We asked you for your best pickpocketing horror stories and boy did you respond! It was tough to pick the best, but we narrowed it down to two stories—one successful pickpocketing and one thwarted attempt. The now lucky writers will win their choice of pickpocket-proof clothing from Clever Travel Companion, helping them to avoid getting robbed on the road in the future. Read on for the two winning stories.
Martha writes, “I always knew it would be hard to not be pointed out as a tourist. Red hair, Chicago accent, camera attached to my wrist at all times … so I tried to be extra careful to avoid a pickpocket. My fruits were unsuccessful, however, during a trip to Madrid, Spain. Doing the robot dance in a discoteca was probably my first misstep. Maybe it was my jerky dance motions or awkward off-beat rhythm that prevented me from feeling someone grab my wallet. But sure enough, they got it straight out of the purse that was kept at my side (and checked frequently) all night long. Unfortunately the pickpocket got access to my whole wallet that had recently been refreshed by the ATM and contained newly withdrawn Euros.
After realizing I’d become a target, and that my wallet was missing, I promptly asked the barkeep if there was any chance one had been turned in. I wouldn’t call it my lucky day, but I was fortunate enough that my practically now empty wallet had in fact been turned in to the bartender. For some odd reason, they didn’t take my credit cards, just my cash, ID and coffee shop gift cards. Of course my receipts were all replaced back into the wallet as well. I went home to my host family shortly thereafter; caffeine-free and empty wallet in hand.
My best advice is not something new, nor is it an earth-shattering idea, but rather something I’m sure all tourists have heard many a times before: Blend in as best you can. This applies everywhere—but especially at discotecas. And there’s no better reason to learn the native dances, right?”
Our other winner, Elliot, says, “It was 1980 and Colombia was not a ‘safe’ country. Just before Christmas we arrived in Cali and on the way to the city from the airport a kind woman told my wife to take off her jewelry and be careful (‘cuidadoso!’). We checked into a hotel which one entered through a door of bars like a jail cell. Taking the kind lady’s advice I moved my wallet to my front right pocket for security.
The next morning at 10:00 a.m. we had just checked AmEx for mail. Walking along the sidewalk on a busy street, I was about to step off the curb when I was suddenly pushed from behind and just as quickly a hand went into the front right pocket where I had stashed my wallet for security. I had never practiced any of the martial arts, but have good balance. I quickly regained my footing, and just as quickly chopped my right hand down and swung around jamming the base of my left palm into the face of my pickpocket.
The thief was stunned by my blow and empty handed, a small crowd gathered, and my wife was pulling me away in case he turned violent. Meanwhile a policeman who had been directing traffic in the intersection wandered over while the pickpocket took the opportunity to run away. The curious policeman casually asked, ‘Que pasa?’ I expanded my Spanish vocabulary learning “carterista” for pickpocket, as I explained my situation, and then the unconcerned policeman went casually back to his post directing traffic again. Needless to say, I was a lot more ‘cuidadoso’ after that experience.
Tell us your on the road robbery stories or best pickpocket prevention stories in the comments below!