Boy oh boy, I sure have some stories on this topic. Over the years, I’ve learnt a LOT about how to spot a likely scam or dodgy situation. I mean sure, it’s no secret locals may try to take financial advantage of tourists. However, what may be more shocking is that small actions often lead to the biggest red flags. Seeing as I’ve had first-hand experience of being ripped-off during my travels back when I was younger, I was keen to write a post on things to look out for when abroad.
No price tag? Approach with caution
I am sure most of us have been in a situation where a store doesn’t display prices. Of course, not all sellers will have unpleasant motives. Although, you have to start thinking about why prices aren’t being displayed at some point. Usually, no fixed price gives flexibility to the seller for creating their own price depending on the person interested in buying. The thing is though, the price guides can vary A LOT. One person might be charged 2 euros for a bottle of water whilst another person might be charged 5 euros for the same bottle of water. Yes, it happens. Maybe you might not be too bothered about lack of clear pricing when in a rush to purchase something, but you could get a more consistently- priced item at a different spot.
I have actually asked why something has no price before. Not to be difficult, but more so as an indicator that I am aware something might not add up. It’s harder for sellers to trick you when you stay one step ahead. The responses that follow might range from a simple ‘I forgot’ to a less believable ‘My pet ate the prices’ type of excuse. It goes without saying, be polite. However, be cautious too. Little things like a postcard being 2 euros might not break the bank, but for a more valuable souvenir be mindful. You might even find when you walk away, the starting price ‘magically’ drops to something more reasonable.
The reason why I would add the above point to a post on scams is because when a price isn’t displayed, and you hand over a 10 dollar bill for example, you may be tricked into receiving the wrong change. Experiences like this are why I try to carry more coins with me, instead of notes, when purchasing from stalls abroad.
Asking where you are from
This is something which tends to happen wherever you go. As soon as you approach, small talk is made. Then a not-so-subtle ‘so friend, where are you travelling from’ escapes. Usually, I think nothing of it until I realised when I said I was from the UK the prices were inflated. I found this out as my friend from another part of Europe approached the stall, got asked the same question and was given a lower price. Sometimes countries which are deemed ‘more wealthy’ by society are attractive to market sellers who think you’ll pay more or have more money to spare. This links with the point above.
Pressure to buy by a certain date or time
You know, ‘for today I’ll do a special price’ etc. Now, don’t get me wrong I know this isn’t always a bad thing, nor is it always suspicious. However, desperation to seal the deal isn’t always down to enthusiasm.
I’ll give you an example, a few years ago I fell into the trap of purchasing a ticket for an event in the streets. The ticket was sold to me as an ‘exclusive event only available for today’. In hindsight, it makes sense why the seller was desperate to leave once I handed over my money for the ticket. The event didn’t exist. My friends have also had a similar situation with being rushed into booking a hostel, it turned out to be an abandoned building. Yikes.
Speaking of accommodation, if a description or list of amenities are vague then do some additional research. Usually, if a room is legit then you’ll see the price/condition/design and size ratio all matching up. I say usually as I know genuinely good deals can exist! However, once I found out some hotels use a fish-eye lens to make a room look bigger in pictures I instantly started looking at descriptions more. If the price is too good to be true and all that…
Being Rushed To Pay The Food Bill In A Restaurant
How many of you actually check the bill to ensure all is accurate? I’ll be honest, I don’t do this enough. In tourist hotspots, which I try to avoid eating at, waiters may shove card machines in your face as soon as you finish your 5th drink. Perhaps nothing to think about in the moment, but this could essentially be a method to distract you from tracking the bill amount. Other red flags might be tap water being charged as bottle and additional starters added when you didn’t order them. Sure, sometimes it may be a genuine mistake but drunken tourists won’t always notice these things and locals know this.
If you have any stories about this topic, let me know in the comments below!
Until then, see you in the next post