Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Primer on Getting Scammed in Hyde Park

posted by chicago pop

So a little while ago there was a buzz about a new scam in the neighborhood, and given my summer lassitude I waited awhile to post anything about it.

But scams in Hyde Park are like an eternal spring overflowing its source in ever-changing rivulets. The creative well of scamming mytho-poesis is astounding and infinite. So there was no need for this post to follow the 24/7 scam cycle. The subject is not going away. More likely it will be coming to you again soon. There will be more of them, I assure you, so it's good to get your anti-scam freak on now and test it out.

A scam is usually recognizable for what it is, especially when you've been scammed once or twice, no matter how inventive and unfamiliar it may seem. Which is why it is curious that so many people seem to have been fooled when someone began going door-to-door asking for money to save the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.

All I can say is: who, if any, are the suckas' who gave this guy money? Whoever the scammer is/was, I have no doubt he read the Herald closely, and quickly figured out that the way to part fools from their money is to invoke the pending death of a neighborhood institution.

The best advice when it comes to not getting scammed is: don't give your money to people you don't know. Even more so if there is a story involved. The longer the story, you should consider asking them to give you money for wasting your time.

I don't mind giving cash to people who perform a service. I classify this as only a quasi-scam, one frequently practiced by street-poets such as the one who approached me in Borders last spring and asked if he could compose a poem on a topic of my choice. I suggested "fatherhood," and the poet orated a rhyming and more-or-less on-topic verse on what it means to be a dad. For this 45 -60 seconds of labor I rewarded the bard with $2, which I pointed out was compensation roughly equal to a fee of $120/hour, more than my trained and licensed plumber, but less than my lawyer -- i.e., not bad, and not nearly the astounding rip-off that his suggested price of $20, or $1,200/hour was.

The point is, however, that we negotiated the terms of the transaction on the open market, and a good was delivered. It was a non-tradable good, to be sure, but a good nonetheless. Most scams are not negotiated openly and involve no real exchange of goods, tradable or non-tradable.

Of the scams that I have known within the Hyde Park quadrilateral, here are a few of them, ranging from the mundane to the truly original, for the benefit of the as-yet-unscammed:

A Nosology of Hyde Park Scams

1) [Open door]: "A classmate of ours at Kenwood Academy died and we need to buy him a coffin quick." [slam door]

2) [Open door]: "You like meat? I got some cheap meat, real cheap -- chicken, ribs, beef. [pause] You a vegetarian?" [slam door]

3) On 57th Street: "I just got out of the hospital and need money to get my prescription."

4) Six months later, same spot on 57th Street: "I just got out of the hospital and need money to get my prescription."

5) At Istria on 57th: "You know what, the cops towed my car and now I can't get home. I live all the way down at Blue Island and came up here for a conference on Gay Masculinity at the University. Now I'm stuck and need money for a Metra pass." [I'm ashamed to say that this one was so ingeniously PC I fell for it]

6) Anywhere: "My car broke down and I need bus fare to get down to [insert address]. Or maybe you can give me a ride."

7) [Open door]: "I'm collecting money to help kids learn how to dance and go to Broadway." [slam door]

8, 9, 10) Reader contributions


Elizabeth Fama said...

8) "I'm collecting donations on behalf of the Hyde Park Union Church, which is raising funds to buy bunk beds for a domestic-abuse shelter that experienced a fire." [Carrying a clipboard, and displaying Rev. Susan Johnson's actual, but overly-thumbed business card.]

Greg said...

"Excuse me, can I ask you a question?"

[continue walking]


"I'm sorry sir, can you help me out? My daughter just called me and she's in the hospital and I need to get down there, can you give me money for the bus?"

"Sorry, no" [continue walking]


Some of the street scammers would put Jake Blues with his excuses for leaving Carrie Fisher at the alter to shame.

chicago pop said...

Two more classic Hyde Park scams, from a gentle reader who wishes to remain anonymous:

--All tuition paid to the University of Chicago
--50 cents to buy the Herald and read all the advertisements.

Lilithcat said...

The guy whose car got towed hangs out at Harold Washington Park, too. Either that, or he got enough there to get on the #6 and stop at Istria for a gelato.

I ran into a couple of guys in the Hyde Park Shopping Center parking lot who were carrying around a dirty car part (I forget which) saying it broke and they needed a new one.

Jennifer Bremer MD said...

How about that unavoidable scam of the highest sales tax rate in the nation of 10.25%?

(And unfortunately an ongoing one as Stroger just vetoed an attempt to roll it back a trifle ... )

gogomama said...

"Once we vote out the mismanaged and overpriced Co-op, we'll have a food renaissance in Hyde Park. . . "

(Keep driving to Roosevelt, folks; that's where you'll see your neighbors--at least the ones with cars.)

Elizabeth Fama said...

Wow, our readers took this to a relatively abstract level.

Susan said...

Google "grocery store" on google maps. Treasure Island pops up.

I have been scammed.