It was 5am and I was being woken up by my hostel roommates who thought sleeping was for the weak. To be fair, I agreed. What started as showing my friend around Amsterdam for her first time turned into a three day bender. To put it in perspective, including the past hour I had just slept, I was running on a total of 9 hours for the whole weekend. I can’t help it, I think we can all just agree that there is something hypnotizing about Amsterdam. But aside from my debauchery filled weekend, I had a train to catch and was a couple hours away from Paris, where I instantly fell for my first travel scam.
I was making my way from Amsterdam Centraal station to Paris Nord station on a Thalys train. I had done the route before and knew it would be a comfy, relatively quick ride which meant I could sit back and sleep my sins away.
Once in Paris, my two girlfriends and I were waiting in line at the metro station to purchase a 24 hour metro pass. A man approached us kindly offering his assistance. He showed us his RATP (the local public transportation company) badge and even had a makeshift uniform. In the past I noticed workers offering their assistance in major railway stations to travelers and simply assumed this was the same situation. WRONG. SO DAMN WRONG!
Something about this guy rubbed me the wrong way, but we were in a hurry, I was VERY cranky that specific morning, and I ignored my gut (which NEVER works out). Plus there were a ton of people around despite it being so early and I once again assumed that there was no way this guy would screw us with so many people standing in line right next to us. WRONG.
He asked what kind of tickets we were looking for and quickly choose three 24 hour day passes from the machine. I watched him choose the tickets and he told us that it would cost us €80 altogether. But something still felt off and that seemed expensive for three 24 hr passes. My girlfriends and I for a moment started talking about whether or not we should just wait in line or if that number added up.
NOW HERE PEOPLE, HERE IS WHERE I SHOULD HAVE GONE AHEAD AND TOLD THIS DUDE TO GO SOMEWHERE WHERE THE SUN DON’T SHINE.
Keyword being SHOULD HAVE.
This guy noticed our reluctance and instantly started rushing us to make our decision, telling us he was busy and if we couldn’t make up our minds he had to go help somebody else. Right here is the moment that my red flag should have gone ahead and slapped me in the damn face. But it didn’t.
I will ABSOLUTELY admit that I 100% felt pressured to wrap this up for all of our conveniences. When in reality I should have been like:
“I’m sorry SIR but you can give me a minute to figure this out with my girlfriends, if you want to go and help someone else THEN GO RIGHT AHEAD BUDDY.”
Then accompanied by some brash hand gestures I would glare at him VERY aggressively. Man, looking back I wish I had been way more badass in that very moment. Truthfully speaking though, I was exhausted and I just wanted the situation to be over so I could get to a warm shower. He had our tickets on the screen, even in French I could see the 24 and once again assumed that all was right. We gave him the cash and he chose our tickets, it all happened so quickly neither my girlfriends or I noticed him swapping anything.
THIS PARTICULAR MAN COULD PROBABLY CONSIDER A MAJOR CAREER CHANGE AND BECOME A MAGICIAN INSTEAD. Damn magic hands over here.
He handed us our tickets, we used them to get to into the subway station and we were off, no issue, making our way to the hostel. Sure enough a couple of hours later however, we go to use the passes….nothing. Turnstile isn’t budging. Right away everything came together like a puzzle. Him rushing us, him doing the transaction in French, even him noticing our backpacks, and choosing us as easy targets, it was all so clear to me. JUST….2 hours too late… This Parisian magician in the blink of an eye must have canceled out the transaction, had these tickets handy and faked getting them out of the dispenser. Passing off three single ride children’s tickets, making himself quite a profit.
That was it, as quickly as that short interaction took place I managed to fall for (realizing now) a very obvious travel scheme….
Now, I know at this point I sound completely naive and wide eyed. Some of you are maybe even reading each line yelling “No Chantel” or wincing at my trust in people. But I had done my research, and after 27 countries I considered myself a somewhat seasoned, informed traveler. I kept up to date researching scams and I had avoided situations in the past. But the reality of the matter was that on that very morning I wasn’t my sharp self and QUITE LITERALLY paid for it.
What did I learn from this experience?
Well, it certainly taught me to always be alert. Want to avoid a travel scam? Be alert, take your time, think things through, and never assume. I was off of my game that day and didn’t listen to my gut. I wasn’t perceptive and didn’t take in all of those little hints that something fishy was happening. I fell for a situation that was easily avoidable and could have been SIGNIFICANTLY LESS EXPENSIVE. Maybe this is where I remind you to avoid sleepless wild weekends in Amsterdam with your mates before an early train ride….
Oh who am I kidding? That would never be the case. 😂
What I DO want to do is to remind you that travel scams really do happen guys. In some cases, it can be a lot worse than losing €80. It’s all good and fun to enjoy yourself in these new places but don’t let that throw you off your game. These nasty crooks are always coming out with new ways to scam travelers. If you know of any scams or even fell for one once I want to hear about it in the comments!
Stay alert my peeps!