The weathered old man approached me in one of the impossibly difficult to find grocery shops in Havana. Though he spoke no English, he communicated through body language and fierce pointing that he had a small, hungry baby at home and that I should buy him the outrageously priced powdered milk. Fortunately a friend had warned me of this “baby hungry needs milk” hustle. He said that the scammer, usually a woman, with babe in arms, approaches you and begs for the powdered milk. After you buy the milk, she sells it back to the store and keeps 80% of the proceeds, as the shop owner and scammer are in cahoots and price the milk artificially high. Interestingly, my friend had warned me about popularity of this scam in India. It seems to have crossed borders, and genders, and made it to small Caribbean island where many inhabitants depend on tourists for their livelihood.
I wonder whether the common scams in Cuba will likewise make their way to India?
In Cuba, the first hustler my travelling companion and I encountered intercepted us outside our pre-booked casa particular (bed and breakfast), explained that he was the owner’s son and had been sent to apologise that the casa was full, but that he was take us to another. He earned his keep as he carried our luggage through the hilly, hot cobbled streets of Trinidad de Cuba for half and hour (see photo) and we learned a lesson a few days later when we found out that he was not the son of the owner of the original casa, but a jinetero (literally, “jockey”, figuratively tout or hustler), hired to bring customers to other casa owners.
What would be great is a tool that tracks the origin and spread of such scams across the globe, like Rhiza Labs Flu Tracker.
And it could be combined with a mobile app that lets people contribute their own experiences, similar to the City of Boston’s Citizen’s Connect App which lets people Geotag and report potholes, graffiti and other issues.
Anyone up to the challenge?
Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum on the world’s biggest tourist scams.
Search results of “travel scams” on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forums.
Lonely Planet, 10 common travel scams in Thailand.
India Mike’s site on scams and annoyances in India.
Posted by PDD
The last thing that inspired me: Design and Innovation.
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