Monday, July 16, 2007

Guy walks into a bar, steals laptops, leaves

I never 'go out' in London with my laptop. Normally I only ever carry it directly between work and home and do not linger. If I was to meet a friend, I'd leave my machine at work (I would probably have no time to use it that evening anyway).

However, after suddenly falling ill the other week and finding myself stranded at home without my laptop for several days, I have taking my laptop home with me every night, just in case. This meant it would occasionally come out to dinner with me and a friend, or as was the case of last Monday, out for a swift visit to John Lewis's haberdashery department with Jenny my new knitting consultant (more on that later) followed by a quick fruit smoothie thing in a bar round the corner.

Only trouble was, when I got up to go, my handbag and two John Lewis bags were still at my feet but my rucksack containing my laptop, and all the paperwork ready for a meeting I had the next day, had vanished.

The Manager reviewed the CCTV footage to see what she could see. She saw us chatting, bags at our feet, and admitted to me later that because of the waywe had positioned our bags, there was no way anybody could have taken them without us noticing. She assumed we must have left it in a cab.

But she acknowledges that what happened next was a stunningly professional bag theft. And she's seen a few in her time.

A guy walks into the bar, pausing in the doorway to scout around (looking for victims? cameras? who knows) and walks with confidence up the steps to the mezzanine where we sat. He's 'on' his mobile, looking like he's looking for someone. As he walks past our table he scoops up the bag without a moment's hesitation and without ducking down at all (his shortness helps him avoid us noticing him picking it up).

And here's the clever bit.

He deposits the bag he has just picked up within 3 feet of where it was. He has simply scooped it up from our feet at our table and dropped it silently at the table directly behind us. It has barely moved. He continues walking and talking on his phone without missing a beat.

If anyone had noticed him move the bag, this is when we would have reacted, and he could have simply shrugged it off, pretending he'd knocked it by mistake.

He turns at the end of the mezzanine level and hovers, all the while chatting on his phone. Has anyone reacted? No. He wanders back to the table behind us and sits down.

The bag now looks like it is his, it's at his feet at the table he's sat at. But even if we turned and challenged him now, he'd still be able to pretend it was all a big mistake.

But we are oblvious. You can see the eyelines on the footage, and how he cleverly avoids our gaze.

After 30 seconds at the table he slings the bag onto his shoulder and wanders out, going into the back of the bar and down the rear steps to avoid having to pass me again.

Barely five minutes passes before I discover the theft and I am livid. It's a work laptop, and they are insured, but the sheer waste depresses me, not to mention the audacity of the crime. Watching on CCTV is fascinating - I feel like it's one of those TV programmes where they showcase the perfect crime on unwitting members of the public. Only I have no TV crews descending on me to 'reveal all' and give me my laptop back. Mine has gone for good.

Thank god it wasn't my handbag. That had EVERYTHING in it.

The upside was that rather than race home and work on a presentation, all I could do was go out for pizza with Jenny to commiserate. See, every cloud does have a silver lining...

And since then I am weighing up my current career vs a life of crime. It seems all you need is a certain brazenness. If you approach anything with enough confidence people will assume you know what you are doing and you are meant to be there.

Pretty much like new business in advertising but I bet it pays better.

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