Sunday, October 20, 2013


Thieves and tourists, in Paris, they go together.  If there were no tourists there would be fewer thieves.  Before arriving in Paris, I had read about several scams run by different groups of gypsies, usually women and girls who target tourists, especially Americans.  Let me say up front that we were not victims, but several times young girls tried the “Petition Scam”.  It goes something like this.  Usually a teen aged girl approaches you and asks, “Do you speak English.”.  If you stop and answer she asks you to sign a petition on some social issue, which she has with her with some signatures already on it.  Once she has you stopped, the other girls in the group surround the victim and will attempt to pickpocket them.  The best option is when approached just say “NO” very loudly or “GO AWAY”.

While the ladies shopped, Hansjorg and I were waiting outside of Galeries Lafayette, a high end department store. the girls approached us.  “NO, NO, GO AWAY”, and they left us alone.  So we watched them for a while.  They seemed to be targeting tourists, especially the Chinese.  As the Chinese become more affluent and travel more, they are becoming the new victim.  They often opt not to use credit cards, thus carry large sums of money.  We watched as they stopped a tall Chinese man and surrounded him.  He finally escaped the circle of girls, but I don’t know if they took anything.  Many of the girls were spitting on the ground as they milled about in front of the store.  One girl was taking the pen that she would hand the victim to sigh with and was sticking it in her nose.  First one nostril, twirling it around and then the other.

We spoke with a store security man who came outside and he explained to us that most of the girls were from Romania and told us how their scam worked.  He told us that sometimes they do get arrested, but that the courts just let them go.  They must be successful because we saw them in other areas of the city that were frequented by tourists.

I had fun photographing them and warning potential victims of their scam.  One older woman confronted me, telling me no to take photos.  I just yelled back at her that I would take as many photos as I wanted.  Eventually the girls moved on, but we later saw them again down the street in front of a cathedral doing the same thing.

On a narrow pedestrian street below Sacre Coeur we saw the “Three Card Monte” gang.  Every couple of hundred feet, one would be operating with his cohorts.  Someone working with him would play the game and win every time, but when the unsuspecting tourist played the game, somehow they would lose.  Go, figure.

Many Americans think the French are rude.  We never experienced this, in fact our experience was just the opposite.  They were helpful when we asked directions and almost always spoke English.  Once when wearing my backpack on a very crowded Metro when a woman said to me in English that it would be better if I took it off so I wouldn't hit anyone with it.  She was polite, not rude or demanding.  She was smiling when she made the suggestion.

I did happen to see an Ugly American.  We were in a very busy cafe for lunch.  The place was full and the waiter was moving quickly through the tables.  There was a group of older American women a table next to us.  As the waiter came by carrying food for another table, one of the women tried to get his attention.  He indicated that he saw her, but continued on with his tray of food.  The women then clapped her hands above her head trying to get his attention.  Of course he continued on with his task, while she had look of disgust on her face I can just imagine that when this woman got home, she told her family and friends how rude the French were.

The other rude people we saw were other tourists.  Waiting in line to go to a museum some would be pushy and cut in line.  While waiting in line at a toilet at the Louvre, one woman pushed Cathie out of the way and entered the toilet in front of her and 2 other women.  I guess she had to go.

So we had a good experience in Paris.  I'm sure some have experienced the opposite, but I bet they experienced the same in the United States.  Don't use such a broad brush in describing your bad experience.

1 comment:

diane vontungeln said...

I remember those bad girls!!