A different scam in Paris?

So we saw people falling for the friendship bracelet scam at Sacre Coeur (my solution - keep my arms crossed) and talked to some Canadians who fell victim to the diamond ring scam (but only to the tune of 10euro or so)...but here is what happened to us... We were heading with our luggage up an escalator at a subway stop (carry-ons, so not very hard to carry) - I usually get on ahead of my husband, but he beat me to the front. Now, there were no other people around and these two girls (maybe 18-19) get on a few steps behind. I had just happened to turn and look back to make sure my luggage was on the step just as the girls were getting on - one of them bends down and hit the emergency stop button...it took me about 5 sec to realize that it wasn't bad luck on our part that the esca stopped and to process that the girl had hit the button. My husband was already hiking it to the top and they came up on me pretty fast and started grabbing my bag to 'help me'. I was very emphatic that they not touch my bag and hustled up the steps - at the top, I double checked to make sure nothing was gone. Now, maybe they were just going to ask for money at the top for helping to carry the bag, or maybe the other girl was gonna get into my pockets (that had nothing in them but a used kleenex...lol) while the 1st 'helped' me. Just something to look out for...and not 5 min before at another stn I had a guy try to help me carry my bag up the steps - again to an emphatic 'NO' so I guess I was on high alert.
Anyone else have this happen?

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4762 posts

I often offer to help carry bags, getting them in and out of trains, up steps. It isn't always a scam. If you look like you are struggling, some people are just nice.

Posted by Emily
256 posts

That is true, Jo. But someone who truly does want to help will ask you if it is alright first.

Posted by Ellen
Centennial, CO, USA
1394 posts

It is a scam. They are looking to get money from you for "helping". This happened to us in Italy last month. Getting on a train with 2 bike cases and our carry on luggage, I got on first with the carry ons and my hubby was putting the bike cases on the train. A gal grabbed one of the bike cases and "helped" my husband. He said "Thank You" but didn't need the help or ask for the help. We found our seats on the train and she came on the train with hand out asking for money for "helping us". We didn't' ask her and in the US, we would do this for anyone who was struggling (and we do it in Europe if someone needs help) but we don't then ask for money. We didn't give her any money, as we had just arrived and had no small bills. While I realize that this is a method for people to make money (like beggars anywhere) Helping another human being is just something we could do naturally and not ask for money in return) Even if offered, we've refused money for helping someone else. So, you are right in saying "no" and making sure your possessions are safe.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

"not 5 min before at another stn I had a guy try to help me carry my bag up the steps - again to an emphatic 'NO' " The girls do seem to have been up to no good. But was it necessary to give an "emphatic 'NO'" when you encountered the man? Seems to me that a smile and a "No, thank you" should have been sufficient, kind of giving him the benefit of the doubt. Lots of men have been raised to offer assistance to women, and like Jo, I often help people with bags and such, too. Perhaps the language barrier kept him from asking if you needed help.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
711 posts

Well - he wasn't the sort that would help you with the bags at a hotel - he looked pretty 'slick' if you know what I mean, and I was not at all struggling with my 1 measly bag...that being said, my husband and I were speaking with an elderly British fellow not long before asking us which way to go for a certain stop - then he proceeded down the stairs to the subway with one huge bag, then would have to come back for the other huge bag, but my husband carried it down for him since he had a free hand. And I helped some people carry a stroller down the stairs in London...but when your gut tells you something is wrong with the person (tho it is probably the one who looks 'normal' that'll get ya in the end)

Posted by Mark
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
144 posts

Good reaction Nicole. This summer has been a disaster in Europe. Western Europe is a magnet for people from poorer countries that can move freely since Schengen.
In addition, the Arab spring has left 1000s of young people without jobs that make their way to Europe. I just watched a round table on Swiss TV. The authorities are at a loss trying to juggle between respecting human rights and protecting the population.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

Well I think there is a difference between scams and personal safety. The bracelet and ring scams in Paris are easy to avoid, I have done so many time, oh yes, I have seen them. I also see total SUCKERS who play that three cup ball thing, its a total scam too.
The ring scam is sole based on a persons GREED they are tricked into thinking they are getting something very valuable for 10 euros. Those are common scams, and yes there are also pickpockets, really none of these things HURT you. So when a solo lady says "is Paris safe" I have no problem saying yes, most areas are safe most times(anyone who walks down dark deserted alleys late at night alone had better remember human nature is what it is no matter where you are in the world, there are always predators, so be aware) At least there are no drive by shootings that I am aware of..

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

All of the drive by shootings are in places like Vancouver, BC and Scarborough, ON (oh, and most recently in Paris, a synagogue).

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

Michael I totally agree with you, so don't go thinking I think I live in nirvana, I certainly am well aware of our issues, so if a tourist asks if Vancouver is safe I say " in some areas, not so much in other areas" . We joke about places like Surrey in Vancouver, its like murder capital. There are however almost no pickpockets, but MUGGING and purse snatchings, another story perhaps.
So yes, I do feel safer in Paris then in many places closer to homes. PS My own city has got an issue with crack heads and the walking dead, meth heads. I would warn tourist there are definately areas to be cautious in, at night definately, but the creep factor in the day is something else too.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

And Michael the shooting in Paris was an anomaly and it was most definately not the latest drive by shooting in the civilized world, that was months ago, pretty sure there have been shootings in the good ole USA since then , don't you agree.
See Canadians have no problems admitting we have some sketchy places, CAN you ?

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Yes, I can. I have no problem agreeing with you that there are most certainly sketchy places in Canada.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2380 posts

Back on subject... You know "helping" is a scam if after a polite "no," they insist. And it's not even a scam per say, it's just a way for them to try and make some money without just begging. Also, hitting the stop button on the escalater would be a big tipoff. I've helped people carry their bags up the stairs to the L or onto trains. Partly cause I'm a nice guy and partly cause if they are struggling, all of us behind them are delayed...