That's funny - we bought a Coco Chanel purse in Rome two years ago. I ahd never heard the tourist could be fined for buying the stuff. We were near the Pantheon, and I do remember at one point where all of the sidewalk vendors grabbed their goods and ran down an alley, but they were back within five minutes.
I like the story about the driver taking the money, Henry. I hope they still made the ship. I have to admit, that sounds like a stupid thing I might do in a similar emergency situation (what else could you do - if you see someone with a car and you have money and need to get to the ship).