We’re less than 24 hours into our trip, in Paris standing below the Eiffel Tower after finishing a cheesy selfie photo session. My daughter and I walk over to the corner where we’ll meet our tour bus in a few minutes. There’s a souvie shop there, so I browse postcards while we wait. I assume my daughter is nearby perusing the shop.
She wanders a few yards away and in a matter of minutes manages to break a cardinal rule of foreign travel.
I don’t know how this could happen.
During the months previous to the trip, the teacher sponsoring this educational European tour for students and chaperones held monthly meetings to prepare us. He insisted we refer to ourselves “travelers” not “tourists” because we were going to learn to be respectful guests rather than thoughtless, tacky Americans bashing around Europe annoyed that not everybody speaks our language.
We learned about cultures, customs and useful phrases in French and Italian. We were educated about international plumbing and warned to keep single Euro coins handy because when nature calls in Europe it’s not a toll-free number.
Of course, great attention was devoted to safety. With all that’s going on in the world these days it’s imperative to be prepared. We were organized into groups to keep track of each other, informed about pickpockets and gypsies and trained for emergencies. I even bought the concealed travel pouches to wear under our clothes to stash with copies of our passports, emergency numbers and cash.
We were prepared for anything – or so I thought.
When my daughter stepped out of the shop to take a few more pictures she was approached by two friendly teenage girls with a clipboard and a convincing spiel about a “worthy cause” and a “petition” to sign. Apparently, when we were taught about gypsies and pickpockets, my daughter assumed they would look sly and sinister or wear bohemian clothes and dance around shaking tambourines.
Sometimes they’re nice girls about your age who ask for a signature then convince you to pledge twenty Euro for their cause.
Yep, my daughter got duped.
Out of her concealed pouch she pulled the fifty Euro bill I’d given her that morning for souvenirs/gelato/ransom and handed it to these Eurobrats. No surprise, they didn’t give her thirty Euro in change back before they ran off. She walked over to me at the postcard stand and said, “Mom, I think I just got scammed.” She told me what happened and I confirmed her suspicion.
I tried not to be condescending when I asked her why the freak would she give personal information and money to a stranger in a foreign country?! I don’t care if they seem nice and legit, that’s International Travel No-No 101! Just so you know, if someone comes up to you in an airport and asks, “Will you take this duffle bag onto the plane for me?” the proper response is, NO!
Okay, so I didn’t come off as uncondescending as I meant to, but she got the point. And her souvenir money did purchase something to remember the trip by: an expensive and important life lesson.