The line stretched all the way down to the corner and around the block, and the wait was long. But you would expect that. This brand new real estate agency had opened its doors on Main Street in Bridgehampton and had declared that for its first month only, all the houses it had on sale would be available for a dollar.
Janet and Bill Herrickson were two of those people on line. They got there at dawn, and even then the line was long, but they patiently waited and, by 11 a.m., they were in the front door and by noon they were next. In this front room were a dozen or more agents sitting in front of computers at their desks, facing eager buyers.
A man at one of the desks, his clients leaving, waved to the Herricksons and called them over to him. As they approached, he stood up, smiled and held out his hand.
“Hi. My name is Roy,” he said.
“We’re Janet and Bill Herrickson.”
“Well, sit down, sit down, and take your time. There’s a lot of people here, but we give every customer our full attention to see that they get what they want.”
“How in the world do you have houses in the Hamptons for a dollar?” Bill asked. “The other brokers sell them for millions.”
“We’re new. And the other brokers either aren’t keeping up with the times, or they keep this secret stash for themselves.”
“It’s something they don’t want you to know. It’s everything for a dollar. But we don’t want to talk about our competition. Here we are, and we’ve got them. Houses for a dollar.”
“Houses are more in East Hampton than they are in Hampton Bays, right?”
“We have houses in both towns for a dollar.”
“Why don’t you tell him what we want?” Janet said to Bill.
“We’d like a four-bedroom house on the ocean in East Hampton,” Bill said.
“That’s asking a lot,” Janet said.
“Well, we’ve got ’em,” Roy said. “Here, let me show you.” Roy swiveled the screen on his computer so the Herricksons could also see what was on it. On the screen were pictures of more than a dozen oceanfront homes. The price was under each one. A dollar.
“Wow,” said Bill. “How about THIS one,” he said.
“No,” Janet interrupted. “How about THIS one!” Bill looked at her.
“Well, let’s see,” Roy said. “This second one is two floors, all glass and concrete on five acres, with tennis and a pool. Six bedrooms.”
Roy clicked on it. “Nope.” Roy looks around at the other dozen brokers. “Sorry. Somebody just snapped it up.”
“Well then, how about the other one,” Bill asked.
Roy clicked on that. “It’s a brick colonial on three acres, seven bedrooms, tennis and pool and an ocean view. Oops. Somebody nailed that one too.”
Bill was breathing hard.
“How about THAT one? Janet asked, pointing to a third one.
“This one? The one with the four chimneys?”
“Oh dear, that one just got picked up too.”
“Maybe we’re aiming too high,” Bill said. “What have you got in Hampton Bays?”
“That might be a lot easier.” He punched a few keys. “Here’s Hampton Bays.” A display of a dozen different homes splayed out.
“Here’s a four-bedroom ranch on Ponquogue Avenue. Lovely spot, walk to town, well kept, just a dollar.”
“Try that,” Bill said.
Roy clicked the mouse. “Uh-oh, it got away,” he said. “Let me try this one. Nope. You should have got here earlier.”
“We got here at 5 a.m.,” said Bill.
“Tell you what,” Roy said. “Doesn’t seem you’re too particular here, except for the four bedrooms. Why don’t you give me your cell phone number and a dollar and I’ll track one down for you and give you a call?”
“That sounds about right,” Bill said.
“Wait a minute,” said Janet. “We’d be getting a house sight unseen.”
“It’s only a dollar,” Bill said.
“I’ll make sure I get you a really nice one,” Roy said. “Leave your ringer on.”
Bill reached for his wallet.
“Wait a minute,” Janet said. “Why not just find one and put it on hold, and we’ll come in and give you the dollar?”
“We have to look over the dollar,” Roy said. “There’s so much counterfeiting being done. We want to make sure you’re on the up-and-up. We don’t want to sell you something and then it turns out the dollar is fake.”
“That makes sense,” Bill said, and he handed over a dollar.
Roy stood again and the Herricksons stood and they all smiled at one another and shook hands and the Herricksons left.
Roy never called the Herricksons before the end of the day, and the next morning it was found that the whole agency was gone. This was dutifully reported to the police, who sent out a statewide alert for 18 men who were carrying over $1,500 in cash, all in singles.
“This was the biggest real estate swindle of its kind we have ever seen,” the police chief told the media at a press conference later in the day. “In fact, it’s the only swindle of its kind we have ever seen.”
Sightings of the perpetrators were later reported in Ithaca, Oneida, Buffalo and Plattsburgh, leading the police to believe they may have fled to Canada.
“If anyone sees suspicious characters named Roy or some other name flashing around large numbers of one dollar bills, do not hesitate to call the authorities,” said Hamptons Police Chief Heckenheimer.