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Someone returned home from a travel and said:

"They sure worked me!"

What does "work somebody" mean? Or what can this sentence possibly convey?

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"They sure worked me!"

Here, the definition of "work" is

... to make a person or animal do a job (Cambridge).

If you work someone, you make them spend time and effort doing a particular activity or job (Collins). It's definition 19.

They're working me too hard. I'm too old for this. [VERB noun adverb/preposition]

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I don't recall ever hearing "They sure worked me!" by itself being used previously, and a Bing search for "they sure worked me" doesn't show up much.

Possibility 1

I think the most likely interpretation is that the subject is the victim of a long-term scam while traveling. I didn't find a solid reference for this, but when a con artist is trying to trick someone using a long-term strategy, it's sometimes referred to as "working them". For example:

Unlike short-cons, romance scams involve working someone for money over an extended period.
Highya

The ones with the scam artists, the con men working their mark, the grift, the con, the flim flam, the hustle, the bamboozle.
Shmoop

In this sense, I would interpret "They sure worked me!" as meaning the scammers put a lot of effort into their scam (i.e., it was an elaborate scam), the victim was not particularly suspicious at the time, and the scammers succeeded or nearly succeeded.

Possibility 2

It's is a shortened form of the idiom:

They sure worked me to death.

where "worked to death" means:

To make someone or oneself work too hard or for excessively long hours.
The Free Dictionary

(Alternatively, there's also worked to the bone.)

It refers to a situation where you are required (e.g., by a boss or a spouse) to do a large amount of exhausting work. This might be suitable after a long and arduous work trip.

Possibility 3

It's a shortened version of the idiom:

They sure worked me over.

where "worked over" means:

  1. to threaten, intimidate, or beat someone.
  2. to give someone's body a thorough examination or treatment.
    The Free Dictionary

This might be suitable after being robbed while traveling. (In my opinion, this is not very likely.)

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  • For Possibility 2 I prefer AIQ's answer; “worked to death” is needlessly specific. Otherwise, good job. Dec 19 '19 at 2:43

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