Thursday, May 03, 2007

Honesty and Lost Rings in Paris

There are many, many honest people in Paris, certainly the great vast majority. But then again, there are some people in Paris of less means and morals who take advantage of us honest people.

Take advantage of honest people ?? Isn't there the old saying "You can't cheat an honest man?" This saying is quite true but let me tell you what happened to me and you can decide if I am honest or not.

Tuesday was May 1st, a national holiday in France and all stores were closed except for a few local épiceries or grocery stores, the French version of the American Wawa or 7-11 convenience stores. They are open late in the evenings and often on holidays. I was dying of thirst because of the warmer than usual weather and dreamed of a cool drink of San Pelligrino water. I picked up two bottles and a few other essentials at the local

I left the store, crossed the street and noticed out of the corner of my eye as I passed, that a man nearby was bending over picking up a shiny object on the sidewalk. I thought at first was a bottle cap of some other junk. I stepped almost directly over his arm as he picked up the object and I kept walking.

That's when he spoke.
"Excusez-moi, Monsieur. Vous avez laissé votre bague ici." He showed me a large gold wedding band.
"What? No, it is not my ring, Monsieur."
"Mais oui, c'est à vous."
"Mais non. I have no ring."
"Mais oui, it is your ring. Well, if it is not then give it to your woman. It will make her happy. It is a woman's ring."
He hands me the ring. Indeed it is heavy. Apparently gold. "Um, no. It is not mine."
"I cannot wear it. I am a man," he said. "Give it to your woman." He turned and walked away.
"Well, OK. Merci, Monsieur." I turned and walked away.
He turns again. "Ah, Monsieur. S'il vous plait. I am hungry. I don't have enough money for a baguette."
"Um. OK. Take some change." Hmm. He is honest but only needs money for a baguette. I gave him a few coins from the change still in my hand.
"No, that is not enough. Just a little more. I gave you the ring."
"Well, OK, here is two euros but nothing more." And I walk away.

I was thinking that it was better that I have the ring rather than this roughly dressed man. At least I could return the ring and this other man would have not returned it, he would have sold it. Then I thought that if I could not find the owner then perhaps I could sell it for a few euros. But it would be a waste. Those few euros would mean nothing to me. The ring would mean a fortune of memories to the poor woman who was given and had loved the ring. The proceeds from the ring would also mean many meals to the roughly dressed man, who was frankly more honest than me. My head was spinning. It was the worst possible outcome. Everyone lost something.

I though a lot about the poor woman who lost the ring.
How will I give it back? At home I wrote a little note simply stating Une bague (a ring) and my phone number. I would place this little sign near the wall and sidewalk where the ring was found. I thought that if this woman searched for wedding band she would see the sign and understand. Certainly I would insist that she describe the ring when she called. Certainly I would not ask for a reward but if she insisted, I would accept two euros since I had given the honest man two euros. This would be my compromise so that both of us would gain. If I did not hear from anyone in six months, I would sadly sell the ring. It would have been replaced by the woman by this time. Six months was the limit I set. Six months was fair.

A day passed and then I thought, is this correct ? Is this moral ? What would someone else do ? I 'googled' for
morality, morality test and other words seeking advice.

Then somehow I 'googled'
lost ring.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!!

Sucker !!

What a fool I am.

One of the apparently famous tourist scams in Paris is the "lost ring" scam. A stranger, an honest man bends over to pick up a "lost" ring and offers it to the mark
. Negotiations follow and the mark gives money to the honest man. The honest man does not accept the valuable gold ring because it is not his, not the right size, against his religion, blah, blah. It turns out that the ring is brass and almost worthless. The honest man walks away with more than he paid for the ring and the mark walks away with a worthless ring, a few euros poorer.

What a fool I am... and I consider myself as 'street wise.' What would you have done ? Did I do the right thing or was I less than honest ?

Now I am thinking that I will get rid of this valuable ring by appearing to pick up this "lost" ring in front of one of the many tourists in Paris this time of year. I have no doubt that there is only this one lost, gold ring circulating among all of us honest people of Paris.

Here is some required reading for us honest people....
PollyVousFrancais --> With this Ring I Thee Scam
Confidence Tricks
Schemes, Scams & Fraudes
Tourist Scam Alert


Blogger Polly said...

A little coda.
Actually a few weeks after my "With Ring I thee Scam" episode, it happened to me again, this time at place de la Concorde (a more likely spot). This time i feigned interest and when the man showed me the ring i looked at it, picked it up and hurled it 25 feet away into the gutter! And said "Stop trying to steal from people," and walked -- a bit too elatedly, perhaps, on my merry way.

Sun May 06, 12:36:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger ParisTalk said...

Someone tried the ring scam on me a few weeks back near Grands Boulevards. I wasn't aware of the scam but the guy looked a bit dodgy so when he showed me the ring I just said "vous avez de la chance" and walked on.

Wed Aug 29, 05:58:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger The Petite Coquine said...

Ha - my mother and sister were visiting me in Paris (I live SW of Paris) and we were walking across the bridge to the Louvre when a woman did the same thing. In the back of my head I had remembered hearing this was a scam but couldn't remember the details. She was like "Keep it for good luck" and I said "No thanks" and moved on. I wish I would have hurled it like Polly! :)

Sun Oct 14, 07:14:00 PM GMT+2  
Anonymous Zarathustra said...

I wouldn't feel too mad - a woman almost got me near the Tuileries Park about a year ago as I was taking a photo. The trick was exactly the same, and I was almost fooled, feeling very uncomfortable at this lost ring being thrust upon me. When she turned around and asked for some money for food, I began to twig that I was being made an idiot. I said, well if this ring is valuable, you take it, sell it, and treat yourself - a face painted a 1000 words - she looked thoroughly disgusted at me!

Sun Jan 20, 12:29:00 AM GMT+1  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly the same, gold ring and few euros are lost.

Tue Jan 22, 09:31:00 PM GMT+1  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This just happened to me as well - I was walking towards la place de la concorde and was accosted by a woman. I'd never heard of the scam but felt that something was amiss - if it's too good to be true etc - so I did not accept the ring and walked away. As I got closer to la concorde, perhaps 200 meters away from the woman, a man this time tried to pull the scam on me! Literally 2 minutes apart from one another. It was unreal - they had the same exact technique and said the same thing. At that point i figured out it must be a scam and told the man off.

Wed Oct 15, 11:54:00 AM GMT+2  
Anonymous Nokomis said...

Interesting to know.

Tue Nov 11, 10:57:00 AM GMT+1  
Blogger Paul said...

It happened to me not far from the Eiffel Tower, I was on my own and this woman walked across a bridge, timed it perfect and then done exactly what the blog said. She wanted money for a baguette. I watch scam shows and one of the things they say is, if it's too good to be true, it probably is. paid 5 Euros, she wanted more. I refused, but she also said keep it for good luck and turned on the lost puppy eyes. I'm now going to try the same scam on a friend.... I'm such a sucker!

Sat Feb 21, 11:23:00 PM GMT+1  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found one of these rings in a fountain near the lourve thought it was my lucky day, guess some one realized they had been conned and through it their in disgust, still Yayy free brass ring :P lol.

Tue Mar 03, 04:38:00 AM GMT+1  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two days ago, strolling down the Seine, a very young man performed the ring scam badly in front of me and my elderly mother. He was so clumsy in his delivery that we knew it was a scam and we laughed about it as we walked away. Two hundred yards in front of us, we saw it being done again by an another man to two tourists. My mother blurted out "Don't, it's a scam!" The man turned on her screaming obscenities. I'll rank this as one of my worst memories of Paris. Why don't the authorities remove these people from the areas most frequented by tourists? To see so much crime within one city block takes away from the luster of a great city.

Thu Jul 02, 09:44:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Claire the Maid said...

Yes, yes, this happened to me too! Just near the Camps and the concord. My husband and I did not quite know what to do. So I gave the man one euro and a lovely smile and wished him good day. I still have that brass ring. It does not even fit me. I knew it was unusual. We were not robbed or followed. We simply wished the man better luck and walked on.
Personally I prefer this scam to the hideous Morocan street sellers in Florence who are simply UNBELIEVEABLE! Not to mention the Gypsy women who wave their small children and empty milk bottles at you and cry. Don't even get me started on those people in some parts of Asia who mutilate their own children so they can beg for an income! I'll take the brass ring.

Tue Sep 29, 06:55:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Tina said...

three people tried this scam on me while i was walking alone the seine today!!

Fri Jan 22, 05:49:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Father Anonymous said...

All very funny. A woman tried it on me (and my wife and toddler) at the Champs de Mars two days ago. It was a pretty obvious scam, not least because she started out by addressing us in English. We just laughed -- but I'm laughing much harder now that I know it's a venerable tradition.

Tue Aug 24, 03:39:00 PM GMT+2  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

aw poor guy, someone tried that on us, and even my french boyfriend almost fell for it!

Sun Nov 28, 12:08:00 AM GMT+1  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It happened to me in 2009.
word for word the same thing.

But later when I saw this happening to others in the area by the Louvre I decided to let 2-3 other marks know that this was a scam.

i was then promptly told off and given an evil look, by the little girls and their "pimp" boss.

But as I spoke French I retaliated that they should get jobs, and earn honest money instead of scamming people!

I lost 2euro but prevented 6euro or more from benefiting the scam artists.

Fri Dec 17, 05:14:00 AM GMT+1  
Blogger slucey said...

Can't believe it happened to me, a New Yorker in Paris!
Brought the ring home and to a jeweler who was ready to give me $300.00 for it!!! Kept it as a keep sake and a momento of my trip! Should have sold it when I had the chance!!!!

Mon Jan 17, 01:41:00 AM GMT+1  
Blogger slucey said...

Happened to me, a New Yorker while visiting Paris in 2009 with my two sisters and 75 year old mother. I was crossing a street and saw something on the cobblestone, at the same time a gentleman bent over and picked it up showing it to me and proclaim something in french resembling the word "marraige". He handed it over to me and kept walking then turned around and asked for two euros...upon arriving home I brought it to a jeweler who was ready to hand over $300.00 dollars for it!!!! Maybe I should have sold it when I had the chance!!!!

Mon Jan 17, 01:41:00 AM GMT+1  
Blogger slucey said...

Happened to me, a New Yorker while visiting Paris in 2009 with my two sisters and 75 year old mother. I was crossing a street and saw something on the cobblestone, at the same time a gentleman bent over and picked it up showing it to me and proclaim something in french resembling the word "marraige". He handed it over to me and kept walking then turned around and asked for two euros...upon arriving home I brought it to a jeweler who was ready to hand over $300.00 dollars for it!!!! Maybe I should have sold it when I had the chance!!!!

Mon Jan 17, 01:42:00 AM GMT+1  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This just happened to me, and I gave the d-bag 15 euros! I am such a sucker. I can't believe how closely the story you just recounted mimiced mine, both the events and my thought process throughout.

Sat Mar 05, 04:17:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Becky Willis Motew said...

It happened to me today on the Quai des Tuileries! I told her to keep it and wondered if it was a scam--it was!!! HAHAHA

Mon Jun 13, 08:21:00 PM GMT+2  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This happened to me too yesterday by the Musee d'Orsay! The EXACT same scenario (same ring too!)! I have lived in France 15 years now, and I completely fell for it. I didn't really think it was gold however.
I gave the lady 2 euros and she asked me for more, or some of my delicious macarons Laduree (wasn't going to happen)! I had a folded up 5 euro bill that I did not show her and I told her the change was all I had.
Later on my mom told me she thought it was gold, and I felt terrible! I should have given her the five euros!! Was this some kind of crazy beauty and the beast bad money karma scheme in the making? Morality morality morality morality: had I doomed myself by lying to the lady and refusing to give her more money or caramel macaroons?
One internet search later I feel much better!
Thanks for sharing! Made my dad, and gave us a good laugh!

Tue Jun 21, 03:18:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Lawrence said...

The story you have written has been repeated since at least the 16th century (it is a very old scam and I don't know of many accounts which are as wonderfully rendered as yours is) and so it could be said that your ring, that plain worthless brass loop, has a place in history...
Your ring however has more than that now. It has a wonderfully wrought story, of doubt, empathy, expectation, shame and dishonour... To spend two euros on a film, you would have to search far and wide for one so skilfully wrought. A film which fills you with such a gamut of emotions in such a short time.
Your ring is now more than just the brass tool of a street shark...
And anyway there was exchange, and the exchange was based on expectation. Just as it is in the high street stores with their fancy window displays. In this instance; what they have offered you is a role, they gave you the opportunity to play a hero, or a villain, but you chose in the end to play the part of the fool or knave... Personally I don't see the need for you to play the bitter role simply because there was another actor playing a charade, it was theatre of the street and you would pay to watch if you could. You were not the audience, you were the lead actor (unwittingly perhaps). Without you the show would not have gone on...
The actor who plays the shark cannot be blamed as such. They made an exchange using the same tools that modern day advertising use, and perhaps they offered more truth or less, but they certainly engaged with you (in person) which is more than TV or newspapers or politicians do when they make a sale. The result of the exchange is comparable and in a sense the consequences are more desirable, wisdom can be a commodity that is bought and sold it seems.
Advertising companies spend fortunes grooming unintended feelings in their targets. They employ millions of skilled artisans to build illusions and to exploit them, but in this case, perhaps there is bitterness because it is a street shark (who probably does not have such a good coat, or a tie, a nice dress, or trousers, perhaps their cuffs are rough or there are holes in the shoes).
My guess is that he or she doesn't look as good as the sexy woman in those lacy white panties which the advertising man uses to loosen your purse? I assume that they did not buff up like the young man standing dry and adoring from his recent shower, towel around his waist, proffering you his being, as he suggests that you could also be him.

Thu Jun 30, 03:51:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Lawrence said...

More likely, it is just the shame of being spruked that you are feeling? Taken in by a charity which has pulled hard on your heartstrings. If you have perhaps given them more than you intended to or perhaps more than you could afford, then I understand. I hate that, myself. When I have money in my pocket and I set out for a drink, I often give a few dollars with which I might otherwise be renting drinks with (if only for an hour or two) and I am glad that on this day I have money in my pocket. I always wonder if the money will help them more than it would help me. I especially wonder that when my money has run out and I feel like another drink or some food which is now beyond my reach. Perhaps it will help them more, perhaps not...
I console myself by imagining that a rich person generally doesn't enjoy sitting on the street, on cardboard waiting for me to go by, so that they can do me out of my few dollars. I can only imagine but perhaps the person with the brass rings is not too dissimilar to the man on the cardboard in the doorway. So I give a little happily enough.
Myself, I would pay a euro or two for such a ring, to have the words to write about it as you have, and the wits to know I had assisted the poor of such a great city, in a game that has been played for centuries (and most impressively without violence or menace). I would take pride in my contribution to that ancient sport. I would also take that ring to the Angst Museum in Berlin (when next I visited that city) so that I could drop it into the chest where the scammers rings are collected and then I would print out the story (which you have written) and paste it on the wall above the chest where all those other pages are pasted.

Thu Jun 30, 03:51:00 PM GMT+2  
Anonymous Scam Info said...

There are actually a lot more scams in Paris one should be aware of, some you probably never heard of, but they are nonetheless very common. Have a look at the full list:

Fri Sep 23, 01:05:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Ümit Coşkun Aydınoğlu said...

It just happened to me near Alexander Bridge. It's a rip off. But I am used to these kin of things frm Istanbul :-) I gave no penny ;-)

Wed Jul 11, 07:44:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Ümit Coşkun Aydınoğlu said...

It just happened to me near Alexander Bridge. It's a rip off. But I am used to these kin of things frm Istanbul :-) I gave no penny ;-)

Wed Jul 11, 07:45:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Ümit Coşkun Aydınoğlu said...

It just happened to me near Alexander Bridge. It's a rip off. But I am used to these kin of things frm Istanbul :-) I gave no penny ;-)

Wed Jul 11, 07:45:00 PM GMT+2  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post Lawrence. I was feeling bad for the scammer after reading some of these posts. Nobody likes to be scammed, but it's not like these elderly men, gypsy women, etc...are rich & doing this for recreation. It may not be a traditional way of asking for money, but there's a certain history in it that's charming. At the end of the day, it's charity on your part. You didn't assist a criminal, just a person who may need that money for survival.

Thu Nov 08, 05:04:00 AM GMT+1  
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