Sunday, August 30, 2015

So Ripped Off

I could also have called this post Rookie Travel Mistakes, but the So Ripped Off title is less harsh on my ego.

The other day Kerry headed out on a bicycle tour of Rio. See his blog post here. We decided from what we've seen so far, any kind of cycling would just be too crazy for the kids. And I"ll be honest: I'm scared biking in Edmonton. Growing up rural will do that to a person. So trying to bike here and be responsible for two kids was just a touch - or actually - WAY out of my comfort zone. So instead, when Kerry headed out the kids and I had a morning of school work, I successfully tackled a water delivery, then we headed to the beach.

I felt quite comfortable and confident taking the kids to the beach until Kerry's tour ended and he met us. We've been here just about every day and I know how it all works. We get our chairs and umbrella. Our chair guy has beer and other drinks. We pay him at the end of the day. The beach walkers sell things. In over a week of doing this, we've never been overtly ripped off - until today when my guard was down and my confidence overly high.

Things started off well. I got the chairs and umbrella. The kids headed into the water. Later I ordered my caipirinha. The sun shone down on us. Life was good.

Before I ordered any shrimp.

Then I decided to order shrimp.

The guy came over. I asked a couple of times in my bad Portuguese "how much". When he didn't answer I should've paid attention and taken this as a sign. But nope; we wanted shrimp.

I ordered two sticks of shrimp. The kids waited excitedly next to me. He took them off the skewers, prepared them and handed them to the kids. I should have stopped him giving the plate to the kids, but I didn't. I asked again "how much". He told me a crazy high price. Way more than I had. In fact, what he asked for was enough to feed four of us at a juice bar for lunch.

Not only was I being ripped off, I didn't have enough money, I don't speak Portuguese, I had no idea who else he might be working with, and the kids had already started chowing down on the shrimp so I can't even hand them back. And, I wanted this guy gone.

It was at this moment that I failed as a traveller. A rule that I have known since I was 9 when I flew to Vancouver by myself to visit an auntie, that I failed to follow this day: keep your money in more than one spot.

Simple, yet one of the most important rules. But nope, today I had my little bit of money (which happened to be all of it) shoved into my swim suit pocket. Argh!

I tried to deal with the shyster and tell him too much and that I don't have enough and as I'm doing this, I pulled out all the money from my pocket! It's still not as much as he's asked, but it really was all I'd taken to the beach.

Such a dumb move. Now he knew exactly what I had and likely thought I had more tucked away (like I should have!). One dumb move blended into the next and before I know it he had all my money. I'm not sure if he was whistling as he walked away down the beach, but  on my replay reel in my head he sure is.

As the pièce de résistance, after being ripped off I did think to myself at least I'll get some shrimp or two out of it. But no. I turned back to the kids with my ego ripped to shreds, only to see them finish off the last of the shrimp. No shrimp for me.

Of course, I recognized that I still needed to pay my chair guy for two chairs, an umbrella and my caipirinha. But I had no money. That's a bit of a potential situation. But Kerry was joining us after his tour and he'd bring money.

I then of course, pictured the many different ways Kerry could be injured on his cycling tour that would impede his attempt to join us after the tour. I'm always in awe of how fantastic our imaginations can be in moments like this. 

So I sat by myself, watching the kids play, imagining the many ways Kerry would hurt or kill himself, and coming up with back up plans as to how I would pay for chairs and drink.

Of course, Kerry arrived after his tour and had money. Why? Because I think my travel guardian angel - who I thought had completely abandoned me today - was actually cycling along side Kerry, just in case.

Ultimately, I was ripped off only about $15. Though I'm annoyed by my rookie mistakes, I'd rather be reminded of the need for vigilance in this way than a different more dramatic way. Plus, Kerry had a great tour, the kids had another great afternoon at the beach, and sometimes a workout for your imagination is a good thing.


  1. Oh well -- "once burned, twice shy" -- the rip-off artists won't catch you again that way!

    1. Or if they do I'll at least have money in my other pocket to pay my debts!

  2. And nobody was hurt and like you said we always learn from our mistakes or in this case bad luck.

    1. Bad luck or stupidity! I expect the ripping off, but I'm still mad at myself for letting myself end up in the position of being on the beach owing money, but not having any.