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'Unkind Paris Metro inspectors ruined our family trip to France'

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'Unkind Paris Metro inspectors ruined our family trip to France'
RATP conducts regular ticket inspections in an attempt to crack down on fare dodging. Photo: AFP
16:08 CET+01:00
Ticket inspections are a regular occurrence on the Paris Metro, as the city attempts to crack down on fare dodging - but are staff too heavy handed? One Canadian family who fell foul of the law certainly thinks so.

The Paris Metro system is renowned for rampant fare dodging. If you regularly travel on the Metro the chances are someone has sneaked in behind you to avoid paying.

It is estimated that regular fare dodgers make up to seven percent of regular passengers, and one crackdown in 2016 snared a whopping 1,500 fare dodgers in just three hours.

To counter this problem Paris transport chiefs employ teams of ticket inspectors who tend to lurk as a mob around corners in the underground walkways or at the top of escalators. 

They tend to catch scores of people at at time, unsurprisingly, but they also have a reputation for being draconian.

Last year a pregnant woman was fined for walking the wrong way at the Concorde Metro station, while two Austrian tourists also fell foul of system by accidentally entering a 'no entry' passageway at Bastille station.

This week The Local was contacted by a distraught Canadian tourist who had misunderstood the Metro system, and ended up having to pay a €175 fine.

Krista Gosselin, from Vancouver, said: "I brought my children to France to learn about their heritage, as well as about the French culture. We have spent seven days here, immersing ourselves in the history, as well as creating life long memories. 

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(The Gosselin family say their trip to Paris was soured by their experience on the Metro. Photo: Krista Gosselin)

"We have mastered the Metro system without any help from the employees.  

"On our last full day in Paris, we took our children to Disneyland.

"We purchased the required metro/RER tickets to get us there and back.

"On the way back, we stopped near the Gare du Lyon station for something to eat.

"Since we have never received any help from transit officials during our stay, we expected that if our ticket was no longer valid, the machines would not accept them. But we did not encounter any issues (with all five tickets), and continued our trip to Saint Lazare.

"We were switching lines when we encountered a ticket check. We were informed that our tickets were not valid, and that if we chose to argue, the police would be contacted, and we would be fined.

'The French would never be treated like this in Canada'

"So, even though we had moved through the two other stations, without being stopped with invalid tickets, and were only two stops from our hotel, we had to pay €35 each to finish our journey!

"Why couldn’t there have been even one moment of kindness given to a family of Canadian tourists, on their last night here, after having spent thousands of Euros in France?

READ ALSO The strange rules of the Paris Metro you should probably know about

"We begged for understanding and to just be allowed to purchase five more metro tickets, to go those two last stops. But no, we ended up paying €175 euros for those two stops. That or risk having the police called, and a stiffer fine given.

"Where were these transit officials when we needed help to understand the Metro system, or even last Saturday, when we were on a train, and advised we had to get off early, as the remaining stations were closed due to protesters?  

"Considering how many tourists rely on the Metro, the French government should increase the level of service and have the “Information” officers actually provide useful information.

"The French would never be treated this way in Canada."

It's not an uncommon story, and The Local has heard from several people who have fallen foul of the system, from tourists who have made a genuine mistake with the system to locals fined when they were unable to produce the correct day's ticket.

But are the inspectors really heavy-handed or is it a normal response to the issue of fare-dodgers? And what else could Paris do to fix the problem?

What do you think? Let us know your experiences in the comments section below. 

 

 

 
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Jwriter - 27 Mar 2019 21:59
I was stopped in the Wagram station with Navigo I had updated incorrectly at the machine. I explained I was American and did not understand the machine. Ah, but you need not be American to misunderstand the machines, they said waving me along. Ask the agent, they called after me.
Alisa - 28 Mar 2019 02:15
I have twice found myself in a position of irregularity but have explained and been told to go on my way, I have never had a fine. I think that your response makes the difference; first admit that you were wrong, then apologize, and then explain, and then apologize again. The key is not to argue. You are in the wrong. Period. Own it and THEN give your excuse. There is an abundance of help and explanation for travelers: maps and signs on the walls, but also a person in a booth who I have always found to be helpful when asked. There is also a RATP phone app and very clearly explained websites. When you go to any strange city, do your research. Having used the French metro and the New York City subway, I can emphatically say that the NYC subway is hopelessly difficult to understand or use! The fares in Paris are so low that it makes me very angry to see the fare jumpers - they are in effect stealing from everyone who pays a fare. And there are so many discounts and even free transport for those who need it! The fare jumpers jeopardize that. I have no sympathy for them.
Gordon - 15 Apr 2019 19:21
I agree with Alisa. I visit for 3 weeks every year for the past 5 years. I have never had an issue. The Metro is cheap and fast for the most part. Ever ridden the New York City Subway? Like Alisa said, just ask someone. I have never had any trouble asking a question. And the iPhone Metro apps are fantastic!!
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