Before ever having gone to New Orleans I was schooled on how to do the city right by several locals. First, I had to increase my alcohol intake (aka increase my tolerance) so I could “hang” with the group all night. Mind you, I was in my early twenties so it was some time ago. Secondly, I had to know a few of the common scams so I wouldn’t get myself – or my friends – sucked into them. And trust me, in my twenties I would have been an easy target, especially after a Hurricane or two.
Over the years though I’ve come to find the hustles in New Orleans to be more a part of the city’s charm. That is of course unless you’re one of the folks who gets charmed out of their money.
To help make sure that doesn’t happen, here are a few common New Orleans scams to avoid.
1. Welcome to New Orleans, I’ve Got a Rap for You
A nice, outgoing person may welcome you to New Orleans and ask where you are from. That’s great! And that’s simply southern hospitality. Now, when they start breaking into a rap verse about your name and your hometown that’s when you know it’s not just hospitality. At the end of the rap, they will of course have their hand out. It’s wise to either walk away when they break into song or pay up.
2. Sneaker Scam
One of the more common scams in New Orleans is when someone asks you “where did you get your shoes?” Or “I bet I can tell you where you got your shoes.” The obvious answer is “on your feet” and that’s exactly the answer you’ll get as a response if you play the game.
The problem is, if you play, you have to pay. If you deny the first bet you may get, “I bet I can tell you where you got your shoes AND what street you got them on.” Again, the answer is an obvious one, ” you got your shoes on your feet and the street you got them on is (current street).”
Your best bet is to simply say “no thanks” and keep walking. If you engage, you’re likely going to have someone in your face demanding payment. And frankly you’ll be lucky if it’s just one person demanding the payment…
3. Three-Card Monte
Three-Card Monte also known as the Three-card carney and Three-card trick is an easy one to get sucked into. A friend of mine was actually taken for $20 when he first moved to New Orleans. While it looks like an easy and fun way to win a few bucks, don’t be fooled.
To play, a dealer places three cards face down on a table, usually on a cardboard box; it’s easy to set up and disappear quickly. The dealer shows that one of the cards is the target card, say the king of spades. The cards are then rearranged to confuse the player about which card is which. The player is then given an opportunity to select one of the three cards.
If the player correctly identifies the king of spades, they win an amount equal to the amount they bet. If they select the wrong card they lose their money.
4. Tell Me Your First Name, I Bet I Can Spell Your Last Name
I’ve never been good at spelling, and more than likely someone making this bet with you isn’t either. Here’s how it works. You’re asked, “Bet you $10 if you tell me your first name, I can spell your last name”.”You give them your first name, and then he/she spells out “L-A-S-T N-A-M-E” (literally spelling out the word last name), then says “now gimme $10”.
So What If…
If you are approached by someone with any of these scams, the best thing to do is just smile and politely say not thanks and keep walking. Do not engage. Word to the wise though, plan to carry some cash so you can pay up just in case you do get charmed into one of these.
More of New Orleans
Elaine Schoch (pronounced the German way – Shock) is the editor and founder of Carpe Travel as well as an award-winning travel writer, wine judge, certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 and certified American Wine Expert. She is married to The Husband and has two kids, Princess One and Two – who’s interest and knowledge in wine is quite extensive. Not to mention the stamps in their passports.