Counterfeiting and Scalping, Teenage-Style 2012 (llegar de colado)


My parents met one night when they both crashed a wedding reception. Neither one of them had been invited to the party. Neither one of them even knew the people getting married!

They lived in small towns near each other, and told me that in the day it was common to show up to drink and dance whenever anyone nearby got married or had a party with a band. According to them, the hosts didn’t mind. They expected uninvited guests to “crash.”

They fell in love after meeting as uninvited guests, a love that lasted nearly 60 years.

Fast forward to four years ago, when we moved to Mazatlán from Kansas City. One of my son’s cultural adjustments was that early on he just could not bring himself to go to a party to which, in his words, he “wasn’t invited.” Which to him, a good US American, meant that the host of the party had not personally invited him. “But here in Mexico, baby, if your friend is invited, and the friend invites you, you are usually welcome if not expected to join.” No, he just couldn’t do it.

The day after such a party, his friends would say, “Hey, Danny, where were you last night? We missed you!” Sometimes even the host of the party would say it to him. So, he learned a more inclusive approach to party-going. He learned he usually didn’t need a personal or direct verbal invitation; friends are always welcome.

But, this “open invitation” approach to parties obviously can get out of hand, especially when kids attend a huge school, when they have a wide circle of friends, or, as with teenagers anywhere, “the word gets out” and there aren’t a lot of other parties that same night. Two weeks ago there was just such a “small” quinceañera to which 300 or so kids showed up! Parents, who pay the bills for the parties, wisely want to limit attendance. But how? It bucks cultural norms.

In order to bridge cultural norms and economic realities, the wrist bracelet was invented. Parents can say, “We are only paying for 100 people for your party. We’ll invite 20 of our friends, and you can invite 80.” Then the parent gives the kid 80 personalized party invitation bracelets to hand out. If you have a bracelet, you can enter the party. No bracelet, no dancing.

Seems clear enough to me.

Well, the other night I learned that kids COUNTERFEIT the bracelets! One of our son’s friends proudly showed me the pulsera he had purchased blank, and how he had taken a Sharpie and carefully and competently copied the personalized text so that he could get into the party. I of course dutifully scolded the kid, and threatened my son with what horrible things would become of him if he ever were to do such a thing. But, in the process I’ve learned that such counterfeiting, and even scalping, of party entrance bracelets is common these days.

The kids told me about a boy at school who has a whole counterfeiting operation. He goes to a party place and buys a bunch of the identical bracelets for that weekend’s party (bracelets come in all colors and many foil or reflective designs as well). He has a counterfeiting “kit” with 3 kinds of Sharpies plus Q-tips and alcohol to clean up any erroneous strokes that occur while making the fake bracelets. He sells the blank bracelets for 25 pesos (they must cost a few pesos at most at the shop, but hey, he delivers right to you at school). Buying a bracelet complete with the counterfeited markings costs 40 pesos (15 pesos for his copying prowess).

If you don’t want to participate in counterfeiting, you can buy a pulsera from someone who was “legally” invited to the party but can’t or doesn’t want to go. These “scalped” bracelets sell for 100 pesos. Who says young kids nowadays aren’t enterprising! Capitalism is alive and well among teenagers in Mazatlán.

Thank goodness that these bracelets didn’t exist in the 1940s. My parents may never have met, and I wouldn’t be here!


About Dianne Hofner Saphiere

There are loads of talented people in this gorgeous world of ours. We all have a unique contribution to make, and if we collaborate, I am confident we have all the pieces we need to solve any problem we face. I have been an intercultural organizational effectiveness consultant since 1979, working primarily with for-profit multinational corporations. I lived and worked in Japan in the late 70s through the 80s, and currently live in and work from México, where with a wonderful partner we've raised a bicultural, global-minded son. I have worked with organizations and people from over 100 nations in my career. What's your story?

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