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