Dress for the Scam You Want, Not the Scam You’re Running

m&ms.jpgI remember my first encounter with M&M kids. This was just post college, would’ve been around 1999/2000. I was on Broadway in the upper 90s, wandering around on my lunch break, when I was accosted by a couple of pre-teens who said they were selling candy for their basketball team. I gave them a buck and walked away with some Peanut M&Ms I had no intention of eating.

I also remember that, in the exact second the kids were out of earshot, I was immediately counter-accosted by some VERY CONCERNED woman who said to me, “You don’t REALLY think that money’s going to a basketball team, DO YOU?!” I shrugged and told her, “If it’s not, there are worse scams.”

To this day, I have no doubt that few–if any–of the kids who sell candy in this city do so for actual charities. But again, if it’s a scam, to what end? My only theory is that it rids Hershey of every last horrible pack of Peanut M&Ms, since that’s the only brand these kids ever have. And because Peanut M&Ms are an abomination.

However, I think this scam–if that is, indeed what it is–has run its course. Because the kids doing it have gotten progressively younger over the years. That suggests to me the real scam is some older scammer convincing naive types that The M&M Job still works.

But I got the real evidence of its demise last night. As I rode the M train home, I heard a kid make his pitch through my iPod headphones. “Scuse me, ladies and gentlemen, sorry to disturb your conversations…” I couldn’t see him from my vantage point–I sure wasn’t gonna try and make eye contact–but he sounded a little older than the usual M&M kid.

Shortly thereafter, my fellow subway riders cleared a path for him. I found this odd, because people usually ignore the M&M Kids. Plus, this car was pretty packed. But I found out in seconds why they cleared the way for him: He reeked of weed. This guy didn’t look nearly as high as the Stoned Man I saw at Toys R Us last December, but he smelled much, much worse.

Any dedicated scammer knows that a scam can only succeed when the scammer appears sincere and respectable. You don’t want the public at large to suspect you’re using their money for personal gain or nefarious purposes. Or to go roll up a fatty and laugh your ass off to Friday.

Once a scam has passed hands from skilled actors to young kids to degenerates, the scam is dead. I expect The M&M Kids to completely disappear from the city by year’s end. And it’s all thanks to the Cheech and Chong enthusiast I saw on the M train last night. Thanks, mysterious stranger!