God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

When the Pick Pocket Strikes

We travel--have done so for years--I would say we're pretty accomplished and sophisticated travelers--kind of know what we are doing--know the do's and don'ts and how to handle ourselves. Or at least that is how we view ourselves.

So, sometimes a little humility creeps in and is good for the soul. A pain? Yes! Frustrating? Totally! A memory not to be forgotten? Hopefully so that it is not repeated. One only need to be humbled once.

We arrived in Nice 19 hours after buckling ourselves into the first leg of our flight--San Diego to San Francisco. It was 2:15 pm. It was so good to see our friends waving and waiting for us as we schlepped through what passes for customs in Nice. We hugged and smiled and talked and were so happy to be together again.

They dropped us at our hotel along the promenade. We could shower, rest and relax for a few hours before dinner and conversation at their lovely, all white apartment with the stylish Italian kitchen we remembered from our last visit. We decided that rather than Ben--Casey calls him Uncle Benny-- picking us up with his car, it would be an adventure to ride the new tram.

At 5 pm Ben was back and we were ready to begin the evening. It was hot, humid, sticky and the ocean was beautiful with parasails coloring the skies.

The tram was crowded-well, packed with bodies pressed tightly into each other as more and more people clamored aboard, anxious to get home from the day's work. I held my purse tightly to my chest, not needing to use hands to hang on as there was no where to fall. Ken held tightly to Casey who was scared and overwhelmed. We knew that this hadn't been such a good idea after all.

Fortunately we only had 3 stops to go before we were able to fall out the tram door, gasping for breaths of fresh air. A shower would have been nice. Maybe even a change of clothes.

Then!--I hear "I think my wallet is gone." And, Ken was right. It had been secreted deep within a pocket which was on the side, a little bit above the knee and seemingly fastened securely with velcro. But, the wallet was no longer there. No matter how many times he patted, searched or looked, it was definitely gone.

So began the marathon of repairing the damage. He had lost 3 credit cards, 2 ATM cards, his driver license and other things such as insurance cards, etc. Fortunately, not his passport.

He and Ben went to the police and reported the theft in the off chance that the wallet was thrown away with just the money taken. Of course, that has not been the case but we did learn the real advantage of making the report. The police had a form which Ken completed indicating the theft of his license; thus, he can drive without fear while we have 7 weeks in Europe.

Being with friends, at their house was a godsend in dealing with everything. We were able to use their phone which has unlimited international calling. Plus, having SKYPE is truly an advantage when contacting the United States from here. Yesterday when we arrived in Arles, I had reason to use SKYPE to follow up on a couple concerns we have.

What we learned from this--besides the need for constant vigilance:
  1. Know all your credit card numbers and where to call.
  2. It is good to have credit cards with different numbers. With AmEx, my number was different so it was still usable. The other two cards we had used the same number, so my cards were unusable.
  3. Without a valid credit card, you can not pick up your car rental. If I had not had AmEx, we would have had a major problem.
  4. It is important to have individual ATM cards with unique numbers. That is what we have so only his cards were canceled. Big time problem if we had no ATM card.
  5. Know that the card companies will overnight express new cards to you. The efficiency in this was quite remarkable. The new cards were waiting for us when we arrived at our hotel in Arles yesterday. As at home, you need to call to activate them. Having SKYPE installed and internet access makes this pretty painless and cheaply done.
  6. Always take the time to get an International Driver Permit before leaving the US. It has your picture, your US license number, etc. In the event of losing your license, the IDP is priceless--that along with the affidavit from the police will take you through. We had no problem picking up our rental car with the IDP.
  7. Having a computer with needed information available saved monumental amounts of frustration.
  8. Having a SKYPE account which allows direct dial at virtually no cost and clear connections allowed us to overcome what would have been much greater hair-pulling. We have just about every concern and contingency covered now--due to internet access and the ability to talk with people--sometimes at length, other times on long holds.
  9. Since an account can not be accessed once a card is reported stolen, it is important t0 know or have a record of recurring charges. Contacting those companies to provide new card numbers is important.
  10. Take deep breathes and tell yourself that this is not as serious as it sounds. Things will get solved, the trip will continue and good memories will follow.
Additional thoughts:
Credit cards that cover your insurance, only do so if that card is used for all charges related to that rental. We had charged the rental to a visa card but needed to use the AmEx card as a deposit against damage. That would have been an horrendous problem if we were to be in an accident. As soon as we had our replacement VISA card, we went to the local car rental office and had the contract rewritten so that we are covered.

I hope this little primer will come in handy for someone else as trips are planned and the unexpected occurs. Of course all of these things are what you would need do at home; however, being far from home, things become exponentially more difficult. This happened Tuesday night. By Thursday night it was basically over and now we are good to go. So don't panic, just cope and all will be well.

One more thought: As you read, I hope that there were some AHA moments about new things to think about as you prepare your journeys.

And........next time--I promise--a little about Provence.

This is our hotel here in Arles--don't you love the look? The two tall windows are our room from which I am now writing.


nancyhol said...

Oh, Jane, what a horribly frustrating to happen at the very beginning of your trip. You seem so calm about it, though - good for you!

We had a similar thing happen on a crowded metro in Rome. Bill put his hand in his own pocket and found another hand in there. A young teenage kid who made a fast exit before the metro doors closed. Bill had nothing in his pocket, but the thief did get my camera from the backpack that Bill was carrying. Not nearly as bad as losing a wallet with credit cards and D.L.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips, Jane. I'm checking off the Credit Card/ATM tips as you have listed them. Glad to hear that you were able to resolve this nightmare fairly quickly.Love the look of that Hotel!

Shannon said...

Sorry to hear this happened, Jane. No matter how well traveled, there is always that one time! But thanks for writing all these tips, they are great info for some and a good refresher for others. You should put them on the Everything About Travel forum too.

Safe travels and lots of fun on the rest of your journey.

Chris said...

So sorry to hear about the pickpocket. It happened to us on a crowded tram in Amsterdam. We were lucky, though. They just got Frank's money clip, not his wallet, so we just lost a few hundred euro, no cards.

Enjoy my beloved Provence and say hello to Kevin from Chris and Frank!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane,
Hope your trip goes on without any more troubles.
I will be printing out this list as it is a valuable reminder to take with us.
Say hi to Ken & Casey from us.

Kookaburra said...

Hi Jane - sorry you had this experience but yet again you turned it into useful advice for others. Sadly it's amateur tourists vs. professional thieves. Like Ken I thought my wallet was safe in a side velcroed pocket - I will know better next time (fortunately we didn't suffer any losses). Having put this low point behind you I am sure you will have a great holiday. All the best --tony

"Diva" said...

I use gmail now when I travel, I fotocopy all my credit cards, passport etc and email them to myself!

I am not lucky travelling!
last trip in the states lost my TICKET! was pickpocketed in the airport-

Sandrac said...

Hi Jane, I'm sorry to hear about this, what a horrible experience. It really does seem to happen to every kind of traveler, experienced or not. I think there was a recent discussion about this on the Italy board at Slow Travel; another veteran traveler had similar rotten luck.

Great tips, and I'm sure the rest of your trip will be wonderful!

Trekcapri said...

Hi Jane, I'm very sorry to hear about the pickpocketing. I'm so glad that things got resolved quickly for you.

Thank you so much for sharing these important tips with all of us.

That's a really cute hotel. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

Marcia said...

Jane, so sorry to hear about Ken's experience, he has had some moments this year (we took that highway 46 today on our way to Santa Cruz). Your notes are great, some of which we already do (copies of numbers, photocopies of cards), but it is good to have all that advice in one place. I wish you the best on the rest of the vacation.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about your experience. We had our tire slashed waiting at a light in broad daylight in Napoli - with the help of many nice people, we too went on to enjoy our trip.

We use our debit card and get cash advances at a bank. We have been able to get larger sums of money at one time this way and because we both have cards with two different numbers, we both can take euros.
Enjoy your trip - we will be coming back in September/October and cannot wait!

janie said...

Wow-what a start to your time away! Thankfully it is behind you and hopefully everything will go smoothly now. Thank you for all the great advice.

Anne said...

Oh Jane, what a horrible experience. But glad you were able to get things sorted out. This is a fantastic resource. Thanks for so thoughtfully putting together this list in the midst of your own disaster! (I am cutting and pasting this into a document for future reference!)

Cameron (Defining Your Home) said...

Such an informative and thorough story of what happened and what to do. This is a "must read" for anyone traveling.

Thanks so much for linking to this from the SlowTravel thread.