is my potential housemate a drug dealer?
April 8, 2009 2:18 PM   Subscribe

how can i determine if a potential housemate is a drug dealer?

My friends and I found a potential roommate on Craigslist who seems really cool, but we we're worried that he may be a drug dealer - he claims to have "saved up a bunch of money" before coming here from some sort of freelance computer repair job, but I'm skeptical that anyone can make that much doing that, and he also works at a drug advocacy group of some kind. Not damning, but definitely enough to give me pause. I'm not morally opposed to drugs or anything, just worried about something crazy happening at the house.

Anyone have any good ideas on warning signs, or experience about whether his explanation for having all this money is plausible, or anything that we can ask him for as evidence one way or the other?

Would it be weird to just directly ask him? We really want to get this house and the pickings for housemates looks a bit slim, so I'm just seeing what the internets think (and also because I'm a little curious)

I know this is kind of a ridiculous question, so hilarious snark appreciated as well.
posted by I like to eat meat to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ask him if he has any drugs he can sell you.
posted by ND¢ at 2:20 PM on April 8, 2009 [5 favorites]

"Dude, do you know where I can score some weed?"
posted by dersins at 2:24 PM on April 8, 2009

Or, uh, what ND¢ said.
posted by dersins at 2:24 PM on April 8, 2009

Say that one of the rules is no drug deals/no stashing drugs at the house and see how he reacts.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:24 PM on April 8, 2009

I don't think a serious, could-possibly-bring-the-cops-down-on-your-house drug dealer would be in a drug advocacy group.

Still, you can always see if he's ever been caught by doing a background check. Tenants have to do them all the time, so it might not seem that off to him.

However, if you're not really hard up for a roommate, you might as well just move on to someone that inspires less worry.
posted by ignignokt at 2:25 PM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dealers don't look for straight roommates. If they can't afford to live on their own, there are plenty of heads willing to cut them a deal on rent, for a reduced price on the drugs, or even just the higher certainty of having a in-house supply.
posted by nomisxid at 2:28 PM on April 8, 2009 [9 favorites]

You didn't even tell us how much money he says he saved, so there's no way for us to know whether it's plausible or not that he could have saved that money freelancing. (Do you even know how much money it is?)

Would it be weird to just directly ask him?
Yeah, that would be weird. I think if one of your first interactions with him is to indicate that based on pretty much no evidence you think he might be lying about his job and engaged in illegal activity, he probably won't want to be your housemate any more.
posted by phoenixy at 2:29 PM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

he claims to have "saved up a bunch of money" before coming here from some sort of freelance computer repair job,

Here's Geek Squad's rates ($300 to remove a virus? I need to quit doing that at work for my regular hourly pay), and they're often seen as not too knowledgeable. Someone who knows what they're doing could quite possibly make an obscene amount of money.
posted by niles at 2:37 PM on April 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

If he seems like a cool guy, ask if you can meet him in person before you let him move in (under the guise of wanting to 'get to know him a bit' or whatever).

And then ask him in whatever way you might feel comfortable. Or tell him "hey man . . we can't have any bullshit in our house, because (insert reason here), so do you party a lot, sell drugs or anything?"

Also . . . there won't be much way to tell by looking at him or talking to him right off the bat. You might be able to tell if he is a total stoner by talking to him, but that wouldn't mean he deals.

Plus, anyone that makes 'a lot of money' selling drugs knows that they have to be indistinguishable from the rest of the population.
posted by nameless.k at 2:53 PM on April 8, 2009

As a data point, someone I know saved up roughly $20,000 over a few years repairing and selling used computers while holding down a full time job. If you were doing the computer work full time, you could reasonably save up a decent amount of money.
posted by pocams at 2:54 PM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're polite and reasonably competent, you can easily bill $100+/hour for freelance computer repair. Not a fun job, though.
posted by meta_eli at 2:54 PM on April 8, 2009

Make it sound like you're joking, "We like to have a drama-free lifestyle, you don't like sell drugs or like to [insert slightly humorous and zany undesirable activity] or anything, do you?
posted by fructose at 3:19 PM on April 8, 2009

hmm, thanks for the answers everyone. I didn't know you could make that much doing freelance computer repair.

Also, that's a good point that some of you make, that if you're really a serious drug dealer, it doesn't make sense to live with random people who are not also drug dealers/users and be in a drug advocacy group.

Also, data point: he's from New Hampshire and says he has a concealed carry permit and a gun collection (disclaimer: didn't strike me as weird at the time since we were talking about shooting)

You can't get one of those if you have a criminal record, right?
posted by I like to eat meat at 3:23 PM on April 8, 2009

Now, I wholeheartedly believe that there are responsible gun owners out there. That said, I think it's far, far more important to find out how and where he's planning to store his firearm collection than to worry about the minimal risk he's a drug dealer. So try the joking "hey, we're going to have a strict no-drug-dealing in the house policy" comment, and follow up with "and my depressive high school buddy will be coming to visit... he won't be able to get at your guns, right?"
posted by amelioration at 3:31 PM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I suspect one of those happy libertarian self employed types, not a dealer, since as stated if he was supplying addicts he'd have more options. You could obviously ask him about his habits, since if he's very active with drug legalization he probably doesn't mind talking about the subject, and probably enjoys something or another from time to time. This is a more important angle. Can you deal with him keeping/growing his private stash if he's not selling? Even if he's only doing it to bring his terminally ill grandfather more peace via medical pot, chances are people in his social circle will see drugs as acceptable.
posted by Phalene at 3:38 PM on April 8, 2009

I'd be worried about the gun collection, too, just because they're targets for theft. I hope he keeps that info low key, if he ends up living with you.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:29 PM on April 8, 2009

How is that you learned he "saved up a bunch of money"? Did he tell you an amount or wave around a wad of $100 bills? Working for advocacy groups usually means a low salary so maybe he is receiving money from a family member but does not know how to tell you that thus the "computer repair job" story. Or as others have said, he might have a genuine freelance computer repair job.

Also, data point: he's from New Hampshire and says he has a concealed carry permit and a gun collection (disclaimer: didn't strike me as weird at the time since we were talking about shooting)

You can't get one of those if you have a criminal record, right?

This is a whole new direction for your question. Are you now asking for advice about living with a potential roommate who will be storing firearms in the house? I ask because Ask Metafilter sometimes does not do firearms questions well.

Are these collectible/antique? Is he a hunter? Target shooting? Shotguns, Rifles or all handguns?

As someone suggested upthread, you have more than enough to go on to justify a background check.

Do not rely on thinking that "He told us he has a CCW permit ergo he has no criminal record". Has he shown you the permit? Also, you say he is from NH but where are you located? You might want to look into Reciprocity.
posted by mlis at 4:31 PM on April 8, 2009

What are the house rules? Don't have any? Make some. Everybody has to wash dishes 2x week. Everybody has to clean the bathroom 2x month. No hard drugs (heroin, crack, ibuprofen, you decide) No selling drugs. No noisy parties unless roomies are invited. Try not to embarrass roomies with excessively noisy sex. Rent has to be on time. etc.

Whenever I've had roommates, we got along better when the rules were clear, and we all had roughly the same standards about cleaning up.
posted by theora55 at 4:33 PM on April 8, 2009

You can't go wrong with calling when he is free to talk, or inviting him round again and saying you're keen but you'd just like to ask a couple of questions that had arisen to be sure. Saying you want to make it clear that you don't want drugs or guns near the place covers both bases. If there's some work related reason why there need to be guns around, well, that's the kind of thing you need to know before you let someone move in and a responsible person would be able to answer your questions.

You can stilll answer no, but you'll be making an informed decision.
posted by Sparx at 4:39 PM on April 8, 2009

sorry, i should have stated that his guns are back home and will not be coming to the house, just didn't think to mention it. Thanks for looking out for me though! I feel the metafilter love!

I'm thinking background check or seeing his carry permit to make sure no criminal record, seeing a pay stub (which he's already agreed to), and then making it clear that we're not comfortable with dealing or hard drugs in the house. I figure if he is a drug dealer he's not gonna want to live with us if we've made it clear to him that we aren't cool with it and therefore might turn him in or something right?
posted by I like to eat meat at 5:06 PM on April 8, 2009

He agreed to let you see his pay stub? If a potential roommate wanted to see something that personal, I wouldn't even consider living with them. It seems highly invasive in personal. I could understand asking for (personal and/or) work references, but a pay stub? Come on.
posted by Lullen at 5:27 PM on April 8, 2009

I think I hit a new record for the use of the word "personal" in one post...
posted by Lullen at 5:28 PM on April 8, 2009

A real dealer would neither want nor need housemates that they don't know quite well.
posted by glider at 5:49 PM on April 8, 2009

Echoing others a bit here, if he is a drug dealer and makes/has lots of money, why would he be looking to share living expenses with people who would probably clue in within a few days as to the nature of his business and then either object or demand a cut of the loot. (It's pretty hard to hide a lucrative drug dealing business from roomies.)

Seems like you're conflating membership in a drug advocacy group with dealing, which strikes me as ill-informed.
posted by telstar at 7:58 PM on April 8, 2009

im going to play devils advocate here; a good dealer would be able to hide it from his housemates (i've seen that before), and non-dealer/non-user housemates would be the perfect cover, and sometimes preferable to mates that would expect free dope.

and if he/she is dealing the pot, working for a drug advocacy group wouldnt be that out of the range of possibility - pot heads uniformly agree that it should be legalized, and unless youre talking about dealing kilos, pounds, whatever, he/she might not really be afraid of getting caught, the penalites are minimal.
posted by fumbducker at 8:16 AM on April 9, 2009

I think it's absurd to assume someone who saved up a "bunch" (you still haven't specified how much money we're talking about) of money could have only done it by dealing drugs. Just because someone is advocating for decriminalization or legalization does NOT mean they are dealing drugs. Come on. Talk about super paranoid. If potential roommates asked me questions like this, and asked for things like paystubs, I'd look elsewhere for housing.

Keep in mind that many "normal" non-potheads seem to support sensible drug policy reforms. Here in Massachusetts the ballot question for decriminalization passed 65% to 35%. Also interesting, if tangential to the topic at hand, is Portugal's decriminalization of possession and use of ALL drugs in 2001.

Besides, the amount of money people charge for computer repair is pretty ridiculous, as others have mentioned. ;)
posted by darkshade at 10:41 AM on April 9, 2009

I work for a drug advocacy organization. I don't know which one your potential roommate works for (but know it's not mine - memail if you want my impression of his organization). I would say that it is unlikely for someone working in drug advocacy to also be a dealer. There is a sense among my co-workers that there's a higher level of scrutiny of us because of where we work. Definitely not impossible, but unlikely.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:53 PM on April 9, 2009

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