Every Valentine’s Day, the stakes rise hugely for cheaters, with lovers and lovers-on-the-side alike expecting some extra sugar. Private eyes can see their casework double. But even with pros on their tail, careful philanderers can slip the noose. New Yorkers who retail in romance and its consequences share lessons from years of observing attempts—of widely varying competence—at infidelity.
The Coked-Up Cocksman
Arlene Eriksson, Enelra Lingerie
Cheating Tale: I’ve had to put initials on the bottom of boxes: secretary, mistress, wife. One year, I had a guy come in an enormous limousine full of women and knock on the window at midnight. They were screaming, “I’ll take this, I’ll take that!” Clothes flying everywhere, stripping everything off the mannequins. The guy didn’t move. Then he turns to me and says, “What do you think my wife would like?” He was doing lines on the counter, and he spent so much that his credit-card company had to speak with him.
Cheating Tip: Pay attention to the initials so you give the right box to the right woman. I also tell them to leave extra boxes with me [instead of hiding them at home]. Then there’s no danger of a box being found by the wrong woman.
Kiko Hernandez, MarieBelle Fine Chocolates
Cheating Tale: You see this a lot around Valentine’s Day—guys in caps and shades [who] look like they’re going to rob us. They try to explain themselves—“It’s for my mother”—and they don’t realize that I guess the whole thing.
Cheating Tip: Normally, we put chocolate boxes in clear bags and fill them with rose petals. That’s no good if you want to be discreet. Ask us for a bag that’s not transparent—we have pink bags around Valentine’s Day. Also, don’t mention to us who it’s for. Just buy your gift.
Don’t Save Your Receipt
Philip Vellucci, Chelsea Wholesale Flower Market
Cheating Tale: I get five or six calls in the morning. It’s usually women, and they’ve been through their husband’s pockets and they’ve found receipts. They say, “I know my husband ordered two dozen roses and only one dozen arrived. Can you just verify the delivery address?” I say, “No. I can’t do that.” Then they call back angrier. It’s a very stressful day, and I’m always entertained.
Cheating Tip: Rip up your receipts. Don’t ask me for itemized bills. And here’s an idea: Celebrate Valentine’s Day early or a few weeks later. Wouldn’t you think?
A Cheater’s Best Friend
Francis Afanador, Belenky Brothers
Cheating Tale: You get these older guys—they come in with younger women, and they buy them a pair of nice diamond earrings. They say they want something for their friend. We don’t want to know—it’s just not our business. When we call to tell them something is ready, we never mention, “We have your diamond ring.” We just say, “Mr. Blah-Blah, call Belenky Brothers.” You never know who it could be for.
Cheating Tip: Spend the money on yourself or your spouse. The bottom line is, this woman is with you for one reason: “What can I get out of him?”
Show and Tell
Jerry Palace, Check-a-Mate detective agency
Cheating Tale: A client had us follow her husband on Valentine’s Day. He takes a bus from home and goes immediately to a florist. He goes into his office building— I think it was an insurance firm on 23rd Street—and disappears till lunchtime. Then he and a co-worker both come out. They have an extended lunch hour or two, and they are all over each other, to the point of, Here’s $50, go get yourself a hotel room. They finish lunch, go back, come out later on, go to a club—I think it was Chevy’s. At this point, we call the wife: We’ve got him. She says, “Do you mind if I come down?” So she’s in the surveillance van with one of us. Her husband and his mistress come out, and he throws the mistress up against the wall and plants a huge kiss on her. The wife says, “Well, it is Valentine’s Day.”
Cheating Tips: Avoid E-Z Pass, credit cards, and ATMs: Use cash. Buy another cell phone: Pay as you go, tell them your name is Donald Duck, and renew the minutes as you need them. Don’t use your computer at home. And, really, if you have a mistress, make it the type you can pay—then there’s no relationship. You may think you’re getting away with it, but you’re not.