Just the other day I listened sympathetically to the story of how my ninety-one-year-old aunt had her purse stolen as she was loading her groceries into the back of her car last week at the supermarket (hopefully I have those genes that will allow me to still shop on my own and drive at ninety-one). It’s a horrible experience for anyone much less someone in their nineties. Sympathetic as I was, I also felt a bit smug because I’m overly cautious about my own purse in public. I use a metal purse hook that hangs on the side of a table which is handy in food courts and restaurants so my purse is always practically sitting in my lap and safe. (Yes, honey, unlike men who own only one wallet, women need more than one purse.) When we travel, I wear a money pouch under my clothes and carry a small change purse with a few foreign currency bills zipped in an inside pocket of a multi-compartment cross-body bag, which I always wear across my stomach. Thieves would need a couple of hours to mine through all the zipped compartments to find my meagre stash. I also leave all my credit cards at home except one.
Unfortunately, I let my guard down last week. Just before leaving to meet a girlfriend for lunch at Panera Bread across from Sherway Gardens Mall in Toronto, I switched purses, from a compact efficient one, to a large sack-like bag that turns digging for my wallet into a spelunking adventure. (If you’ve seen the Subway commercials where the girl disappears head-first into her bag, you’ll know what I mean.) After placing my order, I paid the cashier with cash from my wallet, took the little electronic thingie the waiter uses to find me with my food and walked to a table. I put the electronic device down on the table to stake my territory, picked up the paper cup and my purse and headed for the drink dispenser. When I came back, instead of securing my purse safely on its hook in front of me, I casually dropped it on the floor beside my feet.
Toward the end of the lunch, a young couple arrived at the table next to ours. She was wearing a very bad wig, large black sunglasses and a very short black dress. When she sat down, she specifically moved her chair until its back was practically touching the table between me and my friend. At the time, I shrugged and thought nothing more of it. Until I arrived at my next stop, the grocery store, and tried to find my wallet in my purse. Gone. Disappeared. Nowhere to be seen, no matter how much I ripped through the contents of my purse.
The reality of what had happened hit me when I got home and dumped my bag to confirm I’d been robbed. Anyone who has experienced a wallet being stolen knows how devastating and terrifying it can be, not to mention inconvenient. Losing cash is painful but minor compared to losing the security of credit cards, identification, drivers’ license, OHIP card and other valuable items. Fortunately, about a year ago, I removed all the important cards and ID from my wallet and put them in one of those ubiquitous, accordion-fold metal containers designed to thwart electronic data skimmers. That saved my fat old fanny, somewhat. Apart from some cash, my wallet only contained my Scene movie card, some seniors’ tickets for Toronto Transit, my blogging and home business cards, and two or three blank cheques for emergencies. That meant going to the bank to cancel all my chequing accounts, flagging them for fraud and being reissued new accounts. I’m still waiting for all the fallout from preauthorized payments for utilities and other expenses when they start bouncing.
I called Panera Bread twice afterward to see if anyone had turned in a wallet, to no avail. I also went back and asked the manager if they had a security camera that could throw some light on what happened. She was sympathetic but said they can only access security videos under orders from the police department. Hard lesson learned.
Here’s what you can do to help prevent theft:
I never thought this would happen to me but it did because I let my guard down just once. Please take this as a lesson and protect yourself. Here are a few things you can do:
- If you don’t already have purse hooks (see below for how to purchase), get several and put one in each purse. Be sure to use them whenever you’re in public. Yorkdale Shopping Centre in north Toronto has ingenious little double hooks on the underside of the tables in their new upper level food court especially for hanging purses and bags. USE THEM. I have no doubt a woman instituted that little design accoutrement. I wish all restaurants and food courts had them.
- Never put your purse on the floor where it can be surreptitiously accessed or taken altogether. We all know someone who has had this happen.
Separate your cash from credit cards and I.D. Keep cash in a wallet or change purse and secure your cards and valuables in a separate secure metal holder. This is moot if your entire purse is stolen, but it partially saved my bacon this time.
- Make it hard for thieves to find your wallet(s) by zipping them into inner pockets of your purse or handbag.
- Backpacks are easy targets for thieves.
- Never let your purse off your shoulder or arm when shopping. Ensure it’s buckled, locked, zipped, clasped or whatever keeps it securely closed at all times.
These suggestions might help you avoid what I experienced and I’m sure there are more ideas for staying safe and secure. I’d welcome your feedback in the Comment section of this posting so I can share your advice with my readers. Be careful and be safe fellow Boomers.
There are many places to get purse hooks. I ordered a whole box of them a few years ago from a company called Chatt.com but here’s a link to one from Amazon: Click here or here for another one. At less than $4.00 each, they’re a good investment. I keep one in every purse I own.
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