How I got ripped off in my summer job

Forced to become an entrepreneur by a bad job market, she's victimized by…counterfeiters?

In the spring, my parents started their harassment campaign to get me to look for a summer job. I had to save (after first somehow earning) $1000 to put toward my first car, which I hoped to buy in September after getting my license.

In May, they told me there would be record unemployment among teenagers. I assumed that wouldn't apply to me. I'm 16, an au courant racial mlange, straight-A student and I have perfect teeth. I knew some fashionable retail store would love to make good use of my innate sense of style and grace. But I'm here to tell you, it's a pretty short path from my dream of being a glamorously dressed retail goddess to a junk-peddling rummage sale princess getting ripped off by the local counterfeiter.

That's right, a counterfeiter. Here's how it happened.

I typed up a resume in PowerPoint and applied at all the tight stores in Uptown -- but nobody was hiring. So I applied at every place with a front door from Lyndale to Lake Calhoun, and from Franklin to 36th Street. I went through all of Linden Hills, Southdale and even dared to venture as far south as the Galleria.

Maybe I'm destined to be an entrepreneur, I thought. I decided to hire myself as a rummage sale event director. I made a flyer and passed it out to all the neighbors, offering to cart away their rummage, sell it at my sale and split the proceeds 50/50.

Tons of stuff poured in. I got enough baby clothes, paperback novels, light fixtures and vintage electronic equipment that the sale could truly be called eclectic. My mom threw in some old pottery, carnival glass and silver-plated something-or-others so I could say in the newspaper ad that we had antiques.

I sanded and spray-painted old furniture, sorted, as well as scrubbed and polished various other sales items. There were so many things that I personally wouldn't pay money for that my free box couldn't hold them all; I came up with a large table for items that would be a "gift with purchase."

The day before the sale, as I was arranging items on tables, three creepy-looking antique dealers showed up together. Now we all know Linden Hills is the 'hood, straight up, so I was on guard from the get-go. I told them to hit the pavement and come back the next day when things had been priced. But they ignored me and loaded their arms with the intended centerpiece of my upscale boutique area. As I stood in total shock, they discussed and criticized the quality of my merchandise. I'm pretty tough, but I was no match for them, and they left with my best stuff at prices I am too stunned to remember.

I'm not making any accusations, but I later noticed a jeweled tiara had disappeared.

The sale was officially supposed to start at 8 a.m. on Saturday, but there was a traffic jam by 7. My visions of a well-run retail operation quickly evaporated. One man convinced me that my neighbor's rangefinder, which I had priced at $35, was only $25 new, so I sold it to him for $5. My neighbor later explained that no, in fact, it cost $200 new.

When I noticed my portable CD player and headphones had been shoplifted, I spent some time obsessing over whether anyone else had helped himself or herself to a five-finger discount. In the afternoon, a woman who said she had a designer resale shop offered me half-price on all my "decorative accessories." We struck a bargain and she carted off much of what remained in her Lexus SUV.

By the end of the day, I considered the venture an imperfect success, put what was left on a table with a giant FREE sign, and headed to the bank.

Imagine my surprise when the TCF teller calmly informed me that two of my $20 bills were counterfeit, and he would have to confiscate them. In shock, as I tried to control my breathing (and my temper), I looked closely at those bills. They sure looked like money to me, but apparently I haven't handled the quantities of cash that this guy has. He pointed out that they felt thicker, like paper, and didn't absorb brown marker like they should.

In the end, he let me keep the bills, and I spent the rest of the day considering what I could do with two fake 20s. I briefly considered trying to pass them off to another unsuspecting fool but abandoned that option for the obvious ethical reasons. One friend suggested I slip them into my Dad's wallet on his way to the country club for a round of golf. While this option appealed to me, my grandpa ended up buying one of them for $20, to eliminate any temptation to get myself into trouble. (I am willing to sell the second one for $40, so hit me up if you're interested.)

I'm pretty traumatized that someone would give an innocent 16-year-old girl counterfeit money at a rummage sale she's having to buy her first car. But I'm sure there's a valuable lesson in all this, and some day I'll get it.

On the flipside, the equal opportunity employers at Karl Bissinger French Confections at the Galleria have had the good judgment to envision my potential for selling chocolate, and this is where you will find me. Please stop in anytime for some of the finest confections Edina money can buy.

Katie Carlson lives in Linden Hills and is a junior in South High's Open program.