This particular scam is one I’ve often read about but hadn’t ever experienced until we were in Delhi in 2012. I knew the scam – unfortunately my gullible husband didn’t, and he’s the one on whom it was perpetrated. Luckily it didn’t cost him too much but he learned his lesson and he won’t get caught out again.
We were in a very touristy area, walking between Connaught Circle towards Janpath, passing above the underground Palika Bazaar. We’d been distracted by a mongoose in a bush – though I have no reason to suspect this cute little critter was in on the game. The grass was so dry that it almost crackled under foot, the soil was dry and cracked. As we reached the end of the grass bank, I jumped down and my husband followed. A passing shoe-shine man contrived to be in exactly the right place at the right time. His skills of timing and placement were worth the cost of the scam and I retain a certain degree of admiration for how he pulled it off. I jumped down and turned to give my husband my hand. He dislocated his knee a few years ago and is wary of steps, let alone a jump of a foot or more. He was looking at me and not at his feet.
As Tony landed, the shoe shine man pointed to his boot. "Sir, sir, dog shit, sir" (no word of a lie, these were his exact words). Weren’t we fortunate that he just happened to be there with his shoe shine kit to help us out. We explained that he couldn’t clean Tony’s boots because they were expensive ones (not that they looked it) that can only be cleaned with special products. Odd as it sounds, they are indeed Goretex breathable leather boots and this was entirely true. "No problem sir, I just clean it off". Out came a grubby looking cloth, a little brush and he set to work.
Tony was reaching for a note to give the guy – fortunately not a big one so I didn’t interfere. A good wife should not really give her hubby a dressing down in a public space over a matter of perhaps 50 rupees. I dragged him away laughing before he could get too attached to his new shoe shine buddy. "Did you ever see dog poo that came out like liquid diarrhoea?" I asked him. "Look how dry the ground is, there’s no way that came out of a dog and sat around waiting for you to tread in it, on the TOP of your boot, not the bottom". I’m no expert on dog poo but I knew the colour the consistency and even the smell were all wrong. The helpful shoe shine man most likely had a small squeezy bottle in his pocket filled with watered down cow dung of a perfect squirting consistency. He’d waited for Tony to be distracted, squirted his shoe and then presented himself as his guardian angel. No dog had been needed, just a quick bit of sleight of hand.
Luckily Tony’s fear of the guy ruining his Goretex prevented him being conned for more money and we took the whole thing in good spirits. I’d never seen the poo-scam before but I’d read about it fifteen years earlier and had actually been quite surprised to have escaped it for so many years. Tony doesn’t read guidebooks and forums and so was clueless about what was going on. He declared that if it happened again, he’d just poor water on his boot to clear the "Sir, Sir, dog shit" and wave the potential rescuer away.