Monthly Archive: July 2014

Paris and Gnats…

Paris and Gnats…

Some time ago, I spent about a week in Paris. A wonderful city and one that I viewed was more beautiful in person than in pictures, if that is possible. Besides the occasional communication challenges, the only issue I confronted were some of these pesky and obnoxious street vendors who would congregate around the touristy areas: Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur, Champs-Élysées, Notre-Dame, and the Louvre. Often, they would pester and harass gullible tourist to buy mini Eiffel Tour trinkets, carved wooden elephants or other mementos from Paris.

Many of these pesky vendors I would consider gnats, those who get close too close to your face (and violate your personal space without realizing it) and would not take ‘no’ for an answer, determined to sell any of their wares to tourists for a few euros.

You hear stories or experience these African men approach you quite aggressively at the base of the Sacre Coeur and want to trade bracelets or trinkets for money frustration may set in as you just want to enjoy the sights and sounds of the area and take in its Roman and Byzantine architecture. Often, they would surround you and offer you a bracelet for free as they slyly tie it to your wrist only to demand money once it’s part of you.

These hagglers and pesky merchants often pounce on prospective tourists and consumers like flies on horse dung from a romantic horse and buggy ride around the Place de la Concorde. Kind of like Pavlov’s Dogs, as soon as unsuspecting tourists arrive, some of these pesky merchants often do most anything to get a sale.

If you hang around the Champs-Élysées, you can see them in action. The observant visitor could quickly catch on to their game, especially around the world’s most popular street. It appears a well organized business some work in a group, one or two may be on lookout while a few may violate your personal space in order to get you to notice their inventory. These gnats certainly can distinguish tourists from Parisians so they zoom in on their target like mosquitoes searching for blood. I’ve read many of them display their wares (or do you prefer junk) on a blanket or sheet without the necessary permits and visas and when they’re about to be confronted by un agent de police, they grab their cord that collapses the blanket, including their wares and flee. Once un agent de police leave, they reappear like roaches with an absence of light. After seeing their game, I was quite skeptical about patronizing many of these street vendors.

Standing in line to visit the Eiffel Tower, I’m approached by a young women who is dressed like a gypsy who asks me if I speak English. Her approach is of desperation as she sticks a clipboard in my face so I can quickly relate to her apparent plight. She conveys a situation where she’s destitute and unable to support herself. This is not the Declaration of Independence or a Living Will, just enough copy to produce pity, but more important, your euros (I bet they’d take American dollars or the English Pound for that matter). There are many of these women around such a beautiful area. A newbie might show pity for them and give them some money – especially a tourist who realizes how fortunate they are to visit such a beautiful city. In my mind, there’s only one thing worst than a charity that spends most, if not all their donations on administrative costs without considerable results. It’s people who fake a plight in an attempt to swindle money from tourists.

Unfortunately, our family arrived at the Eiffel Tower late morning and by that time, the lines up to the top of Paris’ famous landmarks was about two hours. So what do tourists do besides purchase water and snacks at the local kiosks while slowly shuffling their feet towards the entrance? Act as sitting ducks for these young women with clipboards and a penchant for trying to swindle some of your money?

Do un agent de police turn a blind eye to such behavior? Having spent almost a week in France’s capital, not once did I see any police question these street vendors or ask for their permits. I’d assume these gypsy women who harassed me at the Eiffel Tower make it a regular task of harassing other tourists on when the opportunity presents itself – would it be too difficult infiltrate the area with plain clothes officers who could arrest and interrogate such individuals?

I read over the last few years that Paris receives 60 to 70 million visitors annually. That trend has steadily increased over the years. If so, are these issues too trivial and insignificant for the police to worry about? Perhaps they turn a blind eye to such a thing unless it becomes a major issue? 

During the World Cup of 2014, France made it to the quarterfinals before losing to Germany, 1-0. Using tongue and cheek with my wife, I mentioned that we might have a good time to visit some of the touristy spots in Paris, while these street vendors or gnats on the Champs-Élysées and Sacré-Cœur take a break from such behavior and catch the game I know they love.

10 Reason Why I Would Not Buy Junk from Street Vendors…

  1. It is junk
  2. The street vendors are too aggressive and dress badly
  3. It is junk
  4. I don’t like gnats figuratively or literally
  5. It is junk
  6. It is overpriced
  7. It is junk
  8. Memories of Paris will be in the digital and personal memory form
  9. It is junk
  10. I’m afraid custom’s officials in the United States might target my bag for review and harass me for buying such junk in Paris from those aggressive street vendors