Seen from Paris, blog about Paris
You thought Parisians are witty, arrogant, bitching about everything and anything, obsessed with food and culture, and always up for discussion? Well... you're perfectly right! And you're on the right page to check it out.
With over 25 millions visitors each year, tourism has grown to be a major source of income for the City of Lights. A financial opportunity for all kinds of frauds…
Here is a list of tricks regularly performed in Paris, mostly with tourists. Why with tourists? Because tourists are more likely to give away money, they are paying less attention as they stroll around day dreaming in one of the wolrd’s most beautiful city, they often have cash on them and, of course, these tricks only work once, so locals already know. We will not be addressing street sales here; even though the illegal aliens that sell Eiffel Towers key chains and bottles of water are breaking the law by doing it without a licence, they are really delivering a service and satisfying their client. We will only address frauds and thefts, which each and every visitor should be warned about.
The most common trick you will bump into around every major attraction is the “Charity Fraud”. At the Louvre, Notre-Dame or the Eiffel Tower, young girls, pretending to be deaf and mute, will ask you to sign a petition for deaf and mute people. Once you sign it, they ask you for money for the cause. Needless to say, there is no cause, no petition, and they are not deaf and mute -if you stick around long enough, a few minutes, you will hear them talk to each other. This Deaf & Mute trick is performed almost only by gipsies, and these girls are working for older gipsies who pretty much get the cash at the end of the day. Gipsies are not however the only ones to do charity Fraud. Some Africans also do it at the Louvre; same concept, except that they want you to sign petitions for peace in their country. However, if you look especially unaware of urban habits, the gypsy version can only be a diversion. While one or two of the girls are keeping your attention on the petition sheet in front of your face, another one could be trying to visit your bag or your pocket. The best way to avoid this is to simply smile and say “non merci”. Twice, because once is never enough.
Another very common trick is the “Golden Ring” trick. Let’s face it, in Paris, Bilbo would never had found the ring, and Gollum would go nuts seeing the precious all over the city. The idea is simple: as you walk a touristy area, some unknown passer-by stops you and tells you that you just dropped a… Gold Ring. After checking that Sauron’s eye out of Mordor doesn’t see you, you realize: but, hey! I don’t have a gold ring. The Passer-by, who usually is a gypsy, will then let you have if you share the money. A gold ring being worth 20 euros, as everybody knows, he or she will offer 5 for you to keep it. This trick does sound preposterous, yet it’s been around for over 10 years now, and sometimes, walking up from the Louvre to the Champs-Elysées, you will feel like a gold egg hen laying down half a dozen gold rings. And, it hurts to admit it, the only person I know who ever felt for it was my grandmother. Twice. So in case you wonder, nope, it’s copper. She actually went to a jewelry shop to check it out. Twice.
A very local trick in my neighborhood is the thread bracelet trick. If you are going to Montmartre and you take the cable car, you will bump into smiling Africans at the bottom of the hill. Still smiling, they will grab your arm and start weaving a thread bracelet on your wrist. At this point, there’s no money involved; but there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and once you are stuck with the bracelet and you can no longer take off, you are being asked for money. If you don’t want to pay, then the smile goes away and you are being demanded to pay. Intimidation is part of the trick, and can make it a very unpleasant experience during your stay. Again, the best way to avoid it is to say Non Merci before they start working on your wrist.
Finally, as visitors, you are the primary targets for pickpockets. Lines in touristy areas as well as the metro is their preferred hunting grounds. But what you might not expect is their age. In the metro, you will be dealing with groups of 2 to 5 young girls, usually from Serbia, age 13 to 16, often pregnant. They are of course part of a network (like the infamous Ahmidovic clan) who forces the kids to steal in the metro, and uses the fact they are underage, which in France results in the fact that they will often escape prosecution. If you are being stopped for no reason as you walk off or in the metro cars, or in a crowded staircase, you may have your pockets visited by young and agile hands. Be very careful, they are talented in both stealing and spotting out the perfect careless visitor… Be also careful in not letting anyting on a table at a café terrasse; packs of 5/6 8 years old kids walk the streets of Paris scanning the terrasses and while some of them create a diversion, others grab money, smartphones and whatnots everywhere they can. The best way to avoid unpleasant adventures is not to take any risk and keep your belonging safe.
Hopefully this report will be useful. As a tour guide, I had several bad experiences with visitors who got their credit cards and passports stolen during their stay, and it can really ruin your trip. Bare in mind also that these people are themselves victims of a system, so do not be rude at them, but firmly make them understand that you will not fall for it.