i’ve only watched a handful of episodes so far (Rio, Buenos Aires, New Delhi, and Bangkok), and while i love getting schooled on what to keep an eye out for (and a little bit of sociological insight), i have to say parts of this show verge on scaremongering (“During my time in Delhi, I’ve discovered this city is full of scammers.”). even i was beginning to doubt my desire to travel to some of these places!
watching these episodes i was thinking that luckily (and as far as i can tell), i was not scammed during my week-long stay in Buenos Aires, but i do recall two instances where i was scammed in the past, and it just so happened to have been in countries with Scam City episodes i have not yet watched: Turkey and Morocco.
i was walking around just outside of the heavily trafficked parts of Taksim when a kid no older than 16 carrying a shoeshine box and brushes walks past me and drops one of the brushes. i, being a nice guy, pick it up and call after the guy. i give it back and he thanks me by starting to shine my shoes (keep in mind, i’m wearing chuck taylors, which need no shining/cleaning). i say it’s not necessary because i know he’s gonna charge for his services, but no matter how insistent i was, he kept going. not to say that he didn’t do a decent job (i guess? i’ve never had sneakers shined before), but in the end, what i was willing to offer him just wasn’t good enough. i think i ended up paying him ₺10 or ₺12, about $6-7, after all the haggling was said and done.
i don’t remember if it was the tout who somehow picked me out over the course of several days to be one of his primary targets, or if it was someone else, but i got roped into having dinner at a place (where i was the only one there) for like $20-$30 (forgot exactly how much–could have been up to $40). there was a ton of food and i remember it being pretty decent, but that was over three times more than i was planning to spend. the only good part was that i took one of my favorite pictures while waiting for dinner to be served.
*knock on wood* that’s the extent of it, past and future! in both these cases, i probably could have gotten away with less out of pocket had i been more forceful with my objections, but that’s easier said than done and hopefully something that comes better with practice. (in my head i always imagine yelling out, “NO! I SAID NO!” and causing a scene, but i don’t know if that’s prudent or not.)
let’s face it. there aren’t many places outside of North America (and many places in it) and some European cities where i could pass as a local, so the truth is, i will continue to be the target of scams. i’m grateful that neither of these incidents were serious and that i’ve never had anything stolen (except a cell phone i left in a cab, coincidentally also in Fes). knowing what can happen can only go so far. the best defense in this case is, imho, well, a good defense. i try to walk with a purpose and keep an eye on my surroundings usually with my hands in my pockets safe on my wallet and phone. when someone approaches, my guard goes up and vigilance kicks into high gear. i’d rather be slightly less approachable and leave with my valuables (and dignity) intact!