This has to happen a lot more than we know: A British guy in South London was mugged last week by a gang of youths on bikes. The thieves took his wallet, but when he handed over his cell phone, they took one look at it and gave it back.
"They told me: 'we can't do anything with that.' It is just one of these cheap jobs," said the victim.
The phone in question was the Sagem MY220X, a no-frills, bottom-of-the-line candybar model available in Europe that lacks even a camera. The victim paid about 3% of the cost of a new 3G iPhone for it.
It underscores a piece of travel advice I've been giving for years: If you don't want to be ripped off, dress way, way down. Look like a slob, with ripped clothing and old shoes. Carry crappy stuff. Thieves tend to be snobs, and they only want what has market value, so if you dress yourself at the low end of the market, you'll have better luck.
The theory generally carries over to car theft as well. The most-stolen car in America, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute, is the Cadillac Escalade ESV, a luxury SUV. Among the least? The Buick Rainier and the Subaru Forester.
You've got to be in the grip of abject fear to let the threat of crime dictate your purchases, but you have to admit there can be an unexpected benefit to economy.
Sorry, wrong number: Muggers don't want victim's cheap cell phone