Today I figured i’d write about a bit of a funny encounter I had while in Jaipur, India. It all started one evening when I stepped out of my hostel on to the streets of Jaipur to go look for a place to have dinner. A man working across the street saw me and approached me to (I had assumed) try to sell me something. My guard was up as it normally is but he told me he just wanted to talk since he is learning English and likes talking to people from other countries to learn about other places and help him improve his English at the same time. I had nothing else going on so figured a bit of time with this guy wouldn’t hurt. I just made sure to keep my guard up in case any funny business started.
I walked with the guy for a while, he talking about India and me about Canada. I had mentioned I was looking for somewhere to eat and asked if he could recommend anywhere so as we were walking he suggested a nearby place to me. We went in for a brief time but when I saw the menu and how expensive it was I chose to leave. The guy I was with wasn’t even going to eat anyways so seemed kind of pointless to stay. The restaurant was more expensive because it was western food. I guess, being a westerner he thought that would be the type of food I would be looking for but if I am in India i’d rather be eating the local food than western food I can get at home.
We continued to walk around the streets of Jaipur when the man asked if I wanted to go grab a beer at a nearby pub. I was still a little sketched out by him and didn’t have any desire to go drinking with this stranger and to the same end probably have to end up buying his drinks too. I declined so we continued on when he met one of his friends walking down the road. I was introduced and we got talking with him for a while too. The new friend owns a shop a couple blocks away and asked if I wanted to come see some of his hand made, local products. He told me of his reasonable prices compared to some of the other shops and it was all hand made, local designs from the Jaipur region.
I decided to oblige him, if for no other reason than to be polite. At this point the first man from earlier left us and we went to his shop where he showed me some very beautiful products priced very well that would make for perfect souvenirs to take home. However I only had a backpack (which was already full) and still had about 4 weeks left on my current route through Southeast Asia, Australia and Hawaii and really didn’t want to take on more weight in the bag this early on. They also had the option to ship products for you back to Canada if you wanted as well but that does add a fair bit to the bill and I was trying to follow a strict budget.
I kindly gave the man the same excuse I always give in such situations that “I am on a budget and don’t have the money to spend”. After all, honesty is the best policy. This is when things started to get a little dicey but I do have to commend the man on his tactics and how he used the fact that I said I had no money to work a different angle.
Usually when I tell people I don’t have the money to spend they understand that and I head on my way. However this man was clever and used it to play a different angle. When I told him this he changed the subject from one of buying his items to him offering me a job. He told me “if you need money, let me help you out”. See, the thing is, in order to enter India I needed to get a visa. This visa allows me to take something like $10,000 worth of goods back to Canada. The man knew this and after our previous discussions knew that I was only in India for a short time so likely I wouldn’t be using up that $10,000 allowance.
He offered me a job which would be to bring (or send) a box filled with $10,000 worth of jewelry back to Canada. He told me the jewelry has already been sold in Canada, he just needs to get it there. The thing is (at least as he told me), that when you export such product from India you need to pay 150% tax on it. He wanted to save paying this tax so that is where I would come in. He said he would give me the box of jewelry, would be able to inspect it and make sure it is what he says it is and then take it to the post office where I could ship it back to Canada in my name. Once I returned to Canada in about a month I could go to the post office, sign for it and pick up the package. Then, he would have one of his “distributors” in Canada meet me to collect the product from me and I would receive a 70% cut (or about $7000) for my part.
Now, if you are like me, that last paragraph should be setting off major alarms for you! If it doesn’t, I worry for you if you ever travel to such countries. The man knew I was uneasy about the deal. he tried telling me “don’t worry, we do everything legitimate. I am a legitimate business owner”. However that still did nothing to convince me otherwise and the old phrase of “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” was ringing loud and clear in my head. I got up, thanked the man for his hospitality and left. On my way out the door, the man said “don’t tell anyone what we talked about”. Yeah, “legitimate” my ass!
I was more than happy to get out of there, finally go find some dinner and get back to my hostel after a very long and tired day in Jaipur. What an evening that was and surely not one I will soon forget.