Paris: Some Things Never Change
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.