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Istanbul Shoebrush Drop

Really more a petty annoyance than a scam, but:

Walking in Istanbul this week, someone passes us and I hear something fall behind us. I turn, this guy has lost a shoeshine brush. So good helpful people that we are, we call, he stops, profusely thanks us and takes it, thanks us some more, takes my hand to shake it, and at the same time he is getting the brush and polish out and going for my shoes, which, BTW, are cloth running shoes.

We saw this happen at least twice more, the brush was not carelessly lost but surreptitiously let go from the hand whole passing someone. Told one of the folks who went for the brush what would happen next, shoeshine guy cursed me.

(My apologies if this is here somewhere already, but it is too much trouble searching on our travel iPad)

Posted by
24855 posts

Didn't try to pick pocket you at the same time?

Posted by
2164 posts

Wife and I outnumbered him 2-1, and he had his other arm filled with his shoe-shine kit.

Just don't get me started on the number of young men who cheerfully asked what we needed to find, where we were from, always knew someone from there, and just had to get us to their relative's shop instead. Started telling them we were looking for the Eiffel Tower, that usually worked. Interesting that it was always me they addressed this to and not my wife.

Posted by
448 posts

This happened to me in Istanbul last year. The guy dropped his brush, I picked it up and handed it to him, he offered a free shoe shine, and I refused. It is unclear what the actual scam is. Does he hard sell for a tip?

Posted by
4664 posts

Yeah, do an unnecessary shoeshine, charge for it, and try to get a tip with a sob story.

Posted by
7204 posts

Sounds rather harmless. If that's the worst that happens (asking for a tip) and the guy is actually willing to shine/clean your shoes a bit then good for him. I'm laughing to myself thinking how much worse this could be if it were in the streets of Paris.

Posted by
20966 posts

Worse in the streets of Paris ?? Give me a break. The guys are hustling a shoe shine, a tips, a few dollars. It is a way of life, part of the experience. Firm "No" and keep walking does the trick all the time. Unfortunately in the process of making people aware of potential problems we almost increase the suspicion that everyone is out to get you.

Posted by
7204 posts

Yep, I meant the streets of Paris...why do you need a break?

Posted by
518 posts

We were Istanbul a few years back and saw lots of shoe shine folks out and about but never had an actual encounter. My wife and I are ethnic Chinese and speak Cantonese to each other and I'm wondering if we are approached less (whether for a scam or a legitimate sales opportunity) because of this. In other words, they assume we don't speak English and they don't speak Cantonese so pass us up for someone that does. This is not just in Istanbul but other parts of Europe.

Posted by
2900 posts

Sounds like the Turkish version of the Squeegee Man.