August. It's boiling hot, the air is sticky-thick, and the river is so glassy you could hear a perch jump and heron croak a good two miles away. The dock is surface-of-the-sun hot, so hot you can barely touch your knee to it even for a brief moment. As you slowly pull the line in, glaring down at that little prehistoric hard-shelled monster nibbling away at week-old chicken, net at the ready, you've got one thing on your mind: a crab feast.
There's no better way to unwind in summer than with a pile of Old Bay-smothered blue crab and a case of cold ones. All over the country, there are summertime crab festivals for the paying public, a great chance to hit pause on life and consume a glorious mess of crab, corn, and beer as the afternoon blends into the evening.
But it turns out some real sickos are also aware of our crab-loving ways, and are selling scam tickets to fake crab feasts, leaving crustacean enthusiasts stranded in fairground parking lots across the US.
Back in December, the Modesto Bee noted that there were tickets for sale online through Groupon, Facebook and local radio stations for 21 "questionable crab festivals" throughout the country. These shadowy ticket venders were selling $49 tickets for all-you-can-eat crab and fixin's goodness—$99 for VIPs who want steak—at events like "The Hot Garlic Crab Feed" in Philadelphia, "Crab America" in Houston, and "The Super Crab Festival" in Los Angeles. With names like that, who wouldn't want a piece of the action?
But when ticket-holders showed up the day-of, they encountered a sign in an empty field saying the event had been cancelled, or, often, nothing at all other than other disappointed crab-lovers. The events were scams.
Crab America Houston scheduled for April 16 has an active Facebook event page, where 28,000 guests say they are interested in attending and nearly 10,000 have confirmed they are going to be there. They also have a website which proudly proclaims that Crab America is the "World's Largest Crab Feed" (the Rotary Club in Annapolis, which actually hosts fantastic crab festivals, would beg to differ). There you can buy tickets for Crab America events in East Bay, California on April 2; the Houston, Texas event; and a two-day affair in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 29 and 30. Each scheduled date features two sessions for which customers can purchase tickets. A toll number listed on the site for purchasing tickets by phone led to an automated answering machine.
On Yelp, the Super Crab Festival is full of one-star reviews. One woman showed up at an event scheduled in January in Brooklyn to find that the venue had issued a "fraudulent event notice," identifying the organizer, The Dungeness Crab Association, as responsible for the scam event. A similar story comes from another woman in Los Angeles. The Dungeness Crab Association still has an active website advertising recently scheduled events in Philadelphia and Houston, and it shares a few similarities with the Crab America page.
Whoever these crab scammers are, they are racking up a lot of dough—and ill will. When it comes to crabs, consumers need to keep their guard up. There are crab jerks selling tickets to scam events, and there are other crab jerks trying to pass off crab from Argentina as the genuine article from the Chesapeake. If you want the real thing, the best way to get it still requires patience and a net.