The ‘Water Boys’ have been making headlines for years by selling bottled water on Atlanta roadsides. However, a darker side of the hustle has emerged since 2020, when the practice of selling bottled drinks to cars spiked citywide, according to TSR Investigates’ Justin Carter.
Some have resorted to mobile payment schemes that have cost unsuspecting victims hundreds of dollars.
Three Teens Try To Fight Stigma Against Being Water Boys, Legitimize Efforts With Reformatted Brand
Meanwhile, those who aren’t looking to scam people say the schemers are ruining their reputation on the streets. Three teens, Mekhi Williams, Amir Douglas, and Sergio Tate, have created a reformed “Water Boyz In the Hood” brand to legitimize their efforts. They sell branded water on their website as well as roadside.
“It’s like taking from your mom, like it could be somebody’s last money. They tryna bless you, they tryna give you their blessing, give you their energy to make sure they look out for you and you go out your way to scam this person. I don’t feel in no way that’s good,” Amir Douglas told Justin Carter.
The Water Boyz, whom Justin spoke to, say they are working to end the scammers stigma. They added they are working with police and residents to stop the violence and scams.
City Officials Consider Water Boys Crackdown Amidst Spike In Street Crimes
Local crime headlines in recent years show that roadside scams are a dangerous game for all involved. In 2020, an 18-year-old was shot and killed in Midtown Atlanta selling water.
A year later, another ‘water boy’ opened fire on a car after the driver refused to purchase a bottle of water from him.
Meanwhile, some work is being done to curb the roadside hustle. Last year, police and prosecutors discussed new ways to crack down on the city’s water boys. Among those tactics, they included targeting parents and guardians and banishment from the city altogether, according to Atlanta-based civic journalism outlet the Saporta Report.
The Buckhead City Committee was created that same year and called for a sweeping ban on street water sales, Atlanta News First reports. The committee advocates for the separation of Atlanta and its upscale Buckhead neighborhood amidst ongoing fears of rising crime throughout the city.
In response to the schemes, committee members announced a quarter-million-dollar fundraising campaign for a youth mentoring nonprofit.
Who Are Atlanta’s “Water Boys,” And How Did A Legitimate Hustle Become A Scamming Scheme?
It typically begins in summer, when school lets out around the city, TSR Investigates’ Justin Carter has found. Often the young salespeople sell bottled drinks, costing between one to five dollars, by posting up roadside or approaching cars stopped in traffic or busy intersections.
Some viral clips show ordinary customers and even celebrities like Meek Mill, Pooh Shiesty, and Boosie Badazz supporting the entrepreneurial young Atlantians.
— TheShadeRoom (@TheShadeRoom) June 20, 2023
But as mentioned, some have tainted the hustle’s reputation in recent years.
The rising scam gained recognition after star college volleyball player Crystal Childs recounted being scammed over a bottle of Gatorade.
“Don’t stop for the water boys! I got SCAMMED!” Childs told her 4.4 million TikTok followers. “I paid $200 for a Gatorade… and it’s not even cold!”
Crystal says she was going to school when she got stopped in the notorious Atlanta traffic. That’s when she says the water boys approached her. Childs agreed to buy a $5 Gatorade, she told TSR Investigates’ Justin Carter. However, she didn’t have cash, so she decided to pay the boys via Cash App.
“Im typing it in (the name they gave me to send the $5), and nothing is coming up. They’re like, ‘Oh, it’s so-and-so’ and keep repeating it. Then one of them leans into my car and was like, ‘I gotchu.’ As he’s typing in the name on my Cash App, he’s complimenting me, sweet talking.”
At the following red traffic light, Childs checked her payment history. There, she learned they had sent themselves $200 from her Cash App account and not the $5 as agreed upon.
You’re mad I dont want that $3 hot faucet water?! #greenscreenvideo #fyp #atlanta #waterboysatl #waterboys #dontstop #scammers #atl #storytime #thereisnoway #leavemealone #scammed #falcons #atlantaproblems
Other Victims Speak Out, Fell Behind On Rent, Car Payments Due To Water Boys Scam
Ah’jae Paige — another water boys victim — lost $400 for a bottle of Gatorade. Paige said she tried to fight the transaction with the mobile payment app. However, they said it was an authorized payment and closed her complaint, she told Justin Carter. She says the incident caused her to fall behind on rent and bills that month.
Two other victims, who asked to only be identified by their first names, Dominique and Dyrell, say the water boys also scammed them. Dyrell says they sent themselves a whopping $981.
Dominique says they took all $300 from her Cash App account. The single mother added that the scam made her fall behind on car payments.