Mustard bandits from Buenos Aires.

Mustard bandits from Buenos Aires.

In all the years of travel to Argentina I have never had a bad experience as far as pick-pocketing or a robbery. I have been warned many times and I have read the stories of tourists being robbed. One of the stories I have read somewhere on the internet or perhaps in a guidebook was the mustard method. The basic scheme goes something like this: you are walking on a street and suddenly you feel something on your head or your back similar to a bird dropping. As you stop to look, a very friendly stranger points out that you were just pooped on and offers to help you clean up. As you take your jacket off the concerned stranger indeed helps you clean up the bird dropping while cleaning you out of your wallet as well. As a grateful and unaware tourist you thank the stranger and move on only to discover later on that your wallet or money is missing. But by then, it is too late and you may even think that you just lost it.

This clever little plot seems to be used quite often in downtown Buenos Aires near subways or plazas. The bird dropping turns out to be mustard or some other condiment of similar consistency. It is usually carried out by a team. One person squirts the mustard on you  and the second one offers the clean up.

On our last trip to Argentina I finally experienced the trick and nearly became another statistic of missing wallets. But luckily for me, since I had a prior knowledge of this I evaded the pick. Shortly after Ana and I exited the Subte Linea D at the station Catedral, near Plaza de Mayo and started walking through the crowd I felt something wet drop on my head and the back of my jacket. My first instinct was to touch my hair and smell the dropping which I immediately recognized as yellow mustard. I knew right away what was going to happen. As we turned around a middle-aged man started to tell me that a bird just pooped on me and pointed up above us. I told Ana what was going on and I confronted the man by saying that I know what he is up to. He just kept up with his story. We quickly walked away and cleaned ourselves in a local cafe. Sure enough, mustard it was!

Recently, one of our clients shared a similar story. Unfortunately they got robbed on their second day in Buenos Aires losing their wallet and cards and driver’s license. They were unaware of the pick until they got back to their hotel and figured out the trick.

So my dear travelers, beware of yellow droppings on the streets of Buenos Aires. Do not stop, politely decline gracious help, do not take your jacket or backpack off, keep on walking until the nearest cafe and clean yourself up on your own. Keep in mind that there may be mutations of this trick, ice cream spill, a trip, a bump, etc. so be aware and alert. Carry your money and wallet on a lap-belt or an ankle strap and if you carry a backpack, put it in front of you.

Safe travels!

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