Thursday, August 2, 2012

If visiting Miami Beach, beware

Every once in a while, one reads in local newspapers about people that came to Miami Beach to have a good time, only to be drugged or seriously inebriated, and then either raped or robbed.

Honestly, I do not have that much sympathy for people who abuse substances. Not that I have never drank more than I should, but I quit that practice a long time ago, having seen the foolishness of destroying most organs on the long-term, and on the trot, losing consciousness on the short-term.

Notwithstanding, two wrongs don't make one right, and I believe it is an atrocity that people abuse others in any shape or form. I insist though, that if you abuse substances, you are looking for trouble, and eventually, you get it. Sometimes big trouble, sometimes tiny trouble.

This post is about dangers that can affect Miami Beach tourists who have not had a single puff of a joint or a single drop of  alcohol. That can make your trip to "paradise" hellish or at least unpleasant.

A few days ago, I ate a local restaurant. One day later, a couple of charges for full tanks of gasoline appeared on my debit card. You guessed it, the debit card was cloned. However, being a debit card, the crook could only use it for gas, where PINs are generally not required in Florida, but zip codes are. This tells me that however stole my number did from a local restaurant, and probably knows I go there a lot, and assumed my zip code - correctly. I have a very good idea where this happened, but I will not be vain and tell you. This would be libelous. However, let me tell you, I have eaten there dozens and dozens of times, and it is not a place where you would expect this type of thing. In other words, check your debit card online constantly, if you come to visit Miami Beach.


Then, stores here in Miami Beach seem to be very liberal when charging things, the cashiers seem to be the ones on vacation. We recently went to a local store, that could be characterized as a "tourist trap", and made a $30 purchase (including tax). My wife paid with a credit card, except that the guy ran US$35.00 on the card. We caught it on the spot, the clerk semi apologized and gave us US$ 5.00 back. I wonder if he did this to all tourists.

At a major restaurant, we had a US$60.00 bill turn into a US$90.00 debit card charge. This is how this financial "miracle" happened. The waitress brought the bill, I gave the debit card, and when they brought back the receipt for signature it was for a US$90.00 charge. Again, we caught it in time (no alcohol or drugs in our brains), but then they reversed the US$90.00 charge, then charged US$60.00 separately. For a while, I thought the problem would linger for a long time, for it took a while for the reversal to post to my bank account.

This got me thinking. They probably have one credit card for reversals, another for charges. They close the reversal's batch every "x" days, while the charges they close everyday. That way, they build a "float" of a few thousand dollars. Therefore, maybe it was not an honest mistake at all. I know because I am a credit card vendor myself. When I reverse a charge, it IMMEDIATELY posts to my account, if I close the batch immediately. ALWAYS READ CAREFULLY BOTH YOUR BILLS AND THE CREDIT-DEBIT CARD RECEIPTS FOR SIGNATURE.


Driving through Collins Avenue, in Bal Harbour, is very pleasant. You can enjoy the broad boulevard, beautiful trees and open spaces and gardens of that particular borough. The lights at night make it even more pleasant. However, if you are a visitor to Florida beware.

There is a traffic law in Florida, which I consider a good one, that calls for drivers to reduce the speeds of their cars when approaching a parked emergency vehicle with lights on. This is meant to protect the emergency workers, such as policemen, paramedics and firemen, as well as the people they are attending to. As I say, it is a good law, when emergency vehicles are actually serving the public in an emergency.

However, the local police likes to place on the southbound lane two police cars with lights on, which are not attending to any emergency. An officer might stop your car way before it even approaches the emergency vehicles, flagging you with a flashlight. Guess what? They will tell you that you are supposed to reduce the speed upon approaching/ passing an emergency vehicle, and give you a hefty $106.00 ticket. This has happened to me.

There are two things wrong with this scenario. First of all, it seems clear that the law calls for the vehicle to reduce its speed upon approach and passing of the emergency vehicle. If you are a couple of blocks away from the police car you are not yet approaching the emergency vehicle. The violation would take place if the driver passed the emergency vehicle without slowing the speed, not way before reaching the police car. The driver must be given the opportunity to violate the law, before being stopped and given a ticket.

The second wrong scenario is that this law exists to protect emergency personnel and victims, in actual emergency situations, not to make revenue for the city. Placing two emergency vehicles which are basically doing nothing, but giving tickets, erroneously amounts to a light version of an immoral sting operation.
I suppose out-of-towners end up getting most tickets, and I really have no idea whether these ever get paid. Locals mostly dispute these in local Traffic Clinics.

I do believe that with the current real estate market debacle this type of practice might be even more pervasive. Thousands upon thousands of real estate properties are going on the auction block, foreclosed, and who knows whether real estate taxes are being paid on time. I guess they are not. As these constitute the brunt of taxes collected by local communities, there will be strong revenue shortfalls across the board, most specially in South Florida, where real estate speculation ran rampant in the last few years. Thus the need to make up for the revenue shortfall somewhere...


Do not ever park at a store parking lot, if you are not going directly there. And do not go elsewhere, in fact, do not even talk to anybody, or pick up a newspaper from a box, until you get back into your rent a car. That is because a couple of towing companies, with a mandate from the city, make huge amounts of cash towing cars from these parking lots, left by innocent tourists who do not know any better. Don't believe the towing companies are simply called by the stores. Actually, they might get tips from some folks that should be doing something else, besides getting involved in private matters (for parking in store parking lots is a private, not a public matter). I am not going to tell you who these are, but you probably guessed it... These towing companies prey upon tourists, driving by these parking lots constantly, looming around corners looking for suckers. This can cost you as much as 300 bucks, and they pretty much take only cash, no credit cards. It will definitely ruin your vacation. Any MB resident has horror stories from these two towing companies, that behave as if they are "authorities", cutting through red lights, driving against traffic, etc...

I am not even going to talk about petty crime.

Thus, there is more danger to MB than getting plastered and then raped.


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