The Street Rose Gift Scam: An Annoying Present

A hand is offering a pink rose as gift

The Rose Gift Scam, also known as Rose Tourist Trap or just Rose Scam, predominantly targets couples or groups that include at least one woman. These scammers are not solely focused on tourists; although, foreigners who are unacquainted with their tactics may be more easily inclined to listen to them.

Fake Street Roses Vendors are easily recognizable by the bunches of flowers -often roses- they carry as they wander through crowds looking for someone to bother. These men, women, and sometimes even children, are more frequently encountered in bustling urban centers and popular nightlife spots, especially in areas designated for pedestrians.

Lot of them are just desperate, resorting to this as a means of survival. Others are common street hustlers. While they can be incredibly persistent and annoying, as far as I know, they are rarely dangerous. Also, their requests for money are typically modest.

Their scam routine is based on surprise, flattery, and a dash of good old-fashioned manipulation.

Now, let’s delve into the workings of this scam.

1) How It Works

These random encounters typically target couples or groups walking around or sitting outside at a restaurant or café table.

They rarely manage to enter establishments, but it greatly depends on the region and the establishment itself. Sometimes they’re blocked at the entrance, other times it takes a while for them to be spotted and escorted out. In some cases, the managers or staff might not have the time, staff, or interest to throw them out.

Scammers indiscriminately approach male-female duos, regardless of their apparent connection. Initiating contact with big smiles, they begin to kindly compliment the woman or both.

If the response is positive or not negative, meaning neither of the targets cuts off the conversation and sends them away, they attempt to give her a rose, presenting it as a gift.

If the woman accepts the flower, the scammers immediately turn all their attention to her male companion and try to guilt-trip him into paying something for the “gift” they just handed over.
Something like “Buy a rose for this beautiful lady” accompanied by a plea for help due to their difficult circumstances.

Usually, they make sure to be heard by both or all those nearby.

This strategy remains largely unchanged when dealing with groups; they more often rely on a non-threatening, ‘friendly face’ and guilt-tripping approach rather than outright intimidation.
They know that they likely risk nothing more than a firm or rude dismissal from their targets.

On rare occasions, scammers may escalate their tactics, causing a scene or even summoning accomplices to intimidate or distract you (continue reading to know why).

a woman offering a rose
Rose Gift Scam is not Committed Only by Men. (Credit - Bayram Yalçın via Pexels)

2) How to Handle It

When walking or sitting outside, in public places, be aware of your surroundings. It’s quite easy to spot these fake street rose vendors wandering around with one or two bouquet of roses in hand.

Here are the ways to swiftly handle the rose gift scam:

  • If they approach and you’re not interested (see Extras and Thoughts below), state it clearly and cut short the conversation before they start their flattering routine. If they persist, thank them for the compliments and say again that you need nothing.
  • For those who receive the rose: If you accept the rose as a “gift” and the “vendor” starts harassing your partner, friend, or colleague, step forward and assist him/them. Reassure them and return the rose to the scammer.
  • Team up and annoyingly undermine their manipulative strategies; argue that that concept of love and affection is based on stereotypes, consumerism, and dead flowers, and that we, as a society, can do and be better. It’s a fun and quite effective way to deter a lot of people.

As with many random encounters, always pay attention to your surroundings during these interactions. Especially if the situation becomes tense, the scammer makes a scene, or others come to assist the fake street rose vendor, someone might attempt to pickpocket you while you’re distracted (click here for the main post about Pickpockets).

3) Extras And Thoughts

The Rose Gift Scam is one of the Free Gifts and Blessings routines. You can find the main topic and the list of the other scams by clicking here.

As mentioned, these fake street rose vendors typically pose no real danger. If you know how to bargain, their roses won’t even cost too much.

Now, far be it from me to convince you to give in to any emotional blackmail or guilt trip, but should you wish to spontaneously treat a friend or lover, this could be the right occasion. Just don’t get ripped off on the price.

From my experience, those who practice this scam are rarely hardened criminals, more often people in difficulty trying to make ends meet. This is why we encourage civility in these interactions. Stand your ground firmly and with confidence, but there’s no need for hostility. Should you choose to disengage, do so with courtesy and kindness, as the circumstances allow.

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