Hola from Chile! Misplaced Luggage and Tourist Scams

I had a whole day of travel yesterday and finally arrived in Chile, the first South American country I visited and it also marks the first time I ever visited the continent. Why Chile? The answer is simply because it is one of the countries where I do not need to apply a visa to enter, and they have some well-known ski resorts. It is after all winter in the Southern Hemisphere during July to September. So I flew down into Santiago onboard Delta Airlines as I had been pleased with their onboard service previously. On the international long-haul flights and the prestige routes between Los Angeles and New York, Delta recently re-branded the Business Class as ‘Delta ONE’, as they do not have international First Class onboard all their fleet.

Approaching Atlanta
Approaching Atlanta on a sunset

The rebranding provided passengers with a special light fare menu when I visited the lounge. The presentation was nice though one slice of the tomato seems to have gone bad. And onboard the flights, Delta gave Tumi-branded amenity kits in a hard case too! This is one of the best and most useful amenity kit case and I instantly liked it. Business class passengers also get Westin Heavenly Branded pillows and duvet which I found added comfort for sleeping and even for the smaller and narrower seats, I still got a good sleep so I could explore Santiago as I arrived in the city in the morning.

Delta ONE appetizers
Delta ONE appetizers at the SkyClub in Atlanta Airport Concourse E

However, the cabin crew was a tad average and seems to be missing some of the notions even without a full cabin upfront. So I hope that this was the exception rather than the norm as I was getting quite used to their hard product. Another impressive thing about Delta is the mobile app which I found to be very well polished and even allows me to track my bags. I was travelling with my snowboard gear and I had a short 1 hour connection in Seattle while connecting to Atlanta. Thus imagine my disappointment as I noticed my checked bags did not make it for the flight. What was interesting was I found out about it from the mobile app. Since I was in the lounge when it happened, I checked with the lounge staff member and she actually placed a call to the luggage staff and assured me my bags were on the flight that night. Well I thought maybe the people was right here. But it turns out the mobile app was the correct source as I did not see my luggage at all from the carousel.

Luggage tracking
Luggage tracking on Delta’s mobile app, more accurate than the staff
Updates on Luggage
Updates on luggage on Delta’s mobile app

Lesson No 1: Sometimes having a mobile app makes things clearer and allows for better information (maybe even better than people)
Lesson No 2: Not all staff are technically competent and they can be a weak link if you need accurate information.

Now that I had been in Santiago for a few days, I have to really say I like the overall feel of the city and I think Chile seems to be one of the most under-rated tourist destinations ever. It rarely appears in travel magazines, and very rarely registers on people’s mind. Not one of my friends seems interested in this nation at all. I would write a more detailed write up on Santiago and Chile later in the complete review but I wanted to share an experience being part of a tourist scam I had in Santiago.

Plaza Baquedano

I could note most tourist scams easily from the tuk-tuk drivers offering rides in Bangkok to the old lady offering that little ring she found on the streets of Paris. In fact I have experienced them before and I just ignore them totally and usually it works. This time around, I was in Santiago walking just a block away from my hotel. I was taking photos at a traffic intersection and I suddenly felt something on my back but just happen to see an old gentleman walking by. Not noticing anything amiss, I continued taking photos.

Until a seemingly helpful passerby (this time a young and rotund guy) tapped my back and pointed to something. Not understanding Spanish, I saw some mark on my back and I initially thought it was an animal of sorts. So this ‘helpful’ guy took out a bunch of tissues and offered to wipe it away. But what I found amiss was this guy seems to be more pre-occupied in getting me to place my camera on a ledge in the park.

Then I realized it was not an animal but some liquid substance that had some strange smell. It reminded me of sauce and I eventually found it to be a mixture of mustard and something else to make it look like bird poop. It was when I realized this was part of a ‘bird poop’ scam that I had read about somewhere before. Thus I hope by sharing this incident, it helps people be more vigilant. As I did not want to place my camera on the park ledge (though at that time I just did not like leaving the camera on a dirty place), the guy acted weird by placing more emphasis on wiping the camera and seems to want to take the camera off from my hands.

Apartment in Bellas Artes
Apartment in Bellas Artes, also the spot where the tourist scam incident occured

So the first thing amiss was this guy conveniently seems to have a huge bunch of napkins. Not the usual tissue paper but like a real stack of napkins. No one seems to walk around with that much napkins. Second thing amiss was he did not seem to be interested in what was going on my back but more keen to make me leave my camera on the ledge or wiping down the camera which was clean with not much dirt at all. And thirdly, bird shit does not smell like mustard. Finally though what made me not fall to the scam was after realizing it was just some dirt, I figured I could just walk back to the hotel to clean up. And from this experience I want to share these little lessons on travelling.

Lesson No 1: Always be vigilant and notice what goes on around you. Especially take note when stopping at places with less people, or when you are travelling alone.
Lesson No 2: When someone becomes overly helpful or is more preoccupied with making you do certain things, it is time to question these intentions.
Lesson No 3: Keep calm in all situations and find a place where you would not be distracted or make sure that you have someone you can trust around you.

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