One of the experiences that every sea fearer has during his sea life is, being duped at some foreign port. No one has been spared of it, some for a small amount, some to a large extent. But a sea fearer always forgets the loss, comparing it with the very high salary he earns, and taking it as a part and parcel of his life.
I was duped once, off 50$.
It so happened that our ship had reached the port of longkou in the northern province china, and in the evening me along with few members of our ship went out for a round of the city. The very first store that we were taken to by the agent stocked electronics, and my eyes lit up seeing the display. I got particularly interested in a pen drive of capacity 32 GB(it was the year 2007, and 32 GB was unheard of)which was on sale for 85$. I tried to haggle the price but couldn’t get it below 80$. Now, I was in china, so wasn’t sure of it’s authenticity, so didn’t want to buy it unless I got it for cheap. By the time more of my fellow crew came besides me and showed interest in the pen drive. After a bit of haggle, the shopkeeper finally agreed to sell it to us for 50$ if we bought 5 pieces. We were four of us and we knew we could convince someone to buy one more on the ship. But we had a condition that we would check all the drives first and if all found ok we would buy. The shopkeeper was ok with that but informed us that he didn’t have those many pieces right at that time and would deliver it on our ship and we could pay at that time. Better for us!!
Or so we thought….
As we informed our other officers and crew on board, our captain became interested, and since it seemed to be a good deal, he called up his son in India, who immediately asked him to get two pieces. Our chief officer informed that he was duped by such seller on his previous ship, but when we informed him that we would check the drives before paying, he himself wanted one. So now we needed 7 pieces and we informed the seller through ships agent to bring 8 pieces so that we had a buffer of 1 piece if any found to be not working.
The seller came onboard and handed us the pendrives which we started testing one by one. We transferred about 18 GB data in to each one and checked that the properties showed 18 GB used and about 12-13 GB free, which it showed and we were satisfied. We handed over the cash and I went for sleep. By that time the seller had left the ship and we sailed out.
I woke up with plans to transfer my entire music collection to the pendrive to relieve me of th DVDs. And I did so in the officer’s lounge computer. As I entered the engine control room for my duty, I saw the duty motorman, Gerry Delrio, worried. After handing over the watch(handing over the duty is called as handing over the watch, in watchkeeping terms), the fourth engineer left, and the first sentence that I heard form the motorman’s mouth was,”Third!! We are F@#&%d!!!”
I didn’t understand what he was saying. He explained that the data was not going into the pen drive that he had. I told him that I had successfully stored just a few minutes back, and he asked me to verify it. I inserted the drive into the engine room computer, and saw that the folder were there on the drive. I browsed to one of the folder. and Oops!! No file in it. Thinking that the folder might be empty from the beginning, I browsed to another folder. Empty!! I checked the properties of the pendrive and found that it had occupied 18 GB with lots of folders, but it showed 0 files. Thinking that formatting it would solve the “error”, I formatted it. Only to find later that the capacity had come down from 32 GB to 20 GB. My heart sank. But all was not lost, since 20 GB was a good deal for 50$. Again I moved some data to the drive. Again I could see only folders, no files. My heart sank.
I carried out the formating number of times in a hope to rectify the situation, but each time the capacity reduced to 16GB, 10GB, 4GB, 1GB,128MB!! And finally, the computer gave up and stopped detecting the drive.
Same thing happened to all the people who bought it. Now I was worried two folds. I had paid for the captain’s pen drives and he was yet to return back the 100$. But within a couple of days he gave me back my money. A week later, the chief officer checked his drive, and came to know that he too was duped. He was a happy man till then, since no one had told him about this comedy. Or tragedy if you call it.
We had been duped by professionalism of the chinese sales person, and a shiny casing announcing a Sony Vaio Pendrive!! We were “Made” in China.