Awesome. Scammers faking disabilities to cut lines

Let’s close out the evening with something a bit less storm related, both tornado and political. One item which is, I admit, completely trivial in comparison to the events of the day, but which struck a minor chord with me, comes to us from Yahoo News and a few other sources. It involves people who don’t feel like standing in line at various places such as Disneyland or airports, and employ a number of techniques to fake disabilities for head of the line privileges.

Now this is rich: Disney World is investigating news that a handful of upper-crust Manhattan moms have a pricey, secret way to get their kids to the front of the lines—and it’s not by bribing Mickey Mouse.

Instead, according to the New York Post, the moms pay $130 an hour to hire a disabled, “black-market” guide, who uses her position—sitting in a motorized scooter—to help entitled families gain special access to rides.

“On one hand, you can say she’s a great entrepreneur,” disability activist Kleo King, of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, told Yahoo! Shine. “On the other hand, she’s kind of pimping herself out. And it’s outrageous she would help people commit fraud.”

The spin of this article, written by Beth Greenfield, will annoy a lot of readers for obvious reasons. She goes to great lengths to portray the perpetrators in Occupy Wall Street terms, describing them as the “privileged insiders” of the “one percent” who are leveraging their wealth to hire disabled people to eliminate inconvenience for their spoiled, Wall Street brats.

Fair enough, and it’s a pretty lousy thing to do, so let’s be honest about that much. But they aren’t the only ones pulling this scam. Here’s an example of the shell game in question which lots of people can play.

Using a false disability claim to skip lines is not a new trick, unfortunately. A recent Wall Street Journal story documented the trend of travelers requesting the use of complimentary wheelchairs in airports as a technique of getting pushed to the front of security lines, only to leap up and sprint to their gates once they have clearance. “We call them ‘miracles.’ They just start running with their heavy carry-ons,” longtime wheelchair attendant Kenny Sanchez noted.

I’ve been witness to this myself on multiple occasions, the most recent being this January. I was flying to Atlanta by way of Detroit. In the Motor City I was waiting with two colleagues when I saw an older – though not that much older than me– couple come to the boarding area. They were a well dressed, genteel seeming African American couple, with the woman pushing the man in a wheelchair. I was immediately moved to feel a bit sorry for them having to cram onto a flight while dealing with the infirmities which can accompany our golden years. After wheeling up and checking with the gate agent, it turned out that they were moved in to early, preferred boarding and upgraded to the front of the plane. It was a feel good moment for everyone.

I was in zone 2 for that flight and happened to follow not far behind them through the entry ramp. Reaching the end, the gentleman hopped up out of the wheelchair, grabbed both of the carry-on bags from his wife (again, a gentlemanly move) and proceeded to move to their upgraded seating, tossing the bags up into the overhead compartment and taking his seat, the wheelchair left forgotten on the jetway.

I was annoyed. No… I was beyond annoyed. The man may have had some medical issues – I have no way of knowing – but he was more than capable of strolling into the flight with a couple of substantial sized bags, tossing them above head level and grabbing a seat unassisted to wait for his free cocktails. That’s a pretty bad move to my way of thinking, and nobody said a word. I guess he was a “miracle” passenger too.