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Discounted Shoeshine in Istanbul

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Discounted Shoeshine in Istanbul

Filed under Travel Scams and Ripoffs

While walking on one of my exploratory journeys around Istanbul, I watched as a shoeshine man (seemingly) unknowingly dropped his shoeshining brush in the street. I quickly scooped in up and ran after him. With a quick tap on the shoulder, I returned the brush to its owner.
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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Istanbul, Turkey- February 19, 2009
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“Salaam,” the shoeshine man said as a thank you, and I continued walking next to him. We talked a little in basic English about what we were doing in Istanbul: trying to make money, and he told me that he was from Ankara.

“Good city?” I asked.

“Yes, very good, Ankara very good.”

This was the first time that I have heard someone say that.

He then offered to shine my boots. I looked down and realized that my kicks could have used a fresh coat of polish, and thought that the shoeshine man may have been offering me a free shine to show his gratitude for finding and returning his brush.

I knew well that I was either entering into a lock-in prop or a show of kindness. I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

“Go for it,” I said, and he promptly laid down his platform, which I then placed my boot upon. He began in on the shine as well as the hard luck story. I knew I had been had.

“300 Euro I need for an operation. Help my family.”

I listened as he finished shinning both boots in under a minute. I then thanked him very much and, with a smile, made to leave.

“Money, paper money,” he said. “30 Lira.”

He wanted $20 for a shoeshine.

I gave him 20 cents.

Laughing, I placed the small handful of change into his outstretched palm.

“No, no, paper money,” he protested, “this not good.”

“I found your brush, I thought that you were polishing my boots for free to say thank you,” I replied, before turning heel and walking away.

He did not give chase, which I thought was a very polite gesture indeed.

To trust or not to trust the potential good will of a person is a big question in travel. Perhaps, it is the question. Should you allow yourself to potentially be taken in as a fool in the search for a glimmer of good will in a stranger? Do you give a man in the street a chance to prove his gratitude or do you close the door in his face?

The people in the street cannot be trusted. If you miraculously find a stranger trying to do something nice for you in the street for any reason DO NOT TRUST THEM. It is a scam.

The world is both full of good people and hustlers. This shoeshine man was trying to scam me. Dropping a shoeshine brush in front of a tourist in hopes that they return it is a common lock-in prop in Istanbul. Generally the scam works by making the tourist think they are getting a free shoeshine, and then charging them an outrageous price.

I fell for the initial stage of this scam, but came out of it with only a discounted shoeshine. In a city where a sidewalk shoe polish costs one or two lira, I got one for 20 cents. I was made a fool, yes, but I was a fool with cheaply shined boots. A scam against me turned into a discount for me.

You never have to give money to anyone.

Sources:
Istanbul Shoeshine Scam
Another example of the shoeshine scam

Related Pages:
Beware of Friendly “Gypsies ” in India
Travel Tip #5- Not Your Friend
On Moroccan Touts Travelogue Post

Discounted Shoeshine in Istanbul

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Filed under: Eastern Europe, Europe, Turkey

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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