The Art of Hustling

Rome, Italy

Tourist attractions are usually filled with people looking to making an extra buck at the cost of the tourist.

For example, I went to Europe during college.  While visiting Italy, we went to the town square with tons of artists painting, booths selling souvenirs, and corner cafe selling drinks.  I was wandering on my own and this fellow came up to me.

He seemed friendly and asked me to hold up my wrist.  In a matter of seconds, he quickly created a wristband.

I didn’t think anything of it, assuming that perhaps this is a local custom to welcome tourists.

After finishing the knot, he said, “10 Euros please”.

I thought he was playing with me, so I said, “What do you mean 10 Euros?  I don’t want to buy this.”

He kept calm, pointed at the bracelet, and said “Bracelet, 10 Euros.”

I wasn’t going to pay for a cheap bracelet that I didn’t even ask for.

Feeling upset, I tried to take off the bracelet and give it back to him, but he just shook his head and said, “No.  That’s yours.  10 Euros for that.”

I didn’t like where this was headed, so I looked around for my tour group but as soon as I tried to walk away, two other guys came and blocked my route.

The newcomers started talking with the bracelet dude.  I could tell they all knew each other.  And I could tell there was no easy way out for me.

I looked around.  No one I knew.  All alone in a strange country.  I had no idea who I was dealing with.

I reluctantly shelled out the 10 Euros.

I left the town square vowing never to put myself in that situation again.

Las Vegas, Nevada

During the summer of 2014, my friends decided to visit Las Vegas for a friend’s bachelor party.  We went through the motions as far as what Las Vegas had to offer.

Gambled our money away.  Got Drunk.  Splurged on fancy restaurants.  Lost More money at other casinos.  Made promises to each other not to lose again.  Then lose even more the next time.

Since it WAS a bachelor’s party, we had to squeeze in a customary visit to the strip club.

I will add that after a day and a half of gambling most of us weren’t too excited about it.  I guess we were eager to hit the tables and win back our losses.  (As long as there’s a will, there’s a way right guys?!?)

One of the guys found a strip club that offered free limo service and cover.  Which was nice because we’ll be able to have some more gambling money from the free limo service and cover.

We got to the strip club.  After entering the front door, they checked our ID’s at the front counter and let us through.

The moment we stepped past the front counter there was a bouncer waiting for us.  He asked us where we wanted to sit.  We looked around and pointed at a table close to the stage.  He said $50.

Most of us were confused.  We’ve been to other strip clubs and we never had to pay anyone just to get seated.

This is what they mean by free cover.  No cover for coming in, but $50 to get seated.  How conniving of them.

I guess we should’ve know ahead of time that in Las Vegas, there is no such thing as a freebie.

After we sat down, the waitress came over and gave us drinks menu.  It had nothing but wine and liquor selections all ranging from $400-1000 per bottle.  We said we were going to settle for some beers.  She apologized and said that since we were in this section, we had to get at least one bottle.  We got the cheapest bottle of wine.

After we got settled, this is when the real fun happened.  (Well at least it was suppose to be fun.)

Four of five strippers came to our table.  They were offering lap dances and we all decided to get the bachelor a couple of lap dances.  We got him 2 girls at the same time for about five songs.  (Lap dances cost $20 person, $20 x 5 song = $100 total for a girl.  Since there was two girls then double that total.)

The bachelor didn’t want to go alone, so he paid for another stripper to go with his best man.

After 20 minutes, we see the two strippers come out and ask for payment.  We paid them.  A couple of minutes later, the bachelor came out with a big smile.  Good for him.

The best man took longer than the bachelor, I guess he really enjoyed his time.  When he came out, we asked him how long he was in there for.  He said roughly 40 minutes.  I said, Damn that’s like $200 man.

He quizzically looked at me.  No, it was $400.  $200 for me and $200 for the bachelor.

We all looked at each other confused.  The two strippers had already got their $200 from us.  Why did the best man give them another $200?

He said he didn’t know.  They just approached him halfway through his lap dance, saying they already finished with the bachelor and needed to get paid.

Damn it!  We got played with like fools.

This by far felt the worst.  Over-priced wine?  Fine.  No-so-free cover?  Whatever.  Double dipping behind our backs?  That’s low.  That’s real low.

The bachelor was extremely frustrated with the whole situation.  We lost all our motivation to be there.  We paid our tab and made our exit.

I told my brother about the whole situation to see what he thought.  He said, that’s normal in Vegas.  Plus, you guys look too nice and proper.  Strippers can gauge who is an easy target for them and that’s when they pounce.

Well, it was my fourth time ever at a strip club.  I guess I have a lot to learn about how things work in strip clubs.

The Art of Hustling 

Thinking about about both incidents I realized a couple of things.

•   With the guys from Italy, the accomplices probably had their eye on me the moment the bracelet dude initiated       contact.  And if there’s any trouble, they bring in the extra manpower to add pressure.

•   The way the strippers played us, it reminds me of how kids take advantage of parents not being on the same page.  Let’s say the son is only allowed one ice cream per day.  After dinner, he asks his mom for an ice cream.  He gets one.  When his mother goes out for some grocery shopping, he asks his dad for another ice cream.  He gets two ice cream.

     Since his dad wasn’t around when his mom gave him the first ice cream, the dad doesn’t no better.  He doesn’t know that his son pulled a fast one on his dad.  The dad assumes that it’s still his first ice cream.  Only the son knows the truth.  And the only way the parents find out is if they exchange information.

•   Hustling only works if people aren’t aware of your antics.  If I knew ahead of time what those guys were all about, I would’ve avoided them like the plague.  If I knew ahead of time how the strippers would try to double dip us, we would’ve come up with a system on how we would go about paying the strippers.   But because we didn’t we got hustled.

•   Hustling has to happen on their turf.  There is a reason why in a strip club there is just as many bouncers as there are strippers.  What could we do if we complained to the management or bouncers that these strippers had scammed us?  I think the strippers would either deny that they did it, or would’ve made up a story that we had agreed to $400 instead of the $200 we keep on insisting.  The bouncers and management will side with the strippers.

     I’m sure the guys from Italy knew that area like the back of their hand.  They knew cops don’t come in that area.  They had power in numbers and would ensure it be that way by only going after stragglers like myself.

•   Hustling has to happen quick.  What would’ve happened if the dude took like 15-20 minutes instead of a couple of seconds to finish the bracelet?  My group might’ve started looking for me by then.  The tourist leader probably would’ve informed me that it was a scam.

      What would’ve happened if the best man didn’t take so long on his own?  He would’ve been back with us and the strippers would never dare to ask for pay twice.  We would all be present and informed that the payment had already been settled.

•    Best kind of hustling leaves the victim clueless until everything is over.  I didn’t know I was getting scammed until the Italian dude had put the bracelet on my wrist and insisted on his 10 Euros.  We didn’t know the strippers tricked us until the best man finally returned to us and informed us how much he had to pay.  With a perfectly executed hustle, you never find out until it’s too late to do anything about it.



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