You'll be approached (unless you're wearing canvas sneakers) in the tourist areas, often the parks near the big mosques, by someone offering a shoe shine. I happened to be there in January, and since Istanbul can be a bit rainy or drizzly at that time of year, my shoes often looked the worse for wear.
The approach can be aggressive, to the point of the man kneeling before you and actually taking your foot in his hands, repeating that you may only pay him what you wish, even if it's nothing.
Hmmmm, even for nothing, eh?
What I did was this. I told them how much I intended to pay them (I figured it at $4 USD, a fair price, considering I can get my shoes shined in Manhattan for that price), to which they readily agreed. Upon finishing, WITHOUT FAIL, each and everytime, they tried to squeeze me for more, even mentioning woeful tales of various sorts.
If you need your shoes shined (like I did), then I would suggest offering a price beforehand that you are comfortable with. There won't be any bargaining at that point, as they wait until afterward. Stick to your offer, pay it with a 'thank you', and leave: even if you offer to pay them $20, they'll do their best to increase it to $40.
I never felt threatened, and oddly, I was thanked every time, like by this gentleman near the Aya Sofia.
I didn't experience this con anywhere else other than the Balat/Fener area. Around this area, there is not the Police prescence like elsewhere, and it was one area, where I did not feel entirely happy being a woman on her own.
THE CON....... Shoe man, walking with his gear, drops his brush. He was way ahead of me, so I didn't see it happen.
I pick up the brush, call to him, and he thanks me in very good English. I think that he is grateful, silly me!
He takes me in the right direction to a Church I want to see, then asks to clean my runners! How do you clean them, but he says "I'm breaking His heart" so, I eventually renig, thinking he is doing it for free for me because I found and gave him his brush.
Not so, demands money, 8t/l for cleaning runners in 5mins! I realized straight away, yes, he got money, 2t/l and that was all. I just turned around and walked away.
Guess what? About half hour later, a pair of them come walking towards me, and hey presto! the brush gets dropped at my feet!
Ha, Ha, it got a good kick, and one of the pair came scampering after it, picked it up, and didn't say a word!
Perhaps this is what we all should do if we remember, it certainly worked!
Be wary of shoeshine men in Istanbul. If you get a shine, make sure that the price is explicitly negotiated upfront. Otherwise, they may try to charge you an exhorbitant amount (YTL 15 or more) after the shine is completed. Another trick that we saw them pull more than once was to "accidentally" drop a brush from their kit as they walked. Inevitably, a tourist kindly reached over, picked it up and handed it back to the shoeshine man, who then offered a shine. The tourist, believing that the shine was being done for free out of gratitude for the returned brush, would say yes, only to find out after the shine was completed that the shoeshine man wanted a ridiculously high price for the shine. If they try to pull this one on you, just refuse to pay (or a pay a lesser, more appropriate amount) and shout at the man. He will probably go away because he won't want any trouble with the police and won't want other tourists in the area to know about his scheme.
Shoe Polishers can be very agressive sometimes.
They try to clean your shoes and after that take a lot of money from a naive tourist.
If you dont want them to clean your shoes tell them before or even go from the place but if you want them to clean your shoes agree for a price.
Try and avoid these pests if you can. They approach you asking if you would like a shoe shine, then latch on to you. They are extremely persuasive and in your face. The shoe shine boxes are a front as they are touts who try to get you to follow them to a bar/belly dancer. Its a scam so don't even think about it. My advice is to be firm with them and if they persist just ignore them all together. Eventually they should take the hump and leave. They spoiled a good trip to Istanbul for me and really the local Police should clamp down on them a lot more.
I live in Izmir, and the BEST way is to just pretend not to know English, and IGNORE them! If you let them know you speak any common language such as English or German, its all over. Turks ignore them all the time, and they are used to it! So be like the locals, and breeze by em!!
A TIP: BUYRUN means 'How can I help you', or 'here you are'. Once you stop and look at something, you are done. ONLY STOP if you are really interested in a shoe shine or their wares.
You CAN'T THINK western.. you MUST treat them as if they are not even there if you are not interested.. SAY nothing!! Have fun :)
There are some shoe polisher crooks in town, especial around the Grand Bazar area.
The trick is simple:
-Shoe polishers will pass you in a quiet narrow street and "accidentally" drops a brush
-Of course your are honest, pick up the brush and call the crook into his game
-He seems to be thankful and looks to offer you a "free" shoe polish (no words spoken here)
-In the odd case he guides you to an ever quitener place to be out of sight of local police
-In the end he demands money (coins will offend him in this part of the game) and as soon your wallet is open he will take as much paper money as he can get (in the mean time playing Mr. Innocent in a perfect way)
My advice: Give that brush a big kick in the first place and select your own Seasoned shoe polisher
Do not forget to give your feet a nice rest sometimes like I am doing here.
Even though my shoes are nice and comfortable,it pays to rest your feet.
If you find a grassy patch like I did here remove your shoes and wait a while before you sit.
While in Sultanahmet you would be smart to wear comfortable shoes because the streets are virtually all cobblestones and quite often sidewalks run out or a car will be parking in the middle so you are forced into the street. If you are wearing leather shoes you will be hit by every shoe polisher along the way and they are everywhere! If you do get your shoes polished don't pay more than a lira or two at the most! We got sucked in on the second day by a pair of shoe shiners working in tandem and while one of them worked on me the other worked on my husband. At first they said 'no charge no charge' which went to 10.00! Each! I had a hard time keeping the guy from checking out how much money I had when I opened my wallet. We ended up giving them 5 lira each just to make them go away. After that we emphatically told them "NO" whenever we were approached. Don't be afraid to be rude. Sometimes it's necessary!
When entering the Grand Bazaar, be careful of hustlers who offer to shine your shoes ( it can cost you US$5..as my friend learn the expensive way!).
Inside the bazaar, don't get lost as there are many identical exits and don't ask for assistance (US$5)and always bargain by more than 50% if you buy anything ( they count in millions of lira ). Be careful.
I was the victim of a scam with a shoe shine man. I was walking from Istiklal Cadessi to the Pera Museum when the shoe shine man in front of me seemed to drop a shoe brush by mistake. I picked it up and handed it to him. He was extremely gracious and friendly. A colleague approached and distracted me with talk about Obama, where I was from, etc. The shoe shine man offered to clean my shoes for free, to thank me for my troubles. When he finished he wanted me to pay him ten liras, backed up by the second man. I gave him two and walked away. The lesson is: don´t let the shoe shine men near your shoes, don´t do them any favors, and don´t let them push you around!
I was wondering if the shoe polish scam in Istanbul is common. It is fairly common in Rio de Janeiro, but it has been publicized there in various forums, so more people are aware. It was tried on me there but since I had read about it I did not fall for it.
It happened to a group of us about 10 days ago in Istanbul. A shoe shine man dropped a brush in front of us on the street. When we alerted him, he offered to clean the shoes of one of us.
The first time we refused. The second time one of us accepted. The rest of us walked on while he was getting his shoe cleaned. We learned later that the man demanded 50 lira, with the veiled threat of violence. He was paid, since my friend did not want to lose his camera etc. in any display of violence.
In Rio, they put a yellow paste on your shoes, then one boy offers to clean it, and the same scenario follows.
Visitors to Istanbul should be alerted so that they are aware of it.
The lesson learned? Never get shoes shined in Istanbul, maybe all Turkey. Beware of unsolicited offers of help. In most cases be very clear about what a service will cost before ordering it.
Having been to Istanbul recently I can report that this scam is still very prevalent. In the space of 30 minutes 3 different guys walked in front of me and dropped their brushes expecting me to pick it up. If you do fall for it, they engage in polite conversation and offer a free shoe shine. Its not free.
My advice is just to ignore the brush and walk on.
My friend and I were walking to our hotel near Halic Parki, and it was starting to get dark, and a guy in front of us dropped his brush, we told him about it, and he was very grateful, called us "my friends, thank you so much.." blah blah blah. And kind of implied that he wants to clean our shoes for free. We said no, but he insisted that it would offend him and so on... When he was cleaning our shoes, he started to talk about his little children and stuff. We decided to pay him like 10 lira anyway, because of children and so on (my friend was completely buying all of it). When he finished, my friend got out his wallet, and the guy jumped up, looked into his wallet (where he had maybe ~200 lira), and said it's 8 lira for you and 8 for me. We were a bit surprised but paid him anyway. We also realised that the whole thing with accidently dropping a brush was a scam.
And my shoes were made of suede leather and my friends shoes were sports trainers, and both were not supposed to be polished with some fatty cream that he used. I had to clean it off later.
We also saw these shoe cleaners everywhere (e.g. near Aqueduct, parks, bridges..), and even saw other people having arguments with them, probably because of these scams.
There is not much way of getting rid of shoe polishers, beggars and all kind of guys (salesgirls are exceptional, I met only 2 during a week!) selling different things on the street. I can only suggest you trying not to look at their wares lying or hanging around, and to be as confident as possible. It actually is really unpleasent to just walk around, without the smallest intention of buying anything, it is written on you that you are a tourist...