A Perfect Scam

One time in Barcelona, I had two hundred US dollars with me when I went to Nou Camp to try to buy a ticket for the Champion's League final between Manchester United and Bayern Munich.  It was merely fifty dollars less than what ticket scalpers asked for.  Needless to say, I was extremely sorry for missing a great game.  I told myself not to repeat the same mistake.  Unknown to me, I became the perfect victim for a perfect scam six years later, in London.

I put three hundred pounds in my pocket and headed for the Stamford Bridge Stadium for the second leg quarterfinal between Barcelona and Chelsea.   Three hundred pounds would have made a hansome profit for any ticket scalper.  Except that there was not a single scalper in sight when I was pacing back and forth between the underground station and the stadium.  Groups of loud supporters of the two teams went straight past me and disappeared inside the gates.  I thought I looked like a fool, standing silently beside a number of people who held money in their hands and kept shouting "exta ticket, extra ticket" in a rising tone.  The match was going to begin in just five minutes.  I was about to give up and try to find a bar with a TV screen to the watch the game.   

I felt a slight tap on my right shoulder and turned around.  In front of me stood a young, Hispanic looking fellow.  He had both his hands in pockets.  When our eyes met, he asked simply, "How much you want to pay for a ticket?"   Two seconds passed, during which my feelings of luck and suspicion alternated a few times, before I replied, "One hundred pounds."  I thought my reply was a good comprise: it was more than the average price of 60 pounds for a ticket, so an honest ticket seller would be adequately rewarded for his trouble; at the same time my offer was not too much , so a would-be scammer would not find it worthwhile to play his game with me.   

The Hispanic guy agreed to my offer, flashed the ticket in front me, put it back in his pants pocket, and declared, "It is a good ticket."  But I wasn't going to part with 100 pounds so easily.  I was smarter than that.  I replied, "I will give you the money if you walk  me to the stadium."  I thought I noticed a slight annoyance on his face, but he agreed quickly.  He handed me the ticket and told me to follow him towards to the stadium.   Some small talk ensued between us in the next few minutes.  He asked me if I was Japanese and was a little surprised to be told that I came from Canada.  I asked him why he was giving up the ticket and he replied that he got the ticket from a friend but couldn't go because he had to work.  A plausible story, I told myself.   I  tried to look at the ticket in my hand to see which gate we should be going to, but he quickly stopped me and told me just to follow him.

There were a lot of people rushing towards the stadium.  As we approached the gates he seemed a little unsure and looked around in different directions.   Then he found the gate and I stood in line behind a few people.   I checked the ticket in my hand and made sure it was the right gate, and quickly handed him the money with my other hand.  I knew I was taking a risk but I was doing the best I could under the circumstance.  He was still standing beside me, when the tall man in front of me turned around and asked me friendly, "Where are you sitting?"  I unfurled ticket with some pride.  

The man looked puzzled, showed me his ticket and said, "You are sitting next to me..."  Before he finished his sentence, a short man that was standing in line in front of the tall man turned around,  made some quick search motion in his pocket, grabbed my ticket from my hand, and shouted: "You stole my ticket!"  After a few seconds that were suitably long for someone in shock, I proclaimed my innocence and explained how I bought the ticket from a guy that was just here, who then I noticed was darting off into the crowd.  But apparently there was no way I was going to get "my" ticket back: the short man continued to angrily accuse me of stealing it from him, and the tall guy tried to calm his pal down by saying maybe the thief was the guy who sold me the ticket.  Then a third man came around, introducing himself as a friend of the short man and the tall guy, and showed me a ticket with the seat on the other side of where I thought I was going to be seated just a minute ago.   I looked at all three of them, one by one,  then at the policeman who was standing at the gate entrance and who was watching the proceedings rather quietly,  and walked away.  

I walked away from a perfect scam.  All four of them were in it.  A perfectly good ticket for a perfect game, which I watched in a bar near the stadium.