I’ve only been in Monmartre for half a day and already I’ve nearly been ripped off. So much for my upmarket fantasies. Pantin for all it’s dodginess is nothing compared to Monmartre. In Pantin people sit on the streets quietly with paper cups, here they pose as charity workers with clip boards and try and sneak money from you.
I’m on my way to the Sacré-Coeur when a teenage girl asks me if I will sign a petition so deaf children can get hearing operations. Who am I to say no, though in hindsight my signature would be pointless on such a document as I don’t live here. When I’ve signed it she asks for a 20 euro minimum donation. Like that was ever going to be happening! But now I feel obliged to give something.
A kerfuffle ensues with me saying ‘2 euro’, unfortunately all I have is a 20 euro note which she grabs. I grab it back, “Change!” I say. While this is happening, a french lady passing by is yelling ‘Attention! Attention!’ at me. Perhaps she thinks I’m about to get kidnapped by the clipboard gypsies who are now surrounding me.
But it’s ok, they’re just getting change. Somehow I manage to get 15 euro and 1 euro out of the girl, but she’s still trying to do me out of 2 euro. The 2 euro is dutifully produced by another girl. I didn’t even want to give them 2 euro in the first place and especially not now when I know I’m being ripped off!
At the top of the stairs to the Sacré-Coeur there are more of them clutching clip boards. A girl smiles at me and kisses her fingers as if to say ‘I’m counting on your generosity’. But this time i’m onto them. ‘Non, désolé!’ I say and keep walking clutching my handbag tightly in case she tries to wrestle it from me.
Apparently it’s quite common in Paris, see this article, Huge increase in “deaf/mute” scam in Paris.