The “You Broke My Bottle” Scheme and How to Avoid Getting Mugged

I was nearly mugged last night walking home from the subway. The scheme the muggers tried was one I had heard from my old roommate. Thankfully, I was able to get away unharmed with my belongings intact. I’m hoping this post will serve as a warning and provide tactics should this happen to you.

What happened to me:

Totally not Patron

I was exiting the subway station at 125th St in Harlem, rather inebriated, having come home from a friend’s concert on the Lower East Side. Less than the block’s length from the station stairs, an African American man, probably early thirties, wearing a red polo shirt and baseball cap ran into me as I was walking and dropped a black plastic bag with some kind of glass bottle inside. The bottle broke and he called to me, saying I broke his bottle of Patron. I apologized and continued walking. A younger white guy, around my age, saw it happen and warned me they were trying to rip me off and that it was almost definitely not a bottle of Patron. I agreed and told him I’d heard of the scam and kept walking.

He got further ahead as we continued down the street until the Bottle Man approached me on a bike, saying I needed to pay him for the bottle of “Patron”. I told him I didn’t have any money, apologized, and kept walking. He pursued me at my side, insisting that I pay for this bottle. He then said something about his cousin needing to get involved and that’s when I saw another African American man around his age wearing a white T-shirt and black baseball cap. They both told me I needed to pay for the bottle and I said I had no money, but let me go to the bodega on my corner and I’d gladly get some cash. The guy with the bike then blocked my way with the bike and they tried cornering me against the fence. I repeated that I could get them money at the bodega down the street and they threatened to fight me for it. I said I had to get in the street and the guy in white tried to stop me but I pushed by him to get into traffic. The guy with the bike said something like “Let him go” or the like, and cussed me out. Thankfully, there was a cab RIGHT THERE and I hopped in and told him to drive, I was getting mugged. He took me only four blocks before we hit a red light, I thanked him, paid, got out, and hustled the remaining block to my apartment door. Once inside, I called the police.

The AMAZING thing about all this was I was drunk. Not “fall-down” drunk, but pretty drunk. Too drunk to drive, but I don’t have a car, so that’s a non-issue. Having heard of this scheme before from my old roommate, as soon as it started I knew what was happening. How I thought to suggest the bodega is beyond me, but I knew it was a safe place (all the guys who work there know me) and once inside, I would have hid behind the counter and had them call the cops. Once that wasn’t an option anymore – when he blocked me with his bike – I remembered something I’d heard either before I moved out here or right after I did and that was if you ever feel like you’re being followed or if you’re uncomfortable on the sidewalk, walk in the street until a cab or other car comes and you can ask for help. I was fully prepared to run, though the guy on the bike would probably catch me easily. In hindsight, I think I would have tried to run a block east to a busier street or run as fast as I could for the bodega, but I am so fortunate and thankful that that cab was there right when I needed it and was AVAILABLE. How many times do you need a cab and every one that passes is occupied…?

Why that guy took off without me is strange and pretty rude. I think if the roles were reversed I would have walked with him at least a few blocks to make sure they didn’t mess with him further. No, I’m not much help, but there’s safety in numbers.

I hope those guys got caught last night. I doubt they did, but I hope so. And I hope nobody else gets the same hassling I did, but if they do, I hope this helps prevent someone ending up worse off than I did.


One thought on “The “You Broke My Bottle” Scheme and How to Avoid Getting Mugged

  1. May 2015 : manhattan, 23rd street and 7th avenue ,happened the same thing.Thank you for your post as I know I am not the only vidtim and this is a scheme.. the man hit me and his bottle inside a bag broken,he said we have to go to pharmcy to replace but then while we are walking he said it is in 11th avenue!..and the moment he said it is thyroid drug (which can’t be,as it is only pills,I am an MD) ;I start shouting Police and run away..he didn’t follow.Now after eveything is over,it was such a orchestrated theater role that he played..I dont know how to report,is there a website to report this to police or do we have to call 911 or another number..But just wanted to share,as I am sure theydo it all thetime,maybe more to tourists..thank you for our article .

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