Scammed By Curb-Side Check In At JFK

Reader Andy decided to check his bag curb-side at JFK, that wretched hive of scum and villainy, and the curb-side check-in attendant scammed him out of $15 by promising to sneak his “overweight” bag onto the flight for a “big tip.” Naturally, after the deal was done, Andy realized that his bag probably wasn’t overweight and he’d just been scammed. Now he’s writing in to tell his story so that other consumers can avoid a similar fate.

Around 11:45am on Monday I was headed home to San Diego from JFK. As I arrived to the Jetblue terminal I noticed the lines inside were super long, so for the first time I decided it was worth a $3 fee to take advantage of the curbside check in.

Upon checking in, the attendant took my bag and brought it to the other check in station (if I were actually thinking and anymore paranoid I would have watched him weigh the bag). When he returned he told me my bag was overweight and there is a $50 fee for any baggage over 50lbs. Before I could even respond with “are you kidding me?” he told me he could he get it through if I “gave him a big tip”. I quickly weighed my options and decided the tip option was clearly the way to go. As soon as I told him to go ahead with that option and handed him all the money I had ($15 tip + $3 fee) he took one look at the cash and asked “this is a big tip right?”. He then counted it in front of me and was clearly unstoked with the amount, so I assured him it was all I had. He printed out my boarding pass and I headed to the gate.

As I sat on the flight I felt like A) I had been scammed, and B) it was my own fault. As soon as I got home I weighed the bag and sure enough, 46lbs. The following morning I called Jetblue to file a complaint, and also sent them an email. Their representatives were of course very apologetic and disgusted by the transaction, and promised to look into the situation.

I’d like to get my money back as much as the next guy, but I’m fine with leaving it here. My major issue is that in this day and age where the average traveler is being gouged for everything possible by the airlines, someone else has to take it one step further and take advantage of customers outside of the business bubble.

I wonder how often this happens at every airport? Do I blame the attendant, his employer, or myself?

Desperate times make for desperate measures.

We think everyone deserves a little blame here, but you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. JetBlue has certainly had its share of low-life scamming employees working at JFK. You only lost $15 and now you’re sharing your story so that others can avoid this scam, and you reported the scammer to his employer. I’m sure that our readers, and JetBlue itself, appreciate your sleuthing!

And, just for those of you who are from out of town and flying through JFK, don’t take anything anyone says at face value when you are in that airport. Stick to the straight and narrow, and if you know Obi Wan Kenobi, ask him if he’d mind picking you up.

(Photo: ellimac )

Comments

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  1. That’s actually a really good scam. Most of the time I say things like “who would fall for that?” But I can see this catching a lot of people.

    Thanks so much for reporting it here.

    Just one more reason to drive.

  2. msbask says:

    Strange story, good lesson to learn, man really got scammed, etc., etc., etc.

    But the part of this story that really jumped out at me was “…. and handed him all the money I had ($15 tip + $3 fee)”.

    Do people really travel with NO cash? Are you kidding me?

  3. snoop-blog says:

    I always weigh my bags first. I live 2 blocks from a ups store and know the owner and he lets me use the scale. I always try to make my bags 7lbs lighter than the limit to make up the difference if they have a shady scale at the airport.

  4. wattznext says:

    I’m not usually a blame the victim guy, but you have to be a little more careful here. I know you may have been in a hurry and all, but you should have asked to see the actual weight of the bag.
    Even if it HAD weighed over 50lbs, what assurances do you have that this checker would have actually gotten it onto the plane? You may well have ended up at your destination airport, explaining that “the guy told me he’d put it on for a big tip.” And getting blank stares..
    That being said, this checker was a total scumbag. Way to go reporting him/her!

  5. Slytherin says:

    I normally check my bags at the ticket counter as I heard horror stories like this of curbside check-in and not to mention those attendants aren’t really employees of the airline or the airport; just people contracted for that.

  6. carso says:

    @msbask: I literally cannot remember the last time I held paper currency. Do people really still use cash?

  7. BeeBoo says:

    50 pounds is a LOT of stuff for traveling by plane. People are going to have to get used to making do with a small carry-on or sending their stuff by FedEx or paying $$$ for checking a bag.

  8. Ilikenumbers says:

    I’m with carso, cash is soooo 2002.

    It’s not as bad as those VISA commercials, but at least with CC transactions I feel more comfortable re: fraud protection, plus the ability to analyze my spending habits is sweet.

  9. ornj says:

    Wait, so the problem is you got burned trying to cheat the system? Tough shit. Live and learn.

  10. UnicornMaster says:

    So even though this whole situation sucks, you kind of deserved it. I mean you pretty much did what amounts to BRIBERY to circumvent the system. Granted you should never have been forced to and the porter is a low-life scumbag. Lesson learned.

  11. evslin says:

    @carso: Cash works just fine when your credit card company arbitrarily decides that using your credit card 1500 miles from home is worthy of being considered fraud.

  12. bobpence says:

    Check the luggage department at Target or Wal-Mart, they have recently had luggage scales for about $10. Then check sporting goods at Wal-Mart; I got a similar scale, with a built-in tape measure, for $5. These things are not trade quality, but they are small enough to fit IN your luggage.

  13. DoubleEcho says:

    @evslin: Cash also works well when you’re mugged for the entire amount in your wallet and can’t get it back, whereas with a credit card you can report it stolen and are only liable for $50. My dad learned this the hard way when his ginormous George Castanza wallet was stolen during a break-in, and he lost $600+. He now uses a bank card and doesn’t carry that much cash.

  14. sleze69 says:

    Caveat Emptur

  15. carso says:

    I hadn’t meant to turn this into a paper vs. plastic discussion. Obviously each has its own pros and cons. Staying on topic, I do feel bad for the submitter, it was a hell of a scam. Makes you wonder how the guy that hatched the scheme ended up working luggage at JFK.

  16. JustThatGuy3 says:

    Not much sympathy here, any more than I’d have if you were overtipping the bartender to get him to only ring up every other drink, and then found out it was two-for-one night.

  17. MercuryPDX says:

    Stuff like this is why you should always try to get to the airport early and check-in anywhere but curbside. If you have… HAVE to check your bag at the curb, the standard tip is roughly $1 or $2 per bag. Be advised that this is ON TOP OF whatever the airline decides to charge you for it by way of “convenience fee”, so you’re potentially looking at $5 minimum per bag.

    As someone said earlier, there’s no guarantee your overweight bag won’t be discovered somewhere before it makes it to the plane.

    The OP Was clearly taken advantage of. Kudos for not “taking it” and reporting the guy.

  18. bilge says:

    OP got scammed trying to scam the airline. Very nice. Next time: go inside and have your bag weighed.

  19. basket548 says:

    This isn’t all that uncommon. I’ve certainly ‘bribed’ curbside attendants before when I knew my bag was overweight. However, this attendant’s behavior was atrocious and I never would have dealt with someone that blatant.

    And not to blame the OP, cause the attendant sounds like scum, but maybe the bag really did come in over 50 pounds at the airport. When a bag is ~45-50 pounds, you run into sort of a grey area. Not all scales are perfectly calibrated, and what is 48 pounds at home may be 51 at the airport, and by the time you get to the check-in counter, you’re SOL if their scale comes up higher.

  20. MercuryPDX says:

    @MercuryPDX: And to qualify, YES he was trying to get around the system which is “wrong”. The nature of the scam preys on the time-sensitivity of catching your flight and an exorbitant overweight baggage charge. The temptation is just too great for some.

  21. basket548 says:

    @MercuryPDX:
    “As someone said earlier, there’s no guarantee your overweight bag won’t be discovered somewhere before it makes it to the plane.”

    That’s not really a concern in modern airports. Bags are only weighed at the point of entry, and no special mark is put on the bag to show that extra fare has been paid, though that certainly may change as airlines fight for every last bit of revenue.

  22. MercuryPDX says:

    @basket548: I’ve seen orange “Overweight Bag” stickers applied on the side of the luggage to give the handlers extra warning, but it may be for bags grossly over the 50 lb. limit.

  23. MercuryPDX says:

  24. coan_net says:

    Well in my opinion he got what he deserves for trying to go around the system (even though he may not have had an overweight bag since the scale could have been off)

    It’s like buying illegal drugs, then find out they are bad and then going to the cops to tell them that someone sold him bad drugs…….

  25. james says:

    Haha, that’s funny. Sounds like you get what you deserve.

    First of all, you know the rules so weigh your bag ahead. Then rearrange some of it into your carry-on if you can. And, whether or not it was overweight, you took his word and tried to cheat the system making you as dishonest as the handler, so suck it up.

  26. MercuryPDX says:

    @james: You know, if he started making outrageous claims that he wanted ALL the money back I’d be all for hammering on the OP a little harder. I think he not only learned his lesson but was nice enough to share that with the rest of us.

    Let’s not make it so that people DON’T want to submit experiences like this for the rest of us and cut some slack when it’s due.

  27. Anybody that has traveled through a less developed country has learned that scam artists learn their trade at the local international airport. Just goes to show we are not as advanced as we thought we were.

  28. johnniewalker says:

    Thanks for sharing and please ignore all the ‘im too smart for that scam’ and ‘you deserve it’ arrogant jerks.

  29. stacye says:

    @msbask: If he was going home (which the story indicates), then yes… I can see how he would only have $18 on him.

  30. failurate says:

    Kind of reminds me of that episode of COPS where the crack addict calls the cops because a crack dealer took her money without giving her any crack.
    Do you really want to report to a company that you thought you were ripping them off, only to find out that you didn’t actually rip them off and got ripped off yourself?
    It is a tempting scam to attempt though… $35 is a nice dinner.

  31. humphrmi says:

    @DeanOfAllTrades: Yeah, he BRIBED an airline official to allow his underweight baggage on. Based on information that the agent made up in order to make him think his bag was overweight.

  32. yourbffjill says:

    @MercuryPDX: I’ve gotten that tag before, either when my bag is 51/52 pounds (they didn’t charge me for it) or once when I was traveling with some weights (don’t ask) and my very tiny bag weighed almost 40 pounds. I think it’s more for the luggage handlers than it is to prove payment. But then again I don’t really know.

  33. failurate says:

    If I thought my bag was overweight, I would probably pay the guy. Although, I would be worried about it being measured more than once.
    If I found out it wasn’t overweight, I might tell my friends that I was scammed, but don’t think I would report it to anyone official.

  34. hills says:

    Hey, don’t ruin it for the rest of us!

    I really did have an overweight bag and tipped the curb side guy (who did NOT suggest it) so I didn’t have to pay the fee.

    I suppose you just have to know when your bag is truly overweight….. :)

  35. failurate says:

    Just thinking… if your bag is marked as weighing one amount at one point at the airport, then weighing another amount at another point, without you having contact with it, could it be confiscated as suspicious for smuggling/terrorism?

  36. dweebster says:

    @carso: Yes, it’s usually green paper with pictures of dead presidents on it. Although more devalued every day, still easier to carry than bags of salt or animal hides for trade.

  37. sir_eccles says:

    On the plus side, your luggage didn’t end up on a different plane going to a different destination.

  38. dweebster says:

    @evslin: Pick up the phone and spend a few minutes informing them you are heading 1500 miles from home if it’s not your usual pattern. *Never* had a problem when I’ve travelled to odd places and countries because I do that.

  39. simplegreen says:

    I HAD A SIMILAR INCIDENT!

    Sorry for the caps but all should read this post. I usually Fly Southwest when i can, yes i know its a cattle car but it gets me where i need to be with out the bs. I had to fly delta to visit my father in law. I weighed my bag at the electronic checkin. And lets be real here for a sec, i fly a high amount for work so I know exactly what i pack and i know its never over, usually around 40 lbs.

    I weigh in and the obviously bothered by my presence woman looked at the weight on the scale and it read 52 lbs, 12 pounds more than normal. She said it was over weight and would have to change me, I of course took issue with this and insisted she weigh it on another scale, she gave me a lot of shit, and finally when i said I’m not moving and you’re not charging me another dime, i want to see the manager now, she proceeded to weigh it on another scale, the next scale read 48lbs. I looked at her and said.. wow how odd, your other scale is off 4 lbs. She scoffed and took started printing my bag tag, at that moment i grabbed my bag and threw it on yet another scale, “41 lbs”. “WOW, your first scale was off 11 lbs, and your other one was off 7 lbs. Nice scam you’re running here”. I turned around and spoke loudly, “if your bag is overweight, make sure you get it weighed on multiple scales, i just weighed my bag on 3 of them and each of them were off.”

    Moral of the story, weigh your bag before you leave home, if its overweight dont just take their word for it, they hope you pay for the overage with cash and they just pocket it.

    smart consumers usually have more money in their pockets.

  40. cpt.snerd says:

    I would have definitely asked to see it if I was not shown how much the weight actually was. (of course I would have weighed it myself first too)

    But I’ve seen people willingly pay off the curb-side check in people when they were even overwight and were told about it. Recent trip to Vegas – I saw a girl semi-turning on the charm gun to a curb side check-in guy and giving him $10 to sneak in her 60lb bag…

  41. humphrmi says:

    I love all the comments saying the guy was trying to get away with something, even though his bag wasn’t overweight.

    This is the typical argument that tricky cops use to turn their entrapment techniques into convictions. And they fail quite often.

    The question is, did the OP go into the transaction thinking he had an overweight bag, or did the agent convince him in order to gain financial benefit? The OP says “When he returned he told me my bag was overweight and there is a $50 fee for any baggage over 50lbs.”

    So was the OP convinced he had an overweight bag, and started looking for a cheaper way? Not according to the OP…

    “Before I could even respond with “are you kidding me?” he told me he could he get it through if I “gave him a big tip”.”

    So without the OP even speaking a word, the agent (1) lied to him about his baggage weight, and (2) set up the scam.

    That’s pretty clear entrapment. I don’t see any intent to defraud on the part of the OP.

  42. ILoveVermont says:

    He got scammed twice – the overweight fee for JetBlue’s domestic flights is $20 for 51 – 70 lbs., not $50. It’d have to weigh over 70 lbs. to be charged $50 – presumably he would know if it was THAT heavy. See: [www.seatguru.com]

    Still, I agree with some of the folks here that he shouldn’t have been trying to scam the airline, either.

  43. quail says:

    Being a skycap was a big money maker at one time. A CBS or a Newsweek report back in the 90′s once said that at a busy airport these guys could fist away $100,000.00 or more a year in tips. Once all of the security measures took affect I always wondered how they would try to recoup their losses when they couldn’t check bags but could only haul them to the counter for you.

  44. quail says:

    Hey, that’s bribe money the airline could have used…

  45. vildechaia says:

    Going by car is looking better by the minute. Who needs all this b.s?

  46. avsfan123 says:

    I personally can travel for a week with a bag weighing 30lbs or less…

  47. MissPeacock says:

    I wonder what would have happened if the OP had called out the curbside checker on the bag’s weight/attempt to bribe? Would the checker then have retaliated by putting his bag on the wrong plane? I’m always afraid to piss off or call someone out who is in charge of my luggage.

  48. humphrmi says:

    @avsfan123: I traveled to Hong Kong and Tokyo for 2.5 weeks with a carry on and a laptop bag once.

  49. usa_gatekeeper says:

    I hope they don’t use check-in as the criteria for estimating and summarizing baggage weight on small commuter flights, especially if caps are slipping overweight bags through for an extra tip.

  50. SuchiErmine says:

    I had a simular experience at the San Antonio airport, I was checking my
    bag in and the attendent “D”, said my bags were overweight, so I pull
    aside to see if I can’t move some weight over to our other bag. After
    moving some shoes and stuff over I was still over the limit and offered
    to pay the fee, D imedatly said that she would let it slide. I told her
    how much I appreciated the favor and she then asked “How much do you
    appreciate it?”. Upset but not wanting to get my bags sent to baggage
    hell I smiled and showed her that what I had given her was all I had in
    my wallet (about 12 bucks, 6 bucks per bag). It makes me dread the
    airport when I have to pay $600 AND get hussled at the curb THEN get
    hasseled at the security checkpoint for my shoes and contact solution.

  51. trujunglist says:

    To all the posts here saying that the guy was trying to scam the airline:
    Uhhh, no, he wasn’t. The very brief article describes exactly what happened. His bag weighed somewhere around 46 lbs. He was late arriving to the airport and decided to use curbside check-in. The guy told him his bag weighed 50 lbs and would sneak it on for him for $$$. Although it is entirely possible that the scale actually read +50 lbs because those scales are likely grossly uncalibrated and/or broken, the fact of the matter is that he weighed his bag at home and it weighed 46 lbs, so it is more likely that the curbside guy, who is apparently a real dick anyway with the money counting thing and unimpressed with the amount he gave (I’ve only done curbside check-in once and the guy did the same thing, so I took my tip back and went and waited in line, ignoring his cursing and threats), is a goddamn scammer.
    How, exactly, is this trying to scam the airline? At no point did the bag actually weight over 50 lbs. His bag was within the weight limit. That’s like being told your FedEx packages weighs more and you’ll have to pay an extra charge, but the guy at the counter will sneak it by for a $5. The only reason you people think he was doing anything wrong is because the guy said his bag weighed over 50, which wasn’t true. The only reason this is the OP’s fault is because he’s too trusting. Read things more carefully next time people.

  52. Landru says:

    I find that the scams that work the best are the ones where the victim believes he’s getting away with something.

  53. UnicornMaster says:

    @humphrmi: Doesn’t matter if the information is real or fake. A bribe is a bribe.

  54. t325 says:

    @vildechaia: New York to San Diego by car: Approx. 42 hours

    New York to San Diego by plane: Approx. 6 hours

    Still want to take the car?

  55. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Yes, technically the end result was a bribe and was not exactly Kosher, but the attendant was the one who initiated it, not Andy. I would also add that in the rush of traveling by air, where you might have all of 30 seconds to think about things, sometimes people are easily let to make split-second decisions. Obviously, the attendant knew that rushed travelers are easy targets and easy to sucker and he’s probably pulled this scam on hundreds or thousands of people over the years.

    Even so, is bribing a skycap any worse of a crime than slipping the maitre d’ an extra $20 for a good table (especially if he initiates it)? Not exactly the crime of the century…sorry.

    Geez, Andy, you’ll have to do better than that to get on the FBI’s most wanted list.

  56. DHT says:

    I bought one of these for under $10 at my local target.

    [ecx.images-amazon.com]>

    It’s small enough (maybe 5″x2″) to bring with you on a trip.
    Also comes with a 39″ tape measure so you can see if your suitcase is too large, too.

  57. humphrmi says:

    @DeanOfAllTrades: A bribe starts with an offer of money. He didn’t offer money, he was asked for it. The difference may seem unimportant to you, but it is also the difference between the definition of the word “bribery” and “extortion”.

  58. DHT says:

    Sorry, forgot the direct link:
    [www.target.com]

  59. Taed says:

    When I was 18 and going to college, I had about 4 boxes that were 40 pounds or so each. The street checkin person told me that I would have to pay $80 extra, and I said I knew that. He then said that he didn’t have to charge me anything extra, and I said that would be nice. He then said “I’ll take care of you if you take care of me first” and handed me the normal (at that time) luggage form to sign. So, I signed it. He then again said that I had to take care of him, and I was confused since there was nothing else to sign or anything left to do. He then handed me my tickets. I said thank you and walked away. About a minute later, he came up to me and said that he didn’t have to let my boxes through for free, so why didn’t I take care of him? It suddenly dawned on me, “Oh, you wanted me to bribe you!” So I handed him $20.

    I’m embarrased by that now, not because I was so dense/naive, but because I shouldn’t have “tipped” him and should have told his manager or somesuch. Oh well.

  60. RunawayJim says:

    I have to agree with the people who say it’s really the victim’s fault. This is a fairly sneaky scam, but it’s really their own fault for not looking to see how much it actually weighs. I always make sure I make a note of my luggage weight when I check it.

    Funny thing though. I checked a bag with Air Canada flying back to the US. It was 6 pounds overweight. The girl looks at me says she’s supposed to charge me $50 (which I didn’t really care, I was bringing back some beer with me that I can’t get here and I would’ve expensed it anyway because even without the beer, I probably would’ve been over as my bag was close to the limit beforehand and I couldn’t bring more than 1 carry on because my plane was tiny). However, she then says “I’m going to waive the fee, but don’t do it again”. I said “I won’t”, walked away, laughed, and went to wait for my flight. Of course, this also happened in a really small airport.

  61. TwoScoopsRice says:

    @dweebster:
    Count yourself lucky that you’ve not had any kind of problem with credit card usage when traveling. We call in faithfully before every business or pleasure trip to Asia. Buying a [legitimate] train ticket or paying a hotel bill triggers an error message/reject from one particular credit card company 60-70 percent of the time. Several times the card has been frozen because of fraud concerns because they’re not able to reach us by phone quasi-immediately (calling home number rather than the international cellphone contact number we provide).

    Most supervisors advise us to continue reporting our travel plans, but we’ve had one tell us that security is ratcheted up when we do. And yes, whenever I’m able I pay off all charges before departure, even “current” charges that have not yet hit a statement.

    So while I don’t like carrying currency, I do when on the road. Travelers’ cheques are becoming increasingly passe, but they’re still usable and more secure.

  62. ecwis says:

    @humphrmi: He bribed an airline official? First off, curb-side check-in guys are contracted out (usually by the airport) and therefore not airline employees. Secondly, the guy was definitely not an official…

    But yeah this guy definitely deserved to get scammed.

  63. waxdiva says:

    Interestingly, just last week, my Super Shuttle driver rolled up to a side curb at the JetBlue terminal, pointed to the huge line and told me to wait there and they will take care of my bag.

    HAH! Obviously, the driver thought I was a newbie. I walked past all of the masses waiting for curbside check-in and went inside as I usually do.

    I’m wondering if Andy used the Super Shuttle to JFK and he was given the same instruction by his driver???

    If so, we may be uncovering a little setup between SS drivers and curbside check in agents!?

  64. usa_gatekeeper says:

    Since money is changing hands because of readings on these airline scales, doesn’t that make them subject to certification (just like gasoline pumps & deli scales) by the local/state weights & measures people? Are there any stickers on these scales?

  65. humphrmi says:

    @ecwis: Actually, I was being facetious.

  66. katoninetales says:

    When you buy tickets, find out the baggage policy! You weren’t just scammed on the weight; JetBlue’s baggage policy states that bags that weigh 51-70 pounds only incur a $20 fee, not much more than the “tip”. [www.seatguru.com]

  67. RAREBREED says:

    The one time I flew out of JFK on JetBlue, I was told that my XBox HAD to be checked in by some 20-something guy because it was “too big” for carry-on. It was in a back pack with a towel wrapped around it, and I knew it wasn’t too big. To prove it, I even stuck it into the demo station by the check-in desk. He then promised me that if I didn’t leave it with him, that he’d alert TSA to send me back, and if I got past them, that the gate attendant would know as well.

    I ended up faking a hand off to my gf, who in front of the guy said she’d just have to ship it to me, then before I got into the security line, she gave it back. I got through with no problems, and the X Box fit perfectly in the above baggage container.

    I totally felt like this kid was just trying to take me X Box, so I wrote JetBlue. All I got in response was some email telling me to stop being so paranoid, and next time, I should trust their employees’ judgment.