April 19, 2009

Day Three in Rome

April 3rd was a beautiful, sunny day in Rome. After breakfast we took a bus to the Capitoline area. Zsa Zsa had made us a little apprehensive about taking buses, saying they don't call out the names of the stops but you could ask someone to let you know when your stop was coming up. It was true but there are signs at every stop listing all the names and telling you where you are so it was much easier than Zsa Zsa made it sound, and it was a great way to see the city (and the grafitti).
We were walking around, working our way toward the Jewish ghetto, looking at the ruins all around. We were on a main street when a car stopped and a man called over to us. "Excuse me," he said, "do you speak English?" He told us he was in town for a fashion show, that he worked for Calvin Klein and he had some time and was looking for the Colisseum. Well, big shots...we knew that one and pointed him in the direction. He thanked us but kept talking, fast, with a pretty heavy accent. He was from Spain, he told us, and asked where we were from. "America," we said.
"Oh, my wife's American. She's from Ohio," he told us.
"Oh! I'm from Ohio," I said.
He was well-dressed, coat and tie, very friendly, very talkative but with a heavy accent. He showed us his Calvin Klein catalog, told us about the show. Finally we said goodbye and started to walk away when he said to me, "Wait. How tall are you?"
"5'3"", I said.
"You know what?" he said. "I have a jacket here that would be perfect for you." He showed me a red leather jacket. "Very nice leather," he said. "Feel it." I did. "You can have it. It's a sample and I can't sell the samples. Here, it's yours." He was talking very fast, cars were whizzing by. We weren't quite sure what was going on but were feeling quite fortunate. "Thank you so much," we said.
"And for you," he said to Bill, "I have one for you too. You're 5"10" - 5'11", right?"
He gave Bill a black leather jacket, told us they were very nice leather, worth about $1000 each. He couldn't sell them, he said, but asked if we could just do him a small favor. He had to drive a ways and was low on petrol and did we have a few dollars. So Bill said, "How much do you need?"
"100 euros?" he said. Now a dim bell went off in both our heads but it was happening so quickly we didn't have time to think. Bill opened his wallet and the guy saw a 50 and said that would be fine. So Bill gave him 50 euros and we all said goodbye. He did a U-turn to head over to the Colisseum, and waved to us as he drove off.
We pulled the jackets out of the bag to see our booty. Mine was marked XXL and when I put it on the sleeves came down to my knees. Bill's was marked L but he couldn't button it. Then it finally dawned on me and I looked at the inside of mine and found the tag that said "PVC." Well...duh. We'd been scammed. It was a good one, we bought the whole story (literally). It seemed so plausible. He seemed so legit.
So we were standing there feeling incredibly stupid and gullible when an English couple about our age come over to us and showed us their own bag of jackets. "He got you, too," they said. "Yeah," we said. "It was a good story. He told us his wife was American."
They said his wife was English for them and they gave him about 200 euros. All of us were amazed that we'd been duped so easily. It was a very creative scam, tho, I have to say.
We don't wish for anyone to be scammed like that, especially for 200 euros, but I have to say it made us feel a little better that we weren't the only ones who fell for it.

If it's too good to be true, the adage says, it is. We know that, we live by those words. And still...
We left our plastic jackets by a trash bin, hoping at least that a homeless person would find them and get use out of them.
A lesson learned in Rome.

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