“Do you take £50 notes? I know some cabbies get a bit funny about them?”
“Yes not a problem Sir, where would you like to go?”
You learn a lot of things in life the hard way, this simple exchange last week was one of them.
I picked up a young man from China Town, requesting to go to his hotel in Mayfair as he had believed to left his lost bank card there.
We exchanged quite natural and organic conversation, about the stresses of such situation and how in modern life it really isn’t that bad to lose something.
Once at his hotel, he requested to leave the meter running and left his bag behind as a symbol that he wouldn’t do a runner, why would he? He is staying in a Mayfair hotel after all?
The young man returned from the hotel lapsing no more than 20 seconds. “Nope, no bank card there, can you take me back to China Town please?”
He then proceeded to phone his bank in a cool and calm manner, overhearing this conversation he provided various proof’s of identity to cancel said card without his account number present. All good so far.
We arrive back at our starting destination, he produces the £50 note, even asks if I needed to check it or exchange for another; “No not a problem sir, here is your £35 change”
“Thanks, have a great new year”.
As soon as the passenger door slammed, the penny dropped. I’d been done over.
My first fare of the afternoon and I’m down £35! He had just hustled a snide £50 note into my possession via a cab journey.
I evaluated the facts and made my assumptions;
- This young man didn’t look like the mayfair type (yes an assumption but when recalling it made sense).
- The conversation we exchanged on the way to the hotel was very Derren Brown-esque, telling me about his experience at the casino the night before, reinforcing my confidence in this man ensuring great success in this hustle.
- He was in and out of his “Mayfair” hotel far to quick, he needn’t be a guest to convince me of this, why not just phone the hotel?
- The conversation with his “bank” was far too calm and collected, transactions could have been exaggerated, another ploy to convince me that he would be the kind of person to possess £50 notes.
- “You can check that it’s real” was a line used to dispel my ideas that it could have been a fake.
I was cheated, I felt awful. I trusted this man and did my utmost to help in this situation, only to be deceived. It’s not the theft that upsetting, it was the level of deceit involved.
It completely threw me off track for the rest of the night, it also meant I had barely any change for my later customers of the evening, then having to explain this moody £50 note to them and apologising for the large handful of shrapnel they had to accept as change. I had been hustled and I learnt the hard way.
But… this was all an assumption, only my assumption. What if the note was real? For the rest of my night it replayed in my head, I further convinced myself of the fake, but still had a small probability it could be real (I’ve worked in retail since leaving school so handled cash for many years, I honestly couldn’t tell if this was fake).
There was only one moral way to conclude this conundrum. I went to the bank. I handed over the solitary note. It cashed. It was real.
Lesson learnt. Always assume positive intentions in people, unless you have damning evidence.
Also invest in a note checker.