Wednesday, September 03, 2008

UPDATE: Ethical Dilemma: Broken Glasses

Last May, I wrote about how guilty I felt for not helping a guy on the street whose glasses I may have accidentally broken. (Read that post here.) One commenter said he thought it was a scam right off the bat. I wrote back saying that it had occured to me that it could be, but that I didn't think it was.

Today, months later, I got an anonymous comment from someone who said the same thing happened to them:
I think it's a scam. It happened to me tonight across from Century 21 on Church. Did I bump into him? Did he bump into me? It happens fast. Glasses fall. I say, "You okay?" He says "Yeah." I walk away, then..."I'm sorry but you broke my glasses." He says they are $145 bucks. At first, I offered him ten bucks because maybe I bumped, I thought. Then he was like, that's not enough and goes, "so what are you going to do now?" I gave him my business card and tell him to call me when he fixes the lens and I'll reimburse him when I see the bill. My guess is, he won't be calling.
So I googled the words "dropped glasses scam," and I came up with a Gothamist post from 2006 describing similar scams on the Columbia campus. Here's a description from the Columbia Spectator:
Their modus operandi is simple. Walking into unsuspecting passers-by, the couple—a young man and woman—drop a plastic bag containing a glass bottle. The bottle shatters. The man angrily demands to be repaid for the contents, while the woman insults the stunned fall guy. If the “bottle job” is successful, the couple runs off with cash.
The police told the Spectator that there was a "You Broke My Glasses" variation.

Of course it's a scam. But I didn't think it was because the guy didn't push very hard for cash. However, the fact that he was reluctant to go to a glasses store with me sounds scammish. Then again, the fact that he gave up so easily and seemed sympathetic when I said helping him out would mean no lunch for me that day and no lunch for the rest of the week, makes it seem genuine again.

Ah, life in the Big City. This, my coworkers assure me, is what makes New Yorkers such jerks: the relative confidence that everyone has an angle.

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