I wrote this post after a rough day at work. I was quite disappointed in the events of the day, when I suddenly remembered a travel lesson I learned in Belgium. Let me backtrack a bit.
I love chocolates. A few years ago, when the opportunity came up to travel to Brussels with my brother, I couldn’t pass up on that opportunity. It was clearly a match made in heaven, as Brussels is known as the Chocolate Capital of the World.
We were only there for a few days, but we did a lot and even tried out a local breakfast cafe. It wasn’t entirely a random place, as we had been walking around for a few blocks in search of a good breakfast place. We came upon a cafe with waffles on the menu and it seemed like a great choice. You just can’t go wrong with waffles.
The timing was impeccable since my stomach had started to grumble.
A friendly staff behind the counter helped us with our order. My brother picked the classic Belgian waffle, while I opted for a Moroccan pancakes with a cup of hot …well, chocolate. We seated ourselves and after a short wait, a waitress came back with our food and poured warm chocolate on top.
I took a big bite and…
You know those exaggerated commercials where someone takes a big bite and their eyes widened and they go into a dream-like state?
Well, that was kind of like me. It was pure delicious-ness. Perfection, really.
They were some of the best-tasting waffles and pancakes I’ve ever had! So, it came as no surprise to me when my brother wanted to get another fill of Belgian waffle before we leave the country.
As luck would have it, there was a vendor selling Belgian waffle at the train station so my brother ordered two. After he got his waffles, he handed over a 20 Euro to the vendor.
This is where the problem starts.
The vendor put the money in his apron-pocket and handed back the change. My brother counted the coins in his hands but even I could tell that it was not the correct change. I was expecting a $10 euro bill back. My brother calmly let the vendor know that he gave him a twenty.
The vendor quickly responded to the question with light accent, “No, you gave me 10 Euro”.
I also confirmed that we gave the vendor a twenty.
The vendor insisted that we gave only him a ten, and then he conveniently pulled out the “ten” we had supposedly gave him from his pocket. It was clearly not the same bill we handed over to him. The ten comes in reddish or brownish hue, while the twenty has a distinctive blue hue and a unmistakable “20” on it. This went back and forth for a while.
Finally, after getting absolutely nowhere, we decided to move on. We still have a train to catch.
HAVING THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
I could chalk it up to that the vendor made an honest mistake, but things just felt off. It was like the vendor had a ten bill at the ready to take advantage of some unsuspecting victims. Walking away, I thought that the incident was going to dent the morning or tarnish my idyllic impression of Brussels.
scammedIt’s not a big sum, but I knew full well we just got scammed.
I suppose we were easy targets. Clearly, we didn’t look like locals since we were at a train station, and I suppose the lack of language fluency was an easy giveaway too. I turned and asked my brother if he’s upset, and what he said next resonated with me.
“Yeah, I know we just got scammed,” He slowly explained in a thoughtful tone, “so…that is why whenever you travel, you need to budget some money to a chump change fund”.
I raised my eyebrows at him.
He continued the explain the concept of chump change, that it’s “like a rainy day fund” (for being scammed and the likes) and they should be considered as incidental costs associated with travel that should just be “written off”. Then he lightly added, “Like the waffles.”
I can’t help but laugh at his explanation, even as I was sure he was just making all of it up at that moment. Still, I was quite impressed that he seemed to be able to shake off the incident quickly and not let it bother him. I thought it was a great attitude to have.
PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
Going back to the beginning of this post, I came home after a tough day at work and suddenly remembered this memory. In its strange way, it actually reminded me that when you’re working with other people, all you can do is put forth your best efforts to do right. You can only control what you say and do, but you can’t control how others react or respond.
And if the situation is getting you nowhere, you can dust yourself off, learn from it and move on. As the old adage goes, you have to pick and choose your battles.
Obviously, I think it’s important to not to become a scam target, but things like these happen to the best of us, even to seasoned travelers.
You just need to put things in perspective and shake it off.
Oh, in case you were wondering about those waffles from the train station…
They were darn expensive, but they tasted just fine.