Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Found: One Gold Ring

We're walking along a street in Paris when this guy just in front bends down and picks something up. He looks around at us and holds out a man's gold ring in the palm of his hand, his expression asking if I had just dropped it. It takes about half a second for me to think it's not mine and clearly it's not his but one of us may as well have it. I instinctively put out my hand and he gives the ring to me.

It takes another second for me to realise the ring is still warm from body heat; if it had been sitting on the cold stone for even a couple of minutes it would also be freezing cold. I look around for who might have dropped it and see a well-off older guy who has just removed a glove and realise the ring must be his. I move to approach him but the young guy who gave me the ring has moved off, thought for a second, then decided to ask me for a small reward for returning the ring.

I pull out a few coins without looking and give them to him whilst keeping an eye on the older guy.

But the young guy wants more money. I have only given him 50 cents. I know where he's coming from - it's an expensive ring, he has done the right thing, the least I can do is reward him decently. Maybe the ring is worth several hundred dollars, maybe more, so what is 10 or 20 Euro in comparison? Problem is, I'm not going to pay paper money for a ring I am about to return to its rightful owner.

I give the kid 2 Euro to get him out of my way because the old guy is moving away now and I really want to give the ring back to him.

But the kid gets shitty with me now and starts demanding more money because it's for food. This really pisses me off. He has simply done what he though was the right thing to do - why expect money for that? I wave him off, leaving him shouting in exasperation. I chase after the old guy.

"Did you just lose a ring?" I ask him.

He looks at his watch. He can't speak a word of English. I point at his ring finger. I show him my rings. I pull the gold ring out of my pocket and mime finding it on the pavement. He does not recognise the ring and walks away muttering.

So. Suddenly I am left with a solid gold ring and now way of returning it to its rightful owner. I look around for anyone looking for a lost ring. It could be anyone. By now they could be anywhere. I feel bad for them and don't know what to do. I think about taking it to the police. I think about selling it. I'm just not sure.

We talk about what an odd thing to happen this was. About the frustration of feeling the owners body heat in the metal. About the pushiness of the kid and how dumb he was to think it was mine when it was in front of us and not behind.

Next day, standing outside the Louvre, looking at the Seine, a fresh faced girl approaches us from behind and says look what I just found, a gold ring.

The Dreaded One and I look at each other. Oh yeah?

"Yours?"the girl asks.

"No," we both say.

"Is it gold?"

We shrug.

"You take it. For good luck."

"No, you keep it for good luck."

She leaves us alone to look for another victim.

What I like about all this is that it's an inventive scam. If you get sucked in properly and hand over the 10 or 20 Euro I've since read occurs, you have your own greed to blame. You know this supposed gold ring is not yours, but you realise that 20 Euro is a damn good price for this chunky ring. Hell, who knows how much it's worth. It's a good little scam.

I now know where the warmth of the ring came from. I'm glad I only forked out a Euro or two (it will make for an amusing addition to our coffee table collection of trip memorabilia), and I amused to think the old French guy probably thought I was trying this local scam on him.

And I am very glad I didn't hand it into the police or take it to a jeweller to be valued. They would have gotten a good laugh out of it though.


Guyana-Gyal said...

Wow, the con-artists there are way ahead, man, this is so clever.

Because I wasn't the victim I can laugh hahaha.

How do you get into these escapades? Can you imagine the old French guy thinking, Look at these Aussies, coming all the way here to pull this scam.

Kathryn said...

They are so, so clever with those scams. Once in Berlin, I got sucked into playing that game with the three cups and a ball. The ball is underneath one cup but you have to guess which one. There were lots of people playing and it was a really active scene. Lots of people were winning. I got caught up and forked over something ridiculous like 30 euro to play and totally lost it. As soon as I lost it, I realized it was a scam because people started leaving quickly. Everyone was in on it! I wonder if they actually get some big players or if people were as stupid and naive as me. I did learn a lesson, though.

Lee said...

It is clever, GG. Glad I only parted with change. If the ring hadn't been warm and I hadn't assumed it had just fallen off someone nearby, I don't know what would have happened.

That's the thing though Kat - when they're good, they're very convincing. I totally believed the guy had just found the ring. It wasn't until the following day that both of us realised it was a scam.