Humanity has all kinds of noble qualities. We’ve created art and music, we’ve unraveled mathematical mysteries, we invented tacos. There’s a lot to be proud of. By the same token, we fumble the ball in a lot of ways, too, none more egregious than with our more violent, xenophobic and territorial tendencies. On a mass scale, these lead to war and great suffering. But on a smaller scale they can lead to much more focused and bizarre conflicts in the form of turf wars.
10. South Africa’s Taxi Turf Wars Have Claimed Hundreds of Lives
Cab drivers have a less than stellar reputation pretty much everywhere on earth even though it’s probably just a minority who stand out as rude or deceptive or downright dangerous with their customers. But things get uglier when a place gets big enough to have competition between cabbies.
In South Africa, like anywhere, cab companies have a finite customer base. They want to hold those customers, and their money, as tight as they can. But if another cab company shows up, all those customers and their money might be seduced away. That’s how a turf war starts except that the South African one has been going for decades and people have died because of it.
In 2018, a minibus full of cab drivers was returning from the funeral of a colleague when a gunman opened fire, killing all 11 passengers. By July 2021, 83 people had been killed in Cape Town, including passengers. These were just some victims in a war that has killed hundreds. Between 2000 and 2017, 43% of assassinations in South Africa were related to the taxi industry. That was far more than politically motivated hits or organized crime related murders which both accounted for 22%.
The South African cab business is huge. Annual revenue is around $1.2 billion and 15 million people per day use cabs. Long commuter trips between cities are common and this, along with permit disputes, are what the turf wars focus on and have focused on since the 1990s.
9. Glasgow Had A Deadly Ice Cream Truck War
Like taxis, ice cream trucks are vehicles that offer a service to customers for money. Unlike taxis, these cater mostly to children or families and are, arguably, wholesome and fun. That’s the theory, anyway. In Glasgow, things worked differently in the 1980s.
Despite the name, the ice cream trucks in Glasgow were like mobile markets. They sold groceries and other essential items in neighborhoods that were too far from grocery stores for many residents to reach easily. You might call them food deserts, today. Notably they went to a neighborhood called Ruchazie which was built in the ’50s but had fallen into a state of poverty and unemployment.
There were huge profits to be made if your truck got there first to sell to residents. That made drivers territorial. While some vendors might have been on the up and up, organized crime had run trucks as well.
In an attempt to intimidate a rival driver, some unknown assailants shot at him in his truck. He escaped unharmed and later they set his house on fire. The house was full of people including an 18-month-old baby. Six people, including the child, died.
Arrests were made but appeals went on for years based on very shady police work including at least one cop signing off on a confession he got when it was later revealed he was driving somewhere in his car at the time the confession was given. Twenty years passed with legal challenges and evidence showing cops conspired to frame suspects, leaving the case unsolvable after so much time.
8. Manuka Honey Is at the Center of a Honey Turf War in New Zealand
Honey is one of those things that, like olive oil or vinegar, can get very expensive if it’s artisanal or from some rare and fancy source. Manuka honey, in particular, fits the bill here. It’s originally made in New Zealand with nectar from the manuka tree. Back in 2016, 250 grams of it would cost about $30 USD and the price has only gone up since.
Since manuka took off as a so-called superfood, it’s been highly in demand and this has led to honey turf wars. As the market exploded and prices rose, producers of the honey endured hive thefts and vandalism. Bees were poisoned and in one case 300 hives comprising tens of thousands of bees were killed in New Zealand.
A big part of the issue is between New Zealand producers and Australian ones. They fight over the name and who has the right to use it because, in the marketplace, the value is all in the name manuka. Like Champagne, if one person owns the rights, the copycats have to come up with a new term. But even within New Zealand, as more and more apiaries open to compete over limited resources, the vandalism and even physical beatings continue to try to get as big a piece of the pie as possible.
7. Kennedy Fried Chicken Restaurants Are Constantly at War By Independent Owners
Have you ever enjoyed some KFC? Not Kentucky Fried Chicken, everyone knows that place. Kennedy Fried Chicken. It’s a New York chicken franchise (sort of) in which none of the different Kennedy Fried Chicken restaurants actually have anything to do with one another beyond ripping each other off.
Kennedy, along with others like Crown Fried Chicken and Royal Fried Chicken all have nearly identical menus and the restaurants mostly look the same. Nearly all are independently owned. Abdul Haye owns the trademark to Kennedy, but he didn’t even create it. He worked at one once then opened his own and tried to stake his claim.
Despite not creating the restaurant himself, Haye threatened to sue everyone else running a Kennedy of which there are over 300 and not one of them is related to another. All seem to be run by Afghani immigrants, which is true of Haye and also the man he once worked for who started the first Kennedy.
Starting your own Kennedy is something of a tradition for many Afghan immigrants so they were defiant in the face of a potential lawsuit. This may be because they already sort of triumphed over the true KFC. Kentucky Fried Chicken pursued legal action against the restaurants back in the day but none paid attention and when KFC went straight to the initials, they lost their footing to dispute with Kennedy.
6. New York Has Soft Serve Ice Cream Wars
We already saw that Glasgow had ice cream wars but so did New York and these ones were literally over ice cream. Soft serve trucks from Mister Softee and the New York Ice Cream Company regularly square off in the summer months in a feud that dates back to 2013 when New York Ice Cream Company was founded by a former Mister Softee employee.
Mister Softee has gone all out to spy on their rival, even hiring private investigators to make sure they’re not stealing Softee’s jingle or swirly mascot. And while that seems like maybe a little paranoid overkill, it’s not. NYICC has been pulling out all the stops, and even pulling out baseball bats on their rivals.
NYICC was started specifically to compete with Mister Softee and their trucks used the same colors to start and used the name Master Softee, which got them sued. Master Softee got banned. A year later they came back as New York Ice Cream Company and started getting intimidating and even violent with the competition. NYICC lost another suit, was banned from parts of midtown and had to stop using the jingle. But the ban ended in 2017 and the rivalry sparked up once more.
5. London Has Gang-Run Hot Dog Wars
London, England is not so different from New York when it comes to food rivals. Hot dog carts in the capital are sometimes operated by gangs and they don’t take kindly to competition. Back in the 90s this peaked with incidents involving Albanian hot dog vendors pulling out machetes but it’s still an ongoing issue.
Many vendors work for a shady boss who takes a massive cut in exchange for the cart and supplies. Sellers are also tightly restricted geographically, with city licensing workers patrolling the streets all night just waiting for a vendor to cross to an illegal corner so their cart can be seized.
When rival sellers get too close, they can break down into violent attacks, wielding iron bars or sticks. In most cases it’s immigrants, like the Albanians, working for established criminal organizations. Because many are not legally able to work in England, they take up shady hot dog business. Even legit sellers might have to pay protection money to gangs.
4. Chicago Newspapers Went Through Bloody Circulation Wars in the 1900s
Turf wars are not modern, Chicago was in the middle of a newspaper war started by William Randolph Hearst back in the early 1900s. He published a paper called the Chicago American and had designs on crushing the Tribune and the Record-Herald.
Heart employed honest to goodness thugs – “prizefighters, bouncers, muggers and other street athletes,” and armed them with weapons like guns and brass knuckles. Their job was to find the people who distributed the rival papers and “convince” them to make room for Hearst’s paper. This led to more than one fist fight and even shootout at Chicago newsstands.
The rival papers responded with the exact same tactics and soon newspaper trucks were being driven into rivers. The feud went on for years.
3. Vegas Wedding Chapels Have Had Violent Confrontations Over Customers
The Las Vegas wedding chapel is an iconic Vegas experience, second only to the casinos themselves. The idea of a quickie in-and-out wedding has a lot of appeal for those seeking the full, seedy Vegas experience. But, as with all things Vegas, there’s money to be made and lost and that leads to rivalry.
In the early 2000s, Lily of the Valley ministries had to request an order of protection from the Garden of Love chapel because of threats and harassment directed at employees and customers. The Garden of Love is one of the most famous chapels in Vegas.
Two years earlier, there were death threats and vandalism running rampant. Owners of one chapel might curse out couples who chose another chapel and people’s cars were being pelted with paintballs. At the center of those accusations was, once again, the Garden of Love.
2. Chinatown Bus Rivalries Led to Drive Bys and Stabbings
The last thing anyone wants to experience on a bus ride is a drive-by, but that’s how bad things got in the early 2000s when competition between Chinatown bus companies offering curbside service up and down the East Coast got ugly.
The first company started offering $25 trips to Boston but competition horned in and prices dropped in an effort to entice customers. Some offered fares as low as $10 which led to fist fights between rival employees.
In 2003, one driver left his employer to form his own company and was later gunned down in the street. Later this escalated to arsons, a stabbing and more shootings.
1. Canada Has a Massive Tow Truck Turf War Problem
Despite their reputation as being polite, Canadians are far from immune to angry turf wars as well. Canada’s disputes exist in the world of tow trucks, complete with ties to organized crime and murder. In 2020, Toronto police laid 200 charges in response to a long-standing war between rival companies. Not that anything stopped because of it.
With little regulation in the business, police often call a tow truck on a first come first serve basis for accidents. That means rivals can literally race to get a call and tow a wreck. Because they use police scanners, trucks can sometimes even beat police to the scene of an accident and tow it before cops arrive.
Police have been charged with extortion and bribery as well, getting involved and what is a lucrative industry that involves kickbacks from auto repair shops and others, all at the expense of drivers.