January 17, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Expat, Madrid, Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe

“Watch your cell phones!” yelled the barista as a couple of teenagers prowled through the foreign-filled Madrid coffee shop. I knew the drill, so at first sight of the shady looking kids, I had a hand firmly covering my cell phone and the other clutching my purse.

It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a band of sketchy kids pass through a Starbucks, fake petition in hand, appealing for irrelevant signatures. Just a couple of months ago, while sitting with a friend in another Starbucks, one of these kiddos laid their folder on top of my table, strategically over my cell phone. His plan was to distract me with his little spiel while dragging my phone off the table and into his greedy little hands. Fully aware of Madrid pickpocket shenanigans (and proudly not once a victim – knock on wood), I grabbed my phone and blurted out in Spanish, “I’m not an idiot!” – because that’s apparently the only thing that comes to my mind when someone tries to rob me.

I don’t tell this story to entertain, but to warn traveling foreigners to seriously watch their stuff. These freaks have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves (along with a lot of stolen crap too, I bet), so you should make sure you know where your possessions are at all times. And the more touristy the spot, the more careful you must be. Starbucks, especially in Madrid anyway, is a pickpocket’s paradise. I personally try to steer clear of it, but a certain Italian friend of mine – eh hem, Guido – insists on meeting there.

Happy traveling, and watch out for those teenage petition peddlers.

Update: Well in the event that you fall prey to pickpocket tricks, it turns out that a fellow blogger of mine in Spain, Cat at Sunshine and Siestas, just wrote a “what to do if your cell phone is stolen in Spain” blog post. Between her and me, we’ve got your foreign back.


16 Responses to “How not to get your cell phone stolen in Spain”

  1. Linda Says:

    This happened to a friend in Barcelona too, so it’s not just Madrid :=( but then cities the world over are the same, aren’t they. I tensed up and did a mental check of where everything was when I was approached by one of the gypsies outside Sevilla cathedral last year, but I’m guessing they would just be too obvious, and that they are just after whatever you give them – they demanded €5 and I had €3 in change and I think they cursed me – that was after telling me I was going to have more children!! …. at 64!

  2. Cat Says:

    Did you just read my post on what to do if this happens?! http://sunshinesandsiestas.com/2012/01/14/what-to-do-in-spain-if-your-phone-gets-lost-or-stolen/

  3. Erin Says:

    @Cat – what! No! That’s crazy. And I saw someone else today coincidentally post something about how not to get robbed in Barcelona – must be something in the air. I’m totally going to add a link at the bottom of my post to your site on “what to do if….”

    @Linda – I always heard that if you don’t take the rosemary from the gypsies (and give them money), they’ll curse you. I just avoid eye contact and play really, really dumb. But also, maybe I’m cursed.

  4. CAROLINA Says:

    I never got my cell phone (or anything else) stolen in Spain… but it happened to me in London (my cell phone) and Bristol (my camera). And I don’t feel like an idiot for it…..

    This kind of things happens all around the world, not only in Spain, and to all kind of people…. not only to idiots.

    And if you get your cell phone, purse, camera or anything else, you are not an idiot, just a victim.


  5. Shawn Says:

    Those same sketchy kids, I think, tried to take
    my iPhone a few weeks ago. I stupidly
    put it on the table and they used
    thier paper with signatures to divert my attention
    and I didn’t notice it was gone till they left.
    I then ran down the street, found them, threw
    one against the wall and they gave up the phone.
    Probably not too smart, but hey, don’t mess
    with my iPhone.

  6. Erin Says:

    @Carol – totally agree – anyone who gets robbed is certainly only a victim. But one can definitely be more careful versus less careful. These guys prey on our ignorance. Sad, but true. You are lucky to have lived in Spain your whole life and not had a problem. My mother-in-law seems to get robbed like once a year 🙁

    @Shawn – quite simply put: you’re my hero!! That is maybe the best story I’ve heard in a long time. But yeah, probably not too smart to go around chasing after robbers in the future. (On a related note, once I chased a robber by car when I was at University, so I can relate…well, almost – I didn’t capture the guy.)

  7. carolina Says:

    Erin! Yes, definitely, and sadly, that is true, they prey on our ignorance… And I totally agree about we should more careful…

    Your mother-in-law gets robbed once a year!!!!???? Really? Ups… Poor Paloma….. 🙁


  8. Cat Says:

    Thanks for the caveat! I was wondering why I was suddenly getting hits from your blog! Christene M just told me you were on House Hunters Intl. They just reached out to me, too. Good experience? Worth looking into?

  9. Erin Says:

    Well, if you’re OK with telling a pretty fabricated story, then yeah, good experience (you’d have to modify you real-life story and be partially moved out of your house)! They’ve reached out to me at least four times now and I’ve always declined because I just wasn’t super comfortable with the idea of making up a lot of stuff, but when my friend did it, I just went along for the ride….

  10. Sabrina Says:

    Haha! “I’m not an idiot!” It’s funny what we blurt out in these kinds of situations when we don’t have time to think. Good for you for even being able to say something! Knowing myself, I would have just been too shocked to actually say anything.

  11. Sabrina Says:

    Just read the comments about House Hunters International… so sad! I used to watch that show all the time… until I found out on another blog a while agp that it’s all staged. Would of course turn it on if you were on it now though 🙂

  12. Erin Says:

    That’s what kind of took me by surprise (and made me laugh!) – that saying “I’m not an idiot” was me knee-jerk response.

    As for HHI, I’ve only ever watched it once (to see the episode I was in). The fake-ness of it kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I suppose it’s entertaining, though…like watching any other TV show with actors.

  13. WineDineDivas Says:

    We are planing to visit Spain this summer and thank you for ther tip! Now we will visit Cat’s blog to learn what to do if it is stolen… we do hope this is only a practice run 🙂

  14. Sabrina Says:

    Oh, so you actually were on it? Any chance there’s a link?

  15. Erin Says:

    I don’t think so, actually. When I was home I just had to look it up on the programming schedule and tivo it….the one I was in features “an engaged couple moving to Valencia from Madrid”.

  16. cypress iphone repair Says:

    I never would’ve guessed that cell phone theft occurs at such a rate in Madrid. Globally, there are people who are looking to steal. But Madrid! Wonderful job on this well-informed article. Those who plan to go to Madrid will be well aware of this and can try to make preparations in advance.

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