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“I paid some guy 40 bucks for a bike he clearly stole from someone.” Is It Yours?

by Prince Of Petworth July 6, 2016 at 2:10 pm 75 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

I paid some guy 40 bucks for a bike he clearly stole from someone. It’s a grey Hyper bike in excellent condition and I got it while he was at 11th and U corner. He gladly took money and clearly didn’t ride bikes at all.

Please post so I can help get it back to its owner. Safe in my house.”

If it’s yours please email me at [email protected] and I’ll put you in touch with OP.

  • A cyclist

    Sorry to tell you this, well-intentioned stranger, but that’s a Wal-Mart bike and even new it is not worth its weight in scrap metal. Even at 40$ you overpaid (it costs 99$ new). If it was stolen the owner is better off as a result.

    • Anon5

      Agreed. These bikes are often very dangerous to ride due to cheap parts and poor assembly.

  • anon

    thats a reasonable price for a secondhand walmart bike

  • wobber

    You overpaid, it’s not worth much more than $40. They sell them new for $100 at Walmart

  • Josh

    you might have overpaid.

    • mtnbiker

      all it needs is new shifters, derauilleurs, tires, shocks, brakes, and a frame, and it won’t be half bad.

  • Karin

    Thank you for doing this and trying to return the bicycle. Not sure why people are griping at you. I am sure the owner will be happy to have it back because not everyone has $100+ lying around to replace things that were stolen.

    • wdc


    • HillEast

      no good deed goes unpunished!

    • ANC


      Thanks for looking out for your fellow human.

    • Formerly ParkViewRes

      +1000…seeing this story made me happy then I read the comments and thought WTF people?!

    • LittleBluePenguin

      +1000! It’s the thoughtfulness and effort that count!

    • NH Ave Hiker

      yea, lots of bike snobs here…

      • FridayGirl

        +1. Yup :(

    • mdtodc


    • JohnH

      Except it basically encourages them to continue to steal bikes….

    • GrantCircleRez


  • G

    Let me guess- you profiled the guy on the bike? What made you think that he clearly stole it from someone? The fact that it has front AND back suspension?!?!

    • Honest Abe

      You’ve clearly been watching too much news today.

      • kwame

        No this is a valid question. OP says the guy clearly stole it without any real proof. If the bike is indeed as cheap as everyone has pointed out then perhaps he is just trying to get rid of it.

    • Bdylan89

      Nobody just sells the bike for $40 when it looks new. It’s common sense and clearly stolen.

      • Boom

        Common sense also suggests that someone selling a USED bike that retails at $100 shouldn’t price the bike at more than $40-$50….

        • James W.

          Yeah I’m not sure of this magical marketplace where used merchandise – whether it looks new or not – retains 100% of its value. Oh yeah, that magical marketplace is DC where you can find a used, flea-infested sofa some dude bought at Ikea five years ago for only $350 when it was $500 new!

    • textdoc

      The OP said the guy “clearly didn’t ride bikes at all.” I was assuming it was something like the OP asking, “So, how are the brakes?” and the seller looking in the wrong place.

      • textdoc

        (I haven’t ridden a bike in ages, so I don’t know if that’s a good example.)

    • Art

      You know a bike is stolen when a dude on U and 11th offers to sell you it for $40. It’s not exactly a flea market there. No one who rides a bike for real is going to sell their transportation back home to some rando on the street for half of what they paid for it.

  • Hukiyoyo

    You sure are a thoughtful person to use your time and spend your money to help someone out! Don’t let the negative comments change the way you go about life because it sure was a nice thing to read this afternoon.

    • Leeran


    • D-C-0-9


    • textdoc


  • anon

    Pretty sure OP didn’t ask how much the bike was worth (nor does he probably care) but thanks for the input

  • KellyKapowski

    This is really kind of you, I hope it gets returned to its rightful owner soon. Thank you!

  • mmk

    This is a good reminder that if you see a story that restores a bit of your faith in humankind, don’t ruin it by reading the comments. Thanks to the original poster for trying to do the right thing.

  • OStreet Neighbor

    Bravo to the person who did the good deed, and try to ignore the predictable, depressing snark.

  • JustFacts

    The ‘negative’ comments are merely pointing out that the bike is $100 brand new and assailing his condescending assumption that this guy ‘clearly doesn’t ride bikes’, when this bike is most well suited bike for someone who ‘clearly doesn’t ride bikes’.

  • Boom

    I’m just as curious as previous commenters in wanting to know why the OP assumed the bike was “clearly” stolen. Did he have several bikes lined up w/ a “Stolen Bikes for Sale” sign up?

    • mdtodc

      Oh no… not this argument…

  • A cyclist

    I posted the comment earlier about the price of the bike, which was not at all meant as snark. This is a 99$ bike new and overpriced at that. I would not recommend anyone buy this bike at any price. I am near certain it has no resale value (i.e. you could not sell it on craigslist at any price).
    Addressing the concerns of commenters: the itent of the poster may well have been good. But he fails to explain where the claims that: “he clearly stole [the bike] from someone” or “clearly didn’t ride bikes.” In particular when dealing with such a low priced bike, it’s unclear what charecteristics would lead one to believe these statements.
    Now, since we do not know where the claims come from we can only speculate. But it’s certainly the case that more generally speaking, enthusiastic young black and latino cyclists are frequently accused of stealing bikes they saved to purchase. This is a subject that has been discussed ad nauseum on the DC Used Bike listserv, and in the end led many of the accusers to carefully consider their logic. Partially as a result of these conversations, I think that among the DC cycling community there is a skepticism to stolen bike claims unless they are accompanied by clearer logic such as “I saw him cut the U lock”, “it is a 2000$ bike being sold for 40$”, or the like.
    Now the best assumption here is that OP thought the bike was worth far more (i.e. he was getting a 2k bike for 40$). Having been informed that’s not the case, I’m not sure why other commenters need to wring their hands at the people providing that information.

    • Vered

      No, A cyclist, the best assumption here is that your comment was meant as snark. Why are you working overtime trying to justify it? The value of the bike is totally, totally irrelevant.

      • James W.

        The value of the bike is completely relevant. Generally speaking, a clear indicator of someone fencing merchandise is when it’s being sold for pennies on the dollar. What else would give it away?

      • DRC

        Yeah, I was going to make the same comment before I saw it already addressed. That bike is cheap as hell and if I saw someone riding it, I would never guess it to be stolen. Just a dude riding his cheap bike back and forth to work or whatever. The fact that this guy was trying to sell it probably means he was on pretty hard times, so I guess the OP helped him out in that regard. But he’s most likely wrong to assume it was stolen, unless the seller was also carrying bolt cutters.

  • Rewarding theft

    Don’t buy stolen property. Purchasing stolen property incentivizes the thief to steal again.

    By the way, possessing stolen property is also a crime.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I understand why you say this and trust that your intentions are good, but in practice this advice is worthless. Somebody who steals a bike and wants to turn it into cash will have zero difficulty accomplishing that, with or without the cooperation of people like the OP. Thus, I would much much rather have the OP buy it and try to reunite it with its rightful owner than have somebody buy it to then try to resell it for more, or buy it for personal use knowing full well that it is stolen.

      • Alan

        Or he could tell the guy that he has to text his girlfriend to get the money, text 50411 and tell MPD he’s standing next to a bike thief at the corner of 11th and U. Add that you think he also offered to sell you drugs, so they actually show up (LOL). When the cruiser pulls up, he could act like he doesn’t know what’s happening and never wanted to buy the bike and go home, while the bike thief gets to wear silver bracelets.

        • HaileUnlikely

          That’s cool, too. But telling him he did something wrong by rewarding theft is some weak-ass bullsh!t.

        • Anon

          Good lord, that is actually the worst suggestion on this entire thread. Lying to the police about illegal activity is irresponsible, dangerous, and illegal.

        • textdoc

          Also, 50411 is supposed to be used not for in-progress events, but to provide tips on crimes that have already occurred. (I think originally it was more of a text equivalent for 911, and MPD hasn’t been very good about making clear to people that its role has changed/narrowed.)
          I suppose in a situation where you _can’t_ call 911 because the thief/robber/whoever would hear you, texting 50411 is better than nothing… but the response time might not be quite as fast.

  • anon

    Like other commenters I’d be reluctant to criticize a well-intention deed but still think the best course of action is reporting it to the police. If he did steal it OP is rewarding bad behavior. Legitimate bike sales don’t happen randomly on the corner.

    i think the carping is from bike snobs who want to shame the do-gooder’s ignorance about bike quality more than anything OP did

    • A cyclist

      “i think the carping is from bike snobs who want to shame the do-gooder’s ignorance about bike quality more than anything OP did”
      The carping is not from bike snobs. It’s from people who know with reasonably certainty the bike was probably not stolen and that OP overpaid for the bike, and want to prevent a random (probably minority) person from being needlessly hassled.

      • textdoc

        The OP didn’t post a photo of the alleged thief — doesn’t seem like he’s likely to be hassled, needlessly or otherwise.
        Are you hoping to prevent future hassling of disadvantaged guys doing one-off bike sales on random sidewalks?

      • Who?

        Here is the silver version of what appears to be the same bike on Craigslist, clearly people who buy the bike do think it has resale value. This particular owner feels it retained 2/3 of the original $120 sale price after 6 months of use.


        So, not to side with OP or anyone else in the thread, but I don’t think anyone here really knows the whole situation to any level of certainty.

  • Anon

    Did the OP consider that maybe the guy so gladly took his $40 is because the bike, as others have stated, has $0 resale value? Makes you wonder who “clearly doesnt ride bikes at all”?

  • Anon X

    I dont understand why you think the bike was stolen. You say the guy didnt know anything about bikes, but apparently neither did you if you didnt realize that you were paying, what is probably pretty close to fair market value for a low-end bike.

  • Nicola

    Guys, Assuming that it is stolen, although there is no proof of this….

    You really shouldn’t give the guy money for it, now he thinks he has a valid business model, don’t perpetuate the problem….!

  • Why isn’t anyone assuming OP stole the bike? Who would just pay for a bike they assumed was stolen without knowing the value in an attempt to “get it back to its owner” who they have no connection to what so ever? Why not just turn it into the police who would have a better chance of having a record of said stolen bike than a random list serve?

  • I’m the guy who bought the bike from the gentleman who stole it – screw you all who say I profiled – I know a theft when I see one. I was trying to do the right thing. Far to many people just let things slide and good for you if that’s your philosophy. I had the 40 bucks in general and I made a decision. I appreciate the criticism. Says a lot about those of you who sit and watch when fights occur and such. I never sit by idly.

    And for the record, I don’t ride bikes because I got hit twice by folks running red lights so piss off if you think I stole it. Great comments and snark.

    If you want the bike gratis and are a kind person, please contact Dan and you can have it.

    Glad to know that doing what I thought was the right thing deserves such derision.

    Best to you all

    • Anon

      The majority of ppl that had a problem with this post disagreed with comments such as “he clearly stole it” without providing explanation as to why you felt this way…now is your chance to set the record straight and the best you can come up with is “I know a theft when I see one”? Sorry, but you deserve the skepticism/apprehension. Get over it.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Who the heck just walks down the street and asks people if they want a bike for $40 when it isn’t stolen. Nobody. That’s who. Absolutely nobody. That’s not how anybody conducts an honest business transaction. If somebody is walking down the street wheeling a bike next to them, and they ask you if you want it for $40, the probability that it is not stolen isn’t actually zero but is about as close to zero as one can get in real life.

        • textdoc

          +1. As Haile Unlikely says, it would be haile unlikely.

      • He doesn’t owe you any explanation whatsoever. There’s no obligatory requirement to provide a video and thorough recounting of any submission to PoPville to appease all the social justice warriors of the Internet. If he says it’s clearly stolen then what good are you accomplishing by challenging that?

    • James W.

      I still don’t get why you bought it. The solution to bike theft is to NOT buy stolen merchandise. As it stands, the guy who supposedly stole the bike is now $40 richer and you’re getting berated by strangers on a message board. Not really a great outcome.

  • It won’t be a business model for someone because clearly no one else thinks this way. I wil make sure any wallets and purses and such I find get tossed in the trash and no attempt to be decent and helpful are made.

    No I won’t. I guarantee you all I grew up poorer than you and know what it’s like to have things stolen. I wish there people who acted more and talked less than you all to be frank.

    Thank you for disappointing me. To be expected. Been living at 12h and U for a decade and glad to know most of you come in and go back to wherever it is you reside.

    Cheers. And if any of you actually read, some months ago there were similar efforts made that successfully reunited someone with their bikes. Sorry I don’t know sh@@ from shinola when it comes to bikes. Actually, I’m not.

    • Alan

      Keep being kind, Eric.

      • textdoc

        +1. Ignore the haters.

  • MH

    what an awesome thing you did!

  • Vered

    It’s actually painful to read the malicious rejoinders to what was clearly a generous gesture, and from which the OP had nothing whatsoever to gain. What difference does it make if the bike is cheap or expensive? How can you miss the point so entirely?? And surely no one can believe that the thief would never steal again if he couldn’t unload this particular item (like he has a “business model”). Naysayers, cynics, oneupsmen, begone! You pollute the discourse. Shame on you.

    • James W.

      I think reasonable minds can disagree on this one so I wouldn’t walk that far out on a limb. My first instinct when I spot stolen merchandise is not to reward the thief by buying it and then hope to find a needle in a haystack (ie the original owner). Let’s all agree to disagree, but shaming people isn’t appropriate.

    • “How can you miss the point so entirely?”
      Hi, are you new here?

      • samanda_bynes


  • OStreet Neighbor

    Eric Stratton, if you’re reading this (although I hope, for your sake, you’re not, because it’s one of the more depressing threads I’ve ever read here, and a reminder to stop reading them), it was obvious to me that you had good intentions and you willingly parted with $40, thinking you might reunite someone with his or her stolen bike.
    Yes, we all know it’s better to not buy stolen stuff. Sometimes we make exceptions. Why do people feel the need to sermonize on that?
    And, as far as the gist of this story goes, most of us don’t give a crap about the quality of the bike, or where it was purchased or what its resale value is.
    I’ve lived in Logan/Shaw for a LONG time. I can say from first-hand experience that drug dealers and hookers make better neighbors than a lot of the sanctimonious, snippy, know-everything people who have replaced them.
    Cheers to you, Eric Stratton. If I knew you, I’d buy you a beer.


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