Plaça Universitat. Three girls, arms a flurry of wild gesticulation. One of them sputtered raw choking sounds and shoved a clipboard with papers in my face. On the top sheet – next to a handicap symbol – it said:

Certificate of Regional Association
For Dumb Discapacitado Deaf Person
And for the Poor Children
We want to obtain to a national center the internet
Help please thank you very much?

Below that, fields for filling out your name, postal code and city of residence. The footer at the very bottom of the page had an email address:

I should have told those janes to dangle the moment I read their poorly written plea for charity. But I was oiled to the gills and feeling good. Had I been sober their shady operation would have been obvious.

They each had a clipboard with the same gibberish printed on it. Each had long wavy brown black hair, tied back. The jane who handed me the clipboard wore camouflage cargo pants and a striped purple t-shirt. Her helpers wore jeans and blue and red t-shirts respectively. Their clothes looked two sizes too big. Rumpled, like they had slept in them.

Like a sap I reached into my pocket for some loose change. Nada. The problem was I’d blown all my jack on slugs of rye and a dancer in a go go club. I said, “Lo siento, señoritas,” and handed the clipboard back. “No dinero.” Her hard black eyes wrinkled into two Vs, and the corner of her lip trembled. I thought I heard her mumble cabrón, but I wasn’t sure. She shot over to an obvious tourist who was walking by – her helpers in tow.

I forgot about it until the next day when I saw three other kittens pulling the same stunt in Plaça Catalunya, near the double decker tour bus stop. They had the same sartorial style: baggy clothes, hair tied back, clipboards in hand. I was cold sober and broke, but it was so hot that day I had to get out of my cramped hotel room and walk around. I’d taken off my hat and had my gabardine draped over my arm. I was taking shade, leaning against a balustrade leading up to the center of the plaza, when I saw this go down.

While I burned through a Reig I watched the girls bounce from tourist to tourist like pinballs until they got one to stop. Easily half the tourists they stopped took a pen and wrote out personal details on the clipboard before forking out cash. I saw blue bills, pink bills and plenty of small change. In the 15 minutes I stood there these three girls pulled in at least 50 smackers. That comes to 200 euros an hour. Not bad for a day’s work.

Then the tour bus took off, and with it most of the tourists.

Something miraculous happened.

These Discapacitado Deaf Persons sat down on a cement embankment next to a fountain. Two of them started jawing and guffawing. The third put on headphones. Some deaf & dumb charity. The Charity of Gypmeisters!


Read the rest of this story in Larry Kovaks’ book, City of Crime, available now in print or in e-book format. You can also preview the book here.


  • My sister gave money to them when we were there this summer and I told her it was a scam! I’m going to send this stroy to her!

  • My girlfriend fell for this last week near the Borne neighbourhood. I told her it is a scam, so now she owes me drinks! We’re sooooo naive!

  • Wasn't born yesterday

    They tried the same on me in Tarragona but it was so obvious that she was a gypmeister that she might as well have had a sign on her head saying “I want to scam you”. At first I thought she wanted a signature for a petition and so I signed in some false name but then I wouldn’t give her any money – oooooooooooohh she was so not happy as she had already stroked my face in expectation!

  • I have seen this peoples many time in my neighbourhood. I always try to warn the tourists.

  • lol…. these birds tried the same thing on my girlfriend and i on the ramblas. so blatantly a scam it’s hard to believe so many tourists fall for it.

  • I fell for it. Well, my daughter fell for it, but I paid. I’m going to show here this article and get her this book.

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