My trip was actually ten years ago but Tripadvisor doesn't allow entering a date that old. Reading the recent reviews of Paris' infamous red light district, I see that nothing has changed so I thought I'd share an experience from when my girlfriend and I went to Paris for Christmas (a few days before the Euro was introduced). Here is what I wrote my credit card company (MBNA) when I got back from the trip:
"Last Christmas holiday, I was visiting Paris for the first time with my girlfriend, her mother and her 87 year-old grandfather. During a bus tour, our drive through Paris’s nightclub district prompted the grandfather to pester me to take him to a strip club because he’d never been to one. Thereafter, on the evening of December 26th, the girls went to shop while “Gramps” and I went to look at the wild side of Paris.
Intending it to be a short excursion, we agreed to pick just one place and wandered until we found a suitable candidate—the “Sex O” Club—not fancy. The sidewalk tout asked for 40 francs each (about $6), so we paid and in we went.
Inside, the club was empty except for a bartender setting up the bar and two women helping out. No patrons, no entertainers, no nothing. It was obvious that we’d arrived way too early, but, as we turned to leave, they insisted that we stay and have a drink. Since we were already there, we accepted the invitation. I ordered a glass of wine and Gramps asked for tap water. Instead, they brought us two glasses of mineral water. The two girls, dressed in street clothes, then sat down and asked “You buy dreenk?” Although I replied that we’d already bought drinks, they nodded to the bartender who then brought over two pink drinks for the girls.
We politely chit-chatted until we’d finished our mineral waters and then got up to leave. Again, however, they insisted that we stay because “Zee show iz coming!” “Zee show” turned out to be a very bored looking dancer, who must have been awakened from a nap in the back room. She proceeded to dance half-a-number and, while she was dancing, the two girls ordered two more pink drinks for themselves (we declined any more beverages). After the dancer finished, we stood up and asked for “zee bill.” We’d been in the club for less than a half-hour. The bartender busily tallyied the amount for our two waters and then thrust out the check saying “Zat weel bee four zousand five hundred francs.” Thinking I’d heard wrong, I asked “You mean forty-five francs?”
Shoving the paper at me, he assured, no, the bill was 4,500 francs (approximately $650 dollars). Seeing my shocked look, he got nasty and yelled “You buy two dreenks for you and four dreenks for girls.” Ignoring my protests that we hadn’t ordered any drinks for the girls, he got nastier, yelling “You Americans zink you come Paris and don’t pay? You zink you are dangerous? You zink you are mafia? I show you mafia!”
Refusing to pay $650 for two glasses of water, I pulled out my cash and insisted that he charge a fair price. He grabbed the money out of my hands (about $120 dollars) and said “Also give cash card.” I said “No” and then grabbed Gramps by the sleeve and started toward the door. Voila, from out of nowhere, some goon with a bat went to the door, locked it, and menacingly walked toward us. Without a word he slammed me AND Gramps back toward the bartender (who I think was really the manager.)
Realizing the situation was actually getting dangerous, especially with Gramps in tow, I asked the bartender what would satisfy him. He said “Give cash card and I charge 1,200 francs more.” Denying that I had a cash card (since I know you can’t dispute them), I gave him my MBNA Visa card. He ran it through his machine and made me sign the charge slip (with goon-holding-bat behind me.) He didn’t give me a copy of the receipt, so I don’t know what vendor name appeared on the charge (apparently “JAMAGA”).
The night it happened, I reported the incident to MBNA. Also, on the next business day, I went to the French police and spent three hours filing a complaint.
In closing, would you please reverse the charge? Further, I highly recommend that Visa (and all other creditors) deny financing services to these thugs."
POSTSCRIPT: MBNA, now Capital One, refused to pay, saying that because I'd signed the slip, there was nothing they would do about it. Needless to say, I cancelled my MBNA card and have refused Capital One's subsequent offers.
It also turned out that the criminals' credit card machine printed that it was from a casino, implying that I'd been gambling. NOT the case.
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