As the season of state and county fairs draws to a close, the rides are being towed away, racing pigs are resting up for next year, and a 65-year-old carnival worker is in handcuffs for accepting bribes for giant Hello Kitty dolls.
Turns out the law enforcement in Tulsa, Oklahoma takes the rules (laws?) of midway games very seriously, and they arrested carnival worker Frank Feikema of Houston for letting customers cheat.
Fair Worker Works Around the Rules
If you’ve ever been to a carnival midway, you know how those games work, but we’ll let the Tulsa Sheriff’s Deputy who cracked the case put it in his own words:
“The rules state that the participant must win a certain number of each size prize to trade up for a larger prize,” the deputy said in his report. “You continue to trade up until the largest prize is won.”
So, if you want the giant Hello Kitty at the top of the booth, you’re looking at quite an investment in money and time spent popping balloons with darts.
But Feikema told a customer (who was actually the sheriff’s deputy) that for $40 and absolutely minimal success at dart-throwing, he could have any prize on the rack – including one of the giant Hello Kitty plush toys.
The deputy took Feikema up on the deal, popped one balloon with a dart, dished up the cash, and walked away from the booth with a humongous stuffed kitty. Which is now presumably in an evidence locker at the Tulsa Sheriff’s office, along with the offender’s change belt and $175.
Not-so-fair Carnival Games
Of course, carnival games are about the least likely place in the world to find fairness and justice.
If your kid has her heart set on that Ninja Turtles water bottle, you’d better be prepared to spend 4-5 times its value in game fees before you win it.
But, in the name of fairness, and on the theory that carnivals have to make their money somehow, there are rules in place to keep customers from straight-up purchasing the prizes.
Seems a shady black market in Hello Kitty dolls and giant Spongebobs has emerged to fill the gap. And the Tulsa Sheriff’s department is committed to busting this carnival crime ring. Feikema is being charged under something called the “carnival fraud act,” according to Tulsa’s News on 6.
Was Justice Served?
Since Feikema allegedly pocketed the $40, it does sound like bribery is the appropriate description for this situation. There are a few places that will let you use money instead of tickets to get prizes, but the Oklahoma State Fair isn’t one of them.
Still, it’s hard to claim consumer victory in the context of carnival games – where you can be sure consumers are pretty much never victorious.
Do you have a story of justice, or injustice in the midway? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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