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A Broke-Ass Guide to Contraband

Updated: Aug 13, 2020 11:03
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To save some of you the disappointment, first off, this guide is not intended for things like explosives or human kidneys. Far be it for me to favor one type of smuggling over another, but if you’re looking for help with either of those things, um, maybe you should instead consider looking for help on not being such a creep.

This guide is instead intended for snacks, water, alcohol, or the not-scary drugs, if that’s your thing. The legal or ought-to-be-legal smuggleables. At concerts and other events, it is sometimes necessary to conceal these in your bag, under your coat or shirt, down your pants '“ wherever '“ so as to avoid being price-gouged. The only trick is finding ways to effectively conceal your contraband. Here are some of the challenges related to different venues.

The Movies

I know that the whole concept of 'œvalue' is at best subjective and at worst a total illusion, but nothing angers me more than the senseless markup of movie theater candy. AMC somehow deems its Raisinets to be worth three times that of the lesser, oh no wait, the EXACT SAME, Raisinets sold at the Duane Reade next door. Fuuuuuckkk that shiiiiit. I never go without sneaking in at least three candy bars, a diet pop, and usually also some sort of sandwich. The challenge of a complicated item that requires utensils and condiments, like a turkey burger or a quesadilla, can also be very rewarding. You just have to be careful about anything too aromatic, as the ticket takers or ushers might recognize it by scent, like a bed-bug sniffing dog.

Also, unrelated, but whenever the movie theater gives the option, make sure to purchase a 'œsenior' ticket. They never, ever notice and you save at least $3.

Sporting events

STFU, Yankee Stadium. Five dollars for a WATER? I know this has been said before, but, um, water comes down free from the sky. If Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry also did that I would never pay for it either. Needless to say, water is not the only thing arenas overcharge for, so I would not hesitate to sneak in food. They check bags, but usually pretty half-assedly because of the high volume of people going through security. If you have a decent-sized bag, a sandwich hidden at the bottom should go unnoticed. Tips: wrap your sandwich in a cardigan, or, if you’re extra cautious, maybe a pair of clean underwear. That would probably deter anyone from messing with it. Sometimes putting a tampon or some other feminine hygiene product on top works well too.

The park

As long as you’re not an obvious douche about it, alcohol in the park is eeeeasy. Just make sure your mixer matches your container (if you’re drinking out of a 20-oz Pepsi bottle, there should not be vodka-soda-cranberry in there). A pitcher of sangria that you pour into plastic cups also usually works fine. I’ve snuck mimosas into the Highline park before with no problem whatsoev.

The beach

Lovvvve drinking at the beach. Same rules for the park apply, only there probably won’t be any shade available, so try to foresee a way to keep your booze from turning into alcoholic tea. I like the backpack cooler.

Non-BYOB Karaoke Rooms (specifically, in NYC, Sing Sing)

Holy crap they are worse than the airport. Don’t even think about it. That bouncer will rummage around in your bag no matter WHAT embarrassing feminine hygiene item you plant on top. You will be forced to spend ten minutes drinking your alcohol way too quickly in the park next door, while your friend hides her two flasks under a tree in the projects. Upside is that this will still result in a very successful karaoke night.


These are kind of site-specific. For New Yorkers, I can attest that with the Bowery Ballroom will result in a fail. But the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Mercury Lounge, Webster Hall, and any of Todd P’s venues are no problem.

Even if you’re not sure about the venue, it never hurts to try anyway. Maybe this is one of the perks of being a girl, but if bouncers ever find my alcohol, they are usually just kind of bemused, and give me the option to throw it out, leave, drink it super fast and come back, etc. They won’t get mad as long as you’re affable and conciliatory when you get caught. Don’t try and pretend that it’s NOT alcohol when after uncapping, the place suddenly reeks of whiskey. They’re not stupid.

Outdoor concerts

Alcohol: My friends and I recently had a drunken idea that in the light of sobriety I think is still pretty ingenious, albeit dependent on some advance planning. Our idea is thus: a few days before the concert, BURY alcohol in different spots on the grounds. You could place identifiable markers on top, or construct a map directing you back to each site. This map could fall into the wrong hands so make sure it is coded.

Weed: You’re on your own here, because my tactic on this is to just get stoned beforehand and hope it’s enough to carry me through. But I do have one piece of advice that I heard from a security guy at All Points West – if you do want to sneak in weed, do not stash it in your cigarettes, because that’s the first place they check. Perhaps consider a book safe.

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Katy B. - Economic Inexpert

Katy B. - Economic Inexpert

Katy B. grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the home of Gerald R. Ford, Andy Richter, and, at one point, the guy who wrote Mr. Holland's Opus. She moved to NYC for her degree in library science, and is now in the Media Studies program at The New School. She hopes to one day be a film studies librarian. Ask her anything about Dewey Decimal – anything! – and she will roll her eyes because academic libraries use Library of Congress. Durrr.