New Orleans shoe scam

‘I bet I can tell where you got those shoes!’

After several/many trips to The Big Easy starting in 1993 or 1994, I was finally approached with the ‘shoe scam’. Twice. The first time, it went like this:

Scamster: I bet I can tell where you got those shoes!
Girlfriend: What? :confused:
Me: Don’t talk to him. It’s a scam. Ignore him.

Second time:

Scamster: I bet I can tell where you got those shoes!
Me: Yeah, we know that one.

OK, so I know that the guy will say, ‘You got them on your feet!’ or something similar, and then demand a ‘tip’ for the information. Or he’ll try to shine your shoes (even if they are suede or athletic shoes or whatever) and then inform you that a shoe shine cost $10 or $40 or however much. Since I’ve never fallen for the scam, that’s as much as I know. What happens if you just tell him to piss off, and you just walk away?

He might hurl imprecations at your receding back. I’ve gotten hit with this in San Francisco, and yes, they will squirt cleaning goo onto your athletic shoes.

To be fair, my shoes haven’t been this clean since I bought them.

I wonder how he’d react to my $600/hour fee for allowing people to annoy me?

Careful … he might put grisgris on your doorstep if you piss him off.

I’ve got a chicken foot around here somewhere.

It is a mental intimidation game. The scam is typically pulled by young black males and everyone is aware of the demographiics crime statistics in New Orleans so it works a surprising percentage of the time. However, I have never heard of anyone that has been physically harmed because of that scam even among the people that claimed they that walked away after falling for it. They will harass you and embarrass you publically but that is usually as far as it goes***. The best way to avoid falling for that scam or many similar ones is to never knowledge their presence in the first place and just keep walking straight ahead. They don’t mess with people that do that.

***I feel the need to make sure people interpret this advice very literally. There are plenty of armed muggings in New Orleans as well. A number of tourists have been stabbed or shot, sometimes fatally, over the years when they tried to walk away from an armed mugging without handing anything over. DO NOT TRY TO WALK AWAY FROM A MUGGER especially in New Orleans. However, the scam artists tend to be a separate group of people who exist mainly in the most well-traveled tourist sections and depend on a steady percentage of people that fall for it rather than targeting specific victims.

I’m thinking that all of the other times I’ve been to The Big Sleazy, I didn’t look like a tourist.

Ignorant non-American here. What is the shoe scam?, it is not clearly described in this thread. thank you

“You got them on your feet, on the street, in New Orleans!”

At least that’s how I heard it. (No, I didn’t fall for it. I just waited around to hear what the punchline was.)

bardos - The general idea is a hustler comes up to you and asks if you want to bet with him that he can tell you where you “got your shoes.” You make a bet with him, he answers with the above, and the idea is you feel like a schmuck for falling for it and give him the money you bit, or some fraction there of for the entertainment value.

I assume that objections about “got” being, formally, the past tense of “get” meaning “receive” would not be accepted and that you are supposed to understand that it was being used in an intentionally ambiguous, colloquial manner. :slight_smile:

What happens if he shines one shoe and then tells you it’s $10 for a shoe shine? You either pony up the ten bucks or walk around with one shiny shoe and one ugly shoe.

That’s just a guess though. I had some guy at Wrigley Field offer to shine my very scuffed up leather boots and I waived him away and someone suggested that he might shine one and then ask me for a tip/money before he did the other one. Seems $10 would be reasonable. For $40 I’d tell him to get lost and shine them the rest of the way when I got home. What bugged me is that after I took a pass (with leather boots) he offered to clean someone’s dirty tennis shoes with the same squirt bottle. Have to wonder what was in there.

Picture New Orleans. Very touristy in the French Quarter, crowded streets, lots of street entertainers like musicians. You just arrived there for a convention and it feels like no other place you ever seen in the U.S. or anywhere else and there are hoards of partiers around. You may have had a few drinks already.

You are walking around disoriented trying find your hotel while trying to think through all the noise shooting from every direction. A young black man and maybe a friend or two with a strange accent follows you and says, 'Hey man, I bet you $10 I can tell you where you got dem shoes!". You aren’t thinking all that straight and he caught you off-guard you say “Sure”. He says “You got dem on yo feet. Now give me $10”.

It wasn’t the brightest answer in the world but it is technically correct so now you have to figure out what you need to do. You have the money and you don’t know what will happen if you don’t give it to him. You aren’t in a place where you can just complain to someone for help. It is a lot cheaper than a real mugging and you did agree to it so you give him the money just to get out of the situation.

It is a very old scam that goes back decades at least. They taught us about it during orientation when I went to Tulane in 1991 and it was old then but people still fall for it to this day.