Istanbul’s Shoe Shine Scam

You see them dotted over the city, sitting on small stools on the path, old wood and brass shoe shine stands at their feet, waiting…waiting for you to decide that your dusty shoes need a polish! They are good at their job. If you do stop, your shoes will be polished to perfection…you’ll be able to see your face when you look down!
Istanbul’s shoe shiners are part of the atmosphere of the city.

Istanbul's Shoe Shine Scam



Istanbul's Shoe Shine Scam


But there’s another story to be told!

The mobile shoe shiner with his kit over his shoulder loiters around the busy tourist venues…..we met one on the walk from Istanbul Modern to the Dolmabahçe Palace.

As we passed, we politely declined his offer of a shoe shine.
He then headed off in front of us, smoothly dropped one of his brushes and continued to walk on!

My husband picked it up and called after him…..
“Thank you..let me give you a shoe shine to show you my gratitude.”
“No thanks”…came our quick reply but he was insistent. So were we and we walked off!

Only later did we learn that this is a common scam in the streets of Istanbul. The shoe shine will cost you a lot more than is commonly charged and should you refuse to pay, you will suddenly find yourself meeting a few of his friends. 




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11 Responses to Istanbul’s Shoe Shine Scam

  1. Neva Fels February 15, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    So sad, that this is how these craftsmen are forced to become the charlatan’s of the craft. Hopefully the next generation has studied well, to leave this sad trickery to become proud of what ever they will do.

    • Jenny Freedman February 21, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

      I suppose it’s like every city Neva, there are always some bad eggs! it seems to be the wandering shoe shiners…the traditional ones that stay on the one spot can be very good.

  2. Michael February 15, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

    Thanks for this lovely way of warning me. The poor chap, however, wouldn’t have a chance to catch me as I usually wear hiking or walking shoes in most of my travels.I the

    • Jenny Freedman February 21, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

      Thankfully it was why we weren’t caught too Michael…out shoes were definitely not for polishing!

  3. budget jan February 16, 2014 at 6:47 am #

    Ha ha, very inventive, but sure to leave a sour taste in someone’s mouth if they get caught. Good of you to let everyone know. 🙂

    • Jenny Freedman February 18, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      We nearly did!!I didn’t realise until after the event that it was a scam…hence the warning!!

    • Jenny Freedman February 21, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

      There’s always a few who are more inventive than the rest aren’t there! It’s so well done that you might not realise it’s a scam until you get told the price! Happy to spread the word Jan!

  4. Deborah Dickson-Smith February 16, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    I expect they doesn’t get as much business as they would have done 50 years ago – don’t know many people these days who shine their shoes!

    • Jenny Freedman February 21, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

      I think you’re probably right Deborah…business is slower and there’s a few more of them around!

  5. Carl Joe Wright February 17, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    scam in the streets of Istanbul? This shoe shine will cost travelers like us lot more than what is commonly charged. We really refuse to pay for it. They are so clever and government of Istanbul must do something about this.

    • Jenny Freedman February 21, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      They are very clever Carl which is why I have decided to warn people about it. They certainly do charge a lot more than you usually have to pay.

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