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One thing that I’ve learned during my travels is that people around the world are generally good-hearted. Most people really want to help you, and they are curious and want to know about you. However, there are always those who see an opportunity to benefit from your naivety and friendliness. This is why it’s important to be aware of any of these “scams” or other ways that you may be deceived during your trip.
What is the “Free Gift” Scam in Egypt?
Let’s be honest, this scenario doesn’t just happen in Egypt. In fact, I’ve experienced it in nearly every country I’ve visited. I guess you could call this a “scam” in a way, but “scam” is such a negative word to me. “Scam” implies something really dodgy and dangerous.
And this isn’t dangerous.
The “free gift” ploy is really just more of a dishonest sales technique — a way of guilting you into a purchase you never really wanted. If anything, it’s just deceitful and feels pretty annoying to deal with.
Here’s How the “Free Gift” Scam Works
You are walking around a foreign market (or wherever) and someone approaches you and starts chatting very friendly-like. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this. Personally, I really enjoy these kinds of chats and interactions with the locals when I travel. And some of them are totally genuine!
They may start to ask you where you are from and try to relate to you like “oh yeah I have been there before!” Or something like that. After a bit of chatting, then they may offer you something as a “gift.”
Even if you decline it, they may be quite persistent that you take their “free gift” as a token of their friendship or a memory from your experience. At some point, they are hoping that you feel guilty and a bit rude for not accepting their gift and hope that you will give in.
And that’s when they will try to guilt you into some kind of “donation” or another type of monetary payment in exchange for the gift that you already accepted. Remember…NOTHING IS FREE!
My Experience With “Free Gifts” In Egypt
I actually experienced the “free gift” ploy a number of times during my travels in Egypt. One day I was walking in the Khan El Khalili Market in Cairo and a guy told me “everything is free” in his shop! In my moment of surprise, as I paused and looked at him, he then attempted to give me a bookmark for free. Of course, I knew his bookmark wasn’t free.
Then there was the guy who was chatting with me in the street and offered to take me to his old family’s shop. He made it sound like a really cool old shop to get me interested and talked about his family, etc. He was showing me different products and then tried to give me a “gift.” He kept saying things like “This is a gift to remember me” and “just a small one” to make it seem like it wasn’t big or extravagant.
I resisted for a while, telling him that I didn’t want to buy anything. After a while, he put the gift in my hand. Then as it seemed I was about to take it, he suddenly changed his tune and started saying things like “happy price for you” and “good price.” This was confusing because it contradicted what he had just said earlier, so I started asking him questions to clarify.
At this point, it was clear that now he was asking me to pay for it. So I called him out on it!
I told him I didn’t want to buy anything and that I didn’t want it. But it continued to go back and forth with me, trying to guilt me into buying it saying things like “it’s not too much” and of course “you make me happy…my small shop…”
A TOTAL GUILT TRIP!
Finally, I had to tell him I was not happy with him for trying to guilt me into buying this “gift” because now he was trying to charge me! The most frustrating part about this is that sometimes when you do get sucked in a bit by being nice, then you have to waste your time arguing with them and feeling a bit rude.
But you know what? You should NOT feel guilty! They know what they are doing. Call them out on it.
Watch the Video Below to See What Happened!
Tips for Avoiding the “Free Gift” Ploy
I totally get it, we all want to be friendly. And you should be friendly when you travel. Interact with people, talk to them, laugh with them, get to know them. But just keep your guard up and be aware.
If they offer you something for free, be persistent in telling them “no thank you.” Sometimes you might feel like you are a bit of a jerk, but you know that their end game is to try and get money from you – whether they ask you to buy or just ask you for a simple “donation.” So you really shouldn’t feel too bad about it.
Another approach is to be very upfront at the beginning and tell them you are not interested in buying anything. Just keep repeating it to them over and over, and do not accept anything that they give to you for “free.”
And don’t be afraid to straight-up call them out on it!
Whatever you do, do not feel obligated to buy something you don’t want!!! Smile, say thanks and walk away.
Enjoy Yourself & Don’t Let This Stop You!
It’s important not to get hung up worrying about “scams” or deceitful situations like this. It doesn’t happen all the time, as I said, most people really are good. There is so much to be seen and experienced when traveling that you really shouldn’t let situations like this worry you or stop you from traveling. Just being aware of it so that you know what to expect and see it coming can go a long way in helping you feel comfortable during your travels.