In Paris, the hustle is always on.
From the pickpockets on the subway to the trinket peddlers at the Eiffel Tower…
This is a city that knows how to spot a mark.
Yesterday, Evan and I were tired, cold, and hungry after walking the streets in the rain for three hours…
So we decided to stop at a pizza place jammed into the winding streets that surround the Sacré-Cœur.
I should have known better, because all the warning signs were there:
The pitchman out front… “Come in! Come in! Have lunch!”
The piano player listlessly hacking out the hits…
Even the location itself screamed hustle.
And sure enough: We got hustled.
$45 Euros for a basic pizza, a nasty cheese plate, and two drinks. We’ve had much better meals for a quarter of the price.
And we were pitched through the entire meal.
Tip for the piano player? No thanks.
Want dessert? Coffee? No thanks.
Something to go? No thanks.
I felt lucky to get out alive with my vital organs intact.
We also got hit by the famous bracelet con, but I didn’t fall for it.
If you’re not familiar, here’s how it goes:
As you’re walking along, sightseeing and taking pictures, a guy come up to you and wraps a colored piece of string around your finger before you know what’s happening. He’s talking the whole time, trying to distract you with some clever banter (“Where you from? America? Land of the free!”) while quickly turning the string into a friendship bracelet that is suddenly and conveniently tied around your wrist.
If you try to protest he will tell you “No charge, just small donation” but at the end of the day, they want $5 Euro for these useless string bracelets.
They seem to target kids and women especially.
Evan got hit at the Sacré-Cœur, and again at the Eiffel Tower. He’s taken to walking around with his hands jammed into his pockets.
I’m guessing it’s a really effective con.
They assume you won’t want to argue or protest (especially since it’s already tied around your wrist) and if you do protest, their command of the English language suddenly vanishes.
Another popular con (which we avoided) is the petition scam. We were crossing the street by Notre Dame the other day when a young girl approached us and shoved a clipboard in my face and said, “Won’t you help the blind and dumb children?”
There were a few signatures to indicate that it was indeed a petition, but the rest was all in French. And of course not only do they want a signature, but they also want some Euros to go with it.
I simply pretended I myself was blind and dumb, and we quickly escaped.
The one con that I can respect and get behind is the guys who sell cheap plastic selfie sticks at the Eiffel Tower for $5 Euros.
Yes it’s a rip off, but I can respect the hustle…
I doubt there’s a place on the planet more suitable for a selfie stick, and kudos to these guys for spotting the opportunity.