Yes, 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?