Home Travel They Tried To Scam Us On Bourbon Street Within Five Minutes

They Tried To Scam Us On Bourbon Street Within Five Minutes

by joeheg

In most large cities, you have to be vigilant. Some areas have a high crime rate, from pickpockets to snatch and grab of bags and cell phones. Other scams aren’t criminal, but take advantage of the victims’ good nature. For instance, we know not to buy a ticket for a boat ride to see the Statue of Liberty. We also know not to play any game of chance set up on the sidewalk.

Since we were both raised in the New York metropolitan area, Sharon and I have our “Doesn’t talk to strangers” look down pat when traveling. We can avoid most interactions by keeping our heads down and with an intentioned “No thanks!” if necessary.

However, things were different when we visited New Orleans. We made the trip with another couple who had never been to that city before and the first thing they wanted to do was visit Bourbon St. We obliged but warned them that it’s not all that exciting during the day, and not much better at night. What I didn’t do was give them a briefing about the popular scams in New Orleans.

We took the St. Charles streetcar from our Airbnb and ended up on Canal St. We walked to Bourbon St. and headed into the French Quarter. We made it about 4 blocks when a local came up to our friends and started walking alongside us.

While we’re anti-social northerners, our friends are born and bred in the South and they’ll strike up a conversation with anyone. The would-be scammer started with some quick chat about the weather and then hit them with the infamous New Orleans scam, which goes like this.

“I like your shoes. I bet you $5 I can tell you where you got those shoes.”

The scammer hopes you’ll take the bet, thinking there’s no way where they’ll know where you bought your shoes. That’s when you’ll hear, “You got them on your feet.” or something similar.

Our friend’s BS radar went off because he went from friendly and conversational to serious and short. He passed him off with a “No thanks, buddy.” and kept walking. Our scammer friend also kept walking (now traveling down the middle of Bourbon St.), looking for his next targets. I breathed a sigh of relief because I forgot to mention the most popular New Orleans street scam and I would feel guilty if that was the first thing that happened on our vacation.

Another popular scam works the same way but the scammer bets that they can guess the number of letters in your last name. The answer is 12 (y-o-u-r-l-a-s-t-n-a-m-e).

The only way to win these games is not to play. There are several avoidance methods:

  • Don’t look like a tourist (However, just being on Bourbon St. is a dead giveaway)
  • Say, “I’m a local” (Implying you know the scam and they’re wasting time)
  • Never give eye contact as they approach (They’re playing off your good nature)

When traveling to a new city, taking a few seconds to Google the most popular scams can help you avoid an uncomfortable and possibly unsafe situation.

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9 comments

Ron December 22, 2021 - 12:39 pm

What are the consequences of the scam? Like let’s say someone does play and they ‘lose’.

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joeheg December 22, 2021 - 1:50 pm

From what I read, the scammer will follow you and pester you to “pay up”. For a next level scam, they’ll have a “muscle” friend who will join in and demand you pay up.

So you’re paying an annoyance fee to get rid of them.

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DCA Will Always Be "National" December 22, 2021 - 2:36 pm

I received the scam the first time I was in NOLA and, out of pure wonder as to where this was going (I knew it was a scam), I played along. When he told me “You got them on your feet”, I just laughed and walked away. He gave me a semi sob story but I just kept walking. There are enough people (read: other targets) that he just moved on and no issues.

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Sara J December 22, 2021 - 12:52 pm

Thank you so much for these tips. I am generally a no-eye-contact person and anti-people, but I have gotten friendlier in my older age. I think this is a bad thing, as I enter the ranks of gullible older folks. Last Saturday, I spent an overnight in Oakland, CA, and knew of its hazards. I visited the Berkeley Art Museum earlier in the day. A lady I know went to neighboring Berkeley during the summer for fun and had her catalytic converter stolen overnight from the hotel parking lot, and she even emphasized that parking was GATED. When I arrived home, I saw on the news that there was an armed robbery at the downtown Oakland Marriott days before my visit to Oakland, and a few days later, another guest, from out of state, was targeted for theft at the same location. That second victim’s MOM had informed him of the armed robbery from a few days before. He implied that his mom was watching too much news and was over-worrying.

I am trying so hard to protect myself with commonsense and information. I have traveled more this autumn (Pittsburgh and New York City (and first a time trip on the subway, to Brooklyn), and Tampa. After being home bound, I have found pure joy in seeing things like Japanese gardens at Brooklyn and manatees and sharks in the wild in Tampa.

Finally, the economic consequences can be severe. Aforementioned lady’s auto insurance tried to declare her car a total loss after the theft. She had to fight to say that her car was worth more than the replacement and repair of the catalytic converter. Crimes hit lower and middle, working class people hard.

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Lauren December 26, 2021 - 9:30 pm

We usually just pull out a weapon and mess them up.

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David S December 22, 2021 - 2:37 pm

Unfortunately it is better to be a “cold fish” while travelling. Look miserable, carry little cash, no cards and have an ice cold stare.

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Jay December 22, 2021 - 5:18 pm

That play has been in Nola since the 1990s maybe before its not as much a scam now as it is part of the experience…… I also used to enjoy the line at acme with the strip club across the street…. a steady stream of locals would get money from tourists to buy them drinks at the strip club while they waited in line for oysters….. the funny thing was that the strip club had a regular bar easy to see from the street that was no different then any other bar in Nola….. but the locals made sure that the folks in line knew that bar was a strip club!

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MFB123 December 22, 2021 - 5:57 pm

I think a lot of this comes from what we have been told or led to believe about a particular location. For example, I had never been “seriously” propositioned (yes, THAT kind of “propositioned) until I went to Dubai and Beijing. I was shocked due to the religious factor in Dubai and the Control factor in Beijing. In Beijing, it got to the point where I would not look any woman in the eye. I still enjoyed both cities, I just wasn’t prepared for the frequency or intensity of the sales pitches. Similarly, if someone expects a city to be one of wealth and they see people living in the streets , they may not be able to align the reality with their expectations. Personally, Jeddah Saudi Arabia was a let down for me. I was expecting it to be the well-kept gateway of Mecca, rich in culture. Instead, s**t was flowing in the streets because, while the kingdom readily spends on shiny new buildings and things that give an impression of opulence, no one wants to spend on mundane infrastructure, like sewer systems.

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GT Croxton December 23, 2021 - 8:30 am

This is such a well-known, common place thing in the French Quarter that many locals will speak of it almost affectionately. It’s been going on so long that last week when a Saints player (Chauncey Gardner-Johnson) intercepted Tom Brady in the Sunday game, a photo was taken of the player with a smile on his face talking smack to Brady after the play and then was widely shared on social media with the Gardner-Johnson saying “I know where you got them shoes”!

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