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Should I have intervened?

I was cutting through the RLD in Amsterdam, which is pretty tame at midday. I was behind an American couple heading down one of the narrow alleyways. I noted that the gentleman was wearing cargo type shorts with the right side pocket bulging with what could have been wallet? passport? I said, excuse me, but you might want to keep an eye on that pocket. He immediately snapped back at me "I KNOW!"

Perhaps he had nothing of importance in his pocket, but I don't think there is any excuse to be rude. His wife looked appalled, btw.

Should I have said nothing in the first place? My mother always said "no good deed goes unpunished".

Posted by
5320 posts

You were right -- but he should have said "I know, thank you"
And if he does lose something from that pocket, his wife will remember.

Posted by
321 posts

Ha, yes she will.

Generally I leave tourists alone to study their map or their phones. Unless someone asks me for help. But this guys looked like a disaster waiting to happen.

Who knows..maybe he was a policeman working undercover???

Posted by
53 posts

You are well-meaning, but some people may find it as being nosy/not appreciate being given advice by a stranger. I wouldn't take his response personally, though. If his pockets were really concerning, at least it was brought to his attention, that's the most you can do in that situation.

Posted by
13972 posts

On one of my visits to Paris a good friend joined me for 6 days. She had all her money in a rather fat wallet and she was very careless, which surprised me. After all she grew up in st. Louis, and lived in a DC suburb for several years after college before moving to Israel, where petty theft and pickpocketing were common in those years. She laid it on a bench where we stopped to eat lunch, usually kept it at the top of her backpack, sometimes not bothering to close it even. I warned her gently a couple times, but gave up when she got testy about it. Of course someone grabbed it in the metro just as we were going through the turnstile. .... She had just taken it out to buy something at a kiosk and casually dropped it in her backpack not bothering to close it.

Did she learn from it? 20+ years passed and she went to Rome. On a crowded bus (likely the infamous 64) someone emptied the cash from her fannypack, where she still had a significant sum. At least it was near the end of the trip.

I think you were right to say something. If they chose to ignore your kindness it's not your fault and his rudeness is uncouth

Posted by
973 posts

When we were in Madrid, we had people constantly reminding us about our backpack and purse. We were very well aware of the situation and were proactive. We thanked them for their kind concern nonetheless.

Posted by
2815 posts

Unless there was a zip open or something ready to fall out, I wouldn't have spoken to a stranger about it. I might shake my head but would assume as adults they had made a decision. Sometimes you can't save them from themselves. Now, someone frail or compromised, or in a casual conversation, I might say something, but not out of the blue.

Posted by
8906 posts

Not certain if the OP is born & bred Dutch, or an expat, but saying something like this a complete stranger in Amsterdam would be a very "Dutch" thing to do.
My experience is that locals are very direct and if they "See something, they will say something":)
So keep up the good work!

Posted by
1514 posts

I don't get why some people (no matter where they are from in this World), need to adopt an attitude.

The person did a good deed just letting the traveler know. Yes, it is "all about the delivery." Still, the traveler could have just said, "thanks, I will keep more aware so I don't lose valuables." If he felt intruded upon or did not appreciate the "warning" and lost his wallet or whatever it was, then it is on him.

Even on my home turf, I have gone up to women who had their bags opened for whatever reason exposing their wallets and stuff. For the most part, people are appreciative.

Posted by
6184 posts

It's done. Don't overthink / overanalyze it.

Posted by
246 posts

I would have said something too. His wife had probably already told him (1000 times) to button it and he was just annoyed to hear it again. At least that's how the conversation with me and my husband would have gone! Just let it go and know you tried your best. I always want to think the best of people, and maybe later (after his wallet was stolen) he wished he would have been nicer and listened.

Posted by
5035 posts

I've told a few people things like this and they almost never appreciate it. You just have to know that you did what you thought was right and keep moving on.

Posted by
2393 posts

What's wrong with people that they get offended when someone is just trying to help them?

Posted by
5817 posts

Give the guy a break! You have no idea what might have caused his reaction.

Maybe his wife had been nagging him? Maybe you were the 3rd person to point it out in an hour? Maybe he had lost his bag and was doing his best using his pockets? Maybe he was embarrassed by what was in his pocket? Maybe he struggles to communicate? Maybe he just thought it was none of your business?

Yes we should all be delightful and polite to each other 100% of the time but unfortunately life isn't like that.

Yesterday a complete stranger asked me if I needed any help to the bus stop. I said "no thank you i'm fine" and I could tell by the look on her face that my ( overly abrupt) response was not the glowing thanks that she was expecting for her kindness.
The reasons? I was hot, tired and in pain. I had just tackled the 65 stairs at my tube station and was walking slowly so knew I was going to miss my connection. In my deluded head, my disability is not noticeable and I am just another anonymous face in the crowd. Her question, that I know came from a good place, made me feel bad about myself and my situation, that I obviously looked like someone who needed "help". So my response was not as polite as some people might think appropriate.

If you offer help or advice to strangers for whatever reason you should have no expectation that they will respond in a way that you think is appropriate. What is kindness or help to you might not feel like kindness or help to the person on the receiving end.

Posted by
2298 posts

In general I find it best to not correct strangers, even if they are in the wrong. Exceptions would be if someone was in danger of harming themselves or others. Now if something had fallen out of the pocket, saying "excuse me, this fell out of your pocket" and handing it back would be the best thing to do. But pre-emptively saying the way the man carried his belongings was wrong can easily be taken the wrong way, as you saw. In a conversation or with someone you know, things would be different but approaching and correcting strangers is probably not the best idea. But it's not a big deal, and a different person could have been thrilled with your help.

Posted by
4822 posts

Maybe the guy was one of those that likes to "bait" pickpockets by carrying a junk billfold filled with scraps of paper and a sarcastic note. He may have been upset that no one was taking the bait, but people kept warning him about his "billfold".

Posted by
1165 posts

I've been disappointed in a lot of Americans I encounter in Europe. Just try to say hello and they act like you're fixin' to steal them blind or something.

Always tricky with couples too. Imagine the stress you be might feeling just trying to get around by yourself, never mind raising that measure to the power of 2, at least. One of the two is usually not having their best day.

Reminds me of RS's story of eating in a restaurant somewhere and witnessing a man just berating and demeaning his female companion. RS took the occasion to have a word with the gentleman.

Posted by
3283 posts

You tried to do something nice, you would feel just as bad had you said nothing and then the man's wallet was lifted.

Even if you would be considered rude or out of line, there is no need to be rude back. He could of just said, "hmmm, thank you so much, have a good day" and ignored you.

Posted by
1514 posts

Kate,

As a few have written -- don't fret about it.

You did a good deed. Your conscience is clear. You 'warned him,' and thereafter the onus is put upon him to keep an eye on it or move a valuable to a more secure place.

Posted by
20638 posts

On the other hand I have been known to harass a tourist or two. I think I have repeated the story of waiting for wife who was in a small leather shop down an alley in Rome. I was leaning against a pole just outside the shop doing my best to read a local, Italian newspaper. Heard the door jungle, looked up from the newspaper to see if wife was exiting but caught the eyes of three middle aged women entering the shop. A few minutes later the door jungles again and out come the three women followed by my wife who follows the three women into the shop across the street and as I was shifting to the next pole across the street next to that shop one of the women noticed that I was kind of following the group.

I am now at the new pole slightly further down the street still trying to read my Italian paper. About 15 minutes later the threesome exits the shop, all looked in my direction, and immediately crossed to the other side of the street so they did not have to walk directly pass me on the sidewalk and I could tell that they appeared to be a little nervous as they are all looking indirectly my way. Just after they crossed the street, my wife exists the shop and since we have to head in the same direction, I folded my paper and take a few slow steps in the same direction as the women were walking thinking that my wife will catch up in 30 seconds by walking faster. Then the group broken into a near panic run up the alley to the main street. I am sure to this day they are telling stories of avoiding the pickpocket who nearly attacked them in Rome. Cannot be too careful with strangers.

Posted by
4219 posts

Great story, Frank! I'll be on the lookout for you "pretending to read the local newspaper," a common pickpocket technique! ;-)

And Emma brings her usual insight and kindness to the topic.

A friendly gesture can be its own reward, however it's received. The fact that no good deed goes unpunished doesn't mean we shouldn't offer help when it looks needed. And accept whatever reaction we get, and move on to the next good cause.

Posted by
3283 posts

I just heard this on a local tv news show. They were discussing skin cancers. The doctor mentioned he heard of a doctor in Chicago standing behind someone on an escalator and the man had a concerning mole. The doctor said, "Excuse me, you should have that mole checked out". The man punched the doctor in the face. Kateja, I think you came out ok!

Posted by
7649 posts

I think a lot of Americans are scared that any offers of help are just a way for someone to scam them or steal from them. Having offered my help on a number of occasions at the Frankfurt airport, at ticket machines or on trains, it is shocking how rude people can be. First of all, I am of a certain age, I don't get near to them, don't look homeless and speak English with an Ohio accent of course. People will just quickly turn away, rudely say no, tell me they are fine, etc. Then I watch them buy the wrong tickets, get off at the wrong stops, catch the wrong train. Why are people so afraid? What do they think I am going to do to them?

Posted by
8640 posts

The guy was probably a reader of Rick Steves or frequents this board and thought you were part of a pickpocket team trying a diversionary tactic. :)

Posted by
1846 posts

I think it was kind of you to warn him but none of us do nice things just to be thanked, we do it because coming from a place of sincerity, we actually think we are being helpful. Probably most times we are but as Emma points out, we don't always know what's been happening in someone's life right before we make our gesture. Kateja, just let it go and know you did the "right thing". Frank: Great story!!

Posted by
968 posts

Frank, that is funny!
I was arriving in Venice a few years ago and carrying/wheeling my bag toward my hotel. I am older, but still strong and capable. I don't look frail. A man came up to me and wanted to "help" me by carrying my bag, and I said no thank-you. Then he reached for my bag anyway and I said NO louder and more abruptly. He indicated that I was rude as he got the message and walked away.
Was he genuinely offering to help? Was he planning to sprint away with my worldly goods? I didn't want to find out...
On the other hand, in Lisbon a few years ago several people warned us about pickpockets and we were very grateful of the reminder even though my friend and I are both pretty savvy about keeping our stuff close and safe.
And in Rome we saw 2 young girls on the metro with their phones hanging out of their back pockets. I wanted to say something but had an attack of shyness and so kept quiet. I still wonder if I did the right thing.

Posted by
12104 posts

Why did the wife look appalled? What if you had snapped back at the guy after his rude answer? That would have stunned both the wife and the guy. I've seen that happen too...years ago. It wasn't done by Americans.

Posted by
440 posts

Good on you for pointing it out, not your fault that he was a rude arrogant toss pot.
Don't let this dishearten you from doing future good deeds.

Posted by
622 posts

Kate, I agree, you did the right thing even if you got such an ugly and unexpected (over)reaction.

Frank, I loved your story!

I admit, I did fink out a couple of years ago, walking the 16th Street Mall here in Denver. I noticed a man and woman walking together a bit ahead of me. He had a nice camera (not a wildly expensive one, I'm into camera gear and I'd say it was a Nikon superzoom P&S worth maybe $500), hanging loosely from a strap over one shoulder and basically bouncing along behind his arm down at his waist. Sort of saying "grab me." But, it was a nice day, they seemed to be having a nice time, and I decided to mind my own business.

Given the changes I've seen down in that area since then, if that happened now I would warn him in a heartbeat to carry his camera more securely. And, thanks to this discussion, I'd be prepared not to be thanked. :-)

Posted by
2432 posts

You did what you thought was helpful. Your intentions were good, regardless.

As far as the response, that is the other party's problem. However, we never know what is going on in another person's life.
1. It could have been jet lag day and he just over reacted.
2. It could be his wife has already nagged him about said pocket.
3. He could be a man who dislikes being told what to do by any woman.
4. It could be his best friend was just diagnosed with a terminal illness, in which case your reminder about his pocket was unimportant and invasive.
--I could go on.

So don't give it another thought.

Posted by
1010 posts

In one of my first trips to NYC, I noticed a man sleeping in a subway car, with an empty bottle of some cheap liquor and several bills sticking out of his pocket. In my youthful naiveté, I felt compelled to do something. Another person in the car stopped me, though, and let me know that the man was a police decoy and everything was fine. I'm sure good natured people (from out of town, of course) were constantly trying to help, and their interruptions might have gotten to be annoying to the police trying to catch some bad guys. If it makes you feel better, I suggest you tell yourself that this man was a decoy, too..

Nevertheless, even though many years have gone by, if I saw something similar today, I'd still feel compelled to do something.

Posted by
74 posts

Made me think of situation that happened several years ago. I was working downtown, out to lunch, and waiting on a street corner to cross. A group of 4 teenage girls came up behind me, one with a phone in hand, gabbing with someone, and stepped right off the curb. I grabbed her arm, and read her the riot act as I pulled her back. She was like what are you doing lady...but I'm hoping it might have curbed future behavior. Was it none of my business, yes absolutely...but the risk was there and someone needed to 'enlighten her'. You did the same, the risk was there, for a pickpocket or possibly worse...he needed to hear it, whether he wanted to or not.

Posted by
230 posts

Can I be honest? I think you should have minded your own business. If the wallet was actually about to fall out of his pocket, and he was in imminent danger of losing it, then of course you should say, “excuse me, sir, your wallet is about to fall out of your pocket.” But to point out that he wasn’t being careful the way you thought he should be really wasn’t any of your business, Either you made him feel foolish (and who responds well to that) or you were out of line because that was his “decoy” wallet while his valuables were in a money belt. Or there could be many other explanations for why he chose to carry his personal possessions in his personal pocket without a stranger calling him out on it.

Just my two cents!