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My favorite part is when the "reporter" breaks out the whiteboard.
September 28, 2007 7:57 PM   Subscribe

[SeinfeldPlotSingleLinkVideoFilter]: Michigan wants its $50 million back.
posted by beaucoupkevin (47 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, it's scammy. But isn't it also a clear need for federally mandated recycling plans?
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:04 PM on September 28, 2007


Yeah, it's scammy. But isn't it also a clear need for federally mandated recycling plans?

Well, it seems like people in Ohio had plenty of interest in recycling cans :P.

Also, even with a federally mandated 5¢, it would still be worthwhile to smuggle cans to MI.

This all seems way over the top. The store owners were probably rich because they owned stores not because they were defrauding the state. It seems harsh to suddenly start enforcing a law that hasn't really been enforced in order to "make an example" out of someone.

On the other hand, One of those guys drove a Hummer, so fuck him :P
posted by delmoi at 8:08 PM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Stupicly-crafted law explioted by ordinary individuals. Film at Eleven.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:10 PM on September 28, 2007


Take a look at what [the police] find. Bags of illegal pop cans, not from Michigan

Having lived in the US for 3 years by now, I sometimes forget just how damn weird a place it is. Thanks for the reminder.
posted by Kattullus at 8:10 PM on September 28, 2007


Stupicly-crafted law explioted by ordinary individuals. Film at Eleven.
posted by horsemuth at 8:15 PM on September 28, 2007


I think the reporter needs to cut down on the coffee. Love the whiteboard.
posted by pretzel at 8:27 PM on September 28, 2007


Following in the footsteps of Kramen.
posted by cortex at 8:48 PM on September 28, 2007


I'm having a lot of trouble casting an aura of criminal evil on a massive rogue recycling ring.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:01 PM on September 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


This video has the feel of being one huge over-the-top parody of ridiculous reporting. I can't take it seriously at all.
posted by spiderskull at 9:09 PM on September 28, 2007


We should nuke the site from orbit just the use of the term "pop."
posted by BeerFilter at 9:11 PM on September 28, 2007


In Boston these guys would have been shot as terrorists, so I bet they feel pretty lucky right now.
posted by Artw at 9:18 PM on September 28, 2007


Also is there any real reason this couldn;'t have been a link to a text story?
posted by Artw at 9:19 PM on September 28, 2007


The perp walk at the end is a super slimy move on the part of the cops. Were they already convicted? If not, why embarrass them?
posted by bshort at 9:23 PM on September 28, 2007


Also is there any real reason this couldn;'t have been a link to a text story?

Just to annoy you. Just. To. Annoy. You.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 9:27 PM on September 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


The news coverage here in Detroit sucks. This is a classic example of how embarrassingly bad local news coverage here really is.

*emails thread to news station*
posted by disclaimer at 9:28 PM on September 28, 2007


Eleven states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Vermont — give this valueless stuff a value, however. Typically we pay a nickel when purchasing a container and get the nickel back if we return the container for recycling. It’s a deposit, a contract binding us to our garbage. Though these days, that nickel may elicit only the faintest twinge of regret as we toss the empty into the trash and rejoin our busy lives. More than three decades since it was first legislated, the transaction that the so-called bottle bill sets in motion — pay a nickel, recoup a nickel — is the same as ever. The world surrounding it, though, is almost unrecognizable.
The Unintended Consequences of Hyperhydration from the NY Times Magazine.
posted by peeedro at 9:46 PM on September 28, 2007


According to this, each can has a value of 1 cent as scrap aluminum. Since we pay 10 cents extra for a bottle that is then returned to us when we return the can... the state gets to rip us off of a penny from every can (because that penny doesn't get returned to us).

So then... if the amount these can guys were able to get would be less than the total amount the state has ripped off from us, you could argue that the state wouldn't be losing anything that was rightfully theirs to begin with no?
posted by banished at 9:53 PM on September 28, 2007


At least half of the guys arrested have Arabic names, so it's only a matter of time before a terrorism link is reported. Anyone care to start a pool?
posted by omarr at 11:09 PM on September 28, 2007


Ecoterrorists!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:13 PM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I didn't see anything wrong with this story. Have you people forgotten how journalism is supposed to work? Even the reporter seeming excited about reporting a real story for a change was refreshing.

each can has a value of 1 cent as scrap aluminum. Since we pay 10 cents extra for a bottle that is then returned to us when we return the can... the state gets to rip us off of a penny from every can (because that penny doesn't get returned to us).

The ten cents has nothing to do with the value of the materials. It's just an incentive. The unrecovered 4 cents (on average) is used for e.g. anti-litter advertising and logistical support for adopt-a-highway plans and whatnot (I'm presuming), thus at no taxpayer cost, subsidized by the lazy. The point is keeping the litter off of highways, playgrounds, and so forth, not recycling -- which was almost nonexistent when these deposits were enacted.

These guys were ripping off the state just the same as if they were withholding sales tax income or cheating on their unemployment compensation payments. And yes, so they could buy Hummers and McMansions.
posted by dhartung at 11:40 PM on September 28, 2007


Don't mess with.... uhh, Michigan?
posted by the cydonian at 12:10 AM on September 29, 2007


our highways used to have shitloads of beer cans and such on the shoulders before this law was passed in michigan

and i got one of my first jobs at a grocery store because of this law - i think it was late 1978 - the mountain of unsorted returned bottles waiting for us was awesome - while my partner bragged and bragged about being the bottle king, i got the huge mess organized - and god, you wouldn't believe how sticky tons of bottles get, especially in plastic bags, or how cases and cases of stale beer cans stink

but, hey, it was a job - take the bottles/cans from the customer, count them and give them a slip and try not to get too grossed out by it all

now they make the customers shove them into those stupid machines because nobody, not even the poorest immigrants in the world, will take a nasty job like that

kids these days ...
posted by pyramid termite at 1:22 AM on September 29, 2007


But, the scam that's being reported has little in common with the Seinfeld plot - individuals importing cans into Michigan and putting them in machines for a dime apiece - apart from expoiting differences in recycling programs. It's a cute tie-in but pretty confusing reporting.
And those 'beautiful' 'glamorous' luxury homes?! Gack. Plus I doubt those hideous McMansionswere bought solely with the profits of this can scam.
posted by Flashman at 4:21 AM on September 29, 2007


A 5 cent deposit keeps the the cans off the side of the road in every other state - whether it's the original purchaser or it's some other collector doing the work. Why Michigan had to slap another 5 cents above that on their deposit never made sense to me.
posted by klarck at 5:10 AM on September 29, 2007


"Plus I doubt those hideous McMansionswere bought solely with the profits of this can scam."

They found evidence of other scams.

I wonder how many people in upper class neighborhoods lie, cheat, and steal? If empty cans generate $50 M, what other tax rip-offs are going on? When budgets are tens and hundreds of millions, not to mention billions, embezzlement of a million must be trivial.
posted by AppleSeed at 5:18 AM on September 29, 2007


Wait a minute... Americans still pay deposits on cans and bottles?! WTF? Don't you people have your own recycling programs where you put stuff in a "blue box" and put it to the curb with your garbage and the city picks it up?
posted by dobbs at 7:39 AM on September 29, 2007


Recycling programs vary by state and city, dobbs. In Portland, OR (and in many other cities, at least), curbside recycling with bins of some sort is normal, yes. The bottle bills that drive deposits on beverage containers are generally a separate (in many cases effectively supplemental) program—deposit bottle and cans are recyclable sans refund in a normal recycling bin as well.

I experienced a little bit of cognitive dissonance as a kid when, while visiting relatives back up in native Montana, I was put on can-crushing duty. I used a little lever-driven mechanical crusher to break down maybe a hundred or two aluminum cans into compact cylinders, the better for transporting to a dumpster easily. Growing up in a city where cans meant refund money, it was bizarre to me to be throwing away several dollars worth of good cans, but if you're in the middle of nowhere in Montana, it's a big shruggo.
posted by cortex at 8:06 AM on September 29, 2007


A 5 cent deposit keeps the the cans off the side of the road in every other state - whether it's the original purchaser or it's some other collector doing the work. Why Michigan had to slap another 5 cents above that on their deposit never made sense to me.

Completely random guess, but maybe because Michigan has such a heavy industrial sector (i.e. Detroit) that the value and need for recycling metal is of higher importance?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:27 AM on September 29, 2007


"ONE-MILLION DOLLAR homes!"

"pop"


I love hayseed news.
posted by wfc123 at 10:50 AM on September 29, 2007


The Wikipedia article on the Oregon Bottle Bill (upon which all other state deposit laws are modelled) is priceless. It's every stereotype about Oregon, ever.
posted by dw at 11:38 AM on September 29, 2007


For anyone interested, the relevant Michigan statute is MCL § 445.573b, and says nothing about making sure that the redeemed bottles were from Michigan to begin with. I'm not sure that this was actually illegal in any way.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:28 PM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that this was actually illegal in any way.

it is - a later law was passed against cashing in out of state bottles sometime in the nineties as people were trying it a lot

but that was just for loose change - i had no idea this was possible
posted by pyramid termite at 1:56 PM on September 29, 2007


MCL Section 445.574a(2) states that a person who returns or attempts to return beverage containers from out of state or for which no deposit was paid is subject to the following:

(a) If the person returns 25 or more but not more than 100 nonreturnable containers, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of nmore than $100.00.

(b) If the person returns more than 100 nonreturnable containers or violates subdivision (a) for a second or subsequent time, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.

Of course, the people are being charged with running a criminal enterprise which is like 20 years, and Fraud, which is 5 years. Which I think is crap, especially when you have a statute written SPECIFICALLY for this crime. But the truth is, the state is set on making an example of these people, and the resources available to them let them put you away for as long as they want.
posted by banished at 2:44 PM on September 29, 2007


I wonder how many people in upper class neighborhoods lie, cheat, and steal?

In BC there are a lot of big houses being paid for through marijuana grow operations. Not only do the gangs purchase mansions, do a grow, and then flip the house at a profit; a lot of otherwise ordinary joes are doing small grows that help pay the bills.

It's ridiculous. I'm sincerely pissed that these assholes get a tax-free income to pay their mortgage. I bust my ass, lose a good chunk of it to the government, and all for what? So I can be an honest citizen? Hells bells, but it feels like I'm being punished for being good.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:51 PM on September 29, 2007


Thanks, pyramid termite/banished!
posted by Navelgazer at 3:39 PM on September 29, 2007


Of course, the people are being charged with running a criminal enterprise which is like 20 years, and Fraud, which is 5 years. Which I think is crap, especially when you have a statute written SPECIFICALLY for this crime

uh, that's like saying it's crap to charge a person with murder for shooting someone when there's an ordinance against firing a gun within city limits

it's not just the means that matter but the ends - and some ends are and of themselves illegal

besides - 50 million at 10c is 5 million bottles - considering they didn't cash those all in one day that's many instances of 100 or more

so if they made 200 trips that would be something like over 200 separate counts of violating this statute and that's over 50 years in jail, isn't it?

maybe they're better off being charged with those felonies, you think?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:50 PM on September 29, 2007


oh, hell no - it's 500 million bottles, what's wrong with me? ... so that would be over 2000 trips and ...

damn - by the time their sentence is up they'll have to hire archeology students to dig them out
posted by pyramid termite at 5:52 PM on September 29, 2007


I guess if you think these guys deserve prison time because they're soooo dangerous to society.
posted by banished at 6:57 PM on September 29, 2007


so what do you think they should get for stealing 50 million bucks? - i read about people who get put in jail for a hell of a lot less

what if they steal your computer or something else of yours that's really personal and important?

what solution do you offer? talk to them? make them do community service? is it going to actually prevent people from wanting to steal 50 million bucks?

are they going to see the error of their ways and promise never never to do it again if you just give them a cross look and a stern lecture?

what's your alternative, banished?
posted by pyramid termite at 7:58 PM on September 29, 2007


I don't think the Seinfeld scam would even work. Most of the major stores have machines that scan the bar codes on the cans when you run them through. Out of state cans and bottles have different codes and are rejected. I've never tried it myself, but I've been led to understand that's the case. You could take the cans to a smaller store, but they usually have a very low limit on number of returnables.
posted by boymilo at 4:45 AM on September 30, 2007


I wouldn't have assumed it was illegal pyramid termite. The cans from out of state say MI 10cents on them. That would lead any reasonable person to believe you can get ten cents in Michigan for the can.
posted by banished at 9:27 AM on September 30, 2007


But a better alternative instead of prison... for the defendants, the state, and the taxpayers, would be to just make them pay the money back. People bitch about how much money the state lost and then they want to lock up 30 some individuals in prison for 25 years.

"The average annual cost to house a Michigan prisoner is about $32,000." (Source).

So ok, that's a total of 24 million dollars to keep these guys locked up. Give me a break.
posted by banished at 9:39 AM on September 30, 2007


The cans from out of state say MI 10cents on them.

actually, some of them don't - furthermore, and this is important, the barcodes don't identify them as michigan

But a better alternative instead of prison... for the defendants, the state, and the taxpayers, would be to just make them pay the money back.

what if they don't have it?

People bitch about how much money the state lost and then they want to lock up 30 some individuals in prison for 25 years.

they'll make a plea bargain and it won't be that long

if you let them stay out of prison, you have to do the same for shoplifters, bad check writers and all the rest - and if you do the same for them, why should they ever stop what they're doing?

oh, yeah, if they're caught they have to pay it back - but the 9 times they weren't caught, forget about it?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:14 PM on September 30, 2007


"actually, some of them don't - furthermore, and this is important, the barcodes don't identify them as michigan"

This varies wildly, apparently. If you scroll down here, there is a guy who says his MN can matches the same UPC and same marking on the top as a Michigan can.

"What if they don't have it?"

You're pretty heartless. These are small grocery store owners. These people have families. You're taking fathers away from their children. These are not dangerous people, nor do I believe are they likely to be repeat offenders, but we'll find that out if it comes out that any of them have prior criminal histories I suppose.

"If you let them stay out of prison, you have to do the same for shoplifters, bad check writers and all the rest - and if you do the same for them, why should they ever stop what they're doing?"

A slippery slope argument? To steal someone elses quote: "Sorry, but if the can says "MI - 10 cents" on it, it should be redeemable for 10 cents, regardless of where it was sold."

"Oh, yeah, if they're caught they have to pay it back - but the 9 times they weren't caught, forget about it?"

That argument makes no sense. If they aren't caught... of course they go free. Your alternative is imprisonment, and if they aren't caught in the first place, they can't be imprisoned either.
posted by banished at 3:12 PM on September 30, 2007


there is a guy who says his MN can matches the same UPC and same marking on the top as a Michigan can.

since when is "a guy" comment on a random blog on the internet any kind of reference?

You're pretty heartless.

no, i just think that people shouldn't steal like that and get away with it

where's your compassion for those who get ripped off?

You're taking fathers away from their children.

they took themselves away by breaking the law

These are not dangerous people, nor do I believe are they likely to be repeat offenders

i KNOW they wouldn't have stopped unless they were caught

what you BELIEVE is irrelevant

A slippery slope argument?

no - you're completely avoiding the questions - how do you stop people from stealing?

and shouldn't "white collar criminals" be held just as accountable for their crimes as others?

That argument makes no sense.

it makes all sorts of sense when you realize the average career criminal only gets arrested for a small percentage of what he actually does

your argument basically boils down to "let's take the money back and ask them not to do it again"

that doesn't work
posted by pyramid termite at 3:23 PM on September 30, 2007


...seems to me one of the states owes the other about $50 million. One state collected the money and never had to pay it back to the consumer.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:10 PM on September 30, 2007


Actually, it looks like Oregon lets the distributors keep the deposit. Were these guys double-dipping?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:18 PM on September 30, 2007


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