Things That Tick Me Off: Vendors Who Rip Off Tourists At Ground Zero

200px-NCI_Visuals_Food_Hot_DogYes, it is time for another installment of “Things that Tick Me Off,” the category where I allow myself that chance to vent about something that is so annoying that I must vent to retain my sanity. One of the things highest on my list are vendors who fleece tourists as they try to enjoy their cities. Vendors know that many foreign tourists are unfamiliar with the exchange and the currency as well as the prices. One of those appears to be this lowlife Ahmed Mohammed who not only failed to post his prices (as required under municipal law) at this stand near Ground Zero but was charging some people $30 for a single hot dog. That is, until a local reporter caught up with him.

When Mohammed demanded $30 from locals, he got a vintage New York push back from people who called him a crook and one who just gave him back his dog with a bite out of it. Yet, Mohammed continued to try to rip off anyone who would fall for the scam. The price would change with some charged $15 and others charged $30. When confronted he would try to get $10 or $35 for a dog and pretzel.

Fights broke out in some cases which led to the local NBC station investigating. When the reporter confronted Mohammed he first tries to deny this actions and then suddenly suggests that he could not speak English. The reporter tells him that they have him on tape speaking English and he just smiles.

He is not alone in the Big Apple. Drivers of those iconic horse-drawn carriages have been repeatedly accused of fleecing tourists.

People like Mohammed are not just crooks, they destroy the tourism industry in cities like New York that is so important to so many. One such experience is enough to ruin a vacation and is then repeated over and over again by tourists in speaking with others. I remember when Leslie and I were ripped off by a taxi driver in Paris who charged us three times what the fare was supposed to be. We did not realize it until we took a taxi back from the same location. It remains one of the few truly negative memories from that great city. While it did not deter us from returning, it hurts everyone in a city. It is also the lowest form of crime: to fleece visitors to your city who trust you.

The key to deterring people like Mohammed is not just stripping them of any vendor license (permanently) but jail. This is simple fraud combined with the violation of city ordinances to further the fraud. Clearly, $30 is not the price of the hot dog. While there is not price management, there are laws preventing this type of fraudulent pricing. The other question is why a cart at such a key tourist location was allowed to operate without posted prices for so long by the city. This is not some marginal spot but a prime, high traffic location. Where was the city?

Source: NBC

37 thoughts on “Things That Tick Me Off: Vendors Who Rip Off Tourists At Ground Zero”

  1. In Cincinnati at Izzy’s Deli there were no posted prices. Izzy charged you what he thought you could afford. If you came in wearing a nice suit, the sandwich was $7.00. A blue collar guy who worked construction would pay about $5.00. A college student in ragged jeans would be charged $2.50. People knew it was entirely arbitrary, but they liked Izzy and loved the food. Since Izzy retired and his son took over, the prices are posted and everyone pays the same. Not nearly as fun….

  2. Nice story Tyger. A little perspective goes a long way. The market can work this out. People hear the hot dog gouger is pulling in $30/dog, I’ll be up there undercutting him at $17 a dog. With kraut thrown in…

    1. slohrss29 – it appears the guy was an employee. He has been fired according to latest news reports.

  3. I grew up in a little town in the mountains of Colorado, right outside the east entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was considered “the tourist capital” of the state. The price of gasoline, food, lodging, and everything else was anywhere from 20% to 50% (or greater) higher-priced than the same or equivalent items bought in Denver. The “Valley” people, those from Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, and other towns within 60 to 100 miles away, complained the most about the prices, since they weren’t paying such “high” prices at home. The tourists, those from places farther away, seemed to accept that they were visiting a tourist town and therefore had to pay more than at home, though some grumbled a little.

    But the main FACTS about the pricing of everything provided some justification for higher prices there over what could be obtained in any major metro city: 1. There were added costs of trucking everything up into the mountain towns. Those costs had to be recovered by the merchants, so this meant higher prices. 2. The “tourist season” went mostly from Memorial Day to Labor Day, so anyone who was in a tourist business and lived there all year long had only three months to make a year’s worth of profits to survive on. My mom’s little motel was one of those businesses, and it is amazing to look back and see how she managed to get us through the winters. Yeah, motel room rates were higher there than in the cities where businesses had sales the entire year. The main highway through the park was closed by snow during the winter, so no one bothered to vacation there during most of the fall, winter, and spring. 3. Prices still had to be moderated by what the market would sustain. If the prices were too high, the tourists wouldn’t come back, and we had customers who returned year after year. We made sure they were happy with everything else even if the prices were a little higher than they might have preferred.

    And back in those days, if the customer didn’t ask the price before registering, we made sure to tell them. That was just the honest thing to do. But still, one problem we had was some tourists were stealing our towels, pillows, and a few other things, apparently because they felt they had already paid for them in the price of the room. I understand that sort of thing still happens in the hospitality industry.

    One more anecdote: When I was about six, my mom left me in charge of the office while she cleaned the rooms. I showed a room to a prospective customer and quoted a rate of $2 per night (the winter rate) when it should have been $6 per night (the summer rate) because it was in early June. As the customer was registering, my mom came back into the office, and he asked if the rate I quoted him was correct (since he realized he was getting a bargain). My mom said, “If that’s what he said, that’s what the rate is.” Of course, after the customer had left, she calmly explained to me that the prices had gone up the weekend before, and made sure I knew what the prices were for the rest of the summer. As I recall the story, the customer came back each summer for many years and happily paid the usual rates. Honesty can gain you respect from others, just as cheating them will make them speak badly of you and never return.

  4. Rcocean, Do the math, $30 is 3 times the cost of the hot dog you paid. You pay $10 for a dog @ some ballparks. Overpriced but not price gouging. The airlines bumped up their price double and triple for the NYC-DC shuttle when Amtrak wasn’t running. When there is little competition they can do that horseshit.

  5. If there are specific rules or laws requiring that these vendors post prices, and he failed to post his prices, then, yes, he did something wrong and should have to suffer the consequences of that failure, whatever those may be. Tourists may visit that area from all over the world, but coming from a different culture or country doesn’t relieve them of the responsibility of asking how much the product costs–in this case, the hot dog– BEFORE they order it, take it into their hands and bite it. They are tourists, not mentally handicapped individuals, who have the capacity to choose where and what to eat, including the price that they are willing to shell out for that item.

    If, however, this had been some type of emergency situation, where access to food had been curtailed, I could understand why the government would step in and try to prevent price gouging, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in the above-referenced story. I also don’t view this story as analogous to the one described by JT, where he was taken on a scenic tour of Paris, by an unscrupulous cab driver, and overcharged for his trip. In that case, he was unaware of the price of the ride prior to its conclusion and could not, therefore, make a rational decision, prior to the conclusion of the ride. The cabbie’s behavior, in that situation, was tantamount to theft.

    Good old fashioned supply and demand. I seem to visit NYC when there are sudden downpours–I’m always caught, unprepared, without an umbrella and walking through Midtown. It never fails. what happens? Out come the umbrellas, which were $5.00, just moments before–now priced at $15.00. I have a choice–either get soaked (there are no cabs when it rains) or spring for the overpriced umbrella. I chalk it up to a part of my New York experience and spend on the umbrella.

  6. I’ve gone to sporting events – high class Golf ones – where they charge you $10 for a hot dog and $5 for a Coke. Why are they any worse the Mohammad at Ground zero?

  7. People in NYC trying to make as much $$$ as they can, anyway they can.

    I’m shocked!

  8. Thirty years ago in NYC, I went into a deli and discovered that the cost of a bagel nearly tripled from breakfast to lunch. Same bagel, same creamcheese, same everything. Price changed over the course of one minute. So they’ve been screwing tourists for years just because they can.

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