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Watching Out for Short Changers

Watching Out for Short Changers

on Sep 22, 2013 in Blog, Travel Tips

As tourists we know that at times it is easier for locals to take advantage of us. Between the language barriers and a lack of familiarity with a monetary system, it can be easy to swindle a tourist. Overall, we have found that most people are honest, but we have had a few experiences where we too have become victims of suave vendors and clerks that try to take advantage of us.

Deceiving Displays

Our first encounter on the trip was in Budapest, as outlined in The $18 Snack post. This one was our own fault for not looking at the menu and understanding what we were ordering and the associated cost. However, we did feel slightly deceived when we ordered something that was on display and got something far different (and more expensive) than what we thought we were ordering.

Short Changed at the Post Office

Our second encounter on the trip was in Bratislava. We went to the post office to purchase stamps for postcards. The post office was quite busy, with lines about 5 people deep behind each cashier. As we made our way to the front of the line, I requested 2 stamps (using hand symbols and pointing to the postcards) to the US. She pulled out her book, tore out 4 stamps and then keyed something into a calculator so I could see, and as I went to hand her money, she cleared the calculator screen. I could not recollect the exact number she put in, but knew it was 2 euros and some odd number of cents. I handed her a five euro note. She passed me the stamps and change through the window. I took the stamps, change and thanked her as I started to walk away. As I looked at the stamps (.60 euro) and the change (2.10 euro), I realized that it did not add up. Either I was missing postage, or I was short changed by .50 euro. At that point, it was too late to say anything, and I was not about to go back in line to try and figure it out, when I did not know enough of the language to articulate the situation. I also, walked off without getting a receipt. Again, it was my own fault and only .50 euro mistake. However, it frustrated me that I was short changed.

Short Changed at the Market

The third time on the trip that we know someone tried to take advantage of us was in Vienna at the Naschmarket. We stopped at a food vendor to buy a cheese and apricot filled pastry. After ordering, Kevin paid an older gentleman behind the counter 10.20 Euro. Immediately the friendly gentleman struck up a conversation with Kevin in rudimentary English, asking where he was from and generating small talk. Meanwhile, the gentleman handed Kevin 5 Euro back as change. The gentleman continued to make small talk. I jumped in and asked how much the pastry cost. The older gentleman responded and said 2.70 Euro. I then proceeded to question the amount of change that we received back. Another gentleman behind the counter jumped in and asked about the situation. We explained that we bought a pastry that was 2.70 Euro. We gave 10.20 Euro in cash to the older gentleman, but only received 5 Euros change. They corrected the situation and the older gentleman gestured as if his memory was going and he just forgot to hand us the change. He probably gets away with it more often than not.

It's easy to get confused when dealing with foreign notes and coins like these Hungarian notes.

It’s easy to get confused when dealing with foreign notes with large denominations.

There may have been other instances were we were taken advantage of but just did not realize it at the time. In general we have found that most people are very friendly and honest. We also realize that some of these could be honest mistakes that could happen to anyone, even locals. However, we have learned that we have to be more aware and on our toes while traveling to be sure that we do not get taken advantage of (on purpose or inadvertently).


  1. Several years ago,when we were in Hawaii, we were walking down a busy street past a department store and we noticed a group of Japanese young women with bags of purchases in their hands as they came out of the department store. They were talking and laughing in Japanese, of course, and shortly, behind them ran a man store clerk who was calling out to them, “Wait, wait, you forget your change.” And he had a bunch of American bills in his hand. They didn’t even seem to realize they had change coming. It was kind of refreshing!!

    • That sounds like a tv commercial!

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