White-van Speaker Scam

That was weird! I stumbled upon something called the “White-van Speaker Scam” and knew immediately that I had fallen victim to a scam of sorts like this all the way back in 1984 or so.

I had a crappy ($400) car back then and a job making pizzas at a pizza parlor. I was hanging out in the parking lot when someone came by (in a van maybe?) and he had some car stereo speakers to sell — cheap! The price was something I could afford (I don’t remember what it was, but I would be surprised if they were more than $10 each since that would be about what I could swing back then). Somehow I had decided that for the price I could wire them into my car myself and they could only improve the sound quality (right?). So I bought a pair.

I did install them and I don’t think I noticed any real difference in sound quality. They worked though.

But I suppose in the back of my mind ever since I have been wondering — what just happened? Random speaker sale in a parking lot I guess. Okay.

So then I see this Wikipedia article:

White van speaker scam

…The speaker scam was common in the 1980s…

…To find suitable targets, the van operators set up their con in moderately-trafficked areas, such as parking lots…”

Wait, what? This was a thing?

For varying reasons they need to dispose of the speakers quickly and are willing to get rid of them at “well below retail” prices.

I guess I don’t feel too stupid. As I said, I’d be surprised if I paid more than $10 each — how much could the guy have been scamming me then?

So kids, I have learned to be highly suspect of anyone approaching me to sell something.

If you want a thing, seek it out. If a thing comes seeking you, just politely say, “Sorry, I’m broke.”



  1. My dad fell prey to that scam to the tune of $400 or so. They were called “DB IV Acoustic Monitor” speakers… they were even “liquid cooled”. People still try to sell them on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/2-Acoustic-Monitor-DB-IV-Speakers-Digital-Ready-Liquid-Cooled-local-pick-up-only-/281679298057

    Audio and snake oil go hand-in-hand. The legacy of the white van speakers lives on in the form of $5000 cables, 250 pound “isolation tables” for components, and esoteric AC power conditioners.

    • Ha ha, I guess so. I wonder though, your dad maybe figured out he had bought crap, but the other snake-oil customers are still telling everyone about their $5000 cables and then flipping to side two of “Kind Of Blue”.

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