Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Doorman's Guide to Not Getting Ripped off in New York: Part II

Street Scams

Now that you know how to get around the city safely, here's how to avoid getting robbed by hustlers that prowl the Times Square area, looking for prey. There really is only one thing to remember- don't give anyone your money. Ever. That's it... Unless they're a handsome guy wearing a hat, overcoat, and carrying your luggage while holding the door. Then, by all means, give him as much as you can.

Another exception is someone busking or entertaining on the subway. Those people are working, trying to get noticed, and are very rarely, if ever, aggressive about asking for money. Also, if you see a homeless person, who is clearly in need, sitting with a coffee cup and a sign asking for change, then of course give him something if you want to.

If you've read any of my blogs before, you know that I've seen some shit, but these are the most common scams that I see idiots fall for. And for the first few months working this job, I would stupidly stick up for these naive chums, fighting with degenerates because these tourists were too stupid to realize that they were being had. Now, I generally stay out of it, mostly because I don't want to get shanked. So take my advice, tourists. I fucking grew up here:  

The Subway Monologist

There's a reason I wear headphones on my subway commute every day. At least once, before I get off the train, someone gets on and delivers a heartbreaking monologue that sounds something like this:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so very sorry to interrupt you today, but I am in desperate need of your help. I was recently laid off from my job, just days after my diagnosis of bone marrow cancer. And, just yesterday, a freak electrical fire has burned down our home. Now, my pregnant wife and our five children are without a place to live, or anything to eat. If you could give anything, just a little, it would help us immensely. Thank you very much, and have a blessed day."

Now, for every person who is in legitimate need of help, there's five fucking assholes who wrote something powerful and is looking to exploit kind, generous people. I'm not about to take that risk. You know how you can tell if someone is lying? Offer them actual food. I've seen people become visibly disappointed when a good samaritan breaks them off a half a sandwich.

I hate to sound heartless, but I don't have a dollar for every person that comes to me with a sob story. I have enough of my own. Sure, it's tough to not feel bad for people, especially when they really fucking sell it. But you have to understand that these people are con artists, and con artists are the finest actors. I'm sure I can throw on some shitty clothing and use my Meisner training to pan-handle a couple of hundred bucks on the A train.

Lastly, the most obvious sign to spot a fake is hygiene. Have you ever smelt a homeless person? They're quite pungent. 

CD Hustlers

There was an incident in Times Square a few years ago, where one of these savages opened fire on a cop with an Uzi in front of The Lion King. It put and end to this shit for awhile. Now, they're slowly making their way back. 

It's all a bullying scam. They corner you on the street, asking you to buy their demo CD. If they sense weakness, they will pressure and intimidate you till you give them fifteen bucks for it. A lot of the time, they'll actually put it in your hand and have you look at the back, then demand you give them money, using the ol' "you touched it, you bought it" trick. 

I've had these scumbags actually stuff the CD into my coat pocket, get in my face and scream "YO, YOU TOOK MY CD WITHOUT PAYING FOR IT! 15 DOLLARS MOTHERFUCKER!" And while I never walked away with one of these things, I'm sure it's nothing more than a blank CD with some graffiti scribbled on it. 

People get intimidated easily. Imagine being in a brand-new city, and a group of men pushing a gangster rap CD surround you and demand money? Just a few months ago, I was busy helping a guest, and one of them tried and swindle a British girl, no more than 11 or 12. I stepped in, and in front of the girl and many other people, he screamed "NIGGA, FUCK YOU! YOU ABOUT TO GET YO' FAGGOT ASS CUT!!!" 

Are those the words of an artist, trying to get his work out to the world?  

If one of these guys approaches you, don't even acknowledge them. Keep walking. If they insist, give a cold "no" without making eye contact. Being polite will get you nowhere. 

Trust me, you will not pay fifteen dollars, go home, and discover the next Tupac Shakur. 

The Deaf Guy 

Some people are versatile, and will switch up their scams. This was the first (and only) time I ever fell for something while working the door. 

He was a five ft. Latino man that came up to me, with a shitty sign that said "Help, I am deaf and homeless, anything will help." I had made $200 in tips that night, and was feeling charitable. And vulnerable. What really sold it was his, perfect "please, sir" that followed. He sure as shit sounded deaf. 

("Sounded deaf"? Is that a thing? He seemed deaf. Yeah, he seemed deaf. I'll roll with that.)

I gave him a dollar. He spoke and signed "Thank you, sir. Thank you so much!" and went on his way. 

No more than a week later, the same motherfucker came up to me with a box of chocolates, and in perfect English, asked:

Deaf Guy: "Hi, would you like to buy some chocolates to benefit the Girl Scouts of America?"

He had no idea that he had already used his deaf guy hustle on me. 

Me- "Dude! Weren't you fucking deaf last week?" 

Seriously, how absurd is it that I actually had to utter those words? 

He realized his mistake right away, they went back to his "deaf voice".

Deaf Guy- "I'm deaf! I'm deaf! Buy my chocolates, sir!" 

Me- "Get the fuck out of here!" 

Deaf Guy- "I'm deaf, I swear!"

Me- "Get out of here before I call the cops!" 

Deaf Guy- "No cops! I'm deaf!!! Please!" 

He turns and power-walks towards the corner. Just for confirmation, I tested him. 

Me- "Hey, FUCKO!" 

He turns around. Got him!!! I point at him maniacally like a young Jack Nicholson. 

Me- "AH HAAA!!! I thought you couldn't hear me?!?!" 

He makes the "Oh... God Damnit" face, then does the walk of shame back toward Times Square. 

You Made me Drop my Food 

Of all the scams, this one is my favorite. Not that I enjoy these things, but it's certainly one of the more clever ones:

There's a guy (or several) who finds food in a garbage can, puts it in a shopping bag, then intentionally bumps into a tourist. When that happens, he drops the food on the ground, spilling it all over, then hustles the tourist into making them give him money for it. 

"That cost me twenty dollars, man! I don't have any more money!" 

"Those were my leftovers from the restaurant! That meal cost me ninety dollars man! You gotta give me something for that!" 

Like the CD peddlers, when the tourist doesn't want to give him anything, or doesn't offer enough, he'll bully them:

"You just cost me twenty dollars! What the fuck are you gonna do about that?!?" 

"So you're gonna spoil a man's food, then not give him money to buy more? You fucked up!!!"

The last time I saw it happen, he did it to a business man wearing an expensive-looking suit. The suit was apologetic, buy the scammer didn't do a good enough job of selling the bump. Suit didn't feel like he was in the wrong. Still, he offered the guy a couple of bucks because the scammer was becoming more and more aggressive. 

Scammer- "What is this? Four dollars? This fucking cost me twenty!" 

Then the suit did the perfect thing. 

Suit- "I'll tell you what - I'll take you back to the place and buy you a new one. How bout that? "
The scammer just looked at him, and he knew the jig was up. The suit offered him a fair alternative, and with lots of people watching, knew that he either had to accept the offer, or be called out as a fraud. 

Scammer- "Man, fuck you! I ain't got time for this shit!" 

And he left. Out of sheer boredom, I took a look at the food. It was an old Chinese food container with some lo mein, halal food, a few french fries and a half-eaten hot dog bun. 

I've also heard about the same guy having a cheap bottle of cooking wine in a black bag, doing the same thing, then claiming that it was an expensive bottle. 

How do you avoid this? Watch where you're going. Re-teach yourself how to walk without staring at your smartphone. Refrain from bumping into shady characters holding black shopping bags. Use common sense. It's not difficult. 

GI Joe 

He's the Joker to my Batman. I saved him for last, because he just keeps reappearing and is the only one who generates a visceral reaction in my stomach every time I see him trotting down the street. 

He's a tall black man that walks around with a phony military ID, claiming to be a retired Gulf War veteran, and collects money for a fake foundation for homeless vets. He wears army pants that are tucked into his boots, a green sweater and beige hat. He'll take whatever donation they give to him, then takes their name and home address to send them a calendar or something. I've been in countless fights with him, and everyone in the area knows who he is, and feels the exact same way. 

All the cops in the area know him, and have arrested him several times. He'll just stop coming around for a few months, then come back, claiming he around the whole time. There was one point at the beginning of the summer where he came around every night, then completely vanished during Fleet Week. I called him out on it once, and his response was "It's still Fleet Week, you fucking knucklehead!" It wasn't, by about ten days.

It makes me sick to my stomach to see some dumbass foreigner take a picture with him, like they've just met some All-American hero. He shakes their hand and does a salute into the camera, then when the picture is taken, he collects his money and shoots me the "yeah, fuck you" look. What gets me the most about him is that I've asked him countless times, nicely, to not do it in front of the hotel. I've actually said "I don't care about your hustle. Do it wherever you want, just not in front of the door." He does it anyway, because he's a piece of garbage.

Whenever I see him coming, trying to solicit a guest having a smoke outside, I just call security. I'm done fighting with him, because of this exchange: 

I had run inside to answer the phone, and he saw that I wasn't at my post, so he darts across the street to squeeze a woman smoking a cigarette by the door while I'm not there. I caught this, placed the guest on hold, and ran outside. He was in the middle of his schtick: 

GI Joe- "My name is (GI Joe), I served as a Sergeant in the US military for 17 years. I'm retired now, and am collecting money for the (veteran fund). In exchange for your donation, we will mail you a (shitty, non-existent prize)." 

I came bursting out the doors like the Incredible Hulk, and cock-blocked him immediately. 

Me- "Ma'am, don't give this man any of your money."

He slams his clipboard on the ground and gets in my face. 

GI Joe- "Man, you are this fuckin' close!"

Me- "To what?" 

GI Joe- "To me fuckin' you up." 

Me- "That doesn't sound like the way a military man would carry himself." 

I knew security was on their way out, so I'll admit - I was in way over my head, but I wanted to get him fired up before they broke us up. 

GI Joe- "Man. you never served a day in your life!" 

Me- "You're right, but neither have you!" 

By this time, the guest had run inside, scared. Security came out and got in between us. I took a few steps back, and we kept jabbering at each other. 

Security- "Doorman, enough! Go inside!" 

I kept baiting him. 

GI Joe- "This is my only source of income, you motherfucker!" 

Got em. 

Me- "What's that? Come again?"

GI Joe- "You heard me!"

Me- "I thought you were collecting money for homeless vets? Sounds to me like that's a charity, and you shouldn't be pocketing it. That's illegal, right?" 

Boom. He responded like they all do when you blow up their little scene. 

GI Joe- "Man, fuck you! I ain't got time for this shit!" 

And he left. That was the last altercation I got into with him. Now when I see him, I smile and nod, and he gives me the finger and walks the other way. 

Am-erca. 

So if you're in New York for the holiday season, remember these things. Also, not being stupid is a huge plus. 

3 comments:

  1. I like your posts and hate an hustlers in a tourist-friendly place. They are dirtbags.

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  2. Great article, thanks for the tips! Canyons, glaciers, skyscrapers, Hollywood, you name it, the USA has it. However, there are numerous tourist targeted scams to be wary of. http://travelscams.org/north-america/common-tourist-scams-usa/

    Do be wary of the music artist scam, fake takeout menu, hot dog mustard scam, three card monte scam, ferry to staten island/fake tickets scam, casino theft, can you help cash out my chips scam, VIP pass scam, double tip scam and many more!

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  3. Only came across CD hustlers in Seattle, Washington. Hopefully I don't run into them ever again, thanks for the advice!

    ReplyDelete