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.
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.
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Discounted Shoeshine in Istanbul