Paris: Some Things Never Change

by Rebecca
(Australia)

Some things never change, and some scams are the same today as they were years ago. Knowing that makes them easier to spot.

I can sympathise with many of the scams listed on this wonderful website. As almost all of you have said, there is nothing disastrous, it's an inconvenience and does make us say "....BOTHER!" under our breath.

I have mainly travelled solo since 1980 when I was a wide-eyed teenager. The following scams were happening in Paris in 1980, and are still happening now - with obviously a lot of success (I was last in Paris only 6 months ago).

Walking along the Seine, a young guy is walking towards me. He flicks a "gold" ring onto the path in front of him (I only know he threw the ring because I have seen it so many times). He picks it up, and calls me over. "Madame! A gold ring! Would you believe it? Look! It's too small for me - perhaps it will fit your hand? Oh my goodness! it fits! you keep it for good luck." As you walk away with the "gold" ring, he will then follow you and ask you for a few euros, so he can eat. Since 1980, I just keep walking, and don't give them time for their spiel. The gypsies who do this scam are generally harmless, but on my last trip to Paris I saw a very elderly couple getting taken in by this (she had her purse out and was about to pay him 100 euros for the "gold" ring.) As I walked by them, the older gentleman looked at me and I just shook my head, and kept walking. The gypsy realised what I had done, and he screamed abuse at me for the next 2 blocks. I just kept shrugging and ignoring him, but I did wonder if he was going to get violent. He was FURIOUS. He eventually ran off when 2 police got out of their car nearby.

The OTHER scam in Paris was a young girl asking me to take her photo. (I have since seen this one at a million photo spots around Paris. This one happened to me at the Eiffel Tower.) As I lifted the camera I held it away from my eyes as I was wearing sunglasses. I noticed on the bit of metal at the back of the camera (this was obviously prior to digital cameras!) there was a reflection of someone who was VERY close behind me. I spun around and took his photo - the fellow had his arm out reaching for my bag. They both ran off. I still saw this scam going on around the Eiffel Tower 6 months ago. The young girl will be tossing her hair, and calling out "Have you got the whole top of the tower in?" etc etc. The person is concentrating so much on the picture they don't notice the hands of the accomplice slipping inside their bag.

My last scam is about taxis. My story is quite different because I have never been taxi scammed in the USA, Great Britain, or anywhere in Europe. However, back in my home country of Australia, I was very disappointed with a couple of "experiments" with taxi drivers in two of the major cities. I have a slight English accent (I'm an Aussie but have lived in the UK on and off). Returning home after holidays I have got into taxis at the airports and pretended I didn't know where my destination was. My 20 minute taxi ride in Melbourne turned into 2.5 hours (I watched him circle the city 3 times, before I let him know I was actually living there. He pulled over and insisted I get out of his taxi NOW (lots of expletives used). And my Brisbane driver headed North for 40 minutes on the freeway, before looping off and heading towards the coast, then turning around and finally heading in the correct direction. As we approached the city centre I asked him to let me out, and as I got out I said I would be catching a taxi from the city with a driver who knew where they were going. He didn't argue.

Definitely do your homework first on taxi fares and let them know you know how much it should be. Politely, of course.

I do need to balance this with a Good Taxi Story though - on one trip to New York I was very unwell with a bad cold. The taxi driver took me to Grand Central station, then carried my bag into the station to the ticket counter, then walked with me to the platform for Connecticut. He point blank refused the fare and a tip. (No New Yorker believes that story, but it is the truth!) His reason was that his daughter travels solo a lot, and she only ever meets kind people. He said he saw this as his opportunity to reciprocate.

Comments for Paris: Some Things Never Change

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Sep 20, 2012
Chicago scam!
by: Anonymous

My hubby and I were visiting Chicago. While standing at an intersection waiting for the crossing sign one evening, my hubby asked if I knew which direction we should go for a particular store. I said I wasn't sure. Never realizing anyone around us was listening, we kept walking and talking about it. At the next crosswalk, a gentleman very nicely said "Hello" asking if we were visitors. Thinking he was a well-dressed, nice mid-westerner, we said "yes" and had a brief, pleasant conversation about the city while we walked. He asked where we were heading and said he was going somewhat in the direction and would point us in the right direction at the next intersection. Needless to say, no matter how much we declined, he insisted and continued to walk with us. When we arrived at the next intersection, he pointed in the direction of the store and asked us for a small token of appreciation for his trouble so he could get a train home to his family. We said "No thanks" several times until he became upset and handed him a few $ just to get away and avoid the possibility of a violent encounter. He wasn't happy with the amount, but still left us, yelling his displeasure as he walked away. Although we travel OFTEN, we felt like naive, 50-year-old travelers, just because we thought we met a nice person. Next time we encounter such plesantry, we will find a reason to go the opposite direction!

Jul 30, 2012
My own Good Taxi Story
by: Women on the Road

Let me add my own Good Taxi Story. Many years ago in London I stayed at a hostel and forgot my beloved suede jacket. I realized this near the airport and the cabbie, seeing my distress, offered to go get it and mail it to me. I gave me my address but never expected anything to happen - until about a month later, when my suede jacket turned up in my mailbox!

As for scams, many haven't changed - they've just been perfected a little bit. And why should they change? They seem to work every time. I've been taken in a few times, and however travel-wise I might get in old age, I'll probably still be taken in. Mostly it's because I think the best of people and tend to trus them. If I have to walk around distrusting everyone the unhappiest person will be myself.

That said, I'm also cautious, so while I might occasionally get scammed, it doesn't happen very often. I understand poverty and feel great compassion for people who have less than I do, and gratitude for what I do have. But I also prefer to provide help and support my way, at a time of my choosing - and not because I've been tricked into it. That will never get me to loosen my purse strings.

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