Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

Let me start this post with a disclaimer…

I don’t have particularly good things to say on this subject. But I am going to comment because it is part of the landscape here in Rome… a BIG part. And I AM going to followup with a more positive post about much nicer things.

So if you want to skip this rant, you can. You’ve been warned.

OK, Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.

ImageGypsies… Of course they are just normal people and I doubt if you could tell a mainstream, hard-working gypsy from anyone else. But the ones who choose to make a living by preying on tourists are another matter. Begging is ok. Selling stuff is ok. Pickpocketing is not. And fortunately I haven’t been a victim of that. Neither do I choose to give them any money for free or otherwise.

But when they come up to you at dinner, block your path on the walks – and even follow you down the street – it is aggravating. Women in ragged clothes hold out pictures of Jesus or starving babies and implore your help. At first it is shocking to someone like me who hasn’t been around this in a big city. But after a while I just feel irritated by it. I can’t even muster up any sympathy, which makes me feel hard-hearted. And I know I’m not.

ImageTramps… I guess I’ll lump the street venders and crippled souls together in this category. (And I won’t post any photos of the poor creatures I saw scooting across the ground today because they are just too pathetic.) The rose sellers are just like the umbrella guys. They won’t take no for an answer and they shove their flowers practically up your nose. I’m downright sick of it! And I can’t tell you how many people I saw today carrying around roses they obviously bought from these hucksters. That annoys me, too! Seems to me if these people are healthy enough to chase tourists around all day in all kinds of weather, they are healthy enough to get a real job and get off the street.

ImageThieves... there are two kinds of thieves besides the outright pickpockets. First are the ones who sell fake stuff like sunglasses and purses. Why does anyone want that stuff? And here’s one of those umbrellas I was talking about. It was laying broken on the sidewalk this morning after yesterday’s storm. I’ve seen them all over.

The second kind of thieves are the shop and restaurant owners who purposely rip off tourists. I actually DID have that run-in today and I must say that Mrs. P became quite rude. (she’s getting the blame.) This won’t be flattering to tell, but this is the rant part of this post.

I had walked to some major tourist sites today and timed it to have lunch out. But you do have to be careful here in Rome because it can get quite pricey. You pretty much know if you go to a restaurant or cafe nearest an attraction it is going to cost more. Probably a lot more. So as I was walking from one place to another I stopped along a side street to think about lunch. I wasn’t really hungry but I needed a break. I took a look at the posted menu and the prices were medium for the area. Soup was $9 – not $12 or $15 like I’ve seen.

I took a seat and the girl asked as always, “are you going to drink or eat?” “I’ll have a glass of white wine while I decide,” I replied. She brought out a good sized glass of wine and I thought well, good, I’ll just sit here a while. I took my advil and watched people for a while and soon an older lady sat down at the next table. She said she was drawn in by my wine and wanted some herself. She ordered a Prosecco and a pasta dish and we began to chat.

ImageAfter a half hour or so I decided to walk on and eat later and asked for the bill. The girl brought my bill and the other lady’s at the same time. I took one look at mine and gasped. The charge was 15 euro plus 2.25 euro service charge. Shocked, I looked over at the lady and asked “how much was your wine?” 9 euro she said. “Oh, then mine must be wrong.” I got up to go inside and ask.

As soon as I went in the door, the waitress ran up behind me and said, “hey – you’re supposed to pay ME!” “OK,” I said, “but there’s a mistake. I just got one glass, not a bottle.”

“That IS the price for one glass,” she replied. “I don’t think so!” I answered back. “I can buy a whole bottle for that!”

“Yeh, in a supermarket but not here,” she sassed. “Well, then why was that other lady’s wine only 9 euro?” I challenged.

“Because she got Prosecco and you got white wine.” I said I didn’t see the difference and that everywhere I’ve been, Prosecco is usually more than the house wine. She said too bad, I should have checked the menu.

At this point Mrs. P started putting on her angry eyes…

“Well, ” I said, “I did check the menu. Your drinks are not ON the menu you gave me and a bowl of soup was 9 euro. Why would I think a glass of wine costs twice as much as a bowl of soup?”

“You should have asked…” she sassed again.

“You should have told me…” I retorted.

“I’m just doing my job,” she said.

“And if your job is to rip off tourists, then you are doing a very good one!” I said and handed her a 20 euro note.

“If you don’t like it, talk to my boss,” says Miss Priss.

“Fine, let me talk to him.”

“He isn’t here. You want to wait for him?”

Of course all this is going nowhere so I just said, “well, tell him that I am very unhappy and that I am a writer and I’m going to give you a bad review.”

“Ha!” she laughed. “I don’t care and neither will he!”

“I guess that explains why you work for him then, doesn’t it?” (Bad Mrs. P!)

She smirked and I left. And the waiter across the street was looking at me. “Hey,” I said, “how much do you charge for a glass of white wine?” 4.50, he replied. “Hmmm,” I pondered, “I guess I chose the wrong place.” “You did,” said the waiter. “they’re a tourist trap…”

I turned to look at the girl and she said, “I told you, I DON’T CARE!” I just shook my head and walked away.

Well, that’s that. It was just a glass of wine. But they’re still thieves just like the guys with the fake purses.

Now I’ll be even more careful – I don’t plan to give any money willingly to gypsies, tramps or thieves – especially sassy ones!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sassy space monkey
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 14:44:21

    OMG! They are evrywhere! Don’t you know americans are all rich and love crappy merchandise? You need that umbrella with a point on it walking w/ it point out. Then growl like a banshee!!! Then,,,,,,,,, have a glass of wine. Ask the price first. ( That must be why my grandpa immigrated to the U.S. GYPSIES and cheap umbrellas and sassy snots!( Don’t let it get cha! Just follow the above instructions!!!

    Reply

  2. the less trustier billy...
    Nov 01, 2012 @ 19:29:08

    i recommend you always look for the price on the menu first or ask. there are several tricks like that in the touristy areas. i remember once where d-dog wanted to sit and have a beer while i ran off to get something. he ordered the large beer, which of course no local orders, it is only an american thing. anyway, that single beer was over 20 euros, a $25 beer. it was big but they put stuff like that on the menu only for us to buy. i have had several try to scam me by not giving the right change back. they know most americans take our change and stick it in our pocket, without counting. several times a 2 euro coin would be missing. they give you lots of “nickel” coins to make you think you got a lot but the 2 euro coins would be missing. it gets to the point you can’t trust darn near anyone in the bigger cities for sure. i always try to avoid the main drags for meals. live and learn. get back to it.

    Reply

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