Meet Ahmed Mohammed. He might be the most expensive hot dog vendor in New York, especially if he thinks you're a tourist.The story went national, and much of America regarded Mohammed as a crook. Not Kyle Smith of Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. To him, Mohammed was a hero:
NBC 4 New York cameras recently captured him trying to charge a man named David $15 for a hot dog and a pretzel near the World Trade Center.
"I said, 'What are you, a crook?'" David later told NBC 4 New York. "I'm not a tourist, so I know the price in New York."
Customer after customer recounted how the vendor tried to charge them $20 to $30 for a hot dog.
"I just felt like I was getting ripped off, and it's just making the 9/11 grounds like a big tourist trap," one woman said.
Hot-dog guy Ahmed Mohammed -- let’s be accurate and call him Hot Dog Hero -- was simply exercising his right to sell stuff in the marketplace for whatever he can get for it. Why begrudge him a large markup if he took advantage of the fact that some people are stupid? Taking advantage of stupidity is an important driver of the economic engine....Well, in fact:
All of these stupid people are exactly what Hot Dog Hero’s “victims” were — willing customers. There was no coercion. No one was being lied to.
Several customers also accused him of short-changing them after overcharging them. One woman pointed out that he had only given her $5 in change when he was supposed to hand her $8; another woman said he didn't even give her change at all.To the Post's Smith, all the onus for dealing with this is on the customer:
One woman named Ruth said, "He gave me $5 back, and I thought, '$15 for a pretzel and a water?'"
When a self-identified NBC 4 New York reporter asked the price of a hot dog, Mohammed said $3. When asked why the price changes, he claimed not to speak English -- even though cameras had captured him speaking English earlier, asking customers: "Yes, guys. Yes, sir, you need anything to eat or drink? Have a good day, guys."
Anyone who didn’t like Hot Dog Hero’s price could have said, “Get the frank out of here” and handed over $3 -- or handed back the wiener and walked away.But that's what sometimes happened, and it didn't stop him:
Ben from New Jersey left his bitten hot dog behind when he was told the price.NewsBusters also cheered when a NBC host came to Mohammed's defense (emphasis in original):
"He was like, 'Fifteen, maybe 10,'" he said. "And I left my bitten hot dog there. That was it."
On Wednesday’s NBC Today, co-host Tamron Hall stumbled upon conservative economic philosophy as she defended a hot dog vendor’s right to charge customers whatever he wanted, even if it was overpriced: “But why can’t he set his own prices? I mean, if a restaurant sells their hot dog, steak, or whatever for the price they want, why is his price regulated?”You know who doesn't like this? An organization focused on aiding businesses in downtown Manhattan:
Jessica Lappin of the Alliance for Downtown New York said "it gives New York a bad name."Yup -- it sends the tourist back home with a bad impression of the city. Maybe the tourist will never come back. Maybe the tourist will encourage friends not to visit. That's bad for business.
"To rip-off somebody, to charge them $35 for a hot dog and a pretzel, that leaves a terrible impression," she said.
Mohammed has now been fired -- and not just for his prices:
Ahmed Mohammed... was also fleecing owners of the food cart....Mohammed cheated a business owner. This vending business -- Abdelbaky built that! Still not upset, righties? Or is anything fair in capitalism if you can get away with it?
“I fired him over it yesterday after I watched the news,” said [Abdelalim] Abdelbaky, whose father owns the food cart and vending license.
“He told me he charged the people $2 a hot dog. He lied to me.”
Abdelbaky said the vendor pocketed the extra dough -- and left his family with hundreds of dollars in fines to pay off....
He was ticketed for being too close to a crosswalk, having items outside of his cart and failure to list prices -- which is how he got away with the outrageously high prices in the first place, police sources said.
The fines could total up to $1,500 -- a bill the owners of the cart must foot, Abdelbaky said.