When people talk about New York City they usually only have good things to say, after all it’s a wonderful city . I’m sure most of us leave New York relating to the positivity in Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ catchy 2009 chart topper, Empire State of Mind…
“concrete jungles where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do”
But wherever there is mass tourism there are greedy people waiting to take advantage of their unsuspecting and trusting demeanour. Yep, many people are out there trying to forge a living rather than making one. So listen up so you that you can avoid finding yourself in a sticky situation. Here are 5 common scams you need to be aware of:
- The CD Scam
One of the most popular modern-day city scams is the famous “free mixtape”. This is especially common in Times Square where you’ll be handed all sorts of leaflets and flyers. We take them.. don’t want to knock back the vendor after all. Instead, you’ve been handed a homemade CD featuring the vendor’s new rap mixtape. “Okay cool, something new to listen to. Thanks!” Not so fast! As soon as the CD enters your hands you’re begged and begged for money. There’s not always a set price for it, but even at the cost of a donation.. who’s to say that it’s not a blank disc? Commonly these artists hang around in groups therefore the pressure is high and often they will try to manipulate you into a purchase. Unless new unknown rap mixtapes are your thing, then politely decline the CD to save yourself the hassle. After all who even uses CDs now?
- Disney Characters Photo Scam
Who doesn’t love a bunch of nostalgic photos to look back on to get the memories flowing back? We all do. Add a bunch of life-size dressed up Disney characters standing about for photos and the children will be in awe. That’s them hooked, they need photos with them all.. now! The characters seem to be full of joy and so willing for photos, until you’re happy with your pictures and begin to walk off. Again, this is a case of wanting money for what seemed to be a free novelty item. Evidently short of money and desperate, they are known to be a little short tempered and heated in the case of being left empty-handed.
- Rickshaw Fixed Minutely-Rate
One of the best ways to see Central Park is said to be in the back of a rickshaw/pedicab. You get to see the full park, you travel comfortably and get interesting information from your guide. All that in an hour or so. It’s definitely the most convenient way to see the park. Trying walking it and you’ll need ALL day! The rickshaw comes in at a cost… Many have a rate printed on laminated paper stuck to the side of the cart, most commonly at $3 per minute. For an hour guided rickshaw tour that’s $180. To top that, I seen a lot costing $4 per minute. That’s you $240 down for an hour tour because you had the misfortune of not arranging a fixed rate upfront. And once you’ve had your tour without pre-arranging a price.. it’s technically your fault for not spotting the price sheet. The easy solution is to find a friendly looking guide and discuss a fixed rate for the duration of your tour, and settle with that. It seems that most drivers are happy with a fixed rate but will use the per-minute rate given no price was pre-arranged.On our first day at Central Park, my parents decided to use a rickshaw tour. They went with the first person to approach them and settled a fee of $70 for the hour.. which was suggested by the guide. The guide was so knowledgeable and even kept them on for over their hour time limit. He never charged them extra, although he earned a worthy tip. They couldn’t recommend him enough.
- “How do I get to…?” Pickpockets in Crowded Areas
A confused looking stranger approaches you asking for directions, in a city you don’t know your way about in. Walk on or stop and try to help? These scammers know the city like the back of their hand and also know a tourist when they see one. Usually working in pairs, once you’ve stopped and start looking around for street signs and noticeable landmarks.. an accomplice – the pickpocket, appears from the crowds and will easily swoop your phone, wallet or belongings from your possession without you even noticing. Quickly they’ll move on and in a matter of seconds the scammer is gone for good, as well as your belongings. The pickpockets are masters of not being noticed so your best bet is not to drop your guard when speaking to strangers and also keep your hands in your pockets with valuables in them. As a general rule of thumb in any crowded area you should always keep your phone and wallet in your front pockets and not your back.. otherwise you’re asking to be a target.
- Statue of Liberty Boat Tour Hoax
When you’re approaching Whitehall Terminal for the free Staten Island Ferry you’ll have handfuls of ticket vendors promising you fast access to a ferry tour round the Statue of Liberty. They’ll overemphasise that: the free Staten Island Ferry is overcrowded, you’ll not get close to the windows to take photos, it takes half an hour to get there, you’ll have to wait 45 minutes on Staten Island where there’s nothing to do then it’ll take another half an hour to get back, still on a busy ferry where the ferry goes straight past Lady Liberty. All of the above are things that work on your naivety and convince you that it’s well worth the $25-35 to get a quick 45 min tour round the island and back with no stop offs. Now before I go further, I loved the tour and would recommend it for a relaxed less crowded experience of seeing the Statue of Liberty from the water. But the hoax starts with the misinformation from the vendor, who’s main aim is to sell as many tickets as possible. We were promised to make the 2pm tour as the 2 pm ferry was apparently full. It was our last day so we had to be time-effective. A bus for the tour (which costs $1 per person) takes you from the terminal to another terminal about 10 minutes away. The bus was late in arriving at the terminal so we missed the 2pm ferry we were promised to be on. Then we waited in a massive queue with no information other than our ticket showing the times and that the next one was at 3:30pm. We waited patiently.. and by this time we would’ve been back from the made-out-to-be-long Staten Island Ferry ride. This was the last ride of the day and held 300 people. The queue had well over 500 people so we were one of the last to gain entry. If you are going for a tour like so, I recommend being there very early before departure and make sure you’re not waiting on the last tour of the day, as the chances of being left behind are high. The tour itself was great, but the marketing and broken promises of these tickets can leave you almost empty handed, with only a non-refundable ticket to show for it.
In a city where wealth and poverty are literally on each others doorsteps, your best tool is common sense and intuitive. If something feels or looks dodgy around you, chances are that it is.
You can call 311 for any non-emergency issues in the city or for any related information.
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