When some New Yorkers heard about street vendor Ahmed Mohammed charging tourists 30 bucks for a dirty water dog, they were rightfully appalled. But to others, he was merely another member of the city's predatory economy (see: pedicabs, carriage rides, Guy Fieri), happily gouging out-of-towners for decades. "Don't want to get ripped off, don't pay it," said internet commenter AmericanDad. "If you're stupid enough to pay $30 for a hot dog and soda you have no one to blame but yourself."
Maybe so, AmericanDad, but we also have government intervention to protect us from our dumbest impulses. And NYC authorities are now talking tough on hot dogs, vowing to crack down on the city's shady vendors once and for all.
While it may be funny to think of America's fanny-packed yokel hordes getting duped, there was a discomforting ethnic undertone to the Mohammed case. Undercover ops from local news media showed the vendor was charging normal amounts to some customers; prices jacked up when the customer looked or sounded foreign.
After the story went mega-viral a couple weeks back, the NYPD got reactive, fining Mohammed more than 600 bucks. Additionally, the vendor was canned by his bosses last week ("Stick a fork in him" suggests the ever-classy New York Post.) But the blowback doesn't stop there.
The easiest way to prevent price fluctuation is a simple, easy-to-read price list on the outside of a food cart. New York's Department of Consumer Affairs has pledged to start aggressively enforcing this requirement, especially at the city's visitor hotspots.
"We are cracking down on vendors not posting prices—especially in key business and tourist corridors throughout the city," said Consumer Affairs Commissioner Julie Menin.
The Post recently ran its own gleeful sting operation near City Hall, turning up other unscrupulous vendors with flexible ideas on pricing. The paper claims its investigation prompted the Consumer Affairs crackdown.
It probably doesn't help that these hot dog hustlers have been sparking street fights. Ron Wolfgang, who heads up security at Alliance for Downtown New York, said his group witnessed five overcharging altercations in the span of just one week (some of these incidents involved pretzels or soda).