Shoe-Shamers: Aggressive Scammers Trap Tourists at the Wharf

The daily roster of Fisherman's Wharf peddlers runs the gamut: There's the Bushman, charging for scares from behind his leafy bough. There's Kenny the Clown, juggling fiery torches, often while riding a skateboard, sometimes inadvertently setting fire to his purple wig. There are the silver-and-gold-painted men who mechanically pop-and-lock when tipped.

But in recent times, a new class of huckster has appeared on the wharf on Jefferson Street. These operators don't so much "earn" tourists' tips as coerce them.

They are the shoe-shiners, and their game, as reported to police by angry victims and business owners, works like this: They approach a tourist — usually a man, usually with his wife or girlfriend so there's less chance of a fight. They say, "I bet I can tell you where you got your shoes."

"Yeah, where?" the tourist responds.

"On your feet." The scammer then bends down and spritzes the unwitting tourist's shoes with liquid from a spray bottle, and shines them with a towel. The victim stands there dumbfounded, and at the end the scammer pressures him for a hefty tip, to the tune of $10 to $20. The victims pay up, and often don't want to press charges for shame of being taken — and because nobody wants to deal with the cops on vacation.

Police say there used to be two African-American men in their 40s who performed the scam around Jefferson Street with burly guys on hand to intimidate tourists into paying up. But they stopped coming around after being cited or arrested multiple times.

Then there's Sam Chhom, a 25-year-old Asian man from Oakland, who hasn't taken the hint.

"Oh, Sam. Yeah, he's the one," says Troy Campbell, the manager of the Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District. Campbell says Chhom often shows up in an apron with a female companion who acts as a lookout for the cops. "You learn about the people who become issues," says Campbell. "They live in the East Bay, they're struggling. He makes money doing this, so it's hard not for him to be back."

The police have cited Chhom for peddling without a license a dozen times this year, says police spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak, including arresting him once in September on a warrant for failing to pay a previous fine. But the DA didn't file charges. "It's hard in this city to get long-term repercussions for bad behavior," says Campbell. "It's frustrating to see them continue to come back." Of course, the scam works out great for Sam.

 
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26 comments
itskennytheclown
itskennytheclown

I have no comment, other than I hope to add value to people's experience when they come to San Francisco.

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Bob Omuka
Bob Omuka

A dojo, a martial arts school, opening anywhere is a happy occasion. It means a place for more people to grow, to learn, to get stronger. There is much more to a dojo than the interior space and amenities, which are near the bottom of the list. A marvelous space to train without proper guidance is useless. A dojo reflects the character of the people who open it, run it, and teach in it, and will attract and provide for the growth of a good character of students who attend. It is quite an ambitious enterprise to open a dojo. It takes years of experience training, teaching, and a good business head to make it work. What you get in the end is a place that students can come to in good faith and trust that they will receive quality training and a deep knowledge of the art by qualified practitioners. I'm not sure this is the case in the imminent opening of Heijoshin Dojo by Scott Halls in Walsall, West Midlands, England. As a yondan, a fourth degree black belt, he is basically still a beginning student himself, despite years of involvement in martial arts. The amount of time, how many days and hours you spend learning from Soke directly, is important. To live in England and invite Soke from Japan for a few weeks out of the year is nonsense. There are big differences in the type and intensity of training a practitioner may have the opportunity to take, and the levels of knowledge he will be exposed to. An uchideshi student will have much deeper knowledge and understanding of the art and beyond, will be a much more complete martial artist, exposed to the art in a much purer form than will someone who has attended classes weekly for some time. At the bottom of the ladder is the student who has attended some seminars and taken some classes and practiced for years on his own. His knowledge is the most superficial. If he is sharp, he may have picked up some good techniques. However, his understanding of the techniques, and his mental and character development will be very weak. This also reflects on his connection to the line of the ryuha. The closer the connection to the highest available ranking sensei, the closer the connection to the line, and vice versa. What can a beginning student at a dojo operated by a yondan or godan with years of experience, but none of it close to the line hope to learn? At best, he can hope to have an introduction to the art, some basic techniques, and perhaps eventually to get into better shape. At worst, there is always the risk of injury due to improper training and supervision, and a limited amount of knowledge to be gained. Forget about mental training or character development in either case. More likely than not, a beginning student in this environment will not be exposed to real training, but will basically be supporting Halls' dream training space for himself. Intermediate and advanced students will largely be left to their own devices, as there is little in the way of real guidance and training the big-headed, egotistical, and arrogant Scott Halls has to offer them, even with his 4th degree. And students from other ryuha looking to expand their training and branch out may come and find they have a deeper level of training and understanding that what can be offered.If the plan is to bring in other teachers from other schools on occasion, or even on a weekly basis, students will have better training from time to time, but will end up with the same kind of sporadic growth that Halls has had. This tends to produce martial artists who may be good at a couple of things, may or may not have some good technique, but are lacking in the areas of politeness, discipline, focus, and character.On the welcome page for the Heijoshin dojo website, www.heijoshin.co.uk he also says that students have the "opportunity to practice the kenjutsu as given to us by Musashi Sensei." Halls is totally misleading his students. This statement is absurd, and full of wrong thinking. First of all, to call Miyamoto Musashi, a historical figure and one of the iconic swordsmen in the history of the weapon "sensei," "teacher," is to demote him and downgrade his stature, disrespecting his line, and bringing him down to the level of Halls himself, or any other sensei. Only a person either oblivious to or who just doesn't care about the line could think that way. This shows a lack of training on the part of the student, or that the student's teacher didn't deem him worthy of imparting a deeper understanding and appreciation that would encompass the historical lineage of the art and the character to respect and cherish it. Then, there is the part about Musashi having given kenjutsu to the students of Halls' dojo. This statement is as absurd as it gets. To suggest, even in a light-minded way, that Musashi gave his art to some dojo in England, centuries into the future, is truly delusional. At best, it is a childlike fantasy, inspired by watching too much manga; at worst, it is a highly misleading tagline designed to give prospective students the idea that there is a deep connection to Musashi's line, and that they will be training in a place where they will be able to learn and experience that line up close, and grow close to it themselves. A dojo should be a sanctuary of seriousness, respect, and hard work. I have never heard of such light-minded banter as follows being tolerated within, or respect to a dojo. If I were a prospective student interested in finding a place to study and develop as a martial artist, there have been posted in this forum a number of things that are great cause for alarm with respect to Halls. In response to the question of how the dojo construction project is being funded, which itself is rather a private matter, Halls's response on Kendo World Forums goes, "Mostly drugs, some gun smuggling. Give me a call if you want to talk about it. I have a crate of AKs going cheap." (http://www.kendo-world.com/for... Whether or not one finds this humorous, the fact remains that he makes light of terroristic activities in association with the dojo. This is to say that the origins of this new dojo are no different from some hack Yakuza outfit, which anyone close to Musashi's actual line would find horrific and perceive as an insult to his legacy and traditions, whether said in jest or not. He also jokes that he is "...building a Fight Club style army." On the surface, that may be funny, but this shows a truly debased mind with no deep understanding of what has come before, and no heart, nor appreciation for the art. Basically, Halls sees nothing wrong with calling his students a bunch of thugs who fight for entertainment, and pay the bills at the dojo with the activities of organized crime. I would be deeply insulted by these remarks if I were a student there. It's foolish to consider training in a place whose owner thinks like this. But whether or not you find Halls' sense of humor offensive or not, I would ask if anyone has heard, overheard, or read anything from one of their teachers or dojo owners like this:

"I'm going to go rob a bank tomorrow.

I plan on dressing up in a clown wig and make up and only wearing a thong and nipple tassels.

I'll carry a goat and a can of fluorescent paint in one arm and, while in the bank, I'm going to have sex with the goat and throw the paint over the walls, all the time ripping up pages of a phonebook and swearing my head off. After getting the money, I'll take a crap on the floor and urinate everywhere. I then will escape in a van shaped like a giant pink c*ck.

Let's see Crimewatch f*cking stage a reconstruction of that." (http://www.kendo-world.com/for...Personally, I don't find humor in this. However, if Scott Halls were my sensei, and I found out that he has this kind of sense of humor, finds this sort of thing funny enough to post in a forum of sword students and teachers all over the world, it would shatter any confidence and faith in him I had to entrust my training to this guy. Whether or not any of my teachers would ever find this funny, I have never known. They show enough discretion to keep it to themselves. As a role model for students to look up to, that sort of discretion and professionalism deserving of the respect he commands from his position is what one would expect of a person in Halls' position. This comment on its own would be enough to send most anyone out the door for the last time. Or, if I were an instructor at that dojo, and knowing that the owner I work for thinks this way, I would probably be so repulsed I would feel like it were time to find a new position elsewhere. These sorts of comments indicate a mindset that is not compatible with fostering a healthy environment for growth and development. Or it may be that collecting light minded people as students might be the only way for such a low-minded person to become a teacher.

And to you, Mr. Halls, Many things you post here are just downright evil, Starting with that avatar, and the REDRUM, for "murder," that is right above it. Why else would you have chosen that? What kind of person wants to present that image of himself to a forum, much less a dojo? Again, there is no humor in that. You create a false impression of yourself, one that is threatening and evil. The real you is nothing like that. The real you is a nerd, a guy who spends more time posting on forums than practicing the sword. Your post count is truly impressive. If only your technique could match it. The reality is, if you spent half the time training that you spend on these forums, you would be much further along. At this point, though, you aren't doing your style justice. If you had real character, you would spend more time polishing yourself than you do commenting on other people's business here. This makes you a loser.For example, this one:"They live amongst us...""Ralph is a ninjer, and a comedy ninjer at that - complete with clown tabi." (http://www.kendo-world.com/for... There is a link to a youtube video attached, which I did not include. It is evident that not only do you waste a lot of time here and on other forums, but you also have time to find videos like that one, watch them, then post them here so that others will waste time as well. Really, who cares if there is some guy waving a sword around in his own back yard? If that is important, or even entertaining to you, there is something dreadfully wrong with your priorities. What could possibly compel you to spend such an unbalanced amount of time finding such drivel and posting it all over the sword forums rather than doing something useful, such as training, studying, learning, working, improving yourself, or helping people you care about? Unless you don't sleep, I don't see how you could fit those things in, after a full day of work. Even if you don't sleep, this post is totally useless, and just shows someone who needs to get a life. It belongs on some forum for people looking for such bad humor, not a forum that people come to looking for information and advice regarding the serious pursuit of all the martial arts represented herein.It's understandable that much of where your posts come from is your insecurity. On some level, you must know how little character you possess as a martial artist. You even make fun of that, but to someone else: "Did daddy not cuddle you enough as a child? Did your first crush laugh at your peepee?" That's just plain creepy, coming from you. But an insecure person, such as yourself, with an ego that works overtime, has the pathological need to make himself feel bigger at the expense of others. There are so many posts of yours that threaten or mislead novice students, it's hard to know where to begin. Does this sound familiar? "Many, many people have come here claiming something absurd or downright comical. The majority have left with their arses handed to them on plates." Taking advantage of these novices from the position of your higher rank, berating them for the sole purpose of asserting superiority like this despicable behavior not deserving of such rank. Rather than working hard to develop your own confidence, you take the easy path, denigrating others to raise yourself in your own eyes. This is evil.It is evident from so many of your posts that your ego is a problem. It controls you, blinds you, demands to be fed, and then you foist those delusions on others. How can you possibly absorb anything your teachers show you with that big an ego in the way? For that matter, how can you see anything beyond it? It is a real obstacle to your own training, and a source of negativity and a bad example to others here. An egotistical person also mistakes the common courtesy and humility some teachers show you for your own greatness, which actually has nothing to do with why they show you that humility. And should you not be shown that humility, you chalk it up to them having a bad attitude. Your self-centeredness prevents you from seeing your self in relation to how others, particularly your teachers and sempai really are.While you may think you are upholding some standards and respect for what you consider tradition and art, what you really are to the martial arts community is a cancer. Many lower level students come to this forum, see that a yondan thinks the way you do, talks the way you do, and about what you talk about, and thinks that what he sees here is how things are in the martial arts world. When a novice who had been practicing for a year asked a question about his training partner, a 6-dan, ending the on a couple of occasions ending the ji-geiko after only a couple of minutes or less. The poor guy has no idea what happened, and now avoids training with these two guys, feeling like he is not worth their time. Your answer to his question, "am I reading this all wrong?" is remarkable:"Grow thicker skin. This is budo, not a knitting circle. You may not like their dismissive attitude, but you don't have to take it to heart. Just give more to the next guy...!" (http://www.kendo-world.com/for... Maybe in your world, 6-dans are just grumpy people who take out their bitterness on newbies. From your answer, that's what one could expect from you. So, it never occurred to you, that this might be a rather old-school way of telling the OP that there is something he is doing wrong, or needs to work on. By showing that you don't even consider this, you show just how little actual training you have had. Sure, you might know some techniques. But it's clear now just how little you know beyond that. Not only that, but now you've misled a student who asked for advice, hoping to learn something. He has come away worse than empty handed, he came away with totally the totally wrong idea that it is nothing to do with him. If he spent a little while thinking about it, he could probably find out what it was, and grow by leaps and bounds, but not now, thanks to you. But you probably don't care, which is the main reason you have no business opening a dojo. Why open a dojo, if you don't care about the students who come to train there? This casts a rather nefarious pall on the whole operation.Take this one: "I'm sure Jesus would've been an awesome ass-kicker. Where's our favourite religious drooler Han when you need him?" (http://www.kendo-world.com/for... Without knowing who this Han is, or how religious he may be in whatever his chosen faith is, I can already tell he has a lower rank than you, so you feel safe in ridiculing him. This is your well-established pattern. But what that huge ego of yours blinds you of is that when you post statements like that, you are just showing that you are no better than, no different from the very people you make fun of. You are just as intolerant, just as ignorant, just as low-minded. Not only that, but think about how your posts here reflect on the line you affiliate with. Do your teachers think, speak, or act that way? If they do, then it is you who is being fleeced. If they don't, why don't you learn from their example? My guess is that they don't, but it is you who cannot or will not see their actions and behavior as an example to learn from. That would mean time away from your posting, time that you would have to spend examining your own character, finding its many weaknesses and faults, bringing them to the light, and then working hard to fix them. This is much harder than belittling people beneath your own rank. What you don't realize is that whatever you get out of that is totally false, totally evil, and absolutely pathetic. It's abusive to others, and sullies the very art you claim to have inherited from its origin. Rather than use your position to improve things around you, you are dragging everything down, and bringing so many others down with you. You must stop doing that. You yourself will never be able to get out of this art all that it has to offer if you continue this way. Take a good hard look at yourself, if you can.Mr. Halls, have you received the rank of Soke?  If not, you should behave your self accordingly, and spend all of your time reflecting on your mistakes instead of bad-mouthing other Masters and writing so many big-headed comments.  Be humble. I know that's very hard to do for such an egotistical and arrogant person like Scott Halls. But stop criticizing others with your tiny knowledge, and instead, try to train yourself to be humble. After that, you might able to become a real sword practitioner.All of this nonsense and drivel posted to Kendo World Forum begs the question about the credibility of a forum which purports to be a serious place for people to share information, knowledge, experience, and discuss, in a serious manner, these most revered, serious martial arts, which have been handed down throughout generations of Japan's finest warriors, preserved within the families who have guarded their traditions and techniques throughout centuries, only to have lazy, careless people who call themselves practitioners prattle on about toilet humor, insult each other, disgrace the arts, then get upset and begin deleting posts when one of their own is called out for posing as a serious teacher, but who only spreads half-truths, wrong thinking, and misleads students. What kind of forum does that? Who are they protecting by doing that? Scott's own tagline says: "If those of us who practice martial arts are unwilling to police ourselves, sooner or later, someone will do it for us. I am not sure we would like the results." It seems Halls himself does not like the results, since he finds himself on the wrong end of that statement.You may find the original posting of this article here: http://www.kendo-world.com/for...

monkeyfrog987
monkeyfrog987

"It's hard in this city to get long-term repercussions for bad behavior," And this is the HUGE problem with SF.

Dixongasman
Dixongasman like.author.displayName 1 Like

And you wonder why "The Wharf" area has gone to hell in a handbasket.

Gae23
Gae23

Meanwhile, SFPD are wasting their time waiting for that dude to come down the tree. Fishermans wharf and Market / 5th need more security!!!

RazorSheldon
RazorSheldon

Wasting their time? So when the cops corner a thief that is most likely responsible for 10+ home burglaries in the area they should let him go because he doesn't want to be bothered? Get outta here...

Na
Na

No, they should quit wasting their time waiting, go get him off the cliff, and arrest him. Nobody said anything about letting him go. They just have a buch of cops standing around with their thumbs up their asses.

falseflagusa
falseflagusa

Can we just eliminate the old fashioned way these home-grown terrorists. And the thug-enablers be damned, forever.

5150
5150

I should go down there with my Bitch Kickers (combat boots) and see if those one those clowns try to shine my boots without my permission.

Doug Broussard
Doug Broussard

Good lord. This one is as old as the ages. It's been a common performance on Bourbon Street since I was young, and that's a long time ago.

Of course in New Orleans, they don't try to shine your shoes - you take the bet drunkenly, you lose the bet, and instead of a hustle, a really big guy comes around the corner by Preservation Hall to pressure you into paying up.

Gascon must go
Gascon must go

Magic line in this text: "But the DA didn't file charges."

This is the reasons why our fair city is drowning in crimes - Gascon is lacking the cojones to prosecute. Of course we knew that .... and voted for him anyways.

We do get the officials we deserve.

Ben Walsh
Ben Walsh

That's because there are no charges to file. It's not a crime to try to hustle, and the pigeon has no-one to blame but himself. The police and the DA can't be there every time some stupid fat loser gives a punk a ten-spot instead of telling him to get lost.

I had people try to pull this stunt on me in New Orleans. I just said "I know where I got my shoes" and walked on because I'm not a dumb sucker.

Tbow
Tbow

sucker born every minute. Stay classy SF.

Colleen
Colleen

I came across this in NY on the upper west side. It was a little more elaborate. They "bet" they could tell me where I got my shoes, right down to the zip code. They kept it going for a few minutes. I agreed to a shoe shine and all through it I was trying to figure out how they could possibly know where I "got" my shoes. They were very nice and good natured about it and I let them shine my shoes and gave them a tip - just a couple of dollars and they didn't ask for more. Everybody has to make a living somehow...

Localboy
Localboy

Same scam is going on Market Street and Beale.

kdb7594102
kdb7594102

Note to tourists, wear sneakers or suede shoes when visiting FW...

Sean
Sean

This is an old New Orleans scam. Actually had a guide book that referenced this to be careful of. Thought it was complete b.s. because who would pony up money after but someone tried it on me there. All I could do was laugh.

Fred
Fred

I had that in NO once - kids - it was for $1 and I happily paid to hear the punchline. ... Cheers, Neil.

Loren Davidson
Loren Davidson

It's so nice how we've welcomed the displaced from New Orleans, where this scam is common.

Akit
Akit

You want my money for polishing my shoes from K-Mart? I'd give the guy a swift kick in the nuts and yell for attention since the Wharf is always crowded.

master_cylinder
master_cylinder

He wouldn't be wondering where I got my shoes, he'd be wondering whether or not he could get it extracted from his lower intestine while my foot was in it.

Nigeroid
Nigeroid

SHOOT TO KILL!!!!!

NO MORE SCAMMERS!!!!!

s b
s b

The DA will never file charges. It will be hard to convict, and the DA isn't interested in cases that can't get a conviction. Locals are mildly annoyed by people like this, but we have thick skin and ignore them. Tourists, who are already in a relaxed state of mind and often unfamiliar with the City, are easy prey (sadly, we like to take tourist money and use tourist hotel tax revenue, but we aren't much interested in whether they're harassed when they're here). It probably takes a civil injunction. Someone should call the City Attorney, not the DA.

 

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