The gullibility of Brits in the Spanish Costas, and not only tourists, never ceases to amaze me.
Virtually every day I hear that someone or other has been the victim of a pickpocket or handbag snatch.
The experience of being mugged in public is both traumatic and disruptive, particularly if your passport happens to be among the stolen items. Which is why I have always been ultra-careful when it comes to protecting my possessions.
I have never been robbed – unless you count the evening I found 45 euros in notes on the floor of the Irish bar in El Raso and gave it to a tipsy punter who claimed he had dropped it. I realised when I got home that the money had fallen out of my own purse!
OK, that was stupid – but nowhere near as daft as those male tourists who wander around Spanish markets with their wallets wedged in the back pocket of their shorts. And the women who leave their handbags on a table or chair while they chat to friends, only to discover when they come to pay the bill that they have no money…and no handbag.
It happened to a friend of mine a while back. She went for a coffee after a busy day at work, plonked her handbag down alongside her and when she next looked - whoosh, it had vanished.
The sting was that this particular lady invariably carried all her documents, including her passport, in that bag, not to mention a considerable amount of money. It was an experience that will live with her until her dying day – and the saddest thing of all is that it could have so easily been avoided.
My friend has been living in Spain for some time, but most of the victims of the petty thieves tend to be tourists. They are so hell-bent on enjoying themselves that being robbed is the last thing on their minds. What juicy pickings for the villains...
I follow a regular procedure with my handbag. When I am in a public place, I always wrap the strap around my wrist so it can’t be snatched. And when I sit down, the strap goes under a chair or table-leg so it can only ‘vanish’ accompanied by an entourage of furniture.
Oh, and I NEVER take a bag to market – I carry cash in notes and wedge them into my bra. It means that no-one can rob me without being arrested for indecent assault!
My advice to men is that if you go anywhere where there’s a large crowd, leave your wallet at home, in your hotel, or hidden under the carpet in your car boot. Put the cash you need in your trouser pocket (not the back one!) and to make the fortress impregnable, how about keeping your hand in your pocket as you walk around?
While the lowlife element of Spain’s impoverished Moroccan and Romanian communities is thought to be behind the majority of bag-snatches, I suspect the perpetrators come from more diverse roots. What one does have to concede is that these ladrones, however much reviled, have a remarkable skill.
One person I know had her purse stolen from the handbag on her shoulder as she browsed her way around a crowded department store. The thief not only unzipped the bag and removed the purse without anyone noticing – but also zipped the bag up again!
It was the best part of half an hour before my friend realised she’d been robbed. And the way it was done suggests that the perpetrator could make a decent living as a stage magician or in a circus.
But then, theatre audiences are not quite so generous to the sleight-of-hand merchants as the mugs they feed off every day…