St. Louis—Gretchen Sands had heard the complaints of her adult children for many years. “Mom, you’re the last person on earth without a GPS,” Sands said in a mocking voice. “I really didn’t think I needed one. I’ve lived in the St. Louis area my whole life; I know my way around.”
Sands, 54, recently gave-in to her children’s demands, but the transaction and the product made her uncomfortable. The marketing director did her research, but found mainstream GPS too expensive. She then turned to Craig’s List.
“There was one for 20 bucks. The seller said it was ‘pure’ which I figured meant no computer viruses, or something,” she said. “The brand name was ‘Reich’ and I figured, you know, Germans are good at building things.”
After a series of emails, Sands and the man who preferred he stay anonymous agreed to meet in person.
“He asked me if I was white, I assumed because he wanted to know what I looked like when we met…but now that I think of it, why didn’t he just ask what I was wearing?” Sands said.
Sands completed the meeting at a Denny’s parking lot. The interaction was brief.
“He said, ‘I’m glad you’re one of us’ and I said, ‘yeah, one of us GPS owners,’ ” she said.
Sands installed the device – a white case, with white buttons, and a white power cord – and typed in her home address.
“You live in St. Louis?” The unit said in a surprised female voice, then it started showing real estate listing in St. Peters and other suburbs far from the city.
“My company has a couple clients in Ferguson. I went there the other day and the thing said ‘Are you sure? Whatever business you have there, could it be done by mail?’ ” Sands said. “Then it told me to lock my doors.”
On another recent trip to East St. Louis, the GPS simply said “no” and refused to give directions.
Gerald Sands, Gretchen’s 31-year-old son, said he regrets needling his mother to get with the times.
“First I was like, ‘wait, mom knows about Craig’s List?’ Then I hear she’s meeting some super sketchy guy at a Denny’s, and then I’m like, ‘Denny’s is still a thing?’” Gerald Sands said. “When I looked at the GPS, I felt really bad. I clicked on ‘attractions’ and the menu read: museums, amusements pars, Confederate war memorials.”
Gerald Sands also reported that under the menu item “the truth” one can listen to recordings of George Wallace through the car’s speakers.
“Oh, God! That’s on there?” A shocked Gretchen Sands said while burying her face in her hands. “I never looked at the menus.”
The family decided to make a $250 donation to the NAACP and backed over the GPS to assure nobody else would ever use it.
“Then me, Gillian, and Grace (Sands’ other children) all bought her a road atlas,” Gerald Sands said.