Sunday, May 07, 2006

Song of the Day (Monday): I Left My Wallet in Barcelona

Report from Spain III: Report from Spain II actually told of what we saw in Barcelona before my first report if you can follow that. This post details what occurred immediately after I posted that.

We left the internet place and decided to have some dessert. (This was after the over-priced mediocre paella at the tourist-trap restaurant we had wandered into.) We found a place and had sacher-torte and coffee. We then decided to take the subway back to our hotel. Big mistake.

I was the victim of one of the notorious pick-pocket gangs of Barcelona. It was the classic stall and distract method when the victim is getting off the subway. A wide, heavy guy got between me and my wife as we exited. She was out on the platform yelling while he blocked me, ostensibly to let a woman off. In the five or ten seconds it took him to do this, someone else got my wallet and my money clip, which was probably nestled in the wallet. I never felt a thing, despite having my wallet in my supposedly safe front pocket. He then moved out of my way, and I got off the train. Thirty seconds later at most I realized my wallet was gone, and I immediately knew what had happened.

They got all my credit cards, my ATM cards, and my driver's license. What they did not get was very much cash. My money clip had all of 10 euros in it. My large bills were safe in my other front pocket, along with my passport. There was also $41 in my wallet--my usual "emergency money." So they got about $54 in all. Assuming this was a crew of three, they averaged $18 each--less any service charge for converting the U.S. dollars.

We returned to the hotel, and I then started the hassle of trying to get new cards. I got the phone numbers to call from my wife's cards. (Hint: to make a collect international call in Spain, dial 1005.)

Citibank, American Express, then Chase for my Amazon Visa (Second hint: Make a list of all your card numbers and contact phone numbers and leave a copy back in your hotel room--I wish I had done this.) Complicating things was the fact that we were leaving for Granada the next morning. Since we were only going to be there three days, I was hesitant to have the replacement cards sent there, so I had them sent to the hotel in Seville, our next stop. Citibank and Amex were no problem. Chase faxed the data to Visa International. They said I'd receive a call from Visa International within "a few hours." Ten hours later we checked out of the hotel--no call from Visa International. We later checked our messages on our answering machine back in New York. That's where Visa International called.

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