Being City Smart & Staying Safe

French former policeman turns to animation to warn tourists of crime

Safety Scouts Advice is a series of free clips designed by Christophe Gadenne that advises on how to avoid scams in Paris and other European cities

French gendarmes patrol Gare de Lyon train station in Paris.
French gendarmes patrol Gare de Lyon train station in Paris. Photograph: Jacques Brinon/AP

Today, four years after leaving the police force, Gadenne, 35, has produced a series of free, short, animated video clips advising holidaymakers how to avoid being robbed and ripped off. The Safety Scouts Advice series covers most of the scams that tourists face when they arrive in Paris.

You are sitting on a sunny cafe terrace enjoying a drink when someone slaps a petition on the table and asks you to sign it. You smile politely and shake your head and they disappear … along with your phone or purse. Or a complete stranger come up and hugs you while rifling through your pockets, or insists you accept a “gold” ring they have supposedly picked up from the floor. Or maybe the taxi has taken you way out of your way en route from the airport to your hotel and is demanding an extortionate fare.

WATCH VIDEOS HERE

The videos, most of them less than a minute long, are produced by Gadenne with the help of English-speaking friends, and have been translated or subtitled into other languages, including Chinese, Korean and Romanian. They were originally made for visitors to Paris, hence the Eiffel tower in the landscape, but have since branched out to common crimes in other capitals.

“When I was a police officer, I dealt with literally thousands of victims of aggressions and crimes like this,” Gadenne told the Guardian. “I have seen how these scams can totally ruin a holiday. I’ve had a family with little children in tears in front of me crying because they have been robbed and aggressed. Some tourists are completely traumatised. Nobody can be indifferent to this when they see how it affects the victims.

Credit/Source:  The Guardian

A Wine Rip-off & Tourist Trap

I was meeting friends (and their out-of-town friends who I hadn’t met before) for un aperitif at one of the cafés at the Port in Nice, before going to another friend’s “vernissage” held just around the corner. When I arrived, I found them sitting out front of  “Le Privé du Vieux Port“; they had just ordered a bottle of  rosé wine. We were busy making introductions and chatting when la serveuse  brought the wine, and began opening it.  I did notice out of the corner of my eye that she unscrewed the top, as there was no cork – a bit strange I mentally noted.  After we all tasted it and agreed it was too sweet and didn’t really like it, we checked the bottle label – “Gallo” from California.  My friend told me she had ordered “a rosé Provençale/locale” and that the girl had brought the wrong wine.  In the meantime, the waitress brought a bottle of red (with a cork) that one of the group had ordered – also “Gallo” brand.  As we debated and discussed the rosé error, with the bottle having been opened and 1/2 already poured into glasses, it was left undrunk, as we sipped on the red (better tasting, but still just an ordinary table wine).

We needed to get going, so decided to chalk it up to a live and learn moment ….. until ….. we got the bill:   60 Euros for the two bottles on wine!!  I asked the group if they had ordered from a wine menu – No!  Now it was time to verbally tackle the waitress (I also wanted to physically) and state that the price was outrageous for this wine, albeit “imported” from California, that most quality wines don’t even cost that much, and that she had in fact given us the wrong wine (apparently, the Provençale wine would have been even more expensive).  After arguing (politely) with her and a male worker, they finally reduced the bill to 50 Euros.

There were errors made on “both sides” of the table, to be sure, but I personally felt that they were taking advantage of foreigners/my friends.  There was a chalkboard propped near the entrance door that apparently had wines and prices listed, but my friends hadn’t noticed it nor had it been presented to them by the waitress.

BUYER BEWARE:

– always ask for “la carte de vin” (wine/drink menu) before ordering
– ask the price if it’s not listed or you aren’t sure
– check the bottle’s label BEFORE it’s opened, in case of a misunderstanding
– don’t be shy or afraid to confirm any information you are clear about
– don’t let one incident dictate your overall perspective or viewpoint

As the saying goes, “you’re never too old to learn” – some life lessons just cost more than others!