A street vendor in New York was charging tourists as much as $30 for a hot dog.
He’s been fired. He was apparently telling the cart’s owners he was getting only $2 and pocketing the difference. And yet it’s the cart owners who are facing fines for “being too close to a crosswalk, having items outside of his cart and failure to list prices” (this last in furtherance of overcharging tourists).
I don’t have a problem with charging tourists $30 for a hot dog, per se. I do have a problem with tourists who would pay $30 for a hot dog. Nonetheless, contra Gawker, the guy isn’t a hero because his fraud in my view was perpetrated against his boss. That said,
If Ahmed Mohammed had built a shitty “prix-fixe” dinner restaurant charging $60 for a “pre-theater” meal, he would be a respected businessman.
As tourists, don’t we have some obligation to know what things ought to cost?
It’s easy to be intimidated by locals when you don’t speak the language. If I’m taking a cab to a hotel, though, and the cab wants to overcharge me I get out, make sure I’ve secured any luggage, and then enlist the help of the hotel (which certainly knows what a ride should cost, and has me as their guest not the driver).
If you buy something (even ‘unknowingly’) and are charged an absurd price you can certainly get yourself into trouble especially if there isn’t such a thing as a ‘neutral third party’ in the country you’re in. If you’re somewhere that the police are on the take from the scammers your position isn’t strong.
But if you’re handed a hot dog in Manhattan, and then told $30, you give it back. You don’t pay $30.
And as consumers, shouldn’t we have some fidelity to our own values and preferences? If you actually value a street vendor hot dog at $30, fine, although even then you ought to move to the next street vendor who will charge you $2. Personally I’d value that hot dog under most circumstances at negative $30 given the likelihood of heart burn and the opportunity to eat a better meal foregone. Assuming you don’t value the hot dog at $30, though, even if you’re quoted that price… why would you be intimidated into paying it?
As a tourist, I don’t blame the vendor. There are real tourist scams and you should learn to avoid those. Simply being asked to overpay isn’t one of those.