Beggars & Aggressive Vendors, Paris
I encountered one at the Gare du nord. A lady from Bosnia. I got rid off her explaining that I am a foreigner here with limited amount of euros that I can't spare.
Again, while at Notre Dame, on 2nd Oct, 2010, a girl approached with me a piece of paper with UNICEF logo on it.
She conveyed to me that she was deaf and dumb, but collecting money for UNICEF. I did not want to spend my euro reserve but gave her two euros. I knew that probably she might be a cheat, but as it comes for children It become difficult for me to deny. And by the way she was so attractive that I still remember her and wish I could have known her better.
Oh my god, where do I start! As beautiful as Paris is, it certainly has a lot of danger as far as pickpockets and aggressive hawkers! We found people get a little too close to you, so at that point unfortunately everyone becomes a suspect! The METRO is way colorful on the train and off, but be on your guard! You know if someone who is French tells you to watch your camera, that there must be something to it! There were pickpocket signs in Notre Dame and that is a church. Keep your money in a bag under your shirt or in a very deep front pocket. As for the hawkers, be prepared! The Eiffel Tower is full of them. Our favorite one was the people trying to get "romantics" to buy a rose. One came up and just put one in my friend's hand and then demanded money. Another evening, my husband I were attempting to share a romantic moment when we had a gentleman put a rose in my hand. I told him no, but he insisted I hold it. Knowing full well that was not his intent, we started to walk away and he looked at my husband and I with pleading eyes....I said "NON" very firmly. This is NOT the place to pull out your Euros, trust me. Everything from keychains to TIM flying birds are sold at the Eiffel tower by these hawkers. Do beware!
Gypsies beggars are annoying and everywhere at Effie tower and African vendors are annoying but a simple No or Non will surface.
Just a special tip public drinking is illegal so if you’re at the Effie tower at night in the park and a African comes up to you with cheap champagne. Just say no.
1. They don't have a liquor license and 2. if you’re going to get caught consuming something illegal from African vendors make sure it’s not something stupid like 2 euro champagne
After recently travelling to Paris on a sixth form trip with over 40 other 16 -18 year olds, it came to my attention how persistant some of these beggars are. We often encountered the women asking if we spoke English, luckily we'd been warned about beggars before we went so we just said no. The street venders near the Louvre were fairly persistant but after a couple of "no"'s they walked away. At the Sacre Coeur, we were greeted by many of these venders trying to sell bracelets, grabbing at all the girls and generally being persistant. We had a group photo taken on the stairs in front of the basilica and had several of these beggars taking photos of us. Another kept grabbing some girls, and even when a teacher told him to get off he carried on.
The worst we encountered was as Notre Dame, where one man was going around all the girls asking if they wanted to buy a keyring. Everyone said no but he kept asking, I told him no and to go away, which prompted him to move closer, I turned away and walked off and heard him shout "Roast Beef" at me, which I've been told is an offensive term towards us English. I chose to ignore him but a few moments later I saw him stood staring at me which made me quite nervous.
Apart from these beggars Paris is beautiful, its just a shame the officials haven't done anything about them.
We just returned from Paris and had a wonderful time. The amount of begging at the tourist attractions is a bit annoying though (Eiffel Tower & Notre Dame in particular). If you sit and people watch you will notice that the begging is very organized. I watched a group of women with scarves on their heads (looked Indian, but they claimed to be Bosnian), sit around talking and laughing... then they all dispersed into the crowd asking tourists if they spoke English. Upon saying "Yes" they would shove a piece of paper into your hand which asks for money to help save her family from Bosnia etc. etc. They are very pushy and there are A LOT of them. What annoyed me further is they littered everywhere. After being turned down, they would often crumple up there pieces of paper and just throw them on the ground. Very rude, and I hope people don't enable them by giving them money!!
As regular visitors to Paris for both business and pleasure, we have had to get used to the many beggars who approach tourists in the stations and on the street. However, having just spent a week near the Champs Elysee we were shocked at just how aggressive many of the beggars have now become. These women 'work' the many outside cafes on this street and if you refuse them money, they now demand that you give them something to eat from your own plate! They no longer move on if ignored, so you have to be pretty rude to them to get any peace. In the week we spent in this area, we saw the same women every day working the tables and feigning hunger to get money or food from people who just wanted a bit of peace and quiet whilst enjoying their very expensive drinks. Do not give in and give them anything as this is now a well-organised business to try and exploit the generosity of visitors, especially English as we have a reputation for being 'a soft touch'.
On the same subject, the beggars working the Gare du Nord station where Eurostar arrives and departs have also become more demanding and aggressive. Arriving there in a taxi, one beggar put her arm into our taxi to try and get money from my purse, her pal tried to ambush me when I moved to the other side. Do not expect any help from police officers in any type of uniform or even the owners of restaurants. They seem to take a totally 'laissez-faire' attitude - you are on your own and you have to fight them off yourself. After a week of this, including having to avoid all the 'bracelet merchants' on the steps leading to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur, we decided that we had had enough and that something needs to be done to protect tourists from such unwanted attention. Parisian authorities please note!
At Eiffel Tower, the street sellers all selling keyrings and follow you around. I was very firm and said no. But i saw one man chasing a family waving his keyrings!
At Sacre Couer, it was worse. They had plastic bracelets like you wear at infant school! Unbelievable. The gendarms should come down and clear up these sort of people
Just say no very loudly and try to avoid eye contact beforehand - prevention is better than cure
After reading all of the books and a weeklong stay in Paris my parents and I were very well aware of the scams and methods that people use to try and get money off you but Sacre Coeur was home to the most persistent, aggressive ‘scammers’ by far.
As we began to make our journey up the Sacre Coeur steps a man came up to me and grabbed my wrist, attempting to tie a braided bracelet on me. I quickly pulled my arm away and told him ‘no’ in a very firm tone (after a week of being accosted by various beggars and men with birdseed, bracelets and crappy souvenirs I was beginning to become quite stern with the men that approached me). My father, who was nearby came over and told the man (who was again trying to grab my arm) very sternly to leave me alone. The man then called my father ‘an American pig’ (we’re Australian), raised a fist to his face and continued to insult us as some of his other bracelet selling friends came closer to us. It took several f*** offs, a couple of minutes of yelling and eventually, a raised fist in return to get the men to leave us alone. All that because I didn’t want a bracelet.
In ALL other cases an assertive attitude and a simple ‘no’ had us on our merry way, but those at Sacre Coeur are especially unrelenting and threatening. If you’re alone, try and stay close to another group of people and don’t let yourself get surrounded by these people. If things seem to be turning for the worst, yell and draw a lot of attention to yourself.
Unfortunately, my French experience was SERIOUSLY tainted by the rude and aggressive people (who often, aren’t even French) who will do anything to get your money.
I had read enough about beggars, schemes, etc, here on various VT pages that I was well armed to their tricks of the trade. The comment I wanted to share here is that the beggars we saw know where they will get the greatest return on their investment which is obviously in the high traffic areas, outside churches were the prime areas we saw them.
I watched one beggar just outside the front entrance of Sacre Coeur for a little while, who was shooed off by someone from the Church who waited on the side for a little while and then was right back at it another door down.
We weren't bothered at all, with our strategy of just avoiding eye contact and quickly passing by any areas where there was obvious beggar activity.
Always buy from those local stores or those stall owners. Please don't buy from those guys who set up a piece of cloth on the side of the street and display their items like key chains, lighter Eiffel Tower stuffs, etc.
These guys are illegal sellers and if you buy from them, you are patronizing their illegal activities. While we were there, a police officer chase some four street vendors and one crossed the traffic so fast that he was nearly hit. The police officer in a bike was almost an inch of grabbing one of the guys but he was just lucky that he jumped on the pedestrian lane which is about six inches higher than the street and the police officer can't maneuver his bike fast enough to catch him...
These souvenirs are very cheap but they rust really fast, anyway. They cost one euro but after few days, they turn black. It is better to buy from the store owners.
Yes, that's the famous phrase: Do you speak English? Beggars with some kind of papers will be coming to you and saying this. Just say "NO!" or just ignore them. Don't feel guilty of not helping them.
If you help this people, you are actually patronizing their lifestyle.
While the children were taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower as a group, one of the gypsy woman based at the foot of the Eiffel Tower took a black pair of gloves that was probably dropped by a tourist. The gypsy woman took the black glove and kicked it in front of the children ready to take a remembrance group picture. One of the teachers in my group, yelled at her "Hey, do you speak English? Don't ever do that? What the "f----!" you are doing? "Bi----!! The group of the gypsies started laughing and smiling but our teacher was really mad. She went and kicked back the pair of gloves! The gypsies left and we were lucky to have the police just right in time.
The police officers in bike run after the vendors who were selling souvenirs and almost got one and we started cheering. "Go get 'em! Go get 'em!" The chase was captured in a video and it is probably on YouTube right now.
After visiting the Basilica of Sacre-Couer, we walked towards the place du Tertre and naturally, the street tourists offered to draw pictures of the three year old twins. That would have been nice, but I did just say "Merci" because I have heard that these artists will draw your face quickly and then sometimes charge you an exorbitant amount (a friend of ours paid about $75 for a 5 minute drawing)...but unless you just want to donate to that artist or you just feel compelled to do some charity, then don't have your face drawn...
There are many aggressive vendors around the Eiffel Tower. Some of them sell little Eiffel Towers for around 1 Euro, which they try and make you buy. Others sell small toys, like a flying bird toy. While sitting with my group for a long time in front of the Eiffel Tower, I noticed some things about these vendors. They wouldn't come over to my group, probably because we were alert and not on the move. Also, I noticed that the vendors would fly their bird toys into crowds, often hitting people. One lady got hit in the head; she ran up and threw the bird into the vendors face. It was very amusing.
Lastly, while watching these vendors, I saw one get arrested! The cops drove up to the Eiffel Tower, and all the vendors crowded together. They arrested one of them, I'm not sure why. Afterwards, the vendors crowded together for a while longer, talking about something.
In closure, if a vendor asks you to buy something that you don't want, firmly say "non" and walk away. Don't look unsure. My group did not have many problems with them, but as I've said, some others did.
You will see beggars in the streets of Paris and sometimes gypsies too. On my first visit in winter 1984, we were surrounded by a large group of gypsy children begging for money. We managed to escape and did not have anything stolen.
I am not too much bothered by these people. Sometimes I drop a coin for a beggar and in general just use common sense and keep my stuff well guarded.
So this is not a warning against beggars or gypsies, but rather a warning to you to be careful with your things and be sensible.
As in every large city, there is a danger of pickpockets. They are very creative. On the Metro in Paris two men lite a match and pretended a passenger's pant leg was on fire and patted him to put it out - of course they were trying to grab his wallet and bag, they didn't get it though, some American intervened!!!
DON'T GIVE MONEY TO THE BEGGARS IN THE METRO STATION, they are not what they seem, they change from one pitiful cripple one day to a blind person the next - then the next day they have a sick baby!