Package Thief vs. Glitter Bomb Trap
December 17, 2018 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Tinkerer Mark Rober gets revenge on package thieves with his overengineered glitter bomb.
posted by Foci for Analysis (299 comments total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes.
posted by agregoli at 2:08 PM on December 17, 2018 [15 favorites]


The futile attempts to deglitter themselves...
posted by BungaDunga at 2:16 PM on December 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


Rocket scientist mild for revenge.
posted by Oyéah at 2:16 PM on December 17, 2018


Booby traps are illegal...
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 2:24 PM on December 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Did he make multiple, or manage to retrieve it each time?
posted by Damienmce at 2:25 PM on December 17, 2018


The statute describes booby traps as causing bodily harm or toxic gases. While fart spray is certainly noxious it is not toxic.
posted by Ferreous at 2:27 PM on December 17, 2018 [31 favorites]


Our hero managed to retrieve his mischievous little device. People have no appreciation for the glitter arts, it seems.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:29 PM on December 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


Needs the hero tag. thanks, fun to watch.
posted by theora55 at 2:33 PM on December 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


*fart spray*
posted by Windopaene at 2:34 PM on December 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


This was an emotionally rewarding video.
posted by MrJM at 2:34 PM on December 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


>Booby traps are illegal...

So is stealing. The guy took video of the package thieves to the police, and the police couldn't be bothered with it; presumably anti-glitter-bomb laws are enforced with equal vigor.

Personally, I'd prefer something more like the permanent dye bombs they hide in the money if you rob a bank, but I guess this is a start.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 2:34 PM on December 17, 2018 [75 favorites]


We need some of these in our building, where packages frequently seem to go missing (also recently a doormat, a christmas wreath, and a newly delivered mattress).
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:36 PM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


well- you can't place a pipe bomb rigged to go off if it's taken, even if it's being stolen. But since this wasn't designed to actually hurt anyone, it's fine.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:36 PM on December 17, 2018


I'd prefer something more like the permanent dye bombs they hide in the money if you rob a bank

My friend... have you ever tried to clean up spilled glitter?
posted by twoplussix at 2:38 PM on December 17, 2018 [72 favorites]


Assuming this is real, I'm surprised that everyone stops to open the package while in their cars and that none of them make even a passing attempt to disguise themselves as package delivery people. My abstract vision of package thieves always included fake UPS trucks and large warehouses. Hell, I've got a genuine UPS delivery employee shirt, and I'm neither a package thief nor invited to enough costume parties to justify the space required to store it.

Also, the cell hardware in the package is probably worth more than the original object would have been. Once you've already got a car full of glitter and farts, why not tear the thing apart? (And then set fire to the house you stole it from, out of spite.) I don't think I understand package thieves.
posted by eotvos at 2:41 PM on December 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


This should be a product I can buy online.
posted by aramaic at 2:41 PM on December 17, 2018 [15 favorites]


I liked how sincerely incensed they were that someone was inconveniencing their various thefts.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:43 PM on December 17, 2018 [97 favorites]


Also, the cell hardware in the package is probably worth more than the original object would have been. Once you've already got a car full of glitter and farts, why not tear the thing apart? (And then set fire to the house you stole it from, out of spite.) I don't think I understand package thieves.

They're probably people who are of lower SES and willing to take a low risk for some quick cash or material comfort, and see stealing packages as a crime that also 'gets back' at wealthier people. A lot of them are probably also familiar with Amazon's extremely liberal package replacement policy, and are able to depersonalize the harm as being towards Amazon and not the individual. Most of them probably also realize that the police in America are basically only interested in enforcing drug policy and protecting the private property of the very wealthy. Perhaps they also assume that most people don't have the time or wherewithal (or the material resources) to purchase four cell phones and then build a robot that secretly records them so that the prankster can get some Reddit upvotes and YouTube channel subscriptions.
posted by codacorolla at 2:47 PM on December 17, 2018 [60 favorites]


I think the package thieves are low effort crime types. It's a low risk crime, that they know cops won't investigate so there's no real commitment to consequences. Selling a dime bag of weed to the wrong person will warrant an investigation that probably costs many times more than the yearly salary of the person selling weed. Package theft has nothing of that risk. They're likely not going to lean into revenge and actually do crimes that could get them arrested.
posted by Ferreous at 2:48 PM on December 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


hysterical - thanks for the laugh
posted by kokaku at 2:50 PM on December 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Once you've already got a car full of glitter and farts, why not tear the thing apart?

Most thieves are going to assume that's just the start of it... what's next, a die-bomb? Mace? Something even nastier?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:54 PM on December 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised that everyone stops to open the package while in their cars and that none of them make even a passing attempt to disguise themselves as package delivery people. My abstract vision of package thieves always included fake UPS trucks and large warehouses.

It's often just people cruising up to doorsteps and swiping stuff. Casual passers-by won't necessarily know whether it's a resident of the home or not, and most swiping happens when people and their neighbours are out of their homes for the day. A friend of mine got doorcam video of someone in casual clothes walking up, opening the mailbox, rifling through all the mail, stuffing the bills and junk mail back in, and keeping a padded envelope. Opened it, peeped inside, popped it into a bag (which appeared to have other parcels in it), then walked right off. Anyone passing by on the street might have thought it was just a resident of the house checking their mail, though.

I rarely order things online, because I've had too many things go missing. (Often at the USPS end, frankly, with "attempted deliveries" that... weren't.)
posted by halation at 2:55 PM on December 17, 2018


But what's wrong with the classic 'box of dog shit' as, family legend has it, a relative lured a sneak thief with years ago?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:55 PM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


While I agree with codacorolla about societal issues surrounding this, I have had an irreplaceable package stolen from my house (it was a contest prize, one of a kind, and the thief would probably not care about it as much as I do), and I can understand what the guy meant by "violation". At the end of the day, just don't steal things from people. I would gladly buy this online and deploy it.
posted by numaner at 2:55 PM on December 17, 2018 [57 favorites]


none of them make even a passing attempt to disguise themselves as package delivery people.

In addition to the branded vehicles with uniformed drivers that Amazon uses for its own delivery system, they also do some sort of gig-economy thing for some packages. It's not uncommon for someone in street clothes to pull up in a regular unmarked car and drop a box off at my door.

I imagine the people in the video didn't think that far ahead but I think you could easily sell someone on the idea that you're a contracted driver picking up a package for one reason or another.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 3:01 PM on December 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


I like the one white lady with the "live-laugh-love" style decorations in her house who seemed downright OFFENDED that someone would do this to her.

(I actually do like the thieves who seem to get the humor of it though, sort of a "well, that's on me" sort of reaction.)
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 3:03 PM on December 17, 2018 [27 favorites]


Also while Amazon may have generous policies wrt to replacements lots of other retailers do not. Also that you don't know if perhaps you're stealing an iPad or equipment for a CPAP machine the person at that residence needs to sleep safely.

If it's a crime that police won't investigate for well to do people, imagine how little effort enforcement there would be in lower income areas. Everyone gets packages of stuff these days, rich or poor.

It's not shoplifting at Walmart level of "only harming a corporation"
posted by Ferreous at 3:04 PM on December 17, 2018 [49 favorites]


I was really worried about retaliation, but was suprised to hear the laughter from some of the thieves.
posted by gryphonlover at 3:04 PM on December 17, 2018


I was actually pretty disappointed when the thieves laughed. I wanted them to cry hysterically.
posted by pangolin party at 3:05 PM on December 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Often at the USPS end, frankly, with "attempted deliveries" that... weren't.

UGH this is now constant and it's so fucking exhausting. I would so much rather get a notification that they were too busy to do it today and will get to it tomorrow instead of yet another lie about how the receptacle was blocked or how an attempt was made and they're sooooo sorry they missed me.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:12 PM on December 17, 2018 [28 favorites]


I was disappointed that the fart cannon didn't seem to fire soon enough (or at all) in some of the incidents. The fart cannon was really the icing on the cake.
posted by some loser at 3:12 PM on December 17, 2018 [18 favorites]


presumably anti-glitter-bomb laws are enforced with equal vigor.
Law enforcement vigor often is just based on reducing hassle. The hassle of enforcement reduces based on how easily a case can be made (pretty easily, when the accused puts video up on YouTube) and the hassle of non-enforcement increases based on how vigorous complaints are.

Hopefully the thieves here will be too scared of getting themselves busted to complain vigorously. Mark Rober is my kids' and my second-favorite YouTube channel, and he's usually much more careful about safety than his peers there. Their favorite channel's owner just last May plea bargained himself out of two felony explosives charges after his neighbors got sick of the noise and the recklessness.
posted by roystgnr at 3:13 PM on December 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


This is a rather widespread problem.
posted by PhineasGage at 3:16 PM on December 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I just have stuff delivered to a box at the UPS store, now, where someone on staff can sign for it and it has a vastly lower likelihood of getting stolen. Kind of like protection money, I guess. Good times.
posted by salt grass at 3:17 PM on December 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


America: we have totally forgotten to build a social safety net into our society
Also America: why do all these packages for valuable electronics keep disappearing from our porches?
posted by The River Ivel at 3:19 PM on December 17, 2018 [80 favorites]


I would be really careful using the "b" word to describe what this thing is. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but that seems like a quick way to get the police from saying it's not worth their time to getting really interested for the wrong reasons.
posted by ODiV at 3:21 PM on December 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


Ugh. I know that package theft is not good. I live somewhere where it is common.
But this is rude. And the amount of energy and money he put into this could have been put into something useful.

Also please note how almost all of the thieves were PoC.
posted by k8t at 3:24 PM on December 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


This is gross as hell.
posted by edeezy at 3:24 PM on December 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Package thieves suck. That could be someone's life-saving medicine in there, or a little kid's birthday present. It's not like shoplifting, package thieves are stealing from their actual neighbors. Fuck 'em.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:27 PM on December 17, 2018 [83 favorites]


Where I live right now none of the delivery services will leave a package. It's handed off (and probably signed for) or nothing at all.

It reflects an interesting socio-economic fact: if you're wealthy enough to be ordering packages you're likely wealthy enough that someone will be at home to receive them.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:28 PM on December 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Just because you're PoC doesn't mean you can't also be a huge asshole, come on.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:28 PM on December 17, 2018 [92 favorites]


Petty crime results in petty revenge.
posted by um at 3:31 PM on December 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


And you know, it's not just low-SES people stealing from high-SES people. Package thieves come from all walks of life, and steal from anyone not wealthy and paranoid enough to live in a gated community, including from poor people. I'm not a huge propertarian, but unless you're going to just declare that there's actually no such thing as theft at all, package theft is theft.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:32 PM on December 17, 2018 [58 favorites]


Someone in my neck of the woods did a similar thing, but she got the glitter bomb online and it only cost her $2.99. No cameras though and she had to imagine the thief's dismay.
posted by pangolin party at 3:34 PM on December 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Assuming this is real, I'm surprised that everyone stops to open the package while in their cars and that none of them make even a passing attempt to disguise themselves as package delivery people.


Well, when the cops will do exactly zero about it, even when handed a video of the crime in progress and clearly showing the criminal’s face and vehicle, why would a thief even bother to disguise himself?


I was actually pretty disappointed when the thieves laughed. I wanted them to cry hysterically.


That happens 18 months later, when they are still finding glitter in everything, and the lingering smell of farts still can’t be masked by the six pine-tree air fresheners they have hanging from the rear-view mirror and the can of Febreze they used, which just made it all smell worse, like Pine Sol, cologne and used kitty litter.

The fart spray was really the inspired touch in this project, imho. Without it, the thieves had no incentive to quickly ditch the package where he could recover it easily.
posted by darkstar at 3:38 PM on December 17, 2018 [42 favorites]


Package thieves come from all walks of life, and steal from anyone not wealthy and paranoid enough to live in a gated community

hell, having worked for people who live in gated communities, i can confirm they steal from *each other*
posted by halation at 3:45 PM on December 17, 2018 [29 favorites]


Also please note how almost all of the thieves were PoC.

Noted, but I am quite unclear what to make of it in this situation.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:45 PM on December 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


New start-up idea: manufacture these rigged packages in bulk and start an online subscription service for victims of package theft, where customers can access footage of the stricken thieves in real-time via a custom app. It's exactly the right level of kinda-justifiable squickiness that has become a feature of the 21st century!

(Eventually package theft becomes a thing of the past, and you have to hire people on taskrabbit or whatever to fake-steal the packages and act horrified when they get showered with glitter just to keep the business afloat, until Teen Vogue runs an exposé and now you are in jail.)
posted by um at 3:47 PM on December 17, 2018 [19 favorites]


It reflects an interesting socio-economic fact: if you're wealthy enough to be ordering packages you're likely wealthy enough that someone will be at home to receive them.

you may want to update your priors on this. People from ALL walks of life order things online. People who can't drive or are homebound are vastly helped by the ability to order things online. People who have complicated lives (including gig economy 'jobs', jobs plus caring for a sick relative, etc) often have little time to go shopping for unusual needs. Some medicines are only affordable from pharmacies that ship. Package thieves have no way of knowing what they're stealing.
posted by twoplussix at 3:49 PM on December 17, 2018 [145 favorites]


The implied assumption in here that anyone who has a package delivered to them must automatically be wealthy and if stolen from should just it suck up as the price of privilege... it is... well... it's certainly a hot take, to say the least. And probably a symptom of some rather outsized unrecognized privilege in itself.
posted by You Stay 'Ere An Make Sure 'E Doesn't Leave at 3:50 PM on December 17, 2018 [104 favorites]


Also America: why do all these packages for valuable electronics keep disappearing from our porches?

Plus you get the added value of ad impressions on a viral video. This guy is probably already at least neutral on materials from that viewer count.
posted by codacorolla at 3:51 PM on December 17, 2018


Fart bomb was great, but wouldn't Skunk Essence™ work better?
posted by Marky at 3:51 PM on December 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Maybe some deer urine.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:52 PM on December 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


The implied assumption in here that anyone who has a package delivered to them must automatically be wealthy and if stolen from should just it suck up as the price of privilege... it is... well... it's certainly a hot take, to say the least. And probably a symptom of some rather outsized unrecognized privilege in itself.

I was using my masterful detective powers like: used 20 hours of labor to build a specialized robot with at least 200 dollars of disposable cell phones in it.
posted by codacorolla at 3:54 PM on December 17, 2018


But this is rude. And the amount of energy and money he put into this could have been put into something useful.

It was useful.

Asshole Thief probably won't do it again.

If the film winds up being used as evidence getting Asshole Thief arrested, then that would also be useful.

Rude? Stealing is rude.

Asshole Thieves are not victims in this scenario. They do not deserve our pity. They certainly won't get mine.
posted by zarq at 3:54 PM on December 17, 2018 [90 favorites]


I have mixed feelings about this overall, but describing it as 'rude' just seems bizarre. It's rude to inconvenience a thief?
posted by tavella at 3:57 PM on December 17, 2018 [42 favorites]


While working for a telecommunications giant I for a time was in a department that tracked overstock sent from the stores back to the warehouse, and you'd be surprised how often packages were picked up by FedEx, UPS, USPS, etc and showed up scanned and photographed as empty with the sides knifed open.

Sometimes the package thief is the one driving the truck.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 3:58 PM on December 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


If you want to argue though that we and all our neighbors should all just pile up all our worldly possessions in the nearest intersection and set fire to them, after which we should all stride arm in arm, naked and singing into the forest never to return, I can get down.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:00 PM on December 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


"used 20 hours of labor to build a specialized robot with at least 200 dollars of disposable cell phones in it."

99.9999999999~% of the victims of package thieves do not build a specialized robot for this task.

This man is not the appropriate proxy for all the class anger you have. He was probably intending to be an emotional proxy for the frustration and anger for any one — rich or poor—probably has when something they spent hard earned money on was stolen by a dirtbag.
posted by You Stay 'Ere An Make Sure 'E Doesn't Leave at 4:01 PM on December 17, 2018 [71 favorites]


These thieves are DEPENDING on your packages man! You're basically taking food out of their kids mouths when you deprive them of your package like this.


/s
posted by some loser at 4:01 PM on December 17, 2018 [22 favorites]


Once you've already got a car full of glitter and farts, why not tear the thing apart?

I'm guessing selection bias: if you have intellectual curiosity and above-average moral flexibility, you don't waste your time stealing packages off porches but go into something like computer fraud or running scams.
posted by acb at 4:02 PM on December 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


On reflection, this is great until some thief inhales the glitter, which sets off his asthma, and sues the engineer for everything he’s worth, including all the revenue from his YouTube channel and his house.
posted by darkstar at 4:03 PM on December 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that everyone stops to open the package while in their cars

I’m guessing you stopped watching partway through? The first few open in their cars. The last few in their homes.
posted by greermahoney at 4:04 PM on December 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's almost as bad as breaking a mugger's arm! Now how's he supposed to earn? Won't someone think of the CRIMINALS?
posted by some loser at 4:04 PM on December 17, 2018 [16 favorites]


My apartment building just installed a bank of low tech delivery lockers in the lobby. Nothing electronic, just four digit spinny plastic wheel locks. Delivery people can drop a postcard with the locker number and combo in your mailbox. It wasn't for package theft (services generally won't just drop packages) but for convenience for recipients and to cut down on the work for delivery people in a four storey walk up with no intercom. The downside is now I sometimes have to lug packages up the stairs, which is one of the benefits of ordering some things--to avoid that. But it does seriously cut down on redeliveries to reduces traffic out front and makes the hellscape of being a delivery guy a bit better maybe? So, I guess I am in favor and will never ever have a use for a fart glitter extravaganza.
posted by Gotanda at 4:04 PM on December 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


fart glitter extravaganza


New band name or sockpuppet handle?
posted by darkstar at 4:06 PM on December 17, 2018 [27 favorites]


There was a local apartment block with a high tech delivery locker and some enterprising package thieves somehow obtained a master password that let them into every locker.

I just deliver every single thing to my office, but I notice most of my neighbors aren't losing packages most of the time.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:07 PM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: is this Fart Glitter Extravaganza an appropriate proxy for all the class anger you have y/n
posted by halation at 4:07 PM on December 17, 2018 [44 favorites]


Yeah, honestly I was half expecting someone to go "oh god my eyes!" since that is a no-foolin' great way to spend an evening in the ER.
posted by Kyol at 4:08 PM on December 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


Anyway, this is way nicer than waiting behind your front door with a baseball bat and a well of disproportionate rage.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:08 PM on December 17, 2018 [19 favorites]


But really, given the past two years, how can any level of rage be truly considered disproportionate?
posted by darkstar at 4:10 PM on December 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


I've read people saying elsewhere online that the guy should mass-produce these and sell them. But I wouldn't pay for one, honestly. I'd just wait for a neighbor to order one, and steal it off his porch.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 4:17 PM on December 17, 2018 [81 favorites]


A year or two ago someone started a business selling something similar but simpler: it would trigger a shotgun blank (news article with autoplay video). It doesn't seem to be for sale any longer that I can see.
posted by exogenous at 4:23 PM on December 17, 2018


MetaFilter: you've already got a car full of glitter and farts
posted by chavenet at 4:23 PM on December 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


Pretty sure a shotgun blank would count as an actual booby trap, one of those going off in your face an arm's length away could really fuck you up.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:25 PM on December 17, 2018 [11 favorites]


The other thing that's frustrating with package theft is that half the time the thief is going to get something that's utterly useless to them but necessary to you; now someone has a replacement switch for a lamp and I have a non functioning lamp.
posted by Ferreous at 4:25 PM on December 17, 2018 [41 favorites]


>> Where I live right now none of the delivery services will leave a
>> package. It's handed off (and probably signed for) or nothing at all.
>>
>> It reflects an interesting socio-economic fact: if you're wealthy enough
>> to be ordering packages you're likely wealthy enough that someone will be
>> at home to receive them.
>
> you may want to update your priors on this. People from ALL walks of life
> order things online. People who can't drive or are homebound are vastly helped
> by the ability to order things online. People who have complicated lives
> (including gig economy 'jobs', jobs plus caring for a sick relative, etc) often
> have little time to go shopping for unusual needs. Some medicines are only
> affordable from pharmacies that ship.

For some reason you chopped off my first sentence. People who are homebound can receive packages, but gig economy workers and random people needing specialty goods ordered on-line cannot. There's no sign of lockers either, and I'm told it's bad etiquette to use your work address (if you even have one).

On the other hand, generational homes are common here so maybe it's not such a bad assumption that someone will be around.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:26 PM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


My wife was pregnant in 2008. High risk pregnancy. Carrying twins. Towards the end she was prescribed heparin, a blood thinner. There was some sort of regional shortage in the NY, NJ and CT area and our local drug stores were out, with large delays before they'd get it in. I called our doctor who called our (awful) insurance and then we called the insurance company as well. Insurance would not cover alternative medications. (She was also on injections of lovenox, insulin and some other meds and heparin was apparently the best of her options.)

Insurance has a solution: order the medication from their supplier. In stock. Delivers in 48 hours. Great. No problem.

First box was swiped off our doorstep. Second box (which I had to pay full price for) was also swiped off our doorstep.

A week after she was prescribed the medication, I had to fight to get them to release the medication a third time because now they were convinced I was scamming them. I finally convinced them otherwise and AGAIN paid full price for the damned stuff. AND had to arrange an alternative delivery address.

The heparin was about $150 for a 10 day supply. Each. At the time all I could do is just pay and be thankful it wasn't the damned lovenox because that was much more expensive (and totally unaffordable) without insurance.

Don't assume the things being stolen are electronics.
posted by zarq at 4:26 PM on December 17, 2018 [165 favorites]


Yeah, or like special-order cat food or something. Great, now nobody's happy.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:26 PM on December 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


It’s not exactly the start of The Purge, but it does seem like we have a bit of a blind spot here.

Our criminal justice system isn’t only problematic when it causes unnecessary harm. It’s also problematic because “criminal justice” is an inherently problematic philosophy. The concept and practice of “justice” effectively moves moral responsibility for social ills from the architects of society onto its constituents. The cultural framing of “criminals” vs. “citizens” reifies that concept in the minds of we, the oppressed, making us complicit in the oppression of our neighbors.

This Thing is pretty harmless. By the same token it’s pretty useless, except in that it gratifies a retaliatory part of our psyche that probably doesn’t need any more gratification. But I’m not picking sides; it’s MetaFilter, everyone can be the asshole.
posted by emmalemma at 4:30 PM on December 17, 2018 [18 favorites]


Wait, there's nothing holding the glitter in the glitter dispenser except gravity? So the glitter deployment depends on the thieves keeping the correct end facing upwards while transporting and opening the package? That's not what I'd call "overengineered" and it strains belief that people engaged in snatch and grab theft would bother to keep the right side up and not just throw it in their car.
posted by peeedro at 4:38 PM on December 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


I assume the box lid sits relatively flush with the glitter reservoir, there might even be a gasket.
posted by Ferreous at 4:41 PM on December 17, 2018 [11 favorites]


Funny, Last week I prepared a FPP about his YouTube channel, but then didn’t post it.
posted by growabrain at 4:42 PM on December 17, 2018


"It’s also problematic because “criminal justice” is an inherently problematic philosophy. The concept and practice of “justice” effectively moves moral responsibility for social ills from the architects of society onto its constituents."

I guess I don't follow because to me it's rather cynical to conclude that the concept of criminal justice is "inherently" problematic. That's like saying truth is only relative.

If anything when a critical mass of people just give on the idea of criminal justice then THAT's the start of The Purge.
posted by You Stay 'Ere An Make Sure 'E Doesn't Leave at 4:43 PM on December 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


I once had someone steal a package from me and then return it. I was honestly insulted on behalf of the box set of Coltrane recordings it contained.
posted by winna at 4:45 PM on December 17, 2018 [61 favorites]


Maybe they didn't want to steal from a fellow Coltrane fan?
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:50 PM on December 17, 2018 [24 favorites]


This is amazing. Part of me wishes he'd used Liquid Ass, though.

This video led me to several other entertaining Mark Rober videos, including this excellent analysis and takedown of the fake "flying phone drone" video from a few months ago (in which he is assisted by CaptainDisillusion, who has an awesome debunking of the Cicret projector bracelet).
posted by jjwiseman at 4:52 PM on December 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Someone in my local nextdoor just posted a still of their surveillance cam footage (which anymore are pretty common, not really a sign of being Mr. Burns in your hilltop mansion). They'd made a police report already but the police where basically like, oh well, sucks to be you I guess, maybe try Facebook. A dozen people posted that they lived in the same couple block area and also had packages stolen that same day. Didn't hear anything for a while. Then the op came back and said hey thanks everyone, he was id'd and turned in to the police. By his parents.

Package theft seems like a pretty crappy way of actually getting money, though. How many instantpots and USB cables can you pawn?
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:04 PM on December 17, 2018 [26 favorites]


(Fixing the Cicret projector bracelet debunking video from my comment above: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbgvSi35n6o)
posted by jjwiseman at 5:09 PM on December 17, 2018


I'd assume that it's more likely ebay and craigslist than pawnshops, which usually work under legal restrictions about recording who sold stuff.
posted by tavella at 5:12 PM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'd assume that it's more likely ebay and craigslist

You're probably right.

And, like, y'all may have noticed especially lately in the US that there's quite a bit of evidence that plenty of people who don't at all need to do crime will totally do some pretty blatant crime if they think they won't get caught.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:27 PM on December 17, 2018 [40 favorites]


I lol'd. Absolutely hilarious. Just disappointed he blurred the faces.
posted by dobbs at 5:32 PM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I would legit kick back and spend entire evenings watching this dude own people with this gizmo.

And he ain't exactly hitting Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family, y'all. The box he used is for a $350 HomePod. I know, I know, even poor people have a right to listen to sweet tunes and talk to Alexa if they steal it off someone's porch.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:33 PM on December 17, 2018 [23 favorites]


In recent years there has been a big spike in property crime in most American big cities. It's generally the fodder of talk radio pearl clutchers as some sort of proof that liberal cities are anarchistic hellholes. See Grandma and grandpa visualize armed home invasions.

But the fact is the vast majority of those crimes are car prowling and package thefts like these and the spike is driven by the increased opportunity due to the massive increase and popularity of home delivery due to the ubiquity of Amazon, etc. And the police simple cannot and generally will not do much about it.

The infuriating thing is, as others have mentioned, that probably half the time the the thieves just toss shit in the garbage because it will have relatively low resale value. So everyone loses.

My parents, in their 80's, are both in various stages of Alzheimer's/dementia. But they can still live at home. Neither can drive anymore. I have them signed up to get pre-prepared meals, nutrition drinks and all their meds delivered. At least once per month a package is stolen. I'll drive up the street occasionally to see it just torn apart and tossed in a ditch.
posted by You Stay 'Ere An Make Sure 'E Doesn't Leave at 5:34 PM on December 17, 2018 [29 favorites]


One of the porch pirates who did get caught here in San Francisco was found to have piles and piles of stolen stuff in her home, just hoarded and sitting there. I have no problem with the idea of a criminal justice system, just like I have no problem with the idea of private property. YMMV.
posted by PhineasGage at 5:35 PM on December 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


One of the porch pirates who did get caught here in San Francisco was found to have piles and piles of stolen stuff in her home, just hoarded and sitting there.

oof. That sounds like legit kleptomania- I'm glad she was caught, but I hope she got help.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:36 PM on December 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: there might even be a gasket
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:47 PM on December 17, 2018 [11 favorites]


Asshole Thief probably won't do it again.

Unfortunately will probably just become a bit more careful, open a few packages inside of a garbage bag in a back lot and realize the event was a one off and be on the hunt in a few hours. Wonder if any have seen the video?
posted by sammyo at 5:48 PM on December 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I appreciate the level of over-engineering that went into this. That kind of attention to detail is to be respected.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:58 PM on December 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


I was really worried about retaliation, but was suprised to hear the laughter from some of the thieves.
Pretty sure that was from the thieves whose car it wasn't.
posted by krisjohn at 6:20 PM on December 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


I guess I don't follow because to me it's rather cynical to conclude that the concept of criminal justice is "inherently" problematic. That's like saying truth is only relative.

Huh, I would have called it idealistic before cynical. But I think it depends what you mean by the words.

Intuitively, I guess I’d draw a parallel to discussions of communism and the Soviet Union. We can weaken “criminal justice” to mean “anything that reduces crime”, which is hard to problematize. And we can say “maybe at some point our legal system represented criminal justice, but today it’s just another arm of totalitarian oppression”, and then we can totally talk about what a true representation would look like. (Restorative justice folks do this. So do most communists, I suppose.)

But if by “criminal justice” we mean something that vaguely looks like the justificatory framework for everything from slave-catcher patrols to the prison-industrial complex, it doesn’t take a lot of cynicism to ask if we want that concept floating around at all.
posted by emmalemma at 6:28 PM on December 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


tl;dr : truth *is* kinda relative tho, when you think about it.
posted by some loser at 6:32 PM on December 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


As someone who's still finding glitter in my house many months after a guest spilled some, I just came here to say that the ninth circle of hell isn't cruel enough a place for whoever invented glitter.
posted by epimorph at 6:45 PM on December 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I think it's pretty patronising to get too defensive: the vast majority of "low SES" people do not go around stealing shit off people's porches and they'd be furious if you implied they did. Necessity is not the driver, here.

Furthermore, the same people would probably be delighted to see even stronger punishment meted out to the vilains - "low SES" people are disproportionately greater victims of crime and tend to take a pretty dim view on it.

I don't think anyone's stealing a package so little Timmy Cratchett can get his Christmas present.
posted by smoke at 6:48 PM on December 17, 2018 [68 favorites]


I helped a young, single African-American woman buy a winter coat for her seven y.o. asthmatic daughter. The package was stolen from the porch of the woman’s grandmother’s house. Please spare us the “but the thieves are often PoC.”
posted by haiku warrior at 7:02 PM on December 17, 2018 [48 favorites]


Package theft doesn't really affect wealthy people anyway.

If you're truly rich, you have staff / assistants / doormen / whatever to receive packages.
If you're upper middle class / professional, you can probably have stuff delivered to work.

Its working class / middle class people who have packages sitting around on their doorsteps.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:19 PM on December 17, 2018 [24 favorites]


Forgive me, zarq -- but it seems an Asshole Thief would cause more worry than a Thieving Asshole.

YMMV
posted by datawrangler at 7:19 PM on December 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Glitter will endure...speaking as a person who owns a 30+ year-old carpet that still has some glitter in it from 30+ or so years ago.

It's silver glitter and an orange carpet. Oh, the 1970s...
posted by datawrangler at 7:21 PM on December 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Its working class / middle class people who have packages sitting around on their doorsteps.

Oh, definitely, like the guy who works for NASA and spent half a grand on an elaborate revenge robot.
posted by codacorolla at 7:30 PM on December 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I have a disabled family member who is reliant on an otc drug for their quality of life (the downside of the FDA being so liberal with approving medicines for otc sale is that that drug is no longer covered by insurance). The only way they can afford this medicine is by buying it in bulk from an ebay supplier. It has been stolen a grand total of 5 times so far. It has zero recreational value and probably very little resale value unless they know a lot of people with eczema, but they take it anyways. It's obvious they don't even know what's in the package until they open it. This family member lives on $750 a month from SSI. Until these package thieves decide to confine their thefts completely to neighborhoods made up of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, take the "eat the rich poor thieves how will they eat" discourse and shove it. A little glitter and farts is the most gentle justice that will ever be visited on them.
posted by katyggls at 7:34 PM on December 17, 2018 [65 favorites]


Oh, definitely, like the guy who works for NASA and spent half a grand on an elaborate revenge robot.

I don't think this guy is the average package theft victim.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:35 PM on December 17, 2018 [13 favorites]


I was amazed that there were so many package thefts (although I guess I don't know how close in time the thefts were). It's not that I'm morally outraged; I don't know what to think. I'm surprised. Where is this? Are most suburbs like this?

I've had packages go missing a couple times, living various places, but delivery snafus or my own incompetence usually seem like the more likely explanation than theft. Recently I did lose a bike light in what seems to have been an opportunistic theft (but then maybe I lost it).

I'm rambling I know. Just, the video seems to suggest a much higher background level of stealing than I usually imagine.
posted by grobstein at 7:38 PM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Package theft strikes me as one of those things that the police don't take seriously enough, and is socially corrosive in a way that's disproportionate to the economic damage to the stores sending the stuff out. You're causing people to feel like they are besieged by criminality, and that crime isn't punished, even if that's not generally true—but I think that's the sort of thing that can be slowly self-fulfilling. I mean, if someone can get away with stealing shit off your porch, then, well, you might wonder what else is now fair game.

More generally (but not unrelated), failure by the state to enforce basic laws tends to produce vigilantism. Eventually someone who maybe has an anger issue and is looking for an outlet is going to decide that package thieves are a fun target. And instead of glitter they'll get battery acid. Which isn't a good deterrent strategy (people engaging in crime are already showing a questionable sense of risk tradeoffs), but it does make a hell of a mess that the rest of us have to deal with the costs of.

Or in a Castle Doctrine state, someone will just sit behind the door with a shotgun and drop the thief when they're coming up the porch stairs. Particularly if the perp has to jump a fence and is already on the hook for burglary when they contract the fatal case of lead poisoning, that's probably the end the investigation there.

I am a bit surprised that more police departments aren't doing sting operations just for the sake of PR, and underlining that it's not just newly-acceptable behavior in a gradually deteriorating world.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:39 PM on December 17, 2018 [25 favorites]


[One deleted; the point about "this project took some resources to do" has been made, it doesn't seem like much to be gained by arguing over that -- especially not "you're the jerk"/"no YOU'RE the jerk" style, making it about other people in the thread.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:50 PM on December 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Just, the video seems to suggest a much higher background level of stealing than I usually imagine.

It really REALLY depends on where you live. This *is* one of the crimes that is much more prevalent in cities- and speaking as a San Francisco resident- hoo boy. But a lot of the problem lies with the delivery companies who due too a lot of reasons (low pay, too much work, apathy etc) are not pushing their people to actually ring doorbells and put packages in gates- there's a lot of low hanging fruit when in a busy city delivering to an apartment house, instead of buzzing in, UPS/USPS/Fed-ex etc just drops the package outside the door on a busy street. I've had packages delivered where the note online said "rang doorbell- no answer" when I was home all day and never heard a ring even though I was in the front of the house all day. Like- they just straight up lied about what they did. So like, this happens *everywhere* on a small scale, opportunistic thieves gonna steal, but in cities where delivery people are overworked- there is A LOT of low hanging fruit to scoop up. I'm just lucky I have a gate- and live in a part of SF that is just the right blend of residential/busy/sleepy/on a hill where this kind of thing isn't as common or lucrative. But my dad gets mailed some of his meds- and if they got stolen, he'd be in BIG TROUBLE.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:52 PM on December 17, 2018 [14 favorites]


I just cannot believe how brazen those scumbag thieves are. Just walk right up, stop your car, whatever. Just out in broad daylight stealing people's stuff. Fuck thieves.
posted by Sternmeyer at 7:54 PM on December 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


I didn't actually watch the video - it's kind of an empty experience for me. The glitter and bad smells won't return the stolen property to other victims, and while glitter is an annoyance for many it probably won't bother these folks much. My husband enjoyed it though.
If it's a crime that police won't investigate for well to do people, imagine how little effort enforcement there would be in lower income areas. Everyone gets packages of stuff these days, rich or poor.
FWIW there's a difference between "being unable to identify and arrest people that day" and "refusing to investigate." I can have a perfect still frame of a suspect's face but that doesn't mean I know who they are. My agency has an internal info page where investigators from all of our units post attempts to ID multiple times a day. Over the years and the hundreds of such posts I've seen I've been able to help a couple times. And now that I'm working as an investigator I would like to stress to you how difficult it is to establish ID. Even on those occasions when I feel like I know for certain who a specific suspect is, establishing that suspicion to the bar of probable cause is difficult enough. Establishing it beyond a reasonable doubt is even more difficult. And then even when you know for certain who it is (perfect picture, prints and/or DNA, ID of suspect made by victim well known to them, etc) you still have to find them. And then, in the case of chronic theft, even once you find them you have to establish to a judge that a particular place is where they're keeping their stolen property until they can fence it.

What I'm getting at is that the whole process takes time as well as typically some degree of luck in the form of patrol making a good stop or being right around the corner when a neighbor calls, that kind of thing. If you google police arrest package thieves a fair number of stories pop up.

And just for an added wrinkle to this: police agencies have limited resources. Often VERY limited. Literally the only fully staffed investigative unit in my agency is homicide. Robbery, assault, and sexual assault units are all understaffed and especially during the summer every investigator has more cases than they can work. Crime lab is SWAMPED and violent crime work orders go to the front of the queue. Property crimes also very frequently have no suspect information or description whatsoever and timeframes in the 6-10 hour range, so even finding grainy video of a suspect that will likely go nowhere takes hours. One of the robbery guys has this image pinned up on his cubicle. Then if you manage to catch someone, even felony property crimes result in pretty minor sentences if convicted. In my county in my state if you get convicted as a felon in possession* of a firearm the prosecutor will always ask to max your sentence, which is right around five years. A couple years ago (after a couple years of work) one of our hardest working property crime investigators got a couple of our chronic vehicle breakin guys that worked ramps and lots in the city. Recovered a few hundred thousand dollars worth of stolen property from their house. They got straight probation. Now there's time hanging over their heads and it's likely they'll violate their conditions but they're likely to create a decent number of new victims first.

I'm not saying that every agency out there is handling their property crimes investigations in an ideal fashion, but I do think it's likely that they're working harder at it than you might think looking at it from the outside.

FWIW in my experience your average victim of property crime are the people who can't afford it very well. Part of that is where I work. I'm not in the wealthy burbs so I'm not taking the reports of wealthy suburbanites. I worked the street at night so I wasn't taking the reports of wealthy suburbanites in town for the workday. But my experience was definitely that property loss and damage exposed the victims to significant hardship that they tended to not have great ways to mitigate. Just because you just got your first new phone in 5 years doesn't mean the cell company is going to replace it when it gets stolen, you know?

*This is only for crimes of violence by the way. So for example a felony theft conviction doesn't make you prohibited.
posted by firebrick at 8:01 PM on December 17, 2018 [32 favorites]


I just cannot believe how brazen those scumbag thieves are.

I know that it’s counterintuitive but you’re actually more conspicuous tiptoeing around, dressed like the Hamburglar with a sack emblazoned with dollar signs slung over your shoulder.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:05 PM on December 17, 2018 [19 favorites]


Werd.

I once bought and planted a long-stemmed rose bush in my front yard. Babied that thing for six months, until it put out three buds. The day it was due for the buds to open, I was so excited while I was at work, counting the hours until I could go home to see them. I even took off a little early, so I could photograph them before the sun went down.

As I was pulling into my driveway, I could see they were gone. On closer inspection, the three blooms were cut cleanly off. Some asshole thief had brazenly walked up to the front of my house in broad daylight and stolen my flowers.

I went inside and seethed for a long time. Finally calming down a little, I then went back outside and pulled the rose bush out by the roots.

This is why we can’t have nice things.
posted by darkstar at 8:12 PM on December 17, 2018 [23 favorites]


This is to package theft as bait cars are to car theft. Except instead of criminal consequences, you get glitter permanently embedded in all your stuff. Seems about fair for the (average) size of the crime, though I thought mail theft was a felony offense? Shouldn’t the cops at least want to enforce it?

I’m guessing one issue is that unless the video is super high resolution, there is no way to prove that the package in question is a) not theirs, b) yours, c) taken away permanently. Especially in multi-person residences that may have packages arriving for many people. (If we had a camera on our front entrance, it would show me routinely picking other people’s packages off our front doorstep and taking them inside with me. I move them into the foyer where they are less likely to be stolen. But unless the footage could show the print on on the label, even if I did steal them, I could just claim I had my own delivery that day, and someone else must have taken the stolen package.)

If police collected people’s video evidence and had footage of the same person taking packages in 10 different locations, that should be enough to get them in trouble to the point where package theft doesn’t seem worth it anymore. Deter the top N package thieves in the area and the problem should be mostly solved. I can’t imagine a large percentage of the population has this moral turpitude.

The police will probably get to this in a decade or three when technology has managed to fully penetrate law enforcement (for better or worse). Though hopefully by that time, we’ve figured out a way to be that doesn’t involve ordering a bunch of packages. The amount of packaging I put in the recycling makes me sick.
posted by mantecol at 8:24 PM on December 17, 2018


Thanks for sharing your experience and the additional law enforcement context, firebrick.
posted by smoke at 8:29 PM on December 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Does anyone else think the "thieves" were in on the joke? They sure seem to to be a vocal bunch even when there is no one else in the room with them.
posted by great_radio at 8:31 PM on December 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


I’m pretty sure most people vocalize expressions of surprise, even if no one else is around. It’s kind of involuntary. I would have liked to hear more shrieking! Maybe the contraption should have made a little popping sound when sending the glitter flying.

(And hopefully I’m not alone in occasionally talking to myself out loud for any old reason... Sometimes keeping it all in my mind gets boring. What does it really matter when there’s no one around to hear anyway?)
posted by mantecol at 8:40 PM on December 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


I loved the guy who was in his gf's car and was worried she thought he had someone else in there with him.

I thoroughly enjoyed the video. Putting aside, if you can/want, the moral part about theft, I enjoy slapstick, Candid Camera, Practical Jokers, and that sort of comedy. Someone getting hit with a glitter bomb is funny. Someone getting hit with fart spray is even funnier.
posted by AugustWest at 9:00 PM on December 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


“Glitter is the herpes of craft supplies” - my sixth grader’s design teacher
posted by TheShadowKnows at 9:06 PM on December 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


I wonder if I’m alone in being able to excuse murder, etc in a lot of cases, after all crimes of passion are a thing, but package theft like this marks you as such a shitbag that I really don’t care if you end up in prison forever? I know it’s a disproportionate response, but if you’ve done this you’ve crossed a line that you can’t ever back to the other side of. You’re not shoplifting food to feed yourself. You’re not sealing diapers for a kid. You’re just human garbage.

I might feel differently if the police actually did anything about this kind of thing, after all it’d be very easy for them to set up decoy packages this time of year, but that doesn’t earn revenue like parking tickets so good luck getting them to actually do the job we pay them for.
posted by mikesch at 9:15 PM on December 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


The fart spray was really the winning moment.
posted by Toddles at 9:49 PM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I know how you feel darkstar. A handful of years back there was an apricot tree in the yard that was just full of fruit. It was just getting ripe when I had to take my mom in for chemo. During her infusion we talked about how she should be feeling better by the weekend so we could pick the apricots, do some canning and maybe make a dessert or two. When we got home the tree had been stripped of fruit. It really upset her and made recovery from that week’s infusion harder. Later when she was feeling a bit better we drove to the mountains and picked a few buckets of huckleberries and that lifted her spirits. Until she died she was bitter about her lost apricots. It didn’t help that the tree died the winter after the theft. Who knows if the rogue pickers did something or if it expired from natural causes.

In May I went to the shed to get my string trimmer so I could mow the lawn and the trimmer was gone along with a 5 gallon can of gas. The string trimmer was used for mowing because the previous summer someone walked off with my lawn mower and I haven’t been able to replace it. I don’t have much left in this world so the missing trimmer bothered me more than it should have. This summer I mowed by hand with an ancient pair of grass sheers. My dog loved the extra outside time and thought it was a game. She would grab mouthfuls of grass and shake her head throwing it around. The shears I keep inside the house.
posted by Tenuki at 10:04 PM on December 17, 2018 [29 favorites]


I'd much rather that packages were delivered to the post office rather than my door. Or even a corner store. The last mile is so wasteful.
posted by ethansr at 10:08 PM on December 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


METAFILTER: The last mile is so wasteful.
posted by philip-random at 10:20 PM on December 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


I was able to discover the address of the third glitter bomb victim, the lady who was glittered at her kitchen table. It was kinda an oh-shit moment when I noticed something in the video.

I don't think I can say how I figured it out without leaving such an obvious trail of breadcrumbs that anyone could trivially dox her. Things like this are possible when you secretly record people inside their home and upload it to the internet.

I sent Mark Rober an email suggesting what he should blur out if he wants to protect her identity. It would really suck if internet vigilantes went after her.

Also, I noticed the map in the video during the GPS explanation is a neighborhood in Illinois (Mark Rober lives in CA according to his social media). So this guy knows the internet is full of cranks and prudently obscured his own home address, but he secretly recorded audio and video inside the homes and cars of his prank victims and left enough information in the video to give away one person's address and identity to anyone willing to spend 15 minutes sleuthing. And he monetized the whole thing.
posted by peeedro at 10:28 PM on December 17, 2018 [23 favorites]


Does anyone else think the "thieves" were in on the joke? They sure seem to to be a vocal bunch even when there is no one else in the room with them.

I did think that this happened to be an extremely effective promotional video for the VPN company that was acting as a sponsor: just the right target to reach people who want to use VPNs to try to protect their security and privacy (which is a something of a scam in its own right). The video has 3.8 million views as I write. I think many advertisers would be happy to pay for the R&D and production costs - at least - to secure that kind of well targetted exposure.

If you are willing to entertain the idea that the whole thing could have been planned as a viral promotion video - then the idea of having real victims rather than actors seems like an unnecessary risk: there is the risk of somebody destroying the package, the risk of revenge, the risk of litigation. Plus the risk of having to wait an unknown amount of time before somebody steals the package. We see, I think 5 different victims in the video: so we have to think about the set-up work and risk of finding genuine thieves being multiplied by that amount. The whole thing really works just as well if the thieves are actors as if they aren't. So - there is that.
posted by rongorongo at 10:31 PM on December 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


, but he secretly recorded audio and video inside the homes and cars of his prank victims

One man's prank victim is another's thief shit bastard, I guess. I wonder how many packages she's stolen?
posted by smoke at 10:45 PM on December 17, 2018 [14 favorites]


See, if this was me, I would have put a Bumble Ball in there, and some sort of way of turning it on when the package was jostled slightly, or rotated or something. Then there would be a heavy-ish thing inside, making noise and wobbling and bumping the sides of the box, and maybe that would make them drop the package out of sheer "wtf is this weird thing?" if nothing else. No expensive electronics involved.

Also I no longer think glitter is funny after seeing that imgur story of the woman who lost an eye when she got a piece of glitter on her hand and rubbed her eye (ensuing damage and infection eventually progressed to eye loss). I worry about kids doing that, or pets, or whatever. Use paper confetti or something. Yikes, people.
posted by cats are weird at 11:14 PM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


An interesting podcast detailing how NY City got crime under control in the 70s {tl;dl - decoy mugging victims):
The Crime Machine, Pt. 1
The Crime Machine, Pt.2

Any police department that has the resoirces to prosecute (non trafficked/abused) sex workers while ignoring property crimes is bullshitting the citizens about resource limitations.
posted by benzenedream at 11:22 PM on December 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


But this is rude.

It's supposed to be rude! That's why there's fart spray!
posted by ryanrs at 11:29 PM on December 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


I've noticed a couple of people talking about police stings/decoy packages. I think it sounds fine, but then it can lead to situations like this:

After Columbus Police Killed Teen, Officers Arrest Other Teen For His Murder

Police set up a sting to catch armed robbers who were robbing people from Craigslist, etc. transactions, ended up murdering a teenager, and now the girl that was with him has been charged with murder because of this logic:

“Under what historically has been called 'felony murder,' which means that you're still responsible for a murder if you cause the death of another as an approximate result of committing certain kinds of serious offenses,” Berman says.

Berman says that can apply to Tate's death, which resulted from a sting operation during which Tate attempted to rob an undercover Columbus Police officer at gunpoint. Another officer then fatally shot Tate.


So like, maybe only endorse the decoy/sting idea if you have the belief your police can do it without killing anyone. I'm sure some are that competent, but not here in Columbus.
posted by imabanana at 11:58 PM on December 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


I'd much rather that packages were delivered to the post office rather than my door. Or even a corner store. The last mile is so wasteful.

Something I really like about Canada Post is their free Flex Delivery service. You can sign up for a virtual P.O. Box number and then choose a convenient-to-you post office to have your package delivered to (I chose the postal kiosk in my local pharmacy). When my package arrives Canada Post emails and phones me to let me know.

It's been a game changer for me. Now I don't have to worry about rushed-off-their-feet delivery people in rental trucks sneakily leaving notices on my porch claiming they rang my bell when they didn't and instructing me that if I want my package I need to find my own way to one of the delivery company package depots - which are all 6km away in a not-pedestrian-safe industrial zone. And I also don't have to worry about packages being left on my porch & then stolen - not something I've personally experienced, but it's a known issue in my neighbourhood. Doesn't work for merchants who won't ship to a P.O. Box address, but it's still been really helpful.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 12:03 AM on December 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


In my area, they call glitter "fairy herpes." Once it's in the house or in your hair, it's never. going. away.

And while there is a risk of damage to eyes or setting off an asthma attack, the non-toxic glitters are much better about that: nontoxic materials and no sharp corners on the individual pieces. There's nothing you can put in the air that absolutely won't set off asthma, but there are ways to make it less likely, and they do - it's heavy enough that it doesn't stick around waiting to be breathed in.

The ability to sue someone who set off an asthma attack (or worse) by rigging a glitterbomb you happened to be stealing depends on your jurisdiction, and your ability to navigate the court system. I would posit that most people who steal packages off porches (1) do not have debilitating asthma (which would make it difficult to run away if they got spotted) and (2) are not likely to have the resources to file a lawsuit.

(For longer-term revenge, he could've looked for a scent that attracts ants or wasps. A quick look didn't turn up anything - the first several pages are "these are attracted to sugar and they don't like cinnamon and eucalyptus" - but there is bee scent available.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:11 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


You're causing people to feel like they are besieged by criminality

Can attest to this. Nobody leaves packages here, but once or twice every summer, a couple dudes will mosey to our council block, ring a few buzzers at random, see if they can talk their way in with rambling stories about being somebody's uncle (no idea why when just "amazon!" would get them straight on) , succeed as soon as thry get the frail elderly lady across from us who just buzzes in everyone immediately regardless, and steals everything that isn't nailed down. We're left feeling paranoid and jumpy for weeks.

Last time around a neighbour snapped some phone photos of the guy doing lookout at the door,he noticed and just stood there flipping her off, while her partner had to go scream at the guy inside to get out before he called the police. They were shaken up and we were all braced for reprisals for a good while after.

I'm not blinding myself to economic factors at all but I can't get down with this as victimless robinhoodery either.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:23 AM on December 18, 2018 [18 favorites]


For longer-term revenge, he could've looked for a scent that attracts ants or wasps.

Or tellurium dissolved in tetrahydrofuran, heh.

(Coincidentally, both are available on Amazon. You'll probably also need some lithium.)
posted by ryanrs at 12:29 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm just astonished that the victims of this prank all seemed to narrate the events perfectly.

"Hullo! What jape is this? A motorised glitter dispersal apparatus? Curses!"
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 12:36 AM on December 18, 2018 [13 favorites]


rongorongo has some good points, I wouldn't be much surprised if some or all turned out to be actors. It would fit with the relatively modest amount of cursing and lack of damaging the mechanism. Though it does require people allowing their cars or homes to be glitterbombed.
posted by tavella at 12:43 AM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I watched less than 10 seconds of that before I decided the odds were at least even that this was a money maker and not what it claims to be.
posted by bongo_x at 1:18 AM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


It looks like someone auditioning for his own Mythbusters- knockoff TV show, but I have no idea, he might be someone already. I'm afraid I was "Shut up, shut up!" long before anyone got to open anything.

Eventually, I suppose people will pack their stuff with GPS trackers and have teams of large gentlemen whose job it is to go to those places and ask for it back in persuasive ways.
posted by Grangousier at 1:55 AM on December 18, 2018


This is kinda fun and has all sorts of nifty moral angles to debate, but his dartboard that moves so that every dart you throw is a bullseye is much more impressive and amazing and amusing.
posted by straight at 2:55 AM on December 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


Huh.

Judging by this thread, when the cops are ready to roll out 24/7 drone surveillance of our neighborhoods with facial recognition software that syncs to a database logging every American's whereabouts and movement patterns, the best way to get the Good Liberal Folks on board is to say that it'll stop the package thieves.
posted by duffell at 3:10 AM on December 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


what does this even meeeeaaaann
posted by ominous_paws at 3:14 AM on December 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm definitely not saying that people who swipe packages from doorsteps aren't assholes, but it's preeeeetty amazing how when there's a thread discussing criminal justice and policing *in the abstract* on the Blue, the overwhelming consensus is that we as a society are oversurveilled, the police are generally not our friends, and that calling the cops in many cases, even when you've been wronged, can get completely innocent people (of color, natch) badly harmed or worse, because that's the state of policing in 2018 in the US of A.

But based on the comments I'm reading here, we sure do revert to relying on pervasive surveillance technology and calling in the armed enforcers of the law pretty quickly when somebody mentions the shadowy menace of The Package Thief in Your Neighborhood!
posted by duffell at 3:20 AM on December 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


One man's prank victim is another's thief shit bastard, I guess.

That's the problem. The Internet and its mobs at not known for their grasp of proportionality.
posted by Dysk at 3:34 AM on December 18, 2018


This seems pretty proportionate, though? Mild, even.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:38 AM on December 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


I'm not sold on the "bur glitter os dangerous!" argument, either. Just because our terminally sensationalist news media found one person who lost an eye to a piece of glitter does not make it dangerous.

You know what's more dangerous? Lots of things. Sand. Shaking hands. Going to work in the morning. Lettuce. Taking a shower. Lots of perfectly normal things.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:45 AM on December 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


This seems pretty proportionate, though? Mild, even.

You've missed some context. "This" being the prank, sure. In the context of the conversation I was responding to, it was about the fact that one of the parcel thieves in the video is identifiable (as is their address) from the video. That internet mobs might see this person as less of a prank victim (or, as has been pointed out, potentially an actor) and more of a "thief shit bastard" that is fair game for all of internet mobs' cruelties, that is where the internet not generally being known for its love of proportionality comes in.
posted by Dysk at 4:01 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


So yeah, it's not glitter that's dangerous, it's risking siccing internet mobs on people that is dangerous, whether intentional or not.
posted by Dysk at 4:01 AM on December 18, 2018


I think we just need better delivery practices, in the absence of any chance of people just being less shitty. More ways for people to get their packages that don't rely quite so much on the "throw the box out the window of a slowly moving van in the vague direction of a house and hope for the best" method. Stop putting so much pressure on delivery people that they don't bother to ring a bell to see if anyone is even home. Provide package locker services in more locations. This is an infrastructure not keeping up with changes in lifestyle problem, no?

I think there's a pretty large area in between "total drone warfare against package thieves" and "hdu even be upset about your shit getting stolen". It's not a harmless crime, but it is a crime of opportunity. So, remove the opportunity for as many cases as you can and it'll stop being worth anyone's while to drive around looking for the few people who still get unsecured packages delivered to their doorsteps.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:02 AM on December 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


Ah, yeah, internet mobs are bad. Package theft is bad, but internet mobs are such a blunt and unpredictable thing that I think they're almost never justified. Maybe in high-profile cases of miscarriage of justice against someone who has very obviously committed a truly heinous crime, and even then I'd be wary of legitimizing them as a tactic. Definitely not for package theft.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:07 AM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don't think Metafilter At Large here is calling for armed police response any more than Metafilter At Large is really freaking out about glitter allergies, as fun as it is to shout LIBERALS and glare at everyone else in the room

For myself finding ways to get packages delivered without leaving them in the open seems to be the smart solution, without either cutting off the hands of thieves or having the state remove the property of anyone with enough disgustingly bourgeois wealth to afford an internet connection with which to make an amazon order
posted by ominous_paws at 4:15 AM on December 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


Mark responded to my email about the house address in his video. His response says, "Holy crap," that he doesn't want to ruin someone's life over a stupid decision, and that he's contacted youtube to see if he can swap-in a new video with the identifying information blurred out, and asking me not to tell anyone.

The information is still there in the video 5 hours later.
posted by peeedro at 4:17 AM on December 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


he doesn't want to ruin someone's life over a stupid decision, and that he's contacted youtube to see if he can swap-in a new video with the identifying information blurred out

He doesn't want to ruin anyone's life - as long as he doesn't have to lose his sweet sweet trending views.

(The solution in cases like this is always delete the video, reupload, but of course youtube treats that as a new video with no comments, views, buzz, etc.)
posted by Dysk at 4:22 AM on December 18, 2018 [11 favorites]


I will watch almost any idiotic YT video like a sedated teen on a sunny Saturday, but the “prankster” in question was such a self-aggrandizing douche I couldn’t even sit through to the payoff if I had to listen to one more effing minute of his hip-chatty sales presentation of how desperately great he was. Ooh—your engineering is on “freaking Mars.” You really must be special. Please continue to tell us how clever you’ve been!

Oy vey.

Plus, glitter is microplastic pollution beloved of nitwits.
posted by sonascope at 4:24 AM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I was able to discover the address of the third glitter bomb victim, the lady who was glittered at her kitchen table. It was kinda an oh-shit moment when I noticed something in the video.

I don't think I can say how I figured it out without leaving such an obvious trail of breadcrumbs that anyone could trivially dox her. Things like this are possible when you secretly record people inside their home and upload it to the internet.

I sent Mark Rober an email suggesting what he should blur out if he wants to protect her identity. It would really suck if internet vigilantes went after her.

Also, I noticed the map in the video during the GPS explanation is a neighborhood in Illinois (Mark Rober lives in CA according to his social media). So this guy knows the internet is full of cranks and prudently obscured his own home address, but he secretly recorded audio and video inside the homes and cars of his prank victims and left enough information in the video to give away one person's address and identity to anyone willing to spend 15 minutes sleuthing. And he monetized the whole thing.


The homes and cars of his "prank" victims? These people are thieves. If they don't want to be surveiled in their homes, they shouldn't bring things they've stolen into them.

I was also able to find her address. That house in that neighbourhood tells me that either: a) this whole thing is a setup and she's a friend of his. or b) she's not a desperately poor person trying to get by stealing from the rich.

I hope she enjoyed her snowtrip.
posted by atrazine at 4:44 AM on December 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


I suspect the reason so many of the package thieves are taking this with ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ good humor is because they are unaware that they are the intended target of the glitter. My assumption is that they are assuming that it's a prank that someone targeted at the person whose house it was, and they just had the misfortune to accidentally draw aggro for someone else.

I suspect that, if they knew that they were actually the target, they'd take it more personally and be more upset. As it is, they can just chalk it up to one of those things that happens in life -- they just happened to come in between a prankster and a target, and have the ability to, in some way, laugh as if it had happened to the person they think was the intended target.
posted by Xiphias Gladius at 4:45 AM on December 18, 2018 [11 favorites]


a crime that police won't investigate

My first thought: Police should use this method.

- Once a regular mark makes calls, assign them one of these
- It gets the thieves to discard the evidence gathering tool (reuse)
- They don't have to have a patrol tied to the locale until the unit alerts them

Of course, second thoughts bring the absolutely ridiculous but most likely result:

- law enforcement using this will get sued the first time glitter gets in thief's eye
posted by filtergik at 4:47 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, as far as package thieves go -- I think glitter and farts is probably somewhere around an appropriate level of response.
posted by Xiphias Gladius at 4:47 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I wonder if you can bulk order a bag of fleas. But it should have popped open and disgorged a flood of pests. Crickets, ladybugs, aphids, ants, whatever.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:56 AM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


If y'all want to get upset about someone baiting thieves please direct your attention to the douchebros who put out rigged bikes and then laugh maniacally when someone falls down.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:24 AM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


> Does anyone else think the "thieves" were in on the joke? They sure seem to to be a vocal bunch even when there is no one else in the room with them.

Yes, there is something about the way these “thieves” are reacting and narrating what’s going on that immediately set off my bullshit detector.
posted by Gev at 6:13 AM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


These people are thieves. If they don't want to be surveiled in their homes, they shouldn't bring things they've stolen into them.

I'm not even an internet lawyer but even I know California is a two-party consent state when it comes to recording people. There are four elements to an intrusion claim, and since these people don't know they've been recorded in private I don't think any of them have met the second or fourth criteria yet, but that would change if an internet mob discovers that lady's address and decides to harasses her. California also has an "anti-paparazzi/anti-drone" statute which states, in part:
A person is liable for constructive invasion of privacy when the person attempts to capture, in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person, any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff engaging in a private, personal, or familial activity, through the use of any device, regardless of whether there is a physical trespass, if this image, sound recording, or other physical impression could not have been achieved without a trespass unless the device was used.
I guess it's up for reasonable people to disagree on whether recording the inside of a package thief's house is offensive.
posted by peeedro at 6:18 AM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


But based on the comments I'm reading here, we sure do revert to relying on pervasive surveillance technology and calling in the armed enforcers of the law pretty quickly when somebody mentions the shadowy menace of The Package Thief in Your Neighborhood!

And?

That's what cops are for and one of the reasons why we collectively pay taxes. They're law enforcement. They're not supposed to harass communities or godforbid shoot people. It's possible to distrust abusive cops (and be afraid of pervasively corrupt, racist departments) and while recognizing that police can also serve a valuable purpose.

I bought a Ring doorbell from Amazon on Black Friday. The low end model was $40. Still have yet to install it, primarily because doing so requires a drill that can work on brick and I don't own one.

We moved recently and our new front door doesn't have a peephole or a window next to it. We can't see who is at our front door before we open it. We have kids who like to open the door when the bell rings. The Ring seemed like an easy solution. An inexpensive wifi-enabled doorbell with a camera in it. We can see who's at the door.

Once the app is installed, you have the option of joining a network of people in your neighborhood who also have Rings. It's similar to the NextDoor app but more simplified. If someone comes to your door acting suspiciously you can upload a picture or video of them that your Ring has taken and share it with the group.

I grew up in a large city and now that I live in a much, much smaller one this is all fascinating to me. I think of surveillance cameras as outrageously expensive and it would never in a million years occur to me to buy one. But a cheap video doorbell that triggers with movement? That's cool. The community aspect is also interesting. Shades of David Brin's Transparent Society.

At least 75% of the posts on the Ring app are about visiting nocturnal wildlife. Coyotes and bobcats. There's a woman who lives nearby who is upset because a 'Mountain Lion' has been leaving dead rodents on her doorstep. Except, as her neighbors have helpfully pointed out, it's not a Mountain Lion but an ordinary housecat.

The rest of the posts are about people. And yeah, there's a bit of "this guy came to my door and knocked instead of ringing the doorbell. Isn't that suspicious?" (Which typically prompt like 15 responses from wannabe cowboys in this bright red Texas Republican town about the benefits of gun ownership. They're not liberals.)

But last week someone also captured video of their car being broken into in the middle of the night. Thief's face is clearly visible. Cops were called and given the video.

This is going to become much more common as the technology becomes less expensive and more accessible to end consumers. Which is probably a normal response.

The handwringing you're doing here about stereotypical Liberals Who Hate Cops Until Shadowy Thieves Show Up feels a little silly to me.
posted by zarq at 6:39 AM on December 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


Once you've already got a car full of glitter and farts

You could have just said "Once you have a car" if you were talking about me.
posted by srboisvert at 6:42 AM on December 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


So all that video being recorded automatically uploads to the cloud?
posted by PHINC at 6:45 AM on December 18, 2018


> Does anyone else think the "thieves" were in on the joke? They sure seem to to be a vocal bunch even when there is no one else in the room with them.

Yes, there is something about the way these “thieves” are reacting and narrating what’s going on that immediately set off my bullshit detector.


Watching it again, none of them seem that angry tbh with just a minimum of swearing.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:56 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


So all that video being recorded automatically uploads to the cloud?

The Ring won't record videos and save them to the cloud unless you pay for their $3 a month service. And then it's not accessible to anyone other than the owner unless they choose to share it.
posted by zarq at 6:57 AM on December 18, 2018


By coincidence just heard this story on a tech podcast where Amazon has teamed up with local police to sting porch thieves with dummy packages with GPS trackers in them.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:16 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


The Ring won't record videos and save them to the cloud unless you pay for their $3 a month service. And then it's not accessible to anyone other than the owner unless they choose to share it.

So, the prank perpetrators would have to buy service for each phone separately? That's approximately 4phones X 7 thieves. 28 X $100. That's almost $3000. Plus the cloud space for each. He's not getting these devices back I'm assuming.
posted by PHINC at 7:26 AM on December 18, 2018


The video literally shows him recovering the packages and explains that the fart smell was intended to help them get the packages back.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:29 AM on December 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


Wow, these comments make me really appreciate my incredibly-safe suburban neighborhood. We've had packages sit on our porch for days when we're out of town.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:39 AM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Really, I'm far more outraged that this is basically a viral ad for Nord VPN.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:45 AM on December 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


Does anyone else think the "thieves" were in on the joke? They sure seem to to be a vocal bunch even when there is no one else in the room with them.

These folks reacted exactly the way I would have. I talk to myself all the time when I'm alone. I talk to the computer, I talk to the cats, I yell at inanimate objects... if I were to be glitter-bombed, I would react with the initial stunned silence, then the "what the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck??" then likely hysterical laughter mixed with rage. Loudly.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:18 AM on December 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


So, the prank perpetrators would have to buy service for each phone separately?

Eh. You can get service through Google Fi or Ting and the like who would let you share data across multiple devices for ~$15/device/month or ~$6/device/month. Not cheap but no need to be throwing around the benjamins.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:29 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


The automatic dartboard that moves to ensure you always get a bullseye sure looks cool, but is pretty clearly fake. Looks like he got several master darts-playing friends to pretend they were drunk and then totally nail the bullseye on a dartboard that moved randomly. I can tell from many of the pixels and the way that they behave. Obviously an ad for Barney's Beanery.

That video where he comprehensively debunks the flying drone phone? Also fake--along with his outrage and sense of mild, proportionate justice. That's right, his debunk has been debunked. And worst of all, that one was a thinly-veiled ad for silver spray paint, with that conveniently charismatic "guest host".

(Suspicion is understandable, but some people still need their bullshit sense recalibrated, along with their intuitions about human behavior, and crime patterns in cities.)
posted by jjwiseman at 8:31 AM on December 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


I would like to note that, while I understand the concerns, on balance I much prefer petty thievery to pervasive surveillance.
posted by ragtag at 8:43 AM on December 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


I wonder if you can bulk order a bag of fleas. But it should have popped open and disgorged a flood of pests. Crickets, ladybugs, aphids, ants, whatever.

I personally would not find an explosion of ladybugs to be a punishment.

Unless they were dead. Then I'd be angry.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:07 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


once or twice every summer, a couple dudes will mosey to our council block, ring a few buzzers at random, see if they can talk their way in with rambling stories about being somebody's uncle (no idea why when just "amazon!" would get them straight on) , succeed as soon as thry get the frail elderly lady across from us who just buzzes in everyone immediately regardless, and steals everything that isn't nailed down

They could at least have had the panache to send a turtle with a lit candle on its back in to check if anybody's home.
posted by acb at 9:15 AM on December 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


Does anyone else think the "thieves" were in on the joke? They sure seem to to be a vocal bunch even when there is no one else in the room with them.

FWIW, the first guy who gets his car glittered seems like he's talking to himself but he has a friend outside on the passenger side that he's talking to. He is in the shot but completely blurred out at 5:55, then you can see him very briefly at about 6:22.

I was very skeptical that it was real, but I'm now on the fence. If you're interested in rabbit-holing this, here is my heavily redacted email to Mark and his reply so you can see how he responds when I explain how I found the address of one of the thieves in his video.
posted by peeedro at 9:17 AM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


The automatic dartboard that moves to ensure you always get a bullseye sure looks cool, but is pretty clearly fake. Looks like he got several master darts-playing friends to pretend they were drunk and then totally nail the bullseye on a dartboard that moved randomly.

I don't think his friends are necessarily master darts-players. He just filmed them throwing darts at the randomly-moving dartboard every night for a few months and kept the takes where they happened to hit the bulls-eye. You can tell from how amazed and triumphant they are every time they actually hit it.
posted by straight at 9:34 AM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


jjwiseman was being sarcastic and you either took it straight, or are being meta-snarky or I don't know what's going on this thread anymore.
posted by tirutiru at 9:43 AM on December 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


ladybugs pinch
posted by brujita at 10:17 AM on December 18, 2018


Week before last, I had a package stolen, and between FedEx and the company... but let me go back tell the whole thing.

So my quarterly order of Insulins came up (I take two different kinds). If I get them from the CVS down the street, it's $70 each of them, for a one month supply. If I go to the insurance company pharmacy delivery service, it's $70 for a three month supply. Big difference. I ordered and got the message it was delivered and when I got home, it was gone. Thankfully, I still had a month's supply, but, well. That's actually a lot of money for me right now. So I called FedEx who were absolutely not helpful because I was the recipient, not the shipper, and refused to do anything, even escalate my call. Refused outright.

I called the pharmacy service, and they were "well, it's been filled, so we can't fill it again." I asked them to call FedEx to file the loss report and they said they didn't do that.

I spoke the Dread Words: "I would like to escalate this to your supervisor immediately."

I escalated three times before I got to someone who was willing to help me, and they got FedEx on the phone with me there, and that person at the insurance company escalated - didn't even talk to the first person, just said "This is a priority issue and I need to speak to a supervisor immediately." And they talked, and now I'm waiting for someone to get back to me with something about my insulin.

I've got the money to go to Wal-Mart set aside, because I can get an older formulation there, which sucks but will keep me alive and intact a little while longer until these two companies stop dicking around about something I need for my life.

And if I ever find the package thief, I think I would cheerfully beat him to a sauce, because to me and my wife, my life is more important than his.
posted by mephron at 10:22 AM on December 18, 2018 [44 favorites]


Still have yet to install it, primarily because doing so requires a drill that can work on brick and I don't own one.

Any drill can drill brick, you only need a masonry bit.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:26 AM on December 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


Also, as someone who turns up at people's houses a couple of times each day—by appointment—I often skip doorbells because they are frequently just broken, and there's no way to know when you push them if it made a noise inside or not. Knocking always works.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:28 AM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


It creeps me out to learn that those Ring wireless doorbell things are broadcasting my face throughout the neighborhood. As someone who's only there because it's his damn job, that feels pretty gross and hostile.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:31 AM on December 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


The thing that un-sold this video to me was the guy who says "what's that smell?"

That's like amateur improv levels of exposition. That's like Sci-Fi film "Can somebody explain to me exactly what is going on?" levels of exposition. Nobody says that! Instead we just swear or make noises of disgust. Even a "Jesus that stinks!" would have been more believable.

It's still possible they were genuine parcel thieves, but I'm sceptical.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 10:34 AM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Finally, if this does turn out to be a hoax and the "thieves" actors (and apparently it would not be his first fake video with a thinly-veiled viral ad in it) then having 100% of them be PoC would indeed be pretty fucking gross.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:35 AM on December 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


Wait, wait, did I also miss the sarcasm? Was it sarcasm?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:36 AM on December 18, 2018


I'm pretty sure both the first and last thief were white dudes, plus the initial theft of the real package by the "lovely couple" which was used as the motivation for the video were both white.
posted by peeedro at 10:42 AM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I have been bitten by ladybugs.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:16 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I guess I view these things differently.
This isn't a guy who made booby traps for package thieves.
This is a guy who made a YouTube video for money.
The rest is just window dressing.
I have no reason to believe any of it.
posted by bongo_x at 11:27 AM on December 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


Real life is not written by Francis Ford Coppola.
posted by jjwiseman at 11:30 AM on December 18, 2018


He seemed incredibly chill the first time he was coming up on someone he tracked down. I'd be nervous as hell even though I've been in hairy situations. Maybe not 100% faked but not exactly something to regard without suspicion.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:32 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I believe he made a really cool glitter bomb so why not believe the rest. Shrug!
posted by agregoli at 11:47 AM on December 18, 2018


I am suspicious of all skeptical comments. I'm so skeptical I'm not even sure what I think is REALLY what I think.

In fact, I suspect the skeptical comments here have possibly been designed by an AI* who seeks to waste my time reading and commenting on metafilter, in the hopes of driving more site engagement. But then again, I was skeptical about reality even being real before simulation theory was a thing so, thanks for playing kids but I'm the most skeptical skeptic that ever skepticed in this so-called "reality".

*I call it Roko's Metafilter


(OR DO I?)

wake up sheeple
posted by some loser at 11:48 AM on December 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


My last cross-country move I hacked together a cardboard box that was like 10% of this... moving box 144/210 was marked "Makeup, bathroom" to justify the FRAGILE tag, but was actually an old phone chirping GPS location to me, connected to a very, very large charging battery that kept it online for three full weeks, all nestled in that high-density foam used for camera bags so it could be tossed around. I would have added an outward-facing camera if I had more time, but the phone itself uploaded (a whole lot of solid black) pics on motion to the cloud, a little like the glitter bomb.

(I did not trust the slimy-acting moving company much, but the move took the route they said it would and did arrive intact.)
posted by rokusan at 11:50 AM on December 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


doing so requires a drill that can work on brick and I don't own one.

Any drill can drill brick, you only need a masonry bit.


I mean, any drill if you enjoy exercise. A drill with a hammer-drill setting if you don't.
posted by rokusan at 11:51 AM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Finally, if this does turn out to be a hoax and the "thieves" actors (and apparently it would not be his first fake video with a thinly-veiled viral ad in it) then having 100% of them be PoC would indeed be pretty fucking gross.

Didn't want to be the person that made this comment, but I am glad someone noted it. The first person appears to not be a PoC but after that they predominately are. That would be some ridiculously inappropriate racial stereotyping if it is fake.
posted by Young Kullervo at 11:59 AM on December 18, 2018


we may have our differences regarding the moral severity of package theft but i would hope we could all get behind the idea of glitterbombing Roko's Basilisk
posted by halation at 12:06 PM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Also, I noticed the map in the video during yt the GPS explanation is a neighborhood in Illinois (Mark Rober lives in CA according to his social media).

The address depicted in the video belongs to the house from Home Alone.
posted by subocoyne at 12:38 PM on December 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


Fearful symmetry, I always thought that the "flaming bag of poo" was an urban legend.

Until the strange cat lady down the street was victimized one evening.

Now, to quote the Monkees, "I'm a Believer!"
posted by Pablo MacWilliams at 12:51 PM on December 18, 2018


That's like amateur improv levels of exposition. That's like Sci-Fi film "Can somebody explain to me exactly what is going on?" levels of exposition. Nobody says that! Instead we just swear or make noises of disgust. Even a "Jesus that stinks!" would have been more believable.

Also, if we were supposed to believe this was real, they wouldn't have hired young Sam Rockwell to play the part of "Mark Rober".
posted by straight at 1:06 PM on December 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


A week and a half ago, while I was out and about roughly half an hour from my house, someone decided they needed my motorcycle protective gear (armor, helmet, gloves) more than I did, so they cut the cable lock I used to secure those items to my bike and took them.

Can I replace those items? Sure. It's only about $500 worth of gear.

Do I feel violated? Yes. Do I feel angry? Yes. If I could glitter bomb the perpetrator, would I? FUCKING A, I WOULD.

Theft is invasive and violating. I'm all for making petty thieves feel just as violated.
posted by hanov3r at 1:18 PM on December 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


Like Peeedro, when I had a few minutes free during lunch I was able to figure out the address of one of the people who opened the package. The video still hasn't been modified to prevent this identification.

It should be obvious to Rober that this might also be a problem for his friend, given that her house is easy to identify too -- the person who opened the package apparently lives right next door to her.
posted by theory at 1:22 PM on December 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


Ladybugs also smell pretty stanky when disturbed.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 1:36 PM on December 18, 2018


the person who opened the package apparently lives right next door to her.

Wow. The person who steals the package from the friend's porch drives a dark-colored Ford Focus Hatchback (6:31). In google street view there is a black Ford Focus Hatchback parked in front of the friend's house.

I'll file that under amazing coincidence.
posted by peeedro at 2:06 PM on December 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


Yep - same spoiler, same rear antenna, same rims.
posted by theory at 2:16 PM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


And sunroof.
posted by peeedro at 2:27 PM on December 18, 2018


It creeps me out to learn that those Ring wireless doorbell things are broadcasting my face throughout the neighborhood. As someone who's only there because it's his damn job, that feels pretty gross and hostile.

Just to be clear, all Ring doorbells do not do that. And those that record and save videos don't broadcast them utomatically.

Ring is a video doorbell. You can set it to trigger the camera 'on' and send what it sees to a Ring app that you have authorized to sync with your bell when someone comes into visual range. Or when someone actually presses the button. That means a live video feed to your device, such as a phone or tablet. It turns off after a set time period. (I think 30 seconds.) I think you can also set up two way audio.

That pretty much meets our needs. We're not concerned about security beyond being able to see who is at the door before we walk over and open it.

I am pretty sure the video will not be recorded and saved unless you pay Amazon's monthly subscription. The only way for other people to see a video would be if someone did that and then shared it.
posted by zarq at 2:39 PM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


doing so requires a drill that can work on brick and I don't own one.

Any drill can drill brick, you only need a masonry bit.

I mean, any drill if you enjoy exercise. A drill with a hammer-drill setting if you don't.


Not really? I mean sure, if it's like a 1-inch bit or whatever, but I assume the creepy invasive doorbell attaches with more like 3/16" screws. Those will zip right in with pretty much any drill.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:58 PM on December 18, 2018


If you use one of those gross things though, I don't want to hear you ever say one peep against the surveillance state, not one.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:04 PM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Like, I always assumed they were just a wireless doorbell with camera. I had no idea they were hooked into some kind of dystopian neighborhood gossip panopticon run by faceless Silicon Valley plutocrats. I've half a mind to start ripping them off houses, except it would cost me my job. Oh well, guess I'll just eat shit and grin.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:09 PM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I am pretty sure the video will not be recorded and saved unless you pay Amazon's monthly subscription.

Ring and other smart doorbells is a cloud product.

All the video is recorded and saved in the "cloud". Paying merely gives you the right to view the videos.

These products already have (Nest/Google) or will have facial recognition. This is from Nest: "You’ll also get alerts for things that matter, like when your Nest Cam spots a person, or your Nest Hello or Nest Cam IQ detects a familiar face."
posted by meowzilla at 3:13 PM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Both Ring (Amazon) and Nest (Google) doorbells are designed to be installed in place of an existing wired doorbell. If you have a wired doorbell, there's very little drilling that needs to happen. You remove the old doorbell and hook up the 24V AC wiring (hopefully you have turned the power off, if not you will get zapped at this point) to a sort of backplate that it comes with. This is secured to the doorjamb or side of the house with screws, but you can reuse the holes that previously secured the old doorbell. Then the actual doorbell unit attaches to the backplate.

They both have models that run on batteries but I have on pretty good authority from a friend who owns one that they suck and are just one more thing in your house to have to worry about battery charging/replacement for. If you're going to get one, get the hardwired kind, and install a 24V doorbell to power it if your house doesn't already have one.

There are also higher-end models from both companies that I believe run on PoE, which is an option if you are open to pulling a lot of cable.

Personally I can't stomach the idea of paying a monthly bill for my fucking doorbell of all things, and both devices are extremely limited without the monthly plans. And like all commercial "IoT" garbage, they don't work at all if your internet goes down, and they will inevitably become literal garbage when the Powers That Be decide to stop supporting them on the remote end in order to force you to upgrade. No thanks.

Personally I think if you want something like this, you are much better just putting a cheap POE camera somewhere on your front porch / looking at your entranceway. Or you can build a Nest/Ring-like doorbell yourself with a Raspberry Pi Zero W pretty easily if you want a project.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:21 PM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I've half a mind to start ripping them off houses

Optimally spend a bunch of money and time on covering them in glitter and farts for your YouTube channel.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:32 PM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


That would also get me fired. If I'm gonna get fired for going spectacularly off-script with customers, there are funnier ways to do it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:40 PM on December 18, 2018


For what it's worth, regular security cams I don't mind. I mean if you have like twelve of them I'll probably think you're a bit paranoid, but that's not my business. Take pictures of me on your property, whatever. It's the storing in the cloud and the sharing with neighbors that I find gross as hell.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:47 PM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Also, installing a peephole on a front door that doesn't have one is extremely simple.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:19 PM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


If I'm gonna get fired for going spectacularly off-script with customers, there are funnier ways to do it.

*Replaces camera doorbell with tick ball (conveniently to attached to brick without the use of a hammer bit)*

But there's a twist, the ball causes sensitivity to mammal proteins, and also farts glitter! Do ticks even fart? Probably not, but the ball does! And it still uploads your facial expressions the whole time, but screw the cloud, it's using them to optimize NVIDIA's face-generating architecture!

posted by aspersioncast at 4:20 PM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


You know what's in fart spray? Corn.
posted by thelonius at 4:25 PM on December 18, 2018 [25 favorites]


I feel like this is the same conversation that we had in the thread about thieves on mopeds getting knocked off their bikes by police cars.
posted by um at 4:27 PM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


I think people would have felt differently if the police were glitterbombing the moped thieves instead of running them down with their cars.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:35 PM on December 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


Although the common feeling seems to be that running down package thieves would be just fine.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:25 PM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Hello, daddy! Hello, mom!
I’m your gl-gl-gl-glitter bomb!
posted by Pronoiac at 7:00 PM on December 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


Also, installing a peephole on a front door that doesn't have one is extremely simple.

We rent, so that's not happening.

We won't be hacking a window into the doorjamb, either.
posted by zarq at 7:03 PM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm with the "this is probably fake" camp. Real package thieves would have reacted worse and/or likely would have destroyed the bait package.

Nor that steal packages or things that aren't mine, but the if I did this, the instant I heard or felt microswitches being released I'm chucking that thing and running like hell. My first thoughts would be mail bomb or booby trap.

Honestly, I wish there were less laws against reasonably, non-lethally boobytrapping private property. I wish my bike had self defense skills and technology. I would not be against having a bike that had a built in dye pack, GPS and even some kind of integrated full frame stun gun like the bikes in Virtual Light. Take off and with my locked or unlocked bicycle without my permission? You're getting tazed in the junk and a face full of dye, then it's going to phone me and tell me where your dumb ass is so I can go get my bike back.

If someone steals my bike they're not just messing with my transportation, but my mental health and stability. A bicycle is often as personal as a pair of glasses or dentures.

And I don't really care about the moral relativism, here. I've spent most of my life disadvantaged, homeless and broke as fuck and I don't steal shit. I've been damn near starving and I couldn't even bring myself to shoplift a loaf of bread.

At least in the US we largely live in a world where you don't have to steal to eat or survive, and petty package theft like this is rarely a survival crime, but most often just a shitty one of taking advantage of a situation because someone is a shitty person.
posted by loquacious at 11:54 PM on December 18, 2018 [11 favorites]


I wish my bike had self defense skills and technology.

keep loquacious' bike safe
posted by numaner at 12:17 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


so hey we should have a volunteer to sum up this thread into a think piece on glitter/fart bombing package thieves and publish it on Medium.

not it
posted by numaner at 12:18 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


METAFILTER: a think piece on glitter/fart bombing package thieves and publish it on Medium.
posted by philip-random at 12:36 AM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


If my daughter doesn't get her insulin, which is delivered in a package to our front door, she will die. Package thieves can go to hell.
posted by Triplanetary at 2:16 AM on December 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


the common feeling seems to be that running down package thieves would be just fine

Again, are you really getting this from the thread? Unless someone's swiped my comprehension pills off my (nonexistent) porch I just don't see it
posted by ominous_paws at 2:52 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Again, are you really getting this from the thread?

Not particularly. There have been some strong opinions humorously expressed and I was continuing that motif.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:33 AM on December 19, 2018


There was an article about linking facial recognition software to people's video doorbells that record when people go on your porch. Probably spurred by package thieving.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:55 AM on December 19, 2018


The other thing about knocking vs. ringing the doorbell is that dogs seem to find it less traumatic. I always feel bad when I ring the bell and a dog starts to freak out inside. Knocking doesn't always avoid that, but sometimes it does.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:07 AM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


I put all the screen caps of the strange coincidences that theory and I noticed in an imgur album. It looks like Mark's friend Cici either has the worst luck with neighbors or they're probably all in on the joke.
posted by peeedro at 6:18 AM on December 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


installing a peephole on a front door that doesn't have one is extremely simple.

Look at fancy drills over here.

Seriously though in addition to the totally reasonable renter concern I think there's a sliiiightly less reasonable but nonetheless very common thing where people are worried that someone can see that you're home if you peek through the peephole.

I still loathe ubiquitous surveillance cameras, but I guess I understand the impulse.

a bike that had a built in dye pack, GPS and even some kind of integrated full frame stun gun
Just the built-in dye pack would be enough for me - something identifiable to spray the next GDMFPoS rideshare that clips me while doing something patently idiotic.

I've been very seriously considering a pocket-size can of Rustoleum.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:45 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]




It's not that I'm overthinking it, it's that my heart is truly broken to discover that the manufactured authenticity used to sell us dodgy VPN services was a lie all along.
posted by peeedro at 7:23 AM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


[Get you some friends who would let you explode a glitter bomb in their car or their living room just so you can get some sweet sweet YouTube trending video buzz...]
posted by straight at 9:43 AM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Or you can build a Nest/Ring-like doorbell yourself with a Raspberry Pi Zero W pretty easily if you want a project.

I know this is coming from a place of helpfulness, and believe me, I'm the kind of person that has over a dozen raspberry pi's doing various things, but I can't help but think of this every time the topic is raised:

Why Spend $80 on an SNES Classic When You Can Install Emulators on a Raspberry Pi and Never Shut the Fuck Up About It?
posted by wcfields at 10:09 AM on December 19, 2018 [16 favorites]


Peedro and theory's findings seem to show that, at a minimum, there is a lot more going on with this video than Mark lets on. I can think of some other explanations besides it being staged, but they definitely feel unlikely. Not impossible, but unlikely.
posted by jjwiseman at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2018


I made a joke about it, but "more unlikely than having friends who would let you explode a glitter bomb in their car or living room" is a pretty high bar.
posted by straight at 11:21 AM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Looks like the video was updated? I never figured out the address, but there's something that seemed like a good clue that is now blurred out.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:34 AM on December 19, 2018


Yes, the video has definitely been updated with new blurred sections. (I practically worked for YouTube, and I didn't know they'd ever do that!)
posted by jjwiseman at 11:39 AM on December 19, 2018


Gotta keep the trends trending, I suppose
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:51 AM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Some of the PII that led me to the address has been blurred out. He also added "not my actual house location" to the map that showed the Home Alone house.
posted by peeedro at 12:00 PM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]



Yes, the video has definitely been updated with new blurred sections. (I practically worked for YouTube, and I didn't know they'd ever do that!)


People call it "the MetaFilter effect"
posted by some loser at 1:19 PM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Holy shit. Some friends and I geolocated it (using info that is still in peeedro and theory's imgur, so you may want to pull that down...), and at least some of it is staged and it's even a little crazier. This is not going to end well for this guy, who is on every local news station now.
posted by jjwiseman at 1:37 PM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Also, I apologize for my snark and sarcastic skepticism of the original skeptics, who had the right idea--especially peeedro and theory. My own intuition of human behavior apparently needs some retuning.
posted by jjwiseman at 2:10 PM on December 19, 2018


"You've done a peeedro's job, sir. I guess you're through, huh?"
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:11 PM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


TIL that in many places in the world, people have packages delivered to the outsides of their homes, and expect those packages to stay put until they come home and bring them inside.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:27 PM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


> and at least some of it is staged and it's even a little crazier

You are being vague! Spill the beans.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:29 PM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Here's a video from the guy who built the glitter bomb with Mark, with more focus on the engineering.
posted by jjwiseman at 2:29 PM on December 19, 2018


> You are being vague! Spill the beans.

Sorry. I feel a bit bad for Mark Rober, so we've emailed him asking him to come clean. I'd like to let him respond first.

438277b3e30572657ff464d2adc28136d7e28627
posted by jjwiseman at 2:42 PM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


What's up with the string of numbers? Is this a cryptographic key for something?
posted by Secretariat at 4:25 PM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that looks like a public key of the sort used to authenticate with someone, IE "This is me here and me over there, too." and it probably hashes with a private key issued to - likely - Mark Rober or concerned parties.

I really want to know the "even crazier" now, because it's already pretty crazy.
posted by loquacious at 4:28 PM on December 19, 2018


I could see myself having different feelings about the Ring doorbell if I had a kid who was dependent on mail-order insulin to survive. I'm not sure if I would make the same choice, but who knows? I can't judge that.

I'll try not to judge people who have those things on their houses. People have their reasons.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:31 PM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


using info that is still in peeedro and theory's imgur, so you may want to pull that down...

That was my bad and I fixed it so thank you for pointing it out, your perception is keen.

So I've been chatting with a reporter who's working on a debunking story and when I suggested it was all a set up, her response was deadpan, "He's a YouTuber, so of course it's staged." Like it's water, of course it's wet. So I guess that's the most disturbing thing to me is that it's essentially an open secret that the entire distraction-based economy is based on fooling the audience.
posted by peeedro at 4:47 PM on December 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


The number is just a hash of a string describing the part of this that blew my mind a little bit. I've been focused on this way too much the past couple days--especially the challenge of geolocating was driving me insane--so your mindblow may vary.
posted by jjwiseman at 5:01 PM on December 19, 2018


It’s fun to tug at strings! Nice internet sleuthin’.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:11 PM on December 19, 2018


Ooo, I cannot wait to hear all the details!
posted by smoke at 9:06 PM on December 19, 2018


So I guess that's the most disturbing thing to me is that it's essentially an open secret that the entire distraction-based economy is based on fooling the audience.

Once upon a time we could look at a piece of footage produced by an advertising agency and conclude that *of course* the degree the truth being told was subject only to what regulations would let them get away with. We stopped believing the TV expert in a white coat was a doctor back in the 1950s. When it comes to typical Youtube produced content - were we know even the safety net of those regulations does not apply - then most people would be even more cautious.

But, I think we have a blind spot with content created by engineers. We expect somebody who designs and makes things to live in a world based on empirical truths: design ,and iterate until it works. You don't make a device like a glitter bomb/fart spray package without months of technical and user testing. If somebody talks about the CAD drawings, the charging mechanism, the microswitch configuration and the code they used to make something - then we tend to trust them when they tell us how it performed. Mass media advertisements were too time limited to establish that kind of trust; Youtube advertorial not so much.
posted by rongorongo at 1:56 AM on December 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


Where I live, the delivery people either hand it to an immediate neighbor (if the neighbor volunteers, and then the neighbor signs for it) or the package stays on the truck and you have to go get it from the warehouse. You never get a box dumped on your doorstep while you're out.

But looking at it from a distance, this problem seems significant enough that there must be some third-party something-or-other, like an Uber guaranteed package delivery service, to take care of it. Maybe Amazon delivers to the local Uber delivery people during the day, the Uber delivery people arrange to hand the package to you in person when you tell them via some app that you are definitely home and waiting (after work or whatever), and you never lose a package but you pay extra to the Uber delivery people for the additional service.
posted by pracowity at 2:37 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I didn't notice any new blurred sections, but I noticed that the shot of Cici and her house have been completely removed, as was all of the "snowtrip" victim footage. Swapping out the videos tells me it's all about the views for Mark, and his "not wanting to ruin anyone's life" tells me he's doubling down on his obvious fakery. I don't see this ending well for him.

It was trivial to find the address. County location from the █████, and residential address from the █████. The full address was literally the first link that pops up if you google those 2 pieces together. Took less than 10 minutes start to finish to find it on google maps.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 5:31 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


The full address was literally the first link that pops up if you google those 2 pieces together.

It wasn't always like that. Google search results are weighted by the number of people searching for those terms.

I wonder how many people are now taking Mark Rober's words to heart, at 49 second in the video he says, "something needs to be done to take a stand against dishonest punks".
posted by peeedro at 5:57 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


He pinned a comment 2 days ago, which has since been edited, and now reads:
Pinned by Mark Rober
Mark Rober
2 days ago (edited)
Note about 2 missing the reactions in the video- I was presented with information that caused me to doubt the veracity of 2 of the 5 reactions in the video. These were reactions that were captured during a two week period while the device was at house 2 hours away from where I live. I put a feeler out for people willing to put a package on their porch and this person (who is a friend of a friend) volunteered to help. To compensate them for their time and willingness to risk putting a package on their porch I offered financial compensation for any successful recoveries of the package. It appears (and I've since confirmed) in these two cases, the “thieves" were actually acquaintances of the person helping me. From the footage I received from the phones which intentionally only record at specific times, this wasn’t clear to me. I have since removed those reactions from the original video (originally 6:26-7:59). I’m really sorry about this. Ultimately, I am responsible for the content that goes on my channel and I should have done more here. I can vouch for that the reactions were genuine when the package was taken from my house. Having said that, I know my credibly is sort of shot but I encourage you to look at the types of videos I’ve been making for the past 7 years. This is my first ever video with some kind of “prank" and like I mentioned in the video it’s pretty removed from my comfort zone. I should have done more. Full stop. I’m especially gutted because so much thought, time, money and effort went into building the device and I hope this doesn’t just taint the entire effort as “fake". It genuinely works (like all the other things I’ve built on my channel) and we’ve made all the code and build info public. Again, I’m sorry for putting something up on my channel that was misleading. That is totally on me and I will take all necessary steps to make sure it won’t happen again.
posted by you must supply a verb at 6:56 AM on December 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


So I've been chatting with a reporter who's working on a debunking story...

I hope you're getting a little something for your time and effort, but I kind of doubt reporters are budgeted for that.

So I guess that's the most disturbing thing to me is that it's essentially an open secret that the entire distraction-based economy is based on fooling the audience.

Paradoxically the worst YouTubers might be the most honest. At least I can tell they're shitbags.

I don't see this ending well for him.

What negative repercussions are there for him? He probably comes out of this relatively unscathed.
posted by ODiV at 8:02 AM on December 20, 2018


TIL that in many places in the world, people have packages delivered to the outsides of their homes, and expect those packages to stay put until they come home and bring them inside.

Had this discussion with a US Mefite a few weeks ago, unrelated to this incident. To me it was unbelievable that delivery services in the US will drop your package off practically in the street to be carried away by whoever feels like it, to them it was unbelievable that the postal service here will make you go to their location during their business hours to recover your package that they are holding hostage.

In conclusion, packages are a land of contrasts.
posted by each day we work at 8:18 AM on December 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


[wiseman@Yoyodyne ~]$ echo "The interior of thief #3's house is actually Cece's house!" | shasum
438277b3e30572657ff464d2adc28136d7e28627  -
I buy his explanation. If he had used all the data he had (like going over the GPS tracks of theft #3) , he probably could have figured out that the pranker was now the prankee and that he'd been punked by his own glitterbomb, but I don't think he had any reason to dig into it that far (unlike you suspicious bastards).

I don't think he did anything seriously wrong, and I hope he weathers this well and continues to make fun, interesting videos.
posted by jjwiseman at 8:44 AM on December 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


I think his response is also humble and does an excellent job of taking responsibility. I don't see any reason for him to take the video down--what would that accomplish?

Now I find this an interesting story in how giving the wrong kind of incentive ($500 per successful video) can backfire.
posted by jjwiseman at 9:01 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Now I find this an interesting story in how giving the wrong kind of incentive ($500 per successful video) can backfire.

Stick around for his next video on a cobra-killing robot!
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:09 AM on December 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don't see any reason for him to take the video down--what would that accomplish?

Nothing anymore. But there was a good while where he knew there was identifying info in the video, and he left it public while he waited for a response from YouTube. Taking it down would have not provided that window is time for anything to happen (and it is extremely unusual for youtube to acquiesce to such a request so it wasn't really reasonable to rely on or expect it in advance)
posted by Dysk at 9:18 AM on December 20, 2018


But there was a good while where he knew there was identifying info in the video, and he left it public while he waited for a response from YouTube.

It was 40 to 42 hours between when I first emailed him with the address of the prank house and the first edit that blurred some (but not all) of the identifying information. I have no idea how long it takes to contact google to fix a problem like that. Taking the video down would have been a sign that he was taking the issue seriously, instead of waiting until reporters and more randos from the internet contacted him.
posted by peeedro at 9:35 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


It turns out my YouTube info was outdated. From https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/1388383:
You can make tweaks and add effects to your videos directly on YouTube or when you upload a video using Enhancement features.
If your video has over 100,000 views, you may not be able to save your video edits. This restriction does not apply to users who are in the YouTube Partner Program.

If you can't save changes, you can create a new video (with a new video URL) using the Save as new video option, and make changes there. You can still save changes to videos with the Blur Faces or Custom Blurring features, even on videos with over 100,000 views.
Given that he has 5 million subscribers, he's probably on a tier that allows him to make edits.

I feel like not resolving the PII issue within 30 minutes or whatever is... not a major deal? He screwed it up, but he clearly was trying to keep PII out of the videos. He's not a company with a social media arm, he's one guy whose email and every other medium of communication was suddenly blew up to a level not many people ever experience, and it took him a while to respond.

I would love to post the Zillow images that blew our minds when we found them, like OMG the thief's kitchen is Cece's kitchen!, but I'm way too worried about reverse image search leading people to dox her, or inadvertently leaving some metadata or other fragment of info that would let someone identify a person or their home, or some freaking deep learning service that comes down the line in 2019 making it possible to go back and retroactively geolocate the image based on a fragment of a bush visible through a window, or based on stats about kitchen floor plans and cabinet colors in the United States. I probably would have given up on geolocating if I hadn't noticed a detail that peeedro left in one of the Streetview images that let us filter out lots of possibilities.

Mark Rober seems like a great guy, and I don't see a ton of value in trying to find something for which to punish him, even if he is of a class that some people love to hate: The YouTuber. Now I'm going to go watch a nice Hand Tool Rescue video and relax until the next case.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:09 AM on December 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


I feel like not resolving the PII issue within 30 minutes or whatever is... not a major deal?

30 minutes would be reasonable. But over fourty hours to blur out 3 seconds of video?

Also this line from his apology:
From the footage I received from the phones which intentionally only record at specific times, this wasn’t clear to me.
The device started recording in Cece's house, the woman carried it out the front door, across Cece's front porch (a location he should have recognized), walked to the far side of a different house and dropped it in the trash can. I really have a hard time believing that he missed this during his edit.
posted by peeedro at 11:01 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


It would be interesting to see the raw video.

I can imagine someone who is not expecting deception to skip over something in the video that seems a little odd without digging into it. He didn't see Cece's porch until she sent him video, so it's not familiar to him. And is it possible they went out a side door?

It is weird though, I agree.
posted by jjwiseman at 11:24 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Given that he has 5 million subscribers, he's probably on a tier that allows him to make edits.

Given that it took him over forty hours and waiting for a reply to a request he sent to youtube, probably not. If he were in such a tier, he could've just made the edit, no asking anyone to required.
posted by Dysk at 1:18 PM on December 20, 2018


Viral Video of Glitter Bomb for Package Thieves Exposed as Partial Fake (Matt Novak, Gizmodo)
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:08 AM on December 21, 2018


Not only is Snowtrip (aka victim #3) in Cici's house, it's pretty clear she is Cici herself. Although, Snowtrip got her nails done sometime between placing the package on the porch and opening it up inside the house. It's pretty damning for Mark, IMO. He blurred her face out, after all. And he must have see her leave the house and navigate to the next door neighbor's trash bins.

Another dependency is, he says the fart spray repeats every 30 seconds, but in the 2 cases where it repeats, 7:14 and 8:03, it repeats in 12.25 and 14.25 seconds, respectively. There is a strange glitch at 7:21 where I believe Mark deleted 2 seconds of video.

Oh, I see now that someone reposted the deleted portion. Someone can now confirm or refute my comments.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 9:48 AM on December 21, 2018




I like the part where he admits this is fake and yet somehow avoids claiming responsibility for the fakery. "Some friends who offered to help me faked it.. I had no idea!". Dude deserves a flaming bag of poop left on his doorstep.
posted by Nelson at 10:20 AM on December 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


If there's anyone in the San Jose/Palo Alto area that wants to make a field trip to satisfy my curiosity, I'm pretty sure I found the parking garage where the first bomb was filmed. It's on the first floor of a four-story parking structure, so I've been wondering if there's a cellular or GPS signal down there or if it's a dead zone.

Even if there no signal down there it doesn't prove anything. But two things I noticed that make me think that one was staged too was the rando guy loitering outside of the car that the driver is talking to and the color of the glitter. Thief 1 gets blasted by glitter that's mostly gold and some blue (5:56), but the glitter on the ground when the device is retrieved is red (5:26).

Not only is Snowtrip (aka victim #3) in Cici's house, it's pretty clear she is Cici herself.

Here's a link to the deleted footage. FWIW, I don't think so, one of them appears to be white and the other African-American, to my eyes anyhow.
posted by peeedro at 10:37 AM on December 21, 2018


I recommended that the BuzzFeed reporter not publish the Zillow images I sent her because I was worried about reverse image search, but she did--That's on me, I guess. Not sure why she cites the source as imgur; we did not put that on imgur.
posted by jjwiseman at 12:14 PM on December 21, 2018


Not sure why she cites the source as imgur; we did not put that on imgur.

... the entire distraction-based economy is based on fooling the audience.
posted by ODiV at 12:40 PM on December 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


Anyway, hope you got paid for your work.
posted by ODiV at 12:41 PM on December 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


I still don't understand what kind of mentally-challenged accomplices would allow themselves to be glitter-bombed. Was it fake glitter? A fake car? Fake rooms? Surely the cleaning bill is going to knock off a sizable percentage of the supposed 'finders fee' he was offering for return of the device. I'm so confused by all of this and maybe it's better if I just stop caring.
posted by um at 6:58 PM on December 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


Surely the cleaning bill is going to knock off a sizable percentage of the supposed 'finders fee' he was offering for return of the device

Can't imagine a half day rental of a commercial or industrial grade vacuum cleaner is going to wipe out that big a proportion.
posted by Dysk at 3:48 AM on December 22, 2018


Not to beat a dead horse, but I went though the video with a friend last night and we think the GPS portion of the video is pure handwavium.

The video voiceover starting at 2:04 says, "This custom printed circuit board is the brains of the operation. It has a built-in accelerometer and when it's been jostled that will check the GPS signal to see if it's been moved from the porch, and, if so, it sends a signal to all the phones to wake up and start recording."

This is either misdirection or bullshit.

The project's published code doesn't have anything that talks to location services. No GPS library loaded, no GPS instance, no code computing a change in location or geofence. It does have code for a motion sensor, a 3 axis accelerometer that wakes up the Arduino from low-power mode when the device is moved.

The circuit board schematics do not include a GPS device.

The GPS modules available to the Arduino hobbyist community are all big enough to be noticeable on the device's controller board. The circuit board shown at 2:02 and in the "making of" video at 7:58 do not show a GPS module or the distinctive U.FL connector used for the antenna. We can see the SAMD21G18A microcontroller and the ADXL345 accelerometer, but no GPS unit on the board.

If you say "but he's using the GPS on the phone." The project code and the videos all indicate the only communication between the controller board and the phones is to cause a "button press" event through the audio jack that tells the phones to start and stop recording. That's it, there is no way for the phones to communicate back to the controller.

They are using an app on the phones called Automate to activate the camera after the button press. This app has a pretty comprehensive feature set including GPS integration. But at 9:13 of the making of video, the app's permissions are displayed onscreen:
  • access screen content and observe your actions
  • modify or delete the content of your SD card
  • take pictures and video
  • record audio
But nothing about location services.

This is a big hole in how he claims the device would work. Without GPS, there's no geofence, no tracking and retrieving the device, and nothing but staged reactions.
posted by peeedro at 12:19 PM on December 22, 2018 [15 favorites]


This is what YouTube reduces smart people to. Slaves to page views, and willing to slide down the slippery slope from editing/production to outright fraud.
posted by benzenedream at 2:37 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Can't they just be using Android's equivalent of 'Find My iPhone'? It wouldn't be rigged up automatically, but also wouldn't take too much effort to activate once the accelerometer triggers an alert.
posted by schmod at 3:03 PM on December 22, 2018


Sure, but why wouldn't he just say that? Automate, the app they're using, will do everything he needs: geofencing and device tracking. He could even share his "automation flows" to show how he programmed the phones. But he didn't. Meanwhile, he did say, "we’ve made all the code and build info public" in his apology and that is not the case.

How much further should the benefit of the doubt get extended for this guy?
posted by peeedro at 4:26 PM on December 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


Even if there no signal down there it doesn't prove anything.

There was plenty of signal there.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:32 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


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