makes me feel great,” said Richie. Sorrento used to participate in many high performance sports such as white water rafting and skiing, but no longer does so because he has three young children. “My scams are my rush now, the feeling I get when I’m buying the good deals, knowing that I’m going to make a profit. That provides me with a rush like I used to get from extreme sports,” said Richie.
Richie knows that his scams are not exactly on the moral side, but he benefits so greatly from the profit that he casts that feeling aside. “I figure, these big businesses won’t feel the affect of a hundred dollars missing here or there, so I don’t think I’m really hurting anyone,” says Richie.
Richie’s children are not aware of what he does when he partakes in his scams. He believes they are too young and impressionable; he would not want them to think what he does is particularly unethical. “I am a responsible man, I work hard, provide for my family, and support them in every way possible,” says Richie.
Richie’s wife is somewhat aloof about her husband’s conning ways. She doesn’t exactly support Richie, but she doesn’t direct him the other way either. “What am I supposed to do? He is a grown man, and he puts food on the table,” said Lisa.