I recently had a discussion with some members of the women’s group I’m apart of. Someone had been stopped by RATP despite having a valid ticket. Of course RATP are the devil’s spawn and she was made to pay the fine, but not without some verbal abuse and intimidation as a parting gift.
As a newbie to this game she was upset. As a veteran of it I just shrugged and said ‘eh that’s French life’. But I now realize from all of the other réponses that there are a lot of people who really are intimidated by the goons that run RATP. I’m thoroughly convinced that when you apply at RATP and they give you those job application psych tests, RATP intentionally looks for aggressive bullies. There’s no other way to explain why every single one of them has the traits of an SS officer.
Now a lot of the time people being stopped do have valid tickets. For whatever reasons; they got lost in/on the metro and they spent too long down there, they went too quickly through and the scanner didn’t catch it, or RATP sold you a bum ticket with a bad magnet, RATP controllers don’t care. All they want is money and they will use every form of aggressive behavior to coerce it out of you.
First things first they love to target foreigners (and brown people). The French are not immune to their threats and intimidation but foreigners are easy pickings. You don’t know the rules, you’re afraid of upsetting a foreign country, you fear for your visa, there’s always a reason.
One thing you have to remember: they’re not allowed to touch you. One woman said her husband had his arm in a brace and they threw him against a wall. As someone who has been on the receiving end of a controller’s threats and rage I have never had them touch me. I now know from a few French people they’re not allowed to. If they do, take a picture of their face and get their badge number and report them to the police. I don’t know if it will be taken seriously, but you should report it anyway.
Second they use really stupid threats. Their famous one being they will call the police. If you call them on their bluff they mostly just get angry, yell, and threaten some more and finally let you go. More on that later. But they’re always going to hold you for at least 10-30 minutes so be prepared for it. It’s an intimidation tactic.
If you’re a foreigner they will tell you stuff like they’ll tell the Embassy or when you leave your passport will be flagged, yada yada yada. None of it is true. They don’t have access to any of your immigration papers, much less your passport.
If you’re too scared and you do end up paying them (I have been stopped at least 10 times and have never paid them), make sure you pay with credit card. The general consensus is they pocket cash. If you have cash, hide it. They have to ask for permission to search your bag so don’t let them.
When I’m stopped every now and again I’ll show them an Amex. Once they tried to make my ex go to an ATM to pull out cash but we flat out refused. They let us go. And you’re an American with an Amex, how typical, not unusual at all. They can’t take Amex so they’re shit out of luck.
Once when I was riding the bus I was stopped on rue de Rennes as we were pulling towards Montparnasse. They rode the rest of the way to south of Montparnasse station verbally abusing me, threatening me, telling me I was a rich American so I had the money blah, blah, blah. They even called my boss on the phone (I was late to work so I was texting her) and tried to get money that way. I didn’t know this but I could have just walked away. You can. I rode until the end, let them abuse me on the street outside Montparnasse for a good 15 minutes before they finally let me go. Then ended up getting back on the bus. I should have just told them to fuck themselves and walked away. The more you know.
And don’t think the women will be any nicer. Once I had an older lady feel bad and let me go (I told her I was an aupair and poor), but male or female the RATP Controller has no loyalty to sex or loyalty at all. They’re all just one type: asshole.
My favorite incident didn’t happen to me, but once on the RER the controllers stopped a guy (black of course) and he grabbed their little machine and threw it out of the moving train window. Then he booked it. I hope he’s living his best life.
Now back to their threat of police. You will hear that often from them. My first time being stopped I was at Bir Hakeem (above ground) and they did end up handing me off the Gendarmerie. 6 of those wife beating assholes. They formed a circle around me, acted like they were going to hit me, tried to take my bag, tired to intimidate me, did everything they could do to scare me. But I am one of those annoying types of women that aggro pricks hate. When you come at me I don’t back down. In fact it makes me more determined. All it does is stoke the fight within me. I hate to lose, and there’s only one way for this to go, and it’s with a fight.
So I stood there letting them berate me. I called them a few names. They handcuffed me and then took me into the RATP booth where they kept me like that for a good 15-20 minutes, hurling abuse at me. Making me angrier and angrier, not scared, which was probably their plan. Calling me a whore, and a bitch, lots of pretty French words. And then they let me go.
Anytime I tell a French person that story they’re always shocked. Like this isn’t France? Domestic violence capital of the world? You’re really surprised 6 men in authority tried to come after me? But it happened and in the end I walked away.
So next time you’re stopped by those brainless thugs in cheap green polyester (or sometimes in street clothes) just remember to hold your ground. They will always come at you sideways because they’re thugs looking for a shakedown. You can let them intimidate you, and abuse you, and pay their stupid fine. Or you can tell them to go fuck themselves. Me? I prefer the latter.