Last night I sat down to write an editorial about off-season travel. As I was writing, something reminded me of the time I got pickpocketed in Paris. I thought to myself, “why haven’t I shared this story before?” Truthfully, it’s one of those things that I’d like to forget and I still cannot believe happened to me. So, it doesn’t really come up much. But it happened to me. I got pickpocketed in Paris.
It was summer 2012, June I think. This was my first trip to the world’s most beloved city: Paris. Instagram barely existed in 2012, and I remember I had just gotten my first iPhone. I actually bought an iPhone just so I could have Instagram. Back then, it didn’t exist on Android devices. Now you can’t walk anywhere in Paris without someone snapping a photo. When I went it was different. I got to experience the real Paris before everyone was obsessed with their phones.
Paris was a gift from my mom after graduating college. I spoke conversational French, as I had taken it all throughout high school and in to college. So Paris was the final French exam, if you will. There’s really no point in learning French if you don’t plan on visiting Paris. Outside of Paris, I have never used the language. We went full throttle and rented a cute little French apartment above a cafe. If there was ever a quintessential Parisian experience, we had it.
We spent nearly two weeks in Paris, and on the second to the last day, I got pickpocketed. On this particular day, we decided to head on over to the Ile de la Cite via the Pont Saint-Michel bridge. My memory is a little hazy, because it was so long ago. But somewhere in this area, there were shops after shops of trinkets. Most major tourist destinations have these little makeshift shops. They contained cheap key chains, Eiffel Tower mugs, Paris t-shirts, and so much other crap. We decided to browse through some of these shops in order to pick up some gifts for family and friends.
I had paid for something previously, so I left my purse slightly unzipped (about halfway actually). I was careful the entire trip, so I decided that “it wouldn’t happen to me now.” Do you ever have one of those moments where you tell yourself not to do something because it might have consequences, but then you’re like nahhh? When you know you should probably do something, but instead you don’t and then it comes back to bite you in the butt later. This is exactly what happened to me.
A little background on me: I am the most careful and calculated person I know. I am always paranoid about closing my bags and typically if I am traveling, I check my bag about every 30 minutes. Hell, I even check my bag throughout the day when I am home! If I am in Starbucks, I am watching my car through the window. Yes, I am this person. I never in a million years thought I would get pickpocketed, so I stubbornly left my bag unopened for a short period of time.
As we continued to browse through the shops (bag halfway opened), they were getting a little more crowded with people. We moved in to a shop that was a bit less crowded with tourists, because let’s be honest, every shop has the same damn stuff anyway. I browsed for a minute or two, and all of the sudden two men bumped in to me simultaneously. It’s hard to describe, as it was almost if one guy bumped in to me and caused me to fall back on to another gentlemen. Hence the trio of bumping that was happening. The best way to describe it is that as one bumped me, I fell in to the other. The walkways in the shops were insanely narrow, so it makes maneuvering them very claustrophobic.
I apologized of course, and then went about looking through the rest of the shop. As we were leaving, I started to feel a bit guilty that I left my bag open, so I went to check it to make sure I didn’t leave anything behind. At this time, only about five minutes had passed since those two men had bumped in to me. When I checked my bag, my wallet was gone. And as clear as f*cking day, I knew. I knew almost immediately what had happened. I don’t even think I could add 2+2 as fast as I realized what actually just happened to me. Those men had stolen my wallet.
I caught up to my mom, who was only a few steps ahead of me walking out to the next shop. I told her that my wallet was gone. At the very least we did search the shop together and we asked the owner if anyone had found a wallet. It was a shot in the dark since I was 99% sure that it was stolen. It didn’t turn up. I proceeded to tell my mom that I was pretty sure I got pickpocketed by two men who ‘bumped’ in to me, and it appeared they were working together. I knew from living in a big city that pickpocketers often worked in pairs, so everything made sense.
We decided the best course of action was to head back to our apartment immediately and start the cancellation processes. Luckily, I only had about five euros in cash on me. I am almost sure when they realized I had no cash, they probably just tossed my wallet. But god damn did they have to take my student ID?! Goodbye $7 student discounted movie tickets (I still suffer today). The ironic thing was, at work in San Francisco when we’d go out to eat as a team, everyone would roll their eyes at me because I never had cash to split with. But to this day I am so glad I didn’t have wads of cash on me in Paris.
On our fast walk home, we spotted a single cop. We decided to try and ask him if we should report the incident, or basically if he had any advice. He spoke broken English, but gave us a number. From what I gathered by his facial expressions and impatience, my wallet was pretty much gone forever, and that was that. When we got to the apartment I was able to successfully cancel all my cards, and not one fraudulent charge had been made. Yay! I remember feeling really relieved. I still had my passport at home, so I was good to go. If anything, someone is running around in Paris pretending to be me, or going to $7 movies. We ended up not calling the number, because we really felt like it would have just been a waste of time with the language barrier.
A Lesson Learned
A big gigantic enormous lesson was learned on this day in Paris. Don’t ever think that something won’t happen to you. I shocked myself that day. I am always so careful about closing my bag and triple checking everything. It was a crazy moment when I realized that I had actually got pickpocketed. I think what helped me the most is the fact that I realized it within five minutes, and we were able to call my card companies within 20 minutes of my wallet being stolen.
Do be careful of pickpockets in Paris. They happen. Though I think they’ve cracked down on them in the last few years. There used to be loads of people who stood out on the bridge asking you to sign ‘petitions’, and then they would pickpocket you as you sign. Stay far away from those people. Always keep your bag closed, and never think that it won’t happen to you. I wish I hadn’t gone through this, but hey, at least I can sort of laugh about it now.
Has something similar ever happened to you in another country? Or have you witnessed it before? Leave me a comment below!