If you have planned a trip to Europe, you probably have been warned of pickpockets and scammers. These warnings are appropriate. One morning as we were walking to the Musee d’Orsay, some space opened up between Aubyron and me and Bob and Joe. As Aubyron and I looked ahead we saw a woman try the ring scam on the guys. I was so jealous. I wanted to have a scam attempted on me. I felt like my Parisian experience would be incomplete without one.
I was explaining this to Aubyron when it happened. The same woman walked toward us, bent down and scooped up a gold ring which she found right in front of us. I was so excited! I did what you’re supposed to do and walked past saying a simple, “No,” without making eye contact, which is the Parisian way. My heart was racing as I checked another experience off my list.
In case you don’t know, the premise of the ring scam is that the scammer finds the ring near the scammie. She asks you if it is yours and you say it is not. The kind-hearted scammer tells you that it’s not hers either. She shows you a mark that indicates it’s gold and since it must be worth something, offers for you to take the ring and sell it. Of course, she suggests that you give her a wad of your hard-earned cash as a way of splitting this amazing find.
I found it hard to believe that anyone would actually fall for this. Doesn’t everybody read Rick Steves’ Tourist Scams and Rip-Offs in Europe? Aren’t we all suspicious of everyone nowadays?
Hours later as we crossed a bridge and headed back home we came across this same woman. (Evidently scammers have long shifts.) I saw her pull a middle-age couple into her scheme. The wife was obviously being duped while the husband stood back trying to assess the situation. We went a little past them, and I looked over my shoulder and saw she still had them in her clutches. I made a wide U-ie and circled back gaining the husband’s attention. “Be careful. It’s a scam,” I mouthed to him and turned back to catch up with my family.
He moved in, took his wife by the arm and walked away. I experienced the same exhilaration I had that morning, which came in handy because now this woman was following us. I wasn’t afraid. She was a tiny woman and I felt like I could take her, but it still kind of gave me the willies. I wanted no part of a brouhaha while crossing the Seine.
I didn’t understand everything she said, or should I say every name she called me, but there were definite slurs mixed with words that are universally insulting. She made it clear that she was mad that I had kept her from earning money. How’s that for irony? She called me a pig and sushi, which must be more insulting in French than in English. And that unspoken French rule of no eye contact – that was out the window.
But, c’est la vie. I love Paris! The city makes you feel so alive.