How to escape hip-hop CD giveaway scam in New York City?
Here is a situation I encountered multiple times in New York City streets, lately.
Usually at a sidewalk corner where people are likely to wait for the pedestrian crossing "walk" signal, a gang of two, three, four people are present. One of them hands a CD in a plastic pocket, supposedly a pre-release brand new rap album of the guy. The way he wants you to take the CD is rather aggressive. Another man of the gang does the same thing, even asking for your name and writing it on the plastic pocket. They even give you extra CDs, makes no sense!
The trouble comes when they all start asking for money, talking about a donation. It begins by $1, $5... and it seems very difficult to say no as the guys do not want to take the CDs back. As they look physically in good shape and likely to have regular workouts at the gym, they appear impressive, and the idea of getting into an argument is just out of the question.
In the process of taking the money out of the wallet to pay the forced donation, when I was caught in that scheme, I accidentally let them see a $20 bill in my wallet. They wanted it right away and gave me minimal change out of it "as it is for their friends too".
How can one escape this situation safely without giving out any money?
Note for duplicates: This situation, even if similar to the string scam used in other cities, is unique due to the approach of someone looking friendly and the realistic expectation to discover new music. And such people are rather difficult to "calculate" on first sight. Furthermore, I was not aware of similar schemes with different objects used before living the scam for real.
Possible duplicate of What's the deal with the "string people" in central Paris?
This closely duplicates: https://travel.stackexchange.com/questions/13300/whats-the-deal-with-the-string-people-in-central-paris/13301#13301 . It may stand on its own merits if it is considered in the context of NYC vs. Paris. Telling someone off in NYC has a different social impact than in Paris. Police procedures in either place are also different. However the fundamental scam is EXACTLY the same and general attitudes and strategies apply in either case. I flagged this before reading the answer below, whoops.
A few things:
Avoid making eye contact with them. Nothing will make them come up to you more aggressively than eye contact. You've seen them, they saw you see them, and they know it's a lot harder for you to ignore them now.
As stated above, do not engage. If they approach you and you cannot immediately walk away just say no. Repeatedly say no if pressed.
Blow right past them. If you are not stuck on that corner just walk right past them without regarding them at all. Do not let them stop you. If one of them tries to block your way walk around them.
Wear headphones, even if you don't intend to listen to anything (and you shouldn't be.) It's much easier to ignore someone when you can pretend that you can't hear them. People are also much less likely to approach you if you are wearing headphones.
If you did engage, do not take the CD. This is the worst thing you could do.
If you have taken the CD and they refuse to take it back, gently put it on the ground and walk away.
I live in NYC and do not have an issue with these people and have not since I was new there. You simply ignore them.
"Wear Headphones. It's much easier to ignore someone when you can pretend you do not hear them. People are also much less likely to approach you if you are wearing headphones." It's also harder to hear things you need to hear like cars, sirens, people coming up behind you, or important queries from strangers. Tuning out on the world runs the risk of becoming a victim to an accident or more significant crime.
@Freiheit I see nowhere in this post where the author suggests you actually *play* something on those ear buds, or for that matter, even plug them in to anything. I frequently use this technique, with a simple pair of Apple buds in my ears and the cord tucked in to my breast pocket inside my coat. I can hear *everything*, and time and again scammers just blow right by, hitting up the poor sap standing next to me.
I think its implied but you raise a good point. I had not previously considered just having earbuds or headphones on w/o something playing.
@Freiheit I did not intend to imply that. As I said it is much easier to ignore someone when you can *pretend* you do not hear them. It does not matter if you are listening to anything or not. Edited answer to address the confusion.
Drop -> Gently put. No sudden movements and no suggestion you intend to damage the CD.
To add a bit more, from my own experience unfortunately - be prepared to be insulted and offended - I was called "a f.. racist", being thrown the CD on my backpack, some other "pleasant" comments. Be prepared for this, don't get them get to you.