An appeal by The New York Times asking readers to share experiences of petty crime in London backfired – when it was hijacked by sarcastic Brits.
The esteemed US organ had said it wanted to hear about the Metropolitan Police response to “minor property crimes” such as burglary.
Instead, it was deluged with thousands of comedy replies on Twitter, including complaints about accidental eye contact on the Tube and badly made tea.
It has yet to respond.
The Times posted its earnest appeal for London-based tales of woe amid what it called a “surge in violent crime” in the capital, telling users it would select the best for publication.
However, its social media feeds saw a surge of a different kind, as a deluge of tongue-in-cheek ripostes rolled in and Londoners lapped up the chance to have a laugh at the expense of the paper (and themselves).
The unspoken laws of using the London Underground featured heavily among the responses.
“Someone made eye contact with me on the tube once. The culprit is still at large, despite a massive police operation,” wrote ralasdair.
Actor Stephen McGann went one step further, and said his antagonist had even smiled after meeting his gaze – a London Underground faux-pas of the highest magnitude.
While Tom Parker Bowles reserved his ire for someone – probably a tourist – who stood on the “left-hand side of the down escalators at Shepherd’s Bush”.
Hurried commuter ChazpLDN chipped in: “A charlatan didn’t have his Oyster card ready this morning before getting to the front of the underground queue. Audible tutting ensued.”
Others took the opportunity to grass up fellow Brits for their dodgy tea-making practices.
“While visiting an acquaintance who lives in Shepherd’s Bush, she offered to make me a cup of tea. I said yes and she put the milk in first,” @quicunquevult said.
Elsewhere, there was ferocious satire of British manners.
The Soho Theatre tweeted a scandalous tale of two audience members who once tried to sit in the same seat.
Neither apologised, it said.
“It was mayhem, we had to cancel the show.”
While Matt Walsh expressed “horror” at his neighbours, who “left their bins out for two days after they were emptied”.
The paper was seeking input for a piece by its London-based reporter Ceylan Yeginsu, who said her apartment had been burgled.
It is yet to be seen how many of the responses will make it into the final piece.