The Truth About New York's 'Melon Drop' Scam

Scammers are everywhere, and they are always trying to make a quick buck at someone else's expense. While swindling people just might be one of the world's oldest professions, happening everywhere on Earth throughout time, few places have had a higher con per city block ratio in their history than New York City. New Yorkers might get a bad rap for being cynical or standoffish, but there is a good reason for it. On just about every block, there is always someone ready to relieve you of your money through less-than-upstanding ways. 

But while quite a few cons, like the candy-selling scam or the baby-trading scam, target just about anyone gullible enough to fall for it, some New York City con artists save a few specifically for tourists (via the Village Voice). One of the most famous scams targeting strangers to the city is called the "melon drop" scam. While it has become legendary enough to now serve as the catch-all term for any scam that involves broken or damaged goods (per Ask Men), the validity of the melon drop still remains somewhat in question.

Scammers demanded money from Japanese tourists for 'expensive' fruit

The mechanics of the melon drop scam are pretty simple, but it does require one specific thing: foreign tourists, specifically Japanese ones. This is because melons in Japan tend to be very expensive, sometimes costing upward of $60 USD, far more pricey than they are in the States. Presumably in the days before the internet put the sum of all human information in our pockets, hustling New York con men decided they could use this information to their advantage by pulling a fast one on Japanese visitors. According to Ask Men, the scam works like this: First, acquire a watermelon for the low price of a couple bucks here in the U.S. of A. Step two, carry the melon around until you find your mark. Then, bump into them, drop the watermelon, so it shatters, blame them for the collision, and finally demand they pay up to the exorbitant tune of up to $100 to compensate you for your broken, "expensive" produce.

However, the existence of this scam has never been definitively proved by any reputable source, so we really only have hearsay and rumor to go on to judge the authenticity of this scam. Some say it may be more myth than fact, but New Yorkers know not to put anything past an enterprising scammer.

Some versions of the 'melon drop' scam are still around

Although skeptics may say the melon drop scam might be a myth, at least some version of this scam is still alive and well in New York City. According to some Reddit users, NYC scammers are still pulling off the melon drop hustle, only the updated version involves expensive booze and targets anyone, not just foreign tourists. But the mechanics are pretty much the same. 

"That still happens in some parts of NYC with expensive liquor like Hennessy, for example. They bump into you and drop and break a bottle with water and try to guilt you into paying them back. You know when you're in the right or wrong. If you're in the right, just walk away fast," advised one Reddit user. Others shared stories of similar encounters, while still more people said they had experienced the same basic scam, only with expensive sunglasses instead of alcohol or fruit. So although some may say the melon drop is just a New York City myth, like the alligators in the sewers or the mole people, others are well aware that it is best to keep an eye out for any shifty looking strangers carrying fruit or fancy-looking bottles.