Don't know how many of you subscribe towww.fodors.com, but we enjoy readinga lot of the information posted there. We couldn't help but chuckle when we read this article on travel and tourist "scams." We especially enjoyed reading #3http://www.fodors.com/news/story_2849.html. It must have been the Fall of 1998, since France converted from the Franc to Euro in 1999. We were in Paris and heading from the Tulleries across thefoot bridge above the Seine to visit the Musee d'Orsay. No doubt to any observer we were tourists.....we had stopped to take some photos ofone of the Bateaus-Mouches tour boats.
When we turned around,a young ladywas standing a few feet behind us andbending down to pick up an object. She stood and extended her her hand and asked in English (should have been our first tip), "if we had dropped this ring?" She was modestly dressed with no make up and wore a sweet and innocent smile. WesaidNo, the ring was not ours. She looked all around and said she had not seen anyone else walking in the immediate area and she had no idea to whom she could return it.We started to walk away and continue on to the museum. She called out and ask if we might be interested in giving her a few Francs in exchange for the "gold" ring. She said she was in need money and had no idea of where she could sell it, since she did not know the rightful owner......my wife immediately said "NO", but, of course, I thought therewas an opportunity for profit. So we haggleda bit and I finally offered her a few Francs (probably $7 or $8 at the time).
Well...you know the rest of the story....the ring wasn't "gold," as I confirmed when we returned homeand I made no profit.....I only paid too much for a piece of "gold colored"base metal. The ring, which is now discolored in several shades of grey, green and black, holds a place of honor...inour safety deposit boxin the same envelope asourpassports. Whenever we are preparing for a trip abroad, we see the ring and jointly remind ourselves of the potential for "scams" when traveling in tourist infested regions. It was a good lesson to learn and not all that costly when compared to other situation we might encountered.
Who else hasbeen caught in scams as a traveler.....go ahead admit it!
Omegaet: Great story. Very Interesting. We were always taught to try to learn a few words in the country's language that basically meant "please leave me alone". In most cases (especially Europe and Eastern European countries) that worked well. The most annoying were the people dancing around you with little children. By saying a few words in the language, most people leave us alone.
This must be the oldest trick in the book. This past Spring, when our friends visited us in Paris, not far from the Hotel Regina in the arcades of the Rue de Rivoli, they had the same trick played on them. Our friends took the baite and gave the girl pocket change, maybe 3 or 4 dollars only to find out later when they took the ring to a jewler, that it was a fake. Then just before we returned to Paris in late June, another girl came up to us playing the same story on us. I had her hand me the ring, and the ring felt quite heavy, and looked rather real, but we declined and walked on, only to see her play the same trick on the next unsuspecting tourists. So, funtimes, watch out for this trick when you go to Paris next Spring.
LL-Travelfanif not the oldest, the ring scam or some variation of it ranks in the top ten. And it is amazing that so many people fall for it over and over again after having heard about it and having been warned about it. In our case, as I previously mentioned, the ring has served us well as a reminder to take up a more defensive posture when traveling, especially on long haul trips involving several time zones and totally different cultures.
Problems with currency exchange has been simplified in much of Europe with the introduction of the Euro (it still can get a bit complicated when trying to figure out how many ARS, BZD, BOB, BRL, CLP, COP, CRC, DOP, GTQ, MXN, NIO, PYG, or VEB there are to a USD or Euro.and thats just wandering around Central and South America).
We also find ourselves being much more attentive to our hand baggage, cameras and backpacks, as we move about (still we notice so many travelers carrying so much unnecessary gear and setting themselves up as targets).
It is further unsettling to read more and more about the highly organized grifters working major tourist destinations. Being the target of a pickpocket incident or stolen camera, purse or hand luggage is disheartening and tends to put a damper on your trip.
Whenever possible, we also try to employ the services of a guide or shared guide to assist in keeping us out of trouble (at least early in our travels to understand the pitfalls and problem areas as much as to enjoy the amplification they can bring to the experience).
Amazingly, I seem to have escaped either hearing about (or being a victim of) this particular scam on my travels.
The most common scam I've encountered is the notorious 'double tip' in many European restaurants (which is beginning to creep over into the UK). This is when they append an 'optional service charge' to the bill but still leave a blank spot for the tip, hoping to trick you into tipping twice. When you've had a few glasses of wine, it's easy to miss this.
The worst food-related scam I've encountered was at an upscale restaurant in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where a waitress walked around offering people chocolates to taste -- and then came back around asking for payment! I didn't pay, though I did see some other people get guilt-tripped into paying when she started going on about how the cost would come out of her salary if we didn't pay -- I don't like to be harsh but IMO this was poetic justice for the deception involved in presenting the chocolates as free samples in the first place.
Hi Jashermd. Do you mean when you have already paid (or its included in your bill such as the 15% service charge) and then then have a space on the bill for EXTRA TIP? We just found this in Costa Rica and never had seen it. We paid the 15% service charge in our bill and then there was another line for EXTRA TIP? Anyone else have this? I personally wasn't impressed with this.
we had a similar experience at the restaurant at our hotel we stayed during our ski vacation this past january in val thorens, france. the somellier came around telling everybody about this exceptional old bottle of spanish port and how we should try it. my husband said ok, and i said, no, just a tiny bit as a taste. he got about an ounce worth, and i about a table spoon. however, at the end of our stay, we had a charge of $50 on our bill for special aged port. we paid it, but thought this was trickery and did not appreciate the way this was presented. now, we always ask how much?
Yes, I mean when there's a discreet (sometimes very, very discreet ...as in 5-point type) 12-15% service charge added to the bill before the subtotal, and then there's an additional blank space marked 'tip.' I've fallen for it a few times but now I always double-check. This is ubiquitous all over Europe (both France and Italy are particularly bad) and is becoming more and more common in the UK -- beware!
LL-travelfan, your port experience sounds even worse than my chocolate one -- at least the chocolates were only about 50 rand (around 3-4). It was the principle of the thing that bothered me more than anything else. I hope the port was good (I love port, but I wouldn't love paying $50 for a 'taste'!).
After getting hit several times over the year to try or taste something special and then getting dinged with a charge for this at the end of the evening/vacation... I have learned to immediately ask if there is a specific chargewhen someone askes us if we would liketaste! This happens alot when tasting tequilas in Mexico. All the sudden, the taste of tequila can cost you $30.00 for a swallow!
Hi Jashermd. Sounds like the same thing we had in Costa Rica with the 15% added and then another line for "EXTRA TIP". I felt guilty about not putting something in all the time. It seems like it was expected? We didn't ask anyone else if they did it.