I’ve seen that episode of Hustle

A young man who reminded me of a confidence trickster I knew (who is now serving time at His Majesty’s pleasure) approached me today on Lambton Quay.

‘I wonder if you could help me,’ he said. ‘I’ve just had my 25th birthday but woke up with all my stuff gone. I live in the Wairarapa and I’ve been walking around for eight and a half hours. I just want to go back and see my daughter.’

That’s a lot to hit someone in a few seconds, but my instinct was to find a way to help him, despite my wanting to meet my other half as I was holding some of her things, having dropped her off a few moments earlier while I looked for a car park.

I explained this to the young man—and wished him happy birthday—but said I could return this way. And I didn’t carry any cash. I offered to find a way to get him home.

‘The fare is $20 back to the Wairarapa.’

‘I’ll tell you what. I have to meet my missus but if you wait here, I’ll drive you to the station and buy you the ticket myself.’

‘Could you not get $20 out of an ATM? If you give me $20 and your account details, and I’ll give you $50 when I get back. I’ve got lots of money.’

This is when alarm bells ring, because I’ve seen those episodes of Hustle. And then everything else became implausible.

Obviously if he was out of town for his birthday, he would have friends. Real friends.

There’s no way that in Wellington you can wander around for eight hours with no one rendering you assistance.

Whomever is looking after his daughter would have already called the police. He could have just walked into a station and explained what happened.

And no, I wasn’t going to go to an ATM. ‘I don’t want $50. I’m old school, I’ve barely used those. Let me just get you the ticket and get you on the train.’

‘How will you pay for it if you don’t use ATMs?’

‘Credit card. I can get you the ticket. Let’s go to the station.’

‘Nah, I’ve troubled you enough.’
Couldn’t he do the flop instead? As far as short cons go, that wasn’t very good.

But also a sad indictment on all of us that we’ve let society come to this, where a young man falls through the cracks and feels he has to con.

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5 thoughts on “I’ve seen that episode of Hustle

  1. And no more experienced con man to teach him the ropes? That’s truly sad – poor little sucker, turned loose on the world to find his own way or take his knocks…

    More alarming, really, is what easy prey we are, simply by virtue of kindness being our default, our go-to position, even if it’s only a nanosecond before skepticism and logic kick in. Being SMART doesn’t save us. In fact, being SMART sometimes leads us to overconfidence in our own ability to spot a con. So the smartest thing to do is harden ourselves against helping anyone at all. And THAT is where it turns truly tragic. That’s where I start to get really angry at people like that young man.

  2. That is really sad, you are right. It leads to legit people who really need help who mightn’t get it.

    This stuff happens so rarely here but it’s sad to note that we have gone from it being completely foreign to us, to experiencing it occasionally.

    A year ago, when I had some cash on me, I gave $5 to a guy who needed petrol money. But there was no story: he really (as far as I could tell) was stuck and his partner was in the car. They were really grateful for the $5.

  3. Here, they sit at Rest Areas on the highway using that “need money to get home” ploy, and I suspect most of those are into the drug trade or human trafficking. (The cops are aware of the scarier ones, and I have been warned off – I didn’t help one, but did flag down an officer who was very familiar with her and told me just to leave the area quickly – that she was not working alone.) Some are even cynical enough to bring puppies for sale. It’s big business, unfortunately. But of course they have more places to go. Like, how far is your guy gonna get in NZ on $5 worth of petrol? :)

  4. Calling the police seems to be a fine idea. With hindsight, I could have said, ‘Oh no, you were robbed? OK, first thing to do is to file a police report. Let me call the cops for you, start the ball rolling. I’m sure they can help you get home.’

    Will check your link, thank you!

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