Stay safe & vigilant at all times

Did you know that Frankfurt am Main is one of the worst cities in Germany when it comes to theft?

Well, how do I know about it? Let me share with you a story I sent to my fellow consultants.

This week I joined a new project in Germany. I was in Frankfurt on Wednesday evening and wanted to get some dinner. I put my laptop bag on the floor, in front of me, 2 cm away from my left foot. Bent down to get my wallet out, bent up to pay for the yoghurt and bent back down to put my wallet back into my laptop bag. And guess what – it was gone. All happened within seconds. As Frankfurt is a popular business city and laptop bags aren’t particularly original in terms of looks, I was frantically running around the stand where I bought my dinner, trying to track down my bag in the sea of other bags. I couldn’t see anyone who would look like they just stole someone’s possessions. No one running away or hiding – just people walking in all directions. It looks so much easier in films!

I then ran to the Deutsche Bahn people and they advised me to run to the police station based next to one of the platforms. The police took my statement, looked at the video of the perpetrator stealing my bag and even brought someone in – a lady who had the misfortune of being dressed very similarly to the thief – no luck though. The video was blurry, the police couldn’t even make out the gender of the thief. My work laptop was gone, my personal laptop was gone (had it on me just this one time), 100 Euro in cash, my passport, house keys etc. All in all – not a great evening. The silver lining was that I had my wallet – the bag was stolen when it was in my hand – and my phones on me.

I hopped on the next train back to Bremen, scribbling down the value of the lost items and getting in touch with our travel insurance providers. While I was doing that, I got a call from the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof police saying that they found the guy, everything’s in the bag, even the cash and that the thief is going to jail (for some reason I felt sorry for him, don’t understand why – I was close to saying ‘maybe just let him go, if the bag’s there, then just leave him be’…) Got out of the train, slept in a hotel where I stopped, got the 4 AM train back to Frankfurt to collect the bag and I’m never letting go of it again.

The executive summary of this long-winded story is following:

  1. Please watch out for yourselves. Stay vigilant at all times. Especially in such places as train stations / airports (at least before you go through security) / where there are many people. Your luggage can be gone within seconds and you might not be as lucky as I was in this situation.
  2. When was the last time you did a backup of your laptop? My automatic backup was set to 6 PM and on some days, my laptop was asleep at that time, hence no backup was performed. I would’ve lost 6 days’ worth of work. First thing I did when I got my laptop back was carrying out the backup manually.
  3. Consider what you’re putting into your laptop bag and what you should keep on you. I suggest prioritising it based on the hassle that you would have to go through if someone stole it. I had my passport in my bag – that would’ve been a nightmare to sort out quickly, given how the Polish embassy / government processes these kinds of requests. So from now on, my passport stays in my jacket on me while I’m travelling.
  4. And again, stay safe. Especially if you’re doing a lot of travel, the risk of something going wrong is heightened. Take care of yourselves.

One funny story happened to me the next day in Hannover, where I was waiting for my next train. I got myself a chocolate (poor carbs, but still carbs as part of the carbloading for Sunday’s Manchester Marathon) – it wasn’t particularly good, so I just put it in my pocket and went to get some tea from Starbucks. A homeless Russian guy came into that Starbucks as I was in the queue with other people and started to ask for money, saying that he’s hungry. After a while I took the chocolate our of my pocket and gave it to him. I think I expected some kind of gratitude, but what I got was ‘mmm, Schokolade… can you give me 1 Euro?’. That’s a homeless guy most likely subconsciously trying to use Cialdini’s consistency rule on me and I almost fell for it, thinking that I gave him something already, I might as well give him that 1 Euro. He probably would’ve asked for more at that point, anyway 😀

Stay safe please!

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