I was scammed! I was gullible! I got done!
Saturday morning in Aix is full on and Cours Gambetta is crowded, congested and chaotic. The idea was to drop off Sue and Peter’s luggage at the hotel as we were a bit early, park, have lunch and then say our goodbyes.
“15 Gambetta! That’s it. You’ve just passed it,” said Sue. I stopped, put on the hazard lights, mimicking the vehicle in front and everyone scrambled out, grabbed the luggage and would be back in a minute.
I waited. I was in a bus lane and traffic was manic. I held my nerve. It seemed like an eternity and my anxiety levels were rising. No sign of them.
Suddenly a young man in a small blue van pulled up in front of me, jumped out of his car and tapped on the passenger window. He said he was from the hotel and there was parking there for me. Well, that is not absolutely true. He spoke a mixture of French and English and that is what I heard.
He indicated that I should make a U-turn. Seriously?? Had he noticed the traffic? I grimaced. He stepped confidently into the oncoming traffic and held all, while I made a nervous six point three point turn. I drove to the small street indicated by him, to be greeted by his compatriot, dressed in the same uniform of long dark pants, a royal blue polo shirt with a crest on the left breast. Neither had good English.
There was much confusion as to where I should park. I accepted this as my lack of understanding. In hindsight I was very lucky. Firstly, at one stage I actually offered one of the fellows the key to the car so he could park it and later I realised how completely dumb that was. Everything was in the car- cards, passports, phones…everything!!! Again in hindsight I realised how deserted the car park was at the back of the building. I had really put myself in a dangerous situation. Ummmm hindsight – need less of that and more foresight. Eventually they convinced me to park in a location marked “Prive” –“ It’s for the hotel,” they convincingly told me.
Then the scam.
One of the fellows took me to a parking machine and indicated it was necessary to have a ticket. I would need to use my credit card. I thought, very fleetingly (obviously), that was a bit strange seeing the hotel had organised this. He must have realised and keyed in a few numbers into the machine, as if it was a hotel code. He indicated to use the credit card, stepped away and pretended not to look. I keyed in my pin. The next few seconds is a blurr. Something happened and I do not know what, but through slight of hand my credit card appeared to be swallowed up by the machine but obviously he had taken it. He assured me security would be along in three hours to retrieve the card. “No worries, no worries. Hotel will organise. Have lunch. All good.” I was so confused!!! They left.
I did wake up and realise I had been scammed. I rang and cancelled my card but not before they had reduced my credit by a thousand euros. It took them ten minutes. Phoning the bank took longer!!! “For this press 3, for that 4 and then …we are experiencing high call volumes at this time. Your call will be answered by the next available officer.” Eventually we got on and the process of lodging a claim has begun. A lesson I could do without. Oh and just to add insult to injury- parking is free on Saturday!!!